Two Million Demonstrate Against Government Raising Age of Retirement

Paris, January 19, 2023

Anti-government rallies were held across France on January 19, to protest the Macron government proposal to reform the pension system including raising the age of retirement to 64 and increasing the payroll pension tax. State-television network France 24 reports the government interior ministry itself estimates the total attendance exceeded 1.2 million demonstrators at over 200 separate rallies. Mass strikes in transport, schools, refineries and utility sectors enhanced the rallies along with high school students who rallied to the cause with mass walkouts and discussions.

The government says not enough public funds are available to sustain the current system as is, and besides, the money is needed elsewhere especially to bolster the war economy. Estimates say pushing back the retirement age by two years and extending the pay-in period and pension premiums will expropriate an additional $17.7 billion annually from the new value workers produce. France 24 reports some of the government's own experts dispute the government claims of lack of funds and say the pension system is in relatively good shape and would likely eventually return to a balanced budget even without reforms.

Organizers of the nationwide protest estimate over 2 million people participated with 400,000 in Paris alone. Other large rallies were held in Lyon, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nantes and on the French island of Corsica. Police arrests of demonstrators were reported throughout the country in particular in the outskirts of Paris where police unleashed tear gas on the people. The organizers are calling for new mass strikes and protests on January 31, if the government does not withdraw the anti-people legislation and instead deal with pressing social problems including the cost of living crisis and growing poverty.

Media reporting from the protest march in Tours in western France quote banners reading, "It's salaries and pensions that must be increased, not the retirement age" and "No to the reform!" The media quote a demonstrator saying, "I'll have to prepare a walker immediately upon retirement if the reform goes through." A retired firefighter said society should be going forward not backwards as this government is proposing. He said children should not have to work longer than me, adding that the government should instead tackle what he called "real problems" including inflation and a health care sector in shambles.

President Macron abused the demonstrators from afar in Barcelona, Spain saying, "We must do that reform [...] with determination." The very next day he proposed a major boost to French war spending with plans to increase the military budget by a third. He said the government will push for a 413 billion euro increase for France's armed forces including for nuclear weapons. In a warmongering speech to officers gathered at an air base in southwestern France, Macron said, "We need to be ready for more brutal, more numerous and more ambiguous wars." The extra military funding of sixty per cent will go towards "a wide range of areas including boosting air-defence systems, drone fleets, nuclear dissuasion infrastructure and intelligence-gathering. We need to be one war ahead," Macron blustered.

France is the world's third biggest arms exporter and has participated in sending weapons to Ukraine to bolster the U.S./NATO war to destroy both Russia and Ukraine and seize their natural resources and industrial might.

(Photos: Confédération générale du travail)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 1 - January 2023

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