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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Retraites : les enjeux de la bataille

by Jacques Nikonoff

Pensions: What’s at stake

Translated Saturday 8 May 2010, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Henry Crapo

What measures must be put in place and what prospects envisaged in order to save pensions?

By Jacques Nikonoff [1], spokesperson for the MPEP and former president of attac.

- 1 Preserve the right to live well during retirement. We live longer now, so we have to consecrate a larger portion of the national wealth to pensions: 5 % of GDP in 1970  ; 12 % in 2010 ; 20 % in 2050.

- 2 Foil Sarkozy’s plan for social revenge. The PS and some unions don’t have a clear position on pensions. So Sarkozy thinks he can divide the Left, defeat the social movement, and put himself back in the running for 2012.

- 3 Stop the bankers, insurers and financiers making off with our pensions. They’re annoyed at not being able to invest social contributions in the financial markets so that they can speculate on them.

- 4 Break the will of the governing classes who want to create insecurity for pensioners after having done so for salaried workers. The IMF reckons ‘that a pay as you go pensions system can cause a decline in national savings by creating security in the social body’. But pension funds are on the brink of bankruptcy. Extending the legal retirement age doesn’t extend working life because employers get rid of ‘old’ workers. The goal is to get them to leave work at the same age but with a smaller pension. It’s a way of ‘forcing’ them to save!

- 5 Put in place a new system of wealth-sharing. Over 30 years, work remuneration as a portion of national wealth has decreased by 10% (170 billion euros). At the same time the dividends paid out to shareholders have risen from 3.2% of GDP in 1982 to 8.5% in 2009. We have to bring these dividends down, notably to finance pensions.

- 6 Get rid of unemployment and job insecurity by developing production and services in response to social needs, whilst greening the economy. Unemployment and job insecurity deprive the social security system of income. So we have to get rid of them! This is possible thanks to an enforcable right to employment which would allow a relocalisation of the economy, a greening of production methods and the creation of jobs outside the commercial sector catering to the needs of the population. Pensions shouldn’t be contributing to the current commercial markets without taking into account the ecological crisis. It’s not a case of making the pie bigger (GDP), but changing the pie altogether! We have to exchange useless production for useful production, harmful production for healthy production. 15 million pensioners aren’t dependent on active workers; as consumers they create millions of jobs; they are themselves active because they work and create non-commercial use value.

- 7 Disobey the EU and put in place universal protectionist measures to develop our social system and promote it abroad. The former head of the Bundesbank, Hans Tietmeyer, explains the role of the European Union: ‘competition between the systems of social protection will be greater, not only vis-à-vis the non-European world but also within Europe...’ We must disobey the EU, and perhaps even consider withdrawing from it, imposing protectionist measures within a universal framework (Havana charter [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havana_Charter]), outlaw delocalisations. And in this way it will be possible to increase social contributions from the bosses without penalising employment.

- 8 Put the ‘social question’ to the PS. The PS has helped to destroy pensions. The party dreams of 2012 and wants to adopt a ‘reponsible posture’: giving in to thousands of issues without giving that impression to the electorate. The success of the Left in 2012 depends partly on the battle to be fought for pensions; the harder the battles the more progressive will be the programme put forward by the PS.

- 9 Develop the ‘liberated work’ that pensioners do, first fruits of a socialism for the 21st century. Pensioners working! In order to understand let’s distinguish between work and employment. Work is the activity of producing goods and services which permit a response to individual and collective needs. Employment is the framework, often judicial, within which one works. Pensioners work but they don’t have employment! They work at making life better for others, their family, their neighbours, in organisations. They reinvest their professional qualifications and social experience in other non-commercial ways. This work isn’t carried out in the employment market, they are not subordinated to a boss, they decide what they do, it’s an emancipated work, a seedling of citizen’s control of the economy. Their pension is a wage for life, inalienable and without anything in exchange. The stakes in the battle for pensions is also one for work free from exploitation and nuisance. The activity of the pensioners prefigures the socialism of the 21st century, without the work market, without salaried workers and without exploitative employers ...

[1Jacques Nikonoff is the author of la Comédie des fonds de pension (The Comedy of Pension Funds), published by Arléa.

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