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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Qui sont les archaïques ?

by Patrick Apel-Muller

Who’s archaic ?

Translated Sunday 28 February 2010, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Henry Crapo

To maintain retirement age at 60 we have to stop sparing the bosses ... “Sacrilege” screams the Right, “archaic” whisper the social liberals.

“My hope” Nicolas Sarkozy assured us a few weeks ago “is to solve the pension problem over the summer”. Yesterday the President had to give up on getting his reform through in the torpor of the summer holidays. It was, however, programmed for the beginning of September. That’s as far as the presidential concertation goes: a calendar change targeted at pulling the rug out from under the feet of any social mobilisation, moving it away from the regional elections so that the subject doesn’t become an electoral issue. This didn’t escape Bernard Thibault [1] who remarked yesterday “We mustn’t lose a moment in getting the workers to speak out if we don’t want to see new sacrifices asked of them.” And the workers don’t want the reform since 59% of them refuse to work beyond the age of 60. This is a stumbling block for the Right. Try as it might with all its armoury to erode resolute public opinion. Bizarre opinion polls are concocted to change the question “Do you want to leave after 60?” to “When do you think you might be able to leave work?” A ballet of experts pirouette onto television platforms — but never a Humanité journalist, neither on the public service nor on the private channels — to insist on the demands of the management. In short: let the workers foot the bill.

The two ways that would unopposedly assure the future of pensions with costs shared by employers, whilst maintaining social gains and increasing pensions, are carefully occulted. First effective remedy: reduce unemployment, job insecurity and low wages. This way, very quickly, a balance will once again be found. The second option –which sends shivers down the spines of both Xavier Bertrand of the UMP and Laurent Joffrin of Libération – is to tax the financial revenues of businesses according to their employment policies and investments. Even administered in moderate doses this prescription would furnish the 70 to 100 billion euros needed. In the past businesses financed social protection and pensions at the same level as the employee and they didn’t go bust. A return to this parity would bring together efficiency, justice, and social progress. But for that to happen we have to stop sparing the management. “Sacrilege” cries the Right. “Archaic” whisper the social liberals.

The French people have numerous ways of making their voices heard. The trade union organisations met yesterday to look at possible concerted actions. The worker–voters also have an immediate way of putting pressure on the choices made concerning pensions – by making the regional elections a referendum against the projects proposed by Right. The more weakened the Right emerges from these elections the less it can impose regressive policies on the country. The first round of the battle to save retirement at 60 is being played out right there. Since all the opinion polls give the UMP defeated and since the PS has an ambiguous stand on this issue, a vote for the Left Front would be the most clear and effective vote. It would have an impetus on all of the Left inciting it to engage decisively in all social actions against the government.

[1Secretary-General of the General Confederation of Labour

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