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From: The Socialist issue 685, 14 September 2011: Hands off our pensions!

Search site for keywords: Youth - Strike - Pensions - France - Young people - Students - Sarkozy

Youth must join pensions struggle

Strike together as in France 2010

Jack Poole, Brighton University Socialist Students

The government and their friends in the media will always try, as they did in June, to spread division between workers and service users during strike action. It is important to cut across these lies with solidarity action and unity between young people and workers on strike.

Three quarters of a million teachers and civil servants took coordinated strike action in June against the government's decimation of public sector pension schemes.

This unity between students, young people and workers was shown last year in France, in the struggle against the pension reforms. With the Con-Dem coalition likely to face more strike action over pensions this autumn, it is important to analyse and draw lessons from struggles such as this.

Last October, President Sarkozy's plans to raise the retirement age saw a furious and enormous reaction from the French working class, with massive strikes and demonstrations - at the height of the movement, 3.5 million people demonstrated across the country.

A crucial turning point for the dispute was when young people and students began to take part in the struggle in a large and organised way. Ignoring the lies of Sarkozy's supporters and the right wing media who tried to re-assure young people that pension reform did not concern them, student strikes in solidarity with the workers helped shut hundreds of schools.

The idea that raising the retirement age does not affect young people is a downright lie used to divide the movement. For example, with one million young people unemployed in Britain, it is madness for the government to be forcing older workers to work for longer while these young people waste their talents on the dole queue.

Sarkozy revealed a lot when he was quoted as saying about the strikes, "school and college students...must be watched closely like milk on a stove."

Politicians like Sarkozy and Cameron are right to be frightened of a mass movement of youth and workers opposing their austerity measures! Such a movement would stand a real chance of stopping them and their cuts in their tracks.

Young people and students on their own do not carry the social weight to defeat governments, even weak ones such as the coalition in Britain. However, as last year's student movement in Britain showed, the energy and anger of a movement of young people can give confidence and inspire others in society to fight back. Three months after the last major student demonstration, half a million trade unionists marched through the streets of London.

Combined with the organised working class, which holds the power to make society grind to a halt, this kind of action would stand firmly in the way of the brutal austerity cuts of governments across Europe and beyond.

If more workers take coordinated strike action to defend their pensions, young people and students need to unite with them. We should take our solidarity to the picket lines but also organise walkouts at our schools, colleges and universities and join the protests and demonstrations taking place. Any blow against this government is a step towards a decent future for young people.

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Article dated 14 September 2011

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