One of the reasons for the success of the yellow vests can be attributed to the fact that they stood independently of any apparatus, in particular trade unions, and succeeded because of this, in building a relatively homogeneous movement, around a garment (the vest), and a place (the roundabout), symbolic of a claim by motorists.
There is nothing similar with the current protests against the sweeping pension reforms: the unions are clearly involved in the operations, but they have failed thus far to sustainably unite and occupy any symbolic places.
The demonstrators in these two crises, however, have only one claim: the status quo; they represent those who are committed to preserving their gains and oppose those who are concerned about what their world will look like thirty years from now.
Today, however, particularly in Europe, in many areas, the same question arises: social policy benefits are threatened because these benefits are related to a very particular, wasteful and unhealthy way of life, work and consumption, which is no longer sustainable in the long term. The simplest way to change these social policy benefits would be to quantitatively reduce the benefits without changing their nature; and this is what the word “reform,” which for a long time meant social progress, has now become.
It was therefore easy to satisfy the yellow vests protestors by abandoning the policy of penalizing greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, it would be easy to satisfy opponents of any pension reform by abandoning every reform. If we do so, in both cases, we would leave future generations, and foremost the poorest, with an increasing and soon unbearable burden. And this is true in many other areas.
The question is therefore : will we be able to improve the lot of our grandchildren, without harming that of our contemporaries? This is possible, provided that we do not content ourselves with small scale reforms, and instead radically change the organizational social, ecological and political models. It is what more and more people want.
This implies recognizing that unions are only representative of the interests of some of the people living today, not those of tomorrow; and that the street is even less so. And that, in the current state of parliamentary processes, no political party can guarantee the sustainability of the laws that it votes. This explains why democratic institutions have become, in many countries, an ocean of disloyalty, versatility and discredit.
If the sacrifices demanded of all today are not to be used to restore the privileges of the rich tomorrow, the main fields of public policy must no longer be subject to change by the whim of each majority.
This is already the case for the principles of public freedoms, guaranteed in France by the Constitution. This should also be the case for pension schemes, which concern long-term commitments within the country.
In France, however, the reform that the Prime Minister has put forward (the terms are still subject to discussions) does not guarantee, in any shape or form, that the compensation promised today to those who stand to lose some benefits will be maintained by subsequent political majorities.
This reform should therefore not only be debated and approved by all social partners and parliamentarians, but it should also be enshrined in fundamental law, so that subsequent majorities cannot distort its balance.
In particular, the French Constitution should enshrine the principle of a distribution regime, affirm its universality, and announce that the means necessary for indexing the value of the point, the duration of the transition period for special regimes, and the compensation mechanisms for those who will lose (teachers and women) will be intangible. In addition, the Constitution should also provide for a simple mechanism for regularly adjusting the retirement age according to changes in life expectancy (for example, for three months of life expectancy gained, an additional month of work should be added; not the other way around, as implicitly proposed in the current text). This principle would also lead to lowering the retirement age if, unfortunately, a downward trend in life expectancy were to be confirmed.
Citizens will regain lasting confidence in regimes of freedom only if we enshrine the long-term commitments made by politicians. Otherwise, democracy will be swept away by the whims of the strongest. It has already begun.