PARIS, October 11 — Over 4,000 retirees demonstrated here, and hundreds more in Marseilles, Lyons and other cities nation-wide demanding an immediate across-the-board 300-euro-a-month increase ($387) in pensions, guaranteed access to health care, aid for those unable to live alone and an increase in the minimum monthly pension to 1,425 euros ($1,838). A trade union coalition organized the demonstrations.
“Retirees are neither rich nor privileged!” shouted the crowd in La Roche sur Yon in the conservative Vendée in western France.
“We won’t be the laughing stock for the suckers!” the protesters in Lyons chanted, mocking the bosses who say they “won’t be suckers” and bear any tax increase.
“Retirees are not privileged, it’s the financiers who should be taxed!” the Paris protesters chanted. Today’s protests were sparked by government plans to tax pensions 0.15 percent next year and double it in 2014. The tax is supposedly to pay for care for old people who can’t live alone but in reality, it’s to help ensure that France pays off its $1.9-trillion sovereign debt (2011 estimate) to the world’s finance capitalists.
Ten million retirees will have to pay the new tax while only the poorest 30% will be exempt. But from experience they know they’re next.
The Paris protesters also chanted, “Hollande, can you hear? the retirees are in the street!” This echoed a chant from 2010, when then-President Nicolas Sarkozy upped the retirement age, triggering massive protests. This has exposed current President Hollande and his “lesser-evil” Socialists as every bit as evil as the right-wing UMP party.
Raising the retirement age has increased the number of people aged 55-64 having to work by 3.8%. But the bosses’ economic crisis has spiked that group’s unemployment rate from 4.6% in 2008 to 6.5% in 2011.
“I can’t afford meat or fish,” said Josiane Bardot, 82, who lives on a 900-euro-a-month pension ($1,161), while paying 300 euros for rent. Francis, 87, lives on 1,200 euros a month ($1,548), but can eat meat only one day a week after paying 300 euros for rent plus a steep heating bill. “If I had an extra 100 euros a month, I could eat in a restaurant once in a while,” he said sadly.
An estimated 1.5 million retirees live below the poverty line (964 euros a month — $1,243 — in 2010). Some 8.6 million people — 14 percent of the population — live in poverty. Some retirees live alone in the slums on 600 euros a month.
Victims of Racism and Sexism Suffer Most
In 2010 the Alerte collective said retirees would face increasing impoverishment, especially those who’d experienced periods of unemployment. Because of racist discrimination, black people and those of Arab origin suffer the most unemployment. In old age, they suffer disproportionately from poverty. The same is true of women, who often leave work or work part-time while raising children.
Many retirees no longer have complementary health insurance and are skimping on health costs. Some have to choose between food and health care. More need help to pay their heating bills.
Meanwhile, the Socialist government has just decided to maintain special social security provisions that pump up the profits of private-sector retirement homes. That’s no surprise: Luc Broussy, the Socialist advisor on the issue, headed the private retirement-home lobby for twelve years.
Thus the “lesser-evil” Socialists maintain the system that impoverishes the poor and enriches the rich. Between 2004 and 2007, the income of the richest 0.01 percent rose steadily, by 40%.
What’s needed is overthrow of the capitalist system which exploits workers while they’re young and relegates them to poverty when they’re old. This can only be accomplished through communist revolution — the goal of the Progressive Labor Party.