Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI: Destruction of Property and Plant and the General Strike - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER VI: Destruction of Property and Plant and the General Strike - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Destruction of Property and Plant and the General Strike
Theory of “Sabotage”—The general strike—Common ownership of works—Direct action.
The leaders of the Confederation of Labour have openly confessed their intentions in interviews published by the “Matin” newspaper.
M. Pataud, general secretary of the trade union of employees in electrical works, says:—
“If there is no right to strike without the right to destroy industrial property and plant (le sabotage) we are going to exercise it. And the Government alone will bear the responsibility, as it assumes the responsibility for our anti-militarism.”
M. Merrheim, a member of the General Confederation of Labour, says:—
“Yesterday's surprise is only the prelude to tomorrow's. We are going to work every day with greater fierceness to prepare that to-morrow, and neither a Clemenceau, a Briand, still less a Viviani will prevent that ‘to-morrow’ from being what we wish.
“No more laughter, exploiters and capitalists; the surprise packet is open, and will only close in order the more completely to swallow you up!”
M. Yvetot, general secretary of the Confederation of Labour, says:—
“If they had not obtained immediate satisfaction, the gasworkers would have joined them, by way of solidarity. Paris would then have been shrouded in darkness. Imagine a simultaneous traffic-strike, and everything is said. Yesterday's experience, in the light of these observations, supplies the supporters of a general strike with a formidable argument. A general strike without barricades or bloodshed, is the sure and all-powerful arm of the revolution.”
M. Bousquet, secretary of the trades union of persons employed in the provision trades, says:—
“Four or five bodies in France have the power by themselves of preparing a revolution, or at least an economic convulsion attended by enormous consequences. To take an example. Supposing that by an understanding among the proletariat, the possibility of which has just been demonstrated, the lights were to go out in the greater towns, as has just happened in Paris; the supply of gas were to fail; the water were to give out; and the telegraphs, the post and telephones were to cease to work, how would the central capitalist Government know what was going on in the provinces, and give its orders? Furthermore, if the food supply were also stopped, what would happen?
“I conclude that the Government, such as it is, is obliged to reckon with the power of the workmen, for the very good reason that, while it is preoccupied with an economic object, there are people who see a different one—the object of demolishing capitalist society.”
M. Griffuelhes, of the General Confederation of Labour, also sees a presage of more important events in the electricians' strike. Like M. Merrheim, he has put his views into writing:—
“The conscious act of the electricians enables one to deduce an identical act by the gas workers, finally disembarrassed of the preoccupations of politicians, of which certain individuals take advantage: it gives one a glimpse of the day when the post office employees shall perform a labour of wisdom of a preventive kind, when the unhappy slaves of the Metropolitan shall paralyse its traffic, and the railway employees shall have awakened and shall stop the engines from running. The day that sees these crises will come, whatever be the present conditions, just as the day came which saw Paris without light or electrical power.
“On that day, our bourgeois will experience ‘emotions’ of a more intense and lively kind than those of the last few days.”
Another, M. Passerieu, assistant secretary of the electrical trade union, says:—
“But are we not joint proprietors in M. Sartiaux' works? Have we not incorporated our labour in them? Here is wealth which we have assisted in creating and developing; we want our share of it. If the soldiers make themselves the slaves of capital in order to keep our lawful portion from us, they become enemies in our eyes. So much the worse for them. We are going to use every means to prepare for the equitable distribution of wealth. And ‘every means’ is ‘direct action’ and the destruction of property. When the workman feels himself tortured by hunger, in sight of the wealth which he has himself produced, he meets the capitalists' crimes with just reprisals, or rather by the most legitimate of legitimate defences.”
This is how the leaders of the Confederation of Labour believe that the destruction of property can be practised with impunity and that when it is practised, those who have carried it out will have leisure calmly to contemplate its effects.
They declare that they are preparing “direct action” and a “general strike,” and they believe that “capitalist society” is bound to let them do so.
A little later, M. Griffuelhes gave the following indication of the procedure of the General Confederation of Labour:—
“What are statistics? What do they prove? Certainly numbers count in politics, and a vote is a factor not to be despised. In politics, it is possible to make calculations, to say that 1=1. But we are not politicians; we believe in a social transformation by means of workmen's combinations. Our weapon is not the ballot, but the strike. Therefore it cannot be said that a statistical calculation of the number of our adherents will yield any information whatever for the purpose of calculating the importance of a strike.
“Here are 10,000 weavers who have been on strike for six weeks. They obtain no satisfaction because the shops which are supplied by their employers contain an inexhaustible supply of material. In revenge for this, 700 to 800 electricians stop work for two nights. They obtain entire satisfaction. Cannot we say, then, that 700 are more than 10,000.”
What M. Griffuelhes calls politics is the power of the vote. The military assumption that victory is on the side of the big battalions has been transferred to the solution of political and legal questions. Units are counted on the supposition that they are all of the same order, and that the greatest number triumph.
But M. Griffuelhes is not a supporter of these pacific means. He counts up his troops and selects them, and says that by concentrating his attack on some particular point, with particular combatants, he is able to interrupt the working of the social organism.
This is quite correct. M. Griffuelhes is a conspirator of the same kind as Blanqui. But Blanqui still relied on guns and swords, whereas M. Griffuelhes means to employ other methods such as our penal codes has not foreseen, while the law of 1884 has placed the trade unions at his disposal as fighting organisations. This points to a gap which will have to be filled up and it is not so large as he imagines.
In any case, he and his associates are candid enough to declare that the strike is a method of carrying on the social war, and that they are to be looked upon as belligerents.
The government, which fails to justify its existence, if it does not guarantee the general security against enterprises of this character, must fortify itself with the laws necessary to resist them and must apply them. Since the law of 1884 contains no restrictions of this kind, trades unions give themselves up to their manœuvres with the accompaniment of violence, as though their acts become lawful when committed by their members.
The law does not give the Government any means of ascertaining the number of persons of which a trades union is composed, or what such unions are doing, and has thereby legalised the existence of secret societies.