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BOOK III.: SOCIALISTIC LEGISLATION. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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Whether man, through reflex action either hereditary or acquired by education, yields to the pressure of his surroundings, or acts from personal conviction, his actions follow the line of his thoughts, We have passed Socialistic Sophisms in review. We will now examine their workings.
PUTTING SOCIALISTIC SOPHISMS IN FORCE.
(I.) Position of the Question—Deduction—The Least Effort—Illusions—Socialistic Contradiction—The True Motive—(II.) The Legal Limitation of Working Hours in the World—Law and Jurisprudence in the United States—Laws Proposed in France—(III.) Timidity—The Small Employer—Prohibition of Suicide—The Agitator—The Agricultural Labourer—Prohibition to work One Minute, or to earn One Halfpenny outside the Legal Hours—Return to the Past—Working Builders of Paris—1806-1888—Experiment of the Municipal Council—(IV.) Limitation of Working Hours—Fixing of Wages—Suppression of Work—Demagogic Forcing up of Prices.
I. If the doctors of Socialism had said to their patients: “We invite you to go out on a general strike, on the 1st May, and if necessary, to riot, because we intend, that under the Utopian régime which we propose to give you, we shall be the masters, and regulate the disposal of your day, and of your night, as it may best suit us, and best suit the police agents and surveillance to which you will be subject,” it is probable that most workmen, far from sacrificing a day that they might secure this fair gift, would have rejected it with horror.
But with a psychological skill which I am pleased to recognise, these good apostles asked each workman: “Would you not like to work for eight hours instead of ten or twelve?” “Should I earn as much?” “More!” Many workmen are distrustful, but distrust is easily converted into confidence, when confidence flatters our desires, our passions, and our illusions.
Man seeks for “least effort,” just as things seek for “least resistance.” Socialists create the illusion that law can secure him this by the limitation of the hours of work. The workman wants to believe them, and, if he does not reflect a little, he does believe them, and salutes them as Messiahs.
In the inquiry made by the Labour Commission in 1890, the answers were distributed, as follows:—Of 64 chambers of commerce, 54 were against all regulation; of 32 chambers of Arts and Manufactures, 25 were against regulation; of 55 Conseils de Prudhommes, 55 were against regulation; of 235 Employers’ Syndicates, 201 were against it; of 401 Workmen’s Syndicates, 186 demanded an eight hours’ day, without overtime; 48, an eight hours’ day, with overtime; 2, a shorter day than eight hours, without overtime; 38 simply rejected the offer.
Without asking ourselves what these workmen’s syndicates which have answered, are worth, and what they represent in point of members, and from the legal point of view, we maintain that they have been attracted by the formula of the “three eights”; eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, eight hours of sleep. Three eights? Why three eights? This is a question of symmetry, and a new proof of the scientific seriousness of the Socialistic method!
In the discussions at the Paris Municipal Council, in reply to M. Léon Donnat, Messieurs Longuet and Vaillant said, as an apology for the limitation of the hours of labour: “A shorter day will increase production.” At the same time, M. Vaillant declared that the reduction of the hours of labour “would put an end to over-production, stoppage of mills, and, in making labour scarcer, would raise wages.”
These Socialists with their startling methods of discussion, do not see that if their first assertion is true, the second is false, and vice versa. Because, if the reduction of the hours of labour increases production, it causes over-production; and if, on the contrary, it suppresses it, it reduces production.
It would be better, if the doctors of Socialism, instead of losing their way amongst explanations which turn against themselves, were to straightforwardly admit: “We ask for an eight hours’ day and less, in order to flatter the ideas of the simple who listen to us, and whom we wish to make the instruments of our power. We promise them that whilst working less they shall earn more, that is the important point!”
II. The legal limitation of the hours of labour is one of the Socialistic victories of 1848. But, in France, the law of 9th September, 1848, fixing the hours of labour at twelve—in spite of the law of 16th February, 1883, which endeavours to revive it—would never have been applied, if custom had not, as a matter of fact in normal times, reduced the hours of labour to that figure, or to a lower one. When a law of this nature is made, people hasten to riddle it with exceptions, through which a little liberty permeates, which, like the decree of 17th May, 1851, completed by the decree of 3rd April, 1883, disintegrates and dilutes it.
Excepting in Switzerland, where the working-day is eleven hours, and labour, saving exceptions, is prohibited from 8 o’clock in the evening till 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning; and in Austria, where they have an eleven hours’ day in factories only, adult labour is free everywhere. In England, however, in May, 1893, in spite of the opposition of the Northumberland and Durham miners, the House of Commons passed a Bill limiting labour in mines to eight hours. In the United States, a law was passed, in 1868, declaring that in the Federal dockyards the hours were to be limited to eight. But it is presumed in these cases that the labourer knows the rules and accepts them by the very fact that he is employed and paid, with the result that it is not the law that is applied, but that it is the usage and custom of establishments con nected with the Government of the United States. The State of New York, in 1878, adopted a similar law for the work done on account of the State or for communities. The New York Court of Appeal has decided that not only might the workman work for longer hours, if convenient to him, but also that he has no right to extra wages for the extra hours, because if he has agreed to work for ten hours, it is because he considers the wages given to him a sufficient compensation. According to this decision, private contract supersedes the above law, which disappears before it.
Several Deputies, nearly all of them Boulangists, submitted various proposals for a law tending to prohibit an adult man from working otherwise than as permitted by the legislature.
Messieurs Dumonteil and Argeliès contented themselves with ten hours; M. Goujon with eight hours in mines, and ten hours in workshops and factories; M. Ferroul only asks for eight hours in mechanical workshops; M. Basly claims eight hours in mines; M. Chiché asks for eight hours and a minimum wage for all work performed for the State, Departments, and Communes.
III. I denounce the timidity of these Deputies, and not only with regard to wages. Not one has ventured to enter a small workshop to watch the small employer as he works, either by himself or with two or three workmen. They have, however, the example of Sir John Lubbock, who, in 1888, proposed to inflict a penalty upon the small employer or small merchant who should remain in his shop after eight o’clock in the evening, instead of going to the public-house, which had the privilege of remaining open later. Sir John Lubbock asserted that if the small shopkeeper worked too hard he was committing suicide, and that society had the right to prevent this. Opposite to my windows there is a small lithographer who commits this suicide daily, thanks to which he can bring up half-a-dozen children. If he did not commit it, what would become of them? And if the limitation of working hours has for its object the prevention of over-production, is it not culpable? Does it not become guilty of disloyal competition with those who have less energy and perseverance in labour, and who bring less economy into their lives? I point out all these elements so disturbing to the tranquillity of those who wish to receive and to pay high wages without earning them; and I ask that their Deputies shall have the courage to formulate their argument, not in palliative propositions, as though they were ashamed of them, but in terse, precise, and clear proposals.
They should also include the agricultural labourers, who, when the hay is threatened by a storm, when the harvest is ripe and the weather uncertain, when the vintage is ready, give themselves up to an amount of over-work incompatible with hygienic rest, and with the theory of the rarefaction of labour.
Messrs. Watson, Harford, and Henry Tait, secretaries of the various unions of the English railway employées, have distinctly declared before a committee of the House of Commons, that no one should be allowed to earn a halfpenny when once his eight hours were ended, and that he who, when he had returned home, should employ his leisure hours in boot-making for a shop, ought to be punished.1
We ought to return to the Statutes of Labourers which in the sixteenth century, in England, regulated the price and the length of the labourer’s daywork, the hours of his rising and of his going to bed, the number and the amount of his meals. In 1806, Regnaud Saint-Jean d’Angely also settled upon the hour and length of the meals, and the number of hours of work due from the Paris workmen in the building trades. The Municipal Council of Paris tried to return to these police-like regulations in its labour contracts of 27th April, 1887, deciding that in all the works undertaken at the public charge, the working-day should be reduced to nine hours, and the minimum wage be that fixed by the table of prices of 1881–1882. This resolution was annulled by the Decree of 17th March, 1888, with the approval of the Council of State. By a resolution of 2nd May of the same year, the Municipal Council continued to insert the same limitations in its agreement forms, and on the 10th July declined to accept a contract from a mason who had made the lowest tender, but who would not accept the clauses relating to the scale of charges. M. Floquet, who was then minister, was weak enough to approve of this agreement form, which upon appeal from the contractors of public works was annulled by the Council of State on March 21, 1890.
If only those who think they are serving the interests of the labourers would inquire into the way in which this agreement form has worked, they would see that the labourers—we speak of those who do labour—try every means in their power to elude these limitations. They find that the stoppage of work in the winter by frost and inclemency, reduces their working days quite enough in the course of the year without any help from the tutelary but harmful power of the Municipal Council. As the contractors caused stone, wood, and iron to be brought from outside Paris ready prepared, the Municipal Council, so as to complete its work, demanded that they should be stopped at the toll gate, that “Parisian labour” might be protected under the conditions which they had laid down!
One can watch the wheels working: limitation of working hours, fixing of a minimum wage, custom-house in the interior of the country.
More logical, the delegates from the 1st May celebrations, which the Labour Commission of the Chamber of Deputies was foolish enough to receive, demanded an eight hours day with a minimum wage which should be determined by the Bourses du Travail, the syndicates, or labourers’ unions.
The framers of the various propositions laid before the Chamber of Deputies in support of these demands, did not dare to repeat them in full. They were in the wrong.
IV. To limit the hours of labour and lessen production may be very good; but if the employers reduce the wages in proportion, will the workers find it answer their purpose? Will it not be a cruel deception? Why, then, does not the Legislature interfere to prevent it? Why do they not fix the rate of wage from the moment that they recognise the right to interfere in a private contract, in order to regulate the duration of work?
The theorists of the limitation of the hours of labour do not demand that the State shall itself straight away fix the wage. They demand that it shall hand over to them the task of fixing it for themselves. Under this system, the employers who pay, will have no voice in the assessment of wages. There will remain to them only one way of escape from ruin. That will be, to close their workshops and to let the workmen rejoice in the “scarcity of labour,” which, according to M. Vaillant, will “have as a result the raising of wages—at least if it does not suppress them.
If the law imposes upon a factory a diminution of work and an increase of wage which we will estimate, for example, at one hundred thousand francs for six months; and if, by reason of this double game, it not only shows no profit, but can no longer pay interest on its capital, and is making a loss, what is to be done? Sooner or later it will be closed; and the workmen who received wages there—where will they find them again? The door of the factory is closed. Its machinery is only so much old iron. The doctors of Socialism will have gained their end most thoroughly; they will have not only reduced the hours of labour to eight; they will not only have reduced them to six, as requested by M. Vaillant and the Aus tralian Trade Unions; to four hours, as Mr. Hyndman suggests; to three hours, as demanded by M. Pablo Lafargue; to the two hours claimed by M. Reinsdorf before the Leipzig tribunal, and by Mr. J. Noble of New York; to one and a half hours as proposed by Dr. Joynes; but to zero, a figure which defies all out-bidding. Workmen will escape all ruinous over-work, all unhealthy over-pressure. Rest will, for them, be compulsory. They will no longer have to complain of too much work; labour will have retired from the scene, and they may call to her as they like; they will have struck at her so thoroughly that she will have disappeared.
Such is the fate, with the eight hours law, that the charlatans who impose upon them as their defenders, but who are in reality their worst foes, are preparing for the genuine workers.
THE REGULATION OF CHILD LABOUR.
Minors and Incapables — Abuse of Protection — Application of the Law to Agricultural Labour—Why not?—Ten, Eleven, and Twelve Hours—Limitation of Adult Labour by the Limitation of Child Labour—Abolition of Apprentices—Compulsory Vagabondage—Forced Idleness—The Child at the Workshop Door—Consequences of the Abuse of Protection.
Just as we admit that the civil code should protect minors and incapables, we allow that the law should protect children against such abuses as may be committed against them. We are of opinion that, up to now, the police, the magistrates, and public opinion, have been far too indifferent regarding the miserable little creatures whose beggary is a source of speculation to scamps, and whose lives are a continual torture. When, in our schools and colleges, we see children overworked under the pretext that it is for their good, we realise that there are certain parents who, unmoved by other motives, look upon a child as a slave provided by nature; and there are employers who lend themselves to this idea of the child’s mission all the more readily as they find their own profit in it. That the law shall oppose itself to this trade is a necessity which we loudly proclaim; but it is important that the law shall not itself trespass, and under the pretext of protecting the children, persecute parents and employers.
In 1874 a law was passed for the protection of children and girls under age in factories; but it has remained almost a dead letter. This is a proof that to pass a law is not in itself sufficient to accomplish anything. When we have said, “There will be inspectors,” we imagine that inspectors will spring up from the ground; that they will all be perfect officers, calm, cool, and, as a matter of course, above all bribery. But these inspectors have to be paid and set in motion.
The law of 2nd November, 1892, which has supplanted the law of 1874, limits the labour of children between the ages of thirteen and sixteen years, to ten hours; but are they to be thus restrained during the gathering of the roses and jasamine in the south? The law does not apply to agricultural labour; but is not agriculture an industry just like any other? Is it not possible to over-drive children at it? If agriculture has not been included, is it not because the Deputies, mostly elected by rural populations, have been afraid of provoking a discontent at home which they have not feared from the manufacturing populations, because, with their appetites depraved by regulations, many workmen demand measures of this kind without thoroughly understanding their nature; and the employers actually seem to be quantities which it is unnecessary to take into account?
According to this law, children under sixteen years of age cannot be employed for more than ten hours a day, young workers of either sex from sixteen to eighteen years of age, not more than sixty hours per week; girls over eighteen and women, not more than eleven hours per day. The women may therefore remain in the factory after the young girls and children have left. And what will these do outside? Would it not be better for them to be near their mothers or their fathers? If the father works twelve hours he does not come out until two hours after his children, one hour after his wife. Instead of going away together, each leaves at his own time. Will morality and the family benefit by this?
Furthermore, in certain trades the assistance of children is indispensable. When the child has once left, the father and mother have no alternative but to leave too. The advocates of the limitation of working hours are triumphant at having obtained these results, but they have given rise to crises, strikes, and difficulties, and they have not added to the well-being of the household, nor to the prosperity of trade.
The minute protection vouchsafed to children may have the most disastrous effects upon them. The confectioners and cooks of Paris have 3000 apprentices, of whom many are orphans, or boys whose families live in the provinces. The law compels their masters to give them a day’s holiday, and the masters will not accept the responsibility of looking after them on this holiday, which thus means enforced vagabondage for these little boys.
The law gives rise to absurd results of the following nature:—The head of the stereotyping department of a journal of large circulation in Paris had his son with him. The law interfered, and he had to send his son away. If, however, instead of working in large printing works he had worked at home, would he have been forbidden to have his son as his assistant, and to teach him a trade? The young man was very strong and active. The law condemned him to idleness. It is this thrusting forth of the child or of the girl under age, of which the Legislature did not dream. The day after the promulgation of the new law, the firm of Lebaudy dismissed forty-four sugar-breakers, because they were too young. Several Deputies—Messieurs Millerand, Baudin and Dumay announced that they would challenge the action in the Chamber; but they did not dare to support the argument that an employer must retain children and girls under age against his own wish. Was the moral and material condition of these young girls improved? In all trades where the presence of children is not indispensable, many employers now dispense with them; but then where can they serve their apprenticeship? They will live at their parent’s expense, and represent a diminution of their income. Is this the premium that certain State-interventionists have promised for the development of the population?
Protection is converted into oppression. On the strength of having wished to guard child labour, we have run the risk of depriving the child of work, altogether a far more serious thing than the abuses which we have wished to prevent. Let us take care lest one day we find this child, the object of our solicitude, in such a condition that we are compelled to send him to a House of Correction, where he will lead a harder life than in any factory, and whence he will issue forth branded, morally and intellectually depressed, unfit to earn his own living; a wretched being fit only for prison and bound to relapse!
FEMALE LABOUR AND THE LAW.
(I.) English Example—Over-production—Spinning, in Normandy and the Vosges—Hypocrisy as to Motives and Contempt of Facts—Infantile Mortality—Substitution of Indigence for Ease, and Beggary for Labour—The Sixty Exceptional Days — Eleven p.m., and Morality — Other Exceptions: Seven Hours out of Twenty-four—Book-stitchers—Suppression of Female Labour for the Benefit of Men—All Light suspected—(II.) Results of the Law in Practice—Deceptions—Protestations—Strikes—(III.) Real Aim—Suppression of Female Labour—Hypocrisy of the Congress of Tours — Equality of Wages and Political Rights—Married Women outside the Factory—Too much Amiability.
I. After many years of discussion, the law has arrived not only at the regulation of child labour, but also at the regulation of the labour of full-grown women. For the latter it has prohibited night work save in a certain number of excepted cases provided for in the public administrative regulations. It is here we find the grotesque side of these laws: those who frame them, themselves recognising their absurdity, and correcting them by exemptions.
I opposed this law in speeches which I delivered on June 2nd, 9th and 11th, 1888, and on February 4th, 1889; and I shall confine myself to recalling some of the arguments of its supporters. Generally, when we economists call in the aid of events which have taken place in the largest field of economic experience in the world—England—we are very badly received. But on this occasion it is England which established the regulation of female labour; and how the advocates of the law rang the changes again and again on this argument! Nevertheless, the Act of 1878, which rules in this matter, and which contains no less than 65 pages and 10 pages of tables, has been modified ten times. It gives rise to monstrous absurdities, such as that if a workwoman is found alone in a factory while her companions are at breakfast, this renders her employer liable to a fine.
At bottom, the economic argument put forward in advocacy of this measure was that of over-production; and applied just as much to night work for men as to female labour. M. Lyonnais, one of its champions, ended by deploring the invention of gas and electric lighting. There was, too, another gentleman who deserves notice—M. Richard Waddington, Reporter of the Committee in favour of this law, and a spinner in Normandy. They do not work at night there, and thus do not “injure trade.” In the Vosges, however, they do work at night, and therefore rapidly “destroy trade.” To suppress female night labour was an easy way of suppressing trade competitors!
Such things as these are not proclaimed on the house-tops. The law is invested with a palisading of pretexts which we may be sure to find in all legislative work of this nature, and the hypocrisy of which is only equalled by the contempt shown for facts.
It was asserted that female labour was a cause of mortality amongst children. Demography proves that infant mortality is most prevalent in a certain number of the Departments of the south, where there is little or no manufacturing industry. People speak tenderly of the preservation of children, but in order to save them, the good circumstances of their fathers and mothers is a first condition. If poverty caused by restrictions on labour, condemns the children in some homes to consumption, has good work been done from the point of view of their education and health?
If this poverty forces certain households, that in the past have only relied on their own labour and energies, to have recourse to public or private assistance, is this throwing them into beggary a good way of strengthening family ties, or of raising their moral standard? By this law, which prohibits night work for women, under the pretext of morality, we say to them: “Go anywhere you like, go anywhere except to the factory!” The law does not apply to theatres, music-halls and other places. Wherefore this exception?
According to Paragraph 3 of Article 5 of the law, the regulations for its public administration authorise night labour during sixty days, but only up to 11 o’clock. This applies particularly to the Parisian trade and industries, which, they wished to admit, are subject to occasional times of pressure, which are very useful as compensations for dead seasons.
M. Waddington said that he had, by inspection, satisfied himself that sixty days would suffice. Be it so; but if sixty days suffice, of what use is the law? Do people employ night labour for pleasure? This labour receives double pay; it entails lighting expenses; and it is not so good. Would it not be more simple to let each one act for himself, instead of subjecting all employers to the caprices and insolences of an inspector? But from the point of view of morality, how intelligent is this rule of sending all the work-women away at 11 o’clock at night! And if there is a ball to-morrow at the Presidency of the Republic, or at the house of the Minister of Commerce, bound to administer this law, or given by the fierce Socialist at the Town Hall, will there not be some dressmaking establishments forced to infringe it?
During the busy season, the legislature deprives these dressmakers and seamstresses of part of their income, which they might have saved. Does it indemnify them during the slack season? Paragraph 5 goes further. It authorises night labour, which, it seems, is no longer destructive to morality and the family, if thus sanctioned; but “the labour must in no case exceed 7 hours out of 24.” M. Felix Martin pointed out to the Senate the position of book-stitchers. They would arrive at the factory at nine in the evening. They might remain there till four in the morning. They must be turned out, without fail, at that hour, whether it rained or froze, whether light or dark; and then it would be forbidden to these women to reappear at the factory during those 17 hours which would be the complement of the 24. What will be the result? Under pretence of protecting the women stitchers, the law closes the factory against them, and has them replaced by men!
If the law can prevent work in the factory, it cannot prevent work in the home; and if neighbours gather together round one lamp, close to the same stove, has not a workshop here been formed? When a guardian of the peace sees a light burning in an attic, ought he not to point it out as suspicious, and ought not the inspectors to go and ascertain if it does not burn for guilty women, who instead of being outside are shut in doing work?1
II. The application of the law of November 2nd has given rise to deceptions, called forth protests, and provoked strikes. Three hundred and twenty-eight labourers from Abbeville expressed themselves thus in a Parliamentary petition:—
“It is especially in winter that the disastrous effects of the new law are felt, when, hindered by fogs, rain, frost, or snow, we are often for days and weeks together unable to do a good day’s work. How, then, are we to live, if, under the pretext of protecting us, we are deprived of the power of prosecuting our work when the weather is favourable? Is the field labourer prevented from remaining at his work as long as he likes, and when he can? Why then expect differently of us?”
. . . . . .
“Thus, on the one hand, we have frequent stop-pages, on the other, the impossibility of letting our children work, who will be given over to vagabondage and libertinism by the very terms of this law. This inevitably means, for all of us, and for our families, destitution, immorality, and misery, with all the evils which they bring in their train.”
Consequently, the petitioners ask:
“1. To enjoy entire liberty of work.”
“2. To be allowed, as in the past, to let their children work with them, under their protection and supervision, in all the workshops, from twelve years of age.”
The manufacturers of the Seine-Inférieure, in whose favour M. Richard Waddington seemed to make the law, have pointed out all its drawbacks: Reduction of the daily wage, abolition of the few minutes of breathing time, which until then the workmen had enjoyed after their entrance into and before their leaving the factories; new distribution of the hours of labour, etc.
In other places strikes have broken out, of which the most considerable was that at Amiens. It broke out because the workman was stunned by realising that the law would shorten his hours of labour and reduce his wages; for without the aid of women and children he can do nothing.
III. Moreover, many of those who proposed, defended, and voted for this law, did not conceal the fact that its real object was, not only to provide a law for the limitation of the hours of labour of the adult man, but to at once put it in force in all factories where the product is the outcome of the combined work of men, women, and children. And it also had another object, more or less concealed. It was to create protection in favour of male, as opposed to female, labour.
From the moral point of view, this is certainly grievous; but it is necessary to declare, that for more than thirty years, men’s policy has been to do away with the competition of female labour. They frankly declare it, and we charge them with the retrograde act. But they do worse than this; they wish to quietly suppress female labour. They screen their real aim behind a heap of tinsel borrowed from Tartuffe’s wardrobe.1 The Socialist Congress of Tours (November, 1892) adopted a resolution declaring that “women ought to receive an equal wage with men.” As a matter of principle, one can only acknowledge the justice of the formula: to equal labour, equal pay! But in conformity with custom, the outcome of woman’s traditional habits of order, economy, and sobriety, she is able to accept work equal to that performed by man, at a lower salary.1 It is not, then, out of solicitude for the equal rights of woman, that the Congress accepted this formula. Its gallantry was not stirred by an ideal of justice, but by a spirit of self-defence.
The Socialists of Tours took this formula of justice as a means of concealing their fundamental thought. They then went on more frankly to say:—Married women must be excluded from the workshop.” But they did not add that the man was to undertake to supply her needs more thoroughly by taking all his wages home. They banish married women from the factories, though, in many manufactures, they do work at which men would be very clumsy. If women’s wages, added to those of the men, gives to their households, not only more comfort, but also something to put by and security for old age, what tyranny is it for the Tours Socialists to forbid them to live more comfortably, and to acquire capital, by thus exerting themselves?
If the man is thrown out of work, or if the husband cannot entirely provide for the needs of the household, they forbid the married woman to come to the rescue, and force the whole household to beg in the streets or to seek relief from the parish! This is a strange way of respecting the dignity of labour!
In return, and as compensation, the Tours Socialists assure women “that they shall enjoy the same rights as men, and be politically emancipated.” In proclaiming these rights, they forget the first right of all—the right of each one of us to use his powers and faculties as seems to him best; a right which is nothing more than the exercise of each one’s personal proprietorship in himself; a right of which none can be deprived without the most monstrous tyranny; a right which is called freedom to work, and which Socialists scorn, just as slave-owners scorned it!
To prevent the married woman from working, and at the same time to assure her that she shall enjoy equal rights with man, is an amiable joke, as is also the promise of her political emancipation. The worthy Socialists of Tours offer her this shadow of the rights which are hers, while they manifest their good faith by commencing with an endeavour to confiscate the substance. Were this not so, they would be very careful not to speak of this political emancipation, because the first use to which woman would put it, would be to demand access to situations which are still entirely reserved to man.
This resolution of the Congress of Tours shows a curious intellectual and moral condition amongst those who voted for it. They should have told us brusquely:—We do not want to have women in trade, because they compete with us.” We should then have understood them. It would have been clear, frank, and sincere. But, not having had the courage to do this loyally, they constitute themselves the good apostles of the rights of women, and represent themselves as their protectors and allies, at the very moment when they want to deprive them of the right to work. They drive them from the workshop, saying to them with tongue in cheek:—It is for your good.” They deprive them of their wages, whilst throwing them a kiss: “It is for love of you!” They really are too amiable and too affectionate. If these Tours’ Socialists have not borrowed their processes from the casuists painted by Pascal, I compliment them on their inventive genius: they have re-discovered them.
COMPULSORY IDLENESS OF LYING-IN WOMEN.
Biblical Arguments—Female Agricultural Labourers—Inspectors of Agricultural Labour—Indemnity—The Budget—The Workers do not seem to contribute towards their Friends.
The Chamber of Deputies, at their sitting of 5th November, 1892, voted for a Bill, having for its object the prohibition of labour for women for four weeks after their confinement.
This Bill, originally brought forward by Messieurs Richard Waddington and de Mun, in the legislature of 1885, was taken up again by Dr. Dron. In support of it Dr. Dron found a Biblical argument. In chapter xii. of Leviticus, does it not admonish women to keep within doors for forty days after their delivery? And was not the taking of Jesus to the Temple deferred until after his mother had accomplished her purification? And still, exclaims Dr. Dron: “People pretend that these are matters that cannot be regulated.” You may easily see that Jesus regulated them. Then Dr. Dron brings forward a new argument which proves that these measures, which are laid before the French democracy as progressive, are merely backward steps. All these measures are fallacious to the point of fantasy. Agricultural labourers were not included in this Bill. It appears that a woman who is going to dig the earth does not need the rest to which it was proposed to subject her sisters. Upon the suggestion of Dr. Dron, the Chamber, perhaps in irony, included the agricultural labourers in the Bill. You should have seen the indignation of the supporters of this proposed law! But there is a way of getting over difficulties. For workshops and factories, the application of the law was handed over to Commissions and Inspectors already in existence. As soon as agricultural female labourers were included, it should have become necessary to nominate Inspectors of agricultural labour. As a first consequence of the law thus extended, officers should have been appointed, who would go up to farmers and landowners and say: “You have a newly delivered woman at home? You cause her to work? Such work is forbidden.—But it is my wife!—Would the Inspector have answered: Oh! the moment it is your wife, she has neither the right nor the obligation to rest?
In the law which restricts the labour of women, it was entirely forgotten—although I reminded them of it in the tribune—that if we prevent anyone from working, we are bound to indemnify them by compensation. The Commission entrusted with the examination of Dr. Dron’s project more logically proposed an indemnity of from 75 centimes to 2 francs per day. M. Pablo Lafargue did not neglect to outbid this, and to propose from 3 to 6 francs, according to the price of living in the neighbourhood where the married woman lived. Who was to pay this? The Commune! Then the Deputies recollected that if they offered this little gift to their Communes, they would never forgive them. The employer? A new tax upon the employer! Why not? Ought he not to be the beast of burden? But this objection was made, that to introduce this system would be tantamount to suppressing the labour of pregnant women. The employer, fearing this new burden, would be driven to making the most unwise investigations, and to closing the doors upon women who ran the risk of becoming a useless charge upon him. If this little game could have been played at the expense of manufacturers alone, the Chamber would have passed it over, but small land-owners and small farmers were also included. It was much more simple to saddle the general State budget with the expense. It would amount to from 8 to 10 millions francs. What is that in a budget of 3 thousand millions? Only this, that this contemptuous, “What is that?” is somewhat frequently repeated; that the budget increases accordingly, becomes inflated, and unhappily does not give the taxpayer that rest which Socialists are so willing to grant to the labourers at the expense of the taxpayers—as if the labourers were not taxpayers!.
NATIONAL LABOUR AND FOREIGN WORKMEN.
Theoretical and Practical Nationalism—National Labour—Pretexts—All too timid Bills—Police Law—Satisfying Public Opinion—Hypocritical Title—Expulsion of Poor Aliens—Chinese in the United States and Australia—Tortoise-like Legislation—The Real Way to expel Foreigners.
This exclusive spirit is shown in the opposition offered to the competition of foreign workmen. Internationalism is all very well in speeches, and in the political agitations of those who speak in the name of the workmen, but who do not themselves work. This “fraternity” ceases from the moment that workmen, having crossed the frontier, commence to compete in the labour market of the nation. The Protectionists having asked for the levy of customs duties, so as to protect “national labour,” it is quite natural that French workmen should demand this favour, because, if the work is performed by foreigners, it is no longer national. Pretexts against foreign workmen are abundant. Many are spies. Their criminals are estimated at 20 per thousand, instead of 5 per thousand, like the French. The Italians live crowded together, men, women, and children, all in one room; and their expulsion is demanded in the name of public health and public morals. Finally these workmen accept a lower wage. They compete against French workmanship. Therefore they must be expelled.
This drift of opinion was manifested in the legislature of 1885, by five Bills, brought forward by Messrs. Castelin, Lalou, Macherez, Brincard, and Hubbard. M. Lalou would strike at foreign residents of from 21 to 45 years of age by a tax of 24 francs; M. Macherez would make this tax vary from 24 to 48 francs; M. Brincard would confiscate 5 per cent. of the income of these alien interlopers. But this bidding might have gone a great deal higher without closing our frontiers to foreign workmen. When these various Bills came to be discussed, the Chamber, in spite of the Protectionist spirit which animated it, could not save them from collapse under the sheer weight of their own absurdity. Their impotence is apparent; for such measures have not yet been adopted in any other country in Europe, and reciprocity in expulsion would hover over our own people who inhabit foreign lands.
The Chamber of Deputies, on 6th May, 1893, passed a law which is nothing more than the reproduction of a Decree of October 20th, 1888, containing some useless and vexatious police measures framed to give the appearance of “satisfaction to public opinion.” Always obedient to this consideration, the Chamber pompously entitled it a “Law Relating to the Protection of National Labour.” And it is only in its title that it does protect it!
What could the Deputies who introduced the Bills which we have enumerated, and who accepted this Act for the protection of national labour, answer, if a logical man were to press the question home, and say to them: “You have thrown dust in our eyes! Your law does not give us the monopoly of national work, neither would any of the Bills that have been brought forward—not even M. Brincard’s. You are playing with us, and are trying to take advantage of our credulity! Come! we must go to the root of the matter, and declare that every foreigner found in France shall be treated as a spy and condemned to five years imprisonment!”
The masons, the makers of fancy goods, the jewellers, the tailors, and the makers of fancy garments, would, no doubt, interpose and demand that this regulation should not apply to rich foreigners who come to spend money in our country, and that the privilege of expulsion should, in the name of equality and fraternity, be reserved for poor workmen, as proposed by the Chairman of the Trades Union Congress at Glasgow. A similar proposal, brought forward in the House of Commons in February, 1893, by Mr. James Lowther, was supported by 119 votes against 234.
We can imitate the action of the United States, which has proscribed the Chinese. We can copy Australia, which has limited the number to be imported. We can act like these with regard to the Italians and Belgians who come here and act as navvies for us, and who pull down our old buildings—work which Frenchmen will not do—or, as regards the Luxemburgers who come and sweep our streets on terms that Frenchmen will not accept. But, in imitating them, shall we prove that it is a logical and moral act, on the part of Europeans, to have gone and opened the gateway to China with cannon, with the mental reservation that this gateway should serve only as an entrance and never as an exit?
The United States fortify their frontiers against emigration, just as they protect them against the importation of European goods. They refuse to receive the indigent, incapable of work. They refuse to receive workmen enticed by the protection of national labour, so that they shall not compete with strikers, and that their goods may not compete with “trusts” arranged under the protection of import duties. In the month of December, 1892, thirty glass-blowers, brought over from Belgium by the steamer Friedland, to replace strikers, were placed in quarantine and sent back; and the Pittsburg Company, which was responsible for their coming, became liable to a fine of £1000 per head.
What do these measures prove? That the present citizens of the United States forget that they are the descendants of emigrants, and many of them themselves emigrants of yesterday; that it is to their qualities as pioneers, to the strength and energy which they brought with them, that the present greatness of their country is due. They fear that which has been the strength of their ancestors and of themselves. They wish to protect themselves—that is to say, to wither away. They are as short-sighted as unjust in attempting to defend themselves against European and Chinese emigration.
In spite of their declarations, the ambition of French Socialists is not to illuminate the world, and to conquer it by their expansive force, their strength, skill, and energy. They want to shield themselves against foreign competition. They imitate the tortoise, and then ask the legislature to close the carapace under which they will all have leisure to grow torpid. Their much vaunted internationalism is, in fact, the narrowest particularism. The miners of the Pas-de-Calais proved this, in the month of April, 1893, when they wanted to expel the Belgian miners; and what palpable authority these preliminary acts of theirs gave to their representatives, when they attended the universal Miners’ Congress at Brussels!
But have these Socialists, who ask for the expulsion of the 1,100,000 foreigners living in France, never asked why they flock thither in such large numbers? If they had they would have seen one more proof that labour conforms to the Law of Supply and Demand; that if there are so many foreigners offering us their labour, it is because, with us, they find more favourable conditions than in their own countries, and there is only one effectual way in which to make them surge back over our frontiers, which is, the reduction of production, and the lowering of the rate of wages.
The Law of Liberty taken to mean a Law of Monopoly—Employers and the Syndicates—The Railway Syndicate—Abuse of the Law of Syndicates—Cooks as Members of Syndicates—The Bovier-Lapierre Law—The Hatter between two Syndicates—The Employers’ Misdemeanour—The Law proposed by the Senate—Obligatory Syndicates—The Enemies of Syndicates.
This Protectionist spirit of exclusion is again evinced in the way in which the Socialists, and those who, through inconsistency or timidity, follow their lead, understand the law relating to trade syndicates of 21st March, 1884. The men who demanded it and prepared it look upon it as a law of liberty. The Socialists wish to use it as a law of monopoly and oppression, have essayed to make syndicates obligatory, and by the pretensions which they have advanced, and the actions which have so often accompanied them, have seemed to make it their business to prove that the law was far in advance of the age capable of applying it legitimately.
That certain demands, originating with the workmen, have been well founded; that some employers regarded the law relating to syndicates with much ill will, and wished to prevent their workpeople from belonging to them; and that some dismissed those workpeople who had taken an active part in their organisation, we willingly admit. Such facts as these seem to us the more natural inasmuch as many of the workmen, who established the syndicates, turned them into engines of war, and never concealed their intention of using them, not as instruments of bargaining and conciliation, but of social discord. Many artisans thought that, as soon as syndicates were formed, they would be the masters of the workshops, and would escape all control and discipline.
I recollect the conversation I had on this subject with the Syndical Chamber of the Railway Employés at Tours, on June 14th, 1891, the day following the Railway Servants’ Strike, which originated in the dismissal of twenty-five of the Orleans Company’s hands. I spoke as follows:—
“Do not abuse the law relating to syndicates. Look you, here is an example. Here is an employee, Mr. X., who has been guilty of acts towards the State Railway Company, which must be put down. The director of the company makes his complaint, I commission an engineer to verify the facts. M. Millerand says he will question me in the Chamber on the subject; I beg him to come into my room to talk the matter over with me; he comes, and withdraws his interpellation. Another Deputy having announced that he, too, is going to question me on the subject, I beg him to inform me of the day of the interpellation, because I shall dismiss Mr. X. on the previous day.
“Mr. X. has left France, and we are not talking about any of those present; but be careful to remember that if the law relating to syndicates gives you rights, it does not give you the right to do anything—that you cannot make use of it for the purpose of causing trouble to the service and of breaking the discipline. Whenever employers violate the law in regard to you, we shall cause it to be respected; but when the workmen wish to abuse the law, to make use of their powers in the syndicate to upset the work even of their comrades, we shall not support them. Take care lest, in misusing the law relating to syndicates, you provoke a reaction against it. When the day arrives that a small tradesman cannot dismiss his cook, because she is a member of a syndicate, syndicates will cease to exist.”
M. Bovier-Lapierre wished to justify the pretention to fixity of tenure on the part of workmen belonging to syndicates, and brought forward the Bill which bears his name, and which the Chamber of Deputies ended by adopting. This law is aimed only at the employers. It subjects them to imprisonment for from ten days to a month, and to a fine of from 100 to 2,000 francs, if they disturb the operations of trade syndicates. Its wording is somewhat naïve, as it allows refusal to hire, based on sufficient reasons. If an employer refuses to engage a workman without giving his reasons, how will the law fathom his motives? But if an employer dismisses a workman attached to a syndicate, this workman can always declare that it was to his membership of a syndicate that he owed his dismissal. The Bovier-Lapierre law has, if not for its object, at least the result, of making all workmen irremovable provided they are members of a syndicate. The employer is bound to retain them, under penalty; and a majority of the Chamber was found to vote for these regulations!
Here is an event which will demonstrate the consequences of the application of the Bovier-Lapierre law. At Bordeaux, there is a syndicate of working hatters. The syndicate had forbidden its members to work below a certain rate of wages. A hatter, considering their demands excessive, went to Barsac, and there hired some workmen who consented to accept his terms. After waiting for some time, the members of the Bordeaux syndicate renounced their claims, presented themselves before the employer, and succeeded in being re-admitted into his workshops. But once inside, they would no longer tolerate the competition of the Barsac men, intimidated the employer, and compelled him to send back the new-comers. The dismissed workpeople summoned the employer to appear before the Conseil des prudhommes, and he was sentenced to pay to each one of them 200 francs damages. There is in this series of episodes a body of facts which might bring about consequences, startling at least, if the Bovier-Lapierre law were to be applied.
The Bordeaux Syndicate began by oppressing its adherents, by preventing their acceptance of work at a certain price. Then it oppressed the employer by compelling him to expel the workmen he had hired at Barsac. Finally, it was again guilty of oppressive measures, in driving people out of the workshops, whose presence it declined to tolerate. Under the rule of the Bovier-Lapierre law, the position of a manufacturer, under these difficult circumstances, would have been very troublesome, it must be admitted, supposing the Barsac workmen to have belonged to a syndicate like those of Bordeaux. The employer would, at one and the same time, have had to answer to the summonses of two syndicates, and whatever might have been his decision, the syndicate to which he had refused to listen, could have had him sentenced to one months’ imprisonment, and a fine of 2,000 francs!1
The Senate, after having rejected the Bill as submitted by the Chamber (which Mr. Goblet did not even dare to take up again) and accepted a reciprocal one, amended the 414th Article of the Penal Code by adding thereto: “With the object of striking at the right of workmen, or of employers, to decline to become members of a trade syndicate.” They appended to this a provision aimed at “the decisions come to by several employers or workmen, whether formed into a syndicate or not.” But as this Article nearly reproduced the provisions of Article 414 of the Civil Code, of what use was this new Bill? This is what the Reporter himself, M. Trarieux, asked; and at the sitting of 7th July, the Senate threw the whole out by 195 votes against 33, and with all the more reason, inasmuch as it would not have given satisfaction either to the Socialists or to the Deputies who, with M. Bovier-Lapierre, wished to create a misdemeanour for the employers, and to forcibly insist, under pain of fine and imprisonment, on the presence in workshops of workmen who would stir up trouble and insubordination there, and defy all rules which did not suit them!
The Bill accepted by the Chamber of Deputies on November 3rd also strengthened this dissolvent operation in deliberating whether those who had followed the same trade for less than ten years could become members of a syndicate.
But M. Bovier-Lapierre and his friends seem to us to have made futile efforts towards satisfying Socialistic demands; for the representatives of the Bourse du Travail have declared that this Bill is of little importance to them as they do not recognise the law of 1884, and have declared that they only intend to be grouped and registered according to their own convenience and fancy.
Even those who accept the legality of syndicates are not satisfied with the part allotted to them. We have seen the Tours Congress demand the right to regulate wages and superintend workshops. The Congress of Bienne (April, 1893) demanded obligatory syndicates for every trade, which would fix the conditions of labour, the normal day, and the rate of wages. Their decisions would carry the weight of law for all masters and workmen.
I take leave to affirm that even a legal syndicate has no right to do just what it chooses—that it has not the right to create a monopoly, and to deprive a labourer of work if he declines to belong to one. But when I do this, I am told at once that I am an enemy of syndicates.
To me, on the contrary, it appears that the enemies of syndicates are those who want to convert them into monopolies, to confiscate the whole of one part of the national activity for their benefit, and to make them the appendages of the audacious and cunning men who have been able to get them under their own control, and to transform organisations intended for the development and guarantees of individual liberty into instruments of oppression.
The enemies of syndicates are those who, by their practice and speech, seem to be bent on justifying the law of 14–17 June, 1791, abolishing the old corporations and stipulating “that they shall not be re-established under any form or pretext whatsoever.”
The enemies of syndicates are those who declare that the law of 1884 is null and void for them, and that they intend to construct corporations, having for their principal object, not the discussion of trade interests, but the preparation for social war.
Labour Monopolies—The Professional Employment-Registrar—The Formula of Free Wages—The Monopoly of Registration—The Syndicates.
The whole policy of labour syndicates is to obtain the monopoly of labour. When they obtain this, all working-men will be compelled to belong to them. One way which they have discovered of securing this monopoly to themselves, is the suppression of Registry Offices. The Commission appointed by the Chamber of Deputies to examine the suggestions made by Messrs. Mesureur and Millerand, Dumay and Joffrin, adopted this system in a report drawn up by M. Dubois. This Bill prohibits, under the most severe penalties, all registration made in consideration of a fee. It reserves all registration to the Municipalities, and, in fact, to the syndicates, which are to be exempted from all supervision.
The question came before the chamber of Deputies on May 8th. I reminded the Chamber of the functions of the registrar, and pointed out his economic utility:—
“The work of the mediator between the demand for and supply of employment is service which, like any other, is worthy of remuneration. And it is precisely because it is remunerated, because it secures a fee, that people engage in this business. They make application for the employees, the employers answer their application, and they thus act as the pinion of a wheel, between the two. Their utility is such that, in spite of the number of competing institutions, they have retained on their books more than four-fifths of the situations actually obtained for workmen and employees.”
I sketched the employment registrar, armed with personal descriptions of the qualifications of his clients, and striving to satisfy them—stimulated thereto by his own interests and the competition of rival agencies.
The Reporter had laid down the principle, “that wages should be free from all fines, and Section 1. of the Bill stated that: “The registration of workmen is free and gratuitous.”
The formula proves the influence of a word like “gratuitous.” I hereupon made the following remarks:—
You have laid down the principle that wages should be free from all fines. But do you believe that it is not frequently subject to past debts, to cost of technical education, apprenticeship, debts to relatives who have given the workman the chance of learning a trade, until such time as, for example, as a printer or fitter, he may be in a position to repay them? Are you going to absolve him from these debts? To wipe them all out would be the consequence of the principle which you lay down.
But there are others! Much is said of insurance against accidents—even compulsory insurance is claimed. Some demand that the workmen shall deduct part of his wages for the pension fund, etc. All this is in contradiction to your declared principle: “The entrance into a school is gratuitous, why should not that into a workshop be so too? Wages should be free of all fine.”
M. FrÉdÉricGrousset.—And the contributions to the syndicates?
M. YvesGuyot.—Certainly; I am coming to that. If someone wishes to insure his life, and gives his wages as security for his insurance, are you going to forbid it? I imagine not. Finally, you talk about gratuitous registration of employment. Does it so happen that syndicates are providentially supplied? Or are not their funds, on the contrary, drawn from the contributions of the members of the syndicate? (Very good! Very good! from the Centre.)
While the workmen who have found situations through the syndicates to which they belong, commence by paying their contributions to the syndicate, I imagine that the imperative formula proclaimed by M. Arnault Dubois will not have been entirely respected!
With regard to the object of the law, these are the terms in which I characterised it:—
M. YvesGuyot. — What you intend to do, is to give the workmen’s syndicates a monopoly in registration.
M. FrancoisDeloncle.—That is so!
M. YvesGuyot.—Here are the words of Section 8: “Registry Offices, with the exception of those acting by virtue of the law of March 21st, will be inspected by an officer of the ‘Labour Department,’ and subject to police regulations.” Allow me to tell you, Mr. Reporter, that the wording of this section of the Bill is not sufficiently clear and frank. (Exclamations on the Extreme Left.)
M. Montaut.—That is an unhappy expression!
M. YvesGuyot.—Not at all; it is intentional.
M. LucienMillevoye.—Then it was premeditated!
M. YvesGuyot. — Yes, it would have been more straightforward to say that the registry offices belonging to syndicates are exempt from every kind of control. That should have been the wording of the Bill. Change your negation into the corresponding affirmation.
M. Lavy.—Do you complain of there not being enough police supervision?
M. YvesGuyot.—What you want is to give a monopoly to workmen’s syndicates, and that free from any kind of supervision or control.
Very well! If we admit that in the very best registry offices everything is not quite perfect, do you really and truly believe that, when you have given the monopoly of registration over to the workmen’s syndicates, everything will be as it should be? Do you really believe that workmen’s syndicates are a kind of Bétique,1 in which all the members weave idylls? Do you really believe that in them there will be no competition, rivalry, or jealously? Do you think that in syndicates there are no majorities and minorities? Will not the majority of the day be able to oppress the minority? Do you imagine that the syndicate will find a situation for the workman who is disliked because he would not agree to the election of this or that president?
And you remove all kind of control! You do away with all inspection! And then when, by your Section 7, you declare that there shall be no situations negotiated for except through the medium of the syndicates, you at the same time release these syndicates which you found from all responsibility. . . . (Applause.)
If I ask the Chamber not to pass on to the discussion of the sections,1 it is because I wish it to place itself in opposition to one of those measures which, under a more or less generous appearance—as I do not wish to cast doubt on the good faith of the Reporter—tend to nothing less than the creation of a monopoly, unfavourable to the great mass of the working population—for I must insist that the syndicates, regular and irregular, taken together, only number 208,000 members, that is to say, less than 2 per cent. of the working and industrial population of France—the simple creation of a monopoly in favour of, and for the benefit of, a certain number of those ringleaders who hope to take advantage of the credulity and good faith of French working men. (Applause from many benches. The speaker, in returning to his seat, was congratulated.)
The discussion of the Bill was adjourned, but the Government did not venture to oppose its being taken into consideration.
NATURE OF “LABOUR LAWS.”
(I.) Spirit of Privilege—Working Men’s Associations and Public Works—Privileges and the Municipal Council of Paris—(II.) Taxation and Co-operative Societies—Privilege means Progress!—Profit-sharing—Its Nature—Profit-sharing, and the State Labourers—(III.) Compulsory Arbitration—(IV.) The Law relating to Accidents—Professional Risk—Compulsory Insurance—(V.) Labour Hygiene—Confiscation—President of the Council and Property—(VI.) Factory Regulations—(VII.) Arbitrary Interference and the Police—(VIII.) “Labour Law—Weekly Interpellation—Article 416—Article 1781—Workmen’s Certificates—Laws of Progress are Laws of Equality—Constitution of the Fourth Estate—Retrogressive Legislation.
I. All laws having for their object the protection of working men, the substitution of authoritative arrangements for private contracts, the prohibition of some, the sanctioning of others, are born of the spirit of privilege.
In the purchases made by the State, the decree of June 4th, 1888, gives to workmen’s associations, for labour and supplies, a sum not exceeding 50,000 francs, and the right of preference over other tenderers should their contract prices be equal. The Chamber of Deputies has extended these provisions so as to include the Communal depots.
It was suggested to the Municipal Council that it should supply the necessary tools and the raw materials to every working men’s association entrusted with municipal work; and I heard, in the Committee of inquiry of 1882, some working men’s associations energetically reject the gift, saying, “Where do you expect us to make our profits, if we cannot ourselves supply the raw materials?”
Has not the small tradesman, the contractor of the past, who pays his taxes like every other citizen, the right to complain of this favouritism shown to a competitor for the sole reason that it bears the title of “Working Men’s Association?”
In the conditions for its contracts of 1887, the Municipal Council of Paris, in the interests of the workmen employed on its works, required a maximum of work, and a minimum wage: what did it do by this if not grant them a privilege? And other workmen, who were simply taxpayers, the moment that the rate of pay for municipal work became thus higher, would have to pay more for their services, and receive less in exchange.
II. Imagining, moreover, that Co-operative Societies are nothing but workmen’s associations, the Chamber of Deputies, following the Senate, voted for a Bill exempting them from stamp duties and registration dues, from income tax on their bonuses, and from all commercial taxation and licenses. When I demanded equal taxation for Co-operative Societies, the Reporter, M. Doumer, called my amendments reactionary, proving once more, that progress, as Socialists understand it, whether they be bold or timid, consists in the setting up of privileges.
Clause VI. of the law relating to Co-operative Societies enacts that, in productive societies, the assistants shall share in 50 per cent. of their profits. If there is only one assistant, will he have the right to this 50 per cent.?
The law contains one useful provision: it allows merchants or manufacturers to permit their workmen and clerks to share in the profits, without this profit-sharing involving them in any responsibilities; and it allows them to renounce all control and all verification of accounts.
In order to regard this as genuine profit-sharing, one must be inclined to be satisfied with payment in words. Under these conditions, the truth is, that the master may give a premium to his clerks and workmen according to his profits. But is not this premium one form of piece-work, and an incentive to over-production? How is it then that certain Socialists accept and demand this share of the profits?
As far as we are concerned, we are strong advocates of this method of payment of labour, as of all systems which give an incentive to the independent thought and activity of the working man; but this premium should be regarded as a part of the wages, the fixed rate of which might be made still lower, inasmuch as the contingent profits would yield a larger compensation.
M. Guillemet brought forward a Bill, making it compulsory on all holding State, Departmental, or Communal contracts for a period exceeding five years, to allow their men to share in the profits. But do all those who obtain State contracts make a profit? The largest, the railway companies, with one exception, only exist by the guarantee of the interest. Do you think that they yield any profit?
M. Guillemet also asked that the State should introduce profit-sharing in all factories, manufactures, and industries, which it manages itself, and of which it sells the products. He forgot that the State is not a capitalist, and that it only derives its funds from taxpayers; that the surplus it makes when it compels smokers to buy only tobacco that has come from its own factories, is not a profit but a tax; that the workmen in State factories, when their wages are paid, have no right whatever to share in funds which can have only two legitimate objects—either the reduction of taxation, or the payment of public services. M. Guillemet appealed to the example given by Portugal, in its tobacco factories. Unhappily, the financial administration of that country is not sufficiently encouraging to induce us to follow in her foot-steps.
The Commission asked me, as Minister of Public Works, if I would give an interest in the profits, to the employees of the State railways. I replied, that before disposing of such profits, it was necessary to have them; that it was possible to give the employees all sorts of premiums, but that it was making use of a wrong expression to use the word “profit.” It seems that one of my colleagues had promised to give the workmen a share in the “profits” of one of the State departments that does not sell its produce. I was bitterly reproached for not being so generous.
III. The Parliament adopted a law on arbitration, promulgated on December 28th, 1892; but those who cried it up as a sovereign remedy, as though it would be enough to establish a tribunal in order to do away with lawsuits, had so little faith in its efficacy that they wanted compulsory arbitration. At the very moment when Messrs. Clémenceau, Millerand, and their friends were demanding it with a violence which contrasted strangely with the character of a conciliatory law, the miners of Carmaux, of their own accord, declined arbitration. Would then compulsory arbitration have become optional in cases where the sentence did not suit either party? Without doubt it is better to explain oneself, and to understand one another than to abuse one another and fight. The Code of Civil Procedure had already anticipated arbitration. The new law places it at the disposal of people, who can use it if they like; and thus far we have seen strikers contemptuously reject it.
M. Jourde wished to make arbitration compulsory on the State for its workmen; and he was right from the moment that certain of his colleagues wished also to impose upon it the obligation of profit-sharing. Compulsory arbitration is, for both parties, the suppression of free contract.
IV. A Bill relating to accidents, has for several years been passing to and fro between the Chamber and the Senate. In its scheme, the Senate reverses the procedure as to evidence, and in this has always seemed to us to be right. It no longer rests with the workman, wounded whilst at work, to prove that he has not committed some awkward mistake, or imprudence. But from this to compulsory insurance is all the further, inasmuch as, in the system proposed by the Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, it would be the big concerns, which are always hardest hit nowadays, in the matter of accidents, which would there-by reap the benefit, whilst for small establishments, it would be one more difficulty added to their constitution and an added working expense. A singular way this, in which to encourage agriculture, to subject every one who makes use of a thrashing machine, to this obligation! And why not those who have a cart? It is the carters who run the greatest professional risk.
The Bill contains eighty-four sections. The legislature will have to conclude the examination of this measure. The late Chamber might have agreed with the Senate; but the word “compulsion”1 is such a beautiful, high-sounding word, showing at one and the same time, energy, authority, decision, the love of good, contempt for narrow interests, care for the general good, crushing under its feet all difficulties—and all rights, that people have preferred to make pretence of discussing the scheme and to put it off to a later date, so as to make the word “compulsory” sound like a gong in the ears of the electors!
V. As regards the security of labour, from the point of view of hygiene, we have Mr. Lockroy’s scheme, M. Ricard’s long report, another scheme by M. Jules Roche, and finally a law, promulgated on June 13th, 1893. The schemes never include anything but factories and workshops. Why do they exclude agricultural labour? Does that unite all the conditions necessary to health and security?
Inspectors are thrust into all the workshops and manufactories, but, in the past, in all the schemes, they made them take an oath that they would not divulge any of the secrets that they might accidentally learn! This clause has vanished from the final text. With regard to the difficulties of applying the law, that problem has, according to custom, been left to the Council of State to solve by the aid of an administrative regulation.
VI. In the various schemes relating to the security and health of the workmen, those who infringe the rules are to be subject to police correction, and to a heavy fine for each infringement committed. Not only this, but if the manufacturer has not carried out the measures of safety demanded of him—by whom? by the inspector?—in a given time, the prefect can order the closing of the factory—a re-assuring prospect likely to tempt people to invest their capital in trade!
The Bill which has been passed gives the manufacturer the guarantee of a judgment pronounced after a new summons. But the initial provisions of these Bills and propositions show to what an extent the most simple principles are obscured. With regard to hygiene, no longer “labour,” but general, M. Charles Dupuy, the President of the Council, said, on June 26th, 1893: “Do you then think that we shall stop before the pretext of property?” And to this tangible thing, property, he opposes the vague thing “solidarity.” When I reminded him that the whole of our civil society is founded upon individual proprietorship, he answered: “That is political economy!” And he thus obtains the frantic plaudits of M. Jourde, a Socialist and Boulangist deputy.
VII. To show the door to the employer in order to install the syndicate in his place, is the policy steadily pursued by the Socialists, with whom the majority of the Chamber voluntarily associate, without, however, ever satisfying their requirements.
The Chamber of Deputies passed a law authorising employers to draw up regulations for the regulation of workshops. If the law had gone no further, it would have been useless. M. Ferroul and his friends requested that these regulations should not be elaborated without the consent of the workmen. The Chamber did not accept this proposition, but it voted for M. Dumay’s amendment “prohibiting all with-holding of wages, whether under the name of penalties, or under any other name.”1 What would the employer’s practice be under these conditions? He would only have one: dismissal. Did M. Dumay fancy he was rendering a service to workmen by replacing other rules by this more stringent one?
It is true that, M. Dumay being a supporter of the Bovier-Lapierre law, he hoped that the employer could not have recourse to this last measure with regard to the workman belonging to a syndicate, under penalty of being brought before the police court and incurring fine and imprisonment.
In these various ways, the adjudication of labour contracts has passed from civil law into criminal law. At every moment, as regards female labour child labour, sanitation and the safety of workmen—the employer runs the risk of being brought before the police court, of being condemned to pay a fine pending imprisonment, of having his goods confiscated, and of being defamed by placards. Can these penal ordinances result in the raising of the dignity of trade, of attracting to it men of a higher class, of aiding in the development of our country’s prosperity? In the sitting of 8th May, I spoke as follows regarding register offices:
M. Mesureur.—Is the “old petty official”1 dead? (Laughter.)
M. YvesGuyot.—No, he is not dead. (Renewed laughter.)
A MembeR ON THELeft.—He is very ill!
M. YvesGuyot.—No; he is very well! It is just because he has a certain competency in matters of police that he opposes this project. Ah! gentlemen, with all your laws relating to the regulation of labour, the hours of labour, and hygiene, what are you really doing? You are increasing the powers of the police. (Hear! hear! on the Left and in the Centre.) You create inspectors and police agents; you create new misdemeanours; you open new avenues for arbitrary interference; you create fresh culprits. (Hear! hear! from various places.) And it is exactly in my quality of “old petty official,” if you like, that I have the greatest distrust with regard to municipal and police interference in the details of every-day life, that I am opposed to the Bill now submitted to you, just as I was lately opposed to the Bill relating to co-operative societies, and on another occasion, opposed to the law for the limitation of the hours of labour.
SeveralMemberS ON THEExtremeLeft.—As also to all labour laws.
M. YvesGuyot.—The result of this will be that there will be a certain number of laws made for workmen, whilst in this place we are all commissioned to make laws for the general benefit of all citizens. (Hear! hear! Disturbance on the Extreme Left.)
Do you, for instance, believe, that if we pass a law such as the suppression of the octrois, it is of no interest to workmen? Do you believe that if we pass a law relating to the regulation of markets, of which we have just been speaking, that it does not concern the working people? Is there a single one of the laws that we make here, that does not concern working men, by the very fact that they are citizens and consumers, and that their numbers are great. (Interruptions.) When we discuss the budget, does it not concern the working men as much as other citizens?
“Labour laws!” this is the expression which is made use of to describe the adoption by the legislature of Socialistic ideas. The Chamber of Deputies had reserved one or two days a week for the discussion of “Labour Laws.” Whilst I was a Minister, these days were regularly enlivened by questions, in which I was asked why I had not performed a certain number of Socialistic miracles. As I had always declined to promise any, and declared that I would not try to perform them, the Socialists became all the more infuriated as they asked me, and honoured me by an “hebdomadal interpellation—an expression which shocked them, doubtless because they did not understand it, when I made use of it to describe their habit. As on January 14th, 1893, being no longer a Minister, I could not be held to be afraid of wishing to avoid these questions by opposing the setting aside of one day a week for so-called “Labour Laws,” I took advantage of this to protest against this phrase.
I know that, even after the Revolution, there existed, as survivals of the old order of things, some “Labour Laws,” such as the 7th Article of the Law of Germinal of the year XI., which punished all co-operation on the part of workmen, for the purpose of causing a cessation of work or to raise the price of labour, with six months’ imprisonment; such as Articles 414 and 415 distinctly putting employers and workmen in different categories until the law of December 1st, 1849, came in force, which established the equality of the law and of punishment for both, with the restriction that workmen could, for five years, be made subject to the supervision of the chief police; such as the 1781st Article of the Civil Code, according to which the employer’s word was accepted as to the amount of wages and as to their payment: or such as the law relating to workmen’s certificates.
Yes, these were “Labour Laws,” containing unequal and oppressive clauses with regard to working men; and the law of 1864, which modified Article 416 in granting freedom of spontaneous co-operation without any concerted plan, was an illogical and incomplete law, but, none the less, a progressive one. We have thus characterised and continue to characterise the law of 21st March, 1884, the first Article of which has been definitely substituted for Article 416. We also consider the law of April 2, 1868, progressive, which rescinds Article 1781 of the Civil Code, as also the law of 1883 which has done away with the compulsory workmen’s certificates.
But why do we thus regard them, if it is not because they have granted to the working man liberties which he did not possess before — have awarded him an equality before the law of which he had been deprived? If you admit, with me, that these laws are progressive, explain to me upon what grounds you attribute the same character to laws of privilege and inequality, to coercive and police laws? You tell me that this coercion, these police regulations, these privileges and inequalities, are made for the benefit of the workmen; but you will in this way surely turn the working men into a separate class? You will give a legal status to the “Fourth Estate? By your own confession, equality before the law, and liberty, will be mere empty inscriptions which ought to be scratched off the fronts of our monuments. Very good. But then what is law? An instrument of privilege and robbery. What are politics? No longer the act of leading our country towards ever greater destinies, and of guiding it to an ever higher ideal of justice, but the art of giving to one part of the nation the largest share of the legal estate. Do you think that in thus stirring up interests and passions against one another, you are helping to forward social peace? Do you think that by thus cutting up the nation into trade and local interests, you will enlarge its mental horizon and add to its greatness?
Quoted by M. Challley-Bert. Journal de Debates, 18th April, 1893.
Already the note has been sounded here for the inspection of domestic workshops. Some Socialists wish to crush out small producers, and especially domestic work, because they think that the larger the scale of production the easier is it taken over by the State.—Ed.
I do not doubt that there are some Socialists of this class, just as there are some self-styled Individualists, who are eloquent for laissez-faire, while their real anxiety is for the maintenance of their, or their clients’, unjust privileges; and there is a more numerous class, on both sides, who, while not consciously grinding their own axes, are really biased by their interests. But I do not believe that the best Socialists or the best Individualists are open to this charge; and in any case it is better to argue the point at issue without bandying such imputations.
There is neither reason nor justice in this payment of similar work at a lower rate, when done by women instead of men. It is based on custom, which finds its chief support in the political subjection of woman, and would not long outlive her enfranchisement.—Ed.
Siècle, 5th May, 1892.
A part of ancient Spain, said to be of marvellous fertility. Fénelon speaks of it, in his Télémaque, in hyperbolical terms.—Ed.
That is, go into the Committee on the Bill, in British phrase.—Ed.
“That blessed word,” as Mr. Chamberlain called it.—Ed.
I notice that in the Official Journal, I am erroneously reported to have voted for this.
This is a reference to M. Guyot as author of Lettres d’un Vieux Petit Employé.—Ed.