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CHAPTER I.: PUTTING SOCIALISTIC SOPHISMS IN FORCE. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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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.
Quoted by M. Challley-Bert. Journal de Debates, 18th April, 1893.