Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: NATIONAL LABOUR AND FOREIGN WORKMEN. - The Tyranny of Socialism
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CHAPTER V.: NATIONAL LABOUR AND FOREIGN WORKMEN. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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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.