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CHAPTER I.: PARLIAMENT AND STRIKES. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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PARLIAMENT AND STRIKES.
Public Opinion and Strikes—Miners—Intervention of Deputies—Deputies at Bessèges in 1882—M. Fournière painted by M. Goblet—Deputies spat upon by M. Fournière—M. Clémenceau and the Anzin Strike—M. Clémenceau’s Arguments—M. Loubet’s Arbitration—How received by those who had asked for it—Deputies as Peacemakers—M. Baudin at Carmaux—Request for Intervention—An Answer—Strike in the Salt Provision Trade—The Rôle of the Deputies—Their true Gift.
A strike is a monopoly of labour; that is the economic phenomenon which this word expresses, but which those interested understand as little as the public. Opinion intervenes between masters and workmen, and comments on the strike. Public opinion is incapable of rendering an account of the problem before it, as to the legitimacy of the claims, which, often, are not even formulated; but it has sympathies which are shown in newspaper articles and by subscriptions: and those who subscribe to a coal strike do not neglect to buy their coals at as low a rate as possible. Miners, however, have for a long time benefited by the idea which most people who have never been down a mine have formed for themselves, of this trade. They imagine that these dark holes, several hundred yards in depth, lead to infernal regions. They picture the miners to themselves, as dwelling in the midst of constant explosions from firedamp, which kill, them. They imagine them in poverty, forgetting to ask themselves how, if the work is so hard, so dangerous, and so badly paid, it exercises such an attraction over man, that the number of miners is constantly on the increase, and that when once an agricultural labourer has become a miner, he never returns to his original calling.
The moment a strike breaks out in a coal mine, certain Deputies think it their duty to mix themselves up in it. They generally pretend that their intervention is pacific. As regards their intentions, this is possible. But as a matter of fact, it always produces the same effect as oil does on a fire.
On the 20th February, 1882, upon the invitation of M. Desmons, Messieurs Clémenceau, de Lanessan, Brousse, Laporte, Girodet, and Henri Maret, went to Alais to inquire into the Grand’ Combe strike, which had been over for a month. Just at the time of their arrival, the Bessèges strike broke out, as M. Goblet, then Minister of the Interior, not without malice, affirmed.
“Having gone,” as I told the Chamber, “to inquire into past events, they thought they ought to interfere in the new ones just occurring. They did not obtain a hearing, and for this reason: They found themselves in the presence of a political agitator, who had come to sow the seeds of revolution in the district of Bessèges, as he had previously done at Grand’ Combe—citizen Fournière.”
“It is my duty to make it known to the Chamber, because it was he who was the real author of this strike. Fournière is a young man of twenty-four or twenty-five years of age, originally a working jeweller, who now works at nothing but revolutionary propaganda.”
“He belongs to those who in Paris are known as members of ‘circles for social study,’ and he calls himself a Revolutionary Collectivist.”
“The Revolutionary Collectivists send revolutionary travellers down into the provinces; I have mentioned M. Fournière; I may also mention Messieurs Malon, Guesde, and citizen Paul Minck.”
“I have said, gentlemen, that Fournière was the instigator of the Grand’ Combe strike, last November. I hold in my hands the manifesto which was published at that time.”
“In this manifesto I read sentences such as this: Whilst waiting for the total emancipation of all workmen, whilst waiting for the time when the proletariat shall re-enter into possession of all its goods, unjustly withheld by the capitalist class, we must pursue this war of classes, triumph over the monopolists on one point, until the labour party, firmly constituted, and conscious of its goal, shall say to all citizens: ‘Brothers! stand up, forward to social emancipation!’” (Sensation.)
SomeMemberS ON THEExtremeLeft.—Hear! hear!
M. Goblet, Minister of the Interior.—Gentlemen, there is not one of you who can approve these words. . . .
M. YvesGuyot.—Well! gentlemen, Fournière and some Bessèges workmen are at this moment being prosecuted for violation of the law of 1864, and the suit will be instituted to-morrow before the correctional tribunal. Fournière has been questioned, and he was asked under what circumstances the manifesto was drawn up and published. Here is that part of his examination:
“Question.—Did you not draw up an appeal to the workmen commencing in these words: Comrades, miners of Grand’ Combe?
“Answer.—Yes, sir, it was put to the vote at the suggestion of M. Desmons, and adopted by the committees who added their signatures.”
“And when, after that, M. Desmons, with the best and most pacific intentions, I repeat, came, accompanied by Messieurs de Lanessan, Maret, etc., and preached peace to the workmen, and an arrangement with the employers, and asked for a pacific settlement of the questions at issue between them, how was it that when he found himself face to face with M. Fournière, the latter omitted to remind him that he had accepted the manifesto with him? (Double round of applause.)”
“What authority can you expect the honourable M. Desmons and his colleagues to have over workmen roused to a high pitch of excitement by M. Fournière? Their sympathies go out to Fournière. As to the Deputies on the extreme left, do you wish to know how they themselves judged the situation? They said: ‘Let us go, we have nothing to do with this. Fournière has told us that he will push the matter to the point of the shedding of blood, and continue the strike.’”
“He who spoke thus was M. de Lanessan, who had had a lively dispute with Fournière. He invited his colleagues to go to the railway station although it was long before the train was to start. In this he was particularly persistent. Thus, these gentlemen, Deputies of the Extreme Left, finding themselves in the neighbourhood for the purposes of the inquiry which they were desirous of making regarding the strike at Grand’ Combe, interfered, with the best intentions, in the strike at Bessèges, and this is how they had to leave the neighbourhood, declaring that there was nothing for them to do in the presence of men whose sole aim was to excite civil war.”
“Here are the words in which M. Fournière announced this fact in the Proletaire:—”
“‘Five o’clock; violent scene with de Lanessan, who amidst the plaudits of the convict-guards, tried to discourage the workmen, and Fourniere, who supports the general strike.—Cheers. Hurrah for the strike! Hurrah for social revolution! The black standard is unfurled.”
This reception and this ironic result did not, however, discourage other Deputies from making the same mistakes. In 1884, the Anzin strike broke out. Messieurs Giard and Girard, Deputies of the Nord, asked the Minister of Public Works to intervene in favour of the miners. M. Clémenceau, with some of his colleagues, went to the spot. The Chamber appointed a Commission of Inquiry as to the condition of industrial and agricultural labourers. M. Clémenceau reported upon the Anzin strike, and declared that after fifty-six days of agitation and trouble it had miscarried. But he did not follow up his report with any suggestions; and, since 1884, he has never taken the initiative in any legislative measures concerning miners.
But at each strike he has vehemently intervened to reproach the Government with neglect of duty, with not putting an end to the strike, and of not obtaining for the miners all that they demand, always repeating, with a few variations, the following passage of his speech of November 19th, 1891:—
“Can you, when we are in the presence of 30,000 men, who may, perhaps, in eight days be starving, come, with Bastiat in your hand, after having piously consulted the articles of faith of the economists of the College of France, and say to the workmen: ‘My good friends, I love you very much, I hold you in my heart, but see Bastiat, page 37, we can do nothing for you.’ (Applause and laughter from the Left.)”
“When I think of the very powerful means of action which the Government possesses over companies which exist by their tolerance, their sufferance. . . . Yes, I would invite the Government to do that which, to my mind, is its duty. Compel them, by a process which I am not here called upon to determine. . . . ” (Ah! ah! from various benches in the Centre. Which?)
M. Millerand.—That is not difficult.
M. ClÉmenceau.—Gentlemen, if you thought I should shrink from difficulties, you have deceived yourselves. (Noise.)
M. CamillePelletan.—That noise needs a signature.
M. ClÉmenceau.—If you wish it I will determine the process: there are ten, there are a hundred, but it is not my business to point them out to you.
No one has ever known either M. Clémenceau’s hundred, nor his ten processes, although he did not “shrink before difficulties.”
Finally, on the 19th October, 1892, he disclosed his great secret: he obliged M. Loubet, President of the Ministerial Council, and Minister of the Interior, to accept the post of arbitrator. He himself, with Messieurs Millerand and Camille Pelletan, became the miners’ delegates; and on the very day on which M. Loubet gave his decision—because, whilst ordering the re-instatement of M. Calvignac, it at the same time dismissed him, and did not insist upon the re-instatement of those miners who had been condemned by the Albi tribunal, and the expulsion of M. Humblot, the manager of the mine — the delegates, in an insulting letter, invited the miners to reject it. The very first occasion on which Messieurs Clémenceau, Millerand, and Camille Pelletan put arbitration to the test, these gentlemen showed that they only admitted it upon the condition that the decision should be a simple indorsement of the claims of their clients.
Formerly, Deputies had the modesty to present themselves as peace-makers. At the present time, Messieurs Baudin, Ferroul, Pablo Lafargue and their friends openly support strikes. They consider that the stirring up of a social war is part of their mission.
With some spitefulness they urge the strikers to ask the other Deputies to join them, so as to place some of their colleagues in an embarrassing position. As to myself, I answered the Carmaux strikers thus:—
13th September, 1892.
Citizens,—I have the honour to inform you of the receipt of your letter of September 10th, in which you ask me to speak in favour of the Carmaux Strike, and to come into your midst. I am ready to give you my co-operation, but under another form, which will necessitate an explanation, the frankness of which may be displeasing to you, but useful.
I have not to estimate the intentions, motives, and political opinions of the Company. I am ready to believe that you are more sincere Republicans than its managers. But this is not the question. It is this:—M. Calvignac has been elected Mayor. His official duties prevent his being able to conform to the conditions and regulations in force in the Carmaux mines. He desires, nevertheless, to retain his employment there, even whilst only going on such days and at such hours as he deems compatible with the claims of the Mayoralty. The Company does not agree to this, and then you declare that it violates universal suffrage.
But supposing that M. Calvignac was employed on a railway, was a guard, an engine-driver, a stoker, or pointsman, could he say to the Company, “I am a Mayor, I shall only do my work when the exigencies of the Mayoralty permit that I should? The trains can wait?”
Supposing that M. Calvignac was a commercial traveller, could he say to his employer, “I am now a Mayor, I can no longer travel about for several months together as I used to do, I shall only make those rounds which are compatible with my Mayoral duties? You will, however, keep my situation open for me?”
Are there not crowds of citizens who find themselves in analogous positions, not only salaried workmen, but tradesmen, merchants, ministerial officers, advocates, and doctors? How many are there who cannot undertake the duties, not of Mayors only, but of Deputies, because they would have to resign their clients and endanger their own interests? There is an incompatibility between the occupations of a whole host of French citizens, and the functions to which they might be elected; and neither the law nor the Government can guarantee to a doctor, or a merchant, the clients he will lose if he neglects them; nor to a clerk or a workman, his situation, if he assumes responsibilities which prevent his filling it.
When M. Joffrin became a municipal Councillor of Paris, he did not think of compelling a factory to retain him as a workman; his electors and his friends joined together and provided the means necessary for insuring his independence.
A similar solution of the difficulty seems to me to be the only possible one, in the case of M. Calvignac, and, by way of example, I am ready to contribute my share.
To act thus would, believe me, be better than speeches, violence, and declamation, which can only lead to crises, conflicts, and misery.
Receive, Citizens, the assurance of my profound sympathy for the true interests of working men.
Being invited by the workmen in the salting trade, who were out on strike, to take part in one of their meetings at the Bourse du Travail, I sent this simple letter in reply:—
29th November, 1892.
Gentlemen,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the invitation with which you have favoured me, to take part in the meeting which you hold today at the Bourse du Travail.
I regret not being able to accept it. I am of opinion that Deputies should no more interfere in discussions between employers and employed than they can in lawsuits between individuals.
The events at Carmaux have shown the deplorable effects of such meddling, as well as that of the Government. A Deputy’s duties are to pass good laws, based upon principles of liberty and equality, a thing apparently too often overlooked nowadays, and to compel the Government to maintain public order and respect for the law.
Accept, gentlemen, the assurance of a sympathy of which its frankness is the best guarantee.
Mr. Goblet held the same views as to a Deputy’s duties, in 1882, when he was Minister of the Interior; but, in 1892, he caused a memorandum to be published (21st September) saying that he had made an application to the Government “for the purpose of persuading it to make use of the means granted it by law, to put an end to a struggle which had already lasted too long.” Thus are strikers imposed upon by deluding them with hopes which can never be realised. Their miseries and sufferings are prolonged, and the Deputies and Senators, who took up their cause with such fervour, give them nothing but snares.