Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III.: THE EXECUTIVE, THE JUDICATURE, AND STRIKES. - The Tyranny of Socialism
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CHAPTER III.: THE EXECUTIVE, THE JUDICATURE, 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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THE EXECUTIVE, THE JUDICATURE, AND STRIKES.
Bad Psychological State—Amnesty—Pardons—Ministerial Intervention—Retirement of Magistrates—Juries—M. Lozé’s Circular—Armed Power—It is a Provocation!—The Carmaux Patrols—Weakness of the Government—The Taupe and the Grosménil Strikes—The Workmen of the State Factories—Concessions.
A strike, not being according to either the views or the actions of strikers, an economic question of supply and demand, employers, directly a strike breaks out, have to apprehend violence to their persons and their property, and non-strikers fear for their own safety; police, officials, magistrates, and ministers dread disturbances and the manner in which various events may react on Parliament. If the psychological and moral condition on the side of the strikers is bad, among those whom the strike may affect more or less indirectly, it is agitated and troubled.
Certain benevolent Deputies periodically hasten to ask for an amnesty “for events connected with the strike;” and other Deputies, who are not in the least revolutionary, join them. They voted for an amnesty for Watrin’s assassins, and for other strikers who have assaulted and wounded their fellow-workmen. By a singular aberration of intellect, they consider that the guilty party is the victim, and are full of indulgence, and even tenderness towards him. On October 28th, 1892, M. Terrier submitted a request for an amnesty for the events at Carmaux, which obtained 197 votes, of which 4 were those of members of the Right, as against 323. On 26th June, 1893, M. Camille Dreyfus submitted a request for a total amnesty, which obtained 115 votes!
Many Ministers imagine it to be their duty to intervene in strikes. In a letter of June 9th, 1886, M. Baïhaut invited the Decazeville Company to raise the price of certain work from 1 franc 90 centimes to 2 francs.
When the police, constabulary, officials, and magistrates see a Minister interfering in favour of the strikers, they know that if they themselves act with decision, they run the risk of being sacrificed. It is not with sentiments such as these that people can act with influence.
Certain magistrates, disapproving of the laws of 1881 and 1884, have seemingly taken it into their heads not to apply any law in these cases, with a view of preparing the way to order by allowing disorder.1 M. Lozé’s confidential circular of April 2nd, 1888, bears witness to this state of mind:—
Gentlemen,—I beg to inform you that the public prosecutor has not thought fit to take up certain actions brought, during these last few days, against strikers for fettering the freedom of labour.
He considers that, as a result of the repeal of Article 416 of the Penal Code, by the law of 1884, relating to trade syndicates, the use of violence to fetter the free power to work is only punishable if inflicted directly on the person, and that, consequently, those cannot be prosecuted, who, like most of the strikers arrested lately, have confined themselves to destroying tools, or in upsetting carts, without having previously threatened or struck the workmen whose work they sought thus to interrupt.
You would then, when the case came on, have to clearly specify in your action the nature of the threats or violence used, with which you charge the strikers, against whom you have drawn up your written statement, and would have to prove, if the action takes place, that, for instance, the destruction of tools was preceded by threats addressed to the workman in whose hands they were, or that the upsetting of the carts had not taken place until after menaces and violence had been used towards the driver.
According to this theory, strikers would not be simple citizens. They would have the right of destroying and pillaging the property of others.
It is true that the next day M. Lozé drew up another circular in the following terms:—
August 2nd, 7 p.m.
To the Commissioner of Police,—Please regard as null and void the confidential circular addressed to you, 31st July, at 5 p.m. The individuals guilty of carrying off and destroying tools, or those who have upset the contents of the carts, being the objects of judicial prosecution.
But what power can rest in a magistracy and an administration capable of such vacillation as this?
Some magistrates apply the Penal Code with a gentleness and indulgence which give any amount of latitude to the tyrants of Workshops and Syndicates. In the month of February, 1883, of twenty strikers of Rive de Gier, accused of interfering with the freedom of labour, by threats and blows, only two were retained, and condemned to a fine of 25 francs, and that notwithstanding that they had assaulted an aged man of seventy-four years of age.
Occasionally magistrates go so far as to condemn men to fifteen or twenty days’ imprisonment; on rare occasions, to some months. Short punishments only cause repetitions of the offences. Long sentences only are efficacious from the point of view of prevention.
The public prosecutor will answer you with more or less frankness:—If I take upon myself the responsibility of prosecutions, nothing but unpleasantness can be the outcome of it for me. I meet with no support. I am attacked in the newspapers and in Parliament. If I obtain a sentence, it is upset by an amnesty; and if the Government declines the amnesty, it promises and grants large diminutions of punishment. Why send people to prison, if I am obliged to set them free again, and to apologise to them?”
I must add that juries do not encourage magistrates, and now and again show a weakness which approaches complicity.
At the meeting of June 3rd, 1886, intended to celebrate the Decazeville strike, and presided over by M. Albert Goullé, then an escaped prisoner, now joint-editor with M. Goblet of the Petite République Francaise, Messieurs Jules Guesde and Pablo Lafargue delivered speeches, wherein they invoked “the liberating rifle;” wherein they stated that the way in which to solve the social question was to send “the Rothschilds, the d’Audiffret Pasquiers, and the Léon Says, to Mazas or to the wall!” They were arraigned before the Court of Assizes. M. Pablo Lafargue closed his defence by saying, “When we are the Government, we shall execute the financiers!” The jury, by acquitting them, seemed to approve these views.
With regard to the dynamite explosions, the Paris juries acquitted Chaumentin, Beala, the girl Soubière, Ravachol’s accomplices, and admitted extenuating circumstances for that amiable personage himself. Since this they have seemed to continue to thus manage matters, under various circumstances. When a strike breaks out, threatenings of death are uttered; a sad experience proves that it is wise to protect business places. The instigations which precede the 1st of May, demonstrate that on that day peace is not secure unless the rogues who enforce this idling are well assured that it is necessary to be prudent. Under these varying circumstances, one is obliged to have recourse to the army. Protests at once are raised. With regard to the Bessèges strike, M. de Lanessan accused M. Goblet of having been guilty of “provocation,” in sending troops to protect the mine ventilators, implying that it was not Fournière, but the General, who had proclaimed the strike. In 1886, M. Cayrade, Mayor of Decazeville, roughly ordered the dragoons back, at the moment of M. Watrin’s assassination, and on October 10th, 1892, M. Dumay could hit on nothing better in order to terminate the strike than to request the return of the troops. He found eighty Deputies ready to support this bright idea.
Thus supported, the generals, commanders, officers, and soldiers, requisitioned for this wearisome and—from all points of view—annoying work, must, with a patience such as is inculcated by the Gospels, accept insults and outrage, and submit to a variety of missiles without a protest.
Far from this being a means of preventing serious conflicts, it may lead to the most serious consequences; because there always comes a time when the audacity of the demonstrators grows in proportion to the gentleness shown to them. The troops are then compelled to extricate and defend themselves. The best way of avoiding bloodshed is, by precise, formal, and straightforward orders, to accustom men who come into contact with the army, to respect it. I must add that, from the point of view of our national dignity, we ought not to consent to anything that is of a nature to weaken the consideration to which it is entitled, when the Government is compelled to have recourse to its intervention.
From the 15th August, 1891, miners, patrols, moved about at Carmaux with M. Baudin, Deputy, at their head. Pointing a revolver at the police and soldiers, he insulted them, and called upon them to make way for the strikers, who shouted the Carmagnole, uttered threats, and had for their object the prevention of all attempts to resume work.
On October 10th, M. Loubet, the President of the Council, began to perceive that these patrols might not be the representatives of order, and the Prefect posted up an Order forbidding “all demonstrations, riotous assemblages, gatherings, meetings, or the formation of groups of people, of a nature to give rise to disputes, or to hinder free circulation on the public roads of Carmaux, Blage, Rosières and Saint-Benoît.” Was there any need for this order? Are such demonstrations, gatherings, etc., allowed on all other parts of the French territory, saving those of the Communes herein named? And wherefore this interdiction, after fifty-five days of feebleness, not to say connivance, during which the Minister of the Interior allowed, without one single protest, the publication of notes, and accounts of interviews with certain Deputies, in which it had been asserted “that they would intervene on behalf of the miners.” And the order being made, was it carried out? Did M. Baudin discontinue his walks? Did not the Mayors of the Communes designated answer with insults and outrages? The Minister of the Interior put the finishing touch to his policy of feebleness and incoherence by consenting to arbitration; and those who had called upon him to accept it, and to whom he had subordinated his whole policy for two months, tore up the sentence! It was a well-merited chastisement; for M. Loubet ought to have known that a minister ought not to interfere in a conflict of private interests, but ought to maintain public order by securing respect for the law.
In spite of the conclusive experience of Carmaux, we now see M. Charles Dupuy following the same tactics for the strikes at la Taupe and Grosménil (Haute Loire), and the sub-prefect of Brioude, with M. Dufour, a Delegate from the Bourse du Travail demanding that the Company shall pay an indemnity to two workmen it has dismissed because they were in the habit of doing from 20 to 25 per cent. less work than their companions; that work shall not be resumed for twenty-four hours after they have been found situations in a neighbouring mine; and that it shall engage that all strikers condemned for acts connected with the strike, shall be set at liberty.1
The Government employs workmen in its matchmaking and tobacco manufactories. The men receive a payment of 600 francs, the women 300, and sundry perquisites. These people struck (on 20th March, 1893), in order to demand a rise of wages of 15 per cent., the abolition of punishments, and the dismissal of certain overseers. The Minister of Finance accorded the increased wage asked for by the strikers, but adhered to the expulsion of Deroy who was the ringleader of the strike and who was a member of a syndicate; so that if the Bovier-Lapierre law had been in force, the Minister of Finance would have had to be condemned by a police court, and on the 28th he ended by accepting the reinstatement of Deroy, thereby giving an example of weakness with regard to the pretensions and demands of the strikers! When Deroy re-entered the Workshop, one of the Directors of the State Factories was obliged to leave. How can such instances of feebleness inspire the officials with energy and dignity?
The duties of officials and magistrates may be summed up thus:—
There can be little doubt that our reactionary Lunacy Acts of 1890–1 were prepared for in the same way by medical men forcing the hand of the Government.—Ed.
See the Siècle, June 16th, 1893.