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The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
One of several books Guyot wrote attacking socialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this volume, in the tradition of Bastiat, he criticises what he calls “socialistic sophisms,” socialistic legislation, strikes, subsidies to business, and the connection between militarism, protectionism, and socialism.
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In the general election for the Chamber of Deputies in August last, M. Yves Guyot lost his seat for the 1st Arondissement of Paris. The occasion was a notable one, and may find its place in the political history of our times beside, say, the expulsion of Mr. Bradlaugh from the House of Commons. I do not mean that there was any close parity in the circumstances of the two occasions. M. Guyot was the victim of no outrageous resort to physical force. He was beaten in fair constitutional fight. He lost his election because those whose votes he sought preferred his rival. But he, like Mr. Bradlaugh, suffered repulse because of his devotion to individual liberty. Like Mr. Bradlaugh, he hesitated not a moment, neither trimmed nor wavered, but took a firm foothold on the ground to which he was driven back, and resumed at once the good fight for human freedom and equality, which, like Mr. Bradlaugh—I venture to say—he will fight till death looses his grasp on the banner which he has held aloft through many long years of political strife.
Republican, Freethinker, Individualist, like the friend—M. Guyot’s friend and mine—with whom I have compared him, the odds against him were tremendous; and it was wonderful that he attained so respectable a minority of votes. He had the misfortune to be the partisan of no interest, save those of his country and humanity, which he does not dissociate. He had ranged against him Royalists and Clericals, Bonapartists and Boulangists, Protectionists and Socialists, Chauvinists and Anarchists. I was told by an eminent French economist, several weeks before the election, that his success was impossible. That, notwithstanding this, he has a very large number of supporters in France, and is one of the leaders of French opinion, is beyond doubt; but while the system—unjust as it is absurd—of local majority representation obtains, we may expect that the best men will be excluded from parliamentary functions, and a pseudo-democracy will bring discredit and perhaps ruin on popular government.
M. Guyot was born on 6th September, 1843, at Dinan (Côtes-du-Nord). His family, on his father’s side, came, originally, from the neighbourhood of Rennes. His grandfather, Yves Guyot, was, in 1793, Mayor of Ercé, and was a friend of Le Chapelier, the Deputy of Rennes to the States General. His father was a barrister at Rennes, and there the author of the present volume was brought up.
In 1864, he went to Paris, and at once came into notice as a lecturer. In 1866, he published his first work, The Inventor. In 1868, after the repeal of the press law requiring “preliminary authorisation,” he was called to Nimes to take the editorship of a Republican journal—the Independant du Midi. Republican meetings were brutally dispersed at that time by the myrmidons of Louis Napoleon; but M. Guyot called private meetings all over the Department of the Gard—a part of Eastern Languedoc. He appears to have escaped the clutches of the Imperial law so far as these meetings were concerned, but was condemned to a month’s imprisonment on account of his part in the Baudin subscription.
He returned to Paris on the outbreak of the Franco-German war, and became editor of the Rappel. During the siege of Paris, he took part in the Battle of Buzenval. At the time of the Commune, he was a member of the Parisian Rights League (Ligue des Droits de Paris), which attempted to put an end to the struggle between the Commune and the French Government. From September, 1871, to July, 1872, he was editor of the Municipalité, which was subsequently amalgamated with the Radical. In 1872, he also published “Political Prejudices,” and “Worn-out Ideas,” and commenced a “History of Proletarians” in collaboration with M. Sigismond Lacroix.
In November, 1874, he was elected a Municipal Councillor of Paris for the Quartier St. Avoye. In 1875, he became chief editor of La Réforme Economique, a magazine founded by M. Menier, who is better known in England by his chocolate than by his politics, but whose “Treatise on the Taxation of Fixed Capital—though disfigured by many economic crudities—is worth reading by the student of taxation. The title of the book is misleading, as the tax proposed by M. Menier is not on Fixed Capital as ordinarily understood, but on what may be called Fixed Property, including land, household furniture, etc. This misuse of the term “capital” is not only contrary to scientific usage, but is open to the still weightier objection that it confounds the raw material of the globe, which is the gift of nature, with those instruments and materials of production which are the result of human labour, and consequently rent with interest. Unfortunately, M. Guyot follows M. Menier in this, and it has done more than anything else against the success of his Science Economique in this country—the classic land of economic science.
In the last two months of 1878, he took a step which I regard as the crucial one in his career, and which made him known and loved by those who were battling in defence of personal rights on this side of the English Channel: I refer to the publication of his Lettres d’un Vieux Petit Employé—Letters of an Old Petty-Official.” In these never-to-be-forgotten letters he thoroughly exposed the abominable system embodied in the Police des Mœurs, and partially copied in the Contagious Diseases Acts which for twenty years soiled the Statute Book in this country. M. Guyot has never ceased to wage uncompromising war against this iniquity. His book, “Prostitution under the Regulation System,” is the best on the subject; and his pamphlet, “English and French Morality,” directed against M. Stead’s “Modern Babylon” crusade, may be considered as an appendix to this work. M. Guyot’s labours in this cause—in many ways the touchstone of political morality—have been long and arduous. He has, without stint, placed at its service his ardent and brilliant oratory, and his light but always trenchant pen. And he has been rewarded. It was in the prosecution of this cause that he first made the acquaintance and afterwards won the friendship of Madame Emilie Ashurst Venturi, the friend and biographer of Mazzini—a woman friendship with whom was in itself a religion. When she died, in March, 1893, broken-hearted at the tragic end of Mr. Parnell, one of the most eloquent of the tributes to her memory, which appeared in Personal Rights, was from his pen. She was the incarnation of the spirit of justice; and he, in his reverent homage to her, bowed to that principle which is the soul of politics.
Towards the end of 1879, M. Guyot published, in the Lanterne, his Lettres d’un infirmier sur les asiles d’ aliénés (“Letters of a Hospital Attendant on the Asylums for Lunatics”), in which he continued the struggle for individual liberty against the encroachments of the new medical despotism.
In February, 1880, he once more became a Municipal Councillor of Paris—this time for the Quartier Notre Dame, in which the Prefecture is situate—and was very active, especially on questions of local taxation. In 1884, he was replaced on the council by M. Ruel. But, in the meantime, he had, in 1881, in response to a numerously supported invitation, contested the 1st Arondissement of Paris, at the general election for the Chamber of Deputies, against M. Tirard, then Minister of Commerce. He failed, but with honour. He had a very respectable following, and the trial of strength was conducted on both sides with a courtesy which reminds one of the well-known story of Fontenoy.
M. Guyot is not the man to allow a parliamentary defeat to damp his energies, and his Science Economique (1881), Dialogue entre John Bull et George Dandin (1881), Etudes sur les Doctrines Sociales du Christianisme (1882), La Famille Pichot (1882), La Prostitution (1882), La Morale (1883), L’Organisation Municipale de Paris et de Londres (1883), Lettres sur la Politique Coloniale (1883), La Police (1884), Un Fou (1884), give some idea of the industry of his pen in those years.
At the general election of 1885, M. Guyot was elected to the Chamber of Deputies on the second ballot, by 283,009 votes. He was named almost at once “Reporter” of an important Bill introduced by Messrs. Floquet and Nadaud. This Bill, on his report, was agreed to unanimously by the Chamber, and became law on 23rd December, 1887.
M. Guyot made a report in the name of the French Budget Commission of 1887, on the various questions raised by the Income Tax. This report has since been published in book form. Chapter XIV. of that volume contains a vindication of the proposed Tax on Capital—in M. Menier’s sense of that term.
On the 22nd February, 1889, M. Guyot became Minister of Public Works in M. Tirard’s Cabinet; and when the latter resigned, on 14th March, 1890, and was succeeded by M. de Freycinet, M. Guyot retained his portfolio. In 1889 and 1892, he presided at two congresses called to consider the laws on the title and the transmission of real property. M. Guyot has always been an ardent champion of the Torrens Act and the registration of title of landed property. He was, from the first, a strong opponent of the Boulangist craze, and wrote a pamphlet entitled La Verité sur le Boulangisme. He maintained his equanimity during the Panama excitement. He very much resembles the man with whom I have compared him—Mr. Bradlaugh—in his thoroughness and in his sobriety. Like Mr. Bradlaugh, he seems likely to end by winning the respect of the Conservatives to whom he is opposed.
M. Guyot is now editor of the Paris Siècle, and has through it excellent means of making the weight of his counsels felt. On the approach of the general election of August last, he, no doubt, thought that the time had come for a more complete manifesto than could be put in the Siècle. The present volume may be regarded as the result. It has both the virtues and the defects of a brochure de combat—vivacity and directness on the one hand, heat and hurry on the other. With M. Guyot’s general contention I am thoroughly in accord. My general criticism of his position—where we seem to differ—would be as follows:—
J. H. Levy.
What is freedom of labour? It is the substitution of voluntary for servile labour; it is the right of each man to employ or not to employ his muscular or intellectual strength as he pleases; it is the placing of his own destiny, and that of those dependent on him, in his own hands; it is the enlargement of responsibility and the sphere of action. Are not these the two great factors of individual progress? What is social progress if not the sum total of individual acts of progression?
This is why I have never ceased from opposing the passions and errors of Socialists who, whatever name they may take, wish to create a labour monopoly in the hands of corporations; why I have resisted all prohibitions, restrictions, limitations of the hours of work, and the ideal of inertia—a kind of social Nirvana—which Socialists hold up as the supreme goal of humanity.
Referring to the speech delivered by Gambetta, at Havre on April 18th, 1872, in which he said, “Believe me, there is no social remedy, because there is no social question,” M. Louis Blanc asserted that there was a Social Question, I answered him in two articles in the Radical, of which I quote the following passage:—
“Yes, M. Louis Blanc is a Utopian, because he thinks that the complex relations of things can be railed in by simple formulas. He applies the subjective method to social science. He lays down an à priori proposition, and argues from this without dreaming that the first thing to be demonstrated is the accuracy of the starting-point.
“In this regard, M. Louis Blanc is a priest. He believes in a social miracle. He believes in a political pontificate. He belongs to the school of Rousseau, to that school of government which substitutes a social theocracy for a monarchy by right divine. . . .
“When M. Louis Blanc declares that a Republic is not an end but a means, he does not, as we do, look upon the Republic as a means of enlarging the powers of the individual by removing his fetters. He understands it to mean, on the contrary, that, if he has the power, he will seize upon the individual, subject him to his will, and shut him up in his à priori system. And he makes of this government a universal motor, absorbing the individual in its activity, ‘a supreme regulator of production’—producer, distributor, consumer—‘invested with great power for the accomplishment of its task.’
“As for ourselves, we do not dream of happiness as in Paraguay under the dominion of the Jesuits. We believe more in Man than in the social entity called the State; and we shall continue to do so, so long as you cannot show us a nation which is not made up of individuals, and a collective happiness formed of individual sorrows.
“Until then we shall reject your system, as we do not, like Rousseau, admire ‘the fathers of the nations who were obliged to have recourse to heavenly intervention, in order that people should freely obey, and bear the yoke of public happiness with meekness.’
“Doubtless, it is easy to construct a system without taking into account the complex questions which present themselves, and then to declare that, according to this system, it is all right.
“M. Louis Blanc, however, saw that this would not altogether do. About 1840, he, like others, had constructed his system. First, we have superb declamations—splendid pictures of the misery and ills of society. Then he sets all things in order. The State—a perfect being, a providence, a beneficent god—intervenes, enters an office, and sets individuals going like marionettes. It was that fairy land where everything can be had for the wishing.
“In 1848, M. Louis Blanc was one of the members of the Provisional Government. What did he do? What new idea did he introduce? He continued to work at his book on l’Organisation du Travail. He ought then to have seen that humanity is not a clock, and that the human ideal is not the discipline of a convent.”
In that same year I closed the introduction to l’Histoire des Prolétaires by saying that the object of these essays was to follow the efforts made by the proletariat
“to achieve the conquest of that freedom of labour recognised in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but which, in our social organisation, had remained an aspiration instead of becoming a reality.
“The last word rests with science and intellect. It is by the observation of the natural and artificial relations of labour and capital; it is by constant experiments, tried with prudence, wisely conducted, and perseveringly applied, that industrial society will, at last, become healthily constituted. Bacon said, ‘We triumph over Nature only by obeying her laws.’ It is by separating the laws of social science from the prejudices which obscure it that the workman will attain the plenitude of his rights.”
I have not changed my methods. I am still of opinion that it is by the study and observation of the laws of social science that humanity can achieve progress. Neither the declamations of revolutionary Socialists, nor the pretensions of their opportunist brethren, nor dynamite explosions, have modified my ideas, which were strengthened at that period by the lamentable spectacle of the men and events of the Commune. I hold that anything which recalls or prepares the way for a similar occurrence cannot be more useful to workmen in the future than that odious frenzy was in the past.
At the Municipal Council, I have opposed the attempts to introduce Municipal Socialism—such as the establishment of the Table of Prices of the City of Paris, in 1882. In 1884, I procured the rejection of the first proposal brought forward for the subsidising of strikes. I thwarted the Anarchists who, on March 11th, 1883, wanted to carry off a gathering of masons to one of Louise Michel’s manifestations; and who bore witness to the sentiments with which they regarded me by assailing me with American knuckledusters, and a variety of other weapons.
It did not need such striking testimony to prove that there has always been between the Socialists and me some incompatibility of temper.
In 1881, in M. Clémenceau’s journal, la Justice, M. Longuet, a son-in-law of Karl Marx, opposed my candidature for the Chamber of Deputies, giving as the chief argument against me, my opposition to legal restrictions on female labour. In 1885, the Central Committee, organised by M. Maujan, took up the same attitude towards me, because I had brought about the refusal of the proposed subsidy to the Anzin strikers.
In l’Intransigeant, M. Rochefort bestowed upon me, every morning, epithets as charming for their variety as they were admirable for their good taste.
But my convictions were not to be altered by such proceedings or such arguments. Like Cobden, I consider that to grant to the Government the right to regulate the hours of labour is to lay down the principle of a return to the past. One recollects with what energy John Morley, now a member of Mr. Gladstone’s Cabinet, when a candidate for Newcastle, in 1892, declared that he would rather not be elected than make this concession. These are examples of courage which may well provoke reflection in certain French Deputies who allow themselves to be too easily swept along by the current, without even sounding its depths or measuring its strength.
The necessity for defending individual liberty against pretended protective legislation for labour, and against the despotism of certain associations or syndicates, is everywhere felt. Mr. George Howell, M.P., at one time a working man, and formerly one of the ablest of the Trades Union officials, a man whom the Socialists cannot accuse of being a bourgeois, in his book entitled Trades Unionism, New and Old, in 1892, protested against the tyrannic spirit which was being introduced into the strikes of the dockers and the gas workers with regard to non-union men: and to what conclusion did he come? That there existed a necessity for a law to insure freedom of labour! It is because he maintained the same thesis that Mr. Broadhurst, also a working man, had to give in his resignation of the secretaryship of the Trades Union Congress, a post he had filled for fourteen years, and that, at the last general election, he was defeated at Nottingham. Are these men renegades? Are they not far-seeing men, who wish to save their country and their friends from the most odious of tyrannies?
The same protestations make themselves heard in the United States. One of their most eminent public men, Mr. George Ticknor Curtis, also protests in the name of individual liberty, that the American had emancipated the black race from slavery, but that it was necessary to rescue certain branches of our own race from a slavery which is no better—that a man should not be allowed to part with his right to life or liberty.
Mr. Oates, President of the Commission of Inquiry of the United States Congress into the Homestead strike, recalls the fact that the laws of the United States had consecrated the right of every man to work upon the conditions agreed upon with his employer, whether he belonged or not to any labour organisation, and the right of every person and of every society to employ any workman whatsoever, at any work authorised by the law; and that in that free country, these rights should not be disputed or restricted, upon pain of destroying that personal liberty which is the honour and glory of American citizens. He rejected compulsory arbitration, by virtue of the principle that no authority whatsoever should impose a contract upon a person who declines to accept it.
Finally, Mr. Cleveland, President of the United States, said, in a recent Message to Congress, that the lessons of Paternalism must be unlearnt, that the people should learn that they ought to be the patriotic and ready support of the Government, instead of the Government supporting the people.
These are the terms in which eminent men of different nationalities and differently situated, raise their voices against the tyrannical pretensions of the Socialists of the present day. By their agitations, the space which they occupy in parliamentary discussion and in those of some of the Municipal Councils, and the sheep-like meekness with which certain politicians follow them in France, they give the impression of having a strength which they do not really possess. By their dogmatic assertions and subtle sophistries, they appear in the eyes of the simple and the ignorant, as messiahs, or apostles of a peculiarly attractive kind, as their gospel appertains to the present life.
While waiting for the practical monopolies of which they are desirous of becoming possessed, they arrogate to themselves the monopoly of representing “the working classes.” Thus, here are the terms in which M. Lavy interrupted my speech of May 8th, 1893, upon registry offices:—
M. Lavy.—That squares with the affirmations you have formulated against the working class from end to end of your speech. I see that you despise and hate it.
M. YvesGuyot.—Allow me to inform you, Monsieur Lavy, that I do not consider that the expression “working class” is suited to the vocabulary of which we should make use. (Hear! hear! from many benches.) We no longer take cognisance of any working classes, any more than we recognise aristocratic classes. (Very good! very good!) And what of ourselves and our origin? How do we live? Do you suppose that we have not all of us some connections with working men, either amongst our relations or amongst our ancestors! Do not most of us work in some way or other? What are these radical distinctions which you wish to draw between those who do, and those who do not work? (Hear! hear!—Applause from the Left and the Centre.) You asserted, M. Lavy, that I hated and despised the working classes. Why should I despise them? Can you tell me?
M. Lavy.—I know nothing about it.
M. YvesGuyot.—What are the motives which could have led to this hatred and contempt,—now that I have passed the best years of my life in close study of the economic questions which concern the advancement of working men? (Hear! hear!) It is true that I have studied them from the scientific point of view, and have done this precisely because I wanted to try to set what you call the working classes free from the prejudices which you breathe upon them, to set them free from unfortunate and inauspicious influences—(Repeated applause.)
M. Lavy.—But you have not set them free from misery.
M. YvesGuyot.—with which men, who have never studied this question from a disinterested point of view, try to puff them up so as to lead them on to adventures of which, unhappily, the memory still hovers over our history. (Hear! hear!)
And why was I accused of “hatred and contempt” towards workmen? Because I denounced in the tribune the actions of the Bourse du Travail. The events which have since taken place have proved that there are always some men there who would like to force us into such adventures as those which, in the past, are known as “the days of June” (1848), and of the Commune. On May 28, 1893, the Committee of the Labour Exchange (Bourse du Travail) solemnly closed its doors in sign of mourning, and sent a crown “to the heroes” of the Commune. In the journal which is the mouthpiece of this institution, may be seen, not only repeated calls to social war, but strategetic plans for civil war! The Minister of the Interior having, with forbearance, granted a delay of more than one month to those syndicates not legally constituted, that they might rectify their position at least as regards the law of March 21st, 1884, was denounced as a traitor to the people and to the republic.
At the moment of writing these lines, I learn that he closed the Labour Exchange in July last, taking the necessary precautions against the threats of an insurrection. Are not these precautions proof of the imprudence committed in allowing an organisation to be constituted without its object being clearly defined, and without control, and meeting in a municipal palace?—an organisation whose representatives considered that the best way in which to protect the interests of working men was to prepare a social war.
6th July, 1893.
The first edition of The Tyranny of Socialism appeared on the morrow of the closing of the Bourse du Travail. On that day, a Senator, M. Goblet, late President of the Council, and late Minister of Justice and the Interior, with two other ex-Presidents of the Council, Messrs. Brisson and Floquet, and a certain number of Deputies and Municipal Councillors of Paris, protested against this act of the Government, in a manifesto which was really an incitement to insurrection. The Socialists showed no liking for those who thus compromised themselves with them. Wherever they could not push them aside, they fought them. The Bourse du Travail, even while preparing for the Social Revolution, was an electoral machine. In two buildings in Paris, situate in the Rue Chateau-d’Eau and the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and in thirty-one Bourses du Travail scattered over the provinces, the Socialists organised the elections at the expense of the taxpayers. It is for this reason that the world saw sixty-eight Socialist Deputies, in addition to about sixty Socialist-Radical Deputies, emerge from the ballot-boxes of the 20th of August and the 3rd of September. The Socialist-Radicals, with M. Camille Pelletan at their head, follow the Socialists in all the works of disorganisation, anarchy, and social strife which enter into their daily political life, but they are reduced to acting as mere train-bearers.
The pure Socialists, the true Socialists, opportunists or revolutionaries, all speak in the name of Karl Marx and the German Socialism. They are constituted as a class organisation. They represent the struggle of the “Fourth Estate—which, by the way, they cannot define—against “Capitalistic Society.” The end which they pursue is “the expropriation of Capitalistic Society” by any means: “economic resistance (i.e., strikes), force, or the political vote, as the case may be.”
As a minimum programme for immediate realisation, they have somewhat cleverly for mulated three points: suppression of the privilege of the Bank of France, organisation of credit by the State, and resumption of the railways and mines by the State.
In order to compel the Government to pronounce itself on the last point, they provoked a strike of miners in the Pas-de-Calais and the Nord. Naturally, they tried to colour it with divers pretexts; but, at bottom, the Socialists regard all strikes from the point of view of Benoît Malon, in Le Nouveau Parti (1881): “Even an unsuccessful strike has its utility if, as Lafargue recommends with some reason, instead of striking for striking sake, we make use of it as a means of inflaming the working masses, snatching from capital its mask of philanthropic and liberal phrases, and exposing before the eyes of all its hideous face and its murderous exploitation.”
The strike lasted six weeks, during which the strikers gave themselves up to all sorts of violence, including sixteen outrages with dynamite, which had no further effect than waste of material. The strike ended with the meeting of the new Chamber on 14th November last.
The Socialists brought forward an interpellation, in which M. Jaurès endeavoured to embody an exposition of Socialistic principles. This was but a wild charge, embellished with false figures and false quotations, directed against existing society, and a promise that, when the Socialists are in power, all will be for the best in the best of possible worlds. He forgot, however, to show how all would be for the best. Three Ministers of the Dupuy Cabinet—Messieurs Peytral, Terrier, and Viette—while not pure Socialists, nevertheless did not wish to break with the Socialists. They tendered their resignation on 25th November, and the interpellation terminated without the passing of the order of the day.
As soon as the Casimir Périer Cabinet was reconstituted, the Socialists put forward M. Paschal Grousset, the late Delegate for Affaires Exterieures of the Commune, with a demand for an amnesty. Though resisted by the Government, it was rejected only by 257 votes against 226. In this division, there were 215 Republicans in the minority and only 205 in the majority. This is a most unfortunate sign of the times, and proves that a good number of Republicans were not able, or did not dare—because of feebleness of character or electoral pressure—to dissociate themselves from the Socialists.
It is true that, on 9th December, when a bomb explosion resounded through the Chamber of Deputies, the Socialists endeavoured to repudiate all solidarity with the author of the crime. But they had too often offered apologies for the use of force—the liberating rifle,” “the resources which science puts at the disposal of those who have anything to destroy—for their disavowals to appear quite sincere. Moreover, they were not continued. The Government having proposed a law on explosives, inspired by the English law of 1883, the Socialists resisted it, confessing that they did so as they regarded themselves as attacked by it. They have, since then, defended Léanthier, the assassin of M. Georgewitch, Vaillant, the author of the outrage in the Palais Bourbon, and their accomplices; and they have done well. It would be a great piece of cowardice on their part to repudiate and abandon their advanced guard.
On 12th December, M. Basly lodged an interpellation on the miners’ strike; but the bomb had done its work, and he was defeated by 386 votes to 124. But we must not nurse the illusion that, when once the memory of Vaillant’s outrage has become effaced, this majority will remain compact for resistance to Socialistic enterprises.
The Chamber has decided on the nomination of a Labour Commission, which will be the citadel of the Socialists. Projects of this kind are about to multiply. Already the Senate has taken into consideration a proposal of M. Maxime Lecomte, tending to aggravate the law of 2nd November, 1892, on women’s work, and to apply it to men. The Socialists ask for this limitation of the hours of labour “as the surest means of revolutionising the labouring class, that is to say, of ranging it under the banner of Socialism.”
What will the Deputies do with regard to the Bill of M. Goblet, which gives the Government the right to dispossess, with or without compensation, every mine proprietor whose workmen have been on strike for more than two months? For a late very moderate Republican, ex-Minister of Justice, ex-President of the Council, who, in 1882, treated the miners on strike as we see further on, to go so far as to lodge such a Bill, is an indication of profound trouble in the future, intellectual and moral.
That which is very grave is the complete absence of any exact notion of the limits of State action. The Protectionists have persuaded peasants and proprietors, traders and manufacturers, that it is the duty of the State to assure to them good profits and good incomes, and, as a means to this end, to guarantee the sale of their products—their corn, their wine, etc.—at high prices. But if the middle class ask for the intervention of the State in the bargains they make for the exchange of their goods, why should not the labouring class ask for it in the bargains they make for the sale of their labour? If the State imposes customs duties to protect the national labour, it is bound to expel foreign workmen; and, if it does not do this, the miners of the Pas-de-Calais will undertake to drive out the Belgian miners, and the workmen of the salt-pits of Aiguemortes will engage to thrust out the Italian workmen.
Threats of a rise in the duty on corn have driven commerce into the keeping up of large reserve stocks. The harvest has been good. Prices are low. The Protectionists demand that the duties should be raised; and M. Jaurès, one of the orators of the Socialists, proposes that the State should charge itself with a monopoly of the trade in corn—or at least in foreign corn—as a first step. The vine growers of the south, in their turn, complain that the vintage has been too good, and they call upon the State to make a market for their wines, threatening “revolutionary means, refusal of taxes,” if this be not granted. Their Deputies declare that “they will put themselves at the disposal of their electors—for what purpose they do not say—if the State does not give them satisfaction.
If the agriculturists, if the vine-growers, make such demands on the State, why should not the workmen do likewise? The question for them is one of their daily bread in return for their work. Why should the State not guarantee to them good wages, and very short and easy work? If the Protectionists are right, why do some of them fight against the Socialists? In the name of what principle, of what doctrine, is this action taken? Is not their principle that of State intervention? The Protectionists, by admitting this with regard to goods, the produce of labour, and rejecting it with respect to labour itself, find themselves in so illogical a position that, whether they like it or not, they are bound to slide into Socialism.
Thus, though I am an optimist by temperament and character, I dread, not a violent crisis, a social revolution, a social war, like the Commune, but the buying-up of a number of municipalities by the Socialists, the voting by the Chamber of Deputies of a certain number of laws which will give Socialism a new influence, and which, toned down by the Senate, will not provoke the violent reaction which would result from any clearer and more precisely directed attack on property.
We, who are endeavouring to recall the principles of equality before the law and the guarantees of individual liberty, are but a few. We are trying to show that freedom of labour, far from being a vain word, is an important reality, but we have against us Protectionists and Socialists, who fight us with an equal ardour, and with the force which private interests have against that general interest which, belonging to everybody, is defended by nobody. Here Government should step in; but that which Protectionists and Socialists are demanding is that Government itself should turn traitor and become the chief aggressor.
What is a Socialist?—Origin of the word Socialism—Proudhon’s Definition—The Socialists as they are—Agreement and Disagreement—The Fourth Estate—Socialist Programmes—German Ideas—Socialist and Negro—Social Atavism—Evolution—Social Retrogression.
Recently a disciple of Lamarck and of Darwin, a physiological Determinist of the school of Claude Bernard, met a Delegate of the Bourse du Travail. Said the Delegate of the Labour Bureau, his eyes aflame with anger, his mouth full of imprecations and oaths, and his fist clenched, “You are retrograde; for you are not a Socialist!”
TheDeterminist.—Let us see. What do you understand by that word—Socialist?
TheDelegate.—What! What do I understand by it? That is simple enough. A man is either a Socialist, or he is not; but you are not one.
Determinist.—And why do you pronounce me unworthy of the title? By what right do you appropriate to yourself the word “Socialism,” before we even know to whom—to Robert Owen, Pierre Leroux, or Louis Reybaud—is due the honour, of having enriched our vocabulary with the term? Pray, what is the meaning you attach to it? Proudhon replied to the President of the tribunal before which he was cited to appear shortly after June, 1848:—Socialism is every aspiration towards the amelioration of society.”
“But then we are all Socialists,” replied the President.
“That is just what I think,” answered Proudhon.
You evidently do not agree with Proudhon.
Delegate.—No! The only true Socialists are those who keep step with us.
Determinist.—And who are those who keep step with you, or with one another? I noticed that, at the cemetery of Père Lachaise, on May 28th, Socialists, Broussists, Marxists, Allemanists, and Blanquists, instead of uniting to do homage to the champions of the Commune, whom they looked upon as their leaders and models, fought desperately among themselves—which surely proves that the brotherhood which they wish to impose upon the world, by revolutionary measures if need be, does not actually exist among themselves. What is their common programme? It cannot be divined from their respective names, because these independent folk take the names of individuals as rallying-words, just as the monks were the docile disciples of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Francis, or St. Augustine. By what sign may the true Socialist, according to your gospel, be distinguished from the false? Do not revolutionary Socialists entertain a profound contempt for the Possibilists?
Delegate.—That is so. The revolutionists consider that the Possibilists are too much taken up with their personal success and with the elections. But the Possibilists are revolutionary too. They gave good proof of this, when through their organ, Le Prolétaire, Messieurs Lavy (the Deputy), Paul Brousse, Caumeau, Reties, and Prudent-Dervillers called upon their friends to celebrate the fall of the Commune, “which represents Authority, and whose protagonists are the heroes that should serve as our models.” At bottom, amongst Socialists who are true Socialists, the only question which divides them is that of leaders. Some prefer this one, others that; but we are agreed.
Delegate.—First, upon the question of the Fourth Estate.
Determinist.—And What is the Fourth Estate?
Delegate.—In 1789, a Third Estate was recognised. A century later, it is only right that there should be a Fourth. That is progress.
Determinist.—And of whom is it composed?
Delegate.—Of those who are not bourgeois.
Determinist.—And by what do you distinguish a bourgeois?
Delegate.—A Bourgeois! He is a man of standing, who makes others labour. Wage-earners alone form the Fourth Estate.
Determinist.—But how about the mason who comes to Paris during the summer to follow his trade, and who returns for the winter to La Creuse or La Haute-Vienne, where he is a freeholder—does he form part of the Fourth Estate?
Delegate (after a moment’s hesitation).—At Paris, yes! In his own country he is a bourgeois. Here, we would have him with us. Down there we don’t want him.
Determinist.—That distinction would go to prove that the boundaries of the Fourth Estate are not very clearly defined.
Delegate.—Not exactly that. Those are Socialists who wish to “repeal” the law of supply and demand, the iron law of wages, and so are those who wish to annex the means of production, at present in the hands of the exploiters of labour, for the benefit of the workers.
Determinist.—I recognise those formulæ and those phrases. Our Socialists and Communists of 1848—from Louis Blanc to Cabet—would hail them as grand-children of their own ideas, but deformed, cramped, swollen, overweighted. They form the groundwork of the programmes of the Congresses held at Gotha in 1875, and at Erfurt in 1891. At any rate, so far as their general conception goes, they are only resuscitated from 1848; and yet you pretend you have advanced.
Delegate.—Yes; and you, you bourgeois economist, you tool of capital, stipendiary of La Haute Banque, hateful landowner, you are nothing but a reactionary and a renegade!
Determinist.—To be a renegade from your Socialism one must have taken part with it. Now, as I was never weak enough to do that, I cannot be what you say: I am merely a determinist. Unfortunately you have got into the way of fuddling your brains with a certain number of words which you do not understand, and which you repeat and throw about at random. Well, I invite you, who are so fond of calling others reactionaries and retrogressists, to remember two definitions. Do you know what atavism is?
Delegate.—It is not in our programme.
Determinist.—Unfortunately it is. If not there totidem litteris, atavism still dominates it completely.
Delegate.—I do not understand.
Determinist.—You may perhaps have heard of colour-prejudice, although in France it very seldom has occasion to show itself. This is the source of it. A charming quadroon is introduced to you. If her hair is black, her skin is white. Were it not for an almost imperceptible shade of bistre in her nails, it would be impossible to suppose that she had negro blood in her veins; and, as a matter of fact, generations and generations have passed by since a negress was numbered amongst her ancestresses. Nevertheless, a fair, blue-eyed young man would hesitate to marry her; because one of her children, instead of being under the hereditary influence of an immediate ancestor, might possibly bear the characteristics of that particular ancestress whom a slave-dealer, boasting of her ebony complexion, had sold one hundred and fifty years ago in the Antilles. This phenomenon is called atavism. Do you know what you are doing when you seek to blend the social organisation, born of the French Revolution, with a parcel of survivals which have come down to us from primitive civilisation? By the union of your Collectivism and your Socialism, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, you are trying to give birth to a contemporary of our ancestors of the age of unhewn stone. The work which, in your ignorance, you seek to accomplish is to carry back our civilisation to an ancestral form. You are creating a social atavism.
Delegate.—Then you accuse us of wishing to create negroes. That’s a plain case of bourgeois bad faith. I defy you to find that in our programme.
Determinist.—Do you know what Evolution is?
Delegate.—No, indeed; that is not in our programme.
Determinist.—Evolution is the sum total of the qualities acquired by humanity since its first appearance, and transmitted as they have accumulated from one generation to another. And now do you know what Retrogression is?
Delegate.—That is not in our programme either. You must not introduce things into it that are not there.
Determinist.—Unfortunately it is there.
Delegate.—I assure you I have never heard it asked for at the Bourse du Travail.
Determinist.—They do nothing else there.
Delegate.—That is putting it too strongly.
Determinist.—I will prove it to you, if you will only recall Littré’s definition: Retrogression—Physiological and pathological term. He who, after having shown phenomena of development, withers, becomes reabsorbed, decomposed. Retrograde work. Retrograde transformation. From the Latin regressionem from regressum, supine of regredi and gradi, progress. You who claim to march in the vanguard really march in the rear. Your social ideal, which you believe lies before you, lies behind. Poor Janus, blind in front, you gaze only upon the horizon of the past. Whither you seek to go, by great effort, and through perilous ways and cataclysms, is towards effete and barbarous civilisations. Far from you and yours seeking to develop yourselves by participating in the human evolution, revealed to us in improvements already obtained, the goal at which you and your friends are aiming is Social Retrogression.
French Socialists are Disciples of the Germans—German Programmes—The Gotha Programme, 1875—The Three Parties—Collectivist Principles—Political Programme—Protection of Labour—The Halle Congress, 1890—The Erfurt Congress, October, 1891—It Accentuates the Collectivism of the Gotha Congress—Vagueness of the Formulæ—Liberty to Hope—Political Weakness — Labour Legislation — These Programmes are the Foundation of all Contemporary Socialism—Guiding Principle: Substitution of the State-Intervention for Contract.
For the last twenty years our Socialists have sought all their inspiration in Germany. They glory in being German, in thinking and speaking in German fashion, and in having as their leaders sons-in-law of Karl Marx, like M. Pablo Lafargue. I shall not reproach them, in the name of patriotism, for adding this invasion to preceding ones, because I consider that ideas have no frontiers; but how is it that these Socialists, who consider themselves “advanced,” have not asked themselves if French civilisation is not further advanced in evolution than that of Germany; whether, in going there in search of inspiration, they are not turning towards an environment inferior to that in which they themselves move.
The great intellectual movement which, in producing the French Revolution, proclaimed once for all a certain number of social truths—now undisputed in France, in spite of occasional appearances to the contrary—is not due to Germany; in which country we still find an organisation of social castes and privileges of birth.
Since 1863, that is to say in thirty years, the German Socialists have elaborated five programmes, a proof that the Socialist dogma did not take definite shape at its birth; and if it has already been modified, may it not still be liable to alterations? Whence, then, comes the arrogance of those who wish to impose it upon all of us, off-hand, even should it need violence to accomplish that end?
At the Gotha Congress, held in 1875, the societies founded, one by Lassalle, the other by Bebel and Liebknecht, adopted a programme divided into three parts: a declaration of Collectivist principles; a programme of political organisation, and demands for the immediate protection of labour.
Here is the text of the first part :
“I. Labour is the source of all wealth and all civilisation, and as labour that is profitable to all is made possible only by society, the general product of labour should belong to society, that is to say, to each of its members, each member being under an obligation to work, and having an equal right to gather of the fruit of such common labour enough to satisfy his reasonable needs.
“In society as at present constituted, the instruments of labour are the monopoly of the capitalist class; the forced dependence of the working classes resulting from this is the cause of poverty and servitude in all forms.
“The enfranchisement of labour necessitates the transference of the instruments of labour to society as a whole, and the collective regulation of all labour, with the employment of the product of labour in conformity with general utility, and according to a just distribution.
“The enfranchisement of labour should be the task of the working classes, in opposition to whom all other classes form only a reactionary mass.
“II. Starting from these principles, the Socialistic working classes of Germany exert themselves to establish by all legal means a free State and a capitalist society, to crush the iron law of wages by the suppression of the wage system, to put a stop to exploitation in all its forms, and to remove all political and social inequality.
“The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany, although at first confining their efforts within national limits, are conscious of the international character of the labour movement, and are resolved to fulfil all the duties which it imposes upon working men, that the brotherhood of all mankind may become a fact.”
The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany, in order to prepare the way to a solution of the social question, demand the establishment of Socialistic productive associations, with State aid, under the democratic control of the working people. Industrial and agricultural productive associations should be sufficiently expansive for Socialist organisations of collective labour to develop from them.
The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany ask as a basis of the State:
“Direct universal suffrage; direct legislation by the people, especially the power to decide upon questions of war; universal armament in place of standing armies; the suppression of all laws or measures opposed to the liberty of the press, of public meetings, of combinations, judicial jurisdiction by the people; universal State education in all branches; a single progressive income-tax.”
With reference to the protection of labour in society as now constituted, the Gotha Congress demands;
“The right of unlimited combination; a fixed normal working-day corresponding to the needs of society; the prohibition of Sunday labour; the prohibition of child labour, and of all female labour likely to be injurious to health or morality; laws for the protection of the life and health of the workers; sanitary control over the homes of the working classes; inspection of mines, of industries, of factories, workshops, and domestic manufactures, by officers appointed by the workers; a penal law of employers’ liability; regulation of prison labour; free administration of all labour and benefit funds.”
The Congress of Halle, in 1890, organised the party of the German Democratic Socialists, and the Congress of Erfurt, in October, 1891, accentuated the programme of the Congress of Gotha on the following points:—
“It is only the transformation of the private capitalist’s ownership of the means of production—soil, mines, raw materials, tools, machines, means of transport—into collective ownership, and the transformation of the production of merchandise into production effected for and by society, that can convert production on a large scale and the capacity of increasing return of collective labour, from a source of poverty and oppression to the exploited classes, as it has so far been, into a source of increased well-being, and of harmonious and universal improvement. . . .
“But this enfranchisement can be the work only of the working class; because all other classes, in spite of the trade interests which divide them, rest upon the private ownership of the means of production, and desire for their common aid the present basis of society.
“The struggle of the working classes against the capitalist classes, is necessarily a political struggle. The working classes cannot transfer the means of production from private into collective ownership, without having acquired political power.
“The interests of the working classes are identical in all those countries where the system of capitalistic production obtains.”
These are the chief points of the first part:—How should the collective proprietorship of the soil, tools, and raw materials be organised? How should labour be apportioned? How should produce be distributed? Should there be equality as to the hours of labour? equality of wages? etc. The leaders of the German Socialists pass over these difficulties in silence, doubtless because they believe it would be dangerous to enter into too precise details concerning the paradise which they depict, and that it is better to let each form his own ideal to suit himself. It is this liberty to hope which has always constituted the strength of supernatural religion.
With regard to political exigencies, the Erfurt programme reverted to that of Gotha. The experience of the Swiss Referendum has shown the Socialists that more direct legislation by the people might prove dangerous to them. There now only remains the question of a right of initiative and of veto. Religion is no longer merely a private affair, as it is in the Gotha programme. The Erfurt Congress leaves to the Church full liberty of self-administration. It demands progressive taxation on income and property, and succession duty proportionate to the inheritance and degree of relationship. With regard to the immediate protection of labour, the Congress of Erfurt demands:—
This programme is silent as regards female labour. At one time this party demanded the autonomy of the Benefit Bureaux. The Erfurt programme logically makes Labour Insurance the charge of the State. The programme no longer talks of labour associations subsidized by the State, which was the great political conception of Lassalle.
The German programmes, both on their practical side and in their theoretical bearing, form the basis of the programmes of the French Socialists. We may therefore judge the Socialistic ideal according to these general data.
What is the dominant idea to which the Congress of Halle demands the adhesion of every man who wishes to throw in his lot with the party? An urgent appeal for State intervention in economic matters, not only during the transition period, during which the programme claims the protection of labour, but also in the halcyon days when the State will order all things, buy all things, sell all things.
The Guiding Principle of Socialism is the substitution of State intervention for contract.
Consequences of the Preceding Definition—Despotism in Primitive Civilisations — Absence and Prohibition of Personal Decision—The Absorption of the Individual in the City—Tu omnia!—Liberty of Conscience—Suppression of Political and Social Heresy—Universal Suffrage—Progress in the Political, Religious, and Intellectual Evolution of Humanity is Effected by the Substitution of Personal Decisions for Authoritative Measures.
If the guiding principle with which the last chapter closed, and is more or less successfully adapted to the practice of all Socialists, whether French, English, Swiss, Belgian, or American, follows from the German Socialist programmes, and is indeed that of Socialism—and it would be difficult for them to contest it, without being under the necessity of denying their demands of to-day and their hopes for to-morrow—our demonstration that Socialism represents retrogression, and not progress, is complete; since it will suffice to recall some of the typical phenomena of the evolution of humanity for this backward movement to appear clear and distinct before the eyes of all those who, instead of intoxicating themselves with phrases and visions, and giving themselves up to epileptiform impulses or millennial dreams, believe that the method of observation ought to guide us in sociology as much as in any other science. If this presentment is displeasing to certain Socialists who profess to represent Scientific Socialism, and to employ the historic method, it will be a proof that if they invoke that method, they decline to make use of it.
If we apply it so as to arrive at the criterion which distinguishes social retrogression from evolution, we, from the very outset, prove that, in the present day, none would venture to place the golden age behind us. And we are not now dealing with the question from the material point of view, but with its social bearings; although in the discussion upon which we are really engaged, the material point of view is not without its own importance. In the political programmes issued by the congresses which we have cited, appeal is made, as we have seen, to the following rights:—The right of voting, direct suffrage, liberty of speech, liberty of the press, and that religion shall be regarded as a matter of private concern. These are so many protests against, and condemnations of, stages of civilisation through which humanity has passed down to the present time. Not only do the primitive civilisations—such as those of the Australian, Polynesian, and African tribes—still present to us the type of our pre-historic ancestors, and give us the opportunity, as it were, of contemplating them as contemporaries, but in the Hindu, Greek, and Latin civilisations too, we see the tribal system, the all-powerful rule of the head of the family, in which is included women, children, and relatives of every degree, and the slaves. The individuality of the chief is the only one that counts in the tribe, because he alone has the right to command; and even his will is subordinated to the worship of the dead, to ancestral customs, to the commands of the gods. In reality, under this type of civilisation, no one can think for himself, act upon his own initiative, or attempt to direct his life as he thinks fit.
When a union of tribes has constituted a city, whether that city be governed by an oligarchy, a democratic council, or a tyrant, as liberal Athens or patrician Rome, the individual has no independent existence. Aristotle, like Plato, set up a merely passive social molecule. Scepticism regarding the gods was punished by the hemlock, as in the case of Socrates. The city was everything; and when, on being converted into an Empire, Rome became incarnate in a man, the senate cried, in cheering Probus: Tu omnia! “Thou art everything!” As heirs to this idea, our legists bestowed the same power upon Philippe le Bel. Bossuet, in the name of Holy Writ, bestowed it upon Louis XIV., and even good-natured Louis XVI., upon the eve of 1789, imagining himself to be the absolute master of his subjects, of their goods and their destinies, said to Malesherbes:—It is legal because I will it!”
In all these civilisations, then, the subjection of thought to authority, the prohibition of unorthodox views, is manifest. And since when have we been enfranchised? Not fifteen years ago, in spite of innumerable editions of Voltaire, it was still a serious misdemeanour to satirise a religion recognised by the State. In the absence of faith, respect was obligatory. In Germany there is still a State religion. The Gotha and Erfurt programmes demand that religion shall be only a private affair. Why is Luther’s agitation considered progressive, if not because he enfranchised the conscience of the individual—because he allowed the individual himself to decide, in a more extended domain than heretofore, what he could, or could not, believe? Who would now dare ask for the revival of the Inquisition, that terrible instrument of oppression which converted each man into a suspected person, and required of him an account of all his most secret motives? Who does not regard it as a most insufferable tyranny for an individual to be required, under the most fearful penalties, to believe all that a clergyman orders him to believe, calling to his aid the secular arm to enforce his authority?
What is that liberty of conscience which, after having cost us so many glorious victims, has now become an indisputable principle, whatever criticisms its application may provoke, if not the acknowledgment that each individual has the right of private judgment?
Where then are the Socialists who reject this right in the matter of religion or philosophy? Do they reject it when they demand liberty of the press and liberty of speech? On the contrary, they claim for each, not only the right to decide for himself what he ought or ought not to believe, but also the right to propagate, as publicly as he pleases, his beliefs and disbeliefs.
They hold, and we agree with them, that there is no such thing as orthodoxy or heresy in political or social questions. What is the right of political voting, the extension of which is demanded by the programmes we have cited? It is the right of each citizen to determine his country’s destiny, so far as his vote can do it. This right was, in former times, exclusively reserved to the tribal chief, under the authority of customs and gods, or to an oligarchy, to a Greek despot or Roman Emperor, to the Basileus of Byzantium, or to a monarch by right divine.
And as French Socialists (at least while they do not wield the force majeure), proclaim, like their German brethren, the rights which we have enumerated, they are forced to admit that, in the political, religious and intellectual evolution of the human race, that progress consists in the substitution of personal decision for authoritative measures.
Slavery—Absorption of Personality—Corporeal and Tributary Serfdom—Personal and Pecuniary Obligations—Contract and the French Civil Code—Specification of Services—Freedom of Labour—Respect for Individual Liberty—Commercial Companies—Separation of the Man Contracting from the Thing Contracted for—Joint-Stock Companies—Nature of Contract—Substitution of Contract for Obligations Imposed by Authority.
Does the economic point of view differ from that of personal right? In primitive civilisations, the work is done by the women and slaves, the stronger men reserving enjoyment to themselves, and unconditionally imposing all effort upon the weaker. One of the most certain signs of human progress and evolution is the enfranchisement of woman from this servitude. The most revolting feature in slavery is that one man may belong to another man, thus having no control over his own destiny. He is property, in his entirety. No distinction is made between his personality and the services he can render, or the tasks which may be required of him. And these are the stages of progress: after slavery, serfdom; after the corporeal serf, the tributary serf, whose obligations, instead of being unlimited are defined, and, instead of being personal, consist in the obligation to perform certain defined services, or to contribute certain things. This distinction between direct personal obligations and obligations in terms of commodities, already established by Roman law, was, whatever Bentham may have said, one of the great juridical facts of human progress.
In ancient law there is no contract, nor any word corresponding to it. The father of the family commands. He does not deliberate; there is no reciprocity of services discussed or agreed upon, with a penalty for its non-execution. We do, however, find contracts amongst traders like the Athenians; and it is commerce which made them the most Individualistic people of antiquity. The ship-owner of the Piræus entered into treaty with foreigners for merchandise. He made his own arrangements without asking leave of his Government. He made contracts, and contracts for specified goods and specified services quite outside any question of his own person. In Rome, contract became more and more real, and less and less personal in proportion to and concurrently with the development of the idea of right. Hobbes, Grotius, and after them Rousseau, believed that by contract people might be bound to one another—that one person might thus deliver up a part of his existence, of his life, of his being to another, and that another might take possession of it. This is still true in the marriage contract, but it is true only of marriage now; and the law of divorce has weakened even this personal contract.
In the definition of contract, as given by the French Civil Code, there is no ambiguity. According to Article 1101: “A contract is an agreement by which one or more persons undertake to give, to do, or not to do, something to another or others;” and, according to Article 1126: “Every contract has for its object something which one party undertakes to give, or one party undertakes to do, or not to do.” The Code insists upon the real nature of a contract. Article 1128 says: “It is only things connected with commerce which can be the object of agreements;” and Article 1129 adds: “It is necessary that a contract should have for its object a thing defined, at least, as to its quality (espèce). The quantity of the thing may be unspecified, provided that it can be determined. The Code is very careful to lay down “that a man can engage his services only for a specified time or undertaking.” (Article 1780.)
This is the very principle of the freedom of labour, demanded by the Physiocrats, and proclaimed by Turgot in his edict of 1776 against the pretentions of corporations, in which the apprentice and the journeyman had personal and undefined duties towards the employer.
In Rome, the insolvent debtor became a slave. He paid in his person because he could not pay in goods. Such was also the case in the system of imprisonment for debt. But now the law of contract holds in complete respect the person of the contractor. From the moral point of view, he must fulfil the engagements he has made; from the legal point of view, “all obligations to do or not to do resolve themselves into damages and indemnities.” (Art. 1142 of the Civil Code.)
The system of civil contracts is based entirely upon respect for the liberty of the individual, and this principle has prevailed in proportion to and concurrently with the development of commercial law. When the Hanseatic League recognised contracts concluded with foreigners, it recognised in the engagement a something distinct from the person who had entered into it, not troubling itself about the colour, race, or religion of the contracting parties.
In companies en commandite, the responsibilities of the sleeping partners with regard to outsiders are distinctly specified and determined, thanks to the labours of Italian jurists. As regards joint-stock companies with limited liability, we, in 1555 for the first time come across (in England) the Russia Company, in which the capital was contributed and employed for a specific set of transactions or operations, the ownership of such funds being transferable without any alteration of the commercial compact. The separation of the man and the thing is so complete that the company always assumes the name of its object.
What do these facts show? The juridical and economic evolution of companies reveals the same characteristics as intellectual, religious, and political evolution. Undefined services, in primitive groups, become clearly defined services as regards both their nature and their duration, this change being consequent on the differentiation of the man who contracts from the thing contracted for, and the agreement being always liable to be cancelled on pecuniary payment for loss occasioned to the contractee. Obligations imposed by authority give place to obligations resulting from contracts, which are valid only through the personal will of the contracting parties.
Collectivism is its Primitive Form—Agrarian Communes—Nothing is to remain held under joint-ownership.
The Socialist ideal, as depicted by the programmes which we have quoted, is Collectivism; and even some of those who do not go quite so far as this, advocate the buying up of the land by the State, under the name of land nationalisation.
Have societies converted individual into collective ownership, so that, in invoking the example of the past, we may say that in this we recognise progress? Is not the phenomenon which results from progress the reverse of this? Amongst hunting and nomadic tribes, a horde wanders across an expanse of land more or less extensive, and, when the tribe settles down, the ownership remains undivided among its members. At Rome, according to Mommsen, the agrarian commune was the first form of land administration in Italy; and everywhere, in ancient China as well as in Germany, and in Great Britain before the Norman Conquest, we find the agrarian commune, which has survived down to the present day in the Russian mir, amongst the southern Slavs, in Croatia, Servia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Dalmatia, and Herzogovnia, but which always disappears upon the approach of a railway.
If the Collectivists of Gotha and Erfurt, or of the Bourse du Travail, would just propose to a French peasant to throw open his land—to offer it to the Mayoralty of his Commune, he would answer them according to the principle of justice which he understands better than any other: Nothing is to remain held in common. And he is quite right, for this joint-ownership is the negation of his own individuality.
Their Aspirations Retrogressive—Collective Ownership—Advice to Mr. Henry George—Suppression of Contracts—Suppression of Personal Decisions—Servile Labour—Organisation on the Military Type.
You Socialists wish to return to the collective proprietorship of primitive peoples, or of those people who are the slowest in their evolution. Mr. Henry George has written a book upon the nationalisation of the land. He is an American. The United States possess immense territories which they are constantly engaged in denationalising and in converting into private properties. Why does he not begin by asking his fellow-countrymen to leave some thousands of square miles of land in a state of nationalisation and go there himself and endeavour to recommence the experience which answered so ill with our Utopians in Texas? This substitution, collective for individual proprietorship, would suffice to test the retrogressive character of your ideas.
You wish to substitute authoritative arrangements for contracts; personal service for service measured by the things produced. You wish to eliminate personal initiative from economic life. Henceforth, by the laws which, according to you, are protective of labour, you wish to limit the working capacity of individuals, and to condemn to idleness the vigorous man, who, to augment his resources, is desirous of using his faculties and his powers; you wish to prohibit women from working so as to keep them in primitive subjection, under hypocritical pretexts of health and morality; you wish for the suppression of all piece-work, so as to remove all initiatory spirit and the chance of increased profit from the intelligent worker, and to reduce him to the state of a mechanical appendage to his trade; in industries you wish to suppress everything that means personal thought on his part, so as to convert him into a sort of passive piece of machinery. Into your ideal society you transport a military organisation. But this organisation involves a hierarchy, discipline, and passive obedience, and crushes all activity. Instead of competition, which is the regulator of free labour, you give as a motive power the restraints of servile labour.
The Government and Civil Service are Hateful and Contemptible, therefore entrust everything to them—Men or Automata?—Political Liberty and Economic Tutelage—Child and Adult.
By a flagrant contradiction, you wish to make use of those liberties which you demand, not in order to ask for the legal acknowledgment of personal rights still unrecognised—the full exercise of the freedom of labour—but in order to ask that the State shall be the only regulator of the economic activity in each nation. If you maintain that your social organisation, which involves the suppression of personal decision and the substitution of the State intervention for contract, is not a retrogression, tell me then why you consider political and religious liberty to be an advance?
What! you claim universal suffrage; you wish to direct the destinies of your country by vote; you desire to think, speak, and act as you like; and still you argue that this State, which you think bad, insufficient, and always suspicious, shall direct your purchases and sales by custom-house tariffs, fix your hours of labour and of rest, determine your salary, and become the regulator of the entire economic movement of the country. From the political point of view you wish to be men; from the economic point of view you wish to be automata.
How do you reconcile these contradictory demands which you make at the same time—Political Liberty and Economic Tutelage?
TheDeterminist.—Are you an elector?
Determinist.—Will you resign your rights as an elector?
Determinist.—You look upon yourself then as of full age?
Determinist.—But if you wish the State to determine contracts for you, you still look upon yourself as a minor. Make your choice between the two; be either an adult or a minor; but you cannot be both at one and the same time.
Delegate.—All that is middle-class science, made to deceive the people.
Determinist.—Be it so. But tell me what you think of the Government.
Delegate.—Nothing good! A pack of bourgeois, exploiters, and ignoramuses.
Delegate.—Yes. Allemane, Brousse, Vaillant, and others, have told us so. And in addition, they are a lot of Panama thieves.
Determinist.—Not all of them!
Determinist.—And in every country?
Delegate.—Yes, everywhere. They are all alike; the one is as bad as the other.
Determinist.—In Germany, Italy, England, and the United States?
Delegate.—Yes; worse luck.
Determinist.—You have a good opinion of the governing classes. How about the civil service?
Delegate.—Leather bands so placed as to prevent people dancing in a circle, and always lost in their waste paper baskets. All they can do is to complicate matters.
Determinist.—At any rate our civil service is honest.
Delegate.—You cannot make me believe that. Read the Libre Parole and l’Intransigeant. Look at the War Department and the Admiralty. Why you all talk, in the Chamber, of the abuses there are—of the squandering that goes on. You declare that we don’t get our money’s worth.
Determinist.—The army and the navy are the well administered departments of the State; in them she constructs and has workshops; she houses, clothes, and feeds people. And you say that is not a success?
Delegate.—No. It is not a success.
Determinist.—But then, if you believe that the Government is detestable and stupid, that statesmen are more fallible than other men, and stoop to all sorts of corruptions, evil influences, and passions; that the administration is clumsy, expensive, and behindhand; your demand should be that government should be more and more eliminated from the direction of social life, and that the civil service should have an ever-narrowing field of action.
Delegate.—That is what I want!
Determinist.—You want precisely the opposite, for you demand that this odious government, this detestable civil service, shall regulate the details of the whole economic life of the country. You multiply their functions. You enjoin upon these statesmen and these administrators that you cover with your scorn, to think, to provide, and to act for you.
Delegate.—Ah! but they won’t be the same people. Those who will govern will belong to us, will be good men.
Determinist.—And you believe that they will not commit abuses, that they will grant privileges to none, that they will be guilty of no injustice, that they will have intuitive knowledge, that in their government and their administration they will unite the virtue of Marcus Aurelius, the orderly spirit of Colbert, and the initiative of Napoleon?
Delegate.—Perhaps that is a good deal.
Determinist.—Yes; it will not, however, be too much to require to put your organisation in working order; for it can only succeed through miracles. Unfortunately, we have seen what your leaders and friends know of the work of administration and government.
Determinist.—During the Commune, for example.
Delegate.—That was a time of war.
Determinist.—Be it so. But is everything perfection at the Bourse du Travail? Do the members of the Executive and of the Central Committee never provoke complaints from those under their administration, and never have difficulties amongst themselves?
Delegate.—Yes, sometimes, but that does not matter.
Determinist.—And if you had the power, would there not be more parties among you? Would you all be united? Would you have no differences, no discussions?
Delegate.—Not like the bourgeois.
Determinist.—In fact, when on the 28th May the Marxites, Allemanists, Broussists and Blanqists, met at Père-Lachaise, they seemed to be all of one mind, but that was to abuse one another and to fight. This is a foretaste they have given us of the era of peace and happiness which we shall enjoy, if, some day, the economic life of each one of us is to be regulated by them.
Delegate.—That does not matter. Leave us alone. You will see what a success it will be.
Determinist.—In the name of the inductive method. I oppose this. Past experience, and the facts which I see everyday, cause me enough distrust to make me indisposed to put in your hands the insufferable despotism which your programmes demand. I will no more part with my economic liberty than with my political liberty: they are inseparable.
Having demonstrated that the Socialist programme, so far from being an advance, only represents a retrograde movement towards earlier and inferior types of civilisation, it remains for us to ask, by the aid of what sophisms, by what erroneous methods can the authors of this programme so present it as to win disciples who rally round it with a fierce and jealous passion.
We shall take the enumeration of these sophisms from the declaration of principles of the Gotha and Erfurt Congresses, which we stated above, so that we cannot be accused of misstating Socialist ideas in order to refute them the more easily. We are, nevertheless, obliged to add to these a few of the maxims, more or less explicitly borrowed from the French Socialists of 1848, which have come to be current arguments.
Borrowed from M. de Saint-Cricq—Confusion—Labour only a Means—The Law of Least Effort—Definition of Capital—Fixed Capital and Circulating Capital—Definition of Value.
At the head of the Gotha programme we find this sentence:
“Labour is the source of all wealth and all civilisation and as labour which is profitable to all is only made possible by society. . . .”
This sentence seems to be taken from the protectionist vocabulary, and more particularly from that of M. de Saint-Cricq: “Labour constitutes the wealth of a people.” The Protectionists of the Restoration, like those of our own day, make the same mistake as though they were confusing implements with production. If labour constituted the wealth of a nation it would suffice to create labour for labour’s sake, and we should increase our wealth indefinitely. Now, the facts of every-day life show that the most earnest labour may be unproductive; and, far from enriching him who devotes himself to it, it may leave him ruined and exhausted. Labour represents effort: and the Law of Least Effort, true in economic as in linguistic matters, impels man to use his labour in order, in the long run, to lessen it. If he constructs implements, boats, highways, bridges, it is because, this considerable effort once accomplished—and it grows more and more considerable, as the powerful implements of our day prove—he can obtain a certain number of services with more ease. And what are these implements, from the stone, the hatchet, and the hammer, down to the most perfect apparatus, if they are not capital?
Capital is man plus all the natural agents which he has bent to his use. We say, in contradiction to certain economists, who make a special capital of the soil: Capital is every utility appropriated by man.
Further, we distinguish two kinds of Capital. One kind, like a house a field, a hammer, a plough, a ship, etc., can only be of service to us upon condition of remaining a house, field, hammer, etc., by not changing in character.
The other, on the contrary, like coal for him who has a hearth to warm, corn for the miller, flour for the baker—in a word, all raw materials, including those foods which constitute fuel for man, are only useful to those who employ them, upon condition of their transformation. In the same way produce for the manufacturer, and for the merchant, are of no utility to him except upon condition of its being converted into money, or other value.
There are then, two sorts of capital: Fixed capital is all things useful the productive use of which does not change their character. Circulating capital is all things useful the productive use of which changes their character. In other words: Fixed capital consists in implements. Circulating capital consists in raw materials and their products.
And what is value? It is the relation of the utility possessed by one individual to the needs of another individual.
Society—What is it?—Does it Include all Mankind?—To what Groups do the Programmes of the Collectivists apply?
The Gotha Programme says: “As labour which is profitable to all is only made possible by society, the general produce of labour should belong to society, that is to say, to all of its members, all being under an obligation to work.”
Society? but what constitutes society? What is this society? Does it include all mankind? According to the Socialist formula one ought to believe so: “The enfranchisement of labour necessitates the transmission of the implements of labour of the whole of society . . .” The whole of society, be it understood; and, in fact, we must deal with the whole of society, because otherwise some will be disinherited of their share of the common good—there will be some privileged and some plundered.
But, then this organisation will encompass the wandering Mongol of the Gobi desert, the inhabitants of Terra del Fuego, the Touareg of the Sahara, the negroes of Central Africa, and the Papuans of New Guinea. All these will have their share in the distribution of “the general produce of labour.”
If the Socialist pretends that I make him talk absurdities, I answer that I have put to his account only that which I have borrowed from him, and that the logical interpretation of his text is really that which I give it. I grant that the ambition of the Gotha Socialists may be more modest, and that they used the word “Society” only out of hypocrisy, so as not to make use of the word “State.” But I put this question to them: What is this “Society” of which you speak? Is it a geographical and political expression used to designate a group of human beings, whose members and positions on the map of the world have been determined by the fortunes of war? Is Germany a homogeneous society to your Collectivist apprehension, in spite of the particularist traditions of its provinces? Are you going to construct a Collectivist society in Austria, with its Germans, Hungarians, Tchechs, and Poles? Will Denmark constitute a Collectivist society? And Russia, along the vast extent of her frontiers, from the Behring Straits to the Baltic, should she too undertake “to impose his task upon each of her 113 millions of inhabitants,” and to give him afterwards “a sufficient portion for the satisfaction of his reasonable needs.”
This problem, which the Socialists of Gotha and Erfurt, as well as those of France, abstain from tackling, is, however, worth the trouble of considering; because, though Communism is possible for a convent, it becomes quite another question when it is a case of applying it to millions and millions of beings, having neither the same degree of civilisation, nor the same habits, nor the same ideas of life.
In passing, we point out these slight difficulties, but we are well aware that they will not arrest the fanatics of Collectivism.
Repeal of the Law of Supply and Demand—Newton’s Responsibility—Definition of the Law of Supply and Demand—Its Universality—Its Application to Labour—Labour is Merchandise—Strikes and the Monopoly of Labour—The Law of Supply and Demand in Relation to Labour, according to Cobden.
In the eyes of the Collectivist, these difficulties are evidently matters which may be passed over in silence, so far as regards the goal which they are striving to reach—the suppression of the Law of Supply and Demand.
One day, at an electoral assembly, some one bitterly reproached me with being a supporter of this law. He imagined, honest man, that this law is inscribed in the Statute Book, and that I had voted for it. I thought that he was alone in this idea until lately, when in talking about this law to several Socialists, one of them said to me: Well, then, you decline to repeal this abominable law!
From these two cases I am obliged to conclude that not only ignorance of economic principles, but even of the idea of a scientific law, is much greater than I had imagined it to be; a discovery which should make us full of indulgence towards the mistakes which we hear uttered every day, but which gives us at the same time the right to invite those who speak with such contempt of “vile economists,” and advocate with so much assurance plans for social upheaval, to begin by learning the A B C of the questions with which they deal.
The Law of Supply and Demand was not promulgated in any code. Its power comes from elsewhere. It imposes itself upon mankind in as implacable a way as hunger and thirst. We furnish fresh demonstrations of its truth, whether willingly or not, even while we imagine ourselves to be violating it. If the Socialist excommunicates and abuses the economist, who formulates this law, he should also hold Newton responsible for all the tiles that fall on the heads of passers-by, and should declare that if some poor wretch, in throwing himself from a window, kills himself, it is the fault of those physicists who have discovered and taught the law of gravitation.
As there are still so many who ignore the Law of Supply and Demand, it is useful to recall it. Supply is the desire of an individual to procure for himself a commodity in exchange for one of another kind which he already possesses. Demand is the desire, in conjunction with the means of purchase, to procure for oneself some kind of commodity. The value of a utility is in inverse ratio to the supply, and in direct ratio to the demand. When there is a greater supply of a certain kind of merchandise than demand for that same kind of merchandise, prices fall. They rise in the opposite case.
I ask of the Socialist, who wishes to repeal the Law of Supply and Demand, if he can name a case which contradicts it. When he has seen corn, wine, wood, or machines offered in greater quantities than the consumers require, has he seen prices go up or down?
What do Protectionists do when they demand customs duties to hinder such or such a product crossing the frontier? They perform an act of fidelity towards the Law of Supply and Demand. Their aim is to lessen the supply, so they raise the price of those things which they wish to exclude.
It is fine of you Socialists to abuse the Law of Supply and Demand. Not only do you apply it every day of your life, to the purchases which are necessary to your existence, when you bargain for your wine, your bread, your meat, your house, and your clothing; but you also apply it when you are the seller, instead of the buyer.
Socialist.—Come now! I am never the seller, because I have nothing to sell.
Economist.—When you hire out your labour what do you do? Do you not demand wages? Do you not make a contract, either oral or written, which is called the hiring contract? You sell your labour like the grocer sells his salt, his coffee, and his sugar; like the baker sells his bread; like the butcher sells his meat.
Socialist.—It isn’t the same thing; I don’t hand over anything.
Economist.—No, but you render a service. The railway which transports you from one place to another does not hand over anything to you, but it renders you a service. The doctor who attends you, the advocate who pleads for you, receive payment because they render you a service. You let out your strength, either muscular or intellectual, in return for remuneration. It is the hiring of professional strength and skill which we call the contract of labour. It is a merchandise, like any other, and, like all things or services which are the objects of contracts and agreements, is subject to the Law of Supply and Demand.
Socialist.—You may repeat that to me in as many ways as you like, but you will not convert me, because I tell you I do not admit it.
Economist.—And what if I prove to you, that you are the first, not only to recognise that labour is merchandise subject to the Law of Supply and Demand, but also to insist, sometimes even with violence, that all should recognise it to be so?
Socialist.—That would be difficult.
Economist.—You wish to suppress woman’s labour, to suppress apprentices, or, at least, to limit their number, to send back the foreign labourers over the frontier; is it not so?
Economist.—Each one of those propositions is a homage paid to the Law of Supply and Demand; because each one of them has for its object to diminish the supply of labour, and thereby to raise the price.
Socialist.—I need other reasons to convince me.
Economist.—Are you a partisan of the law of 1864 which gives workmen permission to strike? Would you like to return to the previous régime?
Socialist.—No, that is not required. The right to strike is now law.
Economist.—Very well! What do you do when you strike? You withdraw your labour from the market. You say to your employer: If you wish to buy my labour, you will have to pay dearer for it. If you are clever you will choose the time when he needs you most, to dictate your conditions to him. Do you know what you are? You are a forestaller.
Socialist.—You don’t say so!
Economist.—What is a forestaller? He is a speculator who withdraws corn, wine, cotton, etc., from the market, to raise the price of his merchandise, and waits for the rise before selling. You, too, you refuse your labour, you withhold it in order to raise its value; and whether you wish to comply with it or not, you apply the Law of Supply and Demand.
Cobden has described, in a picturesque manner, how the Law of Supply and Demand acts in the matter of wages. Wages rise, he said, when two masters run after one workman; they fall when two workmen run after one master. One might try, by more or less violent means, by all sorts of more or less ingenious combinations, by more or less clever laws, inscribed in our codes, to violate this Law of Supply and Demand with respect to labour; but we should never change it, because it is immutable. Each time that there was no demand for some portion of the supply of labour, the workman would be compelled to accept a situation at a reduced price; each time that there was a demand for labour in excess of the supply, wages would necessarily rise.
“You, too, wish to maintain it—The Formula is due to Turgot — Very Attenuated—Unsound—Lassalle took it from Ricardo—Ricardo’s Exact Text—The Law is perverted—Cause of the Rises and Falls in the Rate of Wages—The Basis of Wages—Errors—It is the Consumer who regulates the Rate of Wages—Capital only raises Wages—If the Iron Law were Exact, in one Centre all Wages should be Equal—The Protectionist and the “Iron Law—Way to lower Wages—The Wages of the Labourers depends upon the Amount of Work—Definition of Wages.
The same Socialist who reproached me for not desiring “the repeal” of the law of supply and demand, added:
No doubt you will also support the iron law of wages.
No, I replied.
Ah! ah! he replied triumphantly; you do not dare to support that!
I am the less daring in support of that “law” as it does not exist, and it does not exist precisely, because the Law of Supply and Demand does exist.
That law not exist! Why, all Socialists mention it.
Well! it was not Socialists who invented it. Lassalle took the idea from Turgot and Ricardo, while giving it, for the purposes of his polemic, an arbitrary meaning.
Turgot begins by recognising that labour is subject to the Law of Supply and Demand: “The labourer, pure and simple, who has only his arms and his industry, has nothing, unless he manages to sell his labour to others. He sells it more or less dearly; but this higher or lower price does not depend only upon himself.”
Turgot here announces an incontestable truth; because the price of a thing or of a service never depends upon one person only; the price is relative to two conveniencies, to two needs, that of selling and that of buying; an individual does not sell an article of merchandise to himself, any more than he can buy his own labour. Turgot went on to say: “The price is the result of the arrangement he makes with the purchaser of his labour, who pays as little as he can.”
Socialists may recriminate as much as they like; these are truths which verification will only establish more firmly, just as blows from a hammer give greater cohesion and greater solidity to steel. The consumer wishes to buy as cheaply as possible, and to sell as dearly as possible. The consumer and the producer of labour will not escape from this general law.
Turgot, from the experience of his day (when all those corporations, with their masters and wardens, flourished, which he abolished, and which were resuscitated after his fall, to be finally suppressed fifteen years later by the National Assembly) added: “As there is a wide choice between a large number of labourers, they prefer the cheapest worker. Workmen are therefore obliged to lower their price in competition between one another. In all kinds of work the result should be, and in effect is, that the wages of the worker are limited by what it is necessary that he should receive for his support.” Turgot held that the supply of labour is greater than the demand, from which he concludes that wages will fall to the price of subsistence.
How was he able to establish the exactitude of this connection? How could he justify this equation? Was the condition of all Frenchmen equal even in his day? And now, glance around us. Is the food of the Irishman who contents himself with potatoes, of the Breton countryman, to whom a buckwheat cake seasoned with a salted sardine’s head is a feast, to be compared to that of the English working-man, or to the working-man of Paris?
Turgot looked upon his proposition as a consequence of the Law of Supply and Demand, because he based it upon this premiss, that as the supply of labour always exceeds the demand, the consumer of labour can always obtain it at the lowest price. But he at once invalidated this conclusion by making an exception of the husbandman, “with whom Nature did not bargain so as to oblige him to put up with absolute necessities,” and “who could with the superfluities accorded him by nature, over and above the price of his labour, purchase the labour of other members of society. He is, therefore, the only source of wealth. . . . ”
What do these words show us? That Turgot wanted to prove the superiority of agricultural labour to all other; and, in his time, the argument was not difficult to justify. Economists maintained that all wealth was derived from the soil, and because, from imperfect observation, they had arrived at this erroneous conclusion, does it follow that Turgot’s error regarding manual labour should be a truth, even though taken up again by Ricardo?
It is from this English Economist that Lassalle takes it. “According to Ricardo,” he says, “the average of the wages of labour is fixed by the indispensable necessaries of life.” Lassalle altered Ricardo’s much less decided text.
“The natural price of labour,” says Ricardo, “is that price which is necessary to enable the labourers, one with another, to subsist and to perpetuate their race, without either increase or diminution. . . . The natural price of labour, therefore, depends on the price of food necessaries and conveniences required for the support of the labourer and his family.”
Ricardo toned down this proposition by adding the following: “It is not to be understood that the natural price of, labour, estimated even in food and necessaries, is absolutely fixed and constant. It varies at different times in the same country, and very materially differs in different countries. . . . An English labourer would consider his wages under their natural rate, and too scanty to support a family, if they enabled him to purchase no other food than potatoes, and to live in no better habitation than a mud cabin.”
That is what Ricardo says. It is a long way from that to the absolute formula attributed to him by Lassalle, and from which he has created “the Iron Law of Wages.”
It is untrue both as a minimum and maximum. It is not true as a minimum: because if the employer has no need for manual labour, he will not trouble himself about the labourer’s necessity of living; he will not employ him, and will not pay him. It is not true as a maximum; because the employer pays the labourer, not according to the latter’s convenience, but according to the use he can make of his work, according to the demands made upon him for the products he supplies.
In reality it is neither the employer nor the employed who regulates the price of labour; it is a third person, whom we are in the habit of forgetting, and who is known as the consumer. If the employer were to produce something which did not meet some want, or which, by its price, was outside the range of wants which could be satisfied, he would not be able to give wages either above or below the means of subsistence, to his labourers, for the very good reason, that he could not produce, and consequently would employ no one.
If an employer manufactures things that are in great demand, and which can only be made by a limited number of workmen, the workmen can command very high pay.
Certain Economists have imagined a “wage fund,” a fund available in a given society, for the remuneration of labourers. This means nothing. Wages do not depend upon the capital which may be owned by employers. This capital would soon be swallowed up and absorbed, if it had to meet wages.
Wages are paid by the manufacturers’ clients, by the buyer of corn or oats of the agriculturist, of iron or steel of the metallurgist, of cottons or wools of the weaver of stuffs. All the manufacturer does is to advance wages just as he advances taxes. He who finally pays is the consumer; and wages vary according to his needs and not according to the will of the employer.
If Brussels lace ceases to please the ladies who use it, the wages of the lace makers will fall to zero; if it pleases them, the makers will be appointed as managers. If fashion deserts silk goods, the wages of the Lyons silk weavers will fall, be they ever so skilful, and will only rise when the ladies of France, England, and the United States, make new calls for their goods.
As Socialists make an article of faith of “the Iron Law of Wages,” why, if it does exist, have they not asked why all the wages, in one centre, are not equal amongst all the workers? A printer or a miner is not charged more for bread and meat than a labourer, a sculptor more than a navvy. Why then if the “Iron Law” is a fact, do they receive unequal wages? And if you believe in it, ye Socialists of the Bourse du Travail, how is it that you accept the distinctions established in the schedule of the town of Paris, and, instead of demanding a uniform rate for all, permit the bricklayer’s labourer to receive a lower wage than the plasterer? In 1890, in the mines, an overseer earned 5 fr. 04, the State worker 4 fr. 41, the manual labourer 3 fr. 58 at the bottom, and 3 fr. 21 outside. It is all very well for the Congress of Tours to ask for equality of wages: let it get them accepted by the plasterer or the overseer! “The Iron Law of Wages” has never been anything but a metaphor. Why “iron? Why not bronze? Why not “steel? That would be harder still. Is it because Hesiod describes the iron age as violent and savage. This yielding to the seductions of metaphor proves how the Socialists are possessed of the classic spirit, in Taine’s acceptation of the term, and are ready to be satisfied with mere words! They believe that this invocation is an economic law, although Liebknecht, at the Congress of Halle (1890), did relegate it to the bric-à-brac of antiquity.
But we have heard Protectionists (March, 1887) invoking this imagined “Iron Law” as an argument in favour of duties on corn and beef. They say, that as wages correspond to the price of food, it will be sufficient to raise the cost of living to make wages go up. In this way the social question is solved. According to the partizans of this ingenious proposition, the wages of English workmen ought to have been higher under the reign of the corn laws, than since, under the reign of liberty!
They do not see that this system is, on the contrary, the best calculated to reduce wages: because the dearer food is, the more need will there be for the consumer to devote a considerable portion of his income to it, and all that portion will become unavailable for other objects: there would therefore be a decrease in the demand for manufactured objects; consequently there would be diminished demand for manual labour, and, as a result, lower wages. For we must of necessity always return to the following principles. Labourers’ wages depend upon the amount of work required. When the demand for labour is relatively small, wages fall; wages rise when this demand is more plentiful. Consequently, there is only one way in which wages can be raised: by opening up channels of production and increasing the industrial and commercial activity of the country.
In a word, what do we understand by wages? Wages are a speculation. The labourer who offers his labour to a trader or a contractor, argues thus with him: “I deliver to you so much labour. It is true that you run the risks of the enterprise. You are obliged to make advances of capital. You may gain or lose. That does not concern me. I do my work, I make it over to you at a certain price; you pay this to me whatever happens. Whether it redounds to your benefit or causes you loss is not my affair.”
The true nature of wages is that of a fixed contract between employer and worker. It is by the recognition of this that we shall succeed in dispelling all equivocations and avoid all idle and envenomed discussions.
The Employer a Parasite—Way to make a Fortune—Erroneous Hypotheses.
According to the Socialists of the school of Karl Marx, every employer is a thief, and they proceed to prove it by saying:
If, after having made a pair of shoes, I want to re-purchase them at the price which was paid to me, I cannot do so. A profit has been superadded to my wages. The employer is robbing me. He is a parasite that lives at my expense.
The Socialist calculates how much the employer deducts from the salary of each workman; and by this calculation he adduces the fact that it is sufficient to employ a lot of workmen in order to obtain large profits. If trade could be reduced to such simple principles as these, it would be enough to borrow capital and to hire as many workmen as possible, to ensure a fortune at once.
If Socialists would only take the trouble to examine the facts about which they talk, they would ask themselves why there are some manufacturers who ruin themselves whilst others prosper. But Socialists suppose that the price of raw materials never varies, and that there is no difficulty in buying them upon good terms. They also suppose that there is a continuous, regular, and easy demand for products at uniform prices.
In fact, they ignore the elements of trade—the interest of the capital engaged, as well as deterioration of plant; and as they do not see the employer actively engaged at his trade, they conclude that he is no better than a sluggard, for the labour of direction, without which neither work nor manufacture could exist, counts as nothing in their eyes.
What is the Standard of Need?—Capacity and Needs—Wages should be in Inverse Ratio to Capacity.
This is a formula which has superseded that of “to each according to his works.”
But what is the standard of needs? They are as undefined as man’s capacity for wishing. Everyone can dream of terrestrial paradises suited to his own fancy. And yet society is, by some means or other to secure them for him. This would not be the reign of equality.
It may be, however, that this is not what those mean to say, who make use of this formula, which, like most Socialistic formulæ, borders upon the absurd the moment you draw therefrom its logical conclusion. They mean that wages should not be regulated according to the capacities of the wage-earners, but according to their needs. We have already pointed out that wages depend upon neither the employer nor the employed, but on the power of purchase of the consumer.
If wages were to be estimated according to needs, it would be the least capable workman who ought to receive the highest wages. An unfortunate man is a victim to chronic bronchitis; he has all the more need for high wages because he is ill; he needs an abundance of the choicest food, all kinds of strengthening things, and the possibility of earning enough in a few days to enable him to rest afterwards. Where will this unfortunate man ever find, not only higher wages, but as high wages as a capable workman in good health?
Wages will always be in proportion to the productive capacity of the worker, and not in proportion to his needs.
The Abolition of Wages—Means of accomplishing this—Process Employed—The Advantages of being an Employer—Tu l’auras voulu, George Dandin!
Socialist (triumphant).—What you have just been saying condemns the system of wages; because under it you admit that it would be impossible to take needs into account. The employer would allow the miserable martyr to bronchitis, of whom you spoke, to die of starvation. That is barbarous. There is only one remedy: abolish wages. M.Lafargue wasright when he said to M. Millerand: “So long as the wage-system remains in force you have accomplished nothing.”
Economist.—Then you believe that the abolition of wages would give work to that poor wretch, and that he would find it easier to live? Would his productive power be increased?
Socialist.—Others would work for him.
Economist.—That is just what happens now; and the function of public aid is, to come to the rescue of the unhappy people who cannot live by their own work. But this is quite a different question, which has no connection with production except the burden which it imposes upon it. It is quite alien to the question of the fixing of the rate of wages.
Socialist.—That is why we must suppress wages. True Socialists have no doubts upon this point. They are unanimous. The wage-system is robbery on the part of the masters. Karl Marx has proved this. We must compass the abolition of wagedom! Whilst that remains unachieved nothing is done!
Economist.—Well, you and your friends are at this moment working with consummate skill towards this end, and you will of a surety reach it, but in a different way to what you imagine. Pending the grand final upheaval, the employer may expect any day to see the legislature interfere in his affairs and change their conditions.
By the suppression of women’s night labour the power of production of certain manufacturers has been diminished and their sale handicapped by more than one-third, which is a singular way of favouring the increase of trades with small capitals and of developing our commercial power. The law of compulsory insurance in case of accidents adds another burden to the heavy load that the French manufacturer already has to carry, and which will doubtless help him to compete with more ease against foreign competition. He is, moreover, subjected to all sorts of inspections, which are to be still further increased, and a majority in the Chamber of Deputies has adopted the Bovier-Lapierre law by virtue of which every employer who dismisses a workman who is a member of a trade syndicate, with censure, renders himself liable to police correction like a vagrant, and may be condemned to fine and imprisonment. The Congress of Tours demands that employers shall be subject to the supervision of inspectors elected by the workmen, and that they shall be punished “if they have caused people to work for more than eight hours and below the wage rates accepted by the syndicate,” The workmen who are members of the conseils de prudhommes administer an oath always to condemn the masters, and set up the doctrine of partiality in matters of justice. Employers are compelled to put up with the presence in their offices of those who offer them nothing but insults and the language of hatred. They have the constant fear of strikes, which they cannot in any way prevent; and when this industrial war has once been declared, they are exposed to threats of assassination. They are obliged to send their wives and children out of harm’s way, and the very smallest risk they run is the pillage and destruction of part of their stock. Deputies come and place themselves at the head of these strikers to encourage their disorders. Ministers and Prefects intervene, and dread lest they shall be accused of siding with the employers. If some magistrate does his duty by condemning those guilty according to the common law, upon the first offence, the criminals are at once pardoned and return triumphant. If the employer ruins himself, he loses, not only his own capital and that of his sleeping partners, but he is disgraced into the bargain and becomes a miserable wreck. If he makes money, he is denounced in certain newspapers, at meetings, and in the tribune, and he is assured that he could be easily made to disgorge.
Do you think that under these conditions the position of employer is so full of attractions that many will be disposed to devote their capital and their lives to trade? Is it so tempting that the relatives of a young man, entering upon life, will encourage him to play such a dangerous rôle?
And then, if young, energetic, and active men, with capital at their command, are driven from trade by Socialist demands, do you not see you will attain your object to perfection, my dear Socialist. Yes, wages will be abolished, because there will be no more employers to pay them, because there will be no more manufactories to employ you, because, tender your labour as much as you like, you will find no one to buy it. Tu l’auras voulu, George Dandin!
Hatred of Machinery—Nature of Machinery—Its Influence on Wages—Increases the Productive Capacity of Man—Increases the Number of Employments—Arkwright and his Loom—Railways and Coaches—The Value of Man is in direct Proportion to the Power of his Tools.
Machinery has been represented as sure to bring labourers to poverty. Did not Proudhon go so far as to demand that all new models should be shut up for several years in the conservatoire of Arts and Crafts before permitting them to be used! Did not excited crowds want to destroy railroads?
People do not go to quite such lengths as these now, but at any rate they still recriminate. Can we, at the present day, deny the services which machinery renders us? Are not railways preferable to coaches? Machinery stands for all we have, plus our hands and our nails. It is the perfecting of tools, and the value of a man is in proportion to the power of his tools.
If those are right who contend that machinery is a cause of low wages, wages ought to be lower in the present century than in the last.
When the employment of some machine, at a given time, displaces manual labour, a local crisis is very likely to follow. But this crisis will only be temporary. It is the crisis of all growth, of all transformation; it is the effort accompanying all struggles. There can be no progress without the disturbance of interests: it is the consequence, from the capitalist point of view, quite as much as from that of labour, of all economic evolutions which are possible among men.
When a machine is introduced into an industry, it may cause partial depression, deprive workmen of the work to which they have been accustomed, and compel them to seek the means of subsistence elsewhere; thus a new product may kill an old one, just as dye stuffs extracted from coal have taken the place of madder. What we ought to consider on the other side is the increase of general utility.
Let us examine the question from the point of view of wages. A labourer, dragging a wheelbarrow will, with this barrow, remove some cubic feet of earth, during his day’s work. Necessarily his wages cannot rise beyond the value of his work, which is extremely minute, like the number of cubic feet he removes.
An engine-driver on a railway, can, in a goods train, draw 70 waggons of 10 tons each, and in one day cover some 200, or 300 miles of ground. It is evident that the wages of the engine-driver, which may be double, treble, even quadruple those of the manual labourer, are far lower relatively to the service which he renders. This same engine-driver may drive a train of twenty-four passenger carriages; it is clear that his charge upon the value of the transport is relatively very small indeed. He can easily attain to a wage of 3, 4, or 5,000 francs, without counting other advantages.
It would be absolutely impossible to a contractor, to a man engaged in excavations, to pay such wages to a labourer whose work, to take our example, consists in simply moving a wheelbarrow to and fro.
Bear this well in mind, that the more capable a machine is, of increasing production, the more can those workmen who are attached to it command high wages, because the cost of their wages diminishes relatively to the utility of the machine. Thus, the miner who makes use of dynamite with which to extract coal can receive higher pay than if he could only extract it with his pick-axe. Contrary to the assertions of Lassalle and to current prejudices, all machinery that increases the out-put has a happy and beneficial influence upon wages.
In 1760, at the time when Arkwright took out his first patent for his loom, there were, in England, 5,200 spinsters working at spinning-wheels, and 2,700 weavers, 7,900 persons in all. Unions were formed to prevent the introduction of his machine, because people maintained that its general use would take the bread out of the mouths of the working people. Do you know how many hands are to-day employed in the English spinning factories?—500,000! Therefore, far from reducing the number of spinners, machinery has increased their numbers in a proportion of a hundred to one.
Railroads ruined coaches, it is true: but to-day the employees of railway companies number 230,000!
J. B. Say gives a striking picture of the increased value which machinery has given to labour. Suppose 300,000 francs are invested in one manufacture: one-third in raw materials, and two-thirds in wages. The manufacturer discovers a machine which economises half the wages. Will he let the 100,000 francs which he thus economises, lie idle? No, he will reduce the price of his goods in proportion, and consequently increase the consumption, and this increase will give work to his machinery, and thus create a new demand for manual labour. If he cannot employ the money in his own business, he will deposit it in a bank, or invest it in a joint stock company, and this capital, thus available, will serve to start new enterprises which will, in their turn, claim an increase in human effort.
Thus it may be asserted that the value of a man as a productive agent is in direct proportion to the power of his tools.
Productive Agencies too great—Over-production—No one notices this—On the contrary—It is not the Desire to consume which is wanting, it is the Power to consume—From what does Momentary and Restricted Plethora in certain Products arise?
However, in spite of the facts which we have cited, the Manifesto issued by the Erfurt Congress says: “Tools change into machines. The army of the unemployed grows even larger. The productive agencies of society have grown too large.”
It is not the Socialists, however, who formulated these charges. We owe them to the Protectionists who, for the last three quarters of a century, have raised the cry of over-production! If they could have had their way they would have stopped production at the point which it had reached towards 1820, or even reduced it below that. Should we have been the better for it?
Delegate.—There is over-production.
Economist.—Do you think so? Do you consider that shoes are useful?
Economist.—Your wife, your children, you yourself, have you never had to economise in the matter of shoe leather?
Economist.—Then, you see that there is no surplus of boots, because you have not as many as you could wish.
Delegate.—That is because my wages are not high enough.
Economist.—In a word: You would like to be better off?
Economist.—So as to buy more shoes?
Economist.—And it is not only a question of shoe leather. You economise, too, in the matter of clothes. You have not as much linen as you might find useful. Moreover, you are obliged to calculate the amount of meat that is eaten; the wine is eked out; your house is not as comfortable as you could wish. And of what do you complain so bitterly, if it is not that your means are not sufficient for your needs?
Delegate.—That is so.
Economist.—There are plenty of people, who have larger incomes than you have, who sing just the same refrain—How I should like to be rich! That lady would so like an extra silk dress, these young girls new costumes. Now, production is not excessive either for that lady, nor for those young girls; as their requirements exceed their powers to satisfy them. Production could not become excessive until everyone was so satiated as to have nothing left to wish for—an impossible chimera, because the capacity of desire is unlimited.
Delegate.—You are talking of luxuries.
Economist.—You call mere meat and wine luxuries? But do you look upon socks as luxuries for man?
Delegate.—They are considered so for military men.
Economist.—That shows that the army, which is such a good example of Collectivist organisation, does not, perhaps, represent an ideal of comfort. But do you think stockings are a luxury for women? Do you consider pocket-handkerchiefs are superfluous? Do you think that shirts should be set aside as useless articles?
Delegate.—Why, certainly not.
Economist.—Well! of the 350 millions of people who inhabit Europe, do you think that all have an abundance of pocket-handkerchiefs, socks, stockings, and shirts? There are those to whom these things are still luxuries. And what numbers of the 110 or 120 millions, who inhabit the two Americas, are still without them! If we pass on to the 200 millions of Africans, 800 millions of Asiatics, and 40 millions of Oceanians, we shall prove that of the 1,500 millions, in round numbers, of human beings, who move on the face of the earth, there are not 300 millions, that is, less than one in five, who have regular food, clothing, and a house representing that which represents to you the minimum of indispensable comfort! And still you say that production is excessive, when the great majority of human beings is still in the direst need, and has neither shirts, stockings, socks, nor pocket-handkerchiefs!
Delegate.—But the Manchester manufacturers are embarrassed. Those of the Seine-Inférieure, and of the Vosges cannot get rid of their goods.
Economist.—And why? because the people who require these goods have nothing to offer in exchange. The desire to consume is not wanting, but the power to consume. And what is this power to consume, if it is not the power to give one product in exchange for another. That which occasions the repletion of some particular kind of merchandise, is not the excessive out-put of that merchandise—provided that it supplies a want—it is the impossibility of those who need it to obtain it. It is not of over-production that we ought to complain, but of the insufficient production, which hinders the exchange of equivalents.
In one word: The plethora of certain circulating capitals, centred upon one point, does not proceed from their over-supply, but from the scarcity of their equivalents; caused either by the cost of production of these equivalents, by natural obstacles, such as space, or by artificial obstacles, such as Protection or fiscal regulations.
They are caused by Excessive Consumption—The Agriculturist and Bad Harvests—The Railroad Crisis.
It is not only the delegate from the Labour Exchange, the disciple of Lassalle and of Karl Marx, who interrupts me. It is all those who talk about political economy; and those who talk about it without having studied it, are as numerous as those who give medical advice to their relations and friends. They tell me:
You will not deny that commercial crises are due to an excess of production?
I do deny it!
You ruin your argument.
I am not labouring to support a thesis; I demonstrate truths, and I will prove to you that economic crises are not due to excessive production, but to excessive consumption.
Corn does not grow up unaided in a field. Manual labour is needed, which must be purchased; horses are needed, whose shelter and fodder are expensive; the soil needs manuring and tending, and seeds must be sown—these are all costly things. If the harvest is good the agriculturist recoups his expenditure, plus a certain payment, which constitutes his profit.
When by a series of accidents his crops do not yield enough to repay the advances he has made, he has been guilty of an excess of consumption, and he has nothing to give in exchange for agricultural machinery, clothing, boots, cattle, etc. He consumes fewer of the products of manufacture, because he has not the wherewithal to purchase.
This is the cause of a large number of economic crises, and the deficit which provokes them is just the reverse of excessive production.
Thus, to what, for example, was the great railway crisis in the United States due? Considerable capital had been swallowed up in earth works, in tunnelling through mountains, in the building of viaducts, in setting millions of tons of rails. This capital had lost its purchasing power. Just at the moment when the use of these railroads would have restored it, there was an excess of consumption, and consequently a crisis—a crisis which rebounded upon workshops and factories, which had also been led into excessive consumption of implements, the purchase of raw materials, and the payment of manual labour, relatively to the outlets which were now closed to them.
Contradiction—Economic Evolution—Always Increase Production—No Fear of Excess.
Yes, but there are other crises, people say, crises which are the result of the low price of merchandise, of excessive supply. Has it not been found necessary to impose a tax of five francs on foreign corn, so as to raise the price of French corn, otherwise the farmer would no longer find it worth his while to till the land? Yes, the cost of production of the harvest far exceeded the payment for consumption, because the low price of his merchandise did not permit of the farmer recouping his advances.
But, then, what remedy is there beyond the duty of five francs, proposed by the societies of agriculture, the Ministers of Agriculture, and all those who speak more or less officially, and more or less authoritatively, in the name of the agriculturists? Do they not suggest improvements, such as better seeds, new modes of cultivation, all of which would, if they succeeded, result in an increased yield of corn? Would they not tend to increase the over-production, and depreciate the price? Have you ever heard an agriculturist assert that the remedy would be to diminish the yield of corn per acre? No. All have proposed to lessen the net cost of production, but how? By augmenting the production! In a word, all have suggested the depreciation of the price of corn, at the very moment when, by customs duties, they are trying to make it dearer. Does not this contradiction show, that in spite of all sophisms, economic evolution is to always produce as cheaply as possible, and thus to constantly add to the over-production, granting that there ever is an over-production of corn, when there are so many tens of millions of human beings in the world who eat not according to their appetite.
The Art of Diminishing Production—Hours of Labour—Closing the Outlets—Shutting the Door in your own Face—Machinery of Production and Distribution—Singular Fraternity—Two-fold Disaster for the Labourer—Capacity of Credulity—Ingratitude.
I know, Socialist, that you are more logical than this, and that you endeavour to reduce production by several processes. To begin with, in reducing the working day to eight hours, you think you will lessen production. But why do you not demand the annihilation of the steam motors, which represent 5 millions of horse power, or the labour of 100 millions of men? You dare not. I accuse you of compromising. You have not the courage to go to the root of your convictions. And why eight hours? Why not two? Why not one? Why not zero? The reduction of production would be still more effective.
But if you reduce production, you increase the net cost; therefore you close the outlets for your produce, and consequently you destroy the chances of work for yourself and your companions. Your trick is, to shut the doors of the offices, workshops, and factories in your own faces. It is no more for his own benefit than for yours that the manufacturer produces articles for the use of others, and not for his own. If he constructs productive machinery, it is because he hopes that he shall thereby sell at greater advantage. And you would suppress this machine by raising the net cost of the goods which you manufacture. If you do not wish goods to pass out of a workshop, why do you enter it? What business have you to be there?
Not only do you thus place yourself in a false position as producer, but you also place yourself in a false position as consumer. Truly, you have a strange way of showing your democratic sentiments when you try to make things dearer. Whom will it affect, if not your brother workmen and their wives and children; because with the same money they will be able to buy fewer things. You begin by showing your brotherly feelings towards them, by placing them in straitened circumstances; but your comrades display the same altruistic sentiments towards yourself, when they require you too to undergo the effects of this political economy. You and your doctors have a strange way of studying your interests.
Under this plan you are struck on the right cheek as producer; and on the left cheek as consumer. If to this you say “Amen“ that will prove, not the gentleness of your character, but your capacity for being duped. Just reflect, that if there is anyone who has everything to gain by cheapness, it is yourself. In the first place you profit by it as a workman; because the more products there are to exchange for their equivalents, the more will consumption grow, with the result that the demand for labour will be continually on the increase and your wages will rise.
You will, moreover, gain as a consumer; and, with equal money-wages, you will be able to obtain more things that you require. When with 10 francs of your wages, you can buy shoes for which you would formerly have paid 20 francs, your wages are to that extent double.
When you constitute yourself the advocate of high prices, you continue to act the part of George Dandin. You ingrate! for more than half a century you have been the constant favourite of that Law of Supply and Demand against which you fulminate your anathemas.
(I.) Therapeutics of the Doctors of Socialism—Proudhon and the Philosophy of Misery—Scholastic Method—The Gauge of Wealth—(II.) Property is Theft—Ricardo’s Theory—The First Occupant—Where is He?—Where are His Descendants?—The Theory of Final Causes—The Soil Fertile for its Own Ends—United States—Holland and Ricardo’s Law—(III.) Karl Marx and Capital—Surplus Work—The Vampire—Metaphors—The Charlatan—(IV.) Malthus’s Law—In what it consists—Facts—Wealth and Population United States—France—(V.) Economic Orthodoxy of the Socialists—Scholastic Methods.
This rapid review of Socialistic sophisms has shown us the methods to which their authors have recourse. Starting from a phrase or axiom borrowed from an economist, twisting it about to serve the purposes of their own cause, they finally arrive, by a series of scholastic arguments, at the conclusion that the economic life of the world is regulated by “the Iron Law of Wages.” This classic metaphor gives a flourish of trumpets to their assertions which strikes the attention and clings to the memory. Some simpleminded, honest men at once begin to repeat that, if there is one undeniable truth, it is “the Iron Law of Wages,” and the same people demand the repeal of the Law of Supply and Demand.
If Lassalle had taken the trouble to observe facts he would never have launched forth this “iron law;” but, to agitators of his temperament, truth patiently acquired through slow and painful observation means nothing. That which he must have is sounding and pompous phrases, that arrest the crowd and bind it together.
I. In France, Proudhon had recourse to the same methods, so as to give himself the pleasure of forcing ninnies to retrace their steps by shooting petards at their feet. As proof-reader in a printing office, he had had to read the Fathers of the Church, and all his ideas bore the impress of. this. He took as the starting point of his great work Contradictions Économiques (which occupies two large volumes of reasoning, imagery, and eloquence) this question put by J. B. Say: “As the wealth of a nation consists in the value of the things which it possesses, how is it possible that a nation should be wealthier according to the cheapness of the things which it possesses?” Proudhon exclaims: “I challenge all serious economists to tell me why value decreases in proportion as production increases. In technical terms, value in use and value in exchange, are in universe ratio to one another . . . this contradiction is necessary.” Thus, the more people labour to gain riches, the poorer they grow, and he took as a sub-title for his book: Philosophie de la Misère.
Proudhon took sides with this à priori reasoning: take away exchange, and utility becomes nil. According to this system, Robinson Crusoe’s umbrella must have been useless to him.
Proudhon piled up captious argument upon argument to give himself the pleasure of striking at the economists. If, instead of giving himself up to this exercise, he had taken notice of facts, he would have proved that the wealth of a nation was gauged by the value of its fixed capital, its soil, houses, and implements, and by the abundance of its circulating capital; that the first has a heightened value according as the second is more abundant, and consequently, by virtue of the Law of Supply and Demand, lower in price; because it is the relation between fixed and circulating capitals which constitutes wealth. How then would a purchaser estimate the value of a field, or an implement, if not according to the amount of produce, that is to say, circulating capital, which the implement or field could yield, and which he himself is obliged to give, in the form of money, to acquire it?
While cautious not to follow the lead of the doctors of Socialism in the use of metaphor, I, nevertheless, venture to say that the relation between fixed and circulating capitals, acts exactly like a boat upon water. When the water rises—that is to say, is more abundant—the boat rises. When the water sinks, the boat sinks. When circulating capital abounds, prosperity and wealth follow; when circulating capital is scarce, failure and impoverishment result.
Far from there being a contradiction between increased production and wealth, there is the closest correlation.
II. Property is theft.—Proudhon exclaimed one day: “Property is theft.” This “contradiction” gave rise to scandal. Ever since, Socialists have repeated the charge under different guises; and in order to prove it, what do they do? They call upon the authority of Ricardo, whom we have already seen invoked by Lassalle in order to establish the “Iron Law of Wages.”
Ricardo’s theory of rent is based upon a piece of ingenuousness. He imagines that man finds himself in the presence of fertile soil, which he only has to occupy for it to bring forth fruits. The first occupier, prudently chose the most fertile land. The second took the less fertile land. The third, land still less fertile; the fourth, the fifth, etc., etc., lands less and less fertile, which demanded more expenditure of labour whilst they yielded less than the land first occupied. Rent is the difference which exists between the product of the most and of the least fertile land.
But who or what was this first proprietor, who only had to choose, in order to secure to his descendants a rent growing ever larger, because, as the generations accumulate, they are obliged to have recourse to the less fertile lands? He is a robber! “Property is theft.”
But where is this first occupier, who is as difficult to find as Rousseau’s first proprietor? And where are his thievish descendants, who ought to have perpetuated themselves somewhere on the earth’s surface, and who ought to enjoy the highest incomes? Ricardo, with his custom of à priori formulas and deductive method, has not put to himself this question. The Socialists, who make a club of this law of his wherewith to attack proprietors, are just as careful not to put the question, any more than they will open their windows to see what is passing before their eyes. Otherwise they would see that, in supposing that fertile soil is fertile for man, they are still dealing with the old theory of final causes, according to which the sun was made to give light to man, and the sea to carry ships. As a matter of fact, the land is fertile for itself; and the more fertile it is, the more it is encumbered with trees, brushwood, and vegetation, of which man must first clear it before he can make it bring him in a harvest. The history of the colonisation of the United States bears witness of this truth. The first colonists, to begin with, founded the colony of Plymouth upon the sterile soil of Massachusetts. They followed the summits of the hills, and to the present day they have not yet been able to bring the fertile lands of Lower Virginia under culture. Nor have they succeeded better with those of North Carolina, of which terrible swamps form a part, because they are driven back by the dangers and expense of its cultivation. Did the Dutchman, who has reclaimed so much of his land from the sea, begin by quietly settling upon the most fertile soil? If so many facts, open to the observation of all, give the lie to Ricardo’s law, the proprietor ceases to be a spoiler. The land is capital of which he hires the use, just as he hires the use of every other kind of capital. He, therefore, possesses the right to the anathemas which the Socialists hurl at all capitalists; but he has not the privileges that they wish to confer upon him through Ricardo.
III. Karl Marx’s process is equally a matter of dialectics. He maintains that articles of merchandise have only one quality, that of being the products of labour. All articles are resolved into an expenditure of human labour; “labour, then, is the substance of value: the gauge of the quantity of value is the quantity of labour, itself gauged by the hours of labour. Capital does not labour, it cannot therefore create value.”
Karl Marx starts from this point to declare that all benefits that accrue to capital come “from surplus work, from work accomplished over and above necessary work.” He describes “capital as greedy for surplus work. . . . ” “The real aim of capitalist production is the production of surplus value or the drainage of extra work. The vampire that sucks the labourer does not let him escape so long as there remains a drop of blood to suck.” What is to be done to prevent this vampire from thus sucking the blood of the working classes? A good law relating to the limitation of the hours of labour. Nothing more easy. But Karl Marx has waded to this conclusion through a mess of subtle and confused analysis made attractive by metaphors that strike his readers, lost amidst the inextricable confusion of his demonstrations. “Capital comes into the world sweating with blood and mire from every pore.” Such is the conclusion arrived at. It is not quite clear how it came about, but inasmuch as Karl Marx has written a big volume to demonstrate it, he has, doubtless, proved his point. Capital “sweats with blood and mire.” That is what his disciples retain in their memories. He adds that “for bourgeois economics, it is not a question of knowing whether this or that fact is true, but whether it is useful or injurious to capital.” With a sweep of his hand he delivers up all those economists, whom he represents as the servants of the Vampire and the Monster, to execration and contempt.
But these methods of logic and rhetoric, good enough for the simple, the ignorant, and fools, are the opposite of the inductive method by means of which all physical and natural sciences have made their grand discoveries. We know these methods, having seen them used by the plumed charlatan of obscure but energetic language, who promises a universal panacea; and thus we hear them, like echoes from a cheap-jack’s booth, summoning fools to the show.
IV. A certain Socialist, whose name I recognise from time to time when there is dirty work to be done, at a meeting in 1880, threw in my face the epithet—Malthusian!
I must not deny that this had an effect. He knew nothing but the word, and this word was imposing. Some other doctors of Socialism make use of the law of Malthus a little more skilfully.
The law of Malthus may be summed up in this formula: population grows in geometric progression, and the means of subsistence in arithmetical progression.
Population—1, 2, 4, 8, 16. . . . Sustenance—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.
According to these Socialists who make use of the law of Malthus, population always grows more rapidly than wealth, the supply of labour will always exceed the demand; and, in consequence, the labourer will always be condemned to poverty.
But Malthus himself saw that, in consequence of preventive and destructive checks, no group of human beings had ever proved its accuracy. This àpriori conception becomes all the more inexact from the fact that the productive capacity of man grows larger, as can be shown by figures.
This is the return in the United States of the respective growth of population and wealth:—
|Per Cent. Increase.||Per Cent. Increase.|
Malthus, however, did not take into account, as a factor of his law, emigration, so powerful in the United States.
In France, the returns for declared inherited capital and population contradict this Law of Malthus in the neatest way:—
|Date of Census.||Number of Population.||Value of Property of Declared Succession.||Return per Inhabitant.|
And these succession figures are too low, because they do not take into account concealment as to the real value of personal property.
In England, too, where the population increases more rapidly than in France, the population is far from keeping pace with wealth. Malthus’s law is invalidated by general experience, because if it were accurate, there would long since not have been an available spot of earth left on our planet to be disposed of. But Socialists do not forget to appeal to it and “Ricardo’s Law of Rent and the Iron Law of Wages.”
V. Socialists accuse the economists of establishing a church where docile disciples officiate.
Economists, worthy of the name, however, have never paid to the men who are looked upon as the masters and founders of political economy, the abject homage rendered to them by the doctors of Socialism.
It is enough for Turgot, Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, J. B. Say, to have somewhere written something for them to immediately bow down before it, saluting it as infallible, and taking hold of it like a club to hurl at the economists. “It is you,” they say, “who declare that capital is a vampire, and the proprietor a, thief; and from this point we set out and declare to you that it is you yourselves who give us the right to atone for these infamies of which you are the authors!”
We economists have another method with regard to the masters of political economy. We only receive theories they have put forth with the privilege of examination; and believing that economic science should make use of the method of observation, we begin by seeing if they are in conformity with facts. It is of some Socialists that one might say they are orthodox economists; true, it is so as to give themselves the satisfaction of afterwards becoming heretics; but does not this proceeding show how behind the age they are? Are there now orthodox and heretics in matters of science? There are determinists, who endeavour to find the existing connections of cause and effect, and who, when they find themselves face to face with an à priori hypothesis, try first of all to verify it.
Truly the solutions extolled by the Socialists, and the methods which they follow, are well suited to one another, because they are both borrowed from the retrogressive spirit: their method is that which constituted the glory of the disputants of the Middle Ages, and we now only find its rags and tatters in schools. With regard to their solutions, we have already proved that, as an ideal, they only advocate a retrogression towards a state of poverty, barbarism, and oppression common in the early ages of humanity, such as we cannot even conceive of now when we go to see exhibitions of Somalis or Dahomeyans.
Surplus Labour and the Salting Works at Chicago—Profit and Loss in Mines—Overproduction and Fall in Wages—The Iron Law and Comparison of the Rates of Wages—The Iron Law and the Fall in Price of Useful Goods—Progress of Wages—Metallurgy—Cotton Goods—Miners—Shortening of the Hours of Labour—Textile Industry in Italy—Table of Rates of the City of Paris and Equality of Wages—Increase of Comfort—Bastiat’s Law—Mr. Atkinson—Law of Labour.
KarlMarx asserts that capital is only the product of surplus work: and that consequently all capital has been stolen from the labourer.
In an examination made by the Labour Bureau of the State of Illinois, of twenty-six industries representing two-thirds of the capital and workmen employed in that State, they have established the connection between the wages of the workmen and of products.
It is found that for 54 salting-houses, representing 53 millions of capital, and employing 10,212 hands, the gross returns are 46,060 francs, as against 1,930 francs wages.
Socialists of the school of Lassalle will not fail to exclaim that this difference between the gross returns and the wages of the workmen, shows all the surplus value of labour by which the master profits.
To this lovely argument there is only one drawback, and here it is:—
|Raw Materials . . .||406,900,000|
|Wages . . . . .||19,070,000|
|Other Expenses . . .||50,000,000|
|Gross returns .||470,300,000|
These salting works show, not a profit, but a loss of more than 6 millions, which, per workman, may be assessed as follows:—
|Gross Returns . . .||46,060 francs.|
|Wages . . . .||1,930 “|
|Loss . . . . .||635 “|
The famous surplus value is here a minus value; and in how many industries is not this the case?
In 97 flour-mills, we see the same phenomena. Wages, 2,655 francs; gross returns, 64,250; but deduction being made for raw materials, wages, and other expenses, the loss is 3,400,000 francs, which, divided amongst the 1,838 workmen, represents a loss upon each man of more than 2,000 francs.
In France, when people talk of miners they imagine that in order to grow rich it is only necessary to dig a hole in the earth. But, without mentioning the abandoned grants which represent nearly two-thirds of the mines that have been worked, and which no one will now take over, it is sufficient to glance over the statistics of the Minister of Works to see how the matter stood in 1891:—
|Profitable Mines.||Unprofitable Mines.|
|Combustible Minerals .||176||120|
|Iron Ore . . . .||29||36|
|Other Minerals . .||39||53|
In these unprofitable mines workmen have received wages: where is the surplus work given to capital? I know a mine in the Loire, which has not only not yielded a halfpenny’s profit, but not even a halfpenny’s interest, since 1836, upon all the millions which have been swallowed up in it. Where is the surplus-work which Karl Marx and his disciples discover all over the country, feeding the vampire known as capital?
In 1892, M. Lalande wrote a monograph on the porcelain and crockery manufactories of Bacalan, founded in 1782. He showed that the share of capital had been 1,100,000 francs, and the share of labour 37,700,000 francs. Where is the surplus-work?
If over-production were a cause of ruin to the labourers, wages ought to have constantly fallen for the last three quarters of a century, during which time, production has been constantly on the increase. If the Iron Law of Wages were true, wages ought to have steadily fallen for the last thirty years, since the price of the necessaries of life, excepting rent, have steadily fallen.
Now, during the last few years, special inquiries have been made into the position of labourers during different periods and in different countries; and if these inquiries, invalidate, in the distinctest manner the à priori statements of the doctors of Socialism, have we not the right to put this dilemma before them: that either they are speaking in bad faith or in ignorance?
According to E. R. J. Gould’s Labour Table VIII. (January 1893, Baltimore), drawn up after a most minute inquiry into the conditions of labour in the United States and Europe, here is a schedule of the average household expenses of the working miners and metallurgists, collected together and classed according to their nationalities.
These figures prove that the proportion for food is not the same in all countries, any more than is the proportion paid in rent, clothing, or drink. Finally, it is not true, as the last column shows, that wages remain rigorously at the rate necessary for the existence of each labourer, as the Frenchman saves 12 per cent. of his earnings, the American 10·5, the Englishman 8·1. If for the German the rate of saving falls to less than 1 per cent., what does it prove? That wages there are not so high as in the countries more advanced in economic evolution, and that though the German spends less than the American, English, or French workman, he nevertheless sees nearly the whole of his wages absorbed by the necessaries of life. If the Iron Law were true, when those articles which are the most necessary to life fall in price, wages ought to fall too.
If we look at the wholesale price of 17 articles of first necessity in England, these are the returns we find:—
The price of the period from 1845 to 1850 is taken as 100. The figures above and below 100 show the percentage.
|1st June, 1891.|
|Wheat . . . . .||61|
|Meat . . . . .||126|
|Sugar . . . . .||36|
|Tea . . . . .||70|
|Oil . . . . .||86|
|Tallow . . . . .||80|
|Leather . . . . .||130|
|Copper . . . . .||66|
|Coffee . . . . .||136|
|Cotton . . . . .||82|
|Raw Silk . . . . .||130|
|Flax . . . . .||65|
|Wool . . . . .||102|
|Iron . . . . .||87|
|Lead . . . . .||76|
|Cotton Thread . . . . .||97|
|Cotton Fabrics . . . . .||89|
Now, contrary to the statements of Socialists, the nominal rate of wages has risen, and one must add to the nominal rate the increased power of purchase which has resulted from the fall in price of manufactured articles, and all articles of food, except meat.
For cotton thread and cotton fabrics, the weekly wages, producing 1093 yards (1000 metres) were, in Lancashire:—
|In 1850 . . . .||£217||8||1|
|In 1880 . . . .||378||10||9|
|Increase . .||£161||2||8|
An increase from 1850 to 1889 of 74·69 per cent.
For medium quality, the weekly wages producing 1093 yards were, for 526 persons:—
|In 1850 . . . .||£264||19||6|
|In 1880 . . . .||481||13||0|
|Increase . .||£216||13||6|
|Or 81·75 per cent.|
|Smiths||20s. 0d.||25s. 9d.|
|Constructor of Mills||21s. 2d.||26s. 9d.|
|Bricklayers||20s. 0d.||26s. 3d.|
|Carpenters||16s. 9d.||26s. 3d.|
|Manual Labourers||11s. to 12s. 3d.||16s. 11d.|
We beg to call attention to the increase of wages of the unskilled labourer: it proves how thoroughly labour is subject to the Law of Supply and Demand. The earnings of the labourers have increased more rapidly than those of other callings, because their number has a tendency to become restricted in proportion to the advance of education.
Mr. Lord, President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, has established the following proportion:—
|Cotton Weaving and Spinning . . .||64·47||74·72|
|Bleaching . . .||56·60||50·72|
|Calico Printing . . .||50·60||50·72|
|Wharves and Docks . . .||31·44||35·05|
|Mechanics . . .||12·73||10·30|
|Miners . . .||55·64||43·53|
|Builders . . .||48·21||39·76|
|Average . .||43·00||39·18|
This table also shows how thoroughly wages are subject to the Law of Supply and Demand. After having risen by 43 per cent., they again fell to 39·18 per cent. when trade was slack.
In France, Parliament is overwhelmed with complaints from miners. In spite of this, we see agricultural labourers go unceasingly to swell their numbers, which have increased by 11,000 from 1890 to 1891.
Working miners, underground and on the surface, earned:—
|1844 . . .||2f.||09|
|1865–1869 . .||2||86|
|1870–1874 . .||3||32|
|1875–1879 . .||3||58|
|1885–1886 . .||3||71|
|1890 . . .||4||16|
|1891 . . .||4||17|
The increase is therefore close upon 100 per cent. in 47 years. And this figure is too low, because it mixes up the underground labourers with those on the surface, and the wages of those underground are 4 fr. 62. The rate of money wages per ton of coals was, in 1885, 5 fr. 39. In 1890 it rose to 5 fr. 62, and, in 1891, to 6 fr. 09. In Germany, during the last fifteen years, wages have risen from 75 to 150 per cent.
To the increase of money wages, and to the ease with which workmen can now obtain more articles for the same money, must be added the reduction of their hours of labour. Mr. Robert Giffen estimates that in England it must be reckoned as additional increase of 20 per cent. on wages. He showed, in 1884, that the same man who fifteen years ago, after having paid his rent, had a balance of 15s. per week, now has a surplus of 27s. 6d.
M. Bodio has made the following calculation relating to the workers in the textile industries of Italy:—
|Wage per Man.||Average Price of a Cwt. of Wheat.||Hours of Labour necessary in order to buy a Cwt. of Wheat.|
The members of the Tours Congress demanded equality of wages. The workmen of Paris, who demand the application of the graduated scale, do not desire this. Here is that scale, with its inequalities:—
|Masons (for rough-casting) . . .||0·575||1·20|
|Masons . . .||0·50||0·80|
|Painters . . .||0·425||0·80|
|Locksmiths . . .||0·375||0·85|
|Bricklayers (for chimneys) .||0·45||0·75|
|Glaziers . . .||0·425||0·85|
|Marble Masons . .||0·50||0·85|
|Joiners . . .||0·40||0·80|
|Plumbers . . .||0·50||0·90|
|Roof-workers . . .||0·66||0·75|
|Carpenters . . .||0·50||0·90|
|Workers in Iron . .||1·00||1·675|
If we glance at certain figures which show our economic progress, we see that the “iron law” has never ceased to leave an ever-increasing margin between the needs and the resources of the labourer.
In England, the figures of imports and exports combined, which from 1855 to 1859 stood at 275 francs per head, had increased from 1885 to 1887 to 435 francs, thus rising more than 54 per cent. In France, the consumption of meat, which in 1812 was 17·16 kilog. per head, had reached to 33 kilog. in 1882. The consumption of cotton per inhabitant was 1·80 kilog. in 1849, and 1·31 kilog. during the period from 1889–1891. Wool had passed in the same time from 4·624 kilog. to 5·509 kilog.
These are not signs of misery and decay such as are announced so clamorously by the seers of Socialism. When we compare the present mode of living among workmen, with that of only thirty years ago, their clothes, shoes, the women’s dresses, even down to the very appointments of the table, there is no honest person who will not recognise and admit the progress that has been made. In short, the working man gratuitously enjoys all the fruits of progress, and he can, for a few halfpence, by entering a railway train, give himself the luxury of a journey at speed, to which Napoleon at the height of his power could not attain. Machinery works for him. Whilst he watches it, it supplies a want which would have required the labour of twenty men. Instead of himself labouring, he simply directs it. The muscles which were formerly his instruments of labour, are now only the supports of his intellectual activity.
So far from facts having confirmed Lassalle’s imagined law, it is the law that Bastiat formulated in the following manner, which has been distinctly confirmed:—
“In proportion as their capital grows, does the actual capitalists’ share in the total product increase, whilst their relative share diminishes. The workmen on the contrary see their share increase in both senses.”
Mr. Atkinson, in a book based on some monographs on implements, in the United States, and published in 1884, has demonstrated the truth of this law. In a very striking diagram he points out that the tendency of wages is towards a maximum, and the tendency of profits towards a minimum. There have, no doubt, been fluctuations, the results of crises. A tendency towards a fall in money wages showed itself from 1883–1885; but if workmen lost thus, the purchasing power of their salaries having been increased by the general fall in prices, they were in reality better off than they had ever been before.
In a word we may conclude:
Man is a fixed capital, obeying the law of the relative value of fixed capital and circulating capital. The value of man is in proportion to the power of his tools. His value increases in proportion to the amount of circulating capital and to the power of fixed capital.
The price of labour is in direct proportion to the abundance and cheapness of circulating capital, the value, power, and total income from fixed capital, and in inverse ratio to the rate of income.
Socialist Declaration that the Poor become Poorer, and the Rich Richer—Small and Large Estates—Savings Banks—Income from Transferable Shares—Assessment of Stocks and Shares in Railway Companies—Shares of the City of Paris—Shares of the Crédit Foncier—The Authors of Ruin—Social Bankruptcy—The Tranquillising of Vested Interests.
Increase of wealth! Yes, but concentrated into a few hands, cry the Socialists. The poor become poorer, the wealthy more wealthy! And the Congress of Erfurt adds that the poor increase in numbers.
After having demonstrated by facts that it is untrue that workmen are getting poorer, we are now going to prove by figures, to how large an extent wealth has become democratised in France.
With regard to land, very small properties, up to 4 acres, are 10,426,000 in number; small estates 2,174,000. The former represent 74 per cent., and the latter more than 15 per cent.; say 90 per cent. together. It is true that, in area, these only amount to 25 per cent.; but the medium-sized estates, of from 12 to 100 acres, rise to 38 per cent.
But how about personal property? According to what the Socialists say, is it not all collected into the hands of financial aristocrats? Facts are once more opposed to this assumption, as Mr. Neymark has shown in a series of very detailed studies. We are not talking of the 6 millions of little books which record investments in Savings Banks, and the 3 thousand millions of francs which they represent, nor of the 450 millions of francs of the Post Office Savings Bank, but of shares which are distributed amongst many hands, and which do not lie, as is supposed, within the coffers of a few huge capitalists.
M. Tirard, Minister of Finance, on March 28th, 1893, stated that transferable shares represent 329,742,000 francs of income, various other shares 11,388,000 francs, say—341,130,000 together, while the income from dividends payable to bearer represents only 81,159,000 francs.
The proportion of transferable shares in railways, when compared with other stock, has steadily risen.
In 1889, railway shares were thus held:—
|Average Number of Shares per Shareholder.|
If we multiply these figures by the price of the day, we shall see that they represent a moderate income, but not wealth.
Of the 30,155,446 railway shares, 20,887,614 are transferable, say—69·26 per cent. They are represented by 636,914 certificates, which gives average of 32 shares to each, say—a capital of 13,000 francs, with an annual return of 438 francs, or about £17 10s.
When, in January 1888, the shares payable to bearer of the City of Paris were renewed, it was ascertained that more than half of those interested held either one entire share, or from 1 to 6 fourths of a share.
The shares of the Bank of France, which are worth 3,900 francs, are divided up thus:—
|Number of Holders (1892).|
Of these 182,500 shares, 58,129 are the property of public institutions, of married women, of minors, of interdicted people, or of incapables. The capitalists holding from 1 to 5 shares in the Bank of France—say 4,000 to 20,000 francs, are numerically the large majority.
The 31,395 shareholders of the Crédit Foncier, hold an average of 11 shares each; 7,129 hold only one each.
Where do we find those proofs of impoverishment and misery which—as the Socialistic leaders would have us believe—have been created by a capitalistic society during three quarters of a century? But they are right when they speak of the dangers of disaster, which they would be better able to perceive, if they realised what they were doing. When they go into a neighbourhood for the purpose of organising a strike, what becomes of the Savings Bank deposits, and the articles of value which now filter down through the whole of society, and which the working men they condemn to enforced idleness, possess? What becomes of the petty tradesmen who have been ruined by the credit they have had to give, or of those who supply these petty tradesmen and who cannot get their money in? What is to happen to the small banks burdened with overdue bills? And if these ringleaders of strikes succeed in their attack on some prosperous company or manufacturer, they, by depriving capital of part of its productive power, by that very means, also deprive the workmen, whose interests they pretend to have at heart, of a part of their immediate or eventual earnings.
These creators of ruin know how to make their work acceptable for the present, but it is, nevertheless, only the prelude to a great social bankruptcy.
Finally, they have a simple plan for creating an equality of misery. An Anti-Semitic and Socialist millionaire, M. de Morès, has already proposed it. It will suffice to re-apportion the wealth of France amongst all her inhabitants, at so much per head. The personal property of France is valued at 80 thousand millions of francs. One might begin with that. That would yield 2,000 francs (£80) per head, on the condition that present values would be maintained and not give way in the cataclysm which this bankruptcy would cause. For a large number of these shares are nothing more than credits which are a fortune to those who hold them, but do not add to the wealth of the country. Such are the shares in the public debt, railway debentures, the 3,000 millions of francs of shares of the Crédit Foncier, the 2,500 millions of francs of town and Departmental loans. This social liquidation will be a grand spectacle!
But those who, whilst waiting for this grand consummation, beat about the bush and flatter men’s passions, who endeavour to gain over the impatient as followers, by throwing them the Haute Banque as a bone to gnaw; who offer as their programme, immediate confiscation, “with or without compensation,” of railways, mines, large companies, etc., and the organisation of a State Bank;—these people little suspect, in their vain ignorance of the figures which we have quoted above, the perturbation and apprehension which they already cause. When M. Constans said at Toulouse:—We must tranquillise vested interests,” his words were echoed throughout the country, because, in spite of Socialistic assertions to the contrary, in spite of the “Iron Law of Wages,” and the other redoubtable spectres, the large majority of families in France own either a piece of land, a Savings Bank deposit, a share in debt of the City of Paris, in the Crédit Foncier or in a railway; and they do not enjoy the jokes which have for their object the confiscation of their small property.
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.
(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.
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.
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!
(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?
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. 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. 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.
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!.
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!
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, 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, 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.
(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” 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.” 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” 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?
Disrespect of the Law—The Law of 1884 and the Bourse du Travail — Prud’hommes and Employers — Earning the Wages of a whole Year by Working Twenty-Four Weeks—Denial of Justice.
The Socialists demand legislation, the principle and character of which we have exposed. They get simple-minded people, flatterers, and weak people, to join them. They do but play with our institutions—with the liberty of discussion. They commit errors, and cause them to be committed; and it is for us to point them out and to change opinion regarding them by our arguments, our demonstrations, and the vigour of our propaganda. However monstrous certain conceptions may be, I do not proscribe them. There is no such thing as social orthodoxy or social heresy. I do not summon the secular arm to my aid for the extirpation of bad doctrines. I only ask for light.
But I do ask myself why Socialists send Deputies to Parliament, and why these show themselves so keen in laying down, defending, and voting for Bills of the nature of those we have just analysed, when their friends affect contempt for every law that displeases them. It really is not worth while for M. Bovier-Lapierre and his friends to waste time and energy in making a bad law, to insure the fixity of employment of the members of syndicates, when at the meetings which have taken place (May and June, 1893) at the Labour Exchange (Bourse du Travail) they have declared the contempt felt for the law of 1884 by these members of syndicates, and have insulted the Minister who reminded them of the existence of the law.
Would they have wished that the Bovier-Lapierre law should be used against the employers, to the profit of the members of syndicates, who declined to bind themselves down to the law of 1884?
Each day we have instances of this way of regarding the question of legality by the Council of Prud’hommes. Certain Prud’hommes hold a brief to always condemn the employers; and as M. Graillet, President of the Council of Prud’hommes (chemical manufacturers) said in a letter of June 14th, 1893:—Elected by a Committee, and having a programme, to which I rigorously adhere, and which alone dictates my conduct, I do not judge of the cause according to facts, but according to the pledges I have given.”
A young hairdresser, of a superior class to those extra hands of whom I spoke in my speech of May 8th, can earn supplies for a year by working only twenty-four weeks. He is hired by an employer, and during eight days he does his work well. On the ninth he abuses a client. The master, who fears that if his clients are treated thus, they will leave him, gives his assistant notice to quit. The master is at once summoned before the Council of Prud’hommes, and is condemned to pay eight days’ wages to the hairdresser, besides tips!
This way of interpreting their duties on the part of the Councillors of the Prud’hommes seems to us to be the most scandalous contempt of justice, contempt of the law, and of those amenable to the law, pushed to the extreme limit; and when M. Lockroy begins to expound the motives of his Bill by saying: “The jurisdiction of the Council of Prud’hommes is justly popular; it responds to the aspirations and needs of the modern democracy,” he either proves himself ignorant of their ways of procedure or that he considers “that the aspirations and needs of the modern democracy” are to establish the principle of partiality in the judge!
Piece-Work—Disgrace—Contradiction — Day-Work—Apology for Apathy — Productive Malthusianism — Destructive Union—The Right to Rob—Robbery at the Expense of the Employer is “Restitution,”
As a curious symptom of Socialistic psychology, we must also clearly point out their demands in favour of labour by the day as against piece-work, which reveals a depraved preference for servile labour.
The Brussels Congress, in its sitting of August 22nd, 1891, reflected upon piece-work in the following terms:—The Congress is of opinion that this abominable sweating system is the result of the capitalistic system, and will disappear simultaneously with it. It is the duty of workmen’s societies in all countries to oppose the development of the system.” The resolution was passed unanimously. It was repeated at the Tours Congress in 1892; and the horror of sub-contracting, or work by the job, is of sufficient antiquity to have been prohibited by the law of September 9th, 1848.
If we were not accustomed to Socialistic contradictions, this demand might surprise us, because it is in contradiction to the final end which the same Congresses pursued: “The abolition of employers and of wage-earners.” What is sub-contracting, if not a first step towards the substitution of job-contracts for wages?
The workmen who undertake work by the job become the masters of the work they accomplish. They earn more or less, according to the accuracy of their calculations. They are contractors, and are no longer workmen subjected to the superintendence of a master. They are only dependent upon one single thing: that of handing over their work in the condition stipulated for. It is the same, in a less degree, with piece-work.
In day-labour, the workman is subjected to the constant supervision of his employer. It is in this that the employer really is a master. He has the right to see if the workman is lounging or working. He has the right to remind him that he cannot stand gaping about, as he is paid to work. The labourer by the day is therefore under the personal and inconsiderate control of him under whose orders he chances to find himself. The slave does not work at piecework, he works by the day; and the lash and the cane of his master descend on his shoulders if he loiters. Nowadays, it is abusive reproach that touches the workman, and as a final sanction—dismissal.
With sub-contracting and piece-work, the workmen acquire that independence which, for man, always flows from the substitution of an objective contract, in which the agreement centres on a thing, for a subjective or personal contract, in which the agreement centres on a human being. Hence our amazement when we see Socialists, men who pretend to feel the greatest concern for the dignity of the working man, proscribing the form of labour which best insures it, and demanding the form which retains a remnant of servility, and this at the very moment when they are demanding the abolition of the wage system!
By these inconsistencies they prove how little they have cared to formulate their demands properly, and how much they sacrifice to sentiments which do not reflect much credit on those who pretend to defend them.
Amongst workmen, those who protest against subcontracting and piece-work, and consider, as a rule, that they are to do as little as possible, and are not to “strain themselves,” are, in point of skill and energy, mediocre workmen, and prefer wages earned quietly, easily, and with as little effort as possible, to work by the job or piece-work, which always mean contingent rewards. They know that the wages of day-labour are of necessity lower than those of piece-work, because the yield is less, the workman having no interest in pushing forward; but they prefer this mediocre salary to higher wages. This condemnation of piece-work is an apology for industrial apathy. The Socialists who make this claim, by doing so, make preference of more subordination and smaller earnings to greater independence and more work; but are they well advised in afterwards calling themselves by the title of workers? Besides, where have they put their dignity?
In this demand for day work there lurks the natural human tendency to laziness, man’s obedience to the Law of Least Effort; but there is something more besides, which I pointed out in the following words, in the Chamber of Deputies, on November 19th, 1891, in connection with the Miners’ Strike in the Pas-de-Calais:—
You know that a rise of 20 per cent. in wages has been granted, of which 10 per cent. was given by the companies as a result of the strike of 1889, and 10 per cent. was spontaneously given by them. But it seems that the miners complain that, in spite of this increase, there is a certain decrease of wages.
I will only touch upon this question very lightly; but I believe that we here come to a clear understanding upon all these points. Allow me, then, to quote from a document which is none other than the official statistics of Belgium for 1890.
“We think,” said M. Harzé, who was a delegate to the Berlin Conference, and whose knowledge in these matters is so well known—” we think that the rise in wages has increased the tendency amongst workmen to take days off, and to curtail the length of their daily task, in those cases where they have the option; and the same is true as regards the effort he puts forth. . . . ”
In Belgium, in 1890, the output by the underground workmen was only 229 tons, per man, instead of 242 tons in 1889.
The same phenomena have been pointed out in the official statistics of Germany. Wages have in three years risen 38 per cent., while the output, per miner, has fallen 12 per cent.
“In France, for the northern basin (Pas-de-Calais and Nord included), the annual output, per underground workman, has fallen from 338 tons, in 1889, to 325 tons, in 1890, while the annual wage has risen from 1215 francs (£48 10s.) to 1378 (£55) accessories not included.”
Here we have a general symptom, which is not peculiar to France, but which is of a nature to impress us. As regards the proportion of wages, you must ask yourselves if there is not amongst those who work in mines a certain wilful restriction of the utility of their work, which might be called a Malthusianism of production. (Loud exclamations.)
Gentlemen, the expression of which I have made use, corresponds exactly to my thought (renewed exclamations), and characterises a phenomenon which we have to take into consideration.
I made use of the words “Malthusianism of production,” because, for two reasons, there is none more expressive for the indication of intentional and voluntary “self-restraint” of labour. In acting, thus, not only do workmen obey the tendency to laziness, natural to man, but they are also convinced that they are very clever by thereby preventing over-production, that bugbear of Karl Marx and his disciples.
Socialistic theories have so corrupted the intellects of certain workmen that we have seen, during the month of May, 1893, the men working for M. Clément, a bicycle manufacturer, going out on strike so as to make themselves jointly responsible with thieves. In a letter addressed by them to the journal l’Eclair, they had the condescension to announce that they would not proclaim the right to steal, but that they considered that to take trifles was quite legitimate. They added that this theory had been ratified at a meeting of, not 30, but 200 workmen; and, before recommencing work, they stipulated for the liberation of 19 workmen who had been arrested. They also said, “We have not here stated that the employer is more of a thief than we are; but, in carefully considering the matter, this may, perhaps, prove true. It is quite certain that if M. Clément had not traded on his work-people, he would not have attained to his present position in so short a time.”
Here we have the application of Marxian theories. The employer enriches himself only by the injury of his workmen, and the theft committed to his injury is but an act of restitution.
Strikes in France in 1890 and 1891—Cost of Strikes—Strikes in England in 1892—Statistics relating to Arbitration—Losses resulting from Strikes—Displacement of Trade—Trades Unions and Strikes—Mistrust.
According to the information given by the Labour Department, 313 strikes, involving 118,000 workmen, took place in France in 1890; and 267 strikes, involving 108,000 strikers, in 1891. The Departments which have had the most strikes are the Nord, with 61 in 1890, and 68 in 1891; the Loire, with 29 in 1890; the Ardennes, with 28 in 1890; and the Rhone, with 28 in 1890, and 20 in 1891. Only 52 Departments were affected by strikes in 1890, and 54 in 1891.
The results of these strikes were as follows:—
|Successful . .||82||91|
|Partially Successful .||64||67|
|Unsuccessful . .||161||106|
|Results Unknown .||6||3|
The 91 successful strikes affected 22,400 workmen; the 67 that were partially successful affected 54,200 workmen; those which miscarried affected 32,200 workmen.
The principal causes of these strikes were demands for increased wages, the shortening of the hours of work, and reduction of salaries effected by employers.
One third of the successful strikes lasted for less than one week. When a strike lasted more than a fortnight it seemed to be doomed to failure.
These figures give a very poor idea as to the importance of strikes. The sacrifices which they have cost, both to employers and to men, the value of the advantages gained, and also the pecuniary and mercantile consequences which may have resulted from them, are unknown.
At Anzin, in 1884, it is calculated that the strike cost the workmen 1,135,000 francs (£45,000), and the company 600,000 francs (£24,000), that is, 1,735,000 francs, without counting the damage caused by the stopping of the works.
In England, the total number of strikes and lockouts for the year 1891, was 893, affecting 295,000 persons, either voluntarily or otherwise; for the striking of certain workmen caused a stoppage of work to others. These strikes had an average duration of twenty-four days.
|Number of Persons Interested.|
Most of them were caused by questions of wages. In 1890, there were 59 caused by the question of employment of non-unionists, and in 1891, 47. Fifty-one per cent. were checked; 36 per cent. proved successful; the result of the others is unknown. Four hundred and sixty-eight strikes out of 824, in which 120,579 people were implicated out of 263,507, were terminated by compromise, and only 12, affecting 12,100 workmen were settled by arbitration. It is useful to quote these figures in order to destroy the illusion so wide-spread in France, that it is enough to pronounce the word “arbitration” and to pass a law concerning arbitration, to put an end to all these disputes.
The losses to the workmen who were forced by the strikes to abstain from labour for four weeks, are calculated at £1,500,000.
The cost of the Hull strike in 1892, which lasted for eight weeks, is calculated at £9,000 for the town, and £60,004 in loss of wages.
Mr. Bevan, calculating the loss of wages as at 4s. 2d. per day, for five days a week, for 110 strikes in England, from 1870 to 1879, arrives at a figure of £4,468,000. The strike of the Clyde ship-builders cost 7,500,000 francs (£300,000) in 1877; that of the Durham miners in 1879, 6 millions of francs (£240,000).
The Labour Bureau, in the United States, reckoned that the strikes of 1881 to 1887 cost the workmen 260 millions of francs or 50 million dollars. These are only figures to some people; but the consequences to women, to children, and to the health of the workmen themselves, are terrible. Moreover, the position of the employers has been attacked and weakened; funds destined for improvements have disappeared, and the powers of production in an industry that has undergone a strike are restricted. Sometimes a strike suffices even to ruin a trade.
These examples have made Trades Unions prudent as to striking. In 1888, out of 104 Unions, only 39 subsidised strikes; and a certain number of Trades Unions have specified in their statutes, that the vote on this subject shall not be taken according to the majority, but according to a certain quorum. At the Brussels Congress of 1892, an English Delegate was indignant that the Engineers’ Union (the strongest and wealthiest of all), had, in 1889, spent over £100,000 on sickness, funerals, retiring pensions, accidents, etc., as against about £1,800 on strikes and the costs of the struggles.
This powerful and wealthy association seems to mistrust the results of strikes.
The Miner by Birth and the Miner by Adoption—Navvies and the Scale of Prices—The Anzin Strike of 1884—M. Basly’s Confession—The Hatters—Pretensions of the Syndicates—Strikes Caused by Minorities.
In a dry enumeration one cannot take into account the true causes of strikes, their justification, or the proportion between the risk to be run and the result to be obtained. We can only state certain facts, upon which we can base a rough estimate as to the psychology of strikes.
At Anzin, in 1878, the workmen had no grievance to make known, and formulated no definite claims. In my conversations with a large number of the men, I could only get hold of one clear idea: the miners by birth complained of the competition caused by the miners by adoption, “who came and undersold the trade.”
When, in May, 1880, a strike broke out at Roubaix, the difficulty was to find out what the strikers wanted.
In the month of August, 1882, the Paris carpenters struck, not on the question of wages, for here is the progress which they had made—1877, 60; 1879, 70; 1882, 80 centimes per hour; but they demanded a reduction of the hours of labour and the abolition of sub contracting.
We have mentioned the schedules of charges which the Municipal Council claimed to impose upon the contractors for the public works in the city of Paris, establishing a maximum number of hours of work and a minimum wage. One fine morning in 1888, in two neighbouring streets, some navvies found themselves working under different conditions; one gang was working under the regulations of the old schedule of charges, and the other under the new. The former did not understand this difference; neither did they understand why they should earn less than their companions. When some municipal councillors tried to explain it to them, they struck.
When the Anzin strike broke out in 1884, abolition of sub-contracting was demanded, and, above all, a new method of working was protested against. M. Basly declared, in his deposition made before the delegation of the Commission, that “if the Anzin workmen had known the actual methods of working, the strike would not have broken out.”
When miners are out on strike they raise the question of the administration of pension funds and relief funds. This permanent demand rarely suffices to cause a strike; but it always appears as one of the chief of the alleged grievances. Often, when a company has believed itself to be moved by the best intentions, its intentions have been distorted or taken in bad part.
Strikers have again and again called for the founding of co-operative societies of consumers. This was the case, in 1882, at Bessèges, at Anzin in 1884, and at Decazeville in 1886.
In 1881, the Hatters’ Mutual Aid Society, which, as it itself recognised, was a syndicate of resistance, insisted upon a strike under conditions which show how far the idea of the power of syndicates and the contempt for the freedom of labour can go, in the opinion of some of their members.
The firm of Crespin, Laville & Co. had two places of business, one in the Rue Vitruve, the other in the Rue Simon-le-Franc. It paid the workmen at the latter house according to the society scale, and the former at a lower rate. The society ordered the latter to go out on strike. They obeyed. It then ordered the workmen in the Rue Simon-le-Franc to go out on strike in their turn. Some submitted; others protested, saying:—We are working according to the society scale. We are in order. We have no reason for striking. You cannot demand it of us.—We shall expel you,” was the reply.—And our subscriptions to the pension fund, etc.?—They will be lost.”
A general meeting was convened, and under menaces, the workmen in Rue Simon-le-Franc were forced to go out on strike!
Many of the more recent strikes have been caused by the claims of the syndicates to impose their authority in workshops and factories, so as to prevent the employment of men not belonging to a syndicate. In the month of January, 1893, this claim not only caused a strike in the Marrel Works, but, on the plea of solidarity, the workmen in other factories, those of Brunon, Arbel, Deflassieux, Lacombe, the Marine Steel Works, etc., deserted their work without either proclaiming any grievance, or formulating any demands. A strike is declared; but by whom? Is it unanimous? Not at all. It is more often a minority which determines it. If it meets with opposition, its leaders have recourse to intimidation, insults, threats, and even blows. At Bessèges, in March, 1882, two or three hundred people struck. 5500 workmen wanted to work, but ended by giving in.
On November 25th, 1889, in the Chamber of Deputies, I pointed out that, on November 7th, at l’Escarpelle, a spontaneous gathering of workmen had opposed the strike. Unhappily, this was an isolated case of courage in the history of strikes.
On November 19th, 1891, I told the Chamber of Deputies, without the possibility of having my statements disputed, that the miners’ strike in the Pas-de-Calais was declared after a vote, in which the voters were divided as follows:—13,000 for, 7,000 against, 10,000 abstentions. And a general strike was proclaimed.
Delegates were forthwith nominated to draw up claims that night, ex post facto, justifying it.
Prohibition to Work—Strikes an Episode in the Social War—Threats—Confectioners—Navvies—In Amiens—Coachmen—Strike of Belgian Glass-Blowers—The Homestead Strike—Other Strikes in the United States—The Decazeville Strike—Assassination of M. Watrin—Carmaux—M. Humblot—Explosion in the Rue des Bons-Enfants.
Strikes are declared for the substantial motives enumerated above. From the moment that the striker has left his yard, his shop, his factory, or his mine, he does not permit one of his mates to go there either.
It is vain to try and prove to him that the very principle of human liberty is to do, or not to do, as one chooses; and that he is guilty of an outrageous tyranny when he demands that a workman shall give up living upon his labour.
The great majority of strikers, if not all, answer:—From the moment that I decline to work, I forbid all others to work. If they resist, so much the worse for them. We shall strike them.
Under these circumstances, a strike does not represent to the striker an economic means of acting upon the Law of Supply and Demand. It is an instrument of oppression and an episode in social war.
He resorts to violence. All over the place may be seen men forming themselves into groups, and heaping insults and injuries on those of their fellow-workmen who decline to take part in the strike. In 1884, at Anzin, they were not content with threats; they laid waste the gardens of the non-strikers. Two thousand strikers went to the Renard pit to prevent those who had been at work from coming to the surface.
In the month of August, 1882, at Montceau-les-Mines, the revolutionary Collectivists wrote some letters in red ink, on white paper, drawn up as follows:—
“The Committee has, in the name of justice, condemned the aforesaid X . . . . to death.”
“The Delegate of . . . . ”
Bands of men paraded the streets shouting a song of which we give the first couplet:—
They did not confine themselves to singing. They threatened and they pillaged.
In Paris, in August, 1888, the strikes of the confectioners and navvies were full of episodes of intimidation. A band of waiters went, at 7.30 a.m., and plundered the Café Vachette and the Brasserie du Bas-Rhin. For several days they attempted to invade several cafés on the Boulevards.
Not only did the navvies go to sweep away the sheds, but they took their fellow-workmen, who were at work, prisoners, and carried them off. Citizen Goullé called out at the Bourse du Travail:—At the Dieudonnet sheds there are sixty navvies at work; there are more than ten thousand of you. Go and turn them out!”
Then they came back and boasted of their exploits:
“You ought to be pleased with us, citizens, we have kicked the bottom out of the dung-carts! And we carried about a citoyenne of the Rue-Moulin-des-Pres in triumph, because she upset one of them by herself. Naturally, if the carters resist, we strike them. If the guardians of the peace timidly intervene, M. Vaillant will call them ‘Capitalist convictkeepers!’”
The carpenters, who were out on strike at the same time, applauded an orator who cried out: “We must set fire to all the employers’ cribs.” And citizen Tortelier cried out: “We will terrorise them!”
At Amiens, in 1888, the strikers destroyed the offices of the firm of Cocquel, throwing the velvets out of window and setting fire to the premises. Dis turbances recommenced in Amiens in the month of January, 1893, in connection with putting the law relating to female labour in force. The employers were threatened, the manufactories invaded—some of them laid waste. At Rive de Giers, violence was used chiefly against the non-strikers.
The same methods were resorted to at the time of the omnibus and coachmen’s strikes. In the month of June, 1893, the strikers commenced by exacting a tax from the coachmen who continued at work, and who, as a check, had to stick a card in their hats, which had to be renewed each morning. The Prefect of Police having put an end to this abuse, the coachmen smashed and set fire to some carriages, with petroleum, and overpowered and stabbed some of the coachmen with knives.
For having asserted on various occasions, that such proceedings as these were amenable to the Penal Code, I was spat upon. According to the Manual of the Perfect Striker, the rights of man partly consist in the right to invade workshops, to destroy machinery, and to attack non-strikers.
But the things done in our French strikes are as nothing by the side of those of the glassblowers’ strike in Belgium. This strike was not caused by poverty. It was carried out by workmen who, earning £400 to £960 a year, exemplified the “Iron Law of Wages” by whims, such as taking foot baths in half a dozen bottles of champagne, according to a fashion set by the glassblower Rofler. The strike was not caused by over-work: the men worked on twenty-four days per month for nine and a half hours. It was not brought about by the reactionary views of their employer; because M. Baudoux, against whom they struck, was the leader of the Radical party. But he had introduced the Siemens furnace, which, however, did not supplant labour. But that did not make any difference. This novelty did not please the glassblowers, who were stirred up by a gust of savage frenzy. The strike broke out. They sang:
They put iron into the furnaces, and set fire to the four corners of the factory, thus madly destroying the instruments of their labour. They burnt M. Baudoux’s mansion; and, if they did not massacre him and his, it was only because they did not fall into their hands. Fighting broke out at Jurnet. There were twenty-five killed and wounded. At Roux seventeen were killed. At Louvières they shouted: “Shoot down the bourgeois! Do not spare the children, the seeds of the bourgeois! Blow up the factories! Stave in the mine ventilators!” They tried to carry out their threats: they used dynamite at Roux, and at Marchiennes, and at Louvières a cartridge exploded under the window of a café where the officers were seated.
In the United States, strikes have come to be real wars. Those who waged the great railway strike, in 1877, intercepted trains, destroyed the lines, demolished the carriages and engines, and set fire to the warehouses. Such again was the strike, in 1892, at Homestead, Pennsylvania, the works belonging to Mr. Carnegie, who, starting as a working-man, is now master of metal manufactories which give employment to 20,000 men, and who has written a book entitled Triumphant Democracy, and a study on the art of spending a fortune. Because of the rate of wages which the Amalgamated Association wished to impose, the Company closed its works, and declared its intention of employing none but non-union men. The workmen took up arms, and made themselves masters of the town. The Company applied to Robert Pinkerton’s private police agency, which sent them three hundred men. When the strikers saw these men on the boats they fired at them: three of the police were killed; they retaliated, and some of the workmen were wounded. The steam-tug having left, the Pinkerton men remained under the strikers’ fire; the strikers brought up a cannon and directed jets of burning petroleum on the vessel. Forced to capitulate, the police were taken to prison, where they arrived overwhelmed with insults and blows, and some of them half cut to pieces. Whilst all this was going on, a man named Beckmann, forced his way into the private office of the general director, Mr. Frick, and struck him four blows with a revolver. A force of six thousand men had to be sent to Homestead before order could be re-established. Work recommenced with nonunion men—what we, in France, should call non-syndicated men.
At Cœur d’Alène, in the State of Idaho, some miners having been replaced by non-union men, massacred, pillaged, blew up the iron railway bridge, and declined to lay down their arms until after a battle in which 250 were taken prisoners.
In the State of Tennessee, the miners besieged Coal Creek, taking possession of it, and their strike, too, was only closed by a fight.
At Buffalo, on Lake Erie, on August 15th, 1892, the pointsmen, to prevent non-union pointsmen from taking their places, destroyed the points, and set fire to some hundreds of railway waggons loaded with cotton and merchandise. The State Government had to set 13,000 militia on foot to quell the outbreak.
If in France strikes have not assumed the same proportions, and have not been distinguished by the same brutality, it is not the fault of some of their leaders.
Some days before the Decazeville strike, Bedel, who had been arrested for a robbery of bicycles, said: “I shall kill some one.” He was condemned to six days’ imprisonment at the time of the strike. He kept his word.
When the strike broke out, on January 26, 1886, he, at the head of a band of strikers, forced his way into M. Watrin’s office, and summoned him to go to the Town-ball. He went, escorted by a crowd of four hundred people, who threw mud at him, and shouted: “Death to Watrin! to the pond!” After sundry parleyings, in which the miners’ delegate assured M. Watrin that he had nothing to fear, he, accompanied by the engineers of the mine and the engineer of the Departmental mines, M. Laur, started to go to the Bourran mine. There they found a crowd awaiting them, which grew more and more menacing; two of the engineers were struck by stones. M. Watrin and those accompanying him took refuge in the railed-in centre of the Plateau des bois; the barrier gave way under the pressure of the crowd. M. Watrin and the engineers reached an old building at one time forming part of the company’s offices. They ascended to the first floor. A crowd of eight hundred people besieged the house. Some men succeeded in reaching the first floor by climbing up a street lamp; others, supplied with bars and great egg-shaped pieces of oak, mounted by means of a ladder, whilst they answered by shouts of death, to the death shouts of the crowd. Caussanel shouted: “He must die!” At the same moment the street door was forced in. M. Watrin opened the door of the room wherein he had taken refuge. With one blow from a bar, a blacksmith laid open his forehead. The assailants relaxed their efforts for a moment. M. Cayrade, the Mayor, arrived, and to calm the assailants, asked M. Watrin to resign his post, and he finally, after a courageous hesitation, consented. When the Mayor announced this fact, they answered: “It is he himself whom we want. Watrin must die!” Some of the besiegers dragged him towards the door, others dragged him towards the fire-place, and they ended by throwing him from the window. Men threw themselves upon him, tore him to pieces, plucked out his beard, and stamped upon him, whilst part of the crowd fled in terror. Some brave men at last rescued him from these savages, and removed him to the hospital, where he expired at midnight, in the midst of such terror that no witnesses could be found to denounce the authors of the crime.
On August 15, 1892, strikers invaded the offices of the Carmaux Company, surrounding its director, M. Humblot, demanding his resignation, under threats of Watrinising him! And for three months they walked about singing,
Referring thereby to Baron Reilla, President of the Board of Management, and the Marquis of Solanges, who was a member of it. They sang the Carmagnole and cried: “Long life to social revolution!” under protection of M. Deputy Baudin and the watchful eye of the authorities. And when M. Clémenceau, finding these songs and cries to be a little compromising, retorted, “Long life to the Social Republic!” the equivoque did not succeed.
The Carmaux threats ended in the pot filled with dynamite, which, being placed at the company’s offices in the Avenue de l’Opera, and taken to the police station in the Rue des Bons-Enfants, exploded, killing five people. I know that Messrs. Rochefort and Pelletan pretended to believe that this machine had been placed there by the Carmaux Company, but this idea was too ingenious to be generally accepted.
“Private Explosion—Revolutionary Anarchists and Collectivists—The Vanguard System—The Dynamite Theory—The Carcassonne Resolution—The Road to the Social Paradise—Evoking “the Days of June” and of the Commune—Contempt for Native Land—War of Classes—The Bourgeois—No Danger of Social War—If there are no Accomplices.
I know that the National Council of the Collectivist Party, or, to speak more accurately, M. Jules Guesde and his friends, tried to disclaim any part in the attack in the Rue des Bons-Enfants, by saying: “For the fifth time in one year dynamite has been disgraced by a private explosion.” Would dynamite then be honoured by a public explosion? If they endeavour to equivocate, when events of the nature of the explosions in the Boulevard Saint Germain, in the Rue de Berlin, in the Véry Restaurant, and in the Rue des Bons-Enfants, excite too violent a condemnation, they forget the theories which they have instilled into those who carry them out, by, for instance, the personal threats of assassination and execution launched against certain persons mentioned by name at the meeting at the Château d’Eau on 3rd June, 1886, in celebration of the high achievements of the Decazeville strikers. If they repudiate the results of their teachings, as understood by Duval, who robbed Mme. Lemoire’s mansion; if their associate, Martinet, seemed to them to compromise them because of his nine years’ imprisonment for theft, there are nevertheless gatherings where people cry: “Long live theft! Long live assassination!” And they do not repudiate them. They have so influenced certain groups of the population of Paris, that on May 1st, 1892, three thousand people assembled together in the Salle Favie, applauded Citizen Chausse, who is now a municipal councillor, for calling dynamite a “vanguard system.”
M. Gabriel Deville, one of the theorists of Marxite Socialism, quietly published the following phrase, which he had meditated upon at leisure: “Dynamite and other similar methods of persuasion are the indispensable instruments for bringing refractory contemporary society to support the Communistic solution of the problem.”
And some days after the explosion in the Rue des Bons-Enfants, M. Baudin said at a meeting at Carcassonne: “When necessary, we must employ science against reaction and opportunism, more skilfully than the Anarchists have done.” We are well aware that the employment of a euphemism, in the town that has the honour of having M. Ferroul for its Deputy, is of no importance. But if a man like M. Baudin makes use of them, it is because he knows how to excite enthusiasm; and, as a matter of fact, there are men who look upon Social Revolution as a kind of fairyland. Prince Kropotkine, in his Paroles d’un Revolté, writes of civil war, massacres, and the catastrophes of war, by which the proletariat will “joyously seize upon private property, for the common good,” with a zest akin to the infatuation of spiritualism. And, as is proved by the anniversaries of the 28th May, some, labouring under hallucinations, catch glimpses of a social paradise, across the memories of blood and flame of the “days of June,” and of the Commune; and in their dreams they follow those who promise them that these orgies of carnage and destruction shall recommence.
Unhappy souls! If they were not victims of one of those epidemics of folly which dazzle crowds, they would recollect that there have never been darker days for the cause which they wish to defend. Did the stones of the barricades change into four pound loaves for those who fought in “the days of June? The Commune has left a memory of a destructive frenzy, all the more odious because it set fire to Paris under the very eyes of the Prussians. And when Socialists of every shade go on pilgrimage each year to proclaim, as they unfurl the red flag, that it is by such inauspicious lights as these that they illumine the social question, all of us, in the name of labour, in the name of social peace, in the name of France, should spurn all contact with them with indignant anger—anger all the more hot because we saw these men gather eagerly round Liebknecht at the Congress of Marseilles.
It was he who, on the 28th of November, 1888, and the 18th of October, 1890, in his own name, and in those of his friends, declared that, “they had determined not to let their native land of Germany be curtailed;” and M. Bebel made it more precise by affirming that “he would never sanction the surrendering, by Germany, of Alsace and Lorraine to France! . . . ” After this M. Liebknecht presented himself at Marseilles as an apostle of peace! Provided that the French respect accomplished facts, M. Liebknecht will not attack France; and the revolutionary Socialists exclaim: What grandeur of soul!
And from their point of view they are justified; because they have already declared that they despise the idea of a fatherland. These people wish to establish their own liberty in contempt of national independence, without reflecting in their blindness, that of all despotisms, the most brutal and implacable is that of the conqueror over the conquered!
These good apostles wish to reserve all their strength for the social war. They are quite ready to fraternise with those across the frontier; but they will never forgive the peasant of yesterday, who, through labour and economy, has been able to become a proprietor, the jobber, or the workman who has become an employer, the sons of all this proletariat, who by their intelligence and energy, with money earned by competition, have been able to become engineers, tradesmen, manufacturers, and merchants; for they are bourgeois, and, as such, criminals! It is against these that they harbour all their energy and all their rancour.
What logic, and what ethics!
These declamations, excitements, attractions may intoxicate those who traffic in them, and turn the brains of the feeble; but the contagion does not spread far. On the 28th of May, eight thousand people came together at Père-Lachaise, amongst whom there was a certain number of waverers, doubters, ne’er-do-weels, and miserable creatures, as unfit for revolutions as for work. Here, then, in greatest numbers, is assembled the revolutionary strength of Paris. The great majority of working-men know perfectly well that they must seek their maintenance in work, and that it is not riots which will provide for them. They have wives and children; they are concerned about their future. They are prudent, and only seek through the pacific means of Republican institutions to obtain the more or less real improvements which they contemplate.
Hence, all these inflammatory scenes do not represent any serious danger of a social war, except upon one condition: it is that the charlatans of Socialism find accomplices amongst Members of Parliament who, being deputed to make the laws of the country, and to superintend their enforcement, should give an example of respect for the law; amongst the officers entrusted with the maintenance of public order; amongst the magistrates entrusted with the administration of justice; amongst judges and juries entrusted with the application of the Penal Code to misdemeanours and crimes; and amongst the ministers who, being entrusted with the general interests of the country, are bound to contemplate the responsibilities which they assume, not only from the point of view of present difficulties, but above all from that of future events.
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.
The Question before the Municipal Council of Paris—The 2nd April, 1884—My Argument—Demand refused—Strikes and the Seventh Municipal Council—Hypocritical Measures—Sympathetic Actions—M. Ferroul’s Proposition of November 25th, 1889—The 117.
While awaiting this final result, the interference of Deputies in the questions relating to strikes had convinced the strikers that the public authorities ought to come to their rescue with subsidies.
The first time that the question came before the Municipal Council of Paris was in 1884, with reference to the Anzin strike, upon a proposal of a subsidy of 10,000 francs brought forward by M. Pichon. I opposed it, and caused it to be rejected by 55 votes to 20, by some arguments which I will permit myself to recall:—
M. YvesGuyot.—I beg of you, gentlemen, to reject this proposal, in order that we may remain faithful to the principles of political liberty, from the economic point of view, adopted by you at the Municipal Council.
M. Joffrin.—Not I.
M. YvesGuyot.—If you to-day intervene between the employers and men, you will deny the principles to which you have given your adhesion—that each one shall intervene individually on behalf of the miners, and do that which seems to him best. (Hear! hear!)
We can only intervene collectively with money belonging to the ratepayers. If, to-day, you intervene in struggles between individuals, under the pretext of a strike, there is no reason why you should not take part to-morrow in any other strikes, without making any exceptions. For why should you refuse your co-operation to one of them? This would mean a perpetual intervention of the Council in individual covenants. We can no more subsidise the workmen than we could subsidise the company. . . .
By advocating the intervention of the city of Paris, you are asking for a policy of compression.
You in pity propose a subsidy of 10,000 francs. What are you about to do? You will delude the miners and create in them deceptive illusions; you will cause them to believe that the city of Paris will commit itself in their favour.
To-day people are suggesting a disgraceful intervention to you. . . .
If I followed that policy, it would not have been 10,000 francs that I should have asked for.
Because, when the 10,000 francs were exhausted, what would you do? If you wish to take effective measures, make up your minds to put 100,000 francs weekly, at the disposal of the miner’s families.
M. Joffrin.—That proposal would be rejected as well as mine.
M. YvesGuyot.—The mine, notwithstanding what you say, is private property; and the Anzin concession was originally granted to a few individuals.
People talk of realised profits. It seems as though the only wish of some French people was to see all their fellow-countrymen ruin themselves in all their undertakings. As for me, I regret that there are not a large number of mining companies who have realised the same profits; that would be far better than to see 45 per cent. of the concessions lying idle, as is shown by the Commission of Enquiry of 1873. . . .
I asked the Municipal Council, in order that it might be logical, to start a special chapter called: “Premiums and encouragements for strikes.” That which I suggested in irony has come to pass. The seventh Municipal Council has subsidised no less than twenty-two strikes. It has given 2,000 francs to the strike of the matchmakers, who are employed by the State. I do not know whether the Prefect approved of this intervention of the Municipal Council against the Government. On the 11th July, 1891, the Municipal Council granted a subsidy of 10,000 francs to the workmen of the Orleans Railway out on strike; and on July 24th, 1891, 20,000 francs to railway servants in general. These two decisions were cancelled; but the administration has not been so strict with all. It has compromised by not distributing the subsidy amongst the families until after the strike was over, as though, by this hypocritical means, it did not give moral and material support to the strike.
So clearly has it been support which the Municipal Council has given to the strikers, that at the Municipal Council, M. Mesureur, Reporter of the proposal to subsidise the Decazeville strike, which was led up to by the assassination of M. Watrin, said: “More than a manifestation of Platonic sympathy is needed for the miners of Decazeville. Action is needed.”
Whilst the Municipal Council has thus been subsidising strikes, I think the question has only once come before Parliament.
On November 25th, 1889, M. Ferroul brought forward a law proposing the opening of a credit of 150,000 francs for the aid of the victims of the strikes in the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and Tours.
As Minister, I gave the same reception to this proposal as I had done five years earlier, whilst Municipal Councillor, to that of M. Pichon. Having said that “a strike was a voluntary act,” I was violently interrupted “from several benches on the Extreme Left;” but I again asked if we ought “to let social forces intervene, and charge the cost as part of the budget,” in favour of strikes; if we ought to lay down the principle of “the subsidising of strikes by the State.”
The proposal of M. Ferroul was rejected by 364 votes against 117.
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. 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.
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:—
Not to be Confounded—An Example—The Bourse du Travail and its Occupations—Its Journal and the Army—Finding Situations—The Strike Hall—The Crime of Lèse syndicat—The Commune and the Bourse du Travail—The Central Committee and the Bourse du Travail—The Number of its Members—Its Installation by the Government—Its Reply—Extreme Negligence of the Administration—Liberty of Meeting in the United States—The True Question as to the Bourse du Travail—Permanent Anarchists.
We must not confound liberty with anarchy. Liberty is the reciprocal respect for personal rights, according to certain fixed rules known by the name of law. Anarchy is the privilege of some and the spoliation of others, according to the caprices and abitrary will of the cunning and the violent, and the feebleness and lack of energy of the timorous.
In the Bourse du Travail we have an example of a state of anarchy, established with the connivance of the Government.
Like all ideas worked by the Socialists, the conception of the Bourse du Travail is due to a “vile economist.” This was M. de Molinari, who, in 1843, thought it would be useful to establish centres of information where offers of employment and requirements of the same might be made known, and where the current price of labour might be settled, just as, at the financial Bourse, the rate of exchange is fixed, or as the current market prices of commodities are determined at the Commercial Exchanges. He followed up his idea with perseverance; communicated it in 1848 to M. Ducoux, Prefect of Police; endeavoured to carry it out by means of a newspaper in Belgium, in 1857; and finally, saw it take shape in the Bourse du Travail, founded on February 3rd, 1887, in the Rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, and later in Rue du Château d’Eau, in beautiful premises, valued at three millions of francs (£120,000), which the Municipal Council has had built for the purpose.
The building was put in the possession of some syndicates and incorporated societies placed under the control of the second Committee of the Municipal Council. When this Committee requires money, its members do not even take the trouble to inform the Council, as is shown by a letter from the President, of that Committee, dated December 15th, 1892. They consider themselves autonomous, though in the receipt of subsidies. They are not content with the firing and lighting supplied by the town. They had an allowance of 50,000 francs. They requested that it might be increased to 99,932 francs. The Municipal Council, alarmed by this increase of cent. per cent., halved it, and granted 75,000 francs, of which 46,000 francs are devoted to salaries and fees, and 11,700 to the printing expenses of the Bourse du Travail newspaper, of which half is reserved to pleas and plans for the organisation of social war, to all kinds of attacks on “the government of employers and bourgeois,” and to insults levelled at those who do not satisfy the executive, in terms of which the following sentence, 4th December, 1892, dedicated to our army, is an example:—
“The bourgeois papers deplore the loss of seventeen officers, since the commencement of the Campaign in Dahomey.”
“There is no reason whatever for such sorrow.”
The Bourse du Travail sends delegates to every place where a strike may be got up, so as to bring it to a head and prevent its miscarriage.
With regard to finding situations for workmen, according to the information with which it was anxious to furnish the Municipal Council, in the month of March, 1893, it has done little beyond negotiating for the employment of hairdressers’ assistants and super-numerary hotel servants. Employers do not trust them, and will not go to them for their workpeople and clerks. Those who keep the Bourse du Travail hoped that they would overcome this ill-will, by the laws relating to registry offices. Their anger was proportionate to their mistake, because I dared to say:
“Well, gentlemen, we have syndicates at the Bourse du Travail. We see them at work. We see what they are. Do you really believe that these syndicates are even regularly constituted? According to the papers which have been published, more than two-thirds of the syndicates registered at the Bourse du Travail are not regularly constituted, and they never-theless find situations for people.”
“You should have seen them recently in the Bulletin de la Bourse du Travail, loudly declaring that syndicates in agreement with them must not place themselves in conformity with the law of March 21st, 1884.”
“In short, Mr. Reporter, will you take a journey to the Bourse du Travail? I would like you to go there some Thursday, into the Strike Hall. It is there that the hairdressers’ assistants meet to seek “extras” for the following Saturday. You will there see people who only go in order not to find work, who are satisfied with an “extra” of one day per week, and who, for the remainder of the time, either loaf about or take shelter there in rainy weather. . . . ”
As they insisted on the following day, I called them “detritus.” For the rest, as was solemnly affirmed by M. Auguste Vacquerie, “these insults are not aimed at the Bourse du Travail, syndicates in general, nor the builders’ syndicates in particular.” Neither have they refrained from launching collective insults at me. In various meetings I have been abused, and condemned to a variety of expiations of my “crime of lèse-syndicat.” I accept these attentions with resignation and without surprise.
But I was surprised to learn that it was my words which had revealed to the Minister of the Interior a state of things which had nothing mysterious about it. The representatives of the Bourse du Travail have proclaimed, with the greatest earnestness, that there were syndicates there which were not legally constituted, and that they considered, not only that this illegality was their right, but that it had become a duty. They celebrated the 1st of May. They closed the Bourse du Travail on the 28th May, and went solemnly to render homage to the dead members of the Commune.
The Paris Bourse du Travail has affiliated with those of Lyons, Saint-Etienne, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Nimes, Montpellier, Toulouse, Cholet, Toulon, Calais, Cours (Rhone), and Troyes. To this federation labour questions are of secondary importance. Revolutionary questions come first. Just as it was easy to discern the embryo of the Commune in the Central Committee, it is easy to detect the preparations for social war in this organisation.
For the rest, the members of these associations consist of an agitated minority which has little right to speak in the name of the workers. Syndicates multiply by reason of the fees paid to their representatives; but there are syndicates which only consist of a staff: the rank and file are absent. According to The Annuaire du Ministre du Commerce, there should have been last year, at the Paris Association, 172 syndicates, representing 58,000 members—7⅓ per cent. of the working population of Paris, estimated at 790,000 persons. According to an inquiry instituted by M. G. Hartmann, in 1890, the number of workmen paying their club money regularly, did not exceed from five to six thousand. Having turned up the numbers of 19 syndicates at the Bourse du Travail, he found 1,740 members of trades in which 40,570 workmen were employed—that is, about 4¼ per cent.
M. Charles Dupuy, Minister of the Interior, compelled those syndicates which were not legally constituted, which he found installed at the Bourse de Travail, to conform to the law before 5th July, 189[???] (ed. The original text has been corrected but the meaning is still not clear - it could read 1894) and on the 1st of July he suspended the subsidies.
The members of the Executive Commission and of the Committee replied: “The dignity and honour of the proletariat forbid that such an odious provocation as the unqualified affront just offered by the Minister of the Interior to the working classes shall be over-looked.”
Whence comes this storm if not from the yielding nature of the administration? The revolutionists of the Rue J. J. Rousseau had already given such good proofs of what they were in the waiters’ and navvies’ strikes of 1888, that M. Floquet thought it necessary to close it. When the large buildings in the Rue du Château d’Eau were, in 1892, handed over to the Syndicated Chambers and Corporate Societies, the object to which it was to be applied should first have been determined, and the manner in which it was to be administered should have been specified; so that the Government and the Prefecture of the Seine should have some responsible people to deal with; and they ought to have kept a hold over the concern so as to see that their conditions were strictly carried out. They found it was more simple to let these people act with plenary irresponsibility. They put off the difficulty, as if it were not more difficult to stop a runaway horse than to keep it at a steady pace.
If we take as our models those peoples who have attained their liberty long before us, and have known how to protect it, we shall not find one which would admit an institution such as the existing Bourse du Travail into a municipal building, and subsidise it from the rates.
The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States proclaims perfect liberty of meeting and of combination. But how is the right exercised? All meetings must be summoned with some definite object. Public inclination, as well as positive law, agrees that this shall be so; but if the meeting forgets the order of the day, its legal existence ceases. If it does not disperse of itself, it will be forced to disperse by the troops. There is the strongest reason for not hesitating to disperse all violent manifestations.
It is not only a question of knowing whether these syndicates have conformed to Article 4 of the law of 1884; as the ministerial injunction would have the result of making the Bourse du Travail the home of syndicates exclusively which would become obligatory; whilst it should be open, under certain conditions, to all those who wish to deal with the questions of supply and demand of labour.
The object of an Exchange (Bourse) is to bring the vendors and purchasers together. At this so-called Exchange the vendors of labour wished to be isolated from the purchasers. They were the masters in this matter, but for the attainment of quite a different purpose from that implied in the word Exchange.
It would be well to know if syndicates, whether legally constituted or not, may take “the study and protection of economic interests” to mean an apology for, and propaganda of, a social war; if the rate-payers of Paris should put a public edifice at the service of revolutionaries—actual revolutionaries when possible, always so by desire; whether the Government should with benign condescension, maintain a disorderly household where illegality assumes the character of a dogma, where contempt for the Government and spoliation form the background of habitual conversation, and where the Government and the administration receive in exchange for their good offices nothing but the constant repetition of the assurance of scorn.
Dangerous anarchists are not men like Ravachol and his accomplices—half-lunatic criminals, who may secure a few victims, but who rapidly disappear. It is the permanent Anarchists, such as the agitators of the Labour Exchange, such as the municipal councillors and the Deputies, who become their flatterers and accomplices, and above all the governors and administrators, who let things slip so as not to “make work for themselves,” whom we have to fear.
(I.) Share of Responsibility in the Socialist Movement—Limitations of the Workman’s Obligations—Mechanics’ Institutes—Whence Their Moral Check is Derived—Too much Philanthropy—Paternal Administration—The Workman’s Docility—No Gratitude—M. Cosserat’s Experience—Relations between Workmen and Employers—Master” is an Improper Word—(II.) Definition of Contract—Labour Contract—Its Limits—Vendor and Purchaser of Labour—Erroneous Antithesis of Capital and Labour—Wages do not come from Capital—(III.) Labour—Article 1780—The Law of December 27th, 1890—It ought to Abolish Strikes—(IV.) Rules for Employers in their Relations with their Workpeople.
I. Employers, too, are responsible to a very large extent for the Socialist movement. Not that I reproach them with harshness or asperity, and with not being sufficiently interested in their workpeople. On the contrary, I reproach them with being too much concerned in them, and that, in meddling with them, they have misunderstood the true character of the labour contract.
The employer is, in the nature of things, neither the religious guide, the political guide, nor the intellectual guide of his workpeople. When M. Chagot intervened to have a religious funeral for a workman, who had desired a civic one, he made a mistake. When M. Solanges makes use of his position of manager of the Carmaux mines to procure his election as a Deputy, what is the result? It is that the miners revenge themselves three years afterwards and select M. Baudin as their messiah
The workmen are under only one obligation with regard to their employer, and this is the performance of the productive labour for which they receive their wages. If the employer wishes to exact anything beyond this, he is guilty of an error. He invites servility, revolt, or hypocrisy; and is preparing for himself a terrible return.
If employers have too often failed to recognise this truth, it is because most of them still labour under the old idea of the headship of a tribe. They consider that the duties of their workpeople are as unde fined as their own rights. It is by virtue of this idea too that they desire to be benevolent and to take care of their people’s destinies. They are propelled at one and the same time by generosity, and an interest, which I characterised in the following manner, in the Senate, on July 21st, 1890:—
“Large tradesmen, large manufacturers, railway companies, have felt the necessity of strengthening the labour contract on the side of the workmen, so as not to be exposed to fortuitous desertions. They, therefore, instituted aid societies and pension funds; they opened schools before the establishment of free education, and they have provided their workpeople with medical aid. In short, they have granted them numerous material advantages in order to keep the workmen as much as possible near the establishment which employed them. I am assuredly far from disputing all the well-being which has been the result of this, nor the progress of those institutions which have originated thus. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that this material progress has, in some directions, given an increase of arbitrary power to those who instituted it; for the more they surrounded those whom they employed with comforts, and, at the same time, the more they felt at ease with regard to them, the more they thought, as a matter of fact, that the workman was bound to them by his own interests, and that he would be more ready to endure an increased dose of arbitrary control, as he would hesitate to forego the security assured to him, his wife, and his children, by the institutions and fore-thought with which he had been surrounded.”
“I think, gentlemen, that it is useful to point out this contrast between these institutions for material well-being which have been established by the large industries, and the irritation which you have seen growing up amongst the very people who profited by these institutions—a situation which people interpret thus: Really, workmen have not the least gratitude for the good we do them! And yet, perhaps, workmen have not always been entirely in the wrong in this, because they have been made to pay dearly, from the moral point of view, for the well-being with which they have been favoured.”
On November 19th, 1891, whilst referring to the strikes of the Pas-de-Calais, I added: “The Coal Companies have made the great mistake of wishing to exercise too much philanthropy.”
The Journal Officiel reports “ironical exclamations on the Left,” which proves that those who uttered them did not understand what I said any better than they will probably understand what I have just said: and yet, from the point of view of the coal companies, experience is decisive.
M. d’Audiffret-Pasquier exclaimed at the time of the Anzin strike: “We spent more than a million and a half of francs in charities to our workmen. Our administration is paternal.” Yes! and therein lies the mischief! The companies have constructed barracks wherein they have immured their work-people. They have established co-operative societies which they have themselves administered. They have founded aid societies and refuges.
The workman perceived that he had no real share in the administration of these funds. He saw that in these co-operative societies, all the company’s money which he touched reverted to it, and that sometimes he did not even touch it at all. Finally, in these barracks he felt himself to be under the supervision of the company, which frequently interested itself in the religious instruction of his children, and in the habits of his wife or young daughter. When he left his work he still felt himself to be dependent. They withheld some of his money for the aid society and pension fund. He knows how much he has paid. He cannot compare eventual and distant advantages with the expenses which he realises. He knows that if he left the mine, or if he were dismissed, he would forfeit his deposits. He sees himself chained to the mine, tied down to it; and, on the other hand, the board of management did not dare to dismiss him for fear of being accused of an endeavour to rob him, and despoil him of his deposits. In this way, it saddled itself with discontented, and sometimes incapable, workmen. Finally, the workman learnt more or less vaguely that these funds were not in a sound financial condition, and he accused the companies of making use of them for their own purposes. And this mistrust, generally erroneous, was justified by the Bessèges and Terrenoire disasters.
The companies made use of these advantages to work upon the miners. They wanted to form them into regiments, and to discipline them by these processes. They succeeded admirably, so admirably that one day the docility of the miners was transferred to some agitators who placed themselves at their head, and they obeyed them as they had formerly obeyed the company’s engineers and agents.
In reality, these combinations of pensions had as a result the transformation of a man’s time-service into life-service. The workmen felt their fetters, and soft though they might be, they seemed to him unendurable: thence proceed his violent plunges and his impatience, which have recently manifested themselves in such a startling manner at Amiens.
M. Cosserat, a spinner, had started some pension funds, aid societies, and savings banks, and a cooperative society. His workmen asked him to do away with these institutions. M. Cosserat invited them to make known their preferences to him by votes, with the result that 552 votes were given in favour of suppression, and 76 against.
After a result of this kind, the master says: “Workmen are not grateful. You may be as kind as you like to them, they are never content!”
There is no obligation on them to be so. Employers should make the best terms they can with the workpeople in their own interest, and the workpeople should do the same.
Good personal relations will only come as an outside question. Good humour, good character, loyalty in trade and financial matters, may facilitate such relations; but no further importance should be attached to them, nor any other rôle allotted to them.
I am going to make use of the English word employer, which is much more accurate and more just than the word master, which ought to disappear from our economic vocabulary, because it sanctions the idea of protection and tutelage on the one side, and of submission and deference on the other. This alters the true character of a labour contract, and most of the errors and faults committed arise from such points as are not clearly defined in the minds of those who have to decide them.
II. Acollas gives the following definition of contract: “The concurrence of one or more wills upon a given subject, in so far as this concurrence produces the effect of a law.”
We will accept this definition, which be applies, moreover, to the contract of hiring.
After having drawn a dramatic picture of a miner’s life, he says: “Assuredly, it may seem paradoxical to place such a contract amongst those which favour individual autonomy; nevertheless, nothing is more correct. If the miner did not hire out his services, he would stand still for want of work and die. In hiring his services, he changes the risk of early death from hunger for the risk of death long delayed. . . . Therefore, that which the miner does in hiring himself out favours the autonomy of the miner.”
We may add that he is free to hire, or not to hire, out his services; to seek other occupation, etc. What is important is, to clearly specify that in the contract of hiring the workman only parts with one thing: his labour, and that his personality, apart from this service, remains entirely intact.
Amongst primitive peoples, in the horse-dealings at fairs, as well as in retail trades, in the market-places, you hear vendors and purchasers say: “Do that for me! I will let you have it at such a price, because it is you.” The individual is mixed up with the act of sale and transaction. But these habits disappear in proportion to the development of commerce. The corn merchants of Odessa, San Francisco, or Chicago, no longer have any personal knowledge of their customers in London, Antwerp, Paris, or Marseilles. It is no longer sympathy for this man or that which determines the rate of purchase and sale of the commercial exchange. The purchaser. who said to a vendor, “I am moved by the friendliest sentiments towards you, I regard you with paternal feelings; therefore, entertain some feelings of gratitude towards me, and prove them by selling me your goods at a reduction,” would meet with a poor reception.
When an employer and a working man meet, it should be simply as two negotiators: a vendor and a purchaser of labour.
What is the value of the labour? For how much will the vendor of labour sell it? How much can the purchaser of labour afford to give for it?
I purposely do not make use of the two terms under which this question is generally introduced: capital on the one hand, labour on the other; because the purchaser of labour does not represent capital, he represents consumption. He strives to produce an article of which he has no personal need, and of which he thinks others will have need. Moreover it is not with capital that he pays his workmen’s wages; or if it is, alas for the tradesman who is reduced to this, for bankruptcy awaits him. It is with his credit or his returns that he meets his wages.
It is therefore a clumsy error to represent the employer as the embodiment of capital, and to set labour in opposition to it. The employer does not rely upon his capital to pay his workpeople, but on the sale of his goods. He does not calculate his wages according to the amount of his capital, but according to the selling price of his merchandise. The employer does not purchase labour according to his wealth, but according to the amount of his turnover.
III. The contract of hiring is the same as any other contract, of which Article 1780 of the Civil Code lays down the true principles:—
Art. 1780. Service can be engaged only for a specified time or undertaking.
It seemed to me necessary to render this contract more stringent, and in my ministerial capacity I helped to pass the law of December 27, 1890, which completes it in the following manner:—
A letting of service made without the term of its duration being specified is terminable at the option of either of the contracting parties.
Nevertheless, the cancellation of the contract by the will of one only of the contracting parties may give rise to a claim for damages.
In order to fix such compensation, account shall be taken of trade custom, the nature of the services engaged, the time which has run, the work performed, and payments made, with a view to a retiring pension, and generally, all the circumstances which might prove the existence and fix the extent of the injury.
The contracting parties cannot relinquish in advance their future rights of claim for damages in accordance with the above provisions.
Disputes which may arise from the application of the preceding paragraphs shall, when taken before the civil tribunals and courts of appeal, be dealt with summarily.
This article gives a guarantee to the workman or employee against improper dismissal; but, at the same time, it prevents a sudden strike, provided that employers know how to avail themselves of it, and that the tribunals enforce it rigidly.
When, as was the case at Roubaix, workmen leave their work declining to conform to the delay of 15 days, which the custom of the place required; when miners or metal-workers throw up their work without a day’s notice being given; when clerks, with a right to pensions, such, for instance, as those employed in the State factories, throw up their work; when anybody, having undertaken specific engagements, break them, it is absolutely necessary that employers should have recourse to Article 1780, and see that the strikers are condemned in damages. The glass-makers of the Rhone acted quite rightly in this matter. In order to ensure the recovery of these damages, the employers can demand security from their workmen. Whether they actually make them pay damages or not is a secondary question: the important point is to demonstrate to the workman that the labour contract is not an empty word, but a reality, and that neither of the parties to it can break it at his own caprice and fancy.
Ideas on these points are still so vague that, when workmen have gone out on strike, the employer generally seems to think that the contract still holds good. He commences to debate with the delegates of “his” workmen, yet they have ceased to be this from the moment that they left his workshop or yard.
The employer should regard the labour contract as broken, and each striker as having ceased to be a part of his staff; and he should establish a hard and fast rule that he will, or will not, take back workmen who have left his employment, according as it may seem best to himself.
A striker has no better claim to reinstatement than has a vendor to compel a purchaser to accept delivery of goods which he has previously refused to send him, having originally contracted to do so.
One of the objections to “workmen’s houses” is, that, on the occasion of a strike, an employer who houses his workpeople finds himself unable to turn them out, and he thus retains in his neighbourhood, by his side, around his offices or his pits, a population which he cannot change, and which prevents the arrival of a fresh one.
IV. It is the Socialism of employers which has developed the spirit and the need of Protection amongst workpeople, and their readiness to accept Collectivist theories. The increased personal inter-course between employers and employed has multiplied difficulties, occasions of friction and discontent, and the pretexts for discontent. Employers who strive to anticipate all their workmen’s wants tend to make them improvident and ungrateful. Instead of developing their intellectual and moral qualities, they wither and corrupt them.
To my mind the rules which employers ought to follow, with regard to provident institutions, may be reduced to the following:—
If the manufacturer wish to interest the workman in his business, he should always be kept informed of its position.
Every institution which has the result of alienating the mutual independence of employer and employed, and of rendering the Labour Contract indefinite and immutable, is bad.
Two Types of Civilisation—The Military Type—Conquest of Idleness—The Right to Apathy—Protectionist and Socialist—One Produces the Other.
The development of Socialism comes from two causes—Militarism and Protection.
Herbert Spencer has shown, with great force, the antagonism of the two types of civilisation—Military Civilisation and Industrial Civilisation.
Military Civilisation is based upon the passive obedience of the masses to the orders of the Chief, upon the established hierarchy of authority, upon the privileges annexed to each social rank, and upon the denial of personal rights.
Productive Civilisation is based upon the initiative of the citizens. It acquires its development through their industry and economy. It has competition for its motive force.
The two civilisations are incompatible, yet we endeavour to perform the miracle of making them co-exist.
Every German, every Frenchman,in passing through the army, receives the imprint of the type of military organisation, which is far easier to understand than the conditions of liberty.
Into his conceptions of economic life, he transfers the need of order, obedience, and search for least effort. At the bottom these unquiet revolutionaries have a conventual ideal; and that which they point out as a goal to the crowds which follow them is the attainment of idleness. They ask them to do themselves a lot of harm, and even to give and receive blows, so as to have a right to inertia. But is not this exactly the life of the savage warrior who scorns work? And have we not in this one more proof of the retrograde side of the Socialist programme?
According to the verifications which we have made, the word Socialism may be defined as “the intervention of the State in the economic life of the country.”
But, then, are these men who, in the interests of landed proprietors, ask for taxes on corn, on oats, on horses, cattle, wood, and wines, Socialists? those who, in the name of “national industries” and “national work,” ask for duties on cottons, silks, linens, and all kinds of textile fabrics, all kinds of steel, from rails down to pens, medicines, chemical products, and all objects whatsoever, due to human industry?
To this interrogation I answer by the clearest and most positive affirmation.
Yes, large and small proprietors alike, those of you are Socialists, who beg for customs duties. For what is it you ask, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee the revenue of your property? What is it you ask for, tradesmen and manufacturers of every kind, who seek the imposition of import duties, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee your profits? And what is it the Socialists ask, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee to the workman a maximum of work, a minimum of wage? In a word, what is it you all ask, if not for the intervention of the State to protect you all against competition? The Protectionist asks for protection from the competition of progress from without—the Socialist asks for protection from the competition of activity within—and in aid of what? To throw political interference into the scale so as to violate the Law of Supply and Demand for the arbitrary benefit of such and such a class of producers or workmen, and to the detriment of all consumers and ratepayers, which means—everybody.
This conception of the economic duties of the State is the same for the large landowner who calls himself “conservative,” for the large manufacturer who scorns the Socialists, and for the miserable Socialist who flings his scornful invectives against property and manufactures. They all make the same mistake. They are all victims of the same illusion. Those who look upon one another as enemies are brothers in doctrine. Hence it is that every recrudescence of Protection engenders a revival of Socialism. The Socialists of 1848 were the true sons of the Protectionist copyholders of the Restoration and of Louis-Philippe’s Government. If Protectionists deny this intimate relationship, I will introduce them to a Socialist who will say to them:
“You ask for customs duties so that your revenues and profits may be guaranteed. You appeal to the superior interests of agriculture and national labour. So be it. You have even asked me to join you for this purpose. But what share will you give to me—to me, the working man? You demand the aid of “society.” I, too, claim a share in it, and with so much the more right that in society I hold, at least in point of numbers, a larger place than yours.”
Before such language as this the Protectionist is obliged to remain dumb, especially as the Socialist might add:
“You protect yourself; you strike at corn, meat, wines, at the things which are necessary for my food. In the custom house, textile fabrics, things of everyday use, and, therefore, the cheapest, those things intended for me, carry the heaviest weight. It is, therefore, upon my needs, and consequently upon my privations, that you ask the Government to guarantee your revenues and your profits. In my turn, I shall retort and tell you to return to me that which you take from me. I claim my share. Guarantee me my wages. Limit my hours of labour. Suppress my competitors, such as women. Suppress piece-work, which may prove an incentive to over-production at too cheap a rate. This for to-day; but to-morrow it will be necessary that property and manufactures shall rest in my hands alone. The State shall be the sole producer, the sole merchant, and all the profits shall be for me.”
(I.) Despotism and Anarchy—The Courtiers of Socialism—The Action Révolutionnaire League—The Attainment of Political Power—Social Anarchy and Revolution—Utility of Concessions—Prince Bismarck—The Socialist Congress of 1889 and the Emperor of Germany—His Mistake—Insatiable Socialism—(II.) The Distribution of the Population in France, and Socialism—The Interests opposed to Socialism—Socialist Demagogues and Electoral Statistics — Messieurs Clémenceau and de Mun’s Confidence in Socialists—Christian Socialism—Anti-Semeticism—Lay Partisans—Something must be done—Above all, good Government—Respect for Law and Order—Reforms and Retrogression—The Fiscal Question—Fiscal Regulations—Non-intervention of the State in Exchange Contracts and Labour Contracts—(III.) Republican Programme, a Programme of Equality and Liberty—The Press and Common Law—Liberty to Incite to Crime—Weakness of the Chamber of Deputies—English Law relating to Explosives—(IV.) Socialists wish to Suppress Competition—Depressing Political Economy—Expansive Political Economy—Competition the Great Factor in Evolution—The Strong and the Weak—Public Assistance—Lamarck’s Law—Adaptation to the Environment—Predominance of Heredity amongst Socialists—(V.) Utilitarian Philosophy—Its Criterion—Laws of Social Evolution.
I. This study, which we might have greatly extended and enlarged, is, nevertheless, sufficient to show the retrograde and tyrannical character of Socialist con ceptions and practices. Saint-Simon said that society could not tolerate either despotism or anarchy. The Socialist offers us both at once.
Men who have begun by being of the Left-centre, who, as ministers, had to restrain the acts of individuals like Messieurs Fournière and Albert Goullé, connect themselves with revolutionary Collectivists, with the Action Révolutionnaire League, promising the expropriation or confiscation of railways and mines, and allowing a faint vision of a like something approaching for the “Haute Banque” and large proprietors. And why do M. Goblet, formerly Minister of the Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Messieurs Millerand and Jaurés always encourage the destructive passions, and promise to submit the law to their will? Why? So as to seize on political power. They began, in imitation of Boulangism, by stirring up anarchy, with the notion that, if it triumphed, they would evolve an order therefrom, of which they would be the masters; and in their blind ambition, they madly forgot that, in the language of their friends, and of their accomplices, this order is known as Social Revolution!
They wish, however, to make a choice between doctrines and practices; but what choice? Where is their criterion? Why do they stop here? Why do they not go further? The revolutionary Collectivist would always have the advantage over them of logic and precision, and could only cede then to the Anarchist.
In his alliance with the Action Révolutionnaire, M.Goblet accepts all the Socialist programmes in mass; he makes no reservations except as regards ways of carrying them out; he rejects violence. But outrages may be committed in legal form; and a statesman’s duty is to anticipate and prevent the law ever becoming an instrument of oppression and spoliation.
The Marseilles Congress has clearly decided for the Socialist, as to the utility of the concessions which may be granted them: “They strengthen us against our adversaries, who grow more feeble.”
The example of Prince Bismarck, who persecuted the Socialists, whilst at one and the same time he created a Socialistic legislature, only served in its absence of logic to develop Socialism in Germany. The Emperor William II. has continued this policy and arrived at the same result.
The International Socialist Congress, held at Paris on 14th to 21st July, 1889, demanded international legislation, establishing the eight hours day, the abolition of night work, the abolition of female labour, a thirty-six hours rest per week, and the inspection of workshops by inspectors, at least half of whom should be elected by workmen. This protective legislation for labour was to become the subject of laws and of international treaties. A deputy who pretends to be the working-man’s representative, M. Ferroul, re-introduced these resolutions of the congress in a proposed law; and it was not without surprise that on February 4th, 1890, we saw the rescripts of the German Emperor, who seemed to have appropriated M. Ferroul’s propositions, and the resolution of the Paris Congress, for the “regulation of the duration and nature of labour.”
If the Emperor William wished to make the ideas of the Socialist his own, he should have called Messieurs Bebel and Liebknecht to power. His Socialistic experiment only tended to deceive, and to give greater authority to their party, which is always bound to be in, at least, apparent opposition, because, from its very nature it is insatiable.
In France, the Socialistic Republicans, who wish to retain their authority over their train-bearers, are always obliged to vote against every ministry, even when composed of their friends, each time that they pass a law: an attitude which proves the political capacity of the party and its powerlessness to direct the affairs of the country!
II. If those politicians who consider themselves to be prudent men, were to consult the distribution of the French population, they would see that the land-owners cultivating their own land number 9 millions; small proprietors, 3,500,000; farmers, metayers, and planters, 5 millions; foresters and woodcutters, 500,000; and that they, representing 50 per cent. of the productive population of France, consider the demands of the workmen, who are only a minority, very obstructive and very outrageous.
With regard to manufactures and trade, 9 millions of people are engaged in them, of which 3,250,000 are engaged in large scale industries, and more than 6 millions in small industries. This makes up more than 65 per cent. Now, for whom are all these laws, these arrangements, these regulations, and this chaos, intended? For a minority of 35 per cent., which represents the large scale trades.
To hear Messieurs Clémenceau, Basly, or Dumay, one would think that we had nothing but miners in France, and that all parliamentary work, and all parliamentary politics ought to be subordinated to them, and they number 90,000 workmen all told! Do the Deputies who, in their demagogic zeal, blunder about in an environment of labour laws realise that laws apply to all those small retail trades where there is one master to every two workmen? If we set aside those who employ seven or eight, we see the number of those who only employ one. Do not these small employers represent the democracy, the proletariat of yesterday in process of transformation, those people who, being possessed of the spirit of enterprise, prefer its risks and practice to the security and tranquillity of wages. It is these small employers whom you attack with police laws, whom you disturb with inspectors; all these new functionaries whom you have created and set on foot.
And you think that in acting thus, you are making a clever political move! It has not even this quality as an excuse.
Commerce and transport represent close upon 4 millions of people, and this legislation can only have two results: to depress commerce in depressing manufactures, and in closing their outlets by the high price of the goods and the checking of the spirit of enterprise.
With regard to the railway staffs representing 550,000 persons, and that of the mercantile marine, representing 250,000 persons, there may well be a certain number who, after having made many applica tions to be admitted into the companies, allow themselves to be dragged in by Socialist agitators; but, at bottom, the majority understand quite well that if economic life is relaxed in this country, by Socialistic claims, the reaction will make itself felt by limiting the staff and by diminishing the resources which might otherwise be devoted to its remuneration.
Can people belonging to the liberal professions, and numbering 1,600,000 persons, if they reflect, accept this legislation, liable to so many dangers, and so adverse to the general interests of the nation? Is it the public forces, representing 550,000 persons, of whom 120,000 belong to the constabulary and the police? Is it the landowners and stockholders, who represent more than 2 millions of people, close upon 6 per cent. of the total population?
Some people wish to subordinate the whole of French legislation, all its policy, to the pretensions of a minority which will never be satisfied. Public men who place themselves at the head, or rather get in tow with this movement, the courtiers of Socialistic demagogy, have the deepest contempt for political economy and statistics. This is self-evident: for they prove that they do not even know the statistics of the electorate, the only ones which concern them. M. Clémenceau has devoted himself a great deal to mines, at any rate in the tribune; and yet it was neither at Valenciennes, at Bethune, nor at Saint-Etienne that he sought a constituency; but in a district which contains no manufactures at all, a district of small landowners and small husbandmen, Draguignan.
We observe the same lack of confidence on the part of M. de Mun, from the electoral point of view, in the miners and factory hands, for whom he speaks so often. In their service he plays the demagogue, promises them terrestrial paradises over and above the celestial, interprets certain verses of the Gospels after the manner of the ascetics, who never pretended to be economists, and sees nothing in the Popes’ encyclical letter Rerum novarum but the side which fits in with his own arguments, by leaving all the restrictions which are opposed to it in the shade; but it is to the credulity of the peasants of Morbihan that he appeals, to send him to the Chamber of Deputies. I have expressed myself elsewhere upon Christian Socialism. I shall not return to it.
In France, the Catholic aristocracy, and, from a competitive spirit, the Protestant aristocracy, have engaged in the anti-Semetic campaign much more from envy of luxuries possessed by Jews, their drawingrooms and their theatres, than from hatred of their religion or race—from a spirit of revenge on the part of territorial wealth as opposed to wealth acquired in trade and in banking. But it only became popular because, in addition to the libels which constituted its unwholesome seasoning, has been added a hatred of the wealthy, the envy of those who have failed against those who have succeeded, and the spirit of spoliation. M. Drumont’s sectaries are lay Communists.
III. But there are very disinterested and very wellintentioned people who say:—Something must be done.” To these I answer that, to begin with, we must not do foolish things.
This is the first point; and in this we fail, with this officious, meddling legislation, which seeks “to give satisfaction,” and to whom? To the selfish, who, more often than not, do not wish for it, whose conditions of existence it disturbs, and whom it runs the risk of depriving of work and wages, by seriously damaging the economic life of our country. Such legislation may be serious in a very different sense to that of a passing riot or insurrection. We are commencing our experience with the revival of Protection.
But there is much to be done outside of “labour laws.” First of all we have to govern well, and administrate well. We have to enforce respect for law and order, to protect the future against the prejudices and passions of the moment, to protect general interests against the aggression of individual interests. A Government which had succeeded in doing this might not be considered anything very wonderful, and yet under its modest exterior it would have accomplished the most useful, the most efficacious, and perhaps the most difficult of labours.
With regard to reforms, the point is to make a selection, and not to mistake retrogression for progress. In good sooth, many present themselves; for in our legislation we must prune vigorously, following in this matter, Buckle’s formula, that great reforms have consisted less in making new laws than in demolishing old ones. The years that are to come will give us plenty of work, because we shall have to lop off not only ancient laws, but recent ones as well.
It is upon a budget which asks over three thousand million francs from the taxpayers, that the entire activity of the Legislature may be brought to bear, from the point of view of the economic intervention of the State. The work is heavy and laborious for those who endeavour to restore to our fiscal system a certain number of first principles, such as these: Taxes should be paid to the State only. They should serve no other purpose than to supply funds for the general services of the State. They should never be an instrument of spoliation or confiscation. They should be proportional. They should be objective, assessed on property, and not on the person. They must not injure traffic. They should be assessed on acquired property, and not on labour, trade, manufactures, or wealth in process of formation.
Indirect taxation fulfils none of these conditions, and a large proportion of it is taxation progressive in the wrong direction. Those who have acquired fortunes should themselves take the initiative in re-establishing proportional taxation. The personal sacrifices which they would thus make would give them an authority to resist the greed of the spoilers. They could talk of justice with so much the more authority for having shown that they knew how to apply it.
Among the tasks which will encumber the immediate future, it will not be an easy one to establish the principle of the non-intervention of the State, in contracts of exchange, and labour contracts: because, wonderful to relate, it is supported by the coalition of fierce adversaries.
What does it matter? To every politician who is not short-sighted, and who does not change his policy from day to day, who puts the interests of the country above his personal conveniences and his ambition, it is a matter of vital concern to steadfastly maintain the principle of individual liberty, against State Socialism, and against the pretensions of trade syndicates.
IV. We Republicans should recollect, that our programme was a programme of liberty and equality. The Republican party was false to it when, instead of placing the press under the government of the common law, it granted to it the privileges of the law of 1881, privileges through which the Republican party was the first to be attacked by calumnies and libels, incitements to murder, pillage, and other crimes.
Articles 23 and 24 of the law of 1881, punish provocations to murder, pillage, and incendiarism; but the person who is engaged in them cannot be arrested in anticipation. Furthermore, he cannot be arrested, unless the judgment is peremptory. By tricks of procedure he can suspend judgment for something like nine months; and during this time, he can continue his offences, multiply them, and accumulate judgments upon his head, with impunity. It is sufficient for him to cross the frontier upon the eve of the day when the first judgment will become peremptory, for him to escape all responsibility for his words and his actions. In the month of October, M. Loubet brought forward a scheme for putting an end to this state of things; but he was weak enough to allow an amendment of M. Jullien’s to pass, which destroyed it. The Senate suppressed this. The discussion came up again on May 4th, before the Chamber, when M. Jullien managed to pass an amendment by 272 votes, against 234, which permits the court to pronounce only provisional sentence. The Senate is awaiting the coming session in order to resume the discussion; and, in the meantime, the Anarchists and their emulators can continue to celebrate the high achievements of dynamite.
England did not stand on so much ceremony after the dynamite explosions which took place in her midst. In 1883, she adopted a carefully thought out law, which condemns every person causing an explosion of a nature to cause serious danger to life or property to penal servitude for life; every person doing anything to provoke an explosion of this kind, or making or storing explosives for this purpose, to twenty years of penal servitude; and every person making or storing an explosive substance under circumstances which he cannot innocently account for, to fourteen years penal servitude.
Finally, to complete these provisions, which arm the Government with all the power desirable against the partisans of the employment of explosive substances as revolutionary agents, the last clauses of the Act of 1883 give the widest powers to the Bench of Magistrates from the point of view of criminal information.
V. But what is it Socialists demand? The suppression of competition.
Their ideal—not only in the State of the future, which they prudently abstain from describing, as Liebknecht himself acknowledged at the Erfurt Congress, but of the legislation which they have agreed upon—is depressive political economy: based upon envy, jealousy, coercion, the violent destruction of privileges, the breaking up of the nation into classes, intent on snatching some rags of fortune by the aid of power (politics being regarded only as an instrument of plunder), upon contempt for the individual and his subjection to combinations of despotic and irresponsible cliques.
We, on the contrary, represent expansive political economy, which considers that in social relations as in all organic life, competition is the great factor in evolution.
This ideal of mere competence, in place of the ideal of development, is pursued by Socialists when they wish to impose a uniform rate of wages; and they arrive at this result: the strongest and cleverest workmen do not earn what they ought to earn. They carry the feeble workmen on their backs. And at the same time even the weak man does not receive any advantages from this position: because he does not find any work.
It is all very well to talk, in a charming way, of the protection which the strong owe to the weak. But for this protection to be efficacious, the strong must begin by being strong. Every combination which has as a result the sacrifice of the strong to the weak is a check to the development of humanity.
Moreover, who are the feeble? By what signs do we know them? Are you going to grant a privilege to idleness and apathy, so as to get as much as you can out of those who valiantly undertake to bear the burdens of life themselves, instead of passing them on to their neighbour? But if we maintain these feeble creatures of whom these good souls take so much care, we condemn them to remain in their state of debility.
Let us remember the law thus expressed by Lamarck: “The development of organs and their active powers is always in proportion to their employment.” There will be crises and difficulties in social life; we must not let them frighten us. Our needs change, and they always precede the definite formation of the organ. As Darwin taught us to see, each organ is the transformation of other, anterior, organs, pre-existing amongst ancestral forms in a different state and serving different functions. The problem is the same from the sociological point of view as from the biological: the adaptation to new functions is always difficult, and remains incomplete. Our endeavour should be to make it as easy, as little painful, and as perfect as possible. We should, above all, endeavour to prevent retrogressions, which are only the predominance of heredity over the adaptation to the environment; and as the Socialistic movement is only the expression of old forms of society, of old ideas, of old sophistries, survivals of fetishism, an attempt to subordinate industrial and economic progress to the modes of existence of primitive civilisations, we ought, in the name of progress, to oppose it: for the so-called “advanced” who direct the movement would carry back the social organism, with all its complex elements, more and more adapted to the division of labour, to primitive Collectivism. Man transforming himself into a jelly-fish! that is their ideal.
Every one in France now is free from all the old questions of dynastic policy. We should henceforth have only one policy, the utilitarian, saying with Bentham that individual interests are the only true interests. What test have we wherewith to judge as to whether a measure is useful or noxious? Is it “the happiness of the greatest number—a formula borrowed by Priestly from Helvétius?
But certain Protectionists will, in perfect good faith, declare to you that they apply this test. Does not the agricultural population of France represent 19 millions of people? They protect it; therefore they protect the greatest number. What does the workman want? Work! Therefore national labour must be protected, so as to insure his happiness. And the Socialist would add, that the end of all the legislation which he asks for is to protect him against surplus work, to watch over his health, his safety, and his well-being; and he will repeat with Plato: “What signifies restraint provided that man is made happier?”
The following are the four rules which, for us, must determine the utility of this or that measure.
If we turn back to primitive civilisations, we find that the weaker are brutally made use of by the stronger, woman by man, the vanquished becomes the food or the slave of the victor: and the man who thus abuses his strength as regards his fellow creatures is reduced to the most miserable state of helplessness with regard to the environment in which he lives, if it were only with respect to the inclemencies of the weather. Let us go further. By what signs do you recognise that modern civilisation is superior to the Roman civilisation? The conquerors of the world had not even windmills, and they pushed the employment of the vanquished to the point of the sanguinary saturnalia of the circus. Chief of the clan, tribal chief, Greek despot, Roman Cæsar, all represent the most crushing dominion over the members of the family, of the city, or of the nation.
By these facts we can prove this first sociological law:—
(1.)Progress is in inverse ratio to the coercive interference of man with man, and in direct ratio to the control by man of external nature.
And how do we see that this progress is accomplished? Sir Henry Sumner Maine says it is done by the substitution of contract for authoritative arrangements, in such fashion that the action of the State shall, in a word, be replaced in social life by individual action, and personal conventions; and then the chief function of the State is to guarantee against fraud, deceit, accidents independent of the contracting parties, and the execution of contracts.
But, wherefore these contracts? What is their origin? The intellectual and productive energy of man, his enterprise, and the necessity he is under of exchanging the things in his possession for things possessed by others. And then, if the substitution for sacerdotal or social regulations of contracts is an undeniable proof of progress, have we not the right to say:—
(2.) Every institution (or legislative, governmental, fiscal, or administrative measure) is injurious which has for its object the restraint of the intellectual or productive activity of man.
At the present time, we may place in this category restrictive laws on commercial societies, on labour contracts, or on contracts of exchange. And here we put our finger upon the mistake made by the Protectionists and Socialists, who are all advocates for the intervention of the State in economic relations, the former to promise monopolies, to guarantee profits to the workmen or to the manufacturers, and incomes to the proprietors, by shielding them all from outside progress, the latter to defend the indolent, the idle, and the unskilled against the competition of the more industrious or more skilful.
The proprietor, manufacturer, or tradesman who has obtained Protection, thinks he has achieved a great victory. Instead of occupying himself with the perfecting of his means of production, his thoughts are intent on arousing the intervention of the public powers in defence and augmentation of the Protection “which he enjoys.” But he falls asleep under the shadow of this Protection. It is his manzanilla tree; and it will cause his death, if he be not torn away from it.
That workman, instead of his ideal being to become a capitalist himself one day, or to make his son a capitalist, by means of work and increased effort, asks for Protection, eight hours’ work, a minimum wage, a monopoly of certain trades, and the restriction of the number of apprentices.
He sets himself and his children in a mould. He aims at resignation as little work as possible, the earning of a competent salary, but under hard and fast restrictions. He himself shatters the mainsprings of all his activity. We have an example of this in the mines of the Pas-de-Calais and of the Nord, where, from the new dread of personal initiative and taking responsibilities upon himself, the workman now prefers to remain in the ranks.
The Socialists voluntarily repeat a stereotyped formula of M. Victor Modeste: “The poor are becoming poorer.” But how has M. Victor Modeste established this? By proving, through the registers of Public Aid Societies that it is always the same families whose names are to be found there. Surely this is a decisive argument against Socialism; for it proves that the assistance given to these people, instead of helping them to develop and rise in life, has converted them into a society of paupers; and it will be the same with every measure which, by having for its object the reduction or suppression of the struggle for existence, diminishes man’s efforts.
By analogy, biology shows us that every species of vegetable or animal which is protected against competition—against the difficulties of existence, is condemned to atrophy, and to perish. Darwin proved how poor and limited were the flora and the fauna of the Islands of Oceania; and why? Because they are isolated, that is to say, protected. It is only through effort that organisms, whether plants, animals, or men, can develop themselves; and the universal experience of things and of centuries warrants us in saying:—
(3.) Every institution is pernicious which has for its object the protection of an individual, or a group of individuals, against competition; because it has as a result the apathy and atrophy of those whom it is sought to protect.
On the contrary, every social or collective action which aims at the development of the courage and strength of the individual, and attains thereto, is of a progressive character, and should be approved. Of this nature, for example, are the educational laws due to the Republic. They give worth to understandings which would otherwise remain uncultivated. They prepare man for more effective activity in the surroundings in which he is called upon to live. They should give him dignity, develop his powers of initiative, his readiness to make personal decisions. We add this last conclusion:—
(4.) Every institution is useful which has for its object the development of the aptitudes of the individual for the struggle for existence and his ability to act in the environment in which he must live.
In reality, there is a complete contradiction, starting from their very title, between the pretensions of Socialists, and their real character; because, as we have shown, they are anti-social. They pretend to be the advocates of equality, and they employ all their efforts in constituting inequalities. They demand liberty for themselves, but with the object of oppressing others and, reciprocally, themselves. They pretend to be “advanced,” and the measures which they propose come very near to arresting the development of those to whom they apply; and the ideal which they offer us is retrogression towards the civilisations of the past.