Capital and Labour in Paris (1908)

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‘Tis a drizzly Sunday afternoon, and the great Place de la Republic looks at first glance much as usual. But a closer survey reveals the presence of a large number of policemen, some, indeed, standing in ranks under the wall of the Château d’Eau barracks, while opposite, an officer in glittering helmet talks with some persons who, in spite of their « bourgeois » clothing, betray the state functionary. What’s in the wind? We pass out of the « Place » and see that the Bourse du Travail or Labour Exchange a few steps further on is honoured by the presence of a number of perambulating policemen. The mystery begins to clear : working men in republican Paris are holding a meeting. And why? To discuss what steps can be taken to alleviate or remove the workers’ ever-present curse—UNEMPLOYMENT.

The numerous speakers vigorously, aye, often eloquently, call upon the suffering toilers to get together and do things, but no efficacious scheme for the alleviation of unemployment shows itself.

All seem agreed that the overthrow of the master class and the control of industry by the workers, that is to say, the Social Revolution, is indispensable to the workers’ well-being. We note meanwhile that our Parisian comrades hope yet much from their traditional street demonstration, from « direct action, » a euphemism for various acts of violence.

At least they have outgrown the particular idiocy which consists in petitioning ministers, asking these to abolish capital’s reserve army—the unemployed.

As we leave the hall and go out into the street, the policemen by twos quickly mix with the crowd and we hear their « avancez! » « circulez! »—equivalents of the « move on! » with which English workers are familiar. Meanwhile across the boulevard opposite stand a long double line of Republican Guards, rifle by knee.

And we are told « there is no class struggle, » or if there is it does not matter.

And what a commentary are these typical Parisian scenes upon the worth of neo-Malthusianism, protection, and « democratic institutions » which reach their apotheosis in France!

(J.H.Halls, Socialist Standard, April 1908)

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