R. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) Ensor.

Modern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; online

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Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 16 of 35)
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inspection of building and mining, is at least recognized in
principle, though its execution still leaves much to be desired.
At any rate, in various larger cities a number of workmen are
already acting as official building-inspectors, among whom,
for instance, in Munich there are men enjoying the con-
fidence of the mason's organization ; and people seem willing
to let mining-inspectors be elected by the workmen's com-
mittees. Notoriously, the inferiority of workmen before the law
is shown with peculiar suggestiveness by the fact that, while
otherwise the introduction of drastic rules is preceded by
a consultation of all possibly interested parties — Agrarians,
men on the Stock Exchange, heads of industry, consultation

master mechanics — only the workmen are regu- of^^^®

larly not invited. This bad custom we have at before

last succeeded in breaking through ; both before legislation,
the issue of the new Bavarian building regulations and before
that of the new mining regulations, conferences were called by
the Ministry, to which, besides officials, representatives both of
workmen and employers were invited. We have formulated
the further demand, that they should proceed systematically
in this direction and establish a special ministerial department
for labour questions, which should not consist merely of
professional officials, but should have among its members an
equal number of workmen and employers, to take part in the
preparation of laws and ordinances. Although the Govern-
ment thought that this was too much all at once, and that they
could not proceed " so far," no contradiction of the principle
was advanced. In Hesse the demand mentioned has already in
part been granted, while a number of workmen's representatives


have for definite objects been called into the Ministry. In
Bavaria the hours of work in the workshops of the railway and
Hours of military department have been reduced to 9^ — no
state doubt, I admit, an insufficient reduction, but any

emp oyees. -^^^ ^^ j^^^j. ^ j^eginning ; the eight hours' day for
miners, which was already voted by the Lower Chamber, was
unfortunately lost again through the opposition of the First
Chamber and the weakness of the Centre Party. The right of
state con- combination for workmen in firms in whose work
tracts the State is concerned, has (besides through resolu-

tions of State Parliaments) obtained a practical
recognition in the fact, among others, that in Hesse and
Bavaria (I do not know whether elsewhere) the Government
gives out its printing only to firms which pay the Printers'
rates. Further, in regard to public gratuitous employment
Employ- agencies something has been done; the labour
ment bureaux in Stuttgart and Munich in connection

agencies. ^j^j^ ^ committee of workmen's and employers'
representatives work for the removal of harmful private
employment agencies ; and latterly more attention is paid to
the extension and centralization of labour intelligence over the
country ; with cheap travelling tickets for men seeking work.
And there are other things of the same kind.

But in the greatest part of Germany, especially in the
leading country of Prussia, little or nothing is to be observed
of such dispositions for the better. And thereby those States,
which show more insight into social policy, and whose proceed-
ings are denounced as " a bad example," are hindered from
proceeding faster and more vigorously with their improvements.

At present — that is, in the last few years — in spite of all

Organiza- opposing difficulties, trade-unionism has expanded

on of in a powerful and extremely welcome way ; though

its recent ^"^ should beware of exaggeratmg it, for there

growth in is still only a small percentage of workers pro-
state° fessionally organized, and the division of their

hostility. forces through the introduction of party-political


and religious points of view robs the movement of a great

part of its strength. But to the improvements which

trade-unions have been able to secure in the situation of

the workers, not only has the State contributed absolutely

nothing, but every inch of progress has had to be wrung by

constant fighting from the political as well as the economic

potentates. We have not yet realized the legal equality of

the workers, which exists on paper, but is more or less openly

disputed by most employers. Employers great and small

still regard themselves as " bread-givers," and want to be

" masters in their own house," i.e. to settle conditions of

labour dictatorially, and treat the workers as subjects, or

rather as mere chattels. The private rights of the employer

still infringe the public rights of the worker, who to keep his

wage has to sell the political rights which the laws of the

State give him ; people of the type of Herr von Stumm

assume the right, because they let " their " workmen live, of

lecturing them on their most private concerns, telling the

worker what he may read, what public-houses he is to visit,

when he may marry, and so on. In this respect we stand in

Germany to-day where the English workers stood many

decades ago — with, I admit, one important exception, namely,

that in spite of, perhaps rather because of, these conditions,

we have in the Social Democracy a political organization of

the working-class such as no other land so far possesses, which

forms for Germany the first stimulus and the first starting-point

for all economic, social, and political improvement.

All this backwardness in social policy which I have

described occurred precisely while Germany stood beneath

the star of an unparalleled industrial prosperity,

,., ^, ^ . , , , ,, stagnation

while the great mdustry expanded on a really in social

gigantic scale, while Germany competed success- reform co-

fully with England in the world-market, and the withcom-

national wealth grew enormously. Moreover, our merciai

backwardness occurred at the very time, when in

various countries, whose economic development is in some


ways behind ours, more or less considerable progress was

made in the sphere of social reform. I will not to-day

speak of Switzerland, or England, or North America and the

Australian colonies, interesting and instructive as some of

their steps in social reform are, and greatly as they

form in deserve our attention. I will confine myself to

France one country, which, in size, is not far behind

Germany, and in regard to industrial development

has only lately been overtaken by us, so that it forms a good

point of comparison.

In France the anti-Socialistic Manchester School of
hostility to State interference in the economic sphere exer-
cised longer a decisive influence, extending indeed to the
working-class. PoUtical freedom did little — with the excep-
tion of the trade-union law of 1884 — to improve working-
class conditions. For this the traditional schism of the
Social Democracy into warring sects, and the consequently
desultory and erratic action of the trade-unions were respon-
sible. Then came the well-known movement for the revision
of the Dreyfus case, which gradually developed to a severe
crisis in the State. The stability of the Republic and its
liberal institutions was (as I have elsewhere de-
case, and "^ scribed in detail) most gravely imperilled by the

the entry of coalition of the generals, the Clericals, and the

Millerand ^^ . ,. t , • • .• 1

Into the Nationalists. In this situation the progressive

French bourgeois Republicans recognized that only an

alliance with the living force of the working-class

could save the country from the threatened coup detat. And

so, for the first time in the history of modern Social Democracy,

the Socialists participated in the supreme government,

in the well-understood interest of the country and with

the special object ; and Alexandre Millerand entered the

Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet as Minister of Commerce and


It is not to-day my intention to go into the important

political consequences of this event, which would require a


special treatment. I will confine myself entirely to the sphere
of social policy, and show you how France, previously back-
ward in this sphere, has, thanks to the activity of the repre-
sentative of Social Democracy in the Ministry, entered on an
era of energetic protection of the workers, and placed herself
quite at the head of social reform.

As to the legal regulation of the hours of labour, there
were several ordinances in France, but they remained dead
letters, and were not enforced. For this, not only
the Government and the employers, but also the j^w upon
workers were to blame ; the latter were very badly hours of
educated in respect of social policy, and often
blindly co-operated with the employers in deceiving the
inspectors and hindering the enforcement of the laws on
hours of labour. Thus there was in France practically no
State-limitation of the working-day, which frequently was of
twelve, fourteen, sixteen, or more hours, not only for men,
but for women, and even children. This state of things the
Socialist Minister soon ended by elaborating a law which was
speedily adopted by the Chamber and came into force. This
law introduces a similar normal working-day for all businesses
in which men, women, and children are employed together ; a
day fixed at eleven hours for 1899-1901, sinking to ten and
a half in 1901, and remaining at ten from 1903 onwards.
Similarly, you know, we German Social Democrats have pro-
posed in the Reichstag, that the normal working-day be fixed
immediately at ten hours and then gradually shortened to eight.
Highly important as is every reduction in the hours of labour
in the workers' interest and in reference to culture generally,
opinions may vary as to what number of hours is fitted and
adapted as a universal standard for a particular country and a
particular time, in short, for a given stage of development.
The main thing is for a statutory regulation of the hours of
labour to gain its ground and be carried out in practice. In
the works of the post and telegraphs, which were under his
own department, the French Minister of Commerce at once


introduced the eight hours' day; and the miners have

prospects of obtaining it shortly.^

Millerand took a not unimportant step in a decree about

the conditions under which in future contractors would be

Mill d" ^ss'g'^sd pubhc works or might purvey for State

public con- purposes. According to these rules, which are

clauses binding on the State and optional for departments

and communes, the contracting employers must

satisfy a series of conditions in favour of the workers whom

they employ. These are : guarantee of no work on Sunday ;

drawing up of a percentage of the foreign workmen to be

permitted ; fixing of the normal working-day and the minimum

wage for every category of workers ; prohibition of piece-work.

The normal wage and working-day are agreed upon by the

organizations of workers and employers ; where such do not

exist, a committee composed of workers and employers

decides. Conditions of work are altered according to locality;

and supposing, for instance, the local rate of wages in the trade

rises, the conditions of contracting change correspondingly.

If the employer for any reason does not pay the wages agreed

upon, the State makes short work of it, and indemnifies the

workers by corresponding deductions from the payment due to

the employer for the job. Further, the Minister has the right

to exclude contractors who do not observe the labour conditions

from taking any further part in public works and supplies.

Insurance of workmen against accidents has in France

been but lately introduced, and organized quite differently

from' ours. Although the law expressly ordains
Millerand ' * f J

and work- that the cost of the insurance shall be borne by the
men s insur- gj^ipioyers, they have in great measure thrown this
against off upon the workmen by simply deducting the

accidents. insurance premium from wages. Millerand has
now provided by a circular to the authorities, that this mal-
' The French Chamber voted the eight-hours' day for miners on
February 5, 1902, but it is not yet law. Under M. Combes' Cabinet the
eight-hours' day has been introduced by M. Pelletan in all dockyards and
naval arsenals.


practice shall cease, and the costs of the insurance, which

belong, like the wages of labour, to the cost of production,

shall be borne exclusively by the employers. In regard

to provision for old age, the Government have very recently

promised to propose a law securing this up to 600 or 700


Regarding industrial tribunals a law has for some time been

in preparation, through which a real constructive improvement

of these institutions should be effected. In future,

industrial tribunals are to have a final jurisdiction andindus-

un to 2000 francs, instead of 200 ; and their ti'ial tribu-

. nals

jurisdiction is to be extended to shopkeepers'

assistants, railway servants, and all workmen and employees of
the State, the departments, and the communes, excepting the
officials proper. The right to vote begins at twenty-one,
capacity to be elected at twenty-five ; and they extend to
women. The law having been shaped thus in the Chamber,
the conclusion of the Senate is still awaited.

jNIillerand has given his especial care to the trade organiza-
tion of the workers. He has striven to further trade-unions
in every way, and to make them representatives of Miiierand's
the working-class, recognized by the State, and encourage-
invested with administrative powers. While the trade-
already mentioned trade-union law of 18S4 still ""ionism.
limited the proprietory and business capacity of trade-
unions, and completely withheld that of federations, a
Bill now before the Chamber gives full legal personality
both to trade-unions and to federations of them, and with
it the unrestricted right to acquire movable and immov-
able property, and to carry on business ; so that they are
in a position to initiate business undertakings, and above all
to tender for public contracts as independent firms. To
diminish a danger for the free exercise of the right of combi-
nation, the dismissal of a workman for belonging to a trade-
union is made ground for damages at civil law ; as conversely
' This problem is still unsolved (1903).


is the boycotting of an employer for employing non-union

The French workers have long fought hard against private
employment-agencies, who mostly abuse their position, extor-
tionately and otherwise, to the injury of those seek,
and employ- ^"S work. The Chamber has voted a law — which,
ment however, still needs the assent of the Senate, who

agencies. ^^^ recalcitrant on this very question — gradually
abolishing private employment-agencies for industry. After
the promulgation of the law no more licences will be granted
for setting up such agencies. Existing licences may be at
once called in by the communes, though in this case compen-
sation must be paid. After five years all private agencies are
closed without compensation. They are replaced by com-
munal labour bureaux, which make no charges, and must
be established by all communes of 'over 10,000 inhabitants;
smaller communes have at least to keep a register for entering
offers and applications. The labour registers of the trade-
unions and Bourses du Travail are to be on an equal footing
with the communal establishments. The Bourses du Travail
are a peculiar French institution, a species of local trade-
unionist alliances, which receive considerable support from
public funds; thus the one in Paris, besides about 3,000,000
francs for its foundation, receives an annual subsidy of 115,000
francs, while the 57 existing to-day receive altogether 354,180
francs in subsidies from communes, and 20,400 francs from
departments. These Bourses du Travail, to which at least a
third of the organized workmen in France belong, already
exert quite a considerable influence on the labour market.
With the collaboration of the trade-union federations and the
Bourses du Travail a State labour bureau is at last to be
formed in Paris to centralize labour intelligence. All public
labour registers are to notify weekly their situations vacant ;
these are then to be systematically collected in lists, and
placarded all over the country.

Over the protection of workers trade-unions have obtained


an immediate influence, in that Millerand has ministerially

recommended the inspectors to attend to every information

laid by a trade-union, and at once investigate the

^ ' ° Stimulation

alleged improper condition of labour. Through of inspec-

this, and through the importance now attached to *^°''^ ^"^
. °. ' . 1 J their con-

inspection, the inspectors get quite a new zeal and nection with

an authority as against employers which they trade-

^ ° . ^ „ . , unions.

never had before. Previously the officials were

often hindered on entering works ; at night they mostly found
them closed. When recently something of this sort happened
to an inspector, he did not go into long explanations, but
curtly informed the head of the firm that he had freedom of
access to all places used industrially, at all hours of the day
and night, and that if necessary he would force an entrance.

A very important measure is the creation of a regular
legally recognized, economic representation of the working-
class on the new Labour Councils. This institu- Minerand's
tion, introduced by Millerand by way of an official creation of
decree, corresponds to what the Social Democratic q^-^^\^^"
group in the German Reichstag has long been {ConmiUdv.
vainly demanding in their well-known Bill for the ^'■'*''^'^'
introduction of Chambers of Labour. The labour councils,
which are composed equally of representatives of employers
and workers, advise, at the request of those concerned or of
the Government, on all questions regarding conditions of
work, and take part in inquiries ordered into them. For
every district and the branches of industry that they represent,
they fix the standard of wages and hours, and this fixing at
once governs contracts of work or supplies for the State, or,
in certain cases, for other public authorities. They make
suggestions for the allotment and expenditure of the public
grants to trade organizations. They investigate the causes of
prevailing unemployment, and suggest remedies to the
authorities. They report annually on the state of the pro-
tection of workers, and the execution of laws, decrees, and
instructions concerning labour ; and suggest improvements.


Lastly, the sections of the industrial councils, which are
formed according to trades, and in given cases are reinforced
by the industrial tribunals of the same trade, have, under
conditions to be mentioned later, to act as courts of arbitration
in disputes between workers and employers. A substantial
deviation from our German project is, that the French labour
councils are not elected by all workers or employers, but only
by those who are organized ; all French men and women over
twenty-five being capable of voting, without distinction of sex.
This limitation proceeded from the view, that workers or
employers, who have not yet recognized the need for organiza-
tion,- lack intelligence for the fulfilment of rights and duties
presumed by the institution of the labour councils. Doubtless
it forms a strong stimulus to organization. Millerand's
opponents are really not so far wrong in talking of an
" obligation to organize ; " at least the present institution
paves the way to one. Finally, be it expressly noted, that
inside the State's own concerns, the postal department, rail-
ways, etc., these labour councils are constituted ; while these
and all public employees are subject, like the rest of the
workers, to industrial tribunals, and have full freedom of
combination and trade-union organization — all the exact
opposite of our conditions in Germany.

As assistant council and advisory body in labour matters
to the Minister of Industry there is the Supreme Labour

Council, which dates from 1891. Hitherto it had
TheSu- . ' . . ^ ^ . ,

preme quite a muior miportance, as its members were

Labour wholly the Minister's nominees and possessed no

Council. ^^^^ of authority. Here also Millerand made a

change. Now the larger part are elected directly by the
organizations of workers and employers, and a further part,
taken from the industrial tribunals, indirectly. To these are
added a number of members of Parliament, officials, econo-
mists, jurists, the presidents of the Communal Council, the
Chamber of Commerce, the Bourse du Travail, and the Work-
men's Co-operative Societies, of Paris, while the Minister only


retains four representatives, among whom Millerand nominated
a well-known woman Socialist. A standing committee has for
its function to disclose evils in social policy, to arrange
investigations, to report on necessary reforms, and to prepare
legislation accordingly.

None of Millerand's measures has attracted so much notice
as his Bill to regulate industrial disputes, generally called the
Strike Law for short. In whatever form this Bill Millerand's
becomes law, it is anyhow interesting enough Biiitoregu-
to deserve being examined and appraised in industrial
detail by the workers of Germany and of disputes,
every country. There is not time for more detail upon it
to-day, and I must confine myself to characterizing a few
points in it. The Bill describes its own object as the creation
of a " permanent organization of labour," the "establishment
of solidarity among all workers," and the development of
" industrial democracy ; " others have described it as the
introduction of constitutionalism and the parliamentary
system into the workshop. The law is to apply to every
industrial and commercial concern with more than fifty work-
men or employees, so far as they contract to come How far
under the law. This limitation is a concession, optional,
which the Government thought it must make to that spirit of
hostility to all State interference in economic machinery,
which I have noted, and which is stronger in France than
elsewhere. It was expected to facilitate the acceptance of the
proposal by the Chamber. If, however, the law is once made
by contract to apply to a firm, from its own choice or in
consequence of the pressure of the workers, then this " contract"
is binding at law on the work and all engaged on it. How
anxious the Government is, that the law may be made
applicable as widely as possible, is shown not only by their
efforts at promoting the workers' organizations in every way,
and strengthening their influence, but also in the further fact,
that they at once put the State itself under the law as regards
its own works, contracts, and concessions. So though in


form the law is optional, the example of the State and the will
of the organized workers will force it more and more on the

The Bill is based on workshop-representation. Repre-
sentative bodies are elected by the universal, direct, and
secret suffrage of the workmen and employees in
Parliaments the firms subject to the law. They are to be in
of the em- constant touch with the employers, and in the
anyone'" labour regulations definite times are fixed, at which
establish- the workers' representatives are to be received by
"^®" * the employers. If a serious dispute breaks out, and

cannot be settled by oral negotiation, the representatives have
to formulate the demands of the workers in writing and
transmit them to the employer, who must reply in writing
within two days. If he does not accept the demands, the
two parties to the dispute choose their conciliators, who meet
and try to settle the affair. If the employer omits to appoint
his conciliators, or the assembled conciliators do not agree
within six days, the workers have the right to decide about
declaring work suspended. The workers or employees meet
Strike by ^^^ ^'^^^ ^Y secret ballot " yes " or " no." The
referen- decision of the majority prevails, and the minority
"'"• must submit to it. If the strike is thus voted, no

more work may be done, and the place of work must be closed ;

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 16 of 35)