The Year in France
THE year in France — from May, 1908 to May, 1909 — has seen two events such as mark the turning of the tides of history.
One is the Agreement between Germany and France concerning Morocco. While it leaves Germany unhampered in her domination of Central Europe as far as Constantinople, it comes as a final recognition of the immense colonial dominion which France has won for herself during the past quarter of a century.
The other is the strike of “ State functionaries,” and their relations with the revolutionary General Confederation of Labor. It is one sign among many of the disorganizing of the Parliamentary Republic in France, and, perhaps, of a spontaneous reorganizing of society in depths which factitious political government has reached only to trouble.
So far as the adjustment of neighborly relations between Germany and France is concerned, the Agreement about Morocco does little more than remove an obstacle which Germany seems to have invented expressly to be removed. It legally consecrates the distinct gain for Germany’s peculiar diplomacy which resulted from the Conference of Algeciras, namely, the right to be consulted and to speak in Mediterranean affairs. For its immediate effect it has left Germany with a free hand in the trouble which has arisen in the Balkans and Turkey, free to enforce her own Continental supremacy, and to push the German advance southward through Austria; able to renew and strengthen her Triple Alliance, and to browbeat Russia into silence; and able also to disdain the entente of England with France. The “ encircling isolation ” of Germany by powers allied against her, which was the Emperor’s complaint with regard to France, and England standing behind France, has failed before it was well at work. An even more practical result of the Agreement is that it permits Germany, which has little ready money, to continue borrowing from the French, who have much,1
In Africa, the Agreement does more than recognize the predominant position of France as a consequence of her possession of Algiers. It crowns the efforts which France, with rare persistence and little noise, has made to carve for herself new empire in the final partition of the globe. Indo-China, Madagascar, Africa from the Niger and Congo to the Mediterranean, have fallen into her hands; and she has been able to hold and transform them. They strike the observer who opens his eyes to French rule over them only less strongly than England’s dominion over India and Egypt.
It was on the 31st of March, 1905, that Emperor William of Germany, after a French government mission was already on its way to Fez to treat with the Sultan Abdul Aziz, unexpectedly landed at Tangier. To the representatives of the Sultan sent to meet him, he announced so that all the world might hear : — the Sultan is the sole sovereign of Morocco, he is the free sovereign of a free country; Germany will insist on always treating her affairs with him directly, she will never permit any other power to act as an intermediary; and the only need of Morocco is peace and quiet. The Conference of the powers at Algeciras, which was the outcome, to all appearances turned unfavorably for Germany. It ended by imposing the burden of an uncertain military occupation on France. Abdul Aziz it profited not at all; and, after intestine revolts, in which the French occupying army was of no help to him, this “ sole sovereign ” was obliged to abandon the struggle to retain his throne (September 3, 1908).
Herr Vassel, the German consul at Tangier, had not waited for this to proceed to Fez, and treat alone with the victorious leader of the revolt, Mulai Hafid. In accordance with the mission intrusted to them by the Powers signatory of the Act of Algeciras, France and Spain presented the respective governments with a joint note resuming the difficulties of the situation (September 14). Meanwhile the diplomatic communications of Germany, urging the immediate recognition of the new Sultan, were so equivocal that they were construed into an attempt to force the hand of France. Now, for the first time in recent years, the temper of the French people as a united nation gave clear and certain signs of awaking. Germany took heed and sent a reply to the Franco-Spanish note which a Ministerial Council, under President Fallières, acknowledged to be conciliatory (September 24).
On the 25th of September, the French gendarmes in the port of Casablanca, which was occupied by their troops, discovered an employee of the German consulate, aided by the native consular guard, embarking six deserters from the French foreign legion in a ship leaving for Hamburg. In spite of the protest of the consular employee, the gendarmes seized the deserters and the native guard. The German consul at once demanded the liberation of all, from the French consul; but he obtained the release of the consular guard alone. The six deserters remained in the hands of the French authorities. Only three of them were of German nationality, the others being Austrian, Russian, and Swiss.
The German consul gave a partisan and excessive statement of the affair to his home government. A bitter controversy sprang up in the press of the two countries. In the German “ officious ” press, and for some time in the diplomatic demands of the German government, there was an obvious renewal of the tactics which had succeeded three years before.
At that time — June, 1905 — Germany, under plain threats of war as an alternative, pushed France to the dismissal of her obnoxious Foreign Minister Delcassé and the acceptance of the International Conference which was finally held at Algeciras. Germany obtained both her demands; but it was not until her manœuvres had sunk deeply into the wounded national feelings of Frenchmen. Thus, after the anarchist bomb-throwing at the carriage containing Alphonso XIII and President Loubet, the German Emperor telegraphed to the King of Spain congratulations on his escape, but ignored the French President. The official French mission to the marriage of the Crown Prince was received with ceremonious coldness. The German Ambassador in Paris, under orders, refrained from the most customary relations with the Foreign Minister of the government to which he was accredited. For the sake of peace alone, President Loubet at last consented to the resignation of a French Minister of State ignominiously enforced by Germany. Even then, in an official conversation with Prime Minister Rouvier, the German Ambassador, Prince Radolin, notified the French government that in case the Conference were not accepted, “ You must know that we [Germany] are behind Morocco.” (Rouvier’s dispatch to French Ambassador Bihourd in Berlin, June 11, 1905.) The French Parliament yielded to the unexpected summons in a stampede of fear.
The Conference at Algeciras did not realize the expectations of Germany, owing to the default of Italy her ally, as the Germans say; or, as the French gratefully remember, partly owing to the disinterested exertions of the United States in their favor.
This fragment of secret history slowly filtered into publicity. By French people and government alike, it was taken as a first warning that, under penalty of the loss of national honor and perhaps of existence itself, they too must keep their powder dry.
Now, in 1908, the French government endeavored to forestall unpleasant diplomatic incidents by offering to refer the disputed question of Casablanca to the Peace Tribunal of the Hague for arbitration. Germany held back and demanded a previous expression of regret on the part of France for the offense against German consular jurisdiction (November 4). The French government showed a firmness which German diplomacy had not experienced on the part of France for more than twenty years. This was not all. In the press of all political colors, and in every expression of the popular mind, it became manifest that the French people stood united behind their government, ready if need be for the desperate risk of war.
It was uncertain whether the German demands were a genuine menace, or whether they were bluffing manœuvres of that practical diplomacy, like practical politics, which Germany has inaugurated in our day. Avoiding offensive military demonstrations along the frontier, France made ready her army supplies, and the essential first orders of mobilization. What was probably more effective under the circumstances — that which had already proved so before Algeciras — was the steady withdrawal from Germany by French banks of hundreds of millions of francs in gold loaned on German treasury notes. On the 24th of November Germany so far abated her demands that she signed with France a protocol leaving, not only the disputed questions, but the mutual expression of regrets as well, to be decided by the Court of Arbitration.
Germany was now free to concentrate her attention on Constantinople and the Balkans, where she has interests otherwise vital than in Morocco. Many reasons, the financial more than all others, demanded that Morocco should cease being a storm-centre. Negotiations with France proceeded rapidly; and, at Berlin on the 9th of February, 1909, an Agreement explicitly defining the rights of the two countries in Morocco was finally signed — “ with the aim of avoiding all cause of misunderstandings between them for the future.”
The Agreement does not go beyond the Act of Algeciras; but by it Germany irrevocably recognizes, as England (April 8, 1904) and Spain (October 7, 1904) had long since done, the legal status of France as an African power, — something which can scarcely be said of England’s occupation of Egypt, and still less of her claim to possession of the Soudan. M. Delcassé, whose policy when French Foreign Minister is supposed to have stirred Germany to action at the beginning, notes with reason that the Agreement practically admits everything which he had obtained in the Franco-English and Franco-Spanish Conventions of 1904 concerning Morocco; yet it was these which Emperor William went to Tangier to repudiate resoundingly.
In fact, Germany now admits that she has only “ economic interests ” in Morocco; that France has “ particular political interests connected with the consolidation of order and interior peace ” in Morocco, — and that she (Germany) is decided not to hamper these interests of France. In her turn, France professes her entire attachment to the maintenance of the integrity and independence of the “ Shereefian Empire,” and her resolution to safeguard therein economic equality, — and not to hamper German commercial and industrial interests in Morocco. Both parties declare that they will neither pursue nor encourage any policy likely to create in their favor, or in favor of any power whatsoever, any economic privilege, and that they will seek to associate French and German citizens in such business enterprises as these citizens may undertake in Morocco.
This last provision deserves particular notice on account of its financial possibilities. It was not included in the FraneoEnglish Convention, nor was the extension of economic equality to all nations.
For the duration of the Agreement Germany also abandons the idea, if she ever really had it, of obtaining a territorial foothold in Morocco, even to the extent of a coaling station. This relieves France of the dread that she might be obliged in the near future to keep up another FrancoGerman military frontier — in Africa. It is improbable that German policy counts that there is nothing to be done territorially in Morocco until the Agreement runs out. While three years is a short time, it is enough for France (and Spain) to make German attempts on Morocco more and more difficult.
Whatever the secret agreement may be between France and Spain, it is not recognized even implicitly by Germany. For the duration of the Franco-Spanish Convention of 1904, the century-old tradition of the Spaniards that Morocco begins at the Pyrenees, and that African Morocco falls within their natural sphere of expansion, has been suspended. Their older statesmen insist that a German-Spanish Agreement shall be entered into, to safeguard Spain’s interests in Morocco.
England gains nothing by the FrancoGerman Agreement, unless it be the strengthened position of France, with whom she has the entente cordiale. The relations of England with the Soudan, of both with Egypt, and of the three with Turkey, may yet be an occasion of much diplomacy, in which Germany is free to choose her own policy. France’s hands are bound only so far as she has agreed not “ to ask that a period should be put to British occupation of Egypt or in any other way to interfere with England’s action in that country.” (Article 1 of declaration attached to Franco-English Convention of 1904.)
The epilogue of the whole Moroccan difficulty, so far as Europe is concerned, was given by the arbitral judgment of the Tribunal of the Hague (May 22, 1909). In theoretical questions it decides frankly in favor of French rights at Casablanca. One point merits particular mention. Consular jurisdiction is not admitted over men of the consul’s own nationality when they form part of a foreign army actually occupying the consular district. This implicitly recognizes the legal existence — outside of French territory — of the picturesque French foreign legion. It is largely made up of Germans who have first deserted the severer and more monotonous military service of their own country.
During the year the French army, under General d’Amade, has continued occupying Casablanca, and the fertile Chaouïa (Shawia) region. It has forced peace, law and order, and open markets, on the inhabitants, to their great advantage. Agriculture has revived; and German trade itself has run up two million francs. Even so, the “ economic interests ” of Germany in Morocco are scant indeed compared with those of France and England; they are perhaps less than those of Spain — and yet they have long threatened the peace of Europe. The gradual withdrawal of the French troops, which has begun, will be watched with anxiety from many quarters, and not least by the native inhabitants who, after all, have most profited by the military reign of law and order.
Meanwhile the interior of Morocco has been chiefly occupied in the unmaking and making of sultans. Toward the German Emperor these fighting Moors have now a feeling much like that of the Transvaal Boers when the Kruger telegram failed to lead to eventualities. Mu lai Hafid, who is so far uppermost, while clinging to the old disorder, seems willing to listen to French envoys provided they bring the promise of French gold.
The real success of France is along the entire land-frontier of Morocco. For its whole length this is now also the frontier of French territory, — Algiers to the east, the Sahara with its line of French posts to the south, and so on to the Atlantic Ocean through the new French civil territory of “ Mauritanie.” Here foreign geography will still be incomplete for some time; but it is childish to dismiss these territorial stretches as so many acres of sand. The empire which France might have had in Canada was, in like manner, denounced by Voltaire as acres of snow.
France absolutely refused to allow any question concerning this land-frontier to be brought up at the Conference of Algeciras. It is no business of Europe; it concerns the two neighbors, France and Morocco, only.
General Lyautey has had its more than eight hundred miles well under control. Ujda to the north was occupied by French troops under Abdul Aziz. It has been subjected to sanitation and law; and even the wild tribes of the Rif appreciate the benefits of sure markets with Algiers. This whole slice of Morocco, two hundred miles southward from the Mediterranean, is working in the machinery of French law and order. Fez and the Sultan are far away, and offer no protection and no commodities of life. This already reaches much farther than that part of the Algerian frontier which alone was accurately determined by the original treaty (March 18, 1845) between France and Morocco.
Of late years France has successively occupied territory farther and farther to the south, pushing forward the railway, and throwing out a long line of military posts through the Sahara. People who amuse themselves marking obscure changes of conquest on the map, may safely stick their pins one full degree farther west all along this part of Algiers, beginning where Spain at Melilla blocks the way along the Mediterranean coast. Ae to the water-courses of Morocco, where it was once supposed to round out on the southeast and south against the Sahara, there they may safely withdraw the pins westward valley by valley.
This part of the country is most important for the desired penetration into the interior of Morocco through the Hinterland. It is richest in zaouias, or centres of those religious brotherhoods which give a certain unity to Musulmans in Northern Africa, all the way from Egypt, through Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and the Sahara, into the sacred land of Morocco, hitherto untrodden by the infidel. In this Sahara region French forts, openly garrisoned, have been established long since the latest maps were made. The chief efforts of General Lyautey’s forces have been concentrated on advancing these outposts.
What is now going on in the new Mauritania is a fair sample of French persistence in the conquest of desert Africa. Two expeditions, in 1900 and 1905, did little more than explore the territory, with disastrous consequences to their members. Then the presence, when least expected, of French battalions protecting caravans, and securing orderly markets, did its work. The Moorish tribes submitted. The Arabs and Berbers have since taken advantage of the troubles of Morocco to attack the French. Ma el Aïnin, the religious leader of the Blue Brethren who did so much to dethrone Abdul Aziz, swept down repeatedly on the French posts all through the spring of 1908, and again in May of this year. French officers have gone to their death in the midst of their faithful native soldiers; and the present military occupation of the Adrar is intended to break up the lair of the wandering tribes, who are as ready to pillage the French posts as they are to keep up the anarchy of Morocco. Sooner or later the master of the desert routes must control the trade possibilities of fertile and populous Africa from the Soudan to the heart of Morocco; and trade will advance with peace and order.
Mauritania is now that civil division of French Africa which reaches from the Senegal River northward to Morocco, wherever that may begin, along the Atlantic coast. It incloses, and shuts off on every side, the small Spanish territory of Rio de Oro, which only a dozen years ago Spaniards fondly hoped might be their entering wedge to what was then called Morocco on the maps. In 1907 the French Parliament fixed the budget of Mauritania at 1,208,000 francs; it spends money, therefore it exists.
This is the least favorable example of French enterprise in Africa. It is only necessary to name the different French colonies from the Mediterranean southward, each with its own civil and military administration, its budget and trade balance, to see the substantial nature of France’s colonial empire.
Algiers was the first field of experiment in this recent French system of colonization. The immigration of colonists from the mainland has been moderate, for France has no population to spare. It is not a system of assimilation of conquered with conquerors. It is rather the association of native populations (and of immigrant Italians, Spaniards, Levantines) with the French, in establishing civilized order while conserving religious and race traditions, — an association for the profitable working of the country. Whatever criticism Anglo-Saxons may bring against French methods, Algiers after many weary years has proved a success; and it is now being rapidly swept into the gold-bearing sphere of health and pleasure-seeking tourists.
It was Bismarck himself (according to ex-Foreign Minister Hanotaux) who cajoled Disraeli into turning over Tunis to the French; and he would have added Morocco cheerfully if only France could be kept occupied far from his new Germany. Madagascar had also fallen to France before England finally decided to sacrifice to her all Northwest Africa for the sake of a quiet occupation of Egypt.
Extending south, the new Algeria has taken in all the Touareg country as far east as Tripoli; and still farther south, Western French Africa reaches all the way from Mauritania, through what was the blank Sahara desert of our schoolboy maps, to the far inland end of French Congo, which in turn goes on to the Anglo-Egyptian Soudan. Here the defeat of Fashoda, except for its public humiliation of the French government of the time, has become a victory; for the tradeways are left open to France by treaties which were the final result of the Marchand expedition.
Going back to the Atlantic coast, we see that below Mauritania fertile French colonies of great possibilities occupy the greater part of the coast. Even when their coast-line is interrupted by old possessions of other nations, they run back into one common French Hinterland of Central Africa, with permanent military posts and telegraph lines and protected trade-routes. Senegal and French Guinea surround Portuguese Guinea, and then, with the Ivory coast, inclose English Sierra Leone and independent Liberia; and farther on, after the Gold Coast and Togo, French Dahomey again holds the Atlantic. After the long stretch of coast belonging to British Nigeria and German Kameroon and microscopic Spanish Guinea, French Congo stretches on from two degrees above the Equator to two degrees below. These are not mere color splashes on the map. From 1897 to 1907 the commerce of these Atlantic provinces from Senegal to French Congo rose from 100,000,000 to 213,000,000 francs. In the same years the commerce of Madagascar rose from 22,700,000 to 53,000,000 francs.
In general, such has everywhere been the business progress of the colonial dominion of France, taken together in Africa and Asia and in the islands of Eastern and Western seas. In 1877 the extent of territory was estimated at 577,000 square kilometres; in 1907 it was 10,293,000. In 1877 the approximate population was 5,468,000; in 1907 it was 40,700,000 — far exceeding that of France itself. The total commerce in 1877 amounted to 827,000,000 francs; in 1907 it was 2,096,000,000 francs. This is certainly substantial progress on the part of France; and in spite of inevitable abuses, those who know the easy association of the French with inferior races will easily believe that it corresponds to immense advancement in material well-being and order on the part of the natives.
The other history-making event of the year in France is “ the most considerable fact brought about since the French Revolution.” Such, at least, is the appreciation of it quoted in Parliament by the Conservative Charles Benoist, a teacher of political science of international repute, from the Radical Professor Aulard, who is the chosen historian of the Revolution.
It is “ the strike of state functionaries ” — civil-service employees of posts, telegraphs, and telephones. In obedience to their union, these employees of the state quit work, acting as ordinary workmen and their trade-unions do with regard to private employers. For a week in March, when the world was in daily expectation of war in the Balkans, the public life of France, both for government and people, was all but suspended ; and Frenchmen were individually in about the same condition as their ancestors were before Richelieu invented a state postal service for the use of private citizens.
The strike had nothing to do with politics, although it was openly against politicians and, in particular, against the Under-Secretary of State for the postal service. No one could suspect it of being inspired by Reaction or Clericalism or any form of opposition to the Republic. Naturally, all opposition journals of every stripe seized the opportunity to blame the government. In reality, every striker had grown up, and nearly all were born, under the Republic; never knew and had never been interested in any other form
of government; and had had to get a certificate of right republican spirit before entering the service of the Republic.
The strike was not deliberately revolutionary, nor was it at first stirred up by those who pose as leaders of the coming revolution. Naturally, Socialists, in Parliament and in the press, applauded; and the General Confederation of Labor, which represents the far more portentous new Syndicalism, stood ready to offer sympathy and a helping hand.
After a patched-up conciliation, in which government made promises that the postmen imagined were not kept, the strike broke out again in May, less effectually, but with more of a revolutionary character. It became evident that such strikes of government employees are only a side development of the general movement which threatens to transform the Parliamentary French Republic into a “ République Syndicate.” It shows the advance in practice of a social theory which would embarrass singularly all modern governments that are supposed to represent individual citizens exercising the right of suffrage, and not groups of citizens. It is a direct object lesson for the United States, where the trade-unions are not yet revolutionary.
The French Republic, after thirty years of existence, has been brought to this partial crisis by much the same activity of politicians in power as has been exercised in our own spoils system. In France this constitutes an aggression against a civil service in immemorial possession, including state school-teachers, workmen in state arsenals and factories, state railway workers, customs officials, policemen even, and others, to the number of nearly a million voters. It goes along with the exercise of political influence in army and navy, of which the last few years have disclosed so many scandals.
Their voting power has not seemed to these striking civil functionaries strong enough to redress wrongs from an administration controlling their appointment to places and retiring pensions. They have followed the example of the Syndicalists, who do not wait for Socialist politicians to win votes for reform — but strike now.
The gravity of this movement has been noted here in previous years as a natural resultant of forces existing in French society, and which no mere legislation can suppress. “ The French labor class is made up of abnormal cells of the body politic as it is now constituted, — that is, of cells for which the body makes no adequate provision, — and they are coalescing in a growth of their own ” (1905-06). “ Its summons to society as now constituted is already so clear and imperious that the Republic’s danger from the Church is in comparison but an electioneering song in the night ” (1907),2
Whether all this leads to some more revolutionary régime than the present Republic or not, the present agitation makes the issue clear. Which is to have the upper hand, — Syndicalism or Parliamentarism, — government by representatives of the real social units, or as heretofore by the representatives of individual voters ?
The strike would not have been possible if these civil-service appointees, state functionaries, had not first formed themselves into strongly organized unions, just as private-service employees have long been doing. In this they have been encouraged by successive republican governments, which can scarcely have foreseen such strikes as the inevitable consequence.
The spoils system in France mainly flourishes in the use of political influence in these civil-service appointments and promotions. It is due to the legislative body wielding absolute sovereign power, ruling government and people alike without hindrance or redress. Government can keep in office only by pleasing a majority of the deputies. A deputy can hope for reëlection only by pleasing a majority of the voters of his district. Everything is personal. There is no party ticket, no party organization, to keep voters loyal to a platform and a list of candidates. Each deputy is voted for by himself, and stands by himself. The result is that members of Parliament in France are so many little kings in their districts, and their legislative sessions are apt to be taken up with contenting the local desires of their particular electors. There is a certain foundation for the awkward question addressed by the Nationalist Pugliesi-Conti to his fellow-members of Parliament, after the second strike had failed: “ What does Parliamentary government represent other than ‘ Syndicats’ of politicians ? ”
The situation is further complicated in France by the fact that the strain is not divided between national and separate state governments. It falls, whole and entire, on Ministry and Parliament.
The legal right of these unions of state functionaries to strike is denied in theory; but it is now the fourth time that it has been put in practice, and each time with wider sweep. Carried out to its full consequences, the principle would involve government by citizens’ unions acting independently. This is the idea of Syndicalists, who would have even soldiers strike in case of war. The post, telegraph, and telephone employees did not look so far as this; but, if there had been a sudden outbreak in the Balkans during their strike, the French government would have known little about it, and army mobilization would have been impossible.
One of the lessons of these strikes has been, how well citizens can be served when they group together to serve themselves. In all the cities of France the Chambers of Commerce set up central post-offices of their own. A government official was given them to preside over the canceling of stamps — for, although government service might not be working, state revenues could not be neglected. The particular associations of commerce and industry — grocers, retailers, and the like — also formed branch postoffices of their own and charged themselves with collecting and distributing letters, working in with the Chambers of Commerce. Business men furnished their own employees to do the necessary clerical and messenger work. Even for a possible strike of railway workmen provision had been made. Dozens of automobiles, which gathered the sacks of letters from the Paris Chamber of Commerce, were ready to go farther than the railway stations, all the way if need had been to Dijon, Lyons, and elsewhere. French business men have thus shown that they can still ensure for a time the essentials of national life, even if government and railway services should break down completely. During the second strike in May the Paris Chamber of Commerce, for eight days, handled two hundred thousand letters daily.
During the first strike in March public sympathy was largely with the postmen, whose civil-service rules have been upset by the political influence of Members of Parliament. French men and women are accustomed to calculating closely. A man who begins in a government post at three hundred dollars a year, with the prospect of working up after twenty or thirty years to six hundred dollars and a retiring pension, naturally resents interference or delay in this promotion when it is without demerit of his own, but solely through the influence of politicians. A life pension of three hundred dollars a year when one is fifty years old is equivalent to ten thousand dollars capital invested at the current rate of interest. Why should not the civil-service men and women fight for these savings of their life’s labor against the spoils system ?
In the second strike the revolutionary element was uppermost; and this is perhaps the certain consequence of such movements. Government and Parliament have taken the lesson to heart sufficiently to engage in preparing laws, rules, and regulations, — “ a functionaries’ statute,” — which are to protect the essential interests of all state employees against politicians. As the French Republic has one of these civil servants to every forty inhabitants and to every eleven voters, it is evident that by themselves they can accelerate or retard the coming revolution.
All this has drawn attention at last to Syndicalism. It leaps into the arena as a power with which Parliament and government alike have to count. It is beaten to-day; it may be legally dissolved tomorrow; but the trick of citizens grouping together, organizing themselves spontaneously for the protection of their interests, has been found. And the idea of the general strike as a weapon to remedy all social evils has been glorified into a religion. “ It is a new Commune — it is the real danger,” says Georges Cochery, who for eight years was director of French posts in the beginnings of the Parliamentary Republic.
Syndicalism is incarnate in the General Confederation of Labor. This has grown up, not on any social theory, but naturally from trade-unions pushing themselves, and Parliament helping them on by laws to get their votes. It has taken it just twenty-five years from the law of 1884, which lifted such unions from the common rights of all associations to those of “ syndicats,” to reach its present influence.
This general confederation of unions, and of federations of unions and labor exchanges, first counted itself in 1904 at the Congress of Bourges. Even now, all told, it does not number a half-million members, not one in seven of the voters of the laboring classes, not one in forty of the men, women, and children in France who live on wages or salaries paid by the remainder of the population, who are property-holders.
Syndicalists have steadily refused to identify themselves with Socialism. They may be under the delusion that workmen, having hitherto been nothing in the country, should now be everything; and they are certainly as distrustful of the state in general as they are of Parliament in particular. Their General Confederation of Labor is a triumph of organization, spontaneous for the most part, because of the natural growth of things outside of any written constitution of the French state.
In France the right of association is not a right of man antecedent to political constitutions. It is something granted to citizens by their lawmakers, that is, by a majority of the members of Parliament. Just as Parliament has suppressed convents and religious communities and escheated their property to the state, so it has given a legal status to these workmen’s associations.
In each case Waldeck-Rousseau was a beginner and lived to see consequences which he had never foreseen. In 1884 he put through Parliament a fundamental law allowing labor unions to become “ syndicats,” that is, to exercise a legal collective action in defense of the individual interests of their members. In 1886 various municipalities began the foundation of Bourses du Travail (Labor Exchanges); and soon a law limited the occupation of their buildings to these privileged labor unions. Prime Minister Charles Dupuy closed the bourses; but the need of help from the Socialists to settle the Dreyfus affair led Radical governments to new and ever increasing concessions after they had been reopened. In the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet, M. Millerand, who ranked as the first Socialist minister of the Republic, obtained measures which recognized the unions and federations of unions of the employees of the state itself. Under the Rouvier government, school-teachers and postmen formed themselves into syndicats nominally, some of which were affiliated to the great Syndicalist federations. This year chronicles a further evolution.
In the unrest that existed before General Boulanger gave vent and relief to it, a French political weather-prophet, with experience of revolutions, said ominously, “ I hear the horse gallop; who the rider is, I do not yet see! ” The man on horseback did not come then, and there is still less likelihood of his coming now. It is not his gallop we hear; it is workmen walking afoot. They think they have found the enemy. It is Parliament.