Jules Guesde 1891

May Day and the Public Authorities

Source: Le Socialiste, April 22,1891;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2006.

When the faithful of Our Lady of Anarchy oppose our “going to the public authorities” so that we can shake them like a plum tree in order to make fall the number of hours of forced labor by workers, they are doing nothing but fulfill their role as abstentionists.

It’s not those who refuse having elected representative of the working class in the Chambers that can want to send delegates of that class to the Chambers. The orders are to not trouble the bourgeoisie in its exercise of governmental monopoly; and when they their preaching to the cops on foot and horseback against whom Constans blocked the road to the Palais Bourbon, the compagnons remain in accord with themselves, with their past, and what they call their principles.

Not wanting either the eight hour day – which they consider foolishness – or even less the intervention of the law – which they judge an attack on freedom...for the bosses – what could they possibly have to do with a campaign whose object they have doubly condemned.?

What isn’t acceptable, on the other hand, is that there are socialists who join in the chorus with them, and who want the May Day demonstration to pass by the government authorities without stopping before them; that the demonstration be carried out far from them instead of on them and against them.

Socialism is social intervention in favor of labor, pushed to point of the socialization of the means of production when, conquered by the workers, the state permits them to expropriate the capitalist class. This being the case how, without leaving socialism behind, without turning your back on socialist action, can one refuse to weigh upon on the state in order to tear from it the greatest possible number of reforms while waiting for the moment to take over the state for the definitive transformation?

What is more, what is the immediate demand that in a few days is going to set on the march, for the second time, the proletarians of all countries united with the same determination? Is it not a legislation protective of labor, at one and the same time national and international, based on the limiting of the working day to eight hours? And when it’s a question of law, of the legal day, should the demonstrators address themselves to everyone: to the public at meetings through speeches, to passers-by through posters, even to the dead by way of wreaths, but not to those with legislative power? Not only is this not socialist, it isn’t even serious.

It is true that it is objected that this march on the Chamber already took place last year and that it had no results.

This is wrong. It isn’t true that we came back empty-handed from the expedition of 1890, which on several points forced the hand of the most obstinate parliamentarians. It is thanks to it, thanks to the shake-up it caused to their brains – and their guts – that we obtained the law on miners’ delegations which, however insufficient it is, will none the less powerfully aid in the organization of the black army. It’s thanks to it that – despite the contrary votes of 1888 – the protection of the law, until then limited to minor children and girls, was extended to women, which is a first step towards the regulation of the labor of adults called for by the International Congress of Paris.

And since when do we have the pretension to, with the first blow, with the first call, make a place as strong as bourgeois parliament capitulate? It is only by returning to the charge, by beating down with masses of workers – ever more numerous and impatient – the walls of the old Madier, that we will finish by opening the breach necessary first for the passage of the eight hours, and then for the revolution.

They have also said that addressing the government authorities is an act of faith in those currently in power, when they haven’t presented that eminently and exclusively revolutionary tactic as the last word in parliamentarianism. It’s enough to make you ask, not who is being deceived, but who they can hope to deceive with such arrant foolishness. Those who do more than “believe in the public authority” of the bourgeoisie, those who would make the French proletariat believe in this if they hadn’t vomited already up their theory as pieces of trickery, are those who, not content with laying supine on the rue Cadet, have taken it into their heads to posit the emancipation of labor as the multiplication of public services under the capitalist regime. Putting the workers – with their demands and their mass – on the road to these authorities means treating the latter as they deserve, as enemies, and pushing for their explosion, caused either through external pressure so organized that they surrender and are taken apart stone by stone, or caused by their prolonged resistance, which will build up popular anger, the explosion of which will sooner or later blow them away.