France 1896

Manifesto of the Federation of Labor Exchanges

Source: Jean Maitron, Le Mouvement Anarchiste en France, Vol. Paris, Maspero, 1975;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2009.

Up until today willingly confined to the role of organizers of the proletariat, the Labor Exchanges of France have now entered the economic struggle, and on this May 1, chosen a few years ago by international socialism to express the wishes of the working class, they have come to reveal their ideas and the goals they are pursuing.

Convinced that institutions have a larger part than individuals in social ills, since these institutions, in preserving and accumulating the errors of generations, make living men the prisoners of the errors of their predecessors, the Labor Exchanges declare war on all that constitutes, supports, and strengthens the social organism. Taking confidence from the sufferings and lamentations of the proletariat, they know that the worker aspires, not to taking the place of the bourgeoisie, to creating a “workers” state, but to the equalizing of conditions and to giving each being the satisfaction his needs demand. And so, along with all socialists, they aim to substitute for private property and its horrible train of poverty and iniquity, free life on a free earth.

With this goal in mind, and knowing that man’s virility is proportional to the sum of his well-being, they associate themselves with all demands likely – by ameliorating however little the immediate condition of the proletariat – to liberate him from the demoralizing concern for daily bread and consequently increasing his contribution to the common labor of emancipation.

They demand the reduction of the work day, the fixing of a minimum wage, the respect for the right to resistance to employer exploitation, the free concession of all things indispensable to existence: bread, lodging, schooling, medical care; they strive to free their members from the anguish of unemployment and the worries of old age by wresting from capital the iniquitous tithe it takes from labor.

But they know that none of this can resolve the social problem; that the proletariat will never emerge triumphant from those struggles in which it will only oppose to money’s formidable strength the endurance sadly acquired through centuries of privation and servitude. And so it calls on all workers who have until now remained isolated to come to them, to contribute their numbers and their energy. The day – and it is not far off – when the proletariat will have constituted a gigantic association conscious of its interests and of the means of assuring victory, this day there will no longer be capital, no longer be poverty, no more classes, no more hatred. The social revolution will be accomplished!

For the Federation of Labor Exchanges
The Secretary
Fernand Pelloutier