Boulangism and Laborers’ Service-Books

Boulangism and Laborers’ Service-Books.

[Ernest Lesigne, in Le Radical]

Boulangism being on the decline, and the old tricks being worn out, it has occurred to the discomfited Boulangists, as to Emperor William and the late Napoleon III, to work the Socialistic vein.

And no sooner thought than done. They have introduced a bill in which they prove their love for the working-man by conferring upon him a new service-book. This odious service-book, imposed by the monarchies for purposes of inquisition, was recently abolished by the republicans. The Boulangists ask in a bill that another service-book be created, another instrument of inquisition.

The pretext is a pension fund, like that established in Prussia by Bismarck. The workman shall receive a card or [3] a service-book. His employer shall withhold from his wages one cent a day, shall fasten a one-cent stamp upon the said service-book, and shall cancel the stamp in order that the workman may not sell it at the tobacco-shop. And after having thus taken a few mills from the workman every day by a forced loan, they will restore the sum to him in little slices when he shall have reached the age of sixty,—a thing, alas! that seldom happens, because the factory kills off most of the laborers between the ages of forty and fifty.

Therefore in the Boulangist system the workmen would not get their pension, but, on the other hand, the employers would be armed with the means of spying the whole existence of laborers.

When one should ask for work, straightway the employer would say:

Your service-book.

Here it is.

Ah, let me see. Twenty-two years ago you were at So-and-so’s. Why did you leave So-and-so? He showed you to the door. And you did not stay long with So-and-so, or So-and-so, or So-and-so; you do not remain long in a place; and then there are gaps in your service-book. I see fortnights, and periods of two and three months, and Mondays, where there is no stamp. You are a bad workman, a guzzler; go and look for work somewhere else.

And the poor fellow, who may have been a victim of insolvency, bankruptcy, or the shutting-down of a factory, or may have been sick, will drag himself vainly from shop to shop, offering his labor, and will be repulsed everywhere, thanks to the famous new service-book invented by the Boulangists.

At least the old service-book contented itself with saying: Entered my employ on such a date, left it on such a date, and often the employer forced the dates in order that the workman might not be discredited by the appearance of having had difficulty in finding work. With the Boulangist invention there would be no way of rendering even this service, but the number and succession of idle days would be there, accusing throughout his life the unfortunate workman, without leaving him any possibility of justification.

Fine Socialists, these Boulangists!

Ernest Lesigne