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To me the situation which
this problem presents is, beyond comparison, the most serious and
the most far-reaching which the modern democracies have to face."
Dr. Butler concludes that this question "will wreck every
democratic government in the world unless it is faced sturdily and
bravely now, and settled on righteous lines." (My italics.)[272]

Our Ex-President, however, has ceased apparently to "wabble." In Mr.
Roosevelt's medium, the _Outlook_, an editorial on the strike of the
municipal street cleaners of New York City reads in part as follows:--

_Men who are employed by the public cannot strike. They can, and
sometimes they do, mutiny. When they should be treated not as
strikers but as mutineers._

This issue was presented by the refusal of the men to do what they
were ordered to do. _When soldiers do that in warfare they are
given short shrift._ Of course, in combating accumulating dirt and
its potent ally, disease, an army of street cleaners is not face to
face with any such acute public dangers as those confronting a
military force; and therefore insubordination among street cleaners
does not call for any such severity as that which is absolutely
necessary in war times; _but the principle in the one case is the
same as that in the other--those who disrupt the forces of public
defense range themselves on the side of the public enemy_. They are
not in any respect on the same basis as the employees of a private
employer. _They are wage earners only in the sense that soldiers
are wage earners._[273]

When Senator La Follette indorsed the right of railway mail clerks to
organize, President Taft said (May 14, 1911):--

"This presents a very serious question, and one which, if decided
in favor of the right of government employees to strike and use the
boycott, will be full of danger to the government and to the

"The government employees of France resorted to it and took the
government by the throat. The executive was entirely dependent upon
these employees for its continuance.

"When those in executive authority refused to acquiesce in the
demands, the government employees struck, and then with the
helplessness of the government and the destruction of all authority
and the choking of government activities it was seen that to allow
government employees the use of such an instrument was to recognize
revolution as a lawful means of securing an increase in
compensation for one class, and that a _privileged class_, at the
expense of all the public....

"The government employees are a privileged class whose work is
necessary to carry on the government and upon whose entry into the
government service it is entirely reasonable to impose conditions
that should not be and ought not to be imposed upon those who serve
private employers."

Here the Socialists join issue squarely with the almost universally
prevalent non-Socialist opinion. They do not consider government
employment a "privilege" nor any strike whatever as "mutiny," "treason,"
or "rebellion." Socialists believe that the only possible means of
maintaining democracy at all in this age when government employees are
beginning to increase in numbers more rapidly than those of private
industry, is that they should be allowed to maintain their right to
organize _and to strike_--no matter how great difficulties it may
involve. To decide the question as President Butler wishes, or as
President Taft implies it should be decided, Socialists believe, would
mean to turn every government into a military organization. The time is
not far distant when in all the leading nations a very large part and in
some cases a majority of the population will be in government
employment. If even the present limited rights of organization are done
away with, and the military laws of subordination are applied,
Socialists ask, shall we not have exactly that military and autocratic
bureaucracy, that "State Socialism" which Spencer so rightly feared? The
fact that these perfectly legal and necessary strikes may some day lead
to revolution is capitalism's misfortune, which society will not permit
it to cure by turning the clock back to absolutism. The question of the
organization of government employees, one of the most important to-day,
will, as President Butler says, be the crucial question of the near

It is in France that the question has come to the first test, not
because the French bureaucracy is more numerous than that of Prussia and
some other Continental countries, but because of the powerful democratic
and Socialist tendency that has grown up along with this bureaucracy and
is now directed against it. Especially interesting is the fact that
Briand, who not long ago advocated the Socialist general strike and
certainly realized its danger to present government as well as its
possibilities for Socialism, has, as Premier, evolved measures of
repression against organizations of State employees more stringent than
have been introduced in any country making the slightest pretension to
democratic or semi-democratic government.

The world first became aware of the importance of this issue at the time
of the organization and the strike of the French telegraphers and post
office employees in the early part of 1909, and again in the railway
strike in 1910. As early as 1906 the organized postal employees had been
definitely refused the right to strike, and it became manifest that if
they attempted to use this weapon to correct the very serious grievances
under which they suffered, it would be looked upon as "a kind of treason
against the State." At the end of 1908, however, after having discussed
the matter for many years, a congress of all the employees of the State
was held. More than twenty different associations participated and
decided unanimously to claim the full rights of other labor
organizations. Finally, when these organizations appealed to the
General Federation of Labor to help them, there came the strike of 1909.
Unfortunately for the postmen, the French railway and miners' unions
were at the moment still in relatively conservative hands, and the
majority of their members were as yet by no means anxious to aid in the
general strike movement. After a brilliant success in their first
effort, a second strike a few weeks later proved a total failure.

The government then began to make it clear that public employees were to
be allowed no right to strike, and Jaurès pointed out that it was trying
to carry this new repressive legislation by accompanying it by new
pension laws and other concessions to the State employees,--a repetition
of the old policy of more bread and less power, which is likely to play
a more and more important rôle every year as we enter into the State
capitalistic period.

The character of the organizations allowed for government employees,
under the new laws, would remind one of Prussia or Russia rather than
France. While certain forms of association are permitted, the right to
strike is precluded, and the various associations of government
employees are forbidden either to form any kind of federation or to
unite with other unions outside of government employments. "Councils of
discipline are created where the employees are represented," but "in the
case of a collected or concerted cessation of work all disciplinary
penalties may be inflicted without the intervention of the councils of
discipline; courts may order the dissolution of any union at the request
of the ministry," which means that at any moment a police war may be
instituted against these organizations, in the true Russian style.

The reply of the postmen's organization to this kind of legislation is,
that the administration of the post office is an industrial and
commercial administration; that it is a vast enterprise of general
utility; that the notion of loyalty or treason is entirely misplaced in
this field. They have declared that the new legislation is wrong
"because it perpetuates the bureaucratic tradition; because with a
contempt for all the necessities of modern life it discountenances
organization of labor; because it has constituted a repressive legal
condition for wage earners; and because it is an act of authority which
has nothing in common with free contract."

Here we see the public employees, supported by the Socialists,
insisting on industrial and commercial considerations, on the rights of
individuals and on free contract, as against the capitalists and
governing classes, who claim to defend these very principles from
supposed Socialist attacks, but abandon them the moment they threaten
capitalist profits and capitalist rule. This attitude of the French
Socialist shows the very heart of the Socialist situation. In fact, it
is only as private capitalism becomes State capitalism, or "State
Socialism," that Socialists will be able to show what their position
really is. It is only then that the coercive aspect of capitalism, which
is now partly latent and partly obscured by certain functions that it
has still to fill in the development of society, will become visible to
all eyes.

The French railroad strike of October, 1910, brought the question of
organizations of government employees still more into international
prominence. Until the recent British upheaval it was, perhaps, the
greatest and most menacing strike in modern history. It is true that its
apparent object was only a few just, and relatively insignificant
economic concessions--which were granted for the most part immediately
after the struggle. But behind these, as every one realized, lay the
question of the right of government employees to organize and to strike
and the determination of the French Socialists and labor unionists to
use the opportunity to take a step towards the "general strike."

Never has the issue between capitalism and Socialism been more sharply
defined than in Premier Briand's impulsively frank declaration after the
strike (though it was later retracted): "I say emphatically, if the laws
have not given the government the means of keeping the country master of
its railways and the national defense, it would not have hesitated to
take recourse to illegality."

This is almost the exact declaration of Ex-President Roosevelt in his
Decoration Day speech in 1911, when he said that really revolutionary
men dreaded and hated him because they knew that _he wouldn't let the
Constitution stand in the way of punishing them if they did wrong_.

Milder but no less positive expressions of an intention to use illegal
means to coerce labor, if it does not act as present authorities
dictate, were to be heard from responsible sources both in England and
America after the recent British railway strike.

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Keywords: earners, decided, bureaucracy, modern, treason, rights, serious, legislation, organize, necessary
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