Appeal of 1st May 1896

Fédération des Bourses du travail de France et des colonies

Hitherto voluntarily confined to the role of organisers of the proletariat, the Labour Exchanges [Bourses du travail] of France are entering the economic struggle, and on this date of 1st May, chosen in recent years by international socialism to express the will of the working class, come to explain what they think and the goal they pursue.

Convinced that institutions have a greater share than men in social ills, since these institutions, by preserving and accumulating the errors of generations, make living men the prisoners of the errors of their predecessors, the Labour Exchanges declare war on all that constitutes, supports, and strengthens the social organism. Confidant to the sufferings and claims of the proletariat, they know that the worker aspires, not to take the place of the bourgeoisie, to create a “workers” State, but to equalise conditions and to provide each [human] being the satisfaction that its needs require. Also, along with all socialists, they contemplate substituting for private property and its appalling cortege of miseries and iniquities, free life on free land!

To this end, and knowing that the virility of man is proportional to the sum of his well-being, they associate themselves with all possible demands – by improving, however little, the immediate condition of the proletariat – to free it from the demoralising worries about daily bread and increase, as a result, its contribution to the common work of emancipation.

They demand the reduction of the working day, the fixing of a minimum wage, respect for the right of resistance to employer exploitation, free concession of things indispensable to existence: bread, lodging, education, medicine; they will strive to shield their members from the anxieties of unemployment and the worries of old age by tearing from capital the iniquitous tithe it levies on labour.

But they know that none of this is capable of solving the social problem; that the proletariat would never emerge triumphant from struggles in which it would oppose to the formidable power of money only that endurance gained, alas!, by centuries of hardship and servitude. Therefore they implore workers who have hitherto been isolated to come to them, to add their numbers and energies to them. The day (and it is not far off) when the proletariat will constitute a gigantic association, conscious of its interests and the means of ensuring its triumph, on that day there will be no more capital, no more misery, no more classes, no more hatred. The social revolution will be accomplished.

For the Federation of Labour Exchanges:

Fernand Pelloutier