Union violence in the unfolding French tragedy, then and now

Writing in the London business newspaper, City A.M., Allister Heath provides an impassioned account of the tragedy that is Franceʼs rapid trajectory, under President Francois Hollande, towards the extended application of socialistic ideas.

Public acceptability of econocide within France has long been fomented, in no small part, by the fuelling of rhetorical animosity toward entrepreneurs and producers. A lack of basic dignity ascribed to these wealth creators, who strive to cooperate with customers in delivering better economic value embodied in goods and services, has manifested itself lately in some dangerous, and indeed horrifying, practices:

boss-napping is making a comeback: two executives were yesterday taken hostage by members of a communist trade union at a Goodyear tyre plant in the north of the country. The quotes from the union extremists involved are utterly shocking. In a country bound by the rule of law and which respected property rights and classical liberal values, such a kidnapping would immediately trigger a major police response, with those detained freed and everybody responsible for their imprisonment arrested, tried and jailed. Not in France.

Sadly, this is not the first time that unionists have subverted the rule of law, through seeking to have their demands, often for uncompetitive wages and other employment conditions, implemented through threatening and, often violent, means.

In his book The Tyranny of Socialism, published in 1894, the French economist Yves Guyot describes the sheer horror and mayhem accompanying strikes and protests by French unions during the nineteenth century. One of the more shocking episodes of union violence was the Decazeville coal mine strike of 1886:

When the strike broke out, on January 26, 1886, [unionist M. Bedel], at the head of a band of strikers, forced his way into [company engineer] M. Watrin’s office, and summoned him to go to the town‑hall. He went, escorted by a crowd of four hundred people, who threw mud at him, and shouted: “Death to Watrin! to the pond!” After sundry parleyings, in which the miner’s delegate assured M. Watrin that he had nothing to fear, he, accompanied by the engineers of the mine and the engineer of the Departmental mines, M. Laur, started to go to the Bourran mine. There they found a crowd awaiting them, which grew more and more menacing; two of the engineers were struck by stones. M. Watrin and those accompanying him took refuge in the railed‑in centre of the Plateau de bois; the barrier gave way under the pressure of the crowd. M. Watrin and the engineers reached an old building at one time forming part of the company’s offices. They ascended to the first floor. A crowd of eight hundred people beseiged the house. Some men succeeded in reaching the first floor by climbing up a street lamp; others, supplied with bars and great egg‑shaped pieces of oak, mounted by means of a ladder, whilst they answered by shouts of death, to the death shouts of the crowd. [Unionist] Caussanel shouted: “He must die!” At the same moment the street door was forced in. M. Watrin opened the door of the room wherein he had taken refuge. With one blow from a bar, a blacksmith laid open his forehead. … Some brave men at last rescued him from these savages, and removed him to the hospital, where he expired at midnight, in the midst of such terror that no witnesses could be found to denounce the authors of the crime.

From organising public pickets disrupting production processes and, often, the ability of the general public to go about their business, through to the terror of extortions, kidnappings and homicides, labour union activities, more often than not, deliberately strike at the heart of respecting private property, private production, free markets and maintaining the peace to the benefit of all.

Unconscionable union actions have also been extended, historically, in the form of efforts, particularly in the Anglosphere, to set up puppet political parties, infiltrating and distorting the major political institutions of representative parliamentary democracy in the process. Australia is now paying a terrible economic price for the success with which unions have subverted democracy.

Until the leadership and membership of labour unions, here and abroad, genuinely dedicate themselves to avoiding criminal behaviours, in their unceasing efforts to ultimately price themselves, and non‑unionists, out of work, then such conduct should be condemned, and stamped out by courageous law enforcers, wherever it may be found. Even in a France seemingly hell‑bent on its own economic destruction.

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30 Responses to Union violence in the unfolding French tragedy, then and now

  1. Perhaps the best outcome we can hope for is that France proves once and for all that socialist policies lead to poverty. It’s certainly going to get poorer.

  2. Julie Novak

    Hi David – there are many natural experiments going on, confirming the point you would make. France, Venezuela, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and going back to recent decades, East vs West Germany, etc.

  3. rickw

    There would seem to be little difference between many Unions and Organised Crime.

    Why isn’t a significantly more aggressive approach taken against the criminal aspections of Union activity? Threats of violence / sabotage and mis-appropriation of members funds?

    Simple enough.

  4. Jannie

    And yet the French still have a higher GDP per capita than the Brits. Whatever, their choice of economic system is a bit like choosing deckchairs on the Titanic. The Europeans are committing ethnic and cultural suicide. The Arabs who inherit the debt ridden ruins will make the decisions in 50 years time.

  5. Viva

    And yet most of those commenting on Heath’s article disagree. There is no persuading some people. Socialism seems hardwired into them.

  6. lotocoti

    Hasn’t it always been the argument when those natural experiments eventually end up in the hands of some Colonel with the most guns that it all would’ve worked in a more sophisticated and advanced society?

  7. brc

    The French have major form. I’m reading the madness of crowds and it details how people could dob in producers who were suspected of not paying their taxes, and receive a portion of the claimed taxes. One farmer was sentenced to death, and soon the jails were overflowing as the unproductivve rushed to accuse those with property. After all that mayhem, the actual tax receipts rose very little as most of the loot disappeared into corruption.

    There is something on the French national psyche which is attracted to the idea of violent revolution and the spreading of the proceeds. Or maybe it is just the base human instinct of something for nothing finding easier pathways to the surface. Either way, as noted, France is certainly headed into ome strong headwinds,

  8. Nuke Gray

    I’m guessing that the countryside of France is very rich in terms of food- therefore people don’t need to struggle too much to be productive- therefore people are mentally lazier than in other countries where people need to work harder to earn a living. It’s often said of people that having a rich inheritance becomes a curse, so why not of countries?

  9. Robert Blair

    Cultural determinism.

    It explains it all.

    Try this simple two-step thought experiment:

    Step 1
    Completely depopulate New Zealand.
    Magically transfer the entire Jewish population of Israel thence.
    Come back in 50 years – what do you find?

    Step 2
    Completely depopulate New Zealand.
    Magically transfer the entire non-Jewish population of Gaza and the West Bank thence.
    Come back in 50 years – what do you find?

    Notes:
    You can repeat with many other cultural contrasts, perhaps Mexico/Japan, Sweden/Pakistan, China/India etc. Of course France/Germany would be very interesting.

    Braver souls might like to try Boers/Bantus etc.

    If you performed this experiment with Britain/Australia then in both cases you will probably wind up with New Zealand.

  10. Alfonso

    Clearly a winning argument for 30 shot mags and semi autos.

  11. Ant

    I’ve always said that if union slobs really thought any boss had it so good, they would start up their own enterprise and encourage their members to do the same and rake in all the goodies they accuse others of having.

    But they won’t because they’re too fat, lazy and stupid.

  12. MACK1

    The unions set up Bourke’s department store and ACTU Solo selling petrol in the 1970′s. Both were failures. As seen more recently with Ms Gillard and friends here and many others around the world, unionists have no management skills at all. If you let them run countries, everyone will be worse off – especially the workers.

  13. Token

    Perhaps the best outcome we can hope for is that France proves once and for all that socialist policies lead to poverty. It’s certainly going to get poorer.

    As the French too often seem to direct the socialist redistribution of the EU, you can bet the taxpayers of the few fiscally responsible countries in the union will be the ones getting poorer.

  14. jupes

    There would seem to be little difference between many Unions and Organised Crime.

    The big difference in Australia is that the unions have Labor patronage and thus government patronage for years at a time.

    Abbott’s Royal Commission could put an end to this and destroy both Labor and the unions if he sets the right terms of reference and appoints the right commissioner.

  15. jupes

    If you let them run countries, everyone will be worse off – especially the workers.

    The workers definately, but not everyone. Union officials will be better off. Credit card anyone?

  16. Token

    Recent disputes like the Baida & Groco disputes in Melbourne prove that Australian police forces do not see enforcement of the law is required when an industrial action is occuring.

    Any wonder the unions run amok.

  17. jupes

    But they won’t because they’re too fat, lazy and stupid.

    Yeah nah. They’re making plenty of money out of superannuation and wind farms.

  18. Token

    Abbott’s Royal Commission could put an end to this and destroy both Labor and the unions if he sets the right terms of reference and appoints the right commissioner.

    After listening to the interview yesterday with Bob Kernohan it would seem it is important that the royal commission review the investigations into the assault by thugs on him in the early 2000s.

    Christine Nixon will certainly ensure she did not get her hands dirty. The question is whether the union employee only document storage facility will have lost that box as well.

  19. blogstrop

    The ACTU protest which all-too-readily morphed into an attack on Parliament House, 1996, could happen again. If it does, both the union movement and the media who act as their constant accomplices will probably be in the thick of it, but there could be additional madness contributed by various fringe groups, such as environmentalists and boatie-boosters.
    Video on You Tube.

  20. Empire Strikes Back

    in their unceasing efforts to ultimately price themselves, and non‑unionists, out of work

    Therein lies the problem. Their legally sanctioned thuggery and rent seeking impacts my economic liberty. Pernicious fellators, one and all.

    There would seem to be little difference between many Unions and Organised Crime.

    Make no mistake Rick, trade unionism is organised crime. Many of the key players in Melbourne’s gangland era were the descendants of the nastier goons of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union.

    See also Michael Williamson, former ALP National President, fraudster and convicted criminal. Williamson discharged his fiduciary duty to the members of the union he led (largely people performing shite jobs for meagre rations) by stealing from them. Way to go Michael. Up the workers (arse)!

    Let us not forget the rousing words of the leftard anthem L’Internationale. Raise your left hand, clench your fist and sing with me:

    C’est la lutte finale
    Groupons-nous, et demain
    L’Internationale
    Sera le genre humain
    (This is the final struggle
    Let us group together, and tomorrow
    The Internationale
    Will be the human race)

    Leftism is a mental illness.

  21. Anthony

    In the speech by Maurice Newman linked to in the post Newman says it will take ten years to repair the damage done by the last two Labor governments. Given the results at the last general election, I very much doubt the electorate will give the LNP coalition that amount of time. I fear that Australian democracy has reached its “de Tocqueville moment”, when the majority of electors have limited the possibilities for political thought and action within the boundaries of their mediocre understanding which in turn is governed by their material interests. One only has to consider the performance of the Abbott government so far to see how much they are influenced in the negative by the reigning majoritarian paradigm and thus reluctant to introduce the economic and political reforms the country needs.

  22. Rohan

    I’ve always said that if union slobs really thought any boss had it so good, they would start up their own enterprise and encourage their members to do the same and rake in all the goodies they accuse others of having.

    But they won’t because they’re too fat, lazy and stupid.

    Ant, I actually challenged a friend of a friend who’s currently working at Holden (and was slagging Abbott over the whole affair) to that same point. There are what, 1700-1800 odd workers, who will all receive a minimum of $300k. If they pooled it all that’s well over $500M large, so they should get the union to purchase the plant and go into business for themselves with the Union running it. That shut him up quick smart.

  23. stackja

    Pierre Laval

    The Maginot Line worked! But was outflanked.

    Philippe Pétain saved Verdun and then the entire government subsequently moved briefly to Clermont-Ferrand, then to the spa town of Vichy in central France. His government voted to transform the discredited French Third Republic into the French State, an authoritarian regime.

  24. Anthony

    Here’s a thought on countering our present “de Tocqueville moment” (see my previous comment) – if we limited the terms of all elected representatives to two terms, would it make them more likely to disregard the electoral consequences of unpopular decisions and instead develop sound policies in the long term interests of the nation? Or would it lower the calibre of representative? I think it would rather attract those interested in politics for what can be done for the nation rather than for themselves. It would certainly put an end to the careerist politicians on both sides of the house who contribute so much to make our present democracy positively dangerous in its captivity to the spirit of social-democratic mediocrity which covers the land like a funeral pall.

  25. Sadly, this is not the first time that unionists have subverted the rule of law, through seeking to have their demands, often for uncompetitive wages and other employment conditions, implemented through threatening and, often violent, means.

    Looks like the Frogs have taken a leaf out of the Noddy Newman playbook.
    Detaining people and holding them in solitary for months is part of the deal.
    Tell me, were the bosses held in solitary?

  26. Pedro

    The maginot line didn’t work. It was a defence, what is was defending was conquered. Not what I’d call a success.

    “Looks like the Frogs have taken a leaf out of the Noddy Newman playbook”
    Or perhaps him out of theirs, but I rather think Comandant Newman was looking further east for inspiration, the fuck wit.

  27. Dan

    we limited the terms of all elected representatives to two terms,

    Senators only.

  28. Sirocco

    we limited the terms of all elected representatives to two terms,

    Senators only.

    Why Dan? If you cant make a difference in five years, what difference will/can you make in fifteen yeats?

  29. Bons

    And yet the French still have a higher GDP per capita than the Brits.
    Topsoil that goes to China, benign climate, great infrastructure. Brilliant engineers that make money for France overseas, a Government that does not consider that supporting French business overseas is in some way unacceptable, brilliant marketing bettered only by Brand Kiwi, no concern regarding the ethics of corruption.
    When I worked in France under Mitterand and the 35 hour week, if we wanted to continue working we had to move off-site and ensure that no union goons were spying on us and reporting us to the union Gestapo. The company paid-off the unions and got on with the business of exporting, supported by the whole of the French political elite establishment.
    There ain’t no Greenpeace in France.

  30. The maginot line didn’t work. It was a defence, what is was defending was conquered. Not what I’d call a success.

    Actually it did what it was supposed to do – channel the German attack which France would meet in France. The French Army advancing into Belgium is what caused the defeat.

    That and a little mistake about the assumed mobility of the German Army.

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