Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
The Right to be Lazy
By Paul Lafargue
(A well-known Socialist writer of France. He and his wife, finding themselves helpless from old age and penury, committed suicide together)
DOES any one believe that, because the toilers of the time of the mediæval guilds worked five days out of seven in a week, they lived upon air and water only, as the deluding political economists tell us? Go to! They had leisure to taste of earthly pleasure, to cherish love, to make and to keep open house in honor of the great God, Leisure. In those days, that morose, hypocritically Protestant England was called Merrie England. Rabelais, Quevedo, Cervantes, the unknown authors of the spicy novels of those days, make our mouths water with their descriptions of those enormous feasts, at which the peoples of that time regaled themselves, and towards which nothing was spared. Jordaens and the Dutch school of painters have portrayed them for us, in their pictures of jovial life. Noble, giant stomachs, what has become of you? Exalted spirits, ye who comprehended the whole of human thought, whither are ye gone? We are thoroughly degenerated and dwarfed. Tubercular cows, potatoes, wine made with fuchsine, beer from saffron, and Prussian whiskey in wise conjunction with compulsory labor have weakened our bodies and dulled our intellects. And at the same time that mankind ties up its stomach, and the productivity of the machine goes on increasing day by day, the political economists wish to preach to us Malthusian doctrine, the religion of abstinence and the dogma of work!