Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Future of the Proletariat
How is it that an elegant Haussmanian apartment building like this one on avenue de Suffren, bordering the upscale 7th and 15th arrondissements, belongs to an organization called the Future of the Proletariat? With a little digging, I found out that the organization was created at the end of the 19th century by one Ferdinand Drink, a man concerned about the plight of old and sick factory workers. His solution: create a pension fund to which workers would contribute annually for a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 50 years. Invest their contributions in the booming Paris real estate market and create financial security for 150,000 working Parisians.
Fast forward to the mid 1970s when the French tax authorities discovered that the fund was neither a proper pension fund nor a proper real estate investment company according to the rules of the day. Choices were made, feelings were hurt, and the original mission was abandoned. Today, the company still exists in its mutated form. The real legacy: some 40 buildings bearing its name and testimony to its noble original mission.