Minutes of London Conference of the First International,
September 25-29 1865
The minutes, written on seven pages, are in Cremer’s hand.
Present from the Standing Committee: Citizens Jung, Marx, Dell, Weston, Howell, Bobczynski, Vice-President Eccarius and the Honorary General Secretary. [Cremer] From Paris: Citizens Tolain, Fribourg, Limousin, Schily, Varlin, Clarion and Dumesnil-Marigny; Switzerland: Citizens Dupleix and Becker; Belgium: César De Paepe.
The meeting having waited till a quarter past 3 for the arrival of the President [Odger] and he being still absent, Citizen Jung was voted to the chair. He began by stating that the first business was the financial position of the Association.
The General Secretary stated that the accounts of the Association had been audited up to March last and at that time the accounts stood as follows:
Income Expenditure Balance
A gap in the manuscript.
Judging from the Minute Book, the General Council’s assets on March 28 stood at £6 3s. 8 ½d.
Since that period there had been no audit but there would be another at the end of this month and then the balance-sheet would be sent to the different branches. Probably up to the present time the income of the Association was about £32 or £33.
Citizen Fribourg gave account of financial position in Paris. The Administration had disposed of a large number of cards but as they had been compelled to keep up a central office and had been put to great expense by the travelling of the delegates, etc., there was little or no balance to hand over to the Central Council. Still the prospects were hopeful as the chief expenses had been defrayed and the future contributions would be chiefly clear income to be handed over to the Central Council. They still had about 400 cards of membership undisposed of. A great drawback to their progress had been the postponement of the Congress, also that many of the workmen were doubtful if anything could be done under the present regime. They were constantly met with the statement: show us you can act and we will join you. Citizen Fribourg wished the English particularly to understand their difficulties: they could only meet in small numbers of not more than 20; if more met, they were liable to be arrested. A short time ago they had a meeting of 60 and they had the greatest difficulty to keep them together from 8 till 10 o'clock: they kept looking at the door expecting to see the police enter to arrest them. He mentioned this to show the difficulties they had to contend with. The books and accounts of the Paris Administration they had brought with them and they invited the Treasurer to inspect them.
Citizen Tolain stated they had enrolled members in Rouen, Nantes, Elbeuf, Caen, Lisieux, St. Denis, Pantin and Puteaux, but in all those places their progress had been hindered by the postponement of the Congress.
Citizen Schily said they had a great advantage in Switzerland where they met and contributed monthly, while in France they had to get together as best they could and collect the funds in the same manner.
Citizens Cremer and Marx proposed:
That Citizens Dell, Jung and Dupont go over the Paris accounts and report to the next meeting of the Standing Committee. Carried unanimously.
Citizen Dupleix reports of doings in Switzerland. They had been formed but 6 months, but had been successful. The contributions at present were 5d. per month, but the members were willing to pay if necessary 1s. per month. They would have had a good surplus to pay over to the Central Council but for the expenses of the delegates travelling. They had enrolled in Geneva 250 men, in Lausanne 150, Vevey 150. The men were quite impressed with the necessity for contributing to the Central Council and were even willing to dissolve their own organisations and to belong alone to the International Working Men’s Association.
Citizen Schily called attention to the necessity for facilities being provided whereby the workmen of different countries in removing their domicile would receive assistance and also that the secretaries in different places should be able to assist workmen, members of the Association, to obtain employment.
Citizen De Paepe gave report of doings in Belgium. They had been constituted but 1 month, but had already 60 members who had agreed to pay not less than 3 francs or 2s. 8d. per year and out of that they will contribute Is. per year to the Central Council. They had but 24s. subscribed when the question came before them of electing a delegate, but even with their small organisation and limited means they had elected him to come to the Conference.
Citizen Fribourg objected to the Belgium proposition as to a fixed contribution of 1s. per member to the Central Council. He thought some years there might be large contribution, in fact a plethora, and in other years there would be a dearth; that when the funds were large they would be used locally.
Citizen Marx replied that the Congress would decide year by year as to the disposal of funds.
Citizen Tolain said that in Switzerland and Belgium they could meet openly, discuss any question and openly enroll members, but in France they could only meet by stealth an d had no means of openly propagating the principles of the Association and therefore could not reach or inspire with confidence those to whom they were personally unknown.
This concluded the report of the financial position.
The question of ways and means was then discussed.
Citizen Becker, representing the German section in Switzerland, proposed, Citizen Schily seconded, that a medal should be struck commemorative of the meeting of the Conference. Such medals could be struck off for about 1d. and could be sold for say 6d., which would leave a good margin of profit for the Association and help to pay its expenses and be a means of propagandism.
Fribourg thought it better that an approximate estimate should be formed as to the probable expenses of the Central Council up to the period of the Congress, also the expenses of the Congress, and that an attempt should be made to raise the money through the members.
Cremer agreed with Fribourg and thought if they stated what the amount was likely to be and then issue collecting cards for subscriptions of 1d. then by that means they might raise the amount. He did not think the assembling of the Conference was of sufficient importance to impress the masses with a wish to commemorate it. He thought the question of striking off a medal should be left till the Congress, when the Association would be more known and when it should have done something worth commemorating. He thought the medal a premature question, and as it was by collecting pence that the religious bodies raised the greater part of the money for propagandism, he thought that in this instance we might with benefit borrow their plan of action. There were hundreds who would give one penny but would not give a shilling. He had no doubt as to their being able to raise the necessary amount if they went earnestly to work.
Limousin supported Fribourg’s view.
The proposition for a medal was also supported by Dell and Weston who said that it had been done with success in Robert Owen’s movement.
Bobczynski supported the issue of a medal but would have different qualities and prices: to those who should subscribe liberally to the Association and become life-members, he would charge 2s. 6d. so that they might wear it on public occasions.
Eccarius opposed the issue of a medal and said as we were about to engage in a battle we had better wait and see if we had a victory to commemorate.
Marx was against fixing any amount as proposed by Fribourg.
Howell opposed the medal; he thought it would be unsuccessful.
Finally the following resolution was agreed to on the propositions of Citizens Marx and Dupont:
That the propositions of the Belgian delegate to send 1s. per member per annum, the Swiss — a fixed amount, the French — the main proceeds of the sale of cards (including the 400 they have in hand) to the Central Council, be accepted and that the further consideration of the financial position be adjourned till after the soirée. Carried unanimously.
The meeting then adjourned till to-morrow at 2 o'clock.
The minutes, written on five pages, are in Le Lubez’s hand.
The Sub-Committee having sat with the delegates till half past 5, the members were not present in large numbers until near 8 o'clock, when the proceedings commenced under the presidency of Citizen Odger, Citizen Jung being elected vice-chairman to interpret and translate.
Citizen Odger rose and addressed the meeting. He said there [were] present representatives of France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Spain. He said that the English workmen were seeking for the franchise and it was difficult to make them think of anything else — thence the slowness with which the Association has progressed in England. When we have shown to the English people that we are doing some work, they will have confidence in us and join the Association, but they have been so often deceived that they are slow in giving their confidence. He then declared the Conference duly open.
A proposition was put and carried unanimously that the meetings of the Conference take place at 8 o'clock.
Citizen Cremer addressed the meeting on the position of the trade societies in England. People on the Continent may think them very rich and able to contribute to a cause which is their own, but they are tied down by petty rules which confine them to very narrow limits. They are difficult to move and, but for a few men that are among them, they are not worth anything for what they may do for their own emancipation or that of their fellow-men. They know nothing of politics and they are difficult to be made to understand that there is such a science. However, there was a beginning of progress. A few years ago, delegates from our Association would not have been allowed a hearing; now we are well received, listened to and our principles unanimously approved of. That is the first time that an association having anything to do with politics was accepted by the trade unions.
Citizen Fribourg, French delegate, said that the Association had been well received in France; 1,200 cards of membership had been taken in Paris, though they could not meet, but they act individually and they hope the Association will acquire a great extension.
Citizen Dupont read the following letter from Lyons. Also a letter from Citizen Talbot, of Caen, who approves of the intervention in favour of Poland but especially insists on curtailing the power of Russia. He shudders at the idea that by rail it only requires 47 hours to come from St. Petersburg to Strasburg.
Citizen Tolain, from Paris, spoke of the state of societies in Paris. He said that whereas in ‘48 the political events urged the people on to move and to act, now, events are against action, but action takes place notwithstanding and even against the force of events. The social questions are being studied and elaborated. People, he said, undergo two phases: the political and the social. They are perfecting the latter.
Citizen Dupleix, from the French part of Switzerland. He said the branch began with 60 members; it now numbers 400. They feel that the time has come when workmen must work their own emancipation by their own exertions. At Geneva, they have made an appeal to the benefit societies. Three societies have already joined. He related that at Montreux an act of reparation had been done by the influence of the Association.
Herr Becker, the representative from the German part of Switzerland, said that in Geneva alone 1,500 had already joined. Benefit societies started last summer and were organising themselves into an union of societies, but hearing of the International Association, they took that as their connecting link.
His speech was full of warmth and eloquence and much applauded by those who understood the German language.
Citizen César De Paepe, delegate from Belgium, related a history of the various associations. Two years ago, an international association was formed, but it had too much of the middle class element in it. It broke up. Now, there are three kinds of parties in Belgium: the Revolutionists who simply want to upset the existing state of things; the Socialists who make a study of the miseries of the people, their causes and the means of bringing a remedy to them; then, some other societies, very like the trade unions in England who limit their aspirations to being ready to strike for a few half-pence.
Then there are a large number of societies of freethinkers whose sole mission seems to be to oppose the clergy. He, the worthy delegate, said that he looked on co-operation as only a partial remedy. Then, there was the Credit-Mutual. But he looked upon landed property as the question to be taken in hand. As it stood, pauperism must go on increasing according to a law now known “that pauperism increased in the same ratio as wealth"! Land, like air, belonged to all. Its fruits must, belong to those who cause them to be produced — but land itself must not belong to anyone.
The question of the newspaper was then discussed.
Citizen Vésinier said that the newspaper ought to appear once a month in a double number — the extra part being published in three languages and reporting the doings, of the Association.
Citizen Schily said that the Workman’s Advocate should have a sub-title as the organ of the Association.
Citizens Marx, Bolleter, Le Lubez and others took part in the discussion after which Citizen Becker proposed and Le Lubez seconded that the Workman’s Advocate be recognised as the organ of the Association.
On the question of foreign correspondence it was decided that foreign correspondence sent by delegates should be received for our newspaper, compiled by a commission and published.
The foreign delegates took the engagement to send correspondence.
Minutes of London Conference of the First International,
Meeting of Standing Committee with Continental Delegates
The minutes, written on three pages, are in Cremer’s hand.
Citizen Jung in the chair.
Present from the Standing Committee: Eccarius, Marx, Weston, Cremer, Howell and Jung. The whole of the Continental delegates were present.
The question of finance was again discussed.
Cremer proposed, Howell seconded:
That we recommend to the Conference to pledge itself in the name of the Association to raise £150 for the purpose of propagandism and the expenses of the Congress, and that it be left to this body to apportion the respective amounts to be raised by the different nationalities. Carried unanimously.
The question of a general congress was next discussed.
Marx in the name of the Central Council proposed that the Congress assemble in Geneva.
Dupleix seconded the proposition.
Fribourg wished it recorded that the French delegates
had received instructions to propose Geneva instead of, as heretofore decided, Belgium as a protest against the law passed in Belgium with regard to foreigners. The resolution was carried unanimously.
De Paepe proposed, Tolain seconded, that the following be submitted to the Conference this evening:
That the Conference transfer the place of meeting of the Congress from Belgium to Geneva as a solemn protest against the law concerning foreigners passed in Belgium. Carried unanimously.
The period for the assembling of the Congress was next discussed.
Marx and Cremer in the name of the Central Council proposed that it take place in September or October of next year, unless unforeseen circumstances shall occur to necessitate its further postponement.
The delegates from Paris as an amendment proposed that the Congress assemble on the first Sunday in April next year. They all declared ‘that to longer postpone the Congress would be fatal to the Association in France, and Tolain opposed any discretionary power being given to the Central Council on the question.
Schily thought the French delegates exaggerated the urgency for the Congress.
De Paepe said that if the Congress was held too soon they could not send delegates from Belgium; they were now in debt and it would take them some time to recover themselves. He supported the resolution.
The French delegates were willing to give a little further time; they would agree to the month of May.
Marx was impressed by the statements of the French delegates and was inclined to withdraw the resolution.
Cremer thought we had not made propagandism in Germany, Spain, Italy and that our efforts should be exerted in that direction as a congress of the working men of Europe would be incomplete without representatives from those nationalities.
Schily thought the Paris Administration were putting the knife to the throat of the Association and if they were not very careful they would kill it..
Limousin said the present regime caused the workmen to distrust each other and thereby increased their difficulties.
Jung said French delegates must take all the responsibility on themselves if the Congress was a failure; he would suggest June instead of May as the spring was late in Switzerland.
The French delegates would so far yield as to agree to the last week in May.
Marx having withdrawn his proposition for September, the amendment became the resolution and was unanimously agreed to.
The following were then appointed to speak at the soirée: Tolain, Dupleix, Becker, Bobczynski and Jones.
The next question discussed was the organisation of the Association.
Dupleix wished to know how the Association was to be formed.
Limousin thought it was not within the province of the Conference to decide the question: he thought a congress alone could decide it.
Fribourg and Dupleix proposed: That the organisation of the Association is a question for the Congress. Carried unanimously.
Marx and Fribourg proposed that the following questions be submitted to the Congress: “Co-operative labour,” “Reduction of the number of the hours of labour,” “Female and child labour.”
All present voted for them as questions but Weston.
Marx and Fribourg proposed the following for the Congress: “Direct and indirect taxation.” Agreed to.
The following questions marked 3, 4 and 10 on the programme were also agreed to:*
Here an excerpt from the General Council’s leaflet on the London Conference is pasted into the minutes.
3. Combination of effort by means of the Association in the different national struggles between Capital and Labour.
4. Trades’ unions — their past, present and future.
10. Standing armies: their effects upon the interests of the productive classes. [the excerpt ends here]
The members then adjourned till tomorrow, the 27th, at 2 o'clock.
The minutes, written on two pages, are in Le Lubez’s hand.
Citizen Odger in the chair, Citizen Jung Vice-Chairman and interpreter.
Citizen Cremer read the reports of the two previous sittings of the Sub-Committee, and the questions resolved upon in that department were submitted to the Conference.
1st. That the sum of £150 be raised for the purpose of propagandism and to get up the Congress. Carried unanimously.
2nd. That the Congress be held in Geneva. Carried unanimously.
3rd. That it be recorded that the cause of [reason why] the place where the Congress was to be held is changed from Brussels to Geneva, is the uncivilised and inhuman law passed in Belgium for the expulsion of
illustrious foreigners. Carried unanimously.
4th. That the meeting of the Congress be fixed for next May.
This was strongly opposed by Citizen Le Lubez who said there was not time sufficient to make the Congress a success by that time.
A long discussion followed, the Paris delegates insisting on the absolute necessity of having it not later than that.
Carried by a large majority, Citizens Hansen and Lessner voting against it, Citizen Le Lubez abstaining from voting.
5th. The questions that are to be discussed at the Congress.
Citizen Le Lubez asked that each question be put separately.
The Ist question was supposed to have been disposed of, so the 2nd was submitted to the meeting and carried.
But Citizen Le Lubez having asked to return to the 1st of the questions in order to decide what would be the mode of admission to the Congress, Citizen Vésinier asked what would be the rights of those who would attend and who were to vote.
The Paris delegates said that all those who have a card must be entitled to all the rights of discussion and of voting. They made it a matter of principle and said it was universal suffrage.
Citizen Cremer urged that the Congress should be composed exclusively of representative men and he made a resolution to the effect that all the adhering branches of the International Association might send delegates and that any other society of working men, having been established more than 3 months previous to the assembling of the Congress, might send delegates who would have the same rights as the delegates of the International Association.
The Paris delegates, then, withdrew their proposition.
A great deal of opposition was shown to the latter part of Citizen Cremer’s proposition, “the admitting of representatives of any organised societies who had not adhered to the principles of the International Association, to vote and to have the same influence on its destiny as the delegates from the Central Council and of the branch societies.”
Citizen Vésinier then proposed that any member of the Association, having his card, or any well-known citizen who shall be proposed by two members to the Central Council or to the council of any of the branches, and who is accepted by them or anyone of them, shall be entitled to all the rights of the delegates to the Congress.
Citizen Dupleix said that in Geneva they invited members of other societies to their meetings and that they allowed them to take part in the discussion but not to vote. He recommended the same course for the Congress. He also said that special cards should be issued and charged for to those who wish to assist at the Congress.
Citizen César De Paepe proposed that the right of voting be given to delegated members of the Association, discussion à tous les ... [the sentence “discussion à tous les...” is inserted in pencil; one more word is illegible], that everyone be admitted to speak but not to vote.
Citizens Carter, Eccarius, Tolain, Fribourg, Limousin (who said that all those who attended should vote), Wheeler, Leno, Lassassie and others took part in the discussion when Citizen Cremer’s proposition was divided, and, the first part being put, was carried, Citizens Vésinier and De Paepe voting against it.
A discussion then followed with regard to the second part of the proposition — the admission of all delegates, of any workmen’s society, to have the right to attend and to vote.
Citizen Vésinier made an earnest appeal to the members to beware of Bonapartists who most certainly could get any number of their partisans elected as representatives and outvote us at the Congress.
Citizen Tolain said he did not think Bonapartism was so dangerous as some people would make it — he thought it was much magnified.
Eventually Citizen Cremer withdrew the second part of his proposition.
Each of the remaining propositions, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th were put and voted; the 9th was put off till the next day.
The meeting then adjourned.
The minutes, written on three pages, are in Le Lubez’s hand.
Citizen Odger in the chair, Citizen Jung translator and Vice-Chairman.
Citizen Marx read the report from the meeting of the Permanent Committee and the delegates.
Citizen Le Lubez read the minutes, and, at the request of the Paris representatives, translated them. They were passed unanimously.
The following resolutions came from a prealable [should read: preliminary] meeting of the afternoon and proposed as fit questions to be put before the Congress:
1st resolution. That a meeting to be held at Geneva after the Congress. Carried unanimously.
2nd. That the question of giving relief to the sick, orphans and old people be submitted to the Congress.
Citizen Cremer supported that idea very strongly, saying that material benefits are the greatest link, for the present, to hold out to societies in this country. He hoped the Association would seriously take up the question. Carried unanimously.
3rd. The formation of international credit societies.
It was said that those societies might be of immense service. It appears that in France these societies are allowed, but as under an absolute government no funds were safe from its grasp, they would be glad of finding a secure place for their funds in England. Carried unanimously.
4th. That it is imperative to annihilate the invading influence of Russia in Europe by applying to Poland “the right of every people to dispose of itself,” and re-establishing that country on a social and democratic basis.
Citizen Le Lubez proposed that the latter part of the proposition only be retained, i.e., “that peoples have a right to dispose of themselves.” He said that it would be affirming the same principle, but upon a broader, in fact, a universal basis.
Citizen Weston, in seconding the amendment, said he was opposed to the introduction of any but social questions. He said we ought to do one thing at a time, and do it well.
Citizen De Paepe said that he did not think the question ought to be introduced at all. The re-establishment of Poland could only benefit 3 classes: the high nobility, the low nobility and the clergy. As to the serfs, they had little to hope for. “You want to check Russian influence,” said the orator, “which influence? That of the government? Then I ask that the influence of all governments in Europe be checked. Is the influence of the Prussian, Austrian, English and French governments less baneful than that of Russia? I say no. But if you mean to check the influence of the Russian people, then I say that they are the same as any other people. Indeed there is a movement going on among the working peasants by which they claim ‘the land and liberty’. Then, there are so many people who suffer that it is almost unjust to name but one.” He moved that the question be not entertained.
Citizen Wheeler warmly supported the resolution. He said that Russia had always been a stumbling-block in the way of progress. Despotism was horrible anywhere, but that of Russia was the most cruel.
Citizen Lassassie thought we had better see the intense misery and tyranny under which the people in these countries laboured than go so far to look for wrongs. Governments wished for our minds to be directed to far-off questions; it prevented us from seeing the tyranny at home; he insisted on Ireland being freed from English yoke.
Captain Bobczynski in a very able and eloquent speech answered the objections that had been raised against the resolution. Poland, he said, had fought the longest, had been the longer oppressed, her sons had shed their blood on every battle-field where right was struggling against might. Poland is the key-note to European freedom — she must be democratic and she declares for the freedom of all.
The President [Odger] said that it was at a meeting in favour of Poland, held at St. James’s Hall, that the French and English workmen first met fraternally together; we must support Poland: to us, it was the type of oppressed nations.
Citizen Carter said that to deal with social questions and leave political ones untouched, was to deal with a headless body, or a body without a soul. He did not know where despotism would stop if the voice of humanity was not raised against it. He was in favour of the proposition.
After a very long discussion, the Chairman put it: That it be not entertained. Only seven voted for, and 10 against.
For Citizen Le Lubez’s proposition — 10, for the original proposition — 23.
Citizen Vésinier asked the following names to be added to Poland: Rome, Venice, Hungary, France, Ireland, Mexico and others, but the Chairman told him he was out of order, that the question was settled.
5th resolution. The religious idea; its relation to social, political and intellectual development of the people.
Citizen Carter moved that it be not entertained. He said that we had nothing to do with dogmas or creeds, that each individual must have full liberty to judge for himself, and that there should be no interference between a man’s conscience and his god.
Citizen Le Lubez said that he wished there was no interference, then we should have no priests or parsons, but the latter existed; the other side of the question must be made known.
Citizen Fribourg supported the resolution.
Citizen Holtorp also supported it.
Citizen Weston made an earnest appeal to the meeting not to entertain the question.
Citizen Howell said it was our duty to study this question, not in narrow, sectarian point of view, but as a philosophic principle. In England, it had been the custom to condemn all discussions of religious or political questions.
That is the reason there were so few who understood those questions: thence our slow progress. But we must have them carefully studied as they greatly affect our welfare.
Citizen De Paepe said that the men who in catholic countries go and kneel to a fellow-man are not the men to be relied on for the carrying out of their own emancipation. Those who believe in a Being of some kind who was always above them and whose humble instruments they believe they are, always feel themselves low, and are not the likely men to become independent . 
Citizen Tolain said that the programme would be incomplete without that proposition, 
Citizen Weston again appealed to the meeting not to admit that apple of discord.
For the amendment — 13, for the proposition — 18. The meeting then separated.
The minutes, written on one and a half pages, are in Howell’s hand.
General proposition to send copies of address to the whole of the branches. Supported by Dupleix and De Paepe and carried unanimously.
That the £150 be raised by the different nationalities in the following proportions: English — £80, French — £40, Swiss — £10, German — £10, and Belgium — £10; and if the last £10 cannot be raised in Belgium, to [be] raised in equal proportions [by] the other nationalities. Unanimously.
In future the delegates of the different nationalities shall be empowered by their constituents to deliberate definitively and in proportion to their numbers, on all — financial questions. Carried unanimously.
Suggested by Dupleix and others that Vésinier’s name be struck out of our official report.
Tolain proposed a vote of regret at the absence of Mr. Peter Fox, such expression to be sent by the Central Council on account of his services to the Association.
Schily seconded on behalf of the French delegates and the Standing Committee.
The Protocol read by Dr. Marx and carried unanimously.
The following suggestions were read and left for the Central Council:
We beg to express on behalf of the English members of the Association the great pleasure and satisfaction we have felt at the cordial way in which the Conference has been conducted, and the friendly sentiments expressed by all the assembled delegates.
That the thanks of the Conference be tendered to Citizen Jung for his considerate and impartial conduct as translator to the Conference.