The International Workingmen's Association, 1872
Written: by Sorge;
Translated: by Richard Dixon & Alex Miller, for Progress Publishers, 1976.
Transcribed: by email@example.com.
In the spring of 1867 a German Section was formed in New York out of the old Club of Communists. This Section only had a nominal existence for a year or more, when its most active and zealous members joined and reorganised the General German Workingmen's Society with the principal aim of organising and centralising the different Trades and Labor Societies. Through its agency was formed the first central body of German Trades Unions in New York city. It was connected on one side with the National Labor Union of the United States and on the other side with the I.W.A. by upholding a regular correspondence with the G.C. at London and with the German Central Committee at Geneva, and also sent an address and report to the Congress at Basle. Mainly to the influence of the same General German Workingmen's Society, then also known as Labor Union No. 5 of New York, was due the sending of a delegate (A. C. Cameron) to the Basle Congress by the American National Labor Congress at Philadetphia.
In the beginning of December 1869 the above-named General German Workingmen's Society -- Labor Union No. 5 -- formally declared its adhesion to the I.W.A. and constituted itself as German Section in New York city, showing great activity in propaganda (Address to the Fenians, answer to Gen. Cluseret, etc., etc.). In the fall of 1870 a French-speaking Section was formed out of the Union republicaine and soon a lively intercourse was existing between the two, leading in the first place to the issue of a Manifesto about the French-German war then raging and ill the second place to the holding of the great Anti-War meeting on November 19th in the Cooper Institute.
Urged on from all sides to provide a central agency of the more advanced Labor associations a Central Committee of the I.W.A. for North America was instituted on the 1st of December 1870 for one year by the above-named German, French and a Czechian Section newly formed. Two German Sections from Chicago at once affiliated and the General Council in a letter dated March 14th 1871 formally recognised the Central Committee and expressed its satisfaction with its proceedings. New Sections sprang up all over the country and with the arrival of the Irish exiles and their reception by the Central Committee an opportunity presented itself to approach the Irish workingmen, by far the most numerous of the American working class. An Irish Section was formed, very promising connections made with Irish workingmen at different points, when Section 12 of the City of New York, of which Mesdames Woodhull and Claflin were the most prominent members, entered the organisation under false pretenses and by its intrigues, fantastical bearing and astonishing audacity in contriving rules and regulations provoked a bitter strife and prevented notoriously the spread of the I.W.A. in American workingmen's circles.
On the 16th or 17th of September Section 12 published a ludicrous appeal to the English-speaking citizens. On the 15th of October protest was entered against Section 12 proceedings and a dispute arose leading to the final adjournment [of] its last regular statutory meeting day, by a vote of 19 against 5. Fourteen delegates of the 19 immediately formed a provisional Federal Council and took precautions against similar attempts of intrusion into the International by bogus reformers and shopkeepers. The opposition, after vainly trying to break up the provisional F.C., took leave and organised a Counter-Council. On the 5th and 12th of March, 1872, the General Council passed resolutions on the American split, mainly vindicating the course taken by the provisional F.C. The Counter-Council refused to acknowledge the decision of the G.C. and formally seceded from the G.C., when the G.C. was obliged to declare the provisional F.C. at the 10 Ward Hotel to be the only regular and recognised central body of the I.W.A. in America.
A Congress of all the Workingmen's Sections acknowledging the decision and authority of the G.C. was convoked for July 6th at the 10 Ward Hotel at New York city, where it met and continued its meetings till July 8th incl. The business of the Congress was
1. To establish a definite F.C.;
2. To lay down rules and regulations for the organisation in America;
3. To define the position of the I.W.A. in America towards the existing political parties;
4. To provide for a delegation or memorandum to the General Congress at The Hague.
There were present 23 delegates representing 22 Sections as follows: 9 Sections from New York city, 1 from Brooklyn, I from West Hoboken, 2 from Philadelphia, 1 from Baltimore, 3 from Chicago, 2 from St. Louis, 3 from San Francisco = 22. Amongst them 12 were of German, 4 of French, 3 of American (or English-speaking) [as well as Irish and Italian] descent, with an inscribed number of about one thousand (1,000) members. A definite Federal Council of nine (9) members, with power to add five more to its own number, was elected, a Constitution adopted, opposition against all old parties proclaimed, strong resolutions in favor of the G.C. passed and two delegates chosen to represent the North American Federation at The Hague. A complete statistical formula was adopted and will also be admitted to the General Congress for adoption. Four more Sections had already demanded admission by the 4th of August and there is no doubt of a great increase in numbers after this -- the presidential election -- year, if the Federation succeeds in keeping aloof from the former disturbing elements. It is equally certain, that the Irish -- by far the most numerous and important of the component parts of the American working classes -- will never affiliate with a party tainted by their connection with such an incongruous body of intriguers, petty politicians, used up reformers and talkers as were and are caged up in the Counter-Council.
The organisation will have to keep its own this year and, freed from the incubus above mentioned, it will make certain and great progress after this.
1 The Communist Club: Founded in New York in 1857 on the initiative of former members of the Communist League and played a great part in the dissemination of Marxist ideas in the USA. On July 2 1867, this organization became the first in the USA to join the International.
2 General German Workingmen's Society: Founded in New York in October 1865 as a branch of the Lassallean General Association of German Workers. Its leaders -- August Schlag and Friedrich Moll -- tried to establish contacts with Marx and the General Council. In January 1869, the Society was reorganized and affliated to the National Labor Union as Workers' Union No. 5 of New York city. On December 12 1869, a decision was adopted on its affiliation to the International.
3 National Labor Union: Founded in the USA in August 1866 at the First Congress of American workers. The Union soon established contact with the International Working Men's Association.
4 Congress of the National Labor Union: Held in Philadelphia, from August 16 to 23 1869. Appointed two delegates -- Andrew Cameron and C. H. Lucker -- to the Basle Congress. Only Cameron was able to attend the Congress, at which he made a speech onveying greetings.
5 Reference to address read at a meeting of New York Committee members and pardoned Fenians who had come to New York in February 1871. Meeting was reported on in Der Volksstaat, April 1 1871 and a letter of February 12 1871.
This apparently refers to the protest made by Section No. 1 in the spring of 1870 against the self-advertisement of General Cluseret who had engaged in propaganda for the Association independently of Section No. 1, and also against his article entitled "Aux travailleurs Américains" ("To American Workers") and published in La Marseillaise on April 2 1870 -- in which he drew a parallel between himself and the French Ambassador to Washington.
6 Republican Union of the French Language: Founded in November 1868 by French immigrants in the USA. The Union included petty-bourgeois democrats, advocates of utopian socialism. Some branches of the Union maintained contacts with the General Council.
In May 1870, the French section of the International in New York -- known as Section No. 2 -- was founded as a result of the merger of two local branches of the Republican Union. In August 1870, the section was officially recognised by the General Council.
7 Refers to mass meeting held in New York on November 19 1870. Meeting adopted address condemning the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. It also appealed to the US government to exercise its influence to render assistance to the republican France.