The International Workingmen's Association, 1872
Written: in French;
Translated: by Richard Dixon & Alex Miller, for Progress Publishers, 1976.
Transcribed: by email@example.com.
Penetrated with the importance of the impending Congress, we would have been happy to delegate one of our members to it. Circumstances do not allow us to do so and oblige us to substitute an indirect mandate and to trust the care of our interests to a citizen [Ranvier] whom tile sad liberty of exile protects against the violence of the reactionaries.
It is certainly not without regret that we have resigned ourselves to this painful subterfuge, but if, resolved to brave all dangers, disdainful of all threats, we accept the sacrifices imposed by the fulfilment of duty, we understand that certain sacrifices would be inopportune and criminal and that after the frightful massacres which accompanied the victories of the Versailles assassins like a bloody procession, the party of the proletariat has been too sorely tried to have the right to waste with imprudence these forces which are all the more precious as they have been more weakened. The executions, the prison-ships, deportation and exile have horribly thinned the ranks of our army; we therefore had to be sparing with it, while noting with very legitimate pride that less than a year after the gloomy events of May it has been reforming its ranks and that the painful gaps have been filled with a truly prodigious devotedness and enthusiasm.
The hour has not yet struck when we can descend openly into the arena and satisfy, by unmasking ourselves, the fierce curiosity of our enemies who are always searching for a pretext to overcrowd their dungeons and overload their floating prisons. We like the light of day and the brilliance of the sun, but since we are forced to remain in the shadow we shall know how to profit by its discretion in order to keep watch, invisible but present, over the brazen manoeuvres of the throne and the altar.
Such are, citizens, the serious motives which decided us not to send a member of our section to your midst. There was no lack of people of good will, but we imposed silence on them, keeping their ardour in reserve for better occasions. One thing, by the way, consoles us for this setback, and that is the knowledge that we shall be represented at the Congress by Citizen Ranvier, who, we are already now certain, will prove to be a worthy and valiant envoy of the heroic Paris which he defended with such energy.
Citizens, never was a congress more solemn and more important than the one whose sittings bring you together in The Hague. What indeed will be discussed there will not be this or that insignificant question of form, this or that trite article of the Regulations, but the very life of the Association.
Impure hands stained with Republican blood have been trying for a long time to sow among us a discord which would be profitable only to the most criminal of monsters, Louis Bonaparte; intriguers expelled with shame from our midst -- the Bakunins, Malons, Gaspard Blancs and Richards -- are trying to found we know not what kind of ridiculous federation intended in their ambitious projects to crush the Association. Well, citizens, it is this germ of discord, grotesque in its arrogant designs, but dangerous in its daring manoeuvres, which must be annihilated at all costs. Its life is incompatible with ours and we rely on your pitiless energy to achieve a decisive and brilliant success. Be without pity, strike without hesitation, for should you retreat, should you weaken, you would be responsible not only for the disaster suffered by the Association, but moreover for the terrible consequences which this would lead to for the cause of the proletariat.
In order to achieve this aim, citizens, and to remain masters of the field in this battle which reaction and jealous rivalry are waging against us, we must make a serious study of the modifications which events dictate to our organisation. And, by the way, the members of the General Council have understood this so well that they have introduced as the principal question on the order of the day the revision of the Rules.
We shall therefore get down immediately to the crux of the matter and shed light by a preliminary discussion on the resolutions which the envoy of our section will be instructed to defend in proper time and place.
There is one question, citizens, which, though it was already raised at preceding congresses, has not yet been settled, important as it is. We mean the creation of central committees in each country. This creation, useful in ordinary times, has become an indisputable necessity today. The lessons of the past and the present circumstances imperiously demand it.
We are surely aware that certain minds will at first be opposed to the existence of these committees, seeing in them a source of jealousy and intriguing, and despotic manoenvres, but we are firmly convinced that this prejudice will fall before the strength of our arguments.
Let us begin, however, in order to divert all suspicion of ambitious scheming, by noting that these committees would be obliged to operate according to regulations fixing the limits of their powers, making impossible all infringement of the sections' autonomy, regulations which, moreover, would have to be submitted, in order to be valid, to consideration by those sections and to sanction by their vote.
This having been said in passing, let us make a rapid examination of the principal advantages of this institution.
In these dismal times of reaction and Versailles repression, of bourgeois terror and the black cabinet, the multiplication of external relations with numerous internal centres constitutes serious difficulties for the development of the Association and menacing dangers for the liberty of its members. The work will be done with greater expedition and correspondence will be carried on with greater safety, we believe, if, instead of having to satisfy numerous correspondents, the secretaries of the General Council have to be in contact with only one in the respective countries.
Through the channel of the central committees, communications relating to the functioning of the Association would be transmitted with irreproachable regularity, and if, as a result of events which we must foresee and be prepared for, a slogan -- always so necessary for success in battle -- could be the sign for a general rising, the committees would be there to issue it on all sides.
Were it to offer only these advantages, this institution should be set up urgently; it offers many others, but we think we would be wasting precious time in presenting other arguments here and in dwelling at greater length on a subject which our representative will know how to defend and expound in the course of the general discussion.
However, we do not want to pass on to another point with out saying that if the delegates of other countries think themselves obliged to reject this proposal as far as it concerns them, we maintain it energetically and demand that it should be applied specially for France.
Article 6 of the Rules imposes on the General Council the obligation to publish a periodical bulletin. Citizen Varlin already expressed regret at the Lausanne Congress, noting that this formality had not been complied with. We repeat that regret today. This bulletin is too precious, it constitutes too powerful a means of propaganda for its publication to be neglected. The members of the General Council must understand this as well as we do, and therefore we think that there must have been serious hindrances to stay the fulfilment of this important resolution, and we rely on plausible and explicit explanations being given and demand them in the interest of the entire Association.
We could submit to you a number of observations on the revision of the Rules and on the reorganisation in France, but these observations will be more to the point when called for by the order of the day; given here they would uselessly delay the opening of the discussion. Our valiant delegate will be able to choose the propitious moment to table them and submit them to the appreciation of your votes.
Citizens, the International Working Men's Association, beaten but not downhearted, is recovering day by day in Paris the redoubtable might which makes its adversaries tremble, hidden away amidst their guns and their hired assassins. And we, who, full of the hopes of a bright future, have ranged ourselves under the folds of its immortal banner, send you our oath of unshakable loyalty. We said to you in our manifesto of March 18 and we repeat now that our sublime cause cannot perish; like the sun it has its temporary eclipses, but like the sun too, it reappears still more resplendent to illumine the peoples with its generous and vivifying rays.
Our courage, energy, devotedness and self-sacrifice will not fail us, for we are proud to fight for the noble principles of the Paris Commune. Nothing will stop us in our resolute march, nothing will make us hesitate and we will brave reaction even in its ignoble and hideous triumph. At the cost of any sacrifices, at the cost of our liberty, of our very life if necessary, we shall preserve intact the deposit which has been placed in our hands, we shall defend to the last drop of our blood the post of honour which has been entrusted to our staunchness. And if some of us perish in the struggle, they will have at least the consolation of succumbing with glory and the satisfaction of knowing that friends remain to avenge them and continue their sacred work.
Citizens, we are going through a period of sorrows and bitterness, some in a gloomy exile, full of afflictions and misery, others in an ungrateful home country among compatriots who, instead of being brothers to them, are spies and hangmen. The stern trials will not discourage or weary us. Accustomed to all sorts of injustices, prepared for all kinds of misfortunes, we will not be demoralised and will preserve deeply rooted in our hearts the hope of imminent and final victory, for we know that all soldiers of the proletariat have on their side not only numbers and courage, but also two invincible weapons, two weapons against which the most desperate efforts of our enemies will be smashed: RIGHT and WILL.
Long live the world social and democratic republic!
Long live the International Working Men's Association!
Read out at the ninth sitting
of the Congress, September 5, 1872