Sixty Years in the Social-Democratic Movement


The most important event in 1869 for me was attendance at the Congress of the “International,” which took place early in September at Basel. There were present 77 delegates, among them being Michael Bakunin, Professor Tanusch (Magdeburg), Liebknecht (Leipsig), Cameron (Philadelphia). Bakunin was a giant. His head was similar to that of Marx, only Bakunin’s features were not so expressive as those of Marx. I had no idea at that time what mischief Bakunin would accomplish for the “International.”

The first meeting of the Congress was occupied with reading the annual report of the General Council. After that the discussion on landed property was entered upon. A committee was appointed which should propose a resolution to the Congress. To this committee belonged J. Ph. Becker, Collin, Tanusch, Lucraft, Langlois, De Paepe, Picton, Rittinghausen, Murat, Creusot, Sentinon, and myself.

The committee put the following motion before the Congress:—

“This Congress declares that society has the right of abolishing private property in the soil, and of transforming it into collective property. It declares, further, that this transformation is a necessity.”

Concerning the way in which the soil was to be cultivated and used, two views were brought forward and advocated.

The majority were of opinion that the soil was to be cultivated and exploited by communities. The minority demanded that society should concede the soil to single farmers, or, on which was laid a special stress, to agricultural societies for exploitation on the payment of rent.

The motion of the majority was signed by J. Ph. Becker, Collin, Rittinghausen, Varlin, Tanusch, Lucraft, Sentinon, and myself.

The motion of the minority was signed by De Paepe, Picton, Langlois, Murat, and Creusot.

Moses Hess and George Eccarius demanded a simple affirmation of the Brussels resolution on the question of landed property.

By the motion of Caporusso, the delegate of Naples, this point of discussion was postponed to the next Congress, and the meeting proceeded to vote on the chief point.

For abolition of private property in land there voted 54; against, 4; 13 abstained from voting; 4 were absent.

The proposal of a resolution of the committee on the inheritance question ran as follows:—

“That the law of inheritance promotes the development of individual property and favours the distribution of the soil, and of all materials in the hands of individuals, and prevents the transition of the soil into collective property; that the law of inheritance, small as the property inherited may be, always constitutes a privilege, which is an injustice under any circumstances, and that this right is a permanent danger to social order; that the law of inheritance in all its phases makes political as well as social justice impossible, and prevents social equality; that this Congress declares itself for collective property in land, and that the right of inheritance ought to be abolished.”

For this motion there voted 32; against, 23; 13 abstained from voting; 13 were absent.

After that the question of trade unions was discussed. William Liebknecht and the English delegates especially advocated the starting of trade unions. The result of the debate was the following unanimously accepted resolution:—

“The Congress declares that all workmen should energetically work for the establishment of trade unions in their different crafts. As soon as such trade unions shall have formed themselves, they shall connect themselves with other unions of the same craft formed at other places, to form a national union. These unions are to be expected to collect all information concerning their industrial branch, and generally to discuss the measures to be taken in the interest of the working men. They have to work with all their might for these ideals being carried out, until the present system, based on wages, shall be abolished by the co-operation of working men. That as modern economical life requires an international organisation, the Congress charges the General Council to bring about an international union of trade unions.”

The next Congress—the fifth—of the International was to take place on September 1st, 1870, in Paris, but great events prevented it. The war between France and Germany had broken out; and nearly at the same hour when the Congress was to take place, Napoleon was a prisoner of the Germans, and in France the Republic was proclaimed. After that came the Commune with its horribly tragical end, and thus it was only possible 19 years after to hold an International Socialist Congress in Paris.

In consequence of these events, no Congress took place till 1871, which I attended as a delegate. At this conference of delegates, which took place in the middle of September, in London, the following resolutions were accepted, among others:—

Constitution of the General Council.—The Conference requests the General Council to restrict the numbers of its members, and to provide that these do not exclusively belong to one nationality.”

Delegates of the General Council.—All delegates appointed by the General Council for distinct missions have the right to attend the meetings of the federal councils of committees, etc., and to be heard there, but without having a vote.”

Formation of Female Sections.—This Conference recommends the formation of female branch societies. This resolution is not, of course, directed against branch societies being composed of working men and working women.”

General Statistics of the Working Classes.—(1) The Conference charges the General Council to enforce Article V. of the original rules, as far as relating to general statistics of the working classes, as well as the resolutions of the Geneva Congress (1866) on the same subject. (2) Each local group is bound to appoint a special statistical committee, in order that it may be always ready, as far as its means allow it, to answer questions put by the Federal Council of their respective country, or of the General Council. The Conference recommends to all the groups to grant some payment to the secretaries of the statistical committees. (3) On August 1st in every year, the Federal Council or committees shall send to the General Council the materials collected in their relative countries. The latter, on its part, shall work out a general report to be put before the Congresses or Conferences taking place in September of every year. (4) Trade unions and branches of the International which refuse the required information are to be indicated to the General Council for consideration.”

International Relations of Trade Unions.—The General Council shall, as hitherto, do all in its power to further the increasing tendency of the trade unions of every country of entering into communication with other countries. Its efficiency as international mediator between the national trade unions essentially depends on the assistance these societies themselves grant to the work of general labour statistics, undertaken by the International.”

Agricultural Labourers.—(1) The Conference requests the General Council and the Federal Councils or committees, to prepare for the next Congress a report on the proper means for safeguarding the adhesion of agricultural labourers to the movement of the industrial proletariat. (2) In the meantime the Federal Councils or committees are requested to send delegates into the agricultural districts, in order to hold there public meetings, to propagate the principles of the International, and to form rural branch societies.”

Political Activity of the Working Classes.—In consideration of the preamble of the rules, which says, ‘the economical emancipation of the working classes is the great object to which every political movement must be subordinated as a means towards this object’; that the inaugural address of the International Workingmen’s Association (1864) says: ‘The masters of the soil will always exploit their political privileges in order to defend and perpetuate their economical monopolies. Far from promoting the political emancipation of the working classes, they will continue to put in its way every possible obstacle. . . . . The conquest of political power, therefore, becomes the first duty of the working classes’; that the Congress of Lausanne (1867) has declared: ‘The social emancipation of the working classes is inseparable from their political emancipation’; that the declaration of the General Council on the pretended plot of the French ‘International’ on the eve of the Plebiscite (1870), contained the following passage: ‘According to the wording of our rules all our branches in England, on the Continent, and in America, have undoubtedly the special task, not only of forming centres for the fighting organisation of the working classes, but also to assist in their respective countries every political movement, which serves the attaining of the object of our movement—the economical emancipation of the working classes.’ Considering further that the International has to face an unrestricted reaction, which suppresses shamelessly every tendency in favour of the emancipation of the working classes, and tries to perpetuate by brute force the class distinction and the political power of the possessing class upon which it is based; that the working class can only act against the collective force of the possessing classes, as a class, by constituting itself as a political party in opposition to all the old party formations in the past; that this constitution of the working class as a political party is necessary for the triumph of the social revolution and of its object—the abolition of all classes; that the unification of the individual forces which the working men have established up to a certain point by their economic struggles, has also to serve as a means in their political struggle; for these reasons the Conference reminds all members of the International that in the struggle of the working class, the economical movement and political action are inseparably connected.”

Special Resolutions of the Conference.—(1) The Conference approves the reception of the exiles of the Commune in the General Council. (2) The Conference declares that the German working men have done their duty during the Franco-German war.”

These are the most important resolutions of the London Conference in 1871.

In the same year I made the acquaintance of a great number of French, Polish, and Russian revolutionaries, mostly exiles of the Commune. Among them were Edouard Vaillant, Leo Frankel, Lavroff, Wroblewski, Outine, Lopatin, Lafargue, etc. Lopatin was treated by Marx with the greatest respect, as also was Outine, who later on was waylaid and badly treated by eight Bakunists.


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