Works of Frederick Engels 1873
Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
First Published: in German in Der Volksstaat July 2, 1873;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
On the other hand, the British Section of the International held a Congress at Manchester on June 1 and 2, which was undoubtedly an epoch-making event in the English labour movement. It was attended by 26 delegates who represented the main centres of English industry as well as several smaller towns. The report of the Federal Council differed from all previous documents of this kind by the fact that — in a country with a tradition of legality — it asserted the right of the working class to use force in order to realise its demands.
Congress approved the report and decided that the red flag is to be the flag of the British Section of the International; the working class demands not only the return of all landed property to the working people but also of all means of production; it calls for the eight-hour working day as a preliminary measure; it sends congratulations to the Spanish workers who have succeeded in establishing a republic and in electing ten workers to the Cortes; and requests the English Government immediately to release all Irish Fenians still imprisoned. Anyone familiar with the history of the English labour movement will admit that no English workers’ congress has ever advanced such far-reaching demands. In any case, this Congress and the miserable end of the separatist, self-appointed Federal Council has determined the attitude of the British Section of the International.
309 In December 1872, a split occurred in the British Federal Council. By refusing to recognise the decisions of the 1872 Hague Congress the Council’s Right wing, headed by J. Hales, was, according to the Rules of the International, making itself liable to expulsion from the Association. This was confirmed by a decision of the General Council of May 30, 1873. The Left wing of the British Federal Council established itself as the British Federal Council and was recognised by the majority of sections of the British Federation as their leading body. In January 1873, the self-styled Federal Council attempted to organise a congress of the Federation but only 12 delegates, representing a small portion of the British sections, arrived. Soon after the failure of the congress this British Council disintegrated.