We pointed out in the previous chapter that almost ten years had gone by before the revolutionary labour movement began to recover from its defeat of 1848-49. We showed that the beginning of this recovery was bound up with the crisis of 1857-58 which was assuming international proportions and which even affected Russia in a very pronounced form. We indicated how the ruling classes of Europe, outwardly peaceful up to that time, were forced to undertake anew the solution of all those problems which were put forward by the Revolution of 1848 and never solved. The most important problem pressing for a solution was that of nationalism -- the unification of Italy, the formation of a united Germany. We mentioned briefly the fact that this revolutionary movement was, strictly speaking, limited only to Western Europe and influenced strongly only a part of England, but that it failed to reach the major part of Europe, Russia, and the far-away United States of America. In Russia, at that time, the burning question of the day was the abolition of serfdom. It was the so-called period of "great reforms/index.htm" when the movement began which, towards the early sixties, shaped itself into those underground revolutionary societies the foremost of which was the so-called Land and Freedom society. On the other side of the Atlantic' in the United States, the question of the abolition of slavery was being pressed for solution. This question, even in a greater measure than the similar one in Russia, showed how really international the world had become, the world which used to be thought of in terms of a limited part of Europe.
A problem so far removed as that of the abolition of slavery in the United States became of the utmost importance to Europe itself. Indeed, so important did it become that Marx, in his foreword to the first volume of Capital, stated that the war for the abolition of slavery sounded the tocsin for the new labour movement in Western Europe.
We shall begin with the most important labour movement, the English. Of the old revolutionary Chartist movement there was nothing left by 1863. Chartism was dead. Indeed some historians maintain that it died in 1848, right after the famous experiment of the abortive demonstration. But actually Chartism had one more period of bloom in the fifties, during the Crimean War. Owing to the leadership of Ernest Jones (1819-1868), a splendid orator and a brilliant journalist, who had built up with the assistance of Marx and Marx's friends the best socialist organ of those times, Chartism was able to utilise the discontent of the masses of workers during the Crimean War. There were months when the Peoples Paper, the central organ of the Chartists, was one of the most influential papers. Marx's masterly articles directed at Gladstone and particularly at Palmerston were attracting universal attention. But this was only a temporary revival. Soon after the conclusion of the war, the Chartists lost their organ. The causes lay not only in the factional dissensions which flared up between Jones and his opponents; there were more basic causes.
The first cause was the amazing efflorescence of English industry which had begun as far back as 1849. The minor irritations which were occurring during this period, irritations in separate branches of industry, did not in the least interfere with the general rise of industry as a whole. The vast number of unemployed at the end of the forties was completely dissolved in this great industrial overflow. It may well be said that for many decades, nay, for centuries, English industry was not in so great a need of workers as after the first half of the nineteenth century. The second cause was the powerful wave of emigration from England to the United States and Australia, where inexhaustible gold mines were discovered between the years 1851 and 1855. In the course of a few years, two million workers emigrated from England. As is usual in such cases, the emigrants were not drawn from among the children and the aged; the healthiest, most energetic, and the strongest elements were leaving England. The working-class movement and the Chartist movement were being drained of the reserve from which they were drawing their strength. These were the two primary causes. There were also a number of secondary causes.
Concurrent with the weakening of the Chartist movement, there was a general loosening of the ties which held the various branches of the movement together. Even in the forties a struggle had been going on between the trade union and the Chartist movements. Now other forms of the working-class movement, too, developed separatist tendencies and were attempting to desert the parent trunk. The co-operatives, for example, were developing on the basis of certain historical conditions of the English labour movement. This peculiarity of the English labour movement was becoming well-defined even in the fifties. We often encounter in its history various special organisations of sudden rapid growth and of still more sudden and still more rapid decay. Some of these organisations comprised hundreds of thousands of members. One, for instance, had as its goal the abolition of drunkenness. The Chartist organisation was always following the line of least resistance. At first it tried to conduct the war against alcohol within the boundaries of party organisations. It then began to view it as a special goal; it organised special societies all over England, thus diverting from the main labour movement a number of battalions. Besides this teetotaler movement, there was the co-operative movement led by the so-called Christian Socialists. Joseph Stephens (1805-1879), the famous revolutionary minister, was one of the most popular orators of the forties, but he subsequently turned considerably to the right. Stephens was joined by a number of similar elements drawn from among philanthropists and well-wishers who were preaching practical Christianity to the workers. This indicated the decline of the Chartist movement as a political factor. It devoted itself to the forming of co-operative societies. Since this movement was not menacing to the ruling classes, it was helped even by members of the governing party. Several members of the intelligentsia who commiserated with the working class, attached themselves to the movement. Thus in pursuit of its special aims, another branch of the working class broke away.
We shall not enumerate the different forms and ramifications of these movements. Let us examine the trade unions. True, at the beginning of the fifties the trade-union movement did not meet with conditions as favourable to its development, as did the co-operative and the teetotaler movements. None the less it encountered less resistance than had the old Chartist movement. In 1851 the first stable union of the English machine-making trades was organised. This union was headed by two energetic workers who succeeded in repressing the typically English craft spirit according to which it was customary to form trade unions within the confines of one or two towns or, at the most, one or two counties. We should not, of course, overlook the peculiarities of English industry. It was difficult to transform the union of textile workers into a national union for the simple reason that the major part of the textile industry was concentrated in a very small area. Almost all of the textile workers in England were huddled together in two counties. Thus a two-county union was equivalent to a national union. The chief trouble of the English trade unions was due not so much to their local limitations as to their craft traditions. Each separate craft within the same industry was invariably prone to organise an independent union. This was why trade unionism was unable, despite its very vigorous start, to create forms of organisation equal to the task of directing a struggle against the owners of large-scale industries. While industry was flourishing, the overwhelming majority of the workers easily won increased wages. What is more, since there were not enough workers to fill the needs of the expanding new industries, the owners, in order to attract more workers, competed among themselves and were therefore ready to meet the workers more than half way. The English capitalists, during these years, tried to lure workers from the continent -- Germans, Frenchmen, Belgians -- into their country.
Under such circumstances, the trade-union movement, despite its growth, was bound to remain on a lower plane of development. Separate trade unions, which were formed in different subdivisions of one and the same branch of industry, remained disconnected, not only within the boundaries of the whole country but even within the confines of one town. There were not even any local councils.
The crisis of 1857-1858 brought vast changes into this atmosphere. As we have seen, the best-organised trade union was the union of the skilled machine-making workers. Like the textile industry, the manufacture of machines was one of those few industries which did not produce exclusively for the home market. Beginning with the fifties the manufacture of textiles and machines became the privileged branches of industry, for they maintained a monopoly on the world market. The skilled workers in these industries easily won concessions from the employers who were reaping enormous profits. Thus it was that in these two branches of industry conditions of "civil peace" between the workers and the employers were beginning to be established. The effects of the very acute crisis were rapidly disappearing. The gulf separating the skilled from the unskilled workers was becoming ever wider. This, in its turn, had debilitating results on any strike movements in these industries.
Still, not all the workers were so pacific. The crisis was chiefly reflected on the building trades and on the workers engaged in these trades. Henceforth the workers in the building trades occupied the first ranks in the struggles of the English workers.
The growth of capitalism brought in its train an unprecedented swelling of the urban population and consequently a greater demand for living quarters. Hence the great boom in the building industries. In the forties England was in the throes of a railroad fever, in the early fifties a building fever took its place. Houses were built by the thousand. They were in every sense of the word thrown upon the market like any other commodity. The building business though as yet little developed technically, had already fallen into the hands of big capitalists. The English building contractor would rent a large plot of land upon which he would build hundreds of houses which he would either rent or sell.
The development of the building industry lured a multitude of workers from the villages -- woodworkers, carpenters, painters, masons, paperhangers, in brief, all kinds of workers who were engaged in the building, decorating and furnishing of homes. With the growth of building there was a corresponding boom in the furniture, paperhanging and artistic trades. The increase in the population gave impetus to the development of large-scale shoemaking and clothing industries.
Thus the crisis of 1857-1858 had a particularly strong repercussion in these new branches of capitalist production. Great masses were left without work, and a reserve army of unemployed, which made its pressure felt on the workers in the shops and factories, was formed. The employers on their part did not hesitate to make use of this weapon to oppress the workers, to cut down their wages, and lengthen the working day. But the workers, to the great surprise of their employers, answered this with a general strike in 1859, which became one of the greatest strikes London had known. As if further to increase the surprise of the employers, the strike of the building trades found strong support in other bodies of workers in all branches of industry. This strike attracted the attention of Europe no less than the important political events of that day. In connection with it many meetings and miscellaneous gatherings took place. Among the speakers we often come across the name of Cremer. At a meeting in Hyde Park, Cremer declared that the strike of the building trades is but the first skirmish between the economics of labour and that of capital. Other workers such as George Odger (1820-1877), for instance, also carried on much propaganda work. Leaflets, as well, played a part in the agitation. Thus the famous colloquy between the labourer and the capitalist found in the first volume of Capital one of the most brilliant pages of that book -- is in places almost a word-for-word repetition of one of the propaganda leaflets printed by the workers during the strike of 1859-1860.
As a result of this strike, which soon ended in a compromise, there arose in London for the first time, the Trades Council, at the head of which stood the three chief leaders, Odger, Cremer and George Howell; they are also the ones whom we meet at the first General Council of the First International. Already, in 1861, this London Trades Council had become one of the most influential labour organisations. At the same time, like the first Soviets, it was taking on a political character. It endeavoured to react to all the events affecting the working class. Using this as a model, similar trades councils were formed in many other places in England and Scotland. Thus in 1862, class organisations of workers again came into being. These trades councils were the outstanding political and economic centres of the day.
When we turn to France we see that the crisis there was no less severe. It reacted strongly not only on the textile industry but also on all the other industries for which Paris was then famous. We have already mentioned the fact that the purpose of the war undertaken by Napoleon in 1859 was to sidetrack this growing discontent of the working class. Towards the beginning of the sixties this crisis affected especially those specifically Parisian trades known as the artistic trades. But Paris was also an important urban centre; it had been undergoing a strong and steady development. One of the major reforms carried through by Napoleon was the rebuilding of several residential districts in Paris. Old narrow streets were raised, broad avenues were laid out, making the erection of barricades thus impossible. This building activity brought about the same results here as it had in London, namely, an enormous increase in the number of workers engaged in the building trades. Indeed, it is these building trades with their various subdivisions ranging from the unskilled to the highly skilled on the one hand, and the workers engaged in the manufacture of articles of luxury -- the representatives of the artistic trades -- on the other hand, who supplied the rank and file for the new mass labour movement that unfolded itself in the early sixties. One need only examine in detail the history of the First International to notice at once that the majority of its members and leaders came from the ranks of the skilled workers in both the building and artistic trades.
Along with this revival of the labour movement came the awakening of the old socialist groups. On the first plane one must notice the Proudhonists. Proudhon was still alive. He had at one time been imprisoned; then he migrated to Belgium where he exerted a certain influence on the labour movement directly as well as through his followers. But the ideas which he now preached differed somewhat from the ideas he had held at the time of his polemics with Marx.
Now it was an altogether peaceful theory adapted to the legalised labour movement. The Proudhonists aimed at a general betterment of the workers' lot and the means offered were to be adapted chiefly to the conditions of the skilled workers. Their chief aim was the reduction of credit rates, or the establishment of free credit, if possible. They recommended the organising of credit associations for the purpose of mutual aid; hence the name Mutualists. Mutual aid societies, no strikes of any sort, the legalisation of workers' societies, free credit, no participation in any immediate political struggles, a desire to better one's lot by using only the economic struggle as the weapon (moreover, this weapon was not to be considered as directed against the foundations of capitalist society) -- this, in brief, was the programme of the Mutualists of that day, who in several instances were more moderate than their teacher.
Alongside of this group we find an even more conservative group, who tried to buy the workers by means of sops. Armand Levi, the journalist, who had once been closely connected with the Polish political emigrants was the leader. He was in close relation with the same Prince Plon-Plon whom we already know as the patron of Herr Vogt.
The third -- the least numerous, but made up of revolutionists -- was the group of Blanquists who had by then resumed their work among the workers as well as among the intelligentsia and the student youth. Among these were Paul Lafargue (1811-1877), and Charles Longuet, both of whom subsequently became Marx's sons-in-law.
Here was also the now famous Georges Clemenceau. All these young people and workers were under the strong influence of Blanqui. The latter, though in prison, kept up a lively intercourse with the outside world; he had frequent interviews with representatives of these youths. The Blanquists were most implacable foes of the Napoleonic Empire, and impassioned underground revolutionists.
Such was the state of the working-class movement in England and in France in 1862. A series of events then took place which brought about a closer rapprochement between the French and the English workers. Outwardly, the arrangement of the world exposition in London served as the occasion for this rapprochement. This international exposition was the result of the new stage in capitalist production -- giant industries which tended to knit separate countries into living parts of world economy. The first exposition was arranged after the February Revolution. It took place in London in 1851; the second, in Paris in 1855; the third, again in London.
In connection with this exposition, there was started in Paris serious agitation among the workers. The group which was headed by Armand Levi turned to Prince Plon-Plon, who was the chairman of the commission which was to organise the French department at the London exposition. The Prince kindly arranged for the granting of subsidies to a delegation of workers which we' to be sent to the London exposition.
Bitter controversies arose among the Paris workers. The Blanquists, of course, insisted on rejecting this government favour. Another group in which the Mutualists were preponderant, entertained a different opinion. According to them it was necessary to utilise all legal possibilities. Money was to be given to subsidise a workers' delegation. They demanded that the delegation instead of being appointed from above, should be elected in the workshops. They proposed to utilise these elections for propaganda purposes and for the pressing of their own candidates.
The second group was finally victorious. Elections were permitted, and the delegation was chosen almost entirely from among the members of this group. The Blanquists boycotted the elections. The followers of Armand Levi were completely swamped. Thus was the workingmen's delegation from Paris organised. It is significant that the German delegation to London was connected with that group of workers who were active with Lassalle in the organisation of a labour congress.
In this manner the world exposition at London created an opportunity for the French, English and German workers to come together. Some historians of the International trace its beginning to this meeting. Here is what Steklov writes of it:
"The occasion for the rapprochement and the agreement between the English and the Continental workers was the world's exposition of 1862 in London. On August 5, 1862, the English workers staged a reception in honour of the seventy French delegates. The dominant note in the speeches was the necessity of establishing international ties among the proletarians who as men, as citizens and as toilers had identical interests and aspirations."
Unfortunately, this is mere legend. As a matter of fact this meeting bore an entirely different character. It took place with the participation and approval of the representatives of the bourgeoisie and the ruling classes. The speeches delivered there offended not even one employer, disturbed not even one policeman. Those of the English capitalists who had been at the head of the contractors during the strikes in the building trades were the very ones who took an active part in this meeting. Suffice it to say that the English trade unionists demonstratively refused to take part in this affair. This meeting can under no circumstances be regarded as the origin of the International.
Only one thing was true: In London, the French and German delegations were likely to meet French and German workers who had emigrated after 1848. The place where workers of various nationalities would meet in the fifties and the sixties was the well-known Workers' Educational Society, which had been founded by Schapper and his friends in 1840. The tea-room and the dining-room of this society were situated on a street where foreigners settled; it served as such a centre up to the late war. The English government hastened to close this club immediately upon the declaration of war in 1914.
It was there, no doubt, that some members of the French delegation became acquainted with the old French emigrants, and that the German workers from Leipzig and Berlin met their old comrades. But these were of course only accidental ties which were as unlikely to lead to the forming of the International as was the meeting of August 5, to which Steklov, together with other historians, attaches such great importance.
But now two very important events happened, the first of which was the American Civil War (1860-1865). We have already seen that the abolition of slavery was the most important problem of the day. It became so acute and it had led to such an acrid conflict between the southern and the northern States, that the South, in order to preserve slavery, determined to secede and to organise an independent republic. The result was a war which brought in its train unexpected and unpleasant consequences to the whole of the capitalistic world. The southern States were then the sole growers of the cotton which was used in all the cotton industries of the world. Egyptian cotton was still of very little importance; East India and Turkestan were not producing any cotton at all. Europe thus found itself without any cotton supply. The textile industries of the world were experiencing a crisis. The shortage of cotton caused a rise in the prices of all the other raw materials in the textile industry. Of course, the big capitalists suffered, least of all; the petty capitalists hastened to shut down their factories. Tens, nay hundreds of thousands of workers were doomed to perish of hunger.
The governments confined themselves to handing out pitiful pittances. The English workers who had not long before, during the strike in the building trades, shown an example of solidarity, now too, took up the cause of organising help. The initiative belonged to the London Trades Council, which appointed a special committee. In France also there was organised a special committee for this purpose. The two committees were in frequent communication with one another. It was this that suggested to the French and English workers how closely allied were the interests of labour of different countries. The Civil War in the United States gave a terrific shock to the entire economic life of Europe; its malignant effects were equally felt by the English, French, German, and even Russian workers. This was why Marx wrote in his introduction to Capital, that the American Civil War in the nineteenth century, played the same role with regard to the working class, as the American War for Independence in the eighteenth century had played with regard to the French bourgeoisie and the French Revolution.
Another event then occurred which also was of equal interest to the workers of the different countries. Serfdom was abolished in Russia (1861). Reforms in other branches of the political and economic life of Russia were imminent. The revolutionary movement became more animated; it advocated more radical changes. Russia's outlying possessions, chiefly Poland, were in a state of commotion. The Tsar's government grasped at this as the best pretext for getting rid of external as well internal sedition. It provoked the Polish revolt, while at the same time, aided by Katkov and other venal scribes, it incited Russian chauvinism at home. The notorious hangman, Muraviev, and other brutes like him, were commandeered to stifle the Polish revolt.
In western Europe, where hatred for Russian Czarism was prevalent, the rebellious Poles evoked the warmest sympathy. The English and French governments allowed the sympathisers of the Polish insurgents complete freedom of action, regarding this as a convenient outlet for the stored-up feelings of resentment. In France a number of meetings were held, and a committee, headed by Henri Tolain (18281897), and Perruchon, was organised. In England the pro-Polish movement was headed by the workers, Odger and Cremer, and by the radical intellectual, Professor Beesly.
In April, 1863, a monster mass meeting was called in London. Professor E. S. Beesly (1831-1915), presided; Cremer delivered a speech in defence of the Poles. The meeting passed a resolution which urged the English and the French workers to bring simultaneous pressure to bear upon their respective governments and to force their intervention in favour of the Poles. It was decided to provide for an International meeting. This took place in London on July 22, 1863. The chairman was again Beesly. Odger and Cremer spoke in the name of the English workers; Tolain, in the name of the French. Nothing but the Polish affair was discussed, and they all insisted on the necessity of restoring independence to Poland. On the next day, another meeting took place to which the historians of the International have not paid much attention. It was arranged on the initiative of the London Trades Council, this time without the participation of the bourgeoisie. Odger had been advocating closer ties between English and Continental labour. The problem presented itself on a practical basis. English labour had to take note of the serious competition of the French, the Belgian, and particularly the German workers. At the beginning of the sixties, the breadbaking industry which was already concentrated into great enterprises was wholly operated by German workers. In the building, furniture, and decorative industries there was an influx of Frenchmen. That was why the English trade unionists valued so much any possible chance of influencing foreign labourers who were pouring into England. This could best be accomplished through an organisation which would unite the workers of various nations.
It was decided that the English workers send an appropriate address to the French workers. Almost three months elapsed, while the draft of this address was being offered to the London trade unionists for approval. It was written largely by Odger.
By this time the Polish revolt had been crushed by the Tsar's henchmen with unheard-of cruelty. The address made almost no mention of it. Here is a small excerpt:
"A fraternity of peoples is highly necessary for the cause of labour, for we find that whenever we attempt to better our social condition by reducing the hours of toil, or by raising the price of labour, our employers threaten us with bringing over Frenchmen, Germans, Belgians and others to do our work at a reduced rate of wages; and we are sorry to say that this has been done, though not from any desire on the part of our continental brethren to injure us, but through a want of regular and systematic communication between the industrial classes of all countries. Our aim is to bring up the wages of the ill-paid to as near a level as possible with that of those who are better remunerated, and not to allow our employers to play us off one against the other, and so drag us down to the lowest possible condition, suitable to their avaricious bargaining."
The address was translated into French by Professor Beesly and was sent to Paris in November, 1863. There it served as material for propaganda in the workshops. The French answer was very tardy. Paris was then getting ready for the forthcoming elections to the legislative assembly, later known as the Chamber of Deputies. A group of workers at the head of whom we again see Tolain and Perruchon, raised the exceedingly important question as to whether labour should nominate its own candidates or whether it should be satisfied to support the radical candidates. In other words, should labour stand on its own independent platform, or should it straggle at the tail of the bourgeois parties. This question was hectically discussed at the end of 1863 and in the beginning of 1864. The workers decided to work independently, and to nominate Tolain. They resolved to explain this break with the bourgeois democrats in a special platform, which has since been known as the Manifesto of the Sixty, because of the number of signatures affixed to the document.
The theoretical part of this Manifesto, the criticism to which the bourgeois order was subjected, was in full accord with Proudhon's views. But at the same time it definitely abandoned the master's political programme by advocating a separate political party for the workers, and the nomination of labour candidates for political office to represent the interests of the workers.
Proudhon greeted this Manifesto of the Sixty very warmly. Inspired by it, he proceeded to write a book which turned out to be the best work he had ever written. He devoted the last months of his life to it, but he did not live to see it published. The book was called The Political Capacity of the Working Class. Here for the first time Proudhon acknowledged the right of the working class to form independent class organisations. He hailed the new programme of the Paris workers as the best proof of the vast political potentialities stored away in the depths of the working class. Despite the fact that Proudhon did not change his stand on the question of strikes and mutual aid associations, his last book, by its spirit of protest against bourgeois society and its decidedly proletarian slant, was reminiscent of his excellent first literary work, What Is Property, This justification of the working class became one of the favourite books of the French workers. When we are told of the influence of Proudhonism during the epoch of the First International, we must not forget that it was the influence of that form of Proudhonism which became crystallised after the publication of the Manifesto of the Sixty.
Almost a year passed before the workers of Paris composed their reply to the English address. A special delegation was chosen to take it to London. On September 28, 1861, a meeting to receive the French delegation was held in the famous St. Martin's Hall. Beesly presided. The hall was crowded. First Odger read the address from the English workers. Tolain then read the French reply, a short excerpt of which follows:
"Industrial progress, the division of labour, freedom of trade -- these are three factors which should receive our attention today, for they promise to change the very substance of the economic life of society. Compelled by the force of circumstances and the demands of the time, capital is concentrating and organising in mighty financial and industrial combinations. Should we not take some defensive measure, this force, if not counterbalanced in some way, will soon be a despotic power. We, the workers of the world, must unite and erect an insurmountable barrier to the baleful system which would divide humanity into two classes: a host of - hungry and brutalised people on one hand, and a clique of fat, overfed mandarins on the other. Let us seek our salvation through solidarity."
The French workers brought with them even the project for such an organization. A central commission made up of representatives from various countries was established in London. Subcommissions which were to be in constant communication with the central body, and which were to discuss questions proposed by that body, were created in all the chief cities in Europe. The central commission was to summarise the results of these discussions. An international congress was to convene in Belgium, to decide upon the final form of the organisation.
But we might ask where was Marx, what part did he take in all this? No part at all. We see, then, that all the preparations for the historic event which took place on September 28, 1864, the day of the beginning of the First International, were the efforts of the workers themselves. Until now we had no occasion even to mention the name of Marx in connection with this affair. Still on this august occasion Marx was among the invited guests on the platform. How did he happen to be there? A little note found among Marx's miscellaneous papers supplies the answer. It reads:
The committee who have organised the meeting as announced in the enclosed bill respectfully request the favour of your attendance. The production of this will admit you to the Committee Room where the Committee will meet at half past 7.
I am, sir,
(Signed) W. R. Cremer."
The question arises, What prompted Cremer to invite Marx? Why was this invitation not extended to many other emigrants who crowded London at the time and who were closer to the Englishmen or the Frenchmen? Why was he chosen as a member of the committee of the future International Association?
As to this, we can form only guesses. The most plausible seems to be the following: We have already seen the part that the Educational Society of the German workers was playing in London as the central meeting place of workers of various nationalities. It became such a centre to an even greater extent when the English workers themselves came to realise that it was necessary to combine with the Germans in order to counteract the harmful consequences of the competition of workers whom the English employers through their agents were luring into London. Hence the close personal ties which existed between them and the members of the former Communist League -- J. G. Eccarius, Friedrich Lessner, Pfander. The first two were tailors, the third, a painter. They were all taking an active part in the London trade-union movement and were well acquainted with the organisers and the leaders of the London Trades Council. It is not difficult to understand how Odger and Cremer came to know Dr. Marx, who during the affair with Vogt had renewed his relations with the German Workers' Educational Society.
Marx's chief role in the First International, with the foundation of which he had nothing to do, began after it was organised. He soon became the guiding spirit of the organisation. The committee that was elected by the meeting of September 28, had no instructions. There was no programme, nor constitution, nor even a name. There was already existing in London such an international society, the Common League, which offered its hospitality to the committee. From a reading of the minutes of the committee's first meeting we gather that there were present also several benign bourgeois representatives of this League. Some of these gentlemen suggested to the committee that there was no need for a new organisation, others proposed the organisation of a new international society which would be open not only to workers but also to anybody to whom the cause of international solidarity and the amelioration of the economic and political conditions of the toilers were dear. Only on the insistence of two workingmen, Eccarius and Whitlock, a former Chartist, was it decided to christen the new society with the name of International Workingmen's Association. This motion was supported by the Englishmen, among whom there were a few Chartists, members of the old Workingmen's Association, the cradle of the Chartist movement.
The new name unequivocally defined the distinctive character of the new international association which forthwith shook off the well-meaning bourgeoisie, who belonged to the Common League. The committee was told to look for other quarters. Fortunately, they were successful in finding a small meeting room not far from the German Workers' Educational Society, in a district populated by emigrants and foreign workers.
As soon as the name was decided upon, the committee proceeded to compose the programme and the statutes. There was one trouble; the committee was made up of too many different elements. There were first of all Englishmen, who were divided up into several groups themselves. There were trade unionists, former Chartists; there were even ex-Owenites. There were Frenchmen, not very great adepts at economic questions, but who considered themselves specialists along the lines of revolution. The Italians, too, were very influential for they were headed by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), the very popular old revolutionist, republican, but who was also very religious. There were also the Polish emigrants. To them the Polish question was paramount. There were, finally, several Germans, all former members of the Communist League -- Eccarius, Lessner, Lochner, Pfander and Marx.
Various projects were brought before the committee. In the subcommittee on which he was serving, Marx propounded his theses and it was finally resolved that he present his project before the whole committee. Finally, when the committee convened for the fourth time (November 1, 1864), Marx's draft with a small number of editorial modifications was adopted by an overwhelming majority.
We must admit at the very outset that the draft, as it was adopted, contained many compromises and concessions. Marx himself, in his letter to Engels, deplores the fact that he was forced to introduce into the constitution and the programme such words as Right, Morality and Justice, but, as he assures Engels, he managed to insert these words in places where they would do least harm.
Yet this was not what contained the secret of Marx's success. His success in having his propositions adopted almost unanimously by such a variegated group was the result of the extraordinary mastery with which the Inaugural Address of the International was written. This was admitted even by Bakunin, Marx's most virulent opponent. As Marx confesses in his letter to Engels, it was extremely difficult to couch the communist view in a form that would prove acceptable to the labour movement in its first crude stages. It was impossible to employ the bold revolutionary language of the Communist Manifesto. Marx endeavoured to be sweeping in content yet moderate in form. His success was unequivocal.
This Inaugural Address was written seventeen years after the Communist Manifesto. These two documents were the work of the same author. Yet the historical epochs in which, and the organisations for which, these two manifestoes were written, were utterly different. The Communist Manifesto was written at the request of a small group of revolutionists and communists for a very young labour movement. These communists emphasised even then that they were not stressing any principles which they wanted to foist upon the labour movement, but that they were trying to crystallise those general principles which, irrespective of nationality, represented the common interests of the proletariat of the entire world.
In 1864 the labour movement grew, and penetrated the masses. But as far as a developed class consciousness was concerned it was much behind the revolutionary vanguard of 1848. A similar retrogression was also to be observed among the leaders. The new Manifesto had to be written in a manner which would take into account the low level of proletarian class consciousness among the masses and the leaders, but which would at the same time adhere to the basic principles laid down in the Communist Manifesto.
Marx, in the Address, gave a classical example of "united front" tactics. He formulated the demands and emphasised all the points upon which the working class could and should unite, and on the basis of which a further development of the labour movement could be expected. From the immediate proletarian demands formulated by Marx the greater demands of the Communist Manifesto would logically follow.
In all this Marx had, of course, a colossal advantage over Mazzini, over the French revolutionists, as well as over the English socialists who were on the committee of the International. He himself, without having changed his basic principles, accomplished a monumental piece of work. By this time he had concluded the first draft of his gigantic work and was engaged in putting his finishing touches to the first volume of Capital. Marx was then the only man in the world who had made such an exhaustive study of the conditions of the working class and had so profoundly grasped the whole mechanism of capitalist society. In the whole of England there was not another man who took the infinite pains of making such a thorough study of all the reports of the English factory inspectors and the researches of the parliamentary commissions which had been investigating conditions in various branches of industry and different categories of the city and the country proletariat. The information which Marx possessed on this subject was comprehensive and incomparably wider than that possessed by the workingmen-members of the committee. He knew conditions in each trade and their relation to the general laws of capitalist production.
The gifts of a great propagandist are shown in the very structure of the Address. Just as in the Communist Manifesto, Marx began with the class struggle as the fundamental basis of all historic development and of all political movements, so did he in the new Manifesto begin not with general phrases, nor with high-flown subjects, but with facts which characterised the conditions of the working class.
"It is an extremely momentous fact that the misery of the working class in the years 1848-1864 has not lessened, in spite of the unexampled development of industry and growth of trade during this period."
And Marx referring to Gladstone's speech in the House of Commons pointed out that despite the three-fold increase of the trade of Great Britain since 1843, human life in nine cases out of ten was nothing but a hard struggle for a mere existence. In fact, criminals in prison were getting better nourishment than many workers.
Constantly referring to the investigations of the parliamentary commissions, Marx drew a picture of undernourishment, degeneration, and disease among the masses of the working class. At the same time he called attention to the fabulous growth of the wealth of the propertied classes.
Marx thus arrived at the inevitable conclusion that, notwithstanding the assertions of the bourgeois economists, neither the perfecting of the machine, nor the application of science to industry, nor the opening of new means of communication, the discovery of new colonies, emigration, the creation of new markets, nor free trade were likely to eliminate the misery of the working class. He therefore concluded further, as in the Communist Manifesto, that while the social order rested on the old foundation, any new development of the productive powers of labour would only widen and deepen the chasm which divided the classes and would bring to the fore even more strikingly the already existing antagonism.
Having pointed out the causes which had contributed to the defects of the working class in 1848, the defeat which had brought in its train the apathy that had characterised the decade from 1849 to 1859, Marx also directed attention to a few conquests made by the workers during that period.
First, the ten-hour day law. He proved that, despite all the assertions of the hangers-on of capitalism, the shortening of the workday enhanced, rather than impaired, the productivity of labour. Moreover, Marx pointed out the triumph of the principle of government interference in economic relations over the old ideas. He further concluded, as he had in the Communist Manifesto,that production must be subjected to the control and the direction of society as a whole, and that such social production lay at the very basis of the political economy of the working class. The law pertaining to the ten-hour day was not merely a practical victory, it indicated the victory of proletarian political economy over the political economy of the bourgeoisie.
Another achievement was the co-operative factories which were being built on the initiative of the workers themselves. But, unlike Lassalle for whom co-operative associations were the starting point of the transformation of society into a state of socialism, Marx did not exaggerate their practical importance. On the contrary, he used these co-operatives to illustrate to the working masses that large scale and scientific production could proceed and develop without a class of capitalists to exploit the toilers; that wage labour, like slavery, was not anything eternal, but that, in point of fact, it was a transitional and lower form of work which ultimately was to give place to a system of social production. Having made all the communist deductions, Marx pointed out that while these co-operative associations comprised only a small number of workers, they could not better the conditions of the working class in any way.
The network of co-operative production would have to spread all over the land before capitalist production could be superseded by communist production. But having put the problem thus wise, Marx hastened to note that such a transformation would be impeded by the desperate opposition of the ruling classes. The landowners and the capitalists would use their political power to defend their economic privileges. Hence, the first duty of the working class was the conquest of political power, and, to accomplish this, the workers must create political labour parties in all the countries of the world. There is only one factor of success that the workers have at their command. This is mass, numbers. But this mass is strong only when it is compact, united, and when it is guided by knowledge and science. Without compactness, without solidarity, without mutual support in the struggle for liberation, without a national and an international organisation the workers would be doomed to failure. Guided by these considerations, added Marx, the workers of various countries decided to form an International Workingmen's Association.
Thus did Marx with his amazing tact and skill again arrive at the basic conclusions he had once reached in the more fiery Communist Manifesto: the organisation of the proletariat along class lines, the overthrow of bourgeois domination, the proletarian seizure of political power, the abolition of wage labour, the passing of all the means of production into the hands of society.
Marx concluded the Inaugural Address with another quite important political problem. The working class must not confine itself to the narrow sphere of national politics. It must follow assiduously all the questions of external politics. If the success of the whole cause depends upon the fraternal solidarity of the workers of the world, then the working class would not fulfill its mission, were it to allow the ruling classes who are in charge of international diplomacy to utilise national prejudices, to set the workers of one country against the workers of other countries to shed the blood and destroy the wealth of the people. The workers must therefore master all the mysteries of international politics. They must watch the diplomatic acts of their governments; they must resist, if need be with all the power at their disposal; they must join in one sweeping protest against the criminal machinations of their governments. It is time to bring to an end a state of affairs which, while punishing crimes when perpetrated by individuals, permits stealing, robbing and deceit in international relations.
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