Foundation Of The International
THE international exhibition held in London during the year 1862 was a rendezvous at which worldwide capitalism was given an opportunity of publicly demonstrating its wealth and its achievements.
Before the astonished eyes of the international bourgeoisie, the lords of commerce, the magnates of finance, and the kings of industry, puffed up with the pride of success, displayed the tremendous results of capitalist economic development. Not only did they exhibit their machines, raw materials, methods of production, technical discoveries, and statistical tables; but they also assembled at this centre of progress their technicians, masters of works, and manual operatives, whose zeal was to be stimulated by the spectacle, that they might be spurred on to fit themselves for the tasks of the day and to make themselves more efficient for the purposes of capitalist production. In Prussia and other parts of Germany, the sending of working-class delegates to London was the outcome of private enterprise; but from France delegates were dispatched under official auspices and with government support. Proudhon was an enemy 3f the Bonapartist regime, and Louis Napoleon wishing to undermine his influence with the proletariat was not content to extend an amnesty to numerous workers who had been imprisoned in connexion with strikes or for infringing the draconian laws against combination; but was also active in promoting the dispatch of a working-class delegation to the London exhibition. A special electoral bureau was installed, two hundred delegates were chosen, the cost of sending them was defrayed from public funds and by subscriptions; and in order that the activities of the delegation nijght be freely reported at public meetings of the workers, the relevant passages in thelaws which forbade such meetings were tacitly suspended. It was inevitable that the French and German delegations, in their visit to London, should come into contact with British trade unionists, should become acquainted with the economic and political influence of the British unions, and thus derive agitatorial impetus for their work in their own lands. The British trade unions had a direct interest in promoting such contacts, for the British workers, whenever the class war entered upon an active phase, were seriously injured by the blackleg competition of foreign workers whom the capitalists used to ship across the Channel on such occasions. They hoped, by enlightening their continental brethren, and by promoting the organization of these, to put an end to strike-breaking of this kind. During the exhibition, therefore, they did everything they could to encourage an international exchange of ideas among the workers, being especially interested in the Parisian delegates.
Since 186o, the trade-union movement had in England been advancing with rapid strides, especially in London. Not only were wider and ever wider circles of the workers being organized, but the organized British workers were modifying their attitude towards the problem of political action. Whereas hitherto it had been a principle of the trade unions to ignore politics, parliamentarism and elections, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, and the Ladies Shoemakers’ Society, under the leadership respectively of William Allan, Robert Applegarth, and George Odger, were now beginning to interest themselves in political problems and political action. A working-class newspaper, the “Beehive,” edited by George Potter, favoured this change of policy by its advocacy. Eccarius, a tailor from Thuritigia, who had been a member of the Federation of the just and then of the Communist League, and had for a long time been Marx’s right-hand man, did his utmost to promote the expansion of the organizational field, with the design of founding an international working-class organization. It was to him, in especial,that the formation of effective ties between British trade unionism and the foreign labour delegations to the exhibition was due.
It is probable, however, that the interest of the French and German labour delegates would soon have cooled, had not the general political situation on the Continent helped to fan the flames. The paralysing reaction of the fifties was now spent. Capitalism, for the purposes of its own development, needed freer and more mobile working-class elements, and for this reason it had been necessary to mitigate the pressure of tsarist, Bonapartist, and Bismarckian policy. The flowers of liberty were blossoming once more. Lassalle, in his letters to Marx, had referred to the new vital impetus that was manifesting itself everywhere in the proletariat. In Italy and Hungary, the movements for national independence had become active once more, diffusing a stimulant influence.
The Polish rising of ‘863 opened a new ventilating shaft for the accumulated energies of the movement on behalf of freedom. “This much is certain,” wrote Marx to Engels under date February 13, 1863 “that the era of revolution has at length been reopened in Europe. The general posture of affairs is good. But the cheerful deceptions and the almost childlike enthusiasm with which we acclaimed the revolution before February 1848, are over and done with. Old comrades have passed away, others have backslidden or been corrupted, and, as yet at least, there is no sign of any new growth. Moreover, we know now how great a part stupidity plays in revolutions, and how they are exploited by rotters. One may hope that this time the lava will flow from east to westl and not in the opposite direction.” When, in the course of the Polish rising, Prussian soldiers were used against the revolution, this was, according to Marx, “a combination which compels us to raise our voices.” The Workers’ Educational Society certainly ought to issue a manifesto. “You must,” wrote Marx to Engels, “write the military portion-that which concerns Germany’s military and political interest in the re-establishment of Poland. I will write the diplomatic portion."The Polish rising speedily collapsed, but the idea mooted by Marx took due effect. The representatives of the London workers sent the Parisian workers a manifesto they had drafted in favour of the Poles, and asked their French comrades to take joint action. Thereupon the Parisian workers sent a delegation to London, headed by Tolain, who had been labour candidate at the recent elections in Paris. This delegation participated at a meeting held in St. James’ Hall in honour of the Poles. At this meeting a committee of British workers was appointed, to send a fraternal address to the Parisian workers and to arrange for a subsequent meeting. The second meeting was held at St. Martin’s Hall on September 28, 1864, having been summoned by Odger, chairman of the London Trades Council, and Cremer, secretary of the Building Workers’ Union. Reporting to Engels, Marx said: “A certain Le Lubez was sent to me, to ask if I would come on behalf of the German workers, would find a German worker to speak at the meeting, and so on. I suggested Eccarius, who did splendidly, and I assisted as a lay figure on the platform. I knew that on this occasion real forces were present, both from London and from Paris, and I therefore decided to waive my usual rule, which is to refuse all such invitations.
“At the meeting, which was packed out (for manifestly there is now a revival of the working classes), Major Wolff (Thurn and Taxis, Garibaldi’s adjutant) represented the London Union of Italian Workers. It was decided to found an International Workingmen’s Association, whose General Council is to sit in London, acting as intermediary for the workers’ societies in Germany, Italy, France, and England. In 1865, a general working-class congress is to be summoned in Belgium. At the meeting, a provisional committee was appointed, Odger, Cremer, and many others, in part sometime Chartists, sometime Owenists, etc., for England; Major Wolff, Fontana, and other Italians, for Italy; Le Lubez, etc., for France; Eccarius and myself, for Germany. The committee was empowered to co-opt as many members as it likes.
“So far, so good. I attended the first sitting of the committee. A sub-committee (of which I am a member) was appointed to draft a declaration of principles and provisional rules. Being indisposed, I was unable to attend the sitting of the subcommittee and the subsequent meeting of the General Council. At these two meetings, in my absence, this was what happened:
“Major Wolff handed in a rules and constitution (statutes) translated from those of the Italian workingmen’s associations (which have a central organization, but are, as appeared later, essentially associated mutual aid societies) ; this he thought was suitable for use by our new association. I saw the thing later. It was obviously botched up by Mazzini, and you will know without my telling you in what sort of spirit and what kind of phraseology the essential question, the labour problem, was treated. Also the problems of nationality were dragged in by the ears. In addition, a sometime Owenist, Weston, an amiable and worthy man, submitted a programme of unspeakable length and full of unutterable confusion.
“At the next meeting of the General Council, the subcommittee was instructed to remodel Weston’s programme and Wolff’s rules and regulations. Wolff departed to attend the congress of the Italian Workingmen’s Association at Naples, and to ask this body to affiliate to the London central association.
“Another meeting of the sub-committee, which I again failed to attend, having been notified too late. To this was presented a ‘declaration of principles’ and an elaboration of Wolff’s rules and regulations drafted by Le Lubez, which was adopted by the sub-committee to lay before the General Council. The General Council met on October j 8th. Since Eccarius had written to warn me that there was danger in delay, I turned up, and was truly terrified to hear the good Le Lubez read out a horribly worded, badly written, and utterly raw foreword, which professed to be a declaration of principles. Mazzini peeped through it all, crusted over with vague rags of French socialism. Substantially, the Italian rules and regulations wereadopted. Whatever their faults may be, they have a quite remarkable aim, that of establishing a sort of central government (of course with Mazzini in the background) of the European working classes. I played the part of moderate opposition; and, after lengthy discussions, Eccarius proposed that the subcommittee should subject the whole thing to ‘re-editing.’ The ‘principles’ contained in Le Lubez’s declaration were, however, accepted.
“Two days later, on October 20th, there was a meeting in my house, attended by Cremer for the British, Fontana (Italian), and Le Lubez-Weston could not come. I had not as yet had the papers (Wolff’s and Le Lubez’s) in my hands, and therefore had been unable to prepare anything; but I had made up my mind that if I could prevent it not a line of the thing should be left. To gain time, I proposed that before ‘editing’ the foreword, we should ‘discuss’ the propositions. This was agreed. It was one in the morning before the first of forty propositions was adopted. Cremer said (at my instigation): ‘We have nothing to put before the General Council’ which is to meet on October 25th. We must postpone it until November 1st. The sub-committee can meet on October 27th, and try to come to a definite conclusion.’ This proposal was accepted, and the ‘papers’ were ‘left’ for me to look through.
“I saw that it was impossible to make anything out of the document. In order to justify the very remarkable way in which I intended to re-edit the already ‘voted principles, I wrote an Address to the Working Classes (which was not in the original plan); a sort of retrospect of what had happened to the working classes since 184-5. Under the pretext that all factual matters were contained in this Address, and that we need not say the same things thrice over, I modified the introduction, cut out the declaration of principles, and finally reduced the four and twenty propositions to ten. In so far as international politics are mentioned in the Address, I refer to countries and not to nationalities; and I denounce Russia, not the minor States. My proposals were all adopted by the sub-committee. Only one thing, I had to pledge myself to insert in the preamble to the rules two phrases about ‘duty’ and ‘right’i also about truth, morality, and justice-but they are all so placed that they cannot do any harm.
“At the sitting of the General Councill my Address, etc., were adopted with great enthusiasm (unanimously). The discussions about printing, and so on, will take place next Tuesday. Le Lubez has a copy of the Address for translation into French, and Fontana one for translation into Italian (and there is a weekly, the ‘Beehive,’ edited by the trade unionist Potter, a sort of ‘Moniteur’). I myself am to translate the thing into German.
“It was very difficult to arrange matters so that our views should appear in a form which would make them acceptable to the present standpoint of the labour movement. The same people will in a few weeks be holding joint meetings with Bright and Cobden on behalf of an extension of the suffrage. It will be some time before the reawakened movement will permit of the old boldness of speech. We must he strong in the substance, but moderate in the form.”
So much for Marx’s report to Engels. Enough to add that the chairman of the provisional General Council was Odger, and its vice-chairman Eccarius. It was to have its headquarters in London. That is all the noteworthy information that can be given as to the founding of the International Workingmen’s Association.
Summarizing the matter, it may be said that the objective conditions requisite for the foundation of the International were furnished by the general situation; that the subjective stimulus proceeded from the trade unions; and that the intellectual leadership and the furnishing of a political objective came from Marx.
The Inaugural Address
The Address, Preamble, and Provisional Rules of the International Workingmen’s Association is extant in the original English text that was adopted by the Association, but Marx’s German version of this original has not come down to us.
The first version published in German was the work of J. B. von Schweitzer, Lassalle’s successor in the General Union of German Workers. It appeared in 1864, in the second and third issues of the “Sozialdemokrat,” the organ of the union.
In ‘866, J. 1’. Becker, who had fled to Switzerland after the rising in the Palatinate and Baden, and had settled down in the Swiss republic, published another German version of the Address in the “Vorbote,” issued in Geneva as the central organ of the German-speaking group of the International.
Two years later still, Wilhelm Eichhoff, in Die Internation ale Arbeiterassociation, a book published in Berlin, gave yet another translation of the Inaugural Address, described as “as faithful a rendering as possible.” Since these translations differed in certain respects, containing errors as well as conflicting interpretations, Karl Kautsky subsequently published an authorized translation, made by Luise Kautsky under his supervision.
In the preface to this translation Kautsky points out that in Marxist literature the Inaugural Address has a significance, as far as exposition of programme is concerned, second only to that of the Communist Manifesto. But though the two documents agree in fundamentals, the Inaugural Address has a very different visage from the Communist Manifesto.
When the Communist Manifesto made its way into the world with all the splendour of a mounted pursuivant, Marx was addressing himself to a choice group of working-class intellectuals, who were to form a propagandist society of persons carefully trained in matters of theory, persons who, in the forthcoming revolution, would seize the leadership, and would conduct the movement forward towards its goal. In the interim, seventeen years had passed away. The hopes of revolution had not been fulfilled. The revolutionary outburst of 1848 had been followed by a widespread reaction, and by a formidable development of capitalism. The bourgeoisie had made common cause with the vestiges of the feudalist powers, and the two had constituted a firm front. Against these united forces, no headway could be made by a small group of tried and trusty revolutionists backed up only by a blind following of the masses. What was needed now was a spontaneous mass movement of those who were thoroughly well informed regarding methods and aims. The Inaugural Address was designed to provide such a mass movement with practical objectives and immediate tasks. Thus it substituted concrete demonstrations for enthusiastic impetus, and provided a soberly drawn map of the nearest sections of the route for a splendidly conceived historical perspective.
The Address begins with a drastic and overwhelmingly powerful but concise statement of the contrasts characteristic of capitalist evolution: exuberant wealth among the possessing classes, and terrible poverty among the non-possessing. “The total import and export trade of England had grown in 1863 to £443,955,000, an astonishing sum, about three times the trade of the comparatively recent epoch of 1843 . . . . From 1842 to 1852, the taxable income of the country increased by six per cent; in the eight years from 1853 to 1861, it has increased from the basis taken in 1853 twenty per cent.
‘This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power,’ adds Mr. Gladstone, ‘is entirely confined to classes of property.’ That was one side of the medal. Here was the obverse: “The House of Lords caused an inquiry to be made into, and a report to be published upon, transportation and penal servitude. Out came the murder in the bulky blue-book of 1863, and proved it was by official facts and figurcs, that the worst of the convicted criminals, the penal serfs of England and Scotland, toiled much less and fared far better than the agricultural labourers of England and Scotland. But this was not all. When, consequently upon the Civil War in America, the operatives of Lancashire and Cheshire were thrown upon the streets, the same House of Lords sent to the manufacturing districts a physician commissioned to investigate into the smallest possible amount of carbon and nitrogen, to be administered in the cheapest and plainest form, which, on an average, might just suffice to ‘avert starvation diseases.’ . . . He found . . . that quantity pretty nearly to agree with the scanty nourishment to which the pressure of extreme distress had actually reduced the cotton operatives . . . and . . . that the silk weavers, the needlewomen, the kid glovers, the stocking weavers, and so forth, received, on an average, not even the distress pittance of the cotton operatives, not even the amount of carbon and nitrogen ‘just sufficient to avert starvation diseases.’ . . . As regards the examined families of the agricultural population, it appeared that more than a fifth were with less than the estimated sufficiency of carbonaceous food, that more than one-third were with less than the estimated sufficiency of nitrogenous food . . . . The agricultural population of England [the richest division in the United Kingdom was considerably the worst fed; but even the agricultural wretches of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Somersetshire fare better than great numbers of skilled indoor operatives of the East of London.” Such was the picture in England, the exemplary land of capitalism-a horrible contrast between superfluity and starvation. But “with local colours changed, and on a scale somewhat contracted, the English facts reproduced themselves in all the industrious and progressive countries of the Continent. In all of them there has taken place, since 1848, an unheard-of development of industry, and an undreamed-of expansion of imports and exports. In all of them ‘the augmentation of wealth and power entirely confined to classes of property’ was truly ‘intoxicating’ . . . . Everywhere the great mass of the working classes were sinking down to a lower depth, at the same rate at least that those above them were rising in the social scale. In all countries of Europe it has now become a truth demonstrable to every unprejudiced mind, and only denied by those whose interest it is to hedge other people in a fool’s paradise, that no improvement of machinery, no appliance of science to production, no contrivances of communication, no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade, nor all these things put together, will do away with the miseries of the industrious masses; but that, on the present false base, every fresh development of the productive powers of labour must tend to deepen social contrasts and point social antagonisms.”
Having given this demonstration of the economic and social situation, the Address turns to consider the political situation. “After the failure of the revolutions of 1848, all party organizations and party journals of the working classes were, on the Continent, crushed by the iron hand of force; the most advanced sons of labour fled in despair to the transatlantic republic; and the short-lived dreams of emancipation vanished before an epoch of industrial fever, moral marasm, and political reaction. The defeat of the continental working classes, partly owed to the diplomacy of the English government, acting then as now in fraternal solidarity with the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, soon spread its contagious effects to this side of the Channel. While the rout of their continental brethren unmanned the English working classes, and broke their faith in their own cause, it restored to the landlord and the money-lord their somewhat shaken confidence. They insolently withdrew concessions already advertised. The discoveries of new gold lands led to an immense exodus leaving an irreparable void in the ranks of the British proletariat. Others of its formerly active members were caught by the temporary bribe of greater work and wages, and turned into ‘political blacks.’ All the efforts made at keeping up, or remodelling, the Chartist movement failed signally, the press organs of the working class died one by one of the apathy of the masses, and, in point of fact, never beforeseemed the English working class so thoroughly reconciled to a state of political nullity.”
Only two great happenings had lightened the darkness of this gloomy period, the introduction of the Ten Hours Bill after a thirty years’ struggle, fought with most admirable perseverance, a struggle in which the English working classes had. turned to account a temporary feud between the landlords and the money-lords; while the other redeeming feature had been the foundation of the co-operative movement by a few bold innovators, the Rochdale pioneers. “The Ten Hours Bill was not only a great practical success, it was the victory of a principle . . . . But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labour over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories.” The great value of the co-operative movement was that it did not represent the outcome of a casual favourable turn in the parliamentary situation, but was the expression of a deliberate, spontancotis, and fully conscious attempt to overthrow the capitalist system. Herein is disclosed the fact that “like slave labour, like serf labour, hired labour is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labour plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart.”
Experience has indeed shown that “however excellent in principle, and however useful in practice, co-operative labour, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even perceptibly to lighten the burden of their miseries . . . . To save the industrious masses, co-operative labour ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means . . . . To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes. They seem to have comprehended this, for in England’ Germany, Italy, and France, there have taken place simultaneous revivals, and simultaneous efforts are being made at the political reorganization of the workingmen’s party. One element of success they possess-numbers; but numbers weigh only in the balance if united by combination and led by knowledge. Past experience has shown how disregard of that bond of brotherhood which ought to exist between the workmen of different countries, and incite them to stand firmly by each other in all their struggles for emancipation, will be chastised by the common discomfiture of their incoherent efforts.”
After referring to the war against Negro slavery in the United States, to the Russian conquest of Caucasia, and to the suppression of the Polish rising by Russian armies, the Address goes on to say that these things “have taught the working class the duty to master themselves the mysteries of international politics; to watch the diplomatic acts of their respective governments; to counteract them, if necessary, by all means in their power; when unable to prevent, to combine in simultaneous denunciations, and to vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the rules paramount of the intercourse of nations. The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes.”
The fundamental ideas of the Address are reiterated in the Preamble to the Provisional Rules’ in a more concentrated form. Here we read “that the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves; that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means, not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties and the abolition of all ‘class rule.’ That the economical subjection of the man of labour to the monopolizer of the means of labour, that is, the sources of life, lies at the bottom of servitude in all its forms, of all social misery, mental degradation, and political dependence; that the economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means; that all efforts aiming at that concrete end have hitherto failed from the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labour in each country, and from the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries; that the emancipation of labour is neither a local, nor a nation~il, but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries.”
These important considerations once more give plain expression to the meaning and the aims of the International. Although the Inaugural Address lays so much stress upon the Ten Hours Bill and the co-operative movement as immediate aims of the working class, this nowise implies that the document represents a trend in favour of renouncing revolution and returning to reformist methods. Nothing could have been further from the tuthor’s mind than the idea of regarding an opportunist endeavour to fulfil immediately practical demands as a panacea for the miseries of the proletariat. The aim of the Address was, rather, to make the workers aware of the need for international cohesion, and to do this by laying strong emphasis upon concrete practical interests; seeing that the comparatively abstract argumentation of the Communist Manifesto had been practically without influence upon the intelligence and the will of the proletariat. Incitement of the workers of England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain to join forces in a living solidarity; the enlisting of Chartists’ Owenists, Proudhonists, Blanquists, Mazzinists, and Lassallists by a programme which would not offend or exclude any of them-these were the fundamental motifs and aims of the Address. Both in form and content, it was admirably designed to achieve its end.
The Tower Of Babel
Since the International did not absorb into its own structure the working-class organizations of the various countries, but left them intact as independent structures, it soon comprised a motley mosaic of groups, trends, schools, and camps; and it had to conduct its affairs in a multiplicity of languages, as at the Tower of Babel after the confusion of tongues.
Not only had the labour movement in every country its own specific national imprint; but further, in every country, there existed conflicting types of organization and movement. In England, for instance, there were still to be found considerable vestiges of Owenist utopism, which had degenerated into freethinking sectarianism. There were also the relics of the Chartist movement’ which had now fallen into hopeless decay. Among the trade unionists, although collectivist ideas were gaining ground, individualist notions were still dominant, so that there was a strange mishmash of doctrine. Worst of all, as the Webbs point out in their History of Trade Unionism, the leaders of the movement were unaware that they were trying to combine incompatibles. The majority of the British trade unionists, moreover, like the Christian socialists led by Kingsley and Maurice, would not hear a word of political activity on the part of the workers. Nor were things any better in France. There, Fourierists and Cabetists continued to enjoy a popularity that was long overripe. Louis Blanc’s scheme for national workshops had still numerous supporters; and Blanqui’s futile policy of extemporized insurrectionism had not ceased to attract persons with a fondness for action in season and out of season. But among all the programmes that competed for popular support, Proudhon’s scheme for getting rid of capitalist society, and liberating every one peacefully, by means of a people’s bank secured the strongest support. In Germany, the utopian ideas of Weitling were still flourishing amid the moribund traditions of the petty-bourgeois radicalism of 1848. But in the foreground here, far more imposing than all the rest, stood the General Union of German Workers, enjoying widespread popularity which had been artificially inflated by Lassalle’s skill as an agitator. Since Lassalle’s death, however, its influence had begun to decline, owing to the civil war betweenthose who adhered to the masculine trend under Schweitzerand those who adhered to the feminine trend under Countess Hatzfeld. In Italy, the nationalist-mystical republicanism of Mazzini was closely akin to the revolutionary anarchism of Bakunin. Switzerland, finally, was the happy hunting-ground of cantonal particularisms.
Not that most of the groups and organizations just mentioned belonged as yet to the International. But it was to be foreseen that when they did join the International the result would be a mad confusion of ideas, a chaos of conflicts and the development of socialism into a monstrosity.
Marx recognized these dangerous possibilities, and therefore made it his business to ensure that the opposing outlooks should not forthwith find expression in the publicity of a congress, but that their discussion should be restricted, to begin with, within the narrow limits of a more or less confidential conference.
He was aided by the fact that the progress of the International, at first, was anything but rapid. Indeed, the beginnings were on a very small scale. After considerable hesitation, a few trade unions in which propaganda work had been carried on for a considerable time had decided to adhere. For the rest, the organization contained only individual members, who were grouped in sections. Even in this respect, the growth of the membership lagged behind expectations. The first to join, other than English, were the members of the Italian Workingmen’s Club in London. Then came three German workers’ societies, among them the Communist Workers’ Educational Society. A working-class society for the support of Polish refugees also affiliated. In Switzerland a few sections were formed. In Germany, although fifty thousand copies of the Address were circulated, there was no more than a feeble response. After the lapse of a year, the growth of the International had still been so inadequate that its voice could not have been expected, at a congress, to produce the desired political effect. On Marx’s initiative, therefore, the General Council decided that the congress planned for Brussels in 1865 should be replaced by a conference in London.
The London Conference was held from September 25 to 29, 1865. British labour was represented by Odger, Cremer, Howell, Wheelerl Dell, and lATeston. From France came Tolain, Limousin, Varlin, Fribourg, Schily, and Clarion; from Brussels, César de Paepe, a qualified medical man, working as a compositor. Switzerland had sent J. P. Becker for the Germanspeaking and Dupleix for the French-speaking section. Besides this, the continental workers were represented by delegates from the respective national societies in London: Germany, by Lessner and Schapper; Italy by Major Wolff; Poland by Bobrzynski. Finally, the following were present as corresponding members of the General Council: Marx for Germany, Jung for Switzerland, and Dupont for France. Eccarius reinforced the German representatives, being present as vice-chairman of the General Council.
The general secretary of the Internationial, Cremer, reporting for England, said that as yet only a very small part of the trade unions had been won over to support the International. There was, however, he said, good reason to hope that, in view of the recently opened campaign on behalf of an extension of the suffrage (a campaign which the International would energetically support), a considerable accession of membership would be secured. The reports from France were little more encouraging, and the wrangling between the French delegates gave sufficient explanation for the failure of the International in that country. In Switzerland, on the other hand, thanks to the indefatigable and able recruiting work that had been carried on by Becker, a number of large working-class organizations had come into being, but this result was less encouraging than it might otherwise have been because Becker was so obviously nothing more than a reformist. The same tendency towards reformism, fostered in especial by the Proudhonist trend of so many of the French, and complicated by the general confusion of ideas, was manifest throughout the discussions. No matter whether the topic of debate was the Polish question, the religious problem, or the desirability of speedily holding a general congress-irreconcilable opinions were voiced, incompatible principles were advocated with violence on both sides, and a situation developed which represented the very opposite of international harmony.
Conflicts, Crises, Struggles
The development of the International Workingmen’s Association proceeded along lines which soon made Marx “for practical purposes the head of the concern.”
This involved for him a tremendous expenditure of energy and time, which were eaten up by meetnigs, correspondence, and negotiations. His days ere long proved too short, and he had to steal time from the night. During these years’ he was engaged in writing Capital, his great work on political economy. This involved extensive studies, which were perpetually being interrupted by the sittings of the General Council and its subcommittees. The newspaper articles on which he was dependent for daily bread remained unwritten, and again and again he grumbled about “the enormous waste of time,” and the “frequent interruptions.” Engels, likewise, whom Marx had often to call upon for help, occasionally lost patience. “The new movement,” he wrote angrily, “makes me sweat abominably. It is the devil and all when, having written the livelong day for one’s business, one has to go on writing afterwards till one or two in the morning for the party and publishers and so on.” Yet all the while the movement was expanding; was demanding more energy, closer supervision, keener participation; would give its directors no rest;
Worse still, from day to day the affair seemed more and more unsatisfactory, owing to the innumerable quarrels, jealousies, and faction fights with which the inner life of the International was convulsed. “I had said to myself,” wrote Engels, “that a naïve fraternity would not last long in the International . . . . There will certainly be a lot more phases of the kind, which will cost you a great deal of time.” In actual fact, brawls were unceasing. Now it was the French who were taking up the cudgels against the brain-workers, and were ready to tear one another’s eyes out because of differences upon the religious problem; now the management of the Polish question gave rise to violent disputes; now embittered struggles raged round the periodical, the “Commonwealth,” which had been appointed the official organ of the International, and appeared to be too much inclined to espouse a bourgeois reformist outlook; now there was a fight between Odger and Potter, the editor of the “Beehive,” a fight which threatened to become a public scandal; now it became necessary to expel members who had gravely infringed the rules, or had published false reports concerning the internal affairs of the organization. So it went on, month after month. Once, when Marx returned from a journey, he wrote to Engels: “This evening I was at a sitting of the International again for the first time after three weeks. In the interim, there has been a revolution. Le Lubez and Denoual have resigned, Dupont has been appointed French secretary. Owing to the intrigues of Le Lubez and especially of Major Wolff (who is a tool of Mazzini), the Italian delegates Lama and F’ontana have resigned. The pretext is that Lefort (who has also in the interim declared his intention to resign) is to retain his post as general defender of the Parisian press. The Italian Workingmen’s Club has not withdrawn from the organization, but no longer has a representative on the Council. Meanwhile, through the instrumentality of Bakunin, I propose to countermine Signor ME’zzini in Florence. The English Bootrnakers’ Union, with a membership of five thousand, has joined the International while I have been away.” Engels, in his answer, expresses the hope that “the rumpus will soon come to an end.” His hope was not destined to be fulfilled, for, with innumerable variations, the rumpus went on for weeks, months,years. As soon as one conflict had been mitigated or settled, two new ones would break out elsewhere.
Inasmuch as, whatever Marx may have been, he was not a peacemaker, his influence tended rather to intensify than to mitigate these frictions and quarrels. Th effect he had in this respect was aggravated by the unfortunate circumstance that years of bodily indisposition had made him irritable and bitter. He had long suffered from liver trouble, to which of late an obstinate tendency to boils had been superadded, so that for many years this painful ailment was breaking out now in one part of his body and now in another, hindering his work, and often reducing him to despair. His letters to Engels are full of complaints and outbursts of wrath on this account. “I am tormented with the old evil in various and most inconvenient parts, so that it is very hard for me to sit.” . . . “I have spent the greater part of a week in bed because of a carbuncle.”
“To my extreme disgust, after being unable to sleep all night, I discovered this morning two more first-class boils on my chest.” . . . “I am working now like a dray-horse’ seeing that I must make the best use of all the time available for work, and the carbuncles are still there, though they are now giving me only local trouble, and are not interfering with my brain.”
“This time it was really serious-the family did not know how serious. If it recurs as badly three or four times more’ it will be all up with me. I have wasted amazingly, and am still damnably weak not in the head but in the trunk and limbs.
There is no question of being able to sit up. But, while lying down, I have been able, at intervals, to keep on digging away at my work.”
Engels had again and again, ever more urgently, begged Marx “to do something reasonable, that you may rid yourself of this tyranny of boils.” He asked the advice of doctors, studied medical literature, sent his friend prescriptions. Marx could not make up his mind to undergo methodical, treatment. He lacked time and money, was afraid of forfeiting his earnings, and was loath to leave the movement to itself at so critical a time. But when, in the winter of 1865-1866, the boils grew continually more troublesome, Engels wrote more seriously than ever: “No one can permanently endure this chronic fight with carbuncles, without mentioning that sooner or later you may have one assuming such a form that it will send you to the devil. What will happen then to your book and your family? You know that I am ready to do anything in my power, and, in this extreme instance, even more than I would risk in other circumstances. Do be reasonable, then, oblige me and your family to this extent at least, that you will have methodical treatment. What would happen to the whole movement if anything went wrong with you? . . . I can get no rest by day or by night until you have got over this trouble.”
Marx still hesitated. But at length the illness made it absolutely impossible for him to work. He had become so irritable that he did not venture to go to sittings of the General Council, finding it “barely possible to retain the storms within ‘the limits of pure reason, and being much more inclined to burst forth with undue violence.” He therefore decided, in March 1866, to spend a few weeks at Margate, enjoying the benefits of sea air and sea bathing.
Four weeks relaxation and change of air set him up once more. Although, after his return, he suffered in brief succession from a bad cold, from influenza, and from rheumatism, he was at any rate free from the carbuncles.
But he was not free from the material embarrassments by which, throughout that winter, he had been troubled almost as much as by the illness.
His work for the International (which was, of course, unremunerated), his expenditures upon postage, travel to meetings, minor jourfleys, doctor and medicines, in conjunction with the falling-off in his fees for newspaper articlcs, had completely upset his tottering finz’nces. In the summer of 1865 he wrote despairingly to Engels: “For the last two months I have been living on the pawnshop, while suffering from accumulated and ever more intolerable appeals from duns. You will not be surprised at the state of my finances when you bear in mind: first, that throughout this time I have not earned a penny; and,’ secondly, that the mere liquidation of my debts and the furnishing of the house cost about £oo. I have kept an account down to the last farthing, for it seemed incredible to me how the money was running away. Add that from Germany, where God knows what has been spread abroad, all possible antediluvian demands have been made . . . . I assure you that I would rather have my thumb cut off than write this letter to you. It is crushing to be dependent for half a lifetime. The only thought which consoles me is that we are running a joint business in which I give my time to the theoretical side of the matter and to party affairs.” Engels, sympathetic as ever, and always ready to help, promptly sent 95o, following this up with .Cis, £20, and £io. Meanwhile Jenny had fallen sick, and had to be sent for change of air to the country. Marx, going to visit her, found her still very ill; he had his portmanteau stolen, and wrote to Engels for money. The landlord had called, had talked of distraint, and of cancelling the lease. “The landlord’s visit was followed up by that of the rest of the pack, partly in person, and partly in the form of threatening letters. I found my wife so desperately ill that I had not the courage to tell her the true state of affairs. I really don’t know what to do!” Engels answered by return of post with a remittance of £1, and the assurance: “I am trying to think out ways of providing at least in instalments for the others.” Then, letter after letter, £50, a Christmas present, £15, £20, and £10, and finally the funds for the visit to Margate.
To this period belongs a temptation to which a reference must be made’ because it subsequently played a part in the history of the German social democracy. One day Marx received from Lothar Bucher, friend and executor of Lassalle, the offer of a well-paid position on the staff of the “Staatsanzciger” in Berlin. In return for his salary, he was to supply a monthly report upon the movements of the money market and the commodity market. Marx not in general scrupulous about the choice of the newspapers to which he contributed, was quick to suspect that Bismarck lurked behind the offer. At this juncture Bismarck was strongly interested in the idea of getting into political touch with the labour movement. He had tried to win over Lassalle to support his policy; had actually won over Countess Hatzfeld; and Marx (erroneously) believed that he had already got Herr von Schweitzer under his spell. After discussing the matter with Engels, Marx left the offer unanswered. Not long afterwards, Lothar Bucher entered openly into Bismarck’s service, and compiled the draft of the Anti-Socialist Law. During the worst days of the persecution of the socialists in Germany, Marx published Lothar Bucher’s letter. It was used by the social democrats as a weapon in their campaign against Bismarck, for they declared that he wanted to make friends with the workers when he needed them as pawns against the bourgeoisie; and treated them as enemies when he no longer had any use for them’ or found them in the way of his policy.
While Bucher’s letter was calculated only to increase the depressing effect of this depressing period, the advance now made by the International could not but promote a recovery of spirits. “As regards the London unions,” wrote Marx to Engels, “every day we have fresh accessions, so that by degrees we are becoming a power.” Engels answered with delight: “The International Association has really, in a very short time and with very little fuss, conquered a vast territory . . . . At any rate you have gained something out of the time you have spent on it.”
Still, this objective growth was but poor compensation for the crisis that raged within. All was going awry in the General Council; everywhere rivalry, jealousy, hostility prevailed. Cremer was fighting Eccarius. Le Lubez was intriguing against the Germans. Major Wolff was at war with Jung. The Mazzinists were arming themselves against doctrinal control by those whom they stigmatized as tyrants. In the official organ, which was dependent upon “bourgeois funds,” and therefore lacked the requisite independence, political and commercial rivalriesculminated in something that was little better than a dog-fight. “I have shown the utmost patience in this affair,” said Marx, “hoping that the workers would make a push to carry it on themselves independently, and also because I did not wish to be a spoil-sport.”
Notwithstanding these internal dissensions, the public side of the movement was successful. A huge meeting in St. Martin’s Hall on behalf of the extension of the suffrage was entirely under the inspiration of the International Workingmen’s Association. Writing to Engels about the franchise demonstrations in London, inaugurated, after the fall of the Russell government (in which Gladstone was the leading spirit), against the procrastinatory policy of Disraeli, Marx said: “It is really amazing compared with anything seen in England since 1844, and wholly the work of the International . . . . This shows how different it is when one works behind the scenes and disappears from the public eye, as compared with the democratic manner of assuming important airs in public and doing nothing at all.”
True that behind the scenes there was still a great deal to do. “The cursedly traditional character of all English movements, a lukewarm reformism, coquetting and compacting often enough with bourgeois radicalism, had their way, and quenched the early fire of the movement.” As J. P. Becker once wrote to Jung, there was “lacking among the English workers a spice of revolutionary salt, which might have roused them from the slumber of legalism.” Or, as Marx complained: “In France, Belgium, Switzerland (even here and there in Germany, and actually in a sporadic way in America), the society has made great and continuous progress. In England, the reform movement, which we called into life, has nearly made an end of us. That would not matter, were it not that the Geneva Congress has been summoned for the end of May [18661. For the English, a failure of the congress would be very much to their taste. But for us! It would make us ludicrous in the sight of Europe!”
Marx was very much afraid lest the congress should be a failure, for he knew that the movement was not yet sufficiently ripened to cope adequately with such a public test. He debated the advisability of going to Paris, in order to advise the comrades there, who were urging that the congress should be held without delay, that a postponement was essential. At the same timel he was well aware that the whole future of the International would be imperilled should it not be held. Engels agreed with him: “It is of minor importance whether the congress passes any good resolutions; the essential thing is that there should be no open scandal. Besides, any demonstration of the kind would be a discredit-as far as we are concerned. And before the whole of Europe? I hope it could be avoided.
Still, I would advise you on no account to go to Paris for this reason . . . . The police would take prompt action . . . . The whole affair is not worth the risk . . . . Better stay where you are in Margate, getting out in the fresh air as much as you can. Who knows how soon you will have need of all your strength?”
Ultimately, at the wish of the Swiss sections, the congress was postponed till the autumn of 1866. Marx did not attend it wishing to have “no personal responsibility for its management.” This proved to have been needless discretion, for the congress was by no means a European scandal. Very much the contrary. It was an event of European importance. For six days it was the centre of interest in the political world, passing weighty resolutions, especially upon social topics and labour protection laws, concerning which Marx had penned a memorial and carefully edited the resolutions.
While Marx thus had reason to be well pleased with the Geneva Congress next year’s congress, held at Lausanne from September 2 to September 8 1867, aroused great anxiety in his mind. At Geneva the French Proudhonists had sustained a defeat, gaining experience which led them to make better preparations for Lausanne. They flooded the Lausanne Congress with proposals and discussions, and succeeded in carrying a number of Proudhonist resolutions. Marx was at this timewholly immersed in finishing the first volume of Capital. Not only did that make it impossible for him to attend the congress, but he had been unable to prepare the agenda, as he had done in the case of Geneva. Commenting on the proceedings, he wrote to Engels: “At next year’s congress in Brussels, I shall make it my business to give these jackasses of Proudhonists their quietus. On this occasion, I have been extremely diplomatic, not wishing to intervene personally before my book is published, or until our organization has struck roots. Besides, in the official report of the General Council (despite all their efforts, the Parisian chatterers could not prevent our re-election), I shall give them a good lashing. Meanwhile, our society has made great strides forward. The wretched ‘Star,’ which wanted to ignore us altogether, declares in a leading article that we are more important than the Peace Congress. Schulze-Delitzsch was unable to prevent his workers’ society in Berlin from affiliating to us. The English pigdogs among the trade unionists, for whom we were too ‘advanced,’ are flocking to us . . . . When the next revolution (which is perhaps nearer than it seems) comes, we shall have this powerful engine in our hands. Compare that with the results of the machinations of Mazzini and the rest of them during the last thirty years! And this without any funds! Despite, too, the intrigues of the Proudhonists in Paris, Mazzini in Italy, and the jealous Odger, Cremer, and Potter in London, with Schulze-Delitzsch and the Lassallists in Germany, to boot! We have good reason to be satisfied!”
But the more the International attracted public attention, the more alarmed was the bourgeoisie to witness the growth of a hostile power thus developing against it. The authorities mobilized their forces and took action: in England, on the occasion of an Irish conspiracy, with which the International was erroneously supposed to he connected; in France, under a law which forbade the formation of societies with more than twenty members; in Belgium, after a dispute between miners and mineowners in the Charleroi district, a dispute in which there had been bloodshed. These attacks however, served mainly to strengthen the prestige of the International. During the great strike movement which spread across the Continent from iS 66 to 1868, the bourgeoisie came to regard the International as a dread spectre. Its influence was supposed to be at work in every active labour movement; its hand was suspected behind every strike, every rising, all working-class political activity. Ferdinand Tonnies tells us that in his boyhood the International was looked upon as the embodiment of the Red Peril. The newspapers were filled with references to this secret power, with paragraphs about its unlimited command of money. Marx was represented as the sinister protagonist of a worldwide conspiracy. Most of the chatter, of course, was gross exaggeration, the outcome of fear. This much, however, was true, that the organization-despite its internal dissensions, despite its urgent lack of funds, despite the apathy and the misunderstanding and the timidity it had to encounter-steadily grew in prestige and importance under Marx’s guidance and inspiration. What Marx had said about the Lausanne Congress, that the main thing was that it should be held’ and that what happened at the congress mattered very little, applied still more to the International as a whole. Its value, its importance, did not depend upon its actual doings or achievements, but upon the mere fact of its existence.
Schweitzer And Liebknecht
It cannot but seem strange that the General Union of German Workers, which after Lassalle’s death had become the leading labour organization of the German proletariat, should not have been in touch with the Intcrjiationall and should not have been represented at any of the congresses.
The reason was, above all, that the General Union of German Workers had, immediately after Lassalle’s death, passed under incompetent leadership, and been devastated by a war ofsuccession. But subsequently, when the wing of the organization that was under the control of J. B. von Schweitzer had become able to undertake serious and positive political activities, there was still no attempt to collaborate with Marx. Marx himself had an invincible dislike for this organization that had been founded by Lassalle. His aversion to Lassalle had been transferred to Schweitzer, and was a barrier to any sort of alliance. Furthermore, there had been a personal quarrel between Marx and Schweitzer, the outcome of a trifling matter. The “Sozialdemokrat,” the organ of the General Union of German Workers, edited by Schweitzer, had printed an item of Paris correspondence furnished by Moses Hess in which doubt was thrown on the trustworthiness of Tolain, a leading member of the International in Paris. This was but one of the countless intrigues characteristic of the life of the refugees. Marx ought to have been lenient, seeing that, when he was editing the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” he had given publicity to a similar slander on Bakunin, but he was not inclined to be lenient where Schweitzer was concerned. He marshalled his heavy artillery, not only demanding satisfaction, but making the accusation against Tolain the excuse for abruptly and rudely breaking off his own relations with the “Sozialdemokrat.” He declared that the trend of the paper was antipathetic to him. His doubts of Schweitzer ripened to venomous suspicions. Writing to Engels, Marx said that he regarded Schweitzer as “irreclaimable, and probably in secret understanding with Bismarck.” He wanted to cut adrift from Schweitzer at any price. He went on to say: “As long as this Lassallist business has the upper hand in Germany, the International Workingmen’s Association will make no progress there.” He was going much too far, in his anger, for Schweitzer not only withdrew the charge that had been made against Tolain, but offered to lay before the congress of the General Union of German Workers a resolution expressing agreement with the principles of the International and a determination to send delegates to the Brussels Congress. But Marx ignored this proffer of friendship. He would have nothing more to do with Schweitzer and the Lassallist organization. “Since we have to break with the fellow, we had better do it immediately,” he wrote to Engels. The latter, answering in the same strain, said; “The longer we dawdle along with him, the deeper we shall get in the mire. The sooner the better.” Marx and Engels thereupon sent the “Sozialdemokrat” a statement to the effect that they had not for a moment failed to recognize the difficulties of the situation, and had never asked the newspaper to put forward any demands unsuitable to the meridian of Berlin. But they had repeatedly asked that the “Sozialdemokrat” should use against the ministry and the feudal absolutists a language no less bold than that which it used against the progressives. The tactics adopted by the “Sozialdemokrat” made it impossible for them to continue collaborating with it. Their views concerning Prussian monarchical governmental socialism, and concerning the attitude which ought to be assumed by the labour party towards such humbug, had been expressed as long ago as 1847 in the “Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung.” They were still prepared to subscribe to every word of the declaration they had then published.
Thus without inquiry and without a shadow of proof, they implied that the “Sozialdemokrat” was secretly working hand in hand with Bismarck, and was endeavouring to bring about an alliance between the proletariat and the government against the liberal bourgeoisie. In this matter, Marx and Engels were doing a gross injustice to Schweitzer. He had never dreamed of entering into a conspiratorial alliance with Bismarck. As Mehring shows, one cannot find in the “Sozialdemokrat” a single line suggesting a pact with the government against the progressives. The five articles concerning the Bismarck ministry published by Schweitzer in the “Sozialdemokrat,” the articles upon which Marx and Engels based their statement, had a very different complexion for one who was actually bearing the heat and burden of the political struggle, and upon whom it was incumbent to avail himself of chance happenings in the opposing army and to turn these to account on behalf of the proletariat-.than for one who lived in exile far from the fighting line, and contemplated the fray through a distorting atmosphere.
Schweitzer was a man of independent intelligence and strong character, filled with political earnestness and inspired with a sense of revolutionary responsibility. It may well be that Marx regarded him (like Lassalle) as a dangerous competitor, as one who wished to assume the political rôle which Marx had reserved for himself. The determination to discredit him, makes it extremely probable that such a sense of rivalry existed in Marx’s mind, in the under levels of consciousness at least. For not only did Marx take an erroneous view of Schweitzer’s personal character; he also went astray in his estimate of the General Union of German Workers. Although this had now become an imposing organization, Marx persisted in regarding it as an obscure and eccentric sectarian movement, devoted to the advocacy of petty-bourgeois democratic interests. Unfortunately, in this way of looking at the matter, he was supported by Wilhelm Liebknecht.
Liebknecht, who since 1862 had been living in Berlin, had already played a strange part in the conflict between Marx and the “Sozialdemokrat.” He was on the staff of the “Sozialdemokrat,” and had actually sub-edited the column in which the offensive paragraph about Tolain had appeared. Instead of trying to pour oil on troubled waters, Liebknecht showed himself completely wanting in tact and comradely feeling. He was himself personally embroiled with Schweitzer, and this led him, not only to ignore his duty to clear up the differences between Marx and Schweitzer, but actually (we may suppose) to intensify the trouble by the tone of his letters to London. For instance, we read in a letter from Marx to Engels: “According to Liebknecht, the only reason why Schweitzer has not been able to sell himself to Bismarck is that he would have had to do so through the instrumentality of that old Hatzfeld woman.” This shows the evil atmosphere in which gossip and intrigue were flourishing.
Lassalle, years before, had written fiercely and contemptuously concerning the part played by Liebknecht in the Vogt affair. In a letter to Marx penned in January 1860, he said: “How in the world can you-straitlaced as you rightly are in other respects, bring yourself to have associations with any one who writes in the ‘Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung’? You say, indeed, that they all do it, that they contribute to all newspapers without distinction of tint, and that you would be a solitary exception. This bad custom does not affect the matter. If they do, they are all under the same condemnation. . . I am afraid your ties with Liebknecht are not transient or isolated.” Marx himself who had been in close touch with Liehknecht during the latter’s stay in London, was incessantly criticizing his pupil’s political activities in Berlin. In letters to Engels, Marx says that Liebknecht is “dilatory,” a “blockhead”; that Liebknecht makes “many blunders”; “often goes astray.” In general, Marx had a poor opinion of Liebknecht’s intelligence. Nevertheless, Marx continued, with indefatigable indulgence, to back up Liebknecht and to excuse his errors. He needed Liebknecht as a tool against Schweitzer; and Liebknecht, wholly devoted to Marx, unruffled by the most vehement scoldings, had no objection to being misused in this fashion.
Subsequently, Liebknecht was expelled from Berlin. He went to Leipzig, joined forces with Bebel, and in conjunction with the latter founded at Eisenach in 1869 the Social Democratic Labour Party. It now became plain that everything which Marx blamed Schweitzer for, really, on close examination, applied to Liebknecht. The latter, though Marx’s own pupil, was enormously excelled by Schweitzer in the comprehension and elaboration of Marx’s ideas upon socialist theory and socialist politics. Schweitzer edited his newspaper in accordance with the principles of the Communist Manifesto and the Address, and, as a member of the North German Reichst.tg, sometimes asked Marx’s advice upon difficult political problems. Liebknecht, on the other hand, in the “Demokratisches Wochenblatt,” advocated a particularist and confused brand of petty-bourgeois socialism, which perpetually conflicted withMarxian principles. Nevertheless, he remained Marx’s favourite child, while Schweitzer was treated as whipping-boy.
“I think you must have made many a worthy man your enemy who might have been one of your adherents,” Lassalle had once said reproachfully to Marx. Schweitzer was among the number of these “worthy men” whom unjust suspicion and mortifying coldness drove out of the workers’ camp, although with all the powers of his intelligence and all his sympathies he earnestly desired Marx’s friendship and alliance.
Causeless suspicion has clouded Schweitzer’s name even in the tomb. Although there was never anything questionable or unsavoury about his behaviour or his political activities, although no words or deeds of his can be quoted that tend to show he was anything but a thoroughly honest socialist, although there is not a blemish on his revolutionary escutcheon, he is still currently supposed to have been dishonest, to have been sold to the other side. Mehring undertook to plead his cause, and Mehring’s demonstration of Schweitzer’s fundamental honesty would be convincing to any impartial tribunal. Nevertheless in the labour movement, it is generally believed that Schweitzer played false, because such was Marx’s opinion.
Michael Bakunin was arrested in 1844 in Saxony after the Dresden rising, and was condemned to death. Instead of executing him, however, the Saxon authorities handed him over to the Austrians, by whom he was tried once more, and again sentenced to death. Yet again he escaped the extreme penalty, and in 1851 the Austrians handed him over to Russia. From then until 1857 he was imprisoned in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, and was afterwards sent to Siberia. Escaping thence in 1861, he made his way back to Europe through Japan and America. Reaching London in the end of 1861, he got into touch with his compatriots Herzen and Ogaryoff, and wrote articles for Herzen’s “Kolokol,” although he was not in sympathy with the moderate tone of that periodical. Here is Bakunin’s own account of what he learned in London:
“While I was having a far from amusing time in German and Russian fortresses and in Siberia, Marx and Co. were peddling, clamouring from the housetops, publishing in English and German newspapers, the most abominable rumours about me. They said it was untrue to declare that I had been imprisoned in a fortress, that, on the contrary, Tsar Nicholas had received me with open arms, had provided me with all possible conveniences and enjoyments, that I was able to amuse myself with light women and had an abundance of champagne to drink. This was infamous, but it was also stupid.
Hardly had I arrived in London, when an English newspaper published a statement by a certain Urquhart, a turcophile and a semi-imbecile, to the effect that the Russian government had apparently sent me to act as a spy. I answered in a newspaper, challenging the anonymous calumniator to name Inmself’ and promising him that I would answer him, not pen in hand, but with a hand without the pen. He left matters there, and I was not troubled any more.”
In the beginning of 1863, Bakunin went to Sweden, his aim being, from that platform to stir up a revolution in Russia. He returned to London in the end of the same year, and then went on to Italy. In August 1864, he visited Sweden once more, and in October was back in London. Before leaving again for Italy, he had an interview with Marx. About this he wrote: “At that time I had a little note from Marx (it is still among my papcrs), in which he asked me whether he could come to see me the next day. I answered in the affirmative, and he came. We had an explanation. He swore that he had never said or done anything against me; that, on the contrary, he had always been my true friend, and had retained great respect for me. I knew that he was lying, but I really no longer bore any grudge against him. The renewal of the acquaintanceship interested memoreover, in another connexion. I knew that he had taken a great part in the foundation of the International. I had read the manifesto written by him in the name of the provisional General Council, a manifesto which was weighty, earnest, and profound, like everything that came from his pen when he was not engaged in personal polemic. In a word, we parted, outwardly, on the best of terms, although I did not return his visit.”
We also have Marx’s account of this meeting. Under date November 4, 1864, he wrote to Engels: “Bakunin wishes to be remembered to you. He has left for Italy today. I saw him yesterday evening once more, for the first time after sixteen years. I must say that I liked him very much, much better than before. He said that after the failure in Poland he should in future confine himself to participation in the socialist movement. On the whole he is one of the few persons whom I find not to have retrogressed after sixteen years, but to have developed further. I had a talk with him also about Urquhart’s denunciations.”
Bakunin’s resolve to devote himself henceforward to the socialist movement exclusively, and his conviction as to the importance of the International, made him regard it as desirable to be on good terms with Marx once more. Of course this went rather against the grain. Between the old-time friendship and its renewal there had been, not only the series of calumnies circulated about Bakunin and the period of his imprisonment and exile, but also a deplorable dispute with Marx thanks to which Bakunin, from the beginning of his revolutionary career, had been flecked with the suspicion of being a spy. Here is Bakunin’s story of that matter:
“In the year 1848 Marx and I had a difference of opinion, and I must say that he was far more in the right of it than I. In Paris and Brussels he had founded a section of German communists and had, in alliance with the French and a few English communists, supported by his friend and inseparable comrade Engels, founded in London the first international association of communists of various lands . . . . I myself, the fumes of the revolutionary movement in Europe having gone to my head, had been much more interested in the negative than in the positive side of this revolution, had been, that is to say, much more concerned with the overthrow of the extant than with the question of the upbuilding and organization of what was to follow. But there was one point in which I was right and he was wrong. As a Stav, I wanted the liberation of the Slav race from the German yoke. I wanted this liberation to be brought about by the revolution, that is to say by the destruction of the regime of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Turkey, and by the reorganization of the peoples from below upwards through their own freedom, upon the foundation of complete economic and social equality, and not through the power of any authority, however revolutionary it might call itself, and however intelligent it might in fact be.
“Already at this date the difference between our respective systems (a difference which now severs us in a way that on my side has been very carefully thought out) was well marked. My ideas and aspirations could not fail to be very displeasing to Marx. First of all because they were not his own; secondly because they ran counter to the convictions of the authoritarian communists; and finally because, being a German patriot, he would not admit then, any more than he does today, the right of the Slays to free themselves from the German yoke-for still, as of old, he thinks that the Germans have a mission to civilize the Sltvs, this meaning to Germanize them whether by kindness or by force.
“To punish me for being so bold as to aim at realizing an idea different from and indeed actually opposed to his, Marx then revenged himself after his own fashion. He was editor of the ‘Neue Rheinische Zeitung,’ published in Cologne. In one of the issues of that paper I read in the Paris correspondence that Madame George Sand, with whom I had formerly been acquainted, was said to have told some one it was necessary to be cautious in dealing with Bakunin, for itwas quite possible that he was some sort of Russian agent.” According to a statement published by Marx on September i, 1853, in the London newspaper the “Morning Advertiser,” on July 5, 1848, the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” had received two letters from Paris, one from the Havas Bureau, and the other “from a political refugee"-Marx did not wish to give his name, but was referring to Dr. Ewerbeck, the sometime leader of the Federation of the Just. Both these letters contained an allegation to the effect that George Sand possessed letters compromising Bakunin, “showing that he had recently been in communication with the Russian government.”
Bakunin writes of this: “The accusation was like a tile falling from a roof upon my head, at the very time when I was fully immersed in revolutionary organization, and it completely paralysed my activities for several weeks. All my German and Slav friends fought shy of me. I was the first Russian to concern himself actively with revolutionary work, and it is needless for me to tell you what feelings of traditional mistrust were accustomed to arise in western minds when the words Russian revolutionist were mentioned. In the first 1’nstance, therefore, I wrote to Madame Sand.”
Bakunin’s personal peculiarities and his mode of life gave a good deal of colour to all this gossip and suspicion. He was of aristocratic birth, of striking appearance; his doings had caused a great deal of talk; nobody could understand how it was he had so much money to play about with; he had his fingers in all kinds of queer conspiratorial pies. The Russian embassy, which kept him under close observation, followed its usual policy of broadcasting suspicions about him, hoping thereby to undermine his prestige in revolutionary circles. Writing in the “Neue Oder-Zeitung,” Bakunin declared that just before the appearance of the defamatory statement in the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” like rumours had been circulated in Breslau, that they had emanated from the Russian embassy, and that the best way in which he could refute them would be by an appeal to George Sand.
Thereupon George Sand wrote to the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” under date August 3, 1848: “Your correspondent’s statements are utterly false, and have not the remotest semblance of truth. I have no atom of proof of the insinuations which you have tried to disseminate against Herr Bakunin, whom the late monarchy banished from France. Consequently, I have never been authorized to express the slightest doubt of the loyalty of his character and the candour of his opinions.
By this declaration Bakunin was fully rehabilitated.
Nevertheless, suspicion continued to attach to him. Fifteen years later, in December 1863, when he was travelling through France on the way to Switzerland, a Basle newspaper stirred up the Polish refugees against him by maintaining that, through his revolutionary intrigues, he had involved many of their fellow countrymen in disaster, while himself always remaining immune. During his stay in Italy, he was perpetually being attacked and calumniated in like manner by numerous German periodicals.
Marx, too, still regarded Bakunin with much suspicion, and never missed a chance of speaking against him. With reference to Serne, a Russian whom he believed to be an adviser of Bakunin, he said: “I wanted information from this young man regarding Bakunin. Since, however, I do not trust any Russian, I put my question in this way: ‘What is my old friend Bakunin (I don’t know if he is still my friend) doing?’-and so on, and so on. Serne could find nothing better to do than communicate my letter to Bakunin, and Bakunin availed himself of the circumstance to excuse a sentimental entrée!”
This “sentimental entréc” not only redounded to Bakunin’s credit, not only showed his good feeling and his nisight, but deserved a better reception from Marx than the biting cynicism and the derogatory insolence with which it was encountered (cynicism and insolence which were only masks for embarrassment). “You ask whether I am still your friend,” wrote Bakunin. “Yes, more than ever, my dear Marx, for I understand better than ever how right you were to walk along the broadroad of the economic revolution, to invite us all to follow you, and to denounce all those who wandered off into the byways of nationalist or exclusively political enterprise. I am now doing what you began to do more than twenty years ago. Since I formally and publicly said good-bye to the bourgeois of the Berne Congress, I know no other society, no other milieu than the world of the workers. My fatherland is now the Internationall whose chief founder you have been. You see, then, dear friend, that I am your pupil-and I am proud to be this. I think I have said enough to make my personal position and feelings clear to you.”
Bakunin honestly endeavoured to be on good terms with Marx, and to avoid friction. But he could not entertain cordial sentiments for Marx. The two men differed too much in mental structure, in theoretical trends, and in fundamental attitudes towards the revolutionary problem, for this to be possible. Bakunin loved the peasants; detested intellectualism and abstract systems with their dogmatism and intolerance; hated the modern Statel industrialism, and centralization; had the most intense dislike for Judaism and all its ways, which he regarded as irritable, loquacious, unduly critical, intriguing, and exploitative. Everything for which he had an instinctive abhorrence, everything which aroused in him spiritual repugnance and antagonism, was for him incorporated in Marx. He found Marx’s overweening self-esteem intolerable.
“Marx loved his own person much more than he loved his friends and apostles,” wrote Bakunin in a comparison between Marx and Mazzini; “and no friendship could hold water against the slightest wound to his vanity. He would far more readily forgive infidelity to his philosophical and socialist system. That he would regard as a proof of stupidity, or at least as an indication of the mental inferiority of his friend, and it would only amuse him. Such a friend would perhaps even be more dear to him, since it was now obvious that he could not be a rival’ could not dispute the topmost ground with himself. But Marx will never forgive a slight to his person. You must worship him, make an idol of him, if he is to love you in return; you must at least fear him, if he is to tolerate you. He likes to surround himself with pygmies, with lackeys and flatterers. All the same, there are some remarkable men among his intimates.
“In general, however, one may say that in the circle of Marx’s intimates there is very little brotherly frankness, but a great deal of machination and diplomacy. There is a sort of tacit struggle, and a compromise between the self-loves of the various persons concerned; and where vanity is at work, there is no longer place for brotherly feeling. Every one is on his guard, is afraid of being sacrificed, of being annihilated. Marx’s circle is a sort of mutual admiration society. Marx is the chief distributor of honours, but is also the invariably perfidious and malicious, the never frank and open, inciter to the persecution of those whom he suspects, or who have had the misfortune of failing to show all the veneration he expects.
“As soon as he has ordered a persecution, there is no limit to the baseness and infamy of the method. Himself a Jew, he has round him in London and in France, and above all in Germany, a number of petty, more or less able, intriguing, mobile, speculative Jews (the sort of Jews you can find all over the place), commercial employees, bank clerks, men of letters, politicians’ the correspondents of newspapers of the most various shades of opinion, in a word, literary go-betweens, just as they are financial go-betweens, one foot in the bank, the other in the socialist movement, while their rump is in German periodical literature . . . . These Jewish men of letters are adepts in the art of cowardly, odious, and perfidious insinuations. They seldom make open accusation, but they insinuate, saying they ‘have heard-it is said-it may not be true, but, and then they hurl the most abominable calumnies in your face.”
Despite the destructive analysis conveyed in the foregoing passage, Bakunin had a profound respect for Marx’s intellectual abilities and scientific efficiency. When he read Marx’s Capitalhe was amazed, and promptly set to work upon translating it into Russian. Writing to Herzen, he said: “For five-and-twenty years Marx has served the cause of socialism ably, energetically, and loyally, taking the lead of every one in this matter. I should never forgive myself if, out of personal motives, I were to destroy or diminish Marx’s beneficial influence. Still, I may be involved in a struggle against him, not because he has wounded me personally, but because of the State socialism he advocates.”
This struggle was soon to break out. Characteristically enough, the flames blazed up on account of a personal dispute. “At the Peace Congress in Geneva,” reports Bakunin, “the veteran communist Becker gave me the first, and as yet the only, volume of the extremely important, learned, profound, though very abstract work Capital. Then I made a terrible mistake; I forgot to write to Marx in order to thank him. * . . I did not hasten to thank him, and to pay him a compliment upon his really outstanding book. Old Philip Becker, who had known Marx for a very long time, said to me, when he heard of this forgetfulness: ‘What, you haven’t written to him yet? Marx will never forgive you!"’ Although Bakunin found it hard to believe that this personal slight, however unpardonable a discourtesy, could be “the cause of the resumption of hostilities,” a letter from Frau Marx to Philip Becker shows that this must actually have been the case. “Have you seen or heard anything of Bakunin? My husband sent him, as an old Hegelian, his book-not a word or a sign. There must be something underneath this! One cannot trust any of these Russians; if they are not in the service of the Little Father in Russia, then they are in Herzen’s service here, which amounts to much the same thing.”
A duel between the two titans had become inevitable. It was fought in the International, of which Bakunin had become a member a few months before the Brussels Congress.