History of The First International by G. M. Stekloff
IN the period subsequent to the Geneva Congress, the working-class movement continued to have notable successes. In the United States, the eight-hour working day was established for State enterprises. By the English Reform Act of 1867 (shortly afterwards extended to Scotland and Ireland), the urban workers (men) were for the most part granted the parliamentary vote, and the working class was thus, in appearance at least, given the position of political predominance which the middle classes had held since the Reform Act of 1832. Throughout this year, trade union affiliations to the International continued, though the movement was rather slow. 
In France,  where there had previously been seventeen branches, nine additional branches were founded. In Switzerland, according to Becker’s report, the number of members attached to the German Central Committee alone was thirty thousand.
In Belgium, after strikes had taken place and some of the workers had been shot, a few trade unions joined the International. In Italy, too, some branches of the International had been formed.
The second congress of the International sat in Lausanne from September 2 to 8, 1857. It was attended by seventy-one delegates, four of whom (Dupont, Eccarius, Carter, and Lessner) were members of the General Council. There were two British delegates (Walton, architect, chairman of the National Reform League at Brecon, S.Wales; and Daniel Swan, ribbon-weaver, Coventry), two Italian, one Belgian (de Paepe), six German (among whom were Kugelmann, Ludwig Büchner, the author of Force and Matter, and F. A. Lange. – see Reference Notes), eighteen French (among them Tolain, Chémalé, Charles Longuet, and Aubry), and thirty-eight Swiss.
As regards the development of socialist theory, the Lausanne Congress cannot rank with that of Geneva. Proudhonism, though its death was imminent, seemed to have taken on a new lease of life. Perhaps the fact that there were so few British delegates gave it a better chance of asserting itself. It must also be remembered that the Parisian Proudhonists were backed by the support of the delegates from French-speaking Switzerland, which was well represented. (In these early congresses, each individual delegate had a vote, regardless of the number of his mandatories. Of course this distorted the results of the voting.)
When the question of organisation came up for discussion, it was decided that the General Council was to send reports once a quarter to the central committees of the various countries. A uniform annual subscription of one penny per head was to be payable in quarterly instalments to the General Council. Another question discussed, introduced by the Proudhonist, Charles Longuet, concerned credits and people’s banks. The report recommended the foundation of national banks for the supply of gratuitous credit to the workers. A resolution proposed by Eccarius, and adopted by the congress, ran as follows
“The congress urges the members of the International in various lands to use their influence in order to induce the trade unions to devote their funds to co-operative production, this being the best way in which, having in view the emancipation of the working classes, they can employ the credit which they now give to the middle class and to the governments.”
When “mutuality,” etc., were under discussion, the question was raised whether the efforts of working-class associations for the emancipation of the fourth estate (i.e., the working class) might not result in the creation of a fifth estate whose condition would be even more wretched. By adopting a resolution to this effect, the congress admitted the reality of the danger (although, in accepting a rider by Eccarius, it recognised the inevitability of the eating up of small-scale industry by large-scale).
“To obviate the danger, the proletariat must remain firmly convinced that the social transformation can only be effected in a radical and definitive manner by methods acting on society as a whole and in conformity with reciprocity and justice.”
(A typical instance of Proudhonist verbiage!) Further, on the initiative of the French delegates, the congress discussed “the role of men and women in society,” and the education of children, after which it proceeded to consider compulsory, gratuitous, and secular education, and even devoted some time to the questions of a universal language, spelling reform, etc.
Nevertheless in two respects the Lausanne Congress was a step forward in the history of the working-class movement: in the first place, it raised the question of the function of the State, and that of the political duties of the proletariat; secondly, it discussed the problem of war, and the international policy of the working class.
The sixth item on the agenda read as follows: “Role of the State, public services, transport and exchange, collective and individual interests, the State considered as the maintainer of justice and the guardian of contracts, the right to punish.” A resolution was adopted to the effect that the State was and must be nothing but the executor of laws voted and recognised by the citizens; and that accused persons should be tried by citizens nominated by universal suffrage. This was of minor importance, but in the second part of the resolution it was declared that all the means of transport and exchange should be taken over by the State, in order to destroy the monopoly of the great companies. This opened wide perspectives, for it was the first concrete formulation of the idea of collective ownership of the means of production and exchange, and it foreshadowed the fierce struggle which was subsequently to rage around the question in the International. De Paepe wished to add to the resolution a rider in favour of the nationalisation of the land. After an animated debate, the rider was withdrawn, the matter being referred to the next congress.
In the seventh item on the agenda the problem of the rule of the State recurred in connection with the question of the political struggle of the working class. We have already learned, from the Address and Provisional Rules of the International and from the General Council’s report to the Geneva Congress, what was Marx’s outlook. In the Preamble to the Provisional Rules (see Appendix), we read: “The economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means.” Does this mean that the political struggle is regarded as needless for the proletariat (such was the subsequent contention of the Bakuninists), or does it mean (as the opponents of anarchism later declared) that in certain circumstances the political struggle is imperative? Even Marx, although he was far from ascribing overwhelming importance to political freedom for its own sake, was convinced of its importance in relation to the general movement for proletarian emancipation, and he also recognised that the working class at a certain stage of its development is forced to take part in the political struggle. But Marx was not merely unwilling to impose on the mass of the workers any system which was not an obvious deduction from their experience in the daily struggle. In addition he wished to avoid forcing the pace of the proletarian movement. In this matter there was all the more reason for caution at the date with which we are now concerned, in view of the general indifference of the workers to political questions (in France, for example); and in view of the need for maintaining the solidarity of the proletariat, at a time when the proletarian movement was in its infancy and was still subject to political persecution. Marx was convinced that the natural extension of the economic or industrial struggle would bring the workers face to face with the problem of the political struggle on a national scale, this signifying at first the struggle for the democratisation of the political system, and then the struggle for power; they would also, in due course, be confronted with the struggle on the international scale, this signifying the struggle to bring about the international socialist revolution. The socialists of the older schools, especially the Blanquists (under whose influence Marx’s views were to some extent formed in youth), regarded the political struggle as merely the culminating act, this meaning that it was to take the form of an armed rising of the proletariat and the seizure of political power in order to achieve the social transformation. But even Marx did not at the outset possess a full understanding of the political struggle in the sense of a persistent, far-sighted, and intelligent participation by the proletariat in all the conflicts of bourgeois society, and in the utilisation of these conflicts for proletarian ends. i.e., for a systematic broadening of the basis of the proletarian struggle – although the words “as a means” are quite susceptible of such an interpretation.
We have seen that in the report presented to the Geneva Congress, Marx, following the same line that he had adopted in the Address (see Appendix) had skilfully led up to the duties entailed by the political struggle as issuing from the practical activity of the working-class movement. He was alluding to the political struggle in both its forms: first, the seizure of power for the final transformation of capitalist society into a socialist society; and, secondly, the struggle for partial reforms which might consolidate the position of the working class and give it fresh platforms for a further advance. At the Lausanne Congress, this problem of political action was not brought to the fore either by Marx or by any of the General Council delegates at Marx’s instigation. The question had been raised at a public meeting held in Geneva a few days earlier. In the opinion of the Geneva delegates the discussion of this question might serve as a touchstone of the sincerity of the republican sentiments of some of the Parisian delegates, who, as we have seen, were suspected of Bonapartist leanings.
The seventh article on the agenda ran as follows:
“Is not the deprivation of political freedom a hindrance to the social emancipation of the workers, and one of the main causes of social disorders? How is it possible to hasten the re-establishment of political freedom?”
As thus formulated, the matter was within the limits of general approval, and aroused little discussion, so that even Guillaume, who subsequently became a Bakuninist leader, voted for the resolution, as also did the French opportunists.
In a report on the subject, after answering the above questions in the affirmative, Perron expressed himself thus:
“The various reports already read to the congress have shown clearly that the workers who consent to a life in which they are deprived of political freedom are condemned to move round and round in a vicious circle. This is disastrous to their true interests, and it is essential that they should find a way out. The same reports have proved that among peoples deprived of their rights as free citizens, and in all the countries where the inalienable rights of public meeting, free speech, and freedom of the press are restricted, the action of the International is greatly enfeebled, and the results achieved are slender. Conversely, the progress of the International is most marked in those countries where the widest liberty prevails. It follows that, unless political liberty is ensured to the workers, the International will find it almost impossible to fulfil its glorious destiny, to expand, to extend all over Europe, and to become what it ought to be, a vigorous and powerful working-class confederation destined to bring about the social regeneration of the world. To put an end, therefore, to this deadlock, which would otherwise continue indefinitely, we must immediately put forward a claim for political emancipation, and must push this claim with no less energy than the claim for social emancipation.”
The following resolution was then adopted:
“With regard to the first part of question 7, the congress, considering that deprivation of political freedom is a hindrance to the social instruction of the people and to the emancipation of the proletariat, declares: 1. that the social emancipation of the workers cannot be effected without their political emancipation; 2. that the establishment of political liberty is absolutely essential as a preliminary step. With regard to the second part of the question, the congress decides: 1 ... to reiterate the foregoing declaration solemnly year by year ...; 2. to send an official announcement of this declaration to all the members of the International Workingmen’s Association, and also to the Peace Congress, requesting its energetic participation in the cause of at length securing for all the peoples the inalienable rights of 1789.”
At that moment no one foresaw that round this question was soon to rage a fierce struggle, which was destined to deal the International its death-blow.
The eighth item on the agenda concerned the attitude of the proletariat towards war. The introduction of this topic into the discussions of the International influenced the future development of the organisation, for it is one of the burning questions of contemporary society, and since the congress of Lausanne it has rarely been absent from the International socialist congresses. It came to the front in the following manner. The bourgeois democrats of Europe, being likewise aware of the need for international union, had organised a League of Peace and Freedom. This was, one might say, a pale copy of the International, but the aims of the organisation were narrowly political. The first congress of the league was to be opened in Geneva on September 9, 1867, this being immediately after the closing of the Lausanne Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association, and the organisers of the Peace Congress had invited the International to send delegates to Geneva.
At the Geneva Congress of the International the question of war had been incidentally considered in connection with the resolution against standing armies. The outlook of the International upon war, with a more concrete formulation of the principles by which it was guided in this question, had been expressed in a resolution passed by the General Council apropos of the war between Prussia and Austria in the year 1866. In this resolution, the Prusso-Austrian war was declared to be a quarrel between two despots, with neither of whom the proletariat could have any sympathy whatever. The working class must be permeated with one idea and with one will, to concentrate its forces so as to overthrow all the tyrants at a single blow, arid to achieve its own complete emancipation. The invitation of the League of Peace and Freedom gave the International an opportunity to enunciate the principles that guided its outlook on war
“The Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association, meeting at Lausanne,
“That the burden of war is borne mainly by the working class, inasmuch as war does not only deprive the workers of the means of subsistence but compels them to shed one another’s blood;
“That armed peace paralyses the forces of production, asks of the workers nothing but useless labour, and scares production by the perpetual threat of war;
“That peace, since it is the first requisite of general well-being, must be consolidated by a new order of things which shall no longer recognise in society the existence of two classes, one of which is exploited by the other: –
“Decides to give its full and energetic support to the Peace Congress which is to open in Geneva on September 9th, and to share in any activities in which the League of Peace and Freedom may engage in order to achieve the abolition of standing armies and the maintenance of peace, the aim of the Association being to bring about with the utmost despatch the emancipation of the working class and its liberation from the power and influence of capital, and also to effect the formation of a confederation of free States throughout Europe.”
Manifestly, this resolution embodies a blend of two contradictory outlooks. Whereas the first part declares plainly enough that the cessation of warfare presupposes the destruction of the capitalist system and its replacement by a socialist order of society free from class divisions, the second part is based upon the ideas of bourgeois pacifism and a coalition with the bourgeois democrats. The decision to give “full and energetic support” to the Peace Congress, a congress promoted by a purely bourgeois organisation such as was the League of Peace and Freedom, implied the belief that the League was effectively working for the establishment of peace, and that the methods it advocated could free the workers from the dominion of capital. How could such an outlook, permeated by democratic and pacifist illusions, be explained? Only by the fact that the working-class movement was still in its infancy; and by the fact that the Proudhonists, who stood upon the bourgeois platform, were still dominant at the Lausanne Congress.
This affords additional proof of the fact that there was as yet very little idea of revolutionary communism even among the advanced workers and their leaders. Marx had formed his own estimate of the democrats and pacifists in the League of Peace and Freedom, and would have nothing to do with their schemes. Writing to Engels under date September 1 1867, on the eve of the Lausanne Congress of the International, he referred to the League of Peace and Freedom in the following disrespectful terms:
“You know that in the General Council I opposed our having anything to do with these peace windbags. I spoke on the subject for about half an hour. Eccarius, who was minute secretary, prepared a report for ‘The Beehive,’ but he reproduced only one or two sentences of my speech.
“The reprint in the ‘Courrier Francais’ [the organ of the League of Peace and Freedom] actually omitted what I had said about the need for armies, in view of the Russian menace, and about the cowardice of these gentlemen. Nevertheless, what I said at the General Council meeting attracted a good deal of attention. The jackasses of the Peace Congress ... have completely modified their original program, smuggling into the new one (which is far more democratic) the words ‘the harmonising of economic interests with liberty’ – a vague phrase which may mean nothing more than free trade. They bombarded me with correspondence, and had the impudence to send me the enclosed specimen of eye-wash. You see they have the cheek to address me on the envelope as ‘a member of the Geneva, etc., Congress!”
Thus, the mere allusion of the bourgeois pacifists to Marx as a member of their contemplated congress, seriously annoyed him. We can readily understand, therefore, how profoundly disturbed he must have been by the above-quoted resolution of the Lausanne Congress of the International which not merely accepted at its face value the bourgeois mouthings of the League of Peace and Freedom, but actually promised “full and energetic support” to the League – thus giving it an endorsement in the name of the international proletariat. Unfortunately, Marx was not able to convince his colleagues on the General Council, and some time (not, indeed, a very long time) was to elapse before they would appraise the democratic-pacifist League at its true worth. But we are anticipating the events of the subsequent year, and must return to what actually happened at Lausanne.
The congress elected three delegates, Guillaume, De Paepe, and Tolain, who were instructed to convey the decision of the International to the Peace Congress. At the latter, Guillaume read the resolution in French, and Büchner in German. The differences between the bourgeois democrats and the proletariat had not, as yet, come to a head, so that the international’s resolution, far from arousing any hostility, was received with tumultuous applause by the bourgeois congressists. Several other members of the International were present at the Peace Congress, and it was also attended by some noted bourgeois democrats: old Garibaldi was there, at that very hour collecting volunteers for his attach on the papal dominions; so was Bakunin, who was within a year, to make so stormy an exit from the League of Peace!
Finally the Lausanne Congress re-elected the sitting members of the General Council – or rather, all those who had been regular in their attendance, adding as a new member Walton of South Wales, who was connected with the Reform League. The General Council was given the right to co-opt new members. Brussels was chosen far the next international congress.
The Lausanne Congress of the International aroused more attention in bourgeois circles than the Geneva Congress had done. A contributory cause of this doubtless was the fact that the International was at that juncture beginning to show itself to be a new and powerful political force. The appearance in the political arena of an organisation that aimed at bringing about a union of the working class, and that too on an international scale, could not but awaken widespread interest among the bourgeoisie, above all during the late sixties, when the political atmosphere was surcharged with electricity.
“The congress of the workers held at Geneva in the year 1866,” writes Eichhoff, “was the topic of lively discussions in the French press, notably in Paris and Lyons. The London newspapers, on the other hand, attempted to ignore the affair. It was very different with the Lausanne Congress of the following year, at which the ‘Times’ had a special correspondent.” In addition to the report in its news columns, this journal devoted a leading article to the International Workingmen’s Association, and the example was followed by the daily and weekly press throughout England. Now that the tone had been given by the ‘Times,’ the other newspapers did not think it beneath them to deal with the workers’ question editorially as well as in news items. All the papers began to talk about the workers’ congress. It was quite natural that many of them should write in a patronising or sarcastic vein. Nevertheless, the British press in general behaved with due propriety towards the congress. Even the ‘Manchester Examiner,’ the organ of John Bright and the Manchester school, referred to the congress in a leading article as an important and epoch-making affair. The comparison of it to its half-brother the Peace Congress was to the advantage of the elder brother. The Workers’ Congress was a terrible drama of fete, whereas the Peace Congress merely a ridiculous farce.”
From the date of the Lausanne Congress, the International took a more definite line in the matter of the political struggle, much to the annoyance of the Bonapartist police, and no less so to that of the Proudhonist doctrinaires. The Proudhonists were well aware that the bringing of the political question to the fore was partly aimed at themselves. As long as the matter had not gone beyond the bounds of platonic resolutions, they had been comparatively easy in their minds, doubtless feeling that the resolutions did not get beyond the walls of the assembly room, and therefore would not have any practical results. But when they found that they had been wrong in their forecast, their disappointment was profound. It is noteworthy that the decision to send representatives to the bourgeois Peace Congress, which might have been regarded as a manifestation of moderateness and a compromising spirit in political matters, was looked upon by them as a revolutionary and dangerous innovation, which threatened to ruin the political independence of the International, and to lead it from the right path.
Apropos of the sending of the delegates to the Geneva. Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom, Fribourg writes in a melancholy strain as follows:
“How was it possible, we may well ask, that the International should so far forget its essential nature as not merely to make common cause with a political society, but even to enter publicly into relations with it? The reason was that, in view of the incessant attacks upon the organisation, the delegates thought it expedient to give ‘pledges’ to the republican party. This was an initial mistake; it was to be fertile in consequences.
At one of the sittings of the Geneva Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom, Gustave Chaudey, relying on the declaration of the Lausanne Congress of the International concerning political liberty, proposed from the platform a compact which was approved by the assembly. The workers were to aid the bourgeoisie in the reconquest of political liberty, and in return the bourgeoisie would assist in securing the economic emancipation of the proletariat.
The idea that the bourgeoisie should undertake to assist the proletariat in its struggle for economic emancipation was, of course, absurd. But the Proudhonists, who looked at everything from the bourgeois standpoint, were quite unable to realise its fundamental absurdity and essential contradictoriness. What interested and annoyed them in this agreement was another aspect – the intrusion of political issues (though in so innocent a form) into their utopia, which ignored the political struggle. They judged the matter precisely as the French, Austrian, and Prussian police judged it. They took the same view as the conservative historian of the International, Rudolf Meyer, who wrote: “The workers fell into the trap” set for them by the liberals. Fribourg acrimoniously declares that from the date of the Lausanne Congress the workers began to be entangled in the political struggle. In reality, the Lausanne Congress had nothing to do with the case, for the appearance of the Parisian proletariat in the political arena was determined by the internal situation of France and by the imminence of a revolutionary explosion.
“The direct result of the Geneva Congress,” writes Fribourg. “was that the International participated in the demonstration of November 2, 1867, at the tomb of Manin in Montmartre cemetery, and two days later in the demonstration of protest against the reoccupation of Rome by the French imperial troops. The internationalists and various politicians turned up at the meeting-place specified by the fighting democracy, but there was never a sign of the Parisian members of parliament, who were all otherwise engaged,” Fribourg goes on to describe how the internationalists sent a deputation to M. Jules Favre, to ask, “if the proletariat could count on being led in the struggle by the liberal bourgeoisie on the day when the workers should take un arms for the Republic. M. Jules Favre, notwithstanding the decision of the Geneva Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom, answered: ‘Gentlemen workers, you made the Empire unaided, it is for you to unmake it at your will.’ ... From this time dates the antagonism between the International and the parliamentary left.”
The connection of the International with the League of Peace and Freedom, and the demonstrations of November 2nd and 4th, directed the attention of the Bonapartist police to the activities of the Parisian bureau. In the end of December, police raids were made on the headquarters of the International in the Rue des Gravilliers and on the homes of Chemale, Tolain, Heligon, and others.
At the “first trial of the International,” the imperial public prosecutor was forced to admit:
“The accused are hard-working, honest, and intelligent men. No convictions are recorded against them, there is not a stain on their character, and in support of the charges made against them I have not a word to say which will convey any dishonourable imputation.”
These fine phrases did not prevent the Bonapartist police from starting a campaign of oppression against the “honest and intelligent” working men. As Villetard puts it in his history of the International:
“What the Empire hoped was that the association founded at St. Martin’s Hall could either be used as a prop against the bourgeoisie, or else could be made a bogey to check the liberal aspirations which were already beginning to arise everywhere among the middle classes. The leader of the International probably guessed that this was the imperial policy. In any case, recognising that, for one reason or another, the authorities were friendly, they were not slow to profit by this disposition, for they were glad, at a time when they were still weak and isolated, to avoid a struggle which might have proved fatal to their organisation ... But in spite of the caution displayed on both sides, war had become inevitable ... When the old republican party heard the International declare that it would have nothing to do with politics properly so called, the republicans raised yet louder cries of ‘Treason’! These cries could not fail to alarm many of the members of the International, who were torn two ways by their revolutionary instincts and their socialist instincts ...Thus the organisers of the International were led, perhaps against their will, to declare war on the Empire.
In the next chapter we shall describe the persecution of the French internationalists by the imperial authorities. At this point, however, it is necessary for the presentation of a complete picture to look forward a little, and to refer to the evolution which the International underwent in France under the influence of the political struggle when that struggle became intensified through the widening of the scope of the working-class movement. After the police had broken up the first Parisian group of the Proudhonists, with the character of which the reader has been made sufficiently acquainted in the foregoing pages, a second bureau was speedily formed, and this new group (containing among others, Combault, Malon, and Varlin), lead far more definite views alike on social and on political questions. In the following passage Fribourg describes the new trend, with which, of course, he had no sympathy.
“The new group of leaders, which had been compelled to accept into its composition a considerable number of liberal communists (!), thought it necessary to intensify the political trend of the Parisian workers. Fresh prosecutions were not slow to follow, and the result of the new leadership was that, whereas the defence in the first prosecution had consisted solely of mutualist-socialist declarations, the defence in the second prosecution was made the occasion for professions of republican and communist faith. We see that the original plan of being extremely republican individually, but of being socialist only collectively, had undergone an extensive change, because the International was coming to feel it more and more necessary to ‘give pledges’ to the political jacobins. As soon as the members of the second group had been arrested, there was daily intercourse between the pseudo-communists of the International, the Blanquists, ... and General Cluseret. The result is easy to understand. The prisoners, whose condemnation had consecrated them as ‘political offenders,’ lent a ready ear to the suggestions of the authoritarian party, which thus found fresh auxiliaries in its endeavours to corrupt the mind of the workers. The International Workingmen’s Association had been finally suppressed in Paris, in so far as it had been a study group ... Into whose hands was the predominating influence now to pass? ... No one could tell, and the Parisian founders of the international were grieved to feel that their work was slipping from their hands.”
From 1868 dates the extensive republican and revolutionary movement which was destined in due course to sweep away the Second Empire. The enemies of the Empire were able to turn to useful account two laws passed in 1868, when the Emperor was in a liberal mood, that of May 11th on the freedom of the press, and that of June 6th on public meetings. The internationalists, in especial, made an adroit use of public meetings in order to spread their ideas. It then became apparent that the reactionary views of the Proudhonists were not in conformity with the standpoint of the masses any more than with that of their sometime colleagues, who had now taken a step forward. This was made plain at the public meetings held at the Vauxhall assembly room. We learn from Fribourg that, at the first of these (July, 1868), the position of women in society was the main topic of discussion. Heligon seized the chance to read an extract from the French delegates’ memorial to the Geneva Congress. After the passage had been vociferously applauded, he explained that this was the opinion of the International on the woman’s question. The declaration having naturally had a great effect on the public, the prisoners in Sainte-Pélagie (after the first trial of the International) were annoyed. “At the instigation of some of their fellow-prisoners” (these are Fribourg’s words, and he is hinting at the “tainting” influence of the Blanquists), they sent a letter of protest to the chairman of the Vauxhall meeting. The letter stated that the International was not a body of doctrines, but merely a “study society”; and that, especially on the woman’s question, it contained differing groups which must on no account be confounded. “The split between the Proudhonists of the first Parisian committee and their more revolutionary successors had taken place. In order to make it wider, and to draw a line of distinction where a clear line was essential, Fribourg took the opportunity of demonstrating that those who wanted to push women into industry were bad communists.”
The gulf between the reactionary ideologues of petty-bourgeois utopism whom historic forces had temporarily pushed to the front as leaders of the French working-class movement, and the true representatives of the endeavours and hopes of the working masses, widened day by day. Ere long the mortified Proudhonists were thrust into the background, and were cleared out of the way by the sceneshifter; so that they had nothing left to do beyond voicing futile slanders against the communist movement, in order to oblige their bourgeois friends – such was the fate of Fribourg and company. The revolutionary section of Proudhon’s disciples, on the other hand, having suitably reconstructed the master’s theories, entered the anarchist camp and joined forces with Bakunin – of whom anon.
Vera Zasulich describes the matter in the following terms:
“With these two trials, the first phase of the International in Paris came to a close. During this period of more than two years, its membership had been limited to a few hundred persons who met on Thursdays for the tranquil discussion of Proudhon’s theories and for the formulation of harmless but utterly impracticable plans. By the two trials the Government had achieved the destruction of this little organisation with its punctiliously elected committee and its punctilious methods of enrolling adherents. For a considerable time in Paris there was no official centre, and those who wished to join the Association received their membership cards individually, direct from the General council. But at this very period, partly as the immediate result of the prosecutions, the movement began to assume a mass character far more accordant with the aims of the International. The trades councils, the co-operatives, and the other labour organisations in Paris, which had hitherto shown no interest in the International, now took the affair into their own hands. Without formally affiliating to the organisation, they began to make common cause with it, and in September they sent delegates to the Brussels Congress.
A contributory cause of the downfall of the Proudhonists was the failure of the great Labour Credit Bank which had promiscuously granted loans to various insolvent societies. But, apart from this, the mutualists could no longer act as representatives of the advancing workers, behind whom the former were now lagging in every respect, owing to their deficiency in revolutionary impetus and their abstention from political activity. Among the French internationalists, communist trends were now becoming manifest, and there was an increasing desire to bring about the forcible overthrow of the imperial regime in the interest of the social revolution. The young members of the working class, and the leaders of the old revolutionary schools, between whom the Proudhonists had done their utmost to sow dissension, were beginning to understand one another.
“In the prison of Sainte-Pélagie, Varlin and his comrades encountered the Blanquists who were detained there for conspiracy. As the outcome of daily talks, the mutual hostility between the young workmen and their fellows prisoners soon abated. A like drawing together was manifest ere long outside the prison, in public meetings, where the extremists among the members of the International found themselves to be on many questions of the same way of thinking as, and able to work in alliance with, those bourgeois revolutionists who were interested in the social problem as well as in the downfall of Napoleon. Being given a forward impetus by the extremists, the International in France, as its membership underwent a rapid increase, began to assume a more revolutionary complexion. “
The hopes of the Second Empire in the way of exploiting the International and the working-class movement for its own reactionary ends came to nought, as do all such political utopias of reactionaries great and small. The workers continued their forward march, kicking out of the way the Proudhonists who were clinging to their legs and impeding their progress. The Bonapartist Government was compelled to make open acknowledgment of its disappointment. Characteristic in this respect is the following extract from the sentence passed by the Paris Criminal Court on July 8, 1870 in the third trial of the International
“This society was in fact organised in the first instance for a purely economic purpose, namely, the improvement of the lot of the working classes. Speedily, however, it diverged from this aim. We cannot doubt to-day that, although it might have been useful if it had confined its activities within the limits imposed by its original rules, it has become a social danger. The danger is, indeed, a formidable one when we take into account the extent of its membership (in France alone, as we have learned from the accused, there are several hundred thousand members), and the ardour with which it has thrown itself into the most burning questions of contemporary politics. In fact, though it has never repudiated its original program, it now declares that this program can only be realised by means of the revolution, and through the establishment of a democratic and social republic.”
But we are anticipating. We must resume the thread, and continue our account of the development of the international.