History of The First International by G. M. Stekloff
1 The Taborites were a section of the Hussites, the fifteenth century Bohemian reformers. In 1419, they founded the city of Tabor on a mountain near Prague. Hence their name. [E. and C.P.]
2 Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848, by Karl Marx and Friedrick Engels, translated from the German original for the Communist Party of Great Britain by Eden and Cedar Paul.
4 Rudolf Meyer, Der Emancipations-Kampf des vierten Standes. First edition, Berlin, 1874, vol. I., p.92. Second edition, Berlin, 1882, Vol. I, p. 111; People’s edition, Berlin, 1874, p.48.
5 Emile de Laveleye, The Socialism of To-day, translated by Goddard H. Orpen, Field and Tuer, London, pp. 146-7. [In the French original Le socialisme contemporain, Alcan, Paris, fourth edition, 1888, pp. 168-9.]
6 Werner Sombart, Socialism and the Socialist Movement, translated by M. Epstein; Dent, London, 1909 and Dutton, New York, 1909, pp. 193-5. [In the German original, Sozialismus und Soziale Bewegung, sixth edition, Fischer, Jena, 1908, pp. 213-6.]
7 A. Yashchenko, [Socialism and Internationalism], Moscow, 1907, pp. 1-7.
8 Among the German artisans of that date, there still prevailed an ancient custom according to which, for the completion of his craft training, the craftsman must travel for a specified time. Thus German workmen used to foregather in Britain, in Switzerland, and especially in Paris.
9 Concerning the Communist League see: Marx and Engels, Enthüllungen über den Kommunistenprozess in Köln [Disclosures concerning the Trial of the Communists in Cologne], Zurich, 1885; Charles Andler, Le manifeste communiste, 2 vols., Paris, 1906-10; Franz Mehring, Geschichte der deutschen Sozialdemokratie [History of the German Social Democracy], 2 vols., Stuttgart, 1897-8; Steklof, [History of the Working-Class Movement], State Publishing House, Moscow, 1927; D. Ryazanoff, Marx and Engels London, 1927; E. Tsobel, [History of the Communist League], Marx-Engels Archives, Russian edition; Vol. I., 1924.
10 Marx and Engels, [Trial of the Communists], p. 33.
11 For details see Mehring, op. cit., Vol. II.; Stekloff, Karl Marx, State Publishing House, 3rd ed., Moscow, 1923; Stekloff, the article Marx and the Anarchists in the collection [Memoirs of Karl Marx], St. Petersburg, 1908.
12 Theodore Rothstein, Aus der Vorgeschichte der Internationale [A Prelude to the History of the International], Supplement to the “Neue Zeit,” No. 17 (Oct-31, 1913).
13 Under the influence of the Chartist Movement, Engels wrote his celebrated book Die Lage den arbeitenden Klasse in England, Leipzig, 1845; English translation by F. K. Wischnewetsky, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, London, 1892. This was the first noted work written in the spirit of contemporary communism.
14 Concerning Harney, see R. G. Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement, London, 1894, pp. 29-30, etc; M. Beer, A History of British Socialism, 2 vols., Bell, London, 1919-20, vol. II., pp. 21 et seq.
15 Harney, one of the most active members of the Association, in his speech to the German Democratic Society for the Education of the Working Classes (London, February, 1846), delivered himself as follows: “The cause of the people in all countries is the same – the cause of labour, enslaved and plundered labour... The men who create every necessary, comfort, and luxury, are steeped in misery. Working men of all nations, are not your grievances, your wrongs, the same? Is not your good cause, then, one and the same also? We may differ as to the means, or different circumstances may render different means necessary, but the great end – the veritable emancipation of the human race – must be the one aim and end of all.’ (“The Northern Star,” February 14, 1845). – Thus, two years before the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the idea of a union of the proletarian forces of all lands had already been clearly enunciated.
16 Marx’s visit to London was also for the purpose of attending the second congress of the Communist League, which adopted the draft of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. At that time Marx was already advocating proletarian internationalism. In his speech to the meeting organised by the Fraternal Democrats on November 29, 1847, Marx said: “I have been sent by the Brussels Democrats to speak with the Democrats of London, to call on them to summon a Congress of Nations – a congress of working men – to establish liberty all over the world. The middle classes, the free-traders, held a congress in Brussels, but their fraternity was one-sided, and the moment they found that such congresses were likely to benefit the working men, that moment their fraternity would cease and dissolve. The Belgian Democrats and the English Chartists are the real Democrats, and the moment they carry the Six Points of their Charter the road to liberty will be open to all. Workers of England, fulfil this mission, and you will be the liberators of mankind.” – “The Northern Star,” December 4, 1847. Quoted by Beer, op. cit., vol. II., pp. 164-5, – The Six Points of the Charter, referred to by Marx in his speech, were: (1) universal suffrage (male only); (2) abolition of the property qualification for a seat in parliament; (3) annual parliaments; (4) equal electoral districts; 5) payment of members of parliament; (6) vote by ballot. These electoral reforms were regarded by the Chartists as a first step to the conquest of power by the workers, the ultimate aim being the social revolution.
17 Rothstein, op. cit., p. 12.
18 Influenced by the revolution in France, the Fraternal Democrats now adopted as their motto, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”
19 The coup d’état of Louis Bonaparte caused a panic among the English bourgeoisie, which decided to strengthen the British army in order to repel an anticipated French invasion. Against these plans Harney protested in terms which bear witness to his revolutionary internationalism. Let them arm the people, he said; let them have popular bodies armed among the people, independent of government influence. If an invasion should become more threatening he would say with O’Connell, that the time of England’s difficulty was the time for them to achieve their rights. Let them ground their arms, and say with him, the difficulty of the aristocracy is the opportunity of the people. The brigands of France and Russia would not come to wage war in Spitalfields or bivouac there. They would not come to plunder those who had nothing. If they were to defend the country, they must give them something to defend. If not, let them defend themselves. Multitudes of working men had not wives or families to defend; let them look to the factory districts, and say whether these men could be said to have wives or families. They had nothing but misery, whilst their rulers monopolised every benefit. (“The Northern Star,” February 7, 1852). In the beginning of 1848, when war between Britain and France had also seemed imminent, a manifesto had been issued by the Fraternal Democrats which gave evidence of their revolutionary sentiments. It appeared a few weeks after the publication of the Communist Manifesto, and was worded as follows: “Working men of Great Britain and Ireland, ask yourselves the questions: why should you arm and fight for the preservation of institutions in the privileges of which you have no share? Why should you arm and fight for laws of which you only reap the penalties? Why should you arm and fight for the protection of property which you can regard only as the accumulated plunder of the fruits of your labour? ... Let the privileged and the property-holders fight their own battles.” (“The Northern Star,” January 8, 1848) Thus spoke the socialists of seventy years ago!
20 Rothstein, op. cit., pp. 30, 31.
21 Marx, who together with Louis Blanc, was appointed honorary member of the “Parliament,” declared on this occasion: “The mere coming into existence of such a parliament marks a new epoch in the history of the world.” – Rothstein, op, cit., p. 34.
22 At this meeting, Alexander Herzen was present. The Crimean War was still in progress, and the chairman arranged that the Russian political refugee should make a speech as a practical demonstration that the assembly stood above national enmities. This demonstration is recalled by the one which took place at the Amsterdam International Socialist Congress, when the Russo-Japanese War was in progress, and when Plekhanov and Katayama shook hands upon the platform amid the acclamations of the assembled delegates.
23 Félix Pyat, born 1810, died 1889, was a French journalist and active revolutionist. He was member of the French Legislative Assembly in 1848 and 1871, became a refugee towards the end of the latter year. Subsequently, he participated in the Commune of Paris.
24 As the reader will learn in due course, this plan closely anticipates the organisation of the First international, which was founded eight years later. We have already the very name of the International Association, but the First International was the International Association of “Working Men.” This difference is a minor matter. The idea had obviously been born. – But we must not forget that the executive committee of the National Chartist Association of Great Britain formed in 1840, was a “General Council.” This name – typically British – was subsequently adopted by the executive committee of the First International. But in the English text of the Rules and Constitution of the International, the term “Central Council” is used.
25 This was a society formed during the fifties by French political refugees who were advocates of communism.
26 Mazzini, as we shall see later, was in conflict with the International, and indeed both with the Marxist and the Bakuninist wings.
27 German democrat, leader of the revolutions of 1848 in Germany and Austria, shot by the reactionaries in Vienna.
28 Engels, who was then living in Manchester, had very little to do personally with the foundation of the International. He began to work in it much later.
29 Within a few years the whole of the movement described in this chapter had been so utterly forgotten, that Eichoff in his History of the International (Wilhelm Eichhoff, Die Internacionale Arbeiterassociation, Berlin, 1868, pp. 1-2), declares that from 1824 onwards the struggle of the British workers was carried on in complete independence of the movements of the other European workers. The enthusiasm manifested at the meeting in St. Martin’s Hall showed, he says, that now for the first time the British workers had emerged from their national particularism, and had joined hands with the workers of other lands for the pursuit of common ends. And yet Eichhoff was in touch with Marx and Engels!
30 Tolain became a parliamentary candidate as early as 1863.
31 This was published in “Opinion Nationale,” of February 17, 1864.
32 The appearance of this manifesto instigated Proudhon to write, De la capacité politique des classes ouvrières (posthumously published) – a work which shows that on the eve of his death, the author was beginning to recognise, though dimly, the significance of the political struggle of the proletariat.
33 “Junker” is the German equivalent of “squire,” but has become current in English with the same political significance as is Germany, to denote a class-conscious squire, one who defends “the landed interest.”
34 Lassalle was born in 1825. He began to agitate for the establishment of the General Association in 1862. He was killed in a duel in the last days of August, 1864.
35 Philips Price puts the matter somewhat differently, and perhaps, more accurately. He writes: “In 1869, the breach in the German Labour ranks was well on the way to being healed. In the Eisenach Congress ... a union was reached between the V.D.A. and all the most influential and abler leaders of the A.D.A.V. The Social Democratic Party of Germany was founded.” See M. Philips Price, Germany in Transition, Labour Publishing Co., London, 1923, p.206.-E. and C. P.
36 As we have already learned, questions of foreign policy led, at an early date, to an international drawing together of the workers. In especial, the British and the French workers sympathised warmly with the Italians struggle for independence and national unity, and had a great admiration for Garibaldi. Howell, in The History of the International Association (“Nineteenth Century” July, 1878), says that the Neapolitan workers sent an address to the London Trades Council in 1861, and that the Council replied early in 1862.
37 Gustav Jaechk, The International, a Sketch written to commemorate the Fortieth Anniversary (1904) of the International Workingmen’s Association, translated from the German by Jacques Bonhomme. Twentieth Century Press London, p.4 – Albert Thomas, Le Second Empire (1852-1870), of the Histoire Socialiste (1789-1900), edited by Jean Jaurès, Rouff, Paris, pp. 197, et. seq. – Franz Mehring, Geschichte der deutschen Sozialdemokratie, vol. III. (Part II), Dietz, Stuttgart, 1898, p.121. – Georges Weill, Histoire du mouvement social en France, 1852-1902. – Fribourg refers the beginnings of this drawing together to an earlier date, namely to the occasion of a great concert given at the Crystal Palace in the year 1861, by five thousand French singers. (E. E. Fribourg, L’Association internationale des travailleurs, Paris, 1871, p. 5.) Obviously this writer had not heard of the deputation of French workers to London in the year 1856 (see above, Chapter II). See also D Ryazanoff, Marx and Engels, London, 1927; also the same author’s [The International Workingmen’s , Part I, The Origin of the International], in Marx-Engels Archives
Russian edition, Vol. I, 1924; German edition, Vol. I, 1925.
38 According to Fribourg (op, cit., p. 749), the Parisian prefect of police was much perturbed by the scheme. “I would rather see the law against labour organisations repealed,” said he, “than see such an expedition take place.” The remark does credit to his acumen as a police officer.
39 Briefwechsel zwischen Engels und Marx [Correspondence between Engels and Marx, Stuttgart, 1913, Vol. II], pp. 188 et seq. – Hitherto Marx had generally held aloof from participation in the schemes of the refugees, not anticipating that they would lead to any practical result. On this occasion, however, he departed from his rule, realising that something important was afoot, something in which the workers were actively interested. (Cf Briefwechsel, Marx’s Letter to Engels, dated November 4, 1854) – Fribourg asserts (op. cit., p.72), that no persons of any note in the political world (personnages politiques) took part directly or indirectly in the founding of the International. This statement is erroneous. There are various reasons why he may have made it. Perhaps he was misinformed. He may have been overpowered by “ouvrierist” self-importance – by undue attachment to the industrial wing of the labour movement. Perhaps the significance he attached to the term “personnages politiques” was peculiar, for he may have meant members of parliament.” Finally, of course, he may have wished to refute the bourgeois calumny that the workers were blind tools in the hands of the “politicals” who were leading the International. This last is the spirit, for example that animates Villetard’s book. (Edmond Villetard, Histoire de l’Internationale, Gamier, Paris, 1872 – English version, History of the International, translated by Susan M Day, Richmond and Co., New Haven.)
40 There were about fifty members; 9 French; 10 German; 6 Italian; 2 Swiss; 2 Polish; the remainder British.
41 The Address, Preamble, and Provisional Rules are printed in full as an Appendix to the present work.
42 Rochdale is a manufacturing town in Lancashire England. Here in 1844 a group of about forty textile operatives opened a (distributive) co-operative store. At first it maintained itself with great difficulty, but after a time it flourished, and thus gave an impetus to the co-operative movement in Britain. The body was known as the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.
43 Italics are not used in the original text of the Address. The author of this history italicises the points he wishes to emphasise.
44 With regard to the Mazzinist touch about “the simple laws of morals and justice,” which is quite foreign to Marx’s style and general outlook, see below,
45 With regard to the introduction of these phrases about “truth,” “justice and morality.” and (later) about “duty” and “rights” into the Preamble, Marx ironically assures Engels that, in this context, they could do no possible harm. (cf. Briefwechsel, Vol. III., p.191. Marx is writing to Engels under date November 4, 1864.) – In the same letter he goes on to say: “It was very difficult to manage things in such a way that our views [Marx means the views corresponding to what we continue to understand as revolutionary communism] could secure expression in a form acceptable to the Labour movement in its present mood. A few weeks hence these British Labour leaders will he hobnobbing with Bright and Cobden at meetings to demand an extension of the franchise. It will take time before the reawakened movement will allow us to speak with the old boldness. Our motto must be for the present ‘fortiter in re, suaviter in modo’ [strenuously in deed, but gently in manner].” James Guillaume (L’Internationale, Vol. I, p.14, Note 2) tells us that it is a tradition that Marx scoffed at “morality” and “justice as “idealist chimeras,” but that the phrase in the Preamble about “truth, justice and morality” was written by Marx. The implication is that the tradition was wrong! Had Guillaume read Marx’s Letter to Engels, he would have understood Marx’s attitude better. Guillaume’s own phraseology is unintentionally unjust. What Marx scoffs at, as every reader of his private correspondence knows, is not truth, justice, etc., in themselves, but the use of these high-sounding abstractions to hide the realities of the class struggle.
46 See Appendix.
47 Laveleye, op. cit., English translation, p.152; French original, p.175,
48 Fribourg, op. cit., 29-31.
49 Vera Zasulich, [A Sketch of the History of the International Workingmen’s Association Geneva, 1889, pp. 57 – 8 republished as part of A Collection of Essays, by Vera Zasulich, in two vols., St. Petersburg, 790, Vol. I, p.300].
50 Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 3-4.
51 The postponement of the congress, which, according to the rules, should have been held in Belgium that year, was mainly owing to Marx’s insistence that the time was not yet ripe. (Briefwechsel, Vol. III., pp. 262 and 268.)
52 The General Council had no press organ of its own. At first the International was able to avail itself of the services of the “Beehive,” of which George Potter, whose name has already been mentioned as a trade-union leader, was editor and virtual proprietor – but Potter was regarded with disfavour by most of the other trade-union leaders. After the foundation of the International, the General Council made the “Beehive,” to some extent, its official organ, and published its announcements and reports in that periodical. Marx occasionally contributed articles to its columns. In reality, however, the “Beehive” was not socialist but bourgeois democratic (quite in accordance with the spirit of British trade unionism); and in 1870 it had a quarrel with the General Council and was thereupon struck off the roll of the journalistic organs of the International. In a letter to Professor Beesly (who had taken the chair at the meeting in St. Martin’s Hall which the International was formed), under date June 12, 1871, Marx speaks of the “Beehive” as a renegade organ, voicing a bourgeois policy. But much information concerning the early activities of the International Workingmen’s Association may be gleaned from this periodical.
53 The resolution on behalf of Poland was adopted by the conference, notwithstanding the protests of the Proudhonists, who contended that political questions had nothing to do with socialism (sic!). For example, Fribourg, one of the delegates to the conference, tells us: “The French and the Swiss, in the name of their respective groups, formally objected to the introduction of the Polish question into the conference agenda. It seemed to them that this purely political question had no right to a place in a socialist conference ... But the protest was unsuccessful. ... The only concession they were able to secure was that the words ‘democratic and social’ should be added to the resolution as originally drafted. (Fribourg, op. cit, p.44)
54 In his letters. Marx touches upon the General Council’s urgent need of funds. Writing to Engels on October 19, 1867, he says: “What our Party lacks is money. The enclosed letters from Eccarius and, Becker give painful evidence of this.” (Briefwechsel, vol. III., p.417). In the correspondence the matter is referred to on several occasions.
55 “The Miners’ and Workmen’s Advocate,” organ of the British and Welsh coal-miners, reprinted the whole of the Address. (See Marx’s letter to Engels under date December 10, 1864. (Briefwechsel, vol. III., p.204.) Various other announcements and reports of the General Council appeared in the columns of this newspaper. Although far from satisfied with the general character of the periodical, Marx persuaded Engels to become one of its contributors. In 1865, the journal was acquired by a group of persons loosely connected with the General Council, and was renamed “The Workman’s Advocate.” Through Marx’s influence, at the beginning of 1866, the editorship was entrusted to Eccarius, who published, among other things, a series of brilliant articles subsequently republished in book form, Eines Arbeiters Widerlegung den national-oekonomischen Lehren John Stuart Mill’s [Berlin, 1869. – The English version appeared in the “Commonwealth,” Nov. 10, 1866, to end of March, 1867, under the caption “A Working Man’s Refutation of Some Points of Political Economy, endorsed and advocated by John Stuart Mill Esq., M.P.”] The scope of the paper was widened, and it was rechristened “Commonwealth.” The General Council appointed a supervisory editorial committee of five persons called “Directors and Friends,” Marx being one of these. But, a few weeks later, Odger became editor-in-chief, with Fox as sub-editor. Marx and Engels were extremely disgruntled at the influence exercised by bourgeois-democratic elements upon the policy of the paper, for it was technically the organ of the International, “and yet,” Marx writes, “was always short of funds, and was maintained by bourgeois subsidies”; for instance, a Bradford manufacturer named Kell gave it financial aid. This affected the character of the journal. Marx was outraged that a working-class London newspaper should be virtually governed by a Bradford manufacturer and he resigned from the group of its Directors and Friends. (Letter to Engels, June 9 1866 (Briefwechsel, vol. III., p324-325.)
56 Subsequently, when the working class movement in Germany had developed, the German organisation objected to this arrangement. In the end notwithstanding Becker’s opposition, the German social-democratic movement emancipated from his tutelage.
57 This paper lived for five years. It contains much matter of importance to the student of the history of the First International.
58 At this time Marx and Engels were far from pleased at the activities of Liebknecht, who had entered into an alliance with the bourgeois democrats of a People’s Party. This is plain from the Marx-Engels correspondence. In this connection Marx wrote to Engels on February 12, 1870: “The introduction is excellent. I liked your double thrust at Wilhelm (Liebknecht) of the People’s Party and Schweitzer with his guards!” (Briefwechsel, vol. IV., p.124.) Marx was then as definitely opposed to Liebknecht as to the Lassallists, for Liebknecht coqueted with the bourgeois liberals, and the Lassallists intrigued with the reactionaries. Concerning the ambiguous attitude of Liebknecht, (and also of course of Bebel, though Bebel was little known at this date), Engels wrote to Marx on July 6, 1869: “In that case, there is nothing to be done with Liebknecht until he cuts his organisation loose from the People’s Party, and is content to have a purely informal understanding with it. It is a fine idea, his proposal to call his periodical “The International” and to make it simultaneously the organ of the People’s Party and of the International Workingmen’s Association! The organ of the worthy German burghers and also of the European workers!” (Briefwechsel, vol. IV., p.173.)
59 According to Dupont’s report to the Geneva Congress, the number of British members of the International was 25,173.
60 This was an act for the extension of the franchise to the petty bourgeoisie and part of the working class aristocracy, for it enfranchised the “ten pound householders” - those who paid not less than £10 a year in rent.
61 This organisation was formed to carry on the struggle for electoral reform, and existed from 1866 to 1868.
62 Not until after the promulgation of the law of 1864 did the organisation of trade unions become possible; but even then there was no right of public meeting, nor was there any freedom of the press.
63 Albert Thomas, op. Cit., p. 294. – Georges Weill, Histoire du mouvement social en France, History of the Social Movement in France, 1852-1902, Alcan, Paris, 1905, p.100. – Georges Weill, Histoire du parti republicain en France [History of the Republican Party, in France] 1814-1870, Alcan, Paris, 1900, p.495.
64 Karl Marx, Letters to Kugelmann, Letter dated London, October 9, 1865, reprinted in “Neue Zeit,” April 12, 1902, p.62. – For Marx’s detailed criticism of Proudhon, see Misère de la Philosophie, Franck, Paris, 1847; also Giard and Brière, Paris, 1896; English translation by Harry Quelch, Twentieth Century Press, London, 1900. – Consult also G. M. Stekloff, Proudhon, Petrograd, 1918 (available in Russian only).
65 Fribourg, op. cit., p.3. – On the same page, Fribourg writes: “The opening days of the General Council in London can hardly be said to have been more brilliant. Had it not been for the proceeds of a tea-party, followed by a concert, speeches, and a dance, which the British members gave to the London public, it is likely that lack of funds would long have prevented the movement from taking root in England.”
66 The Parisian Proudhonists, whose meeting-place was in the Rue des Gravilliers, are often spoken of, for short, by Fribourg as “the Gravilliers.”
67 Fribourg, op. cit, pp. 95 and 96.
68 Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 88-9. – It is not surprising that the bourgeois economist Léon Say, writing in the “Journal des Debats,” April 26, 1867, should have seized the opportunity to commend the Proudhonists on account of their “respect for private agreements and freedom of contract” or that Fribourg should quote the eulogy with gusto. (Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 163-4.)
69 Fribourg, op. cit., p.43
70 Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 42-3.
71 The agitation took the form of a petition, and Tolain helped in drafting it. This appeal on behalf of an unhappy nation speedily secured a large number of signatures. Ere long it was forwarded to him who wielded ‘the sword of France.’ The authorities refused even to receive the petition. (Fribourg, op. cit., p.9.) .
72 “In 1863 there were several vacancies in the Legislative Assembly. Amid the political contests which arose on all sides, there suddenly appeared what was known as the Manifesto of the Sixty, arousing in the popular mind the idea that a French Chamber could not be complete unless it included some working-class deputies, and that the people’s candidates who were shortly to be nominated ought to be elected because they were workmen, and not although they were workmen.” But the working-class candidates sustained a defeat and even Tolain, who ran in the 5th constituency, secured only 405 votes. (Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 151.)
73 Fribourg, op. cit., p.151.
74 The French term is “les purs.” Fribourg uses it throughout his book as a contemptuous name for the republicans.
75 Fribourg, op. cit., p.24.
76 Fribourg, op. cit., p.28.
77 For details concerning the struggle between the Proudhonists and the republicans, see Albert Thomas, op. cit., pp. 291, et seq.
78 Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 31-33.
79 Ibid, p.35.
80 Ibid, p.36.
81 Karl Marx, Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen an F. A. Sorge und Andere, Dietz, Stuttgart, 1906, p.38. – The letter quoted above is to F. Bolte, and is dated, London, November 23, 1871.
82 In the General Council, the representatives of the British movement were of two categories. First of all, were such as Eccarius (if he may be accounted a representative of the British movement), who shared Marx’s communist views, and whose subsequent detachment from Marx was not due to differences of principle, but to personal clashes. The second category consisted of those who were champions of the new trade unionism, the trade unionism which favoured activity in the political field. These new trade unionists, though they were not communists or even socialists, were in sympathy with Marx upon a whole series of questions such as the significance of the trade-union movement, the need for the legal limitation of the working day, the importance of political activity, etc. The reason for this general agreement was that the new trade unionists had come to the front as leaders of a genuine mass movement of the workers, a movement arising out of the growth of large-scale machine industry – and, therefore, springing from the same source as revolutionary communism.
83 Marx’s tactics in the International were aptly characterised by Bakunin in the following words: “We think that the founders of the international Workingmen’s Association were extremely wise when at the outset they eliminated all political and religious questions from its program. They themselves, of course, not free from political opinions, or from well-marked anti-religious opinions. They refrained, however, from incorporating any such views into the program of the International, since their chief aim was to unite the working masses throughout the civilised world for the purposes of joint action. A common basis had to be found – a series of plain principles upon which all the workers would be able and ought to be able to agree, regardless of their political and religious aberrations, and in so far as they were genuine workers, men harshly exploited and suffering.
“If they had raised the standard of a political or of an anti-religious system, far from uniting the workers of Europe, they would have divided them yet more hopelessly. The interested and insidious propaganda of the priests, the rulers, and all the bourgeois political parties (including the most republican of these) has impressed upon the minds of the workers innumerable false ideas – aided, of course, by the workers’ own ignorance. The result is that the blinded masses are still unfortunately, all too prone to display enthusiasm on behalf of lies whose only purpose is to make them subservient to the interests of the privileged classes, while they deliberately and stupidly neglect their own interests.
“Furthermore, there are still vast differences between the degrees of industrial, political, intellectual, and moral development of the working masses in various countries. Hence it is impossible to unite them to-day on behalf of one and the same political and anti-religious program. If we were to incorporate such political and anti-religious ideas in the program of the International, if we were then to make the acceptance of that program an absolute condition of membership, we should be trying to organise a sect and not a universal association. We should kill the international.” (“Egalité,” August 7, 1869. Republished in section I. of Politique de l’Internationale, Michel Bakounine, Oeuvres, Stock, Paris, 1911, vol V., pp. I72-174.)
84 It is thus that Marx characterises his own tactics apropos of the report he drafted for the London delegates to the Geneva Congress. See the previously quoted letter to Kugelmann, London, October 9, 1866.
85 See the pamphlet, Congrès ouvrier de l’association internationale des travailleurs, tenu a Genève du 3 au 8 septembre, 1866, printed at Geneva 1886. This report, an incomplete one, was compiled by Card (pseudonym of Czwierzakiewicz, a Polish refugee, and one of the first organisers of the International at Geneva). In the pamphlet, intended for distribution in France, the words “as a means” which are found in the official publications of the International have been omitted. The official report of the Geneva Congress appeared in March, 1867, in the “Courrier International,” a periodical published in London by Collet.
86 Camélinat was subsequently an active participant in the Paris Commune. Still later he was a member of the Socialist Party (S.F.I.O., French Section of the Working-Class International). In 1920, when a split occurred in that Party at the Tours Congress, Camélinat joined the communists, being the senior member of the French Communist Party.
87 There also came to Geneva a group of Blanquists, students for the most part, ardent revolutionists, but without credentials of any kind. They were refused admission – to the delight of the Proudhonists, who loathed them as “politicals.”
88 Marx, who was busily engaged preparing the first volume of Capital for the press, did not attend the congress. Indeed, the only congress of the International at which Marx was present was the Hague Congress. This, however, did not prevent his exercising a notable influence upon the proceedings through the instrumentality of the delegates on the General Council, for whom, moreover, he compiled some very important reports.
89 Or section.
90 Apart from the general influence of Proudhonist ideas, this hostility to the intelligentsia is partly explicable by the special conditions then prevailing in France. We have learned that, in the early days of the International, the Blanquist and republican intelligentsia of Paris accused the French working-class internationalists of complicity with the Bonapartist administration, and suggested that this was the explanation of the political indifferentism of Tolain and his associates. Here was an additional reason for the hostility of the Proudhonists towards the intellectuals. In a letter to Engels dated February 25, 1865 (Briefwechsel, vol. III., p.235), Marx wrote: “The (Parisian) workers would seem to aim at the exclusion of every literary man, which is absurd, for they need their help in the journalistic world; but the attitude is pardonable in view of the repeated treacheries of the literary men. On the other hand, these latter are suspicious of any workers’ movement which regards them as opponents.” Writing to Engels on September 20, 1866 (Briefwechsel, vol. III., p.346), Marx said: “Dupont has given me the clue to Tolain’s and Fribourg’s conduct. They want to come forward as working-class candidates for the legislative assembly in 1869, on the ‘principle’ that only manual workers can represent manual workers. It was, therefore, very important to these gentlemen to have the principle endorsed by the congress.”
91 As a protest against the absurd proposal of the French delegates, the British, after the Geneva Congress, wanted to appoint Marx chairman of the General Council. Marx refused and recommended Odger, who was elected. Subsequently, however, the office of permanent chairman was abolished. (Briefwechsel, vol. III., pp. 356 and 412.)
92 Marx’s severe criticism of the Proudhonists who came to the Geneva Congress is well-known. Under date October 9, 1866, he wrote from London to Kugelmann (“Neue Zeit,” April 12, 1902, pp. 62-3): “The gentlemen from Paris had their heads stuffed with the most futile Proudhonist phrases. They talk about science [Wissenschaft] and know nothing at all [wissen nichts]. They renounce all revolutionary action, i.e., all action spontaneously issuing from the class struggle, and they repudiate every concentrated social movement, i.e., every movement which can be achieved by political means (such, for example, as the legislative restriction of the working day). Under the pretext of liberty, and of anti-governmentalism or anti-authoritarian individualism, these gentry, who for sixteen years have endured the most abominable despotism and continue to endure it to-day, advocate what is in reality nothing more than ordinary bourgeois society with a Proudhonist gloss! Proudhon has done an enormous amount of mischief. His pseudo-criticism and his pseudo-opposition to the utopists (he is himself merely a petty-bourgeois utopist, whereas in the utopias of a Fourier or an Owen we may discern intimations and imaginative foreshadowings of a new world) first fascinated the clever young students, and then the workers, especially those of Paris, who, being engaged in the production of articles of luxury, are strongly though unwittingly interested in the maintenance of the old order. Ignorant, vain, pretentious, talkative – mere windbags – they were on the verge of spoiling the whole affair, for their numbers at the congress were quite disproportionate to the membership of the French section.”
93 See Fribourg, op. cit., pp. 51-86. This comprises Chapter XII. of his work on the International. It is a full reprint of the detailed report presented by the Proudhonist delegates to the Geneva Congress, and embodies their views upon all the questions mentioned in the text.
94 In this matter they were supported by J. P. Becker, who was an ardent advocate of the co-operative movement.
95 Marx attached so much importance to this historic resolution that he referred to it in the first volume of Capital, published a year later. In Chapter X., Section 7, he writes:
“In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. But out of the death of slavery a new life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight hours’ agitation, which ran with the seven-leagued boots of a locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California. The general convention of the National Labour Union at Baltimore (August 16, 1866) declared: ‘The first and great necessity of the present, to free the labour of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is attained.’ At the same time, the Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association at Geneva, on the proposition of the London General Council, resolved that ‘the limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive ... The Congress proposes eight hours as the legal limit of the working day.’ “
96 Those principles underlie the system of education adopted in the Unified Labour School of Soviet Russia.
97 The way in which the report exaggerates of the trade unions, and assigns to them tasks the significance which properly belong to the political parties of the proletariat, is to be explained by the position of affairs at that date, when there were no independent socialist parties, and when the political movement of the proletariat was only beginning. The International itself then sanctioned as political representative of the proletariat, and did so down to the time when the need became apparent for the creation of the national socialist parties by which the International was to be replaced.
98 Obviously, the reference here is to the Russian autocracy, which the socialists of all lands regarded as a very dangerous enemy to the freedom of the world.
99 It must be remembered that in Russia itself at this period there was no powerful revolutionary movement upon which the European democracy could count.
100 Apropos of the way in which this question was formulated in the report, Le Lubez and Vesinier, in the beginning of 1866, raised a foolish clamour against the General Council and above all against Marx, who were accused of having staged the question in that particular way for the benefit of Napoleon III. Vesinier wrote in the “Echo de Verviers”: “The General Council was entrusted with one of the greatest interests of mankind, and light-heartedly abandoned the pursuit of this sublime end in order to degenerate into a nationalistic committee towed in the wake of Bonapartism.” He declared that Tolain and Co. had yielded to Bonapartist influences – whereas in fact the French delegates at Geneva had been opposed to the references to the Polish question, stigmatising these as inopportune. But Vesinier said it was a particularly unsuitable time to talk about Poland at the very moment when the Russian and Polish serfs had just been liberated by Russia, whereas the Polish priests and nobles had always wished to keep the serfs in thrall – thus showing that he took the talk of Russian “democracy” at its face value. The full passage from the “Echo de Verviers” will be found in one of Marx’s letters to Engels, under date Jan. 15, 1866 (Briefwechsel, vol. III. p.289-290). Subsequently Vesinier, supported by Pyat, returned to the charge, declaring shortly before the Brussels Congress that the leaders of the International were dictated to by Napoleon III. (Briefwechsel, vol. 1V. p.57).
101 Ludwig Büchner, 1824-1899, celebrated as the author of Kraft und Stoff [Force and Matter], 1855.
102 Friedrich Albert Lunge, 1828-1875. His book on The Workers’ Question (Die Arbeiterfrage, 1865) has never been translated into English. It is as the author of the History of Materialism (1866) that he is famous.
103 Marx so greatly dreaded that the Geneva Congress would be a failure (especially when the French wanted to summon it for May), that he thought of visiting Paris in the hope of persuading the internationalists there not to insist convoking the congress. Engels urged him not to take so rash a step, fearing that Marx would be arrested by the Bonapartist Police (Briefwechsel, Vol. III, pp. 309 and 311).
104 CF: Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, Funk and Wagnalls, New York and London, 1906, pp. 183 et seq. – Writing to Kugelmann on October 9, 1866, Marx said: “I have been delighted to hear of the congress of the American workers held simultaneously in Baltimore. The watchword there was organisation for the struggle with capital. It is a remarkable fact, that the sound instinct of the American workers led them to formulate nearly all the demands which I was instrumental in placing on the agenda of the Geneva Congress.” (cf. “Neue Zeit,” April 12, 1902, p.63).
105 Fribourg, op. cit., p.94.
106 With reference to the Geneva Congress of 1866, “La Liberté” ,wrote: “It was a formal repudiation of communism and a defence of individual rights. Discarding the old utopias, socialism now declares itself in favour of mutualism.” The “mutualists” were the Proudhonists, delegates of the complexion of Tolain and Fribourg. It was their report of what happened at Geneva that accounted for the favourable testimony of the French press. – So, at least, says Vera Zasulich in her Sketch of the History of the Workers’ International [Works], Rutenberg, St. Petersburg. 1907, vol. I, p.26.