The International Workingmen's Association, 1866

Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council
The Different Questions

Written: in English by Marx at the end of August 1866;
First published: in Der Vorbote Nos. 10 and 11, October and November 1866 and The International Courier Nos. 6/7, February 20, and Nos. 8/10, March 13, 1867;
Transcribed: by, April 1996.

Table of Contents

  1. Organisation of the International Association 
  2. International combination of efforts, by the agency of the association, in the struggle between labour and capital
  3. Limitation of the working day
  4. Juvenile and children's labour (both sexes)
  5. Co-operative labour
  6. Trades' unions. Their past, present and future
  7. Direct and indirect taxation
  8. International credit
  9. Polish question
  10. Armies
  11. Religious question

Organisation of the International Association

Upon the whole, the Provisional Central Council recommend the plan of organisation as traced in the Provisional Statutes. Its soundness and facilities of adaptation to different countries without prejudice to unity of action have been proved by two years' experience. For the next year we recommend London as the seat of the Central Council, the Continental situation looking unfavourable for change.

The members of the Central Council will of course be elected by Congress (5 of the Provisional Statutes) with power to add to their number.

The General Secretary to be chosen by Congress for one year and to be the only paid officer of the Association. We propose £2 for his weekly salary. [The French and German texts add: "The Standing Committee, which is in fact an executive of the Central Council, to be chosen by Congress, the function of any of its member to be defined by the Central Council."]

The uniform annual contribution of each individual member of the Association to be one half penny (perhaps one penny). The cost price of cards of membership (carpets) to be charged extra.

While calling upon the members of the Association to form benefit societies and connect them by an international link, we leave the initiation of this question (etablissement des societes de secours mutuels. Appoi moral et materiel accorde aux orphelins de l'association [foundation of benefit societies; moral and material assistance to the Association's orphans. -- Ed.]) to the Swiss who originally proposed it at the conference of September last.

International combination of efforts, by the agency of the association, in the struggle between labour and capital

(a) From a general point of view, this question embraces the whole activity of the International Association which aims at combining and generalising the till now disconnected efforts for emancipation by the working classes in different countries.

(b) To counteract the intrigues of capitalists always ready, in cases of strikes and lockouts, to misuse the foreign workman as a tool against the native workman, is one of the particular functions which our Society has hitherto performed with success. It is one of the great purposes of the Association to make the workmen of different countries not only feel but act as brethren and comrades in the army of emancipation.

(c) One great "International combination of efforts" which we suggest is a statistical inquiry into the situation of the working classes of all countries to be instituted by the working classes themselves. To act with any success, the materials to be acted upon must be known. By initiating so great a work, the workmen will prove their ability to take their own fate into their own hands. We propose therefore:

That in each locality, where branches of our Association exist, the work be immediately commenced, and evidence collected on the different points specified in the subjoined scheme of inquiry.

That the Congress invite all workmen of Europe and the United States of America to collaborate in gathering the elements of the statistics of the working class; that reports and evidence be forwarded to the Central Council. That the Central Council elaborate them into a general report, adding the evidence as an appendix.

That this report together with its appendix be laid before the next annual Congress, and after having received its sanction, be printed at the expense of the Association.

General Scheme of Inquiry, which may of course be modified by each Locality
  1. Industry, name of.
  2. Age and sex of the employed.
  3. Number of the employed.
  4. Salaries and wages: (a) apprentices; (b) wages by the day or piece work; scale paid by middlemen. Weekly, yearly average.
  5. (a) Hours of work in factories. (b) The hours of work with small employers and in home work, if the business be carried on in those different modes. (c) Nightwork and daywork.
  6. Meal times and treatment.
  7. Sort of workshop and work: overcrowding, defective ventilation, want of sunlight, use of gaslight. Cleanliness, etc.
  8. Nature of occupation.
  9. Effect of employment upon the physical condition.
  10. Moral condition. Education.
  11. State of trade: whether season trade, or more or less uniformly distributed over year, whether greatly fluctuating, whether exposed to foreign competition, whether destined principally for home or foreign competition, etc. [The Minute Book of the General Council has the word "consumption" instead of "competition." -- Ed.]

Limitation of the working day

A preliminary condition, without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive, is the limitation of the working day.

It is needed to restore the health and physical energies of the working class, that is, the great body of every nation, as well as to secure them the possibility of intellectual development, sociable intercourse, social and political action.

We propose 8 hours work as the legal limit of the working day. This limitation being generally claimed by the workmen of the United States of America,'40 the vote of the Congress will raise it to the common platform of the working classes all over the world.

For the information of continental members, whose experience of factory law is comparatively short-dated, we add that all legal restrictions will fail and be broken through by Capital if the period of the day during which the 8 working hours must be taken, be not fixed. The length of that period ought to be determined by the 8 working hours and the additional pauses for meals. For instance, if the different interruptions for meals amount to one hour, the legal period of the day ought to embrace 9 hours, say from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., or from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., etc. Nightwork to be but exceptionally permitted, in trades or branches of trades specified by law. The tendency must be to suppress all nightwork.

This paragraph refers only to adult persons, male or female, the latter, however, to be rigorously excluded from all nightwork whatever, and all sort of work hurtful to the delicacy of the sex, or exposing their bodies to poisonous and otherwise deleterious agencies. By adult persons we understand all persons having reached or passed the age of 18 years.

Juvenile and children's labour (both sexes)

We consider the tendency of modern industry to make children and juvenile persons of both sexes co-operate in the great work of social production, as a progressive, sound and legitimate tendency, although under capital it was distorted into an abomination. In a rational state of society every child whatever, from the age of 9 years, ought to become a productive labourer in the same way that no able-bodied adult person ought to be exempted from the general law of nature, viz.: to work in order to be able to eat, and work not only with the brain but with the hands too.

However, for the present, we have only to deal with the children and young persons of both sexes divided into three classes, to be treated differently [a]; the first class to range from 9 to 12; the second, from 13 to 15 years; and the third, to comprise the ages of 16 and 17 years. We propose that the employment of the first class in any workshop or housework be legally restricted to two; that of the second, to four; and that of the third, to six hours. For the third class, there must be a break of at least one hour for meals or relaxation.

It may be desirable to begin elementary school instruction before the age of 9 years; but we deal here only with the most indispensable antidotes against the tendencies of a social system which degrades the working man into a mere instrument for the accumulation of capital, and transforms parents by their necessities into slave-holders, sellers of their own children. The right of children and juvenile persons must be vindicated. They are unable to act for themselves. It is, therefore, the duty of society to act on their behalf.

If the middle and higher classes neglect their duties toward their offspring, it is their own fault. Sharing the privileges of these classes, the child is condemned to suffer from their prejudices.

The case of the working class stands quite different. The working man is no free agent. In too many cases, he is even too ignorant to understand the true interest of his child, or the normal conditions of human development. However, the more enlightened part of the working class fully understands that the future of its class, and, therefore, of mankind, altogether depends upon the formation of the rising working generation. They know that, before everything else, the children and juvenile workers must be saved from the crushing effects of the present system. This can only be effected by converting social reason into social force, and, under given circumstances, there exists no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the power of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency. They effect by a general act what they would vainly attempt by a multitude of isolated individual efforts.

Proceeding from this standpoint, we say that no parent and no employer ought to be allowed to use juvenile labour, except when combined with education.

By education we understand three things.

Firstly: Mental education.

Secondly: Bodily education, such as is given in schools of gymnastics, and by military exercise.

Thirdly: Technological training, which imparts the general principles of all processes of production, and, simultaneously initiates the child and young person in the practical use and handling of the elementary instruments of all trades. [The German text calls this "polytechnical training." -- Ed]

A gradual and progressive course of mental, gymnastic, and technological training ought to correspond to the classification of the juvenile labourers. The costs of the technological a schools ought to be partly met by the sale of their products.

The combination of paid productive labour, mental education bodily exercise and polytechnic training, will raise the working class far above the level of the higher and middle classes.

It is self-understood that the employment of all persons from 9 and to 17 years (inclusively) in nightwork and all health-injuring trades must be strictly prohibited by law.

Co-operative labour

It is the business of the International Working Men's Association to combine and generalise the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinary system whatever. The Congress should, therefore, proclaim no special system of co-operation, but limit itself to the enunciation of a few general principles.

(a) We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.

(b) Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wages slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the co-operative system will never transform capitalist society. to convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves.

(c) We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.

(d) We recommend to all co-operative societies to convert one part of their joint income into a fund for propagating their principles by example as well as by precept, in other words, by promoting the establishment by teaching and preaching.

(e) In order to prevent co-operative societies from degenerating into ordinary middle-class joint stock companies (societes par actions), all workmen employed, whether shareholders or not, ought to share alike. As a mere temporary expedient, we are willing to allow shareholders a low rate of interest.

Trades' unions. Their past, present and future

(a) Their past.

Capital is concentrated social force, while the workman has only to dispose of his working force. The contract between capital and labour can therefore never be struck on equitable terms, equitable even in the sense of a society which places the ownership of the material means of life and labour on one side and the vital productive energies on the opposite side. The only social power of the workmen is their number. The force of numbers, however is broken by disunion. The disunion of the workmen is created and perpetuated by their unavoidable competition among themselves.

Trades' Unions originally sprang up from the spontaneous attempts of workmen at removing or at least checking that competition, in order to conquer such terms of contract as might raise them at least above the condition of mere slaves. The immediate object of Trades' Unions was therefore confined to everyday necessities, to expediences for the obstruction of the incessant encroachments of capital, in one word, to questions of wages and time of labour. This activity of the Trades' Unions is not only legitimate, it is necessary. It cannot be dispensed with so long as the present system of production lasts. On the contrary, it must be generalised by the formation and the combination of Trades' Unions throughout all countries. On the other hand, unconsciously to themselves, the Trades' Unions were forming centres of organisation of the working class, as the mediaeval municipalities and communes did for the middle class. If the Trades' Unions are required for the guerilla fights between capital and labour, they are still more important as organised agencies for superseding the very system of wages labour and capital rule.

(b) Their present.

Too exclusively bent upon the local and immediate struggles with capital, the Trades' Unions have not yet fully understood their power of acting against the system of wages slavery itself. They therefore kept too much aloof from general social and political movements. Of late, however, they seem to awaken to some sense of their great historical mission, as appears, for instance, from their participation, in England, in the recent political movement, from the enlarged views taken of their function in the United States, and from the following resolution passed at the recent great conference of Trades' delegates at Sheffield:

"That this Conference, fully appreciating the efforts made by the International Association to unite in one common bond of brotherhood the working men of all countries, most earnestly recommend to the various societies here represented, the advisability of becoming affiliated to that hody, believing that it is essential to the progress and prosperity of the entire working community."

(c) Their future.

Apart from their original purposes, they must now learn to act deliberately as organising centres of the working class in the broad interest of its complete emancipation. They must aid every social and political movement tending in that direction. Considering themselves and acting as the champions and representatives of the whole working class, they cannot fail to enlist the non-society men into their ranks. They must look carefully after the interests of the worst paid trades, such as the agricultural labourers, rendered powerless [French text has: "incapable of organised resistance"] by exceptional circumstances. They must convince the world at large [French and German texts read: "convince the broad masses of workers"] that their efforts, far from being narrow -- and selfish, aim at the emancipation of the downtrodden millions.

Direct and indirect taxation

(a) No modification of the form of taxation can produce any important change in the relations of labour and capital.

(b) Nevertheless, having to choose between two systems of taxation, we recommend the total abolition of indirect taxes, and the general substitution of direct taxes. [In Marx's rough manuscript, French and German texts are: "because direct taxes are cheaper to collect and do not interfere with production".]

Because indirect taxes enhance the prices of commodities, the tradesmen adding to those prices not only the amount of the indirect taxes, but the interest and profit upon the capital advanced in their payment

Because indirect taxes conceal from an individual what he is paying to the state, whereas a direct tax is undisguised, unsophisticated, and not to be misunderstood by the meanest capacity. Direct taxation prompts therefore every individual to control the governing powers while indirect taxation destroys all tendency to self-government.

International credit

Initiative to be left to the French.

Polish question

[The French subtitle reads: "Necessity of annihilating Russian influence in Europe by implementing the right of nations to self-determination and restoring Poland on a democratic and social basis." German subtitle reads similarly.]

(a) Why do the workmen of Europe take up this question? In the first instance, because the middle-class writers and agitators conspire to suppress it, although they patronise all sorts of nationalities, on the Continent, even Ireland. Whence this reticence? Because both, aristocrats and bourgeois, look upon the dark Asiatic power in the background as a last resource against the advancing tide of working class ascendancy; That power can only be effectually put down by the restoration of Poland upon a democratic basis.

(b) In the present changed state of central Europe, and especially Germany, it is more than ever necessary to have a democratic Poland. Without it, Germany will become the outwork of the Holy Alliance, with it, the co-operator with republican France. The working-class movement will continuously be interrupted, checked, and retarded, until this great European question be set at rest.

(c) It is especially the duty of the German working class to take the initiative in this matter, because Germany is one of the partitioners of Poland.


[French and German subtitle reads: "Standing armies; their relation to production."]

(a) The deleterious influence of large standing armies upon production, has been sufficiently exposed at middle-class congresses of all denominations, at peace congresses, economical congresses, statistical congresses, philanthropical congresses, sociological congresses. We think it, therefore, quite superfluous to expatiate upon this point.

(b) We propose the general armament of the people and their general instruction in the use of arms.

(c) We accept as a transitory necessity small standing armies to form schools for the officers of the militia; every male citizen to serve for a very limited time in those armies.

Religious question

[French and German subtitle reads: "Religious ideas; their influence on the social, political and intellectual movement".]

To be left to the initiative of the French.


a Note from International Publishers: Instead of this sentence the French and German texts have two sentences ending the preceding paragraph and beginning a new one: "However, for the present, we have only to deal with the children and young persons belonging to the working class.

"We deem it necessary, basing on physiology, to divide children and young persons of both sexes" and then as in the English text.