International Workingmen’s Association 1867
Source: The General Council of the First International 1866-1868. Minutes; Progress Publishers, Moscow, for the Centenary of the First International in 1964, pp. 292-303;
First published: in The Bee-Hive Newspaper, September 14, 1867.
The General Council’s report to the Lausanne Congress of 1867 was approved by the Council on August 20 on the basis of Eccarius’ draft and additions to it made by Council members. It was read to the Congress on September 3 in French by Guillaume, and in German by Eccarius. The French text was published in the pamphlet Rapports lus au congres ouvrier réuni du 2 au 8 septembre 1867 a Lausanne, Chaux-de-Fonds, 1867. The English text was published in The Bee-Hive Newspaper.
The English version is more concise than the French. It omitted parts of the report about the French, Swiss and Belgian sections of the international, and a special annual report of the Corresponding Secretary for America (Peter Fox). The part entitled “Continental and American Sections – gave a summary of the state of affairs in a number of countries and referred to the report of the Corresponding Secretary for America as a special document. Unlike the English report, which was unsigned, the French document was signed by the leading Council members, including Marx.
The Lausanne Congress of the International was held on September 2-8, 1867. Marx took part in the preparations but, as he was busy, reading the proofs of the first volume of Capital, was unable to attend: he withdrew his candidature at the General Council meeting of August 13, 1867.
The Congress was attended by 64 delegates from six countries Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland). Apart from the annual report of the General Council, the Congress heard reports from the local sections which indicated the increased influence of the International on the proletarian masses and the growing strength of its organisations in different countries. The Proudhonist-minded delegates, especially the French, made an attempt to change the orientation of the International’s activity and its programme principles. Despite the efforts of the General Council’s delegates, they imposed their agenda on the Congress and sought to revise the Geneva Congress resolutions in a Proudhonist spirit. They managed to pass a number of their resolutions, in particular on cooperation and credit, which the Proudhonists regarded as the chief factors in changing society by means of reform.
However, the Proudhonists failed to achieve their main aim. The Congress confirmed the Geneva Congress resolutions on the economic struggle and strikes. As distinct from the Proudhonist dogma on abstaining from political struggle, the Lausanne Congress resolution on political freedom emphasised that the social emancipation of workers was inseparable from political liberation. The Proudhonists likewise failed to seize the leadership of the International. The Congress re-elected the General Council in its former composition and retained London as its seat.
The Congress passed a resolution appointing the London delegates to wait upon the Swiss, the French, and the British postal authorities to bring the question of international penny postage – of cheap postage – under their notice.
The Swiss postmaster agreed to all the deputation urged, but observed that the French Government stepped [in their] way.
In France the delegates could get no audience, and the British Government only consented to receive a written statement which has been sent.
The other duties imposed upon the General Council by the first annual Congress were: 1. The publication, in several languages, of the transactions of the Congress, including the letters and memoirs addressed to that Congress. 2. To publish periodical or occasional reports in different languages, embracing everything that might be of interest to the Association. 3. To give information of the supply and demand for labour in different localities. 4. An account of co-operative societies. 5. Of the condition of the working class in every country. The Council was also charged with causing a statistical inquiry to be instituted, which was to contain special and detailed information about every branch of industry, in which wages labour is employed, in the most civilised countries of Europe.
To enable the Council to fulfil these various duties, the Congress voted a contribution of threepence per member to the Executive, and a salary of £2 a week to the General Secretary, leaving his appointment to the Council.
As soon as the London delegates had returned, and the Council was reorganised, information was received that some of our Congress documents had been seized on the person of Jules Gottraux by the French police on the frontier.'
The General Secretary was instructed to write to the French Minister of the Interior, but not receiving any reply, an application was made to the British Foreign Office. Lord Stanley, with the greatest readiness, instructed Lord Cowley, the British Ambassador at Paris, to intercede; the result was that within a few days our documents were restored, and a parcel of Tribunes du Peuple, which had evidently been seized from somebody else, superadded.
The Congress documents were then handed over to the Standing Committee, with instructions to prepare the report for publication. As there were no funds to pay the General Secretary this labour devolved upon volunteers, who had to do it in their spare hours, which caused further delay. When all was ready the lowest estimate to have a thousand printed in one language was £40. To comply with the Congress instructions required an immediate outlay of £120; the cash in hand on the 31st of December amounted to 18s. 4d.
The General Secretary was instructed to appeal to the affiliated societies of the British section for their contributions – only the London cigar-makers and the Coventry and Warwickshire ribbonweavers responded immediately. The board of management of the latter association, with a highly commendable zeal to fulfil its obligation – having no funds in hand and many members out of work – forthwith raised a levy to the required amount from the members in Work.
The Council then availed itself of an offer made by Citizen J. Collet, the proprietor and editor of the International Courier, to publish the report in French and English in weekly parts in the columns of his journal. He also agreed to stereotype the whole at his own expense with the view of publishing it in pamphlet form, and to let the Council share in the profits, if any, the Council undertaking no responsibility whatever in case of loss.
But hardly was this highly advantageous arrangement completed when, on account of not having complied with some legal intricacy, of which the government had previously taken no notice, Citizen Collet had to suspend the publication of his journal for several weeks, and it was not till March that the publication of the Congress report could be regularly proceeded with.
The numbers of the International Courier containing the report have been sent gratis to the branches. A German version could, for want of a similar opportunity, not be published.
When the publication was completed it was again want of funds that prevented, and still prevents, the publication in pamphlet form.
To make matters worse the French police seized a parcel of rules and cards of membership, purposely issued for the French section, the printing of which cost £4, which was borrowed money. Besides this dead loss, there was the further injury of curtailing the contributions, which in France depend principally upon the scale of individual membership. Beyond all this, there were the old liabilities which were acknowledged as the debt of the Association by the Congress, but no special provision made for their liquidation. They have greatly hampered our action, and continue to be a source of trouble.
Under these circumstances it was utterly impossible to publish either periodical or occasional reports; nor have our correspondents taken the trouble to send us any special information with a view to such publication. The question of entering upon the statistical inquiry had to be abandoned for the present year. To be of any use at all it cannot be limited to the trades at present comprised within the circle of our affiliated societies. Such an inquiry, to answer its purpose, must include every trade, every country, and every locality. This involves not only a large expenditure for printing, stationery, and postage, but also an amount of labour in the shape of correspondence, compiling, and arranging the scattered and specific statements into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole, [so] that the possibility of having it done by volunteers in their leisure hours is altogether out of the question.
One of the best means of demonstrating the beneficent influence of international combination is the assistance rendered by the International Working Men’s Association in the daily occurring trades’ disputes. It used to be a standard threat with British capitalists, not only in London, but also in the provinces, when their workmen would not tamely submit to their arbitrary dictation, that they would supplant them by an importation of foreigners. The possibility of such importations taking place was in most cases sufficient to deter the British workmen from insisting on their demands. The action taken by the Council has had the effect of putting a stop to these threats being made publicly. Where anything of the kind is contemplated it has to be done in secret, and the slightest information obtained by the workmen suffices to frustrate the plans of the capitalists. As a rule, when a strike or a lock-out occurs concerning any of the affiliated trades, the Continental correspondents are at once instructed to warn the workmen in their respective localities not to enter into any engagements with the agents of the capitalists of the place where the dispute is. However, this action is not confined to affiliated trades. The same action is taken on behalf of other trades upon application being received. This generally leads to the affiliation of the trades that invoke our aid.
Now and then it happens that the capitalists succeed in getting a few stragglers, but they generally repudiate their engagements upon being informed of the reason why they were engaged.
During the London basket-makers’ dispute last winter information was received that six Belgians were at work under the railway arches in Blue Anchor Lane, Bermondsey. They were as strictly guarded against coming in contact with the outside public as a kidnapped girl in a nunnery. By some stratagem a Flemish member of the Council succeeded in obtaining an interview, and upon being informed of the nature of their engagement the men struck work and returned home. Just as they were about to embark a steamer arrived with a fresh supply. The new arrivals were at once communicated with; they too repudiated their engagements, and returned home, promising that they would exert themselves to prevent any further supplies, which they accomplished.
In consequence of the appeals made by deputations from the Council to various British societies, the Paris bronze-workers received very considerable pecuniary support during their lockout, and the London tailors on strike have in turn received support from Continental associations through the intercession of the Council .33’ The good offices of the Council were also employed on behalf of the excavators, the wire-workers, the block-cutters, the hairdressers, and others.
The work of propaganda and affiliation of societies has been greatly impeded in England during the past year. It seems as if the British Legislature could never move a step in the right direction in any matter of great social or political importance unless compelled by a threatening and overwhelming pressure from without, when the public excitement assumes the character of a monomania. While the Reform agitation was at its height, the frequent monster demonstrations in course of organisation, it was almost hopeless to try to engage the attention of working men to the somewhat distant aims of the International Working Men’s Association. Most of our British Council members took an active part in these proceedings, which reduced our available forces to go on deputations, while the proceedings themselves caused so much excitement and absorbed so much of the attention of those who might have entertained our applications, that there was no room for their consideration. These proceedings, too, in diverting men’s attention to other objects have had the effect of preventing many new members being enrolled and some old ones to renew their subscriptions. Everywhere one was met with the observation that the struggle for Parliamentary Reform was [not] only the struggle of a season, but the paramount duty of the hour and an indispensable stepping stone to that complete emancipation of the working classes from the domination of capital which is the aim of the International Working Men’s Association. One step has undoubtedly been gained by the Act of 1867. It is sufficiently comprehensive to enable the working classes to politically combine for class purposes within the precincts of the Constitution, and exercise a direct influence upon the Legislature In matters of social and economical reform in as far as they affect the labour question.
But though our propagandism has been much impeded during the past it has not been arrested. The ordinary mode of proceeding with the affiliation of corporate bodies is somewhat tedious. When the Council has any reasonable ground for believing that the question will be favourably entertained by an association, it applies to the president or secretary by letter. If the application be favourably received, a deputation is requested to attend the Executive to state the aims of the Association. If the Executive endorses the statement of the deputation it recommends the question to be entertained at some future general or delegate meeting, when perhaps the deputation is again requested to attend. In some cases the question of affiliation is decided at once – in others the votes of all the members and branches have to be taken to arrive at a decision.
The affiliation of 33 organised bodies has been brought about in this manner during the past year. More than twenty have been corresponded with and received deputations. With some the decisions are pending, others have deferred the consideration to a more favourable opportunity; only one society has flatly refused to enter into any relationship because the Association entertains political questions.
The question as to the contributions of affiliated societies occupied the Council at various times. While the question was pending, the Executive of the Operative Bricklayers’ Society joined and agreed to contribute £1 per annum.
In March 1865, a deputation from the Council waited on the conference of the Amalgamated Cordwainers’ Association, at which the following resolution, proposed by the delegate from Birmingham, and seconded by the delegate from Hull, was unanimously carried:
“That we cordially agree with the principles of the International Working Men’s Association as represented by the deputation from that body, and pledge ourselves to join them for the furtherance of those principles, and endeavour to spread them amongst our constituents.”
The question of contributions was raised, but the discussion being out of order was stopped. Some weeks after it was resolved that a declaration of enrolment should be printed, for which organised bodies should pay an entrance fee of 5s., that as many cards as possible should be sold to individual members of such societies, the remainder, when funds were required, should be left to their generosity. It was while this state of things lasted that the liabilities already alluded to were incurred.
The money granted by various affiliated societies last year “ere voluntary gifts towards defraying the expenses of the delegates to the first Congress, and it was expended for that purpose.
The Cordwainers’ Executive granted £5.
To remove this state of uncertainty the Council proposed a minimum contribution per member from affiliated societies.
The Congress voted threepence, which the British delegates maintained could not be levied from trades societies in England.
When, after the Geneva Congress, our deputations were sent to trades societies, it was found that, as the British delegates had foreseen, the threepence per member formed an insurmountable obstacle to the affiliation of organised bodies.
On the 9th of October the Council resolved unanimously that the contribution should be lowered to one halfpenny per member. All the societies that have since been affiliated have joined with that understanding.
The Amalgamated Cordwainers’ Association has distinctly declared that the resolution of its Conference of 1865 does not amount to an affiliation, and the conference of the same body of 1867 has rescinded the resolution, which enabled the Council to grant us £5 last year.
The Executive of the Operative Bricklayers has paid £1 for 1867, but has not yet announced any decision, whether it considers the whole society affiliated or not.
The Cordwainers’ Association was put down in last year’s estimate as containing 5,000 members, the Bricklayers’ 3,000 to 4,000.
Two appeals have been made in the course of the year for the contributions; some of the previously affiliated societies have paid, others have not; but, excepting the cordwainers, none have repudiated their obligation.
The Executive of the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners has recently passed resolutions to contribute £2 per annum to the funds of the Council, but the question is now under consideration to take the votes of all the members whether the association is to be affiliated in its entirety or not. It numbers about 9,000 members, and extends over England, Wales, and Ireland. The following is a list of the affiliated societies of the British section, and the money, furnished by them during the last two years.
Beyond this the elastic web-weavers have granted £1 to the Congress fund; the cigar-makers £1 1s.
There is a considerable difference in the actual income of the two years, but there is an essential difference as to its purport. Last year the money was voted to send delegates to the Congress; it was therefore not available for other purposes; this year’s income consists of contributions to defray the expense of administration. Last year, we incurred liabilities because we had no settled income; this year, we liquidated liabilities, because we had such an income.
The reason why some of our affiliated societies have not yet paid their annual contribution, and why others have not contributed to the Congress fund, is severe pressure upon their funds in consequence of the stagnation of trade, strikes, and lock-outs.
We have received several letters, stating these as reasons why the same societies that contributed so handsomely towards the Congress fund last year, cannot give anything this year. The tailors’ strike has absorbed all the available funds of the London trades societies.
|Names of affiliated societies||Gifts and Entrance|
|£ s. d.||£ s. d.|
|London, Arbeiter-Bildungs-Verein||2 0 0||0 0 0|
|London, French Branch||0 0 0||0 4 9|
|Central Section of Polish Exiles||0 0 0||0 4 10|
|Operative Bricklayers’ Executive||0 0 0||1 0 0|
|No. 1 Lodge of Operative Bricklayers||0 8 0||0 0 0|
|Alliance Cabinet-Makers’ Society||10 0 0||1 13 4|
|West End Cabinet-Makers’ Society||5 0 0||1 7 0|
|Day Working Bookbinders’ Society||0 8 3||0 17 6|
|Hand-in-Hand Coopers’ Society||6 0 0||0 6 0|
|London Cigar-Makers’ Association||5 0 0||1 9 0|
|Amalgamated Cordwainers’ Executive||5 0 0||0 0 0|
|Darlington Section of ditto||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|Nottingham Section of ditto||0 5 0||0 2 1|
|Coventry and Warwickshire Ribbon Weavers||0 5 0||1 9 0|
|Packing-Case Makers||1 5 4||0 0 0|
|Saddlers and Harness Makers||4 0 0||0 0 0|
|Kendal Shoemakers’ Society||0 5 0||0 1 8|
|West End Ladies’ Boot-Makers||6 0 0||0 10 0|
|London Operative Tailors||3 0 0||0 0 0|
|Darlington Section of Amalgamated Tailors||0 5 0||0 1 8|
|London Basket-Makers’ Society||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|Block-Printers of Lancashire||0 5 0||2 1 8|
|London Coach-Builders||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|Coach-Trimmers (The Globe)||0 5 0||0 1 10 1/2|
|Coach-Trimmers (The Crown)||0 5 0||0 5 0|
|Elastic Web-Weavers||0 5 0||0 5 0|
|United Excavators||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|French Polishers||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|Organ-Builders||0 5 0||0 2 1|
|Pattern-Drawers and Block-Cutters||0 5 0||0 0 0|
|Carpenters’ and Joiners’ Executive||0 0 0||2 0 0|
|United Society of journeyman Curriers|
(joined August 27)
|0 0 0||0 0 0|
|National Reform League||0 5 0||0 2 6|
|West End Ladies’ Boot-Makers||4 10 0|
|London Cigar-Makers||1 1 0|
|Elastic Web-Weavers||1 0 0|
|–––||0 10 0|
|Basket-Makers||0 12 6|
As a rule, the General Council only corresponds with individual branches abroad, where police restrictions prevent the formation of branches.
In Belgium an attempt has been made to affiliate trades societies, but we have no information about the result, nor have we received any contributions.
Germany is still in an unsettled state. Citizen Philipp Becker, the President of the German section at Geneva, has succeeded in establishing several branches, but we have no particulars at present.
In Italy there is a regular working men’s organisation with whose officers we are in correspondence, but formal affiliations have not yet taken place.
In the New World, we have two affiliated branches at New York and Hoboken, N.J. We are in correspondence with the National Labour Union Committee, and the President [W. Sylvis]
The past year has been characterised by intense struggles and agitation. In America, in England, in France, in Belgium strikes, lock-outs, persecution and prosecution of the working class have been the order of the day.
The capitalists have perseveringly treated the workmen as nobodies who only exist obsequiously to submit.
One society in the United States has spent 70,000 dols. to resist the encroachments of the capitalists; in England it has been decided in the courts of law that to rob the funds of trades unions is not punishable by law. An official inquiry into the working of trades unions has been instituted with a view to damage their character and to affix to them the stigma of being criminal in their proceedings.
The wholesale prosecutions of the London master tailors against their men, the attitude of magistrates, judges, and the daily press, the convictions of the Paris tailors and the massacre at Marchienne, are facts that demonstrate incontrovertibly that society consists but of two hostile classes – the oppressors and the oppressed – and that nothing short of a solitary union of the sons of toil throughout the world will ever redeem them from their present thraldom. We therefore conclude with the motto: Proletarians of all Countries, Unite!