International Working Men’s Association

The Minute Book of the General Council
August 1868

Council Meeting
August 4

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 149-51 of the Minute Book]

Members present: Buckley, Copeland, Dupont, Eccarius, Jung, Lessner, Mrs. Law, Marx, Johannard, Lucraft, Weston, Hales, Limburg.

The Minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed.

A letter was read from Mr. John Holmes at Leeds who expressed his willingness to correspond with the Council.


A letter was read from Citizen Cowell Stepney enclosing £5 5s. towards the expense of the Congress.

The Day Working Bookbinders’ Society paid their annual contribution [of] £1 15s.

A letter was read from Mr. John Holmes of Leeds expressing his willingness to correspond with the Council. He enclosed a report of a lecture delivered at Leeds, upon which the Secretary promised to report at the next meeting.

France. Paris. The prisoners[329] are well treated, they get all the papers, they can read and write as much as they like and receive visits whenever anybody wants to visit them. The appeal [the publication of the trial proceedings] costs more than £80 but it has been paid by the Association. Everybody seems to expect something to happen in 1869. The Congress programmes have been well received. Nearly all the papers have inserted. The Tribune and Le Reveil are going to have articles upon [them]. Le Reveil offers its services a to the Association.

The third committee was not appointed a fortnight ago, it will consist of 15 members.”)

Lyons. Complain that they are watched and that they cannot unite all the members of Lyons in one body. They adhere to their flag and state that considerable progress has been made in the neighbourhood. Lyons and Neuville are going to club together to send a delegate to Brussels,[331] they will also send a delegate to Berne[332] to broach social reform. They have nominated a candidate for the next election.

Germany. Hanover. A strike of the power-loom weavers. They work 14 hours a day for nine shillings a week. Bakers’ strike at Berlin; the commissioner of the police has inquired whether the army bakers would supply bread in case of a strike.

Credentials to Cowell Stepney to Brussels.

Secretary to get information about the expense of going to Brussels.

[Here a clipping from The Bee-Hive No. 355, August 8, 1868, is pasted into the Minute Book]

Citizen Stepney presented a paper announcing ["Citizen Stepney presented a paper announcing” is inserted in Eccarius’s hand in place of the crossed-out words “A member of the Council"] that a congress of philosophers is going to meet on the 16th of September at Prague, where the following propositions will be submitted:

“The exaggeration of work, and the painful pecuniary conditions, which affect the majority of men, constitute a fact unworthy of humanity and full of dangers for the future.

“Mendicancy, one of the greatest disgraces to humanity, must be abolished by the State and the communes; one must distinguish here between private assistance, that of societies and that of the State. It is necessary that those who cannot gain their livelihood be furnished with the indispensable objects for their support; and that on the other hand the idle be bound over to devote themselves to some useful occupation.”

Citizen Milner resumed the debate on the proposition: “The influence of machinery in the hands of the capitalists.” After a few words of approbation of the manner in which Citizen Marx had treated the subject on the previous night, and some allusions to Citizen Weston’s assertions concerning things in the aggregate, he said he heard a clever Scotchman say the other day that if by some contrivance four men could be enabled to do the work of five this would be a clear gain in the aggregate, but he had not been able to answer the question what was to be done with the fifth man. The working man had nothing but his labour to depend upon as a means of subsistence. He had to sell his labour day by day, he could not do two days’ work in one, and consequently every day that he could not sell his labour was a dead loss to him, it was an irreparable deduction from his means of subsistence, and any one thrown out by machinery might perish before he could be absorbed into other trades, or employed in his own in consequence of an increased demand, for the demands of life were incessant, the cravings of nature had to be satisfied every day. The fifth man might, according to circumstances, mean the fifth part of a trade, or the fifth of the working population. It was clear that all the benefits of modern inventions were in the hands of the few, and this would continue until the working men found means to employ themselves.

Citizen Hales said he had worked amongst machinery from his childhood, and his experience was that the ordinary influence of machinery tended to the. displacement of manual labour. If the productive power of a certain kind of machinery was increased tenfold, the demand for its production in consequence of reduced price would at best increase twofold, and at least one-half of the men displaced would go to the bad, that was five out of every ten. Machinery had converted the labourer into an adjunct of the machine. The workman was a slave; he had to do his master’s bidding, because the master held the means of the workman’s subsistence in his hands. By the aid of machinery the labour of grown men was constantly displaced by that of women and children, so that machinery not only replaced manual labour but also transposed the individuals whose assistance was required. He was not against machinery, but machinery must become the workman’s assistant, instead of being, as at present, his competitor.

Citizen Eccarius said he would only make a few remarks upon Citizen Weston’s speech of the previous night. Citizen Weston had observed that Citizen Marx had only spoken of the influence of machinery in the factory districts. Citizen Marx had done what every man of science did who wanted to exhibit the peculiarities of any subject. They always took the best developed specimens for their illustrations, and machinery was best developed in the cotton trade. In answer to the assertion that machine labour did not diminish the demand for labour in the aggregate, he read a few statements from a pamphlet published in 1844.[333] One of them was, that in a large machine shop at Manchester, one plaining machine, equal to fourteen men, requiring one man or a boy to direct it, had been introduced. In the same pamphlet there was a statement of a Stockport spinner who worked 672 spindles in 1840 earning 22s. a week, in 1843 he worked 2,040 spindles earning 13s. a week. Between 1833 and 1843 the productive powers of the cotton-spinners had considerably more than doubled; the self-acting mule had dispensed with the services of spinners altogether, yet the available raw material of 1840 had not doubled until the year 1854, so that the aggregate demand for labour in the cotton trade must have been diminished considerably. There were many things connected with this subject which some people overlooked, and which never came to the knowledge of others. A hundred years ago, when Manchester had taken to manufacturing cotton, people died of starvation in the streets of the large towns in the East Indies in consequence. It has been computed that between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 of human beings perished in the East in consequence of the cotton trade being transplanted to Lancashire. The prosperous towns of the linen trade, Dundee and Leeds, had probably never heard the cries of agony that emanated for years from the famished weavers of Silesia; a whole generation had perished there because flax was successfully spun by machinery in the north of this island. The carpentering trade was no criterion. To the people of New York, for instance, it would matter little whether the stuff of which their clothes were made was manufactured at Bengal, in Siberia, or at Manchester; but if the London reformers wanted a hall to meet in, that hall must be built in London, and by men who resided in London. If machines, attended by women and children, could erect stairs, lay floors, etc., at a distance ready for the use of the London people, Citizen Weston would, no doubt, have come to a different conclusion.

Citizen Weston said he would stick to his point. If all the hatters of London were superseded, their employers would be superseded also; the same fund would remain to pay wages with. (The possibility of the master hatter selling more hats than he does now, without employing journeymen to make them, is lost sight of.)

Citizen Marx replied in a few words, and said that the Congress had a right to discuss this question on its own merits.

[The newspaper clipping ends here]

Mrs. Law said machinery had made women less dependent on men than they were before and would ultimately emancipate them from domestic slavery. She must enter her protest against the view taken of women’s labour.

Citizen Marx offered to bring the conclusions arrived at in the form of a resolution.

Citizen Eccarius volunteered to open the discussion on the next question.

The Council adjourned at 11 o’clock,

Benjamin Lucraft, Chairman
J. George Eccarius, Secretary

Council Meeting
August 11

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 152-53 and 155 of the Minute Book]

Members present: Buckley, Copeland, Dupont, Eccarius, Jung, Johannard, Lessner, Lucraft, Marx, Stepney, Shaw.

The Minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed.

The Secretary [Eccarius] read extracts from the Chicago Work[ing]man’s Advocate concerning the presidential candidature and another from John Holmes of Leeds’ lecture on labour and capital at Sheffield. John Holmes was appointed correspondent of the Association for Leeds.

The result of the inquiry concerning the expense of going to Brussels not being satisfactory, Citizen Copeland volunteered to get information from the Great Eastern.

Upon the motion of Citizen Marx, seconded by Lessner, Buckley and Copeland were appointed auditors.***

Citizen Marx read some extracts from a French paper, concerning the International Congress.

Citizen Jung stated that the Viennese workmen had published an address urging international union.[334]

Citizen Marx proposed the following as the conclusion of the last discussion.[335] Seconded by Jung, carried;

Resolved: that on the one side machinery has proved a most powerful instrument of despotism and extortion in the hands of the capitalist class;

that on the other side the development of machinery creates the material conditions necessary for the superseding of the wages-system by a truly social system of production.

[Here a clipping from The Bee-Hive No. 358, August 22, 1868, is pasted into the Minute Book]

The Secretary read a report of the last conference of the National Labour Union of America. The conference rejects the election platforms of both the great parties, and has issued a platform of its own, the first resolution of which declares “that the producers are the most important portion of all communities.” It demands that as the loans fall due the bonds should be exchanged for bonds bearing three per cent interest, and convertible into legal-tender notes at the option of the holders; that only those bonds, redemption of which in gold was specially stipulated, should be paid in coin; and further, that the notes of the national banks should be withdrawn from circulation and replaced by legal-tender treasury notes. If either of the candidates of two great parties for the presidency should adopt this platform — no matter which — the conference advises the working men to vote for him. If neither adopts it, the Congress of the National Labour Union, which will assemble on the third of next month at New York, is to nominate an independent labour candidate for the presidency, and urge upon the working men of the United States the necessity of rallying to his support.[336]

Citizen Eccarius then opened the debate on the reduction of the hours of labour question. He said: Forty years ago a man working twelve hours a day would have received sufficient for making a dozen pair of trousers to support a family for two weeks. In 1863 Mr. Lord visited a shop in Whitechapel where a young woman, with a machine and three female assistants, by working long hours, made a dozen pair of trousers a day, for which they received, after deducting sewing trimmings, 8s. In 1861 there were 12,000 females employed in the tailoring trade of the metropolis, 3,000 of whom never worked less than 14, frequently 16, or 18 hours a day, occasionally all night, for 7s. to 10s. a week. I know, from good authority, that there are practices quite as bad in other trades where women and children are employed, but they have not come under any personal observation. A law was passed in 1867 to put a stop to this abomination, but it is a sham. The same Parliament that added £3,000,000 a year to our permanent expenditure could not afford a few thousands for a staff of workshop inspectors to enforce its own law. I think it high time that those of my friends who take an active part in electioneering should interrogate the candidates about this matter. He then proved, from government statistics, that the development and increase of the powers of production in our staple trades had far outstripped the increased demand for labour or the increased number of persons employed. In the ten years, from 1850 to 1860, the raw material consumed in the cotton trade had increased 103 per cent; the export of yarn 52 per cent; that of piece-goods 104 per cent; the number of persons employed 12 per cent. In the stocking trade an increase of 344 per cent of the exports had led to an increase of persons employed of 30 per cent. The foreign wool retained for home consumption had increased 97 per cent; the export of yarn 99 per cent; piece-goods 20 per cent; the persons employed 1 per cent. A very considerable increase of production had taken place since then; the number of persons employed had positively diminished. In proof of this he read a statement from Dr. Marx’s work on political economy,[337] whose figures are all based on government returns, according to which the number of adult persons employed diminished by 1,700 between 1856 and 1862; but the number of children under 14 years of age had increased. The produce of the coalmines had increased 43 per cent; the number of persons ‘employed 34 per cent; that of the iron mines had increased 55 per cent; the number of persons employed 6 per cent. The produce of the lead mines had increased 5,000 tons; the number of persons employed had diminished by 2,000. The exportation of machinery had increased 2,66 per cent; the number of persons employed 43 per cent; and with a progressive increase of exports the Society of the Amalgamated Engineers had on an average 2,000 members out of employment on the funds every day during the year 1867. In the rural districts the diminution of labourers employed had been going on continuously during the last thirty years. He thought this was a sufficient reason why the working classes should insist upon a general reduction of the hours of labour. Another reason was that all the medical inquiries that had taken place proved that the working population was greatly overworked. Two remarkable phenomena had established this beyond a doubt. When the cotton famine had set in,[338] the death-rate in the cotton districts had greatly diminished. Again, last winter, when the population of St. George’s-in-the-East had been in a state of semi-starvation, the death-rate, which was usually higher than in any other metropolitan district, had fallen almost below the most favoured districts. This was inconvertible evidence that full work, which was synonymous with overwork, was more destructive to life than privation. He then pointed to the increase of wealth that had lately taken place, which led him to the conclusion that society could very well afford to pay the labourer the increased wages, which would be the inevitable result of a general reduction of the hours of labour.

Citizen Milner could not take the same view of the subject. A general reduction of the hours of labour, however desirable, meant a diminution of the production of wealth; the opposition it would encounter from those who had amassed large fortunes out of other people’s labour would be too great for the working classes to overcome. He thought a rise of wages could easier be obtained; the reduction of the hours of labour would follow that.

Citizen Marx could not coincide with Eccarius, [should read: Milner] that it would lead to a [an increased demand for labour] diminished production, [the words “diminished production” are inserted in Eccarius’s hand in place of the crossed-out words] because where the restrictions had been introduced, the instruments of production had been vastly more developed than in other trades. It had the effect of introducing more machinery, and made production on a small scale more and more impossible, which, however, was necessary to arrive at social production. The sanitary question was settled. But a reduction of the hours of labour was also indispensable to give the working class more time for mental culture. Legislative restrictions were the first step towards the mental and physical elevation and the ultimate emancipation of the working classes. Nobody denied, nowadays, that the State must interfere on behalf of the women and children; and a restriction of their hours led, in most instances, to a reduction of the working time of the men. England had taken the lead, other countries had been obliged to follow to some extent. The agitation had seriously commenced in Germany, and the London Council was looked to for taking the lead. The principle had been decided at former congresses; the time for action had arrived.

Citizen Copeland thought the condition of the working classes would be ameliorated by a reduction.

Citizen Weston did not think that any effort on the part of the Council would result in an improvement.

Citizen Lucraft was of opinion that the question ought to be agitated.

On the motion of Citizen Shaw [the words “On the motion of Citizen Shaw” are in Eccarius’s hand] the debate was adjourned to Tuesday next.

[the newspaper clipping ends here]

H. Jung, Chairman
J. G. Eccarius, Secretary

Council Meeting
August 18

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 155-56 of the Minute Book]

Members present: Buckley, Dupont, Eccarius, Jung, Johannard, Limburg, Lessner, Lucraft, Mrs. Law, Marx, Milner, Weston.

Citizen Jung in the chair.

[Here a clipping from The Bee-Hive No. 358, August 22, 1868, is pasted into the Minute Book]

The Secretary read [the words “The Secretary read” are in Eccarius’s hand] a letter from Mr. Jessup, corresponding representative of the National Labour Union of America for the state of New York, [the words “for the state of New York” are in Eccarius’s hand] in which the writer expressed regret that no provision had been made for the expense of a delegate to Brussels, and could not be made in time. Respecting the bricklayers’ strike of New York, Mr. Jessup states that it is looked upon as the grand struggle for the enforcement of the eight hours’ law for the state of New York, and that the working men of the United States were never so united as they now are to support the New York bricklayers. Up to July 30 the bricklayers received 20,000 dols., and the sums pledged to be remitted when called for amounted to 150,000 dols. Besides, the men had taken 25 contracts for new erections. alterations, and enlargement of buildings, amounting in all to 300,000, dols.

[The newspaper clipping ends here]

Mr. Jessup stated that none of the letters written by Citizen Shaw had come to hand. He suggested that in future letters should be exchanged at regular intervals. He requested that the reports of the proceedings of the Congress be forwarded to him and promised to return the compliment by sending the reports of the annual session of the. Labour Union.

The Secretary was instructed to reply.

Citizen Marx read a letter from a working man of New York who stated that a worse state of things prevailed .there than in London.

[Here a clipping from The Bee-Hive No. 358, August 22, 1868, is pasted into the Minute Book]

The correspondence from Germany announced that the Austrian police had prohibited the fraternisation feast of the working class at Vienna, and that a pamphlet has appeared at Berlin on the history and development of the International Working Men’s Association.” Dr. Marx has been invited to the annual conference of the General Working Men’s Union by the following letter:

“To Dr. Carl Marx, in London. Berlin, July 6, 1868. — The undersigned President and Executive of the General German Working Men’s Union do themselves the honour, in consideration of the extraordinary services you have rendered to the cause of labour by your work, ‘The Process of Production of Capital’, to invite you as a guest of honour to the annual conference of the Union, which will assemble at Hamburg in the month of August next.”

The Executive consists of 24 members, residing in different parts of Germany, to each of whom the original had to be sent to obtain his signature.[340] Only one gave a modified refusal.

In Italy the Congress programme has been published in several papers, and M. Dassy, the Vice-President of the Italian Working Men’s Union, has been appointed as delegate to the Congress.[341] At Bologna and vicinity the right of meeting is suppressed; the officers of the working men’s societies are in prison.

The German Arbeiter-Bildungs-Verein of Switzerland, comprising about 4,000 members, have at a general delegate meeting, held in Neuchâtel,[342] voted their affiliation to the International Association.

[The newspaper clipping ends here]

Upon the proposition that the delegates to the Congress be now appointed, a long conversation ensued as to the advisability of adjourning the appointment and also whether the delegation could not be made numerous by allowing members who wished to go to the Congress a part of their expenses, but making sure that the expense of one representative of the Council be paid. It was ultimately agreed that any [one] wishing to go at his own expense should have credentials from the Council to attend the Congress.

The proposition of appointing delegates at once was carried. Lessner proposed and Citizen Johannard seconded that three delegates be appointed, which was carried.

The following members were then nominated: Shaw by Lessner and Buckley; Dupont by Marx and Johannard; Eccarius by Johannard and Mrs. Law; Mrs. Law by Jung and Marx; Hales by Johannard and Eccarius,

The result of the ballot gave: Dupont 9 votes, Eccarius 9 votes, Mrs. Law, Shaw, and Hales 5 votes each. A second ballot [was] taken which gave Shaw 5 votes, Mrs. Law 4, and Hales 3.

The affiliation of the portmanteau- and trunk-makers was announced by Citizen Townshend who was present as the delegate of that association.

Citizen Milner proposed and Weston seconded that the credit and co-operative questions take precedent of the other questions in the order of discussion.

Citizen Lucraft proposed the questions as they stand as an amendment, which was carried.

The Council adjourned at 11 o’clock.

H. Jung, Chairman
J. George Eccarius, Secretary

Council Meeting
August 25, 1868

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 156-57 of the Minute Book]

Members present: Dupont, Eccarius, Buckley, Lessner, Lucraft, Cohn, Mrs. Law, Marx, Milner, Johannard, Stepney, Weston.

Citizen Jung in the chair.

House painters of Birmingham sent a letter announcing their resolution to withdraw. The Preston Trades Council declined to deal with the address.[343]

Citizen Jung read a letter from the Secretary of the Society of Free Thinkers of Geneva asking the Council to advise the Congress to admit a delegate to attend the Congress. Ph. Becker endorsed the letter.[344]

Citizen Marx proposed, Dupont seconded, that the recommendation be given. Carried.

Citizen Cohn made a statement respecting the reasons of his delegation to the Congress. He was elected by a great majority. The cigar-makers complain that many Belgians come over. [They] wish to have the assistance of the other delegates.

Proposed by Marx, seconded by Lessner, that Citizen Lucraft receive credentials.

The following resolution was proposed respecting the reduction of the hours of labour question, seconded by Dupont:

A resolution having been passed unanimously by the Congress of Geneva 1866 to this effect: “That the legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition indispensable for the ulterior social improvements,” the Council is of opinion that the time is now arrived when practical effect should be given to that resolution and that it has become the duty of all the branches to agitate that question practically in the different countries where the International Working Men’s Association is established.[345]

Citizen Cohn proposed and Lessner seconded that £5 be given to the Secretary [Eccarius] for Brussels. Carried.

The Secretary made a statement that with regard to the Nuremberg delegation he was willing to undertake it if the Council granted him an additional £2.

Citizen Lessner proposed and Cohn seconded that the two pounds be granted. Carried unanimously.

The Council adjourned at 11 o’clock.

R. Shaw, Chairman
H. Jung, Secretary pro tem.