Documents of the First International 1868

The Geneva Lock-Out

Source: Minutes of the General Council of the First International 1866-1868, 1964;
Written: by Eccarius;
Approved by the Standing Committee on April 4, 1868;
First Published: in The Evening Star, April 6, 1868.

To The Editor of The Star

Sir, — As various false statements respecting the Geneva lock-out have found their way into the London papers, we solicit your favour to give publicity to the following in your, journal.

As the promoters of the International Working Men’s Association never entertained the idea of establishing an international medium for the settlement of wages disputes, the General Council has never yet been appealed to for advice, and has, consequently, no opportunity of instigating or provoking strikes. According to Rule 11, every society joining preserves its existing organisation intact. Hence it follows that every affiliated society manages its own special affairs without any reference whatever to the International Working Men’s Association. Strikes were condemned on principle by the Geneva Congress; co-operative production was declared to be the only means to a permanent solution of the labour question.” At Lausanne the discussion of the question of courts of arbitration was recommended with a view of putting a stop to strikes. The Association, as such, never interferes in trade matters, but it uses its influence, when appealed to, in cases of strikes and lock-outs, to prevent the workmen of one country being used as industrial mercenaries against the workmen of another; and in cases of need it solicits pecuniary aid. So, far from the General Council having had a hand in the getting up of the Geneva dispute, it was not even aware that the building trades there were trying for a — rise, until on the 3rd of March a notice to that effect, published in the Voix de l'Avenir, was announced in the regular weekly meeting.

In accordance with Rule C, Geneva has been selected as the seat of the Central Committee for Switzerland. A few months ago all the affiliated societies of Geneva amalgamated their sick and funeral funds and appointed a committee, consisting of the delegates of the various trades, as their executive. This committee was also charged with carrying on the correspondence with the local societies of Switzerland and the General Council of London. Hence it is the Central Committee of the International Working Men’s Association for Switzerland. On trade matters it performs the same functions as an English trades council for all the trades it represents. In January last the men in the building trades appealed to their employers for an interview to discuss their grievances. The employers never answered their application, but set to work to form an association for their own purposes. In the meantime the men of each trade made out a “log,” demanding a rise of about 10 per cent upon their wages, and a reduction of the hours of labour from twelve to ten per day. After the condemnation of the Paris Committee,[389] the masters broke their silence, and told the men that they would not employ them on any terms unless they renounced their connection with the International Working Men’s Association.

By order of the General Council.

R. Shaw, Chairman
J. George Eccarius, Hon. Gen. Sec.

16, Castle Street, East, W., April 4