The International Workingmen's Association

Letter of the General Council to the Alliance of Socialist Democracy
March 9, 1869

Written: in French and English and adopted by the General Council, March 9 1869 and issued to all International sections;
First published: in the pamphlet Les Prétendues scissons dans l'Internationale, Geneva, 1872.


According to Article I of its Statutes, the International Working Men's Association admits "all working men's societies... aiming at the same end, viz., the protection, advancement, and complete emancipation of the working classes".

Since the various sections of workingmen in the same country, and the working classes in different countries, are placed under different circumstances and have attained to different degrees of development, it seems almost necessary that the theoretical notions which reflect the real movement should also diverge.

The community of action, however, called into life by the the International Working Men's Association, the exchange of ideas facilitated by the public organs of different national section, and the direct debates at the General Congresses are sure by and by to engender a common theoretical program.

Consequently, it belongs not to the function of the General Council to subject the program of the Alliance to a critical examination. We have not to inquire whether, yes or no, it be a true scientific expression of the working-class movement. All we have to ask is whether its general tendency does not run against the general tendency of the International Working Men's Association, viz., the complete emancipation of the working class?

One phrase in your program lies open to this objection. It occurs [in] Article 2:

"Elle (l'Alliance) veut vant tout l'egalisation politique, economique, et sociale des classes."

["The Alliance wants above all political, economic, and social equalization... of classes."]

The "egalisation des classes", literally interpreted, comes to the "harmony of capital and labor" ("l'harmonie du capital et du travail") so persistently preached by the bourgeois socialists. It is not the logically impossible "equalization of classes", but the historically necessary, superseding "abolition of classes" (abolition des classes), this true secret of the proletarian movement, which forms the great aim of the International Working Men's Association.

Considering, however, the context in which that phrase "egalisation des classes" occurs, it seems to be a mere slip of the pen, and the General Council feels confident that you will be anxious to remove from your program an expression which offers such a dangerous misunderstanding.

It suits the principles of the International Working Men's Association to let every section freely shape its own theoretical program, except the single case of an infringement upon its general tendency. There exists, therefore, no obstacle to the transformation of the sections of the Alliance into sections of the International Working Men's Association.

The dissolution of the Alliance and the entrance of its sections into the International Working Men's Association once settled, it would, according to our Regulations, become necessary to inform the General Council of the residence and the numerical strength of each new section.