Documents of the First International 1869

On the Refusal by the English Press to take Notice of the Growth of Sympathy with Ireland among English Workers and on the Opening of the Debate on the Irish Question

First Published: in The General Council of the First International. 1868-1870. Minutes, Moscow;
Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Record of the Speech and Content of the Letter. From the Minutes of the General Council Meetings of October 26 and November 9, 1869.


Cit. Marx said the principal thing was whatever was passed would be suppressed by the London press. The main feature of the demonstration[144] had been ignored, it was that at least a part of the English working class had lost their prejudice against the Irish. This might be put in writing and addressed to somebody, not the government. He thought it a good opportunity to do something....


The Secretary reported from the Sub-Committee that it had been agreed not to proceed with an address on the Irish question[145] because if the views of the Council were properly set forth, the government and the press would turn them against the prisoners.

Cit. Jung read a letter from Cit. Marx in support of the report and, if adopted, Cit. Marx proposed the discussion of the following questions: (1) The attitude of the British Government on the Irish question; (2) The attitude of the English working class towards the Irish. Cit. Marx volunteered to open the debate.

The report was adopted and the questions ordered to be put on the order of the day.


144. On October 24, 1869, a mass demonstration was held in London in support of the demand for an amnesty for Irish political prisoners. The General Council of the International helped organise the demonstration. From various parts of the capital columns of demonstrators marched to Trafalgar Square, whence an impressive procession moved to Hyde Park, where the mass meeting took place. The demonstration was held under the slogan “Justice for Ireland!” It was part of the amnesty campaign conducted in Ireland and England, which grew in intensity when Gladstone, despite his pre-election promises, insisted on humiliating terms for the Irish prisoners as a condition for granting them an amnesty.

145. After Marx’s report at the General Council meeting on October 26, 1869, in which he said that the bourgeois press had given a distorted picture of the demonstration of solidarity with the Irish people held in London on October 24, the General Council of the International passed a decision on adopting an address to the English people. However, on the instance of Marx, the Sub-Committee or Standing Committee decided to refrain from such a general address and to pass resolutions on concrete items of the agenda for a discussion of the Irish question proposed by Marx. Eccarius, the Secretary of the Council, informed the Council of this decision on November 9. On November 12 Marx wrote to Engels:

“Instead of the address on the Irish question, for which there was no real occasion, I put on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting (to adopt resolutions) the following items:

“1) The behaviour of the British Government over the Irish amnesty question.

“2) The attitude of the English working class towards the Irish question.”