The International Workingmen's Association

Address to the National Labor Union of the United States

Written: by Marx in English, May 12th, 1869;
First published: as a leaflet, Address to the National Labour Union of the United States in 1869;
From: the minutes of the General Council meeting, May 11, 1869, as taken by George Eccarius.

"Citizen Marx then rose and said that most members would have seen a letter from Professor Goldwin Smith in the Bee-Hive [of May 8, 1869] respecting the impression made in America by the speech of Senator Sumner, and he, Citizen Marx, had thought it was a proper occassion for the Council to appeal to the workingmen of America to put a stop to these menaces of the Republican party.

"With this intention, he had drawn up an address to the National Labor Union of the Untied States which, if approved of by the Council, should be adopted and sent to America. He then reads as follows...


Fellow Workmen:

In the initiatory program of our Association we stated:

"It was not the wisdom of the ruling classes, but the heroic resistance to their criminal folly by the working classes of England, that saved the west of Europe from plunging headlong into an infamous crusade for the perpetuation and propagation of slavery on the other side of the Atlantic."

Your turn has now come to stop a war the clearest result of which would be, for an indefinite period, to hurl back the ascendant movement of the working class on both sides of the Atlantic.

We need hardly tell you that there exist European powers anxiously bent upon hurrying the United States into a war with England. A glance at commercial statistics will show that the Russian export of raw produce, and Russia has nothing else to export, was rapidly giving way before American competition when the civil war suddenly turned the scales. To convert the American plowshares into swords would just now rescue from impending bankruptcy that despotic power which your republican statesmen have, in their wisdom, chosen for their confidential adviser. But quite apart from the particular interests of this or that government, is it not the general interest of our common oppressors to turn our fast-growing international cooperation into an internecine war?

In a congratulatory address to Mr. Lincoln on his reelection as president, we expressed our conviction that the American Civil War would prove of as great import to the advancement of the working class as the American War of Independence had proved to that of the middle class. And, in point of fact, the victorious termination of the antislavery war has opened a new epoch in the annals of the working class. In the States themselves, an independent working-class movement, looked upon with an evil eye by your old parties and their professional politicians, has since that date sprung into life. To fructify it wants years of peace. To crush it, a war between the Untied States and England is wanted.

The next palpable effect of the Civil War was, of course, to deteriorate the position of the American workman. In the United States, as in Europe, the monster incubus of a national debt was shifted from hand to hand, to settle down on the shoulders of the working class. The prices of necessaries, says one of your statesmen, have since 1860 risen 78 per cent, while the wages of unskilled labor rose 50 per cent, those of skilled labor 60 per cent only. "Pauperism," he complains, "grows now in America faster than population." Moreover, the suffering of the working of the working classes set off as a foil the newfangled luxury of financial aristocrats, shoddy aristocrats, and similar vermin bred by wars. Yet, for all this, the Civil War did compensate by freeing the slave and the consequent moral impetus it gave to your own class movement. A second war, not hallowed by a sublime purpose and a great social necessity, but of the Old World's type, would forge chains for the free lborer instead of tearing asunder those of the slave. The accumulated misery left in its track would afford your capitalists at once the motive and the means of divorce the working class from its bold nd just aspirations by the soulless sword of a standing army.

On you, then, depends the glorious task to prove to the world that now at last the working classes are bestriding the scene of history no longer as servile retiners but as independent actors, conscious of their own responsibility, and able to command peace where their would-be masters shout war.


After being read, the minutes continue:

"Citizen Ogder took objection to the word vermin. Citizen Lucraft preferred it and Citizen Marx stated that no other word could be substituted without altering the context.... It was agreed that all the Council members should sign it and that their occupation should be stated."

So the document was signed thusly:

In the name of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association
BRITISH NATIONALITY: R. Applegarth, carpenter; M. J. Boon, engineer; J. Buckley, painter; J. Hales, elastic web weaver; Harriet Law; B. Lucraft, chair maker; J. Milner, tailor; G. Ogder, shoemaker; J. Ross, bootcloser; B. Shaw, painter; Cowell Stepney; J. Warren, trunk maker; J. Weston, handrail maker. FRENCH NATIONALITY: E. Puont, instrument maker; Jules Johannard, lithographer; Paul Lafargue. GERMAN NATIONALITY: G. Eccarious, tailor; W. Limburg, shoemaker; Karl Marx. SWISS NATIONALITY: H. Jung, watchmaker; A. Muller, watchmaker. BELGIAN NATIONALITY: M. Bernard, painter. DANISH NATIONALITY: J. Cohn, cigar maker. POLISH NATIONALITY: Zabicki, compositor. B. Lucraft, Chairman, Cowell Stepney, Treasurer, J. George Eccarius, General Secretary