Documents of the First International 1871

Position of the International Working Men’s Association in Germany and England


From Speech in French by Karl Marx on September 22, 1871, at the London Conference

Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
First Published: in Russian in The London Conference of the First International, Moscow, 1936;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

On September 22, 1871, Marx addressed the London Conference of the International on the position of the Association in England. He particularly emphasised the need to organise independent Irish sections in the International, having in mind the relations between English and Irish workers, and the antagonism between them which had for many years been fomented by the ruling classes.

You will be aware of the great antagonism which has existed for a long time between the English and Irish workers, the causes of which are easy to enumerate. This antagonism is rooted in differences of language and religion, and in the competition which Irish workers created in the labour market. It constitutes an obstacle to revolution in England and is, consequently, skilfully exploited by the government and the upper classes, who are convinced that no bonds are capable of uniting the English workers with the Irish. It is true that no union would be possible in the sphere of politics, but this is not the case in the economic sphere and the two sides are forming International sections which, as such, will have to advance simultaneously towards the same goal. The Irish sections will soon be very numerous.