The International Workingmen's Association, 1872
The original copy is not extant among Congress documents;
Published: in La Liberté No. 37, September 15, 1872;
Translated: from the French text by Richard Dixon & Alex Miller, for Progress Publishers, 1976.
Transcribed: by email@example.com.
We do not intend to run after new adventures. Moreover our ranks have been thinned, our best soldiers exiled or shot. We must not forget it. That is why we come to declare formally and absolutely that we have no interest in any material and violent demonstration until the cadres of the International in Paris have been reformed, until the working-class forces have grouped, until each and every member of the International in Paris has become penetrated with social principles.
We reject and repulse at any price all compromise whatever with a purely political party. We do not want to be transformed into a secret society, neither do we want to sink in the bog of purely economic evolution. Because a secret society leads to adventures in which the people is always the victim, because purely economic evolution would lead to the creation of a new class, and this contradicts the spirit of the International.
We consider, claim and declare that we are and will remain the International. In our opinion, the General Rules into which we have inserted the resolution of the London Conference clearly and energetically call for political revolution. In our opinion, the General Regulations constitute a mechanism sufficient for maintaining the balance between individual and collective action, and that is the solution of the political, economic and social problem.
Does that mean, citizens, that we do not admit any change in the Rules, in the Regulations? No!
Does it mean that we reject the Basle resolutions and those of the London Conference? No!
Quite the contrary, we preserve in the General Council everything that ensures it the necessary action, although we take away from it all that threatens, in germ or in fact, the autonomy of groups and federations.
We go further: we congratulate the General Council and the members of the Conference on having, the day after the defeat of the Commune, outlined the new road which the international must take under penalty of betraying its principles, its tendencies, the Revolution, of which henceforth it is the expression.
We repeat that we remain within the spirit of the Rules and we wish to preserve our autonomy while accepting, of course, solidarity and control.
But we pray the Congress to trust to the good sense of the Paris proletariat to give us the opportunity to reassemble our forces until the day when we shall be able to re-establish our former relations with the General Council. We ask of you this proof of confidence at a time above all when this reserve is imposed upon us by terrible and exceptional circumstances.
Here is our opinion in respect of the Council:
First of all, must it preserve the powers which it has at present? Must it be simply a correspondence centre as it has been, instituted by the founders of the Association? To those who support this latter opinion we say that to wish to reduce the Council to its first and simple function means not to take into account that at the beginnings of the Association the Council could only be a correspondence centre and that from the time when the International began to spread the necessity arose to give the Council new powers. It means to underestimate the very character of the international, a character which is expressed in the following two paragraphs of the Provisional Rules:
"All efforts aiming at that great end have hitherto failed from the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labour in each country, and from the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries
"The emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries."
If you claim that the Council is a useless body, that the federations could do without it by corresponding among themselves, you thereby invite the sections to use the same language by virtue of the same argument -- and then the International Association is dislocated. The proletariat goes back to the period of the corporations.
Like the latter, you will have no more concern for the interests of your brothers and it will matter little to you that in one nation or another they are bowed down under the yoke of exploitation, provided you have snatched some scrap from feudalism in your country.
Well, we Parisians declare that we have not shed our blood in floods at every generation for the satisfaction of parochial interests.
We declare that you have understood nothing at all about the character and the mission of the International Association.
You will object: And autonomy? Is not the right of the individual superior and anterior to the right of the collective?
Let us say then that we are thinking of autonomy and concentration.
Citizens, the Central Committee and the Commune gave the Paris proletariat a painful but fruitful experience.
Indeed, it has experienced all that is disastrous in individual and group autonomy when the group and the individual flounder between the centralising tradition which is, so to speak, in the very marrow of the modern individual's bones and the concept of autonomy which is in his mind in the state of abstraction, of pure theory.
However, citizens, autonomy is the saving principle for modern society. But on the express and absolute condition that its exercise is regulated by consciousness of rights and duties. Otherwise, how could that exercise lead to anything but confusion and ruin when the individuals enjoying it are not conscious of rights and duties when they have to fight enemies disciplined by authority?
We must, we must at all costs, citizens, abandon the regions of pure theory, we must forget ourselves and think that the masses are ignorant, obstinate and inert owing to their mass of prejudices. And it is their education, their transformation, their emancipation, in the final account, that the International Association has the mission to accomplish.
Federation derives from autonomy; and autonomy can offer no social and political guarantee unless it is based on the notion of rights and duties
And the International Association is a superior conception because, posing the principle of reciprocity -- "no duties without rights, no rights without duties" -- it determines the point of departure of social transformation -- the individual.
To succeed in this task requires a central organisation which disciplines working-class action and distributes it everywhere. The General Council must therefore be an agency for spreading the general principles and the general wills of the proletariat.
We do not want the Council to be a head, a guidance. A thousand times no! That would result, necessarily and fatally, in dictatorship.
That is the dream of the Jacobins who have penetrated into the General Council. They hope that that dream will become a reality. Then they will transform the General Council into an executive directorate of the Association. That is in their tradition, in their very blood. Whatever they say, whatever they wish. But as for us, we prefer to be nothing rather than to serve such designs!
To sum up:
We want revolution everywhere, and if possible at the same time -- because the need is for a general political revolution, the serious guarantee and the only guarantee of a general social revolution.
We have therefore decided not to accomplish a single material political action until our forces have become disciplined, conscious of the aim. The work is difficult and delicate, but it can be accomplished more quickly than is thought-with the method of perseverance, patience and rigorous selection of the combatants.
Read out at the twelfth sitting
of the Congress,
September 7, 1872