The Hague Congress

The International Workingmen's Association, 1872

Report of the Basle Section

Written: in German by Basle Section secretary Jean Dumas;
Translated: by Richard Dixon & Alex Miller, for Progress Publishers, 1976.
Transcribed: by


We begin our report with a survey of the Fourth Congress, which took place in this city, [Basle Congress of 1869] and we avoid personal questions as much as possible.

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One can hardly believe that the section here has melted down so much since it had the honour to give hospitality to the representatives of the workers of all countries. At that time there existed in Basle 14 trades sections totalling all together from 350 to 400 members, a figure which could have been increased with tactful leadership, but this did not happen, the chairman at that time, A. Bruhin, having dissolved the trades sections and begun to hatch selfish plans. The so-called mother section maintained its autonomy in face of these manoeuvres. Several attempts at a union failed owing to the obstinacy of the above-named A. Bruhin who stubbornly clung to the chairmanship which we wanted to have abolished. Probably the whole Party would have dissolved into a kind of amateur theatre company if the direction had been less energetic than was the case. About New Year 1871 saw the complete dissolution of the so-called Bruhin faction, but soon afterwards the section here was constituted anew, the remaining members of the Bruhin faction uniting with the mother section under the name of "Basle Section"; since then the name of "mother section" has no longer existed, and the Basle Section is, as far as we know, the only one to be considered here, and in any case the only legitimate one.

Guided by experience and knowing that after this unpleasant disintegration process, which naturally was no secret to the public, cast discredit on the whole principle and alienated many members from us, agitation would remain fruit-less for some time, to begin with, a section library of socialist writings was established in order to prepare for more planned agitation. The section had, especially in the beginning, great difficulty in maintaining itself here, for one thing because the workers, having become distrustful of the former leaders because of past mistakes, were no longer resolute, and on the other hand the movement of 1868-69 had negatively improved social conditions here. It is notable also that the silk ribbon manufacturers arranged outings with refreshments for their workers in the summer to slow down the further development of the International, which however did not prevent a strike from breaking out in the Horandt & Sons factory before all the expressions of devoted gratitude had died down in the public newspapers. The cause of the strike was an attempt made by these gentlemen to obtain compensation for the outings by reducing, that is to say, falsifying the so-called wage rolls. To ensure themselves the sympathy of the citizenship the strikers stated that they did not belong to the International but they were all sentenced to 5 frs. fine or 24 hours imprisonment by the police court. In 1868 and 1869 not a single one of the strikers who were members of the International was prosecuted. The section here used the troubles to found a society under tile name of "Social-Democratic Workers' Society", which, though it is not affiliated to the Association, is nevertheless entirely guided and influenced by the section of the International. Thus the strivings of the liberal bourgeoisie are held in check.

If we noted above that the social conditions had been "negatively" improved, this is to be understood in the sense that the working day in some factories has been reduced from 12 to 11 or 10 1/2 hours with a wage rise of 10 per cent on the average. These improvements were obtained without great efforts on the part of the workers and are to be put down more to the present circumstances and to the employers' fear of a recurrence of the workers' movement since the movement has been lively in other Swiss towns. Actually the prices of foodstuffs and rents have risen so much that further social disturbances are to he expected in the not distant future.

If the Basle Section has no great results of its activity to show, this is to be explained, in addition to the inner dissension of 1871 already mentioned, especially by the fact that, as a result of the organisation having grown looser. in the German-speaking groups, the section has become rather isolated. We hope, however, that after the final constitution of the Swiss Federation, towards which we have all worked according to our abilities, we shall gain new strength in order to take an energetic part in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class by the working class itself.

For the rest we instruct our representatives to vote for the resolutions of the London Conference and also to declare in our name for the maintenance of the General Council.

Our Social-Republican greeting and handshake to the workers of all countries!

On behalf and by order of the Basle Section:

The Commission:
A. Hartmann
C. Schürmann
C. Fäh
H. Hoflmann, Treasurer
J. Dumas, Secretary
August 30, 1872