Works Frederick Engels 1873

News on The International Labour Movement

Source: The International Herald, March 22 and 29, April 12 and 26, May 3 and 24, 1873;
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.


The International Herald, March 22, 1873


The strike of the engineers and stokers on the Northern Railway still continues. The middle class papers state that the engineers and stokers, on strike of the Valencia Railway, have given in, but this is about the third time this assertion is made by them, and we shall not believe it until we see it confirmed in the Spanish International papers.

The demand of the International factory workers of Barcelona and neighbourhood for a reduction of the hours of work to ten, appears to have been complied with, as the factories keep working, and the respectable papers are ominously silent on this point. The hours of work, heretofore, were from 12 to 13. It is to be observed that this point has been carried principally by the men of Gracia, the manufactory suburb of Barcelona, and that they, as early as November last, had unanimously declared for the Hague Resolutions.

The letter-press compositors of Madrid have compelled the masters, without strike, to agree to the new terms proposed by them.


The type-compositors of Germany are engaged in a struggle which threatens to become very severe. They have a Trades Union which numbers about 4,000, out of 7,000 type-compositors in all Germany. On the other hand, the master printers have a society also, by the rules of which, the masters bind themselves upon an appeal on behalf of the Committee in case of a serious strike, to discharge at once any Union men in their employ. Now, the type-compositors of Leipzig, a short time ago, went on strike for higher wages, and the masters’ committee finding themselves beaten in Leipzig, have called upon the masters all over Germany to give notice to all Union men. This has been done in Leipzig, Berlin, Breslau, Frankfort, Munich and most other large towns of Germany, so that unless an agreement is come to within a few days, the great mass of the compositors will be locked out by next Sunday week, and the whole German press and book trade completely disorganised. While thus the printing offices of the masters are completely paralyzed, the co-operative printing establishment of Leipzig is flourishing to such a degree that the orders on hand cannot be executed.

Dresden — A Co — operative Carpenters and joiners Association has been started.


The strike of the jewellers of Geneva for the nine hours’ working day still continues; at the same time the great majority of the masters have given in, and reopened their shops on the nine hours’ system, so that with a little continued assistance to the men, the final victory cannot be doubtful.

This is the second great strike in Geneva which has been won

through the intercession of the International.


The International Herald, March 29, 1873


The strike of the engineers and stokers on the railway from Valencia to Tarragona and Almansa has ended by the complete triumph of the men who have obtained all their demands. That on the Northern Railway of Spain, on the other hand, appears to have broken down for want of a proper organization.

At Barcelona, the coalheavers of the port have gained, in consequence of a short and successful strike, an advance of wages averaging 10d. a day — instead of 3s. 9d. they now get 4s. 7d. for every working day of eight hours.


There will be held shortly a Swiss Working Men’s Congress at Olten; the date has not yet been fixed. A Swiss Shoemaker’s Congress is preparing.


The type-compositors’ strike, alluded to in our last, appears to take a very favourable turn for the men. The masters had played out their great trump card, by calling upon all members of their society all over Germany to give notice to all members of the men’s union that might he in their employ. But this appeal, though perfectly justified by the rules of the masters’ society, does not appear to have been met everywhere with the necessary alacrity; indeed the Hamburg master printers declared it to be uncalled for, and left the society altogether rather than obey. In consequence the masters’ committee has been obliged to eat humble pie and to apply to the men’s committee — hitherto ignored and repudiated by them — to re-open negotiations for an amicable settlement of the dispute.

At Dresden, the International Trades Union of house painters, japanners, gilders, etc., has its central seat. This society established only a year ago, has not only compelled the masters to do away with Sunday obnoxious regulations, but also established a cooperative workshop in which numerous members of the associated trades find employment.

At Regensburg (Bavaria) the shoemakers, headed by the members of the International Shoemaker’s Union, have gone on strike for a rise of wages.

At Mayence, a shoemakers’ strike has been going on for a full month, without a prospect of being brought soon to a close; most of the unmarried men have left.

The Berlin coopers published an appeal to their colleagues in the north of Germany to form a Trades Union; they state that they have just carried a strike to a victorious end and wish to expand the organisation which has so far been locally successful.

In Hamburg the 350 workmen of a large piano-factory are on strike for an advance of wages.

In Görlitz (Silesia) the tailors have struck, on the 17th of March, for an advance of wages of 30 per cent; the masters offered 10 per cent which was refused.

The Berlin joiners and cabinet-makers are asking an advance of 33 per cent, and are determined to go on strike if not successful by peaceable means.

United States

In New York, a German Working Men’s paper has been started under the auspices of the International. It exposes the shameful tricks by which the American manufactories coin money out of the sweat and the starvation of their workpeople. The Singer Sewing Machine Co., is chosen for a first example. Thus, the company’s manager gives out the work, to the overlookers in every room in the shape of contracts; they again employ sub-contractors, these parcel out their jobs to other sub-sub-contractors, until finally the last understrapping contractor makes his own contract with the workpeople that have to do the real work. It is impossible to drive the “sweating system” any further; here we see it in its perfection. Not only the capitalist, but a whole hierarchy of understrappers are here directly interested in sweating a profit out of the workman’s labour — no wonder that he, the workman, scarcely receives the pittance without which life and work become an impossibility.


The International Herald, April 12, 1873


The letter-press printers’ and compositors’ strike continues. The masters’ proposals, being unacceptable, have been refused by the men. In the meantime one master after another, especially in the smaller towns, have to give in, so that the prospects are very favourable for the men.

At Hanover, the bookbinders’ strike has ended in the complete victory of the men. Their demands, a ten hours’ working day and an advance of wages of 25 per cent, have been accorded to in full by the masters. The bookbinders of Germany will hold a General Congress at Nuremberg on Easter Sunday.

At Chemnitz, the tailors demanded from their employers an advance of wages of 33 per cent, and the complete cessation of Sunday labour. These demands having been refused, the men went on strike on the 30th of March.

The shoemakers’ strike at Mayence continues. Another strike in the same trade has broken out at Pforzheim; at Würzburg and at Erfurt strikes of that trade appear impending, the men asking an advance of wages.

The German Bricklayers Union announces a strike of bricklayers and masons at Flensburg for shorter hours of work. The basket makers at Hamburg are on strike for the same reason, as also the workpeople of a large cotton mill near Hanover.


The Vienna tailors having demanded from their employers an advance of wages and a reduction of the hours of work, which was refused, the men of more than forty shops, including the principal ones, went on strike.

The same has occurred with the tailors at Graz.


A General European Tailors’ Congress has just taken place at Brussels, at which the provisional Rules of a European Tailors’ Union were adopted, to which all democratic socialist tailors’ societies are invited to accede; all societies wishing to go on strike, to obtain, before striking, the approval of the rest, if they intend to claim the support of the European Union. An annual Congress of the Union is to take place.


The Geneva jewellers’ strike is now finally brought to a close. The nine hours’ working day has been victoriously carried.

At Zurich the carpenters and joiners, at Winterthur the tailors, are on strike for the usual reasons, shorter hours and higher wages.

At Neuchâtel, the shoemakers have gained an advance without resorting to a strike.


The servant girls of Ottawa (Canada) have formed a Trades Union.


The International Herald, April 26, 1873


Berlin. — The gardeners’ journeymen are on strike for ten hours and an advance of wages. — A strike of the pianoforte makers for 331/2 per cent advance of wages and 8 hours a day is impending.

Munich. — The working class movement here is very active. Almost all trades have their unions; a central Trades’ Council is being formed. The jewellers have carried an advance of wages of 25 per cent; the tailors, without a strike, 15 per cent.

Augsburg. — A portion of the carpenters — those employed by the seven largest masters of the town, about 90 in all — are locked out, because they will not accept the new tariff of wages offered by the masters.

Leipzig. — The great struggle between the master printers and the type-compositors, which from here spread all over Germany, has ended in the complete victory of the men. The haughty masters have had to accept all the conditions imposed by the latter, namely, withdrawal of the general notice given to all union men, and settlement of a new scale of wages by a mixed committee of men and masters. These conditions being agreed to, the men’s committee declared the strike at an end.

Danzig. — The ships’ carpenters’ strike has ended in a defeat, owing to the direct interference of the government in favour of the masters, by threatening with dismissal every man employed in the navy yards who should support the strike, and other similar measures.

Hamburg. — A strike of the shoemakers of Hamburg, Altona, and neighbourhood is impending, as the masters seem determined to resist the demands of the men.

Of smaller strikes we noticed those of the ships’ carpenters at Kiel (Holstein); the moulders at Itzehoe (Holstein); the cork cutters at Delmenhorst, about 900; the joiners and cabinet-makers at Bremerhaven, etc., principally caused by insufficient wages. All over Germany the organization of Trades Unions, local and national, and even international (comprising the workmen of each trade in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) is progressing very actively, and wages are more and more approaching the English level.


Vienna. — The tailors’ strike continues. That of the engineers in a large machine shop, begun inconsiderately, has broken down completely. On the other hand, that of the file cutters has been triumphant; the whole of the masters have agreed to the 20 per cent advance asked by the men.

Graz. — The cabinet-makers and joiners went on strike on the 2 1st April for shorter hours and 20 per cent advance of wages. The shoemakers in a large shoe shop have struck for 11 hours a day, which is now the usual time in Vienna.


Pesth. — The Hungarian Working Men’s Organization suppressed after the defeat of the Paris Commune, has now been reestablished at a large meeting held on the 23rd March. The Organization possesses two newspapers, one in the Hungarian, the other in the German language. The committee is composed of old Internationals, amongst whom we find the name of C. Farkas, delegate at the Hague Congress as treasurer.


The Geneva jewellers’ strike is now completely ended; the nine hours have been completely carried by the men. At Zurich the carpenters are out; six masters, so far, have given in. The tailors’ strike at Winterthur continues. The tailors’ demands at Laus have been acceded to by the employers to avoid a strike.


At Écaussinnes 200 quarrymen turned out, but the strike appears to have come to an end very soon. Particulars are wanting.


The International Herald, May 3, 1873


The tailors’ strike at Winterthur has been successful. All employers but one have acceded to the demands of the men.

The shoemakers of Zurich intend striking for higher wages and request the men of the trade to refrain from seeking work there.


The workpeople on the railway workshop at the Bucharest Station are on the point of striking unless the directors accede to their demands.


The International Metal Workers’ Union (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) has convoked its annual Congress at Dresden for Whit-Sunday, June 1st.

Hamburg. — The Saddlers are on strike since the 19th April, the masters having declined acceding to the men’s demands. The shoemakers’ strike, of which we spoke as impending in our last week’s issue, has now broken out. The men are asking an advance of wages of 25 per cent. The ships’ carpenters’ strikes in various places of the North of Germany, of which we have already spoken, are principally caused by the masters’ resistance to the newly formed German ships’ carpenters’ union which it is intended to nip in the bud; but the men stood out valiantly. As a matter of course, the Imperial German Navy Yard authorities at Kiel and elsewhere give all the support in their power to the masters.

Munich. — The shoemakers are on strike for 30 per cent advance of wages and 12 hours maximum daily labour. Masters employing 250 men have given in; 150 unmarried men have left the place, so that victory appears certain.

Berlin. — The shoemakers, about 3,000 in number, have struck for an advance of wages of 33 per cent. All unmarried men are leaving. The strike of the gardeners’ assistants appears to have broken down, for want of a proper organization. This however is now being prepared. The men have formed a union with a view to speedy action.

Pforzheim. — The shoemakers’ strike is at an end. The men asked for an advance of 20 per cent, and have got 15 per cent.

Mayence. — The strike in Wolfs’ shoe-factory has been brought to a close by the employers withdrawing the notice of 15 per cent reduction of wages and paying to the men about £20 towards the expenses of the strike.

At Cologne the joiners, at Trier the tanners, were on the point of striking for higher wages.


Workers In wood visiting the Vienna Exhibition are informed that the Committee of the Vienna Union of the trade meets at the Florian Tavern, Stumpergasse, Mariahilf, Vienna.


The International Herald, May 24, 1873


The Gasmen of the New York Gas Company went on strike oil April 5th for the restoration of the eight hours working day, which had been conceded to them some time ago, but soon lengthened again to 12 and 15 hours for night and day work respectively. The Republican police of the City of New York took at once the part of the Company, and sent strong detachments of constables to the different Gas Works: while the Charity Committee for Emigrants at once sent thither 200 Italians, just landed at Ward’s Island, to take the places of the men on strike. These Italians, marched to the works under a strong escort of police, and there compelled by brute force to perform a kind of work they were utterly unused to, and incompetent to perform, very soon demanded to be brought back to the Island. This was refused point blank and they were kept to work by the intervention of the police. Two of them tried to escape by climbing over the wall, but fell into the East River and were drowned; several others who tried the same experiment were recaptured by the police in the water; since then the Gas Works are surrounded, both on the land-side and on the water-side, by a cordon of police to prevent escapes from this new kind of prison. These Italians, moreover, are utterly incompetent for the work they are expected to perform.

This is the way in which the Model Republic proceeds, as soon as the working class, in demanding its rights, interferes with the interests of the comforts of the capitalist class.


Vienna. — The File-cutters’ strike continues. The Tailors’ strike is at an end — the men have gained considerable advantages if they could not carry all their points; their wages have been raised and their hours of labour reduced.

Graz. — Great agitation among the journeymen Bakers in order to reduce the working hours, hitherto from 18 to 20 a day! — The joiners’ strike continues.

The working men’s agitation in Austria is everywhere proceeding in a most satisfactory manner.


A general congress of the Hungarian Shoemakers s going to take place on the 1st June at Pesth. The Austrian Shoemakers intend to send delegates too. Amongst the questions to be discussed is the establishment of a normal working day of equal length all over the country, the establishment of a Hungarian Shoemaker’s Union, and of co-operative workshops, etc.


The Jewellers’ strike just closed by the victory of the men, has again proved what fools the masters are to themselves when they resist the just demands of the workmen. Barely one fourth of the strikers have returned to work; the rest have found employment elsewhere, and the masters now have the greatest difficulty in finding the sufficient number of men. Serves them right.


Halle. — A strike of Miners has been successful, it lasted only a few days, when the masters gave in.

Hamburg. — The Shoemakers’ strike continues.

Altenburg. — The Tailors, after a short strike, obtained an advance of 16 2/3 per cent.

Numerous strikes are in preparation, among others, those of the Brushmakers of Berlin for 25 per cent advance; of the Saddlers of Stuttgart for 10 hours a day and 25 per cent advance. together with the abolition of compulsory boarding and lodging in the master’s house.

A lock out has taken place among the Stonemasons of Zeitz and neighbourhood, but as this trade is internationally united in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, success is pretty safe. The same association has a strike on its hands at Hamburg.

The annual general congress of the German Building Trades, will take place at Chemnitz (Saxony) in June.