Minutes of The General Council of the First International. 1864-1866
In the history of the world emancipation movement of the working class a special place is held by the International Working Men’s Association — the First International. Founded on September 28, 1864, at an international meeting held in St. Martin’s Hall, London, this first international proletarian mass organisation paved the way for the world communist movement of today. In the ranks of the International Working Men’s Association the advanced workers of Europe and America got a schooling in proletarian internationalism, imbibed the ideas of Marxism, and finally discarded petty-bourgeois sectarianism for the proletarian party principle. “For ten years the International dominated one side of European history — the side on which the future lies,” Engels wrote in 1874.
The International Working Men’s Association came into being during the upsurge of the European revolutionary-democratic and working-class movement in the late fifties and early sixties of the last century. It arose as an expression of the urge towards international union among the advanced workers of different countries. However, the immense significance it was to acquire was due to the notable part played in it by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the founders of Marxism, whose preceding theoretical and practical activities and years of struggle for a proletarian party had prepared the ground for the establishment of the Association.
Beginning with 1844, when Marx and Engels laid the groundwork for their doctrine of scientific communism, and proceeded to form a core of proletarian revolutionaries and Communists, they fought unflaggingly to create a party that would direct the international proletariat along the path of conscious and organised struggle for their emancipation from the capitalist yoke and for the triumph of the socialist system. The Communist League, founded in 1847, was the first step towards the establishment of a proletarian party. The League consisted of a mere handful of advanced workers, but the first cadres of Communists it produced were to exert a decisive influence on the further development of the international working-class movement. The Manifesto of the Communist Party, which Marx and Engels wrote for the League, was and remains a major programme document of the militant vanguard of the revolutionary working class of all countries.
The struggle for a proletarian party, which assumed different forms depending upon the historical situation, was the salient feature in all of the activities of Marx and Engels. The lifetime of the International was one of the most important phases in these activities. These were years when the basic programme and organisational principles of Marxism were tested in the crucible of the class struggle and the mass working-class movement in Europe and America. The experience gained by individual working-class contingents, in its turn, enriched the theory of Marxism, and stimulated its further development. The history of the First International is a momentous page in the history of the development and spread of Marxism and its merging with the working-class movement.
The character and trend of the activities pursued by the International Working Men’s Association were determined primarily by its leading body, the General Council. The Minute Books of the General Council for 1864-72 are a kind of chronicle of this glorious period in the history of
the working class. They contain the minutes of the weekly meetings at which workers from various countries, deeply conscious of their class tasks, expressed their views and adopted decisions, from the proletariat’s standpoint, on all major international economic and political issues. Although the minutes were not always efficiently taken down and at times give only a general idea of the question under discussion and the trend of the debates, they nevertheless show the role played by Marx and Engels as organisers and inspirers of the international proletariat and as the founders and leaders of its first mass organisation. The Minute Books of the General Council are an indispensable source for a study of the International’s activities and the international working-class movement of the nineteenth century, and of the struggle waged by Marx and Engels for a proletarian party.
The first Minute Book of the General Council, published in the original for the first time in the present volume, covers a period between October 5, 1864 and August 21, 1866, which may be described as formative for the International. During that period the International’s leading body, which evolved from the Provisional Committee elected at the inaugural meeting in St. Martin’s Hall, was, in pursuance of instructions from the meeting, to draw up the rules and programme of the organisation, use its efforts to organise sections of the International in various countries, and take the steps preparatory to the convocation of a general congress of the Association. It was only towards the end of that period that the International’s leading body came to call itself the General Council, by which name it is known in history. Documents relating to the earlier period refer to it simply as the Committee, the Central Committee, or the Central Council.
Marx’s leading role in the General Council became apparent from the very beginning. Elected on October 5, 1864 a member of the Committee which was to work out the programme documents, Marx was able to counter all attempts to impose upon the Association a declaration of principles and the statutes of workers’ mutual benefit societies drawn up in a bourgeois-democratic spirit. His efforts led to the adoption, on November 1, 1864, of the Inaugural Address of the Working Men’s International Association and the Provisional Rules of the Association (see pp. 277-91 of the present volume), both of which were written by Marx. In order to unite into one army the individual contingents of the European working-class movement, which stood at very diverse levels of development in matters of theory, Marx had to draw up a programme that would not shut the door upon the British trade-unionists, the French, Belgian, and Swiss Proudhonists, and the German Lassalleans. Only in this way could the mass character of the organisation be assured. Accordingly, the basic principles of scientific communism were expounded by Marx in the Address and the Rules in a most general form, acceptable to all workers. The General Council approved the programme documents as drawn up by Marx, making it clear from the very outset that in character the International was an international class and mass organisation of the proletariat.
The primary task of the General Council at that stage was to safeguard the proletarian character of the International against the encroachments of bourgeois politicians who sought to use the upsurge in the working-class movement in their own ends. To cope with this task the Council had itself first to become a militant, efficient, authoritative, and proletarian body, worthy of heading an international organisation of the working class. The original composition of the Committee, elected on September 28, was an extremely mixed one. Besides leaders of the British trade unions and of the German, French, Italian, and Polish proletarian and petty-bourgeois emigres in London, there were representatives of the English bourgeois radical and democratic movement, bourgeois co-operators, and men active in bourgeois philanthropic cultural and educational societies for workers, etc. Some of the groups which were opposed to an independent proletarian movement, as, for instance, the followers of Mazzini, hastened at the very first sittings to swell their ranks by taking advantage of the Council’s right to co-opt members, while the leaders of the bourgeois philanthropic Universal League for the Welfare of the Industrious Classes suggested a plan for merging the Association with the League (see p. 40 of the present volume).
Marx firmly upheld the class character of the International, seeking above all to strengthen the proletarian core of the General Council. He secured the co-optation into the Council of a number of German and French workers; at his proposal the Council adopted special measures to consolidate its ranks and free itself of dead weight: honorary membership was prohibited, attendance of Council meetings and nomination of new members were made obligatory, etc. (pp. 45, 67, et al.). The result was that by the spring of 1865, when a considerable part of the bourgeois element had left the Council, it became an essentially international working-class body that most fully represented diverse contingents of the European proletariat. The most active members of the General Council, who were dedicated to the cause of the proletariat, rallied round Marx, thereby ensuring the predominance of the revolutionary proletarian element in the Council.
By then, what was known as the Standing or the Sub-Committee — a more narrow executive body not provided for, formally, by the Rules — had been constituted. It arose out of the committee originally elected to draw up the programme documents. The Standing Committee included all the Council’s officials: the President (this post was held by Odger right down to its abolition in September 1867), the Secretary, and the Treasurer (Cremer, Wheeler, Fox, Shaw, and others), as well as the corresponding secretaries for the various countries (Jung, Le Lubez, Dupont, and others). Marx was a member of the Standing Committee as Corresponding Secretary for Germany. With one or two exceptions, the minutes of the Standing Committee have not been preserved; our knowledge of some of its meetings comes from the minutes of the General Council meetings and from the correspondence of Marx and of Council members. The Standing Committee, which met weekly, usually on Saturdays, gradually became the guiding centre of the International in its routine work.
It was not long before the General Council succeeded in establishing contact with individual workers’ groups in France and Switzerland. Letters read at the Council meetings show that the founding of the International and the Council’s first steps met with a wide response on the European Continent. In the course of a few months sections of the International were formed in France, Switzerland, and Belgium. The General Council helped them to organise themselves as a body, sent them the Address and Rules of the Association and membership cards. At the same time it had to repel attempts by bourgeois politicians to get into local organisations of the International.
Thus, Leon Fontaine, a Belgian bourgeois democrat, tried to found a section of the International in Brussels independently of the workers’ organisations existing in Belgium, and to prevent their representatives from getting into direct touch with the General Council. Fontaine’s attempts, however, miscarried: a Belgian section was established, in spite of him, on the basis of The People, a democratic workers’ anti-clerical society.
In the spring of 1865, when a conflict broke out in the Paris section between the Proudhonist workers, who headed the section, and the bourgeois republican journalist Henri Lefort, who laid claim to leadership of the International in France, the leaders of the section, Tolain and Fribourg, appealed to the General Council for assistance. The Council had to act as arbiter and decide questions connected with the internal affairs of the section. It needed Marx’s high principles, his rich tactical and organisational experience, to cope with the task. Extant letters written by the International’s leading figures in connection with this conflict and Marx’s notes on the matter show the signal role he played in settling this complex question. An end was put to encroachments by bourgeois republicans who, as Marx wrote in his memorandum to Jung, were imperilling the international and class character of the organisation (p. 269).
Of immense significance in enhancing the international prestige of the General Council was the immediate help it gave to diverse contingents of the European working class in their struggle against the employers. The Council members, themselves workers, paid every attention to inquiries from fellow workers. Cremer wrote numerous letters to various cities in England in connection with a request from the Lyons workers asking for information about the manufacture of tulle in England (pp. 99, 124). Much was done to organise material support for the Leipzig printers during their strike (p. 92), the General Council sending delegations to meetings of various English workers’ societies to appeal for funds. These visits were the finest propaganda of the ideas of proletarian solidarity, embodied in the International; they often resulted in new trade unions joining the Association. The General Council was very active during the tailors’ strikes in Edinburgh and London in the spring of 1866 (pp. 174, 186, 194), when it fought the employers’ attempts to break the strikes by bringing in workers recruited in Germany. The Council arranged for the publication in the International’s periodicals of warnings to the tailors, one of which was written by Marx (pp. 335-36); it specially sent two of its members to Edinburgh to carry on agitation among the workers brought over from Germany by employers, helped to find work for those of them who refused to be strike-breakers, or arranged for their return home.
The mass strike movement under the leadership of the General Council played a significant part in the education of the European proletariat. The success of the strike struggle helped the French workers to overcome the influence of the Proudhonist dogma about the harmfulness of strikes, and the German workers to take a correct view of the economic struggle of the proletariat and to reject the Lassallean underestimation of this form of struggle. What should be the attitude to strikes was one of the first questions which the direct experience of the working-class movement raised and around which a theoretical struggle developed in the International.
The struggle of trends in the International was quite logical and unavoidable, it reflected the overcoming by the European proletariat of sectarian forms typical of the early stages of the working-class movement. This was the struggle of scientific communism against the pre-Marxian utopian, petty-bourgeois socialist and social-reformist doctrines. As it won its way to the minds of the working masses of Europe and America, Marxism had to contend with the opposition of the leaders and groups who were influenced by sectarian views characteristic of their respective countries. The history of the International, Marx wrote in a letter to Bolte on November 23, 1871, was “a continual struggle on the part of the General Council against the sects and amateur experiments which attempted to maintain themselves within the International itself against the genuine movement of the working class. This struggle was conducted at the congresses, but far more in the private dealings of the General Council with the individual sections.”
In the spring of 1865 John Weston, a member of the General Council, brought up for discussion at the Council his proposition about the uselessness and even harmfulness of workers fighting for a wage increase (pp. 88, 97, et al.).
This proposition, which was based on erroneous theoretical views, reflected the author’s underestimation of the proletariat’s economic struggle, his failure to understand the role of the trade unions; its underlying idea was passive submission to capitalist exploitation. During the debate that followed on this question in the Council, Marx read a report on “Wages, Price and Profit,” the significance of which extends far beyond a mere refutation of Weston’s proposition. Marx’s report, which expounds the importance of the economic struggle of the workers against the capitalists, was directed not only against Weston but also against the French Proudhonists, who rejected the strike struggle, and against the German Lassalleans, who disregarded the organisation of trade unions. At the same time the report contained criticism of the narrow outlook and reformism of the British trade unions which rested content with petty concessions on the part of the employers within the framework of the capitalist system. The resolution, proposed by Marx, stated that the trade unions should not confine themselves to “a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system,” but should “use their organised forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.” Marx’s report, which even prior to the publication of Volume I of Capital set forth in concise and popular form the basic propositions of the Marxian economic doctrine, was spearheaded also against the English vulgar economists of the mid-nineteenth century, among them John Stuart Mill, whose theories were being widely propagated in the democratic and workers’ press and were exerting a strong influence on leading trade union circles.
The minutes of the General Council reveal the day-by-day struggle which Marx had to wage from the start against the bourgeois-liberal ideology of the British trade-union leaders and their homage to capitalism. The prominence this struggle came in for in the General Council’s work stemmed from the special functions it had to perform as regards Britain: according to point eight of the Provisional Rules, the Council was charged to carry on direct propaganda among the British workers, and enlist them in the International (pp. 291, 297-98). In pursuance of this, the Council, beginning with November 1864, followed up Marx’s initiative by sending delegations to local trade-union organisations with the purpose of propagating the aims of the Association. On Marx’s insistence these trade unions, upon joining the Association, were given the right to have their representatives on the Council (p. 49). Very soon the Council was reinforced by the adhesion of working-class militants, who stood closer to the masses. Their backing enabled Marx to exert an influence on trade-union leaders, members of the General Council, who not infrequently were vehicles of bourgeois views.
The influence of the bourgeoisie on the top leadership of the London trade unions was particularly evident during the electoral reform movement of 1865-67. Marx, who regarded the mass participation of British workers in this movement as a factor in revolutionising the British proletariat and in making for an independent workers’ party in Britain, gave warm support to the initiators of the movement (pp. 70, 92, et al.). Under his influence the Reform League, founded in the spring of 1865 with the participation of General Council members, put forward the Chartist demand for manhood suffrage. The Council minutes show the repeated attempts made by reformist leaders in the League to depart from these consistently democratic positions (pp. 82-83), attempts which ended in 1867 in the capitulation of the trade-union leaders to the liberal bourgeoisie.
With a view to wresting the British workers from the ideological influence of the bourgeoisie, Marx worked for the establishment of an independent workers’ press in Britain. He criticised the opportunist stand taken by The Bee-Hive, a paper which was considered the Association’s organ, and supported his colleagues in founding an independent workers’ paper by taking up shares in the Industrial Newspaper Company (pp. 124,299-304).
The international character of the General Council’s activities was expressed, from its inception, in its foreign policy statements. The Inaugural Address, written by Marx, formulated the ideas of proletarian internationalism and called upon the working class to uphold their independent stand on foreign policy issues, no matter what stand the exploiting classes might adopt. The same ideas run through the General Council’s addresses to Lincoln (pp. 51-54) and to Johnson (pp. 294-96), drafted by Marx.
The General Council’s policy on the Polish question was of special significance. Its members had not forgotten that one of the immediate factors responsible for the founding of the International was the protest, voiced by French and English workers at a joint meeting in St. James’s Hall on July 22, 1863, against the suppression of the Polish Insurrection of 1863. The demand that Poland’s independence be restored, a demand that was directed against tsarism, then one of reaction’s bulwarks’ in Europe, enabled workers in every country to expose the foreign policy of their own governments, since the Polish Insurrection had been suppressed with the direct or indirect connivance of all the European powers.
It became a tradition with the General Council to observe the anniversary of the Polish Insurrection at public meetings and gatherings. Marx who took an active part in their preparation stressed the point that the workers could have common interests only with the representatives of the most radical wing of the Polish national-liberation movement — the revolutionary democrats. At the Standing Committee meeting of December 6, 1864 and at the Council meeting of December 13, he sharply criticised the address drawn up by the radical publicist Fox, in which France’s policy towards Poland was represented in an apologetic light. When John Taylor, a member of the bourgeois National League for the Independence of Poland, declared that he thought the beginning of 1865 “inopportune” for holding a meeting on Poland, Marx replied that the working class had its own foreign policy and was not guided by what the bourgeoisie considered “opportune or inopportune” (see Marx’s letter to Engels, February 25, 1865). The General Council’s consistently internationalist stand on the Polish question is particularly clearly expressed in the “Correction” (“Berichtigung”) written by Marx in connection with the distorted press report of the meeting held on March 1, 1865 (pp. 292-93).
As a result of the correct stand taken on the Polish question by the majority in the General Council, Marx was able, notwithstanding the opposition of the Proudhonists, to get the London Conference of 1865 to include on the agenda of the 1866 Geneva Congress the demand for the restoration of Poland’s independence.
The London Conference, the minutes of which are published in the present volume, was an important stage in the General Council’s struggle for leadership in the International. It was convened on the insistence of Marx, who held that the sections of the International were still too weak ideologically and organisationally to hold a general congress in 1865, as provided for in the Rules, and as was being particularly urged by the Paris section, which hoped thus to gain the leadership. With this end in view, the Paris section had, early in July 1865, issued an appeal to all members of the International with a detailed congress agenda; neither appeal nor agenda had been submitted to the General Council for approval. The matter was discussed by the Council at its meeting of July 18, 1865. By that time Marx had persuaded the majority of the Council members that the congress should be postponed. On July 25 the Council approved the Standing Committee’s programme for a conference, which was to be of a preliminary nature and would settle some fundamental and organisational matters relevant to the general congress, especially the question of its agenda. The programme was drawn up by Marx, who included in the proposed congress agenda the items suggested by the Paris section, after editing them and adding the following two points: shortening of the working day and the restoration of Poland on a democratic basis.
The Conference, which was held from September 25 to 29, 1865, was attended by nine delegates — from France, Switzerland, and Belgium — and by the members of the General Council. The evening sittings were attended by the entire Council and the day sittings, which dealt mainly with organisational matters, only by the delegates and members of the Standing Committee. On September 28, the first anniversary of the founding of the International, a soiree was held in St. Martin’s Hall.
The Conference minutes vividly reflect the struggle the General Council had to wage against the sectarian views of the Proudhonists. The Paris delegates objected to the Polish question being discussed at the Congress; they argued that the working class should concern itself with purely economic questions and leave politics alone. They also insisted that any worker who so wanted, and not only elected delegates, should be allowed to take part in the Congress. The Proudhonists were defeated on both points. The Conference decidedly rejected the Proudhonist slogan of abstaining from the political struggle, and upheld the principle of strict representation at the Congress; it was resolved that only delegates who represented duly constituted sections which had paid their membership dues, would be allowed to attend the Congress.
The Conference heard reports by delegates on the situation in the individual sections, which contained important factual material. Of particular interest was the report about the working-class movement in Germany, sent in by Wilhelm Liebknecht who could not attend the Conference in person. The report, which was found among Marx’s papers and is published in the present volume for the first time in the original, underlines the immense significance that Marx’s and Engels’s work on the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1848-49 had for the development of the German working class. Although the ground had been prepared by the activities of the founders of Marxism, propaganda on behalf of the International and the establishment of its sections in Germany at first encountered very big difficulties. This was due not only to police restrictions, which hampered freedom of association, but primarily to the sectarian policy of the Lassallean leaders of the General Association of German Workers. The ideas of proletarian internationalism and the activities of the International were quite alien to the Lassalleans with their narrow nationalism, their reformism and utter disregard of the economic struggle of the working class. It was only as a result of the indefatigable struggle waged by Marx and Engels and by their followers and disciples, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, against Lassalleanism that the German working class eventually, at the Nuremberg Congress of German trade unions in 1868, subscribed to the programme of the International.
At the London Conference personal contact was established between several of the General Council’s leading members: Dupont, Jung, Eccarius, Lessner and the Continental delegates Varlin, De Paepe and Becker. This was to be of great importance, for these personal contacts helped them to take a common stand, at the congresses of the International, on all cardinal questions of the programme and tactics, Besides greatly strengthening the
General Council as a most important part of the International’s organisational structure, the Conference also enhanced Marx’s authority, and rallied the more militant, revolutionary proletarian elements around him. The success of the Conference, however, stirred to activity the petty-bourgeois, anti-proletarian elements who were in opposition to Marx. In January 1866 the General Council was obliged to reply in the press to a slanderous article by the French publicist Vesinier, who gave a distorted picture of the work of the Conference and the activities of the General Council. The Council’s reply was written by Jung and edited by Marx (pp. 317-26). Since the dispute, as Marx stressed in a letter to Engels, centred basically on the General Council’s stand on the Polish question, Marx asked Engels to write a series of articles for the International’s organ The Commonwealth, substantiating the proletariat’s tactics in the national question. In compliance with this request, Engels wrote the articles “What Have the Working Class To Do With Poland?,” thereby directly participating in the work of the International from the very early days of its existence. A resident of Manchester up to 1870 and therefore unable to attend the General Council meetings, Engels could not, under the Rules, be a member of the Council. It was only after he had moved to London that he was able to become an active Council member. As Corresponding Secretary for Italy, Spain, and Portugal, he actually guided the work of the International’s sections in those countries. But even before that Engels, who regularly corresponded and periodically met with Marx, was well informed about the latter’s plans and actively helped to settle various questions that came up. As a direct participant in the theoretical struggle in the International, Engels upheld the principles of scientific communism, and in a series of brilliant publicistic writings elaborated the tactics of the proletariat. His pamphlet The Military Question in Prussia and the German Workers’ Party, which was written early in 1865 and was directed against the Lassalleans, had a direct bearing on the struggle of the various trends in the International. In his series of articles “What Have the Working Class To Do With Poland?” he struck a crushing blow at the nihilistic approach to the national question, characteristic of the Proudhonists, and at the same time exposed the demagogic game being played by the Bonapartists, who were using the “principle of nationalities” to suit their reactionary ends. Engels’s articles, which were discussed in the General Council (p. 190), helped the members of the International in England to see the national question in its proper aspect.
Some French members of the General Council were still, however, under the influence of Proudhonism. In the spring of 1866, in connection with the aggravation of the international situation on the eve of the Austro-Prussian war, a group of French students published an anti-war appeal in the Paris Courrier Franšais. The appeal, which was bourgeois-pacifist in character, was addressed to the student youth of Germany and Italy. The members of the French branch in London drew up a counter-appeal. It was discussed at the Council meeting of June 5, 1866, which Marx was unable to attend. The appeal which rightly condemned predatory wars, did not take account of the concrete historical character of the European wars of the fifties and the sixties in the course of which the progressive aim of the reunification of Italy and of Germany was achieved. During June and July the General Council discussed the war question which led to an exhaustive discussion of the national question. Marx ridiculed and unmasked the French Proudhonists’ nihilistic negation of nations and the national question. In a letter to Engels dated June 7, 1866, he wrote: “The Proudhonist clique ... preaches peace, declares war to be obsolete and nationalities to be an absurdity, attacks Bismarck and Garibaldi, etc. As polemics against chauvinism their doings are useful and explicable.” Returning to this question in a letter to Engels dated June 20, 1866, Marx wrote: “As for the rest the situation is difficult now, because on the one hand silly English Italianism and on the other the erroneous French polemics against it must be equally combated. In particular every demonstration that would involve our Association in a one-sided course must be prevented.” The General Council minutes give only a summarised account of Marx’s speech and the discussion that followed. But from Jung’s detailed letter to Becker of July 4, 1866, in which he gave an account of his speech at the said meeting, it is apparent that Marx and his immediate supporters closely linked up the question of the war with the prospects of an European revolution and with the tasks of the proletariat in the event of the Second Empire being overthrown in France and the revolutionary democratic course towards the unification of Germany triumphing over the Prussian course. In the event of developments taking this turn, Jung wrote, the General Council must be able to bring pressure to bear on the British Government through mass meetings in London and thus prevent it from coming out in support of the counter-revolutionary forces. Therefore, Jung wrote in conclusion, all efforts should be concentrated now on strengthening the International. As a result of the ensuing discussion, the draft resolutions submitted on June 26, which had contained a one-sided condemnation of Prussia’s aggressive policy, were withdrawn and another resolution adopted, which basically reflected the viewpoint expressed by Jung (pp. 212-13).
The General Council minutes for July and August 1866 illustrate the work it carried on in preparation for the Geneva Congress. Marx took a direct part in this preparatory work by drawing up the “Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council. The Different Questions” (pp. 340-51). The minutes of August 28, the last meeting held before the Congress, are not recorded in the Minute Book, and have been preserved only in the form of a newspaper report (pp. 423-25).
In the Section “From the Manuscripts of Karl Marx” we publish for the first time in the original some of his notes and drafts for reports he delivered at Council or Standing Committee meetings; they also reflect his work in guiding the activities of the General Council.
The Section “Documents of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association” contains the most important documents relating to the period under review. Six of them were written by Marx himself: “Inaugural Address of the Working Men’s International Association,” “Provisional Rules of the Association,” “,Correction,” “Address from the Working Men’s International Association to President Johnson,” “A Warning” (“Warnung”), and “Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council. The Different Questions.” The General Council’s “Address to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America,” which was written by Marx and approved by the Council at its meeting of November 29, 1864, is included in the text of the relevant minutes (pp. 51-54). We also publish in this Section two documents edited by Karl Marx, viz., “To Trade, Friendly, or Any Working Men’s Societies” (inviting these societies to join the International Working Men’s Association) and “To the Editor of L'Echo de Verviers” (“Monsieur le Redacteur de L'Echo de Verviers”).
The full text of the General Council minutes for October 1864-August 1866 appears here for the first time in the original; the minutes are published in accordance with the documents kept in the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U., Moscow, The Russian edition Of the minutes was put out by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the title: The General Council of the First International, 1864-1866. The London Conference, 1865. Minutes. Moscow, 1961, State Publishing House of Political Literature. The minutes of October 5, 8, 11, 18, and of November 1, 1864, were first published in Russian in 1934 by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and in the original in 1935 (Founding of the First International. A Documentary Record. Moscow, 1935. 96 p.).
The first Minute Book of the General Council, containing the minutes of 91 meetings, covers the period from October 5, 1864 to August 21, 1866 (158 pages of large size). William Cremer was the Council’s Secretary from October 5, 1864 to October 17, 1865. The greater part of the minutes for the said period are written in his hand in the Minute Book, the rest are in an unknown hand. From October 31, 1865 onwards the nature of the minutes somewhat changes; they have been taken down less carefully; some of them are in the hand of Peter Fox and Robert Shaw who at different times acted as secretaries pro tern. Most of the minutes, however, are in Cremer’s hand. Some of them are extant in the rough copy on separate leaves of paper which have been pasted onto the corresponding pages of the Minute Book. In some cases, especially in the latter part of the Book, the newspaper clipping carrying the printed report of the given Council meeting has been pasted onto the corresponding page instead of the handwritten copy. As a rule, at the beginning of every meeting the minutes of the previous one were read and confirmed; the minutes are signed for the most part by the President and Secretary of the meeting that confirmed the minutes.
The minutes of the London Conference of 1865 are published according to the copy in the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U.
They were first published in abridged form in German in 1902 in Die Neue Zeit, Jhg. XX, Bd. I.
The minutes are in manuscript, written on 23 pages of differing sizes. The minutes of the day sittings of September 25 and 26, 1865, are in Cremer’s hand, those of the evening sittings of September 25, 26 and 27 — in Le Lubez’s hand, and that of September 29 — in Howell’s hand. All the Conference minutes are dated but are not signed. It is apparent from the minutes of the evening sitting of September 27, that Marx had acted as Secretary at the day sitting. This fact is also borne out by Cremer’s letter to Marx on the subject (the letter, which has been preserved, is dated October 1865). There is no record, however, of the day sitting of September 27.
Liebknecht’s report on the working-class movement in Germany, which he sent to the London Conference, appears in the present volume for the first time. The 11-page report written in English by Liebknecht is published according to the manuscript copy in the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.
The present volume is furnished with explanatory notes, a name index, an index of periodicals, an index of addresses and geographical names, and an appendix, which contains the English translation of General Council documents written in German and French.
The footnotes indicate the state of the published manuscript, its specific features, as well as other remarks on the text; they also give the names of persons not mentioned in the text itself.
The explanatory notes at the end of the volume provide the reader with more detailed information on the manuscripts published. These notes are based on other documents and material relating to the history of the International, and primarily on the correspondence between Marx and Engels, their letters to third persons, and on the correspondence of other General Council members with leaders of the International. The documents and material of the International’s local sections in the Institute’s Central Party Archives and library have also been drawn upon. Wide use has been made of the published material of the International, particularly the newspaper reports of the General Council meetings and of the London Conference of 1865, which appeared at the time in the General Council’s London periodicals: The Bee-Hive, The Workman’s Advocate, and The Commonwealth. These reports have been referred to whenever the information in them helped to amplify the handwritten minutes.
The contents of the present volume and their arrangement correspond to the afore-mentioned Russian edition of 1961 which was prepared for publication by Irene Bach and Valentina Smirnova, of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.
The originals for the English edition have been deciphered by Nina Nepomnyashchaya, of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, and the volume has been prepared for publication by Molly Pearlman and Lydia Belyakova, of the Foreign Languages Publishing House.
No alterations have been made in the text, apart from corrections of obvious slips of the pen, misspelt words, biographical and geographical names. All abbreviations have been written out, and in some places supplementary words in square brackets have been inserted to render the text more comprehensible to the reader.