Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1883

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“The ‘Pittsburgh Proclamation’: Adopted by the Founding Congress of the American Federation of the International Working People’s Association, October 14, 1883.” From October 12-14, 1883, 40 representatives of anarchist and Social Revolutionary groups came together in congress at Pittsburgh, PA and established themselves as the “American Federation of the International Working People’s Association” — styling themselves the American affiliate of the so-called “Black International” formed in London in 1881. This “Pittsburgh Proclamation,” written by former German Social Democrat Johann Most, was adopted unanimously by the gathering as its organizational manifesto. Victor Berger, among other American Social Democrats, long claimed the American Bolshevik movement had its antecedents in Johann Most, and this document provides illumination of the thinking behind this assertion. Most’s analysis of the political and economic situation facing the working class is unflinchingly Marxist — the extraction of surplus-value by a propertied class; inevitable periodic crises of overproduction; a rapidly rising technological basis that steadily which reduced the demand for labor-power at the same time the population was expanding, resulting in an impoverished working class; a state of the propertied class which exerted its power to preserve a system of inequality; a superstructure of legality, ineffectual elections, pulpit, and press bolstering this system. Even the classic slogan “Workmen of all countries unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains; you have a world to win!” is made the main watchword by Most. Where then, the “anarchism” of Johann Most? “That they will not resign their privileges voluntarily we know; that they will not make concessions we likewise know. Since we must then rely upon the kindness of our masters for whatever redress we have, and knowing that from them no good may be expected, there remains but one recourse — FORCE! Our forefathers have not only told us that against despots force is justifiable, because it is the only means, but they themselves have set the immemorial example,” Most declares. A new society is called for, emerging from the “destruction of the existing ruling class, by all means.” The proclamation declares that this new society is to be based upon “cooperative organization of production” and the “free exchange of equivalent products by and between the productive organizations without commerce and profit-mongery,” with the “regulation of all public affairs by free contracts between the autonomous (independent) communes and associations, resting on a federalistic basis.” Most calls for organization and unity and notes that “The work of peaceful education and revolutionary conspiracy well can and ought to run in parallel lines.”