G. Jaeckh, Justice 1904
This was originally published in a series of articles entitled “The International” in Justice, the journal of the Social Democratic Federation during 1904 on page 3 on the following dates, *6.5.1905; 13.5.1905; (note issue for 20.3.05 missing) *27.5.1905; *3.6.1905; *10.6.1905; *17.6.1905; *24.6.1905; *1.7.1905, *8.7.1905, *15.7.1905, *22.7.1905, *29 .7.1905;
by G. Jaeckh;
Translated: from the German by Jacques Bonhomme;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The International Working Men’s Association was founded in St. Martin’s Hall, on September 28, 1864.
What was the International? Whence did it come, and what were its aims? What has it accomplished? There appears to be a certain mystery about its rapid rise, its first appearance has in it something boundless and gigantic which does not accord with the ordinary middle-class way of looking at things. This was the cause of the senseless panic which spread through the middle-classes, and even at the present time the mention of its name strikes terror in the of writers of history from the middle-class point of view. What was, then, the International? It was the first time that the working-classes of Europe combined together. From the very beginning it attracted enormous numbers of the proletariat, and in the course of six or seven years the organisation grew so vast that it split up, and out of its fragments new and large bodies of organised workers were formed. What is to-day the working-class movement is really the old International; but now it exists in many different countries with different organisations.
The International also gives the Socialist writer of history a good many nuts to crack. The European Labour movement came as a flood in a time when the economic conditions of the proletarian struggle were not favourable, and when political conditions on the whole of the European continent were not the same. The 15 years which had elapsed since 1848, when the revolutionary movement of that time had been suppressed at the expense of much blood, made capital more free from restraint all over the west of Europe. Both in Germany and in Austria, the two countries which were still most mediaeval, the capitalist stream carried away and overwhelmed all barriers, and freedom of trade, and the new right of settling anywhere, allowed people to go anywhere without the old restrictions imposed by the rules of the police. It was evident to a foreign observer that these new forces, once released from their fetters, would accomplish great things, and that in a short time not only, would there be great changes in the middle-classes, but that when Germany awoke from her Fifteenth Century slumber there would be also a proletarian revolution. There seemed a still more favourable outlook for a proletarian revolution in France, where the Empire had entirely alienated the middle-classes and the proletariat were anxious to revenge 1848; when, too, after the Crimean War, there began a war of liberation in Italy, and it seemed then as if there was all over Europe an attack on the counter-revolution. Even in reactionary Germany the middle-class began to see that its battles were being fought on the banks of the Po, and the National Union – that last reserve of the middle-class revolutionists – was formed. Even in England – though at this time she was not as poor as Germany – Marx and Engels hoped that they could discern in the period which extends from 1859 to 1871 signs of a social and an international revolution, and they determined to seize the first and best opportunity available to organise this international uprising.
But we now know that what took place in Europe from 1859 to 1871 – though it was an European movement – yet was not so much the first step in a proletarian, but rather the last phase of a middle-class revolution. This, during those twelve years, gave the power in Europe to the middle class, and this continued for ten more years. And this middle-class itself had become quite different to that one which, half-a-generation before, Marx and Engels had known on the Continent. It had long lost all the revolutionary energy which it had shown in the Revolution of February and March in 1848; it had become conservative, and it no longer expected its future from its own power, nor from the blind social forces which it did not understand, but from some casual event in history, from the personal influence of statesmen, or of princely heroes, or from warlike expeditions abroad. This was the last phase of the middle-class revolution in Europe, and as the fetters of the middle-class were first loosened on the Continent at Austerlitz and Jena, so it triumphed not on the barricades and in street fighting, but on the fields of battle of Magenta and Solferino, of Koniggrat and Sedan. Where the middle-class became powerful through the sword, it accomplished the ruin of the old system by war; and, after the Peace of Frankfort, the middle-class-both of the conquerors and the conquered – triumphed at Berlin and at Paris, at Vienna and at Rome.
The European movement which began in 1859 also led up to the proletarian revolution of the Paris Commune, but it did not lead to victory. After the fall of the Commune was founded the French middle-class republic, due to the reactionaries-the small proprietors and lower middle-class of France. This strengthened the middle-class of Europe, and made it stronger and more vigorous. This class then understood that it could direct the operations of the military classes, and that it no longer needed a Bonaparte to put down the workers. The massacres in May, 1871, rendered legitimate the rule of Thiers, of Jules Favre, and of Gambetta. That is why the victorious middle-class of Germany introduced some Bonapartism in their new German Empire. And if Marx and Engels over-estimated the revolutionary character of the middle-class and the proletarian characteristic of the last European revolution,’’ it was impossible for them to estimate correctly the course which it would take. It was quite possible that this revolution might in the main have been a middle-class-one, but the proletarian revolution set out also at the same time, caught up the rearguard of the first, and was only driven back because the former retired into the citadel of political power. And the same happened in the closing of the middle-class revolutionary era in old Europe, with the formation of middle-class national States, which was intended to form a barrier against the encroachments of the workers, who were to the put off by the struggle for political rights in national States. This movement was assisted by the internecine dispute and dissensions in the International itself, which broke into pieces a very strong organisation, but it was also aided by the consolidation of the strength of the middle-classes in different States. The difference of language between nations tended to make each State more homogeneous, but at the same time this did not increase the power of those States, for there also arose a German, a Swiss, a French, an Italian, a Spanish proletariat, with quite definite political rights, instead of the proletariat which had had no rights in German and Romance speaking countries. The economic struggle followed the political struggle, and this fight took place within narrow limits. An international direction, as was that of the General Council of the International, was unable to give proper tactical directions as to the course to be pursued.
Legendary history gives as the date of the formation of the International either the London Exhibition of 1862 or the Fall; of Poland. It is possible that both these events may have had something to do with the matter, but they were not the direct causes of this movement. The primary cause of the foundation of the International goes much further back; it goes back to the declaration of the Rights of Man of the Eighteenth Century, and also to the Communistic union, and the first pronunciamento was not the inaugural address but the Communist Manifesto of 1847. For it was in 1847 that the cry, “Workers of all countries unite,” was first heard, and it was as necessary then as in 1864. Then, ‘as later, a revolution was at hand, which must be made an international one – in both cases Marx and Engels wished to help the weak. In previous times they were hindered by intrigues of others, and much of what they wished to do could not be accomplished. The intriguers, however, failed to prevent the work being done, though it is true that they hindered its progress for a time. The solution of the problem depends on the following of higher laws, and these in the main, though perhaps not always in detail, have been stated by Marx and Engels.
1. This Hall was originally intended for a concert room; it then became the Queen’s Theatre, and is now used as offices, it is just at the’ corner of Endell Street and Long Acre, opposite the “Enterprise” public-house.- J.B.
6. 1866; we call this Sadowa.
8. The treaty which concluded the Franco-German war in 1871. J. B.
(An article in 13.5.1905 is missing; issue for 20.3.05 is missing at Colindale).
At first the connection between the Association and the English labour unions was very close. At a meeting of the Association it was resolved that anyone living in England could become a member, but that no person could become a member of the General Committee unless he attended the meetings. In this way it necessarily followed that only Englishmen could become members of the General Council, and that foreigners were excluded unless they lived in or near London. Afterwards it was resolved that there should be a minimum yearly subscription of £1. At another meeting invitations were extended to trade unions to join the International, and at a general meeting all working-class organisations were invited to join, and the amount of subscription was left to each society, each organisation being invited to contribute according to its means. Finally it was, decided that if London unions Joined the International they should have the right of electing a member to the Council, but this body was to decide whether it would accept or reject the delegate thus chosen. The organisations in the provinces should have a corresponding member. London was at the same time declared to be the town where the central offices of the International were to be, and where the General Council was to sit.
In spite of these advantages, at first the progress of the International was only slow. In February, 1865, it was announced to the General Council that the Masons’ Union had accepted the principles of the International and had applied to join the body. In March, 1865, the General Council sent a deputation to the English Shoe Makers; Union, where, on the motion of delegates from Birmingham and Hull, it was resolved that the meeting accepts the principles of the International, declares its adhesion to that body, and calls on all its members to carry on a vigorous propaganda in-favour of the cause. But in many cases the Unions would not move. Circumstances seemed more favourable when there was a question of the extension of the suffrage, which would give a vote to many of the working classes. This became still more so after the Trades Union Conference of 1866, when a resolution was passed calling on workers in every country to give their support to the International, and to the need of workers combining for the defence of their interests. The Commonwealth, in the same number in which it quotes this resolution, was able to enumerate no less than twelve unions which, during the last three weeks, had given in their adherence to the Inter-national, and also to state that others were going to consider the question; it was also stated that the London Compositors; and the United Shoemakers had chosen their delegates to the conference at Geneva. In the number for May it was the stated that many members from unions had joined: 1,000 from the Silk Weavers 8,000 from the Tailors 9,000 from the Shoemakers, also many from the Engineers and the Iron Workers. In the number for July it was said that the Manchester Carpenters – Applegarth being their president – had determined to join, and it was also stated that the Masons’ Union in London and Stratford would do the same. In the number for November it was announced that a Union of Basket Makers having 300 members, and an Agricultural Labourers’ Union of 28000 adhered to the movement The Report of the General Council to the Congress of Lausanne in 1867, speaking of the English section, reports that 15 unions had joined and that 13 of them had sent delegates the Congress at Geneva.
Evidently there was a greater connection between the English trade unions and the International than would have been thought of at first. A great deal of this was due to a very vigorous propaganda which was carried on at and near London by members of the General Council, by Odger, by Eccarius, by Cremer, by Wheeler, and others, not only in’, meetings, but also in the meetings of the unions. A section of the International was established at Greenwich, and much work was done there among the masons and the shoemakers. When the Reform agitation of 1865 was begun, the General Council, while taking part in it also resolved that nothing short of universal suffrage would meet the demands of the workers. Nor did the General Council fail to engage in a propaganda on the Continent. The first foreigners who joined were the members – 350 – of the Italian Working Men’s Association in London, but after a short time, at Mazzini’s instigation, they withdrew. Then three German associations in London joined-the Teutonia, the Harmony, and the Working Men’s Union, that old centre of Communism which was founded in 1840. Then, too, an association formed of Polish emigrants was re-organised and affiliated itself to the International. Soon good news also came from the Continent. Karl Marx, the Secretary for Germany, was able to announce that 50,000 copies of the inaugural address and the rules which had been translated into German, had been sent to Germany, and that a branch had been established in Switzerland. The Secretary for Switzerland, Jung, a watchmaker, a member of the General Council, reported that five working men’s associations of Geneva had joined, and that everyone was eager in the cause. The rules were enthusiastically adopted. Fontaine wrote from Belgium, saying that the Committee of the Federated Unions informed him that they agreed to the provisional rules of the General Council, and would do all they could to get the whole of the Belgian unions to join the International. Shortly afterwards, Devastere was appointed corresponding secretary for Belgium. In France, where, Le Lubez had retired, Dupont was appointed corresponding secretary, and he reported that he was organising the weavers’ strike at Lyons on the basis of the International. The strikers came to the General Council for help, and reported that their employers wished to reduce their wages on the ground that otherwise it was difficult to compete with English manufacturers. The General Council sent them information as to the rate of wages at Nottingham, and also sent, at their request, 500 cards of membership to Lyons. The German compositors, too, who in the spring of 1865, in Leipzic, had made their first great stand against oppression, also approached the General Council asking them to interest themselves and especially the Bookbinders’ Union of London in the struggle which they were waging against being exploited. Finally, representatives from Spain and from the United States were elected to the General Council.
While thus actively organising Labour, the General Council did not forget its duty of getting up demonstrations on questions of foreign policy, so as to make use of them as a means of propaganda in favour of the International. When President Lincoln was chosen President for the second time (1865), a warm address of congratulation was sent to the American people, expressing the joy that was felt that the sworn enemy of slavery had been placed in a position of power; and, after Lincoln’s murder (1865), an address of condolence was sent to Johnson, his successor. The General Council also took part in the meetings in favour of Poland, and also commemorated the victims who had fallen in the streets of Paris in June, 1848. At all these gatherings care was taken to draw attention to the principles of the International.
In addition to all this feverish activity, it was determined to hold an annual conference, and it was wished to hold the first meeting at Brussels. But it was found impossible to have this meeting there, as the Belgian Government practically prohibited the meeting, making use of a law by means of which any foreigner could be expelled from Belgium and giving notice that they would put it in force if the congress were held. Therefore it was decided to hold a conference in London on September 25, 1865, and to discuss the following: (1) The programme of the Congress. (2) Questions relating to the organisation of the International. (3) A combination of the power of the workers for the struggle between capital and labour. (4) Trade unions, their history, their present attitude, and their future. (5) Combinations among workers. (6) Direct and indirect taxation. (7) Women and child labour. (8) The Muscovite danger to Europe and the re-establishment of a free and united Poland. (9) Standing armies and their influence on the interests of the working-classes. It was decided to hold a soiree on September 28, in order to celebrate the foundation of the International, to welcome the Continental delegates, and to rejoice at the triumph of the Northern States of America and their victory over slavery.
Lessner is quite right. The footnote should have been as follows: “Marx did not speak at the inaugural meeting of the International as stated in ‘The History of Trade Unions’ by B. and S. Webb (p. 217).”
The first congress of the International was held in London, from September 25 to 29, 1865, and was very important. There were the English delegates representing the various trade unions: men like Odger, Cremer, Howell, Wheeler, Shaw, Dell, Weston, etc. With these cold-blooded, business-like men, who hardly became excited in discussion, were the active, lively French delegates: Tolain, Limousin, Varlin, Fribourg, Clarion, who seemed to enjoy listening to their own speeches, and yet seemed to be quite helpless in all matters relating to questions of organisation, but were quite willing and ready to make speeches on that very question. From Switzerland came Dupleix, who represented the French-speaking population, and John Philip Becker (a native of the Palatinate, who had shown a remarkable military talent in the Baden insurrection of 1849, and now was no less distinguished as an industrious organiser and an indefatigable agitator on peaceful lines), who was a delegate from the German-speaking portion of Switzerland. From Belgium came de Paepe, a doctor, who was also an able writer, very intelligent, energetic and good in all things. Other nationalities were not directly represented by delegates sent from their respective countries, but by some of their countrymen already living in London. Thus Lessner and Schapper, two members of the Communist League, represented the Germans, Bobrzinski the Poles, Major Wolff, and their corresponding members on the General Council, the Italians, Germany by Marx, Switzerland by Jung, France by Dupont, and Eccarius also represented the Germans. This was the general staff of the great international army which had organised the great array, and the London. conference was the first result.
No less remarkable than the nationalities were the proceedings at the conference. Odger, President of the General Council, directed the proceedings on each of the three days with conspicuous skill. Cremer, the Secretary of the Council, first read a report on the general situation of the movement, and expounded it the international programme, he also drew attention to the fact that the leading unions had taken a very active part in politics, and he attributed this new attitude to the influence which had been a consequence of the new movement, he hoped that these ardent spirits would be able to induce the great mass of their comrades to follow a similar policy. Fribourg and Tolain spoke about the struggle going on all over France, and Dupont especially for Lyons. There were complaints that the French work-men had not the right of holding meetings, and that they could not form societies of more than 20 members, and that these laws crippled all attempts at organisation. The complaints were only partly correct. Already in the beginning of the year Napoleon had permitted unions to be formed and though political associations could not he formed, yet this was got over in accordance with the history of French traditions, by forming clubs; and, indeed, this prohibition really gave an impetus to the formation of secret societies. At Lyons the freeing of the working classes was going on; the speaker mentioned as means employed towards this end “moral power, justice, and truth.” The report from Switzerland was the most favourable. Dupleix, the delegate from the French-speaking section, represented in the congress five large working-class associations from Geneva, Neufchatel, Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne, and the aged Becker, the delegate from the German-speaking portion of Switzerland, also reported favourably of the movement. The latter was very anxious to advocate the establishment of institutions for the care of the sick, and Cremer answered him somewhat tartly that it was not their business to found hospitals and burial clubs. De Paepe had only been working n Belgium for sit weeks, but he was able to report good results. The Belgian workers, he said, were no longer expecting their salvation from co-operation, though they were quite convinced that it might be useful to them in their struggle. The Poles were all in favour of the International. Many Continental delegates were anxious to have an international organ, and this gave Karl Marx the opportunity to say something bitter against the hirelings of the press. Meanwhile, on the motion of Becker, it was resolved to recognise the Workman’s Advocate as the official organ of the International.
On the second day it was resolved to hold the second congress at Geneva, in May of the following year. The French delegates strenuously opposed a proposition to have this congress in September, saying that it was a question of life and death with them to have the Congress as soon as possible. There was a sharp tussle between Cremer and Eccarius on the question of future organisation, and it was finally resolved that each delegate to a congress must at least represent 30 members having belonged to an association for at least three months. The French fought hard against this, contending that all members should have equal rights, and that every member might attend the congress and take part in its proceedings. In vain was it pointed out to them that such a system would be suicidal, that it would destroy the representative character of the congress, and that it would become a farce which might last for six months; but, in spite of their opposition, the resolution was carried. After this the French voted for the resolution which declared that only delegates could take an active part in the work of the congress. The Polish question, which arose on the third day, also was the cause of a very heated debate. De Paepe and several other delegates did not see why so much attention should be paid to the Polish question, and why its affairs should be discussed at the International congress. According to them, other nations, as, for instance, the Irish, were equally oppressed, and French Imperialism was as great a danger as Muscovite Czarism. Yet, owing to the energetic action of the English delegates, a strongly-worded resolution – in favour of the re-establishment of an independent Poland – was carried. By a majority it was also resolved to discuss at a future meeting religious ideas considered in their social, political, and intellectual aspects. A special meeting was held on the evening of September 28, at which also the founding of the International was commemorated, and this closed the public part of the Congress.
It must be admitted that the first and second days of the congress showed that there were serious misunderstandings between the Continental delegates and the General Council, and these differences were more pronounced on the third day of the conference-September 29. When the congress resolved itself into a committee many questions were discussed as to the financial position of the Association; the cost of providing for the congress, and the receipts and expenditure of each local organisation. This general committee was presided over by Jung, who was a particularly good chairman, as he knew German, English, and French very well, and he was also chosen president for the congress at Geneva. The income of the International was given as £32 or £33. Tolain proposed that in France each member should contribute towards the establishment of a central office and towards the payment of delegates’ travelling expenses. Dupleix proposed that each member in Switzerland should contribute half a franc a month, and that if necessary a delegate should pay one shilling a month. It was universally recognised that it was the duty of members to support their local organisations, and also to contribute towards the central funds. De Paepe, speaking for Belgium, urged that every member should subscribe a minimum of three francs a year, and that one of these should be paid over to the central fund. Fribourg thought that was too much, and Marx remarked that the congress could decide each year how much was to be spent. But he wanted to know how the General Council was to get its funds. Becker proposed that a commemorative medal, worth a penny, should be struck; this might he sold for sixpence, and the profits could given to the General Council. Other propositions were made, and, finally, it was resolved on the motion of Marx and Dupont that the question should be considered by the local members of Belgium, Switzerland, and France, and that they should formulate a scheme. Marx was against a hard and fast rule. It was also resolved that a fund of £150 for propaganda and the cost of the conference should be raised, and the General Council was to decide what each nation was to contribute. The same body was to prepare the agenda for the second conference. It was finally decided that England was to raise £80, France £40, and Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland £10 each.
A resolution describing the aims and objects of the Inter-national was adopted without much difficulty. The English press did not notice the proceedings off the congress, but the Republican and Liberal journals in France gave long reports, in order to annoy the Empire; and the celebrated historian, Henri Martin, an old Republican, wrote a long and enthusiastic account of the congress in the Siecle. In Paris, over a thousand new members joined, and negotiations were commenced with the Spanish democrats. Even is the agricultural department of Calvados; the International had a correspondent. New progress was also made in Switzerland, the workers’ unions of Basle and Zurich joined, and in La Chaut de Fonds, Coullery, who afterwards became famous, was appointed. correspondent. The German section of the Swiss Central Committee published on January 1 1866, a circular in German, explaining its principles, and on the same day J. P., Becker published at Geneva his first monthly circular, which appeared regularly till the end of 1871.
Switzerland was the country where, after England, there were most attempts at organisation. In England there its a kind of personal union between the trade unions – which were already in possession – and the International, and there seemed to be in the eyes of most people a perpetual oscillation between them. But in Switzerland the International gave a new direction to the working-class movement, and it assumed entirely new forms. The movement arose also at a very favourable time in the industrial towns of Switzerland, especially at Geneva; organisations were able to be formed with much greater freedom than in other parts of the Continent. In the beginning of 1866 the German-speaking portion of the Central Committee at Geneva agreed with the Geneva Council in London that they should provisionally act also as the committee for Germany; German and Austrian working-class associations, as well as individuals, joined the Genevan Central Committee when they wished to connect themselves with the International. In the same way the French Committee at Geneva also was for a long time charged with the duty of organising and carrying on the agitation in the French Jura, and its influence extended as far as Lyons and Marseilles. The two organisers at Geneva, old J. P. Becker and Dupleix, showed great skill and were eminently successful, and many joined from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In Geneva, too, the local Association had among its members German-speaking Hungarians, Danes, Swedes, Alsations, Germans, as well as German-speaking Swiss.
The methods which Becker and Dupleix employed in carrying on their organisation and their propaganda were quite original. The Genevan Central Committee would get into communication with some local union, and invite its members to call a general meeting of workers. As the local organisation was often in a moribund condition they gladly agreed to do this, and were quite willing that the International should form a new union. The meeting was held a committee was elected, which was generally the old committee, and they elected a delegate to the Central Committee. In this way there was direct interest taken in the matter by the local body, and local committees were founded in many places.
Becker, in his monthly circular, was able to report the formation of new branches, and he took care to stimulate their interest as much as possible, so that the movement should not simply be active for a short time and then collapse. He founded also insurances against sickness which women and children – after the age of ten – could join. Men paid a subscription of one franc a month, women 75 centimes, and children 25 centimes; when sick, men received 1½ francs a day, women one franc and medical attendance, and this was also given to the children. Certainly, similar institutions had existed before, but they were strictly local, while as the International existed all over Switzerland workmen could enjoy these benefits wherever they lived. (It will be remembered that the London conference had passed a resolution on this question.) The German and French sections at Geneva also established savings banks, co-operative stores, and tried to centralise all these movements. The working men at Lausanne established a local bank, formed by means of a company of 4,000 shareholders, each subscribing five francs, and they determined to build working-class dwellings, and they also built themselves a hall for social and business purposes. The local Association at La Chaux de Fonds was still more ambitious; they formed a company, and were going to build a magnificent working-class palace at a cost of 400,000 francs; it was to have 300 dwelling rooms, common dining and sitting rooms, large kitchens, reading rooms, etc.; there were to be halls for gymnastics, concerts, plays, etc. The money was to be raised by shares. At Wetzikon a sick club and a co-operative store were founded.
Some Associations were not directly represented on the Central Committee, but only corresponded with it.
Nor were political reforms neglected, and efforts were made to obtain more power for the working-class; this was also the case in England, where an active part was taken in the agitation for reform, and in Belgium, where de Paepe issued a stirring manifesto.
In France the Associations had rather a precarious existence. In Paris there was formed a central committee for France, which published a working-class paper, La Fourmi (The Ant). There were also local Associations at Lyons, Marseilles, Rouen, St. Etienne, Caen, Elbeuf, Bordeaux, and Limoges. In French, too, were published La Liberté (Liberty), and La Tribune du Peuple (The People’s Tribune) at Brussels, as well as La Voix de l’Avenir (The Voice of the Future) by Coullery at La Chaux de Fonds. Coullery was a doctor from the Bernese Jura, who had lived at La Chaux de Fonds since 1848, and was known for his democratic propaganda. When the International was founded, he entered into communication with the Central Council, and started the branch at LaiChaux de Fonds, which soon had 500 members. Owing to him many branches were formed in the Jura – at Boncourt, Bienne, etc. The branch at Le Loch was started by an old man who had been in exile since 1831, and by James Guillaume. At Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux branches had already been formed in 1865.
In Spain, in the centre of the industrial district at Barcelona, El Obrero (The Worker) was published. Here the movement tried to form working-class associations for production and for mutual help. In Italy not much interest was taken in the International, as all activities were engaged in the movement for the freeing of Rome. In the United States the Workers’ Congress at Chicago resolved on August 20,1866, a few days before the meeting of the congress at Geneva, to enter into close relations with the International.
Such were the steps that had been taken towards organisation. Becker was very anxious that the congress should meet soon, and wrote many letters to Jung, the General Secretary for Switzerland on the General Council. The General Council decided that it should meet on September 3. It was to last five days, and the constitution of the International was to, be discussed, also the question of raising money and the best way of carrying on the class-war. It was determined to draw up rules and to discuss the shortening of the hours of labour, the question of work for women and children, co-operation, trade unions, direct and indirect taxation, international credit, standing armies, the Polish question, etc.
It was necessary to issue a manifesto in order to make the position of affairs quite clear, and to give a basis from) which it would be possible to work. While Coullery in his Voix de l’Avenir, which was widely read in the Jura, preached a certain vague humanitarian Radicalism, with a
certain Socialistic phraseology, the Paris Associations and other French groups advocated the doctrines of Proudhon, and numerous middle-class Radical organs tried to establish a union between the middle-class and the proletarian camps, so as to lure the working classes into this trap. There was, however, a group which had mastered the distinctive principles, and was anxious to found a special party which would wage the class-war and carry it on both on political and economic grounds.
Therefore it seems right to refer now to the inaugural address, although it had appeared nearly two years before, having been issued by the Provisional Council. Like the rules and regulations, it had only a provisional character, having first been made official at the Congress of Geneva. The inaugural address was drawn up by Marx. In it he contended that that notwithstanding the enormous development of industry and of national wealth since 1848 the misery of the masses had not diminished. Secondly, the successful struggle for the ten hours’ working day meant the breakdown of the political economy of the middle classes, the competitive operation of supply and demand requiring to be regulated by social control. Thirdly, the productive association of a few daring “hands” had proved that industry on a great scale, and with all the appliances of modern science, could be carried on without the existence of capitalist masters; and that wage labour, like slave labour, was only a transitory form, destined to disappear before associated labour, which gives to the workman a diligent hand, cheerful spirit, and a joyful heart.
The numbers of the workmen gave them the means of success, but it could only be realised through union. It was the task of the international to bring about such an effective union, and for this end the workmen must take international polities into their own hands, must watch the diplomacy of their Governments, and uphold the simple rules of morality in the relations of private persons and nations. The experiment of the Rochdale pioneers was full of interest, and only wanted to be developed in order to be entirely successful. But while economics were to be sedulously cultivated, politics must not be lost sight of, and it should be the great aim of the working classes to secure political power. They must unite and be of one mind and have one aim, and that would be aided by the International Association.
The Polish question was alluded to towards the close of the address as was also the struggle between the slavers of the South and the free men of the North in the United States, and the enslavement of the Caucasus by Russia. The address concluded by saying: “The struggle for such a foreign policy forms part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working-class; workers of all lands, unite!”
This address put with admirable clearness the essential points in which action was required. It showed the need for union, referred to the victories gained by a shorter day in England, pointed out how co-operation – first distributive, and then productive – was a way out of the difficulties of the modern world. It also drew attention to questions of foreign policy, and showed how the proletariat could take part in them.
The Congress at Geneva was held from September 3 to 8. Twenty-five sections of the International were represented by 45 delegates, and there were also 11 co-operative societies represented by 15 delegates. Among them were Dupleix and Becker representing the French and German sections of Geneva; Coullery, president of the section of La Chaux de Fonds; Cromer, Dupont, Eccarius and Odger, of the General Council of London; Burkli, a delegate from Zurich and Wetzikon; Murat, Varlin, Tolain, Malon, Perrachon, Bourdon, Chemale and Fribourg of Paris, Aubry of Rouen, Richard of Lyons, etc. The English sent seven, the Parisians twelve, the Lyonese five representatives, and there were also delegates from Vienne, Rouen, Caen, Bordeaux, etc. The English delegates had received full instructions to call the attention of the congress to the condition of the working classes in accordance with a resolution of the General Council. They were also to call the attention of the Congress to the fact that all the questions on the agenda had already been discussed at the General Council, and that they not only had instructions on these points but that they also were able to afford important information on these points. Important trade unions, as well as co-operative societies, were represented. Karl Marx was not present.
The delegates were cordially greeted by the sections of Geneva, accompanied by eleven unions with banners; and proceeded to the congress hall, where Dupleix, Becker and Coullery made speeches. Then the credentials of the delegates were examined. In spite of the resolution of the London conference that only delegates with credentials should have the right of speaking and sitting in the congress, many individual members of the International from France, especially from Paris, had come, and they claimed as members the right of sitting and voting in the congress. At the energetic request of the English delegates these disturbers were ejected, and the congress resolved this question in strict agreement with the previous decision of the London congress. Then the officers were appointed: Jung, the General Secretary for Switzerland at the Central Committee, was appointed President; Dupleix and Becker were made Vice-Presidents; Coullery, Card, Moll and Bourdon, Secretaries. The conduct of business was not very easy, because the French would not readily agree to the conduct of business, but owing to the tact of the President and his skill in speaking the three languages, business eventually was well conducted.
9. He was busy working at his book Capital, which appeared a few months later. – J.B.
One of the difficulties was that the English, the French, and the Germans had prepared long dissertations on the various questions which had already been discussed and decided by the London congress, and they were anxious to read these. But, however excellent these essays were, (It fact remained that these points had already been decided, and if the discussion were to be re-opened there would be no end to the matter. The question of organisation in the future was a very important subject, and one that ought to be decided, for the very future of the International depended on that question. There must be a certain unity of purpose, and this demanded a certain amount of centralisation, which must allow plenty of scope for the energy and the initiative of General Council. But at the same time the organisation must have a certain amount of elasticity so as to allow the development of the movement, and also to allow a certain amount of freedom to each national group. The general rules were bound to have an absolute binding character; these must refer to the theoretic grounds of the class struggle which the proletariat must accomplish by its own powers, in the primary, economic, and secondary political conditions of the workers also the conditions of the political struggle as a means in the class struggle under the universal economic fight which is no local, no national, but an international and social problem, and therefore must be waged on international grounds. The rights and duties of the General Council must also be settled, and also the relations of the Central Committee to the national groups and to the local sections. As to minor questions, such as strikes, etc., there must be a large measure of decentralisation; these were questions to be decided locally, but in all cases the supreme direction of affairs must be in the hands of the General Council.
The question of the general regulations was quickly settled. The basis of organisation was found in the provisional rules, which had been in force since 1864. A committee of 14 (five Frenchmen, three Englishmen, two Swiss, and four Germans) was chosen, and they, after sitting for two hours, framed certain regulations which were drawn up in German, French, and English. These were submitted article by article to a full meeting of the congress, and they were unanimously adopted.
These were declared to be the aims of the International The emancipation of the working classes can only be achieved by the working classes themselves; the struggle for this is not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but a struggle for equal rights and duties, and for the abolition of all class rule. The economic dependence of the worker under monopolies was a source of evil; the object of life was to put a stop to slavery in all its forms, to all social misery, to all priestly rule, and to political injustice. The economic improvement of the working-class is the great aim, and to attain it all political means may be employed. There is a unity in the working-class struggle which is carried on in all countries under all kinds of conditions. The emancipation of the workers is neither a local nor a national but a social problem; it embraces all countries composing the modern world, and can only be resolved by the theoretic and practical combination of the most progressive countries. These universal truths of the provisional rules were taken by the Committee from the provisional rues, but they left out certain remarks about truth, righteousness and morality, and also the words “ No rights’ without duties, and no duties without rights,” though they left in the phrase about the struggle for equal rights and duties. The first part was not the work of Marx. The Committee had also introduced some new points. It had distinctly asserted that the Congress could override the decisions of the General Council, though the General Council could decide where it was to sit, could choose its own members, and fix the time and place where the next congress was to meet. The General Council was also to issue from time to time a paper giving particulars about the movement. Members were also to retain their membership if they moved from one country to another, and were to be welcomed in their new country. It was also resolved, after speeches by Eccarius, Coullery, Burkli, and Fribourg, that each member of the International was to subscribe threepence a year towards the expenses of the General Council, and that a paid General Secretary should be appointed. Whenever possible, the General Council should communicate with the local body in its own language. These rules were unanimously adopted.
These rules were afterwards bitterly attacked, and there was a long and acrimonious discussion between the General Council, the Anarchists led by Bakunin, and the local association in the Jura, concerning them. Marx was particularly attacked, and years afterwards the matter was again revived in the pamphlet of Paul Brousse, Le Marxisme et 1’Internationale. The General Council always upheld their interpretation of these rules, and this was declared by the Jura federation to be a wrong interpretation.
A short and interesting debate took place as to the admission of the intellectual proletariat into the Association. Some French delegates, Fribourg, Tolain, contended that only men who worked with their hands should be admitted. This was opposed by Dupleix and by Odger, Eccarius, Carter, Hoppenworth, Becker and Coullery, and finally rejected by a very large majority.
There were several strong passages of arms between the French delegates – who were many of them disciples of Proudhon – and the German and English on the wording of the resolution relating to the class-war, but in the end the French were defeated, and the resolution, which, we now learn from a letter of his to Kugelmann, had been drawn up by Karl Marx, was adopted.
A resolution had been drafted concerning the question of providing for workmen when they were sick, and this was strenuously supported by Becker, who was a great advocate of such institutions, and opposed by the French. It was, however, passed. The struggle was also renewed over the question of shorter hours of labour; while the English delegates were advocating a ten hours’ day the French moved as an amendment – which was lost – an eight hours’ day.
On the question of the employment of women and children there was a heated discussion. As far as children were concerned all were agreed that the age of child labour should be raised, but on the question of women there was much division of opinion. While some were in favour of women working, and thus being economically independent of men, others talked about the place of woman being in the home to look after the children but finally the resolution proposed by the General Council was adopted, namely: that the whole question was one to be regulated by law.
10. It was probably due to the influence of Mazzini. – J. B.
The question of co-operation was also raised; this was the point which specially interested the majority of the French delegates. It was pointed out that co-operation, if it was to help to solve the social problem, must be applied to the production of commodities, as well as to their distribution. It was recommended that all co-operative societies should put aside a part of their profits for purposes of propaganda, and that care should be taken that in carrying on their business they should not fall into the same errors as the ordinary employer. The Lausanne section was warmly congratulated for its proposed plan of building houses.
A very brilliant manifesto had been prepared by the General Council on the question of trade unions. It was pointed out that they were a means by which, owing to combination, the individual workman was better able to struggle against the capitalist and to arrange better terms for the worker. This activity of the unions is not only praiseworthy, but it is necessary, and could not be dispensed with as long as the present condition of things continued. The aim to be attained was the strengthening of trade unions all over the world. The unions must do for working men what the municipalities in the Middle Age had done for the middle classes. While they were able to render important help to the workers in their daily warfare with the capitalist, they might do even more important work in attacking the system of wages and the rule of the capitalist. The resolution advocated this as the aim of the new trade unionism. The unions had seen the power of capitalism, but they did not yet fully realise the power which they might have at the present time in regulating the methods of production, and they had stood too much aloof from social and political questions. But at present, at all events in England, they had fully realised what an important part they might play in the future. As an example of this the action of the Trades Union Congress in 1866 was quoted, when a resolution was passed urging unions to join the International.
The French delegates moved another resolution, calling attention to the slavery of the past, to the anarchy of the present and to the needed alliance in the future between workmen and producers. The congress was generous enough to adopt this commonplace resolution with the resolution of the General Council.
The General Council also called attention to the question of indirect taxes. They pointed out that these taxes were economically bad, that their incidence could not be traced, and that they were borne mainly by the working classes. They recommended that direct taxes were preferable, and that these should be levied mainly on the rich. The French delegates made melodramatic speeches against the influence of the bureaucracy and the tyranny of the police, and Coullery vehemently opposed a unique direct tax. They also brought forward a resolution asking that the question of the establishment of international credit institutions and of a central bank should be investigated, and Becker and the English delegates also supported this motion.
Then came on the resolution of the General Council against Russian despotism and the enslavement of Poland, and this roused the flagging interest of the congress. Fribourg – in the name of the French delegates, of whom some had taken part two years before in the Polish meeting in London – moved as an amendment that the congress should take no part in this “petty question of nationalities,” but that they should condemn despotism of any kind in all countries. Becker brought forward a resolution which was a compromise; it condemned despotism in general and Russian imperialism in particular, and it affirmed the necessity for the establishment of Social-Democracy in Poland. This resolution, as amended, was adopted. The resolution against standing armies and in favour of the armed nation was also adopted. The next resolution, referring to religious ideas and their influence on political, social and intellectual movements, gave rise to a long discussion on religion and morals, on dogma and worship, etc., etc. At last, on the motion of Odger, it was resolved to pass to the next business. Both sections of Geneva then brought forward a notion for the universal establishment of sick-pay funds, and that these should be centralised. After a long and sterile debate it was resolved on the motion of Odger to refer the matter to the different sections, in order that it might be thoroughly discussed. It was finally resolved that London should be the place where the General Council should meet, that the provisional General Council should retain its powers, and that the next congress should be held at Lausanne in the first week of September, 1867. Then, after a six days’ sitting, the first congress of the International came to an end. During the meeting of the congress the English delegates had held special meetings, in which they had decided what action they should take. The German and the German-Swish delegates had also had evening meetings under the presidency of Becker, at which they had discussed the question of sick-pay, etc., and they had resolved to have a special committee sitting in Geneva to look after German affairs.
While the congress was sitting at Geneva, the American workmen were meeting at Baltimore, and resolved that they should be represented in the next International Congress. That made the International truly representative all over the world.
With the congress at Geneva the first, period of the history of the International closes: the formation of its organisation. The organisation of the working classes of the whole world into a single fighting army; that was the chief idea of the International, and this thought had by the adhesion given to it by the representatives of the proletarian army already attained some coherence. We have now to describe the formation and rapid strengthening of this organisation in the first powerful class fight which had been seen hitherto in Europe, in the business-like arrangements which were made in order to carry on the struggle, and in the first political actions of the working-class. These led to the great communistic aim of the struggle – the obtaining control of the means of production. And so it happened that in the energetic and fighting time of the International, the years of the congresses of Lausanne, of Brussels, and of Basle, by making use of strikes and of unions, by bringing to the front the questions of women and child labour, that very great progress was accomplished. After the congress of Basle the consolidation of the International ceased. The year that followed it (1870) showed too clearly the first signs of disorganisation, and there was then a rapid decline in the power of the International.
The years from 1866 to 1869 caused the middle classes to be very much afraid of the growing power of the Inter-national, and the awakening proletariat began to be conscious of its powers. The middle classes were not able to penetrate the secrets of its organisation, nor were they known to the indifferent masses, and so there were at once great hopes and fears that in a very short time there would be a wonderful, all-powerful, revolution. This, however, was all dissipated by the burning flames of the Commune, for which the International was made responsible, though it had very little to do with it, and after that the disintegrating forces had full play and worked havoc. So after the Peace of Frankfort (1871) the middle-class nations in old Europe again became hopeful, and the International got more and more feeble. The old organisation fell to pieces, a new International had to be formed, and after the attempts of the Anarchists, a new body came into existence which is still carrying on the class struggle.
11. This affair was badly managed and had a bad effect on the progress of the International at Lausanne.
The Geneva Congress produced a great impression in the world. Though the middle-class press had disregarded the London Conference by a conspiracy of silence, they were not able to adopt these tactics with the Geneva Congress, which had sat for six days in public, and in the name of a new class had declared war against middle-class society, and had proclaimed the plan of campaign of the workers to the whole world. The English delegates at Geneva were astonished that aristocratic organs like the Times and middle-class organs like the Daily News should now devote long articles to the discussion of the social question. The German and French middle-class press also took notice of the congress, yet for weeks and months little attention was paid to the doings of the body on the Continent, owing to the war and the disturbed political outlook. The congress, which had given its constitution to the International, was being held just at the time when the German middle-class was going through the first act of its own revolution, and everywhere its press was celebrating not street fights and barricades but the battles of Koniggratz and Langensalza. In the North German Union, Bismarck (1867) founded a kind of barrack State, with freedom of meeting, freedom of association, and universal suffrage.
This new state of things greatly occupied the German mind, and prepared it for the next move. It was remarkable how the German middle classes completely misunderstood that as the German workers now had universal suffrage great and unexpected events would occur, and they failed to realise what had happened at Geneva. The second act occurred when the struggle took place with Napoleon.
In France the Liberal and Radical press, who were expecting the French Second Empire to break up, watched the proceedings at Geneva with more than a theoretical interest; they hoped that they might make use of this new organisation to help them in their struggle against the Napoleonic system. The General Council resolved that they would maintain a strict neutrality in the forthcoming conflict between the two despotisms, but that they would gladly take advantage of any favourable opportunity to bring about the downfall of the economic injustice under which the proletariat was suffering. There was a manifesto addressed by the friends of peace in Paris, and by the students of that town, to the workers of Germany before the war, but it is difficult now to say what part the International took in this. What is certain, however, is that during the Luxembourg crisis of 1868 there were peace demonstrations both in France and in Germany on behalf of the workers.
The General Council of the International had been directed by the Geneva Congress to draw up an official report of the proceedings of the congress and to publish it. In order to enable that body to do this, both sections of the Committee at Geneva sent to London numerous reports, memoranda and letters. They were afraid to send them by post, as the French post officials might have suspected them, so they entrusted them to a Swiss, Jules Gottraux, who had become a British naturalised subject, and had commissioned him to deliver them personally to the General Council. At the French frontier Gottraux was arrested by the French police, his luggage was examined, and all his papers and letters were confiscated. The General Council determined to ask the Minister of the Interior for the documents which had been taken from Gottraux. Five weeks went by, but the General Council received no reply. It was clear that the Bonapartist authorities were determined to uphold the action of their police agents. The General Council then applied to Lord Stanley, the British Foreign Secretary, and asked him to obtain for them the confiscated papers. This step was successful. Lord Stanley instructed the British Ambassador in Paris to ask for the return of the papers, and in a few days the General Council received the documents through the Foreign Office. Among the papers there were two packets of the Tribune du Peuple, of Brussels and the regulations of the Belgian associations, these – according to a well-known police dodge, had been put with Gottraux’s papers in order to make it appear that it was an anti-Bonapartist collection of papers, and thus to try and show that it was literature which was prohibited in France. The numbers of the Tribune du Peuple contained bitter attacks on Napoleon, and were, of course, not allowed to circulate in France. Now it was necessary to print these documents, and this would cost about £120. The-General Council had not got the money, and they applied to the trade unions. But, owing to their having passed through a period of depression due to strikes, bad trade, etc., they had very little money. The General Council then tried to get Collet, the editor of the Workingman and Courier International, to print reports in his papers, to stereotype them, and then to publish them as pamphlets. Then it was seen that the long arm of the Bonapartist usurper stretched across the Channel, for Collet, who had not been troubled by the British Government, was now prosecuted for printing unstamped newspapers. The pamphlets could not appear before the opening of the Congress of Lausanne. Copies of the Courier International, which contained a report, were sent to all foreign correspondents. A consignment of pamphlets to France were seized by the French police. The General Council was not able to have the rules translated into German.
In spite of these temporary drawbacks progress was made. Even in France, where the Government thought it was all-powerful, the International gained its first great triumph by its action in the general strike of the bronze-workers, and a few months afterwards in England the Tory Government had to give way in the Reform agitation, and this, too, increased the power of the London General Council.
12. The war between Prussia and Austria. – J. B.
13. The war with France of 1870. – J. B.
The reform of the suffrage was one of the legacies which Radicals had received from the Chartists. It was one of the most democratic movements of the age, and about the sixties there seemed to be an awakening all over Europe among the more advanced members of the community. In England it was the chief demand of the New Unionism which looked upon the attaining of these electoral rights as a means towards the economic emancipation of the workers. The London Trades Council, which was the body from whom proceeded the main agitation, already in 1861 and 1862 started an agitation in favour of a reform of the suffrage, and also for the rejection of laws which impeded the free growth of trade unions. It is quite possible that it was due to this body that Gladstone introduced his Reform Bill, but, owing to a revolt of the Whigs, that Government fell in June, 1866, and the new Tory Ministry appeared disposed to do nothing.
Already, before the Geneva Congress, the General Council of the International had taken part in the agitation in favour of reform. The Reform League had among its members the most prominent of the English members of the General Council. The official organ of the International, the Commonwealth, rendered great service to the League, and from July, 1866, it was also called the “Reform League.” Mass meetings were organised by the League, and made a very great stir, the Times wrote two leading articles on a large meeting which was held at St. Martin’s Hall, and which was so crowded that many were unable to obtain admission, and large meetings were also held in the open air in other places. The agitation was in favour of household suffrage; that is to say that the right of voting should be given to anyone who lived in a house, however small. A reform conference was held a few weeks later at St. Martin’s Hall, on February, 1867, and was attended by more than 200 delegates from, all parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and this showed what deep roots the agitation had. The League formed branch leagues, which were joined by entire trade unions. At this conference the International was officially represented by six delegates, including Shaw, Jung, and Lessner. The conference decided in favour of universal suffrage, of single constituencies and vote by ballot. The League was also in favour of the representation of working men in Parliament, and the International issued glowing addresses to the workers and the unions, which show that feelings were much agitated at this time. A few days after the conference, Gladstone introduced his Bill in the House of Commons, which proposed ,a considerable extension of the suffrage. The working classes were to become electors to a much greater extent than they had been before. The Conservatives opposed the Bill by every possible means, and were joined by a certain number of the Liberals, and on June 18, 1866, the Liberal Government was defeated by a small, majority and resigned Lord Derby formed a Ministry, and Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. At first the new Cabinet appeared to be unwilling to bring in any Bill in favour of Parliamentary reform. But the League carried on a very vigorous agitation, which almost assumed a revolutionary character.
A meeting was held in Trafalgar Square, at which 20,000 men were present, and then Lucraft lead he men down Parliament Street to show them the place where we took off the head of one of our kings. At a meeting in Hyde Park, at which 60,000 people were present, there was a collision with the police, and the people shewed that they were in earnest. Large meetings were also held in the provinces; these took place at Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the London Trade Unions resolved to carry on a vigorous propaganda in favour of universal suffrage. Then it became clear to the Tory Government that they could not longer remain indifferent if they wished to avoid a serious crisis. There was indeed a Ministerial crisis, and Mr. Walpole, the Home Secretary, who was much opposed to reform, left the Government. The Bill rapidly passed through both Houses, and by August 15, 1867, it had become law, and by it the working classes in boroughs obtained votes. This did not apply to the counties till 1883. In this way, by standing firm, the English working-class obtained a voice in the management of affairs because of their unity and their discipline – they frightened the middle classes. A Commission was also appointed to inquire into the grievances of trade unionists.
The Conservative Government reckoned that this new Bill would eventually strengthen their party. Karl Marx was also somewhat of this opinion; but he looked upon the matter from the point of view of a philosophical historian. In the remarks which he wrote he, made it quite clear that the victory of the League was not due to any revolutionary influence, and he appeared to have a certain amount of distrust of the leaders – Odger, Lucraft, and Howell. The latter shortly retired from the International, after he was no longer editor of the Commonwealth, and gave himself entirely to the service of the Liberal Party. (In 1875 he was Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Congress.) The reform agitation was not at all revolutionary, and soon shrank into a mere economic movement in favour of trade unions. The unions wanted their legal position to be defined and improved, and that was why Odger, Applegarth, Lucraft, and others agitated in order that working men should have votes.
The rights of English trade unions were in those days as vague and as uncertain as those of German unions at the present time. It is true that the merely penal, laws had been abrogated since 1825, but there were many other laws which hampered the unions. For instance, it was impossible to prosecute any trade union official who had misappropriated funds of the union. This caused great agitation – among unions, as a case arose in 1867, and Mr. Frederic Harrison, who advised unionists in legal matters, wrote in the Beehive for January, 1867: “Nothing will compel the ruling classes to recognise the rights of the working classes and to pay attention to their just demands until the workers have obtained political power, and are determined to use it. Unionists who have up to now been averse to political action may now see into what straits this lack of interest has brought them.” The unions took the hint, and at the next general election sent out a circular to their members, advising them not to vote for any candidate who would not vote for an Act which would give unionists their rights. At the general election of 1868 the Tory Government was defeated and Mr. Gladstone was called upon to form a Liberal Government.
14. This was when the Park rails were pulled down. – J. B.
15. They got this by the Act of 1871, but recent legal decisions have made that Act nugatoty. – J.B.
16. The story the struggle is well told in History of Trade Unions, by B. and S. Webb. – J.B.
At the Geneva Congress J. P. Becker and the French-speaking delegates had condemned the method of strikes as a crude means of fighting, and had strongly urged the formation of productive associations, because in that way men – according to the theory of Proudhon – might become free from wage-slavery. Not only had they advocated these theories at the congress, but also at a large mass meeting where they had advocated their theories as preferable to the practical theories of the English members. Strangely; enough, it happened that the first great struggle arose in France, and at Paris, the spiritual capital of Proudhon’s theories. The strike which occurred there was a test of the strength of the International.
Europe in 1866 was experiencing the effects of a commercial struggle. Already in the spring there had been in London a strike by the wire workers, in which a victory had been won owing to a good international organisation. In many places, however, wages were reduced, and factories, if they did not shut, yet worked shorter hours. The harvest, of 1866 having been bad, the price of the necessaries of life rose. Where the workers found themselves strong enough, and this was especially the case in London and in Paris, they made applications for an increase of wages. The struggle of the bronze-workers in Paris arose owing to a refusal of the employers to recognise the association, and it ended in a catastrophe for the organisation. The workers had organised themselves in the beginning of 1866, after the prohibition against organisations had been withdrawn. With great difficulties, 1,500 men formed a union. The General Council in London, when there was a lock-out on the part of the masters, laid the matter before the trade unions, and these subscribed liberally; and in the different sections men subscribed individually according to their means. After a short time the masters found that they had to fight with a powerful society, and they gave in. That was a powerful morel victory for the International. A short time afterwards the workers of the Continent were able to give a proof of their solidarity to their English comrades. The master-tailors in London were determined to crush the union of the tailors because it protested against excessive hours of work. The workers on the Continent determined to aid their fellows in London, and sent subscriptions to them. In this case, too, after a seven months’ struggle, the workers won, though the London employers tried to import foreign workmen, especially Dutch and Belgians. The International issued a manifesto to the foreigners, and showed them how selfish and wrong was the part which the employers wanted them to play. Other struggles of labour were referred to at Lausanne, but these were only of local interest.
In Switzerland, J. P. Becker was indefatigable in his efforts to organise productive associations in that country; he always stipulated that part of the profits should be used for propaganda work. At Geneva he also founded a co-operative chemist’s shop, which was to supply drugs to his associations for helping the sick. The French leaders complained that he was wasting his time in these matters, and was diverting the attention of the workers from revolutionary movements. Meanwhile it was intended to hold an international trades union congress in Paris in the middle of August, 1867, but this was forbidden by the Bonapartist Government.
The second congress of the International sat at Lausanne from September 2 to 8, 1867, and was particularly well attended by members belonging to French-speaking Switzerland and by those belonging to France, as its position was very convenient for them. The French-speaking comrades had it all their own way at this congress, not only owing to their numerical superiority, but also because they had drawn up the agenda, had settled what questions were to be debated, and had made all the preliminary arrangements. A few months after the Geneva Congress the French Central Committee, for whom Proudhon’s gospel had apparently become too narrow, had decided to submit four questions to the congress. Concerning these, the Vorbote laconically remarked that “the German comrades would find that we have attached a great deal of importance to questions concerning productive co-operation, and that we have already carried out part of this programme, and have made great progress. It would also appear that the General Council will find other points it can praise These last words might be applied to all the proceedings of the congress; as far as theoretical progress went the whole of the proceedings at Lausanne were an improvement on Geneva. The English, and especially the members of the General Council, had been getting ready for the meeting; the programme prepared by the French was considered at several meetings; it was a mixture of proverbs from the Proudhon phraseology. All possible points were discussed, but no resolution, printed or manuscript, had been brought. The two questions which the General Council itself had set out might form part of the agenda which should have been prepared by the French delegates, and the congress agreed to this. The meeting was not so successful as that of Geneva, because there was not such a businesslike arrangement as at that conference; there was a great deal of Proudhon, and also much dilettantism and personalities. The President of the Organisation Committee of Lausanne opened the congress by wishing all good things to the delegates; then another speaker made a kind of sermon about virtue and holiness, love of God, etc.; and the untiring Coullery showed himself till the end of the congress to be in favour of absolute personal freedom, and also in favour of private property. This strange Socialist called the common possession of the land “collective tyranny.” There had been similar freaks present at Geneva, but there they had not hindered the proceedings as they did at Lausanne.
The General Council had sent out its invitations, in July to the different sections. It was pointed out that the organisation had made great progress, particularly in Switzerland; the French were warned that the development of capitalism had reached the “English stage” in their country and that therefore the present class-war had reached an acute stage; it was noticed that in England the reform agitation for the extension of the suffrage had been successful, and that it was highly desirable that the workers should join the International in order that their power might be strengthened; from the United States it was announced that an agitation was being organised for an Eight Hours’ Bill in factories. The appeal concluded by urging at the congress at Lausanne should mark an epoch in the history of the Labour movement. Each section had the right to send a delegate, and sections who had more than 5 members could send a delegate for every 500 members. The General Council also submitted its accounts, and they were signed by Eccarius, who had taken the place of Shaw as Secretary. Particulars were also given about the bulletin published by the Council.
In the reports on the sections, that relating to England was of great interest. Attention was called to the Reform movement and to the part played in it by members of the International; particulars were also given of the propaganda among trade unions. More than 20 unions had received favourably deputations from the International, and had taken part in its work; others had heard courteously what could he urged in its favour, and only one had declined to have anything to do with the International because the latter was a political body. The Unions were also thanked for the liberal pecuniary assistance which they had rendered to the cause, and which had enabled the General Council to pay the expenses of the delegates to the Geneva Conference. It had been decided at that conference that each member should pay a subscription of threepence a year towards the expense of the general body, but the General Council did not think this was sufficient, and asked that it might be increased by a halfpenny. Many unions only sent small sums to the General Council as, e.g., the Shoemakers, with a membership of 5,000, subscribed £5 a year; the Masons, with a membership of 3,000 to 4,000, £1; Carpenters and joiners, with’ a membership of 9,000, £2. Nineteen unions, which had joined the International before the Geneva Conference, had subscribed in 1866 £45 and in 1867 £10. The unions which had joined. since then had subscribed £2 10s. as entrance fees, and £5 as subscriptions. It is true that some unions had paid the expenses of their delegates. The reasons for the fall in the subscription was due to work being slack, to many strikes, and to the Reform agitation.
The report from the French sections was not more favourable. On paper the situation appeared to be fairly prosperous, for there were 17 sections at first and afterwards nine joined, one being in Algeria. But very little money was sent; Paris had sent 100 francs (£4) towards the foundation of the International, while Lyons had sent 500 francs (£20), but nothing had been received for the thousands of membership-cards which had been sent from London. And though no money had been sent, some sections had complained that so little had been done. Complaints had been received that the programme had been late in appearing. The French were suffering from a bad attack of Proudhonism, and. were constantly bringing his theories forward. They condemned strikes, and the members of the sections were always talking about co-operation, etc.
De Paepe reported concerning Belgium that, owing to the massacre at Marchienne and to the many strikes, many workmen’s societies had joined, negotiations were sill going on with the unions at Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp, and a few workmen had joined from Liege. The news from Switzerland was favourable, the General Council reported that about £9 had been sent to London; Becker reported that the Central German Committee had enrolled 30,000 members. In Italy the General Council was in correspondence with unions in Naples, Milan and Genoa; the Italian delegate, Stampa, indeed spoke about 38 societies of working men, having 30,000 members and a capital of 120,000 francs (£4,800). But news of these had not reached London from Italy.
There were four delegates from the General Council: Eccarius, Dupont, Lessner, and Carter. Two Englishmen attended as delegates from their unions; one of these was Walton, who represented the Reform League. There were nine delegates from Paris, and nine others from France, amongst these were Longuet from Caen, Aubry from Rouen, Vasseur (the agitator) from Fuveau and Marseilles, De Paepe came from Belgium, from Italy came Stampa and Tanari, from Germany there were six delegates Including Kugelmann (the friend of Karl Marx) from Hanover, Ladendorf from Magdeburg, Buchner ,(the writer of Force and Matter) from Darmstadt, and F. A. Lange from Densburg. Most numerous were the delegates from Switzerland, and especially from the French-speaking part of the Country: there were eight delegates from Geneva, eight from the section at Lausanne, and six more from the co-operative society there, five from the Jura, and eleven from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Dupont was chosen President, with Eccarius and Becker for Vice-presidents, and Buchner, Burkli, Guillaume and Vasseur as secretaries.
Although certain questions had been tabulated for discussion, it was considered desirable to appoint a committee of seven to go through them all, to draw up the agenda, and to settle the order of discussion. Eight committees were also appointed which were to consider the various questions and to prepare resolutions. They were also to consider the reports of the General Council and those of the various sections and societies.
The first question which was considered was that of the Peace Conference at Geneva. The Central Committee of the German Section at Geneva had already considered this question for many weeks and brought up a resolution which clearly stated the essential grounds of difference between the middle-class twaddle about peace and the proletarian hatred of war. The resolution was adopted, and the conclusion was particularly emphatic, it declared the complete and entire sympathy of the International with the objects of the Peace Society, provided that this body adopted the programme of the International.
Then came on for discussion the question how the International was to act in order to enable the working-class to take an active part in the freeing of themselves from the capitalist yoke. Tolain read the report. The debate was rather wild, because no resolution had been prepared, and the question was rather obscure, although much had already been said on that point at Geneva, the question was discussed on Friday afternoon. It appeared that the question of organisation, and especially of the authority of the General Council was really involved. Indeed, Tolain was rather a self-conscious person; he represented the minority on the Committee, and strongly expressed their opinions. Yet he gave them away afterwards, although this did not make him more friendly to the congress. Coullery proposed that no change should be made in the rules in order to save the expense of printing, and that the wishes of the congress should be expressed in the form of resolutions. The congress resolved that the General Council should send quarterly reports to the Central Committee, that a yearly report of the proceedings should be sold at a cost of one penny, and that the money received should be used to send delegates to the congress. The report of the General Council was received.