As in founding, so in conducting, the International, Marx took the leading part.
Continuing The Communist Internional 1864-1873,
our selection from A History of Socialism by Thomas Kirkup published in 1892. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in four easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Communist Internional 1864-1873.
In the inaugural address three points were particularly emphasized. First, Marx contended 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-hour 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 labor, like slave-labor, was only a transitory form, destined to disappear before associated labor, which gives to the workman a diligent hand, a cheerful spirit, and a joyful heart.
The numbers of the workmen gave them the means of success, but it could be realized only 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 politics 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 struggle for such a policy forms part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class. Proletarians of all lands, unite!”
The preamble to the statutes contains implicitly the main principles of international socialism. The economic subjection of the workmen to the appropriator of the instruments of labor— that is, of the sources of life -— is the cause of servitude in all its forms, of social misery, of mental degradation and of political dependence; the economic emancipation of the working class is neither a local nor a national, but a social, problem, to be solved only by the combined efforts of the most advanced nations.
For these reasons the International Workingmen’s Association has been founded. It declares: “That all societies and individuals who adhere to it recognize truth, justice, and morality as the rule of their conduct toward one another and to all men without distinction of color, faith, or nationality. N0 duties with out rights; no rights without duties.”
Such are the leading ideas of the preamble; we have only to develop them, and we have the program of international socialism. Whatever opinion we may hold of the truth and practicability of the theories set forth in it, we must respect the lucid and masterly form in which Marx has presented them. It is seldom, in the history of the world, that talents and learning so remarkable have been placed at the service of an agitation that was so wide and far-reaching.
The International Workingmen’s Association was founded for the establishment of a center of union and of systematic cooperation between the Workingmen’s societies, which have the same aim, viz., the protection, the progress, and the complete emancipation of the working class. It would be a mistake to regard its organization as one of excessive centralization and dictatorial authority. It was to be a means of union, a center of information and of initiative, in the interests of labor; but the existing societies that should join it were to retain their organization intact.
A general council, having its seat in London, was appointed. While the president, treasurer, and general secretary were to be Englishmen, each nation was to be represented in the council by a corresponding secretary. The general council was to summon annual congresses and exercise an effective control over the affairs of the association, but local societies were to have free play in all local questions. As a further means of union it was recommended that the workmen of the various countries should be united in national bodies, represented by national central organs, but no independent local society was to be excluded from direct correspondence with the general council. It will be seen that the arrangements of the association were so made as to secure the efﬁciency of the central directing power on the one hand, and on the other to allow local and national associations a real freedom and abundant scope for adapting themselves to the peculiar tasks imposed by their local and national position.
As in founding, so in conducting, the International, Marx took the leading part. The proceedings of the various congresses might be described as a discussion, elucidation, and ﬁlling-up of the program sketched by him in the inaugural address and in the statutes of the association. Men representing the schools of Proudhon (who died in 1865), of Blanqui, and of Bakunin also exercised considerable inﬂuence; but the general tendency was in accordance with the views of Marx.
It was intended that the ﬁrst congress for ﬁnally arranging the constitution of the association should be held at Brussels in 1865, but the Belgian Government forbade the meeting, and the council had to content itself with a conference in London. The ﬁrst congress was held at Geneva in September, 1866, sixty delegates being present. Here the statutes as drawn by Marx were adopted. Among other resolutions it decided on an agitation in favor of the gradual reduction of the working-day to eight hours, and it recommended a most comprehensive system of education, intellectual and technical, which should raise the working people above the level of the higher and middle classes. Socialistic principles were set forth only in the most general terms. With regard to labor, the International did not seek to enunciate a doctrinaire system, but only to proclaim general principles. They must aim at free cooperation; and for this end the decisive power in the State must be transferred from the capitalists and landlords to the workers.
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