If we now turn from the congresses of the International to consider the history of its inﬂuence in Europe, we shall see that its success was very considerable.
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.
Place: Lausanne (2nd. Congress) and Brussels (3rd. Congress)
The proposal of the French delegates for the exclusion of the intellectual proletariat from the association led to an interesting discussion. Was this proletariat to be reckoned among the workers? Ambitious talkers and agitators belonging to this class had done much mischief. On the other hand, their exclusion from socialistic activity would have deprived the laborers of the services of most of their greatest leaders, and the intellectual proletariat suffered from the pressure of capital quite as much as any other class of workers. The proposal for their exclusion was rejected.
The second congress, held at Lausanne in 1867, made considerable progress in the formulating of the socialistic theories. It was resolved that the means of transport and communication should become the property of the state, in order to break the mighty monopoly of the great companies, under which the subjection of labor does violence to human worth and personal free dom. The congress encouraged cooperative associations and efforts for the raising of wages, but emphatically called attention to the danger lest the spread of such associations should be found compatible with the existing system, thus resulting in the formation of a fourth class and of an entirely miserable ﬁfth. The social transformation can be radically and deﬁnitely accomplished only by working on the whole of society in thorough accordance with reciprocity and justice.
In the third congress, held at Brussels in September, 1868, the socialistic principles that had been implicitly contained in the aims and utterances of the International received most explicit statement. Ninety-eight delegates -— representing England, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland -— assembled at this congress. It resolved that mines and forests and the land, as well as all the means of transport and communication, should become the common property of society or of the democratic state; and that they should by the state be handed over to associations of workers, who should utilize them under rational and equitable conditions determined by society. It was further resolved that the producers could gain possession of the machines only through cooperative societies and the organization of the mutual credit system, the latter clause being a concession apparently to the followers of Proudhon.
After proposing a scheme for the better organizing of strikes, the congress returned to the question of education, particularly emphasizing the fact that an indispensable condition toward a thorough system of scientiﬁc, professional, and productive instruction was the reduction of the hours of labor.
The fundamental principle, “To labor the full product of labor,” was recognized in the following resolution: “Every society founded on democratic principles repudiates all appropriation by capital, whether in the form of rent, interest, proﬁt, or in any other form or manner whatsoever. Labor must have its full right and entire reward.”
In view of the struggle imminent between France and Germany, the congress made an emphatic declaration denouncing it as a civil war in favor of Russia, and calling upon the workers to resist all war as systematic murder. In case of war the congress recommended a universal strike. It reckoned on the solidarity of the workers of all lands for this strike of the peoples against war.
At the Congress of Basel, in 1869, little remained for the International to accomplish in further deﬁning the socialistic position. The resolution for transforming land from private to collective property was repeated. A proposal to abolish the right of inheritance failed to obtain a majority; for while thirty-two delegates voted for the abolition, twenty-three were against it, and seventeen declined to vote.
If we now turn from the congresses of the International to consider the history of its inﬂuence in Europe, we shall see that its success was very considerable. It gained its ﬁrst triumph in the effectual support of the bronze-workers at Paris during their lockout in 1867; and it repeatedly gave real help to the English trades-unionists by preventing the importation of cheap labor from the Continent. At the beginning of 1868 one hundred twenty-two workingmen’s societies of South Germany, assembled at Nuremberg, declared their adhesion to the International. In 1870 Cameron announced himself as the representative of eight hundred thousand American workmen who had adopted its principles.
It soon spread as far east as Poland and Hungary; it had affiliated societies, with journals devoted to its cause, in every country of Western Europe. The European press became more than interested in its movements, and the London Times published four leaders on the Brussels Congress. It was supposed to be concerned in all the revolutionary movements and agitations of Europe, thus gaining a world-historic notoriety as the rallying point of social overthrow and ruin. Its prestige, however, was always based more on the vast possibilities of the cause it represented than on its actual power. Its organization was loose, its ﬁnancial resources insigniﬁcant; the Continental unionists joined it more in the hope of borrowing than of contributing support.
In 1870 the International resolved to meet at the old hearth of the revolutionary movement by holding its annual congress in Paris, but this plan was rendered abortive by the Franco-Prussian War. The war, however, helped to bring the principles of the association more prominently before the world. During the Austro-German struggle of 1866 the International had declared its emphatic condemnation of war, and now the afﬁliated societies of France and of Germany, as well as the general council at London, uttered a solemn protest against a renewal of the scourge. Some of its German adherents likewise incurred the wrath of the authorities by venturing to protest against the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine.
All will agree that it is a happier omen for the future that the democracy of labor as represented by the International was so prompt and courageous in its denunciation of the evils of war. It gives us ground to hope that as the inﬂuence of the democracy prevails in the council of nations the passion for war may decline. On this high theme no men have a better right to speak than the workers, for they have, in all ages, borne the heaviest of the burden of privation and suffering imposed on the world by the military spirit, and have had the least share in the miserable glories which victory may obtain.
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