Account of Engels' Speech on Mazzini's Attitude Towards the International

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Citizen Engels said after the Pope[1] should come the Anti Pope,[2] he had to report that Joseph Mazzini had been attacking the International[3] in the columns of his Journal. After stating that he knew the Italian people loved him and he loved them, he proceeded: —

“An association has arisen which threatens to subvert all order (the same words as used by the Pope) started many years ago, I refused from the first to belong [to] it. It is controlled by a Council sitting in London, the soul of which is Karl Marx, a man of acute intellect, but like that of Proudhon of a dissolving character, and of domineering temper, who is jealous of other people’s influence. The Council itself, composed of men of different nationalities, can have no unity of purpose either to discuss the evils which afflict society, nor the unity of sentiment necessary to amend them. These are the reasons why I retired from the Association, and why the Italian branch of the Democratic Alliance (London) retired from it also. The three fundamental principles of the International are: — 1st Negation of God, that is of all morality. 2nd Negation of Country, which it dissolves into a Conglomeration of Communes, whose inevitable fate it must be to quarrel among themselves, 3rd Negation of Property, thereby depriving every working-man of the fruits of his labour for the right to individual property is nothing but the right of every man to that which he has produced.”

After descanting at length upon these points, he concluded by advising the Italian Working Class to organise themselves strongly under his banner in a counter-league against the Internationals, to have faith in the future of Italy, and to work for its future and glory, and to form among themselves Co-operative Stores (not Co-operative Workshops) so that all may get as much profit as possible.

It will be seen that upon one important point Mazzini contradicts himself, in one place he says “he refused to belong to the International from the first,” and afterwards says he retired. How a man can retire from that to which he never belonged, the public must imagine. The fact is Mazzini never was a member of the International but he tried to turn it into a tool of his own. He drew up a programme which was submitted to the provisional Council but it was rejected, and after some further attempts made through Major Wolff, since discovered to be a police spy, towards the same end had failed,[4] Mazzini refrained from all interference with the International until lately.

As to the charges against the International, they are either untrue or absurd, with regard to the first that it wants to make atheism compulsory, that is untrue, and was refuted in the Secretary’s[5] letter in reply to Jules Favre’s circular.[6] The second is absurd, for while the International recognises no country, it desires to unite, not dissolve. It is opposed to the cry for Nationality, because it tends to separate people from people, and is used by tyrants to create prejudices and antagonism,[7] the jealousy existing between the Latin and Teuton races led to the late disastrous war, and was equally used by Napoleon and Bismarck. The third charge only betrays Mazzini’s ignorance of the very elements of political economy. That individual property which assures to everyone the fruits of his own labour, the International does not intend to abolish, but on the contrary to establish. At present the fruits of the labour of the masses goes into the pockets of the few, and this system of capitalist production is what Mazzini proposes to leave unaltered, but which the International would destroy. It desires everyone to have the produce of his or her labour. The letters received from Italy prove that the Italian Workmen are with the International, and are not to be misguided by Mazzini’s shallow sophistry.

  1. Pius IX.— Ed.
  2. Before Engels took the floor at the General Council meeting, Marx made a report on Pope Pius IX’s speech against the International.
  3. G. Mazzini, “Agli opérai italiani”, La Roma del popolo, No. 20, July 13, 1871; see also this volume, pp. 385-87.— Ed.
  4. At a meeting of the Sub-Committee of the General Council on October 8, 1864, Luigi Wolff proposed that the Rules of the Italian Working Men’s Association, written by Mazzini and translated into English by Wolff, should be adopted as the Rules of the International. Mazzini’s Rules gave the organisation a sectarian and conspiratorial character. The Sub-Committee, or the Standing Committee, of the General Council of the International developed from a committee set up in the early period of the International Working Men’s Association in 1864 to draw up its programme and Rules. The Sub-Committee consisted of corresponding secretaries for various countries, the General Secretary of the General Council, and a treasurer. The Sub-Committee, which was not envisaged by the Rules of the International, was an executive body; under Marx’s direction, it fulfilled a wide range of duties in the day-to-day guidance of the International and drafting its documents, which were subsequently submitted to the General Council for approval.
  5. J. Hales.— Ed.
  6. See this volume, pp. 361-63.— Ed.
  7. Engels has in mind the so-called “principle of nationalities” advanced by the ruling circles of the Second Empire and used extensively by them as an ideological screen for their aggressive plans and adventurist foreign policy. Posing as a “defender of nations”, Napoleon III made use of national interests of the oppressed peoples to strengthen France’s hegemony and extend her frontiers. The “principle of nationalities” was designed to stir up national hatred and to turn the national movement, especially that of small nations, into a weapon of counter-revolutionary policy of the rival powers. This principle was exposed by Marx in his pamphlet Herr Vogt (present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 133-83) and by Engels in his work “What Have the Working Classes to Do with Poland?” (present edition, Vol. 20).