Special pages :
Fictitious Splits in the International
Published: in Geneva 1872 as a French pamphlet called Les Pretendues Scissions dans l'Internationale.
Source: Progress Publisher translation
Until now, the General Council has completely refrained from any interference in the International's internal squabbles and has never replied publicly to the overt attacks launched against it during more than two years by some members of the Associations.
But if the persistent efforts of certain meddlers to deliberately maintain confusion between the International and a society [the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy] which has been hostile to it since its inception allowed the General Council to maintain this reserve, the support which European reaction finds in the scandals provoked by that society at a time when the International is undergoing the most serious trial since its foundation obliges it to present a historical review of all these intrigues.
After the fall of the Paris Commune, the General Council's first act was to publish its Address on the Civil War in France, in which it came out in support of all the Commune's acts which, at the moment, served the bourgeoisie, the press, and all the governments of Europe as an excuse to heap the most vile slander on the vanquished Parisians. Within the working class itself, some still failed to realize that their cause was lost. The Council came to understand the fact, among other things, by the resignation of two of its members, Citizens Odger and Lucraft, who repudiated all support of the Address. It may be said that the unity of views among the working class regarding the Paris events dates from the publication of the Address in all the civilized countries.
On the other hand, the International found a very powerful means of propaganda in the bourgeois press and particularly in the leading English newspapers, which the Address forced to engage in a polemic kept going by the General Council's replies.
The arrival in London of numerous refugees from the Commune made it necessary for the General Council to constitute itself as a relief committee and function as such for more than eight months, besides carrying on its regular duties. It goes without saying that the vanquished and exiles from the Commune had nothing to hope for from the bourgeoisie. As for the working class, the appeals for aid came at a difficult moment. Switzerland and Belgium had already received their contingent of refugees whom they had either to support or send on to London. The funds collected in Germany, Austria, and Spain were sent to Switzerland. In England, the big fight for the nine-hour working day, the decisive battle of which was fought at Newcastle, had exhausted both the workers' individual contributions and the funds set up by the trade unions, which could be used, incidentally, according to the rules, only for labor conflicts. Meanwhile, by working diligently and sending out letters, the Council managed to accumulate, bit by bit, the money which it distributed weekly. The American workers responded more generously to its appeal. It is unfortunate that the Council could not avail itself of the millions which the terrified bourgeoisie believed the International to have amassed in its safes!
After May 1871, some of the Commune’s refugees were asked to join the Council, in which, as a result of the war, the French side was no longer represented. Among these new members were some old Internationalists and a minority composed of men known for their revolutionary energy whose election was an act of homage to the Paris Commune.
Along with these preoccupations, the Council had to prepare for the Conference of Delegates that it had just called.
The violent measures taken by the Bonapartist government against the International had prevented the holding of the Congress at Paris, which had been provided for by a resolution of the Basel Congress. Using the right conferred upon it by Article 4 of the Rules, the General Council, in its circular of July 12, 1870, convened the Congress at Mainz. In letters addressed at the same time to the various federations, it proposed that the General Council should transfer its seat from England to another country and asked that delegates be provided with definite mandates to that effect. The federations unanimously insisted that it should remain in London. The Franco-Prussian War, which began a few days latter, made it necessary to abandon any plans for convening the Congress. It was then that the federations which we consulted authorized us to fix the date of the next Congress as may be dictated by the political situation.
As soon as the political situation permitted, the General Council called a private Conference, acting on the precedents of the 1865 Conference and the private administrative meetings of each Congress. A public Congress was impossible and could only have resulted in the continental delegates being denounced at a moment when European reaction was celebrating its orgies; when Jules Favre was demanding from all governments, even the British, the extradition of refugees as common criminals; when Dufaure was proposing to the Rural Assembly a law banning the International, a hypocritical counterfeit of which was later presented by Malou to the Belgians; when in Switzerland a Commune refugee was put under preventive arrest while awaiting the federal government's decision on the extradition order; when hunting down members of the International was the ostensible basis for an alliance between Beust and Bismarck, whose anti-International clause Victor Emmanuel was quite eager to adopt; when the Spanish Government, putting itself entirely at the disposal of the butchers of Versailles, was forcing the Madrid Federal Council to seek refuge in Portugal; at a time, lastly, when the International's prime duty was to strengthen its organization and to accept the gauntlet thrown down by the governments.
All sections in regular contact with the General Council were invited in good time to the Conference, which, even though it was not to be a public meeting, nevertheless faced serious difficulties. In view of the internal situation, France was, of course, unable to elect any delegates. In Italy, the only organized section at the time was that of Naples; but just as it was about to nominate a delegate it was broken up by the army. In Austria and Hungary, the most active members were imprisoned. In Germany, some of the more well-known members were prosecuted for the crime of high treason, others landed in jail, and the party's funds were spent on aid to their families. The Americans, though they sent the Conference a detailed memorandum on the situation of the International there, employed the delegation's money for maintaining the refugees. All federations, in fact, recognized the necessity of substituting the private Conference for a public Congress.
After meeting in London from September 17 to 23, 1871, the Conference authorized the General Council to publish its resolutions; to codify the Administrative Regulations and publish them with the General Rules, as reviewed and corrected, in three languages; to carry out the resolution to replace membership cards with stamps; to reorganize the International in England; and, lastly, to provide the necessary money for these various purposes.
Following the publication of the Conference proceedings, the reactionary press of Paris and Moscow, of London and New York, denounced the resolution on working-class policy as containing such dangerous designs — the Times accused it “of coolly calculated audacity”— that it would outlaw the International with all possible speed. On the other hand, the resolution that dealt a blow at the fraudulent sectarian sections gave the international police a long-awaited excuse to start a noisy campaign ostensibly for the unrestricted autonomy of the workers whom it professed to protect against the despicable despotism of the General Council and the Conference. The working class felt itself so “heavily oppressed”, indeed, that the General Council received from Europe, America, Australia, and even the East Indies reports about the admission of new members and the formation of new sections.
The denunciations in the bourgeois press, like the lamentations of the international police, found a sympathetic echo even in our Association. Some intrigues, directed ostensibly against the General Council but in reality against the Association, were hatched in its midst. At the bottom of these intrigues was the inevitable International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, fathered by the Russian Michael Bakunin. On his return from Siberia, the latter began to write in Herzen's Kolokol, preaching the idea of Pan-Slavism and racial war, conceived out of his long experience. Later, during his stay in Switzerland, he was nominated to head the steering committee of the League of Peace and Freedom, founded in opposition to the International. When this bourgeois society's affairs went from bad to worse, its president, Mr. G. Vogt, acting on Bakunin's advice, proposed to the International's Congress which met at Brussels in September 1868, that it make an alliance with the League. The Congress unanimously proposed two alternatives: either the League should follow the same goal as the International, in which case it would have no reason for existing; or else its goal should be different, in which case an alliance would be impossible. At the League's congress, held in Bern a few days later, Bakunin made an about-face. He proposed a makeshift program whose scientific value may be judged by this single phrase: “economic and social equalization of classes”. Backed by an insignificant minority, he broke with the League in order to join the International, determined to replace the International's General Rules by the makeshift program, which had been rejected by the League, and to replace the General Council by his personal dictatorship. To this end, he created a special instrument, the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, intended to become an International within the International.
Bakunin found the necessary elements for the formation of this society in the relationships he had formed during his stay in Italy, and in a small group of Russian emigrants, serving him as emissaries and recruiting officers among members of the International in Switzerland, France, and Spain. Yet it was only after repeated refusals of the Belgian and Paris federal councils to recognize the Alliance that he decided to submit for the General Council's approval his new society's rules, which were nothing but a faithful reproduction of the “misunderstood“ Bern program. The Council replied with the following circular dated December 22, 1868.
The International Working Men's Association and Bakunin's International Alliance of Socialist Democracy[edit source]
approved by IWMA General Council December 22, 1868
[written in French]
Just about a month ago, a certain number of citizens formed in Geneva the Central Initiating Committee of a new international society named the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, stating that it was their &ldquospecial mission to study political and philosophical questions on the basis of the grand principles of... equality, etc." the program and rules printed by this Initiating Committee were only communicated to the General Council of the International Working Men's Association at its meeting on December 15. According to these documents, the said International Alliance is &ldquoestablished entirely within the... International Working Men's Association", at the same time as it is established entirely outside of the Association.
Besides the General Council of the International Association, elected at the Geneva, Lausanne, and Brussels workingmen's congresses, there is to be, in line with the initiating rules, another Central Council in Geneva, which is self-appointed. Besides the local groups of the International Association, there are to be local groups of the International Alliance, which &ldquothrough their... national bureaus", operating outside the national bureaus of the International Association, &ldquowill ask the Central Bureau of the Alliance to admit them into the International Working Men’s Association"; the Alliance Central Committee thereby takes upon itself the right of admittance to the International Association. Lastly, the General Congress of the International Association will have its parallel in the General Congress of the International Alliance, for, as the initiating rules say, &ldquoAt the annual Working Men's Congress, the delegation of the Alliance of Socialist Democracy, as a branch of the International Working Men's Association, will hold public meetings in a separate building."
That the presence of a second international body operating within and outside the International Working Men's Association will be the most infallible means of its disorganization;
That every other group of individuals, anywhere at all, will have the right to imitate the Geneva initiating group and, under more or less plausible excuses, to bring into the International Working Men's Association other international associations with other "special missions";
That the International Working Men's Association will thereby soon become a plaything for intriguers of every race and nationality;
That the Rules of the International Working Men's Association anyway admit only local and national branches into the Association (see Article 1 and Article 6 of the Rules);
That sections of the International Association are forbidden to give themselves rules or administrative regulations contrary to the General Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International Association (see Article 12 of the Administrative Regulations);
That the Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International Association can only be revised by the General Congress in the event of two-thirds of the delegates present voting in favor of such a revision (see Article 13 of the Administrative Regulations).
The General Council of the International Working Men's Association unanimously agreed at its meeting of December 22, 1868, that:
1. All articles of the Rules of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, defining its relations with the International Working Men's Association, are declared null and void;
2.The International Alliance of Socialist Democracy may not be admitted as a branch of the International Working Men's Association;
3.These resolutions be published in all countries where the International Working Men's Association exists.
G. Odger, Chairman of the meeting
R. Shaw, General Secretary
By order of the General Council
of the International Working Men's Association
A few months later, the Alliance again appealed to the General Council and asked whether, yes or no, it accepted its principles. If yes, the Alliance was ready to dissolve itself into the International's sections. It received a reply in the following circular of March 9, 1869.
Letter of the General Council to The Alliance of Socialist Democracy[edit source]
March 9, 1869
[written in French and English
issued to all International section]
According to Article I of its Statutes, the International Working Men's Association admits "all working men's societies aiming at the same end, viz., the protection, advancement, and complete emancipation of the working classes".
Since the various sections of workingmen in the same country, and the working classes in different countries, are placed under different circumstances and have attained to different degrees of development, it seems almost necessary that the theoretical notions which reflect the real movement should also diverge.
The community of action, however, called into life by the the International Working Men's Association, the exchange of ideas facilitated by the public organs of different national section, and the direct debates at the General Congresses are sure by and by to engender a common theoretical program.
Consequently, it belongs not to the function of the General Council to subject the program of the Alliance to a critical examination. We have not to inquire whether, yes or no, it be a true scientific expression of the working-class movement. All we have to ask is whether its general tendency does not run against the general tendency of the International Working Men's Association, viz., the complete emancipation of the working class?
One phrase in your program lies open to this objection. It occurs [in] Article 2:
"Elle (l'Alliance) veut vant tout l'egalisation politique, economique, et sociale des classes."
["The Alliance wants above all political, economic, and social equalization... of classes."]
The "egalisation des classes", literally interpreted, comes to the "harmony of capital and labor" ("l'harmonie du capital et du travail") so persistently preached by the bourgeois socialists. It is not the logically impossible "equalization of classes", but the historically necessary, superseding "abolition of classes" (abolition des classes), this true secret of the proletarian movement, which forms the great aim of the International Working Men's Association.
Considering, however, the context in which that phrase "egalisation des classes" occurs, it seems to be a mere slip of the pen, and the General Council feels confident that you will be anxious to remove from your program an expression which offers such a dangerous misunderstanding.
It suits the principles of the International Working Men's Association to let every section freely shape its own theoretical program, except the single case of an infringement upon its general tendency. There exists, therefore, no obstacle to the transformation of the sections of the Alliance into sections of the International Working Men's Association.
The dissolution of the Alliance and the entrance of its sections into the International Working Men's Association once settled, it would, according to our Regulations, become necessary to inform the General Council of the residence and the numerical strength of each new section.
Having accepted these conditions, the Alliance was admitted to the International by the General Council, misled by certain signatures affixed to Bakunin's program, and supposing it recognized by the Romance Federal Committee in Geneva, which on the contrary had always refused to have any dealings with it. Thus it had achieved its immediate goal: to be represented at the Basel Congress. Despite the dishonest means employed by his supporters, means used solely on this occassion in an International Congress, Bakunin was deceived in his expectation of seeing the Congress transfer the seat of the General Council to Geneva and give an official sanction to the old St. Simon rubbish, the immediate abolition of hereditary rights which he had made the practical point of departure of socialism. This was the signal for the open and incessant war which the Alliance waged not only against the General Council, but also against all International sections that refused to adopt this sectarian clique's program and particularly the doctrine of total abstention from politics.
Even before the Basel Congress, when Nechayev came to Geneva, Bakunin got together with him and founded, in Russia, a secret society among students. Always hiding his true identity under the name of various "revolutionary committees", he sought autocratic powers based on all the tricks and mystifications of the time of Cagliostro. The main means of propaganda used by this society consisted in compromising innocent people in the eyes of the Russian police by sending them communications from Geneva in yellow envelopes stamped in Russian on the outside "secret revolutionary committee". The published accounts of the Nechayev trial bear witness to the infamous abuse of the International's name.
The Alliance commenced at this time a public polemic directed against the General Council, first in the Locle Progres, then in the Geneva Egalite, the official newspaper of the romance Federation, where several members of the Alliance had followed Bakunin. The General Council, which had scorned the attacks published in Progres, Bakunin's personal organ, could not ignore those from Egalite, which it was bound to believe were approved by the romance Federal Committee. It, therefore, pubblished the circular of January 1, 1870.
“We read in the Egalite of December 11, 1869:
‘It is certain that the General Council is neglecting extremely important matters. We remind it of its obligations under Article I of the Regulations: The General Council is commissioned to carry the resolutions of the Congress into effect, etc. We could put enough questions ot the General Council for its replies to make up quite a long report. They will come later... Meanwhile, etc. ...'
“The General Council does not know of any article, either in the Rules, or the Regulations, which would oblige it to enter into correspondence or into polemic with the Egalite or to provide 'replies to questions' from newspapers. The Federal Committee of Geneva alone represents the branches of Romance Switzerland via-a-vis the General Council. When the Romance Federal Committee addresses requests of reprimands to us through the only legitmiate channel, that is to say through its secretary, the General Council will always be ready to reply. But the Romance Federal Committee has no right either to abdicate its functions in favour of the Egalite and Progres, or to let these newspapers usurp its functions. Generally speaking, the General Council's administrative correspondence with national and local committees cannot be published without greatly prejudicing the Association's general interests. Consequently, if the other organs of the International were to follow the example of the Progres and the Egalite, the General Council would be faced with the alternative of either discrediting itself publicly by its silence or violating its obligations by replying publicly. The Egalite joins the Progres in inviting the Travail (Paris paper) to denounce, on its part, the General Council. That is almost a League of Public Welfare.”
Meanwhile, before having read this circular, the Romance Federal Committee had already expelled supporters of the Alliance from the editorial board of L'Egalite.
The January 1, 1870, circular, like those of December 22, 1868, and March 9, 1869, was approved by all International societies.
It goes without saying that none of the conditions accepted by the Alliance have ever been fulfilled. Its sham sections have remained a mystery to the General Council. Bakunin sought to retain under his personal direction the few groups scattered in Spain and Italy and the Naples section which he had detached from the International. In the other Italian towns, he corresponded with small cliques composed not of workers but of lawyers, journalists, and other bourgeois doctrinaires. At Barcelona, some of his friends maintained his influence. In some towns in the South of France, the Alliance made an effort to found separatist sections under the direction of Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, of Lyon, about whom we shall have more to say later. In a word, the International within the International continued to operate.
The big blow — the attempt to take over the leadership of French Switzerland — was to have been executed by the Alliance at the Chaux-de-Fonds Congress, opened on April 4, 1870.
The battle began over the right to admit the Alliance delegates, which was contested by the delegates of the Geneva Federation and the Chaux-de-Fonds sections.
Although, on their own calculation, the Alliance supporters represented no more than a fifth of the Federation members, they succeeded, thanks to repetition of the Basel maneuvers, in procuring a fictitious majority of one or two votes, a majority which, in the words of their own organ (see Solidarite of May 7, 1870), represented no more than 15 sections, while in Geneva alone there were 30! On this vote, the French-Switzerland Congress split into two groups which continued their meetings independently. The Alliance supporters, considering themselves the legal representatives of the whole of the Federation, transferred the Federal Committee's seat to Chaux-de-Fonds and founded at Neuchatel their official organ, Solidarite, edited by Citizen Guillaume. This young writer had the special job of decrying the Geneva “factory workers”, those odious “bourgeois”, of waging war of L'Egalite, the Federation newspaper, and of preaching total abstention from politics. The authors of the most important articles on this theme were Bastelica in Marseilles and Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc in Lyon, the two big pillars of the Alliance.
On their return, the Geneva delegates convened their sections in a general assembly which, despite opposition from Bakunin and his friends, approved their actions at the Chaux-de-Fonds Congress. A little later, Bakunin and the more active of his accomplices were expelled from the old Romance Federation.
Hardly had the Congress closed when the new Chaux-de-Fonds Committee called for the intervention of the General Council in a latter signed by F. Robert, secretary, and by Henri Chevalley, president, who was denounced two months later as a thief by the Committee's organ, Solidarite, on July 9. After examining the case of both sides, the General Council decided on June 28, 1870, to keep the Geneva Federal Committee in its old functions and invite the new Chaux-de-Fonds Federal Committee to take a local name. In the face of this decision which foiled its plans, the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee denounced the General Council's authoritarianism, forgetting that it had been the first to ask for its intervention. The trouble that the persistent attempts of the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee to usurp the name of the Romance Federal Committee caused the Swiss Federation, obliged the General Council to suspend all official relations with the former.
Louis Bonaparte had just surrendered his army at Sedan. From all sides arose protests from International members against the war’s continuation. In its address of September 9, the General Council, denouncing Prussia’s plans of conquest, indicated the danger of her triumph for the proletarian cause and warned the German workers that they would themselves be the first victims. In England, the General Council organized meetings which condemned the pro-Prussian tendencies of the court. In Germany, the International workers organized demonstrations demanding recognition of the Republic and “an honorable peace for France”....
Meanwhile, his bellicose nature gave the hotheaded Guillaume (of Neuchatel) the brilliant idea of publishing an anonymous manifesto as a supplement, and under cover, of the official newspaper Solidarite, calling for the formation of a Swiss volunteer corps to fight the Prussians, something which he had doubtless always been prevented from doing by his abstentionist convictions.
Then came the Lyon uprising. Bakunin rushed there and, supported by Albert Richard, Gaspard Blanc, and Bastelica, installed himself on September 28 in the town hall — where he refrained from posting a guard, however, lest it be viewed as a political act. He was driven out in shame by some of the National Guard at the moment when, after a difficult accouchement, his decree on the abolition of the state had just seen the light of day.
In October 1870, the General Council, in the absence of its French members, coopted Citizen Paul Robin, a refugee from Brest, one of the best-known supporters of the Alliance, and, what is more, the instigator of several attacks on the General Council in L’Egalite, where, since that moment, he has acted constantly as official correspondent of the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee. On March 14, 1871, he suggested the calling of a private Conference of the International to sift out the Swiss trouble. Foreseeing that important events were in the making in Paris, the Council flatly refused. Robin returned to the question on several occassions and even suggested that the Council take a definite decision on the conflict. On July 25, the General Council decided that this affair would be one of the questions for the Conference due to be convened in September 1871.
On August 10, the Alliance, hardly eager to see its activities looked into by a Conference, declared itself dissolved as from August 6. But, on September 15, it reappeared and requested admission to the Council under the name of the Atheist Socialist Section. According to Administrative Resolution No. V. of the Basel Congress, the Council could not admit it without consulting the Geneva Federal Committee, which was exhausted after its two years of struggle against the sectarian sections. Moreover, the Council had already told the Young Men’s Christian Association that the International did not recognize theological sections.
On August 6, the date of the dissolution of the Alliance, the Chaux-de-Fonds Federal Committee renewed its request to enter into official relations with the Council and said that it would continue to ignore the June 28 resignation and to regard itself, in relation to Geneva, as the Romance Federal Committee, and that it was “up to the General Congress to judge this affair”. On September 4, the same Committee challenged the Conference’s competence, even though it had been the first to call for its convocation. The Conference could have replied by questioning the competence of the Paris Federal Committee, which the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee had, before the siege of Paris, asked to deliberate on the Swiss conflict. But it confined itself to the General Council decision of June 28, 1870 (see the reasons given in L'Egalite of Geneva, October 21, 1871).
The presence, in Switzerland, of some of the outlawed French who had found refuge there put some life back into the Alliance.
The Geneva members of the International did all they could for the emigrants. They came to their aid right from the beginning, initiated a wide campaign, and prevented the Swiss authorities from serving an extradition order on the refugees as demanded by the Versailles government. Several risked grave danger by going to France to help the refugees reach the frontier. Imagine the surprise of the Geneva workers when they saw several of the ringleaders, such as B. Malon, immediately come to an understanding with the Alliance people and with the help of N. Zhukovsky, ex-secretary of the Alliance, try to found at Geneva, outside the Romance Federation, the new “Socialist Revolutionary Propaganda and Action Section”. In the first article of its rules, it “pledges allegiance to the General Rules of the International Working Men's Association, while reserving for itself the complete freedom of action and initiative to which it is entitled as a logical consequence of the principle of autonomy and federation recognized by the Rules and Congresses of the Association.”
In other words, it reserves for itself full freedom to continue the work of the Alliance.
In a letter from Malon of October 20, 1871, this new section for the third time asked the General Council for admission to the International. Confirming to Resolution V of the Basel Congress, the Council consulted the Geneva Federal Committee, which vigorously protested against the Council's recognizing this new “seedbed of intrigues and dissentions”. The Council acted, in fact, in a rather “authoritarian” manner, so as not to bind the whole Federation to the will of B. Malon and N. Zhukovsky, the Alliance's ex-secretary.
Solidarite having gone out of business, the new Alliance supporters founded the Revolution Sociale under the supreme management of Madame Andre Leo, who had just said at the Lausanne Peace Congress that Raoul Rigault and Ferre were the two sinister figures of the Commune who, up till then (up till the execution of the hostages), had not stopped calling for bloody measures, albeit in vain.
From its very first issue, the newspaper hastened to put itself on the same level as Figaro, Gaulois, Paris-Journal, and other disreputable sheets which have been throwing mud at the General Council. It thought the moment opportune to fan the flames of national hatred, even within the International. It called the General Council a German Committee led by a Bismarckian brain.
After having definitely established that certain General Council members could not boast of being “Gauls first and foremost”, the Revolution Sociale could find nothing better than to take up the second slogan put in circulation by the European police and to denounce the Council's “authoritarianism”.
What, then, were the facts on which this childish rubbish rested? The General Council had let the Alliance die a natural death and, in agreement with the Geneva Federal Committee, had prevented it from being resurrected. Moreover, it had suggested to the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee that it take a name which would permit it to live in peace with the great majority of International members in French Switzerland.
Apart from these “authoritarian” acts, what use did the General Council make, between October 1869 and October 1871 of the fairly extensive powers that the Basel Congress had conferred upon it?
1. On February 8, 1870, the Paris “Society of Positivist Proletarians” applied to the General Council for admission. The Council replied that the principles of the Positivists, the part of the society’s special rules concerning capital, were in flagrant contradiction with the preamble of the General Rules; that the society had, therefore, to drop them and join the International not as “Positivists” but as “proletarians”, while remaining free to reconcile their theoretical ideas with the Association's general principles. Realizing the justness of this decision, the section joined the International.
2. At Lyon, there was a split between the 1865 Section and a recently-formed section in which, amid honest workers, the Alliance was represented by Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc. As had been done in similar cases, the judgment of a court of arbitration, formed in Switzerland, was turned down. On February 15, 1870, the recently formed section, besides asking the General Council to resolve the conflict by virtue of Resolution VII of the Basel Congress, sent it a ready-made resolution excluding and branding the members of the 1865 Section, which was to be signed and sent back by return mail. The Council condemned this unprecedented procedure and demanded that the necessary documents be produced. In reply to the same request, the 1865 Section said that the accusatory documents against Albert Richard, which had been submitted to the court of arbitration, were in Bakunin's possession and that he refused to give them up. Consequently, it could not completely satisfy the desires of the General Council. The Council's decision on the affair, dated March 8, met with no objection from either side.
3. The French section in London, which had admitted people of a more than dubious character, had been gradually transformed into a concern virtually controlled by Mr. Felix Pyat. He used it to organize damaging demonstrations calling for the assassination of Louis Bonaparte, etc., and to spread his absurd manifestos in France under cover of the International. The General Council confined itself to declaring, in the Association’s organs, that Mr. Pyat was not a member of the International and it could not be responsible for his actions. The French branch then declared that it no longer recognized either the General Council or the Congresses; it plastered the walls of London with handbills proclaiming that, with the exception of itself, the International was an anti-revolutionary society. The arrest of French members of the International on the eve of the plebiscite, on the pretext of a conspiracy — plotted in reality by the police and to which Pyat’s manifestos gave an air of credibility — forced the General Council to publish in La Marseillaise and Reveil its resolution of May 10, 1870, declaring that the so-called French branch had not belonged to the International for over two years, and that its agitation was the work of police agents. The need for this demarche was proved by the declaration of the Paris Federal Committee, published in the same newspapers, and by that of the Paris members of the International during their trial, both declarations referring to the Council’s resolution. The French branch disappeared at the outbreak of the war, but, like the Alliance in Switzerland, it was to reappear in London with new allies and under other names.
During the last days of the Conference, a French section of 1871, about 35 members strong, was formed in London among the Commune refugees. The first “authoritarian” act of the General Council was to publicly denounce the secretary of this section, Gustave Durand, as a French police spy. The documents in our possession prove the intention of the police first to assist Durand to attend the Conference and then to secure for him membership in the General Council. Since the rules of the new section directed its members not to accept any delegation to the General Council other than from its section, Citizen Theisz and Bastelica withdrew from the Council.
On October 17, the section delegated to the Council two of its members, holding imperative mandates; one was none other than Mr. Chautard, ex-member of the artillery committee. The Council refused to admit them prior to an examination of the rules of the 1871 Section. Suffice it to recall here the principal point of the debate to which these rules gave rise. Article 2 states:
“To be admitted as member of the section, a person must provide information as to his means of sustenance, present guarantees of morality, etc.”
In its resolution of October 17, 1871, the Council proposed deleting the words “provide information as to his means of sustenance”.
“In dubious cases,” said the Council, “a section may well take information about means of sustenance as a ‘guarantee of morality’, while in other cases, like those of refugees, workers on strike, etc., absence of means of sustenance may well be a guarantee of morality. But to ask candidates to provide information as to their means of sustenance as a general condition to be admitted to the International would be a bourgeois innovation contrary to the spirit and letter of the General Rules.”
The section replied:
“The General Rules make the sections responsible for the morality of their members and, as a consequence, recognize their right to demand such guarantees as they deem necessary.”
To this, the General Council replied, November 7:
“On this argument, a section of the International founded by teetotalers could include in its own rules this type of article: To be admitted as a member of the section, a person must swear to abstain from all alcoholic drinks. In other words, the most absurd and most incongruous conditions of admittance into the International could be imposed by sections’ rules, always on the pretext that they intend, in this way, to be assured of the morality of their members....
‘The means of sustenance of strikers’, adds the French Section of 1871, ‘consist of the strike fund’. This might be answered by saying, first, that this ‘fund’ is often fictitious....
Moreover, official English questionnaires have proved that the majority of English workers... are forced — by strikes or unemployment, by insufficient wages or terms of payment, as well as many other causes — to resort incessantly to pawnshops or to borrowing money. These are means of sustenance about which one cannot demand information without interfering in an unqualified manner in a person's private life. There are thus two alternatives:
— either the section is only to seek guarantees of morality through means of sustenance, in which case the General Council's proposal serves the purpose....
— Or the section, in Article 2 of its rules, intentionally says that the members have to provide information as to their means of sustenance as a condition of admission, over and above the guarantees of morality, in which case the Council affirms that it is a bourgeois innovation contrary to the spirit and letter of the General Rules.”
Article 11 of their rules states:
“One or several delegates shall be sent to the General Council.”
The Council asked for this article to be deleted
“because the International’s General Rules do not recognize any right of the sections to send delegates to the General Council.’
“The General Rules,” it added, “recognize only two ways of election for General Council members: either their election by the Congress, or their co-option by the General Council....”
It is quite true that the different sections in London had been invited to send delegates to the General Council, which, so as not to violate the General Rules, has always proceeded in the following manner: It has first determined the number of delegates to be sent by each section, reserving itself the right to accept or refuse them depending on whether it considered them able to fulfill the general functions assigned to them. These delegates became members of the General Council not by virtue that the Rules accord the Council to co-opt new members. Having operated up to the decision taken by the last Conference both as the International Association's General Council and as the Central Council for England, the London Council thought it expedient to admit, besides the members that it co-opted directly, also members nominated initially by their respective sections. It would be a serious mistake to identify the General Council’s electoral procedure with the of the Paris Federal Council, which was not even a national Council nominated by a national Congress like, for example, the Brussels Federal Council or that of Madrid. The Paris Federal Council was only a delegation of the Paris sections.... The General Council’s electoral procedure if defined in the General Rules... and its member would not know how to accept any other imperative mandate than that of the Rules and General Regulations.... If we take into consideration the article that precedes it, Article 11 means nothing else but a complete change of the General Council’s composition, turning it, contrary to Article 3 of the General Rules, into a delegation of the London sections, in which the influence of local groups would be substituted for that of the whole International Working Men's Association. Lastly, the General Council, whose first duty is to carry out the Congress resolutions (see Article 1 of the Geneva Congress’ Administrative Regulations), said that it
“Considers that the ideas expressed by the French section of 1871 about a radical change to be made in the articles of the General Rules concerning the constitution of the General Council have no bearing on the question....”
Moreover, the Council declared that it would admit two delegates from the section on the same conditions as those of the other London sections.
The 1871 Section, far form being satisfied with this reply, published on December 14 a “declaration’ signed by all its members, including the new secretary, who was shortly expelled as a scoundrel from the refugee society. According to this declaration, the General Council, by refusing to usurp the legislative functions, was accused of “a gross distortion of the social idea”.
Here are some sample of the good faith displayed in the drawing up of this document:
The London Conference approved the conduct of the German workers during the [Franco-Prussian] war. It was apparent that this resolution, proposed by a Swiss delegate [Outine], seconded by a Belgian delegate, and approved unanimously, referred only to the German members of the International, who paid and are still paying for their anti-chauvinist behavior during the war by imprisonment. Furthermore, in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation, the Secretary of the General Council for France [Serraillier] had just explained the true sense of the resolution in a letter published by the journals Qui Vive!, Constitution, Radical, Emancipation, Europe, etc. Nonetheless, eight days later, on November 23, 1871, 15 members of the ‘French Section of 1871’ inserted in Qui Vive! a “protest” full of abuse against the German workers and denouncing the Conference resolution as irrefutable proof of the General Council’s “pan-Germanic idea”. On the other hand, the entire feudal, liberal, and police press of Germany seized avidly upon this incident to demonstrate to the German workers how their international dreams had come to naught. In the end, the November 29 protest was endorsed by the entire 1871 Section in its December 14 declaration.
To show “the dangerous slope of authoritarianism down which the General Council [was] slipping”, the declaration cited “the publication by the very same General Council of an official edition of the General Rules as revised by it.”
One glance at the new edition of the Rules is enough to see that each new article has, in the appendix, reference to the original sources establishing its authenticity! As for the words “official edition”, the 1st Congress of the International decided that “the official and obligatory text of the Rules and Regulation” would be published by the General Council (see “Working Congress of the International Working Men's Association held at Geneva from September 3 to 8, 1866”, page 27, note).
Naturally enough, the 1871 Section was in continuous contact with the dissident of Geneva and Neuchatel. One Chalain, a member who has shown more energy in attacking the General Council than he had ever shown in defending the Commune, was unexpectedly rehabilitated by B. Malon, who had earlier leveled very grave charges against him in a letter in to a Council member. The French Section of 1871, however, had scarcely launched its declaration when civil war exploded in its ranks. First Theisz, Avrial, and Camelinat withdrew. Thereafter, the section broke up into several small groups, one of which was led by Mr. Pierre Vesinier, expelled by the General Council for his slander against Varlin and others, and then expelled for the International by the Belgian Commission appoint by the Brussels Congress of 1868. Another of these groups was founded by B. Landeck, who had been relieved by the sudden flight of police prefect Pierri, on September 4, of his obligation, “scrupulously fulfilled, not to engage any more in political affairs, nor in the International in France” (see Third Trial of the International Working Men’s Association in Paris, 1870”, p.4).
On the other hand, the mass of French refugees in London have formed a section which is in complete harmony with the General Council.
The men of the Alliance, hidden behind the Neuchatel Federal Committee and determined to make another effort on a vaster scale to disorganize the International, convened a Congress of their sections at Sonvillier on November 12, 1871. Back in July, two letters from maitre Guillaume to his friend Robin had threatened the General Council with an identical campaign if it did not agree to recognize them to be in the right "vis-a-vis the Geneva bandits".
The Sonvillier Congress was composed of 16 delegates claiming to represent nine section in all, including the new "Socialist Revolutionary Propaganda and Action Section" in Geneva.
The Sixteen made their debut by publishing the anarchist decree declaring the Romance Federation dissolved, and the latter retaliated by restoring to the Alliance members their “autonomy” by driving them out of all sections. However, the Council had to recognize that a stroke of good sense brought them to accept the same Jura Federation, which the London Conference had given them.
The Congress of Sixteen then proceeded to “reorganize” the International by attacking the Conference and the General Council in a “Circular to All Federations of the International Working Men's Association”.
Those responsible for the circular accused the General Council primarily of having called a Conference instead of a Congress in 1871. The preceding explanations show that these attacks were made directly against the International as a whole, which had unanimously agreed to convene a Conference, at which, incidentally, the Alliance was conveniently represented by Citizens Robin and Bastelica.
The General Council has had its delegates at every Congress; at the Basel Congress, for example, it had six. The Sixteen claim that “the majority of the Conference was fraudulently assured in advance by the admission of six General Council delegates with a deciding vote”.
In actual fact, among the General Council delegates at the Conference, the French refugees were none other than the representatives of the Paris Commune, while its English and Swiss members could take part in the sessions only on rare occassions, as is attested to by the minutes, which will be submitted before the next Congress. One Council delegate had a mandate from a national federation. According to a letter addressed to the Conference, the mandate of another [Marx] was withheld because of the news of his death in the papers. That left one delegate. Thus, the Belgians alone outnumbered the Council by 6-to-1.
The international police, who in the person of Gustave Durand were kept out, complained bitterly about the violation of the General Rules by the convening of a “secret” conference. They were not conversant enough with our General Regulations to know that the administrative sittings of the Congress have to be in private.
Their complaints, nonetheless, found a sympathetic echo with the Sonvillier Sixteen, who cried out:
“And on top of it all, a decision of this Conference declares that the General Council will itself fix the time and place of the next Congress or of the Conference to replace it; thus we are threatened with the suppression of the General Congresses, these great public sessions of the International.”
The Sixteen refused to see that this decision was affirmed before the various governments only to show that, despite all the repressive measures, the International was firmly resolved to hold its general meetings one way or another.
At the general assembly of the Geneva sections, held on December 2, 1871, which gave a bad reception to Citizens Malon and Lefrancais, the latter put forward a proposal confirming the decrees passed by the Sonvillier Sixteen and censuring the General Council, as well as disavowing the Conference. The Conference had resolved that
“the Conference resolutions which are not due to be published shall be communicated to the federal councils of the various countries by the corresponding secretaries of the General Council.”
This resolution, which was in complete conformity with the General Rules and Regulations, was fraudulently revised by B. Malon and his friends to read as follows:
“Some Conference resolutions shall be communicated only to the federal councils and to the corresponding secretaries.”
They further accused the General Council of having “violated the principle of sincerity” in refusing to hand over to the police, by means of “publicity”, the resolutions which were aimed exclusively at reorganizing the International in the countries were it is proscribed.
Citizens Malon and Lefrancais complain further that
“the Conference aimed a blow at freedom of thought and its expression... in conferring upon the General Council the right to denounce and disavow any publicity organ of the sections or federations that discussed either the principles on which the Association rests, or the respective interests of the sections and federations, or finally the general interests of the Association as a whole (see L'Egalite of October 21)”
What, then had L'Egalite of October 21 published? It had published a resolution in which the Conference
“gives warning that henceforth the General Council will be bound to publicly denounce and disavow all newspapers calling themselves organs of the International which, following the precedents of Progres and Solidarite, discuss in their columns, before the middle-class public, questions exclusively reserved for the local or federal committees and the General Council, or for the private and administrative sittings of the Federal or General Congresses.”
To appreciate properly the spiteful lamentations of B. Malon, we must bear in mind that this resolution puts an end, once and for all, to the the attempts of some journalists who wished to substitute themselves for the main committees of the International and to play therein the role that the journalists’ bohemia is playing in the bourgeois world. As a result of one such attempt, the Geneva Federal Committee had seen some members of the Alliance edit L'Egalite, the official organ of the Romance Federation, in a manner completely hostile to the latter.
Incidentally, the general Council had no need of the London Conference to “publicly denounce and disavow” the improper use of the press, for the Basel Congress had decided (Resolution II) that:
“All newspapers countenancing attacks on the Association must be immediately sent by the sections to the General Council.”
“It is evident,” says the Romance Federal Committee in its December 20, 1871, declaration (L'Egalite, December 24), “that this article was adopted not in order that the General Council might keep in its files newspapers which attack the Association, but to enable it to reply, and to nullify in case of need, the pernicious effect of slander and malevolent denigrations. It is also evident that this article refers in general to all newspapers, and that if we do not want to leave the attacks of the bourgeois papers without retaliation, it is all the more necessary to disavow, through our main representative body — i.e., the General Council — those newspapers whose attacks against us are made under cover of the name of our Association.”
Let us not in passing that the Times, that Leviathan of the capitalist press, Progres (of Lyon), a publication of the liberal bourgeoisie, and the Journal de Geneve, an ultra-reactionary paper, have brought the same charges against the Conference and used virtually the same terms as Citizens Malon and Lefrancais.
After having challenged the convocation of the Conference and, later, its composition and its allegedly secret character, the Sixteen’s circular challenged the Conference resolutions.
Stating first that the Basel Congress had surrendered its rights “having authorized the General Council to grant or refuse admission to, or to suspend, the sections of the International,” it accuses the Conference, farther on, of the following sin:
“This Conference has... taken resolutions... which tend to turn the International, which is a free federation of autonomous sections, into a hierarchical and authoritarian organization of disciplined sections placed entirely under the control of a General Council which may, at will, refuse their admission or suspend their activity”!
Still farther on, the circular once more takes up the question of the Basel Congress having allegedly “distorted the nature of the General Council's functions”.
The contradictions contained in the circular of the Sixteen may be summed up as follows: the 1871 Conference is responsible for the resolutions of the 1869 Basel Congress, and the General Council is guilty of having observed the Rules which require it to carry out Congress resolutions.
Actually, however, the real reason for all these attacks against the Conference is of a more profound nature. In the first place, it thwarted, by its resolutions, the intrigues of the Alliance men in Switzerland. In the second place, the promoters of the Alliance had, in Italy, Spain, and part of Switzerland and Belgium, created and upheld with amazing persistence a calculated confusion between the program of the International Working Men’s Association and Bakunin’s makeshift program.
The Conference drew attention to this deliberate misunderstanding in its two resolutions on proletarian policy and sectarian sections. The motivation of the first resolution, which makes short work of the political abstention preached by Bakunin’s program, is given fully in its recitals, which are based on the General Rules, the Lausanne Congress resolution, and other precedents.
We now pass on to the sectarian sections:
The first phase of the proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie is marked by a sectarian movement. That is logical at a time when the proletariat has not yet developed sufficiently to act as a class. Certain thinkers criticize social antagonisms and suggest fantastic solutions thereof, which the mass of workers is left to accept, preach, and put into practice. The sects formed by these initiators are abstentionist by their very nature — i.e., alien to all real action, politics, strikes, coalitions, or, in a word, to any united movement. The mass of the proletariat always remains indifferent or even hostile to their propaganda. The Paris and Lyon workers did not want the St.-Simonists, the Fourierists, the Icarians, any more than the Chartists and the English trade unionists wanted the Owenites. These sects act as levers of the movement in the beginning, but become an obstruction as soon as the movement outgrows them; after which they became reactionary. Witness the sects in France and England, and lately the Lassalleans in Germany, who after having hindered the proletariat’s organization for several years ended up becoming simple instruments of the police. To sum up, we have here the infancy of the proletarian movement, just as astrology and alchemy are the infancy of science. If the International were to be founded, it was necessary that the proletariat go through this phase.
Contrary to the sectarian organization, with their vagaries and rivalries, the International is a genuine and militant organization of the proletarian class of all countries, united in their common struggle against the capitalists and the landowners, against their class power organized in the state. The International’s Rules, therefore, speak of only simple “workers’ societies”, all aiming for the same goal and accepting the same program, which presents a general outline of the proletarian movement, while having its theoretical elaboration to be guided by the needs of the practical struggle and the exchange of ideas in the sections, unrestrictedly admitting all shades of socialist convictions in their organs and Congresses.
Just as in every new historical phase old mistakes reappear momentarily only to disappear forthwith, so within the International there followed a resurrection of sectarian sections, though in a less obvious form.
The Alliance, which considers the resurrection of the sects a great step forward, is in itself conclusive proof that their time is over: for if initially they contained elements of progress, the program of the Alliance, in the tow of a “Mohammed without the Koran”, is nothing but a heap of pompously worded ideas long since dead and capable only of frightening bourgeois idiots or serving as evidence to be used by the Bonapartist or other prosecutors against members of the International.
The Conference, at which all shades of socialism were represented, unanimously acclaimed the resolution against sectarian sections, fully convinced that this resolution, stressing once again the International's true character, would mark a new stage of its development. The Alliance supporters, whom this resolution dealt a fatal blow, construed it only as the General Council's victory over the International, through which, as their circular pointed out, the General Council assured “the domination of the special program” of some of its members, “their personal doctrine”, “the orthodox doctrine”, “the official theory, and only one permissible within the Association”. Incidently, this was not the fault of those few members, but the necessary consequence, “the corrupting effect”, of the fact that they were members of the General Council, for “it is absolutely impossible for a person who has power” (!) “over his fellows to remain a moral person. The General Council is becoming a hotbed of intrigue”.
According to the opinion of the Sixteen, the General Rules of the International should be censured for the grave mistakes of authorizing the General Council to co-opt new members. Thus authorized, they claim, “the Council could, whenever it saw fit, co-opt a group numerous enough to completely change the nature of its majority and its tendencies”.
They seem to think that the mere fact of belonging to the General Council is sufficient to destroy not only a person's morality, but also his common sense. How else can we suppose that a majority will transform itself into a minority by voluntary co-options?
At any rate, the Sixteen themselves do not appear to be very sure of all this, for they complain farther on that the General Council has been “composed for five years running of the same persons, continually reelected”, and immediately afterwards they repeat: “Most of them are not regular mandatories, not having been elected by a Congress.”
The fact is that the body of the General Council is constantly changing, though some of the founding members remain, as in the federal councils in Belgium, French Switzerland, etc.
The General Council must fulfill three essential conditions if it is to carry out its mandate. In the first place, it must have a numerically adequate membership to carry on its diverse functions; second, a membership of “workingmen belonging to the different nations represented in the International Association”; and, lastly, laborers must be the pre-dominant element therein. Since the exigencies of the worker’s job incessantly cause changes in the membership of the General Council, how can it fulfill all these indispensable conditions without the right of co-option? The Council nonetheless considers a more precise definition of this right necessary, as it indicated at the recent Conference.
The reelection of the General Council’s original membership, at successive Congresses at which England was definitely under-represented, would seem to prove that it has done its duty within the limits of the means at its disposal. The Sixteen, on the contrary, view this only as a proof of the “blind confidence of the Congresses”, carried at Basel to the point of “a sort of voluntary abdication in favor of the General Council”.
In their opinion, the Council’s “normal role” should be “that of a simple correspondence and statistical bureau”. They justify this definition by adducing several articles extracted from an incorrect translation of the Rules.
Contrary to the rules of all bourgeois societies, the International’s General Rules touch only lightly on its administrative organization. They leave its development to practice, and its regularization to future Congresses. Nevertheless, inasmuch as only the unity and joint action of the sections of the various countries could give them a genuinely international character, the Rules pay more attention to the Council than to the other bodies of the organization.
Article 6 of the original Rules states: “The General Council shall form an international agency between the different national and local groups”, and proceeds to give some examples of the manner in which it is to function. Among these examples is a request to the Council to see that “when immediate practical steps should be needed — as, for instance, in case of international quarrels — the action of the associated societies be simultaneous and uniform.”
The article continues:
“Whenever it seems opportune, the General Council shall take the initiative of proposals to be laid before the different national or local societies.”
In addition, the Rules define the Council’s role in convening and arranging Congresses, and charge it with the preparation of certain reports to be submitted thereto. In the original Rules, so little distinction is made between the independent action of various groups and unity of action of the Association as a whole, that Article 6 states:
“Since the success of the workingmen's movement in each country cannot be secured but by the power of union and combination, while, on the other hand, the activity of the General Council will be more effective... the members of the International Association shall use their utmost efforts to combine the disconnected workingmen’s societies of their respective countries into national bodies, represented by central national organs.”
The first administrative resolution of the Geneva Congress (Article I) says:
“The General Council is commissioned to carry the resolution of the Congress into effect.”
This resolution legalized the position that the General Council has held ever since its origin: that of the Association’s executive delegation. It would be difficult to carry out orders without enjoying moral “authority” in the absence of any other “freely recognized authority”. The Geneva Congress at the same time charged the General Council with publishing “the official and obligatory text of the Rules”.
The same Congress resolved (Administrative Resolution of Geneva, Article 14):
“Every section has the right to draw up its own rules and regulations adapted to local conditions and to the laws of its own country, but they must not contain anything contrary to the General Rules and Regulations.”
Let us note, first of all, that these is not the least allusion either to any special declarations of principles or to any special tasks which this or that section should set itself apart from the common goal pursued by all the groups of the International. The issue simply concerns the right of sections to adapt the General Rules and Regulations to local conditions and to the laws of their country.
In the second place, who is to establish whether or not the particular rules conform to the General Rules? Evidently, if there were no “authority” charged with this function, the resolution would be null and void. Not only could police and hostile sections be formed, but also the intrusion of declassed sectarians and bourgeois philanthropists into the Association could warp its character and, by force of numbers at Congresses, crush the workers.
Since their origin, the national and local federations have exercised in their respective countries the right to admit or reject new sections, according to whether or not their rules conformed to the General Rules. The exercise of the same function by the General Council is provided for in Article 6 of the General Rules, which allows local independent societies — i.e., societies formed outside the federal body in the country concerned — the right to establish direct contacts with the General Council. The Alliance did not hesitate to exercise this right in order to fulfill the conditions set for the admission of delegates to the Basel Congress.
Article 6 of the Rules deals further with legal obstacles to the formation of national federations in certain countries where, consequently, the General Council is asked to function as a Federal Council (see Minutes of the Lausanne Congress, etc., 1867, p.13).
Since the fall of the Commune, these legal obstacles have been multiplying in the various countries, making action by the General Council therein, designed to keep doubtful elements out of the Association, more necessary than ever. That is why the French committees recently demanded the General Council’s intervention to rid themselves of informers, and why in another great country [Austria] members of the International requested it not to recognize any section which had not been formed by its direct mandates or by themselves. Their request was motivated by the necessity to rid themselves of agents-provocateurs, whose burning zeal manifested itself in the rapid formation of sections of unparalleled radicalism. On the other hand, the so-called anti-authoritarian sections do not hesitate to appeal to the Council the moment a conflict arises in their midst, or even to ask it to deal severely with their adversaries, as in the case of the Lyons conflict. More recently, since the Conference, the Turin “Workers' Federation” decided to declare itself a section of the International. As the result of the split that followed, the minority formed the Emancipation of the Proletariat Society. It joined the International and began by passing a resolution in favor of the Jura people. Its newspaper, Il Proletario, is filled with outbursts against all authoritarianism. When sending in the society's subscriptions, the secretary [Carlo Terzaghi] warned the General Council that the old federation would probably also send its subscriptions.
Then he continues:
“As you will have read in Il Proletario, the Emancipation of the Proletariat Society... has declared... its rejection of all solidarity with the bourgeoisie who, under the mask of workers, are organizing the Workers’ Federation,” and begs the Council to “communicate this resolution to all sections and to refuse the 10 centimes in subscriptions in the event of their being sent.”
Like all the International’s groups, the General Council is required to carry on propaganda. This it has accomplished through its manifestos and its agents, who laid the basis for the first organizations of the International in North America, in Germany, and in many French towns.
Another function of the General Council is to aid strikers and organize their support by the entire International (see General Council reports to the various Congresses). The following fact, inter alia, indicates the importance of its intervention in the strike movement. The Resistance Society of the English Foundrymen is in itself an international trade union with branches in other countries, notably in the United States. Nonetheless, during a strike of American foundrymen, the latter found it necessary to invoke the intercession of the General Council to prevent English foundrymen being brought into America.
The growth of the International obliged the General Council and all federal councils to assume the role of arbiter.
The Brussels Congress resolved that:
“The federal councils are obliged to send a report every quarter to the General Council on their administration and financial states” (Administrative Resolution No.3).
Lastly, the Basel Congress, which provokes the bilious wrath of the Sixteen, occupied itself solely with regulating the administrative relations engendered by the Association’s continuing development. If it extended unduly the limits of the General Council’s powers, whose fault was it if not that of Bakunin, Schwitzgeubel, F. Robert, Guillaume, and other delegates of the Alliance, who were so anxious to achieve just that? Or will they accuse themselves of “blind confidence” in the London General Council?
Here are two resolutions of the Basel Congress:
“No.IV. Each new section or society which is formed and wishes to be part of the International must immediately announce its adhesion to the General Council,”
“No.V. The General Council has the right to admit or reject the affiliation of any new society or group, subject to appeal at the next Congress.”
As for the local independent societies formed outside the federal body, these articles only confirm the practice observed since the International’s origin, maintenance of which is a matter of life or death for the Association. But extending this practice and applying it indiscriminately to every section or society in the process of formation is going too far. These articles do authorize the General Council to intervene in the internal affairs of the federations; but they have never been applied in this sense by the General Council. It defies the Sixteen to cite a single case where it has intervened in the affairs of new sections desirous of affiliating themselves with existing groups or federations.
The resolutions cited above refer to sections in the process of formation, while the resolutions given below refer to sections already recognized:
“VI. The General Council has equally the right to suspend until the next Congress any section of the International.”
“VII. When conflicts arise between the societies or branches of a national group, or between groups of different nationalities, the General Council shall have the right to decide the conflict, subject to appeal at the next Congress, which will decide definitely.”
These two articles are necessary for extreme cases, although up to the present the General Council has never had recourse to them. The review presented above shows that the Council has never suspended any section, and in cases of conflict has only acted as arbiter at the request of the two parties.
We arrive, at last, at a function imposed on the General Council by the needs of the struggle. However shocking this may be for supporters of the Alliance, it is the very persistence of the attacks to which the General Council is subjected by all the enemies of the proletarian movement that has placed it in the vanguard of the defenders of the International Working Men’s Association.
Having dealt with the International, such as it is, the Sixteen proceed to tell us what it should be.
First, the General Council should be nominally a simple correspondence and statistical bureau. Once it has been relieved of its administrative functions, its correspondence would be concerned only with reproducing the information already published in the Association's newspapers. The correspondence bureau would thus become needless. As for statistics, that function is possible only if a strong organization, and especially, as the original Rules expressly say, a common direction are provided. Since all that smacks very much of “authoritarianism”, however, there might perhaps be a bureau, but certainly no statistics. In a word, the General Council would disappear. The federal councils, the local committees, and other “authoritarian” centres, would go by the same token. Only the autonomous sections would remain.
What, one may ask, will be the purpose of these “autonomous sections”, freely federated and happily rid of all superior bodies, “even of the superior body elected and constituted by the workers”?
Here, it becomes necessary to supplement the circular by the report of the Jura Federal Committee submitted to the Congress of the Sixteen:
“In order to make the working class the real representative of humanity’s new interests,” its organization must be “guided by the idea that will triumph. To evolve this idea from the needs of our epoch, from mankind’s vital aspirations, by a consistent study of the phenomena of social life, to then carry this idea to our workers’ organizations — such should be our aim,” etc. Lastly, there must be created “amid our working population a real revolutionary socialist school.”
Thus, the autonomous workers’ sections are in a trice converted into schools, of which these gentlemen of the Alliance will be the masters. They “evolve” the idea by “consistent” studies which leave no trace behind. They then “carry this idea to our workers’ organizations”. To them, the working class is so much raw material, a chaos into which they must breathe their Holy Spirit before it acquires a shape.
All of which is but a paraphrase of the old Alliance program, which begins with these words:
“The socialist minority of the League of Peace and Freedom, having separated itself from the league,” proposes to found “a new Alliance of Socialist Democracy... having a special mission to study political and philosophical questions....”
This is the “idea” that is being “evolved” therefrom:
“Such an enterprise... would provide sincere socialist democrats of Europe and America with the means of being understood and of affirming their ideas.”
That is how, on its own admission, the minority of a bourgeois society slipped into the International shortly before the Basel Congress with the exclusive aim of utilizing it as a means for posing before the working masses as a hierarchy of a secret science that may be expounded in hour phrases and whose culminating point is “the economic and social equalization of the classes.”
Apart from this “theoretical mission”, the new organization proposed for the International also has its practical aspect.
“The future society,” says the circular of the Sixteen, “should be nothing but a universalization of the organization which the International will establish for itself. We must therefore take care to bring this organization as near as possible to our ideal.... How could one expect an egalitarian and free society to grow out of an authoritarian organization? That is impossible. The International, embryo of the future human society, must be, from now on, the faithful image of our principles of liberty and federation.”
In other words, just as the mediaeval convents presented an image of celestial life, so the International must be the image of the New Jerusalem, whose embryo the Alliance bears in its womb. The Paris Communards would not have failed if they had understood that the Commune was “the embryo of the future human society” and had cast away all discipline and all arms — that is, the things which must disappear when there are no more wars!
Bakunin, however, the better to establish that, despite their “consistent study”, the Sixteen did not hatch this pretty project of disorganization and disarmament in the International when it was fighting for its existence, has just published the original text of that project in his report on the International's organization (see Almanach du Peuple pour 1872, Geneve).
Now, turn to the report presented by the Jura Committee at the Congress of the Sixteen.
“A perusal of the report,” says their official organ, Revolution Sociale (November 16), “will give the exact measure of the devotion and practical intelligence that we can expect from the Jura Federation members.”
It begins by attributing to “these terrible events” — the Franco-Prussia War and the Civil War in France — a “somewhat demoralizing influence... on the situation within the International’s sections.”
If, in fact, the Franco-Prussian War could not but lead to the disorganization of the sections because it drew great numbers of workers into the two armies, it is no less true that the fall of the Empire and Bismarck's open proclamation of a war of conquest provoked in Germany and England a violent struggle between the bourgeoisie, which side with the Prussians, and the proletariat, which more than ever demonstrated its international sentiments. This alone should have been sufficient for the International to have gained ground in both countries. In America, the same fact produced a split between in the vast German proletarian emigre group, the internationalist party definitely dissociating itself from the chauvinist party.
On the other hand, the advent of the Paris Commune gave an unprecedented boost to the expansion of the International and to a vigorous support of its principles by sections of all nationalities, except the Jura sections, whose report continues thus:
“The beginning of the gigantic battle... has caused people to think... some go away to hide their weakness.... For many, this situation” (within their ranks) “is a sign of decrepitude,” but “on the contrary... this situation is capable of transforming the International completely,” according to their own pattern.
This modest wish will be understood more completely after a deeper examination of so propitious a situation.
Leaving aside the dissolved Alliance, since replaced by the Malon section, the Committee had to report on the situation in 20 sections. Among them, seven simply turned their backs on the Alliance. This is what the report has to say about it:
“The section of box makers and that of engravers and designers of Bienne have never replied to any of the communications that we sent them. The sections of Neuchatel craftsmen, i.e., joiners, box makers, engravers, and designers, have made no reply to letters from the Federal Committee. We have not been able to obtain any news of the Val-de-Ruz section. The section of engravers and designers of Locle have given no reply to letters from the Federal Committee.”
That is what is described as free intercourse between autonomous sections and their Federal Committee.
Another section, that “of engravers and designers of the Courtelary district, after three years of stubborn perseverance... at the present time... is forming a resistance society” — independent of the International, which does not in the least deter them from sending two delegates to the Congress of the Sixteen.
Next come four completely defunct sections:
“The central section of Bienne has currently been dissolved; one of its devoted members wrote to us recently, however, saying that all hope of seeing the rebirth of the International at Bienne is not lost. The Saint-Blaise section has been dissolved. The Catebat section, after a brilliant existence, has had to yield to the intrigues woven by the masters” (!) “of this district in order to dissolve this valiant” (?) “section. Lastly, the Corgement section also has fallen victim of intrigue on the part of the employers.”
The central section of the Courtelary district follows, which “took the wise step of suspending its activity”; which did not deter it from sending two delegates to the Congress of the Sixteen.
Now we come to four sections whose existence is more than problematical.
“The Grange section has been reduced to a small nucleus of socialist workers.... Their local action is paralyzed by their numerically modest membership. The central section of Neuchatel has suffered considerably from the events, and would inevitably have disbanded except for the dedication and activity of some of its members. The central section of Locle, hovering between life and death for some months, ended up by being dissolved. It has been reconstituted quite recently, however,” evidently for the sole purpose of sending two delegates to the Congress of the Sixteen. “The Chaux-de-Fonds section of socialist propaganda is in a critical situation.... Its position, far from getting better, tends rather to deteriorate.”
Next come two sections, the study circles of Saint-Imier and of Sonvillier, which are mentioned only in passing, without so much as a word about their circumstances.
There remains the model section, which, to judge by its name of central section, is nothing but the residue of other defunct sections.
“The central section of Moutier is certainly the one that has suffered least.... Its Committee has been in constant contact with the Federal Committee... no sections have yet been founded....”
That is easily explained:
“The action of the Moutier section was particularly favoured by the excellent attitude of a working population... given to their traditional ways; we would like to see the working class of this district make itself still more independent of political elements.”
One can see, in fact, that this report
“gives the exact measure of the devotion and practical intelligence that we can expect from the Jura Federation members.”
They might have rounded it off by adding that the workers of Chaux-de-Fonds, the original seat of their committee, have always refused to have anything to do with them. Just recently, at the general assembly of January 18, 1872, they replied to the circular of the Sixteen by a unanimous vote confirming the London Conference resolutions and also the French Switzerland Congress resolution of May 1871:
“To exclude forever from the International Bakunin, Guillaume, and their supporters.”
Is it necessary to say anything more about the courage of this sham Sonvillier Congress, which, in its own words, “caused war, open war, within the International”?
Certainly these men, who make more noise than their stature warrants, have had an incontestable success. The whole of the liberal and police press have openly taken their side; they have been backed in their personal slander of the General Council and the insipid attacks aimed against the International by ostensible reformers in many lands: by the bourgeois republicans in England, whose intrigues were exposed by the General Council; by the dogmatic free-thinkers in Italy who, under the banner of Stefanoni, have just formed a “Universal Rationalist Society” with permanent headquarters in Rome, and “authoritarian” and “hierarchical” organization of monasteries for atheist monks and nuns, whose rules provide for a marble bust in the Congress hall for every bourgeois who donates 10,000 francs; and lastly by the Bismarck socialists in Germany who, apart from their police mouthpiece, the Neuer Social-Demokrat, played the role of “white shirts” for the Prusso-German Empire.
The Sonvillier conclave, in a pathetic appeal, requests all sections of the International to insist on the urgency of an immediate Congress “to curb the consistent encroachments of the London Council,” according to Citizens Malon and Lefrancais, but actually to replace the International with the Alliance. This appeal received such an encouraging response, that they immediately set about falsifying a resolution voted at the last Belgian Congress. Their official organ (Revolution Sociale, January 4, 1872) writes as follows:
“Lastly, which is even more important, the Belgian sections met at the Congress of Brussels on December 14 and 25 and voted unanimously for a resolution identical with that of the Sonvillier Congress, on the urgency of convening a General Congress.”
It is important to note that the Belgian congress voted the very opposite. It charged the Belgian congress, which was not due to meet until the following June, to draft new General Rule for submission to the next Congress of the International.
In accordance with the will of the vast majority of members of the International, the General Council is to convene the annual Congress only in September 1872.
Some weeks after the Conference, Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, the most influential and most ardent members of the Alliance, arrived in London. They came to recruit, among the French refugees, aides willing to work for the restoration of the Empire, which, according to them, was the only way to rid themselves of Thiers and to avoid being left destitute. The General Council warned all concerned, including the Brussels Federal Council, of their Bonapartist plots.
In January 1872, they dropped their mask by publishing a pamphlet entitled The Empire and the New France. Call of the People and the Youth to the French Conscience, by Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, Brussels, 1872.
With the modesty characteristic of the charlatans of the Alliance, they declaim the following humbug:
“We who have built up the great army of the French proletariat... we, the most influential leaders of the International in France,... happily, we have not been shot, and we are here to flaunt in their faces (to wit: ambitious parliamentarians, smug republicans, sham democrats of all sorts) the banner under which we are fighting, and despite the slander, threats, and all manner of attacks that await us, to hurl at an amazed Europe the cry that comes from the very heart of our conscience and that will soon resound in the hearts of all Frenchmen: ‘Long Live the Emperor!’ Napoleon III, disgraced and scorned, must be splendidly reinstated”; and Messrs. Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, paid out of the secret funds of Invasion III, are specially charged with this restoration.
Incidentally, they confess:
“It is the normal evolution of our ideas that made us imperialists.”
Here is a confession that should give pleasure to their co-religionists of the Alliance. As in the heyday of Solidarite, A. Richard and G. Blanc mouth again the cliches about “abstention from politics” which, on the principle of their “normal evolution”, can become a reality only under the most absolute despotism, with the workers abstaining from any meddling in politics, much like the prisoner abstaining from a walk in the Sun.
“The time of the revolutionaries,” they say, “is over... communism is restricted to Germany and England, especially Germany. That, moreover, is where it had been developed in earnest for a long time to be subsequently spread throughout the International, and this disturbing expansion of German influence in the Association has in no small degree contributed to retarding its development, or rather, to giving it a new course in the sections of central and southern France, whom no German has ever supplied with a slogan.”
Perhaps this is the voice of the great hierophant, who ever since the Alliance's foundation has taken upon himself, in his capacity as a Russian, the special task of representing the Latin races? Or do we have here “the true missionaries” of the Revolution Sociale (November 2, 1871) denouncing “the backward march which endeavors to foist German and Bismarckian mentality on the International”?
Fortunately, however, the true tradition has survived, and Messrs. Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc have not been shot! Thus, their own “contribution” consists in “setting a new course” for the International in central and southern France to follow, by an effort to found Bonapartist sections, ipso facto basically “autonomous”.
As for the constitution of the proletariat as a political party, as recommended by the London Conference, “After the restoration of the Empire, we” — Richard and Blanc — “shall quickly deal not only with the Socialist theories but also with any attempts to implement them through revolutionary organization of the masses.” Briefly, exploiting the great “autonomy principle of the sections” which “constitute the real strength of the International... especially in the Latin countries” (Revolution Sociale, January 4), these gentlemen base their hopes on anarchy within the International.
Anarchy, then, is the great war horse of their master Bakunin, who has taken nothing from the socialist systems except a set of slogans. All socialists see anarchy as the following program:
Once the aim of the proletarian movement — i.e., abolition of classes — is attained, the power of the state, which serves to keep the great majority of producers in bondage to a very small exploiter minority, disappears, and the functions of government become simple administrative functions.
The Alliance draws an entirely different picture.
It proclaims anarchy in proletarian ranks as the most infallible means of breaking the powerful concentration of social and political forces in the hands of the exploiters. Under this pretext, it asks the International, at a time when the Old World is seeking a way of crushing it, to replace its organization with anarchy.
The international police want nothing better for perpetuating the Thiers republic, while cloaking it in a royal mantle.
- ↑ B. MALON — Do the friends of B. Malon, who have been advertising him in a stereotyped way for the last three months as the founder of the International, who have called his book the only independent work on the Commune, know the attitude taken by this assistant to the Mayor of Batignolles on the eve of the February elections? At that time, B. Malon, who did not yet foresee the Commune and saw nothing more than the success of his election to the Assembly, plotted to get himself put on the list of the four committees as a member of the International. To these ends, he insolently denied the existence of the Paris Federal Council and submitted to the committees the list of a section founded by himself at Batignolles as coming from the entire Association. Later, on March 19, he insulted in a public document the leaders of the great Revolution on the eve of their consummating it. Today, this anarchist from top-to-toe prints, or has printed, what he was saying a year ago to the four committees: I am the International! B. Malon has hit on a way of parodying Louis XIV and Perron the chocolate manufacturer at one and the same time. It was Perron who declared that his chocolate was the only edible chocolate!
- ↑ Here is the national composition of the Council: — 20 Englishmen, — 15 French, — 7 Germans (of whom 5 are founding members of the International), — 2 Swiss, — 2 Hungarians, — 1 Pole, — 1 Belgian, — 1 Irishman, — 1 Dane, and — 1 Italian.
- ↑ A little later, this Chautard whom they had wanted to put on the General Council was expelled from the section as an agent of Thiers’ police. He was accused by the same people who had judged him worthy among all others of representing them on the General Council.
- ↑ The Conference resolution on political action of the working class reads as follows:
“Considering the following passage of the Preamble to the Rules: ‘The economical emancipation of the working classes is the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means’; “That the Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association (1864) states: ‘The lords of land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defense and perpetuation of their economical monopolies. So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labor.... To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes’; “That the Congress of Lausanne (1867) has passed this resolution: ‘The social emancipation of the workmen is inseparable from their political emancipation’; “That the declaration of the General Council relative to the pretended plot of the French Internationals on the eve of the plebiscite (1870) says: ‘Certainly by the tenor of our Statutes, all our branches in England, on the Continent, and in America, have the special mission not only to serve as centres for the militant organization of the working class, but also to support, in their respective countries, every political movement tending toward the accomplishment of our ultimate end — the economical emancipation of the working class.’; “That false translations of the original Statutes have given rise to various interpretations which were mischievous to the development and action of the International Working Men’s Association; “In presence of an unbridled reaction which violently crushed every effort at emancipation on the part of the working men, and pretends to maintain by brute force the distinction of classes and the political domination of the propertied classes resulting from it; “Considering that against this collective power of the propertied classes the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes; "That this constitution of the working class into a political party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the Social Revolution and its ultimate end — the abolition of classes; “That the combination of forces which the working class has already effected by its economical struggles ought at the same time to serve as a lever for its struggles against the political power of landlords and capitalists — “The Conference recalls to the members of the International: “That in the militant state of the working class, its economical movement and its political action are indissolubly united.”
- ↑ Recent police publications on the International, including the Jules Favre circular to foreign powers and the report of Sacaze, a deputy in the rural assembly, on the Dufaure project, are full of quotations from the Alliance’s pompous manifestos. The phraseology of these sectarians, whose radicalism is wholly restricted to verbiage, is extremely useful for promoting the aims of the reactionaries.
- ↑ At this time, these were the apparent ideas of the Emancipation of the Proletariat Society, as represented by its corresponding secretary, a friend of Bakunin. Actually, however, this section‘s tendencies were quite different. After expelling this double-dealing traitor for embezzlement and for his friendly relations with the Turin police chief, the society set forth in explanation, which cleared up all misunderstanding between it and the General Council.
- ↑ The gentlemen of the Alliance, who continue to reproach the General Council for calling a private Conference at a time when the convocation of a Congress would have been the height of treachery or folly — these absolute proponents of clamor and publicity — organized within the International itself with the aim of bringing its sections, unbeknown to them, under the sacerdotal direction of Bakunin. The General Council intends to demand at the next Congress an investigation of this secret organization and its promoters in certain countries, such as Spain, for example.
- ↑ Under the heading “To the Pillory!”, L‘Egalite (of Geneva), February 15, 1872, had this to say:
“The day has not yet come to describe the story of the defeat of the movement of the Commune in the South of France; but what we, most of whom witnessed the deplorable defeat of the Lyons insurrection on April 30, can announce today is that one of the reasons for the insurrection's failure was the cowardice, the treachery, and the thievery of G. Blanc, who intruded everywhere carrying out the orders of A. Richard, who kept in the shade. “By their carefully prepared maneuvers, these rascals intentionally compromised many of those who took part in the preparatory work of the insurrectionary Committees. “Further, these traitors managed to discredit the International at Lyon to such an extent that by the time of the Paris revolution the International was regarded by the Lyon workers with the greatest distrust. Hence the total absence of organization, hence the failure of the insurrection, a failure which was bound to result in the fall of the Commune, which was left to rely on its own isolated forces! It is only since this bloody lesson that our propaganda has been able to rally the Lyon workers around the flag of the International. “Albert Richard was the pet and prophet of Bakunin and company.”