From the Minute Book of the General Council. Central Council Meetings (June 1866)

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Author(s) First International
Written June 1866


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Meeting of Central Council June 5, 1866[edit source]

The minutes are in Cremer’s hand on pp. 136-37 of the Minute Book.

Vice-President Eccarius in the chair.

The minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.

Election of Councilmen[edit source]

Citizen W. Harry proposed by Cremer and Dutton;

Citizen F. Harvey proposed by Cremer and Dutton;

Citizen J. Jayet proposed by Dupont and Lafargue.

Nominations for Councilmen[edit source]

Citizen M. Lawrence proposed by Maurice and Lessner;

Alex. Besson proposed by Lafargue and Dupont.

Correspondence[edit source]

Citizen Jung said he had received a letter from Citizen L. D. Canessa in Genoa offering to insert anything in the [a gap in the minutes] concerning the International Working Men’s Association.[1] That citizen was about to leave to go and fight for the liberation of Venice.

Reports from Deputations[edit source]

Citizens Weston, Jung, Dupont reported the adhesion of the Alliance Cabinet-Makers. They had promised to join not only in name but action.

Citizen Dutton reported from Bricklayers in Commercial Road; had been well received.

Jung reported what he had said to them: he had appealed to their sense of brotherhood with other peoples.

Address from French Branch in London[edit source]

Citizen Lafargue then brought before the Council the address of the French branch in London in answer to the address of the French students to the students of Italy and Germany.[2]

The address Citizen Lafargue laid before the Council is addressed to the students of all nations by the International Working Men’s Association in the name of the workmen of all nations. [here two leaves of paper with the minutes recorded in Le Lubez’s hand are pasted into the Minute Book]

Citizen [Name not given] proposed and Citizen Dutton seconded that it is opportune for the Central Council to issue an address.

Citizen Weston proposed as an amendment and Citizen James Dutton seconded that the Central Council endorses the sentiments expressed in the address but that it be issued by the French branch of London, with whom it originated.

A long discussion ensued on the proposition.

Citizen Carter spoke at some length appealing to the Council not [to] pass the resolution and in favour of the amendment. He said it would be a bad precedent to hurry through any address as emanating from the Council in the absence of a good number of its members.

Six voted for the amendment.

Six for the proposition.

The President gave his casting vote in favour of the amendment.[3]

A request for settlement of claim was received from Citizen J. B. Leno. [the insert ends here]

Referred to Standing Committee.

The Council then adjourned till June 11th.

[unsigned]

Central Council Meeting June 12, 1866[edit source]

The minutes are in Cremer’s hand on pp. 137-38 of the Minute Book..

The President [Odger] in the chair.

The minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed.

Election of Councilmen[edit source]

Citizen Lawrence proposed by Maurice and Lessner;

Citizen Besson proposed by Lafargue and Dupont.

Nominations for Councilmen[edit source]

Pierre Leroux nominated by Jung and Marx.

Reports of Deputations[edit source]

Jung and Dupont reported an interview with West End

Cabinet-Makers; had been well received, invited to attend again.

Future Deputations[edit source]

Cremer and Lessner to visit French Polishers.

Yarrow suggested deputations to several societies whose names he mentioned.

Sheffield Conference[edit source]

Fox proposed sending delegate there.[4] Carried unanimously.

Selection of man deferred.

Correspondence[edit source]

Lafargue read from La Rive Gauche a summary of doings of the Central Council.[5]

Citizen Marx read a letter from Leipsic which stated that all the Saxon working men’s associations had joined the International.[6]

The War in Germany[edit source]

The President suggested that at the present crisis the Council should discuss the question of the German war and its probable influence on the peoples of Europe.

Citizen Eccarius proposed that the question be debated at the next sitting. Carried unanimously.

The Council then adjourned till June 19th.

President pro tem.
[unsigned]

Central Council Meeting June 19, 1866[edit source]

The minutes are in the form of a clipping from The Commonwealth, No. 172, June 23, 1866, pasted onto p. 139 of the Minute Book. The heading and the first and last lines of the text are in Cremer’s hand.

Citizen Weston in the chair.

The debate on the war attracted a large concourse of members. It was ably opened by Citizen Eccarius, who illustrated his address with a map ‘of Germany, made for the occasion. He was followed by Citizens Le Lubez, Fox, Lafargue, Marx, who made an highly interesting[7] speech, Carter, Dutton and Hales. Speeches were made in French and English. The debate was adjourned until Tuesday evening next at the same hour, when the question of nationality will be treated of. Citizen Le Lubez gave notice that he will propose the following resolutions:

“(1) The Central Council of the International Association of Working Men recommend to their fellow working men in arms not to waste their strength in slaying each other, but to economise it for the defence of their rights against their only enemies, the enslavers of the working class. Their opinion is that no man need obey any power he has had no voice in electing, or any law he has had no voice in making. Therefore, (2) every soldier, who has not made the cause he is fighting for his own by being convinced that it is just, is relieved from his obligation to fight for it. (3) If that right should be denied him and that force be used to coerce him, he has a right, and it is his duty to defend that right, which is the right of the people, by using force himself.”

Before the debate began, the Courrier Français of the 17th inst. was brought before the Council and the rejoinder of the students was read and given to the editor of the Commonwealth to translate and publish the same. For the previous correspondence see the Commonwealth of June 9.

To the Working men of All Countries!
The Youth of France

Brethren, — You have understood that war was a violation of the most sacred rights of humanity, and you have responded to our appeal. Thanks, a thousand thanks!

United for the noblest of causes, we shall continue to claim in common the rights for which humanity has ever combated; labour and universal peace will guide us in this path, the harmony of minds and hearts will recompense us for our efforts.

“The masters of the world” will in vain endeavour to revive the obsolete quarrels of the past, the traditional rivalries of nations. Universal Reason will respond to the appeals of the fife and drum by a prodigious cry of peace, by a warm grasp of all hands and all hearts.

We are pleased to have been understood by those upon whom we base all our hopes, we are proud to have contributed our small share to the advent of that bright day in which all men, united by science, will march with one accord to the final conquest of liberty.

Our forefathers, led astray and enslaved, had for their war-cry “God and our country!”

Let us, the great grandsons of 1793, have for supreme aim to inscribe on the one only flag of the people these two words, which are the symbols of our convictions and our hopes, “Reason and Fraternity!”

It is for you, working men, to realise in the future these vast projects — it is for you to cement the union of mankind by your labour, the firmness of your principles, and your inflexible devotion to the salvation of the human race.

Be assured that your brothers will not abandon you in the struggle.

(Signed): Alfred Verlière, clerk; Raoul Rigault, clerk; Nestor Richet, shawl cleaner; Albert Kellermann, shopman; E. Lemoine, student; Dawsta, law student; Niemann, sculptor; Battaille, clerk; A. Breuillé, employé; A. Jeunesse, student; Louis Guyon, employé; Humbert, employé; Leon Sornet, employé; Paul Seruzier, student; C. Dacosta, professor; Tremblay, merchant; Léonce Levraud, student; H. Villeneuve, student; Bellet, employé; Lavallée, student; Landowski, bookseller’s clerk; Brochure, painter on glass; Boula, do; Barthélemy, Julien, Wartelen, Bruno, do, etc., etc.[8]

The Central Council has received the following letter for adhesion to the working men’s response:

“Bedlington, June 13th, 1866

“Friends! — We, the undersigned men of this place, endorse every sentiment from the young students of Paris. and likewise the response of the men of all nations; and we hope and trust that the time is not far distant, when every man will know his position in society as a man.

“Yours, in the cause of freedom.

“(Signed): Thomas Hailstone, Alexander McLeod, David Graham, John Scott, Robert McDonald, David Lofthouse, George Steel, John Ramsay, Robert Fairbairn, James Cole, of Bedlington, Northumberland.[9]

The Council then adjourned.

[unsigned]

Meeting of Central Council June 26, 1866[edit source]

The minutes are in Cremer’s hand on pp. 140-42 of the Minute Book.

Citizen Fox in the chair.

Citizen Marx introduced to the Council Citizen Fontaine of Brussels. He also announced that Fribourg would publish week by week in the Courrier Français their elaboration of the questions to be submitted to Congress.

Correspondence[edit source]

Dupont read letters from Tolain and Fribourg announcing the seizure of the Courrier Français[10] and blaming the Council for postponing the Congress.

Report of Deputation[edit source]

Jung reported West End Cabinet-Makers fully agreed with our principles and would join.

French Revolution June 1848[edit source]

Lessner asked would the Council take part in celebrating the event. Question postponed.

Italian Secretary[edit source]

Citizen Fox read letter from Citizen Trani stating he had corresponded with several Italian societies but as yet had not received an answer. The present position of his country placed him in an awkward position. He also complained of an attack in Rive Gauche by Citizen Lafargue who had placed Mazzini and Garibaldi side by side with [Bismarck] and declaring them as bad as Bismarck. He believed Mazzini and Garibaldi were both good Socialists.[11] In consequence of such attack he must tender his resignation as Italian secretary.

Citizen Lafargue replied that what he had written he had written in his individual capacity, not as a member of the Central Council who were in no way responsible for his opinions.

Citizen Fontaine said he has expressed the same opinions only in a stronger manner.

After some discussion Cremer [proposed], Dutton seconded:

That we pass to the order of the day and that Citizen Trani be written to and told that the Council are not responsible for Citizen Lafargue’s views. Carried unanimously.

The Adjourned Debate[edit source]

The debate was resumed by Citizen Bobczynski who said that though Mazzini, Garibaldi and Bismarck were acting together, they were acting from different motives’ .

If the Association was only to be social, it would never be great. Its first duty was to get rid of tyrants on the Continent.

Citizen Jung thought that although Garibaldi’s heart was undoubtedly right, his head and sword were in the wrong place. He was sorry to see him and Mazzini in alliance with Bismarck. He thought the upshot of the war would be revolution.[12]

The debate was continued by Citizens Bobczynski, Lafargue, Cremer, Fontaine.

Citizen Dutton said that workmen of all countries could work out their political and social independence without fighting for nationalities.

Citizens Bobczynski and Carter then gave notice of the following resolution: [here a clipping from The Commonwealth, No. 175, July 14, 1866, is pasted into the Minute Book]

That the London members of the International Working Men’s Association consider the present conflict on the Continent to be one between tyrants, and advise working men to be neutral, but to associate themselves with a view to acquire strength by unity and to use the strength so acquired in striking a final blow at all the tyrants of Europe and proclaiming their own liberty. [the newspaper clipping ends here]

Citizens Cremer and Dutton also gave notice of the following series of resolutions: [here another clipping from the same issue of The Commonwealth is pasted into the Minute Book.]

1. That the war now being waged in Europe between the Prussian and Austrian governments is a war for Empire, and as such is not calculated to benefit the peoples, as whichever becomes the victor it will be but the substitution of one despot for another.

2. The Council regrets that the Prussian people should have allowed their energies to be diverted from the extension and consolidation of their liberties by the war policy of Bismarck who has thereby succeeded in rivetting still stronger their political fetters.

3. The Council also expresses a hope that the Italian people, while endeavouring to give liberty to the Venetians, will not enter into an unholy alliance with the Prussian Government, and so be guilty of moral and political suicide by at the same time fighting to rescue the Venetians and assisting the Prussian Government to enslave the German people.

4. That as all wars not waged on behalf of liberty and justice are cruel and unjustifiable, we therefore recommend the peoples of Europe to abstain from taking any active part in the present unrighteous struggle.

Citizen Fox gave notice of the following resolution:

That the Prussian Government is responsible for the miseries caused by the present war on the Continent.[13]

The Council then adjourned to July 3rd.

[unsigned. The last line is in Cremer’s hand.]

  1. The reference is to Il Giornale delle Associazioni Operaie Italiane, organ of the working men’s associations of Italy (see Note 197).
  2. The appeal to the students of Germany and Italy (see Note 210) strongly reflected Proudhonist ideas. In his letter to Engels of June 7, 1866, Marx wrote: “The Proudhonist clique among the students in Paris (Courrier Français) preaches peace, declares war to be obsolete and nationalities to be an absurdity, attacks Bismarck and Garibaldi, etc. As polemics against chauvinism their doings are useful and explicable. But as believers in Proudhon (Lafargue and Longuet, two very good friends of mine here, also belong to them), who think all Europe must and will sit quietly on their hindquarters until the gentlemen in France abolish ‘poverty and ignorance’, under the latter of which they themselves labour in direct proportion to their vociferations about ‘social science’, they are grotesque. ...”
  3. The appeal of the working men of all countries to the students of Paris and the students and young people of all countries (see pp. 337-39 of the present volume), was published in La Rive Gauche, No. 23, June 10, and in Le Courrier Français, June 10 and 17, 1866. Marx was not present at this General Council meeting, and, as is evident from his letter to Engels of June 20, 1866, he was dissatisfied with the appeal.
  4. The reference is to the Conference of Trades’ Delegates of the United Kingdom held in Sheffield on July 17-21, 1866 (see Note 245).
  5. The reference is to Lafargue’s article “A Summary of the Development of the International Working Men’s Association,” which he had written specially for La Rive Gauche.
  6. The letter was from Liebknecht, under date of May 25, 1866. Liebknecht asked for membership cards and wrote that “the leaders of the working men’s associations here have expressed a desire to become members.”
  7. The nature of Marx’s speech at this meeting and of the discussion on the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 may be gathered from his letter to Engels of June 20, 1866. In it Marx wrote: “Yesterday there was a discussion in the International Council on the present war. The question had been announced beforehand and our room was very crowded. The Italian gentry too had sent delegates. The discussion wound up, as was to be foreseen, with the ‘question of nationality’ in general and the attitude we take towards it. This subject was adjourned till next Tuesday.

    “The French, who were numerously represented, gave vent to their cordial dislike of the Italians.

    “Moreover, the representatives of ‘Young France’ (non-workers) came out with the announcement that all nationalities and even nations were ‘antiquated prejudices’. Proudhonised Stirnerism. Everything is to be dissolved into small ‘groups’ or ‘communes’, which in turn are to form an ‘association’, but no state. And this ‘individualisation’ of humanity and the corresponding ‘mutualism’ are to go on while history comes to a stop in all other countries and the whole world waits until the French are ripe for a social revolution. Then they will demonstrate the experiment to us, and the rest of the world, overwhelmed by the force of their example, will follow suit. Exactly what Fourier expected of his model phalanstery. Anyhow, whoever encumbers the ‘social’ question with the ‘superstitions’ of the old world is a ‘reactionary’.

    “The English laughed very much when I began my speech by saying that our friend Lafargue and others, who had done away with nationalities, had spoken ‘French’ to us, i.e., a language which nine-tenths of the audience did not understand. I also suggested that by the negation of nationalities he appeared, quite unconsciously, to understand their absorption by the model French nation.

    “As for the rest the situation is difficult now, because on the one hand silly English Italianism and on the other the erroneous French polemics against it must be equally combated. In particular every demonstration that would involve our Association in a one-sided course must be prevented.”
  8. The English translation of the appeal “To the Working Men of All Countries! — The Youth of France,” issued in reply to the appeal of the working men of all countries to the students of Paris and the students and youth of all countries (see pp. 337-39 of the present volume), was printed in The Commonwealth, No. 172, June 23, 1866.
  9. The letter was published in The Commonwealth, No. 172. June 23, and in La Rive Gauche, No. 26, July 1. 1866.
  10. Le Courrier Français of June 10 and 17, 1866 was seized for publishing the appeal of the working men of all countries to the students of Paris and the appeal, written in reply, of the youth of France to the working men of all countries.
  11. The reference is to Lafargue’s article “A Victory of the Plebeians” published in La Rive Gauche, No. 22, June 3, 1866. The article was devoted to the victory of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners over the employers. The article began as follows: “At a time when the bourgeois press is filling its columns with diplomatic notes and stories about the exploits of Bismarck, Mazzini, Garibaldi and other heroes, about great men, some better others worse, we socialists and revolutionaries should be writing about the slow but powerful movement that is taking place under this bright and sparkling, but empty shell.”
  12. In his letter to J. Ph. Becker, dated July 4, 1866, Jung gives a more detailed account of his speech. He believed that the General Council should, considering the international situation at the time, intensify its activities, especially in London, to enlist the support of various workers’ societies. This would enable it in the event of a revolution in Germany, or in any other country, to bring pressure to bear upon the British Government through mass meetings, and prevent it from siding with the counter-revolutionary governments, thereby helping the revolution on the Continent. Jung’s speech met with objections on the part of the British members of the Council who held that the question of revolution had no relation to the questions under discussion. In his letter to Becker, Jung wrote that Marx had supported his viewpoint but wrote nothing further about Marx’s speech.
  13. The resolutions on the Austro-Prussian War, submitted to the said meeting, were voted on by the General Council at its meeting of July 17, 1866, at which Marx spoke. Following Marx’s speech, the resolution submitted by Cremer and Dutton, which, although correct in its condemnation of wars of conquest, made no mention of the proletariat’s paramount task — to organise the fight for their political and social emancipation — and Fox’s resolution which suffered from the same shortcoming and, moreover, did not reflect the proletariat’s attitude towards war, were withdrawn. The General Council unanimously adopted the Bobczynski-Carter resolution, after certain amendments had been introduced (see pp. 212-13 of the present volume).