Minutes of the Committee Meeting of the Cologne Workers' Association Held on September 11, 1848

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After reading the minutes of the previous meeting, the secretary, Citizen Kalker, declared that because of his departure from here, which would take place tomorrow, it would no longer be possible for him to give his services as secretary of the Association and that he herewith handed over his functions to the Association.

Thereupon Citizen Blum jun. was proposed as secretary and accepted.

The latter then took the floor and related the detailed circumstances of the arrest of himself and Citizen Salget last Sunday evening in Wesseling by the Burgomaster of that place.[1] For, on their way back to Cologne, after visiting a Workers’ Association founded earlier in Cassel, they visited the Workers’ Association in Wesseling; they had spoken there about social reform for barely a quarter of an hour, when Geier, the local Burgomaster, suddenly appeared accompanied by a policeman, arrested them, and placed them in custody in the latter’s house, but next morning, with the most friendly civility, he let them go home peacefully.

President Moll thereupon asked Citizen Blum whether he had perhaps promised the Burgomaster of Wesseling not to take any steps against him, and when the question was answered in the negative, he moved that, to safeguard their rights and prevent similar illegal and arbitrary arrests, the meeting should decide to take the necessary steps, namely through the courts, which was agreed unanimously.

Citizen Röser requested the managing committee of the Society to invite the Workers’ Association in Frechen to the public meeting to be held on the 15th in Worringen. The secretary was instructed to comply.

Citizen Dronke: We have now reached a point which could be more important and fraught with more consequences than many might perhaps think. The Government of Action has fallen, along with its world-enchanting financial plans. But let us not assume that we are now at the goal of our desires, or that anything will be done for us; let us not even count on getting a Government of the Left. On the contrary, we now have the prospect of a Government which does not even belong to the Chamber and will consist of people from the past, von Vincke etc. Behind such a Government stands absolutism in all its grandeur, all its insolence and arrogance. It will probably wish to disperse the Chamber with the aid of Pomeranian bayonets, and then the struggle between monarchy and nation will be inevitable. Perhaps while we are sitting here they are already fighting on the barricades in Berlin.

Thereupon the meeting turned to the social question, and President Moll remarked that we had come to a halt on the question whether an organisation of work was possible or not.[2] People often threw at us the failure of the national workshops in France[3] in order to prove that an organisation of work was impossible. Citizen Engels made a lengthy speech on this subject. His speech was received with great applause.

After a written reply from the local Town Council had been read, concerning the request that the expenses of our delegates to the workers’ congress in Frankfurt[4] be defrayed, in which the Town Council asks for further details, the meeting was closed. Voluntary contributions amounted to 11 silver groschen and 7 pfennigs.

  1. ↑ See Arrests, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, September 11, 1848.—Ed.
  2. ↑ During the summer of 1848, the Cologne Workers’ Association discussed the social question. Marx’s followers (Schapper, Moll and others) were trying to explain to the workers the groundlessness of Utopian plans to transform society on the basis of existing capitalist relations, like Louis Blanc’s scheme to create a workers’ association with the aid of the state (“organisation of labour”), and other similar petty-bourgeois socialist projects. Engels made a detailed report, but its content was not noted in the minutes. The Cologne discussion on the social question was of great importance for the dissemination of the ideas of scientific communism among the workers.
  3. ↑ The reference is to the Labour Commission that met at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of Louis Blanc. This was set up on February 28, 1848, by the Provisional Government under pressure from the workers, who demanded a Ministry of Labour. The Commission, in which both workers and employers were represented, acted as mediator in labour conflicts, often taking the side of the employers. The revolutionary action of Paris workers on May 15, 1848, led to the end of the Luxembourg Commission, since the Government disbanded it next day.
    National workshops were instituted by a government decree immediately after the February revolution of 1848. The Government thus sought to discredit Louis Blanc’s ideas on the organisation of labour in the eyes of the workers and, at the same time, to utilise the workers of the .national workshops organised on military lines in the struggle against the revolutionary proletariat. Revolutionary ideas, however, continued to gain ground among workers employed in the national workshops, and the Government took steps accordingly to limit the number of workers employed in them, to send some off to public works in the provinces etc. This caused great indignation among the Paris proletariat and was one of the reasons for the June uprising. After its suppression, the Cavaignac Government issued a decree disbanding the national workshops (July 3, 1848).
    On June 7, 1848, the Constituent Assembly passed a law against gatherings.
    Any violation of this law was punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years.
  4. ↑ On July 15, 1848, an Artisans’ Congress opened in Frankfurt to work out the Trade Rules. As apprentices were not admitted to the Congress by the worker-masters, the former convened their own congress on July 20 and invited representatives from the workers’ associations. The work of the Apprentices’ Congress lasted,with intervals, till September 20. At the Congress along with the protest against the narrow position of the Artisans’ Congress and the criticism of the Trade Rules the following ideas were widespread: the ideas of the German economist Winkelblech (who took part in the work of both congresses) on the re-establishment of guilds, his theory of “federal socialism”, and the desire to evade political questions. The Apprentices’ Congress supported the idea of establishing the all-German Workers’ Union with the aim of improving the workers’ conditions and proposed to the National Assembly that a “social Parliament” be convoked and a “social Ministry” be formed.