On the Progress of the International Working Men's Association in Italy and Spain

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ENGELS’ RECORD OF HIS REPORT AT THE GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING OF OCTOBER 17, 1871[1]

The news from Italy was of a most cheering character, the spread of the Association being really wonderful in that country. Three months ago Mazzini stated that there was only one town in Italy, where the International counted numerous adherents.[2] Now, from one end of the country to the other, it is fully established. It is represented in the press by one, if not two, daily papers in Rome; a daily paper in Milan; a semi-weekly one in Turin; weekly papers in Ravenna, Lodi, Pavia, Girgenti, and Catania, besides a number of other papers published in smaller localities. These papers are subject to incessant Government prosecutions; one of them the Proletario Italiano of Turin had six consecutive numbers seized by the Police, and one or more actions at law brought against it for each number seized; nevertheless, these papers continue undaunted in their crusade against the Priests, the capitalists, and Mazzini, who has been attacking the International because it was not religious.[3]

The Government has dissolved two

International sections in Florence and Naples, but the result has only been the immediate formation of new sections all over the country. In Girgenti, the new section has just published its rules,[4] preceded by the translation of the Statutes, published by the General Council,[5] in Ravenna six Republican and Working Men’s

Societies, have organised themselves into sections of the International, with a common Council.

Garibaldi’s letters, in which he gives his adhesion to the Association, are everywhere reprinted and commented on, and have evidently helped a great many waverers to make up their minds in favour of the International.[6] The power of Mazzini over the workmen of Italy is thoroughly broken.

In Spain the progress of the Association has been as rapid as in Italy. The Spanish trades’ unions, having been created almost exclusively by the International, form an essential part of its organisation. The trades’ unions of each locality have a local trades’ council, corresponding directly with the Spanish Federal Council at Madrid, on general matters relating to the International; while each trade all over the country again is under the direction of a Central Board, corresponding with the Spanish Federal Council on all matters relating to its trade.

This organisation, as finally settled by the Conference of Valencia, held from the 10th to the 18th of September, 1871, is now being carried out all over Spain.[7] There is scarcely a single large town in Spain without its local “Trades’ Council”, and a great many small towns are organized upon the same principle. New sections are forming everywhere, and individual adhesions are coming in by hundreds. The Republican party, which only a short time ago attacked the International as a party of “Jesuits”, has been made to feel its power acutely. The rising of the Commune in Paris had already split the Republican party in two camps. The middle class section took the side of Versailles, while the younger elements and the Republican working men, supported the Commune. This latter section has been drawn, naturally, nearer and nearer to the International, and will soon enter its ranks, thus strengthening it by the adhesion of numerous and valuable new elements. The Republican papers belonging to this section begin to advocate the nationalization of the land, and other socialistic tenets; to these belong La Asociacion, of Leon; El Comunero, of Madrid; La Justicia, of Malaga; El Trabajo, of Ferrol, and others. At a great Republican meeting, held in Madrid October 15th, the proposal for joint action with the International was cheered enthusiastically.

  1. The minutes of the General Council meeting of October 17, 1871 have only a brief entry on Engels’ speech: “Citizen Engels reported the progress of the Association in Italy and Spain.” Engels handed his own record of the speech, as in other cases, to Secretary of the General Council John Hales for publication in The Eastern Post. The manuscript is not extant.
  2. G. Mazzini, "Agli opérai italiani", La Roma del Popolo, No. 20, July 13, 1871.— Ed.
  3. Ibid.— Ed
  4. Statuto e Regolamento délia Società Internazionale degli Opérai seguiti dal Regolamento interno della Sezione Girgentina, Girgenti, 1871.— Ed.
  5. Statuts et règlements. 1866, London [1866].— Ed
  6. The reference is to G. Garibaldi's letters of August 20, 1871 to the editorial boards of // Romagnolo and // Proletario Italiano, and to his letter of September 20, 1871 to The Echo in London, which were reprinted by other newspapers.— Ed.
  7. A secret conference of the delegates from the local Spanish federations of the International Working Men’s Association took place in Valencia on September 10-18, 1871. It adopted the Rules of the Spanish branch of the International and model rules for local federations and sections. The conference decisions bore the stamp of anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist ideas (it adopted the Bakuninist thesis of abstention from the political struggle, formation of the International’s organisations according to the trade principle and others). However, the Spanish Federal Council elected at the conference included several General Council supporters (Francisco Mora, Pablo Iglesias, José Mesa).