Reports of a Speech by Karl Marx at the Anniversary Celebration of the German Workers' Educational Society in London (1867)

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On February 28, 1867 Marx made a speech at the celebration of the 27th anniversary of the German Workers’ Educational Society in London (see Note 260). Besides German workers, the celebration meeting was attended by French members of the International in London and participants in the British working-class movement. The meeting was addressed by General Council members Peter Fox, Georg Eccarius and other speakers’ An account of the meeting, including the record of Marx’s speech, was made by Friedrich Lessner and sent to Johann Philipp Becker to be published in Der Vorbote.

Karl Marx spoke about wage labour and capital and showed very lucidly how the workers create capital, how they are kept in a state of slavery with the help of the product of their own labour and how capital is constantly used to make their shackles ever stronger. Admittedly the so-called free labourer has the consciousness of being a free labourer, but he is all the more subject to the power of capital as he is compelled to sell his labour for a pitiful wage to obtain the means for satisfying his most essential needs. In most cases, the material condition of the free labourer is worse than that of the slave or serf. The working class has no need to abolish personal property, which was abolished long ago, and is still being abolished daily; what must be abolished is bourgeois property, which is wholly based on fraud.

Regarding social relations in Germany, Marx noted that the German proletariat was best able successfully to effect a radical cure. Firstly, the Germans had to a greater extent freed themselves of all religious nonsense; secondly, unlike the workers in other countries, they need not go through the lengthy period of bourgeois development, and thirdly, their geographical position would compel them to declare war on Eastern barbarism, as it was from there, from Asia, that all reaction hostile to the West had issued. This was impelling the workers’ party onto the ground of revolution, the ground on which it must act to attain complete emancipation.