The General Council of the International Working Men's Association on the Lausanne Congress

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At its meeting on June 4, 1867 the General Council appointed a committee to draw up an address to the affiliated societies and members of the International in connection with the second Congress of the International Working Men’s Association to be held in Lausanne in September. Fox, Marx, Jung, Eccarius and Dupont made up the committee. However, as he was busy reading proofs of Volume I of Capital, Marx was unable to take part in drawing up the English text of the address, which was approved by the Council meeting on July 9. At the same meeting Paul Lafargue was instructed to translate the address into French. This decision was adopted in view of the fact that the Proudhonist leaders of the Paris sections prepared their own agenda of the Congress in violation of the General Council’s prerogative to define its programme. The French address edited by Marx differed greatly from the English text. It was published in London in July 1867 as a leaflet and reprinted by some newspapers (La Voix d'Avenir, August 4, 1867; Le Courrier international, July 30, 1867; La Tribune du Peuple, August 31, 1867). The German translation of the French address made by Johann Philipp Becker was included by him in the pamphlet Einladung zum zweiten Kongress de) Internationalen Arbeiter Association am 2-8. September in Lausanne and reproduced in Der Vorbote, No. 8, August 1867.

TO MEMBERS, AFFILIATED SOCIETIES AND ALL WORKERS[edit source]

Proletarians!

From the correspondence that we receive we can see that the members of the Association are continuing to spread its principles, and that the number of branches is multiplying. This work is particularly striking in Switzerland, where most of our branches are actively engaged in establishing workers’ societies of every kind and putting them in contact with us.

Following the Marchiennes massacre[1], Belgium is making commendable efforts to gather the whole of the Belgian proletariat under our banner.

However, various circumstances have impeded propaganda work in other countries:

Germany, which prior to ‘48 had manifested such an interest in the study of social questions, has concentrated almost all its active forces on the movement for unification.

In France, where the freedom of the working class is extremely limited, the spread of our principles and of our Association has not been as rapid as one might have hoped: for we had thought that the aid which, thanks to us, the English workers’ societies gave to French workers’ societies during their strikes[2] might have won for us the support of all French workers. Now, as the struggle in France between the capitalist class and the working class is entering into that phase which we will call the English phase, that is to say, is becoming particularly acute, the workers must understand that if they are to resist the power of the capitalists successfully, the different members of the working-class community must be linked together by a powerful bond of unity.

England, which has been preoccupied with the reform movement, had put the economic movement temporarily aside. However, now that the reform movement has ended and the enquiry into the trade unions... is revealing the size and noting the strength of the working class, we believe that the time has come for all workers’ societies to recognise our usefulness.

At delegate meetings of the working class tribute has already been paid more than once to the role played by our Association, and a large number of societies have already joined our ranks. It is England, whose working class possesses a powerful organisation, that is called upon to be our most reliable support.

The United States appears to have emerged rejuvenated from its bloody war: the working class is already centralised and has brought its influence to bear upon the bourgeois government which rules in America, obliging several State Legislatures to pass a bill introducing the eight-hour working day. The forthcoming presidential elections have compelled the various political parties to state their position: speaking for the radical party, Wade, president of the Senate, has recognised the need to devote special attention to the question of labour and capital, and he has come out openly in favour of a transformation of capitalist and landed property. As the working class in the United States has considerable organisational power, it will be able to impose its will.

Today, in every civilised country, the working class is on the move, and it is in such countries as America and England, where industry is most developed, that the working class is most solidly organised and the struggle between the bourgeois class and the working class is at its sharpest.

The power of the human individual has disappeared before the power of capital, in the factory the worker is now nothing but a cog in the machine. In order to recover his individuality, the worker has had to unite together with others and create associations to defend his wages and his life. Until today these associations had remained purely local, while the power of capital, thanks to new industrial inventions, is increasing day by day; furthermore in many cases national associations have become powerless: a study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.

Let every worker give serious consideration to this new aspect of the problem, let him realise that in rallying to our banner he is defending his own bread and that of his children.

We, the General Council, appeal to everyone to ensure that the next Congress, which will take place on September 2, 1867, in Lausanne, will be an impressive demonstration by the working class.

According to the Regulations of the first Congress, each branch has the right to send one delegate to the Congress. Those branches with more than 500 members may also send one delegate for every additional 500 members. Those branches which do not have sufficient resources to send a delegate may join with other branches and contribute to the cost of sending a delegate who will represent them.

The questions to be debated at the Congress are:

1) What practical measures can be taken to turn the International Association into a common centre of action on behalf of the working class (female and male) in its struggle to liberate itself from the yoke of capital?

2) How can the working classes use for their own emancipation the credit that they give to bourgeoisie and governments?

Greeting and fraternity:

Corresponding Secretaries:

E. Dupont — for France; K. Marx — for Germany; Zabicki — for Poland; H. Jung — for Switzerland; P. Fox — for America; Besson — for Belgium; Carter — for Italy; P. Lafargue — for Spain; Hansen — for Holland and Denmark.

G. Odger, President
G. Eccarius, Vice-President W. Dell, Treasurer
Shaw, Secretary-Treasurer
Peter Fox, General Secretary

16, Castle Street, Oxford Street

  1. In February 1867, during the strike of Belgian miners and iron-workers of the Charleroi coalfield (Hainaut Province), near a colliery in Marchiennes, there was a clash between soldiers on guard and the strikers, which resulted in a number of workers killed and wounded. On March 13, The International Courier published the General Council’s address with a protest against the massacre in Marchiennes and a call on the British miners and iron-workers to aid the widows and those who had suffered.
  2. This refers to the strikes of the Paris bronze-workers and tailors in February and March 1867. Thanks to the support of the General Council which organised among the English workers a collection of funds for the Paris strikers, they succeeded in making the employers introduce fixed wage rates. The broad scope of the strike started on April 1, 1867 by Paris journeymen tailors, and the International’s support to them compelled the French government to interfere and take reprisals against the strikers. Their Mutual Aid Association was dissolved and its leaders were prosecuted and fined.