The New International (Quelch, 1889)

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By far the most important event, as the one which is likely to be most far reaching in its effects which has taken place in Paris in this the centennial year of the French Revolution, was the International Workers’ Congress. The crowning result of the labours of this gathering of workers delegates from all parts of the civilised world was gathering of workers’ delegates from all parts of the civilised world was the reestablishment, on a broader and more democratic basis, of that International Association of Workmen which, some twenty years ago, was a terror and a menace to every tyranny in Europe. “Ca ira!” And that the more surely, the more rapidly, the more triumphantly, because it was not the inception of a few clever theorists, of eminent doctrinaires, but the act of the delegates of the organised proletariat of the civilised world, who, by their votes on Saturday, gave effect to the mandate of thousands and to the aspirations of millions of toilers in both hemispheres. No one can deny that our comrades of the Parti Ouvrier of France deserve credit and congratulation for having got together, spite of all the difficulties thrown in their way, what Mrs. Besant described as the “grandest International Labour Congress that has ever been held.” It was indeed a remarkable gathering; and not less remarkable, as showing the progress of Socialist principles, were the points upon which an International agreement was arrived at. A maximum working day of eight hours, to be fixed by international law, with no more than six days work a week; the abrogation of night work as far as possible for men and women and absolutely for children; th4 suppression of child labour and the abolition of all laws against the international organisation of labour. These are among the principal resolution which were carried, not by Socialists alone, acting with a free hand, but by delegates of trade unions and other labour organisations, voting on the express mandates of some tens of thousands of English, American, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Austrian, Belgian, and French workmen. The new International “will go” indeed, if all is done that can be done between now and the Belgian Congress in 1891 to give effect to these resolutions, and if English Trade Unionists show as much loyalty in working for them as was displayed by their delegates at the Congress with regard to their mandate.

These resolutions embody the points of agreement upon which Socialists and trade unionists of all countries can cordially co-operate as means towards the final emancipation of labour. Here in England at any rate we are glad to have got so considerable a section of English trade Unionists as was represented at the Congress so far with us, and are prepared to work loyally with them to carry out this programme. But these resolutions represent more than a mere expression of opinion on the part of large bodies of workmen in favour of certain principles. They are an evidence of the closing up of the ranks of labour; of the breaking down of the barrier which has so long divided the aristocracy of labour from the rank and file of the proletarian army. When trade unionists declare for such measures as these it shows that they are becoming convinced of the suicidal nature of their policy of isolation, that they are learning to recognise the solidarity labour, without distinction of trade or grade, and the necessity of standing shoulder to shoulder with the whole of the workers of the world, in the struggle between labour and its exploiters.

At the present moment, celebrating the founding of a new International, based on the principle of Federalism, of National Autonomy; looking forward with hope to its future, and to the avoidance of the causes that effected the disruption of the old International, it is sad to have to speak of dissension. We ourselves have nothing to reproach ourselves with on this head. Our efforts, standing as we did outside of both the parties to the dispute, were directed to conciliation, and it is to be regretted that those efforts were not met by those who were responsible for the calling of the second congress in the same friendly spirit as was exhibited by the Possibilists. The responsibility for the unfortunate division which the holding of two congresses at one and the same time exhibited to the world, rests upon those who not only contemptuously rejected all overtures at conciliation, but actually, when a fusion of the two congresses was proposed, refused to accept the very reasonable condition imposed by the Possibilists, that the mandate of each delegate should be submitted to scrutiny and verification. So far as we are concerned there is no personal or party feeling in the matter. On the contrary, we have the greatest possible respect and esteem for many of those who were present at the Marxist Congress. But this, at least, seems is most reasonable proposition, that no individual, however able or however eminent, has any right at a congress without a mandate. One would imagine the verification of credentials to be the sine qua non of a Congress How otherwise is its representative character to be assured? How otherwise is it possible for such a gathering to speak with any authority at all? It is always difficult to keep spies amid traitors out of our ranks and out of our assemblies – judging from Liebknecht’s caution to the German delegates, there were both spies and traitors present at the Marxist Congress – but it would be doubly difficult if no mandate or credentials were ever insisted upon. Surely no man who is worthy the confidence of his fellows need stand outside all organisation! Or, if he does keep outside, then he has no right to speak and vote as a delegate at a congress. The only hope of the workers lies in organisation, local, national, and international, and because this is so it is most regrettable that men, who might be of great service to the cause of labour, should, to gratify their personal vanity, or for some other reason, hold aloof from organisation and try to control the movement from without. Because this is so, too, we are glad that the International Congress of Labour Delegates stood firm by the conditions laid down as to the admission of delegates; and rejoice still more that at the largest and most representative International Congress that has ever been held, there were laid the foundations of that international association of workmen which, while giving free play to national aspirations, will, it is to be hoped, eliminate all causes of dissension and bring the workmen or al nationalities into line, shoulder to shoulder, to fight together for the social and economic freedom of all.