To the President and Executive Committee of the General Association of German Workers

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This is Marx’s reply to an official invitation front the General Association of German Workers, of July 6 (see Der Social-Demokrat, August 14, 1868), to attend its annual congress (assembly) in Hamburg as guest of honour. The invitation was signed by Schweitzer, the President, and by more than twenty members of the Association’s Executive, workers from various parts of Germany. (The text of the invitation is given in the Minutes of the General Council meeting of August 18, 1868, in the form of a pasted-in clipping from The Bee-Hive, August 22, 1868.)

Marx’s invitation to the congress of the General Association of German Workers and the programme of the congress both showed that its most progressive members, influenced by the labour movement, and particularly by the International and the ideas contained in Marx’s Capital, had begun to dissociate themselves from the Lassallean dogmas, and that the leaders of the Association did not have a free hand.

In his reply to the invitation Marx gave his opinion of the programme of the Hamburg congress, and, as he remarked in a letter to Engels of August 26, 1868, congratulated the members of the Association on “their rejection of Lassalle’s programme”.

The Hamburg Congress (August 22-26, 1868) adopted important decisions: it approved in principle of the strike movement, unanimously acknowledged that “Marx had rendered outstanding services to the working class with his work Capital,” and pointed to the necessity for joint action by the workers of different countries.

In fact, however, the Association’s leaders opposed the organisation of strikes and continued to obstruct the Association’s affiliation to the International.

Marx’s letter to the President and the Association’s Executive was read at a closed sitting of the congress on August 24 and was applauded. It was published in Der Social-Demokrat, August 28 and the Demokratisches Wochenblatt, August 29, 1868. In 1886, on the third anniversary of Marx’s death, his letter was reprinted in the Sozial-demokrat, March 11.

In order to conclude preparations for the Brussels Congress a meeting of the Executive Committee of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association[1] has been called for August 22, and a plenary session of the General Council for August 25. As I have been given the task of making reports on both days I find that I am unable to accept the invitation a by which I am greatly honoured, to attend the Congress of the General Association of German Workers in Hamburg.

I am happy to see that the programme of your Congress lays down those points from which, in fact, any serious workers’ movement must proceed: agitation for complete political freedom, regulation of the working day, and systematic international cooperation of the working class in the great, historical task which it has to accomplish for the whole of society. Good luck in your work!

With democratic greetings
Karl Marx

  1. A reference to the Standing Committee or Sub-Committee, the executive body of the General Council of the International. It generally assembled once a week and drafted many of the decisions which were later adopted by the Council. The Standing Committee evolved from a commission, elected when the IWMA was being set up, to draft its programme documents — the Rules and the Inaugural Address. The Committee included the President of the General Council (until this office was abolished in September 1867), the General Secretary and the corresponding secretaries for the different countries. Marx took an active part in the work of the Standing Committee as Corresponding Secretary for Germany