International Workingmen’s Association 1865

To the Working Men of Great Britain and Ireland

Source: MECW, Volume 20, p. 378;
Written: in the latter half of August 1865;
First published: in The Miner and Workman’s Advocate, September 2, 1865.

At the end of July 1865 John Bredford Leno, proprietor of The Miner and Workman’s Advocate, a weekly newspaper published in London from 1863, proposed placing it at the service of the Central Council of the International. The proposal was supported by, the Council members. They discussed the matter at the Council meetings of August 8 and 15, at which Marx was not present, since he was busy working on Capital. But he was informed about the details of the discussion by Eccarius, who wrote to him on August 16, 1865.

On August 22, after the regular Council meeting, the shareholders of the Industrial Newspaper Company, established to finance the newspaper, held their foundation meeting. The meeting, which was attended by Marx, approved the address to the working men of Great Britain and Ireland, written by Council members earlier, and the Company’s Prospectus, both published here. in the Appendices. On September 25, 1865, the London Conference declared the paper, which on September 8 had assumed the name of The Workman’s Advocate, an official organ of the International Association. At the beginning of November 1865 the paper became the full property of the Industrial Newspaper Company, In February 1866 it was renamed The Commonwealth. Marx was a member of the Company’s Board and remained on it until June 1866. However, the growing influence of reformist elements in the paper’s Editorial Board and the vacillation and conciliatory policy on the part of the trade-union leaders on the Company’s Board did not let Marx and his followers avert the transformation of this working-class paper into an organ supporting the policy of bourgeois radicals. It was published until July 20, 1867.

Fellow Working Men!

It is a fact that amongst the thousands of daily and weekly newspapers existing at the present day, those that advocate the interests of the working class and defend the cause of labour might be counted at your fingers’ ends. Nor is this to be wondered at when you bear in mind that, almost without exception, they are the property of capitalists, established for their own use, either for political party purposes or as commercial speculations. Thus, the publicity of matters concerning our political enfranchisement, our social emancipation, or our material well-being as hired wages labourers depends to a great extent on sufferance, and when now and then an editor, in his superior wisdom, takes it into his head to side with us, it is frequently doubtful whether decided opposition would not be preferable to the favour bestowed. This is a very unsatisfactory state of things for a body of men like the working men of this country with high and well-founded aspirations to raise themselves in the political and social scale.

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “If you want a thing done, and well done, do it yourself”, and this is precisely what we must do. If your expected elevation is not to prove a delusion and a mockery — we must take the work of our salvation into our own hands, and this can only be done by, acquiring a more prominent position in the press and on the platform than we have hitherto done.

In order that we may guard against deceitful friends, we require a press of our own. To this end we must establish and support as many newspapers and periodicals as we can, wherein we ourselves must advocate and defend our own cause against open antagonists and wily friends. In the press, as well as on the platform, we must qualify ourselves to hold our own against all corners; for then, and not till then, shall we succeed in bettering our condition.

To accomplish this, a number of well-known advocates of working-class interests have established a Limited Liability Association entitled “The Industrial Newspaper Company”, with a nominal capital of 1,000, divided into shares of 1 each; 2s. 6d. to be paid on application, and 2s. 6d. on allotment per share.

The Company have succeeded in purchasing the copyright, goodwill, &c., of the Miner and Workman’s Advocate, which they have resolved to turn into a first-class newspaper, not only for miners, but for all branches of industry — a newspaper in which all political, social, and industrial questions, whether they affect the whole or only a portion of the working class, shall be amply discussed.

We, the undersigned, on behalf of the Company, invite all lovers of freedom who have the welfare of their fellow beings at heart to co-operate in the good and arduous task the Company have undertaken, by taking up shares, helping to increase the circulation, &c., so that the working man’s press may soon be able to occupy an honourable position, and — take an active and dignified part in the struggles of the day.

Application for shares may be made immediately, by letter, enclosing 2s. 6d. for each share applied for.

C. Odger, President
E. S. Mantz, Secretary Pro tem.
C. W. Wheeler, Treasurer