Documents of the First International 1867

Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association to the Members and Affiliated Societies[372]

Source: Minutes of the General Council of the First International 1866-1868, 1964;
Written: by a commission consisting of P. Fox, H. Jung, J. G. Eccarius, and E. Dupont;
Adopted by the General Council on July 9, 1867;
First published: as a leaflet in mid-July 1867.

Fellow Working Men, – According to the reports we have received from time to time-our Continental members are — very persevering in propagating the principles and extending the ramifications of our Association, particularly in Switzerland, where most of our branches are actively engaged in establishing benefit and credit funds, and cooperative societies of production in connection with our Association: the progress of the British section has been greatly interfered with by the Reform movement. As the Council looks upon the political enfranchisement of the working classes as a means to complete their social emancipation, it was but natural that the British members should take a leading part in the Reform agitation and that our affiliated societies should, for the time being, throw their whole weight into the balance against reactionary phrase-mongers and, malignant obstructives to bring matters to a crisis. However, now that the heat of the agitation has subsided, that no more monster demonstrations have to be organised, and the time appointed for the meeting of the second annual congress is drawing near, it is high time that those who have absented themselves during the height of the contest should resume their seats at the Council board, and our affiliated branches should make an effort to lend us a helping hand.[373] The aims of our Association are not ephemeral; our labours will continue to absorb the attention of the working population until wages-slavery has become a matter of history. What the lot of the labouring population would be if everything were left to isolated, individual bargaining, may be easily foreseen. The iron rule of supply and demand. if left unchecked, would speedily reduce the producers of all the wealth to a starvation level, since in the actual condition of society every improvement of the productive powers, every abridgement of manual labour, tends but to lower wages and increase the hours of toil. Surely the labouring poor, the producers of all wealth, have a human, an inherent, a natural claim to participate in the fruits of their own toil., but this claim can only be enforced and realised by the union of all. Sectional efforts are of little avail, and partful successes are but short-lived. Nothing short of a thorough union and combination of the work-people of all countries can achieve the satisfactory solution of the labour question. Much has already been done in that direction, but more remains to be done. The periodical meeting of the representative men of the different countries has the effect of removing time-honoured national antipathies, cementing friendship, and smoothing the path for a common mode of action towards a common end. We therefore appeal to you to do what is in your power to send as many representatives of the British branches as possible to the ensuing Congress of our Association, which will assemble on Monday, Sept. 2nd, 1867, at Lausanne.

According to the Regulations passed at the first annual congress, every branch is entitled to send a delegate. Branches numbering above 500 members may send a delegate for every full 500 members. Branches that do not consider it advisable to send delegates of their own may contribute towards the expense of delegates representing groups of branches.

The principal questions to be settled by the Congress are:

1. On the practical means by which to enable the International Working Men’s Association to fulfil its function of a common centre of action for the working classes, female and male, in their struggle tending to their complete emancipation from the domination of capital.

2. How can the working classes utilise for the purpose of their own emancipation the credit which they now give to the middle classes and the government.

An early reply stating your decision is requested.

By order of the Council,

George Odger President
J. George Eccarius, Gen. Sec.

16, Castle Street, East London, W., July 9, 1967