International Workingmen’s Association 1868
Record of Speech by Karl Marx

On Changing the Place of the Congress of The International in 1868

Source: MECW Volume 21, p. 320;
First published: in The Bee-Hive Newspaper, May 30 and June 20, 1868.

Marx made these speeches to substantiate his proposal to change the venue of the congress and the subsequent withdrawal of the relevant resolution. The record of his speeches is reproduced from The Bee-Hive Newspaper because it is more detailed than in the Minute Book of the General Council.

From Newspaper Reports of the General Council Meetings

May 26, 1868

Notice of motion was given that a resolution should be moved on Tuesday next to cancel the resolution of the last congress appointing Brussels as the place of meeting for the next congress, and that London be appointed instead.

The Council considers it incompatible with the honour and dignity of the Association to assemble a congress, surrounded, as it would be, by French spies, and in a country whose Government is capable of committing such wanton outrages as have been perpetrated against the half-starved miners of Charleroi. [392]

June 16, 1868

The mover of the resolutions then stated, that besides the foregoing assurances things had transpired since he had given notice which compelled the Council to abstain from revoking the vote of the Laussane Congress.[393] The Belgian section had already taken action. M. Bara, the Minister of Justice, was reported to have said in the Chamber of Deputies, that he would not permit the Congress to assemble; in a remonstrance signed by all the members of the Brussels committee and the executive of the Free Workmen — an affiliated political society of Verviers, the resident members of the Association had declared that “in spite of all the vain rhodomontade of the Minister of Justice, the International Congress should be held at Brussels”. The question, therefore, was strictly one of resistance of the Belgian working men against the police regulations of their government, with which the Council had no right to interfere. He should, therefore, withdraw his resolutions.

392 During a strike by Charleroi miners in Spring of 1868 against a four-day week imposed by the mine-owners, 22 miners were arrested and put on trial. The International hired lawyers to defend the miners and ran a campaign in their defence. The miners achieved wide public support and were ultimately acquitted.

393 The Lausanne Congress of the International in 1867 designated Brussels as the venue of the next general congress. On February 24, 1868, the General Council called on all sections to begin preparing the Congress agenda. However, the Belgian Minister of Justice, Jules Bara, declared in the Chamber of Deputies on May 16 that he would not permit the convocation of the Congress in Brussels and urged the deputies to renew the Aliens Law of 1835, under which any foreigner could be expelled from the country as politically unreliable. In view of this, at the General Council meeting of May 26, 1868, Marx raised the question of not meeting in Brussels (see The Bee-Hive Newspaper, May 30, 1868). The resolution drawn up by Marx to this effect was read by Jung at the General Council meeting of June 2, since Marx had left for Manchester.

Bara’s statement and the prolongation of the Aliens Law caused great discontent in Belgium. The Brussels Section of the International sent the Minister a protest letter which was published in La Tribune du Peuple, May 24, 1868.

In their letters to the General Council, De Paepe and Vandenhouten, the leaders of the Brussels Section, urged the Council not to yield to the government because this threatened the further existence of the International in Belgium. Consequently, on Marx’s proposal, the General Council meeting of June 16 cancelled the resolution of June 2 and Brussels remained the venue for the next annual congress.

The text of the June 2 resolution was included in the Minutes of the General Council meeting of June 2, 1868, and was also published in The Bee-Hive Newspaper, June 6, 1868.