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

On the Reduction of the Working Day

Source: MECW Volume 21, p. 387;
First published: in The Bee-Hive, August 22, 1868.

Marx delivered this speech at the General Council meeting of August 11, 1868, during the debate on the reduction of the working day, the point included in the Brussels Congress agenda.

The record of this speech has survived in the Minute Book of the General Council in the form of a clipping pasted in from The Bee-Hive, August 22, 1868 with corrections by the Secretary, Eccarius.

From the Minutes of the General Council Meeting of August 11, 1868

Citizen Marx could not coincide with Milner[452], that it [the reduction of the hours of labour] would lead to a diminished production [“diminished production” was inserted by Eccarius in place of “an increased demand for labour”], because where the restrictions had been introduced, the instruments of production had been vastly more developed than in other trades. It had the effect of introducing more machinery, and made production on a small scale more and more impossible, which, however, was necessary to arrive at social production. The sanitary question was settled.[453] But a reduction of the hours of labour was also indispensable to give the working class more time for mental culture. Legislative restrictions were the first step towards the mental and physical elevation and the ultimate emancipation of the working classes. Nobody denied, nowadays, that the State must interfere on behalf of the women and children; and a restriction of their hours led, in most instances, to a reduction of the working time of the men. England had taken the lead, other countries had been obliged to follow to some extent. The agitation had seriously commenced in Germany, and the London Council was looked to for taking the lead. The principle had been decided at former congresses; the time for action had arrived.

452 Here the record mistakenly mentions Eccarius. It was Milner, who, in opposition to Eccarius, asserted that the reduction of working hours, though desirable, would mean lower production.

453 Marx refers to Eccarius’ substantiation of the harmful effect of the lengthy, working day on the workers’ health which he made at the General Council meeting.