Speech by Karl Marx 1869

On the Condition of the Coalminers in Saxony

Source: Wikisource, from report issued by The Bee-Hive on February 27, 1869 about a speech given by Karl Marx at the General Council meeting in February 23, 1869.

The German secretary read a report on the condition of the coalminers in the kingdom of Saxony. Their wages vary from 6s. to 10s. 3d. a week, for twelve hours labour a day; boys’ from 4s. to 5s. a week. Each colliery has a benefit club, to which the men are compelled to contribute, but they have no voice in the administration of the funds; the funds are the lawful property of the coal owners, and the benefits are, without exception, dispensed by the head-managers of the collieries. Sick, relief and superannuation allowances rise in proportion to length of service, but any one leaving his employment, no matter for what reason, loses all claims upon the fund. Thus a man may have contributed to the fund for 30 or 40 years without receiving a farthing in his old age.

An agitation among the miners for better terms has led to the publication of a draft of rules for a united club for all the Saxon ,collieries. The draft is the work of a committee of colliers presided over by Mr. J. G. Dinter. The chief distinctive features are —

1. All clubs to be consolidated into one.

2. Members not to lose their rights so long as they reside anywhere in Germany and continue to pay their contributions.

3. A general meeting of all adult members to be the supreme authority to elect a general and an executive committee.

4. Masters’ contributions to be equal to one-half of those of the men.

This draft, which does not represent the views of the most intelligent colliers, but rather of a section, which would fain to carry out reforms with the consent of the masters, carries on its face the stamp of impracticability. It is really too naive to suppose that the masters, who now have complete control of the clubs, will consent to hand the whole management over to a democratic general meeting of working men, and yet continue paying their contributions. To open the eyes of such of the colliers as may still believe in the possibility of reforming the clubs upon the basis of joint contributions of masters and men, the indignant refusal on the part of the masters will be the best means.