International Workingmen’s Association 1869

Resumé of the Meetings of the General Council

International Workingmen’s Association 1869
To the Editor of The Bee-Hive

Source: MECW Volume 21, p. 37;
Written: by Karl Marx 6 January 1869;
First published: in The Bee-Hive, January 16, 1869.

At the General Council meeting of December 15, 1868 Dupont proposed that a short report on the activity of the IWMA since the Brussels Congress should be drawn up and published. Jung was instructed to draw up the resumé and Marx expressed his willingness to help. The resumé contains chiefly the material of the General Council meetings of November 3 and 24, December 22, 1868 and January 5, 1869 and includes Marx’s reports. The resolution moved by Marx and Applegarth, probably on Marx’s initiative, was not entered in the Minute Book. That is probably why Marx decided to include it in this resumé.

Sir, — At the meeting of this Association, held on the 5th inst., letters were read from Germany announcing the adhesion of 2,000 miners, from Lugau, in Saxony, and arrangements are in progress with two other bodies, of 7,000 miners each, with a view of their Joining the International Working Men’s Association.[58]

A democratic Working Men’s Club has been formed at Berlin[59]; the members have joined the International Working Men’s Association, and declared themselves opposed to the Prussian Government and to Schultze-Delitzsch. The trades’ unions in Germany, on the model of the English ones, with some improvements suggested by the resolutions of the Geneva, Lausanne, and Brussels Working Men’s Congresses, brought into existence by the efforts of the International Working Men’s Association, number already 110,000 members.

The Belgian secretary [Marie Bernard] stated that in Belgium they had sixty branches, and that they were getting new members at the rate of 1,000 per week. [60]

The secretary for Switzerland [Hermann Jung] stated that he had received information concerning some riband weavers of Basel, who had been locked out.[61] The matter will come up again on Tuesday, when the Council will be in possession of the facts.

The secretary for France [Eugene Dupont] reported an agreement come to between the cotton masters of Rouen, the northern and some other departments of France, to reduce the workmen’s wages, in order to undersell the English manufacturers in their own markets.

The following resolution, proposed by Citizen Applegarth, and seconded by Citizen Marx, was unanimously agreed to: —

Resolved — That in the opinion of this Council the attempt of the employers of Rouen, of the northern and other departments of France, to reduce the wages of their workpeople with the avowed object of underselling the manufacturers of England in their own markets is deserving the reprobation of the workmen and employers of all nations. That while recognising the right of free competition carried on by legitimate means, we utterly deprecate the extension of trade by reducing the wages of workpeople already underpaid.

Resolved — That the various societies be invited to send delegates to the next meeting of the Council, to be held on Tuesday 19 inst. at eight p. m., to devise the best means to frustrate the unwarrantable attempts of the French manufacturer, and to render to the workmen concerned such assistance as they may need. [62]

Hermann Jung, Sec. pro. tem.
6th Jan. 1869

58 The reference is to a letter from the Saxon miners of Lugau Nieder-Würschnitz and Oelsnitz, dated November 15, 1868, informing the General Council of their decision to join the International. The letter was read by, Marx at the meeting of November 24, 1868.

59 Marx refers to the Democratic Workers Association (founded in October 1868 as a result of the split in the Berlin Workers’ Association. Wilhelm Eichhoff), the formation of which he had announced at the General Council meeting of November 3, 1868. The facts, cited by Marx were mentioned in a letter from Liebknecht that was read out to the General Council on December 22, 1868.

60 These data were given by Vandenhouten in his letter to Bernard of December 19, 1868 and read at the General Council meeting of December 22, 1868.

61 The strike of the Basle ribbon weavers broke out on November 9, 1868. A detailed description of the Swiss workers’ economic struggle in the winter of 1868-69 was given by Marx in the Report of the General Council to the Fourth Annual Congress of the International Working Men’s Association. The reports about this strike and the lockout in Rouen’s cotton industry, (Nord department) were made in the General Council on January 5, 1869.

62 In response to the General Council’s resolution, the Paris bronze-workers, on Marx’s proposal, sent the Rouen weavers the £20 advanced to them by the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners of Britain. A letter from Rouen read out at the General Council meeting on January 26, 1869 thanked the Council for the support it had given the locked-out workers.