The International Working Men’s Congress of 1889
A reply to the Manifesto of the Social Democratic Federation.


Source: Pamphlet written by E. Bernstein, edited by F. Engels, and published by the Sozialdemokrat in June 1889


A Reply to the “ Manifesto of the Social Democratic Federation.”

THIS Manifesto, published in Justice of May 25th, 1889, professes to proclaim to the world “plain truths” about the above Congress. The people who hold themselves responsible for these “plain truths” are: “International Committee of the Social Democratic Federation,” and “The General Council of the Social Democratic Federation.” We are not told who are the individuals composing these two bodies. No names whatever are given. And this is strange enough, considering that the authors raise no end of complaints about the “secret caucus” of the Hague, whose members, at all events, never withheld their names from public cognizance. But a council or committee of the Social Democratic Federation seems to be a thing which passeth all understanding. It may be in the recollection of some, that on October 23rd, 1888, the General Council of the Social Democratic Federation, by seven votes to two, passed a sharp vote of censure on Mr. Hyndman, for having “prostituted” Justice, which vote Mr. Hyndman treated with the utmost contempt (Justice, 27th October, 1888), calling it a “snatched vote,” and got it soon after reversed by an equally large or larger majority. After that, no wonder that this same General Council gives no names, even at the risk of being itself called a “secret caucus”; nor, indeed, can it matter much, after that, whether such names are given or not.

The Manifesto begins thus :

“The decision of a section of our Socialist comrades in France, acting in conjunction with others who are not Socialists, to hold a Congress in Paris; in opposition to that which has been called and is being organised by our comrades of the Possibilist Party, demands a statement of the truth from the Social-Democratic Federation, by far the largest and most powerful Socialist organisation in Great Britain.”

Who are the parties “who are not Socialists,” is as much left in the dark as are the names of those who make this statement. It is therefore impossible to examine how far it is, or not, a “plain truth.” But such a statement which, if not meant as an aspersion, means nothing at all, sounds rather astonishing in the mouth of the organs of an association which is the close ally, for offence and defence, of those Possibilists who never could manage to get together a congress without the help of “others who are not Socialists.” Their first conference, Paris, 1883, was attended from abroad almost exclusively by the leaders of the English Trades Unionists, conducted by Mr. Broadhurst in person; and Mr. Broadhurst was delighted with the speeches there made and the resolutions passed. Their second conference was also largely attended by the same element, and the London Congress, 1888, was actually convoked by the Trades’ Congress Parliamentary Committee who, as everybody knows, “are not Socialists,” but the very reverse.

But let that pass. The authors profit of the occasion to remind us that the Social Democratic Federation is “by far the largest and most powerful Socialist Organization in Great Britain.” This information has now been repeated, week after week, for nearly six years, in every number of Justice, and yet there are people depraved enough to have their doubts about the greatness and power of the Social Democratic Federation; nay, to pretend that these assertions of its greatness and power increase in frequency, vehemence and obtrusiveness exactly at times when, and in proportion as, the real greatness and force of the Social Democratic Federation is on the wane. They point to the fact that Justice has reduced its size by full one half at the turn of the year “just for the holidays,” which holidays are not over yet; and there are some who ought to know, and who maintain that the circulation of that paper has shrunk from over 4000 to barely one third of that number; that there are branches which never even go through the formality of meeting, and large industrial towns where never a copy of the paper is read. And reports such as that about the Bolton Branch (Labour Elector, May 28th, 1888) – a report not anonymous like our manifesto, but signed by eight members – strongly tend to confirm these assertions. Whatever may be said in favour of the stratagem of exaggerating your forces to your enemy, there can be no two opinions as to its merits when it is used to throw dust into the eyes of your allies and comrades. And it is not too much to say that you will have to search with the lantern of Diogenes before you find a single man in the United Kingdom who is taken in by this habitual brag of the Social Democratic Federation.

I am sorry to have to speak thus of an organization which has done a deal of good, which might do a great deal more, and which contains excellent elements. But while it allows itself to be “bossed “ as at present, it will never be even the shadow of what it pretends to be.

The authors further state that no effort has been wanting on their part, to bring about an understanding, but as this has been of no avail, they now confine themselves “to the setting out of plain facts which have never been disputed.” These plain facts are fourteen in number.

1. “ The Possibilist Party of France ... were empowered by the International Trade Union Congress of Paris in 1886 to call an International Congress of Workers in Paris in 1889. The Germans were represented at this Paris Congress of 1886 by Grimpe.”

This “ plain fact “ is indeed undisputed, except that the meeting of 1886, at the time, was dubbed a simple “Conference;” to give it more authority, it is now transformed into a regular “Congress.” And there is this important omission, Grimpe did not vote for this resolution, and therefore his presence at the Conference cannot by any possibility be stretched into an acquiescence of “the Germans” in the mandate given to the Possibilists.

2. “ The Parliamentary Committee of the English Trade Unions most unfairly and unjustly excluded the Germans and Austrians from any representation at the International Trade Union Congress of London in 1888. Thereupon the Germans denounced the Congress as a Rump-Congress, and Bebel, Liebknecht, and others, who are organising the present rival Congress in Paris, appealed to all other nationalities not to attend the London Congress because they were excluded from it.”

So far, agreed.

3. “The International Trade Union Congress of London of 1888 was, nevertheless, held and was very successful. The special allies of the-Parliamentary Germans in France, the so-called Marxists or Guesdists, were represented by Farjat. That Congress unanimously empowered the Possibilists to call, and to make arrangements for, an International Congress of the Workers in Paris m 1889. Farjat held up his hand with the rest in favour of this resolution, the Belgians, represented by Anseele, and the Dutch concurring. Anseele and Croll both, nevertheless, went to the Hague Caucus!”

It is not exact to say that Farjat represented “the so-called Marxists or Guesdists.” Farjat was sent by the French Trades’ Unions Congress, opened a few days before the London Congress at Bordeaux. The 250 local Unions represented at Bordeaux by 63 delegates can only be called “Marxists or Guesdists” if these names are meant to comprise all French working men who are not Possibilists. That Congress of Bordeaux, too, unanimously resolved “to call, and to make arrangements for, an International Congress of the Workers in Paris in 1889;” it did so several, days before the London Congress passed its resolution. But as the people represented at Bordeaux had one and all been repudiated and treated as enemies by the Possibilists, it could never enter into their heads to empower the same Possibilists with the convocation of this Congress; and to say, therefore, that “Farjat held up his hand in favour of this resolution,” is simply absurd-quite as absurd as to pretend that the “Marxists” are pledged by this vote of Farjat’s which never was given; which, if it had been given, could only have been given in mistake, and could thus not even bind him who gave it.

That Anseele and Croll, having voted for the London resolution above alluded to, should nevertheless have “gone to the Hague Caucus,” will indeed seem most inconceivable to anyone content to put up with the “plain truths” and “never disputed facts” of our manifesto. But the appendix to this reply will show that Anseele and Croll not only found it necessary to go to the Hague, but also to abandon the Possibilist Congress altogether, and to support the convocation of the counter Congress; and not only Anseele and Croll, but other London Delegates too, and along with them the immense majority of the representatives of European Socialism. To all of them “the plain truths” of the Manifesto were known long since, and yet, such is the innate wickedness of human nature, they were driven to the very opposite conclusion to that propounded with so much benevolent zeal by the organs of the Social Democratic Federation.

4. “ Acting on these two successive mandates the Possibilists, who are by far the strongest Socialist Party in France, alike in Paris (where they cast 50,000 votes) and in the Provinces, proceeded, as in duty bound, to call and organise an International Congress of Workers at the end of July, 1889.”

The Possibilists, at the municipal elections, did cast something like 50,000 votes, many of which belonged to their opponents, the Collectivists (the so-called Marxists), who were noble enough to drop sectional differences wherever possible. But to say that the Possibilists are “by far the strongest Socialist party in France, alike in Paris and in the provinces,” is a plain untruth. The Possibilists, even in Paris which is notoriously their stronghold, have lost a deal of ground since their open alliance, not only with the middle class Radicals, but also with the Opportunists – that party of Stock Exchange manipulators who are the embodiment of the present official corruption in France. The fact that, under pretext of combating Boulanger, the Possibilists fraternised with the very men whose misdeeds in office have alone made Boulanger’s popularity, and have made hundreds of thousands of all classes cry out: “Rather Boulanger, rather the devil himself than this blood-sucking system of corruption!” – this fact was too much for many of their sincere followers; and when, at the January election, they supported the bourgeois Jacques (who in the municipal Council had invariably voted against every resolution favorable to the working class), and actually fought the working class candidate, Boulé, there were increasing signs of discontent in the ranks. One of their speakers, Reties, was defending Jacques at a meeting, who considerably heckled by working men, supporters of Boulé, at last left the platform in a rage, shouting, “Yes! I shall vote for Jacques, but I shall take my revenge on those who make me commit this infamy!” And Boulé did, indeed, in spite of the fanatical opposition of the Possibilists, obtain the votes of 18,000 working men.

After this, it is not to he wondered at if the Possibilist party in Paris shows signs of breaking up. The group of the 14th ward of Paris was expelled, on the 16th of April, by the council of delegates against only two delegates protesting; but when on the 23rd of April Allemane called for an order upon two members to surrender certain letters, which otherwise might be used unpleasantly against some of the leaders, the motion was indeed voted by twenty-six groups. But fifteen groups protested and three abstained, and in consequence of this the principal organizations of the 13th ward left the Federation, declaring “the allies of Ferry, Clemenceau, and Ranc have no longer any right to claim a share in a party which finds its root in the class struggle. They have deserted that party by betraying the engagements they had taken towards the working class; they are to-day nothing else than props of middle-class rule.” And though this is but a beginning, there is no doubt that even in Paris the rule of the Possibilist leaders has been severely shaken.

As to the provinces, it is not only no “plain truth,” no “never disputed fact,” but an assertion simply ludicrous, to say that there the Possibilists are “by far the strongest.” In all the large towns and industrial centres of France, the Socialist organizations are outside their Federation and hostile to it. For instance, Lyons (5 Socialist town councillors), Marseilles (1 Socialist county councillor), Roubaix (2 town councillors), Armentières (5 town councillors), Montluçon (2 town councillors), Commentry (the whole town council and the mayor Socialists), Calais (2 town councillors), Lille (4,000 Socialist non-Possibilist votes at last municipal election), Bourges, Vierzon, Roanne, Bordeaux, Narbonne, Alais, &c., &c. Not one of these town and county councillors is a Possibilist. All these towns are without dispute in the hands of their opponents, as far as Socialist and working class organization is concerned.

Indeed, for some years past they have not dared to show their faces in the provinces. In 1887, in order to find a place where they could with any success hold heir National Congress, they had to look up an out-of-the-way little town in the Ardennes, which most people will not be able to find on their maps; and last winter, when they had called their Congress to Troyes, where they believed to be sure of the local representative working men, the local committee declared that the Congress would be this time in reality, and not in appearance only, open to all Socialist and working men’s organizations of France. When the Possibilist big wigs in Paris found out that this was meant in earnest, they rather gave up their own congress than face the Collectivists and Blanquists, who now came to Troyes, and held the congress called by the Possibilists, but deserted by, and, in fact, conquered from them.

Thus the “plain truth” that the Possibilists are by far the strongest, is exactly on a par with the sonorous trumpet-blasts of the Manifesto about the greatness and power of the Social Democratic Federation.

But, strong or not strong, they were “in duty bound to call the Congress to Paris.”

This brings us to the question as to the value of the powers held by the Possibilists to that effect.

The Paris Conference of 1886 was so weakly attended internationally – so far from being representative – that its resolution does but count for a wish; it could be binding at best upon those who voted it, viz., the Possibilists and the English Trades’ Unionists. These latter threw the Paris resolutions overboard at their next ensuing Congress at Hull. All that remains, then, is that at Paris, 1886, the Possibilists empowered themselves to call a Paris Congress in 1889.

Now to the London Congress.

The London Congress was not a general working men’s Congress, it was a Trades’ Unions Congress, convoked by Trades’ Unions and excluding on principle all but Trades’ Unionists. How the resolutions of such a Congress can be binding upon working men who are not Trades’ Unionists, or upon Socialists at large, is to me a mystery. A Trades’ Unions Congress may call another Trades’ Unions Congress, but nothing beyond. In calling a working men’s Congress it went beyond its powers; that it did so, may have all our sympathies, being a victory over antiquated Trades’ Union prejudices; but the fact remains that the call exceeded the competency of the Congress, and has therefore but the force of a wish.

No doubt the Bordeaux Congress was a mere Trades’ Unions’ Congress too; and so far, its resolution to call an international working men’s Congress is vitiated to the same degree. But this resolution, in December following, was ratified by the Socialist Congress of Troyes, to the resolutions of which even the Possibilists cannot justly object, for they themselves called it, and if they stayed away it was their own fault.

That the wilful exclusion of the delegates of Germany and Austria – countries comprising about as many Socialists as the rest of Europe put together – made that Congress a Rump-Congress, is a “plain truth,” and, indeed, a “never-disputed fact;” even the Manifesto does not dispute it, it only complains that the Germans called it so – called a spade a spade.

This Rump Congress (the minority of which, for the rest, has done great service to the Socialist cause in England) moreover acted under compulsion. At the first serious disharmony between the English Shiptonite Trades Unionists, and the Socialists, the Shiptonites, by the mouth of Shipton himself, declared that if this sort of thing went on they would close the Congress; and that they had the power to do so, because they had hired the room. The Socialists were thus from the very beginning made to feel that they were in the position of Irish tenants at will, and that their Shiptonite landlord was prepared to use his power of eviction, if need be, with the help of the Queen’s forces.

The Socialists submitted, and they did well under the circumstances; but they omitted to enter a formal protest, and that was a mistake. However, they have not yet forgotten what treatment they did expose themselves to in consequence of over-confidence, and, as the Appendix shows, they are determined it shall not happen again.

Then, the Parliamentary Committee had prepared a set of rules and regulations for the Congress, by which they hoped to muzzle and keep down the Socialists. Verification of credentials, agenda, mode of voting, in fact, the whole mode of procedure had been settled beforehand by the Shiptonites, and was crammed down the throat of the Congress under this threat of instant eviction. The London Congress was not a free agent, no more than is the working man who contracts for work with a capitalist, or the Irish farmer who takes three or four acres from a rack-renting landlord, and must either accept the latter’s terms or starve. It is disgraceful enough that a Congress, held under such conditions, should figure on the records of the working class movement; but that another Congress should meet on the same or similar terms – never!

In spite of all this, the Socialist minority of the Congress made it so hot for the Shiptonite majority, that the Parliamentary Committee had enough of it. They publicly treated the Congress resolutions as so much waste paper, and above all, the resolution about the Paris Congress.

Thus, the mandate given to the Possibilists by the London Congress was faulty, (1) because it was given by a Trades Union Congress, which had no power to bind working men outside Trades Unions or Socialists generally; (2) because the London Congress, by the exclusion of the Germans, &c., became a Rump Congress; (3) because it was not a free agent; (4) because the very people who had convoked the Congress and who had formed its majority were the first to repudiate that mandate.

I should not have entered into this discussion at all, were it not that the Possibilists and their allies of the Social Democratic Federation constantly throw in our faces, as something sacred and unimpeachable, the mandate of the London Congress. That mandate is to be supreme; it is to override, as a matter of course, the previous resolution of the Bordeaux Congress, ratified since by the Congress of Troyes; it is to bind not only those who were there to vote it, but also those who were not, and even those who were deliberately excluded. And when such pretensions are raised, it becomes a duty to inquire into its real value.

Indeed, in spite of this inherent invalidity of the London mandate, in spite of the fact that it was a distinct slap in the face of the remaining French Socialists and of the Bordeaux Congress - a slap, indeed, dealt out unwittingly by most of those who voted for it – this mandate was treated, as we shall see, with the utmost consideration, by those who had no share in conferring it, and would, in the end, have been practically accepted by all, had it not been for the unscrupulous action of the Possibilists themselves.

The very first circular by which the Possibilists convoked the Congress showed that they not only did not resent the action by which the Parliamentary Committee had fettered the London Congress, but that they distinctly took this domineering action as a precedent, and claimed for themselves the same powers which the Parliamentary Committee had usurped. They prescribed the Agenda, the mode of voting, and of verifying credentials, which latter was to be done by each nationality separately. Not a word was said that all this was to be merely provisional, and subject to approval by the Congress.

Now the London Congress could not confer upon the Possibilists any powers it did not itself possess. No Congress of any kind can pass resolutions which a succeeding Congress shall not have the power of repealing. Therefore, the London Congress was not entitled to empower the Possibilists to set up rules and regulations by which the Paris Congress was to be bound. Nor did it anything of the kind. But the Possibilists did claim this power. It was this unblushing pretension on the part of the Possibilists which brought on all the differences and debates that have followed, and it was their refusal to give up, in plain and unmistakeable terms, this pretension, which brought on the split and the two Congresses. The majority of European Socialists decline going a second time-and this time with their eyes open- into a trap.

What is disputed, then, is not so much the London mandate- that would have been got over easily – as the use the Possibilists have made of it, their claim to make laws which are to be binding upon the Congress, and thus to make the domineering action of the Parliamentary Committee over the London Congress a precedent to be recognized for all future Congresses.

5. “To this the Marxists, though pledged by Farjat’s vote, objected, and induced the Germans to object because, as they said, the Possibilists meant to exclude their opponents and to manipulate the Congress to their own ends. This charge was made, although the Possibilists have never excluded any section of Socialists from any Congress before and not a tittle of evidence has ever yet been adduced to show that they intended to do so on this occasion. The invitations included all Socialist bodies.”

The principal part of this “plain truth” has been refuted already. But the assertion that “the Possibilists have never excluded any section of Socialists from any Congress before, and not a little of evidence has ever yet been adduced to show that they intended to do so on this occasion,” is either a stupendous wilful untruth, or a proof that our authors speak about things of which they live in the most blissful ignorance. At the third Regional Congress of the Federation of the Centre (of France), May, 1882, they had declared the Congress to be open to all Socialists. But when thirty Collectivist (so-called Marxist) Delegates, relying upon this declaration, made their appearance, they were ruthlessly expelled, under the ridiculous pretext, that by taking the name: “Federation du Centre,” they had entered into an unfair competition with the Possibilist Union Federative. And when at the eighth Regional Congress of the same, in 1887, twelve Collectivist Delegates appeared, in accordance with the ever repeated assertion that all Socialists were invited, they were shouted and hooted down, and had to leave the Congress, and a resolution was passed that, “the Marxists should never be admitted to any of their Congresses.” And better still, in 1888, when the Local Committee charged with the organization of the Possibilist National Congress at Troyes, for once threatened to make the everlasting phrase of the admission of all Socialists a reality, the Possibilists, as we have seen, rather deserted their own Congress than let their bragging assertion be carried out.

After all this, no wonder the Collectivists were convinced that “the Possibilists meant to exclude them, and to manipulate the Congress to their own ends.”

6. “At any rate, a Conference was called at Nancy by Lafargue, Guesde, and other Marxists, acting in concert with the Germans of the Reichstag Party and their friends. To this Conference the Possibilists were invited last of all, and only a week before the Conference was to have been held.”

The Nancy Conference was called by the Germans and not by Lafargue, who, on the contrary, objected to both the time and place, and did his best to prevent its coming off, in which he was successful. The Possibilists were not “invited last of all,” but at the same time as all others. Thus, plain truth No. 6 is a tissue of falsehoods; but even if it was all true, what would it signify?

7. “That proposed Conference at Nancy did not take place, but, instead, a Conference was summoned at the Hague. To this Conference, also, the Possibilists were invited last of all. In reply to the invitation they wrote letters asking several very important questions. Those letters were never answered, and the Conference was held at once without their assistance.”

Again, the assertion that the Possibilists were invited last of all is an untruth. They were invited at the same time as all others; we have made special inquiries as to that point, unimportant as it is in itself. The Conference was called for the 28th February, and at the meeting of their National Committee on the 17th February, the Possibilists are in possession, not only of the invitation, but also of the reply of Liebknecht to their letters containing “several very important questions,” which letters, according to the Manifesto, “were never answered.” They themselves state that Liebknecht “did not answer their questions about the order of the day of the Conference.” [See their official Proletariat, 23rd February.] He told them, as I am informed, that they would be answered at the Conference itself. To enter into a lengthy correspondence about preliminaries, and thus to put off the Conference till after the Congress itself, might have suited the Possibilists. It could not suit those who were in earnest about coming to an agreement honourable to all parties alike. Anyhow, after this the Possibilists stayed at home, and in consequence of their non-appearance, the Conference had indeed to be held without their assistance.

8. “This Conference was held without any representative being present from Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and several other countries. The Social-Democratic Federation was not even informed that it was going to be called. Only those were invited who were known to be hostile to the Possibilists. Lafargue himself was the sole representative of France, though he had a bitter personal feud with the Possibilists of many years’ standing! The full proceedings of the Conference were not, and have never been published.”

9. “Such a Conference as this was manifestly nothing but a Caucus, summoned, we fear, for no good purpose. Our noble comrade, Domela Nieuwenhuis, we deeply regret to say, states in a letter to the Social-Democratic Federation that it was intended to be secret.”

The Hague Conference being called by the Germans, they invited those foreign Socialists with whom they were in correspondence, Dutch, Belgians, Danes, Swiss, and the two French Parties between which they had to mediate. The Socialist League, in the person of W. Morris, was invited by Lafargue, and in the same way the Possibilists might have invited the Social Democratic Federation; at all events, nobody here in London either knew who had, and who had not, been invited, or had any power of inviting anybody. It is an untruth to say that only those were invited who were known to be hostile to the Possibilists. The Belgians bad been for years in friendly relations with them, and showed at their National Congress last Easter, that they were very loath to do anything to displease them. And the Dutch, Danes, and Swiss were certainly not hostile to them, much less “ known to be” so. If Lafargue happened to be the sole representative of France, nobody was to blame but the Possibilists who had not accepted the invitation. It is not true that Lafargue’s “bitter feud with the Possibilists of many year’s standing” was a personal one. Lafargue, Guesde, Deville, and a large group of Socialists and Trades’ Organisations, seceded from the majority of the party, because the latter repudiated its programme and preferred to found a party without any programme at all.

The only true fact in both paragraphs 8 and 9, is that the Conference was “secret,” in so far as it was not public. The public and the press were certainly not invited. If the proceedings were “secret “ from the Possibilists, it was simply because they had thought proper not to attend. But the resolutions of the Conference were passed for the express purpose of being communicated to them, and were so communicated without delay, by Volders. What then remains of this cantankerous grumbling about a “secret” Conference, which, at all events, was not half as “secret” as the meetings of the two mysterious bodies who are responsible for the Manifesto? Not only the resolutions, as far as they interest the public, but also the names of the delegates are known to the world. It would certainly have been a most ridiculous proceeding to call in the representatives of the press at a Conference endeavouring to mediate between two opposing socialist groups.

10. “By this Caucus, thus sitting with, closed doors, a set of resolutions were passed to which no serious objection can he taken. Volders was, however, despatched to Paris to force these decisions on the Possibilists as if they were the decrees of an Œcumenical Council, and Bernstein in London wrote in the same strain. The letters of the German leaders, which we hope we shall not be obliged to publish, are also written in a very bitter and arbitrary tone, threatening a rival Congress unless their orders were complied with immediately.”

After all the sinister insinuations about a packed conference and secret caucus, the reader is indeed entitled to some startling revelations about the shameful misdeeds and horrible crimes of this meeting of conspirators, “summoned, we fear, to no good purpose.” And what is the upshot? The Hague people passed “a set of resolutions to which no serious objection can in principle be taken"! Have the International Committee and the General Council of the Social Democratic Federation lost every trace of the sense of the ludicrous?

These resolutions our authors may well try to skip over as quickly as possible. For they contained far more concessions than the Possibilists ever had a right to expect. The Germans, who had been excluded from the London Congress, the French Collectivists who had been ignored by it, both offered to accept the London mandate, to allow it to overrule the resolutions of Bordeaux and Troyes, to leave in the hands of the Possibilists the convocation and organisation of the Congress, provided the Possibilists, in plain and unmistakeable words, gave up all pretence of prescribing binding rules for that Congress, and of “manipulating it to their own ends.” Anyhow, it is an admission to be noted, that even the Manifesto cannot find fault with the Hague resolutions.

Ah! but it is not the resolutions in themselves that are mischievous; it is the manner in which they were pressed on the Possibilists. And here the story-telling begins again. Volders was sent “to force these decisions on the Possibilists.” Volders, who was sent because he was, of all the Hague delegates, the one who had taken their part most strenuously! As to what “Bernstein wrote,” that does not bind anybody except himself, as the authors of the Manifesto ought to know by this time. And though I have no right to speak in their name, yet I am sure the “German leaders'’ will not disown me when I defy the Social Democratic Federation and their Parisian allies to publish any letters they may have from them.

The Hague resolutions are before the world, and the Possibilists were informed that unless they accepted them, the organizations represented at the conference would call another Congress, which could only be the one resolved upon at Bordeaux and Troyes. That may have appeared very “bitter and arbitrary” to the Possibilists, but it was the only way to bring them to their senses, if such was at all possible.

And now comes the gem – the very Koh-i-noor of the Manifesto,

11. “The Possibilists, nevertheless, accepted in effect every one of the resolutions so passed and so presented to them.”

12. “In spite of this acceptance, and of the fact that the Congress summoned by the Possibilists will be, and always would have been, supreme over its own proceedings, in spite of the fact that all cases in dispute can be referred by either side to the whole Congress for decision and settlement, the adherents of the Hague Caucus have now called another Congress in Paris.”

The Hague delegates had declared they were ready to join the Possibilist Caucus on two conditions: First, that the Possibilists were to convoke the Congress in agreement with the working men’s and Socialist organizations of France and other countries, delegates of which were to sign the convocation along with the Possibilists. Now this condition was flatly refused by the Possibilists; all others might sign, but none of the rival French sections. If the authors of the Manifesto do not know this, let them apply to the Editor of Justice, who is perfectly aware of it.

The second condition was that the Congress shall be sovereign as regards the verification of credentials and the fixing of its order of the day. This, too, the Possibilists have never accepted either “in effect” or otherwise. They have at first prescribed the verification of credentials by each nationality separately. When the other side declared that the decision of this point must be reserved to the Congress as a whole, the Possibilists replied that exceptional cases might be referred to the Congress; not a word of explanation as to what cases were to be considered exceptional. No, they keep bargaining as to which rights the Congress was to have and which not, and only when the circular convoking the “rival Congress” is in their hands, they at last find themselves compelled to state clearly, and in as many words, that in all cases of credentials disputed by a nationality, an appeal shall lie to the Congress. Had they admitted this much in time, there would have been a settlement of the principal difficulty; now of course it is too late.

The same tergiversations were used by them with regard to the order of the day. They did not look upon themselves as agents, charged with making provisional arrangements and proposals for facilitating the work of the Congress, to be ratified or not by the Congress itself. On the contrary, they acted as depositaries of mysterious and practically unlimited powers over the future Congress, part of which they might, out of mere condescension, give up, in order to oblige foreign organizations, who in turn were expected to recognise their remaining claims to authority over the Congress. Look only at even their very last resolutions of May 13th, when they had the circular convoking the counter Congress before them. (See Justice, May 25th.) Here they keep higgling and haggling with the Danes about the agenda, as if either they or the Danes had any right to settle a matter belonging to the competency of the Congress exclusively.

And they are gracious enough to accept a proposal of the English Trade Union Protest Committee, that a set of rules for the convocation and organization of future Congresses shall be put on the agenda. To which Justice naively adds, that even if there should be still something to complain of, “our German and other comrades can put up with it for this once,” Come into our fold “only for this once,” and next time you shall please yourselves a very enticing proposal indeed, but unfortunately this game has been tried in London last year, and “for that once” it was once too many.

One word on the part of the Possibilists would have sufficed to bring about a union; the one word, “provisional,” “subject to ratification by the Congress,” inserted in all their rules and regulations. But that was what no efforts could get out of them, and thus the second Congress became a necessity for all those who declined to be Shiptonized a second time.

Now, as a great part of this discussion has been carried on in the columns of Justice, the people who, in the name of the Social Democratic Federation, declare what is stated in paragraph 12, either cannot have read their own official organ, or they say what they know to be contrary to fact.

13. “They have called this Congress for the very time appointed for the Congress called by the Possibilists; though at the Hague they unanimously passed a resolution condemning the end of July as a most inconvenient and improper time to hold a Congress of Workers at Paris at all; though also, Anseele, in a letter to the S.D.F., stated that, if a second Congress were held, it would take place in September, and Liebknecht that it would be held either this year or next.”

According to this, the Hague Delegates seem to have given a positive and binding undertaking to the Possibilists to hold their Congress, not in July, but “in September,” or “either this year or next.” Now the third week in July is certainly “this year,” and so even now Liebknecht, at least, is unimpeachable. It would be trifling with our readers to enter into a discussion of these childish complaints. I may, however, state that the time, 14th to 21st July, was chosen firstly on the unanimous demand of the French, and secondly because the only way still open to bring about a fusion of both Congresses, if such be possible, is to make them sit side by side.

14. “The chief promoters of the Hague Caucus and of the rival Congress in Paris are Lafargue, Guesde, Mrs. Eleanor Marx Aveling (whose sister, a daughter of Karl Marx, Lafargue married), Bernstein (Editor of the Sozial-Demokrat), Bebel, and Liebknecht. Friedrich Engels is in full accord with their proceedings.”

There is at least – and at last! – some truth in this last “plain truth.” It is an undisputed fact that the sister of Mrs. Eleanor Marx Aveling is a daughter of Karl Marx, and married Lafargue; although from the way our authors put it, it almost looks as if Mrs. Lafargue was a daughter of Karl Marx and her sister was not. And if it is, again, a plain untruth to say that Bernstein or anybody else in London were in any way “promoters of the Hague Conference,” with the convocation and composition of which they had absolutely nothing to do, it will, I believe, not be disputed by any of the persons mentioned above that they have promoted the “rival Congress in Paris"-but they have done so only from the time the conduct of the Possibilists made such a course unavoidable. The authors of the Manifesto must be aware that Mrs. E. M. Aveling and Bernstein called on Mr. Hyndman in the beginning of April, as soon as the tone of Justice became a trifle less “bitter” and “personal,” and attempted to get him to assist in smoothing over existing difficulties, and that Mr. H. promised to do so,

At the foot of the Manifesto, we find this little note:-

“ The above has been ordered to be translated into several European languages and distributed in all countries.”

The signatures to the Appendix show that the case has been practically settled in almost all European countries. The great majority of Continental Socialists have decided in favour of the Congress called by the Collectivists and Blanquists, and against that called by the Possibilists. England is the only country where the opinions of Socialists and working men generally are still divided. This reply will therefore not be translated into any other language.

To sum up:

1. There were two Congresses called to meet in Paris in 1889; the first, called by the French Trades’ Unions Congress at Bordeaux, October-November, 1888, and confirmed at Christmas by the French Socialist Congress at Troyes. The second, called about a week later, by the London International Trades’ Union Congress, to be organized by the Possibilists.

2. An amalgamation of both would have met with very little difficulty, had not the Possibilists in their very first letters of convocation claimed powers which the London Congress itself did not possess, and therefore could not confer upon them; powers to regulate the internal affairs of the Congress, to prescribe beforehand its mode of verifying credentials, its agenda, its entire mode of procedure; in fact, the same powers the Parliamentary Committee had claimed, and exercised at the London Congress.

3. The action past and present of the Possibilists making it utterly impossible for the remaining sections of French Socialists to join the Congress called by the latter, the German Socialist deputies to the Reichstag tried to mediate between both parties with the help of the leading men of such other national working men’s parties as they were in correspondence with. Hence the Hague conference (28th February), to the resolutions of which, according even to our Manifesto, “no serious objection can in principle be taken.”

4. By these resolutions, the mandate given by the London Congress to the Possibilists was fully accepted and ratified, on condition only that these latter should give up their claim to power over the future Congress. Belgians, Dutch, Germans, Swiss, and even the Non-Possibilist French declared their willingness to come to the Congress called by the Possibilists, provided they came to a free Congress. Thus they made only one condition, but that was one which ought to have been self-understood, and never disputed.

5. In spite of this, the Possibilists refuse to accept these resolutions, and offer in subsequent circulars mere verbal concessions, amounting in reality to nothing at all. The main point – the supremacy of the Congress with regard to all its internal concerns – they do not concede; negotiations are carried on without any result up to the end of April.

6. At last, the Possibilists declining to give a plain and binding answer, securing against a repetition of the scandalous treatment of the London Congress by its convokers, the French Collectivists, with the approval of several national organisations, convoke the Congress voted at Bordeaux and Troyes for the 14th July.

7. The great majority of the Socialist organisations and of the representative Socialists of Europe, declining to give to the world for the second time the spectacle of a Working Men’s Congress sitting on sufferance only, and bound by regulations forced upon it by its convokers, have adhered to this Congress, as the Appendix shows.

The London Mandate, accepted by the Hague Conference, has been torn to pieces by the Possibilists themselves, when they made it the pretext for claiming, not only the organisation, but the control and direction of the future Congress.

And now I beg to say, in the words of the Manifesto :

“Comrades and Fellow-Citizens, the facts are before you. It is for you to see to it that your cause, the cause of the workers of the world, is not deliberately injured by those who should be the first to suppress their personal jealousies for the sake of Socialism.”

Office of the Sozialdemokrat,
114, Kentish Town Road, N.W.

June 1st 1889

E. Bernstein

APPENDIX.

International Socialist Working Men’s Congress, 14th to 21st July, 1889,
Circular of Convocation

WOBKERS AND SOCIALISTS OF EUROPE AND AMERICA, –

The Bordeaux Working Men’s Congress, held by the Delegates of upwards of 200 Trades’ Unions from all the Industrial centres of France, and the Troyes Congress, constituted by the Delegates, of 300 Workmen’s and Socialist group, representing the French Working Class and Revolutionary Socialism at large, have resolved to convene an International Congress in Paris, during the Exhibition, that shall be open to the Workers of the whole world.

This resolution has been joyfully welcomed by the Socialists of Europe and America, happy to he able to meet and to clearly formulate the demands of the Working Class on the subject of International Labour Legislation, which question will be treated at the Berne Conference, to be held by the representatives of the Governments of Europe in September.

The Capitalists invite the rich and mighty to the Universal Exhibition, to contemplate and admire the achievements of the Workers, doomed to misery in the midst of the most colossal wealth ever possessed by any human Society. We, Socialists, whose aim is the emancipation of labour, the abolition of wages-slavery, and the creation of an order of things in which all Workers-without distinction of sex or nationality—shall have a right to the riches produced by their common toil; it is the producers whom ive invite to meet us on the 14th July, in Paris.

We call on them to seal the bond of fellowship that, by consolidating the efforts of the Proletariat of all countries, will hasten the advent of the new world.

“Working Men of all Countries, Unite!”

AUSTRIA: For the Socialist Working Men’s Party: – J. POPP, V. ADLER, E. KRALIK, A. ZINNRAM. N. HOFFMANN, J. KREUTZER, J. WINNIG, G. POPPER (Vienna), J. MACKART, H. FLÖCKINGER, K. SAMS (Insprucht), A. WEIGUNY, J. SIEGL (Linz), A. FRIEMEL, V. WIENER, T. HEINZ, A. BOCKK (Steyr), K. SCHNEEWEISS,. A. SOBOTKA, A. KLOFAU, J. HYBES (Brünn), V. STUUZ, F. DOSEK. T. NSMECEK (Prague), T. ZEDNICEK, R. ZAHCESKO (Prossnitz), A. GERIN, G. GIEKAR, J. LAX (Trieste), J. DONILUK (Lemberg), T. ADENAN (Klagenfurt), L. RIEGER (Bratzan), T. ZIMMERMANS (Jügerndorf).

BELGIUM : For the Socialist Working Men’s Party of Ghent: – E. ANSEELE, E. VAN BEVEREN.

FRANCE: For the Federation of Trades’ Unions and Working Men’s Associations of France: – R. LAVIGNE. For the Socialist Federation of France: J. BATISSE.

GREAT BRITAIN: R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM, H.P. For the Socialist League – WILLIAM MORRIS, F. KITZ. For the Labour Electoral Association – W. PARNELL (Hon. Sec.), G. BATEMAN, H. CHAMPION, TOM MANN. For the Ayrshire Miners’ Union: – J. KEIR HARDIE.

GERMANY: For the Social Democratic Working Men’s Party of Germany BEBEL, FROHME, GRILLENBERGER, HARM, KUHN, LIEBKNECHT, MEISTER, SABOR, SINGER, SCHUMACHER, Members of the Reichstag.

HOLLAND: For the Dutch Social Democratic Working Men’s Party – DOMELA NIEUWENHUIS, CROLL.

HUNGARY: For the Socialist Working Men’s Party: – LEO FRANKEL, of the Paris Commune, 1871.

ITALY: For the Revolutionary Socialist Organisations: – AMILCARE CIPRIANI.

POLAND: For the Polish Socialists: – MENDELSON, of the periodical “Walka Klas” (the Class Struggle). L. ANIELEWSKI, of the Warsaw Working Men’s Committee.

PORTUGAL: For the Socialist Working Men’s Societies: – CARVALHO.

RUSSIA: – STEPNIAK

SPAIN: – For the Spanish Socialist Working Men’s Party: – PABLO IGLESIAS, F. DIEGO.

SWITZERLAND: BRANDT, Vice-President of the Grütli Association. For the Swiss Socialist Working Men’s Party:-A. REICHEL, A. STECK.

ORGANIZING COMMISSION FOR THE CONGRESS.

For the Federation of the Paris Trades’ Unions: – ROULE, BESSET, MANCHAU, ROUSSEL, and FELINE.

For the Socialist Organizations of Paris: – VAILLANT, GUESDE, DEVILLE, JACLARD, CREPIN and LAFARGUE.

For the Socialist Group in the Paris Town Council: – DADMAS, LONGUET. VAILLANT, and CHAUVIERE, Town Councillors.

For the Socialist Group in the Chamber of Deputies: – FERROUL and PLANTEAU, Deputies. Secretary for France:-BESSET, Bourse du Travail (Labor Exchange). Rue J.T. Rousseau, Paris.

Secretary for Foreign Countries: – PAUL LAFARGUE, Le Perreux, Paris-Banlieue; to whom all communications to be addressed.

(Copies of this Reply can be had on application to E. Bernstein & Co., 114, Kentish Town Road, N.W., London.)

 


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