The International Workingmen's Association, 1872
Fictitious Splits in the International
Written: by Marx and Engels between January and March 5, 1872
Adopted by the General Council as a private circular;
Published: in Geneva 1872 as a French pamphlet called Les Pretendues Scissions dans l'Internationale.
Source: Progress Publisher translation;
Transcribed: by email@example.com in December 1993.
The pamphlet marks the opening of Marx and Engels' preparations for confrontation with Bakuninist forces at upcoming IWMA congress at the Hague (September 1872).
Until now, the General Council has completely refrained from any interference
in the International's internal squabbles and has never replied publicly
to the overt attacks launched against it during more than two years by
some members of the Associations.
But if the persistent efforts of certain meddlers to deliberately
maintain confusion between the International and a society [the International
Alliance of Socialist Democracy] which has been hostile to it since its
inception allowed the General Council to maintain this reserve, the support
which European reaction finds in the scandals provoked by that society
at a time when the International is undergoing the most serious trial since
its foundation obliges it to present a historical review of all these intrigues.
After the fall of the Paris Commune, the General Council's
first act was to publish its Address on the Civil War in France, in which
it came out in support of all the Commune's acts which, at the moment,
served the bourgeoisie, the press, and all the governments of Europe as
an excuse to heap the most vile slander on the vanquished Parisians. Within
the working class itself, some still failed to realize that their cause
was lost. The Council came to understand the fact, among other things,
by the resignation of two of its members, Citizens Odger and Lucraft, who
repudiated all support of the Address. It may be said that the unity of
views among the working class regarding the Paris events dates from the
publication of the Address in all the civilized countries.
On the other hand, the International found a very powerful means
of propaganda in the bourgeois press and particularly in the leading English
newspapers, which the Address forced to engage in a polemic kept going
by the General Council's replies.
The arrival in London of numerous refugees from the Commune made
it necessary for the General Council to constitute itself as a relief committee
and function as such for more than eight months, besides carrying on its
regular duties. It goes without saying that the vanquished and exiles from
the Commune had nothing to hope for from the bourgeoisie. As for the working
class, the appeals for aid came at a difficult moment. Switzerland and
Belgium had already received their contingent of refugees whom they had
either to support or send on to London. The funds collected in Germany,
Austria, and Spain were sent to Switzerland. In England, the big fight
for the nine-hour working day, the decisive battle of which was fought
at Newcastle, had exhausted both the workers' individual contributions
and the funds set up by the trade unions, which could be used, incidentally,
according to the rules, only for labor conflicts. Meanwhile, by working
diligently and sending out letters, the Council managed to accumulate,
bit by bit, the money which it distributed weekly. The American workers
responded more generously to its appeal. It is unfortunate that the Council
could not avail itself of the millions which the terrified bourgeoisie
believed the International to have amassed in its safes!
After May 1871, some of the Commune's refugees were asked to join
the Council, in which, as a result of the war, the French side was no longer
represented. Among these new members were some old Internationalists and
a minority composed of men known for their revolutionary energy whose election
was an act of homage to the Paris Commune.
Along with these preoccupations, the Council had to prepare for
the Conference of Delegates that it had just called.
The violent measures taken by the Bonapartist government against
the International had prevented the holding of the Congress at Paris, which
had been provided for by a resolution of the Basel Congress. Using the
right conferred upon it by Article 4 of the Rules, the General Council,
in its circular of July 12, 1870, convened the Congress at Mainz. In letters
addressed at the same time to the various federations, it proposed that
the General Council should transfer its seat from England to another country
and asked that delegates be provided with definite mandates to that effect.
The federations unanimously insisted that it should remain in London. The
Franco-Prussian War, which began a few days latter, made it necessary to
abandon any plans for convening the Congress. It was then that the federations
which we consulted authorized us to fix the date of the next Congress as
may be dictated by the political situation.
As soon as the political situation permitted, the General Council
called a private Conference, acting on the precedents of the 1865 Conference
and the private administrative meetings of each Congress. A public Congress
was impossible and could only have resulted in the continental delegates
being denounced at a moment when European reaction was celebrating its
orgies; when Jules Favre was demanding from all governments, even the British,
the extradition of refugees as common criminals; when Dufaure was proposing
to the Rural Assembly a law banning the International, a hypocritical counterfeit
of which was later presented by Malou to the Belgians; when in Switzerland
a Commune refugee was put under preventive arrest while awaiting the federal
government's decision on the extradition order; when hunting down members
of the International was the ostensible basis for an alliance between Beust
and Bismarck, whose anti-International clause Victor Emmanuel was quite
to adopt; when the Spanish Government, putting itself entirely at the disposal
of the butchers of Versailles, was forcing the Madrid Federal Council to
seek refuge in Portugal; at a time, lastly, when the International's prime
duty was to strengthen its organization and to accept the gauntlet thrown
down by the governments.
All sections in regular contact with the General Council were
invited in good time to the Conference, which, even though it was not to
be a public meeting, nevertheless faced serious difficulties. In view of
the internal situation, France was, of course, unable to elect any delegates.
In Italy, the only organized section at the time was that of Naples; but
just as it was about to nominate a delegate it was broken up by the army.
In Austria and Hungary, the most active members were imprisoned. In Germany,
some of the more well-known members were prosecuted for the crime of high
treason, others landed in jail, and the party's funds were spent on aid
to their families. The Americans, though they sent the Conference a detailed
memorandum on the situation of the International there, employed the delegation's
money for maintaining the refugees. All federations, in fact, recognized
the necessity of substituting the private Conference for a public Congress.
After meeting in London from September 17 to 23, 1871, the Conference
authorized the General Council to publish its resolutions; to codify the
Administrative Regulations and publish them with the General Rules, as
reviewed and corrected, in three languages; to carry out the resolution
to replace membership cards with stamps; to reorganize the International
in England; and, lastly, to provide the necessary money for these various
Following the publication of the Conference proceedings, the reactionary
press of Paris and Moscow, of London and New York, denounced the resolution
on working-class policy as containing such dangerous designs — the Times
accused it "of coolly calculated audacity" — that it would outlaw the
International with all possible speed. On the other hand, the resolution
that dealt a blow at the fraudulent sectarian sections gave the international
police a long-awaited excuse to start a noisy campaign ostensibly for the
unrestricted autonomy of the workers whom it professed to protect against
the despicable despotism of the General Council and the Conference. The
working class felt itself so "heavily oppressed", indeed, that the General
Council received from Europe, America, Australia, and even the East Indies
reports about the admission of new members and the formation of new sections.
The denunciations in the bourgeois press, like the
lamentations of the international police, found a sympathetic echo even
in our Association. Some intrigues, directed ostensibly against the General
Council but in reality against the Association, were hatched in its midst.
At the bottom of these intrigues was the inevitable International Alliance
of Socialist Democracy, fathered by the Russian Michael Bakunin. On his
return from Siberia, the latter began to write in Herzen's Kolokol,
preaching the idea of Pan-Slavism and racial war, conceived out of his
long experience. Later, during his stay in Switzerland, he was nominated
to head the steering committee of the League of Peace and Freedom, founded
in opposition to the International. When this bourgeois society's affairs
went from bad to worse, its president, Mr. G. Vogt, acting on Bakunin's
advice, proposed to the International's Congress which met at Brussels
in September 1868, that it make an alliance with the League. The Congress
unanimously proposed two alternatives: either the League should follow
the same goal as the International, in which case it would have no reason
for existing; or else its goal should be different, in which case an alliance
would be impossible. At the League's congress, held in Bern a few days
later, Bakunin made an about-face. He proposed a makeshift program whose
scientific value may be judged by this single phrase: "economic and social
equalization of classes". Backed by an insignificant minority, he broke
with the League in order to join the International, determined to replace
the International's General Rules by the makeshift program, which had been
rejected by the League, and to replace the General Council by his personal
dictatorship. To this end, he created a special instrument, the International
Alliance of Socialist Democracy, intended to become an International within
Bakunin found the necessary elements for the formation of this
society in the relationships he had formed during his stay in Italy, and
in a small group of Russian emigrants, serving him as emissaries and recruiting
officers among members of the International in Switzerland, France, and
Spain. Yet it was only after repeated refusals of the Belgian and Paris
federal councils to recognize the Alliance that he decided to submit for
the General Council's approval his new society's rules, which were nothing
but a faithful reproduction of the "misunderstood" Bern program. The Council
replied with the following circular dated December 22, 1868.
The International Working Men's Association and
Bakunin's International Alliance of Socialist Democracy
approved by IWMA General Council December 22, 1868
[written in French]
Just about a month ago, a certain number of citizens formed in
Geneva the Central Initiating Committee of a new international
society named the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy,
stating that it was their "special mission to study political and
philosophical questions on the basis of the grand principles of...
equality, etc." the program and rules printed by this Initiating
Committee were only communicated to the General Council of the
International Working Men's Association at its meeting on December
15. According to these documents, the said International Alliance
is "established entirely within the... International Working
Men's Association", at the same time as it is established entirely
outside of the Association.
Besides the General Council of the International Association,
elected at the Geneva, Lausanne, and Brussels workingmen's
congresses, there is to be, in line with the initiating rules,
another Central Council in Geneva, which is self-appointed.
Besides the local groups of the International Association, there
are to be local groups of the International Alliance, which
"through their... national bureaus", operating outside the
national bureaus of the International Association, "will ask the
Central Bureau of the Alliance to admit them into the International
Working Men's Association"; the Alliance Central Committee thereby
takes upon itself the right of admittance to the International
Association. Lastly, the General Congress of the International
Association will have its parallel in the General Congress of the
International Alliance, for, as the initiating rules say, "At the
annual Working Men's Congress, the delegation of the Alliance of
Socialist Democracy, as a branch of the International Working Men's
Association, will hold public meetings in a separate building."
That the presence of a second international body operating within
and outside the International Working Men's Association will be the
most infallible means of its disorganization;
That every other group of individuals, anywhere at all, will have
the right to imitate the Geneva initiating group and, under more or
less plausible excuses, to bring into the International Working
Men's Association other international associations with other
That the International Working Men's Association will thereby soon
become a plaything for intriguers of every race and nationality;
That the Rules of the International Working Men's Association
anyway admit only local and national branches into the Association
(see Article 1 and Article 6 of the Rules);
That sections of the International Association are forbidden to
give themselves rules or administrative regulations contrary to the
General Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International
Association (see Article 12 of the Administrative Regulations);
That the Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International
Association can only be revised by the General Congress in the
event of two-thirds of the delegates present voting in favor of
such a revision (see Article 13 of the Administrative Regulations).
The General Council of the International Working Men's Association
unanimously agreed at its meeting of December 22, 1868, that:
1. All articles of the Rules of the International Alliance of
Socialist Democracy, defining its relations with the
International Working Men's Association, are declared null and
2.The International Alliance of Socialist Democracy may not be
admitted as a branch of the International Working Men's
3.These resolutions be published in all countries where the
International Working Men's Association exists.
G. Odger, Chairman of the meeting
R. Shaw, General Secretary
By order of the General Council
of the International Working Men's Association
A few months later, the Alliance again appealed to the General Council
and asked whether, yes or no, it accepted its principles.
If yes, the Alliance was ready to dissolve itself into the International's
sections. It received a reply in the following circular of March 9, 1869.
Letter of the General Council to The Alliance of Socialist Democracy
March 9, 1869
[written in French and English
issued to all International section]
According to Article I of its Statutes, the International Working
Men's Association admits "all working men's societies aiming at the
same end, viz., the protection, advancement, and complete
emancipation of the working classes".
Since the various sections of workingmen in the same country, and
the working classes in different countries, are placed under
different circumstances and have attained to different degrees of
development, it seems almost necessary that the theoretical notions
which reflect the real movement should also diverge.
The community of action, however, called into life by the the
International Working Men's Association, the exchange of ideas
facilitated by the public organs of different national section, and
the direct debates at the General Congresses are sure by and by to
engender a common theoretical program.
Consequently, it belongs not to the function of the General Council
to subject the program of the Alliance to a critical examination.
We have not to inquire whether, yes or no, it be a true scientific
expression of the working-class movement. All we have to ask is
whether its general tendency does not run against the general
tendency of the International Working Men's Association, viz., the
complete emancipation of the working class?
One phrase in your program lies open to this objection. It occurs
[in] Article 2:
"Elle (l'Alliance) veut vant tout l'egalisation politique,
economique, et sociale des classes."
["The Alliance wants above all political, economic, and social
equalization... of classes."]
The "egalisation des classes", literally interpreted, comes to the
"harmony of capital and labor" ("l'harmonie du capital et du
travail") so persistently preached by the bourgeois socialists. It
is not the logically impossible "equalization of classes", but the
historically necessary, superseding "abolition of classes"
(abolition des classes), this true secret of the proletarian
movement, which forms the great aim of the International Working
Considering, however, the context in which that phrase "egalisation
des classes" occurs, it seems to be a mere slip of the pen, and the
General Council feels confident that you will be anxious to remove
from your program an expression which offers such a dangerous
It suits the principles of the International Working Men's
Association to let every section freely shape its own theoretical
program, except the single case of an infringement upon its general
tendency. There exists, therefore, no obstacle to the
transformation of the sections of the Alliance into sections of the
International Working Men's Association.
The dissolution of the Alliance and the entrance of its sections
into the International Working Men's Association once settled, it
would, according to our Regulations, become necessary to inform the
General Council of the residence and the numerical strength of each
Having accepted these conditions, the Alliance was admitted to the International
by the General Council, misled by certain signatures affixed to Bakunin's
program, and supposing it recognized by the Romanish Federal Committee
in Geneva, which on the contrary had always refused to have any dealings
with it. Thus it had achieved its immediate goal: to be represented at
the Basel Congress. Despite the dishonest means employed by his supporters,
means used solely on this occassion in an International Congress, Bakunin
was deceived in his expectation of seeing the Congress transfer the seat
of the General Council to Geneva and give an official sanction to the old
St. Simon rubbish, the immediate abolition of hereditary rights which he
had made the practical point of departure of socialism. This was the signal
for the open and incessant war which the Alliance waged not only against
the General Council, but also against all International sections that refused
to adopt this sectarian clique's program and particularly the doctrine
of total abstention from politics.
Even before the Basel Congress, when Nechayev came to Geneva,
Bakunin got together with him and founded, in Russia, a secret society
among students. Always hiding his true identity under the name of various
"revolutionary committees", he sought autocratic powers based on all the
tricks and mystifications of the time of Cagliostro. The main means of
propaganda used by this society consisted in compromising innocent people
in the eyes of the Russian police by sending them communications from Geneva
in yellow envelopes stamped in Russian on the outside "secret revolutionary
committee". The published accounts of the Nechayev trial bear witness to
the infamous abuse of the International's name.
The Alliance commenced at this time a public polemic directed
against the General Council, first in the Locle Progres, then in
the Geneva Egalite, the official newspaper of the Romanish Federation,
where several members of the Alliance had followed Bakunin. The General
Council, which had scorned the attacks published in Progres, Bakunin's
personal organ, could not ignore those from Egalite, which it was
bound to believe were approved by the Romanish Federal Committee. It, therefore,
published the circular of January 1, 1870.
"We read in the Egalite of December 11, 1869:
'It is certain that the General Council is neglecting extremely important
matters. We remind it of its obligations under Article I of the Regulations:
The General Council is commissioned to carry the resolutions of
the Congress into effect, etc. We could put enough questions ot the General
Council for its replies to make up quite a long report. They will come
later... Meanwhile, etc. ...'
"The General Council does not know of any article, either in the Rules,
or the Regulations, which would oblige it to enter into correspondence
or into polemic with the Egalite or to provide 'replies to questions'
from newspapers. The Federal Committee of Geneva alone represents the branches
of Romance Switzerland via-a-vis the General Council. When the Romance
Federal Committee addresses requests of reprimands to us through the only
legitmiate channel, that is to say through its secretary, the General Council
will always be ready to reply. But the Romance Federal Committee has no
right either to abdicate its functions in favour of the Egalite
and Progres, or to let these newspapers usurp its functions. Generally
speaking, the General Council's administrative correspondence with national
and local committees cannot be published without greatly prejudicing the
Association's general tnerests. Consequently, if the other organs of the
Internatinoal were to follow the example of the Progres and the
Egalite, the General Council would be faced with the alternative
of either discrediting itself publicly by its silence or violating its
obligations by replying publicly. The Egalite joins the Progres
in inviting the Travail (Paris paper) to denounce, on its
part, the General Council. That is almost a League of Public Welfare."
Meanwhile, before having read this circular, the Romanish Federal Committee
had already expelled supporters of the Alliance from the editorial board
The January 1, 1870, circular, like those of December 22, 1868,
and March 9, 1869, was approved by all International societies.
It goes without saying that none of the conditions accepted by
the Alliance have ever been fulfilled. Its sham sections have remained
a mystery to the General Council. Bakunin sought to retain under his personal
direction the few groups scattered in Spain and Italy and the Naples section
which he had detached from the International. In the other Italian towns,
he corresponded with small cliques composed not of workers but of lawyers,
journalists, and other bourgeois doctrinaires. At Barcelona, some of his
friends maintained his influence. In some towns in the South of France,
the Alliance made an effort to found separatist sections under the direction
of Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, of Lyon, about whom we shall have
more to say later. In a word, the International within the International
continued to operate.
The big blow — the attempt to take over the leadership of French
Switzerland — was to have been executed by the Alliance at the Chaux-de-Fonds
Congress, opened on April 4, 1870.
The battle began over the right to admit the Alliance delegates,
which was contested by the delegates of the Geneva Federation and the Chaux-de-Fonds
Although, on their own calculation, the Alliance supporters represented
no more than a fifth of the Federation members, they succeeded, thanks
to repetition of the Basel maneuvers, in procuring a fictitious majority
of one or two votes, a majority which, in the words of their own organ
(see Solidarite of May 7, 1870), represented no more than 15
sections, while in Geneva alone there were 30! On this vote, the French-Switzerland
Congress split into two groups which continued their meetings independently.
The Alliance supporters, considering themselves the legal representatives
of the whole of the Federation, transferred the Federal Committee's seat
to Chaux-de-Fonds and founded at Neuchatel their official organ, Solidarite,
edited by Citizen Guillaume. This young writer had the special job of decrying
the Geneva "factory workers", those odious "bourgeois", of waging war of
L'Egalite, the Federation newspaper, and of preaching total abstention
from politics. The authors of the most important articles on this theme
were Bastelica in Marseilles and Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc in Lyon,
the two big pillars of the Alliance.
On their return, the Geneva delegates convened their sections
in a general assembly which, despite opposition from Bakunin and his friends,
approved their actions at the Chaux-de-Fonds Congress. A little later,
Bakunin and the more active of his accomplices were expelled from the old
Hardly had the Congress closed when the new Chaux-de-Fonds Committee
called for the intervention of the General Council in a latter signed by
F. Robert, secretary, and by Henri Chevalley, president, who was denounced
two months later as a thief by the Committee's organ, Solidarite,
on July 9. After examining the case of both sides, the General Council
decided on June 28, 1870, to keep the Geneva Federal Committee in its old
functions and invite the new Chaux-de-Fonds Federal Committee to take a
local name. In the face of this decision which foiled its plans, the Chaux-de-Fonds
Committee denounced the General Council's authoritarianism, forgetting
that it had been the first to ask for its intervention. The trouble that
the persistent attempts of the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee to usurp the name
of the Romanish Federal Committee caused the Swiss Federation, obliged
the General Council to suspend all official relations with the former.
Louis Bonaparte had just surrendered his army at Sedan. From all
sides arose protests from International members against the war's continuation.
In its address of September 9, the General Council, denouncing Prussia's
plans of conquest, indicated the danger of her triumph for the proletarian
cause and warned the German workers that they would themselves be the first
victims. In England, the General Council organized meetings which condemned
the pro-Prussian tendencies of the court. In Germany, the International
workers organized demonstrations demanding recognition of the Republic
and "an honorable peace for France"....
Meanwhile, his bellicose nature gave the hotheaded Guillaume (of
Neuchatel) the brilliant idea of publishing an anonymous manifesto
as a supplement, and under cover, of the official newspaper Solidarite,
calling for the formation of a Swiss volunteer corps to fight the Prussians,
something which he had doubtless always been prevented from doing by his
Then came the Lyon uprising. Bakunin rushed there and, supported
by Albert Richard, Gaspard Blanc, and Bastelica, installed himself on September
28 in the town hall — where he refrained from posting a guard,
however, lest it be viewed as a political act. He was driven out in shame
by some of the National Guard at the moment when, after a difficult accouchement,
his decree on the abolition of the state had just seen the light of day.
In October 1870, the General Council, in the absence of its French
members, coopted Citizen Paul Robin, a refugee from Brest, one of the best-known
supporters of the Alliance, and, what is more, the instigator of several
attacks on the General Council in L'Egalite, where, since that moment,
he has acted constantly as official correspondent of the Chaux-de-Fonds
Committee. On March 14, 1871, he suggested the calling of a private Conference
of the International to sift out the Swiss trouble. Foreseeing that important
events were in the making in Paris, the Council flatly refused. Robin returned
to the question on several occassions and even suggested that the Council
take a definite decision on the conflict. On July 25, the General Council
decided that this affair would be one of the questions for the COnference
due to be convened in September 1871.
On August 10, the Alliance, hardly eager to see its activities
looked into by a Conference, declared itself dissolved as from August 6.
But, on September 15, it reappeared and requested admission to the Council
under the name of the Atheist Socialist Section. According to Administrative
Resolution No. V. of the Basel Congress, the Council could not admit it
without consulting the Geneva Federal Committee, which was exhausted after
its two years of struggle against the sectarian sections. Moreover, the
Council had already told the Young Men's Christian Association that the
International did not recognize theological sections.
On August 6, the date of the dissolution of the Alliance, the
Chaux-de-Fonds Federal Committee renewed its request to enter into official
relations with the Council and said that it would continue to ignore the
June 28 resignation and to regard itself, in relation to Geneva, as the
Romanish Federal Committee, and that it was "up to the General Congress
to judge this affair". On September 4, the same Committee challenged the
Conference's competence, even though it had been the first to call for
its convocation. The Conference could have replied by questioning the competence
of the Paris Federal Committee, which the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee had,
before the siege of Paris, asked to deliberate on the Swiss conflict. But
it confined itself to the General Council decision of June 28, 1870 (see
the reasons given in L'Egalite of Geneva, October 21, 1871).
The presence, in Switzerland, of some of the outlawed
French who had found refuge there put some life back into the Alliance.
The Geneva members of the International did all they could for
the emigrants. They came to their aid right from the beginning, initiated
a wide campaign, and prevented the Swiss authorities from serving an extradition
order on the refugees as demanded by the Versailles government. Several
risked grave danger by going to France to help the refugees reach the frontier.
Imagine the surprise of the Geneva workers when they saw several of the
ringleaders, such as B. Malon ,
immediately come to an understanding with the Alliance people and with
the help of N. Zhukovsky, ex-secretary of the Alliance, try to found at
Geneva, outside the ROmanish Federation, the new "Socialist Revolutionary
Propaganda and Action Section". In the first article of its rules, it "pledges
allegiance to the General Rules of the International Working Men's Association,
while reserving for itself the complete freedom of action and initiative
to which it is entitled as a logical consequence of the principle of autonomy
and federation recognized by the Rules and Congresses of the Association."
In other words, it reserves for itself full freedom to continue
the work of the Alliance.
In a letter from Malon of October 20, 1871, this new section for
the third time asked the General Council for admission to the International.
Confirming to Resolution V of the Basel Congress, the Council consulted
the Geneva Federal Committee, which vigorously protested against the Council's
recognizing this new "seedbed of intrigues and dissentions". The Council
acted, in fact, in a rather "authoritarian" manner, so as not to bind the
whole Federation to the will of B. Malon and N. Zhukovsky, the Alliance's
Solidarite having gone out of business, the new Alliance
supporters founded the Revolution Sociale under the supreme management
of Madame Andre Leo, who had just said at the Lausanne Peace Congress that
Raoul Rigault and Ferre were the two sinister figures of the Commune who,
up till then (up till the execution of the hostages), had not stopped calling
for bloody measures, albeit in vain.
From its very first issue, the newspaper hastened to put itself
on the same level as Figaro, Gaulois, Paris-Journal,
and other disreputable sheets which have been throwing mud at the General
Council. It thought the moment opportune to fan the flames of national
hatred, even within the International. It called the General Council a
German Committee led by a Bismarckian brain. 
After having definitely established that certain General Council
members could not boast of being "Gauls first and foremost", the Revolution
Sociale could find nothing better than to take up the second slogan
put in circulation by the European police and to denounce the Council's
What, then, were the facts on which this childish rubbish rested?
The General Council had let the Alliance die a natural death and, in agreement
with the Geneva Federal Committee, had prevented it from being resurrected.
Moreover, it had suggested to the Chaux-de-Fonds Committee that it take
a name which would permit it to live in peace with the great majority of
International members in French Switzerland.
Apart from these "authoritarian" acts, what use did the General
Council make, between October 1869 and October 1871 of the fairly extensive
powers that the Basel Congress had conferred upon it?
On February 8, 1870, the Paris "Society of Positivist Proletarians"
applied to the General Council for admission. The Council replied that
the principles of the Positivists, the part of the society's special rules
concerning capital, were in flagrant contradiction with the preamble of
the General Rules; that the society had, therefore, to drop them and join
the International not as "Positivists" but as "proletarians", while remaining
free to reconcile their theoretical ideas with the Association's general
principles. Realizing the justness of this decision, the section joined
At Lyon, there was a split between the 1865 Section and a recently-formed
section in which, amid honest workers, the Alliance was represented by
Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc. As had been done in similar cases, the
judgment of a court of arbitration, formed in Switzerland, was turned down.
On February 15, 1870, the recently formed section, besides asking the General
Council to resolve the conflict by virtue of Resolution VII of the Basel
Congress, sent it a ready-made resolution excluding and branding the members
of the 1865 Section, which was to be signed and sent back by return
mail. The Council condemned this unprecedented procedure and demanded
that the necessary documents be produced. In reply to the same request,
the 1865 Section said that the accusatory documents against Albert Richard,
which had been submitted to the court of arbitration, were in Bakunin's
possession and that he refused to give them up. Consequently, it could
not completely satisfy the desires of the General Council. The Council's
decision on the affair, dated March 8, met with no objection from either
The French section in London, which had admitted people of
a more than dubious character, had been gradually transformed into a concern
virtually controlled by Mr. Felix Pyat. He used it to organize damaging
demonstrations calling for the assassination of Louis Bonaparte, etc.,
and to spread his absurd manifestos in France under cover of the International.
The General Council confined itself to declaring, in the Association's
organs, that Mr. Pyat was not a member of the International and it could
not be responsible for his actions. The French branch then declared that
it no longer recognized either the General Council or the Congresses; it
plastered the walls of London with handbills proclaiming that, with the
exception of itself, the International was an anti-revolutionary society.
The arrest of French members of the International on the eve of the plebiscite,
on the pretext of a conspiracy — plotted in reality by the police and
to which Pyat's manifestos gave an air of credibility — forced the General
Council to publish in La Marseillaise and Reveil its resolution
of May 10, 1870, declaring that the so-called French branch had not belonged
to the International for over two years, and that its agitation was the
work of police agents. The need for this demarche was proved by
the declaration of the Paris Federal Committee, published in the same newspapers,
and by that of the Paris members of the International during their trial,
both declarations referring to the Council's resolution. The French branch
disappeared at the outbreak of the war, but, like the Alliance in Switzerland,
it was to reappear in London with new allies and under other names.
During the last days of the Conference, a French section of 1871,
about 35 members strong, was formed in London among the Commune refugees.
The first "authoritarian" act of the General Council was to publicly denounce
the secretary of this section, Gustave Durand, as a French police spy.
The documents in our possession prove the intention of the police first
to assist Durand to attend the Conference and then to secure for him membership
in the General Council. Since the rules of the new section directed its
members not to accept any delegation to the General Council other than
from its section, Citizen Theisz and Bastelica withdrew from the Council.
On October 17, the section delegated to the Council two of its
members, holding imperative mandates; one was none other than Mr. Chautard,
ex-member of the artillery committee. The Council refused to admit them
prior to an examination of the rules of the 1871 Section.  Suffice it to recall here the principal point of the
debate to which these rules gave rise. Article 2 states:
"To be admitted as member of the section, a person must provide information
as to his means of sustenance, present guarantees of morality, etc."
In its resolution of October 17, 1871, the Council proposed deleting the
words "provide information as to his means of sustenance".
"In dubious cases," said the Council, "a section may well take information
about means of sustenance as a 'guarantee of morality', while in other
cases, like those of refugees, workers on strike, etc., absence of means
of sustenance may well be a guarantee of morality. But to ask candidates
to provide information as to their means of sustenance as a general condition
to be admitted to the International would be a bourgeois innovation contrary
to the spirit and letter of the General Rules."
The section replied:
"The General Rules make the sections responsible for the morality of
their members and, as a consequence, recognize their right to demand such
guarantees as they deem necessary."
To this, the General Council replied, November 7:
"On this argument, a section of the International founded by teetotalers
could include in its own rules this type of article: To be admitted as
a member of the section, a person must swear to abstain from all alcoholic
drinks. In other words, the most absurd and most incongruous conditions
of admittance into the International could be imposed by sections' rules,
always on the pretext that they intend, in this way, to be assured of the
morality of their members....
'The means of sustenance of strikers', adds the French Section
of 1871, 'consist of the strike fund'. This might be answered by saying,
first, that this 'fund' is often fictitious....
Moreover, official English questionnaires have proved that the
majority of English workers... are forced — by strikes or unemployment,
by insufficient wages or terms of payment, as well as many other causes
— to resort incessantly to pawnshops or to borrowing money. These are
means of sustenance about which one cannot demand information without interfering
in an unqualified manner in a person's private life. There are thus two
— either the section is only to seek guarantees of morality through
means of sustenance, in which case the General Council's proposal serves
— Or the section, in Article 2 of its rules, intentionally says
that the members have to provide information as to their means of sustenance
as a condition of admission, over and above the guarantees of morality,
in which case the Council affirms that it is a bourgeois innovation contrary
to the spirit and letter of the General Rules."
Article 11 of their rules states:
"One or several delegates shall be sent to the General Council."
The Council asked for this article to be deleted
"because the International's General Rules do not recognize any right
of the sections to send delegates to the General Council."
"The General Rules," it added, "recognize only two ways of election
for General Council members: either their election by the Congress, or
their co-option by the General Council...."
It is quite true that the different sections in London had been invited
to send delegates to the General Council, which, so as not to violate the
General Rules, has always proceeded in the following manner: It has first
determined the number of delegates to be sent by each section, reserving
itself the right to accept or refuse them depending on whether it considered
them able to fulfill the general functions assigned to them. These delegates
became members of the General Council not by virtue that the Rules accord
the Council to co-opt new members. Having operated up to the decision taken
by the last Conference both as the International Association's General
Council and as the Central Council for England, the London Council thought
it expedient to admit, besides the members that it co-opted directly, also
members nominated initially by their respective sections. It would be a
serious mistake to identify the General Council's electoral procedure with
the of the Paris Federal Council, which was not even a national Council
nominated by a national Congress like, for example, the Brussels Federal
Council or that of Madrid. The Paris Federal Council was only a delegation
of the Paris sections.... The General Council's electoral procedure if
defined in the General Rules... and its member would not know how to accept
any other imperative mandate than that of the Rules and General Regulations....
If we take into consideration the article that precedes it, Article 11
means nothing else but a complete change of the General Council's composition,
turning it, contrary to Article 3 of the General Rules, into a delegation
of the London sections, in which the influence of local groups would be
substituted for that of the whole International Working Men's Association.
Lastly, the General Council, whose first duty is to carry out the Congress
resolutions (see Article 1 of the Geneva Congress' Administrative Regulations),
said that it
"Considers that the ideas expressed by the French section of 1871 about
a radical change to be made in the articles of the General Rules concerning
the constitution of the General Council have no bearing on the question...."
Moreover, the Council declared that it would admit two delegates from the
section on the same conditions as those of the other London sections.
The 1871 Section, far form being satisfied with this reply, published
on December 14 a "declaration" signed by all its members, including the
new secretary, who was shortly expelled as a scoundrel from the refugee
society. According to this declaration, the General Council, by refusing
to usurp the legislative functions, was accused of "a gross distortion
of the social idea".
Here are some sample of the good faith displayed in the drawing
up of this document:
The London Conference approved the conduct of the German workers
during the [Franco-Prussian] war. It was apparent that this resolution,
proposed by a Swiss delegate [Outine], seconded by a Belgian delegate,
and approved unanimously, referred only to the German members of the International,
who paid and are still paying for their anti-chauvinist behavior during
the war by imprisonment. Furthermore, in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation,
the Secretary of the General Council for France [Serraillier] had just
explained the true sense of the resolution in a letter published by the
journals Qui Vive!, Constitution, Radical, Emancipation,
Europe, etc. Nonetheless, eight days later, on November 23, 1871,
15 members of the 'French Section of 1871' inserted in Qui Vive!
a "protest" full of abuse against the German workers and denouncing the
Conference resolution as irrefutable proof of the General Councils's "pan-Germanic
idea". On the other hand, the entire feudal, liberal, and police press
of Germany seized avidly upon this incident to demonstrate to the German
workers how their international dreams had come to naught. In the end,
the November 29 protest was endorsed by the entire 1871 Section in its
December 14 declaration.
To show "the dangerous slope of authoritarianism down which the General
Council [was] slipping", the declaration cited "the publication by the
very same General Council of an official edition of the General Rules as
revised by it."
One glance at the new edition of the Rules is enough to see that each new
article has, in the appendix, reference to the original sources establishing
its authenticity! As for the words "official edition", the 1st Congress
of the International decided that "the official and obligatory text of
the Rules and Regulation" would be published by the General Council (see
"Working Congress of the International Working Men's Association held at
Geneva from September 3 to 8, 1866", page 27, note).
Naturally enough, the 1871 Section was in continuous contact with
the dissident of Geneva and Neuchatel. One Chalain, a member who has shown
more energy in attacking the General Council than he had ever shown in
defending the Commune, was unexpectedly rehabilitated by B. Malon, who
had earlier leveled very grave charges against him in a letter in to a
Council member. The French Section of 1871, however, had scarcely launched
its declaration when civil war exploded in its ranks. First Theisz, Avrial,
and Camelinat withdrew. Thereafter, the section broke up into several small
groups, one of which was led by Mr. Pierre Vesinier, expelled by the General
Council for his slander against Varlin and others, and then expelled for
the International by the Belgian Commission appoint by the Brussels Congress
of 1868. Another of these groups was founded by B. Landeck, who had been
relieved by the sudden flight of police prefect Pierri, on September 4,
of his obligation, "scrupulously fulfilled, not to engage any more in political
affairs, nor in the International in France" (see Third Trial of the International
Working Men's Association in Paris, 1870", p.4).
On the other hand, the mass of French refugees in London have
formed a section which is in complete harmony with the General Council.
The men of the Alliance, hidden behind the Neuchatel
Federal Committee and determined to make another effort on a vaster scale
to disorganize the International, convened a Congress of their sections
at Sonvillier on November 12, 1871. Back in July, two letters from maitre
Guillaume to his friend Robin had threatened the General Council with an
identical campaign if it did not agree to recognize them to be in the right
"vis-a-vis the Geneva bandits".
The Sonvillier Congress was composed of 16 delegates claiming
to represent nine section in all, including the new "Socialist Revolutionary
Propaganda and Action Section" in Geneva.
The Sixteen made their debut by publishing the anarchist decree
declaring the Romanish Federation dissolved, and the latter retaliated
by restoring to the Alliance members their "autonomy" by driving them out
of all sections. However, the Council had to recognize that a stroke of
good sense brought them to accept the same Jura Federation, which the London
Conference had given them.
The Congress of Sixteen then proceeded to "reorganize" the International
by attacking the Conference and the General Council in a "Circular to All
Federations of the International Working Men's Association".
Those responsible for the circular accused the General Council
primarily of having called a Conference instead of a Congress in 1871.
The preceding explanations show that these attacks were made directly against
the International as a whole, which had unanimously agreed to convene a
Conference, at which, incidentally, the Alliance was conveniently represented
by Citizens Robin and Bastelica.
The General Council has had its delegates at every Congress; at
the Basel Congress, for example, it had six. The Sixteen claim that "the
majority of the Conference was fraudulently assured in advance by the admission
of six General Council delegates with a deciding vote".
In actual fact, among the General Council delegates at the Conference,
the French refugees were none other than the representatives of the Paris
Commune, while its English and Swiss members could take part in the sessions
only on rare occassions, as is attested to by the minutes, which will be
submitted before the next Congress. One Council delegate had a mandate
from a national federation. According to a letter addressed to the Conference,
the mandate of another [Marx] was withheld because of the news of his death
in the papers. That left one delegate. Thus, the Belgians alone outnumbered
the Council by 6-to-1.
The international police, who in the person of Gustave Durand
were kept out, complained bitterly about the violation of the General Rules
by the convening of a "secret" conference. They were not conversant enough
with our General Regulations to know that the administrative sittings of
the Congress have to be in private.
Their complaints, nonetheless, found a sympathetic echo with the
Sonvillier Sixteen, who cried out:
"And on top of it all, a decision of this Conference declares that
the General Council will itself fix the time and place of the next Congress
or of the Conference to replace it; thus we are threatened with the suppression
of the General Congresses, these great public sessions of the International."
The Sixteen refused to see that this decision was affirmed before the various
governments only to show that, despite all the repressive measures, the
International was firmly resolved to hold its general meetings one way
At the general assembly of the Geneva sections, held on December
2, 1871, which gave a bad reception to Citizens Malon and Lefrancais, the
latter put forward a proposal confirming the decrees passed by the Sonvillier
Sixteen and censuring the General Council, as well as disavowing the Conference.
The Conference had resolved that
"the Conference resolutions which are not due to be published shall
be communicated to the federal councils of the various countries by the
corresponding secretaries of the General Council."
This resolution, which was in complete conformity with the General Rules
and Regulations, was fraudulently revised by B. Malon and his friends to
read as follows:
"Some Conference resolutions shall be communicated only to the federal
councils and to the corresponding secretaries."
They further accused the General Council of having "violated the principle
of sincerity" in refusing to hand over to the police, by means of "publicity",
the resolutions which were aimed exclusively at reorganizing the International
in the countries were it is proscribed.
Citizens Malon and Lefrancais complain further that
"the Conference aimed a blow at freedom of thought and its expression...
in conferring upon the General Council the right to denounce and disavow
any publicity organ of the sections or federations that discussed either
the principles on which the Association rests, or the respective interests
of the sections and federations, or finally the general interests of the
Association as a whole (see L'Egalite of October 21)"
What, then had L'Egalite of October 21 published? It had published
a resolution in which the Conference
"gives warning that henceforth the General Council will be bound to
publicly denounce and disavow all newspapers calling themselves organs
of the International which, following the precedents of Progres
and Solidarite, discuss in their columns, before the middle-class
public, questions exclusively reserved for the local or federal committees
and the General Council, or for the private and administrative sittings
of the Federal or General Congresses."
To appreciate properly the spiteful lamentations of B. Malon, we must bear
in mind that this resolution puts an end, once and for all, to the the
attempts of some journalists who wished to substitute themselves for the
main committees of the International and to play therein the role that
the journalists' bohemia is playing the the bourgeois world. As a result
of one such attempt, the Geneva Federal Committee had seen some members
of the Alliance edit L'Egalite, the official organ of the Romanish
Federation, in a manner completely hostile to the latter.
Incidentally, the general Council had no need of the London Conference
to "publicly denounce and disavow" the improper use of the press, for the
Basel Congress had decided (Resolution II) that:
"All newspapers countenancing attacks on the Association must be immediately
sent by the sections to the General Council."
"It is evident," says the Romanish Federal Committee in its December
20, 1871, declaration (L'Egalite, December 24), "that this article
was adopted not in order that the General Council might keep in its files
newspapers which attack the Association, but to enable it to reply, and
to nullify in case of need, the pernicious effect of slander and malevolent
denigrations. It is also evident that this article refers in general to
all newspapers, and that if we do not want to leave the attacks of the
bourgeois papers without retaliation, it is all the more necessary to disavow,
through our main representative body — i.e., the General Council — those
newspapers whose attacks against us are made under cover of the name of
Let us not in passing that the Times, that Leviathan of the capitalist
press, Progres (of Lyon), a publication of the liberal bourgeoisie,
and the Journal de Geneve, an ultra-reactionary paper, have brought
the same charges against the Conference and used virtually the same terms
as Citizens Malon and Lefrancais.
After having challenged the convocation of the Conference and,
later, its composition and its allegedly secret character, the Sixteen's
circular challenged the Conference resolutions.
Stating first that the Basel Congress had surrendered its rights
"having authorized the General Council to grant or refuse admission to,
or to suspend, the sections of the International," it accuses the Conference,
farther on, of the following sin:
"This Conference has... taken resolutions... which tend to turn the
International, which is a free federation of autonomous sections, into
a hierarchical and authoritarian organization of disciplined sections placed
entirely under the control of a General Council which may, at will, refuse
their admission or suspend their activity"!
Still farther on, the circular once more takes up the question of the Basel
Congress having allegedly "distorted the nature of the General Council's
The contradictions contained in the circular of the Sixteen may
be summed up as follows: the 1871 Conference is responsible for the resolutions
of the 1869 Basel Congress, and the General Council is guilty of having
observed the Rules which require it to carry out Congress resolutions.
Actually, however, the real reason for all these attacks against
the Conference is of a more profound nature. In the first place, it thwarted,
by its resolutions, the intrigues of the Alliance men in Switzerland. In
the second place, the promoters of the Alliance had, in Italy, Spain, and
part of Switzerland and Belgium, created and upheld with amazing persistence
a calculated confusion between the program of the International Working
Men's Associatoin and Bakunin's makeshift program.
The Conference drew attention to this deliberate misunderstanding
in its two resolutions on proletarian policy and sectarian sections. The
motivation of the first resolution, which makes short work of the political
abstention preached by Bakunin's program, is given fully in its recitals,
which are based on the General Rules, the Lausanne Congress resolution,
and other precedents. 
We now pass on to the sectarian sections:
The first phase of the proletariat's struggle against the bourgeoisie
is marked by a sectarian movement. That is logical at a time when the proletariat
has not yet developed sufficiently to act as a class. Certain thinkers
criticize social antagonisms and suggest fantastic solutions thereof, which
the mass of workers is left to accept, preach, and put into practice. The
sects formed by these initiators are abstentionist by their very nature
— i.e., alien to all real action, politics, strikes, coalitions, or, in
a word, to any united movement. The mass of the proletariat always remains
indifferent or even hostile to their propaganda. The Paris and Lyon workers
did not want the St.-Simonists, the Fourierists, the Icarians, any more
than the Chartists and the English trade unionists wanted the Owenites.
These sects act as levers of the movement in the beginning, but become
an obstruction as soon as the movement outgrows them; after which they
became reactionary. Witness the sects in France and England, and lately
the Lassalleans in Germany, who after having hindered the proletariat's
organization for several years ended up becoming simple instruments of
the police. To sum up, we have here the infancy of the proletarian movement,
just as astrology and alchemy are the infancy of science. If the International
were to be founded, it was necessary that the proletariat go through this
Contrary to the sectarian organization, with their vagaries nd
rivalries, the International is a genuine and militant organization of
the proletarian class of all countries, united in their common struggle
against the capitalists and the landowners, against their class power organized
in the state. The International's Rules, therefore, speak of only simple
"workers' societies", all aiming for the same goal and accepting the same
program, which presents a general outline of the proletarian movement,
while having its theoretical elaboration to be guided by the needs of the
practical struggle and the exchange of ideas in the sections, unrestrictedly
admitting all shades of socialist convictions in their organs and Congresses.
Just as in every new historical phase old mistakes reappear momentarily
only to disappear forthwith, so within the International there followed
a resurrection of sectarian sections, though in a less obvious form.
The Alliance, which considers the resurrection of the sects a
great step forward, is in itself conclusive proof that their time is over:
for if initially they contained elements of progress, the program of the
Alliance, in the tow of a "Mohammed without the Koran", is nothing but
a heap of pompously worded ideas long since dead and capable only of frightening
bourgeois idiots or serving as evidence to be used by the Bonapartist or
other prosecutors against members of the International. 
The Conference, at which all shades of socialism were represented,
unanimously acclaimed the resolution against sectarian sections, fully
convinced that this resolution, stressing once again the International's
true character, would mark a new stage of its development. The Alliance
supporters, whom this resolution dealt a fatal blow, construed it only
as the General Council's victory over the International, through which,
as their circular pointed out, the General Council assured "the domination
of the special program" of some of its members, "their personal doctrine",
"the orthodox doctrine", "the official theory, and only one permissible
within the Association". Incidently, this was not the fault of those few
members, but the necessary consequence, "the corrupting effect", of the
fact that they were members of the General Council, for "it is absolutely
impossible for a person who has power" (!) "over his fellows to remain
a moral person. The General Council is becoming a hotbed of intrigue".
According to the opinion of the Sixteen, the General Rules of
the International should be censured for the grave mistakes of authorizing
the General Council to co-opt new members. Thus authorized, they claim,
"the Council could, whenever it saw fit, co-opt a group numerous enough
to completely change the nature of its majority and its tendencies".
They seem to think that the mere fact of belonging to the General
Council is sufficient to destroy not only a person's morality, but
also his common sense. How else can we suppose that a majority will transform
itself into a minority by voluntary co-options?
At any rate, the Sixteen themselves do not appear to be very sure
of all this, for they complain farther on that the General Council has
been "composed for five years running of the same persons, continually
reelected", and immediately afterwards they repeat: "Most of them are not
regular mandatories, not having been elected by a Congress."
The fact is that the body of the General Council is constantly
changing, though some of the founding members remain, as in the federal
councils in Belgium, French Switzerland, etc.
The General Council must fulfill three essential conditions if
it is to carry out its mandate. In the first place, it must have a numerically
adequate membership to carry on its diverse functions; second, a membership
of "workingmen belonging to the different nations represented in the International
Association"; and, lastly, laborers must be the pre-dominant element therein.
Since the exigencies of the worker's job incessantly cause changes in the
membership of the General Council, how can it fulfill all these indispensable
conditions without the right of co-option? The Council nonetheless considers
a more precise definition of this right necessary, as it indicated at the
The reelection of the General Council's original membership, at
successive Congresses at which England was definitely under-represented,
would seem to prove that it has done its duty within the limits of the
means at its disposal. The Sixteen, on the contrary, view this only as
a proof of the "blind confidence of the Congresses", carried at Basel to
the point of "a sort of voluntary abdication in favor of the General Council".
In their opinion, the Council's "normal role" should be "that
of a simple correspondence and statistical bureau". They justify this definition
by adducing several articles extracted from an incorrect translation of
Contrary to the rules of all bourgeois societies, the International's
General Rules touch only lightly on its administrative organization. They
leave its development to practice, and its regularization to future Congresses.
Nevertheless, inasmuch as only the unity and joint action of the sections
of the various countries could give them a genuinely international character,
the Rules pay more attention to the Council than to the other bodies of
Article 6 of the original Rules states: "The General Council shall
form an international agency between the different national and local groups",
and proceeds to give some examples of the manner in which it is to function.
Among these examples is a request to the Council to see that "when immediate
practical steps should be needed — as, for instance, in case of international
quarrels — the action of the associated societies be simultaneous and
The article continues:
"Whenever it seems opportune, the General Council shall take the initiative
of proposals to be laid before the different national or local societies."
In addition, the Rules define the COuncil's role in convening and arranging
Congresses, and charge it with the preparation of certain reports to be
submitted thereto. In the original Rules, so little distinction is made
between the independent action of various groups and unity of action of
the Association as a whole, that Article 6 states:
"Since the success of the workingmen's movement in each country cannot
be secured but by the power of union and combination, while, on the other
hand, the activity of the General Council will be more effective... the
members of the International Association shall use their utmost efforts
to combine the disconnected workingmen's societies of their respective
countries into national bodies, represented by central national organs."
The first administrative resolution of the Geneva Congress (Article I)
"The General Council is commissioned to carry the resolution of the
Congress into effect."
This resolution legalized the position that the General Council has held
ever since its origin: that of the Association's executive delegation.
It would be difficult to carry out orders without enjoying moral "authority"
in the absence of any other "freely recognized authority". The Geneva Congress
at the same time charged the General COuncil with publishing "the official
and obligatory text of the Rules".
The same Congress resolved (Administrative Resolution of Geneva,
"Every section has the right to draw up its own rules and regulations
adapted to local conditions and to the laws of its own country, but they
must not contain anything contrary to the General Rules and Regulations."
Let us note, first of all, that these is not the least allusion either
to any special declarations of principles or to any special tasks which
this or that section should set itself apart from the common goal pursued
by all the groups of the International. The issue simply concerns the right
of sections to adapt the General Rules and Regulations to local conditions
and to the laws of their country.
In the second place, who is to establish whether or not the particular
rules conform to the General Rules? Evidently, if there were no "authority"
charged with this function, the resolution would be null and void. Not
only could police and hostile sections be formed, but also the intrusion
of declassed sectarians and bourgeois philanthropists into the Association
could warp its character and, by force of numbers at Congresses, crush
Since their origin, the national and local federations have exercised
in their respective countries the right to admit or reject new sections,
according to whether or not their rules conformed to the General Rules.
The exercise of the same function by the General Council is provided for
in Article 6 of the General Rules, which allows local independent societies
— i.e., societies formed outside the federal body in the country concerned
— the right to establish direct contacts with the General Council. The
Alliance did not hesitate to exercise this right in order to fulfill the
conditions set for the admission of delegates to the Basel Congress.
Article 6 of the Rules deals further with legal obstacles to the
formation of national federations in certain countries where, consequently,
the General Council is asked to function as a Federal Council (see Minutes
of the Lausanne Congress, etc., 1867, p.13).
Since the fall of the Commune, these legal obstacles have been
multiplying in the various countries, making action by the General Council
therein, designed to keep doubtful elements out of the Association, more
necessary than ever. That is why the French committees recently demanded
the General Council's intervention to rid themselves of informers, and
why in another great country [Austria] members of the International requested
it not to recognize any section which had not been formed by its direct
mandates or by themselves. Their request was motivated by the necessity
to rid themselves of agents-provocateurs, whose burning zeal manifested
itself in the rapid formation of sections of unparalleled radicalism. On
the other hand, the so-called anti-authoritarian sections do not hesitate
to appeal to the Council the moment a conflict arises in their midst, or
even to ask it to deal severely with their adversaries, as in the case
of the Lyons conflict. More recently, since the Conference, the Turin "Workers'
Federation" decided to declare itself a section of the International. As
the result of the split that followed, the minority formed the Emancipation
of the Proletariat Society. It joined the International and began by passing
a resolution in favor of the Jura people. Its newspaper, Il Proletario,
is filled with outbursts against all authoritarianism. When sending in
the society's subscriptions, the secretary [Carlo Terzaghi] warned the
General Council that the old federation would probably also send its subscriptions.
Then he continues:
"As you will have read in Il Proletario, the Emancipation of
the Proletariat Society... has declared... its rejection of all solidarity
with the bourgeoisie who, under the mask of workers, are organizing the
Workers' Federation," and begs the Council to "communicate this resolution
to all sections and to refuse the 10 centimes in subscriptions in the event
of their being sent." 
Like all the International's groups, the General Council is required to
carry on propaganda. This it has accomplished through its manifestos and
its agents, who laid the basis for the first organizations of the International
in North America, in Germany, and in many French towns.
Another function of the General Council is to aid strikers and
organize their support by the entire International (see General Council
reports to the various Congresses). The following fact, inter alia,
indicates the importance of its intervention in the strike movement. The
Resistance Society of the English Foundrymen is in itself an international
trade union with branches in other countries, notably in the United States.
Nonetheless, during a strike of American foundrymen, the latter found it
necessary to invoke the intercession of the General Council to prevent
English foundrymen being brought into America.
The growth of the International obliged the General Council and
all federal councils to assume the role of arbiter.
The Brussels Congress resolved that:
"The federal councils are obliged to send a report every quarter to
the General Council on their administration and financial states" (Administrative
Lastly, the Basel Congress, which provokes the bilious wrath of the Sixteen,
occupied itself solely with regulating the administrative relations engendered
by the Association's continuing development. If it extended unduly the
limits of the General Council's powers, whose fault was it if not that
of Bakunin, Schwitzgeubel, F. Robert, Guillaume, and other delegates of
the Alliance, who were so anxious to achieve just that? Or will they accuse
themselves of "blind confidence" in the London General Council?
Here are two resolutions of the Basel Congress:
"No.IV. Each new section or society which is formed and wishes to be
part of the International must immediately announce its adhesion to the
"No.V. The General Council has the right to admit or reject the affiliation
of any new society or group, subject to appeal at the next Congress."
As for the local independent societies formed outside the federal body,
these articles only confirm the practice observed since the International's
origin, maintenance of which is a matter of life or death for the Association.
But extending this practice and applying it indiscriminately to every section
or society in the process of formation is going too far. These articles
do authorize the General Council to intervene in the internal affairs of
the federations; but they have never been applied in this sense by the
General Council. It defies the Sixteen to cite a single case where it has
intervened in the affairs of new sections desirous of affiliating themselves
with existing groups or federations.
The resolutions cited above refer to sections in the process of
formation, while the resolutions given below refer to sections already
"VI. The General Council has equally the right to suspend until the
next Congress any section of the International.
"VII. When conflicts arise between the societies or branches of
a national group, or between groups of different nationalities, the General
Council shall have the right to decide the conflict, subject to appeal
at the next Congress, which will decide definitely."
These two articles are necessary for extreme cases, although up to the
present the General Council has never had recourse to them. The review
presented above shows that the Council has never suspended any section,
and in cases of conflict has only acted as arbiter at the request of the
We arrive, at last, at a function imposed on the General Council
by the needs of the struggle. However shocking this may be for supporters
of the Alliance, it is the very persistence of the attacks to which the
General Council is subjected by all the enemies of the proletarian movement
that has placed it in the vanguard of the defenders of the International
Working Men's Association.
Having dealt with the International, such as it is,
the Sixteen proceed to tell us what it should be.
First, the General Council should be nominally a simple correspondence
and statistical bureau. Once it has been relieved of its administrative
functions, its correspondence would be concerned only with reproducing
the information already published in the Association's newspapers. The
correspondence bureau would thus become needless. As for statistics, that
function is possible only if a strong organization, and especially, as
the original Rules expressly say, a common direction are provided. Since
all that smacks very much of "authoritarianism", however, there might perhaps
be a bureau, but certainly no statistics. In a word, the General Council
would disappear. The federal councils, the local committees, and other
"authoritarian" centres, would go by the same token. Only the autonomous
sections would remain.
What, one may ask, will be the purpose of these "autonomous sections",
freely federated and happily rid of all superior bodies, "even of the superior
body elected and constituted by the workers"?
Here, it becomes necessary to supplement the circular by the report
of the Jura Federal Committee submitted to the Congress of the Sixteen:
"In order to make the working class the real representative of humanity's
new interests," its organization must be "guided by the idea that will
triumph. To evolve this idea from the needs of our epoch, from mankind's
vital aspirations, by a consistent study of the phenomena of social life,
to then carry this idea to our workers' organizations — such should be
our aim," etc. Lastly, there must be created "amid our working population
a real revolutionary socialist school."
Thus, the autonomous workers' sections are in a trice converted into schools,
of which these gentlemen of the Alliance will be the masters. They "evolve"
the idea by "consistent" studies which leave no trace behind. They then
"carry this idea to our workers' organizations". To them, the working class
is so much raw material, a chaos into which they must breathe their Holy
Spirit before it acquires a shape.
All of which is but a paraphrase of the old Alliance program,
which begins with these words:
"The socialist minority of the League of Peace and Freedom, having
separated itself from the league," proposes to found "a new Alliance of
Socialist Democracy... having a special mission to study political and
This is the "idea" that is being "evolved" therefrom:
"Such an enterprise... would provide sincere socialist democrats of
Europe and America with the means of being understood and of affirming
their ideas." 
That is how, on its own admission, the minority of a bourgeois society
slipped into the International shortly before the Basel Congress with the
exclusive aim of utilizing it as a means for posing before the working
masses as a hierarchy of a secret science that may be expounded in hour
phrases and whose culminating point is "the economic and social equalization
of the classes."
Apart from this "theoretical mission", the new organization proposed
for the International also has its practical aspect.
"The future society," says the circular of the Sixteen, "should be
nothing but a universalization of the organization which the International
will establish for itself. We must therefore take care to bring this organization
as near as possible to our ideal.... How could one expect an egalitarian
and free society to grow out of an authoritarian organization? That is
impossible. The International, embryo of the future human society, must
be, from now on, the faithful image of our principles of liberty and federation."
In other words, just as the mediaeval convents presented an image of celestial
life, so the International must be the image of the New Jerusalem, whose
embryo the Alliance bears in its womb. The Paris Communards would not have
failed if they had understood that the Commune was "the embryo of the future
human society" and had cast away all discipline and all arms — that is,
the things which must disappear when there are no more wars!
Bakunin, however, the better to establish that, despite their
"consistent study", the Sixteen did not hatch this pretty project of disorganization
and disarmament in the International when it was fighting for its existence,
has just published the original text of that project in his report on the
International's organization (see Almanach du Peuple pour 1872, Geneve).
Now, turn to the report presented by the Jura Committee
at the Congress of the Sixteen.
"A perusal of the report," says their official organ, Revolution
Sociale (November 16), "will give the exact measure of the devotion
and practical intelligence that we can expect from the Jura Federation
It begins by attributing to "these terrible events" — the Franco-Prussia
War and the Civil War in France — a "somewhat demoralizing influence...
on the situation within the International's sections."
If, in fact, the Franco-Prussian War could not but lead to the disorganization
of the sections because it drew great numbers of workers into the two armies,
it is no less true that the fall of the Empire and Bismarck's open proclamation
of a war of conquest provoked in Germany and England a violent struggle
between the bourgeoisie, which side with the Prussians, and the proletariat,
which more than ever demonstrated its international sentiments. This alone
should have been sufficient for the International to have gained ground
in both countries. In America, the same fact produced a split between in
the vast German proletarian emigre group, the internationalist party definitely
dissociating itself from the chauvinist party.
On the other hand, the advent of the Paris Commune gave an unprecedented
boost to the expansion of the International and to a vigorous support of
its principles by sections of all nationalities, except the Jura sections,
whose report continues this:
"The beginning of the gigantic battle... has caused people to think...
some go away to hide their weakness.... For many, this situation" (within
their ranks) "is a sign of decrepitude," but "on the contrary... this situation
is capable of transforming the International completely," according to
their own pattern.
This modest wish will be understood more completely after a deeper examination
of so propitious a situation.
Leaving aside the dissolved Alliance, since replaced by the Malon
section, the Committee had to report on the situation in 20 sections. Among
them, seven simply turned their backs on the Alliance. This is what the
report has to say about it:
"The section of box makers and that of engravers and designers of Bienne
have never replied to any of the communications that we sent them. The
sections of Neuchatel craftsmen, i.e., joiners, box makers, engravers,
and designers, have made no reply to letters from the Federal Committee.
We have not been able to obtain any news of the Val-de-Ruz section. The
section of engravers and designers of Locle have given no reply to letters
from the Federal Committee."
That is what is described as free intercourse between autonomous
sections and their Federal Committee.
Another section, that "of engravers and designers of the Courtelary
district, after three years of stubborn perseverance... at the present
time... is forming a resistance society" — independent of the International,
which does not in the least deter them from sending two delegates to the
Congress of the Sixteen.
Next come four completely defunct sections:
"The central section of Bienne has currently been dissolved; one of
its devoted members wrote to us recently, however, saying that all hope
of seeing the rebirth of the International at Bienne is not lost. The Saint-Blaise
section has been dissolved. The Catebat section, after a brilliant existence,
has had to yield to the intrigues woven by the masters" (!) "of this district
in order to dissolve this valiant" (?) "section. Lastly, the Corgement
section also has fallen victim of intrigue on the part of the employers."
The central section of the Courtelary district follows, which "took the
wise step of suspending its activity"; which did not deter it from sending
two delegates to the Congress of the Sixteen.
Now we come to four sections whose existence is more than problematical.
"The Grange section has been reduced to a small nucleus of socialist
workers.... Their local action is paralyzed by their numerically modest
membership. The central section of Neuchatel has suffered considerably
from the events, and would inevitably have disbanded except for the dedication
and activity of some of its members. The central section of Locle, hovering
between life and death for some months, ended up by being dissolved. It
has been reconstituted quite recently, however," evidently for the sole
purpose of sending two delegates to the Congress of the Sixteen. "The Chaux-de-Fonds
section of socialist propaganda is in a critical situation.... Its position,
far from getting better, tends rather to deteriorate."
Next come two sections, the study circles of Saint-Imier and of Sonvillier,
which are mentioned only in passing, without so much as a word about their
There remains the model section, which, to judge by its name of
central section, is nothing but the residue of other defunct sections.
"The central section of Moutier is certainly the one that has suffered
least.... Its Committee has been in constant contact with the Federal Committee...
no sections have yet been founded...."
That is easily explained:
"The action of the Moutier section was particularly favored by the
excellent attitude of a working population... given to their traditional
ways; we would like to see the working class of this district make itself
still more independent of political elements."
One can see, in fact, that this report
"gives the exact measure of the devotion and practical intelligence
that we can expect from the Jura Federation members."
They might have rounded it off by adding that the workers of Chaux-de-Fonds,
the original seat of their committee, have always refused to have anything
to do with them. Just recently, at the general assembly of January 18,
1872, they replied to the circular of the Sixteen by a unanimous vote confirming
the London Conference resolutions and also the French Switzerland Congress
resolution of May 1871:
"To exclude forever from the International Bakunin, Guillaume, and
Is it necessary to say anything more about the courage of this sham Sonvillier
Congress, which, in its own words, "caused war, open war, within the International"?
Certainly these men, who make more noise than their stature warrants,
have had an incontestable success. The whole of the liberal and police
press have openly taken their side; they have been backed in their personal
slander of the General Council and the insipid attacks aimed against the
International by ostensible reformers in may lands: by the bourgeois republicans
in England, whose intrigues were exposed by the General Council; by the
dogmatic free-thinkers in Italy who, under the banner of Stefanoni, have
just formed a "Universal Rationalist Society" with permanent headquarters
in Rome, and "authoritarian" and "hierarchical" organization of monasteries
for atheist monks and nuns, whose rules provide for a marble bust in the
Congress hall for every bourgeois who donates 10,000 francs; and lastly
by the Bismarck socialists in Germany who, apart from their police mouthpiece,
the Neuer Social-Demokrat, played the role of "white shirts" for
the Prusso-German Empire.
The Sonvillier conclave, in a pathetic appeal, requests all sections
of the International to insist on the urgency of an immediate Congress
"to curb the consistent encroachments of the London Council," according
to Citizens Malon and Lefrancais, but actually to replace the International
with the Alliance. This appeal received such an encouraging response, that
they immediately set about falsifying a resolution voted at the last Belgian
Congress. Their official organ (Revolution Sociale, January 4, 1872)
writes as follows:
"Lastly, which is even more important, the Belgian sections met at
the Congress of Brussels on December 14 and 25 and voted unanimously for
a resolution identical with that of the Sonvillier Congress, on the urgency
of convening a General Congress."
It is important to note that the Belgian congress voted the very opposite.
It charged the Belgian congress, which was not due to meet until the following
June, to draft new General Rule for submission to the next Congress
of the International.
In accordance with the will of the vast majority of members of
the International, the General Council is to convene the annul Congress
only in September 1872.
Some weeks after the Conference, Albert Richard and
Gaspard Blanc, the most influential and most ardent members of the Alliance,
arrived in London. They came to recruit, among the French refugees, aides
willing to work for the restoration of the Empire, which, according to
them, was the only way to rid themselves of Thiers and to avoid being left
destitute. The General Council warned all concerned, including the Brussels
Federal Council, of their Bonapartist plots.
In January 1872, they dropped their mask by publishing a pamphlet
entitled The Empire and the New France. Call of the People and the Youth
to the French Conscience, by Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, Brussels,
With the modesty characteristic of the charlatans of the Alliance,
they declaim the following humbug:
"We who have built up the great army of the French proletariat... we,
the most influential leaders of the International in France ,... happily, we have not been shot, and we are here
to flaunt in their faces (to wit: ambitious parliamentarians, smug
republicans, sham democrats of all sorts) the banner under which we are
fighting, and despite the slander, threats, and all manner of attacks that
await us, to hurl at an amazed Europe the cry that comes from the very heart
of our conscience and that will soon resound in the hearts of all Frenchmen:
'Long Live the Emperor!' Napoleon III, disgraced and scorned, must be
splendidly reinstated"; and Messrs. Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc, paid
out of the secret funds of Invasion III, are specially charged with this
Incidentally, they confess:
"It is the normal evolution of our ideas that made us imperialists."
Here is a confession that should give pleasure to their co-religionists
of the Alliance. As in the heyday of Solidarite, A. Richard and
G. Blanc mouth again the cliches about "abstention from politics" which,
on the principle of their "normal evolution", can become a reality only
under the most absolute despotism, with the workers abstaining from any
meddling in politics, much like the prisoner abstaining from a walk in
"The time of the revolutionaries," they say, "is over... communism
is restricted to Germany and England, especially Germany. That, moreover,
is where it had been developed in earnest for a long time to be subsequently
spread throughout the International, and this disturbing expansion of German
influence in the Association has in no small degree contributed to retarding
its development, or rather, to giving it a new course in the sections of
central and southern France, whom no German has ever supplied with a slogan."
Perhaps this is the voice of the great hierophant, who ever since the Alliance's
foundation has taken upon himself, in his capacity as a Russian, the special
task of representing the Latin races? Or do we have here "the true missionaries"
of the Revolution Sociale (November 2, 1871) denouncing "the backward
march which endeavors to foist German and Bismarckian mentality on the
Fortunately, however, the true tradition has survived, and Messrs.
Albert Richard and Gaspard Blanc have not been shot! Thus, their own "contribution"
consists in "setting a new course" for the International in central and
southern France to follow, by an effort to found Bonapartist sections,
ipso facto basically "autonomous".
As for the constitution of the proletariat as a political party,
as recommended by the London Conference, "After the restoration of the
Empire, we" — Richard and Blanc — "shall quickly deal not only with the
Socialist theories but also with any attempts to implement them through
revolutionary organization of the masses." Briefly, exploiting the great
"autonomy principle of the sections" which "constitute the real strength
of the International... especially in the Latin countries" (Revolution
Sociale, January 4), these gentlemen base their hopes on anarchy within
Anarchy, then, is the great war horse of their master Bakunin,
who has taken nothing from the socialist systems except a set of slogans.
All socialists see anarchy as the following program:
Once the aim of the proletarian movement — i.e., abolition of classes
— is attained, the power of the state, which serves to keep the great
majority of producers in bondage to a very small exploiter minority, disappears,
and the functions of government become simple administrative functions.
The Alliance draws an entirely different picture.
It proclaims anarchy in proletarian ranks as the most infallible means
of breaking the powerful concentration of social and political forces in
the hands of the exploiters. Under this pretext, it asks the International,
at a time when the Old World is seeking a way of crushing it, to replace
its organization with anarchy.
The international police want nothing better for perpetuating the Thiers
republic, while cloaking it in a royal mantle.
1 B. MALON — Do the friends of B. Malon, who
have been advertising him in a stereotyped way for the last three months
as the founder of the International, who have called his book the only
independent work on the Commune, know the attitude taken by this assistant
to the Mayor of Batignolles on the eve of the February elections? At that
time, B. Malon, who did not yet foresee the Commune and saw nothing more
than the success of his election to the Assembly, plotted to get himself
put on the list of the four committees as a member of the International.
To these ends, he insolently denied the existence of the Paris Federal
Council and submitted to the committees the list of a section founded by
himself at Batignolles as coming from the entire Association. Later, on
March 19, he insulted in a public document the leaders of the great Revolution
on the eve of their consummating it. Today, this anarchist from top-to-toe
prints, or has printed, what he was saying a year ago to the four committees:
I am the International! B. Malon has hit on a way of parodying Louis XIV
and Perron the chocolate manufacturer at one and the same time. It was
Perron who declared that his chocolate was the only edible chocolate!
2 Here is the national composition of
— 20 Englishmen, — 15 French, — 7 Germans (of whom 5 are founding
members of the International), — 2 Swiss, — 2 Hungarians, — 1 Pole,
— 1 Belgian, — 1 Irishman, — 1 Dane, and — 1 Italian.
3 A little later, this Chautard whom they had
wanted to put on the General Council was expelled from the section as an
agent of Thiers' police. He was accused by the same people who had judged
him worthy among all others of representing them on the General Council.
4 The Conference resolution on political
action of the working class reads as follows:
"Considering the following passage of the Preamble to the Rules:
'The economical emancipation of the working classes is the great end
to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means';
"That the Inaugural Address of the International Working Men's Association
'The lords of land and the lords of capital will always use their political
privileges for the defense and perpetuation of their economical monopolies.
So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment
in the way of the emancipation of labor.... To conquer political power
has therefore become the great duty of the working classes';
"That the Congress of Lausanne (1867) has passed this resolution:
'The social emancipation of the workmen is inseparable from their political
"That the declaration of the General Council relative to the pretended
plot of the French Internationals on the eve of the plebiscite (1870) says:
'Certainly by the tenor of our Statutes, all our branches in England,
on the Continent, and in America, have the special mission not only to
serve as centres for the militant organization of the working class, but
also to support, in their respective countries, every political movement
tending toward the accomplishment of our ultimate end — the economical
emancipation of the working class.';
"That false translations of the original Statutes have given rise to various
interpretations which were mischievous to the development and action of
the International Working Men's Association;
"In presence of an unbridled reaction which violently crushed
every effort at emancipation on the part of the working men, and pretends
to maintain by brute force the distinction of classes and the political
domination of the propertied classes resulting from it;
"Considering that against this collective power of the propertied
classes the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting
itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties
formed by the propertied classes;
"That this constitution of the working class into a political
party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the Social Revolution
and its ultimate end — the abolition of classes;
"That the combination of forces which the working class has already
effected by its economical struggles ought at the same time to serve as
a lever for its struggles against the political power of landlords and
"The Conference recalls to the members of the International:
"That in the militant state of the working class, its economical
movement and its political action are indissolubly united."
5 Recent police publications on the
International, including the Jules Favre circular to foreign powers and
the report of Sacaze, a deputy in the rural assembly, on the Dufaure project,
are full of quotations from the Alliance's pompous manifestos. The phraseology
of these sectarians, whose radicalism is wholly restricted to verbiage,
is extremely useful for promoting the aims of the reactionaries.
6 At this time, these were the apparent
ideas of the Emancipation of the Proletariat Society, as represented by
its corresponding secretary, a friend of Bakunin. Actually, however, this
section's tendencies were quite different. After expelling this double-dealing
traitor for embezzlement and for his friendly relations with the Turin
police chief, the society set forth in explanation, which cleared up all
misunderstanding between it and the General Council.
7 The gentlemen of the Alliance, who
continue to reproach the General Council for calling a private Conference
at a time when the convocation of a Congress would have been the height
of treachery or folly — these absolute proponents of clamor and publicity
— organized within the International itself with the aim of bringing its
sections, unbeknown to them, under the sacerdotal direction of Bakunin.
The General Council intends to demand at the next Congress an
investigation of this secret organization and its promoters in certain
countries, such as Spain, for example.
8 Under the heading "To the Pillory!",
L'Egalite (of Geneva), February 15, 1872, had this to say:
"The day has not yet come to describe the story of the defeat of the
movement of the Commune in the South of France; but what we, most of whom
witnessed the deplorable defeat of the Lyons insurrection on April 30,
can announce today is that one of the reasons for the insurrection's failure
was the cowardice, the treachery, and the thievery of G. Blanc, who intruded
everywhere carrying out the orders of A. Richard, who kept in the shade.
"By their carefully prepared maneuvers, these rascals intentionally
compromised many of those who took part in the preparatory work of the
"Further, these traitors managed to discredit the International
at Lyon to such an extent that by the time of the Paris revolution the
International was regarded by the Lyon workers with the greatest distrust.
Hence the total absence of organization, hence the failure of the insurrection,
a failure which was bound to result in the fall of the Commune, which was
left to rely on its own isolated forces! It is only since this bloody lesson
that our propaganda has been able to rally the Lyon workers around the
flag of the International.
"Albert Richard was the pet and prophet of Bakunin and company."