The Workers and the Sphinx (1867)
1. The Council of Action claims for each the full product of
his labor: meaning by that his complete and equal right to enjoy,
in common with his fellow workers, the full amenities of life
and happiness that the collective labor of the people creates.
The Council declares that it is wrong for these who produce nothing
at all to be able to maintain their insolent riches, since they
do so only by the work of others. Like the Apostle Paul, the Council
maintains, that, if any would not work, neither should he eat.
The Council of Action avers that the right to the noble namo
of labor belongs exclusively to productive labor. Some years ago,
the young King of Portugal paid a visit to his august father-in-law.
He was presented to a gathering of the Working Men's Association
at Turin: and there, surrounded by workers, he uttered these memorable
words: "Gentlemen, the present country is the country of
labor. We all labor. I, too, labor for the good of my people.
However flattering this likening of royal labor to working-class
labor may appear, we cannot accept it. We must recognize that
royal labor is a labor of absorption and not of production. Capitalists,
proprietors, contractors also labor: but all such labor is parasitic,
since it has no other object than to transfer the real products
of labor from the hands of the workers, whose toil creates them,
into the possession of these who do not create them, to serve
the purpose of further gain and exploitation. Such labor cannot
be considered productive labor. In this sense, thieves and brigand
labor also. Roughly, they risk every day their liberty and their
life. But they do not work.
The Council of Action recognizes intellectual labor-that of
men of science-as productive labor. It places the application
of science to industry, and the activity of the organizers and
administrators of industrial and commercial affairs, in the category
of useful or productive labor. But it demands for all men a participation
as much in manual labor as in the labor of the mind. The question
of how much manual and how much mental labor a person shall contribute
to the community must be decided not by the privileges of birth
of social status, but by suitability to the natural capacities
of each, developed by equal opportunity of education and instruction.
Only thus can class distinctions and privileges disappear and
the cant phrase, "the intelligent and working masses"
be relegated to deserved oblivion.
2. The Council of Action declares that, so long as the working
masses are plunged in the misery of economic servitude, all so-called
reforms and even so-called political revolutions of a seeming
proletarian character, will avail them nothing. They are condemned
to live in a forced ignorance and to accept a slave status by
the economic organization of wage-slave society.
3. Consequently, the Council of Action urges the workers in
their own interests, material as well as moral,--and moral because
so completely and thoroughly and equally material for each and
all-to subordinate all seeming political questions to definite
economic issues. The material means of an education and of an
existence really human, are for the proletariat, the first condition
of liberty, morality and humanity.
4. The Council of Action declares that the record of past countries,
the class legacy of exploitation, as well as contemporary experience,
should have convinced the workers that they can expect no social
amelioration of their lot from the generosity of the privileged
classes. There is no justice in class society, since justice can
exist only in equality; and equality means the abolition of class
and privilege (Monopoly) There never has been and there never
will be a generous or just ruling class. The classes and orders
existing in present day-society--clergy, bureaucracy, plutocracy,
nobility, bourgeoisie-dispute for power only to consolidate their
own strength and to increase their profits within the system.
The Council of Action exists to express the truth that, henceforth,
the proletariat must take the direction of its own affairs into
its own hands.
5. Once the proletariat clearly understands itself, its solidarity
will find expression in the Council of action, or Federated Councils
of Action. Then there will remain no power in the world that can
resist the workers.
6. To this end, the Council of Action affirms that the proletariat
ought to tend, not to the establishment of a new rule or of a
new class for its alleged profit as a class, but to the definite
abolition of all rule, of every class. Dictatorship, political
sectarianism, all spell power, exploitation, and injustice. The
proletariat, through their Council of Action organization, must
express the organization of justice liberty, without distinction
of race, color, nationality, or faith-all to fully exorcise the
same duties and enjoy the same rights.
7. The cause of the working class of the entire world is one,
is solidarity, across and in spite of all State frontiers. Expressing
that common purpose, that complete proletarian identity of interest,
the Council of Action proclaims the International oneness of the
workers' cause. It pioneers the definite International Association
of the Workers of the World in a chain of Industrial Associations.
The cause of the workers is International because, pushed by an
inevitable law which is inherent in it, bourgeois capital in its
threefold employment--in industry, commerce and in banking speculations--has
boon tending, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, towards
an organization more and more International and complete, enlarging
each day more, and simultaneous in all centuries, the abyss which
separates the working world from the bourgeois world. From this
fact, it results that, for every worker endowed with intelligence
and heart, for every proletariat who has vision and affection
for his companions in misery and servitude; who is conscious of
the situation of himself and his class and of his actual interest:
the real century is henceforth the International Camp of Labor.
And the true local organization of that camp is the Council of
To every worker, truly worthy of the name, the workers of so-called
foreign centuries, who suffer and are oppressed as he is oppressed,
are infinitely nearer and of more immediate kin than the bourgeoisie
of his own country, who enrich themselves to his detriment. Because
of this the Council of Action will replace the geographical unit
of false democracy, the National State.
8. The deliverance of the proletariat from the oppression and
exploitation which it endures in all centuries alike, must be
International. In these lands which are bound by means of credit,
industry, and commerce, the economic and social emancipation of
the proletariat must be achieved almost simultaneously by a common
struggle ending in a triumphant challenge to the existing political
constitution of the world. The economic emancipation of the proletariat
is the foundation of the political emancipation of the world.
Realizing this, the Council of Action preaches the proletarian
duty and message of fraternity.
By the duty of fraternity, as well as by the call of enlightened
self interest, the workers are called upon to establish, organize,
and exercise the greatest practical solidarity, industrial, communal,
provincial, national and International: beginning in their workshop,
their home, their tenement, their street their political group
and extending it to all their trade societies, to all their trade
propaganda federations a close industrial solidarity They ought
to observe this solidarity scrupulously, and practice it in all
the developments catastrophes, and incidents of the in incessant
daily struggle of the labor of the worker against the stolen capital
of the bourgeois; all these demands and claims of hours and wages,
strikes, and every question that relates to the existence, whether
material or moral, of the working people.
The revolt of the workers and the spontaneous organization
of human solidarity through the free but involuntary and inevitable
federation of all working-class groups into the Council of Action!
This, then, is the answer to the enigma which the Capitalist Sphinx
forces us today to solve, threatening to devour us if we do not
Next: Solidarity in Liberty:
The Workers Path to Freedom