Inaugural Manifesto of the International Working Men's Association

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Message read at the founding act of the First International, September 28, 1864.


It is a notorious fact that the misery of the working masses did not diminish between the years 1848 and 1864. Nevertheless, this period experienced an unparalleled development of its industry and commerce. In 1850, one of the best informed media of the English middle class predicted that if England's exports and imports increased by 50%, English poverty would be reduced to zero.[I] Such as! On April 07, 1864, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delighted his parliamentary crowd by asserting that the sum total of England's exports and imports had grown in 1863 “to £443,955,000! This impressive sum […] is three times the commercial sum of […] 1843, comparatively recent times!”.

Despite this, he was eloquent about “poverty”. “Think,” he exclaimed, “of those who are on the brink of destitution”; in “stagnant wages”; in “ninety percent of human lives reduced to the struggle for existence!”. He did not speak of the people of Ireland who, in the North, are gradually being replaced by machinery and, in the South, by pastures for sheep. It is true that even the number of sheep has been decreasing in that unhappy country, though at a slower rate than that which affects men. He did not repeat what had then been revealed by the highest representatives of the tens of thousands of members of the upper class, in a sudden attack of terror.

When the garrote panic[ii] reached a certain intensity, the House of Lords opened an inquiry into the use of sentences of banishment and penal servitude for such crimes. From it came to light a voluminous blue book[iii] of 1863, in which it was proved, from facts and official data, that the worst class of convicted criminals, the penal servants of England and Scotland, worked much less and lived much better than the agricultural workers of those countries.

But that is not all. When, in consequence of the Civil War in America[iv], the workers of Lancashire and Cheshire were thrown into the streets, the same House of Lords sent to the factory districts a doctor charged with verifying the administration, in the most direct and simple way possible, of the minimum amount of carbon and nitrogen necessary to “avoid diseases of malnutrition ”. doctor Smith, the doctor in charge, assured that 28.000 grains [1.8 Kg] of carbon and 1330 grains [86g] of nitrogen were the weekly dosages needed to keep an adult… marginally above starvation. Moreover, the Doctor ended up discovering that this amount was very similar to the meager diet to which cotton workers were subjected, under extreme pressure.

But now notice! The same doctor was later appointed by the medical officer of the Privy Council to investigate the nutritional conditions of the most vulnerable working classes. The results of their research were compiled in the "sixth public health report", published by order of Parliament in the course of the present year. What did the doctor discover? May the silk weavers, seamstresses, kid gloves, stocking weavers and similar workers did not even receive, on average, the pittance that cotton workers received, not even the amount of carbon and nitrogen “sufficient to prevent bankrupt diseases”.

“Furthermore,” we quote from the report, “with regard to households in the agricultural population surveyed, more than one-fifth had less than the recommended minimum amount of carbonated food, and more than one-third had less than the recommended amount. recommended minimum amount of nitrogenous foods. In three counties (Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Somersetshire) insufficiency of nitrogenous feeds is the norm in the local diet”.

“It should be remembered”, adds the official report, “that deprivation of food is very little supported and that, as a rule, bankruptcy misery will only come when other deprivations precede it… Even hygiene habits prove to be costly or difficult and if for whatever dignified behaviors they are still maintained, each of them will represent additional pangs of hunger”. “These are painful reflections, especially when it is noted that the poverty from which they suffer is not the deserved poverty of idleness; in all cases it is the poverty of working populations. Indeed […] the labor by which a pittance of support is obtained is for the most part exceedingly long”.

The report presents a strange and unexpected fact, "that of the fractions of the United Kingdom", England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, "the agricultural population of England", the richest fraction, "is considerably the most undernourished"; but even the agricultural laborers of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Somersetshire are better fed than large numbers of skilled laborers in East London.

Such are the official accounts published by order of Parliament in 1864, during the millennium of free trade, at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells the House of Commons: “The average condition of the British workman has […] improved [… ] to a degree […] that we know to be extraordinary and […] unheard of […] in the history of any country at any time”.

Beneath these official congratulations resounds the dry reminder of the official public health report: “The public health of a country means the health of its masses, and the masses are unlikely to be healthy unless, at their foundation, they are at least moderately prosperous. ”.

Enchanted by the “Progress of the Nation” statistics that dance before his eyes, the same chancellor exclaims in unrestrained ecstasy: “From 1842 to 1852 the country's taxable earnings […] increased by six percent; […] in the eight years between 1853 and 1861 they increased, taking 1853 as a base, by twenty percent! The fact is so astonishing as to be almost incredible! … That intoxicating growth of wealth and power,” adds Mr. Gladstone, "is entirely confined to the classes of possessions!"[v]

If you want to know under what conditions of broken health, moral perversion and mental ruin this "intoxicating growth of wealth and power confined to the classes of possessions" was - and continues to be - produced by the labor classes, look at the portrait of the tailors, printers and seamstresses that hangs on the latest “public health report”!

Compare the 1863 “Report of the Child Labor Commission”, which states, for example, that: “The potters as a class, both male and female, . . . represent a profoundly degenerate population, physically and mentally,” which “the sick child is in turn a sick parent”, that “a progressive deterioration of the race must continue”, and that “the degeneration of the population of Staffordshire might be still greater if it were not for the constant recruitment made in the neighboring regions and marriage with healthier races”.

Take a peek at Mr. Tremenheere about the “sufferings of which bakers complain”! And who does not shudder at the paradoxical assertion made by factory inspectors and illustrated by the Center for Civil Registration that Lancashire workers, while placed in a situation of food shortage, were found to be improving in health owing to their exclusion from the cotton factories as a result of Cotton Famine[vi]and that infant mortality had declined since mothers were finally allowed to give their children their own breasts instead of Godfrey's Cordial.[vii]

Again, the other side of the coin! The report concerning income and property tax presented before the House of Commons on July 20, 1864 teaches us that, between April 5, 1862 and April 5, 1863, 13 persons were incorporated into the group with annual incomes equal or greater to £50.000, whose numbers grew from 67 to 80 people that year. The same report discloses the fact that about 3000 people share among themselves annual incomes of around twenty-five million pounds sterling, more than the total annual earnings apportioned among the whole mass of agricultural workers in England and Wales.

Open the 1861 Census and you will find that the number of male landowners in England and Wales decreased from 16.934 in 1851 to 15.066 in 1861, so that land concentration increased by 11% in ten years. If the concentration of the country's soil into a few hands continues to proceed at the same rate, the land question will become singularly simplified, just as it was in the Roman Empire, when Nero laughed at the discovery that half the province of Africa belonged to six patricians.

We dwell on these “facts so astonishing as to be almost incredible” because England leads Europe in commerce and industry. Recall that a few months ago, one of Louis Philippe's refugee sons publicly congratulated the English farm worker on the superiority of his produce compared to his less sophisticated comrade across the Channel.

In fact, changing local colors and on a somewhat reduced scale, English facts are reproduced in all the industrious and progressive countries of the continent. In all of them, since 1848, there has been an unprecedented development of industry and an unprecedented expansion of imports and exports. In all of them “the growth of wealth and power confined to the classes of possessions” had been “intoxicating”. In all of them, as well as in England, a minority of the working classes somehow obtained an increase in their wages, although in most cases the monetary increase in wages does not represent real access to comfort, as well as, for example, a residents of the metropolitan hostel or the orphan asylum were not provided with their basic needs either, which cost £9 15s. 8d. in 1861 against £7 7s. 4d. in 1852.

Everywhere the great mass of the working classes have sunk down the social scale as far as those above it have ascended. In all countries of Europe it has become a verifiable truth - to every mind unprejudiced and denied only by those whose interest it is to encircle the other in a fool's paradise - that there is no improvement in machinery, application of science over production. , communication technologies, new colonies, emigration, opening of markets, free trade or all those things added together that will eliminate the miseries of the industrious class; on the contrary, each new development of the productive forces of labor tends to deepen contrasts and intensify social antagonisms.

During this "intoxicating" age of economic progress, death by starvation rose to almost the status of an institution in the metropolises of the British Empire. Such an era is marked in the annals of the world by the accelerated return, by the wide scope and by the deadly effects of the social plague called commercial and industrial crisis.

After the failure of the 1848 revolutions, all party organizations and newspapers of the working class were, on the Continent, crushed by the iron fist of force. The more advanced sons of labor fled in despair to the transatlantic republic, and the brief dreams of emancipation dissipated in an age of industrial fervor, moral doldrums, and political backlash. The defeat of the continental working classes, owing in part to the diplomacy of the English government, acting then as now in fraternal solidarity with the St. Petersburg cabinet, soon spread its contagious effects to that side of the Channel.

While it disarmed the English working classes and broke their faith in their own cause, the confusion of their continental brethren eventually restored landlords and money to their somewhat shattered confidence. These insolently withdrew concessions already announced. The discoveries of new gold-rich lands led to a huge exodus, causing an insurmountable gap in the ranks of the British proletariat. Others of its previously active members were captured by the temporary bribe of more work and better wages, transforming themselves into “political paymasters”.

All efforts made to maintain or reshape the Chartist movement have failed resoundingly; the working-class press organs died one by one through the apathy of the masses, and indeed never before has the English working class seemed so perfectly reconciled to a state of political nullity. If then there was no solidarity of action between the British and continental working classes, there was, to all events, a solidarity of defeat.

And yet the period since the 1848 revolutions has not been without its compensating features. We will point here to just two major facts.

After thirty years of conflict, fought with the most admirable perseverance, the English working classes, taking advantage of a momentary breach between the proprietors of land and money, succeeded in passing the Ten Hours' Act.[viii]. The immense physical, moral and intellectual benefits experienced by the factory operatives, recorded every six months in the factory inspectors' reports, are now known to all. Most continental governments have had to accept the English Factory Act in more or less modified forms, and the English Parliament is each year compelled to enlarge its sphere of action.

But apart from its practical importance, there is something else to extol in the wonderful success of this measure. Through its most notorious scientific bodies, such as Dr. Ure, senior professor, and other sages of the same ilk, the middle class foresaw, and to their heart's content proved, that any legal restriction of the working day must sound like the death knell of British industry which, like a vampire, can live only by sucking blood, including from children.

In primeval times, the murder of children was a mysterious rite of the Moloch religion. However, it was practiced only on a few very solemn occasions, perhaps once a year, and even then Moloch did not have an exclusive predilection for the children of the poor. This struggle over the legal restriction of the working day has grown fiercer ever since and, apart from frightened avarice, does indeed tell us of the great clash between the blind sovereignty of the laws of supply and demand which form the political economy of the middle class. ; and social production controlled by social foreknowledge, which forms the political economy of the working class.

Consequently the Ten Hour Law was not only a great practical success, but a victory of principle; it was the first time that, in broad daylight, the political economy of the middle class had succumbed to the political economy of the working class.

But there was to come an even greater victory for the political economy of labor over the political economy of property. We are talking about the cooperative movement, especially the cooperative factories created by the isolated efforts of a few brave “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be underestimated. They showed by deeds, rather than arguments, that large-scale production under the command of modern science can be carried out without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labor need not be monopolized as a means of domination and extortion of the worker; and that, like bondage and servile labor, hired labor is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to pass away in the face of associated labor that operates its tools with a willing hand, an awake mind, and a full heart.

In England, the seeds of the co-operative system were sown by Robert Owen; the workers' experiments, tested on the Continent were, in fact, the practical conclusion of the theories - not invented, but loudly proclaimed - of 1848.

At the same time the experience of the period from 1848 to 1864 has proved beyond all doubt that, however excellent it may be in principle, and however useful it may be in practice, co-operative work has remained within the narrow limits of the casual efforts of working men. private, will never be able to stop the geometrically progressive growth of monopoly, nor will it be able to liberate the masses and perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries.

It is perhaps for this very reason that reasonable nobles, loudmouthed middle-class philanthropists, and even astute political economists have all become at the same time so complimentary of the cooperative labor system that they have vainly sought to feed it in the bud by disqualifying it as a utopia of dreamers or stigmatize it as the sacrilege of socialists. To save the industrious masses, cooperative work must develop on national scales and consequently be stimulated by national means. Even so, the lords of land and capital will always use their political privileges to defend and perpetuate their economic monopolies.

Soon, far from promoting, they will continue to throw all sorts of obstacles in the way of the emancipation of work. Let us remember the scorn with which, at the last session, Lord Palmerston attacked the supporters of the Irish tenants' rights act. The House of Commons, he shouted, is the House of Landlords.[ix]

Conquering political power therefore became the great task of the working classes. They seem to have understood this, since in England, Germany, Italy and France there have been simultaneous revivals, and joint efforts have been made for the political reorganization of the workers' party.

They have an element to success – numbers; but numbers only weigh in the balance if articulated and led by knowledge. Past experiences show that disregarding that bond of brotherhood that should exist between workers in different countries and inciting them to remain firm in their struggles for universal emancipation will be punished by the disarticulation of their isolated efforts. This thought led workers from different countries to meet in assembly on September 28, 1864, in the hall of St. Martin, to found the International Association.[X]

Another conviction moved that assembly.

If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal cooperation, how will they fulfill this great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, which plays on national prejudices and which wastes the blood and treasure of the people in wars of piracy? It was not the wisdom of the ruling classes but the heroic resistance of the English working class to their criminal stupidity that saved Western Europe from launching headlong into an insane crusade for the perpetuation and propagation of slavery across the Atlantic.[xi]

The shameless approval, mock sympathy, or idiotic indifference with which the upper classes of Europe witnessed the fall to Russia of mountain fortress and heroic Poland; the immense and irresistible intrusion of that barbarian power, whose mind is in St. Petersburg and whose hands are in every cabinet in Europe, has taught the working class the duty of mastering for itself the mysteries of international politics; to observe the diplomatic acts of their respective governments; to act against them, if necessary, by every means in their power; when unable to prevent it, combine in simultaneous denunciations and vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, which should both govern relations between private individuals and serve as supreme rules for relations between nations. The struggle for such a foreign policy is part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes.

Proletarians of all countries, unite![xii]

*Karl Marx (1818-1883) was an activist, journalist and writer. Author among other books by Capital: critique of political economy.

Translation: Peter Ramos of Toledo e Thiago Kenji Garcia

Editor's and translator's notes

[I] This probably refers to the articles “Commercial and Navigation Returns” and “Pauperism – July 1850 and 1849”, published in the The Economist,, 10 of August of 1850.

[ii] Marx refers to a series of attacks that took place in London in the early 1860s and which were characterized by the use of the garrote, a method by which the attacker strangled his victims with a rope or metal wire. These crimes were the subject of a special debate in the English Parliament.

[iii] A series of papers on British foreign and parliamentary policy, published in blue cover since the XNUMXth century.

[iv] The American Civil War, which broke out in April 1861, placed the slaveholding landowners of the South, organized in the Confederate States, and the federal government of the Union on opposite sides. The blockade of the Confederate States by the northern fleet led to the paralysis of cotton imports, causing a crisis in the cotton industry in several European countries. In England, between 1862 and 1865, 75% of weavers and guarantors in Lancashire, Cheshire and other counties were partly or wholly unemployed. In spite of deprivation and suffering, the European proletariat gave every possible support to the American combatants against slavery.

[v] The phrase quoted by Marx from Gladstone's speech on April 16, 1863 was published in almost all reports in English newspapers about that session of Parliament (The Times, The Morning Star, The Daily Telegraph, April 17, 1863). However, this citation was omitted in the semi-official publication of Hansard's parliamentary debates, whose text was corrected by the speakers themselves. (HUH)

[vi] "Cotton Famine” is the term used to refer to the overproduction crisis that hit the cotton industry in the Lancashire region between the years 1860 to 1865 due to the American Civil War, which interrupted the export of cotton to English industries. (NT)

[vii] Godfrey's Cordial was a laudanum-based medicine widely used by English working women in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries to soothe children while they worked. Use of the drug has been associated with a large number of childhood deaths from opium poisoning. (NT)

[viii] The Ten Hours’ Law was the result of a struggle that lasted for many years and was approved by parliament in 1847 against a backdrop of very sharp contradictions between the rural aristocracy and the industrial bourgeoisie, caused by the rejection of the Corn Laws in 1846. In an act of revenge against the industrial bourgeoisie, a section of Prime Ministers of the Conservative Party supported the law. Its provision applied only to women and children. However, many industrialists circumvented it in practice. Engels devoted two special articles to this law in 1850. (NE)

[ix] In a session of parliament in 1863, Irish MPs led by Thomas Maguire demanded legislative measures that would limit the arbitrariness of tenants and, in particular, the right of tenants to have their costs of a leased area compensated when the lease expired or was cancelled. . In his speech given on June 23, 1863, Palmerston called such demands "communistic doctrines" and "subversive of all fundamental principles of the social order".

[X] On September 28, 1864, an international assembly was held in St. Martin, Long Acre, London. It was organized by London trade union leaders and a group of French Proudhonist workers, together with representatives of German, Italian and other national workers then living in London and a number of prominent emigrants European democracies. The assembly decided to found an International Workers' Association (later known as the First International) and elected a provisional committee that would later be constituted as the leadership of the Association.

[xi] Here Marx refers to the demonstrations made by English workers during the American Civil War against their government's interference on behalf of the southern slave states. The massive campaign of the English workers against the intervention became particularly broad at the end of 1861 and beginning of 1862 and prevented reactionary sectors from dragging Europe into the war on the side of the slaveholders, as well as greatly strengthening the idea of ​​international solidarity of the proletariat. (HUH)

[xii] Translated from the work “Karl Marx & Frederick Engels: Collected Works Vol. 20, 1864-1896”, international publishers, 1974, pp. 5-13.

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