Inaugural Manifesto of the International Working Men's Association

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By Karl Marx*

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

It is undeniable that the misery of the working masses did not diminish during the period from 1848 to 1864; despite the unprecedented development of industry and commerce. In 1850, one of the best informed bodies of the English bourgeoisie predicted that if England's exports and imports were to rise by 50%, English pauperism would be reduced to zero. On the 7th of April, 1864, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gladstone, delighted his parliamentary audience with the news that the aggregate figure of the exports and imports of Great Britain, during the year 1863, amounted to £443. sterling! A staggering sum, almost three times the total of British trade in the relatively recent year of 955!

Despite this, the speaker was quite “eloquent” when talking about “misery”. “Think” he exclaimed “of those who are on the brink of poverty”, of “stagnant wages”, of “human lives which in the overwhelming majority of cases are nothing more than a struggle for survival!” He was not referring to the people of Ireland, gradually replaced by machines in the North and pastures for raising sheep in the South. Though even sheep are decreasing in that unfortunate country, though not as rapidly as men. He did not repeat what had just been indiscreetly revealed by the representatives of the ten thousand members of the nobility, seized with a sudden attack of dread. When the panic produced by the "stranglers" reached a certain intensity, the House of Lords appointed an investigative commission to study the advisability of applying the penalties of deportation and forced labor to these crimes.

The report of this commission came to light in the voluminous Blue Book of 1863 and demonstrates with the support of official data and figures that the criminal scum and the convicts of England and Scotland are less unfortunate and better fed than the agricultural workers of these two countries. This, however, was not all. When, as a result of the American Civil War, the workers of Lancashire and Cheshire were put out on the street, the House of Lords itself sent a doctor to the industrial districts with the task of ascertaining the minimum amount of carbon or nitrogen - to be applied in the same way. less expensive and simpler way that, on average, would be enough – to “avoid illnesses resulting from starvation”. The Doctor. Smith, the medical emissary, found that 1400 grams of carbon and 66,5 grams of nitrogen was the weekly dose which would keep an average adult in the minimum degree free from the diseases of starvation, noting, moreover, that that amount conferred almost exactly with the scarce food to which the pressure of extreme poverty had in fact reduced the workers of the cotton industry.

But, look carefully! The same wise doctor was later put in charge of the sanitary authority of the Privy Council (Privacy Council) to investigate the food situation of the poorest working classes. The results of your research are contained in the Sixth Public Health Report, published by order of Parliament during the current year. What did the doctor discover? That the weavers in the silk industry, the seamstresses, the glovers, the workers in the hosiery industry, and so on, received, on average, not even the hunger ration of the workers in the cloth factories, not even the amount of carbon and nitrogen “strictly necessary to prevent the illnesses resulting from starvation”.

“Furthermore – we quote from the report – with regard to the families of the agricultural population, it was found that more than a fifth had an amount of carbonated food less than the estimated sufficient, that more than a third had a quantity of nitrogenous food less estimated sufficient, and that in three counties (Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Somersetshire) the insufficiency of nitrogenous feeds constituted the average of the local diet. “It must be remembered – adds the official report – that food deprivation is endured with great reluctance and that, as a rule, great diet poverty only comes after other deprivations… Even hygiene is considered expensive and difficult, and if, for one thing, matter of self-love, efforts are still made to maintain it, each such effort representing further tortures of hunger.” “These are painful reflections, especially when one considers that the poverty they refer to is not deserved poverty resulting from idleness; in all cases it is the poverty of laboring populations. Indeed, the work in return for which one gets a starvation ration is, in most cases, excessively prolonged.”

The report reveals the strange and rather unexpected fact that "of the parts into which the United Kingdom is subdivided", England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, "the agricultural population of England", the richest part, "is evidently the worst fed”; but even the poorest farmers in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Somersetshire are better fed than most skilled workers in East London industrial establishments.

These are official figures published, in 1864, by order of Parliament during the reign of free trade, at the time when the British Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that "the average condition of the British workman has improved to a degree which we know to be extraordinary and unparalleled in history of any country or any era”. In the face of these official congratulations, the dry comment of the official report on public health has a jarring effect: “The public health of a country means the health of its masses, and the masses will hardly enjoy health if they do not enjoy at least a well-being. minimum, which reaches even the less favored strata”.

Dazzled by the statistics of the Progress of the Nation that dance before his eyes, the Chancellor of the Treasury exclaims with unrestrained rapture: “From 1842 to 1852 the tax revenue of the country increased by six percent; in the eight years between 1853 and 1861 it increased by 20 per cent! The fact is surprising to the point of being almost incredible! This ecstatic increase of wealth and power,” adds Mr. Gladstone—restricted exclusively to the possessing classes.”

Anyone who wants to find out about the physical breakdown, moral vilification and mental ruin of the working class produced by this “rapturous increase in wealth and power attributed exclusively to the possessing classes”, just look at the table exposed in the last Public Health Report with regard to the workshops of tailors, printers and seamstresses! Establish a confrontation with the Report of the Child Labor Commissionof 1863, where it is stated, for example, that: "The potters as a class, both men and women, represent a greatly degenerated population, both physically and mentally", that "sick children become sick parents", that "the progressive degeneration of the breed is inevitable", and that "the degeneration of the population of Staffordshire would be still greater if it were not for the constant recruitment carried out in adjacent regions and the crossing with healthier breeds".

Take a look at Blue Book from Mr. Tremenheere on the “Sufferings of which bakers complain”! And who will not have shuddered at the paradoxical statement made by factory inspectors, and illustrated by official demographic data, that the Lancashire workmen, though subject to a starvation ration, were actually improving in health in view of their temporary withdrawal from the cotton-worms, caused by the cotton shortage, and that infant mortality was decreasing because mothers could finally nurse their children instead of giving them Godfrey's restorative!

Let's look again at the other side of the coin. The report concerning income and property taxes, presented to the House of Commons on the 20th of July, 1864, shows us that between the 5th of April, 1862, and the 5th of April, 1863, 13 persons swelled the ranks of those whose annual incomes are valued by the tax collector at an amount equal to or greater than 50000 pounds, as the number of the latter increased in that year alone from 67 to 80. The same report reveals that 3000 people share an annual income of about 25 pounds more than the total income annually distributed among the whole mass of the agricultural population of England and Wales.

In the 1861 census data it can be seen that the number of male landowners in England and Wales decreased from 16934 in 1851 to 15066 in 1861, so that the concentration of landed property increased from 11 per cent in 10 years. If the concentration of landed property in the hands of a handful of individuals continues to advance in equal proportions, the agrarian question will be extraordinarily simplified, as it was in the days of the Roman Empire, when Nero laughed sardonically when told that six people owned half of the Province of Africa. .

We thus deal extensively with these “facts surprising to the point of being almost incredible” because England is at the head of commercial and industrial Europe. Let us recall that a few months ago one of the sons of Louis Philippe, a refugee in England, publicly congratulated the English agricultural laborer on the superiority of his lot to that of his less favored comrade across the Channel. In fact, changing the local colors and on a somewhat reduced scale, what happens in England is reproduced in all the industrial and advanced countries of the Continent. In all of them, from 1848 on, there was an industrial development never seen before and an unprecedented expansion of imports and exports. In all of them “the increase of wealth and power exclusively restricted to the possessing classes” was truly “rapturous”. In all of them, as in England, a minority of the working class received a small increase in their real wages; but in most cases the nominal increase in wages does not represent a real increase in welfare, any more or less than the increase in the cost of keeping inmates in the London poorhouse or orphanage of £7 shillings. and 7 pence which it cost in 4, to 1852 pounds, 9 shillings, and 15 pence in 8, does nothing to benefit these internees.

Everywhere the great mass of the working class sinks lower and lower, at least in the same proportion as those above it rise in the social scale. In all the countries of Europe it has now become a truth proved by any impartial mind - and denied only by those whose interest it is to keep others in an illusory paradise - that there is no improvement of machinery, no application of science to production, no innovation in means. of communication, new colonies, emigration, opening of markets, free trade, not all of this added up, that could put an end to the misery of the working masses; but that, on the false foundations that exist today, any new development of the productive forces of labor must necessarily tend to deepen social contrasts and sharpen social antagonisms. During this ecstatic time of economic progress, death by starvation became almost an institution in the metropolis of the British Empire. That epoch is marked in the annals of world history by the ever-increasing repetition, ever-increasing extent, and ever-deadlier effects of that social plague called the "commercial and industrial crisis."

After the failure of the 1848 revolutions, all organizations and publications of the working class party were crushed by the iron hand of power. The most enlightened workers had to flee in despair to the Republic across the Atlantic and across the ocean, and fleeting dreams of emancipation faded in the face of an age of feverish industrialism, moral stagnation and political reaction. The defeat of the working class on the Continent, owing in part to the diplomacy of the English government, which acted, as now, in fraternal solidarity with the St. Petersburg cabinet, soon spread its contagious effects throughout Great Britain. While the collapse of the labor movement on the Continent discouraged the English workers and shattered their faith in their own ideals, on the other hand, the landlords and capitalists, on the other hand, restored their somewhat shaken confidence.

These insolently canceled concessions which they had announced with such fanfare. The discovery of new gold mines led to a huge exodus, leaving an irreparable vacuum in the ranks of the British proletariat. Others of its formerly active members were lured by the temporary bribe of more work and better wages, and 'adapted to the circumstances'. Efforts to maintain or reshape the Chartist movement famously failed; the organs of the working press disappeared one after another before the apathy of the masses, and indeed never before had the English working class seemed to accept so completely a state of political nullity. If there was no solidarity of action between the working masses of England and the Continent, now it can be said that there is a community in defeat.

Nevertheless, the period since the 1848 revolutions has not failed to present compensating aspects. We will point out here only two major events.

After a 30-year struggle, waged with remarkable perseverance, the English working class, taking advantage of a momentary rupture between the lords of land and those of money, managed to pass the law of the ten-hour working day. The immense physical, moral, and intellectual benefits that this entailed for factory workers—exhibited biannually in the factory inspectors' reports—are now widely acknowledged. Most governments on the Continent have adopted, in more or less modified forms, the English Labor Act, and the English Parliament itself has annually widened the scope of application of this Act. But beyond its practical significance, there are other aspects that enhance the significance of this measure for workers.

The best known sages and spokesmen of the bourgeoisie – like Dr. Ure, senior professor, and other philosophers of the same stripe—predicted and “proved thoroughly” that any legal restriction of working hours would ruin English industry which, like a vampire, could only live by sucking blood, including the blood of children. In ancient times the murder of a child was a mysterious rite of Moloch's religion, but it was practiced only on very solemn occasions, perhaps once a year, and Moloch showed no exclusive preference for the children of the poor.

The fight over the legal restriction of the working day became more and more violent the more – besides fearful avarice – it effectively affected the big problem that was coming, the fight between the blind domain of the laws of supply and demand, premise of the bourgeois political economy, and social production guided by social foresight, the basis of the political economy of the working class. Consequently, the law of the ten-hour day was not just a great practical achievement; was triumph a beginning; for the first time, in broad daylight, the political economy of the bourgeoisie succumbed to the political economy of the working class.

An even greater triumph of the political economy of labor over the political economy of capital is being tried out with the cooperative movement and concretely by cooperative factory cooperatives, the work of the efforts of a few daring hands. The value of these great social experiments cannot be underestimated. By action and not by words, they demonstrated that large-scale production and in accordance with the precepts of modern science can be carried out without the existence of a class of bosses who use the arms of others; that in order to produce the means of production do not need to be monopolized, serving as a form of domination and exploitation against the worker himself. Like slave labor and servile labor, the salaried work is only a transitory form destined to disappear before the associated work who fulfills his task with gusto, enthusiasm and joy. In England, the seeds of the cooperative system were sown by Robert Owen; The workers' experiences carried out on the Continent were, in turn, the practical result of theories – not discovered – but loudly proclaimed in 1848.

At the same time, the experience of the period between 1848 and 1864 proved beyond doubt that, however good it may be in principle, and however useful it may be in practice, co-operative work, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of isolated workers, will never be able to stop the geometrically progressive development of monopoly, free the masses, or even perceptibly alleviate the weight of their misery. It is perhaps for this very reason that well-meaning aristocrats, philanthropic mouthpieces for the bourgeoisie, and even penetrating economists, suddenly began to praise ad nauseam the same cooperative labor system that they had tried in vain to cut in the bud, calling it the utopia of dreamers, or denouncing it as the sacrilege of socialists.

In order to liberate the working masses, cooperative work had to be developed on a national scale and therefore increased by national means. Nevertheless, landlords and capital lords will always use their political privileges for the defense and perpetuation of their economic monopolies.. Instead of promoting it, they will continue to place all possible obstacles in the way of the emancipation of the working class.

Remember the contempt with which, at the last session, Lord Palmerston dismissed the supporters of the Irish Squatters' Bill. The House of Commons, he roared, is a landlord's house. Gaining political power therefore became the main task of the working class. The working class seems to have understood this, for in England, Germany, Italy and France there have been simultaneous resurgences, and concomitant efforts are being made towards the political reorganization of the workers' party. They have a decisive element for their success, the number.

Numbers, however, only weigh in the balance when united by association and headed by knowledge. Past experience has shown how the neglect of that bond of solidarity which should exist between the workers of different countries and urge them to remain firmly united in all their struggles for emancipation, will be punished with the common failure of their isolated efforts. This thought led workers from different countries, gathered on September 28, 1864, in a public act held in St. Martin's Hall, to found the International Association.

Another conviction animated this assembly. If the emancipation of the working class requires its fraternal unity and the cooperation of different nations, how can they carry out this great mission with a foreign policy aimed at criminal purposes, taking advantage of national prejudices and squandering the blood and wealth of the people in wars of piracy? It was not the prudence of the ruling classes, but the heroic resistance to this criminal act on the part of the working class of England that saved Western Europe from being launched on an infamous crusade for the perpetuation and propagation of slavery across the Atlantic.

The brazen approbation, feigned sympathy, or dumb indifference with which the upper classes of Europe have watched the mountain fortress of the Caucasus subjugated, and heroic Poland murdered by Russia; the immense invasions, perpetrated without resistance, by that barbarian power, whose head is in St. Petersburg and whose hands are in every cabinet in Europe, taught the working class the duty of mastering the mysteries of international politics for themselves; to observe the diplomatic performance of their respective governments; to combat this action when necessary by all means at its disposal; and when unable to prevent it, to unite in simultaneous denunciations, and enforce the laws of morals and justice which must govern not only the relations of individuals, but also the rules of intercourse between nations. The struggle for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working class.

Proletarians of all countries, unite!

Karl Marx (1818-1883), theorist and activist of the communist movement is the author, among other books, of The capital.

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