Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
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Organisational Rules of the International-22

ALONG with the Inaugural Address, Marx also worked out the Provisional Rules of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA). He prefaced the rules with the programmatic declaration—

“That the emancipation of the working class must be won through the working class itself; that the struggle for the emancipation of the working class is not a struggle for the class privileges and monopoly, but for equal rights and duties and for the destruction of all class rule;

“That the economic subjugation of the workers by the usurpers of the means of production, that is to say, of the sources of life, is the foundation of servitude in all its forms, of all social misery, all intellectual decay and political dependence;

“That the economic emancipation of the working class is thus the great ultimate goal, to which every political movement should be subordinated”.

The Provisional Rules explained and emphasized the international character of the IWA and the common aims of the proletariat in the various countries. They named the annual congress as the highest authority of the Association. This was to be attended by representatives of all affiliated workers’ organizations.

Between Congresses the Association was to be led by the Central Council, renamed the General Council in 1866. It was to be made up of representatives from the different countries and was to coordinate the activity of the individual organizations. The General Council, with its headquarters in London, was to be elected by the annual congress and to report on its work to it.

Uniting Workers’ Groups

The Provisional Rules bound the members to work with all their energy “for the uniting of the scattered workers’ societies in their respective countries into one national body, represented by national central organs,” that is to say, through political parties. As  long as that was not achieved, every organization and every local section had the rights to deal directly with the General Council in London. That was especially important for countries like Germany, where reactionary laws ruled out official affiliation of national workers’ organizations with the International.

All the leading organs of the International were elective, and were required to report to the members on their activities. The rules guaranteed free discussion of all theoretical and political questions. They stipulated that all organizations and sections belonging to the International should act together and in concord, in short, in a disciplined manner. This was in keeping with the organizational principles of a democratic and centrally led workers’ organization already tested by the Communist League. They were to be taken up by all the revolutionary parties of the working class in later times.

Marx could not yet, as he wrote to Engels, give the Inaugural Address and the Provisional Rules “the old boldness of speech” that was characteristic of the Communist Manifesto. With an eye on the as yet immature conceptions of the contemporary workers’ organizations, he chose a form that made it possible for him to proclaim the economic emancipation of the proletariat and, as a precondition, the establishment of its political power as the great goal of the workers’ movement. In their content, the Address and the Rules corresponded completely with the Communist Manifesto on all the main questions.

On November 1, 1884, the provisional committee established itself as the central council of the IWA. The council adopted the Provisional Rules and accepted Marx’s draft of the Inaugural Address as its programme. That was a great victory for scientific communism, since it created a solid programmatic and organizational foundation on the basis of which the differences with all the non-Marxist tendencies inside the International could be argued out.

Marx’s work in the council

In his work in the Central Council Marx provided an example of how the strategy and tactics of the working class must always take into account the current conditions in which the class struggle was developing. In contrast to the English trade union leaders on the Council who had tens of thousands of members behind them, and to the representatives of the French organizations, Marx for a long time represented only a small company of German workers. But he had on his side a knowledge of the interests and goals of the working class and a perspective as to the road that had to be followed.

Frederick Lessner, a member of the Central Council, who then met with Marx almost every week, wrote:  “Marx, like all truly great men, was completely free of arrogance and prized every honest effort and every opinion based on independent thinking.” Marx discussed the ideas of the other members of the Council with unswerving patience. When they were in error, he helped them recognize their own false ideas and conclusions, and thus made them allies of his views. In this manner, he succeeded with admirable flexibility, in winning a majority on all important matters for a policy based on the principle of scientific communism.

Leader and Statesmen

After the founding and leading of the Communist League, the years from 1864 to 1872 represented the second peak in Marx’s practical political activity. At the head of the IWA he showed himself to be a genuine workers’ leader and an outstanding political statesman. Non-matter how dear his scientific work always remained for him, he was above all a revolutionary. To participate in the emancipation of the working class—that was the content of his life. Never in all his activities had he united scientific research and public revolutionary activity with such authority and with such enduring success as in the years of the IWA.

Formally, Marx was never actually the official leader of the International. English trade union leaders were usually President and General Secretary of the General Council. At the suggestion of the German workers living in London, Marx took on the function of Corresponding Secretary for Germany. The Secretaries for the individual countries, together with the President and General Secretary, constituted a Standing Committee of the General Council, a sort of leading body that prepared the meeting and decision of the General Council.

Marx soon won high respect and great confidence among the members of this committee through his useful, well thought-out proposals. He became indispensable to the committee, and through it was soon leading the General Council in practice. In the fulfillment of his duties he was a model to the other members of the committee. He never turned aside an assignment as Secretary of the International because of lack of time. As a Secretary, he had to carry on a correspondence that grew from year to year, and to maintain personal contacts with many English workers’ leaders and other personalities residing it London. All of this cost him a great deal of energy.

Internationalist and Patriot

Marx was an internationalist through and through. At the same time he was an ardent German patriot. Of the countless slanders invented about him, the most absurd and the most contemptible is the lie that the acknowledged leader of the International lacked patriotic feeling.

Marx was proud of the great revolutionary and cultural contribution of his people. It was out of love for the German people that he relentlessly pilloried the betrayal and failures of the ruling classes in German history. Love for the people and hatred for its oppressors, together with unshakable international solidarity were for Marx—as for all genuine Marxists since then—an indivisible part of proletarian patriotisms.

Marx and Engels applied the general programme of the IWA to the specific situation in Germany. In the following years Marx continued to support all efforts in the Workers’ Association in Germany to implement a revolutionary policy directed against the Prussian military State. As Secretary of the General Council for Germany he concentrated at first, however, on winning individual members of the Association for the International and to set up local groups.

It was in this period, that when 650 book-printing workers in Leipzig struck for higher wages in 1865, Marx took the initiative to develop a movement of support. Money was sent to Leipzig from Paris, Lyons and Strasburg, from Brussels Berne and Lausanne, from Vienna, Brunn and Graz, and even from St. Petersburg and Riga.

A year later, when English journeymen tailors carried on a militant struggle against their masters and the latter sought to bring tailors in from Germany as strike-breakers, Marx appealed to the German tailors through many German newspapers and in a leaflet to reject the tempting offers. He wrote: “It is, further, a point of honour for the German workers to show other countries that they, like their brothers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, know how to defend the common interests of their class and not to offer themselves as spineless serfs of capital in the latter’s battle against labour.”

knew that such common actions were best suited to the development and strengthening of two of the outstanding characteristics of the revolutionary proletariat: class solidarity and proletarian internationalism.              

Marx knew how to show the workers of every country to which his influence extended that it was in their own interests to support wage battles of the foreign class comrades. In such actions, primarily as a result of Marx’s clarity as to aims and his energetic activity, the International won ever greater prestige among the European workers.