Marx versus Bakunin: Fictitious Splits in the International (Parts V - VII)

Today we are publishing the three concluding parts of Fictitious Splits in the International, which deals with the struggle of Marx and Engels in the First International (IWMA) against the followers of the anarchist Bakunin.

Part V.

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 philosophical questions...."

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." [7]

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).

Part VI.

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 members."

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 circumstances.

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 their supporters."

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.

Part VII.

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, 1872.

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 [8],... 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 restoration.

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 Sun.

"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 International"?

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 the International.

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.


« Part IV [END]


Courtesy of Marxists Internet Archive.



[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 insurrectionary Committees.

"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."