Marxism and a free society - Marcus Graham

An anarchist reply to Isaac Deutscher’s address on “Socialist Man” with particular reference to the Minutes of the First International and the sabotaging of the Hague Congress by the Marx clique.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 13, 2015

At the second annual Socialist Scholars Conference in New York in September 1966 the late Isaac Deutscher delivered an address on “Socialist Man” which was subsequently printed in the National Guardian of September 24th 1966. This address was all the more striking for what it failed to say rather than what it did say.

Deutscher’s chief contention was that the political acts of the marxist States of Russia, China and elsewhere are contrary to those envisaged by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Such a sweeping statement requires substantiation from the historical facts of the time when the aforementioned individuals lived and acted.

The main public activities of Marx and Engels centred in and around the formation and existence of the First International. Lenin and Trotsky’s main activities lay in their acts as Prime and War Ministers respectively, in the first marxist State of Russia. Factually, Deutscher devoted most of his address to a criticism of Freud in relation to marxist ideology, but failed to point out any activities of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky which would substantiate his contention. It is with these pertinent omissions that this rejoinder will be dealing.

Before proceeding to do this, however, it is only proper to present Deutscher’s principal assertions. He began his address by stating that he felt rather “reluctant” when the subject was suggested to him:

“Marx and Engels have left only a few scattered points about the subject ‘the embryo of socialism within the womb of capitalism’. I must say that this is all that we can do even now. After all the revolutions of our age and despite all that we have learned since Marx, we are not at all ahead in this respect. I have heard it said ‘that the proper subject of analysis ought to be Socialist Man living in the USSR or China today’. I do not accept this assumption and I do not think that the typical or even the advanced member of Soviet or Chinese society can be described as Socialist Man.”

Having thus written off the two outstanding marxist States, in so far as there be any sign of Socialist Man visible in them, after close to 50 and 17 years respectively, Deutscher gave the following reasons in support of his contention:

“We all speak about the USSR, China and the associated states as ‘Socialist countries’, but here I am concerned with a theoretically correct description of the structure of their society and the nature of human relationship evolving within that structure . . “Over 30 years ago Stalin proclaimed that the Soviet Union had completed the building of Socialism” … Stalin’s successors allege the Soviet Union is now engaged in the transition from socialism to communism. Spokesmen of the People’s Republic of China have been making similar claims for their country. One thing is, or ought to be immediately obvious: the typical man of Soviet society, whether under Stalin or his successors, presents so striking a contrast to the Marxist conception of Socialist Man that either we must refuse to consider him a Socialist Man, or we must throw the Marxist conception overboard.”

Overlooking what he himself had asserted at the very outset of his discourse, that he was reluctant to speak on the subject for the reason that his mentors Marx and Engels “left … only a few scattered hints about this subject,” Deutscher proceeded to point out the kind of society that Marx and Engels had in mind.

“Now, Socialist Man was envisioned by Marx and all his followers up to Stalin as a free associated producer working under a rationally planned economy, no longer a buyer or seller, trading products in the market, but someone turns out goods for society at large and receives them for personal consumption from society’s common pool. By definition Socialist Man lives in a classless and stateless society, free from social and political oppression.”

That the kind of Socialist Man which, Deutscher claims Marx and his followers envisaged is certainly not the one being nurtured at the present moment by the rulers of any marxist State is true enough.

The question that begs itself here is whether or not Marx and his followers did in fact ever envisage the kind of society Deutscher ascribes to them. Deutscher produced no evidence to show that Marx and his associates had envisaged that kind of spirit of tolerance, integrityand love in their relationship with fellow human beings, which could be conducive to the building of a Free Society. On the contrary, Marx and his associates employed the very tactics and methods rejected and denounced by Deutscher when used by the disciples of Marx in every existing socialist controlled country.

Evidence in support of the aforementioned statement is to be found in a volume entitled “The First International: Minutes of the Hague Conference of 1872,” edited and translated by Hans Gerth and published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1958.

This remarkable volume contains the original longhand report in German of the Minutes, followed by Gerth’s translation. The same volume also contains the Report to the North American Federation of the International Workingmen’s Association written by F.A. Sorge and Maltman Barry’s Report written for the London Standard.

In his preface, Hans Gerth states:

“The Minutes of the Hague Conference, never before published, were found among the papers of Herman Schliiter, author of “Die Internationale in America” (Chicago 1918) and other works. Schliiter’s library, including the Minutes, was presented to the Library of Wisconsin by William E. Walling as part of the William E. Walling Collection.”

In the same preface Gerth sheds some light on Marx’s activities within the First International:

“The International Workingmen’s Association was founded in London in 1864 at a meeting of British Trade Unions, French labour delegates and those, among them Karl Marx, who after 1848 sought refuge in Victorian England from political reaction and police persecution. Despite the conflicting objectives of others, Marx succeeded in making of the First International an organ primarily devoted to socialist propaganda. Because of his rivals Marx in a few years recognised that he had to put an end to the meetings (called Congresses) of the International and move its General Council from England. This he accomplished at the Congress at The Hague in 1872. It is the Minutes of this Congress, recording the manner of Marx’s victory, that make up the contents of this volume.

“Because it was his intention to move the seat of the General Council of the Association, thus putting it at a distance from his rivals, Marx needed to deny seats at the Hague Congress to the delegates who were his enemies and to secure seats to those who were friendly. Those from Spain, Belgium, Holland and England were in general dangerous to his plans. As the Minutes of the Congress show, Marx succeeded in holding the seats of his own delegates and in beating down a number of those who would have gone to the enemy. With this accomplished he was able to turn back the efforts of his rivals to limit the powers of the General Council and to succeed in his proposal to move the Council to New York. Finally, Bakunin and Guillaume, who in Bakunin’s absence led the fight against Marx, were expelled from the Association.”

In his introduction Hans Gerth adduces very pertinent historical proof in support of his summary:

“The Hague Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association represents at once the zenith and nadir of the eight year span of the turbulent career of the Group. With the Hague Congress which met in September 1872, this deeply hated organisation of revolutionary tradition and anti-capitalist labour movements disintegrated. Two years after the Congress, Frederick Engels, who had attended it, wrote from London to F.A. Sorge in New York, “The Hague Conference really was the last.” 1

“In 1864 Marx had written the Inaugural Address of the International and his draft had been accepted by the French Proudhonists, social liberal trade unionists and Marxists … Everybody could find his aspirations satisfactorily embodied in the statement of policies and aims … The following Congresses of the International at Geneva (1866), Lausanne (1867), Brussels (1868) and Basle (1869) served as a stage for airing well-nigh all the competing anti-capitalist thought, ways and policy proposals of nineteenth century radicals.

“Bakunin … a colourful romantic rebel had built up a following in Italy, in Switzerland and in Spain … He established an organisation the Alliance of Socialist Democracy, in Switzerland. In the summer of 1869 he and his followers were received in the International. “Bakunin held forth at the Basel Congress of 1869 … His personal magnetism, persuasive diction and capacity to win intensely devoted followers made him the menace. Marx and Engels set out to destroy him, using the Hague Congress for that purpose. It was the one Congress of the International which Marx and Engels attended. Bakunin could not come there for he could not travel through France or Germany, where he was ‘wanted.’ He had to rely on James Guillaume, the editor of theBulletin Jurassien and leader of the Jurassien Federation, the anarchist organisation of Geneva building-workers and watchmakers in the sweatshops of the Jura mountain valleys … Cafiero, a twenty-five year old convert to Bakunin’s cause, had organised the Italian anarchist-minded sections into a federal council and at the founding Congress at Rimini ‘before the workers of the world’ he had declared that the new federation was breaking off all ties with the London General Council because the latter wished to impose the doctrine of the authoritarian German Communists upon the International. Hence the absence of any Italian delegates at The Hague.

“In Spain, Marx and Engels had Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, and Mesa, a native Spanish anti-Bakuninist on their side. Nevertheless, the Marxists here, too, lost out to the Anarchists … Marx and Engels were firmly convinced that Bakunin … maintained a secret society within the International. The Anarchists have always denied this.

“Engels in a letter to Bebel, referred once to “old Hegel” as having said, “A party proves itself a victorious party by the fact that it splits and can stand the split.” 2 This must have been the hope of Marx and Engels when they prepared for the purge of the International at The Hague. The choice of place was favourable to their followers; for the rest they did what they could to ‘pack’ the Congress. Engels paid the fare for the five members of the General Council he brought over. 3 Marx, in a much quoted letter of June 21, 1872, implored Sorge in New York: “At this Congress the life or death of the International is at stake. You yourself and at least one or two others must come. As regards sections who send no direct delegates, they can send mandates. The German mandates for me, Fr. Engels, Lochmer, Karl Pfander, Lessner. The French for G. Ranvier, August Seraillier, Le Mossu, Ed. Vaillant, F. Cournet, Ant. Arnoud. The Irish for MacDonnell …” 4

“A similar request was addressed to Kugelmann in July: ‘Germany must … have as many delegates as possible.’” 5

“When they arrived at The Hague, Marx and Engels could see at a glance that they had an assured majority, that victory was to be theirs. ‘For the first time a sizeable number of German delegates appeared at a congress of the International. Moreover, Sorge had come from New York and had secured mandates from American sections for those who needed them.”

“The Anarchists had shown that they intended to fight the General Council to a finish … Marx and Engels therefore followed the policy of a la guerre comme a la guerre. Marx had secured ammunition from Russia. Bakunin had contracted with a Russian publisher to translate Marx’s Capital and had received an advance of three hundred roubles. Bakunin failed to meet his contractual obligations … A Russian friend of Bakunin, Nechaev, sought to help Bakunin by writing a threatening letter to the publisher’s agent warning him to leave Bakunin in peace and to forget about the contract … Marx probably heard of this … wrote to the Russian economist Danielson informing him of the affair and concluded his letter as follows: ‘It would be of the highest utility for me, ifthis letter was sent to me immediately … I hope you will procure me that letter. But no time is to be lost.” 6

“It worked. The publisher’s agent himself sent Nechaev’s letter. It was used against Bakunin in the quasi-judicial procedure of his expulsion. Even Franz Mehring commented, ‘That Bakunin in question of property was to be robbed of his honest name was inexcusable, and unfortunately Marx was to be blamed for this.’” 7

The Minutes of the Hague Congress bear out the conclusions drawn by Hans Gerth. Just a few striking incidents reported in the Minutes will clearly show this.

The credential committee was staffed with pro-Marxists including Marx himself who led the fight to invalidate pro-Bakuninist delegates. Section 12 of New York City was one of the most active affiliated with the International and it sent W. West as its representative. The following excerpts from the Minutes show Marx in action against an opponent:

“Marx, in the name of the Credentials Committee, proposes that the mandate for W. West be declared null and void because he has been (1) a member of a suspended section; (2) a member of the Philadelphia Congress and (3) a member of the Prince Street Council. West’s credentials are signed by Victoria Woodhull, who for years had had an eye on the presidency (of the United States); she is president of the spiritists, preaches free love, has a banking business, etc. Section 12, founded by Victoria Woodhull, initially consisted almost exclusively of bourgeoisie, it agitated especially for the women’s franchise and released to the English-speaking citizens of the United States the notorious appeal charging the I.W.A. with all sorts of nonsense; this led to the organisation of various sections in that country.” Minutes, p. 194.

The Minutes give this version of W. West’s rebuttal to Marx:

“West speaks for 1 ½ hours and states that he has been pre-judged, but that he has travelled 4000 miles in order to meet his obligations to his voters. He will speak only on three points of the report, not on unproved accusations; he is a member of section 12 and proud of it, for section 12 has established English sections and he demands justice here against the false charges and slander which the other side has levelled against section 12 by letter. The suspension was illegal, for it was accusation, verdict and sanction at once, without a hearing of the accused … Section 12 even wished to recognise the General Council as judge if it were given a fair hearing and tribunal … “we have done and said nothing that is not contained in and based upon the very rules, congressional regulations, etc. The labour question is also a woman’s question and the emancipation of women must precede that of the workers. Woodhull and the others are spiritists and free lovers! Can you forbid it? Can you command love where there is none? (general laughter).”

“That is none of your business.”

“First we are men before we are workers or bourgeoisie … Certainly I have been a member of the Philadelphia Congress, this congress, however, has done nothing against the General Council; besides, yesterday you here recognised the mandate of a section (29) which was represented there (at Philadelphia).”

“We have the sacred right to rebel against all despotism. The General Council has twice violated its duties. The Americans could not accept the two-thirds (membership) rule. After all, the General Council might do all sorts of things unless we had a right to rebel. We do not wish other people’s brains to think for us, the General Council lays down the rule for us in America. We are for the Commune, for universal (women’s) franchise for direct legislation. We find that our republic has been a failure and wish to found a new one.”

“Section 12 has certainly paid for the first year as Sorge will testify and he (West) will affirm under oath that they have paid for the second year, too.”

“The Congress is restless because West takes up too much time … “Sauva does not wish to speak for section 12, but defends thegood qualities of Mrs. Woodhull and of Section 12 …. Mrs. Woodhull … has made speeches for the commune, has established sections … . Section 2, – believes that the General Council has acted with undue haste in suspending Section 12, which has certainly paid its dues.” Minutes pp. 196-197.

“West’s mandate is invalidated with 49 Nayes against no Ayes and 9 abstentions.”

“Guillaume has abstained because West was not permitted to speak again.”

“The evening session was opened … The Chairman says that West has no right to be present.” p. 199.

“Engels protests against West’s presence in the hall and relates West’s utterance that he (West) would have access to the Congress in any case, ‘if not through the door, then through the window; if not through the window, then through the chimney.’ West is made to withdraw.” p. 203.

Hans Gerth, in a footnote, sheds some interesting light on Section 12 in general, and Victoria Woodhull in particular:

“Section 12 of New York proved troublesome for Marx’s followers. Section 12 was led by Mrs. Victoria Woodhull (1836-1927), who had come to New York from China with her younger sister Tennessee Claflin. In 1870 … they founded Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly. The Weekly carried the first translation of the Communist Manifesto (1872), advocated ‘advanced ideas,’and exposed Henry Ward Beecher and appealed to reformist sectarians of all sorts and conditions.” p. 178.

The Issues of Autonomy and Moving the International

The ideological principles and tactics upon which the main discussions centred at the Congress is depicted in the Minutes, as follows:

“Herman takes the floor to comment on the agenda, the General Council and its powers, and he expresses the view of the majority of the delegates who wish to retain the General Council, but to divest it of all power.” p. 206.

“Guillaume takes the floor and says that two great ideas run side by side in the movement, that of centralisation of power in the hands of a few, and that of the free federations of those whom the homogeneity of the economic conditions in each country has united behind the common interests of all countries. The movement cannot represent the conception of a single brain. For the leadership of the movement there is required no General Council with authority … we in the Jura Federation have none ..”

“Sorge replies to Guillaume: we, too, have had experience and we would like to see what the Jurassians have accomplished …” p. 207.

“Morago says he would be in favour of abolishing the General Council, merely retaining a central correspondence and statistics. The Spanish Federation is absolutely autonomous and demands the true, free, autonomous I.W.A. The General Council should have no power whatever, neither over sections nor over federations.

“Sorge, Becker and comrades introduce a motion of precedence that the rules concerning the powers of the General Council be discussed at once by one speaker each, for and against for five minutes after which the vote shall be taken.” p. 208.

“Brisme says that it is futile to discuss the powers of the General Council; we (the Belgians) do not wish the General Council to have any power; this is a question of principle about which we in Belgium all agree … we demand that the General Council be merely the clerk of the I.W.A. and must never interfere in the internal affairs of a country.

“Sauva believes that one speaker for and one against do not represent all opinions.” p. 209-210.

“Marx says: We demand these powers not for ourselves but for the future General Council; we would rather abolish the General Council than follow Brisme’s wish and transform it into a letter box; in that case the leadership of the association would fall into the hands of journalists, mainly non-workers.” p. 211.

“Lafargue says the General Council has been accused of having called the Congress to The Hague in order to secure a majority there: one should just watch how the Dutch always vote with the Belgians against the General Council in order to understand how well prepared the General Council was.” p. 212.

“Engels, Marx and other members of the former Council propose that the seat of the General Council … be transferred to New York and that the General Council should consist of the following members of the New York Federal Council: Kavanagh, St. Clair, Cetti, Laviele, Laurel, Bertand, Bolte and Carl, with the right to increase their number up to a total of fifteen.” p. 213.

“The first question, should the General Council be moved is voted in the affirmative with 25 ayes against 23 nayes. Marceleau complains that people laugh when he and his comrades abstain from voting, they have definite instructions to do so.” p. 215.

“The vote on the question, Where shall the General Council be moved? results in 31 votes for New York, 14 for London, 1 for Barcelona, 11 abstentions.” p. 216.

The Issue of Political Action, the State and Dictatorship

The Minutes show that the Congress passed a resolution which requested that the issue of political action “be placed on the agenda for the next Congress and that the General Council be instructed to prepare a comprehensive statement on the subject.” (p.206). The Minutes, however, show that without any explanation, the issue was taken up and acted upon at this very Congress:

“… the new paragraphs of the Rules concerning the political action of the working class was submitted for discussion.” p. 216.

“Vaillant pleads for … the Rules. Force is used against us and force can only be driven out by force; the economic struggle must become one with the political struggle, and in the revolution (it) must consummate the abolition of classes through the proletariat dictatorship.” p. 217.

“Guillaume replies … ‘We take the stand which Hins took at Brussels when he declared we do not wish to mix with present-day governments, in parliamentarianism, we wish to overthrow (aplatir) all governments … We are adherents of a definite policy, of social revolution, of the destruction of the bourgeois politics, of the state … We reject the seizure of political power in the state, but demand the complete destruction of the state as the expression of political power.” p. 219.

“Lomguet says … had we been better organised as a political party … the Commune would not have been proclaimed and victorious in Paris alone, but also in Berlin and elsewhere … What is to become of Guillaume’s collectivism without some centralisation of forces? Because of the economic struggle the workers must organise into a political party lest nothing remain of the International and Guillaume, whose master is Bakunin, cannot belong to the I.W.A., while holding such views.” pp. 219-220.

“The German Minutes of the Congress carries no report on the customs of this pertinent issue, but Maltman Barry’s report quotes a resolution, reading, in part:

“Article 7A:- In its struggle against the collective power of the propertied classes, the working class cannot act as a class except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from and opposed to all old parties … The conquest of political power has therefore become the great duty of the working class.” pp. 285-286.

The Expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume

The ultimate purpose of the rigged Congress was revealed when a “Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Association Alliance” came up for discussion and action. The following excerpts from the Minutes point out the following:

“The Committee, lacking the time for submission of a complete report, can render judgement only on the basis of papers received and statements made before it.”

“After having heard on one side the citizens Engels, Marx, Worblewski, Dupont, Seraillier and Swarm for the accusation, and on the other side the citizens Guillaume, Schwitzguebel, Joukowsky, Morago, Marceleau and Farga-Pelicier, accused of belonging to the secret society ‘Alliance,’ the Committee declares:

  1. “Considering that the secret Alliance, established with rules entirely opposed to those of the I.W.A., did exist but that there is insufficient proof of its continued existence;
  2. “whereas a draft of rules and letters signed ‘Bakunin’ prove that the said citizen has tried to establish and perhaps has succeeded in establishing a society in Europe named “Alliance” with rules entirely different from those of the I.W.A. in social and political respects;
  3. “whereas citizen Bakunin has made use of deceptive tricks in order to appropriate a larger or smaller part of other persons’ fortunes, which constitutes fraud;”
  4. “whereas, further, he or his agents have had recourse to threats lest he be compelled to meet his obligations; Therefore the members of the Committee request the Congress:
  1. “to expel citizen Bakunin from the I.W.A.
  2. “likewise to expel citizens Guillaume and Schwitzguebel in the conviction that they still belong to the society “Alliance.” pp. 225-226. (Two members of the Committee, Roz Splingard and Walter von Heddeghem withdrew from the Committee in protest against the Report. pp. 226-227).

“Alerini suggests that the Committee have only moral, not substantive, proof; he was a member of the Alliance and is proud of it, for it propagated, established and strengthened the I.W.A. in Spain so that eighty-four federations exist there now; you are but a holy inquisition, we demand public hearings.” p. 227.

“Splingard requests further information concerning the manner in which Marx managed to get hold of the documents as that could not be done honestly. Bakunin merely failed to keep a promise to translate Marx’s work, because he was advised against this, the Alliance existed in Geneva and Spain before the I.W.A; in Geneva you yourselves recognised it; furnish proof that it still-exists…” pp. 227-228.

“Marx … states … he … has contributed other pieces from Russia, but naturally must not give the name of the sender; for the rest, the committee members have naturally given their word of honour not to disclose what went on in the discussion … the documents have not been obtained in a dishonest manner, they were sent without being requested.”

“Morago takes the floor and speaks at length in Spanish in favour of the Alliance, against the resolutions of the Committee, etc. It is well past midnight; van den Abeel passes word to the chairman that the premises must be cleared. The Congress dispenses with the translation of Morago’s speech the more so as he and his Spanish fellow delegates do not stand accused and it is resolved to give hearing only to the accused, Guillaume and Schwitzguebel and then to take the vote.” p. 228.

“Guillaume says … “The entire proceeding is a political trial with the desire of silencing the minority, that is, actually the majority …”

“Schwitzguebel declares he is convinced that his conviction has been a foregone conclusion; he says he will remain loyal … to the I.W.A … even should he be expelled.”pp. 228-229. (According to Guillaume, Schwitzguebel confined himself by saying: “We have been condemned in advance, the workers, however, will condemn the decision of your majority.” L Internationale, Documents et Souvenirs (1864-1878), Vol. II, p. 348. (Gerth’s footnote, p. 29 of Minutes).

“The expulsion of Mikhail Bakunin from the I.W.A. is passed by the Congress with 29 Ayes against 7 Nayes and 8 abstaining votes.

“The expulsion of James Guillaume from the I.W.A. is passed by the Congress with 25 Ayes against 9 Nayes and 9 abstaining votes.

“The expulsion of Adhemar Schwitzguebel is rejected by the Congress with 25 Ayes against 16 Nayes and 10 abstaining votes.

“Upon Fr. Engels’ notion the Congress resolves by a large majority to table Point 3 of the recommendations of the Committee (further expulsions) …” p. 231.

The Origins of the Alliance

The background to the origin of the Alliance, which served as the main pretext for the rigged majority of the Congress in expelling Bakunin and Guillaume from the International is mentioned nowhere in the Minutes. Nor is any mention made of the accusation by Marx and his close associates that Bakunin was a secret agent of Tsar Nicholas and the Pan-slavists, a fact that the pro-Bakunists no doubt brought up in defence of Bakunin inasmuch as the accusation was a falsehood.

It is therefore of historical interest to adduce some significant data on these two periods in his life as given in the biographical pamphlet “Mikhail Alexandrovitch Bakunin” by Hyppolite Havel, reprinted in the May 1939 issue of MAN!

“Bakunin … and his friends … participated in the Peace Congress held in Geneva in September 1867. Bakunin and his intimate comrades Joukowsky, Mroczkovski, Naguel and others made great efforts to win the Congress to their side … The next Congress voted down the proposal of Bakunin to recognise the social question as the supreme question. Bakunin, Elisee Reclus, Aristide Ray, Joukowsky, Mroczkovski, Fanelli and others (18 members in all) left the organisation and founded the ‘Alliance Internationale de la Democratie Socialiste’. Bakunin proposed that they should join the International Workingmen’s Association and he and his friends became members of the Jura section of the International.”

“In Karl Marx he (Bakunin) found a mean antagonist. Even in the midst of the revolutionary struggles on 1848, Marx published his Neue Rheinische Zeitung articles accusing Bakunin of being a secret agent of Tsar Nicholas and the Panslavists … Whilst Bakunin suffered imprisonment at Olmutz and other Austrian jails, Herzen, the great Russian political writer and Mazzini forced Marx to take back the calumnies. But Marx was not the man to forgive them this humiliation. Many years later after Bakunin had suffered imprisonment in the subterranean cells of the Schlusselburg and exile in Siberia, Marx and his satellites started the despicable game anew. Anonymous denunciations appeared in Social Democratic papers under the editorship of Liebknecht, Hess and others. But at the Congress of the International at Basle in 1869 the slanderers were forced to compromise themselves and to declare the entire baselessness of their charge.”

It is, likewise, worthy of historic note here to point out the relationship which had existed between Marx and Bakunin in earlier days. They were once personal friends. But when disagreements on ideological principles started to develop Marx turned upon Bakunin as an antagonist whom he must destroy.

Marx’s treatment of Bakunin was not a singular one. At one time he considered Max Stirner a personal friend, but after the publication of Stirner’s The Ego and his Own, the friendship ended. Marx considered it an outright attack on his ideas. Also, when J.P. Proudhon’s The Philosophy of Poverty appeared, Marx met this criticism of authoritarian ideas with a bitter attack under the derisive title The Poverty of Philosophy.

A Re-Examination of the Report which brought about the
Expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume from the International

The “Report” of the “Inquiry Committee” and its “recommendations” approved by the rigged majority of the Congress is of such a questionable nature that a closer examination of its contents is called for.

The Report – by stating that “The Committee lacking time for submission of a complete report” – nevertheless proceeded to “render judgement.”

In proof no. 1 the “Report” itself conceded that “there is insufficient proof of its (the Alliance’s) continued existence!”

In proof no. 2 the “report” asserts that “Bakunin … has tried to establish and perhaps has succeeded in establishing a society … named Alliance…

Proof no.’s. 1 and 2 are in themselves of such a questionable nature that the Committee’s own working condemns both as utterly worthless.

Proof no. 3 accuses Bakunin of having “made use of deceptive tricks in order to appropriate a larger or smaller part of other people’s fortunes, which constitutes fraud.” The Minutes of the Congress do not contain a single iota of evidence in support of the concocted assertions made in “Proof No. 3.”

The nearest the Committee’s “Report” comes to submitting a semblance of evidence against Bakunin is in Proof No. 4 when it states that “he (Bakunin) or his agents have had recourse to threats lest he meet his obligations.” And even here the reference is, in reality, to Nechaev’s sole letter to the publisher who advanced Bakunin 300 roubles for a contemplated translation of Marx’s Capital.

Karl Marx who, as the Minutes show, concocted the series of accusations upon which the Committee’s “Report” is based, revealed his true character when admitting that he had “contributed … pieces from Russia … but naturally must not give the name of the sender” and that “the committee members have naturally given their word of honour not to indicate what went on in the discussion.” Furthermore, Marx brazenly asserted: “the documents have not been obtained in a dishonest manner, they were sent without having been requested.”!

What the word “honour” meant to the Committee of Inquiry can best be evaluated by the kind of “Report” they brought in. Is there any wonder that at least two members of the Inquiry Committee had the courage and the decency to resign in protest against the Report?

That the Congress was rigged is most strikingly illustrated, as the Minutes show, by its attitude to the Spanish delegate Morago who spoke against the Report and the “majority” of the Congress decided not to translate what he said – “as he and his Spanish fellow delegates do not stand accused …”!

The Significance of the Minutes

The excerpts brought forward from the Minutes of the last Congress of the First International clearly show how Karl Marx, Engels and their associates resorted to the most despicable tactics against their ideological opponents – tactics totally devoid of integrity, decency and plain honesty.

They came well prepared to assume control of the Congress by a rigged “majority” and to pass whatever resolutions they had prepared in advance – in order to deprive the majority of the constituted numerical membership of the International of every semblance of rights and finally crowned their acts of perfidy by expelling Mikhail Bakunin (who was not even present) and James Guillaume for the International!

The most striking contrast however, as revealed by the Minutes, lies in, the integrity shown by the anti-authoritarians towards the future existence of the International. As Engels admitted to Sorge, the International came to its death after it had been moved to New York. That must have been precisely what the “majority” at the Congress had planned. In Europe the anti-authoritarians exerted a much greater influence than did Marx and his fellow authoritarians.

Without suspecting the true motives of the Marxists in moving the International, the anti-authoritarians, despite the set-backs and humiliations inflicted upon them by the rigged “majority”, submitted the following statement to the Congress through delegate Victor Dave:

“We, the undersigned, members of the minority of the Hague Congress, adherents of autonomy and federation of workingmen’s groups, in view of the decisive vote which appears to us opposed to the principles which are recognised in the countries represented by us in the past Congress; wishing, however, to avoid any sort of split in the body of the I.W.A., make the following statements …:”

  1. “We will continue to maintain administrative relations with the General Council: relations concerning the payment of dues, correspondence and labour statistics.”
  2. “The federations represented by us will exchange direct and regularly continue reports among themselves and all regularly established branches of the International.”
  3. “Should the General Council wish to interfere in the internal affairs of a federation, the federations represented by the undersigned assume joint obligation to maintain their autonomy unless these federations will take a course directly opposed to the General Rules of the I.W.A. accepted at the Geneva Congress.
  4. “We summon all federations and sections to prepare from now until the next Congress for the triumph of the principles of federal autonomy as the organisational basis of work in the body of the International.” – 17 signatures are attached to the statement, pp. 229-230 of the Minutes.

The above position taken by the pro-Bakuninists is the most striking ,documentary proof of the differences between the pro-Marxian authoritarians and the anti-authoritarian anarchists.

Factually the I.W.A., which had fallen under the control of the rigged majority of the Congress had been moved to New York with the intention of bringing about its death, did not end its life and activity so far as the anti-authoritarians were concerned. In the previously mentioned pamphlet on Bakunin’s life by Havel he states:

“… the Federations (Jura, Spanish, Italian and East Belgians) … concluding a federative alliance among themselves and abolishing all central authority, continued the work of the International Workingmen’s Association on federalist principles and up to 1878 held yearly congresses, until this became impossible owing to Government persecutions …”

The End justifies the Means

The revelations that come to light in reading the excerpts from the Minutes of the Hague Conference of 1872 poses the question as to whether Marx, Engels and their associates were – in view of the tactics they employed against their ideological opponents – devils incarnate? The answer can only be a negative one, although their actions are a far more serious debasement of their integrity than it might have been were it done out of spite. The tragic fact stands out that every one of their actions was undoubtedly done in the name of “The end justifying the means” – a basic tenet of every authoritarian-minded person.

The General Council of the International was controlled by Marx and his followers while most of the sections of the federation throughout the world were under the influence of Bakunin’s anti-authoritarian ideas. It was this fact that led Marx and his associates to choose the course they pursued at the Congress. The decision to besmirch the character of so noble a personality as Victoria Woodhull, who was not even present to defend herself, presented them with no qualms whatsoever.

When one reads the charges brought against her by Marx one can scarcely believe they were uttered by a sincere antagonist. In fact, it was Victoria Woodhull who first published Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” in the United States! Marx’s closest associate at the Congress, Frederick Engels, likewise demonstrated his lack of integrity when he had the Congress eject W. West even as a spectator, in spite of the fact that West had travelled four thousand miles to attend the Congress as the duly accredited delegate of section 12 of New York! Marx’s total lack of integrity, however, was revealed in full when he showed no hesitation in lying outright to the Congress when stating that “the documents” against Bakunin “have not been obtained in a dishonest manner” and that “they were sent without having been requested.” when as a matter of fact it was but one document and, as Hans Gerth shows in his Introduction to the Minutes, Marx urgently requested Danielson, the Russian economist, to obtain for him the sole “document”, Nechaev’s letter to the publisher who had advanced Bakunin 300 roubles for the proposed translation of Marx’s Capital. (p. XVII.)

How thoroughly rigged the Congress was is most strikingly illustrated by the fact recorded in the Minutes on page 213 that not only did Marx, Engels and the other members of the old General Council propose to move the General Council to New York, but that they also named those who should constitute the new General Council. An equally striking illustration of the rigged actions of the Congress is revealed in the Minutes (page 206) recording that a resolution was introduced to the effect that the issue of political action should “be placed on the agenda of the next Congress.” The real manipulators of the Congress, evidently knowing beforehand that there would not be any next Congress, railroaded through a resolution adopting, for the first time, political action as a tenet of the I.W.A. (p. 285, Minutes.)

The Tragic Consequences of Marxist Tactics

The Minutes of the last Congress of the First International are of great historical significance. They help one to understand more clearly events that have taken place in the socialist world since that last Congress in general and events that are taking place in the “successful” marxist countries in particular. Idealists in the intellectual world who readily rejoiced over the October revolution were very reluctant to believe at first the news of the continuous persecutions that the self-styled pure marxist Bolshevik Government of Russia was carrying out against its ideological opponents. Many of these intellectuals attempted to minimise and even justify the persecutions. The Anarchists were the first victims, to be followed by the anarcho-syndicalists, Social-Democrats and Social-Revolutionists. Still the intellectual world hesitated to take a stand. It was only when news leaked out of Russia relating to the persecution of writers who dared to criticise the Government that some intellectuals began to realise that the Bolshevik regime was indeed capable of carrying out indefensible actions.

Then came the news of the infamous trials of the leading members of the Bolshevik Government whom the majority of the Communist Party had chosen to label as counter-revolutionists and in most cases put them to death. The intellectual world that at one time had refused to believe the atrocities attributed to the Bolshevik Government, finally realising the truth, began to speak out in protest against those actions.

Following Stalin’s death, Kruschev, who during Stalin’s reign of terror and assassination against ideological opponents served as his right-hand man and subsequently became one of Stalin’s successors, finally admitted at a secret meeting of the Communist Party that most of the political victims jailed and executed were innocent! Much has been written about the trumped-up trials carried out under the Stalin regime, as well as about the continuous persecutions of other political dissenters, but still no-one has been able to offer a clear-cut explanation as to how self-styled marxist idealists holding the reins of government could be capable of carrying out the kind of actions and policies which they unashamedly repeated over and over again.

It is in this respect that the Minutes of the last Congress of the International is a document of great significance.

  • The excerpts from these Minutes help one, for the first time, to understand the results of the tactics and methods employed by Marx, Engels and their followers at that Hague Conference. They taught the marxists who came after them to emulate their teachers with a vengeance. The latest proof is now being enacted in China following the death of “Chairman” Mao and it may well surpass that which followed Stalin’s death.

    Marxism and Humanism

    In view of what took place at the Hague Congress of 1872, as shown by the quotes from the Minutes presented here, one cannot help but pose the question as to whether there is any justification for Isaac Deutscher’s attempt to associate humanism with Marx and Engels in particular, and marxists in general. The tactics and methods employed by these two leading spokesmen of marxism against their ideological opponents at the Hague Congress certainly disputes this. Equally as questionable is Deutscher’s depicting Lenin and Trotsky as being closer to the envisaged humanist “Socialist Man” than Stalin and his successors proved to be.

    In reality, Lenin and Trotsky, the figure-heads of the first marxist Government to come into existence, instituted persecutions and executions of political opponents, with their final most brutal and murderous act – the drowning in blood of the soldiers, sailors, workers and peasants who took part in the Kronstadt rebellion.

    “The end justifies the means” served as a guide for Lenin and Trotsky, even if it led to the murder of ideological opponents. In this respect they only emulated the tactics and methods employed by their marxist predecessors at the Hague Conference of 1872. One may surmise that Mikhail Bakunin, James Guillaume, W. West and Victoria Woodhull escaped death by a marxist firing squad only because the General Council under Marx had no machinery of government at its disposal.

    The utter lack of humanism as evinced by every marxist government that has come into existence leaves one puzzled as to how Deutscher failed to realise this – in the face of his own rejection of what each and every one of these Governments stand for.

    Marxism and a Classless, Stateless Society

    Deutscher’s further contention is that Marx had envisaged a “classless and stateless society free from social and political oppression.” One need only compare the tactics employed by Marx, Engels and their fellow authoritarians at the Hague Congress with the position taken by the anti-authoritarian Bakunists in order to realise that Deutscher’s vision would have been a correct one if he had referred, instead, to the latter.

    It was, of course, difficult for Deutscher, being himself a marxist, to realise that the basic foundation upon which centralisation rests is authority and authority cannot be enforced without recourse to every form of repression, including the killing of political opponents.Every past and present Government, regardless of whatever label it carries, fully attests to this fact. To contend, as Deutscher did, that a triumphant marxist State could or would ever lead to the building of a “classless and stateless society free from social and political oppression,” is to engage in pure fantasy.

    A truly free society cannot be built by vindictive people imbued with authoritarian concepts. Such a society can only be built by men and women who are, at all times, ready and willing to trust and respect the integrity of ideological opponents in the pursuit of the common goal – the dawn of a classless and stateless society.

    The marxian tactics and ideology, based as it is upon the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” has, in reality, proved itself to be nothing other than the dictatorship of the marxian parties in every marxian ruled country. The promised “withering away of the State” once the marxists gained control of the State is no longer repeated by any marxian spokesman in view of the iron-clad rulership which every marxian Government maintains.

    It is these facts which have led the intellectual world to total disillusion in what they once trusted and to the rediscovery of the anarchist idea. As a result of this, in the last twenty years, scores of books on anarchism have been published as well as the reprinting of the classical works. Anarchism today stands more vindicated than ever before and it is the anarchist movement everywhere that points out to the oppressed that before they can attain freedom from economic and political exploitation they themselves must arise and bring about the dawn of a truly free society, by overthrowing every existing government – the principle upholder and perpetuator of injustice.

    Marcus Graham

    About Marcus Graham

    Marcus Graham (1893-1985), even at the age of eighty-four, was an excellent example of the indefatigable anarchist propagandist. Born in Rumania in 1893 he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1901 where he became first an egg candler then a garment cutter. Becoming acquainted firstly with socialism he soon turned to anarchism and was an active opponent of militarism during World War I. While working with an anti-war group in New York he was held in Patterson Jail, New Jersey, under the name of Robert Parsons and transferred to Ellis Island in an attempt to have him deported. Since then he was arrested many times, threatened with deportation, beaten by the police and suffered from public apathy or hostility as well as numerous privations. In spite of these obstacles – he helped to bring out several anarchist reviews, edited and published the beautiful “Anthology of Revolutionary Poetry”, and edited and published the monthly American anarchist journal MAN! for seven years until it was closed down by the American Government in 1940.

    Graham lived most of his early life in the semi-clandestine world where many fighters for freedom have occasion to find themselves. He contributed to several anarchist papers before launching, in January 1933, MAN!, which, at the time, was the organ of the International Group in San Francisco, which was an important link between different strands of the North American anarchist movement. In its pages Graham published articles covering the whole spectrum of anarchist thought, the politics of Roosevelt’s America, crime, fascism, religion, resistance, art, poetry, literature and anarchist profiles — a real snapshot of life and anarchism throughout most of the Thirties. MAN! continued to be published, despite police and state harassment, until its forced closure by the US government in April 1940.

    First published 1976 by Simian Publications (Cienfuegos Press), Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, KW172BL.

    Originally posted online: May 4, 2013 at Zabalaza Books

    • 1Letter of September 12 and 17, 1874, The Selected Correspondence of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1846-1895, International Publishers, New York, 1942, p. 330.
    • 2The Selected Correspondence of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, p. 327.
    • 3Gustav Mayer, Engels, p. 227.
    • 4Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von Joh. Phil Becker, Joe Dietzgen, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, u.A. an F.A. Sorge und Andere (Stutgart, 1906), p. 597.
    • 5E.H. Carr, A Study in Fanaticism: Carl Marx, p. 146.
    • 6E.H. Carr, A Study in Fanaticism: Carl Marx, p. 247.
    • 7Franz Mehring, Karl Marx, Geschichte seines Lebens (Soziologische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig, 1933) p. 539.