A Warning - Journeymen Tailors in Europe

Submitted by libcom on July 25, 2005

A warning from the International Working Men's Association about bosses' tactics with regard to journeymen tailors in 1866.

The First International Working Men's Association


Published in Der Bote vom Niederrhein, No. 57, May 13, 1866, Oberrheinischer Courier, No. 113, May 15, 1866, Mitteldeutsche Volks-Zeitung, No. 184, August 10, 1866

Some time ago the London journeymen tailors formed a general association 120 to uphold their demands against the London master tailors, who are mostly big capitalists. It was a question not only of bringing wages into line with the increased prices of means of subsistence, but also of putting an end to the exceedingly harsh treatment of the workers in this branch of industry. The masters sought to frustrate this plan by recruiting journeymen tailors, chiefly in Belgium, France and Switzerland. Thereupon the secretaries of the Central Council of the International Working Men's Association published in Belgian, French and Swiss newspapers a warning which was a complete success. The London masters' maneuver was foiled; they had to surrender and meet their workers' just demands.

Defeated in England, the masters are now trying to take counter-measures, starting in Scotland. The fact is that, as a result of the London events, they had to agree, initially, to a 15 per cent. wage rise in Edinburgh as well. But secretly they sent agents to Germany to recruit journeymen tailors, particularly in the Hanover and Mecklenburg areas, for importation to Edinburgh. The first group has already been shipped off. The purpose of this importation is the same as that of the importation of Indian COOLlES to Jamaica, namely, perpetuation of slavery. If the Edinburgh masters succeeded, through the import of German labour, in nullifying the concessions they had already made, it would inevitably lead to repercussions in England. No one would suffer more than the German workers themselves, who constitute in Great Britain a larger number than the workers of all the other Continental nations. And the newly-imported workers, being completely helpless in a strange land, would soon sink to the level of pariahs.

Furthermore, it is a point of honour with the German workers to prove to other countries that they, like their brothers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, know how to defend the common interests of their class and will not become obedient mercenaries of capital in its struggle against labour.

On behalf of the Central Council of the International Working Men's Association,

Karl Marx London, May 4, 1866

German journeymen tailors who wish to know more about conditions in Britain are requested to address their letters to the German branch committee of the London Tailors' Association, c/o Albert F. Haufe, Crown Public House, Hedden Court, Regent Street, London.