The International Working Men's Association was founded on September 28, 1864, at a meeting of British trade unionists, delegates of French workers, and German, Italian and Polish workmen and Socialist emigrants living in London, held at St.
The International Working Men's Association was founded on September 28, 1864, at a meeting of British trade unionists, delegates of French workers, and German, Italian and Polish workmen and Socialist emigrants living in London, held at St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre. It was the first organisation bringing together workers of all countries, irrespective of politics, creed or race, who accepted the following principles:
(1) "The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves;
(2) "The abolition of all class rule";
(3) The economic emancipation of the working classes "is the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means";
(4) All previous efforts to this end had failed through "the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labour in each country" and "the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries". (Rules of the International, written by Marx and adopted by the Central Council of the I.W.M.A. on November 1, 1864).
Nothing in the nature of such an organisation had ever existed in history before, and no such declaration had ever been adopted by workers' organisation acting openly.
British workers celebrate the founding of the International with especial pride. For the International was founded in our country and London was the headquarters of its General Council for the greater part of its existence. Further, British workers and British trade unions were associated with it from the beginning even though some of the individual trade union leaders (Odger for example) were by no means in sympathy with Marx's general political, economic and social views.
Its effective life was up to 1872, when after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871 the 5th Congress (The Hague) decided to transfer the seat of the International from London to New York, where after a few years of purely American activity, it was dissolved.
Its main contributions were: (a) education in Socialist principles; (b) active support to the immediate economic and political struggles of the workers and their building of trade unions; (c) development of proletarian internationalism and (d) facilitation of the organisation by the workers of independent Socialist parties in a number of countries.
Marx and Engels themselves indicated some of the significant achievements of the First International when they said:
"The International was founded in order to replace the socialist or semi-socialist sects by a real organisation of the working class for the struggle" (Marx's letter to Bolte, November 23, 1871). The great success of this work, wrote Engels to Sorge (September 12, 1974), "was the Paris Commune which was without any doubt the child of the International intellectually, although the International did not lift a finger to produce it - and for which the International was quite properly held responsible". For ten years, he added, "The International dominated one side of European history - the side on which the future lies - and can look back upon its work with pride. But in its old form it has outlived its usefulness".