Marx-Engels Correspondence 1871

Friedrich Engels to the Editorial Board of the Turin Newspaper Il Proletario Italiano, 29 November 1871 [1]

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.


Your issue No 39 contains a declaration of Turin workers which states:

We publicly declare that the decision of the London General Council to put socialism after politics was communicated to us by the Editorial Board of the Proletario as soon as it was issued and that such decision did not bear an official character because it was withdrawn by the General Council, since many European associations would have completely rejected it, just as we would have done.

This assertion compels the General Council to declare:

1) That it has never passed any decision putting socialism after politics.

2) That accordingly it could not have withdrawn such a decision.

3) That no European or American association could have rejected such a decision nor was any other decision of the General Council rejected.

The position of the General Council in regard to political action by the proletariat is sufficiently clearly defined.

It has been defined:

1) By the General Rules, which state, in point 4 of the Preamble, ‘that the economical emancipation of the working classes is... the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means’. [2]

2) By the text of the Inaugural Address of the Association (1864), the official and obligatory commentary of the Rules, which says:

Yet, the lords of land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defence and perpetuation of their economical monopolies. So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labour... To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes. [3]

3) By the resolution of the Lausanne Congress (1867) to the following effect: ‘The social emancipation of the workers is inseparable from their political emancipation.’

4) By resolution IX of the London Conference (September 1871), which, in accordance with the aforesaid, reminds the members of the International that in the struggle of the working class its economic movement and its political action are indissolubly united. [4]

The Council has always followed and will continue to follow the line thus prescribed to it.

Hence it declares the above-mentioned communication sent by some unknown person to the editorial board of the Proletario to be false and calumnious.

By order and in the name of the General Council
Secretary for Italy

PS: I have just received the Geneva Révolution Sociale [5] which says that a small Jura group has rejected the London Conference decisions. [6] No official communication was made to the General Council. As soon as it receives one it will take the necessary measures.


1. The letter was an answer to the publication of the declaration of Turin workers in Il Proletario Italiano of 23 November 1871, which repeated the attacks of the Bakuninists against the General Council of the International. Il Proletario Italiano – an Italian paper published twice a week in Turin in 1871; its editor was Carlo Terzaghi who turned out to be a secret police agent. The paper defended the Bakuninists against the General Council and the decisions of the London Conference of 1871. From 1872 to 1874 it was published under the title Il Proletario – Progress Publishers.

2. See The General Council of the First International: 1870-1871 (Moscow), p 451 – Progress Publishers.

3. See The General Council of the First International: 1864-1866 (Moscow), p 286 – Progress Publishers.

4. See The General Council of the First International: 1870-1871 (Moscow), pp 444-45 – Progress Publishers.

5. La Révolution Sociale – a daily paper which came out in Geneva from October 1871 to January 1872, from November 1871 it was the official organ of the Bakuninist Jura Federation – Progress Publishers.

6. A Congress of the Bakuninist Jura Federation held in Sonvillier on 12 November 1871, adopted the ‘Circular to all Federations of the International Working Men’s Association’, which was directed against the General Council and the London Conference of 1871. The Circular opposed anarchist dogmas to the decisions of the London Conference, made slanderous attacks on the General Council and called upon all federations to demand the immediate convocation of a congress to revise the Rules of the International and to censure the actions of the General Council – Progress Publishers.