Speech on the 7th Anniversary of the International

Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of power!


Karl Marx

Collected Works, Vol. 22
Lawrence & Wishart
Reproduced by
The Red Flag


This text is an excerpt from a report published in the New York World on the 15th of October, 1871, headed „The Reds in Session. Authentic Account of the Seventh Anniversary of the International in London“. The anniversary celebration took the form of a dinner on the 26th of September, which the World‘s correspondent, probably R. Landor who interviewed Marx three months before, apparently attended. The dinner was held two days after the close of the London Conference of the International, and the participants included many of the Conference delegates.

The great success which has hitherto crowned the efforts of the International has been due to circumstances over which the militants themselves have had no control. The foundation of the International itself is the result of these circumstances, and by no means due to the efforts of the people engaged in it. It is not the work of any set of clever politicians; all the politicians in the world could not have created the situation and circumstances requisite for the success of the International. The International has not put forth any particular creed. Its task is to organize the forces of labour and link the various workers‘ movements and combine them. The circumstances which have given such a great development to the association are the conditions under which the work-people are more and more oppressed throughout the world, and this is the secret of success. The events of the last few weeks have unmistakably shown that the working class must fight for its emancipation. The persecutions of the governments against the International are like the persecutions of ancient Rome against the primitive christians. They, too, had been few in numbers at first, but the patricians of Rome had instinctively felt that if the christians succeeded the Roman Empire would be lost. The persecutions of Rome had not saved the Empire, and the persecutions of the present day against the International will not save the existing state of things.

What is new in the International is that it has been established by the workers themselves and for themselves. Before the foundation of the International all the different organizations were societies founded by some radicals among the ruling classes for the working classes, but the International has been established by the workers for themselves. The chartist movement in this country was started with the consent and assistance of middle-lass radicals, though if it had been successful it could only have been for the advantage of the working class. England is the only country where the working class is sufficiently developed and organized to turn universal suffrage to its proper account. The revolution of February was a movement that was favoured by a portion of the bourgeoisie against the ruling party. The revolution of February only gave promises to the working classes and replaced one set of people of the ruling class by another. The insurrection of June was a revolt against the whole ruling class, including the most radical portion. The workers who lifted the new people into power in 1848 instinctively felt that they had only exchanged one set of oppressors for another and that they were betrayed.

The last movement was the Commune, the greatest that has yet been made, and there cannot be two opinions about it — the Commune was the conquest of the political power of the working classes. There is much misunderstanding about the Commune. The Commune could not found a new form of class government. In destroying the existing conditions of oppression by transferring all the means of labour to the productive labourer, and thereby compelling every able-bodied individual to work for a living, the only basis for class rule and oppression as removed. But before such a change can be effected a dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary, and the first condition of that is a proletarian army. The working classes will have to conquer the right to emancipate themselves on the battlefield. The task of the International is to organize and combine the forces of labour for the coming struggle.