Following the suppression of the January Uprising in Poland, 1863 French and British workers started to discuss developing a closer working relationship. Tolain, Perrachon, and Limousin visited London in July 1863, attending a meeting held in St. James’ Hall in honour of the Polish uprising. Here there was discussion of the need for an international organisation, which would, amongst other things, prevent the import of foreign workers to break strikes. In September, 1864, some French delegates again visited London with the concrete aim of setting up a special committee for the exchange of information upon matters of interest to the workers of all lands. On September 28, a great international meeting for the reception of the French delegates took place in St. Martin’s Hall, and the positivist, Professor Edward Spencer Beesly, was in the chair. His speech pilloried the violent proceedings of the governments and referred to their flagrant breaches of international law and advocated a union of the workers of the world for the realisation of justice on earth.
George Odger, (Secretary of the General Trades Council) read a speech calling for international co-operation, to which Tolain responded. The meeting unanimously decided to found an international organisation of workers. The centre was to be in London, with a committee of 21 elected members. It was instructed to draft rules and constitution. Most of the British members of the committee were drawn from the Universal League for the Material Elevation of the Industrious Classes and were noted trade-union leaders like Odger, George Howell (the secretary of the London Trades Council (LTC) which itself declined affiliation to the IWA (although remaining close to it)), Osborne, and Lucraft and included Owenites and Chartists. The French members were Denoual, Victor Le Lubez, and Bosquet. Italy was represented by Fontana. Other members were: Louis Wolff, Johann Eccarius, and at the foot of the list, Karl Marx. Marx participated in his individual capacity, and didn’t speak during the meeting.
Read about the dancing here.
Update: Just saw this at the IISH website:
Picture postcard of a painting by O.G. Verejski `Marx at the IWMA meeting’
On 28 September 1864 the Saint Martins meeting hall in London was packed to the roof with craftsmen and workers from various countries. The proposal to establish an International Working Men’s Association met with great enthusiasm. Marx did not belong to the organizers and was not among the speakers, but he was a member of the presidium and he was chosen (with 54 other persons) in the Preparatory Committee to extend the IWMA. Not before long he would pull the strings of this First International.
Title corrected to 1864!