General Council of the International Brotherhood of Workers

General Council of the International Brotherhood of Workers


the central managing organ of the First International, known under this name from 1866. (Before 1866 it was called the Committee, the Central Committee, and the Central Council.) The General Council was elected by the congresses of the First International.

At first the composition of the council was heterogeneous. In addition to workers it included petit bourgeois and radical bourgeois elements. As a result of the efforts of K. Marx, who was a permanent member of the council until 1872 and its de facto leader, the council became an executive organ, composed of proletarians and uniting representatives of the working class of various nationalities. From October 1870 to September 1872, F. Engels joined the General Council, becoming one of its leaders. In 1870 the Russian revolutionary G. A. Lopatin was a member of the council. After the Paris Commune of 1871 the Communards E. Vaillant, V. Vrublevskii, and F. E. Cournet, joined the General Council. From 1864 to 1870 its structure took its final form. The members elected from their midst a chairman. (Until the abolition of this position in 1867, it was held by C. Odger.) Council members also elected a secretary (a position held successively by W. R. Cremer, R. Shaw, J. G. Eccarius, and J. Hales), a treasurer, and corresponding secretaries for various countries. Marx was the corresponding secretary for Germany (beginning in 1864) and Russia (beginning in March 1870), and Engels was corresponding secretary for Spain, Portugal, Italy, and for a while for Denmark. The officials of the General Council formed a working body, the Permanent Committee. (From 1864-71 it was also called the Subcommittee, the Subcommission, and in 1872, the Executive Committee.)

The General Council was supposed to supervise the implementation of the resolutions of the congresses, prepare their program, and unify the struggle of the workers of various countries. In the course of Marx’ and Engels’ fight for the establishment of the programmatic and organizational principles of scientific communism and against opportunistic tendencies within the International (for example, Proudhonism and anarchism), the functions of the General Council were refined and developed. The council gained the right to admit or refuse to admit sections, to expel sections temporarily until the next congress, and to eliminate sections and federations, and it was obliged to watch over the observation of the General Charter. Until 1872 its seat was in London. In the autumn of 1872 the seat of the General Council was transferred to New York, under a resolution of the congress at The Hague. Its head there was F. A. Sorge, a comrade in arms of Marx and Engels.


Marx, K. “Vremennyi Ustav Tovarishchestva.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 16.
“Ustav i Reglament Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabo-chikh.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 16.
Marx, K. “Obshchii Ustav i Organizatsionnyi reglament Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabochikh.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 17.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Rezoliutsii obshchevo kongressa, so-stoiavshegosia v Gaage 2-7 sent. 1872 g.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 18.
General’nyi sovet Pervogo Internatsionala, 1864-1872: Protokoly [vols. 1-5]. Moscow, 1961-65.


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