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(en) France, Alternative Libertair #220 - 1872: St Imier, cradle of anarchism (fr) [machine translation]
Fri, 16 Nov 2012 21:14:53 +0200
This is where it all began. On Sunday, September 16, 1872 opened in the Swiss village of
St-Imier International Congress which one can say, in retrospect, it marks the birth of
the organized anarchist movement. But it was not an anarchist conference. --- Summoned in
haste, after the split befallen a few days before the fifth congress of the International
Workingmen's Association in The Hague, he meets fifteen delegates Spanish, Swiss, Italian
and French, the latter residing in Switzerland. Many participants return from The Hague,
where with Belgian and Dutch they defended the "Declaration of the minority" in favor of
autonomy and federalism. They went through Amsterdam and Brussels, warmly welcomed by the
workers' sections of these cities, followed by Zurich, where they held a meeting with
Bakunin, the slave section of the city and several Italians.
They had formed a federation of the International, a month earlier, which had declared
immediately break "any solidarity with the General Council in London, claiming even more
economic solidarity with all workers" and proposing the holding of a "general congress
anti-authoritarian" in Switzerland. Would have preferred the Jura International grouping
workers of all countries and all the trends, but the majority of the Hague Congress James
Guillaume were expelled and almost expelled AdhÃmar SchwitzguÃbel: there remained only
move forward separately.
Already last year, the Jura Federation asserted its autonomy Congress Sonvilier (a village
near Saint-Imier), stating that "the future society must be nothing other than the
universalization of the organization 'Internationale will be given "[ 1 ]. Despite this
recognition of the great work of the AIT, it will earn the wrath of Marx and his friends
of the Central Committee of London.
Max Nettlau [ 2 ] distinguishes three concurrent trends, best three shades among
anti-authoritarians "Cafiero and his comrades wanted above all affirmation, propaganda and
realization of anarchist ideas by revolutionary action and do cared little who professed
ideas less advanced. James Guillaume and the Jura wanted the solidarity of all the
International Federations in the struggle against capital and management and autonomy of
each in the selection of ideas and tactics to follow. A Bakunin propaganda and action in
the direction of anarchist ideas were expensive foremost, but he rallied to the tactic of
not isolate themselves from the rest, or rather the large number of workers, provided that
the freedom of each be respected. "[ 3 ] Nettlau adds that "discussions of Zurich and the
International Congress of Saint Imier resulted actually two organizations, one public,
between the International Federations, which was based on economic solidarity and autonomy
made of ideas and tactics, the other secret associations between anarchists and
anti-authoritarians much, or more precisely, between those of the federations were already
in private relations with Bakunin and his comrades. "
The resolutions adopted at Saint-Imier are known: the first reaffirms the principles of
autonomy and federalism, "the first condition of the emancipation of the workers"
concludes the second a "pact of friendship, solidarity and mutual defense" between the
organizations represented the third proudly declares that "the destruction of all
political power is the first duty of the proletariat" [ 4 ].
The fourth resolution is less often quoted: "The freedom and work are the basis of
morality, strength, life and wealth of the future ... However, the work can be freely
exercised without the possession of raw materials and all the capital, and can not be
organized if the worker emancipating itself from the political and economic tyranny, not
conquering the right to fully develop all his faculties. Any State, that is to say, any
government administration of the masses, from top to bottom, is necessarily based on the
bureaucracy, the military, the intelligence, the clergy can never establish society
organized labor and justice, since by the very nature of his body is inevitably pushed
this one to oppress and deny it [...] The free and spontaneous organization of labor is
one that must be replace the preferential and authoritarian political state, [it] will,
once established, the permanent guarantee of maintaining the economic organism against the
political organization ... The strike is a valuable way for us to fight, but we are under
no illusions about its economic performance. We accept it as a product of the antagonism
between labor and capital, with the necessary consequence of making workers more aware of
the gulf that exists between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, to strengthen the
organization of workers and prepare by making simple economic struggles, the proletariat
to the great revolutionary struggle that ultimately destroying any privilege and class
distinction, give the worker the right to enjoy the product of his labor, and By this
means of developing community full force intellectual, material and moral.
The Commission proposes to Congress to appoint a Commission shall submit to Congress a
draft next global organization of resistance and complete tables of statistical work in
this struggle which draw light. '
The international anti-authoritarian
A year later, it will be an important theme of the congress "federalist" Geneva true labor
congress, one. Belgian, Dutch, Spanish, or English couple joined the original nucleus,
recount conflict and success in their country, raised the possibility of "universal
strike," while William applauded think statistics will replace Science government.
Five years, with only a pact of solidarity principle and autonomy to one single organ
office correspondence, business sections and federations will exchange information,
support each other, without rancor or address the interests of the hegemony questions of
the future organization of society, participation and non-political, propaganda and
action, face repression and economic crises. Bulletin of the Jura Federation, four to
eight small pages written mostly by workers watchmakers, published in 600 copies in the
village unlikely Sonvilier, broadcast matches in Europe and the Americas, half of the
specimens are sent abroad and hundreds of letters testify to the permanence of its
activity [ 5 ].
Birth of anarchism ...
At the same time, in parallel, the idea of an anarchist movement takes shape. The word
circulating among both proponents and opponents, Utopia was one of the objectives of
several groups. In September 1871, the Spanish Regional Federation of International stated
that "the real federal democratic republic is collectively owned, Anarchy and economic
federation, that is to say, the free federation of free and universal associations
agricultural and industrial workers "[ 6 ]. In spring 1873, it was the Italians who claim
that "anarchy, for us, is the only way that the social revolution is a fact that the
social liquidation is complete, [...] for the natural passions and needs , taking their
state of freedom, complete reorganization of humanity on the basis of justice "[ 7 ].
Former companions, however, as Benoit Malon, assert the impossibility of "anarchist
program." But William is firmly opposed: there is no anarchist theory, there is a
collectivist theory, he repeats. Federations of Belgium and the Netherlands abound in his
direction. Switzerland ...
In February 1876, in an article published in Geneva, FranÃois Dumartheray announces the
upcoming release of "a brochure relating to anarchist communism." This is the first
appearance of the term. March 3, 1877, Reclus gives Saint-Imier conference on anarchy and
the State: After reducing their value to the bourgeois fears mad before the word
"anarchy", he explained the scientific meaning of the word, and how we should attach. He
reviewed the various forms of government - theocratic state, royal, aristocratic and
finally the popular state - and showed how the latter, wanting government of the people by
the people, resulted in its logical if it was actually practiced, anarchy [...] this
horizon we want freedom for the human society. '
Here we go: anarchists, and proud of it [ 8 ]. In five years, from September 1872 to the
summer of 1877, the anarchist movement took his own life and identity. Described anarchist
movements and activists prior to that date is an anachronism. All this happened in
Switzerland, thanks to host foreign political refugees in the country, a situation that,
unfortunately, has changed over time, and not only against anarchists.
End ... and the International
The International Workingmen's Association, meanwhile, is moribund. Branch "centralist"
held a conference last ghost in Philadelphia in 1876; branch "federalist", after an
attempt to bring together the labor movement in Ghent in 1877, tired of Congress and
correspondences. These years also saw the formation of the socialist parties of all shades
and reformist trade unions, the decline of national organizations, activists passing a
current to another.
As for the anarchists, proud of it, they give priority to their groups, their movement,
where everything is invented. Again, it will take a long gestation and a lot of trial and
What sense is there today to remind all that? If there had been no Saint-Imier Congress in
September 1872, there would have been no international anarchist meeting recently held in
the same village, there would have been no cooperative space Black to accommodate us
(thank you and bravo!). Even if the current movement has little to do with the back more
than a century SchwitzguÃbel, who preached temperance, would have been embarrassed by the
amount of beer was consumed; Malatesta, who organized insurrections, was collapsed to see
what has become ideology "insurrectionist" Max Nettlau there be found more hope? He wrote
in 1922: "If we want to try to take the teachings of Saint Imier Â in 1872, we could try
to restore a true International on this basis:
- Economic solidarity in the struggle against capitalism;
- Solidarity in the struggle against authority, the State;
- Solidarity in the absolute rejection of war and nationalists oppressions;
- Full autonomy in the field of ideas and tactics, which implies non-intervention in the
affairs of others and the rejection of any monopoly and dictatorship. '
Marianne Enckell (International Center for Research on Anarchism, Lausanne)
1864 London Conference, adoption of the Preamble.
1866 First Congress in Geneva, adoption of the constitution.
1867 Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom, and the second congress in Lausanne.
3rd Congress 1868, Brussels.
4th Congress 1869, Basel.
1870 No conference due to the war between France and Prussia.
1871 No conference due to the repression that followed the Paris Commune conference in London.
1-8 September 1872, the fifth congress in The Hague (Netherlands). 15-16 September,
Congress anti-authoritarian in Saint-Imier (Switzerland).
Two 1873 conference in Geneva that the anti-authoritarian branch followed by the branch
1876 ââLast Congress centralized branch in Philadelphia.
1877 Last Congress centralized branch in Verviers.
15 September 1922, commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Congress of St. Imier.
December: a conference in Berlin recast the International Workers Association, an
[ 1 ] Circular to all federations International, The Social Revolution, Geneva, 14
[ 2 ] Max Nettlau (1865-1944), Austrian anarchist and historian of anarchism.
[ 3 ] Max Nettlau, "The Origins of the International antiauthoritarian" The Wake-communist
anarchist, Geneva, l6 September 1922 (year XXII, No. 597). The newspaper will soon be
available online at the Cira, www.cira.ch
[ 4 ] Bulletin of the Jura Federation 17-18, 15 September 1872 (in fact, 1 October).
[ 5 ] The archives of the Jura Federation are mainly kept in Amsterdam (International
Institute of Social History), partly also in NeuchÃtel (James Guillaume Fund, State
Archives of NeuchÃtel).
[ 6 ] Quoted by Matthew Leonard, the emancipation of the workers, Paris 2011, p. 293.
[ 7 ] Bulletin of the Jura Federation, April 1, 1873.
[ 8 ] Amedeo Bertolo, "Venezia e dintorni" VolontÃ 3/1984.
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