Discussion on Resistance Societies

Basle Congress, 6-12 September 1869

Gabriel Mollin, Rapport sur le 4e Congrès de l’Association internationale des Travailleurs : tenu à Bâle (Suisse) au mois de septembre 1869 (Paris: Armand le Chevalier, 1870).

Saturday, 11 September

The first item is the discussion of Resistance Societies.

M. Pindy reads the report of the Commission. He says that the purpose of resistance societies is to prepare for the future and secure the present; that the grouping of the resistance societies will form the commune of the future, and that Government will eventually be replaced by councils of trades unions [corps de métiers].

M. Pindy quotes the following passage from the report of the Society of Bronze-Smiths of Paris:

“Resistance Societies have already defined the practical application of the principle of solidarity between workers. It is again to their influence that emancipation must be achieved through the takeover of tools, the abolition of bosses, the organisation of credit and exchange, and the transformation of the social order, by substituting the federation of every individual, of every group, of every industry, for the conflict of interest which the current state offers us.”

He then reads the conclusions of the Commission.

The Commission proposes that the Congress adopt the following conclusions:

“The Congress is of the opinion that all workers must actively strive to create resistance societies in different trades.

 “As these societies form, it invites sections, federal groups or central councils to notify societies of the same profession in order to produce the formation of an international association of trades.

“These federations will be responsible for gathering all information of interest to their respective industries, managing joint activity, regulating strikes and actively working for their success, until such time as wage-labour is replaced by the federation of free producers.

“The Congress also invites the General Council to act as an intermediary for the federation of resistance societies of all lands.”

M. Chemalé considers resistance societies as a transitory institution, with the object of fighting against the centralisation of capital, and having no reason to exist when the conditions of labour are different.

M. Caporusso complains about the recent introduction of industrialism in Italy, which has resulted in the increase [in the price] of necessities, without any increase in wages. He protests against the undertaking of work by the State; he refers to the tobacco manufacturers and ship-builders, which are conducted militarily and are still forced to suffer a reduction in their wages. He called the attention of the International Association to the situation of the Italian proletarians.

M. Hins regrets that M. Chemalé had not grasped the role that resistance societies had to play when he said that they would one day disappear. Regardless of wage settlements, they must prepare the future reorganisation. It is by them that it will be done. If we do not occupy ourselves with current politics, we will take care of that of the future; consequently we will develop the government of labour, we will destroy the old politics and parliament. These are the relationships of the workers which must replace the relationships of the State.

H. Flahaut is in favour of a universal federation amongst workers, but he believes that it must aim at claiming not only social rights but also political rights. He regrets that we have spent too much time on issues that cannot be put into practice whereas we should be dealing with resistance societies.

M. Durand would like us not to deal with generalities, nor with the future, but with the present, with current practice. The purpose of the Association to achieve demands by strikes. So far the associations have done nothing; the most noticeable result is that instead of a single boss, the worker has five or six. He would like to see co-operative societies enter the resistance societies. He added that nevertheless these societies resulted in teaching men to know each other, and that they could in the future have a great political influence.

MM. Tolain, Tartaret, Greulich, Applegarth, Brismé and Grosselin take part in the discussion. All agree on the need for the formation and development of resistance societies.

The hour being late, it was decided to end although a certain number of speakers had their names listed. The conclusions of the Commission were passed unanimously.