Resolution on Resistance Societies

Basle Congress, 6-12 September 1869

Compte-rendu du IVe congrès international, tenu à Bale, en Septembre 1869 (Bruxelles : Impr. de D. Brismée, 1869)

The question thus posed seems to us to present two distinct sides, namely:

How should resistance societies be established to prepare for the future and to ensure as far as possible the present; and on the other hand, how the ideas we have on the organisation of labour in the future can help us to establish resistance societies in the present; these two sides of the question complement each other, and strengthen each other.

Now, we conceive of two types of grouping by workers: first a local grouping which allows workers of the same locality to maintain day-today relations; next, a grouping between different localities, regions, countries, etc.

First type.

This grouping corresponds to the political relations of present society, which it advantageously replaces: hitherto it has been the type employed by the International Workers’ Association.

For resistance societies this state of affairs involves the federation of local societies mutually aiding each other by loans of money, organising meetings for the discussion of social questions, taking actions of collective interest together.

But as industry grows, another grouping becomes necessary alongside the first one.

Workers in all lands feel that their interests are interdependent and that they are crushed one by one; on the other hand, the future demands an organisation that leaves the confines of towns and knows no borders, establishing a vast distribution of labour from one end of the world to the other; from this double point of view, resistance societies must organise themselves internationally: each trade union must foster an exchange of correspondence and information within the country and with other nations, that it works to establish new branches where none exist, that it reaches agreement with its fellow workers to act in common and that it even goes so far, when possible, as the solidarity of funds amongst them as the English already practice. This type of grouping becomes an agent of decentralisation, for it is no longer a case of establishing in each country a common centre for all industries, but each will have as a centre the locality where it is most developed; for example, for France, while the coalminers would federate around St-Etienne, the silk-workers would do so around Lyon, as luxury industries in Paris.

Once these two groupings have been formed, labour is organised for the present and the future, by eliminating wage-labour in the following manner. By the uniform reduction in working hours in the same profession, the distribution of work is achieved fairly and the competition between workers is destroyed. This process, as well as the limitation of the number of apprentices, which is the result of free and rational statistics applied to all professions, distributes workers in all industries, prevents accumulation in one and shortages in another and makes the right to work a reality.

The grouping of different trade unions [corporations] by town and by country creates another benefit: each trade striking in its turn, and being supported by the others, continues its struggle until it reaches the common level and the equalisation of wages is a precursor to the equivalence of functions.

Moreover, this type of grouping forms the commune of the future just as the other type forms the worker representation of the future. Government is replaced by the councils of the assembled trades unions, and by a committee of their respective delegates, regulating the labour relations that will replace politics.

To conclude and since the grouping by town and country already exists in part, we propose the following resolution:

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.