Marx and the Politics of the First International

  • George C. Comninel
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


This chapter explores Marx’s personal commitment to the politics of class struggle through his participation in the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA). The IWA was not conceived by Marx, but emerged from a meeting organized by French and English workers, who invited him to attend. Having devoted himself for more than a decade exclusively to the critique of political economy and research into capitalist economics, Marx made the IWA his immediate priority from 1864 to 1872. He was never more than just one member of its General Council, though usually called upon to write important letters and articulate political positions. While he had some success in opposing the political ideas of both Lassalle and Proudhon in the International’s early years, over the long run the organization became polarized between a majority committed to the anarchism of Bakunin and a strong insurrectionist minority inspired by the ideas of Blanqui and the Paris Commune of 1871. Marx and his supporters were few in number, though he was recognized as among the organization’s leaders. He was also politically adroit, and succeeded in establishing among the Rules that the working class needed to constitute itself as a political party, contrary to the position of the Bakuninists.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • George C. Comninel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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