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International Revolutionary Socialist Conference, London 14-19  July 1881

Page history last edited by Barry Pateman 6 years, 8 months ago







According to G.M.Stekloff in his "History of the First International" a Congress of Belgian anarchists passed a resolution calling for the revival of the International. The last federalist IWMA Conference had been in Verviers in 1877.



A manifesto announcing the Conference, entitled ' Au revolutionnaires des deux Mondes" was published in "La Revolution Sociale", "Le Revolte" and "L'Intransigeant" in March 1881 clearly suggesting that the aim of the Conference was the constitution of the International ( or perhaps one should say re-constitution).It was this manifesto that described the Conference as " Congress International Socialiste Revolutionnaire" (Diapola). The Conference was backed by these newspapers as well as " Die Freiheit" (London ) and "Vorbote" ( Chicago ).


In early February 1881( Di Paola) an organizing committee of seven was set up in London to help arrange the conference.Based in a room at 41 Upper Rathbone St. The group consisted of





Brocher (sec)

Hartman (Russia)

S. Figueras(Spain)

Lazar Goldenberg

Errico Malatesta ( arrived March 1881?)

Biedermann (Switzerland)

Magnin (France)

C Hall(England)


Rose Street Club to be the organizational headquarters


According to Butterworth in the prospectus for the Conference Brocher wrote that it will be " the school of human dignity, the amphitheater where one vivisects a rotten society and dissects the corpse of misery, the laboratory of the social revolution"














What follows is now a much fuller version with thanks to Kenyon and a special thanks to Martin Veith who translated Nettlau's list from "Anarchisten and Sozial Revolutionaire" (1931).Nettlau also adds where the mandate from each delegate came from.


It's also important to note that the Conference was held in the backroom of "The Fitzroy Arms",Cardington Street,Hampstead Road NOT in "The Wheatsheaf", Charrington St as has been suggested by some."The Fitzroy Arms" was also where the Slavonic Society used to meet.The Conference was  originally scheduled to be held in "The Blue Post", Newman St.,but the landlord cancelled the booking.


Initially I am trying to see who attended the Conference and who, if anyone,they said they were representing. So far I have the following list



Joseph Lane

L.Price     (both from the Homerton Social Democratic Club and mandated by Edwin Dunn and Joseph Lane,as Group Secretary)


Frank Kitz

Edwin Dunn

John Lord   (all from the Social Democratic Club in Rose St, and,presumably,members of the English Revolutionary Society branch of the Club).Dunn was also secretary of the Marylebone Radical Reform Association and Lord was secretary of the "Freiheit" Defence Committee.


C. Hall  ( NETTLAU-Le Club International de Londre")  In "The Slow Burning Fuse" John Quail suggests that Hall was a police spy)



Johann Neve  (representing the New York Section of the Socialistische Arbeiter Parti)



Errico Malatesta  (representing Constantinople, Alexandria and, according to Butterworth, turin,the Marches,Tuscany,Marseilles and Geneva. NETTLAU has him representing: Federation of Tuscany,Sections of Forlimpopoli and Forli,Circle of the Sons of Work,Alexandria,Worker-Circles of Turino and Chivasso (Piedmont),Revolutionary Socialists of Marseilles,Socialists of the Marks(Marken)Anarchists from Geneva,Socialist-Revolutionary Alliance of Turino and IWA Federations of Constantinople and Alexandria


Louise Michel  (representing Rheims-AB.NETTLAU- Cercles de Etudes sociales de Rheims)


Victorine Rouchy  (ex Communard HO. NETTLAU -groups of the 6,11 and 20 Arrondisements of Paris.Cercle anarchiste du 11 Arrondisement of Paris.Cercle anarchiste mandate signed by L.Roterman, corrspondence secretary


S. Figueros( representing the Spanish Regional Federation and a branch of the Catalan workers.NETTLAU says-Union de constructores de la Federacion espanola.Delegate for 26 sections of craftsmen in Catalonia with 1116 members.Interestingly Nettlau lists him twice!!


Ms M.P. Le Compte (representing Boston,USA revolutionaries. In a letter to Sorger Ira Steward says she is from the "Falls River" Labor Standard.( see also work by Kenyon in comments below)NETTLAU- Mandate signed  by John W Wilkinson (Chairman of a meeting) and Walter Elliot, secretary.


Gustav Brocher (aka Rehcorb) (AB says he was an ex Communard,HO says he was not.Representing the Iowa Icarian Community and Alsace and Lorraine)NETTLAU does not mention Alsace and Lorraine and places the community in Adams County.Mandate signed by Emile Peron,secretary


Dr E Nathan-Ganz from Boston,USA and representing the Mexican Federation)NETTLAU Confedeacion de los Trabajadores Mexicanos-which Nettalu describes as an authoritarian organization.


Sebastian Trunk (NETTLAU  represented Communist Workers Education Club, London.Mandate signed by J Barber,group secretary)


Nicolai Chaikovsky (NETTLAU -represented Slavonic Society, London.Mandate signed by Lazar Goldenberg)


Lazar Goldenberg (Organizational Committee for the Congress)


Emmanuel Chauviere (representing the Belgian Blanquists)(NETTLAU-Les Cercles Reunis,Brussels.Mandate signed "most likely" by Stuyck.The mandate does not allow him to  participate in any decisions


Orlando De Martis (Demartys) ( a police spy and representing Naples and Rome.PD)NETTLAU- representing Cercle International d'Etudes sociales de Londres


Raffaele Moncada (a police spy-PD) NETTLAU has him representing  Group communiste-anarchiste de Marseilles


L Hartmann-NETTLAU does not have him present


Joseph Peukert NETTLAU - representing German Workers Club,Basel and Federation of Revolutionary Groups, Switzerland.


Peter Kropotkin_NETTLAU- Group of the newspaper Le Revolte and Parti Revolutionnaire,Lyons.Mandate signed by C.Tomachot, F.Dumartheray and Elisee Reclus.


Serreaux (Egide Spilleaux) (editor of "La Revolution Sociale" and a police spy)


Emile Gautier (delegate of the Paris Pantheon group-HO) NETTLAU-also representing Group Etudes sociales anarchiste revolutionnaire( Vienna?) and Cercle" les Outlaws",St Etienne



Magnin- NETTLAU has a Maynier, Cercle International d'Etudes sociales de Londres. Same person? Yes


 Gerard Gerombou NETTLAU-representing anarchist groups of Antwerp and Brussels,IWA section of Brussels, "Cosmopolitans",Brussels,Cercle L'Etincelle and Cercle L'Avenir( Verviers)


Vito Solieri (representing the Italian bodies) NETTLAU-anarchist communist section of Nizza


Dr Francisco Saverio Merlino NETTLAU  IWA section "Social Equality" from Corato,IWA sections of Cosenza,Rocca,Rogliano,Roma, the socialists from Naples, Federation of Pisa,socialist groups of Tarent and one of the region Reggio,Cercle Nobiling in Fabriano

the newspaper "Il Grido del Popolo", Naples and the revolutionary socialists of Palermo


Biedermann (PD) NETTLAU does not have him present


The following are from Nettalu


George Herzig NETTLAU- Jura Federation of the International.Mandate signed by Henri Robert, sec of the Federal Committee of Neuchatel


Petrowitsch (pseud.  Radnik)-NETTLAU- for the workers organisation and the student circle of Belgrade ( circle Radnik, Belgrade)


Carl Seelig  NETTLAU - Social Revolutinary club of New York and German Social Revolutionary group of Philadelphia


Carl Henze NETTLAU- delegate for several German towns on the Lower Rhineland-Aachen,Wuppertal


Jean Miller NETTLAU- Club International de Paris and Cercle de Etudes sociales de Levallois-Perret (Paris)  Mandate signed by Balthasar Grun, Otto Rinke and J. A. Goossens for Club International. 


Balthasar Hohn   NETTLAU- Social Rvolutionary Group of Darmstadt and German Social Revolutionary Group of Paris.


Chr. Ruzicka NETTLAU-Czech section of the Slavonic Society, London.Mandate signed by L Goldenberg, sec.


Charles Robin  NETTLAU  Cercle International d"Etudes sociales de Londres


Antolini           NETTLAU   Cercle International d'Etudes sociales de Londres


Francois Guy   NETTLAU  - anarchist-revolutionary group of "La Plebe", Beziers.Mandate signed by Louis Hebrard.According to Bantman he was from the southern town of Beziers


Bouisson   NETTLAU- Alliance des Groups Socialists Revolutionairs from Paris.Nettlau describes him as a most dislikeable satellite of Serreaux


Kirschner    NETTLAU- German Social Revolutionary Group of Brussels. Mandate signed by  W. Gartzen, Wilhelm Keinsborg and N. Sochnli


J de Bruyn    NETTLAU - Dutch socialist Association,social revolutionary.According to Bantman he represented the Dutch Group of Theobold St.


Emile Violard    NETTLAU- Communist anarchist revolutionary group L'Alarme, Narbonne and Group La Jeunesse" from Paris


A Siegel       NETTLAU- Communist Workers Education Club, Section 3, East London) Mandate signed by J. Kinstler (sec) and C. Hanke, chairman


C Hanke       NETTLAU - Communist Workers Education Club, Section 3, East London.Mandate signed by J. Kinstler, secretary and C. Hanke, chairman.



.A quick key to some of my sources  HO= "The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London

AB= The World That Never Was" and PD = Italian Anarchists in London 1870-1914 and of course,Nettlau


Carlo Cafiero (AB said he was-but HO  claims he was not there , and I think from the dates she is correct.In fact Cafiero did endorse the Conference but did not attend for financial reasons and disagreements with Kropotkin and Malatesta ,with Cafiero arguing against a secret organization on the grounds that the expense of maintaining it would be prohibitive.He preferred what he called " isolated events" )

Emile Pouget (A. Skirda in "Facing the Enemy" says he was.Apparent French police documents have him there, but it does seem unlikely)

Jean Grave (Skirda again)


Now-my immediate problem is trying to solidify a definite list.I know quite a bit about the people listed( Sebastian Trunk ended up living in New Zealand for instance- thanks to Jared Davidson for that info))-but any more info would be welcome on the,as yet,more obscure ones.What I would appreciate is any additions/comments on the list.I would stress that I am not yet discussing what was said at the Conference or who was on what committee.I just want to be certain of who was there.


From Nettlau's list I need to check on , Biedermann and Hartmann to see if they actually did attend


Evidence suggests that Malato did not attend the Conference- so, for the moment, that is that.


In his introduction to " The International Anarchist Congress Amsterdam (1907)" published in 1978 Maurizio Antonioli suggests that Vera Zasulich was a participant. I have never seen any other evidence to support that.



G M.Stekloff in the " History of the First International" quotes two resolutions passed at the Congress. The first a reiteration of the federative position adopted at the 1866 Geneva Congress ( I'll dig that out) with the following addition " The representatives of the socialist revolutionaries of the Old and New World meeting in London on July 14, 1881, and all in favour of the complete and forcible destruction of the existing political and economic institutions, have accepted the following declaration of principles: They declare, in conformity with the view that has always been taken by the International that the word " moral " in the Preamble to the General Rules is not to be understood in the sense given to that word by the bourgeoisie; but in the sense that, inasmuch as extant society is founded upon immorality, the abolition of extant society, by any means that sre possible, will inaugurate morality. Considering that it is time to pass from the period of affirmation to the period of action and to supplement spoken and written propaganda, the futility of which has been proved by propaganda by the deed and insurrectionist activity, the congressists submit to the affiliated groups the following resolutions: The International Workingmen's Association declares itself opposed to parliamentary policy....." (Stekloff stops there)

He also quotes the following resolution which was printed in "Revolte":


" Considering that the International Workingmen's Association has regarded it is necessary to supplement spoken and written propaganda by propaganda by deed:

" Considering, farther, that the epoch of a general revolution is not distant and that the revolutionary elements will ere long be called upon to show their devotion to the proletarian cause and to manifest their strength in action:

The Congress desires the organisations that are affiliated to the International Workingmen's Association to note the following propositions:

" It is absolutely essential that we should do all that we possibly can, by way of action, to diffuse the revolutionary idea and the spirit of revolt in that great section of the masses which does not yet participate actively in the movement, and is still prey to illusions as to the morality and efficacy of legal ( constitutional ) methods.

When abandoning the platform of legality ( constitutional methods ) to which up to now activity has in our days generally been confined, in order to develop our activities upon the platform of illegality unconstitutional methods, which is the only way to bring about the revolution, we must have recourse to means that are appropriate to this aim

In view of the persecutions to which the revolutionary press is everywhere exposed, we must henceforth organise secret periodicals.

Since most of the rural workers are still outside the framework of the socialist revolutionary movement, it is essential that we should turn our attention in this direction, bearing in mind that the very simplest onslaught on existing institutions has more effect on the masses than thousands of leaflets and a flux of oratory, and that propaganda by deed is even more important in the countryside than in the towns.

Inasmuch as the technical and chemical sciences have already been of service to the revolutionary cause, and are capable of being even more serviceable in the future, the congress recommends organisations and individuals belonging to the International Workingmen's Association to pay special attention to the theory and practice of these sciences both for defensive and offensive purposes"



Assessments about the effects of the Congress by historians:


Masini   Suggests that the turn to revolutionary action by any means was to equate anarchism with permanent revolt


Carlson  Adoption of propaganda by deed was a  disaster for the anarchist movement and encouraged agent-provocateurs


Maitron   Conference gave "official" recognition to propaganda by the deed and so inaugurated the period of anarchist terrorism


Gino Cerrito agrees that the Conference inaugurated the era of anarchist terrorism and moved the anarchist movement away from the masses


Antonioli  This conference decisions and harsh government repression (which he felt had been the reason for the London resolutions) meant that " the anarchist movement had practically signed its own death warrant as an organized movement" by adopting illegality as the only possible method of struggle.


Someone (!!) suggested that the Conference was also responsible for a growing strand of anti-intellectualism which would become embedded in anarchism




Report from "The Radical" July 23rd 1881   "The Revolutionary Congress" held in the Cleveland Hall, near Fitzroy Square on Monday night (18th July, BP)was attended by about seven hundred delegates from various parts of Europe and America, of whom one fourth were women"  Le Compte proposed a resolution- " the hour is come when hope of expectation must give way to decisive action" and supported it  "in a singularly, clear and eloquent speech"

E. Dunn was the chair

Delegates from France, America, Switzerland, Italy and Germany followed and Kropotkin spoke at the end.


From " Liberty"  No 2 August 20 1881. Tucker describes the Conference as a " momentous event" and goes on to write " Only the future can determine how far the Congress was wise in subordinating propagandism  by voice and pen to what is called " propagandism by fact".





Comments (8)

Kenyon Zimmer said

at 10:29 am on Jun 12, 2013

Edward Nathan-Ganz was representing the Confederation de los Trabajadores Mexicanos, and you seem to be missing Carl Seelig, representing the Social-Revolutionary Club of New York and the Social Revolutionary Group of Philadelphia (This comes from Goyens, Beer and Revolution, and Creaghe, Histoire de l'anarchisme aux États-Unis d'Amérique, among other sources). Also, somebody, probably by proxy, represented the French-language Groupe socialiste-révoltionnaire in Paterson, NJ (mentioned in Creaghe). - Kenyon

Barry Pateman said

at 3:11 pm on Jun 12, 2013

Thanks,K.I will sniff around here.Skirda claims 31 delegates,Butterworth 45.Otherts, perhaps wisely,do not give a number.I wonder if Le Compte represented the Paterson group?

Kenyon Zimmer said

at 2:31 pm on Jun 14, 2013

Looking back at Creagh's book, you're right about Le Compte representing the Paterson group (he has a chart of the American delegates and who they represented on p. 614, and uses a dash to indicate "same as above"). He also says (p. 924 n. 124) there were 45 delegates representing 14 countries, noting that the report in Liberty (Aug. 20, 1881) additionally mentions representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, and Romania, though he found no other mention of these. He also says that Pouget was not there, despite the French police report (no mention one way or the other of Cafiero), and lists the following delegates from London (most of whom aren't on your list, which definitely puts the number above 31):
Price and Lane representing the Homerton Social Democratic Club
C. Hall as representing the International Socialist Club
Dunn, Lord, and Kitz representing the Social Democratic Workingmen's Club
S. Trunk, A. Siegel, and C. Hanke representing the Kommunistischer Arbeiterbildungsverein
N. Cajkovskij (Chaikovsky) representing the Slavonic Society
O. Demartys, Maynier, Charles Robin, and Antonioli ("Two Italians and two Frenchmen") representing the Cercle international d'etudes sociales de Londres
Chr. Ruzicka representing the Section boheme de la Slavonic Society

Kenyon Zimmer said

at 3:56 pm on Sep 16, 2013

I've been doing some internet digging re: Marie Le Compte. According to Mari Jo Buhle, "Miss LeCompte" became secretary of Manhattan's "American" (i.e. English-speaking) branch of the Socialist Labor Party in 1879 (http://books.google.com/books?id=1INC2fuMnBAC&pg=PA21&dq=women+and+american+socialism+le+compte&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jok3Ut7MGYqI2wXbtIGICA&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=lecompte&f=false).
She soon became associate editor of the SLP's paper, the Labor Standard, published in New York and then Fall River and edited by George Gunton. The Paterson Labor Standard was a different, breakaway paper edited by Irish socialist J. P. McDonnell, with which Le Compte had nothing to do. There is a ton of confusion regarding this in the work of a lot of respectable (and not-so-respectable) historians. The following sources, however, clear it up:
Numerous sources, including Avrich, also say that Le Compte was French, but in a letter to Benjamin Tucker's Liberty (http://libertarian-labyrinth.org/liberty/02-13.pdf, page 3) she repeatedly refers to the American flag as the flag of "my country," and not the French flag, suggesting that she may have been American-born.

Barry Pateman said

at 1:44 pm on Sep 25, 2013

Kenyon. I wonder when Le Compte returned to the US after the Congress. She spoke in various London venues in late 1881 and was, apparently, writing from France to Seymour's " The Anarchist" in 1885

Kenyon Zimmer said

at 3:45 pm on Sep 25, 2013

As far as I can find Le Compte never returned to the US. She was involved in a bread riot in France in 1883 and then was in Berne, Switzerland (both mentioned in the letter in Liberty linked to above). Avrich (Haymarket Tragedy, 56-57) says she settled in Berne and dropped out of the movement (though I suspect he based this assertion on the same letter in Liberty).

Barry Pateman said

at 4:17 pm on Sep 25, 2013

Thanks,K. I'll have another dig next week.

CIRA said

at 5:43 am on Aug 1, 2015

Marie Paula LeCompte was living in Geneva in 1884, then in Marseilles, and was in Aix-en-Provence in 1888. The is a biographic note on her in Dictionnaire Maitron des anarchistes, http://maitron-en-ligne.univ-paris1.fr/spip.php?page=article_long&id_article=155463
(limited access, but you can ask the editors for a free access).
More on the 1881 Congress later.

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