Anarchist St. Imier International

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Anarchist International of St. Imier
FoundedSeptember 1872 (1872-09)
DissolvedSeptember 1877 (1877-09)
Split fromInternational Workingmen's Association
Preceded byInternational Alliance of Socialist Democracy
Succeeded byInternational Working People's Association
HeadquartersSt. Imier
Collectivist anarchism
Political positionFar-left

The Anarchist International of St. Imier was an international workers' organization formed in 1872 after the split in the First International between the anarchists and the Marxists. This followed the 'expulsions' of Mikhail Bakunin and James Guillaume from the First International at the Hague Congress.[1] It attracted some affiliates of the First International, repudiated the Hague resolutions, and adopted a Bakuninist programme, and lasted until 1877.


The St. Imier International was created when the Swiss Jura Federation, the most important anarchist section of the old International Workingmen's Association (IWA), sent a proposal to the other sections, several of which then assembled at St. Imier to create a new anti-authoritarian organization. The organization was made up of various national federations of workers' societies, mainly the Italian, Spanish, Belgian, American, French and French-speaking Swiss federations, together with other individual organizations which all opposed Karl Marx's control of the General Council and favoured the autonomy of national sections from centralized control.[1]

The Congress of Saint-Imier (September, 1872)[edit]

The Hague Congress decided to expel Mikhail Bakunin and James Guillaume from the International for not having dissolved the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, which caused the delegates from the Jurassic, Belgian and Spanish federations, together with a Dutch and a Swiss delegate, to sign a manifesto showing their disagreement. All of them, including Giuseppe Fanelli and Errico Malatesta, decided to meet in Saint-Imier to hold a separate Congress in which they rejected the expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume, did not recognize the General Council appointed in The Hague and approved a resolution that included the anarchist theses and that contradicted the policy defended by the IWA.[2] The resolution on the political action of the proletariat said:[3]

1st, that the destruction of all political power is the first duty of the proletariat; 2nd, that any organization of a provisional and revolutionary political power intended to bring about this destruction cannot be more than a deception and would be as dangerous for the proletariat as all the governments that exist today; 3rd, that having rejected any commitment to achieve the realization of the social revolution, the proletarians of all countries must establish, outside of all bourgeois politics, the solidarity of revolutionary action.

The Congress, held on 15–16 September 1872, also approved the so-called "Pact of Friendship, Solidarity, and Mutual Defense between Free Federations" (also known as Saint-Imier Pact) in which it was said that:[4]

considering that within the International there is a tendency, openly manifested at the Hague Congress by the authoritarian party, to substitute with the predominance and power of the heads of the German communist party the free development and spontaneous organization of the proletariat [...] the delegates of the Spanish, Italian, Jurassic, French and American federations, meeting at this congress establish this Pact:

  1. The federations will maintain regular communication with each other.
  2. When any of the federations "is attacked in its freedom by the majority of a general congress or by the government of the Federal Council [...] all the other federations and sections will declare themselves in solidarity with it."
  3. The Pact's purpose is to safeguard the unity of the International which "the ambition of the authoritarian party has endangered."

The delegates also proclaimed:[1]

[t]hat the aspirations of the proletariat can have no other aim than the creation of an absolutely free economic organisation and federation based upon work and equality and wholly independent of any political government, and that such an organisation or federation can only come into being through the spontaneous action of the proletariat itself, through its trade societies, and through self-governing communes.

The Congress of Geneva (September, 1873)[edit]

In September 1873 the International held its Second Congress in Geneva (officially the Sixth General Congress since it was considered the legitimate heir to the IWA founded in London in 1864). It coincided with the Congress held by the Marxists in the same city, although theirs was a failure since only a small number of regional federations participated and the General Council could not attend due to lack of funds. On the other hand, the Anarchist Congress, inaugurated on September 1, was attended by delegates from Britain, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. A federation from the United States also announced its accession.[5]

Congress agreed to the dissolution of the General Council and it was proposed that the next Congress be held in Spain, but the Spanish delegate José García Viñas opposed it because he thought that within a year "Spain will be in full social revolution or in full reaction." Regarding the issues that were debated, he highlighted the general strike issue, with which, according to the proposal, "the revolutionary solidarity between the different localities and regions would be effective; understanding that the workers should be ready to go on strike to prevent the concentration of the forces of the bourgeoisie on the points or regions where a revolutionary movement would break out."[6] On this subject Congress agreed as follows:[7]

[Seen] the very serious inconveniences that the organization of a general strike has in itself, more than anything, due to the obstacles presented by the workers who, having not yet taken charge of their position [...] become instruments of the bourgeoisie, lacking the duty of solidarity with the other exploited [...] [it was decided] to recommend to the sections that they renounce as much as possible the partial strike [...] that they do so that the resistance movements [...] are by Federations ex officio, and that they seek to promote the organization for the struggle not only in the field of economic solidarity against capital, but also in the field of revolutionary solidarity against all kinds of exploitation [sic].

The Congresses of Brussels (1874), Bern (1876) and Verviers (1877)[edit]

The next two congresses were held in Brussels between September 7 and 13, 1874[8] and in Bern in October 1876. In the latter a proposal was debated to open the following congress to delegates from non-anarchist organizations, which was opposed by the representatives of the Italian and Spanish federations if the following principle was not accepted:[9] "The International is the only existing organization that truly represents popular socialism; therefore we believe that our Association should be represented in the socialist congress, not to merge into a new organization, but only to defend its principles and its means of action and try to attract the workers' organizations that have not yet entered its ranks." Once this was approved, a comprehensive Congress was convened to be held in September 1877 in Ghent, although shortly before that the Anarchist International would meet in Verviers.[10] Regarding the convocation of the comprehensive congress in Ghent from which "a new International could result," a clandestine Spanish anarchist newspaper warned that "such a thing would be tantamount to supposing that the congress, forgetting the lofty mission entrusted to it, would occupy itself with such perfectly superfluous things as how to claim the formation of a new International, since it exists, it has its magnificent organization and its circle is wide enough to accommodate all men of good will and all workers' organizations that aspire to the complete emancipation of the proletariat."[11]

The Congresses of Verviers and Ghent held between September 6 and 8, 1877, the first, and then the second, were the last of the Anarchist International since "they failed to obtain the attendance of many representatives of the workers' societies".[12] In Verviers, the radicalization of the anarchist movement was observed, increasingly inclined towards positions favorable to the use of violence under the influence of Russian populism and nihilism,[13] and which took shape in the approval of the policy of "propaganda of the deed".[14] Hence, the congress showed its "sympathy and solidarity" with the attacks in Saint Petersburg and with the Italian insurrection in Benevento.[12]

On the other hand, in the Congress of Verviers for the first time debate was raised between collectivist anarchism, the dominant doctrine until then in the anarchist movement - and which was based on the writings of Bakunin, who had died the previous year - and anarcho-communism defended by a new anarchist generation, including the Russian Peter Kropotkin, the Italian Errico Malatesta and the French Élisée Reclus. Thus, while the collectivists defended the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his work", anarcho-communists proposed the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". In the Congress it was agreed after an intense debate that each Regional Federation would decide which option to follow.[15] The Spanish Regional Federation, for example, remained faithful to collectivist anarchism, but anarcho-communism began to spread between certain federations and sections, especially in Andalusia.[16]

The Spanish anarchist Anselmo Lorenzo wrote years later:[17]

The International Workingmen's Association ceased to exist materially in the Congress of Verviers [...] It was so dead in fact [...] that the Spanish Federal Commission could not exchange a single letter with the entity in charge of the international office.


The Anarchist International lasted until 1877, while the Marxist International had already dissolved a year earlier. In July 1881, anarchists would initiate the International Working People's Association (IWPA), or "Black International", which remained active until the late 1880s. A further attempt to create a lasting international organization was made in Amsterdam in 1907 by an International Anarchist Congress, though this would have an even briefer life than the IWPA.

Contemporary anarchist internationals include the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers' Association (established 1922), the International of Anarchist Federations (est. 1968), and Black Bridge International (est. 2001). The project (est. 2005) is not an international, but provides a means of increasing cooperation between organisations in the platformist and especifismo traditions.

In August 2012, the International Anarchism Gathering took place in St. Imier, partly as a commemoration of the 1872 St. Imier congress.[18] Another is planned for 2023 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first St. Imier Congress.[19]


Other anarchist internationals and international networks[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Steklov, G.M., History of the First International, part 2, chapter 2.
  2. ^ Tuñón de Lara 1977, pp. 189–190
  3. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 167–168
  4. ^ Termes 1977, p. 168
  5. ^ Termes 1977, p. 236
  6. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 236–237
  7. ^ Termes 1977, p. 237
  8. ^ Termes 1977, p. 259
  9. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 268
  10. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 269
  11. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 269–270
  12. ^ a b Termes 1977, pp. 277
  13. ^ Lida 2010, p. 49
  14. ^ Termes 2011, pp. 70–71
  15. ^ Lida 2010, pp. 51–52
  16. ^ Lida 2010, pp. 54–55
  17. ^ Termes 1977, pp. 278
  18. ^ Comité d'organisation (24 January 2012). "Presentation". Rencontre Internationale de l'Anarchisme (in French). St. Imier. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Anarchy 2023 - St-Imier July 27-30 International Anti-Authoritarian Gathering". Retrieved 2022-04-19.


  • Lida, Clara E. (2010). "La Primera Internacional en España, entre la organización pública y la clandestinidad (1868-1889)". In Julián Casanova (ed.). Tierra y Libertad. Cien años de anarquismo en España (in Spanish). Barcelona: Crítica. pp. 33–59. ISBN 978-84-9892-119-9.
  • Termes, Josep (1977). Anarquismo y sindicalismo en España. La Primera Internacional (1864-1881) (in Spanish). Barcelona: Crítica. ISBN 84-7423-023-3.
  • Termes, Josep (2011). Historia del anarquismo en España (1870-1980) (in Spanish). Barcelona: RBA. ISBN 978-84-9006-017-9.
  • Tuñón de Lara, Manuel (1977) [1972]. El movimiento obrero en la historia de España. I.1832-1899 (in Spanish) (2 ed.). Barcelona: Laia. ISBN 84-7222-331-0.

External links[edit]