In the summer of 1870, despite the imprisonment or forced exile of many of the most outstanding militants of the International in France, the Paris Sections continued to organize French workers in order to achieve the “Social Revolution,” a phrase coined by Proudhon, and adopted by Bakunin, to distinguish a socialist revolution, which transforms social and economic relationships by abolishing capitalism and the state, replacing them with a federation of workers’ associations and free communes, from the political revolutions of the past, which resulted in the substitution of one ruling class for another.
The ascendancy of these ideas of social liberation within the French sections of the International is demonstrated by the following excerpts from pamphlets published by Paris sections of the International around the summer of 1870. The Paris sections took to heart the admonition in the Preamble to the Statutes of the International that “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves” (Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 19). They sought to abolish classes and to establish a libertarian socialism “based upon equality and justice,” the “mutualist organization” of society that Proudhon had long advocated. For the majority of Parisian Internationalists, this was “the Social Revolution.”
The International and the Social Revolution
All sincere socialists have a common aim: to secure the highest possible well-being for all human beings through an equitable distribution of labour and of all it produces.
However, they are far from agreeing on the means for attaining this objective.
Thanks to its organization and congresses, the socialism of the International is not like the older forms, that is, solely the result of the thinking of a few individuals. It is above all the synthesis of the aspirations of the proletariat of the entire world, and represents the considered expression of the will of organized workers.
It is this kind of socialism that has given rise to the only serious battle of the moment, namely, international resistance to the tyranny of capital. The ultimate result of this struggle will be the establishment of a new social order: the elimination of classes, the abolition of employers and of the proletariat, the establishment of universal co-operation based upon equality and justice.
It is this kind of socialism that has struck a mortal blow at the old principle of private property, whose existence will not last beyond the first day of the coming revolution…
Hence it is necessary, citizens, to eliminate wage labour, the last form of servitude.
The distribution of what is produced by labour, based upon the principles of the value of the work and a mutualist organization of services, will realize the principles of justice in social relationships…
Social and political emancipation depend upon achieving the united action of the workers.
Has it not always been evident that the art of governing peoples has been the art of exploiting them?
…Following the example of our fathers, who made the Revolution of ‘89, we must accomplish the Democratic and Social Revolution.
Château-Rouge section (Paris) of the International