The Origins of the First International
“When on 28 September 1864, with the participation of English, French, German, Italian, Swiss and Polish delegates, the International Working Men’s Association (IWA) was founded in London’s St. Martin’s Hall, the total number of wage earners in the world did not exceed a few tens of millions, stabilising at below 5% of the total population of the time. They were mainly concentrated in Britain and France, besides smaller numbers in other countries of the Old Continent such as Germany and Italy. In the “New World” on the other shore of the Atlantic, the explosion of capitalism and big industry was still to come and only around 1890 would American wage earners reach 15 million. Not to mention Asia, at the time the seat of despotism and the land of “a hundred thousand villages”.
This was the size of our world class when Marx in the Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association, written the following month, launched his historic appeal «Proletarians of all countries, unite!».
Almost one hundred years later, in the mid-twentieth century, the numbers of the international proletariat verged on 300 million, out of a global population of about two and a half billion. There would be a billion wage earners around 1990 and a billion and a half in the first years of the last decade.
Today, the figure stands at about two billion and, together with their families, they now account for the majority of the human race.”
Éditions Science Marxiste - 10, rue Lavoisier - 93100 Montreuil
2014, 132 pages, paperback
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