History and political legacy of the International Working Men’s Association

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The International Working Men’s Association was the prototype of all organizations of the Labor movement. It helped workers to grasp that the emancipation of labour could not be won in a single country but was a global objective. The International spread an awareness in their ranks that they had to achieve the goal themselves, through their own capacity for organization, rather than by delegating it to some other force. And it also promoted the idea that it was essential to overcome the capitalist system itself, since improvements within it, though necessary to pursue, would not eliminate exploitation and social injustice. This article reconsiders the main issues broached or advanced by the International–such as internationalism, labor rights, and the critique of capitalism–in light of present-day concerns. It also includes relevant information about structure and membership of the International, and presents an overview of the main theoretical debates, and discussions about political organization, that have agitated this organization throughout its intense history. With the recent crisis of capitalism, the political legacy of the organization founded in London in 1864 has regained profound relevance, and its lessons are today more timely than ever.




Musto, M. (2021). History and political legacy of the International Working Men’s Association. Labor History, 62(5–6), 801–813. https://doi.org/10.1080/0023656X.2021.2000593

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