The International After 150 Years

Labour Versus Capital, Then and Now
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New York–London: Routledge
2015
x + 231 pages

The International Workingmen’s Association was the prototype of all organizations of the Labor movement and the 150th anniversary of its birth (1864-2014) offers an important opportunity to rediscover its history and learn from its legacy.

The International helped workers to grasp that the emancipation of labour could not be won in a single country but was a global objective. It also 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 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 book reconsider the main issues broached or advanced by the International – such as labor rights, critiques of capitalism and the search for international solidarity – in light of present-day concerns. With the recent crisis of capitalism, that has sharpened more than before the division between capital and labor, the political legacy of the organization founded in London in 1864 has regained profound relevance, and its lessons are today more timely than ever.

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Reviews

Endorsements

"The International After 150 Years, edited by Comninel, Musto, and Wallis, although marking an important anniversary, could not have come at a better time. A century and a half after its birth, the lessons of the International Working Men’s Association are now once again directly relevant to the world in which we live. The global assault of capitalism on workers and popular movements everywhere demands the creation in response of a New International - one which, as Marcello Musto eloquently says in his chapter, "cannot evade that twin requirement" of the old International: 'it must be plural and it must be anti-capitalist'."
John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review
"This fine volume brings together leading scholars and movement activists in commemorating a turning point in the history of workers’ struggles. It strikes a fruitful balance between reflections on the labour movement’s past, and critical analysis of the present global situation."
Ellen Meiksins Wood, author of Democracy Against Capitalism
"As capital became more mobile and global in the late 20th century, labor was slow to catch up. Now, workers under siege throughout the world better understand the need for cross-border solidarity and coordinated action against common corporate adversaries. This timely collection examines the origins of socialist-inspired labor internationalism and some of the challenges facing union campaigners today in the global north and south. The First International after 150 Years provides insights and inspiration for activists and academics alike."
Steve Early, author of Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress
"This book is an especially timely and crucial reference now. Another global capitalist crisis, deepening inequalities of wealth and income, provokes again basic questions and challenges to capitalism. People need and increasingly want to learn (and build on) the critical lessons from the theories and practices of previous generations that sought to do better than capitalism. This book directly serves such needs and wants."
Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts

Table of contents

1. Introduction
Victor Wallis

2. On the History and Legacy of the First International
Marcello Musto

3. Documents from the International Workingmen's Association

4. Marx and the Politics of the First International
George C. Comninel

5. Capitalist Crisis, Cooperative Labor, and the Conquest of Political Power: Marx’s ‘Inaugural Address’ (1864) and its Relevance in the Current Moment
Michael Joseph Roberto

6. A Common Banner: Marxists and Anarchists in the First International
Michael Löwy

7. Race, Internationalism and Labor: Reflections upon the 150th Anniversary of the First International
Bill Fletcher, Jr.

8. The International Working Class in 1864 and Today
Ricardo Antunes

9. The Strength of Our Collective Voice: Views of Labor Leaders from around the World
Babak Amini

10. The German War on American Workers: Deutsche Telekom in the United States
Tony Daley

11. Barriers and Openings to a New Socialist Internationalism: South African Histories, Strategies and Narratives
Patrick Bond

12. Book Review: Marcello Musto, ed., Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later Reviewed by George C. Comninel