Bradlaugh contra Marx: radicalism vs socialism in the First International

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[pdf 700 800]A talk by Deborah Lavin

Saturday 30 April 2011, 6.00pm

Saklatvala Hall, Southall

Dominion Road, off Featherstone Road, UB2 5AA

Marx’s battles in the First International with the Mazzinistas and the Bakunistas are well documented and discussed, but Marx’s struggles with British radicals have had little attention from historians.

Yet from the first within the London-based General Council of the IWMA, there was a fierce struggle fought between Marx and his followers and the ‘moderate’ class collaborationists (most of them trade union leaders), who essentially were just calling on capitalists to be kinder to the working class.

Charles Bradlaugh, famous ‘radical’ in his own day, has disappeared from history, and as he was never a member of the General Council, he has proved easy to overlook. Yet through his friends and followers, Bradlaugh was a prime mover in this opposition to Marx.

Their conflict came to a head over the Paris Commune when, after the publication of Marx’s ‘Third address on the Civil War in France’, Bradlaugh used his own weekly paper and the public platform to engage in a vitriolic personal campaign against Marx.

The story is interesting in itself, but is also instructive, as the battle between ‘moderate’ reformers and Marxists is still being fought – and has yet to be won.