The International Anarchist Congress
held at the Plancius Hall in Amsterdam, 26-31August 1907
Sixteenth session – Saturday 31 August – Morning session
Like the Wednesday afternoon session, this too is held in camera, as certain measures concerning the functions of the International Anarchist Bureau must be taken.
Comrade Lange, to whom the Congress is indebted for the good order which has reigned at most sessions, is relieved of his duties due to tiredness and his place is taken by Errico Malatesta.
Henry Beyle and Benoît Broutchoux propose that Congress adopt the following resolution:
"Congress notes that the (French) republican government acts against the workers in the same way as all governments have always done.
It sends its fraternal greetings to comrades Yvetot, Marck, Lévy, Bousquet, Torton, Lorulot, Berthet, Clémentine Delmotte, Gabrielle Petit, to the twelve anti-militarists currently in prison in Paris and to all comrades incarcerated in the republic's prisons.
Congress also sends its warmest greetings to all defenders of freedom being held in the fortresses of world capitalism.
It invites the International Bureau, as its first act, to organize the defence of and assistance for all our imprisoned friends."
The resolution is passed unanimously.
Discussion then immediately begins on the International Bureau. It is somewhat confused and a verbatim report would be difficult. Most of those in attendance participate in the debate, which goes on until midday.
It must be decided where to locate the Bureau. Some delegates initially propose Paris or Geneva, but these proposals, vigorously opposed by others, are abandoned. Brussels and Amsterdam have no greater success but agreement is made on London, an essentially international centre which is home to militants from all countries.
There remains to choose the five members of the Bureau. A list circulates featuring the names of Errico Malatesta (despite his protestations), Rudolf Rocker, Alexander Schapiro, John Turner (absent) and Jean Wilquet.
The five comrades are elected, Malatesta in the lead with 53 votes. Malatesta is Italian, Rocker and Wilquet are German, Schapiro is Russian and Turner is English.
At Malatesta's proposal, the Congress mandates the International Bureau to launch a campaign of agitation in every Western country in support of the Belgian comrade, Eduard Joris, who was sentenced to death by a Turkish court for his participation in an attempt on the life of the Sultan (21 July 1905).
Before the session ends, one delegate requests that the date of the next Congress be fixed and an exchange of views takes place. It is decided to hold another congress in two years' time and it is left to the International Bureau to fix the exact time and place, in agreement with the member federations and groups. The session ends at twelve thirty.
Seventeenth session – Saturday 31 August – Afternoon session
This final session of the Congress is geld in a room on the first floor. There are as many delegates as there were on the first day, if not more, but there is a general tiredness in the air, typical of the last day of any Congress. The agenda has not been completely dealt with and everyone agrees to finish as soon as possible. Emma Goldman is elected to the chair.
The first point on the agenda is "The complete education of the child". The speaker is Léon Clément from Paris, but in his absence comrade de Marmande takes on the task of outlining Clément's report. The proposal is to create a model school in every workers' centre, under the patronage of the revolutionary syndicates. Everyone agrees in approving such an idea and it is hoped that Léon Clément's report can be published and widely distributed, but no deliberations are made on them.
Owing to the lack of time, Pierre Ramus decides not to present his report on "Modern Literature and Anarchism", as does comrade Gerhart Rijnders, who was due to speak on "Anarchism and Religion". On the question of "Alcoholism", Prof. Van Rees presents a motion of ten points and agrees to integrate two additional points proposed by Émile Chapelier. The motion, however, is not put to the vote due to the opposition of almost every delegate to it.
The agenda then passes on to the topic of "Anarchism as life and as intellectual activity" (speakers E. Armand and Mauricius, from Paris). Both speakers, however, are absent and as no-one asks for the question to be dealt with, it is passed over.
On the question of production associations, one of the speakers, I.I. Samson, has already presented his report. The other, Émile Chapelier, follows the example of Ramus and Rijnders and forgoes his report. There is, however, a resolution on the matter, proposed by Samson. But in this case too the congress refuses to vote on it as the problem raised by Samson cannot be dealt with in a few minutes. There is no time to deal with the matter thoroughly and it is thought preferable to leave it until the next congress.
The final matter on the agenda is the question of "Esperanto", on which comrade Chapelier has prepared a lengthy report. But he limits himself to presenting a resolution, also signed by Malatesta and Rogdaev. The resolution is opposed by Amédée Dunois and Henri Fuss. After further discussion an alternative resolution is proposed and adopted.
Comrade Emma Goldman then declares the agenda to be completed and that Congress has therefore concluded its work. She then invites Errico Malatesta to say a few closing words. Malatesta rises, and in a loud, penetrating voice makes the following speech:
MALATESTA: Comrades, our Congress is over. The bourgeois papers of all colours had announced that this first International Congress would take place in turmoil, confusion and incoherence. Even some comrades had predicted greater discord among our ranks.
But the facts have given lie to all these prophets. Despite insufficient material preparation, due only to our poverty, despite the difficulty for delegates of such different languages and origins to understand each other, this Congress has succeeded in the best possible way. Not only has it completely confounded the malignant hopes of all our enemies, I can say that it has outdone even the most optimistic hopes of its supporters.
Instead of provoking a split in the anarchist camp, it has cleared the path towards a fruitful union. It has exhorted comrades, who until today had been struggling in isolation, to help each other irrespective of borders so that we can march towards our future together. Undoubtedly there have been some manifestations of disagreement among us, but these have only concerned secondary questions. We all agree on the essential points.
And could it have been otherwise? Do we not all want with the same passion the liberation of humanity, the total destruction of Capitalism and the State, the Social Revolution?
Our first Congress will have its fruit if all those here today, once they return home, concentrate more on what is to be done rather than on what has been done; if we return to our activity of propaganda and organization with the maximum possible confidence and energy. To work, comrades!
A round of applause greets these vibrant words. Enthusiasm is at its greatest. The faces of all are lit with joy. A comrade then sings the Internationale:
"Debout, les damnés de la terre!
Debout, les forçats de la faim!"
All sing. The French revolutionary anthem has truly conquered everyone. Wherever men, anarchists or socialist, fight against social injustice and dream of the liberation of humanity, the Internationale has become the refrain of war that rings out during strikes, rallies and congresses.
It is over. The hall gradually empties. Handshakes, goodbyes, or rather au revoirs, given that most of the participants are not leaving Amsterdam until the next day, though some do have to catch the evening or night train.
At nine o'clock the last meeting takes place in the large hall on the first floor of the Plancius. The hall throngs with a large public, which is extraordinarily attentive and calm as only a Dutch public can be. Cornelissen, Broutchoux, Monatte, Ramus, Chapelier, Samson, Munžič, Sepp Örter, Fraböse and Ludwig take it in turns to speak. The same idea runs throughout all their speeches: the idea that the Amsterdam Congress will leave a lasting impression on the revolutionary world and that international anarchism will be more mature and stronger as a result.
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