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This article explores the ideas of a key thinker of the International Working Men's Association in the 1860s and 1870s. César De Paepe, recognized by contemporaries as a major advocate of “collectivism,” attempted to justify social property as the logical consequence both of mutualist justice and of economic necessity. His theories played a significant role in informing the programs of other socialists in the turbulent 1870s, and sustained the successes of the Belgian workers’ party into the twentieth century. While historians focus on Marx and Bakunin or posit a break between “early” and “late” socialism, the study of De Paepe's writings in context draws attention to neglected themes in the intellectual development of modern socialism, and suggests that “utopianism” could underwrite practical politics. The article concludes by reflecting on De Paepe's significance for contemporary politics and the practice of intellectual history.



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The author thanks Aditya Balasubramanian, Jocelyn Betts, Joshua Gibson, Thomas Hopkins, Charlotte Johann, Christopher Meckstroth, Philip Nord, Emma Rothschild, and the journal editors and anonymous reviewers for their criticisms.



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1 Jones, Gareth Stedman, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (London, 2016), 462. The date of the International's death is disputed, as the organization split in two in 1872. A writer who cannot be accused of indulging the so-called “anarchists” justifies their later date of 1877 because the Continental (as opposed to American) rump was larger and lasted longer. See Stekloff, G. M., History of the First International, 3rd edn, trans. Eden, and Paul, Cedar (London, 1928). The “First” International, a group of artisans, labor leaders, and journalists committed to the fraternity of workers, would be followed by a “Second” of social-democratic parties (estd 1889), a “Third” of communist parties (estd 1919), and a forgettable “Fourth” of Trotskyists (estd 1938).

2 The best introduction to the International's ideas remains Cole, G. D. H., A History of Socialist Thought, 5 vols. (London, 1953–61), 2 : chaps. 6, 8.

3 Kropotkin, Peter, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, ed. Walter, Nicolas (Mineola, 1999), 272 .

4 Musto, Marcello, “Introduction,” in Musto, ed., Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later (New York, 2014), 1–68, at 66.

5 See Stafford, David, From Anarchism to Reformism: A Study of the Political Activities of Paul Brousse 1870–1890 (Toronto, 1971); Haupt, Georges, “Marx and Marxism,” in Hobsbawm, Eric J., ed., Marxism in Marx's Day (Brighton, 1982), 265–89.

6 Quoted in Stedman Jones, Karl Marx, 461.

7 Marc Vuilleumier, introduction to Guillaume, James, L'Internationale: Documents et souvenirs (1905–10), 4 vols. in 2 (Paris, 1985), 1(1): i–lvii, at ii, added emphasis.

8 Musto, exceptionally, tries to foreground workers’ voices. But his anthology focuses on Marx in its epigraphs, introduction, and selection of texts. Marx's role in the International, while significant, is easy to exaggerate—he did not found the organization, lead it, or attend many congresses—and his writings were little known among delegates. See Archer, Julian P. W., The First International in France 1864–1872: Its Origins, Theories, and Impact (Lanham, 1997), 25, 50 n. 17, 76 n. 6, 100, 109 n. 87, 134 n. 51, 169; Eric J. Hobsbawm, “The Fortunes of Marx's and Engels's Writings,” in Hobsbawm, Marxism, 327–44.

9 “Collectivism” appears to have acquired currency and entered lexicons at this time. The reader may (with appropriate skepticism) investigate French collectivisme, German Kollektivismus, Spanish colectivismo, or Italian collettivismo on Google Ngram. Likely coined by Pecqueur in the 1830s, the term figured in Colins's writings, whence De Paepe took it (more on this below). See Angenot, Marc, Colins et le socialisme rationnel (Montreal, 1999).

10 Freymond, Jacques, ed., La Première Internationale: Recueil de documents, 4 vols. (Geneva, 1962–71), 1 : 405. For the various resolutions and votes see ibid., 1: 233, 1: 405–6, 2: 74–5.

11 Community of property (in land or capital, for moral or economic reasons) is an old idea that many nineteenth-century political agents found acceptable in some form. Long before socialists joined parliaments or cabinets, statesmen placed infrastructure and enterprises (rails, canals, banks, armaments) under state ownership or management. See e.g. Pravilova, Ekaterina, A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia (Princeton, 2014). Until c.1848, most socialists referred to cooperatives, small-scale communities, or a vague “society” exercising ownership, rather than a “state.” For background see Claeys, Gregory, “Non-Marxian Socialism 1815–1914,” in Jones, Gareth Stedman and Claeys, Gregory, eds., The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge, 2011), 521–55.

12 Guéroult, Georges, Les théories de l'Internationale (Paris, 1872), 28; Mémoire présenté par la Fédération jurassienne de l'Association internationale des travailleurs à toutes les fédérations de l'Internationale (Sonvillier, 1873), 9; Perthuis, Gustave, “Société républicaine d'économie sociale,” La revue socialiste (Paris) 5/28 (1887), 377–81, at 381; Benoît Malon, “Le Congrès d'Erfurt,” La revue socialiste 14/83 (1891), 562–83, at 570 n. 1; Edmond Villey, “Les transformations de l'idée socialiste,” Revue d'économie politique (Paris) 9/6 (1895), 548–64, at 555; Charles Gide, “Chronique,” Revue d'économie politique 5/1 (1891), 85–93, at 88; Malon, “Les collectivistes français,” La revue socialiste 5/28 (1887), 306–27, at 310 (all translations are mine). The authoritative scholars Collins, Henry and Abramsky, Chimen, Karl Marx and the British Labour Movement: Years of the First International (London, 1965), 108 , called De Paepe “next to Marx the most outstandingly original thinker in the International.”

13 De Man, Hendrik, “Die Eigenart der belgischen Arbeiterbewegung,” in De Man, Hendrik and De Brouckère, Louis, Die Arbeiterbewegung in Belgien, supplement to Die Neue Zeit, vol. 9 (Stuttgart, 1910–11), 128, at 26.

14 This is partly true even of the most sensitive and sophisticated research. Dandois's meticulous 1974 collection ignores that De Paepe was little influenced by Marx and probably not at all by Bakunin. Peiren's well-rounded 1990 biography also clouds the issue by its framing: in his final years, De Paepe was still “utopian.” A recent article ably summarizes De Paepe's 1874 Rapport but interprets it in French terms, understating its author's ambitions. See Dandois, Bernard, ed., Entre Marx et Bakounine: César De Paepe (Paris, 1974); Peiren, Luc, César De Paepe: De l'utopie à la réalité (Ghent, 1990); Droin, Nathalie, “Aux origines du socialisme municipal: César de Paepe,” Revue française d'histoire des idées politiques 42 (2015), 167–98.

15 That collectivism bested mutualism is perhaps the major misinterpretation about the International's ideas. It can be found in works from Puech, Jules-Louis, Le Proudhonisme dans l'Association internationale des travailleurs (Paris, 1907) to Musto's 2014 anthology.

16 De Paepe to Malon, 8 Dec. 1878, in Dandois, De Paepe, 129–38, at 135, original emphasis.

17 For background see Peiren, De Paepe.

18 Skinner, Quentin, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas,” History and Theory 8/1 (1969), 353, at 16.

19 De Paepe, César, De l'organisation des services publics dans la société future: Réponse aux critiques (Brussels, 1874), 40.

20 De Paepe's papers are housed at the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (Amsterdam). Most of his writings are articles in workers’ newspapers, not books and manuscripts. (Note that he wrote almost entirely in French.) For partial bibliographies, see Bertrand, Louis, César De Paepe: Sa vie, son oeuvre (Brussels, 1909), 228–31; Dandois, De Paepe, 291–4; Delsinne, L., “Paepe, César De,” in Biographie nationale de Belgique, vol. 30 (Brussels, 1958), 647–53, at 653.

21 The following overview is informed by Kossman, E. H., The Low Countries 1780–1940 (Oxford, 1978); Devreese, Daisy, “Belgium,” in Linden, Marcel van der and Rojan, Jürgen, eds., The Formation of Labour Movements 1870–1914, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1990), 2: 25–55; Strikwerda, Carl, A House Divided: Catholics, Socialists, and Flemish Nationalists in Nineteenth-Century Belgium (Oxford, 1997); Berend, Ivan, An Economic History of Nineteenth-Century Europe: Diversity and Industrialization (Cambridge, 2013). On the Congo see Hochschild, Adam, King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (Boston, 1998).

22 Eichhoff, Wilhelm and Marx, Karl, The International Working Men's Association (1868), in Marx–Engels Collected Works (hereafter MECW), 50 vols. (London, 1975–2004), 21: 322–80, at 353; Karl Marx, “The Belgian Massacres” (1869), in ibid., 21: 47–51, at 47.

23 The 1831 Constitution made Belgium “the most democratically governed state in Europe,” with a franchise wide for the time of 46,000 men. Kossman, The Low Countries, 157. Further gains were limited. Though the franchise was expanded nationally in 1848 (to 76,000) and at the municipal level in 1871 (to 300,000), and in 1883 (to 500,000, some of whom held primary education certificates or passed examinations), in 1892 only about 4 percent of men could vote in national elections. See ibid., chaps. 4, 6; Devreese, “Belgium,” 26.

24 Devreese, “Belgium,” 33.

25 The suffrage reform of 1893 gave plural electors as many as three votes in national elections, whereas 1895 reforms gave them up to four in municipal elections. This ensured the dominance of the Catholics until postwar reforms. See ibid., 26.

26 Saint-Simon, Henri, Selected Writings on Science, Industry, and Social Organization, ed. Taylor, Keith (London, 1975), 158, 210, 165, 210.

27 Colins defended direct inheritance (including intestate) as a spur to parents’ diligence, and advised a tax of 25 percent on all other testaments, making his proposals more modest than the Saint-Simonians’. Angenot, Colins, 121. On Colins and his followers (such as De Potter père and De Potter fils) see Rens, Ivo and Ossipow, William, Histoire d'un autre socialisme (Neuchâtel, 1979). On De Paepe's Colinsianism and his relationship with the De Potters see Dandois, De Paepe, passim.

28 See Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, What Is Property?, trans. Tucker, Benjamin (Princeton, 1876).

29 See e.g. Sperber, Jonathan, The European Revolutions, 1848–1851, 2nd edn (Cambridge, 2005).

30 Mill, John Stuart, Principles of Political Economy (1848), in Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. Robson, J. M., 33 vols. (Toronto, 1963–91), vols. 2–3, at 3: 714, 3: 896.

31 Mill, Chapters on Socialism (1879), in Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, 5: 703–56, at 707-8.

32 De Paepe, César, “Questions sociales,” La rive gauche 2/30 (1865), 3–4, at 4; De Paepe, Discours prononcé à Patignies (Namur) en 1863 (Brussels, 1898), 51. See De Paepe, “Questions,” La rive gauche 2/27 (1865), 3–4, 2/29 (1865), 2–3, 2/30 (1865), 3–4, 2/31 (1865), 3–4, 2/32 (1865), 2–4, 2/34 (1865), 3–4, 2/35 (1865), 3–4, 2/36 (1865), 2–3, 2/37 (1865), 3–4, 2/39 (1865), 2, 2/40 (1865), 1, 2/43 (1865), 3, 2/44 (1865), 2, 2/45 (1865), 2–3, 3/16 (1866), 2–3, 3/17 (1866), 2–3, 3/18 (1866), 3–4, 3/19 (1866), 2–3, 3/20 (1866), 3–4; see also De Paepe, “Polémique au subjet des associations,” La tribune du peuple (Brussels) 2/35 (1863), 3–4, 2/36 (1863), 3–4, 2/37 (1863), 2, 3/39 (1864), 2, 3/40 (1864), 3–4, 3/41 (1864), 2–3, 3/42 (1864), 2–4.

33 John Stuart Mill, Autobiography (1873), in Collected Works, 1: 1–290, at 240. De Paepe cited Mill's formula in his own proposals. See De Paepe, César, Manifeste et programme électoral (Brussels, 1884), 27.

34 Freymond, L'Internationale, 1: 372, 1: 128.

35 Ibid., 1: 129; Proudhon, What Is Property?, 109; Freymond, L'Internationale, 1: 129, 1: 366. See ibid., 2: 82. Edward Castleton, “The Origins of ‘Collectivism’: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's Contested Legacy and the Debate about Property in the International Workingmen's Association and the League of Peace and Freedom,” Global Intellectual History 2/2 (2017), 169–95, offers a meticulous study of Proudhon's influence on the International and “collectivism.” His argument and method are complementary to but distinct from my own: I emphasize De Paepe's independent reformulation and promotion of others' ideas, including those of Colins, rather than the deceased Proudhon's influence.

36 Summarized here, De Paepe's journalistic defense of collectivisme in late 1869 can be found in César De Paepe, “Réponse à La Liberté du 17 octobre 1869 par un collectiviste de l’Internationale,” La Liberté (Brussels) 3/123 (1869), 2–3, 3/124 (1869), 3, 3/125 (1869), 3, 3/126 (1869), 2–3, 3/127 (1869), 2–3, 3/128 (1869), 3, 3/129 (1869), 3; and in De Paepe, “Polémique collectiviste,” in De Paepe, Les services publics, ed. Benoît Malon, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1895), 1: 103–35.

37 Freymond, L'Internationale, 2: 83.

38 Ibid., 1: 401.

39 Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Robinson, John Beverly (New York, 1969), 201 (cf. Proudhon, What Is Property?, 108); César De Paepe, “Réponse,” La Liberté 3/127 (1869), 2–3, at 3.

40 Freymond, L'Internationale, 1: 368, 1: 372, 1: 374.

41 Ibid., 1: 399, original emphasis. Compare with the views of Tolain and Longuet, in ibid., 1: 394–5, and of Proudhon, What Is Property?, 133, 285 n. 1; Proudhon, General Idea, 216–17.

42 Freymond, L'Internationale, 1: 373, 367.

43 Ibid., 1: 399, 1: 372, 1: 377.

44 Ibid., 2: 64, 2: 66, 2: 68, 2: 73, 1: 153–4. See Mémoire, 13–16.

45 Freymond, L'Internationale, 2: 84; De Paepe, “Polémique collectiviste,” 116, original emphasis. See Freymond, L'Internationale, 2: 104, 2: 108.

46 De Paepe, César, “Questions sociales,” La rive gauche 2/30 (1865), 34 , at 4. See Paepe, De, “Lettre au journal le Nord ,” La rive gauche 2/25 (1865), 4.

47 Freymond, L'Internationale, 2: 104, 2: 80, 2: 106; see also 1: 129, 1: 153, 1: 284–5, 2: 85–6.

48 De Paepe to Malon, 9 June 1889, in Dandois, De Paepe, 171–6, at 174.

49 For background see e.g. Cahm, Caroline, Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism 1872–1886 (Cambridge, 1989), chaps. 16.

50 The pamphlet was among the most sophisticated texts of the International. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought, 3: 617, would call it “a serious attempt to formulate a plan of organization resting on the two principles of functionalism and decentralisation.” A Russian reprint was found in Lenin's library. See Freymond, L'Internationale, 4: 653–4 n. 435, n. 437; Dandois, De Paepe, 35–6, 97 n. 76.

51 Freymond, L'Internationale, 2: 104.

52 See De Paepe, Des services publics, esp. 9–13.

53 Ibid., 16, 72.

54 Freymond, L'Internationale, 4: 473.

55 De Paepe, Des services publics, 23–4.

56 Freymond, L'Internationale, 4: 478.

57 De Paepe to Malon, 4 Nov. 1880, in Dandois, De Paepe, 151–3, at 152.

58 Guillaume, L'Internationale, 2(3): 223, added emphasis.

59 Schwitzguébel, Adhémar, Quelques écrits (Paris, 1908), 123 ; Proudhon, General Idea, 205; Schwitzguébel, Quelques écrits, 122.

60 Guillaume, L'Internationale, 1(1): 74, added emphasis. Not only “anarchists” attributed collectivism to Bakunin. An initial volume of Larousse's Dictionnaire stated that Bakunin originated the term in his 1868 speech. For his part, the embittered Parisian engraver Fribourg denounced the “Russo-German collectivism” of the late 1860s, an enduring interpretation. Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle de Pierre Larousse, 17 vols. (Paris, 1866–79), 16: suppl. 1, 556; Fribourg, E. E., L'Association internationale des travailleurs (Paris, 1871), 140. It was Malon who in 1878 noticed that Bakunin's speech implicitly referred to De Paepe's collectivism, itself a concept developed among earlier socialists (such as Colins). See Malon, “Réponse à M. Limousin sur le Collectivisme,” Le socialisme progressif 1/6 (1878), 105–8, esp. 107.

61 Bulletin de la Fédération jurassienne de l'Association internationale des travailleurs (Le Locle) 3/38 (1874), 2–4, at 3. See Guillaume, James, Idées sur l'organisation sociale (Chaux-de-Fonds, 1876). Guillaume might later have regretted his metaphor. Assuming (according to some contemporary definitions) that a circle was a polygon with an infinite number of sides, De Paepe's incremental view—that the circular “state” could be shorn of its coercive sides over time and still called a polygon—was correct. See Guillaume, L'Internationale, 2(3): 231 n. 3; Freymond, L'Internationale, 4: 473–8.

62 Nettlau, Max, Bibliographie de l'anarchie (Geneva, 1978), 54. Guillaume framed the history of the International and of collectivism in “antiauthoritarian” terms in his Le collectivisme de l'Internationale (Chaux-de-Fonds, 1904) besides in his 4-volume memoir.

63 Brousse, Paul, La propriété collective et les services publics (Paris, 1910), 35 ; quoted in Adrien Veber, “Mouvement social en France et à l'étranger,” La revue socialiste 13/73 (1891), 91–113, at 111. See Bertrand, Louis, Qu'est-ce que le socialisme? (Brussels, 1887).

64 Friedrich Engels to Wilhelm Liebknecht, 18 Jan. 1872, in MECW, 44: 296–9, at 296; Engels to Theodor Cuno, 5 July 1872, in ibid., 44: 407–9, at 407; Marx to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, 27 Sept. 1877, in ibid., 45: 275–9, at 277; Engels to Eduard Bernstein, 25 Oct. 1881, in ibid., 46: 144–51, at 146; quoted in Lichtheim, George, Marxism: An Historical and Critical Study (New York, 1964), 279.

65 Deville, Gabriel, Le Capital de Karl Marx (Paris, 1897), 10 ; Guesde, Jules, Services publics et le socialisme (Paris, 1884), 3, original emphasis; Lafargue, Paul, Le socialisme et la conquête des pouvoirs publics (Lille, 1899), 32.

66 On Ghent see Stekloff, The First International, chap. 11.

67 See e.g. Steven Vincent, K., Between Marxism and Anarchism: Benoît Malon and French Reformist Socialism (Berkeley, 1992), 1920.

68 Not a single peasant attended the Congresses of the International. Archer, The International in France, 101.

69 Tuchman, Barbara W., The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World before the War, 1890–1914 (New York, 1966), 466 ; Landauer, Carl, European Socialism: A History of Ideas and Movements, 2 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1959), 1: 469. See Strikwerda, A House Divided, esp. 109–11; De Paepe, César, Manifeste et programme electoral: Élections législatives du 10 Juin 1884 (Brussels, 1884).

70 De Paepe, Manifeste, 27, 23; César De Paepe, “Le communisme relatif,” La revue socialiste 11/65 (1890), 547–53, at 552; De Paepe to Malon, 15 March 1889, in Dandois, De Paepe, 169–71, at 170, original emphasis. His 1890 defense of universal suffrage, e.g., was titled with a nod to Proudhon's 1865 classic. It stressed the need for minority rights, accepted the partial validity of critiques of suffrage, and anticipated the universal recognition of social laws in a post-political future. See De Paepe, Le suffrage universel et la capacité de la classe ouvrière: Appel aux travailleurs belges à l'occasion de la Manifestation du 10 Août (Ghent, 1890). See also De Paepe, “Le Parti ouvrier belge aux dernières élections,” La revue socialiste 6/36 (1887), 561–6; De Paepe, “Silhouette d'une société collectiviste,” La revue socialiste 8/46 (1888), 383–91; De Paepe, “Le communisme relatif”; and see “Programme du Parti ouvrier belge,” in Destrée, Jules and Vandervelde, Emile, Le socialisme en Belgique (Paris, 1903), 421–30.

71 De Man, “Die Eigenart,” 26; Tudor, H. and Tudor, J. M., Marxism and Social Democracy: The Revisionist Debate 1896–1898 (Cambridge, 1988), 37. De Paepe's successor, Vandervelde, and the POB/BWP were effective mediators between Marxian orthodoxy and revisionism, earning support at home and respect abroad whatever their presumed theoretical confusion. See Polasky, Janet, The Democratic Socialism of Emile Vandervelde: Between Reform and Revolution (Oxford, 1995).

72 For an analogous argument about the radical origins of supposedly lackluster republicanism see Nord, Philip, The Republic Moment: Struggles for Democracy in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge, 1995).

73 Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Writings on the Paris Commune, ed. Draper, Hal (London, 1971), 16 ; Marx and Engels, “Preface to the German Edition of 1872,” in Marx and Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party, ed. Gareth Stedman Jones (London, 2002), 193–4, at 194; Marx to Domela Nieuwenhuis, 22 Feb. 1881, in MECW, 46: 65–7, at 67. See Stedman Jones, Karl Marx, chaps. 7–9, 11–12.

74 Marx, “Postface to the Second [German] Edition” (1873), in Capital, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (London, 1990), 94–103, at 99; “Programme of the Social Democratic Party of Germany,” in Russell, Bertrand, German Social Democracy (London, 1896), 137–41, at 138; Kautsky, Karl, The Class Struggle (Erfurt Program), trans. Bohn, William E. (Chicago, 1910), 110 . See Sassoon, Donald, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The Western European Left in the Twentieth Century (London, 1996), 20.

75 “Programme du Parti ouvrier belge,” 421. My comparison between the SPD and POB/BWP is indebted to that of Cole, A History of Socialist Thought, 2: chap. 15.

76 Williams, David C., “Civic Constitutionalism, the Second Amendment, and the Right of Revolution,” Indiana Law Journal 79/2 (2004), 379–92, at 391. See Dunn, John, “Property, justice and common good after socialism,” in Dunn, The History of Political Thought and Other Essays (Cambridge, 1995), 121–35; Dunn, ed., The Economic Limits to Modern Politics (Cambridge, 1990).

* The author thanks Aditya Balasubramanian, Jocelyn Betts, Joshua Gibson, Thomas Hopkins, Charlotte Johann, Christopher Meckstroth, Philip Nord, Emma Rothschild, and the journal editors and anonymous reviewers for their criticisms.

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Modern Intellectual History
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