Most Marxists and Anarchists are aware of the historical tensions which led to the collapse of the First International at the Hague Congress in 1872, there is however a very interesting story behind the schism.
In August 1872, Marx was aware of the tensions that were emerging between groupings in the First International and of the contributions that he had made to the schism. Fearing that fictitious splits may become a real one, he sent a telegram to Bakunin
WE MUST SORT THIS OUT STOP REVOLUTION WILL NOT HAPPEN IF WE DONT UNITE STOP THE RED AND BLACK MUST STICK TOGETHER STOP
YOU ARE RIGHT STOP POP IN NEXT TIME YOU GET THE CHANCE STOP WE CAN DISCUSS IT OVER A CUP OF TEA STOP
Marx was delighted to get this response, he was sure that Bakunin had completely misunderstood the general thrust of his works and that he would entirely understand his concerns if they could only meet face to face. In a fit of excitement he rushed round to Engels to borrow the money for a ticket to Zurich. Engels, indulgent but weary, handed over the cash.
Marx traveled to Zurich, his quivering excitement never lessening in the knowledge that it would be matched by the trembling of the crowned heads, wealth and privilege should they find out about this tea party. At long last he arrived exhausted and parched on Bakunin’s doorstep.
“Come in, come in, my comrade”, said Bakunin as answered the door. “Have a seat, take the weight off your weary legs and let me make some tea.”
Marx gratefully plumped himself on the nearest chair.
“Now, about all this nonsense about there being no need to take over the state but to establish a communist society straight away, you must agree my dear comrade, Bakunin, that although you and I may not see eye to eye over certain issues it is imperative that we keep the force of radical change together. I was perhaps a little hasty at the start of the year to criticize you so harshly”
Bakunin keeping one eye on the stove for the kettle as it boiled, replied thoughtfully “Well it was quite hurtful to be described as secretive and I deny the egotism which you accuse me of, but I quite agree. There is little to differentiate between us in our end goals, although I suspect that your approach may not turn out as you would like, this withering away is rather naïvely optimistic, but I am sure a compromise can be reached”
They talked long into the night…about state power, about the transitional society, about revolution and about the glorious society that they would build. The long forgotten kettle whistled away on the stove until it ran dry.
Bakunin refilled the kettle and while they waited for the kettle to boil they shared anecdotes of shared struggles, shared dreams and shared futures. The kettle boiled once more, and Bakunin arose to make the tea.
He handed the steaming cup to Marx and settled down in his chair. Marx took a large gulp then spat it out all over floor “What is this stuff? Did you bring me here to poison me?”
“Its nettle tea”, replied Bakunin, “Delicious”.
“Nettle. Tea.” said Marx “What in hell’s name is wrong with Tetley, are you not proud of the workers and their flat caps? Why can’t you have proper tea?”
Bakunin stared in horror
“Proper tea is theft!“, he exclaimed.
“Bloody Proudhonist”, yelled Marx grabbing his coat. “That the trouble with you anarchists – with your herbal tea and your lifestyle politics. You’re out of the International Workingmens Association, you mark my words. If it were up to you lot we would all be drinking soya milk”
Marx returned to London in a fury and the rest is history.