Remaking Socialism: From Socialism's Collapse in 1914 to the Foundation of the Communist International in March 1919

Submitted by dalcassian on 9 September, 2013 - 2:52
red flag


On 4 August, 1914, the Workers' International breathed its last, and that watchword of socialism "Death to militarism", which should have rung out clear and strong above the tumult of mobilisation and the clash of arms, was unheard by the peoples of the world. No doubt this cry of revolt from a workers' movement animated by a true solidarity of the exploited against their task masters would have been promptly stifled by the death-dealing implements of war, and by the weight of censorship and martial law, but ere its defeat it would have awakened the consciences of thousands, who, in their turn, would have awakened thousands more.

Thus the opposition of the workers to militarism would have swiftly followed on the declaration of war, instead of supervening years later, and the governing classes would have had to reckon from the start with an opposing force to whose ranks every additional day of warfare would have brought fresh recruits, until they assumed revolutionary strength. But, instead of this, the International remained silent.

The International, that is to say its executive and its representatives rather than its component sections, has never, unto this day, refuted the shameful conduct to which its members had to submit. The men who were pledged to denounce capitalism and all its crimes suddenly forgot their sacred trust. They gleaned from the columns of the capitalist press reasons, which, in their minds, would exonerate them from blame in becoming traitors to their cause, by exchanging their sense of human solidarity for "patriotism". They forsook their socialist credo "Proletarians of the world unite!", endeavouring to make others forsake it also, commanding their victims: "Proletarians destroy one another!"

In Austria, Pan-Serbianism served as an excuse. In Russia they advertised the need of helping Serbia. In Germany they denounced the Cossack menace. In France they made much of the threatening Prussian militarist caste. In England they appealed for aid for stricken Belgium. In all countries they voiced loudly such catchwords as: "right", "liberty", and "civilisation". Everywhere "national defence" was a commanding reason for men to shoulder the burden of war, to obey the ruling classes, to suffer and to die for their country.

The "leaders" of European socialism, such as Jules Guesde, Hyndman, Plekhanov, Victor Adler, Scheideman, Vandervelde, who had taught us the principles of the class struggle and of the solidarity of class, soon found bonds which would link together the exploiters and exploited of the same country, and the interests common to both masters and slaves. Thus did the masses become identified with the "nation".

Thus was the proletariat won over to crime in order to safeguard the interests of an oligarchy which socialism has ever denounced as a robber and a usurper. And yet these "leaders" of the International were in no way unaware that war, under whatever pretext it may be fought, was but the result of the imperial politics of all the ruling castes in Europe. They well knew that the happenings of the week previous to August 4, 1914, were of only secondary importance, they were but the immediate provocation and not the causes of the war. Had these "leaders" not taught us themselves to discern the deep and tremendous reasons which make the capitalist management of the world nothing less than a war-generating machine? Is not modern warfare but the violent interpretation of rival interests and economic jealousies which modern capitalist society has split into opposing camps?

Up to the eve of war the words "general strike" and "direct action" were for them the supreme interpretation of the popular desire for peace. "Not an ounce of our flesh, not a drop of our blood, not a man, not a cent will we yield you," said they, not deeming the causes of conflict worthy of the life either of a French infantryman or of a German grenadier. And those who did not believe in the efficacy of a general strike, said to the masses: "Shoulder your gun, but turn it against your exploiters."

Suddenly the socialist creed completely changed its colour. Within 24 hours it was identifying itself with "national duty" and its words of command were directly opposed to those tenets with which we were all so familiar. They exacted allegiance to the war from all socialists, even insisting on their becoming combatants. They forbade any "disturbance" whether at the front or in the rear, meaning thereby either agitation or revolt. Opposed to militarism as the workers were in times of peace, yet had they to submit to it during the war.

Such was the attitude suggested by the behaviour of the "leaders" of the International. But this treachery was not the result of the weakness of a day, but was unavoidable owing to the previous policy of those forever disqualified "leaders", whose shameful conduct we have already hinted at and mean to discuss later. The confusion caused by the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, might have excused a temporary slackening of their beliefs, for which we should not have blamed them unduly, had they subsequently repudiated their action and repaired some of the damage they had caused. But instead they wished to justify themselves in their sudden change of camp, and out of their error even founded a new political creed, which amounted to nothing less than perfidious treachery to their old flag.

In collaborating with the bourgeoisie, in sharing the responsibilities of the capitalist policy of the war, in becoming members of the "Sacred Union", in accepting the aims of imperialism, in resisting every hint of proletarian revolution other than in the "enemy countries", in all these ways have they done more than merely sever their connection with socialism - they have passed over into the class camp of the enemy.

Many socialists are not well informed on these points, and that is our reason for writing thus. We propose to study the causes of the death of the Second International and to deduce therefrom any lessons to be gained. We wish to combat the infection with which its carcass is surrounded; namely, the miasma of misconceptions, of spurious sophisms which have survived it, and which nothing can disinfect or purge.

Finally we propose to define the organisation and working of the Third International, which rejects those men and those ideas that war has poisoned, which calls to its councils all revolutionary workers and all socialists whose creed was undamaged by the crisis of August 4, 1914. The Third International is born of the war; baptised by trials and sufferings, sanctified by revolutions, and its young strength will be tomorrow irresistible.


If the downfall of the Second International and its leaders was rendered inevitable by the policy it adopted after August 4, 1914, its former policy had rendered that defeat inevitable.

Eaten out by an opportunism which was disseminated by a revolutionary Marxist interpretation, undermined by doubt in the presence of essential problems, content to delve in equivocal terms and in contradictory solutions which solved nothing, this organisation of international labour crumbled at the first shock. We certainly recognise the merits of its work during the last 20 years, and in no way ignore either its considerable educational propaganda or the spiritual influence which it exercised on Europe and upon the world. None but the members of the bourgeois regime would deny its beneficial work for peace and for the liberation of labour. But the salvation of the proletariat, to which cause socialists have dedicated their lives, makes it necessary that we should sternly judge our faults.

If that great organisation of the past is dead, it has not been killed by the war, rather has it held within itself the festering germs of its own decomposition. The historico-political conditions wherein it was born and bred contaminated it with poisonous ferments. As Charles Rappoport has justly said of the Second International: "It possessed from the start a defeated soul."

The defeat of the Paris Commune, the implacable bourgeois repression and the discouragement which ensued, overshadowed it and became at last an obsession.

The First International was that of theoristsÉ and of dissolutions. The Second was that of recruitersÉ and of unity. The desire for a large membership obsessed the socialists during the '80s. To this task they especially applied themselves, endeavouring to increase the membership of the various parties, and were wholly preoccupied with the avoidance of a new proletarian disaster. The idea of the invincibility of numbers was their pole-star, and thus it was that they underestimated the importance of economic crises which might confer political supremacy on the revolutionary elite. Nor did they value sufficiently the homogeneous doctrine enabling that elite to realise their programme and thus gain the support of the masses.

Keen in recruiting, eager to give their supporters a field of immediate satisfaction, the Second International gradually lost sight of the final aim of socialism. They forgot the luminous doctrines of Marx and Engels, which exhort their disciples at all times when the proletariat grows restless to emphasise the necessity of a radical change in the present laws of property.

Under the cloak of realism it repudiated "illegal" action as dangerous, and regarded a revolutionary seizing of power in catastrophic circumstances as a mere utopia. Under the pretext of educational and preparatory activity it sacrificed the revolutionary training of the masses. It made the vote and parliamentarism the essential weapons of the proletariat, at the same time teaching that the action of the masses as a means of helping forward the movement was a dangerous method to employ.

Nevertheless, if socialism decided to carry on the political struggle, there was nothing to indicate that this struggle must of necessity be identified with parliamentarism. On the contrary our interpretation only looked upon electoral action as a means of agitation, and parliamentary action as an adjunct to direct action.

Electoral appeals and parliamentarism were only to be means of propaganda, only special aspects of political action.

Jules Guesde, at the period when he still drew his inspiration from Marxism, remarked that the struggle at the ballot box was only the preparation for the armed struggle (Congress of Nancy, 1907). This formula and many others remained merely platonic.

Reformism, which had been apparently overcome at the International Congress of Amsterdam, triumphed over those who had overthrown it, by inoculating them with it. Electoral successes intoxicated the parties to the extent of giving them a sort of feeling of security and of assurance of certain victory by means of the normal and progressive growth of votes and of the number of elected socialists. They forgot the lessons of history which Marx had underlined, the decisive role of "midwife helping the new order in its birth pangs", the ever-increasing oppression of the state, as day by day the transference of power from one class to another becomes more imminent, the inevitability of a gesture of conservative will on the part of the privileged on the approach of real danger.

Lulled into false repose, they did not give to imperialism and to the threats of war the attention that a more rigorous logic should have demanded. Instead of looking upon imperialism as an attribute of capitalism, inseparable from the regime to which its fate is linked, our parliamentary chiefs looked upon it merely as an error of bourgeois politics, a mistake which the governing classes would renounce whenever we should prove to them that it was harmful to their interests.

Many were the socialists who awaited from the hands of the bourgeoisie both disarmament and peace, as later, in paroxysm of aberration, they awaited from President Wilson's influence those benefits which socialism expects solely from the mission of the proletariat. Such a heresy proves that we must not play with reformism: socialism must eliminate it or perish.

Inspired by this spirit which respected the form of the Marxian interpretation whilst emptying it of its revolutionary content, which extinguished the flame and only preserved the ashes, socialists held as legitimate colonial expansion, that detestable aspect of imperialism, by affirming the need for the colonies to traverse the phase of capitalist production prior to the abolition of their subjection. The most cynical confirmation of this thesis was that of the Italian reformers who were banned from the party at the time of the expedition to Tripoli.

Finally,when faced by the prospect of a European war, the misinterpretation of the fundamental principles of the class war was disclosed, side by side with the theoretical affirmation of the responsibility of the regime, formulated as if to rid themselves of a painful task the Second International proclaimed the necessity of "national defence" and the "defence of an invaded country".

To borrow thus the bourgeois phraseology which socialist language would have expressed as "defence of capitalist privileges" and "sacrifice of the proletariat to the interests of the class oppressing them, to a country they did not yet own", was this not renouncing revolutionary opposition, a renunciation by which the possessing oligarchy were soon to benefit?

It is true that the International further proposed a popular agitation as a means of ending the war, and hastening the fall of capitalism. But this is precisely an absolute contradiction.

To defend the bourgeois mother-country excludes all hypothesis of revolution: events have amply proved this.

The adhesion to "national defence" subordinates all proletarian schemes to the victory of one imperialism over all other competitive imperialisms. The collaboration of classes for the benefit of a privileged class, the participation in power, the credit votes etc., etc., all diminish the probability of a rising "before the enemy".

The fumes of nationalism have long obscured these truths; today they appear in so crude a light that the simple exposure of events constitutes the most damning evidence against opportunism and its champions.


When the first days of August, 1914, saw the irreparable accomplished, that is to say when the socialist previsions announcing the inevitable transformation of capitalist competition into imperialist war were realised, the two fractions of the International, on whom should have fallen the task of resistance to the enterprises of the governing classes, renounced all resistance.

The German fraction, which had denounced the policy of the Empire, and of its Austrian ally, which had held up to scorn Chancellors and Ministers, Pan-German squireens and junkers, which had vehemently condemned the ultimatum to Serbia as a provocation to war, accepted the accomplished fact, and submitted to the war, to its methods, to the regime. Its representatives in the Reichstag unanimously voted the war credits, with the exception of one member, Fritz Kunert, who deliberately walked out of the chamber. (This fact was not allowed to leak out until after the termination of the war.)

The French faction, which had denounced the policy of the Republic and of its Russian ally, which had abused President Poincare and his ministers, together with the nationalist diplomatists and financiers, which had vehemently condemned the alliance with Russia as likely to lead to war, accepted likewise the accomplished fact, and submitted to the war, to its methods, and to the regime. Its representatives in the chamber unanimously voted the war credits.

The vows of the past were forgotten, the International solidarity of the workers had disappeared. The solidarity of the exploiters and of the exploited was established.

In Germany and in France there were a few opposing elements to the abdication of parties and of leaders, but at first their number was infinitely small. They succeeded in profiting by favourable occasions in expressing their fidelity to international socialism, and in resuscitating the revolutionary spirit. They discovered means of revolting against "socialist discipline", in the name of socialist doctrine. Their lack of discipline towards the parties saved the honour of socialism in Germany and in France, saved socialism itself.

But for a long time their voices were stifled, and only the traitors to socialism were able to speak in the name of socialism in voices that could be heard. They spoke, they wrote, they acted, unfortunately for the proletariat, to their eternal shame.

If they had renounced the socialist interpretation because they were powerless in face of chauvinism let loose, at least they should have remained silent, and have waited for the propitious moment to utter a socialist protest. They need not have put their programme into action, but, at least they should not have renounced it.

They did renounce it. They not only submitted to the war, they accepted it, then they approved it, then they justified it, then they magnified it, and thus they prolonged it. After the vote of credits, the symbol of the renouncement of opposition, the French socialists entered the bourgeois government, while in Germany an active support was given to the Imperial government. This was followed by a refusal to link up international relations. Later on the omnipotence of the army staff, the dictatorship of war profiteers, the censorship, the state of siege, the "war to the end" (that is to say until imperialist appetites were satisfied) were all, one after the other, accepted. Finally came adhesion to the counter-revolution.

In their apostasy they adopted all the bourgeois theses, which they had formerly denounced. They each invented their theory of the first aggressor, the Germans laying the blame on the Russian mobilisation, the French on the German attack, as the principal event justifying their new attitude. They pretended to forget that, according to the luminous formula of Montesquieu, the real responsibility for a war rests not on him who declares it, but on him who renders it inevitable, and that, for us socialists, it is the actual regime under which we live which renders war inevitable.

One of the characteristics of their policy was the repudiation of international policy, common to all socialist parties. Each group of opportunists maintained that his country was in some special sort of situation necessitating a special policy. Each one was a revolutionary - for a neighbouring country. The French opportunists applauded the revolt of Karl Liebknecht, and the German opportunists approved the protests of the French Internationalists. Both declarations were hideous hypocrisies.

Logical in their opportunism, Vandervelde, Jules Guesde, Albert Thomas, etc. adjured the Russian nation not to revolt, but submit docilely to Tsarism. The war first, the republic later, wrote Guesde. The Russian revolution was a crime against the cause of the Allies, and therefore according to our socialist-patriots against justice and socialism. On the other hand the German revolution was beneficial from the socialist-patriotic Russian point of view; the Russian revolutions were beneficial to the Allies, those of Germany and of Austria were criminal.

Thus does opportunism lead socialists to espouse the interests of their respective bourgeoisies, and revolutionary socialists cannot fight the ones without the others. As a matter of fact they should oppose the opportunists more firmly because they are more dangerous than are the declared enemies of socialism, because of the socialist mask behind which they hide.


It must be recorded that the socialist parties of France, Germany and Belgium, which made common cause with the bourgeoisie, were, before the war, united parties. In other words they had an all-pervading desire to preserve their unity at the cost of reciprocal concessions of tendencies, concessions which allowed profound disagreements, rendering all common action impossible to remain behind a facade of resolutions of unanimity. The evident result of these tactics was great electoral successÉ and at the decisive moment complete abdication.

On the other hand, in the various countries where the socialist fractions kept their distinct organisations, answering to distinct conceptions, revolutionary internationalism was much strengthened.

In Russia, the Bolshevik and Menshevik social-revolutionaries fought against the war. Any betrayals only amounted to the secession of individuals, and in no way compromised the parties. The Social-Democrats of Poland and of Lithuania adopted the attitude of the Bolshevists, the Bund that of the Menshevists. The Polish Socialist Party of the left, which had broken away from the right, remained faithful, whilst the right declared for the war.

In Great Britain, the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party protested against the war. The betrayal of Hyndman and of a handful of his friends was of no real consequence.

In Italy, the Socialist Party, which had broken with the reformists, remained socialists and internationalists, whilst the reformist fraction claimed solidarity with Italian nationalism.

In Bulgaria, the so-called "narrow" Social-Democrats (because of their doctrinal intransigence), in Serbia, and Rumania, the Social Democratic Parties remained firmly opposed to the war.

Finally, in the United States the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Party, both refractory to chauvinism, remained parties interpreting the class struggle and revolution. The few "intellectuals" that approved of warlike intervention were forced to leave the Party.

In France and in Germany, where the united parties abdicated from one day to another their independence and their role of revolutionary opposition the overpowering weight of the organisations crushed down the minorities in whom were incarnated the socialist conscience. Nevertheless, these minorities grew and increased in strength in proportion to their power to deliver themselves from a discipline whose letter killed the spirit.

In Germany, some weeks after the declaration of war, Karl Liebknecht began his fight against the Empire, the capitalist regime, and German imperialism, and also against the treacherous social-democracy. Supporting him were Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Otto Ruhle, Paul Levey, Clara Zetkin, Karl Radek, and many others less known, who undertook the historic task of destroying in the German people the militarist spirit, patriotic submission, and docility to the suggestions of the renegades of socialism; and of leading them on to the revolution. The annals of international socialism, and of human progress will blazon among their greatest the names of these heroes.

In France since November, 1914, Pierre Monatte denounced the war policy of syndicalist leaders, and resigned from the confederal committee. With him Merrheim, and later Bourderon and other syndicalists who had remained faithful to the International, to its ideal of peace and solidarity between nations, to its principles of struggle against the possessing class, attempted the renewal of international relations, and the restoration of its original tactics.

On the occasion of the convocation of a conference of socialists from neutral countries at Copenhagen (November, 1914), of Liebknecht's declaration in the Reichstag (2 December, 1914), of the socialist and syndicalist conference of Allied countries (London, February, 1915), they did their best to echo the pacifist appeals of Denmark and of Germany, and to make of the Allied conference the first step towards the International conference.

In the Socialist Party there were with Bourderon, Pernand Loriot, Charles Rappoport, and later Louise Saumoneau and Alexandre Blanc, seconded by militants less known, but of absolute devotion, who constituted the opposition group.

By the side of these artisans of the new International, socialists more hesitating in their attitude, but haunted by noble scruples, and by an imperfect notion of socialist duties reacted against the absolute betrayals of the majorities. In Germany it was "Opposition inside the Organisation" led by Haase, Ledebour, Kautsky, Hoffman, Bernstein, Louise Zietz, Dittmann, etc. In France it was the "minority" with Brizon, Raffin Dugens, Lonquet, Pressemane, Mistral, Mayeras, Paul Faure, Verfeuil, Delepine, Maurin, Dunos, etc. These two fractions, whom socialist logic scared, who did not dare to adopt the principles and the tactics of the out-and-out revolutionaries, who were troubled about preserving "unity" with traitors, and who consequently condemned themselves to impotence, nevertheless played a useful role through their resistance to chauvinism. The German fraction showed itself more active than did the French, and destroyed the pernicious unity of social democracy by forming the Independent Party, appealing from the Reichstag benches to the people, in favour of a popular rising.

These groupings, whose socialist spirit was not completely obscured by the war, used their efforts without any general vision, without co-ordination, in the same way as did the parties or fractions among the socialists of neutral countries (Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Portugal), who were inspired with similar ideas. International Conferences were necessary. The first one met at Zimmerwald, 5 September, 1915, a place and date of primary importance henceforth in the history of socialism.

The Swiss and Italian socialist parties multiplied attempts to re-establish contact between international socialists, and determine a basis of common action against the war. In September 1914, the conference of Lugano confided to the Swiss party the task of re-establishing relations between the parties which were formerly linked in brotherhood, but who had now become belligerents or neutrals. Similar efforts were attempted by Troelstra. The Socialist Party of America suggested the reunion of a Congress at Washington undertaking at the same time its organisation and its cost. These prospects failed in consequence of the hostility of the French and Belgian parties.

The Swiss party attempted to assemble at Zurich the socialists of neutral countries. This resulted in another failure. At the same time the Italian Party sent Morgari to France, charged with the mission to request the International Socialist Bureau to meet. The 19 April 1915, Morgari had, at the headquarters of the Socialist Party in Paris, an interview with Vandervelde, the President of the ISB, and with the leaders of the party.

He found himself up against the systematic refusal of the French and Belgium Socialist-patriots. Renaudel declared that the International was the hostage for right and justice (sic). And in reply to Morgari, who stated that, in spite of opposition, the socialists who were faithful to socialism would find means of meeting, Vandervelde said, "We will prevent it."

It was thus apparent that all attempts to reconstitute the International from the elements which had betrayed it would be useless and sterile.

All that could be done was to call together the parties and the fractions which had remained socialist and internationalist. On 15 May 1915, the congress of Bologna decided to convoke an international conference in spite of the hostility of the official parties. On 11 June, a preliminary session took place at Berne, at which the nature and the object of the conference were established: it was agreed that this initiative on the part of the Italian and the Swiss parties was not taken with the intention of forming a new International. At this epoch only Lenin and the Bolsheviks had sufficient insight to discern the necessity of founding a third international. But their influence was not yet felt. Their help, however, was precious in the organisation of the conference.

From the 6 to 8 September the Conference was held at Zimmerwald which was the first manifestation of the life of the renascent international and which uttered the great call for peace. A few days before the meeting, Morgari had made a supreme attempt among French socialists to obtain their participation in the conference, or at least that they should send a delegate without mandate or vote who would exercise, as Morgari put it, the duties of "an honest spy", at the same time assuring them that only German "minority socialists" would be present. He only met with a fresh refusal, including that of Pressemane.

The conference, at which only Bourderon and Merrheim represented French socialism and syndicalism, issued a manifesto denouncing imperialism as the cause of the war, disclosed the real objects of the war on the part of the two capitalist coalitions (thefts of territory, grabbing of oil and mineral wealth, the conquest of markets and of ports, pillage and spoliation, the subjection of other races to bourgeois oligarchies) all this hypocritically baptised under the name of national defence; and called upon the proletarians of all countries to take united action on the basis of the class struggle, in order to impose peace.

The "majority socialists" of France and of Germany attacked the Zimmerwaldians with hatred and fury, covered them with insults and sarcasms, after first having attempted a conspiracy of silence. But the international and pacifist idea had made a start, and nothing could stop it. Not all the accumulated blame heaped upon it could prevent the awakening of the proletariat.

From 24 to 30 April 1916, a second Zimmerwaldian conference was held at Kienthal. Three French deputies, Brizon, Blanc, and Raffin Dugens, represented French socialism, passports having been refused to militant organised workers. The Kienthal Conference confirmed and solidified the Zimmerwaldian resolutions. It insisted on the fact that real peace could only come about as a consequence of socialism, and invited the proletariat to fight resolutely against the capitalist regime. But, while attacking the International Socialist Bureau, it did not go as far as to announce the necessity of breaking with it. At the same time as future action was decided on, a divergence of views made itself felt; among the Zimmerwaldians two tendencies appeared.

The left, whose interpreter was Lenin, looked upon the break up of the socialist-patriots as inevitable, and foresaw the necessity of founding the Third International.

The right held that joint action was still possible with repentant traitors.

The left was revolutionary. The right was merely pacifist. Events have irrefutably proved that the left were right in the position they took up: it was revolutions which ended the war, and it is quite clear that the world war will break out again if world revolution does not forestall it.

Although the left was in a minority at Kienthal it forced its views upon the third Zimmerwaldian Conference, which met at Stockholm in 1917. The resolution which was then passed called upon the workers of the world to join in the permanent struggle for the liberation of humanity. Two months later, the circumstances favouring, and their will inciting, the Bolshevists, forming the largest element of the Zimmerwaldian left, passed from theory to practice, and undertook the realisation of their programme.

The Bolshevist revolution has helped us to interpret socialist parties and men. The war had been the touchstone of their good will; the revolution was the touchstone of their will. The formal organisation of the Third International - it being practically in existence - is an inevitable consequence of this revolutionary will.

By taking the initiative of organising at Moscow the First Congress of the Third International, with the assent and the active help of the members of the commission elected by the Zimmerwaldian conferences, the Bolshevist Party accomplished a necessary task in agreement with all those international socialists who believe in the necessity of a proletarian revolution and who desire it.

What does it matter that men who subscribed to the action taken at Zimmerwald and at Kienthal are today opposed to the Third International, in which they fail to recognise the logical consequences of the ideas which they expressed in the past? At a given moment they did reflect the spirit of the advanced guard of socialism, others translate today its revolutionary and liberating aspirations; men pass away, ideas remain, become clarified, and find new interpreters.

On 2 March 1919, at Moscow, the Congress of the Communist Parties (named thus to distinguish them from the reformist socialists) decided to constitute themselves into the Third International, and founded the "Communist International'', the official name of this new organisation.

This Congress further decided:

That the definite constitution of the Communist International would be the work of the next Congress (the present formation being only provisional).

That the direction of the CI is confided to an Executive Committee composed of a representative of each affiliated party.

That the parties adhering to the CI before the Second Congress takes place have a right to a seat on the Executive Committee.

Thus the First Congress of the Communist International was careful not to impose too rigid conditions on the parties whose affiliations they invited, and reserved the definite foundation of the Third International for this purpose, with the co-operation of all the adherent groups.

The Communist International, its programme and forces

We do not presume to give a complete exposition of, or to study deeply, the problem of the International, but only to emphasise its essential points, and rapidly to translate in concise form the ideas proclaimed by the Communist International. These are defined with vigour and clearness in the manifesto and in the resolutions of the First Congress.

The CI declares that the hour of the "final struggle" between proletariat and bourgeoisie, as expressed by the Communist Manifesto of 1848, has arrived.

It assigns to us the following task: "To gather up the revolutionary experience of the working classes, to rid the movement of the unhealthy blend of opportunism and social-patriotism, to unite the forces of all the truly revolutionary parties of the world proletarians, and thus to pave the way for and to hasten the Communist revolution all over the world." It imputes the responsibility for the war to the capitalist regime and to the conscious will of the governing classes of Russia, Germany, Austria, England, France, Italy, and the United States, a responsibility which is amply proved by the Russian diplomatic archives.

The CI sees in the consequences of the war surprising revelations of the contradictions of the capitalist regime, the condemnation, without appeal, of the theory denoting "the progressive steps of capitalism towards socialism", upheld by the reformists. These latter contested the Marxist theory of the "pauperisation of the masses" as being the provocative cause of revolution; war amply demonstrates this pauperisation, this material impoverishment to which physiological poverty must be added.

Besides this, the state ownership of the economic life inevitably accomplishes its ends. It remains to be seen who will be master of state-owned production, the bourgeois or the proletarian state. If the working class does not wish to pay tribute to the capitalist clique, it must "seize hold of economic life, even though it be disorganised and destroyed, in order to ensure its being rebuilt on a socialist basis". In order to "shorten the time of crisis through which we are passing" we must establish, "the dictatorship of the proletariat which does not look backward, nor does it take count of hereditary privilege or right of property, which, contemplating solely the salvation of the starving masses, mobilises to that end by every means in its power, decrees the necessity of work for each individual, institutes discipline as an urgent need of the workers, in order not only to heal in a few years the horrible wounds made by the war, but finally to raise humanity to great and undreamed of heights."

The Communist International repudiates as a snare so-called bourgeois "democracy". Facts prove that, in all fundamental questions on which the destiny of man depends, it is a financial oligarchy which rules, by virtue of, "the weapons of falsehood, demagogy, persecution, calumny, corruption and terror, which centuries of slavery have placed at their disposal and which the privileges of capitalist technique have multiplied."

Bourgeois democracy has but one aim - to disarm the exploited by giving them the illusion that they dispose of legal methods by which they can impose their claims.

The Communist parties should endeavour to create that proletarian democracy which would abolish classes in abolishing economic privileges; their political expression must be soviets, that is to say Workers' and Soldiers' Councils, a new type of proletarian organisation which will be self-governing These soviets represent political power; the organisations of industry and of production being vested in professional syndicates that are in direct touch with the technical organs of power of the soviets. Such are the principal outlines of the Communist International defined in detail by the voted resolutions.

In short, these are the terms of the Manifesto itself:

"If the war of 1870 dealt a blow to the First International by the revelation that behind its revolutionary and social programme there was no organised force of the masses, the war of 1914 has killed the Second International by demonstrating that over and above the powerful administration of the workers were parties subservient to bourgeois control.

"If the First International foresaw and prepared the way for approaching developments, if the Second International collected and organised the proletarian millions, the Third International is the International of the action of the masses and of revolutionary realisation."

The principles, the programme and the appeals of the Communist International have been systematically hidden from the masses by bourgeois speakers and their press and by social opportunists.

In France the facts are still unknown to the masses, and the prominence of the opportunists is due to this ignorance. But where facts were known and advertised the socialist workers' organisations joined the Third International, which gathered together the elite of the proletariat of the world.

In the space of a few months, in spite of obstacles opposed to the delivery of the message, in spite of the difficulties placed in the way of its propagandists, the Third International is grouping the whole of the organisations of the revolutionary proletariat. And the rallying of those who are still waiting to affiliate is only delayed because the masses are deceived by their leaders.

In France, the active forces of the workers' syndicates, and of the Socialist Party, are already affiliated to the Third International, and these forces grow daily in numbers. We have reason to believe that the hour is not far distant when their influence will pervade the whole organisation.

"We recognise one another," said the Communists assembled at Moscow, "as the continuators of the direct efforts, and of the heroic martyrdoms accepted by a long series of revolutionary generations, from Babeuf down to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg." May those workers and socialists who recognise one another as the continuators of the work undertaken at the commencement of the last century by the first militant Communists march under the banner of the Communist International, and recognise as their rallying point the purple standard on which shine the sickle and the hammer crossed, the emblem of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Russia.

From Workers Liberty 55 and 56

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.