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Communist International

Communist International
Founder Vladimir Lenin
Founded March 2, 1919
Dissolved May 15, 1943
Preceded by
Succeeded by Communist Information Bureau
Youth wing Young Communist International
Colours Red
The Communist International published a theoretical magazine in a variety of European languages from 1919 to 1943.

The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern and also known as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international communist organization that advocated world communism. The International intended to fight "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State."[1]

The Comintern was founded after the 1915 Zimmerwald Left" against those who refused to approve any statement explicitly endorsing socialist revolutionary action, and after the 1916 dissolution of the Second International.

The Comintern had seven World Congresses between 1919 and 1935. It also had thirteen "Enlarged Plenums" of its governing Executive Committee, which had much the same function as the somewhat larger and more grandiose Congresses. The Comintern was officially dissolved by Joseph Stalin in 1943.


  • Organizational history 1
    • Failure of the Second International 1.1
    • Impact of the Russian Revolution 1.2
    • Founding Congress 1.3
    • Second World Congress 1.4
    • Third World Congress 1.5
    • Fifth to Seventh World Congresses: 1925-1935 1.6
      • The Second Period 1.6.1
      • Communist front organizations 1.6.2
      • The Third Period 1.6.3
    • Seventh World Congress and the Popular Front 1.7
    • Dissolution 1.8
    • Successor organisations 1.9
  • Comintern-sponsored international organisations 2
  • International Liaison Department ("OMS") 3
  • World congresses and plenums of Comintern 4
    • Congresses 4.1
    • Plenums of ECCI 4.2
    • Related meetings 4.3
  • See also 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • Further reading 7
    • Primary sources 7.1
  • External links 8

Organizational history

Failure of the Second International

While the differences had been evident for decades, World War I proved the issue that finally divided the revolutionary and reformist wings of the workers' movement. The socialist movement had been historically antimilitarist and internationalist, and therefore opposed workers serving as "cannon fodder" for the "bourgeois" governments at war. This especially since the Triple Alliance (1882) comprised two empires, while the Triple Entente gathered France and Britain into an alliance with Russia. Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto had stated that "the working class has no country" and exclaimed "Proletarians of all countries, unite!" Massive majorities voted in favor of resolutions for the Second International to call upon the international working class to resist war if it was declared.[2]

Nevertheless, within hours of the declarations of war, almost all the socialist parties of the combatant states announced their support for the war.[3] The only exceptions were the socialist parties of the Balkans, Russia, and tiny minorities in other countries. To Lenin's surprise, even the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) voted in favor of war credits. The assassination of French socialist Jean Jaurès on July 31, 1914 killed the last hope of peace by removing one of the few leaders who possessed enough influence on the international socialist movement to prevent it from segmenting itself along national lines and supporting governments of National Unity.

Socialist parties in neutral countries mostly supported neutrality rather than total opposition to the war. On the other hand, during the 1915 imperialist war" into a movement that became known as the "Zimmerwald Left" and published the pamphlet Socialism and War, in which he called all socialists who collaborated with their national governments "Social-Chauvinists", that is, socialists in word but chauvinists in deed.[4]

The International divided into a revolutionary left and a reformist right, with a center group wavering between those poles. Lenin condemned much of the center as social-pacifists for several reasons, including their voting for war credits despite opposing the war. Lenin's term "social-pacifist" aimed in particular at Ramsay MacDonald, leader of the Independent Labour Party in Britain, who opposed the war on grounds of pacifism, but did not actively resist it.

Discredited by its passivity towards world events, the Second International dissolved in the middle of the war in 1916. In 1917 Lenin published the April Theses, which openly supported a "revolutionary defeatism": the Bolsheviks pronounced themselves in favor of the defeat of Russia which would permit them to move directly to the stage of a revolutionary insurrection.[5]

Impact of the Russian Revolution

The victory of the Russian Communist Party in the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 was felt throughout the world. An alternative path to power to parliamentary politics was demonstrated. With much of Europe on the verge of economic and political collapse in the aftermath of the carnage of the Great War, revolutionary sentiments were widespread. The Russian Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, believed that unless socialist revolution swept Europe, they would be crushed by the military might of world capitalism, just as the Paris Commune had been crushed by force of arms in 1871. The Bolsheviks believed that this required a new international to foment revolution in Europe and around the world.

Founding Congress

The Comintern was founded at a Congress held in Moscow March 2–6, 1919,[6] against the backdrop of the Russian Civil War. There were 52 delegates present from 34 parties.[7] They decided to form an Executive Committee with representatives of the most important sections and that other parties joining the International would have their own representatives. The Congress decided that the Executive Committee would elect a five-member bureau to run the daily affairs of the International. However, such a bureau was not formed and Lenin, Trotsky and Christian Rakovsky later delegated the task of managing the International to Grigory Zinoviev as the Chairman of the Executive. Zinoviev was assisted by Angelica Balabanoff, acting as the secretary of the International, Victor L. Kibaltchitch[8] and Vladmir Ossipovich Mazin.[9] Lenin, Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontai presented material. The main topic of discussion was the difference between "bourgeois democracy" and the "dictatorship of the proletariat".[10]

The following parties and movements were invited to the Founding Congress:

Of these, the following attended (

  • Lenin's speech: The Third, Communist International (   )
  • Site Comintern Archives (English)
  • Site Comintern Archives (Russian)
  • Comintern History Archive Marxists Internet Archive
  • The Communist International Journal of the Comintern, Marxists Internet Archive
  • Outline History of the Communist International
  • Report from Moscow, 3rd International congress, 1920 by Otto Rühle
  • Article on the Third International from the Encyclopædia Britannica

External links

  • Davidson, Apollon, et al. eds. South Africa and the Communist International: A Documentary History (2 vol., 2003)
  • Firsov, Fridrikh I., Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes, eds. Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943 (Yale University Press, 2014) xii, 307 pp.

Primary sources

  • Carr, E.H. Twilight of the Comintern, 1930-1935 (1982)
  • Chase, William J. Enemies within the Gates?: The Comintern and the Stalinist Repression, 1934-1939. (Yale University Press, 2001) ISBN 0-300-08242-8
  • Gankin, Olga Hess; Harold Henry Fisher (1940). The Bolsheviks and the World War: The Origin of the Third International. Stanford University Press. 
  • Haithcox, John Patrick. Communism and nationalism in India: MN Roy and Comintern policy, 1920-1939 (1971)
  • Hallas, Duncan. The Comintern (2008)
  • Hopkirk, Peter. Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of a Empire in Asia 1984 (1984)
  • C. L. R. James, World Revolution 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International (Humanities Press, 1993), ISBN 1-57392-583-7
  • Lazitch, Branko and Milorad M. Drachkovitch. Biographical dictionary of the Comintern (2nd ed. 1986)
  • McDermott, Kevin. "Rethinking the Comintern: Soviet historiography, 1987-1991," Labour History Review, Winter 1992, Vol. 57 Issue 3, pp 37–58
  • McDermott, Kevin, and J. Agnew. The Comintern: a History of International Communism from Lenin to Stalin (Basingstoke, 1996), the standard history
  • Melograni, Piero. Lenin and the Myth of World Revolution: Ideology and Reasons of State 1917-1920, Humanities Press, 1990
  • Priestland, David. The Red Flag: A History of Communism (2010)
  • Service, Robert. Lenin: A Biography (2000) one-volume biography
  • Smith, S. A. ed. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism (2014) ch 10 on Commintern
  • Ulam, Adam B. Expansion and Coexistence: Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917–1973, 2nd ed. (1974)
  • Worley, Matthew et al. edds. Bolshevism, Stalinism and the Comintern: Perspectives on Stalinization, 1917-53 (2008)
  • The Comintern and its Critics (Special issue of Revolutionary History Volume 8, no 1, Summer 2001)

Further reading

  1. ^ Comintern, Comintern
  2. ^ David North and Joe Kishore (2008). The Historical & International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party. Mehring Books. p. 13. 
  3. ^ Spencer C. Tucker (2005). The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 883–85. 
  4. ^ R. Craig Nation, War on war: Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the origins of Communist Internationalism (Duke University Press, 1989)
  5. ^ Service, Lenin: A Biography p 262
  6. ^ Berg, Nils J. I kamp för Socialismen - Kortfattad framställning av det svenska kommunistiska partiets historia 1917-1981. It opened with a tribute to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, recently murdered by the Freikorps during the Spartakus Uprising. Stockholm: Arbetarkultur, 1982. p. 19.
  7. ^ a b Marxist Internet Archive
  8. ^ Kibaltchitch would later take the name 'Victor Serge'. A former anarchist, he was not even a member of the RCP(b) at the time. He believed he was included because of his knowledge of European languages. See: Serge, Victor. Memoirs of a Revolutionary
  9. ^ First Congress of the Communist International
  10. ^ Marxist Internet Archive
  11. ^ First Congress of the Communist International
  12. ^ Delegates with deciding votes were: Mir Jafar Baghirov (Azerbaijan) and Mirza Davud Huseynov (Persia). Source:[3]
  13. ^ Lenin, V. (1906), Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.
  14. ^ 1929, chapter 11Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a HistoryWilliam Henry Chamberlin ; , Vol.1 No.1, July 1934New InternationalMax Shachtman "For the Fourth International!" ; Revolutionary HistoryWalter Kendall "Lenin and the Myth of World Revolution", )
  15. ^ For example, the thirteenth condition stated that "The communist parties of those countries in which the communists can carry out their work legally must from time to time undertake purges (re-registration) of the membership of their party organisations in order to cleanse the party systematically of the petty-bourgeois elements within it. The term "purge" has taken on very negative connotations, because of the Great Purge of the 1930s. In the early 1920s, however, the term was more ambiguous. See J. Arch Getty Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 p.41 for discussion of the ambiguities in the term, including its use in the 1920 Comintern resolution.
  16. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 48, 84-85
  17. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 275-6; Minutes of the Seventh Session
  18. ^ Marxist Internet Archive
  19. ^ Joseph L. Wieczynski (1994). The Modern encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet history, Volume 21. Academic International Press. p. 125.  
  20. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 282; Marxist Internet Archive
  21. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 272-5
  22. ^ Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917-1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.516
  23. ^ Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917-1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.531
  24. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 277-8
  25. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 278-9
  26. ^ [4] Archived September 13, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ The Black Book of Communism pp. 280-82
  28. ^ David Priestland, Of the Read Flag: A History of Communism (2009) p 124
  29. ^ , chapter 5The CominternDuncan Hallas
  30. ^ Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 (Oxford University Press 2002) p. 228.
  31. ^ David Priestland, The Read Flag: A History of Communism (2009) p 124-25
  32. ^ Robert Service, Comrades!: a history of world communism (2007) pp 164-73
  33. ^ Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of Communism (2011) pp 88-89
  34. ^ Michael David‐Fox, "The Fellow Travelers Revisited: The 'Cultured West' through Soviet Eyes," Journal of Modern History (2003) 75#2 pp. 300-335 in JSTOR
  35. ^ Robert Service, Comrades!: a history of world communism (2007) pp 173-74
  36. ^ Ian Birchall, "Profintern: Die Rote Gewerkschaftsinternationale 1920–1937," Historical Materialism, 2009, Vol. 17 Issue 4, pp 164-176, review (in English) of a German language study by Reiner Tosstorff.
  37. ^ Julian Jackson, The Popular Front in France (1990) p. x
  38. ^ , chapter 6The CominternDuncan Hallas ; Nicholas N. Kozlov, Eric D. Weitz "Reflections on the Origins of the 'Third Period': Bukharin, the Comintern, and the Political Economy of Weimar Germany" Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul., 1989), pp. 387-410 JSTOR
  39. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 47-48
  40. ^ Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPCz CC, Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPS CC. An Outline of the History of the CPCz. Prague: Orbis Press Agency, 1980. p. 160
  41. ^ The Black Book of Communism p. 298-301.
  42. ^ Radzinski, Stalin, 1997
  43. ^ Dissolution of the Communist International
  44. ^ Mihailović or Tito? How the Codebreakers Helped Churchill Choose by John Cripps; Chapter 13 (pages 237-263) of Action This Day edited by Michael Smith & Ralph Erskine (2001, Bantam London) ISBN 0-593-04910-1 p. 242, 253, 257
  45. ^ Robert Service, Stalin. A biography. (Macmillan - London, 2004), pp 444-445
  46. ^ Mark Kramer, The Role of the CPSU International Department in Soviet Foreign Relations and National Security Policy, Soviet Studies, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Jul., 1990), pp. 429-446
  47. ^ a b McKnight, David (2012). Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War: The Conspiratorial Heritage. Routledge. pp. vii (Rudnik), 52 (Trilisser), 60 (OMS), 61–62 (dissolution), 119–120 (Ducroux, Rudnik). 
  48. ^ Lazitch, Branko; Milorad M. Drachkovitch (1986). Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern. Hoover Press. pp. xxix (description), 120 (Flieg), 319 (Mirov–Abramov), 479 (Trilisser). 
  49. ^ Krivitsky, Walter (1939 (2013)). In Stalin's Secret Service: An Expose of Russia's Secret Polices by the Formem Chief of the Soviet Intelligence in Western Europe. Harper & Brothers (Enigma Books). 
  50. ^ a b Sakmyster, Thomas (2011). Red Conspirator: J. Peters and the American Communist Underground. University of Illinois Press. pp. 37 (translation), 38 (organization), 40 (Browder), 62 (Russian counterpart), 63 (process). 
  51. ^ West, Nigel (2015). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 77. 
  52. ^ Marxist History: "The Communist International (1919-1943)", accessed March 22, 2010




See also

Event Year held Dates Location Delegates
Conference of the Amsterdam Bureau 1920 February 10–11 Amsterdam 16
1st Congress of the Peoples of the East 1920 September 1–8 Baku 1,891
1st Congress of Toilers of the Far East 1922 Jan. 21 to Feb. 2 Moscow & Petrograd
World Congress Against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism 1927 February 10–15 Brussels 152
2nd Congress of the League Against Imperialism 1929 July Frankfurt
1st International Conference of Negro Workers 1930 July 7–8 Hamburg 17 + 3

Related meetings

Event Year held Dates Location Delegates
1st Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1922 Feb. 24 to March 4 Moscow 105
2nd Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1922 June 7–11 Moscow 41 + 9
3rd Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1923 June 12–23 Moscow
4th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1924 June 12 and July 12–13 Moscow
5th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1925 March 21 to April 6 Moscow
6th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1926 Feb. 17 to March 15 Moscow 77 + 53
7th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1926 Nov. 22 to Dec. 16 Moscow
8th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1927 May 18–30 Moscow
9th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1928 February 9–25 Moscow 44 + 48
10th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1929 July 3–19 Moscow 36 + 72
Enlarged Presidium of ECCI 1930 February 25-?? Moscow
11th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1931 March 26 to April 11 Moscow
12th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1932 Aug. 27 to Sept. 15 Moscow 38 + 136
13th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI 1933 Nov. 28 to Dec. 12 Moscow

Plenums of ECCI

Event Year held Dates Location Delegates
Founding Congress 1919 March 2–6 Moscow 34 + 18
2nd World Congress 1920 July 19 to Aug. 7 Petrograd & Moscow 167 + ≈53
3rd World Congress 1921 June 22 to July 12 Moscow
4th World Congress 1922 Nov. 5 to Dec. 5 Petrograd & Moscow 340 + 48
5th World Congress 1924 June 17 to July 8 Moscow 324 + 82
6th World Congress 1928 July 17 to Sept. 1 Moscow
7th World Congress 1935 July 25 to Aug. 21 Moscow
[52]Delegate figures are voting plus consultative.


World congresses and plenums of Comintern

(See International Liaison Department)

The most intense practical application of the conspiratorial work of the Comintern was carried out by its international liaison service, the OMS. This body undertook clandenstine courier activities and work which supported underground political activities. These included the transport of money and letters, the manufacture of passports and other false documents and technical support to underground parties, such as managing "safe houses" and establishing businesses overseas as cover activities.[47]

In 2012, historian David McKnight stated:

The OMS was the Comintern's department for the coordination of subversive and conspiratorial activities. Some of its functions overlapped with those of the main Soviet intelligence agencies, the OGPU and the GRU, whose agents sometimes were assigned to the Comintern. But the OMS maintained its own set of operations and had its own representative on the central committees of each Communist party abroad.[50]

One historian has described:

The OMS (Russian: Отдел международной связи, otdel mezhdunarodnoy svyazi or ОМС), also known in English as the International Liaison Department (1921-1939[47][48]), was "the most secret department" of the Comintern. It has also been translated as the Illegal Liaison Section[49][50] and Foreign Liaison Department.[51]

International Liaison Department ("OMS")

Several international organizations were sponsored by the Comintern in this period:

Comintern-sponsored international organisations

While the Communist parties of the world no longer had a formal international organization, they continued to maintain close relations with each other through a series of international forums. In the period directly after dissolution of Comintern, periodical meetings of Communist parties were held in Moscow. Moreover, World Marxist Review, a joint periodical of the Communist parties, played an important role in coordinating the communist movement up to the break-up of the Socialist Bloc in 1989-1991.

In September 1947, following the June 1947 Paris Conference on Marshall Aid, Stalin gathered a grouping of key European communist parties and set up the Cominform, or Communist Information Bureau, often seen as a substitute to the Comintern. It was a network made up of the Communist parties of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia (led by Josip Broz Tito, it was expelled in June 1948). The Cominform was dissolved in 1956, following Stalin's 1953 death and the XXth Congress of the CPSU.

The International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was founded at roughly the same time that the Comintern was abolished in 1943, although its specific duties during the first several years of its existence are unknown.[46]

Successor organisations

Usually, it is asserted that the dissolution came about as Stalin wished to calm his World War II allies (particularly Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill) and keep them from suspecting the Soviet Union of pursuing a policy of trying to foment revolution in other countries.[45]

After endorsements of the declaration were received from the member sections, the International was dissolved.[43] Messages between Tito and Dimitrov the Secretary-General in Moscow were intercepted and decrypted by the British GC&CS (Bletchley Park) from 1943, though the volume of messages was not great (the first message from "Walter" [Tito] was intercepted on 21 April, though not decrypted until many months later). They showed the level of control exercised over him (Tito) by Moscow and continued with Dimitrov after June 1943, when the Comintern itself was dissolved.[44]

To dissolve the Communist International as a guiding centre of the international labor movement, releasing sections of the Communist International from the obligations ensuing from the constitution and decisions of the Congresses of the Communist International.

Concretely, the declaration asked the member sections to approve:

The historical role of the Communist International, organized in 1919 as a result of the political collapse of the overwhelming majority of the old pre-war workers' parties, consisted in that it preserved the teachings of Marxism from vulgarisation and distortion by opportunist elements of the labor movement.... But long before the war it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles.

At the start of World War II, the Comintern supported a policy of non-intervention, arguing that the war was an imperialist war between various national ruling classes, much like World War I had been. But when the Soviet Union itself was invaded on 22 June 1941, the Comintern changed its position to one of active support for the Allies. On May 15, 1943, a declaration of the Executive Committee was sent out to all sections of the International, calling for the dissolution of Comintern. The declaration read:


Stalin's purges of the 1930s affected Comintern activists living in both the USSR and overseas. At Stalin's direction, the Comintern was thoroughly infused with Soviet secret police and foreign intelligence operatives and informers working under Comintern guise. One of its leaders, Mikhail Trilisser, using the pseudonym 'Mikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin', was in fact chief of the foreign department of the Soviet OGPU (later, the NKVD). At Stalin's orders, 133 out of 492 Comintern staff members became victims of the Great Purge. Several hundred German Communists and antifascists who had either fled from Nazi Germany or were convinced to relocate in the Soviet Union were liquidated, and more than a thousand were handed over to Germany.[41] Fritz Platten died in a labor camp; the leaders of the Indian (Virendranath Chattopadhyaya or Chatto), Korean, Mexican, Iranian and Turkish Communist parties were executed. Out of 11 Mongolian Communist Party leaders, only Khorloogiin Choibalsan survived. Leopold Trepper recalled these days: "In house, where the party activists of all the countries were living, no-one slept until 3 o'clock in the morning.... Exactly 3 o'clock the car lights began to be seen... we stayed near the window and waited [to find out], where the car stopped."[42]

The seventh and last congress of the Comintern was held between July 25 and August 20, 1935. It was attended by representatives of 65 communist parties. The main report was delivered by Dimitrov, other reports were delivered by Palmiro Togliatti, Wilhelm Pieck and Dmitry Manuilsky.[40] The congress officially endorsed the Popular Front against fascism. This policy argued that Communist Parties should seek to form a Popular Front with all parties that opposed fascism and not limit themselves to forming a United Front with those parties based in the working class. There was no significant opposition to this policy within any of the national sections of the Comintern; in France and Spain in particular, it would have momentous consequences with Léon Blum's 1936 election, which led to the Popular Front government.

Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai's Delegates' Card at the 1935 COMINTERN's 7th Congress. She was a delegate representing the Indochinese Communist Party.

Seventh World Congress and the Popular Front

The 6th World Congress also revised the policy of united front in the colonial world. In 1927 the Kuomintang had turned on the Chinese Communists, which led to a review of the policy on forming alliances with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. The congress did however make a differentiation between the character of the Chinese Kuomintang on one hand and the Indian Swarajist Party and the Egyptian Wafd Party on the other, considering the latter as an unreliable ally but not a direct enemy. The congress called on the Indian Communists to utilize the contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the British imperialists.[39]

In 1928, the 9th Plenum of the Executive Committee began the so-called "Third Period", which was to last until 1935.[38] The Comintern proclaimed that the capitalist system was entering the period of final collapse and therefore all Communist parties were to adopt an aggressive, militant, ultra-left line. In particular, the Comintern labelled all moderate left-wing parties "social fascists", and urged the Communists to destroy the moderate left. With the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany after 1930, this stance became controversial.

The Third Period

Willi Münzenberg.[37] These organizations were dissolved the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Communist front organizations

The Comintern was a relatively small organization but it devised novel ways of controlling Communist parties around the world. In many places there was a Communist subculture, founded upon indigenous left-wing traditions which had never been controlled by Moscow. The Comintern attempted to establish control over party leaderships by sending agents who bolstered certain factions, by judicious use of secret funding, by expelling independent-minded activists, and even by closing down entire national parties (such as the Polish Communist Party in 1938). Above all, the Comintern exploited Soviet prestige, in sharp contrast to the weaknesses of local parties that rarely had political power.[31][32]

By the Fifth Comintern Congress in July 1924... the collapse of Communist support in Europe tightened the pressure for conformity. A new policy of "Bolshevization" was adopted, which dragooned the CPs toward stricter bureaucratic centralism. This flattened out the earlier diversity of radicalisms, welding them into a single approved model of Communist organization. Only then did the new parties retreat from broader Left arenas into their own belligerent world, even if many local cultures of broader cooperation persisted. Respect for Bolshevik achievements and defense of the Russian Revolution now transmuted into dependency on Moscow and belief in Soviet infallibility. Depressing cycles of "internal rectification" began, disgracing and expelling successive leaderships, so that by the later 1920s many founding Communists had gone. This process of coordination, in a hard-faced drive for uniformity, was finalized at the next Congress of the Third International in 1928.[30]

Geoff Eley summed up the change in attitude at this time as follows:

At the 5th World Congress of the Comintern in July 1924, Zinoviev condemned Marxist philosopher Georgi Dimitrov headed the Comintern in 1934 and presided until its dissolution.

The dream of a world revolution was abandoned after the failures of the Spartacist uprising in Germany and of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, and the failure of all revolutionary movements in Europe, such as in Italy, where the fascist squadristi broke the strikes and quickly assumed power following the 1922 March on Rome. This period, up to 1928, was known as the "Second Period", mirroring the shift in the USSR from war communism to the New Economic Policy.[29]

Lenin died in 1924; the next year saw a shift in the organization's focus from the immediate activity of world revolution towards a defence of the Soviet state. In that year, Joseph Stalin took power in Moscow and upheld the thesis of "socialism in one country", detailed by Nikolai Bukharin in his brochure Can We Build Socialism in One Country in the Absence of the Victory of the West-European Proletariat? (April 1925). The position was finalized as the state policy after Stalin's January 1926 article On the Issues of Leninism. Stalin made the party line clear: "An internationalist is one who is ready to defend the USSR without reservation, without wavering, unconditionally; for the USSR it is the base of the world revolutionary movement, and this revolutionary movement cannot be defended and promoted without defending the USSR.[28]

The Comintern membership card of Karl Kilbom

The Second Period

Fifth to Seventh World Congresses: 1925-1935

[27] In 1924, the

The Comintern was involved in the revolutions across Europe in this period, starting with the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Several hundred agitators and financial aid were sent from the Soviet Union and Lenin was in regular contact with its leader, Béla Kun. Soon an official "Terror Group of the Revolutionary Council of the Government" was formed, unofficially known as "Lenin Boys".[21] The next attempt was the "March Action" in Germany in 1921, including an attempt to dynamite the express train from Halle to Leipzig. After this failed, the Communist Party of Germany expelled its former chairman, Paul Levi, from the party for publicly criticising the March Action in a pamphlet,[22] which was ratified by the ECCI prior to the 3rd congress.[23] A new attempt was made at the time of the Ruhr Crisis in spring and then again in selected parts of Germany in the autumn of 1923. The Red Army was mobilized, ready to come to the aid of the planned insurrection. Resolute action by the German government cancelled the plans, except due to miscommunication in Hamburg, where 200-300 Communists attacked police stations but were quickly defeated.[24] In 1924 there was a failed coup in Estonia by the Estonian Communist Party.[25]

During this early period, known as the "First Period" in Comintern history, with the Bolshevik revolution under attack in the Rotfrontkämpferbund.[20]

The Dungan commander of the Dungan Cavalry Regiment, Magaza Masanchi, attended the Third Congress.[19]

Writings from the Third Congress, held in June–July 1921, talked about how the struggle could be transformed into "civil war" when the circumstances were favorable and "openly revolutionary uprisings".[17] The Fourth Congress, November 1922, at which Leon Trotsky played a prominent role, continued in this vein.[18]

Third World Congress

Many European socialist parties divided because of the adhesion issue. The French Section of the Workers International (SFIO) thus broke away with the 1920 Tours Congress, leading to the creation of the new French Communist Party (initially called "French Section of the Communist International" - SFIC); the Communist Party of Spain was created in 1920, the Communist Party of Italy was created in 1921, the Belgian Communist Party in September 1921, etc.

Regarding the political situation in the colonized world, the second congress of the Communist International stipulated that a united front should be formed between the proletariat, peasantry and national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. Amongst the twenty-one conditions drafted by Lenin ahead of the congress was the 11th thesis which stipulated that all communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements in the colonies. Notably some of the delegates opposed the idea of alliance with the bourgeoisie, and preferred giving support to communist movements in these countries instead. Their criticism was shared by the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy, who attended as a delegate of the Communist Party of Mexico. The congress removed the term 'bourgeois-democratic' in what became the 8th condition.[16]

Ahead of the Second Congress of the Communist International, held in July through August 1920, Lenin sent out a number of documents, including his democratic centralist lines, in which the party press and parliamentary factions would be under the direct control of the party leadership.

Boris Kustodiyev. Festival of the II Congress of Comintern on the Uritsky Square (former Palace square) in Petrograd
Second Congress of the Communist International. 1920.
Main article: 2nd World Congress of the Comintern.

Second World Congress

Grigory Zinoviev served as the first Chairman of the Comintern's Executive Committee from 1919 to 1926, but its dominant figure until his death in January 1924 was Lenin, whose strategy for revolution had been laid out in What Is to Be Done? (1902). The central policy of the Comintern under Lenin's leadership was that Communist parties should be established across the world to aid the international proletarian revolution. The parties also shared his principle of democratic centralism, "freedom of discussion, unity of action", that is, that parties would make decisions democratically, but uphold in a disciplined fashion whatever decision was made.[13] In this period, the Comintern was promoted as the "General Staff of the World Revolution."[14]


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