Communist International

Last updated
Communist International
Founder Vladimir Lenin
Founded2 March 1919;100 years ago (1919-03-02)
Dissolved15 May 1943;75 years ago (1943-05-15)
Preceded by
Succeeded by Communist Information Bureau
Newspaper Communist International
Youth wing Young Communist International
Ideology Communism
Political position Far-left
Colors     Red

The Communist International (Comintern), known also as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state". [1] The Comintern had been preceded by the 1916 dissolution of the Second International.

International organization organization with an international membership, scope, or presence

An international organization is an organization with an international membership, scope, or presence. There are two main types:

World communism Communism of international scope

World communism is a form of communism which has an international scope. The long-term goal of world communism is a worldwide communist society that is stateless, which may be achieved through an intermediate-term goal of either a voluntary association of sovereign states or a world government. A series of internationals have worked toward world communism and they have included the First International, the Second International, the Third International, the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the World Socialist Movement and variant offshoots. These are a quite heterogeneous group despite their common ultimate goal of a stateless and global communist society.

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

The bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:


The Comintern held seven World Congresses in Moscow between 1919 and 1935. During that period, it also conducted 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 to avoid antagonizing its allies the United States and the United Kingdom.

Executive Committee of the Communist International

The Executive Committee of the Communist International, commonly known by its acronym, ECCI (Russian acronym ИККИ), was the governing authority of the Comintern between the World Congresses of that body. The ECCI was established by the Founding Congress of the Comintern in 1919 and was dissolved with the rest of the Comintern in May 1943.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician. He led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Organizational history

Failure of the Second International

The Communist International published a namesake theoretical magazine in a variety of European languages from 1919 to 1943 Communist-International-1920.jpg
The Communist International published a namesake theoretical magazine in a variety of European languages from 1919 to 1943

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 was especially true since the Triple Alliance comprised two empires while the Triple Entente gathered France and Britain into an alliance with Russia. Karl Marx's 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 were declared. [2]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Reformism is a political doctrine advocating the reform of an existing system or institution instead of its abolition and replacement. Within the socialist movement, reformism is the view that gradual changes through existing institutions can eventually lead to fundamental changes in a society’s political and economic systems. Reformism as a political tendency and hypothesis of social change grew out of opposition to revolutionary socialism, which contends that revolutionary upheaval is a necessary precondition for the structural changes necessary to transform a capitalist system to a qualitatively different socialist economic system.

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 and the British Labour Party. To Vladimir Lenin's surprise, even the Social Democratic Party of Germany voted in favor of war credits. The assassination of French Socialist Jean Jaurès on 31 July 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.

Balkans geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom which has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

Vladimir Lenin Russian politician, communist theorist and founder of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism.

Socialist parties in neutral countries mostly supported neutrality rather than total opposition to the war. On the other hand, during the 1915 Zimmerwald Conference Lenin organized opposition to the 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, i.e. socialists in word, but chauvinists in deed. [4] The Zimmerwald Left produced no practical advice for how to initiate socialist revolt. [5]

The Zimmerwald Conference was held in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, from 5 to 8 September 1915. It was the first of three international socialist conferences convened by anti-militarist socialist parties from countries that were originally neutral during World War I. The individuals and organizations participating in this and subsequent conferences held at Kienthal and Stockholm are known jointly as the Zimmerwald movement.

Imperialism creation of an unequal relationship between states through domination

Imperialism is policy or ideology of extending a nation's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. It was common around the world throughout recorded history, but diminishing in the late 20th century. In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. Therefore, the term is used in international propaganda to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

The Zimmerwald Left was a revolutionary minority faction at the Zimmerwald Peace Conference of 1915, headed by Vladimir Lenin. The Left of the Zimmerwald Congress was made up of eight out of 38 people: Lenin, Zinoviev (Russia), Jānis Bērziņš (Latvia), Karl Radek (Poland), Julian Borchardt (Germany), Fritz Platten (Switzerland), Zeth Höglund and Ture Nerman (Sweden). It was the first step towards forming what later became the Comintern.

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.

Centrist Marxism Marxist position between reformism and revolution

Centrism has a specific meaning within the Marxist movement, referring to a position between revolution and reformism. For instance, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) and Independent Labour Party (ILP) were both seen as centrist because they oscillated between advocating reaching a socialist economy through reforms and advocating revolution. The parties that belonged to the "so-called" Two-and-a-half and Three-and-a-half Internationals, who could not choose between the reformism of the social democrat Second International and the revolutionary politics of the Communist Third International, were also exemplary of centrism in this sense. They included the Spanish Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), the ILP and Poale Zion.

Ramsay MacDonald British statesman; Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

James Ramsay MacDonald was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, firstly for nine months in 1924 and then again between 1929 and 1935. He was the first Labour Party politician to become Prime Minister, leading minority Labour governments in 1924 and in 1929–31. He headed a National Government from 1931 to 1935, dominated by the Conservative Party and supported by only a few Labour members. MacDonald was later vehemently denounced by and expelled from the party he had helped to found.

Independent Labour Party UK political party

The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893, when the Liberals appeared reluctant to endorse working-class candidates, representing the interests of the majority. A sitting independent MP and prominent union organiser, Keir Hardie, became its first chairman.

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, i.e. 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. [6]

Impact of the Russian Revolution

The victory of the Russian Communist Party in the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 was felt throughout the world and 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 World War I, 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 on 2–6 March 1919 [7] against the backdrop of the Russian Civil War. There were 52 delegates present from 34 parties. [8] 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, Leon 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 [9] and Vladmir Ossipovich Mazin. [10] Lenin, Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontai presented material. The main topic of discussion was the difference between bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. [11]

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

Of these, the following attended (see list of delegates of the 1st Comintern congress): the communist parties of Russia, Germany, German Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Estonia, Armenia, the Volga German region; the Swedish Social Democratic Left Party (the opposition), Balkan Revolutionary People's of Russia; Zimmerwald Left Wing of France; the Czech, Bulgarian, Yugoslav, British, French and Swiss Communist Groups; the Dutch Social-Democratic Group; Socialist Propaganda League and the Socialist Labor Party of America; Socialist Workers' Party of China; Korean Workers' Union, Turkestan, Turkish, Georgian, Azerbaijanian and Persian Sections of the Central Bureau of the Eastern People's and the Zimmerwald Commission. [8] [13]

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), namely that parties would make decisions democratically, but uphold in a disciplined fashion whatever decision was made. [14] In this period, the Comintern was promoted as the general staff of the world revolution. [15]

Second World Congress

Second Congress of the Communist International 2nd World Congress of the Comintern Lenin Zinoviev Bukharin Gorky.jpg
Second Congress of the Communist International
Painting by Boris Kustodiev representing the festival of the Comintern II Congress on the Uritsky Square (former Palace square) in Petrograd Kustodiev - Congress of Comintern.JPG
Painting by Boris Kustodiev representing the festival of the Comintern II Congress on the Uritsky Square (former Palace square) in Petrograd

Ahead of the Second Congress of the Communist International, held in July through August 1920, Lenin sent out a number of documents, including his Twenty-one Conditions to all socialist parties. The Congress adopted the 21 conditions as prerequisites for any group wanting to become affiliated to the International. The 21 Conditions called for the demarcation between communist parties and other socialist groups [16] and instructed the Comintern sections not to trust the legality of the bourgeois states. They also called for the build-up of party organisations along democratic centralist lines in which the party press and parliamentary factions would be under the direct control of the party leadership.

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 Mexican Communist Party. The Congress removed the term bourgeois-democratic in what became the 8th condition. [17]

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 and so on.

Third World Congress

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. [18] The Fourth Congress, held in November 1922, at which Trotsky played a prominent role, continued in this vein. [19]

The Dungan commander of the Dungan Cavalry Regiment Magaza Masanchi attended the Third Congress. [20]

During this early period, known as the First Period in Comintern history, with the Bolshevik Revolution under attack in the Russian Civil War and a wave of revolutions across Europe, the Comintern's priority was exporting the October Revolution. Some communist parties had secret military wings. One example is the M-Apparat of the Communist Party of Germany. Its purpose was to prepare for the civil war the Communists believed was impending in Germany and to liquidate opponents and informers who might have infiltrated the party. There was also a paramilitary organization called the Rotfrontkämpferbund. [21]

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. [22] 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, [23] which was ratified by the Executive Committee of the Communist International prior to the Third Congress. [24] 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. [25] In 1924, there was a failed coup in Estonia by the Estonian Communist Party. [26]

In 1924, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party joined Comintern. [27] At first, in China both the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang were supported. After the definite break with Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, Joseph Stalin sent personal emissaries to help organize revolts which at this time failed. [28]

Fifth to Seventh World Congresses: 1925–1935

Second Period

The Comintern membership card of Karl Kilbom KilbomKominternKard.jpg
The Comintern membership card of Karl Kilbom

Lenin died in 1924 and 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, 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". [29]

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 Soviet Union from war communism to the New Economic Policy. [30]

At the Fifth World Congress of the Comintern in July 1924, Zinoviev condemned Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács's History and Class Consciousness, published in 1923 after his involvement in Béla Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic and Karl Korsch's Marxism and Philosophy . Zinoviev himself was dismissed in 1926 after falling out of favor with Stalin. Bukharin then led the Comintern for two years until 1928, when he too fell out with Stalin. Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov headed the Comintern in 1934 and presided until its dissolution.

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

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. [31]

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 Communist Party of Poland in 1938). Above all, the Comintern exploited Soviet prestige in sharp contrast to the weaknesses of local parties that rarely had political power. [32] [33]

Communist front organizations

Communist front organizations were set up to attract non-members who agreed with the party on certain specific points. Opposition to fascism was a common theme in the popular front era of the mid 1930s. [34] The well-known names and prestige of artists, intellectuals and other fellow travelers were used to advance party positions. They often came to the Soviet Union for propaganda tours praising the future. [35] Under the leadership of Zinoviev, the Comintern established fronts in many countries in the 1920s and after. [36] To coordinate their activities, the Comintern set up international umbrella organizations linking groups across national borders, such as the Young Communist International (youth), Profintern (trade unions), [37] Krestintern (peasants), International Red Aid (humanitarian aid), Sportintern (organized sports) and more. Front organizations were especially influential in France, which in 1933 became the base for communist front organizer Willi Münzenberg. [38] These organizations were dissolved in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Third Period

In 1928, the Ninth Plenum of the Executive Committee began the so-called Third Period, which was to last until 1935. [39] The Comintern proclaimed that the capitalist system was entering the period of final collapse and therefore all communist parties were to adopt an aggressive and 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 Sixth 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 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 yet not a direct enemy. The Congress called on the Indian Communists to utilize the contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the British imperialists. [40]

Nguyen Thi Minh Khai's Delegates' Card at the 1935 Comintern's 7th Congress as she was a delegate representing the Indochinese Communist Party Nguyen Thi Minh Khai's Delegate's Card at Comintern's 1935 VII Congress, Moscow.jpg
Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai's Delegates' Card at the 1935 Comintern's 7th Congress as she was a delegate representing the Indochinese Communist Party

The Seventh and last Congress of the Comintern was held between 25 July 25 and 20 August 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. [41] 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, it would have momentous consequences with Léon Blum's 1936 election which led to the Popular Front government.

Stalin's purges of the 1930s affected Comintern activists living in both the Soviet Union 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. [42] Fritz Platten died in a labor camp and 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". [43]


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 15 May 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:

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.

Concretely, the declaration asked the member sections to approve:

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.

After endorsements of the declaration were received from the member sections, the International was dissolved. [44] 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]

Successor organizations

The Research Institutes 100 and 205 worked for the International and later were moved to the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 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] [47] [48]

Following the June 1947 Paris Conference on Marshall Aid, Stalin gathered a grouping of key European communist parties in September 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 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

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 the Comintern's dissolution, 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.

Comintern-sponsored international organizations

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

International Liaison Department

The OMS (Russian : Отдел международной связи, otdel mezhdunarodnoy svyazi, ОМС), also known in English as the International Liaison Department (1921–1939), [49] [50] was the most secret department of the Comintern. It has also been translated as the Illegal Liaison Section [51] [52] and Foreign Liaison Department. [53]

One historian has described:

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. [52]

In 2012, historian David McKnight stated:

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. [49]

World congresses and plenums of Comintern


Delegate figures are voting plus consultative. [54]

Event Year held Dates Location Delegates
Founding Congress 1919 2–6 March Moscow 34 + 18
2nd World Congress 1920 19 July–7 August Petrograd and Moscow 167 + ≈53
3rd World Congress 1921 22 June–12 July Moscow
4th World Congress 1922 5 November–5 December Petrograd and Moscow 340 + 48
5th World Congress 1924 17 June–8 July Moscow 324 + 82
6th World Congress 1928 17 July–1 September Moscow
7th World Congress 1935 25 July–21 August Moscow

Plenums of ECCI

EventYear heldDatesLocationDelegates
1st Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192224 February–4 MarchMoscow105
2nd Enlarged Plenum of ECCI19227–11 JuneMoscow41 + 9
3rd Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192312–23 JuneMoscow
4th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192412 June and 12–13 JulyMoscow
5th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192521 March–6 AprilMoscow
6th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192617 February–15 MarchMoscow77 + 53
7th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192622 November–16 DecemberMoscow
8th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI192718–30 MayMoscow
9th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI19289–25 FebruaryMoscow44 + 48
10th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI19293–19 JulyMoscow36 + 72
Enlarged Presidium of ECCI193025–? FebruaryMoscow
11th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI193126 March–11 AprilMoscow
12th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI193227 August–15 SeptemberMoscow38 + 136
13th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI193328 November–12 DecemberMoscow
EventYear heldDatesLocationDelegates
Conference of the Amsterdam Bureau192010–11 FebruaryAmsterdam16
1st Congress of the Peoples of the East 19201–8 SeptemberBaku1,891
1st Congress of Toilers of the Far East192221 January–2 FebruaryMoscow and Petrograd
World Congress Against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism192710–15 FebruaryBrussels152
2nd Congress of the League Against Imperialism1929JulyFrankfurt
1st International Conference of Negro Workers19307–8 JulyHamburg17 + 3

See also




  1. Harold Henry Fisher (1955). The Communist Revolution: An Outline of Strategy and Tactics. Stanford UP. p. 13.
  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 (1989). War on War: Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the Origins of Communist Internationalism. Duke University Press.
  5. Rees, Tim; Thorpe, Andrew (1998). International Communism and the Communist International, 1919–43. Manchester University Press. pp. 15–21. ISBN   9780719055461.
  6. Service. Lenin: A Biography. p 262.
  7. Berg, Nils J. (1982). 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. p. 19.
  8. 1 2 "Glossary of Events: Congresses of the Communist International".
  9. 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 .
  10. Kollontai, Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin,. "First Congress of the Communist International".
  11. Blunden, Andy. "History of the Communist International".
  12. Rakovsky, Lenin, Trotsky,. "First Congress of the Communist International".
  13. Delegates with deciding votes were: Hugo Eberlein (Communist Party of Germany), Vladimir Lenin (Russian Communist Party), Leon Trotsky (RCP(b)), Zinoviev (RCP(b)), Joseph Stalin (RCP(b)), Bukharin (RCP(b)), Georgy Chicherin (RCP(b)), Karl Steinhardt (Communist Party of German Austria) K. Petin (CPGA), Endre Rudnyánszky (Communist Party of Hungary), Otto Grimlund (Social Democratic Left Party of Sweden), Emil Stang (Norwegian Labour Party), Fritz Platten (the opposition within the Swiss Social Democratic Party), Boris Reinstein (Socialist Labor Party of America), Christian Rakovsky (Balkan Revolutionary Social Democratic Federation), Jozef Unszlicht (Communist Party of Poland), Yrjö Sirola (Communist Party of Finland), Kullervo Manner (CPF), O. V. Kuusinen (CPF), Jukka Rahja (CPF), Eino Rahja (CPF), Mykola Skrypnyk (Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine), Serafima Gopner (CPU), Karl Gailis (Communist Party of Latvia), Kazimir Gedris (Communist Party of Lithuania and Belorussia), Hans Pöögelman (Communist Party of Estonia), Gurgen Haikuni (Communist Party of Armenia), Gustav Klinger (Communist Party of the German Colonists in Russia), Gaziz Yalymov (United Group of the Eastern Peoples of Russia), Hussein Bekentayev (UGEPR), Mahomet Altimirov (UGEPR), Burhan Mansurov (UGEPR), Kasim Kasimov (UGEPR) and Henri Guilbeaux (Zimmerwald Left of France). Delegates with consultative votes were: N. Osinsky (RCP(b)), V. V. Vorovsky (RCP(b)), Jaroslav Handlíř (Czech Communist Group), Stojan Dyorov (Bulgarian Communist Group), Ilija Milkić (Yugoslav Communist Group), Joseph Fineberg (British Communist Group), Jacques Sadoul (French Communist Group), S. J. Rutgers (Dutch Social Democratic Party/Socialist Propaganda League of America), Leonie Kascher (Swiss Communist Group), Liu Shaozhou (Chinese Socialist Workers Party), Zhang Yongkui (CSWP), Kain (Korean Workers League), Angelica Balabanoff (Zimmerwald Committee) and the following delegates representing the sections the Central Bureau of Eastern Peoples: Gaziz Yalymov (Turkestan), Mustafa Suphi (Turkey), Tengiz Zhgenti (Georgian), Mir Jafar Baghirov (Azerbaijan) and Mirza Davud Huseynov (Persia). Source: "First Congress of the Communist International".
  14. Lenin, V. (1906). Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.
  15. William Henry Chamberlin Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a History 1929, chapter 11; Max Shachtman "For the Fourth International!" New International, Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1934; Walter Kendall "Lenin and the Myth of World Revolution", Revolutionary History. Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  16. For example, the thirteenth condition stated: "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, but in the early 1920s the term was more ambiguous. See J. Arch Getty's Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933–1938 at p. 41 for discussion of the ambiguities in the term, including its use in the 1920 Comintern resolution.
  17. 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.
  18. The Black Book of Communism pp. 275–276; Minutes of the Seventh Session.
  19. Blunden, Andy. "History of the Communist International".
  20. Joseph L. Wieczynski (1994). The Modern encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet history, Volume 21. Academic International Press. p. 125. ISBN   0-87569-064-5 . Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  21. The Black Book of Communism . pp. 282. Marxist Internet Archive.
  22. The Black Book of Communism pp. 272–275
  23. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, p. 516.
  24. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, p. 531.
  25. The Black Book of Communism . pp. 277–278.
  26. The Black Book of Communism . pp. 278–279.
  27. Archived September 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  28. The Black Book of Communism . pp. 280–282.
  29. David Priestland, Of the Read Flag: A History of Communism (2009) p. 124.
  30. Duncan Hallas The Comintern, chapter 5.
  31. Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (Oxford University Press 2002) p. 228.
  32. David Priestland, The Read Flag: A History of Communism (2009) p. 124–125
  33. Robert Service, Comrades!: a history of world communism (2007) pp. 164–173.
  34. Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of Communism (2011) pp. 88–89.
  35. 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.
  36. Robert Service, Comrades!: a history of world communism (2007) pp. 173–174.
  37. 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.
  38. Julian Jackson, The Popular Front in France (1990) p. x.
  39. Duncan Hallas The Comintern, chapter 6; 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.
  40. M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front – Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. pp. 47–48.
  41. 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.
  42. The Black Book of Communism . p. 298–301.
  43. Radzinski, Stalin, 1997
  44. "Dissolution of the Communist International".
  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. "H-Net Discussion Networks".
  48. Stalin and the Cold War in Europe: The Emergence and Development of East-West Conflict, 1939–1953.
  49. 1 2 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).
  50. Lazitch, Branko; Milorad M. Drachkovitch (1986). Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern. Hoover Press. pp. xxix (description), 120 (Flieg), 319 (Mirov-Abramov), 479 (Trilisser).
  51. Krivitsky, Walter (2013) [1939]. 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). p. 125.
  52. 1 2 Sakmyster, Thomas L. (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).
  53. West, Nigel (2015). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 77.
  54. "The Communist International (1919–1943)". Marxist History. Retrieved March 22, 2010

Further reading

Primary sources

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