Communist International

Last updated
Communist International
General Secretary Georgi Dimitrov
Founded2 March 1919;105 years ago (1919-03-02)
Dissolved15 May 1943;80 years ago (1943-05-15)
Preceded by
Succeeded by Cominform
Newspaper Communist International
Youth wing Young Communist International
Political position Far-left
AnthemKominternlied/Гимн Коминтерна
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.

The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, and which was led and controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. [3] [4] [5] The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress in 1920 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". [6] The Comintern was preceded by the dissolution of the Second International in 1916.


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. Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, dissolved the Comintern in 1943 to avoid antagonizing his allies in the later years of World War II, the United States and the United Kingdom. It was succeeded by the Cominform in 1947.

Organizational history

Failure of the Second International

Differences between the revolutionary and reformist wings of the workers' movement had been increasing for decades, but the outbreak of World War I was the catalyst for their separation. The Triple Alliance comprised two empires, while the Triple Entente was formed by three. Socialists had historically been anti-war and internationalist, fighting against what they perceived as militarist exploitation of the proletariat for bourgeois states. A majority of socialists voted in favor of resolutions for the Second International to call upon the international working class to resist war if it were declared. [7]

But after the beginning of World War I, many European socialist parties announced support for the war effort of their respective nations. [8] Including the British Labour Party who issued a manifesto stating, "the victory of the Germans would mean the death of democracy in Europe" [9] while making no such criticisms of the Russian Tsar. There were exceptions, such as the socialist parties of the Balkans [ which? ]. To Vladimir Lenin's surprise, even the Social Democratic Party of Germany voted in favor of war. After influential anti-war French Socialist Jean Jaurès was assassinated on 31 July 1914, the socialist parties hardened their support in France for their government of national unity.

Socialist parties in neutral countries mostly supported neutrality, rather than totally opposing the war. On the other hand, during the 1915 Zimmerwald Conference, Lenin, then a Swiss resident refugee, organized an opposition to the "imperialist war" as the Zimmerwald Left, publishing the pamphlet Socialism and War where he called socialists collaborating with their national governments social chauvinists, i.e. socialists in word, but nationalists in deed. [10]

The Second International divided into a revolutionary left-wing, a moderate center-wing, and a more reformist right-wing. Lenin condemned much of the center as "social pacifists" for several reasons, including their vote for war credits[ clarification needed ] despite publicly 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 fight against it.

Discredited by its apathy towards world events, the Second International dissolved in 1916. In 1917, after the February Revolution overthrew the Romanov Dynasty, Lenin published the April Theses which openly supported revolutionary defeatism, where the Bolsheviks hoped that Russia would lose the war so that they could quickly cause a socialist insurrection. [11]

Impact of the Russian Revolution

The Bolshevik by Boris Kustodiev, 1920 Kustodiev The Bolshevik.jpg
The Bolshevik by Boris Kustodiev, 1920

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.

First Period of the Comintern

During this early period (1919–1924), 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.

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. 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, [12] which was ratified by the Executive Committee of the Communist International prior to the Third Congress. [13] 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. In 1924, there was a failed coup in Estonia by the Communist Party of Estonia.

Founding Congress

The Comintern was founded at a Congress held in Moscow on 2–6 March 1919. [14] It opened with a tribute to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, recently murdered by the Freikorps during the Spartacist Uprising, [15] against the backdrop of the Russian Civil War. There were 52 delegates present from 34 parties. [16] 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 [note 1] and Vladmir Ossipovich Mazin. [18] Lenin, Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontai presented material. The main topic of discussion was the difference between bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. [19]

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. [16] [note 2]

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. [22] In this period, the Comintern was promoted as the general staff of the world revolution. [23]

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. Congress adopted the 21 conditions as prerequisites for any group wanting to become affiliated with the International. The 21 Conditions called for the demarcation between communist parties and other socialist groups [note 3] 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 an 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. [24]

Many European socialist parties were 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

The Third Congress of the Communist International was held between 22 June–12 July 1921 in Moscow. [25]

Fourth World Congress

The Fourth Congress, held in November 1922, at which Trotsky played a prominent role, continued in this vein. [26]

In 1924, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party joined the Comintern. [27] At first, in China both the Chinese Communist Party 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.

The Fourth World Congress was coincidentally held within days of the March on Rome by Benito Mussolini and his PNF in Italy. Karl Radek lamented the proceedings in Italy as the "largest defeat suffered by socialism and communism since the beginning of the period of world revolution", and Zinoviev programmatically announced the similarities between fascism and social democracy, laying the groundwork for the later social fascism theory. [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, 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". [29]

According to Russian historian Vadim Rogovin, the leadership of the German Communist party had requested that Moscow send Leon Trotsky to Germany to direct the 1923 insurrection. However, this proposal was rejected by the Politburo which was controlled by Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev who decided to send a commission of lower-ranking Russian Communist party members. [30]

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 during the Biennio Rosso 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. [31]

At the Fifth World Congress of the Comintern in July 1924, Zinoviev condemned both 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. [32]

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. [33] [34]

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. [35] 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. [36] Under the leadership of Zinoviev, the Comintern established fronts in many countries in the 1920s and after. [37] 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), [38] 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. [39] 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. [40] 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 Party in Germany after the 1930 federal election, this stance became controversial.

The Sixth World Congress also revised the policy of united front in the colonial world. In 1927 in China, the Kuomintang had turned on the Chinese Communist Party, 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 Swaraj 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. [41]

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 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. [42] 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). Numerous Comintern officials were also targeted by the dictator and became victims of show trials and political persecution, such as Grigory Zinoviev and Nikolai Bukharin. 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. [43] Wolfgang Leonhard, who experienced this period in Moscow as a contemporary witness, wrote about it in his political autobiography, which was published in the 1950s: "The foreign communists living in the Soviet Union were particularly affected. In a few months, more functionaries of the Comintern apparatus were arrested than had been put together by all bourgeois governments in twenty years. Just listing the names would fill entire pages." [44] 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". [45]

Among those persecuted were many KPD functionaries, such as members of the KPD Central Committee, who believed they had found safe asylum in the Soviet Union after Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Among them was Hugo Eberlein, who had been present at the 1919 Comintern founding congress.

Trotsky, who was also marginalized and persecuted by Stalin, and other communists founded the Fourth International in 1938 as an oppositional alternative to the Stalin-dominated Comintern. In the years that followed, however, their sections rarely got beyond the status of the smallest cadre or splinter parties.

Although the General Association of German Anti-Communist Associations had existed in Berlin since 1933 as part of the Nazi government's propaganda against the Soviet Union and the Comintern, a treaty of assistance was concluded between Germany and Japan in 1936, the Anti-Comintern Pact. In it, the two states agreed to fight the Comintern and assured each other that they would not sign any treaties with the Soviet Union that would contradict the anti-communist spirit of the agreement. However, this did not prevent Hitler from signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Stalin in August 1939, which in turn meant the end of the Popular Front policy and, in fact, that of the Comintern as well.


The German-Soviet non-aggression treaty contained far-reaching agreements on spheres of interest, which the two totalitarian powers implemented over the next two years using military means. On 3 September 1939, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany after its invasion of Poland, beginning World War II in Europe. The Comintern sections now found themselves in the politically suicidal situation of having to support, for example, the Soviet invasion and subsequent annexation of Eastern Poland. The Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov declared on October 31 that it was not Hitler's Germany but rather Britain and France that were to be regarded as the aggressors[ citation needed ]. The weakened and decimated Comintern was forced to officially adopt a policy of non-intervention, declaring on November 6 that the conflict was an imperialist war between various national ruling classes on both sides, much like World War I had been, and that the main culprits were Britain and France. [46]

This period, during which the Comintern enabled Hitlerite fascism, [47] only ended on 22 June 1941 with the invasion of the Soviet Union, when the Comintern changed its position to one of active support for the Allies. During these two years, many communists turned their backs on their Comintern sections, and the organization lost its political credibility and relevance. On 15 May 1943, a declaration of the Executive Committee was sent out to all sections of the International, calling for the dissolution of the 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. [48] The dissolution was interpreted as Stalin wishing to calm his World War II allies (particularly Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill) and to keep them from suspecting the Soviet Union of pursuing a policy of trying to foment revolution in other countries. [49]

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. [50] [51] [52]

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 and 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 Eastern Bloc in 1989–1991.

British historian Jonathan Haslam reports that even after in Moscow archives:

all references to the Communist International and later the international department of the central committee, which drove the revolutionary side of foreign policy, were removed from published diplomatic documents, in order to fit in with the prevailing dogma established by Vladimir Lenin that the Soviet Government had nothing to do with Comintern. I gave up co-editing a series of documents on Russo-American relations because my Russian colleague could not or would not get over that hurdle....Even today [2020], when the Russians are more liberal in their censorship of documentary publications, one has to verify where possible through other sources independent of Moscow. And although Comintern's archives are available on the web, most of it them are still closed to the reader, even though officially declassified, and much of it is in German only. One always has to ask, what has been cut out deliberately? [53]

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), [54] [55] was the most secret department of the Comintern. It has also been translated as the Illegal Liaison Section [56] [57] and Foreign Liaison Department. [58]

Historian Thomas L. Sakmyster describes:

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. [57]

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. [54]

World congresses and plenums


EventYear heldDatesLocationDelegates
Founding Congress 19192–6 MarchMoscow34 + 18
2nd World Congress 192019 July–7 AugustPetrograd and Moscow167 + ~53
3rd World Congress 192122 June–12 JulyMoscow
4th World Congress 19225 November–5 DecemberPetrograd and Moscow340 + 48
5th World Congress192417 June–8 JulyMoscow324 + 82
6th World Congress 192817 July–1 SeptemberMoscow
7th World Congress 193525 July–21 AugustMoscow
Delegate figures are voting plus consultative. [59]

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

Leftist Internationals, chronologically by ideology
United left wing
Socialist & labour
Democratic socialism
Reunification efforts


  1. 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. [17]
  2. 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 Pöögelmann (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). [21]
  3. 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 organizations 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.

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The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, were a far-left faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split with the Mensheviks at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The Bolshevik party seized power in Russia in the October Revolution of 1917, and was later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Their ideology and practices, based on Leninist and later Marxist–Leninist principles, are known as Bolshevism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leon Trotsky</span> Russian Marxist revolutionary (1879–1940)

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, better known as Leon Trotsky, was a Russian revolutionary, Soviet politician, journalist, and political theorist. He was a central figure in the 1905 Revolution, October Revolution, Russian Civil War, and the establishment of the Soviet Union. Alongside Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky was widely considered the most prominent Soviet figure and was de facto second-in-command during the early years of the Russian Soviet Republic. Ideologically a Marxist and a Leninist, his thought and writings inspired a school of Marxism known as Trotskyism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leninism</span> Political theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is a political ideology developed by Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin that proposes the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary vanguard party as the political prelude to the establishment of communism. Lenin's ideological contributions to the Marxist ideology relate to his theories on the party, imperialism, the state, and revolution. The function of the Leninist vanguard party is to provide the working classes with the political consciousness and revolutionary leadership necessary to depose capitalism.

Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology that became the largest faction of the communist movement in the world in the years following the October Revolution. It was the predominant ideology of most communist governments throughout the 20th century. It was developed in Russia by Joseph Stalin and drew on elements of Bolshevism, orthodox Marxism, and Leninism. It was the state ideology of the Soviet Union, Soviet satellite states in the Eastern Bloc, and various countries in the Non-Aligned Movement and Third World during the Cold War, as well as the Communist International after Bolshevization.

A communist party is a political party that seeks to realize the socio-economic goals of communism. The term "communist party" was popularized by the title of The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. As a vanguard party, the communist party guides the political education and development of the working class (proletariat). As a ruling party, the communist party exercises power through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Vladimir Lenin developed the idea of the communist party as the revolutionary vanguard, when the socialist movement in Imperial Russia was divided into ideologically opposed factions, the Bolshevik faction and the Menshevik faction. To be politically effective, Lenin proposed a small vanguard party managed with democratic centralism which allowed the centralized command of a disciplined cadre of professional revolutionaries. Once a policy was agreed upon, realizing political goals required every Bolshevik's total commitment to the agreed-upon policy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trotskyism</span> Variety of Marxism developed by Leon Trotsky

Trotskyism is the political ideology and branch of Marxism developed by Russian revolutionary and intellectual Leon Trotsky along with some other members of the Left Opposition and the Fourth International. Trotsky described himself as an orthodox Marxist, a revolutionary Marxist, and a Bolshevik–Leninist as well as a follower of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union (1917–1927)</span> Period of history of Russia

The ten years 1917–1927 saw a radical transformation of the Russian Empire into a socialist state, the Soviet Union. Soviet Russia covers 1917–1922 and Soviet Union covers the years 1922 to 1991. After the Russian Civil War (1917–1923), the Bolsheviks took control. They were dedicated to a version of Marxism developed by Vladimir Lenin. It promised the workers would rise, destroy capitalism, and create a socialist society under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The awkward problem, regarding Marxist revolutionary theory, was the small proletariat, in an overwhelmingly peasant society with limited industry and a very small middle class. Following the February Revolution in 1917 that deposed Nicholas II of Russia, a short-lived provisional government gave way to Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (RCP).

Bolshevism is a revolutionary socialist current of Soviet Leninist and later Marxist–Leninist political thought and political regime associated with the formation of a rigidly centralized, cohesive and disciplined party of social revolution, focused on overthrowing the existing capitalist state system, seizing power and establishing the "dictatorship of the proletariat".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christian Rakovsky</span> Bulgarian-born Soviet diplomat (1873–1941)

Christian Georgiyevich Rakovsky was a Bulgarian-born socialist revolutionary, a Bolshevik politician and Soviet diplomat and statesman; he was also noted as a journalist, physician, and essayist. Rakovsky's political career took him throughout the Balkans and into France and Imperial Russia; for part of his life, he was also a Romanian citizen.

The history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was generally perceived as covering that of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party from which it evolved. In 1912, the party formally split, and the predecessor to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union became a distinct entity. Its history since then can roughly be divided into the following periods:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zeth Höglund</span> Swedish politician (1884–1956)

Carl Zeth "Zäta" Konstantin Höglund was a leading Swedish communist politician, anti-militarist, author, journalist and mayor (finansborgarråd) of Stockholm (1940–1950).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Stalin's rise to power</span> Events leading to his dictatorship of the Soviet Union

Joseph Stalin started his career as a radical student, becoming a robber, gangster as well as a influential member and eventually the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He served as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953.

Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers' Party (Narrow Socialists) (Bulgarian: Българска работническа социалдемократическа партия (тесни социалисти), romanized: Balgarska rabotnicheska sotsialdemokraticheska partia (tesni sotsialisti)) was a Marxist, socialist political party in Bulgaria. The party's origins lays in 1903, after a split at the 10th Congress of the Bulgarian Workers' Social Democratic Party. The other faction formed the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party (Broad Socialists).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2nd World Congress of the Communist International</span>

The 2nd World Congress of the Communist International was a gathering of approximately 220 voting and non-voting representatives of communist and revolutionary socialist political parties from around the world, held in Petrograd and Moscow from July 19 to August 7, 1920. The 2nd Congress is best remembered for formulating and implementing the 21 Conditions for membership in the Communist International.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karl Radek</span> Polish revolutionary (1885–1939)

Karl Berngardovich Radek was a revolutionary and writer active in the Polish and German social democratic movements before World War I and a Communist International leader in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grigory Zinoviev</span> Russian revolutionary and Soviet politician (1883–1936)

Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev was a Russian revolutionary and Soviet politician. An Old Bolshevik, Zinoviev was a prominent figure in the leadership of the early Soviet Union and served as chairman of the Communist International (Comintern) from 1919 to 1926.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Left communism</span> Political ideology

Left communism, or the communist left, is a position held by the left wing of communism, which criticises the political ideas and practices espoused by Marxist–Leninists and social democrats. Left communists assert positions which they regard as more authentically Marxist than the views of Marxism–Leninism espoused by the Communist International after its Bolshevization by Joseph Stalin and during its second congress.

Revolutionary socialism is a political philosophy, doctrine, and tradition within socialism that stresses the idea that a social revolution is necessary to bring about structural changes in society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for transitioning from a capitalist to a socialist mode of production. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as a 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">World revolution</span> Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism

World revolution is the Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. For theorists, these revolutions will not necessarily occur simultaneously, but where and when local conditions allow a revolutionary party to successfully replace bourgeois ownership and rule, and install a workers' state based on social ownership of the means of production. In most Marxist schools, such as Trotskyism and Communist Left, the essentially international character of the class struggle and the necessity of global scope are critical elements and a chief explanation of the failure of socialism in one country.

The anti-Stalinist left is a term that refers to various kinds of Marxist political movements that oppose Joseph Stalin, Stalinism, Neo-Stalinism and the system of governance that Stalin implemented as leader of the Soviet Union between 1924 and 1953. This term also refers to the high ranking political figures and governmental programs that opposed Joseph Stalin and his form of communism, such as Leon Trotsky and other traditional Marxists within the Left Opposition. In Western historiography, Stalin is considered one of the worst and most notorious figures in modern history.


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Further reading


Primary sources

  • Banac, I. ed. The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov 1933–1949, Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Davidson, Apollon, et al. (eds.) South Africa and the Communist International: A Documentary History. 2 volumes, 2003.
  • Degras, Jane T. The Communist International, 1919–43 3 volumes. 1956; documents; online vol 1 1919–22; vol 2 1923–28; vol 3 1929–43.
  • Firsov, Fridrikh I., Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes, eds. Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933–1943. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014. online review
  • Gruber, Helmut. International Communism in the Era of Lenin: A Documentary History , Cornell University Press, 1967.
  • Kheng, Cheah Boon, ed. From PKI to the Comintern, 1924–1941, Cornell University Press, 2018.
  • Riddell, John (ed.):
    • The Communist International in Lenin's Time, Vol. 1: Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents: 1907–1916: The Preparatory Years. New York: Monad Press, 1984.
    • The Communist International in Lenin's Time, Vol. 2: The German Revolution and the Debate on Soviet Power: Documents: 1918–1919: Preparing the Founding Congress. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1986.
    • The Communist International in Lenin's Time, Vol. 3: Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress: March 1919. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987.
    • The Communist International in Lenin's Time: Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite! Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920. In Two Volumes. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991.
    • The Communist International in Lenin's Time: To See the Dawn: Baku, 1920: First Congress of the Peoples of the East. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1993.
    • Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922. Leiden: Brill, 2012.