The First Five Years of the Communist International

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Published 1924


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Collection of Trotsky's texts written in 1919-1921 (Volume I) and 1921-1923 (Volume II)
Originally published in Russian in 1924 as Pyat Let Kominterna by State Publishing House, Moscow.
Publisher: New Park, London 1973


Note from MIA / TIA : The 1973 New Park edition of Volume 1 of The First Five Years of the Communist International contained 11 documents that had not been included in the original Russian edition or in the original 1945 English translation by John G. Wright. They originate from Volume XIII of Trotsky’s Socheniya (Works), published in 1926 and were translated by R. Chappell. They have been included here as appendices.

The notes in the text stem from this edition (except where otherwise noted) – the wording is on occasion extremely polemical and sometimes new information has revealed inaccuracies. In these cases we have occasionally added a comment in square brackets which is clearly marked with the notation TIA.

Volume I (1924)[edit source]

I. The First World Congress[4][edit source]

1. Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World

2. Report on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Red Army

3. Order of the Day Number 83 to the Red Army and Navy

II. From the First to the Second World Congress[5][edit source]

4. To Comrades of the Spartacus League

5. A Creeping Revolution

6. Great Days

7. En Route: Thoughts on the Progress of the Proletarian Revolution

8. French Socialism on the Eve of Revolution

9. Jean Longuet

10. On the Coming Congress of the Comintern

III. The Second World Congress[6][edit source]

11. Speech on Comrade Zinoviev’s Report on the Role of the Party

12. Manifesto of the Second World Congress

IV. From the Second to the Third World Congress[7][edit source]

13. On the Policy of the KAPD (Communist Workers Party of Germany)

14. Speech Delivered at the Second World Conference of Communist Women

15. Letter to Comrade Monatte

16. Letter to Comrades Cachin and Frossard

17. On l’Humanité, the Central Organ of the French Party

V. The Third World Congress[8][edit source]

18. The Red Army to the General Staff of the Revolution

19. Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International

20. Summary Speech

21. Theses of the Third World Congress on the International Situation and the Tasks of the Comintern

22. Speech on the Italian Question at the Third Congress of the Communist International

23. Speech on Comrade Radek’s Report on “Tactics of the Comintern” at the Third Congress

24. Speech on Comrade Lenin’s Report: “Tactics of the Russian Communist Party”

VI. From the Third to the Fourth World Congress[9][10][edit source]

25. The Main Lesson of the Third Congress

26. Report on “The Balance Sheet” of the Third Congress of the Communist International

27. Summary Speech

Appendix[edit source]

Towards the First World Congress[edit source]

1. May Day and the International

2. To the Spartacus League of Germany and the Communist Party of German Austria

3. Order Out of Chaos

The First World Congress[edit source]

4. Invitation to the First World Congress

From the First to the Second World Congress[edit source]

5. A Letter to Our French Comrades

From the Second to the Third World Congress[edit source]

6. A Letter to a French Syndicalist about the Communist Party

7. Vergeat, Lepetit and Lefebvre

8. The March Movement in Germany

9. The March Revolutionary Movement in Germany (Personal Notes)

10. May Day Manifesto of the ECCI

11. The Unemployed and the Trade Unions

Volume II (1924)[edit source]

The notes in the text stem from the New Park edition (except where otherwise noted). An introductory remark to the notes says:

These notes are based on material collected by the Marx-Engels Institute under Ryazanov for the first edition of Lenin’s Collected Works. The notes in this volume are supplementary to the notes appended to the first volume of the First Five Years of the Communist International.

From the Third to the Fourth World Congress[edit source]

1. A School of Revolutionary Strategy (July 1921)

2. From the ECCI to the Central Committee of the French Communist Party (June 25, 1921)

3. From the ECCI to the Marseilles Convention of the French Communist Party (December 1921)

4. Speech on Comrade Zinoviev’s Report “The Tactics of the Communist International” at the Eleventh Party Conference (December 1921)

5. Summary Speech at the Eleventh Party Conference (December 1921)

6. Flood-Tide. The Economic Conjuncture and the World Labour Movement (December 25, 1921)

7. Paul Levi and Some “Lefts” (January 6, 1922)

8. On the United Front (March 2, 1922)

9. Resolution of the ECCI on the French Communist Party (March 2, 1922)

10. The Communists and the Peasantry in France (April 29, 1922)

11. The Lessons of May Day (May 10, 1922)

12. From the ECCI to the Central Committee of the French Communist Party (May 12, 1922)

13. French Communism and the Position of Comrade Rappoport (May 23, 1922)

14. To Comrade Ker (June 6, 1922)

15. Resolution of the ECCI on the French Communist Party (June 11, 1922)

16. To Comrade Treint (July 28, 1922)

17. From the ECCI to the Seine Federation of the French Communist Party (Summer 1922)

18. From the ECCI to the Paris Convention of the French Communist Party (September 13, 1922)

19. From the ECCI to the Paris Convention of the French Communist Party (October 6, 1922)

The Fourth World Congress[11][edit source]

20. The Fifth Anniversary of the October Revolution and the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International (October 20, 1922)

21. Speech in Honour of the Communist International (November 7, 1922)

22. The New Economic Policy of Soviet Russia and the Perspectives of the World Revolution (November 14, 1922)

23. The Economic Situation of Soviet Russia from the Standpoint of the Socialist Revolution (Theses) (December 1, 1922)

24. Resolution on the French Question (December 2, 1922)

25. A Militant Labour Programme for the French Communist Party (December 5, 1922)

26. Resolution of the French Commission (December 2, 1922)

After the Fourth Congress[edit source]

27. Political Perspectives (Reply to Friedländer) (November 1922)

28. Report on the Fourth World Congress (December 28, 1922)

29. Preface to The Communist Movement in France (March 25, 1923)

30. Is the Slogan “The United States of Europe” a Timely One? (June 30, 1923)

31. Can a Counter-Revolution or a Revolution Be Made on Schedule? (September 23, 1923)

32. To Comrade McKay (February 10, 1923)

  1. This is the most telling argument of the Social-Democratic adventurers and rascals. – L.T.
  2. The Executive Committee of the Communist International naturally rejected this policy which is so utterly false and so extremely dangerous. The decision of the ECCI was quite opportune. A few days following its adoption, Senator LaFollette came out with a rabid attack against the Communists and piously declared that he would have nothing to do with any undertaking with which these rascals, this Red spawn of Beelzebub and of Moscow, were connected. Let us hope that this lesson will not prove unfruitful so far as certain super-clever strategists are concerned. – L.T., June 4, 1924
  3. The Federated Farmer-Labor Party was formed by the Workers (Communist) Party of the United States in 1924, the year capitalism finally succeeded in temporarily stabilizing itself following the First World War. Despite all of Trotsky’s efforts, the ECCI, at that time under the domination of the troika (the triumvirate of Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin), refused to recognize the fact of capitalist stabilization until 18 months later. As a consequence 1924-25 were the years of pseudo-left policy, “leftist” mistakes and putschist experiments by the Comintern. The “farmer-labor” adventure of the American party was part of this false policy. Summing up this period in 1928, Trotsky wrote: “Finding itself in a cruel and constantly growing contradiction with the real factors, the leadership had to cling ever more to fictitious factors. Losing the ground under its feet, the ECCI was constrained to discover revolutionary forces and signs where there were no traces of any ... In proportion as obvious and growing shifts to the right were going on in the proletariat, there began in the Comintern the phase of idealizing the peasantry, a wholly uncritical exaggeration of every symptom of its ’break’ with bourgeois society ... During 1924, i.e., in the course of the basic year of the ’stabilization,’ the Communist press was filled with absolutely fantastic data on the strength of the recently organized [in 1923] Peasants’ International ... The representative of the Comintern (in the US), Pepper-Pogany, in order to set the ’auxiliary mass’ – the American farmers – into motion at an accelerated tempo, drew the young and weak American Communist Party into the senseless and infamous adventure of creating a ’farmer-labor party’ around LaFollette in order to overthrow quickly American capitalism.” (The Third International After Lenin, pp.119-20.) What predisposed the American party to this opportunist adventure was its Previous ultra-left course. “Apparently no party can ever correct a deviation, it must overcorrect it. The stick is bent backward. Thus the young party which a short time before had been concerned with the refinement of doctrine in underground isolation, having nothing to do with the trade union movement – let alone the political movement, the petty bourgeoisie and the labor fakers – this same party now plunged into a number of wild adventures in the field of labor and farmer politics. The attempt of the party leadership through a series of maneuvers and combinations to form a large farmer-labor party overnight without sufficient backing in the mass movement of the workers without sufficient strength of the Communists themselves, threw the party into turmoil.” (James P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, p.23.) By decision of the ECCI (under Trotsky’s pressure), the American party later reversed its position. Less than one month after the St. Paul Convention of the FFLP where presidential candidates were nominated, the Central Committee of the CPUSA announced (July 8, 1924) that these candidates had been withdrawn, and that the CP would conduct its own campaign with its own candidates.
  4. The First Congress convened in Moscow, March 2-6, 1919, with 51 delegates present: 35 with decisive votes representing 17 countries; 16 with consultative votes representing 16 countries. Because of the Allied blockade not all those sent arrived. Thus the Italian Socialist Party and a number of oppositional groups in France, Great Britain and America were not represented at the Congress. One of the German delegates was arrested at the German border. Others suffered great hazards and arrived only after the Congress was already in session.
    The agenda was as follows: (1) The Founding of the Third International; (2) Reports from Various Countries; (3) Platform of the Congress (reporters: Eberlein, Bukharin); (4) Bourgeois Democracy and the Proletarian Dictatorship (reporters: Lenin, Rakhia); (5) The Berne Conference and Our Attitude Toward Socialist Tendencies (reporters: Platten, Zinoviev); (6) The World Situation and the Policy of the Entente (reporters: Ossinsky, Platten); (7) Manifesto (reporter: Trotsky); (8) The White Terror (reporter: Sirola); (9) Election of the Bureau, and Other Organizational Questions.
    On the organizational question, the Congress favored two directing organs: an Executive Committee to be composed of representatives from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Balkan Federation, Switzerland and Scandinavia; and a Bureau consisting of five members to be elected by the Executive Committee.
    The elaboration of the statutes of the new International was laid over until the next Congress.
    The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Chicherin and two alternates: Vorovsky and Ossinsky.
  5. The interval between the First and Second Congress covers approximately 18 months from March 7, 1919 to July 18, 1920. This was the decisive period of the Civil War in Russia marked by the liquidation of Kolchak’s armies, the defeat of Denikin and the crushing of Yudenich’s second offensive against Petrograd (October 1919). The military danger to Soviet Russia was, however, far from liquidated. In March 1920 Poland resumed military operations, and by May Kiev was in Polish hands. By the time the Second Congress convened, the Red Army had passed to the counter-offensive, recapturing Kiev and marching into Poland, but suffering defeat at Warsaw just as the Second Congress concluded its work (August 1920).
    These eighteen months marked at the same time the period of greatest postwar ferment in Europe. A great strike wave marked by uprisings swept over Europe. On March 21, 1919, the Soviet Republic was formed in Hungary (overthrown August 1, 1919).
    On April 14, 1919, after an uprising in Munich, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was established, lasting until May 1 of the same year.
    On June 28, 1919, the German delegation signed the Versailles Treaty. On July 31 the Weimar Republic was inaugurated in Germany.
    November of that year marked another important victory for the bourgeois counter-revolution in the electoral triumph of the National Bloc in France.
    In Germany the counter-revolution first attempted to pass to an open offensive in the early part of 1920 (Kapp-Lüttwitz putsch, March 12-19, 1920).
    Throughout this period, however, the Communist International recorded major successes. In one country after another, sections of the world Communist movement were organized.
  6. The Second World Congress took place from July 17 to August 7, 1920 The Congress opened its sessions in Petrograd where Lenin delivered his report on the world situation and the tasks of the Communist International. Subsequent sessions were held in Moscow from July 23 to August 6.
    Despite the Allied blockade, delegates came to the Congress from Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Australia. In all, 37 countries were represented by 218 delegates of whom 169 had decisive votes and 49 consultative votes. The major reports on the Congress agenda were: Zinoviev’s report on the role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution (July 23); Lenin’s report on the national and colonial questions (July 26); Zinoviev’s report on the conditions of admission to the CI (July 29); Bukharin’s report on parliamentarianism (August 2); Radek’s report on the trade union movement (August 3); Zinoviev’s report on the conditions for the organization of Soviets (August 5); and Trotsky’s report on the Manifesto at the concluding session of August 7. Among the important discussions was that of August 6 devoted to the question of the entry of Communists into the British Labor Party. The Congress concluded its work by electing the Executive Committee.
    The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by a large delegation consisting of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek, Bukharin, Dzerzhinsky, Rykov, Ryazanov, Tomsky, Krupskaya, Pokrovsky, Rudzutak, and others. (Stalin was so unimportant at the time that he was not included in the delegation.)
  7. The interval from the Second to the Third Congress covered approximately 10 months from August 7, 1920 to June 22, 1921. In Soviet Russia it marked the concluding period of the Civil War, the definitive victory of the Red Army and the beginnings of the transition to a peacetime economy.
    In March 1921, the Kronstadt mutiny occurred. After its liquidation the first steps were taken toward the New Economic Policy (NEP). The first trade agreements were made by the Soviet government with England (March 16, 1921) and with Germany (May 8, 1921).
    In Europe the working class suffered a major defeat in Italy where the revolutionary movement reached its zenith in the seizure of factories, mills, and estates by the workers in the autumn of 1920 only to be betrayed by the treacherous SP leadership. Another defeat followed in Germany as a consequence of the March (1921) adventure, or the “March action.”
    Despite the economic crisis which erupted in the capitalist world, the first signs of a temporary capitalist stabilization became manifest, necessitating an abrupt change of tactics by the Comintern on the world arena.
  8. The Third Congress of the Comintern convened in Moscow from June 22 to July 12, 1921. The Congress began its sessions with 509 delegates representing 48 countries; 291 had decisive votes; 218 were consultative. Toward the close the number of delegates increased to 603.
    Twenty-four full plenary sessions were held. The agenda was as follows: (1) Report of the ECCI (reporter: Zinoviev); (2) The World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the CI (reporter: Trotsky); (3) The German Communist Workers Party (KAPD); and the Italian Question; (4) The Tactics of the CI (reporter: Radek); (5) The Trade Union Question: a) The Red Trade Union International; b) The Struggle Against the Amsterdam International (reporters: Zinoviev, Heckert); (6) The Tactics of the Communist Party of Russia (reporter: Lenin); (7) The Youth Movement; (8) The Women's Movement (reporter: Clara Zetkin); (9) Communist Work in the Cooperatives; (10) The Organizational Structure of the Communist Parties and the Methods and Content of Their Work; (11) The Organizational Structure of the Comintern; (12) The Eastern Question; (13) Election of the ECCI.
    The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by 72 delegates, among them: Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, Bukharin, Rykov and others.
    The “Left Communists” were very strongly represented and at one time even appeared to have a majority at the Congress. Lenin demonstratively announced that at this Congress he was with the “Right Wing.” The line of Lenin and Trotsky finally carried the day.
  9. The documents which appear in this section actually belong with the material of the Third Congress inasmuch as the discussion at the Youth Congress represented a continuation of the controversy which was resolved by the Third World Congress. This, incidentally, explains certain repetitions in Trotsky’s speech and summary before the Youth Congress. The remaining documents appear in the second volume of this work.
  10. In the New Park edition this section is called After the Third Congress.
  11. The Fourth – and last Leninist – Congress of the Comintern convened on November 5, 1922 in Petrograd, with the remaining sessions up to December 5, 1922 being held in Moscow. 408 delegates from 61 countries attended; 343 delegates had decisive votes.
    The agenda included 24 items. The report of the ECCI was delivered by Zinoviev. Lenin, Zetkin and Bela Kun were the reporters on the Five Years of the Russian Revolution and the Perspectives of the World Revolution. The report on the NEP was given by Trotsky.
    The problems of the united front and of the formation of a Workers’ Government were the most important tactical questions discussed, along with that of trade union tactics.
    Internal situations in various parties received particular attention in following order: France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Turkey, Denmark, Yugoslavia.
    The question of program came up as the fifth point on the agenda, with drafts presented by Bukharin (USSR), Thalheimer (Germany) and Kabakchiev (Bulgaria). No program was adopted.