Speech on the Founding of the Communist International
|Written||6 March 1919|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, Volume 28, pages 480-484
Speech At A Joint Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee, The Moscow Soviet, The Moscow Committee Of The Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), The All-Russia Central Council Of Trade Unions, Moscow Trade Unions And Factory Committees To Mark The Founding Of The Communist International[edit source]
March 6, 1919[edit source]
(Stormy ovation.) Comrades, at the First Congress of the Communist International we did not succeed in getting representatives from all countries where this organisation has most faithful friends and where there are workers whose sympathies are entirely with us. Allow me, therefore, to begin with a short quotation which will show you that in reality we have more friends than we can see, than we know and than we were able to assemble here, in Moscow, despite all persecution, despite the entire, seemingly omnipotent, union of the bourgeoisie of the whole world. This persecution has gone to such lengths as to attempt to surround us with a sort of Great Wall of China, and to deport Bolsheviks in dozens from the freest republics of the world. They seem to be scared stiff that ten or a dozen Bolsheviks will infect the whole world. But we, of course, know that this fear is ridiculous—because they have already infected the whole world, because the Russian workers’ struggle has already convinced working people everywhere that the destiny of the world revolution is being decided here,. in Russia.
Comrades, I have here a copy of L’Humanité, a French newspaper whose policy corresponds more to that of our Mensheviks or Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. During the war, this paper was utterly ruthless in its attacks on those who supported our viewpoint. Today it is defending those who during the war went along with their own bourgeoisie. This very newspaper reports in its issue of January 13, 1919, that a mammoth meeting (as the newspaper itself admits) took place in Paris of active party and trade union members of the Seine Federation, i.e., the district nearest to Paris, the centre of the proletarian movement, the centre of all political life in France. The first speaker was Bracke, a socialist who throughout the war took the same line as our Mensheviks and Right-wing defence advocates. He was meek and mild now. Not a word about a single burning issue! He ended by saying that he was against his government’s interference in the struggle of the proletariat of other countries. His words were drowned in applause. The next speaker was a supporter of his, a certain Pierre Laval. He spoke of demobilisation, the burning issue in France today—a country which has probably borne greater sacrifices than any other country in this criminal war. And this country now sees that demobilisation is being dragged out, held up, that there is no desire to carry it through, that preparations are being made for a new war that will obviously demand new sacrifices from the French workers for the sake of settling how much more of the spoils the French or British capitalists will get. The newspaper goes on to say that the crowd listened to the speaker, Pierre Laval, but when he started running down Bolshevism, the protests and excitement stopped the meeting. After that, citizen Pierre Renaudel was refused a hearing, and the meeting ended with a brief statement by citizen Pdricat. He is one of the few people in the French labour movement who in the main is in agreement with us. And so, the newspaper has to admit that the speaker who began to attack the Bolsheviks was immediately pulled up.
Comrades, we have not been able to get even one delegate here directly from France, and only one Frenchman, Comrade Guilbeaux, arrived here, and he with great difficulty. (Stormy applause.) He will speak here today. He spent months in the prisons of that free republic, Switzerland, being accused of having contact with Lenin and preparing a revolution in Switzerland. He was escorted through Germany by gendarmes and officers, for fear, evidently, that he might drop a match that would set Germany on fire. But Germany is ablaze without this match. In France, too, as we can see, there are sympathisers with the Bolshevik movement. The French people are probably among the most experienced, most politically conscious, most active and responsive. They will not allow a speaker at a public meeting to strike a false note: he is stopped. Considering the French temperament, he was lucky not to have been dragged down from the rostrum! Therefore, when a newspaper hostile to us admits what took place at this big meeting we can safely say the French proletariat is on our side.
I am going to read another short quotation, from an Italian newspaper. The attempts to isolate us from the rest of the world are so great that we very rarely receive socialist newspapers from abroad. It is a rare thing to receive a copy of the Italian newspaper Avanti!, the organ of the Italian Socialist Party, a party which participated in Zimmerwald, fought against the war and has now resolved not to attend the yellow congress in Berne, the congress of the old International, which was to be attended by people who had helped their governments to prolong this criminal war. To this day, Avanti! is under strict censorship. But in this issue, which arrived here by chance, I read an item on party life in a small locality called Cavriago (probably a remote spot because it cannot be located on the map). It appears that the workers there adopted a resolution supporting their newspaper for its uncompromising stand and declared their approval of the German Spartacists. Then follow the words “Sovietisti russi” which, even though they are in Italian, can be understood all over the world. They sent greetings to the Russian “Sovietisti” and expressed the wish that the programme of the Russian and German revolutionaries should be adopted throughout the world and serve to carry the fight against the bourgeoisie and military domination to a conclusion. When you read a resolution like that, adopted in some Italian Poshekhonye,’82 you have every right to say to yourself that the Italian people are on our side, the Italian people understand what the Russian “Sovietisti” are, what the programme of the Russian “Sovietisti” and the German Spartacists is. Yet at that time we had no such programme! We had no common programme with the German Spartacists, but the Italian workers rejected all they had seen in their bourgeois press, which, bribed as it is by the millionaires and multimillionaires, spreads slander about us in millions of copies. It failed to deceive the Italian workers, who grasped what the Spartacists and the “Sovietisti” were and declared that they sympathised with their programme, at a time when this programme did not exist. That is why we found our task so easy at this Congress. All we had to do was to record as a programme what had already been implanted in the minds and hearts of the workers, even those cast away in some remote spot and cut off from us by police and military cordons. That is why we have been able to reach concerted decisions on all the main issues with such ease and complete unanimity. And we are fully convinced that these decisions will meet with a powerful response among workers elsewhere.
The Soviet movement, comrades, is the form which has been won in Russia, which is now spreading throughout the world and the very name of which gives the workers a complete programme. I hope that we, having had the good fortune to develop the Soviet form to victory, will not become swelled-headed about it.
We know very well that the reason we were the first to take part in a Soviet proletarian revolution was not because we were as well or better prepared than other workers, but because we were worse prepared. This is why we were faced with the most savage and decrepit enemy, and it is this that accounted for the outward scale of the revolution. But we also know that the Soviets exist here to this day, that they are grappling with gigantic difficulties which originate from an inadequate cultural level and from the burden that has weighed down on us for more than a year, on us who stand alone at our posts, at a time when we are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and when, as you know perfectly well, harrowing ordeals, the hardships of famine and terrible suffering have befallen us.
Those who directly or indirectly side with the bourgeoisie often try to appeal to the workers and provoke indignation among them by pointing to the severe sufferings of the workers today. And we tell them: yes, these sufferings are evere and we do not conceal them from you. We tell the workers that, and they know it well from their own experience. You can see we are fighting not only to win socialism for ourselves, not only to ensure that our children shall only recollect capitalists and landowners as prehistoric monsters; we are fighting to ensure that the workers of the whole world triumph together with us.
And this First Congress of the Communist International, which has made the point that throughout the world the Soviets are winning the sympathy of the workers, shows us that the victory of the world communist revolution is assured. (Applause.) The bourgeoisie will continue to vent their fury in a number of countries; the bourgeoisie there are just beginning to prepare the destruction of the best people, the best representatives of socialism, as is evident from the brutal murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht by the whiteguards. These sacrifices are inevitable. We seek no agreement with the bourgeoisie, we are marching to the final and decisive battle against them. But we know that after the ordeal, agony and distress of the war, when the people throughout the world are fighting for demobilisation, when they feel they have been betrayed and appreciate how incredibly heavy the burden of taxation is that has been placed upon them by the capitalists who killed tens of millions of people to decide who would receive more of the profits—we know that these brigands’ rule is at an end!
Now that the meaning of the word “Soviet” is understood by everybody, the victory of the communist revolution is assured. The comrades present in this hall saw the founding of the first Soviet republic; now they see the founding of the Third, Communist International (applause), and they will all see the founding of the World Federative Republic of Soviets. (Applause.)