Gregory Zinoviev 1922
Fourth Congress of the Communist International

Speech at Closing of Fourth Congress

December 5, 1922

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (, pp. 1109–1119.
Translation: Translation by John Riddell.
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018.
Copyright: John Riddell, 2011, 2017. Republished here with permission.

Comrades, our Fourth Congress focused on studying questions, differentiating between them, and analysing them more specifically and with more precision. Our congress met at a time when we did not have to define new and special tasks. We had a different task, that I have already briefly defined as taking the decisions made at the first three congresses, especially the Third Congress, and making them more specific, more precise, more differentiated. In my opinion the congress has carried out this task brilliantly. We have met for the first time as a genuinely international world party. That found outward expression in the fact that we gave special attention at the congress to the most important matters affecting a whole number of parties.

What was it exactly that made up the majority of our congress’s work? The fact that we separated out the most important questions and studied them in commissions, of which each one was really a mini-international conference. Among the commissions were those on France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Poland, the United States, Spain, and other questions. The questions considered were crucially important for the movements in these countries, and we studied all these issues together with the best representatives of other parties, that is to say, utilising the entire experience of all our parties. This shows that our International is finally beginning to become a real world party.

The commissions examined with great care all the political and organisational issues that have cropped up in the individual parties. Just as, let us say, a good, attentive doctor treats his patient, so our congress has investigated each party, each different nuance, and each issue disputed in the parties. The decisions reached here are genuinely the result of collective experience and the collective thinking of our international organisations. Although minorities exist on this or that question (that is always the case), these minorities must keep in mind that what has been decided here on each individual question is really what the International as a whole considers to be for the best. For the first time we could afford the luxury of a precise and thorough investigation of the internal questions of a number of parties.

There was the French question. I hope that we have assisted our sister party in France in overcoming features left over from the old party. We have talked frankly with our French friends regarding the weaknesses in the party. We have given the party a great deal of advice, which comes from the International as a whole. We can now confidently await the result of these deliberations, in the hope that our French sister party overcomes its ailments.

Then we had the Italian question. Here something else was at stake. Here the task was to give back to a fragmented revolutionary working class new energy, new confidence in victory, uniting the best forces in the Socialist Party with the Communist Party and taking to heart the hard lessons of the past.

We had the Czech crisis, which I hope has now been resolved. The task here was to help a group of workers – true, a small one – which had stumbled onto a false course as a result of a difficult situation, to get back on the rails. The majority of the Czech delegation was fully justified in its indignation regarding a breach of discipline committed by a sector of the party in Czechoslovakia. Nonetheless it gives us great satisfaction that this majority was in full agreement with the decisions of the congress which, we hope, will make good all deficiencies that have existed in Czechoslovakia.

We also had a Norwegian question. There a struggle is taking place, as Comrade Bukharin explained today fully and clearly. There are survivals in this party that are both half-reformist and half-syndicalist in character. Federalist traditions are mixed together in this party with half-Social Democratic forces. Our task was simply to speak the full truth to our Norwegian party, one of the strongest parties in the Communist International and in fact in the world workers’ movement.

We have dealt with quite a number of other questions, and we hope they have been resolved satisfactorily.

As the congress closes, there are minorities that are perhaps not fully satisfied with the decisions. We ask that they await the experiences that will follow. They will then be convinced, as was the congress in the Italian question, that the Communist character of the entire Communist International is really something much more significant than our party or any of the parties belonging to the International.

There were sixty-five delegations at our congress, representing sixty-two countries. At the Third Congress there were only fifty-two. Our International is engaged in growth, and that makes it particularly necessary that we begin to prepare our work in more detail, with precision, going into specifics, and attempting to assist the parties not only with the general political slogans and tactical formulas that were called for in the past, but with quite specific advice. This process, taken as a whole, signifies that the Communist International is not only an association for propaganda, for collective political agitation, but is a unified world organisation of the proletariat.

Nonetheless, we addressed a number of general questions, and in these questions too, our task was to lend more precision and definition to previous resolutions. The resolution on tactics that we have adopted today had the very modest task of extending the guidelines adopted at the Second and especially the Third Congresses and adapting them quite specifically to political tasks posed in the present situation.

We held our first thorough discussion here of the question of the workers’ government. In the course of the discussion there was much that we altered or made more precise. That is exactly what the congress is for – so that we will influence each other and, ultimately, formulate the experiences of the International as a whole. Our friend Hoernle, with whom we worked in the sub-commission, said regarding our work, ‘Well, even now the formulation of the workers’ government is perhaps not quite complete’. And I agree with him on this. I responded to him that we now need to have two or three workers’ governments in fact, then collect these experiences, and carry out a really revolutionary struggle around this slogan. I hope that it will not be long before we have such experiences in one or several countries.

In the question of the united front, we defined the tactic quite precisely. In December [1921], the line was marked out in general, but at the Fourth Congress we were able to draw together the experiences of almost an entire year and to characterise the resistance to this tactic that we encountered. I hope that we have now formulated the united front tactic for a whole period of time, and the task is now to apply it.

This is also true, for example, of the agrarian question. Our general position was brilliantly formulated, from a theoretical point of view, at the Second Congress.[85] Our task here was to apply this general line in each country to the specific conditions and relationships of the present period. And that is what the Fourth Congress accomplished. We did not encounter at this congress an opposition warning that Communists should in general not pay much attention to the peasantry.[86] On this our position has now been firmly established in the Communist International. We now have a clear line on the agrarian question, and that is half the task of preparing our victory. The working class can only really triumph and maintain its victory if it succeeds in winning the majority of the working class to the banner of communism. But the second half of the task consists of succeeding, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, in neutralising one segment of the peasantry and winning over the other. Through the decisions on theory at the Second Congress and the practical decisions on action taken at the Fourth Congress, we have established a firm foundation for our entire agitation in the countryside and for our agrarian work as a whole.

Now let us consider the question of the East. As early as the Second Congress, we adopted a general position on theory, which has been shown to be absolutely correct. Our relationship to the revolutionary national movements that are not Communist is clearly laid down in the resolution of the Second Congress.[87] Our line on theory remains the same as before. Something more important is at stake now. The task is to apply it in practice in a number of countries that are undergoing a revolutionary development. And I hope that the Fourth Congress has succeeded in taking an important step forward with respect to the practical work being carried out among millions and millions of peoples of the East.

We did not adopt the programme of the Communist International at the Fourth Congress, but we did lay the foundation stone of our programme. The discussion we had here and the drafts that were presented will of course have to be substantially reworked. We will try during the coming year to encompass the collective thinking of the International. But nonetheless, the first steps have been taken, the first measures to unify the discussion are in place, and we already have the general line of our future programme.

We have had a thorough discussion of the Youth question, the woman question, the consumers’ cooperatives, all the practical questions of the movement – questions that taken together make up the content of our work as a whole.

We took an important decision in the trade union question. We have forged a bloc with the best segment of the syndicalist world as a whole.[88] And our agreement with the syndicalists is not marked by any diplomacy. It is a fraternal and open agreement, as befits revolutionaries. It is true that we have important disagreements with our syndicalist comrades, who are not Communists, even though they call themselves so. We disagree with them on major theoretical and also many practical issues. But what we have done here – quite openly, so that every worker can receive a report – signifies an agreement between our Communist International, which attempts to incorporate the true spirit of the working class as a whole, and a portion of the working class that is not yet ours, but wants to struggle for communism. This agreement with the syndicalist world represents a very important decision, a very important factor in preparing for international proletarian revolution.

All in all: take the agrarian question, that of drawing to us the peasants; take the Eastern question, that of attracting the oppressed peoples; take the question of coming to agreement with the syndicalists, involving drawing to us important sectors of the working class that do not yet belong to us; take the decisions on the workers’ government, that is, of drawing to us non-party, syndicalist, and even Christian workers, who want to struggle against the bourgeoisie, as well as the sector of the Social Democratic workers who want to struggle together with us: when you take all that together, you will have a picture of a methodical, conscious, serious, and practical preparation of all the factors that contribute to genuine victory for the proletarian revolution.

We cannot at this time take any specific decisions on our offensive. The moment was not yet ripe for that. But the Fourth Congress took all the preparatory steps in order, when the time is ripe, to call for an offensive, and through this call, at the appropriate moment, to mobilise the working class.

In this regard, I believe, the congress has carried out a prodigious labour. The congress was a great university for us all. We have all learned a great deal. For the first time we have taken the measure of each component party, studied it, and got to know it well. We are now acquainted not only with these parties’ central committees but with the parties themselves, their weaknesses, their problems, their internal difficulties, their goals, their spirit. That is an important development for the entire international workers’ movement.

In the trade union question, we once again strongly emphasised the slogan of trade union unity, because that is what is demanded by present-day requirements. We must now intervene as a single force for labour unity around the world, because the Amsterdamers are preparing a split. But that does not mean that we deny our Communist principles. Not at all.

On 11 December, a peace congress opens in The Hague, called by the Amsterdamers.[89] They were so gracious as to invite the Russian trade unions and cooperatives. It is true they did not invite our Communist International. They probably think that our International is not fighting against war or is insignificant in this struggle. Well, we will not hold that against these people. Obviously they are afraid to invite the Communist International, and they have reasons to feel that way. But they have invited the Russian unions and cooperatives, and our comrades have hurried off to get there.

The Russian comrades have informed us that a member of the Executive, Comrade Radek, has travelled to The Hague as a representative of the Russian trade unions. Comrade Lozovsky has also travelled there, also representing the Russian unions. Our comrades there – if the Amsterdamers do not prevent them from speaking, which should be expected from these worthy democrats – will openly take up the struggle and tell the Amsterdamers to their face what must be said.

That means they will tell them, ‘Well, gentlemen, if you want to fight against the war, the first step is for you to give up the slogan of “defence of the fatherland.” You cannot fight against war on the platform of defence of the fatherland. If you want to combat war, you must recognise the need to carry out propaganda in the army, underground work in the army. If you want to proclaim a general strike against war, you must prepare for it. You should begin by at least, to start with, holding a one-day strike against militarism. And you must start to prepare to turn the army against the war. Because when the soldiers have been educated for twenty years in the spirit of the bourgeoisie, you can not just turn around one fine day, in the twenty-first year, and say, “Now we want to propose to the army that it go on strike.”’

That is what we will tell the Amsterdamers, to their face. We will remind them that they signed the Versailles Treaty, and thus they too share responsibility for the entire situation. We will remind them that in 1914 the trade union International was a major force wielded by the belligerent bourgeois governments. We will give them nothing for free in The Hague; we will throw all that in their face.

But despite this, comrades, we will stand everywhere for the unity of the trade unions, for unity at any price, so that we are not left empty-handed on the eve of the revolution. The unions are the only genuinely mass organisation of the proletariat. They are an indispensable tool of the liberation struggle of our class – indispensable from the moment when they pass into the hands of the Communists. We must preserve them from destruction. We must safeguard the unity of the trade unions, whatever the cost.

Comrades, that, in broad strokes, is the content of our decisions. We have not sounded the trumpets at this congress. We now face a tireless task in all parties of preparation, a task of rehabilitation. If we have expelled a bourgeois journalist on one or another occasion, that could seem to be a minor matter. On the contrary, comrades, it is not a minor matter, it is the preparatory task of rehabilitating the parties. The congress, rolling up its sleeves, so to speak, has carried out this indispensable rehabilitation in a number of parties. This is a mundane and not always very pleasant task. But anyone who wants to prepare a genuinely Communist international party for struggle must utilise each day to analyse the parties, so that we can become a genuine Communist party capable of playing its historical role in the present situation.

Comrades, we have adopted very important organisational decisions. We have got rid of everything in our structure that was federalist, or almost federalist. We hope that at the Fifth Congress it will be inconceivable for there to be a debate on the election of the Executive similar to what we have had today. We can debate whether this or that individual belongs in the Executive. We should do that, saying with confidence who has our trust and who does not. There must be no more such situations as today, where blocks of two or three countries want to have their own representative in the Executive, moreover purely from a national point of view. I hope we have seen the last of this kind of theatre. We are a unified Communist world party. That means we must have a unified Central Committee of the world party. The members of this Central Committee may come from the Balkans, from Japan, from Germany, or from Russia. We take our best proletarian forces from the locations in the movement where we find them. From this time forward, we will combat everything that is federalist and implement a genuine discipline.

Let me speak further on discipline. Sometimes comrades stress that they are disciplined because they carry out the decisions with which they are in agreement. That is not discipline at all! Discipline begins only where you have to carry out a decision with which you are not completely in agreement. (‘Very true!’) Comrades, we ask the minorities that possibly do not approve of this or that decision affecting them to show discipline in these cases. Where you are in agreement, no discipline is necessary; you act from conviction. But the moment I have to do something that does not entirely suit me, that is where international discipline begins.

And I believe that the reorganisation of our Executive has very great meaning.

This is not merely an organisational measure. It is a political measure of great consequence, a measure that signifies we are becoming a world party and must carry out genuinely international discipline in every case. We stressed in our resolution that this was already said at the Third Congress. We have merely repeated it. We have said that every great strike, every limited uprising, indeed, every significant parliamentary crisis, can in today’s unstable equilibrium become the starting point for a great revolutionary movement, even for the revolution itself. We weighed and assessed every word in this resolution twenty times before choosing the final text. This sentence is absolutely accurate and can be scientifically proven. No one can say how long this unstable period will last, how long the capitalist offensive will continue. No one can say when the time will come when we change over from the defensive to the offensive. But there is no question that we are thinking in terms not of decades but of years. It’s a matter not of decades, but of years.

With regard to the scope of our revolution, it’s not a matter of individual parties but of the situation as a whole. And with regard to time it’s not decades, but years. That is the situation. There is no need to be optimistic; we can state that to the world quite confidently. Our main immediate task is to win the masses of workers. That is the goal of our preparatory work and of the Communist International as a whole. A few more years, and we will have the solid foundations of Communist parties that will put us in a situation where we have nothing more to fear.

The five years of the Russian revolution have not gone by in vain. There has been no end of problems. The great pride of Russian workers and peasants consists in saying that, despite everything, you will soon see that we have succeeded in doing something to lead the working masses in other countries to rise up and get organised. (Applause)

So a few more years of work, as I said, and we can breathe more easily. We see that the preparatory work is accomplished. In every country we have a solid Communist party, and that is of historical importance. The construction of a firm nucleus of a Communist party in some distant country has more historical significance than the Versailles Treaty, the Lausanne Conference, or all those so-called world conferences frequented by high-powered diplomats. The formation of a solid nucleus of a Communist Party in India, for example, is much more important from a historical point of view than all these conferences.

So, comrades, let’s turn to the work! We are headed into difficult times. As we noted in our resolution, international fascism is on the march. That means that hundreds and thousands of our best fighters will go to jail and be killed by the bourgeoisie and the social patriots, who work hand in hand with the White Guards. We are headed into difficult times.

But the time that has gone by has not been in vain. The bourgeoisie, together with the wondrous Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, have done everything to defeat us. They did not succeed. The united front tactic gives us a tactical key to unlock the entire situation, the whole present position.

We are now addressing an open letter to the Second International and the Amsterdam International. They will reject the united front, just as the social patriots have done. I read an article today in Populaire, the official publication of the French social patriots. When our French comrades challenged them to come, they answered: We cannot join with you in a united front. You see what Lenin has written about us in the following quotations. And then there followed a number of charming statements by Lenin regarding the French social patriots. On the next page they said: See what Trotsky says about us! And there followed a number of even better quotations. (Laughter) And finally there were a bunch of quotations from your humble servant. I have also honoured them with many compliments. They pull all that together and say, we can’t form a united front with you.

Perhaps the Second International will do it. Perhaps these people think we will pamper them, we will forget their crimes against the working class, we will stop whipping them before the working class. Never! Our main task in the next period is to continually rebuke the Second International for those crimes. The Amsterdam International is one of betrayal, because it is a tool of the bourgeoisie. And despite everything we are for a united front with all workers that want to fight against the bourgeoisie!

It is with this thought that we conclude our deliberations. We are convinced that the Fourth Congress has achieved something important for all the sixty-two affiliated parties. Let’s get to work, comrades. We wish you great success in overcoming all the difficulties that must be faced. In returning home, take with you the news that the International is now politically armed by quite specific decisions, that you have thoroughly studied all our actions and helped each sister party, step by step, to emerge from the difficult situation it faces. Take them the news that we are more united than ever, that our parties have begun a new period of unifying all genuinely revolutionary forces; in short, that we have begun to become a united world party of communism. Let the bourgeoisie and their White or Yellow Second International tremble! The future belongs to us! Long live the Communist world party!




85. See Theses on the Agrarian Question, Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! pp. 660–70; and also the theses on this topic adopted the same year by the Congress of the Peoples of the East in Baku, Riddell (ed.), To See the Dawn (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1993), 194–9.

86. Zinoviev may have in mind speeches by Graziadei and Serrati at the Second Congress that minimised the importance of the peasant question. See Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! vol. 2, pp. 646–9, 653–4.

87. See in particular the comments by Lenin, in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite!, vol. 1, pp. 212–13, or Lenin Collected Works, vol. 31, p. 242; and the resolution, WWOPU, vol. 1, pp. 283–90.

88. The RILU congress, held simultaneously with the Fourth Comintern Congress, removed the formal organisational tie between the two organisations, clearing the way for the affiliation of the syndicalist CGTU of France.

89. The Hague conference of 10 – 15 December 1922 was convened by the International Federation of Trade Unions to discuss implementation of a resolution of its Rome congress earlier that year to respond to the outbreak of war with an international general strike. The Russian delegation at the Hague congress, headed by Radek, welcomed this decision as an implicit repudiation of the Social Democrats’ support of the war effort in 1914, but pointed out that this step was undercut by their continuing political alliance with the bourgeoisie and support of the Versailles treaty system. Moreover, Radek criticised the hollowness of this pledge, noting that ‘a mass strike against war is social revolution, and the day of social revolution cannot be determined beforehand’. Russian delegates called for united antiwar action committees in every country and a week in January of concerted education against war, ending in a one-day international general strike. These proposals were rejected. Instead, the conference called for modifications in the peace treaties and the League of Nations, an end to secret diplomacy, and a struggle – whose forms were not specified – against militarism and armaments. See Inprekorr, 2, 239 (18 December 1922), pp. 1792–6; and Inprecorr, 3, 1 (3 January 1923), pp. 4–5.



Last updted on 6 January 2020