MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Events

Congresses of the Communist International


Communist International, First Congress (March 2-6, 1919)

Historical Background: The Russian Civil War weighed its heavy toll on the people and government of Soviet Russia. The interventionist armies had nearly completely encircled the capital of Moscow, and St. Petersburg, once the capital of the nation, was cut off from the Soviet government and surrounded on all sides by hostile forces. The northern ports of Arkhangel'sk and Murmansk were occupied by the British fleet and the Northern Territories were occupied by British, French, and American soldiers. To the Southwest French armies were attempting to bolster the failing White Armies, while Denikin was increasing his strength in southern Russia with British aid. In the Far East, Japan was annexing more and more Russian territory, while U.S. soldiers secured the Trans-Siberian railroad, cutting off the Soviet government from contacting over half of Russia. Former czarist Admiral Kolchak had crossed over the Urals and was threatening the cities of Kazan, Kuybyshev, and Kirov.

Reasons for creation: Lenin believed that the only way the Socialist revolution could be successful was by socialist revolution occurring throughout the world; the economic and social demands of the socialist system could be maintained and progress only on a world scale. Lenin understood that it was of the utmost necessity for proletarians around the world to be liberated from capitalist oppression, lest future world wars send more to their deaths, and a growing capitalistic machine takes more and more of their humanity and freedom. Armed with these convictions, Lenin set out to establish the First Communist International.

Preparations: In early January of 1919 preparations began for the Communist International with a meeting of representatives from a number of Communist Parties and Left-wing Socialist groups from all around the world who discussed the founding of the Third International. They adopted a manifesto entitled "For the First Congress of the Communist International". The manifesto was published on behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, foreign bureaus of the Communist Workers' Party of Poland, Hungarian Communist Party, Communist Party of German Austria, the Russian bureau of the Central Committee of the Latvian Communist Party, Central Committee of the Finnish Communist Party, Executive Committee of the Balkan Revolutionary Social Democratic Federation and the Socialist Labor Party of America.

At the end of February delegates began arriving in Moscow in response to the called to establish the Third Communist International. On March 1, a preliminary meeting was held under Lenin's chairmanship to discuss the agenda of the Congress.

Details of the Congress: March 2, 1919, was the opening day of the International Communist Conference, attended by 52 delegates from nations all around the world – 34 delegates with a vote (one delegate per party or organization represented), accompanied by 18 redundant delegates (their party or organization already represented) with a voice but no vote. The following Communist and Socialist parties and organizations were represented by delegates:

The Communist Parties of: Russia, Germany, German Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Estonia, Armenia, the Volga German region; Swedish Left Social-Democratic 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.

Among the delegates were:

Lenin, Vorovsky, Chicherin, H. Eberlien (Albert), O.V. Kuusinen, F. Platten, B. Reinstein, S. Rutgers, I.S. Unshlikht (Yurovsky), Y. Sirola, N.A. Skrypnik, S.I. Gopner, K. Shteingard (I. Gruber), J. Fineberg, J. Sadoul and others.

Agenda: The first meeting of the Congress decided "to hold sessions as an International Communist Conference" and adopted the following work agenda:

1) constitution
2) reports
3) policy statement of the International Communist Conference
4) bourgeois democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat
5) the Berne Conference and attitude toward socialist trends
6) the international situation and the Entente's policy
7) Manifesto
8) White terror
9) elections to the bureau and other questions organization.

Proceedings & Resolutions: Each delegate gave a report on the revolutionary situation in their own countries, which was followed by discussing the platform of the Communist International. Lenin's thesis and report on bourgeois democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat attracted much attention. The thesis in Russian and German were circulated among the delegates before the speech. At the third session on March 4, Lenin read his thesis. The conference expressed its unanimous approval of Lenin's thesis and decided to submit them to the Bureau for wide circulation. It also adopted resolution moved by Lenin as a supplement to the thesis .

On March 4, after the adoption of the thesis and the resolution on Lenin's report, the question was raised again of founding the Communist International because so many new delegates had arrived. On the motion of the delegates of the Communist Party of German Austria, Left Social-Democratic Party of Sweden, Balkan Revolutionary Social Democratic Federation and Hungarian Communist Party, the Conference resolved "to constitute itself as the Third International and adopt the name of the Communist International". On the same day a unanimous resolution was passed to consider the Zimmerwald association dissolved. The Conference formulated the policy statement of the Communist International, which contained the following main propositions:

1) inevitability of the replacement of the capitalist system by the Communist social system
2) necessity of the proletarian revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of bourgeois governments
3) destruction of the bourgeois state and its replacement by a new type of state, a proletarian state of the Soviet type, which would insure the transition to Communist society.

The Congress also urged the workers of all countries to support Soviet Russia and demanded from the Entente non-interference in the internal affairs of the Soviet republic, withdrawal of interventionist troops from her territory, recognition of the Soviet state, lifting of the economic blockade and restoration of trade relations.

The Congress closed with the decision to set up to the governing bodies which would operate the affairs of the Communist International, and between Congresses. An Executive Committee and Bureau were elected; the Executive Committee was elected by the entire Congress, while the bureau, consisting of five people, was elected by the Executive Committee.

Further Reading: History of the Communist International; Vladimir Lenin's speech's made at the First Congress; an English historian and authors account of the Congress: Russia in 1919 .


Communist International, Dissolution

After 23 years of annual Congresses, in 1943 the Communist International was dissolved by Stalin. Stalin dictated that it was not possible to coordinate communists internationally, and so the International Communist movement was destroyed. The activities and movements of Communists around the world was still closely watched and at times coordinated, but in an explicitly non proletarian-democratic form: behind the walls of the Kremlin. According to the definition of Communist set out by Marx and Engels, supported fully by Lenin (the founder of the Communist International), Stalin's dissolution of the International was one of the most clear and explicit violations of what a Communist is.

See Final Declaration of the Comintern.