Third Congress of the Communist International

ECCI Appeal to the Proletariat of All Countries

Source: Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International, translated by Alix Holt and Barbara Holland. Ink Links 1980;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

17 July 1921

To the Working Men and Women of All Countries

The Third Congress of the Communist International is over. This great review of the international army of the Communist proletariat has drawn to a close. The Congress has shown how Communism, over the past year, has become a force powerful enough to move the masses and threaten capitalism in a number of countries where previously its influence was very slight. At its founding Congress, the Communist International represented – apart from the Russians – only a few small groups of comrades, and at its Second Congress, held last year, was only beginning the search for ways to build mass Parties. Now, however, it has growing sections not only in Russia, but in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Norway, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, which are organising large numbers of people. The Third Congress calls on Communists everywhere to follow the well-trodden path and to do their utmost to bring millions of working men and women into the ranks of the Communist International. The power of capital can only be broken if Communism is realised. And this can only happen as a result of the spontaneous upsurge of the vast majority of the proletariat led by the mass Communist Parties, which must work to link firmly the fighting proletariat. “To the masses” is the main slogan which the Third Congress transmits to the Communists of the world.

Forward to New, Momentous Battles

The masses are flocking to us; it is becoming increasingly clear to them that international capitalism can postpone its demise only by the further destruction of peaceful life, and by an increase in the chaos, the poverty and enslavement oppressing the masses. In the face of the world economic crisis that is throwing millions of workers out on to the street, the social democrats – acting in the interests of capital – are staying silent and the bourgeoisie is no longer appealing to the workers, in the way it has done for so many years, to work and keep on working. This is because the right to work is becoming the fighting slogan of the working class. But it can only be realised over the ruins of capitalism, when the proletariat has won control of the means of production which they themselves have created. The capitalist world is standing on the brink of new military adventures. The contradictions and the growing conflicts between America and Japan, Britain and America, Britain and France, France and Germany, Poland and Germany and between the Near and Far East are forcing capital to set about increasing armaments. The capitalists are alarmed and wondering whether Europe has to drift towards another world war. It is not the murder of millions that the capitalists fear. After the war, they cold-bloodedly pursued their blockade of Russia which doomed millions of men and women to starvation. They are afraid that a new war could drive the masses into the army of the world revolution and provoke the final insurrection of the proletariat. They are therefore trying to reduce tension by concluding diplomatic deals as they did in the days before the World War. But reducing tension in one area means increasing it in another. The negotiations between Britain and America on limiting the naval armaments of the two countries inevitably lead to a united front against Japan.’ The Anglo-French detente means that Germany comes under French influence and Turkey under British influence. The attempts of world capital to introduce some measure of order into the growing world chaos result not in peace, but in increasing unrest, and in the increasing economic enslavement of the vanquished states by the victorious states.

All over the world the capitalist press is talking of the universal calm; but this calm is caused by the decision of the German bourgeoisie to submit to the sovereign will of the Allies and sacrifice the German people to the jackals of the Paris and London stock exchanges in order to preserve its own power. The financial press is also full of reports on the mounting economic crisis in Germany, and on the emergency taxes which hail down on the unemployed masses every autumn and which have meant price rises on every slice of bread, on each item of clothing and other vital necessities. The Communist International, which bases its politics on a careful and objective study of the world situation – for only by soberly surveying the field of battle, and thoroughly considering all the circumstances, can the proletariat achieve victory – has this to say to the world proletariat: capitalism has so far shown itself incapable of guaranteeing the world even the level of stability that existed in pre-war society. The present direction of capitalist development is incapable of producing a new social order,. it can only prolong the death agony of capitalism and your suffering. The world revolution approaches. The whole basis of world capitalism is collapsing. The second slogan the World Congress of the Communist International puts before the proletarians of all countries is this: we are moving forward to new and great battles. Arm for the next fight.

Build the Universal Militant Proletarian Front

The world bourgeoisie is incapable of guaranteeing the workers either jobs or bread, housing or clothing; but it displays a great capacity for organising war against the world proletariat. The bourgeoisie, at first disorientated, quickly conquered its great fear of the workers returning from the wars, drove them back to the factories and crushed their initial militancy. The bourgeoisie managed to maintain links with the traitors to the proletariat within social democracy and the trade unions, and so divided the workers. From that time on the bourgeoisie has concentrated all its forces on the organisation of White Guards to oppose the proletariat, and on disarming the working class. The world bourgeoisie has armed itself to the teeth; it is ready to meet with force any proletarian insurrection and also, if the opportunity presents itself, to provoke a premature proletarian rising in order to smash the class before it has prepared for struggle and created a broad and invincible proletarian front. The Communist International must counterpose its own plan of action to the strategy of the world bourgeoisie. In opposing the money-bags of world capital that pit their armed bandits against the organised proletariat, the Communist International has one sure weapon: the proletarian masses, the single united proletarian front. If millions and millions of new workers take up the fight together, then neither the tricks of the bourgeoisie nor its violence will be of any avail. The railways, used by the bourgeoisie to transport their units of White Guards to wherever the proletariat has to be fought, will be out of action. Some units of the White Guards will be too terrified to fight. The proletariat will seize their weapons and use them in the fight against the rest of the White Guards. If the proletariat successfully unites in struggle against the capitalists, then the world bourgeoisie loses the last and most important pre-requisite of victory – its belief in victory, which was temporarily restored only by the betrayal of social democracy and the division of the working masses. Our victory over world capital will be gained by winning the sympathy of the majority of the working class. The Third World Congress of the Communist International calls on all Communist Parties and Communists working in the trade unions to make the maximum effort to liberate the broadest working masses from the influence of the social-democratic parties and the traitors in the trade-union bureaucracy. This can only be done if Communists everywhere, at this time of hardship, when each day brings the working masses new deprivations, show themselves to be in the vanguard of the fight by the working class for its everyday needs and lead the working class in the struggle for an extra slice of bread and for an end to those intolerable burdens which capital increasingly thrusts on the working masses. The broad working masses must be convinced that only the Communists are fighting for improvements in the living conditions of ordinary people and that social democracy and the reactionary bureaucracy of the trade unions would sooner agree to let the workers die of hunger than agree to initiate a struggle. We will defeat these traitors, these agents of the bourgeoisie, not by theoretical arguments about democracy and dictatorship, but by taking up the questions of bread and wages, of clothing and housing for the workers. The first important battle for leadership that has to be won is the battle for leadership of the trade-union movement: the struggle against the scab Amsterdam International and for the Red Trade-Union International. The fortresses the enemy has built in our own camp have to be stormed; a single militant front, against which world capital will be powerless, has to be created. Do not give centrist currents a place in your organisations. Develop a fighting spirit.

Only by fighting for the basic, day-to-day needs of the working masses can we create a united proletarian front against the bourgeoisie and overcome the divisions within the proletariat that help maintain the bourgeoisie. This proletarian front will only be strong and ready for battle if it is linked with united, bold and disciplined Communist Parties. So, in addition to the slogans “To the masses” and “Build a united proletarian front”, the Third World Congress of the Comintern considers it necessary to advise all Communists to rid their ranks of those elements which may lower the fighting spirit and fighting discipline of the shock troops of the world proletariat and Communist Parties. The Congress of the Communist International agrees to the expulsion of the Italian Socialist Party until such time as it breaks with the reformists and excludes them from its ranks. This decision reflects the belief of the Congress that if the Communist International wishes to lead millions of workers into battle, it cannot include in its ranks reformists who aim at reaching an agreement with the capitalists and transforming capitalism, and not at making a proletarian revolution. Armies that tolerate leaders who seek reconciliation with the enemy are usually betrayed by these leaders into the hands of the enemy. The Communist International has noted that in a number of Parties, although the reformists have been expelled, currents remain within the Communist Parties which have not completely broken with the ideas of reformism. Although these currents are not seeking to come to an agreement with the enemy, they are failing to carry out a sufficiently active campaign of agitation and propaganda against capitalism and are not working hard enough to bring the masses to revolutionary politics. Parties which are incapable of showing the masses their revolutionary commitment in day-to-day political work, and are not eager and enthusiastic to increase the militancy of the masses, are forced to let slip many favourable opportunities for struggle and leave the spontaneous actions of the proletariat to burn themselves out, as happened at the time of the factory occupations in Italy and duping the December strike in Czechoslovakia. The Communist Parties must develop a fighting spirit; they must prepare cadres capable of taking immediate advantage of any favourable opportunities for struggle and be able, through careful and courageous leadership, to make the most of spontaneous proletarian activity. Communist Parties must act as the vanguard of the working masses as they enter the workers’ movement; they must be the heart and soul and nerve centre of the movement. This is the slogan which the Third World Congress of the Comintern lays down for the Communist Parties. A vanguard leads the masses because it is the bravest, the most far-sighted and the most level-headed section of the mass movement. Only when the Communist Parties have become this kind of vanguard will they be capable of creating a united proletarian front and of leading it to victory over the enemy.

Counterpose the Strategy of the Proletariat to the Strategy of Capital

Prepare the struggle. The enemy is strong because he has ruled for centuries and is therefore conscious of his strength and anxious to preserve it. The enemy knows how to fight a civil war. The Third Congress of the Communist International warns all Communist Parties that the proletarian struggle for power is threatened by the fact that the ruling and propertied classes have a well-thought-out strategy, while the working class is only beginning to develop a strategy. The March events in Germany have shown how dangerous it is for the ranks of the working class, the Communist vanguard of the proletariat, to be forced to fight the enemy before the proletarian masses have begun to move. The Communist International rejoiced that hundreds of thousands of workers all over Germany rushed to the help of the workers of Central Germany when they were under threat. The Communist International sees such solidarity and such willingness on the part of the proletariat of a whole nation or of the whole world to take action in defence of a section of its class as the path to victory. The Communist International rejoiced that the United Communist Party of Germany assumed the leadership of the working masses who hastened to the defence of their besieged brothers. But at the same time it considers it essential to make the following point absolutely clear to workers everywhere: if the vanguard is not in a position to avoid a fight and if this fight has the potential of hastening the mobilisation of the entire working class, it should accept the capitalist challenge. But the vanguard should not forget that as long as it is alone and isolated, it must not involve itself in any crucial battles; if the isolated vanguard has no option but to fight, it must try to avoid any armed confrontation with the enemy, for only the masses can ensure victory for the proletariat over the armed White Guards. Unless the overwhelming majority of the proletariat are participating in the struggle, the vanguard, as an unarmed minority, should not go forward to meet the armed enemy and should avoid a trial of strength. The March battles teach another lesson which the Communist International also brings to the attention of the world proletariat. It is vital to prepare the broadest sections of the working masses for the future battles by carrying out increasingly intense and extensive revolutionary agitation on a day-to-day basis, and by organising struggles around slogans which are clear and accessible to the broadest proletarian masses. A careful and intelligent proletarian strategy must be counterposed to the strategy of the enemy. The bravery, determination and will to win of the front ranks is not sufficient.

Action must be prepared and organised in such a way that the broadest masses recognise the struggle as one for their own most pressing needs and therefore rally to the movement. The more precarious the position of world capital, the harder will the capitalists try to smash any vanguard which loses contact with the broad masses and to frustrate the future victory of the Communist International. This danger can be averted if the Communist Parties initiate a mass agitational campaign that reaches and rouses all sections of the working people; if they engage in energetic organisational work that strengthens the Party’s influence on the broad masses and makes possible a sober evaluation of the field of struggle; and if they adopt the tactic of retreating when the enemy has superior forces and attacking when the enemy forces are scattered and the masses united.

The Third World Congress of the Communist International is aware that only experience in struggle can provide the working class with Communist Parties that are capable both of launching a lightning attack upon the enemy when it is in difficulties and of retreating before superior forces. Proletarians everywhere are therefore duty-bound to study and make use of all the lessons which have been learned at great cost by the working class in other countries.

Maintain a Militant Discipline

The working class and the Communist Parties throughout the world must prepare, not for a period of peaceful agitation and organisation, but for serious confrontations which will be initiated by the bourgeoisie in order to smash the proletariat and force it to shoulder the burden of capitalist policies.

In this struggle the Communist Parties must develop the highest degree of militant discipline. The leading Party bodies must carefully and thoroughly consider all the lessons of the past struggle and make a careful survey of the field of battle, developing a strategy that combines great daring with great forethought. They must work out their plans and tactics with the close assistance of the Party as a whole, taking into account the criticism of Party comrades. But all Party organisations must carry out the line of the Party without delay and their every word and every step must be subordinated to its aims. Parliamentary fractions, the Party press, and Party organisations must carry out the orders of the Parties’ leading bodies unhesitatingly.

The world review of the Communist vanguards is over. It has demonstrated that Communism is an international force. It has shown that the Communist International has still to organise the proletariat into huge armies. It has testified to the fact that these armies will have to fight great battles. It has proved that these battles will be won. It has shown the world proletariat how to prepare and fight for victory. The task of the Communist Parties of all countries is now to bring the decisions of the Congress, the collective experience of the world proletariat, to the attention of all Communists. This will ensure that all Communist men and women proletarians are ready to act in the forthcoming battles as the leaders of hundreds of thousands of non-Communist proletarians. For the Communist International!

For the World Revolution!

Let us work to prepare and organise our victory!