October 18, 2001

Creation of the Comintern

Creation of the Comintern

Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations. In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels The Communist Manifesto

In 1919, after two failed Socialist Internationals, Lenin decided that there was a need for a new organization to bring solidarity among the working class. Enter the Comintern; short for Communist International, designed to oversee the world wide workers' revolution against the establishment.

Being a devout separatist, Lenin now saw the need for a unified revolution with neighboring nations in Western Europe. The primary problem was that most of the communist sympathizers in Europe wanted a new international, but not one run by the Bolsheviks. Rosa Luxemburg was most probably Lenin's greatest obstacle. It was clear that she intended to put down any moves made by Lenin to establish the new Comintern.

Rosa was born in 1871 to a Jewish family in Russia dominated Poland. She moved to Zurich in 1889 where she studied and received her doctorate in law in 1898. While studying in Zurich, Rosa became active in the international socialist movement, meeting and coming to disagree with men such as Georgy Plekhanov and Pavel Axelrod, both members of the Russian social democratic movement. Rosa, also, found no agreement with the Polish Socialist Party because they were in favor of Polish independence. She, and others who agreed with her, founded the Polish Social Democratic Party which later became the Polish Communist Party.

Rosa strongly disagreed with the concepts of nationalism and independence. She saw these as the tools used by the bourgeoisie to oppress and control the masses. Instead, her ideal was one of socialist internationalism which clashed dramatically with Lenin's mandate for national self-determination.

Luxemburg had believed that the world revolution of workers would originate in Germany. In 1905, she realized that the spark had been lit in Russia. In 1906, she wrote her thesis on the need for revolutionary mass action, Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften (The Mass Strike, the Political Party, and the Trade Unions). In a nutshell, Rosa's thesis called for a unified mass strike on the part of workers in both the West and Russia. This was the only way to achieve a socialist victory over the oppressive upper class. Rosa insisted that highly structured parties or revolutionary groups were a waste, that solidarity among the people would come automatically as a result of a common struggle. On this, she and Lenin disagreed.

Rosa instigated many violent demonstrations in Berlin. She attempted to restrict the affect of the Bolshevik activities in Russia on the newly formed German Communist Party. Believing strongly in the unified power of international workers and soldiers groups, Rosa was heavily critical of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in her publication The Russian Revolution, for their focus on national self determination. As strange as it may sound, Rosa was a believer in democracy and was determined to prevent Lenin from forming the Comintern, which she saw as dictatorial.

Rosa and her followers opposed Russia's signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. This treaty was an attempt to stop German aggression. Lenin believed that the treaty was necessary to keep Germany from pressing into Ukraine and Russia. He reasoned that Germany would be defeated from within by its own workers revolution. Rosa was disappointed at Russia entering into such a treaty with Germany. In her paper, The Russian Tragedy, she explains that treaty only introduced a new chapter in the war. The Treaty left Russia vulnerable. Luxemburg wrote, The overall result of this unrestricted and unlimited German power over Russia was naturally an enormous strengthening of German imperialism both internally and externally, and thereby of course a heightening of the white-hot resistance and war-readiness of the Entente powers, i.e. prolongation and intensification of the world war. And indeed there is more: Russia’s defenselessness, as revealed by the progressive German occupation, must naturally tempt the Entente and Japan to instigate a counter-action on Russian territory in order to combat Germany’s huge predominance and at the same time to satisfy their imperialist appetites at the expense of the defenseless colossus. Now the north and east of European Russia, as well as the whole of Siberia, are cut off, and the Bolsheviks are isolated form their last sources of essential supplies. The end result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is thus to encircle, starve out and strangle the Russian revolution from all sides.

On January 15, 1919, the leaders of the German Communist Party; Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Wilhelm Pieck; were arrested in Berlin. The exact details of what happened are not known. We do know that Luxemburg and Liebknecht were beaten unconscious then driven outside the city where they were shot and their bodies deposited in a river. Pieck somehow managed to escape and made his way to Russia for the first meeting of the Comintern (March 2-6, 1919).

Lenin delivered the opening speech at the First Congress of the Communist International on March 2, 1919. He began by saying, On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party I declare the First Congress of the Communist International open. First I would ask all present to rise in tribute to the finest representatives of the Third International: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg . ( All rise) Comrades, our gathering has great historic significance. It testifies to the collapse of all the illusions cherished by bourgeois democrats. Not only in Russia, but in the most developed capitalist countries of Europe, in Germany for example, civil war is a fact.

Communist and Socialist organizations with representatives in attendance:

  • 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
  • Czech, Bulgarian, Yugoslav, British, French and Swiss Communist Groups
  • 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

Agenda of the First Congress:

  • constitution
  • reports
  • policy statement of the International Communist Conference
  • bourgeois democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat
  • the Berne Conference and attitude toward socialist trends
  • the international situation and the Entente's policy
  • Manifesto
  • White terror
  • elections to the bureau and other organizational issues

Main points of the concluding statement of the Congress:

  • 1) 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 proletarian state of the Soviet type, which would insure the transition to Communist society.

The Congress stressed the necessity of workers in all nations to recognize and support Soviet Russia. It was demanded that the Entente stop interference in Soviet internal affairs, pull their troops out of Russia and lift existing trade blockades.

The final action of the Congress was the establishment of the governing heiarchy for the International. An Executive Committee was elected by the entire Congress. In turn the Committee selected a Bureau of five representatives.

Lenin knew that a successful international would be impossible without the Germans. The big problem was Eberlein who was under orders to do all he could to keep the international from becoming reality. Eventually, due to pressure from the Austrian delegate, Steinhart, Eberlein agreed to be silent and abstain from voting. Thus, he did not support the new organization, neither did he suppress it.

At the end of the first Congress, it was easily determined that Moscow would be the headquarters with Grigori Sinoviev the Comintern's president. The basic premiss of the International was the ideal of Soviet dictatorship and the obligation of of all members to separate themselves from all patriots and pacifists.

Sinoviev was not supposed to run the international single handed. All decisions making was to be in collaboration with Nikolay Bukharin and Karl Radek. Bukharin was not a dynamic politician but was known for his high morals and found favor with Lenin. Radek opposed Lenin, was a student of Rosa Luxemburg and was against the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with Germany. He was very much in favor of resistance at any cost. Radek knew the German labor movement and socialism extremely well and had begun to try and set up a liaison between the Soviet Union and German manufacturers which was seen as tantamount to treason.

Despite their differences, Sinoviev, Bukharin and Radek constituted the leadership of the Comintern. On occasion Trotsky would be consulted, especially regarding decisions concerning France. All decisions were cleared by Lenin. These leaders truly believed that there efforts were for an international workers' revolution, of which Russia's was a part. In reality, the Comintern was run by Russians (Radek was considered Russian because he was member of the Bolshevik Party) which alienated other members, making them subordinate to the Russia workers' cause. During the Russian civil war, little attention was paid to the other member nations' revolutions. As a result, Russia was quickly cut off from the rest of Europe.

Being now isolated caused the Russian leaders to interpret world affairs in an unrealistic light. Trotsky felt certain that the Red Army would conquer Europe and lay siege on the U.S. Sinoviev believed that, by 1920, the whole of Europe would be a single soviet state. In truth, the International now had little if any influence in European affairs.

Lenin's concept of the Comintern was a body whose strength would lay in solidarity of purpose and action. New members of 1919, came into the Comintern with a range of ideals, purposes and motives. The only member which saw communism the same way Lenin did was the Bulgarian Testyaki, a close friend of the Bolsheviks. During the first year of the Comintern and immediately following the First Congress, groups of anarchists from Holland, France and Spain adhered to Lenin's ideals. A small labor groups, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), based in the U.S. was sympathetic to the Comintern and Russia's revolution. The IWW exercised considerable influenced over smaller groups in Britain. Marxist revolution is to be carried out through general strikes, avoiding bloodshed. This was not the course that the Bolsheviks took and, thus, made them appealing to these small groups of anarchists.

Pure anarchism is a philosophy which states that any and all forms of government are wrong; that each individual has the freedom and right to do whatever he/she wants. Regulations or governments which do not enable people to do what they want, when and were they want, is considered to be oppressive and dictatorial. The word anarchy comes from the Greek, arkhe^, which refers to the absence of authority. Over the centuries, it has become apparent that human society and some sort of structure go hand in hand. Thus, anarchy has come to refer to rebellion, disorganization and chaos.

Lenin considered himself and the Revolution to be anarchist. The battle was against the tyrannical status quo in favor of individual freedoms and rights, against revolutionary socialism. Socialism was defined by Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) as, society in such a manner that every individual, man or woman, should find, upon entering life, approximately equal means for the development of his or her diverse faculties and their utilization in his or her work. And to organize such a society that, rendering impossible the exploitation of anyone's labor, will enable every individual to enjoy the social wealth, which in reality is produced only by collective labor, but to enjoy it only in so far as he contributes directly toward the creation of that wealth. .

Communists believe it necessary to organize the massive working class and to take control of the State. Revolutionary Socialism concentrates on the destruction of the State, thus freeing the working class. Communism relies on authority and control while revolutionary Socialism believes only in individual freedom.

The Comintern had influence for roughly two years. Soon, true anarchists, once enthusiastic about the Comintern's ideals, broke away in disgust. The dictatorial nature of the Russian leaders and the ever present Red Army were to blame. Russia was a communist state whose leaders seemed to honestly believe that a powerful, central government which dictated the work and lives of the masses could produce the best and most equal quality of life for all.

The Communist International managed to last for 23 years with meetings held annually. In 1943, the Comintern was eliminated by Joseph Stalin who determined that it would never be possible to accomplish international Communist solidarity. After this, many world wide Communist activities were still coordinated secretly from inside the Kremlin. The fathers of Communism, Marx and Engels, and the father of Russian Communism, Lenin, would have considered the dissolution of the Comintern to go against the very grain of what true Communist philosophy was about.

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