New pamphlet: Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time

[The following is the introduction to a new pamphlet, Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time, produced by the Canadian Socialist Voice collective. The full text is available at]

By John Riddell
The first years of the 21st century have seen coordinated worldwide actions and international collaboration by progressive movements on a scale not seen for many decades.
Massive actions against capitalist globalization in 1999-2001, the rise of the World Social Forum, coordinated protests by tens of millions against the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003, and world days of action to protect the environment have all testified to awareness that the great problems before us can be resolved only on a world scale.
Meanwhile, the stubborn resistance to imperialist wars in the Middle East and the rise of popular struggles in Latin America have thrown the U.S. empire onto the defensive. The government of Venezuela, together with Cuba, has built an international alliance for sovereignty and against neo-liberalism, called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has pointed to the need for progressive and anti-capitalist movements to unite in international association.
Such recent initiatives continue the tradition of the workers’ movement since the mid-19th century. The Communist League (1847-1852), whose leaders included Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, published a world program, The Manifesto of the Communist Party, which still serves as the foundation of revolutionary socialism and concludes with the words, “Working people of all countries, unite!”
Marx and Engels were among the central leaders of the International Working Men’s Association (1864-1876). Engels took part in the formation in 1889 of the Socialist (Second) International, which came to include mass socialist parties in most of the main developed capitalist states.
A conservative wing developed within the Second International, which led to its collapse at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The International’s most authoritative parties abandoned the interests of working people in order to rally behind their respective imperialist rulers in prosecuting the war effort. The conflict in the Second International is described in the first article of this collection, “Socialism’s Great Divide” (page 2).
Amid the wreckage of the Second International, revolutionary opponents of the imperialist war organized in the Zimmerwald Movement, named for the town in Switzerland where they met in 1915 (see “From Zimmerwald to Moscow,” page 3). That current included the leaders of the revolution that brought Russian workers and peasants to power in October 1917.
Founding Congress
The Communist International or “Comintern” was founded in March 1919 on the initiative of the Bolshevik Party of Russia. It united revolutionary opponents of capitalism from diverse origins and with a wide range of viewpoints: Marxists of different hues, revolutionary anarchists, pioneer fighters against colonial domination.
Lenin declared that the Comintern’s foundation “heralds the international republic of soviets, the international victory of communism.”
These hopes were not realized. The upsurge of workers’ struggles following the First World War was defeated everywhere outside Russia. In Russia itself, the Bolshevik Party and Comintern soon fell into the grip of a bureaucratic faction headed by Joseph Stalin. The Comintern ceased to be a revolutionary force. Most of the Comintern’s founding leaders in Soviet territory fell victim to Stalin’s murderous purges. The International was dissolved in 1943.
However, during its first five years, while still led by Lenin and his closest collaborators, the Communist International elaborated a program and strategy that incorporate the lessons of the revolutionary era whose climax was the Russian revolution.
The purpose of this pamphlet is to introduce that program.

Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time,