March 2019 marks the centenary of the foundation of the Third, Communist International, one of the high points of the international revolutionary wave which swept the globe at the end of the First World War. We will be producing a new article to celebrate and analyse this historic event, but in the meantime we are drawing readers' attention to what we wrote in 1989, 70 years after the formation of the CI; this is an article which retains its relevance today.
Amongst the many anniversaries that will be celebrated in 1989, there is one that the media and historians will not talk about other than briefly and then only with the conscious aim of distorting its significance. In March 1919 the founding Congress of the Communist International was held. As they did with the bicentenary of the foundation of the United States, the bourgeoisie's well-paid historians will celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution of 1789 by trumpeting the values of liberty, equality, fraternity, democracy and the nation as the absolute and definitive principles that had at last been discovered to lead humanity to ‘happiness'. Two centuries of exploitation, class struggle, misery and imperialist war, have revealed the capitalist reality behind these fine words. For the bourgeoisie, the purpose of these celebrations is to make people forget that "capitalism was born in blood and filth" (Marx), that it was born of the class struggle, and above all, that it is a transitory social form, which will disappear as all the previous modes of production have done before it.
The anniversary of the foundation of the Communist International is there to remind the bourgeoisie of 1989 that the class struggle is a reality of today's crisis-ridden capitalism, that the proletariat exists as both an exploited and a revolutionary class; it heralds the end of the bourgeoisie itself.
The international revolutionary wave in 1919
The CI's foundation awakes unpleasant memories for the whole capitalist class and its zealous servants. In particular, it reminds them of their fright at the end of World War I, faced with the mounting and apparently unavoidable tide of the international revolutionary wave: the victorious proletarian revolution in Russia in October 1917; mutinies in the trenches; the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm and the hurried signature of an armistice in the face of mutinies and the revolt of the working masses in Germany; then the insurrection of German workers; the creation along Russian lines of republics of workers' councils in Bavaria and Hungary; the beginning of strikes among the working masses in Britain and Italy; mutinies in the fleet and army in France, as well as among some British military units refusing to intervene against Soviet Russia ....
Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the British Government at the time, best expressed the international bourgeoisie's alarm at the power of the Russian workers' soviets when he declared in January 1919 that if he were to try to send a thousand British troops to help occupy Russia, the troops would mutiny, and that if a military occupation were undertaken against the Bolsheviks, England would become Bolshevik and there would be a soviet in London:
"The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution. There is a deep sense not only of discontent, but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen against pre-war conditions. The whole existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other" (quoted in Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol 3, p .13 5 ).
We know today that the CI's foundation was the high point of the revolutionary wave which extended from 1917 until at least 1923, throughout the world, from Europe to Asia (China), and to the ‘new' world from Canada (Winnipeg) and the USA (Seattle) to Latin America. This revolutionary wave was the international proletariat's answer to World War I, to 4 years of imperialist war amongst the capitalist states to divide the world up between them. The attitude towards the imperialist war of the different parties and individual militants of the social democracy, the 2nd International swallowed up by the war in 1914, was to determine what attitude they would adopt faced with the revolution and the Communist International.
"The Communist International was formed after the conclusion of the imperialist war of 1914-18 in which the imperialist bourgeoisie of the different countries sacrificed 20 million men.
"‘Remember the imperialist war!' These are the first words addressed by the Communist International to every working man and woman; wherever they live and whatever language they speak. Remember that because of the existence of capitalist society a handful of imperialists were able to force the workers of the different countries for four long years to cut each other's throats. Remember that the war of the bourgeoisie conjured up in Europe and throughout the world the most frightful famine and the most appalling misery. Remember that without the overthrow of capitalism the repetition of such robber wars is not only possible but inevitable" (Statutes of the Communist International, adopted at the 2nd Congress, in Degras, The Communist International, Documents)
Part I: The continuity from the 2nd International to the CI
The 2nd International and the question of the imperialist war
In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx set out one of the essential principles of the proletariat's struggle against capitalism: "The workers have no country". This principle did not mean that workers should take no interest in the national question, but on the contrary that they should define their positions and attitudes on the subject, and on the question of national wars, as a function of their own historical struggle. The question of war and the attitude of the proletariat were always at the centre of the debates of the 1st International (1864-73), as it was in those of the 2nd (1889-1914). During most of the 19th century, the proletariat could not remain indifferent to the wars of national emancipation against feudal and monarchic reaction, and especially against Russian tsarism.
Within the 2nd International the marxists, with Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg in the forefront, were able to recognize the change in the period of capitalism's life that occurred at the dawn of the 20th century. The capitalist mode of production had reached its apogee, and reigned over the entire planet. Here began the period of "imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism", as Lenin put it. In this period the coming European war would be an imperialist and world war between capitalist nations over the distribution of colonies and spheres of influence. It was essentially the left wing of the2nd International which led the combat to arm the International and the proletariat in this new situation, against the opportunist wing, which was abandoning day by day the principles of the proletarian struggle. A vital moment in this struggle was the 1907 Congress of the International in Stuttgart, where Rosa Luxemburg, drawing the lessons of the experience of the 1905 mass strike in Russia, linked the question of imperialist war to those of the mass strike and the proletarian revolution:
"I have asked to speak in the name of the Russian and Polish delegations to remind you that on this point [the mass strike in Russia and the war, ed.) we must draw the lesson of the great Russian revolution [ie of 1905, ed.] ... The Russian revolution did not only arise as a result of the war; it also put an end to the war; without it, Tsarism would undoubtedly have continued the war" (Rosa Luxemburg, quoted in BD Wolfe, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin).
The left carried the adoption of the vitally important amendment to the Congress resolution, presented by Luxemburg and Lenin:
"Should a war break out nonetheless, the socialists have the duty to work to bring it to an end as rapidly as possible, and to use by every means the economic and political crisis provoked by the war to awaken the people and so to hasten the downfall of capitalist domination" (quoted in the Resolution on the Socialist currents and the Berne conference, at the First Congress of the CI).
In 1912, the 2nd International's Basel Congress reaffirmed this position against the growing menace of imperialist war in Europe:
"Let the bourgeois governments not forget that the Franco-Prussian war gave birth to the revolutionary insurrection of the Commune, and that the Russo-Japanese war set in motion the revolutionary forces in Russia. In the eyes of the proletarians, it is criminal to massacre themselves for the benefit of capitalist profit, dynastic rivalry, and the flourishing of diplomatic treaties" (ibid).
The betrayal and death of the 2nd International
The 4th August 1914 marked the outbreak of the First World War. Riddled with opportunism, swept away in the flood of chauvinism and war fever, the 2nd International broke up and died in shame: its principal parties (above all the French and German social-democratic parties and the British Labor party, in the hands of the opportunists), voted for war credits, called for the ‘defense of the fatherland', and a ‘holy alliance' with the bourgeoisie against ‘foreign invasion'; in France, they were even rewarded with ministerial positions for having given up the class struggle. They received a theoretical support from the ‘centre' (ie between the International's left and right wings), when Kautsky, who had been called the ‘pope of marxism', distinguished between war and the class struggle, declaring the latter possible only ‘in peacetime' .... and so of course impossible ‘for the duration'.
"For the class-conscious workers ( ... ) by the collapse of the [2nd] International they understand the glaring disloyalty of the majority of the official Social-Democratic parties to their convictions, to the most solemn declarations made in speeches at the Stuttgart and Basel International Congresses, in the resolutions of these congresses, etc" (Lenin, The Collapse of the Second International)
Only a few parties stood up to the storm: essentially the Italian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian parties. Elsewhere, isolated militants or groups, usually from the Left, such as Rosa Luxemburg and the Dutch ‘Tribunists' around Gorter and Pannekoek, remained faithful to proletarian internationalism and the class struggle and tried to regroup.
The death of the 2nd International was a heavy defeat for the proletariat, which it paid for in blood in the trenches. Many revolutionary workers were to die in the slaughter. For the ‘revolutionary social-democrats', it meant the loss of their international organization, which would have to be rebuilt:
"The 2nd International is dead, defeated by opportunism. Down with opportunism, and long live the 3rd International, rid not only of deserters ( ... ) but also of opportunism!" (Lenin, Situation and Tasks of the Socialist International)
The conferences of Zimmerwald and Kienthal: Steps towards the construction of the Communist International
In September 1915, the ‘International Socialist Conference of Zimmerwald' was held. It was to be followed in April 1916 by a second conference at Kienthal, also in Switzerland. Despite the difficult conditions of war and repression, delegates from 11 countries took part, including Germany, Italy, Russia and France.
Zimmerwald recognised the war as imperialist. The majority of the conference refused to denounce the opportunist right of the social-democratic parties which had gone over to the camp of the ‘holy alliance', or to envisage splitting with them. This centrist majority was pacifist, defending the slogan of ‘peace'.
United behind the representatives of the Bolshevik fraction, Lenin and Zinoviev, the ‘Zimmerwald Left', defended the necessity of a split, and the construction of the 3rd International. Against pacifism, they declared that "the struggle for peace without revolutionary action is a hollow and deceitful phrase" (Lenin), and opposed centrism with the slogan of "transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. This slogan, precisely, is indicated in the resolutions of Stuttgart and Basel" (Lenin).
Although the Left gained in strength from one Conference to the next, it was unable to convince the other delegates, and remained in the minority. Nonetheless, its evaluation was positive:
"The second Zimmerwald Conference (Kienthal) is undoubtedly a step forward. ( ... ) What then should we do tomorrow? Tomorrow, we must continue the struggle for our solution, for the revolutionary social-democracy, for the 3rd International! Zimmerweld and Kienthal have shown that our road is the right one" (Zinoviev, 10/6/1916).
The meeting between the lefts of different countries, and their common combat, made possible the constitution of the "first nucleus of the 3rd International in formation", as Zinoviev recognized in March 1918.
The proletariat carries out the resolutions of the Stuttgart and Basel Congresses
The 1917 proletarian revolution in Russia opened a revolutionary wave throughout Europe. The proletarian threat decided the international bourgeoisie to bring the imperialist carnage to an end. Lenin's slogan became a reality: the Russian, then the international proletariat transformed the imperialist war into a civil war. Thus the proletariat honored the Left of the 2nd International, by applying the famous Stuttgart resolution.
The war had definitively thrust the opportunist right of the social-democratic parties into the camp of the bourgeoisie. The revolutionary wave put the pacifists of the centre up against the wall, and was to thrust many of them in their turn, especially the leaders such as Kautsky into the bourgeois camp. The International no longer existed. The new parties formed by splits from the social-democracy began to adopt the name of ‘Communist Party'.
The revolutionary wave encouraged and demanded the constitution of the world party of the proletariat: the 3rd International.
The formation of the CI: Its continuity in politics and principles with the 2nd International
The new International, which adopted the name of the Communist International, was thus formed in March 1919 on the basis of an organic split with the right wing of the parties of the defunct 2nd International. It did not, however, reject its principles or its contributions.
"Sweeping aside the half-heartedness, lies and corruption of the outlived official Socialist parties, we Communists, united in the 3rd International, consider ourselves the direct continuators of the heroic endeavors and martyrdom of a long line of revolutionary generations from Babeuf to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
If the 1st International presaged the future course of development and indicated its paths; if the 2nd International gathered and organized millions of workers; then the 3rd International is the International of open mass action, the International of revolutionary realization, the International of the deed" (Manifesto of the CI, in The Five Years of the CI, ed. New Park)
The currents, the fractions, the traditions and the positions which formed the basis of the CI, were developed and defended by the Left within the 2nd International.
"Experience proves that only in a regroupment selected from the historical milieu - the 2nd International - in which the pre-war proletariat developed could the proletarian struggle against the imperialist war be pushed to its extreme conclusion, for only this group was able to formulate and advanced program for the proletarian revolution, and so to lay the foundations for a new proletarian movement" (Bilan, theoretical bulletin of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left), no. 34, August 1936, p.1128).
Over and above individuals such as Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Pannekoek, or even groups and fractions of the social-democratic parties like the Bolsheviks, the German, Dutch, and Italian lefts etc, there is a political and organic continuity between the left of the 2nd International and of Zimmerwald, and the 3rd International. The first Congress of the new International was called on the initiative of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (previously the Workers' Social Democratic Party of Russia (Bolsheviks), which was part of the 2nd International) and the German Communist Party (ex-Spartacus League). The Bolsheviks were the driving force behind the Zimmerwald Left. The latter, a true organic and political link between the 2nd and 3rd Internationals, drew up a balance-sheet of its past combats as the left wing of the 2nd International, and set out the needs of the day:
"The conferences of Zimmerweld and Kienthal were important at a time when it was necessary to unite all those proletarian elements determined in one way or another to protest against the imperialist butchery. ( ... ) The Zimmerwald group has had its day. All that was truly revolutionary in the Zimmerwald goes over to and joins the Communist International" (Declaration of the Participants at Zimmerwald, quoted in Broue, op. cit.).
We insist strongly on the continuity between the two Internationals. As we have seen on the organic level, the CI did not appear out of the blue. The same is true of its program and its political principles. Not to recognize the historical link between the two means succumbing to an anarchist inability to understand how history works, or to a mechanistic spontaneism which sees the CI as solely the product of the revolutionary movement of the working masses.
Without recognizing this continuity, it is impossible to understand why and how the CI breaks with the 2nd International. For although there is a continuity between the two, expressed amongst other things in the Stuttgart resolution, there is also a rupture. A rupture concretized in the CI's political program, in its political positions and in its organizational and militant practice as the ‘world communist party'. A rupture in facts, by the use of armed and bloody repression: against the proletariat and the Bolsheviks in Russia by the Kerensky government, with the participation of the Mensheviks and the SRs, both members of the 2nd International; against the proletariat and the KPD in Germany by the Social-Democratic government of Noske-Scheidemann.
Without recognizing this ‘break within a continuity', it is also impossible to understand the degeneration of the CI during the 1920s and the combat conducted within it, then outside it during the 30s following their exclusion, by the fractions of the ‘Italian', ‘German' and ‘Dutch' Communist Lefts, to name only the most important. Today's communist groups and the positions they defend are the product of these left fractions, of their defense of communist principles and their work in carrying out a critical reappraisal of the CI and the 1917-23 revolutionary wave. Without recognizing the heritage of the 2nd International, which is the political heritage of the proletariat, it is impossible to understand the foundations of the CI's positions, nor the validity of some of the most important of them today, nor the contributions of the fractions during the 1930s. In other words, it means being incapable of defending revolutionary positions today, consistently and with assurance and determination.
Part 2: The CI's break with the 2nd International
The CI's political program
At the end of January 1919, Trotsky drew up the ‘Letter of invitation' to the CI's founding Congress, which determined the political principles that the new organization aimed to adopt. In fact, this letter is the proposed ‘Platform of the Communist International', and sums it up well. It is based on the programs of the two main communist parties:
"In our opinion the new international should be based on the recognition of the following propositions, put forward here as a platform and worked out on the basis of the program of the Spartakusbund in Germany and of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in Russia" (Degras, opcit.)
In fact, the Spartakusbund no longer existed since the foundation of the German Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) on 29th December 1918. The KPD had just lost its two principal leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, assassinated by the social-democracy during the terrible repression of the Berlin proletariat in January. Thus at the very moment of its foundation, the CI suffered, along with the international proletariat, its first defeat. Two months before it was constituted, the CI lost two leaders whose prestige, strength, and theoretical abilities were comparable to those of Lenin and Trotsky. It was Rosa Luxemburg who had the most developed, in her writings at the end of the previous century, the point that was to become the keystone of the 3rd International's political program.
Capitalism's irreversible historical decline
For Rosa Luxemburg, it was clear that the war of 1914 had opened up the capitalist mode of production's period of decadence. After the imperialist slaughter, this position could no longer be contested:
"Matters have reached such a pitch that today mankind is faced with two alternatives: it may perish amid chaos; or it may find salvation in socialism" (Speech on the Program, Merlin Press).
This position was reaffirmed vigorously by the International:
"1. The present epoch is the epoch of the collapse and disintegration of the entire capitalist world system, which will drag the whole of European civilization down with it if capitalism with its insoluble contradictions is not destroyed" (Letter of Invitation, in Degras, opcit).
"A new epoch is born! The epoch of the dissolution of capitalism, of its inner disintegration. The epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat" (Platform of the CI, ibid).
The political implications of the epoch of capitalist decadence
For all those who stand on the terrain of the Communist International, the decline of capitalism has consequences for the living conditions and struggle of the proletariat. Contrary to the ideas of the pacifist centre, those of Kautsky for example, the end of the war could not mean a return to the life and program of the prewar period. This was one point of rupture between the dead 2nd and the 3rd International:
"One thing is certain, the World War is a turning point for the world. ( ... ) The conditions of our struggle, and we ourselves, have been radically altered by the World War" (Luxemburg, The Crisis in the Social Democracy, 1915).
The opening of the period of capitalist society's decline marked by the imperialist war, meant new conditions of life and struggle for the international proletariat. It was heralded by the 1905 mass strike in Russia, and the emergence for the first time of a new form of unitary organization of the working masses, the soviets. Luxemburg (in Mass Strike, Party, and Unions, 1906) and Trotsky (in 1905) drew the essential lessons of these mass movements. With Luxemburg, the whole of the left led the debate within the 2nd International on the mass strike, and the political battle against the opportunism of the trade union and Social-Democratic party leaderships, against their vision of a peaceful and gradual evolution towards socialism. Breaking with social-democratic practice, the CI declared:
"The basic methods of struggle are mass actions of the proletariat right up to open armed conflict with the political power of capital" (Letter of Invitation in Degras, opcit).
The revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat
The action of the working masses leads to confrontation with the bourgeois state. The CI's most precious contribution is on the revolutionary proletariat's attitude to the state. Breaking with the social-democracy's ‘reformism', renewing the marxist method and the lessons of the historical experiences of the Paris Commune, Russia 1905, and above all the insurrection of October 1917 with the destruction of the capitalist state in Russia and the exercise of power by the workers' councils, the CI declared itself clearly and without any ambiguity for the destruction of the bourgeois state and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship of the working masses organized in the workers' councils.
"2. The task of the proletariat is now to seize power immediately. The seizure of state power means the destruction of the state apparatus of the bourgeoisie and the organization of a new proletarian apparatus of power.
3. This new apparatus of power should embody the dictatorship of the working class, and in some places also of the rural semi-proletariat, the village poor ( ... ) Its concrete form is given in the regime of the Soviets or of similar organs.
4. The dictatorship of the proletariat must be the lever for the immediate expropriation of capital and for the abolition of private property in the means of production and their transformation into national property" (ibid).
This question was an essential one for the Congress, which was to adopt the ‘Theses on bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship' presented by Lenin.
The theses on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat
The Theses begin by denouncing the false opposition between democracy and dictatorship. "For in no civilized capitalist country is there ‘democracy in the abstract', there is only bourgeois democracy" (ibid). The Paris Commune had demonstrated the dictatorial character of bourgeois democracy. In capitalism, defending ‘pure' democracy in fact means defending bourgeois democracy, which is the form par excellence of the dictatorship of capital. What freedom of meeting or of the press is there for workers?
"‘Freedom of the press' is another leading watchword of ‘pure democracy'. But the workers know..., that this freedom is deceptive so long as the best printing works and the biggest paper supplies are in capitalist hands, and so long as capital retains its power over the press, a power which throughout the world is expressed more clearly, sharply, and cynically, the more developed the democracy and the republican regime, as for example in America. To win real equality and real democracy for the working masses, for the workers and peasants, the capitalists must first be deprived of the possibility of getting writers in their service, of buying up publishing houses and bribing newspapers. And for that it is necessary to throw off the yoke of capital, to overthrow the exploiters and to crush their resistance" (Theses, ibid).
After the experience of the war and the revolution, to demand and defend pure democracy, as do the Kautskyists, is a crime against the proletariat, the Theses continue. In the interests of the different imperialisms, of a minority of capitalists, millions of men were massacred in the trenches, and the ‘military dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' has been set up in every country, democratic or not. Bourgeois democracy assassinated Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg once they had been arrested and imprisoned by a social-democratic government.
"In such a state of affairs the dictatorship of the proletariat is not merely wholly justified as a means of overwhelming the exploiters and overcoming their resistance, but quite essential for the mass of workers as their only protection against the bourgeois dictatorship which led to the war and is getting ready for new wars. ( ... ) The fundamental difference between the proletarian dictatorship and the dictatorship of other classes ( ... ) consists in this, that ( ... ) the dictatorship of the proletariat is the forcible suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, that is of the minority of the population, the large landowners and capitalists. ( ... )
And in fact the forms taken by the dictatorship of the proletariat, which have already been worked out, that is, the Soviet power in Russia, the workers' councils in Germany, the shop stewards' committees, and other analogues of Soviet institutions in other countries, all these make a reality of democratic rights and privileges for the working classes, that is for the overwhelming majority of the population; they mean that it becomes really possible to use these rights and privileges in a way and on a scale that was never even approximately possible in the best democratic bourgeois republic" (ibid).
Only the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world scale can destroy capitalism, abolish classes, and ensure the passage to communism.
"The abolition of state power is the goal of all socialists, including and above all Marx. Unless this goal is reached, true democracy, that is, equality and freedom, is not attainable. But only Soviet and proletarian democracy leads in fact to this goal, for it begins at once to prepare for the complete withering away of any kind of state by drawing the mass organizations of the working people into constant and unrestricted participation in state administration" (ibid).
The question of the state was a crucial one, at a moment when the revolutionary wave was unfurling in Europe and the bourgeoisie in all countries was waging civil war against the proletariat in Russia, when the antagonism between capital and labor, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, had reached its most extreme and most dramatic point. The need to defend the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia and the extension of the revolution, ie the power of the Soviets, internationally to Europe was posed concretely for revolutionaries. For or against the state of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia and the revolutionary wave. ‘For' meant joining the Communist International, and breaking organically and politically with the social-democracy. ‘Against' meant defending the bourgeois state, and choosing definitively the camp of the counter-revolution. For the centrist currents that hesitated between the two, it meant break-up and disappearance. Revolutionary periods do not leave any room for the timid policies of the ‘middle ground'.
Part 3: Today and tomorrow: Continuing the work of the CI
The change in period revealed definitively by the 1914-18 war determines the break between the political positions of the 2nd and 3rd Internationals. We have seen this on the question of the state. Capitalism's decline and its consequences for the proletariat's conditions of life and struggle posed a whole series of new problems: was it still possible to take part in elections and make use of parliament? With the appearance of the workers' councils, were the trade unions that had taken part in the ‘holy alliance' with the capitalists still working class organizations? What attitude should be adopted towards national liberation struggles in the epoch of imperialist wars?
The CI was unable to answer these new questions? It was formed more than a year after October 1917, two months after the proletariat's first defeat in Berlin. The years that followed were marked by the defeat and ebb of the international revolutionary wave, and so by the growing isolation of the proletariat in Russia. This isolation was the determining reason behind the degeneration of the state of the proletarian dictatorship. These events left the CI incapable of resisting the development of opportunism. In its turn, it died.
To draw up a balance sheet of the CI, obviously we must recognize it as the International Communist Party that it was. For those who see it only as a bourgeois organization, because of its eventual degeneration, it is impossible to draw up a balance sheet, or to extract any lessons from its experience. Trotskyism lays claim uncritically to the first 4 Congresses. It never saw that where the 1st Congress broke with the 2nd International, the following congresses marked a retreat: in opposition to the split with the social-democracy accomplished by the 1st Congress, the 3rd proposed to make an alliance with it in the ‘United Front'. After having recognized its definitive passage into the bourgeois camp, the CI rehabilitated social-democracy at the 3rd Congress. This policy of alliance with the social-democratic parties was to lead Trotskyism in the 1930s to adopt the policy of ‘entrism', ie entering these same parties in direct defiance of the very principles of the 1st Congress. This policy of alliance, or of capitulation as Lenin would have said, was to precipitate the Trotskyist current into the counter-revolution, with its support for the bourgeois republican government in the Spanish civil war and then its participation in the imperialist Second World War, in betrayal of Zimmerwald and the International.
Already in the 1920s, a new left was created within the CI to try to struggle against this degeneration: in particular, the Italian, Dutch, and German Lefts. These left fractions, which were excluded during the 1920s, continued their political combat to ensure the continuity between the dying CI and the ‘party of tomorrow', by subjecting the CI and the revolutionary wave to a critical reappraisal. It is not for nothing that the review of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left during the 1930s was called Bilan (‘the balance sheet').
In continuity with the International's principles, these groups criticized the weaknesses in its break with the 2nd International. Their unsung efforts, in the deepest night of the counter-revolution during the 1930s and the second imperialist war, have made possible the resurgence and existence of communist groups today which, while they have no organic continuity with the CI, ensure its political continuity. The positions worked out and defended by these groups answer the problems raised within the CI by the new period of capitalist decadence.
It is therefore on the basis of the critical reappraisal carried out by the ‘Fractions of the Communist Left' that the CI lives today, and will live in the World Communist Party of tomorrow.
Today, in the face of growing exploitation and poverty, the proletariat must adopt the same position as the Zimmerwald Left: No to the holy alliance with the bourgeoisie in the economic war! No to sacrifices to save the national economy! Long live the class struggle! Transform the economic war into a civil war!
In the face of economic catastrophe, in the face of social decomposition, in the face of the perspective of a Third imperialist World War, the historic alternative is the same today as it was in 1919: the destruction of capitalism and the installation of the worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat, or the destruction of humanity. Socialism or barbarism.
The future belongs to communism.