Written: June 1943
Source: Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 12 (June 1943)
Transcription: Lisi 2004
Markup/Proofread:: Emil 2006
The Third International was created by Lenin and Trotsky as an instrument of world revolution. It was born in the midst of the revolutionary cataclysms which followed the last world war, and was inspired by the victory of the Russian Revolution.
This was conceived by its founders as the first step towards world Socialism, which would soon be followed by victories in the more advanced countries of the West.
Lenin described the last world war as marking the beginning of the definite decline and disintegration of capitalism. We had entered the epoch of imperialism, he said, when the progressive role of capitalism was at an end. Imperialism was the epoch of wars and of proletarian revolutions. The contradictions of capitalism had reached their extreme limit.
But, the decay and disintegration of capitalism of which Lenin wrote, has not only not ceased since the time when he analysed this phenomenon, but has assumed more and more frightful forms. The rise of Fascism and the Second World War, are not evidence of a change in conditions, but a symptom of the aggravation of the decline and break-down of capitalism. They were the definitive outcome of the failure of the old organisations of the working class to solve the problems which history had placed before them.
The full scope of the Comintern degeneration can be seen in the announcement of its dissolution, which is typical of the lies and sophistry of Stalinism:
“The historic role of the Communist International, organised in 1919 as a result of the political collapse of the overwhelming majority of the old pre-1914 war workers’ parties consisted in preserving the teachings of Marxism from vulgarisation and distortion by opportunist elements of the working-class, movement, in helping to unite the vanguard of the advanced workers into genuine working class parties and in helping them to mobilise the masses of the workers in defence of their economic and political interests, for the struggle against Fascism and the war which the latter was preparing, and for support of the Soviet Union as the main bulwark against Fascism.” [source]
This is a tissue of lies from beginning to end. “The historic role of the Communist International” consisted, in the eyes of its founders, in preparing the toilers of the world for the inevitable revolutions which would mark the end of capitalism. The solemn reference to the preservation of Marxism from vulgarisation and opportunism is humorous indeed. As if the British, American and other “Communist” parties have not drained the limits of opportunism and degradation, in committing in a far more exaggerated fashion, the crimes and betrayal of the Second International, in supporting the capitalist class in the war; crimes which were the essence of the differences which Lenin claimed separated the old parties of the Second International from the Marxism of the Third International. The reference to Fascism, without explaining its class content as one of the forms of capitalist rule, is merely in obedience to the present interests of Kremlin diplomacy. It only remains to be contrasted with the policy of the Comintern during the period of the Stalin-Hitler pact when the Comintern and its national sections denounced the capitalist “democracies” as having caused the war and demanded peace on Hitler’s terms. Thus the argument is revealed in all its cynical nakedness.
The Comintern statement reads:
“The deep differences in the historic paths of development of the various countries of the world, the differences of character and even of the contradiction in the level and tempo of their economic and political development and finally the differences in the degree of consciousness and organisation of their workers, conditioned the different problems which faced the working class of each particular country.
“The entire course of events for the past quarter of a century as well as the accumulated experiences of the Communist International, have convincingly shown that the organisational form for uniting the workers chosen by the First Congress of the Communist International and which correspond to the needs of the initial period of the rebirth of the working class movement, has more and more become outgrown by the movement’s development and by the increasing complexity of its problems in the separate countries, and has even become a hindrance to the further strengthening of the national working class parties.” [source]
Thus the theory of “Socialism in one country” has had its final and logical culmination. The argument here turns everything upside-down. Precisely because of the differences, the revolution will not begin in all countries simultaneously. But that does not at all mean that a world party of the working class is not needed. On the contrary it is the interdependence of world economy, which is expressed in differences and in the “law of uneven development” which makes the workers of all lands dependent on one another. The interests of the Russian, German, British, French and other workers are not separate because of the different problems with which “their” nations are faced, but on the contrary, are thereby bound even mere indissolubly together. That does not mean to say, as Trotsky remarked of the Comintern, that simultaneously throughout the world the national parties must march forward with the Left foot; different policies will be operated in different countries, if the conditions are different at certain periods, as it was with the Comintern in its best days under Lenin. But, the basic principles which unite them into one International still remains. Far from the “initial period” of the organisational form of the International being out-moded, the tasks for which it was called into being to solve, have reached a new intensity. But of course this does not apply to the Comintern of today, which degenerated into a kept whore of the Stalinist bureaucracy, applying its policy according to the changing moods of Kremlin policy.
In reality the creation of the International was not a question of sentiment or convenience, but arose directly from the objective tasks posed in front of the international working class. More than ninety years ago Marx and Engels indicated that the movement of the working class for liberation cannot remain within the confines of a national shell, but must be international in character because of the international nature of world economy. The historic mission of capitalism which created the national state in its progressive phase as against feudal particularism, consisted precisely in developing the productive forces to the limit of which the national state and private ownership of the means of production would allow. It was capitalism’s great progressive task to create the world market. But in doing so, the means of production were developed to a point where the national state and private ownership of the means of production, have become a hindrance to the further development of society. That is the cause of the impasse in which capitalist society finds itself today and which is expressed by the rise of fascism and of imperialist wars. The capitalists today clearly recognise the contradiction in which capitalist society finds itself. The pious bleatings of Churchill and Roosevelt on the outworn character of “national sovereignty” in the epoch of the telegraph, wireless and aeroplane is one indication of this. The recognition of the contradiction between the productive capacity of the world, and the poverty of its peoples, which has been characterised by them as an “anachronism” is another. They recognise it, but are impotent to take any steps to solve it, as the present war demonstrates. It is precisely the objective maturity of the conditions for the overthrow of capitalism, which called the Communist International into being. The decay and disintegration of capitalism which now assume monstrous forms, threatens all human culture with destruction. Thus, far from the mission for which the Communist International was formed being fulfilled, it has assumed a new intensity. The “maturity” of the National Parties to which the resolution refers pertains to the maturity of a diseased youth, who has been infected with syphilis in infancy and in whom the disease has progressively increased it grip.
The Soviet Union has been bled and exhausted in the struggle against German imperialism. The only way in which the Soviet Union could be saved from further destruction and degeneration is in an extension of the October Revolution to the rest of Europe. This road Stalin has closed. Consequently he has become more and more dependent on his Western “allies”—above all mighty American Imperialism.
The war against German Imperialism is now entering a decisive phase. Before passing to the offensive, American Imperialism is demanding guarantee against the possibility of social revolution in Germany and Europe. Stalinism is providing those guarantees. It is revealing openly that it stands on the other side of the class trenches. But Stalinism has been reluctant to abandon a useful auxiliary of its foreign policy in the Communist International; one which also guarded it against the danger of a new International arising to represent the interests of the world working class. Anglo-American Imperialism, which remains irreconcilably hostile to the Socialist basis of the Soviet Union, has exerted pressure to force the abandonment of the Comintern, as an open abandonment of the programme of world revolution. Thus they believe they have safeguarded themselves in the upheavals they believe will follow the post-war period.
History reveals itself in ironical contradictions. Stalin has undoubtedly dealt the Soviet Union and the world working class severe blows with this new perfidy. However Anglo-American Imperialism just when it imagines it has secured a new basis for world capitalism in this victory over the Soviet Union, in reality has undermined it. The disintegration of the national “Communist” Parties can only be speeded up by this step. It is not yet clear whether the subsidies of the Comintern to the national sections will now cease. If so, the collapse of the national sections will take place very soon. If, on the other hand, Stalin still continues the subsidies with the intention of reconstituting the “International” in case of difficulties with his “democratic” Allies, the blow will still be far-reaching and have profound consequences. The perspectives of post-war victory for the Allies, with the continuance of capitalism in Europe and the world, will leave Russia at the mercy of Wall Street. In this case it is more probable that the International will never be reconstituted even in the formal sense, in which it existed for the last decade.
But in striking this weapon of the foreign policy of the Kremlin out of its hands, the Imperialists are clearing the way for a return to the real ideals for which the Third International was founded. After an initial period of confusion and bewilderment the rapid regroupment of the vanguard of the International working class will take place. By giving the quietus to the Third International, world imperialism merely clears the way for the Fourth. Could they but realise it, as Trotsky points out, the Comintern has rendered them inestimable service, by disorganising, demoralising and leading the workers’ revolutions to defeat in country after country. They have now destroyed it. But the period which was ushered in by the present war, far from ensuring the tranquil growth of capitalism, ensures a period of revolutions and disturbances unprecedented in the history of the world. Capitalism is doomed. The Third International has followed the Second into oblivion. They have tied their fate to that of world capitalism and will be destroyed with it. The long years of isolation and swimming against the stream for the International Communists is beginning to end. The meaning of their struggle will now be discerned by broad masses. The pre-history of the Fourth International is over. It will now enter into its own. Many times has the bourgeoisie slain the spectre of the revolution, only to see it rise again. We can repeat to the capitalists the good words of Rosa Luxemburg:
“You fools! Your ‘order’ is built on sand! Tomorrow the revolution will arise again in all its majesty and to your terror will announce with a voice of thunder: ‘I was, I am, and I shall be!’” [source]
The banner of International Socialism is now carried on the shoulders of the Fourth International. Proudly it unfurls the slogan: “Workers of all lands unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win!”