70 years ago, on 22 May 1943, Stalin announced the formal shutting-down of the Communist International, the association of revolutionary socialist parties across the world set up after the Russian Revolution.
Although Moscow retained close control of the Communist Parties until the 1960s, the shutting-down was a symbolic disavowal of socialist revolution. This is how socialists commented at the time.
He long ago destroyed it as an instrument of socialism!
By Albert Gates (Al Glotzer)
The announcement by the Executive Committee of the Communist International that it was proposing its dissolution came with the suddenness we have become accustomed to expect from Stalin’s Russia.
The parties affiliated to the Comintern were not advised beforehand that its Praesidium had such a proposal under consideration. In a completely totalitarian manner, the proposal was given to the capitalist press and the “Communist” parties learned of it from this source. As was to be expected, those parties which continue to exist have declared their complete agreement with the Moscow action.
With the advent of Stalinism, the Communist International ceased to be an organisation devoted to the task of fighting for the establishment of a world socialist society. With the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the destruction of the workers’ state, Stalinist society has evolved a new type of state, a state of bureaucratic collectivism — the rule of a new class of bureaucrats owning and controlling the nationalised property.
Stalin’s Russia is a nationalist society; it is the enemy of socialism and any movement which seeks to establish the socialist society—the free order of the exploited peoples of the world.
Under Stalin, the Communist International was made to conform to the nationalist interests of Russia. Every situation which developed in other countries, promising to further the new world order of socialism, was brutally destroyed — not only by the forces of reaction and fascism, but by international Stalinism acting through its agents in the “Communist” parties of other countries, and through the GPU, which operates throughout the world.
The Communist International was formed in March of 1919 in Moscow. The victory of the Russian workers in the Revolution of November 1917 made it possible to convene the representatives of the revolutionary socialist parties of the world and to form this once brilliant international of socialism. But its real origin lay in the ruins of the labour movement brought about by the chaos of the First World War. The men responsible for the convening of the 1919 Congress were Lenin and Trotsky and their international co-thinkers.
They regarded the victory of the Russian workers as only the first step in the triumph of world socialism. As Marxists, they knew that socialism could exist only as a world society, and that the task of the Communist International was to gather the independent revolutionary socialist parties of the world into one united organisation, to exchange ideas and experiences for the single purpose of advancing the international interests of the oppressed.
This concept was not based on the idea that the problems of the workers were the same in all countries. On the contrary, the leaders of the Communist International understood full well that the problems of the various parties were quite different and that their specific tactics would be different. What, then, would bind these parties in one international organisation?
This bond was the recognition that the principal aim of the workers everywhere — that is, the establishment of the power of the workers as the first step toward socialism — was the same, that it was an international problem. Moreover, the concept of socialism as an international social order based on the cooperative relationship of the peoples of all countries made such a world organisation necessary.
This was the outgrowth of the conditions prevalent in capitalist society. Marxism pointed out that in an economic sense, capitalism was itself an international order. Modern capitalism is based upon world trade, a world division of labour, and the interdependence of nations. One of the main contradictions of this capitalist order is that while it is international in character it remains national in form. Thus the national capitalist states remain in competition with each other, reaching periodic stages of crisis, war, destruction, poverty, and unemployment.
Because captalism had outlived its usefulness, that is, its progressive function, socialism was on the order of the day.
To realise socialism, an international organisation of the revo-lutionary socialist movements was indispensable. This was the underlying purpose behind the organisation of the Communist International of Lenin and Trotsky.
Thus, when the Stalinist International declares the contrary, it lies. In this lie, it pays verbal allegiance to the idea of internationalism while it carries out in practice the reactionary doctrines of nationalism, a nationalism based on a new type of ruling class (the Stalinist bureaucracy) resting upon a new type of property (nationalised property). Listen to what the Comintern says about the reasons which prompted its action:
“But long before the war it had already become increasingly clear that to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of the individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labour movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet insuperable obstacles.
“The deep difference in the historical roads of development of each country of the world; the diverse character and even the contradiction in their social orders; the difference in level and rate of their social and political development, and finally, the difference in the degree of consciousness and organisation of the workers, conditioned also the various problems which face the working class of each individual country.
“The entire course of a century, as well as the accumulated experiences of the Communist International, have convincingly proved that the organisational form for uniting the workers as chosen by the First Congress of the Communist International, and which corresponded to the needs of the initial period of the rebirth of the labour movement, more and more outlived itself in proportion to the growth of this movement and to the increasing complexity of problems in each country; and that this form even became a hindrance to the further strengthening of the national workers’ parties.”
The three paragraphs are filled with distortions. What it actually says is that the organisation of the Communist International was a mistake! Reading it, one would believe that the Communist International was formed because it believed the conditions in all countries to be alike, that the rate of political development was the same internationally, and that the problems of the workers’ organisations everywhere were the same. This is an utter falsification.
When the Communist International was formed it was also extremely difficult to maintain good relationships between the parties and the international because of the persecution of the movement and the objective situation in which Soviet Russia found itself. That, however, did not prevent the formation of the International and its functioning.
The outbreak of the present war did not prevent Stalin’s International from functioning. Witness how well the Communist Parties in Great Britain, France, and the United States carried on a struggle against the war during the Hitler-Stalin pact. Communicating its decision to sabotage the Allies was found to be quite easy.
Recall the First World War. The Socialist International destroyed its basis for existence when the national parties supported their respective imperialist governments. The International could not meet, and it too experienced “difficulties,” but not even the Social Democratic misleaders of that body dared to “formally” dissolve it.
In its founding Congress, the Communist International clearly stipulated the reasons for its formation. It was based on world conditions not unlike the present. “The internal as well as the international situation of the individual countries” was “complicated,” and “the solution of the problems of the labour movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre met insuperable obstacles.” At that time there also existed a “deep difference in the historical roads of development of each country of the world.” Their characters were “diverse” and even their social orders were “contradictory.” The whole Communist International understood that capitalism developed “unevenly,” that the degree of consciousness and organisation of the workers in all countries were different, and that their problems were different.
Here is what Lenin had to say about the formation of the Communist International:
“The Third International was in reality created in 1918, after the protracted struggle with opportunism, and ‘social chauvinism,’ especially during the war, had resulted in the formation of a Communist Party in various countries. The formal recognition of the International dates from the first congress of its members held in Moscow in March, 1919. The most prominent feature of the Third International, namely, its mission to carry out the principles of Marxism and to realise the ideals of socialism and the labour movement, manifested itself immediately in that this third international association of working men has to a certain extent become identical with the league of socialistic ‘soviet’ republics.
“The First International laid the basis of the international struggle of the proletariat for socialism. The Second International marked a period of preparation, a period in which the soil was tilled with a view to the widest possible propagation of the movement in many of the countries.
“The importance of the Third Communist International in the world’s history is that it was the first to put into life the greatest of all Marx’s principles, the principle summarising the process of the development of socialism and the labour movement and expressed in the words, the dictatorship of the proletariat” [the democratic workers’ state].
“Any Marxist, nay, anyone conversant with modern science, if asked whether he believed in the probability of a uniform, harmonious and perfectly-proportioned transition of various capitalist countries to the dictatorship of the proletariat, would undoubtedly answer that question in the negative. In the capitalist world there had never been any room for uniformity, harmony and perfect proportions. Every country has brought into prominence now one, then another, feature or features of capitalism, and of the labour movement. The rate of development has been varied.”
In the early years of the Communist International, this was the prevailing theory. Difficulties of communication, objective difficulties of functioning, uneven development of capitalist countries, different tactics for different parties, varying rates in the growth and activities of the national parties, had nothing whatever to do with the necessity for the existence of the international organisation of the revolutionary socialists of the world. It only stressed the nature of the problems which had to be overcome, and the general difficulty of ushering in the new society of genuine freedom and security for the whole of mankind.
But this Communist International died a long time ago. Only the formal structure and the name remained. For it truly became a Stalinist International, interested only in the preservation of the rule of Stalin’s bureaucratic regime in Russia.
Its chief role has been to act as the shock troops of Russian diplomacy. The national parties enjoyed no independence. Their policies were decided in Moscow; their leaderships were changed at will. The question which interested Stalin and his cohorts was simply this: What service can these organisations render me? And thus the International was completely subordinated to the interests of the new Russia of Stalin!
When it was first formed, the Communist International was a democratic body. Its statutes required that it meet at least once every two years, to examine its policies, to correct them if necessary, to adopt new ones, and in general to take an inventory of the condition of the world organisation and to elect its international leadership.
Between the years 1919 and 1922, four congresses were held. The Fifth Congress met in 1924. Under Stalin, however, the Sixth Congress met four years afterward in 1928, and the Seventh Congress, or the last held by the Comintern, convened in 1935. Thus, in a period of almost nineteen years, the Communist International, under Stalin, met only twice!
The war has undoubtedly changed Stalin’s mind about how to use his international apparatus, in what form it may further be employed. For his present purpose, the establishment of a closer working alliance with Great Britain and the United States, the formal existence of the Comintern seems to be cumbersome and expensive. Moreover, in the present campaign to make Stalin and his state acceptable to millions in both countries and to enhance the alliance which is being worked out by these nations, the Comintern is a stumbling block. Thus, if it stands in the way of the national interests of the bureaucratic collectivist state in Russia, then there is nothing left to do but to dissolve it.
How? By the simple expedient of killing it at the top.
The Communist parties will in their “new form” continue as they have in the past to serve the best nationalist interests of Stalinist Russia. That is, the only basis for their existence: as the international arm of the Stalin dictatorship.
When the Comintern says that it hopes the end of the war will make possible the reorganisation of an International upon a new basis, it merely signifies that the present Stalinist organsations throughout the world will hold themselves in readiness for whatever order will come from Moscow. Thus the present “dissolution” is merely a subterfuge to improve the international position of Stalin in the war, and In preparation for a post-war period.
Nothing has fundamentally been changed by the action of the Comintern. One of the greatest menaces to the international working class remains organised Stalinism throughout the world, whether in a functioning international or in one formally, but not actually, dissolved.
The future of the workers’ movement, the future of socialism, depends upon the quickest divorcement of the labour movement from the cancerous influence of international Stalinism — that enemy of the free society of world socialism.
The future lies in reorganisation of the International movement of the oppressed of the world, in the re-establishment of a true socialist international based on the teachings and the spirit of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, those valiant fighters against oppression, exploitation, war and poverty.
By Emanuel Geltman
Nobody in his right mind believes that the “dissolution” of the Stalinist International actually means that Stalin is going to dispense with the services of his servants in the various Communist Parties throughout the world.
It is true that Stalin has an infinite contempt for them. He always has had. Long before he completely fastened his hold on the International, and converted it into an arm of the Russian Foreign Office, Stalin spoke contemptuously of the International and the parties in it. However, it is not at all unusual for masters to have an utter contempt for their servants even where these servants are most indispensable.
Stalin needs his servants. For example, he finds it most useful to have parties which will be for or against war in their respective countries, according to what Russia’s national interests dictate. Further, these parties are useful to him as supplements to the GPU and as destructive instruments inside the working-class movement to prevent its development on a socialist path. Socialism is as great a menace to Stalinism as it is to fascism and international capitalism.
Thus, the first point to establish in connection with the “dissolution” is that in one form or another the Stalinist parties will continue to operate — and to operate under the orders of the Kremlin.
Why, then, the gesture of formal dissolution? There are many reasons, among which the most important are:
1. It is a gesture to the United States and Great Britain de- signed at helping these countries counteract Hitler’s “anti-Bolshevik” propaganda. Hitler knows that Stalin is as much a Bolshevik as he himself is—which is to say, no Bolshevik at all. However, he finds it a valuable propaganda weapon. Roosevelt and Churchill, therefore, welcome a gesture which enables them to counteract Hitler’s propaganda among those unregenerated and die-hard sections of their own capitalist class which are irked by the alliance with Russia.
2. It is a half-promise that in the occupied countries the Stalinists will string along with the Roosevelt-Churchill plans for those countries—for the present, anyway. The occupied countries are a thorny problem for the Allied imperialists. They confront a multitude of problems — conflicts of interest between the would-be rulers. Not the least of these problems is the potential influence of the Stalinists who have the only forces that approximate disciplined organisation.
3. It is, consequently and in general, a token of good will given to Roosevelt and Churchill in return for similar gestures, and concrete assistance, given Russia. No doubt this dissolution has been under discussion for a long time — not with the Stalinist parties (which, in this country, at least, were yelling up to the day of the announcement that the demands in the capitalist press for the dissolution of the Stalintern were the inspiration of arch-reaction), but with the Allied diplomats.
Under lend-lease, Roosevelt has sent Stalin such offerings of good will as the production of that monstrosity of monstrosities — the movie, Mission to Moscow. He even sent Joseph Davies, who helped the movie producers commit mayhem on his bad-enough book, on a second mission to Moscow — together with a print of the movie. (Stalin on viewing it said it is “wonderful.” It is for him!)
We are not saying that the movie led to the dissolution. Imperialist politics are not that simple. But the sequence of events, which include the production of the movie and the second visit of Mr. Davies undoubtedly arc related to the gesture. Far more importantly, of course, more substantial agreements were no doubt exchanged — possibly boundary agreements, possibly agreements on the locale of the second front (Stalin is dead-set against the Balkans as the place), possibly offers of increased supplies. [...]
4. Finally, of equal importance, the dissolution of the Stalintern is probably part of a scheme to integrate the Stalinist parties into other mass working class movements or parties—socialist or general peoples’ parties — with the aim of directing them into Stalinist channels. In England, the Communist Party has already asked for admission to the Labour Party. In France, the Stalinists have officially affiliated with the De Gaulle movement. It is possible that, at a later date, with France freed of Hitler’s rule, and with the certain development of a mass socialist party, the Stalinists will seek to fuse with, or enter into, such a party. In this country there is no mass party for them to enter, unless they create such a party through something like the American Labor Party.
Many left-socialist leaders and ranks may welcome such a move as a rebirth of the socialist movement. It must consequently be pointed out that this is an incalculable menace. To allow the Stalinists into the socialist movement is to give them an opportunity to behead it. They are the mortal enemies of socialism — not the ranks who may have been misled into believing that the Communist Parties stand for communism, but the Stalinist parties themselves which stand for nothing else but for a particular brand of reaction. Regardless of the “dissolution” it is as certain as death that Stalinists the world over will continue to be organised and will continue to work under the directives of Moscow through some committee or front organisation.
Thus, dissolution or no dissolution, the menace of the Stalinists remains — and it remains the task of socialists and other militants to drive these union wreckers, GPU assassins and Kremlin servants out of the labour movement.
• The articles are from the 31 May 1943 edition of Labor Action, the newspaper of the dissident American Trotskyist group the Workers Party. Contrary to both the Stalinists and the “orthodox” Trotskyists, Labor Action did not see the USSR as any kind of progressive society but rather a form of class exploitation to be resisted just as much as capitalism. Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty agrees, and believes that attitude is instructive for how to relate to China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam today, as well as other forces ostensibly oppositional to western capitalism such as Latin American populist-nationalism or political Islam.