Second International

Karl Kautsky

The Second International was established in July 1889, on the centenary of the fall of the Bastille in the Great French Revolution. It assembled the Social Democratic parties worldwide, and formally adhered to the ideas of Marxism. It represented a high point of working-class internationalism and was founded on the principles of world socialism.

However, the Socialist International had been born in a period of upswing of capitalism. The tops of the socialist movement came under the pressures of capitalism, which had a deeply corrosive effect, pushing the leadership in an increasingly reformist and chauvinist direction. While the leaders of the trade unions and the workers’ parties began to accommodate themselves to the day-to-day struggle over reforms, the socialist revolution was put off into the dim and distant future. 

These alien pressures began to reflect themselves in class compromise and adaptation. The top layers in the unions and in parliament, raising themselves above the masses, increasingly adapted themselves to this new environment. While espousing the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and “proletarian internationalism” in words, in practice they had gone over to opportunism and defence of “the nation”. This paved the road to terrible betrayal. 

It would take great events, namely world war, to fully expose this fact. When all but two sections of the international gave their blessing to the mass slaughter of WW1, Lenin declared the organisation dead, and set about founding a new international with a small group of followers. The rise and fall of the Second International is full of lessons for revolutionaries today. 

Using a wealth of primary sources, Alan Woods reveals the real evolution of Bolshevism as a living struggle to apply the method of Marxism to the peculiarities of Russia. Woods traces this evolution from the birth of Russian Marxism, and its ideological struggle against the Narodniks and the trend of economism, through the struggle between the two strands of Menshevism and Bolshevism, and up to the eventual seizure of power. 'Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution' is a comprehensive history of the Bolshevik Party, from its early beginnings through to the seizure of power in October 1917.

100 years ago, on 5th September 1915, a small group of international socialists gathered in the tiny Swiss village of Zimmerwald. This was the first attempt to unite those socialists who were opposed to the War.

Much has changed since this document was first produced, and we have continually refined and updated our perspectives and analysis in subsequent books and articles.  However, the historical value of this document, especially those parts concerning the history of the internationals, the rise of proletarian Bonapartism, and the post-WWII period retain their full force and value.

Lenin began work on the book The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky at the beginning of October 1918, immediately after he had read Kautsky’s The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which distorted and vulgarised the Marxist theory of the proletarian revolution and slandered the Soviet state. Lenin attached great importance to exposure of Kautsky’s opportunist views on the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Rosa Luxemburg's Reform or Revolution was one of the most important of her early writings. Written in 1899, it provides a devastating demolition of the theoretical and practical basis of reformism. It was completely valid at the time when it was written and it remains completely valid today. This work placed herself amongst the foremost leaders of the left of Social Democracy internationally, a role she was to occupy until her assassination in 1919.