Third International

communist third international 720

Socialism is international or it is nothing. Either it spreads globally or it succumbs to inner degeneration. The Bolshevik leaders were perfectly conscious of that possibility. That is why, while fighting for the very survival of the Russian Revolution, they dedicated so much time and energy to building the Communist International. Through this organisation they tried to pass on to the leaders of the newly formed Communist Parties the lessons of the Russian experience.

From its founding congress in 1919 through to the fourth congress in 1922, the International dealt with many key questions facing the Communist movement. The manifestoes and resolutions adopted in those congresses represent a treasure trove of Marxist theory, tactics and organisation, from how to work in the trade unions, to the national and colonial question, to the women’s question, to the tactic of the United Front and so on.

Ultimately, the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy put an end to the Communist International as an instrument of world revolution, and all its sections degenerated along national lines, as Trotsky had predicted it would do once it adopted Stalin’s theory of Socialism in One Country.

Nonetheless, the first four congresses stand as a school of revolutionary strategy with many essential lessons for today. Here we provide articles and videos that deal with different aspects of the building of the Comintern.

The Spanish Revolution and Civil War (which began this week in 1936) represent a profoundly heroic period of struggle by the Spanish working class and peasantry. The masses gave their all in the fight against Franco, only to be failed by their leadership. Both the anarchists and the Stalinists, consciously or otherwise, were unable to lead the workers and peasants to victory, ushering in a period of fascist reaction that would last for decades.

The following article by our Italian comrades explores the political debates between the leadership of the Comintern and the leaders of its Italian section. The political errors of these leaders, and the subsequent degeneration of the Comintern, contributed to the historic defeats and tragedies that befell the Italian working class in the 1920s onwards. 

The following is an introduction by editor Fred Weston to the new edition of The First Five Years of the Communist International from Wellred Books (buy it now!) Fred outlines some of the key debates and decisions taken in the first four congresses of the Communist International. This, we hope will serve to place the contribution of Trotsky into the context of the period.

We republish here the ‘Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International’, written by Leon Trotsky in June 1921. In this masterpiece of perspectives, which is highly relevant to the world situation to day, Trotsky analyses the nature of the organic, global crisis of capitalism, of a system being suffocated by its own mountains of debt, speculation and inflation.

The IMT has spent the past year commemorating the March 1919 centennial of the Third (Communist) International's founding. In particular, we celebrate the extraordinary promise and lessons of its first four congresses. But just a few years after it entered the scene of history, the Comintern suffered a sudden, dramatic, and irreversible decline. What happened? How was all that potential squandered and turned into its opposite?

A century ago, on 2-6 March 1919, the first congress of the Third International took place in Moscow. This marked the birth of the Communist International, which became a vital school of revolutionary ideas and strategy. Rob Sewell (editor of Socialist Appeal, British journal of the IMT) looks back on this momentous event.

Tomorrow marks the 92nd anniversary of the Russian Revolution. For the first time the working class conquered state power and at least began the task of the socialist transfomation of society. Listen here to this meeting of the ULU Marxist Society where Fred Weston, editor of the website 'In Defence of Marxism' (, speaks on the Russian Revolution and the founding of the Comintern.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist International. Mick Brooks spoke at a recent Socialist Appeal Day School on the rise of the "world party of socialist revolution" under Lenin and Trotsky and its subsequent political and bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin.

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.

The official dissolution of the Communist International comes almost ten years after the proclamation by Leon Trotsky that the Third International was dead as the world instrument for the socialist revolution. It was on July 15, 1933 that Trotsky wrote his theses, reprinted here, in justification of this conclusion and the need of building the Fourth International.

"It is the aim of this pamphlet to indicate, at least in its general outline, the composition of the political world situation today, as it has resulted from the fundamental contradictions of decaying capitalism, complicated and sharpened by the severe commercial, industrial, and financial crisis."