Bela Kun

The Second International In Dissolution

The Fate and End of the Second International

THE Labour and Socialist International, known as the Second International, has arrived at a new stage in its disintegration. Its largest, and at one time most powerful, national section, the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, in fact no longer belongs to the Second International. In the official organ of Austrian Social-Democracy, the Vienna Arbeiterzeitung of February 7, 1933, the prominent leader of French Social-Democracy, Léon Blum, places on record that:

“The relations between the German Party and the International have virtually ceased. The Second International in Dissolution

The leader of the Austro-Marxists, Otto Bauer found no words for this most important event in of the Second International. The split was placed on record in the leading organ of the Second International by a Frenchman. There could be found no German Social-Democrat, not even one from Austria, who dared to place the “responsibility” for the disintegration of the Second International on the German Social-Democrats. The Frenchman’s declaration, on the other hand, was intended merely to keep up the appearance of internationalism in the Second International. The fact, however, that the disintegration of the Second International has begun, could not be concealed, any more than it was possible to conceal the organizational dissolution of shipwrecked Social-Democracy in Germany.

A section of the Second International which, although having a smaller membership, played a very important part in the international sphere, the Independent Labour Party of Great Britain (I.L.P.), at its last Party Conference officially declared its withdrawal from the Second International.

The Finnish Social-Democratic Party, too, threatens official withdrawal from the Second International.

In the Social-Democratic Party of Czechoslovakia, influential organizations declared that they are not in agreement with the decisions of the Executive of the Second International. The Pilsen organ of the Czecho-Slovakian Social-Democratic Party, “Nova-Doba” has already presented an ultimatum to the Zürich International and has done so because of the lack of clarity in the attitude of the Executive towards German Social-Democracy. In this ultimatum it threatens:

“The Czech Social-Democratic Party wishes that the Zürich Executive would openly declare to Mr. Wels that the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, as a result of its attitude towards Hitler and towards Zürich, has consciously dissociated itself from the principles of international workers’ solidarity. The Czech Social-Democratic Party will adjust its relations towards the International in accordance with the attitude of the Zürich Executive.

In still more energetic tones this organ expresses its dissatisfaction with the Second International on the question of the united front. In doing so the paper fully adopts the arguments of the condemned Otto Wels, who likewise justified his secession from the Bureau of the Second International on the argument that the Second International had started a manœuvre impossible for Social-Democracy to carry through, when it did not reject “on principle” the offers of a united front in the fight against fascism made by the Communist Parties to the Social-Democratic Parties, but only prohibited negotiations on united front action within the framework of individual countries on the pretext of the necessity for preliminary negotiations between the two Internationals.

The presentation of this ultimatum is further supported by the argument that these decisions of the Bureau of the Second International

“are not very clear and leave room for two interpretations. They do not emphasize the basic and fundamental differences between Communist tactics, and the unshaken and steadfast principles of Social-Democracy which are rooted in democracy.”

Thus, according to the Social-Democratic newspaper, no manœuvre are admissable in connection with the united front, as there is a danger for Social-Democracy that the workers will really wage a struggle against Fascism unitedly and shoulder to shoulder. The paper furthermore explains that it should be said clearly and openly:

“that it (i.e., the Second International) will not negotiate in any circumstances with the Moscow International . . according to the attitude of the Zürich Executive towards the demands of the healthy socialist movement of Czechoslovakia, we, too, should definitely adjust our relations to the International.”

This Czech paper from which we have cited these long quotations is not of merely local importance. Its point of view is a direct reflection of the opinion of the war industry in questions of international politics. Behind this paper stands the Czech member of Parliament, Pick, who only a short time ago had a seat on the administrative board of the biggest munitions plant, the Skoda Works, as a trustee of that most important munitions concern, the French Company of Schneider-Creuzot.

The chairman of the Second International, Emile Vandervelde, although striking a softer note, has nevertheless found again the old attitude that he used towards German Social-Democracy during the time of the World War. He reproaches his German colleagues for making the song Deutschland, Deutschland über alles once again the leading principle of their policy.

The sister organization of the Second International, the International Federation of Trade Unions — also called the Amsterdam International — which has just moved from Berlin to Paris, is also in process of disintegration. The German free trade unions[1]. which have been all too easily swallowed by fascism, no longer belong to any international organization. On the proposal of the well-known chief physician of sick capitalism, Tarnow, the Wood Workers’ Union has officially severed its relations with the wood workers international organisations. Other trade unions are following suit. The reformist syndicalists in France headed by Monsieur Jouhaux, already leave no doubt that they are as little inclined to collaborate with the German trade unions as during the past imperialist World War.

The disintegration of the Second International has commenced; it proceeds; its collapse, however, is still to come.

The beginning of the end of the Second International follows almost immediately on the peak of its good fortune. Less than two years ago, at the time of the Vienna Congress of the Second International, Emile Vandervelde chanted hymns to the blossoming of the International, to its “power.” He declared:

“Notwithstanding the Communist split, the International represents in 1931 a power incomparably greater in numbers than in 1914. There is hardly any of its great parties which has not in one form or another participated in the government . . . Without exaggeration, it may be stated that the majority of the members of the Executive of the Socialist Labour International are former or future ministers. This is without doubt a proof of increased power. . . . ”

The power of a “Socialist,” of a “Labour International” is measured by the weight of the ministerial portfolios held by Labour leaders in bourgeois cabinets! And the power of “proletarian Internationalism” is measured by the extent to which the Social-Democratic Parties have fused with their national bourgeoisies.

“Increased power” — but of which class? Naturally, Vandervelde did not put this question. For this question, once put, must also be answered. But then the answer could only read to the effect that the increased power of the Second International meant increased power of the bourgeoisie, that “increased power” of the Second International meant increased power of the international organization of imperialism, the League of Nations, whose agency the Second International has been ever since its re-establishment after the World War.

The openly effected split in the Second International which, in any case, was by nature a body sufficiently rent since 1914 by the national interests of the bourgeoisie, did not come unexpectedly; least of all did it surprise the leaders of the Second International. In the very same article in which Vandervelde made his exalted declaration concerning the good fortune of the Second International (Kampf, July-August, 1931), he was forced to allow the uninitiated to peep behind the scenes of the Second International. This peculiar “internationalism” contained within itself, even at the peak of its fortunes, the lustily sprouting seeds of disintegration of the Second International. Vandervelde expatiated on this “internationalism” of his International as follows:

“I could cite new proofs from all countries showing to what extent we are to-day, now that Social-Democracy has become a real mass party, up to our necks in social patriotism. When some time ago in the Belgian Chamber we did our international duty in the struggle against the armament credits (i.e., when the Social-Democratic Party made a manöuvre to cause the fall of the government and thus be able to cteate a new government coalition in which Social-Democracy would be included — B. K.) a Social-Democratic member of the Chamber declared that since the War he had never shaken hands with a German. At almost the same time one of our German comrades in a Commission of the Reichstag stated that in the question of national defence — he stood on the side of General Gröner against the Communists. One must have read the speeches delivered at the last French Party Conference in Tours to realize against what resistance Léon Blum, Lebas, Vincent Auriol and Paul Faure had to fight when, on the same question of national defence, they made efforts to have unanimous resolutions passed.” (Emphasis mine. — B. K.)

To illustrate this “internationalism” on the part of the Second International and its sections, it suffices to supplement this description of Vandervelde’s by stating that the unanimous resolutions for the adoption of which Léon Blum and his comrades exerted themselves by no means exclude the “duty of national defence.” On the contrary, on the question of national defence, Léon Blum and his comrades stand no less on the side of General Weygand, Chairman of the French war council, against the French Communists, than their German colleagues stood on the side of General Groner and stand to-day on the side of Hitler.

They have merely thought to maintain their capacity to manoeuvre, in order, to be able to exploit the vote on the military credits of French imperialism for smaller or bigger political deals with the bourgeoisie.


1.  The German reformist trade unions.

Next: II. Old Treason — New Disintegration