Bela Kun

The Second International In Dissolution

Old Treason — New Disintegration

The policy of the Second International and all its Parties in the postwar period has been to declare permanent the policy of August 4, 1914. This applies to the time when the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals were still marching separately, in order to fight jointly — likewise in conjunction with their bourgeoisies — against the evolutionary liquidation of the results of the war, against the proletarian revolution. It is no less applicable to the developments subsequent to the unity congress of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals in 1923, when they and their sections all considered the time had come to unite openly in lining up with the bourgeoisie. Open and concealed class collaboration, co-operation with their own bourgeoisie in all questions of national and international policy, support for all essential measures of the bourgeoisie aimed at overcoming the post-war crisis of capitalism at the expense of the toilers — from the system of arbitrating disputes to rationalization and suppression of economic struggles by armed forcedisarming of the working class, surrender of their arms (with which the fascist gangs were equipped), condemnation of proletarian force, while simultaneously supporting the employment of the force of the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary working class, support of the international organization of imperialism, the League of Nations, on the basis of the Versailles robber peace system, support — concealed or open, according to circumstances — of the preparation of imperialist war for the re-division of the world — this has been the work of the Second International in the post-war period, from its re-establishment to its recent disintegration, which, as we shall see, had necessarily to occur in consequence of the entire present international development.

To speak of the recent treason of the Second International, or to regard the individual acts of class treason torn out of their historical context, would be to misunderstand completely the nature of the Second International, which these acts exposed during and after the war. Such a conception would allow that since the war the Second International has improved and has adopted new tactics.

During the war, Lenin summed up the collapse of the Second International in 1914 in the following manner:

“The collapse of the Second International came into the clearest relief in the flagrant betrayal by the majority of the official Social-Democratic Parties of Europe of their convictions and of their solemn Stuttgart and Basle resolutions. However, this collapse, which means the complete victory of opportunism, the transformation of the Social-Democratic Parties into National-Liberal Labour Parties, is only a result of the entire historical epoch of the Second International, which covers the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. The objective conditions of this epoch — a transition period from the completion in Western Europe of bourgeois and national revolutions to the beginning of Socialist revolutions — gave birth to and nurtured opportunism. . . . . The crisis that was created by the great war has torn off the coverings, has cast away the conventions, has opened the abscess that had long ago become ripe, and has shown opportunism in its true role as an ally of the bourgeoisie.” (Page 52, War and Second International, Vol. II, Little Lenin Library.)

The history of the Second International in the post-war period is by no means the history of a “new” betrayal, and its disintegration represents just as little the consequence of a “new” betrayal. Rather, in the entire history of the Second International, in all its deeds — during the whole period of capitalism’s post-war crisis, during the period of intensified struggle of the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples against imperialism — we find the old treason continued in permanence, to be sure on a correspondingly higher plane. The Second International will always surrender the proletariat to the bourgeoisie in accordance with the prevailing form of the latter’s policy.

Since its re-establishment the Second International has not been more than a superficial association of nationalist social-chauvinist parties, each one of which has fought against the revolution of the working class in its own country, against the national revolution in the colonies of its own imperialism, in alliance with its own bourgeoisie. Each one of its sections has helped its own capitalism, crushed by the war, to get on its feet again at any price, at the expense of the working class. For these parties the purport of an international organization was — besides the duping (masquerading as proletarian internationalism) of the working masses aspiring to international solidarity in the struggle against capitalism — the very same endeavour that moved the individual imperialist powers to collaborate internationally. The purpose of the international collaboration of the imperialist powers was to create the international prerequisites for overcoming the post-war crisis of capitalism by “peaceful” means. The organization of the League of Nations was a part of the Versailles work of robbery, a part set up to conduct a struggle against the proletarian and national revolutions. The international organization of the Social-Democratic Parties had as its purpose in no less degree than the international collaboration of the imperialist bourgeoisie — the international assembling of forces to fight against the revolutionary labour movement, against the Soviet Union, against the threatening proletarian and colonial revolutions, against world bolshevism. To further the national, imperialist interests of their own bourgeoisie within the scope of this international organization was in no less degree the object of the individual Social-Democratic Parties of the Second International, just as it was the object of the governments of the individual imperialist powers in the League of Nations, where the policy of different imperialist countries has been not infrequently represented by “former and future” members of the Executive of the Second International. The members of the Executive of the Second International have been, for the time of their ministerial activities, freed from the exercise of their functions on the Executive (this was a concession to the “principle of the class struggle”), in order to enable them to pursue their principal occupation, the representation of the interests of their own bourgeoisie. The Hendersons, de Brouckeres, Paul Boncours and other leaders of the Second International, including also Vandervelde, have taken the chair alternately in the Bureau of the Second International and its commissions, and in the Council and the commissions of the League of Nations.

It is no accident that the disintegration of the Second International becomes apparent at a moment when the preparation of imperialist war and the partition of China have already proceeded to such an extent that the existence of the League of Nations has been gravely menaced by the withdrawal of Japan, the collapse of the Disarmament Conference and the negotiations on the creation of an organization of the leading imperialist powers, which is to stand above the League of Nations. It is no accident that the sharpening of imperialist antagonisms which has already arrived at a decisive stage, as well as the re-grouping of the imperialist powers, in the shadow of direct war preparations for the re-division of the world, for the alteration of the Versailles frontiers and of the spheres of interest in the Far East as laid down by the Washington agreement, have accentuated at the same time the antagonisms within the Second International. With the crisis of the League of Nations the disintegration of the Second International, too, has begun.

When the Second International — by uniting the open social-imperialists and the former social-pacifists — was pasted together again, the words uttered by Kautsky in 1914: “the International can only be an instrument of peace,” still lived in the memory of many Social-Democratic workers. They still remembered how the Second International collapsed with the first blast from the imperialist World War; they remembered how in the trenches they were driven to despair, not only physically by the hardships of war, but also morally by the “carry on” policy of the Social-Democratic Parties. Now in order the better to be able to deceive the internationally minded masses of Social-Democratic workers, the Statutes of the Socialist Labour International, which in other respects are a feeble imitation of the, Statutes of the League of Nations, were made to contain one point, according to which the International will stick together even in the event of war. This famous fourth point of the Statutes reads:

“The Socialist Labour International is not only an instrument for the tasks of peace, but likewise an indispensable instrument during any war. ”

The Second International, however, cannot even last out the period of peace. It is already in the condition of being badly split before the military advance of the imperialist armies has even begun. A sudden turn in the direction of regrouping the imperialist powers for the direct preparation of war has sufficed to compel some Social-Democratic Parties, German Social-Democracy among them, to come out openly for the war aims of their bourgeoisie, and to cause the Second International, in time of peace, to fall asunder into two or three groups.

Next: III. Save What Can Be Saved