Leon Trotsky et al.

Manifesto of
the First Congress
of the Comintern

(March 1919)

From The New International, Vol.IX No.6 (Whole No.76), June 1943, pp.189-191.
Transcribed by Damon M.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive (TIA.

Documents Relating to the History and Doctrine of Revolutionary Marxism

(There is no better time than now, following the announcement of the Presidium of the Stalinist International for the liquidation of the Comintern – which it in truth destroyed many years ago – to reprint selections from the Manifesto adopted by the First Congress of the Third International meeting in Moscow, March 2-6, 1919. It should be recalled that the victory of the October Revolution and the rise of the revolutionary movements outside of Russia were the background to the formation of the new international. Bourgeois society in Europe was indeed in a state of disintegration. The ruling regimes in a number of countries were in a state of disintegration; the proletariat, driven onward by the effects of a devastating economic and political crisis, was seeking a way out through the seizure of state power and the establishment of Soviet republics. The victory of the workers in Russia, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, gave a tremendous impetus to this revolutionary development of the masses.

On the other hand, the Second International, which lay in ruins as a result of the policy it pursued during the war, decided on a course of defending bourgeois society in seeking to found democratic capitalist states as a means of preventing the outright state power of the workers. Thus it was true that the struggle between the Second and Third Internationals was only another form of the struggle between capitalism and the rising socialist order. The necessity of the formation of the Third International arose out of this situation: that no genuine proletarian world organization existed. The formation of the Third International thus served to fill an imperious historical need – Editor.)


Seventy-two years have gone by since the Communist Party proclaimed its program in the form of the Manifesto written by the greatest teachers of the proletarian revolution, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Even at that early time, when communism had scarcely come into the arena of conflict, it was pursued by the lies, hatred and calumny of the possessing classes, who rightly suspected in it their mortal enemy. During these seven decades communism has traveled a hard road; of ascent followed by periods of sharp decline; successes, but also severe defeats. In spite of all, the development at bottom went the way forecast by the Manifesto of the Communist Party. The epoch of the last decisive battle came later than the apostles of the social revolution expected and wished. But it has come.

We, communists, representatives of the revolutionary proletariat of the different countries of Europe, America and Asia, assembled in Soviet Moscow, feel and consider ourselves followers and fulfillers of the program proclaimed seventy-two years ago. It is our task now to sum up the practical revolutionary experience of the working class, to cleanse the movement of its admixtures of opportunism and social patriotism, and to unite the forces of all the true revolutionary proletarian parties in order to further and hasten the complete victory of the communist revolution.

I. Now that Europe is covered with burning ruins, the most ruthless of the incendiaries are searching for someone to blame for the war, aided by their professors, politicians, journalists, social patriots, and other supporters of the bourgeoisie.

For a long span of years socialism predicted the inevitability of the imperialist war; it perceived the essential cause of this war in the insatiable greed of the possessing classes in both camps of capitalist nations. Two years before the out-break of the war, at the congress of Basel, the responsible socialist leaders of all countries branded imperialism as the instigator of the coming war, and menaced the bourgeoisie with the threat of the socialist revolution – the retaliation of the proletariat for the crimes of militarism. Now, after the experience of five years, after history has disclosed the predatory lust of Germany and has unmasked the no less criminal deeds on the part of the Allies, the state socialists of the Entente nations, together with their governments, are still continuing their revelations about the deposed German Kaiser. And the German social patriots, who in August, 1914, proclaimed the diplomatic White Book of the Hohenzollern as the holiest gospel of the people, today, in vulgar sycophancy, join with the socialists of the Entente countries in accusing as the arch-criminal the deposed German monarch whom they formerly served as slaves. In this way they hope to erase the memory of their own guilt and to gain the good will of the victors ...

The contradictions of the capitalist system were converted by the war into degrading torments of hunger and cold, epidemics and moral savagery for all mankind. Thereby the academic quarrel among socialists over the theory of increasing misery, and also of the undermining of capitalism through socialism, is now finally determined. Statisticians and teachers of the theory of reconciliation of these contradictions have endeavored for decades to gather together from all countries of the earth real and apparent facts to prove the increasing well-being of the working class.

But we are faced today with the harrowing reality of impoverishment which is no longer merely a social problem, but a psychological and biological one. This catastrophe of an imperialist war has with one swoop swept away all the gains of experts and of parliamentary struggles. It has also come into being from the inner tendencies of capitalism as well as from the economic bargains and political compromises now engulfed in a sea of blood ...

As during the decades which preceded the war, free competition in the chief domains of economics was replaced as regulator of production and distribution by the system of trusts and monopolies, so the exigencies of the war took the regulating role out of the hands of the monopolies and gave it directly to the military power. Distribution of raw materials, utilization of petroleum from Baku or Rumania, of coal from Donetz, of cereals from the Ukraine; the fate of German locomotives, railroad cars and automobiles, the provisioning of famine-stricken Europe with bread and meat – all those basic questions of the economic life of the world are no longer regulated by free competition, and not yet by combinations of national and international trusts, but through direct application of military force.

Just as the complete subordination of the power of the state to the purposes of finance-capital has, through this mass slaughter, completely militarized not the state alone but itself also, it can no longer fulfill its essential economic functions otherwise than by means of blood and iron ...

II. The national state, which was given tremendous impulse by capitalist evolution, has become too narrow for the development of the productive forces. This is making more and more untenable the position of the small states, adjacent to the great powers of Europe and in other parts of the world. Those small states came into existence at different times as fragments split off the bigger states, as petty currency in payment for services rendered, to serve as strategic, buffer states. They, too, have their ruling gangs, their imperialist pretensions, their diplomatic machinations. Their illusory independence had until the war precisely the same support as the European balance of power; namely, the continuous opposition between the two imperialist camps. The war has destroyed this balance ...

Only the proletarian revolution can secure the existence of the small nations, a revolution which trees the productive forces of all countries from the restrictions of the national states, which unites all peoples in the closest economic cooperation on the basis of a universal economic plan, and makes the smallest and weakest peoples able freely and independently to carry on their national culture without detriment to the united and centralized economy of Europe and of the whole world.

III. The last war, after all a war to gain colonies, was at the same time a war with the aid of the colonies. To an unprecedented extent the populations of the colonies were drawn into the European war. Indians, Arabs, Madagascans battled on the European continent. What for? For the right to re-main slaves of England and France. Never did capitalist rule show itself more shameless, never was the truth of colonial slavery brought into such sharp relief. As a consequence, we witnessed a series of open rebellions and revolutionary ferment in all colonies. In Europe itself it was Ireland which reminded us in bloody street battles that it is still an enslaved country and feels itself as such ... In this manner the colonial question in its entirety became the order of the day, not alone on the green table of the diplomatic conferences at Paris but also in the colonies themselves. The Wilson program, at the very best, calls only for a change in the firm-name of the colonial enslavement. Liberation of the colonies can come only through liberation of the working class of the oppressing nations ... Capitalist Europe has drawn the backward countries by force into the capitalist whirlpool, and socialist Europe will come to the aid of the liberated colonies with its technique, its organization, its spiritual influence, in order to facilitate their transition into the orderly system of socialist economy.

IV. The whole bourgeois world accuses the communists of destroying liberties and political democracy. That is not true. Having come into power, the proletariat only asserts the absolute impossibility of applying the methods of bourgeois democracy and creates the conditions and forms for a higher working class democracy. The whole course of capitalist development undermined political democracy, not only by dividing the nation into two irreconcilable classes, but also by condemning the number of petty bourgeois and semi-proletarian elements, as well as the slum-proletariat, to permanent economic stagnation and political impotence ...

If the financial oligarchy considers it advantageous to veil its deeds of violence behind parliamentary votes, then the bourgeois state has at its command in order to gain its ends all the traditions and attainments of capitalist technique: lies, demagogism, persecution, slander, bribery, calumny and terror. To demand of the proletariat in the final life and death struggle with capitalism that it should follow lamb-like the demands of bourgeois democracy would be the same as to ask a man who is defending his life against robbers to follow the artificial rules of a French duel that have been set by his enemy but not followed by him.

In a realm of destruction, where not only the means of production and transportation, but also the institutions of political democracy are scattered and bleeding, the proletariat must create its own forms, to serve above all as a bond of unity for the working class and to enable it to accomplish a revolutionary intervention in the further development of mankind. Such apparatus is provided by the workers’ Soviets. The old parties, the old unions, have proved incapable, in the person of their leaders, to understand, much less carry out, the task which the new epoch presents to them ...

V. By means of these Soviets the working class will gain power in all countries most readily and most certainly when these Soviets gain the support of the majority of the laboring population. By means of these Soviets, the working class, once attaining power, will control all the field of economic and cultural life as in Soviet Russia ...

The outcry of the bourgeois world against civil war and the Red terror is the most colossal hypocrisy of which the history of political struggles can boast. There would be no civil war if the exploiters who have carried mankind to the brink of ruin had not prevented every forward step of the laboring masses, it they had not instigated plots and murders and called to their aid armed help from the outside to maintain or re-store their predatory privileges. Civil war is FORCED UPON the laboring classes by their arch-enemies. The working class must answer blow for blow, if it will not renounce its own object and its own future, which is at the same time the future of all humanity first ...

VI. Conscious of the world historic character of their mission, the enlightened workers strove from the very beginning of the organized socialist movement for an international union. The foundation stone of this union was laid in the year 1864 in London, in the First International. The Franco-Prussian war, from which arose the Germany of the Hohenzollerns, undermined the First International, giving rise at the same time to national labor parties. As early as 1889 these parties united at the Congress of Paris and organized a Second International. But during this period the center of gravity of the labor movement rested entirely on national ground, con-fining itself with the realm of national parliamentarism, to the narrow compass of the national state and national industries. Decades of organizing and labor reformism created a generation of leaders, most of whom gave verbal recognition to the program of social revolution but denied it in substance.

They were lost in the swamp of reformism and adaptation to the bourgeois state. The opportunist character of the leading parties of the Second International was finally revealed and led to the greatest collapse of the movement in all its history, when events required revolutionary methods of warfare from the labor parties. Just as the war of 1870 dealt a death-blow to the First International by revealing that there was not in fact behind the social-revolutionary program any compact power of the masses, so the war of 1914 killed the Second International by showing that above the consolidated labor masses there stood labor parties which had converted them-selves into servile organs of the bourgeois state ...

Humanity, whose whole culture now lies in ruins, faces the danger of complete destruction. There is only one power which can save it – the power of the proletariat. The old capitalist “order” can exist no longer. The ultimate result of the capitalist mode of production is chaos – a chaos to be over-come only by the great producing class, the proletariat. It is the proletariat which must establish real order, the order of communism. It must end the domination of capital, make war impossible, wipe out state boundaries, transform the whole world into one cooperative commonwealth, and bring about real human brotherhood and freedom.

World capitalism prepares itself for the final battle. Under the cover of the League of Nations and a deluge of pacifist phrase-mongering, a desperate effort is being made to pull together the tumbling capitalist system and to direct its forces against the constantly growing proletarian revolt. This monstrous new conspiracy of the capitalist class must be met by the proletariat by the seizure of political power of the states, turning this power against its class enemies, and using it as a lever to set in motion the economic revolution. The final victory of the proletariat of the world means the beginning of the real history of free mankind.



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Last updated on: 25.6.2008