Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

Invitation to the
First World Congress

THE UNDERSIGNED parties and organizations consider it urgently necessary to convene the first congress of a new revolutionary International. During the war and the revolution it became conclusively clear not only that the old socialist and social-democratic parties and with them the Second International, had become completely bankrupt, not only that the half-way elements of the old social-democracy (the so-called “centre”) are incapable of positive revolutionary action, but that the outlines of a really revolutionary international are already clearly defined. The gigantic pace of the world revolution, constantly presenting new problems, the danger that this revolution may be throttled by the alliance of capitalist states, which are grouping together against the revolution under the hypocritical banner of the “League of Nations”, the attempts of the parties of the social-traitors to get together and, having “amnestied” each other, to assist their governments and their bourgeoisie to deceive the working class yet again; finally the extraordinarily rich revolutionary experience already gained and the internationalization of the entire revolutionary movement compel us to take the initiative in placing upon the order of the day the convening of an international congress of revolutionary proletarian parties.

1. Objects and Tactics

In our opinion the new international should be based upon the recognition of the following propositions, put forward here as a platform and worked out on the basis of the programme of the Spartacus League of Germany and of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in Russia:

1. The present era is the era of the disintegration and collapse of the entire world capitalist system, which will drag the whole of European civilization down with it if capitalism with its insoluble contradictions is not destroyed.

2. The task of the proletariat now is to seize state power immediately. The seizure of state power means the destruction of the state apparatus of the bourgeoisie and the organization of a new proletarian apparatus of power.

3. This new apparatus of power should embody the dictatorship of the proletariat (and in some places also of the rural semi-proletariat, the village poor), that is, it should be the instrument for the systematic suppression of the exploiting classes and their expropriation. Not false bourgeois democracy – that hypocritical form of the rule of the financial oligarchy – with its completely formal equality, but proletarian democracy which gives the working masses the opportunity to make a reality of their freedom; not parliamentarism, but self-government of these masses by their elected organs; not capitalist bureaucracy but organs of administration formed by the masses themselves, with the masses really participating in the government of the country and in socialist construction – this should be the model of the proletarian state. Its concrete form is provided in the system of the Soviets or of similar organs.

4. The dictatorship of the proletariat must be the lever for the immediate expropriation of capital and for the abolition of private property in the means of production and their transformation into national property. The nationalization of large-scale industry (nationalization being understood as the abolition of private ownership and its transfer to the ownership of the proletarian state and to come under the socialist management of the working class) and of its organizing centres, the banks; confiscation of the estates of the large landowners and nationalization of capitalist agricultural production; monopoly of wholesale trade, nationalization of large houses in towns and on large estates; introduction of workers’ management and the centralization of economic functions in the hands of agencies of the proletarian dictatorship – such are the vital problems of the day.

5. In order to safeguard the socialist revolution, to defend it against internal and external enemies, to assist other national sections of the fighting proletariat and so on, it is essential to disarm the bourgeoisie and their agents completely, and to arm the proletariat.

6. The world situation today demands the closest possible contact between the different sections of the revolutionary proletariat and complete union of the countries where the socialist revolution has already been victorious.

7. The fundamental methods of struggle are mass actions of the proletariat leading to open armed conflict with the political rule of capital.

2. Attitude to “Socialist” Parties

8. The old “International” has disintegrated into three main groups: the open social-chauvinists, who throughout the imperialist war of 1914-1918 supported their own bourgeoisie and turned the working class into the executioners of the international revolution; the “centre”, whose theoretical leader was Kautsky, consisting of those elements who are always vacillating, incapable of a decisive line of action and who are at times totally treacherous; finally there is the revolutionary left wing.

9. Towards the social-chauvinists, who everywhere at critical moments come out in arms against the proletarian revolution, no other attitude but a ceaseless struggle is possible. As to the “centre”, the tactics of splitting away the revolutionary elements and ruthlessly criticizing and exposing the leaders. Organizational separation is absolutely necessary at a certain point in development.

10. On the other hand, it is necessary to form a bloc with those elements in the revolutionary workers’ movement who, although they did not previously belong to socialist parties, now stand in general for the proletarian dictatorship in the form of Soviet power. Chief among these are the syndicalist elements in the workers’ movement.

11. Finally it is necessary to attract all those proletarian groups and organizations which, although they have not openly adhered to the revolutionary left tendency, appear nevertheless to be moving in this direction.

12. In concrete terms, we propose that representatives of the fol-lowing parties, groups, and tendencies shall take part in the confess (full membership of the Third International shall be open to those parties which stand wholly on its platform):

3. The Question of Organization and Name of the Party

13. The basis of the Third International is already provided by the existence, in various parts of Europe, of groups and organizations of like-minded comrades which have a common platform and in general use the same tactical methods. Chief among these are the Spartacists in Germany and the Communist Parties in many other countries.

14. The congress must establish a common fighting organ for the purpose of maintaining permanent co-ordination and systematic leadership of the movement, a centre of the Communist International, subordinating the interests of the movement in each country to the common interest of the international revolution. The actual form to be taken by the organization, representation on it and so on, will be worked out by the congress.

15. The congress must assume the name of “The First Congress of the Communist International”, and the individual parties shall become its sections. Marx and Engels had already found the name “social-democrat” theoretically incorrect. The shameful collapse of the social-democratic “International” also makes a break on this point necessary. Finally, the kernel of the great movement is already formed by a number of parties which have taken this name. in view of the above, we propose to all fraternal parties and organisations that they discuss the question of the convening of the international communist congress.

With fraternal greetings.

January 24, 1919

First 5 Years of the Comintern (Vol.1) Index

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 18.1.2007