Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

On the Coming Congress of the Comintern [1]

A. The Conditions for Entering the Third International


SOCIAL-PATRIOTS and their bourgeois inspirers are calling attention to the fact that the leaders of the Third International (or “Moscow,” or “the Bolsheviks”) confront other parties with dictatorial demands pertaining to expulsion of members, changes in tactic, etc., in the guise of conditions for entering the Third International.

Socialists of the Center (Kautskyites, Longuetists) repeat these accusations in a somewhat weaker and diluted form; they seek to cut to the quick the national feelings of the workers in various countries by arousing their suspicions that someone is trying to dictate to them “from outside.”

As a matter of fact, these accusations and insinuations give expression to either a malicious bourgeois distortion or a silly petty-bourgeois misconception of the very essence of the Communist International, which is not a simple arithmetical sum of all the labor and socialist associations existing in various countries, but represents a unified, independent, international organization, pursuing definite and precisely formulated aims through definitive revolutionary means.

By joining the ranks of the Third International, an organization of a given country not only becomes subordinate to the common, vigilant and exacting leadership, but itself acquires the right to actively participate in the leadership of all other sections of the Communist International.

Adherence to the International is not a matter of fulfilling international etiquette but of undertaking revolutionary fighting tasks. For this reason it cannot in any case be based on omissions, misunderstandings or ambiguities. The Communist International contemptuously rejects all those conventionalities which used to entangle relations within the Second International from top to bottom; and which had as their mainstay this, that the leaders of each national party pretended not to notice the opportunist, chauvinist declarations and actions of the leaders of other national parties, with the expectation that the latter would repay in the same coin. The reciprocal relations among the national “Socialist” parties were only a shabby counterpart of the relations among the bourgeois diplomats in the era of armed peace. Precisely for this reason, no sooner had the capitalist generals thrust capitalist diplomacy aside, than the conditional diplomatic falsehood of the “fraternal” parties of the Second International was supplanted by the naked militarism of its leaders.

The Third International is the organization of revolutionary action of the international proletariat. Those elements who declare their readiness to join the Third International but who at the same time object to conditions imposed upon them from “outside,” thereby demonstrate their utter worthlessness and insolvency from the standpoint of the Third International’s principles and methods of action. An international organization of struggle for the proletarian dictatorship can be created only on one condition, namely, that the ranks of the Communist International are made accessible only to those collective bodies which are permeated with a genuine spirit of proletarian revolt against bourgeois rule; and which therefore are themselves interested in seeing to it that in their own midst as well as among other collaborating political and trade union bodies there is no room left not only for turncoats and traitors, but also for spineless skeptics, eternally vacillating elements, sowers of panic and of ideological confusion. This cannot be attained without a constant and stubborn purging from our ranks of false ideas, false methods of action, and their bearers.

This is exactly the object of those conditions which the Third International has presented and will continue to present to every organization entering its ranks.

Let us repeat, the Communist International is not an arithmetical sum of national workers’ parties. It is the Communist Party of the international proletariat. The German Communists have the right and the obligation to raise pointblank the question: on what grounds is Turati [2] a member of their party? In reviewing the question of the entry of the Independent German Social Democrats and of the French Socialist Party into the Third International, the Russian Communists have the right and the obligation to pose such conditions as would, from their viewpoint, secure our international party against dilution and disintegration. Every organization entering the ranks of the Communist International acquires in its turn the right and the opportunity to actively influence the theory and practice of Russian Bolsheviks, German Spartacists, etc., etc.


In its comprehensive address to the Independent Party of Germany, the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) establishes an identity in principle between the German Independents and the French Longuetists. This is unquestionably correct. But, at present, since the question of the French Socialist Party arises more practically, it is necessary, side by side with the basic features of similarity, to establish the dissimilarities as well

The fact that the French Socialist Party has, as a whole, manifested an inclination toward the Third International is sufficient by itself to arouse perfectly natural fears from the outset. These fears can only be enhanced if one juxtaposes more concretely the situation of Socialism in France with that in Germany

The old German Social Democracy is now split into three parts:

  1. The openly chauvinist, governmental, Social Democracy of Ebert-Scheidemann;
  2. the “Independent” Party, whose official leaders try to remain within the framework of a parliamentary opposition at the time when the masses are straining toward an open uprising against bourgeois society; and
  3. the Communist Party, an integral part of the Third International

In reviewing the question of admitting the Independent Party into the Third International, we establish, first of all, the foregoing discrepancy between the line of the official leaders and the aspirations of the masses. This discrepancy is the fulcrum for our lever. As touches Scheidemann’s Social Democracy, which with the formation of a pure bourgeois government is today going over into semi-opposition, it is impossible for even the question of admitting this party into the Third International to arise among us, nor is there a possibility of any kind of negotiations with them. Meanwhile, the French Socialist Party is by no means equivalent as an organization to the German Independent Party as the latter is now constituted, since there has been no split whatever in the French Socialist Party, and the French Eberts, Scheidemanns and Noskes retain all their responsible posts

During the war the conduct of the leaders of the French Socialist Party was not an iota superior to the conduct of the most stereotyped German social-traitors. In both cases, class betrayal touched the selfsame depths. As regards the outward forms it assumed, it was even noisier and more obscene in the French party than in Scheidemann’s camp. But while the German Independent Social Democracy has under the pressure – of the masses broken with its Scheidemanns – Messrs. Thomas [3], Renaudel, Varenne [4], Sembat [5] and the rest continue to remain as heretofore in the ranks of the French Socialist Party

Most important, however, is the prevailing actual, practical attitude of the leaders of the official French Socialist Party toward the question of the revolutionary struggle for the seizure of power. Led by the Longuetists, the Socialist Party is not only failing to prepare for this struggle through all the measures, open and secret alike, of agitation and organization, but is instead, in the persons of its representatives, instilling into the masses the idea that the present times of economic disorder and ruin are unfavorable to the rule of the working class. In other words, led by the Longuetists, the French Socialist Party imposes passive and dilatory tactics upon the working masses, and instills in them the fiction that the bourgeoisie is capable, in the epoch of imperialist catastrophes, of leading the country out of the condition of economic chaos and poverty, and thereby preparing “favorable” conditions for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Needless to say, should the bourgeoisie succeed in accomplishing what it cannot in any case accomplish, i.e., regenerate France and Europe economically, then the French Socialist Party would have even less reasons, possibilities and interest than it has today to summon the proletariat for the revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois rule.

In other words, on the fundamental question the French Socialist Party, led by the Longuetists, is playing a counter-revolutionary role.

True, in contrast to Scheidemann’s party, the French Socialist Party has left the ranks of the Second International. But if one takes into account that this departure was effected without harming the unity with Renaudel, Thomas and all the other servants of the imperialist war, then it becomes absolutely clear that for a considerable section of the representatives of official French Socialism this parting from the Second International has nothing in common with a renunciation of the latter’s methods, but is instead a mere maneuver with the object of further deceiving the toiling masses.

During the war, the French Socialist Party opposed itself so vehemently to Scheidemann’s Kaiser – Socialism that nowadays not only Longuet, Mistral [6], Pressemane [7] and other adherents of the Center but also Renaudel, Thomas, and Varenne find it extremely awkward to remain within the purlieus of the Second International, and rub elbows with Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske as closest co-thinkers. Thus the exodus from Huysmans’ [8] kitchen was dictated to official French Socialism by the primacy of its patriotic position. True, everything was done to invest this patriotic refusal of immediate collaboration with Noske and Scheidemann with the guise of a gesture dictated by internationalism as well. But the phraseology of the Strasbourg resolution can neither erase nor even mitigate the significance of the fact that the French Communists are not in the ranks of the Strasbourg party majority while it does include all the notorious chauvinists.

The Independent Party of Germany, opposed as an organization to the patriotic Social Democracy, is compelled to conduct an open ideological and political struggle against the latter in the press and at public meetings; and thereby despite the super-opportunist character of its newspapers and leaders it is aiding in the revolutionization of the working masses. In France, on the contrary, we observe in the recent period a growing rapprochement between the former majority and the former Longuetist minority; and the disappearance of any serious ideological, political and organizational struggle between them.

Under these conditions the question of admitting the French Socialist Party into the Third International presents even more difficulties and dangers than the entry of the German Independent Social Democracy.


Before the French Socialist Party, insofar as it is nowadays raising practically the question of entering the Third International, we must pose completely clear and precise questions, based upon the foregoing considerations. Only forthright and precise answers, confirmed by the “party,” i.e., by the action of its corresponding section, can give a real content to the question of the entry of the French Socialists and their party into the International Communist Organization.

These questions are approximately as follows:

1. Do you recognize as heretofore that it is the duty of a socialist party to advocate national defense with regard to the bourgeois state? Do you consider it permissible to support the French bourgeois republic directly or indirectly in those military clashes with other states which might arise? Do you consider it permissible to vote for war credits either at the present time or in the event of a new world war? Do you reject categorically the treacherous slogan of national defense? Yes or no?

2. Do you consider it permissible for Socialists to participate in a bourgeois government either in peace time or in war? Do you consider it permissible for a Socialist fraction in parliament to support a bourgeois government directly or indirectly? Do you consider it possible to any longer tolerate in the ranks of your party scoundrels who sell their political services to the capitalist government, or to capitalist organizations and the capitalist press, either in the capacity of responsible agents for the thievish League of Nations (Albert Thomas), or as editors of the bourgeois press (A. Varenne), or as attorneys and parliamentary defenders of capitalist interests (Paul Boncour [9]), etc., etc.? Yes or no?

3. In view of the thievish and predatory violence done by French imperialism to a number of weak peoples, especially the backward colonial peoples of Africa and Asia, do you consider it your duty to conduct an irreconcilable struggle against the French bourgeoisie, against its parliament and its army in questions of world spoliation? Do you assume the obligation of supporting, by all available means, this struggle wherever it arises, and – above all – in the form of an open uprising of the oppressed colonial peoples against French imperialism? Yes or no?

4. Do you consider it necessary to immediately launch a systematic and ruthless struggle against official French syndicalism which has entirely oriented itself toward economic conciliationism, class collaboration, patriotism, etc., and which is systematically replacing the struggle for revolutionary expropriation of the capitalists through the proletarian dictatorship by a program of nationalizing railways and mines under the capitalist state? Do you consider it the duty of the Socialist Party – hand in hand with Loriot, Monatte, Rosmer, and others – to initiate an energetic campaign among the working masses in favor of purging the French trade union movement of Jouhaux, Dumoulin, Merrheim and other betrayers of the working class? Yes or no?

5. Do you believe it possible to tolerate in the ranks of the Socialist Party disseminators of passivity who paralyze and drain the revolutionary will of the workers by instilling in them the idea that the “present moment” is unfavorable for their dictatorship? Or, on the contrary, do you consider it your duty to unmask before the working masses that piece of deception according to which the “present moment,” as interpreted by agents of the bourgeoisie, always remains suitable only for the rule of the bourgeoisie? This was so on the day before yesterday – because Europe was then living through a period of mighty industrial boom, which tended to decrease the number of those dissatisfied; it was so yesterday – because the issue was that of national defense; it is so today – because it is necessary to heal the wounds suffered through the heroic feats of national defense; and it will be so on the morrow – because the restorationist work of the bourgeoisie will lead to the provocation of a new war, and together with it will also arise the duty of national defense. Do you consider it the duty of the Socialist Party immediately to undertake a genuine ideological and organizational preparation for a revolutionary assault against bourgeois society, with the object of winning state power as quickly as possible? Yes or no?

B. Groupings Within the French Labor Movement
and the Tasks of French Communism


In the pre-war years, the French Socialist Party furnished in its leading summits the most complete and finished expression of all the negative aspects of the Second International: a constant inclination toward class-collaboration (nationalism, participation in the bourgeois press, votes for the budget and votes of confidence in bourgeois ministries, etc., etc.); an attitude of contempt or indifference toward socialist theory, that is, toward the fundamental social-revolutionary task of the proletariat; superstitious worship [10] of the idols of bourgeois democracy (Republic, Parliament, Universal Suffrage, Responsible Ministry, etc., etc.); internationalism purely decorative in character, accompanied by extreme national narrow-mindedness, middle-class patriotism and, not infrequently, crudest chauvinism.


Revolutionary French syndicalism was the clearest form of protest against these aspects of the Socialist Party. Inasmuch as the practice of parliamentary reformism and patriotism was clothed in tatters of pseudo-Marxist theory, syndicalism sought to reinforce its opposition to parliamentary reformism by means of anarchist theory, adapted to the methods and forms of the trade union movement.

The struggle against parliamentary reformism became transformed into a struggle not only against parliamentarianism but also against “politics” in general, into a bald renunciation of the state as such. The syndicates (trade unions) were proclaimed as the sole legitimate and genuine revolutionary form of the labor movement. Counterposed to parliamentary representation and to the behind-the-scenes replacement of the working class was the direct action of the working masses, and therewith the leading role was assigned to a formless, initiating minority, as the organ of this direct action.

This brief characterization of syndicalism attests to the fact that syndicalism tried to give expression to the demands of the impending revolutionary epoch. But its fundamental theoretical errors (the errors of anarchism) militated against the creation of a stable, ideologically-fused revolutionary core, capable of counterposing itself in action to the patriotic and reformist tendencies. The social-patriotic fall of French Socialism paralleled the fall of the Socialist Party. While on the [Socialist] party’s extreme left flank the insurrectionary banner against social-patriotism was raised by a small group headed by Loriot, the same role, on the extreme Left Wing of [the movement for] socialism, fell in the beginning to the lot of a small group, the group of Monatte-Rosmer: the necessary ideological and organizational ties were soon established between these two groups.


We have already indicated that the formless and spineless Longuetist party majority has tended to fuse with the Renaudelist minority.

As for the so-called syndicalist minority, which at the last syndicalist Convention of Lyons obtained on certain questions the support of one-third of the total number of delegates, it still represents an extremely formless tendency in which revolutionary Communists stand shoulder to shoulder with anarchists who still haven’t broken with their old prejudices, and with the “Longuetists” (conciliationists) of French syndicalism. Within this minority there still exists very strong anarchist superstitions against the conquest of state power, and moreover, in many cases, behind such superstitions there lurks a plain and simple fear of revolutionary initiative, along with an absence of will to action. From the milieu of this syndicalist minority came the idea of a general strike as the means of realizing in life the nationalization of railways. Advanced jointly with the reformists as a slogan of conciliation with bourgeois classes, the program of nationalization is essentially being counterposed as an all-national task to the pure class program, i.e., the revolutionary expropriation of the railways and of other capital by the working class. But the conciliationist-opportunist character of the slogan, superimposed upon the general strike, acts precisely to paralyze the revolutionary ardor of the proletariat; introduces uncertainty and waverings amid the workers and compels them to retreat irresolutely when it comes to applying, in the name of purely reformist, radical-bourgeois aims, so extreme a measure as the general strike which demands the greatest sacrifices of the proletariat.

Only by clearly and precisely formulating the revolutionary tasks can the Communists introduce the necessary clarity among the syndicalist minority, cleanse it of prejudices and of accidental fellow-travelers; and – what is most important – provide the revolutionary proletarian masses with a precise program of action.


Purely intellectual groupings like Clarté [11] are highly symptomatic of a pre-revolutionary epoch, when the small and best section of bourgeois intelligentsia, sensing the approach of a profoundly revolutionary crisis, edges away from the utterly rotted ruling classes and seeks a new ideological orientation for itself. Organically inclined toward individualism and toward separating out as isolated groupings on the basis of personal sympathies and views, elements of this type are, by their very nature as intellectuals, capable neither of elaborating nor – all the less so – of applying a definitive system of revolutionary ideas; and they therefore reduce their work to an abstract and purely idealistic propaganda, painted up to resemble Communism and diluted with a purely humanitarian bias. Sincerely sympathetic to the proletarian Communist movement, elements of this type, however, tend not infrequently to swerve away from the proletariat at the most critical moment when the weapon of criticism is replaced by the criticism of weapons – only in order once again to resume their sympathies for the proletariat when the latter, gaining the opportunity, takes the power in its hands and is thus enabled to unfold its cultural creativeness. The task of revolutionary Communism lies in explaining to the advanced workers the purely symptomatic significance of groupings of this sort; and in criticizing their idealistic passivity and limitedness. The advanced workers can in no case group themselves into a chorus for the intellectual prima donnas they must create an independent organization, which carries on its work independently of the ebb and flow of sympathies of even the best section of bourgeois intellectuals.


Side by side with a fundamental review of the theory and practice of French parliamentary socialism, what is needed today in France is a thoroughgoing review of the theory and practice of French syndicalism, lest its obsolete prejudices muddle up the development of the revolutionary Communist movement.

a) It is quite self-evident that a continued “denial” of politics and of the state by French syndicalism would constitute a capitulation to bourgeois politics and to the capitalist state. It is not enough to deny the state – it is necessary to conquer the state in order to surmount it. The struggle for the conquest of the state apparatus is revolutionary politics. To renounce it is to renounce the fundamental tasks of the revolutionary class.

b) The initiating minority, to whom syndicalist theory assigns the leadership, actually placing it above the mass trade union organizations of the proletariat, cannot remain formless. But if this initiating minority of the working class is correctly organized; if it is bound by internal discipline, corresponding to the implacable demands of the revolutionary epoch; if it is armed with the correct doctrine, the scientifically constructed doctrine of the proletarian revolution – then we shall obtain nothing other than the Communist Party, standing above the syndicates as well as above all other forms of the labor movement, fructifying them ideologically and directing all their work.

c) The syndicates, in which workers are grouped according to industry, cannot become the organs of the revolutionary rule of the proletariat. For such an apparatus the initiating minority (the Communist Party) can use only the Soviets, which embrace the workers in all the districts, the workers of all branches of industry, the workers in all trades; and which for this very reason advance to the fore the fundamental and the most general, i.e., social-revolutionary interests of the proletariat.


Hence flows the iron necessity of creating the French Communist Party which must wholly absorb both the existing revolutionary wing of the Socialist Party as well as the revolutionary detachment of French syndicalism. The party must create its own apparatus, absolutely independent, rigidly centralized, and separate and apart from both the present Socialist Party as well as the CGT and the local syndicates.

The current position of the French Communists, who constitute, on the one hand, an internal opposition within the CGT, and on the other, an internal opposition within the Socialist Party, seems to convert French Communism into a non-independent factor, into a sort of negative supplement to the existing basic organs (the party and the syndicates); and deprives it of the necessary fighting power, of direct ties with the masses and of its authority of leadership.

French Communism must emerge at all costs from this preparatory stage.

The way out is: to undertake immediately the building of the centralized Communist Party and, above all, to establish immediately in the chief centers of the labor movement daily newspapers which – in contrast to the existing dailies – will not be organs of internal organizational criticism and abstract propaganda, but organs of direct revolutionary agitation for, and political leadership of the struggle of the proletarian masses.

The creation of the combat Communist Party of France is at the present time a life-and-death question for the revolutionary movement of the French proletariat.

July 22, 1920


1. In the New Park edition this article is called The French Socialist Party.

2. Turati – one of the founders of the Italian Socialist Party. Lawyer by profession. Except for the first few years when he was a Left Winger, the greater part of Turati’s activity was devoted to the cause of Italian reformism. After Italy’s entry into the First World War he voted against war credits, but supported Wilson’s program. At the conclusion of the war, remained an opponent of the Russian Revolution and of the Communist International. After the split of the Italian party in 1922, he headed the party of reformists.

3. Albert Thomas – French Socialist and deputy, member of the coalition war cabinet in 1914-18. Extreme social-chauvinist. Chairman of the “Labor Bureau” attached to the League of Nations.

4. Varenne – a prominent French Socialist who was a chauvinist during the war of 1914-18 and who later became one of the most rabid proponents of the “Left Bloc,” i.e., a coalition between the bourgeoisie and the Socialists. Varenne and others of his stripe are Stalin’s predecessors in the policy of the “People’s Front.”

5. Sembat – in the pre-1914 days one of the most prominent parliamentarians within the French Socialist Party. During the First World War Sembat became a chauvinist and entered Viviani’s cabinet. He occupied an extreme right position in the French Socialist Party after the war.

6. Mistral – French Socialist who together with Longuet headed the “moderate opposition” during the First World War. Like Longuet, Mistral remained in the ranks of the Socialist Party, after the split at the 1919 Tours Congress.

7. Pressemane – another leader of the same tendency.

8. Huysmans – Belgian Socialist; secretary of the Second International. Professor of philosophy. Served in bourgeois cabinets. During the First World War Huysmans, a rabid chauvinist, attacked the Zimmerwald movement as the product of “Russian intrigues.” He was very influential in the “party kitchen,” i.e., the inner circles.

9. Paul Boncour – a typical representative of French intellectual and parliamentary “socialism.”

10. The outstanding representative of the tendency referred to by Trotsky is Jaurès.

11. Clarté – an organization of French intellectuals sympathetic to Soviet Russia, headed by Barbusse and others. Ideologically this group was a motley gathering, embracing various elements from Tolstoyans to Marxists.

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

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 15.1.2007