Third Congress of the Communist International – Resolutions

Resolution on Work in the Cooperative Movement

Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (, p. 966
Translation: Translation team organized by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission

The Third Congress of the International instructs the Executive to establish a cooperative division. It will convene international cooperative consultations, conferences, and congresses, as required, with the goal of carrying out internationally the tasks listed in the accompanying theses.

The division should also take on the following practical tasks:

1.) Strengthen cooperative activity among working people in agriculture and commerce by joining together small, semi-proletarian operations in cooperatives. Draw working people into collectively managing and upgrading their operations.

2.) Lead the struggle on a national level for the transfer to the cooperatives of all distribution of foodstuffs and consumer goods.

3.) Conduct propaganda for the principles and methods of revolutionary cooperation, and encourage revolutionary cooperatives to lend material aid to the working class where it is in struggle.

4.) Establish international trade and financial relationships among workers’ cooperatives and organise them for joint production projects

* * *

Theses on the Work of Communists in the Cooperatives

Published:in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (, pp. 967-69.

1.) In the epoch of proletarian revolution, proletarian cooperatives face two tasks:

a.) Assist the working masses in their struggle for political power.

b.) Where power has already been won, help them in building a socialist society.

2.) The old cooperatives took the reformist path and sought to avoid revolutionary struggle. They embodied the notion of a gradual ‘growing over’ into socialism without the aid of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

They preached that cooperatives should be politically neutral. However, behind this pretence, they subordinated the cooperatives to the political goals of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

Their internationalism was purely verbal. In reality they transformed international workers’ solidarity into collaboration of the working masses with the bourgeoisie of their country.

The old cooperatives do not promote revolution with these policies; they hold it back. They do not hasten it; they hinder it.

3.) The various forms and varieties of cooperatives cannot serve the proletariat’s revolutionary goals.[1] Consumer societies can most readily be adapted to these goals, but even they include many societies composed of bourgeois elements, which will never side with the proletariat in revolutionary struggles. That can be done only by workers’ cooperatives in the city or countryside.

4.) Communists in the cooperative movement have the following tasks:

a.) Carry out propaganda for Communist ideas.

b.) Transform the cooperatives into instruments for revolutionary class struggle, without disaffiliation of individual cooperatives from their national federation.

In all cooperatives it is the duty of Communists to form cells, with the goal of creating a central leadership of Communist cooperatives in a given country.

These cells and their central leadership must maintain constant contact with the Communist Party and its representatives in the cooperatives. The central leadership must formulate the fundamentals of Communist policy in the cooperative movement, while leading and organising this movement.

5.) The practical tasks facing the revolutionary cooperatives of the West at this time will stand out more distinctly as work progresses. Some of them, however, are already clearly recognisable:

a.) Carry out oral and written propaganda and agitation for Communist ideas, and struggle to rid the cooperatives of leadership and influence by bourgeois compromisers.

b.) Establish ties between the cooperatives and the Communist Party and revolutionary trade unions. Direct and indirect participation by cooperatives in the proletariat’s political struggle, demonstrations, and political campaigns. Material support for the Communist Party and its publications. Material support for strikers and for workers suffering from lockouts, and so on.

c.) Struggle against the imperialist policies of the bourgeoisie and thus also against Entente interference in the affairs of Soviet Russia and other countries.

d.) Establish ideological, organisational, and also business ties between workers in cooperatives of different countries.

e.) Struggle for the rapid conclusion of trade treaties and the implementation of trade relations with Soviet Russia and the other soviet republics.

f.) Conduct as much trade as possible with these republics.

g.) Participate in developing the natural resources of the soviet states through concessions granted to cooperatives.

6.) The tasks of cooperatives will fully develop only after the proletarian revolution. However, based on the experiences of Soviet Russia, some of the characteristic features of this work can already be identified.

a.) Consumer societies will have to take charge of distributing products according to the proletarian government’s plan. This will result in an unprecedented flowering of the cooperatives.

b.) The cooperatives will need to develop into an organisation that provides a link between isolated small productive units (peasants and handicraft workers) and the central economic organs of the proletarian state. The assistance of the cooperatives will enable the state to direct the work of isolated small productive units. The consumer cooperatives will serve to collect the foodstuffs and raw materials from small-scale producers and pass them on to members of the cooperative and the state.

c.) In addition, the producers’ cooperatives can unify the small producers into workshops or larger enterprises, in which it is possible to utilise scientific and technical methods and machinery. This will provide a technical basis for the small producers that makes it possible to develop socialist enterprises that destroy the individualistic psychology of the small producer and promote development of a collectivist psychology.

7.) Given the important role of the revolutionary cooperatives in the epoch of proletarian revolution, the Third Congress instructs the Communist parties, groups, and organisations to promote the concept of the revolutionary cooperative and the organisation of Communist cells in the cooperatives. The cooperatives need to be transformed into instruments of the class struggle and brought into a unified front with the revolutionary trade unions.

The congress leaves it to the Communist International Executive to organise a cooperative section, which will carry out the tasks outlined here. In addition, this section must convene meetings, conferences, and congresses to carry out our tasks in the cooperatives on an international level.


1. Based on the context, this sentence presumably refers to producer cooperatives.