Lev Kamenev
Third Congress of the Communist International

Speech to Opening Session
June 22, 1921

Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 83-85
Translation: Translation team organized by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission

On behalf of the Communist Party of Russia I greet the greatest world event at this moment: the world congress of Communists from around the world. To these greetings from our party, I am glad to add those of the working class and of all working people of the city of Moscow. We are proud that for the third time representatives of the world revolution are gathering within the walls of our ancient city. Here, protected by calloused proletarian hands, you can discuss and make decisions undisturbed. We are happy that the city governed by the Moscow soviet has become a symbol of the world proletarian movement and that the struggle against the world bourgeoisie and the opportunists’ world betrayal is carried out under the banner, ‘For Moscow’.

Comrades, as history would have it, the Communist world congress has gathered in what was formerly the home of evil despotism, of a mighty empire, in a country where 150 million subjugated workers and peasants were governed by a clique headed by the tsar. Soviet power has been triumphant for four years. Foolish people and purveyors of bourgeois influence criticise us for being unable to create a finished communist order. They attempt to undermine the influence of communist revolution and communist ideas by pointing out that in the fourth year that has been granted us since power was placed in the hands of workers and peasants, communism has not yet unfolded in life as fully and entirely as we would wish.

We reply to this accusation, this malicious criticism simply by explaining that no Communist Party, no proletariat, no matter how great its bravery, can create on the ruins of the capitalist order, be it in a year or three to four years, the new world in which there are no exploited and no exploiters. The realisation of this new world, which working people have dreamed of for centuries, will demand unbelievable exertion by the working class. True, we are unable to show the comrades gathered here from around the world a finished communist order. Here in Moscow, in our workers’ republic, they will find the ruins of the old order and see how the shoots of a new communist society are springing up from these ruins. We have overthrown and defeated the old tyranny, but we are still struggling to erect a new temple of communist society on the territory wrested from the bourgeoisie.

Comrades gathered here from around the world find us in a time of arduous struggle, in which we face many difficult tasks. We will not prettify the situation. We cannot accomplish the great tasks before us on our own, and we do not propose to do this on our own. Since the moment when the Russian working class became the first in the world to raise the slogan of a republic ruled by the proletariat, of a proletarian dictatorship, we have faced two tasks. Our first task was to demonstrate that the working class that overthrew the bourgeoisie was able to remain in power, even though the entire world took up arms against it. We have carried out this first, preparatory task. (applause) We can say that with pride. Before the eyes of the entire world, of the proletariat and our deadly enemy, the bourgeoisie, we have shown that the working class of Russia, after taking power, defended this power, arms in hand, for three years and emerged from this struggle victorious. It forced the enemy to lay down his weapons. It exists today as an independent, free workers’ and peasants’ state, pursuing the work of communist construction. We have unified 135 million working people under the Soviet government. We have extended workers’ rule from the northern icebound ocean to the Black Sea, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific, raising the banner of the Communist International. This is what Russian workers and peasants have wrested away from world capitalism.

We now approach our second task. Will we be able to follow up our victory on the military front by demonstrating that the power we have in our possession is capable of transforming economic relations and erecting a communist society on the foundations of the destroyed capitalist order? We were capable of repelling the attack by twelve countries. 1 Will we be capable of dealing with the petty-bourgeois spirit and habits of capitalist property drummed into the people over centuries? We have now exchanged our rifles for hammers, we have gone to our work benches, taken plough in hand, and are setting about a new task: that of showing the entire world how the Russian working class, despite all the destruction wrought by seven years of war – first the imperialist war, then the Civil War – can restore its economy. We will show that the working class understands not only how to tear power from the hands of imperialism, but also how to bring to life a new economic order. (Loud applause)

The international congress finds us engaged in this work. We have no judges above or below us. We have only the highest judge of all that the working class of Russia has achieved and will achieve under the leadership of its Communist Party. That judge is the world congress of the Communist International. (applause) Before this judge, the Russian workers and all the working people of Russia, with the proletariat of Petrograd and Moscow in the lead, can appear with heads proudly raised and say: In the course of four years we have fought in the most advanced battle lines of all humanity. We look forward to assistance, in full certainty that the proletarian masses of the entire world are following our struggle and, at the decisive moment, will raise the same banner that we hold and crown the proletarian world revolution for which the Russian working class has laid the foundation.

Long live our esteemed guests! Through you we greet all the working people around the world, the proletarians of all countries, all humanity, which is taking part with us in titanic struggles extending across the entire world.

Long live the world revolution! (applause)


1. During the Russian Civil War of 1918–20, the young Soviet republic faced intervening troops from Czechoslovakia, Japan, Greece, Britain, Poland, the US, France, Canada, Serbia, Romania, Italy, China, and Australia. Different figures on the number of intervening countries are sometimes used due to overlapping relationships with colonial empires.