The Programme of the Communist International. Comintern Sixth Congress 1929

II. The General Crisis of Capitalism and the First Phase of World Revolution.


The imperialist struggle among the largest capitalist States for the redistribution of the globe led to the first imperialist world war (1914-1918). This war shook the whole system of world capitalism and marked the beginning of an epoch of general crisis. The war bent to its service the entire national economies of the belligerent countries, thus creating the mailed fist of State capitalism. It increased unproductive expenditures to enormous dimensions, destroyed enormous quantities of the means of production and human labour power, ruined large masses of the population and imposed incalculable burdens upon the industrial workers, the peasants and the colonial peoples. It inevitably led to the intensification of the class struggle, which grew into open, revolutionary mass action and civil war. The imperialist front was broken at its weakest link, in Tsarist Russia. The February revolution of 1917 overthrew the domination of the autocracy of the big land-owning class. The October revolution overthrew the rule of the bourgeoisie. This victorious proletarian revolution expropriated the expropriators, took the means of production from the landlords and the capitalists, and for the first time in human history set up and consolidated the dictatorship of the proletariat in an enormous country. It brought into being a new, Soviet type of State and laid the foundations for the international proletarian revolution.

The powerful shock to which the whole of world capitalism was subjected, the sharpening of the class struggle and the direct influence of the October proletarian revolution gave rise to a series of revolutions and revolutionary actions on the Continent of Europe as well as in the colonial and semi-colonial countries: January, 1918, the proletarian revolution in Finland; August, 1918, the so-called “rice riots” in Japan; November, 1918, the revolutions in Austria and Germany, which overthrew the semi-feudal monarchist régime; March, 1919, the proletarian revolution in Hungary and the uprising in Korea; April, 1919, the Soviet Government in Bavaria; January, 1920, the bourgeois-national revolution in Turkey; September, 1920, the seizure of the factories by the workers in Italy; March, 1921, the rising of the advanced workers of Germany; September, 1923, the uprising in Bulgaria; Autumn, 1923, the revolutionary crisis in Germany; December, 1924, the uprising in Esthonia; April, 1923, the uprising in Morocco; August, 1925, uprising in Syria; May, 1926, the general strike in England; July, 1927, the proletarian uprising in Vienna. These events, as well as events like the uprising in Indonesia, the deep ferment in India, and the great Chinese revolution, which shook the whole Asiatic continent, are links in one and the same international revolutionary chain, constituent parts of the profound general crisis of capitalism. This international revolutionary process embraced the immediate struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as national wars of liberation’ and colonial uprisings against imperialism, which go together with the agrarian mass movement of millions of peasants. Thus, an enormous mass of humanity was swept into the revolutionary torrent. World history entered a new phase of development-a phase of prolonged general crisis of the capitalist system. In this process, the unity of world economy found expression in the international character of the revolution, while the uneven development of its separate parts was expressed in the different times of the outbreak of revolution in the different countries.

The first attempts at revolutionary overthrow, which sprang from the acute crisis of capitalism (1918-1921) ended in the victory and consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the U.S.S.R. and in the defeat of the proletariat in a number of other countries. These defeats were primarily due to the treacherous tactics of the social democratic and reformist trade union leaders, but they were also due to the fact that the majority of the working class had not yet accepted the lead of the Communists and that in a number of important countries Communist Parties had not yet been established at all. As a result of these defeats, which created the opportunity for intensifying the exploitation of the mass of the proletariat and the colonial peoples, and for severely depressing their standard of living, the bourgeoisie was able to achieve a partial stabilisation of capitalist relations.


During the progress of the international revolution, the leading cadres of the social democratic parties and of the reformist trade unions on the one hand, and the militant capitalist organisations of the Fascist type on the other, acquired special significance as a powerful counter-revolutionary force actively fighting against the revolution and actively supporting the partial stabilisation of capitalism.

The war crisis of 1914-1918 was accompanied by the disgraceful collapse of the social democratic Second International. Acting in complete violation of the thesis of the “ Communist Manifesto” written by Marx-Engels, that the proletariat has no fatherland under capitalism and in complete violation of the anti-war resolutions passed by the Stuttgart and Basle Congresses, the leaders of the social democratic parties in the various countries, with a few exceptions, voted for the war credits, came out definitely in defence of the imperialist “fatherland” (i.e., the State organisations of the imperialist bourgeoisie) and instead of combatting the imperialist war, became its loyal soldiers, bards and propagandists (social-patriotism, which grew into social-imperialism). In the subsequent period, social democracy supported the predatory treaties (Brest-Litovsk, Versailles); it actively aligned itself with the militarists in the bloody suppression of proletarian uprisings (Noske); it conducted armed warfare against the first proletarian republic (Soviet Russia); it despicably betrayed the victorious proletariat (Hungary); it joined the imperialist League of Nations (Albert Thomas, Paul Boncour, Vandervelde); it openly supported the imperialist slave-owners against the colonial slaves (the British Labour Party); it actively supported the most reactionary executioners of the working class (Bulgaria, Poland); it took upon itself the initiative in securing the passage of imperialist “ military laws” (France); it betrayed the general strike of the British proletariat; it helped and is still helping to strangle China and India (the MacDonald Government); it acts as the propagandist for the imperialist League of Nations; it is capital’s herald and organiser in its struggle against the dictatorship of the proletariat in the U.S.S.R. (Kautsky, Hilferding).

In its systematic conduct of this counter-revolutionary policy, social democracy operates on two flanks. The right wing of social democracy, avowedly counter-revolutionary, is essential for negotiating and maintaining direct contact with the bourgeoisie; the left wing is essential for the subtle deception of the workers. While playing with pacifist and at times even with revolutionary phrases, “left” social democracy in practice acts against the workers, particularly in acute and critical situations (the British I.L.P. and the “left” leaders of the General Council during the general strike in 1926; Otto Bauer and Co., at the time of the Vienna uprising), and is therefore, the most dangerous faction in the social democratic parties. While serving the interests of the bourgeoisie in the working class and being wholly in favour of class co-operation and coalition with the bourgeoisie, social democracy, at certain periods, is compelled to play the part of an opposition party and even to pretend that it is defending the class interests of the proletariat in its industrial struggle. It tries thereby to win the confidence of a section of the working class and to be in a position more shamefully to betray the lasting interests of the working class, particularly in the midst of decisive class battles.

The principal function of social democracy at the present time is to disrupt the essential militant unity of the proletariat in its struggle against imperialism. In splitting and disrupting the united front of the proletarian struggle against capital, social democracy serves as the mainstay of imperialism in the working class. International social democracy of all shades; the Second International and its trade union branch, the Amsterdam Federation of Trade Unions, have thus become the last reserve of bourgeois society and its most reliable pillar of support.


Side by side with social democracy, with whose aid the bourgeoisie suppresses the workers or lulls their class vigilance, stands Fascism.

The epoch of imperialism, the sharpening of the class struggle and the growth of the elements of civil war-particularly after the imperialist war-led to the bankruptcy of parliamentarism. Hence, the adoption of “new” methods and forms of administration (for example, the system of inner cabinets, the formation of oligarchical groups, acting behind the scenes, the deterioration and falsification of the function of “popular representation,” the restriction and annulment of “democratic liberties,” etc.). Under certain special historical conditions, the progress of this bourgeois, imperialist, reactionary offensive assumes the form of Fascism. These conditions are: instability of capitalist relationships; the existence of considerable de-classed social elements, the pauperisation of broad strata of the urban petty bourgeoisie and of the intelligentsia; discontent among the rural petty-bourgeoisie and, finally, the constant menace of mass proletarian action. In order to stabilise and perpetuate its rule, the bourgeoisie is compelled to an increasing degree to abandon the parliamentary system in favour of the Fascist system, which is independent of inter-party arrangements and combinations. The Fascist system is a system of direct dictatorship, ideologically marked by the “national idea” and by representation of the “professions” (in reality, representation of the various groups of the ruling class). It is a system that resorts to a peculiar form of social demagogy (anti-semitism, occasional sorties against usurers’ capital and gestures of impatience with the parliamentary “talking shop”) in order to utilise the discontent of the petty bourgeois, the intellectuals and other strata of society, and to corruption-the creation of a compact and well paid hierarchy of Fascist units, a party apparatus and a bureaucracy. At the same time, Fascism strives to permeate the working class by recruiting the most backward strata of workers to its ranks-by playing upon their discontent, by taking advantage of the inaction of social democracy, etc. The principal aim of Fascism is to destroy the revolutionary labour vanguard, i.e., the Communist Sections and leading units of the proletariat. The combination of social democracy, corruption and active white terror, in conjunction with extreme imperialist aggression in the sphere of foreign politics, are the characteristic features of Fascism. In periods of acute crisis for the bourgeoisie, Fascism resorts to anti-capitalist phraseology, but, after it has established itself at the helm of State, it casts aside its anti-capitalist prattle and discloses itself as a terrorist dictatorship of big capital.

The bourgeoisie resorts either to the method of Fascism or to the method of coalition with social democracy according to the changes in the political situation; while social democracy itself, often plays a Fascist role in periods when the situation is critical for capitalism.

In the process of development social democracy reveals Fascist tendencies which, however, do not prevent it, in other political situations, from acting as a sort of Fronde against the bourgeois government in the capacity of an opposition party. The Fascist method and the method of coalition with social democracy, are not the methods usually employed in “normal” capitalist conditions; they are the symptoms of the general capitalist crisis, and are employed by the bourgeoisie in order to stem the advance of the revolution.


Experience throughout the post-war historical period has shown that the stabilisation achieved by the repression of the working class and the systematic depression of its standard of living can be only a partial, transient and decaying stabilisation.

The spasmodic and feverish development of technique, bordering in some countries on a new technical revolution, the accelerated process of concentration and centralisation of capital, the formation of giant trusts and of “national” and “international” monopolies, the merging of trusts with the State power and the growth of world capitalist economy cannot, however, eliminate the general crisis of the capitalist system. The break up of world economy into a capitalist and a socialist sector, the shrinking of markets and the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies intensify all the contradictions of capitalism, which is developing on a new, post-war basis. This very technical progress and rationalisation of industry, the reverse side of which is the closing down and liquidation of numerous enterprises, the restriction of production, and the ruthless and destructive exploitation of labour power, leads to chronic unemployment on a scale never before experienced. The absolute deterioration of the conditions of the working class becomes a fact even in certain highly developed capitalist countries. The growing competition between imperialist countries, the constant menace of war and the growing intensity of class conflicts prepare the ground for a new and higher stage of development of the general crisis of capitalism and of the world proletarian revolution.

As a result of the first round of imperialist wars (the world war of 1914-1918) and of the October victory of the working class in the former Russian Tsarist Empire, world economy has been split into two fundamentally hostile camps: the camp of the imperialist States and the camp of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the U.S.S.R. The difference in structure and in the class character of the government in the two camps, the fundamental differences in the aims each pursues in internal, foreign, economic and cultural policy, the fundamentally different courses of their development, brings the capitalist world into sharp conflict with the victorious proletarian State. Within the framework of a formerly uniform world economy, two antagonistic systems are now contesting against each other: the system of capitalism and the system of socialism. The class struggle, which hitherto was conducted in circumstances when the proletariat was not in possession of State power, is now being conducted on an enormous and really world scale; the working class of the world has now its own State-the one and only fatherland of the international proletariat. The existence of the Soviet Union and the influence it exercises upon the toiling and oppressed masses all over the world is in itself a most striking expression of the profound crisis of the world capitalist system and of the expansion and intensification of the class struggle to a degree hitherto without parallel in history.

The capitalist world, powerless to eliminate its inherent contradictions, strives to establish international associations (the League of Nations) the main purpose of which is to retard the irresistible growth of the revolutionary crisis and to strangle the Soviet Proletarian Republics by war or blockade. At the same time, all the forces of the revolutionary proletariat and of the oppressed colonial masses are rallying around the U.S.S.R. The world coalition of Capital, unstable, internally corroded, but armed to the teeth, is confronted by a single world coalition of Labour. Thus, as a result of the first round of imperialist wars a new, fundamental antagonism has arisen of world historical scope and significance; the antagonism between the U.S.S.R. and the capitalist world.

Meanwhile, the inherent antagonisms within the capitalist sector of world economy itself have become intensified. The shifting of the economic centre of the world to the United States of America and the fact that the “Dollar Republic” has become a world exploiter have caused the relations between United States and European capitalism, particularly British capitalism, to become strained. The conflict between Great Britain-the most powerful of the old, conservative imperialist States and the United States-the greatest of the young imperialist States, which has already won world hegemony for itself, is becoming the pivot of the world conflicts among the finance capitalist States. Germany, though plundered by the Versailles Peace, is now economically recovered; she is resuming the path of imperialist politics, and once again she stands out as a serious competitor on the world market. The Pacific is becoming involved in a tangle of contradictions which centre mainly around the antagonism between America and Japan. Simultaneously, the antagonism of interests among the unstable and constantly changing groupings of powers is increasing, while the minor powers serve as auxiliary instruments in the hands of the imperialist giants and their coalitions.

The growth of the productive capacity of the industrial apparatus of world capitalism, at a time when the European home markets have shrunk as a result of the war, of the Soviet Union’s dropping out of the system of purely capitalist intercourse, and of the close monopoly of the most important sources of raw material and fuel, leads to ever-widening conflicts between the capitalist States. The “peaceful” struggle for oil, rubber, cotton, coal and metals and for a redistribution of markets and spheres for the export of capital is inexorably leading to another world war, the destructiveness of which will increase proportionately to the progress achieved in the furiously developing technique of war.

Simultaneously, the antagonisms between the imperialist home countries and the semi-colonial countries are growing. The relative weakening of European imperialism as a result of the war, of the development of capitalism in the colonies, of the influence of the Soviet revolution and the centrifugal tendencies revealed in the premier maritime and colonial Empire-Great Britain (Canada, Australia, South Africa)-has helped to stimulate the movement of rebellion in the colonies and semi-colonies. The great Chinese revolution, which roused hundreds of millions of the Chinese people to action, caused an enormous breach in the imperialist system. The unceasing revolutionary ferment among hundreds of millions of Indian workers and peasants is threatening to break the domination of the world citadel of imperialism, Great Britain. The growth of tendencies directed against the powerful imperialism of the United States in the Latin American countries threatens to undermine the expansion of North American capital. Thus, the revolutionary process in the colonies, which is drawing into the struggle against imperialism the overwhelming majority of the world’s population that is subjected to the rule of the finance capitalist ogliarchy of a few “Great Powers” of imperialism, also expresses the profound general crisis of capitalism. Even in Europe itself, where imperialism has put a number of small nations under its heel, the national question is a factor that intensifies the inherent contradictions of capitalism.

Finally, the revolutionary crisis is inexorably maturing in the very centres of imperialism; the capitalist offensive against the working class, the attack upon the workers’ standard of living, upon their organisations and their political rights, with the growth of white terror, rouses increasing resistance on the part of the broad masses of the proletariat and intensifies the class struggle between the working class and trustified capital. The great battles fought between Labour and Capital, the accelerated swing to the left of the masses, the growth in the influence and authority of the Communist Parties; the enormous growth of sympathy among the broad masses of workers for the land of the proletarian dictatorship-all this is a clear symptom of the rise of a new tide in the centres of imperialism.

Thus, the system of world imperialism, and with it the partial stabilisation of capitalism, is being corroded from various causes: First, the antagonisms and conflicts between the imperialist States; second, the rise of the struggle of vast masses in the colonial countries; third, the action of the revolutionary proletariat in the imperialist home countries; and lastly, the leadership exercised over the whole world revolutionary movement by the proletarian dictatorship in the U.S.S.R. The international revolution is developing.

Against this revolution, imperialism is gathering its forces. Expeditions against the colonies, a new world war, a campaign against the U.S.S.R., are matters which now figure prominently in the politics of imperialism. This must lead to the release of all the forces of international revolution and to the inevitable doom of capitalism.