MIA: History: International:

Working-class Internationalism
& Organisation

  The Communist League, 1847 - 1850

Prior to 1864, there were a number of small “secret societies” which engaged in revolutionary activity, and from time to time, attempted to coordinate their activities across national borders. These included the League of the Just, Marx and Engels' Communist League, George Julian Harney’s Association of Fraternal Democrats, and Ernest Jones’s International Committee.

The main figures of the international workers' movement of this period were Louis-Auguste Blanqui, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, George Julian Harney, Johann Eccarius, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Wilhelm Weitling.

  International Workingmen's Association, 1864 - 1873

The November 1864, while living in exile in London, Marx was invited to participate in founding the International Workingmen's Association, meant by its founders, mostly English Trades Council activists, as a kind of “mutual aid society”, to organise solidarity between workers engaged in strikes and other struggles.

The First International grew rapidly up until the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871, incorporating the mass membership of whole unions as well as individuals, and small socialist groups, etc. After 1872, the International fell into crisis and split between socialist and anarchist wings; the General Council was moved to New York and the International wound up in 1876.

The main figures of the international workers' movement of this period were Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Mikhail Bakunin, Paul Lafargue, Ernest Jones, William Morris, F Adolph Sorge, Johann Ph. Becker and Wilhelm Liebknecht.

  The Second (Socialist) International, 1889 - 1915

In 1880, the German Social Democratic Party supported the call of its Belgian comrades, to call an international socialist congress in 1881. The little town of Chur was chosen and the Belgian socialists, the French Parti Ouvrier, the German social democracy, and the Swiss social democracy, participated in the preparations for the congress which would lead to the founding of the Socialist International.

Unlike the First, the Socialist International was made up of political parties with properly elected leaderships, political programs and membership bases in each country. The national sections of the International built trade unions, contested elections, and were deeply involved in the life of the working class in each country.

The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 and the national and revolutionary crises which the War engendered however, threw the International into crisis. The Social-Democrats met at Zimmerwald in 1915 to try to work out a joint platform of opposition to the slaughter taking place around them. The Zimmerald Conference failed to unite all the Social Democrats or end the War, but did bring together a Left wing which supported the Russian Revolution and laid the basis for the Third (Communist) International.

The main figures of the international workers' movement of this period were Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, G V Plekhanov, August Bebel, Clara Zetkin, Daniel De Leon, Franz Mehring and V I Lenin.

  Third (Communist) International, 1919 - 1943

In the wake of the successful Russian Revolution of 1917, and while the young Soviet republic was still fighting for its life in the Wars of Intervention, the Bolsheviks invited revolutionaries from all over the world to come to Moscow to found a new, revolutionary Communist, International.

After the Soviet Union itself began to degenerate, after the death of Lenin and the exile of Trotsky, with Josef Stalin as leader, the Communist International itself degenerated. It was wound up in 1943, as part of Stalin's preparation for an accommodation with “democratic imperialism” after the second world war.

The main figures of the international workers' movement of this period were V I Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Radek, Alexandre Kollontai, Anton Pannekoek, Eugene Debs, Antonio Gramsci, Georgi Dimitrov and Georgi Lukacs.

The Communist Parties remained, and continued to meet in Moscow and follow the Moscow line, but increasingly the separate parties adopted their own strategy, and the international cohesion of the Communist Parties, broken by the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, began to disintegrate after the mid-1960s, anticipating the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself in 1991.

See The Sections of the Comintern and biographies of Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Khrushchev and Ho Chi Minh.

  Fourth (Trotskyist) International, 1938 -

In response to the degeneration of the Third International, in 1938 Leon Trotsky organised a conference to found a Fourth International. Trotsky himself was assassinated by an agent of Stalin in 1940, but the Fourth International reconvened after the devastation of the Second World War. However, from the late 1950s, the Fourth International suffered a number of splits, and although participating in important struggles, never achieved a position of leadership at the international level.

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