By Pavel Blanco Cabrera, First Secretary,  CP Mexico


May 14, 2020

Fundamentals and historical significance of the Third International

A century ago the Communist International held its first Congress in the context of historical events of great content and complexity: the end of the First War, the Great October Socialist Revolution, and the German Revolution. Those who attended the convening of the International Communist Conference had years of confrontation with opportunism, first within the Second International and then against its anti-worker and anti-Marxist drift; confrontation that began in the field of theory and that passed to the political scene in a context of sharpening of international class struggle and in each country with the First World War, an imperialist war.

The Communist International began its gestation in the debates in defence of Marxism against the distortions of Bernstein, in the famous controversy between reform and revolution, that is, in the ideological front against revisionism, waged not only within the German Social Democratic Party but in all parties. It is worth remembering that opportunism theorists grotesquely deformed the revolutionary ideology of the working class, in a permanent and methodical attack: hiding the texts of Marx and Engels, or mutilating them, while erecting a theory away from the tasks for the overthrow of capitalism. 

The communist parties and groups that rebelled against the opportunist direction of the Second International understood very well the need to rescue Marxist theory, and for that reason they gave themselves to the tireless task of publishing the classic works and to making them known, such as the correspondence, the unpublished manuscripts, which showed that the general meaning of Marx and Engels was the proletarian Revolution. They also understood that opportunism sought to make Marxism a dogma as a way to debase it, and that it was necessary to enrich it in terms of new economic and social developments, including the passage of capitalism from free competition to monopolies, which led them to acquire a leading role in the plane of theory to have an arsenal of heavy calibre in the events to come, that is, the beginning of a new era of social revolution.

Such a prognosis, due to the great revolutionary theoretical effort of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and the Marxist currents of other countries, is what allowed the bold approach of a new international despite going against the flow, even when they were a minority [1] even though social-chauvinism and social patriotism seemed to be hegemonic or even absolute in the years 1914-1918.

It is that one of the abandoned elements of Marxist theory by opportunism is that of proletarian internationalism. Abandoned and also betrayed, as evidenced by the conduct of the Second International in decomposition, in the First World War. Proletarian internationalism not only conceived as fraternity among workers in all countries, as the necessary actions of solidarity and common action, but also as a framework for political elaboration, that is, for the design of a unified revolutionary strategy.

In the Letter to the workers of Europe and America dated January 21, 1919, Lenin describes very well that the political reality that underpins the existence of the Communist International, even before its founding Congress, the First Congress, is the rupture with the Second International of the Bolshevik Party, strengthened by the decision of the German Spartacists to form the Communist Party of Germany; and together with them the proletarian communist detachments of Latvia, Finland, Poland, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands.

All of them positioned themselves against the platform consisting of “The defence of class collaboration, the abandonment of the idea of ​​socialist revolution and revolutionary methods of struggle, adaptation to bourgeois nationalism, the forgetting of the historically transitory borders of the nationality or of the homeland, the fetishism of bourgeois legality, the renunciation of the class point of view and the class struggle for fear that the ‘broad popular masses’ will depart (read the petty bourgeoisie): such are undoubtedly the ideological foundations of opportunism[2]

The fight against opportunism, revisionism and reformism, permanent and without concessions to rescue Marxism, restoring its characteristics of revolutionary ideology of the proletariat, was a fundamental premise for the emergence of the Third International.

The decision to keep the flag of proletarian internationalism high in the face of its abandonment by the majority of the Second International, was another fundamental premise. The pressures were very strong and literally had to be against the current. It was a crime of the opportunists to endorse the war and take the workers to the carnage.

Of course, the example that in defence of principles we should not fear to be in minority is of great validity.

Lenin also emphasizes that another important characteristic of the Third International is to put into practice, after the Paris Commune, the dictatorship of the proletariat, with the Great Socialist Revolution and Soviet power.

Once the Communist International has been formed, its presence and activity qualitatively nourished the international class struggle of the proletariat. The First International, and the Second International, despite their great efforts, did not have the global impact that the Communist International did.

For the first time the dissemination of the ideas of scientific socialism, enriched as Marxism-Leninism, was universalized. An extraordinary effort to translate and print the classics, organizing their distribution, even in conditions of secrecy throughout the Continents, in all languages ​​and in a good part of the dialects. Millions of workers have therefore had contact with communist ideas.

On all continents and in most countries when the sections of the Communist International were formed, the working class had its vanguard detachment, its political party, the communist party. In some countries, for example those in Europe, there were parties that were the result of the struggle between opportunists and revolutionaries within the framework of the organizations of the Second International, but in Latin America, Asia and Africa, at least, the proletariat counted for the first time with its class party. Over the course of a century the importance of this contribution of the Third International is demonstrated, since the workers with their Chiefs of Staff have carried out revolutionary processes, have organized themselves better and have accumulated an experience for their historical objective.

In addition, such parties resulting from the work of the COMINTERN, depending on the 21 Conditions to enter it, were forged as new-type parties, based on the Leninist theory of organization, which meant a gigantic advance in relation to existing forms of the social democratic parties. As the backbone of the communist parties, thousands of militants were trained as cadres at the Leninist International School.

In the Congresses and Plenary sessions, as well as in all its commissions and organizations, the III International carried out a constant study of the class struggle, of the economic situation and its tendencies, of the reactionary policies, of the political actions of the revolutionaries in each country, of the socialist construction and its difficulties, of the inter-imperialist contradictions, of the antagonism between the exploited and the exploiters, between the oppressed and the oppressors, and designed the strategy and tactics, the slogans. A world brain of the working class worked in the fight against capital.

It should not surprise us that the class enemy attacks the Communist International, but it is serious that some leaders and cadres in the communist movement, including the contemporary, assume the false idea that the orientations were taken in a centre and were alien to reality, or plagued by Eurocentrism. It is possible today to discuss in particular the elaborations of the COMINTERN and to verify the seriousness and foundation of their positions. Under no circumstances should we tolerate slander that seeks to caricature the elaboration of common positions, the elaboration of a unified revolutionary strategy, in the way that the Communist International did in its existence, but also the need that exists for it, and not only today, but in the past years and decades that followed the dissolution of the COMINTERN.

Studying the materials of the COMINTERN, the Magazine The Communist InternationalThe International Correspondence, the drafts of agreement of the Executive Committee and of the Plenary, Expanded Plenary and Commissions by region, we will appreciate a deep discussion and the modification of points of view according to the changing reality of the class struggle, as well as the constant adaptation of the orientations. The versions of history of the III International that present it as distant from the events of each of its sections are false.

The workers and communist movement in Mexico took a leap in quality by receiving the enrichment of their perceptions, with the discussions, orientations and advice of the Third International, quickly leaving behind the burden of apoliticism, abstentionism, sectarianism, and other deviations that had cemented the anarchism that took root in the last quarter of the 19th century among the Mexican working class.

The working class of Mexico will forever have a debt with the contribution of the Communist International for the formation of its revolutionary political party, the Communist Party.

Elements of debate in the international communist movement on the Third International

Being objective, without nostalgia, but also without prejudice, the arguments of the Executive Committee’s consultation to the Sections of the Third International to proceed with its dissolution are insufficient. Further mechanisms for the international communist movement were limited; the most important, the KOMINFORM, ceased as a result of the opportunistic attack that meant the XX Congress of the CPSU. It is notable as one of the currents that have been on the ideological platform of the opportunist current of Eurocommunism, the “Western Marxism”, focuses its attacks on the V and VI Congress of the Communist International and the Information Office of the Communist Parties, while praising the VII Congress of 1935 and the XX Congress of the CPSU, which opens the way to polycentrism and the so-called national roads to socialism.

A perception was installed, which in our assessment – since the Communist Party of Mexico has been systematically studying the experience of the Communist International for some years – is incorrect: on the issue that the strategic elaboration approved by the VII Congress of the Communist International has general character, and permanent and immutable validity.

The COMINTERN attentive to the development of the struggle, taking into account the crisis of capitalism, the policies of the bourgeois states to achieve their stability, the outbursts of revolt, the deployment of fascism, the role of social democracy, strategy and tactics, understanding that it is always necessary to make adjustments, manoeuvres, boldly go on the offensive or organize the withdrawal and defence. The deviations of the left and the right, the putschism, the adventurism, the estrangement of the class, always insist on the work between the classes, among the masses. And you can study, for example, the experiences of the COMINTERN in Germany, in Italy, in Czechoslovakia, in Mexico, in China.

 And this must be understood, in the strategic and tactical elaboration, the Leninist policy of the concrete analysis of concrete reality is a requirement for the COMINTERN. In such elaboration the deep discussion between the Executive Committee and each National Section prevailed. We must refute the slander that the III International, and any future form of unity or coordination in the International communist movement, are doomed to failure in the effort to develop a revolutionary strategy, since specificities, particularities are not considered. On the contrary, as we will explain later, a common revolutionary strategy is more necessary today, and yesterday as the years of the glorious Communist International demonstrated its effectiveness. Some centrist tendencies in the communist movement consider that steps must be taken in the forms of coordination, but ahead they place an absolute rejection of a joint analysis and positions on essential issues.

Although there is a minority that rejects the contribution of the Communist International, most communist and workers’ parties consider their contribution transcendental. The difference comes when evaluated as a whole. Since they assume only the politics of popular fronts, of alliances with social democracy. And that is the toral question, which is even the basis for the existence of each communist party.

Unlike what is expressed by opportunism theorists – or rather publicists – who nest in the international communist movement, the V and VI Congress did not adopt sectarianism or dogmatism. It is a very difficult period that exists in that interval, for example the crisis of 1929, the reflux of the revolutionary situation, the rise to power of fascism in several countries, a period of reaction in which several PCs are condemned to go underground; in spite of the difficulties, the orientations are precise and exact, to accentuate the organizational work in the industrial proletariat, with a red and class unionism, massively organize the unemployed and all workers in forced unemployment; the policy of the united front, specified as a united front from below in the XI Plenary Session of the ECCI, the preparation of the fight against the imperialist war, the strong debate on the socialist construction in the USSR and the confrontation with the anti-proletarian currents of Trotskyism and the right-wing opposition and with the internal counterrevolution to carry out industrialization and economic planning; the elaboration of the only Program that the COMINTERN had. 

Evaluating the history of the Mexican Section, what is seen is how the young PCM, founded in 1919, grows in that period, develops a powerful labour union work and a massive influence on the peasantry, despite the secrecy that for five years it faces. Before the Mexican proletariat, its class party arises in ideological confrontation with social democracy, with the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, class independence is conquered and a socialist consciousness is forged among the workers. The strong turn of the VII Congress produces a disaster in the PCM despite some apparent successes, which dazzles but is not based on objective bases: the party goes from 5000 to 30 000 militants between 1936 and 1939, but after the great crisis of the 1940 Extraordinary Congress is reduced to a number lower than 3000; its newspaper, which reached a print run of 50,000 copies per day before 1935, becomes an irregular weekly and its powerful union presence is reduced to marginality; Ideologically weak it assumes the Browderist thesis without resistance.

It is important to explain some questions. The character of alliances is a crucial element, and when the alliances have an interclassist character they do not strengthen the interests of the working class, but that of the bourgeoisie, such a conclusion according to experience is not limited to the situation we are pointing out, but even occurs now, in relation to contemporary alliances between communist parties and social democratic forces, such as progressivism in America or even in the participation of communist parties in coalition with bourgeois forces, including participating in state management with governmental responsibilities. This is aggravated when the ideological front is lowered, and shows how important is Lenin’s point in his work. Who are the “friends of the people”…? About the dilemma between bourgeois ideology or socialist ideology. 

At that time, the Mexican Section of the III International with the politics of unity at all costs allowed the bourgeois ideology of the Mexican Revolution to become the foundation for trade-union unity and the programmatic platform for the popular front in Mexico, yielding an important ground in the affairs of the dispute for the consciousness of the working class; In addition, the ideology of the Mexican Revolution even penetrated PCM, which considered that the progressive character of the bourgeoisie is not limited to its revolutionary struggle against feudalism or its nineteenth-century role against colonialism in America, but extended somehow to the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions.

Another aberrant issue is to yield to the front the role of the working class party, including its dissolution if necessary.  PCM was integrated into the bourgeois Party of the Mexican Revolution, considering that this is the concrete expression of the Popular Front, and in the interest of the unity at all costs dissolved the Federation of Young Communists into the Unified Socialist Youth of Mexico (JSUM), that they are no longer the communist youth, the youth of the Party, its quarry of cadres, but a functional unitary organism headed by the bourgeoisie, with bourgeois ideology, becoming the quarry of cadres of a bourgeois party.

It will be understood that we question the idea that the front with social democracy and other bourgeois forces is the highest level of strategic elaboration of the international communist movement. And today the main component of the 1935 argument is missing: the defence of the homeland of socialism, the Soviet Union. What, then, can justify interclassist alliances today?

We believe that alliances with social democracy are an opportunistic manifestation of class collaboration and a serious obstacle to revolutionary struggle; the conformation of fronts of that nature will always be a liquidating element of the Communist Party; and the absence of a communist party is the biggest attack on the working class and its immediate and historical objectives.

There are, for example, expressions of those alliances that have no justification, and one of them is support for the Democratic Party of the US Communist Party. And it is that when the perspective of the interests of the working class is set aside and the logic of the “lesser evil” is placed even the imperialist policy of the Democratic Party may seem better to the imperialist policy of the Republican Party. Thus several communist parties justify their support for bourgeois policies under the pretext of struggle against the “ultra-right” and fascism.

We have great respect for the communists’ policy against fascism during World War II, but we cannot deny that some elements of that policy are connected to Browderism, to the opportunist platform of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, to Eurocommunism, and in some way they form a platform of certain similarities to that of opportunism in the II International.

It is a paradox that those who oppose the elaboration of a unified revolutionary strategy hold a common opportunist strategy on the grounds that the generalization of experience excludes the importance of national struggle, the specificities, the particularities; as a contraband they have a general strategy based on the possibility of a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism – which has already demonstrated its unfeasibility in Chile and in the strongholds of Eurocommunism (Italy and France); in national ways to socialism, all of them with the same components: denial of the dictatorship of the proletariat, alliance with social democracy, pluriclassist political formations, capitalist management of economy, elevation of bourgeois democracy to absolute value, or if to put it roughly, that the communists manage the governments of capitalism.

Need to continue the experience of the III International

Between 2007 and 2010 the reorganization process of PCM faced an internal crisis. Could we continue the process with the platform that the communist movement had after 1956, criticizing only perestroika, or was it necessary to fight to restore Marxism-Leninism to its revolutionary content, and thus address the contemporary class struggle?

In the profound debate that culminated in our IV Congress, we decided to register in the statutes of the PCM, the duty of the Party and its militants to fight to continue the Communist International. It is not a rhetorical statement; there is a need for the workers of the world and the international communist movement to address the strategic issues of confrontation with capital and the imperialist system.

That is why we fight in favour of this current of the Leninist communist parties, with patience and understanding the difficulties, without taking unexpected decisions despite the urgency, but with the deep and unchanging conviction that the work of the III International must be continued.

As long as we consider it our duty we will continue deepening the ideological issues common to the international working class and fighting against new clothes of opportunism and bourgeois and petty-bourgeois theories that put obstacles to the international unity of the proletariat and the communist movement.

One of these theories is that which with alleged Marxist clothing focuses on the main contradiction between the north and the south, with some impact on Latin America; its main exponent, Samir Amin, said that the development of China and India are the main counterweight to capitalism that has the north by geographical basis. Basically, it is an argument that supports the bourgeois theory of multipolarity and that aims to lead the working class to wield foreign flags in the inter-imperialist dispute that marks the World. From it derives an old idea launched by the “New Left” that the workers of the most developed countries of capitalism have no role in the revolutionary struggle, and that it is the peoples of the south, and other emerging subjects who are interested in the transformation. It is an idea that penetrated some communist parties, and with which we disagree.

The working class, regardless of its nationality, its geographical position, its race or its sex, is a carrier, of the revolutionary qualities necessary to become the gravedigger of capitalism. If, for reasons of the International Labour Division in a region, exploitation is intensified, this does not automatically give rise to the revolutionization of workers, which depends strictly on the acquisition of class consciousness, their political education, agitation and propaganda, of its organization, that is the role of the Communist Party. Such ideas resemble those opportunistic theses refuted by Leninist theory, that socialism is only viable in those places of greatest capitalist development.

We must be on guard against all those ideas tending to hinder the unity of the working class on a national and international scale, which divide it, and which regularly have progressive or leftist coverage.

And we must continue making the maximum effort to keep the flag of the Communist International flying. In our modest opinion, the existence of the International Communist Magazine is an important contribution in that direction.

[1] Lenin writes in 1914: “The Second International fulfilled its mission, carrying out a useful preparatory work for the prior organization of the proletarian masses within the long period ‘pacifies’ the cruellest capitalist slavery and the fastest progress capitalist of the last third of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The Third International has before it the task of organizing the forces of the proletariat for the revolutionary offensive against capitalist governments, for the civil war against the bourgeoisie of all countries for political power and for the victory of socialism. ”
[2] Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; The situation and tasks of the Socialist International; Complete Works Volume 41; Progress Editorial, Moscow

This article appeared in the International Communist Review, 10th issue