Internationalism – past, present and future
The rapid growth of the organised working class in the 1860s was followed by differences within and finally the dissolution of the 1st International.1 This was also the reason for the dissolution of the 2nd International in 1914 and the founding of the 3rd International in 1919, with the Bolsheviks as the leading and driving force.2 The 3rd International from 1919-1943, achieved a rise of scientific socialism all over the world. After World War Two the collaboration between the communist parties was mainly by international conferences and meetings, together with the international magazine Problems of Peace and Socialism. This period was characterised by a tremendous growth of the Communist movement in international perspective, and this made it the most influential political movement in the post-war period.
As with the two first Internationals, the third was also characterised by ideological differences, but it managed to overcome them and play a vital role in the victory over fascism. From the 1950s the situation became critical in the Communist movement, with contradictions between the USSR and China. This had a great impact on the aggressive attitude of imperialism, doing its best to widen the differences.
With the demise and break down of socialism in Eastern Europe, we can see the economic, political and ideological difficulties in building the foundations of scientific socialism. This is rooted in the fast development of the productive forces as a result of World War Two, and the way the Americans boosted the international economy to roll back the influence of Communism.3
In the 1980s it became clear that the USSR and other socialist countries, were unable to meet the demands of their peoples and that the productive relations were in contradiction with the productive forces. The international Communist movement was split over wether to support Perestroika and Glasnost in the USSR. This is in short, the situation for discussing the present conditions for strengthening the international Communist movement and the labour movement.
In the present situation there are parallels with the period of World War One. The imperialist powers were on the brink of war and the 2nd International was paralysed by internal strife. However, it was also impressive that a small group of internationalists in the Zimmerwald conference in 1915, were able to formulate the foundation of what later became the 3rd International.4
This lesson is important regarding the present weakness of the international movement. If we look at conditions today, many things have changed compared to the situation in 1914. The rapid development of productive forces and the concentration and centralisation of capital has grown tremendously. That is why the economic and political contradictions are on a quantitatively and qualitatively higher level, placing greater demands on the Communist movement’s ability to cooperate internationally.
There are three levels where stronger cooperation is needed. Firstly at the union level: All the new types of manufacturing, with parts being produced all over the world, and with rapid changes where local unions are trying to boost the living conditions of their members. There have been some results in the form of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) with conflicts in Europe, USA, and Australia as an example, but there is still a long way to go before there is real and effective cooperation on an international level.
The second area is on the political level, where there is a rise in conferences and meetings in the Communist movement. There is progress in the contacts between parties, though the split from 1989 is still damaging the level of cooperation. The resolutions and documents of these conferences are inspiring for all members of the Communist movement, but there is a considerable distance between speeches and practical action. The third level is the theoretical basis. Many of the present difficulties could have been prevented, if the Communist movement (after WW2) had looked at Marxism as a theory in movement and not a final theoretical system. Today we pay the price for these shortcomings.
Therefore part of what international cooperation should be is to find ways of developing Marxism, according to present needs. This could be done in collaboration with the socialist countries, who have universities and higher education based on scientific socialism, and through international conferences.5
The preparations for the October revolution were extensive. Reading the letters of Lenin to different elements in the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (RSDAP) in October 1917, shows the constant references to the international situation and the responsibilities of the Bolsheviks to act as internationalists.6
This was in a progressive period of history, but conditions today can change quickly. With the growing antagonism of the imperialist powers, the world is sliding towards a new confrontation.
This is the great responsibility of the Communist movement, to use the differences within imperialism for strengthening the forces of peace. This can only be achieved by a new international collaboration, in forms suitable for the present development of science, economics, political theory and other aspects of our societies.
International solidarity was the indispensable reason for overcoming imperialist aggression against the USSR. It was the backbone of the defence of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s and the inestimable support for the liberation of Vietnam from foreign aggression, just to mention a few examples. Internationalism will also prove to be the strongest weapon of the Communist and labour movement, in defence of peace, social progress and building socialism in the future.
List of articles:
- An eyewitness of The First International Conference in Covent Garden
- Debates in Problems of Peace and Socialism on Internationalism in the 1980s
- An article on the present international cooperation and its forms
- The international humanitarian and refugees crises and the labour movement
- Book reviews concerning the subject
Notes and references:
- The First International founded in London 1864 and dissolved in 1872.
- The second International was founded in 1889 and dissolved in 1914 with the outbreak of WW1.
- The Marshall-help 1948-51, was the American way of maintaining political and economic influence in Western Europe,.
- The Zimmerwald conference was held in Switzerland from the 5.-8. September 1915.
- China, Peoples Republic of Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.
- Letter from Lenin to the Bolshevik Comrades who participated in the District Congress for the Northern Areas. Written in October 1917. Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 182-187