28 June 2005

Leon Trotsky’s
The First Five Years of the Communist International Great Days

THE CZARS and the priests—ancient rulers of the Moscow Kremlin—we must assume, never had a premonition that within its gray walls would one day gather the representatives of the most revolutionary section of modern mankind. However, it did happen. In one of the halls of a former juridical institution, where weary ghosts of criminal statutes from Czarist codices still wander, today the delegates of the Third International sit in session. Assuredly, the mole of history did not excavate poorly beneath the Kremlin walls.

This material setting of the Communist Congress is only an external expression, and affixes its seal upon the enormous changes which have occurred in the last ten or twelve years in the entire world situation.

In the era not only of the First International but also the Second, Czarist Russia was the chief bulwark of world reaction. At international Socialist Congresses the Russian revolution was represented by émigrés upon whom the majority of the opportunist leaders of European Socialism looked down with ironic condescension. These parliamentarian and trade union functionaries were filled with an unconquerable conviction that it was the lot of semi-Asiatic Russia to suffer the evils of revolution, while Europe remained assured of a gradual, painless, tranquil evolution from capitalism to socialism.

But in August 1914 the accumulated imperialist contradictions ripped to shreds the “peaceful” integument of capitalism with its parliamentarianism, with its legislated “freedoms” and its legalized prostitution, political and otherwise. From the heights of civilization mankind was cast into the abyss of shocking barbarism and sanguinary brutalization.

Despite the fact that Marxist theory had foreseen and forecast the bloody catastrophe, the social-reformist parties were caught unawares. Perspectives of peaceful development turned into lowering smoke and reeking rubbish. The opportunist leaders were able to find no other task for themselves than to summon the working masses to the defense of the bourgeois national state. On August 4, 1914, the Second International ignobly perished.

From that moment all genuine revolutionists, heirs to the spirit of Marxism, set the creation of a new International as their taskthe International of irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against capitalist society. The war unleashed by imperialism knocked the entire capitalist world out of its equilibrium. All questions were starkly revealed as questions of the revolution. The old revolutionary patch-sewers brought into play all their skill in order to preserve a semblance of former hopes, old deceits, and old organization. In vain. War—not for the first time in history—turned out to be the mother of revolution. The imperialist war was the mother of the proletarian revolution.

To the Russian working class and its battle-tempered Communist Party belongs the honor of making the beginning. By its October Revolution the Russian proletariat not only swung open the Kremlin doors for the representatives of the international proletariat but also lodged the cornerstone in the edifice of the Third International.

The revolutions in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the tempestuous sweep of the Soviet movement and of civil war, sealed by the martyrdom of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and many thousands of nameless heroes, have demonstrated that Europe has no roads different from Russia’s. The unity of methods in the struggle for socialism, disclosed in action, guaranteed ideologically the creation of the Communist International, and at the same time rendered the convocation of the Communist Congress unpostponable.

Today this Congress convenes within the Kremlin walls. We are witnesses of and participants in one of the greatest events of world history.

The working class of the world has seized from its enemies the most impregnable fortress—the former Czarist empire. With this stronghold as its base, it is uniting its forces for the final and decisive battle.

What a joy it is to live and to fight in such times!

First published in Communist International, May 1919.
Go to the History of the Communist International History Section

Trotsky, Leon. “The First Five Years of the Communist International Great Days” (1919), Russian Revolution-Soviet Union [core] Primary