1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/International, The
INTERNATIONAL, THE (see 14.693). After the collapse of the original “International Working Men's Association,” known as the First International, there were successive attempts to form a united International of the various socialist and labour movements, the two chief attempts being the Second International, which was formed in 1889 and broke down on the outbreak of the World War in 1914, but was afterwards revived in a mutilated form, and the Third International, which was formed in 1919 on a more exclusively revolutionary basis. In 1921 there was no single International for all the labour and socialist organizations, and the movement as a whole was in flux.
The Second International.—In the period following the collapse of the First International, the national labour and socialist movements grew up separately in each country with only a slight international connexion. For the 13 years between 1876 and 1889 there was no permanent international bond, but only occasional ad hoc international conferences of labour. These were summoned by various convening bodies, on one occasion (1888) by the British Trades Union Congress. The list of these intervening conferences is given as follows in the official record of the International Socialist Bureau: 1876, Berne; 1877, Ghent; 1881, Coire; 1883, Paris; 1886, Paris; 1888, London.
In 1889 a new step was taken by the decision of the Paris International Congress to arrange for the periodic holding of International congresses in future. The Paris Congress really consisted of two separately convened conferences, one being Marxian and the other Possibilist or moderate. Subsequent united congresses were held at Brussels in 1891, at Zurich in 1893, and at London in 1896. The starting point of the Second or “New International” is commonly taken as the year 1889.
It was not, however, until 1900, at the Paris Congress of that year, that a definite constitution was set up for the new International. The 1900 Congress established an International Socialist Bureau of representatives from each affiliated national section, together with an executive, a paid secretary, and a central office. The bureau met once a year, or more often in the case of emergency. The central office was stationed at Brussels; and the chairman, secretary and executive, who were entrusted with the task of carrying on the continuous work of the International, were composed of members of the Belgian section.
At the same Congress of Paris in 1900 were laid down the final conditions of membership of the International. By these conditions affiliation was open to—
(1) All associations which adhere to the essential principles of socialism: socialization of the means of production and exchange; international union and action of the workers; conquest of public powers by the proletariat organized as a class party.
(2) All the constituted organizations which accept the principle of the class struggle and recognize the necessity for political action (legislative and parliamentary), but do not participate directly in the political movement.
Subsequent congresses under the new regulations were held at Amsterdam in 1904, at Stuttgart in 1907, and at Copenhagen in 1910. A special conference was held at Basel in 1912 to protest against the danger of participation by the Great Powers in the Balkan war. The next regular congress was to have been held at Vienna in Aug. 1914, but was abandoned owing to the outbreak of war. The last full congress of the Second International was, in consequence, the Copenhagen Congress of 1910. That congress was attended by 896 delegates representing 23 nationalities. The total number of nationalities affiliated with the bureau at the outbreak of war was 28; and the membership was given as 12 millions.
The pre-war International was a larger organization than had so far been achieved; but its real strength lay in the national sections, and as a whole it lacked effective adhesion or unity. The compromise which gave it birth in the original fusion of the two Paris conferences of 1889 stamped its proceedings throughout. Two leading controversies occupied its attention in the years before the war. One was the question of socialist participation in non-socialist governments. The other was the question of the action of the International in the event of war. On neither of these questions was a clear answer given, although on both elaborate resolutions were passed, couched in revolutionary but vague phraseology. The decision regarding ministerial collaboration by socialists was reached at the Amsterdam Congress of 1904, and laid down that—
“The Social Democracy can accept no participation in the Government under bourgeois society, this decision being in accordance with the Kautsky resolution passed at the International Congress of Paris in 1900.”
This decision would in itself appear definite; but the addition at the end introduces a covert reservation, the terms of the 1900 resolution having sanctioned the exceptional entry of a socialist into the Ministry as a “forced expedient of a temporary and extraordinary character.”
The decision on the question of war is even more important for latter-day controversies. The decision was reached at the Stuttgart Congress of 1907 and reaffirmed at the Copenhagen Congress of 1910. It made the following declaration:—
“If war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working class in the countries concerned and of their parliamentary representatives, with the help of the International Bureau as a means of coordinating their action, to use every effort to prevent war by all the means which seem to them most appropriate, having regard to the sharpness of the class war and to the general political situation.
“Should war none the less break out, their duty is to intervene to bring it promptly to an end and with all their energies to use the political and economic crisis created by the war to rouse the masses of the people from their slumbers and to hasten the fall of capitalist domination.”
This decision would again appear definite: but a proposal at the Copenhagen Congress in favour of a general strike in the event of war was referred back by 131 votes to 51, with instructions to the International Bureau to remit it to the national sections for report. The Trade Union International had already refused discussion of the same proposal on the ground that it was a political question falling within the scope of the Socialist International. The subsequent fate of the proposal is worth observing as evidence of the pre-war position. The International Bureau, in accordance with instructions, circularized the national sections in 1910 with a request to report. By 1912 four replies had been received in all, from (1) the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; (2) the Commission of Resolutions of the Seine; (3) the Central Unions and Socialist Party of Denmark; (4) the Socialist Party of Finland. In 1912 the International secretary again circularized the national sections, pointing out the urgency of the subject, as Aug. 1914 (the Vienna Congress) was approaching. This was the position reached before the war.
The International during the War.—The collapse of the International at the outbreak of war in 1914 thus came as more of a surprise to those outside the International than to those acquainted with it. The International, despite its imposing aspirations, was in reality no more than a loose federation of political parties with no strong central authority. In the words of M. Camille Huysmans, the International secretary, describing it as he found it when he took office in 1904, it was “no more than a letter-box and a postal address, a mere medium of communication, without power and without real influence”; and he goes on to describe how efforts to improve this position met with little encouragement.
The outbreak of the war revealed that the national sections were stronger than the International. It is true that in Serbia, the country first affected by invasion, the Socialist party stood by the International and voted against the war credits; but their example was not followed. The most important national sections affected (with the exception of Russia), Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, rallied to the support of what they felt to be a war of national defence. Opposition was expressed only by minorities in each of these countries, consisting of extreme revolutionary socialists or of pacifist socialists.
The effect of the war was, accordingly, to break up the International into two sections, pro-war and anti-war. The International Secretariat was transferred to Holland; and substitute members were taken on to the Executive from the Dutch section. There followed a period of sectional conferences. In Jan. 1915, the neutral socialists met at Copenhagen and issued an appeal to the belligerent socialists to act to stop the war. In Feb. 1915, the Allied socialists met in London and passed a resolution emphasizing the necessity of continuing the war. In April 1915, the Central Powers socialists met at Vienna and passed resolutions dealing chiefly with relations after the war.
All these conferences were held with the knowledge and sanction of the International Executive, which was endeavouring by negotiation to pave the way for a full congress. But in Sept. 1915, the anti-war socialists took matters into their own hands, and held an unofficial socialist conference at Zimmerwald in Switzerland. This conference set up a permanent International Socialist Commission, which was henceforth in tacit, though not at first intended, rivalry with the official bureau. This rivalry became intensified when a second conference was held under the auspices of the commission at Kienthal in April 1916, and the revolutionary section of the anti-war socialists began to play a more dominant part.
The situation was brought to a head by the Russian Revolution of March 1917. An invitation for a full International Socialist Conference to be held at Stockholm was issued by the Petrograd Soviet in conjunction with the Dutch-Scandinavian committee which had been formed to act for the bureau. The invitation was accepted by all the principal sections, including the British Labour party, the French Socialist party, and the German and Austrian socialists. But after a protracted crisis the refusal of passports by the British and French Governments led to the failure of the project. It was at this stage that the Zimmerwaldian Commission held a separate meeting at Stockholm and finally decided on founding a new International.
In March 1918, an Inter-Allied Socialist and Labour Conference was held, which drew up a statement of war aims and communicated it to the socialist parties of the Central Powers. The replies of the latter were received during the summer of 1918, and negotiations were proceeding on these lines when the Armistice came.
The Second International after the War.—Immediately after the Armistice steps were taken for the reconstruction of the International under the auspices of a committee appointed by the Inter-Allied Socialist and Labour Conference of March 1918. This committee, consisting of Messrs. Albert Thomas, Henderson and Vandervelde, acting in conjunction with M. Camille Huysmans, the International secretary, issued invitations for a preliminary International Socialist and Labour Conference to be held at Berne concurrently with the official Peace Conference.
The Berne Conference was held in Feb. 1919, and was attended by delegates from 26 nations. Certain sections of the Left refused to participate, including the Russian Communist party (who had already issued their invitation for a separate conference to inaugurate a new International) and the official parties of Italy, Switzerland, Serbia and Rumania.
The Berne Conference, although not strictly a conference of the old Second International either in origin or composition, made arrangements for the resumption of the International at a full congress to be held the next year, and appointed a Permanent Commission for this purpose. The conference also passed resolutions in favour of a League of Nations based on a just peace, of national self-determination, and of an International Labour Charter. War responsibilities and Bolshevism gave rise to sharp debates. The former subject was remitted to a subsequent congress. On the latter subject a resolution denouncing the dictatorship of the proletariat and declaring democracy the only possible means of achieving socialism received a majority of votes; but the conference decided to postpone a definite decision until it had sent a mission of inquiry to Russia (for which, however, passports were refused).
The Permanent Commission appointed at the Berne Conference met at Amsterdam in April 1919, and at Lucerne in Aug. 1919. It made arrangements for the first full after-war congress to be held at Geneva in Feb. 1920, and drew up a provisional constitution. Difficulties in the way of the Geneva Congress arose owing to the growing strength of the newly founded Third or Communist International and the steady defection of parties and sections from the Second International. In consequence the Geneva Congress was postponed until Aug. 1920.
By the time the Geneva Congress was held in Aug. 1920, the Second International had come to represent in practice the right wing of the International Labour movement, although still in its basis accepting all labour and socialist organizations. Its main strength lay in the British Labour party and the German Majority socialists, together with the parties of certain smaller countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Hungary. The official parties of America, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, the Balkans, Ukraine and Russia had left it, as had also the German Independent socialists, while of the British socialist organizations only the Fabian Society remained with it.
The Geneva Congress adopted for the first time a regular constitution for the International, and drew up a carefully worded programme on the economic and political side. This programme follows more or less the lines made familiar in England by Fabian socialism, together with the recognition of a large measure of workers' control in industry. The Geneva Congress further recommended that the Secretariat should be transferred to London; and the British section was invited to undertake the task of negotiating with national socialist and labour bodies not represented, in order to secure their adherence. A negotiating commission was accordingly set up in Nov. 1920, consisting of Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. J. H. Thomas, Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. H. Gosling.
The Third International.—The decision to found a new revolutionary International, in view of the failure of the old Second International under the test of war, was first definitely framed by the Russian Social Democratic party (Bolshevik) at their congress in 1915, and subsequently adopted, as has been related, by the Zimmerwaldian International Socialist Commission at Stockholm in 1917. In Jan. 1919, the invitation for the first congress of the new International was issued by the Russian Communist party (the name adopted by the Russian Bolsheviks after their revolution of Nov. 1917) together with representatives of other Communist parties. This inaugural congress was held at Moscow in March 1919, and was attended by the Russian Communist party, the Norwegian Labour party, the German Spartacusbund and other smaller parties and groups. The congress wound up the Zimmerwaldian Commission, whose secretary became the secretary of the new International, and appointed an executive to arrange for the next congress, to which was left the drafting of the full constitution and conditions of admission. In the meantime a manifesto was drawn up expounding the general principles of the new Communist International, and inviting the adhesion of the revolutionary movements of the world. A summary of the principles and programme of the Communist International, as expounded in their manifesto, is given in the article on Communism.
The first congress of the new International had been a hurried meeting with little pretence at a fully representative character. The policy of precipitating its foundation had been deliberately adopted in spite of criticism as a means of crystallizing the situation in the whole International Socialist movement. This object received a considerable degree of fulfilment. Within the next twelvemonth every party had to define its attitude in relation to the new issues, and a great shifting of the centre of gravity began in the whole International movement. Section after section left the Second International, and a slower, but steady, influx passed into the Third International. By the time of the Second Congress in Aug. 1920, accredited representatives attended from parties of varying size in nearly every country.
The Second Congress had to determine the constitution and conditions of admission of the new International. This raised a new problem. The effect of the world-wide movement towards the Third International had been to produce a series of demands for admission from parties which were not fully communist in character. This applied particularly to the applications of the larger parties, the parties of Italy, Germany (the Independent Socialists), France and America. Of these Italy had joined the Third International while retaining a small reformist section within its ranks; France, Germany and America were applying for admission, although all containing anti-communist sections. The danger was that the Communist International would be swamped and become like the old pre-war Second International. Accordingly severe measures were taken to stem the tide, and a series of 21 conditions of membership were drawn up to serve as a test to sift the genuine communists from the “centrists.” These measures produced the effect desired. The Italian communists broke away from their connexion with the reformist socialists (who were not themselves numerous, but received support from the majority of the party in the name of unity); the French and German parties came over only after a break with their right-wing minorities; the American communists, who were also in a majority in their party, but were expelled by the official right-wing minority, affiliated separately.
The statutes and 21 conditions of membership reveal the basis and organization of the Third International. The object of the organization is laid down as follows:—
The new International Association of Workers is established for the purpose of organizing common action between the workers of various countries who are striving towards a single aim; the overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of the dictatorship of the aroletariat and of the International Soviet Republic, the complete abolition of classes and the realization of socialism—as the first step to communist society.
In contrast with the pre-war International great stress is laid on international discipline. The World Congress is constituted as the supreme authority of the International, and is given power to confirm or revise the programme and policy of the national sections. In the intervals of the congresses this power is exercised by the International Executive, which has the right to issue obligatory instructions to the component organizations. In further contrast with the pre-war International, great stress is laid on the necessity for illegal work and the preparation for eventual armed conflict.
In addition to the statutes and conditions a series of theses were adopted by the Second Congress, outlining the communist policy and tactics in relation to Parliament, the trade unions, cooperative societies, national and colonial movements, etc. The statutes, conditions and theses, taken together, constitute the official statement of policy of the Communist International, which is held to be binding on all members.
The Vienna International.—While the issues of the Second and Third Internationals were agitating the socialist world, a number of parties which occupied a centre position endeavoured to start a new movement with a view to the reconstruction of the International. These parties had left the Second International, but were not prepared to enter the Third International. In Dec. 1920, a conference was held at Berne which made preparations for an inaugural congress of the new movement at Vienna in Feb. 1921. This congress was attended by the Austrian, Swiss and Hungarian parties, the British Independent Labour party, and the right-wing minorities of the French Socialists and the German Independent Socialists, the Russian Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, and one or two groups from other countries. An “International Working Union of Socialist Parties” was constituted, open to all parties not affiliated with either the Second or the Third International, and with the object of “unifying the activities of the affiliated parties, arranging common action, and promoting the establishment of an International which will embrace the whole revolutionary working class of the world.” A statement on the “Organization and Methods of the Class Struggle” was adopted, which insisted on the probable necessity of expecting the use of violent measures by the capitalist class, but claimed national autonomy for each party to determine its own method of action.
Thus, by the summer of 1921, there were in existence three Internationals claiming the allegiance of the labour and socialist movements of the world.
Bibliography.—No standard history exists of the Socialist International as a whole. The history of the Second International before the war can only be obtained from the International Socialist Congress Reports, and the Bulletin of the International Socialist Bureau. The International at the outbreak of war is dealt with in A. W. Humphrey's International Socialism and the War (1915) and W. E. Walling's The Socialists and the War (1915); and the story is carried down to 1917 in R. W. Postgate's The International during the War (1918). The International after the war is dealt with in R. Palme Dutt's The Two Internationals (1920), which goes up to the spring of 1920. For the Third International see the Theses and Statutes of the Communist International (English edition, 1921) and the monthly official journal, The Communist International. See also R. W. Postgate's The Workers' International (1920), and the articles in the Labour International Handbook (1921).
(R. P. D.)