Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume I


Written: 1919-1921.
Publisher: New Park, London 1973. [1*] Permission granted for use on the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive by Index Books, London, England. Originally published in Russian in 1924 as Pyat Let Kominterna by State Publishing House, Moscow.
Translated: John G. Wright & R. Chappell.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002, 2003.
Transcribed: Robert Barrois & David Walters.
HTML Markup: David Walters.
Proofreading: Einde O’Callaghan, January 2007.


Author’s 1924 Introduction

I. The First World Congress [1]

1. Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World

2. Report on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Red Army

3. Order of the Day Number 83 to the Red Army and Navy


II. From the First to the Second World Congress [2]

4. To Comrades of the Spartacus League

5. A Creeping Revolution

6. Great Days

7. En Route: Thoughts on the Progress of the Proletarian Revolution

8. French Socialism on the Eve of Revolution

9. Jean Longuet

10. On the Coming Congress of the Comintern


III. The Second World Congress [3]

11. Speech on Comrade Zinoviev’s Report on the Role of the Party

12. Manifesto of the Second World Congress

Part I

Part II


IV. From the Second to the Third World Congress [4]

13. On the Policy of the KAPD (Communist Workers Party of Germany)

14. Speech Delivered at the Second World Conference of Communist Women

15. Letter to Comrade Monatte

16. Letter to Comrades Cachin and Frossard

17. On L’Humanité, the Central Organ of the French Party


V. The Third World Congress [5]

18. The Red Army to the General Staff of the Revolution

19. Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International

Part I

Part II

20. Summary Speech

21. Theses of the Third World Congress on the International Situation and the Tasks of the Comintern

22. Speech on the Italian Question at the Third Congress of the Communist International

23. Speech on Comrade Radek’s Report on “Tactics of the Comintern” at the Third Congress

24. Speech on Comrade Lenin’s Report: “Tactics of the Russian Communist Party”


VI. From the Third to the Fourth World Congress [6] [2*]

25. The Main Lesson of the Third Congress

26. Report on “The Balance Sheet” of the Third Congress of the Communist International

27. Summary Speech


Towards the First World Congress

1. May Day and the International

2. To the Spartacus League of Germany and the Communist Party of German Austria

3. Order Out of Chaos

The First World Congress

4. Invitation to the First World Congress

From the First to the Second World Congress

5. A Letter to Our French Comrades

From the Second to the Third World Congress

6. A Letter to a French Syndicalist About the Communist Party

7. Vergeat, Lepetit and Lefebvre

8. The March Movement in Germany

9. The March Revolutionary Movement in Germany (Personal Notes)

10. May Day Manifesto of the ECCI

11. The Unemployed and the Trade Unions

Notes by TIA

1*. The 1973 New Park edition of Volume 1 of The First Five Years of the Communist International contained 11 documents that had not been included in the original Russian edition or in the original 1945 English translation by John G. Wright. They originate from Volume XIII of Trotsky’s Socheniya (Works), published in 1926 and were translated by R. Chappell. They have been included here as appendices.

The notes in the text stem from this edition (except where otherwise noted) – the wording is on occasion extremely polemical and sometimes new information has revealed inaccuracies. In these cases we have occasionally added a comment in square brackets which is clearly marked with the notation TIA.

2*. In the New Park edition this section is called After the Third Congress.

Editor’s Notes

1. The First Congress convened in Moscow, March 2-6, 1919, with 51 delegates present: 35 with decisive votes representing 17 countries; 16 with consultative votes representing 16 countries. Because of the Allied blockade not all those sent arrived. Thus the Italian Socialist Party and a number of oppositional groups in France, Great Britain and America were not represented at the Congress. One of the German delegates was arrested at the German border. Others suffered great hazards and arrived only after the Congress was already in session.

The agenda was as follows: (1) The Founding of the Third International; (2) Reports from Various Countries; (3) Platform of the Congress (reporters: Eberlein, Bukharin); (4) Bourgeois Democracy and the Proletarian Dictatorship (reporters: Lenin, Rakhia); (5) The Berne Conference and Our Attitude Toward Socialist Tendencies (reporters: Platten, Zinoviev); (6) The World Situation and the Policy of the Entente (reporters: Ossinsky, Platten); (7) Manifesto (reporter: Trotsky); (8) The White Terror (reporter: Sirola); (9) Election of the Bureau, and Other Organizational Questions.

On the organizational question, the Congress favored two directing organs: an Executive Committee to be composed of representatives from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Balkan Federation, Switzerland and Scandinavia; and a Bureau consisting of five members to be elected by the Executive Committee.

The elaboration of the statutes of the new International was laid over until the next Congress.

The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Chicherin and two alternates: Vorovsky and Ossinsky.

2. The interval between the First and Second Congress covers approximately 18 months from March 7, 1919 to July 18, 1920. This was the decisive period of the Civil War in Russia marked by the liquidation of Kolchak’s armies, the defeat of Denikin and the crushing of Yudenich’s second offensive against Petrograd (October 1919). The military danger to Soviet Russia was, however, far from liquidated. In March 1920 Poland resumed military operations, and by May Kiev was in Polish hands. By the time the Second Congress convened, the Red Army had passed to the counter-offensive, recapturing Kiev and marching into Poland, but suffering defeat at Warsaw just as the Second Congress concluded its work (August 1920).

These eighteen months marked at the same time the period of greatest postwar ferment in Europe. A great strike wave marked by uprisings swept over Europe. On March 21, 1919, the Soviet Republic was formed in Hungary (overthrown August 1, 1919).

On April 14, 1919, after an uprising in Munich, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was established, lasting until May 1 of the same year.

On June 28, 1919, the German delegation signed the Versailles Treaty. On July 31 the Weimar Republic was inaugurated in Germany.

November of that year marked another important victory for the bourgeois counter-revolution in the electoral triumph of the National Bloc in France.

In Germany the counter-revolution first attempted to pass to an open offensive in the early part of 1920 (Kapp-Lüttwitz putsch, March 12-19, 1920).

Throughout this period, however, the Communist International recorded major successes. In one country after another, sections of the world Communist movement were organized.

3. The Second World Congress took place from July 17 to August 7, 1920 The Congress opened its sessions in Petrograd where Lenin delivered his report on the world situation and the tasks of the Communist International. Subsequent sessions were held in Moscow from July 23 to August 6.

Despite the Allied blockade, delegates came to the Congress from Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Australia. In all, 37 countries were represented by 218 delegates of whom 169 had decisive votes and 49 consultative votes. The major reports on the Congress agenda were: Zinoviev’s report on the role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution (July 23); Lenin’s report on the national and colonial questions (July 26); Zinoviev’s report on the conditions of admission to the CI (July 29); Bukharin’s report on parliamentarianism (August 2); Radek’s report on the trade union movement (August 3); Zinoviev’s report on the conditions for the organization of Soviets (August 5); and Trotsky’s report on the Manifesto at the concluding session of August 7. Among the important discussions was that of August 6 devoted to the question of the entry of Communists into the British Labor Party. The Congress concluded its work by electing the Executive Committee.

The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by a large delegation consisting of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek, Bukharin, Dzerzhinsky, Rykov, Ryazanov, Tomsky, Krupskaya, Pokrovsky, Rudzutak, and others. (Stalin was so unimportant at the time that he was not included in the delegation.)

4. The interval from the Second to the Third Congress covered approximately 10 months from August 7, 1920 to June 22, 1921. In Soviet Russia it marked the concluding period of the Civil War, the definitive victory of the Red Army and the beginnings of the transition to a peacetime economy.

In March 1921, the Kronstadt mutiny occurred. After its liquidation the first steps were taken toward the New Economic Policy (NEP). The first trade agreements were made by the Soviet government with England (March 16, 1921) and with Germany (May 8, 1921).

In Europe the working class suffered a major defeat in Italy where the revolutionary movement reached its zenith in the seizure of factories, mills, and estates by the workers in the autumn of 1920 only to be betrayed by the treacherous SP leadership. Another defeat followed in Germany as a consequence of the March (1921) adventure, or the “March action.”

Despite the economic crisis which erupted in the capitalist world, the first signs of a temporary capitalist stabilization became manifest, necessitating an abrupt change of tactics by the Comintern on the world arena.

5. The Third Congress of the Comintern convened in Moscow from June 22 to July 12, 1921. The Congress began its sessions with 509 delegates representing 48 countries; 291 had decisive votes; 218 were consultative. Toward the close the number of delegates increased to 603.

Twenty-four full plenary sessions were held. The agenda was as follows: (1) Report of the ECCI (reporter: Zinoviev); (2) The World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the CI (reporter: Trotsky); (3) The German Communist Workers Party (KAPD); and the Italian Question; (4) The Tactics of the CI (reporter: Radek); (5) The Trade Union Question: a) The Red Trade Union International; b) The Struggle Against the Amsterdam International (reporters: Zinoviev, Heckert); (6) The Tactics of the Communist Party of Russia (reporter: Lenin); (7) The Youth Movement; (8) The Women's Movement (reporter: Clara Zetkin); (9) Communist Work in the Cooperatives; (10) The Organizational Structure of the Communist Parties and the Methods and Content of Their Work; (11) The Organizational Structure of the Comintern; (12) The Eastern Question; (13) Election of the ECCI.

The Russian Bolshevik Party was represented by 72 delegates, among them: Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, Bukharin, Rykov and others.

The “Left Communists” were very strongly represented and at one time even appeared to have a majority at the Congress. Lenin demonstratively announced that at this Congress he was with the “Right Wing.” The line of Lenin and Trotsky finally carried the day.

6. The documents which appear in this section actually belong with the material of the Third Congress inasmuch as the discussion at the Youth Congress represented a continuation of the controversy which was resolved by the Third World Congress. This, incidentally, explains certain repetitions in Trotsky’s speech and summary before the Youth Congress. The remaining documents appear in the second volume of this work.

Volume II

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 1.5.2007