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COMINTERN Communist International / Third International

The COMINTERN (Communist International) was a Soviet-controlled organization that conducted liaison with the national communist parties of various countries, including the United States, in order to further the cause of revolution. Moscow issued guidance, support, and orders to the parties through the apparatus of the COMINTERN. Also called the Comintern or Third International, it was founded in Moscow in March 1919 to coordinate the world communist movement. Within a few years, communist parties existed in nearly all the countries of Europe and by 1930 in most countries of the world. These generally small, often illegal parties looked to Comintern headquarters in Moscow for support and guidance until the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943.

Officially disbanded in 1943, the Comintern was replaced from 1947 to 1954 by the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau), in which only the Soviet and the ruling East European communist parties (except for Yugoslavia, which was expelled in 1948) and the French and the Italian communist parties were represented. The Cominform was dissolved in 1956.

1919-1922 - War Communism

Bolshevism calmly assumed wholesale class warfare of the most ferocious character on a world-wide scale for an indefinite period, as a normal phase of its development and as necessary for its success. George Frost Kennan noted that "The circumstances of the immediate post-revolution period - the existence in Russia of civil war and foreign intervention, together with the obvious fact that the Communists represented only a tiny minority of the Russian people - made the establishment of dictatorial power a necessity. The experiment with "war Communism" and the abrupt attempt to eliminate private production and trade had unfortunate economic consequences and caused further bitterness against the new revolutionary regime.... Their particular brand of fanaticism, unmodified by any of the Anglo-Saxon traditions of compromise, was too fierce and too jealous to envisage any permanent sharing of power. From the Russian-Asiatic world out of which they had emerged they carried with them a skepticism as to the possibilities ofpermanent and peaceful coexistence of rival forces. Easily persuaded of their own doctrinaire "rightness," they insisted on the submission or destruction of all competing power."

The responsible leaders of the Bolshevik regime frequently and openly boasted that they were willing to sign agreements and undertakings wilh foreign Powers while not having the slightest intention of observing such undertakings or carrying out such agreements. This attitude of disregard of obligations voluntarily entered into, they based upon the theory that no contract or agreement made with a non-Bolshevik Government can have any moral force for them.

The Bolshevik Government was itself subject to the control of a political faction with extensive international ramifications through the Third International, and this body, which is heavily fubstdiied by the Bolshevik Government from the public revenue of Russia, had for its openly avowed aim the promotion of Bolshevik revolutions throughout the world. Leaders of the Bolsheviki had boasted that their promise of non-interference with other nations would in no wise bind the agents of this body.

The Bolshevik triumph in Russia was really a powerful stimulant to the "world revolution," because it proved the ability of a determined, ruthless minority to impose its will upon a disorganized society devoid of capable leaders, and thus encouraged revolutionary minorities everywhere to hope that they might do the same thing-especially with the Russian backing upon which they could henceforth rely. As a matter of fact, Bolshevik revolutions had been tried in many lands since 1917, were actually successful for short periods in Hungary and Bavaria, and seemed certain to be attempted in the future, since in every part of the world Bolshevik agitation was persistently and insidiously going on.

The Soviet Government of Russia was not recognized by the United States because its leaders openly announced that they did not regard any agreements which they might make with non-Bolshevik governments as binding upon them and because it was known that the Soviet Government was subsidizing Bolshevik revolutions throughout the world.

1922-1928 - New Economic Policy

The New Economic Policy (NEP) lasted until 1928. It was in the NEP period that Chicherin persuaded most of the great powers and a good many small ones to recognize the Soviet Union. Soviet policy in this era was conducted on two levels: While Chicherin was seeking de jure recognition of the Soviet Union as a state of the traditional type, the Comintern, financed by, dominated by, and housed in Moscow, was striving to subvert the very governments that the Soviet Union was "coexisting" with.

1928-1935 - Third Period

Until the birth of the Popular Front, communists the world over lived in the so-called Third Period of Moscow's game: capitalism was presumably about to expire, and the faithful shouted ultra-revolutionary slogans. The Third Period was the policy adopted by the Comintern at the end of the Soviet Union's New Economic Policy in 1928, and remained in place until the adoption of the Popular Front policy in 1935. In the Soviet Union, the Communist leadership announced in 1928 the start of collectivization, which was essentially about establishing major state-run farming associations to always keep the public granaries full. The Third Period policy was based on Stalin's theory of class struggle in which the "First Period" that followed World War I saw the upsurge and defeat of the working class, and the "Second Period" was a time of capitalist consolidation. The Third Period was conceived by the Comintern in 1928 as the time for working class revolution.

1935-1939 - Popular Front

The Third Period policy came to an end with the inauguration of the Popular Front policy in 1935. The Seventh Congress of the Comintern, meeting in Moscow in July 1935 called for the establishment of a united front (Popular Front) with moderate socialists, liberals, and other political forces that resisted fascism and aggression. This step was a radical departure from the Comintern's earlier opposition to "reformist and bourgeois" parties.

Suddenly, orders came through to drop the revolutionary line and enter the citadels of "bourgeois democracy" in order to carry on a "war against fascism." The Comintern congress in Moscow adopted a policy towards a popular front against fascism and directed Communist movements around the world to collaborate with anti-fascist forces regardless of their orientation towards socialism. The Popular Fronts were the result of the widespread realization by the leftwing forces of the fact that the spread of fascism posed a deadly threat to democracy and the working movement. The socialists and communists formed a united workers' front which became the core of a broader-based coalition of democratic and antifascist forces. However, the traditional animosity existing between the socialists and communists was a big problem and was playing right into the hands of the fascists whose victory in Germany and their subsequent destruction of the communist and social-democratic parties there provided a horrifying vision of what this split might eventually lead to.

The 180 turn in the policy of the Comintern caused considerable confusion among those workers who had been drawn in by the rhetoric during the Third Period. During the 'Hate Week' in George Orwell's book 1984, the alliances have suddenly changed, but the speaker of the Inner Party not being put off by this in any way: "Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein had been at work!

Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible."

The order went forth to the proletariat to close up their ranks and present a common front against Capitalism and the bourgeoisie. Communists, non-Communists, Socialists, and Christian trade unionists are now urged to unite against the common foe. Those who had been anathematised as traitors to the Labor movement, as blacklegs, as tools of the capitalists because they refused to submit to Slav tyranny and allow their movement to be nobbled by Moscow, were invited to forget the past and join together in making a common front.

The stunned comrades dutifully put on neckties and proceeded to pass themselves off as liberals and progressives. Seemingly few outside the Communist Party knew what was going on. The professional red-baiters, more concerned with scaring additional funds out of frightened capitalists than with following Communist Party developments, had failed to take the hairpin turn from the Third Period into the Popular Front. They were furiously shadow-boxing, swinging over the communists' heads, hitting noncommunists in liberal and labor circles.

As the depression brought poverty, misery, and despair to millions of people, some of them turned to Communism. To them the economic systems of the western democracies did not seem to be fulfilling their promise or to hold out hope. Of the great powers only Great Britain, France, and the United States were able to avoid authoritarianism, and even in these countries revolution was avoided perhaps only because they were relatively rich and because leaders, like Franklin Roosevelt, held out hope and inspired confidence.

Popular Front governments came to power in France and Spain in 1936. On one hand, the introduction of the Popular Front strategy demonstrated Moscow's long-term commitment to cooperation with democracies. On the other hand, by promoting broad antifascist coalitions, it widened political support inside Western Europe for Soviet collective security initiatives.

A serious attempt to establish Marxian communism occurred in Spain in 1936. The communists had profited by their failures in Germany and Italy, and this later attempt was better organized. A major measure was to first prepare the way for revolution by removal by murder of probable competent opponents. Then revolt came, and had a temporary success. Property was seized and confiscated, owners were put to death, religion was persecuted. A 3-year civil war followed which was won by the establishment of a Dictatorship under General Franco, which is still in power and has completely suppressed communism. Portugal during this period was threatened with communism. It headed this off by the installation of a Dictatorship under Salazar. It too extinguished communism.

In the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, Stalin ordered the Comintern volunteers in Spain to adopt an extremely moderate, non-revolutionary line. Stalin tried to convince Britain and France to join in the struggle against Hitler. Without such an alliance, Soviet vital national interests were threatened. Communist ideology or Spanish democracy had little to do with it; the security of Soviet territory was what Stalin cared about most.

In March 1938, following the Anschluss (union) of Germany and Austria, and despite Western passivity, Soviet Foreign Ministare Maxim Litvinov declared the Soviet Union's readiness to begin discussions with other powers about practical measures to punish the aggressors. But Britain and France, hoping to appease German leader Adolf Hitler, failed to respond to the Soviet initiative. At that time, the utterly inept Soviet military faced abundant limitations, later displayed against the Finns during the Winter War (1939-1940). Throughout the Czechoslovak (Sudeten) Crisis of 1938, the Soviet government repeatedly affirmed its willingness to support all decisions and recommendations of the League of Nations to combat aggression and preserve peace. Critics of official British and French policy at the time, such as Winston Churchill and Joseph Paul-Boncour, insisted that unique opportunities to stop the Nazis were lost when the Soviet offers of cooperation were rebuffed. The years 1935-1939 were the period of anti-Fascism and the Popular Front, when Winston Churchill was the blue-eyed boy of the Daily Worker.

1939-1942 - Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Negotiations between the Soviets and the West dragged on during the summer, inconclusively. With the evident failure to to halt German aggression, Stalin removed Maxim Litvinov from the Foreign Ministry and ended the pro-Western policy identified with him.Stalin stopped excoriating Nazi Germany in 1939 because he couldn't get sufficient support from Britain and France to secure his western borders; he turned to Hitler to get a deal for the same end. This shift culminated in the Soviet-Nazi Pact of August 1939.Meanwhile, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop appeared in Moscow and was able to negotiate an agreement with Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov in a single day.

When Britain and France went to war against Germany the following month, the Soviet Union was already a virtual ally of the latter. General COMINTERN directives defined the war between Germany and the West as a basically imperialist conflict and appealed to the workers to refrain from any participation in military activities.

Stalin expected that a war that pitted France and Britain against Germany would turn into another costly bloodletting such as occurred on the Western Front during the Great War. Stalin believed this war would cause the collapse of social structures in those nations. Once they had ravaged their armies and caused unrest among their populations, these countries would have been ripe for the Red Army to assist revolutionary forces in seizing power. Stalin had not anticipated the rapidity with which the French collapsed in the face of the German onslaught in 1940.

1941-1945 - Great Patriotic War

After the invasion of the USSR by Germany in June 1941, the Soviets urged the CPUSA to agitate for US intervention in the war to save the USSR. This was a reversal of position for the American Communists who had opposed any potential intervention after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was greeted with joy by the CPUSA, whichforesaw salvation for the USSR, by the US declaration of war against Germany and Japan. From this point on, the American Communist Party engaged in what was known as the "united front" effort. This meant, at least publicly, dropping anti-Americanrhetoric and actions. Strikes in defense-related sectors were discouraged. However, Soviet espionage and the CPUSA's role in supporting those activities never was suspended, even though the American Communist Party went through the charade of disbanding and renaming itself the Communist Political Association. Now, th emotivation for participating in espionage was "fighting facism."

1943 - The End of the COMINTERN

Stalin publicly disbanded the COMINTERN in 1943. The question of how the apparatus and the whole mechanism of directing Communist parties should go on functioning was discussed at a meeting between Georgi Dimitrov and Joseph Stalin on June 12, 1943. The decision was made to set up an International Information Department (IID) at the CPSU(B) CC and entrust it with directing anti-fascist committees, illegal national broadcasting, links with foreign countries, the SUpress news agency and the Foreign Languages Publishing House. The department under Dimitrov retained all the services of the dissolved Comintern. They were disguised as institutes bearing numbers instead of names. The Comintern's successor also retained all foreign communication posts.

A Moscow message to all stations on 12 September 1943, message number 142, relating to this event is one of the most interesting and historically important messages in the enter corpus of VENONA translations. This message clearly discloses the KGB's connection to the COMINTERN and to the national Communist parties. The message details instructions for handling intelligence sources within the Communist Party after the disestablishment of the COMINTERN.

After the end of World War II, the alliance between the United States and USSR quickly faded. The CPUSA reconstituted itself and resumed its strident pro-Moscow anti-US stance. The era of the united front was over. On Moscow's orders, the head of the CPUSA, Earl Browder, was dumped. His crime had been to follow Moscow's orders in 1941 and "disband" the party in a show of unity with the USGovernment. Now, that policy was in disrepute, and he had to go. The Soviet Union's actions in Eastern Europein establishing subservient puppet regimes increased tensions with the United States.




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