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COMINTERN Early Developments

It is difficult to recall the name of another socio-political organization of the first half of the 20th century, which would not be associated with the activities of Soviet foreign intelligence as often as the Comintern. Many documents of the Communist International - an organization created on the initiative of VI. Lenin in 1919 and then united the Communist Parties for the struggle "for the victory of the world revolution," objectively gave grounds for such statements. The resolution on the world historical significance of the victory of socialism in the USSR, adopted in 1935 by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, stated that "... the assistance of the USSR, its defense and the promotion of victory over all its enemies must determine the actions of each revolutionary organization of the proletariat, every socialist, a non-Party worker, a working peasant, every honest intellectual and democrat."

Contrary to the expectations of Marx, communism did not flourish in the countries that were the most advanced in industrialism, but in those regions that were industrially backward. It found a fertile field in Russia, probably because of the maladjustment there of what might be called a culture lag. In the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, the Russian people were enjoying none of the increasing comforts of life and political and civil liberties that their industrialized neighbors in Central and Western Europe were in varying degrees attaining. Many Russians had been freed from bondage only recently, and most of them tilled the soil in brutal poverty. Over them was a haughty, insecure, and jealous aristocracy clustering around an autocratic Tsar. Industrialization did not begin to appear until the last decade of the Nineteenth Century and then only slowly.

In the period following World War I, Marxist revolutions and leftist agitation that spread to virtually all countries shook Europe and the United States. These followers who believed that this revolution would come gradually and peacefully generally retained the name Socialist. Those followers who believed the revolution should and would come quickly and violently, because the capitalists would not willingly give up the means of production and their power, came to be called Communists.

Communists of the Soviet Union organized a Third International of Communist parties - the First and Second Internationals being Socialist. To this Third International, or Comintern, to use another name, was assigned the responsibility for revolutions in other countries. The threat of world revolution frightened many western peoples, especially during the depression when there was so much dissatisfaction with existing governments. In words which Marx had once used, "a spectre" was "haunting Europe-the spectre of Communism." For many Americans as well as Europeans - including later the Communists themselves - the successor to Lenin, Josef Stalin, became the symbol of authoritarian rule based on fear and force.

Lenin, it will be recalled, was an apostle of world revolution. Trotsky was even more evangelical and uncompromising on this point than Lenin. However, Stalin was more interested in making communism a practical success in Russia. To accomplish this, he was willing and in fact sought diligently to establish friendly diplomatic and commercial relations with the capitalistic world. This was called the policy of "Communism in one country." Stalin showed little interest in the Comintern.

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 at 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 arc striving towards a single aim; the overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the International Soviet Republic, the complete abolition of classes and the realization of socialism - as the first step to communist society."

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 Comintern was founded in a period of a high tide of revolution in Europe and amid the struggle against the revisionism of the Second International. Owing to the historical conditions at that time, the Comintern organization had two important characteristics.

The first characteristic was that the Bolshevik Party enjoyed high prestige in this organization, and the Bolshevik Party's experience became the "model" for the parties of various countries to study. Following the consolidation of Soviet politicalpower and the development of the cause of building the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union became "the core of the proletariat in various countries andthe center of the international communist revolution."

The second characteristic was that the Comintern was a tight and highly concentrated organization, and in reality it was a united communist party of a global nature. In contrast with the pre-war International great stress was laid on international discipline. The World Congress was constituted as the supreme authority of the International, and given power to confirm or revise the program and policy of the national sections. In the intervals of the congresses this power was exercised by the International Executive, which had the right to issue obligatory instructions to the component organizations. In further contrast with the pre-war International, great stress was laid on the necessity for illegal work and the preparation for eventual armed conflict. Its constitution clearly stipulated: Any country's party that joins the Comintern is the branch of the latter; the permanent leading Executive Committee of the Comintern issued instructions to its branches, supervised their activities, and if it discovered that a subordinate branch had violated its programs or resolutions it had the power to annul the branch's decisions, and can even expel the entire branch or some of its members from the Comintern.

The Soviet conspiratorial heritage or "tradition of konspiratsya" was a principal factor in the successes of the COMINTERN and intelligence services operations - is no doubt true in a qualified sense. The services did get up to speed quickly under the Bolsheviks, but the success of operations over the longer term was no better because of the heritage.

Head of the International Affairs of the Comintern Joseph (Osip) Aronovich Pyatnitsky (Tarshis) - a professional revolutionary. He began his political career with the illegal transportation of literature published by a group of Lenin, from Switzerland to Russia on the eve of the first Russian revolution of 1905.

Osip Pyatnitsky was called "old man" for his eyes, although he was not even fifty. Pyatnitsky looked much older than his years. He was uncommunicative, unsmiling, and even harsh, and often seemed rude and unapproachable. But those who communicated with him every day for work, felt in him a completely different, sincere person and talked about him, usually leading the German proverb about the "golden guy under the rough skin."

Osip Pyatnitsky was difficult to suspect of insincerity or opportunism. He believed in the world communist idea, exerted a lot of effort to make the work of the Comintern and its foreign apparatus as effective as possible. Osip Pyatnitsky knew all the leaders of the international communist movement. He regularly met with them during the work of the congresses of the Comintern and in his office in the House of the Comintern.

Pyatnitsky was shot in Moscow as a "German spy" in 1938 during the mass "purges" of revolutionaries of the Leninist school.

The case of Pyatnitsky, "closed", it would seem, with his death, unexpectedly again "opened" at the end of the war. Soviet counterintelligence interrogated the officer of the Gestapo, a certain Heinz Pannwitz, who at one time conducted the case of the "Red Chapel". It became known from him that even before Germany's attack on the USSR, the Gestapo used false documents more than once to discredit prominent Soviet military leaders and politicians. He admitted that he personally took part in the preparation of such documents, in particular, against Pyatnitsky.

The Nazis intended in this way to use the reigning Soviet spy to create a "German agent" who allegedly made his way into the leading party leadership. But why did they choose exactly Pyatnitsky? For a very simple reason: the Germans knew that through Pyatnitsky they would strike at the whole administration of the Comintern's staff, which would surely be destroyed.

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Page last modified: 14-01-2018 18:40:04 ZULU