Marie Louise Berneri – Record of the Third International
The Anarchist Library
Title: Record of the Third International
Notes: Scanned from original.
Source: Selection 15 in Neither East Nor West: Selected Writings by Marie Louise Berneri. London, 1952. Published for the Marie Louise Berneri Memorial Committee by Freedom Press (pp. 60-64)
After the collapse of the Second International at the outbreak of war in 1914, but before the Russian Revolution, Lenin had suggested the formation of a new International of revolutionary socialist groups who opposed the war on the grounds of class struggle, but it was not until 1919 that the Third International was formed in Moscow. From the start it was made clear that the new International was to be dominated by the Bolsheviks, and for this reason it was opposed by many among the Marxists, including Rosa Luxembourg. She sent Eberlein as German delegate to the preliminary conference with instructions to vote against the formation of such an International. But before the conference began Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht had been murdered and Eberlein, under pressure, withdrew his opposition.
Affiliation to the International was conditional on absolute acceptance of the famous 21 points. These made the 3rd International the most centralised authoritarian body ever formed. Every party which joined had to submit its programme for the approval of the Executive Committee in Moscow, (Point 15), while Point 16 laid it down that decisions of not only world congresses but also of the Executive Committee, should overrule decisions of the national parties. Furthermore, the international structure of the national Communist Parties was prescribed. Hence by its very constitution the national C.P.s were absolutely tied to Moscow. Right from the beginning the Bolsheviks would draft decisions for these parties and require their leaders" merely to sign on the dotted line.
That absolute control over Communist Parties in all countries was Lenin’s aim is shown clearly by this constitution. But it was also shown in practice. Independent revolutionists who refused to submit to the dictatorship of Moscow were discredited by all kinds of calumnies, while the Comintern welcomed all kinds of servile place hunters. One of the most glaring examples is that of the French Communist Marcel Cachin. His case also shows to what extent the securing of power in Russia had made Lenin modify his original aim of an international of revolutionary organisations which had opposed the war.
In 1914 Cachin had been one of the most violently patriotic of the French Right Wing Socialists. He had acted as agent of the Allied governments in making overtures to Mussolini to induce him to come out in the Socialist paper Avanti in support of the Allies. Later, Cachin had been sent by the French Government to persuade the Russian workers to continue the war. Cachin was nevertheless appointed leader of the French C.P., and in 1921 was made a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
The authoritarianism of the Comintern and the dishonest methods it employed, not only attracted the most servile and careerist elements in the working-class movements, but thoroughly disgusted the genuine, sincere revolutionaries. The Italian socialist Serrati refused to commit the Italian Party to the decisions of a handful of Russians in Moscow: he was vilified with every kind of calumny. In a letter to Lenin, written in 1920, he declared:
"Your party has six times as many members now as before the Revolution, but notwithstanding the strict discipline and frequent purges, it has not gained much as far as quality is concerned. Your ranks have been joined by all the slavish elements who always serve the powerful. These elements constitute a blind and cruel bureaucracy which is creating new privileges in Soviet Russia. Those elements which became revolutionary on the day after the Revolution have made of the Proletarian Revolution which cost the masses so much suffering, a source of enjoyment and domination." 
The effect of this extreme centralisation coupled with attacks on all independent revolutionists who refused to be dominated by the Bolsheviks, was to demoralise the revolutionary movements all over the world.
Lenin justified the structure and behaviour of the Comintern on the grounds of the "necessity for stern discipline for the bringing about of the revolution". A brief survey of its activity during the major revolutionary crisis of the past two decades will suffice to show how it worked in practice.
In 1923 German capitalism was tottering from the repercussions of the war and the inflation. In this most important of potential revolutionary situations the policy of the Comintern was expressed in Stalin’s letter to Bukharin and Zinoviev: "In my opinion the Germans must be curbed, and not pushed on." The Executive Committee ordered the German Communist leader, Brandler, at this time when Governmental authority was held in contempt by the German workers, actually to enter the Social Democratic Government of Saxony.
In 1927 revolutionary feeling was so high in China that the peasants in many districts expropriated the land and formed peasant soviets. At the same time the industrial workers carried out the most militant strikes in the principal cities. The Comintern ordered the Chinese Communists to discourage the formation of soviets, and to bury their arms. In this way it disarmed the revolutionists and abandoned them to the tender mercies of Chiang Kai-Shek to be literally massacred. These moves of the Comintern won the approval of the capitalist countries and offered prospects of fruitful collaboration with Stalin. The American ex-Ambassador to Russia, J. Davies, declared recently: