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New Comintern volume presents debates on United Front, fascism

June 28, 2018

Cover Brill
The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922–1923

A further volume has been published in the 35-year effort to make available to new generations the record of the Communist International (Comintern) in Lenin’s time. “The Communist Movement at a Crossroads” presents the world movement’s main discussions of the united front policy and resistance to the rise of fascism.

The 796-page book, edited by Mike Taber and translated by John Riddell, has just been released by the Historical Materialism Book Series, and is now available in a library edition in hardback from Brill. A less-expensive paperback edition will be published next year by Haymarket Books.

The new volume includes the proceedings and resolutions of the three enlarged executive committee plenums of 1922–23 — meetings that Comintern leaders sometimes referred to as “mini-congresses.”  Most of the material in this volume appears here in English for the first time.

The main political theme of these plenums was the question of the united front. In December 1921 the Comintern proposed the united-front perspective for Communist parties around the world in response to the world capitalist offensive. Presented initially as a tactical maneuver, the united front quickly assumed a broader strategic character.

The first enlarged plenum of February-March 1922 adopted the new policy. Vigorous opposition was openly expressed, primarily by leaders of the Communist parties in France, Italy, and Spain. A free and open debate ensued, with important contributions by Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Karl Radek, Clara Zetkin, and others.

The second enlarged plenum of June 1922 drew a balance sheet of the initial united front experiences. Special importance was given to the April 1922 Berlin Conference of the Three Internationals (Second International, Vienna Union, Comintern). Central Comintern leaders actively participated in this conference, receiving detailed advice and guidance from Lenin.

The third enlarged plenum of June 1923 also discussed the united front, but it took up several other important topics. This meeting was the scene of the first serious discussion in the history of the Marxist movement analyzing fascism and the struggle against it, based on a report and resolution prepared by Clara Zetkin. Important discussion also took place on the workers’ government, centralism, religion, the national question, party-building challenges, and more.

At all of these plenums, discussions occurred on the problems of individual Communist parties, particularly those of France, Czechoslovakia, and Norway. Recommendations and guidelines were voted on by the delegates. But despite the oft-circulated claim about “orders from Moscow,” readers will find little evidence that such firm instructions existed in the Comintern of 1922–23.

To propose the book for purchase by your local library, use information at:

This volume, and the two previous ones published by the HM Book Series, stands on the shoulders of the series launched by Pathfinder Press in 1983 under the editorship of John Riddell. The seven earlier volumes are:

The effort to publish the record of the Communist International under Lenin is continuing. The next volume will take up the Communist Women’s Movement.


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