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The Communist Youth International

A Survey of Comintern Auxiliary Organizations, Part 3

An annotated collection of documents of the Communist Youth International, edited by Mike Taber, is in preparation as part of the Comintern Publishing Project, with the goal of publication by Brill and Haymarket Books in 2023.

The Comintern’s youth wing, sometimes referred to by its Russian acronym, KIM, was the direct continuation of the International Union of Socialist Youth Organization founded in 1907 under the aegis of the Second International.

When the outbreak of war in 1914 shattered the world socialist movement, the IUSYO soon reconstituted itself at a gathering in Switzerland in March 1915 on the basis of militant opposition to the imperialist war. For its appeal, see “1915: The Youth Challenge to War.”[1] The ISUYO elected the German youth leader Willi Münzenberg as its international secretary and launched a journal, Jugend-Internationale. In 1917 the youth International and its journal rallied to support the Soviet government in Russia.

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Pan-Africanism and Communism: An Interview with Hakim Adi

The following interview of Hakim Adi by Selim Nadi first appeared in Salvage.Zone on March 2, 2018, and is reposted by permission. Hakim Adi is known globally as a historian and exponent of African liberation. He is author of the book “Pan-Africanism and Communism” (Africa World Press). Subheads have been added by the blog editor.

Hakim Adi

For another look at these issues, see “The Long March to Post-Capitalist Transition: Pan-Africanist Perspectives,” by Ameth Lô.

By Hakim Adi and Selim Nadi

Both an Ideology and a Movement

Selim Nadi: How would you define Pan-Africanism?

Hakim Adi: Pan-Africanism can be considered both an ideology and a movement that grew out of the common struggles of those of African descent both in Africa and in the African diaspora against enslavement, colonial rule and the accompanying anti-African racism and various forms of Eurocentrism.

The phrases Pan-African and Pan-Africanism did not emerge until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but an embryonic form of Pan-Africanism was in evidence in the eighteenth century with such abolitionist organisations as the British-based Sons of Africa, led by former enslaved Africans such as Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano, which recognised the needs to Africans to unite together for common aims.

Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797)

Pan-Africanism has assumed different forms at different times, but its key feature is a recognition that Africans, those from the continent and in the diaspora, face common forms of oppression, are engaged in a common struggle for liberation and therefore share a common destiny. Pan-Africanism therefore recognises the need for the unity of Africans, in order to achieve liberation, but also the desirability of the unity of continental Africa. It generally embraces the view that Africans in the diaspora share a common origin with those in the continent and recognises that those in the diaspora are entitled to return to their homeland.

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The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU)

A Survey of Comintern Auxiliary Organizations, Part 2

RILU logo

By John Riddell: “In the 1920s, the Red International of Labour Unions was by far the most powerful and important of the auxiliary organizations related to the Comintern,” according to its historian, Reiner Tosstorff.[1] E.H. Carr goes further, suggesting that the Red International “sometimes seemed to rival the Communist International itself in importance.”[2]

The Red Trade Union International, often referred to by both the acronym RILU or the Russian short form, Profintern, unified several distinct threads of the pre-1917 labour movement. RILU sought to incorporate three revolutionary traditions: revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism, revolutionary oppositionists in the pro-Social Democratic unions, and the trade-union expression of anti-colonial freedom movements.


Survey of Comintern Auxiliary Organizations: Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Red International of Labour Unions (RILU or Profintern).
  3. Communist Youth International (KIM)
  4. Communist Women’s Movement
  5. International Workers’ Relief (MRP)
  6. International Red Aid (MOPR)
  7. Communist Work in Cooperatives
  8. Red Sport International (Sportintern)
  9. Peasant International (Krestintern)

The most authoritative syndicalist currents invited to join RILU were the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), based in the U.S. but with branches in other English-speaking countries; the revolutionary syndicalists who would soon form the Unitary General Confederation of Labor (CGTU) in France; and the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) in Spain. The IWW never joined RILU, but a large body of syndicalists in France, Spain, and other countries did so.

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Comintern Outreach: The Auxiliary Organizations

Part 1: Introduction

By John Riddell: Clustered around the early Communist International’s world congresses were gatherings of an array of related organizations, ranging from the massive Red International of Trade Unions (RILU) to a small gathering of Proletarian Culture (Proletkult) enthusiasts.

These auxiliary bodies greatly expanded the Comintern’s influence in the working class and beyond, establishing a presence in diverse sectors of cultural life, broadening the scope of its global campaigns, and providing an channel for increased recruitment.

In this regard, the Comintern reproduced the approach of many parties in the pre-1914 Second International, and particularly that of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Indeed, the youth and women’s affiliates of the Comintern had actually been founded as part of the older International.

The Comintern Publishing Project, initiated by John Riddell and now directed by Mike Taber, includes three volumes of annotated documents on auxiliary organizations, all now in preparation, covering the Communist Women’s Movement (CWM), the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU), and, the Communist Youth International (CYI).

The present survey will provide brief overviews of eight of the Comintern’s auxiliary organizations, focusing on its opening years, 1917-24. This list is far from exhaustive. The international Proletkult initiative is cited below; a report on the International Union of War Veterans will appear in the Publishing Project’s forthcoming volume on the trade union international. The most comprehensive treatment of this topic remains that found in E.H. Carr’s monumental history of the Russian revolution (The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 3, chapter 30; Socialism in One Country, vol. 3, chapters 44 and 45).

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‘Meticulous Research and Clarity’

A Review: ‘The Communist Movement at a Crossroads

The newly available records of the Comintern Executive Committee from 1922-23 show the importance of the organisation before its later Stalinization, argues Chris Bambery.

By Chris Bambery: One of the great successes of the neoliberal offensive we have been living under for four decades is the effective removal of the 1917 Russian Revolution as a source of inspiration for those looking to change the world.


The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923, ed. Mike Taber, trans. John Riddell (Haymarket Books, 2019, 796pp.


True, the lazy idea that Lenin led to Stalin was already around, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union it became the dominant narrative.

That Stalin would have had anyone who wrote a pamphlet like Lenin’s State and Revolution under his rule shot is neither here nor there. Nor that Trotsky, the second figure in the October Revolution, led a fight against the coming to power of Stalin and then the creation of a dreadful dictatorship on the basis of defending the Bolshevik tradition, a fight involving tens of thousands of party members who would go onto the camps and a death sentence.

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A Socialist Woman’s Experience with Sexism

By Suzanne Weiss: The following study was first published in ‘Against the Current,’ March-April 2021. It is reposted with permission from http://suzanneberlinerweiss.com.

Contents:

  1. Barriers to Women’s Political Participation
  2. Women in Party Controversies
  3. A Transformative Feminist Radicalization
  4. My Party Loses Its Way

1. Barriers to Women’s Political Participation

From its beginnings in the 1800s, modern socialism has embraced equality and liberation for women. The socialist movement has made a major contribution to political, cultural, and intellectual changes challenging women’s second-class status. For many women, joining a socialist movement opened the road to developing their talents, achieving social influence, and contributing to social change.

At first, the socialist movement was almost entirely male. Beginning in the late 1800s, women socialists played an increasing role, including in leadership positions. Although few in number, their involvement ran far ahead of women’s participation in mainstream political life.

During the early years of my socialist activity, the Second Wave of feminism brought large numbers of women into leadership positions in the socialist movement as in political life as a whole. Nonetheless, all socialist groups and their members carry, to varying degrees, the imprint of the sexist world in which they exist. Women in the socialist movement face continuing barriers, some specific to these groups.

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Second-Wave Feminism: Accomplishments and Lessons

The following article is reprinted from “Against the Current,” no. 211 (March/April 2021)  with kind permission of ATC and Nancy Rosenstock.

By Nancy Rosenstock: August 26, 1970 marked the public emergence of second-wave feminism, coming 50 years after the winning of women’s suffrage.

The women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s had a profound effect on society. It also had a profound effect on those of us who were a part of it. Working collectively for women’s liberation, reveling in the joy and sisterhood that comes from that, was a life-changing experience.

I had the good fortune to be one of those women, as a member of Boston Female Liberation — one of the first and most widely respected radical feminist organizations of that time. I was also on the national staff of the Women’s National Abortion Action Coalition (WONAAC) in 1971.

August 26, 1970. New York City. Fifty thousand answered the call put out from a coalition of 54 groups. Photo by Howard Petrick

What is second-wave feminism? What did it accomplish? What can a new generation learn from it?

Coming on the heels of the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement, women began to fight for their rights as part of a broader radicalization of youth that was unfolding, starting in the late 1960s.

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Larry Nozaki: Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary

The following three reminiscences was sent out by Georgina Cordoba to many of Larry Nozaki’s friends across the country. — JR

By Georgina Cordoba: Sadly, Larry Nozaki (1940-2020) died in Surrey BC on December 5, 2020.

Born in 1940, Larry was long a member of the League for Socialist Action (LSA) Vancouver Branch, and visited Toronto on a number of occasions. He was also an important contributor to the RSVP (Revolutionary Socialist Video Project) being compiled by Doug Williams.  

Below is a photo of Larry, and attached remembrances by his cousin and others who remember Larry, his life, and his contributions to revolutionary socialism:  

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In Memory of Ernie Tate (1934-2021)

A Life of Revolutionary Activism

By John Riddell, February 13, 2021: The socialist movement lost an outstanding educator and organizer with the passing of Ernest (Ernie) Tate in Toronto on 5 February. An outstanding partisan of global anti-imperialist solidarity, Ernie also contributed, with his partner Jess MacKenzie, to building revolutionary Marxist groups and to promoting socialist unity in Canada and Britain.

Raised in an impoverished working-class community in Belfast, Ernie left school at age 14, taking a job at Belfast Mills as apprentice machine attendant. An avid reader and a rebel at heart, Ernie sympathized – unusually, given his Protestant background – with the Irish republican movement.

During a youthful jaunt through France in 1954, Ernie was deeply impressed by the mass solidarity actions celebrating the victory of Vietnamese freedom fighters in Dien Bien Phu. The following year, Ernie took the path of so many of his countrymen and emigrated, settling in Toronto.

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Two Months That Set a New ‘Normal’ in U.S. Bourgeois Politics

The following text is reprinted with permission from World-Outlook, a significant new voice of revolutionary Marxism in the United States. The many comments submitted on this article, available at World Outlook, are worth checking out. World-Outlook is edited by Argiris Malapanis, Geoff Mirelowitz, and Francisco Picado.

By Argiris Malapanis and Geoff Mirelowitz:February 3, 2021—In the article titled “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published January 13 by World-Outlook.com, we described the January 6 rightist mob attack on the U.S. capitol as the culminating step in a series of developments that posed serious dangers to civil liberties and the working class.

Trump supporters erected wooden gallows near Capitol reflecting pool during January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., where the former U.S. president pushed his “Stop the Steal” campaign and incited the attack on the Capitol. The noose is a symbol of the lynching of African Americans. (Photo: Shay Horse/Nurphoto)

These events, we said, “indicate that a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes at least considered sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers. One who would not act as a servant of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but who would instead be anointed to ‘rescue the nation,’ in order to finally ‘make America great again.’ This is what we mean by the term ‘Bonapartism.’” [1]

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How Pioneer Communists Assessed the Russian Soviet Republic

The following text is the second-last of a series of posts analyzing the early Communist International, which are listed at ‘Lenin’s Comintern Revisited.’

Contents

  1. Resisting Imperialist Intervention
  2. Correcting Colonialist Abuses of Soviet Power
  3. Weighing the New Economic Policy
  4. Providing Material Aid to Soviet Republic
  5. Parrying a Social-Democratic Intrusion
  6. Debating the New Economic Policy

By John Riddell: The Communist International (or Comintern) was founded in Moscow in 1919, with the goal of helping to extend the socialist revolution that had taken place in Russia across Europe and around the world.  

Emblem of Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic

The Russian Communist (Bolshevik) party that had led in establishing Soviet power was respected in the International as a prime source of strategic and tactical guidance. Yet the Comintern’s statutes did not accord any primacy to the Russian Communist Party (RCP). Like other Comintern sections, the Russian party was answerable to the International’s world congresses.

Comintern gatherings frequently discussed developments in Soviet Russia, organized material and political aid to the Soviet republic, and, on one occasion, proposed reforms to the Soviet structures that were rapidly implemented. Let us consider six significant occasions during Lenin’s lifetime when non-Russian Comintern parties discussed or influenced political and social issues in the Russian Soviet republic.

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Key Lessons of Trump’s Failed Insurrection

A Socialist Analysis

Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard write regularly for Australia-based Green Left Weekly.

For a related socialist interpretation, see “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” by Geoff Mirelowitz, Argiris Malapanis, and Francisco Picado, on World-Outlook.com.

By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard: The most important aspect of the January 6 march on the Capitol building, where both the House of Representatives and the Senate meet and where the Congress people have their offices, and the subsequent violent occupation of the building, was its open display of white supremacy.

It was organized and led by the white supremacist president of the United States, Donald Trump.

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Charting New Paths: The Comintern in 1922-1923

A review of The Communist Movement at a Crossroads

The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923, edited by Mike Taber; translated by John Riddell, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2019, 796 pages, $50. Reposted from Against the Current #210 with permission from Tom Twiss and ATC.

By Tom Twiss: In 1922-1923 the Communist International found itself in shifting terrain that presented fresh opportunities and new dangers. The clearing of smoke from European battlefields and barricades had revealed devastated economies and exhausted workers.Years of war and revolution had left European workers exhausted. But by 1922 they were slowly regaining their combativeness in the face of mounting pressure from their ruling classes

Following two years of fascist terror in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s appointment as prime minister was stimulating the spread of similar movements throughout Europe.

Meanwhile, in the heartland of the revolution, Lenin’s incapacitation by strokes was opening a struggle for leadership that would lead to sharp reversals of Comintern policy.

In multiple ways then The Communist Movement at a Crossroads is a highly appropriate title for a published collection of Comintern materials from these years. This volume, edited by Mike Taber and translated by John Riddell, is the latest addition to the monumental multi-volume series, “The Communist International Publishing Project,” with titles published by Pathfinder Press, Brill, Haymarket and LeftWord Books.(1)

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How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups

Lessons from the Early Communist International

Part One: The Kornilov and Kapp Putsches

(See also Part 2: “Toward a United Front Against Fascismand 
Part 3: “1920: German Workers Foil a Rightist Putsch)

By John Riddell: Parliaments and elections are no guarantee of democratic rights and fair treatment for working people. Capitalist forces displeased with an electoral outcome are all too likely to take direct action to impose their will, whether by financial manipulations, economic blockades, or military coups.

Even apparently stable parliamentary regimes in dominant countries can be challenged in this way. So it was that a military revolt brought down the French Fourth Republic in 1958 and, in 2020-21, Donald Trump mounted a campaign including an apparent coup attempt aiming to overturn the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Socialists are challenged to actively oppose rightist coup attempts without lending support to any wing of the ruling capitalist class.

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Toward a United Front Against Fascism

How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups: Part 2

See also Part 1: “How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups: The Kornilov and Kapp Putschesand Part 3: “1920: German Workers Foil a Rightist Putsch” 

By 1920, The working-class movement urgently needed to find a road to effective resistance to such rightist threats, including when these assaults took the form of a military coup replacing one capitalist government with another.

The initiative for united working-class action came from the Communists in Germany (see “The Origins of United Front Policy”). On 8 January 1921 the KPD addressed an open letter to all other major workers’ organizations, proposing common action around nine demands, representing goals that the entire workers’ movement held in common. The first two goals set the tone: wage struggles on behalf of all workers and increased pensions. One of the demands addressed the threat from far-right enemies of the Weimar Republic:

7. Disarmament and dissolution of armed bourgeois detachments and formation of workers’ self-defence organisations.[i]

Conceptually, the Open Letter was in one sense a return to the spirit of the Erfurt Program rejected by Rosa Luxemburg in December 1918. It offered a “minimum program” of immediate goals to be set alongside the revolutionary objective of overthrowing capitalist rule and establishing a government of workers’ councils. But the Open Letter posed the action program in a novel way – as a platform for an alliance of all major workers’ organizations.

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