International Working-Class Movement

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

International Working-Class Movement


the struggle of the working class for the abolition of capitalism and the creation of a communist society, for the everyday economic, political, and cultural interests of the workers, and for the general democratic rights and needs of the working people. The international working-class movement includes the activities of working-class political parties, trade unions, and other workers’ organizations. The fundamental interests of the working class are most consistently expressed by the Marxist-Leninist parties.

Historically, two basic trends have evolved in the international working-class movement—the revolutionary and the reformist. The revolutionary trend, which is opposed to reformism and various leftist adventurist currents, has become dominant or is becoming so in an increasing number of countries. Among the most important conditions for the successful development of the international working-class movement are united ranks, united action by its organizations, and the assimilation, creative development, and application of the theory of scientific communism. Also of importance for the movement’s development are the ability to play the leading role in the revolutionary movement and loyalty to the principle of proletarian internationalism. This principle was clearly and concisely stated in the slogan formulated by Marx and Engels—“Workers of the world, unite!”

The international working-class movement is objectively linked with the democratic (and, at the present stage, antimonopoly) movement of the peasantry, office employees, intellectuals, and artisans and with the struggle against militarism, national oppression, and wars of conquest and in defense of peoples who are the victims of imperialist aggression.

Support from the international working-class movement strengthens the anti-imperialist national liberation movement, which is an essential component of the world revolutionary process.

The movement has achieved successes of worldwide historical importance in the victory of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, the building of socialism in the USSR, the formation of the world socialist system, and the development of the world communist movement, which is active in 89 countries, including 75 nonsocialist countries. In Western Europe there are 19 Communist parties; in North and South America, 25; and in Asia, Africa, and Australia, 31. The strength of the Communist parties exceeded 60 million members in 1976. In the nonsocialist countries the Communist parties have 4 million members but draw more than 40 million votes, and the number of votes continues to grow. Since World War II the international working-class movement has been one of the most important factors accelerating the collapse of the colonial system of imperialism.

The international working-class movement during the steady development of capitalism (from the 1830’s and 1840’s to 1871). The 1830’s and 1840’s were marked by the first essentially political protests of the proletariat—the Lyon uprisings of 1831 and 1834, the revolt of the Silesian weavers (1844), and especially Chartism, which Lenin defined as “the first broad, truly mass, and politically organized proletarian revolutionary movement” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, p. 305). These uprisings showed that the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie had come to the fore in the most developed countries of Europe, where it was becoming the main content of the historical process. Thus, the historical conditions were created for the emergence of Marxism, the scientific expression of the most basic interests of the working class. The first programmatic document of scientific communism was the Communist Manifesto, which was written by Marx and Engels in December 1847 and January 1848 and was intended to be the program of the Communist League. The manifesto gave a theoretical summary of the previous experience of the working-class movement, revealed the world historic mission of the proletariat as the grave-digger of capitalism and the creator of a new society, and provided the scientific basis for the principle of proletarian internationalism. Founded and led by Marx and Engels, the Communist League was the seed of future proletarian communist parties and the first form of international proletarian unity.

The European revolutions of 1848-49 enriched the international working-class movement, providing it with abundant historical experience on which to draw. During these revolutions the proletariat, standing on the left flank of its ally, petit bourgeois democracy, often emerged as the primary revolutionary force. The culmination of the working-class struggle in 1848-49 was the June Uprising of the Parisian proletariat in 1848, “the first great civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie” (Lenin, ibid.).

The revolutions of 1848-49 revealed the untenability of the various forms of Utopian socialism and the harm that had been done by the right-opportunist, reformist, and sectarian-dogmatic tendencies in the working-class movement. Marx and Engels sharply criticized these tendencies, which reflected the influence of the petite bourgeoisie on the working class, and their proponents—rightists such as Louis Blanc in France and S. Born in Germany and “leftists” such as as A. Gottschalk, A. Willich, and K. Schapper in Germany.

After the revolutions of 1848-49 the industrial revolution, which had begun in Great Britain in the 1760’s, in France at the end of the 18th century, and in the USA after 1810, spread to a number of other countries, including Germany and Austria. The proletariat, which was concentrated in the major industrial centers, grew larger. The economic crisis of 1857 was followed by a revival of economic and political protest by the working class—that is, a temporary decline in the working-class movement after the revolutions of 1848-49 gave way to another active period. The London construction workers’ strike in 1859 was supported by the workers of France, Switzerland, and several other countries. British and French workers demonstrated against British intervention in the Civil War in the USA (1861-65) and in defense of the national liberation struggles of the Poles and other peoples. However, the working class did not have its own revolutionary center to organize and unite the workers and to spread the theory of scientific communism among them. Founded in 1864 under the leadership of Marx and Engels, the First International (the International Workingmen’s Association) became the revolutionary center of the working class. It backed the actions of the workers and their trade union associations. (The first trade unions had been founded in Great Britain, France, and the USA in the late 18th century.) In addition, the International supported major progressive democratic movements, such as the struggle to extend suffrage in Great Britain and the national liberation movements in Ireland and Poland. It waged a relentless struggle against the predatory wars initiated by the exploiting classes and against the arms race. At the same time, the International favored just wars of national liberation and armed struggle against the system based on the exploitation of man by man.

During the struggle for the international unity of the proletariat on the basis of Marxism, tendencies and currents hostile to scientific communism had to be overcome within the International. The most adverse of these in the late 19th century were Proudhonism and Bakuninism (varieties of anarchism) and trade unionism and Lassalleanism. Under the direct influence of the International and its leaders, Marx and Engels, and with A. Bebel and W. Liebknecht playing a leading role, the Social Democratic Labor Party (the Eisenach Party)—the independent revolutionary party of the German proletariat—was founded in Eisenach, Germany in 1869.

The high point of the development of the international working-class movement in this period was the Paris Commune of 1871, which “was essentially a working-class government, the product of the struggle of the producing class against the appropriating class” (Marx, The Civil War in France, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 17, p. 346). The Commune was the first historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat. “Despite all its mistakes,” wrote Lenin, “the Commune was a superb example of the great proletarian movement of the 19th century” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 16, p. 453). Putting into practice what Marx had demonstrated in theory as early as 1852, the Paris worker-Communards began to break up the old, bourgeois military-bureaucratic machinery of state and to create the new proletarian state. Although the Communards were defeated for a number of reasons (the inadequate level of development of the productive forces in France, the lack of preparedness of the proletariat, and the absence of a workers’ party), their experience became the common property of the entire international working-class movement.

The Paris Commune brought to completion the historical period (1848-71) characterized by Lenin as the period of upheavals and revolutions. Above all, the Paris Commune was important since it was the first time that the proletariat had engaged in an independent class struggle. The First International, which brought Marxism to the advanced workers of the economically developed countries of Europe and America and which ideologically defeated the opponents of Marxism, accomplished its historical task in this period. Ceasing to function after the Hague Congress (1872), the International was formally dissolved in 1876.

Under new historical conditions the immediate task facing the international working-class movement was the formation of “mass socialist working-class parties in individual national states” (ibid., vol. 26, p. 50).

The period of the incipient decline of capitalism, the transition from premonopoly capitalism to imperialism, and the beginningof the epoch of imperialism (1871-1917). PERIOD OF RELATIVELY “PEACEFUL” DEVELOPMENT. After the Commune, the working-class movement in the West entered what Lenin defined as “a phase of ’peaceful’ preparations for the changes to come” (ibid, vol. 23, p. 2). During this period industrial development was accompanied by the rapid growth of the proletariat, its concentration in large production units, its increasingly high level of organization, and a growing strike movement. The trade union organizations became stronger. In a number of countries socialist parties took shape and increased their influence through election campaigns, parliamentary activity, and the struggle for reforms. With the aid of the socialist parties, the workers familiarized themselves with the ideas of Marxism. The Socialist Workers’ Party was founded in 1875 by the merger of the Social Democratic Workers’ party of Germany and the General German Workers’ Association. (In 1890 the party was renamed the Social Democratic Party of Germany.) The Socialist Labor Party was founded in 1876 in the USA, and the Workers’ Party was organized in France in 1879. In 1884 the Social Democratic Federation was founded in Great Britain. Its revolutionary wing spoke out against the openly anti-Marxist Fabian Society, which was also organized in 1884. The founding congress of the Social Democratic Party of Austria was held in 1888-89. Socialist parties and groups were established in a number of other European countries. The Emancipation of Labor group, which was organized by G. V. Plekhanov in 1883 in Geneva, played a major role in the spread of Marxist ideas in Russia.

The formation of national Marxist workers’ parties raised the need for the creation of a new unifying center for the international working-class movement. The Second International met that need. Founded in 1889 with the active participation of Engels, its membership was drawn from the nationally organized socialist parties. The Second International accomplished a historically necessary job, advancing the organizational level of the proletarian masses and spreading the ideas of scientific communism and proletarian internationalism among them. One of the most noteworthy expressions of proletarian internationalism is the annual observance of May Day, which was initiated in 1890.

After the founding of the Second International new socialist parties and organizations were established, and the influence of previously existing parties—above all, the Social Democratic Party of Germany—began to grow rapidly.

In 1895 the St. Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, led by Lenin, became the first organization in Russia to fuse scientific communism with the working-class movement. The first congress of the RSDLP was held in 1898. In 1896 the Socialist Party was founded in Argentina, and in 1898 the Socialist Workers’ Party, which was active until 1902, was organized in Chile. The founding of these parties is evidence of the spread of the socialist movement beyond Europe and the USA.

As the workers’ parties gained influence, the struggle between revolutionary and opportunist tendencies in the international working-class movement grew more intense. In Great Britain the Independent Labour Party was founded in 1893, and the Labour Party, which was known as the Labour Electoral Committee until 1906, was organized in 1900. The leaders of these parties were openly opposed to Marxism. Under the guise of “amending” Marxism or “making it more precise,” a tendency toward revisionism began to develop in a number of parties that had adopted a Marxist platform at the time of their founding. One of the most prominent representatives of revisionism was E. Bernstein, who in 1899 published the essay “The Preconditions for Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy,” in which he rejected the very foundations of Marx’ doctrine.

Increasingly, the parties of the Second International lost sight of the ultimate goals of the working-class movement, sacrificing the fundamental interests of the working class to temporary practical goals in the ongoing struggle for various reform measures. In the resolutions of the Second International, parliamentary struggle was given priority, strikes were assigned secondary importance, and the question of armed insurrection was dropped altogether. The opportunist tendency in the working-class movement was supported by the upper stratum of the working class, a bourgeoisified, “bought out” labor aristocracy that developed in the capitalist countries with the coming of the imperialist stage of capitalist development. (In Great Britain, however, this bourgeoisified upper stratum had emerged as early as the mid-19th century.)

The strengthening of the opportunist tendency in the international working-class movement created fertile soil for the emergence of all kinds of dogmatists, sectarians, adventurists, and lovers of “leftist” phrases. Even in the 1870’s, Marx and Engels severely criticized the activities of W. Hasselmann and J. Most in the German Social Democratic Party. Proponents of immediate revolution regardless of the objective possibilities for actually bringing one about, they were expelled from the party in 1880. In Great Britain, H. Hyndman and his supporters in the Social Democratic Federation called for an immediate struggle for socialism and refused to support the workers’ struggle for day-today needs or to participate in the trade union movement, citing the reactionary character of its leadership. Thus, as Engels remarked, they turned Marxism into “an ossified dogma.” In the USA the sectarian dogmatism and narrowness of the Socialist Labor Party, as well as a number of other factors, foreshadowed its isolation from the mass labor movement. In some cases dogmatic errors in the working-class movement were caused by a lack of the necessary political experience and tactical flexibility (for example, the sectarian position of J. Guesde and his followers in the Dreyfus Affair and during the Boulangist crisis).

In the last third of the 19th century the anarchists tried to step up theiractivities. In 1872 they formed the Anarchist International, which was dissolved in 1877. They tried to impose their line on the Second International, which condemned their political activity. In some countries, anarchist ideas penetrated the trade union movement, leading to the spread of anarcho-syndicalism, which reached its height in the early 20th century.

THE UPSURGE IN THE MASS REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE. The relatively “peaceful” development of the international working-class movement came to an end with the opening of the age of imperialism, which was accompanied by an extreme sharpening of all the contradictions in the capitalist formation and by the rise of the mass revolutionary movement. In the struggle against opportunism, the revolutionary trend in the international movement grew stronger. Its most consistent representatives were the Russian Marxists grouped around Lenin. The founding of the Bolshevik Party in 1903 was the most important milestone in the history of the international working-class movement, for it marked the emergence of a consistently revolutionary Marxist party, uncompromising in its attitude to-ward opportunism, a party of the social revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat, a new type of party, around which all the revolutionary forces in the international working-class movement began to rally. By that time left-wing groups had developed in a number of other working-class parties. Although the leftists (for example, F. Mehring, R. Luxemburg, K. Liebknecht, D. Blagoev, V. Kolarov, and A. Pannekock) adopted Marxist positions, they committed a number of errors. Opposing the leftists were rightists such as Bernstein and L. Bissolati, who held openly revisionist views, and centrists such as K. Kautsky, who used Marxist phraseology to disguise their collaboration with the opportunists.

The Revolution of 1905-07 in Russia had a tremendous revolutionizing effect on the working-class movement. It completed the process, begun earlier, of shifting the center of the international working-class movement to Russia, and it posed a number of crucial problems whose theoretical solution was exceptionally important for the entire international movement. This task was accomplished by Lenin, whose works shed theoretical light on a vast complex of problems raised by the advent of the imperialist stage of capitalist development. His works constituted a new stage in the development of Marxism: Marxism-Leninism emerged, whose theoretical enrichment became inseparably tied to the practical activity of the working-class movement.

Under the direct influence of the Revolution of 1905-07 in Russia, revolutions took place in Iran, Turkey, and China, and there was an upsurge in the national liberation movement in India and a number of other Asian countries. The awakening of Asia opened up the prospect of uniting the working-class movement and the national liberation movement into a mighty force capable of defeating imperialism.

The class struggle grew more intense in the advanced capitalist countries. In 1905 in Germany 2,403 strikes were recorded, with more than 420,000 workers taking part, as compared to 220,000 in 1903-04. (The figures here and for the rest of this paragraph are based on incomplete data.) A mass struggle for universal suffrage developed in Prussia, Saxony, Silesia, Bavaria, Baden, and Wurttemberg. A struggle against the antidemocratic election law emerged in Hamburg. In 1912 approximately 250,000 miners went on strike in the Ruhr. In France during the last five years of the 19th century 423,000 workers went on strike, and in the first five years of the 20th century 941,000 workers participated in strikes. The number of French workers participating in strikes in 1906 alone exceeded 438,000. In Great Britain a new upsurge in the strike struggle began after 1905: in 1908, approximately 300,000 workers went on strike; in 1910, more than 500,000; in 1911, approximately 1 million; and in 1912, 1.5 million. Lenin observed that the largest strike in Britain at that time, the miners’ strike of 1912, “marked an epoch” in the history of the British working-class movement (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 22, p. 271).

In the USA, where the beginning of the 20th century was also marked by an upsurge in strike struggles, the Industrial Workers of the World, which opposed the opportunism and class collaborationism of the American Federation of Labor, was founded in 1905. The strike movement grew and other forms of working-class struggle developed in other countries. For example, under the direct impact of the Russian Revolution of 1905-07 a broad movement for universal suffrage developed in Austria. It used the threat of a general political strike to pressure the government.

In the Latin American countries one of the most significant expressions of the upsurge in the revolutionary activity of the proletariat was the working-class struggle during the Mexican revolution of 1910-17.

With the completion of the colonial partition of the world and the rise of the liberation movement of the colonial peoples, the struggle of the Bolsheviks against opportunism on the national and colonial questions assumed extraordinary international importance. The spread of “socialist opportunism, which succumbs to bourgeois blandishments” in the working-class movement (ibid., vol. 16, p. 69), was demonstrated at the Stuttgart Congress of the Second International in 1907 by a substantial group of its participants, who adopted a position in defense of the “civilizing mission” of the colonialists and in favor of a “socialist colonial policy.” By a slight majority the congress adopted a resolution condemning the policy of colonialism.

The ever-sharpening struggle between imperialist states for the repartition of the world presented the international working-class movement with one of its most urgent and important tasks —the struggle against militarism and the danger of war. A resolution drawn up by Bebel, amended by Lenin and Luxemburg, and adopted by the Stuttgart Congress correctly defined the tasks of the revolutionary working-class movement in the struggle to prevent war and to find a revolutionary way out of war, should one break out. The basic tenets of the resolution were reaffirmed in a resolution adopted at the next congress, which was held in Copenhagen in 1910. The Basel Congress of the Second International voted unanimously for the Basel Manifesto of 1912, which called on the workers of all countries to oppose imperialism with the power of international proletarian solidarity and, in the event of war, to make use of the crisis engendered by it to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist class rule. However, when World War I broke out, the leaders of the Second International violated the decisions of its congresses and betrayed the cause of proletarian internationalism. The opportunism that had spread in the socialist parties grew into social chauvinism. The Second International began to collapse.

The task of building a Third International was taken up by the international working-class movement. Under Lenin’s leadership, the Bolsheviks united the internationalist forces in the working-class movement and rallied the revolutionary elements around the Zimmerwald Left, thus laying the foundation for a new International. The slogans put forth by the Bolsheviks during the war, which called for turning the imperialist war into a civil war and working for the defeat of one’s own government, were formulations of the only correct position for a revolutionary proletarian party to adopt concerning World War I. Lenin’s works on imperialism, the state, and revolution, which were written during the war, were extremely important for the practical work of the working-class movement. His conclusion that under imperialist conditions it was possible for socialism to be victorious at first in one capitalist country became one of the most important components of the Leninist theory of socialist revolution.

World War I temporarily held back the mounting upsurge of revolution, which had begun in a number of countries before the war. Antiwar demonstrations and strikes began to set the tone as early as 1915. The following years saw the full sweep of revolutionary struggle, which in Russia grew into a revolutionary crisis that culminated in the Great October Socialist Revolution.

The first stage of the general crisis of capitalism. The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia ushered in a new era—that of the collapse of capitalism and the victory of socialism on a worldwide scale, the beginning of the international socialist revolution. A qualitatively new revolutionary force appeared in the world arena—the workers as a ruling class, building a socialist society and doing “the utmost possible in one country for the development, support, and awakening of the revolution in all countries” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 304). After the October Revolution the division of the world into two systems, capitalist and socialist, was the most important manifestation of the general crisis of capitalism, which had already been revealed by the outbreak of World War I. The proletarian revolution in Russia was the most important victory of the revolutionary current in the international working-class movement.

From 1918 to 1923 there was a powerful upsurge in the revolutionary movement in most of Europe and in a number of Asian countries. Almost everywhere the proletariat played the decisive role. The first major milestones in the struggle were the proletarian revolution of January 1918 in Finland, the November revolution of 1918 and the mass actions of the proletariat in January and March 1919 in Germany, and the establishment of the Bavarian and Hungarian Soviet republics in the spring and summer of 1919.

The revolutionary outbreak pushed the reformist leaders of the Social Democratic parties even further to the right. They instilled in the workers the idea that only peaceful development within the framework of a “pure”—that is, bourgeois—democracy could lead to socialism. Taking advantage of their ruling position in working-class organizations, the Social Democratic leaders injected disorder into the mass revolutionary actions of the proletariat, and in a number of instances, such as the revolutionary battles of 1919-23 in Germany, they joined the reactionaries in the bloody suppression of the proletarian uprisings.

Under the newly emerging conditions of that time the creation of new revolutionary parties of the proletariat became an objectively necessary and urgent task. The first Communist parties were founded during the battles that had already broken out (for example, in Hungary, Germany, and Poland), and left-wing tendencies developed in the Social Democratic parties. In March 1919 the founding congress of the Communist Third International was held in Moscow.

In 1919 and 1920 the wave of strikes, which spread to all the countries of Central and Western Europe, as well as to the USA, reached its zenith, despite the defeat of the revolutionary workers in Germany and Hungary. The strike movement had a number of distinguishing features: it took the offensive, unorganized workers played an active part, factories were occupied, and political strikes were organized around the slogan “Hands off Russia!” in Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, France, and the USA. After a stubborn struggle, the proletariat of Europe forced the bourgeoisie to concede major social reforms. The eight-hour day and social insurance in case of unemployment or illness were introduced almost everywhere. In a number of countries contracts reached through collective bargaining were enforced by law, and factory committees were legalized. In most European countries universal suffrage was granted. Trade union membership increased to 45 million in 1920 (three times the 1913 membership; approximately 40 million members in the capitalist countries). New Communist parties were founded. The number of socialists and anarchosyndicalists supporting membership in the Comintern increased sharply. By 1920 the only members of the Bern International, which had been organized in February 1919 on the ideological platform of the disintegrated Second International, were the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had lost its left and center wings, the British Labour Party, and the Socialist Party of Belgium.

The young and, in most countries, still rather weak Communist parties faced a dual task: to overcome what was left of Social Democratic illusions and, at the same time, to begin combating an array of “leftist” errors that had become evident in a number of parties. Lenin’s work “Left-wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder and the decisions of the Second and Third Comintern congresses (1920 and 1921) played a very important part in the struggle to achieve these aims.

At the same time, the force of tradition made it extremely difficult for a significant number of workers to break with the Social Democratic parties, even though they had lost faith in their leaders. The reformists managed to retain power in the trade unions. In 1921 and 1922, as the revolutionary wave began to subside, the parties of the Second International began to regain their strength, chiefly because they were joined by hundreds of thousands of working people who had not previously taken part in politics or who had supported the bourgeois parties. However, in Vienna in 1921 the centrist parties, which had left the Second International in 1919-20 under the pressure of the revolutionary proletarian masses, founded the International Workers’ Association of Socialist Parties (the Second-and-a-Half International), which tried to maintain middle-of-the-road positions on the fundamental issues of the working-class movement.

By 1922 the Comintern included more than 60 parties and organizations and had more than 1 million members in the capitalist world. There were two other political centers of the Social Democratic movement in Europe, with as many as 60 parties and organizations from approximately 40 countries and more than 8 million members. The reformist Amsterdam International of Trade Unions (1919-45), with 22-24 million members, was active in the trade union movement. There were three other organizations in the trade union movement: the anarchist International Association of Workers, which was founded in the winter of 1922-23; the International Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, founded in 1920 and renamed the World Confederation of Labor in 1968; and the Red International of Trade Unions (Profintern), which was organized in 1921 by the revolutionary trade unions. Each of these organizations had 3-4 million members.

Under the conditions created by a capitalist offensive, the mass of workersbegan to feel a stronger urge for joint actions. This laid the foundation for the introduction of a new tactic, the united workers’ front. Developed under Lenin’s guidance, this tactic was expressed in the resolutions of the Third and Fourth Comintern congresses (1921 and 1922) and in other Comintern documents. In 1922 a meeting of representatives of the Bern International, the Second-and-a-Half International, and the Third International was held in Berlin. The participants spoke in favor of an agreement to organize joint actions. However, the Social Democratic leaders thwarted the agreement before it could be formalized. There was a rapprochement between the Bern and the Second-and-a-Half Internationals, which agreed on a joint struggle against the Communists. In 1923 the two organizations merged to form the Labor and Socialist International.

In 1923 revolutionary outbreaks of the proletariat in Germany, Bulgaria, and Poland were defeated. This was the final phase in the postwar upsurge of the international working-class movement. The number of strikes and other actions by the proletariat declined, and the number of members in the trade unions and working-class parties decreased. In Italy a fascist regime was established in 1922. The period of the most acute crisis of capitalism ended, on the one hand, with the victory of the Soviet Republic over the forces of foreign military intervention and domestic counterrevolution and, on the other, in a series of harsh defeats for the European working class, whose struggle, nevertheless, was a decisive factor in the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR.

Among the most important reasons for the temporary defeat of the European proletariat were the preponderant strength of the European and American bourgeoisie, who acted in a united counterrevolutionary front; the relatively broad freedom of maneuver open to the bourgeoisie of that period in socioeconomic and political matters; and the counterrevolutionary stand of the majority of Social Democratic leaders and of the reformist heads of the trade union movement. In addition, there were no Communist parties in the Western capitalist countries at the beginning of the revolutionary crisis. As a result, these parties were weak at the height of the crisis, and the errors made by them contributed to the proletariat’s temporary defeat. Finally, the working class in the advanced capitalist countries was not well prepared to solve a number of major political problems of the socialist revolution. This was related to all the above-mentioned factors and conditioned by the pattern of social development in the Western countries from 1871 to 1917. Among those members of the working class who took part in the direct frontal assault on bourgeois power during that period, only a minority possessed political consciousness, and new forms of struggle for the socialist revolution had not yet emerged to suit new circumstances.

By 1924 capitalism as a whole had entered a stage of partial stabilization.The working-class movement in the West during this period, especially from 1924 to 1926, went on the defensive. The total number of strikers per year in all the capitalist countries was between 1 and 2 million. In the European working-class movement the Social Democratic parties, which adapted to the needs (“possibilities”) of the capitalist system, became stronger by taking advantage of the trade unionist and reformist moods of the masses, which grew more intense during that period in most of the European countries. The membership of the 35-36 parties belonging to the Labor and Socialist International reached between 6.5 and 7 million during the mid-1920’s. More than 25 million people voted for the Social Democrats, who took part in the governments of most European countries in 1924-26. Taking as their fundamental position the concept of an “organized” or “crisis-free” capitalism, the Social Democratic leaders proclaimed as their main task the “rebuilding” of capitalist Europe. By contrast, the Communists regarded the stabilization of capitalism as temporary and partial.

A decisive factor in the general instability of world capitalism was the existence and consolidation of the USSR, whose gains helped preserve revolutionary attitudes among a considerable section of the Western proletariat. From 1926 to 1928 several intense class conflicts broke out in the Western European countries—in particular, the British general strike of 1926 and the street fighting in Austria in 1927. However, it was in the peripheral colonial areas of imperialism that the international revolutionary process developed with particular turbulence between 1924 and 1929. In this part of the world, particularly in China, the working-class movement also developed rapidly, and new Communist parties and the first mass organizations of the proletariat were founded. The unity of the communist movement was strengthened through the struggle against various petit bourgeois deviations—above all, Trotskyism, whose “revolutionary” adventurism threatened to isolate the Communist parties completely from the mass working-class movement. By mid-1928, the sections of the Comintern (excluding the ACP [Bolshevik]) had 445,000 members. In 17 European countries, approximately 6.5 million people voted Communist.

In 1929 a new phase in the development of the international working-class movement began. The unparalleled economic crisis of 1929-33 undermined the traditional foundations of capitalist economics and greatly intensified all the contradictions of imperialism. Under the direct impact of the crisis, numerous protests by the working people developed and spread in the spring of 1930—demonstrations and marches by the unemployed and violent strikes, sometimes accompanied by armed clashes. According to incomplete data, from mid-1928 to the end of 1933 approximately 17 million workers went on strike in the capitalist countries, and the number of working days lost exceeded 262 million. Among the most important class battles of this period were the Spanish Revolution of 1931-39, the revolution in Cuba in 1933, the establishment of soviet areas in China from 1928 to 1937, and the revolutionary battles in Chile in 1931 and 1932.

Everywhere the Communists were in the vanguard of the struggle against the capitalist offensive and fascism. Under their leadership major strikes took place between 1929 and 1933. In several countries (for example, Germany) the Communists’ influence among the masses grew substantially. However, the Communist parties were not able to win the support of the greater part of the proletariat during these years. Moreover, during this period the character of the development of the revolutionary process differed in many respects from that of 1918-21. The economic crisis and its consequences created disorder in the postwar mechanism of bourgeois class rule, which rested on parliamentarism, coalition with the Social Democrats, and the liberal democratic and pacifist deception of the masses. The increased revolutionary activity of the working class in a number of capitalist countries, the crisis of parliamentarism, the preparations by the monopoly bourgeoisie for another world war, and the effect of powerful economic factors associated-with the transition to state-monopoly economic forms created the conditions for the growth of fascist tendencies among the bourgeoisie, particularly in Germany, where the fascists took power in 1933. Thus, the proletariat’s immediate objective tasks were the defense of democratic freedoms and of the social and economic gains of the working people, the prevention of world war, and the defeat of fascism. These goals required the most rapid possible unification of all democratic forces around the working class and, above all, unity within the working-class movement itself. In turn, the struggle for democratic goals would open up the most likely path for the advance of the socialist revolution, in accordance with the situation created by the intensified general crisis of capitalism in the 1930’s and by the specific features of social development in the Western countries.

The Communist parties faced the problem of changing their strategic concepts, which were based on the proposition that a direct attack by the proletariat under Communist leadership against bourgeois power (whatever its form) and an immediate transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat are both possible and necessary in the advanced capitalist countries. A turning point in the development of the strategy and tactics of the Communist parties and the beginning of the European proletariat’s counterattack against fascism came with a successful, united action by the French working class in February 1934. In July 1934 the leaders of the French Socialist Party accepted the Communist Party proposal for a united front. During the latter half of 1934 agreements for united action by Socialists and Communists were reached in Italy, Spain, and Greece. In Austria in February 1934 and in Spain in October of that year Communists and Socialists participated jointly in antifascist armed uprisings of the proletariat. At the end of the year the Executive Committee of the Labor and Socialist International was forced to make an official withdrawal of its resolution prohibiting Socialist parties from making united-front agreements with the Communists.

The Seventh Comintern Congress (1935) strengthened and developed the new political line of the international communist movement, which provided for the unification of broad strata of the population (the peasantry, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the working intelligentsia) on the basis of united action by the working class in defense of democratic freedoms and against war and fascism. In accordance with new world conditions, the congress elaborated the tactics of the workers’ popular united front, as well as of the national, anti-imperialist united front in the colonial and dependent countries.

Between 1934 and 1937 there was a new upsurge in the international working-class movement. In France this was evident in the formation of the Popular Front in 1935, in its victory in the elections and in the formation of a Popular Front government in 1936, in the unification of the trade union organizations in 1936, and in the subsequent powerful outbreak of the strike movement, which was accompanied by takeovers of factories. The French working class secured a number of gains in the summer of 1936, including the 40-hour week, annual two-week paid vacations, and significant wage increases.

The Popular Front organized in early 1936 in Spain won the elections there. In the USA progressive elements in the unions, with the participation of the Communists, built a new trade union organization, the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The American bourgeoisie had to yield to certain reforms that alleviated the consequences of the economic crisis for the working class. The workers’ and anti-imperialist movement in Latin America achieved some successes (the reforms in Mexico in 1936-38, the victory of the Popular Front in Chile in 1938, and the establishment of a continentwide trade union center in the same year). In China the Communists directed their efforts to-ward the creation of a national united front against the Japanese.

The most outstanding event in the history of the prewar up-surge of the revolutionary movement was the National Revolutionary War of the Spanish people against fascism (1936-39), in which the leading force was the heroic working class of Spain. During this war Spain became a new type of democratic republic, over which the proletariat as a class had hegemony, sharing power with the peasantry and the intermediate social strata in the cities. The institutions of bourgeois democracy acquired a new social content. The major businesses and banks and the large landholdings came under the control of the working people and the democratic state. The support given the Spanish Republic by the Soviet Union, the international working class, and other democratic forces was one of the most striking expressions of international solidarity in the struggle against fascism and reaction.

The unifying vanguard role of the Communists in the fight against fascism established the conditions for a significant increase in the influence of the Communist parties. By the end of 1938 there were 1.2 million Communists in the capitalist world, as compared to 785,000 in 1935.

The successes of the Soviet people in building socialism and the peace-loving, antifascist foreign policy of the USSR contributed to the growth in the influence of the Communist parties.

The consolidation of working-class unity and the further development of thestruggle against fascism and the outbreak of another world war were hampered by the position of the leaders of the Labor and Socialist International. Under pressure from its right wing, it frequently rejected Comintern proposals for joint action in defense of the peoples who had become the victims of fascist aggression. In late 1937 and 1938, at a time of increasing fascist aggression, the leaders of the Labor and Socialist International declined to accept new Comintern proposals for joint provision of aid to Spain and to Czechoslovakia, which was threatened with fascist aggression. Socialist leaders in France, Hungary, and Poland supported the Munich Pact of 1938. In March 1939 the Spanish Republic was strangled by the united forces of Franco’s insurgents and foreign fascist interventionists, and Franco’s dictatorship was installed. In September 1939, as the workers’ and democratic movement in Europe fell into decline, World War II broke out.

The second stage of the general crisis of capitalism. World War II confronted the international working-class movement with new, complex problems. As the war against the fascist bloc emerged more and more clearly as a war of liberation, the Communist parties became the inspiration of the antifascist armed struggle. Carrying out the line developed by the Seventh Comintern Congress, they took the initiative in forming national fronts that united all parties, organizations, and sections of the population willing to fight against fascism. They were also the organizers of the Resistance movement, in which the unity and interrelationship of the international, national, and class tasks of the proletariat throughout the war found their fullest expression.

The increasing maturity of the Communist parties, the growing diversity in the conditions of the struggles waged by them, and the need to remove the obstacles to the further consolidation of all forces capable of fighting against fascism created the conditions for the decision in May 1943 to dissolve the Comintern, which had fulfilled its historic mission.

The crushing defeat of the fascist German armies and their expulsion from Soviet territory, as well as the entry of the Soviet Army into the countries of Central and Southeast Europe in 1944, strengthened the forces of the revolutionary antifascist movement in those countries, where the national liberation struggle grew into people’s democratic revolutions. In Western Europe the course of events was different, for the presence of Anglo-American troops enabled the bourgeoisie to cut short the development of the revolutionary process by using various degrees of violence.

In the Latin American countries, where economic development had been accelerated by the war, the working class grew considerably. However, the majority of Latin American workers, especially the newer strata, fell under the influence of bourgeois-nationalist currents (in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, for example). This trend left its mark on subsequent developments.

Among the major centers of the world revolutionary process during World War II were East and Southeast Asia. In the wake of the Chinese people’s heroic struggle against Japanese militarism, which had begun even before the war, the Resistance movement developed and spread in Burma, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Malaya, and, later, Indonesia.

As a result of the working class’ role in World War II, its social and political influence increased extraordinarily. Working-class parties joined the governments of almost every European country in the postwar years. The democratic and socialist attitudes of the broad masses of the proletariat were stronger than ever in these countries. Despite heavy losses during the war, the membership of the Communist parties had grown several times since the prewar period, reaching 20 million in 1947 (as compared to 4 million in 1939), including more than 13 million outside the USSR. In a number of countries in Central and Southeast Europe and in France and Italy the Communists won over a majority of the working class. Between 1939 and 1947 trade union membership rose from 60 million to 110 million. In October 1945 the trade union organizations of 56 countries, representing 67 million workers, founded the World Federation of Trade Unions in Paris.

During the years immediately after World War II the revolutionary forces took up a general offensive and fought to have the democratic, national liberation, and social slogans and aims advanced during the war against fascism put into effect consistently.

In Central and Southeast Europe the people’s democratic and socialist revolutions were victorious, and the working-class movement achieved unity. Allied with the broad masses of the working people, the working class gradually eliminated the political and economic power of the bourgeoisie and established the power of the working class in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. A new form of the dictatorship of the proletariat emerged—the people’s democracy. On Oct. 7, 19:9, the German Democratic Republic was formed. In Vietnam and North Korea the Communists led successful national liberation revolutions. The victories won by the revolutionary forces in China led to the formation of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949. The world socialist system—a socioeconomic and political community of nations developing toward socialism and communism—emerged as a result of the victory of socialist revolutions in a number of European and Asian countries. Its formation was a major historic gain of the international working class and the most important milestone in the development of the world revolutionary process since the October Revolution of 1917.

Anti-imperialist revolutions for national liberation developed during the postwar years in the countries of South and Southeast Asia. In an attempt to keep these countries within the world capitalist system and to defend its economic positions in that part of the world, the European bourgeoisie was forced to recognize the independence of Indonesia, India, Burma, and a number of other countries.

The upsurge in the democratic movement continued in the early postwar period in most of the Latin American countries. In Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, and Cuba the working class won important social victories and the legalization of working-class parties and organizations. The membership of the Latin American Confederation of Workers reached 6 million by 1948. Between 1939 and 1947 the total membership in the South American Communist parties rose from 90,000 to 450,000. However, the majority of the Latin American proletariat continued to follow the bourgeois nationalist and bourgeois reformist parties.

In the advanced capitalist countries the working-class struggle against the features and consequences of bourgeois rule that were most hateful to the masses was, in objective terms, revolutionary and opened up the prospect of new victories for the democratic and socialist movement. The possibility of victories was enhanced by the general shakiness of the capitalists’ position in Western Europe and Japan in the postwar period, by the successful development of the revolutionary struggle in Central and Southeast Europe, by the substantial increase in the influence of the working-class parties, and by the important positions won by them in parliaments, governments, and state agencies. During the postwar period the advancing Western working class won fundamental victories. In France, Italy, Great Britain, and Austria certain key branches of industry were nationalized. The working class won the introduction of important social measures and strengthened its position in the factories and plants. In Italy in 1947 and France in 1946 socially progressive constitutions were adopted.

As the Cold War grew more intense in early 1947, the Western European bourgeoisie, with the direct support of US imperialism, launched a general attack on the revolutionary forces. In most of Western Europe the bourgeoisie managed to win over to its cause the Social Democratic leaders, who again broke off their alliance with the Communists. Communist Party representatives were removed from the governments of France, Belgium, and Italy in the spring of 1947. Civil war broke out in Greece. From 1947 to 1949 splits emerged in the central trade union organizations of France and Italy and in the World Federation of Trade Unions, from which the majority of the central organizations in Western Europe and North America withdrew. In December 1949 the reformist trade unions created a parallel organization, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Founded by right-wing Socialists in 1951 to replace the Labor and Socialist International, which had fallen apart in 1940, the Socialist International adopted positions that were more anti-Soviet and essentially more precapitalist than those taken by its predecessors (for example, the Frankfurt Declaration of 1951).

The bourgeois offensive met with resistance from the workers. Economic and political clashes between the working class and the bourgeoisie in France and Italy took the form of general strikes accompanied by skirmishes with the police and the army. In the 11 largest capitalist countries a total of approximately 72 million workers went on strike between 1946 and 1950. Mass political strikes, demonstrations, and other forms of protest increased in number and extent. In order to coordinate the actions of the Communist parties at a time of sharply heightened international tensions and a greatly intensified class struggle, the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform) was founded in the autumn of 1947. It continued to function until 1956.

Nevertheless, by the early 1950’s the bourgeoisie had succeeded in weakening the position of the Communist parties in most countries. At this point, bourgeois politicians began to force the Social Democratic parties out of the European governments.

Consequently, the bourgeoisie was able to deprive the Western proletariat of a substantial number of the political gains it had made from 1945 to 1947, to split the working-class movement again, and to strengthen the political mechanism of bourgeois domination, which had been shaken by the war. The working class did, however, preserve a large number of its social gains. On the whole, the influence of the Communists remained greater than it had been in the prewar period, and aggressive imperialist plans directed against the forces of socialism and peace were thwarted, chiefly because of the opposition of the European proletariat.

At the same time, US imperialism allied with local oligarchies launched an offensive in Latin America, employing such methods as reactionary military coups and the banning of Communist parties. This reactionary offensive culminated in the intervention in Guatemala and the overthrow of the revolutionary government there in 1954, as well as in the removal of the bourgeois nationalist governments of Vargas in Brazil (1954) and Peron in Argentina (1955).

During the second stage of the general crisis of capitalism the imperialists also managed to inflict a number of defeats on the national liberation movement, and especially on its revolutionary vanguard, in countries in East Asia (Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaya for example) and the Middle East (for example, Iran and Iraq). However, they were unable to restore the traditional colonial order in any country. In Vietnam the imperialists were heavily defeated by the revolutionary forces in 1954. In 1952 an active new front of the national liberation struggle opened in the Middle East, with the July revolution of 1952 in Egypt and the beginning of the armed struggle in Algeria in 1954.

The third stage of the general crisis of capitalism. The primary gain of the international working-class movement up to the mid-1950’s was the consolidation of the world socialist system. In the USSR, where socialism had won a complete and final victory, the working people, led by the CPSU, began work on tasks associated with the gradual transition of Soviet society to communism. These included the creation of the material and technical basis for communism, the development and perfection of socialist social relations, and the further raising of standards in the communist education of the Soviet people. Led by their own parties, the working people of the other socialist countries continued to build socialism successfully. In the socialist countries the leading role of the working class was constantly reinforced, as the social homogeneity of the society as a whole rose. In building and perfecting the new society, the working class in these countries carried out its main international task and contributed to the mobilization of all revolutionary forces in the nonsocialist world.

In the late 1950’s there was a new upsurge in the revolutionary movement in the capitalist countries. Although it became a worldwide movement, it also reflected the specific character of the development of the liberation process and the working-class movement in different regions of the capitalist world.

In the West and in Japan the class struggle became more intense, owing to the accelerated development of state-monopoly capitalism in the 1950’s and the social and economic changes caused by the scientific and technological revolution. The class struggle was manifested in a head-on clash between the monopolies and the working class for the fruits of scientific and technological progress, for control over the levers of state regulation of the economy, and, ultimately, for a democratic and socialist alternative to state-monopoly capitalism. Under favorable economic conditions in most of the advanced capitalist countries, there was a rapid increase in strike struggles (8-10 million strikers in 1956 and 1957; 13.5-16 million in 1958 and 1959; and 41-44 million in 1960-63). There were a number of major out-breaks by the proletariat and several serious political crises in France, Italy, Japan, and Belgium.

Among the characteristics of the working-class movement in the third stage of the general crisis of capitalism was a relatively high incidence of general strikes and other forms of “mass action” by the proletariat. The workers also made vigorous new social demands connected in one way or another with the problems of reorganizing labor relations and democratizing economic management and with the struggle for some degree of workers’ control over production. During this stage the proletarian strike movement and the struggle of the broad masses of the urban and rural population for political and social demands of a general democratic and nationwide character were closely related. Democratic, socialist, political, and economic elements of the struggle were interwoven at all levels, making possible the gradual extirpation of traditional trade union methods and sectarian and dogmatic distortions.

In the mid-1960’s the strike movement developed somewhat more slowly in the West. However, as early as 1967 there was a new upsurge in the labor, democratic, and revolutionary movements. It was manifested in 1968-69 in major class battles such as the general strike and severe political crisis in France in May-June 1968, the “hot autumn” of 1969 in Italy, and the powerful uprising of the students and other groups in the younger generation, as well as of the national minorities, in the USA and a number of Western European countries. In countries under state-monopoly capitalism the general level of social tension increased sharply. An average of 44 million people per year participated in strikes and other class actions of the working people from 1968 to 1972. Stubborn labor conflicts that became openly political developed in Great Britain and Spain beginning in 1968, and the most serious strikes in 15 to 30 years took place in Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and the USA.

During the 1960’s the proletariat in most Western countries won improvements in its standard of living and counteracted the monopolies’ attempts to shift the burden of all the costs of the scientific and technological revolution onto the working people. In the mid-1960’s the influence of the working-class parties began to increase again. The Social Democrats became members of the governments of a number of countries. In Italy, France, Sweden, Belgium, and several other countries the number of votes for Communist candidates increased. For example, in the 1973 parliamentary elections in France, 5.2 million voters, or 21.3 percent of the electorate, supported Communist candidates. In the 1974 presidential elections in France the Communists, socialists, and left-wing radicals drew more than 49 percent of the vote. The Communists polled 9 million votes (27.2 percent) in the 1972 parliamentary elections in Italy. In the elections to regional councils in 1975 more than 32 percent of the Italian electorate voted for the Communists. This was the party’s greatest success in the entire history of elections in Italy. As a result of the 1975 elections, left-wing forces headed local government bodies in six of the eight largest Italian cities, in 41 of the 92 provinces, and in five of the 20 regions. Almost half the population of Italy lives in areas governed by left-wing parties.

The economic gains made by the working people during the period of good economic conditions were partly lost with the onset of the deep economic crisis of 1974-75. According to data issued by the European Economic Community, from March 1974 to March 1975 consumer goods prices increased by more than 20 percent in Great Britain and Italy, by more than 13.5 percent in France and Denmark, and by almost 15 percent in Belgium. In the autumn of 1975 more than 15 million people were officially registered as unemployed in the capitalist countries (7.8 million in the USA, 1.1 million in Great Britain, more than 1 million in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1.2 million in Italy, 946,000 in France, and 940,000 in Japan). Inflation, the high cost of living, and unemployment caused real wages to decline in the USA, Great Britain, Italy, and other capitalist countries.

The intensification of the class struggle, the relaxation of Cold War tensions in Europe, and the increasing diversity of the ways in which countries developed toward socialism led to some rapprochement among various sections of the working-class movement. After a phase of maximum adaptation to the policies of the ruling bourgeoisie in the late 1950’s, the Social Democratic movement, which in the mid-1970’s included approximately 57 parties and more than 14.5 million members and drew about 80 million votes in parliamentary elections, began to show signs of change. Gradually and unevenly there was a strengthening of the tendency to search for an alternative course that would provide the Social Democratic parties with a degree of independence from the policies of the monopoly capitalists and with increased influence among the masses. Almost everywhere the left socialist parties and currents stepped up their activity. Progressive currents in the Catholic movement, especially in Spain, Italy, France, and Belgium, also grew stronger as they were drawn toward democratic and socialist solutions. The role of the trade unions increased considerably. They became a major force in the economic as well as in the sociopolitical struggle of the proletariat in a number of countries.

During the late 1960’s broad strata of the students and intellectuals—the New Left—were drawn into the revolutionary struggle. The maintenance of unity between the Communists and these sections of the revolutionary movement (assuming that they are free of left-sectarian and semianarchist illusions) is one aspect of the Communist struggle for firm and lasting unity between the working class and all democratic forces. Among the important milestones in this struggle was the 1972 agreement between the French Communist and Socialist parties on a joint program. Another major step was the establishment of a federation of three of the Italian trade union organizations: the Italian General Confederation of Labor, the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions, and the Italian Union of Labor. Leadership of the federation is based on the equal representation of the three member unions. Joint actions by antifascist and democratic forces resulted in the overthrow of fascist dictatorships in Greece and Portugal in 1974.

In the advanced capitalist countries the working-class movement also faces a number of new tasks related to automation, the rise of supranational capitalist corporations, and changes in the structure of the working class and of society in general as engineering and technical personnel, office employees, and other social groups are drawn into the antimonopoly and anticapitalist struggle. In addition, the international working-class movement is encountering constantly renewed efforts to shift to the proletariat the burdens arising from problems and crises in the development of state-monopoly capitalism in the 1970’s. All of these problems make it necessary for the working class to find new forms and methods of struggle.

In the Latin American countries, which are at a middle or low level of capitalist development, the working-class movement has developed as part of the general and powerful upsurge in the revolutionary movement. In the late 1950’s the crisis of the traditional socioeconomic and political structure of Latin American society became much more intense. The objective conditions had ripened for a revolution against US imperialist domination, the vestiges of feudalism, and the rule of the agrarian, financial, and industrial oligarchy—a revolution that would be transformed into a struggle against capitalist development, into a socialist revolution.

Among the most significant expressions of the turbulent rise of the class struggle and the national liberation struggle in Latin America from 1956 to 1965 were the overthrow of reactionary dictatorships in Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela (1956-58), the Cuban revolution and the successful struggle of revolutionary Cuba against American imperialism, and the development of the revolutionary armed struggle in Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia, and several other countries beginning in 1962. Also of importance were general strikes in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay and the national revolutionary struggle of the Dominican people against US armed intervention. The socialist revolution in Cuba and the successes of the Cuban people in building socialism are the most important victory of the working-class and revolutionary movement in Latin America and mark a qualitatively new stage in its development. However, the counteroffensive of the reactionary forces resulted in a number of serious defeats for the working-class and revolutionary movement (the military fascist coup in Brazil in 1964, military coups in Bolivia, Argentina, and other countries, and the defeat of the revolutionary armed struggle in Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia in 1966 and 1967). In a number of Latin American countries the working class proved to be lacking the strength and political maturity needed to lead the revolutionary struggle. In many countries it had not yet overcome parochial attitudes or the prevailing influence of the bourgeois reformist and nationalist ideologies.

A new upsurge that began in the revolutionary movement in 1968 was most clearly demonstrated in the Chilean revolution (1970-73), which was led by the working class. It was also manifested in the revolutionary transformations in Peru, the powerful strikes and revolutionary actions by the proletariat in Argentina and Uruguay (1968-73), and the increased influence of left-wing forces in the military and in the Catholic Church. The imperialists and the local oligarchies opposed the rise of the working-class and revolutionary movement with terrorist methods of repression and rule (for example, the military coups in Uruguay in June 1973 and in Chile in September 1973). On the whole, the intensity of the class struggle in Latin America has not diminished. In the battles of 1956-75 the working class in a number of Latin American countries emerged as an independent sociopolitical force, and in countries such as Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Bolivia it was the main force in the revolutionary struggle.

The liberation of most of Africa from colonial rule, the collapse of the world colonial system, and the decision of several Asian and African countries to develop a noncapitalist system were the chief results of the period from 1956 to 1975 in Asia and Africa. The antifascist revolution of 1974 in Portugal accelerated the downfall of the Portuguese Empire, the last colonial empire, and contributed to the attainment of national independence by the peoples of Guinea (Bissau), Angola, and Mozambique. The struggle of the working class in the former colonies for its immediate class interests converged with the deepening national liberation revolutions. The relatively young and numerically weak proletariat in Asia and Africa played a lesser role in the development of the revolutionary movement than the proletariat in the West and in Latin America. At the same time, the proletariat, primarily the agricultural proletariat, was one of the main driving forces in the national democratic revolution in Algeria. Workers’ organizations were active in the overthrow in 1963 of the proimperialist regime in the Congo (Brazzaville; since 1969, the People’s Republic of the Congo) and participated in bringing about progressive changes in Syria and Ceylon (since 1972, Sri Lanka).

The working class of South Vietnam was the ideological leader of and an active participant in the national revolutionary war of the Vietnamese people against US imperialism. In 1975 the struggle of the Vietnamese people to drive the US interventionists and their henchmen out of South Vietnam, to unify the country, and to further socialist development there was victoriously completed. Subsequently, the peoples of Laos and Cambodia triumphed over foreign imperialists and local reactionary forces and established two new Southeast Asian states: the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia).

Although the ideology of the working class—scientific communism—is exerting increasing influence on revolutionary nationalist leaders, the proletariat in Asia and Africa is only taking its first steps toward hegemony in the national democratic movement. As a rule, the level of political activity and class consciousness among the majority of the proletariat of these continents is not yet very high. The objective goal of the working-class movement in Asia and Africa is to strengthen national independence through the struggle against imperialism, against feudal and capitalist exploitative relations, and for the transition to noncapitalist development.

While fighting for its own aims within a national and regional framework, the revolutionary working class has, at the same time, waged a successful struggle to solve international problems —above all, to preserve the peace and to stop imperialist and colonialist aggression. The working class of the socialist countries and the organized labor movement in the capitalist countries played an important role in opposing the aggression against Cuba (1960-62) and against the Arab countries, as well as in the effort to free the African peoples and in the struggle to ban nuclear weapons tests. The international working class also participated actively and effectively in the movement against US intervention in Vietnam. The victorious liberation struggle of the Vietnamese working people is one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of the anti-imperialist movement.

In the mid-1970’s there were approximately 640 million industrial and office workers in the world. (The office workers are part of the proletariat in terms of their living and working conditions and their place in the system of social production.) Of these, more than 240 million were in the capitalist countries, more than 235 million in the economically underdeveloped countries, and about 165 million in the socialist countries, including 130 million in the COMECON countries. By 1970 trade union membership had reached 260 million (approximately 160 million members from 65 countries in the World Federation of Trade Unions; more than 51 million from 89 countries in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and 14.5 million from 81 countries in the World Confederation of Trade Unions). Of the total number of trade union members, about 100 million were from the capitalist countries and the developing countries. The total number of people participating in strikes and in mass economic and political actions of the working people in all parts of the capitalist world grew from 26 million in 1958 and 36 million in 1959 to 60 million in 1969 and 62 million in 1974 and 1975.

The experience accumulated by the international working-class movement required theoretical generalization. Of great significance in this respect were the decisions of the international meetings of representatives of Communist and workers’ parties in 1957 and 1960 in Moscow, the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956, and the CPSU program adopted at the Twenty-second party congress in 1961. The conclusions reached by these congresses and international conferences of Communists were of great assistance to the international working class. Among the subjects covered were the fundamental character and content of the contemporary period, the transformation of the world socialist system into the decisive factor in world development, and the diversity of the forms of transition to socialism in different countries. The congresses and meetings concluded that under contemporary conditions war is not inevitable, and that Communist parties in the capitalist countries have the opportunity to unite the broadest strata of the population in the struggle against monopoly capital. With the fraternal assistance of the countries where socialism has triumphed, the countries that have freed themselves from colonial dependence have good prospects for noncapitalist development. The meetings and congresses also reached important conclusions regarding the principles that should govern the mutual relations of the socialist countries and the Communist and workers’ parties. It was also very important for the international working-class movement that the CPSU and other Communist parties came out openly against Stalin’s cult of personality and its consequences.

The general line worked out by the international communist movement has strengthened the prerequisites for firm unity among the forces in the world revolutionary movement. It indicates that the victory of socialism and communism will result from the joint struggle of the three main forces in the world revolutionary process (the world socialist system, the working-class movement, and the national liberation movement) during the era of peaceful coexistence between states with differing social systems.

At the same time, the expansion of the communist movement has been accompanied by a number of difficulties. From 1956 to 1958 right-wing revisionist vacillation grew stronger, encouraging the outbreak of the counterrevolutionary revolt in Hungary, in which world imperialism participated, and provoking crises in several Western Communist parties. The struggle against right-wing revisionist elements became more intense in the late 1960’s in Czechoslovakia. In Communist parties in several capitalist countries during this period right-wing revisionists became more active, coming out against fundamental theoretical principles of Marxism-Leninism. The concepts put forth by them had a number of features in common: the denial of the leading role of the working class under contemporary conditions, a convergence with reformism in assessing the character and prospects of the social and economic processes under way in the capitalist world, and an overt or covert expression of anti-Soviet views.

At the same time, revisionists “on the left” came out against the line collectively elaborated by the international communist movement. The leadership of the Communist Party of China, cloaking its chauvinist and hegemonic aims in revolutionary phrases, sought to organize a split in the international communist movement and to split individual Communist parties. The Communist Party of China made crude attacks on other Communist parties, particularly the CPSU, and violated all the principles of proletarian internationalism. Subsequently, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, these anti-Soviet and hegemonic objectives led the Communist Party of China to associate openly with the most reactionary imperialist forces. The betrayal of the communist movement by the Communist Party of China seriously harmed the development of the international working-class movement in general, facilitated imperialist aggression against Vietnam, and dealt blows to other elements of the world revolutionary process.

The CPSU and the Communist parties of most of the socialist countries, the European capitalist countries, the western hemisphere, Africa, and most of Asia have struggled persistently for the unity of the international communist movement on the basis of Marxist-Leninist principles. A significant role in this struggle was played by the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow in 1969, which developed a program of action that was intended to unite all the revolutionary forces of our time. The meeting was also very important for stepping up the activity of anti-imperialist forces and strengthening the international position of the communist movement. The 1969 meeting, the observance of the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth in 1970, and the congresses of the CPSU and other fraternal parties have been milestones in strengthening the unity of the international communist movement. The Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU (March-April 1974) and the Twenty-fifth Congress of the CPSU (February-March 1976) called for unity in the ranks of the communist movement and in the revolutionary movement as a whole in the struggle against imperialism, for the relaxation of international tensions (detente), and for the further development of the worldwide process of liberation. The entire work of the congresses was convincing proof that international solidarity with the working-class movement has been and remains one of the most important guiding principles of the work of the Soviet Communists. The successful implementation of the Peace Program, which was elaborated at the Twenty-Fourth Congress of the CPSU, opened new prospects in the struggle to close the ranks of the working class at the national level and strengthen international working-class unity.

A major achievement by all peace-loving and progressive forces in their struggle for the implementation of the Peace Program was the success of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the signing of its final document in Helsinki by 33 European countries and by the USA and Canada on July 31, 1975. The Twenty-fifth Congress of the CPSU attested to the advancement of the world revolutionary process. The congress worked out a further program for building communist society in the USSR and for the struggle for peace and peaceful coexistence among states with different socioeconomic systems. The allegiance of the CPSU, the Soviet people, and the Soviet state to the principles of proletarian internationalism and all-around solidarity with the world liberation movement was emphasized.

In the century and a half of its development, the international working-class movement has become a powerful force for social progress. Its history is convincing proof that Marxist-Leninist doctrine is correct in pointing to the historic mission of the working class. Despite all the theories of bourgeois and petit bourgeois ideologists, the working’class remains the most revolutionary class—a still rising class that is taking the lead in the struggle of all working people against capital and for the construction of socialism and communism.


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Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Obrashchenie Tsentral’nogo Komiteta k Soiuzu kommunistov.” Ibid., vol. 7. .
Marx, K. “Uchreditel’nyi manifest Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabochikh.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Marx, K. Kritika Gotskoi program my. Ibid., vol. 19.
Engels, F. “K kritike proekta sotsial-demokratich. programmy 1891 goda.” Ibid., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. Chto takoe ’druz’ia naroda” i kak oni voiuiut protiv sotsialdemokratov? Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1.
Lenin, V. I. “Anarkhizm i sotsializm.” Ibid., vol. 5.
Lenin, V. I. Chto delat’? Ibid., vol. 6.
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Lenin, V. I. “Uroki Kommuny.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm i revizionizm.” Ibid., vol. 17.
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Lenin, V. I. “Raznoglasiia v evropeiskom rabochem dvizhenii.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. “Istoricheskie sud’by ucheniia Karla Marksa.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Opportunizm i krakh II Internatsionala.” Ibid., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “Proletarskaia revoliutsiia i renegat Kautskii.” Ibid., vol. 37.
Lenin, V. I. “Tezisy i doklad o burzhuaznoi demokratii i diktature proletariata.” Ibid., vol. 37.
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Lenin, V. I. “O zadachakh III Internatsionala.” Ibid., vol. 39.
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M. I. MIKHAILOV (up to 1917) and K. L. MAIDANIK (after 1917) [15-1784-1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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