Socialist International

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Socialist International


an international organization of Social Democratic parties and successor to the Labor and Socialist International of the pre-World War II period.

The Socialist International was founded in Frankfurt am Main in 1951 as successor to Comisco, the socialists’ organizational center from 1947 to 1951. It set forth its programmatic principles in its declaration On the Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism, adopted at the founding congress. The declaration reflected the fundamental conceptions of contemporary Social Democracy and Social Democracy’s rejection of Marxism as the theoretical foundation of Social Democratic ideology and politics. Socialists, the declaration announced, are indifferent to whether they draw their convictions “from the data of Marxist or some other analysis of social relations or from religious and humanistic principles.” The aim of the Socialist International is officially proclaimed to be the achievement of “democratic socialism,” that is, first, the gradual transformation of capitalism into socialism without class struggle and socialist revolution and, second, the establishment of the power of the working class, with private ownership retained in certain branches of the economy (seeDEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM).

The Frankfurt Declaration proclaimed that “democratic socialists recognize that the strengthening of world peace is a significant task in our time.” In practice, however, Socialist International leaders have supported the NATO countries against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and have contributed to the cold war and the consolidation of military blocs among the capitalist countries. They have supported “European integration,” describing as objectively socialist an idea proffered by bourgeois governments with the aim of consolidating the forces of imperialism.

Since the late 1950’s, the Socialist International, in its various activities, has revealed a tendency to seek out a new line in foreign policy, a tendency most evident in the memorandums submitted to it in 1957 by the Labour Party of Great Britain and the Social Democratic Party of the Federal Republic of Germany. The memorandums urged, among other things, the creation of a zone of controlled disarmament in central Europe and a system of collective security. These questions were discussed at the Sixth Congress of the Socialist International, which met in Hamburg in July 1959. Socialist leaders from several countries spoke against the proposals, which, they claimed, would shift the “balance of power” in favor of the USSR. Thus, within the Socialist International, two different lines on international questions emerged and came into conflict—one favoring continuation of the old line, the other favoring change.

In an effort to overcome these contradictions, Socialist International leaders have tried to combine two mutually exclusive principles—loyalty to NATO policies and responsiveness to the peace-loving aspirations of the toiling masses. In the 1960’s and especially the 1970’s, as the world’s balance of power has changed in favor of peace and socialism and as the political life of the capitalist countries and socialist parties has evolved internally, the Socialist International has increasingly made positive shifts in its policies. Its leaders have come out in support of the principles of peaceful coexistence, with recognition of the peace-loving character of Soviet foreign policy and the importance of Soviet initiatives in the struggle for peace—a position reflected in the resolutions passed at the Twelfth (June 1972), Thirteenth (Nov. 1976), and Fourteenth (Nov. 1978) Congresses of the Socialist International. After some hesitation, Socialist International leaders announced their support of the socialist countries’ proposal for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and took an active part in the work of that conference.

The Socialist International has also markedly changed its stance toward the liberation struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the early 1960’s it supported the US imperialists’ war against the Vietnamese and other peoples of Indochina; in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, it called for an immediate end to the war. In the Middle East conflict, it has, since the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, retreated from its position of unconditional support for Israel, a position it had held through the 1950’s and 1960’s. In February 1973 the Socialist International Bureau met in Chile—the first time it had ever met in Latin America or a Third World country—and declared its support for the struggle of the Latin American peoples for independence and social progress. The Socialist International condemned the military coup in Chile and the junta’s reign of terror. The Socialist International’s increased attention to the developing countries and its more positive stance toward liberation struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are to a considerable extent dictated by its leaders’ desire to counter the communists’ and socialist countries’ growing influence in the Third World.

The Socialist International has accorded great importance to relations with the communist parties. Its founding congress met under the auspices of anticommunism, and it stated its anticommunist position in 1956 in special resolutions of its Council and Bureau. Rejecting the call of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU for cooperation, Socialist International leaders declared that socialists and communists had “nothing in common” and that they therefore opposed “any united front or other form of political collaboration” with communist parties. In June 1969, at the Eleventh Congress, held at Eastbourne, Great Britain, they succeeded in having a new anticommunist resolution adopted.

Despite the efforts of rightist leaders, however, several socialist parties have entered into cooperation with communist parties. In 1972, given the circumstances, the Bureau was forced to pass a resolution that Social Democratic parties are “free to decide questions concerning their bilateral relations with other parties.” The question of relations between communist parties and the parties of the Socialist International has occasioned sharp debate and contention within the Socialist International. The leaders of some parties, such as the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Austrian Socialist Party, and the British Labour Party, oppose cooperation with the communists; those of other parties, such as the French Socialist Party, Italian Socialist Party, Japanese Socialist Party, and Social Democratic Party of Finland, favor contacts and unity of action with the communists.

In November 1978 the membership of the Socialist International consisted of 57 parties, 42 of which had a full-member status, and 15 had the status of consultative members (nonvoting); the last were the so-called parties in exile, or emigres from socialist countries. Several international organizations, such as youth and women’s organizations, are affiliated with the Socialist International.

The Socialist International’s highest organ is the congress, which meets once every two years. Between congresses leadership is exercised by the Bureau, which, according to the rules adopted at the Thirteenth Congress of Socialist International, includes representatives of all member parties. The Secretariat does the day-to-day work of the Socialist International.

W. Brandt of the FRG is president of the Socialist International. B. Karlsson of Sweden heads the secretariat. The news bulletin Socialist Affairs, until 1971 the Socialist International Information, is the official press organ (as of 1978).


Cherniaev, A. S. Sovremennaia sotsial-demokratiia i problemy edinstva rabochego dvizheniia. Moscow, 1964.
Undasynov, I., and S. Gribanov. Sotsial-demokratiia v sovremennom mire. Moscow, 1966.
Ideologiia sovremennogo reformizma. Moscow, 1970.
Sibilev, N. “Otnoshenie liderov Sotsialisticheskogo Internatsionala k problemam voiny i mira.” In the collection Protiv reformizma, za edinstvo rabochego dvizheniia. Moscow, 1966.
Sibilev, N. “Iz istorii vosstanovleniia Sotsialisticheskogo Internatsionala.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1964, no. 2.
Sibilev, N. “Sovremennaia sotsial-demokratiia o vziamo-otnosheniiakh s komunistami.” Rabochii klass i sovremennyi mir, 1973, no. 4.
Gerasimov, G., and N. Sibilev.”Sotsialisticheskii Internatsional—protivnik edinstva rabochego klassa.” Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1969, no.12.
Braunthal, J. Geschichteder Internationale, vol. 3. Hanover, 1971.


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