Twenty-One Terms

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Twenty-One Terms


(Conditions of Admission to the Communist International), the resolution of the Second Congress of the Comintern of Aug. 6,1920, which defined the terms under which parties could join the Comintern. The draft of the terms was written by V. I. Lenin.

The fact that intermediate, centrist parties and groups that had not renounced opportunist ideologies and tactics were trying to join the Comintern and that some parties which already belonged to the Comintern had not purged their ranks of reformist elements explained the need to adopt the terms for admission. The Comintern was threatened by the “danger of dilution by the influx of wavering and irresolute groups” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 205).

The Twenty-one Terms were based on the historical experience of the Bolshevik party. The terms demanded that each party either belonging to or desiring to join the Comintern carry on daily communist propaganda and agitation directed at the conquest of the dictatorship of the proletariat and that reformists and centrists be removed from responsible posts in the workers’ movement systematically and consistently and be replaced by reliable communists. The terms furthermore demanded that parties seeking admission be able to combine legal and illegal work; persistently and systematically carry on agitation and propaganda in the armed forces and in the countryside; and explain to the masses, that it would be impossible to avoid the danger of imperialist wars without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. The terms stipulated a complete break of Communist parties with reformism and centrism and the spread of propaganda demanding this break among the broadest circles of party members; support of the national liberation movement in the colonies, as well as support of each Soviet republic in its struggle against counterrevolution; and carrying out of systematic and planned work within trade unions, cooperatives, and other mass workers’ organizations. The terms called on Communists to struggle against the reformist Amsterdam International of Trade Unions and to support an international federation of red trade unions, which was being created; they also called on Communists to remove unreliable elements from the membership of parliamentary fractions and to subordinate these fractions, as well as party press organs and publishing houses, to the Central Committee of the party. The terms demanded the organization of parties on the principles of democratic centralism, the establishment of iron party discipline, the systematic purging of parties of petty bourgeois elements, the adoption of new communist programs by the parties, the fulfillment of all the resolutions of the Comintern, the renaming of the parties as “Communist,” and the reprinting by the parties’ central press organs of all important documents of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. The terms obliged all parties to summon at the earliest possible date extraordinary congresses to discuss the Twenty-one Terms. In order to join the Comintern, it was necessary that no less than two-thirds of the members of all the principal party bodies be Communists who had publicly supported entry into the Communist International as far back as before the Second Congress of the Comintern. Members of the Communist Party who rejected the terms and tactics of the Comintern were subject to expulsion from the party.

The Twenty-one Terms were directed at the ideological and organizational consolidation of the still young communist movement under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. Some of the points of this document were necessitated by the peculiarities of the revolutionary struggle of that time. Another part embodied principles that have retained their significance throughout an entire historical epoch. At the Second Congress of the Comintern, wavering centrist elements from a number of delegations spoke against the Twenty-one Terms. However, the majority of the delegates to the congress approved this Leninist document. Subsequently, the Twenty-one Terms were discussed at congresses of parties belonging to the Comintern. Communists of the entire world approved the terms, which erected a barrier against the penetration by opportunists and centrists into the Communist International.


Vtoroi kongress Kominterna, iiul’-avgust 1920 g.: Protokoly kon-gressov Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala. Moscow, 1934.
Lenin, V. I. “Usloviia priema v Kommunisticheskii Internatsional.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41.
Lenin, V. I. “Dvadtsatyi punkt uslovii priema v Kommunisticheskii Internatsional.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Rech’ ob usloviiakh priema v Kommunisticheskii Internatsional 30 iiulia.” (II Kongress Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala 19 iiulia–7 avg. 1920 g.) Ibid.


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