||Proletarian Internationalism||Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century|
Marx played a major role in the First International (International Workingmen's Association) which functioned from 1864 to 1876 and with Engels he helped form its successor, the Second (or Socialist) International in 1889. The Socialist International was a major forum for development of revolutionary theory and practice, until it broke down on the eve of World War I when many of its leading members took the part of their countries in the war.
Whatever their disagreements on other issues, the leaders of the Russian Revolution, including Lenin and Trotsky, were confirmed internationalists, believing at the time that revolutions would take place throughout Europe and undermine the efforts of the capitalist countries to destroy the Soviet Union. They rejected the Socialist International because of its nationalist (and effectively pro-capitalist) stance on World War I, and formed instead the Third International which convened for its first congress in Moscow in 1919.
As Lenin described in his article on the Third International, "The First International laid the foundation of the proletarian, international struggle for socialism. The Second International marked a period in which the soil was prepared for the broad, mass spread of the movement in a number of countries. The Third International has gathered the fruits of the work of the Second International, discarded its opportunist, social-chauvinist, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois dross, and has begun to implement the dictatorship of the proletariat."
The Third International (later called the Communist International or Comintern for short) got off to a good start, but over the years, as the Soviet Union fell more and more under the control of Stalin, it became little more than a forum for Soviet foreign policy (see descriptions online at marxists.org and the Wikipedia). It was disbanded by Stalin in 1943.
The failure of the Third International came in part because it imposed a "party-line" against the advice of Lenin. As he expressed in his book, Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, the International should "create a really centralised and really leading centre capable of directing the international tactics of the revolutionary proletariat in its struggle for a world Soviet republic. It should be clearly realised that such a leading centre can never be built up on stereotyped, mechanically equated, and identical tactical rules of struggle. As long as national and state distinctions exist among peoples and countries—and these will continue to exist for a very long time to come, even after the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established on a world-wide scale—the unity of the international tactics of the communist working-class movement in all countries demands, not the elimination of variety of the suppression of national distinctions (which is a pipe dream at present), but an application of the fundamental principles of communism (Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat), which will correctly modify these principles in certain particulars, correctly adapt and apply them to national and national-state distinctions.
Although Mao Tse-Tung rejected the heavy-handiness of Stalin's Comintern, he also embraced the basic principle of internationalism. He warned the Chinese against "great-power chauvinism" in his writings on Patriotism and Internationalism. In 1956 he wrote that by "the beginning of the 21st century, China will have undergone an even greater change. She will have become a powerful socialist industrial country. And that is as it should be. China is a land with an area of 9,600,000 square kilometers and a population of 600 million people ... But we must be modest - not only now, but forty-five years hence as well. We should always be modest. In our international relations, we Chinese people should get rid of great-power chauvinism resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely. ... We must never adopt an arrogant attitude of great-power chauvinism and become conceited because of the victory of our revolution and certain achievements in our construction. Every nation, big or small, has its strong and weak points."
In the second half of the 20th Century, the Soviet Union, as the oldest and richest socialist country, took on the responsibility of supporting revolutionary movements and new socialist countries around the world. In 1969, in the face of the American imperialist war on Vietnam, a meeting of Communist and Workers Parties in Moscow was attended by high-level representatives from parties in over 70 countries, with the conspicuous absence of the Chinese. The documents from that meeting, of great historical interest, are apparently not yet available on the Internet.
The Soviet Union took seriously its international responsibilities. According to one authoritative economic analysis (Rand Corporation in Science magazine 230:997, 1985), by the 1980's the Soviets consecrated as much as 7% of its total economy to international support. This included trade subsidies, direct economic and military aid and export credits, especially to Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan. In Eastern Europe at that time, the joke was that the average family consisted of mother, father, one natural kid, one Vietnamese kid and one Cuban kid. The fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of its international solidarity was a great setback to revolutionary movements around the world.
Attempts to revive an international movement have not been very successful. Beginning in the 1930's Trotsky and his followers tried to establish a Fourth International whose membership consisted of so-called "Trotskyist organizations" usually opposed to Communist Parties in countries around the world, but it has never succeeded in engaging mass revolutionary movements. Instead, there are hundreds of small, sectarian groups. For a partial list, see http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/intl.htm.
Although the 1969 meeting in Moscow was the last great international meeting of Communist and Workers Parties before the collapse of Soviet socialism, less elaborate international meetings of Communist and Workers' Parties continue to this day. For example, a meeting took place in Athens, Greece in June 2003.