Update on Comintern Publishing Project

26th Jun 2017

Comintern Publishing Effort Prepares Two New Books

In 1983 a project was begun to translate into English and annotate major documents of the world socialist movement from 1907 to 1923. The project’s core was publication of the proceedings and decisions of the first four congresses of the Communist International (Comintern) – those congresses held while Lenin was still alive.

Edited by John Riddell, the project aimed above all to make accessible to new generations of revolutionary-minded working people and activists the lessons of the first major attempt to build a genuinely worldwide movement dedicated to the goal of overturning capitalist rule and putting working people in power.

In the 34 years since the project began, seven installments have been published, totaling 5,678 pages. The project’s initial volumes, including the proceedings of the First and Second congresses, were published by Pathfinder Press.  The proceedings and resolutions of the Third and Fourth congresses were published by the Historical Materialism Book Series, produced in hardback by Brill and in paperback by Haymarket Books.

These volumes won acclaim from specialists in the field, as well as close attention from socialist activists in every continent. The ideas that they present have figured in many debates on socialist policies for today’s struggles.

The goal of the series has been to make available the original source material – reports, discussions, and resolutions – to allow readers to assess the early Communist movement for themselves. Annotation concentrates on providing background and historical context to make the material from a century ago understandable today.

One of the valuable features of these volumes is to enable readers to follow the congress debates as they unfolded. What comes through clearly is the Communist International’s character as a living and vibrant world movement. An essential piece of this ability was the atmosphere of free and open debate that the reader encounters at all four Lenin-era congresses, in which no one seemed afraid to openly criticize Lenin, Trotsky, and the other Bolshevik leaders, and put forward their own opinions.

Two Upcoming Volumes

While the goal of publishing the proceedings and resolutions of the first four Comintern congresses is now complete, the project itself continues. Two other volumes are currently in the works:

1. In late 2017 the Historical Materialism Book Series will publish The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923, edited by Mike Taber and translated by John Riddell.

The volume contains the proceedings and resolutions of three special meetings of the Comintern in 1922 and 1923. Known as “enlarged plenums” of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI), these meetings addressed major strategic questions and policy initiatives facing the movement in those years. Two questions above all were discussed at these plenums:

* The united front. The First ECCI plenum in February-March 1922 was the scene of the main discussion in the Communist movement on the meaning and value of the united front. A heated exchange took place at this meeting, as a number of delegates opposed the new policy. In the course of this debate, Comintern leaders clarified what a united front is, why it is necessary, and how it can be brought about.

* Fascism. The Third ECCI plenum in June 1923 witnessed the first attempt of the world Marxist movement to determine the character of fascism, and how it should be fought.  A major report by Clara Zetkin and a resolution authored by her outlined a number of key ideas about fascism that were subsequently taken up and defended by Leon Trotsky in the 1930s. The Zetkin report and resolution will also be included in a separate short book, Fighting Fascism, to be published by Haymarket Books in the fall of 2017, edited by Mike Taber and John Riddell.

The three meetings also addressed other key topics: the workers’ and peasants’ government; the role of trade unions and Communist work within them; the challenges confronting Soviet Russia; problems of Communist parties around the world; the threat of war; problems of building a centralized world movement; and more.

2. Work is now beginning on a volume containing proceedings, resolutions, and documents of the Communist Women’s Movement, organized around the Comintern’s International Women’s Secretariat headed by Clara Zetkin.

This movement was established in 1920 with the aim of drawing women into the membership and leadership of the Communist movement, while simultaneously outlining a revolutionary course in the fight for women’s emancipation.

This new volume will contain the proceedings and resolutions of the initial world conferences of the Communist Women’s Movement, together with other documents of the movement between 1920 and 1924.

By making this material available, the volume will help bring to light a little-known chapter in the fight for women’s emancipation, as well as in the history of the world Communist movement in the era of the Russian revolution.

Correspondence regarding this project can be addressed to

For a listing of volumes in the series, see