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From Comintern to Cominform

The Communist International, formed in 1919 at a time when Lenin and his associates expected the workers of all the leading countries to place Communists in power, continued in existence as an instrument of Russian foreign policy until it was wound up in 1943, presumably because, with problems of the peace settlement ahead, the Russian Government thought it tactful to remove an organisation that was at that time not very useful but was a source of irritation and alarm to the Allied governments.

On October 5th, 1947, the birth of an Information Bureau was announced (named by opponents the “Cominform”), representing the Communist parties of nine countries, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Rumania, Russia and Yugoslavia. According to the statement issued by the new group (Daily Worker, 6/10/47) it represents “the anti-imperialist and democratic camp, the principal aim of which is to undermine imperialism, strengthen democracy and liquidate the remnants of Fascism.”

It will “elaborate an agreed platform of action” directed against “the main forces of the imperialist camp – against American imperialism, its British and French Allies, the right-wing Socialists, in the first place in Britain and France.”

Again according to the Daily Worker, the communiqué issued by the Cominform “names Attlee, Bevin and Leon Blum among the ‘treacherous leadership’ of the Socialist movement,” It is explained by the Russian Communists that the new organisation “by no means signifies the restoration of a global Communist organisation with a centralized leadership, such as the Communist International represented at the time” (Daily Worker, 11/10/47), but it is evident from the declared objects that the aim is just the same, that of smashing Labour parties as a step towards the conquest of power by the Communist parties in the various countries.

What should be the attitude of workers to the new organisation? Are its aims and methods deserving of working-class support? Is it genuinely a body aiming to defend democracy, to oppose capitalism and imperialism, and to work for triumph of Socialism?

Let us first consider who engineered its formation by what methods. It was formed at a secret meeting in Warsaw in September, held on the initiative of Soviet Russia. The meeting was kept secret, not only secret from the openly capitalist press and capitalist parties of the world but secret also from the working class of the world, including the rank and file members of the Communist parties of the nine countries. The formation of the new body, like the dissolution of the old one in 1943 was decided over their heads and with their knowledge. The rank and file and even the leaders of the British Communist Party only learned of it after its secret decisions had been decided upon. The meeting, moreover, was called by Russian Communist Party officials, acting, of course, on the instructions of the Russian Government. In that country the Government is in the hands of the Communist Party, the membership of which numbers only a very small minority of the population. No political party is allowed to exist except the Communist Party, so that there is no political party to put up candidates in opposition to Communist Party candidates at elections. When, therefore, the Communist Party in this or any other country declares its support for “democracy” that is what they mean by democracy.

From the Socialist and working-class standpoint these dictatorial organisations, arriving at decisions at secret meetings, are wholly evil. Their activities are the antithesis of democracy and their work can only hinder the growth of a genuinely democratic, working-class Socialist movement.

There are, it is true, certain differences between the new organisation and the old. Instead of claiming world-wide scope it is at present limited to nine countries, most of them so placed that the Russian Government is in a position to extract direct and powerful influence on these governments with or without the camouflage provided by the Cominform. Its headquarters are to be in Belgrade, not Moscow, which suggests that the Russian Government will be able whenever it wishes to do so disclaim direct responsibility. As far as influence over the Communist Parties themselves is concerned the actual form taken by the new organisation is not of much account because the Communist Parties invariably toe the line laid down by Russia. They did so under the Comintern and continued to do so when the Comintern was officially abolished.

How little the Communist Parties and the Communist leaders in various countries are able to pursue a line of their own choosing was shown in 1939. The British Communist leaders came out in support of the war against Germany but immediately had to recant, make abject apology, and fall into line with Russian policy. It has been shown again by the Russian Government’s decision to support Jewish immigration and partition of Palestine. In the past the British Communists opposed it, now they must reverse their policy. Speaking in the House of Commons on June 19th, 1936, Mr. Gallacher, Communist M.P., declared: “Palestine can never be a home for the Jews.” He said that the Jews “have been fooled by their politicians who, under the leadership of the Zionist movement and who are the agents for British Imperialism against Arab masses.” He described the revolt of the Arabs against the attempt to set up a Jewish state as “a thoroughly unjustifiable revolt. It demands the end of immigration of a character which threatens the existence of Palestine.” Likewise a pamphlet published by the Communist Labour Monthly opposed partition as a scheme of British Imperialists. (“Who is Prosperous in Palestine?” 1936, p. 41.)

The Communist Parties are merely the propaganda agents for Russian governmental policy. What they is not a consistent policy based on principle but a policy based on the day-to-day tactics of the Government in its fight against the other imperialist powers.

In home policy there is the same want of principle. They alternatively oppose the Labour Party, saying it is a socialist party. In 1929 they described nationalisation as “State Capitalism” and the Labour Party as the “third Capitalist Party” (“Class Against Class,” p. 8), yet now pretend that nationalisation is socialism and ask the Labour Government “how is it that only one industry has been nationalised?” (Daily Worker, 13/10/47.) In 1939 they took the initiative in asking Mr. Churchill to form a National Government along with the Labour and the Liberal parties. When this was done they attacked the Labour Party for associating with Churchill! Then in 1941 when Russia was invaded they supported Churchill and now again discover that he has all along been and enemy of the workers.

The future Socialism depends on the growth of democratic, socialist organisations. The new Cominform, as well as the Communist parties that are at present not affiliated to it, are the enemies of both Socialism and Democracy.