Revolutionaries in the a Time of Retreat
Book Review

McTaggart, Ted M.
Date Written:  2014-05-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20443

Book review of "Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922" edited and translated by John Riddell.



The Communist International, or Comintern, sought not only a revolutionary regroupment of the international socialist movement after the capitulation of the Second International to national chauvinism. In contrast to the federalist model of the Second International, the Comintern was conceived as a "world party of socialist revolution," in which member parties would be held accountable to an Executive Committee (the Executive Committee of the Communist International, hereafter ECCI), democratically elected by the World Congress to coordinate work and serve as a command center for international revolution, widely believed in the chaotic postwar years to be months, not years away.

In November of 1922, representatives of dozens of national Communist Parties across six continents converged in Petrograd for the Comintern's Fourth Congress. The international landscape was no longer what it had been in 1919.

Throughout Europe, the postwar revolutionary upsurge had been countered by a bold capitalist counteroffensive; revolutionary workers' movements in Germany and Italy had gone down in defeat, and it was becoming increasingly clear that international socialist revolution would not happen overnight.

Meanwhile, after emerging victorious from a lengthy civil war, Soviet Russia had recently enacted the New Economic Policy, viewed by many as representing a rapprochement with capitalism.

Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, edited and translated by John Riddell, stands on its own as a snapshot of the international Communist movement at a key moment in its development. It is also the continuation of a much more ambitious documentary history of the Comintern begun by Riddell in 1984; Pathfinder Press published six volumes of The Communist International in Lenin's Time under Riddell's editorship between 1984 and 1993. Previous volumes document the first and second Comintern congresses as well as the Baku Congress of Peoples of the East in 1920.

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