Second International


special website - July 14, 2014

on occasion of the 125 Anniversary of the Second International



Preliminary note of the Comintern (SH)


Until now we had presented two Classics of Marxism-Leninism - in combination - to express the world-historical meaning of their common work:

Marx and Engels

Lenin and Stalin

Stalin and Enver Hoxha

And now:

Engels and Lenin


Engels and Lenin appear together on this web-site, namely the first time in communist historiography.

Why ?

At first:

The period of the II. International is of important ideological significance - the transitional period from Marxism to Leninism. In life-times of Engels the II. International was guided by Marxism. The III. International was guided by Marxism-Leninism.

At second:

The period of the II. International is of important organisational significance - the transitional period from the International Working-Men’s Association to the Communist International.

At third:

The period of the II. International is of important significance of the breadth of internationalization of the revolutionary proletarian movement - the transitional period between Paris Commune and October Revolution, the transitional period of the socialist workers' world movement to the communist movement of the world proletariat.



"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 Second International (1889-1914) was an international organisation of the proletarian movement whose growth proceeded in breadth, at the cost of a temporary drop in the revolutionary level, a temporary strengthening of opportunism, which in the end led to the disgraceful collapse of this International.

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." ( Lenin: "The Third International and its place in history", April 15, 1919)


Engels and Lenin have both got a place of honor because of their great merits concerning their work for the Marxist alignement of the II. International. Engels and Lenin were - one after another - the leaders of the international communist and workers' movement in this historical period of the II. International. In this period Lenin created the further development of Marxism = Marxism in the beginning period of imperialism and the proletarian revolution (= Leninism).

In the struggle against revisionism, under the new conditions of imperialism such as social-chauvinism and social-patriotism, Marxism-Leninism became the ideology of the revolutionary international proletariat.

This historical fact is overlooked all too often unjustly. We Stalinist-Hoxhaists cannot speak about the First and the Third International without the historical meaning of the II. International.

The Second International was up to the year of 1914 dominated by the spirit of Marxism, though the II. International could not any longer be prevented from its increasing process of decay - caused by the dominant betrayal of the opportunists and revisionists. However, and after all, the "Basle-Resolution of 1912" still highlighted elements of the spirit of the revolution which would inevitably break out in consequence of the imperialist war. This law corresponded perfectly to the teaching of Marxism.

Our Stalinist-Hoxhaist world party must learn not only from the teachings and experiences of the I. and III. International but also from the revolutionary experiences of the Second International, and much more from its opportunist process of decay.

 If we defend the Second International, we defend primarily the work of Engels and Lenin in it, in particular their fight against the traitors of the Second International.

Engels was the one who implanted the revolutionary Marxist spirit of the Second International - from the beginning until his death in 1895. And - some years after - it was Lenin who defended and further developed this revolutionary Marxist spirit as one of the leaders of the Second International.

Unfortunately, these two Classics have not worked together personally, but their revolutionary work that they accomplished in the Second International is to be categorized as a great, common, immortal, communist work.


Comintern (SH)

March, 2011







and the Second International

Friedrich Engels played a crucial role in the preparation of all the Congresses from 1889 to 1893. 


Frederick Engels

Possibilist Credentials

August 10, 1889



Engels was involved in the draft and implementation of the Programme of the Second International.


Engels took part at the Zurich Congress of the "Second International" - as honorary chairman .

Engels was not only the best and most fameous guide of the Second International but also the undisputed ideological leader of the international socialist labour movement - after the death of Karl Marx.

Engels' leadership-role in the international labour movement intensified significantly with the founding of the Second International. His fight for the merger of the new international association of socialist and labour parties - on the basis of Marxism and the dissemination of scientific communism among the proletarians of all countries - is reflected in many of his writings and letters.



In the end of the 80s the proletarian parties and organizations strived increasingly for a strengthening of the international unity - to join their forces for the overthrow of capitalism. The conditions for the creation of a new international organization of the proletariat had matured.  Engels wrote on 4 January, 1888, to the Romanian Social-Democrat Nadejde: "These progresses are so great that, at least for the European party, a common international policy has become possible and necessary."



In the early days of the Second International, Friedrich Engels struggled relentlessly for the defense of Marxism against opportunism. He spread further scientific communism in the international labour movement and strengthened the socialist parties that had joint since 1889 in the Second International. He gave important advice to the Second International for preparing its strategy and tactics. In the spirit of international solidarity, more practically, he also provided material support to the parties and the workers of different countries for their strikes and campaigns against the bourgeoisie.



Founding Congress of the Second International

in Paris


Engels recognized the danger early enough that the desire of the workers, to merge internationally, could be misused by opportunists, who aimed for their leadership-role at the top of the international labour movement. This foresight was motive to pause his scientific work, even his work on the third volume of the "Capital". And so he was actively involved in the preparation of the Paris Congress of 1889.


"Engels (who was then 68 years old) entered the fray like a young man," Lenin later wrote about that time (Lenin, Volume 12, page 367 ).

Engels was confronted with the most important task to secure the international unity of the proletariat on the basis of scientific communism, and he made every effort to ensure the victory of the Marxist forces and to thwart the machinations of the opportunists - the Possibilists in France and the leaders of the Social Democratic Federation  in England.


The letters to Paul Lafargue, 21, 23 and 25 March 1889 and Wilhelm Liebknecht, 4, 5 and 17 April 1889 show, with which vigor Engels was guiding the preparation of the Paris Congress of 1889.


Engels himself provided an extensive organizational work and supported the French Marxists in the preparation of the Congress with numerous concrete advice and hints. He warned and urged Paul Larfargue to adopt the appeal for the convention of the Congress and to ensure that the foreign comrades sign it. He rewrote it, managed its translation into English and translated it into German by himself. Together with Eleanor Marx, he contributed to the publication and dissemination of the appeal. Engels' efforts were crowned with success. On 17 July 1889, he was able to write to his friend Friedrich Adolph Sorge:

"Our Congress hits home and is a brilliant success."

The Paris International Socialist Workers' Congress of 1889 was the founding congress of the Second International. 

This Congress based itself - in all material respects, from the very start - on the ground of Marxism. The Congress oriented the international labour movement to the struggle against militarism and war, the formation and strengthening of political parties and trade unionist mass organizations in all countries. This Congress called the struggle for democratic rights, using all legal means of struggle and stressed the goal of the labour movement: the conquest of political power.


Engels described the Decision  to demonstrate international solidarity on First of May 1890, and the Decision on the eight-hour day - as the "best thing that our Congress has done." 

With this Decision the great world holiday and fighting-day of the international working class - was born. The decision on the May Day celebration, adopted on the founding Congress of the II. International, was - as Engels stressed repeatedly - of great importance for the mobilization of the masses and the strengthening of international proletarian solidarity. In the preface to the fourth German edition of the "Manifesto of the Communist Party "(1890) Engels stated with pride that the call: "Proletarians of all countries - unite!" which was spread all over the world by Marx and Engels in 1848, found approval of the workers all over the world. This was proven by the great demonstrations in the May of 1890. In his greeting addresses ("To the Austrian workers on 1 May 1893", "To the German workers on 1 May 1893", "In spite of all!" [greeting address to the French workers on May 1, 1893] .. and others) - written on occasion of the May-demonstrations - Engels called for the international proletariat to make the every-year May-Day  a traditional parade of the growing proletarian world army. This parade shows the increasing resoluteness of strengthening the proletarian internationalism.

His extensive correspondence with the leaders of the international workers' movement was needed to generalize the experience of the revolutionary labour movement of various countries and to explain its consequences. The letters of Engels show us how much Engels struggled for the ideological and organizational strengthening of the parties, and how he appeared irreconcilable in opposite of all varieties of opportunism. On the other hand he helped the leaders to overcome dogmatic and sectarian errors.

Consistently and principled Engels defended the doctrine of the revolutionary party of the working class and the need for an independent proletarian class policy. The ideological unity of all parties and their discipline, Engels emphasized, are based on the high consciousness and internationalist activity of its members, are based on the participation of each party member in the development of an internationalist politics and tactics of the parties.

Engels repeatedly made all the socialist parties aware that it was necessary to creatively apply the Marxist theory. Theoretical platforms

"are useless if they do not fit to the real demands of the people."

 International Marxism is a "living theory of action, working with the working class on every possible stage of its development." 

Marxism is not "a collection of dogmas which are memorized and recited like a mantra or a Catholic prayer."

The correct application of Marxist theory requires, as Engels pointed out repeatedly, to work out the tactics of the international proletarian parties on the basis of concrete historical situation in each country and thereby generalize the experience of the revolutionary struggle of the masses scientifically.

On 4 September 1892, he wrote to Karl Kautsky: "In our tactics - one thing is indispensable for all countries and for all times: to convince the workers to create their own independent party in opposition of all the bourgeois parties."


Leitmotif in all the letters of Engels is his passionate struggle for the international unity and solidarity of the working class. Engels assumed that it is necessary and possible to achieve the best accordance of the fundamental questions of class struggle within the international labour movement. He tirelessly worked for the cooperation of socialist parties and for their education in the spirit of proletarian internationalism. He always pointed out that the national tasks of the labour movements must be inseparably connected to the general, over-all internationalist tasks.

Engels was relentlessly keen to consolidate the II. International and secure the international workers' unity on a Marxist basis. With this intention he took active part in the preparation of the international socialist Congresses. His letters to Paul Lafargue from June 12 and 28, 1891, to Laura Lafargue from July 20, and August 17, 1891, and to Friedrich Adolph Sorge from August 9 and 11, 1891, and other letters - give evidence of Engel's great attention which he gave to the preparations for the International Socialist Workers' Congress in Brussels (which took place from 16 to 22 August 1891).


International Socialist Workers' Congress in Brussels

(16 to 22 August 1891)


In the preparation of the next Congress of the Second International in Brussels, in 1891, Engels was also significantly involved. Some letters reflect his support of Marxist parties in developing the right tactics to convene the Congress. He isolated the opportunists and secured the victory of the followers of Marxism (see the letters to Paul Larfargue from September 15 and 19, 1890, to Friedrich Adolph Sorge from September 27, 1890, to Leo Frankel from September 25, 1890, etc.).

In his writing "On the Brussels Convention and the situation in Europe", Engels' prominent role as leader of the international proletariat became apparent.

He opposed all the attempts of the opportunists, especially the Possibilists who undermined the unity of the international labour movement. To the Marxist leaders, he gave specific instructions to correct errors which were committed in the preparation. The efforts of Engels and other leading Marxist forces of the international workers' movement finally resulted in the fact that the Brussels Congress took place on the ground of Marxism - from the very beginning. The Brussels Congress, which called upon the workers of all countries to fight the caving for war and war-alliances, which demanded for protective labour legislation, and which took other important decisions, - all this was of great value for the further development of the international workers' movement. Engels welcomed the results of the Congress. On 2 September, 1891, he told his friend Friedrich Adolph Sorge: "The Marxists have won all along the line - both according to principle and tactics ..."



International Socialist Workers' Congress in Zurich

(16 - 12 August 1893)



Even in the preparation of the Zurich International Socialist Workers' Congress Engels seized the initiative when it mattered to face the renewed attempts of the opportunists to divide the international working unity. When he learned that the Congress of Trade Unions had decided (in Glasgow) to decline the invitation to the Socialist Congress in Zurich and - instead - to call its own, separatist labour congress on the question of the eight-hour day, then Engels developed a plan that enabled the frustration of the realization of this sneaky decision. He recommended to adopt resolutions of protest, which should not only come from the socialist parties, but also from the unions. This is - he wrote on 11 September, 1892 to August Bebel - "a magnificent opportunity ..., to make plain to the English and to show them that the class-conscious proletariat has no intention to subordinate under the line of people for whom the wage system is an eternal and unshakable world construction. "

Engels 'efforts and the efforts of the revolutionary forces of the international workers' movement were successful. The workers of Germany, France, Spain and other countries of the continent declined the invitation of the reformist leaders of Trade Unions. The Congress - which was plotted by the opportunists - did not take place.

A highlight of the Zurich Congress was Engels' last appearance on the trial. He gave a passionate speech in which he emphasized the need of common agreements to strengthen the unity and clout of the international proletariat. In his closing speech at the International Socialist Workers' Congress in Zurich, Engels said:

"We have to tolerate the debate - otherwise we woul become a sect, however our common position must be respected."

His impressions of the Zurich Congress are reflected in letters to Laura Lafargue (21August 1893), to Friedrich Adolph Sorge ( 7th October 1893) and in other letters.


Engels devoted considerable attention to the development and strengthening of international relations between the socialists of different countries. He considered the exchange of information between the various socialist parties about their activities, their mutual support in the press as important means to promote the merger of the international labour movement. Engels called for mutual exchange of experiences - as objectively and comprehensively as possible. He criticized several times the "Vorwärts", the central organ of the German Social Democracy, because of its inaccurate and superficial coverage of the labour movement in England and France. To Paul Larfargue, August Bebel and other leaders of the labour movement, he wrote extensively on the need for careful selection of the foreign correspondents for the socialist newspaper.

Also the personal contacts between the leaders of socialist parties contributed significantly to the strengthening of international cooperation. Engels himself was the initiator of a series of international meetings of Socialists. Engels repeatedly pointed out, how important it was, that representatives of the fraternal parties attend party-congresses and rallies in other countries.


In his letter to Laura Lafargue, 20 June, 1893, Engels said explicitly that relations between the socialist parties can only be based on the principle of full equal rights. 

An "international organization can only exist between nations whose existence, autonomy and independence in internal affairs are therefore already included in the concept of internationalism."


But he turned decidedly against the unfounded claims to hegemony in the international labour movement, raised by diverse parties at times. Not the subjective desires of their leaders determine the position of this or that party in the international labour movement, Engels said, but what counts is the objective role which the party plays in the liberation struggle of the working class. Engels did not deny, that individual parties can form the revolutionary vanguard of the international movement in one or another stage of the struggle, however he pointed out, that the overthrow of capitalism on an international scale can by no means be the matter of an individual party.

"... Neither French nor German, nor English," he concretised this idea in his letter to Paul Larfargue on June 27, 1893, "will enjoy the fame, having overthrown capitalism all by itself; ... The liberation of the proletariat can only be an international action ..."


Engels was aware that the labour movement had reached such a level that joint action of the different national formations of the working class were possible. However, he stressed that these steps would have to be discussed by all participants in advance and carried out only in voluntary cooperation.


"The absolute condition for any international action," he wrote to Paul Larfargue, "has to be that agreements are made in advance about the content and form. It seems to me inadmissible that a nationality takes the initiative - publicly all alone - and that it then calls the other  to follow. "


Engels repeatedly alluded to the big mistake to separate the solution of problems of the labour movement in any country from the collective tasks of the entire international proletariat. He urged the Socialists to think always about the necessity, that each individual step is also important for the class brothers in other countries. Every party is required to take this into account.

Engels pointed out that the activity of the one party inevitably affects that of all the other parties - that ...

"... a success conquered by one country reacts powerfully on all the others."

 Based on this, Engels recommended, socialist parties must coordinate their tactics with one other.


He condemned those Socialists who did not notice that the labour movement does not always develop according to their subjective notions, and found that, for example, in the United States of America the struggle of the working class differs in many ways  from that of the European continent, and that not a few leaders of the Socialist Workers' Party of North America did not notice the different conditions of development - with the cosequence that they detached from the masses of the struggling proletariat.

Engels attched great value to the further strengthening of the international proletarian relations, international congresses and conferences, but above all to the direct contacts and meetings of representatives of the parties. As particularly important he considered the establishment of permanent links between the two largest departments of the working class on the continent - the French Socialists and the German Social Democrats. This connection, he considered as a strong barrier against the aspirations of the chauvinist reactionary forces in the two countries, but simultaneously as a bulwark against the increasing opportunism. In the socialist parties, mainly in the German Social Democracy, the most influential party of the Second International, openly opportunist, reformist current appeared towards the end of the 19th Century in form of revisionism, which revised the principles of Marxist revolutionary theory openly.

Engels and other revolutionary Marxists therefore set themselves the most important task, namely, increased propaganda of Marxism, its intensified defense against distortions and vulgarization, fighting against the ruling classes in Europe, who attempted to decompose and split the international workers' movement with the help of the opportunists.

 Despite his advanced age, Engels contributed an enormous theoretical and political support to the international labour movement. The publication of the third volume of the "Capital" - in the end of 1894 - was primarily a powerful ideological weapon in the hands of the socialist parties.



Engels tirelessly called on the parties of the Second International to defend and to continue the revolutionary traditions and heritage of the First International.


 He urged the Socialists of the II. International to study and to apply to the revolutionary experiences of the First International, while he expected that the Second International would enrich the experience of the I. International.


The Second International, however, did not justify the hopes that Engels had put into it.


  In the first years of its existence it was really an internationalist genuine Marxist fighting organization when Engels was on its side with giving advice and levelling criticism.

However, after Engels' death - and in the course of the imperialist development of capitalism - , the reformists and revisionists, and the hidden opportunists, the centrists, increased their influence steadily.


In 1914 this opportunism led finally to the ignominious collapse of the II. International.


 Nevertheless, Engels' activity in spreading Marxism and proletarian internationalism in the labour movement fructified the prosperity of the Second International in its early years.

The II. International was a contribution to the education of the truly revolutionary elements in the parties of many countries, who upheld the banner of Marxism and proletarian internationalism

- especially Lenin and the revolutionary wing of Russian social democracy.


And it was Lenin who called:


"The Second International is dead, overcome by opportunism. Down with opportunism, and long live the Third International!" (Lenin)






on the

II. International:

The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart



Meeting of the International Socialist Bureau



The Eleventh Session of the International Socialist Bureau


How Certain Social-Democrats Inform the International About the State of Affairs in the R.S.D.L.P.





The Position and Tasks of the Socialist International





Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism


December 1914



Socialism and War


July - August 1915



The Second International Socialist Conference at Kienthal

APRIL 11–17 (24–30), 1916


Opportunism and the Collapse of the Second International

January 1916




German and Non-German Chauvinism


May 1916


The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky






August Bebel


International Socialist Congress 1904

Bebel’s Answer to Jaurès on “Political Tactics”








Interview with
Foreign Workers' Delegations

November 5, 1927


Is it possible to unite the Second and Third Internationals?

ANSWER : I think it is impossible.

It is impossible because the Second and Third Internationals have two entirely different lines of policy and look in different directions. Whereas the Third International looks in the direction of the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship, the Second International, on the contrary, looks in the direction of the preservation of capitalism and of the destruction of everything that is needed for the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship.

The struggle between the two Internationals is the ideological reflection of the struggle between the supporters of capitalism and the supporters of socialism. In this struggle, either the Second or the Third International must be victorious. There are no reasons for doubting that the Third International will be victorious in the working-class movement.

I think that it is impossible to unite them at the present time.








published on occasion of the 110th Anniversary of the 7th Congress of the 2nd International in Stuttgart-Germany - 1907


Resolution against Militarism and Imperialism

adopted at the Seventh International Socialist Congress at Stuttgart



* * *


The Stuttgart Congress




The Rise and Fall of the Second International