First Congress of the Communist International



V. I. Lenin

Speech at the Opening Session of the Congress

March 2

On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party I declare the First Congress of the Communist International open. First I would ask all present to rise in tribute to the finest representatives of the Third International: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. ( All rise .)

Comrades, our gathering has great historic significance. It testifies to the collapse of all the illusions cherished by bourgeois democrats. Not only in Russia, but in the most developed capitalist countries of Europe, in Germany for example, civil war is a fact.

The bourgeois are terror-stricken at the growing workers’ revolutionary movement. This is understandable if we take into account that the development of events since the imperialist war inevitably favors the workers’ revolutionary movement, and that the world revolution is beginning and growing in intensity everywhere.

The people are aware of the greatness and significance of the struggle now going on. All that is needed is to find the practical form to enable the proletariat to establish its rule. Such a form is the Soviet system with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dictatorship of the proletariat—until now these words were Latin to the masses. Thanks to the spread of the Soviets throughout the world this Latin has been translated into all modern languages; a practical form of dictatorship has been found by the working people. The mass of workers now understand it thanks to Soviet power in Russia, thanks to the Spartacus League in Germany and to similar organizations in other countries, such as, for example, the Shop Stewards Committees in Britain. All this shows that a revolutionary form of the dictatorship of the proletariat has been found, that the proletariat is now able to exercise its rule.

Comrades, I think that after the events in Russia and the January struggle in Germany, it is especially important to note that in other countries, too, the latest form of the workers’ movement is asserting itself and getting the upper hand. Today, for example, I read in an anti-socialist newspaper a report to the effect that the British government had received a dedication from the Birmingham Workers’ Counsel and had expressed its readiness to recognize the Councils as economic bodies. The Soviet system has triumphed not only in backward Russia, but also in the most developed country of Europe—in Germany, and in Britain, the oldest capitalist country.

Even though the bourgeoisie are still raging, even though they may kill thousands more workers, victory will be ours, the victory of the worldwide Communist revolution is assured.

Comrades, I extend hearty greetings to you on behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. I move that we elect a presidium. Let us have nominations.

First published in 1920, in German, in the book “Der I. Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale. Protokoll” in Petrograd. First published in Russian in 1921 in the book “First Congress of the Communist International. Minutes” in Petrograd.