Second International
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Second International
Second International
Founded14 July 1889
Preceded byInternational Workingmen's Association (not legal predecessor)
Succeeded byCommunist International
International Working Union of Socialist Parties
Labour and Socialist International
Colours     Red

The Second International (1889-1916) was an organisation of socialist and labour parties, formed on 14 July 1889 at a Paris meeting in which delegations from twenty countries participated.[1] The Second International continued the work of the dissolved First International, though excluding the powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement and trade unions. In 1922 the Second International began to reorganise into the Labour and Socialist International.[2]


Among the Second International's famous actions were its 1889 declaration of 1 May (May Day) as International Workers' Day and its 1910 declaration of the International Women's Day, first celebrated on 19 March and then on 8 March after the main day of the women's marches in 1917 during the Russian Revolution. It initiated the international campaign for the eight-hour working day.[3]

The International's permanent executive and information body was the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) based in Brussels and formed after the International's Paris Congress of 1900. Emile Vandervelde and Camille Huysmans of the Belgian Labour Party were its chair and secretary. Vladimir Lenin was a member from 1905.

The Second International became ineffective in 1916 during World War I because the separate national parties that composed the International did not maintain a unified front against the war, instead generally supporting their respective nations. The Secretary General of the ISB, Camille Huysmans, moved the ISB from German-occupied Brussels to The Hague in December 1914 and attempted to coordinate socialist parties from the warring states to at least July 1916.[4]French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) leader Jean Jaurès's assassination, a few days before the beginning of the war, symbolised the failure of the antimilitarist doctrine of the Second International. At the Zimmerwald Conference in 1915, anti-war socialists attempted to maintain international unity against the social patriotism of the social democratic leaders.

In July 1920 at Geneva, the last congress of the Second International was held, following its functional collapse during the war. However, some European socialist parties refused to join the reorganised International and decided instead to form the International Working Union of Socialist Parties (IWUSP) (Second and a half International or Two-and-a-half International), heavily influenced by Austromarxism. In 1923, IWUSP and the Second International merged to form the social democratic Labour and Socialist International which continued to exist until 1940. After World War II, a new Socialist International was formed to continue the policies of the Labour and Socialist International and it continues to this day.

Another successor was the Third International organised in 1919 by revolutionary socialists after the October Revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union. It was officially called the Communist International (Comintern) and lasted until 1943 when it was dissolved by then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Latin America

In Latin America, the International had two affiliates, namely the Socialist Party of Argentina and the Socialist Party of Uruguay.[5]

The exclusion of anarchists

Anarchists tended to be excluded from the Second International, nevertheless "anarchism had in fact dominated the London Congress of the Second International".[6] This exclusion received the criticism from anti-authoritarian socialists present at the meetings.[7] It has been argued that at some point the Second International turned "into a battleground over the issue of libertarian versus authoritarian socialism. Not only they represented minority rights, but also led the German Marxists into demonstrating dictatorial intolerance which was a factor in preventing the British labour movement from following the Marxist direction indicated by such leaders as Henry Hyndman.[8]

Congresses and Conferences of the Second International

Source: Julius Braunthal (1980). History of the International: Volume 3, 1943-1968. London. Victor Gollancz. p. 562.
Event Location Date Notes
First Congress Paris 14-19 July 1889
Second Congress Brussels 3-7 August 1891
Third Congress Zurich 9-13 August 1893
Fourth Congress London 26-31 July 1896
Fifth Congress Paris 23-27 September 1900
Sixth Congress Amsterdam 14-20 August 1904 The "Grand Old Man of India", Dadabhai Naoroji, attended the Congress and pleaded the cause of India's freedom
Seventh Congress Stuttgart 18-24 August 1907
Eighth Congress Copenhagen 28 August-3 September 1910
Extraordinary Ninth Congress Basel 24-25 November 1912

After World War I, there were three Socialist Conferences in Switzerland. These were as a bridge to the creation of the Labour and Socialist International.

Event Location Date Notes
Berne Conference of 1919 Bern 3-8 February 1919
International Socialist Conference, Lucerne, 1919 Lucerne 1-9 August 1919
International Socialist Congress, Geneva, 1920 Geneva 31 July-4 August 1920 Scheduled for Feb 1920, it was actually convened on 31 July. Sidney Webb as committee chairman drafted a resolution entitled 'Political System of Socialism,' that distanced the Second International from Lenin-style dictatorship, but emphasized it was "ever more urgent that Labour should assume power in society." It also moved the Secretariat from Brussels to London and set the "next congress of the Second International in 1922" [but this did not take place] [9]

Related international gatherings

Source: Julius Braunthal (1980). History of the International: Volume 3, 1943-1968. London. Victor Gollancz. pp. 562-563.

See also


  1. ^ José Luis Rubio (1971). Las internacionales obreras en América. Madrid. p. 42.
  2. ^ Braunthal, Julius (1967). History of the International, 1914-1943, Vol. 2, pp. 245-247.
  3. ^ José Luis Rubio (1971). Las internacionales obreras en América. Madrid. p. 43.
  4. ^ History of the International, 1914-1943, Vol 2, p38, 52
  5. ^ Rubio, José Luis (1971). Las internacionales obreras en América. Madrid. p. 49.
  6. ^ George Woodcock (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. pp. 263-264.
  7. ^ George Woodcock (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. pp. 263-264. "As well as all the anarchist leaders, Keir Hardie and Tom Mann appeared on the platform to make speeches asserting the rights of minorities, and William Morris, now nearing his death, sent a message to say that only sickness prevented him from adding his own voice to the chorus of protest".
  8. ^ George Woodcock (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. pp. 263-264.
  9. ^ Braunthal, History of the International, 1914-1943, p159-161

External links

  • "The Second International".
  • "History of the Second International" (in French and English).
  • "German social-democratic party and the Second International". Fractal-vortex.
  • Wikisource Dutt, R. Palme (1922). "International, The" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.).

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