The Third International, also known as the Communist International (COMINTERN), existed between 1919 and 1943 to battle against the forces of fascism that took hold in Europe, Asia, and Latin America following World War I. It replaced the Second International, formed in Paris in 1889 among world socialist and labor parties. The Second International was replaced in 1923 by the Labor and Socialist International (LSI), representing many of the world’s social democratic parties. Infighting between the Third International and LSI resulted in the international left being unprepared to deal with the rise of the fascist Axis Powers.
When the Third International and LSI finally decided to cooperate against the fascist forces involved in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, it was too late. With only the Soviet Union, Mongolia, and Tannu Tuva as members of the Third International and Leon Trotsky forming the rival Fourth International in 1938 in France, the fracturing of the world’s leftist forces resulted in the fascist Axis seizing control of most of Europe and a large part of Asia. The Third International suspended operations in 1943 and the LSI collapsed in 1940.
Trotskyists showed themselves all too willing to accommodate fascist forces, particularly during the Spanish Civil War, to isolate the Soviet Union. The deception of the Trotskyists led to the motto, “Never trust a Trot,” being heard at progressive political and labor gatherings around Europe, Australia, and North America.
Today, the progressive and democratic forces around the world face a situation not seen since the 1930s in Europe and Asia. Global fascism is on the march and the left is found engaged in factionalized rivalry in the face of a united neo-Axis front not seen since the 1930s.
The schism between so-called “Independent Socialist” 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and traditional pro-labor Democratic candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden is the result of nothing more than a continuation of the Trotskyist program to divide and conquer social democratic and labor forces, even if such disruption aids the rise of fascist totalitarian regimes. The history of such Trotskyist maneuvers, including the back-to-back presidential bids of Sanders, a committed Socialist Worker’s Party member and Trotskyist until 1992 when he supported his first Democratic candidate for the White House, opens the door for fascist takeovers. Sanders’s present campaign to divide and conquer the Democratic Party, of which he is not a member, ushers into possibility a fascist government coming into existence in a second Trump administration. Where will Bernie Sanders be then? Maybe, like his hero Trotsky, he might find asylum beyond the “Southern Wall” in Mexico.
Insidious Trotskyist behavior was on full display in Europe during the 1930s by none other than Trotsky, himself, and his ardent supporters. From 1929 to 1933, Trotsky lived in Istanbul. Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk did not trust his wily guest and ordered Trotsky placed under the surveillance of Turkish police. Wearing out his welcome in Turkey, Trotsky took up French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier’s offer of asylum in Paris. Soon, Trotsky wore out his welcome in France after it was discovered that he and his supporters were involved as provocateurs in the attempted 1934 fascist coup in France by the monarchist Action Française, which sought to reverse the accomplishments of the French Revolution, and the far-right fascist military veterans group, the Croix-de-feu. French Trotskyists also infiltrated the French Socialist Party (SFIO) to bring it into line with a more anti-Soviet stance. The move proved harmful to the establishment of a united Popular Front of the left against Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Trotskyists accomplished the same subterfuge with the British Labor Party and the Socialist Party of the United States founded by Eugene Debs and, in the 1930s, under the leadership of perennial presidential candidate Norman Thomas.
In France, Trotsky and his fellow provocateurs were placed under greater police surveillance than they experienced in Turkey. After the singing of the Franco-Soviet military alliance in 1935, which Trotsky opposed, the French government expelled Trotsky. Trotsky soon wore out his welcome in his new adopted country, Norway. Justice Minister Trygve Lie, the future first Secretary General of the post-war United Nations, who originally invited Trotsky to Norway, soon regretted his decision. Trotsky’s interference in Norwegian political affairs resulted in his being placed under house arrest under 24-hour guard on the orders of the future UN leader.
In 1936, as the Spanish Civil War began, Norway deported Trotsky to Mexico. Showing his duplicity, at the same time Trotsky began collaborating with the anti-Franklin D. Roosevelt and anti-Democratic Party leadership of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, he opened up channels to the right-wing chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. Trotsky was prepared to turn over to HUAC and Hoover a list of all suspected Soviet intelligence agents in the Western Hemisphere. In return, Trotsky hoped for an end to the suppression of the American Communist Party, within which, there was a sizable Trotskyist contingent. Trotsky wanted an international front against Nazism and fascism, as long as he – not the Soviet Union, Third International, or socialist LSI – was in charge. Short of that, Trotsky commanded his followers to cooperate with fascists in France, Spain, and the United States to ensure that Trotsky’s opponents on the left were not leading what he called a global “permanent revolution.”
What did cooperation with the Trotskyites earn the socialists of the LSI and communists of the Third International who decided to cooperate with Trotsky and his Fourth International? For Austrian post-World War I socialist president and Vienna mayor Karl Seitz, it was internment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. For socialist French Prime Minister Leon Blum, it was the Buchenwald concentration camp. For German socialist minister-president of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Johannes Stelling, it was being tortured and murdered by Nazi thugs in Berlin. For Norwegian post-World War II socialist prime minister Einar Gerhardsen, it was torture by the Gestapo and internment at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. For Polish socialist leader Mieczysław Niedziałkowski, it was torture and execution by the Gestapo. In his cell in Palmyri, near Warsaw, Niedziałkowski was interrogated by the head of the German SS, Heinrich Himmler, who asked the socialist leader, “What do you want from us; what do you expect?” To that, Niedziałkowski replied, “From you I neither want nor demand anything. With you I fight!” That is the only answer for fascists, not tactical cooperation as carried out by the Trotskyists.
Trotsky’s American collaborators in the Socialist Workers Party were every bit as contrarian to Democratic Party principles as Bernie Sanders. These anti-Democrats included such figures as James Cannon, who helped found the newspaper, “The Militant,” copies of which Trotskyist foot soldier Bernie Sanders would later be hawking from folding card tables set up at anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s. Cannon ran as the Socialist Workers candidate for governor of New York in 1924 against Democrat Al Smith, the victor and a later presidential candidate, and Republican Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. When Sanders first became active in Trotskyist politics in the 1960s, he found himself in league with other veteran Socialist Workers Party politicians, in addition to Cannon, They included Joseph Hansen, a friend of Trotsky in Mexico, Socialist Workers candidate for the U.S. Senate in New York in 1950, and editor of “The Militant” and Farrell Dobbs, the Socialist Workers presidential candidate from 1948 to 1960 against Democratic candidates Harry S Truman, Adlai Stevenson, and John F. Kennedy. Dobbs, a Teamsters Union official was the mentor for a young Teamsters activist named Jimmy Hoffa.
Hansen, Dobbs, and other anti-Democratic Party Trotskyist stalwarts of the Socialist Workers Party were the political idols for younger activists like Bernie Sanders. It was not until he ran as a Democrat for the U.S. House from Vermont in 1992, that Sanders publicly but reluctantly endorsed the Democratic ticket headed that year by Bill Clinton.
Sanders’s misgivings about the Clintons and vice versa stuck with him in the 2016 presidential race. The Sanders campaign expressed their belief, shared by Trump, that the Democratic nomination was “stolen” by Hillary Clinton. Today, in the 2020 campaign, Trump and Sanders’s supporters have expressed the same attitudes toward former Vice President Biden and, for that matter, former President Barack Obama. Trump has tweeted that the Democrats “stealing the nomination” from Sanders again, like they did in 2016. Of course, Trump knows that Sanders will be an easier foe to defeat in November than Biden.
Sanders’s coterie of campaign officials never miss a chance to attack other Democratic candidates, demonstrating that the Trotskyist tendency toward mounting “Fifth Columns” within well-established political parties of the left and center-left is just as endemic in the United States today as it was in the past when the targets were Franklin Roosevelt, British Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, and the Democratic presidential candidates Sanders refused to support: Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, and Michael Dukakis in 1988. Trotskyists have always believed in the notion: “my way or the highway,” even if the highway is one to fascist rule and the collapse of democratic and constitutional governance.
Trotskyists are performing the same factionalized politics today that pervaded the 1930s and gave rise to Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Francisco Franco in Spain. Today, the neo-fascist players are Trump, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Ivan Duque in Colombia, and dozens of petit-tyrants around the world. The world is slipping into global fascist as the Trotskyists play their fiddles of deception and plot their next moves.