The Second International (1889–1916), the original Socialist International, was an organization of socialist and labour parties formed in Paris on July 14, 1889. At the Paris meeting delegations from 20 countries participated. It continued the work of the dissolved First International, though excluding the still-powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement and unions, and existed until 1916.


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

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 Ilyich Lenin was a member from 1905.

The Second International dissolved 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' role. French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) leader Jean Jaurès's assassination, a few days before the beginning of the war, symbolized the failure of the antimilitarist doctrine of the Second International. In 1915, at the Zimmerwald Conference, anti-war socialists attempted to maintain international unity against the social patriotism of the social democratic leaders.

In 1920, the defunct Second International was reorganized. However, some European socialist parties refused to join the reorganized 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. This international 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 organized in 1919 under the soon-to-be Communist Party 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; the Socialist Party of Argentina and the Socialist Party of Uruguay.

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". This exclusion received the criticism from anti-authoritarian socialists present at the meetings. 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 did they effectively present themselves as champions of minority rights; they also provoked the German Marxists into demonstrating a dictatorial intolerance which was a factor in preventing the British labor movement from following the Marxist direction indicated by such leaders as H. M. Hyndman".

Congresses and Conferences of the Second International

Source: Julius Braunthal, History of the International: Volume 3, 1943-1968. London: Victor Gollancz, 1980; pg. 562.
First CongressParis14–19 July 1889
Second CongressBrussels3–7 August 1891
Third CongressZurich9–13 August 1893
Fourth CongressLondon26–31 July 1896
Fifth CongressParis23–27 September 1900
Sixth CongressAmsterdam14–20 August 1904The 'Grand Old Man of India', Dadabhai Naoroji, attended the Congress and pleaded the cause of India's freedom
Seventh CongressStuttgart18–24 August 1907
Eighth CongressCopenhagen28 Aug.-3 Sept. 1910
Extraordinary Ninth CongressBasel24–25 November 1912

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

Berne Conference of 1919Bern3–8 February 1919
International Socialist Conference, Lucerne, 1919Lucerne1–9 August 1919
International Socialist Congress, Geneva, 1920Geneva31 July-4 Aug. 1920
Source: Julius Braunthal, History of the International: Volume 3, 1943-1968. London: Victor Gollancz, 1980; pp. 562-563.
Conference of Socialist Parties of Neutral CountriesCopenhagen17–18 January 1915
Conference of Central European Socialist PartiesVienna12–13 April 1915
First Conference of the Zimmerwald MovementZimmerwald5–8 September 1915
Second Conference of the Zimmerwald MovementKienthal24–30 April 1916
Third Conference of the Zimmerwald MovementStockholm5–12 September 1917
First Conference of Inter-Allied Socialist PartiesLondon14 February 1915
Second Conference of Inter-Allied Socialist PartiesLondon28–29 August 1917
Third Conference of Inter-Allied Socialist PartiesLondon20–24 February 1918
Fourth Conference of Inter-Allied Socialist PartiesLondon15 September 1918

See also