Zimmerwald Conference

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The Zimmerwald Conference was held in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, from 5 to 8 September 1915. It was the first of three international socialist conferences convened by anti-militarist socialist parties from countries that were originally neutral during World War I. The individuals and organizations participating in this and subsequent conferences held at Kienthal and Stockholm are known jointly as the Zimmerwald movement.

The Zimmerwald Conference began the unraveling of the coalition between revolutionary socialists (the so-called Zimmerwald Left) and reformist socialists in the Second International.[1]

History[edit]

Background[edit]

The Zimmerwald movement emerged due to the inactivity of the Bureau of the Second International following the eruption of the First World War.[2] From the earliest days of the war the Italian Socialist Party and the Swiss Social Democratic Party had sought a meeting of the full Bureau in an effort to coordinate international socialist opinion and action with respect to the war, without success.[2]

On 19 April 1915 Italian parliamentary deputy Oddino Morgari traveled to France on behalf of the Italian Party to met with Belgian Socialist leader Emile Vandervelde, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Bureau, and representatives of the Socialist Party of France seeking convocation of an international conference of neutral socialists.[3] His proposals were flatly rejected by Vendervelde and the French Socialists, who had come to support the fundamental justice of the war effort and saw an international conference as a potential impediment to its completion.[3]

On 15 May 1915, the Executive Committee of the Italian Socialist Party met in Bologna to hear Morgari's report. He stated that the official parties were recalcitrant, but that there were minorities in both Great Britain and France who were receptive. The party decided to call a conference of all socialist parties and workers groups who adhered to the class struggle and were willing to work against the war.[4] A preliminary organizing conference was scheduled to be held in Berne, Switzerland on 11 July 1915.[3]

The 11 July organizing conference was attended by Gregory Zinoviev of the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party (Bolsheviks); Pavel Axelrod of the Organization Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party (Mensheviks); Angelica Balabanoff and Oddino Morgari of the Italian Socialist Party; Adolf Warski of the Main Presidum of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania; Maksymilian Horwitz of the Polish Socialist Party – Left; and Robert Grimm of the Swiss Social Democratic Party. Little concrete was decided at this preliminary meeting, though it was clear that a wide array of groups would be invited to the conference and not just the "lefts", as defined by Zinoviev and the Bolsheviks. A second preliminary meeting was supposed to assemble that was supposed to resolve the issue, but never met.[5]

Sessions[edit]

Coloured lithography of the Hotel "Beau Séjour" in Zimmerwald, where the delegates lived. The main building of the hotel was torn down in the 1960s. The guest house and parts of the park survive to this day

The delegates assembled at the Volkshaus in Berne on 5 September 1915. From there they left in four coaches for the small town of Zimmerwald some nine kilometers (6 miles) away. The conference began by reading communications from people and organizations who could not be present, such as a letter from Karl Liebknecht whose name could not even be printed in the official report of the conference. Then the various delegations gave reports of the situations in their respective countries. The Germans had resorted to engaging in illegal activity, such as distributing illegal leaflets. Ledebour mentioned that Germany may be headed for revolution. In France the workers were said to be in a state of disillusionment and had been corrupted by years of anarchist and Herveist thinking.[citation needed]

Kolarov gave an extended discussion on his party's resistance to the Second Balkan War. He discussed the policy of advocating fraternization in the trenches and socialist concern for socialist prisoners of war, which had prevented enmity between the Serb and Bulgarian Social Democratic parties. He also spoke about the division of the Narrow and Broad socialists in his country. A Balkan Socialist Federation had been formed by social democratic parties in Rumania, Serbia and Greece, but did not include the broads. The Italians reported that socialists had been persecuted since Italy's entrance into the war. This was accompanied with strikes and street demonstrations; the Italian workers had their martyrs and wounded.[citation needed]

Rakovsky shared an anecdote about the Rumanian foreign ministry notifying him as soon as they learned of the German parties endorsement of the declaration of war on 4 August 1914. Finally, Henriette Roland Holst reported on the factional activity within the Dutch movement and described the activities of the majority party under Troelstra as "disgraceful".[6]

Chernov made the report on behalf of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. According to a hostile source, he gave a false impression of the SRs internationalism, while ignoring the fact that half of its delegation to the London Inter-Allied congress had taken a pro-war stand, while the other half abstained, that the SRs had participated in a pro-war conference with the Trudoviks and Popular Socialists or that their press was carrying patriotic articles. Pavel Axelrod gave the report for the Mensheviks and, according to the same hostile source, minimized his parties pro-war stance.[7]

Manifesto and resolutions[edit]

The first document produced by the conference was a joint declaration by the French and German delegations. This statement declared that World War I was not their war, that it was caused by the imperialist and colonial policy of all governments and advocated the restoration of Belgium and a peace without annexations or "economic incorporation" based on the self-determination of the people involved. To that end they pledged to end the policy of civil peace and renew the class struggle within their respective countries in order to force their governments to end the war. The declaration was signed by Ledebour and Hoffman for Germany and Merrheim and Bouderon for France.[8]

Lenin had been busy preparing for the conference for several months, attempting to rally "left" elements and drafting documents. He wrote a "draft declaration" which he shared with Alexandra Kollontai as early as July 1915. Kollantai apparently criticized this draft for not distinguishing between imperialist wars, wars of national liberation and civil wars.[9] Lenin also corresponded with Karl Radek. Both of them wrote "draft resolutions" for the Conference. Lenin criticized Radek's original draft for not criticizing the social chauvinists and opportunists within the socialist movement or advocating means to combat them. Radek then wrote an "amended draft resolution".[10] Both of these drafts were presented to a caucus meeting of left wing delegates at the Volkshaus shortly before the opening of the conference. This group consisted of Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Berzin, Hoglund, Nerman, Platten and Borchart as well as "some others, including Trotsky". The first eight of these became a tightly knit left-wing bloc during the proceedings of the conference. However, this caucus voted down Lenin's original resolution in favor of Radeks.[11]

The draft resolution, bearing the signature of the eight above-mentioned delegates, was then presented to the conference for referral to a drafting commission. However, this was refused by a vote of 19–12. Trotsky, Roland-Holst, Chernov and Natanson voted in favor of the resolution.[12]

When the drafting commission met it decided only to draft a "manifesto" and not a supplementary "resolution". Three draft manifestos were presented to it, one from the Right within the German party, one written by Leon Trotsky on behalf of the Nashe Slovo group, and one presented by the so-called Zimmerwald Left. The commission consisted of Grimm, Ledebour, Lenin, Trotsky, Merrheim, Rakovsky, and Modigliani. The final text most closely followed Trotsky's draft, and was written by Trotsky and Grimm. The German delegates insisted that parliamentary demands, such as voting against war credits and withdrawal from ministries, be excluded from the text.[citation needed]

When the text was presented to the conference it met with some hostility from Chernov and Morgari. Chernov was upset that the manifesto did not explicitly denounce tsarism and said nothing about agrarian socialism, while Morgari was upset that the manifesto did not state that France had no responsibility for the war. However these two delegates were convinced to vote for the manifesto so that it could be passed unanimously. On the motion of the French and German delegations, it was decided that each country have a delegate sign the manifesto personally.[13]

Several addenda were added to the manifesto by the delegates. A statement that the manifesto did not give complete satisfaction because it did not repudiate opportunism or advance a clear method of struggling against the war was added by Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Hoglund, Nerman and Berzin. It also stated that the undersigned had nevertheless endorsed the manifesto because they wish to "march side by side with the other sections of the international" and that this caveat be published with the official report.[citation needed]

The eight delegates who introduced the Left Zimmerwald draft resolution, along with Roland-Holst and Trotsky tried to add an amendment stating that the proposal to mention war credits had to be excised from the manifesto and that Ledebour's statement that the "manifesto contains all that is implied [in such a] proposal". Ledebour protested that he would not sign the manifesto if that was added was included and the amendment was withdrawn.[14]

Various other documents were submitted to the conference, only one of which, a joint declaration by the three Polish parties present was included in the ISCs Bulletin.[15]

Finally, the delegates adopted one last document. On the motion of a French delegate it unanimously passed a resolution of sympathy for the victims of the war and of persecution by the belligerent governments. Specifically it mentioned the fate of the Poles, Belgians, Armenians and Jewish peoples, the exiled Duma members, Karl Liebknecht, Klara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg and Pierre Monatte. The resolution also honored the memory of Jean Jaurès ("the first victim of the war") and socialists who had died in the war such as Amadeo Catanesi and Dimitrije Tucović.[16]

Establishing the ISC[edit]

At the end of the conference an International Socialist Commission, sometimes known as the International Socialist Committee was formed with a mandate to establish a "temporary secretariat" in Berne that would act as an intermediary of the affiliated groups and begin to publish a Bulletin containing the manifesto and proceedings of the conference. The members of the Commission were Robert Grimm, chairman, Oddino Morgari, Charles Naine and Angelica Balabanoff, who was to act as interpreter.[17]

List of delegates[edit]

Source: (incomplete for Germany) Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 320–321.

From Neutral countries:

From Western Allied countries:

From the Russian Empire:

From Germany Source:, Lenin's struggle for a revolutionary International: documents, 1907–1916, the preparatory years pp. 323 or Robert Wheeler The Independent Social Democratic Party and the international, p. 17:

Signatories of the Zimmerwald Manifesto[edit]

Source: Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 332–333.
  • Germany: Ledebour, Hoffman
  • France: Bouderon, Merrheim
  • Italy: Modigiani, Lazzari
  • Russia: Lenin, Axelrod, Bobrov (a pseudonym for Natanson)
  • Poland: Lapinsky, Warski, Hanecki
  • Balkan Socialist Federation: Rakovsky (Rumania), Kolarov (Bulgaria)
  • Sweden and Norway: Hoglund, Nerman
  • Netherlands: Roland-Holst
  • Switzerland: Grimm

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Zimmerwald Conference 1915: Revolutionaries against the imperialist war". Retrieved 7 January 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Merle Fainsod, International Socialism and the War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935. Reprinted by Octagon Books, New York, 1973; pg. 61.
  3. ^ a b c Fainsod, International Socialism and the War, pg. 62.
  4. ^ Olga Hess Gankin and H.H. Fisher (eds.), The Bolsheviks and the First World War: the origins of the Third International. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1940; pp. 309, 311–312.
  5. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 312–315.
  6. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 322, 342–343.
  7. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 343–344.
  8. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 323, 328–329.
  9. ^ Gankin and Fisher pp.315–7 This draft declaration was not available to the editors at the time of publication
  10. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 318–319. Radek's original draft had also not been located at the time this was published.
  11. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 342, 348.
  12. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pg. 348.
  13. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 324–325.
  14. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pg. 334.
  15. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 334–337.
  16. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 326, 337–338.
  17. ^ Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 325–326.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nation, R. Craig. War on war: Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the origins of communist internationalism (Duke University Press, 1989)
  • Service, Robert. Lenin: A Biography (2000)