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 movement emerged due to the betrayal of the Bureau of the Second International following the eruption of the First World War, where the international split by national lines and voted for war credits. On August 4th, 1914, the German Social Democratic Party faction voted in the German Parliament for war credits, citing "defense of the fatherland", a betrayal of socialist internationalism which prompted discussion for a new International.
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. 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.
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. A preliminary organizing conference was scheduled to be held in Berne, Switzerland on 11 July 1915.
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.
The delegates assembled at the Volkshaus in Berne on 5 September 1915. From there they left in four coaches for the small village 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. Georg Ledebour mentioned that Germany might 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.
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.
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".
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.
Manifesto and resolutions
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.
Irrespective of the truth as to the direct responsibility for the outbreak of the war, one thing is certain. The war which has produced this chaos is the outcome of imperialism, of the attempt on the part of the capitalist classes of each nation, to foster their greed for profit by the exploitation of human labor and of the natural treasures of the entire globe.
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. 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". 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 Radek's.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Establishing the ISC
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.
As "the founding mythos of the Soviet Union", according to Swiss historian Julia Richers, the conference continued to be remembered in the USSR and its sphere of influence. On some Soviet maps, the small village of Zimmerwald was the only marked locality in Switzerland. During the Cold War, a large quantity of letters addressed to "the mayor of Zimmerwald" or "the director of the Lenin museum", of which there was none, continued to arrive from Eastern Europe.
All this attention embarrassed the authorities of the thoroughly conservative country village, who long attempted to efface all traces of the conference. In 1963, the municipality outlawed the installation of any memorial plaques on the territory of Zimmerwald, and in 1973 the house in which Lenin was thought to have slept was razed to make room for a bus stop. Only in 2015, with the Cold War fading into memory, did the authorities of what is now the municipality of Wald organize a memorial event on the occasion of the conference's anniversary.
List of delegates
- Source: (incomplete for Germany) Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 320–321. and 
From neutral countries:
- Balkan Socialist Federation: Christian Rakovsky of the Romanian Social Democratic Party and Vasil Kolarov of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers' Party (Narrow)
- Netherlands: Henriette Roland Holst of the Social-Democratic Party
- Sweden and Norway: Zeth Höglund and Ture Nerman of the Swedish Social Democratic Workers' Party and the Norwegian youth movement;
- Switzerland: Robert Grimm, Charles Naine, Fritz Platten, and Ernest Graber ("private delegates")
From Western Allied countries:
- France: Alphonse Merrheim of Federation of Metal Workers and Albert Bourderon of the French Coopers Union
- Italy: Balabanoff, Morgari, Giuseppe Emanuele Modigliani, Constantio Lazzari and Giacinto Serrati of the Italian Socialist Party
- United Kingdom: Bruce Glasier and Frederick Jowett of the Independent Labour Party and Edwin Fairchild of the British Socialist Party were prevented from attending because they were denied passports, but sent letters expressing their sympathies with the goals of the conference.
From the Russian Empire:
- Bolsheviks: Grigory Zinoviev and V.I. Ulyanov (Lenin)
- Mensheviks: Pavel Axelrod and Julius Martov
- Social Revolutionaries: Viktor Chernov and Mark Natanson
- Social-Democracy of the Lettish Territory: Jan Berzin
- Main Presidium of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania: Adolf Warski
- Regional Presidium of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania: Karl Radek
- Polish Socialist Party – Left: Paweł Lewinson
- General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia: Liebmann Hersch, under the name of "Lemansky", observer
- Nashe Slovo group: Leon Trotsky
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
- Heinrich Berges
- Julian Borchardt
- Josef Herzfeld
- Adolph Hoffmann
- Gustav Lachenmaier
- Georg Ledebour
- Ernst Meyer
- Minna Reichert
- Bertha Thalheimer
- Ewald Vogtherr
Signatories of the Zimmerwald Manifesto
- 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: Höglund, Nerman
- Netherlands: Roland-Holst
- Switzerland: Grimm
- Kienthal Conference (Second Zimmerwald Conference)
- Stockholm Conference (Third Zimmerwald Conference)
- Second International
- Neutral Socialist Conferences during the First World War
- Vienna Socialist Conference of 1915
- Zimmerwald Left
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- 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.
- Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the First World War, pp. 342, 348.
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