The pacifist Zimmerwald Conference begins.
The Zimmerwald Conference was held in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, from September 5 to 8, 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.
Socialist discussions on war
When the Second International, the primary international socialist organization before World War I, was founded in 1889, internationalism was one of its central tenets. "The workers have no Fatherland", Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had declared in The Communist Manifesto. Paul Lafargue, Marx's son-in-law, in his keynote address at the International's founding congress called upon socialists to be "brothers with a single common enemy [...] private capital, whether it be Prussian, French, or Chinese". Despite this commitment to internationalism and the establishment in 1900 of the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) based in Brussels to manage the movement's affairs, the International remained but a loose confederation of national organizations, which considered political issues in national terms.
The French delegate Edouard Vaillant told the Second International's founding congress that "war, the most tragic product of present economic relations, can only disappear when capitalist production has made way for the emancipation of labor and the international triumph of socialism." Opposition to war became a pillar of its program, but the question of what to do if war broke out would preoccupy socialists throughout the International's history. Domela Nieuwenhuis from the Netherlands repeatedly suggested calling a general strike and launching an armed uprising if war should break out, his proposals failed and the Second International did not seriously address the question of how it intended to oppose war until its 1907 congress in Stuttgart, after the 1905–1906 Moroccan Crisis brought the issue to the fore. The French SFIO suggested employing all possible means to prevent war, demonstrations, general strikes, even insurrections. The German SPD was strongly opposed to any mention of general strikes. The resolution ultimately adopted was contradictory. It called on workers to "exert every effort to prevent the outbreak of war by means they consider most effective," but eschewed resistance to war as impractical, in favor of organizing opposition. When the 1912 Balkan War threatened to escalate into a wider conflict, the socialists organized a special congress in Basel, not in order to debate, but to protest military escalation.
The socialist camp was by this time beset by fundamental political disagreements, which led to organizational splits in Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, the Netherlands, and Italy. The International's wavering on anti-war tactics reflected these political differences. The revisionist right advocated a gradual evolution towards socialism within the framework of the nation-state, defended European colonialism, and supported patriotism. Centrists at times pushed back against these positions, but also supported certain forms of patriotism. The German social democrat August Bebel, for example, was determined "never to abandon a single piece of German soil to the foreigner." The French leader Jean Jaurès criticized Marx and Engels' maxim that the "workers have no Fatherland" as "vain and obscure subtleties" and a "sarcastic negation of history itself." The radical left was most decidedly anti-war. It considered war as a consequence of imperialism, which became a central concept in the left's analyses. "Imperialism grows in lawlessness and violence, both in aggression against the non-capitalist world and in ever more serious conflicts among the competing capitalist countries. The mere tendency toward imperialism by itself takes forms that make the final phase of capitalism a period of catastrophe", according to Rosa Luxemburg. Vladimir Lenin similarly argued against defending one's nation.
Outbreak of World War I
On June 28, 1914, the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, leading to the outbreak of war on July 28. On August 4, the same day Germany invaded neutral Belgium, the Reichstag, Germany's parliament, voted for war credits. The socialist delegates unanimously voted for the measures. Its policy of supporting the government's war efforts became known as the Burgfrieden or civil truce. On the same day, socialists also rallied behind the war in France, where socialist acquiescence became known as the union sacrée. The following day, the Parliamentary Labour Party in the United Kingdom voted to support the government in the war. The socialist parties in most belligerent countries eventually supported their country's war effort. Only in Russia and Serbia did a majority of socialist members of parliament refuse what became known as the "Policy of August 4". Even some left radicals such as the German Konrad Haenisch, the French Gustave Hervé and Jules Guesde (the latter becoming a government minister), and the Russian Georgi Plekhanov supported this policy. Socialists in the initially non-belligerent nations of Italy, the United States, Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries generally denounced the war and insisted their governments remain out of it. In so doing, the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SPS) supported "in effect a neutralist variant of the Burgfrieden", according to R. Craig Nation, voting to give the government emergency powers. The Dutch and Scandinavian parties similarly collaborated with their governments. Socialist support for the war partly reflected workers' patriotic sentiments. Before hostilities commenced, there were anti-war demonstrations in all major European cities, including a march 20,000 in Hamburg on July 28. However, when the war began many welcomed it. Karl Radek remarked that considerable parts of the German working class, particularly the better-off, supported the socialist leadership's policies. According to the French labor leader Alphonse Merrheim, anti-war resisters would have been lynched by French workers. Even if socialists had tried, they may not have been able to stop the war. They did not have majorities in parliaments and had not prepared for mass strikes. Large demonstrations did not exert enough pressure on governments to stop war.
Socialist support for the Policy of August 4 was not universal. Many socialists were shocked by their parties' acquiescence to the war. Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin considered suicide upon hearing the news. Until August 20, the Romanian socialist press simply disbelieved reports of Hugo Haase's announcement of the SPD's support of the German war effort. A small left wing was opposed to any compromise with nationalism, but this opposition grew as it became clear the war would not be short, as war fatigue grew, and as the characterization of the war as one of national defense was undermined by calls for annexation on the part of supporters of the war. In the Balkans, an Inter-Balkan Socialist Conference denounced the Second International's passivity and called for militant answer to the war. In the Netherlands, the more radical Social Democratic Party (SDP), which had split from the Social Democratic Workers' Party (SDAP), distributed a leaflet declaring "war on war". Herman Gorter, one of its leaders, wrote the text Imperialism, the World War, and Social Democracy criticizing the Policy of August 4, arguing that the Second International had entered a phase of bureaucratic stagnation around 1900. The most influential faction in the anti-war left was the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) led by Lenin who deemed socialist support for the war "a direct betrayal of socialism". Positions on the war did not, however, neatly follow a left–right split. Even within the SPD's Reichstag delegation fourteen of ninety-two delegates were opposed to granting war credits, although they bowed to party discipline in their vote in parliament. Initially, censorship and state repression made it difficult for the anti-war left to organize. Lenin, himself, was on vacation in Austro-Hungarian Poland when the war broke and was arrested, but he was allowed to leave the country and he found exile in Switzerland. In Berne, he assembled a group of Bolsheviks which included Karl Radek.
This deep schism in the socialist movement was not just a result of the war, but of the incompatibility between different versions of Marxism that co-existed within the Second International. As the German socialist Philipp Scheidemann later stated: "The war gave rise to a schism within the party, but I believe it would eventually have come to pass even without the war." In any case, the practicalities of the war made continuing the Second International's activities impossible. The SFIO and the Belgian Labor Party (POB) refused to engage with socialists from the Central Powers and the ISB was paralyzed. Anti-war socialists were not, however, in agreement on what the International's failure entailed. Most felt that pre-war socialism could be revived. Others, like Luxemburg, held that the failure was complete. Trotsky called the Second International a "rigid shell" from which socialism must be liberated. Lenin denounced it as a "stinking corpse" and, at a Bolshevik conference in Berne in early 1915, called for the formation of a Third International.
With the Second International inactive, the maintenance of relations between socialists fell to independent initiatives. Representatives of socialist parties from neutral countries met in Lugano, Switzerland in September 1914, in Stockholm in October 1914, and in Copenhagen in January 1915. The conference in Lugano, which involved members of the Swiss SPS and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), denounced the war as "the result of the imperialist policy of the great powers", and called on the ISB to resume its activities. It would become known as the cradle of the Zimmerwald movement. Pro-war socialists also convened. Those from Allied countries met in London in February 1915 and those from the Central powers followed suit in Vienna in April 1915. Socialists from opposing sides of the war first came together at socialist women's and youth conferences in Berne in March and April, 1915, respectively. Both conferences resolutely denounced the war and socialists' support for it.
In late 1914 and early 1915, the Swiss and Italian parties, hoping to revive the International, looked to continue the dialogue started in Lugano. They intended to convoke a conference for socialists from all neutral countries with the ISB's blessing. In April 1915, the Italian parliamentary deputy Oddino Morgari, after consulting with the Swiss, traveled to France on behalf of the Italian party. Morgari, though part of the PSI's right wing, was a pacifist and in favor of the socialist movement actively working for peace. He met with the Belgian socialist leader Emile Vandervelde, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Bureau, seeking the ISB's support. His proposals were flatly rejected by Vandervelde, whom Morgari accused of holding the ISB hostage, to which the latter replied: "Yes, but a hostage for freedom and justice." In Paris, Morgari also held discussions with the Menshevik Julius Martov who convinced him of the necessity of a conference of anti-war socialists independent of the ISB. This idea benefited from the fact that at the same time as discussions with Morgari were taking place, a manifesto written by the anti-war opposition in the SPD had made its way to France and inspired the French opposition. He also met with Trotsky, Victor Chernov, and French anti-war socialist grouped around Alphonse Merrheim and Pierre Monatte. From Paris, Morgari traveled to London where the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the British Socialist Party (BSP) expressed interest in a general conference of anti-war socialists. At a party meeting on May 15–16, the PSI endorsed a meeting of all socialist parties and groups opposed to the war. Morgari discussed the proposal with Robert Grimm of the SPS. Grimm, a young, eloquent, and ambitious leader on the Swiss party's left wing, was unable to obtain his party's support for the proposal, but it did approve "individual" action for peace. Grimm, with the PSI's blessing, became the project's prime mover and announced a preparatory meeting to take place in Berne in July.
The July 11 organizing conference was attended by seven delegates: the Bolshevik Grigory Zinoviev, the Menshevik Pavel Axelrod, Angelica Balabanoff and Oddino Morgari of the Italian Socialist Party, Adolf Warski of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, Maksymilian Horwitz of the Polish Socialist Party – Left, and Robert Grimm of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland. Only the Italians arrived from abroad, as the others, besides Grimm, were exiles residing in Switzerland. The meeting began with discussions of whom to invite to the conference. Grimm proposed that all socialists opposed to the Policy of August 4 and in favor of a renewal of class struggle be welcomed. Zinoviev countered that participation be limited to the revolutionary left. In the end, the meeting decided to invite all socialists explicitly opposed to the war, including French and German anti-war centrists such as Haase and Karl Kautsky. Zinoviev also called for the participation of various left groups, but was again voted down and the meeting decided to limit participation to members of the Second International. Zinoviev advocated discussing the question of forming a Third International, but this controversy was tabled. The meeting unanimously endorsed the PSI's moderate May 17 and June 18 declarations which emphasized the struggle for peace. A second preparatory conference was planned for August, but it was canceled.
By August 19, the start of the conference had been scheduled for September 5. In the period leading up to that date, Grimm worked hard to secure participation in the conference, particularly by moderates. He invited "all parties, labor organizations, or groups within them" opposed to the Policy of August 4 and loyal to the Second International's anti-war resolutions. He also made the final preparations for the conference. He put significant effort into keeping it secret, reserving the rundown Hotel Beau Séjour in nearby Zimmerwald for an "ornithological society". Morgari visited London to invite internationalists from the ILP and BSP. Lenin, staying at a mountain resort in Sörenberg, expressed both excitement and skepticism upon hearing of the conference. He thought most participants would criticize the Policy of August 4 without drawing the proper revolutionary conclusions from this and thereby "help the bourgeoisie nip the revolutionary movement in the bud." His plan was to attend the conference in order to bring together the left and criticize the moderates. He wrote to his contacts to ensure that the left was well-represented. His efforts were not entirely successful. He was most disappointed that the Dutch left refused to participate in a conference attended by moderates. On September 4, a day before the start of the conference the left, at Lenin's invitation, held a meeting at Zinoviev's residence in Berne to prepare its strategy. It became clear that the left would be a minority. The leftists decided on a draft manifesto written by Radek, but with several amendments proposed by Lenin. French and German delegates came together at another pre-conference meeting to prepare reconciliation between the two countries, but it yielded few results.
The thirty-eight delegates assembled at the in Berne on September 5, 1915. Grimm greeted them before they moved on to Eiglerplatz. From there they left in four coaches for a two-hour ride to the small, idyllic Prealpine village of Zimmerwald some ten kilometers (six miles) to the south. According to Trotsky, on their way to Zimmerwald the delegates joked that "half a century after the formation of the First International it was still possible to fit all the internationalists in Europe into four coaches."
From Switzerland, Grimm, , Fritz Platten, and Karl Moor attended, but not as representatives of their party. From Italy came the PSI representatives Morgari, Angelica Balabanoff, , Costantino Lazzari and Giacinto Serrati. Alphonse Merrheim representing the anti-war groups in the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and Albert Bourderon also of the CGT, but at the same time part of the opposition in the SFIO, attended from France. Henriette Roland Holst was the delegate of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of the Netherlands. Zeth Höglund and Ture Nerman represented the Swedish and Norwegian youth leagues. Ten Germans attended. Julian Borchardt came as a member of the International Socialists of Germany and the oppositional journal . Bertha Thalheimer and Ernst Meyer represented the International Group, a group of anti-war socialists from Berlin led by Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Clara Zetkin. The delegates , Georg Ledebour, , , Minna Reichert, , and , the first four of whom came as Reichstag deputies, represented the minority within the SPD. Vasil Kolarov participated for the Bulgarian Narrow socialists and Christian Rakovsky for the Social Democratic Party of Romania—both organizations had joined the Balkan Socialist Federation. Several organizations from the Russian Empire came to Zimmerwald. The Bolsheviks Lenin and Zinoviev represented the Central Committee of the RSDLP, while the Mensheviks Axelrod and Martov did so for its Organization Committee. The internationalist wing of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP) sent Viktor Chernov and Mark Natanson. Trotsky attended in the name of the Russian Paris-based journal . Lemanski was an observer without voting rights for the General Jewish Labor Bund. Jan Berzin was the delegate of the Social Democracy of the Latvian Territory. Finally, the Poles Radek, Adolf Warski, and represented the regional presidium of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDPKiL), its main presidium, and the Polish Socialist Party – Left (PPS–L), respectively.
The British delegation consisting of Frederick Jowett and Bruce Glasier of the ILP and Edwin C. Fairchild of the BSP did not make it to Switzerland, because the British authorities refused to issue them passports. Willi Münzenberg, the organizer of the April youth conference, was not admitted as a delegate of the newly founded Youth International. Karl Liebknecht could not attend because he had been conscripted. Austrian anti-war socialists decided not to attend because they did not want to exacerbate divisions within their party. Some sources erroneously list , Nadezhda Krupskaya, Inessa Armand, or Karl Kautsky among the conference's participants.
The Zimmerwald Conference brought together delegates from both sides of the war, but disagreements did not follow national lines. The participants split into three factions, although the divisions were at times blurred and there were disagreements with the factions. Eight delegates, Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Borchardt, Berzin, Platten, Höglund, and Nerman, formed the left. They favored openly revolutionary struggle and breaking with the Second International. They were opposed by the right who viewed the conference only as a demonstration against the war. The right made up a majority of the delegates consisting of nineteen or twenty delegates: most of the Germans, the French, the Mensheviks, and some of the Italians and Poles. In between was the center, which included among others Grimm, Trotsky, Balabanoff, and Roland-Holst. Compared to the International's pre-war congresses, the conference's number of participants and the range of countries represented was almost negligible. According to Yves Collart, its composition was not necessarily representative of the socialist movement as a whole, or even of its left wing. The selection of delegates was haphazard and a result of personal contacts and practical circumstances.
September 5 and 6
Grimm opened the conference on the afternoon of September 5. He attacked the ISB for its inactivity. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the conference's goal was to rebuild the Second International, not to form a Third International. He called on the conference to "raise up the flag of socialism, which had slipped from the hands of the appointed representatives of socialism, and to erect over the gory battlefields the true symbol of humanity". Karl Liebknecht, the most prominent figure in the socialist resistance against the war, addressed the conference in a letter, which was delivered to Grimm by Liebnecht's wife Sophie, as he was unable to attend himself. It called for "civil war, not civil peace" and for a new International "to rise from the ruins of the old". The letter was read aloud and received considerable applause.
The first two days were spent on disputes over procedural matters and on delegates' opening statements on the situation in their respective countries. The highlights among the opening statements, according to the historian Agnes Blänsdorf, were the reports by the German and French delegations. In Merrheim's view, the conference's main task was Franco-German reconciliation. Both French delegates pointed out that the anti-war minorities in both countries had to work together: "If we supported each other, the movement against the war would grow and it could become possible to put an end to the butchery", according to Bourderon. The Germans Ledebour and Hoffmann agreed with the French. Ledebour's speech emphasized the importance of pragmatic tactics. Disagreements within the German delegation erupted on who had a right to speak for the German opposition, with the Reichstag members on the one side and the International Group on the other. According to the historian R. Craig Nation, the Scandinavian youth leagues gave the strongest opening statement. It called for support for anti-war actions by the masses and deemed revolution a prerequisite for peace. Of the Russian delegates, Axelrod was the main speaker. He pointed out that of the European socialist movements, Russian social democracy was the only movement that was united in its opposition to the war. He explained that this was due to the fact that Russan Czarism was so unambiguously counter-revolutionary. Axelrod and Zinoviev both sought to dispel the notion that exiled Russian socialists were mere doctrinaires with no connection to the workers' movement and stated that both wings of Russian social democracy wished to overcome the schism and re-establish socialist unity.
The conference decided to establish an Executive Bureau consisting of Grimm, Lazzari, and Rakovski to handle procedural matters. Squabbling within the German delegation erupted over Borchardt's status. The other Germans objected to his participation as a delegate with a mandate and threatened to leave. Lenin, outraged at the prospect of the only German on the left being excluded, defended Borchardt. The Executive Bureau agreed to demote his status to that of an observer without voting rights. The Bolsheviks suggested that each Polish and Russian organization be allocated an independent mandate. The Bureau decided that each national delegation should be granted five votes, to be distributed as each delegation sees fit. This had the effect of diminishing the influence of the left.
Discussions on the central issue, the agenda item "Peace Action by the Proletariat", did not begin until the third day. The delegates hoped to achieve unanimous decisions, as this would send a signal of strength. This unanimity turned out to be difficult to achieve. Most of the discussion on this agenda item turned on the question of what was to be the goal of the movement. Lenin and the left pushed the debate in this direction. Radek was the first speaker and presented the resolution the left had agreed upon. Peace, he insisted, could only be the product of revolution, but revolution could not stop at putting an end to war, but must lead to a struggle for socialism. Therefore, socialists already had to start preparing for revolution. Lenin added that this preparation entailed abandoning the existing organizations and forming a Third International. Socialists faced a choice between "true revolutionary struggle" and "empty phrases" about peace. Lenin's and Radek's positions were supported by the other left delegates.
Grimm was the first to challenge the left's presentation. He considered Radek's reasoning "unsuitable", asking him: "Do we want a manifesto for party comrades or for the broad masses of the workers?" Except for Serrati, the Italian delegation's position was diametrically opposed to that of the left. The Italians insisted that the conference's purpose was only to resist the war and promote peace. Lazzari dismissed Radek's tone as "pretentious", expressed doubt that insurrections could be successful at this time, and was concerned that radicalism could exacerbate the splits within the International. The French expressed similar views. Merrheim called Lenin's suggestions the fantasies of a sectarian. According to him, the French working class had lost confidence in socialism and this confidence could only be regained by speaking of peace. The Germans Ledebour and Hoffmann agreed. Hoffmann added that the only thing to be done at that moment was to return to the old forms of class struggle and to call for peace. Ledebour held that "to restore the International and to work for peace" were the only purposes of the conference. He introduced a draft resolution of his own, in opposition to the left's.
The positions of Trotsky, Chernov, Thalheimer, and Meyer were similar to the left's, but they disagreed on some tactical issues. Thalheimer and Meyer objected to the left wanting to dictate party tactics to national sections. Serrati proclaimed that "if the war were not a fact, I would vote for Lenin's resolution. Today it comes either too early or too late." The debate continued well into the night of September 7. The left, though in the minority, succeeded in determining the structure of the debate and preventing a consensus among the moderates. Merrheim eventually succeeded in uniting the moderate majority. He attacked Lenin: "A revolutionary movement can only grow from a striving for peace. You, comrade Lenin, are not motivated by this striving for peace, but by the desire to set up a new International. This is what divides us." It was decided to create a commission to write the conference resolution. It consisted of Ledebour, Lenin, Trotsky, Grimm, Merrheim, Modigliani, and Rakovski. The same disagreements continued in the commission. Another confrontation arose when Lenin suggested including a call for parties to vote against war credits. Ledebour managed to deflect this initiative by threatening that the Germans would leave Zimmerwald if such a call were to be included. In the end, Trotsky was tasked with writing a draft resolution.
Trotsky's draft was put before the full conference for discussion the next morning. The controversy over support for war credits arose again. Roland-Holst and Trotsky joined the left in demanding that a call for socialists to vote against war credits under any circumstances be included in the manifesto. Ledebour again shut the discussion down by issuing another ultimatum. Grimm successfully deflected further suggested amendments. Chernov objected that the draft did not specifically mention the Russian Czar or the prospect of agrarian socialism. Finally, Morgari to the other delegates' surprise threatened to veto the manifesto. He insisted that it state that Germany was more to blame for the war than other countries. Eventually, Morgari was talked into withdrawing his objection and the manifesto passed unanimously. The delegates cheered and sang "The Internationale".
After passing the manifesto, the conference, at Ledebour's suggestion, decided to create the International Socialist Commission (ISC) to coordinate socialist anti-war activities. The left considered this a first step towards the creation of a new International, while the others insisted that its role was merely to facilitate the "exchange of correspondence", as Ledebour stated. The latter view prevailed. Grimm, Naine, Morgari, and Balabanoff, who was to act as interpreter, were chosen as the ISC's permanent members. No representative of the left was included. The secretariat of the ISC was to be located in Berne and managed by Grimm and Balabanoff. Grimm announced that the ISC would restrict its activities to issuing an international bulletin and coordinating the movement for peace. Most delegations pledged financial contributions.
Grimm reminded the delegates not to take documents from the meeting across international borders and to wait fourteen days before discussing it, so everyone would have time to return to their home country before news spread. He closed the conference at 2:30 am on the morning of September 9. According to Balabanoff, everyone was exhausted and "the work was completed, but the weariness was so great that almost no joy could be taken in its realization."
Manifesto and resolutions
The French and German delegations issued a joint declaration. It was a product of their agreement during the opening discussions. It denounced Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality and called for the restoration of Belgian independence. The Germans suggested including this passage as they feared Germany could seek to annex Belgium. The statement did not address the future of Alsace-Lorraine. It denounced imperialism by all governments as the cause of the war and called on socialist parties to abandon the Policy of August 4 and return to the class struggle. The aim of that struggle must be immediate peace without annexations. The French and the Germans vowed to fight for peace until their governments ended the war.
The Zimmerwald Manifesto, which the conference adopted, was addressed to the "Workers of Europe". It was similar to Trotsky's original draft and mostly reflected the Zimmerwald centrists' views, with some concessions to the right. The text mostly appealed to the working class's emotion and did not contain the statement of principles Lenin called for. The manifesto begins with a drastic description of the causes and consequences of the war, which was said to "unveil the naked form of modern Capitalism". The war had turned Europe into a "gigantic human slaughter-house", while the "most savage barbarity is celebrating its triumph over everything that was previously the pride of mankind", it claimed. It also deemed "misery and privation, unemployment and want, underfeeding and disease" as well as "intellectual and moral desolation, economic disaster, political reaction" to be the effects of the Great War. Its causes, according to the Zimmerwaldists, are imperialism and the fact that each ruling class sought to redraw borders in accordance with its interests. The manifesto goes on to criticize the socialist parties for abandoning their previous resolutions by entering the Burgfrieden, voting for war credits, and entering war-time governments. "And just as Socialist Parties failed separately," it claimed, "so did the most responsible representative of the Socialists of all countries fail: the International Socialist Bureau." The war was to be ended with no annexations and no reparations. To this end, the manifesto called on workers to fight "for [their] own cause, for the sacred aims of Socialism, for the salvation of the oppressed nations and the enslaved classes, by means of the irreconcilable working-class struggle". The goal of this struggle was to restore peace.
The positions expressed in the Zimmerwald Manifesto were, for the most part, in line with the Second International's pre-war resolutions. Its description of the war only differed from those statements in that it held all wars in advanced capitalism to be imperialist in nature and therefore national defense to be meaningless. Its critique of socialists' votes for war credits was not to be interpreted as a demand that socialists vote against granting them, according to Ledebour and Hoffmann. It did not include any of Lenin's demands: opposition to war credits, a clear condemnation of revisionism, and a call to revolutionary civil war. The left expressed its disagreements with the manifesto in an addendum. This statement described the manifesto's insufficiencies, criticizing that it did not denounce opportunism, "the chief culprit of the collapse of the International", and did not set forth any tactics for the struggle against the war. Nevertheless, the leftists explained, they decided to sign the Zimmerwald Manifesto because they understood it as a call to a struggle in which they intended to fight with the others.
Reactions and aftermath
Trotsky recalled in 1930 that soon after the conference "the hitherto unknown name of Zimmerwald was echoed through out the world". Yet, news of the Zimmerwald Conference was slow to spread through Europe, partly due to censorship. In Switzerland on September 20, Grimm announced the conference as "the beginning of a new epoch" in which the International would return to the class struggle. In Italy, Serrati was able to publish the Zimmerwald Manifesto in the socialist newspaper Avanti! on October 14 by deceiving the censor with a fake version.
After the conference, the Zimmerwald movement slowly, but surely began to grow. Popular dissatisfaction with the war mounted, as the numbers of casualties grew, living conditions at home deteriorated, and governments' claims that they were waging wars of defense became increasingly untenable. This dissatisfaction bolstered the socialist anti-war minority as the rank-and-file became disillusioned with the leadership's support for the war.
According to the historian Willi Gautschi, the Zimmerwald Conference was clearly a defeat for Lenin and the left. Their calls for the formation of a Third International and for immediate revolution were rejected. Yet, Lenin was able to increase his prestige in the European socialist left.
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 centenary.
- 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
- Siberian Zimmerwaldists
- "Zimmerwald Conference 1915: Revolutionaries against the imperialist war". Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- Nation 1989, p. 3.
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- Nation 1989, p. 10.
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- Nation 1989, pp. 14–15.
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- Nation 1989, pp. 17–18
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- Kirby 1986, pp. 49–50.
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