8/9/1915 The Zimmerwald conference: socialists meet to oppose the war

In the Swiss town of Zimmerwald anti-war socialists have spent the last three days meeting to discuss how best to oppose the war. The conference has attracted delegates from many different countries, both belligerent and neutral.

Some of the attendees are people in Swiss exile as a way of avoiding conscription in their home country. This appears to be particularly true of the Russian delegates, which includes figures like Grigory Zinoviev, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky from the rival Bolshevik and Menshevik socialist parties.

Notable by his absence is the German socialist Karl Liebknecht. Despite his immunity as a member of the Reichstag, his opposition to the war has seen him drafted into the German army and shipped off to the Eastern Front. Refusing to fight, he has been put to work burying corpses. A message from him is read out to the conference, but his name is not recorded in the minutes, for fear of reprisals against him.

The Zimmerwald delegates are divided into left and very left factions, finding it hard to reach agreement on many issues. They are probably conscious of their current marginalisation in their home countries and their inability to bring the war to an end. But they agree at least to establish a temporary International Socialist Commission in Berne, which will publish the proceedings of the conference and coordinate affairs of the affiliated parties.

image source (International Institute of Socialist History)

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