V. I.   Lenin

The Story of One Short Period in the Life of One Socialist Party

Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Written (in German) in late February 1917. Translated from the German. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 283-286.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Jan. 7, 1917. Meeting of the Swiss Socialist Party Executive. Centrist leader R. Grimm unites with social-patriot leaders to postpone indefinitely the party congress (originally appointed for Feb. 11, 1917 to discuss the war issue).

Nobs, Platten, Name and others protest and vote against.

Postponement rouses the greatest indignation among class-conscious workers.

Jan. 9. 1917. Publication of majority and minority resolutions.[1] Clear statement against fatherland defence totally lacking in majority draft (Affolter and Schmid were against this), but §3 does contain this demand: “Party parliamentary deputies shall be under obligation to reject, stating their principled grounds, all war demands and credits.” That should be especially noted!

Jan. 23, 1917. The Zurich Volksrecht puts the case for a referendum[2]. Sharply, but quite correctly, it characterises the postponement as a victory of Grütlianism over socialism.

Leaders infuriated by referendum proposal. Grimm in the Berner Tagwacht, Jacques Schmid (Olten) in the Neue Freie Zeitung,[3] F. Schneider in the Basler Vorwärts,"[4] and, besides these “Centrists”, social-patriot Hither in the St. Gallen Volksstimme—all heap abuse and threats on the referendum initiators.

R. Grimm stands at the head of this unholy crusade, making a special effort to intimidate the “youth organisation” and promising to come out against it at the next party congress.

Hundreds and hundreds of workers in German and French Switzerland eagerly sign referendum papers. Name wires   Münzenberg that one cantonal secretariat will, in all probability, support referendum.

Jan. 22, 1917. The Berner Tagwacht and Volksrecht carry a statement by National Council member Gustav Müller. He presents the party a veritable ultimatum, stating on behalf of his group (he writes: “our group”) that he will resign from the National Council because he cannot accept “the principle of rejecting war credits”.

Jan. 26, 1917. In his fourth Volksrecht article, Greulich presents the same ultimatum to the party, saying that he will “naturally” resign if the party congress approves paragraph 3 of the majority resolution.[5]

Jan. 27, 1917. E. Nobs says in an editorial comment (“On the Referendum”) that under no circumstances can he endorse the referendum motivation.[6]

Platten is silent.

Jan. 31, 1917. The Secretariat decides to convene the party congress on June 2 and 3, 1917 (it will be remembered that the Secretariat had earlier decided to convene it on Feb. 11, 1917, but the decision was repealed by the Party Executive!).

Feb. 1, 1917. Part of the Zimmerwald Conference meets at Olten, attended by representatives of organisations invited to the conference of Entente socialists (March 1917).

Radek, Zinoviev, Münzenberg, one member of the Internationale (the Spartacus group in Germany, of which Karl Liebknecht was a member) publicly castigate R. Grimm, stating that his alliance with the social-patriots against the Swiss socialist workers makes him a “political corpse”.

Press is silent about this conference.

Feb. 1, 1917. Platten publishes his first article on the war issue.[7] Attention should be drawn to the following two of his statements.

First, Platten writes, literally: “Of course, the absence was felt in the commission of the cool-headed, courageous and consistent Zimmerwald champion who would have insisted on pigeon-holing the war issue till the end of the war.”

No name was mentioned, but it should not be hard to guess against whom this blow was aimed.

Second, Platten makes this statement of principle:

The war issue is not only a battle of opinions around this question, but is indicative also of a definite trend in   the further development of the party; it is a struggle against opportunism within the party, and an act of opposition to the reformists and in favour of revolutionary class struggle.”

Feb. 3, 1917. A private meeting of Centrists (Grimm, Schneider, Rimathe and others) attended also by Nobs and Platten. Münzenberg and Dr. Bronski are invited but decline.

A decision is adopted to “amend” the majority resolution in a way that materially worsens it anti turns it into a “Centrist resolution”, especially because paragraph 3 is deleted and replaced by a deliberately indefinite and hazy expression.

Feb. 6, 1917. General meeting of Social-Democratic Party members in Zurich. Main item: committee elections.

Poor attendance, especially on the part of workers.

Platten suggests postponing the meeting. Social-patriots arid Nobs object. Proposal is defeated.

Elections are held. When it turns out that Dr. Bronski is elected, social-patriot Baumann announces on behalf of four committee members that he refuses to work with Dr. Bronski.

Platten suggests accepting this ultimatum (submitting to it), proposing (absolutely undemocratically and unlawfully) that the elections be declared invalid. That proposal is carried!!!

Feb. 9, 1917. Publication of a “new” majority resolution. The signatures: the “Centrists” Grimm, Rimathe, Schneider, Jacques Schmid, etc., also Nobs and Platten. The resolution has been greatly worsened and paragraph 3, as indicated above, deleted.[8]

The resolution does not even hint at combating opportunism and reformism, or at a firm decision to follow Karl Liebknecht’s tactics!

It is a typical Centrist resolution, in which “general”, supposedly “theoretical” disquisitions predominate, while practical demands are deliberately couched in such feeble and hazy language that, it can be hoped, not only Greulich and G. Muller, but even Baumann—Zurich will probably deign to withdraw their ultimatum and ... amnesty the party.

To sum up: the leaders of the Swiss party have solemnly buried Zimmerwaldism in the “marsh”.


The St. Gallen Volksstimme of Jan. 25, 1917 (to which Huber—Rorschach frequently contributes):

It suffices to oppose to this shamelessness [i.e., the referendum motivation] the fact that the postponement proposal (Jan. 7) was made by Comrade Grimm and energetically supported, among others, by Comrades Manz, Greulich, Muller, Affolter and Schmid.”

The Basler Vorwärts of Jan. 16, 1917 reports that the postponement proposal (Jan. 7) was tabled by the following comrades:

Grimm, Rimathe, Studer, Munch, Lang—Zurich, Schneider—Basel, Keel—St. Gallen and Schnurrenberger” (!!? obviously a misprint for Schneeberger?).

The workers have every reason to be grateful to the two papers for listing these names!...


[1] Reference is to the majority and minority draft resolutions published in Volksrecht of January 9, 1917 (No. 7) under the beading “Anträge der Militärkommission” (“Proposals of the Commission on the War Issue”).

[2] Lenin here refers to the referendum on the convocation of an emergency congress of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party to discuss its attitude towards the war. The referendum was initiated by the Left forces following the party Executive’s decision to postpone the congress indefinitely.

On January 23, 1917, Volksrecht (No. 19) published in the “Party Life” column an appeal of the initiating group under the heading “Das Referendum gegen den Parteivorstandbeschluss ergriffen”) (“Referendum Against Executive’s Decision Begins”).

[3] Neue Freie Zeitung—a newspaper published in Olten by the Solothurn cantonal organisation the Swiss Social-Democratic Party from 1905 to 1920. Took a Centrist stand in the First World War.

[4] Basler Vorwärts—organ of the Basle organisation of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party, founded in 1898; followed a Centrist policy in the First World War.

[5] Reference is to H. Greulich’s article “Zur Landesverteidigung” (“Defence of the Fatherland Issue”) in Volksrecht, January 26, 1917 (No. 22). Lenin quotes §3 of the majority resolution at the beginning of this article.

[6] The editorial “Zum Referendum” (“On the Referendum”) appeared in the “Party Life” section of Volksrecht, January 27, 1917 (No. 23).

[7] This refers to Fritz Platten’s article “Die Militärfrage” (“The Military Question”), published as an editorial in Volksrecht, February 1, 1917 (No. 27), and continued in the paper’s issues of February 2, 5 and 6 (Nos. 28, 30 and 31).

[8] Lenin here alludes to “Abänderungsanträge zu der Resolution der Militärkommission” (“Amendments to the Majority Resolution on the War Issue”) published in Volksrecht, February 9, 1917 (No. 34).

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