Zimmerwald and the General Line Internationally

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Mon Aug 28 23:16:43 MDT 1995

On Mon, 21 Aug 1995 Louis posted an article: Zimmerwald, WWII and the UN

Considering this was done on Perrier and  exotic salad,
("turning over a new leaf" eh Lou?) I have to admit I am impressed.

So clearly are the rest of the list.

Louis took the opportunity of the argument about Yugoslavia to try
an overview. This brought a lot of new material to the debate
and gave the opportunity of addressing the questions constructively
from a different angle, and of course at the same time, it argued
a perspective - a non-interventionist one.

A few lines where in my opinion Louis left himself vulnerable, could
have provided the opportunity for a fierce rebuttal of opportunism if
we had followed the style of Lenin or Stalin in polemics. But that
style of argument however logical, is essentially one of winning battles
by humiliation. It does not get very far on an open list like this, and
anyway I have too much respect for Louis to try it. (And perhaps too
much respect for myself). Nevetheless the issues of strategy and policy
should not be fudged in broad outline. So I will try to be
respond to the overview at a broad level.

I had two surprises with the piece:

1) that Louis came out criticising the broadly progressive
nature of the anti-fascist second world war. This
is more than just identifying imperialist and inter-imperialist aspects
which undoubtedly existed in the second world war. It really
questions the whole strategy of the international united front against
fascism - the line from the 7th (?) Congress of the Communist
International in 1935.

2) To my surprise I suddenly came to wonder on the other hand whether
Lenin's line (as described by Louis) on the first world war was the best,
inter-imperialist war though it overwhelmingly was.

The antiwar opposition split into two camps. One camp was "centrist".
It opposed the war but advanced a strategy that was not revolutionary.
It sought to mobilize public pressure in the various warring countries
in order to force an early peace. The leader of this grouping was
Robert Grimm, a Swiss socialist.

This description of the "centrist" position does not immediately condemn
it as opportunist. It would appear to be in accordance with international
campaigns for peace that later this century have had some success in
limiting the freedom of manoeuvre of the imperialist powers.

I am not very familiar with Lenin's articles on war, but taking Louis's
tip I went to "Socialism and War" (Sept 1915) and found no reference to

"The War Programme of the Proletarian Revolution (written Sept 1916) has
only one rather respectful reference to R. Grimm: "In R. Grimm's latest
theses, we regret to note, there is also a concession to the
'disarmament' idea." Disarmament is then criticised without further
specific reference to Grimm precise position.

It ends rather respectfully again, "Does the demand for disarmament
correspond to the revolutionary trend among the Swiss Social-Democrats?
Obviously not. Objectively, 'disarmament' is an extremely national,
a specifically national programme of small states; it is certainly not
the international programme of international revolutionary

[I wonder what Lenin would have made of nuclear weapons]

Generally I have to say that the arguments presented by Lenin in this
article do not appear necessarily to relate to Grimm's stated position,
and I would like to see that stated position more clearly explained,
and in turn more specifically criticised by Lenin.

This may seem tangential to the debate about intervention in Yugoslavia,
but I think it will curve back in again.

So, Louis, do you know of more evidence about Grimm's actual position
and more specific criticisms by Lenin? I shall come back with comments on
Lenin's two articles in the light of your reply.

Warm Regards,

Chris B, London.

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