Kienthal Conference of 1916

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kienthal Conference of 1916

 

(or the Second Zimmerwald Conference), an international socialist conference held by members of the Zimmerwald group, which was founded at the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915. The Kienthal Conference began in Bern, Switzerland, on Apr. 24, 1916. Its subsequent sessions—from April 25 to April 30—were held in the mountain village of Kienthal. More than 40 delegates from Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, and Portugal took part in the conference, held while World War I continued to rage. At the conference, during discussions on the attitude of the proletariat toward peace and on the convocation of the International Socialist Bureau, a sharp ideological and political dispute developed between the delegates of the Zimmerwald Left, led by Lenin, and the right-centrist wing at the conference, led by such figures as R. Grimm of Switzerland, A. Hoffmann of Germany, O. Morgari and G. Modigliani of Italy, and P. Brisson of France.

The draft resolution submitted by the Zimmerwald Left on the question of peace stated that imperialism confronted the proletariat with a choice: either to fight for socialism or to suffer decay and universal ruin. Appealing to the warring peoples, the Left resolution urged them: “Lay down your arms; turn them against the common enemy—the capitalist governments.” With the rejection of the Left draft resolution by the centrist majority, a special commission drew up a compromise draft resolution that was adopted by the conference after a number of crucial amendments were introduced on the insistence of Lenin and his supporters. Although the resolution as adopted did not pose the question of organizing the proletariat for armed struggle against their “own” governments, its final item did correctly point toward the merging of all groups fighting against the war, the high cost of living, and political reaction “into one single, universal, international struggle for socialism.”

In the discussion on the question of the International Socialist Bureau (ISB), the right wing favored its convocation, hoping for the restoration of the old leadership of the Second International, which had collapsed. The left-wing minority declared its opposition to the revival of the ISB, whose leaders had become accomplices of imperialism. The Left resolution demanded “the creation of the ideological and organizational preconditions for developing a new International.” As the result of a compromise, the conference adopted a resolution calling for the “exposure of the true aims of nationalist socialism,” which the ISB leaders preached. A Bolshevik motion was adopted to the effect that, if the ISB was convoked, there would be a gathering of the Zimmerwald group to make a final determination of its stand.

The conference adopted a manifesto entitled “Appeal of the Second Socialist Conference to the Peoples Being Ruined and Slaughtered,” which pointed out that the only way to prevent war is for the working class to seize political power. However, Lenin’s call to turn the imperialist war into a civil war and the other clear-cut demands of the Bolsheviks were passed over in silence in the manifesto. Nevertheless, the Kienthal manifesto, developing the ideas in the manifesto adopted at the Zimmerwald Conference, reflected Lenin’s influence and the growing strength of the Zimmerwald Left. The Kienthal Conference helped to stir left-wing groups in a number of countries to greater activity, groups preparing for a decisive break with the social chauvinists and centrists. It was from these groups that the nucleus of the Communist International subsequently took shape.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Proekt postanovleniia o sozyve Vtoroi sotsialisticheskoi konferentsii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “K konferentsii 24 apr. 1916 g.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “O ’programme mira’.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Predlozhenie Tsentral’nogo Komiteta RSDRP Vtoroi sotsialisticheskoi konferentsii.” Ibid.
Tsimmerval’dskaia i Kintal’skaia konferentsii: Ofitsial’nye dokumenty. Moscow-Leningrad, 1924.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Istoriia Vtorogo Internatsionala, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Lenin i mezhdunarodnoe rabochee dvizhenie. Moscow, 1969.
Lenin ν bor’be za revoliutsionnyi Internatsional. Moscow, 1970.
Temkin, Ia. G. Tsimmerval’d-Kintal’. Moscow, 1967.
Temkin, Ia. G. Lenin i mezhdunarodnaia sotsial-demokratiia, 1914–1917. Moscow, 1968.

IA. G. TEMKIN

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.