Geschichte der Schweiz

Robert Grimm

Robert Grimm, Geschichte der Schweiz in ihren Klassenkämpfen, Bern: Verlag der Unionsdruckerei, 1920.

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematic Context

Robert Grimm appears as the personification of the development from social question and socialism or communism to modern socio-democracy, and as the representation of the inter-connection between socialism, social democracy and the modern social state. He represented the prototype of working-class intelligence, when he learned the profession of typography and travelled to France, Austria and Italy. Back in his country, he joined the socialists respectively socio-democratic party and worked as a trade-union secretary and editor of a left-wing journal. He debuted with a pamphlet on mass strike, and in 1912 he represented his party at the Second Congress of International Socialist Parties, where he was working for the Bureau. As such he accommodated to the ideas and ideals of Karl Marx, whereas he had some ideological and personal tensions with Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin. In 1915 and 1916, he organised the Socialist Conferences of the pacifist wing of the socialist movement in Zimmerwald, respectively Kienthal. In 1918, he reached the focus of the public as president of the so-called “Oltener Aktionskomitee”, and he organised the “Landesstreik”, a nationwide general walkout. Punished by a military judge to six months of prison, he undertook to write down the first of his main books, “Geschichte der Schweiz in ihren Klassenkämpfen” (1920).

Although resigning to adhere with his party to the Third Socialist Congress, Robert Grimm kept on fighting for its Programme, whose author he actually was. Meanwhile he had a very moderate and intelligent sense of the political dimension of the socialist movement, which he partly documented in his second monography on “Geschichte der sozialis­tischen Ideen in der Schweiz” (1931; see no. 7.7 of this Legal Anthology). It was only in 1935 that he supported parliamentary democracy and collective defence of the nation-state, which enabled him to preside over the members of the socio-democratic party within the Swiss Federal Parliament between 1936 and 1945. He thoroughly criticised capitalism and held a severe anti-Americanism; nevertheless, as a leader with a socialist consciousness he had a rather pragmatic practice of Marxist principles and eventually changed to a socio-democratic statesman, the first in Switzerland in fact. He was a member of the Parliament from 1911 to 1955, and in 1926 he was elected as a vice president, and in 1946 as the president of the Swiss Federal Assembly.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

As already mentioned, Robert Grimm wrote the manuscript for his first monography during his imprisonment in 1919. We encounter in this book a veritably social history of Switzerland from the foundation of the Confederation to the present time. This proves that the author did not understand the term “class conflict” only in the sense of Karl Marx, but in a much broader sense. Swiss historical development is presented as a constant struggle between the different social classes and brought in connection with major events and leading political persons.

For further reading, we have selected the last part of the principal historical writing by Robert Grimm, entitled with “dawn and dusk”. Together with the foundation of the modern Nation State by the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848, bourgeois capitalism has risen and undergoes a constant change and further development. One should not forget that many of the legislation projects within the first century of Swiss Federal politics have dealt with social problems, such as the effects of poverty, the labour situation in mass production factories, social assurances, and so on. The chapter of worker’s movements and trade unions is opened thereby, and under the pressure by mass strike the modern political community is driven to social democracy. The former capitalist state has to experience a radical change by the success of protests and pressure, leading to an alteration of the production circumstances.

Proletarian representatives eventually appear as the “victorious enunciators of a new epoch in social community”.

Further Information About the Author

Robert Grimm, born 16 April 1881 in Wald (ZH), died 8 March 1858 in Berne, represented the prototype of working-class intelligence, when he learned the profession of typography and travelled to France, Austria and Italy. Back in his country, he joined the socialist respectively socio-democratic party and worked as a trade-union secretary and editor of a left-wing journal. By the end of his life, he was the director of the “Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon-Bahnen (BLS)”. This, however, is nothing compared with the setting of a leading socialist thinker in Switzerland.

He debuted with a pamphlet on mass strike, and in 1912 he represented his party at the Second Congress of International Socialist Parties, where he was working for the Bureau. As such he accommodated to the ideas and ideals of Karl Marx, whereas he had some ideological and personal tensions with Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin. In 1915 and 1916, he organised the Socialist Conferences of the pacifist wing of the socialist movement in Zimmerwald, respectively Kienthal. In 1918 he reached the focus of the public as president of the so-called “Oltener Aktionskomitee”, and he organised the “Landesstreik”, a nationwide general walkout. Punished by a military judge to six months of prison, he undertook to write down the first of his main books, “Geschichte der Schweiz in ihren Klassenkämpfen” (1920). Although resigning to adhere with his party to the Third Socialist Congress, he kept on fighting for its Programme, whose author he actually was. Meanwhile, he had a very moderate and intelligent sense of the political dimension of the socialist movement, what he partly documented in his second monography on “Geschichte der sozialis­tischen Ideen in der Schweiz” (1931). It was only in 1935 that he supported parliamentary democracy and collective defence of the nation-state. He thoroughly criticised capitalism and held a severe anti-Americanism; nevertheless, as a leader with a socialist consciousness he had a rather pragmatic practice of Marxist principles and eventually changed to a socio-democratic statesman, the first in Switzerland in fact.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Robert Grimm: Geschichte der sozialis­tischen Ideen in der Schweiz, Zürich: Oprecht & Helbing AG, 1931.

Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Grimm Klassenkämpfe.