Geschichte der sozialistischen Ideen

Robert Grimm

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

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 interconnection 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 socialist 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 with Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin he had some ideological and personal tensions. 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; see no. 7.6 of this Legal Anthology).

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, what he partly documented in his second monography on “Geschichte der sozialis­tischen Ideen in der Schweiz” (1931). It was only in 1935, 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 has been member of the Parliament from 1911 to 1955, and in 1926 he has been elected as a vice president, in 1946 as the president of the Swiss Federal Assembly.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

In contrast to the historical writing, Robert Grimm exposes his political ideas and socialist convictions in his treatise on the historical development of socialist, Marxist, and communist ideas, ideals and ideologies in Switzerland. Based on social circumstances, under the impression of the so-called social question, a specific consciousness among the working class arises. The essential is to elevate this social experience to a political movement. “Im Lichte marxistischer Geschichtsauffassung erhebt sich die sozialistische Idee zur philosophischen Idee und lässt den Ausgangspunkt des proletarischen Leidens zum Ausgangspunkt höherer und vollkommenerer Lebensformen werden”. By having an efficient impact on social and political community, socialism is no longer merely utopian, but rather becomes a historical necessity.

On little more than two hundred pages, Robert Grimm draws the outlines of a development from opposition to collaboration between the socialist movement and the modern Nation State in Switzerland, addressing the ideas and works of Jakob Treichler, Albert Galeer, Pierre Coullery, Johann Philipp Becker, Hermann Greulich, Friedrich Albert Lange, Albert Steck and Otto Lang as well as partly of his own person. Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1918 induces political socialism in Western Europe to take a distance from communism and to adhere to a new model of social-democratic politics. “Vielleicht aber ist die Entwicklung der sozialistischen Ideen in der Schweiz gerade aus diesen Gründen [demokratische Tradition, Föderalismus] interessant. Diese Entwicklung ist aufs engste mit den wirtschaftlichen, sozialen und politischen Veränderungen des Landes verknüpft. Die sozialistische Ideenentwicklung ist ihr getreues Spiegelbild und stellt, herausgeschält aus der manchmal verwirrenden Hülle der Ereignisse, ein zusammenhängendes Ganzres dar. Sie bietet einen bemerkenswerten geistigen Aufstieg einer bescheiden um ihre Existenz ringenden Klasse, ein ehrliches, an den Zeitverhältnissen orientiertes Streben nach Klarheit und Wahrheit”.

The inevitable new definition of the relationship between communism and socialism leads to the revisionist conversion and moderation to socio-democratic movement in Switzerland. This requires a turn from Marxist ideology to socio-democratic pragmatism, guided by a sense for social reality. “Die sozialistischen Ideen sind Lehren der Wirklichkeit, nicht Bestandteil eines Systems der philosophischen Spekulation. Aus der Wirklichkeit entstanden und entwickelt, sind sie für die Wirklichkeit geschaffen und durch sie in allen wesentlichen Teilen bestätigt worden. Ihre Grundlagen sind die gesellschaftlichen Zustände, denen sie kritisch gegenüber treten, sie aus der geschichtlichen Vergangenheit ableiten, ihre Zusammenhänge aufzeigen und ihre Weiterentwicklung darstellen”. Marxist-Leninist theory and ideology have evolved to indicate a critical, historically conscious, holistic and prospective approach to daily politics within a democratic political community with a federal organisation. “Jetzt, nachdem ein halbes Jahrhundert proletarischer Klassenkämpfe im nationalen und internationalen Massstab zeigte, wie richtig der Satz ist, dass die immer weiter um sich greifende Vereinigung, nicht der unmittelbare Erfolg das Resultat dieser Kämpfe ist, jetzt, nachdem die Krise des Kapitalismus alle sozialen Errschungenschaften der Arbeiterklasse bedroht, die Mittel der bisherigen Organisationen nicht ausreichen, um diese Gefahr abzuwenden, der demokratische Staat immer unverhüllter die Formen der wirtschaftlichen und finanziellen Diktatur der kapitalistischen Herrschaft annimmt, tritt die Notwendigkeit der Überwindung der alten Gesellschaft immer stärker in das Bewusstsein der Arbeiter. Der Sozialismus erscheint jetzt nicht nur als ein Ergebnis theoretischen Denkens. Seine Notwendigkeit geht nun hervor aus dem unmittelbaren praktischen Erleben der Gegenwart. Was einst Idee war, erhält Fleisch und Blut, was einst blosse Theorie war, wird zur lebendigen Wirklichkeit. / Damit tritt die Geschichte der sozialistischen Ideen in eine neue Phase ein. Sie geht vom Bewusstsein über in das praktische Handeln. Früher ein Objekt theoretischer Auseinandersetzungen, wird die sozialistische Idee Objekt des proletarischen Massen- und Klassenkampfes. In ihrem Zeichen wird die Menschheit den Weg zu neuen Formen des gesellschaftlichen Daseins beschreiten, in ihrem Zeichen ihren Aufstieg, ihre Befreiung vollziehen”. This is the intermediate conclusion on the way to determine the relation between theory and practice by socio-democratic revisionism and pragmatism; however, the means of mass strikes, of nationwide walkout remains the vehicle of pressure and influence on bourgeoise politics, according to Robert Grimm’s mental disposition of a representative of the working class, as an eloquent self-made intellectual, and as a militant politician. Within this new framework, the law is meant to be an instrument to fulfil political tasks, is considered to instrumentally serve politics as a means to extrinsic ends. This may be the main deficiency of the socialist approach to solutions of social problems, indeed.

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 after all director of the “Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon-Bahnen (BLS)”. This, however, is nothing less than 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 with Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin he had some ideological and personal tensions. 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 Schweiz in ihren Klassenkämpfen, Bern: Buch­handlung des Waisenhauses, 1920.

For Further Reading

Rudolf Stammler: Wirtschaft und Recht nach der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung – Eine sozialphilosophische Untersuchung, Leipzig: Veit & Comp., 3. A. 1914;

Text

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