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