Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Henriette Roland Holst

Henriette Roland Holst (1869-1952) was one of the few Dutch socialists with an international reputation. She owed this reputation to her activities at a secret meeting on September 1915 of European socialists in wartime in the Swiss village of Zimmerwald. Among the 40 participants at the conference were Lenin and Trotsky.
The conference aimed at peace and internationalism in the labor movement. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, the agreement of the socialist factions to mobilization and national armament  had trampled the ideals of the internationalists. The Second Socialist International had collapsed.

Zimmerwald was a peak experience in the life of Roland Holst. She returned home in a jubilant mood , eager to disseminate the message of peace, the Zimmerwald Manifesto, and find support for it in the Netherlands.
But this worked out badly. The social democratic party (SDAP), where Roland Holst’s cradle once stood, declined the manifesto as too radical.  The communists on the other hand declined it as too moderate. Roland Holst’s own political party, the tiny Revolutionair-Socialistisch Verbond (Revolutionary-socialist union) had the same  controversy. The Left proved to be extremely uncooperative, personal relationships were awkward. and humor was lacking.

In this Dutch battlefield, Roland Holst, supported by Lenin, little by little moved to the left and finally joined the communist party in 1916. She traveled to Moscow to be present at the second congress of the Communist International, which she considered as a spin-off from the ZImmerwald conference.

This remarkable episode in the history of the international and Dutch Left is very well documented in the archives of the IISH. Read more:

  1. Zimmerwald
  2. Back in the Netherlands
  3. Two sects are no better than one
  4. Epilogue and sources
25 October 2012