CfP: “What is your take on violence?” On a crucial question of the international Left in its historical-political context

Call for papers, deadline 15 August 2023

International Conference 

IHSF Vienna, International Rosa Luxemburg Society, Nord University

Vienna, 20-22 June 2024


Organization team

  • Dr. Florian Wenninger, Institut für Historische Sozialforschung (IHSF), Vienna
  • Charlotte Rönchen, MA, Institut für Historische Sozialforschung (IHSF), Vienna 
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Frank Jacob, Nord Universitet, Bodø, Norway 


In the years leading up to the First World War, the international labor movement made considerable efforts to counteract an escalation in international politics. In fact, however, in the respective historical-political context of their time, numerous influential left-wing theorists, who, for example, strictly opposed an armed conflict of the European powers, had to take the position that violence was “[the] means of the offensive [...] where the legal terrain of the class struggle has yet to be conquered.” (Rosa Luxemburg, 1902). Against the background of this apparent contradiction, the planned conference in Vienna will examine left-wing positions on violence in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Starting with the thesis that violence in its respective historical-political contexts was primarily discussed from two points of view by the Left, namely that of political functionality and that of moral legitimacy, the conference is not only asking for theoretical positions within this debate, but also wants to inquire practical derivations from the "propaganda of action" by anarchist terrorists of the 19th century, to Karl Kautsky's and Rosa Luxemburg's criticism of the Bolshevik revolutionary policy of 1918, and to the establishment of left-wing military associations. Last but not least, the left-wing pacifist currents, especially against the background of the First World War should also be addressed.


The conference therefore focuses in particular on the following five topics:

1. How have left-wing intellectuals approached or discussed the issue of violence?

2. How did left-wing violence develop in concrete situations, how was it organized and what goals were pursued in each case?

3. How did the experience of (mass) violence shape specific actions both within the labor movement and in the everyday lives of its members or representatives? How did its activists and officials react individually or collectively to violence from political opponents or the authorities? And how was the use of violence on “their own” side received?

4. How was violence remembered in left-wing contexts?

5. And finally, how was the issue of violence discussed at international level, also in terms of an offensive approach?


Interested scholars should submit a presentation proposal (max. 300 words and a short biography, approx. 100 words), preferably but not exclusively on one of the above-mentioned subject areas, to by August 15, 2023. In the event of a positive evaluation of the proposal, travel and accommodation costs will be covered, if they cannot be covered through the participants’ existing institutional affiliation. The participation in the conference includes the obligation to provide an extended version of your contribution for the publication of a conference volume later as well.