Towards a New Workers’ Movement
Council communism, sometimes known as left communism, emerged from the KAPD (formed in April 1920) and the working-class Unionen (AAU and AAU-E) in Germany. It had a certain geographic spread (from Germany to the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Britain, Denmark and the USA) and theorists as diverse as Gorter, Pannekoek, Rühle, Sylvia Pankhurst, Canne-Meijer, Mattick and Cajo Brendel. In the 1960s, the ideas propagated by this current experienced a resurgence in the form of short-lived groups like « Root and Branch » in the American New Left; Informations et Correspondances ouvrières (coming out of Castoriadis and Claude Lefort’s « Socialisme ou Barbarie »); the Situationist International; Maurice Brinton’s Solidarity in Great Britain; and so on.
The council communists believed the old movement to be based on gradual, partial gains as well as a search for alliances with ‘progressive’ strata of the ruling class, with a view to taking power in a gradual, legalistic manner. Considering traditional capitalism to have entered its ‘death-crisis’, the council communists consequently thought that any new workers’ movement would, out of principle, have to: - reject the trade-union form, both official and syndicalist (whether industrial-unionist or ‘rank-and-file’), considered the expression of a utopian reformism whose only role was to channel the workforce into legalism, capitalism’s tripartite management by means of the state, the bosses and the ‘legal representatives’ of labour.
According to council communism, the new forms of organising replacing the old unions would be the working-class Unions embodying both political and economic struggle, action committees and unemployed workers’ committees, spontaneously born of the needs of the class struggle. - reject the parliamentary framework and all ‘electoral tactics’.
Council communism judged that, in the period of preparing for revolution, where the proletariat could only make real social conquests by means of radically changing society, participating in elections would be a fatal trap, like acceding to the Constituent Assembly in Germany of January 1919. - refuse any support, even in a tactical sense, to movements of ‘national liberation’, consistently opposing national ideas with that of the class struggle for the seizure of power by the proletariat and poor strata alone.
Workers’ Councils - Workers’councils are the political form of direct democracy when it brings together the exploited during a revolutionary period, when the question of power is posed. The simple transformation of these councils into management bodies (organs of production or co-management) marks their disappearance. Council communism is thus opposed to ‘party-Communism’, especially Leninism (and its ‘state-capitalist’ derivations – Trotskyism, Maoism, Stalinism, Titoism, Castroism, etc.) according to which the councils must be subjected to the sole authority of the Communist Party, which must lead the revolution, take over state power and ‘build’ a socialist society within the framework of the bourgeois nation-state.