In its pamphlet Theses on Revolutionary Workplace nucleus, Party and Dictatorship, the council communist Group of International Communists (GIC) presented its position on the new content and form that the workers' movement had taken since the First World War. The GIC also resolved the following two questions posed by the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD), the General Workers' Union of Germany (AAUD) and Otto Rühle's AAU-E:
In a letter, published in the KAPD-journal 'Der Kommunist', in July 1920), Anton Pannekoek ( already criticized the view of the Workers' Union in the program of the KAPD. This critique resurfaced in the positions of the GIC, eleven years later, when it made a clear distinction between mass and minority organizations. Still, the GIC maintained the idea of having two minority organizations, one on the level of the workplace and another at a regional level.
The parliamentary mass party and the trade union served their time as proletarian fighting organizations. In place of these permanent mass organizations, during open workers' struggles, the workplace organization arises in the form of the general assembly of the struggling workers with elected and re-electable struggle committees. Only in times of permanent workers' struggles do workers' councils appear as coordination over larger geographical areas that can survive over a longer period of time. The GIC also describes the function of two minority organizations, namely that of the revolutionary workplace nucleus and the opinion groups (or in the case of numerical growth, that of the revolutionary parties). According to the GIC, groups of unemployed had the same function as the revolutionary workplace nucleus.
In contrast to the new mass organizations, the workplace organization, the revolutionary workplace nucleus and the opinion groups could exist outside of the struggle in order to learn lessons from it and give impulses for new struggles. But that did not mean that if the revolutionary minorities were to become so large that they no longer called themselves groups but parties, these parties would have the task of seizing power.
What is remarkable is the direct link that the GIC draws between the association of free and equal producers after the proletarian revolution and proletarian autonomy in the daily struggles for direct workers' interests. As a Marxist organization, the GIC does not make this connection on the basis of "an ideal to which the real movement should be directed", but on the basis of the new forms of organization and the related revolutionary class goals of the mass strikes and the council movement since the turn of the 20th century.
time differs in many ways from the period in which the GIC drew lessons
from the revolutionary workers' struggles of 1917-1923 and the
democratic, fascist, and Stalinist counterrevolutions. Today's
revolutionaries have to fight for their own knowledge, both by the
understanding of the social continuity that links us to the past and by
the understanding of the particularities that separate us from past
F.C. June 2020
1. The revolutionary workplace nucleus makes propaganda in the workplace for the overthrow of the capitalist system of production and for the initiation of production for needs on the basis of the association of free and equal producers: administration and management are in the hands of the workers themselves through their workplace organizations and councils
2. In this struggle, the working class can only be victorious if it acts in unity, as actions led by the workers themselves, as one whole against the bourgeoisie's huge economic power (trusts, monopolies) and its political power (the state). The class struggle itself is a soil from which this unity in will, though and action grows in order to seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie and to destroy its state. This unity is essential in the forthcoming class movements.
3. The destruction of the state is the realization of the principles of the Paris Commune of 1871. The 'smashing' of the state is the abolition of the old anti-working-class civil service apparatus and the military-bureaucratic caste of the bourgeoisie, which rule over the masses as agents of the bourgeoisie.
The 'smashing' of the state consists in 'transferring the responsibility of all functionaries downwards'. Just as the workers are supposed to control their organizations, just as the functionaries of organizations are supposed to be nothing other than the 'executive' of the will of the workers and therefore downwardly responsible, so the functionaries are supposed to implement in society nothing other than the will of the workers. This is only possible if the workers themselves, through their workplace organizations and councils, retain the right to appoint and dismiss functionaries. All general labor law provisions and general measures are then the responsibility of the council organizations, which grows out of the workplace organizations. Then the arbitrary bureaucratic apparatus of officials closed off from the masses and ruling over the masses, will be abolished and the social functions will become a living part of the masses, the management and administration of social life will be handed over to the masses themselves.
1. The position of the revolutionary workplace nucleus in practical class struggle is fully supported by the principle of the proletarian revolution. The leadership and administration of all social events must be in the hands of the workers. From this point of view, the old discussion about whether revolutionary workers should reject wage strikes - as reformist - or support them appears in a new light. From this point of view, it follows that the question has been asked incorrectly and therefore the correct answer could not be given.
The essence of the forthcoming class movement is the process of revolution towards the independent implementation of what lives in the working class itself, the development of self-consciousness, and self-action. The revolutionary nucleus of the workplace therefore always tries to implement this 'principle of the Paris Commune' in all movements of the workers. The content of these movements, whether they concern wages or other demands, cannot be determined by the revolutionary nucleus of the workplaces. Therefore these nucleus are not a substitute for the old trade union movement: The improvement of working conditions is not their function at all.
2. In this struggle for 'its self-leadership,' the working class will find all the old workers' organizations on its opposite side. The reason for this is the fact that in all these organizations the bourgeois relationship of leaders to the masses dominates. At the top is the leadership that determines the content, but above all the course of the movements. These organizations have developed a civil service apparatus that is separate from the mass of its members and leads an independent life. The responsibility of the different officials never happens 'downwards', but always 'upwards'. The right to appoint and dismiss civil servants does not lie with the masses but lies in the higher echelons, which allow all the functions of the organizational apparatus to be taken over by persons they deem appropriate for their leadership policies. The organization of the old workers' movement thus shows the same characteristics as the state. That is why destroying the state is like destroying these organizations. Therefore they resist to the extreme (and with machine guns) against a proletarian revolution, just as the bourgeoisie does. Therefore, the bourgeoisie finds its strongest support in the old workers' movement against a proletarian revolution.
3. It follows from this situation that there is no significant difference between the struggle for the immediate implementation of the proletarian revolution and the practical class struggle on wages. The struggle for the principles of "own leadership" in every workers' movement is essentially a struggle for communism itself.
1. The trade unions are one of the most important strongholds of the bourgeoisie against the proletarian revolution. Totally entrenched in the cooperation between capital and labor through collective agreements, they are fully fused with capitalism. Not being able to take up the fight against modern trust and monopoly capitalism with the professional associations (1), they cannot even think of opposing the impoverishment of the working class without putting their own organization at risk. And where the workers themselves are moving to take up the struggle against capital, they [i.e. the trade unions] join directly with the side of the capitalists, because this movement is as dangerous for them as it is for the bourgeoisie.
These movements, which arise from the workers themselves, almost always (as the practice itself has taught them) take the form of 'wildcat' strikes. The unions immediately break these wildcat strikes, using different methods depending on the circumstances. The most advantageous procedure for them is to take over the leadership of the strike, after which they enter into a contract with the bosses and simply cancel the strike. If this does not succeed directly, they oblige their members to break the strike.
2. It is very important to investigate the course of these wildcat strikes And, if we ask ourselves seriously after the end of the movement, which method had the best effect, the 'deliberations' of the unions in the boardroom or the wildcat strike led by a strike committee of the workers, then the practice has shown that both ended in defeat in most cases. The wildcat strike collapsed after some time, to which the manipulations of the union, which did not exclude any means to obtain the defeat of the workers, contributed not little.
Nevertheless, this is not the real cause of the defeat. The main reason is that the wildcat strike is still in the very first stage of its development. With the clear bankruptcy of the trade union movement, workers are only taking the first step towards independent action. But for the time being, they remain within the old barriers of the old union, as far as the 'limited' strike is concerned. Just as the trade unions do it once in a while, they bring a part of a particular industry to a standstill in order to force capital to make concessions. In some cases, this may be a success, but in general, especially in major conflicts, it leads to defeat, as with trade unions. So 'better leadership' is absolutely no miracle cure for victory. The point is this, that no limited strike (which is purely limited to a certain branch of business) in the present time of trust capitalism is directed against the bourgeoisie.
The bureaucracy of the trade union movement knows this very well and that is why it does not even begin with it.
3. The revolutionary workplace nucleus must, therefore, transform the 'professional front' into a 'class front'; it must make an effort to ensure that every strike is immediately transferred to other branches of industry. This strike tactic is only possible if the unions are excluded from the strike direction because the union is unwilling and powerless to do so. It is reluctant because its apparatus is entirely geared towards 'consultations' between labor and capital. It is powerless because it is bound by the collective agreements and, as the movement expands, it immediately enters illegal ground, so that its possessions are in danger.
1. The revolutionary workplace nucleus (2) concentrates its activity on the activity of the workers as one man, independent of any party or trade union. It calls on the personnel not to let themselves be divided, according to the divisive spirit of the different diplomas, but to determine together their attitude in the struggle.
Thus each worker must struggle individually between party or union discipline and class solidarity. If class solidarity wins, defeating the leadership policies inherited from the bourgeoisie, its own proletarian class policies will take its place.
2. When the workers, organized in this way, take up the struggle, if they are organized according to the workplace, then at that moment they form an workplace organization which is a real class organization. These workplace organizations lead the struggle; they decide on the struggle in the strike committees, possibly negotiate with the bosses and end the struggle themselves.
3. These class organizations should not be confused with the workplace nucleus. The nucleus is not the representative of the class: he was not elected as such and therefore cannot take the lead of the strike. To the extent that members of a nucleus have a seat in the strike leadership, they are there only as workers instructed by the personnel as such.
4. At the end of a struggle, the workplace organizations fall apart because the workers no longer act as one organizational unity: For the most part, party and trade union discipline again divides the workers into different categories. What remains is the revolutionary nucleus of the workplace, which is always ready to appeal to the class feeling.
5. The organization of the workplace as an expression of the unity of the working class will, therefore, disappear again and again before the revolution and reappear anew in order to be the permanent organizational form of the workers only at the decisive turning point of the power relations. The workers then act independently of any party or trade union as a production unit, and through their network of relations, they establish the association of free and equal producers.
Originally written as the GIC's contribution to the congress of the anarchist Alarm Group in The Hague, and,until 1940 with the theses on party and dictatorship distributed as a pamphlet of the GIC under the titles "To all revolutionary workers" and "Theses on revolutionary workplace nucleus, party and dictatorship". The latter title is retained here.
Dutch original version: www.aaap.be.
1. The traditions of the old labor movement have grown historically; they are the result of an earlier period in which the old proven tactics could achieve advantages. Several generations have successfully used this tactic so that these forms of struggle are still present in the consciousness of the masses as empirical wisdom. Only a whole series of defeats, as we have seen over the last ten years, can open up the new truth to the younger generation. That is why in the present period the struggle within the working class is emerging to break the obedience to the trade union leaders and political parties and to extend the struggle to other groups through solidarity movements. Thus we are in a period of transition to the independent action of the masses.
2. This transformation is not immediately revealed in clear forms of struggle for the independent action of the masses, but for the time being, remains mixed with important parts of the old. Nevertheless, the other views are also reflected here in a different organizational form: the OSP (3), the RGO (4), and the Third International. These formations correspond to the realization that the class struggle can no longer take place with the professionally limited (5) strikes. Therefore, they demand that the unions extend the strike. These formations are also consistent with the old traditional belief about the leadership of class movements, which they want to put in the hands of the trade unions or their party offices. However, in this time of change, these are remaining hesitations that only lead to a dead end. A militant class rule can only arise when the strikers, in association with the unemployed (6), on their own initiative, include workers from other sectors in their movement by moving en masse to these other factories.
3. The old traditional attitude of the masses towards leadership is still a reflection of capitalist social relations, where rulers and ruled, masters and servants, the higher patrons, and the lower executives enter into self-evident social relations. In the class struggle, this leads to an overestimation of individual power, the individual ability of the leaders, and an underestimation of the psychological self-movement of the masses. Therefore, such organizations aim at founding a mass party guided by a conscious revolutionary leadership in order to determine the course and content of the movement. The masses are the 'material' with which the leaders carry out the work of liberation.
1. In the so-called revolutionary mass parties, this liberation of the working class finds its shortened wording in the slogan: Socialism now! with which one aims at the implementation of state capitalism, more or less in accordance with the Russian model. That is why Russian industrialization through state exploitation is presented by both the OSP and the Third International as the construction of socialism. According to this view, a mass movement must overthrow the ruling class, after which a government of 'workers and peasants' takes control, expropriates the large farms, and hands them over to the state. The management of the economy then goes to the state, but the state can only function if it controls the masses. For the old labor movement, the domination of labor is no different from the organized domination of wage laborers. From this view of 'socialism now' is born the attitude of the Third International to destroy even now any organization of revolutionary workers who do not submit to its leadership. From this point of view, the leaders' executive tyranny towards the members of their own organization becomes understandable. Just as the leadership of the Third International demands absolute and blind obedience to its members, so it wants the absolute submission of the entire working class to its leadership when it has become the ruling party under the pretext of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'.
2. But a proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries (7) is directly affected by a 'socializing' workers government. The 'workers government' always tries to consolidate the movement at a certain point in order to organize its 'socialization'. But the masses that have come to life cannot stop before such a consolidation; they are trying to transform all social relations in order to put them on a new footing. The 'workers government' must act against it to create 'order' and prevent 'chaos'.
But in social terms, this 'chaos' is precisely the birth of the new social relations that the workers themselves create. The further the social forces are unloaded, the deeper the plow of the revolution will work.
3. This irreconcilable contradiction between the self-active masses and a 'workers government' which must establish 'order' leads to the fact that a party which wants to limit the activity of the masses to the limits of its party program by becoming the ruling power in the state must play a counter-revolutionary role in the revolution. It proclaims the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to fight the counterrevolution of the bourgeoisie and gradually implement the new order in social relations, as The Communist Manifesto of Marx wishes. But in truth, this dictatorship is also directed against the workers' councils, which exceed the limits of the party program by socializing themselves, by taking the lead themselves. They are then destroyed by the dictatorship of the ruling party as counterrevolutionaries. Thus, in the advanced capitalist countries, every party dictatorship is a dictatorship over the working class and the precursor to capitalist counterrevolution.
4. The purpose of a proletarian revolution can be none other than to transform all bourgeois relations even in their remotest outposts. Therefore, the revolutionary energies cannot be restricted within the lines of a party program. The workers themselves, through their councils and workplace organizations, must shape life according to their new insights and dominate society. This is also a dictatorship, but that of the workers, based on the real class power of the proletariat.
1. The self-movement of the working class through its councils and workplace organizations is the same as the dictatorship of the proletariat. It merely means that all social functions are carried out by these bodies, and both the legislative power and the executive power are transferred to them. In other words, they seize all power without sharing it with unions, political parties, or other formations.
2. In order to enforce the exclusive power of the councils, this dictatorship must dissolve all organizations that want to subjugate the council movement as such. On the basis of the council movement, on the basis of the class dictatorship, however, complete freedom of political propaganda is necessary for the various nuances within the labor movement, in so far as they accept the class dictatorship. This struggle of political nuances is an essential part of the liberation struggle. Its repression, as Russia shows under the dictatorship of the Communist Party, is nothing other than the repression of the revolution itself in the advanced capitalist countries, leading to the opposite of what it purports to strive for.
1. In the revolution, the political parties and the trade union movement will try to gain economic power through the detour of the state. The councils and workplace organizations can only retain this power if they do not run the workplaces via the state, but directly manage and administer the production themselves without detours. This direct leadership is only possible if the old laws of movement of the economy are abolished and the movement of the good is based on the time of production, with the socially average working hour then becoming the central category of both production and consumption. (8)
1. With the understanding that the proletariat can only win [the power] and introduce the communist economy as a council unity, the relationship of the proletarian parties to the class must change. If in the past it was about forming mass parties to become the ruling power, now it is mainly about strengthening not the party but the class. The revolutionaries, therefore, work in close contact with the masses; they are a real part of the masses. They carry the propaganda for the independent development of class forces and actively support them wherever they manifest themselves.
2. Before during and after the revolution there will be different views within the working class about the development of society and therefore different views about the measures that are necessary, which is a reason for the formation of different political parties To the extent that they do not claim power for themselves, do not seek power over the working class, it is not necessary for them to build up an instrument of organizational power. These groups are therefore local working groups that join together at district and national level to strengthen propaganda and jointly determine their position in class conflicts. In this respect, an organizational fusion of different findings is harmful.
Dutch original version: aaap.be.
1) Unlike the United States, most trade unions in Europe did not organize themselves as industry federations until after the Second World War. The left communists in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1920s and 1930s, therefore, considered, among other things, the American Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was organized along industrial lines, to be a step forwards to the professionally organized trade unions. Therefore the 'Arbeiter Unionen' (workers' unions) were organized by industry. But the history of the unions so far (e.g. the AFL-CIO in the USA) shows that organizing by industry or by profession is not the crucial point in the difference between proletarian and state organizations. F.C.
2) See also footnote 7 on unemployment organization.
3) 'Onafhankelijke Socialistische Partij', Dutch political party, formed in 1932 as a split from the Social Democratic Party SDAP. In 1935 the OSP merged with Sneevliets RSP to form the Revolutionair-Socialistische Arbeiderspartij (RSAP). During the German occupation, it illegally continued as the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front, which refused to defend the USSR. After Sneevliet and nine other comrades were executed by the Nazis, the remainder of the proletarian internationalist MLL front, after a split from Trotskyists, merged with comrades from the GIC to form the council-communist Communistenbond 'Spartacus'.
4) Red trade union opposition led by the Bolsheviks.
5) See footnote 1.
6) More or less connected to the GIC, an unemployed group was active in Amsterdam which, as a minority organization, fulfilled the same propagandistic function as the revolutionary workplace nucleus.
7) The GIC, following Herman Gorter and the KAPD, made a distinction between the strategy for Russia on the one hand, and for Central and Western Europe on the other hand, based on different social conditions. This brought with it a partial justification of the Bolsheviks' policy in Russia. But if one does not - as any Marxist at the time and many still do - look at the Russian Revolution from the perspective of permanent revolution, or double (bourgeois and proletarian) revolution, following the model of Marx's politics for Germany in 1848, then the Left Communists' critique of Bolshevism is also useful for an analysis of the counterrevolution carried out by the Bolshevists in Russia. FC.
8) See G.I.C., Fundamental principles of communist production and distribution.
29-6-2020, translation F.C., proof reading by N.