Garbage In:Garbage Out 00000100

Mark Shipway – Council Communism

I still can’t figure out what the fucking difference is between anarchist collectivism and Council Communism. This and the next few texts are another attempt to figure that out.

Potential differences:

  1. The KPD and KAPD were supposedly formed as parties, whereas anarchists would refer to their groups as specific organizations.
  2. The KPD and KAPD took an anti-parliamentary position – which makes me wonder how it could conceive of itself as a party. However, they also took an anti-trade union position. This is a position that I do not believe the Bakuninist collectivists held, though other anarchists did. Without knowing why the so-called Left Communists took this position, it is hard to compare with anarchists. This is especially true when considering the differences between craft and industrial unions, which made a big difference for groups like the IWW.
  3. This anti-trade union position is further confused when one observes that uniting the working-class into an organization based on their status as workers was part of the council communist strategy:
    • At the beginning of the 1920s the KAPD had claimed a membership in excess of 40,000. In close alliance were a further 200,000 workers in the revolutionary anti-trade-union ‘factory organisations’ under the umbrella of the General Workers’ Union of Germany (AAUD).
  4. Here we see Pannekoek’s reasoning, which sounds like anarchist reasoning against union hierarchy:
    • “Success or failure appears to depend on the personal qualities of the leaders, on their strategic skill, on their ability to read a situation correctly; while the enthusiasm and experience of the masses themselves are not regarded as active factors.”
    • “Success of mass movements depends on their capacity for autonomous action, their unquenchable ardour for battle, and the boldness and initiative of the masses. But it is precisely these qualities, the primary condition of the struggle for freedom that are repressed and annihilated by trade union discipline.”

“In 1920 Pannekoek argued that mass revolutionary organisations (such as the ‘One Big Union’ or ‘Industrial Unions’ that syndicalists sought to create) could not be:

“set up within a still passive workforce in readiness for the revolutionary feeling of the workers to function within it in time to come: this new form of organisation can itself only be set up in the process of revolution, by workers making a revolutionary intervention.”[34]

One example which Pannekoek used in Workers’ Councils illustrates excellently the council communists’ ideas about organisation. In the USA in the 1930s the presence of large numbers of unemployed (and therefore potential blackleg) workers meant that ‘Any regular strike against wage cuttings was made impossible, because the shops after being left by the strikers, immediately would be flooded by the masses outside.’ To overcome this problem, workers adopted the occupation tactic, i.e. going on strike, but remaining in the workplace. Workers also found that by occupying the workplace collectively, the striking workforce was no longer ‘dispersed over the streets and homes … separated into loose individuals’, and that strikes no longer had to be ‘accompanied by a continuous fight with the police over the use of streets and rooms for meeting’. As Pannekoek pointed out, the occupation tactic, which almost as a by-product increased the solidarity and active participation of those on strike, was not planned consciously in advance of the actual struggles: ‘It was not invented by theory, it arose spontaneously out of practical needs; theory can do no more than afterwards explain its causes and consequences.’”

OK, but the I.W.W. also arose from the practice of workers, such as the Western Federation of Miners. These were not anarchists or communists, they were the rank-and-file workers. So it’s fucking bullshit to make it seem like the I.W.W. was some kind of ideological organization formed to train workers for the day of the revolution. In fact, that kind of organization is more descriptive of the Socialist Labor Party’s brainchild, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. The reality is that the same justification Pannekoek is providing for his own views is used by anarchists in justifying industrial unions and other forms of working-class organization.

“The essential additional condition which must accompany widespread working-class self-organisation is, therefore, widespread communist consciousness. It is from this fact that the vital need arises for council communists to form political organisations of the type described by Gorter and the early Pannekoek, agitating and propagandising on the basis of a commitment to the goal of a non-market socialist society as the only working-class alternative to the existing worldwide capitalist system.”

Again, calling this form of political organization a party is confusing and it is only in calling it a “party” that it can be distinguished from specific anarchist organizations.

Saku Pinta – Council Communist Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, 1936–1939

“…while theoretical similarities have been acknowledged, historically-situated examinations of the evolving relationship between anarchist and Marxist praxis have been sorely lacking in Left and labour historiography. An approach sensitive to historical conditions and concrete political manifestations may provide some insight into the relationships between the ‘red’ and ‘black’ largely missing from what strictly analytical or normative approaches can tell us. Moreover, they may also serve as correctives to simplistic treatments counter posing a singular, ‘capital-M’ Marxist bête noire to a more varied and robust anarchism, or vice versa. Indeed, the view of ideologies as dynamic, conceptual products of their social, political, and economic environments, morphing in relation to changed circumstances, is an approach gaining ground in contemporary political theory.”

“The workers’ councils of the Dutch-German councilists, the ‘revolutionary junta’ of the Friends of Durruti, as well as the ‘free soviets’ and calls for more coherent forms of political organisation by the Makhnovschina in an earlier period, amongst others, reflect a common organisational focus on forms of workers’ autonomy and a view to generalising these emergent social forms as the basis for a free society.”


I believe that with the details in this essay, I can rest at the conclusion that there isn’t a significant difference between Council Communists and those anarchists who find affinity with the Friends of Durruti or other similar people. Also, a bunch of shit I wrote above was either said in this essay or made irrelevant by better research from the author of the essay. For instance, the I.W.W. was indeed an example of what Council Communists wanted… with Paul Mattick himself even joining the Wobblies for a time.

Iron Chef, Class Against Class (NEFAC-Boston) – Review: Workers Councils (Pannekoek)

I suppose this would be a decent summary if I had read Worker’s Councils and could actually make that call. Otherwise, not much was added to what I already reviewed above.

[Video] Destiny’s Guide to Win A Difficult Argument

Destiny sometimes has good advice. I don’t argue much for an audience, but that may change some day. Maybe I’ll remember something from this if I ever do!