Russian Revolution 1917-2017: What Alternative for State Capitalism?

An Invitation to a Debate

In a little known text the German revolutionary Jan Appel has pointed out, already in 1927, (1) that in “The State and Revolution” (2) Lenin deviates from the positions of Marx and Engels by adopting the reformist idea that putting the enterprises into the hands of the state” means ‘socialization’. As a consequence, Appel argues, the state cannot “wither away” as envisaged by Marx and Engels, but is bound to “develop into an enormous instrument of oppression as had not yet been seen in any society.” Jan Appel continues by sketching how, after having broken the bourgeois state, all power can remain in the hands of the workers’ councils in economic respect as well. Subsequently this sketch was elaborated by the council communist Group of International Communists (G.I.C.) in Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”. In the following we draw attention to the political conditions, the political framework, in which the G.I.C. proposed its solution to the economic questions of the period of transition.

1  Marx-Engels und Lenin. Über die Rolle des Staates in der proletarischen Revolution’ (Max Hempel in: ‘Proletarier’ nrs. 4 – 6, 1927). (‘Marx-Engels and Lenin. On the Role of the State in the Proletarian Revolution’) In 1932 a translation in Dutch language appeared as a pamphlet of the Group(s) of International Communists (G.I.C.) with the title ‘Marxisme en staatscommunisme. Het afsterven van de staat’ (“Marxism and State Communism. The Withering Away of the State”). The publication in Dutch was partly an adaptation. Jan Appel was a founding member of the G.I.C.


The Political Conditions for “the Association of Free and Equal Producers”

For several reasons a separate discussion of the political aspects of the period of transition is necessary.

The first of them is that the positions of the G.I.C. on these political conditions can only be found in several fragments dispersed over different documents. Because these documents have not been known and, until recently, have been difficultly accessible, a political framework has seemed absent. Worse, it has appeared as if the G.I.C. had only applied an economic approach to the transition from capitalism to communism. This has resulted in reproaching the G.I.C. with being non-Marxist, with pursuing an anarcho-syndicalist approach. This constitutes the second reason for examining the political conditions.

A third reason is the reproach that the G.I.C. would adhere to the idea of an immediate transition from capitalism to a fully developed communist society, which – according to the G.I.C. – would even be possible within the boundaries of one, industrially developed, country. With its proposition the G.I.C. would even be of the opinion that, by applying its ‘Fundamental Principles’, the Russian Revolution would have taken a different course. The latter reproaches boil down to looking for something in the G.I.C.’s propositions for the economic transformation towards communism that can not be found in them: an analysis of the Russian Revolution as part of world revolution (1)

It would however be suitable for those who advance these and other reproaches to explain who, waiting for the extension of world revolution, will dominate the enterprises when the workers exert their dominance in a part of the world: the workers themselves in a massive way, or a small minority of ‘specialists’ and so-called revolutionaries united in the summit of a new state, as has been the case after October 1917?

Fredo Corvo, July 19, 2017


(Translation: H.C.)

Study and Discussion Meetings

In the coming months study and discussion meetings on the ‘Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution’ are organized in the Netherlands, starting with one on the political framework for the solution developed by the G.I.C. Readers interested in exchanging views and/or participating in the meetings may apply to:

Reading List

A list in English of historical texts by the German-Dutch communist Left and their transcriptions can be found on the Theme’s page “The Economic Solution for the Period of Transition from Capitalism to Communism” of the Association Archives Antonie Pannekoek’s website:

We recommend the following texts for introductory reading to the G.I.C.’s ‘Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution’:

Concerning the political framework:

  • Marxism and State Communism. The Withering Away of the State, G.I.C. 1932 (2016 translation from Dutch):
  • Extracts from the first part of a preliminary study to the ‘Fundamental Principles’: Notes on communist economy, by Jan Appel, (1928) can be read on page 16 of this issue. [or: here on this blog]

1 The analysis of the Russian Revolution by the German and Dutch Left are not unequivocal. They are well aligned to the hitherto generally current conception of the revolution in Russia as a ‘double’ revolution, bourgeois and proletarian. At the stagnation of the proletarian world revolution, the revolution in Russia would have followed a unilaterally bourgeois course. In this framework the G.I.C. was interested in Wagner’s “Theses on Bolshevism”, but it is not an established fact that they would have shared his reformist inspired conception of a unilaterally bourgeois character of the revolution in Russia, either as a group or as individual members. (F.C.)