Not only is the council movement of 1918 – 1923 dead (beaten to death), council communism is only just a historical reality. However, a new beginning of the revolutionary movement cannot develop in the void of the present incomprehension of the so-called ‘Left’. We want to draw the attention of those who try to enter into the theoretical achievements of the German communist Left to a new edition of the program of the K.A.P.D. (Berlin Tendency) of 1924. In the following we present extracts with some comments. Hopefully they inspire further study and debate.
The Crisis of Capitalism
“In a period of a rapidly swelling crisis, of an accumulation of social catastrophes, belligerent imperialist entanglements and of growing chaos in the economic, political and social domain the K.A.P.D. presents itself to the proletariat with a new program, in which it should find, and as we hope will find, two things: a shorthand reflection of the present phase of capitalist development and a presentation of the tasks that it has to fulfill on penalty of its fall as a class. (…) A program is not a recipe for all events. Should it be more than paper wisdom, action must follow. But, in order to commit the act, clarity about the ways, conditions and goals of the proletarian liberation struggle is an indispensable condition.” (Preface)
First Part – The First World War
“The impossibility of economic avoidance infested capital with the conviction that war would be the only means to overcome the contradictions brought about by [its] development. By consequence it began a period of an insane armaments’ race. Here capitalism reached its zenith and simultaneously the point of departure of its collapse.
Imperialism with its deleterious effect is a historic necessity, born from capitalist development; only petty bourgeois pacifists can see in it a correctable movement, depending on the good will of the capitalists. (…) The artillery thunder of the battle fields inaugurated the Twilight of the Gods of capitalism.”
“The further course of the war brought the military collapse of the “Middle Powers”. Thereby the authority of their dominant classes broke down as well. The latter completely lost their bearings, resigned and left the field to the proletariat. In this way political power fell onto the proletariat like a ripe fruit.” (First Part)
Powerlessness from Ignorance
“The proletariat did not know what to do with this power. It did not understand what questions it had to solve in a social revolution, that now, after the seizure of political power, it was decisive to take up the struggle for the means of production on the foundation of the councils, in order to erect the communist economy.”
“The K.P.D. at first took a genuinely revolutionary position in face of the peace of Versailles. It stressed that the proletariat could not allow to let its policy be dictated by agreements of the bourgeoisie, that only its interest as a class should be decisive.”
“The III. International had to approach social-democratic ideology and look for an association with parliamentarism and the trades unions. Thereby it was compelled to adopt its foreign policy as well. But to take the pressure of the masses under its flags into account, it disguised this reactionary policies with a radical phrase and bent all social-democratic slogans to the highest extreme; it adopted the capitalist build-up and finally ended up with the wildest nationalism.”
“Of all workers’ parties only the K.A.P. has preserved the purely revolutionary line. Organizationally and politically it is the direct continuation of both two groups that united to form the Communist Party (Spartacus League) at the unification party congress of December 1918, and it has saved the healthy revolutionary elements from the retrograde process of development of the K.P.D., mainly the leading ‘I.K.D.’.” (First Part)
Second Part – Goal and Means
“The means and character of the struggle are determined by the social laws. The majority of the proletariat still believes that it can continue to ameliorate its standard of living within the capitalist economy. The insight of the inevitability of capitalist collapse, of the ensuing necessity to orient the class struggle directly towards the goal of the communist economy of needs, is still represented with the proletariat to a completely insufficient measure. It ignores that every organizational form corresponds with a determined epoch and can only be an element of historical progress within it.”
A critical Remark on the ‘Arbeiter-Union’
The distinct tendencies of the K.A.P.D. and the ‘Unionen’, the A.A.U.-E. inspired by Otto Rühle included, all misunderstood the minority character of the Union, as they thought that it would transform itself into workers’ councils when joined by all workers. For instance, the Berlin K.A.P. wrote:
“The Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union (General Workers’ Union) is the bundling of the proletariat as a class in the enterprises. As an enterprise organization it is build up according to the council system. (…) After the conquest of political power it has a mission and is capable of building up the communist economy, on the grounds of its inner constitution as a council organization.”
The K.A.U.D. and the G.I.C. have finally clarified this question in the 1930s. See for instance: The Origins of the Movement for Workers‘ Councils in Germany (1938).
Third Part – What after the Take-over of political Power?
“[The] I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) in the Anglo-Saxon area [has] designed very far going sketches, specifically of the economic measures, but without sufficient insight in the relations between political power and economic facts, without any clear conceptions about the evolution of social revolution at all, and thus on a Utopian basis.”
“The historically necessary aim of the workers’ revolution is in the final end a new arrangement of production. But the tasks of the working class in the revolution are first and foremost political tasks. Only the secured possession of political power enables the working class to newly arrange production and to lead society to communism.”
“However, political power is nothing when it cannot lean on the dominance of the most important economic foundations.”
“The revolution of the working class is not a purely economic act but it is not in the least ended in its major traits by a political act either. Rather, the revolution of the working class in its total course is a unitary political-economic process, in which the political element never can be neatly separated from the economic one. To set back one of both always means to deviate temporarily from the straight road of revolution.”
“The Russian Revolution and the course of the German Revolution in the years 1918 – 1923 have shown that in any case ‘the proletariat, organized as dominant class’ has nothing to do with the bourgeois state, that the organization of the proletariat as dominant class rather can only take place in the course of a struggle, in which the bourgeois state will be demolished and a state that is oriented in a completely different way (a council state) is formed in its place. The proletariat cannot organize itself as dominant class within the forms and the apparatus of which the bourgeois class serves itself in the exercise of its dominance. Likewise the centralization of the instruments of production in the hands of the proletarian council state cannot have anything in common with a centralization of industries in the hands of a state organized in a bourgeois way, indifferently from how the formal conditions of such a centralization, of such a statification, of such a ‘socialization’ may look like. Indifferently as well from which and how many pretended ‘representatives of the proletariat’ may sit in the government of such a state with a so-called workers’ government.”
Table of Contents
Preface (Berlin, January 1924, K.A.P.D., Central Executive Committee) (3)
Table of Contents (5)
First Part: Rise and decline of the capitalist economy in the age of imperialism; the consequences of the world war and the conclusions of peace for bourgeois society and for the proletariat. (6)
Sections: I – IV
Second Part: The role and significance of the K.A.P.D in the liberation struggle of the working class, its relation to the trades unions and parliamentary parties, and its position regarding the Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union (A.A.U)., the youth question and the Communist Workers’ International (K.A.I.). Guidelines on the agrarian question. (14)
Sections: I – III
Guidelines of the Youth Organization (20)
Guidelines on the Communist Workers’ International (21)
Guidelines on the agrarian question (27)
Third Part: The tasks of the working class after the takeover of political power (29)
Sections: I – II
Organizational Statutes – Build-up and Statutes of the K.A.P.D. (33)
Appendix: Guidelines on the character and the tasks of the revolutionary committees (Sections: I – V) (36)
Source: Die KAPD 1924: für ein neues Beginnen der Rätebewegung http://arbeiterstimmen.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/die-kapd-1924-fuer-ein-neues-beginnen-der-raetebewegung/
Extracts. Translation and annotations: H.C., November 21, 2017.