The Workers’ Councils in Germany 1918-23 (Part 1)

Introduction

‘To think of emancipation’, a century after the global revolutionary wave that began in 1917, is to question the very term emancipation. Who is the subject of this emancipation and who emancipates who, in a struggle that is anything but an ideological game between four walls. This emancipation has its source in the working class (manual and intellectual). It cannot be assimilated to a “struggle of the people”, whose “Cause” would be national and patriotic. ‘To think of emancipation’ in [2018] is to look back at the great proletarian revolutionary insurrections in Russia and Germany and draw lessons from them at the beginning of the third millennium. In doing so, the revolution in Germany from 1918 to 1921 is an essential milestone, since it raised the question of the forms of organization of any revolutionary class struggle: workers councils, workers’ unions, revolutionary factory organizations, factory committees or action committees. Like the Russian Revolution, it raised – albeit to a lesser degree, in the absence of a real takeover of power – the question of socialization of the means of production, and therefore of the abolition of the capitalist system based on profit.

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Book Presentation: The German-Dutch Communist Left from its Origins to 1968

The 3rd, revised Edition in French (June 2018)

Back cover text

The German-Dutch Communist Left, represented by the German KAPD and AAUD, the Dutch KAPN and the Bulgarian Communist Workers Party, separated from the Comintern in September 1921 because of principled disagreements on all important questions: parliamentarism, syndicalism, united fronts, the Bolshevik party-state using anti-proletarian violence (Kronstadt). This radical current had the audacity to assert that it was not the “communist party”, but the workers’ councils that constituted the finally discovered form of the proletarian dictatorship, and thereby of the communist transformation. It attracted the ire of Lenin, who wrote in June 1920 his famous book on left extremism, “Left-wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, (1) to which Herman Gorter delivered a slashing response in his pamphlet Open letter to comrade Lenin. (2)

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A political History of the German-Dutch communist Left (Preface)

The Author’s Introduction to the new Edition (Prepublication)

Despite the theoretical and political renown of Gorter and Pannekoek in the international labor movement, the Communist Left in the Nether­lands is the least known of the left currents that emerged within the II. International, and later joined the Communist International. Their exclu­sion in 1921 from the Komintern wrapped the names that had symbolized the most intransigent internationalism in a veil of oblivion.

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The G.I.C. and the economy of the transition period (1)

Origin and meaning of the ‘Fundamental Principles’

The work Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution (further: Fundamental Principles) of the Group of International Communists (GIC) is an important text of the communist Left on the economic problems of the transition period from capitalism to communism. The GIC describes the relevance of the Fundamental Principles as follows:

As soon as the rule of the working class has become a fact in an industrialized country, the proletariat is confronted with the task of carrying through the transformation of economic life on new foundations, those of communal labor. The abolition of private property is easily pronounced, it will be the first measure of the political rule of the working class. But that is only a juridical act which aims at providing the legal foundation for the real economic proceeding. The real transformation and the actual revolutionary work then only begins.”  (1)

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The G.I.C. and the economy of the transition period (2)

Misunderstandings and anti-critique

In the foregoing, reference has been made to the misunderstandings that have arisen over time due to inadequate translations and summaries of the Fundamental Principles and unfamiliarity with the three preliminary studies. This section introduces the most important of these misunderstandings and corrects them with references to the 1935 version of the Fundamental Principles.
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What is the Communist Left?

‘Nuevo Curso’ on the communist Lefts that broke with the III. International, and their political heirs

In a concise overview ‘Nuevo Curso’ sets out the primary points of rupture for the left communist currents that have emerged against the degeneration of the Communist International (1919 – 1927), and attempts to trace their main contemporary political heirs or continuations. Special attention is paid to the left communist current in Spain around Grandizo Munis (1912 – 1989) that broke with Trotskyism on the question of the defense of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The article testifies of the comrades’ vision of left-communism and its currents as a whole, and of their open, critical attitude toward the contemporary political milieu that lays claim to their respective heritage(s), including the Spanish Left they refer to in particular.

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Willy Huhn (1948): ‘Lenin as a Utopian’

Documents of the historical communist Left

» The first characteristic of Utopian socialism resides in the superstition of the power of science. A rational system is supposed to change the social world in such a decisive way that something ethically better and socially sound will be effected. The practical consequence from this conviction is that the scholars have to take the fate of humanity into their hands, or rather onto their heads.

With the first Utopian of Western history, Plato, the philosophers are at the helm of the State, and the island “Utopia” of Thomas More is governed by a “class of scholars”. Do not the intellectuals raise a similar claim – once the juridical intelligentsia (Engels has at one occasion treated this “lawyers’ socialism exhaustively) (1) and presently the technical or even the economical intelligentsia (technocracy and bureaucracy)?

The Utopians are searching for a “social science” in order to create new social conditions with its help. This action departs from their intellectual initiative, relies on the insight and the power to act of the intelligentsia, whereas the proletariat “offers to them the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement”, as the “Communist Manifesto” states. (2)   Continue reading “Willy Huhn (1948): ‘Lenin as a Utopian’”

The impact of the Russian revolution in Germany 1914 – 1918

Presentation at the ‘internationalist week’ in Toulouse, 3 – 11 November 2017 (Revised version)

 

“Old mole History, you have bravely worked! At this moment the slogan, the call resounds again over the international, the German proletariat, that only the great hour of a worldwide turning point can bring: imperialism or socialism! War or revolution! There is no third!”

(Rosa Luxemburg, “Der alte Maulwurf”, Spartakusbriefe No. 5, May 1917)

“Doubt is out of the question. We are on the threshold of a world proletarian revolution.”

(Lenin, “The crisis has matured”, October 20 (7), 1917 in the newspaper Rabochy Put – “The Workers’ Path” – No. 20)

On August 4th, 1914, German Social-Democracy – considered the jewel of the organization of the conscious proletariat” (1) – capitulates without condition by subjecting itself with body and soul to its bourgeoisie. It votes unanimously for the war credits. Opposed to this vote, Karl Liebknecht was obliged to side with it by discipline, which he very quickly will consider as “a grave error” on his part. Only on December 2nd, 1914, he publicly votes against. He is disavowed by all SPD deputies, including the so-called left around Ledebour and Hoffmann who would form the USPD in 1917.   Continue reading “The impact of the Russian revolution in Germany 1914 – 1918”

Book Review: “In Search of Rosa’s Heritage”

The German Marxist Willy Huhn (1909 – 1970)

Jochen Gester

Auf der Suche nach Rosas Erbe. Der deutsche Marxist Willy Huhn (1909-1970)

Die Buchmacherei, Berlin, 2017, German.

Paperback, 628p. + CD 207p. (Pdf); 22,-. ISBN 978-3-00-056463-5. Orders via Die Buchmacherei, with postal charges.

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