‘Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution’ (G.I.C.,1935)

The first complete German and English editions

Habent sua fata libelli.” (Books have their fates.)

The G.I.C. may be known to many for its main work, which first appeared in Germany in 1930 in the press of the A.A.U.D. Only few, however, are aware of the subsequent two revised and supplemented editions in Dutch language, in which the group has integrated its replies to contemporary criticisms from diverse quarters. The second one appeared in 1935 and would be the final version redacted by the G.I.C..

Despite a certain revival of interest in the council communist current at the end of the 1960s and during the first half of the 1970s, the G.I.C.’s main work would hardly find recognition among internationalist political milieus, and certainly not in its most developed version.

Two brand new publications at hand at last present the first complete translations of this final version in both German and English languages. The editor has focused on assuring an accurate text edition that is faithful to the original, and has largely abstained from interpretations or commentary, except for a succinct foreword.

We warmly recommend our readers to familiarize themselves with this fully developed version, which takes up the approach of Marx and Engels in the light of the dire defeats of the worker’s struggles in the initially successful October revolution in Russia, that ended in the disaster of Stalinist counter-revolution, and of the contemporary proletarian uprisings in Central and Western Europe that were defeated by both the (social-) democratic and the fascist varieties of bourgeois counter-revolution in addition.

H.C., March 5, 2020

Bibliographic data

Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution (Group of International Communists). English translation of the 2nd Edition in Dutch, 1935 by H. Lueer (Editor), 2020.

Pocket edition, 308 p., Red & Black Books, Hamburg 2020. ISBN: 979-8615430794.

Postal order via Amazon: https://www.amazon.de ; ca. €14,85 p. copy (excl. shipping).  Site navigation: Main Menu → Bücher & Audible → Fremdsprachige Bücher → Englische Bücher → (search term) “Lueer + Principles”.


Back cover text

The “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution” emerged as a reaction to the negative development of the Russian Revolution. With this writing, the authors for the first time put up for debate the economic foundations for the construction and organization of a society in the sense of the “association of free and equal people”. At the same time, they took into account all the experience gained from the previous attempts of the labor movement, and by criticizing it were able to point out necessary new paths. A critique that has lost nothing of its original topicality to this day.

The first edition of the ‘Fundamental Principles’, published in German in 1930, was confiscated and largely destroyed. A completely revised and improved edition in Dutch was first published in excerpts in 1931 and 1935 in book form in a second edition. The text of the German first edition was reprinted in 1970 and also translated into English and French. The completely revised and improved 2nd edition, on the other hand, remained largely unnoticed in Dutch for the following 85 years. With this translation of the 2nd edition into English, the Sleeping Beauty has awakened.

Foreword by the editor

Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism has received worldwide attention – from those who want to overcome capitalism, but also from bourgeois intellectuals who don’t like the critique of capitalism.

Understandably, the bourgeois intellectuals are not interested in the alternative to capitalism. But how can it be explained that the alternative to capitalism, which can be derived from Marx’s critique of capitalism, has not received any attention from the critics of capitalism? Why is the “Association of Free and Equal People” that Marx and Engels sketched out in their critique of capitalism taken seriously, if at all, only as an idealistic picture of the future? Although Marx and Engels, with their reference to the calculation of working hours as the foundation for the relationship between producer and product, have themselves named the economic basis for the new production relationship and thus for the independent, direct construction of the “Association of Free and Equal People”. So, how can it be explained that the first scientific elaboration of what Marx and Engels only hinted at in their critique of capitalism met with no interest among critics of capitalism who refer to Marx?

The explanation is very simple. The intellectuals critical of capitalism do not like the alternative that has been presented.

For the communist parties fighting for the leading power, the idea is perfectly natural that the workers in the factories take over the power to hand it over to the intellectual vanguard so that the latter can then organize the new society in the “name and for the good of the working class”. The idea that the workers in the factories take over power in order to control their relationship from producer to product [by] themselves, based on the calculation of working hours, without the need for privileged leadership, does not fit in with their idea of a centrally structured economic and administrative apparatus.

But also the “libertarian communists” do not like the economic basis of the “Association of Free and Equal People” shown by Marx and Engels. They want to live in a communist society and, at the same time, be free from it. They dream of an immediate transition to a self-determined society of free and equal people according to the motto “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”, for which every binding economic basis seems to them a contradiction.

The “party communists” rely on the dictatorship over the proletariat, on whose distant horizon freedom appears after the “realm of necessity” has been overcome under the leadership of the party through the long and complicated path of the development of the productive forces. The “libertarian communists” rely on the socialist morality freely hovering above the economy in order to establish the “realm of freedom” in the “realm of necessity” without the measure of the calculation of working hours, which according to Marx, is the unavoidable measure. While the attempts of state communism with the dictatorship over the proletariat ended in a return to capitalism, in 1936 in Spain, the attempts of libertarian communists ended in economic chaos, in which the libertarian communists themselves sought their salvation in forms of central allocation.

The “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution” are “the last message that the revolutionary movements of the first half of the 20th Century have left us.” (1) They show the economic basis on which exploitation can be abolished and communist society realized without sinking into chaos and without reducing communist society to an ideal on the distant horizon of human history. In this sense, the German translation of the second, completely revised and expanded, edition of the “Fundamental Principles” is at the same time a fundamental critique of the various theories and also of the practices of the various currents that refer to Marxism, anarchism or, more generally, socialism. A critique that has lost none of its original topicality to this day. Or, in the words of the GIC:

“There is no point in discussing “federalism or centralism” if you don’t first show what the economic basis of this “federalism” or this “centralism” will be. In reality, the forms of organization of a given economy are not, on the whole, arbitrary forms, they are derived from the principles of that economy itself. (…) Therefore it is insufficient to present the economy of communism only as a negation of the capitalist system: no money, no market, no private or state property. It is necessary to present its positive characters, to show what the economic laws will be, that will triumph over those of capitalism. If one proceeds in this way, it is very likely that the alternative “federalism or centralism” appears to be the wrong question.” (2)

February 2020, Hermann Lueer


1 Henk Canne Meijer, Die Arbeiterrätebewegung in Deutschland (1918 – 1933)

2 Ibidem.

Last edited on April 22, 2020.

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