The Workers’ Councils, in the Theory of the German-Dutch Communist Left

By Ph. Bourrinet (2023)

In honour of SERGE BRICIANER (1923-1997), council communist.

The following study traces the political struggles born within the Second International to understand the nature of the emergence of this new form of organization that appeared in the struggle of the proletariat at the hinge between the 19th and 20th Centuries, a hinge that saw a capitalist system that had reached maturity with a numerically important and concentrated working class beginning to pose the question of revolution by bringing about the emergence of these unitary organs that were both economic and political… “the form finally found of the dictatorship of the proletariat” as Lenin will state during the revolution in Russia 1917. It also details the evolution of the understanding that this political current has released while pointing out its strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, it sheds valuable light on the place assigned to the Workers’ Councils, both in the revolutionary phase and during the transitional period and the future society, formulating in passing and to our knowledge, one of the best presentation and criticism of the work of one of its eminent representatives – Jan Appel – on the organization of the future society: Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution. (1) It also exhumes – and this is precious – some elements not often underlined in Marx on this subject. Finally, it closes by posing a whole series of relevant political questions that still need to be deepened in order not to fall back into the ruts of the past and to pose future questions in the clearest possible terms.

For all these reasons, we strongly recommend reading this contribution, which goes beyond a simple historical review of this key question of the Workers’ Councils for the revolutionary movement.

Source: Controverses, January 27, 2023: Les Conseils Ouvriers.


The following English translation is published as a work in progress. The finished chapters can be accessed via the Table of Contents on the next page. (Editor’s note, March 21, 2023)


1 See, on this site: ‘Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution’ (G.I.C.,1935), on the completed version in Dutch of 1935, and its first German and English translations; and: The G.I.C. and the Economy of the Transition Period – Introductory Article situating the G.I.C.’s main work and the difficulties of its reception within the milieus of the communist Left. (Editor’s note)