‘Radencommunisme’ (1938): Trotsky and Council Communism

In August 1938 appeared “Radencommunisme”, with the subtitle “Marxist monthly journal for autonomous class movement”, as the theoretical organ of “council communist groups” in the Netherlands. This joint edition by the G.I.C. and the group ‘Proletenstemmen’ (“Proles’ Voices”) envisaged a reorientation of the council communist movement both in terms of a continuing theoretical deepening and of developing a wider presence within proletarian milieus, in view of the emergence of a new worker’s movement, in rupture with the historically obsolete conceptions of syndicalism and the mass party of the old worker’s movement.

From this journal 16 issues were released, before the Nazi-German occupation of the country rendered public political activities impossible in the course of May 1940, and the G.I.C. quasi instantaneously ceased to function, as it was not prepared for clandestine activity.

‘Radencommunisme’ (1938 – 1940)  lists the articles we had occasion to translate or revise in English, starting with its editorial of August 1938.

As a first elaborate contribution, the new journal opened with the first of a two-part article, sharply contrasting the views of Trotsky and his followers (the concept and role of a “Bolshevik-Leninist” vanguard party), to the council communist view on the dictatorship of the workers’ councils: Trotsky and Council Communism (‘Radencommunisme’, 1938).

Essay: On unionism and its revolutionary overcoming

A contribution to a debate between council communists
(Roi Ferreiro, August 17, 2020)

The following essay is a discussion contribution on the (trade- or industrial) union question from the perspective of overcoming the latter’s inherent limitations, which has been proposed in a recently emerging, council communist discussion forum.

Departing from the radicalizing tendencies that openly combated the official trades’ unions during the revolutionary upsurge in Germany 1917-1923, the essay  takes care to reestablish the vision of Marx and Engels on the possibilities and limits of ‘unionism’, both in their own time and in general. It subsequently attempts a terminological clarification, relating the ‘union’ or ‘syndicalist’ types of organizations and struggles to their historical period and respective aims and origins. Based on these preliminary considerations, the essay engages in an  investigation of the limitations and pitfalls in the conceptions, slogans and practices embodied by the K.A.P.D. and the Arbeiter-Unionen, as the most advanced expressions of a workers’ struggle for class autonomy at the time. Limitations and pitfalls that can also be found in more recent manifestations of proletarian struggles since the 1960s, albeit in a profoundly altered political-historical context, engaging very different force relations. A series of reflections is advanced that amount, a.o. to situating the workers’ struggles of the past decades as marked by a decline of ‘unionist’ illusions, and to re-calibrating the question of self-organizing in workers’ struggle. It appears that the old theses defended by the GIC in the 1930s are considered as still of use.

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