The Council Communist Reader. Radical Reprint, 2021
The articles in this collection – by Paul Mattick Snr, Herman Gorter, Karl Korsch, Otto Rühle and Anton Pannekoek – have long been available elsewhere.
They called themselves Communists as they agreed with Lenin’s break with pre-WW1 Social Democracy when he changed the name of his party in 1918 from RSDLP to Communist Party; some initially joined the Communist Party in their country. They had regarded what happened in Russia in November 1917 as what it purported to be – a workers’ revolution in which workers, organised in soviets (the Russian word for ‘council’), had assumed control of society. Within a few years they realised that this had not been the case but continued to call themselves Council Communists as opposed to Bolshevik-sponsored ‘Party’ or ‘State’ Communists.
Their basic position was that workers should abandon the parliamentary Social Democratic parties and trade unions and organise themselves in work-based councils both to wage the day-to-day class struggle and to overthrow capitalism. They became very anti-party and anti-parliament, which made them similar to Syndicalists except that they situated themselves in the Marxist tradition.
They were what Mattick Snr called ‘Anti-Bolshevik Marxists’ (among which we can be included), regarding Russia under the Bolsheviks (Trotsky as well as Stalin) as state capitalism and opposing Lenin’s vanguard party concept. They weren’t always clear on the implications of a post-capitalist, communist society, some of them drawing up elaborate schemes for labour-time accounting and labour-money (not included here).
Annoyingly, Paul Mattick Jnr repeatedly refers in his introduction to the German Social Democrats who took political control in Germany immediately after the end of WW1 as ‘socialists’. He must surely know they weren’t.