Workers' council

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A workers' council is a form of political and economic organization in which a single local administrative division, such as a municipality or a county, is governed by a council made up of temporary and instantly revocable delegates elected in the region's workplaces. [1]

Municipality An administrative division having corporate status and usually some powers of self-government or jurisdiction

A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. It is to be distinguished (usually) from the county, which may encompass rural territory or numerous small communities such as towns, villages and hamlets.

A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes, in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. The modern French is comté, and its equivalents in other languages are contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, Gau, etc..

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A variation is a soldiers' council, when the delegates are chosen amongst (mutinous) soldiers. A mix of workers and soldiers also existed (like the 1918 German Arbeiter- und Soldatenrat).

In a system with temporary and instantly revocable delegates, workers decide on what their agenda is and what their needs are. They also mandate a temporary delegate to divulge and pursue them. The temporary delegates are elected among the workers themselves, can be instantly revoked if they betray their mandate, and are supposed to change frequently. The delegates act as messengers, carrying and interchanging the intention of the groups of workers.

On a larger scale, a group of delegates may in turn elect a delegate in a higher position to pursue their mandate, and so on, until the top delegates are running the industrial system of a state. In such a system, decision power rises from bottom to top from the agendas of the workers themselves, and there is no decision imposition from the top, as would happen in the case of a power seizure by a bureaucratic layer that is immune to instant revocation.

An industry is the production of goods or related services within an economy. The major source of revenue of a group or company is the indicator of its relevant industry. When a large group has multiple sources of revenue generation, it is considered to be working in different industries. Manufacturing industry became a key sector of production and labour in European and North American countries during the Industrial Revolution, upsetting previous mercantile and feudal economies. This came through many successive rapid advances in technology, such as the production of steel and coal.

Historical examples

Workers' councils originated in Russia in 1905, with the workers' councils (soviets) acting as labor committees which coordinated strike activities throughout the cities due to repression of trade unions. During the Revolutions of 1917-23, many socialists, such as Anton Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg, advocated for the control of the economy by the workers' councils. Several times in modern history, the idea of workers' councils has been attributed to similar forms of organization. Examples include:

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Antonie Pannekoek Dutch astronomer and Marxist theorist

Antonie (Anton) Pannekoek was a Dutch astronomer, Marxist theorist, and social revolutionary. He was one of the main theorists of council communism.

Rosa Luxemburg Polish Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. Successively, she was a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Paris Commune revolutionary city council of Paris 1871

The Paris Commune was a radical socialist and revolutionary government that ruled Paris from 18 March to 28 May 1871. The Franco-Prussian War had led to the capture of Emperor Napoleon III in September 1870, the collapse of the Second French Empire, and the beginning of the Third Republic. Because Paris was under siege for four months, the Third Republic moved its capital to Tours. A hotbed of working-class radicalism, Paris was primarily defended during this time by the often politicised and radical troops of the National Guard rather than regular Army troops. Paris surrendered to the Prussians on 28 January 1871, and in February Adolphe Thiers, the new chief executive of the French national government, signed an armistice with Prussia that disarmed the Army but not the National Guard.

1905 Russian Revolution wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire, some of which was directed at the government. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. It led to constitutional reform, including the establishment of the State Duma, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906.

Despite Lenin's declarations that "the workers must demand the immediate establishment of genuine control, to be exercised by the workers themselves", on May 30, the Menshevik minister of labor, Matvey Skobelev, pledged to not give the control of industry to the workers but instead to the state: "The transfer of enterprises into the hands of the people will not at the present time assist the revolution [...] The regulation and control of industry is not a matter for a particular class. It is a task for the state. Upon the individual class, especially the working class, lies the responsibility for helping the state in its organizational work." [9] [10]

Matvey Skobelev Soviet politician

Matvey Ivanovich Skobelev was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and politician.

Organization details

In the workers' councils organised as part of the 1918 German revolution, factory organisations, such as the General Workers' Union of Germany (AAUD), formed the basis for organising region-wide councils. The council communists in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany advocated organising "on the basis of places of work, not trades, and to establish a National Federation of Works Committees." [11]

German Revolution of 1918–19 Revolution in 1918–1919 in Germany

The German Revolution or November Revolution was a civil conflict in the German Empire at the end of the First World War that resulted in the replacement of the German federal constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary republic that later became known as the Weimar Republic. The revolutionary period lasted from November 1918 until the adoption in August 1919 of the Weimar Constitution.

General Workers Union of Germany

General Workers' Union of Germany, was the name of factory organisations formed following the German Revolution of 1918–1919 in opposition to the traditional trade unions. The AAUD was formed by the left communists in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany (KAPD) who considered organising based on trades as being an outmoded form of organisation and instead advocated organising workers based on factories, thus forming the AAUD. They were influenced by the industrial unionism of the Industrial Workers of the World. The council communists organised these factory organisations as the basis for region-wide workers' councils.

Council communism political ideology

Council communism, or councilism, is a current of socialist thought that emerged in the 1920s. Inspired by the November Revolution, councilism was characterized by its opposition to state capitalism/state socialism and its advocacy of workers' councils and soviet democracy. Strong in Germany and the Netherlands during the 1920s, council communism continues to exist today as a small minority in the left.

Councils operate on the principle of recallable delegates. This means that elected delegates may be recalled at any time through a vote in a form of impeachment. Recall of management committee members, specialist professionals such as engineers, and delegates to higher councils was observed in the Central Workers Council of Greater Budapest during 1956, where delegates were removed for industrial, organisational, and political reasons.

Workers' councils combine to elect higher bodies for coordinating between one another. This means that the upper councils are not superior to the lower councils, but are instead built from and operated by them. The national council would therefore have delegates from every city in the country. Their nature means that workers' councils do away with traditional centralized governments and instead give power indirectly to the people. This type of democratic order is called council democracy. The Central Workers Council of Greater Budapest occupied this role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, between late October and early January 1957, where it grew out of local factory committees.

Councils against unions and Stalinists

A workers' council is a deliberative assembly, composed of working class members, intended to institute workers' self-management or workers' control. Unlike a trade union, in a workers' council the workers are assumed to be in actual control of the workplace, rather than merely negotiating with employers through collective bargaining. They are a form of workplace democracy, where different workplaces coordinate production through their elected delegates.

Amongst both Marxists and anarchists there is a widespread belief that workers' councils embody the fundamental principles of socialism, such as workers' control over production and distribution. Whereas socialism from above is carried out by a centralized state run by an elite bureaucratic apparatus, here socialism from below is seen as the self-administration and self-rule of the working class.

Some left communists (particularly council communists) and anarchists support a council-based society; believing that only the workers themselves can spark a revolution and so workers' councils will be the foundation of the revolution. There are also Leninists (for example the Trotskyist International Socialist Tendency and its offshoots) who advocate a council-based society, [12] but maintain that workers' councils cannot carry out a revolution without the leadership of a vanguard party. [13]

During the May 1968 events in France, "[t]he largest general strike that ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country, and the first wildcat general strike in history" [14] , the Situationists, against the unions and the Communist Party that were starting to side with the de Gaulle government to contain the revolt, called for the formation of workers' councils to take control of the cities, expelling union leaders and left-wing bureaucrats, in order to keep the power in the hands of the workers with direct democracy. [14]

See also

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Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

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The Communist International (Comintern), known also as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state". The Comintern had been preceded by the 1916 dissolution of the Second International.

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Libertarian Marxism economic and political philosophies that emphasize the "anti-authoritarian" aspects of Marxism

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Democracy in Marxism

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All-Russian Congress of Soviets

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Workers' control is participation in the management of factories and other commercial enterprises by the people who work there. It has been variously advocated by anarchists, socialists, communists, social democrats, Distributionists and Christian democrats, and has been combined with various socialist and mixed economy systems.

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Dictatorship of the proletariat Marxist political concept

In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the working class hold political power. Proletarian dictatorship is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the government nationalises ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. The socialist revolutionary Joseph Weydemeyer coined the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted to their philosophy and economics. The Paris Commune (1871), which controlled the capital city for two months, before being suppressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Marxist philosophy, the term "Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" is the antonym to "dictatorship of the proletariat".

Soviet democracy

Soviet democracy is a political system in which the rule of the population by directly elected soviets is exercised. The councils are directly responsible to their electors and are bound by their instructions. Such an imperative mandate is in contrast to a free mandate, in which the elected delegates are only responsible to their conscience. Delegates may accordingly be dismissed from their post at any time or be voted out (recall).

Anti-Leninism opposition to Leninism

Anti-Leninism is opposition to the political philosophy Leninism as advocated by Vladimir Lenin.

The history of socialism has its origins in the 1789 French Revolution and the changes which it wrought, although it has precedents in earlier movements and ideas. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels in 1848 just before the Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe, expressing what they termed "scientific socialism". In the last third of the 19th century, social democratic parties arose in Europe, drawing mainly from Marxism. The Australian Labor Party was the world's first elected socialist party when it formed government in the Colony of Queensland for a week in 1899.

References

  1. Pannekoek, Anton (1946). Workers' Councils. Wageningen, Netherlands: Communistenbond Spartacus. ISBN   9781902593562.
  2. Rougerie, Jacques (2014). La Commune de 1871. Paris: Presses universitaires de France. p. 58–60. ISBN   978-2-13-062078-5.
  3. Maurice Brinton, pseud. (Christopher Agamemnon Pallis). The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control. (Orig: Solidarity UK, London, 1970), The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control introduction
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Ness, Immanuel (2010). Ours to Master and to Own: Workers' Control from the Commune to the Present.
  5. Supple, James (2017-08-15). "The 1945 Saigon uprising: Workers and anti-imperialism in Vietnam". Solidarity Online. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  6. Ness, Immanuel (2014). New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism. pp. 184–203.
  7. "Melbourne tram dispute and lockout 1990 - anarcho-syndicalism in practice". libcom.org. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  8. Poya, Maryam (2002) [1987]. "IRAN 1979: Long live the Revolution! ... Long Live Islam?". In Colin Barker (ed.). Revolutionary Rehearsals. Chicago: Haymarket Books. pp. 143–9. ISBN   1-931859-02-7.
  9. Tony Cliff Lenin 2 Chapter 12 Lenin and Workers’ Control , section The Rise of Factory Committees
  10. Amosov et al. (1927) Oktiabrskaia Revoliutsiia i Fazavkomy, vol.1, p.83. (published in Moscow)
  11. Bernhard Reichenbach, The KAPD in Retrospect: An Interview with a Member of the Communist Workers Party of Germany
  12. Molyneux, John (2003) [1987]. The Future Socialist Society. Chicago: Haymarket Books. pp. 5–6. "... the core institutions of the new state will be ... the network of workers' councils."
  13. Molyneux, John (2003) [1978]. Marxism and the Party. Chicago: Haymarket Books. p. 79. "Only with the growth of the Bolsheviks into a mass party and with the emergence of a Bolshevik majority in the soviets were these embryos of workers' state power able to fulfil their potentiality."
  14. 1 2 The Beginning of an Era , from Situationist International No 12 (September 1969). Translated by Ken Knabb.