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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.
A variation is a soldiers' council, when the delegates are chosen amongst (rebellious) soldiers. A mix of workers and soldiers has 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.
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 1917–1923, 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:
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."
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."
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.
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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,but maintain that workers' councils cannot carry out a revolution without the leadership of a vanguard party.
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",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.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 1990, when the Congress of People's Deputies modified Article 6 of the most recent 1977 Soviet constitution, which had granted the CPSU a monopoly over the political system.
Leninism is a political ideology developed by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin that proposes the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a revolutionary vanguard party, as the political prelude to the establishment of Communism. The function of the Leninist vanguard party is to provide the working classes with the political consciousness and revolutionary leadership necessary to depose capitalism in the Russian Empire (1721–1917). Leninist revolutionary leadership is based upon The Communist Manifesto (1848) identifying the communist party as "the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country; that section which pushes forward all others." As the vanguard party, the Bolsheviks viewed history through the theoretical framework of dialectical materialism, which sanctioned political commitment to the successful overthrow of capitalism, and then to instituting socialism; and, as the revolutionary national government, to realize the socio-economic transition by all means.
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.
Antonie “Anton” Pannekoek was a Dutch astronomer, philosopher, Marxist theorist, and socialist revolutionary. He was one of the main theorists of council communism.
Soviets were political organizations and governmental bodies of the late Russian Empire, primarily associated with the Russian Revolution, which gave the name to the latter states of the Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union.
"Dual Power" was a term first used by communist Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924), in the Pravda article titled "The Dual Power". which described a situation in the wake of the February Revolution, the first of two Russian Revolutions in 1917. Two powers coexisted with each other and competed for legitimacy: the Soviets, particularly the Petrograd Soviet, and the continuing official state apparatus of the Provisional Government of social democrats.
Libertarian Marxism is a broad scope of economic and political philosophies that emphasize the anti-authoritarian and libertarian aspects of Marxism. Early currents of libertarian Marxism such as left communism emerged in opposition to Marxism–Leninism.
While Marxists propose replacing the bourgeois state with a proletarian semi-state through revolution, which would eventually wither away, anarchists warn that the state must be abolished along with capitalism. Nonetheless, the desired end results, a stateless, communal society, are the same.
Communism is a philosophical, social, political, economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state.
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets evolved from 1917 to become the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1918 until 1936, effectively. The 1918 Constitution of the Russian SFSR mandated that Congress shall convene at least twice a year, with the duties of defining the principles of the Soviet Constitution and ratifying peace treaties. The October Revolution ousted the provisional government, making the Congress of Soviets the sole, and supreme governing body. It is important to note that this Congress was not the same as the Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union which governed the whole Soviet Union after its creation in 1922.
Marxist-De Leonism is a libertarian Marxist current developed by the American activist Daniel De Leon. De Leon was an early leader of the first United States socialist political party, the Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP). De Leon introduced the concept of Socialist Industrial Unionism.
The Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries was a revolutionary socialist political party formed during the Russian Revolution.
Revolutionary socialism is the socialist idea that a social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.
In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which a proletarian party holds political power. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the post-revolutionary state seizes the means of production and compels the implementation of direct elections on behalf and within the confines of the ruling proletarian state party. Instituting elected delegates into representative workers' councils that nationalise ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. During this phase, the administrative organizational structure of the party is to be largely determined by the need for it to govern firmly and wield state power to prevent counterrevolution and to facilitate the transition to a lasting communist society.
A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country, sometimes referred to as a workers' state or workers' republic, is a sovereign state constitutionally dedicated to the establishment of socialism. The term communist state is often used interchangeably in the West specifically when referring to one-party socialist states governed by Marxist–Leninist communist parties, despite these countries being officially socialist states in the process of building socialism. These countries never describe themselves as communist nor as having implemented a communist society. Additionally, a number of countries that are multi-party capitalist states make references to socialism in their constitutions, in most cases alluding to the building of a socialist society, naming socialism, claiming to be a socialist state, or including the term socialist republic or people's republic in their country's full name, although this does not necessarily reflect the structure and development paths of these countries' political and economic systems. Currently, these countries include Algeria, Bangladesh, Guyana, India, Nepal, Nicaragua, North Korea, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
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 bound by their instructions using delegate model of representation. 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 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 brought, although it has precedents in earlier movements and ideas. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and 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.