Councils and State in Weimar Germany - Guido De Masi and Giacomo Marramao

Guido De Masi and Giacomo Marramao write on the German workers' councils and council communist movement around the German revolution of 1918.

1. Crisis of the Socialization Program and the Economic-Institutional Consequences

Even before the implementation of the Weimar Constitution, Rudolf Wissel, finance minister of the first social-democratic government in German history, pointed out with bitter disappointment to the Party Congress of June, 1919: "By building the edifice of formal political democracy, we have done nothing but pursue the program already begun by the imperial government of Prince Max von Baden. We have completed the constitution without a profound popular participation and we have not been able to placate the masses' tacit resentment because we did not have an adequate program... We have failed to influence the revolution so that Germany would have been animated by a new spirit. The very essence of our culture and of our social life seems to have changed very little-and often not for the better. People think that the revolution's conquests have an exclusively negative character, that an individual's military and bureaucratic domination has been substituted by another kind, and that the criteria of government are not substantially different from those of the old regime.. . I think that history will harshly judge both the National Assembly as well as the government." [1]
This sharp and unequivocal declaration of the bankruptcy of the socialization program tended to underscore the political reason for this failure: the lack of active mass participation in the governing of institutions. Social democracy's self-criticism focused here on the crux of the problem: the fundamental economism of the party and the fatal obliteration of the mass base, of the socialized dimension, of politics understood as the specific dynamic form of the relation between the "political" and the "social" and, at the same time, as the working class' ability to run in the first person the transition phases by hegemonically recomposing - in so far as it was the main productive force - the segments of the "general intellect." The failure of a vast and ambitious program of economic reconstruction by the SPD also put an end to the various attempts by the members of the "Socialization Commission" led by Kautsky, Wilbrandt, Heimann, etc., to reconcile planning and workers' councils (Arbeiterrate), socialization, and "industrial democracy."
Wissel's reference to the last imperial government was very pertinent. In fact, for several decades the German labor movement had adapted its organization and struggles to the structure of the Bismarckian state, [3] and after the November revolution the new constitution based itself on the model of pre-war union structure. The June, 1919 Nuremberg union congress, for instance, fully ratified the agreements of the November Convention.[4] Indeed, it went further by promoting studies and projects for a type of "labor community" (Arbeitsgemeinschaft) in which the relative functions of unions and employers would be regulated according to the new political course. The resolution of the Nuremberg Congress assigned to workers' councils the task of carrying out and controlling the socialization program gradually decided upon by the council of peoples' commissars and proposed by the socialization commission.
The timing was particularly inappropriate for this union and social-democratic project of parallel control of the economy and of the councils.[5] Its failure on the eve of the implementation of the constitution ushered in a phase of rethinking for all components of the labor movement. Between the November revolution and the January repression a particular type of state developed in which it was difficult to recognize any class imprint.[6] As the direct expression of the November movement, the councils ended up caught between the new state, which was the product of the very labor organizations hegemonized by the "social doctrine" of the majority of social democracy, and individual employers now free to move within this new type of "labor community" which they opposed, but which they temporarily accepted while waiting to take over management and control of the social relations of production.
Between November and December of 1919, the social democrats had done everything' in order to exorcise the specter of the "anarcho-bolshevik" model-expressed in the slogan "All Power to the Councils" - by largely retreating behind the directives of the old Erfurt Program.[7] The failure of the socialization commission [8] opens a cycle of theoretical and practical reevaluation of both the Second International social-democratic tradition and the Leninist theoretical and Organizational model. The reasons for this must be sought in the peculiar form of Weimar Germany's political and economic structure more than in the international economic and political situation (to which labor movement historiography usually refers in order to explain this complex phase). [9]
For too long, the SPD had derived political categories from the features of a specific social-productive structure (that of Wilhelmian Germany). During the first weeks of government, it was convinced that a unity of party union and councils (excluding some extremist fringes) could breathe life into that sophisticated whole of bourgeois juridical norms which, elaborated by Hugo Preuss, became the Weimar Constitution.[10] But the failure of the socialization project undermined the unity of the three organizing parts of the labor movement, and only the legislative apparatus of the young republic was left standing. It was certainly not very easy for social democrats to operate with a constitution which did not vindicate the tradition of the well-being and happiness of all citizens, but which accorded "to every social category the right to take part in political life on the basis of equality, to participate in the regulation of working conditions and of retributions, along with all of the economic development of the nation's productive forces."[11] The Weberian constitutional scheme prevented workers' councils from expressing themselves in the state in an hegemonic way since they were counterbalanced by other elements in a complex representative framework. Consequently, it ruled out the creation of any stable alliance between the various classes and social stratifications. In fact, the Weimar constitution was a complex of non-hierarchical representative organisms within a consolidation of power relations based on proportional representations only capable of temporary and precarious alliances, which were soon replaced by other even more precarious ones. Thus a full state forum could not arise.
The objective need for a politics of alliances able to weld the labor struggle (with its high level of consciousness) with other strata of the "laboring population," especially the peasants, was weakened by immediate tactical concerns and tacit compromises among individuals who proclaimed themselves spokesmen for the various class sectors. It was therefore no accident that the army, the parliamentary group of the SPD and the general commission of unions agreed to put an end to the "council anarchy" into which the Reich had collapsed. Only a swift agreement between the social-democratic majority (SPD), the independent social democrats (USPD), and the councils on the sixth of December 1918 prevented the first military coup against the executive committee of the workers' council of greater Berlin. [12]Subsequently, Groemer and Noske would play their macabre roles in the Spartakus revolt of January, 1919.[13]
The failure of the Kapp putsch on March 12, 1920, due to massive union mobilization, the relaunching of the council movement and the electoral collapse of the SPD on June 6, 1920, closed this initial phase of the republic and thus threw light onto the specificity of class relations in Germany. The practical objectives and organizational requirements of the revolutionary process were only slightly controlled by the movement's vanguard, rarely understood by party theoreticians and only partly satisfied by political leaders. As stated above, despite its juridical formalism, the Weimar constitution reiterated the deliberations of the June 1919 Nuremberg union council: in a state with no hegemonic class, the union tends to integrate its functions. Thus, the Army and the union emerged as the protagonists of the initial events and continued a power confrontation that had arisen during the war under the regime of special laws concerning labor regulations and war production.[14] The union's success in blocking the Army leaders' counter-revolutionary offensive revealed both strengths and weaknesses in the movement. At any rate, it is an important development in the history of the republic during a period of intense political and theoretical debate concerning relations among party, union and councils, while the army began to appear as the principal bourgeois force.[15]
While on the eve of the Kapp putsch a republican court would even sacrifice the center party leader Erzberger, the only "non-militarized" representative of the bourgeoisie in the days of the November revolution, to the Dolchstoss-Legende (the knife-in-the-back theory), [16] personalities such as Stresemann (ex-nationalist and leader of the Volkspartei) and Wirth (center party) were growing politically by adjusting to the new social reality. They appeared as lucid representatives of a capital which already felt able to collaborate and to compete on an equal footing with the SPD and, eventually, to replace it in the direction of the state. Thus, a dialectic of compromises (rather than of alliances) begins, in which the determining element is social-democracy's hegemonic inability. The main points of the tacit agreement, never officially endorsed, for a stable institutionalized arrangement after the putsch attempt included: (1) the social-democratic and union control of labor power within the productive process; (2) capitalist and monopolist control of the economy and finances; (3) abandonment (according to the SPD, only "suspension") of all socialization programs in view of the rapid and rational relaunching of the development of the productive forces; (4) Army intervention in public life only in case labor pressure in the factories explodes to the outside.
It is incorrect to contend that at this point a linear plan of "rationalization" of the economy began.[17] It is a symptomatic error of recent scholarship to believe that the simple sum of the majority organization of the working class with the sectors (even the most advanced) of financial and industrial capital should lead to the rationalization of production. The reality of German capitalism in the spring of 1920 was much less rosy-unless one confuses the figure of Hugo Stinnes [18] and the complex of factories, mines, hotels and financial institutions that he operated, with a new cycle of development. Even the social democrats understood the difference between concentration and cycle. The chronic inability of German capitalism to carry out an efficient restructuring of the productive apparatus boiled down to the bothersome problem of war credits.[19] The military policy of Kaiser Wilhelm II had succeeded in unifying the multitude of small and medium high-precision mechanical industries [20] with the naval and heavy industry. Having survived the war and the confiscation by the Entente, the industrial apparatus re-emerged at this point in its full heterogeneity. Exportation was the only outlet for factories able to survive and labor-productivity was the only immediate material resource. To accept an alliance with this type of capital, without attempting a radical transformation, meant that the party and the union would lose control over very large sectors of the class, and not only over the "professionalized" labor sectors already on the way to extinction and thus susceptible to council ideology.[21]
Given the impossibility of re-establishing pre-war economic levels and methods, [22] the inability of social democracy and capital to rationalize meant the loss of an historical occasion to experiment with a new field of confrontation and struggle. The respective classes, through a forced coexistence, had acquired a higher reciprocal consciousness and, at the same time, a general vision of economic and social processes with their relative political and institutional forms. New meanings and locations had developed for economic categories such as reconversion, planning, money, credit, rent, etc.
However, reduced to a mere sociology or the empirical (as in the doctrinaire version of the Second International), the critique of political economy was not only unable to produce a science of politics and a subsequent revolutionary organizing project, but could not even renovate the old political economy.[23]
The elections of June 1920 clearly registered this general political and even historical impasse within the labor movement: From 11,509,000 votes in January 1919, the SPD went to 6,104,000, while the USPD rose from 2,317,000 to 5,047,000 votes. The two parties were now almost equal. At this point, the concept of socialization, rejected by the SPD, was appropriated and reexamined by the theoreticians and the militants of the workers' councils, as well as by leading representatives of the old social democracy such as Max Adler who had trouble identifying with the choices made by their party.

2. Socialisation and Councils

In this historical-political context, two phases of the council movement can be distinguished: the first from the November 1918 revolution to February 1920, and the second one ending with the defeat of the labor uprising of 1923 which marked the movement's collapse.[24]
These phases were accompanied by two movements in the theoretical reflection on the theme of the councils. This is clear in the writings of two major intellectuals of the middle European labor movement: Karl Korsch and Max Adler. Despite the different evaluations of the October revolution, Korsch's and Adler's strategic models and political-theoretical proposals appeared at first as "critical revolutionary variations" of the "Leninist and Bolshevik conception" rather than as alternatives to it.[25] Actually, both were exponents of the left current of the socialist movement from 1919-1920: Korsch as the "organic intellectual" of the council movement wing led by members of the Berlin USPD such as Daurnie and Muller; Adler as the leading theoretician of the left-wing of Austrian social democracy. [26]
Korsch and Adler both examine two aspects of socialization: the political-organizational aspect (the problem of the organs of socialization) and the theoretical-political aspect (the relation between mass movement and direction; the constitution of the mass movement as the historical subject; the dialectic of the class movement and institutions; and the problem of the state).
Korsch's writings on socialization (1919.1920) [27] express both the tragic greatness and the fatal limitations of the movement. Strongly influenced by the theme of industrial democracy (which, in many respects, connects him with Bernstein) and by the anarcho-syndicalist ideology of direct action, Korsch poses the council system and its intrinsically liberatory connotations as the only alternative to the mere administrative management of power as theorized and practiced by the social democrats. The only practical instruments for the realization of this alternative are the councils whose functions must include the opposite requirements of central planning and democratic self-management of the enterprise. This synthesis is expressed by Korsch with the formula of "industrial autonomy": "Industrial autonomy exists when in every industry ('industry' is used here in the broad sense of any planned activity including agriculture), the representatives of the workers participating in production step in as executives controlling the production process, in place of the previous private owner or controlling manager. At the same time the limitations already forced upon capitalist private ownership of the means of production by state 'social policy' are further developed to become an effective public property of the whole."[28] In the contradictoriness of the Korschian discourse, it would be unjust either to exalt the (presumed) adjustment to the practical needs of the movement or to condemn the "radical-utopian" aspect (to use Rosenberg's famous expression), i.e., the anti-bureaucratic and anti-statist imprint. In its specific historical context, Korsch's council theme was an unsuccessful theoretical attempt to overcome the movement's practical impasse. Although his model is no longer viable, his writings expressed the dramatic complexity of the problem of the relation between ideology and class struggle, theory and politics. Following the dislocation of the revolutionary strategy from the state-political domain to economics ("industrial autonomy") the concept of the double nature and function of the councils, which would immediately overcome the hiatus between politics and economics and the couple party-union (typical of the social-democratic tradition), ended up as a pragmatic-unionist restriction of the theme of socialization.[29]
This does not mean that Korsch's analysis was not relevant. In fact, some of his points remain fundamental, such as the new identity of socialization and nationalization, [30] and the necessity to generalize the council system by transcending the corporative-entrepreneurial limitations imposed by the social-democratic leadership. Yet, Korsch's attempts to define the concrete outcomes of his proposals never went beyond outlining a mediation (which, translated into political terms, sounds like a compromise) between "control from above" by an undefined "collectivity" and "control from below," by those directly participating in production. This formal solution, which was characterized by the "bad" utopianism typical of the juridical ideology in which Korsch's intellectual formation had its roots, was a result of an oversimplified view of the complex relation between state and civil society. In this sense, the immediacy of the anti-state position was a mirror reflection, on the ideological level, of a non-materialist conception of revolutionary politics, and, therefore, of a still reductivist and partial reception of the theme of "constitution." The obfuscation of the process of the working class' self-constitution into a "class for itself' led Korsch to underemphasize the specific weight of that "objective factor which is subjectivity,"[31] and to avoid the problem of the forms of its emergence from the articulated complex of the historical present.
Just as his anti-statist position was the other side of the absence of a Marxist concept of the state, the undifferentiated unity of politics and economics in the council reflected the avoidance of the problem of constitution as the specific problem of the materialist analysis of the forms of consciousness and of the (subsequent) scientific foundation of the field of politics. Thus, his strategic conception of 1919-1920 ended up expressing a theoretical antinomy of European Marxism and the political backwardness of the labor movement as a whole.
Unlike Korsch, Max Adler seemed to catch the nexus relative to the political outcome of the "council strategy." He was the only one who attempted to thematize the relation between councils and the state. Even more than Korsch and despite the repeated critiques of the "Bolshevik model," Adler was the interlocutor of Leninism.[32] His awareness of the complexity of this relation made Adler wary of the immediate resolution of the problem of the revolution suggested by the slogan: "All power to the councils." Such a slogan could resolve the problems of the strategy for gaining power only by presupposing as already accomplished a process which was only beginning and which could be brought to completion only by the conscious and organized intervention of subjectivity: socialization. The mere radicalization of the economic and self-managerial moment actually moved in a direction opposed to socialization. In his important pamphlet of 1919 on Demokratie und Ratesystem, Adler wrote that: "there is a risk that the system of workers' councils can cease to be the instrument for the overturning of capitalist society and turns into an institution for the defense of the interests of this very same society."[33]In order for the system of councils to become a "true organism of socialization," it needed to critically confront the theme of the state and institutions. It had to accept the political-strategic challenge of Leninism, which Kautsky had rejected with doctrinaire disdain.
Adler grasped the political problematic of the revolution in Europe: the dialectic between mass movement and institutions. This relation had, as its point of departure and goal, a process of socialization which, managed by the councils, came to constitute the continuity between the before and after of the gaining of power: an element of continuity substantiated, in turn, by a progressive development of proletarian consciousness in a socialist and revolutionary sense. Yet, when it came to indicating the practical means to meet this need, Adler proposed a compromise as formal as that of Korsch. On the level of the democratic-institutional framework, he proposed a combination of councils and National Assembly and, on the level of socialization and mass politicization, "revolutionary socialist propaganda,"[34] which would overcome labor corporativism as the presupposition of a "real collective will":
"This, however, presupposes that all immediate economic interests (whose defense is usually at the center of party parliamentary struggles), each of which is engaged in deriving the maximum profit from the bourgeois state apparatus, are clearly relegated to the background behind the common interest of social transformation which can lead to the overcoming of the present conditions of state and society, i.e., beyond class divisions."[35] Thus, both Korsch and Adler were confronted with a dichotomy between the analytic level of material labor struggles (and of corresponding autonomous organizational forms) and the level of the political-theoretical perspective and general strategy. In Korsch this dichotomy obtained in the hiatus (and subsequent juxtaposition) between the economic level of self-management and the anti-state political outcome, and in Adler in the gap between the "sociological" (empirical-economic) analysis of the concrete historical forms of the class struggle (both in relation to the problem of the state and in relation to the peasant question), on the one hand, and universalist-transcendental solutions on the other.[36] Thus, both lacked a hinge to connect the analytic with the dialectical-organizational component of the account: the analysis of the nexus of production and class struggle which could allow the deduction, on both the historical and theoretical level, of the genesis of the "forms of consciousness" from the structural (and, for the individuals of which the class is composed, also experiential) context defined by the social relations of production [37] Adler approached the problem of constitution more than Korsch not only because he posed the problem of the state in complex problematic terms (by advancing against doctrinaire underpinnings of the structure-superstructure dichotomy, the notion of "sociological unity of state and society"),[38] but also because he connected the concept of the councils to the concept of "the socialization of consciousness."
This leads to the question of neo-Kantianism in the European labor movement and the various ways in which neo-Kantian themes have been appropriated and utilized within the context of social democracy's internal political battles. Not even the more intelligent approaches to this problem have avoided the dangers of a reductive schematism ultimately resulting from the assumptions of a certain political and historiographic tradition. In this sense, the criticisms brought against the council movement are not meant to resolve all of its complexity and wealth, but rather, are meant to stimulate specific analyses, even on the ideological level, of the details and internal differentiations.
Cacciari has pointed out how in the left socialist Kurt Eisner (the famous hero of the Bavarian revolution, killed in February 1919), the defense of the councils was related to his interpretation of neo-Kantian ideology at the beginning of the century.[39] Actually, on the ideological level, Wihelmian Lebensphilosophie within the debate of the labor movement underlines not only Eisner's neo-Kantian discourse (and that of other intellectuals such as Vorlander and Max Adler as well), but also Friedrich Adler's Machism, and certain sociological elaborations of Robert Michels and the development of Luxemburgian critiques of the principles of social democracy. Neo-Kantian socialism saw itself as the potential saviour of the totality of human experience from capitalist fragmentation and alienation.[40]
But despite this location of the cultural sources of the ideology of socialism as Sollen, Cacciari reaches no pertinent conclusions. The problem cannot be resolved by an a posteriori emphasis on the subjective and theoretical backwardness undoubtedly present in the left socialist and communist components of the council movement, of which the neo-Kantian ideology was the philosophical source. This ideology did not arise as an ideal-typical expression of social democracy, but rather as the effect and reaction to this crisis-a political and "spiritual" crisis of the party which arose long before World War I in the Bernstein debate. Bernstein's introduction of Kantianism as the antibody into the structure of the SPD was a political operation (dictated by the objective need to adjust the general conception and party's work-style to ongoing capitalist transformations) whose actual meaning is difficult to grasp if one merely seeks to liquidate that antibody as an altogether "bourgeois" element. In Cacciari (and in those holding similar positions), commonplaces of Third International historiography are recycled and pose as a tradition, as opposed to our alleged political false consciousness.
The political meaning of the anti-determinist battle has been lost in Stalinist and post-Stalinist historiography. The attribution of anti-reformist connotations to the "subjectivist-activist" reception of Marxism was not peculiar to theoreticians who in the 1920s lined up decisively on the side of the Bolsheviks, such as Lukacs and Korsch, but also to militant intellectuals who, although critical of Leninism and of the October Revolution, tried to find a strategic alternative to the involution of social democracy, able to produce not merely an insurrectional outcome, but a "revolutionary" one [41] which would regain in its integrity the unitary potential of struggle present in the European working class. Thus, even the struggle against revisionism" and its "anti-materialist ideology" cannot be dogmatically understood as a struggle between a correct line" (Marxist-Leninist) and left or right deviationist tendencies both opportunistic and-or extremist.[42] Understood in terms of its political class roots, and measured in terms of the real 1920 level of struggle, this "orthodoxy" was nothing more than one of the many elements in the complex theoretical and political framework behind the events of the European labor movement. Furthermore, this is an element that appeared only in the late phase of the Weimar Republic, during the phase of the "Boishevization" of the German Communist Party, which was subsequent to the theoretical and organizational disintegration of the movement, In other words, the "Bolshevization" took place in Europe not on the wave of attack, but in the defensive retreat and practical defeat of labor struggles.[43]
In this context, it is relevant to point out parallels between certain philosophical themes of Max Adler's Austro-Marxism and Lukacs: the neo-Kantian dichotomy between necessity (Mussen) and duty (Sollen) capitalist objectivity in the ethical-transcendental ideal of socialism-corresponded in Lukacs to the contraposition between the quantitative objectivity of the world of commodities (reification) and the subversive explosion of the qualitative dimension (class consciousness: subjectivity which is both of labor and of humanity).44 If in the neo-Kantian Austro-Marxists the immanence of the relation was altogether absent, in Lukacs it was simply posited-advanced as a need-but not resolved: the negative dialectic from which class consciousness emerges has a purely declaratory immanence since Lukacs failed to ground it in the specificity of the object, i.e., he failed to explain its genesis starting from the ("historically specified") terrain of the social relations of production and from the determinate levels of class composition. To break the ultimately technistic vision of the "world of commodities" as mere quantity, to catch the qualitative-dialectical element inherent in it as an abstract expression of a determinate relation of production means to lay the groundwork for a welding of the analysis of capitalist objectivity and the genesis of subjectivity, between the critique of the economy and the theory of class Organization.

3. Parties, Union and Councils

The historical process of the constitution of the proletariat as a "class for itself' had already experienced the temporary co-existence of a mass party and a vanguard one (the Bolshevik experience), but the presence of two mass parties (SPD and USPD) represented an absolutely new situation. If "the real center of the capitalist initiative was in the connection between the new organization of labor, the socialization program and the institutional order,"[44] it had already largely failed in the spring of 1920. The collapse of the socialization program [45] and the failure of institutional stabilization (necessitating union mobilization against a series of military putsches) led to the reemergence of the problem of the restructuring of labor and the related questions of political organization. In practice, the union had shown itself more adept in the defense of the constitution than in the control of the planning of labor within financially shaky factories.[46] This was to be expected, considering that the "free unions" tied to the General German Union Association (ADGB) were structured and divided by categories already obsolete in 1913. Thus, in the left-wing of the USPD and KPD, the theory of the councils reappeared as the only project able to provide a positive political outcome to the plan of the restructuring of class composition, not within an already given productive process (the social-democratic project), but within a developmental model to be defined along with the workers' political gains.[47]
According to Daumig, the leading theoretician of this project, the class could control the key point of labor productivity. The workers' council, however, would also have had to take over those roles that the union was no longer able to fulfill: the contracting of wages and the redefinition of functions and categories. Organizationally subdivided into economic and political councils, the workers' councils had to transform into class unity and political mobility the professional de-qualification necessary for a reordering of the economy-a reordering, of course, not based on principles of planning from above, but measured in terms of the needs of the 'community': "Naturally, by socialization I do not mean a monopolization or the creation of a 'constitutional factory,' as some are suggesting to the workers. Experiments of this type have already been made many times, but how have they ended up for the workers?" [48] It was not the factory that had to adjust to the state's laws, but the state which had to accept the workers' self-organized power.[49] Only the council system was able to bring about the unification of the whole proletariat and to initiate the phase of transition to socialism with direct mass participation.[50] "I have always claimed that the revolution also disperses party boundaries . . . that is to say that here it is not the question of the party that has to be considered first of all; what is important is to show with facts that we want to energetically realize socialism. . . The slower we do this, the earlier capitalism sinks its roots and large numbers of workers not politically active slowly become used once again to the old capitalist organisms. Proletarians have no wish to wait so long... In this way, proletarians become confused, even more lost in their desperation and are carried into undertakings none of us approve of."[51]
Daumig's hypothesis of a class recomposition within the industrial gains more credence when we recall that the period between the January Berlin insurrection and the proclamation of the "Munich Soviet Republic" (March 1919) was full of strikes, street demonstrations, and insurrectional attempts, followed by the Army's harsh repression in Bremen, Dusseldorf, Westphalia, Brunswick, Halle, etc. It was not a matter of "revolutionary gymnastics," as was claimed by the German Communist Workers' Party (KAPD) leaders (along with the left-wing of the KFD), but rather of a liquidation of the most revolutionary workers who extended their action beyond the factory gates.[52] Thus, socialization and councils represented the base of a new organizational process within which the party and the union progressively tended to change their functions in a constantly evolving political-economic structure.
R. Muller, defined by the Spartacists as "the most mystical of the council theoreticians,"[53] drew a lucid parallel between socialization and the council system: in the same way that the councils introduced the first phase of the communist society while they still had not created communism (still relying on bourgeois juridical norms), so socialization was not yet socialism and much less communism: "Socialization means depriving capitalist society of economic power; but this is possible only by means of a political struggle." [54]There is a determinate moment in the development of productive forces when it is decisive for the working class to politically manage the process. The workers' council must then politically anticipate a social form which does not yet exist at the economic level (communism), where socialization can, at most, substitute a production organized for the satisfaction of the needs of consumers (represented in the district councils) in place of the anarchy of capitalist production.
Schematic thought and Proudhonian naivety broadly compromised Muller's argument. Yet, a conception of workers' councils emerged which did not "subordinate the class to the productive process."[55] The workers' council appeared as the general political organism of a phase of transition characterized by the political-subjective organization of the proletariat. Proletarian consciousness transcended awareness of being the object of exploitation and understood itself as the protagonist of a concrete process in which the power relation between capital and labor was being decisively shifted in favor of the latter. Economics was no longer seen as a set of objective laws that the economic Operator mechanically applied, but as a social relation-historically changeable, and therefore able to be politically controlled - between the struggling classes Thus, the historical reason for Muller's schematically anti-parliamentary position, so close to Korsch's anti-statism, becomes understandable. The contrast with Haase (the leader of the USPD) concerning a possible co-existence between councils and parliament was not purely political, but was generated by different theoretical presuppositions and by the conviction that the parliamentary juridical system and capitalist production were inextricably bound together just as tightly, if not more so, than socialization was bound to the representative council system. "A socialization applied from above, as was attempted during the period of the socialization commission, does nothing but preserve the capitalist mode of production. In the best of cases, next to the owner of the means of production, the state itself appears as a beneficiary of labor power, and both divide the surplus value created by labor. "[56]
In Mullers pure theory of the councils, party and union tend to disappear as a class institutions belonging to a socio-economic formation now becoming extinct.[57] As in Korsch, however, the problematic feature of Muller's argument was that it resulted in a political impasse. Since the Organizations of the labor movement were burdened with an economistic and subaltern practice (from time to time transfigured from a formalistic and rarefied concept of "politics" understood as a mere parliamentary schematism or inter-bureaucratic tacticism), the need for a revolutionary-political -praxis was initially expressed in the rejection of official "politics" and in the rigid polarization of theoretical attention upon autonomous working class Organization, which were extrapolated and disconnected from the whole texture of social relations of production to which they logically and historically belonged. Thus, these expressions of the theory of the councils were a step further than the conceptual framework of the Second International, but still considerably short of the needs of the movement as a whole.
On the other hand, the communist component of the movement had no clearer understanding of political and organizational problems. The external articulation between party, union, and councils proposed by the Spartacist E. Ludwig to the IVth Congress of the KPD (April 14-15, 1920) on the eve of the unification with the USPD,[58] which was meant as a theoretically correct synthesis of Luxemburgian thought and of Bolshevik experiences, was only a worried anticipation of the heterogeneity and contradictions of the future party. An easier target was found in the AAU (General Labor Unions), founded by the KAPD, which were attacked as organisms "born in the heads of Proudhonist petty-bourgeois intellectuals; small, utopian, sectarian organisms whose perspectives would, at best, lead to the form of worker capitalism."[59] Rather than analyzing the social and political reasons which had led to the birth of these "minority" experiences, Ludwig preferred to stick with an abstract and schematic concept of "politics" and "Organization," involving in his critique even the USPD theorists of the councils.[60] Subsequently, the "ideology" of the workers' councils was criticized in terms of the ideology of a nascent Marxism-Leninism.[61] Lenin's complex strategy for gaining power and for the Soviet political direction of the phase of transition, was able to generate only a very over-drawn argument in Germany.
1920 German reality was much more complex than Ludwig's sterile line which could carry the majority within the party only at the price of continual breaks or of brusque shifts in political direction.[62] The documents, articles, declarations, and appeals of isolated politicians or of the groups that left the party reflect the peculiar absence of an alternative political line in the face of an awareness of the general backwardness and overall political needs of the movement.
Typical of this was the case of Paul Levi, a complex political personality who, at the beginning of the 1920s, outlined an analysis of the German political situation which was a logical and political antecedent to his pamphlat Unser Weg: Wiaer den Putschssmus (this marked his leaving the Communist Party and the Third International in April 1921). According to Levi, the November Revolution had not been the victim of any "betrayal" on the part of the social-democratic leaders for the simple reason that the latter had done nothing but follow the policy of servility with respect to the military apparatus, which had begun much earlier than August 4, 1914.[63] "In the November Revolution the majority of the proletariat... has been satisfied to play again the role that it has always played in bourgeois revolutions: the role of the moving force that does not pursue its own ends."[64] Thus, not only the bourgeoisie, but also social democracy was unable to cut its ties with the Junkers.[65] The alliance between social democracy and bourgeoisie was not able to constitute an efficient and functioning capitalist state: a bitter realization full of implications hard to swallow for all the organizations of the German proletariat whose unity had not been broken by the "betrayal" of the social-democratic leaders, but rather by military defeat: "What is the source of the internal division of the class movement? The war has not reached all the strata of the proletariat equally. It has not only spared individuals of all social extraction, but even entire proletarian strata. It has been a happy conjuncture not only for the capitalists, but also for many proletarians. Entire categories of workers were exempted from military service and employed according to their specialization; they were protected against unemployment by the enormous development of war production and against hunger by extremely high wages... Hindenburg and Ludendorf knew their trade well."[66] This was not an updated version of the Marxist-Leninist theory of the "labor aristocracy," which in a few years would gain wide acceptance in the Third International and which, in Stalin's politics, would function as the alibi justifying all defeats, but rather of a non-moralistic and non-ideological analysis of a singular historical relation: the concomitant growth of the working class and of German military industry, of which the war had represented the last link.
Hugo Preuss was as deluded as the Spartacists. Preuss thought he had founded the bourgeois state which the Spartacists believed themselves to be fighting. Preuss counted on the family of international capital while the Spartacists waited for the social-democratic masses to be at disillusioned at last. But "the conditions of the armistice were clearly against pacifism. - - The Treaty of Versailles should have put an end to all the chatter by Kautsky and his friends."[67] The great bourgeois democracies (notwithstanding Keynes' plea in favor of Germany) [68] promised only unemployment and misery to the German proletariat. Yet, despite the failure of the social-democratic-bourgeois republic, Levi also exposed the hopelessness of Spartacist delusions concerning the reunification of the working class in its own ranks[.69] However, he could not renounce the "great idea" of a single revolutionary labor party. In the face of the exasperated subjectivism of party comrades, the "exemplary actions" of those who had already left the party in order to found a new one, and the practical and ideal disintegration of the movement, Levi sought to pick up Luxemburg's argument in order to permit the re-emergence of the revolutionary patterns latent in the catastrophic interdependence of crisis and workers' spontaneity: "apparently favorable economic circumstances" - the increase of exportations caused by the devaluation of the Mark- " hid from the proletariat the collapse of capitalism and its historical task: communism."[70] However, the days of capitalism were over: "the crisis has erupted in Germany"[71] and the system of exploitation was forced to show to the proletariat its unveiled face.
Levi's essay offers no positive alternative. His belabored theoretical synthesis reflected an uneasiness widespread within the movement which had hitherto been expressed in the complex nexus of splits (and fusions) of the various labor parties: from the Heidelberg split of the KPD (which had given rise to the birth of the KAPD, while the strictly Spartacist line of Luxemburgian vintage regrouped under Paul Levi's direction), to the split of the USPD in the Halle Congress which saw the left majority, guided by Daumig, declare its adherence to the Third international and its decision to unite with the Spartakusbund. From this split, in December 1920, there arose the United Communist Party (VKPD) which, under the direction of Levi and Daumig, seemed to have opened a new political perspective able to positively resolve the labor movement's identity crisis. Once again, however, the timing of political organization did not correspond to the class movement. The new party expressed only the need and not the rooting of a revolutionary mass party. The party was not born as an anticipating science, but as the "owl of Minerva," late wisdom reflecting on the recent defeats rather than towards the urgent tasks of the immediate future. The organization came too late (as Rosenberg put it), when organizational voluntarism was no longer able to regain the positions that the working class bad lost in the frontal clashes during the years of insurrection.
Following Levi's article concerning the German political situation (November 1920) and his pamphlet Unser Weg (April 1921), a series of crucial events ensued: the failure of the "open letter" policy, [72] the clash with Radek,[ 73] his purge from the Central Committee along with Daumig and Zetkin, [74] and the "March action." In his account of the workers' councils, Ludwig had contrasted the type of council organization that Daumig and Muller sought to create in Berlin to the positive model of the "revolutionary councils" of Chemnitz, in Thuringa, and of the Halle-Mansfield district of Saxony which were controlled by the Communist Party. This was the only zone in Germany where the workers' councils had challenged the Kapp putsch, which led to the demilitarization of the district. Only there had the workers' councils become a territorial reality outside the factories.[75] In this battlefield the new party Central Committee (Brandler, Thalheimer, Stoeker, Frolich), politically close to Radek and Bela Kun, decided to implement the "theory of the offensive."[76]
What was involved was taking advantage of a tense situation, provoked by a new attempt on the part of the state authority in Saxony to apply in the Halle-Mansfield district the law calling for the disarmament of civilians (which had already been enforced in all the other districts of central Germany) in order to remilitarize the zone. Similar attempts had been met by strikes and protests which had involved a large strata of the population and thus generalized the struggle's political objectives. The spark which was supposed to put all of Germany on fire, the intervention of the party as the armed sector of the class, turned out to be an unexpected boost to the state's attempt to reoccupy the zone.[77] The "insurrectional" activity of the communist groups had been so insignificant that, after the disastrous retreat of March 31, only the technical side of the operation was criticized and not the general political problem: the total lack of homogeneity between the workers' councils and the party. This was a sad outcome for those who had conceived of the "March action" and of the "theory of the offensive" as the way to overcome the barrier between factory and social struggles, economic and political action.[78] Ludwig's obtuse and sectarian analysis, which only a year earlier had praised the "revolutionary consciousness" of the workers' councils in Thuringa and Saxony in contraposition to Daumig's and Muller's Berlin "economic councils," thus met an embarrassing historical rejection. Facts had shown the impossibility of measuring the revolutionary timing by means of the ideological notions of "class" and "party," thus clearly indicating the gap between insurrectional immediacy and the complex form of politics. The need for a general alternative strategy able to socialize the labor struggles by directing them towards the crucial point in the relation between crisis and institutions contrasted sharply with the "March action's" schematic attempt to reverse an ideological concept of the working class into the party's immediate action. [79]
Aside from these critical presuppositions, Levi's pamphlet followed closely the earlier writing of 1920 with the obvious difference that the hopes placed in the VKPD were no longer present. In the 1920 article Levi had emphasized that at the root of the miraculous class unity of the pre-war German proletariat lay Germany's militarist politics-i.e., the Prussian state which, from the beginning of the century, had become the great propulsion of the whole productive apparatus. The workers' councils had believed that they could preserve the unity by substituting Wilhelm II and his generals with the old social-democratic party. After that final unitary gesture, the proletariat had disintegrated into conflicting organizational experiences, each of which pretended, however, to express the needs of the whole class. If in "Die politische Lage in Deutschland," Levi still believed in the capitalist crisis as the deus ex machina able to spontaneously bring about the reunification of the proletariat, in the pamphlet against putschism, the unifying element was located in the "German national question."[80] Levi recognized the Bolsheviks' success in intertwining the workers' revolutionary project with broad national questions such as the peasant problem. In the same way1 the German Communist Party should have been able to make the working class the moving force behind the resolution of the great national questions that the war and the Treaty of Versailles had raised. Agitation and the political use of these problems could not be left to the Junkers and to the right. The nationalist Bolsheviks Laufenberg and Wolfheim were in error since they believed that they could solve the national (and international) problems of the new Germany through summit agreements (perhaps with reactionary generals eager to approach the Soviet Union out of hate for the Entente). [81] Instead, it was necessary to make the German people understand that the alliance with the USSR was supported by the VKPD, not out of deference to the Komintern (of which the party was a section), but because of the vital economic and political importance for the defense of national autonomy.[ 82] The projects of the political recomposition of the proletariat into a party and the reconstitution of a new national identity had to proceed simultaneously; otherwise they would clash with tragic results for the working class.[83]
In emphasizing the "national question" and the unquestioned need that the working class rise to the level of political protagonist of the nation's life, Levi had dropped the argument concerning the crisis and the way to confront the class struggle in a situation of institutional precariousness. The level of politics was thus rendered "autonomous,t' but only in the negative sense of its extrapolation from the terrain of production and from the moment of direct self-organization of the producers. The theme of general political organization (the party) and of the "national path" was thus aborted precisely because it isolated the whole issue of the councils and of socialization: i.e., the working class' political mission was hypostatized to the level of a generality which avoided the specific task of recomposing the different sections of the productive forces, thus catching the political level within the objective dimension of the (social) relations of production. In spite of its level of complexity, Levi's position displayed theoretical and political shortcomings associated with his polemical aims. Of course, the Communist Party's putschism was evident, even independently of the "March action," in the inability to establish ties and alliances with other social groups; the working class and its party operated in total isolation. Yet, beyond the heated polemics. Levi and the putschists had something in common: the attempt to reorganize, to foster the political growth of the working class and to generalize its struggles, without connecting this action to the specificity of the productive process, of factory realities, of factory councils (Betriebsrate), which, despite their factory limitations, their "productivism" and their "labor ideology," contained levels of compactness and class consciousness found neither in Levi's sketch of the "national path to socialism" nor in Bela Kun's "theory of the offensive."

4. Labor Contract, Crisis and Organization

The most serious charges brought against the councils movement and their theoreticians are: labor ideology, overconcern with factories, and Proudhonism. Probably Marx would have reproached them for not having been Proudhonists to the end. This is no paradox, for either there is the objective possibility during a revolutionary process to abolish labor as a commodity (but this would eliminate the transitional phase) or it must be possible to transform labor into a general equivalent to all commodities. Marx did not accuse Proudhon of being a utopian, but of confusing the progressive socialization of capital with socialism.[84] The progressive trans-formation of money into gold into money-labor, i.e., in a fundamental element of mediation between cost of labor-power and value of social labor, cannot be found written in the pages of the history of economics but it is traceable in the vacillating events of power relations between the two struggling classes. It is an obligatory path that capital undertakes in the history of its development only when it has full political control over working class movements and ideological-institutional hegemony over the laboring masses. Money, then, as the fetishized expression of the domination of the form tends to become-in relation to the emergence of the state's controlling functions-the unchallenged and authoritarian arbiter in the exchange between capital and labor. Only then does the exchange between money and wage-labor tend to become total, i.e., the hegemony of the form carries out an uncoupling within the process of "real abstraction" (which is expressed in the dichotomy between juridical abstraction and real subsumption). On the one hand, the producers are transformed into "citizens" (whereby the specificity of class is dissolved in general equality), while on the other, capital transforms all citizens into producers, into receivers of income measured in terms of performed social labor.[85] Control and command over labor (understood not only in the factory context, but as general social labor) becomes the determining element and the only guarantor of monetary stability. The community of producers and consumers, so desired by Muller and Daumig, could have a concrete meaning only by anticipating and placing this very general scheme under the political control of the working class. It has been operating from the New Deal until today under the sign of the unchallenged domination of capital expressed on the institutional level in the form of the "authoritarian state."
In the period between 1921 and 1923 in Germany, the council movement was often at the point of carrying out this reversal. To focus on the parallel control of money and labor by connecting the two-keeping in mind, at the same time, the complex socio-political and economic institutional interconnections-during the period of the disintegration of the Mark, would not have meant to shift the movement toward Proudhon, but to anticipate Keynes, [86] i.e., to anticipate the capitalist counter-attack. But in order to do so, it would have been indispensable to emphasize practically the moment of general social direction of the process by avoiding that separation between the "political" and the "social" which turned out to be the real obstacle to the realization of an actual primacy of politics within the labor movement.
As already indicated, Ludwig had attacked the plan for "revolutionizing" the unions as proposed by the council theoreticians, by reiterating the respective tasks of the two organizations: the unions were to protect the workers within the domain of a given relation of production and represent the proletarians in their particular interests - subdivided according to the different trades and "professions" - and could lead, with their action, only to the extreme boundaries of the sphere of capital's domination. The councils, on the other hand, were the organs of a proletarian counter-power which already moved toward the abolition of capitalism and the construction of the new society.[87] The question posed by Daumig and Muller, however, was much more pertinent to the specific practical and organizational problems of the German revolution. No matter how vaguely, they warned that, with the intensification of the capitalist crisis, subjectivity emerged as the determining factor for revolutionary growth. Adequately interpreted, this could transform itself into political ability, on the part of the councils, to question the unions' prerogative to regulate the power relations between capital and labor through wages. In other words, it was a matter of exploding the deliberations of the June, 1919 Nuremberg Union Congress, which continued to be one of the cornerstones in the precarious equilibrium of power in the young republic. The labor contract was one of the determining points of power and mediation between workers' hegemony in the factories and the almost total domination of capitalist forces over the territory- a domination rendered possible by the control that these forces exercised over financial mechanisms which were still able to control the disposition and the pocketbooks of an altogether disintegrated middle class.
On the eve of the 1923 crisis, Karl Korsch started with the fundamental concepts of labor organization and labor contract in order to make the theoretical and organizational leap from the control of factories to the hegemony over the territory (once both the social-democratic "path to power" as well as the putschist shortcut had proven impractical). In the 1922 writings on labor legislation for factory councils, the theory of the councils seemed to cut the last ties with the liberal-radical tradition still present in the 1919-1920 writings.
Yet, this did not diminish but rather intensified Korsch's anti-statism underlying his council-union project. The Rousseauian freedoms within the factory gates betrayed the class reality from which they had historically arisen. A typical example of this was labor freedom; precisely the application of this freedom (scabbing) ran counter to the general class interests since it produced a lowering of wages. Thus, to reject this "freedom" became imperative for class solidarity. It was in the interests of the class that the constitution did not enter the factory. The "free" labor contract meant that the worker forfeited his own freedom in exchange for wages.[88] Thus, the extension of "industrial democracy" made sense only if the workers were able to place at the center of their struggle the labor contract upon which the very system of capitalist production was based. Industrial democracy and labor contract opposed each other within the factory; as long as the juridicalbourgeois form of the free labor contract persisted. The councils were limited to co-managing a determinate form of exploitation. The labor contract is the dike between the working class ghettoized in the factory and civil society.
The very representation of the proletariat's general material interests within the crisis implied, for Korsch, the breaking of that dike-the break down of constitutional legality sanctioned by Weimar.[89] With respect to the new tasks of managing the process of transition, the predominant form of union organization, the "professional association," appeared inadequate to the needs of proletarian class organization. The union needed to be "revolutionized" from a "professional association" into an "industrial association" which accepted the worker not on the basis of his "professional" qualifications, but rather on the basis of his exclusively belonging to a specific factory or industrial outfit. This transformation would also profoundly change the relations between unions and councils: "The factory council now no longer appears as a pure and simple 'auxiliary organ' of the unions in their struggle for the defense of the living conditions of the 'sellers of labor' within the existing capitalist class society but, rather, as the 'advanced position' with which the unions gain a foothold in the enterprises and subsequently also in the branches of industry which, although today still in the class enemy's hands, must be taken away from him through revolutionary struggle and placed under the control and ultimately also under the exclusive administration of the working class organized both economically and politically." Thus, for Korsch it was a matter of generating a new "social contract" to replace the labor contract, starting this time not from the constitutional apex of the state, but from the cellular organization in the factory. This time, too (as often during his troubled political and theoretical development) he barely missed central points for the resolution of the passage from political theory to organizational practice. His brilliant empiricism brought him to the threshold of decisive problems of which he understood the importance without having the methodological key needed to solve them. The insistence on the strategic nature of the factory dimension (historically understandable when one considers the concern with politics from above implicit in social democracy) led him to lose sight of the socially totalizing character of the domination of the form, the complex structure of the juridical abstraction, which, far from being independent of the fetishism of commodities, expresses and at the same time hides and mystifies the real connections of the state to the general process of reproduction. Consequently Korsch's synthesis of Rousseau's "social contract" with the Marxian concept of "civil society" could only produce the theory of value and that of the crisis.[90]
Thus, in the 1923 socio-economic crisis, Korsch's council theory relegated the problem of the state and politics (which tends to take on a central position in the transitional phase) to a mere "appearance,"[91] while the Communist Party entered the cyclone's eye with similar internal divisions,[ 92] the same confusions concerning intentions and the same tactical and strategic unpreparedness with which it had undertaken the 1921 "March action." Yet, from May to November of 1923, the council movement had succeeded in accomplishing even more than the most optimistic of its theoreticians had expected in the midst of the crisis; it had succeeded in displacing the union leadership in the organization of large strikes.[93] The situation of generalized social crisis had immediate repercussions for the labor movement.[ 94]
Within the union, a revolution took place which was much more unsettling and radical than anything proposed by the council theoreticians. Inflation, which annulled the value of union contributions, deprived the organization of all assistential and retributive capacities. Furthermore, it deprived the union of all contractual power: the wage contracts worked out with the employers became meaningless within a few days because of the accelerating speed of money devaluation. The dismembering of the unions and the paralysis of the SPD ensued.
The failure of social democracy confirmed its inability to elaborate a class-based political project, and its total dependence on union tactics. What had been the greatest Western labor party began to pay dearly for its own indifference and hostility toward the proletariat's autonomous organizational means. In 1923 the councils again demonstrated their vitality and efficacy after the electoral and putschist failures. The general political strike organized by the councils against the Cuno government[95] represented the movement's acme: the government was forced to resign.
The development of struggles during this period of crises seemed to confirm Korsch's hypothesis of a council attack against the juridical-bourgeois form of the labor contract and the relative equilibrium within the institutional framework.[96] When the submission of labor to capital ended, as in the case of the wage adjustment and the day-by-day contract negotiations, then the crisis of the monetary system tended to become a political crisis of the continuity of the process of realization of surplus value. The old barter system could, for some brief periods, substitute for money in commodity circulation, but there is no form of barter which could substitute for the money-form in the "exchange of equivalents" between capital and labor: the "production of commodities by means of commodities" is fatally interrupted. As Marx wrote in the Grundrisse: "the elementary presupposition of bourgeois society is that labor immediately produces exchange-value, i.e., money." [97] The specific product of the capitalist system is value in the form of money. It is precisely the nexus between the money-form and the crisis that challenged the foundation of the entire political-institutional framework of the capitalist system. However, the bourgeois order was re-established, although the real "taking of the Winter Palace" on the part of the German working class had been objectively at hand. It would have sufficed to continue to deny to the state any control over the exchange-mechanism between labor and capital, over the rehabilitation of the money form, and thereby over the (re)productive process. The question of an alternative socio-political direction should have been placed on the agenda in these terms in order to progress through that convulsed phase of transition.
However, as in the 1921 "March action," the German communists sought the Winter Palace not in a mass political alternative but in the grotesque and ruinous Hamburg insurrection [98] which marked the beginning of the recomposition of the state apparatus and with it, of the general Capitalist counter-attack. At different levels, class movement and party were both explosive integral parts of events whose immanent logic they did not grasp. The economic and political realities provided the stage upon which party and mass movement, every time they seemed to combine and generate a new revolutionary perspective, were brusquely thrown back into the isolation of their respective "domains" and in the fruitlessness of their "ideological oases." Yet, it would be a serious error to take these ideologies as a pure and simple expression of backwardness in terms of which the failure of the German revolution would have to be ultimately explained. Through what has often been incorrectly defined as "labor ideology," German workers expressed their real conditions of existence and their own objective political possibility (in the absence of an alternative mass organization able to connect the "political" to the "social" level) rather than professional stratifications already eliminated by capital's initiative.[99] Of course, "productivism" and "self-management" are terms that today generate understandable ambiguities and suspicions. But it would be inaccurate to attempt to exorcise the dangers of the present through a distorted historical reading of class needs and organizational forms which, in addition to natural contradictions and ideological shortcomings, expressed a will and ability to power which had no precedents in the history of the Western labor movement.[100] In the Germany of the 1920s, "control" and "autonomy" expressed the will of the working class to pass through the realization and planning of the productive process and come out of it reinforced as the hegemonic class with respect to other social groups. The council movement operated within this ambitious perspective. To transform this need into a science of politics and into a theory of Organization was an effort as difficult as it was indispensable, not only in terms of the fortunes of the German proletariat but-as Lenin himself pointed out-for the whole international labor movement. The alternative to this project was certainly not "communism as a minimal program," but Stalin's five year plans, the New Deal, and Nazism.[101]
At this point, a dispassionate and rigorous analysis of the real possibilities that the German labor movement had in that crucial year of 1923 of exercising real political control over labor, money, distribution and income becomes necessary. This, however, would require a detailed examination of documents which cannot be carried out here. Thus, we will limit ourselves to proposing only some of the main elements (already well known) which, within the context of this work, seem to take on a somewhat different meaning from what has been traditionally ascribed to them: (1) compared to the severity of the crisis, the number of unemployed was relatively low: about 600,000 against over 6,000,000 in 1930. Thus, the determining factor in the valorization of commodities was primarily the labor of workers-variable and not fixed capital.[102] (2) In its strategic maneuvers to stabilize the Mark, the central bank re-established order beginning from below: it no longer accepted as currency privately released money.[103] (3) Thus, industrialists, no longer able to trust a centralized power, were increasingly forced to regulate in loco the exchange between labor and capital by releasing money coupons which were accepted by stores and public outfits. Money had slipped so low that it risked falling by inertia into workers' hands. (4) The capitalists immediately realized the danger latent in this phenomenon while the labor movement on the whole was unable to understand which levers controlling the social and political framework they could have taken over. Critique of political economy was rigorously banned from any revolutionary project on the part of the party.[104] (5) As for the regulation of the Mark with respect to foreign currency, the central bank followed Hilferding's old formula. It stabilized the Mark with respect to the dollar: 4.2 billion Marks to the dollar. A defeated and rejected country, Germany in this way entered the community of nations with a distinctly capitalist regime, thus showing itself worthy of being saved. The country had resolved in one of the two possible ways its turbulent and troubled "transitional phase."

5. The 'Return to Marx' and the Mortal Crisis of Capitalism ': From Weimar to the New Deal

When, in 1920-1930 "all the factors for a great popular revolution" [105] reappeared in Germany, the gap between class movement and labor organizations was immense. The tragedy of the labor movement ran its course precisely in these last dramatic years of the Weimar Republic and provides useful indications for social and economic theory. Consider the polemic concerning imperialism and the crash between Fritz Sternberg and Henryk Grossmann, in addition to the latter's methodological contributions meant to reconnect the analysis of the contradictions inherent in capitalist development to the categorical framework at the basis of the critique of political economy. Consider also the works concerning the morphology of the crisis, the Soviet Union and the "planned economy" carried out by economists such as Friedrich PoIlock, [106] or the fundamental analyses of social philosophers such as Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno who, in the Zeitschift fur Sozial,Forschung, continued the important work carried out for almost two decades by Carl Grunberg with his Archie furr die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung. To simply denounce the effective "separateness" of these works in order to subsequently dismiss them as useless academic exercises, would be not only harsh, but also trivial.[107] The "separateness of these works is not due to their alleged 'academic nature,' but to the general political bankruptcy of the labor movement which, caught in the static schematism brought about by the increasing separation between the SPD and the KPD, had generated an irremediable fracture in the relation between theory and movement, and a subsequent recoiling upon itself of theoretical reflection. It was precisely this situation which led to the high levels of self-reflection in methodology and epistemology.[108]
If the attention of the "council left" had previously focused on self-organization within the productive process, overlooking (as we have seen, for instance, in Korsch) the theoretical analysis of the crisis, the opposite now takes place: the "objective analysis" of economic laws leading to the crisis and to the collapse of the system tends (primarily in the work of the most important economist of the period, Grossmann) to substitute the analysis of the laboring process and the self-management theme implied in it. Yet, this tendency was not a passive attitude produced by the stasis (and afterwards, by the definitive defeat) of the movement, i.e., by the "economistic" or "catas-trophic" deformation. Rather, it was upheld by a strong methodological awareness.[109] In his main work on the law of accumulation and crash of the capitalist system, Grossmann writes: "The great meaning of Marx's work consists precisely in the fact that he is able to explain all the phenomena of the capitalist mode of production starting from the law of value "[110] the "Marxian theory of the crash is… a necessary presupposition for the understanding of the Marxian theory of the crisis, and it is intimately connected to it. The solution to both problems is provided by the Marxian law of accumulation which constitutes the key idea of Capital and is in turn based on the law of value."[111] The "return to Marx" begun by Luxemburg was based here on a more solid methodological foundation which allowed the general theory of the crisis to avoid the dangers implicit in a revision. Grossmann's two fundamental contributions were: the direct connection of the theory of the crisis to the theory of accumulation and the theory of value, and the definition of the process of categorical abstraction as the "method of isolation." The economic ("objective") exposition of the tendency to the crash was not presented as a pure and simple "reflection" of the real movement, but its abstract representation as the apprehension of successive approximations, [112] on the level of categorical development, of the self-contradictory character of the system.
The dialectical character of Grossmann's method of exposition had been vigorously defended by Paul Mattick in a polemic with Pannekoek concerning the "theory of the crash" and revolutionary subjectivity, carried out in RateCorrespondenz - the theoretical organ of the "council communists." In a nutshell, Pannekoek had essentially advanced two criticisms against Grossmann: an alleged attempt to deduce the end of capitalism "from a purely economic viewpoint" thus conceiving the crash "independently of human intervention" [113] and a reduction of the class struggle to an "economistic contest. In his clear anti-critique, Mattick pointed out how Pannekoek failed to catch the dialectical character of Grossmann's procedure, precisely because he was himself bound to a restricted (bourgeois) concept of economics. The dialectic inherent in the method of the Marxian critique of political economy does not consist in a simplistic application of the criterion of the "synthesis of opposites" but, rather, in the abstractive isolation of fundamental moments able to define the law of movement of capitalist society. As Mattick noted: "Even for Grossmann there are no 'purely economic' problems; yet this did not prevent him, in his analysis of the law of accumulation, to restrict himself for methodological reasons to the definition of purely economic presuppositions and of thus coming to theoretically apprehend an objective limiting point of the system. The theoretical cognition that the capitalist system must, because of its internal contradictions, necessarily run up against the crash does not at all entail that the real crash is an automatic process, independent of men."[114] The unitary context defined by the interaction of production and reproduction, economy and politics, thus appeared as the unavoidable objective basis of all discussions or projects of revolutionary organization, in addition to being the key to ongoing major processes of capitalist transformation.
These last flashes of the theoretical debate in Weimar Germany became significant after the collapse of the German Republic and were actually already projected into a meta-European dimension. They were no longer aimed and, in some sense, functionalized to the movement's organizational problems, but rather confronted the Leviathan-like structures of the American New Deal and of the authoritarian Fascist state. This is the cornerstone of the analyses carried out, in addition to the groups of intellectuals associated with the now famous Institut fur Sozialforschung by the Marxist journal International Marxist Correspondence (subsequently called Living Marxism and then New Essays), which under Paul Mattick's direction, coordinated the political work and research of many militants and theoreticians of both the American and European left (including Korsch, Ruhle, and Pannekock).[115] The "objcctivism" of the analyses which, after the defeat of the revolution in Europe, were carried out-with more or less conscious methodological relativization - from then on is for us today all the more precious since it was the expression of the recoil, within the very categorical and analytical framework of the theory, of that same oscillation and ambivalence which had brought the labor movement to self-castration even before 1933.
Between the emphasis on the tactical and organizational moment during the movement's offensive phase, and the scientific and theoretical moment (analysis of capitalist development and location of tendencies) following the defeat, there is no live-wire: the relation that was established was not one of unity and continuity but, rather, of reversal. Yet, the connection was there and remained the same even if further distorted and complicated by the corporative ("massified") character of the authoritarian Fascist state: the relation between class struggle and institutions, "councils," and "State." The catastrophe of the German labor movement had dramatically posed the problem of the reconversion of theory and movement, leaving it to succeeding generations more as a spectre - the tragic counter-figure of October than as a specific historical need to be met with specific political (and theoretical) answers. It is not accidental that only today the labor movement has begun to understand this connection, confronted with the gigantic structural transformations of the economy following the 1929 crisis, and has come to assume the specific form of the problem of combining the critique of political economy, the theory of the crisis, and the theory of "constitution" (of class consciousness and organization). In focusing their attention on the first two elements of the connection, Grossmann and Mattick had consciously isolated the objective aspect of the economic analysis as an abstract analysis (thus, not as a mere empirical description of the real movement) leaving aside, as a simple corollary, the theoretical problem of class consciousness and organization. If this is to be seen as the historical and political limit of their efforts, it is also illusory to believe that the solution of that problem allows easy short-cuts which can be taken, thus avoiding going through the "icy desert of abstraction."
If theory, methodologically self-grounded and conscious of its own "separateness," is sterile if it does not transfer into the materiality of politics and in the practice of class organization, praxis is altogether counterproductive for the revolutionary cause unless it is "conceptualized" by the theory. The unity of the relation (scientific and analytic, and not blindly activistic and doctrinaire) of theory and praxis ceases to be a general begging of the question and appears in its urgent historical and morphological specificity when confronted by the threatening progression of the crisis. Mattick's reintroduction of the Luxemburgian alternative of "socialism or barbarism "[116] in addition to expression the catastrophic nature of the class conflict, translates for us today into a series of theoretical and political problems (and tasks) that move from a general reconsideration of the critique of political economy (for an updating of the analysis of capitalist development)[117] to a location of organizational forms conforming to the complexity of the real interaction of economy and politics, class struggle and institutions, and the historical and subjective level of the mass movement, which can be synthesized in the expression: the scientific grounding of politics.
The tragic parabola of the German revolution is an example-still extremely relevant for us-of how the pragmatic reification of the question of organization generates in the class movement a paralyzing fracture which inevitably leads it to become subjugated to capitalist initiative and defeat.
Telos No. 28, Summer 1976

Notes

1. SPD - Parteitag zu Weimar,Juni 1919 Disksssionsprotokoll, p.363,' the passage ' also cited by Arthur Rosenberg, Storia della Repubblica di Weimar (Florence, 1972), p.94 (It. added). For a general account, see Illustrierte Geschicte der deutschen Revolution ,Berlin, 1929)
2. not available
3. On the relation between social democracy, unions, and the Bismarckian State, cf. Gunther Roth. I Socialdemocratici nella Germania di Weimar (Bologna, 1971); and William Harbuit Dawson, Bismarck and State Socialism (London, 1890)
4. The "Stinnes-Legien Agreement," ratified by the November Convention, established that all the mobilized workers had the right to return to their old workplace; furthermore, for the first time, German employers recognized the right to a collective labor contract for enterprises with more than 50 workers. In addition to the introduction of an eight-hour workday, there were also provisions for the constitution of "arbitration committees" and "conciliation councils" with equal representation of blue collar workers, clerks, and employers for mediating all contractual matters and labor conflicts in the spirit of the Arbeittgemeinschaft. On this, see Wolfgang Abendroth, Die deutschen Gewerkschaften, Ihre Geschichte und politische Funktion (Heidelberg, 1955), pp. 22-24; and G. Giaccaro, Storia del Movimento Sindicals Europso (Florence, 1940), pp.259-260.
5. On the union project of parallel control of the economy and of the councils, see von Oertzen, op.cit, pp. 153-196; and Walter Tormin, Zwischen Ratedihiatur und sozialer
Demokratie. Die Geschichte der Ratebewegung in der deutschen Revolution 1918-1919 (Dusseldorf, 1954). 6. Cf. Paul Levi's' important observations in "Die politische Lage in Deutschland," in Die kommunistische Internationale, 14 (November, 1920), pp. 114-125.
7. In the December 31,1918, speech concerning the program at the founding Congress of the German Communist party (The Spartacus League) ), Luxemburg pointed out collapse of August 4, German social-democracy adhered to the Erfurt Program in which the so-called immediate minimal tasks were in the forefront, and socialism was allowed to spark only as a far-away falling star, as an ultimate goal" (Rede zum Programm gehalten auf grundungs parteitag der kornmunistischen Partei Deutschlands [Spartakusbund] am 29-31 December [Berlin. 1918]). Up to the Junius pamphlet January, 1916), the Spartacist Left accused social democracy of having betrayed the Erfurt program. Only in the Rede zum Programm did Luxemburg reject as completely obsolete thellsocial-democratic project. For the appropriate documentation, see Hermann Weber ed,Der Grundungs partietag der KPD protokoll und Materialien (Frankfurt am Main and Vienna, 1969).
8. The Socialization Commission resigned February 3, 1919, after the government had rejected the proposal to socialize the mines (1anuary 15.1919). Although it withdrew the resignation on request of the minister R. Wissel, it actually did not propose any more concrete ration proposals, but only research projects.,,Cf, Ritter-Miller, op.c:1., pp+ 282-301.
9. A late example of this "internationalist, tendency is Ernest Mandel's anthology Controls Ouvrier, Conseils Ouvriers, Autogestion (Paris, 1970).
10. On Hugo Preuss and the Weimar Constitution, see Erich Eyck, A History of the Weimar Republic, Vol.1 (Cambridge, 1962), pp. 64-79, Cf. also W, Ziegler, Die deutsche National Versammlung 1918-1920 und ihr Verfassungswerk (Berlin, 1932).
11. Article 165 of the Weimar Constitution.
12. In agreement with General Lequis, a regiment guided by Captain Spiro was to arrest the executive committee of the councils of greater Berlin and the peoples' commissars supporting the USPD (Hasse, Dittman, and Barth) and elect Ebert as President of the Republic. CL AJ. Ryder, The German Revolution of 1918 (Cambridge, 1967), pp. 188-193.
13. On the relations between the military and some social-democratic leaders, cf. Wolfgang Elben, Das Problem der Kontinuitat in der deutschen Revolution. Die Politik der Staatssekretare und der militarischen Fuhrung vom November 1918 bis Februar 1919 (Dusseldorf, 1965): and Gerbard Ritter, The Sword and the Scepter: The Problem of Militarism in Germany, Vol.2(Coral Gables, 1969-1973). pp. 7ff
14. Legien, the president of the union, had made an agreement with the minister of interior for banning strikes during the war. On this, see Wolfgang Abendroth, Dis deutschen Gewerkschaften, op.cit., p.19.
15. Actually. rather than stepping aside from political life, the Army chose to keep the Weimar Constitution's institutional framework with the aim of hegemonizing the more intransigent sectors of the nationalist right Judiciary, bureaucracy and the press). Big capital is absent from this "nationalist bloc" for all the first half of the 1920s. Instead, it seeks an "alternative use" of the social-democratic Arbeitsgemeinschaft. During this period the nationalist satire against "capitalist sharks" as war profiteers and traitors of the German people is not very different from that of Grosz' caricatures. Cf. Ernst Nolte, Die krise des liberalen Systems und die faschistischen Bewegungen (Munich, 1968).
16. Erzberger had sued Helfferich, a deputy of the German Nationalists, for "continued and aggravated calumny." Helfferich then accused Erzberger of treason for having signed the armistice, and incompetence. On May 12, the court for all practical purposes sided with the nationalist deputy, although it did assess him a token fine.
17. For example. Massimo Cacciari, in the introduction to an anthology of writings by the young Lukacs, Kommunismus 1920-1921 (Padua, 1972), in order to show the ideological "backwardness" of the council movement with respect to corresponding levels of class composition, too enthusiastically accepts capital's ideology. Germany's portion of world industrial production in 1913 had fallen to 15% with respect to 17% in 1900, notwithstanding the very great increase in military contracts. Cf. Charles Bettelheim, L'Economie Allemands soles le Nazisms. Un Aspect de la Decadence du Capitalisme (Paris, 1971). pp. 16-34. Heinz Wolfgang Arndt, The Economic Lessons of the 1930s: A Report (New York, 1965), pp.25-SO. The defeat recalls the whole pre-war productive framework and, naturally, also class composition, into question. But, contrary to what is usually believed, the leading industries in the immediate post-war period are not those that have introduced substantial innovations in the productive process and into the composition of the class, but rather, precisely the technologically more backward ones.
18. Stinnes' empire would collapse in 1924 following Schacht's ruthless deflationary policy. Unable to deal with inflation, in the years 1920-1923 German capital was carried away by the flux.
19. For an analysis of war credits as the determining cause of inflation in Germany, see John M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (New York, 1920), pp. 187-208; and Joseph A. Schumpeter. Business Cycles (New York, 1939), Vol.11, p.719.
20. Cf. Sergio Bologna, "Class Composition and the Theory of the Party at the Origin of the Workers' Councils Movement," Telos, 13 (FaIl, 1972), pp. 3-27.
21. It may be proper to ask whether this thesis of "professionalism" in Cacciari is not a new reformulation of the old thesis of "labor aristocracy." This is, in fact, the expression used by Perulli in a criticism of the "council ideology" altogether similar to Cacciari's. Cf Paolo Pezulli, "Note sui Delegati," Contropiano. 2 (1970), p- 366.
22. Wissel, who was the stoutest defender of the parallelism rationalization-socialization, was also a victim of this illusion. This is how Rosenberg summarized his "singular monetary theory": "Wissel stressed that he was not disposed toward a socialization whereby 'today I give the entrepreneur a means of payment whose low value, as we hope, in three, five, or ten years will be doubled or tripled.' Thus, he really believed that the devaluation of the Mark was merely a transitory matter and that in the space of a few years the paper Mark would gain parity with the gold Mark, So little did he understand the German economic situation after the last war." Cf Storia della Repubblica di Weimar, op.cit., pp. 35-36.
23. The situation is different in the Soviet Union, where the debate concerning accumulation and industrialization presents moments of original departures in the critique of political economy. Cf. N. Bucharin, E. Preobashenski, LAccumulazione Socialista, ed. by Lisa Foa (Rome, 1969). Cf. also Rita Di Leo, Operai e Sistema Sovietico (Rome, 1970).
24. Cf. von Oertzen, op.cit.; Torwin, op.cit.
25. Cf. Umberto Cerroni, Teoria Politico e Socialismo (Rome, 1973), pp. 75ffl
26. Norbert Leser, Zwischcn Reformismus und Bolshevismus. Der Austromarxismus, als Theorie und Praxis (Vienna, 1968), pp.511-559.
27. Karl Korsch, "What Is Socialization?" in New German Critique. 6 (Fall. 1975), pp.
60-81. On this topic. see the works of Gian Enrico Rusconi: "Karl Korsch, e la Strategia Consigliare-Sindicale," in Problemi del Socialismo, XV (1uly-August, 1969), pp. 767-777; "La Problematica del Consigli in Karl Korsch," Annatireltrinell'; XV (Milan, 1974), pp.1197-1230 (part of this artic]e has been translated into English as "Introduction to 'What is Socialization?' in New German Critique, 6 [Fall, 1975], pp. 48-59), and "Korsch's Political Development," Telos, 27 (Spring, 1976), pp. 61-78.
28. Korsch, "What Is Socialization?" op.cit., p. 75.
29. This reduction indicates an even more serious shortcoming if one considers the role that the state was destined to play after the 1929 crisis.
30. Korsch, "What Is Socialization?" op.cit., p. 70.
31. On this, see Rudolf zur Lippe. "Objektiver Faktor Subjektivitat" in Kursbuch, 35 (April, 1974), pp. 1-35. For Korsch's intellectual formation, see Michael Buckmiller, "Marxismus ala Realitat. Zur Rekonstruktion der theoretischen und politischen Entwicklung Karl Korsch," in Jahrbuch Arbeiterbewegung, Vol.1, ed. Claudio Pozzoli (Frankfurt am Main, 1973), pp.15-85. For a criticism of Korsch's positions, see Oskar Negt, "Theory, Empiricism and Class Struggle: On the Problem of Constitution in Korsch," Telos, 26 (Winter, 1975-76), pp. 120-142.
32. Cf. Max Adler, "Wladimir Ilyitsch Lenin," in Der Kampf' XVII (1924), pp.81-89 and, later, the discussion with T. Dan over the Soviet Union. "Zur Diskussion ober Sowjetrussland," in Der Kampf XXV (1932), pp. 215-224 and 301-311. Cf. also his pamphlet Linkssozialismu,t. Notwendge Betrachtungen uber Reformismus und revolutiondren Sozialismus (Karlsbad. Now reprinted in Austromarxismus, ed. Hans-Jorgen Sandkohler and Rafael de la Vega (Frankfurt am Main and Vienna, 1970), pp. 206-260.
33, Max Adler, Demokratie und Ratesystem (Vienna, 1919), p. 76.
34. Ibid. p. 85.
35. Ibid. p. 91. On this, see Cerroni, op. cit., pp. 80-83.
36. As we have seen, unlike other contemporary theoreticians, Adler is aware of the latent risks of the council system if the terms of its political outcome are not defined. Thus, it cannot be said that the blind alleys in which he runs are the natural result of a naive or altogether idealistic conception Of organizations. These blind alleys, which should be analyzed in the context of Adler's philosophical discourse, have meta-theoretical roots which limit and condition the use of certain categories. The fact that a theoretical-practical oscillation remains, which is evident in the use of the concepts of politics and organization. must be related to a more or less conscious influence of Lassalles organizational model which is juxtaposed to the "rational kernel" constituted by the need for a materialist deduction of forms of consciousness and by the introduction of the theme of subjectivity. The concept of class self-activity consequently tends to become frozen into an abstract postulate and, symmetrically. politics evaporates into the mere ethical-transcendental dimension (proletarian universalism, humanism, etc.).
37. On the relation between the constitutive process of class consciousness and of experience. see the historical and sociological analysis by Michael Vester, Die Entstehung des Proletariots als Lernprozess. Zur Soziologie und Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung (Frankfurt am Main, 1970). On the same theme, see Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Oeffentlichkeit und Erfahrung. Zur Organisationsanalyse von burgerlicher und proletariascher Oeffentlichkeit (Frankfurt am Main, 1972).
38. Max Adler, Dis Staatsauffassung des Marxismus (Vienna. 1922), pp. 29ff. For Adler, base and superstructure-that scholastic and schematic Marxism has held rigidly distinct-are actually united "in the same identical character and more precisely in a spiritual character Ibid. p.88. On Adler's concept of the state see H Sultan Geselleschaft und Staat bei Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels Jena. 1922). pp. 100ff
39. Cacciari, op.cit., p. 38. Cacciari refers to Kurt Eisners work on Kant (1904) now reprinted in Die Halbe macht den Raten (Cologne 1969) On the problem of neo Kantianism in the middle-European labor movement, see Aldo Zanardo Aspetti del Soctalismo Neo Kantiano in Germania," in Filosofia 5 Socialismo (Rome 1974)
40. Cacciari, op. cit, pp.38-39: "Besides leading to social-democratic empiricism Marx also leads back to the Kantian transcendent project. The idealistic myth of social democracy as a 'tactic' arises from this context, even if it will become 'official' only within the left-wing of the Third International, But this is also the source of Marxism as the 'cultural tradition' - als Philosophie - Marxism as ethical norm meant to regain the Kantian and Enlightenment ratio in order to realize it on the historical plane: i.e., Marxism as historicism, Individualitat which was still formal in Kant (and in liberal ideology) becomes Humanitat in Marx and in the socialist idea. Socialism is the community of subject-the redemption of the great utopia of 'classical German philosophy' from its bourgeois interpretation. The first act of this Humanitatsideal, the first subject of its historical course is the working class. Socialism speaks only the language of the totality of its goal. This concept of totality-of Marxism as ideology of the totality against specialization and bureaucratization of the bourgeois sciences, against social-democratic 'politics' will become increasingly more central in the elaboration of left-communism up to the Lukacs of History and Class Consciousness where it finds definitive systematization.
41. An excellent account of this is to be found in 0. Jensen, "Von der Revolte zur Massenorganisation," in Die Organisation in Klassenhampf Die Pro blame der politischen der Arbeiterkiasse (Berlin and Britz, 1931), pp. 9-30.
42. This trivial and sterile interpretation is recycled in the "Introduction" by Sandkuhler and de Ia Vega to Ausstromarxismus, op.cit.
43. CL Hermann Weber, Die Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus. Die Stalinisicrung der KPD in der Weimarer Republik (Frankfurt am Main, 1969). See also Otto Flechtheim, Die KPD hi der Weimarer Republik (Frankfurt am Main, 1969), pp. 248ff,' and, edited with comments by Hermann Weber, Der deutsche Kommunismus. Dokumente 1915-1915 (Cologne, 1963).
44. See Manfredo Tafuri, "Austromarxismo e Citta. 'Das Rote Wien'," in Contropiano, 2 (1971). pp. 261-264. 45. On Lukacs, see Peter Ludz's introduction to Schaftcn zur Ideologie und Politik (Darmstadt and Neuwied, 1973) especially pp. xxiff (on the relation between neo-Kantianism and syndicalism in the young Lukacs' conception of political ethics), in addition to Rudi Dutschke, Versuch, Lenin auf die Fusse zu Stelern (Berlin, 1974), pp. 144-153, and 240-246.
46. Cf. Ritter and Miller, op.cit., pp. 282-302.
47. This is the basis for the council theorists' project of "revolutionizing" the union structure.
48. E. Daumig, "Die Ratesyatem" (speech delivered to the USPD Congress, March 4,1919), in Theorie und Praxis der Arbeiterrate (Berlin, 1969). p. 22.
49. Ibid., pp.21-24: "We must involve in the council system all the discontent of the masses against the parliamentary system. . . If the Weimar authorities intend to grant themselves a life-long appointment, let them do it. In fact, in so doing they serve our cause very well. Kautsky claims that the councils have their justification only during the transition period and that is all.But doesn't Kautsky himself claim that the revolution is a long process of transition?"
50. Ibid., p.26: "I am not adamant about the expression 'council system'; it is the only means to move closer as rapidly as possible to socialism and, furthermore, also for realizing it fully and conserving it."
51. Ibid., p. 21.
52. Ibid., p.26.
53. This is how E. Ludwig had defined it in the KPD Congress of April, 1920.
54. R. Muller, "Das Ratesyatem in Deutschland," Theorie und Praxis der Arbeiterrate, op.dt., p. 10.
55. The question of "Proudhonism" and "productivism" in the council strategy had been strongly debated even in Italy in the columns of Ordine Nuovo. Cf the polemic between Gramsci and Tasca in Ordine Nuovo,June 5, 1920, p. 26; June12. 1920, pp. 39-40;June 19, 1920, pp.47-48, July8 1920 pp.63-64
56. Muller, op.cit., p. 10.
57. Ibid., p. 5: "When, in July 1916, 55,000 Berlin workers suddenly went on strike, not in order to better their economic position, but for political reasons, bourgeois society, and even more, the leaders of social democracy and of unions, were absolutely unable to understand this unheard of state of affairs which completely overturned the experiences of the labor movement.Here arose the first attempts for a third Organization, that of workers' councils, The large factories constituted the nerve of the movement. This brief exposition of their development shows us that the council idea is not a specifically Russian phenomenon and that rather it has bees articulated as a new Organizational form of the working class from the very development of economic and political relations,"
58. E. Ludwig, "Die Entwicklung der Arbeiterrate," speech delivered to the IV KPD Congress April 14-15, 1920, in Die Itternalionale, 11:23 June 1, 1920), pp. 38-60,
59. Ibid.
60. Ibid. "The debate around the councils has engaged at the same time both mystic-romantics and nit-picking scholastics; their fortunes have coincided with the period of decadence of those very councils. Daumig's and Muller's revolutionary factory Organizations are typical examples of council scholasticism and, furthermore, are grounded upon too restricted a base. If they are able to have some economic import, they altogether fail at the political level. Muller seeks to transform unions from craft associations into associations based on different branches of industry: this does not at all mean revolutionizing the unions. The true revolutionizing consists in their shifting from the ideology of labor community to that of class struggle."
61. Ibid. "The councils do not exclude the parties and the union; rather, they (and not parliament) are the ideal locus within which the discussion concerning parties must unfold. The moment in which the majority in favor of 'council dictatorship' will be gained in them, the councils will change from struggling organs into organs of power of the proletarian state."
62. In February of 1921, the 51 members of the Executive Committee, with a majority of 28 to 23, eliminated from the central committee Levi, Zetkin, Daumig, Hoffman, and Brass. They were substituted with Brandler, Thalheimer, Frolich and Stoecker.
63. Paul Levi, "Die politische Lagein Deutschland,"op.cit., pp.118-119: "In March 1919 it was Noske who... filled houses of correction, prisons and military fortresses as no military dog had ever dared."
64. Ibid., p.116: "What came out of the November Revolution was not at all a bourgeois republic... Even the bourgeois republic is impossible without the certainty of victory, without the full power and the will to hegemony of the rising class;" p.117: "Erzberger, Scheidemann and others are old acquaintances, serfs, and shoe-shiners of the old masters; parliament has not succeeded in transforming these shoe-shiners into true statesmen."
65. "In the same way that the profoundly German tradition of the Machtstaat has turned out to be the most fragile among all political institutions of modern capital, the bite noir of reactionary Junkers turns out to be the road most open to the development of a certain type of democratic labor movement. Without Bismarck there may never have been German social democracy in its classical form." Mario Tronti, "Workers and Capital," Telos, 14 (Winter, 1972), p.31. What is relevant here is not so much the fact that the structure and the organizational model of the Prussian military state had a direct influence even upon the apparatus of the socialdemocratic party. but that the latter shared with other political parties the general depoliticization and authoritarian technization toward which they were pushed by the semi-absolutist" Bismarckian state since it kept them away from every specifically political question and all governmental responsibilities. This is why there was a bureaucratic technicism and economism which vitiated, to the point of bastardization, the socialdemocratic concept of "politics": "If in their practical politics, the social democrats limited themselves essentially to the representation of interests, this corresponded to the general tendency of the German empire toward the 'economicization' of parties." Erich Matthias, "Kautsky und der Kautskyanismus. Die Funktion der Ideologie in der deutschen Sozialdemokratie vor dem ersten Weltkrieg." in Marxismusstudien. second series (Tubingen, 1957), p. 197. What this shows is how well economism goes with a general and abstract concept of politics.
66. Levi, op.cit., pp. 119-120.
67. Ibid., p. 117.
68. Keynes. op.dt., pp. 113-225.
69. Levi, op. cit., p. 122: "Some comrades, noticing that the great masses of the proletariat were very backward with respect to the movement, did all they could, even the impossible, to explain this phenomenon whose true causes they failed to grasp."
70. Ibid., p.120.
71. Ibid., p. 123.
72. On January 7, 1921, the center of the KPD sent an open letter to all labor organizations (SPD, USPD, KAPD and the unions), which outlined some objectives requiring common action. On the Communist International's policy of the open letter, see M. Hajek, Storia dell'Internazionale Comunista (1921-1935) (Rome, 1972), pp. 10-18.
73. The dissention arose from the Livorno split of 1921. Levi was against throwing Serrati out of the Third International-so much so that Radek defined him as the "German Serrati."
74. Hajek, op.cit., pp. 14-15.
75. Cf. Hans Manfred Bock, Syndikalismus und Linkskommunismus von 1918-1923 (Meisenheim am Clan, 1969), pp.295-308.
76. Rajek, op.cit., pp. 12-18.
77. The zone was militarily re-occupied March 28, 1921. There were about 40 deaths and thousands of arrests. Cf. E. Rutigliano, Linkskommunismus e Rivoluzione in Occidente (Ban, 1974), pp.48-53.
78. When they heard 'shooting, the workers did not know whether it was the Army or Max Holz's gang-with whom, anyway, relations were not very good.To avoid equivocation, they remained themselves in the factories. See Bock, op-cit., pp.308-318.
79. Georg Lukacs, in "Opportunism and Putschism," Political Writings, 1919-1929 (London. 1972), p.72. characterizes putschism as the tendency to "overrate the importance of organization."
80. Paul Levi, "Unser Weg. Wider den Putchismus," in Zwischen Spartakus und Sozialdcrnokratie (Frankfurt am Main, 1969), pp. 44-94.
81. Cf. Eyck, op-cit., p.250.
82. Levi, "Unser Weg..." op.cit., pp. 51-52.
83. This is what happened, as is shown by Paul Levi's tragic end, who killed himself in 1930 when the rise of National Socialism seemed inevitable.
84. In 1850, Proudhon wrote to his friend Darimon: "The moment has come to show the bourgeoisie what there is for it in socialist ideas. Socialism from the bourgeois viewpoint: this is what must be done at this point." Cf. Umberto Cerroni's introduction to P.J Proudhon, Che Cos'e la Proprieta? (Ban. 1967), p. xvi ' 1959
85. Karl Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Oekonomte (Berlin. ). p. 65
86. On the relation between Keynes' and Proudhon's conception, see Dudley Dillard, "Keynes and Proudhon." Journal of Economic History (May, 1942).
87. Ludwig's form anticipated the resolutions of the II Congress of the Communist Internationalal concerning the union movement and the factory committees) CL II Congress del l'Internazionale Comunista (Rome, 1970), pp. 51-63.
88. Thus, in his Arbeitsrecht fur Betriebsrate (3922) (Frankfurt am Main and Vienna. 1968), p. 32, Karl Korsch wrote: "At the end of the fourth chapter of the first volume of Capital, Marx has masterfully described the change in scene that takes place in front of our own eyes when from the context of 'economic traffic' (in Marxist terms: 'from the sphere of simple circulation or of the exchange of commodities') we pass to the shop, to the factory or into the other enterprises within which must ultimately take place real 'production' or the creation of commodities: here the relations among the participants are no longer in any way regulated according to the idea of freedom, equality, justice and have instead a completely different aspect."
89. Ibid., pp. 95-97: "[in Wilhelminian Germany] the reactionary entrepreneur was disposed to deal with 'his' labor committee, while he drastically refused dealing with the union leader from 'outside of the enterprise'... Thus, until we move away from the particular meaning that the direct forms of the right to labor co-participation assume from the viewpoint of the immediate revolutionary process, up to that moment we must recognize as fully justified the unions' efforts to rigidly subsume the 'factory councils' as simple 'auxiliary organs' of the union struggle... Only when one thinks about the particular meaning of the councils as control organs over production in a decisive phase of struggles for power between the capitalist and the proletarian class, and sees them as responsible centers of the future socialized economy, will this way of seeing things be overturned."
90. ibid., p.97.
91. Korsch, Arbeitsracht …op. cit., p.39: "The struggles between the bourgeois and the proletarian class now only apparently have as their object state control (and control of the remaining higher spheres of social life); in substance they have as their object the control of the economy, i.e., the organization of labor."
92. Brandler's leadership was strongly resisted by the left opposition in the party, composed of Thallmann, Fischer and Maslow. Cf. Hajek, op. cit., pp.65-73.
93. Rosenberg writes that: "In the history of modern Germany there has never been a moment so appropriate for a socialist revolution as in the summer of 1923. In the vortex of the devaluation all traditional notions of order, property and legality disappeared, and no one could blame socialists or republicans for the terrible situation which had developed after the Ruhr occupation… Not only did the working class, on the whole, feel ever more clearly that this state of affairs was intolerable and that the whole system would have ended up in terror, but even the middle class, robbed by inflation, was pervaded with revolutionary ferment and desired to settled accounts with capitalist profiteers. Civil servants, including the police which were also victims of inflation, would have hardly exerted much energy in case of a popular movement with truly decisive import against the existing system - and it is highly dubious that the Reichswehr soldiers would have fired on their hungry proletarian comrades in defense of speculators." Rosenberg, op.cit. pp. 143-144,
94. According to Rosenberg: "In the course of 1923 the SPD's strength continually diminished and the party went through a crisis reminiscent of the 1919 one... The masses moved so sharply toward the Communist Party that, while at the end of 1922 the new USPD still attracted the great majority of German workers, during the following semester the relation had become completely inverted and by the summer of 1923 the KPD undoubtedly had the support of the majority of the German proletariat." Ibid., p. 145.
95. Cuno's right-center government was followed by Stresemann's, supported by the social democrats. Cf. Rosenberg, ibid., pp. 148fL
96. This seemed also validated from the other side of the class perspective by Dr. Schacht's hypocritical observation: "in the fall of 1923 the unchecked devaluation of money was at such a point that the whole German social structure threatened to collapse. Desperation had gotten the better of the workers' wives. In vain they attempted, in their shopping, to stay in step with the devaluation of the Mark. The money that the men made through labor disappeared in the hands of the housewives even after the pay was adjusted day by day. It was in these conditions that I was called to put a stop to the devaluation and stabilize money. I did not decline the invitation. I gave up a profitable profession and a secure position." CL Hialmar Schacht, Account Settled (London, 1949).
97. Marx, Grundrisse, op-cit., p.132. Here we must avoid the seduction exercised by the apparent immediacy of the money-form, i.e., we must avoid a political revolutionary emphasis concerning the relation money-crisis, which would lead to the illusion of a possible subversive overcoming through the over-expansion of the wage form. Rather, the monetary morphology is to he related to the general problematic of fetishism-of the domination of the form over the social relations of production-which introduces, in a necessarily mediated way, the theme of politics. On the other hand, in the very same page, Marx writes: "in money (exchange value) the individual's objectification is not his as posed in its natural determination, but his as posed in a social determination (relation), which is already intrinsic to him."
98. On the Hamburg insurrection, see A. Neuberg, Armed Insurrection (London, 1970), pp.81-104.
99. Only after 1924 is capital able to carry out major transformations in class composition. Cf. Arndt, op. cit., pp.32-38.
100. CL Olaf llslau, Die rote Kampfer. Em Beitrag zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik tend im Dritten Reich (Meisenheim am Clan, 1969), pp. 85ffl
101. "With the abandonment of gold currency, a new currency system was gradually formed in Germany, whose essence was designated by the Fuhrer-in an important speech-as labor Currency… The simple and readily accessible principle of labor-currency is: money is covered by national production. I can only make as much money as I can produce. But labor-currency needs stability as much as does gold currency. It is based on order in the national economy… Evidently, the equilibrium between credit and production, money and commodities, is not the elementary principle of labor-currency." See J. Winschuh, Costruzione della Nuova Europa (Florence. 1941). pp.55-63. But the principle of the Nazi labor-currency was even simpler than Winsehuh indicated. May 2,1933, the "free unions" adhering to the ADOB were dissolved. May 5. Ley, the head of the Labor Front, could announce to the Fuhrer that the National Socialist movement exercised full control over all the labor-power in the Reich. On the working class under Nazism, see K.H. Roth, Die "andere" Arbeiterbewegung (Munich, 1974), pp. 101-156.
102. 1922 records the lowest unemployment of the post-war period. In 1923, unemployment rises primarily because of the "passive resistance" carried out in the Ruhr against the occupation troops of the French. Cf. C. Albrecht, Worterbuch der Volkswissenschaft, Vol.1 (Jena, 1931), pp.171-181. Only after 1924 did the progressive expulsion of the workers from the restructured factories begin. Up to 1923, German capital could only intensify the exploitation of labor through a more "rational" use of Taylorism. But Taylorism can only reduce the workers' professionalism-not eliminate it. On the relation between labor councils and Taylorism, see C. Petri, "II sistema Taylor e i Consigli dei produttori," in Ordine Nuovo (October 25, 1919). p.178.
103. Schacht, dp.cit., p. 7. 104. On the successive investments of American capital in Germany after the institution of the Dawes Plan (April, 1924), see Sidney Brooks, America and Germany 1918-1925 (New York, 1925).
105. Rosenberg. op.cit.. p 211.
106. Cf. These essays collected in the anthology Teoria e Prassi dell'Economia di Piano, ed. ,Giacomo Marramao (Ban, 1973).
107. This superficial and hurried position is defended by Sergio Bologna in his introduction to N. Moszkowski, Per la Critica delle Teorie Moderne delle Crisi (Turin. 1974). p. V.
108. Cf. Giacomo Marramao, "Political Economy and Critical Theory," Telos, 24
109 not available
110 not available
111 not available
112. not available
114. Paul Mattick, "Zur Marxschen Akkumulation- und Zusammenbruchstheorie," in Ratekorrespondenz: 4 (1934), now in Korsch, Mattick, Pannekoek, op.cit-, pp.47-48.
115. On this subject, see Gabriella M. Bonacchi, "Teoria Marxista e Crisi: l Communisti dei Consigli tra New Deal e Fascismo". 116. Ct. Paul Mattick, Marx e Keynes (Bari, 1972). P.433- Cf also Michael Lowy, "Il Significato Metodologico della Parola d'Ordine 'Socialismo ou Barbarie'," in Problemi del Socialismo, XIII:1 (January-February. 1961), pp.95-104.
117. An important contribution in this direction is F. Cassano, "Note d'Analisi sullo sviluppo capitalistico," in Critica Marxista, XI: 6 (November-December. 1973). One of the primary tasks of those who do not want to turn this reconsideration of the critique of political economy into a mere philological exercise is, according to Cassano, "to attempt to overcome a relation between theory and class struggle which risks not only offering a limited image of the political meaning of Marx's work, but also ends up by outlining the role of theory in a mutilated and subaltern way according to a relation more reminiscent of speculative reflection than... anticipation with regard to the concrete unfolding of the class struggle and its needs." Ibid., p.21.
Taken from Class Against Class