A manifesto written and presented in Spring 1981 by For the Workers' Opposition, a small group of anarchists and council communists from Chicago, IL inspired by the German/Dutch communist left.
Left Communism is based on the historical sources of revolutionary theory. Its theory is derived from the libertarian writings of Marx, Engels, Morris, Kropotkin, Luxemborg, Kollontai, Pannekoek and the council communist groups of the 20’s and 30’s. The practice of Left Communism is derived from the efforts of the Communards of Paris 1871, the Russian workers 1905-17, the German & Italian councilists 1918-20, the Spanish Collectivists of 1936, and the continuing efforts of workers in the State Capitalist nations to liberate themselves.
Left Communism is the revolutionary synthesis of the libertarian elements of the various social movements of the old labor movement. Left Communists recognize that the communist movement did not originate with Marx, and did not end with Marx. He was just one piece of the whole communist movement. We are not worshippers of dead theorists as to do so is to be sectarian. Sectarianism is not politics, its religion, and the burying ground of potential revolutionaries.
Communist society is by concept a classless one in which there are neither rulers nor rules. No government, no police, no prisons nor armies. Alienation and wage-labor would no longer exist. Industrial and urban centralization would be reversed to form a decentralized economy. The distinction between the city and the countryside would no longer exist. Population and the means of production would be rationally dispersed across the earth. The whole of communist society would be based upon the principle: from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.
Left Communists are not vulgar determinists (neither historical or economic). Though we can be assured that present capitalist societies will eventually be replaced by another, capitalism’s replacement does not have to be a communist one. Marx and Engels recognized this when they asked the question: “Socialism or Barbarianism?” It is up to us to decide our own fates; to choose between communism and barbarianism.
Amongst those who advocate communism today are those who insist that nationalization of industry, land and services are the basis of communism. Yet with the globe covered with nations that have nationalized all or a part of their economies without creating communism, one would expect them to wise up. It could be suggested that they really do not want to acknowledge the fact that nationalization creates State-Capitalism for mere personal motives. For they aspire to be the leaders of a State-Capitalist revolution; they aspire to become the new state bourgeoisie.
The very act of nationalization implies state control over all that is being nationalized. Nationalization means the extension of the state instead of the communist principle of the withering away of the state under communism. An expanding state is the very anti-thesis to a state that should be withering away.
Since the state and not the working class would control the means of production, the working class would still be alienated and would still remain commodities. State appointed managers would use the same methods that the capitalists used to extract surplus-value. Nationalization is the basis for State-Capitalism, which is the highest form of capitalism. Workers’ control through their councils is the only real means towards communism.
Trade unions today under decadent capitalism have lost all value as far as they communist revolution goes. They are directly a part of the state apparatus both under liberal or state capitalism. Led by highly paid bureaucrats who are concerned only with keeping their jobs and selling out their memberships. Trade unions have become the major source of reaction amongst the workers.
Certain communists have held the theory that communists must try to oust the bureaucrats and take over the trade unions. This they claim would turn them from being supporters of capitalism into schools of communism. This is utter nonsense, for trade unions are essential parts of modern capitalism. Unions sell their members labor power to the capitalist employers for the highest price and in return guarantee labor peace. They let the system of the exploitation of workers to stand as it is.
In order for the communist revolution to occur at all, new forms of workers self-organization must arise. These organizations should not be organized on a craft or industrial level. They should be organized regionally comprising all workers both employed and unemployed. These organizations would take the form of workers’ councils.
Left Communists hold that the future society must be organized on the basis of workers’ councils. The workers’ councils are the direct expression of workplace democracy. They are in essence the way towards the administration of things, instead of persons. In these councils, the working class at the place of production would decide their destiny.
Without a revolution in the relationship of the worker visa the control over the means of production, any political revolution would be for naught. The aim of communist revolution is for the working class to gain total control over the means of production, thus control over their own existence. Workers’ control, not State or Party control.
Left Communists are opposed, under capitalism, to the introduction of any new technology that would result in a direct loss of jobs. We are not opposed to technological progress, but under capitalism all “progress” is subordinated to the expansion of profit against labor’s share. When it comes down to supporting the boss in the name of progress or the working class in the fight to save jobs. We choose our class.
Left Communists have no interest in reforming capitalism; we want to destroy it. We have no interest to make capitalism more rational or livable. Reformism is in practice an appeal for state intervention to rectify a defect in the system. By appealing to the state the reformists show their impotence. Remember anything that the state grants today can easily be taken back tomorrow. Communists realize that only direct action at the source of the problem can create permanent change.
Under capitalism elections are nothing but mystifications. They give the working class the illusion of change through the ballot box. History has sided with the anarchists on this point and to continue to advocate electionism is to delay the revolution. As long as communists waste their time and energy in seeking offices, they will never get around to educating the working class. So Left Communists will have nothing to do with supporting this mystification.
The question of woman’s, racial and gay oppression under capitalism will only be solved by communism. However, any movement that seeks to create the future must follow this maxim: the end is the product of the means. Left Communists give full support to woman’s, racial and gay liberation movements.
All so-called “national liberation” movements are nothing more than a mystification of the deadly struggle between imperialist super powers. Supporting any side in such a struggle is in fact, supporting one imperialist power against the other.
Left Communists are opposed to militarism. We are opposed to the very existence of a capitalist military. Thus we are opposed to both a volunteer and a conscript army.
Left Communists see themselves as neither leaders nor bystanders of the workers’ revolution. It is for ourselves that we make revolution. In doing so we all help create the future society.
Left Communists participate in all struggles in which the people are fighting the capitalist system and its state. We are not sectarians and will participate in all struggles, including those sponsored by other political groups.
1. The proletarian revolution is an international revolution and the primary duty of the revolutionary working class in any country is to further the world revolution.
2. The proletariat is the only revolutionary class, the only subject of revolution and of social transformation. It is clear today that any worker-peasant alliance must be rejected.
3. The proletariat as a whole, organized in workers councils, constitutes the dictatorship of the proletariat. The role of the political party of the class is not to take state power, nor to rule in the name of the class but to contribute to the heightening and generalization of class-consciousness within the class. No minority of the class can exert political power in its place.
4. The proletariat must direct its armed power principally against the bourgeoisie. The policy of integrating non-proletarian, non-exploiting elements into socialized production must be the dominant mode of unifying society although proletarian violence against these sectors may sometimes be necessary; but violence must be excluded as a way of settling debate within the proletariat and its class organizations. All efforts must be made, by proletarian democracy, to strengthen the solidarity and unity of the proletariat.
5. State capitalism is the dominant, universal trend of capitalist organization in the period of capitalist decadence. State capitalist measures, including nationalization's, are in no way a proletarian program for communism, nor a policy that can aid the way toward communism, nor a progressive step.
1. Immediate socialization of large capital concentrations and the main centers of proletarian activity.
2. Planning of production and distribution by the workers councils following the criterion of the maximum possible satisfaction of needs and not just for accumulation.
3. Gradual reduction of the working day by increased automation.
4. Substantial elevation of the worker’s standard of living including the immediate organization of free transport, free housing, free medical service, all taken in charge by the workers councils.
5. Attempt as far as possible to eliminate wages and the money form even if this may take the form of rationing goods in short supply by the workers councils to society at large.
For The Workers’ Opposition (Chicago, Il)