Workers Councils Introductions

Preface to 1950 edition

The main part of this book has been written during the war under the occupation of Holland by the Germans, the first three parts 1942; the fourth 1944; a fifth part was added after the war, 1947. The author, who during many years attentively observed, and sometimes actively took part in, the workers' movement, gives here a summary of what from these experiences and study may be derived as to methods and aims of the workers' fight for freedom. A somewhat different Dutch version was published in Holland, 1946. The English version was printed at Melbourne serially, as an addition to the monthly "Southern Advocate for Workers' Councils," during the years 1947-49. Owing to many difficulties the publication in book-form was delayed until 1950.

J.A Dawson

( As it appeared in the original Dutch Edition )

This book has been written in the war years 1941-42 under the occupation of Holland by the Germans. The author, who during many years attentively observed and sometimes actively took part in the workers' movement, gives here a summary of what from these experiences and study may be derived as to methods and aims of the workers' fight for freedom. What a century of workers' struggles presents to us is neither a series of ever again failing attempts at liberalism, nor a steadfast forward march of the workers following a fixed plan of old well-tried tactics. With the development of society we see arise new forms of fight, and this development imposed by the growth of capitalism and the growth of the working class, must go on in ever mightier display.

The first part of the book shows the task which the workers have to perform and the fight they have to wage. The following parts treat the social and spiritual trends arising in the bourgeoisie that determine the conditions under which the workers had and have to fight. All the discourses are based on the deep connection between production system and class-fight elucidated in Marxian theory.

-- The Editor.

Publication details.

Workers Councils was written between 1942 and 1947, the bulk of it while Pannekoek was dismissed from his teaching job during the german occupation of Holland. Pannekoek prepared three versions of it in dutch, english and german. The dutch edition was published as De arbeidersraaden by the Communistenbond Spartacus in Amsterdam in 1946 under the pseudonym P. Aartsz.

Plans for the german edition were apparantly unsuccessful and initially Pannekoek had difficulty finding a publisher for the english edition. Paul Mattick, who published Lenin as Philosopher in New York in 1948, was unable to produce it in the US. Pannekoek approached the SPGB and the ILP in the UK but they were unwilling to publish it. Mattick put Pannekoek in touch with J.A.Dawson, and Workers Councils was finally serialised in Southern Advocate for Workers Councils, the australian journal he edited, in 1948-9. ( There is an account of Dawson by Steve Wright 'Left Communism in Australia : J.A.Dawson and the 'Southern Advocate for Workers Councils'' in Thesis Eleven no. 1 1980 and online at that link ). A book version was published by Dawson in 1950. This remained available for some years. ( The ILP who distributed it in the UK and reprinted a chapter as a pamphlet were still advertising it until the early sixties ).

For the english edition Pannekoek had omitted the third section of the dutch version entitled 'The Thought' though parts of it were incorporated in the remaining sections. ( The french translation made by ICO and published in 1974 included these omitted sections and they will be included in this online version ).

Parts One and Two were reprinted in the US by Root and Branch, initially in 1970 as a pamphlet reproducing the 1950 version, and then in a reset and slightly modified version in the book, 'Root and Branch : The Rise of the Workers' Movements' in 1975. The whole english version was not reprinted until Echanges produced an edition as four pamphlets in the 1980s.

This online version is taken from the 1950 book, incorporating the errata listed as an appendix to it. There is a minor mystery about the text. At various points there are phrases inserted in square brackets which seem to be either missing phrases or alternate translations. Were these in Pannekoeks manuscript or were they added by the australian editor ? Were they were not removed from the book because Dawson could not afford to reset the text ? ( The addition of the errata sheets as an appendix rather than correcting the body of the text would suggest this ).