Libcom.org's reading guide on council communism, a tradition of anti-Leninist Marxism which rejects the role of the vanguard party and argues instead for workers' councils as forms of working-class organisation and struggle.
Council communism: reading guide
- Council communism: an introduction - libcom.org’s short history and explanation of the ideas and practice of council communism.
- Council communism - Mark Shipway - Easily-readable, but more detailed than the above, introduction to council communist theory.
- Workers’ Councils - Anton Pannekoek - Arguably one of the defining texts of council communism, Pannekoek explains how workers councils are organs of working class power and a means towards overthrowing capitalism.
- The Revolution is not a Party Affair - Otto Ruhle - Classic text outlining council communism's opposition to parliamentarism and political parties.
- The communist left in Germany 1918-1921 - Gilles Dauvé and Denis Authier - Excellent history of the 1918 German Revolution and the turbulent years following it, with an emphasis on the role played by council communists.
Key people and groups
- KAPD - Communist Workers Party of Germany, 1920 councilist split from the Communist Party. Instrumental in defining the German-Dutch model of left communism.
- AAUD/AAUD-E - Factory organisations set up in the wake of the 1918 German revolution by members of the KAPD in order to challenge the traditional trade unions. The AAUD-E was a later split of the AAUD, which combined revolutionary political and economic functions (until then separated between the KAPD and AAUD, respectively) within a single organisation.
- GIK - Dutch left communist group set up in 1926 whose ideas were shaped by the outcomes of the 1917 Russian revolution and 1918 German revolution.
- International Council Correspondence - Council communist publication of the United Workers Party of America in the 1930s/early 1940s, edited by Paul Mattick.
- Anton Pannekoek - Dutch Marxist (and astronomer!); one of the founding theorists of the council communist tradition.
- Otto Ruhle - German left communist, participant in the 1918 German revolution and leading figure in the AAUD-E.
- Herman Gorter - Dutch poet, council communist and fierce critic of Lenin who helped found the KAPD.
- Paul Mattick - German council communist and participant in the 1918 German Revolution who wrote widely on the German and Russian revolutions and the Marxist critique of political economy.
- Origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany - Pamphlet on the origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany, covering the 1918 revolution and its aftermath, and the activities of left and libertarian communists.
- The Dutch and German Communist Left - Philippe Bourrinet - Philippe Bourrinet's book on the history of Dutch and German left communist currents from 1900 to 1968, looking at their reactions and developments against various events of the 20th Century.
- A half-blind communist with a sharp eye for the future. Marinus van der Lubbe (1909-1934) and his Reichstag Fire - Interesting history of Marinus van der Lubbe, the young communist building worker who burned down the Reichstag, and was falsely denounced as a Nazi agent by the Communist Party.
- From left radicalism to council communism: Anton Pannekoek and German revolutionary Marxism - John Gerber - A look at the revolutionary movement in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century and the involvement of Anton Pannekoek in the shift of many workers towards council communism.
- The councilist movement in Germany (1914-1935): A history of the AAUD-E tendency - Article tracing the origins and theoretical development of the 'unitary' current of the General Workers' Union of Germany.
- Art as a weapon: Franz Seiwert and the Cologne progressives - Martyn Everett - An account of Franz Seiwert and the 'Cologne Progressives', a group or circle of artists who participated in the radical currents around the German council communist organisations AAU and especially the AAU-E.
Other recommended texts
- From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution - Otto Rühle - Written in 1924, this pamphlet charts the development of the Russian and German revolutions, and attempts to point forward from the failure of these two major events, analysing the role of the parties and the trade unions in their respective failures.
- Marxism and state communism: the withering away of the state - International Communist Group - A 1932 in which the Group of International Communists criticise Lenin's 'The State and the Revolution.'
- Theses on Bolshevism - Rudolf Sprenger - 1934 critique of the Bolsheviks, arguing they functioned ultimately as a movement of bourgeois revolution in a predominantly peasant country and therefore are not only unserviceable as a revolutionary model for the international working class, but also one of its heaviest and most dangerous impediments.
- The rise of a new labor movement - Henk Canne Meijer - Discussion of the problems facing the old labour movement, and the organisation and function of revolutionary groups.
- Anarchism and the Spanish revolution - Helmut Wagner - Article by German council communist Helmut Wagner in April 1937 criticising extensively the political developments in Spain during the civil war and within it the role played by the anarchists and their organisations.
- Origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany - Pamphlet on the origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany, covering the 1918 revolution and its aftermath and activites and reactions of left and libertarian communists.
- The struggle against fascism begins with the struggle against Bolshevism - Otto Ruhle - Council communist pamphlet from 1939 that points the finger at Lenin and the Bolsheviks for crippling the international workers' movement with authoritarian tactics and for developing a totalitarian and capitalist system of rule in the USSR.
- Gerd Arntz illustrations - A collection of working class and other assorted illustrations by German council communist artist Gerd Arntz.