Do council communists adhere to centralism?

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 4, 2023

I would assume council communists are centralists because they have their origins in marxism. But I am not sure. Are they centralists? How would you describe their forms of organization?

R Totale

9 months ago

Submitted by R Totale on June 4, 2023

I mean, like with many of these terms, different people use council communism to mean different things (and some people distinguish between council communism and councilism). The ICT/CWO are council-communist-influenced but still have a relatively straightforward concept of The Party, but here's Dauve on the French ultra-left/councilist group ICO:

If Lenin can be summed up in one word: “party,” a single phrase defines the ultra-left: the workers themselves… nothing wrong with that. The question is: which workers’ “self” is meant?

...This conception was rejected by many ultra-leftists, who opposed the dual existence of the factory organisations and the party: revolutionaries must not try to organise themselves in a body distinct from the masses. Part of the KAPD—Otto Rühle in particular—called for the immediate abolition of the party organisation, and logically left the KAPD. In the AAUD (General Union of German Workers), which gathered together many Unionen, a tendency developed against what it regarded as harmful leadership by the KAPD, and created a new gathering, the AAUD-E, the “E” (Einheitsorganisation) standing for unitary organisation, viz. beyond the economic/political division. The AAUD-E reproached the AAUD with being controlled by the KAPD in the same way as the official CP controlled the trade-unions. Most council communists later adopted the same view as the AAUD-E. In France, ICO’s present activity is based on the same principle: any revolutionary organisation coexisting with the organs created by the workers themselves, and trying to elaborate a coherent theory and political line, must in the end attempt to take control over the workers. Therefore revolutionaries do not organise themselves outside the organs “spontaneously” created by the workers: they merely exchange and circulate information, and establish contacts with other revolutionaries; they never try to define a general theory or strategy.


9 months ago

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on June 5, 2023

In their writings on the topic they generally consider the opposition between federalism vs. centralism as something that can and should be superseded with the establishment of communism. From the GIC book:

The rejection of all centralised forms of administration and management of production does not however imply that we have taken our stand exclusively upon a federalised structure. Wherever management and administration are in the hands of the masses themselves and are implemented through their industrial organisations and cooperatives, powerful syndicalist tendencies are without doubt present; but when viewed from the aspect of the system of general social book-keeping, economic life is seen to be an indivisible whole, from which strategic vantage-point the economy is not so much administered and managed as surveyed and planned as a unified whole. The fact that all the various changes wrought upon society in the course of the economic process by the application and simultaneous transformation of creative human energies come to be registered in the one recording organism forms the highest summation of all economic life. Whether one calls this federalist or centralist depends simply upon the vantage point from which one views the same phenomenon. It is simultaneously the one and the other, which means that, as far as the system of production as a whole is concerned, these concepts have lost their meaning. The mutual opposition of federalism and centralism has been subsumed within its higher unity; the productive organism has become an organic whole.

Or from this more recent text:

Just as the opposition of political and economic struggle and power is historically outdated, the opposition of centralism and federalism is also false. Those issues that can only be addressed by the entire working class in the struggle against state and capital or that the class must decide on in its working-class self-government as a whole deserve central decision-making. All other matters that can be decided at lower levels will be decided at lower levels.

How their groups behaved in practice is another question, even more so considering that there arguably hasn't been any council communist groups in existence since, like, the 40s.