A constitution for British soviets. Points for a communist programme - Sylvia Pankhurst

Pankhurst outlines her vision of how a system of soviets might be applied to Britain.

Submitted by Spassmaschine on June 25, 2009

The capitalist system must be completely overthrown and replaced by the common ownership and workers' control of the land, the industries of all kinds and all means of production and distribution.

Parliament must be abolished and replaced by a system of Soviets formed by delegates from the industries, the homes, the regiments and the ships.

All Soviet delegates may be changed at anytime. They must be instructed by and report to those whom they represent. No person may take part in any Soviet, or may vote for or be elected as a Soviet delegate who lives, or attempts to live on accumulated wealth, by private trading, or the labour of others whom he or she employs for private gain.

Household Soviets
In order that mothers and those who are organisers of the family life of the community may be adequately represented, and may take their due part in the management of society, a system of household Soviets shall be built up.

Urban areas
Every urban district shall be divided into Household Soviet areas, each of which shall include, as nearly as possible, 250 people.

The women members of these families who are over 20 years of age, and who are mothers and housekeepers shall form the Household Soviet for the area. (...)

The Household Soviet shall meet weekly. It may be called together in the interim for urgent business by the delegates.

The Household Soviet shall make rules for its own guidance, and instruct its delegates upon the following matters:-

Furnishings, repairs and decorations required for the houses within its area.

The settlement of additional families or individuals in vacant or partially occupied premises in its area.

The prevention of overcrowding in its area.

Supplies of food and clothing for the inhabitants of its area. Efficiency of the water supply, lighting, fuel, cleaning and sanitation, removal of refuse, window cleaning, etc.

Bathing and laundry facilities. Co-operative housekeeping. Children's nurseries. Provision for nursing for the sick.

Midwifery and care of pregnant and nursing mothers and all questions affecting mothers, infants, and family matters generally. All public or political questions affecting the women who form the Household Soviet of the Area.

The Household Soviet shall elect a delegate to the Household Soviet of the district. (...)

Household Soviets of towns
District or Sub-District Household Soviets which form part of towns with a population of over 50,000, shall send to the Household Soviet of that town one delegate for every twenty Soviet Areas. Thus to the Manchester and Salford Soviet the various sub-districts would send altogether 207 delegates.

The Household Soviets of towns shall appoint delegates to the Town Soviets. (... )

[There follows the organisation necessary to create Household Soviets in rural areas.]

Industrial Soviets
The workers in each industry shall prepare and adopt a scheme for the administration of the industry, both locally and nationally, by the workers in the industry, and this scheme shall be submitted for ratification by the National Council of Soviets.

In each industry the following general lines shall be followed:-

In each workshop shall be formed a Workers' Committee, or Soviet composed of all the workers in the shop, of both sexes, and of all grades. A committee of delegates from each workshop, and as far as may be necessary, from each craft and technical branch, shall be formed in the factory. Foremen and managers shall be appointed by vote of the workers in the factory, and on the advice of the District, Town, Regional, or National Council for the industry.

District Soviets, and, where necessary, Sub-District Soviets, shall be formed for the industry, and the workers in each factory shall send delegates to the District or Sub-District Soviet.

Regional Soviets and National Soviets shall also be formed for each industry.

The District Soviet for each industry shall be represented on the general Soviet of the district, the various industrial Regional Soviets will be represented on the general Regional Soviet and the National Councils of the industries will be represented on the National Council of Soviets.

National Regional and District Economic Councils, composed of delegates from the various industries and from the general Soviets will be formed in order to co- ordinate the various industrial functions and to overlook questions of distribution and supply. The workers in the distributive trades, into which will be absorbed both the present co-operative employees and the employees of private firms, will, however, undertake the main work of distribution. These workers will have their Soviets like the workers in other industries.

Public Health Soviets
All persons connected with the care of the sick, surgeons, medical practitioners, nurses, and so on, will form their own industrial Soviets;

Soviets of public health shall be formed consisting of one half delegates of the medical and surgical workers, one-half delegates from the general local Soviet. Public Health Councils will be formed for districts and groups of districts, towns, with a population of over 50,000, regions and counties, and also a National Council.

Educational Soviets
Soviets for the schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions will be created. Each educational institution will have its Teachers' Soviet and its Pupils' Soviet. Each school for children under sixteen years of age will also hold meetings of parents and teachers, and will elect a council composed of teachers' and parents' representatives, with one representative of the District Soviet and one representative of the District Educational Soviet.

In schools for children between sixteen and eighteen years of age the pupils may send a representative to the School Council, and in schools and colleges for pupils between eighteen and twenty the pupils shall appoint one- fourth of the Council, the parents, shall appoint one- fourth and the teachers half; an appropriate number of expert representatives shall be appointed by the District Educational Soviet. (...)

[Soviets for the Army, Sailors and Seamen, and Agricultural Workers are similarly described.]

The Soviets
The Soviets, which are the central organs of social administration, the instrument of the proletarian dictatorship against capitalism, are built up from District or Sub-District Soviets of delegates from the Industries, the Home or Household Soviets, the Army and Naval Soviets, and so on.

The District Soviets shall be formed of one delegate for every Industrial Soviet in the area, and from any Soviet of the Army, Navy, or Mercantile Marine that may be situated there, and an additional delegate for every 500 workers in the industry, one delegate for every 300 members of the Household Soviets, a delegate from the Educational Soviet for the district and one delegate from the District Teachers' Soviet, with an additional delegate for every 300 members of the Teachers' Soviet; also a delegate from the Public Health Soviet and one for every 300 members of the Medical and Surgical Workers' Soviet. The business of the Soviet is to be the co- ordinating link with all other committees, to create any new committees that may be required, and to put into effect the general political policy of the workers. (...)

National Council of Soviets
A National Council of Soviets shall be formed. Two-thirds of it shall consist of delegates from the Regional and County Soviets in the proportion of one delegate for every 100,000 of the population, and one-third shall consist of delegates from the National Council of Household Soviets, the National Economic Council, the National Soviets of the main groups of industries, the National Agricultural Council and the National Council of Household Soviets, Public Health and Education. (A similar Council shall be formed for Scotland if so desired.) The National Council of Soviets shall meet every three months and sit as long as may be necessary.

The National Council of Soviets shall elect an executive committee of 300 persons which shall carry out the directions of the National Council of Soviets and appoint the presidents of the National Councils of Household, Industrial Public Health, Education, Army, Navy, and so on.

It shall also elect the secretaries of such additional national departments as may be necessary -- for instance, foreign affairs. An executive committee shall be appointed by the National Executive Committee to work with such secretaries.

The presidents and secretaries of the National Departments shall together form a committee of Peoples' Commissaries. Their president shall be chosen by the National Executive Committee.

Published in Workers' Dreadnought, 19 June 1920. Taken from the Antagonism website.



12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Leutha on December 21, 2011

It is unfortunate that this document has been edited in such away that its origin and function cannot be clearly seen.
The document wason the front page of Workers Dreadnought for the issue published in time for the Emergency conference of the Communist Party (British Section of the Third International) and was an attempt by the Left Communists to organise themselves.
The orignal document goes into detail about a delegate structure in East London, where the Workers Socialist Federation was based (publishers of Workers Dreadnought) and progressively sketchier proposals for Manchester and South Wales.Certainly representatives from the Manchester Soviet were amongst teh 600 delegates at the meeting, although I am less sure about the Welsh delegation.
What I believe this indicates is that this was designed as practical document to facilitate the organisation of soviets in the veent of a strike wave, along the lines of the Workers Councils set up in Dusseldorf and the Ruhr a few works before.