The councils.

It seems to me that in the past the line between the classes was much more defined.

The system has learnt to blur the line.

Is there any longer a need to talk about workers' councils?

Would it be easier to talk about a more nebulous "community control".

Obviously for the meagre revolutionary forces, the language of workers' councils conveys our idea, but we cannot substitute our small cog for the big cog of the working class in general.

I think there is a disenchantment with the parliamentary political machine, more so than with the idea of capitalism itself.

The concept of a genuine democratic system may be one that resonates.

As I understand from reading Lenin, the soviets were open to all. There was no disenfranchised element. Eventually this changed.

Attempting to set up purely proletarian organs may be too cumbersome, too difficult.

Given the numerical insignificance of the capitalist class, such a divide may be unnecessary.

However community organs may still serve our purpose.

Again, please enlighten me if this is impossible.

I am very much aware that the mere existence of local democratic organs is not revolutionary per se.

But they could be one element in the necessary alignment.


That is the way, the only way, a theoretician can present the question.

We know the example of the Paris Commune, we know all that was said by the founders of Marxism in connection with it and in reference to it. On the basis of this material I examined, for instance, the question of democracy and dictatorship in my pamphlet, The State and Revolution, written before the October Revolution. I did not say anything at all about restricting the franchise. And it must be said now that the question of restricting the franchise is a nationally specific and not a general question of the dictatorship. One must approach the question of restricting the franchise by studying the specific conditions of the Russian revolution and the specific path of its development. This will be done later on in this pamphlet. It would be a mistake, however, to guarantee in advance that the impending proletarian revolutions in Europe will all, or the majority of them, be necessarily accompanied by restriction of the franchise for the bourgeoisie. It may be so. After the war and the experience of the Russian revolution it probably will be so; but it is not absolutely necessary for the exercise of the dictatorship, it is not an indispensable characteristic of the logical concept “dictatorship”, it does not enter as an indispensable condition in the historical and class concept “dictatorship”.

Lenin - The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky.

I think that since there "is a disenchantment with the parliamentary political machine", we should push this thing forward denouncing that democracy is simply a fraud.

"The concept of a genuine democratic system" is the one that capitalism present in any new political occasion, obviously postponing its realisation ad infinitum. It's an electoral slogan just like "now it's time for honesty" or "America first" or "change is possible", so I don't think that revolutionaries should adopt it, even with the good intention of substituting their meaning instead. "Genuine democracy" is by now a bourgeois dress for bourgeois intents of conservation, no matter what revolutionaries mean when they wear it.

The revolutionary position must be the one denuncing democracy as a fraud (no matter what the 'real' meaning of democracy is, since the world only knows its bourgeois version) and for building WORKERS' DICTATORSHIP. I think that history itself has shown enough examples of opportunism deriving from the dismissing of this password, even for apparently 'formal' reasons. As you've said, there is more to gain by riding the wave of the discontent against parliamentary democracy and say "ok, let's destroy it" than by invoking the mild, bourgeois-like phantomatic "genuine democracy".

Plus, what will the difference between "community control" and already existing local councils be to the common person? Confusion, here, it's really at one step.

We must instead insist on the element of force: it is through force that the capitalist class rules over us now and through force itself we'll overthrow this rule and bild our own one, and always through force we will prevent the old exploiters' rule to gain back control.

I think that the fact that force itself, and not 'the right' (democracy), is what keeps societies together - especially this society, which is most important to our goal - is not too far from the understanding of most workers nowadays. Not far at all. So the point is to make them understand that we must substitute their dictatorship with ours.

PS. Or is it the problem with the word "councils"? ASSEMBLIES should work as a fine alternative.

Thanks for the response.

If it were a case of you me and a few people we know, I would have no issue with simply talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat.

I am aware that democracy means the power of the people.

And people are divided into classes. What we want is the power of one class.

And the opposing class will do all it can to prevent it.

What I am exploring (not definitively) is the concept that we do not need to set up purely proletarian organs.

Territorial Assemblies (could be a better term than councils, as you say, councils albeit of a different nature, already exist under capitalism, I know from experience that Joe Average does not generally know we are talking about something very distinct) do not have to exclude anyone.

I am not trying to advocate an interclass solution, some sort of compromised reform of capitalism.

I am thinking that not restricting participation to a proletarian franchise may not significantly alter the outcome and make life easier for us.

If we get the rejection of parliamentary democracy, active mass participation and the recallable delegates to central organs, then we have enough.

However, I am only putting forward preliminary thoughts, it could be that such an arrangement is unworkable.

A piece I wrote a while ago, may as well put it here, it has not been published elsewhere. As usual, criticise as you see fit.

The dictatorship of the proletariat – a NECESSARY aspect of the class struggle

"Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism should be tested" Lenin, State and Revolution.

"What we are talking about is a civil war. And there are obviously material reasons for that. It is not possible to just pretend these things don’t exist because we do not like them. These things have got to be faced. And even after the battles have themselves been won, the remnants of the capitalist class and their hirelings will still because they are dominated by the ideas of the capitalist period, they will still attempt to restore capitalism, to make a comeback, and it is for this reason that we repeat what Marx said about the period of transition and this is directly related to the development of consciousness. He said "Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." Yet the SPGB think all this is outdated rubbish and that Marx was wrong.” CWO 1984, public meeting with SPGB.

Faced with capitalism’s inability to resolve its contradictions, chiefly the inability to profitably invest in productive activity which is the sole source of value, (as opposed to the pointless paper shuffling of astronomical figures in the shape of financial instruments such as derivatives) with the bloodstained result of declining conditions for the vast majority, there can only be an increasing necessity to theoretically comprehend the conditions for an escape from this moribund system.

Such theoretical comprehension involves the analysis of conflicting perspectives and it is no accident that the Marxist perspective we defend is maligned and falsified as it is the only exit door from the capitalist madhouse; deviation from the Marxist perspective means closing the door on the socialist future. This is why those who reject Marx’s conclusions regarding the necessity of the dialectical perspective, the necessity of the proletarian political party, the necessity of revolution, the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the necessity of the transition to a fully communist society, those who wish to pick and choose the aspects of Marxism they like or combine such aspects with other ideological constructs, have to be combated as the worst enemies of the proletariat. Just to ground this in empirical reality, let us consider the dire situation facing the Greek masses, unemployment and poverty and collapse of social provision have reached acute proportions and it is precisely the collaboration of the ‘’half-Marxists” which is being enlisted by the ruling class to manage the situation.

“.... while an unapologetic Marxist, I think it is important to resist him passionately in a variety of ways. To be, in other words, erratic in one’s Marxism.” Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister. And more recently, for example the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader in the UK and a socialist/communist coalition in Portugal (and in Spain, but not finalised at the time of writing) demonstrate a similar phenomenon.

The rule of the working class, described by Marx himself as the dictatorship of the proletariat[i], is not simply the continuation of politics as usual under a different guise, the election of so called socialists to parliament. Nor, as anarchists endlessly depict as the hallmark of ‘’authoritarian Marxism’’, is it a case of a determined revolutionary minority taking power into their own hands[ii]. Even Stalin, murderer of so many genuine communists, once proclaimed a correct perspective regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat. As dialecticians we have no problem in recognising that the same person could embody such contradictions;

“It is said that transferring power to the Soviets means forming a "homogeneous" democratic government, organizing a new "cabinet" consisting of "socialist" Ministers, and, in general, "seriously changing" the composition of the Provisional Government. But that is not true. It is not at all a matter of replacing some members of the Provisional Government by others. What matters is to make the new, the revolutionary classes the masters of the country... Power to the Soviets implies that every "chief" in the rear and at the front must be elected and subject to recall.

Power to the Soviets implies that all "persons in authority" in town and country, in the army and navy, in "departments" and "establishments," on the railways and in post and telegraph offices must be elected and subject to recall.” J V Stalin. Soviet Power Oct 1917

If only Stalin had remembered his own words as he headed the party state palming off state capitalism as socialism, perhaps his modern day admirers would not persist with their call for party dictatorship and we would not be lumbered with the task of ridding ourselves of the ideological tarring of the Marxist perspective. But let us not personalise this party dictatorship error, even those who opposed Stalin at the time such as Amadeo Bordiga, widely recognised as a leading light of the communist left, were hardly immune from such a perspective! To this day his current disciples maintain this identity between proletarian dictatorship and party dictatorship. Let us be clear that we, the Internationalist Communist Tendency absolutely reject the theoretical construct which places the Party as dictator over society, there is no special right for a Party member within the mass organs of working class rule, we are subject to the same process as any other person who seeks involvement in the centralised bodies of the proletarian dictatorship.

But for true revolutionaries, theory is no fancy bauble, no dispensable pleasantry to be discarded or modified at will. Neither the horrors of the Stalinist regime, the siren songs of capitalist democracy nor the incoherence of the anarchists’ idealism[iii] satisfy our need for a strategy to navigate the journey between a crisis racked capitalism and the world socialist community of the future.

In a revolutionary period, indeed in society in general, there are opposing social classes, each of which is comprised of a variety of fractions. The strength and perspicacity of each determines the outcome.

The committed, conscious revolutionary fraction of the proletariat will be a minority throughout much of the early period and only the clarity and determination forged by their understanding of the Marxist perspective and commitment to each other allows them to prevail. Prevail not in the sense of becoming the masters of society, a party dictatorship, but in the sense of extending revolutionary class consciousness amongst the working class, successfully arguing for the smashing of the bourgeois state, hence the rule of the proletariat’s own centralised body which at all times remains under the control of the masses of non-exploiters, chiefly the proletariat transformed in the revolutionary process.

Remember that one of the players will be the bourgeoisie both internally and externally and still far stronger on the international stage than the nascent revolutionary movement wherever it initially arises. The resolute use of repression against this group and those it manages to influence will be the basis of the need for an organ of violence, an organ of suppression, the state in the true sense of the word. The state is an organ of suppression. Good and bad.

“How is that? — the Anarchists cry heatedly. Is it possible for a thing to be good and bad at the same time?! That is "sophistry," "juggling with words," it shows that "you want to prove truth and falsehood with equal facility"! “

J V Stalin Anarchism or Socialism 1906-07

Good when what is being suppressed ruthlessly is the opponent of the revolutionary proletariat, bad in the reverse case.

In 1851-52 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote:

". . . The insurrectionary career once entered upon, act with the greatest determination, and on the offensive. The defensive is the death of every armed rising. . . . Surprise your antagonists while their forces are scattering, prepare new successes, however small, but daily . . . force your enemies to a retreat before they can collect their strength against you; in the words of Danton, the greatest master of revolutionary policy yet known: de l'audace, de l'audace, encore de l'audace!" (Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany.)

Marxism does not operate on the basis of eternal morals, if anything, the crime here for revolutionaries will be to hesitate in striking down class enemies. As Engels said, revolution is an authoritarian act, one part of the population imposes its will on another, neither can show any quarter without risking disaster[iv].

The proletarian state is a dictatorship as it is not hampered by previous law or its power restricted by any other institution, bar for those of the international bourgeoisie to the extent that it survives.

The proletarian state is not envisaged as an eternal organ forever required, but an expedient necessary to suppress an enemy, once this is carried out, it can fade from the stage of history. What will remain is a mechanism for producing and distributing the requirements of society. In this sense the proletarian state is described as a semi-state, it desires its own end as a state in the sense of an organ of violence, as a machine for the suppression of a class enemy.

The exact nature of the class bodies gathering the non –exploiters (including amongst others the unemployed, students, independent producers as well as the working proletariat) is yet to be determined but in all likelihood they will be territorial. The dispersed nature of capitalist production and the expulsion of so much of the population from the productive process by a crisis racked capitalism means that it is hardly possible to rely on workplace gatherings and delegates from large enterprises alone.

If the proletariat does not have sufficient social weight or comprehension of its situation, necessarily limited at the outset, if it fails to centralise its power and fails to eliminate the bourgeois state, if the positions of authority created by a centralised organ arising from the territorial organs, subject to delegation are held by those hostile to the organised revolutionary proletarian minority, the result is capitalist preservation. Proletarian revolution requires advanced capitalism and the determining social weight of the proletariat and those sympathetic to it.

The centralised organ arising from a process of delegation from the territorial organs, given the prevalence of the revolutionary perspective, will dictate over the entire socialist territory as it extends globally. It will not tolerate any other power and will resort to whatever means necessary to impose its will. Its decisions will be carried out on the ground by the local manifestations of the proletarian power who will creatively apply the instructions received. Thus we have a two way process, the authority lies in the hands of the centralised organs but they in turn lie in the hands of the popular bodies and subject to their recall. This democracy is far more reflective of the needs of the majority than the process which takes place under capitalism where the political process is warped by ownership of the media by a few, sponsorship of political parties by capitalists and unions, the minimal participation of a cross in a box every few years.

The proletarian revolution is not aimed at small autonomous organs, independent communes in every city, small scale production, federalism etc. It is the outcome of proletarian unity, a deadly weapon aimed at the head of the bourgeoisie everywhere. Its will is determined by the non-capitalist majority electing recallable leaders and their collective power is absolute so long as they are mandated.

Whilst the members of the proletarian party and possibly parties have no automatic right to positions of authority within the dictatorship of the proletariat, failure to align with the revolutionary perspective, the election of those opposed to the revolutionary perspective inevitably means the defeat of the proletariat. There are no guarantees in this process. The question comes down to the capacity of the proletariat to assimilate a revolutionary perspective sufficient to overcome its antithesis.

Thus an organ of power arising from civil society is not in itself revolutionary or counter revolutionary; it becomes a battleground between the perspectives contending for power. It becomes the sole power by following the revolutionaries’ directives to sweep away its class enemy and begins the process of total transformation of society, or it falls under the influence of those advocating capitalist preservation and is eventually swept away.

Let us sum up by means of pertinent quotes, let Marx have the last word “...historic experience has shown that there can be no question of collectivisation, of workers’ control, of socialist revolution before the abolition of the political power of the bourgeoisie..”.(Bilan, ‘The War in Spain’, January 1937)

". . . The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class. . . . The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands . . . of the proletariat organised as the ruling class . . ." (Marx and Engels. _Communist Manifesto)._

And after the insurrection, even after the suppression of the bourgeoisie, for those fortunate to live in a classless society, the state loses is features as a machine employing violence to suppress class enemies, all that is left is the regulation of production;

“All combined labour on a large scale requires, more or less, a directing authority, in order to secure the harmonious working of the individual activities, and to perform the general functions that have their origin in the action of the combined organism, as distinguished from the action of its separate organs. “ Karl Marx Capital Vol 1 chap XIII


[i] In 1848 Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto that "their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions".

On 1 January 1852, the communist journalist Joseph Weydemeyer published in an article entitled "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" "it is quite plain that there cannot be here any question of gradual, peaceful transitions", that year, Karl Marx wrote to him, saying:

“Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy. My own contribution was (1) to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; [and] (3) that this dictatorship, itself, constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a _classless society.”_ Karl Marx, 1852

[ii] “It is not a question, therefore of Marxism seizing power or of the self limitation of popular action for reasons of political opportunism. The ‘workers’ State’ is the end result of a revolutionary activity and the beginning of a new political slavery.’’ Solidaridad Obrera, anarchist daily.

[iii] For a profound analysis of the results of anarchist refusal of Marxist theory, our pamphlet SPAIN 1934-39, From Working Class Struggle To Imperialist War, is highly recommended. This rejection was entirely conscious;

“Here we should point out that the positions and analyses of the international communist left, through Bilan and Prometeo, were familiar to the leading militants of the anarchists. The Communist Left were arguing that rather than compromise with capitalism through entry into its governments what was needed was a move towards the destruction of that power. The anarchists were not unaware of the argument. They deliberately rejected it...if in theory they denied the need for political power, even a proletarian one, in practice they helped to organise the bourgeoisie in government, giving them ‘left cover’....By this alone they can be correctly labelled as within the camp of the counter-revolution rather than a revolutionary force. “ (Pg 8-9)

[iv] Why do the anti‐authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti‐authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti‐authoritarians don't know what they're talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction.

It sould be pointed out that Stevein7 is not a member of the CWO or ICT but that when he was a membre he drafted the above text which was not accepted by us for publication.

I understand there were issues, including quotes from Stalin which I intended to illustrate how Stalin's own words condemned him, however I accept this may be well be going too far. I accept the ICT verdict on Stalin as a a capitalist butcher of communists.

Workers councils are a key element in the views of the ICT and CWO. May I suggest that by now it is time to look ahead, rather than forever trawl history for hints. What are the present objectives intended for workers councils, if and when they begin to exist ? Is it correct to say that initially they will be used to organise political propaganda as a necessary part of building towards the overthrow of all that oppresses the working class ? Then, if and when capitalist rule has been overthrown in localities, regions, across many states and eventually world wide, will they be used, in succession, to run communist economies in turn in each of those areas ? Keeping in mind that communism is argued to be a necessity for the working class rather than just a nice idea, I suggest that we need to keep in mind how that view can be made acceptable by workers wherever ICT & CWO has any influence. A communist control of the economy will not just be in thin air or somewhere else, but immediately intended wherever calls for it to be implemented are accepted. Then it will need to demonstrate that it provides what workers actually need, day by day, rather than just continuing to be a fine aspiration. How many workers councils are needed in any one area ? How big should any one area be in order that a communist administration in it can be seen to be effective and accepted ? It is believed by some that communism can only be world wide and that it cannont be implemented just in one 'country', but as it seems to me so unlikely that there could be a giant leap from world wide imperialism to communism, even if massive convulsions in capitalism grow towards its self-collapse, that even then, as workers councils are gradually formed world wide, there would probably be a need for interim areas of communist economies, with more such entities growing all the time, if good examples by early ones are known, until the worldwide planet runs as communists see as necessary and as, yes, desired by the masses. If not desired by the masses, however bad imperialism is, then they won't work, unfortunately. If they do, ok.

The hope is that there will be a rapid expansion of the revolutionary territory wherever it initially begins. How rapid? I doubt there is any way to know in advance. Perhaps a sizeable bastion could hold out longer than a year, I do not know. I do not know how long a continental bastion could hold out. So long as the will to struggle, successfully defend against intervention and the basics of life are available. But the eventual outcome will be one of the contending sides (insurgent communism/injured capitalism) coming out as a victor.

You say "Then, if and when capitalist rule has been overthrown in localities, regions, across many states and eventually world wide, will they be used, in succession, to run communist economies in turn in each of those areas ?"

This sounds like what I would imagine an anarchist perspective might be. I am not totally sure what you mean but I would see it as a case of a single revolutionary process expanding. Any territory falling to the revolution comes under the rule of the revolutionary power which is centralised through the council system. It is not a case of a patchwork quilt of revolutionary atempts doing what they will. I imagine there will be an element of that sort of "make it up on the spot", but that would not be through choice but through necessity. What we want is planning and coordination. However this may indeed be rudimentary at first.

Likely the councils will not arise as communist organs from the outset, but they will be the fertile soil for the communist message.

Thank you stevein7 for your reply 2017-11-30. It seems to me that whereas overthrowing would consist of total turmoil, in which many and various conglomerations of workers inclined to revolt against the status quo would deliberately want to participate, or be drawn into doing so, it can be expected that securing overall victory or scattered victories would only be done by means of draconian methods, to attempt to thwart a pro-capitalist backlash. If and when sufficiently secured, then a very new scenario would need to be recognised, for running the economy, or separately geographical economies, by and for workers on the spot. If the use of existing types of money is to be instantly banned, then the minting of a workers' currency will be urgent, and a workers' 'state' regulation and use of it would probably be needed, in order to pay and run big concerns formerly owned and run by capitalist states and capitalist firms. It is all very well to say that money should be abandoned on the line of from each according to her work and to each according to his needs, but that is a remote prospect, whereas an initial revolution is likely to start and then more or less finish much more rapidly than the time taken to partially to fully establish a socialist to communist economy anywhere. Meanwhile, workers have needs to be met, whatever the prevailing or transient political scene.