DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

Current Council Communist groups

52 posts / 0 new
Last post
Jared
Offline
Joined: 21-06-09
Jul 22 2011 10:14
Current Council Communist groups

I'm being lazy and not bothering to search on this. What groups are around at the moment that could be described as council communist? I'm genuinely interested to check out the the different groups and their praxis.

Cheers

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Jul 23 2011 01:51

Echanges et Mouvement

is about the only group i know still existing. they are decedents of ICO i believe?

Also this history is quite helpful:
http://libcom.org/files/dutchleft.pdf

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
May 12 2012 11:04

There really aren't any others? That's hard to believe.

vanilla.ice.baby
Offline
Joined: 9-08-07
May 12 2012 12:18

There is Alan Woodward's Workers Socialism (previously Council Socialists, and before that Council Communists) group - consisting of verious people including ex-Solidarity and ex-SWP members, don't think they have a web presence but some of them are or were involved in or close to HSG.

RedEd's picture
RedEd
Offline
Joined: 27-11-10
May 14 2012 01:56

To be fair 'council communism' was a specific thing at a specific time (late 19-teens early 19-twenties Germamy and Holland, basically, plus the intellectuals which came out of that). So there kinda can't be a council communist organisation today which is't a historical re-enactment society. Every decent communist grouping currently existing is to some extent informed by council communism, but it'd be wierd to have a specifically 'council communist group' today.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
May 14 2012 02:42

I don't see it as any weirder than groups that identify as left communist or autonomist...

RedEd's picture
RedEd
Offline
Joined: 27-11-10
May 14 2012 03:46
Juan Conatz wrote:
I don't see it as any weirder than groups that identify as left communist or autonomist...

Yeah, I see those (in differing ways) as a little bit wierd too. I even have an issue with the label anarchist. I guess I'm just too fixated on only using political terms about political movements, rather than political theories. (e.g. there are lots of anarchisits, but there's not much in the way of an anarchist movement in the world)

Or, to be more pretentious, the term ought to emerge from the praxis rather than the other way round.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
May 14 2012 16:03

well communists are also of the past some would say? do you have alternatives we should name ourselves?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
May 14 2012 17:38

As i understand it most historical councillist groups were formed on what seemed - reasonably enough, following 1917 - like the eve of revolution. The rationale for forming 'a different kind of party' (KAPD) and revolutionary unions (AAUD, AAUE) was more or less explicitly to eschew all partial struggles and push for workers councils and revolutionary expropriations. It's strongly implied/sometimes explicit that the rationale for such organisations only exists in times of intense, near-revolutionary struggle. So it kinda makes sense there aren't any councillist groups today, or those that exist are propaganda/analysis collectives (like Echanges).

That said, there is/was a councillist tendency in the AF, of which the late Knightrose was a prominent member. Arguably KPK in Czech Republic are councillists, though I think they'd probably identify more with the Mouvement Communiste current Marxism influenced by numerous traditions (including councillism). A couple of KPK members post on libcom so maybe they can chip in.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
May 14 2012 18:02
Joseph Kay wrote:
The rationale for forming 'a different kind of party' (KAPD) and revolutionary unions (AAUD, AAUE) was more or less explicitly to eschew all partial struggles and push for workers councils and revolutionary expropriations.

I don't think that this is true for the KAPD from the start. That tendency was there, and can be seen in the 1922 split,

Joseph Kay wrote:
So it kinda makes sense there aren't any councillist groups today, or those that exist are propaganda/analysis collectives (like Echanges).

I think that the reason for this is not because we are not in a revolutionary situation, but because councilist groups tend to theorise themselves out of existance.

Joseph Kay wrote:
Arguably KPK in Czech Republic are councillists, though I think they'd probably identify more with the Mouvement Communiste current Marxism influenced by numerous traditions (including councillism). A couple of KPK members post on libcom so maybe they can chip in.

I think that this is really wrong.

Devrim

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
May 14 2012 19:35
Joseph K wrote:
Arguably KPK in Czech Republic are councillists,

Not at all! Not even in the original "council communism" sense of the term, and much less in the later "councilist" sense (i.e. revolutionaries should abstain from intervening in struggles and stick to circulating information etc.). Although of course Pannekoek, Korsch, Mattick etc. have influenced our views. But this influence has more to do with interpretation of Marx and the general outlook than with specifically councilist ideology with specific organizational preferences etc.

We were also influenced by the other strand of the ultra-left which was critical of self-management from the very beginning (e.g., Bordiga vs. Gramsci). And operaismo, with its theorizing of the skilled worker as the material basis (now largely a thing of past) of the whole council/self-management project, has perhaps been an even greater influence (at least on me, but I don't like Bordiga).

Joseph K wrote:
though I think they'd probably identify more with the Mouvement Communiste current Marxism influenced by numerous traditions (including councillism).

This is correct (we have written common stuff with MC and regularly work together), but I don't think council communism has had more influence on MC or KPK than on the other ultra-left groups around.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
May 15 2012 05:25

Cheers Jura. I've heard a few people refer to KPK as 'councillist'; I'll set them straight in future.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
May 15 2012 09:53
Devrim wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
So it kinda makes sense there aren't any councillist groups today, or those that exist are propaganda/analysis collectives (like Echanges).

I think that the reason for this is not because we are not in a revolutionary situation, but because councilist groups tend to theorise themselves out of existance.

Agreed. The logic of councillist positions (rejection of mass organisation and specific political organisation) leads to self-liquidation of any groups in fairly short order. This is why virtually all "left communist" groups are some flavour or other of Bordigists (who do believe in the party).

Entdinglichung's picture
Entdinglichung
Offline
Joined: 2-07-08
May 15 2012 10:39

RASH in Germany (or at least the people who published their zine "Revolution Times") some years ago had strong tendencies towards council communism ... but most of their stuff is offline and I do not know if they still exists

Spassmaschine
Offline
Joined: 29-01-07
May 15 2012 10:48

Here's the old page of RASH for those who can read German: http://www.reocities.com/revolutiontimes/

Entdinglichung's picture
Entdinglichung
Offline
Joined: 2-07-08
May 15 2012 14:02

some interesting stuff was produced by the group/journal Der revolutionäre Funke in Berlin which disappeared around the year 2000, don't know what became of them

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
May 16 2012 02:51

self-edited out.

devoration1's picture
devoration1
Offline
Joined: 18-07-10
May 16 2012 03:34
Quote:
This is why virtually all "left communist" groups are some flavour or other of Bordigists (who do believe in the party).

Depends on what you mean by Bordigism (though this was a charge leveled from the Kremlin at any tendencies within the communist movement to the left of the prospect of their national party being Bolshevised). Modern left communist groups seem more informed by council communism, Luxemburg, etc than Bordiga.

Depending on whether you consider Luxemburg to be a 'council communist' based on her work (in writing and practice), there are at least 2 groups that exist (though I'd argue that the one that publishes an English language website is far, far from 'Luxemburgist' and has more in common with your average Trot groupuscule) that claim to be 'Luxemburgist' as well as Luxemburg leaning tendencies in different groups (SPUSA or Solidarity, forget which one, claims to have Luxemburgist type members).

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
May 16 2012 09:07

I must admit I'd never really considered Luxemburg to be in the 'council communist' spectrum. I always considered her somewhere in the middle between Kautsky and Pannekoek in the Massenstriek debate. In the UK and Ireland, the only group that claimed, at one stage (back in the 70s, mostly, I think, although the claim occasionally resurfaced in the 80s) to be "Luxemburgist" was the SWP. But that always seemed to be more of a pose by way of trying to be more acceptable to the post-68 generation of new left.

By Bordigist I meant those groups that self-identify as "the communist left" and are descended from Bordigism, like ICC, ICT, ICP, etc. In some cases they may have borrowed to a greater or lesser extent, from the councillist critique of unions, but not of the Bordigist conception of the party. Like someone said above, the only surviving "project" I can think of that descends from councillism proper, is Echanges et Mouvement. But if anybody knows of any others, then please let us know.

Entdinglichung's picture
Entdinglichung
Offline
Joined: 2-07-08
May 16 2012 09:39

are there any successors of Daad en Gedachte? ... in Germany, survivors from Rote Kaempfer, KAPD, etc. who did not went to the right never managed to create a stable group or journal after 1945

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
May 16 2012 10:31

I agree with those who have said that there are very few actual 'council communist' groups left today, other than the ones already mentioned. There is a very wide interest in the whole tradition and its theoretical contribution, however.

I don't really agree with what ocelot is saying here:

By Bordigist I meant those groups that self-identify as "the communist left" and are descended from Bordigism, like ICC, ICT, ICP, etc. In some cases they may have borrowed to a greater or lesser extent, from the councillist critique of unions, but not of the Bordigist conception of the party.

It's true that most left communists' share some of Bordiga's conceptions of the party, certainly when we consider those he elaborated in the 1920s: in particular the communist party as an organ of the class, not something that came 'from outside'. But as early as the 1930s the Italian left communists usually rejected the term 'Bordigist' thrown at them, and from the 40s, as 'Bordigism' really emerged as a distinct set of ideas based on notions like the invariance of capitalism and support for 'dual revolutions' in the ex-colonial regions, there was also a growing criticism from within the Italian left of the Bordigist notion of the party as the embodiment of the proletarian dictatorship. This was true both of the 'Damenist' current in Italy (from which the ICT descends) and the current around the GCF in France (from which the ICC descends). In the case of the latter, there was a genuine dialogue with the Dutch council communists, who still had a real existence after the war; and the Dutch/German comrades' criticisms of the idea of party dictatorship certainly played a role in the synthesis the GCF tried to develop.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
May 16 2012 16:22

Sure, I have read the Bourrinnet book (actually my copy is the ICC version, acquired back in the early 90s). But for all the variations amongst the various descendents, they still have a common phylogenetic origin, and I can't imagine any councillist group putting itself forward as "the pole for the regroupment of the communist movement" as all the ICT/ICP/ICC groups either do, or have done, at some stage in the past. That is a partyist conception of recomposition which would not fit with a councillist conception at all. Similarly the loyalty to the rejection of workplace or industrial sectoral organisation, based on the original Bordigist rejection of "Bolshevisation" of the Comintern parties following the II Congress of the Comintern (i.e. that CPs should dissolve local area or neighbourhood groups or branches, in favour of factory cells) is also common to all the descendants, unless I'm mistaken? AFAICS there's still a common reference back to the Rome Theses.

Android
Offline
Joined: 7-07-08
May 16 2012 16:39
ocelot wrote:
Similarly the loyalty to the rejection of workplace or industrial sectoral organisation, based on the original Bordigist rejection of "Bolshevisation" of the Comintern parties following the II Congress of the Comintern (i.e. that CPs should dissolve local area or neighbourhood groups or branches, in favour of factory cells) is also common to all the descendants, unless I'm mistaken?

I am not sure what you mean here? Are you saying that contemporary left communist groups reject workplace organisation?

Maybe I have not read that paragraph closely enough.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
May 16 2012 19:01

I'm not saying that any of the groups descended from the Italian communist left have the same conceptions as the councilists, eg on regroupment. What I do reject is the idea that they all have the same basic conceptions of the party. There is far greater diversity than you allow for. This includes the Dutch left itself, since at the end of world war two the Spartacusbond went back to a conception of the party that was very close to that of the KAPD.

I'll wait for an answer to Android's question before commenting on workplace organisation.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
May 17 2012 08:40
Android wrote:
ocelot wrote:
Similarly the loyalty to the rejection of workplace or industrial sectoral organisation, based on the original Bordigist rejection of "Bolshevisation" of the Comintern parties following the II Congress of the Comintern (i.e. that CPs should dissolve local area or neighbourhood groups or branches, in favour of factory cells) is also common to all the descendants, unless I'm mistaken?

I am not sure what you mean here? Are you saying that contemporary left communist groups reject workplace organisation?

Maybe I have not read that paragraph closely enough.

No, it was that my use of language was not at all clear. I meant "organising" in the specific (but not obvious) sense of creating organs based on a particular workplace (or sector).

So, for example, from the late 80s in London, from MD's retrospective of their experience in the Communication Workers Group ("Death to rank and filism!")

Quote:
While the splits in CWG were widening another influence made itself felt in the group. We had contact with the Action Group for Worker’s Unity (AGWU). This was essentially a front for the dogmatic Marxist International Communist Current (ICC)[...]Anyway, we did have a dialogue with them and the main bone of contention between us was over the question of ‘sectoralism’ (or sectionalism): trade, skill, industry and union divisions within the working class. They argued that it was counter-revolutionary to be involved in a plain postal worker’s group, as it was ‘sectoral’ and excluded the rest of the militant working class.

We argued that it was not necessary that a specific postal worker’s group was sectoral.[...]

So, no it's not that said groups have any more against militants agitating in the workplace setting, than say a group like AF who organise (in the sense of creating groups) on a locality basis. Indeed, the question is somewhat moot at the tiny membership levels that most anarchist and ultra-left groups currently operate at (although orgs like SolFed who have a strong orientation to workplace based organisation, show that its not purely a size consideration, more of orientation). But the point is that this is not a matter of practicality alone for Bordigist-family groups, but also a question of principle that was decided in 1920.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
May 17 2012 12:49

I don't think that MD's account is very accurate. I doubt very much whether we argued that it was 'counter-revolutionary' for postal workers to be involved in a 'plain postal workers group', for example. During that time, the 80s, we were involved in quite a few different 'struggle groups' across Europe. One of them was based in the Paris post. Our idea was that such groups should indeed try to go beyond the individual sector if possible, by opening up to workers from other workplaces and industries.

I think MD's confusion might have arisen from the fact that we later published an article arguing that the Communication Workers Group was or had become rank and fileist (ie leftist). This hadn't been our original position about the group and I think the revised position was a mistake based on what we perceived as the negative evolution of the group.

In any case, I think two different questions are being mixed up here. One is the composition of militant workers groups and the other is the structure of the communist organisation. In our view these are two distinct types of organisation. It's true that we have differences with the ICT over this, since the latter talks about 'communist factory groups'. In our view, a militant workers group can't limit itself to workers who explicitly see themselves as communist (or anarchist, for that matter). In this we do see ourselves as closer to the original position of Bordiga in his opposition to the 'factory cell' becoming the basic party unit, although that again is not exactly the same discussion.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
May 17 2012 21:22

hey alf,

can you lead me to material from the ICC about militant workers groups? i never realized ICC and ICT had much of differences on such. it'd be interesting to learn more about.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
May 18 2012 08:58

Hi
A lot of the more specific stuff we published in the 80s is not online at the moment, but if you're really keen we can dig up some printed samples. The following text is useful because it gives a general overview, although it's a bit old now:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/021_workers_groups.html

I'll hunt around for some other pieces. There are a couple of groups we are working with in Spain at the moment:

http://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201204/4789/general-strike-spain-radical-minorities-call-independent-workers-action

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
May 18 2012 17:07

thanks Alf this should do for now. thanks!

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Aug 23 2012 09:31

It's probably for the best there aren't really any council communist groups anymore.Bombastic polemicals outside a revolutionary situation would get tiresome.

uhu
Offline
Joined: 25-07-11
Aug 25 2012 20:44
Entdinglichung wrote:
RASH in Germany (or at least the people who published their zine "Revolution Times") some years ago had strong tendencies towards council communism ... but most of their stuff is offline and I do not know if they still exists

after the end of geocities you find the pages of this council-communist network here: https://sites.google.com/site/bibliothekdeswiderstandes/ http://swiderstand.blogsport.de/ http://sbefreiung.blogsport.de

concerning "Der revolutionäre Funke": in the last issue of kosmoprolet there`s a republication of one article: http://www.kosmoprolet.org/proletarische-bewegung-und-produktivkraftkrit...