Revolutionary Organisations and
Class Consciousness
(Part 8)

8. The emergence of councilism

“To those who participated in the revolution of November 9, and who nonetheless shower calumnies upon the Russian Bolsheviks, we should never cease to reply with the question: “Where did you learn the alphabet of your revolution? Was it not from the Russians that you learned to ask for workers and soldiers councils?””[1] Rosa Luxemburg

Councilism emerged as a trend in the German-Dutch left but it would be quite wrong if one were to say that councilism is part of the German-Dutch left, or even worse to say that councilism is a natural development of the German-Dutch left. This argument could be equally valid that to be said the Bolshevik Party is the natural process of Stalinism, what effort the bourgeois propaganda machine pretends to do so.

Councilist trends first occurred in the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and then in Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD). The main spokesman for councilism was the anti party hero Rühle which had been isolated within the Communist Party of Germany but despite that still his councilist ideas found echo within the German proletariat. Exclusion of Rühle and his friends from Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD), did not prevent the rapid spreading of the councilist ideas but the councilist opinion within the working class was developed.

The reality is that councilism was formed as an idealistic approach to the history of proletariat when the wave of world revolution had started to return, and is against the historical materialism. The fact is that councilist positions not only suffers from a belief in fate, but if its arguments to its final result will follow, leading to complete break with Marxism and to its nature a break from every revolutionary view which is the natural outcome of such positions.

Councilism expresses the weakness of the proletariat not its strength, so results in that to lead away the proletariat from its historical task, the Communist Revolution. The fact is that there is a very important common denominator between councilism and Social Democracy, the movement means everything and the goal is nothing. International Communist Current explain as the following how the councilist view, that trying to make a virtue of the weakness of the proletariat and how pave the path for the next revolution will fail:

"The councilist trends, which occurred between 1919 and 1921 in the German proletariat, was not an expression of the strength of the proletariat. Although, they were not directly responsible for the defeat, they expressed at least one great weakness of the class. Making a virtue of these weaknesses, which the councilist do, is the surest path to lead the revolution to a defeat in the future. The councilist reaction in the German proletariat over the years needs to be understood, to avoid a repetition of these weaknesses." [2] [Our translation]

Councilism denies any proletarian nature of the October Revolution and the Bolshevik Party. They talk of bourgeois character of the Bolshevik Revolution and the movement of bourgeois revolution in a country with a majority of peasantry in the Russian. Should be noted that in 1917 Russia was fifth world's industrialized nations with the greatest industrial factories. The real translation of councilists arguments is that if the revolution would took place in one of the most advanced capitalist countries, on an island like Great Britain, the revolution could have a proletarian character and its victory was imminent. In plain language, although socialism in an advanced island like Great Britain, is possible. This is the same common point that councilism has with Stalinism, anti-Marxist thesis of "socialism in one country". Against such an idealistic understanding of events, Rosa Luxemburg viewed from an internationalist perspective to the events in Russia and announced that the fate of the Russian Revolution will be determined of international events and she wrote:

“From reality and practical point of view, the same doctrine represents an attempt to get rid of any responsibility for the course of the Russian Revolution, as far as that responsibility concerns the international, and especially the German proletariat, and to deny the international connections of this revolution. It is not Russia’s unripeness which has been proved by the events of the war and the Russian Revolution, but the unripeness of the German proletariat for the fulfillment of its historic tasks. Also, to make this fully clear is the first task of a critical examination of the Russian Revolution. The fate of the revolution in Russia depended fully upon international events.” [3]

Philosophical approach and even worse than that an ideological view of Councilism to the class consciousness of proletariat, do they empty from any revolutionary perspective that is natural result of such positions. Councilism by denying revolutionary organization and with other words, stating that any political organization is absolutely bad, virtually incapable of understanding the role and function of revolutionaries and the necessity of proletarian vanguard. As a result the Councilism allowed itself an education and training role for the working class. The fact that the councilists currents life is often short and they disability of a continuous a long-term activity, are the natural result of denying of their own existential philosophy. Councilism is incapable of understanding that the revolutionary are an active and living part of the working class.

Late formation of proletarian organization in Germany during the revolutionary wave after the First World War and the defeat of the German Revolution as its result and the class struggles in the 80 deaths earlier decades in Poland proves unreliability and no perspective of the councilists positions, without an internationalist Communist Party, Without a proletarian political leadership, widespread class struggles despite zeals over time will suffer burnout, without targeting towards of destroying of the capitalist state and the Communist Revolution. Without an Internationalist Communist Party, the Communist Revolution is impossible.

"Councilist ideology tends to reinforce these stereotypes in the class through its denial of the indispensable role of the revolutionary organization. However, since councilism, by definition, is incapable of any long-term intervention to the class as a whole, have the most devastating effect of the revolutionaries themselves, in that it undermines the very foundation of its existence, reducing them to the best commentators or observers to the class struggle, without ever being able to determine what the revolutionaries should be: a determined vanguard, which is capable of bringing the class movement forward, the revolution.” [4] [Our translation]

9. The danger on the question of organization

9.1 The danger of substitutionsim
Substitutionism constitutes a danger especially in periods that the movement is in decline and stagnation. That's why we look after the decline of the revolutionary wave in the early 20's, substitutionsim becomes dominant in the Bolsheviks. In fact, through the development of capitalism and consequents of it, the more homogeny of proletariat, growth of technology and informatics, etc the working class will appear more international than in the early 1900s. This eliminates or reduces the prospects for substitutionism.

"The future communist revolution will appear in a much more conscious way than before, because it will arise out of an economic crisis that affects every country-not only the defeated - and with the most concentrated and most politically experienced of the class sectors as its center. The proletariat can only organize itself internationally, and will only recognize itself in their parties to the extent they will be part of the international workers' councils, which will arise from a truly international revolution, not from a ”French" or a "German" revolution. The geographical isolation of the revolution in one country, which is the objective conditions for the substitutionism, is no longer possible. Substitutionism constitutes a danger especially in periods of decline in the revolutionary wave." [5]

9.2 The danger of Councilism
If substitutionism constitutes a danger especially in periods of revolutionary wave is back, in decline and stagnation. Councilism constitutes a threat, especially in periods of prosperity and the rise of class struggle is, therefore the councilism spirit, doubt, and the tail after the class and suspicion to the party of the working class, when the proletariat need to act quickly and determination, would be desperate the confidence of the proletariat.

Even in today's era such as the class struggle is going on a smaller scale, councilism plays its destructive role. The councilism with leaving the core of Marxism and with its Idealism and with the quasi cartoon image of Marxism, has had more devastating impact on the working class and even to the most experienced proletarian organizations and revolutionaries within it.

Combat with councilism influence and its destructive effects within the working class and especially the proletarian organizations, should be a tireless part of Internationalists struggle, because it creates a barrier to progressing of proletarian avant-garde and Internationalist Communist Party.

10 The party and its relation to class

There are not revolutionaries who make the revolutionary class, namely the working class, but it is working class as a revolutionary class that generates its revolutionaries and revolutionary organization. They are not the cause of the class movement of proletariat or the reason of movement but they itself are a product of proletarian movement. This means that the revolutionary organization is a part of the working class.

Party is a product of class and its formation process is manifested that the class through its struggle has reached to higher levels of class consciousness and a much intensified form of class struggle is assumed. Party is more than anything else a tool of class in efforts towards its historical goal to destroy of relationships that it has provided its necessity.

The class can exist without the party of class, but the party can never exist without a class. Party is not an administrative or executive organ but a political organ of the class that its task is defending of coherent positions crystallized in the Communist Program within the class until to elimination of the class society. While the public and united organ of the class is councils that are the entire class.

The reason that the party does not take power, this is why; the task or function of the party is not taking power. The task of is doing a political leadership that is much more important than taking power.

“If the party does not take power, it is because this is not its function, the reason for its existence. Its real and indispensable role thus lies elsewhere. And that does not reduce its importance. Indeed, the understanding that only the proletariat’s conscious will can determine the direction of history and the possibility of the revolution, implies equally the indispensable character of the organization of revolutionaries and of the party.” [6]

Confusion, inability to solve organizational problems, especially under the influence of deviations from academic and activism are not able to understand the relationship between party and class in the course of period of retreat and defeat of class struggle or in the rise and progress of class struggle. Activist view searching to see any effects of class struggle that is decisive for the proletariat. This thinking is leading to that revolutionaries should be launched the class struggle, take forward the class. Activism leads to demoralization and fatigue of militants, have been become disappointing of their efforts weak result.

To Be Continued

M. Jahangiry
1 April 2011


1. Rosa Luxemburg, On the Spartacus Programmers
2. Marxism versus councilism IR14
4. Marxism versus councilism IR14
5. As above
6. Communist Organisation & Class Consciousness, page 92