Antonie Pannekoek

Dutch astronomer and Marxist theorist (1873-1960)
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Antonie Pannekoek (2 January 1873 – 28 April 1960) was a Dutch astronomer, Marxist theorist, and social revolutionary.

The Communist Party did not intend to make the workers independent fighters capable by their force of insight themselves to build their new world, but to make them obedient followers ready to put the party into power.


  • The Russian economic system is state capitalism, there called state-socialism or even communism, with production directed by a state bureaucracy under the leadership of the Communist Party. The state officials, forming the new ruling class, have the disposal over the product, hence over the surplus-value, whereas the workers receive wages only, thus forming an exploited class.
    • Lenin as Philosopher (1938), Chapter 8

Workers Councils (1947)

  • In the present and coming times, now the Europe is devastated and mankind is impoverished by world war, it impends upon the workers of the world to organize industry, in order to free themselves from want and exploitation.
    • Section 1.1, "Labor"
  • In the present time production is dominated by capital. The capitalist, possessor of money, founded the factory, bought the machines and the raw materials, hires the workers and makes them produce goods that can be sold.
    • Section 1.1, "Labor"
  • The capitalist is not driven by the desire to provide his fellow-men with the necessities of life; he is driven by the necessity of making money.
    • Section 1.1, "Labor"
  • Owners are the shareholders, living outside the process of production, idling in distant countryhouse and maybe gambling at the exchange. A shareholder has no direct connection with the work. His property does not consist in tools of him to work; with his property consists simply in pieces of paper, in shares of enterprises of which he does not even know the hereabouts. His function in society is that of a parasite. His ownership does not mean that he commands and directs the machines; this is the sole right of the director. It means only that he may claim a certain amount of money without having to work for it. The property in hand, his shares, are certificates showing his right - guaranteed by law and government, by courts and police - to participate in the profits; titles of companionship in that large Society for Exploitation of the World, that is capitalism.
    • Chapter One, The Task, Section 1.2
  • Labor is a social process. Each enterprise is part of the productive body of society. The total social production is formed by their connection and collaboration. Like the cells that constitute a living organism, they cannot exist isolated and cut off from the body. So the organization of the work inside the shop is only one-half of the task of the workers. Over it, a still more important task, stands the joining of the separate enterprises, their combination into a social organization.
    • Section 1.1
  • The sense of right and wrong, the consciousness of justice in men, is not accidental . It grows up, irresistibly, by nature, out of what they experience as the fundamental conditions of their life. Society must live; so the relations of men must be regulated in such a way - it is this that law provides for - that the production of life-necessities may go on unimpeded. Right is what is essentially good and necessary for life. Not only useful for the moment, but needed generally good and necessary for life. Not only useful for the moment, but needed generally; not for the life. Not only useful for the moment, but needed generally; not for the life of single individuals, but for people at large, for the community; not for personal or temporal interests, but for the common and lasting weal. If the life-conditions change, if the system of production develops into new forms, the relations between men change, their feeling of what is right or new forms, the relations between men change, their feelings of what is right or wrong changes with them, and the law has to be altered.
    • Section 1.2
  • Public ownership is a middle-class program of a modernized and disguised form of capitalism. Common ownership by the producers can be the only goal of the working class.
    • Section 1.2
  • Private ownership, originally a means to give everybody the possibility of productive work, now has turned into the means to prevent the workers from the free use of the instruments of production. Originally a means to ascertain to the workers the fruits of their labor, it now turned into a means to deprive the workers of the fruits of their labor for the benefit of a class of useless parasites.
    • Sections 1.2, "Law & Property"
  • Collaboration of equal companions replaces the command of masters and the obedience of servants. The sense of duty, the devotion to the community, the praise or blame of the comrades according to efforts and achievements, as incentives take the place of fear for hunger and perpetual risk of losing the job. Instead of the passive utensils and victims of capital, the workers are now the self-reliant masters and organizers of production, exalted by the proud feeling of being active co-operators in the rise of a new humanity.
    • Section 1.3, "Shop Organization"
  • In the production under common ownership the bookkeeping is a public matter; it lies open to all. The workers have always a complete view of the course of the whole process. Only in this way they are able to discuss matters in the sectional assemblies and in the shop-committees, and to decide on what has to be done. The numerical results are made visible, moreover, by statistical tables, by graphs and pictures that display the situation at a glance. This information is not restricted to the personnel of the shop; it is a public matter, open to all outsiders. Every shop is only a member in the social production, and also the connection of its doings with the work outside is expressed in the book-keeping. Thus insight in the production going on in every enterprise is a piece of common knowledge for all the producers.
    • Section 1.3, "Shop Organization"
  • The Workers' Councils are the form of self-government which in the times to come will replace the forms of government of the old world. Of course not for all future; none such form is for eternity. When life and work in community are natural habit, when mankind entirely controls its own life, necessity gives way to freedom and the strict rules of justice established before dissolve into spontaneous behavior. Workers' councils are the form of organization during the transition period in which the working class is fighting for dominance, is destroying capitalism and is organizing social production. In order to know their true character it will be expedient to compare them with the existing forms of organization and government as fixed by custom as self-evident in the minds of the people.
    • Section 1.7, "Workers' Councils"
  • Entirely different is the organization of common production by means of workers' councils. Social production is not divided up into a number of separate enterprises each the restricted life-task of one person or group; now it forms one connected entirety, object of care for the entirety of workers, occupying their minds as the common task of all. The general regulation is not an accessory matter, left to a small group of specialists; it is the principal matter, demanding the attention of all in conjunction. There is no separation between politics and economy as life activities of a body of specialists and of the bulk of producers. For the one community of producers politics and economy have now coalesced into the unity of general regulation and practical productive labor. Their entirety is the essential object for all.
    • Section 1.7
  • As an instrument of fight for the working class against capital the trade unions are losing their importance. But the fight itself cannot cease. The depressing tendencies grow stronger under big capitalism and so the resistance of the workers must grow stronger, too. Economic crises grow more and more destructive and undermine apparently secured progress. The exploitation is intensified to retard the lowering of the profit rate for the rapidly increasing capital. So again and again the workers are provoked to resistance. But against the strongly increased power of capital the old methods of fight no longer can serve. New methods are needed, and before long their beginnings present themselves. They spring up spontaneously in the wild [outlaw] strike, in the direct action.
    • Section 2.2, "Direct Action"

The workers have not only to do, but also to contrive, to think out, to decide everything themselves. They cannot shift decision and responsibility to a body, a union, that takes care of them. They are entirely responsible for their fight, success or failure depends on themselves. From passive they have turned into active beings, determinedly taking their destiny into their own hands. From separate individuals each caring for himself, they have become a solid, firmly cemented unity.

    • Section 2.2, "Direct Action"
  • All who stand together in the shop, in the very same position, as direct associates, subject to the same exploitation, against the same master, stand together in common action. Their real community is the shop; personnel of the same enterprise, they form a natural union of common work, common lot and common interests. Like specters from the past the old distinctions of different membership fall back, almost forgotten in the new living reality of fellowship in common fight. The vivid consciousness of new unity enhances the enthusiasm and the feeling of power.
    • Section 2.2
  • Under the new circumstances discontent is universal; all the workers feel depressed under capitalist superiority; fuel for explosions has accumulated everywhere. It is not for others, it is for themselves if they join the fight. As long as they feel isolated, afraid to lose their job, uncertain what the comrades will do, without firm unity, they shrink from action. Once, however, they take up the fight, they are changed into new personalities; selfish fear recedes to the background and forth spring the forces of community, solidarity and devotion, rousing courage and perseverance. These are contagious; the example of fighting activity rouses in others, who feel in themselves the same forces awakening, the spirit of mutual and of self-confidence. Thus the wild strike as a prairie fire may spring over to other enterprises and involve ever greater masses.
    • Section 2.2
  • The system of production developed in Russia is State socialism. It is organized production, with the State as universal employer, master of the entire production apparatus. The workers are master of the means of production no more than under Western capitalism. They receive their wages and are exploited by the State as the only mammoth capitalist. So the name State capitalism can be applied with precisely the same meaning. The entirety of the ruling and leading bureaucracy of officials is the actual owner of the factories, the possessing class.
    • Section 2.5
  • The consolidation of State capitalism in Russia itself was the determining basis for the character of the Communist Party. Whilst in its foreign propaganda it continued to speak of communism and world revolution, decried capitalism, called upon the workers to join in the fight for freedom, the workers in Russia were a subjected and exploited class, living mostly in miserable working conditions, under a strong and oppressive dictatorial rule, without freedom of speech, of press, of association, more strongly enslaved than their brethren under Western capitalism. Thus an inherent falsehood must pervade politics and teachings of that party. ... The doctrine it taught under the name of Marxism was not the theory of the overthrow of highly developed capitalism by a highly developed working class, but its caricature. ... The Communist Party did not intend to make the workers independent fighters capable by their force of insight themselves to build their new world, but to make them obedient followers ready to put the party into power.
    • Section 2.5
  • Wars always were contests of similar competing powers, and the deepest structure of society remained the same, whether one won or the other. Contests of classes are fights for new principles, and the victory of the rising class transfers the society to a higher stage of development. Hence, compared with real war, the moral forces are of a superior kind: voluntary devoted collaboration instead of blind obedience, faith to ideals instead of fidelity to commanders, love for the class companions, for humanity, instead of patriotism. Their essential practice is not armed violence, not killing, but standing steadfast, enduring, persevering, persuading, organizing; their aim is not to smash the skulls but to open the brains. Sure, armed action will also play a role in the fight of the classes; the armed violence of the masters cannot be overcome in Tolstoian fashion like by patient suffering. It must be beaten down by force; but, by force animated by deep moral conviction.
    • Section 2.6
  • So the light darkened that had illuminated the world; the masses that had hailed it were left in blacker night, either in discouragement turning away from the fight, or struggling along to find new and better ways. The Russian revolution first had given a mighty impulse to the fight of the working class, by its mass direct actions and by its new council forms of organization—this was expressed in the widespread rise of the communist movement all over the world. But when then the revolution settled into a new order, a new class rule, a new form of government, State capitalism under dictatorship of a new exploiting class, the Communist Party needs must assume an ambiguous character. Thus in the course of ensuing events it became most ruinous to the working class fight, that can only live and grow in the purity of clear thought, plain deeds and fair dealings. By its idle talk of world revolution it hampered the badly needed new orientation of means and aims. By fostering and teaching under the name of discipline the vice of submissiveness, the chief vice the workers must shake off, by suppressing each trace of independent critical thought, it prevented the growth of any real power of the working class. By usurping the name communism for its system of workers' exploitation and its policy of often cruel persecution of adversaries, it made this name, till then expression of lofty ideals, a byword, an object of aversion and hatred even among workers. In Germany, where the political and economic crises had brought the class antagonisms to the highest pitch, it reduced the hard class fight to a puerile skirmish of armed youths against similar nationalist bands. And when then the tide of nationalism ran high and proved strongest, large parts of them, only educated to beat down their leaders' adversaries, simply changed colours. Thus the Communist Party by its theory and practice largely contributed to prepare the victory of fascism.
  • Economic and spiritual power are made an active power through organization. It binds all the different wills to unity of purpose and combines the single forces into a mighty unity of action. Its outer forms may differ and change as to circumstances, its essence is its new moral character, the solidarity, the strong community-feeling, the devotion and spirit of sacrifice, the self-imposed discipline. Organization is the life principle of the working class, the condition of liberation. A minority ruling by its strong organization can be vanquished only, and certainly will be vanquished, by organization of the majority.
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