International Communist Party The Union Question

Theses on the Establishment of Workers’ Councils

Proposed by the C.C. of the Communist Abstentionist Fraction of the P.S.I.
(Il Soviet, April 11, 1920)

  1.   The Soviets or Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Councils are the organs by which the working class exercises political power after it has revolutionarily overthrown the power of the bourgeois State and suppressed its representative organs (parliament, city councils, etc.) They are the “State organs” of the proletariat.
  2.   The Soviets are elected exclusively by the workers, as all those who use wage labor and otherwise exploit the proletariat are excluded from electoral rights. This is their substantial characteristic, all other modes of their constitution being entirely secondary. The exclusion of the bourgeois class from all representation, even as a minority, in the political organs of society, i.e. the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, constitutes the historical condition for the political struggle against bourgeois counterrevolutionary resistance, for the elimination of all exploitation and for the organization of the communist economy.
  3.   The process must be implemented by the collective and central action of the proletariat, subordinating all measures to the general class interest and the final fate of the whole revolutionary process. Therefore, while organs arise in individual proletarian groups that reflect the particular economic interests common to these groups (the factory councils, industry unions, trade unions, consumer organizations), all of these organs’ activity must be subordinated to the directives drawn by the system of political soviets, which by their essence and constitution represent the general interests of the proletariat.
  4.   Workers’ councils arise at the moment of proletarian insurrection. However, they can also arise at a historical moment when the power of the bourgeoisie is going through a crisis and historical consciousness and the propensity to assume power is widespread in the proletariat. The revolutionary question lies not in the formal creation of the Councils, but in the transfer of political power into their hands.
  5.   The instrument of the class political struggle of the proletariat is the class party, the Communist Party. It brings together those who have historical consciousness of capitalism’s crisis process and proletarian emancipation, and are willing to sacrifice all the particular interests of groups and individuals for the final victory of communism. In the present historical period it’s the Communist Party that defends the watchword, “All power to the Councils!” When they are established, the Communist Party brings its action to the Councils to win the majority of their mandates and the system’s central organs. In this work the Party perseveres after the conquest of power, always aiming to bring political consciousness and unity of purpose to the proletarian action, fighting against selfishness and particularism.
  6.   The Communist Party also penetrates and conquers all proletarian economic organs – as soon as they arise under the impetus of the living conditions of proletarian groups and categories –, in order to take advantage of their actions to widen their scope, bringing the attention of the masses to the general and final aims of Communism.
  7.   The Communist Party fights all forms of collaboration and combination of the workers’ councils with the organs of bourgeois power, spreading among the masses the consciousness that the former cannot carry their historical value except after the violent overthrow of the latter.
  8.   The present necessities of Italian revolutionary action do not consist in the artificial and bureaucratic constitution of workers’ councils, and much less in devoting work to the activity of trade unions and factory councils as an end in themselves. The present necessities consist in the constitution of a communist party free from reformist and opportunist elements. A party of this nature will always be ready to act and intervene in the Soviets as the vital hour of their formation, which is not far off, rings.
  9.   In Italy, a vast task, before such a historic moment, awaits the Communist Party That task consists of:
    1. the broad study, made with seriousness of purpose, of the problems of the revolution and the aspects of the revolutionary process, and the widespread oral and written propaganda among the masses of the principles and methods arising from them;
    2. maintaining continuous and effective relations with the international communist movement and the organs of the Communist International;
    3. having sure contact with the masses, preparing for those forms of action and organization which are indispensable in the decisive struggle and which demand, in addition to the militants’ complete devotion to the cause, special tactical training, unknown in the Socialist Party’s traditional life.
  10.   The Communist Party does not consider as aims of its action the partial achievements that groups of proletarians may make within the present regime, not even in the sense of preparing its men for the future execution of technical activities after the conquest of power. It does, however, intervene in agitations of this nature, for the sole purpose of propagandizing its maximum aims and emphasizing the factual relations which demonstrate the necessity of the overall political action of the whole proletarian class, on the path of revolution, for the elimination of the capitalist regime.