World war and revolution have clearly and unambiguously shown the proletariat that in its struggle against the bourgeoisie and capitalism it needs organizations of a kind that must have no common interests with the bourgeoisie.
On August 4, 1914 the free trade unions and the social democracy joined the military front of the bourgeoisie. They took “the responsibility upon their shoulders” and defended the capitalist interests of the German bourgeoisie.
A centralist organizational apparatus and authoritarian faith in the leaders of the proletarian masses had become marked aspects of the party’s authority. Instead of becoming the lever of the Revolution leading the masses into the crucial struggle against the obscene war and the greedy bourgeoisie, the workers organizations did just the opposite. Why?
Trade union and party are historical forms and manifestations. On the basis of their organizational structures, they must inevitably fail at a particular stage of capitalist development, because their organizational systems were borrowed from capitalism.
They are constructed in accordance with the following principle: leader and masses, king and subjects. Anton Pannekoek summarizes the true essence of the trade unions in the following passage:
“By this means, by what limits and makes possible the existence of the working class, the trade union movement discovers its role in capitalism and becomes a member of capitalist society. Just as parliamentarism incarnates the spiritual power of the leaders over the working class masses, the trade union movement incarnates their material power.”
“It is in highly developed capitalism, and especially in the imperialist epoch of giant corporations, that the trade unions demonstrate the same developmental trend as the offices of the bourgeois state did in the previous epoch. There is a class of functionaries; funds, press, and the appointment of lower-ranking officials create a bureaucracy that possesses all the organization’s means of power. From servants of the whole organization, they become its masters and identify themselves with (they become the same as) the organization. And in this manner the trade unions are reconciled with the State and its bureaucracy; despite the democracy that should prevail, the members cannot assert their will against the bureaucracy. The organization confronts them as if it were something foreign, as an external power, against which they can rebel; because, although this power derives from them, it is nonetheless above them. And, once again, this is analogous to the State.”
This characterization of the trade unions applies almost without alteration to the political parties. Their structure is the same, only their function is different: political activity within the framework of capitalism, parliamentary activity, insofar as the need for this function exists.
Today, in this era of Enabling Acts and the brutal dictatorship of monopoly capital, parliamentarism is no longer valid. The bourgeoisie jettisons this stage scenery without any compunction when it is necessary for its class interests. This sets the two sides into clear relief: here labor, there capital; here the proletariat, there the bourgeoisie.
Now and then, however, a little scandal is displayed on the stage, some electoral controversy, with the intention of maintaining appearances for the broad masses. The masses register to vote; they decide their destiny. In reality, however, the decisions affecting the destiny of the masses are not made in parliament, but in the offices of the cartels and corporations of monopoly capitalism.
The Communist Workers Union thus fights within capitalism against all parliamentary activity and collaboration. It destroys the thoughtless illusions of the masses concerning the possibility of “making their voices heard” through their votes. It implacably combats all organizations that embody the false perspectives of the masses, whether in the form of practical collaboration with the capitalist State, or under the slogan of “getting more supporters” and using the bourgeois parliament as a “revolutionary tribune” for the purpose of “speaking” to the masses.
The proletarian masses are not in the parliaments. They do not listen to the speeches of the parliamentarians. And if a representative of the “only revolutionary party” occasionally pronounces a few “radical” words, then the representatives of the bourgeois parties stand up, leave the chamber and—the spokesperson speaks to the “masses”.
Parliamentary activity is the goal and the ideal of all “working class leaders”. Here they haunt the hallways of the bourgeoisie,ministerial offices,cabinet chambers, etc.; this is where Severigs, Noskes and Brolats are made; this is how degenerates and traitors are born. The proletarians are torn to shreds. As they are deprived of their class background, they lose contact with the masses and turn into bourgeoisie, into the bloodhounds of capital—as they are popularly called.
If the “battlefield” of the Party is parliamentarism, the battlefield of the revolutionary proletariat is the factory and the workplace. This is where the proletarian masses are located. This is where the Communist Workers Union addresses the proletarian masses.
In the factory the proletarians are forged in capitalist production. Here they experience the common fate of their class. And here is the locus of change, where the development of the spiritual consciousness of the masses takes place. In constant conflict with the spirit of capitalist enterprise and its lackeys, here the proletarian has to rise to the occasion. No parliamentary deputy, no trade union officer—no party functionary and no organization—can dampen the struggle of the proletarians in the factory.
The development of modern capitalism and its form of class struggle also teaches an increasing number of proletarians the way of the form of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Revolutionary factory organizations, which transcend all trade boundaries, are the exemplary forms of expression of the proletarian class movement, whose development will find its culmination in the Proletarian Councils.
The revolutionary Councils of the factory workers and the unemployed will exercise the will of the proletarian class. No party, trade union or organization can assume the “leadership” of the proletarians; in the Councils the proletariat itself creates its own leadership of the historically necessary class struggle. Only under the leadership of the Councils can the goal of the proletariat be attained:
The Overthrow of Capitalism! Establishment of the Communist Economy of Needs by Means of the Proletarian Class Dictatorship!
This struggle can only go forward with means and methods that embrace the proletariat in its direct conflict with capitalism, that allow the formation of a class front on the basis of the proletariat’s everyday struggles and then lead to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by means of mass anti-parliamentary action.
The function and meaning of the Communist Workers Union is the instruction of the proletarian masses, spreading the communist councils movement and bringing about the unitary struggle (Kampfeinheit) by means of the Council.
Whoever Wants to Participate in this Great Selfless Task is Part of the Communist Workers Union!
Kampfruf, No. 5, May 1932