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A workers' council or labor council is a form of political and economic organization in which a workplace or municipality is governed by a council made up of workers or their elected delegates.  In such a system, the workers within each council decide on what their agenda is and what their needs are. The council communist Antonie Pannekoek describes shop-committees and sectional assemblies as the basis for workers' management of the industrial system. A variation is a soldiers' council, where soldiers direct a mutiny. Workers and soldiers have also operated councils in conjunction (like the 1918 German Arbeiter- und Soldatenrat). Workers' councils may in turn elect delegates to central committees, such as the Congress of Soviets.
In such a system, the workers themselves are able to exercise decision-making power. Some socialists believe that workers' councils are necessary for the organization of a proletarian revolution and the implementation of a communist society. A works council is distinct from a workers' council in that it is organized by a firm to assist with shop-floor management, rather than organizing a socialist revolution. These organizations exist on a legal basis and are common among businesses in Germany. The term has also been applied to unions such as the Nigeria Workers' Council.
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Council Communism is a Marxist current that advocates for a system of workers councils, as opposed to a Communist party or trade union, to coordinate class struggle. Workers directly control production and construct higher organizational bodies from below. Recall-able delegates can be elected from individual workplaces to represent workers on a societal level. Council communists, such as the Dutch-German current of left communists, believe that their nature means that workers' councils do away with bureaucratic form of the state and instead give power directly to workers through a soviet democracy. Council communists view this organization of a revolutionary government as an anti-authoritarian approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Vladimir Lenin, in his book The State and Revolution, proposed that the dictatorship of the proletariat should come in the form of a soviet republic. He proposed that the revolutionary party should seize state power and establish a socialist state based on soviet democracy.
Supporters of workers' councils argue that they are the most natural form of working-class organization. In 1917, councils such as the Petrograd Soviet were formed by striking workers to coordinate the Russian Revolution, exercising political power in the absence of the Czar's governance. In the workers' councils organized as part of the 1918 German revolution, factory organizations such as the General Workers' Union of Germany formed the basis for region-wide councils. The council communists in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany advocated organizing "on the basis of places of work, not trades, and to establish a National Federation of Works Committees." The Central Workers Council of Greater Budapest occupied this role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, between late October and early January 1957, where it grew out of local factory committees.
Workers' councils have played a significant role in the communist revolutions of the 20th century. They originated in lands of the Russian Empire (including Congress Poland and Latvia) in 1905, with the workers' councils (soviets) acting as labor committees which coordinated strike activities throughout the cities due to repression of trade unions. During the Revolutions of 1917–1923, councils of socialist workers were able to exercise political authority. Communists such as Anton Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg advocated for the control of the revolution by the workers' councils. Several times in recent history, the socialists have organized workers' councils during periods of unrest. Examples include:
- Paris, France during 1871 (la commune)
- Adrianople Vilayet, Ottoman Empire in 1903
- Russia in 1905 and during 1917-1921 (soviets);
- Poland during 1905, 1918–1919, 1944–1947 and 1956, 1970, 1980–1981 (rady robotnicze);
- Mexico during 1910–1920, 1994–present and 2011 (comités trabajadores);
- Glasgow, Scotland during 1915
- Austria during 1918
- Finland during the 1918 (Central Workers' Council of Finland)
- Germany during 1918–1919 (räte);
- Ukraine during 1918–1921 (vilni rady, "free soviets");
- Hungary during 1919 and 1956 (szovjetek);
- Italy during 1919–1920 and 1968 (consigli di fabbrica);
- Ireland during 1920–1921 (comhairle oibrithe);
- China during 1920–1927, in 1967 (sūwéiāi), and in 1989;
- Korea during 1929–1931 (hyeob-uihoe) and 1945–1946 (inmin wiwǒnhoe) ;
- Spain during 1934 and 1936–1937 (comités trabajadores);
- Indonesia during 1945–1946
- Vietnam during 1930-1931 and 1945
- Algeria during 1962–1965
- France during 1968 (comités d'entreprise);
- Czechoslovakia in 1968 ;
- Sri Lanka during the 1970–75 United Front government
- Australia during 1971–1980 and 1990
- Chile during 1973 (cordones);
- Argentina during 1973 and 2001
- Northern Ireland during 1974
- Portugal during 1974–1976
- Iran during 1978–1979 (shoras);
- Canada during 1981
- Rojava from 2012 onward
- Antonie Pannekoek
- The Civil War in France
- Council communism
- Kronstadt rebellion
- Factory committee
- Free association of producers
- Guild socialism
- Libertarian socialism
- Paris Commune
- Rosa Luxemburg
- Soviet democracy
- Soviet republic (system of government)
- Soviet (council)
- Supreme Soviet
- Works council
- Workers' control
- Workers' self-management
- Workers' Council of the United States
- ^ Rocker, Rudolf (2004). Anarcho-syndicalism: Theory and Practice. AK Press. p. 63. ISBN 1902593928.
- ^ Castoriadis, Cornelius (2014). Workers' Councils and the Economics of Self-Managed Society. Thought Crime Ink. ISBN 9780981289762.
- ^ Pannekoek, Anton (1946). Workers' Councils. Wageningen, Netherlands: Communistenbond Spartacus. ISBN 9781902593562.
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- ^ Rougerie, Jacques (2014). La Commune de 1871 [The commune of 1871] (in French). Paris: Presses universitaires de France. pp. 58–60. ISBN 978-2-13-062078-5.
- ^ Maurice Brinton, pseud. (Christopher Agamemnon Pallis). The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control. (Orig: Solidarity UK, London, 1970), The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control introduction
- ^ a b c d e f g h Ness, Immanuel (2010). Ours to Master and to Own: Workers' Control from the Commune to the Present.
- ^ Goonewardena, Leslie (1975). "Employees Councils and Self Management in Sri Lanka". State. 1: 32–37.
- ^ Ness, Immanuel (2014). New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism. pp. 184–203.
- ^ Poya, Maryam (2002) . "Iran 1979: Long live the Revolution! ... Long Live Islam?". In Barker, Colin (ed.). Revolutionary Rehearsals. Chicago: Haymarket Books. pp. 143–149. ISBN 1-931859-02-7.
- ^ A Small Key Can Open a Large Door: The Rojava Revolution (1st ed.). Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 4 March 2015. According to Dr. Ahmad Yousef, an economic co-minister, three-quarters of traditional private property is being used as commons and one quarter is still being owned by use of individuals...According to the Ministry of Economics, worker councils have only been set up for about one third of the enterprises in Rojava so far.