The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900–68)

‘Neither Lenin nor Trotsky nor Stalin!’ - ‘All Workers Must Think for Themselves!’


The Dutch-German Communist Left, represented by the German KAPD-AAUD, the Dutch KAPN and the Bulgarian Communist Workers Party, separated from the Comintern (1921) on questions like electoralism, trade-unionism, united fronts, the one-party state and anti-proletarian violence. It attracted the ire of Lenin, who wrote his Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder against the Linkskommunismus, while Herman Gorter wrote a famous response in his pamphlet Reply to Lenin. The present volume provides the most substantial history to date of this tendency in the twentieth-century Communist movement. It covers how the Communist left, with the KAPD-AAU, denounced 'party communism' and 'state capitalism' in Russia; how the German left survived after 1933 in the shape of the Dutch GIK and Paul Mattick’s councils movement in the USA; and also how the Dutch Communistenbond Spartacus continued to fight after 1942 for the world power of the workers councils, as theorised by Pannekoek in his book Workers’ Councils (1946).

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Philippe Bourrinet, Ph.D. (1988), Université Paris-Sorbonne, independent researcher in social history. He has published monographs, translations and articles on Left Communism in Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Russia and social movements (Hungary 1956), including Ante Ciliga 1898-1992, Nazionalismo e comunismo in Jugoslavia (Graphos, 1996).
Acknowledgements ... ix
Illustrations ... xi

Introduction ... 1

Part 1: From Tribunism to Communism (1900–18)

1 Origins and Formation of the ‘Tribunist’ Current (1900–14) ... 11
2 Pannekoek and ‘Dutch’ Marxism in the Second International ... 82
3 The Dutch Tribunist Current and the First World-War (1914–18) ... 132

Part 2: The Dutch Communist Left and the World-Revolution (1919–27)

4 The Dutch Left in the Comintern (1919–20) ... 177
5 Gorter, the kapd and the Foundation of the Communist Workers’ International (1921–7) ... 226

Part 3: The gic from 1927 to 1940

Introduction to Part 3: The Group of International Communists: From Left-Communism to Council-Communism ... 277
6 The Birth of the gic (1927–33) ... 292
7 Towards a New Workers’ Movement? The Record of Council-Communism (1933–5) ... 327
8 Towards State-Capitalism: Fascism, Anti-Fascism, Democracy, Stalinism, Popular Fronts and the ‘Inevitable War’ (1933–9) ... 380
9 The Dutch Internationalist Communists and the Events in Spain (1936–7) ... 407

Part 4: Council-Communism during and after the War (1939–68)

10 From the ‘Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front’ to the Communistenbond Spartacus (1940–42) ... 431
11 The Communistenbond Spartacus and the Council-Communist Current (1942–68) ... 456

Conclusion ... 517

Works Cited ... 533
Further Reading ... 550
Addresses of Archival Centres ... 614
Acronyms ... 615
Index ... 622
All interested in the history of the non-leninist communism and council communism, and anyone concerned with Herman Gorter’s Open Letter to Comrade Lenin and Anton Pannekoek’s Workers’ Councils.