Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices. This year we pay special honor to American Communist party founder and later Trotskyist leader, James P. Cannon, Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, and German Left Communist Karl Korsch.
Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.
Karl Korsch 1929
Revolutionary Commune (1929)
First Published: in Die Aktion #19, 1929
Translated by Andrew Giles-Peters and Karl-Heinz Otto
Source: Class Against Class;
Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009;
What should every class-conscious worker know about the revolutionary commune in the present historical epoch which has on its agenda the revolutionary self-liberation of the working class from the capitalist yoke? And what is known about it today by even the politically enlightened and therefore self-conscious segment of the proletariat?
There are a few historical facts, together with a few appropriate remarks by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, which now after half a century of Social Democratic propaganda prior to the Great War and after the powerful new experiences of the last fifteen years, have already become part and parcel of proletarian consciousness. However, this piece of world history is today mostly dealt with as little in the schools of the "democratic" (Weimar) republic as it was earlier in the schools of the Kaiser's imperial monarchy. I am referring to the history and significance of the glorious Paris Commune, which hoisted the red flag of proletarian revolution on March 18, 1871, and kept it flying for seventy-two days in fierce battles against an onslaught of a well-armed hostile world. This is the revolutionary commune of the Paris workers in 1871 of which Karl Marx said in his address to the General Council of the International Workers Association on May 30, 1871, on the civil war in France, that its "true secret" lay in the fact that it was essentially a government of the working classes, "the result of the struggle by the producing class against the propertied class, the finally discovered political form under which the economic liberation of labor could develop." And it was in this sense that twenty years later, when on the occasion of the founding of the Second International and the creation of proletarian May Day celebrations as the first form of direct international mass action, the propertied classes once again were overcome with holy terror whenever the alarming words "dictatorship of the proletariat" were sounded. Friedrich Engels flung the proud sentences into the faces of the startled philistines: "Well then, gentlemen, would you like to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat." And then again, more than two decades later, the greatest revolutionary politician of our time, Lenin, analyzed in exact detail the experiences of the Paris Commune and the struggle against the opportunist decline and confusion in regard to the theories of Marx and Engels in the main part of his most important political work State and Revolution. And when a few weeks later the Russian Revolution of 1917, which had begun in February as a national and bourgeois revolution, broke through its national and bourgeois barriers and expanded and deepened into the first proletarian world revolution, the masses of West European workers (and the progressive sections of the working class of the whole world), together with Lenin and Trotsky, welcomed this new form of government of the revolutionary "council system" as the direct continuation of the "revolutionary commune" created half a century earlier by the Paris workers.
So far, so good. As unclear as the ideas may have been that bound together the revolutionary workers under the formula "all power to the councils," following that revolutionary period of storm and stress which spread far and wide over Europe after the economic and political upheavals of the four war years; however deep already then the rift may have been between these ideas and that reality which in the new Russia had come to the fore under the name of "Socialist Councils Republic" nonetheless, in that period the call for councils war a positive form of development of a revolutionary proletarian class will surging toward realization. Only morose philistines could bewail the vagueness of the councils concept at that time, like every incompletely realized idea, and only lifeless pedants could attempt to alleviate this defect by artificially contrived "systems" like the infamous "little boxes-system" of Daumig and Richard Muller. Wherever in those days the proletariat established its revolutionary class-dictatorship, as happened in Hungary and Bavaria temporarily in 1919, it named and formed its "government of the working class"-which was a result of the struggle by the producing class against the propertied class and whose determined purpose was to accomplish the "economic liberation of labor" - as a revolutionary council government. And if in those days the proletariat had been victorious in anyone of the bigger industrial countries, perhaps in Germany during the big commercial strikes of spring, 1919, or in the counteraction of the Kapp putsch in 1920, or in the course of the so-called Cunow strike during the Ruhr-occupation and the inflation year of 1923, or in Italy at the time of the occupation of factories in October, 1920-then it would have established its power in the form of a Council Republic and it would have united together with the already existing "Federation of Russian Socialist Soviet Republics" within a world-federation of revolutionary council republics.
Under today's conditions, however, the council concept has quite another significance, as does the existence of a so-called socialist and "revolutionary" council government. Now after the overcoming of the world economic crisis of 1921 and the related defeat of the German, Polish, and Italian workers-and the following chain of further proletarian defeats including the British general strike and miners' strike of 1926 - European capitalism has commenced a new cycle of its dictatorship on the backs of the defeated working class. Under these changed objective conditions we, the revolutionary proletarian class-fighters of the whole world, cannot any more hold subjectively onto our old belief, quite unchanged and unexamined, in the revolutionary significance of the council concept and the revolutionary character of council government as a direct development of that political form of the proletarian dictatorship "discovered" half a century ago by the Paris communardes.
It would be superficial and false, when looking at the flagrant contradictions existing today between the name and the real condition of the Russian "Union of Socialist Soviet Republics," to satisfy ourselves with the statement that the men in power in present-day Russia "betrayed" that original "revolutionary" council principle, just as in Germany Scheidemann, Muller, and Leipart have "betrayed" their "revolutionary" socialist principles of the dap before the war. Both claims are true without doubt. The Scheidemanns, Mullers, and Leiparts were traitors to their socialist principles. And in Russia the "dictatorship" exercised today from the highest pinnacle of an extremely exclusive government-party apparatus by means of a million-headed bureaucracy over the proletariat and the whole of Soviet Russia-that only in name is still reminiscent of the "Communist" and "Bolshevik" party-has as little in common with the revolutionary council concept of 1917 and 1918 as the Fascist party dictatorship of the former revolutionary Social Democrat Mussolini in Italy. However, so little is explained in both cases in regard to "betrayal" that rather the fact of betrayal itself requires explanation.
The real task that the contradictory development from the once revolutionary slogan "All Power to the Councils" to the now capitalist-fascist regime in the so-called socialist soviet-state has put on the agenda for us class-conscious revolutionary proletarians is rather a task of revolutionary self-critique. We must recognize that not only does that revolutionary dialectic apply to the ideas and institutions of the feudal and bourgeois past, but likewise to all thoughts and organizational forms which the working class itself has already brought forward during the hitherto prevailing stages of its historical struggle for liberation. It is this dialectic which causes the good deed of yesterday to become the misery of today as Goethe said in his Faust - as it is more clearly and definitely expressed by Karl Marx: every historical form turns at a certain point of its development from a developing form of revolutionary forces of production, revolutionary action, and developing consciousness into the shackles of that developing form. And as this dialectical antithesis of revolutionary development applies to all other historical ideas and formations, it equally applies also to those philosophical and organizational results of a certain historical phase of revolutionary class struggle, which is exemplified by the Paris communards of almost 60 years ago in the "finally discovered" political form of government of the working class in the shape of a revolutionary commune. The same is applicable to the following new historical phase of struggle in the revolutionary movement of the Russian workers and peasants, and the international working class, which brought forth the new form of the "revolutionary councils power."
Instead of bewailing the "betrayal" of the council concept and the "degeneration" of the council power we must gather by illusion-free, sober, and historically objective observation the beginning, middle, and end of this whole development within a total historical panorama and we must pose this critical question: What is - after this total historical experience -the real historical and class-oriented significance of this new political form of government, which brought about in the first place the revolutionary Commune of 1871, although its development was forcefully interrupted after 72 days duration, and then the Russian Revolution of 1917 in concrete, more final, shape?
It is all the more necessary to once again basically orient ourselves concerning the historical and class-oriented character of the revolutionary commune and its further development, the revolutionary councils system, for even the barest of historical critique shows how completely unfounded the widely spread conception is today among revolutionaries who theoretically reject and want to "destroy" in practice the parliament, conceived as a bourgeois institution with regard to its origin and purpose, and yet at the same. time see the so-called council system, and also its predecessor the revolutionary commune;" as the essential form of proletarian government which stands with its whole essence in irreconcilable opposition to the essence of the bourgeois state, in reality it is the "commune," in its almost thousand years of historical development, which represents an older, bourgeois form of government than parliament. The commune forms from the beginnings in the eleventh century up to that highest culmination which the revolutionary movement of the bourgeoisie found in the French Revolution of 1789/93 the almost pure class-oriented manifestation of that struggle which in this whole historical epoch the then revolutionary bourgeois class has waged in various forms for the revolutionary change of the whole hitherto existing feudal order of society and the founding of the new bourgeois social order.
When Marx - as we saw in the previously quoted sentence of his "Civil War in France" - celebrated the revolutionary Commune of the Paris workers of 1871 as the "finally discovered political form under which the economic liberation of labor could be consummated," he was aware at the same time that the "commune" could only take on this new character - its traditional form having been passed on over hundreds of years of bourgeois struggle for freedom - if it radically changed its entire previous nature. He expressly concerns himself with the misinterpretations of those who at that time wanted to regard this "new commune which shatters the modem state power" as a "revival of the medieval communes which preceded that state power and thence formed their foundation." And he was far removed from expecting any wondrous effects for the proletarian class struggle from the political form of the communal constitution per se- detached from the definite proletarian class-oriented content, with which the Paris workers, according to his concept, had for one historical moment filled this political form, achieved through struggle and put into the service of their economic self-liberation. To him the decisive reason enabling the Paris workers to make the traditional form of the "commune" the instrument of a purpose which was so completely opposed to their original historically determined goal lies, rather, on the contrary, in its being relatively undeveloped and indeterminate. In the fully formed bourgeois state, as it developed in its classical shape especially in France (i.e., in the centralized modern representative-state), the supreme power of the state is, according to the well known words of the "Communist Manifesto," nothing more than “an executive committee which administers the common affairs of the bourgeois class as a whole"; thus its bourgeois class character is readily apparent. However, in those underdeveloped early historical forms of bourgeois state constitutions, that also include the medieval "free commune," this bourgeois class character, which essentially adheres to every state, comes to light in a quite different form. As opposed to the later ever more clearly appearing and ever more purely developed character of the bourgeois state power as a "supreme public power for the suppression of the working class, a machine of class rule" (Marx), we see that in this earlier phase of development the originally determined goal of the bourgeois class organization still prevails as an organ of the revolutionary struggle of liberation of the suppressed bourgeois class against the medieval feudal rule. However little this struggle of the medieval bourgeoisie has in common with the proletarian struggle for emancipation of the present historical epoch it yet remains as a historical class struggle. And those instruments created then by the bourgeoisie for the requirements of their revolutionary struggle contain to a certain extent-but only to a certain extent--certain formal connecting links with the formation of today's revolutionary struggle of emancipation which is being continued by the proletarian class on another basis, under other conditions, and for other purposes.
Karl Marx had already at an earlier date pointed out the special significance which these earlier experiences and achievements of the bourgeois class struggle-which found their most important expression in the various phases of development of the revolutionary bourgeois commune of the middle ages - had in regard to the forming of modern proletarian class consciousness and class struggle; in fact, he pointed this out very much earlier than the great historical event of the Paris Commune insurrection of 1871 permitted him to praise this new revolutionary commune of the Parisian workers as the finally discovered political form of economic liberation of labor. He had demonstrated the historical analogy existing between the political development of the bourgeoisie as the suppressed class struggling for liberation within the medieval feudal state and the development of the proletariat in modern capitalist society. It is from this perspective that he was able to win his main theoretical support for his special dialectical revolutionary theory of the significance of trade unions and the trade union struggle - a theory which until this day is still not completely and correctly understood by many Marxists from both the left and right wing. And he arrived at it by comparing the modern coalitions of workers with the communes of the medieval bourgeoisie, stressing the historical fact that the bourgeois class likewise began their struggle against the feudal social order by forming coalitions. Already in the polemical treatise against Proudhon we find in regard to this point the following illustration, classical to this day:
In the bourgeoisie we have two phases to distinguish: that in which it constituted itself as a class under the regime of feudalism and absolute monarchy, and that in which, already constituted as a class, it overthrew feudalism and monarchy to make society into a bourgeois society. The first of these phases was the longer and necessitated the greater efforts. This too began by partial combinations against the feudal lords.
Much research has been carried out to trace the different historical phases that the bourgeoisie has passed through, from the commune up to its constitution as a class.
But when it is a question of making a precise study of strikes, combinations and other forms in which the proletarians carry out before our eyes their organization as a class, some are seized with real fear and others display a transcendental disdain. (Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, chapter 2, # 5)
What is theoretically articulated here, by the young Marx in the 1840's, who only recently crossed over to proletarian socialism, and what he repeats in a similar form a few years later in the Communist Manifesto by illustrating the diverse phases of development of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, he also articulates once again 20 years later in the well known resolution of the Geneva Congress of the International Association of Workers with regard to trade unions, He argues that the trade unions have already during their hitherto prevailing development become "the focal points of organization of the working class ... Just as the medieval municipalities and villages had become focal points of the bourgeoisie." This is so although the trade unions are not aware of their focal significance beyond the immediate daily tasks of defending the wages and working hours of the workers against the continuous excessive demands of capital. Hence in the future the trade unions must act consciously as such focal points of the organization of the whole working class.
If one wants to understand Marx's later position regarding the revolutionary commune of the Parisian workers in its real significance, one must take his original concept on the historical relationship between the organizational forms of the modern proletarian and the earlier bourgeois class struggle as a starting point. The commune arose from the struggle of the producing class against the exploiting class and broke up in a revolutionary act the prevailing bourgeois state machinery. When Marx celebrates this new commune as the finally discovered form for the liberation of labor, it was not at all his desire - as some of his followers later claimed and still do so to this day - to designate or brand a definite form of political organization, whether it is called a revolutionary commune or a revolutionary council system, as a singularly appropriate and potential form of the revolutionary proletarian class dictatorship. In the immediately preceding sentence, he expressly points to "the multifariousness of interpretations which supported the commune and the multiplicity of interests expressed in the commune," and he explained the already established character of this new form of government as a "political form thoroughly capable of development." It is just this unlimited capability of development of new forms of political power, created by the Paris communardes in the fire of battle, which distinguished it from the "classic development of bourgeois government," the centralized state power of the modern parliamentary republic. Marx's essential presupposition is that in the energetic pursuit of the real interests of the working class this form can in the end even be used as that lever which will overthrow the economic bases forming the existence of classes, class rule, and the state. The revolutionary communal constitution thus becomes under certain historical conditions the political form of a process of development, or to put it more clearly, of a revolutionary action where the basic essential goal is no longer to preserve any one form of state rule, or even to create a newer "higher state-type," but rather to create at last the material conditions for the "withering away of every state altogether." Without this last condition, the communal constitution was all impossibility and all illusion," Marx says in this context with all desired distinctness.
Nonetheless, there remains still an unbalanced contradiction between on one hand Marx's characterization of the Paris Commune as the finally discovered "political form" for accomplishing the economic and social self-liberation of the working class and, on the other hand, his emphasis at the same time that the suitability of the commune for this purpose rests mainly on its formlessness; that is, on its indeterminateness and openness to multiple interpretations. It appears there is only one point at which Marx's position is perfectly clear and to which he professed at this time under the influence of certain political theories he had in the meantime come up against and which were incorporated in this original political concept-and not least under the practical impression of the enormous experience of the Paris Commune itself. While in the Communist Manifesto of 1847-48 and likewise in the Inaugural Address to the International Workers' Association in 1864, he still had only spoken of the necessity “for the proletariat to conquer political power” now the experiences of the Paris Commune provided him with the proof that "the working class can not simply appropriate the ready-made state machinery and put it into motion for its own purposes, but it must smash the existing bourgeois state machinery in a revolutionary way." This sentence has since been regarded as an essential main proposition and core of the whole political theory of Marxism, especially since in 1917 Lenin at once theoretically restored the unadulterated Marxian theory of the state in his work "State and Revolution" and practically realized it through carrying through the October Revolution as its executor.
But obviously nothing positive is at all yet said about the formal character of the new revolutionary supreme state power of the proletariat with the merely negative determination that the state power cannot simply "appropriate the state machinery" of the previous bourgeois state "for the working class and set it in motion for their own purposes." So we must ask: for which reasons does the "Commune" in its particular, determinate form represent the finally discovered political form of government for the working class, as Marx puts it in his Civil War, and as Engels characterizes it once more at great length in his introduction to the third edition of the Civil War twenty years later? Whatever gave Marx and Engels, those fiery admirers of the centralized system of revolutionary bourgeois dictatorship realized by the great French Revolution, the idea to regard precisely the "Commune" as the "political form" of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat, when it appeared to be the complete opposite to that system?
In fact, if we analyze more exactly the political program and goals to be attained as proposed by the two founders of scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, not only in the time before the Paris Commune insurrection, but also afterwards, the assertion cannot be maintained that the form of proletarian dictatorship realized by the Paris Commune of 1871 would in any particular sense be in unison with those political theories. Indeed, Marx's great opponent in the First International, Michael Bakunin, had on this point the historical truth on his side when he sarcastically commented on Marx's having annexed the Paris Commune retrospectively:
"The impact of the Communist insurrection was so powerful that even the Marxists, who had all their ideas thrown to the wind by it, were forced to doff their hats to it. They did more than that: in contradiction to all logic and their innermost feelings, they adopted the program of the Commune and its aim as their own. It was a comic, but enforced travesty. They had to do it, otherwise they would have been rejected and abandoned by all- so mighty was the passion which this revolution had brought about in the whole world." (Cf. [Fritz] Brupbacher: Marx and Bakunin, pp. 114-115.)
The revolutionary ideas of the Paris communardes of 1871 are partly derived from the federalistic program of Bakunin and Proudhon, partly from the circle of ideas of the revolutionary Jacobins surviving in Blanquism, and only to a very small degree in Marxism. Twenty years later, Friedrich Engels claimed that the Blanquists who formed the majority of the Paris Commune had been forced by the sheer weight of the facts to proclaim instead of their own program of a "strict dictatorial centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government" the exact opposite, namely the free federation of all French communes with the Paris Commune. On this issue the same contradiction arises between Marx and Engels' political theory upheld so far and their now prevailing unconditional acknowledgment of the commune as the "finally discovered political form" of the government of the working class. It is erroneous when Lenin in his 1917 work "State and Revolution" describes the evolution of the Marxian theory of state, as if Marx had in the transition period up to 1852 already concertized the abstract formulation of the political task of the revolutionary proletariat (as proposed in his "Communist Manifesto" of 1847-48) to the effect that the victorious proletariat must "destroy" and "smash", the existing bourgeois supreme state power. Against this thesis of Lenin speaks Marx and Engels' own testimony, who both declared repeatedly that just the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 provided for the first time the effective proof that "the working class cannot simply appropriate the ready made state machinery and set it in motion for its own purposes." It was Lenin himself who provided the logical gap appearing in his presentation of the development of revolutionary Marxist state theory at this point by simply jumping over a time span of 20 years in his otherwise so historically correct and philologically exact reproduction of Marx and Engels' remarks on the state, He proceeds from the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) straight on to the Civil War in France (1871) and in so doing overlooks among other things the fact that Marx summarized the whole "political program" of the working class in this one lapidary sentence of his Inaugural Address of the First International: "It is therefore the great task of the working class now to seize political power."
Yet even in the time after 1871, when Marx, on account of the experience of the Paris Commune, advocated in a far more certain and unequivocal way that ever before the indispensable necessity of crushing the bourgeois state machinery and building the proletarian class dictatorship, he was far removed from propagating a form of government modelled on the revolutionary Paris Commune as the political form of proletarian dictatorship, Just for that one historical moment-in which he unconditionally and without reservations came forward on behalf of the heroic fighters and victims of the commune vis-à-vis the triumphant reaction did he, or so it appears, uphold this standpoint-and I am referring to the Address to the General Council of the International Workers' Association on the "Civil War in France," written in blood and fire on behalf of this first international organization of the revolutionary proletariat. For the sake of the revolutionary essence of the Paris Commune, he repressed the critique which from his standpoint he should have exercised on the special form of its historical manifestation. If beyond that he even went a step further and celebrated the political form of the revolutionary communal-constitution directly as the "finally discovered form" of the proletarian dictatorship, then the explanation does not lie any more merely with his natural solidarity with the revolutionary workers of Paris, but also in a special, subsidiary purpose. Having written the Address to the General Council of the I.W.A, directly after the glorious battle and defeat of the Paris communardes, Marx not only wanted to annex the Marxism of the Commune but also at the same time the Commune to Marxism. It is in this sense that one must understand this remarkable document, if one wishes to correctly grasp its meaning and range of significance not only as a classic historical document looked at as a hero's epic or as a death lament. Rather beyond all that, it should be seen as a fractional polemical treatise of Marx against his most intimate opponents in the bitter struggles which had already broken out and would soon thereafter lead to the collapse of the First International. This fractional subsidiary purpose hindered Marx from appraising in a historically correct and complete way that interconnecting revolutionary movement of the French proletariat which began with the insurrections of the Commune in Lyon and Marseilles in 1870 and had its climax in the Paris Commune insurrection of 1871. It also forced him to explain the revolutionary communal constitution, welcomed as the "finally discovered political form" of proletarian class dictatorship, as a centralist government as well - although this was in contrast to its actual essential being.
Already Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves, and more so Lenin, deny the charge that the Paris Commune had an essentially federalist character. If Marx cannot help but explain in his short account of the sketch of the All-French Communal Constitution produced by the Paris Commune the unambiguous federalist aspects of this constitution, then in so doing he still emphasizes purposively the fact (naturally not denied by such federalists as Proudhon and Bakunin) that "the unity of the nation was not to be broken but on the contrary was to be organized" through this communal constitution. He underlines "the few but important functions" which are still remaining to be dealt with by a "central government" within this communal constitution. He remarks that according to the plan of the Commune these functions "were not - as some intentionally falsified-to be abolished, but were to be transferred to communal (and strictly responsible) civil servants." On this basis, Lenin later declared that "not a trace of federalism is to be found" in Marx's writings on the example of the Commune. "Marx is a centralist and in his explanations cited here there is no deviation from centralism" ("State and Revolution"). Quite correctly so, but Lenin omits to mention at this point that Marx's exposition of the Paris Commune is also everything else but a historically correct characterization of the revolutionary commune constitution aspired to by the Paris communardes and realized in the first beginnings.
In order to deflect from the federative and anti-centralist character of the Paris Commune as much as possible, Marx and Engels; and likewise Lenin, have emphasized above all else the negative aspect, that it represents as such the destruction of the prevailing bourgeois state power. On this point there is no quarrel among revolutionaries. Marx, Engels, and Lenin have justly emphasized that the decisive foundation for the proletarian revolutionary character of the form of political supreme power as stated by the Commune is to be sought in its societal being as a realization of proletarian class dictatorship. They pointed out to their "federalist" adversaries with great severity that the decentralized, federative sidle form as such is quite as bourgeois as the centralist form of government of the modem bourgeois state. They nevertheless committed the same error which they so strongly opposed in their opponents, not by concentrating on the "federalist" character of the communal constitution, but rather by emphasizing too much the other formal differences which distinguished the Paris Commune from parliamentarism and other surpassed forms of the bourgeois state constitution (for example, on the replacement of the standing army through the militia, on the unification of executive and legislative power, and on the responsibility and right of dismissal of "communal" functionaries). They thereby created a considerable confusion of concepts out of which emerged not only harmful effects with regard to the position of Marxism vis-à-vis the Paris commune, but also likewise for the later positing of the revolutionary Marxist direction vis-à-vis the new historical phenomenon of the revolutionary council system.
As incorrect as it may be to see with Proudhon and Bakunin an overcoming of the bourgeois state in the "federative" form, it is just as incorrect when today some Marxist followers of the revolutionary commune on the revolutionary council system believe on the basis of such misunderstood explanations by Marx, Engels, and Lenin that a parliamentary representative with a short-term, binding mandate revocable at any time, or a government functionary employed by private treaty for ordinary "wages," would be a less bourgeois arrangement than an elected parliamentarian. It is completely erroneous when they believe that there are any "communal" or "council-like" forms of constitution whose introduction may cause the state governed by the revolutionary proletarian party in the end to relinquish completely that character of an instrument of class suppression which adheres to every state. The whole theory of the final "withering away of the state in Communist society," taken over by Marx and Engels out of the tradition of utopian socialism and further developed on the basis of practical experiences of the proletarian class struggle in their time, loses its revolutionary meaning when one declares with Lenin that there is a state where the minority does not suppress anymore the majority, but rather "the majority of the people themselves suppress their own suppressors"; and such a state of proletarian dictatorship then in its capacity as “fulfiller” of true or proletarian democracy "is already a withering away of the state" ("State and Revolution").
It is high time again to posit with full clarity the two basic theories of the real revolutionary proletarian theory which by temporary adapting to practical requirements of such certain phases of struggle as the Paris Commune insurrection of 1871 and the Russian October Revolution of 1917 in the end ran into danger of being abrogated. The essential final goal of proletarian class struggle is not anyone state, however "democratic," "communal," or even "council-like," but is rather the classless and stateless Communist society whose comprehensive form is not any longer some kind of political power but is "that association in which the free development of every person is the condition for the free development of all" ("Communist Manifesto").
Irrespective of whether the proletarian class can "conquer" more or less unchanged the surpassed state apparatus following the illusion of the Marxist reformists, or whether it can only really appropriate it according to revolutionary Marxist theory by radically "smashing" its surpassed form and "replacing" it through a new voluntary created form - until then, in either case this state will differ from the bourgeois state in the period of revolutionary transformation of capitalist into Communist society only through its class nature and its social function, but not through its political form. "The true secret of the revolutionary commune, the revolutionary council system, and every other historical manifestation of government of the working class exists in this social content and not in anyone artificially devised political form or in such special institutions as may once have been realized under some particular historical circumstances.