Originally published in 1978, Richard Gombin’s book traces the recurrent attitudes in the history of the European revolutionary movement which have criticized socialist and communist parties for their authoritarian and bureaucratic tendencies, and which have stressed spontaneity and decentralization as the correct basis from which to change society.
From a critique of Marx, through to an examination of Soviet practice under Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin as a factor in the disillusionment of the left with the methods of the Russian Revolution, Gombin’s study examines the concepts of ‘workers’ councils’ as they emerged in several countries after the First World War. This comparative study develops the idea of a ‘council communism’ as opposed to a ‘party communism’ which, he suggests, is the fundamental concept in the criticism of orthodox Communism from the left.
Part 1: The Soviet state: myths and realities (1917-21) 1. The three myths and their history 2. Bolshevism and its ‘detractors’ Part 2: The radical traditions in Russia 3. The growth of Russian socialism in the nineteenth century 4. Marxism and power: and early critique Part 3: Council communism The First World War and the emergence of new forms of workers’ struggle 5. From left-wing radicalism to left-wing communism 6. Council communism and party communism Part 4. The critique of Marxian reification