Rediscovering the Hamburg Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils
© 2018 Routledge
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Under indefinite embargo due to publisher policy.
This chapter aims to shed new light on our understanding of the development of council theory through an analysis of the early political experiences of council delegates in Hamburg at a formative stage of revolutionary activity and thought in Germany. We examine the minutes of 76 meetings of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council of Hamburg from 6 November 1918 to 24 March 1919 in order to offer a rich portrait of a key moment in the development of council theory. What we observe from the debates is that there is no single official position of council communism, but rather a set of shared underlying concerns and a number of different ways in which these ideas were put to work in different political contexts. The collapse of the legitimacy and authority of the old order and the organisation of councils into a force capable of taking de facto power opened the possibility of radical transformation. Yet attempts to theorise and create a new society were impeded both by ideological hesitation and the practical realities of attempting to govern in a divided and conflict-ridden society. The actions and theories of council delegates reflected a number of pragmatic compromises and competing interpretations over the proper structure and role for the councils.
This is the author accepted manuscipt
In: Council Democracy: Towards a Democratic Socialist Politics, edited by James Muldoon, chapter 3
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