Anton Pannekoek

1873 - 1960

Anton Pannekoek

Anton Pannekoek (2 January 1873 – 28 April 1960) was a Dutch astronomer and revolutionary. As a recognized Marxist theorist, Pannekoek was a main figure in the radical left in the Netherlands and Germany. 

Pannekoek was best known for his writing on workers' councils. He regarded these as a new form of organisation capable of overcoming the limitations of the old institutions of the labour movement, the trade unions and social democratic parties. Pannekoek argued that the workers' revolution and the transition from capitalism to communism had to be achieved by the workers themselves, democratically organised in workers' councils.

"The old forms of organization, the trade union and political party and the new form of councils (soviets) , belong to different phases in the development of society and have different functions. The first has to secure the position of the working class among the other classes within capitalism and belongs to the period of expanding capitalism. The latter has to secure complete dominance for the workers, to destroy capitalism and its class divisions, and belongs to the period of declining capitalism. In a rising and prosperous capitalism, council organization is impossible because the workers are entirely occupied in ameliorating their conditions, which is possible at that time through trade unions and political action. In a decaying crisis-ridden capitalism, these efforts are useless and faith in them can only hamper the increase of self- action by the masses. In such times of heavy tension and growing revolt against misery, when strike movements spread over whole countries and hit at the roots of capitalist power, or when, following wars or political catastrophes , the government authority crumbles and the masses act, the old organizational forms fail against the new forms of self-activity of the masses.” 

Browse the Anton Pannekoek Archive in English in Marxists’ Internet Archives.

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