Anton Pannekoek, 1908

2 January 1873 – 28 April


Pannekoek studied mathematics and physics in Leiden from 1891. Even before he went to college he was interested in astronomy and studied the variability of Polaris. He published his first article, On the Necessity of Further Researches on the Milky Way, as a student. – not a worker!

Teaches at S.D. schools before WWI.

the Amsterdam city council got him an appointment at the University of Amsterdam in 1925, first as a part-time professor, and in 1932 as a full professor.

he became interested in the nature and evolution of stars. Because of these studies, he is considered to be the founder of astrophysics as a separate discipline in the Netherlands

his book, A History of Astronomy, is considered a standard reference on the subject

His work in galactic structure, astrophysics and the history of astronomy was of international renown and won him an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1936, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1951. The crater Pannekoek on the Moon and the asteroid 2378 Pannekoek are named after him.

Basing his theory on what he regarded as the practical lessons of the 1917 Russian Revolution, 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.

His later analysis of the failure of the Russian revolution was that after Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power, they crippled the soviets. Instead of workers' councils, the Bolsheviks had instituted the rule of their party, which in Pannekoek's view is what led to the institution of the Bolsheviks as a new ruling class.


Антон Паннекук как «левый уклонист» был объектом острой критики со стороны Ленина в работе «Детская болезнь «левизны» в коммунизме» (1920). Паннекук ответил Ленину брошюрой «Мировая революция и коммунистическая тактика» (1920). В 1921 г. он был исключён из КПН за «левый уклон».

В 1922 г. Паннекук был одним из основателей и руководителей Коммунистического рабочего Интернационала.

Паннекук был одним из основоположников «коммунизма рабочих советов» (рэтекоммунизм)

 Его объяснение неудач Русской революции заключалось в том, что после прихода большевиков к власти они заменили власть Советов властью партии, что, по мнению Паннекука, вело к превращению большевиков в новый господствующий класс. Свои взгляды на большевизм он изложил в книге «Ленин как философ» (1938).

Anton Pannekoek, 1946

The Failure of the Working Class


Why did the working class fail in its historical task? Why did it not offer resistance to national socialism in Germany? Why is there no trace of any revolutionary movement amongst the workers of America? What has happened to the social vitality of the world working class? Why do the masses all over the globe no longer seem capable of initiating anything new aimed at their own self-liberation?

why did not the workers rise against threatening fascism? To fight you must have a positive aim. Opposed to fascism there were two alternatives: either to maintain, or to return to the old capitalism, with its unemployment, its crises, its corruption, its misery--whereas Nationalism Socialism preserved itself as an anti-capitalist reign of labor, without unemployment, a reign of national greatness, of community politics that could lead to a socialist revolution. Thus, indeed, the deeper question is: why did the German workers not make their revolution?

Well, they had experienced a revolution: 1918. But it had taught them the lesson that neither the Social Democratic Party, nor the trade unions was the instrument of their liberation; both turned out to be instruments for restoring capitalism. So what were they to do? The Communist Party did not show a way either; it propagated the Russian system of state-capitalism, with its still worse lack of freedom.

- all except “state-capitalism” I agree with.

The avowed aim of the Socialist Party in Germany--and then in all countries--was state socialism. According to program the working class had to conquer political dominance, and then by its power over the state, had to organize production into a state-directed planned economic system. Its instrument was to be the Socialist Party, developed already into a huge body of 300,000 members, with a million trade-union members and three million voters behind them, led by a big apparatus of politicians, agitators, editors, eager to take the place of the former rulers. According to program, then, they should expropriate by law the capitalist class and organize production in a centrally-directed planned system.

It is clear that in such a system the workers, though their daily bread may seem to be secured, are only imperfectly liberated. The upper echelons of society have been changed, but the foundations bearing the entire building remain the old ones: factories with wage-earning workers under the command of directors and managers.

G.D.H. Cole: “"The whole people would no more be able than the whole body of shareholders in a great enterprise to manage an industry....It would be necessary, under socialism as much as under large scale capitalism, to entrust the actual management of industrial enterprise to salaried experts, chosen for their specialized knowledge and ability in particular branches of work....There is no reason to suppose that the methods of appointing the actual managers in socialized industries would differ widely from those already in force in large scale capitalist enterprise....There is no reason to suppose that the socialization of any industry would mean a great change in its managerial personnel."

A.P.’s comment on Cole: “Thus the workers will have got new masters instead of the old ones. Good humane masters instead of the bad, rapacious masters of today. Appointed by a socialist government or at best chosen by themselves. But, once chosen, they must be obeyed. The workers are not master over their shops, they are not master of the means of production. Above them stands the commanding power of a state bureaucracy of leaders and managers. Such a state of affairs can attract the workers as long as they feel powerless against the power of the capitalists: so in their first rise during the 19th century this was put up as the goal. They were not strong enough to drive the capitalists out of the command over the production installations; so their way out was state socialism, a government of socialists expropriating the capitalists.

A.P.’s solution: “Capitalism, indeed, cannot be annihilated by a change in the commanding persons; but only by the abolition of commanding. The real freedom of the workers consists in their direct mastery over the means of production. The essence of the future free world community is not that the working masses get enough food, but they direct their work themselves, collectively. For the real content of their life is their productive work; the fundamental change is not a change in the passive realm of consumption, but in the active realm of production. Before them now the problem arises of how to unite freedom and organization; how to combine mastery of the workers over the work with the binding up of all this work into a well-planned social entirety. How to organize production, in every shop as well as over the whole of world economy, in such a way that they themselves as parts of a collaborating community regulate their work. Mastery over production means that the personnel, the bodies of workers, technicians and experts that by their collective effort run the shop and put into action the technical apparatus are at the same time the managers themselves. The organization into a social entity is then performed by delegates of the separate plants, by so-called workers councils, discussing and deciding on the common affairs. The development of such a council organization will afford the solution of the problem; but this development is a historical process, taking time and demanding a deep transformation of outlook and character.”

 And so now we begin to understand why former promising workers' movements could not succeed. When the aims are too narrow there can be no real liberation. When the aim is a semi- or mock-liberation, the inner forces aroused are insufficient to bring about fundamental results. So the German socialist movement, unable to provide the workers with arms powerful enough to fight successfully monopolistic capital, had to succumb. The working class had to search for new roads. But the difficulty of disentangling itself from the net of socialist teachings imposed by old parties and old slogans made it powerless against aggressive capitalism, and brought about a period of continuous decline, indicating the need for a new orientation.

Intellectuals, who are wont to reduce the social struggle to the most abstract and simple formulas, are inclined to underrate the tremendous scope of the social transformation before us. They think how easy it would be to put the right name into the ballot box. They forget what deep inner revolution must take place in the working masses; what amount of clear insight, of solidarity, of perseverance and courage, of proud fighting spirit is needed to vanquish the immense physical and spiritual power of capitalism.

A.P. thinks that a new form of workers’ struggle – wildcat strikes – shows workers’ self-reliance, self-organization and initiative. Strike committees, originating from these wildcat strikes, can turn into workers’ councils.

 In Marx's writings we find the sentence: a production system does not perish before all its innate possibilities have developed. In the persistence of capitalism, we now begin to detect some deeper truth in this sentence than was suspected before. As long as the capitalist system can keep the masses alive, they feel no stringent necessity to do away with it. And it is able to do so as long as it can grow and expand its realm over wider parts of the world. Hence, so long as half the world's population stands outside capitalism, its task is not finished. The many hundreds of millions thronged in the fertile plains of Eastern and Southern Asia are still living in pre-capitalist conditions. As long as they can afford a market to be provided with rails and locomotives, with trucks, machines and factories, capitalist enterprise, especially in America, may prosper and expand.

(end of work)

A.P. continues to hold to Marxist idea of the working class as protagonist of revolutionary action, albeit in the changed form of “council communism”.

Revolt of the ScientistsEdit


He sees “the revolt of the scientists” against the atomic bomb, but doesn’t recognize in this the sign of the coming age.

One of such rebels was Einstein, and they were not able to buy him, or bend him over to capitalism!

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