“Council Democratic” Movements in the First World War Era: A Comparative-Historical Study of the German and Italian Cases
Dr Robin Archer (Department of Sociology)
Political Sociology; Comparative Historical Sociology, Labour Movement; Revolutions; Social Movement Theory; Democratization; Radical Social Theory; History of Socialist Thought
Practical engagements with and theoretical reflections on “council democracy” have resurfaced periodically in the past, most notably in the interwar period, in the “long 1960s”, and since the turn of the century. There is a relative gap in the literature to analyse “council democracy” both comparatively, rather than singularly as individual empirical cases or intellectual currents, and as social movements, rather than primarily as theoretical debates or intellectual traditions. This thesis offers a comparative-historical analysis of some of the earliest and most radical instances of “council democratic” movements that developed after the First World War in Germany (1918-1919) and Italy (1919-1920) by looking at the processes that contributed to their emergence and their trajectories, using a strategic-relational approach. It grounds the analysis on a Marxian conception of the formal separation between the “political” and the “economic” spheres as a unique characteristic of capitalist social relation and interprets “council democracy” as a sublation of counter tendencies towards radical democratic control within each of these spheres. Such conception allows the analysis to capture the empirical diversities in the historical manifestations of “council democracy” and illuminates the links between “council democracy” and wider traditions such as radical republicanism and anarcho-syndicalism.
In analysing the making of these movements, the study focuses on the particular characteristics of state-led war mobilisation in Germany and Italy in contrast to those in France where such movements did not emerge after the war. It sees the militarised corporatist state form under which Germany and Italy were mobilised for the war as contributing directly to the emergence of these types of movements after the war. In exploring the trajectories of these movements, the study looks at the ways in which various organised forces came to shape the devolution of these movements in Germany and Italy in contrast to those in Russia where such movements temporarily “succeeded” in establishing a form of “council democracy”. It sees the organisational capacities of the forces involved, the programmatic vision of the radical demands, and the alliance patterns capable of stabilising the movement into an articulated whole as decisive in the movement trajectories. Aside from the comparative study of the two cases, this study also offers a novel way to study the “council democratic” movements empirically in their historical and theoretical diversities.
2019. (with Shaibal Gupta and Marcello Musto). Karl Marx’s Life, Ideas, Influences: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2016. The Radical Left in Europe in the Age of Austerity. New York: Routledge.
Selected Book Chapters:
2019. “On the Notion of ‘Workers’ Control’ in Marx and Marxists (1871-1917): A Survey.” In Karl Marx’s Life, Ideas, Influences: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary, edited by Shaibal Gupta, Marcello Musto, and Babak Amini, 121-158. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2016. “Situating the Radical Left in Contemporary Europe.” In The Radical Left in Europe in the Age of Austerity, edited by Babak Amini, 7-24. New York: Routledge.
Selected Journal Articles and Book Reviews:
2018. (with Kaitlin Peters and Keyla Amorim). “Bringing Gender to the Forefront of Trade Union Solidarity: A Roundtable with Women Labour Union Leaders around the World.” Critique 46, no. 2: 307-25.
2018. “Review of Dario Azzellini, Communes and Workers’ Control in Venezuela: Building 21st Century Socialism from Below.” Socialism & Democracy, 32, no. 2: 146-9.
2017. “Review of Paolo Chiocchetti, The Radical Left Party Family in Western Europe, 1989-2015.” New Political Science 39, no. 3: 424-6.
2017. “Review of Imannuel Ness, Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class.” Science and Society 81, no. 3: 457-60.
2016. “Scholactivism: A Roundtable Interview with Ricardo Antunes, Pietro Basso, Patrick Bond, Michael Löwy, José Paulo Netto, and Leo Panitch.” Works and Days 33, no. 34: 61-92.
2014. “The Strength of Our Collective Voice: Views of Labor Leaders from around the World.” Socialism and Democracy, 28, no. 2: 143–65.