Interactive map of workers' councils (1917-1927)
Date Written:  2017-04-17
Publisher:  Libcom
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20639

This article charts the spread of the workers' council movement in the ten-year period after the 1917 revolution in Russia.



The topic of workers’, soldiers' and peasants' councils, or soviets as they were known in Russia, is often neglected in mainstream accounts of the revolution. So is the existence of an international revolutionary wave which, while unsuccessful, left its mark all over the globe. Looking at the events of 1917-1927 from the point of view of workers' councils -- which at their best represented an attempt by workers to take control over their daily lives and transform society -- can reveal more about the forms that class struggle took, and the international characteristic of the movement.

The criteria we used for what constitutes a workers' council was quite lenient. For reference, this 1938 quote from the GIK provides a more grounded definition, but certainly not all of the councils on the map would meet these criteria:

"Real workers' councils we know are established in the teeth of opposition from management, state, trade unions and even (or especially) shop stewards whose power they threaten. Councils are established not just in factories, but over whole working class districts. They deal not just with workers' organization of production, but with all aspects of social life -- food, housing, transport, education and so on. They are made up of delegates elected by mass assemblies and all delegates are instantly revocable and answerable to those assemblies. These councils first came into existence in Russia in 1905 (the word 'soviet' means council in Russian) and at all times of revolutionary upheaval ever since. In Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland, wherever workers form a distinctive section of the population this form of organization has emerged time and again. The establishment of working class organs of power on a wide scale challenges all capitalist institutions, especially the state and its representatives the army and police." Gruppe Internationaler Kommunisten: The Origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany (1938)

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