Translated and Edited by Mike Baker: published by the
Movement for Workers' Councils, London 1990.
Marked up by Jonas Holmgren for the Marxists Internet Archive.
Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution is the classic exposition of the economics of communism – and, indeed, apart from the first outline sketches given by Marx in his Critique of The Gotha Programme, upon which the book is based, the only one ever to have been produced. The first working draft was the work of the well-known German proletarian revolutionary and veteran member of the KAPD, Jan Appel, alias Max Hempel. This draft was subsequently revised and completed in Dutch by a collective composed of members of the Group of International Communists of Holland (GIK) and published in German by the Allgemeine Arbeiterunion Deutschlands (General Workers' Union of Germany) in 1930. It does for communist society what Marx's Capital did for capitalism and is perhaps the most advanced intellectual achievement of the German Revolution.
The economic preconditions for communism are shown to reside in the abolition of wage-labour, money and all value-determined production and distribution, and their replacement by a system of use-value production regulated through the Average Social Hour of Labour. One of the most remarkable features of the work is the clear and profound treatment given to the process through which the lower stage of communism progressively "abolishes" itself in achieving the transition from the lower to the higher stage of communism.
The collapse of State Socialism in the USSR and Eastern Bloc lends a very considerable significance to this historic document of the German and Dutch revolutionary movement. In its pages, communist, socialists and libertarians today may discover the basic flaws in the economic system laid down for the USSR by Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. Thanks to this work, attention is focused on the apparently so simple but so easily overlooked fact that the Bolshevik system of State Socialism rests upon no objective mode of social regulation whatsoever, and consequently is dependent upon the subjective diktat of an army of major and minor bureaucrats which, as the ruling elite organised in an all-powerful party dictatorship fused in with the State, effectively deprived the mass of the working population of all control over the economic process. It is this which formed the economic foundation for the horrendous tyranny with which the world had for so long been familiar, just as it also revealed the Bolshevik system to be a false model of socialism or communism which misled the world for over 70 years!
As the translators introduction makes clear, the following text represents an advance on the theory of the post-capitalist economy as posited by Marx. One of the many strengths of the text is the insistence throughout that for any non-exploitative system to actually work all participants must understand its economic foundations. As well as making redundant the economic 'expert' of the old capitalist system, the post-capitalist economy also undertook to make redundant that penultimate twister, charlatan and sycophant of the rich – the politician. To this end, the many levels of bureaucratic job-creation schemes for the middle class of the old society were to be abolished, and the only mechanism between the desires of the people and the practical necessities required to fulfil those desires was to be the workers' council. The workers' councils were to be everything the present parliamentary system is not. The peoples voice was to be taken at literal value through the workers' councils situated in the workplaces and neighbourhoods. Representative spokes-people could, if they distorted or manipulated the decisions of the council be recalled and instantly dismissed. Unlike the pampered parliamentary snakes and misrepresentives of the people of the present (capitalist) system, the economic system of the communist society would automatically delete from its ranks of delegates the power-seekers, the leeches, the money-mongers and the lay-abouts that constitute in total the parliamentary benches of today. Quite how this is done is also a rewarding aspect to the close study of this text.
This edition of Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution is taken directly from the first English translation of the German text by Mike Baker (deceased) of the Movement for Workers' Councils, a London based group founded in 1989 and now long since dis-established. A printed edition was published, but issues of poor quality and the inclusion of extraneous and irrelevant material has made this virtual publication a necessity.
We wish to encourage some debate upon the crucial need to take seriously questions surrounding the whole nature of the post-capitalist economy and wider society. Despite the tendency of the following text to generate more problems than it attempts to solve, this is more indicative of the non-proscriptive thread of argument rather than of any fundamental flaw. Leaving such thorny issues such as those which are honestly dealt with by the authors of Fundamental Principles... to future generations or to some magical and loose hypothesis which supposes all such matters will come right in the end is, in effect, a dereliction of revolutionary responsibilities. To ask the workers of the world to vanquish capitalism into the historical realm of barbaric societies, there must be at least an idea of the new society worth fighting for.