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Ian H. Birchall

Hardly an Eagle

(Summer 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967, p.34.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Démocratie et Conseils Ouvriers
Max Adler
Maspero, 9.90 Fr

This pamphlet on Democracy and Workers’ Councils was written in 1919 by the Austrian Marxist Max Adler (not to be confused with his contemporaries Victor Adler and his son the political assassin Friedrich Adler).

Trotsky called Adler ‘a lyrical philosopher of passivity.’ This seems an undue compliment to his style. Adler was essentially an idealist who saw his role as an educator of the working class, but who saw education as abstracted from struggle.

The first part of the book is a critique of bourgeois democracy, notable for its tendency to invoke Rousseau, and its complete absence of concrete historical examples.

Adler was obviously somewhat alarmed by the revolutionary wave he lived through. While making a patronising allusion to the ‘courage’ of Lenin and Trotsky, he rejects the Bolshevik model. He states that ‘one cannot replace the lack of economic and political maturity by dictatorship.’ The workers’ councils are to be ‘schools of socialism,’ and a National Assembly will coexist with the councils to represent die interests of non-socialist sections of the community. What a pity revolutions are not such orderly, leisurely and well-timed events! The workers would probably have enjoyed Adler’s lectures.

English readers may sometimes feel envious at the number of classic texts being reprinted in French. This one, however, could have been safely left in the archives.

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Last updated: 6 May 2010