Workers' Councils in no way owe their origin to the theoretical analysis of society, but they are the result of the intuition of the masses. Deprived of every form of organisation, living in the blackest poverty, the Russian working class themselves organised their own strikes from below in the period 1900-5.
The Western European method of struggle was practically unknown in consequence of the ban on organisations.
Parties and Trade Unions which in Western Europe were already free and strong had no influence on the actions of the Russian working class. In Russia, therefore, the workers could not only dispense with conducting the struggle through their Party or Trade Union leaders, but they were forced to do it themselves in the factories. In the industries, strike committees were formed for the organisation of the struggle.
The strength of the strike movement in Russia which found its culmination in the St. Petersburg Workers' Council (Soviet of 1905) consisted in the expansion of the strike over many industries.
Whilst in Western Europe the consideration of the matter between capital and labour (arbitration), the conference-table, the formation of strike funds and everywhere the limitation of strikes, were the conditions for the class struggle, in Russia it was the contrary.
The Russian masses knew no organised conciliation conference, not fighting funds, no congresses, motions, and official leaders. They knew one weapon: strikes, organised by themselves from below, passing on from factory to factory, and above all, spreading. In every factory a committee was chosen, out of which by factory committees joining together, a general committee was chosen. These general committees or Workers' Councils had no permanent function, did not consist of paid administrators, and were raised up in the struggle itself.
The contradiction between the Russian working masses, fighting under their own strike leadership, and the gentlemen of the school of scientific Socialism, only came out with full clearness in the Russian Revolution of 1917. The masses acting on an intuitive impulse must, cost what it would, be made subordinate to the General Staff of the Bolshevik Party. Only the General Staff knew the way to the classless society, so the masses ought to obey its commands.
The bloodbath of Kronstad, where the Bolshevik, Trotsky, had thousands of workers slaughtered, only because they advanced a point of his own party's programme: "All power to the workers' councils" (Soviets) was the historical evidence of it.
If we measure the correctness of a theory by its results, then the practice has given judgment. What has the years long Trade Union struggle got for the masses? What increase in the standard of living have they go out of it? Where are the results of the Party political struggle? The scales tip in favour of the self-acting and thinking Russian masses.
The practice of the class struggle in Europe gives the same result. Ninety per cent of the theories of the scientific school have become traitors to Socialism and by crooked leadership have diverted the masses further from Socialism than ever before.
The coming of Socialism will be the result of the uprising of great masses of workers joined in one front, organised industrially in workers' councils.
The Trade Unions and political parties must be settled with. They form an obstacle in the way for the independent uprising of the masses.
One must not expect that the Workers' Council idea should be a magic charm, that it is only needed to be put into practice in order to bring forth results. Far from that.
Workers' Councils only express the exhausting struggle of the workers to rise from their sleep to be free men.
The upward climb of the working class, now bound down in wage slavery, to the position of a class in a state to rule socially will be a lengthy process.
The skirmishes of vanguards are only carried on to show the masses how fighting ought to be done. The workers' councils form the instrument whereby and by way of which the workers can free themselves from dependence on leadership, in which the can construct in opposition to the Trade Unions and political parties, an emancipating power of their own.