A workers' council is a council, or deliberative body, composed of working class or proletarian members. While the term may include instances where employers negotiate with workers, or workers deliberate without power, the most common use of the term is to describe self-governing workers without bosses.
Workers' councils have arisen repeatedly through modern history with a variety of names. Notable instances include Russia during 1917, where the councils were called "soviets", Germany during 1918, Turin, Italy during 1919-1920, Spain during 1936, Hungary during 1956, France during 1968, Chile in 1973 (cordones), and Iran during 1978-1979 (shoras).
The key features of a workers' council include the phenomenon that a single place of work, such as a factory, school, or farm, is controlled collectively by the workers of that workplace. There is no manager, or the manager is directly under the control of the workers' council, and the composition of the workers council is determined by the workers who comprise it.
Workers' councils have also affiliated and formed higher bodies for coordinating between one another. These bodies usually operate on the principle of recallable delegates; that is, elected delegates may be recalled at any time through a vote in a form of impeachment.
During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and German Revolution in 1918, the workers' councils replaced the old political institutions and bureaucracy which excluded people with a left-wing political alignment.
Many Marxists believe that workers' councils embody the fundamental principles of socialism, such as workers' control over production and workers' control of the state. Indeed, some have described this as "socialism from below", which they counterpose against what they see as "socialism from above" endorsed by social democratic ideology and Stalinism. According to this view, socialism from above is carried out by a centralized state run by a bureaucratic apparatus in the interests of this apparatus, while socialism from below represents the self-administration and self-rule of the working class.
Some notable advocates of a society based on workers' councils are the council communist movement, various anarcho-syndicalist and anarcho-communist groups, revolutionary democratic socialists, such as the Debs Tendency of the Socialist Party USA, and some Trotskyist groups, such as the International Socialist Organization, as well as the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. A modern proposal for a democratically organised economy, participatory economics, is also based on workers' councils, but with the addition of consumers' councils as well.
- Soviet (council)
- Soviet democracy
- Factory committee
- Works council
- Council Communism
- Anton Pannekoek
- Paul Mattick
- Rosa Luxemburg
- Debs Tendency
- International Socialist Organization
- International Socialist Tendency
- Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies)
- Industrial democracy
- Noam Chomsky
- Socialist Party USA
- Socialist Labour Party of Croatia
- Solidarity (Polish workers union)
- Solidarity (UK) (British revolutionary organisation)
- Ceylon Transport Board
- Mansoor Hekmatde:Arbeiter- und Soldatenrat