FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF COMMuNIST PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNIST PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION

The "Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution" of the Group of International Communists (GIC) is a classic of Marxist literature. The GIC describes the relevance of the "Fundamental Principles" as follows:

"When in an industrial country the rule of the working class has become a fact, then the proletariat is faced with the task of transforming the economy according to new, communal (communist) principles. The abolition of private property is easily pronounced; it will be the first measure of political violence of the working class. But this is only a legal act, which should create the legal basis for the real economic process. The real transformation and the real revolutionary work only begins then."

The first manuscript of the "Fundamental Principles" was written during a 2-year prison sentence to which the revolutionary worker Jan Appel was convicted in 1923. Appel was one of the main propagandists of the General Workers Union of Germany (AAUD) and a founding member of the KAPD. As its delegate, he participated in the 2nd Congress of the Third Communist International in Moscow in 1920. To get from Hamburg via Murmansk to the congress, Appel kidnapped the fishing boat Senator Schröder together with some comrades. Arriving in Moscow Appel was granted a short meeting with Lenin to present the position of the KAPD. Lenin rejected the position of the KAPD. According to Appel he did so by reading excerpts from the still unpublished manuscript: “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder.

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Three years later Appel was arrested in Germany for sedition and sentenced to prison in connection with the ship hijacking. There came a time for reflection on the internal strife within the communist movement. In his autobiographical notes, Appel wrote: "The realization that the Russian revolution would lead to state communism, or rather state capitalism, was still new at the time. ... And what was also new was to focus on the core of the liberation of workers from wage slavery, on the takeover of the establishments by the operational organizations, in order to then introduce from here the socially average working time as a measure for the calculation and distribution of all created goods. Only in this way can money and all values be deprived of the possibility of appearing as capital, of taking people into its service as capital and exploiting them."

At the end of 1925, Jan Appel was released in the course of a general amnesty and emigrated to the Netherlands at the turn of the year, as the situation in Germany was politically too dangerous for him. He took a job at a shipyard in Zaandam and contacted Henk Canne Meijer, whom he did not know personally but whose address was given to him by comrades. Like Appel, Canne Meijer was one of those who first cheered the Russian Revolution. In the course of the further development, however, he quickly joined the criticism of Bolshevik party communism represented in Germany by Otto Rühle, among others, and in Holland by Anton Pannekoek and Herman Gorter. In contrast, he began to propagate the independent struggle of the workers through workers' councils. Probably the Group of International Communists was formed through the discussions around the notes on the "Fundamental Principles" presented by Appel. Appel found a supporter in Canne Meijer, who ultimately played a major role in the further formulation of the text.

The first edition of the "Fundamental Principles" was published in German in 1930 by the General Workers Union of Germany (AAUD). It was confiscated and destroyed. A short summary of the book was published in German in Kampfsignal and in English in Council Correspondence. "Due to financial difficulties", writes the GIK in the preface to the 2nd Dutch edition, "we were not able to publish a Dutch edition in the usual book form. Therefore we have resorted to a less common method of publication, namely partial publication as an appendix to the "Persmateriaal van de Internationale Communisten" (P.I.C.). We have made a virtue of necessity by going through the entire manuscript, so that this edition is not identical to the German one. No substantial changes have been made to the content, but the structure and various formulations have been changed and, we believe, improved."

While the text of the German first edition was reprinted in 1970 and also translated into English and French, the completely revised and improved 2nd edition remained largely unnoticed in Dutch for the following 85 years. With the translation of the 2nd edition into German and English, available since the beginning of 2020, this classic of Marxist literature is for the first time available to a larger circle of readers.

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This book is a tribute to the collective work of the Group of International Communists of Holland. Given the experiences with state communism in Russia, their “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution,” published in 1930, was an attempt to elaborate the economic basis of a communist society as outlined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Although their explanations have lost none of their original topicality, their text has remained a product of its time in the way they address the literature of that period. This paper, therefore, attempts to reintroduce the core statements of the “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution” into the current debate on the alternative to capitalism.

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