Pannekoek, Antonie

(1873–1960)
   A key theorist of council communism, Antonie Pannekoek was also a leading European Marxist in the early 20th century and helped to introduce Marxist ideas to his native country, the Netherlands. Having studied mathematics at the University of Leyden Pannekoek turned to the subject that became his career, astronomy. He received a doctorate in astronomy in 1902 and then worked at Leyden Observatory, later becoming a lecturer and in 1932 a professor of astronomy at the University of Amsterdam. His political activities began in 1902 when he joined the Dutch Social Democratic Party. He was expelled in 1909 because of his opposition to the revisionist line of the leadership, and joined the Marxist Social Democratic Party, which in 1919 became the Dutch Communist Party. Much of his political activity took place in Germany where he was involved with the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), teaching at its school in Berlin and contributing to its newspaper Die Neue Zeit. On the left wing of the SPD, he opposed the party’s support for fighting in World War I, and he also became a strong critic of the Bolsheviks and broke with the Comintern in 1920. He helped to found the anti-Bolshevik Communist Workers’ Party in both the Netherlands and Germany, and was a leading figure in the Dutch Group of International Communists.
   Pannekoek’s council communism involved a rejection of any attempt to establish a party or leadership that was above the workers or sought to act on behalf of the workers. He believed that only action and organizations that emerged from the workers were authentic and legitimate. Pannekoek had great faith in the spontaneity of the masses and their ability to organize themselves, and he favored workers’ councils as a form of political organization over parties and unions. A prolific writer, his key works are Marxism and Darwinism (1909/12), Ethics and Socialism (1906) and Workers’ Councils (1946).

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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