Council communism : from anti-bureaucratism to non-violence
The "German-Dutch" Communist Left agreed with the "Italian" Communist Left on the rejection of bourgeois democracy. In the early 1930s, neither A. Pannekoek, nor P. Mattick, nor the remnants of the Unionen in Germany believed that the rise of Nazism could be stopped if the SPD and KPD (and with them all other democrats) joined forces to fight Hitler instead of fighting each other. Like Bordiga, Pannekoek was a critique of antifascism. The disagreement focused on worker democracy.
It's significant that some revolutionaries would come to call themselves "council communists". In 1920, the opposition between workers' councils and theparty (meaning a Leninist party), was only one aspect of what the German Left stood for, a major aspect no doubt, but not one that would sum it up. Decades later, defining oneself by emphasizing the council as such, meant prioritizing a mode of organization.
Those who are now known as "council communists" were some of the earliest critics of the failure of Bolshevism, and remain among the best. But as time passed, council communists have tended to treat bureaucracy as the main obstacle on the road to revolution, and worker democracy as the main instrument to avoid bureaucratic evolution. In theory as in practice, these groups have been wary of anything that might act as a constraint upon the working class. Council communism has led them to council democracy, as if communism could be best achieved by democracy. Not bourgeois democracy, needless to say, but worker democracy, yet in that respect both bourgeois and worker forms proclaim the same purpose: to prevent or limit encroachments on personal freedom.
We won't reply (as Bordiga would) that individual freedom is an illusion and is irrelevant to communism. We only say that in any case such freedom can't be guaranteed by the democratic principle.
What this quest for non-pressure boils down to is the desire to avoid conflicts which result in the rise of leaders. As it happens, the "protection" provided by democracy only works in the absence of any serious crisis among the persons concerned, be they proletarians or bourgeois. As soon as debate is not enough to result in a decision willingly accepted by the group as a whole, the group can't carry on as a mere confrontation of free wills (unless it's only a friendly debating society). Either the group thinks that maintaining the community matters more than the disagreement. Or it splits. Or it forces a decision onto the participants. In all cases, the democratic principle has been suspended.
Supposing a radical group turned free will into an absolute, such a group would do nothing but pass on data and information : it would defend no theory, except the theory of exchange, the theory of the necessity of autonomy. No theory, except the theory that no theory must be imposed on the working class. Such a non-theory would of course be inaccessible to criticism, which would help the group develop its own informal bureaucracy.
Bordiga's theory of the party denies the problem. Councilism evades it by waiting for such an (impossible) overwhelming proletarian majority that all conflict will be resolved without any verbal or physical violence. The "party or autonomy" alternative was born out of our past failures. A future revolutionary movement will have to go beyond this alternative.