In a system with temporary and instantly revocable delegates, workers decide on what their agenda is and what their needs are. They also mandate a temporary delegate to divulge and pursue them. The temporary delegates are elected among the workers themselves, can be instantly revoked if they betray their mandate, and are supposed to change frequently. The delegates act as messengers, carrying and interchanging the intention of the groups of workers.
On a larger scale, a group of delegates may in turn elect a delegate in a higher position to pursue their mandate, and so on, until the top delegates are running the industrial system of a state. In such a system, decision power rises from bottom to top from the agendas of the workers themselves, and there is no decision imposition from the top, as would happen in the case of a power seizure by a bureaucratic layer that is immune to instant revocation.
Workers' councils originated in Russia in 1905, with the workers' councils (soviets) acting as labor committees which coordinated strike activities throughout the cities due to repression of trade unions. During the Revolutions of 1917-23, many socialists, such as Anton Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg, advocated for the control of a country by the workers' councils. Several times in modern history, the idea of workers' councils has been attributed to similar forms of organization. Examples include:
Despite Lenin's declarations that "the workers must demand the immediate establishment of genuine control, to be exercised by the workers themselves", on May 30, the Menshevik minister of labor, Skobolev, pledged to not give the control of industry to the workers but instead to the state: "The transfer of enterprises into the hands of the people will not at the present time assist the revolution The regulation and control of industry is not a matter for a particular class. It is a task for the state. Upon the individual class, especially the working class, lies the responsibility for helping the state in its organizational work."
In the workers' councils organised as part of the 1918 German revolution, factory organisations, such as the General Workers' Union of Germany (AAUD), formed the basis for organising region-wide councils. The council communists in the Communist Workers' Party of Germany advocated organising "on the basis of places of work, not trades, and to establish a National Federation of Works Committees."