Part of Hannah Arendt's work 1963 On Revolution, this essay deals with Arendt's distrust of professional revolutionaries, and points out an alternative, the titular lost treasure. To understand this essay fully, it would require a deeper understanding of some distinctions that Arendt drew between economic, social and political spheres, as well as some tolerance for her tendancy towards generalizations. Arendt was not, after all, a "professional" historian, but rather a philosopher with an interest in politics.
Arendt's central thesis is that councils have historically sprung up in every major revolution of the past few hundred years (including the communes of France, the rate of Germany and the soviets of Russia) and that such institutions were not just independent of the secret societies and ideologues who thought they were in control of the revolution, but were totally unexpected by them, and were ususally either crushed or ignored.
The reason that these councils were so vital, Arendt argues, that as Thomas Jefferson believed,the ward system gives people a concrete basis to build their more abstract politics on. By doing so they open up the positive freedoms of people to actively take part in the creation and construction of the world around them. Her reasoning around this point in the essay grows somewhat hazy to me, it is based on her very particular, strict and somewhat counter-intuitive seperation of public and private life.
I have my own personal extrapolation of why Hannah Arednt trusted the natural spontaneous council system over the ideologically party system. A council starts from one place, and deals with what is available to it. This is a very natural thing, I have seen it in action on Greyhound Lines, on elevators, with cars trapped in ditches and in such projects as the 48 hour movie. A council is just the natural outgrowth of people dealing with a situation. On the other hand, a party is usually aimed towards an End. Parties plan for the future, and plan for the future with a specific blueprint, and as such, they view much natural human activity as somehow being material for their machine. Some parties have goals that are good, and some have goals that are not, but in any case, they often move away from what is naturally present. And when you have two parties moving in different directions, they often end up like a pair of dogs tied to one leash in a cartoon.
The problem with the council system, other than logistics, is that it often arises in emergencies, when some natural part of life must be protected at all costs, or as part of a game, where people come together to constuct something trivial, that has no single set use. Although a council can claim that it is just protecting the "normal state of affairs", what exactly that normal state is not as obvious as we something think it is. If a council does not have some specific end to work towards, their practice takes on a purely aesthetic value, with the physical implementations (a nice mahagoney table pitchers of water) and social justifications (everybody gets together for a backyard picnic and pats themselves on the back) being the only reasons for their continued existence.