Democratic centralism

From Academic Kids

In Liberalism, Democratic centralism is a political philosophy that forms the basis of building a democratic unitary state, as opposed to a democratic federal state. This philosophy is quite common among the world's democracies. Examples of such include France, the Republic of Ireland, Japan, and even Afghanistan.

In Marxism, Democratic centralism is a political concept referring to the governance of political parties and groups. The democratic aspect of this methodology describes the freedom of members of the political party to discuss and debate matters of policy and direction, but once the decision of the party is made by majority vote, all members are expected to follow that decision in public. This latter aspect represents the centralism.

Liberal context

Countries that are governed constitutionally as one single political unit, that are unitary in organization, and are advocates of liberty are democratically centralized. These countries generally have only one ultimate constitutionally created executive, legislature, and judiciary. Political power is only allocated to lower levels if it is mandated by the centralized body that is in control, such as a president, to regional and/or local units, like governors, and mayors for example. Political responsibility is interdependent all across the chain. Governors, mayors, city assemblies, and district courts, are all directly liable, and responsible to their superiors, as opposed to federalism, where some independence for the lower levels is quite common, especially from the national government. Centralized governments may recall the power that was delegated, under only democratic means.

Not all unitary states are based on the theory of Democratic centralism. Dictatorships, and communist countries are also unitary, though through some non-constitutional means and creating a non-democratic outcome. However, most of the world's centralized governments are indeed unitary democratic.

Marxist context

It is generally regarded as being an element of Leninism, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for Leninist policy inside a political party. The term was also adopted by Stalin in his famous book on Leninism, and it is from this work that many commentaries derive.

As Lenin described it, democratic centralism consisted of "freedom of discussion and criticism, unity of action". The doctrine of democratic centralism served as one of the sources of the split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks supported a looser party discipline within the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903, some of the elements of which would later become common in the Trotskyist movement.

In Lenin's time, democratic centralism was generally viewed as a set of principles for the organising of a revolutionary workers' party. Lenin's model for such a party, which he repeatedly discussed as being 'democratic centralist', was the German Social Democratic Party. Similarly, Lenin's theoretical model of democratic centralism was adapted from the work of Karl Kautsky, as he makes clear in his pamphlet What is to Be Done? [1] (, though Lenin and Kautsky were opposed on many fundamentals. "What Is To Be Done?" is popularly seen as the founding text of democratic centralism.

After the successful consolidation of power by the Communist Party following the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik leadership instituted an ostensibly "temporary" ban on factions within the party in 1921, by using the very mechanism of "democratic centralism" . Thereafter there was less and less communication between the Bolsheviks and the Russian populace, and eventually there was very little freedom of discussion even within the party, except by members of the ruling Politburo. These developments have led some observers to question whether the democratic aspect of democratic centralism can be maintained over time. The issue remains controversial Zentralismus he:הצנטרליזם_הדמוקרטי pl:Centralizm demokratyczny zh:民主集中制


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