[Marxism] Democratic Centralism - the most misunderstood concept on the Left today

Adam Levenstein cleon42 at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 19 19:58:14 MDT 2004

I was inspired to comment based on Lou Paulsen's comment that "ok,
everyone hates democratic centralism now."

I don't think that's it--I think the problem lies in the Left's
conception of what democratic centralism is and how it's implemented. I
started thinking about this last year, when during the Solidarity
summer school the proposal was raised to turn Solidarity into a
democratic-centralist organization. This was heartily opposed by some
ex-SWPers for, I think, the wrong reasons (though they were correct to
oppose it).

Democratic centralism is not a core principle or organizational method;
it's not something you can vote to implement. You can't simply decide
"we're a democratic-centralist organization now" without losing a
significant part of what DC is. (Usually, the "democratic" part.)

DC is a way of functioning that is achieved not through organizational
means, but through common political struggle. You don't declare
yourself democratic-centralist and it is so; it's something you work
for, building strands of commonality that are woven together into one
tight cord of struggle. Nor, as the SWP would have us believe, is it
something that you can implement by aiming for political monoculture
through expulsions, splits, and dictums.

I also want to say that I don't think democratic centralism is an "all
or nothing" thing. It's not the sort of concept that you either have or
you don't. There are elements of democratic centralism even in the
loosest organizations (like Solidarity). At a certain level, some folks
have worked together to the point where they discipline themselves into
furthering their work; they don't *need* overlords telling them what to


P.S. Lou, I also want to say that none of the above is meant to refer
to WWP specifically; I've never been a member, so I don't know what the
internal culture is like beyond my political work with the Party, but I
do have a healthy respect for your organization.

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