Democratic Centralism

   At the 1906 Bolshevik party congress, Vladmir Ilich Lenin put forward the principle of democratic centralism. In essence, democratic centralism meant that decisions within the party should be taken democratically, but once made they should be centrally imposed. Democratic centralism allowed completely free discussion before decision-making, and required absolute conformity and discipline afterwards; in Lenin’s words, “freedom of discussion, unity of action.” The democratic aspect in practice took second place to the centralist aspect of the principle. Democratic centralism was formerly adopted by the Bolshevik party at the 6th party congress in 1917, and the 1920 Twenty-One Conditions of Admission to the Comintern stated it should be the basis of party organization. It was only implicit in Josef Stalin’s 1936 Soviet constitution, becoming explicit in Leonid Brezhnev’s 1977 constitution, and various Marxist parties and organizations have embraced the principle.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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