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Democratic centralism – a major component of the development of organizational theory is a highly contested and misunderstood concept in modern politics. Although many believe it originated from the revolutionary founder of the Soviet Union (USSR), Vladimir Lenin, in his 1901 book entitled ‘What is to be done,’ the book failed to mention the term at least once. When examining the origin of the term democratic Centralism to elucidate the birth of the concept, Lars- T Lih argues that the use of the term democratic centralism was not used previously to the adoption of the 1905 revolution at the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Conference (RSDLP) in Russia.
In agreement with Lars T Lih, Ben Lewis – in his article, highlighted three front-running contenders who possibly coined the term democratic centralism outside of Russia – ironically, they were political vanguards in the German workers’ movement. These contenders include Johann Baptiste Schweitzer (1822-75); Karl Kautsky (1854-1938); and August Bebel (1840-1931).
The first official mention of the term Democratic Centralism was in an official document put forward as a resolution which entered the party’s lexicon from a meeting of the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in Petrograd in November 1905. Very soon after the November 1905 resolution, at the Bolshevik majority conference, there was a resolution on party reorganization that also included for the first time the term democratic centralism.
The theory of political decision-making was later popularized by Vladimir Lenin and adopted by the communist party of the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution. Democratic Centralism was adopted in 1921 at the 10th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where Lenin introduced a resolution entitled ‘One-Party Unity’ which detailed his thoughts on party decision making. The central tenants of Democratic Centralism are the open discussions should be encouraged but once debate has ceased and a vote has been taken on an issue, the vanguard of the party would enact this decision and further discussion would not be permitted. In theory, this would encourage the best ideas to be put forward but in practice, it meant that an isolated few would determine the implantation of policy while suppressing contrary opinion.
Contrary to democratic centralism, conventional liberal democratic practices balance the principle of limited government allowing for citizens' participation in the governing of their societies. Its features are reflected in the makeup of internal and external checks and balances on government that is designed to guarantee liberty and afford citizens protection against the state. Its democratic character is based on a system of regular and competitive elections which is conducted based on universal suffrage and political equality. Liberal democracy compromises constitutional government based on formal and legal rules. It guarantees citizens civil liberties, individual rights, and institutionalized fragmentation. It fosters party competition, political pluralism, and the independence of organized groups. The market of a liberal democracy consists of a private economy and fosters the ideology of capitalism.
In this paper, the researcher seeks to critically analyze the term democratic centralism, discuss and elucidate the historical factors which led to the development of democratic centralism in Socialist states, use the knowledge of comparative politics to critically analyze the similarities, strengths and weakness of democratic centralism to that of liberal democratic practices.
Defining Democratic Centralism.
Democratic centralism is a method of leadership in which political decisions reached by the party through its democratically elected bodies are binding upon all members of the party. Lenin conception In practice, the text What is to be done from 1902 is popular seen as the founding text of democratic centralism. At this time democratic centralism was generally viewed as a set of principles for the organizing of a revolutionary party, however lenins model for such a party in which he repeated discuss as being democratic centralist was the German central democratic party inspired by remarks made by the social democrat Johann Baptiste von Schweitzer. Lenin described democratic centralism as consisting of freedom of discussion, unity of action. The doctrine of democratic centralism served as one of the courses of the split between the Bolshiviks and the Menchoviks. The Menchociks supported the a looser part discipline within the Russian social democratic labour party in 1903 and did lion torsky although torsky joined ranks in 1917
The meaning of the term democratic centralism has evolved during the early 20th century. According to Lars T Lih in a second article on the topic – he described that the understanding of the term democratic centralism in the 1906-07 period and 1920 onward were inherently different (4 INSERT IN-TEXT CITATION). He identified that the interpretation of the definition has to do with the difference in political conditions instead of one fixed principle. In 1906-07 Russia was freer under the leadership of Tsar Nicholas II while in the period of early 1920 under the leadership of the Bolsheviks party led by Lenin – numerous unforeseen challenges were encountered.
In a bid to avoid having his empire collapse before him, Tsar Nicholas II agreed reluctantly to several compromises in a bid to appease the masses. In a historic turn of events, the reign agreed to share power with a parliament elected by the people. The enactment of the Russian Constitution of 1906 would create a bicameral parliament, with the upper house known as the state council appointed directly by the Tsar – which was described as an undemocratic process. The perpetual undemocratic process established by the Tsar during his reign created the emphasis on ‘democratic’ in the term democratic centralism.
As the definitions of during tsar focus heavily on democratic practices, the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party adopted that The RSDLP must be organized according to the principle of democratic centralism. All party members take part in the election of party institutions. All party institutions are selected for a [specified] period, are subject to recall and obligated to account for their actions both periodically and at any time upon demand of the organisation which elected them. Decisions of the guiding collectives are binding on the members of those organisations of which the collective is the organ. Actions affecting the organisation as a whole (ie congresses, reorganisations) must be decided upon by all of the members of the organisation. Decisions of lower-level organisations are not to be implemented if they contradict decisions of higher organisations.
As mentioned before in the introduction, a couple of weeks after the Bolsheviks used the term in a resolution entitled ‘one-party reorganization’
Recognizing as indisputable the principle of democratic centralism, the conference considers the broad implementation of the elective principle necessary; and, while granting elected centres full powers in matters of ideological and practical leadership, they are at the same time subject to recall, their actions are given broad publicity, and they are to be strictly accountable for these activities.
After the Tsar government was overthrown and the Bolsheviks took charge, the term Democratic Centralism focused on ‘centralism’. This seemed fitting due to the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922.
Historical Factors Which Account For Its Development as a Model of Democratic Government In Socialist Societies.
Democratic Centralism Similarities When Contrasted to Conventional Liberal Democratic Practices.
Democratic Centralism Strengths When Contrasted to Conventional Liberal Democratic Practices.
Democratic Weaknesses When Contrasted Against Conventional Liberal Practices.
One of the major issues with any kind of leadership, let along that of a leftist revolution is how power is distributed and how decisions are made and carried out. Mao theorydecribes two extremes of this issue as commandism and ultrac.
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