Democratic centralism is suppose to be where the majority chose what to do in a certain situation or the majority decide what stance the party will take on certain issues. And the people in the minority are expected to follow and defend the choice. A common slogan is "freedom of discussion, unity of action."
But why and where does this problem come from? I will attempt to answer these questions in this entry. Some people simply write it off as Stalinism, but this not only lacks in-depth analysis but also blindly ignores dialect materialism. The fact is that most all revolutionary (and non-revolutionary)socialist parties suffer from this to one degree or another.
Why did this problem develop?: This is no easy answer. Since democratic centralism started a long time ago it is hard to pin point exactly when it went wrong. So I will go with something that should be fairly obvious. Even Trotskyist use the democratic centralism model in most of their parties but when a party or country degenerates to bureaucratic centralism the trots call that party/country Stalinist. Of course a Trotskyist is never going to pass up a chance to jab at Stalin but in reality it was Lenin's model of democratic centralism that is/was incorrect. This writer personally believes if Lenin was alive today he would say the same thing. One thing communist seem to ignore is that we should always be advancing and moving forward. Of course it was not Lenin's fault it turned into a bureaucracy as I believe he would have called for a different approach if he would have seen what democratic centralism was to become.
In reality democratic centralism naturally leads to bureaucracy. When a party starts there are usually a few members who are more dedicated than others or do more work than other members. This rightfully earns this said person a certain amount of respect among the founding members and new members. So they are elected to a seat of power. The problem is that as time goes on the people who started the group want to make sure things are run the way they want and that they stay in charge. So what ends up happening is that the original members end up with multiple seats or too much power. New members of a party may take years to realize the level of bureaucracy in their party, especially if the party lets its new members vote on the small things giving the member a false sense of inner democracy.
The biggest problem that develops after this stage is when a member offers a criticism of the parties theoretical line or stances on a certain issue, they are usually treated as a traitor or are accused of not following democratic centralism. What happens next is that when the party should take his/her criticism seriously and figure out the best way forward theoretically, instead the criticizer is kicked out of the party.
Parties that claim to use dialect materialism should always be open to changing a position on an issue or international situation. If a party/org kicks one of their members out of for criticizing the theoretical line then that party does not follow dialect materialism and should not claim so. A party can expect its members to defend the parties choices but if the party does not include all or most party members in the decision making process then it is not following true democratic centralism. My point being that it is hard to up hold democratic centralism in the first place.
I'm not the kind of person to just write a criticism without offering some kind of alternative or a way to fix the said problem.
So how do we fix this bureaucracy with in democratic centralism? Well dogmatism in a communist might say we need to reform it. But the fact of the matter is we may need to do away with democratic centralism all together. Ive had many discussions with people about democratic centralism and no one has shown me a way to reform democratic centralism that would eliminate the bureaucratic element.
Since it does not seem possible to reform democratic centralism we must resort back to our revolutionary roots and find something new. This brings to mind something that has been tried before but was dismantled by the right wing of the CPC. Communal democracy and a communal run planned economy.
I do not personally believe that there has ever been a better example of true democracy in either a country or a party that represented the masses to the fullest. Plus we know from experiences that democratic centralism run on a national scale quickly turns sour and eventually ends up oppressing people who speak outside of what the party says it is okay to speak out against. Communal socialism would be better because how is some one in LA or DC or NYC suppose to know what we need in Mississippi or Illinois or Colorado etc? Only the people from those areas know exactly what they are producing and what they need. Each area would be more personally in charge of themselves and thus wouldn't feel the constant oppression of the centralized state.
Obviously this writer knows he doesn't have all the answers but I am sick of seeing hundreds of intelligent individuals walking around parroting what their leaders, elders and party tell them to. It is time for the communist to start using dialect materialism correctly again, it is time for a revolution!
Written by: Dustin Slagle
(I plan to expand on this)