News Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism?

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After having read the articles about these two terms on Wikipedia, and having researched it on other Websites, I cannot conclude there is any consensus definition regarding the origin of these political movements and their exact definition and meaning. I was wondering if anybody here could help to elucidate the meaning of these (synonymous?) terms.
 

Art

Here's a link that might be helpful..
http://www.etext.org/Politics/AlternativeOrange/2/v2n3_sdvr.html [Broken]
 
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Thanks, very interesting.
 

alexandra

Curious6 said:
After having read the articles about these two terms on Wikipedia, and having researched it on other Websites, I cannot conclude there is any consensus definition regarding the origin of these political movements and their exact definition and meaning. I was wondering if anybody here could help to elucidate the meaning of these (synonymous?) terms.
Curious6, I wonder if you've ever heard of 'democratic centralism', the form of democracy outlined by Lenin and Trotsky and applied in the early years after the Russian Revolution? It is quite a difficult concept to understand, and its application was not without problems, but here are some extracts providing information about it. This is how, I imagine, democratic socialism would work in practice:
Democratic Centralism is organisational method applied by the Bolsheviks in making the Russian Revolution: “democracy in discussion – centralism in action,” within a strategy of building a “vanguard party.”

The concept was first elaborated by Lenin in his fight for centralism and against the “circle” mentality of Russian revolutionaries prior to the formation of the R.S.D.L.P. and the Bolsheviks in 1901, but the term only came into general use around 1917.

The organizational method with which Lenin built the Bolshevik party were adapted from the past successes and failures of the working class movement to the specific conditions of pre-WWI Russia. Trade unions, for example, put leadership proposals to the vote at mass meetings and then use picket lines to enforce a majority decision. The Rules of the Communist League and the International Workingmen’s Association of Marx’s day are based on the same general principles. However, it was Lenin who coined the term, and developed the principles of a disciplined, mass, working class political party.

For a general exposition of the principles of Democratic Centralism see Trotsky: On Democratic-Centralism & The Regime and The New Course.

There are three inter-related aspects of democratic centralism: the definition of membership, proletarian (or participatory) democracy and unity in action.

More information about the three inter-related aspects of democratic centralism: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm (click on ‘D’, then scroll down to ‘democratic centralism’ link).
An excerpt outlining how democratic centralism works in practice - from Trotsky’s On Democratic-Centralism & The Regime:
…the formula for democratic centralism must inevitably find a different expression in the parties of different countries and in different stages of development of one and the same party.

Democracy and centralism do not at all find themselves in an invariable ratio to one another. Everything depends on the concrete circumstances, on the political situation in the country, on the strength of the party and its experience, on the general level of its members, on the authority the leadership has succeeded in winning. Before a conference, when the problem is one of formulating a political line for the next period, democracy triumphs over centralism.

When the problem is political action, centralism subordinates democracy to itself. Democracy again asserts its rights when the party feels the need to examine critically its own actions. The equilibrium between democracy and centralism establishes itself in the actual struggle, at moments it is violated and then again re-established. The maturity of each member of the party expresses itself particularly in the fact that he does not demand from the party regime more than it can give. The person who defines his attitude to the party by the individual fillips that he gets on the nose is a poor revolutionist.
Reference: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1937/1937-dc.htm [Broken]
And here is another extract - from Appendix I of Trotsky’s work The New Course:
In the debates and articles of recent times, it has been underlined that "pure," "complete," "ideal" democracy is not realizable and that in general for us it is not an end in itself. That is incontestable. But it can be stated with just as much reason that pure, absolute centralism is unrealizable and incompatible with the nature of a mass party, and that it can no more be an end in itself than can the party apparatus. Democracy and centralism are two faces of party organization. The question is to harmonize them in the most correct manner, that is, the manner best corresponding to the situation….

It is entirely insufficient for our youth to repeat our formulas. They must conquer the revolutionary formulas, assimilate them, work out their own opinions, their own character; they must be capable of fighting for their views with the courage which arises out of the depths of conviction and independence of character. Out of the party with passive obedience, with mechanical leveling by the authorities, with suppression of personality, with servility, with careerism! A Bolshevik is not merely a disciplined person; he is a person who in each case and on each question forges a firm opinion of his own and defends it courageously and independently, not only against his enemies, but inside his own party. Today, perhaps, he will be in the minority in his organization. He will submit, because it is his party. But this does not always signify that he is in the wrong. Perhaps he saw or understood before the others did a new task or the necessity of a turn. He will persistently raise the question a second, a third, a tenth time, if need be. Thereby he will render his party a service, helping it to meet the new task fully armed or to carry out the necessary turn without organic upheavals, without fractional convulsions. Reference: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1923-nc/x01.htm [Broken]
And a more contemporary explanation, as well as a critique of how it was misapplied by the Stalinist regime (much like 'liberal democracy' is sometimes misused today):
Democratic centralism is one of the most abused and misunderstood terms in the Marxist vocabulary. For decades the Stalinist Communist parties invoked "democratic centralism" to justify tight bureaucratic discipline. The democratic element totally disappeared from the Stalinist version of democratic centralism, which was really bureaucratic centralism. Decisions were made at the top, usually under direction from Moscow, and handed down as orders for the membership to carry out.

Such an approach, while justified by an appeal to the authority of Lenin, was an absolute caricature of the practice of the Bolshevik party which was noted for its vigorous internal debate and controversy. Despite all the mythologised accounts of right wing commentators (unfortunately also retailed by some on the left) the Bolsheviks were anything but a monolithic party with an unchallengeable leadership. As Trotsky wrote in 1936 in The Revolution Betrayed: "Freedom of criticism and intellectual struggle was an irrevocable content of the party democracy. The present doctrine that Bolshevism does not tolerate factions is a myth of the epoch of decline. In reality the history of Bolshevism is a history of the struggle of factions. And, indeed how could a genuinely revolutionary organisation, setting itself the task of overthrowing the world and uniting under its banner the most audacious iconoclasts, fighters and insurgents, live and develop without intellectual conflicts, without groupings and temporary factional formations? The farsightedness of the Bolshevik leadership often made it possible to soften conflicts and shorten the duration of factional struggle, but no more than that. The Central Committee relied on this seething democratic support. From this it derived the audacity to make decisions and give orders."

…the statement that is usually quoted as summarising Lenin’s views on democratic centralism is extremely general: "unity in action, freedom of discussion and criticism" (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.11, p.320). More: http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Back/Wnext16/Demcent.html
The last reference is an interesting read, Curious6, but it is too long to copy all the relevant bits here.
 
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Thanks for the links alexandra. I had read about democratic centralism before, but hadn't read those links you posted. Anyways, makes for a good read. Right now I am reading about the history of socialism, and how the distinct currents diverged from one another.
 

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