Democratic centralism: Further fortunes of a formula

While the emphasis inevitably shifted according to circumstances, writes Lars T Lih, for the Bolsheviks democracy was just as vital as centralism

A couple of months ago, I wrote an essay entitled ‘Fortunes of a formula’,1 in which I presented some new documentary material that threw a surprising light on the famous formula of ‘democratic centralism’. Material from Lenin’s writings and from the Bolshevik activist and party historian Vladimir Nevsky made it clear that ‘democratic centralism’ was not a defining feature of Bolshevism. In fact, the formula was part of the party lexicon in only two, sharply distinct periods: in 1906-07, when political conditions were more free in tsarist Russia than ever before or since; and after 1920, when the Bolsheviks were faced with the unforeseen tasks of administering a large country.

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Matriarchy myth; Scarcely heard; LU goer; Cult fetish; No coup; Cursory; Kafkaland

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Summer Offensive: Frippery

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