Democracy and socialism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Sun May 28 13:04:52 PDT 2000

>>> Rob Schaap <rws at> 05/27/00 04:58AM >>>

>The reverse is true today. If it ain't socialist, then it ain't
>democratic. >That's a Marxist approach to democracy.

The reverse was always true, Charles. They aren't mutually incompatible notions, are they? The thing is to bear both sides in mind at all times.


CB: Correct, they have always been true, but in liberal left discourse we might often hear that if it ain't democratic then it ain't socialist, but rarely do we hear that if it ain't socialist , then it ain't democractic.

Of course , they are not mutually incompatible , and I didn't say that they were. There is more of a problem with bearing what I said in mind than the other.


And I think Trotsky's suspicion, that the Russian revolution (which he saw as necessary once the opportunity arose to go that distance) was probably doomed by the contemporarily underdeveloped system of soviets, and the consequent improbability that a dangerously established elite could be avoided.


CB: Again the main cause of the dooming of the SU was the failure of revolution in an advanced capitalist country to join the Russian Revolution. The internal failures of the SU were not sufficient in themselves to cause it. If they had joined by revolutions in the big capitalist countries, most of the limitations of the Soviet system could have been overcome. Look to the West for the failure of the first effort at socialism , not the SU.


That's not to say the majority of people did not go on to do a lot better than they otherwise would have, or even that they would not have done a lot better than their proletarian counterparts in other contemporarily comparable political economies. But it couldn't last. *And it didn't*. And now they're dying like flies in Russia (where the aparat's transition to bourgeoisie was a suspiciously seamless event, for mine) as they are in North Korea.

Nope, what you need is a mechanism, a culture, a commitment, a structure, wherein and whereby the people have the agency regularly to make wholesale changes to the political economic lever-fondlers. The notion of the soviet seems to me to work just so. That's the only way to avoid your heroes becoming your tyrants, anyway. If that comes as a surprise to you, I'm - well - surprised.

Never mind Commodus! The Romans had already learned this unhappy lesson by then! From old Tiberius!

And, by the way, I'll thank you not to throw tags at me unless you make damned clear what you mean by them.


CB: I have long said that your argumentation is left liberal, and I have often defined what that is. This is not namecalling, but accurate assessment of political positions. There aren't that many different positions on the political spectrem.


If I am a liberal because I believe 'the sovereignty of the people' must be seen to be done, rather than just invoked by fat theory-peddling commissars by way of self-legitimation, then, yeah, I am a liberal. But that's a very personal definition, Charles!


CB: It may be personal, but it also has objective characteristics. And now YOU are saying you are a liberal. So, we agree. What is the big fuss about ?


And, I submit, one that tells us more about the definer than the defined.


CB: Yea, yea, please , give me a break. Is this the sandbox ?


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