Internal Party Democracy

  • Richard N. Hunt


We have already looked at the Communist League from the outside, as an alleged conspiracy or a vanguard party, asking questions about its assigned historical tasks and relationship to the masses. But there is another way of looking at such organizations, from the inside, as autonomous structures, miniature societies with their own arrangements for choosing and dismissing leaders, making “laws,” binding members to a certain discipline, and so forth. The character of these internal arrangements, whether they are more authoritarian or more democratic, undoubtedly tells us a good deal about the underlying political values and assumptions of the organizations’ founders, leaders, and perhaps members. If one inspects the values and assumptions of early socialist thinkers in such a light, the results are frequently devastating. Some socialists were frankly antidemocratic, of course: Robert Owen never pretended to desire anything but authoritarian leadership for the model communities he established. The dictatorial aspirations of Babeuf, Buonarroti, and Blanqui were faithfully reflected in the dictatorial internal structure of the conspiratorial groups they founded. More complex are the cases of those socialists who opposed authoritarianism publicly, while endorsing it “privately,” as it were, for their own organizations.


Political Organization Central Committee Local Unit Editorial Staff Authoritarian Leadership 
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© University of Pittsburgh Press 1974

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  • Richard N. Hunt

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