Democracy and Human Rights

  • Stephen White
  • John Gardner
  • George Schöpflin


Communist states are widely known for their economic and social achievements such as their generally high rates of economic growth, their low levels of unemployment and inflation, their virtual elimination of illiteracy and their comprehensive provision of health care. There are few, however, who would be inclined to argue that they have made a positive contribution of the same kind to the field of politics, or to the enlargement of human liberty in particular. It had been supposed by Marx that, broadly speaking, once capitalism — the last of the class-divided and exploitative societies -had been abolished, there would be no more need for a separate sphere of political administration, and the state (in Engels’s celebrated phrase) would ‘wither away’ or ‘die out’ (aussterben). In the communist states, however, there has been little sign of a process of this kind (some have unkindly suggested that the only thing that has withered away is the idea that the state should wither away). The communist states, on the contrary, have generally been large, powerful and authoritarian institutions, in which the rights and liberties of the citizen, at least in Western terms, have been systematically repressed; they are generally regarded, not as having inaugurated a new era of freedom, but as having added a new chapter to the history of dictatorship.


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Further reading

  1. There are several worthwhile treatments of the questions of democracy and human rights with which this chapter is concerned: see for instance Macpherson (1972), Miliband (1977), Lively (1975), Pennock (1979), Macfarlane (1985) and Sartori (1986). On the Soviet theory of democracy more particularly, see Churchward (1975, ch. 17) and Krutogolov (1980). On the Soviet legal system, see Butler (1983a) and also Barry and Berman, ‘The jurists’, in Skilling and Griffiths (1971), and Barry et al. (1977–79). The RSFSR Criminal Code is translated in Berman and Spindler (1972) and is reprinted together with other legal codes and documents in Simons (1980b) and Butler (1983b). On religious and political dissent, see Tőkés (1975), Feldbrugge (1975), Amnesty International (1980), Shatz (1981), Reddaway (1983) and Minority Rights Group (1984).Google Scholar
  2. On human rights in Eastern Europe, two works edited by Rudolf Tőkés are useful general surveys (Tőkés 1978 and 1979). See also Curry (1983), a more recent overview. Opposition movements in the various countries are analysed in Kusin (1978), Riese (1979) and Havel et al. (1985), which deal with Czechoslovakia; Woods (1986), which deals with the GDR; Ostoja-Ostaszewski et al. (1977) and Lipski (1985), which deal with Poland; and Sher (1977), which deals with Yugoslavia. On Solidarity in Poland, see Staniszkis (1984), an interpretive work by a Polish sociologist, Ash (1985), an account by a well-informed Western journalist, and Ruane (1982), a good general introduction with extensive quotations from contemporary sources. Mason (1985) considers the movement of Polish public opinion during this period. Up to date information may be found in the journals Labour Focus on Eastern Europe and Index on Censorship, both published in London; the latter is an invaluable source on all questions of censorship, unofficial literature and samizdat. See also East European Reporter (London), which deals with Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and Poland Watch (Washington, DC), which gives detailed attention to the largest of these countries. On the media and censorship, see Lendvai (1981) and Schöpflin (1983); see also Robinson (1977) on Yugoslavia and Curry (1984), which gives a detailed inside picture of the operation of censorship in Poland. On religion, see Bociurkiw and Strong (1975) and Ramet (1984), and also the periodical Religion in Communist Lands (London). Adelman (1984) provides a general study of the role of coercion.Google Scholar
  3. A massive study covering major aspects of the legal system in China is Cohen (1968), which may be supplemented by Li (1970) and the same author’s study of the police in a Chinese county in Lewis (1971). Ezra Vogel’s ‘Preserving order in the cities’ in the same volume is also useful. Moody (1977) is helpful for the Maoist period. MacFarquhar (1960) covers the views of the 1957 critics, and provides a detailed study of the background to that movement in MacFarquhar (1974). More recent developments are well covered in Goodman (1981), Seymour (1980) and Garside (1981). The question of political ‘crime’ is considered in Amnesty International (1984). See also Dreyer (1980) and Leng (1981), which deals with criminal justice in the post-Mao period. The uncertain development of human rights and ‘socialist democracy’ in more recent years is considered in Copper et al. (1985), Henkin et al. (1986) and Nathan (1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen White, John Gardner and George Schöpflin 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen White
    • 1
  • John Gardner
    • 2
  • George Schöpflin
    • 3
  1. 1.University of GlasgowUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterUK
  3. 3.London School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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