Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Democratic participation vs authoritarianism Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

"Democracy and human rights are inseparable. We cannot have the one without the other." (Nelson Mandela) Just as human rights have grown over time (first, second and third generation rights), so, too, it can be said that democracy has grown and we are moving toward a third generation of democratic participation.

The first generation of democracy was "bourgeois democracy," the democracy that began with the French and American revolutions. As Lenin said, "the French Revolution was nevertheless triumphant, because it laid down for the whole world such firm foundations of bourgeois democracy, of bourgeois freedom, that they could never be uprooted." First generation, or "bourgeois democracy" tends to uphold the first generation of human rights, the right to elections, freedom of the press, and other civil and political rights that are consistent with capitalism.

Bourgeois democracy serves the cause of capitalism. As Lenin explains, "A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell ... it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it. We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage as well an instrument of bourgeois rule."

The second generation of democracy is "workers' democracy," or "workers' control" which includes participation by the workers themselves in all decision-making, including economic decisions. Only this can fully guarantee the second generation rights which are economic, social and cultural rights. This can never be achieved under capitalism, because workers are considered to be the "property" of the capitalist. Attempts have been made to vote into power so-called socialist governments in many countries, but they do not touch the power of the capitalist ruling class who continue to control the economy, including "their" workers.

Although workers' democracy and control has been the slogan of every revolution since the Russian Revolution, it has not been easy to achieve. As Lenin insisted in State and Revolution, the workers first had to establish a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in order to totally smash the power of the capitalists, and only then could they create a workers' or proletarian democracy.

One should not expect workers' democracy to look like bourgeois democracy. Marx carefully analyzed how the Paris Commune rejected the bourgeois model of parliamentary democracy and established a new form of working class democracy which they planned to extend throughout France. Lenin foresaw a similar workers' democracy based on local workers councils called "soviets."

Trade unions have a key role to play in workers' democracy, as Lenin insisted: "Being a school of communism in general, the trade unions must, in particular, be a school for training the whole mass of workers, and eventually all working people, in the art of managing socialist industry (and gradually also agriculture)."

But from the very beginning, the Russian Revolution found it difficult to establish a workers' democracy, which was its fatal flaw in the eyes of Rosa Luxemburg.

And in the end the revolutions of the 20th Century were not able to establish full workers' democracies. Instead, as Joe Slovo points out, "The thesis of the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' ... was used as the theoretical rationalisation for unbridled authoritarianism" and there was a "steady erosion of people's power both at the level of government and mass social organisations." Elected officials, trade unions, women's and youth organizations were "turned into transmission belts for decisions taken elsewhere and the individual members were little more than cogs of the vast bureaucratic machine."

The reason for the failure can be summed up in a single term: "war-communism." Workers' democracy, the second generation of democracy, requires a socialist culture of peace. It cannot be achieved in a socialist culture of war with its male-dominated, secretive and authoritarian hierarchy of power.

But even with peace, it will not be easy to establish workers' democracy. For example, in the last years of the Soviet Union, workers were given the right to elect their management, but it didn't work well. There were very few workers who had the training and experience to become good managers and most workers, not knowing the basic principles of socialist economics and management, did not know how to choose among competing management candidates.

Workers' democracy requires new and effective systems of education. As Che Guevara demanded, "Society as a whole must become a huge school ... We are seeking something new that will allow a perfect identification between the government and the community as a whole, adapted to the special conditions of the building of socialism ...and avoiding to the utmost the commonplaces of bourgeois democracy transplanted to the society in formation (such as legislative houses, for example) ... "

The third generation of democracy is democracy among the countries and peoples of the world. At the present time there is no democracy at the world level. Instead, the rich countries of the North dominate and exploit the people of the poor countries of the South. As Lenin describes, this will continue as long as the world is dominated by imperialist countries.

Democracy at a world level will need to be based on the principles of proletarian internationalism in which each country and each people is equal in rights and privileges, including the third-generation of human rights. Those who are rich will aid those who are poor, without imposing the terms of their development. As Che Guevara said in a speech to the United Nations in 1964: "...there cannot be peaceful coexistence only among the powerful if we are to ensure world peace. Peaceful coexistence must be practiced by all states, independent of size, of the previous historic relations that linked them, and of the problems that may arise among some of them at a given moment."

Keeping in mind the dialectical principle that "the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon," any action for democratic participation contributes to the overall struggle of the culture of peace versus the culture of war.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Discussion Board Forum on Democratic Participation vs Authoritarianism:

discussion board


Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

- - -

More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ecology in Cuba

On Religion

Human Rights in South Africa

on Nonviolence

on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines