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Democratic Marxism is a description used when a Marxist system has an emphasis on a democratic orientation rather than authoritarianism. Democratic Marxism is contrasted with a purely authoritarian system commonly used to define the terms of redistribution of wealth and state control. Instead, democratic Marxism uses a democratic form of government.
According to Kenneth Megill in his book The New Democratic Theory:<ref.\>The New Democratic Theory. New York, Free Press (Macmillan) (1970)</ref>
- "Democratic Marxism is authentic Marxism—the Marxism which emphasizes the necessity for revolutionary action. Loyalty to the movement, not loyalty to any particular doctrine, is characteristic of the orthodox democratic Marxist."
- "During at least two of the three years of democratic Marxist government, however, Chile faced severe economic and political crises."
Democratic Marxism is very different from other Marxist systems that exclusively use authoritarian governmental coercion without the people being in control. Democratic Marxism implies a type of democratic "rule of the people" commonly associated with other democratic governments. In other words, the government derives its power from the people through a social contract. In this political system, the government is a tool to be used by the people rather than exclusively for the elite. This democratic system is similar to many constitutions in the sense that they put the power of government into the hands of the people. Although it is rare, democratic Marxism has existed in history and cannot be fully represented by the general term Marxism.
This political philosophy is embraced by the New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party of Sri Lanka. The New Democratic Party's home page says the following: "The NDP upholds Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought as its guide. It recognizes the national question as the main contradiction in the Sri Lankan society and has persevered in relentless struggle for social justice against imperialism and regional hegemony as well as forces of chauvinism and local reaction." Although neither Vladimir Lenin nor Mao Zedong were known for endorsing democracy, the New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party of Sri Lanka works within the democratic structure to pursue their Marxist agenda. Communist ideologies such as Trotskyism and Luxemburgism have been classified as Democratic Marxist in nature.
Most previous Marxist systems used some form of authoritarianism or made an attempt to establish an authoritarian force. Karl Marx expresses a clear disdain for the bourgeoisie democratic system. In The State and Revolution, Lenin writes
- "Marx grasped this essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when, in analyzing the experience of the Commune, he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!"
The merits of both the authoritarian system and the democratic system are debatable. However, Marxism can also exist within a democratic structure. It is also debatable whether or not Marx had a disdain for only the liberal democratic system of the political world of his time or the idea of democracy as a whole. Democratic Marxists also argue that the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" refers to rule by the Proletariat class as a whole rather than one specific individual or group, much like the Bourgeoisie class is described as the dictator of liberal democracy.
- The new democratic theory - Kenneth A. Megill - Google Books. Books.google.com. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
- Statement of the New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution
- :. New Democratic Party - Sri Lanka
- Lenin, Vladimir. The State and Revolution.