In This Review

Ordinary Stalinism: Democratic Centralism and the Question of Communist Political Development
Ordinary Stalinism: Democratic Centralism and the Question of Communist Political Development
By Ronald Tiersky
Allen & Unwin, 1985, 199 pp

An inquiry into the political theory of communism and the practice of both ruling regimes and nonruling parties, pointing to unmistakable signs of immobilism and decay but also to possibilities of development within the bounds of the system. It is largely a historical study, with much space devoted to the idea of democratic centralism, which in its insistence on the supremacy of the party leadership and monolithic unity, is the essence of today's "ordinary Stalinism," as it was of the "high Stalinism" of Stalin's own time. There is some overkill here, and perhaps a tendency to overlook the variations present, for example, in Eastern Europe. But the chapters on recent trends in the Communist Parties of France (decay and decline with Stalinist flags flying) and Italy (adaptation, reform and de-communization) are particularly good, and the entire study is well reasoned and full of original insights.