Democratic centralism: Debates and opinions

In recent years, most of the international groupings of the Trotskyist tradition have gone through crises and splits. This, of course, cannot be considered accidental.

A central theme cutting through this process is the issue of democracy and the internal regime inside these organizations. This is evident in all the materials produced after each split; and relates to the actual experience activists have, working in or around the various groups of the revolutionary Left.

It is our conviction that in order to build sizable international organisations that can stand up to the revolutionary task, a real and vibrant internal democratic regime is absolutely necessary.

It is clear that an open discussion around these issues is very long due. The outcome of this discussion can influence developments in the anticapitalist and revolutionary Left and can play a role in whether the efforts to build mass revolutionary parties will eventually succeed..

In the following collection of articles, we aim to present some, important in our view, documents of this debate. The list is of course not exhaustive. But we think it can give a picture of the debate, at least from the side of the tradition we are coming from, and stimulate it further. If any of our readers have any proposals to include other articles in this collection, please contact us at

Debates in the ISA on leadership and democratic centralism

In the recent crisis that led to the June 2021 split in the ISA, a series of debates developed over the issues of democracy and leadership. In this collection we present two of these debates:

I. The first part on the issue of how to build a new international leadership developed around the January 2020 ISA Congress and in the weeks that followed that:

a. “Building a Bolshevik leadership” (Greek EC). You can read it here

b. Some points on building and leadership (Eric B). You can read it here

c. Democratic centralism and party culture for the 2020’s (RM and VB). You can read it here

II. The second part developed around the February 2021 International Committee and the issue of “federalism”

a. The Federalism debate in the ISA – the Majority positions. You can read it here

b. The Federalism debate in the ISA – the Minority positions. You can read it here

IRMT: Marxist concept of democratic centralism

A document by Maziar Razi of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist’s Tendency, published in September 2021 in

You can read it here

In praise of factionalism

A contribution on the issue of internal democracy by Brian O’Cathail of RISE, published in Rupture in October 2021.

You can read it here

Democratic centralism by Peter Taaffe 

An old document of the Committee for a Workers International written by Peter Taaffe and published on March 1996. You can read it here

Trotsky on the internal regime

We also present in this collection two important texts written by Trotsky. 

The first one was written in 1923 as part of the book “The new course”, and in it he presents the rich internal life of the Bolshevik party. You can read it here 

The second one was written in 1937, as part of a debate which was taking place amongst the Trotskyists in the US at that time. You can read it here

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