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New Left Review I/203, January-February 1994


Norman Geras

Democracy and the Ends of Marxism

The relationship between socialism and democracy has been a complex and a contested one. To large numbers of socialists it was axiomatic that their project, both the goal of socialism and the movement for it, must be democratic. They saw socialism as the heir to older, liberal and popular-democratic, traditions of struggle for political rights and liberties, and many of them indeed were themselves involved in, sometimes at the forefront of, movements for the defence and extension of such rights and liberties. At the same time, it has been common for socialists to be critical of the limitations of existing—‘liberal’ or ‘bourgeois’—democracies. A central theme here has been that democracies of this type are too narrow and too formal: excluding any really substantial or sustained popular influence in political decision-making, and vitiating such democratic liberties as they do provide by the great social inequalities and deprivations which they also everywhere super-intend. Set in this light, socialist aims have then been presented as an effort at deepening democracy, through the commitment to more participatory political and more egalitarian social forms. [1] This essay was written for the collection Democracy and Democratization, edited by Geraint Parry and Michael Moran, to be published by Routledge in 1994. I am grateful to the editors and the publisher for permission to use it here.

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