Democractic centralism was, among other things, the west-friendly term used by the communist soviet union to describe its system of government. As the former soviet union did not always adhere very strictly to the principles of democratic centralism, for the purposes of this discussion it shall be instead used to describe one of the three divisions of democratic government.

Democratic centralism may perhaps be described loosely as a sort of comprimise between pure, or Aristotleian, democracy, and representative, or republican, democracy. The former is used to describe a system of government not unlike that of the ancient greek city-states or New England town meetings, in which all voting citizens would meet in a summit of some sort to argue and vote upon an issue or series of issues. The practical disadvantages of this system are obvious. Other disadvantages may arguably include the incapability of the masses to understand many of the concepts they are voting upon, leaving them open to the influence of demagogues and others with manipulative agendas. Representative democracy, such as is seen in electoral college in the United States, dictates that rulers are to be chosen by popular vote. This too leaves people open to the work of demagogues, but is much more practically efficient, especially considering the magnitude of today's voting pool.

Democratic centralism combines these two concepts in that a single ruler presides over a pseudo-Aristotleian massing, then makes a decision based upon the opinions and arguments he or she has heard. There is, unfortunately, a fine line between democratic centralism and dictatorship, making the term incredibly useful to totalitarian dictators in defending their legitimacy as leaders. This is because, typically, the leader in such a system of government is not elected by popular vote. This "loophole" is also what makes the notion of a democratic centralist government so appealing to the rulers of totalitarian regimes.

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