ON SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY by Roy A. Medvedev

ON SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Medvedev is a Soviet educator and social scientist, the author of a major biography of Stalin, Let History Judge (1972). Here he develops a platform, though not a full program, for what he calls the ""party-democrats,"" loyal intellectuals who want democratization and decentralization. In chapters first published as underground samizdat, Medvedev develops a lengthy, and to Americans quite familiar, indictment of bureaucracy on both practical and moral grounds. It leads to economic dislocations, it squashes talent, unlike the West, where Medvedev believes careerism and incompetence don't rise to the top. Medvedev also provides a useful map of other dissident groups--the ""ethical socialists,"" the ""legalists,"" the religious revivalists and neo-Slavophiles, as well as various anarchists. Medvedev calls for gradual reform which would enable a legal opposition to emerge, and also underlines the value of ""opinion surveys"" to provide government responsiveness to ""political moods among the masses."" There is much citation of Lenin and Engels, but Medvedev's Marxism is not of the international revolutionary sort; he wants ""a communist ideology adequate to the demands of the modern age."" He also favors the Liberman/Ota Sik style of market-geared economic planning, but with a sophisticated acknowledgement of the benefits of the basic centralized structure. In foreign policy, Medvedev actually repeats the Stalinist standbys: the Social Democrats are more powerful than we are, and moreover we mustn't do anything forceful against the U.S. government or it will go fascist. The book's general preoccupation with bureaucracy contains some acute and sensitive discussions of how it came about in a country plagued by scarcity and encirclement. Medvedev's call for civil liberties is not only commendable in the abstract, but grounded in a passion for what is needed to promote actual social development. In his basic orientation, Medvedev remains a Menshevik--an ironic fact when it becomes clear that he is the most leftward of the prominent Soviet critics. Like his frankly ""convergence""-disposed counterpart, the scientist Andrei Sakharov, Medvedev's approach will win wide credence and sympathy in the West.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1975
ISBN: 0393008509
Publisher: Knopf