Inner-party  democracy,  collective leadership, criticism and self-criticism


-By Dr Kashiwa Bulaya

Basic Principles,  Norms and  Forms of Inner-Party Democracy

The essence of inner-party democracy as a sum total of oganisational party connections and relations maintained in the party practice is manifested through principles-guiding positions as well as through norms, methods and organisational forms.

The norms, the forms and the methods are the “mechanisms” regulating the relations among the party members and their participation in the leadership activities of the party.

The basic principles of manifestation of inner-party democracy being: electivity, replacement and accountability of the leading bodies, collective leadership, freedom of discussion and criticism; autonomy of the local party bodies and the lower party organs when decisions are taken on concrete problems; publicity; information about the party activities; equal rights of all party members to participate in the leadership of the party life; subordination of the minority to the majority; self-initiative and self-directing of the party bodies, organs and individual members.

On many occasions the principles of inner-party democracy operate as norms of party life. In practice each principle of inner-party democracy operates through a number of concrete rules or norms regulating the inner-party order as well as the organisational relations maintained among the party members in connection with the leadership of party life.  The norms are interconnected and determine the forms and methods of participation in the leadership activities.


Electivity and Replacement of the Leading Bodies

Democracy in the party operates mainly through the universal application of the elective principle. This is a supreme manifestation of inner-party democracy. The electivity of the party bodies and leaders is a reflection of democracy and guarantees democracy in the party, because it is demonstration of the will of the majority, of the party collective.

The electivity expresses the equal rights of all party members to elect and be elected in the party bodies. All party bodies are elected on a democratic basis – by the broad party masses at meetings, conferences or congresses or conventions.  The democratic election process is regulated and guaranteed by strict norms and requirements stipulated by the party constitution and other party documents.

Secret ballot is another essential manifestation of party democracy. This is provided for in the party constitution, party rules and party regulations governing the electoral process in the party.

Elections to all positions in the party structure are by secret ballot to ensure credibility, fair play, transparency and protection of both the candidates and the voters before, during and after elections.

The principle of electivity is connected organically with the principle of systematic renewal of the leading bodies of the party and continuity of leadership.  Whenever necessary the party members have the right to make changes in the composition of the leading bodies at meetings, conferences or congresses or conventions.

This right has a real democratic content because it is a manifestation of the will of the party masses, of the party majority.  The replacement of party leaders and bodies as a guiding principle enables the party to improve its cadre composition and eliminate attempts at undermining and weakening the party through divisive tendencies.

Accountability, Publicity and


Accountability is another basic principle of inner-party democracy. According to the party constitution the elected leading bodies report periodically their activities to the party members who elected them. The party constitution stipulates periodical reporting schedules for all the party organs.

Some other forms of accountability are also used in the party practice. The party leadership systematically reports to the party meetings, plenary sessions, central committee etc. the implementation of the decisions taken; the constituency and district party committees report their activities to the local and lower party organs.

Besides periodic accountability, there also exists current accountability. Under current accountability the local and lower party organisations report regularly the fulfilment of some tasks and decisions to the meetings. Accountability expresses the sovereignty of the party members in the life of the party. It is a manifestation of party control from below – the control extended by the party masses over the work of the control bodies; it is also an assessment of the control activities, of the realisation of the collective will of the party members. In this way accountability simultaneously reflects and characterises inner-party democracy.

Organically connected with the principle of accountability is the democratic requirement for publicity of the party decisions, the results of their fulfilment, for systematic information of the party masses about the implementation and the results of the party policy. It would be illogical to speak of democracy without publicity, moreover, without a publicity that is not limited to the membership of the organisation.

The mass media, the radio, the television, the newspapers etc. as well as the conferences of the most active members, the meetings of the party cadres, the public meetings etc. play an important role in the realisation of the principle of publicity.

The systematic, objective, complex and analytical inner-party information from above as well as from below is not only a direct manifestation of party democracy but a condition for the operation of all basic principles of inner-party democracy as well.

Another important principle and requirement of inner-party democracy are the equal statute rights and duties of all party members. In the system of state leadership, for example, the ordinary worker and the director-general are people with different rights, but in the party organisation they are equal members of the party.

The equal rights and duties of the party members are as a result and a manifestation of the nature of the party as a voluntary organisation and therefore of equal rights, self-directing and self-governing union of people with one aim. The common goals and ideology form the basis of this equality.

The equality in the rights and duties is manifested in the formation of the leading bodies, in decision-making, in the party control from below, in the acceptance of new party members, in the right to criticise – i.e. it characterises inner-party life and is connected with all principles, norms and methods of inner-party democracy.


Collective Leadership

This is the most important principle of inner-party democracy and supreme principle of party leadership.  By its nature collective leadership is such a leadership of the party activities which presupposes preparation, adoption and fulfilment of the party decisions on the basis of the collective experience, knowledge and will of all party members, applied directly or through their representatives.

The objective basis of collective leadership is determined by the nature of the party as a true democratic, voluntary and self-directing organisation of members with equal rights, by the nature of the party as a union of people of one and the same ideological orientation. The deeper roots of collective leadership lie in the democratic character of the collectivism of the people and their interests.

Collective leadership in the party is mainly manifested in the decisions on all principal problems taken on the basis of free and business-like discussions in the leading bodies, which are elected in a democratic manner. An important attribute of collective leadership is the participation of all party members directly or through their representatives.

A principal requirement of collective leadership is to take party decisions by majority vote. The decision reflecting and expressing the will of the majority is a manifestation of the collective will of the party, and consequently of real democracy.

The individual will and the will of the minority, when imposed on the will of the majority, are always an antipode, a negation of inner-party democracy. Of course the will of the minority, when not contradicting the party principles and policy, must be respected.

In this case it should not be considered factionalism, group activity or anti-party activity. It is considered such an activity only in case the minority takes action against the will of the majority, against the decision adopted by the majority, which is binding on all members of the party irrespective of their opinion before the decision was taken.  At this point of the process of collective leadership the organic, dialectical connection between party democracy and party discipline is realised.

However, collective leadership should not be reduced to collective discussions and collective decision-making. Collective leadership means also persistent implementation of the decisions taken in a collective way. Collective leadership is the unity of theory and practice, of decisions and implementation.

The principle of collectivism presupposes collective as well as personal responsibility. There is no contradiction between the collective decisions and the personal responsibility for their fulfilment. They are in dialectical unity. There must be individual responsibility – collectivism is essential in discussing basic questions if there is to be no red tape and no opportunity to evade responsibility. In this unity is manifested the dialectics of collectivism and discipline, of democracy and discipline in the party.

The realisation of the principle of collective leadership requires the observance of a number of conditions and certain prerequisites. A condition of primary importance is to form the leading bodies on a true democratic basis in accordance with the regulations of the party constitution and to secure a representative composition of the leading bodies.

An important prerequisite is the regular convocation of the leading bodies as stipulated by the party constitution. The effective organisation of work depends on the correct selection of questions subject to collective discussion, on the actual freedom of discussion and criticism, on the business-like atmosphere of discussing and taking decisions.

In this respect we should emphasise how much collectivism depends on the nature of the relations among the members of the leading bodies, intolerance of false comradeship, ideological liability etc. The level of activity of each member of the collective leading body is also very important. So is the ability to stimulate collective work by observing its psychological regularities.


Party Criticism and


Inner-party democracy is also manifested in the promotion of criticism and self-criticism in the party. They have a regular and objective nature because they are forms of manifestation of such important dialectical laws as the law of unity and struggle of opposites and the law of negation of negation. In the life of the party, criticism and self-criticism are realised as a purposeful activity of the party members and organisations for revealing and surmounting of contradictions, for elimination of errors and weaknesses of party work.

Criticism and self-criticism are most characteristic of the party’s life and serve as reliable ammunition of the party in the organisation and leadership of the struggle of the people against the fork-tongued detractors and their agents. This is necessary for the party to survive and not perish.  All the political parties that have perished so far, at home and abroad perished because they became conceited, because they failed to see the source of their strength and feared to discuss their weaknesses. Such parties in Zambia exist only at the office of the Registrar of Societies.  Regrettably even the office of the Registrar of Societies sooner than later would deregister them.

The objective and regular nature of party criticism is manifested in its role as an important principle and method of party leadership activities and basic norm of party life. In the party constitution, criticism and self-criticism are defined as right and obligation of each party member, of each party organs.

Criticism and self-criticism operate as an important driving force of the development of the party.   They are an effective method of revealing and surmounting contradictions and matters of dispute in the party.  They also operate as basic method for enrichment and development of the theory of knowledge and scientific theory as a whole. They are a means for organising party work and realisation of party leadership of social development.

Criticism and self-criticism are a well-tried method for political education of the party cadres and all party members. Critical and self-critical attitude develop sense of duty, irreconcilable with everything that hampers the materialisation of the humanist ideals. The important role played by party criticism and self-criticism is synthesised in their influence upon the initiative and the activity, upon the leading role of the party members.

The development of criticism and self-criticism demands observance of their basic features and requirements. These are requirements for adherence to principles, truthfulness, efficiency, concreteness, humaneness and publicity.

Criticism and self-criticism adhere to the principles when imbued with loyalty to the ideas of ideas of the party, the interests, goals and cause of the people. Criticism of principle requires an objective approach to the analysis and assessment of social phenomena and processes.

There are unlimited possibilities and full freedom for criticism and self-criticism of principle in the party. At the same time the party displays no tolerance to those attempting to undermine the ideological and organisational basis, the unity of the party under the pretext of criticism.

The objectivity and truthfulness of party criticism proceed from the scientific argumentation of the aims and tasks of party activity, from their correspondence to the action and the requirements of the objective laws of social development.

The objectivity of criticism presupposes truthful and adequate assessment, no subjectivism, no exaggerations, overestimation or underestimation.  It requires comprehensive and truthful argumentation based on genuine information. Party criticism and self-criticism should be expedient and efficient; they should point to the methods of resolving the contradictions, mistakes and weaknesses. Hollow conclusions and mere indication of errors cannot be considered working and effective criticism.

Party criticism is not directed against the personality and the prestige of the party member. It is a manifestation of genuine concern and means of assistance.  This determines its true humane nature. Open nature and publicity are other characteristic features of party criticism and self- criticism. The party should not conceal its errors and weaknesses if it is strong enough and believes in party justice. Concealment of errors, weaknesses and contradictions creates danger for the party. It leads to self-complacency, haughtiness, lack of responsibility and unprincipled relations.

The development of criticism and self-criticism in the party depends on a number of factors. These being first and foremost the level of inner-party democracy, its vigour, maturity and efficiency, the qualitative composition of the party, the political maturity and the cultural level of the party members.

All principles and norms of inner-party democracy not only presuppose criticism and self-criticism but also create an opportunity for its regulation and development.

This development is favourably influenced by the resultative work of the party bodies with the critical remarks and submissions, the struggle against all attempts at suppressing criticism from below, the high level of ideological and moral maturity of the party members etc. The knowledge and the observance of the psychological requirements of criticism contribute to its promotion.

On Friday 2nd  September, 2016 Zambia experienced unprecedented eclipse of the sun.

Coincidentally  the eclipse of the sun took place on a day that the presidential election petition by UPND against the re-election  of His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu as President of the Republic of Zambia and his running mate Mrs Inonge Wina, as the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia collapsed in the Constitutional Court.


In this context, the ECLIPSE of the sun illustrates the following:












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