To confront the visibility of the democratic idea with the singularity of a particular politics, especially revolutionary politics, is an old practice. It was already employed against Bolsheviks well before the October Revolution. In fact, the critique addressed to Lenin – his political postulate viewed as nondemocratic – is original. However it’s still interesting today to peruse his riposte.
Lenin’s counter-argument is twofold. On the one hand he distinguishes, according to the logic of class analysis, between two types of democracy: proletarian democracy and bourgeois democracy. He then asserts the supremacy, in extension and intensity, of the former over the latter.
Yet his second structure of response seems to me more appropriate to the present state of affairs. Lenin insists in this that with "democracy," verily, you should always read "a form of State." Form means a particular configuration of the separate character of the State and the formal exercise of sovereignty. Positing democracy as a form of State, Lenin subscribes to the classical political thinking filiation, including Greek philosophy, which contends that "democracy" must ultimately be conceived as a sovereignty or power trope. Power of the "demos" or people, the capability of "demos" to exert coercion by itself.
If democracy is a form of State, what preordained philosophical use proper can this category have? With Lenin the aim – or idea – of politics is the withering of any form of State, democracy included. And this could be termed generic Communism as basically expressed by Marx in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. Generic Communism designates a free associative egalitarian society where the activity of polymorph workers is not governed by regulations and technical or social articulations but is managed by the collective power of needs. In such a society, the State is dissolved as a separate instance from public coercion. Politics – much as it voices the interests of social groups and covets at the conquest of power – is de facto dissolved.
Thus, the purpose of Communist politics aims at its own disappearance in the modality of the end of the form separated from the State in general, even if it concerns a State that declares itself democratic.
If philosophy is predicated as what identifies, legitimizes or categorizes politics’ ultimate goals, much as the regulating ideas acting as its representation, and if this aim is acknowledged as the withering of the State – which is Lenin’s proposition – and what can be termed pure presentation, free association; or again if politics’ final goal is posited as authority in-separated from infinity or the advent of the collective as such, then, with regard to this supposed end, which is the end assigned to generic Communism, democracy is not, cannot be a category as regards philosophy. Why? Because democracy is a form of the State; let philosophy assess politics’ final goals; and let this end be as well the end of the State, thus the end of all relevance to the word "democracy."
The "philosophical" word suitable to evaluate politics could be, in this hypothetical frame, the word "equality," or the word "Communism," but not the word "democracy." For this word is traditionally attached to the State, to the form of the State.
From this results the idea that "democracy" can only be considered a concept of philosophy if one of these three following hypotheses is to be rejected. All three are intertwined and somehow uphold the Leninist view on democracy. They are:
Hypothesis 1: The ultimate goal in politics is generic Communism, thus the pure presentation of the collective’s truth, or the withering of the State.
Hypothesis 2: The relation between philosophy and politics entails the evaluation of a certain politics’ final goal, its general or generic meaning.
Hypothesis 3: Democracy is a form of the State.