Centralism – Concept, types, characteristics and federalism

We explain what centralism is, its characteristics, types and differences with federalism. Also, democratic centralism.

In centralism, the seat of political power is in a single geographic location.

What is centralism?

In political theory, centralism is understood as a State organization doctrine that proposes a single, nuclear government that makes all decisions, that is, of the construction of a centralized power, from which all authority comes. The opposite of federalism and decentralization is considered in this sense.

Thus, in the States in which centralism governs, the seat of political power is located in a single geographical and administrative place, and from there it controls the rest of the country through dependencies or other subordinate entities, without granting too much margin of autonomy to regional powers.

Two types of centralism can be distinguished:

Pure centralism or concentrated centralism. Typical of centralist states, unitary politically and administratively, in which a central government has the exclusive and total right of all the powers of the state.

Deconcentrated centralism. One in which the government has ways to delegate power, and which in turn can be classified into two different types:

  • Centralism with administrative deconcentration. It consists of the centralization of political power, but the decentralization of administrative tasks. In other words, the central State delegates its powers to its hierarchical dependencies in the rest of the territory.
  • Centralism with political and administrative deconcentration. Typical of states that centralize political power, so that each region has an independent representation, which coexists with a strong central political power.

Characteristics of centralism

In general, the characteristics of centralism are:

  • Gives the largest share of power to the central governmentwhether or not there is a federal political representation.
  • Central government assumes administrative and economic powers that the federative authorities cannot assume.
  • Central government dictates your overall planning the rest of the regional political hierarchy.
  • It has the disadvantage that many administrative tasks are postponed and slowness when they are not carried out in the capital or the seat of central political power.
  • The central government is capable of resolving regional conflicts, pass judgment in cases of national importance or review and revoke decisions of the regional or provincial government.

Centralism and federalism

As we have seen before, centralism and federalism are methods of state organization that are opposed, since the first promotes a State with a nuclear political power, unique, while federalism proposes a state with decentralized political power, plural, in which the provincial instances enjoy a lot of prominence.

The choice between centralism and federalism was very important during the 19th century, especially for the emerging Latin American republics, which had to choose between both models of government management. Discrepancies between federalists and centralists led, in many countries, such as Argentina, to civil wars and bloody political conflicts.

Democratic centralism

democratic centralism
Democratic centralism was created by Lenin, but rejected by his opponents.

Democratic centralism is the political and disciplinary practice adopted by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Later, other similar communist parties (such as the Chinese), and that propose the combination of central and vertical control of the single party, and the plural and free discussion typical of democracy.

The fundamental idea is that, once decisions have been reached through democratic practices, they are binding and mandatory for all instances of the party without distinction.

Democratic centralism was created by the Russian revolutionary politician Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), specifically in his treatise “What to do?” 1902. However, when Lenin assumed command of the revolutionary party, an opposition faction, arguing that a model of party dictatorship was imposed instead of proletarian dictatorship, he created a dissident group known as the “Group of Democratic Centralism” or “Group of 15”.