The relationship between socialism and democracy has been a complex and a contested one. To large numbers of socialists it was axiomatic that their project, both the goal of socialism and the movement for it, must be democratic. They saw socialism as the heir to older, liberal and popular-democratic, traditions of struggle for political rights and liberties, and many of them indeed were themselves involved in, sometimes at the forefront of, movements for the defence and extension of such rights and liberties. At the same time, it has been common for socialists to be critical of the limitations of existing—‘liberal’ or ‘bourgeois’—democracies. A central theme here has been that democracies of this type are too narrow and too formal: excluding any really substantial or sustained popular influence in political decision-making, and vitiating such democratic liberties as they do provide by the great social inequalities and deprivations which they also everywhere superintend. Set in this light, socialist aims have then been presented as an effort at deepening democracy, through the commitment to more participatory political and more egalitarian social forms.
Even so, this process of deepening has been thought of in different ways. It was thought of by some as being in basic continuity with the major institutions of existing democracy, as a consolidation and enlargement of these. Others have viewed it rather as discontinuous with them, as a sharp, punctual break in an institutional progression. Again, amongst socialists of different kinds, different views have been taken as to how far, if at all, limits upon a nascent socialist democracy might be temporarily permitted, to deal with the fierce onslaught which its adversaries were expected to mount against it. And different socialists have