The very different positions of Marxists and Leninists on the issue of centralization of political and economic institutions show that, though using the same terminology, they were committed to different ideologies. Leninists were modernizing revolutionaries in underdeveloped countries seeking their rapid industrialization. They relied on centralized revolutionary movements, which, in power, formed centralized bureaucracies that advanced industrialization through mass persuasion, regimentation and terror as well as central planning.

Marxists, associated with multifarious labor movements in industrialized countries, hoped to advance and empower the working class. Marx and Engels were vague on the subject of centralization, but condemned bureaucracy and came to favor the decentralization identified with the Paris Commune. Karl Kautsky and Otto Bauer advocated the operation of industry by local governments, cooperatives and trade unions and only minimal state ownership and sharply attacked bureaucracy. Policies of centralization were appropriate to the character and goals of Leninist movements but inappropriate to those of Marxist ones.

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