Edit on September 19, 2016: I can no longer fully endorse this article. While I think it provides some important food for thought about how different socialist society can be from capitalist society, some of the ideas in it are still very steeped in capitalist thinking, such as paying people to participate. Nonetheless, I’ll leave it up both to show how my understanding of what communist revolution really has to look like has evolved, and also in case it is still useful to some. I also think much more criticism of LLCO ought to be offered–but I should still say that article gave me some good food for thought at the time, so I’ll leave that link as well.
So why does socialism bring true democracy? What aspects of it allow for that?
1. Wealth is power. Wealth can be used to bribe people (and “bribe” them) in countless imaginative ways, many of them technically legal. Hell, the complicity of the American working class to American imperialism could be considered the result of a type of bribe. A near equality among everyone’s personal wealth is utterly necessary if we’re going to have actual democracy as opposed to democracy in name only.
2. Socialism empowers all people. Everyone has equal access to training, to information, to new resources and methods. It gives everyone the same concrete material opportunity and incentives to pursue this information and training. In short, socialism creates a well-informed and judicious population.
3. Socialism proposes that the people become the state. That we all become armed and we all do protection service. If the state is no different from the people, there can be no threat of outside oppression.
4. Under socialism, citizens could be paid or otherwise incentivized to attend lectures on topics that are important for understanding politics–to attend political debates. Hell, to vote.
5. Many forms of voting and decision-making that have not been tried could and would be instituted. We could vote monthly or even more often on all sorts of projects and policies at many different scales.
6. Under socialism, there would be no hereditary class of people more likely to be lawyers and politicians. We would all have access to as much highest-quality education (including job training) as we like. The know-how of running society would be as evenly distributed as the capital.
7. Certain things under socialism are non-negotiable. Everyone would be guaranteed the basic needs of life and fundamental freedoms. These could never be voted away.
Why all this? Why make it as democratic as possible?
Because in essence, the lack of democracy is capitalism. The more power an individual has, the more they can use it to seek economic rent. As this compounds, it leads to a concentration of wealth, which increases power, which allows one to get more rent, getting one more power, etc.
This is not to say that each individual should get exactly what they want. That wouldn’t be democracy, nor would it be possible. The point is ensuring that power is more or less evenly distributed, and that when power is entrusted in an individual, it can be removed from them just as easily if they betray the entrusters’ trust.
This is the democracy that we will require in order to resolve the incredible complexities of contracting our global economy and developing real, real sustainability.
Edit on January 20, 2015:
For a good article that describes one of the greatest innovations of the Chinese socialist revolution, the idea of cultural revolution, which answers the question of how to achieve, sustain, and expand democracy under socialism, check out this article by the Leading Light Communist Organization, “Beginning talking points on the Cultural Revolution era.” This does not in any way constitute a complete endorsement of the LLCO’s platform, but this article is excellent.