Dictatorship of the Capitalists

Date: 20 November 2022

Author: Indescribled 

Tags: N. America, Philosophy

From left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

The United States is a dictatorship, but most of the citizens have no idea. As with most topics, the US tells people that it is a bastion of democracy—the land of the free—then points at socialist countries like China, Cuba, and the DPRK, decrying them for having so-called authoritarian dictatorships & violent regimes. In reality, both the US and socialist countries are dictatorships, but as Marxists we must ask “For who?”—in capitalism there is a dictatorship of the rich, while socialists fight for a dictatorship of the workers

Chinese President Xi Jinping stands as new members of the Politburo Standing Committee applaud at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing [Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

A common claim made by capitalists of socialist countries is the false idea that they are authoritarian dictatorships because the highest position has been the same person for a certain number of years. They point to Stalin, Xi Jinping, and countless other communists as examples—such as the NYT headline “‘Uncle Xi’ to Exalted Ruler: China’s Leader Embodies His Authoritarian Era”. Xi Jinping was just elected to his third term in October as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China by the 20th National Congress, meaning he will start his 11th year in this role. Josef Stalin spent 31 years as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Is it true that years in power is how a dictator can be defined? If so then we can quickly call Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Joe Biden dictators. Pelosi has been in her role for 35 years, McConnell and Joe Biden for 37 and 36 respectively. The Supreme Court is perhaps even more egregious because these “representatives” are not even elected—they are appointed for life! The lifetime appointments lasted an average of 15 years pre-1970, but since then the average has almost doubled to 28 years. There are countless other examples—those are just a few of the more recognizable names and groups in American politics that are still active. We are left with a contradiction—it is a dictatorship when the same communist is chosen to lead the Party for a long time, but it is democracy when capitalists are “chosen” in bourgeois elections.

Portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Ullstein Bild/Ullstein Bild via Getty Images 

Dictatorships are not when one individual is in a leadership role for too many years; they can better be understood when looking at the entire group in power rather than just one individual, and who that group represents. Interestingly, we can use the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—known throughout the world as the main tool for US imperialism’s covert operations—to get a better understanding of the concept.

Even in Stalin’s time there was collective leadership. The Western idea of a dictator within the Communist setup is exaggerated. 

Misunderstandings on that subject are caused by lack of comprehension of the real nature and organization of the Communist power structure. Stalin, although holding wide powers, was merely the captain of a team.

Central Intelligence Agency March 195?

The exaggeration of Stalin’s power, and the affixation of the title “Dictator” to him, is an intentional tactic to make communists seem power hungry. It has been repeated for each socialist country in existence, and many more non-socialist countries the US simply doesn’t like. In the future when we dig through the CIA archives, we will likely find a similar statement about Xi Jinping. In reality, the Communist Party provides leadership to the people, and the Party, at all levels, serves the people. Leadership of a Communist Party is not one random person that somehow attained the role of General Secretary or Chairperson—there are decades of work and dedication that go into it. The proletariat is represented by the Communist Party—there is no contradiction between these groups because the forwardmost contingents of the proletariat are the core of membership of the Party. Historic failures in the socialist movement have almost always derived from a failure to uphold this vital formula; a lesson that the modern actually-existing socialist (AES) nations of China, Cuba, Korea, Laos, and Vietnam are well aware and take great care to not repeat.

While Communist Party leadership directly represents the interests of workers, leadership in capitalist countries is anything but representative of workers. As Vladimir Lenin said, “[t]he oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament.” In the United States specifically, there are differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. Abortion rights and trans rights are being attacked by only one of the parties, and only one of them is openly fascistic—aligning itself openly with the most open, terroristic, reactionary, chauvinist, and imperialist elements of finance capital. When we zoom out, both parties ultimately serve the capitalists. While not actively partaking in attacks against women and the LGBT+ community, Democrats don’t do them any favors, either. They are each massively funded by businesses, have conflicting interests due to huge private investments, and have little to no grounding to the working class. The representatives elected in the US are not representatives of the working class—they are representatives of the capitalist class. Michael Parenti talks about the idea of collusion among the capitalists:

The minute I say to you that the very people at the top, the plutocracy, the very rich and powerful, the ones who own most of America, that they are consciously pursuing power, someone will come along and say ‘What do you have, a conspiracy theory?’ Their views are that stuff just happens, things just happen, or our leaders are stupid, or are jerks, or are confused and don’t know any better. There’s no such thing as capitalism without capitalists. You watch out for your interests, what makes you think the people at the top don’t collude or organize?

Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China. Sohu. 2018. 

Workers organize in unions to gain higher wages—what is stopping capitalists from also organizing to lower wages? Nothing. Each class will act in their own best interests, and the interests of the capitalists are always contradictory and antagonistic to those of the workers. Thus, the United States, and most, if not all, capitalist countries are dictatorships of the bourgeoisie; of the rich, ruling, capitalist class. The dictatorship of the rich is veiled behind claims of democracy, of freedom, of historical precedence, and any excuse that can be found to avoid any semblance of cooperation among the ruling class.

Demonstrations in Petrograd, June 1918. Ria Novosti. Banners read “Power to the Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Soviets!  //  Down with the Minister Capitalists!” 

Communists are not organizing to maintain the dictatorship of the capitalists, we are organizing for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat (DOTP), or for People’s Democratic Dictatorship (PDD). That means government by workers, for workers; or, in the latter case, a united government serving the broadest possible coalition of working and oppressed peoples. Full voting rights, removal of money from politics, and removal of bourgeois career politicians—people that do not go into politics to truly serve the people. As communists, our messaging towards a DOTP or PDD does need to be measured, due to the widespread propaganda around the terms. Dictator, and dictatorship, are buzzwords just like authoritarian and totalitarian. Often, each of those terms is used negatively toward communists who represent the workers and have widespread democratic representation, while none of those words are used to describe the capitalist ruling class. If an organizer tells an un-radicalized worker that they are fighting for a dictatorship of any kind, they will naturally be suspicious. Rather, we can show our coworkers, friends, and family members that we live under a dictatorship of the rich—countless already feel apathy toward politics because they see that neither party really represents their interests. Instead of saying dictatorship of the workers, we can say government by and for the workers to avoid the buzzwords misrepresented by the capitalists. Would workers choose to deny themselves and their children healthcare, a job, a clean planet, an education? No. It is merely a matter of agitating, educating, and organizing our working and oppressed neighbors out of the false-consciousness of bourgeois dictatorship, and towards the class consciousness of proletarian dictatorship, or democratic dictatorship of the people.

With the crises of capitalism continuously sharpening, it appears more and more that our time to act is becoming shorter and shorter.