The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.Karl Marx (1845)
Once from the pulpit, now from the mass media, the elite of society have always sought to ingrain within us an acceptance of our own subjugation. The ruling classes of the mediaeval world imposed monotheistic religions, such as Christianity and Islam, in order to justify (and extend) their rule, mirroring God’s hierarchical world order. Societies built upon slavery or serfdom could no longer operate alongside the egalitarian nature-based religions that had flourished under primitive-communal modes of social organisation.
As a means of justifying feudal exploitation, Christianity flourished. To worship a god is a stone’s throw from worshipping a king.
In the modern era, with the bourgeoisie seizing political power from the aristocracy, God has died, having lost his political expediency. The dictatorial rule of the capitalists does not rest on quasi-religious status but on the twin pillars of private property and liberalism. To survive we must increase the wealth of a minority by our labour, receiving a pittance in return. Through their dominance we are convinced that this irrational exploitative system makes sense, that the rule of capital is well founded and fair. So long as we get to vote every few years for which representative of that class signs the legislation further immiserating us, we can call it democracy.
In the twelfth century Pope Adrian IV asked the English monarch to take over Ireland, as our Christianity had become corrupted. From the sixteenth century, entire continents were plundered for resources and labour in the name of Christianity, by means of genocide and enslavement. Nations not adhering to an acceptable “civilised” religion were fair game for the European powers.
Today it is the nations that attempt to transcend the rule of private property that must be civilised. These countries are invariably called dictatorships; and seen through the eyes of the rich they certainly are.
For American tech companies, the greatest possible democracy prevails in Ireland and Bermuda. Their accumulated wealth can pass through these islands free from taxation and auditing. Celebrating our abundant democracy, having proved ourselves by laundering imperialist profits for forty years, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, praised Ireland earlier this year as a land “where the winds of innovation and opportunity blow freely.”
If you’d like to know where the winds of freedom do not blow so freely, look no further than the top enemies of the United States. In China, corporations and banks are under the supervision and control of the state. In Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the economy is democratically planned for the public good. Rather than allowing a few monopolists to profiteer off basic goods and services, these states ensure that everyone receives the necessities of life, providing universal health services and education alongside low-cost food and housing.
By the capitalist’s vision of democracy, the most heinous dictatorial rule prevails. The rules of the free market are not adhered to: the economy operates in the interests of working people rather than shareholders. Shock, horror!
Venezuela nationalised its oil supply, and soon Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro were branded as the world’s most vicious dictators. Yet despite several coup attempts over the last two decades, none have achieved even remote popular backing. As in Cuba, China, and Korea, the people ever express their faith in the state they themselves have built.
Is communist brainwashing at play? Or perhaps the brainwashing has taken place elsewhere?
It’s no mistake that the world’s most infamous left-wing “dictatorships” have also most effectively dealt with the covid-19 pandemic. It is in fact their ability to deal with such a crisis that has earned them the title of “communist dictatorship.”
“Authoritarian” China and Cuba are already sending medical teams and supplies across the world, having sufficiently handled the virus at home. Viet Nam has suffered no deaths, as it rationally planned for the crisis, providing for the needs of all in quarantine and isolation.
In the “democratic” West we’ve been told to wash our hands, keep our distance, and pray our landlord doesn’t evict us.
The capitalist state is an appendage of the economy; under socialism the economy is organised by the state. This is the fundamental distinction, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, between democracy and dictatorship. The capitalist state is free, in the sense that anyone with enough money can buy it. The socialist state is dictatorial, in the sense that it cannot be freely bought and sold but remains in the control of the masses, operating in their interests. If we view the world through the lens of our own class interests we begin to see this reality more clearly.
“Ah, so Socialist Voice supports dictatorship!” I hear the liberals cry, reaching for their copy of the Irish Times for some pro-democracy reporting. We certainly do! we might reply, to the extent that all states are dictatorships of a particular class; and we uphold the dictatorship of the working class.
In reality, this dictatorship is democracy for the many against the few, opposed to democracy for the few against the many. These few are becoming fewer and more powerful, and they’re growing increasingly less interested in even a democratic veneer over their dictatorial rule. Wallowing in their own decadence and decay, the kings and churches were forcibly removed from the stage of history, the masses outgrowing their poisonous mode of thought and violently rejecting it. We are living through much the same process.
Sources and further reading
- Institute of Economics, USSR Academy of Sciences, Political Economy (1955), chap. 2 and 3 (https://tinyurl.com/umm6mqu).
- V. I. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918) (https://tinyurl.com/rwhguy3).
- V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917), chap. 5 (https://tinyurl.com/qfvskbn).
- Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Preface (https://tinyurl.com/k4ukmtd).
- Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845), chap. 1 (https://tinyurl.com/nwqepv3).