Workers Vanguard No. 1092

1 July 2016


Bourgeois and Workers Democracy

(Quote of the Week)

Behind the facade of bourgeois democracy lies the dictatorship of the capitalist class, which is defended by the state apparatus of repression (cops, courts and prisons). Writing a century ago, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin explained that the working class must champion democratic rights as part of its struggle to overthrow the capitalist rulers and establish its own state with democracy for the masses—workers democracy.

Capitalism in general, imperialism in particular, transforms democracy into an illusion—and at the same time capitalism generates democratic tendencies among the masses, creates democratic institutions, accentuates the antagonism between imperialism, which repudiates democracy, and the masses which strive toward democracy. Capitalism and imperialism cannot be overthrown through any reforms—not even the most “ideal” democratic reforms—but only through an economic overturn. But the proletariat which has not been educated in a struggle for democracy is incapable of accomplishing an economic overturn. Capitalism cannot be defeated without a seizure of banks, without abolishing private ownership of the means of production. These revolutionary measures, however, cannot be realized without the organization by the entire people of a democratic administration of the means of production which have been confiscated from the bourgeoisie, without attracting the entire mass of the working people—the proletarians, the semiproletarians, and the petty peasants—to a democratic organization of their ranks, their forces, their participation in the state government.... Socialism leads toward the dying off of every state, consequently of every democracy; but socialism cannot be realized except through the dictatorship of the proletariat, which combines force against the bourgeoisie—the minority of the population—and a complete development of democracy—a really general participation, with equal rights, of the entire mass of the population in all the state affairs and in all complicated problems of liquidating capitalism....

The Marxian solution of the question of democracy consists in the utilization against the bourgeoisie of all democratic institutions and tendencies by the entire proletariat, a proletariat which leads its class struggle with a view to preparing for its victory over the bourgeoisie and the overthrow of the latter.

—V.I. Lenin, “Reply to P. Kievsky (Piatakov)” (August-September 1916) in The Bolsheviks and the World War, ed. Gankin and Fisher (Stanford University Press, 1976)