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The Marxist view is fundamentally opposed to liberal democracy believing that the capitalist state cannot be democratic by its nature, as it represents the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Marxism views liberal democracy as an unrealistic utopia. This is because they believe that in a capitalist state all "independent" media and most political parties are controlled by capitalists and one either needs large financial resources or to be supported by the bourgeoisie to win an election. Lenin (1917) believed that in a capitalist state, the system focuses on resolving disputes within the ruling bourgeoisie class and ignores the interests of the proletariat or labour class which are not represented and therefore dependent on the bourgeoisie's good will: "Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich – that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy, we see everywhere, in the “petty” – supposedly petty – details of the suffrage (residential qualifications, exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of assembly (public buildings are not for “paupers"!), in the purely capitalist organization of the daily press, etc., etc., – we see restriction after restriction upon democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor seem slight, especially in the eyes of one who has never known want himself and has never been in close contact with the oppressed classes in their mass life (and nine out of 10, if not 99 out of 100, bourgeois publicists and politicians come under this category); but in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.” (Lenin, State and Revolution, Chapter 5) However, most of these restrictions do not longer apply; women have the vote and there is today no property requirement.

Moreover, even if representatives of the proletariat class are elected in a capitalist country, Marxists claim they have limited power over the country's affairs as the economic sphere is largely controlled by private capital and therefore the representative's power to act is curtailed. Essentially, minarchists (only a small minority of those supporting liberal democracy) claim that in the ideal liberal state the functions of the elected government should be reduced to the minimum (i.e. the court system and security). Hence Marxists-Leninists see a socialist revolution necessary to bring power into hands of oppressed classes.

Lenin insisted that bourgeois democracy is in fact a dictatorship of bourgeoisie[1], while dictatorship of proletariat is the highest possible form of democracy (for those considered the working class) and should use violence against opposing classes.

  • Marx: “...When the workers replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie by their revolutionary dictatorship ... to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie ... the workers invest the state with a revolutionary and transitional form ...
  • Engels: “...And the victorious party” (in a revolution) “must maintain its rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted more than a day if it had not used the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie? Cannot we, on the contrary, blame it for having made too little use of that authority?...
  • Engels: “As, therefore, the state is only a transitional institution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, to hold down one’s adversaries by force, it is sheer nonsense to talk of a ‘free people’s state’; so long as the proletariat still needs the state, it does not need it in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist ....
  • Lenin: The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is ruled, won, and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws.
  • Lenin: A state of the exploited must fundamentally differ from such a state; it must be a democracy for the exploited, ‘and a means of suppressing the exploiters; and the suppression of a class means inequality for that class, its exclusion from “democracy”.[3]

Communist states are widely seen as being de facto dictatorships by bourgeois critics, since the elections they held tended to be heavily rigged. [4]

See also Criticisms of communist regimes and Criticisms of Marxism.

Supporters of liberal democracy point to the Marxists make these claims without any supporting evidence and instead point to many empirical studies:

  • Numerous studies using many different kinds of data, definitions, and statistical analyses have found support for the democratic peace theory. The original finding was that liberal democracies have never made war with one another. More recent research has extended the theory and finds that democracies have few Militarized Interstate Disputes causing less than 1000 battle deaths with one another, that those MIDs that have occurred between democracies have caused few deaths, and that democracies have few civil wars.[2]
  • Poor liberal democracies have better education, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, access to drinking water, and better health care than poor dictatorships. This is not due to higher levels of foreign assistance or spending a larger percentage of GDP on health and education. Instead, the available resources are managed better.[3]
  • Several health indicators (life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality) has a stronger and more significant association with liberal democracy than they have with GDP per capita, size of the public sector, or income inequality.[4]
  • In the post-Communist nations, after an initial decline, those most democratic have achieved the greatest gains in life expectancy.[5]
  • A prominent economist, Amartya Sen, has noted that no functioning democracy has ever suffered a large scale famine.[6] This includes democracies that have not been very prosperous historically, like India, which had its last great famine in 1943 and many other large scale famines before that in the late nineteenth century, all under British rule. However, some others ascribe the Bengal famine of 1943 to the effects of World War II. The government of India had been becoming progressively more democratic for years. Provincial government had been entirely so since the Government of India Act of 1935.
  • Refugee crises almost always occur in nondemocracies. Looking at the volume of refugee flows for the last twenty years, the first eighty-seven cases occurred in autocracies.[3]
  • Research shows that the more liberal democratic nations have much less democide or murder by government.[7] Similarly, they have less genocide and politicide.[8]
  • Liberal democracies are more often associated with a higher average self-reported happiness in a nation.[9]
  • If leaving out East Asia, then during the last forty-five years poor democracies have grown their economies 50% more rapidly than nondemocracies. Poor democracies such as the Baltic countries, Botswana, Costa Rica, Ghana, and Senegal have grown more rapidly than nondemocracies such as Angola, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe.[3]
  • Of the eighty worst financial catastrophes during the last four decades, only five were in democracies. Similarly, poor democracies are half likely as nondemocracies to experience a 10 percent decline in GDP per capita over the course of a single year.[3]
  • Several studies have concluded that terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom. The nations with the least terrorism are the most democratic nations[5].


See also


  1. ^ V.I.Lenin. Full collection of works, 4th edition, vol. 25, p.385
  2. ^ Hegre, Håvard, Tanja Ellington, Scott Gates, and Nils Petter Gleditsch (2001). "Towards A Democratic Civil Peace? Opportunity, Grievance, and Civil War 1816-1992" (). American Political Science Review 95: 33–48.   Ray, James Lee (2003). A Lakatosian View of the Democratic Peace Research Program From Progress in International Relations Theory, edited by Colin and Miriam Fendius Elman. MIT Press.  
  3. ^ a b c d "The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace". Carnegie Council.  
  4. ^ Franco, Álvaro, Carlos Álvarez-Dardet and Maria Teresa Ruiz (2004). "Effect of democracy on health: ecological study (required)". BMJ (British Medical Journal) 329 (7480): 1421 –1423. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1421.  
  5. ^ McKee, Marin and Ellen Nolte (2004). "Lessons from health during the transition from communism". BMJ (British Medical Journal) 329 (7480): 1428 –1429. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1428.  
  6. ^ Amartya Sen, (1999). "Democracy as a Universal Value". Journal of Democracy, 10.3, 3-17. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  7. ^ Power Kills. R.J. Rummel, 1997.
  8. ^ No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust?, Barbara Harff, 2003, [1].
  9. ^ R Inglehart, HD Klingemann (1999). Genes, Culture, Democracy, and Happiness. World Values Survey.   R.J. Rummel, (2006). Happiness -- This Utilitarian Argument For Freedom Is True. Accessed February 22, 2006.
  10. ^ Daniel Lederman, Normal Loaza, Rodrigo Res Soares, (November 2001). "Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter". World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2708. SSRN 632777. Accessed February 19, 2006.
  11. ^ [2]


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