The term bourgeois democracy is often put about as describing life under capitalism and how life is for the masses of ordinary people. This blogpost will attempt to describe what democracy is like under capitalism and the limits of democracy under this current system.
Bourgeois democracy essentially is A government that serves in the interests of the bourgeois class. The word Democratic is attached to such a government, because in it all people in such a society have certain freedoms: those who own the means of production , the bourgeoisie, are free to buy and sell labor-power and what is produced by it solely for their own benefit. Those who own only their own ability to labor , the proletariat, are free to sell themselves to any bourgeois who will buy their labor power, for the benefit of maintaining their own survival, and giving greater strength and power to the bourgeoisie.
The state fundamentally represents the interests of one class over others. On this basis Lenin named bourgeois democracy bourgeois dictatorship. On the same token, Lenin made no distinction that the socialist state, being a state that represents the working-class, is a dictatorship of the proletariat.
In no civilized capitalist country does "democracy in general" exist; all that exists is bourgeois democracy, and it is not a question of "dictatorship in general", but of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, i.e., the proletariat, over its oppressors and exploiters, i.e., the bourgeoisie, in order to overcome the resistance offered by the exploiters in their fight to maintain their domination.
First Congress of the Communist International
In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favourable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. Owing to the conditions of capitalist exploitation, the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that "they cannot be bothered with democracy", "cannot be bothered with politics"; in the ordinary, peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life.
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 inclose 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.
When the term democracy is used today we tend to think of using our vote every 5 years to elect a new government to attack us each time. It’s that thought that democracy is tied up in that tiny voting slip you have when you enter the ballot box. Many people consider democracy simply that. But for socialists we see democracy a far wider term with the access to society being just one part. Having democracy over the economic and social situation is key to a truly democratic society. Socialism would truly be democratic and the illusion of what excuse for democracy we have today would be shattered.
I think as capitalism comes under further pressure from its internal contradictions which are bound up within the system the grip on democracy becomes tighter and is limited to the mass’s unless democracy is used too much to affect change which could put the system into danger. Democracy is something which can be picked up and retracted if the ruling class in a given country feel threatened. Such as when a fascist regime is ushered in to protect the bourgeois society from revolution. The idea of democracy is certainly I will return to in the future when it comes to changing society to benefit the many not just the few.