Is Democracy The Big Lie?

“I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.” —Donald Draper

I very much enjoyed Anthony Dimaggio’s piece on January 6th that ran recently here on Counterpunch. I agree wholeheartedly that the insurrection was driven by white supremacy primarily and of course, he has the numbers to back it up.

I also think we should ignore, and not obsess over, grifters who claim to be on the left who spend most of their time bashing the left and cozying up to fascists. These people do indeed blame the working class for fascism when it is a bourgeois phenomenon.

This is not surprising to anyone except for those educated enough to believe in their own virtue. The left is still confused about the fascists and there are two extremes. One is to call the fascists the working class and use it to justify one’s own bourgeois fascism. The other one is to call the fascists bourgeois and then collapse one’s own politics into the Democratic Party and the defense of democracy.

Democracy is also bourgeois and cannot be redeemed or defended. Democracy has been and always will be the tyranny of the few over the many. In a country like the United States this few may be what Noam Chomsky calls the 20%, in other countries it is far less. Democracy attempts to make a political intervention into capitalism and fails to be represented within the workplace, environment, social lives, or anything else capitalism destroys.

January 6th was an attempt to reassert democracy for the few. Listen to the language of these fascists and they will claim, even more assuredly than their detractors, that they are defending democracy and the status quo. And indeed they are. The status quo is white supremacy, violence and even revolution.

What DiMaggio describes is a small bourgeois part of the population who feels threatened by a poorer darker part of the population and acts on their own to rule over them in a mob. Such is the nature of capitalist reproduction and this only arises politically because of the economic crisis that is failing to reproduce such a dynamic on its own.

The promise of the Democrats is democratic capitalism where exploitation and violence is more organized. They, just as much as the Republicans, benefit from terrorism like 1/6 as it frightens the population replacing the whites into scurrying back to state capitalism under Democrats which provides everything except for democracy.

Under the dystopia of the Republicans where jobs are all that counts democracy is more actualized. Under Democrats, the people are left to rely on the state to survive and if one breaks their laws they are punished by the state directly. Hence the confusion over the Republicans claiming to be the only ones defending the right to demand a free and fair election or even peace in Ukraine.

For the Republicans, the mob rule of actually existing democracy where only the top 20% gets a voice is a dream. For the Democrats who represent the poorer darker populations, we see that the true meaning of democracy, even if it is always out of reach, will always be a threat. The Democrats could be represented by democracy and herein lies their opposition to 1/6, the violent defense of democracy.

The Democrats, the far lesser evil, want to manage society under state capitalism and keep the proletariat from dying or rebelling. The Republicans have gone all in on aggressive democracy, attempting to force the Democrats’ hand like they do with the debt ceiling. They need a violent democratic fascist rule, death or rebellion be damned. The Republicans are in a deeper political crisis than the Democrats and therefore are more dangerous.

The Republicans are offering a few citizens violent democracy and the Democrats are offering all citizens undemocratic management. I have a clear preference here for Democrats but few would agree with my characterization and this is why I see most leftists siding with Republicans under the guise of elitist democracy/freedom or with Democrats under the guise of universal human rights. One goal is better than the other but neither is good politics.

So while I do not agree with so-called leftists that we should be looking at fascists with racial resentments as the real working class I do think the actually existing left is equally confused. Most often the left pundit wants to step out of the way and let other people decide.

The left pundit wants to apologize for their privilege and claim that the real revolutionary is out there in the working class and we should listen to them. This is only another responsibility we put on the working class. Not only is the working class responsible for reproducing our society’s material and social needs it also now must bring us our revolution because we are too ashamed to do anything ourselves.

I disagree. Democracy is bourgeois and achieving communism will be the universalism of bourgeois relations. Just as only the bourgeois can decide politics under capitalism so too does the bourgeois have the most agency at least initially during the transition to socialism. It is thus that we the bourgeois and educated who have the expectation, vision, plans and skills to create such a society should and must do it.

Clearly this does not mean teaming up with fascists but we do not despise fascists because they are bourgeois but rather because they are not bourgeois enough. If they cannot imagine a society that works for everyone then their anxiety is clearly our enemy even if it is imaginary and not actually like the workers they hate.

January 6th, in all its forms, whether that be the planning by Republicans, the willful ignorance of Democrats, the hallowing out of society by the ruling class or even the violent hatred by the middle class, must be denounced.

I get the sense, and this is not wise to talk about in public places, that most of the reasons people hate 1/6 is for the opposite reasons of why they should. It is not that the rioters were too radical. They wanted to keep the President, not overthrow him. Instead, let’s admit 1/6 was not radical enough.

Even most capitalists were progressive enough to see that giving more power to the 20% would create instability in a capitalist system with heightening contradictions. To maintain such a system democracy must be withered away even further and the calls for freedom by the 1/6 crowd were not nearly radical enough for the moment.

The 1/6 crowd is shockingly naive, not only politically but also socially. They have some idea that there was a conspiracy of a woke cabal who deindustrialized and globalized society in order to get revenge at them for their sins. They clearly don’t listen to the Democrats or mainstream media. Only at Counterpunch will I find an actual critique of these people. Everywhere else they are coddled. It was not the liberals who caused the revolution of the means of production it was capitalism itself.

Such a system is a social one but only unconsciously so. Like the MAGA sheeple, we believe we are making our own decisions; asserting our free will when it is the invisible hand of the market causing chaos and strife at every turn.

What I would like to argue is that this naivety, while clearly dangerous, is necessary for the transformation of the means of production. It will not be the working class, aware of its own oppression and the oppression of others who should be expected to have this naivety of the educated and propagandized middle class. This middle class does indeed believe they are entitled to abstract ideas such as freedom and democracy and is largely ignorant of the necessity of material production that creates these concepts.

The working class may have faith in a better place after this life but this is possible, not aggressively pigheaded, like the idea that society under capitalism can function. See how easily the middle class fools itself into believing in its own virtue whether that be from owning its own business, giving to the right charity, believing the correct ideas or voting for the more rational person. We can use this silliness to our own advantage.

We should not expect the working class to revolutionize society because they know it all too well. We need instead people who still believe politics can work and change because it has worked for them and they expect it to again. What we need to transform is the perception that capitalist politics can work.

Having high expectations is never a bad thing. The problem arises when those who claim to have high expectations fail to aim for a revolutionary loftier goal as capitalism always does in its continued revolution. Rather these people attempt to cement their own illusion of power under such a system, thus becoming like the proletariat, selling their own bodies to perpetuate the system. This was what the 1/6 crowd did. They, like the working class, gave up their bodies and souls to live another day, and unnecessarily so.

The 1/6 crowd plays the victim and imagines they are the working class. Such is the opposite of what we need. We do not need real victims but we need fake victims even less. What we truly need is not democracy but a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The left, scarred by failed communist attempts of the past, is so meek as to only to apologize to the working class rather than lead them, and thus leaves all revolution, not to the reactionary right, but to capitalism itself. It is time to stop apologizing. Stop apologizing for being a white, male, an American, a sinner, a colonizer, a rich person, on and on and on. That is not politics. That only furthers the dynamics of hierarchy we claim to want to transform.

If we truly are the luckiest people in the world let us go forward with the blind optimism that entails. Those living in the real world do indeed need to be propagandized into believing in a better one just as we once were. Only from there can the dictatorship of the proletariat be established. Now is not the time for those of us who have a voice in democracy to give it up.

When the working class is in charge not only will we have the option to step aside we will have no choice but to. Then we will mean our apologies because we hope they will save our lives or properties. Hold off on these bottomless apologies until you actually need them.

If we are who we say we are we will make this revolution happen. If we are like our bourgeois Trumpsters across the aisle we may only claim to represent the working class and our goal, like theirs, is to reproduce our power over them. The working class can surely be the cause of a revolution as they are every day under capitalism. We never mind this revolution because it deepens democracy for the bourgeois, and furthers the impossibility of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

But this form of revolution is in peril for it has not a mind of its own but only a system that deepens in contraction in order to stay alive. The bourgeois class, when attempting to make a revolution of its own, without the working class, stands no chance against capitalism, which always can offer the working class something and acknowledges the value of the working class far more than the bourgeois ever will, for it never opens its mouth.

If the bourgeois continues to turn against the working class as it did on 1/6 and hereafter with the deepening of democracy it will not end well for this class. The working class will stay with capitalism and be better for it. Capitalism’s unbiased revolutions are indeed less prejudiced than the classes of humans who see themselves as superior simply because of their relation to this blind entity called capitalism.

Capitalism too has the benefit of being contradictory and for every piece of land destroyed new energy and technology is formed. For every worker impoverished a commodity becomes cheaper. For every leap into wealth inequality by the creation of surplus, value poverty is erased through further investment.

Can we really offer anything better? I see liberals who claim to be social democrats defending fascists. While I see delusion in that formula I do not see the contradiction.

Here we see how the bourgeois, in the reproduction of its own status and comfort has dulled itself and does not have the friction to create social change. Capitalism and the working class create friction by rubbing up against each other and through opposition making the world go round. The bourgeois can tell you the world is round, but that is only by rising above it and has no practical use inside of it. The working class to the contrary operates as if the world is flat and makes interventions into it.

If we continue to believe in democracy rather than the dictatorship of the proletariat we will actually have something to apologize for. Most of us want democracy because while we may want people to have human rights we are definitely afraid of their freedom. 1/6 was supposed to be another reminder that the working class has no freedom and better shut up or risk more democracy and exploitation. Like Trump, the Democrats riding the coattails of 1/6 believed they somehow had won. But neither desperate attempt to claim democracy stuck in the hearts and minds of the working class.

1/6, like the Biden administration that followed, promised nothing but democracy itself and for its own sake. The lack of a punchline shows how weak they are. But we may be even weaker as we continue to praise 1/6 and democracy all the while alienating the working class. In this propagandist, sense capitalism is for once completely fair. We are losing the war of ideas and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at