What is the dictatorship of the proletariat?Marx said in 1848 that the world is more and more being divided into two opposing classes: the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat, exploiters and the exploited. The proletariat is defined as those without ownership over the means of production, and who therefore have to sell their labor power to capitalists in order to live.
The proletariat is often interchangeably referred to as the “working class,” though having a job does not necessarily make someone a proletarian, and not every proletarian has access to a job. Marx said, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains, they have a world to win,” meaning that the proletariat includes all those with little to no stake in the system as it is — the dispossessed, those who are thoroughly exploited, and/or neglected by the bourgeois institutions of power. These two classes exist in contradiction; the benefit of one is a loss for the other, and vice versa. Besides these two main classes existing under capitalism today, there is also the petty-bourgeoisie, or in other words, the middle classes, which are made up of educated labor such as lawyers, academics, administrators, managers and others who may not directly own the means of production but who have more security in the system than the proletariat, and in certain cases directly oversee their exploited labor activity for the capitalists.
The main pillar of capitalism is the ability of the bourgeoisie to exploit and profit from the labor of proletarian peoples. This is done through their monopoly over the means of production (land, factories, mines, retail outlets) as well as their monopoly over governmental affairs (state power). Even though we are constantly taught that we live in a democracy, it is quite apparent that millionaires and billionaires have much more say in what governments do than any average voter. Democracy under capitalism is rule of the dollar in which the wealthy “democratically” decide among themselves what governments do or don’t do. “Democracy” under capitalism is therefore known by Marxists as bourgeois democracy, or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is relegated to periodically voting for which party will oppress them next, and are wholly excluded from actual governance.
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