The One Constant in Communist, Capitalist, and/or Liberal Democratic Societies

Hi. I want to share an interesting theory about the modern world:

Communist states and Liberal Capitalist societies are actually quite similar. At their core, they both share the theory of a privileged elite class who must rule over the masses.

The systems are actually more alike than they are unalike.

This is obviously an intellectual exercise, but I think it’s rather important since it exposes the truth about the two ruling systems. We are all familiar with the ruling elite class in Communist and/or totalitarian societies, but how many of us are aware that liberal democracies operate in the very same fashion?

I would even argue that totalitarian states and their ruling elites are in awe, and in all probability, extremely jealous with the great efficiency and results that the privileged elite in liberal democracies have achieved in ruling over the masses.

I’d like to present my case. Let’s start with Marx’s Communist Manifesto:

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

This statement by Marx was earth shaking.

Marx was immediately criticized by his contemporaries, specifically, Bakunin, who very keenly observed that Marx’s Communism did not actually offer anything different from the current capitalist order. Bakunin argued in 1873:

The differences between revolutionary dictatorship and statism are superficial. Fundamentally they both represent the same principle of minority rule over the majority in the name of the alleged “stupidity” of the latter and the alleged “intelligence” of the former. Therefore they are both equally reactionary since both directly and inevitably must preserve and perpetuate the political and economic privileges of the ruling minority and the political and economic subjugation of the masses of the people.

Ultimately, from whatever point of view we look at this question, we come always to the same sad conclusion, the rule of the great masses of the people by a privileged minority.

But don’t take Bakunin’s, or for that matter, my word for it. Let’s read what the liberal, capitalist, democracies wrote about the rule of this “privileged minority”.

Below is a timeline of excerpts with links to original sources from some of the most influential persons in modern American history. Tell me if you notice the trend.

John Dewey, a well-known public intellectual and “progressive liberal”, wrote an essay titled Internal Social Reorganization After The War (1918):

The real question with us will be one of effectively discerning whether the intelligent men of the community really want to bring about a better reorganized social order.

Walter Lippmann, Pulitzer Prize winner with titles ranging anywhere from “most influential” journalist of the 20th century, to “Father of Modern Journalism”, wrote in The Phantom Public (1925):

These critics have seen that the important decisions were taken by individuals, and that public opinion was uninformed, irrelevant and meddlesome. They have usually concluded that there was a congenital difference between the masterful few and the ignorant many.

The outsider is necessarily ignorant, usually irrelevant and often meddlesome, because he is trying to navigate the ship from dry land.

A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny.

The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of the bewildered herd.

Edward Bernays, known as “the father of public relations” and one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century according to Life magazine,  wrote in Propaganda (1928):

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

Ours must be a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses. Is this government by propaganda? Call it, if you prefer, government by education.

The president [emphasis added] of The American Political Science Association (APSA), Water J. Shepard, went as far as for calling for an “intellectual aristocracy”. Read his speech from February of 1935 :

The dissipation of the democratic doctrine must result in the reduction of the electorate to its proper position as an organ of government, and its subjection to a critical appraisal, with respect to both structure and function. It must lose the halo which has surrounded it, and be judged by the effectiveness with which it performs the work assigned to it. That work must be radically reduced in amount; and it must be greatly simplified in character. Furthermore, the dogma of universal suffrage must give way to a system of educational and other tests which will exclude the ignorant, the uninformed, and the anti-social elements which hitherto have so frequently controlled elections. We must frankly recognize that government demands the best thought, the highest character, the most unselfish service that is available. We must admit, as did Aristotle, that an aristocratic as well as a democratic element is necessary in government – not an aristocracy of wealth, or class, or privileged position, but an aristocracy of intellect and character.

Harold Lasswell, an influential political scientist and who also served as president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), American Society of International Law and of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), wrote in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, Vol. 12, Propaganda (1937):

This regard for men in the mass rests upon no democratic dogmatism about men being the best judges of their own interests. The modern propagandist, like the modern psychologist, recognizes that men are often poor judges of their own interests. . . . With respect to those adjustments which do require mass action the task of the propagandist is that of inventing goal symbols which serve the double function of facilitating adoption and adaptation.

This involves the cultivation of sensitiveness to those concentrations of motive which are implicit and available for rapid mobilization when the appropriate symbol is offered.

Thomas Bailey, professor of history at Stanford University and author many historical monographs on diplomatic history, including widely used American history textbooks still in use in schools today, wrote in The Man in the Street (1948):

In a dictatorship, the masses must be deceived; in a democracy, they must be educated.

Because the masses are notoriously shortsighted, and generally cannot see danger until it is at their throats, our statesmen are forced to deceive them into awareness of their own long-run interests.

Deception of the people may in fact become increasingly necessary, unless we are willing to give out leaders in Washington a freer hand.

George Kennan, an important and very influential American diplomat and historian, wrote internally in the US State Department in 1948:

We should cease to talk about vague — and for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

Robert MacNamara, American business executive and the eighth United States Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote in The Essence of Security (1968)

Vital decision-making, particularly in policy matters, must remain at the topThe real threat to democracy comes not from overmanagement, but from undermanagement.

And so on and so forth.

Examples of this “privileged elite” and “ruling class” mentality are abundant in modern liberal democracies. Personal favorites are the Powell Memo (1971) and The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission (1975).

I wish to be clear. The concept of the privileged elite and the ruling class is not restricted to politicians or those aspiring for power. The concept is also widely considered a truism in the scholastic world. Please read How Scholars Loath Democracy, Freedom, and the Common Man.

Even before recorded history, an elite class has always existed in all human societies. One can debate whether these elite classes exist by divine right, human nature, greed, strength, or evolution/adaptation. But one cannot debate their continual existence and self-perpetuation regardless of the political/economic system of the times.

The one constant in Communist, Socialist, Capitalist, and/or Liberal Democratic societies is that you will be ruled by an minority elite class. The tactics might be different, but the underlying theory is the same.

Any questions?

Thanks for reading,


Democracy and Propaganda: A Timeline of Thoughts from Responsible Men

Bakunin’s Prediction: A Quick History on Using the “People’s Stick”

James Madison’s Ideas on Protecting the Opulent Minority Against the Tyranny of the Majority

2 responses to “The One Constant in Communist, Capitalist, and/or Liberal Democratic Societies”

  1. In political science we call this the “iron law of oligarchy”. Also Orwell made this point quite clear in 1984 that revolution mostly serves to replace one elite with another one.

    1. Excellent comment. Thanks!

Leave a Reply