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Dictatorship of the Bourgeois: Preemption Laws
How preemption laws ties in with Karl Marx' concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat"
Editor’s note: Updated at 16:47 EST to include other examples of preemption
Karl Marx heralded the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" to contrast it with “Bourgeois democracy.” Recently, I noticed that editors of prominent leftists magazines, did not seem to understand his concept.
Perhaps, I can clear up the confusion by putting it in a more modern, and relatable framework.
The word "democracy" has been used, misused and abused throughout the years (see George W. Bush). Now, it has essentially been rendered meaningless. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" is a phrase used to overcome all the ways the media, politicians and the capital class have perverted the word “democracy.” We can use examples from our own "democracy" to understand what Karl Marx meant.
The citizens of Denton, Texas, collected signatures and introduced a ballot measure to be decided by popular vote on November 2014. The ballot measure banned fracking in the city. The ballot initiative won by 58%. In other words, 58% of the voters favored banning fracking in the city. However, oil companies, who help fund ALEC, were unhappy and lobbied the state legislature and the governor. In response, Texas Governor, signed a preemption bill that states that cities do the authority to ban fracking in their limits. In other words, cities are banned from banning fracking.
In the Denton situation, the energy companies were not happy with the will of the people (majority of whom are proletariats). They appealed to the governor and state legislatures to enact a preemption law. In other words, capital overruled the will of the people in Denton. In a dictatorship of the proletariat, the vote of the citizens would be the final word. The government would have told the oil companies to “go frack themselves.” However, in our corrupt democracy, interests of capital constantly overrule the will of the people.
Other Notable Examples:
In 2018, DC voters approved a ballot measure setting minimum wage for tipped workers by a margin of 55%-45%. During the ballot initiative, the restaurant industry astroturfed a campaign to get the voters to vote “no” on the measure. When that failed, just four months after the ballot initiative was passed, the DC city council members, voted to overturn this ballot initiative.
In 2016, the Cleveland voters had successfully campaigned for a ballot initiative that would let them vote on whether or not to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. They had even set a date for the special election to vote on the ballot initiative to raise minimum wage. However, the Governor John Kasich responded by enacting an ALEC-written measure called the Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act. Before Cleveland could even vote on their ballot measure, the Governor signed into law a clause that says"cities do not have the authority to set the minimum wage higher than that of the state" In fact, ALEC even put out a press release bragging about Gov. Kasich’s efforts to thwart Democracy.
In 2018, Missouri overwhelmingly voted by 62% to increase the minimum wage to $12/hr, which is still not enough to account for the cost of living. Missouri state legislatures voted to overturn the ballot measure and to lower the minimum wage in Missouri.
In June 2016, the Washtenaw County commission, in Michigan, overwhelmingly voted in favor of tax on single-use plastic bags. A number of other counties, in Michigan, followed suit with local ordinances to ban single-use plastic bags. Within six months, the Michigan State Legislature passed a law that barred cities from banning plastic bags.
In the end, I personally believe the American left is better served by understanding all the ways in which our democracy has been preempted and will continue to be preempted by the bourgeois. Perhaps we can better understand our current system by contrasting “dictatorship of the bourgeoise” with “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Has your state legislature controverted democracy? Do you know about ALEC? Have you had a personal experience with preemption laws? I’d like to hear your story.