It is often said by the proponents of communism that democracy vs. communism dichotomy is an incorrect one, because democracy is a form of government as opposed to totalitarianism or authoritarianism, and communism is a socioeconomic ideology, as opposed to capitalism. Their basic principles, they continue, are more or less the same and can be boiled down to the expression “power to the people” – therefore, they state that any truly communist state is by definition a completely democratic one.
This, however, is pure sophistry which becomes clear to anyone who has any knowledge of history. “Democracy vs. communism” dichotomy is quite real for the sheer reason that these two ideologies follow two completely different philosophies which are incompatible within one system. In other words, the inherent qualities of these two systems make it impossible for them to co-exist within one state.
First of all, let’s talk about “power to the people” principle. In democracies this goal is achieved by giving all citizens the right to vote and take part in electing the people and political parties that are going to rule the country for a period of time, and these people and parties are responsible for what they do before their voters – if they don’t live up to the expectations, they are going to lose the next elections. While the system is not ideal and potentially susceptible to abuse, in longer-standing democracies it has been tried and tested enough to work stably for hundreds of years.
Communist states, however, may or may not have elections, but even if they are present, they play purely ornamental function – there is only one party, organized opposition is non-existent, mass media are subject to strict politically-dictated censorship. While formally power belongs to the people, in reality it rests on a single individual supported by officials belonging to the ruling party, and the aforementioned people have no say in deciding which people are ruling them and how they do it. In other words, in case of communism “power to the people” is nothing but a declarative slogan that justifies the totalitarian nature of the state.
The reason why communist states are always totalitarian is simple – as a socioeconomic ideology communism is based on the idea of big government, of governmental control over all spheres of human existence. The main area of control is economical one: private property and enterprise are prohibited, and all citizens are more or less employees of the state. Prices, production and distribution of goods and economy in general are under strict control of the governmental officials. And although communism per se is nothing but an economic system that states that means of production should not belong to individuals, the very nature of big government is that it cannot stop from getting bigger – it will always strive to control more and more aspects of life.
What people should read and watch, what they should think and believe, where they should live and work – a communist state aims at controlling all this and more. As a result, a communist state can hardly be called a system that practices what it preaches. While a democratic state strives to exist for the sake of its citizens (sometimes more, sometimes less effectively, but it does so), a communist state is by definition a state that exists for its own sake and uses its citizens as means of amassing even more power.
So, the dichotomy of democracy vs. communism is by no means faulty. They may not belong to the same set of concepts, but there is nothing wrong with putting them into opposition to one another, as they are incompatible.