Does the capitalist class support democracy?
Top row, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, second from right, and bottom row Google CEO Sundar Pichai, left, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, second from left are sworn in remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill on July 29, 2020, in Washington. | Mandel Ngan / Pool via AP

Does the capitalist class support democracy? Or are they more comfortable cashing in thanks to tyrants?

Two observations prompted this line of thought. One, familiar to every worker, is that the honchos of the world—and not just in the U.S.—routinely repress their employees. They need government approval or, at worst, indifference, to get away with it. That’s easy under right-wing dictatorships.

The other was prompted by reading the testimony from Communications Workers Local 1400 to the House Commerce Committee last March, in the process of doing a story about Google, aka Alphabet.

Leaders of the local, which just filed for union recognition at a Google contract subsidiary in Kansas City, told the panel then about the firm’s flagrant disregard of democratic norms and values. The evidence: Google’s refusal to move against the hate groups, white supremacists, and Trumpites who used its platforms to plot the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution so their leader could remain in the Oval Office. Internet inciters included Donald Trump, too.

Wall Street’s would-be dictator, U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In the early 1930s, capitalists hatched a plan to overthrow or sideline President Franklin D. Roosevelt and replace him with Butler as their puppet ruler. Unfortunately for the corporate class, Butler wouldn’t go along with their scheme and blew the whistle. | AP

And Google, over its own workers’ strong protests, didn’t bat an eyelash. So what if democracy goes down the drain to insurrectionists who invaded the U.S. Capitol last January?

The testimony got us thinking. The corporate class routinely wraps itself patriotically in the U.S. flag. That’s quite different from the small-d democratic “flag” of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, legitimate elections, due process of law, and the right to organize into unions, etc.

So do the CEOs of the world give lip service to democracy, just like they give lip service to workers’ right to choose unions when faced with organizing drives?

To paraphrase GOP President Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, the notorious John Mitchell of Watergate infamy: “Watch what we do, not what we say.” And when you see the actions of the corporate class vis-a-vis democracy, the picture ain’t pretty. Some examples:

  • It was the wolves of Wall Street, capitalists all, who conspired with the American Legion (!) in a plot in 1934 to supersede FDR, that “traitor to his class,” and either leave him as a figurehead or replace him with retired general Smedley Butler. Butler blew the whistle.
  • It was CEOs of major corporations, German and American, who supported the dictator who supplied them with revenues and profits while quashing or killing unionists and dissidents…Hitler. Don’t believe it? Read the Nazi-era sections of The Arms Of Krupp.
  • Not for nothing were the small nations of Central America long known as “banana republics.” Who really ran them, their revolving parades of presidents—or United Fruit?
  • When the U.S. sent the Marines to Haiti (1915-34) and the Dominican Republic (1965), or the CIA to Guatemala (1954), who benefited? Hint: It wasn’t you and me.
  • Corporate capitalists are quite at home, thank you, doing business with despots. Start with ARAMCO and Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and go on and on.
  • As the select House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection is discovering, the cash that paid for it came not from the invaders of the citadel of democracy, but from corporate crooks and big GOP donors who also financed Trump’s campaign.

We could continue forever, using examples drawn from both current events and history. But evidence keeps piling up. Corporate crooks and chieftains, frequently one and the same, often prefer dealing with dictators than following democratic norms. Just ask Local 1400.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.