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 not have the authority to ban fracking in their limits. cannot ban fracking

In the Denton situation, the energy companies were not happy with the will of the citizens. 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:

Worker’s Rights

Washington DC



Plastic Bags


The EPI has a more detailed report on various preemption laws across the country.

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.

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