In China, for example, the communist party says that they are the worker's party and that they represent the workers of the world and equality, even though they manage a one-party state that blocks other political views.

After the 2011 pro-democracy protests in China, a Chinese communist party leader outlined the five "No's", saying that there will be "no multi-party election; no diversified guiding principles, no separation of powers, no federal system, and no privatization". So how does a government that claims to represent its people justify not representing all political views?

EDIT: A better version of the question I'm asking: How can a worker's party claim to represent the workers if they haven't voted for them or approved of their political platform?

ANOTHER EDIT: Ok, in retrospect, this was a stupid question. I guess what I was trying to get at is why haven't the people of China expressed more disapproval with the government. The answer to that question is that they have, it's just that the government has been too corrupt to care and that any mention of such a thing wouldn't get past a few people because of the censorship there.

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    Technically, democracies don't represent everyone. They represent the majority.
    – user1530
    Jun 16, 2016 at 23:21
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    That's true, however there have been many protests (such as Tiananmen Square) that have shown that there is a significant population of a one-party state that does not approve of one-party leadership.
    – anon
    Jun 17, 2016 at 0:54
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    @javathunderman China is a totalitarian dictatorship that overtly attempts to pacify it's population through propaganda, speech control, historical distortion, and violence. They can claim whatever they want as long as their boot sits on the neck of the people. As far as the CCP is concerned the only people needed are the people in The Party. Incidentally this was also true of many other marxist organizations. They only cared about the continuation of control through whatever means necessary. Jun 18, 2016 at 17:17
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    Is this a question about political theory, or the reality of the claim? The reality is that anyone can claim anything, even if it is none-sense. Aug 17, 2016 at 20:20
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    Aren't they called single party states, not single party governments?
    – Golden Cuy
    Dec 11, 2016 at 21:54

5 Answers 5


"How do they?" They lie.

Part of the "beauty" of controlling a one-party, totalitarian system is that no one can hold you accountable for lying. Indeed, people would be afraid to even question whether the regime in charge was lying, and their entire society is set up to not question pronouncements from above.

They don't care if the rest of the world sees such statements as farce or not. That's the nature of propaganda. There is nothing about running a nation or society that forces integrity or honesty. Most people seem to feel the opposite is what winds up happening when power is at stake.


There is a lot going in to the question. Aside from the question, and the re-worded question, there are a lot of tangential questions hanging off. I've tried to answer as completely as possible.

This explanation is largely political theory, and is also largely influenced by the lectures of Dr. Meredith Bacon at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, in her course on Politics of Central Eurasia, who spent significant time in Soviet and Marxist countries.


China does have elections. In those elections people vote for the party. So China can claim that their government is elected, which provides some kind of mandate to govern. To quickly answer your question - the people did vote for them, and in some not entirely inconsequential sense, did approve of their platform.


In Western democracies, we typically associate democracy with pluralism. In this vein of thought, the government recognizes the value of having multiple perspectives or opinions on a subject. People have different opinions, and they have the ability to express those opinions through political organization.

However, if you think that your organization already has all the answer then there is no reason to have pluralism. You don't require a multitude of views, because you already know what is true. If the government is entirely utilitarian, you need debate from various perspectives to find the most beneficial policy. If your ideology tells you what the right policy is in all cases, you don't require any debate at all (except debate about what your ideology means).

Democratic Centralism

Democratic centralism is a concept worth knowing more about. In American (and European) democracy, people can challenge the government's decisions. We do this through petition, protest, recall elections, public criticism, and many other ways. Part of this is about pluralism - no matter what the majority decides, the minority has the freedom not to support it.

Democratic centralism is not on board with this. While an issue is being debated, legislators (or committee members, etc.) are free to have a multitude of opinions - but once the issues is decided by a majority vote, everyone is expected to uphold it.

In this case, once the government decided that something is in the best interest of the workers and peasants, everyone in the nation is expected to conform. Since the government's policies are based on the interests of the workers, not complying with policy/law means working against the workers' interests.


On a practical level, “How can they claim X?” is not a particularly difficult question: You just have someone go on TV and say X (or, earlier, print it in the newspaper). What could possibly stop that from happening? In a country with an authoritarian government, no independent press, no pluralistic party system or free and fair elections, it's not like a news anchor is going to publicly question the government or it is at any risk of losing the next elections.

For there are in fact elections in nearly all countries on earth, very much including current and former “people's democracies”. There might only be one choice on the ballot but you can also sometimes find make-believe opposition parties that really aren't or genuine opponents that are held under check to make sure they are not dangerous. There are many ways to ensure this: Only allowing the weakest unknown opposition politicians, controlling the press and media, direct intimidation and corruption (e.g. if the precinct scores are under 90%, everybody can expect problems), etc.

So in socialist countries (and other modern authoritarian systems), the workers or the people do vote for the main party in great numbers (they have to). Party officials from the top down actually attach a great importance to this and both turnout and scores are typically very high. Incidentally, note that your quote does not say “no elections” but “no multi-party election”.

And those parties are or were massive organisations. In the GDR for example, the SED had 2M+ members (in a country of 16M in 1990). That's more than a tenth of the whole population, counting children and all. (The reason why, beside propaganda and indoctrination from an early age, is that it was basically necessary to be a party member to make a career or have any kind of situation in the country but never mind that, the party is huge, that's a fact.)

So it's easy to claim that Marxist-Leninist parties have a much broader base than bourgeois political parties in Western democracy, which only ever get a fraction of the vote from those who went to the trouble of voting and only have tiny memberships. And the official line is that this is of course the only true form of democracy.

What's lacking is a meaningful choice, regular, peaceful changes of government, free and fair elections, etc. but your assumption that one-party systems do not have elections and the (vitiated) consent of millions of people is incorrect. Modern authoritarian regimes (and especially Soviet or Chinese-style people's republic) are not absolute monarchies explicitly rejecting the right of the people to choose their ruler(s) or to get involved in politics. Rather, they orchestrate regular demonstrations of “consent”.


Answering your original question: "How do one party governments say that they represent everyone even though they aren't democracies?"

At least in communist Poland there was an elected parliament with representatives being members of the communist party. The key word was 'diversity', the party made sure that the parliament will reflect society with the right amount of workers, miners, women, farmers, engineers, so in theory it was representing the people. A deputy could stand up and pretend that he is representing the farmers, because he himself is a farmer, etc.

Of course the real power was elsewhere, but if anyone asked it was the people.


I have an opposite question: how a government in multi-party system can claim that they represent the whole people?

So how does a government that claims to represent its people justify not representing all political views?

Marxist governments usually claim they represent only the laborers rather than everyone. Yet, the laborers are the majority.

Also how can a government represent all political views? Imagine there is a view that one should increase taxes, and another view that the taxes should be decreased. Now imagine a government that represents the both views...

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    But even accepting that only the workers should vote, the issue remains: how can the government claim that they represent the workers if the workers have not voted them?
    – SJuan76
    Jun 17, 2016 at 13:33
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    @SJuan76 First, I think they voted them. Second, there are a lot of other means. 1. In the early USSR till 1936 the deputies were elected in worker collectives by colleagues. Later they were only nominated in workers' collectives but effectively nomination was election (because general election failures were rare). 2. There were quotes for workers in the party. 3. The deputies were required to continue their work duties, the Supreme Council worked for short time a year 4. Complains from laborers taken seriously. 4. Accountability of all officials. 5. Polls (esp. important in modern China).
    – Anixx
    Jun 17, 2016 at 15:47
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    @Anixx all that votes in USSR were staged. In late USSR it was vote with single candidate. In early USSR votes on public were strictly controlled and could be the reason for arrest - e.g. if you were one of few voting wrong way. The way to control voting in all cases were local party representatives duty.
    – lowtech
    Jun 18, 2016 at 17:58
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    @lowtech no, those downvoted were usually candidates from small voting districts, where all people knew the candidate was corrupt etc. In big voting districts candidates always were winning.
    – Anixx
    Jun 19, 2016 at 9:33
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    @SJuan76 Then it would be decided which one is better and what concessions to make to those who would not be running and their organization. Regarding open ousted dissidents (unlike just non-politicized figures) nomination by a collective would be scandalous. After perestroika he was elected. But it was a huge mistake (maybe intentional) by Gorbachev that they allowed only "approved" and opposition (dissident) candidates, not several candidates from the party block.
    – Anixx
    Jun 19, 2016 at 19:52

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