Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Ac - Af   —


ACADEMIA
The academic life at universities and colleges, along with their usual esoteric and bourgeois concerns and pursuits. Also carries the implication that those who live and work there are divorced from the struggles of the masses in the real world. Of course, there have been an atypical few who have managed to contribute to the revolutionary struggles of the people even while holding down positions at universities. But on the whole academia has a well-deserved bad reputation among serious revolutionary Marxists.

“Who would want to have to talk always with intellectual skunks, with people who study only for the purpose of finding new dead ends in every corner of the world!” —Marx, after being well rid of any prospect of finding a professorship at a university.

ACCIDENTS OF HISTORY

“It is not always that there is a strong reason for a great event.” —Samuel Johnson.
         [Of course anything that happens came about for quite sufficient reasons. However, one bit of truth in Johnson’s comment is that occasionally those causative reasons seem at first to be very tiny and apparently inconsequential. Moreover, even if there were huge and irresistable forces leading to some particular major event, it may still have been actually triggered in the end by some minute “accidental” cause. —S.H.]

ACCUMULATION
[To be added...]
        See also:
CAPITAL—ACCUMULATION OF, PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION

“Actually, however, capitalist society cannot exist without accumulating, for competition compels every capitalist on pain of ruin to expand production.” —Lenin, “On the So-called Market Question” (1893), LCW 1:104.

ACCURACY

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” —Wyatt Earp, Old West lawman and gun-fighter.

ACTION AT A DISTANCE   [Philosophy of Science]
The supposed ability of one material thing (or system) to affect another material thing (or system) even though there is some distance between the two and there is no material contact between them. At a bowling alley a player can knock down the bowling pins at a distance, but this is only because he or she rolls a bowling ball down the lane to do so. In talking about “action at a distance” we are excluding such situations, and talking only about cases (or supposed cases) where there is no relevant intervening material connection of any kind, including via sound waves, light waves, etc. Such genuine action at a distance, if it were to truly exist, would seem to be a challenge to a materialist conception of reality.
        Philosophical idealists, for example, often suppose that mere thoughts might be able to cause a distant object to move, or that “God” can alter any aspect of physical reality just by willing it. We materialists reject such things outright as pure nonsense. However, it is true that a person may “will” their hand to move (i.e., decide to move it) and it will (normally) do so. How is this possible? It is because this “willing” of the movement is actually just a high-level way of viewing part of a chain of physically connected material actions (including the complex generation of the “decision” by electro-chemical neural networks in the brain and the transmission of the appropriate nerve impulses to muscles, etc.).
        Even in ancient times there was the dominant feeling among thinkers that there is really no such thing as “action at a distance”, that really there is always some intervening material connections or forces. The notion of action at a distance was rejected by the atomists and by Aristotle, for example, and in more recent times by Newton and Einstein.
        The primary argument for the existence of action at a distance is gravity, which keeps the moon orbiting around the earth and the earth-moon system orbiting around the sun despite the vast vacuum of space between them. Nevertheless, there are ways to make sense of this from a materialist perspective. One way is to postulate gravitational fields which permeate the space between objects and transmit an attractive force (such as via particles called gravitons). Einstein, with his general theory of relativity, provided an alternative materialist explanation for gravity, namely that space (or space-time) is itself a special form of material substance which is warped by ordinary matter and thus leads moving objects to alter their speed and/or direction of motion. In either case modern physics interprets gravity in a way that rejects the notion of any true action at a distance. What may appear to be action at a distance turns out on closer investigation to involve physical connection of one sort or another through an intervening medium (which is not really empty as was originally thought).

“ACTUALLY EXISTING SOCIALISM”
This is a phrase that was (and sometimes still is) used by those who recognized that many countries which called themselves “socialist” (especially the Soviet Union during its last decades) had severe shortcomings, but who could still not bring themselves to admit that these countries were not really socialist at all! In other words, this is a phrase that was used by those who were unable to recognize revisionism and phony socialism when it stared them in the face. This syndrome was especially common among older Marxists who had developed emotional attachments to the Soviet Union in its earlier socialist period, and who could not face the fact that the nature of the Soviet Union had fundamentally changed from socialism to
state capitalism.

ACTUARY
A person who uses mathematics and statistics to calculate insurance and annuity premiums, reserves and dividends.

AD HOC PATCHES TO SCIENTIFIC THEORIES
[To be added...]
        See also:
PHLOGISTON THEORY

ADHIAR
[In India:] A sharecropper. (One of several terms used in India for sharecroppers.)

ADIVASI
A term used in India (often not capitalized) to refer to what is in English often called a “tribal”, or person of a tribal community, most of whom live in the hilly, forested areas of a number of states in east-central India. The word Adivasi literally means “old inhabitant”, and is a general term for any of a variety of ethnic and tribal groups who are believed by many to be descendants of the earliest inhabitants of what is now India. They are a substantial minority of the population in India, constituting about 8.2% of the population, or over 84 million people as of the 2001 census. One major concentration of Adivasis is in the
Jangalmahal region. Because the Adivasis live closer to nature than most Indian societies, they are particularly vulnerable to the environmental degradation frequently caused by capitalist corporations. Their lands are frequently stolen from them for agricultural, mining or industrial development. For these reasons, many Adivasis have joined the Maoist revolutionary movement in India.
        See also: “JAL, JUNGLE AND JAMEEN”

“Tribals are the most marginalized section of Indian society, worse off than even the Dalits (formerly referred to as Untouchables). Around 49.5% of tribals live under the official poverty line, 76.2% are illiterate and almost 30% have no access whatsoever to doctors in clinics. Displaced from their land and discriminated against in the industrial job markets [they] are now fighting to keep their [remaining] land, their only remaining resource.” —Sudha Ramachandran, “India Drives Tribals into Maoist Arms”, Asia Times, Jan. 16, 2010.

ADJUNCT PROFESSOR
A college or university professor who teaches individual courses for a very low salary at one or more schools but who has no tenure nor health care or other benefits. The fact that ever larger sections of the higher education faculty are adjunct professors is another blatant sign of the rapid deteriorization of the educational system in the U.S.

“On April 8, 2013, the New York Times reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors—an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits.
        “Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.” —Sarah Kendzior, “Academia’s Indentured Servants”, on an
online blog, April 11, 2013.

ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM)
A loan (or
mortgage) to buy real estate (buildings or land) for which the interest rate is periodically adjusted, often every 6 months. The new rate is determined in relation to some common short-term interest rate, such as that of the 6-month U.S. Treasury bill. ARMs are designed to transfer the risk of rising inflation from the loaner to the borrower. While many ARMs specify a maximum interest rate, it is always much higher than the initial rate. Moreover, in recent years banks and financial companies have marketed ARMs which set the initial rate artificially low for a certain limited period as a come on. The family taking out the loan is then hit with a massive shock of a much higher monthly interest payment when the first interest “adjustment” is made.

ADLER, Victor   (1852-1918)
A leading founder of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (in 1888-89). Later a prominent revisionist and reformist politician in that country during the period of the
Second International. He took a centrist position during World War I, advocating “class peace” and opposing any revolutionary uprisings by the working class.

ADULTERATION OF FOOD
See:
FOOD ADULTERATION

ADVANCED ACTION
[To be added... ]
See also:
VANGUARD ACTION

ADVANCED AND BACKWARD
Divisions among the people based on their relative political understanding and activity. Sometimes this is simply a bifurcation, or conceptual division of the population into two categories. On other occasions it is a 3-way division which includes an “intermediate” section of the population. Of course it is also possible to create even more categories, such as the “very advanced”, the “somewhat advanced”, the “partially backward”, and the “extremely backward”. There is no single “absolutely correct way” of doing this; it all depends on the purpose of the analysis.
        In addition, it is quite possible to be advanced in one respect and backward in another. For example a man might have a high degree of class consciousness but be quite backward with regard to his attitude toward women and their unequal treatment and oppression. Or someone might be quite concerned and active with regard to the issue of the anti-war struggle, but have little interest or concern about the economic exploitation of the working class. In deciding how to categorize an individual at some particular time and place it is often necessary to understand which issues are presently at the forefront of social and political struggle. And of course it is also important to try to use a person’s strengths, and their advanced characteristics, to help them overcome their weaknesses or areas of relative backwardness.

“In any society and at any time, there are always two kinds of people and views, the advanced and the backward, that exist as opposites struggling with each other, with the advanced views invariably prevailing over the backward ones...” —Mao, “In Refutation of ‘Uniformity of Public Opinion’” (May 24, 1955), SW 5:172. [Of course we must acknowledge that in the short run the advanced views do not always prevail over the backward ones; it may take a prolonged struggle. —S.H.]

AESOPIAN LANGUAGE
Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller (c. 620-564 BCE) who used fanciful tales (or fables) to instill various morals or practical conclusions in his readers. That is, he put forward various ideas in a quite round-about way.
        Because of the oppression and censorship by the ruling bourgeoisie, Marxists and other revolutionaries have also often been forced to put forward their ideas in “round-about” or euphemistic ways that are frequently referred to as Aesopian language. For example in Russia in the 1890s, revolutionaries frequently had to refer to the followers of Marx and Engels as “the disciples” (rather than Marxists) when writing in the legal press. Similarly, while in prison during the Mussolini fascist period in Italy, the Communist leader
Antonio Gramsci had to use the circumlocution “modern theory” when he simply meant Marxism. Of course it is always better to speak plainly and openly when we can!

“This pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorhip. Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution, by hints, in an allegorical language—in that accursed Aesopian language—to which tsarism compelled all revolutionaries to have recourse whenever they took up the pen to write a ‘legal’ work.” —Lenin, from the Preface to his 1917 edition of “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, LCW 22:187.

“The moonlike phases of Venus impressed Galileo, who noted that they supported the Copernican theory that the planets orbit the Sun. Observing Venus in 1610, Galileo conveyed the potentially heretical news to Johannes Kepler in the form of a Latin anagram: Haec immatura, a me, iam frustra, leguntur—o.y.—‘These things not ripe are read by me’—which, suitably rearranged, reads Cynthiae figuras aemulatur Mater Amorum, ‘The Mother of Love [Venus] imitates the phases of Cynthia [the Moon].’”
         —Timothy Ferris, Seeing in the Dark (2002), p. 91. [In 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for, among other things, supporting the Copernican theory. Thus the need for extreme caution in this letter by Galileo, even to a fellow scientist! —Ed.]

AESTHETIC EVALUATION
Works of art (including works of literature and music) may be evaluated, or judged as to how good or bad they are, in various ways and from various different perspectives. For example they may be judged from a moral or political perspective. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do (though some people object to it). On the other hand, a common bourgeois perspective for judging works of art is according to their price, with one work being considered “better” than another if it can be sold for a higher amount. All of these are examples of evaluation from non-aesthetic points of view. But of course works of art may also be evaluated on the basis of their aesthetic merits.
        But aesthetic merit itself may vary according to different points of view, or the different expectations and desires that one person rather than another seeks in works of art (or for the same person on different occasions). One person may enjoy a painting if it soothes them; another if it portrays a beautiful person or a beautiful landscape; a third may seek works that excite their imagination; and so forth. Thus there are subjective views about aesthetic merit, or about whether some particular work of art is good or bad.
        However, enough people have similar interests in art that a certain sort of objective aesthetic evaluation of any individual work is also quite possible. Each work may be viewed as being in one or another
artistic style. Each such style is defined (either explicitly, or more usually, implicitly) in terms of a list of stylistic standards. A work of art in some style may then be evaluated in terms of how well the work meets the standards appropriate to that style. A good work of art is thus one which does a good job in meeting the standards appropriate to the style the work is viewed as being in.
        A different form of aesthetic evaluation of a work of art comes from considering the theme of the work, whether it is an important or powerful theme, for example. But this also connects up with the primary method of objective aesthetic evaluation, since the importance of the theme in a work is itself something that may vary in different styles.
        From our Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective, an all-round evaluation of a work of art includes its evaluation from both an aesthetic point of view and from a political point of view.

“I once heard a radio broadcast in which the naturalist and animal expert Roger Caras remarked: ‘In judging dogs at a dog show each dog is measured against its own breed standard.’ What an excellent analogy this is to the situation in art, to the aesthetic evaluation and criticism of art! It would obviously be ridiculous to judge a Dachshund as better than a St. Bernard ‘because the Dachshund is lower to the ground like a dog should be’—when in fact this is a standard for Dachshunds but not for St. Bernards. And it would be just as ridiculous to claim that ‘all waltzes are bad music because you can’t march to them’, as if this stylistic standard of marches applied to waltzes as well. Of course nobody would say such a thing about waltzes—it’s too obvious of a case. But the history of art and art criticism is full of examples of new artistic works in new styles being absurdly judged by the standards of older styles.” —S.H., from an unpublished manuscript on aesthetics.
         [However, you might ask, if each dog at a dog show is judged against its own breed standards, how is the “best of show” dog selected from among all the different breeds? The answer is that the St. Bernard might be selected as “best of show” because it did a much better job of meeting its own breed standards than the Dachshund and other dogs did in meeting their respective breed standards. Of course there may also be some few standards that do apply to all the breeds, such as healthiness and obedience. —S.H.]

AESTHETIC OBJECT
A work of art. Most of the philosophical discussion around this topic centers on whether a work of art is a physical object, or some other kind of thing (such as an “idea”, “illusion”, or even something that “doesn’t really exist at all”!). In the case of a painting or a statue it seems at first quite reasonable to say that the work of art is a physical object, either the physical canvas covered with paint or the physical statue made of bronze, wood, or some other material. But what about a woodblock print that exists in multiple copies, none of which is more “original” than any of the others? What about a song? Or a new dance? Are they physical objects? Or a novel? Is it “really” the original manuscript (even if that differs from the final changed printed version that the author approved, and which exists in a million equal copies?). Or what about a poem that is recited verbally and never written down at all? These are the sorts of questions that arise. To cut a long story short, in my own opinion a work of art of any kind is actually a pattern or arrangement of some sort that is created by the artist and which can—in theory at least—be replicated in many individual copies, each of which is a token of that particular type. (See:
types/tokens.) This, by the way, is not an idealist theory, but rather a materialist theory that undercuts idealism on this issue. —S.H.

AESTHETIC STANDARDS
See:
STYLISTIC STANDARDS

AESTHETICS
Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy concerned with art. In popular usage, as well as in older bourgeois philosophy, aesthetics is often viewed as being focused on “the beautiful”, but actually the explication of
beauty is just one of many issues in aesthetics, and not even the most important issue. Some of the many other questions in the philosophy of art are:
        What sort of thing is a work of art? (Is it a physical object? An abstraction? An “illusion”, as some have claimed? Or what?) (See AESTHETIC OBJECT entry above.)
        What makes a work of art a good work?
        Why does art have such an impact on human beings?
        What is the relationship of art to society?
        See also: Philosophical doggerel on aesthetics.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT   (Also known as “ObamaCare”)
A pathetically inadequate national health care plan enacted in the U.S. during the
Obama Administration, which was designed—first of all—to protect and enhance the profits of the health care and insurance industries. It did, however, extend some medical insurance coverage, at great individual and government expense, to large numbers of people who previously had no health insurance at all.

“The consolidation [mergers of hospitals and mergers of insurance companies] on both sides gave hospitals and insurers together even greater clout. By the time Congress considered the Affordable Care Act, the two groups had enough leverage in Washington to ensure that the legislation would boost the profits of both the big insurers and the giant hospital systems. They made their support of the proposed legislation contingent on a requirement that everyone buy insurance and not get a ‘public option’ to choose Medicare-like public insurance over private insurance. Their winnings have amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. Directly or indirectly, the rest of us pay.” —Robert Reich, a liberal bourgeois economist who was the Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton Administration, Saving Capitalism (2015), p. 44.

AFGHANISTAN — British Imperialist Invasions Of

“From 1838 to 1919, British imperialism launched three wars of aggression against Afghanistan. When the third war broke out in 1919, Emir Amanullah, supported by the tribes, rose in resistance to the aggressors. At the time, tribal uprisings in the frontier areas threatened British imperialist rule in northern India. In August 1919, Britain was forced to sign an armistice agreement with Afghanistan and recognize its independence and freedom.
        “Stalin cited Afghanistan to illustrate a point he made in his The Foundations of Leninism in 1924. He said: ‘The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary or a republican programme of the movement, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement.’ He pointed out: ‘The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.’” —Reference note, Peking Review, #48, Nov. 25, 1977, pp. 27-28. [While the point that Stalin makes here is correct, it does not of course mean that the anti-imperialist struggle can be in safe and steady hands unless it is led by the revolutionary proletariat, nor is this a matter of a truly revolutionary struggle with regard to the social classes and rule within a country like Afghanistan. —S.H.]

AFGHANISTAN — Soviet Social-Imperialist Invasion Of
[To be added.]

AFGHANISTAN — U.S. Imperialist Invasion Of
[To be added.]

AFP
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (the government military forces).

AFRICOM
See:
UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND




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