Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Du - Dz   —

DU BOIS, W[illiam] E[dward] B[urghardt]   [Pronounced: doo-BOYZ]   (1868-1963)
An influential African-American intellectual, sociologist, historian and civil rights activist, who was born in Massachusetts. Du Bois studied with William James at Harvard and at the University of Berlin (where Max Weber was an admirer). He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate (from Harvard University in 1895), and then became a professor at Atlanta University. He published the first systematic sociological studies of African-American communities.
        Du Bois was a nationally prominent leader of the civil rights movement. While Booker T. Washington proposed what was known as the “Atlanta Compromise”, that Southern Blacks would work and submit to white political rule in return for basic educational and economic opportunities, Du Bois insisted on full equality with whites. He also worked for increased political represenation by Blacks, which, however, he thought could be best brought about by the African-American intellectual elite, “the talented tenth”. He was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, and served for a long period as the editor of its journal.

“Racism was the main target of Du Bois’s polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause included colored persons everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military.” —From the Wikipedia entry on Du Bois, from which some other information here is also taken.

W. E. B. Du Bois wrote many books and articles. His work The Philadelphia Negro (1899) comprehensively discusses what more recent bourgeois sociologists call the Black urban “underclass”. One of his most famous works was The Souls of Black Folks (1899/1903), a collection of his essays. There he presents the theory of dual consciousness which shows the influence of William James’s ideas about the psychological self. Du Bois remarked that “it is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One feels this twoness—an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength keeps it from being torn asunder.”
        What is often described as his magum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, was published in 1935. In it he effectively challenged the then prevailing racist theory that Blacks were responsible for the social failures of the Reconstruction period after the Civil War.
        Du Bois did have some serious shortcomings, many of them along the lines of any person who struggles for social equality without fully challenging the basic framework of bourgeois society. For example he supported the participation of American Blacks in World War I as a means of promoting equality for Blacks. He was much criticized on the Left for supporting an inter-imperialist war, and rightly so. Du Bois did believe that capitalism was the primary root cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialism, though it is doubtful if he had a clear idea what that would really mean, let alone how to bring it about. (In his very old age he joined the hopelessly revisionist
Communist Party, U.S.A.) He was also a strong activist for peace and nuclear disarmament. But he was never a revolutionary Marxist.
        In 1961, two years before his death, he moved to Ghana and renounced his U.S. citizenship. He had had enough of racism in the U.S., and perhaps felt too old and weary to effectively continue his long fight against it.
        See also: PROFITS [Du Bois quote],   TWO-PARTY SYSTEM [Du Bois quote]

A political situation in certain places and periods of time (always quite short) in which different and antagonistic social
classes each have a share of state power. In such a situation each of the contending classes works to secure total state power for itself, while attempting to deny the enemy class with any share of power whatsoever. This is why dual power is so tremendously unstable and short-lived.
        One example of dual power was the situation in Russia after the “February Revolution” (in March 1917!) overthrowing the Tsar, and lasting until the “October Revolution” (in November 1917!), when the Bolsheviks led by Lenin seized complete power for the working class. During this period of about 8 months, there was official power in the hands of the “Provisional Government”, but very extensive de facto power in the hands of the Soviets (councils) of workers, peasants and soldiers. For example, while the Provisional Government was nominally in charge of the Russian army, in reality most army units would generally only obey government orders if they were also OK’d by their local Soviet.
        It is often said that the current situation in Nepal, since the end of the People’s War in 2006, is also a period of dual power. In this case the Nepal Army is under the control of the feudal-capitalist alliance, but there still exists a separate army, the People’s Liberation Army, which is controlled by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Similarly, the UCPN(M) is the largest party in the Constituent Assembly (which is serving as the interim parliament), though it doesn’t have a majority. Since major decisions require a two-thirds majority, there is in effect stalemate there as well as militarily. This is obviously also a very unstable situation, and one of these class forces will fairly soon overthrow the other. It is so far unclear which will triumph.

The philosophical theory that both
matter and mind exist, but that they are “completely independent” aspects of the world, and that neither depends on the other or is an outgrowth or development of the other. Consequently this is supposed to be a middle position between materialism and idealism. However, from the Marxist, materialist standpoint dualism is itself a type of idealism, since it also denies the primacy of matter.
        One irresolvable conundrum for dualism is the simple question of how someone can raise their arm when they decide to do so. This is a clear case of a mental cause resulting in a physical or material result, and is totally inexplicable if mind and matter are imagined to be “completely independent” things. It can only be explained if we understand mental phenomena such as decisions to be a sort of abstract functional characterization of what at bottom are really ongoing physical, material processes in the brain and body.
        One famous version of dualism was Leibniz’s attempt to explain both mind and matter by means of a single mysterious “substance” he called “monads”.
        Interestingly, despite its philosophical absurdity and fundamental disagreement with materialism, dualism historically played a positive role in the promotion of materialist thought. One of its earliest proponents was René Descartes, who argued that the body and “soul” should be considered independently. This allowed him to discuss the body itself in materialist terms, as a machine, and led others to do the same. Eventually scientifically inclined people came to realize that there was no further need for or even room for any such thing as a soul.
        See also: EPIPHENOMENALISM,   OCCASIONALISM,   PSYCHOPHYSICAL PARALLELISM, and Philosophical doggerel about dualism.

DÜHRING, Eugen Karl   (1833-1921)
Author of an eclectic theory of socialism in opposition to that of Marx and Engels. Engels exhaustively exposed his many theoretical shortcomings in his famous book
Anti-Dühring. Dühring later became an anti-Semite and racist.

The practice of selling commodities for a lower price in foreign markets than in the home market. This is an illegal practice according to most trade agreements, but is nevertheless quite common. The reasons why companies do this include:
        1) They may have more of a monopoly situation in the home market that allows them extra profits there;
        2) They may wish to simply unload excess production in a way that will not adversely impact their main market;
        3) It may allow them to horn in on new markets in the other countries;
        4) It may allow them to drive their competitors in the foreign markets out of business, after which they will be able to raise prices there to the same high levels as in the home market.
        In general there is much more international competition in modern capitalism than there is competition within home markets, and this is one of the basic factors that makes dumping so common, and makes charges of dumping against foreign competitors even more common!

DUNAYEVSKAYA, Raya   (1910-1987)
The founder and leader of a tiny Trotskyist sect in the United States named after its newspaper, News and Letters, and promoting an idealist Hegelian-inspired philosophy she called “Marxist Humanism”. Dunayevskaya had been one of the secretaries for
Leon Trotsky while he was in exile in Mexico, but broke with him in 1939. She was then associated with C. L. R. James in various sectarian organizations in the U.S. Trotskyist movement, but later split with him as well to form her own doctrinaire group.
        In the 1940s one of her major ideological campaigns was directed against Soviet economists for recognizing that the law of value continued to hold during the period of socialism. This demonstrated that she really did not understand the deep nature of socialism as a transition period from capitalism to communism, and that the law of value can only be progressively restricted during this transition.
        Dunayevskaya, along with other Trotskyists, is also known for her outrageous slanders of Mao Zedong and the great Chinese Revolution.

DUNS SCOTUS, John   (c. 1266-1308)
John Duns, the Scot, was an early
scholastic philosopher/theologian of the Roman Catholic Church. He focused mostly on metaphysics, especially in relation to the “nature and reality” of God, and other major “transcendental” categories such as being or existence, the true, the good, causation, and so forth. He was a nominalist, and hence a representative of an early and very partial expression of materialism in the Middle Ages.
        Although called the doctor subtilis (“subtle doctor”) in his own day, in a more enlightened later age his followers were called “Dunsmen”—from which is derived the modern word ‘dunce’!

DURKHEIM, Émile   (1858-1917)
French reactionary sociologist, who was a
Comtean positivist, Malthusian and a racist. He, along with Max Weber, was one of the principle founders of the bourgeois field of sociology as a reaction against Marxism.

DUTY   (Ethics)
In talk about morality ‘duty’ is simply the common word for moral obligation. However, ‘duty’ carries connotations that the more formal term ‘moral obligation’ does not, because of other actual or imagined “duties” we have, such as family duties, religious duties, or patriotic duties, where an extreme sense of shame is conditioned to arise in most people who fail to properly perform such duties.
        See also:

DZERZHINSKY, Felix Edmundovich   (1877-1926)
[Family name pronounced   jer-ZHIN-ski where the ‘zh’ sound is like the z in the word ‘azure’.]
An important Polish-born Soviet revolutionary leader best known for his activities as a Bolshevik party member and close friend and assistant to Lenin in the October Revolution and for his very important role as head of the Vecheka or
Cheka, the revolutionary national security organization which the Bolsheviks set up to help consolidate and continue proletarian political power.
        Dzerzhinsky led in developing revolutionary organizations in Poland and Lithuania in the two-decade period before World War I when those countries were part of the Tsarist Russian Empire. He was one of 15 delegates at the first congress of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) in April 1896, and envisioned the eventual merger of the LSDP into the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. In this he was a follower of Rosa Luxemburg on the national question and apparently did not support the right of self-determination by oppressed nationalities.
        He was arrested in 1897 and escaped from his first Siberian exile in August 1899. In Warsaw he re-established Rosa Luxemburg’s then defunct Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and, after escaping in mid-1902 from his second exile to Siberia helped expand that party to also include Lithuanian branches.
        Dzerzhinsky was repeatedly arrested and spent over 11 years in prison and Siberian exile, including the last 4 ½ years before the February Revolution in 1917. When freed after that revolution he soon joined the Bolshevik Party where he then played an important role in the October Revolution.
        Because of counter-revolutionary activity by the still not fully defeated Tsarist forces and their bourgeois allies, in December 1917 the Bolsheviks set up the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (called the Vecheka or Cheka after its Russian initials), with Dzerzhinsky as its chairman. Neither he nor Lenin and the other Bolsheviks attempted to hide the harsh measures that were necessary in this situation, including many arrests of counter-revolutionaries and numerous summary executions. Dzerzhinsky himself wrote that:

“We stand for organized terror—this should be frankly stated—terror being absolutely indispensable in current revolutionary conditions.... We terrorize the enemies of the Soviet government in order to stifle crime at its inception. Terror serves as a ready deterrent.” —Felix Dzerzhinsky, in Svoboda Rossii [Russia’s Freedom], June 9, 1918; English translation in Harold Shukman, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution (1988), p. 182.

Dzerzhinsky remained the head of the revolutionary security organizations as they were reorganized in 1924 and until his death from a heart attack in 1926. While he fully implemented the harsh measures that were necessary in that revolutionary situation, it should be stated that Dzerzhinsky himself was an exceptionally honest and honorable person, of the sort that is absolutely essential in such a potentially dangerous and abusive position. This, unfortunately, is more than can be said of any of his successors as head of Soviet police and security organizations.
        Dzerzhinsky was such a capable administrator that he was simultaneously pressed into service in many other areas besides security work. In April 1921 he was appointed the People’s Commissar for Transport and organized major improvements in that sphere. He also directed other commissariats and in 1924 was appointed chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy, a top economic post.
        As an honest and honorable revolutionary, Dzerzhinsky had his own ideas and did not always automatically agree with Lenin and other comrades, and sometimes he was clearly wrong in the positions he took. One example was in the Georgian leadership crisis of 1922-23 where the stance that he (as well as Stalin and others) took opposing the right of self-determination in Georgia was severely criticized by Lenin. But overall Dzerzhinsky was a valuable revolutionary who made major contributions to the Russian revolution.

Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index