Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Fe - Fh   —

A sad commentary on contemporary American society is that many people have beliefs and viewpoints which they are not willing to publicly defend, at least in writing. They are afraid of being found to be “wrong”, at least in part. They are afraid that criticism will come their way if they publicly state their views.
        Frequently I have received emails from people who disagree with me about some issue or other, and I have sometimes suggested that we post both sides of the disagreement and let others judge for themselves which view is correct. But in a surprisingly large number of cases the critic refuses to do this. The usual excuse is that their views, or at least the way that they have expressed them, are only tentative, unpolished, and not fully elaborated. What they forget is that my views are also all of these things, and—indeed—in reality everybody’s views are really sort of like this. The presentatation of every viewpoint can always be further improved!
        If people are going to work together collectively to find the truth and use it to change the world, then they must be willing to stick their necks out and try to defend their current views as best they can—even if they themselves recognize that they are only able to do so somewhat ineptly and very tentatively. Don’t be so afraid to be wrong that you become unable to publicly defend what you think is right!
        Is it such a horrible thing to be criticized or corrected when we are wrong?! Isn’t it actually a good thing to discover when we are wrong, so that we can correct those mistakes? That is the scientific Marxist attitude towards our own mistakes and errors. Anybody who thinks at all makes mistakes, and those who do not excessively fear those mistakes end up, because of the criticisms and corrections by other people, with the most correct ideas and play the most positive role in society. —S.H.

“He who says ‘Better to go without belief forever than believe a lie!’ merely shows his own preponderant private horror of becoming a dupe.... It is like a general informing his soldiers that it is better to keep out of battle forever than to risk a single wound. Not so are victories either over enemies or over nature gained. Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf.” —William James, The Will to Believe (1897), p. 18-19.
        [While William James invalidly used this argument to support religious belief, as a general principle about the fear of supporting a clear and definite point of view or of adopting a specific position on some contentious issue the principle here is quite valid. We should have the courage of our convictions, and always be willing to put forward our views and defend them—even if that is not always possible to the absolute best of our ability. Anything less is intellectual dishonesty. —S.H.]

[To be added...]

The bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia which overthrew the Tsar. This actually occurred starting with a demonstration in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 1917, but Russia was still using the old church calendar which gave the month as February. [More to be added... ]

An unsuccessful militarist armed rebellion in Japan on February 26, 1936.

“After the occupation of northeast China [in the early 1930s], Japanese imperialism made further inroads into north China from 1933 [on]. Aggression abroad sharpened class contradictions in Japan. Contradictions and infighting within Japan’s ruling circles were also growing acute. This was the background against which the fascist landlords and the Right-wing militarists attempted to set up a military regime by mutiny.
        “On February 26, 1936, at the instigation and orders of the Japanese militarist forces, 22 young officers led more than 1,400 corporals and privates in an armed action. They occupied many important government officies in the capital, including the Ministry of War and the building of the Metropolitan Police Agency. They attacked the Prime Minister’s official residence and the homes of elder statesmen, principal ministers and highly placed officials. They killed the Lord Chamberlain, Minister of Finance and the Inspector-General of Education and others. By this demonstration of force, they confronted War Minister Kawashima with an ‘ultimatum,’ demanding the establishment of a ‘military government.’ The action came to naught because of contention within the warlord circles.
        “After the incident, the Okada cabinet went out, and Kouki Hirota who had close ties with the warlord circles took office. Hirota was a member of the ‘Genkai Nada Association,’ a Right-wing organization. In power, the Hirota cabinet intensified militarization in all fields, pushed the arms expansion programme as never before, set up a military fascist dictatorship, and began ruthlessly suppressing the workers’ movement and peasants’ movement. Abroad, it pursued an expansionist policy of aggression with its spearhead directed ‘northward’ and ‘southward’ simultaneously. In July 1937, the Japanese militarists flagrantly launched their full-scale war of aggression against China. In December 1941, they unloosed the Pacific War which brought great disaster to the Asian people.” —For Your Reference note,
Peking Review, #50, Dec. 11, 1970, p. 14.

“FEBRUARY 28 UPRISING”   [Taiwan: 1947]

“The ‘February 28’ Uprising was an armed uprising by the people of China’s Taiwan Province against the reactionary Kuomintang rule. On February 27, 1947, when an anti-smuggling officer of the Taiwan State Monopoly Bureau and police were beating up a hawker in Taipei, they were surrounded by passers-by. The police opened fire and killed one onlooker. An angry crowd gathered before the police bureau to state their case. The next day, the shops in Taipei were closed and the people staged a demonstration in protest. Again they went to the police bureau demanding punishment for the killers, restitution of damages and the abolition of the Taiwan State Monopoly Bureau. Three more people were killed and another three demonstrators were wounded. This incensed the people of the whole province and touched off a large-scale armed uprising. In a few days most parts of the province were in the hands of the people who had risen in rebellion. While setting up ‘a committee to handle the affair’ so as to fool the people, the reactionary Kuomintang government mustered a large number of troops to carry out suppression. On March 8 the reactionaries began to arrest and butcher the people throughout the province, killing more than 30,000 people. The uprising was defeated on March 13.” —Note in Peking Review, #10, March 4, 1977, p. 5.

The largest and most important of the many national police forces of the United States federal government, which besides dealing with ordinary criminal activity also:
        1) Investigates and arrests foreign spies and terrorists operating within the U.S. (though it is rather inept at doing this, as the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda demonstrated); and
        2) Investigates, harrasses and sometimes outright suppresses political activity within the U.S. which the ruling class strongly disapproves of, even if it is legal and peaceful! This last function is far more important than most Americans understand, and includes major programs such as
COINTELPRO (now officially “ended” but continuing under other names). It is customary for liberals in the U.S. to condemn the “state police” or “secret police” of fascist, revisionist, or other open dictatorships, but to naïvely fail to recognize that the U.S. itself also has agencies like the FBI that frequently function in the same ways.

An agency of the U.S. federal government which insures the deposits of customers of member banks (those commercial banks regulated by the federal government). The FDIC was created in 1934, during the depths of the
Great Depression of the 1930s. Originally it insured deposits in each account only up to a maximum of $2,500. Over the years this limit was raised, and in the financial panic of 2008 it was further raised from $100,000 to $250,000 per account. The goal of this program is not so much to protect depositors as it is to protect the banks themselves (and their owners). During financial crises people tend to engage in “bank runs”—to suddenly pull their money out of any bank which they fear will collapse—unless they are sure they will not lose their money even if it does collapse.
        See also: BANK FAILURES

The interest rate the U.S.
Federal Reserve sets for loans of federal funds from one commercial bank to another. Also known as the target rate. Generally the federal funds rate is about the same as the discount rate, but usually slightly lower.

One of several U.S. government agencies which provides insurance on mortgage loans. (Others include
“Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac”.) The government does this not primarily for the benefit of the people, but rather, firstly, to safeguard the loans of banks and financial institutions for their benefit, and secondly, in order to promote the ever-expanding growth of consumer debt (which along with government debt is the only thing that can keep a capitalist economy working at all).
        See also: GINNIE MAE


The central bank of the United States, which was established in 1913 in response to the very serious financial crisis in the
Panic of 1907. There are 12 Regional Federal Reserve Banks, and a Board of Governors who control the whole system. The chairman and members of the Board of Governors are appointed by the U.S. President. The chairman of the Federal Reserve is often considered to be the most powerful person in the world after the U.S. President. The current chairman is Ben Bernanke.
        The “Fed” (as it is often called for short) intervenes in the open financial markets via its New York Federal Reserve Bank, and controls the U.S. banking system partly in this way. Other means it uses include adjusting the bank discount rate (the rate the Fed charges commercial banks for short-term loans) and establishing various regulations to directly control the behavior of financial institutions. The Federal Reserve is charged by Congress with regulating the money supply, controlling inflation and interest rates, and generally managing the financial aspects of the national economy. While it can often control the economy to some extent, ultimately the economic contradictions of capitalism inevitably get out of their control, as with the current financial/economic crisis that first became so serious in the fall of 2008.
        See also: GREENSPAN, Alan,   TARGET RATE

The financial assets owned by the Federal Reserve System (see above). Since the Fed buys these assets simply by creating money out of thin air (in effect just printing it), this is also a measure of how much money the Fed is creating and pushing into the economy via the banks and other financial institutions. Expanding its “balance sheet” in this way is also known as
quantitative easing, and is in effect a way of expanding the currency which eventually results in rapid inflation (unless that money can be quickly pulled out of the economy again without causing a new financial collapse).
        In the graph at the right it is apparent that the Fed has drastically increased its balance sheet since the current economic crisis qualitatively worsened in late 2008. Note that besides their holdings of nearly a trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds, the Fed has also bought up well over a trillion dollars in securitized mortgages in an attempt to prop up the desperately sick housing market. This has pushed the total level up to about $2.3 trillion. As of Nov. 1, 2010, with the U.S. economy still in very serious trouble with persistent high unemployment, a new round of “quantitative easing” is about to get underway, which is planned to increase the Fed’s balance sheet by at least another $600 billion dollars.

Someone who sympathizes with and supports the ideals and program of an organized group (such as a Communist party), but who is not a member or regular participant in the work of the group.
        “Fellow traveler” is the English translation of a term (poputchik) originally coined by
Trotsky in 1925 to refer to the vacillating intellectual supporters of the revolution within the young Soviet Union. When the U.S.S.R. later stabilized, the term poputchik was no longer used. However, the English term fellow traveler was commonly used in the West during the mid-20th century, in later years most often by reactionaries, to refer to those sympathetic to the Communist cause or to the Soviet Union, but who were not themselves members of the Communist party. The term is seldom used within the American revolutionary movement today.

Female genital mulitation (FGM), which is also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the cultural practice of cutting off some or all of the external female genitalia. There are no known health benefits to this practice, and it is actually quite dangerous. It can lead to many health problems including recurrent infections, difficulty urinating and passing menstrual flow, chronic pain, the development of cysts, an inability to get pregnant, complications during childbirth and even fatal bleeding. So why is it done? Simply for traditional reasons which reflect the subordination and oppression of women in many societies. In 2008 several United Nations agencies finally labelled FGM as a human rights violation, and the UN General Assembly did likewise in 2012.
        In many traditional or feudal societies (and even to some degree in capitalist society, especially early on) women have long been considered to be the property of men, not equal human beings with equal rights. And in many such societies, especially in northern Africa and the Middle East, sexual satisfaction was viewed as proper for men but improper for women. Moreover, FGM was forced on women (most of whom are young girls when the mutilation occurs) as an additional means to prevent women from wanting to have sex. FGM predates Islam though it is now most common in Islamic countries. The Quran [Koran] does not mention FGM, but the practice is associated with Islam because of that religion’s focus on female chastity and the tendency toward the seclusion of women from public society. FGM is actually illegal or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, but the laws against it are poorly enforced.
        Of course Marxism is totally opposed to such an evil custom, as well as to any other form of the oppression of women.
        For more information of female genital mutilation see the Wikipedia entry (at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation) from which much of the information here is taken, and the UNICEF report at: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_90033.html [This report estimates that 200 million women have undergone the procedure, with a rate commonly of 80%-98% in many countries and regions.]

There are many disputes as to what feminism is, including among those of us—women and men—who consider ourselves to be feminists. But a good place to start is with the comment by Cheris Krakamae & Paula Treichler that “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Revolutionary Marxism, from Marx and Engels on, has always been strongly in favor of women’s rights, and for the equality of treatment and opportunity of the two sexes.
        [More to be added.]

FENG YU-LAN   (Or: Feng Youlan, Fung Yu-lan, Fung Yu-lin)   (1895-1990)
        [See also his article: “I Discover Marxism”, in People’s China, Vol. 1, #6 (March 16, 1950), pp. 10-11, 21. This issue is online in WinDjView format at:
http://www.massline.org/PeoplesChina/index.htm ]

“[He] is well known in the West for his classic two-volume History of Chinese Philosophy. He is an international figure, graduated from Peking and Columbia universities, who has taught at the universities of Hawaii and Pennsylvania. After the establishment of the People’s Republic, Fung, a professor at Peking University, participated enthusiastically in Maoist efforts at political and ideological reform, engaging in self-criticism to root out his own bourgeois ideas and to set a good example to other Chinese intellectuals. Eventually he became an ardent supporter of Mao Tse-tung thought and China’s leading critic of Confucius during the anti-Confucian campaign during the early 1970s. At this time he was an intellectual consultant to Mao’s wife, Chiang Ch’ing, and her friends, the group that later came to be called the ‘gang of four.’ Shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, Chiang and her group fell from power and were publicly disgraced, a disgrace in which Fung shared, bringing to a humiliating close a brilliant philosophical career.” —John M. Koller, Oriental Philosophies, 2nd ed., (Scribner, 1985), p. 338.

[In particle physics:] A matter-type particle (as opposed to
bosons, or particles which carry force). Among the familiar fermions are protons, neutrons and electrons.
        More technically, fermions are particles of half-integer spin which exhibit Fermi-Dirac statistics in quantum mechanics, and to which the Pauli exclusion principle applies. There are thus both elementary particles which are fermions (i.e., quarks and leptons) and also composite particles which are fermions, such as protons, neutrons, atomic nuclei which contain an odd number of protons and neutrons, or even entire atoms containing an odd number of protons, electrons and neutrons.)

        1. [In religion:] The veneration of objects because of their supposed magical or supernatural powers, such as the imagined power of the bones of dead “saints” to heal diseases in those who touch them.
        2. [In bourgeois economics:] The standard notion that the
value (or exchange value) of a commodity is something mystically intrinsic to it, as opposed to the Marxist view that value is a function of the socially necessary labor time necessary to produce the commodity.

A term used for the last few centuries to describe the
socioeconomic formation which existed in Europe during the Middle Ages, and also similar sorts of societies in Asia and elsewhere which lasted into the 20th century and which still exist in some countries today (though mixed with capitalism). Under feudalism there are two main social classes, the serfs or peasantry, and the aristocracy or landlord class. The landlords own the land which the serfs or peasants farm on individual small plots, usually on a family basis. A certain proportion of the agricultural output which the peasants produce then automatically “belongs” to the landlord. (The landlords don’t buy it from the peasants; they just take it.) In addition, in most feudal societies a landlord had the right to the labor of “his” peasants for a certain number of days per year. This is called corvée labor. Peasants were also drafted into armies controlled by the landlord ruling class. Traditionally, the serfs or peasants were tied to the land and were not allowed to move elsewhere without the permission of the landlord (which was seldom granted). In short, the feudal landlords were the ruling class, and the peasants were an oppressed and exploited class, usually left with barely enough to survive on. Feudalism was in fact only a modified form of slavery. (The same, of course, is true of capitalism, which is often appropriately called the system of wage slavery.)

“Many scholars use the word feudal to describe only the vassal-lord, serf-and-manor system characteristic of medieval Europe. In this book the word is used in a broader sense to describe a society in which a ruling class, basing its power on the private ownership of and control over land, lived off a share of the produce extracted from that land by a class of laboring people. The latter, though neither slaves nor serfs, were still so closely bound to the land which they cultivated as to make them little better than serfs of the landed proprietors. It was a society, furthermore, in which these two classes constituted the main social forces and determined the contours of development.” —William Hinton, Fanshen (1966), p. 26, talking about feudalism in China.

In Europe feudalism began on a large scale in the 5th century C.E. following the disintegration of the slave system. In certain areas (such as eastern Slavic Europe) it arose directly from the disintegration of
primitive communal society, without any intervening period of chattel slavery. The Chinese form of feudalism developed at around the time of Confucius, who opposed this advance over slave society.

FEUERBACH, Ludwig   [Pronounced: LOOD-vig FOY-er-bock]   (1804-72)
German materialist philosopher and atheist who strongly impacted a generation of thinkers who had been educated in Hegel’s philosophical idealism, including the
Young Hegelians and Marx and Engels in their youth. He was an important link between Hegel and Marxist historical materialism. Feuerbach was removed from teaching at Erlangen University in 1830 because of his atheist views.
        His opposition to religion originally took the form of a struggle against Hegel’s idealism, and one of Feuerbach’s contributions to modern thought was in emphasizing the connection between religion and philosophical idealism. His overall contribution to philosophy was his strong defense of materialism.
        However, Feuerbach, in throwing out Hegel’s idealism, also tossed out (or failed to fully appreciate) Hegel’s dialectical method. Among other things, this may have helped lead him in the direction of radical empiricism (or sensationalism), which ironically was a step back toward idealism in its Kantian form.
        Politically Feuerbach was a liberal democrat. Late in life Feuerbach did join the Social Democratic Party of Germany, but he never became a Marxist. He spent his later years living in the countryside.
        Among his more important works were “Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy” (1839), The Essence of Christianity (1841), Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843), and The Essence of Religion (1846). However, for us Marxists it is not so much Feuerbach’s own books which deserve our attention, but rather the much more important comments by Marx and Engels on Feuerbach. These include Marx’s brief but amazingly profound “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845), and Engels’s book Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886).

FEYNMAN, Richard   (1918-88)
American physicist born in New York. During World War II he worked as a junior scientist on the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico, which designed and constructed the first atomic bombs. In later years he seemed rather uneasy about having continued his participation in that project even after the defeat of Nazi Germany. However, he was politically rather bourgeois and backward. He became a famous teacher of physics at Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology) beginning in 1950. Along with several other physicists he further developed the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED), whose initial development had begun in the 1920s and 1930s, but which came up against some serious difficulties including computational problems involving infinities. In 1965 he, along with Shinichiro Tomanaga (of Japan) and Julian Schwinger, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for overcoming these difficulties. Despite his bourgeois outlook, and tendencies towards philosophical
idealism, Feynman was something of an independent thinker in science who often had interesting or even profound things to say.

Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index