Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Ge - Gh   —

GEITHNER, Timothy   (1961-  )
A top financial official of the U.S. government who was Secretary of the Treasury in the Obama administration from 2009-2013. He was previously president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where he played a major role in the bail-outs of the Wall Street gambling firm Bear Stearns and AIG (an insurance company insuring Wall Street gambles). He is an excellent example of how top government officials in the modern bourgeois state are selected based on their willingness to completely serve the interests of
finance capitalism.

“[L]iberal and conservative critics alike consider him [Geithner] excessively generous to big banks at the expense of the public. Evidence gathered by the crisis commission of Congress paints an unflatering picture of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s role before the crisis, when Mr Geithner was in charge, in overseeing banks, Citigroup in particular. Critics fault him for not imposing haircuts on AIG’s counterparties (mostly big banks) as part of the insurance company's bail-out, and for not nationalizing or breaking up big banks such as Citi. His actions and the subsequent financial-reform law, they say, enshrine the bad principle that some banks are ‘too big to fail’.” —“Farewell, Tim Geithner: Lessons Learnt”, The Economist, Jan. 19, 2013, p. 32.

The predecessor set of trade agreements, and the organization to arbitrate and enforce those agreements, which later became the
World Trade Organization (WTO).

The General Crisis of Capitalism Thesis (GCC) is the theory that the entire period of capitalist-imperialism is one of overall economic and political crisis of a much more extensive and profound sort than the periodic industrial crises that Marx talked about in the pre-monopoly era. The GCC thesis is an extension and rather simplistic and mechanical systemization of Lenin’s views in his famous 1916 pamphlet, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. The GCC thesis was originally developed by the Comintern in the 1920s and 1930s, but continues to be supported to this day by some Communist parties and by some individual Marxists. However, the thesis has also been strongly criticized by other Marxists.

“Lenin’s basic point of view was that the imperialist era is the final stage of capitalism, an era during which all the contradictions of capitalism become enormously concentrated and intensified, and therefore an era of interimperialist war, of economic crisis, and of proletarian revolution. And, actually, looking back at the past century, this does not seem to be too bad a summary of what has actually happened—though clearly the era is not yet over and the process is by no means complete.
         “Nevertheless, it is now clear that the imperialist era is stretching out to be a whole lot longer than Lenin envisioned, and that within this long historical epoch there are fairly long sub-periods of war or of relative peace, of economic crisis or of relative economic good times (for the bourgeoisie anyway), and of revolution or of relative political quiescence. Consequently the old formula of the imperialist epoch being characterized as one long general crisis of capitalism no longer seems correct. It now appears much too simplistic.
         “In fact, it has become quite obvious that the capitalist business cycle continues to operate in the imperialist era. That is, there continue to be booms, busts, depressions (or recessions) and recoveries. It is true that the proper analysis of this business cycle in the imperialist era is still subject to dispute. Some people say recessions are now generally much milder (except for the
Great Depression of the 1930s of course!), others talk about short waves and long waves, and still others have quite different theories....
         “But however one views the development of the business cycle over the past century, it is undeniable that there was at least one long overall boom in the capitalist world—the quarter-century period after World War II. Thus, from the point of view of economics, at least, it seems really wrong to say that the entire imperialist era has been one of a ‘general crisis of capitalism’.
         “I should note that most modern (post World War II) theorists of the GCC thesis do not deny that the business cycle continues to exist in the imperialist era, nor that there are still booms as well as busts. But this was not the view of most of the Comintern theorists of the GCC back in the 1930s; they did see the Great Depression as an integral part of the general crisis of capitalism. But in light of the long capitalist recovery after World War II, GCC theorists these days are forced to say that the general crisis of capitalism is not the same as one long capitalist economic crisis.” —Adapted from Scott H., “Comments on Sison’s ‘Contradictions in the World Capitalist System and the Necessity of Socialist Revolution’” (Jan. 23, 2002).

But, despite drawing a distinction between the GCC and periodic industrial crises, modern GCC theorists still see intensified economic problems as a very important part of the general crisis of capitalism. For example, the Soviet revisionist writer V. Trepelkov wrote that there are four “major features” of the general crisis of capitalism:

1. “[T]he world is divided into two opposing socio-economic systems, the socialist and capitalist ones…. [T]he change in the alignment of forces in favor of socialism is the most significant manifestation of the increasingly deepening general crisis of capitalism…. The contradiction between the two opposing social systems is the principal contradiction of the modern era.”
         2. “[T]he crisis of the colonial system, a crisis which at a definite stage develops into its breakdown…. A large group of countries that have won political independence are now fighting for their economic independence. Some have opted for the non-capitalist road of development….”
         3. “[T]he aggravation of the internal economic contradictions of the imperialist countries, and the heightening of economic instability and decay. This makes itself felt in sharp fluctuations in the growth rates, in disproportionate economic development, in increasingly frequent crises, in constant under-loading [perhaps this just means the gross underutilization of existing factories —S.H.], in chronic unemployment, in runaway inflation, in the crisis of international monetary relations, in militarization of the economy, etc.”
         4. “[T]he crisis of bourgeois politics and ideology.” [From V. Trepelkov, General Crisis of Capitalism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), pp. 21-25.]

However, if we look at each of these four “features” we find serious problems for the GCC thesis:

“With regard to point 1), the world was not really divided into a socialist sphere and a capitalist sphere in 1983 when Trepelkov’s book was published, nor is it today. The so-called ‘socialist camp’ at that time was really a competing state-capitalist camp. And a mere 6 or 8 years later much of this so-called ‘socialist camp’, including the Soviet Union itself, fell apart completely.
         “Feature 2), with regard to the crisis of the colonial system, also has some problems. It is true that old-style open colonialism had a world-wide crisis which led to its nearly universal replacement with neo-colonialism. But the completion of this great (but superficial) change actually led to a lot of demoralization (because neo-colonialism is really little better), and probably even to an overall reduction in anti-imperialist struggle around the world for a time. Of course I don’t say that there cannot be struggle in the neo-colonies for ‘economic independence’, but so far this struggle has been mostly under the leadership of national bourgeois forces—which is why it has been so pathetically weak and ineffective. And as for seeking economic independence by some ‘non-capitalist’, but also non-socialist, road—that is certainly a dead-end pipe dream.
         “Anti-imperialist struggle, at one level or another, is a permanent feature of the imperialist era. And as such, it might well be described as a permanent problem for imperialism. But none of this necessarily means that imperialism is in a permanent ‘general crisis’.
         “Let me skip feature 3) for a moment and go on to feature 4), ‘the crisis of bourgeois politics and ideology’. Well, of course, there have been many political crises over the past few decades, but bad as this has been in the ‘West’, it has been worse in the Soviet sphere—which ended up collapsing completely. This general crisis, which is supposed to be ‘a process in which more and more countries depart from capitalism’ has turned out to be more of a general crisis of revisionism, wherein more and more revisionist countries revert to Western-style capitalism. And while there has indeed also been considerable ideological ferment in the ‘West’, actually Western ideologists have been riding relatively high in the saddle in recent years. So much so, in fact, that some of them have proclaimed the ‘end of ideology’ and even the ‘end of history’! Unfortunately, the bigger ideological crisis has been within the ranks of revolutionaries and Marxists, many of whom have been losing their bearings. (It is bitter to recognize things like this, but it is the truth of the matter.)
         “So really, if you want to defend the GCC thesis today, it must all come down to ‘feature 3)’, the aggravation of economic contradictions in the capitalist world. And here too there are great problems for the GCC thesis. Here’s one big problem: If this serious aggravation of economic problems is not due to the same contradictions which bring about ‘ordinary crises’, then what is it due to? That should be a really embarrassing question for ‘modern’ GCC theorists, if they were ever to consider it. Neither Marx, nor Lenin, nor Soviet revisionist economists, nor anybody else (as far as I know), has ever given an answer to this question. And in fact, Lenin said exactly the opposite—that the contradictions of the imperialist era are the very same contradictions as racked capitalism beforehand, but now greatly intensified. So while the GCC theorists started out by denying that the GCC is the same as a capitalist economic crisis, in the end that is pretty much all that is left of their doctrine after the invalid and now-discredited political points are thrown out.
         “It is true, of course, that we can no longer look at capitalist crises in the same way we did in the 19th century. We are forced by plain and obvious facts to recognize that there are both short term fluctuations in the capitalist economy (still usually called ‘business cycles’) and longer-term, broader ups and downs, such as the Great Depression, the post-World War II boom, and the 35-year-long slowdown that began in the early 1970s. And, once again, the very fact that there are also longer-term ups and downs is fatal for the GCC claim of permanent general crisis.
         “The old Comintern theory of the ‘general crisis of capitalism’ cannot be upheld in either its 1930s form, nor its ‘modern’ form. It is a failed, and even incoherent theory, once you start to look at it carefully. Reality is much more complex than that simple theory comprehends.” —Extracts from Scott H., “Comments on Sison’s ‘Contradictions in the World Capitalist System and the Necessity of Socialist Revolution’” (Jan. 23, 2002). See that essay for further criticism of the GCC thesis.

Pseudo-scientific academic cult, with little or no actual connection to the
semantics branch of linguistic science.

An important concept in the social philosophy of
Jean Jacques Rousseau. In his definition the general will is the common good that any well-formed (normal) citizen would recognize, and is neither that citizen’s own private will nor quite the same as the shared private wills of all individual citizens. The concept of the general will is therefore a rather sophisticated abstraction, in the same way that the class interests of a given social class are a sophisticated abstraction from the totality of all the individual interests of members of that class.

“There is often a great difference between the will of all [what all individuals want] and the general will; the general will studies only the common interest while the will of all studies private interest, and is indeed no more than the sum of individual desires. But if we take away from these same wills, the pluses and minuses which cancel each other out, the sum of the difference is the general will.” —Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, translated by Maurice Cranston, (NY: Penguin, 1983), Book II, Chapter 3, pp. 72-73. The words above in brackets are in the original.
         [Ignoring Rousseau’s incorrect psychological focus, what is being said here is that the common interests of members of a group must be abstracted from their individual interests, and are by no means always identical to their shared individual interests. Quite a sophisticated observation for 1762! —S.H.]

The erroneous view, which is very widespread in modern bourgeois society, that who and what we are is wholly determined by the particular forms of the genes we have, that is by our specific DNA, which we inherited from our parents. This is still the most common form of a more general erroneous view,
biological determinism. However, with the completion of the human genome project, many of the adherents of genetic determinism felt a big let-down at how little that had advanced our full knowledge of human beings and how they work. So now the trend is toward the less specific idiocy, biological determinism.

[To be added...]
        See also:

An exceptional capacity for coming up with novel and important conceptions. That is, the ability to come up with new ideas in the way that all human beings can, but to be able to do so much more frequently than others. Often this arises in part from the fact that the person puts his or her mind to solving pending problems more intently than others do. That is, genius can arise from (or at least be amplified by) serious and sustained concentration and enormous determination. Genius also comes from being smart enough to seek out the good ideas of many other people.

“But there’s no denying the fact ... [of] Marx’s genius, his almost excessive scientific scrupulousness and his incredible erudition place him so far above all the rest of us that anyone who ventures to critize his discoveries is more likely to burn his fingers than anything else. That is something which must be left to a more advanced epoch.... I simply cannot understand how anyone can be envious of genius; it’s something so very special that we who have not got it know it to be unattainable right from the start; but to be envious of anything like that one must have to be frightfully small-minded.” —Engels, letter to Eduard Bernstein, Oct. 25, 1881, MECW 46:146-7.

GENTILE, Giovanni   [Pronounced: jo-VAWN-ni   jen-TEE-lay]   (1875-1944)
Italian neo-Hegelian
idealist philosopher and fascist politician who one reference volume aptly describes as an “ideological mouthpiece for Mussolini”.
        Born in Sicily, Gentile was a professor of philosophy at Naples, Palermo, Pisa and then Rome (1917-1944). In 1918 he also became an Italian senator, and supported fascism from the start. Mussolini appointed him Minister of Education and he was responsible for a revival of religious teaching in the schools. “After his resignation in 1924 he became the first president of the National Fascist Institute of Culture; he remained for the rest of his life the most prominent publicist of the regime and the self-styled ‘philosopher of fascism.’” [Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vols. 3 & 4, (1967), p. 282.] He met his appropriate end when Communist partisans assassinated him in Florence in April 1944, shortly after Mussolini’s overthrow.
        Philosophically, Gentile was a collaborator with and teacher of Benedetto Croce, even though he was the younger of the two and they did end up with some differences in both philosophy and politics. Gentile and Croce first became friends when they found that each was writing a book on Marx’s “philosophical system”, neither of which (it turned out) was of any real value. Gentile’s book, La filosofia di Marx (1899) was written from an orthdox Hegelian perspective.
        Gentile himself propounded an ultra-idealist theory he called “actualism”, in which supposedly nothing is real except the pure act of thought. Thus for him the distinctions between theory and practice, subject and object, and past and present, were mere “mental constructs”. In other words, yet another nutty idealist theory of the world.

“[Gentile] was one of the major figures of the resurgence of Hegelian idealism in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century. His ‘actual idealism,’ or ‘actualism,’ represents the subjective extreme of the idealist tradition in that the present activity of reflective awareness is regarded as the absolute foundation on which all else depends. The act of thinking is the ‘pure act’ that creates the world of human experience....
        “Gentile justifies his ‘theory of the spirit as pure act’ in two ways. First, he strives to show that it is the logical outcome of the whole movement of Western philosophical thought since Descartes; and, second, that the ‘method of pure immanence,’ when we arrive at it, provides an adequate and coherent way of explicating our actual experience....
        “The claim that actual idealism is the logical outcome of the main tradition of modern philosophy is interesting chiefly because it throws light on Gentile’s conception of the essential problem of philosophy and the conditions for its solution. Philosophy, for him, as for Fichte, was Wissenschaftslehre, the science of knowledge, the science that, without presupposing anything itself, provides an a priori ground for the presuppositions actually made in other sciences. Decartes’s method of universal doubt can quite naturally be viewed as the first approach to this problem, and Berkeley’s doctrine that esse est percipi is a vital step toward its solution. However, the genesis of actual idealism begins with Kant; and although Gentile arrived at his view through the progressive elaboration of a ‘reform of the Hegelian dialectic’ that had been initiated by Spaventa, he remains fundamentally a Kantian in his determination to confine philosophical speculation to the task of exhibiting the logical structure of actual experience. He is at one with Kant and Fichte in his resolute rejection of any ‘dogmatic metaphysics’ that posits or presupposes a reality transcending actual consciousness.” —H. S. Harris, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vols. 3 & 4, (1967), pp. 282-2.
        [The above extract from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy is part of a longer sympathetic exposition there of Gentile’s “actual idealism” theory. For us materialist Marxists the most important point is probably just to show the connections between his theory and all the other variations on idealism, from Hegel, Kant, Fichte and down to the present day. —Ed.]

The upper, dominant, or ruling class in a society, such as the aristocracy in a feudal society, or the bourgeoisie in a capitalist society. The top crust of their overseers and managers are often also included in this category.

“The word gentry is used here to describe landlords, rich peasants, and persons who made a career of serving them and their interests (such as bailiffs, public officials, village scholars) whose standard of living was comparable to that of the wealthy and came from the same source—the exploitation of the peasants.” —William Hinton, footnote in his book Fanshen (1966).

GEOGRAPHY — and the Development of Society
[Intro to be added...]
        Two important works by
G. V. Plekhanov that relate to this topic are: “Fundamental Questions of Marxism”, chapter VI, and “N.G. Chernyshevsky”, chapter II.

In the somewhat innocuous abstract sense geopolitics just refers to international politics between nations, and often specifically in relation to their geographical locations. However, as the term is most frequently used in ruling class circles in imperialist countries such as the United States it also carries a strong implication that some powerful countries have the right to boss others around and to exploit and oppress other countries to the extent that they can get away with it. In other words, “geopolitics” in practice is quite often an amoral presentation of power politics in the international sphere, and a theory that implicitly accepts the permanent existence of imperialist powers and superpowers and their right to dominate the world.
        The German term Geopolitik is even more closely associated with these imperialist presumptions. This German school of thought expands on
Social Darwinist ideas and views states (nations) as individual superorganisms which exist in a perpetual struggle among themselves for the resources of the world. The notion derived from this in the 1930s was that some countries (especially Germany!) had a right to Lebensraum [“living space”], i.e., to use warfare to expand their territory and areas of political and economic control. This theory was adopted wholeheartedly by the Nazi imperialists during the 1930s, and this ideology supported their launching of World War II against many other imperialist powers and then also against the socialist Soviet Union.
        However, essentially this same basic geopolitical viewpoint was also adopted by all the other imperialist powers before, during and after World War II. Japan had its equivalent program in the form of the creation of the “Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (its euphemism for the Japanese empire and sphere of control). Britain, France and especially the U.S. also sought to use the war to retain or expand their spheres of imperialist control at the expense of their opponents. At one point near the end of the war, for example, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sat down together and carved up the Middle East between them, deciding that Britain would maintain control of Iraq and Iran, while the U.S. would get control over Saudi Arabia and its oil. (Later the U.S. further displaced Britain and became the overall master of the entire Middle East.)
        During the post-World War II period the central aspect of geopolitics took the form of the Cold War between U.S. imperialism (and its bloc) and the socialist Soviet Union (and its bloc). When the socialist Soviet Union was captured by a new bourgeoisie from within, it also became an imperialist power (“social-imperialist”—socialist in name only, and imperialist in reality). From that point on both sides in the Cold War adopted a geopolitical domination program in their mutual contention for the control of the world.
        Since the final collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. has been the sole superpower. From its point of view geopolitics has consisted primarily of: 1) The U.S. maintaining and expanding its areas of control and exploitation, and 2) Keeping other imperialist countries (such as Britain, France and Japan) in check as junior partners in its world domination. The recent rapid rise of capitalist China, now becoming an important imperialist power itself, changes the equation once again. A third geopolitical task for U.S. imperialism now is to try to control the rise of China and limit its growing economic and military strength. The geopolitical task for the new imperialist China is just the opposite; to increase its own economic and military strength (including through its fast-growing export of capital) while eating away at the strength of the other imperialist powers, especially its primary opponent—the U.S. How long this new geopolitical inter-imperialist contest can continue without developing into at least proxy wars between the two sides remains an open question.

GEORGE, Henry   (1839-97)
A liberal-radical journalist and economist (of sorts), best known for his book Progress and Poverty (1877-79), which put forward the naïve notion that poverty could be eliminated through the implimentation of the so-called “single tax” on the value of land exclusive of any improvements on it, and the abolition of all other taxes including those on “industry” (capitalist companies). Although he was clearly something of a crackpot, he had a quite substantial following for a time in the United States in the late 19th century.

“Theoretically the man [Henry George] is utterly backward. He understands nothing about the nature of surplus value, and so engages in speculations—which follow the English model but even fall short of the English—about the portions of surplus value that have attained independent existence, i.e., the relation of profit, rent, interest, etc. His fundamental dogma is that everything would be all right if rent were paid to the state. (You will find payment of this kind also among the transitional measures included in the Communist Manifesto.) This idea originated with the bourgeois economists; it was first put forward ... by the earliest radical disciples of Ricardo, just after his death....
         “But the first person to turn this desideratum of the radical English bourgeois economists into a socialist panacea, to declare this procedure to be the solution of the antagonisms involved in the present mode of production, was Colins, an old ex-officer of Napoleon’s Hussars, born in Belgium, who ... presented bulky volumes about this ‘discovery’ of his to the world.... [Marx then goes on to mention some of the followers of Colins, and others who embraced the same panacea.]
         “All these ‘Socialists’ since Colins have this much in common, that they leave wage labor and hence capitalist production in existence and try to bamboozle themselves or the world into believing that by transforming rent of land into a tax payable to the state all the evils of capitalist production would vanish of themselves. The whole thing is thus simply a socialistically decked-out attempt to save capitalist rule and actually re-establish it on an even wider basis than its present one.
         “This cloven hoof—which is at the same time an ass’s hoof—peeps out unmistakably from the declamations of Henry George too. It is the more unpardonable in him because he ought on the contrary to have asked himself the question: How did it happen that in the United States, where, relatively, that is compared with civilized Europe, the land was accessible to the great masses of the people and still is, to a certain degree (again relatively), capitalist economy and the corresponding enslavement of the working class have developed more rapidly and more shamelessly than in any other country?
         “On the other hand, George’s book, and also the sensation it has created among you, is significant because it is a first though unsuccessful effort at emancipation from orthodox political economy....” —Marx, Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge in Hoboken, N.J., June 20, 1881. From Marx-Engels: Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1975), pp. 322-3. [In a different translation in MECW 46:99-101.]

A book written jointly by Marx and Engels in the years 1845-46, but not published in their lifetime. In it they worked out their theory of
historical materialism and criticized various contemporary idealist philosophers and ideologists. Although this is an early work, it is also one of the most extensive presentations of historical materialism by Marx and Engels, and thus is extremely valuable. It also contains the basic philosophical conclusions that they both upheld for their entire lives, and later elaborated further.

“The manuscript, amounting to nearly 800 printed pages, was in two volumes, the first of which was mainly devoted to an elaboration of the basic theses of historical materialism and to a criticism of the philosophical views of Ludwig Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner, and the second, to a criticism of the views of various representatives of ‘true socialism.’
         “In 1846-1847 Marx and Engels made repeated attempts to find a publisher in Germany who would issue their work. They were, however, unsuccessful, due to the obstacles raised by the police and because the publishers, themselves interested parties, were champions of the very trends combated by Marx and Engels and refused to handle it. Only one chapter appeared during the lifetime of Marx and Engels. That was Chapter IV, Volume II of German Ideology, which was published in the magazine Das Westphalische Dampfboot (Westphalean Steamer), August and September 1847. The manuscript was pigeonholded for dozens of years in the archives of the German Social-Democratic Party. The German text was first published in full [in German] in 1932 by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U. A Russian translation appeared in 1933.” —Note 36, LCW 1:520.

Geronimo PRATT

GHERAO   [Verb; pronounced guh-ROW]
[Term used mostly in English in India and South Asia, often in the past tense: ‘gheraoed’ (‘guh-ROWD’):] To protest by surrounding a building or a person until the demands being raised are met. Most common when an official, employer or manager is surrounded and detained by a crowd of angry workers at a workplace or in a political protest. (From the Hindi word gherna, “surround”.)

Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index