HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WORKERS
See also: “DEATH CEILING” PROGRAM (In Capitalist China)
HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS
See: UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
HEALTH INSURANCE — In the U.S.
“According to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study, as many as 45,000 people die annually in the United States because they lack health insurance. As one of the study’s coauthors pointed out, this works out to about one death every twelve minutes. It’s unclear how President Obama’s stunted 2010 health care law will change those numbers....” —Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014), p. 105. [The study referred to is Andrew P. Wilper, et al., “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults”, online at: http://www.pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf]
HEDGE FUND [Capitalist Finance]
A private and aggressively speculative investment fund usually managed by Wall Street insiders for the benefit of themselves and other very rich investors. The first hedge funds were designed to try to preserve capital during economic and financial downturns, which is why they have that name. (“Hedging” against market downturns.) But the nature of most hedge funds today is that of highly speculative operations hoping to make profits far above those achievable through ordinary investments in stocks and bonds. They often speculate in foreign currencies and their exchange rates, the prices of bulk commodities, and in higher profit (but riskier) foreign investments. This leads them to shift large amounts of “hot money” rapidly from one investment to another, and from country to country. They frequently use sophisticated forms of arbitrage, sometimes based on complicated mathematical models. In addition they often rely on better financial information, on insider knowledge (though that is supposedly illegal), high-speed computers to make rapid market trades, and other methods which—in effect—allow them to cheat other investors.
In most countries hedge funds are only very loosely regulated, if at all. They have grown rapidly in recent decades and are a major indication of the financialization of the U.S. and world capitalist economies. They are an additional destabilizing factor in contemporary capitalism. As of around 2010, U.S. hedge funds have assets under management estimated to be more than $1.9 trillion dollars.
See also: LONG-TERM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
HEDONISM [In Ethics]
The view that ‘good’ means pleasure (or relief from suffering), or that everything is (or should be) done for pleasure (or to relieve suffering).
Hedonism: Maximizing Pleasure and Minimizing Pain. Another
very common ethical theory is that pleasure is the greatest good, and pain the greatest
evil. Therefore, morality consists in striving to maximize the amount of pleasure for
everyone, and striving to minimize the amount of pain. Like most ethical theories, this
sounds fairly plausible at first, but cannot withstand even a cursory critical
For one thing, human beings have many other needs and interests besides pleasure and avoiding pain, and far more than just those two things goes into making the good life.
Suppose some society could be constructed where everyone (or at least most people) were both very happy and as free of all pain as could reasonably be arranged. But suppose this society was also an authoritarian dictatorship, where people had no political freedom, no control over their own lives, were severely exploited, and so forth. Perhaps this might be some sort of fascist society where the people were nevertheless psychologically “happy” because of both extreme indoctrination and the liberal availability of hallucinatory drugs. Obviously this would be a nightmare society, and not at all a moral society. Even a somewhat milder version of this sort of thing, such as is pictured in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), is a horrible nightmare.
The roots of this ethical theory, too, go way back. Epicurus (341-270 BCE) held that the practical goal of philosophy was to secure happiness (or at least to avoid all discomfort), and that pleasure was the sum total of happiness. The modern theory of “promote pleasure, minimize pain”, however, derives primarily from the utilitarians (most of whom would be better called “hedonists”, if that did not have such negative connotations). Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), in particular, is responsible for giving utilitarianism its hedonistic twist. Utilitarianism, as its name suggests, was originally concerned more with “utility” or “usefulness”, but critics raised the question of “useful for what?”, and that led Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and other utilitarians into this very one-sided hedonist perversion of what was originally a much more sensible ethical theory. [...]
Experiments have been done on lab rats that clearly demonstrate that there is a whole lot more to “the good life” than merely experiencing even the most intense feelings of pleasure. In the brains of all higher animals (and perhaps many of the lower ones as well), there is a region known as “the pleasure center”. Tiny wires have been inserted into this region of a rat’s brain, and things set up so that when the rat pushes a lever, its pleasure center is stimulated. The pleasure is so intense that the rat keeps pushing the lever over and over again, until it is physically totally exhausted and unable to continue. It may not even eat, drink, or do anything else. And eventually it dies. Human drug addicts are sometimes perhaps in a similar situation, although they generally still have the sense to at least pull away for some food, water, and sleep once in a while. Nevertheless, it should be obvious from examples like this that the simple-minded theory that “happiness and the avoidance of pain” are all that matters cannot reasonably be considered to be the sole basis of either the good life or of any sort of morality. —S.H., An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, Chapter 1, section 1.2C, from the draft of 6/14/07 as posted at: http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf
HEGEL, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831)
German idealist philosopher who conceived of the world as a single organism developing through stages via its own internal dialectical logic, and gradually coming to embody reason.
Hegel’s most important and positive contribution to philosophy was his development of dialectics, which was adopted by Marx and then reconstructed in a rational, materialist form.
In ethics, Hegel emphasized the collective nature of morality and argued that it could not be understood except in terms of the social relations within the family, among individuals, and within the state.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Hegel.
“Hegel’s logic cannot be applied in its given form, it cannot be taken as given. One must separate out from it the logical (epistemological) nuances, after purifying them from the mysticism of ideas: that is still a big job.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:266.
“Although Hegel himself was an admirer of the autocratic Prussian state, in whose service he was as a professor at Berlin University, Hegel’s teachings were revolutionary. Hegel’s faith in human reason and its rights, and the fundamental thesis of Hegelian philosophy that the universe is undergoing a constant process of change and development, led some of the disciples of the Berlin philosopher—those who refused to accept the existing situation—to the idea that the struggle against this situation, the struggle against existing wrong and prevalent evil, is also rooted in the universal law of eternal development. If all things develop, if institutions of one kind give place to others, why should the autocracy of the Prussian king or of the Russian tsar, the enrichment of an insignificant minority at the expense of the vast majority, or the domination of the bourgeoisie over the people, continue for ever? Hegel’s philosophy spoke of the development of the mind and of ideas; it was idealistic. From the development of the mind it deduced the development of nature, of man, and of human, social relations. While retaining Hegel’s idea of the eternal process of development, Marx and Engels rejected the preconceived idealist view; turning to life, they saw that it is not the development of mind that explains the development of nature but that, on the contrary, the explanation of mind must be derived from nature, from matter.” —Lenin, “Frederick Engels” (1896), LCW 2:21.
HEGELIAN DIALECTICS VS. MATERIALIST DIALECTICS
“By the way, half intentionally and half from lack of insight, he [Dühring] practices deception [in his review of volume I of Marx’s Capital]. He knows very well that my method of presentation is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist and Hegel is an idealist. Hegel’s dialectics is the basic form of all dialectics, but only after it has been stripped of its mystical form, and it is precisely this which distinguishes my method.” —Marx, Letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, March 6, 1868, in Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1975), p. 187; in a slightly different translation in MECW 42:544.
“My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but
is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e.,
the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea,’ he even transforms
into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the
real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea.’
With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected
by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.
“The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticized nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fashion. But just as I was working at the first volume of ‘Das Kapital,’ it was the good pleasure of the peevish, arrogant, mediocre, epigones [inferior imitators] who now talk large in cultured Germany, to treat Hegel ... as a ‘dead dog.’ I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the modes of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.
“In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmation recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary.
“The contradictions inherent in the movement of capitalist society impress themselves upon the practical bourgeois most strikingly in the changes of the periodic cycle, through which modern industry runs, and whose crowning point is the universal crisis. That crisis is once again approaching, although as yet but in its preliminary stage; and by the universality of its theatre and the intensity of its action it will drum dialectics even into the heads of the mushroom-upstarts of the new, holy Prusso-German empire.” —Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Afterward to the Second German Edition (Jan. 24, 1873), (International ed., pp. 19-20; Penguin ed., p. 102-3).
A conception of dialectics in which an initial state or situation (the “thesis”) is transformed via its opposite (the “antithesis”) into a new state (the “synthesis”). Although this is sometimes a helpful way of looking at particular cases of dialectical development, it is also rather simplistic or misleading in other cases.
It is often stated that Hegel himself did not use this terminology, but at the very least the idea is frequently implicit in his writings. Similarly some Marxists have looked down on this terminology, though the creators of revolutionary Marxism have sometimes used these terms themselves.
See also: NEGATION (In Dialectics) (and especially the quote from Mao there), NEGATION OF THE NEGATION, SUBLATION
“Triad (Greek, trias)—in philosophy it is the formula of three-stage development. The idea of three-stage development was first formulated by the Greek Neo-Platonic philosophers, particularly by Proclus, and was expressed in the works of the German idealist philosophers Ficte and Schelling. The triad was, however, developed most fully in the idealist philosophy of Hegel, who considered that every process of development traverses three stages—thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The second stage is the negation of the first, which transformed into its opposite by transition to the second stage. The third stage is the negation of the second, i.e., the negation of the negation, which means a return to the form existing at the outset that is now enriched by a new content and is on a higher level.” —Note 47, LCW 1. [The note goes on to state that (in some cases at least) this triad notion is a scheme into which reality has been forced quite artificially.]
“And so [according to the Narodnik Mikhailovsky], the materialists
rest their case on the ‘incontrovertibility’ of the dialectical process! In other words,
they base their sociological theories on Hegelian triads. Here we have the stock method
of accusing Marxism of Hegelian dialectics, an accusation that might be thought to
have been worn threadbare enough by Marx’s bourgeois critics. Unable to advance any
fundamental argument against the doctrine, these gentlemen fastened on Marx’s manner
of expression and attacked the origin of the theory, thinking thereby to undermine its
essence. And Mr. Mikhailovsky makes no bones about resorting to such methods. He uses
a chapter from Engels’s Anti-Dühring as a pretext. Replying to Dühring,
who had attacked Marx’s dialectics, Engels says that Marx never dreamed of ‘proving’
anything by means of Hegelian triads, that Marx only studied and investigated the real
process, and that the sole criterion of theory recognized by him was its conformity to
reality. If, however, it sometimes happened that the development of some particular
social phenomenon fitted in with the Hegelian scheme, namely, thesis—negation—negation
of the negation, there is nothing surprising about that, for it is no rare thing in
nature at all. And Engels proceeds to cite examples from natural history (the
development of a seed) and the social sphere—as, for instance, that first there was
primitive communism, then private property, and then the capitalist socialization of
labor; or that first there was primitive materialism, then idealism, and then scientific
materialism, and so forth. It is clear to everybody that the main weight of Engels’s
argument is that materialists must correctly and accurately depict the actual historical
process, and that insistence on dialectics, the selection of examples to demonstrate
the correctness of the triad, is nothing but a relic of the Hegelianism out of which
scientific socialism has grown, a relic of the manner of expression. And, indeed, once
it has been categorically declared that to ‘prove’ anything by triads is absurd, and
that nobody even thought of doing so, what significance can attach to examples of
‘dialectical’ processes? Is it not obvious that this merely points to the origin of the
doctrine and nothing more?” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW
[It should be noted that years later Lenin made a deeper investigation of Hegel’s dialectics, and at that time developed a further appreciation for the concepts of dialectical contradiction and negation, though of course he never adopted the simplistic notion that all phenomena must necessarily conform to the Hegelian triad scheme. —S.H.]
HEGEMONY [Pronounced: huh-JEM-mah-nee]
Domination, or predominent influence over others, or over other countries. When Alexander the Great became Hegemon over the Greek world, that meant he was the big boss. In the modern capitalist-imperialist world, hegemony is a word often used to describe the domination by imperialist countries like the U.S. over “Third World” countries.
Hegemony is also a matter of concern in the ideological sphere, where preparing the ground for revolution means in considerable part undermining the current bourgeois ideological hegemony in the working class. (Antonio Gramsci is one person who talks a lot about this, though often in rather obscure ways.)
See also: NEO-COLONIALISM
HEIDEGGER, Martin (1889-1976)
German existentialist philosopher who was influenced by (and sympathetic to) Naziism. Many of the roots of his worldview go back to German Romanticism and to a focus on people’s conception of their place in the world. His book Sein und Zeit (1927) [Being and Time] attempts to discuss the very abstract concept of “Being” (or existence—but note the mystical capital “B”!) in the usual absurdly obscure and incoherent metaphysical way. According to Heidegger, modern humanity has lost the “nearness and shelter” of Being (whatever that means exactly!) and we are no longer at home in the world as primitive human beings were. This actually seems to be a reflection of bourgeois angst in the midst of their own decaying social world order.
Heidegger’s notorious 1933 speech, “The Role of the University in the New Reich”, called upon Germany to move itself upward into the primordial realm of the powers of Being (whatever that means!) under the leadership of the Nazi party. His seminars of 1933-35 likewise bring out the major Nazi influence on Heidegger. [See: Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-35, Yale, 2009.] Many adherents of Continental Philosophy, including some on the self-proclaimed “Left”, have tried to excuse Heidegger as having had only a minor flirtation with Naziism, but the evidence shows it was much more than that. (He was a member of the Nazi party from 1933 until 1945.) It is hard to understand what anyone can see of value in Heidegger, let alone what those into contemporary academic “Marxism” imagine that they see there!
HEISENBERG UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE
A principle within quantum mechanics that states that certain complementary pairs of physical properties of particles—such as position and momentum—cannot both be precisely known at the same time. In other words, the more accurately one of the two complementary properties is known, the less accurately the other can be known at that time. According to Werner Heisenberg, the idealist German physicist who first formulated this principle, this is due to the supposed fact that that below very tiny thresholds the combination of these pairs of complementary properties actually have no well-defined values at all! A much more sensible (and more materialist) interpretation of this principle is just that it is not a statement about reality itself being “undefined” below tiny thresholds, but rather a statement about the limitation of the theory and equations of quantum mechanics itself to determine what that reality is below those tiny thresholds.
In much popular usage the term “uncertainty principle” is misused or abused, or at least is quite misleading. One example of this is the common confusion between the uncertainty principle and the related, but somewhat different, “observer effect”—that an act of observation or measurement itself has an effect on the properties of the thing being observed, or in other words changes it. Of course this is certainly not always the case in the macroworld, and recent research indicates that it may not always be the case in the microworld either.
Money distributed indiscriminately, or even to certain sections of the working class specifically (!), by a capitalist government in order to promote increased consumer spending during a severe economic crisis. Why in the world would a capitalist regime ever give any money to those who its ruling class lives off by exploiting?! It is sort of a last, desperate measure to try to restart a chronically stagnating or sinking economy, and has so far only been employed on an extremely limited scale.
While bourgeois economists often worry about deflation and its supposed negative effects on a capitalist economy, the bourgeois monetarist economist Milton Friedman famously pointed out in 1969 that there are always ways to insert more money into the economy, even possibly by just dropping it out of the skies from a helicopter. This is how “helicopter money” got its name.
When the long developing present U.S. and world capitalist overproduction crisis took a major turn for the worse in the Great Recession of 2008-9 and the years since then, goverments began to struggle to find ways to end this period of serious recession and stagnation. One initial method was through what they call “quantitative easing”, i.e. by flooding the banks and the rest of the financial industry with trillions of dollars of new money hoping that the banks will then lend it out to corporations to invest in new production. This has been a dismal failure; the banks could not find credit-worthy corporations interested in borrowing the money because these corporations can, with their existing factories, already produce more goods than they can sell. So all those trillions just sit unused in bank vaults (or, actually, in unused accounts that banks have with the Federal Reserve). The problem with quantitative easing is that it does not really put money into the hands of people who will actually spend it.
So in their desperation to find some means to get the U.S. and world economy out of its present doldrums (which threaten to sink even further into much worse crisis) the frantic managers of the capitalist economy are casting about for other methods. One such is by trying to bring about negative interest rates, in order to force anybody who has money in the banks to start spending it. But by far the best and most direct method is to simply give money to the masses of ordinary people who would actually use that money to buy things they truly need and want. This is the helicopter money idea that is now being more and more talked about within the ruling classes in the U.S. and Europe. Of course it pains the bourgeoisie to even think about handing out money to the working class and poor! And their own economic theory says this should never be necessary. But they are more and more worried about the very viability of their capitalist system, so they are starting to entertain what once seemed to them to be wild and extreme ideas.
“Helicopter money” distributions by the government have on occasion already been used, but so far only on a tiny scale and through the means of tax breaks (which means that no money has gotten into the hands of the very poorest people). In February 2008, for example, the George W. Bush administration passed emergency legislation giving ordinary U.S. taxpayers each a one-time $300 break on their income taxes. [See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_Stimulus_Act_of_2008] That probably mitigated the then fast developing Great Recession just a little bit, but was way too small the stop that recession from developing into the worse one since the 1930s.
But could the “helicopter money” idea actually get the bourgeoisie out of their worsening economic crisis if—contrary to all expectations—it were used on a massive scale? Actually, no. First, helicopter money only has an effect while it is actually being distributed; it has no “pump priming” capability of the sort that Keynesians imagine that all government deficits have. Second, helicopter money, as a form of government deficit financing through simply printing money, inherently promotes inflation. If it is used on a tiny scale the inflation danger is negligible. But in that case it is ineffective. If it is used on a truly massive scale, it might conceivably be partially effective, but it would then also lead to huge inflation (and the likely collapse of the U.S. dollar and a truly major financial crisis). There is no way to escape capitalist overproduction crises without ending the capitalist system entirely. Even dumping hundreds of billions of dollars out of helicopters onto the streets of the cities below won’t do the job!
A coiled shape, such as that of a telephone cord; i.e., a spiral in three dimensions.
See NEGATION OF THE NEGATION for a pictorial illustration and further discussion in relation to DIALECTICS
“Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed (transformed one-sidedly) into an independent, complete, straight line, which then (if one does not see the wood for the trees) leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes).” —Lenin, “On the Question of Dialectics” (1915), LCW 38:363. [A fuller version of this quotation is included in the entry for HUMAN KNOWLEDGE .]
HELVÉTIUS, Claude Adrien (1715-1771)
French materialist philosopher of the Enlightenment. Marx points out that Helvétius based his views on Locke, and summarized his philosophy as follows: “The sensory qualities and self-love, enjoyment and correctly understood personal interest are the basis of all morality. The natural equality of human intelligences, the unity of progress of reason and progress of industry, the natural goodness of man, and the omnipotence of education, are the main features of his system.” [MECW 4:130]
HERACLITUS OF EPHESUS (c. 535-c. 475 BCE)
Early Greek philosopher who emphasized many important dialectical themes such as the constancy of change. While Heraclitus himself seems to have understood the underlying unity of the world despite its pervasive and inherent dialectical contradictions, his later follower Cratylus put forward many idealistic views such as that there is no single ultimate reality.
“It is not possible to step into the same river twice.” —Heraclitus, quoted by Plato in his dialog, Cratylus.
“Conflict is the mother of all happenings.” —Heraclitus, illustrating his deep appreciation of dialectics.
“Nature loves to hide.” —Heraclitus. [The profound idea here seems to be that the true and correct understanding of the world can only come over time though very extensive and careful investigations. —S.H.]
“The hidden harmony is better than the obvious one.” —Heraclitus. [This
also may be a profound thought which suggests that there are different levels of knowledge
and understanding of the world, and that the deeper levels of understanding are the best
of all. And even if Heraclitus himself did not exactly mean this, there is
something about his words that often provoke the most profound thoughts! —S.H.]
HERITAGE FOUNDATION HERMAD or HARMAD HERZEN, Alexander [Aleksandr Ivanovich] (1812-1870) Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index MASSLINE.ORG Home Page
See: THINK TANK
A term used in India for an armed goon or thug, often of lumpenproletarian origin. The revisionist and social-fascist so-called Communist Party of India (Marxist) [or CPM] has organized hermad gangs in the state of West Bengal to attack the masses and mass movements (such as those of the Adivasis in the Lalgarh area), and to serve as an auxiliary force to the police in working to suppress the rebellions of the people against their exploitive and oppressive rule on behalf of the capitalists and landlords.
Prominent Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher and author. He is sometimes called the “father of Russian socialism”, but was more clearly one of the fathers of Russian radical populism (the Narodniks and later the Socialist-Revolutionaries). He is credited with creating the political climate that led to the emancipation of the Russian serfs in 1861.
HERMAD or HARMAD
HERZEN, Alexander [Aleksandr Ivanovich] (1812-1870)
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page