Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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“When one’s imagination cannot provide an answer, one must seek out a greater imagination.” —The hologram character “Leonardo da Vinci” in the Star Trek Voyager TV episode “Scorpion” (1997).
         [When we communists seek to lead the masses in struggling for their own interests we often need to use some real imagination to figure out how best to do that in the particular circumstances. And often we will be unsure about how to proceed; our limited imaginations will fail us. Fortunately we have a much greater imagination to call upon—that of all the active and involved masses themselves. This is the role of the
mass line method of revolutionary leadership, to learn from the masses how to lead the masses. But to use this method we must first really understand that among the masses there are indeed very frequently some vitally important ideas about how to proceed which we do not yet recognize. We must seriously seek out those vital ideas. —S.H.]

1. The spiritual leader of a mosque; a prayer leader at a mosque.
2. A Shiite Muslim leader held by followers to be divinely appointed, sinless, and infallible, and to be a direct successor to Mohammed through the line of his son-in-law Ali.
3. Any of various rulers who claim descent from Mohammed and exercize spiritual and temporal leadership over a Muslim region or community.


One of the many horrible aspects of bourgeois
nationalism is the hostility toward immigrants. In most capitalist countries this hostility leads to tight restrictions on the number of people from other lands who are allowed to come there, and the designations of those who arrive in the country without formal permission as “illegals”. Illegals, are then most often deported back to the country they came from. Ironically this hostility and routine deportation takes place even in countries such as the United States which are themselves almost entirely populated by other immigrants and their descendants! (And for millions of their ancestors this occurred before there even were such things as “entry visas” and legal restrictions on immigration.)
        Ideally we would have a world where people could live where they choose, move where they choose, and there would be not be “national borders”, border guards, walls or deportations to prevent them from doing so. However, such a world of free movement for everyone cannot be created while capitalism still exists.
        Unfortunately, in a world dominated by capitalist-imperialism, conditions for the masses in many countries under the thumb of foreign imperialism frequently becomes completely intolerable, and millions of people are simply forced to emigrate if they are going to survive. So we have the situation where the world capitalist-imperialist system creates more and more people who are forced to flee their original country while at the same time the better off imperialist homelands which dominate and benefit from that imperialist system are extremely reluctant to admit those millions of refugees. In short, the growing “immigrant problem” is just another disaster created by imperialism which it refuses to even acknowledge responsibility for, let alone fix.

IMMIGRANTS — Into the United States
        See also:

IMMIGRANTS — Deportation Of
In the capitalist-imperialist era we live in at present, millions of people are compelled by poverty and war to leave their homelands and emigrate to other countries, often “illegally” (i.e., without documents issued by the country they move to). Many of these people are then deported back to places they came from—regardless of what this might mean for their welfare or even their lives. Most of the pressure to deport immigrants comes from right-wing capitalist politicians and their parties and movements. Marxists, revolutionaries and those on the left oppose such deportations on humanitarian grounds, and work toward the unity of the working class and the masses regardless of their national origin. Most
liberals and “progressives” tend to take a more “centrist” position between right and wrong, arguing that some “illegal” immigrants should be allowed to stay and that the number of deportations should merely be “reduced”. (This is the typical half-hearted response that we expect from liberals with regard to many social problems.)
        However, there are some situations where even Marxists and radicals may oppose certain types of immigration, especially in reaction to colonialism and the ongoing theft of land owned by the people already living in the targeted country or region by new settlers. There has been an enormous amount of this sort of thing in history, especially in the capitalist era, including the colonization by Europeans of the Americans, Oceana and parts of Africa. This sort of ethnic cleansing continues today in Palestine by the Israeli Zionists.
        We Marxists strongly oppose this form of ongoing theft of land and the expulsion of the people already living there, and even think that new settlers themselves should be expelled (deported) from their settlements and the land returned to its rightful owners.
        However, there are great limitations on how far the past crimes of this sort can be fully redressed in the present. Yes, historically it was wrong for the European ancestors of most Americans today to steal the continent from the Native Americans who got there earlier and some considerable redress for those crimes is still appropriate considering the despicable and racist way in which Native Americans continue to be treated in the United States. But it would be ridiculous to argue that all white Americans should be “deported” back to Europe, as the cartoon at the right comically suggests (in appropriate reaction to the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration). True, that might be poetic justice, but it is simply not sensible or possible. The fact is that the ancestors of most of the people of the world originally came from different regions, and very often displaced other existing populations when they did so. Even the Native Americans themselves originally populated North America in waves, and newer groups of them displaced earlier groups in specific regions as they did so (as linguistic and other evidence proves).
        So what we must work toward is not a world in which “everybody goes back where they came from”—which is totally impossible—but rather a world in which everyone has at least a right to be where they were born and raised; where people have as much freedom to move to new places as possible providing this does not mean displacing those already there!; and where past colonizations and population movements which led to injustices and which still continue are redressed in other ways. Thus there should be considerable redress to contemporary Native Hawaiians for the historical theft of their islands, but at the same time Hawaii now belongs to all the people who live there, no matter when their ancestors arrived. Similarly, while the ongoing Zionist theft of Palestinian land and the accompanying ethnic cleansing by the Zionists must be stopped as soon as possible, it is no longer reasonable or feasible to suggest that all Jewish immigrants to the area over the past century, and their descendants, should be deported. Instead all the people of that land should be considered to be the equal owners of it. This means, of course, that Israel as a “Jewish homeland only” is still a racist, genocidal program which must be brought to an end by the struggles of the Palestinian people and with much stronger support for the Palestinians by the revolutionary peoples elsewhere in the world.

The increasing impoverishment of the working class and masses under capitalism. This is both a historical observation and a prediction for the future by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto and also by Marx in Capital. Bourgeois ideologists have claimed that this has not actually happened, and that the working class has improved its lot substantially over the decades under capitalism. However there are several important respects in which Marx’s statement about the immiseration of the working class is clearly correct.
        First, the statement was overall quite correct for the history of capitalism up to the time at which Marx was writing. The advent of capitalism and its early development certainly did lead to severe and often increasing impoverishment of the masses in Europe especially (which was the focus of Marx’s attention).
        Second, while the working class has overall become better off in the leading imperialist countries during the capitalist imperialist era, this has come about mostly because of the capitalist desire to cool down the class struggle at home while they drastically intensify the exploitation of the people in the rest of the world. Thus on an overall international level the working people of the world have indeed been further impoverished under capitalism. Well over half the population of the world at the present time lives in what can only be called extreme poverty, and most of the rest also live in somewhat less extremes of poverty. (See:
        Third, even within the advanced capitalist and imperialist countries, there has been a relative impoverishment of the working class and masses. That is, there has been a massive polarization of wealth in the hands of bourgeoisie, while the economic welfare of the proletariat has improved at a much slower pace. In other words, almost all of the new wealth produced by the working class still goes to the capitalist class. Marx actually focused mostly on this relative immiseration of the working class, rather than on their absolute immiseration. This is something that the army of bourgeois critics of Marx almost totally ignore.
        Fourth, while there have been periods of diminishing poverty in many countries, there have also been periods of increasing poverty in all countries. Moreover, the present period is one of those in which the immiseration of the workers and masses in most places in the world is definitely increasing as the world capitalist system sinks into its most severe economic crisis ever. The immiseration of the working class is definitely underway full speed again in almost all of the world today.
        See also: NEOLIBERALISM

See also:

Change is a matter of gradual development leading up to, and preparing the ground for, sudden transition. Thus any intelligent effort to bring about change must not only recognize that a sudden transition or revolution is necessary at some point (though that is the first element of wisdom), but that also the ground must be prepared for that revolution through a period of gradual development. To rationally work to bring about a change is therefore primarily to concern yourself with fostering the gradual development that must inevitably occur before the necessary sudden leap is possible.
        “Politically, there is the phenomenon of individuals who long for social revolution with all their heart and soul, but are too impatient to do the actual work necessary to prepare the ground for revolution. Because they are so impatient, they abandon the dialectical outlook on change, focus entirely on the need for a sudden transition, and down-play the effort needed to lay the necessary ground work.
        “Such extreme impatience even leads people to revise their revolutionary theory to fit their subjective desires. ‘Winning the masses takes time, therefore maybe it is not necessary to win the masses, or maybe it is only necessary to win a small number of the masses...’ In such a way are the impatient pushed away from the masses, away from mass revolution, away from Marxism and toward “left” adventurism or even putschism.
        “‘Organizing the masses takes time, therefore maybe it is not necessary to organize the masses, maybe we can just suppose that when push comes to shove the masses will spontaneously organize themselves for revolution...’ In such a way are the impatient pushed toward a form of anarchism and aloofness from the masses (even if they still recognize the importance of a vanguard party).
        “‘Participating with the masses in their day-to-day struggle in order to raise their revolutionary consciousness is too big a job, therefore maybe it is not necessary, maybe it is really only a kind of reformism dressed up as revolutionary preparations; maybe the masses do not really need to learn through their own experiences, and maybe we do not need to be there with them to help them with this summation...’ In such a way does Marxism get turned into a sort of “leftist” preaching, or a form of evangelism.
        “‘Preparing for revolution takes time and effort, therefore maybe it is not necessary to make extensive preparations, maybe the masses are almost ready to go right now, maybe the revolution could break out any day...’ In such a way do the impatient lose the ability to appraise the objective situation, and start to lose contact with reality. This leads to constant predictions of revolution ‘within this decade’, or ‘within a couple years’, or even ‘within a few months’—which in turn leads to demoralization when the subjective predictions do not materialize.
        “Extreme impatience can thus lead to ultra-‘leftism’ in various guises, and to a distortion of Marxism.
        “Impatience can be a good thing or a bad thing. If impatience with the present despicable bourgeois world turns us into revolutionaries, and gets us working toward bringing about revolution, it is of course a very good thing. But if that impatience gets out of hand and leads us into the renunciation of Marxism and the only real path to revolution, it is a very bad thing. We should be impatient for revolution, but we should not let it make us crazy.”
         —S.H., The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 31.


The term ‘imperialism’ in traditional usage means the political and economic control or domination of one country by another. In this general sense, Rome was an imperial power, as was Persia and other ancient empires. However, within revolutionary Marxism the term ‘imperialism’ is generally used as a technical term to mean capitalist imperialism, or the economic and political form that capitalism has taken during the period since the late 19th century. Lenin defined imperialism as the highest and final stage of capitalism, and used the term synonymously with monopoly capitalism.
        Among the central characteristics of capitalist imperialism are:
        1) The rise of and near universal domination of the capitalist economy by joint-stock
corporations, as opposed to individually-owned companies or partnerships.
        2) A qualitative increase in the levels of monopoly or oligopoly within capitalist economies, especially within each major nation.
        3) A qualitative increase in one or another form of the globalization of capital. In the pre-World War I period this often took place in the form of cartelization (international monopolies or agreements among the monopolies from separate nations). In recent decades this has more frequently taken place in the form of the rise of giant multinational corporations (MNCs), which though nearly always politically based in a single country, nevertheless operate and engage in plunder around the globe like international pirates.
        4) A qualitative increase in the importance of the export of capital (as compared with merely the export of commodities, though that is of intensified importance as well).
        5) A qualitative increase in the role of the capitalist state in the management of the economy, and often the de facto merger of the state with corporations (such as via bourgeois nationalization of individual companies or industries for certain periods).
        6) A qualitative expansion in the importance of the financial aspects of capitalism, the financialization of an ever-growing part of the economy, and the rise in importance of a financial oligarchy at the apex of the bourgeois ruling class structure.
        7) A qualitative increase in the importance of the domination and exploitation of other countries by a few militaristic imperialist powers. This first took the form of outright colonialism, with virtually total economic and political control of specific “Third World” countries by individual imperialist powers. But this broke down during the second half of the 20th century, and was replaced with neocolonialism, wherein the dominated countries are nominally independent but still exploited and under the general control of foreign imperialism via the medium of local agents of the imperialists (the comprador capitalist class).
        8) Politically, capitalist-imperialism is overall a period of world strife, constant imperialist wars whereby the big powers seek to establish, maintain, or re-establish control over other countries, and even some very disastrous and devastating world wars among the imperialist countries and against socialist countries. And, overall, and despite some periods of quiescence, it is a period of the revolutionary upsurge of the people of the world against the capitalist-imperialist system.

IMPERIALISM — Contemporary “Rehabilitation” Of
Starting with the genocidal imperialist wars by Japan in China during the 1930s, and the more general imperialist war which became World War II, ‘imperialism’ became a word to avoid, in describing their own actions, by the U.S. and other old-line imperialist powers, including even Britain (though they still talked favorably about the British Empire for a while). While the Soviet Union still existed, its constant denunciation of Western imperialism also forced the U.S. and other imperialist powers to continue to deny that they were imperialists. Indeed the very word ‘imperialism’ was denounced as mere communist “jargon”, and the masses were taught to avoid using it unless they wanted to be considered “brain-washed by the Commies”. But with the fading memories of World War II, and then with the collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union in 1991, there soon developed in the U.S. and Britain, at least, a trend toward rehabilitating the word ‘imperialism’ and trying to find new ways to “justify” it. The old slogans such as the “white man’s burden” remained on the shelf; but many new comments by capitalist spokesmen about how imperialism is a postive force if it “spreads democracy” and “helps people through
‘humanitarian intervention’” have now come to the fore. The imperialist bourgeoisie has been making a serious effort to rehabilitate within the liberal intellectual community the absurd notion that imperialism is a “good thing”. (And the so-called “democracy” that they are trying to spread is merely a totally phony bourgeois democracy that keeps foreign imperialism in control of other countries through compradors or client regimes which follow all the major instructions from abroad.)

“‘It is easy to forget,’ wrote Frank Furedi in The New Ideology of Imperialism [1994], ‘that until the 1930s the moral claims of imperialism were seldom questioned in the West. Imperialism and the global expansion of the Western powers were represented in unambiguously positive terms as a major contributor to human civilization.... To be an imperialist was considered a respectable, political badge.’ As the United States emerged from the Second World War and shed what ‘Atlanticists’ like to call its ‘age of innocence’ (forgetting the slaughter of the Native Americans, slavery, the theft of Texas [and more! —Ed.] from Mexio, the bloody subjugation of Central America, Cuba and the Philippines, and other innocent pursuits), ‘imperialism’ was dropped from American textbooks and declared a European affair. One of the difficulties for proud imperialists in the immediate post-war period was that Hitler and fascism, and all their ideas of racial and cultural superiority, had left a legacy of guilt by association. The Nazis had been proud imperialists, too.
        “A serious, if farcical, campaign to expunge the word from the language followed ‘on the gorunds that it falsely attributed immoral motives to Western foreign policy’. The term was deemed to no longer have ‘relevance’. Those who peristed in using it as a pejorative term were ‘disreputable’ and ‘sinister’. They were, wrote one American historian, ‘inspired by the Communist doctrine’, or they were ‘Negro intellectuals who had grievances of their own against white capitalism’....
        “That changed in the 1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the imperialists took heart. The economic and political crises in the ‘developing’ world, caused by the collapse in commodity prices and the ravages of debt, would now serve as retrospective justification for imperialism. Once again, the ‘third world’ needed to be saved from itself. Imperialism’s return journey to establishment respectability had begun.” —John Pilger, Freedom Next Itme: Resisting the Empire (2007), pp. 5-6.

IMPERIALISM — Hypocritical Bourgeois Comments On
It is interesting that various capitalist-imperialist politicians and ideologists have, from time to time, condemned “imperialism”. Of course, for the most part this means condemning other imperialist powers, rather than their own. But, on quite rare occasions some of them have even claimed to oppose the imperialism of their own country or that of the “Western bloc”, etc. This is most often a demagogic maneuver to try to show the voters that they—unlike other ruling class politicians—are opposed to the endless wars and other outrages of imperialism. But strangely, once they gain power themselves, all of this seems to be totally forgotten.

“The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile—it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism—and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.” —Senator John F. Kennedy, in a Senate speech, July 2, 1957, quoted in David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), p. 362.
         [This pious speech did not prevent Senator Kennedy from supporting and voting for weapons for the U.S. imperialist military, nor—a few years later when he became president—from leading U.S. imperialism in its attempt to overthrow the Castro government in Cuba, or from trying to maintain U.S. imperialist control of south Vietnam, or any number of other imperialist actions. There is no greater hypocrite than an imperialist hypocrite claiming to be opposed to imperialism. —Ed.]

IMPERIALISM — Lenin’s Definition Of
[Intro to be added...]

“And so, without forgetting the conditional and relative value of all definitions in general, which can never embrace all the concatenations of a phenomenon in its complete development, we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features: 1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital,’ of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves, and 5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism in the stage of development in which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline” (1916), (Peking: FLP, 1975), pp. 105-6; LCW 22:266-7.

IMPERIALISM — World System of

See also:

“All capitalist ruling classes in this era function within the world imperialist system and seize all of the world’s wealth and resources they are able to. However:
              a.   The bourgeoisie (including its alliance in some cases with a feudal landlord class) in most countries is far too weak internationally to exercise significant imperialist control over other countries, or to organize significant economic exploitation of them.
              b.   In a few countries the ruling bourgeoisie is far stronger, and has quite a free hand to boss around other countries and/or to economically exploit them to a considerable degree. These are the countries we call imperialist countries.”
         —N. B. Turner, et al., Is China an Imperialist Country? — Considerations and Evidence (2015), summary thesis number 2, p. 144. Also available online at http://www.red-path.net, and in PDF format at http://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf and elsewhere.

“IMPERIALIST ECONOMISTS” [Political Trend among the Bolsheviks]

Imperialist economists—Lenin’s designation for the opportunists Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosh in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks) during the First World War. The ‘imperialist economists’ demanded that the Party delete the programmatic statement on the right of nations to self-determination. They also came out against the entire minimum programme of the R.S.D.L.P., which envisaged a struggle for democratic reforms that would facilitate the preparation and transition to the socialist revolution. Lenin laid bare the opportunistic essence of the position of Bukharin and those sharing his views, its kinship with ‘economism’—the opportunistic trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Like the old ‘economists,’ who could not understand the need for the political struggle of the working class under conditions of capitalism, the ‘imperialist economists’ did not understand the significance of the struggle for democratic reforms under conditions of imperialism.
        “Certain views of the ‘imperialist economists’ were shared by Left Social-Democrats of Holland, America, Poland, etc. That is why Lenin called ‘imperialist economism’ an ‘international disease’ [LCW 35:254].
        “A number of articles by Lenin are devoted to a criticism of ‘imperialist economism’: ‘On the Incipient Trend of “Imperialist Economism”’ [LCW 23:1-9]; ‘Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov)’ [LCW 23:10-15]; ‘A Caracature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism’ [LCW 23:16-64].” —Note 155, LCW 38.

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