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See also entries below.
LABOR AND CAPITAL
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[Marx speaking as if to all classical political economists:] “Labor is the sole source of exchange-value and the only active creator of use-value. This is what you [correctly] say. On the other hand, you say that capital is everything, and the worker is nothing or a mere production cost of capital. You have refuted yourselves. Capital is nothing but defrauding of the worker. Labor is everything.” —Marx, TSV, 3:260.
See also: ALIENATED LABOR
LABOR and LABOR POWER
[Intro to be added...]
“Labor itself, in its immediate being, in its living existence, cannot be directly conceived as a commodity, but only labour-power, of which labor itself is the temporary manifestation.” —Marx, TSV, 1:171.
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[According to the U.S. government:] Those people at least 16 years old who are either working, or else who are unemployed but actively looking for work (according to the strict standards of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Also included in the work force are those who are working only part time, whether or not they actually desire full-time work.
LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE
[According to the U.S. government:] The percentage of the total non-insitutionalized working-age population of a country or region that is in the officially defined labor force (see above); that is, the percentage which is either working or else is unemployed but actively looking for work (as admitted by the government).
The chart at the right shows that a rapidly declining part of the population is even being counted as being in the labor force at all, which explains how the government is able to falsely claim that the unemployment rate is gently falling even as an ever smaller portion of the population has jobs (let alone full-time good jobs).
See also: EMPLOYMENT/POPULATION RATIO
“By labor-power or capacity for labor is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, ch. 6: (International, p. 167; Penguin, p. 270.) “A commodity which its possessor, the wage-worker, sells to capital.” —Marx, “Wage Labor and Capital”, (MECW 9:202, as edited in Engels’s 1891 edition.)
Labor power is therefore the worker’s ability to work, which is what is sold to the capitalist for the wages received. Labor power is not the same as labor itself, however! As everyone is aware, once the capitalists sell the products that the workers produce, and even after paying the workers their wages (which means the market value of their labor power), they still have a large surplus left over from which they take their profits. The fact that the actual labor of the workers generates this additional surplus value beyond the workers’ wages (i.e., beyond the value of their labor power) means that the real implicit value of their actual labor must greatly exceed the value of what they sell to the capitalists, their labor power. And therefore labor power and labor must be carefully distinguished if we are to understand the source of the capitalists’ profits.
The distinction between labor power and labor is often confusing for those new to Marxist political economy. In addition to Chapter 6 of Volume I of Marx’s Capital, another good place to go to clear up this confusion is to carefully read Engels’s 1891 edition of Marx’s pamphlet, “Wage Labor and Capital” and especially Engels’s introduction where he goes into the difference between labor power and labor quite thoroughly. This edition is available in an inexpensive paperback from International Publishers, and available online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/index.htm. Engels’s introduction is also available separately in MECW 27:194-201.
LABOR THEORY OF VALUE (LTV)
The fundamental theory in political economy, put forth by Marx, that the economic value of any commodity in a capitalist system of production is proportional to the average socially necessary labor time that it takes to produce that commodity. Thus if the average labor time necessary to produce a certain type of overcoat is 25 times as great as the average labor time it takes to produce a loaf of bread, the coat will have a value 25 times as great as that of the loaf. Marx, however, understands full well that the actual prices of that type of coat and that sort of loaf of bread might vary somewhat from this ratio for a variety of reasons. But the analytical foundation, and most basic explanation for the difference in the prices of the two commodities will still lie in the different quantities of labor time necessary to make each.
Classical political economy also agreed with this theory (in Ricardo, for example), at least in rough outlines. But modern bourgeois economists reject it because they are loath to admit that the working class, working on the products of nature, produces all value. They try instead to explain value in terms of marginal supply and demand, and so forth. But this leaves the usual fairly uniform differences in value between the coat and the loaf of bread as quite mysterious. Alternately, they attempt to explain the differences in value in terms of differing prices of production, but this begs the question since they cannot supply any independent explanation for why prices of production themselves differ!
All Marxists, or at least all those who we care to consider as genuine Marxists in the sphere of political economy, agree with the basic labor theory of value as briefly outline above. However, there are some secondary aspects of the precise theory of value as put forward by Marx, about which even Marxists can disagree. Marx, for example, said that only human labor, and only human labor employed in the current production process, can create new (surplus) value. Thus Marx does not seem to allow for the production of surplus value by non-humans under any circumstances whatsoever. (See: ANDROID THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ) Moreover, Marx claimed that if a worker makes a machine and then uses that machine to produce some commodity, only the labor time spent using the machine contributes to the surplus value generated in the final commodity. An alternate view (which I for one hold) is that the machine also allows the worker using it to continually reuse the labor which went into making the machine, and therefore that both the new labor and the re-used older labor will contribute to surplus value being generated in the final commodity. For more on this, see the entry below. —S.H.
LABOR THEORY OF VALUE — Revised Form
This is a modified version of the labor theory of value (LTV) from that put forward by Marx. It agrees with the fundamental proposition that the value of a commodity produced in a capitalist system of production is solely due to the average socially necessary labor time required to produce that commodity. But it disagrees with Marx in that it views machinery as a way of reusing the time spent in past labor (making the machine), and hence as also contributing to surplus value along with the current labor time expended. Here is the argument for making this modification:
“1) There is nothing mysterious nor magical about human labor
that can make it alone capable of generating surplus value in a system of
capitalist production. (Marx never adequately explained just why only human
beings supposedly have this capability, and thus left it all very mysterious.
He did say that human labor differs from animal efforts in that it is
conscious and purposeful, but
he did not explain why that makes any difference in this regard.) There must
be a good answer to the question, ‘Why is human labor able to produce surplus
value?’ It is incumbent on Marxist political economy to state precisely what the
answer to this question is.
“2) Furthermore, it is not human creativity or intelligence that explains why human labor can generate surplus value. (Some labor that generates surplus value requires very little intelligence and shows virtually no creativity, such as certain types of extremely repetitive assembly line work. And, on the other hand, some machinery already demonstrates considerable intelligence and sometimes even some creativity—though artificial creativity is much rarer so far, and is mostly confined to software, such as certain expert systems.)
“3) Moreover, there is no single specific human capability which, when exercised, alone is able to generate surplus value. (On the contrary, there is an indefinitely large number of actual things human workers can do which can generate surplus value, and new ones are constantly being developed as production processes change.)
“4) Moreover, even now a great many of these specific things which humans can do, and which generate surplus value, can also be done by machines. (And in historical terms, machines are being rapidly improved in the abilities to replace human beings in more and more types of work.)
“5) All the sorts of things that human beings can do which create surplus value come in degrees, from very crude and primitive efforts to the highly skilled and sophisticated. This is why we first see machines replacing the cruder forms of human labor, and then—as the machines are improved—ever more sophisticated forms of human labor of the same type.
“6) The thing that really explains why human beings are able to generate surplus value is simply that human beings can be ‘used over and over’ in the capitalist production process. (I.e., they are not used up in the production of any commodity, as raw materials are.)
“7) But if the last principle is true, then anything else that is used in the production process, without being used up in each output commodity (i.e., tools and machinery), should also contribute to surplus value.
“8) However, machines and tools themselves were created by past human labor, and in fact all commodities that presently exist are in the final analysis the result of the application of direct or indirect human labor in various forms to the natural products of the world around us.
“9) It is in general impossible to quantitatively compare goods (or commodities) by comparing their use values, since use values are so diverse, tend to be unrelated to each other, and depend on the diverse and ever changing needs and subjective desires of different individuals. (Whether a loaf of bread or a warm coat is of greater use value to a person depends on the situation.)
“10) But there is an underlying basis, and only one such feasible basis, for quantifying the differences in exchange values for different commodities: the socially necessary labor times incorporated into them. (So far this means just human labor, though if androids are ever constructed, or if sentient aliens were to show up on earth and also become workers, it would then include their labor.) Moreover, the labor considered here must include not only the direct labor, but also the properly apportioned indirect, or past labor contributed both in the form of raw materials and tools & machinery. (The actual exchange values we see, however, may be adjusted from this total socially necessary labor time for various reasons, but the underlying labor time still forms the primary basis for these exchange values.)
“11) Thus the labor theory of value (LTV) remains essential in political economy. (Systems, like Sraffa’s, that derive output prices directly from input quantities and prices (including labor-power prices) may be technically possible, but are irrelevant here. Political economy needs to explain a lot more than one price in terms of others. For example it needs to explain how exploitation occurs and the deep reasons for capitalist economic crises. (Furthermore, all prices themselves implicitly relate to socially necessary labor times; the fact that a car costs $20,000 is meaningless except within the framework where workers are paid definite amounts for an hour of their labor time.) Sraffaian economics obscures such things. We need to stay true to a profoundly political economics, a political economy that clearly exposes the genuine human relationships at the bottom of things.)
“12) But Marx’s specific version of the LTV needs to be modified in one major way: It is not only current labor which produces surplus value in a system of capitalist production, but also the continuing use of past labor (embodied in tools and machines). Modifying the LTV in this way allows us to resolve otherwise insurmountable logical and conceptual problems in traditional Marxist political economy. This revised LTV is far more coherent and defensible, but retains the essential aspects of the traditional Marxist explanations for exploitation, the source of capitalist profits, the underlying source of capitalist overproduction crises as arising from the exploitation of labor in the capitalist production process itself, and so forth.” —Scott Harrison, adapted from “Letter to Frank S. about the labor theory of value” (Dec. 8, 2003), online at: http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/Let_LTV.htm
[To be added...]
See also below, and: TRADE UNIONISM
LABOR UNIONS: U. S. — Long-term Decline Of
For many decades the size and strength of U.S. labor unions has been in a long-term decline.
Union membership, as a percentage of the labor force, has declined tremendously. As of 2012
the percentage of American workers in unions fell to 11.3%, the lowest since 1916 when it
was 11.2%. In private industry the figures were even worse: the percentage of unionized
workers was only 6.6%.
American trade unionism since the 1930s, at least, has been virtually entirely a reformist movement, attempting to improve the lot of workers economically but within the capitalist system. In no way was it a revolutionary movement working toward the overthrow of capitalism. It made some economic advances for a while, but as it became more and more bourgeois it also became less and less militant. It members failed to comprehend that the gains in wages and benefits won through unions, like all reformist gains under capitalism, are never secure and permanent. Eventually the ruling class will succeed in striping away those gains and driving the workers down again, especially when the developing economic crisis of its own capitalist system forces it to do so.
LABOR’S SHARE OF PRODUCTION (In the U.S.)
Since labor, applied to the resources of nature, is responsible for the production of all wealth, by rights “labor’s share” of what is produced should be 100%. But not only does the very tiny capitalist class take a very large percentage of what is produced in the U.S. every year, over time they have been taking an ever-greater percentage of it. Considering all the goods and services produced in the country (i.e., Gross Domestic Product), in 1974 the millions of employees of all kinds added together received just 59% of the total. By 2009, that had fallen to just 55%. In other words, the working class, which makes up over 90% of the population, barely receives half of what it produces. And actually the situation is much worse even than that, since these figures are grossly exaggerated. For example, many capitalists, including even the CEO’s of giant corporations, are themselves counted as “employees”! It is likely that the real situation is that the working class, even in this extremely wealthy country, receives considerably less than half of what it produces each year. Moreover, these figures are for gross income. After the government extracts all its many taxes (much of which goes for imperialist wars and other things which benefit the rich rather than the poor), the fraction of the wealth produced by the workers that they actually are allowed to keep is even further reduced! And low as this percentage now is, over time it is getting ever smaller. [The statistics here come from the “Economics Scene” column, by David R. Francis, The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 21, 2010, p. 23.]
The chart at the above right (from the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve) shows an index value comparing the share of national income received by labor from year to year (with 2005 being arbitrarily set to 100). As is evident, labor’s share of income is sinking like a rock, and is now at historic lows.
LABRIOLA, Antonio (1843-1904)
Early Italian Marxist.
LAFARGUE, Paul (1842-1911)
Prominent figure in the French and international working-class movement, and son-in-law of Karl Marx (married to Marx’s daughter Laura). He was a member of the General Council of the [First] International, Corresponding Secretary for Spain (1866-69), helped to organize sections of the International in France, Spain and Portugal, and was a delegate to the Hague Congress in 1872. Lafargue was a founder of the Workers’ Party in France, and a disciple and associate of Marx and Engels.
LAISSEZ-FAIRE [Pronounced: lassay fair]
[From the French, meaning “to let people do as they please”.] The bourgeois doctrine which opposes any governmental interference in the economy beyond that necessary to maintain peace and sacred capitalist property rights. This was well-nigh universally accepted by bourgeois economists in the 19th century, especially after John Stuart Mill popularized it in his Principles of Political Economy in 1848. However, during the imperialist era, and especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s, much of the bourgeoisie and many of its apologists came to appreciate that much government intervention in the economy on behalf of the capitalists was highly desirable, and even necessary for the continuation of capitalism. In particular Keynesian economists argued that the capitalist economy had to be carefully “managed”, and even the more traditional economists of the “neo-classical synthesis” school all recognized that the government at least needed to manage interest rates, the money supply, and so forth. After the stablization of capitalism for a long period after World War II, laissez-faire (in a somewhat less pure form) came back into fashion again, often under the new name (for much the same old ideas), neo-liberalism. It is really only with the financial crash of 2008 and the deepening crisis leading toward the development of a new depression that bourgeois economists are once again starting to question their doctrine of near total faith in the virtues of laissez-faire and the “free market”.
A number term commonly used in India and the other countries in south Asia, which means one hundred thousand (100,000). Thus a phrase such as “23 lakhs of people” means 2,300,000 people.
1. The owner of property (housing, farmland, etc.) which other people rent or are hired to work on.
2. [In China before collectivization in the 1950s:] A rural tyrant who owned substantial amounts of land (for the times) who himself did not labor, but whose income instead depended entirely on hiring or otherwise exploiting peasants through rent and usury.
3. Rural exploiters similar to these Chinese landlords in other times and places.
See also: CHINA—Class Analysis Before 1949
LAO ZI [also Romanized as Lao Tzu and Lao-Tse]
(6th century BCE)
Chinese philosopher and sage, the original source of Taoism. Lao Zi (which literally means “the old master”) inspired the semi-religious Taoist book Tao-te-Ching (“The Way of Power”) which was compiled some 300 years after his death, and which teaches self-sufficiency, simplicity and detachment. From the Marxist standpoint, Lao Zi is of interest mostly because of the primitive, but intriguing, dialectics that he put forward, and also his faith in the people. For example, consider this fine statement attributed to him, which sounds very much like the Maoist mass line:
“Go to the people.
Live with them.
Learn from them...
Start with what they know;
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders,
When the work is done,
The task accomplished,
The people will say,
We have done this ourselves!”
LASSALLE, Ferdinand (1825-1864)
German journalist, lawyer, and petty-bourgeois socialist.
“Lassalle was a German petty-bourgeois socialist who played an active part in organizing (in 1863) the General Association of German Workers, a political organization that existed up to 1875. The programmatic demands of the Association were formulated by Lassalle in a number of articles and speeches. Lassalle regarded the state as a supra-class organization and, in conformity with that philosophically idealist view, believed that the Prussian state could be utilized to solve the social problem through the setting up of producers’ co-operatives with its aid. Marx said that Lassalle advocated a ‘Royal-Prussian state socialism’. Lassalle directed the workers towards peaceful, parliamentary forms of struggle, believing that the introduction of universal suffrage would make Prussia a ‘free people’s state’. To obtain universal suffrage he promised Bismarck the support of his Association against the liberal opposition and also in the implementation of Bismarck’s plan to reunite Germany ‘from above’ under the hegemony of Prussia. Lassalle repudiated the revolutionary class struggle, denied the importance of trade unions and of strike action, ignored the international tasks of the working class, and infected the German workers with nationalist ideas. His contemptuous attitude towards the peasantry, which he regarded as a reactionary force, did much damage to the German working-class movement. Marx and Engels fought his harmful utopian dogmatism and his reformist views. Their criticism helped free the German workers from the influence of Lassallean opportunism.” —Note 140 to LCW vol. 5, pp. 558-559.
LATHI [Pronounced: lah-tee, or lah-thee (to
rhyme with catty or Cathy)]
[From Hindi and related languages:] A stick or cane, typically 3 or 4 feet long, used in a type of martial arts in India (often with longer sticks), but more commonly today known because of its use by police forces to force submission by the masses. Lathis are typically made of wood or very strong cane and often have a sturdy metal cap on the end. Blows from them can cause serious injury and sometimes even death. Britain, when it controlled India as a colony, first introduced lathis as a police weapon. They also developed what is known as the lathi charge (or sometimes as one word, lathicharge), where rows of police charge the protesting masses in military fashion and viciously beat them.
“In modern times, lathi is the primary weapon of the Indian riot police along with helmets, shields, tear gas and other methods. Policemen are trained in highly co-ordinated drill movements which can leave many of the rioters crippled. This drill has been quite controversial among human rights activists so in many places the police do not follow the drill but hit in such a way to disperse the crowds. Security guards and police officers often carry a lathi along with or in place of firearms. They prefer lathi for their ease of use and comparative safety and only resort to firearms in situations when lathi cannot be used efficiently.” —Wikipedia article on lathis.
LAW OF VALUE
“We see then that that which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is the amount of labor socially necessary, or the labor-time socially necessary for its production.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, sect. 1: (International, 1967, p. 39; Penguin, p. 129).
See also: LABOR THEORY OF VALUE
LAWS — Scientific
See: SCIENTIFIC LAWS
LE CAPITALISME SAUVAGE
See: CAPITALISME SAUVAGE
LEAGUE OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONARY SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY ABROAD
“The League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad
was founded in October 1901 on Lenin’s initiative, incorporating the Iskra-Zarya
organization abroad and the Sotsial-Demokrat organization (which included the
Emancipation of Labor group). The
objects of the League were to propagate the dieas of revolutionary Social-Democracy
and help to build a militant Social-Democratic organization. Actually, the League was
the foreign representative of the Iskra organization. It recruited supporters
for Iskra among Social-Democrats living abroad, gave the paper material support,
organized its delivery to Russia, and punblished popular Marxist literature. The
Second Party Congress endorsed the League as the sole Party organization abroad, with
the status of a Party committee and the obligation of working under the Central
Committee’s direction and control.
“After the Second Party Congress, the Mensheviks entrenched themselves in the League and used it in their fight against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. At the Second Congress of the League, in October 1903, they adopted new League Rules that ran counter to the Party Rules adopted at the Party Congress. From that time on the League was a bulwark of Menshevism. It continued in existence until 1905.” —Note 15, LCW 7.
LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF THE WORKING CLASS
“The League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working
Class was organized by Lenin in the autumn of 1895; it embraced about twenty
Marxist workers’ study circles in St. Petersburg. The work of the League of Struggle
was organized in its entirety on principles of centralism and strict discipline. The
League was headed by a Central Group consisting of V. I. Lenin, A. A. Vaneyev, P. K.
Zaporozhets, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, N. K. Krupskaya,
L. Martov (Y. O. Tsederbaum), M. A. Zilvin, V. V. Starkov
and others. Direct leadership was in the hands of a group of five headed by Lenin.
The organization was divided into district groups. Advanced, class-conscious workers
(I. V. Babushkin, V. A. Shelgunov and others) linked these groups with the factories.
At the factories there were organizers who gathered information and distributed
literature; workers’ study circles were set up at the biggest establishments.
“The League of Struggle was the first organization in Russia to combine socialism with the working-class movement. The League guided the working-class movement, linking up the economic struggle of the workers with the struggle against tsarism, it published leaflets and pamphlets for the workers. Lenin was the editor of the League’s publications and preparations for the issue of a working-class newspaper, Rabocheye Dyelo, were made under his leadership. The influence of the League of Struggle spread far beyond St. Petersburg. Following its example, workers’ study circles were united into Leagues of Struggle in Moscow, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav and other towns and regions of Russia.
“In December 1895, the tsarist government dealt the League a heavy blow. During the night of December 8-9 (December 20-21 New Style) a considerable number of League members were arrested, Lenin among them; the first issue of Rabocheye Dyelo that was ready for the press was seized.
“At the first meeting held after the arrests it was decided to call the organization of St. Petersburg Social-Democrats the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. As an answer to the arrest of Lenin and the other members of the League, those who escaped arrest issued a leaflet on a political theme; it was written by workers.
“While Lenin was in prison he continued to guide the work of the League, to help with advice; he sent letters and leaflets written in cipher out of prison and wrote the pamphlet ‘Strikes’ (this manuscript has not been discovered), and ‘Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party’ (LCW 2:93-121).
“The St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class was important, to use Lenin’s definition, because it was the germ of a revolutionary party that took its support from the working class and led the class struggle of the proletariat. In the latter half of 1898 the League fell into the hands of the Economists who planted the ideas of trade-unionism and Bernsteinism on Russian soil through their newspaper Rabochaya Mysl. In 1898, however, the old members of the League who had escaped arrest took part in preparing the way for the First Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and in drawing up the Manifesto of that Congress, thus continuing the traditions of Lenin’s League of Struggle.” —Note 119, Lenin SW1 (1967).
LEFT vs. “LEFT”
Since the days of the great French Revolution the left has referred to those in politics who want progressive change in the interests of the people, rather than maintaining the status quo or even change backward in a reactionary direction. However, within the revolutionary Marxist milieu, the left refers to genuine revolutionaries and not mere reformers. For Marxists, the “left” or “leftist”, when it is in scare-quotes like that, refers not to the genuine left, but rather to the phony, so-called “left” which is actually opposed to revolution, or else to “ultra-leftists” whose inappropriate slogans and actions will not actually lead the situation forward to revolution.
Thus what a particular individual means by the left or leftist depends on their own political views (and specifically whether they are a true and rational revolutionary or not).
“Guard against ‘Left’ and Right deviations. Some people say, ‘It is better to be on the “Left” than on the Right,’ a remark repeated by many comrades. In fact, there are many who say to themselves that ‘It is better to be on the Right than on the “Left”’, but they don’t say it aloud. Only those who are honest say so openly. So there are these two opinions. What is ‘Left’? To move far ahead of the times, to outpace current developments, to be rash in action and in matters of principle and policy and to hit out indiscriminately in struggles and controversies—these are ‘Left’ deviations and are no good. To fall behind the times, to fail to keep pace with current developments and to be lacking in militancy—these are Right deviations and are no good either. In our Party there are people who prefer to be on the ‘Left’, and then there are also quite a few who prefer to be on the Right or to take a position right of center. Neither is good. We must wage a struggle on both fronts, combating both ‘Left’ and Right deviations.” —Mao, “Speeches at the National Conference of the Communist Party of China: Concluding Speech” (March 31, 1955), SW 5:167.
This term designates different groups of erring Communists (or communist-minded people), often semi-anarchists, at different times and places.
1) The group within the Bolsheviks in 1918 who opposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed in December 1917 which ended World War I between Germany and Russia. This included Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Radek and G. L. Pyatakov. Leon Trotsky also opposed this Treaty, and is sometimes included within this group of “left-wing” communists, and is sometimes mentioned separately from them. This whole group correctly recognized that the Treaty was a bitter pill, but failed to understand that the survival of the Revolution depended on accepting it. The Seventh Congress of the Party in March 1918 rejected the position of this group.
2) The trend within the fledgling international Communist movement after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of World War I, especially in Germany and other European countries. This is the trend Lenin strongly criticized in his pamphlet, “Left-Wing” Communism—An Infantile Disorder (see entry below).
3) Similar semi-anarchist, ultra-“leftist”, or propaganda-oriented trends and groups which are totally divorced from mass struggle, at other times and places.
“LEFT-WING” COMMUNISM—AN INFANTILE DISORDER
A very important pamphlet written by Lenin in April-May 1920, and directed against some of the young, inexperienced and semi-anarchist communists in Europe and around the world who were attracted to communism because of the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, but who failed to appreciate the need to combine revolutionary ideas with the working-class movement. It was immediately translated into German, English and French. This work was prepared just before the Second Congress of the Communist International, and each delegate to that Congress was given a copy of it.
This pamphlet is included in volume 31 of Lenin’s Collected Works [4th English language edition], and is available online at several places, including: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/
The promotion of ultra-“leftist” slogans which are entirely premature or otherwise inappropriate in the given situation.
“We are also opposed to ‘Left’ phrase-mongering. The thinking of ‘Leftists’ outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realize in the present an ideal which can only be realized in the future. They alienate themselves from the current practice of the majority of the people and from the realities of the day, and show themselves adventurist in their actions.” —Mao, “On Practice” (July 1937), SW1:307.
“LEGAL MARXISM” [Russia]
The “Legal Marxists” were not just people who published semi-Marxist writings in the legal newspapers and magazines in Tsarist Russia, but rather those (such as Pyotr Struve, Sergei Bulgakov and Nikolai Berdyaev) who opposed revolutionary Marxism in their writings in legal publications. They were rightly despised by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
LEIBNIZ, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646-1716)
[To be added...]
See also: MONADS, and Philosophical doggerel about Leibniz.
Apologists for capitalism have periodically predicted that, “in the future”, capitalism will be producing so much with so little effort by the workers, that there will be a “golden age of leisure”. However, despite all the productivity improvements during the capitalist era, and the immense productive capacity of capitalism (much of which is not even used!), somehow this age of leisure never seems to dawn. The trend is actually now for people to work longer and longer hours; that is, for those who have jobs at all. The only life of comfortable leisure under capitalism is for those who own the means of production; the “leisure” of the long-term or permanently unemployed is mostly a life of misery.
“In the 1970s there was much talk of an imminent ‘leisure age’ in which, thanks to automation, we would scarcely work at all—and a spate of books brooding earnestly on how we would fill our new spare time without becoming hopelessly lethargic. Anybody spotting one of these forgotten tracts in a second-hand bookshop today would laugh incredulously. The average British employee now puts in 80,224 hours over his or her working life, as against 69,000 hours in 1981. Far from losing the work ethic, we seem ever more enslaved by it. The new vogue is for books that ask anxiously how we can achieve a ‘work-life balance’ in an age when many people have no time for anything beyond labour and sleep.” —Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (2006), p. 59.
LENIN, V. I. (1870-1924)
[To be added...]
The further development and extension or modification of Marxism which is attributed (either correctly or incorrectly) to V. I. Lenin. The term ‘Marxism-Leninism’ refers to the science of revolutionary Marxism which includes the contributions of Lenin (as well as those of Marx, Engels and others), while the term ‘Leninism’ itself tends to focus more on those elements of Marxism-Leninism which are attributable (properly or not) to Lenin specifically and not primarily to Marx and Engels. Thus those who imagine that Marx was a bourgeois humanist and Lenin was not, will see a larger part of Marxism-Leninism (as it is usually understood) as being due to Lenin, than those who see more agreement between the ideas of Marx and Lenin in the first place. Therefore, what is counted as distinctively ‘Leninist’ depends on the speaker’s notion of what Marxism itself was properly viewed as before Lenin, as well as their notion of how Lenin influenced and/or developed Marxism.
Leninism as it should be properly understood by revolutionary Marxists includes at least these main overall points:
1) The application of Marxism to the particular cirmstances and conditions of Russia;
2) The regeneration of Marxism as a revolutionary theory after its degeneration into bourgeois reformism in the Second International after the death of Marx and Engels;
3) The further development of Marxism in the changed conditions of the new capitalist-imperialist era, and with the successful October revolution in Russia. And within this 3rd point, the following main sub-points:
a) The recognition that capitalist-imperialism was a whole new stage of capitalism, that it necessarily involved both predatory wars and inter-imperialist wars, and that it represented a further diseased and moribund social system which had become ripe for revolution, including wars of national liberation in imperialist colonies.
b) A greater emphasis on the role of the revolutionary proletarian party, along with a somewhat different conception of the character of such a party (as a party of professional revolutionaries, for example);
c) The actual direction of a proletarian revolution and the implementation of the first major dictatorship of the proletariat, and in the course of that developing many of the essential principles of proletarian rule.
See also entries below.
“To expound Leninism means to expound the distinctive and new in in the works of Lenin that Lenin contributed to the general treasury of Marxism and that is naturally connected with his name.” —Stalin, “The Foundations of Leninism”, lectures delivered at the Sverdlov University, April-May 1924, Works 6:71.
“It is usual to point to the exceptionally militant and exceptionally revolutionary character of Leninism. This is quite correct. But this specific feature of Leninism is due to two causes: firstly, to the fact that Leninism emerged from the proletarian revolution, the imprint of which it cannot but bear; secondly, to the fact that it grew and became strong in clashes with the opportunism of the Second International, the fight against which was and remains an essential preliminary condition for a successful fight against capitalism. It must not be forgotten that between Marx and Engels, on the one hand, and Lenin, on the other, there lies a whole period of undivided domination of the opportunism of the Second International, and the ruthless struggle against this opportunism could not but constitute one of the most important tasks of Leninism.” —Stalin, ibid., Works 6:73-74.
LENINISM — Bourgeois Conception Of
Bourgeois writers often recognize, to some limited degree, some of the elements of Leninism as we revolutionary Marxists understand it. (See entry above.) In particular they often recognize the greatly increased attention Leninism gives to colonial or semi-colonial countries, to the potential role for earlier revolutions that Leninists see there, to the revolutionary potential of the peasantry, and so forth. They sometimes even tie this loosely together with some partial recognition of imperialism (though never as something inherent in modern capitalism!). But the one thing that bourgeois writers most focus on in their discussion of what they call “Leninism”, to the point where everything else is almost totally obscured, is the nature and role of the Leninist party.
This conception of Leninism starts with some actual elements of Lenin’s ideas about a revolutionary party, though it tends to grossly distort or exaggerate them as follows:
1) The working class and masses are presumed to be seldom, if ever, spontaneously revolutionary;
2) The working class is presumed to be only capable of reformist or trade union consciousness on its own;
3) A revolutionary party is viewed as absolutely essential in all circumstances to bring revolutionary ideas to the workers and masses from the outside, and to lead them in a revolutionary direction;
4) This party must be composed of carefully and thoroughly trained, full-time professional revolutionaries;
5) The party must be tightly organized and highly disciplined according to the principles of democratic centralism—which the bourgeois ideologists assume must really be highly authoritarian and totally undemocratic;
6) This party must be viewed as the vanguard of the proletariat, even when it is first formed by a small number of people, because only through its leadership can the masses make revolution;
7) This party, will institute what it calls the “dictatorship of the proletariat” when it achieves power, but this will actually be a dictatorship of the party (and ultimately of the top party leadership) over the masses, and must inevitably operate in a “totalitarian”, fascist manner.
8) And finally, under this bourgeois conception of Leninism, when the party actually is in power in one or more countries, it will be bent on total world conquest.
Well! That is the bourgeois conception of Leninism! This is obviously a total parody of Lenin’s ideas and of genuine Leninism. Points 1 and 2 are already quite exaggerated; Lenin never claimed that there were no spontaneous revolutionary ideas among the masses! He was well aware of the great Paris Commune, for example, which was created by a spontaneous uprising. Lenin only argued that the dominant forms of spontaneity in bourgeois society are indeed reformist in perspective, and that therefore the most class conscious section of the masses, which constitutes itself into a proletarian party, must of course provide leadership for the whole revolutionary movement.
Point 3 is distorted in at least two major ways: First, there are times (such as during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China) when the party has lost its way and must itself be corrected and reconstituted by the revolutionary masses. Second, most of the revolutionary ideas which the party brings to the masses do not really come from “the outside”, but instead from among the masses themselves through the use of Marxist summation and the method of the mass line.
Point 4 is basically true of genuine Leninism; we do seek to build a party whose core, at least, is composed of carefully trained professional revolutionaries. We also insist, however, that this party have very close ties to the masses, that in socialist society (at least) party members also spend substantial time participating in labor, and that the masses keep a close eye upon the party and supervise it, so that it always remains working in their interests! It is also true, as point 5 in the bourgeois conception of Leninism has it, that a Leninist party should be highly organized and highly disciplined. However, a true Leninist party actually takes the democracy aspect of democratic centralism seriously and even insists that democracy must be the principal aspect.
With regard to point 6: There has indeed been a very wrong tendency in many new or small MLM parties, which are not yet even in much contact with the masses in their country, to falsely view themselves as a “vanguard”. A true vanguard is a party that is actually out front and really leading the masses in struggle, and in the direction of social revolution. This is very different than any self-proclaimed miniscule phony “vanguard”.
In point 7 the bourgeois ideologues of course conclude that any dictatorship over their class and their supposed inalienable rights, must in fact be a vicious, totalitarian dictatorship over the people as a whole. But what genuine Leninism (and Marxism!) means by the dictatorship of the proletariat is a society in which the working class and broad masses have full and complete democratic rights, far more so than they have under bourgeois democracy for example. No party which exercises dictatorship over the people is a Leninist party, no matter what it calls itself. Yes, revisionism in power does this (as in Soviet Union from at least the mid-1950s on), but we actual Leninists are deadly opponents of these revisionists.
And finally, with respect to point 8, we Leninists are indeed determined to bring about social revolution everywhere in the world, and create world communism. Of course this is something very different than “world conquest” in the sense the bourgeoisie understands it! Anyway, this is actually nothing new in Leninism; Marx and Engels proclaimed this goal in the Communist Manifesto long before Lenin was even born.
So the bourgeois conception of “Leninism” is a complete distortion of the real thing. It is an almost complete lie and slander of Lenin, which starts from small distortions and builds toward total nonsense. It is true that Leninism does give more emphasis to the leading role of the party than does Marx or Engels, and does have a somewhat different conception of what such a party must be like. But, first, this is a natural development and extension of the ideas of Marx and Engels, and second, this is only one aspect of Leninism as it should be properly understood.
LENINISM — Misconceptions Within the U.S. Revolutionary Movement
In general these are similar to, though perhaps watered-down, versions of the bourgeois conception of “Leninism” we discussed in the entry above. [More to be added... ]
LEVÉE EN MASSE
A mass uprising, but specifically against a foreign army occupying a country. In other words a levée en masse is not the same as an ordinary insurrection of the people against its own rulers.
Among the levées en masse in history we might include some of the uprisings encouraged by Napolean as a means of national defence against invading armies, various uprisings in Poland during the 19th century, the Warsaw uprising in the early days of the Nazi invasion, and some of the revolts in Eastern European countries against the Soviet social-imperialist occupation and control during the post-World War II period.
LEVERAGE [Capitalist Financial Speculation]
Arranging things so that a given amount of investment will return as much as a considerably larger investment would normally require. This usually involves using borrowed money to amplify a personal investment. If a speculator is investing $10,000 of his own money and $90,000 of borrowed money then his return will be ten times what it would otherwise be (less the cost of borrowing the $90,000). Of course any losses would also be amplified by a factor of ten!
Thus leverage is usually viewed as a measure of how much debt is used to purchase assets. For instance, a leverage ratio of 7:1 means that for every $7 of assets purchased, $6 came from borrowed money and just $1 came from the investor/speculator’s own money.
See also: DELEVERAGING
LÉVI-STRAUSS, Claude (1908-2009)
A prominent bourgeois anthropologist and sociologist, often considered in academic circles to be the “father” of modern anthropology. He was influenced by linguistics, geology, Freudian psychoanalysis and possibly to some limited extent by Marxism (as he himself claimed). He introduced the concepts of “structuralism” from linguistics and geology into anthropology and sociology, where it became an intellectual fad for a short period.
One aspect of “structuralism” in anthropology, as Lévi-Strauss understood it, was that all societies follow certain universal patterns of thought and behavior. This is the sort of principle that obviously has some validity to it, but which can easily be pushed to unreasonable extremes. A progressive aspect of this way of looking at human culture is that it opposed the traditional attitudes towards native peoples as being biologically “primitive” and having “savage” or “primitive” mental capabilities. A less positive aspect of this way of looking at culture is that it tended to lead to the “postmodern” idea that all worldviews are “equally valid”, and that more modern forms of society are not really more advanced than those of primitive societies. While it is true that the people in hunter-gatherer society, for example, are not biologically primitive, their societies definitely are primitive, and their traditional conceptions of the world are also definitely primitive as compared with a modern scientific outlook.
Lévi-Strauss not only had a great influence within anthropology and sociology, he also influenced the intellectual and academic communities in general, especially in literary theory and Continental philosophy. Unfortunately, this influence proved to be mostly negative.
The branch of linguistics concerned with determining the meaning of words, and with developing the appropriate scientific techniques for doing this.
See also: MEANING OF A WORD
An acronym which refers to people who are lesbian, gay (homosexual), bisexual or transgender.
A recent (early 2013) Gallup poll of more than 200,000 Americans found that 3.5% of the population identifies as being within this group of people.
In class society there has long been tremendous oppression and mistreatment by the authorities and by the rest of the populace against LGBT people, including even outright murder of them. In recent decades there have been some positive changes in the attitudes of people in most advanced capitalist countries in this regard, but LGBT people still suffer great inequality and mistreatment even in the more enlightened countries. Of course, where there is oppression there is resistence, and the struggle for LGBT rights has already become substantial in many countries.
“LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender community. In use since the 1990s, the term LGBT is an adaptation of the
initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the phrase gay community beginning in the
mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the community in question felt did not accurately represent
all those to whom it referred. The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation and
has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and
media in the United States and some other English-speaking countries.
“The term LGBT is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures and is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer and/or are questioning their sexual identity as LGBTQ, recorded since 1996.” —Wikipedia entry for ‘LGBT’ (accessed March 17, 2013).
Daily newspaper founded by Jean Jaurès in 1904 as the organ of the French Socialist Party. During World War I the newspaper was under the control of the Right wing of the Party and took a social-chauvinist stand in support of its own bourgeoisie. At the Tours Congress in 1920 the Party split, the Communist Party of France (PCF) was formed, and L’Humanité became the official central organ of the PCF. By the mid-1930s the PCF had clearly become a revisionist party, and of course it and its newspaper have remained revisionist ever since.
Traditional Chinese measure of distance, equal to about one-half of a kilometer, or about one-third of a mile. Thus the “25,000 li Long March” was about 8,000 miles long!
LI De [Old style: Li Te]
See: OTTO BRAUN
LI Tso-p’eng (1916-?)
A General and high ranking political cadre in the People’s Liberation Army of China, who is known both as the author of an influential article summing up one aspect of Mao’s military concepts “Strategy: One Against Ten, Tactics: Ten Against One” (1964), and also later for his conspiratorial involvement in the failed coup attempt by Lin Biao.
The Strategy and Tactics article appeared in an abridged English translation in Peking Review, 1965, issues #15 & #16, and was also issued as a 43-page pamphlet in English in 1966. Excerpts from it were published in the RIM magazine, A World to Win, #16 in 1991, online at: http://www.bannedthought.net/International/RIM/AWTW/1991-16/strategy_One_Against_Ten_Tactics.htm (The AWTW editors seemed not to be aware of Li’s role in the conspiracy to overthrow and even murder Mao!)
From 1967 until his downfall immediately following the attempted military coup by Lin Biao, General Li Tso-p’eng was the 1st political commissar of the Navy. He had authority over the naval air base at Shanhaikuan and aided Lin and his family and closest circle in their escape by air from that base. (However, the plane crashed in Mongolia, and all aboard it were killed.) Li himself was soon arrested and then brought to trial for his substantial role in the conspiracy.
“Seeing that his scheme had been exposed and that his last day was coming, Lin Piao hurriedly took his wife and son and a few diehard cohorts to escape to the enemy, betraying the Party and the state. In the early morning of 2:30, September 13, 1971, the Trident jet No. 256 carrying them crashed in the vicinity of Ondor Han in Mongolia. Lin Piao, Yeh Chun, Lin Li-kuo [Lin Biao’s son], and all other renegades and aboard were burned to death. Their death, however, could not expiate all their crimes. After Lin Piao’s unsuccessful betrayal and defection, Huang Yung-sheng, Wu Fa-hsien, Li Tso-p’eng, and Ch’iu Hui-tso destroyed many evidences to cover up their own criminal acts.” —“Document No. 24 of the CCP Central Committee,” a Party document about the whole Lin Biao conspiracy, June 1972. [Emphasis added.]
LIBERALISM [Classical sense]
[To be added...]
LIBERALISM [Maoist sense]
[To be added...]
LIBERALISM [U.S. bourgeois political sense]
[To be added...]
“Though it is difficult to recall, there was a time when liberalism was identified with cheerfulness.... At the high-water mark of its recent political influence, liberalism is depressed, disappointed, deflated.” —Michael Gerson, a bourgeois commentator, in the Washington Post; quoted in The Week, Oct. 8, 2010, p. 16. [Although Gerson himself is a conservative, even most political liberals themselves today show little confidence in their own perspective, and very little enthusiasm or hope that a significantly better world will come about through the implimentation of the policies of their elected leaders. They are suffering a crisis of faith because of the long-term failure of their own program, and the obvious fact that it has arrived at a dead end. —S.H.]
A movement that developed primarily in Roman Catholic countries during the world political radicalizations of the 1960s, and is sometimes considered to be a form of Christian socialism. It seeks to reinterpret Christian doctrine and activities from the perspective of the poor, downtrodden and oppressed, and thus has a pro lower class political character as well as a religious character. Theologians of this school view poverty itself as the result of sin, the sin of exploitation by the capitalists and the sin of the class war that the rich wage against the poor. Liberation theology was especially popular for a time in Latin American countries which had formerly been colonies, and which it viewed as still suffering from “post-colonial deprivation”.
One of the founders of liberation theology was the Peruvian Dominican theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez Merina (1928- ), who sought to blend Marxism with Catholic social thought. His book, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation (1971), was very influential among liberal Latin American Catholics. Another influential work in this sphere was Liberation Theology, by the Brazilians Leonardo and Clodovis Boff.
While basically just a Catholic reformist movement there were a few cases of guerrilla warfare engaged in by renegade Catholic priests and their associates. From the 1970s on liberation theology spread to some African countries, where it focused on condemning apartheid and other forms of racism. Liberation theology also inspired similar reformist trends such as Black theology, gay theology, etc. While liberation theology still exists, especially in Brazil, it seems to have lost much of its original radical force. In part this is due to the ferocious crackdown on this trend by ultra-reactionary popes and the Catholic hierarchy.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” —Dom Hélder Câmara, a Brazilian Archbishop.
The London Interbank Offered Rate, usually referred to just as LIBOR, is a benchmark short-term interest rate for loans between banks overseas (especially in Europe) which are made in U.S. dollars. The interest rates for Eurodollar loans made to corporations is then based on (and normally higher than) the LIBOR rate, which means that the LIBOR rate is similar in function to the prime rate within the U.S.
LIEBKNECHT, Karl (1871-1919)
A prominent and important leader of the left-wing of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, and later one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany. In January 1919 he was assassinated by counter-revolutionary agents associated with the revisionist Social-Democratic government then in power.
LIFE — Origin Of
Specific details surrounding the origin of life are appropriate to the sciences of chemistry and biology, and not revolutionary science. But, as materialists we view the origin of life as having been of necessity a natural process, based originally on natural chemical and physical processes.
“With regard to the origin of life, therefore, up to the present, natural science is only able to say with certainty that it must have been the result of chemical action.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:68.
“If life and death cannot be transformed into each other, then please tell me where living things come from. Originally there was only non-living matter on earth, and living things did not come into existence until later, when they were transformed from non-living matter, that is, dead matter.” —Mao, “Talks at a Conference of Secretaries of Provincial, Municipal and Autonomous Region Party Committees” (Talk of January 27, 1957), SW 5:368.
“LIFE OF WU HSUN, The”
See: “THE LIFE OF WU HSUN”
See: ELECTRICITY and LIGHTING—Availability per Capita
LIN Biao [Old style: LIN Piao] (1908-71)
High-ranking military and political leader in revolutionary China who proved to be the worst sort of careerist, and who betrayed the revolution and even attempted to assassinate Mao.
Lin was born in Wuhan, in Hubei province, and was the son of a factory owner. He was educated at the Wampoa Military Academy where he became radicalized. When he graduated in 1926 he joined up with the Communist Party to fight the Guomindang. He became commander of the Northeast People’s Liberation Army in 1945. In 1959 he was appointed Minister of Defense, and—apparently just for careerist motives—made a very strong show of supporting Mao and opposing the capitalist-roaders during the early years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This led to his appointment as the Vice-Chairman of the Party at the 9th Party Congress in 1969, and Mao’s designated heir. But by 1971, Lin’s health was deteriorating, and there were hints that he might be removed as Mao’s designated successor. Fearing his personal grandiose career hopes were flitting away, and along with his son and a few close supporters, he drew up a plan with the code name “Project 571” to assassinate Mao during a train journey from Shanghai to Beijing, and then seize power in a military coup. This plot was uncovered, and in September 1971 Lin tried to escape by air to the revisionist Soviet Union. However, his plane crashed in Mongolia and he was killed.
In the years after his death a massive political campaign to criticize Lin Biao together with Confucius took place in China. There are indeed many lessons to be learned about how, especially after the seizure of political power, the revolutionary proletariat must be alert for careerists and unprincipled opportunists. Not only must communists be trained to be “honest and above board” in putting forward their own views, but revolutionary parties must carefully avoid awarding and promoting those who are mere opportunist toadies. “Yes men” are far more dangerous to the revolution than those who at times honestly and openly disagree with the party leadership. In reality, we should be highly suspicious of those who never disagree with us! Either such people are just not thinking on their own, or else they have ulterior motives for always agreeing with us. Either way, they should never be promoted to high office in a revolutionary party or government.
See also: ANTI-LIN BIAO, ANTI-CONFUCIUS CAMPAIGN
The school of philosophy popular in the English-speaking world in the 20th century that holds that many or most (or even all) philosophical problems derive from confusion about the use of words, and are thus resolved by careful analysis of the real meaning of words and phrases. Since they take this as a given they studiously avoid all discussion of the major philosophical questions which philosophers have argued about throughout history, and which their method seems to have little of relevance to say about. Wittgenstein’s later philosophy was the main impetus for this school.
1. The dissolution, termination or purposeful destruction of a revolutionary party by those who are no longer revolutionaries, or the advocacy of such action. This has sometimes been advocated by revisionists within socialist or communist parties on the supposed grounds that social revolution is no longer necessary, and therefore that revolutionary parties to lead such a revolution are no longer necessary. Obviously this is an extreme form of right opportunism and betrayal of the revolutionary goal.
2. The termination of the revolutionary struggle by those who have become revisionists (whether or not this also involves formally dissolving the revolutionary party that had been leading such a struggle). In many cases the revolutionary party is not actually dissolved, but instead it is transformed into a reformist or other type of bourgeois party.
“Liquidationism—an opportunist trend that spread among the
Menshevik Social-Democrats after the defeat of the 1905-07 Revolution [in Russia].
“The liquidators demanded the dissolution of the illegal party of the working class. Summoning the workers to give up the struggle against tsarism, they intended calling a non-Party ‘labor congress’ to establish an opportunist ‘broad’ labor party which, abandoning revolutionary slogans, would engage only in the legal activity permitted by the tsarist government. Lenin and other Bolsheviks ceaselessly exposed this betrayal of the revolution by the liquidators. The policy of the liquidators was not supported by the workers. The Prague Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. which took place in January 1912 expelled them from the Party.” —Note 7, LCW 17.
LIQUIDITY [Capitalist Finance]
Holding cash and/or other assets which can be quickly sold and turned into cash. A “safe” level of liquidity is to own ample amounts of cash and/or easily liquidated assets to meet any need that may arise, even in an exceptional situation. Speculators often operate far below such a safe level, which makes them vulnerable to financial ruin when a crisis suddenly develops.
A term originated by Keynes and used by Keynesian-influenced bourgeois economists to describe the situation in an economic crisis where it is impossible to lower interest rates so as to increase the demand for loans (and thus expand economic activity). This can occur either because the prevailing interest rates are already as low as they can go (approaching zero), or else because the increase in the money supply by the central bank does not result in a fall in the prevailing interest rates for some other reason, but instead merely an addition to the idle funds of the banks or holders of the money. (Keynes’ explanation for this second possibility within the context of bourgeois economics is vague at best and neoclassical bourgeois economists deny that it can actually happen. But clearly in a crisis the holders of money often do refuse to lend it or invest it because they fear losing it.) Thus describing a situation as a liquidity trap is simply an obscure way of saying that standard “monetary policy” has become ineffective.
Clear examples of “liquidity traps” or periods when monetary policy has utterly failed include the First Great Depression (of the 1930s), Japan during the 1990s and since then, and the U.S. economy starting in the autumn of 2008 when the Federal Reserve cut the interest rate it charges banks to essentially zero as the initial financial crisis of the developing Second Great Depression began to take hold.
Marxist economists avoid the term “liquidity trap” because it reflects confused Keynesian bourgeois notions and does not really clarify the actual situation. It makes far more sense to simply note that the capitalists stop investing and stop loaning money when they are afraid of losing it — i.e., in a major financial crisis associated with an overproduction crisis — and therefore lowering interest rates, even to near zero, soon loses its effectiveness.
“LITTLE RED BOOK”
See: QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG
LIU Shaoqi [Oldstyle: LIU Shao-ch’i] (1898-1969)
High ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party who during the period of socialism was the leader of those in the Party taking the capitalist road toward the restoration of capitalism in China. He was overthrown by the Maoist revolutionaries during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Liu was born in Hunan Province to a moderately rich, land-owning peasant family. He was educated in Changsha and Shanghai (where he learned Russian). In 1921-22 he went to study in Moscow, and while there joined the newly-formed CCP. He returned to China and became a labor organizer in Shanghai. His orientation was always more toward the cities than the countryside. He was elected to the CCP Politburo in 1934 and became its expert on matters of organization and Party structure. In 1939 he wrote his notorious book on “self-cultivation”, How to Be a Good Communist. In 1943 he became Secretary General of the Party, then Vice-Chairman in 1949. While Mao was still Chairman of the CCP, Liu became Chairman of the People’s Republic of China in 1958 (i.e., head of state).
Liu advocated and did his best to institute all sorts of “reforms” tending in the direction of restoring capitalism, such as promoting production above political consciousness; financial incentives and bonuses (as opposed to moral incentives); easing of the restrictions on the market economy (rather than tightening them and steadily restricting the “law of value”); promoting rewards for “loyal cadres” and special treatment for the children of high Party officials; and, in general, promotion of a new privileged strata within the Party and State. As the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution developed in the late 1960s Liu led the sly and semi-camouflaged resistence to it. This had the effect of more and more turning the GPCR against him and his minions as its primary target. In 1967 Liu was informally removed from power, and in October 1968 he was formally “expelled from the Party forever, and stripped of all his positions in and outside the CCP.” He died in November 1969 while under house-arrest back in Hunan. In 1980 he was “rehabilitated” by Deng Xiaoping’s gang of revisionists who seized control of the CCP after Mao’s death in 1976.
A sympathetic bourgeois biographer, Lowell Dittmer, said of him: “Liu’s life may be viewed as an attempt to combine order with revolution and equality with economic efficiency and technocratic values.” But for Liu “order” meant a turn toward bourgeois rule, “equality” meant an end to class struggle, and “efficiency and technocratic values” meant the capitalist marketplace. Liu Shaoqi was not a personal opportunist; he was quite sincere and dedicated in his advocacy of revisionism. He was all the more insidious and dangerous to the cause of communist revolution because of this.
LIU Qing [Old style: LIU Ching] (1916-78)
Chinese revolutionary writer, born in Wubu County, Yulin, northern Shaanxi Province, originally named Liu Yunhua. Liu is the author of numerous writings, including novels, short stories and articles, most of which are still only available in Chinese. He joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1936, at the age of twenty. Two of his novels have been translated into English. Wall of Bronze, a fairly short book, enjoyed great popularity and was reprinted some thirteen times in China from 1951 to 1976. The Builders, a much longer work, likewise presents a fascinating, inspiring and deeply probing examination of daily life in a northern Shaanxi village. (Both novels give the author’s name as “Ching.”)
“After the land was distributed among the tillers in the Land Reform
of the early fifties, two kinds of ‘builders’ appeared in China’s countryside. One wanted
to go it alone, to build up his family fortunes in the old way, looking out only for his
personal interests. The other wanted to build a society that would benefit all the people,
to form together, helping one another, advancing in stages from mutual-aid teams to
co-operatives, and on to more advanced forms. This novel describes the struggle between
these two trends.
“Liu Ching probes deeply into the characters who populate his fascinating book: Liang Sheng-pao, the determined young peasant who fights to make mutual aid a success; his father, old Liang the Third, who wants only to build the fortunes of his own family; the pretty Kai-hsia, Sheng-pao’s sweetheart, who is confused about her role in the new society; prosperous peasants who connive to wreck the socialistic advance; poor peasants who rally round the standard that is leading them forward ....” (from from the back cover of The Builders)
Both of these works leave no room for doubt that Liu was himself a “builder” of the socialist
road. Yet his life appears to have become deeply troubled during the Cultural Revolution. A
Chinese language wiki-style website provides some information (see
[English translation needed]). Liu’s wife was killed, and he was put in prison from 1967
to 1969. In 1972, Zhou Enlai personally intervened to order that Liu be cared for; by this time,
however, he was already in poor health, and his powerful writing abilities had been disrupted
by emotional and physical strain. Liu died on June 13, 1978. Close to the people, an extremely
formidable observer and critic of bourgeois individualism and capitalistic tendencies, as well
as a champion of collectivism, hard work, self-reliance, initiative, daring, you name it —
virtually all of the social values of the Mao era — it stands to reason that he and his work
would have been thorns in the side of Mao’s opponents. Much remains to be learned from and about
Liu Qing. —JDL/XYJ
See also “A Writer’s Profile: Taking Roots Among the People,” Peking Review, #38, Sept. 22, 1978, 15-17. Online at: http://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1978/PR1978-38.pdf
“LIVING FROM PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK”
A pithy phrase that describes the economic situation of huge numbers of workers and families in America and elsewhere in the world. Hundreds of millions of people have so little savings and so little margin of error, that if they lose their jobs they become unable to pay their mortgages or rent, or their car payments, or their credit card bills. Thus they quickly become vulnerable to losing their homes or apartments, and cars and other possessions. And in many cases they are forced to move in with their parents or friends, or of even being forced to live out on the streets.
Bourgeois moralists say that this is the fault of these people themselves, for “not saving for a rainy day”, for getting themselves too deep into debt, and so forth. While it is true that people have not been saving money, who is it that has been telling people that the good life is theirs for the taking and that they should go out and spend all their money? The very same bourgeoisie. And while it is true that people have gone way deeper into debt than they certainly should have, who has told them that this is OK, and bent over backwards in order to make it easy for people to do this? Again, the same bourgeoisie. To keep their system going the bourgeoisie absolutely needs working-class people to spend their money and to go ever deeper into debt. In effect, their economic system requires these things in order to function at all. But, of course, this eventually leads to economic disaster and to real misery for the ordinary people.
“Even before the crisis hit, 70% of Americans were living from paycheck to paycheck.” —John Hope Bryant, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 25, 2010, p. 68. This article claims, however, that this problem is mostly due to people’s “financial illiteracy”, which is just another way of blaming them for the inherent problem with the capitalist system—that workers are not (and cannot be) paid enough to buy back all that they produce for the capitalists. —S.H.]
“50 percent of American households are so ‘financially fragile’ that they say they certainly could not or probably could not come up with $2,000 to pay an unexpected expense, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.” —Item from the Wall Street Journal, reprinted in The Week, June 24, 2011, p. 20.
LOCKE, John (1632-1704)
English empiricist philosopher. He was a proponent of the idealist notion of “natural rights” in ethics and politics, and was a major influence on those who founded the United States.
Locke also wrote on political economy, and as Marx said, “championed the new bourgeoisie in every way, taking the side of the industrialists against the working class and against the paupers, the merchants against the old-fashioned usurers, the financial aristocracy against the governments that were in debt, and he even demonstrated in one of his books that the bourgeois way of thinking was the normal one for human beings.” [Marx, quoted in an appendix to TSV, 3:592.]
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Locke.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION
A giant American corporation, and the nation’s largest defense contractor. This is one of the best illustrations of what is known as the Pentagon System, wherein the U.S. government promotes the welfare of supposedly private corporations. Lockheed Martin is at the centre of the grotesquely bloated miltary trough.
The F-22, a military plane manufactured by the company and that has been in development since the 1980s, has now become so horribly overpriced that not even the world’s premier imperialist power can afford to maintain a fleet of very many of them, and the Obama administration has terminated production, citing the ridiculous cost involved. This was something that the company tried hard to prevent, by spreading the manufacturing of the plane around the country and in many different Congressional districts, and tying employment in these areas with the plane’s procurement by the Air Force, thereby deliberately making itself “too big to fail” (in the lingo of the so-called financial crisis). Some military experts even complain that the aircraft will diminish US power because it is too complex and prone to unforeseen problems, which requires more maintenance time, fewer flight hours for pilots, etc, and will not even be deployed in sufficient numbers to provide very much of a strategic advantage to US imperialism.
Likewise, Lockheed Martin’s other fighter jet, the F-35, has been harshly criticized as being too compromised due, ironically, to its promise of being a cost cutting aircraft. (The Marine version is capable of vertical/short take-off and landing, but this imposes design constraints on the Air Force and Navy versions, which require ad-hoc modifications to make them competent in their assigned roles. To fix the inevitable problems emanating from a fundamentally unsound design, its costs have also ballooned wildly). This entire fiasco shows quite clearly what Marx said of the bourgeoisie being a “hostile band of brothers”: the capitalist class has overall interests that bring it together, but each capitalist tries to gain a short-term advantage over its rivals, even if this might jeopardize the system as a whole (in this case, the vitality of American military power). —L.C.
Logic is usually defined to be the rules of valid inference or the rules and nature of reasoning. However, if you look at the dominant areas of discussion in books of logic, you will find that they usually only discuss the rules and nature of reasoning insofar as these are related to deduction. Actually deductive logic (or “formal logic”) is only one small part of what should “logically” be called logic. Other important areas of logic in the broad sense that usually receive scant attention include analogic logic (the logic of making analogies), and most important of all, dialectical logic.
[To be added.... ]
“It has been said that the relationship of formal logic to dialectics
is like the relationship between elementary mathematics and higher mathematics. This
is a formulation which should be studied further. Formal logic is concerned with the
form of thought, and is concerned to ensure that there is no contradiction between
successive stages in an argument. It is a specialized science. Any kind of writing must
make use of formal logic.
“Formal logic does not concern itself with major premises: it is incapable of so doing. The Kuomintang call us ‘bandits’. ‘Communists are bandits’, ‘Chang San is a communist’, therefore ‘Chang San is a bandit’. We say ‘The Kuomintang are bandits’, ‘Chiang Kai-shek is Kuomintang’, therefore we say ‘Chiang Kai-shek is a bandit’. Both of these syllogisms are in accordance with formal logic.
“One cannot acquire much fresh knowledge through formal logic. Naturally one can draw inferences, but the conclusion is still enshrined in the major premise. At present some people confuse formal logic and dialectics. This is incorrect.” —Mao, “Speech at Hangchow” (Dec. 21, 1965), in Stuart Schram, ed., Chairman Mao Talks to the People (1974), pp. 240-241.
“[T]he many books which have been and are still being written on logic provide abundant proof that here, too, final and ultimate truths are much more sparsely sown than some people believe.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:84.
An extreme form of empiricism that holds that only statements which can be verified empirically have meaning, from which they assume that it follows that all metaphysics, religion, and even ethical principles are “meaningless”, and therefore neither true nor false. (They failed to notice that their very statement of this verifiability principle was also meaningless according to the principle itself!) Logical positivism has been extremely influential in the 20th century among bourgeois scientists.
See also: A.J. AYER, Karl POPPER, Charles STEVENSON, VIENNA CIRCLE
The lower (and more powerful) house of the parliament in India. It has around 545 members who are mostly elected, and have a term of 5 years. The current Lok Sabha was formed in May 2009 after national elections. Most revolutionaries and progressives in India view the Lok Sabha as consisting largely of wealthy political careerists and opportunists, and in some cases outright thieves or other criminals.
[Nepali:] “Democratic republic”. This is usually a shortened version of the current formal name of the country of Nepal, Sanghiya Loktantrik Ganatrantra Nepal (Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal), or else a reference to the current political system or regime in Nepal.
LONG CYCLES or LONG WAVES
This refers to hypothesized long-term economic cycles or waves, substantially longer than the length of the standard industrial cycle that Marx described. The most well-known of these theories is Kondratiev Waves, but there is now a more plausible split-cycle theory for the imperialist era.
See also: ECONOMIC CYCLES
LONG DEPRESSION (1873-1896)
The mostly long-forgotten period of serious economic weakness in the United States and other countries which began with the financial Panic of 1873, had a moderate respite in the 1880s, then reached its nadir in 1893 (in another Panic), and was largely over by around 1896 (though aspects lingered for yet another decade). This entire period was characterized by relative economic stagnation, high unemployment and violent labor struggles, large numbers of farm foreclosures, and considerable political unrest. In 1892 both the housing market and railroad construction faltered, which in turn led to a major slowdown in steel production and other industries. In other words this was a classic overproduction crisis.
This Long Depression was actually called the “Great Depression” until the new and qualitatively worse Great Depression of the 1930s came along. This led to the renaming of the earlier historical episode in order to avoid confusion. Although the Long Depression had some similarities to the Great Depression of the 1930s, in some respects it was merely the worst of the old-style recessions/depressions of the pre-monopoly era of capitalism. Capitalism had not yet commandeered the State in the same way it has done in the capitalist-imperialist era to help manage the economy and try to resolve crises for it. And although this crisis was serious and prolonged, it was not nearly as severe as that of the 1930s.
An epic escape of the revolutionary army led by the Communist Party of China from southeast China to the Yan’an (Yenan) area of northern China in the years 1934-1935. During this 6,000 to 8,000 mile Long March across China the Communists underwent tremendous hardship and were pursued and attacked most of the way by the army and airplanes of the reactionary Chiang Kai-shek regime. Only about 10% of the revolutionary army survived the extremely arduous journey. At a temporary stop along the way Mao was named the top leader of the CCP. The Long March, the selection of Mao as the top leader, and the safe arrival of the much diminished revolutionary forces in Yan’an marked the turning point in the Chinese Revolution.
The Long Slowdown is the qualitative slowdown in economic growth rates of world capitalism which began circa 1973, after the 25-year long post-World War II boom. As of 2008 it appears to be coming to an end with the beginning of an even more serious stage to the long-developing world economic crisis. [More to be added... ]
LONG-TERM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
A rich and powerful super-speculative U.S. hedge fund that collapsed in 1998 and had to be bailed out by a consortium of giant banks under the supervision by, and pressure from, the U.S. Federal Reserve. It is said that if it had not been bailed out, there would likely have been a chain-reaction failure of many big banks and possibly the entire U.S. financial system.
Long-Term Capital Management was founded in 1993 and was immediately hailed as the most impressive, and most “brilliantly managed”, hedge fund in history. It was led by the rich Wall Street figure, John Meriwether, and included among its other leading partners two winners of the (phony) “Nobel Prize in Economics”, Myron Scholes and Robert C. Merton. These and other bourgeois financial and mathematical geniuses had supposedly discovered some full-proof methods of sophisticated arbitrage that would allow LTCM to extract billions of dollars of profits from the rest of the financial system. It worked for a few years, and had annual profits of more than 40%. But then, when the Asian (and Russian) Financial Crisis of 1997-98 hit, the huge bets made by LTCM on the value of speculative bonds turned out to be wrong guesses. In less than four months in 1998 LTCM lost $4.6 billion. Most of this money was owed to giant U.S. banks. So it took a massive bailout to prevent a general collapse. LTCM was finally closed down for good in early 2000.
LONGUET, Charles (1839-1903)
A journalist and prominent figure in the French working-class movement and a follower of Proudhon. He was a member of the General Council of the (First) International (1866-67 and 1871-72), Corresponding Secretary for Belgium (1866), and a delegate to several congresses of the International. He was also a member of the Paris Commune, then emigrated to England and later joined the opportunist group known as the Possibilists. He was married to Marx’s oldest daughter, Jenny.
LONGUET, Jean [Jean-Laurent-Frederick] (Johnny) (1876-1938)
Son of Charles and Jenny Longuet; a lawyer and a reformist leader of the French Socialist Party and the Second International. He was a “social-chauvinist” during World War I, and though nominally a pacifist, invariably voted for the war expenditures for the French bourgeoisie to carry on their inter-imperialist war—which brought about Lenin’s condemnation. He was the founder and editor of the newspaper Le Populaire. At the Tours Congress of the French Socialist Party in 1920, the communists gained a majority, but Longuet sided with the minority. Afterwards he joined the centrist Two-and-a-half International. All in all, a very disappointing showing for a grandson of Karl Marx!
See: TAX LOOPHOLES
“LOST DECADE” [Japan]
Originally a translation of the Japanese phrase ushinawareta junen for the decade of the 1990s, which was viewed with remorse in Japan as a period of economic failure after the great hopes raised during the 1980s that Japan’s economy would continue expanding rapidly and perhaps even in time surpass that of the United States! The term has since then become rather pathetic and even inappropriate, since the Japanese economy has now been stagnating, and in and out of recessions, for two full decades since the collapse of the property asset bubble around 1990. Japan’s first “lost decade” showed those alert enough to recognize it what the future path of the entire world capitalist economy would be like for a certain period.
“Lotteries, now run by most of our 50 states, are disguised forms of
taxation that fall most heavily on those least able to pay. In today’s economic crisis,
state leaders face rising resistance to taxation from everyone. Therefore, many of them
plan to expand lotteries even more, hoping that no one realizes they represent a kind
of masked tax. In the elegant words of conservative South Carolina State Senator Robert
Ford, reported by the Associated Press, ‘Gambling ain’t no blight on society.’ To fight
them, we need first to expose state lotteries as disguised and very unfair taxation.
“... Duke University researchers in 1999 found that the more education one has the less one spends on lottery tickets: dropouts averaged $700 annually compared to college graduate’s $178; and that those from households with annual incomes below $25,000 spent an average of nearly $600 per year on lottery tickets, while those from households earning over $100,000 averaged $289; blacks spent an average of $998, while whites spent $210.
“Put simply, lotteries take the most from those who can least afford them. Thus, still another study of state lotteries concluded: ‘We find that the implicit tax is regressive in virtually all cases.’ Instead of taxing those most able to pay, state leaders use lotteries to disguise a regressive tax that targets the middle and even more the poor. Just as the richest were getting much richer from 2001 to 2006, the middle and poor were getting more heavily taxed by means of lotteries....
“Lotteries are also powerful ideological and political weapons. They reinforce notions that individual acts—buying lottery tickets—are appropriate responses to society’s economic problems. Lotteries help to distract people from collective action to solve the economic crisis by changing society. Lotteries’ massive advertising shows an audacity of hype: shifting people from hope for the social fruits of collective action to hope for the personal fruits of individual gambling.” —Richard D. Wolff, Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010), pp. 165-167.
LOW WAGES IN NEW JOBS
In recent years, in the U.S. and many other countries, the new jobs that have opened up pay much lower wages than the jobs which have been lost. Consequently, not only are there fewer jobs, but even those jobs which are created pay substantially lower wages on average. (And this is without even taking into account the much greater decline in, or even total elimination of, health, retirement and other benefits especially in new jobs in recent years.) This strong tendency towards the elimination of the better paying jobs is sometimes called the hollowing out of the work force. More straight-forwardly, it is yet further evidence that in the U.S. and overall in the world as a whole, the working class is being rapidly driven down.
LU Xun [Old style: LU Hsun] (1881-1936)
A great Chinese writer, probably the greatest of the Twentieth Century, and also a firm and very influential revolutionary. He is widely viewed as the most prominent individual in modern Chinese literature.
Lu Xun was the pen name of Zhou Shuren [or Chou Shu-jen in the older Wade-Giles transliteration]. He wrote in baihua (the vernacular) as well as in classical Chinese, and seems to have been the very first serious writer to do so. Lu Xun wrote short stories, essays and poetry and was an editor, translator and critic. He also led the important Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai during the 1930s.
While not himself a member of the Chinese Communist Party, Lu Xun strongly sympathized and cooperated with the Party and supported its revolutionary struggle. Mao Zedong and the CCP always very much appreciated his writing and political work, and after the liberation of China in 1949 the revolutionary government published and strongly promoted his works.
Lu Xun’s fictional works are now easily available in English, as with the 2009 anthology, The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, which the scholar Jeffrey Wasserstrom said “could be considered the most significant Penguin Classic ever published.” However, perhaps even more interesting for revolutionaries is the Selected Works of Lu Hsun in 4 volumes (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960), and other volumes from China, which include many of his political essays, articles and letters.
See also: “For Your Reference: Lu Hsun: Brief Biographical Notes”
LUDWIG FEUERBACH AND THE END OF CLASSICAL GERMAN PHILOSOPHY [Book]
An important philosophical work by Engels, first published in 1886. This work is available online in several places, including: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/index.htm
“In Ludwig Feuerbach (the full title is Ludwig Feuerbach and
the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy) Engels shows how the advance was made from
Hegelian idealist dialectics to materialist dialectics, and from mechanical to dialectical
“Feuerbach was a German philosopher of the mid-19th Century who turned from Hegelian idealism to materialism, and whose work had a big influence on Marx and Engels. This book by Engels, published in 1888, was originally written as a review article on a book on Feuerbach by C. N. Starke.
“The following are its principal contents.
“1. Engels explains the basic difference between materialism and idealism. It arises from the question—which is prior, spirit or nature? Idealism says that spirit is prior to nature. Materialism says that nature is prior to spirit. Material being is prior to mind and ideas.
“Modern idealism has been specially concerned with the question whether we can gain reliable knowledge of material things, of the external world, and concludes that such knowledge is impossible. Engels refutes this view, and shows that practice demonstrates that our ideas can and do constitute a true reflection of external material reality.
“2. He shows that the materialism of the past was mechanical materialism. Its great limitations were
(a) that it conceived of the motion of matter as exclusively mechanical motion, and could not grasp other forms of motion of matter, such as chemical or living processes;
(b) that it could give no account of development and evolution, either in nature or, still less, in history and human society.
“3. He explains the essence of Hegel’s philosophy and of the advance from Hegel to dialectical materialism. Hegel considered every process of change and development as being a mere reflection of the self-development of the ‘Absolute Idea,’ which ‘does not only exist, where unknown, from eternity, but is also the actual living soul of the whole existing world.’ Marxism threw over such ‘idealist fancies’ and ‘resolved to comprehend the real world, nature and history, just as it presents itself to everyone who approaches it free from preconceived idealist fancies.’
“Engels shows that dialectical materialism regards the world as a complex of processes, not as a collection of ‘ready-made things.’ Dialectics is ‘the science of the general laws of motion both of the external world and of human thought.’
“4. He discusses the essential ideas of historical materialism, as the application of dialectical materialism to the sphere of human society. He shows that the driving force of history is the class struggle, and that classes and class struggles are rooted in economic conditions. He goes on to discuss the economic foundations of the development of the state and of law, and then of political and social ideology, of religion, philosophy, etc.
“In criticising Feuerbach’s ‘philosophy of religion and ethics,’ Engels attacks the approach which deals with abstractions such as ‘humanity,’ instead of with ‘real living men as participants of history.’
“As appendix are added Marx’s eleven Theses on Feuerbach, notes by Marx in 1845 in which he summarized his own ideas as opposed to mechanical materialism.” —Maurice Cornforth, ed., Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952), pp. 25-26.
LUKÁCS, Georg [György] [Family name pronounced roughly: loo-kawch] (1885-1971)
Lukács was a Hungarian revisionist philosopher and literary critic. His best known work was History and Class Consciousness, published in German in 1923 and in English in 1971. He himself denounced this work after it received strong criticism from many Marxist-Leninists including the leaders of the Comintern. In that book Lukács rejected the Marxist base/superstructure analysis of society, a rejection that has found favor with a number of other academic “Marxists” who focus mostly on literary criticism. Lukács put forward a Hegelianized version of Marxism which also emphasized the topics of reification and alienation, somewhat along the lines of the earliest writings of Marx, and which is sometimes called “Marxist humanism”. He was, however, a strong defender of realism in literature and art.
Lukács’s books and ideas have mostly been of interest to various groups of Academic revisionists, including the Frankfurt School and the diverse revisionist trends going by the general name of “Western Marxism”.
[To be added... ]
LUNACHARSKY, Anatoly (1875-1933)
Russian revolutionary and the first Soviet People’s Commissar of Enlightenment (Minister of Culture and Education), continuing in that position until 1929. He led major campaigns for literacy and cultural education. He was also a prominent art and literary critic and journalist specializing in cultural matters.
Lunacharsky sided with the Bolsheviks at the time of the split with the Mensheviks in 1903, but in 1908 a faction of the Bolsheviks infatuated with idealist philosophy, and led by Lunacharsky’s brother-in-law Alexander Bogdanov, split away from the Leninist core. Lunacharsky went with them, but rejoined the Bolsheviks in 1917. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the rather dubious Proletkult movement in the early years of the Soviet Union.
See also: GOD-BUILDING
LURIA, Alexander Romanovich (1902-1977)
Russian psychologist and one of the founders of neuropsychology. He carried out extensive research into the effects of brain injuries among people during World War II, and made especially important advances in our understanding of the function of the frontal lobes of the brain, and of those regions of the left hemisphere related to language.
LUTHER, Martin (1483-1546)
German church reformer, founder of Protestantism (and Lutheranism specifically) in Germany. He strongly supported the wealthy burghers (“middle class” citizens), noblemen and princes against the peasants and poor townspeople during the Peasant War of 1524-25.
LUXEMBURG, Rosa (1871-1919)
Outstanding revolutionary Marxist who participated in the Polish, German and international proletarian movements. She was a prominent left-wing leader of the Second International, and one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany. In 1919 she was murdered by counter-revolutionary agents associated with the revisionist Social-Democratic government of Germany.
[More to be added...]
LYELL, Charles (1797-1875)
Scottish scientist, whose two textbooks Principles of Geology (1830) and Elements of Geology (1838) established the modern foundation of the science of geology. Lyell was also a major influence on Charles Darwin.
To make a false statement with the intent to deceive, or to purposely mislead someone into believing a falsehood. Most of the time, and in most circumstances, this is not a good thing, of course. And we revolutionaries should specifically make it a general principle not to lie to either our comrades or to the masses. However, there are times when lying is both necessary and completely moral, as when lying to the enemies of the people prevents the occurrence of some serious harm. Amazingly enough, there have been some idealist philosophers (especially Kant) who have not been able to understand this elementary truth!
See also: CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE
“I would not break my word even to save humanity.” —Johann Gottlieb Fichte, quoted in Raymond Smullyan, The Tao is Silent (1977), p. 126. [Fichte was a disciple of Kant, and this quote is a great example of how fantastically stupid Kantians and others who think in terms of absolute moral maxims can be! —S.H.]
“One ought always to lie when one can do good by it.” —Mark Twain, “On the Decay of the Art of Lying” (1882). [Expressing a much more sensible point of view! —S.H.]
LYNCHINGS — Political
“On the night of April 4, 1918, nearly a year to the day that the
United States entered World War I, Robert Paul Prager, a 30-year-old German immigrant,
and by some accounts a radical socialist, was lynched by a mob of ‘patriots’ outside
Collinsville, Ill., a small market center and coal-mining town of 4,000, located 12
miles across the river from St. Louis.
“Prager was a sacrificial lamb, a casualty of the wartime madness. His lynching was an extreme case, but it was not an aberration. In the months leading up to America’s entry into the war and during the year and a half that the nation was an active participant, the federal government whipped the American public into a superpatriotic froth with a calculated program of propaganda, and attacks on German aliens and German Americans were all too common.” —Jay Feldman, “U.S. government has long history of whipping up fears and repression”, Sacramento Bee, Aug. 21, 2011, p. E3. This article was adapted from Feldman’s book, Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America (2011).
LYNCHINGS — Racist
[To be added...]
LYSENKO, Trofim Denisovich (1898-1976)
Soviet agronomist, and later the top government official for the genetic sciences in the Soviet Union. During the agricultural crisis of the early 1930s (due to the mishandling of agricultural collectivization by Stalin), he came to prominence for spreading good crop management techniques among the peasants. He borrowed and promoted the discovery that the phases of plant growth can be accelerated via short doses of low temperatures and moisture controls applied to the seeds and young plants. But he went on to claim, without good scientific evidence, that these benefits also became “acquired characteristics” which were then passed on to future plant generations. In this he was applying the erroneous genetic theories of the early French naturalist Jean Lamarck (1744-1829) and the Russian horticulturalist Ivan Michurin.
Thereafter Lysenko rapidly rose in the ranks of Soviet agricultural management because he was saying things that the Soviet government wanted to hear—that there were some easy technical ways to drastically improve agricultural production. (See LYSENKOISM entry below.) Lysenko was the director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences from 1940 to 1965, where he formally denounced Mendelian genetics. In 1948 Stalin’s backing ended virtually all opposition to Lysenko and his theories. After Stalin’s death in 1953 Lysenko’s power fell, but increased again under Khrushchev until both of them were removed from power in 1965.
There is a telling little story about Lysenko; it is said that he posed the following question on several occasions to the scientific workers at what was later called the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology in the Soviet Union: “What is DNA?” (That was indeed a question he sorely needed the answer to!)
This is a term that has come to mean something like letting political wishful thinking triumph over scientific fact, or even letting politics dominate and determine what scientific truth “actually is”.
In the Soviet Union under Stalin and Khrushchev, the agronomist Trofim Lysenko (see above) propagated a quack theory of genetics based on the supposed inheritance of acquired characteristics. However, even before the discovery of the central role of DNA in inheritance, the science of biology (and genetics specifically) had determined that (at least normally) there is no such thing as the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The giraffe’s neck is long not because its ancestors stretched theirs during their lifetimes, but because the ancestors with naturally longer necks survived, while those with shorter necks died before they could reproduce. (Counterpoint: Recent research seems to show that there really are some exceptional circumstances where there can be some inheritance of acquired characteristics, as with certain bacteria, but the fact remains that even if this is so it is only in highly atypical situations.) There were prominent geneticists in the Soviet Union who knew this full well, such as Nikolai Vavilov, and who were persecuted and sometimes imprisoned for their Mendelian views by Lysenko and the Soviet government. (Vavilov himself was arrested in 1940 and is said to have died of starvation in a Siberian labor camp around 1943.) Lysenko was welcome to his own opinions about genetics, but the persecution of those who disagreed with him was the crime, which was made much worse by the support of Stalin (and later Khrushchev) and the force of the state.
It is not entirely clear, however, how much direct damage Lysenko and his theories actually did to Soviet agriculture, though certainly there was some significant damage over the long run due to his disruption of genetic research. There were many other problems in agriculture, some of them probably much more important. For example, the brutal “top-down” method of agricultural collectivization carried out by Stalin in the 1930s led to the death of many peasants, the destruction of much of the livestock and to serious crop shortages. The continuing failure to use the mass line to mobilize the peasants to work in their own collective interests remained a major obstacle to the expansion of agricultural production. And insufficient industrial support was also given to agriculture over a period of decades.
Unfortunately the Lysenko episode has led to some widespread invalid conclusions, even among some Marxists, such as that any “government interference” in science is unjustified, and that scientists and other experts should be basically unrestricted in their activities. Of course any government will appropriately promote and fund those scientists and those theories which it has confidence in. And any government would be within its rights to restrict certain kinds of experiments or technologies for which there is good reason to believe that there are serious potential dangers for the people. Moreover, a socialist government in particular, will certainly find it necessary to criticize bourgeois ideas that scientists, just as any other segment of society, may still promote.
However, it is true that socialist society should also allow, especially in the natural sciences, “a hundred flowers to bloom, and a hundred schools of thought to content” (as Mao poetically put it). In looking at the experience of socialism in both the Soviet Union and China it seems clear that overall there was not enough freedom of thought and expression in the sciences, nor was there sufficient allowance (and even encouragement!) of new and minority ideas and views. On the other hand it, it was certainly necessary and correct to strongly criticize views and theories insofar as they had a bourgeois ideological component, and sometimes this was also insufficient! Of course this will generally be much more central and important in the social sciences than in the natural sciences.
See also: INSTRUMENTALISM
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