Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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“NO INVESTIGATION, NO RIGHT TO SPEAK”

“Speaking specifically, people engaged in practical work must at all times keep abreast of changing conditions, and this is something for which no Communist Party in any country can depend on others. Therefore, everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the lower levels. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice. Although my assertion, ‘No investigation, no right to speak’, has been ridiculed as ‘narrow empiricism’, to this day I do not regret having made it; what is more, I still insist that without investigation there cannot possibly be any right to speak.” —Mao, “Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys” (March-April 1941), Selected Works, vol. 3, p. 13.

“NOBEL PRIZE” IN ECONOMICS (So-called!)
A phony, erroneously-called “Nobel Prize”, awarded by the Swedish Central Bank each year to one or more right-wing bourgeois economists, in an attempt to reinforce the lying bourgeois conception of what economics actually is. For Marxist revolutionaries this “prize” should be merely scoffed at as the disgusting travesty that it obviously is.

“In October 2016, the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish Central Bank) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel—commonly but incorrectly called the Nobel Prize in Economics—was awarded to two European-born, U.S.-based economists, Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström, for their work on contracts related to executive pay. Hart and Holmstroöm were lauded for having theorized what was thought to be the optimal mix of risk and incentives in pay packages for corporate executives, thereby determining the appropriate combination of basic salary, bonuses, and share options. In other words, they received the Riksbank Nobel Memorial Prize for their efforts to rationalize the exorbitant paychecks of CEOs and other corporate leaders—a direct service to big business. In most cases, however, the prize has not been given for such practical services to business, but has been granted rather to those extending neoclassical economic ideology.
        “In 1901, Alfred Nobel established five prizes: in physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. It was not until sixty years later, in 1969, that the Swedish Central Bank separately sponsored the economics prize, with the reluctant acquiescence of the Nobel family, which nevertheless insisted it be given a different name, to emphasize both the different source of funding and the fact that it was a memorial award ostensibly in Nobel’s honor (though in reality simply grabbing onto the prestige associated with the Nobel prizes), and not one of the original prizes.
        “The reasons for the funding of the economic prize were purely political. In 1968, neoclassical or ‘marginalist’ economics was threatened as never before. The Swedish Social Democratic Party was at its height. Meanwhile, rebellions were breaking out everywhere against orthodox economics. The Union of Radical Political Economics (URPE) was formed in the United States that year. The Riksbank, advised by a young Swedish Social Democrat turned conservative economist, Assar Lindbeck, opted to establish the prize as a device to enhance the prestige of neoclassical economics—giving it a monopoly over ‘economic science’—in its war against Swedish Social Democrats and radical economists. The original selection committee for the Riksbank Prize included two leading members of the Mont Pelerin Society (associated with arch-conservative economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman), but its driving force then and for the next quarter century was Lindbeck. In 1971, he published his most popular book, The Political Economy of the New Left (with a foreward by Paul Samuelson, who had received the prize the year before). Lindbeck’s book was directed against URPE, and focused its attacks on Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital and the radical economics of Monthly Review.
        [The editorial then goes on to document and complain about the fact that this so-called “Nobel Prize” in economics has been given almost exclusively to “right-wing, ‘free market’ Chicago School” economists, and that for the last 40 years, at least, not even social democrats or even genuine Keynesian economists have won the prize—let alone any supposedly real “leftists” like Joan Robinson or Paul Sweezy. —Ed.]
        “Economic historians Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg, in their valuable new book The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics, Social Democracy, and the Market Turn (Princeton University Press, 2016), from which much of the above analysis is taken (see also Yasha Levine, ‘There is no Nobel Prize in Economics,’ Alternet, October 12, 2012), argue that the Riksbank Prize was embraced by the mainstream media and academia as a genuine Nobel Prize, carrying the same prestige as all the others. It paid off: the Riksbank and the conservative economists associated with it achieved their objectives to an extent that must have exceeded their wildest dreams. The prize has been enormously successful in narrowing the conception of what constitutes economics—a field that was previously much wider. The ideology of an economics serving the 1 percent has become entrenched in academic, policy, and media discourse, with all other approaches downgraded as eccentric and ‘non-scientific.’ Winners of the Riksbank Prize form a kind of ‘Nobelity’ in economics that has elevated some approaches while practically extinguishing others. Economics in its hegemonic version has turned quite blatantly and unashamedly into the ‘bad conscience and evil intent of apologetic,’ as Marx wrote of marginalist or ‘vulgar economics.’ An ideological coup indeed!”
         —“Notes from the Editors” [John Bellamy Foster], Monthly Review, December 2016. [It should be added that it has always gone without saying that no true Marxist economist could ever be considered for a moment as someone appropriate to award this “Nobel prize in economics” to. And perhaps it would only have served to further legitimize this totally pro-capitalist Riksbank prize if it had actually been awarded to a wider range of bourgeois economists, such as social democrats (in addition to the lone example of Gunnar Myrdal) or to genuine Keynesians like
Joan Robinson. —Ed.]

“NOBODY CARES”
When we revolutionary Marxists talk to people—especially young people—about the problems in society, both within our own country and around the world, we sometimes get the response “Nobody cares about that!” Of course that really just means that the particular person and his or her milieu don’t presently care about that particular problem. In that case, we need to focus our discussion with them on the social problems they do personally care about! But what if they don’t seem to care much about anything beyond themselves and their personal concerns? Here is a portion of a letter that I received recently from a young friend:

“People have been shoving ‘nobody cares’ in my face in response to my speech and writing since I was a little kid. When I bring up anything beyond the most puerile level of politics, people say that nobody cares. If it’s related to Palestine, nobody cares. If it’s related to China, nobody cares. If it’s related to the country that the person I’m speaking to is from, they don’t care. If it’s related to the United States, nobody cares. If it’s related to the lot of the people of the ghetto, the people that I am surrounded by and go to school with, nobody cares. And if it’s related to a book, then people really don’t care.
        “The implications for a revolutionary Marxist are obvious. If the very people who are supposed to liberate themselves cannot devote even a moment of their time to independent consideration of the world they live in, then our work is impossible. If people care more about having sex, getting drunk, and generally having a good time than they care about improving their own lives, then they cannot be expected to respond to Marxism.
        “My question is thus: What, in your opinion, is the cause of this apathy? What can be done to combat it? Is it new and specific to the most affluent parts of the world, or has it been around for a long time?” —M.K.

A partial response to this could perhaps be sort of along these lines:
        It is true that if people, young or old, really do not care about some social problem or existing outrage, they will not want to discuss it, let alone participate in any activity or struggle against that particular injustice. This is why our approach to the masses is to first try to determine what issues particular people or groups of people do already care about, and try to draw them into struggle around those issues. As they then participate in that one or a few areas of struggle we try to get them to understand that it is the capitalist system which is responsible for not only the one or a few issus which do concern them, but for most of the other major problems in contemporary society as well. That is, we try to broaden and deepen their understanding, and develop them into people strongly opposed to the whole capitalist-imperialist system.
        However, we also understand that there are many people today who are not sufficiently concerned with any of the very serious problems and outrages in contemporary society to the point where they are even willing to investigate the causes of those problems let alone actively join the struggle against them. In a few cases these will be people who actually benefit from these injustices and will probably never come to be personally victimized by them nor come to oppose them. This includes members of the enemy
bourgeoisie and those directly working for them (such as the police and most politicians), for example, but also some members of other classes, such as the petty bourgeoisie and even some of the better off working-class sections of the so-called “middle class”.
        But the largest part of those who today are apathetic toward injustice and other social problems will likely be forced by the evil workings of the capitalist system to eventually become very concerned indeed. If the capitalist system were really capable of satisfying the needs and interests of the great majority over the long run, then very few individuals would ever consider rising up against it. But the actual fact is that the ruling capitalist class, and their system, is in growing economic and political crisis and is driving more and more millions of people down in this country and around the world. (See for example the entry on BILLIONAIRES for one set of statistics about this.)
        For those who are not at present consciously victimized by the capitalist system, we will do what we can to raise their consciousness, but mostly we will just have to wait for the system which they do not yet recognize as their enemy to turn against them personally in a much more vicious way. And that day is rather quickly approaching. In the meanwhile we have to focus our attention on organizing and further politically educating the sections of the population who are already under attack economically, or because of national, racial, sexual or gender discrimination, or in the many other possible ways.
        It is true that bourgeois society does try, with considerable success, to get people to focus only on their own individual interests and to be concerned only with their own private lives. It tries to get them to push out of their minds the misery of other people in this country and around the world, to forget about U.S. imperialist wars, global warming and the growing environmental problems, the fact that the working class is being driven down with declining real wages and benefits and disappearing jobs. But people can no longer push these things out of their minds when it hits home to them personally, their family or their friends. And that is what is beginning to happen more and more at the present time.
        With regard to the youth specifically, there are already many youth who are starting to become politically concerned and active. Black and other minority youth cannot avoid racial discrimination or stop thinking about it even if they would like to. Still, it is true that many youth in this society at present—including quite a few who are out of school—are in a situation where they do not yet have to be concerned about finding a good job and supporting themselves, and who at present have little personal reason to be concerned about U.S. imperialist wars, environmental destruction, and other major problems of capitalist society. But most of them will soon be on their own and wondering what hit them as the current crises of the system intensify. At that point they will no longer be saying “nobody cares” about those problems, but rather “what in the hell can we do about all of these problems and disasters?” —S.H.

“When Guatemalan guerrillas enter a village, they don’t hand out tracts by Marx or Mao; instead they talk to the villagers about their own lives: about how they see themselves and how they came to be who they are, about their deepest longings and the things they’ve striven for and hope for, about the way in which their deepest longings were frustrated by the society in which they lived. Then the guerrillas encourage the villagers to talk about their lives. And then a marvelous thing begins to happen. People who thought that their deepest problems and frustrations were their individual problems discover that their problems and longings are all the same.... and, finally, that out of the discovery of their common humanity comes the decision that men must unite together in the struggle to destroy the conditions of their common oppression. That, it seems to me, is what we are about.” —Greg Calvert, National Secretary of SDS, in a 1967 speech, quoted in Steward Burns, Social Movements of the 1960s: Searching for Democracy (1990), p. 77.

NODAL POINT
[In Hegel’s philosophy:] A definite point where a qualitative change takes place as the result of the gradual accumulation of small quantitative changes. In other words, a point at which a qualitative leap occurs.

NOM DE GUERRE
“War name”, or pseudonym used by a person during revolutionary work.
        See also:
PARTY NAME

NOMENKLATURA
[To be added... ]

NOMINALISM
Originally a trend in medieval philosophy which asserted that (contrary to
idealists like Plato) only individual things really exist. Plato held that in addition to individual chairs there also existed the idea or “form” of “chairness” which was the deeper and truer reality. As Marx noted (in The Holy Family), in rejecting such nonsense nominalism was the first expression of materialism during the Middle Ages.
        However the nominalists did not seem to understand that general concepts (abstractions) actually do reflect the real qualities of objectively existing individual things. The medieval nominalists, and their modern followers (especially bourgeois writers in the field of semantics), have often seemed unable to appreciate the power and importance of generalization and abstraction. Thus comments about chairs in general can actually be just as true statements about the world as are comments about individual chairs. “Chairs are for sitting on” is just as true and valid as “This chair is for sitting on”.

“NON-ALIGNED” MOVEMENT
[To be added... ]
        See also:
BANDUNG CONFERENCE

“NON-CAPITALIST PATH OF DEVELOPMENT”
A term used by the Soviet revisionists to describe the attempts by various originally pre-capitalist or semi-capitalist Third World countries, under Soviet tutelage, to build government-owned industry (i.e., state capitalism). While it seemed ridiculous even to the revisionists to actually call this sort of thing “socialism”, they tried to characterize it as having a “socialist orientation”, and hence supposedly not really capitalism either.

NON-COGNITIVISM
A type of bourgeois ethical theory which—amazingly!—denies that moral judgments are meaningful and either true or false. Non-cognitivist ethical theories deny, for example, that saying “Genocide is wrong” is a meaningful statement, and also deny that the statement is true or false! The
logical positivists, in particular, claimed this about moral judgments. Some people in this general positivist tradition, including Charles Stevenson, went on to claim that moral judgments are merely expressions of emotion and “commands” that others have the same emotional reaction to something as the speaker does. (Thus for them “murder is wrong” is roughly equivalent to “murder—UGH!—and that’s the way you should feel too!”) Another, much more widespread, variation of non-cognitivism is the notion that moral judgments merely express approval or disapproval, but are neither true nor false. This is the view of several influential British philosophers including John Austin and R. M. Hare, and—indoctrinated by them—the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary. Of course, according to our MLM ethical theory, moral statements are definitely meaningful, and are true or false. Thus we say that the statement “It will be a very good and important thing to overthrow imperialism and put an end to imperialist wars!” is both fully meaningful, and definitely true.

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION (NGO)
Local, national, or international organizations or associations which are not set up by governments. They may have been established for, and pursue, any sort of purpose or agenda, from health and charitable work, environmental causes, cultural pursuits, or more overtly political sorts of agendas. While these are not government organizations, it must not be forgotten that we live in a bourgeois world, and therefore most of these organizations are still financed and run primarily by the rich ruling bourgeois classes of the world, and serve the interests of the bourgeoisie of one or another country first of all. There are indeed health NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders, environmental NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, and charitable NGOs such as Oxfam, which all do a lot of work for the benefit of the people. However, few if any of these sorts of NGOs make any real effort to change this capitalist-imperialist world which gives rise to the awful problems in the first place, the prolems which they are only attempting to ameliorate. But besides these well-intentioned (but largely ineffective) reformist NGOs, there are also much richer and far more influential NGOs such as the Ford Foundation, which in words support some of these same good causes, but whose actual primary focus and purpose is to keep the world pacified and under control of U.S. imperialism and their local agents. Because this is the real central core of contemporary NGOs in general, we revolutionary Marxists tend to be suspicious of NGOs, and even downright hostile and totally opposed to the most sinister of them like the Ford Foundation.

“The contemporary Indian economy is unduly influenced by the activities of carpetbaggers, a ruthless mafia, rapacious mining interests and giant speculators, all linked to the politics of criminality. The degeneration is so deep, the rot so acute that these same moneybags are floating thousands of non-government organizations (NGOs) in order to trivialise the ills of the system so that people are diverted from seeing that these are endemic to the very system itself and not due to just some bad individuals or policies.” —Azad, spokesperson for the Communist Party of India (Maoist), “Maoists in India: A Rejoinder”, Economic and Political Weekly, October 14, 2006.

NON-OVERLAPPING MAGISTERIA
See:
GOULD, Stephen Jay

NONPROFIT SECTOR (Of the U.S. Economy)
The nonprofit sector of the economy includes all sorts of organizations and bodies of many different types, including religious organizations, charitable groups, professional associations, business associations, lobbying associations, political pressure groups, political parties, organizations concerned with certain health issues, environmental (and anti-environmental!) groups, reactionary indoctrination groups, educational and scientific associations and many educational institutions themselves,
think tanks, and on and on. And some nominally non-government organizations (NGOs) are actually de facto agencies of the U.S. government (and are largely funded by the government); some officially “nonprofit” health, insurance or other organizations are actually for-profit business organizations. (Their profits are distributed in the form of high salaries and perks for their top management, for example.)
        In an advanced capitalist-imperialist country such as the United States, the nonprofit sector is actually quite large. Many former governmental services are now left to be handled (often very inadequately) by nonprofits, for example. In 2009 the greatest portion of nonprofit expenditures (which are improperly included in the GDP statistical sub-category known as “Personal Consumption Expenditures”) came to about 2% of total GDP. However, a much larger section of the workforce is employed in the non-profit sector, around 10%. (See the quotation below.) This large nonprofit workforce is necessary to both further indoctrinate the population in views acceptable to the ruling bourgeoisie, and also to co-opt and buy-off a large number of those who would otherwise be dissidents and “trouble makers” agitating against the bourgeoisie. And this great expenditure on nonprofits is possible because of all the wealth being ripped off from both exploited American and foreign workers.

“According to a 2012 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit employment represents 10.1 percent of total employment in the United States in 2010, with total employees numbering 10.7 million. The nonprofit workforce is the third largest of all U.S. industries behind retail trade and manufacturing.
        “During the Great Recession (2007 to 2009), the nonprofit sector gained jobs at an average rate of 1.9 percent per year, while the private sector lost jobs at a rate of 3.7 percent per year.
        “The average annual growth rate for employment has been higher for nonprofits during the 2000-2010 period at 2.1% whereas the for-profit sector shrank by -0.6%.
        “Nonprofit employment by sector is approximately 57% for health services, 15% for education, 13% for social assistance, 7% for civic associations, 4% for other, 3% for arts and culture, and 2% for professional services.” —From a posting on Grant Space/The Foundation Center, at http://www.grantspace.org (accessed April 23, 2013).

NONVIOLENCE
See:
SATYAGRAHA

NORMATIVE ETHICS
The part of ethics (in the broad sense) which concerns what is actually right and wrong. In other words, what we more usually just call
morality.

NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION   (NATO)
An imperialist military alliance created and dominated by the United States, originally for the purpose of opposing and threatening the Soviet Union, and since the fall of the U.S.S.R. for more general imperialist hegemonic purposes.
        See also:
CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING BY U.S./NATO (1999)

“When NATO was founded, Lord Ismay, the distinguished British General who served as NATO’s first secretary general, said its purpose was ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’” —Scott Ritter, The Washington Spectator, Aug. 1, 2016, p. 1.

“NORTH” VERSUS “SOUTH” THEORY
A theory of the social world today which focuses on the exploitation and/or oppression of the “Southern” countries of the world by the “Northern” dominant countries. As with the alternative name, “Center” vs. “Periphery” Theory, it seems the terminology has been chosen in order to avoid the word ‘imperialism’.
        See also:
DEPENDENCY THEORY,   Samir AMIN

“China likes to swaddle its overseas investments in speeches about ‘South-South’ cooperation—even though the country is well above the equator. Latin America should know from its experience with the U.S. that when you’re doing business with an 800-pound gorilla, rhetoric is less useful than a solid grounding in economic reality.” —“China’s Pivot to Latin America”, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 26, 2015, p. 12. [It is interesting that in their zeal to criticize competing imperialist powers like China, the U.S. imperialists sometimes even go so far as to hint at their own predations! —Ed.]

NORTHCOM
See:
UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND

NORTHERN EXPEDITION   (Chinese History)
A major military campaign by the
Guomindang led by Chiang Kai-shek, which included significant support from the Soviet Union and the Communists within China, and which defeated the warlords in the northern part of the country and more or less unified China. Nationalist troops set out from Guangdong (Canton) in 1926 and by 1928 most of China was under GMD control.

“NOTHING CAN BE DONE”
The defeatest view that the ruling bourgeoisie is all-powerful and can never be effectively resisted, let alone overthrown. This is a very common view everywhere, but especially within the U.S. and other imperialist countries. It demonstrates that even many people who hate the constant imperialist wars, who hate the povery, exploitation, oppression and misery that the world capitalist-imperialist system brings about at home and abroad, are still themselves so psychologically indoctrinated by the ruling class that they have become unable to lift a finger to fight back.
        The easiest way for a person to start thinking that he or she has no obligation at all to struggle against the crimes of the ruling class is to first allow themselves to be convinced that “nothing can be done”. This false idea is in effect an excuse to acquiesce in the horrible crimes of the capitalist-imperialist system.
        It is of course true that many of the crimes of capitalism cannot be immediately stopped. And it is also sadly true that the existence of the capitalist system cannot be immediately brought to an end. But there are nevertheless always many things that everyone can do to help eventually bring about this absolutely necessary result! We must all educate and organize ourselves to struggle against the enemy. We must all seriously study revolutionary theory and learn how best to fight back. We must join or form mass organizations to protest and resist enemy attacks on the people. We must build a dedicated revolutionary party to guide the overall struggle. And we must all help to educate and mobilize others in this spirit of justified resistence against the crimes of the capitalists and their system. “Nothing can be done” is such a feeble excuse when there are so many things which are clearly crying out to be done!

NOUMENA AND PHENOMENA

Noumena and phenomena—terms used by Kant in his theory of knowledge. Noumenon means a thing-in-itself, while phenomenon means a thing as it appears to us. According to Kant, phenomena are formed as a result of the action on man of something unknown (a thing-in-itself). Noumena are supposed to lie beyond phenomena, and their essence to be unknowable.” —Note 116, LCW 38.

NOW: A Political and Cultural Weekly
A left-leaning magazine in Kolkatta [Calcutta], India which appeared from October 1964 to 1968. It was edited by Samar Sen, who was finally fired by the publisher for being too Left, and who then went on to found the weekly magazine
Frontier. Many of the issues of Now are archived at: http://sanhati.com/now_archives/




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