Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism
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OBAMA, Barack (1961- )
President of the United States from January 2009 to January 2017. Since he was the candidate of the Democratic Party (which many people in the U.S. still naïvely imagine is qualtitatively superior to the other major capitalist party, the Republicans), and because he was the first Black (African-American) President, many liberals, minorities, and other people had huge hopes for his presidency—which were slowly dashed against the rocks of bourgeois reality.
In foreign policy, Obama continued, and to some extent expanded, the U.S. imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and extended them further to other countries such as Syria, Libya and Yemen. He especially promoted the trend toward remote-controlled mass murder, using armed drones, cruise missiles and bombs dropped from airplanes in preference to ground troops in these wars. The U.S. war in Afghanistan which began in 2003, and which Obama promised to end if elected, continued through his entire 8-year presidency, and still continues after he is out of office. (As of this writing it has now lasted for 14 years, with no end in sight.)
When Obama took office the U.S. and world were in the beginnings of a severe worsening of the long-developing capitalist financial and economic crisis, in the form of the Great Recession. As far as the job situation and welfare of the people is concerned, this intensified economic crisis still continues. However, following the lead of his predecessor, George Bush, Obama paid careful attention to bailing out the big banks and other major financial corporations with many billions of taxpayer dollars. Although a pretence was made by Obama and Congress in passing legislation (the Dodd-Frank Act) to “prevent” a similar financial crisis from happening in the future, that was pure window dressing which cannot possibly address the inherent contradictions within the capitalist mode of production which leads to such crises.
In trade policy Obama also supported the interests of capitalist corporations over the U.S. working class. Although he had promised during the election campaign to reform or abandon the NAFTA agreement, he did nothing of the kind. (See: NAFTA [McChesney/Nichols quote] ) Instead he arranged for additional international trade deals which eliminated more jobs in the U.S., and even promoted the worst such proposed trade deal yet, the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (which however fell apart once Obama left office).
The “signature accomplishment” of the Obama Administration was the grossly inadequate (and quite insufficiently financed) Affordable Care Act (also known as “ObamaCare”). As poor as that pathetic excuse for a national health program was, it is now in the process of being replaced with something even worse under the Trump Administration.
Overall the Obama presidency was a dismal failure, certainly with regard to advancing the material interests of the working class and masses, and actually even with respect to significantly advancing the long-term interests of the ruling bourgeoisie itself! Did the people learn from this negative experience with Obama to stop supporting ruling class candidates in elections? Apparently not fully so; many millions of them still supported either Hillary Clinton or the billionaire demagogue Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
See: AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Obedience “implies compliance with the demands or requests of someone in authority”. [Cf. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., 1991)] However, within a genuine communist party we speak not of “obedience to demands”, but rather of organizational discipline. Whereas obedience is something that often implies that force or threats of force are used, organizational discipline within the proletarian party is something which is voluntarily agreed upon by each new member of the party; it is part of the rules of democratic centralism which each member of the party agrees to adhere to when they join.
See also: DISCIPLINE—Of the Proletarian Party, DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM, JESUITS [Amir Alexander quote]
The real world as it actually is, as opposed to various ideas—often quite fanciful—about the world. Also called the external world, especially in older philosophical writings.
See also: REFLECTION THEORY
“The laws of war, like the laws governing all other things, are reflections in our minds of objective realities; everything outside the mind is is objective reality.” —Mao, “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War” (Dec. 1936), SW 1:190.
The name the vulgar bourgeois writer Ayn Rand gave to her shallow philosophical system glorifying selfishness and capitalism.
[Ethics:] A moral requirement to act in a certain way. Kant held the extreme position that (what he took to be) moral obligations are absolute, that is, they are morally necessary regardless of the consequences.
See also: CONSEQUENTIALISM, DUTY
Russian term for semi-feudal peasant village communes, which however, also had certain collectivist aspects to them. For more about them see: VILLAGE COMMUNE (Russia)
A principle enunciated in cryptic form by the medieval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham) which states that you should always choose the simplest explanation for any phenomenon, the one requiring the fewest assumptions and supporting entities.
See also: Philosophical doggerel on Occam and his “razor”.
A religious idealist doctrine which arose in the 17th century as an attempt to explain the mysterious interaction of “soul” and body, as required by Descartes’s dualistic theory of the world. The Occasionalists held that the reciprocal action between mind and body is due to the intervention of God. Malebranche carried this idea to the further extreme of postulating divine intervention in every single causal action.
Of course from the dialectical materialist point of view there are no “souls”, and mental phenomena are merely high-level ways of looking at the functioning of certain very complex material systems (e.g. brains). Thus the supposed mystery of how “two totally independent things”, mind and brain, can interact and influence each other does not arise.
See also: PSYCHOPHYSICAL PARALLELISM
[To be added...]
See also: PUBLIC RELATIONS
See: SOVIET UNION—Ocean Fishing Industry
Also known as the Bolshevik Revolution. It occured November 8, 1917, which was October 25 on the calendar then in use in Russia. [More to be added...]
The term “October Road” is shorthand for the revolutionary strategy, tactics and policies followed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution; sometimes just for the strategy used in the October Revolution insurrectionary seizure of power itself, but often for the whole Bolshevik revolutionary strategy over a period of more than two decades starting from around 1900. Thus the question “To what degree should American revolutionaries follow the October Road?” means “To what degree should we employ the revolutionary strategy and tactics that Lenin and the Bolsheviks used in making revolution?” This of course is still an open question, though obviously revolutionaries in advanced capitalist countries have much to learn from and emulate in the Bolshevik Revolution.
[Lenin speaking of the revolutionary strategy and tactics of the Bolsheviks at the time of the First World War (and note that he just uses the word ‘tactics’ where we would today usually say ‘strategy’):] “The Bolsheviks’ tactics were correct; they were the only internationalist tactics, because they were based, not on the cowardly fear of a world revolution, not on a philistine ‘lack of faith’ in it, not on the narrow nationalist desire to protect one’s ‘own’ fatherland (the fatherland of one’s own bourgeoisie), while not ‘giving a damn’ about all the rest, but on a correct (and, before the war and before the apostasy of the social-chauvinists and social-pacifists, a universally accepted) estimation of the revolutionary situation in Europe. These tactics were the only internationalist tactics, because they did the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and awakening of the revolution in all countries. These tactics have been justified by their enormous success, for Bolshevism (not by any means because of the merits of of the Russian Bolsheviks, but because of the most profound sympathy of the people everywhere for tactics that are revolutionary in practice) has become world Bolshevism, has produced an idea, a theory, a programme and tactics which differ concretely and in practice from those of social-chauvinism and social-pacifism.” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:292.
“... the mass of workers in all countries are realizing more and more clearly every day that Bolshevism has indicated the right road of escape from the horrors of war and imperialism, that Bolshevism can serve as a model of tactics for all.” —Lenin, ibid., LCW 28:293. (As always in this Dictionary, italics and other emphasis are as they appear in the original.)
Short for Organization for Counter-Terrorism and Operations. This is yet another government paramilitary force attempting to destroy the Naxalites (Maoist revolutionaries) in India. This particular force seems to have been set up by the Andhra Pradesh state government.
See: ORGANIZATION FOR ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT
A measure of the average cost of renting commercial office space in a city or section of it (i.e., the “downtown area”), usually given in terms of some unit area (such as per square foot). The change of the price of office space is an economic indicator of whether the capitalist economy is expanding or declining, and whether or not there is a property bubble developing in the price of business buildings.
“Office space now costs more in Beijing than it does in New York. Rents have soared in Beijing over the past two years, making it the fifth most expensive city in the world for commercial space, surpassing New York. Hong Kong remains the most expensive, followed by London, Tokyo, and Moscow.” —From a Financial Times report quoted in The Week, Feb. 17, 2012, p. 38. [This is another indication that the property bubble in China has expanded to quite dangerous levels. And as long as the office space price remains high the commercial property bubble will keep expanding. —S.H.]
The transfer of jobs by a multinational corporation from its home country to another, lower-wage country. This term is popular in the bourgeois press in the United States where the transfer of jobs to other countries usually means overseas countries, though many jobs have also been shifted to Mexico.
A job is considered to be offshorable if it would be both easy to transfer it to another country and profitable for the employer to do so. According to an August 2009 study by two bourgeois economists, Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger, despite all the jobs which have already been shifted out of the country, roughly one out of four remaining U.S. jobs are offshorable. “Perhaps most surprisingly, routine work is no more offshorable than other work.” Moreover, the jobs of well educated workers are somewhat more likely to be offshorable than those of poorly educated workers.
See also: RESHORING
The agency of the secret political police in Tsarist Russia, which was formed in order to try to suppress and destroy the revolutionary movement. It hounded, arrested, exiled, imprisoned or killed many thousands of revolutionaries. Although there were a few well publicized assassinations of Tsars and Tsarist agents, overall the Okhrana was quite effective until revolutionaries themselves began to use more sophisticated methods to secretly organize themselves, and organize the working class to fight back, and until the conditions of the masses became so extremely bad that even constant vicious police oppression could not keep them from rebelling.
See also: MALINOVSKY, Roman
An empirically derived rule of thumb in bourgeois economics that GDP growth must be at least 3% per year in order to reduce the prevailing rate of unemployment.
Another of the various formulations of the “law”, known as the “gap verson”, is that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate a country’s GDP will settle at roughly another 2% lower than its “potential output”. This “law” was proposed by Arthur M. Okun in 1962, and since then its reliability has often been disputed.
Rule by the few, usually for their own corrupt and selfish purposes. Thus often, in effect, rule by the few who are rich. Bourgeois society, whether in the form of bourgeois democracy or fascism, should be considered a type of oligarchy since the ruling bourgeoisie is a tiny class relative to the whole population.
Semi-monopoly, or a “looser form” of monopoly. In other words, a situation where a small number of producers control the capitalist market for some commodity, and limit their competition either in all respects (definitely including prices), or—more commonly today because of the nominal anti-trust laws—to areas of styling and advertising.
Lenin, when he talked about monopoly, was really using the term in a way which would today better be called oligopoly. (The word ‘oligopoly’ did not enter the English language until 1895 and even then at first only in technical publications, and the Russian equivalent probably also did not exist when Lenin was writing.)
ONE-CHILD POLICY (in China)
The Chinese government policy restricting most urban families to just one child. This policy was introduced in 1978-79, after the Mao era, and by 2016 is finally being gradually phased out. The government said that as of 2015 35.9% of the population was subject to this one-child limit per family (with most of the rest being subject to a two-child limit). It estimated that without this policy there would have been 250 million more babies born by the year 2000.
At the time of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao and the other revolutionary leaders initially viewed having a large and rapidly growing population as an asset. But this opinion soon changed and in August 1956 the Ministry of Public Health began vigorously supporting mass birth control efforts. However, the fertility rate remained high, and after a few years a new campaign to encourage later marriage and a lower birth rate was implemented. During the period of 1963-66 this cut the birth rate to half its previous level.
For a few years, with the advent of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the more urgent matter of which class would control society became preeminent. But in 1972-73 the People’s government began a new nationwide birth control campaign. In the countryside the “barefoot doctors” distributed birth control information and contraceptives to the members of the people’s communes. In the mid-1970s the government recommended that the maximum family size should be 2 children in urban areas and 3 or 4 in the countryside. Mao himself was personally identified with the family planning movement at this time. Still, the means used while Mao was alive was generally the mass line method of democratic persuasion, and not one of enforcement of small family size through fines or other penalties.
Once the revisionists seized control and began to move the country back into capitalism, the whole point of family planning changed. It was no longer a matter of how best to improve the welfare of all the people, but rather of promoting the expansion of capitalist production as fast as possible and promoting the growth of the economic and political power of the new bourgeoisie. What desire remained to promote improved living standards for the masses was mostly for the purpose of keeping them from challenging the new capitalist ruling class. And the methods used to promote family planning became much more bureaucratic, legalistic and even authoritarian.
While education and social pressure are still also used to promote the one-child policy, there are now considerable economic penalties for violators, and sometimes strong coercion, including even forced abortions and sterilizations. Moreover, the manner in which the policy has been implemented has led to many cases of female infanticide. The traditional backward desire of Chinese families (especially in rural areas) for a male heir, which has led to these problems, has not been sufficiently combatted by educational campaigns, and this is now resulting in a growing disproportionate shortage of women in Chinese society.
While the goal of promoting a low birth rate in China, just as elsewhere in the world, is laudable, the manner in which the one-child policy has been implimented cannot be supported. Somewhat surprisingly, a fairly large majority of people in China do support the policy (one poll around 2008 claimed that 76% do), though there also seem to be growing numbers of those ignoring it. Most interestingly of all, there are now suggestions by bourgeois economists in both China and overseas, that this one-child policy is no longer in the interests of Chinese capitalism. The idea is that it “unduly” limits the growth of the cheap labor supply and the size of the domestic market, and also leads to an aging population which on average consumes less. This appears to be a major factor in why the policy is now being phased out.
In the fall of 2013 the one-child policy was slightly weakened. Previously married couples, both of whom were a single child, were allowed to have two children. Now, if just one of them was a single child, they are allowed to have two children. In 2015 the “one-child policy” was weakened much more and will probably be completely replaced by a universal “two-child” policy soon.
[Some of the information in this entry comes from the Wikipedia.]
“China’s birth rate on the rise
“China’s birth rate rose last year to its highest point since 2000, following the relaxation of the country’s one-child policy in 2015. There were 17.86 million births in China last year, a 7.9% increase from 2015.” —Time magazine, Feb. 6, 2017, p. 12.
A core viewpoint in dialectics, which sums up two main principles: 1) Everything in the world is in reality a unity of opposites, or (dialectical) contradiction of opposing forces; and 2) Development consists of the dialectical resolution of such contradictions, or in other words, in the splitting of this unity, and the triumph of one opposing aspect over the other, thus transforming the basic nature of the original entity.
“The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts ... is the essence (one of the ‘essentials,’ one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter...
“The correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics (e.g., in Plekhanov) usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples ... and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)....
“The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their ‘unity,’—although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their ‘self-movement,’ in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the ‘struggle’ of opposites....
“The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute.” —Lenin, “On the Question of Dialectics” (1915), LCW 38:359-360.
“ONE PERCENT” or “THE ONE PERCENT”
A term introduced by the recent Occupy Movement in the U.S. to refer to the class of very rich people who run the country. It is, in short, a euphemism for the bourgeoisie. However, in the U.S. the level of class consciousness is so abysmally low that Marxist terminology (such as the bourgeoisie or even the capitalist class) is either not understood by most people, or else often sounds to their ears like “obsolete” or “politically suspicious” jargon! In this situation, the introduction of a new term for the bourgeoisie was in fact quite useful! Of course, it is up to us Marxists to further explicate rather vague terms such as “the one percent” and to get people to understand and get used to the terminology that has been developed in our revolutionary science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
See also: MILLIONAIRES
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK [Lenin]
Important 1904 political pamphlet by Lenin focusing on the appropriate organization and line of a revolutionary communist political party.
“This book is of key importance in establishing the principles of organization of the Communist Party. It was written in 1904 following the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party—the Congress at which the split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks first showed itself.
“In order to understand this book and its background, the reader should consult the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chapter II, Sections 3 and 4. At the 2nd Congress in 1903, two opposed groups became apparent in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, revolutionary and opportunist. After the adoption of the Party Programme there took place a dispute over the Party Rules. Lenin and his followers held that there should be three conditions for party membership:
(1) Acceptance of the programme.
(2) Payment of dues.
(3) Belonging to a party organization.
His opponents held that conditon (3) was not necessary.
“At the end of this Congress the followers of Lenin gained a majority on the Central Committee and on the Editorial Board of the party newspaper Iskra. They therefore became known as the Bolsheviks—from the Russian word meaning ‘Majority’—while the others were known as Mensheviks—from the Russian word for ‘Minority.’ But afterwards the Mensheviks managed to capture Iskra and began an attack on the party organization, which they declared was too ‘rigid.’ They wanted ‘liberty’ for individuals not to obey party decisions. The opportunists thus began their operations by an attack on the principles of party organization.
“Lenin recognized that this attempt to weaken the party organization was a prelude to imposing opportunist policies on the party concerning the major political issues. In One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, after analyzing the proceedings and the votes at the 2nd Congress, and demonstrating the existence of two wings—a revolutionary and an opportunist wing—Lenin shows the need for a disciplined centralized party of the working class.”
—Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics, prepared and edited by Maurice Cornforth, (London: 1953), p. 48.
“ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY”
[‘Ontogeny’ means “the development of an individual organism”; ‘phylogeny’ means “the evolutionary history of a certain kind of organism”.]
This idea, which the 19th century semi-materialist naturalist Ernst Haeckel called his “biogenetic law”, is basically that the embryological development of an individual creature is a recapituation of the stages of the historical evolution of that species. Thus early embryos of humans and other mammals have gills and a fish-like tail recalling their ancient fish ancestry. Modern biological science, however, considers the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny to be sort of a very crude and very limited partial truth.
“There is in fact a peculiar correspondence between the gradual development of organic germs into mature organisms and the succession of plants and animals following each other in the history of the earth.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:69.
“The same phenomenon is illustrated by the gill arches that still dominate the ontogeny of land-living vertebrates. It is obvious in all these cases that development is controlled by such a large number of interacting genes that the selection pressure to eliminate vestigial structures is less effective than the selection to maintain the efficiency of well established developmental pathways.” —Ernst Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist (1988), p. 435.
ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT [For the Existence of God]
The (fallacious) argument that God must exist as a consequence of the very definition of the word ‘God’. Spelled out more completely:
God is, by definition, a totally perfect entity. An entity would be less than perfect if it did not exist. Therefore, God exists.
This silly argument was originated by “Saint” Anselm (1033-1109), Bishop of Canterbury and medieval Scholastic philosopher. Even most other theologians (including Thomas Aquinas) have recognized that this argument cannot be accepted as sound.
In Anselm’s own day it was pointed out that just because we can form the concept of a “perfect island” it does not follow that a perfect island really exists. No definition of anything can prove that that thing actually exists in the real world. You can define a “round-square” as a Euclidean two-dimensional geometrical figure which is both round (a circle) and at the same time a square, but no such thing can really exist. Moreover, the notion that any real thing can be “perfect” in every way is totally incoherent. Even if it makes any sense to say that something is “perfectly smooth” or “perfectly rough”, it cannot possibly be both at the same time. In other words, some forms of “perfection” preclude other forms. And there are many other conceptual and logical problems with each of the numerous versions of the ontological argument.
1. The branch of metaphysics (in the non-Marxist sense) which discusses the nature of existence or reality in the abstract, what sort of entities actually may be said to exist, and so forth.
2. [More narrowly, but still usually within the milieu of bourgeois philosophy:] The set of entities or substances which are said to exist. The dualist’s “ontology”, for example, includes not only matter but also—independent of matter—mind and possibly “spiritual substances” (such as “souls” or “gods”). The materialist’s “ontology” includes only matter and energy (or “matter in motion”), and mental phenomena are viewed as functional characterizations of certain highly complex material entities (e.g., brains) as they change and internally reorganize.
“OPEN AND ABOVE-BOARD”
“The case of Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih serves as an important lesson for our Party, and all the members should take warning and make sure that similar cases will not recur in the Party. Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih schemed and conspired, operated clandestinely in the Party and surreptitiously sowed dissention among comrades, but in public they put up a front to camouflage their activities. These were precisely the kind of vile activities the landlord class and the bourgeoisie usually resorted to in the past. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party Marx and Engels say, ‘The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.’ As Communists, let alone as senior Party cadres, we must all be open and above-board politically, always ready to express our political views openly and take a stand, for or against, on each and every important political issue. We must never follow the example of Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih and resort to scheming.” —Mao, “Speeches at the National Conference of the Communist Party of China: Opening Speech” (March 21, 1955), SW 5:156.
OPEN DOOR POLICY
1. A policy (or goal) of early United States imperialism toward China, which sought to keep U.S. trade and general economic access to China and other areas open on an equal basis with other imperialist countries. In the late 19th century the major imperialist powers started grabbing more and more parts of the undeveloped world—especially in Africa—to be their own private colonies which they alone were allowed to exploit (or at least in which they had many special privileges). The United States, as a later-developing imperialist country, was very concerned that it was being frozen out of more and more regions. In 1899 the U.S. Secretary of State John Hay sent a diplomatic note, referred to as the “Open Door Note”, to the European powers proposing that China be kept open to trade with all other countries on an equal basis. In other words, all of them (including the U.S.) would be allowed to exploit China on equal terms. Thus no imperialist power should have any new special areas of influence or control in China which the other imperialist powers did not share, nor any unilateral agreements with or favors forced out of the Chinese government for that power’s exclusive benefit. The stated areas of concern were the development special tariff arrangements, the elimination or reduction of harbor dues and railroad charges for one power alone, and similar things. But the overall scope of the Open Door Policy went far beyond this.
As it turned out, U.S. imperialism at that time was largely unable to achieve their “Open Door” goal. There were numerous secret deals being forced on China by separate imperialist powers; existing forced arrangements, let alone existing territorial seizures (such as by Britain in Hong Kong and by Portugal in Macao) were not ended; and worst of all Japan totally flouted the “Open Door” principle beginning with its seizure of Manchuria in 1931, and its later massive invasion of China from 1937 until the end of World War II.
In history classes in the U.S. the “Open Door” policy is portrayed as being “opposed” to imperialism—because it was opposed to individual imperialist powers carving up China into colonies, and the like. Actually, this policy was more like an early indication of a new form of imperialism that the United States would later lead in establishing in the world following World War II. What the U.S. was already pushing, even in the 1890s was a new neocolonialist World Imperialist System.
2. Similar policies or goals by the U.S. or other imperialist powers at various times and places, when they thought they were being blocked by their imperialist competitors in exploiting some country or region of the world.
3. Occasionally the term “open door” is also used to refer to the policy adopted by the Chinese capitalist-roaders led by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to “open up” China to foreign investment.
OPERATION GREEN HUNT; and http://www.icawpi.org/ — The International Campaign Against the War on People in India (ICAWPI).
A large-scale anti-Maoist military campaign launched in the fall of 2009 by the Indian central government together with the paramilitary forces of several states in India, and expected to last for at least several years. The initial military operations began around Nov. 1, 2009, and much larger operations are expected in the first months of 2010. A major focus of OGH is in the Adivasi (tribal) areas in east-central India, where the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has made much progress in organizing and leading the people in mass struggles in resistance to the theft and despoilation of their land by giant mining companies and other Indian and transnational corporations. In effect, OGH is aimed as much at the Adivasi masses as it is at their Maoist leadership; it is in reality a war by the Indian government against its own people.
Many news articles about OGH, background articles, and statements of opposition to the campaign, can be found at the following websites: http://www.bannedthought.net/India/MilitaryCampaigns/ — BannedThought.net page on Military Assaults on Revolutionaries and People’s Movements in India
See: AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS — Public Support For, CONGRESS (U.S.)
[In the Marxist-Leninist sense:] A type of revisionism within MLM parties, whose essence is well summed up by Lenin in the following two quotations:
“The opportunist does not betray his party, he does not act as a traitor, he does not desert it. He continues to serve it sincerely and zealously. But his typical and characteristic trait is that he yields to the mood of the moment, he is unable to resist what is fashionable, he is politically short-sighted and spineless. Opportunism means sacrificing the permanent and essential interests of the party to the momentary, transient and minor interests.” —V. I. Lenin, “The Russian Radical is Wise After the Event” (Oct. 18, 1906), LCW 11:239.
“Opportunism does not extend recognition of the class struggle to the cardinal point, to the period of transition from capitalism to communism, of the overthrow and the complete abolition of the bourgeoisie.” —V. I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (Aug.-Sept. 1917), chapter II, section 3; LCW 25:412.
See also: LENIN—On Opportunism and its Roots in the Labor Movement
OPPOSITES — Unity Of
See: UNITY OF OPPOSITES
OPTION (Capitalist Finance)
A security (or transferable contract) allowing (but not obligating) the holder to buy or sell something (such as uniform bulk commodities, currencies, or other securities, most commonly shares of stock) at a future time and at a pre-agreed price. In the U.S. options can be exercised at any time up until a specified date, whereas the European type of options can only be exercized on the specified date itself. A “put”, or “put option”, gives the holder the right to sell the share (or other thing) at the pre-agreed price, while a “call”, or “call option”, gives the holder the right to buy at the pre-agreed price.
Bourgeois economists try to justify the existence of options and options trading by pointing out that they allow the possibility of a type of insurance for companies that must hold real assets at the present time (and want to insure against their loss of value over time), or for companies which must buy assets later (e.g., a manufacturing company that must buy steel six months from now and does not want to be surprized by a huge increase in the price of steel at that time). It is true that the judicious use of options can have this result. However, the great preponderance of the buying and selling of options is not done for insurance purposes, but simply as a form of speculation. Options exist primarily to facilitate speculation and gambling. And this serves to further destabilize the already inherently unstable capitalist financial system.
Options are just one of the many types of derivatives, or ways of gambling about future stock prices, commodity prices, currency exchange rates, etc., that financial capitalists have created, and that go to make up today’s “casino economy”.
See also: WARRANT
The implantation of a bodily organ from a deceased individual into a live person who needs a replacement for a damaged or malfunctioning organ. The need for replacement organs is considerably higher than their availability. (In part this is because many individuals in bourgeois society are not brought up with much concern for others and have not signed cards indicating that their organs are available for transplants if they should die.) As of the fall of 2015, more than 122,000 Americans are on lists waiting for the availability of a replacement organ, including more than 100,000 who need kidneys. But during the first half of 2015 only 18,000 organ transplants occurred in the U.S.
A pretense is often made in capitalist society that scarce and life-preserving organ transplants are allotted on the basis of need, and according to who has been waiting the longest on the lists of needy individuals. In reality, the system has been set up so that the rich can jump ahead of others and unfairly receive a transplant while others who were ahead of them on the lists die. To the ruling bourgeoisie in class society it seems only “right” that those with money should live, while those without it should die. Money, for them, is the primary measure of a person’s worth.
“You can’t buy hearts, kidneys or other organs but money can still help you get one. Wealthy people are more likely to get on multiple waiting lists and score a transplant, and less likely to die while waiting for one, a new study finds.
“The work confirms what many have long suspected—the rich have advantages even in a system [supposedly!] designed to steer organs to the sickest patients and those who have waited longest. Wealthier people can better afford the tests and travel to get on more than one transplant center’s waiting list, and the new study shows how much this pays off.
“‘Multiple-listed patients were more likely to get transplanted and less likely to die,’ said Dr. Raymond Givens at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.... He led the study and gave results Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Orlando....
“Patients on multiple lists often must pay for a new set of tests, which can range from $23,000 for a kidney to $51,000 for a heart, one study estimated, plus be able to get local housing or travel on short notice if an organ becomes available....
“Steve Jobs was the classic example [of someone using their wealth to jump ahead of others to get a transplant]. The former Apple chief was on a transplant list in Tennessee and received a new liver at a hospital there in 2009 even though he lived in California.”
—Associated Press news report, “Study finds the rich are more likely to get organ transplants”, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 10, 2015, p. A-12.
ORGANIC COMPOSITION OF CAPITAL
The ratio between constant capital and variable capital, or C/V, which is employed in the capitalist production process. Constant capital is the sum total of the value of the means of production (i.e., the factories, machines, raw materials, fuel, electrical power and other necessary products used up in the production process, and so forth). Variable capital is the value of the human labor-power purchased (by hiring workers) and employed by the capitalists in the production process.
There are therefore many different factors which can affect the ratio C/V. If more machinery is purchased, and some of the workers are laid off, the organic composition of capital will increase. If the workers’ wages rise, or if their work day is shortened and additional workers must then be hired, the organic composition of capital will decrease.
On this standard Marxist definition of the organic composition of capital, over time and as more complex and expensive machinery is introduced and fewer workers are needed to produce a given amount of goods, the general trend is for C/V to rise. In Vol. III of Capital Marx makes the argument that this increasing organic composition of capital will lead to a tendency for capitalist profits to fall over time, and this is presented as one of three different theories in Capital to explain how capitalist overproduction crises develop. This particular crisis theory, however, is now disputed by many Marxists (including me! —S.H.).
There is, however, another conceptual problem with the concept of the organic composition of capital as Marx put it forward. If, as a few of us Marxists maintain (but not Marx himself!), the use of machinery in effect allows the re-use of past human labor-power (which went into the production of the machinery), then there should also be some contribution to variable capital from the use of those machines as well as some contribution to constant capital (to account for the maintenance and gradual wearing out of the machine). Moreover, the total variable capital employed in the production process would then include not only the additional contribution via the machinery but also the current contribution (from the labor-power of the current workers). Thus the calculation of both C and V become more complex, and at the same time V increases (perhaps considerably). Under this revised conception of the organic composition of capital, it is no longer obvious that the ratio C/V really does increase over time! It may well be that it decreases over time! The crisis theory that depends on the long-term increase of the organic composition of capital is therefore also even more called into question. [More discussion of this whole topic will be presented under the general heading of the Labor Theory of Value.]
See also: REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION
“In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organization. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labor for capital, constantly thrust back to the ‘lower depths’ of utter destitution, savagery, and degeneration, the proletariat can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organization, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class.” —Lenin, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” (May 1904), LCW 7:415.
ORGANIZATION FOR ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT (OECD)
An international organization of about 34 industrialized capitalist countries that coordinate policy to maximize the economic growth of its members. The OECD is especially known for its work in gathering and publishing statistics related to economic and social issues. Its web site is at: http://www.oecd.org
ORGANIZATIONS — Political
“The character of any organization is naturally and inevitably determined by the content of its activity.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:440.
“Revolutionary organizational forms should serve the needs of revolutionary struggle. When an organizational form no longer conforms to the needs of the struggle, it should be abolished.” —Mao, quoted in “Build Revolutionary Great Alliance on the Basis of Fields of Work in Accordance with Chairman Mao’s Instructions”, Renmin Ribao editorial, Oct. 19, 1967. In English: Peking Review, vol. 10, #44, Oct. 27, 1967, p. 8.
A revisionist theory about capitalist economics which claims that in the modern monopoly era capitalism either already has become, or else will soon become, so “organized” that economic crises will no longer develop. An early version of this theory was put forward around 1900 by the revisionist pioneer Eduard Bernstein, who argued that a long series of reforms by the capitalist state, together with the regulation of production by private associations of capitalist companies, would lead to a decline in the severity of crises and their eventual complete elimination. Bernstein, of course, also opposed any form of the “breakdown theory” (that crises might eventually become so bad that the capitalist system would collapse).
In an article in 1915, Rudolf Hilferding put forward a more elaborate version of the “organized capitalism” thesis, but one just as erroneous. He had already hinted at this notion in his famous book Finance Capital. Basing himself on his research into the development of trusts, cartels and finance capitalism, Hilferding claimed that the capitalists could now both regulate production and also regulate profits. Since he believed that crises came about because of the falling rate of profit—voilà!—there would no longer be any capitalist economic crises!
This is a great example of how an incorrect theory of crises can really totally mislead you. Bernstein’s theory of “organized capitalism” was also based on an incorrect crisis theory, but in his case it was the “anarchy theory” (i.e., that crises are due to the anarchy of “many capitals”). Since monopoly capitalism, and the advent of trusts and cartels, was presumed to end most of this anarchy, there should no longer be any economic crises.
What neither Bernstein nor Hilferding understood is that capitalist economic crises actually derive simply from the very extraction of surplus value from the workers in the first place, and are thus inherent in capitalism. In short, the workers are not paid enough to buy back all they produce. Things can be kept going for a while by using the surplus to build more factories (even if unneeded); by loaning the workers money to buy the things they otherwise cannot afford; and by having the government run deficits to purchase the “excess production”. But ultimately all that must of necessity collapse, which brings on an inevitable economic crisis. Thus a correct understanding of capitalist crisis theory shows that there cannot possibly be any such thing as crisis-free “organized capitalism”.
We should also mention that Kautsky’s theory of “ultra-imperialism” (under which the entire world market is under unified capitalist control, which supposedly precludes inter-imperialist wars), is sort of a extension to this “organized capitalism” nonsense and a related revisionist fantasy.
See: CENTRAL ORGANIZING THEORY
ORIGIN OF THE FAMILY, PRIVATE PROPERTY AND THE STATE, The [Book by Engels]
[Intro to be added...]
“I hope that in studying this question of the state you will acquaint yourselves with Engels’s book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. This is one of the fundamental works of modern socialism, every sentence of which can be accepted with confidence, in the assurance that it has not been said at random but is based on immense historical and political material. Undoubtedly, not all the parts of this work have been expounded in an equally popular and comprehensible way; some of them presume a reader who already possesses a certain knowledge of history and economics. But I again repeat that you should not be perturbed if on reading this work you do not understand it at once. Very few people do. But returning to it later, when your interest has been aroused, you will succeed in understanding the greater part, if not the whole of it. I refer to this book because it gives the correct approach to the question in the sense mentioned. It begins with a historical sketch of the origin of the state.” —Lenin, “The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University” (July 11, 1919), LCW 29:473, online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jul/11.htm
ORIGINATE-TO-DISTRIBUTE vs. ORIGINATE-TO-HOLD [Capitalist Finance]
An originate-to-distribute loan is one that a bank or other financial institution makes with the intention to sell that loan (i.e., the right to receive interest on it and the eventual return of the principal) to a third party. An originate-to-hold loan is one that the bank or originating institution plans to hold onto itself (and thus itself receive interest on it and the eventual repayment of the principal).
Allowing banks to originate-to-distribute loans is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that the issuing bank will not even really care if the loan is ever repaid or not, since that will then be “someone else’s problem”. This leads to wild recklessness in the granting of loans to people with little ability to repay them. This practice was one of the factors that served to greatly amplify and worsen the financial crisis that developed in 2008-2009. And it has not been ended even afterwards!
“The OTHER REPUBLICANS”
See: DEMOCRATIC PARTY (U.S.)
[To be added...]
See also: SYKES-PICOT CARVE-UP
A “left” sectarian faction among the Bolsheviks that developed after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution. Its founder was Alexander Bogdanov and it also included Pokrovsky, Lunacharsky, Bubnov and others.
“Otzovism (from the Russian word otozvat—to recall)—an opportunist trend represented by a small section of the Bolsheviks which arose after the defeat of the 1905-07 Revolution.
“The otzovists demanded the recall of the Social-Democratic deputies from the State Duma, and the rejection of work in the trade unions and other mass legal and semi-legal organizations. Under cover of ‘revolutionary’ phrases, the otzovists would actually have deprived the Party of the possibility of employing legal methods of struggle, isolated it from the workers and placed it in danger of attacks by the reactionary forces. Lenin sharply criticized the otzovists and called them ‘liquidators of a new type’ and ‘Mensheviks turned inside-out’.” —Footnote 7, LCW 17.
“... In 1908 the otzovists formed a special group and opposed Lenin. They refused flatly to participate in the Duma, and in trade unions, co-operatives and other mass legal and semi-legal organizations; they tried to confine themselves exclusively to the underground organization, cut the Party off from the masses of non-party people and leave the Party face to face with reaction....
“A variety of otzovism was ultimatumism; its champions differed from the otzovists in form alone. They proposed first submitting an ultimatum to the Social-Democratic Duma group and to recall it in the event of the ultimatum not being fulfilled.
“The ultimatumists were actually covert otzovists, or, as Lenin called them, ‘shamefaced otzovists’.
“In the spring of 1909 the otzovists, ultimatumists and god-builders set up an initiative group to organize an anti-Party school on the island of Capri (Bogdanov, Alexinsky, Lunacharsky and others). This group was, in fact, the center of the anti-Party faction consisting of the above-named groups.
“The meeting of the enlarged editorial board of Proletary was held in June 1909; it passed a decision to the effect that ‘Bolshevism, as a definite trend in the R.S.D.L.P., has nothing in common with otzovism and ultimatumism’ and called upon Bolsheviks to struggle against these deviations from revolutionary Marxism. Bogdanov (Maximov), the founder of otzovism, was expelled from the Bolshevik Party.” —Footnote 269, Lenin SW I (1967).
The word ‘ought’ is a “verbal auxiliary”, which is used to add the element of obligation to the meaning of the verbal phrase (and hence the utterance as a whole). In the context of morality, it is the additional meaning of moral obligation which is added. Thus, in morals, ‘ought’ means “was (were) or am (is, are) under moral obligation (to do, be, have ... something).”
See also: DUTY
OUGHT FROM IS
The “ought-from-is” question, originated by David Hume, is a major issue in bourgeois academic discussions of ethics, where it is very often claimed by these foolish professors that you “cannot” deduce statements about what you ought to do from factual statements about what is the case. However, to anybody with any common sense, the statement that “a car is coming” is quite sufficient for you to deduce that “you ought not to step off the curb in front of it”. The reason is simply that the discussion of what you ought or ought not to do always tacitly assumes that somebody’s interests or welfare is at issue. Bourgeois professors, with their great erudition, seem unable to understand this very basic fact!
But there is a deep reason behind all such bourgeois attempts to obfuscate morality; namely, when a tiny ruling class has to try to use moral arguments (along with violent force) to keep the working class from rebelling, the very last thing they want to have happen is for the masses to connect up what is right and wrong with what is in their common, collective interests!
See also: “NATURALISTIC FALLACY”
“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason shou’d be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.” —David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by David Fate Norton & Mary J. Norton, (Oxford University Press, 2000), 126.96.36.199.
[The simple answer to Hume’s puzzlement—which has been absolutized by many of his bourgeois successors into the claim that you cannot deduce “ought from is”—is that the subject of morality is actually concerned with what is in the interests of groups of people, and therefore there is always this tacit assumed premise in every discussion of morality: You ought to do that which is in the interests of the people (or, in class society, you ought to do that which is in the interests of the people of the same social class as the speaker). Given that there is this tacit additional premise, there should be no surprise whatsoever that ought statements are deduced from is statements in the discussion of moral issues. Thus, for example, “This government represents the interests of the rich capitalists and therefore ought to be overthrown,” makes perfect logical sense to a revolutionary proletarian, while the same fact leading to the opposite conclusion, “that therefore this government ought to be supported” makes perfect logical sense to the bourgeoisie! The explanation is that each of them has a somewhat different tacit assumption, as to whose class interests are to be favored. —S.H.]
“OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCES”
People sometimes report that they have had what they term an “out of body experience”, in which they supposedly see their own body from a location several feet away from themselves. Are these people lying or making this up? Or do they actually have such an inner experience? And if they really do have such an experience, how can such a thing be explained? What is going on here?! Interestingly enough, neuroscience has now determined what is actually happening in these cases, and provides us with a materialist explanation:
“[T]he Swiss neurologist Olaf Blanke [did a] beautiful series of experiments on out-of-body experiences. Surgery patients occasionally report leaving their bodies during anesthesia. They describe an irrepressible feeling of hovering at the ceiling and even looking down at their inert body from up there. Should we take them seriously? Does out-of-body flight ‘really’ happen?
“In order to verify the patients’ reports, some pseudoscientists hid drawings of objects atop closets, where only a flying patient could see them. This approach is ridiculous, of course. The correct stance is to ask how this subjective experience could arise from a brain dysfunction. What kind of brain representation, Blanke asked, underlies our adoption of a specific point of view on the external world? How does the brain assess the body’s location? After investigating many neurological and surgery patients, Blanke discovered that a cortical region on the right temporoparietal junction, when impaired or electrically perturbed, repeatedly caused a sensation of out-of-body transportation. This region is situated in a high-level zone where multiple signals converge: those arising from vision; from the somatosensory and kinesthetic systems (our brain’s map of bodily touch, muscular, and action signals); and from the vestibular system (the biological inertial platform, located in our inner ear, which monitors our head movements). By piecing together these various clues, the brain generates an integrated representation of the body’s location relative to the environment. However, this process can go awry if the signals disagree or become ambiguous as a result of brain damage. Out-of-body flight ‘really’ happens, then—it is a real physical event, but only in the patient’s brain and, as a result, in his subjective experience. The out-of-body state is, by and large, an exacerbated form of the dizziness that we all experience when our vision disagrees with our vestibular system, as on a rocking boat.
“Blanke went on to show that any human can leave her body: he created just the right amount of stimulation, via synchronized but delocalized visual and touch signals, to elicit an out-of-body experience in the normal brain. Using a clever robot, he even managed to re-create the illusion in a magnetic resonance imager. And while the scanned person experienced the illusion, her brain lit up in the temporoparietal junction—very close to where the patient’s lesions were located.
“We still do not know exactly how this region works to generate a feeling of self-location. Still, the amazing story of how the out-of-body state moved from parapsychological curiosity to mainstream neuroscience gives a message of hope. Even outlandish subjective phenomena can be traced back to their neural origins.”
—Stanislas Dehaene, Consciousness and the Brain (2014), pp. 44-45. [The original experiments are reported in the paper by O. Blanke, T. Landis, L. Spinelli and M. Seeck, “Out-of-Body Experience and Autoscopy of Neurological Origin”, Brain 127 (Pt. 2), 2004, pp. 243-58.]
The more general conclusion which we materialists draw from cases such as this is that it is by no means correct to deny that people are having some sort of inner experience when they report “out-of-body” flights, or “Nirvana” or “the experience of God”. Yes, of course people are experiencing something internally; they are just misinterpreting and mis-reporting what is going on within their brains and minds. Their “soul” is not “really” floating outside their body and looking down at it, and they are not “really” in contact with “God” or “at one with the Universe”. These are merely the ideological expressions and ridiculous idealized interpretations of their own internal subjective experiences.
“OUTPUT GAP” [Bourgeois economics]
The difference between the actual output of an economy during a certain period (i.e., its GDP) and its “potential output”, or what supposedly “could have been”! Bourgeois economists believe that normally and “properly”, all existing capital and technology should always be fully utilized, and when this occurs the economy is producing up to its full “potential”. They also try to make reality fit their theory in this regard by estimating this full-use of capital potential output vastly lower than it really would be. Even so, they are often forced by circumstances to recognize that, despite what their own economic theory says, actual output is not reaching this “potential”. And this worrisome difference they call the “output gap”.
See also: CAPACITY UTILIZATION
The practice by corporations of sub-contracting work (manufacturing work, service work, etc.) to other companies and especially foreign or non-union companies which pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits to their workers. It is one of many very common ways today in which the capitalists are intensifying the degree of exploitation of the international working class.
1. A term in Freud’s pseudo-scientific psychoanalytic theory which he used to describe what he took to be the multiple different determinations of specific dreams, and therefore (for him) the appropriateness of multiple different interpretations of dreams.
2. A term used by the French academic “Marxist”, Louis Althusser, to characterize the supposed multiple independent causes of specific historical events, which he contraposed to the Hegelian conception that each historical development is due to the working out of one or another fundamental dialectical contradiction. (Of course contradictions generally resolve themselves through subsidiary and secondary contradictions, but the dialectical conception is still that there is one fundamental or primary contradiction that is the basic explanation for that development.) Althusser’s conception of “overdeterminism” is therefore consciously opposed to dialectical materialism.
3. The more general philosophical notion that things, events, developments or circumstances typically do not have a single central cause but rather are the result of various diverse combinations of multiple different (and more or less unrelated) causes. This is a way of arguing against the view that things and events have definite specific causes, and is thus a deeply anti-determinist and anti-materialist point of view. Notions such as this are often put forward by those who themselves do not understand the actual cause of some development, and therefore jump to the conclusion that there is no such definite cause! Overdeterminist theories are especially apt to be found in those who have been influenced by Freud and/or Althusser, such as in the case of the American syndicalist economist Richard Wolff and his claim that economic developments (such as crises) are “overdetermined”.
Production which exceeds effective market demand. That is, the production of commodities which cannot be sold because there is no market for them. Overproduction is also call a “glut”.
[Ricardo, from his On the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation (1817):] “...the very meaning of an increased demand by them [the laborers] is a disposition to take less themselves, and leave a larger share for their employers; and if it be said that this, by diminishing consumption, increases glut, I can only answer, that glut ... is synonymous with high profits...”
[Marx, after quoting the above passage, says:] “This is indeed the secret basis of glut.” [TSV, 3:121.]
A crisis in the capitalist economic system caused by both the overproduction of commodities, and—more fundamentally—by the overproduction of the capital (the means of production) used to produce excess commodities. [More to be added...]
See also the sub-topics below.
OVERPRODUCTION CRISES — As “Self-Correcting”
Throughout its history capitalism has suffered many overproduction crises, but—so far!—these crises have also been followed by recoveries and new booms, only to give way eventually to new crises. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels state that such crises are resolved “On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones.” This means that only if these methods can continue to be used will each new crisis be capable of resolution. Some people have assumed that these resolution methods are automatic and that they can always continue to be used. Thus Trotsky, for example, said that:
“Capitalism does live by crises and booms, just as a human being lives by inhaling and exhaling. First there is a boom in industry, then a stoppage, next a crisis, followed by a stoppage in the crisis, then an improvement, another boom, another stoppage, and so on.... So long as capitalism is not overthrown by proletarian revolution, it will continue to live in cycles, swinging up and down.” —Leon Trotsky, “The world economic crisis and the new tasks of the Communist International,” from The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume I (London: New Park, 1973), p. 252.
This seems to imply that the recovery and regeneration is as automatic and guaranteed as is the advent of another crisis. However, the expansion of capital to new markets is something that obviously cannot continue indefinitely since the world is finite. And indeed there are very few (and only very tiny) places left in the world where capitalism has not already penetrated and come to dominate the economy. Thus the only method left to resolve overproduction crises these days is through the destruction of capital. However, there too there are getting to be greater and greater difficulties.
In the imperialist era the overproduction of capital between crises has reached far beyond the levels of the 19th century. The Great Depression of the 1930s lasted more than a decade in most capitalist countries, and it took a world war to carry out the destruction of excess capital to the degree necessary to clear the decks for a new capitalist boom. The expansion of excess capital since World War II has been even more colossal, and the difficulties for world capitalism in destroying that enormous excess (as far as its system of production is concerned) are all the greater. Once again it seems that only a new world war, even more unprecedentedly destructive, will be capable of accomplishing the job!
Thus it now appears that the crisis phase of a major overproduction crisis in the capitalist-imperialist era is no longer self-correcting. Moreover, if a new world war happened today it would almost certainly involve nuclear weapons on a huge scale and would most likely wipe out humanity along with capitalism and its long series of economic crises. The coming new depression will last indefinitely, will not automatically resolve itself, and will only end when one of two things happens: either humanity gets rid of capitalism, or capitalism gets rid of humanity.
OVERPRODUCTION CRISES — Causes Of
[Intro material to be added...]
“The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit.” —Marx, Capital, vol. III, ch. 30. (International ed., p. 484; Pelican ed., p. 615.)
“The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. ... The means—unconditional development of the productive forces of society—comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing capital.” —Marx, Capital, vol. III, ch. 15, sect. 2. (International ed., p. 250; Pelican ed., p. 358-9.)
“The form of production is simply the form of distribution seen from a different point of view. The specific features—and therefore also the specific limitation—which set bounds to bourgeois distribution, enter into bourgeois production itself, as a determining factor, which overlaps and dominates production. The fact that bourgeois production is compelled by its own immanent laws, on the one hand, to develop the productive forces as if production did not take place on a narrow restricted social foundation, while, on the other hand, it can develop these forces only within these narrow limits, is the deepest and most hidden cause of crises, of the crying contradictions within which bourgeois production is carried on and which, even at a cursory glance, reveal it as only a transitional, historical form.” —Marx, TSV, 3:84.
“Overproduction, the credit system, etc., are means by which capitalist production seeks to break through its own barriers and to produce over and above its own limits. Capitalist production, on the one hand, has this driving force; on the other hand, it only tolerates production commensurate with the profitable employment of existing capital. Hence crises arise, which simultaneously drive it onward and beyond [its own limits] and force it to put on seven-league boots, in order to reach a development of the productive forces which could only be achieved very slowly within its own limits.” —Marx, TSV, 3:122.
OVERPRODUCTION CRISES — Possible Only Under Capitalism
[Intro material to be added...]
There can be no overproduction crises under socialism or communism, because society is quite able to use the vast preponderance of all the goods that it plans to produce, and actually does produce. Of course in every society there will be at least a small amount of wastage in production, but under communism there is no systematic shortfall due to the failure of market demand—since there are no capitalist markets at all!
“On this assumption—if capitalist production were entirely socialist production—a contradiction in terms—no over-production could, in fact, occur.” —Marx, TSV, 3:118.
OVERPRODUCTION CRISES — Resolution Of
[To be added... ]
In modern capitalism, and as technical progress and automation advance, jobs are becoming harder and harder to find. The capitalist ruling class usually claims, however, that there are actually plenty of jobs available but that people are not adequately educated and trained for them—and so millions of jobs are going unfilled due to the lack of qualified applicants. The reality is close to the exact opposite of this: millions of people are overqualified for the jobs that they can actually get. Even large numbers of people with advanced degrees and long years of training are unable to find jobs in the fields they trained for.
“Because of continuing weakness in the job market, nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are overqualified for their jobs. About 15 percent of taxi drivers and 25 percent of retail sales clerks have bachelor’s degrees.” —USA Today report, quoted in This Week magazine, Feb. 8, 2013, p. 32.
OWEN, Robert (1771-1858)
A Welsh industrialist and early utopian socialist. In the early 19th century, he attempted to operate the factory town of New Lanark, Scotland, for the benefit of the workers at the textile mills. With the help of outside philantropists, the paternalistic experiment was successful for a number of years until Owens’ business partners demanded an end to it. Afterwards Owen and one of his followers founded two utopian socialist communities, one near Glasgow and the more famous being the New Harmony community established in 1825 in Indiana. Owen, however, did not take much of an active role in these utopian communities and spent little time there. There was also little care taken in the selection of the original members, which included a number of vagrants, opportunists, adventurers and very contentious enthusiasts each with their own strong ideas about how to do things. Despite the fairly substantial initial funding, both communities soon failed.
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