Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Po - Pq   —

An organized massacre of defenseless people, usually for racist reasons. More specifically, this often referred to such an attack on Jews in Russia, Poland, or other European countries during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

POL POT REGIME [in Cambodia]
A brutal peasant nationalist regime which came to power in Cambodia in April 1975 and was overthrown by invading Vietnamese troops in January 1979. Although often quite erroneously called a “Maoist” movement and regime, it was nothing of the kind, and never claimed to be.
        Far from seeking to build an urban proletariat and put the working class in power, the Pol Pot regime emptied out the cities and attempted (with little success) to create a rural peasant socialist utopia. It used the harshest methods, and killed a very large number of people (though claims by anti-communist ideologists in the West of the number of deaths were grossly exaggerated and included hundreds of thousands of people who were actually killed by the massive U.S. bombing of the country during the Vietnam War, and the accompanying starvation and chaos).
        For an extensive summation of the Pol Pot regime from a Maoist point of view see: “Condescending Saviors: What Went Wrong with the Pol Pot Regime”, by F.G., A World to Win, #25 (1999), online at:

This is a famous, and extremely important, collection of criticisms of Soviet revisionism in the Khrushchev era that was published in early 1965 by the People’s Publishing House in Peking (Beijing). Its major contents were:
“A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement”, issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 14, 1963; and 10 major articles written by the editorial departments of Renmin Ribao [People’s Daily] and the CCP theoretical journal Hongqi [Red Flag]:
        1. “The Origin and Development of the Differences Between the Leadership of the C.P.S.U. and Ourselves”
        2. “On the Question of Stalin”
        3. “Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?”
        4. “Apologists of Neo-Colonialism”
        5. “Two Different Lines on the Question of War and Peace”
        6. “Peaceful Coexistence—Two Diametrically Opposed Policies”
        7. “The Leaders of the C.P.S.U. Are the Greatest Splitters of Our Times”
        8. “The Proletarian Revolution and Khrushchev’s Revisionism”
        9. “On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World”;
        10. “Why Khrushchov Fell”
        These polemics had a major impact on revolutionaries all around the world, and helped people understand the true nature of Khrushchev and Soviet revisionism. All the separate sections of this book are available online on the “From Marx to Mao” site at: http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/PGLtc.html and in the Marxist Internet Archive at: http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sino-soviet-split/index.htm

POLICE — Origin of in the United States
In high school civics classes they may lie to you and tell you that the origin of police forces in the United States was merely a rational response by an enlightened citizenry to the universal requirements of people living together. But what’s the real story? Actually police forces have not always existed. They pretty much came into existence for the purpose of intimidating slaves and the poor, and for protecting the private property of the rich. Therefore the police only came into existence once there already were slaves and poor and exploited people who the rich needed to suppress! Even so, it may be surprising to some to learn a few of the particulars about the actual ugly story of how the police came to be, from their early days as patrols intimidating slaves and recapturing runaway slaves; for protecting the business property of the rich in the cities; and for suppressing strikes by workers. Amazingly enough, even the following brief article from the very bourgeois magazine, Time, hints at the gist of this real story:

“When President John F. Kennedy named the week of May 15 as National Police Week, he noted that law enforcement had been protecting Americans since the nation’s birth. But in fact, the U.S. police force is not so old.
        “In colonial times, the closest analog was usually a volunteer night watch. Watchmen got a bad rap for drinking on duty, so when towns tried mandatory service, citizens would often pay someone else to serve instead—‘ironically, a criminal or a community thug,’ says Gary Potter, a crime historian at Eastern Kentucky University. The best early example of organized policing is one today’s officers might prefer not to see as a comparison point: slave patrols, the first of which was formed in the Carolina colonies in 1704.
        “Police forces as we would recognize them now date to the mid-19th century, the first having been created in 1836 in Boston. As the city’s commerce boomed, businesses campaigned to transfer the cost of a permanent property-protecting force to the citizenry, arguing that it was for the collective good. Other major U.S. cities followed suit, prompted in part by the rise of organized labor and the arrival of waves of immigrants. Those made anxious by such changes called for law and order. But the rise of political machines and then Prohibition opened police forces up to new kinds of corruption.
        “It was later, in Kennedy’s lifetime, that a movement took hold to professionalize the U.S. police force, which ultimately enabled the system we have in place today.” —Olivia B. Waxman, Time magazine, May 29, 2017, p. 19. [One thing this summary leaves out is that this growing “professionalization” of the police has also come to mean its ever-increasing militarization. —Ed.]

POLICE — Racism of in the U.S.
Anybody with any social awareness and sense whatsoever knows that the police departments in the United States are, with few if any exceptions, extremely
racist. There have even been, just in the past few years, a very large number of killings of unarmed African-Americans in particular by racist white cops. Nobody knows for sure just how many such racist murders by cops there have been, because the ruling class has been systematically hiding this information. Only now is a database being created to gather this data for just some of the police departments in the U.S. (See: Erika Hayasaki, “Police Racism: A Search for Answers”, Spring 2015, online at: http://blueprint.ucla.edu/feature/police-racism-search-for-answers/.)
        Whatever the exact number of racist police murders, studies have consistently shown that police departments practice routine racism in their extremely common stops and frisks of Blacks and other minorities, and in their grossly disproportionate numbers of arrests and beatings of them. America remains racist to the core, and its brutal racist police departments are the worst of all.

“He was just black in the wrong place.” —Valerie Castile, after her son Philando was fatally shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in July 2016, Time magazine, Dec. 19, 2016, p. 17. [Philando Castile was carrying a weapon (for which he had a permit according to press reports) and told the cop that he was armed. He was shot when he attempted to turn the gun over to the cop. Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her young daughter were also in the car when the cop began firing into it, but fortunately he missed them. Ms. Reynolds filmed the event and explained why she did so: “Because I know that the people are not protected against the police. I wanted to make sure if I died in front of my daughter that people would know the truth.” Because there was this irrefutable evidence of what occurred from both Ms. Reynolds’ filming and that of the cop’s own dashboard camera, the cop was then charged with manslaughter. Nevertheless, as is usual with such cases in the so-called justice system in the U.S., in the trial he was still found “innocent”. (The cop was, however, fired after the trial—which in itself is highly unusual.) In response to that outrageous verdict Valerie Castile stated “The fact in this matter is that my son was murdered, and I’ll continue to say murdered.” This police murder sparked a national outrage in the U.S., but racist murders by police in this country have gone on for centuries and still continue, with little indication that the ruling class will ever voluntarily stop committing them. The information here is taken from AP press reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, 5/31/17, p. A6; 6/7/17, p. A12; and 6/17/17, p. A7. —Ed.]

POLICE — Role of in Capitalist Society
A police department or agency is an organization in any political
state (or “government”), at any organizational level—national, regional or local—whose primary purpose is to protect the ruling class and their continued rule, through the means of whatever violence on their part is “necessary”. They are either always armed, or occasionally (in a few countries) unarmed, but who can quickly become armed if need arises. They may have, on occasion, other auxilliary duties, such as traffic control, but by far their most important and central purpose is to protect the rule of one social class or another. In capitalist society this means that their primary and most essential task is to safeguard the rich, their property, and their exploitative system of capitalist class rule.
        Not all police agencies are actually called “police”. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for example is one of a many national police forces that the ruling class in the United States has.
        See also: “Are Cops Really That Bad?”, a letter by S. H. (Nov. 24, 2001), online at: http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/copsbad.htm

[To be added...]
        See also: COINTELPRO: FBI’s War on Black America (1989) [high quality 50 min. documentary video by Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis, apparently no longer available online].


Short for “political bureau”; the leading body within the Central Committee in the organizational structure of many large communist parties. Within the politburo there is sometimes a sub-group known as the Standing Committee of the Politburo, which has even higher authority.

The subject which is more commonly known as just “economics” in bourgeois society. We Marxists follow Marx and Engels in calling this subject political economy because we wish to stress the actual political nature of economics. The fact is that under capitalism (and also under all earlier forms of class society) the socioeconomic system inherently involves both the economic exploitation and the political oppression of one social class by another.
        In the days before Marx, even bourgeois economists (such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo) typically called their subject political economy; they did not try to hide its political nature (though they did ignore or hide its exploitative nature—to the degree that they were even capable of understanding this themselves). However, for a century or more now, modern bourgeois economists have sought to also deny or hide even the essential political nature of the whole subject of economics! Some of them still do talk about “political economy”, but usually only as a very specialized peripheral aspect of economics, namely that sector of it which is devoted to “the art of managing public finances”, the establishment of government policies related to the economy, and so forth.
        Therefore, most of what is called “political economy” today is actually very different from, and opposed to, Marxist political economy.

“Political economy, in the widest sense, is the science of the laws governing the production and exchange of the material means of subsistence in human society.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1877), Part II, chapter I, first sentence, MECW 25:135. Online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch13.htm

“I still stick to my old idea that after Marx you can drag in non-Marxian political economy only for the purpose of fooling philistines, even if they are ‘highly civilized’ philistines.” —Lenin, “Interview with Arthur Ransome, Manchester Guardian Correspondent”, Second Version (circa Nov. 1, 1922), LCW 33:408.

POLITICAL EDUCATION (Of the Working Class)

“The question arises, what should political education consist in? Can it be confined to the propaganda of working-class hostility to the autocracy? Of course not. It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to carry on agitation round concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spherese of life and activity—vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc.,—is it not evident that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organization of the political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? In order to carry on agitation round concrete instances of oppression, these instances must be exposed (as it is necessary to expose factory abuses in order to carry on economic agitation).” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:400-401.

Islamic movements which are in name religious but which in reality have mostly come into being for political purposes, and specifically for the central political purpose of struggling against foreign imperialist intervention in their own countries and in the rest of the Moslem world. Osama bin Laden’s organization, al Qaeda, for example, “is an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization whose central purpose is to end the American occupation of the Arabian Peninsula”, as the conservative bourgeois American political scientist Robert Pape noted in his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005), p. 51.
        The basic reason why Political Islam has arisen is that the established governments in Islamic countries (even if they were led by Moslems), and the reformist secular movements against imperialism in those countries, have been failures in their very weak opposition to foreign intervention. Neither
comprador governments nor reformist secular organizations and parties (even if they falsely called themselves “Communist”) have led effective struggles against imperialism. And the smaller and more genuinely revolutionary and militant Communist organizations that have come into existence in some countries have, so far, either failed to connect up with the broad masses, or else have been suppressed by reactionary governments. In this situation many nationalists, especially those of a petty-bourgeois background, in Middle Eastern and other Islamic countries have begun building anti-imperialist political organizations under the protective cover of Islam.
        The model for this approach was actually fostered, if not outright created, by the American CIA with its campaign to arm and support al Qaeda and other Islamic political forces in Afghanistan in their successful struggle to force out the social-imperialist Soviet forces in the 1980s. Once that was accomplished al Qaeda and other groups (which continue to come into existence) turned their attention to the biggest foreign imperialist monster operating in Islamic countries, the United States itself.
        It is interesting that so many of the huge problems that American and other imperialist powers face in the world today are examples of “blowback” from their own inept efforts to maintain control of the world and its resources. However, in general, we revolutionary Marxists cannot support political Islam because, in addition to attacking U.S. and other imperialist forces, most of these groups also attack and frequently murder many individuals among the masses. So the task of genuine Marxists in these countries is to try to organize the masses there to fight for their own interests and to struggle against all their enemies—foreign or domestic. How they do that, and what temporary truces or alliances they may need to make, will depend on their specific situations.


A term used by one small segment of contemporary American academic Marxism to describe their views on historical materialism, and their general point of view and approach. The founders of this school of thought are Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood. They are described as focusing on the “social history of political theory”, and spend a lot of space talking about topics such as globalization, precapitalist societies, liberalism, civil society, and such, with little connection to any active revolutionary movements in the world. It is hard to point to any new, significant or genuinely Marxist ideas that this trend has come up with.


“The basic problem of a revolution is the problem of political power. The possession of political power means the possession of everything; the loss of it means the loss of everything.” —Mao, Aug. 13, 1967, SW 9:417.

“All proletarian revolutionaries unite and fight for political power against the handful of capitalist roaders in authority.” —Mao, Aug. 17, 1967, SW 9:417.

POLITICAL PROTEST — Bourgeois “Cure” For

“In 1970, neuroscience research showing that the amygdala, a deep region of the brain, was associated with emotion lay behind a proposal of neurosurgeon Vernon Mark and psychiatrist Frank Ervin. They proposed to ‘cure’ ghetto rioters and revolutionary black prisoners by removing the offending brain region. [V.H. Mark & F.R. Ervin, Violence and the Brain (Harper and Row, 1970)] According to these advocates some 5-10 per cent of Americans (that is, African Americans) would ‘benefit’ from such psychosurgical procedures. Yet the racist infamy of Tuskegee [where the U.S. Public Health Service purposely did not treat hundreds of African American men infected with syphilis in order to watch the course of the developing disease as it step-by-step destroyed these human beings] and even this latest gross promise of psychosurgery as a means of pacifying the ghettos were met with silence from the custodians of the ethics of biomedical research and patient care, the American Medical Association.” —Hilary & Steven Rose, Genes, Cells and Brains (2014), p. 104. [Their description of the horrifying and utterly despicable racist medical experiments by the U.S. government at Tuskegee is on the previous page.]

[To be added... ]
        See also:

WORK (Political Work by Revolutionaries)

POLITICS — Bourgeois

“I believe in the division of labor. You send us to Congress; we pass laws under which you make money ... and out of your profits, you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money.” —U.S. Senator Boies Penrose (Republican-Pennsylvania), 1896. Quoted in The Nation, July 21/28, 2003, p. 3.


“It is strange that we should have to return to such elementary questions, but we are unfortunately forced to do so by Trotsky and Bukharin. They have both reproached me for ‘switching’ the issue, or for taking a ‘political’ approach, while theirs is an ‘economic’ one. Bukharin even put that in his theses and tried to ‘rise above’ either side, as if to say that he was combining the two.
        “This is a glaring theoretical error. I said again in my speech that politics is a concentrated expression of economics, because I had earlier heard my ‘political’ approach rebuked in a manner which is inconsistent and inadmissible for a Marxist. Politics must take precedence over economics. To argue otherwise is to forget the ABC of Marxism.” —Lenin, “Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin” (Jan. 25, 1921), LCW 32:83.

[To be added... ]

A tax which must be paid in order to vote in an election. The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was formally ratified on January 23, 1964, abolished poll taxes in the United States.
        In an earlier era the ruling class had not yet perfected its near complete control of the outcome of elections via its ownership of both the media and virtually all the prominent politicians (through large “campaign donations” and in other ways). In that older situation it was more important to keep the poorest people from voting at all. The poll tax was one method of doing that. But
bourgeois democracies have become much more sophisticated in how they control society and elections in the modern era. Crude methods such as poll taxes are not generally “necessary” any more in order to keep the rich in power, nor even in order to keep the white racists in power in the American Southeast.

A conception of how
bourgeois “democracy” actually works. This term was introduced by the prominent American bourgeois “political scientist” Robert Dahl in his book Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (1971). Dahl claimed that polyarchy is the only “realistic” form of democracy possible in modern society. Under this reactionary conception it is actually impossible to have genuine rule by the people (which was the original Greek meaning of the word ‘democracy’); instead, bourgeois democracy is reduced almost entirely to having competitive elections where the “serious” candidates virtually always represent one or another group of “elites” (i.e., sections of the ruling class). Candidates are deemed “serious” when they receive large campaign donations and (in large part because of these huge donations from the rich) serious attention and promotion by the bourgeois media sufficient to win significant voter interest and support.
        While ideological representatives of the bourgeoisie put forward polyarchy as the way that “modern democracy must work”, there are also strong critics of polyarchy on the left. One prominent Marxist-influenced critic is William I. Robinson, especially in his book Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US intervention, and hegemony (1996). (See quotations below.) Robinson emphasizes that the “democracy promotion” which the U.S. supposedly engages in around the world (especially in the “Third World”) is essentially phony because what the U.S. rulers mean by “democracy” is merely polyarchy. Morever, the polyarchic regimes that the U.S. promotes, and often helps set up in other countries, make it easy for U.S. imperialism to control those countries (through the promotion of local compradors, for example) and thus easier for the imperialists to extract wealth from those countries—all while maintaining the pretence that they really do support genuine democracy around the world!
        Marxist-Leninists view bourgeois democracy as actually being one of the two primary forms that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie takes (the other form being fascism). We follow Mao in viewing genuine democracy as meaning the people having real collective control over their own lives. Bourgeois democracy for us is clearly essentially fraudulent, with the real control of people’s lives and society as a whole, including via their phony elections, virtually entirely in the hands of the capitalist ruling class or else local representatives of foreign imperialism. For us polyarchy is a travesty of true democracy.

“What US policymakers mean by ‘democracy promotion’ is the promotion of polyarchy, a concept which developed in US academic circles closely tied to policymaking community in the United States in the post-World War II years (the word was first coined by Robert Dahl). Polyarchy refers to a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation in decision-making is confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by competing elites. The pluralist assumption is that elites will respond to the general interests of majorities, through polyarchy’s ‘twin dimensions’ of ‘political contestation’ and ‘political inclusiveness,’ as a result of the need of those who govern to win a majority of votes. It is theoretically grounded in structural-functionalism—and behind it, the positivist focus on the separate aspects and the external relations of things—in which the different spheres of the social totality are independent, each performing systems maintenance functions and externally related to each other in a larger Parsonian ‘social system.’ Democracy is limited to the political sphere, and revolves around process, method and procedure in the selection of ‘leaders.’ This is an institutional definition of democracy....
        “The concept of polyarchy is an outgrowth of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century elite theories developed by Italian social scientists Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto. ...[T]hese theories were developed to legitimize the rapid increase in the concentration of wealth and political power among dominant elites, and their ever-greater control over social life, with the rise of corporate capitalism.... In the later part of their careers, Mosca went on to argue that ‘democratic’ rather than fascist methods are best suited to defend the ruling class and preserve the social order, whereas Pareto went on to embrace fascism as the best method....
        “The institutional definition embodied in polyarchy came to substitute, at the level of mainstream Western social science, the classic definition of democracy....
        “In its Parsonian-Schumpeterian version, the polyarchic definition of democracy is equated with the stability of the capitalist social order.” —William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US intervention, and hegemony (1996), pp. 49-51.

“As an essentially contested concept, polyarchy competes with concepts of popular democracy....
        “In sharp contrast to polyarchy, popular democracy is concerned with both process and outcome.... Popular democracy is thus distinguished from the polyarchic focus on process only, and from the focus of the statist models of the former Soviet bloc on outcome only (and the concept of popular democracy should not be confused with the types of political system that developed under the former Soviet bloc).... Popular democracy... posits democracy as both a process and a means to an end—a tool for change, for the resolution of such material problems as housing, health, education, access to land, cultural development and so forth. This entails a dispersal of political power formerly concentrated in the hands of elite minorities, the redistribution of wealth, the breaking down of the structures of highly concentrated property ownership, and the democratizing of access to social and cultural opportunities by severing the link between access and the possession of wealth.” —William I. Robinson, ibid., pp. 56-58.

[To be added... ]

1. [In China before collectivization in the 1950s:] A peasant (farmer) who owned only a very small amount of land, and few (if any) work animals and pieces of farm equipment, and who consequently had to work part of the time for
landlords or rich peasants, in addition to working his own land.
2. Someone in a similar situation at other times and places.
        See also: CHINA—Class Analysis Before 1949

POPPER, Karl   (1902-1994)
Austrian-British bourgeois philosopher strongly influenced by
logical positivism. [More to be added...]
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Popper.

        1. Belief in the rights, wisdom, virtues, and/or final authority of the masses of ordinary people.
        2. A political trend or movement which claims or appears to represent the interests of the masses of ordinary people and which uncritically adopts the views and policies which are currently most favored by its adherents.
        Notice that these definitions, while referring to the “masses” or the “people”, do not explicitly mention the working class or proletariat. And this is appropriate because populism typically refers to naïve mass movements which do not have a class perspective, or at least not much of one. Populist movements or parties therefore express the immediate, often spontaneous, and ideologically undeveloped and unsophisticated views and wishes of the people involved. They generally do not incorporate the wisdom and hard lessons learned by the masses in other times and places, in other countries and throughout history. For this reason, revolutionary Marxism (or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism), which does seriously and deeply incorporate this world history of mass struggle, and the lessons learned from all that into its theory and perspective, is not properly viewed as a form of populism. And this is true even though genuine Marxist revolutionary parties do in fact recognize that there is tremendous wisdom and virtues in the masses (albeit along with some shortcomings) and do believe that the masses must themselves change the world in their own real interests (though in part by also bringing forth from their midst a more enlightened leadership core).
        In bourgeois society pundits refer to both “leftwing” populist movements, such as original prairie populist movement in America in the late 19th century and the more recent “Occupy Wall Street” movement; and also to “rightwing” populist movements such the “Tea Party” movement and even outright fascist mass movements such as developed in Italy and Germany in the 1920s-1930s. What is called “populism” can indeed vary all over the political map. However, all populist movements, whether “left” or “right” are still well within the contemporary spectrum of bourgeois political activity. Even the very best of them, such as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and even with their glimmer of class consciousness (as when they condemn the “one percent” who rule the country), are still quite naïve in what they think can be accomplished in the limited way they are attempting. It is also true, however, that Marxist revolutionaries need to join up with the outraged masses involved in the best of these populist movements and strive to bring more light and clarity to them about how to really go about making social revolution.

“Leftwing populism is historically different from socialist or social democratic movements. It is not a politics of class conflict, and it doesn’t necessarily seek the abolition of capitalism. It is also different from a progressive or liberal politics that seeks to reconcile the interests of opposing classes and groups. It assumes a basic antagonism between the people and an elite at the heart of its politics.” —John B. Judis, a liberal writer, The Populist Explosion (2016), p. 15.

A way of looking at dialectical development (and the mode of expression used sometimes by Hegel) in which the lasting or developing aspect of a dialectical contradiction is considered to be the positive aspect, while the aspect being overcome is considered to be the negative aspect. In Marxist discussion of dialectics it is more usual to talk about opposition than it is positive vs. negative.

“It is in this dialectic as it is here understood, that is, in the grasping of opposites in their unity or of the positive in the negative, that speculative thought consists.” —Hegel, Science of Logic, Introduction, section 69.

One of several related bourgeois idealist empiricist philosophies, especially these two:
1. The theory founded by the French philosopher
Auguste Comte (1798-1857), which denies the possibility of ever coming to know the inner connections and relations of things in the world, and denies the capability of philosophy as a means of knowing and changing the objective world. Philosophy is instead reduced to merely summarizing the data obtained by the sciences and a superficial description of direct observation, or—in other words—to what they call “positive” facts. These Comtean positivists view themselves as being “above” idealism and materialism, but in fact their doctrine is merely a variety of subjective idealism.

POSSIBILISTS (Or: Broussists)
Political opportunists always like to chant that “politics is the art of the possible”. They often use this argument to justify the abandonment of matters of principle and their accomodation to the policies and views of the bourgeois ruling class. One particular group in France in the late 19th century that did this was even called the “Possibilists”:

Possibilists (Broussists)—an opportunist trend in the French working-class movement of the 1880s led by Benoît Malon and Paul Brousse that repudiated the idea of a revolutionary proletarian party and renounced revolutionary struggle, believing that the muncipalities alone could ensure gradual transition to socialism. This was the opportunist policy of the ‘possible’, and hence the ironic name Possibilists, coined by Guesde. Towards the end of the eighties, with the support of opportunist elelments in other countries, notably Hyndman of the British Social-Democratic Federation, the Possibilists tried to capture the leadership of the international working-class movement. However, most of the socialist organizations refused to follow their lead and sent delegates to the Marxist congress in Paris (July 14-20, 1889), at which the Second International was inaugurated. Engels systematically exposed their [the Possibilists’] splitting activities. In 1902, in conjunction with the other reformist groups, the Possibilists founded the French Socialist Party, which in 1905 merged with the Socialist Party of France [which had been founded in 1901]. In the imperialist war of 1914-18 Guesde and the other French socialist leaders became social-chauvinists.” —Note 46, Lenin: SW I (1967).

The term “post-colonialism” (often without the hyphen) is not as straight forward as it might initially seem. The first part of the modern capitalist-imperialist era was the period of open colonialism of most of the world by the dominant imperialist powers. And it seems that “post-colonialism” might then reasonably refer to the subsequent period of
neo-colonialism which has prevailed in the imperialist world system since World War II and the formal independence of most colonies achieved in the late 1940s through the 1960s. No doubt the term is sometimes used in that way.
        However, there is in academia—and specifically in the notorious field of “cultural studies”—also the non-Marxist or only pseudo-Marxist sociological doctrine which goes by the name of “post-colonialism”, and to which the term more commonly refers. This is a variety of post-modernist thinking, and often of the specific type known as “post-structuralism”.
        The roots of “post-colonialism” in this academic sense lay in the writings of Franz Fanon and especially in Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1978). There have also been similar or related ideas which have developed elsewhere, including within some strands of Black nationalist thought in the U.S. But the subject was then re-focused by the writings of Indian academics in the so-called “Subaltern Studies Group”. They claimed to be presenting the history of modern India from the perspective of the post-colonial Indians themselves, as opposed to the perspective of the British colonialists. And to the limited extent they were actually doing this, it was no doubt a somewhat positive thing. (But note that this is not necessarily the same thing as presenting history from the point of view of the revolutionary proletariat as opposed to the point of view of the imperialist bourgeoisie!) Two example volumes of this material are: Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (1983), and Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (1986). As the use of esoteric and pretentious terms such as “subaltern” already demonstrates, academics such as these were not even writing for the masses, but only for each other.
        However, more recently things have only gotten worse. The influence of insidious bourgeois French or Continental philosophy in this sphere, and especially of deconstructionism, has been further intensified as in the writings of Gayatri Spivak (such as In Other Worlds, 1988) and Homi Bhabha (The Location of Culture, 1994).
        The writings of the “post-colonialist” school are infamously obscurantist and are virtually totally incomprehensible to not only ordinary educated people in India, but also to people with reasonably good educations anywhere in the world! If there is any positive contribution whatsoever to revolutionary theory from this “post-colonial” sphere, it still remains to be re-stated in coherent and intelligible form.

“Postcolonialism is an academic language largely unspoken outside a few hundred universities, and one sometimes as unintelligible to the average Westerner as Swahili.
        “As a theory, postcolonialism sprang into existence in the late twentieth century, around the time when the struggles for national liberation had more or less run their course. The founding work of the current, Edward Said’s Orientalism, appeared in the mid-1970s, just as a severe crisis of capitalism was rolling back the revolutionary spirit in the West. It is perhaps significant in this respect that Said’s book is quite strongly anti-Marxist. Postcolonialism, while preserving that revolutionary legacy in one sense, represents a displacement of it in another. It is a postrevolutionary discourse suitable to a postrevolutionary world.” —Terry Eagleton, Why Marx was Right (2011), p. 222.

Post-colonialism, especially during its heyday (the mid-1980s to the late 1990s) in the second-generation poststructuralism of Said, Spivak, and Bhabha, should be viewed as a “global” updating and outgrowth of the “left” postmodernist thought initially put forward in the works of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan. Said, Spivak, and Bhabha carried on the immense popularity of these trends within the changing capitalist “postmodern” academy, extending the scope of this “high theory” so as to subsume “other” regions of the world within the peculiar and fashionable logics of poststructuralist thinking “beyond” class struggle. Post-colonialism thus represents in many ways the postmodern attempt to address capitalist imperialism.
        However, if one reads Lenin’s great revolutionary Marxist work, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, side-by-side with the writings of Said, Spivak, and Bhabha, it becomes strikingly evident how their thinking essentially mirrors that of Karl Kautsky, but merely with an array of changes in wording and methods of exposition. What Lenin argued with respect to Kautsky goes quite precisely for the “holy trinity” of Said, Spivak, and Bhabha: “The result,” Lenin writes, “is a slurring-over and a blunting of the most profound contradictions of the latest stage of capitalism, instead of an exposure of their depth; the result is bourgeois reformism instead of Marxism” (Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1993, p. 93).
        Post-colonial ideologies of “reading” – all immersed in anti-conceptual theories as the “toolkits” of poststructuralism – appeal to vague and ephemeral notions of “resistance” against “Western” imperialism while at the same time emptying the Marxist conception of “imperialism” of its essential class content as, in Lenin’s theory, “the highest stage of capitalism.” Post-colonial thought thus becomes very effective at distracting critical attention away from the class structure of so-called “post-colonial” societies (such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example) as well as away from the class outlook and orientation of “post-colonial” intellectuals and the masses of working people within the underlying social system of exploitation.
        Thus what Terry Eagleton (above) calls the “postrevolutionary” worldviews of post-colonialism have served the worldwide capitalist-imperialist system very well. In what are represented and celebrated as extraordinarily “subtle” and “complexifying” texts, they have further blocked and diverted attention from one of the core theories of revolutionary Marxism: as Marx and Engels put it in no “indeterminate” nor “playful” terms, the “ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force” which “rule[s] also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate[s] the production and distribution of the ideas of their age” (The German Ideology, Part I, 1989, p. 64).
        In academia, the institutional absorption and elevation of “postrevolutionary” post-colonial thought is hard to ignore, although of course it is knowingly ignored by way of “postmodern” versions of irony and cynicism: Said at Columbia University, Spivak at Columbia University, and Bhabha at Harvard. (See Arif Dirlik, The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism, 1998; Amrohini Sahay, “Transforming Race Matters: Towards a Critique-al Cultural Studies,” Cultural Logic, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1998, at http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/sahay.html; Jerry Dean Leonard, Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak (Of Shenhe), 2013.). The super-intellectuals of the “post” regime have taught “postrevolutionary society” to ignore such obvious rewards for their “radicalism” because, in their views, the revolutionism of Marxism has now passed away as a “modernist” mythology. Derrida, for example, “reads” Marx’s texts as a “fantastics” that is “fantastic and anachronistic through and through” (Derrida, Specters of Marx, 1994, p. 112, Derrida’s emphasis).
        Gayatri Spivak’s characteristically suggestive mode of “argument” during a 1985 interview very clearly (if this is ever possible with Spivak) articulates the underlying trend of the dominant postmodern “left” post-colonialism. “I’m committed to saving Marxism from its European provenance,” says Spivak, and “I am suspicious of the great narrative of Marx anyway, the mode of production narrative. It’s so closely tied to all kinds of imperialist notions because” (now get this) “Marx himself was writing in the 19th century” (Spivak and Angela McRobbie, “Strategies of Vigilance: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,” Block, No. 10, 1985, 5-9, pp. 7-8, emphasis added; also in McRobbie, Postmodernism and Popular Culture, 1994; see J.D. Leonard, “Chewing Rags in Her Sleep,” Red Working Papers, No. 2, 2011). Spivak’s “Marx anyway” needs to be translated ideologically: any way of relegitimizing “suspicion” of Marx’s Marxist theory will probably pass muster under the “vigilant” reading strategies of post-colonial reasoning. Again as Lenin says of Kautsky, this is Spivak’s rendition of the “toning down of the deepest contradictions of imperialism,” and this toning down “leaves its traces in this writer’s criticism of the political features of imperialism” (Imperialism, p. 120).
        Spivak’s vigilant interviewer, of course, is not the least bit “suspicious” of Spivak’s foreboding thoughts on “Marx anyway,” not to mention the pompous grandeur of “saving” Marxism while obscuring the class politics of “European” thought and Marxism’s internationalism. McRobbie fails to suggest to professor Spivak that Marx was also under “suspicion” in the 19th century as well. Why is Marx such a “suspicious” writer? Wasn’t Nietzsche also “writing in the 19th century”? Genuinely revolutionary socialist and communist thinking is always “suspicious” in the eyes of the “pious wishes,” as Lenin put it, of the guardians of capital. The “provenance” of post-colonialism lies in its petty-bourgeois “left” reformism with postmodern characteristics.
         —Jerry Dean Leonard, in a contribution to this Dictionary, Oct. 23, 2015.

[Sometimes without the hyphen.] A transitional architectural style in the Soviet Union in the 1930s (especially 1932-36), sometimes called the “early Stalinist” style. It is considered to be a stage of architectural design between the avant-garde
Constructivism of an earlier period and the neoclassical style of the later Stalin era. Most of these buildings had simple rectangular shapes and large glass surfaces (typical of Constructivism), “but with ornate balconies, porticos and columns (usually rectangular and very lightweight)”.
        Prominent architects working in this style included Ilya Golosov, Vladimir Vladimirov, and Igor Fromin. Post-constructivism was often similar to Art Deco, or Soviet architectural adaptations of styles similar to Art Deco.

[Sometimes with a hyphen.] A cynical, even nihilistic, trend in modern bourgeois philosophy (especially Continental philosophy) that denigrates concepts such as objectivity and reality and that denies there is any such thing as scientific truth in any sphere. [More to be added...]
        See also:

The quarter-century economic boom in major capitalist countries which followed World War II. In the U.S. and many other countries there was actually a quite sharp, but very short, recession immediately following the war, during which most war production was rapidly shut down and factories underwent the major process of retooling for production of consumer goods. But then, from the late 1940s to around 1973 there was a world capitalist boom, in which peacetime
GDP growth rates reached levels not seen since the 1920s or even earlier. There were some periodic recessions during this quarter-century period, but they were short and relatively shallow, and the boom soon resumed.
        Many people, both on the left and within the capitalist ruling class itself, did not foresee this boom. Indeed, many people expected that once the artificial stimulus of the massive war production (“Military Keynesianism”) of World War II was ended, the capitalist world would soon fall back into the Great Depression which characterized it as a whole during the 1930s. The revisionist or pseudo-Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, puts it this way:

“Just how and why capitalism after the Second World War found itself, to everyone’s suprise including its own, surging forward into the unprecedented and possibly anomalous Golden Age of 1947-73, is perhaps the major question which faces historians of the twentieth century. There is as yet no agreement on an answer, nor can I claim to provide a persuasive one.” —The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (NY: Vintage, 1996 (1994)), p. 8.

The strange thing here, given Hobsbawm’s supposedly Marxist background, is that Marx and Engels provided the basic answer to this question in their theory of capitalist crises and how they are resolved which they outlined in the Comunist Manifesto way back in 1848!

“In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of over-production.... And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? 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. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.” —Marx & Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, (1848), section I.

In short, capitalist economic crises are essentially crises resulting from the overproduction of capital itself. Thus, unless there is some way to expand capitalist production to new areas in a really extensive way, the only way to truly resolve these crises while the capitalist system still exists is through the destruction of this excess capital, and to start over again. And this is exactly what World War II accomplished on a scale unanticipated even by Marx and Engels: The massive destruction of physical capital to an absolutely unprecedented degree. And this is why there could be, and was, a major quarter-century capitalist economic boom in the capitalist world after World War II.
        Note that it is not really possible to resolve the current world capitalist economic crisis, which has slowly developed since 1973 (see Long Slowdown) and has taken a turn for the worse in the new century, in the same sort of way. The reason is that a new world war with sufficient destructive capability to clear the ground once again, which would of necessity involve vast numbers of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, would now be so destructive that humanity itself would most likely not survive at all.
        For more on this topic see: An Introductory Explanation of Capitalist Economic Crises, Chapter 3: How Are Capitalist Economic Crises Overcome?, by S.H., online at: http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/crises/Crises03.htm

POTENTIAL OUTPUT   [Bourgeois Economics]
The output (as measured by GDP) of a capitalist economy during a given period when all its capital and technology are fully put to use. In other words, the output if all the machinery in all the factories was put to good use by the appropriately skilled labor force.
        At least that is what potential output is supposed to be in theory! In actuality, bourgeois economists are driven to cheat on this definition in a whole variety of ways. First, they acknowledge that at any given time there are a lot of machines which are not being utilized, and even some entire factories closed down, but say that it would be impossible to put all of them into full use because if all the companies involved tried to do that at the same time there would be shortages of raw materials, fuel, and so forth! Of course that is true, but if all these companies were to gradually crank up all their machines and factories, there would soon be much more raw materials produced. So this type of excuse is really pure baloney. After all, it is these same apologists for capitalism that claim that the market will soon correct for any short-term shortages!
        Another excuse for not counting all the idle machines and factories is the claim that a certain portion of them are not intended to be used full time. Instead, companies keep a certain amount of excess capacity around just to meet occasional bursts in demand.
        Yet another way in which the real potential production of companies (and the economy as a whole) is grossly underestimated is through counting “full production” as being based on “current industry standards”, which—given the steady overproduction of capital—keep getting lowered. If a company were really going all out to produce all it could, for example, it would be operating its production facilities around the clock, in three shifts. But if effective demand has long since been far exceeded by the expansion of capital, the “industry standard” might now be to operate only one or maybe two shifts.
        Through phony methods and excuses like these, the actual estimates by bourgeois economists of what the “potential output” of a capitalist economy is get grossly understated. Nevertheless, even given these maneuvers, these economists still need to admit at times of recession (at least) that the economy is not producing up to its “full potential”. This is embarrassing for them because their own economic theory states that capitalist economies always will produce at full capacity (barring “external forces”). Their adherence to
“Say’s Law” forces them to claim, as Ricardo loved to say, that any amount of capital can and will be put to good use.
        Reality shows otherwise, and even bourgeois economists are forced to admit the existence of “output gaps” between actual production and potential production.

POTTIER, Eugène   (1816-1887)
The author of the superb poem that was later set to music as the proletarian anthem,
The Internationale.

“A poet of the Paris Commune. Born in a Paris worker’s family, he became a worker at the age of 13. He wrote many militant poems calling on the French workers to fight the bourgeoisie. He actively participated in the 1848 revolution in France. He later joined the First International. When the Paris Commune was established in 1871, he was elected a Member of the Commune, and took part in fierce battles during the revolution. A few days after the failure of the revolution, he wrote the poem The Internationale. Seventeen years later worker-composer Pierre Degeyter set Pottier’s verse to music, and the battle song of the proletariat of the whole world was born.” —Note to an article on the Paris Commune, Peking Review, vol. 14, #13, March 26, 1971.

The condition of lacking the usual or socially acceptable minimum amounts of money and material possessions; in other words, being quite poor. This often implies shortage of food, hunger, deficient nutrition, poor or unavailable health care, poor quality housing or even homelessness, lack of access to educational opportunities, and so forth.
        Capitalism as a socioeconomic system is unable (or unwilling) to prevent a significant portion of the population from living in poverty, even in the richest and most advanced capitalist-imperialist countries which steal enormous amounts of wealth from the rest of the world. The level of poverty in any given country depends on a variety of factors, many of which can vary over time. There is always much higher levels of povery in
“Third World” countries, which are exploited by foreign imperialism. And poverty levels generally fluctuate somewhat with capitalist economic cycles, and increase substantially in periods of economic crisis.
        Most governments rather arbitrarily set what they call a poverty line, or level of income below which a person or family is considered to be “in poverty”. This line is virtually always set absurdly low in order to try to hide the true extent of real poverty that exists. Even so, the poverty levels in the United States today are quite high and expanding rapidly. In 2009, by this government standard, 14.3% of Americans lived in poverty, which is the highest level in 15 years. That’s a total of 44 million people, or 1 in 7. Among children, 1 in 5 lives in poverty. All this in the richest country in the world. [Statistics from a Census Bureau report, quoted in the New York Times, Sept. 16, 2010.]
        See also below and: SOCIAL JUSTICE INDEX,   WORLD POVERTY

A dividing line in income levels below which everyone recognizes that a family is living in poverty, and slightly above which is not at all considered as poverty by the well-to-do bourgeois assholes who specify the line and who would squeal like stuck pigs if they were forced to live on even just 10 times as much!
        For the year 2009 the official U.S. poverty line was $10,830 for a single adult, and $22,050 for a family of four.
        See also the entry for POVERTY just above.

An early work by Marx, which was written in French in 1847. The full title was The Poverty of Philosophy. Answer to the “Philosophy of Poverty” by M. Proudhon. Marx’s book was thus his critique of the anarchist
Pierre Joseph Proudhon’s political, economic and philosophical system. In this work Marx also gave considerable attention to criticizing Hegel’s idealist dialectics, to working out the basic ideas of materialist dialectics, and to creating the foundations of Marxist political economy.
        In a letter to Marx (on May 12, 1851) commenting on this book Ferdinand Lasalle said that Marx showed himself to be “a Hegel turned economist, a Ricardo turned socialist”. And there is indeed something essential about Marxism ever since, that it combines philosophy, political economy and politics into an integrated and coherent whole.

A bourgeois ephemism for
militarism and imperialist war or threats of war.


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