Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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QIAN Qichen   (1928-   )
Revisionist Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China from 1988 to 1998, who also became a Vice Premier in 1993. Further biographical info is available at:

QING DYNASTY   (1644-1912)   (Old style: CH’ING DYNASTY)
The last imperial dynasty to rule China. It was founded in 1644 by a nomadic Jurched clan of Manchus, when it replaced the earlier Ming Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1911-1912, had an abortive restoration in 1917, and was succeeded by the Republic of China.


The felt or “phenomenal” qualities claimed to be associated with mental experiences. In other words, the supposed “properties” of mental states or events or sensations which determine “what it is like” to have those states or sensations. The favorite example of proponents of this curious notion is with colors, where supposedly “redness” is a “property” of our sensation of seeing red things, “blueness” is a property of our sensation of seeing blue things, etc. How this notion of qualia adds anything to simply seeing red things and blue things, and recognizing that they are red or blue, is hard to understand!
        The most notorious and seductive argument in favor of the existence of “qualia” is the supposed possibility of “inverted color spectrums”, where it is imagined that someone might look at red things and nevertheless have the “same internal experience” of “blueness” that others have when they look at blue things, and vice versa! (For a debunking of this idealist thought experiment, see the entry for
“inverted spectrum”.)
        Qualia are imagined to be something over and above the physical and functional facts and characteristics of the brain which allow us to categorize things as red or blue, painful or pleasant, big or small, etc. But since this is the case, they must be unknowable “qualities”, not only to others, but even to ourselves on different occasions. For example, how can we possibly know that our experience of “redness” today is not identical to what we considered to be the experience of “blueness” yesterday? It is only because the same external stimuli have activated the same neural structures that allow us to make the same internal mental classifications (of blue or red, etc.) as we did yesterday. In short, no such things as “qualia” which are unconnected with objective neural states and functions are intelligible or even coherent concepts.
        The ways of thinking that have led to such slippery and ill-formed notions as “qualia” are a modern form of philosophical idealism that is still quite rampant on the part of bourgeois philosophers in the sphere of the philosophy of mind.

“The hypothetical concept of qualia, pure mental experience detached from any information-processing role, will [in the future] be viewed as a peculiar idea of the prescientific era, much like vitalism—the misguided nineteenth-century thought that, however much detail we gather about the chemical mechanisms of living organisms, we will never account for the unique qualities of life. Modern molecular biology shattered this belief, by showing how the molecular machinery inside our cells forms a self-reproducing automaton. Likewise, the science of consciousness will keep eating away at the [so-called] hard problem [of consciousness] until it vanishes.” —Stanislas Dehaene, Consciousness and the Brain (2014), p. 262.

A major, relatively sudden, change in the state or character of something. Typically, the way a major change or development happens is like this: Over a period of time a number of small changes occur in the thing, and when these small changes have accumulated to some critical threshold, a fundamental change or qualitative leap occurs. Thus, in a tea kettle the water is gradually heated on the stove until it reaches 100 degrees Celsius, whereupon the water suddenly begins to boil.
        But what about that gradual warming process itself? What is really going on there if we look at the situation very closely? What we find is that even there it is a matter of many small qualitative leaps occurring. When a water molecule bumps into the heated surface of the tea kettle, or into another water molecule which has more energy than itself, it may suddenly acquire additional energy. With respect to the tiny water molecule this is a major qualitative leap; with respect to the entire mass of water in the tea kettle it is an extremely tiny change, and one of the many trillions of similar tiny changes that collectively occur as the water gradually heats up.
        Qualitative leaps seem to exist just about everywhere, in nature, in society, and in human thought. In geophysics we have the gradual accumulation of strain in a fault zone, which finally snaps in the form of an earthquake. Or the accumulation of heat in the earth (due mostly to radioactive decay) which at some critical point leads to a volcanic eruption. Radioactive decay is itself a qualitative leap that occurs within an atom or sub-atomic particle. In evolutionary science we have a number of small changes in the organism’s genome, which finally result in a leap to a new species. According to the theory of “punctuated equilibrium”, these larger leaps often occur rather suddenly in relation to both geologic time and the length of time in which the new species then continues to exist. In human thought, we suddenly grasp a concept which has previously eluded us, or suddenly remember a name that we have been trying to recall. And in society, we sometimes have the accumulation of social strains and pressures leading to eventual social revolution.
        The recognition of the importance of qualitative leaps in nature, thought and society is one of the subsidiary laws of
dialectics, and for this reason they are often called dialectical leaps. Coming to understand our changing world is often a matter of learning the specific conditions under which particular kinds of qualitative leaps occur.
        See also: DIALECTICAL LEAPS—Popular Terms For, and Philosophical doggerel on this topic.

[Recent Wall Street slang term:] A quantitative financial analyst, often a mathematician or at least someone extensively trained in mathematics, usually working for a bank or investment company, and who supposedly can calculate to the high degree of accuracy the varying risks in different kinds of highly
leveraged investments. The fact that these so-called financial geniuses (a few of whom have even received the phony “Nobel Prize” in economics) did not foresee or properly handle the financial meltdown in late 2008 shows that their complex mathematical models did not reflect actual capitalist economic reality.

A euphemism within the economic centers of power in capitalist countries for massive money creation (in effect, just printing it) by the central bank which is then flooded into the financial system, often in order to prevent the near-term collapse of some gigantic credit bubble. One of the methods used to do this in the U.S. is for the Federal Reserve to buy up bonds issued by the Treasury Department, which has the effect of the Fed just printing money for the government to spend. (However, the money is not actually spent unless Congress authorizes specific expenditures.) Another of the methods used to implement QE is for the central bank to buy up the shaky debt of commercial banks (such as
CDOs) to keep them from failing.
        In the fall of 2008, there was enormous “quantitative easing” by the Federal Reserve in the U.S., and by other central banks around the world, as part of their efforts to keep the world economy from totally collapsing. The Federal Reserve launched a second round of QE in November 2010, and then a third round (nicknamed “QE3”) in September 2012. In December 2012 the Fed announced that it would continue purchasing $85 billion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities each month “until the job market improved”, thus suggesting that QE3 might continue permanently. In late 2012 the European Central Bank also announced that it would start utilizing QE more seriously, in an effort to prevent the euro zone from falling apart.
        Quantitative easing would be much more effective if it actually led to larger amounts of money getting into the hands of consumers who would then spend it. Instead, much of the money ends up in bank vaults where it augments already huge piles of cash which the banks are already unwilling to lend—because they can’t find credit-worthy borrowers. QE does have the effect of driving up the prices of financial investments (including the stock market), but it has little positive effect on the real economy. That is, QE helps expand the financial bubble which will eventually only collapse in an even more spectacular manner.

“The Bank of Japan pioneered the process known as quantitative easing (QE) in 2001-06, when it massively boosted the reserves that commercial banks held at the central bank. Its verdict on how well QE worked then ought to interest policy-makers today. It will also discomfort them. For all that it propped up Japan’s creaking banking system, QE did not really improve the economy nor end the country’s deflationary mindset.” —“Loose Thinking: Japan’s sobering experience of quantitative easing”, The Economist, Oct. 17, 2009, p. 90. [In January 2013 the Bank of Japan announced yet another round of tepid QE, but said it would not begin until 2014.]

The opposite, or reversal, of quantitative easing [see entry above]. This becomes especially necesssary in order to combat high and out of control inflation such as has developed in 2022.
        Quantitative Easing is implemented because the economy is “weak” (i.e., the long-developing
overproduction crisis needs the ever greater expansion of credit to keep it from seriously worsening). But if serious inflation develops, as must inevitably happen if credit is expanded at an ever-increasing rate, then this expansion (in the form of QE or other ways) must be reversed. So the capitalist ruling class is in an irresolvable bind: They must expand credit to keep the economy from sinking into recession/depression, but they must also curtail the expansion of credit to prevent uncontrollable inflation. The trouble is, they can’t do both of these opposite things simultaneously.

[To be added.]
        See also:
WAVE FUNCTION [Muller quote]

The modern theory of electromagnetism as described on the basis of quantum mechanics.

1. [In quantum mechanics:] A sudden leap from one discrete quantum state to another, as for example in the transition of an electron in an atom from one energy state [or “orbit”] to another. Also called a quantum jump.
2. [In popular discourse:] A
qualitative leap, abrupt change, or sudden major transformation in the state of some object or process.

A branch of modern physics concerned primarily with molecular, atomic and sub-atomic particle interactions and processes, and which (on most interpretations) views matter as having a dual wave and particle nature. (See:
WAVE-PARTICLE DUALITY.) Quantum mechanics is quite abstruse mathematically and notoriously subject to bizarre philosophical interpretations. The three most important philosophical interpretations of the strange phenomena of quantum mechanics are: 1) the Copenhagen Interpretation; 2) the “Many-Worlds” Interpretation; and 3) the Hidden-Variables Interpretation. The first two of these are clearly philosophical idealist theories, while the Hidden-Variables Interpretation (which was championed by Albert Einstein) is much more of a materialist view of quantum mechanics.
        A very common problem in the interpretation of quantum mechanics is due to the confusion between the proofs and demonstrations within its abstract mathematical theory with the supposed reality of the physical world. As has been said, anything definite in quantum mechanics is mathematical, and anything physical in quantum mechanics is indefinite.

“Quantum physics formulates laws governing crowds and not individuals. Not properties but probabilities are described, not laws disclosing the future of systems are formulated, but laws governing the changes in time of the probabilities and relating to great congregations of individuals.” —Albert Einstein & Leopold Infeld, The Evolution of Physics (1938).

An extremely tiny particle in physics which carries a fractional electric charge (in relation to the charge of an
electron or proton), and which combines with other quarks to form hadrons including protons, neutrons, and other particles. Quarks interact via one of the four known physical forces, the strong nuclear force. At present quarks (and antiquarks) are considered to be among the few elementary particles in physics (along with the electron and some other more exotic particles). However, in the past many entities which have been at first considered to be “elementary”—including atoms themselves and protons and neutrons—have turned out to actually be composites of still smaller particles.
        See also: STANDARD MODEL


“Asking is half of knowing.” —Rumi [Persian Sufi mystic, 1207-1273 C.E.]

Many people who have at least some initial and limited understanding of the many desperately serious problems of American society, and especially
liberals and “progressives” who at least vaguely understand that capitalism has a “certain amount” to do with these many problems, are nevertheless looking for “quick fixes”, solutions which involve only short-term effort, mostly on the part of others, and which definitely do not require any great but “scary” revolution to get rid of capitalism! Favorites among these simplistic notions are: Writing to your Congressman; Calling for one or two new laws; Hoping that the next election will somehow change things in some significantly better way; and (gasp!) possibly even attending a peaceful demonstration or two!   —S.H. [Nov. 2023]

“If there is a magic answer [to the problems of society], I don’t know it. But it sounds to me as if the tone of the questions [about what to do] and part of the disparity between listening and acting suggest—I’m sure this is unfair—Tell me something that’s going to work pretty soon or else I’m not going to bother, because I’ve got other things to do. Nothing is going to work pretty soon, at least if it’s worth doing, nor has that ever been the case.”   —Noam Chomsky, discussing the sorts of questions he very frequently gets from those who, after listening to his often powerful criticisms of U.S. foreign policy or American society, ask him, “Well, what should we do about all this?”, Class Warfare, (Common Courage Press, 1996), p. 115.
         [Chomsky gives many speeches and interviews around the country where—to his credit—he provides endless details on the foreign and domestic crimes of the U.S. government. Chomsky’s role is one primarily of exposure of those crimes. Many of the college kids, especially, who hear these talks, then ask for his advice about what they themselves should be doing to change things. But Chomsky, though he calls himself an anarchist or libertarian socialist, is in effect just another social democrat focused on hopes for peaceful change through the ballot box. He knows that just telling his audience to “elect better people” is going to sound pretty hollow to them. So he really has no good answer to give them about “what to do”.
         [If Chomsky were a revolutionary Marxist he would say something like this: “There is no easy or short term solution to these problems! And things are only going to get much worse! The present capitalist-imperialist system is hopelessly corrupt and murderous, and unless something drastic is done it might end up killing us all! So the only real thing to be done today is to start to organize a working class revolution to overthrow this damned vicious system. To start with, this means creating revolutionary study groups, collectives and organizations all around the country, groups which will—through their practice in struggle—in time allow a genuine Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionary party to come into being, a party which can actually organize the milllions of Americans to overthrow this vicious beast that confronts us today. It is a massive task, and we will have to learn how to do it by doing it; but there is really no other way. In other words, what is really needed now is for dozens and hundreds, and eventually thousands and then millions, of people to come forward and be willing to dedicate their lives to overthrowing capitalism and building a better world run by and for the people themselves.”
         [It is true, however, that most of the young people who go to listen to Chomsky will not at present accept this answer either! Most of them today really still are looking for some “quick fix”. However, among them are some more serious people who we have to look for and try to bring together to get something more important underway.   —Ed.]

QUINE, W. V. O.   (1908-2000)
Influential American bourgeois philosopher in the
empiricist tradition who focused on deductive logic. His famous 1951 essay “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, criticized, first, the notion that a sharp distinction can be made between analytic statements which are true by definition and synthetic statements which can only be validated by experience; and second, the notion that every meaningful statement can be directly verified by experience. These were two principles at the core of logical positivism, and Quine’s essay is often credited with killing off that extreme empiricist school of thought. Nevertheless, Quine himself was still a somewhat more moderate empiricist, and Hilary Putnam, his colleague at Harvard, fittingly referred to him as “the greatest logical positivist”.
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Quine.

A collection of quotations from Mao’s writings originally prepared in 1964 by the People’s Liberation Army for use in the education of soldiers, and published in many regional editions around China. It was then issued in massive editions during the
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in the form of a small book with a red plastic cover.
        The Quotations was translated into more than 40 other languages. The first English edition was published in 1966, and the second in 1967, both with the preface inscription by Lin Biao. A new edition, without that inscription, was published in 1972 after Lin’s disgrace and death. After the revisionists seized power in China they fairly soon stopped publishing the Quotations. In 1990, China Books in San Francisco began republishing the 1972 English version of the book.
        Both in China and around the world the book has often been referred to less formally as the Red Book, or the Little Red Book. It is available online in the Marxist Internet Archive at: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/red-book/index.htm

Islam’s holy book, more often spelled “Koran” in the West.

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