Some person, group, or class, which not only strongly resists any further changes in society (whether that be social revolution or mere reforms), but who also wishes to “turn the clock back” and undo at least some earlier changes, such as some earlier reforms that have been achieved against their wishes. In modern capitalist society the bourgeoisie is appropriately viewed as the reactionary class, since it not only totally opposes proletarian revolution, and even almost all reforms, but also regularly tries to reverse earlier reforms. When the ruling bourgeoisie ever does finally agree to any significant new reform it is only because they have been forced to; and even then they virtually always have the secret intention of reversing what they view as “a temporary concession” to the people at a later time.
“It is up to us to organize the people. As for the reactionaries in China, it is up to us to organize the people to overthrow them. Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.” —Mao, “The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan” (August 13, 1945), SW4:19; also in Quotations from Mao Tsetung, Chapter 2.
“However much the reactionaries try to hold back the wheel of history, sooner or later revolution will take place and will inevitably triumph.” —Mao, “Speech at the Meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” (November 6, 1957); also in Quotations from Mao Tsetung, Chapter 3.
See: BOOKS—Reading Of
The economic ideas and policies which characterized the administration of the former actor and U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, during the 1980s. Although Reagan himself knew very little about capitalist economics (or anything else), his advisors strongly pushed what came to be known as supply-side economics and neoliberalism. This meant they focused on lowering taxes for the rich and their corporations, promoted all sorts of deregulation measures for corporations, attacked labor unions, and—in general—did everything they could think of to benefit the rich and their corporations while driving down the working class and masses.
Among the major economic advisors in the Reagan administration were the reactionary monetarist Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer (of Laffer Curve notoriety). The Reagan economic advisors predicted, with their supply-side logic, that lowering corporate taxes would increase economic growth and that government deficits would at the same time disappear. The budget and trade deficits did not disappear, however, and instead got much larger. The weak U.S. economy did improve somewhat in the years 1983-86, but this was—ironically—actually because of the Keynesian budget deficits that the “supply-side” foolishness (along with the greatly increased military spending) actually led to!
See also: THATCHERISM
“The Reagan tax cuts should have discredited supply-side economics. The
evidence of failure was not the Volker recession [induced by the Federal Reserve in an
attempt to control inflation], which was already under way when the tax cuts passed into
law. Rather, it was the fact that even after growth resumed toward the end of 1982, the
promised supply-side benefits did not materialize. Everyone agreed handing out money
would boost economic growth. The supply-side claim was that lower tax rates also would
encourage people to work harder and invest more. The administration specifically predicted
Americans would save about 40 percent of the tax cut—an astonishing figure, given the 6
percent savings rate for other kinds of income. Instead, the average savings rate did not
“The bill also sought to encourage investment by slashing corporate taxation, particularly for manufacturers. Between 1960 and 1980, the effective tax rate on machinery already had been reduced from 59 percent to 18 percent. Under the 1981 law, the effective rate fell to negative 5.5 percent. The federal government, in essence, was subsidizing investment in machinery. A study of 250 large corporations found slightly more than half paid no taxes in at least one year between 1981 and 1983. General Electric—which the study dryly described as ‘Ronald Reagan’s former employer’—earned $6.5 billion and did not pay a penny in taxes. But investment declined across the economy. In a defining moment, U.S. Steel announced in November 1981 that it would buy Marathon Oil for $6.3 billion instead of upgrading its aging steel mills.”
—Binyamin Appelbaum, The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (2019), pp. 114-5.
Land and/or buildings, including houses and larger structures. Also called real property.
REAL INTEREST RATE
The nominal interest rate minus the current inflation rate. Thus the real interest rate indicates the actual gain in purchasing power for the lender and the loss in purchasing power for the borrower. For example if a bank loan is at a nominal 10% and the inflation rate is 7%, then the real interest rate is only 3%. It is also possible for real interest rates to be negative if the rate of inflation exceeds the nominal interest rate.
Wages after adjustment for inflation. Thus if a person makes $20/hour now as compared to $15/hour two decades ago, but the average prices of the goods he or she buys have doubled over that period, then the real wages for that person have declined by 33%.
See also: WAGES—Falling
“Realistic politics”. Offically defined along the lines of “politics (especially international politics) based on practical or material factors rather than moral considerations”. But this is a euphemistic definition. In practice, Realpolitik usually means imperialist strong-arm methods of force, gun-boat diplomacy, the forced submission of less powerful countries to the economic and political demands of the imperialist powers, and—when all that fails—outright war.
“The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.” —Thomas Paine, quoted in The Week magazine, May 6, 2016, p. 17.
“If passion drives, let reason hold the reins.” —Attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
“Everything has its major and minor reasons; all the major ones govern
the minor ones. People of our country must think in terms of major reasons if they want
to think and act properly.” —Mao, June 11, 1967, SW 9:416.
[A principle of Hegelian dialectics which has been carried over to Marxist dialectics is that, at least commonly and generally, each process and development occurs primarily because there is one central contradiction at work pushing it forward. Of course there are also many subsidiary and/or related contradictions at work in any major process too. But if it is true that one dominant contradiction is the basic explanation for some change or development, then it seems to be merely expressing the same thing in different words to say that there must be one dominant reason for it. Among the subsidary or related contradictions, some will be more important than others. And the most important of them will likewise result in the most important subsidiary reasons for the situation or change, while the less important subsidary or related contradictions will constitute the minor reasons for it. For the opposing anti-dialectical view see overdeterminism (senses 2 & 3). —S.H.]
Expanding the capital of a bank or corporation to support the increased risk and threat of insolvency which has come to light, usually in a financial crisis. The trouble is that usually no one wants to invest in a bank or company that appears to be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Thus recapitalization often means that there is a government bailout in progress. This in turn happens through the government doing one or more of the following: 1) taking over responsibility for some of the debt or risky loans that the bank or company made; 2) simply loaning or giving them money; or 3) through partial or complete nationalization (by the government purchasing the ownership, or part of it, of the bank or company which is near bankruptcy, usually at grossly excessive prices). A mixture of all three methods was used in the wave of bailout-recapitalizations of banks, other financial institutions and industrial corporations that began in the fall of 2008 during the Great Recession.
See also: BANK CAPITAL
Evaluating a situation based only on very recent data, without considering the longer term developments and history.
“Most economists put the probability of such a recession hitting before
the end of 2020 at less than 20 percent.
“But economists are more often wrong than right. Professional forecasters have missed every recession since such records were first kept in 1968, and one of the many reasons for this is ‘recency bias’, using economic forecasting models that tend to give too much weight to recent events.” —Ruchir Sharma, “Sowing the Next Downturn”, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2018, p. A-19.
Modern name (in the capitalist-imperialist era since World War II) for the lowest part of the common capitalist economic cycle, in which many—but not all!—of the basic economic contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production come to a head. If all these contradictions, including the most fundamental of them, the contradiction between social production and private appropriation, fully come to a head, then we have a much more serious situation, a depression, rather than merely a recession.
Bourgeois economists define a “recession” in a different and much more complex way, but basically as a period when the economy (GDP) overall is shrinking rather than growing. By that standard there have been 25 recessions in the U.S. since 1896, including two during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the very serious Great Recession which is officially dated from December 2007 to the summer of 2009, but whose ill-effects still continue as far as the welfare of the working class in concerned. According to the bourgeoisie, recessions are “over” if GDP is growing even if the economy is still at a lower level than before the recession began, and no matter how bad unemployment and other conditions remain for the working class.
See also: HYSTERESIS
RECESSIONS — Predicting
It is often noted that bourgeois economists are very bad at predicting recessions (and, indeed, in predicting the future course of the economy in general). Why is this? It is simply because they do not understand the basic laws of capitalism; they do not really know how capitalism works. So instead of making predictions based on a comprehension of the laws underlying the system, they are reduced to making predictions based on 1) their biased pro-capitalist belief that the system generally works well, and 2) the expectation that what has been happening recently will continue to happen, if not considerably improve. I.e., their “predictions” are at best only a restatement of what has already recently been happening, along with some “positive thinking” and cheerleading.
See also: ECONOMIC FORECASTING, EMPIRICISM—In Economic Forecasting
“[T]urning points in economic activity—the transition periods from
positive to negative growth, or vice versa—give forecasters fits. Take the brief but
severe recession that began in January 1980. The forecasting consensus did not see
the contraction coming. And when they finally did predict declines in economic growth,
they vastly underestimated the magnitude of the decline.
“In another case, thirty-five out of forty economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal in mid-1990 foresaw no recession in the next twelve months. The recession began the very next month.” —Elia Kacapyr, Economic Forecasting: The State of the Art (1996), p. 4.
“Perhaps the best sign of how difficult it is to know the economy’s direction is that, as a group, the nation’s professional forecasters have failed to predict all the recessions since the 1970s, according to data kept by the Philadelphia Fed. In the last 30 years, the average probability they put on the economy lapsing into recession has never risen above 50 percent—until the economy was already in a recession.” —David Leonhardt, New York Times, Sept. 7, 2011.
“Number of economic downturns that have occurred worldwide since 1988: 469
Number that were predicted by IMF economists more than four months before they began: 4”
—“Harper’s Index”, Harper’s magazine, July 2019, p. 9.
The post-Civil War era in the U.S., especially as it applied to the defeated Confederate States, from around 1863 up until around 1877. The goal of the victorious North was to “reconstruct” the former slave states after the war and to guarantee the former Black slaves equal civil rights. Although three new amendments to the U.S. Constitution were made and other laws passed, the reconstruction efforts were fitful, quite half-hearted at times, and ultimately mostly a complete failure. The extremely oppressive and racist southern system based on share-cropping that emerged was only a little better than the outright slave system that came before it. It was only well into the 20th century that serious changes were made to that system. And even still today, racial oppression and discrimination remain powerful and outrageous characteristics of American society.
For more information see the Wikipedia article on Reconstruction at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstruction_era
“They gave the freedman the machinery of liberty but denied him the steam with which to put it into motion. They gave him the uniform of soldiers, but no army; they called them citizens and left them subject.... They did not deprive the old master class of the power of life and death which was the soul of the relation of master and slave. They could not of course sell them, but they retained the power to starve them to death, and wherever this power is held, there is the power of slavery.” —Frederick Douglass, “The Emancipation Address” (Washington, 1888).
“[I]n his masterly account Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, [Eric] Foner detailed why the attempt to rebuild the country on a racially egalitarian footing after the Civil War failed: political factionalism, financial corruption and the vindictive President Andrew Johnson’s efforts to subvert reform; an economic depression that triggered ‘a resurgence of overt racism’; and a campaign of terror against blacks that went unchecked by law enforcement. The enormous consequences of these events—the re-establishment of white supremacy, extreme disparities of wealth and power between whites and blacks, the entrenchment of racism—were divisive for the nation and devastating for blacks.” —Lincoln Caplan, “Constitution Revolution”, New York Times Book Review, Oct. 13, 2019, p. 13.
RECTIFICATION CAMPAIGN (China: 1942)
A campaign within the Communist Party of China launched in 1942 during the Yan’an Period. This campaign was for the purpose of combatting the lingering ideas and political line of Wang Ming and other erroneous lines, trends and influences within the CCP, including that of the bourgeois feminist writer Ding Ling. This overall and primary aspect of the campaign played a very positive role in the CCP. However, this rectification campaign also marked an early stage in the development of the cult of personality around Mao Zedong, something that proved to be not so positive in the long run.
1. Attacking or persecuting people for being communists, whether or not they are communists.
2. Accusing liberals and other people who are quite clearly not communists of being communists, in order to discredit them within bourgeois politics.
In very reactionary countries, such as the U.S., red baiting typically has this second sense, because—for one thing—there are not very many actual communists around, and they play little or no role within the dominant media intra-bourgeois political struggles.
It might be thought that red baiting plays a positive role in some respects, since in bourgeois politics anything remotely progressive is soon labeled as “communistic” by some reactionary or other—thus tending to associate anything at all progressive or in the interests of the people with communism. However, there is little doubt that on balance red baiting is a very negative phenomenon that primarily serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class and their indoctrination of the people. In bourgeois society most people need to learn what their actual interests are, and the overall nature of social reality, in a step-by-step fashion which usually only fairly gradually leads them from liberal reformist views to revolutionary and communist views. Red baiting creates tremendous fears among many liberals about “going too far” or “taking any further steps” in their ideas or actions against the ruling capitalists. Intellectuals, especially, can thus become quite emotionally fearful of advancing their own ideas in any radical direction.
See also: ANTI-COMMUNISM, McCARTHYISM, “RED TAGGING”, TO BE ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY IS A GOOD THING
“Virtue, it turns out, is the exclusive property of the right. This was brought to my attention just a few months after I began writing ‘The Ethicist,’ a weekly column in The New York Times Magazine, when it was denounced by four periodicals, each more right-wing than the last... [The online National Review said:] ‘“The Ethicist” Better Termed “The Marxist.”’ I may have earned this encomium by suggesting that public education was worthwhile, or perhaps by favoring breathable air. Or air. (Admissions requirements for Marxism have apparently been lowered precipitately, like some kind of ideological grade inflation.)” —Randy Cohen, “The Politics of Ethics”, The Nation, April 8, 2002, p. 21.
See: QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG
Organizations of students and youth during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. [More to be added... ]
RED GUARDS — Factionalism Within
[Intro to be added...]
“The revolutionary red guards and revolutionary student organizations must form a grand alliance. As long as they are revolutionary mass organizations, they must form a great alliance according to revolutionary principles.” —Mao, Oct. 1, 1967; SW 9:419.
RED INTERNATIONAL OF LABOR UNIONS (“PROFINTERN”)
An international association of revolutionary trade unions, based in Moscow, and existing from 1921 to 1937. Its official name in Russian was the Krasnyi internatsional profsoyuzov, from which is derived its widely known abbreviated name, the Profintern. It was established by the Communist International to coordinate revolutionary work by trade unions around the world, and as an alternative to the so-called “Amsterdam International”, the social-democratic International Federation of Trade Unions, which was class collaborationist and opposed to revolutionary struggle.
The RILU was internally confused and conflicted right from the start. On the one hand it accepted Lenin’s logic that Communists should go to the workers, in whatever organizations they were in—even the most reactionary trade unions—and work to build their revolutionary class understanding there. But on the other hand, in the heady circumstances of the just-victorious Russian Revolution, the RILU expected early revolutions in many other countries and wanted to organize what it believed were many existing revolutionary-minded trade unions around the world into effective agents of these further revolutionary uprisings. The situation was made more complex by the large number of syndicalists in trade unions at that time, which gave some labor unions the false appearance of being more revolutionary than they really were.
The RILU formally adopted a “united front” policy for the trade union movement at its Second World Congress in late 1922, and at its congress in 1924 it passed a half-serious resolution calling for a merger with the Amsterdam International. But it continued as a weak and further weakening separate international association of trade unions until its final dissolution in 1936-1937 as part of the new anti-fascist “Popular Front” policies adopted by Stalin and the Comintern.
Despite the initiative of starting a new trade union international in
direct competition with the previously existing Amsterdam international, the Profintern
in its initial phase continued to insist that its strategy was not to “snatch out of the
unions the best and most conscious workers,” but rather to remain in the existing unions
in order to “revolutionize” them. The founding Congress’s official resolution on
organization declared that the withdrawal from the existing mass unions and abandonment
of their memberships to their often conservative leaderships “plays into the hands of
the counter-revolutionary trade union bureaucracy and therefore should be sharply and
Still, the Profintern insisted upon a real split of the labor movement, establishing conditions for admission which included “a break with the yellow Amsterdam International.” The organization effectively advocated that radicalized workers engage in “boring from within” the existing unions in order to disassociate the full organizations from Amsterdam and for Moscow. Such tactics insured bitter internal division as non-Communist members of the rank-and-file and their elected union leaderships sought to maintain existing affiliations.
As part of its strategy for winning over the existing unions, the Profintern decided to establish a network of what it called “International Propaganda Committees” (IPCs), international associations of radical unions and organized fractional minorities in unions that were established on the basis of their specific industry. These groups were intended to conduct conferences and publish and distribute pamphlets and periodicals in order to propagandize for the idea of revolution and for the establishment the dictatorship of the proletariat. The IPCs were to attempt to raise funds to help sustain their efforts, with the governing Executive Bureau of Profintern subsidizing their publications. By August 1921 a total of 14 IPCs had been established.
The Profintern’s International Propaganda Committees proved ineffectual in changing the opinions of union memberships. Unions began to expel their radical dissidents and international unions began to expel those national sections which participated in the activities of the Profintern, exemplified by the October 1921 expulsion of the Dutch Transport Workers’ Federation from its international trade organization.
—From the Wikipedia entry on the RILU (accessed June 26, 2017).
A term used by radical reformists in the U.S., especially those associated with the two Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) groups [one of which was recently renamed “Liberation Road”], to describe their occasional discussion and promotion of the need for revolution with individuals, which they have decided is only “appropriate” today with a very small number of quite advanced people (mostly students). Instead of making this so-called “Red-level work” their primary task, they view revolutionary education and promotion among the broad masses as incompatible with their central task of joining up with workers in their struggles for reforms within the capitalist system. In other words, their conception of “Red-level work” is incredibly scholastic and wooden, and therefore seems to them to be only appropriate at a few very exceptional times and places.
A sporadic theoretical journal published by the Revolutionary Union, predecessor to the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The issues and their topics were:
#1 (Early 1969): Includes a statement of principles; an article in defense of Marxism-Leninism; and an article about how some RU members were attempting to bring revolutionary ideas to the workers in Richmond, California. [Issue #1 is online in the “Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line” at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-1/index.htm ]
#2 (Mid 1969): Main document was “United Front Against Imperialism: Strategy for Proletarian Revolution”. [Issue #2 is online in the EROL at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-2/index.htm ]
#3 (1970): “Women Fight for Liberation” (Entire issue devoted to issues related to women’s liberation.) [Issue #3 is online in the EROL at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-3/index.htm ]
#4 (1972): “Proletarian Revolution vs. Revolutionary Adventurism” (The documents from both sides in the struggle and split which occurred in the RU near the end of 1970.) [Issue #4 is online in the EROL at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-4/index.htm ]
#5 (October 1972): “National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.” (Mostly devoted to the Black National Question.) [Issue #5 is online in the EROL at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-5/index.htm ]
#6 (June 1974): “Build the Leadership of the Proletariat and its Party” (Includes articles on the importance of building a new revolutionary party; about a struggle in the RU around the national question; and summing up some practical work among the proletariat.) [Issue #6 is online in the EROL at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-2/rp-6/index.htm ]
#7 (October 1974): “How Capitalism has been Restored in the Soviet Union and What this Means for the World Struggle” (Entire issue devoted to that topic.) This is probably the most important issue of Red Papers, and the one with most continuing value. [It is now available from the USSR page on BannedThought.net at: https://www.bannedthought.net/USSR/index.htm ]
In addition to these seven issues of Red Papers published by the RU, the Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters organization, which split off from the Revolutionary Communist Party in early 1978, published one item, which they called Red Papers 8. It had sections attacking the “Gang of Four” in China; on their views of revolution in the U.S.A.; and on their split from the RCP.
A term which has become popular in the Philippines, especially during the Duterte regime (2016-22), for the routine labeling by government officials and their media supporters of all critics and opponents of Duterte as Communists or Communist-sympathizers, whether or not they really are. In other words, this is another term for what is known as red baiting in the U.S.
RED WEEK [Italy, 1914]
A week in June 1914 in which a general strike was called in Italy. In Bologna the Red Flag was raised over the town hall, and in the Romagna and Marches areas a republic was declared. However, the authorities had mostly regained control by the time of the outbreak of World War I in August 1914.
The removal of the most important information from a government document even when the public is allowed to see it at all. The example at the right, of a page about CIA torture from a U.S. Senate report published in 2014, shows how utterly ridiculous this redaction can be. Bourgeois governments simply don’t dare let the people know the true extent of the crimes that they are really committing, even when a small hint of those crimes does leak out.
1. The view that one sort of explanation for some phenomenon can be expressed better or more profoundly in terms of the relationships and functioning of its component parts.
2. The view that one sort of explanation for some phenomenon can be expressed in a more fundamental way, such as by means of a more general or abstract theory.
3. [Pejorative sense:] Denigration of any attempt to explain something scientifically. (This attitude has become popular in bourgeois philosophy and in academia more generally since the mid-20th century.)
See also: SCIENTIFIC LAWS—Hierarchical Structure Of
“Reductionism, in one popular sense, is the absurd idea that anything
can be understood (at least ‘logically’ and ‘in principle’, if not in actual
practice) in terms of the relationships and forces operating between its most fundamental
“In point of fact, it is impossible to understand many complex entities and processes in such terms. Even though quantum electrodynamics is the underlying physical theory which in some sense ‘explains’ both automobiles and sewing machines, I challenge anybody to ever explain the difference between an automobile and a sewing machine in terms of QED!
“It is always possible to ‘dispense with’ any high-level abstraction when describing the world. But this is not the same as saying that high-level descriptions are truly reducible to lower-level descriptions. You can ‘dispense’ with the high-level description in the sense that you can use a different kind of description instead. But this is not to say that you have thereby intelligibly ‘translated’ the higher-level description into a lower-level description.
“There have in fact been a number of impressive successes where particular scientific theories have succumbed to a reductionist program, in one sense of the word. Thus the specific laws in physics which govern the relationships between pressure, temperature and volume of a gas (Boyle’s Law, for example) have been shown to be derivable from the more fundamental laws of thermodynamics. And it is now claimed that all of chemistry can be explicated and understood in terms of quantum electrodynamics, and that therefore chemistry has been ‘reduced’ to physics. There is no reason to doubt that this kind of reductionism will find further successes with physical science, especially physics.
“There have been, and will no doubt continue to be, examples of successful ‘reductions’ within other areas of science too, such as biology, linguistics, psychology, and social science. But it will never be possible to reduce all of science to physics! (The name that some contemporary physicists use for their program of unifying quantum mechanics and relativity theory is the height of arrogance: the ‘Theory Of Everything’, or ‘TOE’.)
“Many high-level scientific laws and principles in biology, for example, will never be reducible to physics. Can you imagine the absurdity of trying to express the theory of evolution in terms of quarks and gluons for example? Or how about expressing Grimm’s Law (of systematic phonetic shifts in the evolution of human languages) in terms of some eventual TOE! A laughably ridiculous notion! Genuine social science too (i.e., historical materialism and its extensions) will never be reduced to physics or even to biology.
“Of course some principles of biology and even physics are relevant in social science, just as they are in linguistics and other sciences. But such sciences can never be wholly (or even largely) reduced to physics.
“The higher level principles even within many physical sciences cannot really be reduced to physics. Thus the theory of plate tectonics in geophysics cannot possibly be reduced to quantum mechanics and relativity theory, whether or not these two are eventually combined into some unified theory. I even have some serious doubts about the claim that all the high level laws of chemistry can be reduced to QED. Certainly in practice they cannot.
“Karl Popper once said that ‘All science is cosmology, I believe.’ If all this means is that cosmology relates to everything else, since it is the science of the development of the universe as a whole, then this is unobjectionable. But most likely, Popper is guilty of an invalid sort of reductionism here. Any statement that all sciences are ‘really’ one particular science (physics, cosmology, or whatever) is ridiculous if taken literally. In dialectical terms it fails to recognize the particularity of contradiction, and the possibility of emergent phenomena which can only be intelligently explained by scientific laws couched in terms of those emergent phenomena.
“Even in dealing rationally with functionally discrete portions of the physical world, reductionism is usually out of place—or even totally goofy. Many machines, for example, are so complex that you can’t understand them except in terms of their parts which perform various kinds of tasks and functions, all contributing to some overall function. An automobile is so complicated that its operation and purpose would be hopelessly incomprehensible to anyone who tried to describe it solely in terms of the molecules that go to make it up. That low level of description and abstraction is entirely inappropriate, and useless in this case. A much higher level of abstraction is necessary to describe the principles by which an automobile works, how the transmission functions, and so forth.
“The principles of physics, and in particular quantum electrodynamics, are in a sense the ‘ultimate’ explanation (perhaps!) for the various interactions among the atoms and molecules of the brain, just as they are the ultimate explanation for the various interactions among the atoms and molecules of an automobile. But no one can understand how a brain works in terms of quantum mechanics any more than they can possibly understand how an automobile works in terms of such principles. This is why Roger Penrose is so absurdly off base in his book The Emperor’s New Mind when he suggests that we can never understand the mind except in terms of unknown principles at the level of quantum mechanics or below! This is moving in precisely the wrong direction; instead of looking for scientific principles at a higher level of abstraction than molecules, at the level of the complex organization of molecules, he is off looking for them at a lower level of abstraction. Only a brilliant idealist mathematician could be so stupid!
“Just one more illustration of the idiocy of ‘explanatory reductionism’: Even if it is possible ‘in theory’ to describe the movement of my cat in terms of fundamental particles and fundamental forces, it is far more helpful to note that the cat is moving toward the bowl of milk ‘because it is hungry’. Multiple layers of reductionist explanations (in terms of physics, or chemistry, or cell biology)—no matter how true they may be—are inappropriate and worthless if one wishes to intelligibly discuss the behavior of cats.”
—Scott Harrison, “On the Analogy Between Mind/Brain and Software/Hardware”, section 15, Dec. 4, 1992, online at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/mindsoft.htm
Purposeful inflation (additional expansion of the currency supply) in order to stop deflation or even to prevent stable prices! (Most contemporary bourgeois economists believe that “mild inflation” is best for the economy.) “Reflation”, in other words, is—in the mouths of bourgeois economists—pretty much just a euphemism for inflation.
REFLECTION THEORY [Philosophy]
An important part of the Marxist understanding of the relationship of ideas and the mind to physical reality; the view that mental conceptions reflect or correspond in one way or another to aspects of that reality. “At the roots of the theory of knowledge of dialectical materialism lies the recognition of the objective world and its reflection by the human mind.” (Lenin)
The term reflection itself, however, can be somewhat misleading. Marxists are not claiming that this reflection in the mind or brain of external reality is like a mirror or a camera, which reflects an exact pictorial image of something. Rather the concept of reflection is much more abstract than that. Our mental idea of ‘dog’ is not an actual picture of a dog which is somehow formed in the brain.
“In that section of their outline, they [Christof Koch and Francis
Crick] argue that there must be ‘explicit representations’ in our brains of things we
perceive. By this they mean that if we can see a dog, whatever is happening in our
brains while we’re looking at the dog must be measurable and directly translatable,
if we only knew what to measure and how to translate it. Thus it would be theoretically
possible, by measuring the activity of neurons, to read the mind of someone looking at
Fido and—simply by looking at the pattern of neuronal activity—know they were seeing
a dog.” —Shannon Moffett, The Three-Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Quest to
Unlock its Mysteries (2006), p. 82.
[In the same way, the Marxist Theory of Reflection is not saying that our idea of ‘dog’ (whether we are looking at one at the moment or not) is some actual pictorial representation of a dog in our brain, but rather a more abstract correspondence between some complex of neural connections/activity and actual dogs. By the way, the hypothesized ability of scientists to read minds in the postulated way has now been demonstrated in the laboratory. In one experiment a subject was asked to think about a series of things one at a time, including a hammer. Functional MRI images were made of the brain while they did this. Later the subject was asked to think about just one of these items. The person thought about a hammer, and by viewing the fMRI image at that moment the scientists were able to determine that this was in fact what they were thinking about. This sort of thing is very crude at present (fortunately, given that this is bourgeois society!), but it does show that there is some definite correspondence, or “reflection”, in the mind/brain between our ideas and reality. —S.H.]
When a baby or very young child sees a dog or other thing they may at first not yet be
able to form the idea or concept of ‘dog’. The formation of ideas which reflect reality is a
process that must occur in the mind/brain. Moreover these ideas or concepts must be refined
over time to more adequately reflect reality. (For example, the original concept of ‘dog’
in the child’s mind may be that of some one particular dog, rather than of dogs in general.)
Similarly, even much older children and adults will invariably have some ideas which are in
need of much further refinement or even major modification in order to more truly reflect
reality. This is especially apt to be the case with regard to social ideas and concepts
which are systematically distorted by the bourgeoisie in capitalist society.
See also: THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE—Marxist, SENSATIONS
“[Dialectical] Logic is the science of cognition. It is the theory of knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of nature by man. But this is not a simple, not an immediate, not a complete reflection, but the process of a series of abstractions, the formation and development of concepts, laws, etc., and these concepts, laws, etc. (thought, science = ‘the logical Idea’) embrace conditionally, approximately, the universal law-governed character of eternally moving and developing nature. Here there are actually, objectively, three members: 1) nature; 2) human cognition = the human brain (as the highest product of this same nature), and 3) the form of reflection of nature in human cognition, and this form consists precisely of concepts, laws, categories, etc. Man cannot comprehend = reflect = mirror nature as a whole, in its completeness, its ‘immediate totality,’ he can only externally come closer to this, creating abstractions, concepts, laws, a scientific picture of the world, etc., etc.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:182.
“Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. The reflection of nature in man’s thought must be understood not ‘lifelessly,’ not ‘abstractly,’ not devoid of movement, not without contradictions, but in the eternal process of movement, the arising of contradictions and their solution.” —Lenin, ibid., LCW 38:195.
The 16th century religious movement in Europe which was marked by the rejection or modification of various doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the establishment of the Protestant form of Christianity.
See also: LUTHER, Martin
REFORMS — Struggles For
The struggle for reforms, that is to say, for improvements in the condition of the working class and masses even though they still remain exploited, victimized and suffering under the present capitalist-imperialist system, as well as the struggle to stop further attacks on the people (“negative reforms”), are an important and indeed indispensable part of the class struggle of the proletariat. However, far more important than any possible set of reforms which might be won through this struggle is progress toward the complete overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system. Thus, the most important things about the struggle for reforms is not the reforms themselves but rather the opportunities they hold for growth of class consciousness, for mass organization, and for revolutionaries (and the revolutionary party where one has come into existence) to educate the workers and masses in the necessity for revolution and about what socialist-communist revolution really means.
The struggle for reforms, and the participation by revolutionaries in mass struggles for reforms, are not the same thing as reformism! (See the entry on REFORMISM below.)
“Revolutionary Social-Democracy [revolutionary Communism] has always included the struggle for reforms as part of its activities. But it utilizes ‘economic’ agitation for the purpose of presenting to the government, not only demands for all sorts of measures, but also (and primarily) the demand that it cease to be an autocratic government. Moreover, it considers it its duty to present this demand to the government on the basis, not of the economic struggle alone, but of all manifestations in general of public and political life. In a word, it subordinates the struggle for reforms, as the part to the whole, to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and for socialism.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:405-406.
REFORMS — Those which are Impossible under Capitalism
Many fairly limited or partial reforms are possible in capitalist society, though in general these reforms still come only though prolonged major struggle on the part of the people (and are also quite subject to being eviscerated or even totally reversed later on). Thus in the U.S., such struggles have eventually led to the right for women to vote (as mostly useless as voting has become); a dismantlement of many (though by no means all) of the segregation and discrimination laws and practices directed at African-Americans and other minorities (though the country remains deeply discriminatory and racist); the establishment of the Social Security System and unemployment insurance (completely inadequate as those things are); and so forth. But there are some desired reforms which are impossible to really achieve under capitalism—even in a partial or limited or temporary sort of way. This is simply because many horrible aspects of capitalist society are so essential to the system and its continuation that the capitalists can never possibly agree to reforms that eliminate them—no matter how much pressure is put on them! They would amount to the ruling class agreeing to give up its control of society, either immediately or else in short order. And this they will never voluntarily agree to do.
One example of such an impossible reform in capitalist society is the complete abolition of the police and military forces and relying instead on the armed and organized people themselves to protect their interests and maintain public order. This can never happen under this system because the ruling bourgeoisie, the “one percent”, would be immediately overpowered and overthrown if the 99% were armed, organized and conscious of the real situation in capitalist society. The bourgeoisie simply must retain total control of the police and military forces if it is to continue to rule, which is something they know very well. It is for this reason that the recent slogan following the racist police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in early 2020 to “defund the police” is a hopelessly liberal-utopian demand under the present system. It simply ain’t gonna happen in any significant way until we first have a full-scale proletarian revolution.
There are a number of other impossible reforms under capitalism that we could mention here, including: 1) Implementing economic democracy and workers’ control of the factories; 2) Allowing the control of the political content of the media by representatives of the working class and masses; 3) Allowing revolutionary organizations open and complete access to educate the masses on the nature of capitalism and on the crying need for social revolution; and a genuine and total end to all U.S. imperialist wars and never again to start another such war. Even just truly and completely ending racism and achieving full equality for women in this society are really impossible, because the ruling class needs the people to be divided and to have large numbers of people that it can exploit to an even greater degree than the rest. The capitalist-imperialist bourgeoisie ruling this country can never agree to demands such as these, because they lead in fact to imminent social revolution and to their own overthrow.
Not only are demands such as these impossible to achieve under capitalism, it is actually even wrong for revolutionaries to give the people the erroneous impression that they can possibly be achieved as reforms under the present system, and without any need for social revolution. Of course the programmes of our (genuinely) revolutionary parties in all countries make it crystal clear that we intend to implement these great changes and many more changes! But in our present agitation among the masses we have to be very careful not to give people the false idea that really basic changes like these are attainable under the present capitalist system. That’s not true, and giving people the idea that it might be true is a way of lying to them, or at least of seriously misleading them. Here is what Lenin had to say on this issue:
“When the revolutionary tide is not rising, the Communist Parties must advance partial slogans and demands that correspond to the every-day needs of the toilers, and combine them with the fundamental tasks of the Communist International. The Communist Parties must not, however, at such a time, advance transitional slogans that are applicable only to revolutionary situations (for example workers’ control of industry, etc.). To advance such slogans when there is no revolutionary situation means to transform them into slogans that favor merging with the captalist system of organization. Partial demands and slogans generally form an essential part of correct tactics, but certain transitional slogans go inseparably with a revolutionary situation. Repudiation of partial demands and transitional slogans ‘on principle,’ however, is incompatible with the tactical principles of Communism, for in effect, such repudiation condemns the Party to inaction and isolates it from the masses.” —Lenin, Program of the Communist International, (NY: Workers Library Publishers, 1933), p. 83. [Recall also that Lenin used the word ‘tactics’ where we would say either ‘strategy’ or else ‘strategy and tactics’. —Ed.]
So it is important to remember not only that there are such things as “reforms which can never be won under capitalism” (or “transitional demands”, as we also refer to them), but also that we must quite regularly remind the workers and the masses that the most important things we are working for can only be won through the working class seizure of power and proletarian revolution!
1. [As an abstract principle:] Work towards changing of minor or secondary factors of a situation in a way which relegitimizes the overall or basic system.
2. Reformism, in the Leninist view, is not a matter of the participation of revolutionaries along with the masses in the struggle for reforms under the present capitalist system. It is instead a program or perspective of failing to use that struggle for reforms primarily for the purpose of building a revolutionary movement to completely overthrow capitalism. To be a reformist is, then, to sincerely work to lead the working class to win reforms under the existing capitalist system without ever seriously talking to the workers about why all such reforms are limited and precarious and will sooner or later be reversed, and about why they must become conscious revolutionaries and overthrow the horrifying capitalist system completely.
There are, however, two trends which confuse the participation of revolutionaries in the mass struggle for reforms with reformism: First, the reformists themselves often claim that they are “actually revolutionaries” and argue that it is “simply too early” to talk about revolution with the masses. They claim that only the struggle for reforms (without any mention of revolution) is appropriate at the present time. According to many of these reformists (such as those in the two FRSO groups, one of which has now changed its name to “Liberation Road”), what they refer to as “Red-level work” (talking about revolution) is wrong at present except with a very tiny number of advanced individuals in the working class.
The second trend which confuses any participation in the struggles of the masses with reformism is that of most anarchists and ultra-“Leftists” (such as the RCPUSA), who do not want to “dirty” or “corrupt” themselves by participating with the working class in their present-day struggles (which are almost entirely around reforms of one sort or another). In their view they are “pure revolutionaries” who will only engage in overtly revolutionary work. They will preach to the masses from afar about the need for revolution, but they are incapable of merging with the masses, participating with them in their own existing struggles, and using that critically important opportunity to talk about the need for revolution in a context where the masses are much more receptive to the idea. They shout about revolution (and often loudly promote their own revolutionary leader), but are completely incapable of effectively bringing revolutionary ideas to the people.
It is amazing how difficult it has been for revolutionaries in the U.S. to get clear on this difference between reformism and the participation of revolutionaries in the struggles of the masses for reforms in order to be in a better position to bring the “light of revolution” to them (as Lenin put it). This failure to understand such a basic point might even be described as the central problem with the contemporary American revolutionary movement over the past 50 years, a problem which continues still today.
“Unlike the anarchists, the Marxists recognise struggle for reforms,
i.e., for measures that improve the conditions of the working people without destroying
the power of the ruling class. At the same time, however, the Marxists wage a most
resolute struggle against the reformists, who, directly or indirectly, restrict the aims
and activities of the working class to the winning of reforms. Reformism is bourgeois
deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain
wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.
“The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled.
“And conversely, workers who have assimilated Marx’s theory, i.e., realised the inevitability of wage-slavery so long as capitalist rule remains, will not be fooled by any bourgeois reforms. Understanding that where capitalism continued to exist reforms cannot be either enduring or far-reaching, the workers fight for better conditions and use them to intensify the fight against wage-slavery. The reformists try to divide and deceive the workers, to divert them from the class struggle by petty concessions. But the workers, having seen through the falsity of reformism, utilise reforms to develop and broaden their class struggle.” —Lenin, “Marxism and Reformism” (Sept. 12, 1913), LCW 19:372. [This entire article is online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/sep/12b.htm.]
See also below, and: AMAKUDARI, ORGANIZED CAPITALISM
“Any government which had both the power and the will to remedy the major
defects of the capitalist system would have the will and the power to abolish it altogether.”
—Joan Robinson, in her review of R. F. Harrod’s book The Trade Cycle, in the
Economic Journal, December 1936.
[Robinson is entirely correct here. The two most basic conclusions which follow from this are: 1) The attempt to “regulate” capitalism in the full and real interests of the people is a foolish liberal pipe-dream; and 2) The central focus of our political work must be to rid the world entirely of capitalism, and not merely to forever and futilely try to “reform” or “regulate” it. —Ed.]
REGULATORY AGENCIES [Under Capitalism]
Government agencies which supposedly regulate the operations of, and prices charged by, private companies “in the public interest”, especially utilities and other companies which are considered to be “natural monopolies”. While capitalist economic theory generally argues that all regulation leads to “inefficient capitalist markets” (see Laissez-faire and neoliberalism), all but the most extreme ideologists of capitalism recognize that there needs to be some regulation of private companies. (Including regulation of dangerous industries such as chemicals and nuclear energy.) Nevertheless, such regulation almost always proves to be mostly nominal, and largely ineffective, especially over the long term.
See also: AMAKUDARI
To regard an abstraction (abstract entity) as a material or concrete thing. For example, someone who regards mathematical circles as existing in the world in the same sense that trees and houses do is reifying an abstraction that has been derived from extrapolating from the (more or less) round things we come across in the material world. (See Mathematical Platonism.)
It is true, however, that philosophers and other intellectuals often get rather carried away in their charges of “reification” against others. It has been absurdly claimed, for example, that we should not talk about “class interests” and that doing so is a form of reification since supposedly only individuals can have interests, not groups of people. This particular argument relies on confusion between psychological interests (which only individuals with minds/brains can have) and beneficial interests, or things which benefit someone or a group of people! (For more on this specific point, see chapter 2, section 2.9C, of my work in progress, The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics at https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf —Scott H.)
In most cases where a charge of “reification” is more justly brought it might still be more reasonable (and more comprehensible) to simple say that the person is confusing one sort of thing with a different sort of thing. Terms like “reification” are generally needlessly esoteric and pretentious.
RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION
The role or position of individuals and groups of people with regard to the ownership and/or control of the means of production and therefore with regard to the ownership or control of the economic surplus produced in economic production. The relations of production are thus the primary determinant of the class structure of any class society: which classes exist, and the nature of the political-economic relationships between the different social classes. Specifically, in every class society there is the central relationship of exploitation: one class exploits another, and thus lives off the labor of another.
In capitalist society the relations of production are as follows:
1) The bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) owns and controls the means of production, either as individuals, or in the form of corporations, or sometimes collectively at the state level (as with the U.S. Postal Service, or with all of industry as in the revisionist Soviet Union).
2) The proletariat (or working class) has no ownership share or control over the means of production, and therefore to survive each proletarian must sell his or her ability to work to one or another capitalist or capitalist corporation or entity. There is thus an exploitative relationship between the the bourgeoisie and the proletariat: The capitalists exploit the workers, since the source of surplus value and capitalist profits is the labor of workers.
3) The petty bourgeoisie (independent professionals and operators of very small businesses such as family-run restaurants) are more or less independent of both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. They are neither directly exploited by the capitalists, nor do they (for the most part) exploit the working class.
“The defining anecdote in this final chapter is the tragicomic tale of a Mr Peel, who took with him from England to the Swan River district of western Australia £50,000 in cash and 3,000 working-class men, women and children. He overlooked only one thing: the need to keep his workers separated from the means of production. Finding land freely available in this empty region they abandoned their employer, leaving him without even a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river. ‘Unhappy Mr Peel,’ Marx writes, ‘who provided for everything except the export of English relations of production to the Swan River!’” —Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital (2006), p. 69, summarizing an historical incident described by Marx in Capital, vol. I, ch. 33.
RELATIVE SURPLUS VALUE
See: SURPLUS VALUE—Absolute and Relative
RELATIVISM (In Epistemology)
The absurdly excessive skeptical view that there is no objective truth, nor any definite truths about the world. Usually this takes the form of claiming that human beings are incapable of determining or arriving at any definite truths about the world (including both the physical world and human society). According to this notion, everything is just a matter of unsubstantiated opinion. However, in reality, this is usually more of an indication that the holders of such views are themselves unable to figure out any important facts and truths about the world. They then foolishly ascribe their own inability and ignorance to everyone else!
Of course there is some degree of relativity to human knowledge. Humanity certainly does not know everything about the world, and never will. The extent of our knowledge is increasing over time, and we know things now we did not know in centuries past. But human knowledge as a whole must still be considered “relative” in this sense. Furthermore, the world, and things in it, are continually changing, so in this sense too things are somewhat relative and our knowledge of them is not “absolute” (complete, permanent or unchanging). Nevertheless, we do know many definite things about both the physical world and human society, and our knowledge is steadily increasing in both areas. Relativism, as a philosophical theory, is a wild and totally unjustified exaggeration of the actual limitations of human knowledge.
Relativism is one of the characteristic views of those who subscribe to pragmatism, and is also a central aspect of postmodernism in academia.
See also: AGNOSTICISM—Epistemological and Philosophical doggerel about relativism.
“Old people tend more to relativism; young people tend more to absolutism.” —Mao, 1937, marginal note in his copy of the Marxist philosopher Ai Siqi’s book Philosophy and Life; in Nick Knight, ed., Mao Zedong on Dialectical Materialism (1990), p. 237.
RELATIVISM (In Ethics)
[To be added...]
See also: ETHICAL RELATIVISM
RELATIVITY — Galilean
“[T]he principle of Galilean relativity [says]: ‘Given two frames of reference moving at a constant relative velocity, there is no mechanical experiment whatsoever that will distinguish one from the other.’ To make this more concrete, if one is inside an airplane that is flying in a straight line at a fixed altitude at a speed of 500 miles an hour, the principle of Galilean relativity states that no mechanical experiment carried out inside the plane will be able to reveal that it is not standing stock still in a hanger—or conversely, if the plane is sitting on the ground, no mechanical experiment performed inside it will be able to reveal that it isn’t streaking along at 500 miles an hour. [A ‘mechanical experiment’ is one only involving motion, speed, acceleration, rotation, gravity, collisons, springs, and so forth—but does not include optics, electricity, magnetism nor nuclear forces, none of which were known in Galileo’s day.] We all know that when we are flying in the sky at a great speed, as long as the speed is constant, we can pour ourselves a glass of water without taking into account the fact that we are moving. It will feel exactly as if we are perfectly still. And the same holds, of course, when we are in a train moving along a straight stretch of track at a fixed speed, whatever that speed may be.” —Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013), p. 466.
RELATIVITY — Theory Of
[To be added...]
See also: EINSTEIN, Albert, SPACE-TIME
The belief in and/or ritual observance and obeisance toward one or more gods; or—in more abstract and attenuated forms—adherence to some idealized system of supernatural beliefs. Positively all forms of religion are thus inherently and necessarily opposed to a fully scientific view of the world.
See also below, and: SUPERSTITION
RELIGION — As a Palliative
Despite the fact that from a scientific point of view all religions are patently false in their understanding of the world, it is beyond dispute that historically many people have derived emotional comfort from certain of these completely erroneous religious beliefs. For example, many people whose lives are very unhappy (because of personal misfortune as well as because of economic exploitation and social oppression), have found solace in the hope that “a better world awaits us in heaven” after our deaths, even though such a “heaven” simply does not exist. Many people are irrational enough that what are actually their demonstrably false beliefs can nevertheless moderate their misery and bring them some personal comfort.
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the
expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion
is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of
soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” —Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, Introduction, (1844). Online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm
RELIGION — Decline Of In The West
See also: SECULARIZATION
“The institutions most severely undermined by the new moral individualism [in the late 20th century] were the traditional family and traditional organized churches in the West, which collapsed dramatically in the last third of the century. The cement that had held the communities of Roman Catholics together crumbled with astonishing speed. In the course of the 1960s attendance at Mass in Quebec (Canada) fell from 80 to 20 per cent and the traditionally high French-Canadian birth-rate fell below the Canadian average. Women’s liberation, or more precisely women’s demand for birth-control, including abortion and the right to divorce, drove perhaps the deepest wedge between the Church and what had in the nineteenth century become the basic stock of the faithful..., as became increasingly evident in notriously Catholic countries like Ireland and the Pope’s own Italy, and even—after the fall of communism—in Poland. Vocations for the priesthood and other forms of the religious life fell steeply, as did the willingness to live lives of celibacy, real or official. In short, for good or ill, the Church’s moral and material authority over the faithful disappeared into the black hole that opened between its rules of life and morality and the reality of the late-twentieth-century behaviour. Western Churches with a less compelling hold over their members, including even some of the older Protestant sects, declined even more rapidly.” —Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (1994), p. 337.
RELIGION — Decline Of In The U.S.
To a degree still not widely recognized, religion is now on a fairly rapid and steady decline in the United States, especially among young people.
See also: CHURCH ATTENDANCE, SECULARIZATION
[Caption from The Economist, May 16, 2015, for the graphic at the
right:] “A study by the Pew Research Centre found that the number of Americans describing
themselves as Christian dropped sharply from 78.4% of the adult population in 2007 to 70.6%
last year, and that those who said they were ‘unaffiliated’ with a religion rose to 22.8%.
The fall in Christian identifiers was spread among all demographic groups but particularly
marked among those born since 1990. Only 56% in that cohort identified as Christian; 36%
had no affiliation.”
[Note that even Evangelical Protestantism is in decline. The slight rise in non-Christian religious affiliation is due mostly to immigration. For a more recent update, see the next quote. —Ed.]
“The portion of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising significantly,
in tandem with a sharp drop in the percentage that identifies as Christians, according to new
data from the Pew Research Center.
“Based on telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, Pew found that 65% of American adults now describe themselves as Christian, down from 77% in 2009. Meanwhile, the portion that describes their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’ now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.
“Both Protestant and Roman Catholic ranks are losing population share, according to Pew. It said 43% of U.S. adults identify as Protestants, down from 51% in 2009, while 20% are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.
“Pew says all categories of the religiously unaffiliated population—often referred to as the ‘nones’—grew in magnitude. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up from 2% in 2009; agnostics account for 5%, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular,’ up from 12% in 2009.
“The report comes at a challenging time for many major denominations in the U.S. The two largest—the Cathlic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention—are beset by clergy sex-abuse scandals. The United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination, faces a possible split over differences on the inclusion of LGBTQ people.
“The Pew report found a steady decline in the rates of attendance at religious services.” —David Crary, Associated Press, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 19, 2019.
[Excerpts from an article about the crisis within, and great decline in
membership, which have been occurring in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant
fundamentalist church in the U.S.:]
“The confidence that fuelled the 1979 resurgence [in the Church] is long gone. The convention’s membership of 15 million, concentrated in the Bible belt, is its lowest in 30 years, and falling. Half of Southern Baptist children leave the faith; annual baptisms—which reached a high in the mid-1970s, when the moderates were ascendant—are at their lowest level in almost a century. Worse, the convention is gripped by two mutally reinforcing crises that are both illuminating and accentuating its decline.
“The first is a split over Donald Trump far more rancorous and damaging than most non-evangelicals appreciate.... The second crisis is a slew of sexual-abuse scandals that have made what is still the biggest Protestant demomination appear as unsafe for children as the Catholic church.
“Recent investigations by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found that over the past two decades nearly 400 Southern Baptist officials, including several well-known pastors, had been credibly accused or convicted of abuse. These twin crises are not merely bad in themselves. They also appear to have flipped how many Southern Baptists look on their decline, turning an attitude of righteous stoicism into something closer to panic....
“Most obviously, revelations that hundreds of women and children were abused in church camps and Sunday schools—and often cruelly suppressed when they tried to protest—have made it harder for Southern Baptists to find solace in their own holiness. Especially as the revelations point to something worse than a few bad apples: they are an indictment of the institutionalized male chauvinism that the [earlier] conservative resurgence helped cement.
“... And their contentious embrace of Mr. Trump has made that situation even worse, by alienating the younger and non-white evangelicals they must recruit merely to tread water. Mr. Greear, a conservative theologican with the relatively moderate outlook of his native North Carolina, ... acknowledges that Mr. Trump’s election has driven a ‘quiet exodus’ of blacks from its churches.”
—Lexington: On the Edge, “The Southern Baptists are beset by two related fiascos: sex scandals and Donald Trump”, The Economist, June 15, 2019, p. 24.
RELIGION — In China
See: CHINA—Religion In
RELIGION — Marxist Attitude Towards
See also: MARXISM—As a Religion
“Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism of the eighteenth-century Encyclopaedists or the materialism of Feuerbach. This is beyond doubt. But the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels goes further than the Encyclopaedists and Feuerbach, for it applies the materialist philosophy to the domain of history, to the domain of the social sciences. We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion, and in order to do so we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching, and it must not be reduced to such preaching. It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion.” —Lenin, “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion” (May 13 (26), 1909), LCW 15, online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1909/may/13.htm
RELIGION — Social Role Of
[Intro to be added...]
“The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.” —Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire (1776), vol. I, ch. 2.
RELIGION — Utter Absurdity Of
“If you live in America, the chances are good that your next door neighbours believe the following: the Inventor of the laws of physics and Programmer of the DNA code decided to enter the uterus of a Jewish virgin, got himself born, then deliberately had himself tortured and executed because he couldn’t think of a better way to forgive the theft of an apple, committed at the instigation of a talking snake. As Creator of the majestically expanding universe, he not only understands relativistic gravity and quantum mechanics but actually designed them. Yet what he really cares about is ‘sin,’ abortion, how often you go to church, and whether gay people should marry. Statistically, the chances are that your neighbours believe all that—and they can vote.
“In other parts of the world, there is a good chance that your neighbours believe you should be beheaded if you draw a cartoon of a desert warlord who copulated with a child and flew into the sky on a winged horse. In other places, there’s a good chance that your neighbours think their wishes will be granted if they pray to a human figure with an elephant’s trunk.
“Even if your neighbours don’t hold any of those mutually contradictory beliefs, they probably take it for granted that we should unquestioningly respect those who do. And the huge majority of American and British newspapers and periodicals go along with this abject kow-towing to what their educated editorial staff must know, in their heart of hearts, is nonsense.” —Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, in a recent promotional letter for the magazine Free Inquiry (precise date unknown).
RELIGION — Versus Science
Although it is fashionable to deny it in contemporary wishy-washy liberal bourgeois society, there has always been—and continues to be—a war between religion and science. All religions, without exception, are opposed to at least some well-established scientific facts and theories, and many religions are in effect opposed to science in general, or at least to the core or foundation of science—scientific method. In some cases some religions have, after long and bitter struggle against science, made some retreats and partial concessions. After a bitter struggle lasting centuries, in which some scientists (like Giordano Bruno and Galileo) were either burned at the stake or threatened with it, the Roman Catholic Church finally admitted that the Sun and not the Earth is the center of the solar system. More recently they have finally admitted that human beings have evolved from lower animals through the process of natural selection. However most fundamentalists, such as Evangelical Protestant Christians, even deny this fully established scientific fact. And all religions, by postulating one or more immaterial gods, who are supposedly capable of thought and action in the physical world, thereby oppose the science of cognitive psychology which explains mind and mental phenomena as high-level summary statements about the processes and states of physical brains (or their future artificial equivalents). Thus it is completely true to say that the war between religion and science still continues, and will not end until religion admits total defeat and disappears.
See also: “DOCTRINE OF THE TWO BOOKS”
“Mathematicians, astronomers, and physicists are often religious, even
mystical; biologists much less often; economists and psychologists very seldom indeed. It is
as their subject matter comes nearer to man himself that their antireligious bias hardens.”
—C.S. Lewis, “Religion without Dogma?” (1946), in The Grand Miracle: And Other Selected
Essays on Theology and Ethics from “God in the Dock” (1986).
[C.S. Lewis was an apologist for religion if ever there was one. Thus what he calls an “anti-religious bias” of scientists, especially biologists and psychologists, is in reality merely a much less prominent pro-religious bias on their part. What this actually demonstrates is that as people—even in our present still primitive society—apply scientific investigation and methods to humanity and human society they soon discover scientific explanations for what others imagine to be reasons to believe in God. It is biologists and psychologists who investigate human brains and the nature of minds, for example, and therefore more readily come to understand that the universal notion of God as an immaterial being who nevertheless has a mind and can intercede in nature is a totally incoherent and unscientific fantasy. —S.H.]
1. [In general:] Money sent from one person or company to another.
2. Money sent from workers who are employed in a foreign country back to their families in their home country. Such international remittances are of huge importance to many “Third World” countries oppressed and exploited by imperialism. Sometimes, as in the case of Nepal and the Philippines at present, their most important economic export is the labor power of a significant part of their own proletariat working in other countries.
“The dependence of Mexico’s extremely unequal capitalism on emigration and
remittances is stark. In the most thorough study to date, the World Bank’s Raul Hernandez-Coss
found that in 2003, remittances were a much larger inflow of money into Mexico than both foreign
tourist expenditures inside Mexico and total foreign direct investment in Mexico.
“That has remained the case through 2007. Only oil exports brought in a bit more money than workers’ remittances. And the prospects for Mexico’s future oil production are declining while those for many other Mexican exports are being dimmed by devastating competition from Chinese and other Asian exports.
“Remittances grew many times faster—peaking at $24 billion in 2006—than gross domestic product in Mexico over the last decade, thus becoming an ever more important support for an otherwise increasingly dysfunctional economy. The concensus estimate of researchers is that 20 percent of Mexican families—many among the nation’s poorest—now depend significantly on remittances for their basic incomes. Since many transfers are made through illegal and other channels not counted by the gatherers of statistics, it is certain that all official estimates are in fact underestimates of the actual remittance flows and their importance.” —Richard D. Wolff, “US Economic Slide Threatens Mexico”, in his Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010), pp. 191-2.
REMOLDING ONE’S WORLDVIEW (or WORLD OUTLOOK)
Changing one’s viewpoint (worldview) from that of one class to that of another, generally assumed by Marxists to mean in the direction of a proletarian revolutionary outlook.
“How should a cadre look at himself? He should look at himself from the ‘one divides into two’ point of view. He may have his strong points, but he is sure to have shortcomings. He must not think he is always right. He must understand that remolding one’s world outlook is not something that can be completed once and for all. As long as classes and class struggle exist in society, the struggle of the two world outlooks will go on in people’s minds. Therefore, each of us faces the problem of eradicating the bourgeois world outlook and establishing a proletarian one in his mind. This matter of remolding one’s ideology is important both for new or old comrades, both for those in low or high positions. Furthermore, the heavier is one’s responsibility, the more important is such remolding, and the greater the need to remold consciously and be strict with oneself. Anyone who thinks he has no contradictions in his mind and needs no remolding is harboring a metaphysical viewpoint that is extremely harmful.” —“Maxims for Revolutionaries—The ‘Three Constantly Read Articles’”, an editorial in Jiefangjun Bao [Liberation Army Daily], translated in Peking Review, vol. 10, #2, Jan. 6, 1967, p. 8.
In law rendition just means the transfer of a detained person from one jurisdiction to another. However, in recent years the term has come to be almost synonymous with extraordinary rendition or irregular rendition, which are euphemisms for the transfer of prisoners to other places so they can be more brutally interrogated and outright tortured. Numerous articles in bourgeois newspapers themselves have described how both the U.S. and Britain, in connivance with at least a dozen other countries, have been doing this in thousands of cases since their so-called “war on terror” began in 2001. It is yet another demonstration that this “war on terror” is actually itself a war of terror.
The CIA is the most notorious practitioner of extraordinary rendition. With the knowledge of and authorization by top government officials (including the President), it has set up a whole series of secret detention centers around the world (which are referred to as “black sites” in their own documents). One such “black site” is in Egypt, where security forces are notorious for their use of torture.
A report by the European Parliament in February 2007 stated that the CIA had conducted 1,245 rendition flights, many to destinations where prisoners could face torture, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. This report, and its conclusion that many European countries had participated in these illegal and immoral actions by the CIA, was endorsed by a large majority of the European Parliament. This, however, has not kept the CIA and U.S. government from continuing these outrages.
[Although extraordinary rendition is now most closely associated with
the U.S. “War on Terror”, the CIA has been using this technique for decades. One of the
first known cases was that of Jesús de Galíndez, who taught at Columbia
University in New York City. He had previously written a Ph.D. thesis exposing, from
personal knowledge, some of the murders and other horrible crimes of the Dominican
Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo asked his friends in the CIA to grab
Galíndez and turn him over. The CIA was not legally authorized to operate within
the U.S., so they had a “private detective firm” which worked for them kidnap
Galíndez in 1956, drug him for transport, and fly him down to Trujillo.]
“Galíndez was taken to a torture chamber in the capital city, where he was stripped, handcuffed, and hoisted on a pully. Then he was slowly lowered into a tub of boiling water. What remained of him was thrown to the sharks, a favorite disposal method of the dictator.
“The abduction of the Columbia University academic from the streets of Manhattan is the first flagrant example of what would become known during the War on Terror, with bureaucratic banality, as ‘extraordinary rendition’—the secret CIA practice of kidnapping enemies of Washington and turning them over to the merciless security machinery in undisclosed foreign locations.” —David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), pp. 322-3.
[A footnote: Trujillo also grabbed the American pilot who transported Galíndez to the Dominican Republic and murdered him too to keep the whole operation secret. This case only became public knowledge because Galíndez himself was a reactionary and informant on the Columbia campus for the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover was quite annoyed that the CIA had interfered on his turf and leaked the story to the press. —Ed.]
The Chinese name of the People’s Daily newspaper, published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. (With tones indicated: Rénmín Rìbào.)
A mathematical technique used to try to make sense out of the infinities that often arise in the mathematical physics theory of quantum mechanics.
The income periodically received from allowing others the right to use capital, land or other property, which does not involve any participation in business activity on the part of those receiving the rent.
See also: DIFFERENTIAL RENT
RENT COLLECTION COURTYARD
A world-famous set of over 100 life-sized clay sculptures of oppressed peasants and fierce class struggle in pre-Liberation China, situated in a feudal landlord’s special courtyard for the payment of rent. This sculpture set was the work of a team of revolutionary artists led by Ye Yushan of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, and was created in the early Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution period (1965-66). It was displayed in the actual “rent collection courtyard” of the despotic landlord Liu Wen-tsai of Dayi County, Sichuan Province in southwestern China, whose enormous home was turned into a museum after the revolution.
“Chairman Mao reformed the culture of China to coincide with the new
Chinese Communist Party in many ways. This included changing the context of art expression,
in particular, the creation of the Rent Collection Courtyard. Mao recruited a group of
eighteen professional and amateur revolutionary Chinese sculptors and instructed them to
intermingle themselves with the laboring class to learn from their experiences and stories
of pre-revolution times. The artists lived among the workers and came to empathize with
them, developing passionate feelings themselves against systems of exploitation that are
clearly evident in the features and flow of the scenes.
“The work was a milestone for peasant representation throughout China, giving the people a voice in a manner that would be caught in time and never forgotten. In conforming to the peasant class, the materials of which the sculptures were formed also appealed to them. The clay and straw mixture was cheaper and easier to use than traditional plaster or bronze, and it is a material available anywhere in the countryside of which the laborers live. Wooden frames anchor the clay figures and the outer surface is an amalgam of clay, sand, and cotton. Black glass was used for the eyes and new carving techniques gave the features an especially dynamic appearance, an approach incomparable [with] previous clay sculpture.
“The Rent Collection Courtyard was completed in four and a half months and put on exhibition on October 1, 1965. Peasants immediately traveled hundreds of kilometers to see the work that truly gave them a voice. The following year the people demanded another set be added to the work, increasing the number of figures from 114 to 119....
“The political, moral and artistic significance of the Rent Collection Courtyard makes it one of the most monumental works in Chinese history. Its form and attention to detail evokes philosophical and nationalist agendas from across the ideological spectrum. Drawing from a mass of millions of demoralized people with a renewed outlook on life, this exhibition brought artistic expression to new and profound heights.” —Britt Paulson, St. Olaf College, 2004.
The Rent Collection Courtyard was such a powerful work of art that it was widely publicized and
underwent various revisions, incorporating the criticisms and new ideas of workers, peasants,
soldiers and Red Guards. These revisions gave a bolder expression to some of the faces of the
people, and most importantly, the sixth section of the display, entitled “Revolt” was improved
and made more powerful. (Articles about, and a photo spread showing, these further revolutionary
revisions appear in Chinese Literature magazine (1967, #4), online at:
Replicas of these sculptures were created and displayed elsewhere in China, and as recently as 2010 one set was once again displayed briefly in Beijing, despite the neglect and destruction of most Maoist revolutionary art in contemporary capitalist China. A wonderful book showing this great work of sculpture was published in the Maoist period, and may still be available in used book stores: Rent Collection Courtyard: Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt, 2nd ed. (Peking: 1970). Many photos of both the original and replica sculptures are also available online, many of which can be found by searching for “rent collection courtyard” at Google images.
RENTERS (Of Apartments or Houses)
“The number of renter households where the primary resident was 60 or older grew 43 percent from 2007 to 2017, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the apartment search website RentCafe.” —New York Times, National Edition, March 16, 2020, p. 3. [In part this has been due to the large number of people who lost their homes in the Great Recession and also to the recent intensifying decline in real wealth and income of the working class, especially in relation to the prices of houses and condos. Even after a lifetime of working, a great many older people do not even have a house of their own to show for it. —Ed.]
REPEATED STUDY OF THE SAME POLITICAL WORKS
Many works of revolutionary Marxism, such as the major writings by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao, are worthy of not only careful study, but of repeated study. The first time reading a book like Marx’s Capital, for example, even a serious and dedicated reader cannot be expected to grasp and remember all the wealth of knowledge, make all the diverse connections between the multitude of ideas, and fully appreciate all the profundity that is included there. As Engels remarked, since socialism became a science it must be pursued as a science—that is, it must be studied. Science requires the extensive thought that comes from the repeated study of key works.
On the other hand, our political study must not be limited to just a small number of works, no matter how important they might be, nor should it be limited to just the classics of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. During the late 1960s in China Lin Biao and his close followers argued that it was not necessary to read widely, but rather it was enough to constantly re-read Mao’s Red Book of quotations and a very few of his articles (such as the “three constantly-read articles”). In both their own study and in their political education of others, people were advised: “Don’t be afraid of repetition. Link up with reality, link up with ideology and link up with work, and we will no longer be repetitive.” [Peking Review, “Carry the Mass Movement for Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works to a New Stage”, Oct. 14, 1966, p. 7.] It is true, of course, that study should be linked up with practice. But it is not true that only a limited range of highly repetitive political study is necessary. Moreover to argue that this is sufficient is in fact a way of opposing the broadening and deeping of everyone’s political education.
We must both engage in repeated study of the most important revolutionary political, philosophical and economic works, and at the same time read and study much more broadly than that, so that we can not only truly grasp our existing science of revolutionary Marxism, but also help extend it and apply it to quite new situations.
[In the following passage from a speech to students at the Sverdlov
Communist University Lenin indicates the role of repeated study in relation to the
specific topic of the state:]
“Comrades, according to the plan you have adopted and which has been conveyed to me, the subject of today’s talk is the state. I do not know how familiar you are already with this subject. If I am not mistaken your courses have only just begun and this is the first time you will be tackling this subject systematically. If that is so, then it may very well happen that in the first lecture on this difficult subject I may not succeed in making my exposition sufficiently clear and comprehensible to many of my listeners. And if this should prove to be the case, I would request you not to be perturbed by the fact, because the question of the state is a most complex and difficult one, perhaps one that more than any other has been confused by bourgeois scholars, writers and philosophers. It should not therefore be expected that a thorough understanding of this subject can be obtained from one brief talk, at a first sitting. After the first talk on this subject you should make a note of the passages which you have not understood or which are not clear to you, and return to them a second, a third and a fourth time, so that what you have not understood may be further supplemented and elucidated later, both by reading and by various lectures and talks. I hope that we may manage to meet once again and that we shall then be able to exchange opinions on all supplemenatry questions and see what has remained most unclear. I also hope that in addition to talks and lectures you will devote some time to reading at least a few of the most important works of Marx and Engels. I have no doubt that these most important works are to be found in the lists of books and in the handbooks which are available in your library for the students of the Soviet and Party school; and although, again, some of you may at first be dismayed by the difficulty of the exposition, I must again warn you that you should not let this worry you; what is unclear at a first reading will become clear at a second reading, or when you subsequently approach the question from a somewhat different angle.” —Lenin, “The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University” (July 11, 1919), LCW 29:470-1, online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jul/11.htm
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
See: SOUTH KOREA
See REPURCHASE AGREEMENT below.
REPURCHASE AGREEMENT (REPO) [Capitalist Financial Speculation]
An agreement by a borrower to sell some financial securities to a lender and also to agree to buy those same securities back later (often within one day!). This gives the borrower the money to speculate with, which he is guessing will lead to a profit even after buying back his collateral.
[Bourgeois business term:] The cancellation of an agreement and reversion to an earlier or different arrangement. Many business contracts allow the dominant party to get out of its commitments this way, and rescissions are especially common in the insurance industry. In other words, rescission is often a legal excuse for what amounts to fraud.
“Rescission is the insurance company practice of canceling someone’s coverage after the person comes down with a condition that is expensive to treat, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer. Insurers comb through patients’ medical records to see whether they left anything off their applications, no matter how minor or unrelated to the medical problem. Patients have lost coverage for failing to disclose pre-existing conditions they didn’t even know they had or for clerical errors in their records.” —“Health reform: Your next steps”, Consumer Reports, June 2010, p. 13. [The article goes on to note that when the new U.S. health care bill passed in 2010 takes full effect the insurance companies will still be able to rescind policies, but there will be some new restrictions on them that may prevent some of the most outrageous cases.]
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
[To be added... ]
See also: INNOVATION-ONLY MODEL
RESEARCH AND INTELLIGENCE WING
The action of an international corporation to bring back to its home country some jobs which had previously been offshored (i.e., moved to other countries with cheaper labor). Although offshoring is much more common than reshoring there are exceptional cases where a company discovers that the hoped for greater profits to be made by shifting jobs abroad did not materialize, or that other problems (such as increased difficulty in coordinating production) make it wise to bring some jobs back to the home country. In certain cases rising wages in the country where jobs had been moved to (such as China) has also led to some limited amount of reshoring, though shifting those jobs again to still other countries where wages remain extremely low (such as Vietnam or Bangladesh) is much more common than actual reshoring.
Offshoring and reshoring trends can also be affected by overall economic conditions, and by shifts in currency exchange rates. For example, when the U.S. dollar is weaker than usual vis-à-vis other currencies there may be reasons for American corporations to engage in some reshoring, whereas when the dollar is strong there are greater reasons for more offshoring. In recent decades, increasing world capitalist economic problems have so far generally led to a strengthening U.S. dollar, and as of the end of 2016 it is exceptionally strong. So there is little reshoring occuring at present. Incoming President Trump is already pressuring corporations to do much more reshoring, but aside from a few grandstand show case events it is very unlikely to become a major trend at this time.
RESIDUAL PROBLEM (In Science)
Much of the time when a scientific theory is proposed there are still some facts, or presumed facts, which the theory does not account for. Or else, even if all known facts in that sphere of concern are initially accounted for, new anomalies might then soon be discovered which the theory—at least as it then exists—cannot account for. These unexplained anomolies are together sometimes referred to as the residual problem for the theory.
Naturally, considerable attention must then be given to either finding a way to modify the theory to account for these anomalies, or else to satisfactorily explain why these apparent anomalies are not genuine problems for the theory at all.
RESISTANCE TO FOREIGN OCCUPATIONS
When we think about the resistance within various countries to foreign imperialist occupation, such as the resistance in World War II in Europe to the occupation by the German Nazi imperialists and the resistance in China and other Asian countries to the equally vicious occupation by the Japanese imperialists, as well as to the resistance by liberation struggles against more recent U.S. or other imperialist occupying powers (such as in Korea, Vietnam or Afghanistan), we of course recognize the truly heroic nature of that resistance—especially when it takes on the form of armed actions. But we should not fool ourselves about how truly self-sacrificing this sort of resistance generally has to be not only for the resistance members themselves but for the entire resisting populations of people. Any such resistance, when it reaches the point of armed action, must be viewed as a form of people’s war, and that means—for the imperialist occupiers—it is their war against the people of that nation. This almost invariably means a murderous, and even downright genocidal war, at least in part.
1. [In English history:] The reestablishment of the monarchy in 1660 under Charles II; or the period of the rule of Charles II (and sometimes also extended to include that of James II).
2. [In French history:] The period between 1814 and 1830 when the Bourbon line of kings was restored to power, after having been overthrown in the great French Revolution of 1789-93.
3. [More generally:] Similar periods of restoration to power by reactionary classes in other countries.
In advanced capitalist countries (i.e., those which are imperialist countries and as a consequence live off the wealth of the poorer countries of the world to one degree or another), a part of the working class has—through past struggles—obtained jobs which provide retirement benefits, some sort of health insurance, vacation time, and so on. But because of the long-developing world capitalist overproduction crisis and the resulting advent of neoliberalist attacks on the working class, these benefits are now being rapidly reduced for many workers. And ever growing numbers of U.S. workers in particular no longer have any such benefits at all. Under capitalism no reforms, no hard-won benefits, are ever going to be permanent.
“A study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that three out of four U.S. workers ages 50 to 62 didn’t have an employer-provided retirement plan and health insurance.” —New York Times, “A Job Without Benefits Means Nest Egg Trouble”, April 12, 2020.
RETIREMENT — Early
In this age of intensifying capitalist economic crisis, early retirement is something that is more and more frequently forced on people, instead of—as formerly—being an indication of personal success. This widespread forced early retirement because of the loss of jobs then in turn aggravates other economic contradictions, in part because there are now fewer people working to support those who are retired. Most aspects of what are billed as a “demographic crisis” due to the aging of the population are, when you look at them more carefully, actually aspects of the overall crisis of the capitalist system. Capitalism is certainly a system full of severe and linked contradictions!
“Applications to begin Social Security retirement payments are up 23 percent this year, driven by people in their 60s filing for benefits because they’ve lost their jobs.” —From an article in the Boston Globe, quoted in This Week, Oct. 9, 2009, p. 20.
Savings to be accumulated and used by people in their old age and after their retirement from work. Savings by individuals for their retirement are necessary in the U.S. and other capitalist countries because programs such as the Social Security System are so pathetically inadequate. Millions in this richest capitalist country on Earth have little or no such savings.
See also: SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM
“There are 100 CEOs who’ve amassed more retirement savings than 41% of all Americans combined. Most families headed by women or people of color have no retirement assets.” —From a mailing by Mother Jones magazine, Dec. 28, 2018.
1. The determination of the timing and circumstances of something that has already happened, such as by calculating that there was a solar eclipse in what is now southern France at a certain date 10,000 years ago (despite the absence of any historical records to that effect).
2. The “prediction” of something that has already occurred on the basis of information that was available before the event occurred. Retrodiction in this sense is a highly dubious form of scientific procedure since it is all too easy to selectively adduce just those facts which might seem to lead to the already known result and to ignore all the evidence which might have ruled out any prediction based on just those facts. Consequently it is all too easy to convince yourself that you understand the reasons why some event occurred based on a completely erroneous theory. This is why it is much more impressive to predict any sort of phenomenon, including social events such as depressions or revolutions, before they occur than it is to come up with some theory about why they happened after they occur. Actual predictions should be treated much more seriously in science than retrodictions, and are by far the better test of theories!
“You can only predict things after they’ve happened.” —Eugene Ionesco, a bourgeois playwright. Quoted in The Week, Feb. 13, 2015, p. 15. [This is a cynical comment and/or the promotion of epistemological agnosticism; either way it is a very bourgeois idea! —S.H.]
A special type of mortgage in which a homeowner’s equity is diminished by either a lump sum or by periodic payments (an annuity), which the mortgage holder pays to the homeowner. It is a way of selling your home to a bank or mortgage company which usually allows you to remain living in the home until you die. After your death the bank owns your home, or at least a large part of what it is worth.
An ordinary mortgage is a loan which people take out in order to buy a house. They then typically spend decades paying off that loan, and if they finally do pay it off they end up actually owning the house for real. But many people, as they reach old age and are no longer able to work, do not have enough income to survive—even if they do actually own their home with the mortgage paid off. (People’s savings are most often inadequate, and Social Security payments are definitely paltry.) In this situation people may have no choice but to sell their home, either directly and immediately, or else via the mechanism of a reverse mortgage.
While the idea of a reverse mortgage sounds good to many people, the banks or mortgage companies that issue them typically charge quite high fees and interest rates on their payments, thus victimizing people who are simply trying to remain in their own homes in their old age. Reverse mortgages are highly profitable loans for the banks.
“As all statistics show, the only significant asset that Americans
accumulate during their working years is their home. The economic realities of our times
now require that people draw down that asset via reverse mortgages to fund their
post-retirement years. They will thus not leave their homes to their children. Meanwhile
the mass refinancing of home mortgages by Americans during their working years is also
reducing their home equity as they approach retirement.
“The combination of refinancing and reverse mortgages is quickly eroding the historically short-lived period of mass home ownership in the U.S.” —Richard D. Wolff, Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010), pp. 29-30.
[Marxist senses:] 1. The invalid (unscientific) modification of a correct principle of the science of revolution (Scientific Marxism, also known as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism). The term ‘revisionism’, however, is rather unfortunate since of course every scientific theory must be scientifically revised from time to time in those aspects which are proven to be incorrect. But in politics there are many who choose to revise well-supported theories and throw out principles which are certainly correct simply because their own class perspective cannot accept them as they stand.
2. Parties and trends which characteristically indulge in revisionism in the first sense.
“Revisionism, or Right opportunism, is a bourgeois trend of thought that is even more dangerous than dogmatism. The revisionists, the Right opportunists, pay lip-service to Marxism; they too attack ‘dogmatism’. But what they are really attacking is the quintessence of Marxism. They oppose or distort materialism and dialectics, oppose or try to weaken the people’s democratic dictatorship and the leading role of the Communist Party, and oppose or try to weaken socialist transformation and socialist construction. After the basic victory of the socialist revolution in our country, there are still a number of people who vainly hope to restore the capitalist system and fight the working class on every front, including the ideological one. And their right-hand men in this struggle are the revisionists.” —Mao, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” (Feb. 27, 1957); Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, Chapter 2.
REVISIONISM IN POWER
“The rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.” —Mao, from a talk of Chairman Mao’s in August 1964. [Cited in Peking Review, 1970, #17 (April 24, 1970), p. 7.]
See: “GREAT AWAKENING” [Religious]
The replacement of one socioeconomic formation with another, higher one. This implies the replacement of one class as the ruler of society by another (except in the change from primitive communal society to slave society, where there was originally no ruling class; and in the change from socialism to communism, where the proletariat gradually ceases to exist as a class.)
Whereas bourgeois commentators often use the term “revolution” very loosely to mean any change of government except through established electoral procedures (and sometimes even including that!), Marxists reserve the term for genuine changes in the form of society, and moreover changes which are progressive and in the interests of the people (as opposed to counter-revolution).
“Marxism-Leninism consistently holds that the fundamental question in all revolutions is that of state power.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 21.
REVOLUTION — As a Festival of the Oppressed
“Revolutions are the locomotives of history, said Marx. [In his work The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850] Revolutions are the festivals of the oppressed and the exploited. At no other time are the masses of the people in a position to come forward so actively as creators of a new social order as at a time of revolution. At such times the people are capable of performing miracles, if judged by the narrow, philistine scale of gradual progress. But the leaders of the revolutionary parties must also make their aims more comprehensive and bold at such a time, so that their slogans shall always be in advance of the revolutionary initiative of the masses, serve as a beacon, reveal to them our democratic and socialist ideal in all its magnitude and splendor and show them the shortest and most direct route to complete, absolute and decisive victory.... We shall be traitors to and betrayers of the revolution if we do not use this festive energy of the masses and their revolutionary ardor to wage a ruthless and self-sacrificing struggle for the direct and decisive path.” —Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (June-July 1905), (Peking: FLP, 1970), p. 124.
REVOLUTION — Difficulties Of
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” —Niccolò Machiavelli
REVOLUTION — Duration Of
Many people, including some who sincerely hope for social revolution, imagine that it will be a relatively short process, consisting mostly of an insurrection followed by a quick consolidation of the rule of the working class. In reality, social revolution is a very long social process, involving continuing class struggle over a very prolonged period, and which will at a minimum last for many, many decades both in individual countries and for the world as a whole. Anyone who becomes a serious revolutionary today should quickly come to understand that this will certainly require his or her commitment and dedication to revolutionary work for the entire rest of their own life.
“[T]he aim of Social-Democracy [i.e., communist politics] is to transform radically the conditions of life of the whole of mankind and that for this reason it is not permissible for a Social-Democrat [communist] to be ‘perturbed’ by the question of the duration of the work.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902), (NY: International, 1969), p. 171 (footnote).
“And the revolution itself must not by any means be regarded as a
single act (as the Nadezhdins apparently imagine), but as a series of more or less
powerful outbreaks rapidly alternating with periods of more or less complete calm.
For that reason, the principal content of the activity of our Party organization,
the focus of this activity, should be work that is both possible and essential in
the period of a most powerful outbreak as well as in the period of complete calm,
namely, work of political agitation, connected throughout Russia, illuminating all
aspects of life, and conducted among the broadest possible strata of the masses.
But this work is unthinkable in present-day Russia without an All-Russian
newspaper, issued very frequently.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902),
(NY: International, 1969), p. 172.
[It may be the case that in present-day America (2018) such a newspaper is no longer of quite that central importance. But in that event other means, such as the Internet, must be pressed into service to accomplish the same function. —Ed.]
“The socialist revolution is not a single act, it is not one battle on one front, but a whole epoch of acute class conflicts, a long series of battles on all fronts, i.e., on all questions of economics and politics, battles that can only end in the expropriation of the bourgeoisie.” —Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination: Theses”, January-February 1916, LCW 22:144.
REVOLUTION — and Economic Crisis
Obviously a real social revolution can only occur during extreme and exceptional circumstances, which in the modern capitalist world mostly means in times of either serious economic crisis or major war, or both. But these are things which are inevitable under capitalism. So revolutionaries in advanced capitalist countries must be ready to lead the masses in revolution when the objective circumstances change to make that possible.
“With this general prosperity, in which the productive forces of
bourgeoisie society develop as luxuriantly as is at all possible within bourgeois
relationships, there can be no talk of a real revolution. Such a revolution is only
possible in the periods when both these factors, the modern productive
forces and the bourgeois forms of production, come in collision
with each other.... A new revolution is possible only in consequence of a new
crisis. It is, however, just as certain as this crisis.”
—Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850 (Nov. 1850), MECW 10:135.
[Since this early work was written it has become apparent that many capitalist economic crises (the mere recessions) are not sufficiently severe and prolonged enough to form the objective conditions necessary for social revolution. Nor do most individual economic crises, even bad ones, guarantee social revolution. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of truth to Marx’s comments here. A truly serious overproduction crisis, of the sort that has now been developing for decades and which has recently shown signs of soon taking another serious turn for the worse, can and will form a major part of the objective basis for social revolution in the world, including within the United States. —S.H. (2019)]
REVOLUTION — Necessary Conditions For
See: FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF REVOLUTION
REVOLUTION OF 1848
An important series of radical democratic and anti-feudal revolutions which sprang up in many countries in Europe (and even beyond) beginning in France in February 1848. Although other revolutions, including the Bolshevik Revolution, have inspired additional revolutions elsewhere, the revolutionary wave in 1848 was the broadest in history so far. More than 50 countries were affected, to one degree or another, including even some in South America. Although most of these revolutions were defeated, in whole or in part, they still had a long-term positive political effect.
The primary goals of the 1848 revolutions were to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution in Europe by getting rid of the remaining monarchies, establishing more consistent democratic republics, establishing more personal freedoms including the freedom of the press, and getting rid of foreign intervention and control in many countries. Growing working class disgruntlement was also an important factor.
In most places the weakness of these revolutions was due to the half-hearted bourgeois reformist leadership and the unstable alliances of conflicting groups including various trends in the “middle class” and the working class. In putting down the revolutions, the existing semi-feudal, semi-bourgeois regimes killed thousands of people, and thousands more were forced into exile—including many progressive minded people who moved to the United States. In some countries there were some immediate and lasting reforms including the abolition of serfdom in Austria and Hungary, the end to the absolute monarchy in Denmark, and the introduction of bourgeois democratic elections in the Netherlands.
REVOLUTION OF 1848 — Role of Marx and Engels In
“The 1848 Revolution, which spread insurrection throughout
the European continent, was the first major historical event where Marxism proved
itself in practice. Marx and Engels were in Brussels when the Revolution first broke
out in France. the Belgian government fearing the spread of the Revolution immediately
expelled Marx from Brussels and forced him to leave for Paris where he was soon joined
by Engels. However as the revolutionary wave spread to Germany, both decided to
immediately move there in order to directly participate in the revolutionary events.
“There they tried to consolidate the work of the Communist League and the workers’ associations. They brought out a daily newspaper, the Neue Rheinishche Zeitung, which served as an organ of propagation of the revolutionary line. The newspaper took a line in support of radical bourgeois democracy as the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution was then the main task in Germany. However the paper simultaneously served as the organizer of the emerging revolutionary proletarian party in Germany. Marx and Engels even tried to form a mass workers’ party by uniting the workers’ associations of various provinces of Germany. The paper lasted for one year. With the collapse of the revolution in Germany and other parts of Europe, the paper was forced to close down and Marx was expelled by the Prussian King. He retreated to Paris but had to soon leave from there too because of persecution by the French authorities. Engels continued in Germany fighting as a soldier in the revolutionary armies till the very end. After military defeat, he escaped, and towards the end of 1849, joined Marx, who had by then settled in London. England then continued to be their centre till the end of their lives.
“The defeat of the 1848 Revolution had spread confusion among the revolutionaries and proletarian activists throughout Europe. Most of the earlier dominant trends of socialism could not provide any proper understanding regarding the reasons for the course of events during the revolution. It was in such an atmosphere that Marx took up the task of explaining the social forces behind the initial victory and later defeat of the Revolution. Since France was the centre and principal starting point of both the upsurge and decline of the revolution, Marx concentrated his analysis on the French events. This he did through his brilliant works, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. They were Marx’s first attempts to explain current historical events by means of the materialist conception of history. He analyzed with complete clarity the class forces behind each of the major turns and twists in the revolution. He thus provided the class basis for revolutionary proletarian tactics. By exposing the role of various classes at various stages, he showed who were the friends and enemies of the revolution and therefore the approach of the proletariat to each of them.”
—Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Basic Course, by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), pp. 55-57. Original publication information not available, but republished and posted online at several places on the Internet, including: https://www.bannedthought.net/MLM-Theory/MLM-Intro/MLM-BasicCourse-CPI(Maoist)-2016-OCR.pdf
REVOLUTION — Targets Of
The primary target of the proletarian revolution is of course the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, and all their institutions, social arrangements, ways of thinking, and so forth. [More to be added... ]
However, since even the working class and Marxist revolutionaries exist in bourgeois society, they are also inevitably infected, to varying degrees, with bourgeois ideology. Moreover, as new issues and questions come up in the transformation of bourgeois society into socialism and then communism, some workers and some revolutionaries will inevitably (if only initially) choose the bourgeois side, or the “capitalist road”. Thus, even the workers, and even the members of the revolutionary party itself (including its leaders), are to some degree also the targets of the revolution!
See also: INTELLECTUALS, INTELLECTUALS—Remolding Of
“Whatever his position, however long his experience in the revolution,
or his age, every one of our cadres must see himself both as a motive force in the
revolution and, at the same time, as a target of the revolution, and therefore must
consciously wage revolution against himself. He must make the best of his strong points
so as to be able to give his all to the revolution. He must also wage a constant
struggle against his short-comings so as to adjust himself to the demands of the
revolution. In the battle to remold himself to the depth of his soul, he should be a
fighting commander who leads his men in the assault on the enemy citadel, not a
coward filled with misgivings and fears. He must be a fearless and thoroughgoing
materialist who is not afraid of being hurt, of losing face, of revealing his thoughts,
of probing his soul, of affronts to his ‘dignity’ or of changing the old existing
order; only so can he be completely emancipated from egoism.
“Cadres at all levels should not only make revolution against themselves, but should also welcome the help of others in doing it.” —“Maxims for Revolutionaries—The ‘Three Constantly Read Articles’”, editorial in Jiefangjun Bao [Liberation Army Daily], in Peking Review, vol. 10, #2, Jan. 6, 1967, p. 8.
REVOLUTIONARIES — Human Qualities Required
To make revolution, revolutionaries need a variety of types of knowledge, skills, attributes and qualities. Fortunately, these things can be learned and acquired through study and through experience in revolutionary work. It is the obligation of every communist and revolutionary person to increase their knowledge of revolutionary theory, and their skills and abilities needed to educate, organize and lead the masses in revolution. At first this can seem quite intimidating. But like any other type of study and skill, you will be able to improve your understanding and practice over time if you just keep at it. Determination is key!
It is true, of course, that some individuals will be better than others with regard to certain areas of revolutionary knowledge or types of skills, and the revolutionary organization or party will of course have to take this into consideration in deciding which tasks to assign to people. But every revolutionary can and must continually improve their knowledge and their ability to serve the people as best they can.
“Theoretical knowledge, political experience, and organizing ability are things that can be acquired. If only the desire exists to study and acquire these qualities.” —Lenin, “A Talk with Defenders of Economism”, Iskra, Dec. 6, 1901; LCW 5:317.
REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA—PEOPLE’S ARMY
REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, U.S.A.
A very small, formerly nominally “Maoist”, revolutionary Party in the U.S., founded in October 1975 primarily from its predecessor organization, the Revolutionary Union. Its chairman and primary leader since its inception has been Bob Avakian, around whom an absurd personality cult has been erected and continually further intensified.
While once a very promising revolutionary organization, the RCP today has purposely and consciously cut its connections with the class struggles of the proletariat, and has degenerated into a tiny doctrinaire and sectarian cult with no prospects of ever leading a revolution in the U.S., nor even any longer of being any sort of serious political force on the left.
See also: “ADVANCED ACTIONS” (Theory Of), AMERICA IN DECLINE [RCP Book], DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM—Bourgeois Conceptions Of, LEADERSHIP VS. EDUCATION
REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, U.S.A. — Split in 1978
See: REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS’ HEADQUARTERS
REVOLUTIONARY INTERNATIONALIST MOVEMENT [RIM]
An international association of Maoist revolutionary parties that was formed in March 1984. It was unofficially associated with the magazine A World to Win. Several of the member parties were engaged in people’s war, and two of them seemed for a time to be on the verge of victory (in Peru and Nepal). But both of these revolutions failed (for different reasons), and no doubt in part because of this, RIM itself became disfunctional. Although RIM has not to our knowledge formally disbanded, it became more or less completely inactive around 2007. For practical purposes it is now defunct.
Many RIM documents and issues of AWTW can be found at: https://www.bannedthought.net/International/RIM/index.htm
REVOLUTIONARY LEADERS — Fate at the Hands of the Bourgeoisie After Their Death
“What is now happening to Marx’s theory has, in the course of history, happened repeatedly to the theories of revolutionary thinkiers and leaders of oppressed classes fighting for emancipation. During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to certain extent for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it. Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labor movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism. They omit, obscure or distort the revolutionary side of this theory, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie.” —Lenin, The State and Revolution (August 2017), opening paragraph, LCW 25:385. [Alas, though quite predictably, the very same thing has happened to Lenin himself and his ideas, since his death, at the hands of the modern revisionists. —Ed.]
REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT — Early Stages Of
“In the earlier period, indeed, we had astonishingly few forces, and
it was perfectly natural and legitmate then to devote ourselves exclusively to
activities among the workers and to condemn severely any deviation from this course.
The entire task then was to consolidate our position in the working class.” —Lenin,
What Is To Be Done? (1902), (NY: International, 1969), p. 86.
[Lenin’s overall argument was that as the revolutionary movement matured it became necessary to broaden its appeal even to other classes. This was in the context of the need for a democratic revolution in Russia to overthrow the Tsarist autocracy. But in any country with a large working class it is certainly true to say that the central task of the revolutionary movement in its early stages is to merge with the working class and begin to win its support. Of course this itself is a complicated process, and will also require participation in the working class student movement and other mass struggles as well. —Ed.]
The positive and optimistic attitude among revolutionaries and the revolutionary masses which is one important factor in their success. Of course we need to do our very best to understand the world and the objective situation as it truly is, and not fool ourselves about the current situation or what can be accomplished at the present time. But on the other hand, precisely what can be accomplished at any given point is seldom completely clear and obvious. Moreover, if we undertake our work in a positive, optimistic spirit, we will be better able to make the very most of that situation, and accomplish all that really is possible within it. This will promote a more rapid development toward revolution, something which is so desperately needed!
See also: “INEVITABLEISM”
See also: ORGANIZATION
“The form of revolutionary organization is determined by the requirements of revolutionary struggle. If an organizational form does not meet the requirements of a revolutionary struggle, it must be abandoned.” —Mao, Oct. 19, 1967; SW 9:420.
REVOLUTIONARY PARTY — Discipline Of
See: DISCIPLINE—Of the Proletarian Revolutionary Party
See also: FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF REVOLUTION
Determining the appropriate strategy for a successful proletarian revolution in a country is no small or simple thing. Moreover, in qualitatively different kinds of countries this revolutionary strategy may well have to be qualitatively different. The clearest example of this is in advanced capitalist countries where something along the line of the “October Road” (the strategy of the Bolsheviks in the Russian October Revolution of 1917) still seems to be appropriate, whereas in semi-feudal rural countries such as in China in the 1920s-1940s, an entirely different revolutionary strategy of Protracted People’s War and the countryside surrounding the cities, was appropriate (as Mao and the Communist Party of China proved in actual practice). It is somewhat questionable if Mao’s method of PPW is still widely or fully appropriate in very many countries in the 21st century. But it will be up to the MLM revolutionaries in each country to figure out the basic strategy most appropriate in their situation, and even possibly to change that strategy from time to time as conditions change. Moreover, every revolutionary party will have to continually re-examine and likely shift and revise the secondary and tertiary aspects of its strategy, as well as appropriately shifting its tactics and specific policies, as the revolutionary process proceeds.
So is there nothing that we can say in general about revolutionary strategy, that more or less applies everywhere? Well, actually there are some things like this, some universal general principles, when they are expressed in a sufficiently general way. The most important of these principles is probably simply the idea that the revolution must be primarily the work of the masses themselves. No one, and no small group or party, can make a successful revolution on behalf of the inactive masses. But we can be even more specific than this: No revolutionary party can successfully lead a revolution if it is not closely connected with the class struggles of the working class and masses. The great creators of MLM have all taken this as the foundation of their revolutionary theory, though there have of course always been small propaganda sects and handfuls of utopian dreamers who have not understood this most essential principle at all.
See also below, and : STRATEGY AND TACTICS, FOREIGN EXPERIENCE, FOCOISM, INSURRECTION, “INSURRECTIONISM”, OCTOBER ROAD, PEOPLE’S WAR, URBAN GUERRILLA WARFARE
“For many centuries and even for thousands of years, mankind has dreamt of doing
away ‘at once’ with all and every kind of exploitation. These dreams remained mere dreams until
millions of the exploited all over the world began to unite for a consistent, staunch and
comprehensive struggle to change capitalist society in the direction the evolution of that society
is naturally taking. Socialist dreams turned into the socialist struggle of the millions only when
Marx’s scientific socialism had linked up the urge for change with the struggle of a definite
class. Outside the class struggle, socialism is either a hollow phrase or a naïve dream.”
—Lenin, “Petty-Bourgeois and Proletarian Socialism” (November 7, 1905), LCW 9:443.
[In Russia in Lenin’s day, the “petty bourgeois socialists” who did not see the need to connect up with the actual class struggle of the working class were mostly peasant-based Narodniks associated with the so-called “Socialist-Revolutionary” party. Today, we have instead a different petty-bourgeois trend mostly of students and ex-students of middle-class origin who focus mostly on “social media” on the Internet, and other exclusively “educational” work, and reject the need to educate the workers while closely connected up with their actual class struggles. Even some well-established (though quite small) parties, such as the “Avakianites” (the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA), now reject the need to participate with the masses in their own class struggles and to bring the light of revolution to them in that context. They have, in petty-bourgeois fashion, rejected this basic approach to the masses and to making revolution developed by Marx, Lenin and Mao. Curious, indeed! —S.H.
REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY — Role of Class Analysis In
[To be added...]
See also: “Strategy, Tactics and the Mass Line”, chapter 18 of the volume The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, by S.H., online at: http://www.massline.info/mlms/mlch18.htm
Those who will carry on the revolution and the world proletarian revolutionary process after the current generation dies. The development of revolutionary successors became a prominent concern in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, and remains a major concern for all revolutionaries, especially as they get older.
See also: FIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESSORS TO THE REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE OF THE PROLETARIAT
See also: MARXIST THEORY
“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:369.
“It is the specific duty of the leaders to gain an ever clearer understanding of the theoretical problems, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old conception of the world, and constantly to keep in mind that Socialism, having become a science, demands the same treatment as every other science — it must be studied.” —Engels, in his 1874 Addendum to an edition of his work, “The Peasant War in Germany”. [The last part has also been more poetically translated as: “Since Socialism became a science it must be pursued as a science; that is, it must be studied.”]
“REVOLUTIONARY THREE-IN-ONE COMBINATION”
See: THREE-IN-ONE REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE
A U.S. revolutionary organization (not a labor union!) formed originally as the “Bay Area Revolutionary Union” in 1968 in the San Francisco Bay Area, which later spread around the country and transformed itself into the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975.
See also sub-topics below, and RED PAPERS
REVOLUTIONARY UNION — 1970 Split
In late 1970 an ultra-“left” faction of the Revolutionary Union split off and then merged with a small Chicano revolutionary organization, Venceremos. This faction consisted of about one-third of the RU in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was led by the radical Stanford professor, H. Bruce Franklin. The Franklin group favored a revolutionary strategy that was inspired by Che Guevara’s foco approach, but adapted to an urban setting, and therefore developing into urban guerrilla warfare. They viewed the basis for such a guerrilla movement to be the oppressed nationalities, and especially the lumpenproletariat among them, along with radicalized white students and ex-students.
The larger part of the RU, led by Bob Avakian and Steve Hamilton, rejected that approach as infantile anarchist ultra-“leftism”, and favored sticking to the basic strategy upon which the RU was founded: a long period of merging of revolutionaries with the working class and raising their revolutionary consciousness, followed—at the appropriate time, and when conditions were ripe—by a co-ordinated national mass insurrection. Of course that approach is not only the traditional Marxist-Leninist one for advanced capitalist countries, it is also certainly the correct approach.
“By early 1970, there occurred an increasing polarization between
the more clearly adventurist perspective represented by the Franklins and others in
the RU leadership, and the more ‘economist’ perspective (as characterized by the
opposition) of Avakian, myself, and the majority of the leadership. The issues
crystallized when the former group submitted a position paper on armed struggle
that described a scenario of ‘urban guerrilla warfare’ or a protracted ‘armed
propaganda’ struggle and the clandestine formation of a ‘people’s army.’ Avakian
countered in a paper that argued that such a perspective is impossible in an
advanced capitalist country, that there must be a long period of essentially
peaceful political struggle culminating in a rather sudden mass insurrection when
a significant mass base exists that is supportive of revolution. (The principal
documents in this struggle were reprinted in Red Papers 4.)
“The adventurist line, which was possibly the dominant tendency in this period nationally [i.e., in the U.S. student-based revolutionary movement as a whole], was an inconsistent hodge-podge of Marxism and anarchism. It could be better understood as a mood, a mood of petty bourgeois impatience and romanticism that found its expression ideologically in a tendency to grossly exaggerate the readiness of objective conditions for revolution and consequently a tendency to project a totally unrealistic form and level of political struggle.
“Absurd as this position may sound, it was not easy at the time to counter because the alternative view had to be posed in explaining why more slow patient struggle was necessary and at a much less ‘revolutionary’ level, which did not sound very exciting by comparison. The reason for this can be found in the lack of understanding of Marxist theory, and the class background and limited (limited to outside the working class, largely) political experience of those who were impressed by this sort of ultra-leftism.” —Steve Hamilton, “On the History of the Revolutionary Union (Part II)”, Theoretical Review: A journal of Marxist-Leninist Theory and Discussion, #14, Jan.-Feb. 1980, p. 9.
REVOLUTIONARY WORK IN OUR TIMES (RWIOT)
An irregular series of conferences and extremely loose federation of various small revolutionary-minded groups and individuals in the United States that existed for a few years during roughly the 2008-2012 time period, and perhaps a bit longer. RWIOT seemed to be promoting the idea of “Left Refoundation”, or the reconstruction of a larger “Left” organization and movement in the U.S. based on some sort of vague “Left” consensus rather than MLM (revolutionary Marxist) principles. These folks were strongly opposed to “vanguardism”, sectarianism and dogmatism, which is all well and good—depending on precisely what they meant by these terms! At least some of the people involved would seem to have wrongly extended these terms to cover many well-established and definitely correct Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principles, practices and organizational forms. All sins have opposite sins; and there are also opposite errors to “vanguardism”, sectarianism and dogmatism—even if the present-day language seems to have not yet created all the labels for them! For example, opposing MLM principles which have been proven to be correct over long periods of revolutionary history is wrong even if it is done under the rubric of “anti-dogmatism”. There was also a fairly widespread feeling outside of the organizations involved in RWIOT that this general trend strongly leans towards rightism or economism. On the other hand, it seemed to have attracted a number of young people with limited political experience and education and whose basic political views are not yet settled.
Among the organizations participating in RWIOT were: FRSO/OSCL, Solidarity, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), Left Turn, the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA), and the New York Study Group.
RWIOT once had a website at http://www.revolutionarywork.org/ but as of Sept. 2012 it no longer exists. A discussion of the summer 2009 RWIOT conference (with about 200 attendees), written by one of the FRSO/OSCL folks, was once posted on the FRSO/OSCL website but it has apparently been moved or deleted.
REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS’ HEADQUARTERS
A short-lived group which split off from the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, in early 1978, and later merged with other groups to form the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
The RWH faction was mostly wrong on the major issues in that split from the RCP. They failed to recognize that after Mao’s death there had been a revisionist coup in China. It is true that there was an element of error on the part of the Avakian-led RCP too, namely absolute support for the “Gang of Four” in China, who themselves made some very serious errors (such as left sectarianism and failing to use the mass line). Still, the RCP was correct in its general appraisal of what had happened in China, and the RWH forces who split off were essentially wrong. Neither the RWH nor its successor organizations (FRSO itself split in two in 1999) ever fully faced up to this old but continuing error. When the topic comes up they still tend to focus on what is clearly a secondary issue, on how to evaluate “the Gang of Four”, and they don’t do a fair and balanced summation even there.
The other major issues in the 1978 split were about how to build the revolutionary movement in the U.S. Here too, there was some error on both sides, though the RCP has maintained a much firmer stance in promoting revolution. On the other hand, the RWH forces, after merging with other organizations to form the FRSO groups, have done a better job in joining up with mass struggles. Basically it seems that the pre-1978 RCP was internally conflicted, and unable to resolve its internal conflict in a way which would maintain all its major strengths and discard its major weaknesses. So the post-split RCP kept to its revolutionary staunchness and general steadiness in revolutionary orientation, but also became more dogmatic, sectarian and promotive of a cult of personality around Bob Avakian. Worst of all, it renounced the necessity of joining up with the masses in their struggles as a means of bringing the light of revolution to them. The RWH and the FRSO groups, on the other hand, have gone in the diametrically opposite direction. They have been very weak in their public defense of revolution and revolutionary theory and in the promotion of revolutionary ideas among the masses. They are now widely viewed as merely reformist organizations in actual practice.
REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH MOVEMENT
A section of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which developed during the last couple years of the existence of that 1960s organization, in opposition to the intrusion into, and disruption of, SDS by the Progressive Labor Party. RYM itself soon split into two main factions, RYM I and RYM II. RYM I almost immediately transformed itself into the anarcho-terrorist revolutionary group, the Weather Underground Organization. RYM II, the far more sensible trend, gave rise to two major organizations in the “New Communist Movement” of the 1970s: The Revolutionary Union, which later became the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; and the October League, which later became the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).
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