STAGES OF CAPITALIST-IMPERIALISM
Almost since capitalist-imperialism (i.e., capitalism in the modern imperialist era) began, there have been attempts to start to conceptually divide it into different sub-stages or sub-periods. Lenin, even in the course of presenting modern imperialism (or monopoly capitalism) as a new stage in capitalism also put forward the idea that with World War I this capitalist-imperialism had itself entered a new period of crisis. Similarly, Stalin in his work “Foundations of Leninism” (1924), argued that a new conjunctural stage arose with World War I which, as he put it (with only partial accuracy), gathered together all the developing contradictions within world imperialism “into a single knot and threw them on to the scales, thereby accelerating and facilitating the revolutionary battles of the proletariat.” And while the “General Crisis of Capitalism thesis” was (initially anyway) proposed and identified with the entire imperialist era, it was quite clearly something that was really only thought to have come to a head with World War I and its aftermath, and was not usually considered to be something that existed before that time—even though capitalist-imperialism did originally arise a few decades before that.
But as time has gone on, and many new and strikingly different events and situations in the capitalist-imperialist era have developed, and especially since World War II, there have been a great many explicit attempts to subdivide the capitalist-imperialist era itself into sub-periods. Think of all the major events and developments which cry out for further overall analysis: There was the one quite unprecedented very extreme economic crisis before the War—the Great Depression of the 1930s; then one major new and quite widely unexpected recovery after the War, the Post-World War II World Capitalist Boom; there was the early rise of the state-capitalism in imperialist countries during World War I (which Lenin seemed to imply was a permanent change) but then the return to the previous style of monopoly capitalism after that war with much less direct control of industry by the imperialist state; however, the whole imperialist era has indeed seen a qualitative increase in government regulation and control of the economy, though here again there have been a series of leaps in this process—most obviously in response to the Great Depression, and again during the post-World War II period; there have been new revolutions including the great Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong which involved a brand-new strategy for revolution (People’s War); the rise of two superpowers (the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.); collapses of some empires including the Nazis and Japan in World War II, and later the social-imperialist Soviet Union in 1989-1991; significant changes in the strength of other imperialist powers (such as the weakening of Britain and France); the near-total collapse of traditional colonialism and the rise of neocolonialism; the overthrow of socialism in first the Soviet Union and later in China after Mao’s death; and more recently the rise of a brand new capitalist-imperialist superpower, China. And these are just a few of the more important great changes and developments which have already transpired in the capitalist-imperialist era. All these diverse developments appear to demand some sort of further analysis, some sort of further conceptualization of all these events into new sub-stages of the still continuing overall capitalist-imperialist era.
However, many of the attempted analyses of the stages of the capitalist-imperialist era have been woefully inadequate. The earliest of these was probably the attempt by revisionists in the Soviet Union to re-vitalize the General Crisis of Capitalism thesis in the 1950s. Since that was the period of the Post-World War II economic boom the GCC thesis rang completely hollow. And the attempts by more revolutionary forces, such as that of Jose Marie Sison and the Communist Party of the Philippines, to also revive the GCC thesis have been no more persuasive. A somewhat different sort of analysis was put forward by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, around 2000. This was also an attempt to divide the last century and a bit more into stages based on a confused blend of quite different considerations, partly on the basis of wars and periods of peace, partly based on economic events (booms and crises) and partly on political events (revolutions, counter-revolutions)—even if all these things seldom coincided. This is the “conjunctural” approach pioneered by Stalin in 1924, and based too much on the situation around World War I, which (falsely) concludes that very different types of contradictions must necessarily get resolved all at the same time during some major conjuncture. In reality, recognition of the importance of the particularity of contradiction leads us to understand that it is only on some rare and atypical occasions when the resolution of one important contradiction leads to the resolution of other major contradictions, even if there are indeed connections between these different contradictions. [For a letter condemning this “conjunctural” approach, with links to fuller essays against the whole idea, see: “The Political/Economic Stages of Capitalist-Imperialism” (2002), online at: https://www.massline.org/Politics/ScottH/StagesOfCapitalistImperialism-020708.pdf]
Most of the many diverse changes which have occurred (and are still occurring) within the era of capitalist-imperialism have developed on their own time schedules, and the dialectical leaps involved in these changes have by no means generally occurred at conjunctural moments. However, there is one major exception to this generalization: World War II did in fact amount to such a conjuncture (and qualitatively more so than World War I did). World War II was, first of all, the worst war in human history (so far). It did in fact bring the Great Depression of the 1930s to an end (though it did this not through Keynesian deficit spending as bourgeois economists usually imagine, but rather through the truly massive destruction of excess productive capital which cleared the ground for the new post-war boom). And politically, World War II did lead to the defeat and subordination of German and Japanese imperialism, the rise of two superpowers (the U.S. and the Soviet Union), the further qualitative intervention and management of the economies of the capitalist countries, and perhaps most importantly of all, to the replacement of imperialist colonialism by neocolonialism. So if we want to look at how to divide the capitalist-imperialist era into sub-stages or sub-periods, the first big slice has to come with World War II. Before and after World War II really are distinct sub-stages of capitalism in the imperialist era.
If we want to stretch things just a bit, we could argue that the Chinese Revolution won in 1949 was also a result of World War II. And even much of the shift from colonialism to neocolonialism happened not during World War II itself, but rather in its aftermath, and especially during the 1950s and 1960s. And more to the point, just about all the other important changes and shifts in the capitalist-imperialist era cannot reasonably be considered to have occurred during the World War II conjuncture (or during any other conjuncture). The collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union and its empire did not resolve the long-developing new world capitalist economic crisis (as the RCP once claimed); on the contrary that crisis continues to develop toward a new intractable depression (and came very close to dropping into that state in 2008). A new world war did not occur with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. (though it conceivably might have). The overthrow of socialism in China, and the further transformation of Chinese capitalism into a new imperialist power also came later, without a world war (so far), and more or less independently of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
So here is the actual situation: There have so far been two main periods or stages in the capitalist-imperialist era: Before World War II, and after it. Virtually all the other important changes which have occurred in this era have not been tightly connected with either the World War II conjuncture or with any other conjuncture. They have been at least semi-independent contradictions working themselves out at their own speed. But might there someday be a new conjuncture, perhaps a new world war between U.S. and Chinese imperialism that besides destroying both might also resolve all capitalist economic crisis contradictions and indeed many other contradictions as well? Yes, this is conceivable. It is also conceivable, and indeed quite likely, that humanity will not survive such a conjuncture should it occur. This is why making revolution everywhere in the world is so critically important today. —S.H.
“After World War II world imperialism underwent some major changes. One of
these very important changes was the forced replacement (in part because of people’s
rebellions) of most outright colonies which had been under the exclusive control of a single
imperialist power with neocolonialism. Under this new arrangement, most countries in
Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia are still subject to foreign imperialist
exploitation and political or military interference.
“An aspect of neocolonialism that still often goes underappreciated is that the neocolonies are now open to imperialist predation by more than one imperialist power, and actually by all imperialist powers at the present time.
“This change to neocolonialism and the exploitation of neocolonies by all the major imperialist countries required the construction of an imperialist system to regulate this joint exploitation of the world, and to create and/or impose rules for how these vicious wolves would prey on the sheep, without constantly coming into bloody conflict against each other. Institutional agencies, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization were set up to regulate this new imperialist system.” —N. B. Turner, Is China an Imperialist Country? Considerations and Evidence (2014), pp. 144-5.
The combination of economic stagnation (see below) and inflation at the same time. According to bourgeois economics this was supposed to be impossible, but when it first reared its ugly head in the U.S. in the late 1970s and 1980s they were forced to admit that it could indeed happen, though they still could not explain why.
From a Marxist standpoint the explanation for stagflation poses no problems: the stagnation aspect is simply an early sign of a developing overproduction crisis, and inflation is just a sign that the government is expanding the currency too fast (because of excessive government budget deficits usually). While it is true that massive Keynesian budget deficits can forestall stagnation or recession (for a while!), lesser bouts of deficit financing may only slightly mitigate the stagnation/recession while at the same time causing inflation.
See also: PHILLIPS CURVE
The failure of an economy to grow, or for it only to grow at a very slow pace. This is often an early indicator of a developing overproduction crisis that is only being kept somewhat in check for a time through the expansion of government or consumer debt but on an insufficient scale to create a more solid rate of growth for the economy.
See also below and: SECULAR STAGNATION, PAUL SWEEZY
The claim that stagnation is the normal state of a capitalist economy in the monopoly capitalist era. This thesis seems to have been originated by Alvin Hansen, an American follower of John Maynard Keynes, but has been strongly adopted, elaborated and promoted by the eclectic “Marxist-Keynesian” economists of the Monthly Review School, especially Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran, Harry Magdoff, and John Bellamy Foster.
Hansen’s book, Full Recovery or Stagnation? (1938) argued that—contrary to standard economic dogma—capitalism does not always stabilize at the level of (more or less) full employment. Indeed, at a time when the partial recovery during the Great Depression of the 1930s was faltering, Hansen raised the suggestion that the economy might be pretty much stuck in stagnation, and implied (at least) that this might be the permanent situation unless very strong and determined Keynesian deficit spending was carried out.
Sweezy and Baran took this idea and ran with it, especially in their 1966 book, Monopoly Capital. Sweezy, Magdoff, and more recently John Bellamy Foster, then continued arguing along these same lines. This stagnation thesis has in fact become the core idea of the Monthly Review School’s understanding of modern capitalism.
Over the years, most bourgeois economists have pooh-poohed the stagnation thesis, and when Monopoly Capital itself came out (still during the post-World War II economic boom), Sweezy and Baran themselves felt the necessity to devote a large portion of the book to discussing the countervailing factors that had allowed U.S. and world capitalism to escape the worst levels of this stagnation up to that point. Starting around 1973, however, U.S. and world capitalism slipped into a prolonged period of qualitatively slower economic growth (the “Long Slowdown”), and the stagnation thesis began to look like it was really true. With the so-called Great Recession of 2007-2009, and the extremely sluggish “recovery” since then, this thesis has appeared to be even more solidly established.
However, this stagnation thesis is still essentially a Keynesian theory, and thus still a theory which remains within the bounds of bourgeois political economy (even if at the more radical end of bourgeois thinking). It is sort of a limited, or partial truth.
In fact a capitalist economy does inevitably sink into crisis because of the development of the inherent contradictions within it, and especially the primary contradiction between the social nature of production and the private expropriation of the products being produced. This means, as Engels put it, that the development of production proceeds at a faster pace than the development of the market. This contradiction can be completely overcome—for a while!—through extending massive credit to the working class, and through having the government go into huge and ever greater debt to buy the excess production (i.e., through Keynesian deficits). If this is done in a really determined way (as it was in Germany with public works during the mid-1930s, or as was done in all the major capitalist countries during World War II), then the crisis can be interrupted, and even fully interrupted—for a while. In this case it is possible (though increasingly more difficult to do in actual practice, what with the ever increasing power of capitalist production) to prevent stagnation until the economy finally collapses into a more complete and disastrous crisis (an indefinitely long depression).
However, more typically today, the expansion of consumer and government debt starts being done in only a half-hearted sort of way, as its final limits begin to come into sight. This is what leads to periods of serious stagnation, and even of intensifying stagnation, before the final collapse into more serious crisis—outright intractable depression. Stagnation is not the “normal”, or “permanent” state of a modern capitalist economy, but rather only a stage (if often a prolonged stage) towards something even more “normal” or “permanent”—namely, indefinite and overall constantly deepening economic depression. (Depression in turn can only be ended through the really massive destruction of all the excess real capital which has been built up over the decades.)
The stagnation thesis, therefore, while sort of a half-truth, is still based on an inadequate and partial understanding of the nature of the economic contradictions of capitalism. It imagines that the capitalist economy will only sink into stagnation, without understanding that even stagnation is only a way-station towards something much worse.
[To be added.]
STALIN, Joseph [Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili] (1879-1953)
[To be added... ] (See also numerous entries below.)
STALIN — Errors and Crimes Of
[To be added... ]
See also: “PARTY MAXIMUM”, PATERNALISM
STALIN — Evaluation of by Mao
Here is part of the summary portion of a 40-page collection of comments by Mao about Stalin. (This collection is available at: https://www.massline.org/SingleSpark/Stalin/StalinMaoEval.htm):
Despite some changes in views over the years—mostly, it seems, in a
considerably more critical direction—there is still a more or less unified general critical
evaluation of Stalin that Mao presents in most of these collected comments. These, we feel,
are the main themes:
• While Stalin kept to a materialist stance in philosophy, his understanding and application of dialectics was much more uneven. He failed to recognize the centrality of the concept of contradiction in dialectics, and often failed to recognize the existence of important social and class contradictions.
• Specifically, Stalin failed to understand that even after the collectivization of agriculture class contradictions still existed in the countryside, and class struggle would continue there.
• And more generally, Stalin failed to recognize that even after the basic construction of socialism in the USSR, class struggle still continued, and the contradiction between the socialist and capitalist roads still continued—not only in society generally, but also within the Communist Party.
• Because of this lack of appreciation of the continuation of class struggle in socialist society, Stalin tended to reduce the threat of capitalist restoration within the USSR to just the possibility of armed attack by foreign imperialism (though that was indeed a legitimate and serious worry).
• Within the USSR, Stalin had a “paternalistic” approach toward the masses, and sought to change and run society for them, instead of using the mass line method of mobilizing the masses to change and run society for themselves. Stalin did not use the mass line either in politics or in economic work.
• Specific examples: Stalin failed to rely on the masses in suppressing counter-revolutionaries and enemy agents, instead relying almost entirely on the security agencies to do this. Similarly, Stalin failed to rely on the masses to ward off the danger of a general capitalist restoration. Even in economic work he tended in later years to rely more on cadres and technology than on the masses.
• Stalin confused contradictions among the people with the contradictions between the people and the enemy. Specifically, he unjustly imprisoned or executed a great many people.
• Within the Soviet Union, the CPSU and the International Communist Movement, Stalin insisted on complete obedience from everyone, and would brook no criticisms from anyone. He was suspicious and mistrustful of those whose complete obedience and total agreement he questioned.
• In his relations with other countries, including China, Stalin often acted as a “great nation chauvinist”, and even at times like an imperialist might act.
• Stalin promoted the construction of an inappropriate and metaphysical personality cult around himself as an individual. [This criticism is unfortunately somewhat ironic, given that Mao later did this as well!]
• In economics, Stalin seriously neglected agriculture and light industry, and put lopsided emphasis on heavy industry.
• Similarly, Stalin gave insufficient attention to raising the living standards of the masses (especially the peasants).
• Stalin seemed to be at a loss as to how to transform cooperative production in agriculture into state production, and how to transform the peasantry into agricultural workers.
• More generally, after the early transformations of industry and agriculture, Stalin seemed to resign himself to the continuation of the existing relations of production and did not try to further transform them in the direction of communism.
• Stalin did not show sufficient vigilance in the period before the German attack on the Soviet Union, and grossly miscalculated as to when that attack might occur. Nevertheless he did successfully lead the Soviet Union and the world in defeating Hitler.
• On the other hand, Stalin tended to be too frightened of the imperialist powers, way too cautious, and even attempted to prevent revolutions in other countries because he feared they might lead to the involvement of the USSR in a war. At several key points, he even tried to prevent the Chinese Revolution from proceeding.
• Stalin did not do a good job in training and preparing his successors. (This, alas, also turned out to be true of Mao.)
If Mao had all these (and more) serious criticisms of Stalin, then why did he regularly repeat his “70% good, 30% bad” overall evaluation of the man? There seems to be two reasons: First, Stalin really did have some important positive aspects and really had led the Soviet Union to a number of important advances and victories. Among these were the massive and extremely rapid industrialization of the country; the completion of the socialization of industry; the collectivization of agriculture (though this was done in a very brutal way); and the victory over the horrendous attack by Nazi Germany (despite his lack of vigilance ahead of the German attack).
Secondly, Mao felt that while Stalin should in fact be criticized for his errors, that it was wrong to “knock him off in one blow”. What exactly was he getting at here? Mao evidently felt that after such a long period of undiluted praise and glorification of Stalin and the Soviet Union while he was in charge, the sudden total denunciation of him and the exposure all at once of the many major problems, mistakes and even crimes during the Stalin period, would all lead to tremendous disorientation on the part of many communists and their supporters around the world. And this is in fact what happened. Many western parties, as Mao later noted, lost huge numbers of members and much of their influence in the aftermath of Khrushchev’s not-really-so-secret total denunciation of Stalin.
Mao tended to emphasize praise and support for Stalin in his public statements, though he did openly acknowledge that Stalin had made some serious errors. This may have been so that people would have time to reorient themselves about the Stalin era and not lose heart because of Khrushchev’s revelations. It was probably also due in part to the growing need to reaffirm Marxist principles and traditions in opposition to Khrushchev’s ever-more-evident revisionism. On the other hand, at meetings with leading Party cadres, Mao’s remarks tended to focus more on a variety of specific criticisms of Stalin, in philosophy, in political economy, with regard to Stalin’s political leadership and his leadership of the international communist movement, and with regard to his attitude and behavior toward the Chinese revolution. While Mao still often repeated that Stalin should be upheld in the main, in these more private meetings most of his comments about Stalin were quite critical, and seem to have become more critical as time went on, partly in light of the unfolding experience of the Chinese revolution.
—“Warren” [S.H.], “Mao’s Evaluations of Stalin: A Collection and Summary” (2006).
STALIN — Failure to Use the Mass Line Method of Leadership
“Secondly, the mass line was seen as tailism by Stalin. [He] did not recognize
the good points about the mass line, and he used administrative methods to resolve many problems.
But we Communists are materialists; we acknowledge that it is the masses who create everything
and are the masters of history. [For us] there are no individual heroes; only when the masses are
united can there be strength. In fact, since Lenin died, the mass line has been forgotten in the
Soviet Union. [Even] at the time of opposing Stalin, [the Soviet Union’s leadership] still did
not properly acknowledge or emphasize the significance of the mass line. Of course, more recently,
attention has begun to be paid to this, but the understanding is still not [sufficiently] deep.”
—Mao, Speech at the Second Plenum of the Eight Central Committee of the CCP (Nov. 15, 1956), Version II, WMZ2, pp. 185-6. Note that an expurgated version of this speech, which drastically tones down the criticisms of Stalin, is given as “version I” in WMZ2, and was also published in slightly different form after Mao’s death in the Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, vol. V.
“Lenin put it well when he said, ‘Socialism is vigorous, spirited, creative—the
creation of the masses of the people themselves.’ Our mass line is like this. Does it not agree
with Leninism? After quoting this statement the [Soviet economics] text says, ‘The broad
laboring masses increasingly participate in a direct active way in the management of production,
in the work of state bodies, in the leadership of all departments in the country’s social life.’
(p. 332 [of the Chinese translation Mao used]) This is also well put. But saying is one thing
and doing another. And to do this is by no means easy.
“In 1928 the Central Committee of the CPSU passed a resolution which said: ‘We will be able to solve the task of overtaking and surpassing the capitalist countries technically and economically only when the party and the worker and peasant masses get mobilized to the limit.’ (p. 337) This is very well put. And this is exactly what we are now doing. At that time Stalin had nothing else to rely on except the masses, so he demanded all-out mobilization of the party and the masses. Afterward, when they had realized some gains this way, they became less reliant on the masses.” —Mao, “Reading Notes on the Soviet Text Political Economy”, circa 1960, Mao Tsetung: A Critique of Soviet Economics, (NY: MR Press, 1977), p. 119.
“We may take it as the rule that as long as the Bolsheviks maintain connection
with the broad masses of the people they will be invincible. And, on the contrary, as soon as the
Bolsheviks sever themselves from the masses and lose their connection with them, as soon as they
become covered with bureaucratic rust, they will lose all their strength and become a mere
“That is the key to the invincibility of Bolshevik leadership.” —Stalin, “Mastering Bolshevism”, quoted on the last two pages of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course, (NY: International, 1939), pp. 362-363.
[However, being close to the masses is still not necessarily the same thing as using the leadership method of “from the masses, to the masses”. And while there are numerous other comments by Stalin and by the CPSU during his era, and even later from the CPSU in the state-capitalist period, which champion in words various aspects of having a mass perspective, any statements promoting anything seemingly close to the mass line method of leadership itself are quite rare. There is one example, however, on the next to the last page of the Short Course shortly before the Stalin quotation:
“Lastly, the history of the Party teaches us that unless it has wide connections with the masses, unless it constantly strengthens these connections, unless it knows how to hearken to the voice of the masses and understand their urgent needs, unless it is prepared not only to teach the masses, but to learn from the masses, a party of the working class cannot be a real mass party capable of leading the working class millions and all the labouring people.” That is indeed a fine statement, and does seem to promote something approaching the mass line method of “from the masses, to the masses”. But even then we must keep in mind Mao’s remark in one of the quotations above, “Saying is one thing and doing another.” And even when it comes to just “talking about” the mass line method, if you are not repeatedly and constantly doing this then it is certainly the case that you are not really using the mass line. The reason is simple: the mass line is difficult for a party to use (as Mao also noted above) and must be constantly promoted if it is to be anything more than an occasional pious verbal pretense. —S.H.]
STALIN — Fear or Concern about Imperialist Attacks
Stalin and many other Bolsheviks had a long history of extremely serious concern that the Soviet Union might well be attacked by foreign imperialist powers. Indeed, it was quite reasonably considered by Stalin to be virtually inevitable unless the USSR could industrialize very rapidly and build up its own powerful armed forces. And even then an imperialist attack could not be ruled out; though at least it could then probably be defeated.
“We came to power in a technologically awfully backward country ... And we have around us many capitalist countries with more developed and advanced industrial technologies ... We need to catch up to and overtake these advanced capitalist countries ... Either we do it or they will bury us.” —Stalin, “Industrialization of the Country and the Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.)”, speech delivered at the November Plenum of the Central Committee, Nov. 19, 1928. [This translation is from the bourgeois academic work by Sarah Davies and James Harris, Stalin’s World (Yale: 2014), p. 108. An alternate, official Soviet translation is in J. V. Stalin: Works, Vol. 11 (Moscow: 1954), pp. 257-8.]
“The Bolsheviks’ sense that they were surrounded by hostile capitalist
states was rooted in Lenin’s thought, but nurtured by the accumulation of information on the
actions and intentions of those states. By establishing the identification of threats against
the regime as the first priority of the intelligence services, a bias was built into the
information collected. Deepening this bias was the predisposition of Soviet leaders, not
least among them Stalin, to disregard, or at least to discount, counterevidence. Indeed,
there is anecdotal evidence that, by the 1930s, agencies were afraid to pass such
counterevidence to the leadership. At the same time, there was no shortage of evidence of
anti-communism in the capitalist world, anti-communist activity, and genuinely hostile
intent toward the USSR. Very little of it escaped the Soviet intelligence services, and much
of it was passed to Stalin and the Politburo. As such, Stalin received a steady stream of
‘evidence’ suggesting that capitalist powers were bent on the organization of a new invasion.
The picture Stalin was given was clear and consistent. His analysis of it was logical and
entirely pragmatic in its own terms. But the picture was wrong. Ideological preconceptions
played an important role in Soviet misperceptions of the capitalist world, but the ways in
which intelligence was collected and processed were equally important.” —Sarah Davies and
James Harris, Stalin’s World (Yale: 2014), p. 94.
[This is the view of some contemporary bourgeois academics who just cannot believe that their wonderful capitalist-imperialist system might have been out to destroy the socialist Soviet Union from the start, and was always looking for the right opportunity to do so! Stalin and most of the other Bolsheviks were entirely right to seek out evidence of foreign efforts to build coalitions to attack the USSR, and to do their absolute best to try to disrupt such plans and schemes through diplomacy and through very determined efforts to expand the Soviet economy as fast as possible and at the same time to expand and better equip their own military. To do so was not the result of any Soviet “misperception” of the intentions of the great capitalist powers, but on the contrary, simply common sense in their situation. We should also never forget that a great coalition of imperialist states, led by Britain, France and the United States, had already invaded revolutionary Russia after World War I, and that German Nazi imperialism did so again in 1941 in what became the dominant part of World War II in Europe. The fact that some of the imperialists hopes and schemes in between these two towering crimes did not come to fruition does not at all mean that the imperialists were not doing everything they could to try to bring them about. —Ed.]
STALIN — Marxism and the National Question
“Stalin’s article Marxism and the National Question, published in
1913, develops the Marxist teachings on the national question on the basis of the entire
experience of national movements to that date, and constituted the point of departure for
the solution of the national question in the Russian Revolution.
“The fundamental ideas contained in this article may be summed up under four headings:
“1. The Definition of a Nation
“Stalin gives a basic definition of a nation and demonstrates the Marxist method of arriving at a definition by considering the subject in all its aspects and in its actual development. His definition is as follows: ‘A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.... It is only when all these characteristics are present that we have a nation.’
“2. Bourgeois Nationalism and Working-class Internationalism
“Stalin demonstrates that the formation of nations and independent national states took place with the development of capitalism. The bourgeoisie played the leading role in the formation of nations, and gave a bourgeois character to the national movement. [Footnote: But see Stalin, The National Question and Leninism, on socialist nations.]
“While the stronger nations obtained national independence, others did not advance far enough in national development before they fell under the domination of the stronger nations. Hence the occurrence of the oppression of one nation by another.
“Bourgeois nationalism always bears a character of exclusiveness, of national enmity and of national oppression. And in the conditions of rising capitalism the national struggle necessarily took the form of a struggle between different national bourgeois classes.
“The working class fights against all national oppression and for the self-determination of all nations, but does not allow itself to be diverted by bourgeois nationalism into solidarity with its own national bourgeoisie and into international enmity.
“What distinguishes the policy of the working class on the national question from bourgeois nationalism is that the working class seeks to end all national oppression and hostility and to establish the fraternal unity between the working classes and working people of all nations.
“3. For National Self-Determination and Against Separatist Tendencies
“Stalin stresses that the working class supports the right of every nation to self-determination. This does not mean, however, that the working class supports every national demand and every national institution. The right to self-determination is one thing; what national policy will actually be adopted, what national institutions will be established and whether the nation will separate itself from another nation, or unite with it, is another thing. Particular national demands are or are not to be supported according to the circumstances of the case. The correct policy in each case can be decided only on the basis of considering the specific economic, political and cultural conditions of the given nation.
“Stalin strongly opposes nationalist separatist tendencies among the working class organizations. In countries where several nationalities are represented among the working class, such tendencies can lead to the destruction of the unity of the working class movement.
“Stalin therefore declares that the working class could not support the demand for so-called ‘national cultural autonomy,’ because it was an artifical proposal which bolstered up reactionary nationalist trends and divided the workers.
“4. The Conditions for the Solution of the National Problem
“Stalin concludes that there were five conditions for the solution to the national problem:
“1) Recognition of the right of all nations to self-determination.
“2) Regional autonomy for national groupings occupying their own territory within a multi-national state.
“3) The establishment of the conditions of the fullest democracy.
“4) National equality, i.e. no special privileges for any one nation, and no restriction of the rights of national minorities.
“5) United working-class organizations and international solidarity of the working class.
“These latter points were further explained and elaborated by Stalin in his Report on the National Question to the 7th Party Conference in April 1917.” —Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (London: 1953), pp. 90-91.
STALIN — “Paranoia Of”
“It was entirely logical for Bolshevik leaders to remain concerned with internal
amd extermal threats to the Revolution after the civil war had ended, but they developed a
grossly exaggerated sense of the danger posed by ‘capitalist encirclement’ abroad and by actual
and potential subversives at home. This has nothing to do with ‘paranoia’ in the sense of a
clinical condition. The threat in the civil war was very real, and the Bolsheviks’ perception
that a successful communist revolution posed a mortal threat to capitalism predisposed them to
think that there would inevitably be some kind of confrontation from which only one would emerge
victorious. The persistent drone of establishment anti-communism kept Bolshevik nerves on edge.
For all the self-inflicted damage done by these exaggerated fears—not least the mass repression
of 1936-38—the world war that ensued only served to convince Stalin and senior officialdom that
that they had been right all along.” —Sarah Davies & James Harris, Stalin’s World: Dictating
the Soviet Order (Yale: 2014), p. 275.
[This is the view of two recent American bourgeois academics. On the one hand they are correct to point out that Stalin’s “paranoia”, which is so often talked about, did in fact have an objective basis and that it was not really a problem with his personal psychology. But on the other hand their attempt to massively down play the threat to the Soviet Union from the capitalist-imperialist West is quite ridiculous. Stalin and the Soviet Union during the socialist period were indeed basically correct in their understanding of the existential threat against the Revolution posed by foreign imperialism and the need to constantly prepare to defend against new attacks. Not only had the alliance of foreign imperialists already invaded the country at the end of World War I; not only had they been doing virtually everything they could to destroy the Soviet Union between the world wars; not only had German Nazi imperialism unleashed a truly horrendous war against them in the early 1940s; but on top of this American imperialism and its allies did in fact genuinely and seriously threaten the USSR with nuclear weapons after the end of World War II. None of this was paranoia in any real sense of the term. And while the Great Purges of 1936-38 certainly seem to have been at least mostly a huge and counter-productive mistake, even they might well have had some limited and partial positive results in the elimination of some actual counter-revolutionaries. The Soviet Union, alone among countries overrun by the Nazis, had little in the way of any “Fifth Column” support for the Nazis, and had by far the most active and powerful guerrilla resistance in the overrun areas. —S.H.]
STALIN — Rule by Fear
While it is a great exaggeration by the bourgeois class enemy to say that Stalin and his government “ruled by fear alone”, I think it is hard to deny that fear played a significant role in his rule and in the regime he led. To some extent this even had positive effects, as in getting Party and government officials to “toe the line”, work very hard, refrain from graft, and sincerely strive to bring about the rapid expansion of production and victory over the Nazi invaders. Here is one story (which may or may not be true) told about one of Stalin’s commissars, Vladimir Nosenko, who was in charge of shipbuilding:
“[Stalin’s continuing joke] began some time before the Second World War when, passing him in the corridor, Stalin exclaimed: ‘Comrade Nosenko, why haven’t you been arrested yet?’ According to his colleagues, Nosenko spent many sleepless nights waiting for the knock on the door. Over the next few years, whenever Stalin met Nosenko he would joke: ‘I thought I had you shot.’ Finally he talked to Nosenko at the celebrations for victory in World War II. ‘What really brought us victory?’ Stalin asked. ‘Was it our superior Socialist technology? Was it our dedication to the motherland? Was it our proletarian consciousness? Yes. It was all these things. But mainly it was our sense of humor. Wasn’t it, Comrade Nosenko?’” —Ben Lewis, Hammer and Tickle (2009), p. 51. [Note: This story is from a deeply anti-communist book full of lies and distortions. But it is possible to learn a few useful things even from a book such as this. In particular, this story, along with much additional evidence from many other sources, suggests that Stalin really did consciously use fear as one of his major methods of ruling the Soviet Union. —S.H.]
On the whole, the use of fear in this way cannot be justified, and certainly not against the
working class and the masses. The resort to the use of fear in order to rule shows the failure
to successfully use education, ideology, and democracy to bring about the conscious striving to
change society on the part of the people.
Only with respect to the class enemy, the bourgeoisie and its agents, can the use of fear normally be justified, and be justified as part of the mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was true, of course, that in the Soviet Union some bourgeois (or feudal class) people had to be relied upon for a while, even within the military and the government. It was necessary and justified to rely on a semi-cooperative section of the reactionary officer corps during the civil war, for example, and it was necessary to supervise and control such individuals not only via means such as mass supervision and political cadres, but for them to fully understand what might very well happen to them if they did not carry out the instructions and orders of the revolutionary government.
However, fear as one of the most prominent and general methods of rule, and used against the working class itself, was definitely not correct or justified. And Stalin, in particular, must be very strongly criticized for using this method of rule against the people. It is not that rule by fear cannot for a time be effective; it is just that there are much better and more appropriate methods available most of the time, and any major reliance on this method of using fear must inevitably fail in the end. Moreover, to the extent that the working class and masses themselves are governed through fear, they themselves cannot really be said to be ruling society. Such methods contradict democracy for the people and genuine socialism.
STALIN — Suppression of Class Enemies
To a considerable degree, what is known in bourgeois and Trotskyist circles as “Stalin’s Terror” or just plain “Stalinism” was actually the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat against active opposition to the socialist system and serious efforts to overthrow it. Yes, Stalin did indeed make some very serious errors in this regard, did often confuse contradictions and mere differences of opinion among the people with basic contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. He did in fact have a great many individuals sent to prison camps (gulags) or even executed who were not in fact the true enemies of the people. (Large numbers indeed, though not the grossly exaggerated multi-millions that bourgeois historians and anti-communist ideologues claim. The truth of the matter is bad enough!) For these errors, which sometimes reached the level of outright crimes, Stalin must be severely criticized and condemned. And yet, it is still true, that in the situation in the Soviet Union while Stalin was in charge, there were actually a great number of genuine class enemies of socialism and revolution who really did need to be suppressed by the socialist government. Even bourgeois historians themselves have now, finally and reluctantly, come around to partially admitting this. (See the Sarah Davies/James Harris quote below.) And insofar as Stalin had the real enemies of the people appropriately arrested or executed, from a Marxist revolutionary perspective he should be commended, not condemned!
[Expressing a now common point of view of bourgeois scholarship on Stalin,
though still obviously class-biased and quite exaggerated:] “How were Stalin’s interests served
by the execution and exile of millions of Soviet citizens in the 1930s? A new consensus is
emerging in the scholarly literature. In the last twenty years, scholarly work on the subject
has increasingly viewed Stalin’s ‘Terror’ as a response to growing anxieties rather than a
drive to achieve totalitarian control. Research in Russian archives has been revealing the
substantial resistance to the regime. Stalin was nagged by doubts that central directives
were being fulfilled. The problem was not his immediate subordinates, but rather the greater
mass of the party and state bureaucracy that responded to impossible demands from the center
with foot-dragging and deception. Meanwhile, workers were upset, in no small part because
Stalin’s industrialization program was funded largely by the suppression of their living
standards. There were new opportunities for advancement and an end to unemployment, but
enthusiasm was tempered in the early 1930s as work norms were raised, the food situation
deteriorated, and pressure on housing increased. Worker unrest occasionally spilled into
strikes and other forms of protest. The peasantry would not soon forgive the regime for
forced collectivization and grain collections that ultimately led to the loss of hundreds
of thousands, if not millions, of lives in the famine of 1932-33. Living standards were
much better for the mass of officaldom, but they were disturbed at being landed with the
impossible task of fulfilling the overambitious targets of the plan while struck between
resentful subordinates and threatening bosses. Amidst crisis and chaos, those party
officials who had supported Stalin at party congresses and CC [Central Committee] plena
[meetings] may have wondered whether they had made the wrong choice. Of course, the promise
of building a socialist society did generate plenty of enthusiasm, but Stalin could have had
few illusions about the level of resistance and disaffection to his rule. The prospect of an
imminent war made this resistance and disaffection more disturbing still. As war with Nazi
Germany came to appear inevitable, Stalin perceived the threat to his leadership in the form
of a fifth column.
“At the time of the Terror, the press was full of stories of the agents of foreign powers recruiting ‘unstable elements’ in Soviet government and society with the express aim of destroying the regime from within. From the summer of 1936, the press also asserted that the former oppositions from the leadership struggles of the 1920s had themselves become agents of fascism. Indeed, this was the central charge against the accused in the infamous Moscow trials of 1936-38. Was there any substance to these charges? Did Stalin believe them? Although it is very difficult to know with any certainty what Stalin believed, we now have access to some of the foreign and domestic intelligence that Stalin received and that helped shape his views of the threat of subversion. We also have substantial parts of his correspondence with the political police and organs of justice, from which it is possible to see not only how he acted on these reports, but also how he shaped the collection of intelligence.
“It is clear not only from Soviet sources, but also from sources originating in the ‘bourgeois’ governments surrounding the the USSR, that there were foreign spies and saboteurs at work in the Soviet Union. Just how many it is impossible to say.” —Sarah Davies & James Harris, Stalin’s World: Dictating the Soviet Order (Yale: 2014), pp. 59-60.
“The Bolshevik government had more reason to worry about spies and
saboteurs than most other governments in the interwar. The seizure of power in November
1917 met an extremely fierce resistance... In the course of the civil war, most
counterrevolutionaries were shot on suspicion without much evidence, if any, but Soviet
efforts to infiltrate such organizations, as well as the armies and foreign governments
that supported them, produced considerable evidence of a very real threat. It should come
as no surprise that the ‘White’ armies and foreign armed forces fighting the Bolsheviks
should have attempted to make use of those individuals and groups who shared their desire
to see the end of this revolution in Russia. There is no shortage of evidence of their
efforts to spread anti-Soviet propaganda, to blow up rail lines, to disrupt military and
civilian production, and to assassinate leading Soviet officials....
“One might assume that subversive activity would be desperately difficult in a brutal, authoritarian state, but it was, on the contrary, rather simple. In the first instance, Soviet borders were porous. Preventing cross-border traffic across thousands of kilometers of borders was desperately difficult if not impossible.” —Sarah Davies & James Harris, ibid., pp. 62-64.
STALIN — Suspiciousness Of
See also: OPERATION SPLINTER FACTOR
“Stalin was often gregarious but also moody and aloof, which made him seem suspicious.” —Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Volume I — Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (2014), p. 9. [Kotkin is a bourgeois biographer of Stalin.]
STALINGRAD — Battle Of
One of the most decisive battles of World War II, in which the Soviet Red Army withstood the seige of the city of Stalingrad on the Volga River and turned the tide against the German Nazi invaders. This was a battle of almost unimaginable ferocity, and is one of the epic events in all of human history.
For an article discussing this famous battle from the Maoist standpoint, see “Stalingrad: The Battle of History... The History of a Battlefield”, in A World to Win, #27 (2001), online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/International/RIM/AWTW/2001-27/AWTW-27-Stalingrad.pdf [PDF: 8 pages, 1,649 KB]
STANDARD MODEL (of Particle Physics)
The scientific theory which organizes most of the presently known information about the subatomic particles of matter and the forces between them. Although this theory is generally accepted in physics, it is still tentative and does not explain all the phenomena in particle physics and cosmology.
See also: ANTI-MATTER, ATOM, ELECTRON, QUANTUM MECHANICS, etc.
“The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the
electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, as well as classifying all the
subatomic particles known. It was developed throughout the latter half of the 20th
century, as a collaborative effort of scientists around the world. The current
formulation was finalized in the mid-1970s upon experimental confirmation of the
existence of quarks. Since then, discoveries of the top quark (1995), the tau neutrino
(2000), and more recently the Higgs boson (2012), have given further credence to the
Standard Model. Because of its success in explaining a wide variety of experimental
results, the Standard Model is sometimes regarded as a ‘theory of almost everything’.
“Although the Standard Model is believed to be theoretically self-consistent and has demonstrated huge and continued successes in providing experimental predictions, it does leave some phenomena unexplained and it falls short of being a complete theory of fundamental interactions. It does not incorporate the full theory of gravitation as described by general relativity, or account for the accelerating expansion of the universe (as possibly described by dark energy). The model does not contain any viable dark matter particle that possesses all of the required properties deduced from observational cosmology. It also does not incorporate neutrino oscillations (and their non-zero masses).” —From the Wikipedia entry at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Model (This is a good source for much further information on the Standard Model and particle physics in general.)
STANDARDS — Stylistic
See: STYLISTIC STANDARDS
STANDING TOGETHER TO ORGANIZE A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT (STORM)
A small multinational “revolutionary cadre organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area”, which existed from September 1994 to December 2002. It was largely composed of students and young people. Its ideology is sometimes described as “Third World Marxism”.
STORM grew out of a Marxist-leaning organization in the Bay Area called Roots Against War (RAW), which emerged in the early 1990s and organized protests around the Gulf War and the Rodney King verdict. STORM originally was an eclectic mixture of anarchists, communists and revolutionary nationalists, but after some internal struggle the anarchists left and the organization became more Marxist in tone. Many members especially respected Mao Zedong and considered him their spiritual leader.
Unlike RAW, STORM had some white members, though its membership was always more than 75% people of color. Its membership was also more than 60% women. Reflecting the problems and tensions of American society, the racial, ethnic and gender composition of STORM, and its leadership committees, was viewed as critically important:
“Throughout its history, STORM was committed to maintaining itself as a majority women, majority people of color organization. This commitment also extended to the areas of mass work in which STORM members collectively worked. Growing out of theoretical frameworks inherited from revolutionary, third wave and Black feminist members of STORM developed the ‘Sisters at the Center’ slogan early on in their organization’s history. Application of this slogan meant a conscious emphasis to keep women of color and working class women at the center of the organization’s analysis, program and practice.” —From the Wikipedia entry on STORM.
Interestingly, most of STORM’s membership had never previously been in any other
revolutionary organization. STORM officially dissolved in December 2002. Perhaps part of
the reason for its disbandment can be seen in the Van Jones Affair. After STORM disbanded,
one of its founders and leaders, Anthony “Van” Jones, moved into the inner circles of the
Democratic Party, and was appointed by President Obama as a “special advisor” with respect
to “Green jobs”. In September 2009 he resigned from this position after some right-wing
red-baiting about his past associations. It has been claimed that nearly all the
members of STORM in its last period were also staff members of various social non-profit
organizations. This may have even developed in the direction of a sort of alternative
social-program bureaucracy, which seems to have led to some resentment on the part of those
outside of STORM. It is very doubtful if this sort of thing can be a good social base for
constructing a revolutionary organization.
See also the 97-page pamphlet summarizing the history, development and disbanding of the group, “Reclaiming Revolution: History, Summation & Lessons from the Work of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)” (Spring 2004), online at: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/10717234/Reclaiming-Revolution-history-summation-and-lessons-from-the-work-of-STORM
A theory and “system” of acting and theatrical performance and production originated by Konstantin Sergeivitch Alexeyev (1865-1938), who used the professional name “Stanislavsky”. It often involves various techniques to try to bring about (or at least simulate) emotions in the actor which are supposedly those a real-life person would have in such a situation. The techniques include “Emotional Memory” (the actor recalling situations where he or she actually had that emotion), and engaging in actions on stage (likely surreptiously) which might evoke the appropriate emotions or at least approximate their appearance.
Stanislavsky fled from Russia at the time of the 1905 Revolution, and after the October Revolution in 1917 he went to the United States. Despite this, during the revisionist and state-capitalist period of the Soviet Union, Stanislavsky’s “system” was widely adopted and promoted. And from there it was also adopted in China during the 1950s and early 1960s. However, the Stanislavsky system came under heavy criticism in China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as the quotation below demonstrates. The Stanislavsky system has also been extremely influential in the U.S. and elsewhere, often as an American variation of the system called “method acting”.
“Stanislavsky was a reactionary bourgeois art ‘authority’ in Russia.
Scared to death by the revolution of 1905, he fled to Germany with his repertoire of plays
which lauded the tsar and the aristocracy. He was applauded and given an audience by the
German emperor Wilhelm II. When the Great October Revolution took place, Stanislavsky
admitted that he had again found himself ‘in an impasse’ and that ‘it was necessary to
take a look ... from a distance.’ He took his theatrical company to the United States where
he was on terms of intimacy with the imperialists. He grieved over the lost ‘peaceful’ days
of tsarist times and cursed the revolution for having caused ‘war, hunger, world catastrophe,
mutual misunderstanding and hate.’
“The period from the failure of the 1905 revolution to the upsurge of the October Revolution was a period of reaction in Russian politics. To quench the flames of the proletarian revolution, the tsarist government mobilized all the forces of reaction and resorted to the counter-revolutionary dual tactics of using political and cultural repression and deception alternately against the revolutionary people. It was precisely during this reactionary historical period that the theory of the theatre which Stanislavsky painstakingly worked out—that is, Stanislavsky’s ‘system’—took shape. This clearly proves that it was a product of the tsarist government’s reactionary policy of using culture to narcotize the people.
“The core of the ‘system,’ in Stanislavsky’s own words, is ‘self.’ According to him, all the obscurantism which he advocated, such as the ‘ruling idea’ of a play, ‘through-action,’ ‘the germs of all the human vices and virtues’ and ‘living human elements,’ reposed in the ‘innermost I.’” —First paragraphs of “Revolutionary Mass Criticism: Comments on Stanislavsky’s ‘System’”, by the Shanghai Revolutionary Mass Criticism Writing Group, Peking Review, #36, Sept. 3, 1969, pp. 7-11. This complete individual article is also available at https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1969/PR1969-36-Stanislavsky.pdf
[In Marxist usage:] The primary instrument of political power in class society, consisting of organs of administration (government departments), and of force (army and police). There are also usually auxillary organs (legislatures or parliaments, and courts of law) which exist both to resolve conflicts within the ruling class and to lend the appearance of fairness and “complete democracy” to the state. The state is thus a mechanism for class rule, the embodiment of the dictatorship of a particular class, no matter how camouflaged it may be.
STATE AND REVOLUTION, The
This is a very important work by Lenin, written in 1917, describing the state as the primary agency of class rule, and discussing its role in the revolutionary process. It is available in volume 25 of Lenin’s Collected Works [4th English ed.], and online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/index.htm
“The State and Revolution, written by Lenin on the eve of October,
1917, sets forth the Marxist-Leninist teachings on the state. The last chapter, which was
to deal with the experiences of the Russion revolutions of 1905 and February 1917, was
never written: Lenin was ‘interrupted’ by the advent of the October Revolution.
“The attitude to the state is a most vital question for the working class movement. Right-wing social democrats teach that the state is neutral and stands above classes. In this great book Lenin shows the falsity and treachery of this idea; he places before the reader the statements and arguments of Marx and Engels on the subject of the state, defends and develops their teachings on the basis of an analysis of the experiences of the working class movement.
“What are the principal questions dealt with in The State and Revolution?
“1. Lenin shows that the state is an organ of class rule. It came into being as a result of society splitting into antagonistic classes, as an organ for the oppression of one class by another. Its characteristic feature is the existence of a ‘public power’ consisting of special bodies of armed men, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds, a state bureaucracy. This state machinery has become perfected in the capitalist state.
“2. Lenin shows that the working class cannot lay hold of the capitalist state machinery and use it for their own purposes, but must smash it and replace it by the proletarian state—the proletariat organized as the ruling class.
“The forms of bourgeois state, he says, are very varied, but they are all forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Similarly the transition from capitalism to communism will create a variety of political forms, but their essence will invariably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat. The object of the proletarian dictatorship is to crush the resistance of the exploiters and prepare the way for classless society—communism.
“3. Lenin deals in detail with the difference between bourgeois and proletarian democracy. We can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, he says; and analyzing the experience of the Paris Commune (1871), he shows how Marx recognized in the Commune a new form of democracy, proletarian democracy.
“At the same time Lenin shows how the workers must always fight to defend and extend bourgeois democracy, because this provides the best conditions for waging the class struggle against the capitalists. He shows that the workers wage their struggle in alliance with all the oppressed people under capitalism, and how this class alliance must be continued and strengthened through the dictatorship of the proletariat after the defeat of the capitalists.
“4. Lenin deals in detail with the meaning of the transition from socialism to communism, and with the economic basis of this transition.
“Socialist society is organized on the slogan: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.’ As production increases and an absolute abundance of products becomes available there will gradually be introduced communism, whose slogan is: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ At the same time there will gradually disappear the antithesis between intellectual and manual labor, and between town and countryside. In the course of the transition to communism the state will gradually wither away.
“Lenin’s lecture on The State, delivered in 1919 to students of Sverdlov University, presents the essential teachings about the state in a short and popular form. [Available online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jul/11.htm ] It is a splendid introduction for the beginner, who should read it before tackling The State and Revolution.”
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952), pp. 19-20.
STATE, The Bourgeois
The bourgeois State is the organ of power and administration which exercises the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) over all other classes, and especially over the proletariat (working class).
“The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” —Marx & Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), Ch. I: MECW 6:486.
1. The form of capitalism in which the capitalists own the means of production (factories, machinery, etc.) collectively and as a class, rather than individually or in small associations (partnerships, corporations, etc.). The Soviet Union was the prime example after the restoration of capitalism there in the mid 1950s and until its final collapse in 1991. It seems fair to conclude these days that state capitalism is unstable and tends to decay back into more traditional forms of monopoly capitalism.
2. [As used by various other “left” theorists:] Western-style monopoly capitalism, or specific periods of it during which the state plays a more prominent role than other periods. The bourgeois state does play a much increased role in the control and direction of capitalism in the imperialist or monopoly capitalist era (as compared to earlier capitalism); and since the 1930s the role of the state has been further increased in monopoly capitalism. But this state role in the economy is still qualitatively much less than it was in the Soviet Union in the revisionist era and it is incorrect and confusing to call any period of Western-style monopoly capitalism by the name “state capitalism” or “state monopoly capitalism”.
3. [Under socialism:] A short transitional stage of capitalism in a state ruled by the revolutionary proletariat, as a step toward transforming the economy into actual socialism. (See separate entry below.)
STATE CAPITALISM — Under Socialism
A fairly brief transitional stage in the economy of a society (or in a part of that economy) after the seizure of power by the revolutionary proletariat, and before the economy is transformed (or fully transformed) into genuine socialism. It may even still involve the participation of individual capitalists under state supervision and control. But if the economy is still capitalist (even if state capitalist or supervised by the state) is it proper to call such a regime itself socialist? Yes it is, if it is genuinely moving toward socialism. Remember that socialism has both a political and economic aspect; if the revolutionary proletariat has seized power and is in the process of transforming the economy into socialism, then it is certainly reasonable to call it a socialist government or country.
In the early years after the Russian Revolution, both before the period of “War Communism” and during the temporary retreat known as the “New Economic Policy” (NEP), a considerable part of the Russian economy was properly called (including by Lenin himself) state capitalism. Similarly, in the early 1950s in China a large section of the economy was properly deemed state capitalism by Mao and the CCP.
Of course, if state capitalism is a step backward from socialism (and not merely a temporary retreat forced by extreme circumstances) then it is not properly considered to be state capitalism under socialism, but rather the destruction of socialism. This is what occurred in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s, and in China after Mao’s death. There is no such thing as state capitalism under socialism if the bourgeoisie has once again seized control of the society.
“This brings us to the most difficult problem. It goes without saying that the tax in kind means freedom to trade. After having paid the tax in kind, the peasant will have the right freely to exchange the remainder of his grain. This freedom of exchange implies freedom for capitalism. We say this openly and emphasize it. We do not conceal it in the least. Things would go very hard with us if we attempted to conceal it. Freedom to trade means freedom for capitalism, but it also means a new form of capitalism. It means that, to a certain extent, we are re-creating capitalism. We are doing this quite openly. It is state capitalism. But state capitalism in a society where power belongs to capital, and state capitalism in a proletarian state, are two different concepts. In a capitalist state, state capitalism means that it is recognized by the state and controlled by it for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, and to the detriment of the proletariat. In the proletarian state, the same thing is done for the benefit of the working class, for the purpose of withstanding the as yet strong bourgeoisie, and of fighting it.” —Lenin, “Report on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party” (at the 3rd Congress of the Communist International, July 5, 1921), LCW 32:490-491.
“The present-day capitalist economy in China is a capitalist economy which for the most part is under the control of the People’s Government and which is linked with the state-owned socialist economy in various forms and supervised by the workers. It is not an ordinary but a particular kind of capitalist economy, namely a state-capitalist economy of a new type. It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state. True, a share of the profits produced by the workers goes to the capitalists, but that is only a small part, about one quarter, of the total. The remaining three quarters are produced for the workers (in the form of the welfare fund), for the state (in the form of income tax) and for expanding productive capacity (a small part of which produces profits for the capitalists). Therefore, this state-capitalist economy of a new type takes on a socialist character to a very great extent and benefits the workers and the state.” —Mao, “On State Capitalism” (July 9, 1953), SW 5:101. [Within a few years this entire state capitalist sector in China was transformed and absorbed into the socialist economy.]
“STATE OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE”
A revisionist notion or theory that it is possible to have a type of state which represents all existing social classes equally and simultaneously, or else in which there supposedly are no longer any social classes remaining at all. This is totally opposed to the concept of the state as an organ of class rule as presented and defended by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao. The state-capitalist and social-imperialist Soviet Union, from the time of Khrushchev until its final collapse in 1991, absurdly claimed to be such a “state of the whole people”.
See also: “PARTY OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE”
“Khrushchev proclaimed that classes no longer existed in the USSR
and that, in consequence, it had become a ‘state of the whole people.’ In making this
assessment he blithely ignored the essential reality that the whole basis for
existence of the state—whether slave, feudal, capitalist, or socialist—is its role as
the instrumentality of one class to dominate its opponents. A state canot by its own
very nature be a state of the whole people. In essence, such a state is a
contradiction in terms, incapable of existence. Khrushchev’s ‘state of the whole
people’ exists only as a phrase serving to mask the transition from a gravely weakened
proletarian to a bourgeois state.” —Ira Gollobin, Dialectical Materialism: Its
Laws, Categories, and Practice (1986), p. 470.
[It could instead be better or more clearly said that the claim of the existence of such a “state of the whole people” demonstrates not simply a gravely weakened proletarian state in transition to a bourgeois state, but rather already the existence of a new bourgeois state, seeking to hide the change in which class is in power. —Ed.]
STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES (In China)
See: CHINA—State-owned Enterprises
STATISTICS — Economic
See: ECONOMIC STATISTICS, GREAT RECESSION—Ten Year Retrospective [Leonhardt quote]
STATISTICS — Potentially Misleading Nature Of
“On average, humans have one testicle.” —Daniel Levitin, A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics (2017). [Mr. Levitin’s point, of course, is that the mean value may characterize almost nobody, as in this case where the physical characteristics of men and women are considered together in the same statistic. —Ed.]
STAY AT HOME ORDER
STEEDMAN, Ian (1941- )
A “left” bourgeois economist associated with the Neo-Ricardian school of thought, also known as the Neo-Sraffian school. His work is strongly connected to that of Piero Sraffa as well as to neoclassical bourgeois economists such as Alfred Marshall, William Stanley Jevons and the now largely forgotten Philip Henry Wicksteed. Steedman is best known for his criticism of Marx’s version of the labor theory of value based on the claim that capitalist prices cannot be derived with uniform and absolute mathematical precision from economic values as determined by the socially necessary abstract labor times incorporated into commodities. The MLM political economy of capitalism views this claim—even if technically true—as basically inconsequential and merely demonstrating that Steedman, Sraffa, et al., completely failed to understand the whole point of Marx’s analysis in Capital. (See also: TRANSFORMATION PROBLEM)
“Another example of a theoretical perspective [on Marxist political economy] that is inadequate when it comes to developing theoretical mediations that would connect abstract theory and history is the work of Ian Steedman [Marx After Sraffa (London: 1977)]. For example, he is so taken in by the mathematical ‘correctness’ of his Sraffa-based formalistic model of price determination that he totally rejects the incredibly rich potentials of Marx’s value theory as a basis for both understanding capital’s inner logic and developing the sort of theoretical mediations (levels of analysis) required for connecting abstract theory with concrete history. Instead he presents a formalistic theory of price determination, that in its universality is not connected to any historically specific mode of production, and then seems more or less lost when it comes to seeking paths that might connect his theory to historical specificity. Indeed, one of my most important arguments is that epistemological projects connected with economic theory that tend to make history a simple function of abstract theory or abstract theory a simple abstraction from empirical history are deeply problematic.” —Robert Albritton, Economics Transformed: Discovering the Brilliance of Marx (2007), pp. 6-7.
“A growing animus against static equilibrium theory [in economics] has not
stopped the Neo-Sraffians from utilizing such a theory to solve the perennial problem of price
determination. The influence of Sraffa’s work can be traced to the enormously high value that
economists give to a mathematically neat solution to the theory of price determination. Here we
have a static equilibrium model of simple reproduction in which physical quantities of product
(as in [an ultra-stripped-down model of] a three commodity economy) produce commodities in the
same proportions. This model enables one to generate a rate of profit and prices according to
which the three commodities can reproduce themselves as long as we assume that wages are equal
and that we know the real wage rate. The mathematical correctness of this theory has been the
cause for great confidence amongst its perpetrators. For example, the young and impressionable
Mr. Steedman (op cit., p. 25) writes with fervour as though he has just discovered the
truth: ‘The Sraffa-based critique of Marx cannot [emphasis in original] be met head on
and rationally rejected, for the simple reason that it is correct.’
“In one way, he is quite right. Assuming that we accept all of his assumptions and premises, his conclusions do indeed follow by the very ancient rules of deductive logic. Despite this seeming incontrovertible theory, however, [Thomas] Sekine (in An Outline of the Dialectic of Capital (1997), vol. II, pp. 23-25), has demonstrated that Steedman’s theory of price determination arrives at prices that are wrong even in a purely capitalist society. Furthermore, when it comes to understanding capital’s inner logic, does Sraffa or Steedman offer anything even slightly approaching the explanatory power of Marx’s Capital? If our aim is ultimately to understand how capitalism works in general and how it has worked specifically in modern history, then Sraffa and Steedman offer us almost nothing. Why, then, all the excitement? The excitement tells us more about the academic discipline of economics than about the realities of capitalism. If it is capitalism that we want to undertand, then a highly formalistic, and seemingly mathematically correct theory of price determination is of little or no interest. Of much greater interest is, among other things, a fully developed theory of the commodity form and of the tenuous nature of commodification; the indifference of capital towards use-value and a robust theory of exploitation as it relates to profit-maximization; the pressures towards concentration, centralization, expansion and towards speed-up of capital’s circuits; the theory of surplus population; the theory of the division of surplus-value between profit, interest, commercial profit and rent; the necessary inner connections amongst all the basic economic categories as commodity forms; and finally some awareness of the need to think systematically about levels of analysis which will facilitate the articulation of capitalist economic categories with non-captalist economic cateories and non-economic categories.”
—Robert Albritton, ibid., pp. 190-2.
“What I find most disturbing about Steedman’s position is his assumption that
just because you cannot mathematically derive prices from values, values are useless, and
indeed, more than useless, for they confuse the whole picture. When, in fact, it is value
categories that make the class relation crystal clear and at the same time illustrate the
dynamic of the class relation that stems from its being subsummed to the commodity form. To
turn the table on Steedman, I would argue that his adaptation of Sraffa is worse than useless,
because it fetishizes a universal theory of price determination without throwing any light at
all on the basic deep socio-economic structures of capitalism. After all, if the dialectic of
capital is fundamentally a dialectic between value and use-value, and it is the reconsideration
of this contradiction in contexts where commodification is not complete that offers the best
stepping stones towards more concrete levels of analysis, then abandoning value removes all
inner necessity from the theory leaving us floating in space wondering how to get back to
earth. By getting the social relations and economic dynamics basically correct it is [Marx’s]
Capital that should be utilized as the matrix for utilizing mathematics....
“The Sraffians first move is to give a simplistic and I would argue, wrong, interpretation of Marx’s labour theory of value. Then they produce a highly formalistic theory of price determination that does not rely on value magnitudes, and proceed to dismiss value as an antiquarian mystification. But even if value were to play no quantitative role in the theory of price determination, it is a crucial and indispensable category in setting the stage for an embellished theory of capitalist prices to emerge. It is the combination of facile deductivism and the fetishization of mathematics that disables a thinker like Steedman from appreciating that a value is the most fundamental and important category in theorizing capital’s deep structures. Indeed, stated most simply, capital is self-valorizing value.”
—Robert Albritton, ibid., p. 192-3. [If that last phrase, “capital is self-valorizing value” itself seems somewhat mysterious to you, an alternative wording is: “capital is in essence a value-augmenting mechanism or process”. —S.H.]
STEEL — World Production Of
Steel is one of the most important products in the world economy. China is by far the world’s largest producer, accounting for 46% of total world production. (See chart at the right.)
“STEREOTYPED PARTY WRITING”
“Stereotyped writing, or the ‘eight-legged essay’, was the special form of essay prescribed in the imperial examination under China’s feudal dynasties from the 15th to the 19th centuries; it consisted in juggling with words, concentrated only on form and was devoid of content. Structurally the main body of the essay had eight parts—presentation, amplification, preliminary exposition, initial argument, inceptive paragraphs, middle paragraphs, rear paragraphs and concluding paragraphs, and the fifth to eighth parts each had to have two ‘legs’, i.e., two antithetical paragraphs, hence the name ‘eight-legged essay’. The ‘eight-legged essay’ became a byword in Chinese denoting sterotyped formalism and triteness. Thus ‘stereotyped Party writing’ characterizes the writings of certain people in the revolutionary ranks who piled up revolutionary phrases and terms higgledy-piggledy instead of analyzing the facts. Like the ‘eight-legged essay’, their writings were nothing but verbiage.” —Editorial Note 1 to Mao’s essay “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work” (Feb. 1, 1942), SW 3:50.
STEVENSON, Charles Leslie (1908-1979)
An American bourgeois analytical philosopher in the logical positivist tradition, who specialized in ethics and aesthetics, and is best known for his erroneous theory of emotivism in ethics. He studied with the bourgeois philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and G.E. Moore in England.
In articles such as “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms” (1937) and in his book Ethics and Language (1944), Stevenson put forth the positivist notion that moral statements are “meaningless” (and “unscientific”) except for their emotive content. This is one variety of non-cognitivism in ethics. Thus for him, “Killing is bad” would be equivalent to something like: “Killing... UGH!”.
No doubt many statements in morals do carry emotive (or emotional) connotations, but they are also factually meaningful and either true or false (though just which often depends on the precise situation). Thus killing is normally very wrong because it goes against the collective interests of the people, and therefore the statement “Killing is wrong” is indeed true in most situations. This is a simple example of how the scientific investigation of the situation can in fact determine what is right or wrong, despite what Stevenson thought.
Stevenson’s theory is very similar to, and is often viewed as merely an elaboration of the ethical theories of A.J. Ayer and other positivists. They developed such theories because they could not grasp the real basis for morality, namely people’s collective interests (and in class society, their class interests).
See also: CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
STIMULUS or STIMULUS PACKAGE
[Bourgeois economics:] A round of government spending, usually involving a substantial Keynesian deficit, which is design to “stimulate” a weak or recessionary economy.
See also: “PRIMING THE PUMP”
STIRNER, Max [Pen name of Johann Kaspar Schmidt] (1806-1856)
German idealist philosopher, a Young Hegelian, who was an important ideologist of individualist anarchism. His major work was Der Einzige und sein Eigentum [The Ego and Its Own] (1844). Marx and Engels severely criticized Stirner, and at substantial length, in their early book, The German Ideology (written in 1845-46). This very strong and extensive criticism of Stirner (who they derided as “Saint Max”) helped Marx and Engels clarify their own materialist philosophical and political outlook and better contrast it to idealist individualism.
Random; or referring to a process or calculation that includes one or more random variables.
Shares of stock in a corporation which are given outright to one of the top managers of the corporation (such as the Chief Executive Officer [CEO]) as an award for achieving some corporate goal. In contemporary highly financialized capitalism, with its obsessive focus on stock prices, such stock awards are frequently handed out to corporate big shots when the share prices reach a certain level (and whether or not that manager really had anything to do with the share price rise). Stock awards are similar to stock options, but in that case the manager is given the right to buy stock at a certain price which will generally be well under the current market price. With stock awards the manager doesn’t have to pay anything. The largest part of the total income of the top managers of corporations today very often comes from stock awards and/or stock options.
“[S]ince the mid-1990s, a steadily larger portion of CEO pay has come in
the form of shares of corporate stock, which [corporate] boards have eagerly doled out to
CEOs and other top executives in the form of stock options (the chance to buy shares at a
given price) and stock awards (activated when share prices reach a certain level). When
share prices dip, boards readily provide additional options and awards to make up for
losses, so that when share prices rise again—even if the rise is temporary—CEOs can realize
the gains by copiously cashing out.
“This form of pay gives CEOs a significant incentive to pump up the value of their firms’ shares in the short run, even if the pumping takes a toll over the longer term.” —Robert B. Reich, Saving Capitalism (2015), pp. 100-101.
The re-purchase by a corporation of its own shares of stock. According to bourgeois business theory, stock is issued (sold) to the “public” in order to raise funds to operate and expand the business. Why then would the corporation want to buy it back later? The basic reason is that the corporation now has so much money on hand that it does not know how to productively make use of it!
According to standard bourgeois economic theory no general “gluts” (general overproduction) can occur under capitalism, and there are always good investment possibilities open for the profitable investment of more funds. (See: SAY’S LAW) However, in reality there is a somewhat hidden flaw in capitalism, arising directly out of the exploitation of workers through the extraction of surplus value, which prevents the market from expanding as fast as production. And this deep flaw eventually leads to overproduction not only in individual industries, but also more generally, and especially in the overproduction of the means of production.
The second reason for stock buy-backs is in order to increase the price of the shares. The top managers of the corporation are rewarded in part with free or low-cost shares of the company stock. Thus it is in their interests (as well as in the interests of Wall Street firms who have tremendous influence on corporate managers) to use whatever means they can to cause the price of those shares to rise. Having the corporation itself buy back many of its own shares is one of the most important ways of doing this.
“Stock buybacks ‘are killing the American economy,’ said Nick Hanauer.
While corporate profits once ‘flowed through the broader economy in the form of higher
wages or increased investments,’ companies today are obsessively focused on the short-term
enrichment of shareholders, often through buying back their own corporate stock. It’s a
straightforward way to make a company’s earnings look healthier than they are; a firm that
buys back its own stock, thereby reducing the number of its shares on the market, can
instantly turn lackluster earnings per share into something more impressive. Over the past
decade, companies in the S&P 500 ‘have spent an astounding 54 percent of profits’ buying
their own stock. Last year alone, U.S. firms spent $700 billion—roughly 4 percent of
GDP—on the purchases. That’s draining billions of dollars from the real economy and
creating ‘a paper-asset bubble,’ not to mention the fact that it’s ‘mathematically
impossible’ to sustain America’s global competitiveness ‘while flushing away 4 percent of
GDP year after year.’ Washington needs to take steps to curb this practice. If CEOs can
‘refocus on growing their companies rather than growing their share prices, shareholder
value will take care of itself.’” —Nick Hanauer, The Atlantic Monthly, “Why
corporate stock buybacks are bad news”, as summarized in The Week, Feb. 20, 2015,
[This bourgeois article partially understands the second reason why stock buy-backs are currently so rampant—namely, that it is a way for corporate managers and Wall Street to loot companies. But it doesn’t at all understand the first and primary reason: That there is a serious overproduction crisis in U.S. and world capitalism today which makes it foolish to invest in a major way in the expansion of production. —S.H.]
“They [corporations and the dominance of the financial sector] changed
the way the CEOs were paid, so that the CEO acted in behalf of the Wall Street investors.
This was really powerful. In 1980, 95 percent of the CEOs’ pay was salary and bonuses,
and five percent was stock incentives. Today, it’s virtually reversed. About 85 to 95
percent is stock incentives, and only five percent is salaries and bonuses. So that
means the price of the stock is all that matters to the CEO, and of course that’s all
that matters to the investors—the hedge funds, the private equity companies. They want
to see the stock go up.
“It’s a huge change in corporate culture. Now the CEO cares only about raising the stock. In workshops, we ask working people and community activists this question, and they start talking about, ‘Well, you’ve got to create a better product, you want to get more market share,’ all of the things you would think would lead in that direction. In fact, they did something else.
“There was a rule change in 1982, under Reagan. A guy who was the former Head of E.F. Hutton [a big Wall Street investment bank] became head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he changed the rule about companies buying back their own shares. Before 1982, it was virtually illegal to do that because it was considered stock manipulation. When a company buys back its own shares, it reduces the number of share owners, and therefore every share is worth a little bit more. If you do this, all things being equal, you’re going to boost the share and manipulate the price....
“CEOs and their corporate raider Wall Street partners are thinking, ‘Oh, this is fantastic. Let’s use the company’s money to raise the price of the share, and then we can cash in on our stock incentives. The outside investors can cash in and leave, “pump and dump.” This is great.’
“In 1980, about two percent of a company’s profits were used for stock buybacks. By 2007, 75 percent of all corporate profits were used to buy back their own shares. Forget about R&D, forget about workers’ wages, forget about all that kind of stuff. All that matters to a CEO today is raising the prices of the shares through stock buybacks.”
—Les Leopold, a liberal author, in an interview with Salon.com [March 6, 2016] talking about his recent book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice. [Like the previous quote, this writer only seems to understand the second reason why corporations are buying back so much of their stock these days. For him it is just a matter of unfair neoliberal policies, and not at all something which more fundamentally arises because of an inherent problem in the capitalist system. —Ed.]
A market, or place, where ownership shares of capitalist corporations are bought and sold. Stock markets were once always physical meeting halls where owners of stock, or much more commonly their agents (brokers), came together. But now many stocks are bought or sold via virtual markets on the Internet.
See also: PRICE-EARNINGS RATIO
STOCK MARKET CAPITALIZATION
The total current market value of all the stocks listed on a particular stock market, or else on a group of stock markets considered as a whole. In October 2007 when most of the stock markets of the world were at or near their peaks, the 54 stock exchanges which are monitored by the World Federation of Exchanges had a combined market capitalization of $63 trillion. This world stock market capitalization had fallen by more than half, to $31 trillion, by the end of November 2008. In other words, the stocks owned by the average investor had lost more than half their value in 13 months.
See: STOCK AWARDS, OPTIONS
[To be added...]
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Stoicism.
“Stoics—adherents of an ancient Greek school of philosophy arising about the 3rd century B.C. and existing until the 6th century A.D. The Stoics recognized two elements in the universe: an enduring element—matter without quality; and an active one—reason, logos, god. In logic, the Stoics proceeded from the assumption that the source of all cognition is sensuous perception and that a conception can be true only if it is a faithful and full impression of the object. The Stoics taught, however, that perceptual judgment arises only as a result of agreement between the mind and a true conception. This the Stoics called ‘catalepsy’ (or ‘seizure’) and viewed it as a criterion for truth.” —End note 102, LCW 38.
STOLYPIN, P. A. (1862-1911)
The extremely reactionary Chairman of the Council of Ministers in the Tsarist government during the period 1906-11. In the phrase “the Stolypin reaction” his name is associated with the suppression of the first Russian revolution (1905-07) and the following period of harsh political crackdown on even the slightest tendency toward political change.
STOP AND FRISK
The tactic used by police everywhere in bourgeois society, either openly or at least tacitly to one degree or another, to stop people on the street if they look “suspicious”, search them, and—if they can find any excuse—arrest them, sometimes just for “resisting arrest!”. And to the police you look very suspicious if you are Black, Latino, poor or lower working class. So this is a ruling class technique to harass, hassle, and show minorities and the poor that they are second-class citizens and to keep them fearful of the authorities.
When he was mayor of New York City (from 2002-2013), the billionaire capitalist financier Michael Bloomberg instituted an open policy of intensified stop and frisk, which led to stops going up by 600% over the decade to nearly 700,000 incidents. The mathematician and statistician Cathy O’Neil reports that “an overwhelming majority of these encounters—about 85 percent—involved young African American or Latino men. In certain neighborhoods many of them were stopped repeatedly.” [Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (2017), Ch. 5.] Only one in a thousand of those stopped was linked in any way to violent crime. But many more were arrested for much lesser infractions, from drug possession to under-age drinking. As O’Neil comments, this stop and frisk campaign “ensnared thousands of black and Latino men, many of them for committing the petty crimes and misdemeanors that go on in college frats, unpunished, every Saturday night.” Still, the vast majority of those stopped and frisked were guilty of no crime whatsoever. And O’Neil points out that the concepts of the equal protection under the law, and fairness and equality for everyone in society, seem to be totally unknown to the many ruling class and middle class supporters of “stop and frisk”. (Final note: When the hypocrite Bloomberg launched his campaign for the Presidency in 2020 he belatedly apologized to the voters for his outrageous stop and frisk campaign in New York when he was the mayor.)
See: STANDING TOGETHER TO ORGANIZE A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT
STRATEGY AND TACTICS
Strategy and tactics are, together, the plans and methods used to try to bring some struggle to a successful conclusion. Strategy is the overall plan or overall method, and tactics are specific plans or methods which are used in various specific circumstances along the way. These terms arose in the theory of warfare which has developed over the ages, but are also applicable to other major contests or struggles as well.
Most strategists and tacticians now acknowledge that the essence of strategic and tactical thinking is to identify the advantages that your side possesses relative to those of the other side, and to promote only confrontations where your side can make use of its own advantages as well as of the disadvantages of the other side. Or as it is sometimes put: Strategy and tactics is the identification of asymmetric advantages of both sides in the war or battle.
Thus the goal in revolutionary strategy and tactics is to identify the methods of struggle where the natural advantages of the working class and broad masses (such as their large numbers, and the fact that they produce all the wealth in society) can be employed, and where the advantages of the capitalist ruling class (such as their great wealth and advanced technology) is irrelevant or at least difficult for them to make use of. The ruling class will always try to get the working class to fight exclusively in arenas it controls or at least where it has major strategic and tactical advantages (such as in electoral politics, or with its well-armed military against poorly armed workers). But the revolutionary working class must not fall into such traps! It must develop its own strategy and tactics. As Mao put it in rhetorically addressing the enemy: “You fight your way and I’ll fight my way.” [Conversation with a Palestine Liberation Organization delegation (March 1965), SW 9:214, online at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_40.htm] (See also entry below.)
“As a strategist you try to identify, create, or exploit some kind of an edge. So how do you find that advantage? Well, it’s not always staring you in the face. And you look at asymmetries. You look at asymmetries and you try to create them.... [W]hen you are trying to create or exploit the advantage... the first thing you need is an asymmetry.” —Richard Rumelt, a bourgeois expert in business strategy, quoted in Andrew Krepinevich, 7 Deadly Scenarios (2010), p. 15.
STRATEGY — Revolutionary
See: REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY, OCTOBER ROAD, PEOPLE’S WAR, SURPRISE
STRIKES [Labor Movement]
Because of the near collapse and disintegration of the official American labor movement, strike activity in this country has fallen to extremely low levels. Few establishment unions have any fight left in them at all. This pathetic state of affairs is due to an almost complete sell-out by the trade union leadership to the corporations and their government—which the unions are supposed to be fighting in the interests of the working class. It will evidently take a whole new approach to create anything like a rejuvenated labor movement in this country. And any new and expanding revolutionary movement in the U.S. will undoubtedly have to develop in considerable part in opposition to the labor union “sell-out hacks”.
“The U.S. Department of Labor in 2017 counted just seven strikes involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift—the second-lowest annual number ever recorded. This year’s  activity has accelerated, however; from teacher strikes in Oklahoma and Arizona to hospital-worker strikes in Calfornia, as many major work stoppages had taken place by the end of March as in all of 2017.” —CBSNews.com, quoted in The Week, May 25, 2018, p. 32.
A theory, or actually a huge variety of theories, in recent theoretical physics speculations in which particles are assumed to be one-dimensional strings whose different patterns of vibrations determine which precise particle they are. There is so far no experimental evidence in support of such theories, and not even any suggestions as to how they might someday be tested. Some later versions are called superstring theory, membrane theory, or finally just M-theory. There is at present not much reason to count these wild theoretical fantasies as even being part of any genuine science at all!
“Superstring theory has been absorbed into membrane theory, or M-theory, as they call it. There is not a scintilla of empirical evidence to support it. Although I have only a partial understanding of M-theory, it strikes me as comparable to Ptolemy’s epicycles. It’s getting more and more baroque.” —Martin Gardner, in “Interview with Martin Gardner”, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 2005. Quoted in Clifford Pickover, “Archimedes to Hawking” (2008), p. 210.
“Superstring theory turns out to be more complex than the universe it is supposed to simplify. Research suggests that there may be 10100 universes... each ruled by different laws. The truths that Newton, Einstein, and dozens of lesser lights have uncovered would be no more fundamental than the numerical code of Nairobi.... Physicists would just be geographers of some accidental terrain....” —George Johnson, “Why Is Fundamental Physics So Messy?”, WIRED magazine, Feb. 2007. Quoted in ibid., p. 302.
STRONG NUCLEAR FORCE
One of the four known forces of nature, and by far the strongest of them. However, the strong force only operates over a very tiny distance, and only affects quarks. It holds the quarks together within protons and neutrons, and also holds the protons and neutrons together within the nucleus of atoms. The force particle (boson) transmitting the strong force is the gluon.
“STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION” [Soviet Imperialist Doctrine]
A scheme by Soviet social-imperialism to more closely integrate the economies of its “socialist” satellites with its own economy for the purpose of better exploiting its “fraternal countries”.
“Following their invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet social-imperialists trotted out a policy of ‘economic integration’ which, Moscow declared, would traverse a course from low level to high level. In the initial stage, this ‘economic integration’ involves only individual departments of the member states of the ‘socialist community’ where their production structure will receive ‘stepped-up transformation.’ By the 1990s, it will reach the high stage, that is, the stage of ‘structural integration.’ During this period, the ‘unified economic structure’ of the countries participating in the ‘economic integration’ and their ‘unified national economic system’ based on common production planning will gradually take shape. What all this boils down to is that these countries will be completely deprived of their right to exercise sovereignty over their industrial and agricultural production and their national economic structure as a whole, and that they must submit to the dictates of the colonial empire of the Soviet Union. ‘Structural integration,’ in effect, is synonymous with colonization.” —Note in Peking Review, #46, Nov. 11, 1977, p. 26.
[In linguistics:] A school, or approach, to linguistics which focuses on the structures or systems of elements in languages. One important success of this approach was in phonemics, where each separate sound in a language (or phoneme) is identified through its contrasting interrelationships with the other phonemes. In the broadest sense, all areas and schools of linguistics are “structural” to some degree. However, there is also a more specific sense of linguistic structuralism where the focus is on mere surface structures, and the classification and description of features of utterances. This is often derided as being woefully insufficient by those, such as Noam Chomsky, who seek to uncover the “deep structures” which may underlie the grammar of all languages.
[In the other social sciences:] An extension of the focus in linguistics on structures and their interrelationships, to the elements of society in general. This was an especially strong movement in France in the 1960s, with the most prominent individual being the bourgeois anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009). A prominent assumption of structuralism is that the phenomena of human existence are not intelligible except through their interrelationships and interactions. There is obviously some considerable truth to this, but it becomes highly questionable when made into an absolute, with no other principles of how to investigate and comprehend society being accepted. Structuralism, in other words tends to be skewed and unidimensional in its approach.
On the other hand, since the interrelationships and interactions of the many sorts of social elements (such as kinship relationships, ideologies, class relationships, social labor, educational mechanisms, etc.) tend to be highly complex and go off in many directions, there is a strong tendency among the structuralists to dabble in many other spheres of investigation where their training and knowledge is quite minimal. The fact that a person is a trained and experienced anthropologist, for example, does not automatically make him or her competent to discuss psychology, mythology and religion, philosophy, political economy and so forth. This tendency in structuralism towards unjustified expansion in the scope of the discussion often seems to lead it into a semi-coherent mishmash.
There have been attempts (largely unsuccessful) to extend the structuralist approach to other spheres as well, including literary theory and criticism, psychoanalytic theory, Marxist theory (by Althusser, for example), and even architecture!
STRUCTURED INVESTMENT VEHICLE (SIV) [Contemporary Capitalist Finance]
A special type of “conduit” (dummy corporation set up by financial institutions), which generally uses borrowed money from independent companies to purchase mortgages and other loans (often of highly dubious quality) from its mother company, packages them into pools, and then “securitizes” them (i.e., issues mortgage or loan backed bonds or securities supposedly backed up by these pools), which it sells to investors. Furthermore, often there are different tranches or slices of these securities some of which are claimed to be much “safer” than the lower rated slices. Through this convoluted means, and with the connivance of rating agencies, the investment bank or financial corporation is fraudulently able to sell securities based on highly dubious loans (including sub-prime mortgages) as if they were very safe investments.
See also below and: DOUGLASS-Frederick [quote]
STRUGGLE — Continuing
“It is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.” —Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road” (1856), sect. 14. [This is perhaps generally true; but the good news is that the success of that earlier struggle also makes the next level of struggle possible and potentially successful too! —S.H.]
“Wind will not cease even if trees want to rest.” —Mao, directive concerning the Cultural Revolution, June 2, 1966, SW9:405.
STRUGGLE — CRITICISM — TRANSFORMATION
A policy stage during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution promoted by Mao and his followers, starting in 1968. As explained by Mao:
“Struggle-criticism-transformation in a factory, on the whole, goes through the following stages: establishing a three-in-one revolutionary committee; carrying out mass criticism and repudiation; purifying the class ranks; consolidating the Party organization; and simplifying the administrative structure, changing irrational rules and regulations and sending office workers to the workshops.” —Mao, quoted in “Unprecedentedly Excellent Situation in China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, Peking Review, #44, Nov. 1, 1968, p. 12.
STRUGGLE — Ideological
See: IDEOLOGICAL STRUGGLE
STRUVE, Pyotr Berngardovich (1870-1944)
Originally a semi-radical bourgeois economist and political writer who was a prominent representative of what was called “Legal Marxism” in Tsarist Russia in the 1890s. Later he was a Cadet Party leader, and after the October Socialist Revolution he became one of the chief counter-revolutionary leaders and a White émigré.
Strangely enough, the word ‘stubborn’ has two directly opposed meanings: “1 a (1) unreasonably or perversely unyielding: mulish; (2) justifiably unyielding: resolute” [Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. 1993] Thus stubbornness can be either a bad thing or a good thing; it just depends. In politics, including revolutionary politics, we find both kinds of stubbornness—the unjustifiable and the justifiable. And unfortunately the two are often confused. Those who are resolute (or see themselves as such) are very often viewed by their critics as being totally unreasonable or “stuborn like a mule”.
We Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionaries currently live in a horrible bourgeois society, which also means we are forced to live within a sea of horribly wrong ideas all around us. But on the other hand we have our own intellectual milieu; we have our own extensively elaborated system of MLM ideas to combat the larger sea of bourgeois ideas surrounding us. However, this MLM intellectual milieu is not complete and settled for all time. And new problems and new issues keep coming up. We must keep thinking about how to advance the struggles of the masses and the overall social revolution.
Moreover, we need to be fully aware of the fact that the social pressures within any revolutionary group, party or political movement are almost always in the direction of strongly opposing the resoluteness of those who disagree in any way with the dominant group opinion on some issue, and thus tend to lead us to view anyone who disagrees with us on some point as being quite unreasonable—and possibly even as being seriously infected by reactionary or alien class ideas. And of course sometimes this is indeed the case. But other times it is not! Occasionally the dominant opinion is wrong, and the minority opinion—even that of a single person—is actually correct. We have to do what we can to keep those occasionally quite correct minority opinions from being totally forgotten or suppressed.
Of course each of us should not be unreasonably stubborn or mulish, but we should still definitely be resolutely stubborn in our political views and stands. Every revolutionary (and indeed every person trying to be scientific in their approach to the world) has an absolute obligation to hold to their opinions unless and until they come to really understand why those opinions are incorrect. We should all train ourselves to have the courage of our convictions and not allow even the social pressure of our very closest and respected comrades to change our minds until we really do come to see how we were wrong before. Just as we do not allow the prevailing sea of bourgeois ideas around us to change our minds, so should we not allow the prevailing differences of opinion of our own comrades to change our minds—unless and until we genuinely see our own error. Intellectually we must indeed be pretty stubborn!
But how can a revolutionary group or party function if it consists of all sorts of people holding all sorts of conflicting ideas? This is a straw man notion. Of course any serious revolutionary organization will have a tremendous amount of unity and agreement within its ranks. But if it is an organization of thinking revolutionaries it will also have some differing conceptions and disagreements within its ranks. This is not a problem! Or, at least it is not a problem provided we have a way to operate as if we had absolutely total agreement as far as our leadership of the masses goes. And we do indeed have such a mechanism; it is called democratic centralism. The democracy part of D-C is what allows (and even requires) people to hold to their own ideas and opinions about things. The centralism part is what allows us to subbordinate our ideas to that of the organization in our practical work. Democratic centralism allows us to operate as if we had total unity about everything even while we continue to “stubbornly hold” to our own individual ideas about various specific contentious issues. —S.H.
“You can’t be a genuine thinking revolutionary unless you are quite stubborn!” —Scott’s painfully obvious conclusion, #5.
The United States, like most bourgeois countries, does not have anything approaching an adequate educational system. One aspect of this is that as of 2018 roughly two-thirds of college students now have to borrow money in order to complete their degrees. [New York Times, Dec. 8, 2018, p. 2.] This percentage has been climbing rapidly in recent years, as has the amounts which students need to borrow. The debt trap that graduates already find themselves in is in turn a growing drag on the economy. As of late 2019, more than 7.5 million student loans are in default and nearly 2 million others are “seriously behind on their payments”. [New York Times, Oct. 14, 2019.]
“About 42 million borrowers owe $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans across America, experts say.” —New York Times, National Edition, Feb. 21, 2020, p. 3.
“The federal government is the biggest holder of student debt, with $1.2 trillion in direct loans to more than 35 million borrowers.” —New York Times, National Edition, March 16, 2020, p. 3.
In the United States, the richest of all capitalist-imperialist countries, poverty is rampant amoung students at all levels. “Almost 40 percent of college students report struggling to afford food.” [New York Times, “How Cutting Food Stamps Can Add Costs Elsewhere”, Jan. 1, 2020.]
See also: HOMELESSNESS—Of Students and Youth
STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY (SDS) [1960s Organization]
SDS, though it had earlier roots, really first got established in a significant way in 1962 with the adoption of the “Port Huron Statement”, originally drafted by Tom Hayden, which reflected a non-violent, non-revolutionary, reformist, and yet still rather militant, social-democratic perspective. But as the 1960s progressed, and the Vietnam War expanded (along with the military draft) and the Black Liberation Struggle of that era really mushroomed with its major rebellions of Black people in many large cities, the membership and militancy of SDS hugely and rapidly expanded, especially from 1965 on. By the late 1960s the membership of SDS had become very strongly radicalized, far beyond the pacifistic social-democratic roots of the organization. Many SDS members had come to view themselves as revolutionaries and/or communists, though there were also still strong petty-bourgeois and anarchist tendencies in the organization. The members were also further radicalized by international events, such as the 1968 student revolt in France, and especially by the great Cultural Revolution in China with its prominent Red Guard student militancy.
However, while SDS had become quite anti-capitalist and very strongly anti-imperialist in its outlook, there was as yet no genuine Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party or major organization in the U.S. that SDS members could look to for ideological leadership. For this reason many SDS members gravitated towards the orbit of the Progressive Labor Party, which began as a Maoist party (of sorts) in 1962 but soon began to degenerate. PLP members organized and dogmatically led what they called the “Worker Student Alliance” (WSA) faction within SDS, and large numbers of SDS members did in fact appreciate the need to bring revolutionary ideas to the working class (though PLP proved totally incapable of providing the leadership necessary to do this). PLP essentially stacked the 1969 SDS convention in Chicago with its members and supporters and captured the formal leadership of the organization, though a large minority—the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction, which included most of the previous national leadership of SDS—bolted the convention and then set up its own separate SDS organization.
PLP might possibly have gotten away with its capture of the once unified SDS—even given its new hostility to Maoist China (which offended many SDSers)—if it had not also been for its bizarre hostility towards the Black Panther Party and most aspects of the contemporary Black Liberation Movement upsurge in general. The people in the RYM faction of SDS simply could not abide this outrageous PLP stance. The only organizations that the very sectarian PLP were willing to support and work with were mass groups it fully controlled. (That is why PLP cadre had entered SDS in the first place: to capture it.)
So for a brief period there were two SDS organizations, the PLP franchise (or SDS-WSA) and SDS-RYM. Both soon collapsed due to poor leadership and the foolish and incorrect political lines behind that poor leadership. SDS-WSA did last in a feeble way until 1974 when it was finally closed down for good by PLP. However, the RYM SDS was also riven by ever-sharpening internal political contradictions and conflict and didn’t even last that long.
The sub-faction of RYM (known as RYM I) in control of the SDS-RYM National Office quickly evolved into the Weathermen revolutionary terrorist group (later renamed once again, the Weather Underground Organization). As it made this transition it destroyed what had been a mass organization of many thousands of revolutionary-minded students, with at least tens or hundreds of thousands of sympathizers, into a tiny handful of totally ineffective anarcho-terrorists. This was a real disaster for the American revolutionary movement of that period.
The remainder of RYM, the much larger group which was known as RYM II, splintered into multiple pieces and soon no longer used the name SDS at all. The biggest outgrowth of the RYM II trend was the Revolutionary Union in the San Francisco Bay Area which had already begun to attract other old SDS collectives nationally into its fold. With the collapse of SDS this merger process sped up. At that point the name RYM II came to mean the remnants of SDS that had not affiliated with SDS-WSA (i.e. PLP), the Weather Underground, nor the Revolutionary Union. One of the top leaders in this RYM II remainder, Mike Klonsky, then helped piece together some of these remnants into a new communist group known as the October League. Both the RU and the October League then attracted a few more collectives and numerous individuals into their respective ranks and went on to form the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). Thus, the two largest and most significant New Communist Movement groups to arise in the 1970s had their origin in SDS and its complex and chaotic history.
See also: “DAYS OF RAGE”, REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH MOVEMENT, WEATHER UNDERGROUND
See: POLITICAL STUDY, REPEATED STUDY
STURM UND DRANG
[German: literally “Storm and Urge”, but usually translated as “Storm and Stress”.] A proto-Romantic literary movement which developed in Germany from the late 1760s through the early 1780s, and which took its name from the title of a 1776 play by Friedrich Klinger. It promoted individual expression of emotion in reaction against both feudal practices and the perceived rational restrictions of the Enlightenment.
See: ARTISTIC STYLE
The standards which serve to define an artistic style (the style which a work of art is considered to exemplify). In turn, precisely how well the work actually meets the standards of that style is the primary basis for aesthetic evaluation and criticism of the work. (Additional bases for evalutation include such things as the importance and impact of the subject or theme of the work.)
Stylistic standards are, in the usual case, highly complex and abstract. As such, a work may more or less meet these standards; the work may meet them well or somewhat poorly; or it may meet some individual standards and fail to meet others. To take a simple case, a portrait is a style (or genre) of painting in which resemblance to a person’s face is important, but the resemblance may be good or bad—and this, in part, determines whether the portrait is good or bad from an aesthetic point of view. (Other factors, primarily relating to the subject or theme of the work, and the effect it has on people, will generally be far more important in determining whether the work is good or bad from a moral or political point of view.)
See also: AESTHETIC EVALUATION
“Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.” —Attributed to
Leonardo da Vinci, quoted in The Week magazine, July 19, 2019.
[This is an amazingly profound remark, though probably few really understand why it is. And whereas many adherents of “modern art” would argue just the opposite—i.e., that “art must be free of all constraints and boundaries”, or some such thing—Leonardo seems to deeply recognize the absolute flaw in that perspective. To say that a work of art is subject to constraints is merely another way of saying that it must be in some style or other. If it were not subject to the constraints of some style, that is to say, subject to evaluation in terms of the standards appropriate to that style, there would be no objective basis at all for evaluating it aesthetically. It would be completely aesthetically meaningless.
[Of course it should also be remembered that in Leonardo’s day, all the arts were assumed to require skills, and thus extensive training in those skills. The constraints involved in acquiring and properly applying these skills were obvious. Today, it may well be, that is no longer true; art is now often viewed not so much as the product of applied skills as it is the mere expression of novelty. —S.H.]
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