TRADE UNIONISM (As Merely Reformist Struggle)
[To be added... ]
See also: LABOR UNIONS
“For a number of years the English workers’ movement has been going round and round bootlessly in a confined circle of strikes for wages and the reduction of working hours—not, mark you, as an expedient and a means of propaganda and organization, but as the ultimate aim. Both on principle and statutorily the trades unions actually exclude any political action and hence participation in any general activity on the part of the working class as a class. Politically the workers are divided into Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, into supporters of a Disraeli (Beaconsfield) administration and supporters of a Gladstone administration. So one can speak of a workers’ movement here only to the extent that strikes take place which, victorious or otherwise, do not advance the movement by one single step. In my view only harm can come of inflating strikes such as these into struggles of world-historical importance (as does the Freiheit here), strikes which were, moreover, as often as not deliberately engineered by the capitalists in the late years of depression so as to have an excuse for closing down their factories, strikes in which the working class makes no progress whatsoever. No attempt should be made to conceal the fact that at this moment a genuine workers’ movement in the continental sense is non-existent here...” —Engels, draft of a letter to Eduard Bernstein, June 17, 1879, MECW 45:360-1.
“... any subservience to the spontaneity of the mass movement and any degrading of Social-Democratic [Communist] politics to the level of trade-unionist politics mean preparing the ground for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy. The spontaneous working-class movement is by itself able to create (and inevitably does create) only trade-unionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics is precisely working-class bourgeois politics. The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle, and even in the [bourgeois democratic] political revolution, does not in itself make its politics Social-Democratic [socialist/communist] politics.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:437.
TRADITION and TRADITIONAL IDEAS
“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” —Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm
TRANCHE [Capitalist Finance]
[From French, meaning slice.]
1. A portion of a loan, investment, or sale of securities. As in “The first tranche of the new series of bonds issued by the corporation came to $100 million; the second and third tranches will be $75 million each.”
2. [In the context of mortgage-backed securities and CDO’s:] Portions of the CDO’s issued which are differentiated on the basis of the supposed safety of the underlying mortgages or other debt. Thus the “senior tranche” will be the portion of the securities which are backed up by the mortgages which are least likely to be defaulted on. Then there is the “mezzanine” tranche, with a greater risk of default, followed by the “equity” tranche (or “residual” or “first loss” tranche), which are the CDO’s backed by the mortgages with the highest probability of default. While this separation of mortgage-backed securities into tranches was thought to at least create some safe investments, so many sub-prime and other dubious mortgages were being issued in the period leading up to the Great Recession in the U.S. that even investors in the supposed “senior tranches” often suffered huge losses.
The techniques for setting the optimum price for transferring an asset (be it a commodity, a machine, a factory, an investment stake in another company or virtually any other asset) from one division of a corporation to another division. This is especially useful within multinational corporations (MNCs) where a division operating in one country may be instructed by the corporate headquarters to transfer an asset to a division in a different country. Each division will normally keep separate books, and therefore the transfer is considered to be a “sale” of the asset for one division and a “purchase” of the asset by the other division. However, the price set in these transfers is normally completely under the control of the corporation and need not necessarily reflect market prices. This gives the corporation the ability to maximize total profits by, for example, shifting assets at way below (or way above!) market prices to lower tax countries or regions. I.e., it is yet another method of corporate cheating.
[To be added...]
TRANSITION [In Philosophy]
“What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:284.
A Pacific regional “free trade” proposal which the U.S. Obama Administration attempted to get set up and ratified. This proposal went beyond the World Trade Organization [WTO] agreements and requirements, and focused especially on issues such as easing legal regulations and border controls which interfere with trade between countries. The TPP was slated to include the U.S., Australia, Japan and a number of other Pacific countries, but not China! The goal of the TPP proposal was to try to slow down China’s ever-growing exports. I.e., this agreement, while officially for the purpose of promoting “free trade” among all Pacific nations, was actually conceived as a trade-war measure directed against China.
For demagogic reasons, the new Trump administration has said it will dump the TPP plan, but since it was negotiated to promote the interests of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class it may yet be revived in some form or other. If some version of it does eventually go into effect (and China remains barred from membership) it is expected to somewhat negatively impact Chinese exports, but this impact will likely be fairly modest. The actual fact of the matter is that the more moribund U.S. capitalism is not able to successfully compete with contemporary Chinese capitalism, which has been much more vibrant over the past few decades. And even trade-war schemes like the TPP will not change this fundamental situation.
“The most glaring [fault of the Trans-Pacific Partnership] is that
China, the largest Pacific Rim trading nation and the world’s top exporter, was
deliberately left out by America. As a result, TPP is the near-equivalent of NAFTA
without the United States. It is a protectionist regional device to contain China’s
further rise as the world’s number one trading nation.
“The share of world trade of the pact’s two biggest countries, America and Japan, has been declining for some time in world and Pacific exports, because of the spectacular rise of China. TPP confirms once again that Washington’s China policy is less about win-win situations and more about seeking zero-sum outcomes, in this case by creating an integrated counter-weight to China in East Asia. The deal was designed to establish America as a leader in Pacific trade.
“The WTO does not describe regional trading deals as preferential trade agreements for nothing: one implicit objective is to discriminate against non-members. The pact’s signatories would be wise to leave the door open to newcomers, including China.”
—Istvan Dobozi, former lead economist at the World Bank, in a letter to the editors of The Economist, Oct. 24, 2015, p. 16.
“Naturally, at times individuals unconsciously drift from the social-chauvinist to the ‘Centrist’ position, and vice versa. Every Marxist knows that classes are distinct, even though individuals may move freely from one class to another; similarly, trends in political life are distinct inspite of the fact that individuals may change freely from one trend to another, and in spite of all attempts and efforts to amalgamate trends.” —Lenin, “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution: Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party” (Sept. 1917), LCW 24:77.
A term used by Samir Amin and others to refer collectively to the three dominant imperialist centers in the world as of the beginning of the 21st century: The United States, Japan and Northern Europe (Germany, Britain, France, etc.). With the rapid rise of China as a new imperialist power this term already seems quite out of date.
See: PRIMITIVE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
“TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE”
“[T]he Social-Democrat’s [i.e., communist’s —Ed.] ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of people it affects; who is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902), (NY: International, 1969), p. 80.
TRICKLE DOWN THEORY
A ridiculous notion championed by many defenders of capitalism that if we allow the rich to become even richer they will invest more, hire more workers, raise salaries, and thus indirectly increase the wealth of people at the bottom of society as well. The wealth will supposedly “trickle down” from the rich to the poor.
This theory is not only erroneous from a theoretical standpoint, it has over and over been shown to be totally false in practice.
See also: William Jennings BRYAN [quote]
“The most striking number in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Sept. 17 
report on income and poverty isn’t about poverty. It’s about middle-class, working
America. According to the Census, American men who work full time year-round earned less
in real terms in 2012 than they did in 1973.
“So much for a rising tide lifting all boats. Gross domestic product has nearly tripled since 1973, when President Richard Nixon was still flashing his V sign, but the gains have gone mostly to the people at the top.”
—Peter Coy, “The Trickle Down Has All But Dried Up”, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Sept. 20, 2013, pp. 18-19. The article goes on to report that real income for American men declined by 4% between 1973 and 2012. American women workers increased their real wages somewhat over that period (as more employment opportunities opened up for them, but they also now make less in real wages than they did in 2001. Of course the overall situation for the working class is even worse than these figures suggest, since a growing percentage of the U.S. population is now unable to find employment at all.
TRIFFIN DILEMMA (or PARADOX)
A contradiction that develops between conflicting economic goals with regard to the amount of currency in circulation when that currency (e.g., the U.S. dollar) is used both as a national currency and as an international reserve currency by other countries. For example, the quantity of dollars in circulation may need to be restricted in order to lower inflation rates in the U.S., while other countries may at the same time need more dollars as reserves to promote international trade and to protect their own economies. Even if inflation at home is not a problem, other countries may insist that something be done about the enormous U.S. trade deficits that occur when dollars are held overseas as reserves and are not used to buy American goods.
Although this potential problem should have been obvious from the start (when the Bretton Woods international financial system was agreed to in 1944), it was first explicitly noted by the Belgian-American bourgeois economist Robert Triffin in the 1960s. The problem is in a way quite ironic! For the most part the U.S. has benefitted tremendously by having its currency be so important as an international reserve. It has allowed the U.S. to hugely exploit the rest of the world (including other advanced capitalist countries) by buying goods in dollars which then to a great degree are never redeemed for goods produced in America. In effect the rest of the world has given the U.S. an enormous amount of expensive goods for free!
The “Triffin Paradox” developed, however, in part from the huge abuse of this great advantage by the U.S. At times there are greater influxes of Euro-dollars and other dollars held overseas back into the U.S. to buy American goods (which can cause the dollar to fall in value). And even when that is not occurring, the U.S. got so dependent on running huge Federal government deficits to keep its own economy going that inflation at times has gotten quite alarming. (This was especially the case during the “Great Inflation” of the 1970s and early 1980s, though it will eventually recur again in a much more dangerous way.) This in turn reduces the value of the foreign reserves in dollars that other countries are holding, much to their displeasure.
It is obviously ridiculous to have an international financial system wherein some goals require an increase flow of dollars out of the U.S., and other goals require an increased flow of dollars back into the U.S.!
“As Francis Warnock (professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School
of Business) points out in a paper for the Council On Foreign Relations, in 2010, the US
confronted a dilemma first identified in 1960 by the Belgian-born Yale economist Robert
“To supply the world’s risk-free asset, the country at the heart of the international monetary system has to run a current account deficit. In doing so, it becomes more indebted to foreigners until the risk-free asset ceases to be risk-free.” —Wikipedia entry on the “Triffin Dilemma” (accessed Feb. 11, 2013).
In 1964 a group of prominent liberal and social-democrat individuals, including Linus Pauling, Gunnar Myrdal and the New Left figure Tom Hayden, and billing themselves as the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution”, signed what soon became a famous document which they submitted to President Lyndon Johnson. The “triple revolutions” they were concerned with were those in cybernetics, military weaponry and human rights, but they focused mostly on the threat that automation would soon result in a world with fewer and fewer jobs. Because they were premature in raising this alarm their concern was soon forgotten—though a half century later it seems more timely than ever. The statement’s most important proposal was for a government-paid guaranteed minimum income for everyone even if there are no jobs for them. Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman pointed out in Monthly Review, however, that this was in effect merely a call for a streamlined welfare program for capitalism, when what was really needed was socialist revolution.
See: GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME [Sweezy/Huberman quote]
“In the developing cybernated system, potentially unlimited output can
be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings.
As machines take over production from men, they absorb an increasing proportion of
resources while the men who are displaced become dependent on minimal and unrelated
government measures—unemployment insurance, social security, welfare payments. These
measures are less and less able to disguise a historic paradox: that a growing proportion
of the population is subsisting on minimal incomes, often below the poverty line, at a
time when sufficient productive potential is available to supply the needs of everyone in
the United States.”
—“The Triple Revolution: An Appraisal of the Major US Crises and Proposals for Action”, March 22, 1964, available online at: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isr/vol25/no03/adhoc.html
“Tropes—the designation for the reasons for doubt advanced by the ancient Skeptics (ten tropes) and later supplemented (five tropes) by Agrippa. By means of these reasons the Skeptics tried to prove the impossibility of cognizing things and the absolute relativity of all perceptions.” —Endnote 104, LCW 38.
TROTSKY, Leon [Lev Davidovich Bronstein] (1879-1940)
Long-time centrist between Bolshevism and Menshevism and opponent of Lenin, who finally joined the Bolshevik Party not long before the October Revolution, and who played an important role in the Russian Revolution for a period of time. After Lenin’s death he led first the internal opposition, and later the external opposition from exile, against Stalin.
In the 1905 Revolution Trotsky became president of the first Soviet in St. Petersburg. After joining the Bolsheviks in 1917 and taking part in the October Revolution he became commissar for foreign affairs and conducted negotiations with the Germans for the peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk. However Trotsky himself opposed that treaty. Later as commissar for war he led in expanding the Red Army from a small initial core into a large fighting force and in conducting the civil war against the Whites (anti-Bolshevik forces). In 1920-21 he opposed Lenin’s policy on the trade unions and engaged in harmful factional activity which threatened the unity of the Bolshevik Party. At the Tenth Party Congress, Lenin pushed through a resolution and change in the composition of the Central Committee which greatly weakened Trotsky’s position.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, one of the central struggles was over the issue of “socialism in one country”. With the defeat of the socialist revolutions in the West (especially in Germany), it became necessary to try to consolidate socialism in Russia alone for a period, a policy which Stalin supported, but which Trotsky strongly opposed under the slogan of “permanent revolution”. This adventurist policy which Trotsky supported at the time would very likely have led to the early demise of revolutionary Russia. This program also cost Trotsky a lot of support in his leadership struggle with Stalin, and he soon lost out completely. In 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and in 1929 he was banished from the Soviet Union.
In exile Trotsky tried to build up and lead a world revolutionary force (the “Fourth International”) in opposition to the Comintern and the Communist movement. Many of his accusations against Stalin, such as that Stalin was bureaucratic, anti-democratic and authoritarian were largely correct (although Trotsky had those same strong tendencies himself!). In 1940 a supporter of Stalin murdered Trotsky with a mountain-climber’s ice ax while he was in exile in Mexico.
“When he [Trotsky] was playing against this surreptitious
master [Stalin], did he ever stand a chance? It is difficult to believe that he
did. He was, as I have hinted, an intellectual’s politician, not a politician’s.
He was arrogant, he was a wonderful phrase-maker, he was good at points of
dramatic action. But, as with Churchill (there are some resemblances), his
judgment, over most of his career, tended to be brilliantly wrong. In politics,
particularly in the life-and-death politics of revolution, you can’t afford to
be brilliantly wrong. He had opposed Lenin on most issues during the years before
1917. His colleagues hadn’t forgotten that anti-Bolshevik past. Further, he was
liable to sway himself with his own eloquence.... He was a brave and dashing
extemporizer: but when it came to steady administrative policies, he could
suddenly swing into a bureaucratic rigidity stiffer than any of the others....
“No, I don’t believe he could ever have made it. If by a fluke he had done, he wouldn’t have lasted long.” —C. P. Snow, Variety of Men (1971), p. 255.
A movement originated by Trotsky (see above) and his early followers, which has generally served a negative role in the revolutionary movement. It has tended to be based mostly on petty-bourgeois elements and students from the upper, better educated strata of the working class. It has also tended to be highly dogmatic, sectarian and devisive (though the entire revolutionary movement has also suffered from similar tendencies in recent decades). Lenin once remarked that anarchism was a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. In the same sort of way, it might be said that Trotskyism has been a sort of penalty for the sins of Stalin (and his followers) and his authoritarian and often mistaken leadership of the world communist movement. There has never been a successful revolution led by any Trotskyite/Trotskyist party or movement.
[More to be added... ]
TROTSKYITE or TROTSKYIST
Followers and supporters of Trotsky generally call themselves “Trotskyists”. However, the term which was long used for them within the International Communist Movement was “Trotskyites”. Because those who strongly disagreed with Trotsky and Trotskyism were the ones to use the term “Trotskyite”, it immediately developed very strong negative connotations. This is one of the reasons that Trotskyists themselves strenuously object to being called Trotskyites! Here’s a little ditty on the topic I wrote some years back, entitled “Easily Insulted”:
The Trotskyite stepped up to say:
“You’ve got it wrong again today!
You’re really making me quite pissed;
The proper term is Trotskyist!”
In the last couple decades, however, within the very weak American revolutionary movement there has been a small tendency toward starting to reject some of the excessive organizational sectarianism of the past. (Possibly in part because of less firm ideological education in all the various left trends. In other words, there may also be a negative aspect to this!) And this has meant, in part, a toning down of mutually perceived insults such as “Trotskyite” and “Stalinist”. On the one hand we often do need to work together with people we strongly disagree with on other issues; on the other hand, there is a strong tendency toward liberalism (in the Maoist sense) in the contemporary revolutionary movement, a reluctance to make criticisms where they are actually appropriate, and to view just criticisms and accurate characterizations as “insults”. Personally, my old habit was to use the term “Trotskyite” rather than “Trotskyist”, but to be more polite I am trying to switch over to the latter. Still, for me, the connotations are exactly the same, whichever term is used! —S.H.
A unit of weight measurement in the old imperial system, now mostly used to measure the weight of gold and other precious metals. The Troy ounce is roughly 10% heavier than an avoirdupois ounce (which is much more broadly used in the U.S.). There are 12 Troy ounces in a Troy pound (as opposed to 16 avoirdupois ounces in an avoirdupois pound). The Troy ounce is now precisely defined as equal to 31.1034768 grams in the metric system, and there are 32.1507466 Troy ounces in 1 kilogram.
For more details see the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_ounce
A petty-bourgeois group formed in Russia in 1906, and consisting of a section of the peasant members of the First State Duma (parliament) headed by intellectuals belonging to the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.
A form of socialist theory circulating in Germany in the 1840s, and which was especially associated with the philosopher Moses Hess. This early socialist theory promoted an abstract form of justice and humanity (a la Kant), and rejected any proletarian class perspective. The adherents of this trend called themselves “true” socialists because they opposed even a temporary alliance with the bourgeoisie against feudalism, and regarded capitalism as the main enemy at all times and places. (This notion sounds very much like what came to be popular a century later among Trotskyists, with their rejection of any two-stage revolution in countries like China!)
Marx and Engels strongly criticized this trend in their early writings (including the Communist Manifesto). They regarded it as in effect opposing the struggle against feudalism and for democracy, and felt that it actually promoted the thinking of the German petty-bourgeoisie, rather than the revolutionary proletariat.
TRUMP, Donald (1946- )
Current president of the United States (who took office on January 20, 2017) and who is noted for his egomania and dangerously impulsive nature. He is probably the most demagogic individual to ever hold that position though all bourgeois politicians are demagogic to one degree or another. He and many of his strongest supporters are also known for their de facto racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant and anti-environmental views. It is likely that his administration will give further impetus to the already long-existing trend toward more and stronger fascist laws and policies in the U.S., which is something that is necessary for the ruling class as their economic and social crisis continues to worsen and the masses become more upset at the way things are going.
During his electoral campaign Trump was frequently described as an “isolationist” in foreign policy. But one of his first acts on becoming president was to put forward a government budget which cuts social programs and domestic spending in general, and greatly expands military spending. In his first months in office he is continuing and already expanding existing U.S. imperialist wars (such as in Iraq and Syria) and is even threatening to launch new wars (such as against North Korea). However, his bellicose nature only supports the necessities of U.S. imperialism in the world today.
“Ask Washington grandees to explain President Donald Trump’s rise,
and they often recommend reading ‘The Art of the Deal’. One piece of advice from that
I-got-rich-quick book, published in 1987, is cited more than any other. Mr Trump’s
boast that he built a property empire on ‘truthful hyperbole’, playing on the public’s
desire ‘to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most
spectacular’. It is a striking passage to choose, but also a misleading one—implying
that Trumpian success, in essence, rests on a talent for bamboozling rubes.
“Actually, at the heart of ‘The Art of the Deal’ lies a more subtle point about human nature: that some of the most profitable bargains are struck not with passive dupes, but with partners who are complicit in their own manipulation. A revealing episode describes Mr Trump tricking investors into thinking that a casino in Atlantic City is almost half-built by cramming the site with bulldozers under orders to look busy. Despite an awkward moment when an investor asks why one builder is refilling a hole that he has just dug, the gambit works. The investors had already been burned once by a project that ran over-budget so now needed a quick success. Mr Trump explains: ‘My leverage came from confirming an impression they were already predisposed to believe.’...
“Mr Trump has worked to forge similar bonds of complicity with voters. His pledges to put America First, to deport ‘criminal aliens’ or to bring back millions of manufacturing jobs make supporters feel empowered, heeded, safe and hopeful. Critics question such pledges at their peril: millions of Americans have invested a good deal in believing this president.”
—The Economist, March 18, 2017, p. 30. [The point seems to be that Trump is good at bamboozling not only “rubes”, but a great many other people too, who then become complicit in his actions. —Ed.]
That which is actually the case; the facts of the matter. There are all sorts of foolish esoteric arguments about the “nature of truth” among bourgeois philosophers, but actually it is a quite simple concept.
“Communists must be ready at all times to stand up for the truth, because truth is in the interests of the people; Communists must be ready at all times to correct their mistakes, because mistakes are against the interests of the people.” —Mao, “On Coalition Government” (April 24, 1945), SW 3:315.
“Truth is a process. From the subjective idea, man advances towards
objective truth through ‘practice’ (and technique).” —Lenin, “Conspectus of
Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:
TRUTH — Abstract “Concrete political aims must be set in concrete circumstances....
There is no such thing as abstract truth. Truth is always concrete.” —Lenin, “Two
Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, July 1905, LCW 9:86. [I
don’t think Lenin’s point is that there are no truths about abstractions or abstract
entities; there are geometric truths about circles and pentagons, for example, and
they are certainly conceptual abstractions. I believe his point is that political
generalizations may not always remain valid in specific concrete circumstances. —S.H.] TSUNYI CONFERENCE Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index MASSLINE.ORG Home Page
A turning point meeting of the Communist Party of China during the Long March in 1935. [More to be added.]
TRUTH — Abstract
“Concrete political aims must be set in concrete circumstances.... There is no such thing as abstract truth. Truth is always concrete.” —Lenin, “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, July 1905, LCW 9:86. [I don’t think Lenin’s point is that there are no truths about abstractions or abstract entities; there are geometric truths about circles and pentagons, for example, and they are certainly conceptual abstractions. I believe his point is that political generalizations may not always remain valid in specific concrete circumstances. —S.H.]
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
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