[In India: ] Landowners; the dominant class group in rural villages.
“Zarya (Dawn)—a Marxist scientific and political journal
published by the Iskra editorial board in Stuttgart in
1901 and 1902. Four numbers appeared in three issues: No. 1 in April 1901 (it actually
appeared on March 23, New Style), No. 2-3 in December 1901 and No. 4 in August 1902.
“Zarya criticized international and Russian revisionism and defended the theoretical postulates of Marxism. The journal published articles by Lenin on this problem: ‘The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism’, ‘Messrs. the “Critics” on the Agrarian Qeustion’ (the first four chapters of ‘The Agrarian Question and “Critics of Marx”’), ‘The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy’, and also Plekhanov’s articles: ‘Critique of Our Critics. Part I. Mr. P. Struve in the Role of a Critic of the Marxist Theory of Social Development’ and ‘Cant against Kant, or the Testament of Herr Bernstein’.” —Note 95, Lenin SW I (1967).
The local self-government bodies in rural districts of tsarist Russia, which were set up in the central gubernias (“provinces”) of the country in 1864. The Zemstvos were dominated by the local nobility and were restricted to handling only local economic and welfare issues, such as hospitals, road building, insurance, gathering statistics, etc. They were under the control of the governors of the gubernias and the Ministry of the Interior which could veto any decisions they found to be undesirable.
ZEN or ZEN BUDDHISM
[To be added...]
ZENO of Elea (fl. c. 450 BCE)
[To be added...]
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Zeno.
ZERO-SUM (Game or Situation)
[Game Theory:] A situation where a gain for one participant necessarily involves an equivalent loss for one or more other participants. (I.e., where the total gains and losses for all participants sum to zero.) Chess or poker are zero-sum games because if one player wins, the other(s) must lose.
Bourgeois economists claim that capitalism is “not” a zero-sum economic system, because even the workers come out of it with something (generally enough to at least scrape by on). However, all the wealth that any society produces ultimately comes from the labor of workers acting on the natural products of the world. Under socialism or communism, all that wealth would belong to the workers, either individually or collectively. Capitalism modifies this situation in a zero-sum way; whatever the capitalists take from the workers in the form of open or concealed profits, the workers lose completely. And this is the very definition of a zero-sum situation.
One recent study by bourgeois economists of “zero-sum thinking (the belief that gains for one individual or group tend to come at the cost of others)”, found that having a more “zero-sum mindset is strongly associated with giving more support for government redistribution, [and] race- and gender-based affirmative action”, all of which sound like generally positive reforms (though the degree to which these things can actually be implemented in capitalist society is highly questionable). On the other hand, where this zero-sum thinking is inappropriate, it can lead to wrong ideas and bad results. The same study found that when applied to immigrants (i.e., falsely supposing that jobs and income for immigrants come at the expense of non-immigrants) leads to public pressure for more restrictive immigration policies. [See: “Zero-Sum Thinking and the Roots of U.S. Political Divides”, by Sahil Chinoy, Nathan Nunn, Sandra Sequeira & Stefanie Stantcheva, NBER working paper 31688, Sept. 2023.] Thus, it is important that people are educated to understand just where zero-sum thinking is appropriate, and just where it is inappropriate, and why that is in specific cases.
ZETKIN, Clara (1857-1933)
An important and influential German revolutionary socialist and then Communist leader, who also helped to further develop and strengthen the struggle for women’s rights and equality, including within the socialist and Communist movement itself. She was the leading organizer of the first International Women’s Day in March 1911.
Zetkin joined the Socialist Workers’ Party in 1878, which was renamed the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1890. With Bismarck’s ban on socialist activity in 1878 Zetkin went into exile in Zurich and then Paris. (The Anti-Socialist Law lapsed in 1890.) Zetkin, along with her friend Rosa Luxemburg, soon became one of the most prominent representatives of the revolutionary Left-wing of the SPD, and she strongly criticized the revisionist ideas of Eduard Bernstein.
Zetkin played a leading role in fighting for equality for women including the right to vote, and was the leader in developing the socialist women’s movement in Germany. From 1891 to 1917 she edited the SPD women’s publication Die Gleichheit [“Equality”].
During World War I the SPD took on a social chauvinist (pro-war) stance, voting for war spending and the policy of Burgfrieden (truce with the bourgeoisie and promising not to lead any labor strikes during the war). Zetkin, along with Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and other prominent Left-wing members of the SPD very strongly opposed this pro-imperialist war position. Among other anti-war efforts, Zetkin organized an international socialist women’s anti-war conference in Berlin in 1915. She was arrested several times during the war because of such activity.
In 1917 Zetkin, and many others who opposed the dominant national chauvinist stance of the SPD during World War I, left to join the new Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), and also its most Left-wing faction, the Spartacus League which she co-founded. In 1919 the Spartacus League broke with the centrist USPD to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and Zetkin became an important leader of that new revolutionary party. From 1920 to 1933 when the Nazis took over, she represented the KPD in the Reichstag (German parliament). She was also a member of the Central Committee of the KPD from 1927 to 1929.
Zetkin also played a significant role in international revolutionary politics. In 1920 she interviewed Lenin on “The Women’s Question”. She was a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern) from 1921 until her death. In 1933 after Hitler took power and staged the Reichstag fire (falsely blamed on the Communists), Zetkin was forced into exile once again, this time to the Soviet Union. Unfortunately she died later that same year at the age of 76, and was buried near the wall of the Kremlin in Moscow.
[Much of the materal in this entry is taken from the Wikipedia article on Clara Zetkin.]
[Also called “syllepsis”.] A figure of speech, generally used to humorous effect, in which more than one meaning of a word is implied even though the word is only used once. A classic example is: “She came home in a sedan chair and a flood of tears.” The word “in” is used just once here, but refers to a means of conveyance in the first part of the sentence (i.e., a chair with two poles attached at the sides which is then carried by two oppressed workers, one in front and one in back), and then to an emotional state in the second part of the sentence. The linguistic humor comes from the fact that the construction suggests that “a flood of tears” is also a means of conveyance.
Curiously, an expression which is a zeugma in one language may not be so when translated into a different language. And this helps to bring out that words which at first seem to have one single absolutely precise meaning are actually almost always somewhat broad concepts derived through analogies. In their book Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013), Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander employ zeugmas effectively in order to help analyze words and bring out the ubiquitous role of analogy in human language and thought.
ZHANG Chunqiao (1917-2005)
[To be added...]
ZHANG Guotao (Old style: CHANG Kuo-t’ao) (1897-1979)
One of the founders and early leaders of the Communist Party of China who became a renegade from the CCP and a traitor to and enemy of the Chinese revolution. During one period in 1937 he and the section of the revolutionary army he led refused to obey the orders of the Central Committee and then he even set himself up as the head of a separate and competing “Central Committee” of the CCP. His renegade leadership of the Fourth Front Army led to disastrous defeats and the loss of thousands of Red Army soldiers. At one point he plotted to arrest, and if necessary kill, Mao and the legitimate Central Committee members. When he abandoned the CCP completely in 1938 he even worked with the head of Chiang Kai-shek’s secret police, Dai Li (often called “China’s Himmler”), in an effort to destroy the Communist Party. In 1949 he fled to Hong Kong, and then in 1968 moved to Canada. He became a Christian the year before his death.
“Chang Kuo-tao was a renegade from the Chinese revolution. In early life, speculating on the revolution, he joined the Chinese Communist Party. In the Party he made many mistakes resulting in serious crimes. The most notorious of these was his opposition, in 1935, to the Red Army’s northward march [the Long March] and his defeatism and liquidationism in advocating withdrawal by the Red Army to the minority-nationality areas on the Szechuan-Sikang borders; what is more, he openly carried out traitorous activities against the Party and the Central Committee, established his own bogus central committee, disrupted the unity of the Party and the Red Army, and caused heavy losses to the Fourth Front Army of the Red Army. But thanks to patient education by Comrade Mao Tse-tung and the Central Committee, the Fourth Front Army and its numerous cadres soon returned to the correct leadership of the Central Committee of the Party and played a glorious role in subsequent struggles. Chang Kuo-tao, however, proved incorrigible and in the spring of 1938 he slipped out of the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia Border Region and joined the Kuomintang secret police.” —Editorial note 5 to Mao’s article “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work” (Feb. 1, 1942), SW 3:51.
ZHAO Ziyang (1919-2005)
The third Premier of the People’s Republic of China (1980-1987) and General Secretary of the so-called Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989 during the new capitalist era. He was placed into power by Deng Xiaoping, the “Paramount Leader” of the capitalist-roaders who seized power in China after the death of Mao in 1976. Deng liked him because Zhao strongly favored transforming the then state capitalist system into a more market-based economy, along the lines of Western-style monopoly capitalism. However, when Deng and his closer followers (including Chen Yun, Li Xiannian, and Premier Li Peng) violently suppressed a mass demonstration against the authoritarian regime which took place in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, Zhao Ziyang criticized that repression and revealed his tendencies toward favoring bourgeois democracy. Deng liked Zhao’s bourgeois economics, but totally rejected his sympathy for bourgeois democracy, and thus had Zhao removed from his position as nominal head of the Party. Zhao was replaced with Jiang Zemin who shared Zhao’s economic views, but also favored the sort of fascist political rule that Deng always demanded.
After his removal from office, Zhao Ziyang was placed under de facto house arrest for the next 15 years until his death.
ZHENG CHAOLIN (1901-1998)
Chinese Trotskyite. Participated in the founding of the European branch of the Communist Party of China in 1922, and later in the founding of its Trotskyist Opposition in Shanghai in 1931. He spent most of his life in prison, under both Chiang Kai-shek and later as a counter-revolutionary after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
ZHOU Enlai (Old style: CHOU En-lai) (1898-1976)
A top leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Vice-Chairman of the CCP (1956-1976), and Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (1949-1976). In the earliest period of the 1920s and early 1930s Zhou followed the line of the Comintern and its advisors in China and as Mao’s superior in the Party originally opposed Mao’s innovative and developing political line of People’s War in the countryside. However, at the desperate and crucial point of the Tsunyi Conference in January 1935, during the Long March, Zhou changed his position and sided with Mao. For the rest of his life Zhou never wavered in his support for Mao and his leadership, though his own actions and policies were not always in full accord with those of Mao. Zhou supported the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (see the entry below), but during it he primarily served as a moderating or foot-dragging force. This did have some positive aspects (such as saving a number of people from unduly violent and extreme attacks by Red Guards), but also some very negative results—such as his role in rehabilitating Deng Xiaoping and bringing him back to power in 1973.
[More to be added.]
ZHOU Enlai — Role in the Cultural Revolution
Zhou’s role during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) has been the subject of considerable discussion and contention. Mao seems to have mostly viewed him as a loyal supporter of both Mao himself and the GPCR, and when one college Red Guard group in Beijing (the “May 16 Red Guards Regiment”) attacked Zhou as a “shameful traitor of Mao Zedong Thought” in the summer of 1967, Mao and the Central Cultural Revolution Small Group condemned this particular Red Guard faction as “ultra-left” and suppressed them. Moreover, this led to the suppression of many other individuals as ultra-leftists, including eventually Chen Boda who was himself originally put in charge of dealing with the May 16 Red Guards Regiment but was later accused of being supportive of their views.
During the GPCR Zhou did intervene from time to time to rescue one or another person who was being persecuted by Red Guard groups. There actually were a great number of excesses by the Red Guards during the GPCR and it was not wrong to stop or correct these excesses when possible. (Mao also did so at times, and the major campaign he authorized against ultra-leftism of the “May 16 Red Guards Regiment” type is an example of this on a large scale.) Stopping excesses is actually a way of supporting a revolution and of trying to prevent it from being discredited.
However, Zhou’s “moderating” role sometimes seems to have gone well beyond merely stopping violence and unjust treatment of basically good comrades who had made some mistakes. While he apparently agreed with Mao at the beginning of the GPCR that Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping should be criticized for their views and policies, he strenuously opposed putting it as strongly as that they were leaders of a “bourgeois reactionary line”. If Zhou had had his way, it seems that the whole heart would have been cut out of the GPCR, and the whole point of it vitiated. A revolution requires more than mere slaps on the hands of those who really have become the enemies of the people!
As the GPCR quickly developed, Zhou, as head of the Chinese government, put a lot of emphasis on Mao’s slogan, “grasp revolution and promote production”, and in this he was quite correct. There was in fact a danger that the necessarily disruptive political revolution might lead to a collapse of the economy—which would have discredited the GPCR far more than any mere excesses against particular individuals. (As it was, the Chinese economy did suffer small declines in GDP for three years but then, because of the political enthusiasm and positive changes in the factories, quickly zoomed ahead again at an even faster pace. The trend line for the entire 1966-1976 period shows the initial dip but also an end result that is just the same as if there had been a uniformly fast advance of around 10% a year over that entire period.)
In early 1967 a number of military marshals and government leaders raged against the GPCR in what became known as the February Adverse Current. Zhou did not openly support this trend, though he let slip his identification with these other veteran leaders when he referred to them and him together as “us”.
But by far the worst aspect of Zhou’s role in “moderating” the GPCR was his evident attempt to wait it out, and to then reverse at least aspects of it by eventually returning the individuals who were overthrown as “capitalist roaders” to their positions of authority in the party and government. And the very worst example of this turned out to be his rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping and the recall of Deng to again be a vice-premier and Zhou’s designated successor. However, this is something that Mao himself also agreed to, and if Zhou should be blamed for this so should Mao. It seems that the CCP was too easily fooled by confessions and phony self-criticisms. Perhaps this is a perpetual problem for people like Mao who are themselves open and honest about their opinions, when it comes to trying to politically “treat the disease in order to cure the patient”.
After Zhou’s death a huge memorial gathering in his honor held in Tiananmen Square on April 5, 1976 turned into a reactionary demonstration against the whole GPCR. Was this just a case of reactionaries making use of the occasion to attack the GPCR, or was it actually the view of Zhou Enlai himself and his friends, which they merely kept mostly silent about while he was alive? Perhaps some of each. Right after Zhou died Maoist groups around the world, including the RCP in the U.S., wrote articles lauding him. (See for example: “Chou Enlai (1898-1976): A Fighter for Our Class All His Life”, Worker for Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Area, February 1976, p. 9, online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/RCP/Worker-Milw/Worker-RCP-Milw-V1N05-Feb1976.pdf) But after the April 5th Tiananmen Incident the view of Zhou by many Maoists turned diametrically around, and Zhou has since then been routinely condemned as a hidden rightist.
It seems clear that while Zhou publicly supported Mao’s GPCR he was personally opposed to at least many aspects of it; possibly in his heart he did not truly support it at all, though he did nevertheless play a fairly important role in making it possible. Pretty obviously someone like Zhou could not possibly have initiated or led the GPCR. In any revolution there will be people on the revolutionary side who do not fully understand and support all the aims of that revolution. But it is wrong to force such people away and into the enemy camp. That is what was wrong with the ultra-leftists of the type of the May 16 Red Guards Regiment. They did not understand the necessity in any revolution of uniting the vast majority against a much smaller enemy. But was it correct to later on start criticizing Zhou as he more and more seemed to be undermining the GPCR by bringing back capitalist roaders like Deng? The so-called “Gang of Four” appeared to be doing this as a somewhat camouflaged part of the Anti-Lin Biao, Anti-Confucius Campaign. It seems they may have been quite right to do so. —S.H.
[Comments from a book deeply hostile to the Cultural Revolution:]
“Zhou Enlai’s position in the CCP leadership was on the rise during the Cultural
Revolution. At the Eleventh Plenum of the CCP Eighth Central Committee (1-12 August 1966),
he became the third highest ranking leader of the CCP. After the downfall of Lin Biao in
September 1971, he became second, next to Mao. As his status and power increased, however,
Zhou was facing greater challenges and provocations from the ultraleftist faction of the
CCP leadership who, along with Mao, envisioned Zhou as a formidable anti-Cultural
Revolution force after Mao’s death. And, as indispensable as Zhou was, Mao never
considered him as his successor; rather, Mao often equated Zhou’s meticulous attention
to details and superb skills as an administrator with the neglect of more important
matters and the lack of firm ideological and political conviction.
“From 25 November to 5 December 1973, enlarged Politburo sessions were convened at Mao’s suggestion to criticize Zhou for his ‘right revisionist line’ and ‘capitulationism’ in foreign policy because of his negotiations with the United States on the sensitive issue of miliary exchange. Jiang Qing [Mao’s wife] called the conflict between Zhou and Mao [the] ‘eleventh line struggle within the party.’ A month later, in January 1974, another general offensive against Zhou was launched in the name of an anti-Lin Biao campaign known as Criticize Lin and Criticize Confucius, which was followed by yet another implicitly anti-Zhou movement: that of the Water Margin Appraisal (1975-1976). The attack on Zhou in both of these campaigns took the form of allusory historiography in which Confucius and Song Jiang—a capitulator in the historical romance Water Margin, in Mao’s view—were depicted with considerable resemblance to China’s current premier.
“Zhou was instrumental in Deng Xiaoping’s reinstatement as vice-premier in 1973. In December 1974, Zhou, gravely ill with cancer and escorted by hospital nurses, flew to Changsha to discuss personnel matters with Mao in preparation for the forthcoming Fourth National People’s Congress. Zhou recommended Deng for the position of the first vice-premier against Zhang Chunqiao, the candidate of the Jiang Qing group.”
—From the entry on Zhou Enlai in the Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Guo Jian, Yongyi Song and Yuan Zhou, (2006).
ZHU Rongji (Old style: CHU Jung-chi) (1928- )
Premier of the capitalist regime in China from 1998 to 2003.
Zhu joined the CCP in October 1949, and graduated from Tsinghua University in 1951 with a degree in electrical engineering. However, he spent most of his career as a political cadre in the economics and production planning sphere. He was criticized and labelled a Rightist in 1958 for opposing the “irrational high growth” policies during the Great Leap Forward. He was pardoned in 1962, but then criticized again during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and sent to a “May Seventh Cadre School” from 1970-1975 for re-education. Apparently this attempted re-education didn’t have any positive effect on him.
From 1975 to 1979 Zhu was the deputy chief engineer for a company run by the Petroleum Ministry and director of the Industrial Economics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. When the notorious capitalist-roader Deng Xiaoping returned to power in 1978 he sought out like-minded people as economic advisors, and Zhu Rongji in particular. Zhu was formally rehabilitated by the now revisionist CCP because of his supposedly forward-thinking and bold economic ideas (i.e., because he too was a capitalist-roader intent on developing China as a capitalist country). Deng said that Zhu “has his own views, dares to make decisions and knows economics.” [Quoted in the article on Zhu Rongji in the Wikipedia, from which some other information here is also taken.]
Zhu then went to work for the State Economic Commission as the division chief of the Bureau of Fuel and Power Industry and then as deputy director of the Comprehensive Bureau in 1979-1982. He was appointed a member of the State Economic Commission in 1982 and was the vice-minister in charge of the Commission from 1983 to 1987. In that year he was appointed major of Shanghai. As mayor he won the acclaim of the other enthusiasts for the return to capitalism by overseeing the development of Pudong, a large Special Economic Zone situated between the city itself and the ocean. These SEZ’s pioneered in the so-called “reform” and “opening up” of the Chinese economy to full-scale capitalism and foreign investment.
Zhu became the vice-premier of the PRC State Council in 1991, and moved to Beijing. He was also the director of the State Council Production Office, which focused on industry, agriculture and finance. In late 1992 Zhu became a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee, the highest political body in China, and retained that position for a decade. He was also the governor of the People’s Bank of China, illustrating how the top leaders of the bureaucratic national bourgeois ruling class in China are now financial capitalists. Through this political and financial control, and with the support of President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, Zhu helped force the closure of many state enterprises and started a large privatization program which led to massive growth of China’s private sector of the economy.
Zhu was himself Premier of the State Council from March 1998 to March 2003, and continued and extended those same policies. The Chinese economy expanded at a rapid pace during these years, though it must be said that this was not really all that difficult to accomplish. As a new capitalist-imperialist country China did not have the huge load of accumulated government debt, nor massive consumer and corporate debt, that most major capitalist countries did. So they could easily stimulate demand to overcome adverse local and international economic problems, such as the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the pro-capitalist economic policies of Zhu and the other PRC bosses led to enormous job losses for workers as a great many state factories were closed down. It is true that new jobs were opening up because of foreign investment in China, but these jobs were generally much worse, with far less security and far fewer benefits. Zhu led capitalist China into the World Trade Organization in 2001, and because of the very low wages of most Chinese workers, China soon became the “workplace” of the world, with enormous and fast-rising exports. But as usual, the capitalist “success story” was founded on a major attack on the working class.
ZIFF, Paul (1920-2003)
American bourgeois philosopher of the analytic or “linguistic” school. Did significant work in the areas of semantics and aesthetics. His most important book was Semantic Analysis (1960). In the last chapter of that work he explains in careful detail why the meaning of the important word ‘good’ should be considered to be “answering to certain interests”.
See also: “MIRACULA SINE DOCTRINA NIHIL VALENT” and Philosophical doggerel about Ziff.
ZIMBABWE — Hyperinflation In
One of the most extreme examples of hyperinflation in the last 60 years is that which occurred in Zimbabwe. Up to its worse point in 2009 inflation in that country reached an astounding 500 billion percent. The government even issued $100 trillion dollar bank notes. These themselves soon became nearly worthless (except as collectors’ items). At that point in 2009, the Zimbabwean government stopped issuing money entirely, and the country began using only foreign currency (especially the U.S. dollar). It converted bank balances in Zimbabwean dollars into U.S. dollars at the rate of 35 quadrillion to 1! In 2016 the government announced that it would start issuing its own currency again—which almost everyone expects will soon start inflating rapidly.
The first of two important international socialist conferences held in Switzerland in the early years of World War I, and which attempted to address the question of what socialists should do about the War.
See also: KIENTHAL CONFERENCE
“The First International Socialist Conference met in Zimmerwald
(September 5-8, 1915), and was the scene of a struggle between the revolutionary
internationalists led by Lenin and the Kautsky majority. Lenin united the Left
internationalists into a group known as the Zimmerwald Left in which only the Bolshevik
Party advocated a correct and fully consistent internationalist anti-war policy.
“The conference adopted the Manifesto ‘To the European Proletariat’ which declared that the world war was an imperialist war, condemned the conduct of the ‘socialists’ who voted for war credits and were members of bourgeois governments, called upon the workers of Europe to develop the struggle against the war and demand the conclusion of peace without annexations and indemnities.
“The conference also adopted a resolution expressing sympathy with the victims of the war and elected an International Socialist Committee.
“The significance of the Zimmerwald Conference is described by Lenin in ‘The First Step’, and ‘Revolutionary Marxists at the International Socialist Conference, September 5-8, 1915’ [LCW 21:383-88, 389-93.]” —Note 333, Lenin SW I (1967).
ZINN, Howard (1922-2010)
A radical American historian best known for his excellent book, A People’s History of the United States (1980). This volume appropriately focused on the ordinary people of the country and their lives and struggles, and not the politicians, generals and millionaires. Zinn taught for many years at Boston University and inspired many students and readers of his works. He was also an ardent political activist, especially in the civil rights and anti-war movements. On his last day of teaching at Boston University he ended his class 30 minutes early so that he could join a picket line, and urged his students to go along with him. One hundred of them did so.
“From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than ‘objectivity’; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.” —Howard Zinn, in his autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994).
ZINOVIEV, Grigory Y. (1883-1936)
An “Old Bolshevik” and a leading member of the Bolshevik party, and then of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who was one of Lenin’s lieutenants, but who after Lenin’s death had a very checkered political career, with shifting alliances such as at times in support of Stalin, and at other times in opposition to him. He was the Chairman of the governing committee of the Communist International starting in 1919, as well as a member of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks (and later of the Politburo of the CPSU). In 1926 he headed the Leningrad opposition against Stalin and was expelled from the Party in 1927. Re-admitted in 1928, he was again expelled in 1932, again re-admitted in 1933, then imprisoned on a charge of terrorism in 1935, after it became known that he was in a secret alliance bloc with Trotsky who was in exile. Zinoviev was finally sentenced to death and executed for treason in 1936.
[Note: This entry is an overall, high-level political summation of the general idea of Zionism, written from the revolutionary proletarian point of view. If you are looking for the historical details of the origin and development of Zionism in its many forms, as written from the usual bourgeois academic perspectives strongly sympathetic to the basic idea of Zionism, then refer to the many exhaustive articles in the Wikipedia, starting with the central article at: Zionism]
In its central essence, Zionism is the idea (and actions toward implementing this idea) that Jews should have their own country, and that this country should be a Jewish homeland run by and for Jews alone. (Or at the very least, a state completely controlled by Jews alone, even if there are some non-Jews tolerated within its boundaries.)
There was a long history of hostility towards, and physical attacks on, Jews in Europe, originally the work of Christians fanatically opposed to the existence of other religions. These attacks even reached the extreme of murderous pogroms, especially in eastern Europe. As capitalist society entered the modern era of imperialism and ever-more-serious economic crisis and social chaos, minority peoples and religions—and especially the Jews—became an easy target to blame for such growing socioeconomic problems. This then led to further strongly increased antisemitism, and eventually even to the horrendous extreme of organized Nazi genocide during World War II resulting in the systematic murders of six million Jews. All of this ghastly history is one of the somewhat understandable reasons why many Jews in this nation-based capitalist world have longed to have their own homeland.
But “understandable” or not, the actual creation of a Jewish homeland, the state of Israel, has turned out to be horrible nightmare for the world, especially for the Palestinians and other peoples of the Mid-East, and actually even for the Jewish people themselves (though this may still not be widely recognized by Jews or others).
In a bourgeois world organized on the foundation of separate nation-states, which are possible because of the considerable nationalist, ethnic, linguistic and religious uniformity in separate regions (or at least their majority domination there), this notion of establishing an exclusively Jewish state sounds to many people, both Jews and many others, as a very reasonable thing. But there are inherent critical flaws in this Zionist goal. First, such a state, if run exclusively by, and for the benefit of, Jews would thereby be unjust and oppressive toward anyone else living in the country. In other words such a state could not be a true democracy, not even a real bourgeois democracy, as long as anybody other than Jews lived there. It must of necessity be an oppressive apartheid state as bad or worse than the old South African racist regime was. (Some liberal Jews deny this inevitability, but just look at how things have actually developed during the entire first 75 years of the state of Israel!)
And second, and vastly worse, all the world is already occupied by other people, and the only real way to set up a new nation just for Jews is to steal the land area from others and force the existing population out. And the only way to accomplish this massive ethnic cleansing is through unrestrained violence and even genocidal attacks on the existing population (who naturally will put up great resistence to their being expelled from their existing country and their own homes). And this is exactly what has happened in the century-long efforts of Jewish Zionists (with the indispensable aid and connivance of British and U.S. imperialism) to create and then continue to expand the Jewish state of Israel in the land of Palestine. This was not an accident, or unfortunate “unforeseeable” result; instead this this was the inevitable consequence of the whole Zionist idea of creating a new Jewish state in Palestine.
There were once a large number of other proposals for the location for a Jewish homeland. Most of these various ideas were suggested by Jewish Zionists, though some were also promoted by viciously antisemitic individuals. Hitler and his Nazi regime promoted one such rather wild plan and in 1940 seriously proposed shipping all the European Jews to Madagascar, almost entirely against their will, of course, and with no consideration for the Malagasy people already living there. But he couldn’t get the cooperation of Britain (which controlled the sea lanes) and the other imperialist powers to actually do so. [See the Wikipedia article: Madagascar Plan] (It is also true, however, that Hitler and the Nazis did not promote a full Zionist program, since they envisioned that Germany would run Madagascar as a colony, and not that the Jews sent there would be in full control of their own state.)
Most of the schemes for establishing a Jewish state somewhere were put forward by individual Jews, but sometimes sympathetic non-Jews promoted their own plan. Stalin, who approached the national question for the Jews in a quite mechanical (undialectical) way, felt that every nationality must have a homeland, so he actually set aside a remote area of Siberia next to China to be a Jewish homeland within the Soviet Union, and tried to build up a Jewish population there. (Which still exists, in a miniscule way!) [See the Wikipedia article: Jewish Autonomous Oblast]
However, almost all Zionist Jews wanted a new Jewish state to be in Palestine, because the ancient origin of Jews as a religious/nationalist/ethnic/cultural entity was in that area. And there were in fact already some Jews (about 10% of the population) living more or less peacefully in Palestine all through the centuries before World War I, along with a few people of various other religions, and within a population that was mostly Muslim. However, the Zionist doctrine that individuals today have a right to the land in which their distant ancestors once lived is completely ridiculous. By that standard, the Russians would indeed have the right to control Ukraine because the ancient tribal Rus peoples first developed there, as Vladimir Putin has pointed out. And the Celts, now mostly in Ireland, the British Isles, northwest France and in America, would have a “right” to kick both the Ukrainians and the Russians out of the lands to the north of the Black Sea, which is where the Celtic peoples (though not their modern languages) are said to have originated some four or five thousand years ago. The world is full of peoples whose ancestors lived far from where they now live. (Virtually everybody, really, since humanity originated in a small region in Africa.) And the idea that “everyone should go back to where their ancestors came from” (or have the “right” to do so) is utterly crazy and totally impossible. It is bourgeois nationalist logic carried to a truly absurd extreme. [See: Immigrants—Deportation Of]
For this reason, it is now also outrageously wrong to say that all the Jews living in Israel/Palestine should go back to “where they came from”, or be forcibly expelled. Instead, the only reasonable, humanitarian solution to the deplorable situation today is for all the people of Palestine, including Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, and Jews (and anybody else living there) to form a democratic country with absolutely equal rights for everybody. Most Palestinians today are in fact quite willing to agree with this. But this democracy-for-all plan is exactly what the Jewish Zionists controlling Israel continue to absolutely refuse to accept! And it is therefore why the people of the region, Jews and non-Jews, and the people of the world, must unite to completely defeat the whole idea of Zionism.
Zionist Jews usually argue that, given the history of antisemitism, pogroms, the Holocaust (or Shoah as it is called in Hebrew), and other past genocidal attacks on them, they simply have no choice but to set up their own nation for their own safety. However, the original and primary source of that anti-Jewish hatred, namely Christian ultra-fanaticism, has now nearly disappeared in the world today. And the terribly ironic thing is that it is now this Zionist effort itself to create (and continually expand) Israel, and to attack, expel or kill Palestinians, which is by far the biggest factor in the world leading to renewed hostility and hatred towards Jews. Far from saving Jews from the hatred previously directed against them, Zionism is now by far the gravest source of renewed danger for Jews!
National hatred and hostilities are always going to be a serious problem in capitalist society, under which nationality-based ruling bourgeoisies control states to promote their own exploitative interests. That is why the international proletariat needs to make world revolution and to reorganize the world without bourgeois nation-states. One step toward doing that would be for Jews (and all others who support the equal welfare of Jews) to give up the reactionary attempt to set up and expand this dangerous, inhuman Zionist state which itself foments still more national hatreds, and even leads to ethnic-cleansing and genocide against Palestinians. Surely most Jews do not really believe that there is something about their ethnicity, religion or culture that makes it impossible for them to live peacefully in a democratic world alongside other people! Certainly revolutionary working class Jews mostly do not believe such a deplorable thing. And we Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, from whatever national or cultural heritage and background, are determined to unite together in revolutionary struggle against capitalist-imperialism and all its associated national enmities, including Zionism. —S.H. [Dec. 16, 2023]
See also the entries below, and: “ARABOUSHIM”, BALFOUR DECLARATION, CHRISTIAN ZIONISM, “GREATER ISRAEL”, ISRAEL, NAKBA, PALESTINE, “TWO-STATE SOLUTION”
ZIONISM — and the Creation of Israel
As history actually developed, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Britain took control of Palestine (which then included what is now Jordan), along with a lot more of the Middle East. [See: Sykes-Picot Carve-Up] So it was British imperialism that allowed, and initially encouraged, the Zionists to start to implement their colonization plan by sending more and more Jewish settlers to Palestine after World War I. For a brief discussion of Britain’s imperialist and antisemitic motives for encouraging Jewish migration to Palestine, see the entry Balfour Declaration. And it should be well noted that Zionism has only been successful in creating the state of Israel because of the bizarre alliance of both Jewish Zionists and European antisemitic governments who wanted at that time to get rid of the Jews in their own countries. There were, and continue to be, many non-Jewish Zionists! There are many fundamentalist Christians in the U.S., for example, who strongly support Zionism, some for the inane reason that, based on their reading of the Bible, they think this will be a sign of (or even help advance) the supposed “Second Coming” of Jesus! And as mentioned in the main entry above, even Adolf Hitler and the Nazis supported aspects of the general idea of Zionism at one point.
As virtually everyone knows, the German Nazi regime was responsible for terrible crimes against Jews including horrifying mass murders and ultimately systematic genocide, as well as similarly evil crimes against many others (and especially the Slavic peoples). Though their crimes against Jews began in the 1930s, they became totally horrendous during World War II itself, with even the establishment of many extermination camps. All of this terrible and worsening situation led, in reaction, to further vastly increased support for the Zionist idea among Jews, and increased Jewish immigration into Palestine during the 1930s, and later.
Before long this immigration, and the growing appropriation of more and more Palestinian land by the immigrant Jews, led to increasing violence between Jews and Arabs. This in turn led to Jews setting up their own paramilitary force, the Haganah, to fight against the Palestinian resistance. The Haganah became the nucleus for the Israeli military (the so-called “Israeli Defense Forces” or IDF) when Israel was formally established in 1948. And worse yet, openly pro-fascist Jewish terrorist groups arose, including the Irgun [see Wikipedia entry] which operated from 1931-1948, and then later the initially openly pro-Nazi (really!!) Lehi (or Stern Gang) terrorist group, which operated from 1940-1948. [See Wikipedia entry] While the main Zionist military force, the Haganah, was more “moderate” in comparison with Irgun and the Stern Gang, over time it also became more and more engaged in what was basically an anti-democratic (i.e., also fascist) program of violence designed to oppress, expel, or kill Palestinians. The Zionist program has always been inherently anti-democratic, in essence, toward the Palestinians, from its very conception and still in the present day. The very idea of establishing a “Jewish state” requires at least the severe limitation of democracy for non-Jews, if not its total absence.
It should have been obvious to everyone that Zionism and increasing Jewish immigration into Palestine was destined to lead to more and more violence, and eventually to an outright national war between two peoples, and possibly even eventually war to the death for one or both of these peoples. It should have been obvious from the start. But it is amazing how in bourgeois politics (and Zionism, as an openly anti-democratic nationalist movement, is bourgeois politics if anything is), what should be obvious with regard to its eventual course over the long run is rarely actually so for many people in the early stages. Thus it is only in bitter retrospect that Zionism is now appropriately becoming seen by growing numbers of people in the world as the inherent oppression, ethnic cleansing, and outright genocide of Palestinians that it inevitably became.
Further information about the formation of Israel in 1948, and the role of U.S. imperialism (and also of the then-socialist Soviet Union!) in promoting this, will be added here later. We will try to especially focus on the Nakba, the great number of murders and the violent forced expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their own land by the Zionist terrorists.
One of the greatest and most depressing ironies of history is that the Jews, who have historically been so horribly treated by Christian Europeans, have so often supported Zionism to one degree or another, and have themselves turned around and done something very similar to the Palestinians. In both cases the actions have at times reached the level of open and systematic genocide, as is once again obvious to any reasonable person watching the horrifying bombings and massacres by the Israeli military in Gaza after the October 7, 2023, Hamas-led uprising gave Israel a new “excuse” to attack all Palestinians.
Zionists are always outraged when the all-too-glaring analogies between what they are doing to the Palestinians, and what the Nazis did to them, are pointed out. But this is a plain fact to see for anyone not blinded by their own self-serving ideology. And perhaps even more ironically, these two sets of vicious bourgeois nationalist crimes developed more or less together. Even in the 1930s the Zionists in Palestine were already seeking to “cleanse” the country of Palestinians, to work to push them out; even as the Nazis were doing the same to them in Germany. And while the Israeli Zionists have not used gas chambers to exterminate Palestinians, they do in fact use campaigns of massive military bombings to effect the same result. To those of us on the outside of all this, we just don’t see a whole lot of difference between the murderous actions of the Nazis against the Jews and those of the Israeli Zionists against the Palestinians. Both things horrify and totally disgust us and make us want to get rid of this damned nationalist-based capitalist system completely. —S.H. [Feb. 3, 2024]
[A Zionist Defense: “Why Israel Must Be a Jewish State”, by Alan G. Futerman & Walter
E. Block, a column in The Wall Street Journal, as summarized in The Week magazine, Dec. 29, 2023
- Jan. 5, 2024), page 14. Followed by our response.]
‘Before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, said Alan G. Futerman and Walter E. Block, Jews everywhere were largely defenseless against the persecution and mass murder that marred “Jewish history for 2,000 years.” Wherever Jews fled, they established communities and thrived for a time, and then were “robbed, attacked, murdered, or expelled.” European Crusaders massacred thousands of Jews in 1096. The Spanish Inquisition expelled or killed tens of thousands more. Russian pogroms, riots in the Arab world, and Nazi extermination camps all taught Jews the same grim lesson: “The possibility, the probability, of violent death was always there.” After the Holocaust’s systematic murder of 6 million Jews, it became clear to Jews—and the world—that the only way to “assure Jewish survival” was “a Jewish state.” In creating a “national homeland,” Zionism finally gave Jews “the power to defend themselves,” to collectively fight back against those who seek their destruction. Hamas’ barbaric slaughter on Oct. 7 —the result of Israel dropping its guard—was a deeply alarming reminder of “what it means to be Jewish without Israel, and especially without the Israel Defense Forces.” We will never go back.’
[An MLM response:] What an argument! In effect it is claiming that the only way to prevent genocidal attacks on Jews, is to set up and expand a Jewish state, even though the only way of actually doing that is by means of genocidal attacks on Palestinians! Somehow the past history of attacks and genocide against Jews supposedly makes the continuing genocide against Palestinians necessary! Such a view is outrageously wrong and outrageously immoral. And the really ironic thing is that the existence and expansion of the Zionist state of Israel is itself now actually the primary source of the greatest dangers to Jews in the Middle East and around the world.
Yes, the religious wars in Europe over past centuries were horrible. And the original leading force behind that carnage was fanatical Christianity, and its intolerance for other religions, Judaism, Islam, and all others; and even occurred between Catholicism and Protestantism within Christianity itself! In addition, fanatical Christianity was similarly deathly opposed to atheism and much of science too. But in the world today Christian fanaticism is vastly reduced, and its ability to instigate new religious wars and widespread murderous campaigns against non-Christians (and Jews in particular) has almost disappeared. Instead, today the new source of extreme anger towards Jews comes from the Arab world, and is virtually entirely the result of the vicious Zionist attacks on Palestinians and other Arabs by the Jewish state of Israel. Thus the summary article above which appeared in full in the Wall Street Journal has it exactly wrong. The existence of the Zionist state of Israel, and its continuing oppression of Palestinians and murderous attacks on them is now by far the most important source of antisemitism and dangers for Jewish people. Anyone who is at all sensible about trying to stop attacks on Jews should begin by working to stop the Zionist attacks on Palestinians and others, which in turn provoke those generally justified attacks on Israel. —S.H.
ZIONISM — and Imperialism
As mentioned in the above entries, Zionists could not have been successful in forcibly establishing the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine without the limited support of first British imperialism and later, from the 1940s on, without the vastly greater and still continuing military and financial support of U.S. imperialism.
It is true that both of these imperialist powers have wavered at times, and opposed some specific violent or reckless actions by Jewish settlers in the pre-1948 era, or by Israel once it was established, sometimes even forcing Israel “back into line” and to remember that it is subservient to the great powers who really run this capitalist-imperialist world. Thus the Big Boss, the United States, forced both Israel and Britain and France to back down and retreat in the 1956 Suez Crisis.
But it also does happen at times that the fanatically determined Zionists force events on their imperialist backers that those dominating imperialists would rather have avoided. On occasion, the “tail really does wag the dog”, as the saying goes; and the dogs are pushed to do things they would like to avoid in order to hang on to their very useful tails! So, for example, U.S. imperialism at present (early 2024) would really like Israel to more or less accept the status quo, the continued existence of several million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank areas, and even allow some compliant Palestinian government to be set up as a weak and subservient Palestinian state in those areas. But all reactionaries, including Israeli Zionists, seize upon opportunities as they arise to expand and extend their power and areas of control. So, just as U.S. imperialism used the excuse of the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda in the U.S. to invade Iraq and seize more complete control of its oil resources (even though Iraq had nothing at all to do with those 9/11 attacks), so did the Israeli Zionists seize upon the Hamas-led uprising against them on October 7, 2023, to start a major genocidal attack against the Palestinians in general, by attempting to destroy Gaza as an area where Palestinians could continue to exist, and at the same time to step up their efforts to force the Palestinians out of the West Bank as well.
Thus what is called by Zionists, imperialists and other reactionaries, as the “War between Hamas and Israel”, is really in essence yet another in the long series of genocidal massacres of Palestinians designed to push the rest of them completely out of Palestine, and at the same time to further expand the Zionist state in the direction of the long-time goal of a “Greater Israel”. As of early 2024 it looks like the Israeli Zionists are refusing to acquiesce in U.S. imperialist desires to maintain the possibility of some fanciful “two-state solution” in Palestine, and are in the process of gradually making that proclaimed American goal obviously impossible even to the eyes of the U.S. imperialists. And if they don’t succeed this time, there will still be other opportunities later.
Something that is not always recognized is that in the modern capitalist-imperialist era, especially since World War II, all capitalists and capitalist states operate as imperialists to the extent they can get away with it! There is a world capitalist system in which capitalists from almost all countries can participate, to one degree or another. There is a world capitalist market in which nearly all countries can participate (though the U.S. is constantly trying to tighten the restrictions on its most worrisome competitors, and especially China and Russia). Even individual capitalists in tiny and extremely poor countries can engage in one of the hallmarks of capitalist-imperialism (as Lenin pointed out), namely the export of capital. The tiny and miserably poor country of Nepal has at present just one billionaire, but that one billionaire invests much of his money in other countries and directly benefits from his personal participation in the present world capitalist-imperialist system—even if Nepal as a nation, and overall, certainly does not benefit from it! Most countries of the world today are still more the victims of imperialism than ones where even their own ruling class in general benefits from it. Still, there are some countries, such as India and Brazil, where the ruling classes are both restrained and maintained as compradors by world imperialism to some degree, but where they are beginning to escape those restraints and join in the more systematic imperialist plunder of the rest of the world themselves. These are the nations we refer to as sub-imperialist.
And the Zionist state of Israel, specifically, is behaving in a more and more sub-imperialist or even outright openly imperialist sort of way. Even just from the territorial perspective, the Israeli Zionists have step-by-step expanded their area of political control over the decades. And they have great hopes and plans for massively expanding their current realm in the future into what Zionists have from the beginning referred to as a “Greater Israel”, sometimes described as extending from the Nile to the Euphrates. They have their own nuclear weapons, and are said to now be rapidly building a lot more. They are rather obviously preparing for eventual major wars with other countries in the region, most notably at present, with Iran. We do not know what the precise final consequences of such wars and imperial ambitions will be, but one very serious possibility is the death of millions of people in the region, and even the eventual complete military destruction of whole countries such as both Iran and Israel itself. It will probably take a series of ever-more murderous wars, some almost certainly involving nuclear weapons, to lead to such a horrifying result. Those Jews in Israel and around the world who support Zionism should really try to think through what all this Zionist imperialist fanaticism might well eventually result in, and just what the final terrifying consequences might turn out to be! —S.H. [Feb. 4, 2024]
ZIONISTS — “Liberal” vs. “Right-Wing”
[To be added soon.]
A term which rapidly spread in usage in the U.S. in late 2008 and early 2009, during the financial crisis marking the beginning of the Great Recession. It refers to a company or bank which is one of the “living dead”, i.e., a company which is either already insolvent, or else which will soon become so, and which will therefore go bankrupt before long. (See also below.)
A bank that for the time being appears to be healthy and operating normally, but which is actually insolvent, and which will eventually collapse (and either go bankrupt or be bailed out by the government). ‘Insolvent’ means having liabilities greater than the reasonable market value of the assets held. But the trouble is that 1) the real market value of assets in turbulent economic times is difficult to determine, and 2) the real market value of assets can rapidly drop when the asset bubble of which they are a part suddenly pops. This is what happened to banks and other financial institutions when the sub-prime mortgage housing bubble began to pop in late 2007.
Although only 25 banks failed in the U.S. in 2008, and “only” another 100 had failed by mid-October of 2009, in February 2009 an expert in this sphere, Gerard Cassidy, estimated that as many as 1,000 more banks might fail over the next 3 to 5 years. (Unless they were bailed out by the U.S. government, which is what mostly ended up happening.)
Now in the period beginning in late 2023 there are once again a large number of zombie banks in the U.S. and in many other countries, caused this time in part by the quantitative tightening by central banks. This is being done to lower inflation rates, but it also serves to raise prevailing interest rates and indirectly lower the value of bank assets which were bought when interest rates were artificially low. In the next financial crisis (proably not too far away), there will again be either a new rash of bank failures and/or a massive new round of bank bailouts by the Federal Reserve. [Updated: Dec. 30, 2023]
An idea, position or claim which has been thoroughly refuted by overwhelming evidence and solid argument, which has been totally demolished in both theory and practice, and which despite this, is still championed by some benighted individual or group. That is, an idea which should be dead but which for a time won’t stay dead; one which keeps popping up again and again. A fine example of such a zombie idea is the notion that capitalism can be made to serve the interests of the people. The bourgeoisie and its ideologists keep arguing for this absurd idea despite capitalism’s severe crises and the unending misery under this system for billions of people.
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