Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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1. [Traditionally:] A Hindu religious retreat, or secluded dwelling of a Hindu sage.
2. [Contemporary secular sense in India:] A residential school.


A serious financial and economic crisis that struck many East Asian capitalist economies in 1997-98, and lingering in some countries beyond that period. It was triggered by the collapse of the Thai currency, the baht, and then spread to many other countries. Among the countries affected in a major way, besides Thailand, were South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia. It also expanded beyond Asia to Brazil and Russia, and briefly threatened to become a worldwide financial and economic crisis. This crisis destroyed a massive amount of “wealth” (a large part of which was actually
fictitious capital). China was only slightly affected because most of the foreign investment there was in the form of physical factories resistant to the rapid flight of financial capital (or “hot money”).

“In the banking system alone, corporate loans equivalent to around half of one year’s GDP went bad—a destruction of savings on a scale more usually associated with a full-scale war.... The crisis brought an end to a then widespread belief that there was a distinct ‘Asian way’ of capitalism that might prove just as successful as capitalism in the United States or Europe.” —Matthew Bishop, Essential Economics: An A-Z Guide (2009), pp. 25-26.

Bourgeois economists cannot agree on the precise immediate causes of the Asian Financial Crisis. Among the proposed causes were the inadequate financial reserves that many of the affected countries possessed, the fact that some of them had their currencies pegged to the dollar, the loosening of controls on the movement of capital between countries (part of the changes related to the new wave of globalization), and the relatively weak and poorly regulated banking systems in many of the countries. Looking at the situation from a longer and more fundamental perspective, however, we see that the basic causes were the weakening international economy which was approaching a new acute phase of the long-developing overproduction crisis, and an attempt to make up for this through ever-expanding financial speculation across international borders.

An international bank established by capitalist-imperialist China in the summer of 2015, but with the initial participation of more than 50 other countries, for the nominal purpose of promoting the development of the economies of all the countries of Asia. By October 1, 2017, more than 80 countries are associated with this bank, and it has already funded 28 major development projects.
        Major development banks already previously existed, including the
World Bank (controlled by the U.S. imperialists and their closest allies) and the Asian Development Bank (dominated by Japanese imperialism). But the ruling classes in many countries, even though they are themselves capitalists, resent the fact that these banks are designed more to serve the exploitative interests of foreign imperialists than to really promote economic development around the world. Consequently they readily co-operated with China in setting up the alternative AIIB, not realizing that China has done this primarily to promote its own imperialist exploitation of other countries in Asia, and to guide the development of the infrastructure in other Asian countries in ways which promote China’s own economy first and foremost.
        Of course the U.S. and Japanese imperialists strongly resent this poaching by China on turf which they formerly totally dominated, and both the U.S. and Japan have refused to join the AIIB. This is yet another sign that the world imperialist financial institutions set up after the victory of the Allied Bloc at the end of World War II are now in the process of being replaced by institutions under separate and competing imperialist control.

“The nightmare scenario of U.S. geopolitical strategists seems to be coming true: foreign economic independence from U.S. control. Instead of privatizing and neoliberalizing the world under U.S.-centered financial planning and ownership, the Russian and Chinese governments are investing in neighboring economies on terms that cement Eurasian economic integration on the basis of Russian oil and tax exports and Chinese financing. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) threatens to replace the IMF and World Bank programs that favor U.S. suppliers, banks and bondholders (with the United States holding unique veto power).”
         —Michael Hudson, “The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia”, CounterPunch.org, Dec. 18, 2015.

“America’s recent New Cold War maneuvering [against Russia and China] has shown that the two Bretton Woods institutions [the IMF and the World Bank] are unreformable. It is easier to create new institutions such as the A.I.I.B. than to retrofit old and ill-designed ones burdened with the legacy of their vested founding interests.” —Michael Hudson, ibid.

[Speaking of the AIIB as a rival to both the IMF and World Bank:] “If the IMF’s rival is heavily under China’s influence, countries receiving its support will rebuild their economies under what is effectively Chinese guidance, increasing the likelihood they will fall directly or indirectly under that country’s influence.”
         —Richard Koo, Nomura Securities chief economist, “EU refuses to acknowledge mistakes made in Greek bailout”, Nomura, July 14, 2015. [Quoted in Michel Hudson article cited above.]

A collective name for a number of capitalist countries in East Asia which during the late 20th century, and before the Asian Financial Crisis of the mid 1990s and the great rise of capitalist China, were considered to be an amazing example of the productive power of unfettered capitalism. The four countries (or regions) most often referred to by this name were South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, but Thailand was often also included and occasionally Malaysia. The brief, but severe, Asian Financial Crisis [see above] tarnished the reputations of the Asian Tiger economies, and the even greater rise of mainland China at their expense, together with the world economic crisis which took a major turn for the worse in 2008, has already led to their eclipse. Thus the term “Asian Tigers” is less commonly used now than it used to be, and when it is still used it often has a somewhat ironic connotation.

[To be added... ]

A weapon (or set of weapons) which changes the nature of a struggle and allows a weaker combatant to overcome the seemingly insurmountable power of the stronger combatant. The concept comes from Chinese folklore where an ancient hero had a club, or mace, and was so skilled in its use that he could smash an opponent’s flailing sword—and then his head! An equivalent tale in Western folklore is the biblical story of David and Goliath where the underdog David was able to defeat the lumbering monster Goliath with a well-aimed stone from David’s sling smashing into Goliath’s forehead.
        The modern parallel is a result of the tendency of established powers to think in terms of fighting new inter-imperialist wars with the successful methods used in “the last war”. In World War II the German use of Blitzkrieg tactics, involving attacks by fast-moving Panzer armored tanks, quickly overpowered Anglo-French resistance based on the sort of fortified lines which prevailed in World War I. The Panzer divisions were Germany’s “Assassin’s Mace”. Similarly,
aircraft carriers employed by both Japan and the U.S. quickly overpowered the opposing battleships which had dominated the seas in previous wars. Today, aircraft carriers are still very useful for imperialist powers in their perpetual wars against “Third World” nations, but they can now be fairly easily sunk by the advanced technologies available to other major imperialist powers, such as cruise and ballistic missiles, and rocket-powered torpedoes (for which there are no known countermeasures). Where once aircraft carriers functioned as an Assassin’s Mace, now they are themselves vulnerable to a new Assassin’s Mace.
        Using an Assassin’s Mace is one the many ways of fighting an asymmetric war.

“Even though the original Assassin’s Mace of legend was a single weapon, today’s Assassin’s Mace is a whole arsenal of asymmetric weapons. ‘To build an Assassin’s Mace,’ writes Yang Zhibo, a senior colonel in China’s air force, ‘China must first complete a development program. It is a difficult, systematic process and not just one or two advanced weapons. It is something that all the services will use. It is an all-army, all-location, composite land, sea, and air system.’” —Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (2015), p. 147.

ASSEMBLY — Freedom Of


[In 1967 Roger Rapoport, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, got a job for just one week on one of the newest Ford automobile assembly lines, just to see what it was like to work there. He was shocked by the reality of it all!]
        “Working on the line is gruelling and frustrating, and while it may be repetitive, it’s not simple. I learned at first-hand why 250,000 auto workers are unhappy about working conditions. I’m in fairly good physical shape, but I ached all over after each day’s work on the line. Nobody seemed to take any particular pride in his work.” —Wall Street Journal, July 24, 1967.
         [Rapoport described the breakneck speed of the assembly line, the frequent violations of safety rules, the “gulped lunch”, and so forth. The quote and additional information here is taken from Victor Perlo, “Relevance of Marxist Economics to U.S. Conditions”, Political Affairs, CPUSA, Feb. 1969, p. 44. —Ed.]

“[I]t is more advantageous to capital to allow a shorter working day with a maximum intensity of labor, than it is to have a longer day with a lower intensity, for constant capital (particularly the fixed part of it) is in this way better employed, because a certain section of expenditure, lighting, heating, administration, supervision, etc., remains the same whether more or less is produced per day.
         “This explains the tendency of capital to employ a greater amount of labor power in the shortest time. To accomplish this, capitalism has founded a new science, that of scientific management. Piece wages take the place of time rates. The premium system takes the place of simple time rates—that is, an increase in piece rates if a certain height of production is reached. And in place of the premium system, or combined with it, the minimum system, every worker who does not reach a certain minimum of production is dismissed. This is combined with time studies, with the dissection of labor into separate, exactly determined and strictly circumscribed movements of the worker.
         “All this refers to the pre-war period [pre-World War I]. The latest development shows a dialectical change: back to time rates, but in conjunction with the introduction of the travelling belt. The travelling belt in conjunction with ‘serial’ production [one task following serially after another] makes the Taylor system, with all its tremendous supervising and preparatory apparatus, time and movement studies, time cards for each kind of labor and for each worker, entirely superfluous. The travelling belt establishes an automatic control of labor productivity, keeps up the worker to the speed of the travelling belt, enforces a superhuman intensity in the expenditure of labor power. Its employment can be observed in all spheres. Motors and machines move along the travelling belt in just the same way as slaughtered animals in the packing factory, the ingredients in a confectionery works, or the incoming mail at an American sorting station.” —Eugen Varga, The Decline of Capitalism (London: 1928), pp. 26-27.

A major increase in the price of some asset, often very rapid and massive, based primarily on speculation that the prices will continue to increase. The asset could be anything, and there is even one early historical example where it was rare
tulip bulbs! But most often the asset in question is real estate, homes and property, and mortgages and other securities which are backed up by real estate. Or else asset bubbles in stock prices and financial derivatives, which are also very common, and even necessary to modern capitalism.
        Asset bubbles are usually associated with easy access to credit and the rapid expansion of debt as speculators sometimes borrow as fast as they can to get in on the “sure thing”. But in the end, asset bubbles virtually always pop, perhaps only partially for the time being, perhaps completely.
        See also below, and: HOUSING BUBBLE

The policy of the
Federal Reserve and the U.S. government in general of promoting the ever-rising prices of investments, especially real estate and the stock market, in order to improve the psychology of wealthy and “middle class” consumers in particular, so that—because they believe they are getting richer—they are willing to go more deeply into debt, buy more things, and thus keep the U.S. economy from sinking into even more serious difficulties than it is already in. In other words, this is the government policy of promoting asset bubbles in real estate and the stock market! That the government would actually do such a thing is proof that this is a strategy of desperation, promoted only because the ruling class authorities have so few options left to try to keep the economy from sinking into recession or depression.
        It once was the case that the Fed (Federal Reserve) tried to keep the prevailing interest rates for bank depositors in the middle range (of say 3% to 5%), and other interest rates similarly in their middle ranges. This allowed them to temporarily raise interest rates somewhat when inflation got worrisome, or to lower interest rates when the economy weakened seriously. But with the 2008 Great Recession, and ever since, the U.S. economy has become so weak that the Fed had to lower interest rates almost to zero, and to essentially keep them there. This means that it is very difficult to promote investment and spending by further lowering interest rates. (See, however, NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES). But, from the perspective of the bourgeoisie, it means something even more unpleasant: financial capitalists can no longer make huge incomes from relatively safe bank deposits and through normal loans at prevailing interest rates. This situation has had the effect of forcibly shifting much financial capital into vastly more speculative areas, including asset bubbles in the stock market, in financial derivatives and in real estate. These have now become the biggest arenas for accumulating large and quick profits.
        However, this has in turn also meant that the government has been forced to change its attitude toward the most important asset bubbles. From (quite reasonably) thinking of the biggest bubbles as frightening and dangerous, and to be down-sized at all costs, the ruling class has now done a 180° turn and is now doing all that it can to promote these bubbles, to foster their perpetuation (if not their rapid expansion), and, most importantly, to do everything they possibly can to keep them from popping. It is a very dangerous game they are playing, and a few of them even know it. But they recognize that this is what must be done in order to advance the interests of the bourgeoisie, and especially of the powerful finance capitalists. And, after all, that is what these government officials are there for in this society.
        See also: WEALTH EFFECT

An organization of 10 countries in Southeast Asia established for the purpose of promoting economic growth and regional stability. Starting in 1997 it has also hosted a forum known as ASEAN Plus Three (APT), which includes China, Japan and South Korea.

[In bourgeois economics:] The differences in knowledge about the real situation between the parties to an economic exchange or transaction. (This allows one party to in effect cheat the other, though bourgeois economists shy away from such characterizations!)

The use of different weapons or strategy and tactics by one side in a war as compared with those used by the other side. Or as Mao put it: “You fight in your way, we’ll fight in ours.” The implication is that one of the two sides will in the end have a clear advantage because of more appropriate weaponry or strategy in that situation.
        See also:

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