“DEAD CAT BOUNCE”
A false or merely temporary recovery in the stock market or in some other form of bourgeois financial speculation. Typically in a major crisis there is a huge stock market crash fairly early in the process, and then a long period of further, more gradual decline. But some speculators (“investors”) will have money on hand from earlier stock sales or from other sources and will assume that the crisis is not really as bad as it is. They will want to buy stocks near their low prices in order to “make a killing” as the market recovers. Often they are so anxious not to miss this “golden opportunity” for a speculator that they will jump in at the first glimmer of hope that there is a stock market turn around, and will thus promote a short-term, false recovery. When it becomes clear that the crisis is continuing and is much more serious than these particular speculators imagined, the market will resume its fall and they will lose additional money. The more serious the economic crisis, the more “dead cat bounces” there will be until the stock market more or less stabilizes for a long period at a quite low level.
“DEAD PEASANTS INSURANCE”
The more and more common practice by big corporations of taking out life insurance policies on their own employees with the beneficiary of these policies being not the worker’s family, but rather the corporation itself! Often this is done even without the knowledge of the worker. If the worker dies, the corporation gets a windfall in the form of a large tax-free payment. Even if the employee does not die, the corporation gets a long-running tax break. “Dead peasants insurance” is a ghoulish term among workers for this very ghoulish practice by corporations—who, it seems, have found a way to continue exploiting workers (or their families) even after their deaths.
“DEATH CEILING” PROGRAM (In Capitalist China)
After Mao Zedong died in 1976, the capitalist-roaders seized power in a coup d’état and then did in fact rapidly transform China back into a capitalist country. One of the great many terrible effects of this hugely negative transformation was the massively worsening health and safety conditions at Chinese workplaces, and the growing numbers of deaths of workers on the job. By 2004 this trend had become so alarming that even the new national bourgeoisie ruling class itself—centered in the (supposedly) “Communist” Party of China—felt that something had to be done about it. The central government sent each province a set of “death ceilings” that, if exceeded, would harm the chance of local government officials getting any promotions. This led to two results: First, it probably led to some gradually improving safety conditions. And second, it undoubtedly led to much more government lying about the actual worker death statistics. As one recent Western study commented: Immediately after the new program began, “For each category of accidental deaths, we observe a sharp discontinuity in reported deaths at the ceiling, suggestive of manipulation.” [Raymond Fisman & Yongxiang Wang, “The Distortionary Effects of Incentives in Government: Evidence from China’s ‘Death Ceiling’ Program”, NBER Working Paper No. 23098, Jan. 2017.]
Despite the statistical lying, even the reported number of worker deaths in China remain very high (though they fall from year to year). For 2009 China’s State Administration of Work Safety reported that 83,196 workers lost their lives in work-related incidents, as compared to 5,071 worker deaths in the U.S. that year (which was outrageous enough!). China’s workforce was about 5 times larger than that in the U.S., but its reported (!) number of worker deaths was 16 times as high.
DEATH FROM OVERWORK
See also: KAROSHI
“Long working hours are killing hundreds of thousands of people a year,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The first global study of its kind showed
745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long hours.
“The report found that people living in South East Asia and the Western Pacific region were the most affected. The WHO also said the trend may worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours. The study, conducted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), also showed almost three quarters of those that died as a result of working long hours were middle-aged or older men. Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked.” —BBC Report, “Long Working Hours Killing 745,000 People a Year, Study Says”, May 17, 2021, online at: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57139434
DEATH PENALTY — In the United States
“[Those who face death sentences in the U.S. are not society’s worst criminals, but rather are] chosen at random, on the basis, perhaps of geography, perhaps of the views of the individual prosecutors, or still worse on the basis of race.” —U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, repeating his call to his fellow Court members to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty, which they refuse to do. “U.S. Supreme Court: Death penalty appeals rejected”, AP report, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 13, 2016, p. A12.
DEATH RATE (MORTALITY RATE)
The rate at which deaths occur in a give country or region, often expressed in terms of the number of people who die in a given year per 1,000 people in the population. A decreasing mortality rate indicates improvement in the life and health of the people, whereas an increasing mortality rate shows the opposite, a decline in their health and life expectancy.
“As of 2017 the crude death rate for the whole world is 8.33 per 1,000 (up from 7.8 per 1,000 in 2016) according to the current CIA World Factbook.” [Wikipedia (Accessed Aug. 17, 2018)]
“The reduction of the death rate is the principal statistical
expression and index of human and social progress.” —Hermann Biggs, 1911, an
American public-health pioneer. Quoted in George Rosen, A History of Public
Health (1958), p. 440.
[Biggs was speaking in a period during the rapid improvement in public health in countries such as the United States. This is the reason for the major reduction of the death rate during that era. If significant improvements in medical care and public health are no longer being made, and things are in stasis (where the population is not growing due to births and immigration), then the number of deaths in an average year will soon increase again to match the number of births. Since general public health and life expectancy in the U.S. and most capitalist countries today is no longer improving—and is actually declining in many cases—we should expect that the death rate will be increasing. The era of “human and social progress” (as defined by Biggs) in capitalist society seems to be coming to a rapid end as the internal contradictions of capitalism become ever more serious. —S.H.]
DEATH SPIRAL (In Insurance Industry)
See: INSURANCE DEATH SPIRAL
An irregular armed group, normally composed of elements either in the direct pay of the military or “security” establishment, or else having close ties with them, that is tasked with eliminating people that the ruling class of a particular state (usually a “Third World” dictatorship) finds bothersome. Death squads became a hallmark of the Latin American regimes—particularly in El Salvador and Guatemala—that were backed and armed by the United States government during the 1970s and 1980s.
The “unofficial” nature of death squads is designed to afford the regime that employs them a degree of “plausible deniability”. Thus these regimes can exact violence on their opponents while claiming that the killings and other atrocities are perpetrated by elements that are “out of control”. The Salwa Judum in India currently acts much like a death squad for the Indian state and its landlord backers against the Naxalites (Maoist guerrillas) and their supporters. Death squads also continue to operate in Colombia under the guise of right-wing paramilitary groups linked to the official military, who are fighting a war against nominally Marxist guerrillas called the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). The use of death squads is one example of terrorism that is employed by the bourgeoisie to intimidate and suppress proletarian and peasant movements fighting for justice. —L.C.
DEBORIN, Abram [Abram Moiseyevich Ioffe] (1881-1963)
Influential Soviet philosopher whose views led to considerable ideological debate and criticism in the 1920s and 1930s.
Deborin became a Bolshevik in 1903, but in 1907 joined the Mensheviks as one of Plekhanov’s followers in both politics and philosophy. He received a degree from the philosophy department of Bern University in Switzerland in 1908. After the October Revolution in 1917, Deborin left the Mensheviks and began lecturing in philosophy at Sverdlov University, the Institute of Red Professors and the Institute of Philosophy. He was soon given some editorial responsibilities at the philosophy journal Under the Banner of Marxism, and was the editor in chief from 1926 to 1931. One of the major campaigns of the journal during this period was the ideological struggle against religion and idealism in Soviet life. In 1928 Deborin was admitted into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Deborin was one of the early promoters of the term dialectical materialism (first used by Joseph Dietzgen in Germany in 1887 and in Russia by Plekhanov in 1891 and by Lenin in 1894) as the designation for Marxist philosophy, and published an article with this title in 1909. Lenin read this article and was evidently quite unimpressed with its contents, though he did not make extensive comments on it. [See LCW 38:477-485]
In 1923 Deborin published one of the few serious studies of Ludwig Feuerbach that was written in the Soviet Union. He greatly overstated his case that Feuerbach was an important philosopher by saying at the end of the first edition that Marxism itself is a variety of “Feuerbachism” (a claim dropped in subsequent editions).
Deborin led one of the two main trends in Marxist philosophy in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and early 1930s, the trend that was called the “dialecticians” (or, later when it was criticized, the “Deborinists”). This trend promoted Hegelian-style dialectics, which often had an idealist flavor to it. The other trend, called the “mechanists”, was led by Lyubov Axelrod who used the pen name “Orthodox”. Nikolai Bukharin was viewed as an ally of the “mechanists”, though he had some differences with them. The “dialecticians” emphasized the role of dialectics in dialectical materialism, whereas the “mechanists” tended to downplay dialectics and emphasized the role of materialism in Marxist philosophy. Some of the mechanists went so far as to deny the existence of any separate and distinctive Marxist philosophy; they, instead, simply viewed natural science as the worldview of Marxism. Thus it appears that Deborin was overall more correct in this dispute than were his opponents, though there seems to have been one-sidedness and error on his part as well. In particular, though Deborin championed dialectics, it seems that there were some serious idealist aspects to his conception of dialectics. [See for example the Mao quotations below.]
Deborin and his followers demanded that Marxist philosophy should guide scientific research, which is actually a correct stance in a Marxist-led society. However, there are serious dangers associated with this policy if it is applied simplistically and dogmatically. This later became all too apparent in the form of Lysenkoism.
On January 25, 1931, Stalin and the Central Committee of the CPSU issued a statement establishing an orthodoxy in the Soviet Union as to how dialectical materialism was to be viewed, and criticizing Deborin as a “Menshevizing idealist”. (This official doctrine was later further codified in Stalin’s 1938 article “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”.) One of the specific criticisms of Deborin was that he had distorted the relationship of Marx and Marxism to Feuerbach.
After this criticism Deborin wrote and published fewer and fewer works, and then almost nothing between 1935 and 1956. From 1935 to 1945, however, he was a member of the prestigious Presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. During the Khrushchev period his articles began to reappear, and in 1961 a major collection of his articles was published.
“The criticism to which the idealism of the Deborin school has been subjected in Soviet philosophical circles in recent years has aroused great interest among us. Deborin’s idealism has exerted a very bad influence in the Chinese Communist Party, and it cannot be said that the dogmatist thinking in our Party is unrelated to the approach of that school. Our present study of philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main objective.” —Mao, “On Contradiction” (Aug. 1937), SW 1:311.
“Thus it is already clear that contradiction exists universally
and in all processes, whether in the simple or in the complex forms of motion,
whether in objective phenomena or ideological phenomena. But does contradiction
also exist at the initial stage of each process? Is there a movement of opposites
from beginning to end in the process of development of every single thing?
“As can be seen from the articles written by Soviet philosophers criticizing it, the Deborin school maintains that contradiction appears not at the inception of a process but only when it has developed to a certain stage. If this were the case, then the cause of the development of the process before that stage would be external and not internal. Deborin thus reverts to the metaphysical theories of external causality and of mechanism. Applying this view in the analysis of concrete problems, the Deborin school sees only differences but not contradictions between the kulaks and the peasants in general under existing conditions in the Soviet Union, thus entirely agreeing with Bukharin. In analyzing the French Revolution, it holds that before the Revolution there were likewise only differences but not contradictions within the Third Estate, which was composed of the workers, the peasants and the bourgeoisie. These views of the Deborin school are anti-Marxist. This school does not understand that each and every difference already contains contradiction and that difference itself is contradiction. Labor and capital have been in contradiction ever since the two classes came into being, only at first the contradiction had not yet become intense. Even under the social conditions existing in the Soviet Union, there is a difference between workers and peasants and this very difference is a contradiction, although, unlike the contradiction between labor and capital, it will not become intensified into antagonism or assume the form of class struggle; the workers and the peasants have established a firm alliance in the course of socialist construction and are gradually resolving the contradiction in the course of the advance from socialism to communism. The question is one of different kinds of contradiction, not of the presence or absence of contradiction. Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the process of development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end. —Mao, “On Contradiction” (Aug. 1937), SW 1:317-318.
DEBS, Eugene Victor (1855-1926)
Originally a conservative American labor leader who became quite radicalized by his experiences seeking fairness and justice for railroad workers. He resigned from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and in 1893 founded the American Railway Union, an industrial-style union along the lines of the later CIO. While in jail for 6 months in 1895 for leading a strike, he read the Communist Manifesto for the first time and his thinking began gradually shifting toward socialism. As the new Socialist Party of America took shape Debs became a prominent leader, and then a leader of the left wing of the Party. He ran for President on behalf of the Socialist Party five times. In 1912 he won amost a million votes, about 6% of the total cast. In 1905 Debs also took part in organizing the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
When World War I started in Europe Debs took a strong stand against American participation, and this firm opposition to the war continued after the U.S. entered it. In one of his speeches he said:
“I am not a capitalist soldier; I am a proletarian revolutionist. I am opposed to every war but one; I am for that war with heart and soul, and that is the world wide war of the social revolution. In that war, I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary, even to the barricades.” [Quoted in the Encyclopedia of the American Left (1990), p. 186.]
The bourgeoisie could not tolerate that sort of firm opposition, and Debs was
arrested for sedition in June 1918 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While in
prison Debs was once again the Socialist Party candidate for President. His
followers wore buttons which proclaimed “Vote for Prisoner 9653”. And many people
did vote for him. He received more than 900,000 votes, almost as many as in 1912.
When the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia in 1917, Debs came out as an enthusiastic supporter of it. He was a great American revolutionary socialist leader.
See also: PARENTS [Quote by Debs’s parents]
“They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing people. This is too much, even for a joke. But it is not a subject for levity; it is an exceedingly serious matter.” —Eugene V. Debs, “The Canton, Ohio, Anti-War Speech”, June 16, 1918, online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1918/canton.htm
[Intro to be added...]
The graph at the right shows the ratio of all forms of debt in the United States to the size of the economy (GDP). This includes mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and all other types of consumer debt; business debt; and government debt.
See also: CREDIT, GLOBAL DEBT, LEVERAGE, DELEVERAGING
“The ‘crack cocaine’ of our generation appears to be debt. We just
can’t seem to get enough of it. And, every time it looks like the U.S. consumer
may be approaching his maximum tolerance level, somebody figures out how to lever
on even more debt using some new and more complex financing. For years, I have
watched this levering up process, often noting that it was taking an ever increasing
amount of debt to produce a dollar’s worth of GDP growth.” —Jeff Saut, capitalist
financier, Sept. 2007. From Kevin Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed
Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (2008).
[Note that in fact the debt bubble could not really keep expanding for ever, even though it appeared for a time to some boosters of debt that it might! And the problem was not the tolerance level of consumers for ever expanding debt, but rather the tolerance level for the capitalists who were loaning ever more money to consumers. It eventually became clear to them that much of this debt was never going to be paid back. That’s when the bubble began to burst. —S.H.]
A term coined by the early 20th century bourgeois economist Irving Fisher to refer to the situation where the price of commodities is falling faster than debts are being reduced, which thus has the effect of increasing the effective debt burden (because existing debts must be repaid with money that is gaining in value relative to commodities). This is a common phenomenon in severe capitalist overproduction crises and their accompanying financial crises.
DEBT TO GDP RATIO
The ratio of the all the debt in a country to its annual Gross Domestic Product. This is one of the key indicators of whether or not a country’s debt has become dangerously large. [See graph to the above right for the history of this ratio in the U.S.]
The ratio of just government debt to GDP is another important indicator of the economic stability of a country. As of the spring of 2010 the highest governmental debt to GDP ratio in the advanced capitalist countries is that of Japan which has surpassed 190% and is still rapidly growing. That ratio would be totally disastrous in most countries, but since most of Japan’s government debt is owed to Japanese citizens and corporations, it is somewhat less dangerous than it would otherwise be. Nevertheless it is has become quite alarming and is probably not sustainable for much longer.
The debt to GDP ratio has become dangerously high in many countries but is still growing fast almost everywhere. A new phase in the developing world economic crisis will occur when it becomes impossible for one or more major countries to continue to expand their government debt. The Greek debt crisis of May 2010 was just a forewarning of what is to come on a much grander scale.
DEBT & PRODUCTION RATIOS TO GDP
The comparative ratios of debt to GDP and goods production to GDP, as they develop over time. In the graph at the right we see that in the U.S. economy debt has been climbing ever faster in relation to GDP, while the production of goods (as opposed to financial and other services) has been falling as a percentage of GDP. [From: John Bellamy Foster & Fred Magdoff, The Great Financial Crisis (2009), p. 20.] This was a sure sign of impending financial crisis.
Revolutionaries of the Russian nobility who opposed the autocratic monarchy and serfdom. They organized an unsuccessful revolt in December 1825.
DECENTRALIZATION IN PRODUCTION
It is often imagined by bourgeois ideologists that one of the greatest strengths of the capitalist mode of production is that it is highly decentralized, whereas in their view the socialist or communist mode of production is fatally hobbled by its supposed near-total centralization dictated by the overall economic plan. They view the market as the only reliable way to deal with the need to co-ordinate economic production in all its great complexity. And they condemn what they call a “command economy” (in which factories produce goods according to one overall plan) as hopelessly inefficient and doomed to failure in the end. Moreover, they believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 proves their point. (Though they applaud the political processes of bourgeois class struggle which overthrew socialism in the U.S.S.R. politically, they fail to recognize these same processes as what undermined and destroyed the socialist economy over several decades, and long before that final political collapse.)
But is it really true that the only two alternatives in co-ordinating economic production are: 1) a totally decentralized marketplace based on the exchange of commodities at more or less their labor-based values, or 2) a single totally centralized and absolutely complete economic plan specified down to the exact number of 3/4 inch flat-headed zinc screws to produce on any given day? Actually no. Those sorts of things are caricatures. Neither of those is a real economic alternative in modern society.
One thing to realize here is that capitalism itself makes use of a hell of a lot of high-level economic planning, especially in the modern era of giant corporations, and the partial merger of the capitalist state with “private” enterprise. This planning is based on many factors, such as the existing market size, expectations about the future growth (or decline) of the market, on opportunities to undercut competitors because of their own new production processes, on guesses about the future state of the overall capitalist economy, on the financial situation of the corporation, and on and on. In short there is also a lot of economic planning under capitalism. (The big questions, though, are how rational is that planning and that entire capitalist system, and—most importantly—just which class benefits from it!)
Another thing to realize here is that a socialist economic plan does not have to be absolutely precise, and can (for example) be largely based on modifications and improvements of previous plans. Moreover, while there can and must be an overall economic plan, that is not enough. There also needs to be many subsidiary plans and mechanisms for specific industries, for individual enterprises, and quite possibly for specific departments and on smaller levels even than that.
There is a fundamental philosophical principle here that applies to the control of all forms of modern economic production, and is even far more general than just in economics: The management and control of any extremely complex process must include both centralized aspects and many decentralized aspects. These two contraries constitute the opposing poles of an abstract dialectical contradiction which controls the overall process.
Think about how the human body is managed for example. There are of course at the top the very centralist controls, our conscious mental decisions, the physical basis for which are neuronal changes taking place in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, that are based on our established goals, our experience, our immediate needs, and so forth. But there are also a vast number of other means of control. One such is simply the habits that people develop, such as of going to bed at roughly the same hour. Then there are skills which one has previously acquired, such as knowing how to drive a car, which help determine what a person can and will do. And the social proclivities, such as the concern for others, or the lack of such concern. Below this level are more automatic means for the internal monitoring and control of the body, such as the automatic and unconscious monitoring of the sugar level in the blood, or the oxygen level, which leads the body to recognize hunger or take a breath. And individual organs like the heart and liver, and even individual cells within these organs, also use feedback and other internal control mechanisms. A really complex entity like the human body must be managed by both centralized overall guidance and also by a vast hierarchical array of decentralized determiners. The centralized guidance can only function if at least most of the multiple sub-control systems are functioning adequately. And the same thing is true of economic production in a complex modern economy.
However, even given that generalization, there are of course vast and essential differences in the situation in socialist production versus capitalist production, including with regard to the types of decentralized control, in their comparative rationality, and especially with regard to who benefits from them, as we will discuss in the entries below. —S.H. [Oct. 14, 2023.]
DECENTRALIZATION — In a Capitalist Economy
[To be added... ]
DECENTRALIZATION — In a Socialist Economy
[To be added... ]
DECENTRALIZATION — In a Socialist Economy: As a Cover for Revisionism
While the control and management of socialist (and communist) economic production do require decentralist aspects as well as centralist aspects (including an overall plan), it is only revisionists and capitalist-roaders who imagine that this means there should be more and more capitalist “reforms” to foster that decentralization! They think that decentralization must necessarily involve the buying and selling of commodities in markets. They dismiss the possibility of any non-capitalist forms of economic decentralization, if they can even imagine such a thing at all!
In the extensive quotation below, the well-known British (supposedly Marxist) political economist Maurice Dobb, tries to justify the beginning series of “reforms” in the direction of capitalism that occurred in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death in 1953. It is interesting to see his arguments and his inability to even consider any alternatives to what amounts to a step-by-step restoration of capitalism.
“As regards industrial management and administration, this [period after Stalin]
was also a period of growing experimentation with more decentralized forms and increasing
emphasis on the strengthening of direct market links between industrial producing units and the
consumer of their products. (Again, this was a tendency that was most marked, and came earliest,
in the production of consumers’ goods, but it is now apparent in heavy industry also where the
consumer is another industrial enterprise, using the product of the former as an input.) These
changes have culminated in the economic reforms announced in September 1965, giving greater
autonomy to industrial enterprises, an emphasis on firmer market links to adapt production to
demand, and the coupling of this with a remodeled incentive system in which bonuses depend on the
financial results achieved by the enterprise.
“This new phase of greater decentralization is, in one sense, a consequence and corollary of ‘maturing.’ With the growth in complexity of the whole system, the ability to control and administer things from the center obviously becomes rapidly less; increasingly more decisions have to be made at lower levels, leaving the central planning bodies and the various industrial ministries to concentrate upon major decisions affecting the main shape and structure of development and the main relations and links between sectors and industries.
“In another sense it is a reaction against the over-centralization of the preceding period. To a large extent centralization was necessary and justified in the earlier ... phase of development and of rapid growth, when the main economic decisions were of a ‘strategic’ kind and major structural changes in the economy at large needed to be engineered and coordinated. But there can be no doubt that it reached a stage where it represented a serious degree of distortion. The habit of getting things done, and remedying anything that goes wrong, by issuing administrative orders from above, instead of using economic instruments and inducements, can harden into a vice, and can have the result of drying up initiative at lower levels. This to a large extent became the case in the postwar period. At any rate, the defects of the older system and methods, product of the second period of which we have spoken [i.e., the period after the NEP —Ed.], became increasingly apparent in the new circumstances of the ’fifties and in face of the new problems of this third period.
“As examples of the much increased complexity of the economy, and hence of planning, one may quote the following summary figures. By the middle ’fifties the number of separate industrial enterprises to be planned for and administered had grown to more than 200,000. The number of product items included in the official list of industrial nomenclature in 1960 reached 15,000; while the bodies that handle supply and sale of the products of various inudstries on a wholesale basis handled more than 10,000 items. (These figures do not even include all industrial products; and if one counted all the various lines, styles, models, etc., as separate products, the total would, of course, come out many times larger.) At the same time, the number of individual ‘balances’ handled by Gosplan in connection with the so-called system of material balances for products, whereby their supply is matched with the demand for them, had more than doubled in the postwar period compared with prewar.”
—Maurice Dobb, “Fifty Years’ Achievement: The First Socialist Economy”, New World Review, “50 Years of the USSR”, Fall, 1967, pp. 81-82.
[A critique of the above: First, with regard to Dobb’s claim: “With the growth in complexity of the whole system, the ability to control and administer things from the center obviously becomes rapidly less; increasingly more decisions have to be made at lower levels,...” This is simply not necessarily true! And the reason for this is that new and improved techniques for the central management of even an economy growing in complexity can (and do!) arise. And most obviously so, much better computers and computer software. It is true that the expansion of precise planning, and especially the “balancing” of the physical production of individual specific goods with their reasonably expected needs and requirements, for more and more items, became a very serious calculation problem in the 1950s (and even before). For example, if one thing in the central production plan is changed, such as the number of cars to be produced, then all sorts of other things must be changed, such as tire production (and thus rubber production...), steel production (for truck frames and bodies as well as engine blocks, etc.), and so forth. Each significant change in the central plan leads to a cascade of other necessary changes. But this is just the sort of thing that computers can be programmed to deal with (including taking into consideration current productive capacities and at least reasonably approximately, how fast production can be expanded for specific products). However, in the 1950s the U.S.S.R. planning apparatus was unable to deal with all that massive and continuing recalculation, and all sorts of glitches developed. A big reason for this was that computers (and computer programs of the appropriate kind) were new on the scene and grossly inadequate for the job at that point. But while the Soviet Union did try to improve these computers and expand their use, they were surprisingly slow and inept in doing so. (This was another example of the long history of the world-quality level of Russian theoretical skills compared to their notorious weaknesses in putting this theory into practical use in production.)
[And even if the Soviet Union planning system was somewhat overwhelmed in the 1950s and later by their inadequate computers and control systems, that of course need not be the case in socialist economic planning any more. Indeed, much of it might well be easily managed by AI systems (similar to GPT-4) these days.
[Second, it is of course true that production should be concentrated on what people and the society need. It is in fact necessary to determine specifically what those needs are. In general terms this is not that difficult: People need more and better housing, more and better food, clothing, etc., more and better education, and so forth. But it is bourgeois thinking gone mad to try to determine the details entirely from current market demands for existing products. A major part of any genuine socialist economic planning is gathering the ideas, desires and opinions directly from the people themselves. Notice that Dobbs makes no mention of anything like that. Similarly, what the workers themselves think they can improve and expand on should be a central source for any truly socialist plan. It should not be just cooked up in some bureaucratic office building somewhere.
[Third, the focus on promoting production and initiative through bonuses and material incentives (or “economic means”, which for Dobbs and other revisionists amounts to capitalist economic means!), is hopelessly wrong and bourgeois. The fact is that socialism, including socialist planning and development, will just not work without the dedication and enthusiasm of the masses. What this means is that a genuine socialist society must of necessity be focused on working for the interests of the masses; that the masses must be able to recognize this; and that the masses must be able, at least in general terms, to democratically direct all this. In short, as Mao and all his true followers have always argued, socialism absolutely requires the mass line method of leadership. This is true in creating and implimenting a socialist economic plan, just as it is everywhere in socialist society. And, specifically, it is the use of the mass line which is the primary way that decentralization can be successfully implemented in socialist planning and production. It is the workers themselves, along with the masses in general, who must make the most detailed local adjustments, etc. —S.H. (Oct. 16, 2023).]
DECEPTION (In Tactics)
See also: SURPRISE AND DECEPTION (In Tactics)
“Always deceive by telling your opponent what he already fears.” —Old Chinese tactical dictum. [Because he will most readily believe to be true that which he already fears might be true.]
DECISIONS — Participation In
“If you are not at the table when decisions are being made, you are the dish that is being served.” —Witticism from an unknown source, with more than a germ of truth to it.
A skeptical and often anti-intellectual movement in contemporary bourgeois philosophy, founded by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, and one of the trends within what is called postmodernism. The goal seems to be to disprove the possibility of any coherent meaning or theory in any sphere. There is claimed to be no privileged position—not even the scientific contact with reality!—that makes any “text” (written work) significant or true.
The approach is to “interpret” all philosophical or other intellectual “texts” by trying to “deconstruct” (dissect) them to bring out their incoherence, inconsistencies, false assumptions, prejudices, hidden agendas and false conclusions. While critical examinations of any work are of course necessary and justified, at the hands of the deconstructionists they are almost entirely negative procedures. They rarely put forward any positive views or try to defend correct views against unjustified attacks. This is why deconstructionism is mostly a cynical, nihilist method. The tacit assumption is that nothing is really correct or valid!
Moreover, in practice, the “texts” chosen for examination, and the deconstructionist examination of them, are both generally esoteric and extremely obscure. Strange terms and coinages are used, and it is often the case that neither the text itself nor the deconstruction of it is very intelligible. On top of this, often snide comments, puns and jokes are put forward as if they were serious, thoughtful arguments. As a result, deconstructionism itself does not deserve to be taken seriously.
See: GREAT DECOUPLING
DE-DOLLARIZATION [Capitalist-imperialist financial trend]
The expanding movement away from using the U.S. dollar (and instead to use other currencies) in international trade on the part of growing numbers of countries and many individual multinational corporations. This is an important aspect of the “Great Decoupling” of the two most important world economies, the U.S. and China, and a necessary part of the now underway splitting-in-two of the present World Imperialist System, which has still been dominated economically, politically, and militarily by the United States even since its full establishment with the inclusion of Russia and China.
This present world economic system developed from the U.S.-led “Western Bloc” of imperialist countries immediately after World War II, and the institutions it set up including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Since the U.S. had most of the gold bullion at that time, and by far the strongest economy in the world, the U.S. dollar was given a special place in the new system; in effect it functioned as sort of a world currency. But since that time the U.S. economy has become less and less important in the world, and the economies of other countries have expanded enormously. (See: America in Decline) In addition, the dwindling U.S. gold supplies forced President Nixon to give up the convertibility of the dollar with gold—a convertibility which was an essential reason that the dollar was accepted as a world currency to begin with!
The special role of the dollar, both as the primary international reserve currency for the central banks of the world, and also as the dominant currency used in international trade, is more and more resented by all the other capitalist powers and has more and more come under fire. However, it is the rise of Chinese capitalist-imperialism as now nearly an equal competitor to the U.S. (and in some ways already superior), which has really upset the status quo. Along with Russian capitalist-imperialism, which has now finally mostly recovered from its nearly fatal setback with the collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union, Chinese capitalism is leading the rebellion against the now anachronistic features of the U.S. domination of the world economy. But since the U.S. utterly refuses to democratically give up its near total domination of the IMF and World Bank, and is desperately trying to maintain the privileged role for the U.S. dollar, China and Russia (with the increasing support and participation of other countries) are in the accelerating process of challenging and undermining those pillars of U.S. world economic domination. They have already set up numerious alternatives to the World Bank (such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS New Development Bank. These new Chinese-sponsored development banks generally also edge into the role of the IMF, and replace it in part. These sorts of things serve to partially undermine the position of the U.S. dollar in the world today.
Furthermore, U.S. imperialism has often abused the priviledged position of the U.S. dollar to put enormous political pressure on countries which refuse to accept its domination of the world. (Some examples are given in the quote below.) This gives even more impetus to the moves to displace the privileged role of the U.S. dollar in many parts of the capitalist world today.
“Moves by countries to move away from US dollar
transactions have been gathering steam, and look set to develop further as trust in the
United States continues to slump in the wake of trade threats and a lack of Washington
global commitment to Covid-19 protection measures.
“Beijing and Moscow, in addition to New Delhi have well noted how the United States has used the US dollar as a weapon to inflate sanctions, not just with China but also Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries. Washington from time to time wishes to punish countries who don’t follow US trade directives.
“This desire to protect their economies from such behavior has led to the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) agreeing to send their recommendations to finalize a roadmap to conduct bilateral trade, investments, mutual settlements and issue bonds in national currencies. This system is now being fast-tracked after US actions during the Covid-19 pandemic, which included pressure from Washington on the IMF not to assist Iran for Covid relief funding. Iran has consequently been badly hit by the virus.
“The SCO includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan & Uzbekistan, while Iran & Turkey are dialogue partners and involved in discussions. Other interested and participating states include Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Mongolia in addition to Cambodia and Nepal. This effectively represents the complete land mass from China to Europe, and is home to some of the fastest growing global economies, five nuclear states, as well as 50% of the global population. The consequence is that all these countries have established linkages with China and Russia for trade and economic sustainability. Russia is selling Venezuela’s crude oil. China diverted Iranian crude with Yuan payments and initiated the Iran-China silk route agreements. China is now Iran’s largest trade partner. Iran has diversified trade with Afghanistan and oil for gold with India.
“Russia is also negotiating currency swap agreements with various trade partners. The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia comprises the ‘road’ part of the BRI [Belt and Road Initiative]. With a population of 183 million and GDP of some US$5 trillion, 70% of EAEU trade is already in Rubles and local currencies. Several Central and West Asian countries want to join the EAEU, including India, Turkey and Thailand, while Vietnam already has a full trade agreement with them. This saves the exchange charges of the dollar and the piggy-backing of fee-charging US intermediary banks for transactions that are nothing to do with the United States.
“They are being joined in turn by Brazil and South Africa in the BRICS grouping, who have also stated they wish to pursue settlements in regional currencies and move away from US dollar trade designations. The momentum is building fast, and other countries are sure to follow suit in time. Other trade relations are also moving away from the US dollar, with the European Union and Russia currently negotiating to trade in Euros and Rubles.
“India meanwhile has developed Rupee-Dirham currency trade with the UAE, approved a US$75 billion currency swap deal with Japan and a US$400 million currency swap with ASEAN nations. India is also trading non-dollar mediated rates of exchange for Turkish and Korean currencies, and Turkey is trading in national currencies with China and Russia.
“China has steadily been internationalizing the RMB Yuan to the extent it is now included in the IMF basket of currencies, and has risen to fifth place as a global currency, representing 15% of global currency holdings, with Russia holding 25% of Chinese RMB international reserves while dumping the US dollar in return. These moves will mean that in less than 5 years, the US dollar will account for less than half of global trade. These developments have been fast. Just over two years ago I asked ‘What Currencies Will Be Used Along the Belt & Road?’ Now we know. The Eurasian Belt & Road will be dominated by the Russian Ruble, Chinese RMB Yuan and the Indian Rupee in terms of trade.”
—Chris Devonshire-Ellis, “The ‘Road’ Part of the Belt & Road Initiative Now has 70% of its Trade in Russian Rubles: The US Dollar is being forced out of global transactions with increasing speed”, Russia Briefing, Dezan Shira & Associates [an international business consulting firm], June 2, 2020.
A mode of argument, or reasoning, which starts from a set of premises and seeks to draw a conclusion from them. If the conclusion is drawn in accordance with the laws of formal logic, the argument is said to be valid. If, in addition, the premises are known to be true, the argument is said to be sound.
See also: LOGIC—Formal
A recently developed technique in artificial intelligence methodology, using artificial neural networks in certain ways, which appears to constitute a major breakthrough in that sphere.
The most important social significance of deep learning and other current advances in AI is that the pace of the disappearance of jobs is rapidly being stepped up. In 2013, even before the full importance of deep learning became clear, one study at Oxford University estimated that 47% of all jobs in the U.S. were at high risk of being lost to computers soon.
See also: MACHINE LEARNING And for a more technical and extensive discussion of deep learning see the Wikipedia articles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_learning and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network
“An AI technique called ‘deep learning’, which allows systems to learn and improve by crunching lots of examples rather than being explicitly programmed, is already being used to power internet search engines, block spam e-mails, suggest e-mail replies, translate web pages, recognize voice commands, detect credit-card fraud and steer self-driving cars. ‘This is a big deal,’ says Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of NVIDIA, a firm whose chips power many AI systems. ‘Instead of people writing software, we have data writing software.’” —Tom Standage, “The Return of the Machinery Question: Special Report on Artificial Intelligence”, the Economist, June 25, 2016, p. 4.
“Deep learning comes in many flavors. The most widely used variety
is ‘supervised learning’, a technique that can be used to train a system with the
aid of a labelled set of examples. For e-mail spam filtering, for example, it is
possible to assemble an enormous database of example messages, each of which is
labelled ‘spam’ or ‘not spam’. A deep-learning system can be trained using this
database, repeatedly working through the examples and adjusting the weights inside
the neural network to improve its accuracy in assessing spamminess. The great merit
of this approach is that there is no need for a human expert to draw up a list of
rules, or for a programmer to implement them in code; the system learns directly
from the labelled data.
“Systems trained using labelled data are being used to classify images, recognize speech, spot fraudulent credit-card transactions, identify spam and malware, and target advertisements—all applications in which the right answer is known for a large number of previous cases....
“Another technique, unsupervised learning, involves training a network by exposing it to a huge number of examples, but without telling it what to look for. Instead, the network learns to recognize features and cluster similar examples, thus revealing hidden groups, links or patterns within the data.... [One test system in 2011 quickly learned by itself to recognize images of cats in this way from among a vast mass of videos of things in general. —Ed.]
“Reinforcement learning sits somewhere in between supervised and unsupervised learning. It involves training a neural network to interact with an environment with only occasional feedback in the form of a reward.” —Ibid., pp. 5-6.
The “Deep State” is a term which has recently become widely used in the United States to refer to the enormous and powerful national government apparatus which is far more extensive than merely the top pinnacles, the Presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court. The Executive Branch of the U.S. government includes—in addition to the President and his Cabinet and aides themselves—hundreds of agencies, including regulatory agencies, commerce agencies (benefitting corporations primarily), financial agencies (such as the Federal Reserve), social agencies (such as health, education and Social Security), tax agencies (like the IRS), law inforcement agencies (FBI and many others), prison agencies, spy agencies (CIA, NSA and many more), and of course the Pentagon and the huge U.S. military structure. Moreover, on some conceptions, in addition to this formal government with all its many agencies, the “Deep State” also consists of the important and powerful people officially not part of government but who carry enough clout to strongly influence it and generally get their way.
However, the term “Deep State” is used much differently on the political “Left” than on the political Right. For the libertarian right the “Deep State” consists of all those government agencies which they want to get rid of or at least curtail. This includes all the social welfare agencies including the Social Security System and most or all of the regulatory agencies. For the so-called “Alt-Right” the term covers these things plus any agencies and laws which in any way promote liberal reforms or oppose discrimination in even the limited and quite ineffective ways that they currently do. “Conservatives” in general oppose “Big Government”, meaning any part of government that does not directly benefit the capitalist class.
For those on the “Left”, however, the term the “Deep State” is sort of a crude and beginning recognition that the Federal government serves the overall interests of the rich and powerful. It is a faint glimmering that the government does not primarily consist of the President, Senators and Congressmen who “we citizens” supposedly elect, but some much greater monster representing the “1%” that rules no matter who gets elected. However, it is interesting to compare this liberal or somewhat radical talk on the “Left” about the “Deep State” with the much clearer and vastly more forceful Marxist denunciation of the capitalist State as being in its central essence the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
See also: IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY
“I have come to call this shadow government the Deep State. The
term was actually coined in Turkey, and is said to be a system composed of high-level
elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary, and organized
crime. In John le Carre’s recent novel A Delicate Truth, a character in the book
describes the Deep State as ‘the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders
from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information
denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.’ I use the term to mean a hybrid
association of key elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry
that is effectively able to govern the United States with only limited reference to
the consent of the governed as normally expressed through elections.”
—Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 5. [This is interesting in that it correctly implies that the U.S. government is controlled by a social class, or a section of it, the financial bourgeoisie—which is about the same as the Marxist view. This is all the more surprising given that the author is not only completely bourgeois, but also a long-time Republican-party insider! —Ed.]
DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL (2010)
See: POLLUTION—Of the Oceans
“With the exception of only a few chapters, every important part of the
revolutionary annals from 1848 to 1849 bear the heading: Defeat of the revolution!
“What succumbed in these defeats was not the revolution. It was the pre-revolutionary traditional appendages, results of social relationships which had not yet come to the point of sharp class antagonisms—persons, illusions, conceptions, projects from which the revolutionary party before the February Revolution [of 1848] was not free, from which it could be freed not by the victory of February, but only by a series of defeats.
“In a word: The revolution made progress, forged ahead, not by its immediate tragicomic achievements but, on the contrary, by the creation of a powerful, united counterrevolution, by the creation of an opponent in combat with whom the party of overthrow ripened into a really revolutionary party.” —Marx, “The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850” (1850), in Marx & Engels: Selected Works, vol. 1, (Moscow: 1969); online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/
[What Marx is saying here is that a series of defeats by an immature revolutionary party were necessary in order to create a mature revolutionary party capable of eventually leading a victorious revolution. Defeats are very often a necessary prerequisite to final victory. —Ed.]
“Don’t be afraid to admit defeat. Learn from defeat. Do over again more thoroughly, more carefully, and more systematically, what has been done badly. If any of us were to say that admission of defeat—like the surrender of positions—must cause despondency and relaxation of effort in the struggle, we would reply that such revolutionaries are not worth a damn.” —Lenin, “Seventh Moscow Gubernia Conference of the Russian Communist Party: Report On The New Economic Policy”, Oct. 29, 1921, LCW 33:93.
“Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again ... until their doom; that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people’s cause and they will never go against this logic. This is a Marxist law. When we say ‘imperialism is ferocious’, we mean that its nature will never change, that the imperialists will never lay down their butcher knives, that they will never become Buddhas, till their doom. Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again ... until their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. This is another Marxist law. The Russian people’s revolution followed this law, and so has the Chinese people’s revolution.” —Mao, “Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle” (August 14, 1949), SW 4:428. (Also in Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, chapter V.)
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald.
DEFEATING AN ENEMY WITHOUT FIGHTING A BATTLE
The technique of using guile instead of force to defeat a less clever enemy.
Mao Zedong fought his first battle with this students’ voluntary
army on November 20, 1917, in which he successfully defended his school and disarmed
some soldiers of a defeated Northern Warlord army.
A vivid account of the battle has been given by Zhou Shizhao, a close friend of Mao who studied at the same school:
“News arrived one day after lunch that some soldiers of a defeated unit of the Northern Warlord’s Eighth Division were beating a precipitate retreat from the area around Zhuzhou and Xiangtan towards Changsha. They were already at Monkey Rock, less than two kilometers from the First Normal School. As the soldiers were not sure who had taken Changsha, they did not dare to proceed and were taking a rest there and seizing food from the peasants. The news threw the whole school into confusion. After hearing the conditions of the defeated unit and knowing they were hungry, fatigued and badly shaken and had no knowledge that the Guangxi army had not yet entered Changsha, Mao judged they could be driven away. He told more than two hundred of the bolder ones in the students’ voluntary army to arm themselves with the wooden rifles they used in their daily drill and station themselves on top of Miaogao Hill behind the school. He then got in touch with the local police station and asked the police chief to send a number of policemen with real rifles to lay in ambush in front of the students. At dusk, as the Northern Warlord soldiers began to probe their way northward along the Guangzhou-Hankou Railway at the foot of Miaogao Hill, Mao told the policemen to open fire and the students on the hill top to set off firecrackers. They then shouted together, ‘Fu Liangzuo is gone. The Gangxi army is in the city. Hand over your arms and live!’ The defeated army did not dare to resist. A representative was sent over to negotiate and the entire unit was disarmed. The students in the whole school then came out and took the rifles and other weapons to the school.... The disarmed soldiers were told to sleep in the open on the school’s playground. The following day, the city’s commercial chamber distributed some money to the soldiers and sent all of them home. Mao Zedong’s daring exploit became the talk of the whole school, all saying that he was ‘a man of extraordinary valor.’”
—Liu Jikun, Mao Zedong’s Art of War (1993), pp. 6-7. [This entire book is available at: https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/PW/MaoZedong'sArtOfWar-LiuJikun-1993.pdf" Though the author is an opponent of the GPCR and is not a Maoist, there is a lot of similar interesting material in it.]
See: KEYNESIAN DEFICIT FINANCING, “MODERN MONETARY THEORY”
There are two kinds of definitions: 1) definitions of ordinary words in a natural language; and 2) definitions of technical terms used in formulating and explaining a scientific theory. For an explanation for how ordinary people determine the meanings (and at least rough definitions) for ordinary words, and how dictionary makers determine more precise meanings and more formal definitions, see the entry: MEANING OF A WORD
However, the definitions of technical terms are specified (defined by fiat) by the scientists or technicians who create a scientific or technical theory. But how do they know what terms, or concepts, they will need, and what definitions they should give them? This can only be determined by a careful, and usually prolonged, systematic investigation into the phenomena they are trying to understand and explain. Moreover, as the science (or technical sphere) develops, it will occasionally become necessary to revise the definitions for one or more terms. In effect, as the science advances, so must the terminology with which the science is expounded. In addition to this process, as the science is popularized it will likely become apparent that the earliest definitions were somewhat sloppy and may have been misunderstood by some students, and will also have to be more precisely formulated to avoid such misunderstandings. The precision of a science, including the precision of its formulation, and including the definitions it employs, is something that can only develop over time and through continuing investigation and experience.
“Philosophy is often diverted by the definition of words,
etc. Everything all categories are affected.” —Lenin, “Conspectus on Aristotle’s
Book Metaphysics” (1915), LCW 38:367.
[I take it that Lenin is saying or implying here that much (but not all!) philosophical confusion, disagreement and error is the result of differing or confused definitions of terms among those disagreeing. It seems to me that this is certainly true. On the other hand, some people—especially many bourgeois analytic or “linguistic” philosophers—have claimed that positively all philosophical disagreement can be traced back to confusion or differences about definitions, which is certainly false. The deepest and most important differences and disputes in philosophy are due to different class perspectives and interests. Differing definitions and conceptions often only serve to promote those different class interests. —S.H.]
“[This Soviet text on the political economy of socialism] always proceeds from rules, principles, laws, definitions, a methodology Marxism-Leninism has always opposed. The effects of principles and laws must be subjected to analysis and thorough study; only then can principles and laws be derived. Human knowledge always encounters appearances first. Proceeding from there, one searches out principles and laws. The text does the opposite. Its methodology is deductive, not analytical.... For every question the text first gives definitions, which it then takes as a major premise and reasons from there, failing to understand that the major premise should be the result of researching a question. Not until one has gone through the concrete research can principles and laws be discovered and proved.” —Mao, “Reading Notes on the Soviet Text Political Economy”, from 1961-1962 or, more likely earlier, perhaps 1960. [From: Mao Tsetung: A Critique of Soviet Economics, (NY: MR Press, 1977), pp. 73-74.] See also the next quotation below.
“The text [see quotation above] is very poorly written, neither persuasive
nor interesting to read. It does not proceed from concrete analysis of the contradictions
between productive forces and the production relations nor the contradiction between the
economic base and the superstructure. In posing questions, in researching problems, it
always proceeds from general concepts or definitions. It gives definitions without making
reasoned explanations. In fact, a definition should be the result, not the starting point,
of an analysis. Quite without foundation the book offers a series of laws, laws which are
not discovered and verified through analysis of concrete historical development. Laws
cannot be self-explanatory. If one does not work from the concrete processes, the concrete
historical development, laws will not be clearly explained.” —Mao, ibid., p. 108.
[Of course it is not wrong to seek out definitions when studying a subject, nor to consult dictionaries. But Mao’s point is that a good textbook on that subject should help you understand why these concepts were needed, how they arose, and therefore why they came to have the definitions that they now do. To really understand a science is to understand how and why investigation and thought brought it to its present form. —S.H.]
A contraction in the amount of money and/or credit available in an economy (relative to the mass of commodities available for sale) which leads to a general fall in prices. Although there were long deflationary periods in capitalist economies in the 19th century, during both boom periods and recessions, most contemporary bourgeois economists believe that deflation is very dangerous and self-reinforcing. For this reason they try to prevent it by moderately inflating the currency (or what they sometimes call “reflation”).
See also: INFLATION
“DEFLATIONARY GAP” (In Capitalist Production)
This is a term sometimes used by bourgeois economists and journalists to describe the situation where total effective demand falls short of what an economy produces. (Of course we Marxists understand that this would always be the case if it were not for the constant expansion of consumer and government debt!) But the idea here is that when there is an excess of goods on the market, the capitalists will be forced to lower their prices in order to try to sell the excess production, and will also lay off workers or cut wages in an effort to keep their profits up. Fewer employed workers, and workers with less income, in turn means a further drop in demand in sort of a vicious circle, which leads to further deflationary pressures. The so-called “deflationary gap” itself is the shortfall in effective demand which leads to this deflationary spiral.
“DEFUND THE POLICE”
A slogan that suddenly became popular for a while in the U.S. in the summer of 2020 following the outrageous racist police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The basic idea was to take a lot of money away from police departments and use it instead to fund social programs and agencies trained to deal with social problems in a pro-human, non-violent way. In Minneapolis and elsewhere, however, it has proven to be extremely difficult to fund and establish such alternative programs and agencies within the present capitalist system, and therefore the promotion and popularity among reformers of “defunding” initiatives began dropping fast within just a few months. Liberals, in particular, were alarmed by a few prominent criminal cases the ruling class media gave great attention to, and have been saying things like “there just is no alternative to having police forces”. In a bourgeois society they are correct. Of course they have no notion of how the people might really be armed and organized to keep public order themselves in a revolutionary society.
Is it really possible to win a major reform like that called for in “defund the police” in the current vicious and crisis-prone capitalist society we live in today? Almost certainly not, at least in any substantial way, even with the backing of a major mass movement. Policing is just a too critically necessary function for the increasingly desperate and vulnerable ruling bourgeoisie. Defunding the police, in any major and systematic way in capitalist society, is really sort of a utopian dream.
For that reason it is probably better to focus on ferociously condemning police brutality and murders, and demonstrating against these things, while at the same time devoting our efforts to overthrowing capitalism and building the sort of new socialist society where—among other things—the essential goals of the “defunding” movement really can be implemented.
See also: REFORMS—Those which are impossible under capitalism
A significant decline in the level of industrialization of some region or country, and/or the shift from manufacturing to producing services. Some bourgeois economists claim this is actually a good thing, and that the transformation of an economy toward more services, especially financial services, shows its “maturity”. In reality, it shows the parasitic nature of finance capitalism, and foreshadows an extremely serious economic crisis.
See also: MANUFACTURING—U.S.
[Capitalist finance:] The repayment (often forced) of debt which has been acquired in order to expand the amount of money invested, or to directly expand the amount employed in the continuation or expansion of capitalist production. Leveraging means using borrowed money to speculate (“invest”) or in order for a capitalist to continue or expand production beyond what is possible through the use of his own profits. Sometimes when a loan comes due it is impossible to “roll it over” (extend it for an additional period), or to obtain an alternative loan. This is especially apt to occur during a financial crisis. In such a situation there is a forced deleveraging, or in other words a forced reduction in credit that itself has an additional negative impact on the economy. Just as leveraging can promote the more rapid expansion of the economy during a boom, deleveraging can develop into a vicious cycle which serves to more rapidly unwind an economy and bring it to its knees during and following a financial crisis.
“Deleveraging is an ugly word for a painful process. But few things
matter more for the world economy than whether, and how fast, the rich world’s
borrowing is cut back. History suggests that severe financial crises are usually
followed by long periods of debt reduction—in which credit falls relative to the
size of the economy. This time, too, that process is under way. Banks have been
furiously reducing leverage. Consumer credit in America has fallen for ten
consecutive months, the largest and longest drop on record....
“[In an extensive study of numerous past cases of deleveraging] the deleveraging came through a prolonged period of belt-tightening, where credit grew more slowly than output. The message from these episodes is sobering. Typically deleveraging began about two years after the beginning of the financial crisis and lasted for six to seven years. In almost every case output shrank for the first two or three years of the process...
“Worse, there are several reasons why today’s mess could be more protracted than previous episodes. First, the scale of the indebtedness is higher.... Second, the number of countries afflicted simultaneously means that rapid expansions of exports, which have supported output in the past, are harder to achieve. Third, big increases in public debt, while cushioning demand in the short term, increase the overall debt reduction that will eventually be needed.... Investors may worry about the sustainability of public debt long before private-debt reduction is over, forcing a lot of belts to be tightened at once. The most painful bits of deleveraging could well lie ahead.” —“Economic Focus: Digging Out of Debt”, The Economist, Jan. 16, 2010, p. 76.
DELINQUENCY RATE [Capitalist Finance]
The number of loans on which borrowers fail to make timely loan payments divided by the total number of loans under consideration.
“Demagogy means lavishing promises that cannot be fulfilled.” —Lenin, “How P. B. Axelrod Exposes the Liquidators”, LCW 18:175.
“A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (1993).]
See also: CERTAINTY, Donald TRUMP
“... I will never tire of repeating that demagogues are the worst enemies of the working class. The worst enemies, because they arouse base instincts in the masses, because the unenlightened worker is unable to recognize his enemies in men who represent themselves, and sometimes sincerely so, as his friends. The worst enemies, because in the period of disunity and vacillation, when our movement is just beginning to take shape, nothing is easier than to employ demagogic methods to mislead the masses, who can realize their error only later by bitter experience.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:463.
DEMAND (Economic) [Bourgeois Economics]
The actual level of purchasing of commodities occurring in the economy. If “demand is strong” then consumers and other purchasers of goods and services (including corporations and the government) are very active in purchasing things. If “demand is weak” then consumers (and/or corporations and the government) are holding back in their purchasing of commodities, for one reason or another. (Possible reasons include: 1) people running out of money to spend; 2) would-be buyers can no longer get enough credit or loans; 3) declining consumer confidence in the health of the economy or in their own job security (and thus a tendency to save a bit more money for a rainy day than before); and so forth.
“Demand” is sometimes defined in bourgeois texts as “the desire and ability to purchase the goods and services in question”. But one may have both the desire and ability to buy, and still not buy for the time being. However, it is true that “demand”, as the term is used by bourgeois economists, is the same as effective demand.
DEMAND DESTRUCTION [Bourgeois economics]
The decline in economic demand (see above and effective demand) caused by either purposeful or inadvertant government or corporate policies which lead to the inability of consumers to purchase as many goods as before, or else to their unwillingness to continue purchasing at the same level because of their changes in mood or confidence. At the present time (late spring 2022) there is substantial demand destruction being caused by the high level of inflation in the U.S. economy. If everything is costing more, then people must of course buy less.
[Greek: demiurgos, meaning “craftsman”. Usually capitalized when used as the name of a god.]
1. [In Plato’s idealist philosophy as presented in his dialogue Timaeus:] The subordinate deity who fashions the world of the senses on the basis of the eternal Forms or Ideas.
2. [In Gnostic religious philosophy:] The subordinate deity who is the creator of the world and the originator of imperfection and evil (thus supposedly letting God off the hook!).
3. An autonomous creative force or decisive power who fashions something into its eventual form.
[To be added... ]
See also: WILL OF THE PEOPLE
“It is natural for a liberal to speak of ‘democracy’ in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask: ‘for what class?’” —Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918), (Peking: FLP, 1975), p. 9.
DEMOCRACY — Original Idea Of
“Prior to the emergence of modern capitalism, politics and economics were interchangeable; whoever controlled the government controlled the economy, and vice versa. The most politically powerful nobles were the wealthiest people. The idea of democracy prior to capitalism was the radical notion of politics controlled by the propertyless citizens, which would give them command over property. ‘Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers,’ Aristotle noted at its birth. It is why democracy was regarded as being synonymous with ‘communism’ or some sort of one-class society; when poor people gained political power they would understandably reshuffle the property distribution and rules to eliminate wide disparities in property ownership and class privilege. It is why the very notion of democracy was widely, even universally, detested by the wealthy and the privileged throughout history. As recently as the founding of the United States, for example, nearly all of those who wrote the Constitution or are considered founders, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, thought voting should be limited to property-holding white males. It wasn’t even an issue for debate.” —Robert W. McChesney & John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), pp. 24-25.
DEMOCRACY — As a Means to an End
“Democracy sometimes seems to be an end, but it is in fact only a means.” —Mao, quoted in Peking Review, vol. 10, #1, Jan. 1, 1967, p. 13. But what ends then is it a means to? Widespread and genuine democracy is one of the primary means by which the proletariat and the broad masses become able to satisfy their own material and non-material interests, including their highest political interest, to further revolutionize society, to overthrow the capitalist system, and to create first socialism, and then communism. Democracy is valuable first of all, and above all, because it is an indispensable means to this end.
“Democracy is of enormous importance to the working class in its
struggle against the capitalists for its emancipation. But democracy is by no means a
boundary not to be overstepped; it is only one of the stages on the road from feudalism
to capitalism, and from capitalism to Communism.” —Lenin, “The State and Revolution”
(August 1917), Ch. 5, sect. 4, (Peking: FLP, 1973), p. 118.
[Of course it depends upon what one means by the word “democracy”. Lenin is obviously using the term to refer to the norms and political methods in what we Marxists call bourgeois democracy, and perhaps also in a far superior socialist democracy in the near future. However, if we use the term “democracy” in the sense that Mao often did, as meaning “the control by the people over their own lives”, then of course democracy in this sense should first be made real and complete (via socialism and then communism) and should never be “surpassed”. Democracy as a system of organizing state power (by whichever class) can last only as long as classes and states exist; under communism where there are no classes and hence no states, there will of course be no state system of democracy. But there will be a social system where the people control their own lives to a far greater degree than is possible in even the best form of class society. —S.H.]
DEMOCRACY — BOURGEOIS
See: BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY, MAJORITY [Hinton quote]
DEMOCRACY — DIRECT
See: DIRECT DEMOCRACY
DEMOCRACY — PROLETARIAN
See: PROLETARIAN DEMOCRACY
DEMOCRACY — the Struggle For By the Proletariat
“It would be a radical mistake to think that the struggle for democracy
was capable of diverting the proletariat from the socialist revolution or of hiding,
overshadowing it, etc. On the contrary, in the same way as there can be no victorious
socialism that does not practise full democracy, so the proletariat cannot prepare for
its victory over the bourgeoisie without an all-round, consistent and revolutionary
struggle for democracy.” —Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations
to Self-Determination: Theses”, section 2: “The Socialist Revolution and the Struggle
for Democracy”, January-February 1916, LCW 22:144.
[It is sometimes argued, by people who do not think it is important to struggle against anti-democratic or fascist laws and policies within what is overall a bourgeois democracy, that Lenin was only right about this because the Russian Revolution was a two-stage affair: first the “February” democratic revolution, and then the “October” socialist revolution. But the fact is that bourgeois democracy is inherently unstable and highly prone to autocratic or fascist reversals—especially in crisis periods when the capitalists are in a panic. For this reason the struggle for democracy, and in strong opposition to all attempts to limit or destroy it, is an important component of any proletarian revolution, certainly in an advanced capitalist country. To think that Lenin might have ever disagreed with this principle is absurd. However, it is in fact true that all struggles to retain and extend democracy, must also be (as Lenin said) part of the revolutionary struggle, and in no way be presented as simply a struggle to retain the present capitalist system! —S.H.]
DEMOCRACY — Within Revolutionary Parties
[To be added...]
Democratic centralism is the central organizational principle in Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties. Within socialist society democratic centralism is also implemented among the people as a whole—though of necessity in a somewhat looser fashion.
The core centralist elements of democratic centralism within the Party were summed up by Mao this way:
“We must affirm anew the discipline of the Party, namely:
(1) the individual is subordinate to the organization;
(2) the minority is subordinate to the majority;
(3) the lower level is subordinate to the higher level; and
(4) the entire membership is subordinate to the Central Committee.
“Whoever violates these articles of discipline disrupts Party unity.”
—Mao, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, section “XXVI. Discipline”, 1st ed. (1966), p. 255. Edited wording from the original source in “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War” (Oct. 1938), SW2:203-4.
However, those who seem to believe that these are the only basic elements of democratic centralism are ignoring or rejecting the equally important core democratic elements within this organizational principle (in addition to majority rule). Both among the masses and within the Party people do have the right and even the obligation to form their own ideas, raise suggestions and criticisms, and to reserve their views even if they cannot be convinced through argument that they are wrong about something.
“It seems that some of our comrades still don’t understand
“There should be full democracy both inside and outside the Party, that is, democratic centralism should be practised in earnest in both spheres. Problems should be brought out into the open frankly and masses allowed to speak out, speak out even if we are going to be abused.” —Mao, “Talk at an Enlarged Working Conference Convened by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China” (Jan. 30, 1962), which appeared in Peking Review, #27 (July 7, 1978) [online at: https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1978/PR1978-27-MaoTalk.pdf]
Those who understand only the centralist elements of democratic centralism don’t really
understand what democratic centralism is for! To sum it up in a single sentence:
Democratic centralism is the organizational principle that allows people to work
together in a unified fashion toward a common goal, even when they have different
individual ideas about what should be done! Intelligent people consciously and
willingly put themselves under the centralist or disciplinary aspects of democratic
centralism even knowing that some mistakes will be made because they understand
that this will overall and in general tremendously help the Party and the working
class as a whole work in a united way and make revolution. This makes perfect sense as
long as we have confidence in the masses, and confidence in that specific Party, to
eventually correct any mistakes they do make along the way.
The profound idea behind democratic centralism is that only the working class and the Party working together in a (more-or-less) unified fashion have the power to change the world, and that if we are serious about changing the world we have to often subordinate our own individual or small group ideas about what to do to those of the majority and the Party leadership. Even in those occasional cases where we have good reason to think they are wrong and we as individuals or the minority have better ideas, it is still better to follow the majority and the leadership in order to preserve our overall unity of action.
It must be said, however, that what has historically been called “democratic centralism” by many parties has actually been far more centralist than democratic. The democratic aspect of democratic centralism has all too often been downplayed, if not entirely eliminated. This has especially been the case in revisionist parties and in cult-like parties on the “left” (such as the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA), neither of which values any independence of mind among its members or among the masses. Unfortunately, the same was largely true in Stalin’s Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
However, Lenin and Mao understood very well that the independence of mind among the membership of a revolutionary party is not a negative thing, but actually a very good thing—providing it can be arranged so that these different ideas do not disrupt the Party’s ability to lead the masses in struggle against the enemy. And that is the purpose of true democratic centralism.
“An individual sometimes wins over the majority. This is because truth is sometimes in one person’s hands only. Truth is sometimes in the hands of a minority, as when Marxism was in Marx’s hands alone. Lenin said that you have to have the spirit of going against the current. Party committees at every level ought to consider views from many quarters; they ought to listen to the opinion of the majority and also those of the minority and others. There ought to be created within the Party an atmosphere of speaking out and of correcting shortcomings.” —Mao, “Talk at the Seventh Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee”, April 1959, Miscellany of Mao Tsetung Thought, (Arlington, VA: Joint Publications Research Service, 1974), p. 176.
Only those who favor both independence of mind on the part of individual
Party members and the masses and also unified action on the part of the Party
and the masses as a whole (and which is not impaired by this widespread independence of
thought), understand the real reason why genuine democratic centralism is so important
and so absolutely necessary.
See also: CENTRALISM AND DEMOCRACY, GOING AGAINST THE TIDE, UNITE—Don’t Split
DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM — Bourgeois Conceptions Of
1. The preservation of orthodoxy: An organizational principle designed to secure and preserve the virtually absolute acceptance of, and genuine agreement with, all the ideas and positions of the top leaders of a political party.
In reality the purpose of genuine democratic centralism (D-C) is not to secure total agreement and total unity of ideas of the membership of the party with those of the leadership, but rather to allow (and even encourage!) differences of opinion while nevertheless securing the genuine willingness and determination of the members to try their best to implement the political line among the masses which was determined by the leadership of the party. (Critics of D-C completely fail to understand this important difference.)
2. The absence of any real democracy: The total despotism of the leadership of a party over the membership, with no genuine democratic input from the masses and the membership to the leaders, and no obligation whatsoever of the leadership to listen to the ideas and desires of the masses and the membership.
As noted in the main entry on democratic centralism above, there have been parties which have actually operated in somewhat this way, and which have totally distorted D-C in this way. We Marxist-Leninist-Maoists reject and denounce this total negation of democratic centralism.
3. To enforce party discipline: The principles of democratic centralism summarized by Mao in the entry above do definitely state that the minority is subordinate to the majority, that the lower bodies of the party are subordinate to the higher bodies, and that the whole party is subordinate to the Central Committee. This does of course present a system of party discipline.
However this party discipline exists for a definite political purpose: To allow the party to act in a unified collective way even though its members will have their own individual ideas about the best way to proceed in any situation. To say that the point of D-C is to enforce party discipline is to disingenuously ignore the real political point of it.
4. Existing for security purposes: Another eroneous conception of democratic centralism, which is actually more often put forward by young revolutionaries who haven’t yet grasped the basic political reason for D-C rather than by academic bourgeois critics of Leninism, is that its central purpose is to help keep the leadership, membership, and organizational structure of the party protected from ruling class spying and attacks.
Of course any revolutionary party does have to seriously concern itself with security issues, since the enemy seeks to disrupt our work among the masses, and even—at times—to arrest or kill us. The party will need to have secure channels of communications between its members and between its leaders and membership. It will likely need to operate on a “need to know” basis, with regard to organizational structure, who precisely are members in other areas of work, and so forth. Lenin remarked that the first reason for the existence of the party is so that revolutionaries will know who they can fully trust in helping them to carry out their work. [July 1, 1921; LCW 32:474] Having genuine D-C and a firm discipline within a party can of course greatly help promote better security. However, this is not the primary purpose of D-C. To repeat once again, the revolutionary party requires democratic centralism so that different people, who inevitably have somewhat different ideas about what to do, can settle on a unified plan of action (while reserving their own individual opinions) and work together in the most effective way to advance the revolution.
If the primary purpose of democratic centralism within some party is for security, then it will almost inevitably be a false D-C, with a downplaying of its political purpose, and most likely the negation of the democratic aspect of genuine D-C. This is what happened in the RU/RCP, for example, as the following quote brings out. (And moreover, in the RU/RCP even the security focus was a dismal failure.):
“The RU/RCP prided itself, and had among the wider left, a certain
reputation for a solid security culture. Certainly the remarks of people like Larry
Goff, on its rigorous discipline are telling. The paradox, of course, is that this
came from Goff, the informant [to the FBI]. Indeed for all its extolling of
discipline and adhering to democratic centralism, it was too often the case—and
this from the very beginning—that the two entities with the fullest understanding
of the group were the small number of leaders at the top of the organization and
the FBI. While such principles of discipline could be effective, in potential, in
keeping certain matters secret, the fact of informants at the top of the
organization meant that such practices were too often nothing more than an exercise.
Worse it created the perilous situation where RU/RCP cadre and supporters knew far
less about the group than the Bureau did.” —Aaron Leonard & Connor Gallagher,
Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists (2014), p. 248.
[For our purposes here, what is most noteworthy is not the incompetence of the RU/RCP in selecting their leadership and in keeping government spies out, but rather the implicit conception of democratic centralism as being for the purpose of security. In my opinion this not only reflects the view of the authors of this book, but also of the leaders of the RU/RCP itself. That organization never understood and promoted the essential role of democracy in true democratic centralism, and—indeed—never really understood the basic political purpose of democratic centralism at all. —S.H.]
DEMOCRATIC PARTY (U.S. Bourgeois Party) — Rightward Shift Of
Nothing demonstrates quite so clearly that the (so-called) Democratic Party in the U.S. is just one head of a two-headed monster, the “two party system”, than the fact that as the requirements of the capitalist ruling class have demanded a political shift to the right, the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party have both shifted quite noticeably in that direction. Policies that were once opposed by Democrats when Republicans proposed them decades ago are now embraced by the Democrats (though Republicans now reject them as being “too far left”). One example of this is the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) which in its basic outline was proposed by the Nixon Administration decades ago, but rejected by Ted Kennedy and other Democrats as being basically just a massive government handout to the private health industry (which it turned out to be). One version of this plan was even implemented on the state level by the Republican governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. By the time the Obama Administration came to power in 2009, the Democrats had given up any effort to try to implement any sort of reasonable national health care plan, and therefore adopted the old Republican idea as their own in the form of the ACA. (But now the Republicans fought that program tooth and nail, and it is currently in the process of being further weakened or eliminated by the Trump Administration.)
This shift to the right by the Democrats is reflected in virtually every other area as well. For example, the Obama policies of essentially unrestricted spying on American citizens would probably have been labelled as the fascist ones they actually are by Democrats in previous generations.
The Democrats have moved to the right in almost every one of the administrations they have led since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the necessities for some social-democratic programs (of sorts) during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Truman, for example, moved to the right as compared with Roosevelt. But there was a further qualitative leap to the right with Bill Clinton who adopted many policies previously identified with Republicans, such as loosening banking regulations and demolishing the federal welfare system. Obama continued that course, as undoubtedly would have Hillary Clinton if she had been elected in 2016.
Certainly the Democrats have always been a capitalist ruling class party. And of course they have only offered very feeble resistance to conservatives and reactionaries in the past. But it is hard to see that they should even count as a reformist party anymore. It is not for nothing that many of us now refer to the Democrats as “the Other Republicans”.
“The Republican Party has moved steadily to the right since the
1970s, purging its entire liberal and moderate wings....
“The Democratic Party has moved rightward as well. The Democratic Leadership Council was founded by people like Bill Clinton and it successfully remade the party into a far more pro-business party—a champion of deregulation, lower taxes on business and the rich, cutbacks in social services, and secretive trade deals that benefit large corporations and investors but have dubious value for everyone else. The concerns of organized labor and social movements, now reclassified as ‘special interest groups,’ were marginalized.”
—Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready (2016), p. 203. [As social-democrats, these authors believe that somehow this rightward shift of the Democratic Party can be reversed and some reforms can be won within this system. Don’t hold your breath! And even if all that could bizarrely actually occur, it would still leave us with the horrendous capitalist-imperialist system to contend with and its ever worsening economic crisis, the continual disappearance of jobs, expanding environmental destruction, and endless genocidal wars. It is safe to say that there is no possibility whatsoever that any reformist movement, based in the Democratic Party or not, is going to lead us out of this growing human crisis of the capitalist system. —S.H.]
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (DPRK)
The country which in the West is usually called “North Korea”. The DPRK was established in the northern part of Korea by Communist anti-Japanese guerrilla forces at the end of World War II, and with the substantial support of the Soviet Union. At the same time U.S. imperialism—with the help of the defeated Japanese military forces—quickly established its control over the southern part of Korea, which set the stage for its horrendous imperialist Korean War (1950-1953) and the continued division of the Korean nation since that time.
The highly deficient sort of top-down socialism which was originally established in the DPRK was—if anything—a more extreme form of the bureaucratic type of socialism which existed in the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. Since—as in the USSR—the DPRK regime did not know or use the mass line in politics, industry or agriculture, this type of society tended to soon become more and more undemocratic and authoritarian. Over the years it has degenerated totally away from anything which can be remotely considered as genuine “socialism” (which, after all, must most essentially be based on the rule of the people themselves). The DPRK is now best characterized as an ultra-nationalistic form of state capitalism, directed by a tiny militarily-obsessed elite social class, and for the primary benefit of that very privileged governing class. Even more absurdly, this DPRK ruling class has turned its regime into one which is very close to a hereditary absolute monarchy, which was ruled first by Kim Il Sung, then by his son Kim Jong Il, and now by his son, Kim Jong Un.
See also below, and: CHOLLIMA MOVEMENT
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA — Nuclear Weapons Of
The DPRK, “North Korea”, suffered millions of deaths and horrendous punishment from the Korean War waged against it in the early 1950s by the United States and its allies. And ever since then it has faced renewed threats of attack by U.S. imperialism as well as sustained economic and political warfare directed against it. In this situation it is entirely rational for North Korea to seek to defend itself from further military attack by building up its own military and through the acquisition of as much advanced weaponry as it can, including nuclear weapons and missiles. (However, the DPRK has only a few dozen nuclear weapons, probably mostly of fairly small yield.) Of course a small country like the DPRK knows that in an actual nuclear war with the U.S. it would be totally and utterly destroyed. And for this reason it will never initiate such a war itself (despite the rabid claims of the imperialist powers). But the logic of nuclear deterence works even for small countries such as Korea, when faced with the awesome threat of foreign imperialism. Without any specific reference to North Korea, the American scholar of nuclear weapons, Richard Rhodes, put it this way:
“Deliverable nuclear weapons equalize the capacity of smaller powers to do unacceptable harm even to superpowers, however invulnerable those superpowers may imagine themselves to be—which is why superpowers have, or ought to have, a fundamental security interest in eliminating nuclear weapons from the arsenals of the world.” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 171.
However, while it is in the actual interests of all the people of the world to get rid of
nuclear weapons, including the people in imperialist countries, the rulers of the U.S.
and other nuclear-armed imperialist countries will never agree to disarm themselves—even if all
other countries do so as well! In this situation, there is tremendous pressure on more and more
countries to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons themselves for their own self-preservation,
including the DPRK.
So, in short, whose fault is it really, that the DPRK has nuclear weapons? It is entirely the fault of the the United States and U.S. imperialism. And if the U.S. someday actually attacks North Korea leading to the use of nuclear weapons by both sides, whose fault will that be? Again, entirely the fault of U.S. imperialism. That is the simple fact of the matter.
The DPRK has managed to make nuclear weapons mostly by itself, although the Soviet Union helped build a nuclear power reactor for it, which was then used by the DPRK for nuclear weapons research and development. China, may have also helped to some degree. Richard Rhodes notes that:
“Deng Xiaoping, who emerged to power in China after Mao’s death in 1976, encouraged the proliferation of nuclear-weapons technology to the Third World as a counterweight to Western dominance. ‘In the 1980s and with the coming of Deng Xiaoping in China,’ wrote the American nuclear experts Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman, ‘serious nuclear weapon developments began to appear [in North Korea], such as high-explosive craters in the sand [from implosion experiments] and the construction of a [five-megawatt] nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. The latter went critical in April 1986. Construction of a reprocessing facility began, in secret, in 1987.’" —Richard Rhodes, ibid., p. 179.
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA — Relations with the Soviet Union
[The DPRK has always been desperately short of all forms of energy and
for this reason (as well as the desire to obtain nuclear weapons in defense against U.S.
imperialist attacks), it was extremely anxious to obtain nuclear power reactors. However,
the Soviet Union—even though it provided some kinds of aid to the DPRK—was quite
uncooperative when it came to providing nuclear power plants. —Ed.]
“The DPRK ... made a request [to the Soviet Union] for the construction of a nuclear power plant. For various reasons—primarily military considerations and the amount of the investment—the Soviet side declared that this [request] was now inopportune, and proposed to come back to it only in the course of the next [five-year] plan. The Korean side was very reluctant to accept this Soviet decision and the rejection of a few other investment demands.
“Particularly in the course of negotiations over credit, but also in other issues ... the head of the Korean delegation—Deputy Premier Kang Chin-t’ae—behaved in an extremely aggressive way, definitely crude and insulting in certain statements vis-à-vis his Soviet counterpart.... He declared several times that if the Soviet Union was unwilling to make ‘appropriate’ allowances for the ‘front-line situation’ of the DPRK and did not comply entirely with the Korean requests, the DPRK would be compelled to suspend her economic relations with the Soviet Union.
“It was only after his visit to Comrade Kosygin that Kang Chin-t’ae changed his conduct.... Comrade Kosygin, among others, firmly rebuked him, declaring that the Soviet Union did not accept ultimatums from any country and did not let anyone behave in such a way.”
—Report of the Embassy of Hungary in North Korea to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, April 15, 1976, quoted in Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 177.
[Rhodes also notes: “The Soviet Union provided the North with a small highly-enriched-uranium-fueled research reactor in 1965. The next year the North Korean premier, Kim Il Sung, visited the U.S.S.R. incognito and met with Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin, who rejected his request for a nuclear-power plant. They did so partly because the North Koreans had kept their Soviet benefactors in the dark about their research-reactor operations. Much of the North’s electrical generating capacity, about half of which was hydroelectric, had been destroyed by ... bombing attacks during the [Korean] war; the Soviet ally therefore sought turnkey nuclear-power reactors to generate electricity...” (p. 176).]
So-called “democratic socialism” is in fact neither socialism nor truly democratic. It is another name for what in Europe is called “social democracy”, or in other words, capitalism with some superficial (and temporary) welfare reforms. Originally, “democratic socialism” or “social democracy” also meant that the capitalist state nationalized some major industries such as steel and railroads; in other words, the term originally referred to a mixed form of capitalism with both private industry and a sphere of state capitalism. Both spheres, private corporations and state-owned industries, were nevertheless under the total control of the capitalist ruling class, and functioned primarily for their individual or collective benefit. Over time, state capitalism proved to be even less useful (and less profitable) to the ruling class than private monopoly capitalism, so in recent decades those who still call themselves “democratic socialists” no longer even support the partial bourgeois nationalization of industry. The only mystery is why they still want to call themselves “socialists” at all! Perhaps it is part of their continuing need to fool the masses about what socialism really is.
“I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.” —Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist”, in a speech a Georgetown University, Nov. 19, 2015, online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/11/20/how-bernie-sanders-is-mainstreaming-democratic-socialism/?tid=a_inl
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA
Currently the largest of several social-democratic organizations in the United States. Though still fairly small, it has been growing rapidly since the election of President Trump in late 2016, as liberals, “progressives”, and “radicals” look for an easy solution to right-wing dangers while still remaining within the bounds of capitalism and bourgeois ideology. The DSA focuses on electoral politics, but uses the tactics of entryism by seeking to win nominations within the Democratic party (and occasionally in the Green party). Officially the DSA favors “market socialism” (and/or other phony perversions of real socialism), but in reality all their efforts go only toward trying to achieve a slightly “reformed” and “regulated” capitalism through the ballot box.
DEMOCRITUS of Abdera [in Thrace] (c. 460-c. 370 BCE)
Early Greek materialist philosopher who championed the view that the world consists ultimately of minute indivisible atoms whose movement and combination required no supernational forces.
The germ of this idea goes back to his teacher Leucippus, and before him to Anaxagoras. But Democritus worked the idea out further and gave some strong philosophical arguments in support of the atomic theory. It was more than 2 millennia later that the early chemist John Dalton began to provide experimental evidence in support of the existence of atoms, and it was not until the early 20th century that Einstein’s explanation for Brownian motion finally overcame the remaining scientific and philosophical arguments against the existence of molecules and atoms. Of course it is now also known that ordinary atoms, which are indeed ordinarily indivisible, can themselves be split in two under very special conditions.
For more than a decade already, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and frantic worries in bourgeois economics circles about something they call a “growing demographic crisis”, related to aging populations, and in many countries, to actually declining populations because of rapidly falling birth rates. Bourgeois economists worry about these things for a number of reasons, such as: 1) They understand that capitalism is a “grow or die” or at least a “grow rapidly or enter serious economic crisis” socioeconomic system; 2) They fear that evenually the rapidly declining number of people of working age will be unable to support the constantly growing number of old and retired people; and 3) They fear that there will soon be too few workers available to do all the necessary work. The essence of this last fear is probably more along the lines of fearing that if there are fewer and fewer workers they can exploit, overall profits will have to fall “significantly”!
All these fears ignore the fact that productivity is always increasing and that fewer and fewer workers are actually needed to produce the same amount of goods as are produced today. If this is taken into account it should not really matter if a larger part of the population is old and retired. Nor should it matter if the population declines, because that decline will also mean that fewer goods are needed. And of course, the increases in productivity along with the rapidly expanding automation of more and more kinds of work also mean that there is no real danger in modern society that there will not be enough workers to do all the necessary work. In fact, the problem is just the opposite: Despite slowing (or even declining) population growth, the fraction of the population that can even find jobs is now declining over time (though with secondary ups and downs due to the state of the economy).
So, in reality, the so-called “demographic crisis” is actually a complete fantasy! Capitalism has many growing problems, for sure. But they are not those encompassed by the so-called demographic crisis. To the extent that demographics really are an economic problem for capitalism, it is only because they are actually aspects of the overall overproduction crisis. —S.H. [Dec. 6, 2023]
See also: RETIREMENT—Early
“Due to population aging, GDP growth per capita and GDP growth per working-age
adult have become quite different among many advanced economies over the last several decades.
Countries whose GDP growth per capita performance has been lackluster, like Japan, have done
surprisingly well in terms of GDP growth per working-age adult. Indeed, from 1998 to 2019, Japan
has grown slightly faster than the U.S. in terms of per working-age adult: an accumulated 31.9%
vs. 29.5%.” —From a summary of the research paper by the bourgeois economists Jesús
Fernández-Villaverde, Gustavo Ventura & Wen Yao, “The Wealth of Working Nations”, NBER
working paper 31914, November 2023.
[This is yet another reason to believe that an aging or declining population should really not be a problem even for a capitalist society, let alone for a socialist or communist socioeconomic system. —Ed.]
See also: TOTAL FERTILITY RATE
See also: PROTESTS, PROTEST MOVEMENTS — Limitations Of
DENG Xiaoping (Old style: Teng Hsiao-p’ing) (1904-1997)
Capitalist-roader within the Chinese Communist Party, who after Mao’s death led the revisionist dismantling of socialism in China and the return to capitalism.
[More to be added.]
“This person does not grasp class struggle; he has never referred to this key link. Still his theme of ‘white cat, black cat,’ making no distinction between imperialism and Marxism.” —Mao, speaking of Deng Xiaoping, quoted in Chin Chih-po, “Denial of the Difference Between Socialism and Capitalism is Not Allowed: Repudiate the Theme about ‘White Cat, Black Cat’”, Peking Review, #16, April 16, 1976), p. 18. Online at https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1976/PR1976-16e.htm (single article in HTML format) or https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1976/PR1976-16.pdf (full issue in PDF image format).
1. The branch of ethics (especially bourgeois ethics) concerned with duty or moral obligation, as opposed to axiology, the branch concerned with “value”. The splitting of ethics into these two major categories (by the intuitionists, for example) is based on the idea that value and moral obligation are somehow difficult or impossible to connect, a view not shared by Marxist-Leninist ethics.
2. The ethical theory (held by Kant and many other bourgeois philosophers) that duty is the basis of all morality. Kant went so far as to claim that many acts (such as telling the truth and keeping promises) are your moral duty regardless of the consequences!
See also: CONSEQUENTIALISM
The social theory that maintains that the “core” countries of the world exploit the raw materials, cheap labor and other resources of the “periphery” (the “Third World”), and that the net flow of wealth is from the periphery to the core. There are both Marxist and non-Marxist versions of this theory, though the non-Marxist or only semi-Marxist versions have been the most prominent over the past few decades.
We Marxists understand that the impoverishment of Third World countries is simply one major aspect of capitalist imperialism at work, and that the central key to understanding how imperialist countries extract wealth from the countries they control or dominate has to start with a clear understanding of how capitalism itself functions (through the extraction of surplus value at the work place). Of course we also understand that there are additional mechanisms whereby the bourgeoisies of imperialist countries exploit the people of Third World countries, such as through manipulating the terms of trade to their own advantage.
But the currently most prominent versions of dependency theory, especially those associated with what is known as “world-systems theory”, downplay or ignore the existence of social classes, and the inherent nature of capitalism as an exploitative economic system, and focus almost entirely on secondary issues such as unfavorable terms of trade. Moreover they think mostly in terms of rich countries exploiting poor countries, rather than the capitalist ruling classes exploiting people both at home and abroad. The central view of this version of dependency theory is that the “peripheral countries” are impoverished and the “core countries” are enriched virtually entirely by the way that these countries are integrated with each other through the world market. Thus the explicit or implicit “solution” that many of these theorists put forward is more along the lines of setting up high tariffs and promoting the growth of local industries (and thus the local bourgeoisie), rather than promoting anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle through means such as people’s war and/or revolutionary insurrection.
See also: PREBISCH THESIS
The term “dependent countries” is frequently used, and is usually intended by those on the Left to mean those countries which—because of imperialist domination or interference—have little ability to act or develop their economies independently. However, “dependent countries” might instead be misconstrued to imply that these countries are somehow dependent on the largesse or economic “support” of the imperialist countries, when in fact the situation is just the other way around, and the imperialist countries are to a considerable degree actually dependent upon the exploitation of economically less developed countries! Furthermore, in some respects, even various second-tier imperialist countries are “dependent” on the top-dog imperialists (the U.S.). Thus Germany and Japan, which are certainly imperialist countries, are currently dependent on U.S. military domination of the world for their ability to join in with the U.S. in its economic exploitation of many other countries. Similarly, the terms “dominated” or “subordinate” countries are not entirely satisfactory in all contexts since the top-dog U.S. imperialists also dominate and subordinate other imperialist countries, at least to a degree.
See also: DEPENDENCY THEORY, “THIRD WORLD”
DEPORTATIONS — From the United States
Although the United States has often bragged about its being primarily a nation of immigrants, it also has a long history of preventing immigrants from coming to this country, and of deporting millions of people who have arrived here “illegally”. The contradictions and hypocrisy in this national myth are incredibly glaring!
But while significant deportations have been going on for well over a century, a huge leap in their numbers began in the late 1990s during the Clinton administration. The deportations expanded further during the George W. Bush years, and then reached their pinnacle (so far) during the Barack Obama administration. Thus it has been both Democrats and Republicans who have pushed up this incredible level of deportations into hundreds of thousands each year. As Obama left office the number of deportations dropped substantially, but the new ruling class agent in the White House, Donald Trump, is now doing his damnedest to try to push the level of deportations back up to where it was in the Obama years.
See also: IMMIGRANTS—Deportation Of
“The Creation and Development of Mass Deportations
“The foundations of Trump’s immigration policy was already in place. While there is a long history of deportation and oppression of immigrants in the U.S., the government first began to shift to its current path of militarization of the border under Bill Clinton. Clinton greatly increased the number of crimes which could lead to deportation, opening the floodgates to a hyper-militarized border policy—more deportations, more officers equipped with military gear, more detention center prisons, etc. This was a requirement of the monopoly capitalist class that Clinton served....
“These deportation policies continued to expand under [George W.] Bush. His administration used the 9/11 attacks to justify massive increases in domestic surveillance, militarization, and wars abroad, all in the name of ‘security.’ Bush also began a policy called ‘Secure Communities’ which facilitated cooperation between local police/sheriff departments and immigration agencies by sharing fingerprint data. This led many undocumented immigrants to be turned over to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for deportation (a then newly created agency) who had only committed minor traffic violations or other similar offenses. But it was Obama’s administration which turned this militarized border security system into a well-oiled deportation machine. This expansion of deportation machinery was in large part a response to both the growing unemployment and poverty after the 2008 capitalist crisis, as well as the growing politicization of many immigrants.
“In Obama’s first four years in office, it was estimated his administration spent over $18 billion on immigration enforcement—a massive increase from the Bush years. This trend didn’t reverse either, in 2016 alone, a whopping $19 billion was budgeted for CBP [Border Patrol] and ICE. Obama’s ‘crowning achievement’ however, was deporting record numbers of people. Around 2.5 million people were deported during his administration, more than any other president before him. While ICE claimed the majority of people were criminals and ‘threats to national security,’ the majority either had no criminal record or only minor violations on file.
“Under Obama, even basic legal proceedings were routinely discarded for immigrant children, and between 2013 and 2016, around 7,700 children were deported without ever appearing before immigration court. These courts are often merely there to rubber-stamp the deportation process, but the growing tendency to deport people without even a pretense of a democratic process reflects the increasingly fascist way the U.S. treats undocumented immigrants.
“On top of this, Obama massively militarized the border, with devastating consequences. His administration oversaw construction of steel walls, a surge in the number of agents in both CBP and ICE, and huge increases in funding for these agencies. He also made border crossing exceedingly dangerous. This was done through bills like a $600 million ‘border security’ bill in 2010, which added 1,500 new agents, expanded the number of Border Patrol checkpoints, and even added a fleet of aerial surveillance drones to the Border Patrol’s arsenal.
“With more agents, checkpoints, and surveillance, many migrants were compelled to travel in more dangerous conditions and through more dangerous terrain to avoid the violence of various agents and goons. The U.S. state relies on the fact that many migrants will die in making the border crossing through the desert to help check the flow of immigrants into this country. Border Patrol agents routinely poor out water that activists leave at the desert crossings.
“Violence and corruption by immigration agencies is rampant. The CBP is one of the deadliest and most corrupt law enforcement agencies in America. Recent investigations have shown that in the 15 years from 2003-2018, 97 people—both migrants and citizens—were killed in encounters with the Border Patrol, and most of the agents who murdered people were never reprimanded. Between 2005 and 2012, nearly one Border Patrol officer was arrested every single day for misconduct. Only the most egregious cases of misconduct lead to the arrests of border patrol agents, so it is fair to conclude that actual misconduct is even more ubiquitous than this disturbing statistic indicates. Sexual assault against migrant women is also rampant in both agencies, with thousands of complaints filed against ICE and many thousands more left unreported out of humiliation and fear of deportation and retaliation.”
—Excerpts from the excellent exposé article “U.S. Imperialism at the Border”, by “Khalil”, Red Star, #3, Spring 2019, published by the Revolutionary United Front. The full article and full issue are available online at: https://www.RevolutionaryUnitedFront.com
Up until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the term ‘depression’ just meant the low phase of any industrial cycle. (Marx called the four phases of such a cycle the boom, crisis, depression, and recovery stages.) However, the Great Depression of the 1930s was so severe that bourgeois economists have not wanted to use the term ‘depression’ for the milder economic crises that have occurred since then. Instead, they came up with the word ‘recession’. The term ‘depression’ is now mostly avoided by bourgeois commentators, but when pressed they define it in rather crude and unscientific terms as “something comparable to the Great Depression”, that is, an economic crisis which lasts for at least several years, in which the unemployment rate approaches 25% at its peak (as it did in the U.S. in 1933), and so forth. Sometimes their definitions are even more arbitrary and vague, such as: “A recession is a widespread decline in GDP, employment, and trade lasting from six months to a year; a depression is a sustained, multi-year contraction in economic activity.”
In a more scientific approach, from a Marxist standpoint, a depression is simply a capitalist overproduction crisis in which all the major economic contradictions come to a head, while a recession is a “short-circuited” economic crisis, in which the government is able to intervene and stop the collapse, with only some of the more surface contradictions actually coming to a head. For more on this see: “Chapter 5: The Industrial Cycle has Split In Two!” of my work in progress An Introductory Explanation of Capitalist Economic Cycles at: https://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/crises/Crises05.htm, and my letter “Is it a ‘Depression’?”, at: https://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/CurrentCrisis/IsItADepression.htm (Feb. 2009) in which I predict that within a relatively short period during which there will be weak and temporary “recoveries” followed by new relapses, the current long-developing economic crisis will develop into a full-fledged Second Great Depression. —S.H.
See also below, and: LONG DEPRESSION (1873-1896)
DEPRESSION — “Cannot Happen Again”
Most bourgeois economists claim that the Great Depression of the 1930s was due only to serious errors in the management of the capitalist economy, that the appropriate lessons have been learned from this, and that therefore it can never happen again. Here is a specific claim along these lines from one of their leading lights, a so-called “Nobel Prize” winner in economics, Robert Lucas, in his Presidential Address to the American Economic Association in December 2003:
“Macroeconomics was born as a distinct field in the 1940s, as part of the intellectual response to the Great Depression. The term then referred to the body of knowledge and expertise that we hoped would prevent the recurrence of that economic disaster. My thesis in this lecture is that macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded: Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades.” —Robert E. Lucas, Jr., “Macroeconomic Priorities”, American Economic Review, 2003, #93, p. 1.
A mere 4 years later, the Great Recession of 2007-9
began, which was the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, and which
came within a whisker of turning into a full-scale depression, quite possibly even worse
than the one of the 1930s. Moreover, the forces that led to this new serious downturn are
still operating and will certainly lead to that even greater disaster before too many years
go by. Far from being “impossible” again, the true situation is that a new depression is
inevitable because of the inherent contradictions of capitalism.
See also: OVERPRODUCTION CRISES, OVERPRODUCTION CRISES—As “Self-Correcting”
DEPRESSION — Chronic and Intractable
Depressions (and recessions) last different lengths of time, but some have lasted a decade or two or more (at least in some countries). However, some people, including Trotsky, have claimed that depressions automatically resolve themselves and cannot continue indefinitely. Engels, did not hold such a doctrinaire view. In his Preface to the English edition of volume I of Marx’s Capital, and writing in the middle of what was then known as the (first) “Great Depression”, which much later was renamed the Long Depression of 1873-1896, Engels said that the world capitalist economy had seemed “to land us in the slough of despond of a permanent and chronic depression”.
The “Long Depression” did eventually end, and so did the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, there is no automatic process that invariably leads to the end of a depression. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels argued that only the destruction of excess productive capital or else the development of new international markets can resolve a depression. And now that virtually the entire world has already been penetrated by capitalist markets, the expansion of foreign markets is no longer very effective. That leaves only the method of massive destruction of excess productive capital as a means of ending a major depression. If that cannot be accomplished, the depression will continue indefinitely (though likely with secondary ups and downs within it).
The Great Depression of the 1930s was only ended by the massive destruction of productive capital during World War II. But now another world war, with vast numbers of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, might even wipe out humanity! So how can even world war resolve a new Great Depression without totally destroying human society?! Since it seems there is no such way, we might thus expect that the next Great Depression, when it finally fully develops, will be both chronic and intractable.
See also: OVERPRODUCTION CRISES—As “Self-Correcting”
DEPRESSION — Why Hasn’t There Been Another One Yet?
Many people, especially many Marxists and radical or even some liberal economists, have often wondered: Why hasn’t there been another great depression since the one of the 1930s? Hyman Minsky, the liberal Keynesian-style bourgeois economist went so far as to say: “The most significant economic event of the era since World War II is something that has not happened: there has not been a deep and long-lasting depression.” [Minsky: Can ‘It’ Happen Again? Essays on Instability and Finance (1982), p. ix.] This does indeed seem to many to be a great puzzle.
In fact many people—including many bourgeois ideologists and even many Marxists (including Stalin)—expected the Great Depression of the 1930s to resume after the temporary war-boom of 1940-46. Those who say that depressions “can’t possibly happen” (unless the government makes serious mistakes), those who expected that the Great Depression of the 1930s would resume after World War II, and those who say that there “should have been” a new depression by now—are all suffering from the same syndrome: the failure to really fully understand depressions, what causes them, how they are resolved, and how they can be postponed for a long time (though not forever). None of them really understand the nature of depressions, the dialectical contradictions involved in them, their causes, and how during the capitalist-imperialist era most recessions can be prevented from developing into full-scale depressions.
The basic explanation for this last circumstance, and why there has not yet been another great depression, is that the capitalist state has learned how to “short-circuit” recessions, that is, to halt their dialectical development before the deepest contradictions involved in them can come to a head. They do this in one fundamental way: by expanding debt, both consumer debt and government debt. The deepest cause of capitalist economic crises (overproduction crises) is that the capitalists extract surplus value from their workers, or in other words, that the workers create more value than they are paid for in the form of wages. Although the capitalists then invest a large part of this surplus value in the expansion of productive capital, this only means that the growth of the productive potential of society expands ever faster than the growth of the market for the commodities produced. Under capitalism the only ways to deal with this are to grant ever larger credit to the workers and other consumers and to have the government also buy more and more commodities financed by the endless expansion of fiscal deficits. The ever-greater growth of consumer and government debt is essentially the only way to prevent recessions from developing into depressions. And this also explains why most recessions in the modern era are fairly mild. (See: Split-Cycle Theory).
Of course the growth of credit and debt has its own severe limits; it cannot go on forever (and at the ever-faster pace required to keep a capitalist economy functioning). Eventually one of these recessions will prove unmanageable, will get out of hand in the form of an extremely serious financial crisis that the capitalist state is unable to deal with, and the house of cards will crash into a new depression. What’s more, that depression will be all the worse the longer that this postponement process has gone on (because the means of ameliorating the depression will have already been nearly exhausted in postponing it).
Nevertheless, this method of short-circuiting economic overproduction crises, of halting most of them at the stage of mild recessions and before they can develop into a depression, is quite successful for a long time. And this is why, so far, there has not been another depression on the magnitude of that of the 1930s (or greater!). We are getting close to the denouement, however. The Great Recession of 2008-9 came dangerously close to getting out of hand for the bourgeoisie. One of the next few recessions, perhaps the very next one, will almost certainly prove to be uncontrollable and the deeper contradictions involved in the capitalist mode of production will then explode in the form of a long and intractable depression.
DEPRESSION (Mental Disorder)
A mental state characterized by a generalized sadness, malaise and disinterest in a person’s own life and activity let alone in the people and world around them. In more serious cases the person may have difficulty thinking and concentrating, sustained inactivity, much increased time spent sleeping, a decrease in appetite or other eating disorders, feelings of dejection or hopelessness, and sometimes even suicidal tendencies. Temporary or mild cases of depression are quite common (especially among teenagers), but more serious cases are also surprisingly common in contemporary society. In fact, it might well be said that clinical depression is one of the widespread symptoms or results of bourgeois society. Capitalism harms people in an almost endless list of ways, including their own mental condition and stability. However, not all mental depression is caused by society; environmental or genetic factors can apparently also bring it about in some cases, and there are medical treatments (drugs) which sometimes seem to help considerably.
“Most American teenagers—across demographic groups—see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers, a new survey by the Pew Research Center found. The survey found that 70 percent of teenagers consider mental health a big issue. Fewer teenagers cited bullying, drug addiction or gangs as major problems; those from low-income households were more likely to do so. The consistency of the responses about mental health issues across gender, race and income lines was striking...” —Karen Zraick, “The Major Issue of Mental Health”, New York Times, Feb. 26, 2019.
DERIVATIVE (Capitalist Finance)
A tradable financial security whose current exchange price derives from the actual or expected price of some underlying real asset such as a commodity, ownership shares of a company, other securities (such as mortgages or corporate bonds), or a currency (such as the dollar). Examples of derivatives are: futures contracts for shares of stocks, currency exchange futures, futures on stock market indexes, options, swaps, warrants, and CDOs.
In general, derivatives are ways of gambling over the future price of some real asset. For example, a speculator entering into a contract to buy 100 shares of stock in a company six months from now at $50/each, is betting that in six months the going price will be above $50/share, so that he will then be able to buy the stock at the $50 price and immediately sell it at the higher price, thus making a profit. (Of course if the price of the stock goes down in that six month period he will end up taking a loss.)
Bourgeois economic theory says that it is reasonable and justified to allow this sort of gambling on the grounds that a judicious use of derivatives can serve as a form of insurance to safeguard those who currently own, or who in the future will need to buy commodities and other real assets, from unexpected price fluctuations and so forth. However, the flaw in this argument is that while this sort of thing can indeed decrease the dangers of market risk for that company, it is only possible because of the increased risks transmitted to the other speculators. Moreover, since the stock market, at least, is itself in effect a giant Ponzi scheme, allowing derivatives based on stock prices is a means which serves to amplify this Ponzi aspect. For reasons like this, derivatives serve to hugely increase the speculative and precarious nature of modern financial capitalism. There are, however, enormous profits to be made in the meanwhile, so derivatives will never be eliminated or even be completely brought under control. They will exist as long as capitalism does.
According to the New York Times, as of July 15, 2009, the “derivatives market now represents transactions with a face value of $600 trillion”. It is not clear, however, that even this colossal sum includes all the securities which should properly be counted as derivatives!
“The rapidly growing trade in derivatives poses a ‘mega-catastrophic risk.’ ...[F]or the economy, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction that could harm not only their buyers and sellers, but the whole economic system.” —Warren Buffett, billionaire capitalist investor, in the 2002 Annual Report of his company Berkshire Hathaway.
DERIVATIVE (Mathematics: Calculus)
1. A function derived from an original function, which in turn generates at each defined point a value which is the limiting value of the rate of change of the original function with respect to a variable. There are fairly simple rules in the calculus for generating many derivative functions from the original functions.
2. The actual value of that limit at one specific point. This value is the slope of the original function at that point and is also defined as the instantaneous rate of change (or instantaneous velocity in the case of something moving) at that point.
For example, in the function y = x3 the derivative function dy/dx or y' = 3x2. Thus at the point where x = 2, the slope or instantaneous rate of change of the original function is 3 × 2 × 2 = 12 units.
See also: INSTANTANEOUS VELOCITY
DERRIDA, Jacques (Pronounced in English: der-ree-DAH) (1930-2004)
A French bourgeois philosopher of the postmodern school, and founder of the deconstructionist movement within it. Those into contemporary bourgeois Continental philosophy sometimes claim that Derrida was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. But none of them have been able to state (in intelligible words) just what his supposed “great contributions” were.
One of the most characteristic traits of intellectual phonies like Derrida is that they try to hide their triviality or vacuity by being purposefully obscure. Michel Foucault, whose lectures Derrida once attended, (and who himself had little of value to contribute to philosophy) described Derrida’s method as “terrorist obscurantism” and explained it this way:
“He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.” —Michel Foucault, comment to John Searle, “Reality Principles: An Interview with John R. Searle”, Reason magazine, February 2000, online at: http://www.reason.com/news/show/27599.html.
Many others have similarly criticized Derrida and modern French bourgeois philosophy in general for
such obscurantism. Noam Chomsky, for example, said that Derrida used
“pretentious rhetoric” to obscure the simplicity of his ideas and that doing so was characteristic of a
broad group of people within the Parisian intellectual community.
Some academic “leftists” consider Derrida to have been a man of the left. It is true that he was strongly criticized by various conservative bourgeois philosophers (like Searle and Quine), but Derrida himself was merely a liberal bourgeois intellectual. He opposed the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa, and he initially supported the student uprising in France in 1968 (but then backed away). But he was not a revolutionary and certainly not a Marxist. The infatuation in “left” academia for phonies like Derrida only serves to discredit them!
DESCARTES, René (1596-1650)
Usually considered to be the first “modern” philosopher, because he broke with the sterile dogmatism of the Scholastics, and introduced the “method of doubt”. Although he himself was a dualist, he played a major role in helping to inspire a materialist trend of thought.
See also: Philosophical doggerel on Descartes.
“...Descartes’s monumental decision [was] that the body and the immortal soul should be considered separately. This allowed the bodies of both humans and beasts to be examined in wholly physical terms for the first time. Descartes saw the human body as a machine, much like a child’s mechanical toy. It was from this perspective that he proposed that all living things, their soulful nature excepted, are made of ordinary matter. In his view, living bodies were the same as inanimate objects except in the details of their incarnations. As a consequence, they obeyed the same laws.” —Stephen Rothman, a prominent (non-Marxist) American biologist, Lessons From the Living Cell (2002), pp. 22-23.
See: PRESCRIPTIVISM vs. DESCRIPTIVISM
[From Sanskrit ‘desh’ (“country”); in Hindi and other modern South Asian languages, “a person from South Asia”:]
A term for a person or culture of the countries of South Asia, including especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Most frequently today, and especially in countries outside that region, Desis refers to those people in the diaspora, i.e., those from South Asia now living in other countries around the world. There are large numbers of Desis in the U.S., Britain, Canada, South Africa, and many other countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Jobs which because of the further division of labor and/or the use of sophisticated machinery require fewer skills on the part of the workers. The introduction of most machinery has the effect of de-skilling the jobs of the workers involved. Moreover, the de-skilling of jobs in this way is generally also a stepping stone toward the complete elimination of those jobs (since it is far easier to automate unskilled labor—something that was recognized even by Adam Smith in Chapter 1 of his book The Wealth of Nations (1776)).
Modern apologists for capitalism often argue the opposite; that the introduction of machinery, while eliminating much tedious work, opens up the need for new workers with much greater skills to make and operate the machinery. For a very small number of new jobs (in the designing of new machinery for example) this may be true. But for the most part the new jobs opened up are even more tedious and de-skilled than ever. And that is while they continue to exist at all. Just ask any assembly line worker if they think new machinery is making their job more interesting!
“The Economist notes that new technologies also make it
possible for firms to ‘reshape’ those jobs that remain, so that they can ‘be done
by less skilled contract workers.’ ‘In case after case,’ [Nicholas] Carr writes,
‘we’ve seen as machines become more sophisticated, the work left to people becomes
less so.’ This was anticipated first by Harvard Business School professor James R.
Bright in his 1958 book Automation and Management. ‘It seems that the more
automatic the machine, the less the operator has to do,’ Bright wrote. ‘The
progressive effect of automation is first to relieve the operator of manual effort
and then to relieve him of the need to apply continuous mental effort.’ [Elsewhere
he wrote:] ‘The lesson should be increasingly clear; it is not necessarily
true that highly complex equipment requires skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be
built into the machine.’” —Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get
Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016),
[The authors go on to point out that if more automation means fewer skill requirements for workers, then the widespread notion that the solution to the problem of automation is “more education” is completely on the wrong track. —Ed.]
See also: “HOPELESS SITUATION”
“Despair is typical of the classes which are perishing, but the class of wage-workers is growing inevitably, developing and becoming strong in every capitalist society, Russia included. Despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out, and are incapable of struggle.” —Lenin, “L. N. Tolstoy and the Modern Labor Movement” (Nov. 28, 1910), LCW 16:332.
“Action is the antidote to despair.” —Attributed to Joan Baez.
The materialist view that all phenomena have definite natural causes. Often confused with fatalism. The opposite of determinism is indeterminism.
See also: FREE WILL, COMPATIBILISM
“The point is that this is one of the favorite hobby-horses of the subjective philosopher—the idea of the conflict between determinism and morality, between historical necessity and the significance of the individual. He [the Narodnik Mikhailovsky] has filled reams of paper on the subject and has uttered an infinite amount of sentimental, philistine nonsense in order to settle this conflict in favor of morality and the role of the individual. Actually, there is no conflict here at all: it has been invented by Mr. Mikhailovsky, who feared (not without reason) that determinism would cut the ground from under the philistine morality he loves so dearly. The idea of determinism, which postulates that human acts are necessitated and rejects the absurd tale about free will, in no way destroys man’s reason or conscience, or appraisal of his actions. Quite the contrary, only the determinist view makes a strict and correct appraisal possible instead of attributing everything you please to free will. Similarly, the idea of historical necessity does not in the least undermine the role of the individual in history: all history is made up of the actions of individuals, who are undoubtedly active figures. The real question that arises in appraising the social activity of an individual is: what conditions ensure the success of his actions, what guarantee is there that these actions will not remain an isolated act lost in a welter of contrary acts?” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:159. [Note that Lenin is criticizing “free will” only in the sense of anti-determinism, and not in the sense of humans being able to make choices. —S.H.]
“Far from assuming fatalism, determinism in fact provides a basis for reasonable action.” —Lenin, “The Economic Content of Narodism” (1894), LCW 1:420.
DEUTSCH-FRANZÖSISHE JARHBÜCHER [Franco-German Annals]
“A magazine published in German in Paris and edited by Karl Marx and Arnold Ruge. The only issue to appear was a double number published in February 1844. It included Marx’s articles ‘A Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Law (Introduction)’ and ‘On the Jewish Question,’ and also Engels’ articles ‘Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy’ and ‘The Position of England. Thomas Carlyle. “Past and Present”.’ These works mark the final transition of Marx and Engels to materialism and communism. Publication of the magazine was discontinued chiefly as a result of the basic differences between Marx’s views and the bourgeois-radical views of Ruge.” —Note 5, LCW 38:564.
“DEVELOPING COUNTRIES” (or “DEVELOPING ECONOMIES”)
Bourgeois euphemisms for the poor countries of the world, which are largely kept poor because of the predations of the rich imperialist countries.
See also: “EMERGING ECONOMIES”
DEVELOPMENT [Philosophical Concept]
[Intro to be added...]
See also: “LINKS IN A CHAIN (Of DEVELOPMENT)” [Lenin quotes]
“Many people confuse dialectics with the doctrine of development; dialectics is, in fact, such a doctrine. However, it differs substantially from the vulgar ‘theory of evolution’, which is based completely on the principle that neither Nature nor history proceeds in leaps and that all changes in the world take place by degrees. Hegel had already shown that, understood in such a way, the doctrine of development was unsound and ridiculous.” —G. V. Plekhanov, “Fundamental Problems of Marxism” (1907), Int’l Publishers ed. (1971), p. 45; SPW 3:139.
“The identity [or unity] of opposites is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and process of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their ‘self-movement,’ in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the ‘struggle’ of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).” —Lenin, “On the Question of Dialectics” (1915), LCW 38:359-360.
“With the ‘principle of development’ in the twentieth century (indeed, at the end of the nineteenth century also) ‘all are agreed.’ Yes, but this superficial, not thought out, accidental, philistine ‘agreement’ is an agreement of such a kind as stifles and vulgarizes the truth. — If everything develops, then everything passes from one into another, for development as is well known is not a simple, universal and eternal growth, enlargement (respective diminution), etc. — If that is so, then, in the first place, evolution has to be understood more exactly, as the arising and passing away of everything, as mutual transitions. — And, in the second place, if everything develops, does not that apply also to the most general concepts and categories of thought? If not, it means that thinking is not connected with being. If it does, it means that there is a dialectics of concepts and a dialectics of cognition which has objective significance.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:255-6.
DEVELOPMENT — Recurrence In
The development of things and processes in society, individuals, and in nature often proceeds in ways such that there is a recurrence of some characteristics from an earlier or lower stage in the later or higher stages. In the graphic at the right this is illustrated with regard to the periodic table of the elements where as atoms include more and more protons (and thus become different elements) their chemical properties become similar to those in the same column of the chart. In this sense, as we move through the periodic chart from element to element, there is both a continuity of development and also generally a recurrence of some characteristics seen in one or more earlier elements. [Graphic from: Marxist-Leninist Philosophy: Diagrams, tables, illustrations for students of Marxist-Leninist theory, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987), p. 66.]
An example of a similar thing in human society is the progressive change from slave society, to feudal society, and then to capitalist society. In each of these stages there is the exploitation of one class by another class, though the precise way in which that exploitation occurs is different in each stage of social development. So there is a continuity of development, a development of a progressive character, and also a recurrence of exploitation but on a higher basis. (It should be noted that the further stages in social development—first to socialism and then to communism—will not continue this particular sort of recurrence. The fact that there is recurrence of a particular sort for a while in some developing process does not imply that that specific recurrence must be a permanent feature, because, for one thing, that first process may itself be just one stage of a larger process.)
Why does this sort of recurrent development ever exist at all in a great many processes? It is because, in any complex development, there is generally more than one dialectical contradiction at work. The resolution of one contradiction may move the process from one stage to another. But if a more basic contradiction is still unresolved, it will resurface in the form of some recurrent features in the new stage. Thus, technical progress may allow the exploitation contradiction (where one class lives by exploiting another) to change from stage to stage, i.e., from slave society to feudalism to capitalism, and thereby allow exploitation to not only continue but to take on more efficient forms. This is the recurrence part of the picture. But eventually the exploitation contradiction itself will be eliminated in a proletarian socialist revolution. That will put an end to the recurrence of exploitation of one class by another in society.
See also: NEGATION OF THE NEGATION, SUBLATION
DEVELOPMENT OF MARXISM-LENINISM-MAOISM
See: “RUPTURES” IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARXISM
DEWEY, John (1859-1952)
American idealist philosopher, one of the main proponents of pragmatism, his version of which he prefered to call instrumentalism.
See also: Philosophical doggerel on Dewey.
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