Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Fu - Fz   —

An expression which was very popular among alienated and disgruntled American Army draftees during the Vietnam War era (late 1960s through mid 1970s). The phrase was originally a play on an official (though absurd) U.S. Army advertising slogan urging young males to join the Army for “Fun, Travel and Adventure”. Later, the euphemism “Free The Army” was created for those who were also opposed to the draft and the Vietnam War, but who were too squeamish or polite to repeat the words the soldiers themselves were using.
        As hostility toward the Army and the War continued to develop, a string of “FTA” cafes began to appear near major Army bases within the U.S. and overseas. In April 1970 a group of anti-Vietnam War activists and actors, including Fred Gardner, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland organized a touring “political vaudeville” show called “FTA”, which officially was termed the “Free the Army Tour”, but which was properly understood by all to mean the less respectable phrase. This show was in response to the pro-war USO touring show headlined by Bob Hope. The dialogue from this FTA tour was turned into a documentary film which was directed by Francine Parker and released in 1972.
        See also:
VIETNAM WAR—Near Collapse of the U.S. Military


A term used in American imperialist ruling class circles, especially within the military, to refer to the strongly desired total dominance of the U.S. armed forces in all six domains of modern warfare: the three traditional spheres of air, land, and sea, and also the three newer spheres of aerospace, cyberspace, and covert action. The long-term problem for the U.S. ruling class, however, is that this is extremely costly, and as the U.S. economy weakens in growing crisis and the Chinese economy further surpasses the American one, it will soon become impossible for U.S. imperialism to permanently maintain its current full-spectrum dominance.

A rule that assigns a unique value to each element of a given set. Thus, in the equation y = x2, where x is defined to be any real number, the number indicated by the letter y is assigned the value of x squared. Thus if x equals 3, then y equals 9; if x equals 1.5, y equals 2.25; and so forth. Functions are also frequently indicated like this: f(x) = x2, which can be read “the function of x (which we are presently concerned with) is x squared”.
        The set of elements on which the function operates is called its domain. And the set of values which result from the operation of the function on all the elements in its domain is called the range of the function. A function may assign two or more elements in the domain the same value, but each element is only assigned one single value.

“To Leibniz (1646-1716), who first used the word ‘function,’ and to the mathematicians of the eighteenth century, the idea of a functional relationship was more or less identified with the existence of a simple mathematical formula expressing the exact nature of the relationship. This concept proved too narrow for the requirements of mathematical physics, and the idea of a function, together with the related notion of limit, was subjected to a long process of generalization and clarification...” —Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins, What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods, (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1978 (1941)), pp. 272-273. That book then goes on to elaborate the specific nature of these generalizations and clarifications.

“In accordance with a definition, which [Leonhard] Euler had already given in 1749, a function is often explained as a variable quantity that is dependent upon another variable quantity. For many purposes such a definition of the concept of a function suffices. But in the course of the further development of mathematics it turned out to be necessary and useful to give a more general and abstract content to the concept of a function. The essence of the concept is not the dependence of quantities, by which one usually understands numbers that can be compared in a ‘less than or greater than’ relationship, but the fact of the correspondence itself, on the basis of which certain objects are regarded as being assigned to certain other objects. The concept of a function is reduced to set-theoretic definitions.” —The VNR Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics, ed. W. Gellert, et al., (NY: 1977), p. 107.

FUNCTIONALISM   [Philosophy of Mind]
The theory of mind which says that mental processes are functions, actions, aspects or characteristics of the brain (or an equivalent artificial entity such as a very advanced computer).
        The brain is an extremely complex organ in which there are constant internal changes, many the result of input from the sense organs. These specific changes involve thousands, millions, or even billions of neural brain cells and their varying interconnections and the varying strength of these interconnections. Thus when a human being sees or hears some danger, such as an attacking wild animal, there are a vast number of tiny changes going on in the brain. In conscious beings there need to be systems which summarize all these myriads of tiny brain changes in a high-level way, which will allow the animal to act appropriately and to survive. Mentalistic terms, such as recognition, remembering, fearing, thinking, hoping, wanting and so forth are the names we give to these high-level functional summaries of the internal activities of the brain. Moreover, at different points, the brain will be in different functional states, or engaged in different overall processes. Many of these overall states are also given mentalistic names, such as anxiety, fear, calm, happiness, thought, and so forth. Then too, aspects of the
external world (the world external to the brain) will need to be given high-level summary descriptions, such as hardness or softness, sizes, quantity, color, shape and many other categorizations. The complete collection of all these high-level summations of the functioning of the brain, of its internal states, and of our mental perceptions of the world around us, are what we call the mind.
        Functionalism is implicitly materialist in its basic conceptions, focusing as it does on how the mind is simply a set of high-level summary characteristics of the functioning brain. However, some idealist psychologists (such as Jerry Fodor) have put forward the quite absurd notion that the supposed “minds” of gods, ghosts or other disembodied “beings”, which they imagine could exist, might also be understood in sort of a functionalist way. [For a brief discussion of this see: Scott Harrison, “On the Analogy Between Mind/Brian and Software/Hardware” (1992), section 17, online at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/mindsoft.htm] The Marxist dialectical materialist theory of the mind is, however, definitely a solidly materialist form of functionalism.
        See also: MIND-BODY PROBLEM, and Philosophical doggerel about functionalism.

“Surely no one who is cognizant of the facts of the case, nowadays, doubts that the roots of psychology lie in the physiology of the nervous system.” [And he went on to say that the operations of the mind] “are functions of the brain”. —Thomas Henry Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”), in his book Hume, His Life and Philosophy, p. 80. Quoted in George Plekhanov, Fundamental Problems of Marxism (NY: International, 1969), p. 34.
         [Huxley’s comment here may be the origin of the concept of functionalism in psychology. Plekhanov notes that these words of Huxley express the same point of view as that of Feuerbach, but that Huxley then went on to somewhat spoil this by combining these ideas with Hume’s idealist skepticism. —Ed.]

“The mind is a function of the brain.” —Student’s Library: Psychology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986), p. 25.

FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION [In Some Process, Situation or Entity]
“The fundamental contradiction, in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by the fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed...” [Mao, “On Contradiction”, SW 1:325]. If we take this statement seriously, as we should, this means that the fundamental contradiction in a process, situation or thing is something extremely important: It determines the nature, or the essence, of the process or thing. What this means is that if you don’t yet understand what the fundamental contradiction in some process or thing is, then you really don’t yet truly understand that process or thing, whether you think you do or not.
        It should thus be recognized that the term fundamental contradiction is a
technical term within Marxist-Leninist-Maoist dialectical materialist theory. In particular, it does not mean the same thing as PRINCIPAL CONTRADICTION. (See also the entry below on FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION vs. PRINCIPAL CONTRADICTION for more on this.)
        For an example of a very important fundamental contradiction in human society which was discovered by Marx, and whose major implications have been worked out in detail by Marx and his followers, see the entry below: FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION OF CAPITALISM . It is apparent there that really understanding the Fundamental Contradiction of Capitalism enables us to understand the essence of the capitalist system of production, but in addition to that, helps us understand many other important things as well, including: How the capitalists live off the labor of the workers; Why there are two main classes in society (the capitalists and the workers); Why there must always be at least some level of struggle and conflict between those two classes; The basic cause for economic crises and depressions in capitalist society; Why automation only makes a bad situation worse under capitalism; and Why—for the welfare of the people—the capitalist system has to be overthrown. Of course further argument and evidence must be provided to fully establish these things, but it really is true that these basic conclusions do flow out of the fundamental contradiction of capitalist society. It is because fundamental contradictions help us understand so much more that coming to understand them is so important!

“The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each stage. The reason is that, although the nature of the fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process remain unchanged, the fundamental contradiction becomes more and more intensified as it passes from one stage to another in the lengthy process. In addition, among the numerous major and minor contradictions which are determined or influenced by the fundamental contradiction, some become intensified, some are temporarily or partially resolved or mitigated, and some new ones emerge; hence the process is marked by stages. If people do not pay attention to the stages in the process of development of a thing, they cannot deal with its contradictions properly.
        “For instance, when the capitalism of the era of free competition developed into imperialism, there was no change in the class nature of the two classes in fundamental contradiction, namely, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, or in the capitalist essence of society; however, the contradiction between these two classes became intensified, the contradiction between monopoly and non-monopoly capital emerged, the contradiction between the colonial powers and the colonies became intensified, the contradiction among the capitalist countries resulting from their uneven development manifested itself with particular sharpness, and thus there arose the special stage of capitalism, the stage of imperialism. Leninism is the Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution precisely because Lenin and Stalin have correctly explained these contradictions and correctly formulated the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution for their resolution.”
         —Mao, “On Contradiction”, (August 1937), SW 1:325, online at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_17.htm

The fundamental contradiction in any process, situation or entity is the contradiction that defines it and determines its essence. There is only one single fundamental contradiction in any process or entity during its entire time of existence, and when that contradiction is resolved or ceases to exist, so does the entire process.
        The principal contradiction, on the other hand, is simply the most important contradiction existing in, or strongly affecting, the overall process or entity at some given time or in some given stage of the process. It is the contradiction that must be resolved (or at least partially resolved), before the overall process can make much (if any) progress toward its own resolution. The principal contradiction within some given process might at times be the same as the fundamental contradiction, but in complex processes it might also be either a sub-contradiction of the fundamental contradiction, or perhaps even an extraneous outside contradiction which for one reason or another interferes with the progress of the working out of the fundamental contradiction.
        Thus we have two separate definitions here, of two separate concepts—even though at times these two different concepts might refer to the very same contradiction (during the times when the principal contradiction is in fact the same as the fundamental contradiction). One big difference between the two concepts is that the fundamental contradiction in any process never changes; it stays the same as long as the process continues. However, the principal contradiction may well change during that same period, and typically does so—possibly even several times—in the case of a complex social process such as revolutionary struggle.
        When expressed abstractly like this, it can all be rather confusing. And the best way to get clear on these two different concepts is to look at examples, as for instance the examples that Mao provides in “On Contradiction” of how the principal contradiction can change from time to time. When Japan attacked China in 1937, for example, the principle contradiction in Chinese society became that between almost all the social classes in China (on the one hand), and Japanese imperialism (on the other hand). After Japan was defeated, the principal contradiction in China reverted to the same as it was before the war, i.e., between the great masses of the people (especially workers and peasants), on the one hand, and big bureaucrat capitalists, compradors and landlords (all representing capitalism and feudalism) on the other side. In this case, both before Japan attacked and after Japanese imperialism was defeated, the principal contradiction in Chinese society was the same as the fundamental contradiction. Only during the War to Defeat Japan did the principal contradiction—but not the fundamental contradiction—change.
        Because these two contradictions, the fundamental contradiction and the principal contradiction, are quite distinct conceptually, they really should not be mixed up. However, they frequently are. One of the sources of confusion about the conceptual difference between the two is due to the shifting and unstable terminology that is often employed in talking about things like this. Sometimes merely the names for them are mixed up or mis-used. Unfortunately, everybody does this at times, even those who know better if they were to think about it for a moment. Moreover, when this conceptual contrast was first developed our science had not yet settled on any standard terminology to express it. For these reasons we can even find some occasional misleading statements by the creators of MLM theory themselves.
        There is one passage in Mao’s writings which should be looked at especially closely here:

“Now it is clear-cut: in proceeding through the transitional era from capitalism to socialism, the main (or fundamental) contradiction is the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between socialism and capitalism.... This is also a contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The struggle between the two roads will be resolved after a long period of struggle. ‘Main’ and ‘fundamental’ have the same meaning.” —Mao, “Talk in the Enlarged Third Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the CCP” (Oct. 7, 1959), online at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-7/mswv7_477.htm

As translated into English here, in this unofficial English translation of a Red Guard collection of Mao’s writings, the word “main” is used, and not the word “principal”. However, I am told that in the original Chinese document the Chinese characters used by Mao which are here translated as “main” are the very same characters which are translated as “principal” in the official English translation of Mao’s classic work “On Contradiction”. So instead of “main” here, we might just as well (or perhaps better!) say “principal”. Does this really matter? Well probably not very much in this immediate context.
        (However, it is true that there are very few—if any at all—words in English or any other natural language which have absolutely complete and total synonyms! The reason for this is that the meaning of a word is a function of its occurrences or possible contexts within the language, and virtually no two words can invariably replace each other without at least some subtle change in meaning for the whole expression. I.e., virtually no two pairs of words have exactly the same allowed and disallowed contexts of usage. And this is even more certainly the case with regard to technical terms used in the elaboration of a scientific theory—unless they are defined as synonyms. See also: MEANING OF A WORD)
        But, more important than the synonym issue, suppose the English word “principal” had been used in this translation of Mao’s 1959 talk; would that then mean that Mao himself might be drawing no distinction between the “fundamental contradiction” and the “principal contradiction”?! After all, he does say that the two words he uses here “have the same meaning”! I don’t think it is completely certain what Mao himself would have said about this issue. However, it is at least possible to read this passage along with the relevant sections of “On Contradiction” in a way which suggests that Mao himself, though he talks about both the fundamental contradiction and the principal contradiction, does not actually draw the sort of conceptual distinction between the two that we are promoting here. However, even if this might be the case, the fact is that many others, upon reading Mao’s “On Contradiction” and thinking about it, have in fact come to the conclusion that there is a very useful conceptual distinction to be made here! Even if it might possibly be true that Mao himself conflates the concepts of fundamental contradiction and principal contradiction it is still open to others to make a distinction here. And in “On Contradiction” Mao does say: “The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed...” [Mao SW 1:325] This certainly does sound like a definition of what a fundamental contradiction is, and many readers (including myself) have very reasonably understood it that way. On the other hand, in this very same essay, Mao is at great pains to emphasize that processes develop through stages and that the contraditions we have to focus on (and/or the differing aspects of these contradictions) have to change as the stages change. There are various ways to express these two different but complementary ideas. One way might be to equate the concepts of the fundamental and principal contradictions, but to then talk about how the “principal aspect [of the fundamental/principal contradiction] is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction” at a given point, while also granting that the principal aspect and the non-principal aspect can change places, and so forth. And “When the principal aspect which has gained predominance changes, the nature of a thing changes accordingly.” [Mao SW 1:333] But, remember, the essential nature of the thing was determined by the fundamental contradiction, as Mao said earlier. So does this then mean the fundamental contradiction in a process must change if the principal aspect of the contradiction changes?? These are the sorts of questions and confusions which might arise here, and which might start to obstruct our comprehension of what is happening in a changing world, and how we should go about trying to deal with it!
        However, another, alternative, and in my opinion a much simpler way to express all this is to talk about the fundamental contradiction and the principal contradiction as being conceptually different, and the principal contradiction being subject to change as the overall process goes through its important major stages. After all, one of the very most central points in “On Contradiction” is to learn how to deal with changing situations, and the changing stages in any process, by being able to focus on the most important contradiction at each stage. Drawing a conceptual distinction between the overall fundamental contradiction, and the principal contradiction at any given point in the development of the process, makes it much easier to do this, in my opinion.
        And, this alternative way of thinking about this topic itself derives from Mao’s great work, “On Contradiction”, which is so rich in ideas. When we read MLM works we are expected to think about what we are reading, and not just memorize it. That means sometimes we might even come to disagree with some points in them! Or find them inapplicable to our own situation. Or we might find ways to further improve on the wisdom that is already in those works. Sometimes good ideas can be acquired from a text even if the author did not quite intend to put them there! Writers and readers can also form a useful dialectical combination. In science we seek to improve upon our teachers, no matter how great they are! That is what the advance of science is all about. In this case I should mention that I myself am not the originator of the intepretation here drawing the conceptual difference between the fundamental and principal contradictions. I don’t know who is. However, the point of view promoted here was in fact fairly common in the “New Communist Movement” in the U.S. during the early 1970s. I suspect that a great many readers of Mao’s essay have independently developed something like this same perspective.
        We should not be overly upset by the fact that we sometimes need to revise the formulations of the great creators of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. What would be truly horrible would be if we never found occasions where we should do this! If that ever happens, MLM will be a dead letter. Changing the terminology, in particular, is something with plenty of precedents in the development of our revolutionary theory. The same sort of partial roughness in the initial presentation of scientific ideas has existed throughout the entire history of science. It is only after time that the concepts and terminology are polished up and settled. Another classic example of this within MLM theory is Marx’s initial use of the term “socialism” to cover both what we now call “socialism” and “communism”. Marx, when he initiallly wanted to draw that distinction, called communism the “second stage” of socialism. Lenin (in “State and Revolution”) sort of half-way changed that terminology to what we say today. But since then MLM theory has settled on the clearer terminology of using “socialism” and “communism” to definitely mean different socio-economic systems, or different stages of society. In science, including revolutionary science, we clarify and codify our terminology over time.
        Speaking loosely we might still refer to the “main contradiction”, the “major contradiction”, the “central contradiction”, the “primary contradiction”, the “basic contradiction”, and so forth. But at this point in English, and to help avoid confusion among our readers or listeners, it is much better to restrict ourselves to the use of either “fundamental contradiction” or “principal contradiction”, because we have drawn a clear and definite conceptual distinction between those two technical terms. —S.H.

According to Marx, the fundamental contradiction in all forms of human society is that between the
forces of production and the social relations of production. [The forces of production include the means of production (factories, machinery, etc.) as well as human labor.] Marx viewed this contradiction as the overall motive force leading to the historical development of human society, which has led (and is further leading) to all the main stages of society from primitive communalism, to slave society, then feudalism, now capitalism, to socialism, and finally to communism. Where social classes exist, it leads to the struggle between them. And even in communist society, where there are no classes or class struggle, it will continue to be the fundamental contradiction that leads humanity to make further advances in science and technology and thus to improve production in that way. It is also possible that this fundamental contradiction might lead to some further changes in social organization over time even within communist society, and therefore to make the continued role of human beings in production, and in their lives in general, more pleasant and rewarding.
        In capitalist society this fundamental contradiction takes on the more specific form of the outright incompatibility of socialized production with the private appropriation by the capitalists, as Engels appropriately expressed it. [Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1882), section III.] See the entry below on the Fundamental Contradiction of Capitalism for more on this.

The Fundamental Contradiction of Capitalism is that between the social character of production and the private appropriation of what is produced. This is both a profound truth and also a rather abstract statement. What does it actually mean in concrete terms? It means that under the capitalist mode of production workers collectively produce goods but that these goods then do not belong to the workers who make them. Instead they belong to the capitalist owner(s) of the factory and machinery who hired the workers to make the products. But why is this so important?
        First, it is important because this is the method by which the capitalists exploit the workers. While the workers are paid wages (i.e., paid for their
labor-power), the labor they actually perform generates much more value than the value of their wages. In other words, the workers are systematically “ripped off”, systematically exploited, by the capitalists. The amount stolen from the workers is called surplus value, which is the value of the goods produced by the workers minus their wages and the value of the raw materials and other values used up in the production process. Thus surplus value and the fact of the exploitation of labor by the capitalists are immediate consequences or corollaries of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism.
        Second, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the basic explanation for the existence of the two major social classes in capitalist society, the working class (proletariat) and the capitalist class (bourgeoisie). Classes, in the Marxist understanding of the word, are defined principally by the differing relationships of distinct groups of people to the means of production. The relationship of the workers is that they only use the means of production to create surplus value, while the relationship of the capitalists is that they not only own the means of production, they also then own the commodities which “their” workers produce.
        Third, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the basic cause of the class struggle between the workers and the capitalists. Not only does this lead to constant labor turmoil at one level or another, it is the basic motive force that eventually leads to proletarian revolution.
        Sometimes it is said that the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is itself the struggle “between labor and capital” or the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. But this is actually only one of the several concrete corollaries of the contradiction between social production and private appropriation.
        Fourth, at a more abstract level, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, as by far the most dominant form of commodity production, results in the deep abstract contradiction between use value and the value of the commodity. This distinction is of great importance in explicating the nature of capitalism.
        Fifth, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the ultimate cause and deepest explanation for capitalist overproduction crises, including recessions and depressions. Why is this? It is because the capitalists, in order to realize their profits, must sell those commodities produced by their workers to somebody. But to whom? The workers produce more value than they are paid in wages, so they cannot buy back all that they produce. The slow expansion of the market cannot keep up with the rapid expansion of capitalist production. (This gets complicated, however, because of temporary props the capitalists and their government use to keep things going for a time, such as the ever greater expansion of consumer credit and government deficits.)
        Sixth, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism explains why capitalism has no real solution to the fact that rapid improvements in technology (including automation and artificial intelligence) are leading to the disappearance of more and more jobs. The capitalists need fewer and fewer workers to produce ever greater amounts of commodities. As workers lose their jobs markets diminish, even if those laid off somehow manage to barely survive on handouts and very limited government welfare.
        Seventh, as Marx pointed out, this fundamental contradiction of capitalism explains why, ultimately, capitalism must prove to be only a temporary and transient form of human society.

“[The] Fundamental contradiction, whence arise all the contradictions in which our present-day society moves, and which modern industry brings to light.” —Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Chapter III—Historical Materialism, online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch03.htm
         [This is just a passing phrase by Engels in talking about the rise of capitalism. But it brings out a deep reason why the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is such an important thing. Elsewhere in that same chapter Engels expands upon what he is referring to more completely (see the following paragraphs), even though he does not there explicitly call it the fundamental contradiction of capitalism. —S.H.]
         “The means of production, and production itself, had become in essence socialized. But they were subjected to a form of appropriation which presupposes the private production of individuals, under which, therefore, every one owns his own product and brings it to market. The mode of production is subjected to this form of appropriation, although it abolishes the conditions upon which the latter rests.
         “This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today. The greater the mastery obtained by the new mode of production over all important fields of production and in all manufacturing countries, the more it reduced individual production to an insignificant residuum, the more clearly was brought out the incompatibility of socialized production with capitalistic appropriation.” —Engels, ibid.

Commodities are things produced to be sold in a market. The workers who collectively make the products have human relationships with each other, and they have a very different sort of negative personal relationship with their boss who exploits them (in a capitalist system of commodity production). It can even be said that these workers in some sense have sort of a personal relationship with the goods which they have put their minds and efforts into making. But on the other hand, when consumers (workers or not) confront commodities in the market place, they confront them not as human relationships in any way, shape or form, but only as mere objects for sale. So the fundamental contradiction of commodity production is between the human relationships of those who produce the commodities versus the totally impersonal relationships these commodities then present in the marketplace. The social world of production is turned into the cold and impersonal world of markets and market forces.
        Marx called this loss of social and human relationships in the commodity marketplace, and the process whereby the products of human labor come to be seen as an independent or even alien reality unrelated to the people who make the products,
commodity fetishism.

Is there a fundamental contradiction in the social practice of revolutionaries worldwide in attempting to organize and lead a working class revolution in their own country? I would like to propose that there is indeed such a fundamental and well-nigh universal contradiction in revolutionary work and movements, namely the contradiction between the need to merge with the masses and with their lives and struggles (on the one hand), and the need to educate the masses in the goals, principles and methods of revolution (on the other hand). This can best be viewed as a dialectical contradiction because would-be revolutionaries so often tend to look at these two tasks as being opposed to each other, or at least as interfering with each other, and thus very often neglect or almost abandon one of the two.
        Young and new revolutionaries, imbued with revolutionary fervor but having at first few personal contacts with the workers, often focus primarily on revolutionary education. But this can make them seem to the few workers they do briefly come into contact with as outsiders, or alien ideologues, or political preachers. So the more serious new revolutionary groups soon recognize that in order to get a serious hearing from the workers they must get to know them better, live their lives with them, and join them in their own struggles. That recognition and response is quite appropriate. But, unfortunately a very negative thing then often accompanies it; namely, a major cutting back on serious political educational work, which comes to be seen as something that pushes the workers away from you. And those who were originally fervent revolutionaries sometimes even become ordinary reformist liberals in actual practice. When the desire to merge with the masses goes so far that the need to bring revolutionary ideas to them gets abandoned, then things have definitely gone too damned far!
        In the “New Communist Movement” in the U.S. in the 1960s-1970s, this contradiction was very poorly handled. In the young Revolutionary Communist Party (founded in 1975), for example, two factions developed, one of which wanted to focus more on merging with the workers’ struggles, and the other of which wanted to focus primarily on MLM education. Neither side really understood that both were necessary, and that each actually can facilitate the other. When the RCP
split in early 1978, those who wanted to “merge with the masses” gave up almost all of their so-called “red-level work” (except with a small number of mostly students); and those who remained in the RCP and wanted to continue MLM educational work renounced any participation with the workers’ lives and struggles. They turned what was once a very promising new revolutionary organization into a sectarian cult divorced from the masses and continually diminishing in size and influence. Neither side in that split ever understood that at least some of the actual truth lay with the opposing side.
        There is a real contradiction here, between the need to merge with the masses and join with their existing struggles, and with the need to bring the light of revolution to them in the process. However, this is a contradiction that can in fact be handled in a good way, without abandoning either aspect. And it is an actual fact that only when a revolutionary group or party has truly merged with the masses will it truly be in a position to turn them into revolutionaries themselves.   —S.H. [Sept. 23, 2023]


As used by Lenin, this refers to the necessary conditions which must exist for there to be a successful social revolution in the capitalist era.

“The fundamental law of revolution, which has been confirmed by all revolutions and especially by all three Russian revolutions in the twentieth century, is as follows: for a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realize the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. It is only when the ‘lower classes’ do not want to live in the old way and the ‘upper classes’ cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph. This truth can be expressed in other words: revolution is impossible without a nation-wide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters). It follows that, for a revolution to take place, it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the class-conscious, thinking, and politically active workers) should fully realize that revolution is necessary, and that they should be prepared to die for it; second, that the ruling classes should be going through a governmental crisis, which draws even the most backward masses into politics (symptomatic of any genuine revolution is a rapid, tenfold and even hundredfold increase in the size of the working and oppressed masses—hitherto apathetic—who are capable of waging the political struggle), weakens the government, and makes it possible for the revolutionaries to rapidly overthrow it.” —Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism—An Infantile Disorder” (April-May, 1920), LCW 31:84-85.

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        1. [In general:] A trend, movement or attitude which stresses strict and literal adherence to some original set of basic principles and which will therefore accept no alterations whatsoever to those original beliefs no matter what good reasons and arguments are presented. In other words, fundamentalism is one major type of extreme
        2. [Within Protestant Christianity:] (Also called Evangelical Protestantism.) A movement and doctrine, which developed originally mostly in the 20th century, which rejects most of the concessions that Christianity has been forced to make over the centuries to science and to the more modern ways of thinking (such as acceptance of evolution and having equality between men and women) and seeks to return to the literal interpretation of the Bible, with all its primitive and reactionary conceptions and biases. This form of Christian fundamentalism has been especially rampant in the U.S., though even here it is now beginning to decline somewhat. (See: RELIGION—Decline Of In The U.S.) Christian fundamentalism, like other religious fundamentalisms, often has strong tendencies toward fascism.
        3. Similar anti-scientific and dogmatic trends within other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism. The trend toward Islamic fundamentalism has been fostered in part by the development of Political Islam. This is a reaction against the dismal failure of both moderate Islamic groups and secular groups in Islamic countries to effectively struggle against foreign imperialism. While it is understandable from a political perspective why such Islamic fundamentalist trends have developed, their reactionary characteristics (such as intensified oppression of women, murderous attacks on people of other religions, and opposition to a scientific world view) will also lead to their own total failure in the end.


The hypothesized future generation of electricity from fusion reactors. If this were economically feasible it would be an enormous source of power from the hydrogen in sea water. For about half a century, proponents of this technology have claimed that practical fusion power plants will be built within “a decade or so”. However, technical problems in building such plants remain formidable, and the costs and dangers in dealing with radioactive waste continues to be largely ignored. Solar and wind power are undoubtedly far cheaper and safer than fusion-generated power will ever be, even if it does eventually become technically possible. [Aug. 31, 2023]

“In December 2022 scientists at the U.S. National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced a breakthrough in the decades-long effort to create an energy source based on the same nuclear fusion reactions that power the sun. An ‘engineering marvel beyond belief,’ they proclaimed, as major newspapers quickly followed with breathless coverage. The Washington Post called it ‘truly something to celebrate.’ Other commentators gushed about the fusion future as a solution to clean energy, global poverty, perhaps even world peace.
         “On inspection, the advance was rather less sensational than these reports suggested. The researchers had achieved what is known as ignition, the condition where a fusion reaction produces more energy than it took to start it. But the scale of the accomplishment is not remotely close to what would be required to generate electricity for practical use, much less herald a new era of clean energy.... The power demands as reported didn’t include the power needed to build the equipment and gear it up; the entire event lasted just a few seconds. And, ironically, the higher-than-expected energy yield damaged some of the diagnostic equipment in the experimental setup, casting doubt on whether ignition had even been achieved.
         “Calling this development a breakthrough in achieving ‘limitless zero-carbon power,’ as the Financial Times put it, is like claiming that the discovery of fire was a milestone on the path to electricity. Hype like this doesn’t help the scientific community to build and maintain public trust; it risks diverting resources away from actual solutions to the climate crisis.”
         —Naomi Oreskes, “Fusion’s False Promise”, Scientific American, June 2023.

An Italian school of bourgeois literature and then of “modern” abstract painting, starting around 1909, that glorified the machine age, modern capitalist society, patriotism, violence and war. Most of those involved with it were supportive of the rising fascist trend in Italy, and from 1922 on Futurism became part of the official fascist cultural offensive. Futurism also had influence internationally, and even in the early Soviet Union [see
CONSTRUCTIVISM], though there were attempts there to divorce it from fascist ideology and connect it to proletarian ideology. Even so, Futurism was almost always most reflective of bourgeois cultural interests and ideology.

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