An imagined “spiritual” (immaterial) human-like entity who is unseen but who supposedly exists everywhere, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and who created the physical world and everything in it including human beings. This is an absurd, philosophical idealist and unscientific notion if ever there was one, since it supposes that a non-material “thing” is the source and cause of the material world. From a genuine materialist perspective the concept of God is simply incoherent and ridiculous.
See also entries below, and: PROBLEM OF EVIL, and Philosophical doggerel about God.
“The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black, while the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair. Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw, and could sculpt like men, then the horses would draw their gods like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each would shape bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.” —Xenophanes of Colophon, ancient Greek philosopher and poet, c. 570-c.478 BCE.
GOD — Supposed Proofs of the Existence of
A series of demonstrably completely erroneous supposed “proofs” that God (or gods) exist. These silly arguments, such as the “argument from design”, and the “ontological argument”, have been cooked up over the centuries by theologians and other religious people in order to try to justify their far-fetched beliefs. None of these arguments are logically sound, though many of them are vague and obscure enough so that their illogicality may not be immediately obvious to everyone.
However, it is interesting that not even most theologians themselves have been very confident of these various so-called proofs! Thomas Aquinas, for example, who—750 years after his death—is still the leading thinker of the Roman Catholic Church, recognized that St. Anselm’s “ontological argument” was fallacious, and recognized that all the other proclaimed “proofs”—including his own!—were at best still uncertain. His solution to this dilemma was to put forward five weak arguments in the hope that they would somehow add up to one strong argument. He summarized these five in the following poem (which I hope is more poetic in Latin):
“Things are in motion, hence there is a first mover.
Things are caused, hence there is a first cause.
Things exist, hence there is a creator.
Perfect goodness exists, hence it has a source.
Things are designed, hence they serve a purpose.”
The first three of these are variations of the “cosmological argument”. The fourth is some kind of a “moral argument”, and the fifth is the “argument from design”. Anyway, this is what I have to say about them collectively:
“A Dominican fatty named Thomas Aquinas
Tried to prove the existence of God-Up-On-Highness.
Each ‘proof was so weak that he tried for another,
But five seemed enough for this ‘logical’ brother.
Theology thrives on such demos which ain’t;
And the Pope later made Tom Aquinas a saint.”
—SH, “Do Five Bad Ones Equal One Good One?” (1992)
What were the real reasons for primitive peoples coming up with the idea of God or gods? It
certainly was not any abstruce theological consideration! Their early thinking was probably based on
crude analogies. (And today too, analogies are our basic human way of
thinking, though in general no longer quite so crude!) People saw that they could throw a rock or a
spear, so maybe there was some human-like entity in the sky who threw lightning bolts. But by the
time that people came to understand the real nature of lightning that analogy had completely collapsed.
The even bigger puzzle was where human beings themselves came from. As long as there was no correct
(scientific) answer for that, the “God explanation” somehow seemed plausible. Of course Darwin’s
theory of evolution put a final end to the need for any God-based explanation for humanity’s
A short cut for summarily dealing with all existing or future imagined “proofs” of God’s existence is to instead present a proof that God (as he is imagined to be) cannot possibly exist! A disproof rules out any possible proof, now or ever. Evolutionary science did knock the plausibility out of the primitive notion that there must be a God (or gods). But it didn’t absolutely prove that no God could exist. It might be imagined, for example, that God himself created man through the method of evolution.
But there is another science which we can use to totally prove that no God (as he is imagined to be) can possibly exist. And that is cognitive psychology. The fundamental organizing principle of cognitive psychology is that mind and mental terms and states can only be correctly understood as aspects or functions of the physical brain (or its equivalent). That is to say, minds and mental processes can only be understood as brain processes and states. And since this is true, there simply cannot possibly be any such thing as a thinking and acting being who does not have a brain and a body. Marxists have understood this from the beginning. But now modern cognitive psychology has not only accepted this idea, but made it the foundation of its entire science. In short, science has now proven, beyond any further doubt whatsoever, that God, and gods (as well as ghosts, and similar incorporeal entities) do not exist.
See also: ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN, ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
“God-building—a philosophic trend, hostile to Marxism, which
arose in the period of the Stolypin reaction among a
section of the Party intellectuals, who departed from Marxism after the defeat of
the Revolution of 1905-07. The god-builders (A.V. Lunacharsky,
V. Bazarov and others) advocated the creation of a new, ‘socialist’ religion in an attempt
to reconcile Marxism with religion. At one time they were joined by Maxim Gorky.
“The reactionary nature of god-building was revealed by Lenin in his book Materialism and Empirio-criticism and in his letters to Gorky during February-April 1908 and November-December 1913.” —Note 77, LCW 20:581.
GOLD — Use as Money
[Intro to be added...]
One important characteristic of any commodity used as money is that it must be scarce. Gold makes up just 0.004 parts per million of the earth’s crust. A related characteristic is that the quantity of the commodity available must grow fairly slowly (or, even ideally, at the same rate as the general growth of production of all commodities). Gold comes fairly close to this; for the period of 1900-2009 the worldwide stock of gold grew (through mining) at the rate of 1.5% a year.
A third important characteristic of any commodity being used as money is that it should be close to imperishable. Gold does not rust, corrode, burn, evaporate, disintegrate, or otherwise disappear under any normal conditions, all of which make gold an excellent store of value. Some gold is “consumed” in the form of jewelry, but much of this jewelry ends up being melted down again eventually. Small amounts of gold are also used in electronics and elsewhere in industry and society, but again, at least some this gold later gets recovered, and the mining of new gold is well able to make up for these losses.
A fourth important characteristic of any money commodity is that it can be fairly easily transported. This is the case for gold in relatively small amounts, though not in huge amounts (because gold is very heavy and is expensive to ship and guard). But means have been found to work around this (such as by having the gold stored in a mutually agreed upon vault, and to merely change the registered ownership of it).
Thus gold is in many respects the ideal commodity to serve as money.
Gold, though itself not very chemically active, is a very dangerous substance in that the mining of it with current methods leads to enormous damage to the environment. It would be far better for the world if most of the gold were simply left in the ground where it is. But under capitalism there are big profits to be made, so the ecologically destructive mining continues.
“Gold mining today resembles dismembering mountains more than panning
for nuggets; most mines never unearth a single visible flake. Instead they crush vast
amounts of rock, pile it up, and leach out the gold molecules with cyanide.
“Mining gold to create a single 1/3 ounce 18-karat ring produces at least 20 tons of waste and 13 pounds of toxic emissions. Those emissions contain 5.5 pounds of lead, 3 pounds of arsenic, almost 2 ounces of mercury, and 1 ounce of cyanide.
“Across the globe, Newmont [mining company] crushed and disposed of more than 700 million tons of rock in 2004. In 2005, Route 766 in Nevada was partially buried by an avalanche involving 10 million tons of waste from a Newmont mine. In Romania, more than 100,000 tons of toxic waste spilled from the Aurul gold mine in 2000, contaminating the drinking water of 2.5 million people and killing at least 1,200 tons of fish. In 2002, the [George W.] Bush administration changed regulations to allow mine and other industrial waste to be dumped in waterways.
“The world’s top gold producers (in descending order): South Africa, the U.S., China, Australia, Peru. Top consumers: India, China, Turkey, Italy, the U.S.
“According to the No Dirty Gold campaign, which signs up jewelers to demand better mining practices, the only way to buy ‘clean’ gold is to opt for vintage or recycled jewelry.” —Neha Inamdar, Mother Jones magazine, September/October 2007, p. 70.
A monetary system where the value of a unit of currency of a country (such as a dollar) is defined in terms of a set amount (weight) of gold, and in which that currency may be freely exchanged for gold from the government at that set rate. This restricts the ability of the central bank of the country to inflate the currency unless it devalues, i.e. decreases the amount of gold it is willing to pay out in exchange for a unit of currency. Thus countries on a gold standard tend to have less inflation, and even a certain amount of gentle deflation if the economy is expanding at a rate faster than the world production of gold.
The gold standard worked fairly well throughout history and through the 19th century. It was sometimes suspended during wars (at least as far as the payment of international debts was concerned), but then resumed after the wars were over. However, bourgeois economists have falsely blamed the Great Depression of the 1930s on deflation and the gold standard, and also wish to have a freer hand to engage in changes in the monetary supply (including through the promotion of modest inflation). At the Bretton Woods conference near the end of World War II a modified gold standard was put in place, intermediated by the U.S. dollar, since the U.S. was then the dominant capitalist country in the world and also held most of the gold. This fell apart in 1971 when President Nixon was forced to end the convertibility of dollars into gold even by foreign governments. Since then all the currencies of the world have been fiat money depending for their value on their continued ability to buy commodities and on the promise of the governments issuing the currency not to inflate the money supply at “too fast a pace”.
Changes in Gold Standard Policies (1920s & 1930s) |
|Country||Return to Gold
|Austria||April 1925||April 1933||October 1931||September 1931|
|Belgium||October 1926||--||--||March 1935|
|Germany||September 1924||--||July 1931||--|
|Italy||December 1927||--||May 1934||October 1936|
|Japan||December 1930||December 1931||July 1932||December 1931|
|United Kingdom||May 1925||September 1931||--||September 1931|
|United States||June 1919||March 1933||March 1933||April 1933|
[Source: Ben Bernanke, Essays on the Great Depression, |
Princeton Univ. Press, 2000, p. 74. (Includes more countries.)]
The “Golden Rule” is the precept that you should treat other people
the way you wish to be treated. This is an extremely popular ethical theory among
both religious and non-religious people. It is one of many conflicting ethical
theories that are explicit or implicit in the Bible, which quotes Jesus as saying in
the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should
do to you, do ye even so to them.” [Matthew 7:12] One of the ethical theories in the
Bible that is inconsistent with this is that of “an eye for an eye”: “And if any
mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,
hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for
stripe.” [Exodus 21:23-25]
Although my grandmother once assured me that the King James version of the Bible was “God’s own language”, these days you usually hear the Golden Rule expressed something like this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Incidentally, the Golden Rule is not exclusively (or even originally) a Christian precept. It has been a common theory in many diverse cultures, going way, way back. Confucius, for example, said “What you do not desire, do not effect on others” (even though that principle conflicts with some of his other principles).
It is amazing how little sense the Golden Rule makes when you actually think about it critically. (Of course hardly anybody ever does! They repeat it without much thinking.) You should treat people the way you wish to be treated… OK, what if you really wish to be treated as boss, or king? Should you then treat all other people as your “boss” or as “kings”, bowing and scraping in abject obedience? Or consider a slave master: He would have others (his slaves at least) treat him as master, while he treats them as slaves. In light of the Golden Rule, should he start treating his slaves as his masters, and encourage them to treat him as their slave? (This might be poetic justice, but it would still hardly be the ideal moral society!)
Or what about masochists? Should they inflict pain on others just because that’s the way these totally screwed up people themselves want to be treated? Or what about someone who expects, and even wants, others to be cheats and crooks, because he figures he is better at it and will come out ahead in any completely dog-eat-dog world? There are people like that, you know. (We live in a capitalist society, after all!) Does he then have a moral license to proceed with his chicanery and fraud?
George Bernard Shaw wrote “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” He was putting it in a humorous fashion, but there is some real truth behind his statement. Schopenhauer put it even better: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like done to yourself. This is, perhaps, one of those arguments that prove, or rather ask, too much. For a prisoner might address it to a judge.”
The basic problem with the Golden Rule is that it assumes that people are already moral, or basically so—which is very far from always being the case. If you are a good, fair and reasonable person, you will want good, fair and reasonable things done to you. And in that case it is indeed generally reasonable to say that you should do to others as you would have them do unto you. But if you are not already a good, fair and reasonable person, you may not yourself wish others to treat you in a good (moral), fair and reasonable way. And in that case it is very wrong for you to treat others as you would have them treat you. This is such an obvious point that it is really astounding that all the champions of the Golden Rule never seem to have even an inkling of it! —S.H., An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, Chapter 1, section 1.2B, from the draft of 6/14/07 as posted at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf
GOLOS [“The Voice”]
A Russian-language daily newspaper published by Mensheviks in Paris from 1908-1911.
1. [In general:] Answering to (or satisfying) certain interests. (The specific interests at issue are normally clear from the context.) Thus a good knife is one that is sharp, doesn’t rust or easily break, keeps its edge well, and so forth, because these are our usual interests in knives. A good apple is typically one that is unspoiled and unblemished, tastes good, and so forth because these are our usual interests in apples. On the other hand, if you are making an apple pie, what you will view as a good apple may differ somewhat, because in that case your interests are somewhat different. (A good pie apple is not necessarily a good eating apple; it might not be as crisp or pleasing to look at, for example.)
2. [In moral discourse in class society:] Answering to (or satisfying) the common, collective interests of a social class (the class being implied by the ideology of the speaker).
3. [In moral discourse referring to classless society:] Answering to (or satisfying) the common, collective interests of the people as a whole.
For an extensive discussion of the meaning of the word ‘good’, both in general and specifically with ethics and politics, see chapter 2 (and especially section 2.7) of my work in progress An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf . See also: DOING GOOD
GOOD AND BAD
See: POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE, TURNING A BAD THING INTO A GOOD THING
GOOD OF THE PEOPLE, The
See: WILL OF THE PEOPLE
GORBACHEV, Mikhail (1931- )
Soviet revisionist politician who in a totally inept program of transforming Soviet state capitalism into Western-style monopoly capitalism ended up destroying the Soviet Union entirely. Of course by the time this happened the Soviet Union had long since ceased to be a socialist country, though it still officially claimed to be “socialist”.
Gorbachev was born into a Ukrainian-Russian peasant family, but graduated from Moscow State University in 1955 with a law degree. He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and rapidly rose through the ranks. He became a member of the CPSU Politburo in 1979. In 1985 Gorbachev became General Secretary of the CPSU, and in 1988 also became the head of state of the USSR. He remained in those positions until the total collapse of the party and USSR at the end of 1991.
Gorbachev called his program of economic transformation perestroika [“restructuring”] and his program of bourgeois political liberalization glasnost [“openness”]. Even from a bourgeois perspective these things were carried out with a total lack of competence. For example, the mechanisms of central planning were weakened and then more or less destroyed before a fully functioning capitalist market had been constructed to replace government planning. The “restructuring” of industry was attempted before the transformation of agriculture was completed, which meant that both were taking place at a time of even greater food shortages than were normal in the revisionist period. And national antagonisms within the USSR were allowed to grow to the point where the different republics were starting to refuse to send each other food and other commodities. The whole Gorbachev-led “transformation” from state capitalism to Western-style capitalism was a ghastly mess! It led to greatly intensified misery for the Soviet peoples, including huge declines in income, health, and longevity. It has been appropriately said that this period of Soviet collapse was one of the greatest peace-time catastrophes for the people of any country in modern history.
However, for severely weakening and then destroying the Soviet Union, this social-imperialist competitor to the U.S. for world domination, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, the “Ronald Reagan Freedom Award” in 1992, and numerous other foreign bourgeois commendations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Gorbachev tried to regain personal political power in Russia by founding a series of social-democratic parties (with the support of the capitalist ruling class, including the billionaire oligarch Alexander Lebedev). But the Russians were sick of Gorbachev and he gathered almost no support.
“Two men, waiting in a long line for vodka, become exasperated and begin to curse Gorbachev, blaming his policies for this enormous waste of their time. One of them decides to shoot the Soviet leader and takes off for the Kremlin, asking the other to hold his place in line. Three hours later, he returns to find his place in the vodka line and much closer to the counter. ‘Well, did you shoot the bastard?’ his friend asks. ‘No,’ he replies in a resigned voice, ‘the line was too long.’” —Russian worker’s joke popular in the Gorbachev era. From Robert Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? (1998), p. 135.
GOTHA PROGRAMME [Pronounced: GO-tuh]
The programme adopted by the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) at the Gotha Congress in 1875 when the Eisenachers and Lassalleans came together to form a united working-class party. Unfortunately the Eisenachers (who were much more Marxist in their orientation) made too many concessions to the Lassalleans, and the resulting Programme suffered from eclecticism and opportunism. Marx and Engels made scathing criticisms of the Gotha Programme and considered it to be a backward step as compared to the Eisenach Programme of 1869. See especially CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME by Marx.
GOULD, Stephen Jay (1941-2002)
American liberal-radical paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, best known for his long-running series of erudite and literary essays about evolution in Natural History magazine.
Together with Niles Eldridge, Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which modifies the traditional Darwinian conception of uniformly gradual evolution by pointing out that within that overall gradualness there are occasional periods of relatively rapid evolutionary change in which new species can arise after long periods of relative stasis. Punctuated equilibrium is one example of the recognition of the importance of qualitative leaps (or dialectical leaps) in science, which Marx established as a fundamental principle of materialist dialectics. And, indeed, punctuated equilibrium was apparently suggested to Gould by his radical upbringing. (His father was a Marxist.) When pro-gradualist critics lampooned the theory of punctuated equilibrium as “evolution by jerks”, Gould shot back by referring to his critics’ theory as “evolution by creeps”!
Gould was a powerful opponent of sociobiology and its supposedly sanitized reincarnation, “evolutionary psychology”, and criticized these bourgeois perversions of biology for their “deterministic view of human society and human action.” He pointed out that there was little actual evidence for genetic or other forms of biological determinism, and that such views merely represented the cultural or class biases of their supporters. Gould also pointed out that adaptive behaviors are often passed on through human culture and not genetics. He of course recognized that the genetic and biological foundation of human beings and our brains certainly can and do affect our behavior, but appropriately insisted that our biological makeup allows for a very broad range of actual behavior. This flexibility “permits us to be aggressive or peaceful, dominant or submissive, spiteful or generous… Violence, sexism, and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological—and we may see their influence increase if we can create social structures that permit them to flourish.” Gould is also to be praised for his opposition to racist and sexist notions presented in the supposed form of “science”. See especially his important book Mismeasure of Man (1981).
Gould was an important advocate of evolutionary science, and an effective and important critic of creationism and other religious attacks on biology. However, his rejection of Marxism sometimes led him into serious error when he wandered into other topics (as when he promoted the classless notion that the Golden Rule should be viewed as the foundation of morality, rather than the Marxist view that class interests form that foundation). And like many prominent intellectuals in bourgeois society he feared appearing to be “too radical”, and thus failed to critize religion in general even though he did strongly criticize religious attempts to oppose or distort evolutionary biology specifically.
The worst example of this was in his theory of “non-overlapping magisteria” in the book Rock of Ages (1999) which absurdly claimed that there need be no true conflict between science and religion. According to Gould the “magisterium [or sphere] of science” covers the “empirical realm”, while the “magisterium of religion” covers questions of “ultimate meaning” and morality. He claims that these two “magisteria” do not overlap and should not poach in each other’s legitimate domain. In reality morality too has an objective basis in the collective group interests of people (or, in class society, in class interests), and ethics therefore has its basis in science just as the theories in biology or physics do. Furthermore, all religion is deeply opposed to at least some parts of science. The nearly universal religious claim that there are one or more immaterial gods, for example, is opposed to modern cognitive psychology which explicates mind as a set of functional aspects of material matter (brains) and which therefore denies even the possibility of any such thing as a “disembodied mind”.
While Gould played a very positive role in the defense of evolutionary science, his bourgeois idealist conceptions in psychology led him into major errors in other spheres. It is unfortunate that he was not a more consistent materialist.
See also: “DOCTRINE OF THE TWO BOOKS”
The financial rescue of a failing private corporation or bank by a capitalist government. A bourgeois government generally represents the collective interests of the capitalists as a whole, which in most cases should not lead it to bail out some individual bankrupt corporation (since that might lead to higher taxes on other corporations, for example). However, sometimes an individual company will have its own special influence within the government (such as through large “campaign donations” or other forms of bribery), which can lead to special favors on its behalf. And during the monopoly imperialist era many corporations and banks have grown so large that their failure might bring down whole industries or even the entire economy. This leads to the phenomenon of companies that are supposedly “too big to fail” (or too big for the bourgeoisie to allow them to fail). Then too, some individual giant corporations may have strategic importance to the ruling class as a whole, such as manufacturers of tanks, war planes, and advanced computers & electronic gear. For reasons such as these the capitalist government may decide to loan or outright give billions of dollars to particular corporations to keep them going.
Recent (2008-9) examples of massive government bailouts are to most of the big financial corporations in America, including CitiCorp, Bank of America, AIG (the world’s largest insurance company), and manufacturers such as General Motors, and Chrysler Corporation.
Before many banks and corporations got “too big to fail” they were often more conservative in their operations. In particular, during booms many banks used to recognize that the booms might not continue indefinitely, and that as the good times continued and the profits rolled in it would be wise to increase their reserves so that they might be better able to weather a possible downturn. In effect, they frequently built up what are now known as “counter-cyclical capital buffers”. However, doing this did cut into profits (since some capital was “sitting idle” and not being loaned out. One recent study found that money-center (big) banks in the pre-regulation era (before the Great Depression of the 1930s) generally built up buffers of between 3% and 5% of total assets during economic expansions. This is said to be about double what modern big banks do. These buffers enabled many banks in that era to continue operations without government assistance in all but the worst economic crises. [See: Christoffer Koch, et al., “Countercyclical Capital Buffers: A Cautionary Tale”, NBER Working Papper No. 26710, Jan. 2020.] But now, with at least tacit government guarantees of bailouts, it no longer makes sense for these big banks to build up their own capital buffers. In theory it is possible for regulators to force them to do so, but experience has taught at least us Marxists that “regulated capitalism” does not work. For one thing, the rich banks and corporations supposedly being “regulated” soon capture control of the regulatory agencies along with the government as a whole.
See also: GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES
GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS HEADQUARTERS (GCHQ)
The British government spy agency which is the equivalent of the National Security Agency in the U.S., and which works closely with the NSA in its attempt to spy on every person in the world.
Bonds or similar entities issued by the government and sold to investors. Marx noted that “These are not capital at all, but merely outstanding claims on the annual product of the nation.” —Marx, Capital, vol. 2, Ch. 17, sect. 2 (International, p. 349; Penguin, p. 353.)]
See also: BOND
GOVERNMENT SPONSORED ENTERPRISE (GSE)
A business which is either officially, or de facto, owned and part of some capitalist government. Examples in the U.S. include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae, which are all nominally independent, but actually at least supported and insured by the government.
GOVERNMENT SPYING (On its Own Citizens)
See: U.S. GOVERNMENT SPYING (On its Own Citizens), “NATIONAL SECURITY STATE”
GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES — To Agribusiness
“Nearly 40 percent of American farm income in 2019 will come from the federal
government. Farmers will collect $33 billion in aid, including payments to offset China’s
retaliatory tariffs in the ongoing trade war. The farm bailout will cost more than double the
2009 auto bailout.” —Axios.com report, summarized in The Week, Nov. 15, 2019, p. 16.
[Although the bourgeois media says all this money is going to “farmers”, the vast bulk of it actually goes to giant agribusiness corporations. —Ed.]
See: GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM
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