Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Im   —


“When one’s imagination cannot provide an answer, one must seek out a greater imagination.” —The hologram character “Leonardo da Vinci” in the Star Trek Voyager TV episode “Scorpion” (1997).
         [When we communists seek to lead the masses in struggling for their own interests we often need to use some real imagination to figure out how best to do that in the particular circumstances. And often we will be unsure about how to proceed; our limited imaginations will fail us. Fortunately we have a much greater imagination to call upon—that of all the active and involved masses themselves. This is the role of the
mass line method of revolutionary leadership, to learn from the masses how to lead the masses. But to use this method we must first really understand that among the masses there are indeed very frequently some vitally important ideas about how to proceed which we do not yet recognize. We must seriously seek out those vital ideas. —S.H.]

1. The spiritual leader of a mosque; a prayer leader at a mosque.
2. A Shiite Muslim leader held by followers to be divinely appointed, sinless, and infallible, and to be a direct successor to Mohammed through the line of his son-in-law Ali.
3. Any of various rulers who claim descent from Mohammed and exercize spiritual and temporal leadership over a Muslim region or community.


Things such as ideas, thoughts, memories, desires, patterns, and various other sorts of abstract concepts, and also computer software, which—when looked at from a logical or abstract point of view—are viewed as not being made of material substances. Four pebbles on the ground near your feet may form the pattern of a square. But there is no matter involved here beyond the four pebbles themselves. Being in the pattern of a square does not require any additional matter, just a particular arrangement of the existing matter. The pattern of a square is nevertheless a characteristic of the four material pebbles (considered as a set) as they are in fact arranged, and thus depends upon the existence of matter in that respect. And even the thought in our heads of a pattern of a square is only possible because of some physical neural network in our brain. In this sense there are no so-called “immaterial objects” that do not have some sort of material foundation.
        See also:
SOFTWARE—Ontological Status Of

[This dictionary includes a number of useful and what we view as generally correct quotations from the book Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013) by the non-Marxist cognitive scientists Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander. (See for example the entries for CATEGORIES and CATEGORIZATION.) However, the following quotation from that book is being presented here because we view it as being instructively wrong or at least very seriously misleading! After giving the quotation we’ll explain why. —Ed.]
        “Acting on the immaterial world is no longer a self-contradiction. The [computer] mouse plays the role of a biological limb, but acts on intangible entities. Thus with the help of a mouse, one can flip through a virtual book, adjust the volume of a loudspeaker, place items into a ‘shopping cart’ in a virtual store, and so forth. Immaterial entities can be acted upon no less than physical objects.
        “The mouse is the fruit of a substantial mental leap. From time immemorial there has been an unbridgeable gap between the categories of material and immaterial. Thanks to this gap there has always been a clear-cut distinction between the world we touch and perceive and the world inside our minds, between what is real and what is imagined, between the concrete and the abstract, between matter and pattern, between tangible and intangible. If the idea that a physical action can have an effect on a distant entity is strange, the idea that it can have an effect on an immaterial entity is even stranger; indeed, it verges on the paradoxical. Thus the creation of the mouse involved generalizing a property that till then had been limited to the world of material objects—that is, the property of being actable-upon. A new category—that of actable-upon objects, far broader than the category of material objects—came into being when the mouse was conceived of. This new category toppled our prior assumptions about how we relate to the world around us, dramatically altering our ontological categories—that is, the set of basic categories with whose aid we carve up the world.” —Hofstadter & Sander, p. 253.
         While it may seem to Hofstadter & Sander that strange and “paradoxical” things are now suddenly possible because of the invention of the computer mouse and so forth, such as an “immaterial” object “bizarrely” being able to act upon a material object and vice-versa, these kinds of things have actually been commonplaces since “time immemorial”. For example it has always been possible for a human being to make the mental decision (a supposedly “immaterial act”) to raise their arm, which then leads to the physical action of the arm being raised. Similarly, physical events around us lead to changes in our thoughts and ideas all the time; that is, physical events routinely result in supposedly “immaterial ideas” in our minds. There is nothing new here whatsoever. This is merely the age-old “puzzle” of the relationship of mind and matter, which it seems that Hofstadter & Sander are still confused and bemused about.
         Much of the confusion arises from the terms “immaterial” and “non-physical” themselves. Mind, for example, is called “immaterial” or “non-physical” in contrast to the human brain. But mind is actually only a set of highly abstract ways of looking at the logical functioning of the physical brain. Or to give a more specific example, thinking is only a way of describing one type of brain activity or function. Thus there are not really “non-physical things” causing physical results and vice-versa. That is the way we have traditionally described the situation, but in reality there are only physical, materialist processes underway in the world—some of which, for our own convenience, we look at from a partially functionalist or logical perspective.
         Software, like mind, is actually only a way of looking at one part of a computer system from a logical or functional perspective, rather than on focusing on its material makeup—which must exist, and which, depending on the situation may be flows of physical electrons, patterns of physical magnetic polarization on hard drives, etc. Definitely physical things! It is a shameful disservice of Hofstadter & Sander here to imply or promote an idealist or dualistic conception of the supposedly “non-physical” nature of software, mouse pointers, etc. The so-called “immaterial world” is really just as much part of the physical, material world as everything else is; it is merely a special way at looking at part of that material world in an abstract logical or functional sort of way in which we have no reason to be presently concerned about the material basis for those logical or functional aspects of certain organizations of matter. —S.H.

One of the many horrible aspects of bourgeois
nationalism is the hostility toward immigrants. In most capitalist countries this hostility leads to tight restrictions on the number of people from other lands who are allowed to come there, and the designations of those who arrive in the country without formal permission as “illegals”. Illegals, are then most often deported back to the country they came from. Ironically this hostility and routine deportation takes place even in countries such as the United States which are themselves almost entirely populated by other immigrants and their descendants! (And for millions of their ancestors this occurred before there even were such things as “entry visas” and legal restrictions on immigration.)
        Ideally we would have a world where people could live where they choose, move where they choose, and there would be not be “national borders”, border guards, walls or deportations to prevent them from doing so. However, such a world of free movement for everyone cannot be created while capitalism still exists.
        Unfortunately, in a world dominated by capitalist-imperialism, conditions for the masses in many countries under the thumb of foreign imperialism frequently becomes completely intolerable, and millions of people are simply forced to emigrate if they are going to survive. So we have the situation where the world capitalist-imperialist system creates more and more people who are forced to flee their original country while at the same time the better off imperialist homelands which dominate and benefit from that imperialist system are extremely reluctant to admit those millions of refugees. In short, the growing “immigrant problem” is just another disaster created by imperialism which it refuses to even acknowledge responsibility for, let alone fix.

IMMIGRANTS — Into the United States
        See also below, and:

IMMIGRANTS — Deportation Of
In the capitalist-imperialist era we live in at present, millions of people are compelled by poverty and war to leave their homelands and emigrate to other countries, often “illegally” (i.e., without documents issued by the country they move to). Many of these people are then deported back to places they came from—regardless of what this might mean for their welfare or even their lives. Most of the pressure to deport immigrants comes from right-wing capitalist politicians and their parties and movements. Marxists, revolutionaries and those on the left oppose such deportations on humanitarian grounds, and work toward the unity of the working class and the masses regardless of their national origin. Most
liberals and “progressives” tend to take a more “centrist” position between right and wrong, arguing that some “illegal” immigrants should be allowed to stay and that the number of deportations should merely be “reduced”. (This is the typical half-hearted response that we expect from liberals with regard to many social problems.)
        However, there are some situations where even Marxists and radicals may oppose certain types of immigration, especially in reaction to colonialism and the ongoing theft of land owned by the people already living in the targeted country or region by new settlers. There has been an enormous amount of this sort of thing in history, especially in the capitalist era, including the colonization by Europeans of North and South America, Oceana and parts of Africa. This sort of ethnic cleansing continues today in Palestine by the Israeli Zionists.
        We Marxists strongly oppose this form of ongoing theft of land and the expulsion of the people already living there, and even think that new settlers themselves should be expelled (deported) from their settlements and the land returned to its rightful owners.
        However, there are great limitations on how far the past crimes of this sort can be fully redressed in the present. Yes, historically it was wrong for the European ancestors of most Americans today to steal the continent from the Native Americans who got there earlier and some considerable redress for those crimes is still appropriate considering the despicable and racist way in which Native Americans continue to be treated in the United States. But it would be ridiculous to argue that all white Americans should be “deported” back to Europe, as the cartoon at the right comically suggests (in appropriate reaction to the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration). True, that might be poetic justice, but it is simply not sensible or possible. The fact is that the ancestors of most of the people of the world originally came from different regions, and very often displaced other existing populations when they did so. Even the Native Americans themselves originally populated North America in waves, and newer groups of them displaced earlier groups in specific regions as they did so (as linguistic and other evidence proves).
        So what we must work toward is not a world in which “everybody goes back where they came from”—which is totally impossible—but rather a world in which everyone has at least a right to be where they were born and raised; where people have as much freedom to move to new places as possible providing this does not mean displacing those already there!; and where past colonizations and population movements which led to injustices and which still continue are redressed in other ways. Thus there should be considerable redress to contemporary Native Hawaiians for the historical theft of their islands, but at the same time Hawaii now belongs to all the people who live there, no matter when their ancestors arrived. Similarly, while the ongoing Zionist theft of Palestinian land and the accompanying ethnic cleansing by the Zionists must be stopped as soon as possible, it is no longer reasonable or feasible to suggest that all Jewish immigrants to the area over the past century, and their descendants, should be deported. Instead all the people of that land should be considered to be the equal owners of it. This means, of course, that Israel as a “Jewish homeland only” is still a racist, genocidal program which must be brought to an end by the struggles of the Palestinian people and with much stronger support for the Palestinians by the revolutionary peoples elsewhere in the world.
        See also: DEPORTATIONS—From the U.S.

The increasing impoverishment of the working class and masses under capitalism. This is both a historical observation and a prediction for the future by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto and also by Marx in Capital. Bourgeois ideologists have claimed that this has not actually happened, and that the working class has improved its lot substantially over the decades under capitalism. However there are several important respects in which Marx’s statement about the immiseration of the working class is clearly correct.
        First, the statement was overall quite correct for the history of capitalism up to the time at which Marx was writing. The advent of capitalism and its early development certainly did lead to severe and often increasing impoverishment of the masses in Europe especially (which was the focus of Marx’s attention).
        Second, while the working class has overall become better off in the leading imperialist countries during the capitalist imperialist era, this has come about mostly because of the capitalist desire to cool down the class struggle at home while they drastically intensify the exploitation of the people in the rest of the world. Thus on an overall international level the working people of the world have indeed been further impoverished under capitalism. Well over half the population of the world at the present time lives in what can only be called extreme poverty, and most of the rest also live in somewhat less extremes of poverty. (See:
        Third, even within the advanced capitalist and imperialist countries, there has been a relative impoverishment of the working class and masses. That is, there has been a massive polarization of wealth in the hands of bourgeoisie, while the economic welfare of the proletariat has improved at a much slower pace. In other words, almost all of the new wealth produced by the working class still goes to the capitalist class. Marx actually focused mostly on this relative immiseration of the working class, rather than on their absolute immiseration. This is something that the army of bourgeois critics of Marx almost totally ignore.
        Fourth, while there have been periods of diminishing poverty in many countries, there have also been periods of increasing poverty in all countries. Moreover, the present period is one of those in which the immiseration of the workers and masses in most places in the world is definitely increasing as the world capitalist system sinks into its most severe economic crisis ever. The immiseration of the working class is definitely underway full speed again in almost all of the world today.
        See also: NEOLIBERALISM


“Impartiality is either the ignorance of a fool or the trickery of a knave.” —Frontis quotation in N. Shanmugathasan’s book, A Marxist Looks at the History of Ceylon (1974).

See also:

Change is a matter of gradual development leading up to, and preparing the ground for, sudden transition. Thus any intelligent effort to bring about change must not only recognize that a sudden transition or revolution is necessary at some point (though that is the first element of wisdom), but that also the ground must be prepared for that revolution through a period of gradual development. To rationally work to bring about a change is therefore primarily to concern yourself with fostering the gradual development that must inevitably occur before the necessary sudden leap is possible.
        “Politically, there is the phenomenon of individuals who long for social revolution with all their heart and soul, but are too impatient to do the actual work necessary to prepare the ground for revolution. Because they are so impatient, they abandon the dialectical outlook on change, focus entirely on the need for a sudden transition, and down-play the effort needed to lay the necessary ground work.
        “Such extreme impatience even leads people to revise their revolutionary theory to fit their subjective desires. ‘Winning the masses takes time, therefore maybe it is not necessary to win the masses, or maybe it is only necessary to win a small number of the masses...’ In such a way are the impatient pushed away from the masses, away from mass revolution, away from Marxism and toward “left” adventurism or even putschism.
        “‘Organizing the masses takes time, therefore maybe it is not necessary to organize the masses, maybe we can just suppose that when push comes to shove the masses will spontaneously organize themselves for revolution...’ In such a way are the impatient pushed toward a form of anarchism and aloofness from the masses (even if they still recognize the importance of a vanguard party).
        “‘Participating with the masses in their day-to-day struggle in order to raise their revolutionary consciousness is too big a job, therefore maybe it is not necessary, maybe it is really only a kind of reformism dressed up as revolutionary preparations; maybe the masses do not really need to learn through their own experiences, and maybe we do not need to be there with them to help them with this summation...’ In such a way does Marxism get turned into a sort of “leftist” preaching, or a form of evangelism.
        “‘Preparing for revolution takes time and effort, therefore maybe it is not necessary to make extensive preparations, maybe the masses are almost ready to go right now, maybe the revolution could break out any day...’ In such a way do the impatient lose the ability to appraise the objective situation, and start to lose contact with reality. This leads to constant predictions of revolution ‘within this decade’, or ‘within a couple years’, or even ‘within a few months’—which in turn leads to demoralization when the subjective predictions do not materialize.
        “Extreme impatience can thus lead to ultra-‘leftism’ in various guises, and to a distortion of Marxism.
        “Impatience can be a good thing or a bad thing. If impatience with the present despicable bourgeois world turns us into revolutionaries, and gets us working toward bringing about revolution, it is of course a very good thing. But if that impatience gets out of hand and leads us into the renunciation of Marxism and the only real path to revolution, it is a very bad thing. We should be impatient for revolution, but we should not let it make us crazy.”
         —S.H., The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 31.

“What childish innocence it is to present impatience as a theoretically convincing argument!” —Engels, “Program of the Blanquist Communards”, Volkstaat, #73, 1874; quoted in Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder” (April 1920), Chapter VIII.

See also:

“All governmental power of whatever sort shall be vested in a president of the United States.” —From H. L. Mencken’s suggested revision of the U.S. Constitution in light of the qualitatively growing powers of the presidency under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [Since that time the powers of the presidency (both of the president himself and of his associated “Executive Branch” of government) have constantly further expanded, in almost an exponential fashion. —Ed.]

“Our country has, quite self-consciously, given one person, the President, an enormous sprawling military and enormous discretion to use it in ways that can easily lead to a massive war. That is our system: one person decides.” —Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor and Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, quoted as the “Quote of the Day” in the New York Times, National Edition, Jan. 5, 2020, p. 3.

The term ‘imperialism’ in traditional usage means the political and economic control or domination of one country by another. In this general sense, Rome was an imperial power, as was Persia and other ancient empires. However, within revolutionary Marxism the term ‘imperialism’ is generally used as a technical term to mean capitalist imperialism, or the economic and political form that capitalism has taken during the period since the late 19th century. Lenin defined imperialism as the highest and final stage of capitalism, and used the term synonymously with monopoly capitalism.
        Among the central characteristics of capitalist imperialism are:
        1) The rise of and near universal domination of the capitalist economy by joint-stock
corporations, as opposed to individually-owned companies or partnerships.
        2) A qualitative increase in the levels of monopoly or oligopoly within capitalist economies, especially within each major nation.
        3) A qualitative increase in one or another form of the globalization of capital. In the pre-World War I period this often took place in the form of cartelization (international monopolies or agreements among the monopolies from separate nations). In recent decades this has more frequently taken place in the form of the rise of giant multinational corporations (MNCs), which though nearly always politically based in a single country, nevertheless operate and engage in plunder around the globe like international pirates.
        4) A qualitative increase in the importance of the export of capital (as compared with merely the export of commodities, though that is of intensified importance as well).
        5) A qualitative increase in the role of the capitalist state in the management of the economy, and often the de facto merger of the state with corporations (such as via bourgeois nationalization of individual companies or industries for certain periods).
        6) A qualitative expansion in the importance of the financial aspects of capitalism, the financialization of an ever-growing part of the economy, and the rise in importance of a financial oligarchy at the apex of the bourgeois ruling class structure.
        7) A qualitative increase in the importance of the domination and exploitation of other countries by a few militaristic imperialist powers. This first took the form of outright colonialism, with virtually total economic and political control of specific “Third World” countries by individual imperialist powers. But this broke down during the second half of the 20th century, and was replaced with neocolonialism, wherein the dominated countries are nominally independent but still exploited and under the general control of foreign imperialism via the medium of local agents of the imperialists (the comprador capitalist class).
        8) Politically, capitalist-imperialism is overall a period of world strife, constant imperialist wars whereby the big powers seek to establish, maintain, or re-establish control over other countries, and even some very disastrous and devastating world wars among the imperialist countries and against socialist countries. And, overall, and despite some periods of quiescence, it is a period of the revolutionary upsurge of the people of the world against the capitalist-imperialist system.

IMPERIALISM — Contemporary “Rehabilitation” Of
Starting with the genocidal imperialist wars by Japan in China during the 1930s, and the more general imperialist war which became World War II, ‘imperialism’ became a word to avoid, in describing their own actions, by the U.S. and other old-line imperialist powers, including even Britain (though they still talked favorably about the British Empire for a while). While the Soviet Union still existed, its constant denunciation of Western imperialism also forced the U.S. and other imperialist powers to continue to deny that they were imperialists. Indeed the very word ‘imperialism’ was denounced as mere communist “jargon”, and the masses were taught to avoid using it unless they wanted to be considered “brain-washed by the Commies”. But with the fading memories of World War II, and then with the collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union in 1991, there soon developed in the U.S. and Britain, at least, a trend toward rehabilitating the word ‘imperialism’ and trying to find new ways to “justify” it. The old slogans such as the “white man’s burden” remained on the shelf; but many new comments by capitalist spokesmen about how imperialism is a postive force if it “spreads democracy” and “helps people through
‘humanitarian intervention’” have now come to the fore. The imperialist bourgeoisie has been making a serious effort to rehabilitate within the liberal intellectual community the absurd notion that imperialism is a “good thing”. (And the so-called “democracy” that they are trying to spread is merely a totally phony bourgeois democracy that keeps foreign imperialism in control of other countries through compradors or client regimes which follow all the major instructions from abroad.)

“‘It is easy to forget,’ wrote Frank Furedi in The New Ideology of Imperialism [1994], ‘that until the 1930s the moral claims of imperialism were seldom questioned in the West. Imperialism and the global expansion of the Western powers were represented in unambiguously positive terms as a major contributor to human civilization.... To be an imperialist was considered a respectable, political badge.’ As the United States emerged from the Second World War and shed what ‘Atlanticists’ like to call its ‘age of innocence’ (forgetting the slaughter of the Native Americans, slavery, the theft of Texas [and more! —Ed.] from Mexio, the bloody subjugation of Central America, Cuba and the Philippines, and other innocent pursuits), ‘imperialism’ was dropped from American textbooks and declared a European affair. One of the difficulties for proud imperialists in the immediate post-war period was that Hitler and fascism, and all their ideas of racial and cultural superiority, had left a legacy of guilt by association. The Nazis had been proud imperialists, too.
        “A serious, if farcical, campaign to expunge the word from the language followed ‘on the grounds that it falsely attributed immoral motives to Western foreign policy’. The term was deemed to no longer have ‘relevance’. Those who peristed in using it as a pejorative term were ‘disreputable’ and ‘sinister’. They were, wrote one American historian, ‘inspired by the Communist doctrine’, or they were ‘Negro intellectuals who had grievances of their own against white capitalism’....
        “That changed in the 1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the imperialists took heart. The economic and political crises in the ‘developing’ world, caused by the collapse in commodity prices and the ravages of debt, would now serve as retrospective justification for imperialism. Once again, the ‘third world’ needed to be saved from itself. Imperialism’s return journey to establishment respectability had begun.” —John Pilger, Freedom Next Itme: Resisting the Empire (2007), pp. 5-6.

IMPERIALISM — Hypocritical Bourgeois Comments On
It is interesting that various capitalist-imperialist politicians and ideologists have, from time to time, condemned “imperialism”. Of course, for the most part this means condemning other imperialist powers, rather than their own. But, on quite rare occasions some of them have even claimed to oppose the imperialism of their own country or that of the “Western bloc”, etc. This is most often a demagogic maneuver to try to show the voters that they—unlike other ruling class politicians—are opposed to the endless wars and other outrages of imperialism. But strangely, once they gain power themselves, all of this seems to be totally forgotten.

“The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile—it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism—and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.” —Senator John F. Kennedy, in a Senate speech, July 2, 1957, quoted in David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), p. 362.
         [This pious speech did not prevent Senator Kennedy from supporting and voting for weapons for the U.S. imperialist military, nor—a few years later when he became president—from leading U.S. imperialism in its attempt to overthrow the Castro government in Cuba, or from trying to maintain U.S. imperialist control of south Vietnam, or any number of other imperialist actions. There is no greater hypocrite than an imperialist hypocrite claiming to be opposed to imperialism. —Ed.]

IMPERIALISM — Lenin’s Definition Of
[Intro to be added...]

“And so, without forgetting the conditional and relative value of all definitions in general, which can never embrace all the concatenations of a phenomenon in its complete development, we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features: 1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital,’ of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves, and 5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism in the stage of development in which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline” (1916), (Peking: FLP, 1975), pp. 105-6; LCW 22:266-7.

IMPERIALISM — World System of

See also:

“All capitalist ruling classes in this era function within the world imperialist system and seize all of the world’s wealth and resources they are able to. However:
              a.   The bourgeoisie (including its alliance in some cases with a feudal landlord class) in most countries is far too weak internationally to exercise significant imperialist control over other countries, or to organize significant economic exploitation of them.
              b.   In a few countries the ruling bourgeoisie is far stronger, and has quite a free hand to boss around other countries and/or to economically exploit them to a considerable degree. These are the countries we call imperialist countries.”
         —N. B. Turner, et al., Is China an Imperialist Country? — Considerations and Evidence (2015), summary thesis number 2, p. 144. Available online in PDF format at https://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf and elsewhere.

“IMPERIALIST ECONOMISTS” [Political Trend among the Bolsheviks]

Imperialist economists—Lenin’s designation for the opportunists Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosh in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks) during the First World War. The ‘imperialist economists’ demanded that the Party delete the programmatic statement on the right of nations to self-determination. They also came out against the entire minimum programme of the R.S.D.L.P., which envisaged a struggle for democratic reforms that would facilitate the preparation and transition to the socialist revolution. Lenin laid bare the opportunistic essence of the position of Bukharin and those sharing his views, its kinship with ‘economism’—the opportunistic trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Like the old ‘economists,’ who could not understand the need for the political struggle of the working class under conditions of capitalism, the ‘imperialist economists’ did not understand the significance of the struggle for democratic reforms under conditions of imperialism.
        “Certain views of the ‘imperialist economists’ were shared by Left Social-Democrats of Holland, America, Poland, etc. That is why Lenin called ‘imperialist economism’ an ‘international disease’ [LCW 35:254].
        “A number of articles by Lenin are devoted to a criticism of ‘imperialist economism’: ‘On the Incipient Trend of “Imperialist Economism”’ [LCW 23:1-9]; ‘Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov)’ [LCW 23:10-15]; ‘A Caracature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism’ [LCW 23:16-64].” —Note 155, LCW 38.

The common tendency of imperial powers—both traditional (old-style) imperialism and modern
capitalist-imperialism—to try to conquer and control more of the world than they are really capable of holding onto over the long term. In World War II, for example, the arrogance and impatience of the imperialists of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan led them into overextending their empires to such a degree that they ended up collapsing in complete wartime defeat. This occurred in part because of the ferocious war against them by competing imperialist powers (especially the U.S. and Britain); in part because they unwisely took on the ideologically powerful forces of the socialist Soviet Union and Mao’s Communists in China; and in part because they were trying to incorporate into their spheres of control many peoples with linguistic and cultural differences so far from their own that they could not be pacified and socially digested, such as in Eastern Europe and China, which, for racist reasons, they were not even smart enough to try to do.
        At present the country with the most obvious and extreme imperialist overreach is the United States, which is still attempting to hold onto major areas of the world (such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Afghanistan) which keep slipping through their greedy fingers.

“All states that are liberal of naturalization towards strangers are fit for empire. For to think that a handful of people can, with the greatest courage and policy in the world, embrace too large extent of domination [is wrong, for] it may hold for a time but it will fail suddenly.” —Francis Bacon, “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates”, early 17th century, in Selected Writings of Francis Bacon (NY: 1955), pp. 80-81.

IMPERIALIST WARS — Civilian Casualties In

“A century ago in World War I, only 10 percent of fatalities were civilians, whereas since the Cold War 90 percent of casualties have been civilian and only 10 percent have been battlefield deaths.” —Parag Khanna, Connectography: Mapping the Global Network Revolution (2016), p. 66.

IMPERIALISTS — Racist Attitudes Of
It is commonplace, almost to the point of universality, for imperialists in the capitalist era to have strongly racist attitudes towards the people of the countries they dominate and exploit, especially if there are any differences in appearance (no matter how superficial) between those populations and that of the ruling class at home.
        This rampant and vicious imperialist racism is especially prominent in the training of imperial troops to conquer or put down rebellions in colonies and neo-colonies. Thus the conditioning of American soldiers during the Vietnam War to think in terms of enthusiastically “killing gooks”.
        See also:
GERMAN IMPERIALISM—In the Nazi Era [Mazower quote]

For Europeans and Persons
of European Origin
Dogs and Indians
Not Allowed.

“Breech Candy is a club in Bombay [now Mumbai]. The best bath and the only good swimming pool near the centre of the city. In January 1959 I see that a placard is still hanging there. [See above.] This irritates me. I refuse to go there. That night I meet a Swede. I talk to him about this. I maintain that it is indefensible that the Indian government should still—twelve years after Independence—allow this. He looks at me and answers:
         —‘But they have driven us away from everything we have built here in India. They have taken away everything that was ours. But at least they have the decency to let us keep this, our last reservation, to ourselves.’
         He was twenty-eight, had spent two months in India. Came directly from Uppsala University. They later told me he would be one of the bright young men of our Foreign Office.”
         —Jan Myrdal, Confessions of a Disloyal European (1968), pp. 22-23.
         [It is apparently a popular myth that a similar sign literally reading “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed” was once posted in a park in Shanghai. However, in the Huangpu Park in the foreign “Concession” in Shanghai before World War II there was indeed a sign in English saying that the park was “reserved for the foreign community” and this sign did also say that “No dogs were allowed.” Thus the overall meaning was in fact pretty much the same as if it had said “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed”. And we do not know precisely how the signs in Chinese may have put it. —Ed.]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor publishes monthly statistical indexes of the prices of imports into and exports from the U.S. (available online at:
        During the present trade war launched in 2018 by the U.S. against China, a question of concern is how much import prices are rising in the U.S. due to the large and periodically increasing tariffs the U.S. government is adding to the huge mass of imports from China. However, although the major point of the BLS import price index series is to show how actual prices of imported goods are changing for buyers in the United States, for reasons of their own this series does not include the tariffs or import duties that the U.S. adds to those prices! (See: https://www.bls.gov/mxp/ippfaq.htm#item7) This is yet another example of how the government lies in its economic statistics. (See: ECONOMIC STATISTICS—Distortion of by Capitalist Governments) Thus, the most recent report says that import prices dropped by 0.5% in August 2019 and by 2.0% over the past year, when in reality import prices have been rapidly jumping up because of the huge increases in tariffs.

A suddenly popular phrase in late 2020 for the strategy of both many poor and also some advanced capitalist countries to try to bring foreign production back to their home nations. This is to be done by “shielding domestic producers from foreign competition” (as The Economist euphemistically put it), or in other words through
protectionism. Under current global market-capitalism conditions, and within the still developing world capitalist overproduction crisis, this scheme is only likely to further harm the world economy.

Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index