Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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The Old Stone Age, or the period from when human beings and our immediate ancestors first started making crude stone tools until about 10,000 BCE, and the advent of agriculture. Generally in reference to the social and cultural developments of Europe and the Mediterranean area. The
Upper (or Late) Paleolithic is the period from 35,000 to 10,000 BCE. The last 2,000 years of the Paleolithic (the “Epipaleolithic”) and the first 2,000 years of the Neolithic (the “Proto-Neolithic”) are collectively known as the Mesolithic Age (i.e. 12,000 to 8,000 BCE).
        See also: NEOLITHIC AGE

A country in the Middle East whose territory has been gradually stolen over the past century by Zionists, with the support of first British and later American imperialism. [More to be added...]

In Hindi and related languages, literally “Assembly (yat) of Five (panch)”, where the “five” are supposed to be wise and respected elders selected by the local community. This is a common form of local governance in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages. In modern India the gram panchayats at the village level are formal bodies which are elected every five years.
        Other types of panchayats include: khap panchayats (or caste panchayats), which are not elected; panchayat samiti (“block” or tehsil panchayats) at the level between the village and district); and zilla panchayats (district level panchayats). The system of panchayat governance as a whole is called panchayat raj.

An older name for capitalist crises, especially the financial aspects of such crises.
        See also below, and:

One of the first significant periodic industrial crises in the capitalist system.

“By contrast [to earlier panics], the panic of 1825 reverberated around the world. It began in Britain and had all the hallmarks of a classic crisis: easy money (courtesy of the Bank of England), an asset bubble (stocks and bonds linked to investments in the emerging market of newly independent Peru), and even widespread fraud (feverish selling of the bonds of a fictitious nation called the Republic of Poyais to credulous investors).” —Nouriel Roubini & Stephen Mihm, Crisis Economics (2010), p. 21. [Note, however, that these bourgeois economists mention only the financial aspects of the crisis, which is typical of the bourgeois analyses of crises. —S.H.]

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A short though severe financial crisis, which however more or less marked the beginning of a long period of economic weakness in the U.S. which is now known as the
Long Depression (1873-1896). As is always the case, this capitalist crisis was blamed by bourgeois ideologists on factors external to the capitalist system, including an epidemic of horse flu which harmed the transportation industry. The long period of ensuing economic weakness was also falsely blamed on the Coinage Act of 1873 which switched the U.S. over from a “bimetalic” (gold and silver) money standard to just a gold standard, which somewhat hurt the silver mining industry (but of course gave a further boost to gold mining).

A severe financial and economic crisis that in many ways was a continuation of the Panic of 1873 after the relatively calm period of the 1880s. Railroad construction had tailed off and many railroad and other companies had financially overextended themselves. Some, such as the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad went bankrupt. As the financial crisis intensified people began cashing in their currency for gold. Foreigners, in particular, demanded gold in payment from Americans. This led to the U.S. Treasury’s gold supply falling to the legally manditory minimum, at which point the government stopped exchanging gold for paper notes. (This was in effect a temporary abandonment of the
gold standard.) This, in turn, led to further panic. Banks and other companies began going bankrupt on a large scale.
        Unemployment jumped up to between 12% and 14% in the U.S., and in some cities reached 20% to 25%. There was a wave of evictions, and a tightening of vagrancy laws as the well-to-do became frightened of “anarchy” among the poor and unemployed. There were qualitatively intensified labor struggles occurring. This crisis also took on an anti-foreigner aspect, since many of the unemployed were recent immigrants. Similarly, there was a racist component, since large numbers of African-Americans went north in the period after the Civil War and Reconstruction. It wasn’t until around 1896 that the economy began to improve in a major way.
        See also: LONG DEPRESSION (1873-1896)

This was the last of the major financial crises in the U.S. during the transition period from pre-monopoly capitalism to modern “
monopoly capitalism” (or capitalist-imperialism). This panic itself mostly occurred in the center of U.S. capitalist finance, New York City. It was tipped off for most of the usual reasons, including undue expansion of credit and debt, considerable financial manipulation (including an attempt by the head of one of New York’s big banks to corner the copper market), and outright fraud and thievery. But the underlying cause lay, as virtually always, in the internal contradictions of the capitalist mode of production and specificially in the fact (as Engels put it) that the expansion of production proceeds faster than the expansion of the market.
        Though relatively short, this panic was quite sharp and scared the hell out of both the capitalists and the U.S. government. The financial panic led to a recession in 1908, but it also led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System (the U.S. central bank) in 1913. Since “the Fed” did not yet exist in 1907 it fell to J.P. Morgan, by far the most influential financier of the day, working together with the U.S. Treasury department, to patch together a resolution for this particular financial crisis. Since that time, it has been the government itself that has attempted to overall manage the capitalist economy and deal with its perpetual financial and economic crises.


The recent financial crisis, centered in the United States but spreading worldwide, which was developing significantly during the summer of 2008, but then was especially concentrated during the fourth quarter of of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. This Panic is just one episode within the current overall U.S. and world overproduction crisis, and only one of several financial panics which will be occurring as part of that over the next several years.

The supposed “conundrum” in bourgeois economics wherein the tendency of consumers to save money during poor economic times leads to additional falling of
effective demand, and thus worsens the economic crisis, leading to more layoffs and cuts in wages, and hence even further reluctance to spend on the part of consumers. This is simply one aspect of the fact that people’s psychology can intensify a boom and also intensify a recession or depression. It is not really a puzzle, though it appears to be so to bourgeois moralists who simultaneously tell people they should save for a rainy day and also “get out there and spend”, even if they have to borrow to do so!
        Keynes thought that negative psychological factors such as this might keep an economy operating at only a perpetually weak level, and this is why a burst of government deficit spending could perk up people’s economic spirits, and get them spending freely again. This would supposedly “prime the pump” and restore the economy to a healthy condition. The flaw in this thinking is that problems with a capitalist economy are most fundamentally due to objective factors (such as the fact that the workers simply cannot be paid enough to buy back all the commodities they produce for the capitalists), and not just psychological moods.

The first proletarian uprising which achieved state power for a time. The Paris Commune was established in Paris in March 1871, and was brutally suppressed after two months. The Commune provided both positive and negative lessons. The positive lessons included a vivid example of the real democracy for the people possible with proletarian rule. Among the negative lessons were the realization that the proletariat was not sufficiently organized and conscious of its tasks, and did not act with sufficient determination against the bourgeoisie to prevent their comeback (which led Marx to add the principle the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat to the list of basic principles of Marxism).

“It seems the Parisians are succumbing. It is their own fault, but a fault which was in fact due to their too great decency. The Central Committee and later the Commune gave Thiers, that mischievous dwarf, time to concentrate the hostile forces, firstly because they rather foolishly did not want to start a civil war—as if Thiers had not already started it by his attempt at the forcible disarming of Paris, as if the National Assembly, summoned for the sole purpose of deciding the question of war or peace with the Prussians, had not immediately declared war on the Republic! Secondly, in order that the appearance of having usurped power should not attach to them they lost precious moments (it was imperative to advance on Versailles immediately after the defeat (Place Vendôme) of the reactionaries in Paris) by the election of the Commune, the organization of which, etc., cost yet more time.” —Marx, Letter to Wilhelm Liebknecht, April 6, 1871, in Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (1975), p. 246; slightly different translation in MECW 44:128.

PARMENIDES OF ELEA   (born c. 515 BCE)
The founder of the
Eleatic School of ancient Greek philosophy. (Plato, however, says that the founder of that school was Xenophanes, and it seems Parmenides was influenced by Xenophanes and may have been his pupil.) Parmenides believed and taught that despite all appearances to the contrary, reality must be “One”, that is, an eternal, imperishable, indivisible, motionless and perfect single entity. This may have been one of the earliest arguments for this specific idealist conception, which has frequently reappeared in abstract forms of religion (including Buddhism) and mysticism. Parmenides’s most famous student was Zeno of Elea, the propounder of paradoxes which attempted to “logically prove” Parmenides’s peculiar idea.


DEMOCRACY—Within Revolutionary Parties

During the revisionist era in the Soviet Union (mid-1950s to its collapse in 1991), the so-called “Communist Party of the Soviet Union” (CPSU) described itself as the “party of the whole people”. In reality no political party can truly represent opposed social classes and their conflicting class interests, though of course all bourgeois parties claim that they represent “everyone”. In its famous polemic against the Soviet revisionists, the Communist Party of China commented on this topic:

“Can there be a ‘party of the entire people’? Is it possible to replace the party which is the vanguard of the proletariat by a ‘party of the entire people’?
         “This, too, is not a question about the internal affairs of any particular Party, but a fundamental problem involving the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism.
         “In the view of Marxist-Leninists, there is no such thing as a non-class or supra-class political party. All political parties have a class character. Party spirit is the concentrated expression of class character.
         “The party of the proletariat is the only party able to represent the interests of the whole people. It can do so precisely because it represents the interests of the proletariat, whose ideas and will it concentrates. It can lead the whole people because the proletariat can finally emanicipate itself only with the emanicpation of all mankind, because the very nature of the proletariat enables its party to approach problems in terms of its present and future interests, because the party is boundlessly loyal to the people and has the spirit of self-sacrifice; hence its democratic centralism and iron discipline. Without such a party, it is impossible to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat and to represent the interests of the whole people.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 42.

In other words, the only way to really represent the ultimate interests of the entire population is to follow a political program now which is based on the class interests of the proletariat, and of that class alone. Talk of a “Party of the whole people” is a renunciation of the class perspective necessary now in order to really satisfied the ultimate interests of the “whole people”.

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“The mistakes of the past must be exposed without sparing anyone’s sensibilities; it is necessary to analyze and criticize what was bad in the past with a scientific attitude so that work in the future will be done more carefully and done better. This is what is meant by ‘learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones’. But our aim in exposing errors and criticizing shortcomings, like that of a doctor curing a sickness, is solely to save the patient and not to doctor him to death.” —Mao, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work” (Feb. 1, 1942), SW 3:50.

[In Marxist usage:] A method of political leadership (or a political system based on this method of leadership) wherein the authorities or leaders run things on behalf of the ordinary people, make decisions for them, and so forth, in the same way that a father might do for his children. Even if these decisions really are for the benefit of the people for a time, this is still a perversion of Marxism, which since its founding by Marx and Engels, has always championed (at least in theory) a truly democratic society where the people make their own decisions and control their own lives.
        The democratic, Marxist alternative to paternalism is the
mass line method of leadership wherein there are still leaders, but the leaders lead not by themselves deciding things for the masses, but rather by seeking to educate the masses in their own real interests and by helping them to organize themselves to implement and satisfy those interests when they are ready to do so.
        By far the worst sin of Stalin (and he was guilty of other very serious crimes as well!) was to rule the Soviet Union in a paternalistic manner. The masses were thus not trained to run things themselves, nor to question or resist their leaders when they seemed to be making changes that went against their interests. Thus when Khrushchev and a new generation of leaders came to power after Stalin’s death—leaders who were now revisionists out for their own welfare and not that of the people—the masses were unprepared to stop them and were lost.
        If the masses accept their status as “children” who are being taken care of by others—even a supposed Marxist revolutionary party trying to serve their interests in the way a father might—then eventually they will be re-enslaved by a new bourgeois ruling class developing out of that once paternalistic party. That is the foremost lesson of the triumph of revisionism in the Soviet Union.
        See also: WILL OF THE PEOPLE

Loyalty to and an emotional attachment toward the country one happens to have been born in. As George Bernard Shaw put it, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” Modern countries were mostly set up by one or another rising bourgeoisie, and in the modern era are almost always run by and in the interests of one or another bourgeois ruling class. Thus patriotism to the country they own and run is in fact patriotism and subservience toward your own bourgeois masters.
        Patriotism is used by the capitalists to help keep the masses under control, and to make them think the country they live in exists for their own benefit. It is used to make them think that the people of their own country are better than those of other countries, and to raise fewer objections when other countries are exploited or attacked. And it is used to get young men (and now also young women) to join the rulers’ military machines and engage in murderous wars against other peoples. Patriotism is therefore more than just a lie and a swindle; it is a vicious bourgeois crime that ordinary people are tricked into going along with!

PATRIOTISM—Under Socialism
The revisionist rulers of the old Soviet Union once wrote:

“However, all honest-minded men and women know that the Communist Parties are the true upholders and champions of national interests, that they are staunch patriots who combine love for their country and proletarian internationalism in their struggle for the happiness of the people.” —“The Letter of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. to the Central Committee of the C.P.C.” (March 30, 1963), included in A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement..., (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 92.

Is this correct? No it is not! This revisionist position denies that there is or can be any contradiction between the national interests of one country (even under socialism!) and those of the people of the world and the world communist revolution, but this is clearly undialectical nonsense. The dedication we genuine communists have is not for our country, but for our international working class and the international communist revolution. Even under socialism, patriotism is dubious at best, and by no means the proper ideological outlook for a Marxist.

PAULING, Linus   (1901-94)
American chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 for his important work on chemical bonds and molecular structure, and a Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 for his opposition to the mad U.S. government preparations for war against the Soviet Union, which threatened to bring about a nuclear holocaust. The U.S. capitalist ruling class considered him to be a “Communist” because of his work in favor of disarmament and peace, though he was never anything more than a pacifist-leaning liberal.
        In 1952 Pauling was refused permission to travel to London for a scientific conference. He reported that the U.S. State Department decision had been made “because of suspicion that I was a Communist and because my anti-Communist statements had not been sufficiently strong.” The hypocrisy of the U.S. in treating one of their most famous scientists this way while at the same time loudly proclaiming their defense of “freedom” is quite apparent. And certainly ordinary people who hold beliefs the ruling class disapproves of are often treated much worse. Pauling was later forced to appear before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, which called him “the number one scientific name in virtually every major activity of the Communist peace offensive in this country.” And in a headline Life magazine called his 1962 Nobel Peace Prize “A Weird Insult from Norway” (because the Norwegian Parliament selects the winners of that prize). [Some information in this article has been taken from the Wikipedia entry on Pauling.]


The name given to the “emancipation” of the serfs in Russia in 1861. See:
SERFS—Emancipation of in Russia

1. [In Marxist, especially Maoist usage:] The proletariat and its allied classes and strata, as opposed to
“the enemy”.
2. The entire population. (When we anti-revisionist Marxists wish to refer to the entire population we generally use phrases such as: “the people as a whole”, or—better yet—“the whole population”.)

Also known as the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC). This is a mass organization of
Adivasis in the Jangalmahal area of West Bengal, India. This organization has strongly defended the rights of the tribal peoples living in that area, especially against the theft of their land by Indian and transnational mining corporations. This mass organization has been supported by Maoist revolutionaries in the area, and is now falsely viewed by the Indian government as itself being composed almost exclusively of Maoists.
        For extensive news reports about the struggles of the PCAPA see the Lalgarh Page on BANNEDTHOUGHT.NET.

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The daily newspaper published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and authoritatively expressing the views of the top leadership of that Party. In Chinese pinyin transliteration its name is Rénmín Rìbào. It was established on June 15, 1948 in Hebei province, and moved to Peking (Beijing) in March 1949. Deng Tuo was its editor from 1948 to 1958, and Wu Lengxi was its editor from 1958-1966. It is said, however, that Mao’s personal secretary Hu Qiaomu provided overall supervision for the newspaper while Mao was alive.

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PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY [China] — Democracy Within
The PLA during the Chinese Revolution and the Mao era of the People’s Republic of China was probably one of the most democratic armies in history, and while Mao was alive it got ever more democratic as time went on. [More intro material to be added... ]

Democracy in the three main fields refers to the three aspects of democratic life in the People’s Liberation Army, namely, democracy in the political, economic and military fields. With regard to political democracy, fighters [soldiers] are politically on an equal footing with cadres and are free to criticize and voice their opinions against them and to put forward proposals regarding work in the army. With regard to economic democracy, the economic committee elected by the company’s armymen meeting assists the company leadership in managing the company’s mess and production and supervises expenditures to guard against corruption and waste and any violation of policies. With regard to military democracy, in periods of training there must be mutual instruction between cadres and fighters and among the fighters themselves, and there must be a review of the results of the instruction and learning. In periods of fighting, the rank and file should be aroused to discuss how to fulfil combat tasks and at the end of an engagement to review the fighting.” —From a short glossary accompanying an editorial from Jiefangjun Bao [Liberation Army Daily], Peking Review, vol. 10, #3, Jan. 13, 1967, p. 10.

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        See also:


“Experience is essential for the cadres, and failure is indeed the mother of success. But it is also necessary to learn with an open mind from other people’s experience, and it is sheer ‘narrow empiricism’ to insist on one’s own personal experience in all matters and, in its absence, to adhere stubbornly to one’s own opinions and reject other people’s experience.” —Mao, “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War” (December 1936), SW1:223.

An excessive or unquestioning deference to the authority of an individual leader, generally promoted by that person or a group led by that person. Marx, who introduced the term, called it the “superstitious belief in authority”. Also known as the “cult of the individual”.

“... Neither of us [Marx and Engels] cares a straw for popularity. A proof of this is, for example, that, because of aversion to any personality cult, I have never permitted the numerous expressions of appreciation from various countries, with which I was pestered during the existence of the International, to reach the realm of publicity, and have never answered them, except occasionally by a rebuke. When Engels and I first joined the secret Communist Society we made it a condition that everything tending to encourage superstitious belief in authority was to be removed from the Rules.” —Marx, Letter to Wilhelm Blos, Nov. 10, 1877, Marx-Engels: Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress, 1975), p. 291. [In a slightly different translation in MECW 45:288.]

Literally in French, the “little bourgeoisie”. In other words, a social class between the proletariat (working class) and the bourgeoisie (capitalist class), which (for the most part, at least) neither exploits members of other classes, nor are themselves exploited by other classes. Thus, professional people (lawyers, doctors, etc.) who do not work for corporations but who “hang out their own shingle”, and (very!) small businessmen and store owners, who run their businesses alone or with their families, etc. Of course the lines are quickly blurred somewhat, since many small businesses also hire one or a few employees, but still do not receive the bulk of their income through exploiting the labor of others.
        [More to be added.]

PETTY, Sir William   (1623-87)
An early bourgeois political economist, described by Marx as the “founder of political economy” and by Keynes as “the father of modern economics”. His principal mentor was
Hobbes, particularly in matters of taxation. Petty was an original thinker and is credited with the first clear statements of many ideas in political economy, including the labor theory of value, the differential theory of rent, how banks create credit, and the velocity of money circulation. He was also the first economist to put forward public works as a cure for unemployment (which Keynes often gets undeserved credit for).

The tendency in a capitalist economy for the proportion of the labor force engaged in services (rather than production) to increase over time. Some of the reasons why this occurs (or may occur) include:
        1) The tendency of firms to become specialized, and to
“outsource” service functions which were formerly done “in-house”.
        2) Rising incomes for some social classes and strata which leads them to hire others to do what they formerly did for themselves.
        3) The growing difficulty in finding profitable new business opportunities in production, which leads some capitalists to start and promote companies which provide services.

One of a number of related
theories of knowledge based on the notion that the immediate objects of knowledge are sensations. These theories often argue that all statements about physical objects are equivalent in meaning to statements about various subjective sensations that people have. All these theories are empiricist and idealist to one degree or another.
        A typical expression of phenomenalism is that, in the words of John Stuart Mill, “objects are the permanent possibilities of sensations”. This takes sensations as all that we really know, and seems to imply that there may be no objective reality beyond sensation. It seems to “define away” the objective reality that gives rise to our sensations. Similar views have been held by Bertrand Russell and most other empiricists. Russell held that all talk about physical objects, including their properties and locations, should be translated into talk about human subjective experiences. From our opposed materialist perspective we argue that our sensations and impressions of the world actually arise from, and are based on (to one degree or another), objective reality rather than the other way around, as the phenomenalists would have it.
        Strangely, the views of Mill and Russell might be considered among the “moderate” forms of phenomenalism. Locke and Herbert Spencer also held similar views, recognizing at least that objective reality did exist, though insisting that all we are actually directly aware of is our own sensations. Kantian agnosticism formalized this point of view that human knowledge cannot know anything directly about the real objects that give rise to our sensations, each of which is supposedly an unknowable “thing-in-itself” (ding-an-sich).
        The more extreme forms of phenomenalism merge into outright subjective idealism. Examples of this are in the philosophies of Bishop Berkeley, Ernst Mach, and the loose school of idealist thought known as Empirio-Criticism.
        From the point of view of dialectical materialism all forms of phenomenalism are false since they divorce human knowledge from objective reality and from human practice in relating to objective reality.

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A reference to the exiling, on Lenin’s orders, of a small number of reactionary intellectuals (including a few idealist philosophers) who were hostile to the October Revolution and revolutionary Russia. In the fall of 1922 two German boats carried 160 expelled reactionaries to Germany. In 1923 a smaller number of additional bourgeois intellectuals were expelled by train to Riga, Latvia, or by ship from Odessa to Constantinople. Among those expelled on these several occasions were:
Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolai Lossky, Sergei Bulgakov, and Ivan Ilyin.


PHILOSOPHY — Scientific
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        See also:

“Modern materialism embraces the more recent discoveries of natural science, according to which nature also has its history in time, the celestial bodies, like the organic species that, under favorable conditions, people them, being born and perishing. And even if nature, as a whole, must still be said to move in recurrent cycles, these cycles assume infinitely larger dimensions. In both cases modern materialism is essentially dialectic, and no longer needs any philosophy standing above the other sciences. As soon as each special science is bound to make clear its position in the great totality of things and of our knowledge of things, a special science dealing with this totality is superfluous. That which still survives, independently, of all earlier philosophy is the science of thought and its laws—formal logic and dialectics. Everything else is subsumed in the positive science of nature and history.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:26.

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PLATO   (c. 427-347 BCE)
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        See also:
Philosophical doggerel about Plato.

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        See also:

1. [In ancient Rome:] A member of the lower classes (but not including slaves).
2. [In any class society:] One of the common (or ordinary) people, as opposed to the upper classes.

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        See also:
COINTELPRO: FBI’s War on Black America (1989) [high quality 50 min. documentary video by Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis].

POLITICAL EDUCATION (Of the Working Class)

“The question arises, what should political education consist in? Can it be confined to the propaganda of working-class hostility to the autocracy? Of course not. It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to carry on agitation round concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spherese of life and activity—vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc.,—is it not evident that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organization of the political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? In order to carry on agitation round concrete instances of oppression, these instances must be exposed (as it is necessary to expose factory abuses in order to carry on economic agitation).” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:400-401.

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POLITICS — Bourgeois

“I believe in the division of labor. You send us to Congress; we pass laws under which you make money ... and out of your profits, you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money.” —U.S. Senator Boies Penrose (Republican-Pennsylvania), 1896. Quoted in The Nation, July 21/28, 2003, p. 3.

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1. [In China before collectivization in the 1950s:] A peasant (farmer) who owned only a very small amount of land, and few (if any) work animals and pieces of farm equipment, and who consequently had to work part of the time for
landlords or rich peasants, in addition to working his own land.
2. Someone in a similar situation at other times and places.
        See also: CHINA—Class Analysis Before 1949

POPPER, Karl   (1902-1994)
Austrian-British bourgeois philosopher strongly influenced by
logical positivism. [More to be added...]
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Popper.

A way of looking at dialectical development (and the mode of expression used sometimes by Hegel) in which the lasting or developing aspect of a dialectical contradiction is considered to be the positive aspect, while the aspect being overcome is considered to be the negative aspect. In Marxist discussion of dialectics it is more usual to talk about opposition than it is positive vs. negative.

“It is in this dialectic as it is here understood, that is, in the grasping of opposites in their unity or of the positive in the negative, that speculative thought consists.” —Hegel, Science of Logic, Introduction, section 69.

One of several related bourgeois idealist empiricist philosophies, especially these two:
1. The theory founded by the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857), which denies the possibility of ever coming to know the inner connections and relations of things in the world, and denies the capability of philosophy as a means of knowing and changing the objective world. Philosophy is instead reduced to merely summarizing the data obtained by the sciences and a superficial description of direct observation, or—in other words—to what they call “positive” facts. These Comtean positivists view themselves as being “above” idealism and materialism, but in fact their doctrine is merely a variety of
subjective idealism.

POSSIBILISTS (Or: Broussists)
Political opportunists always like to chant that “politics is the art of the possible”. They often use this argument to justify the abandonment of matters of principle and their accomodation to the policies and views of the bourgeois ruling class. One particular group in France in the late 19th century that did this was even called the “Possibilists”:

Possibilists (Broussists)—an opportunist trend in the French working-class movement of the 1880s led by Benoît Malon and Paul Brousse that repudiated the idea of a revolutionary proletarian party and renounced revolutionary struggle, believing that the muncipalities alone could ensure gradual transition to socialism. This was the opportunist policy of the ‘possible’, and hence the ironic name Possibilists, coined by Guesde. Towards the end of the eighties, with the support of opportunist elelments in other countries, notably Hyndman of the British Social-Democratic Federation, the Possibilists tried to capture the leadership of the international working-class movement. However, most of the socialist organizations refused to follow their lead and sent delegates to the Marxist congress in Paris (July 14-20, 1889), at which the Second International was inaugurated. Engels systematically exposed their [the Possibilists’] splitting activities. In 1902, in conjunction with the other reformist groups, the Possibilists founded the French Socialist Party, which in 1905 merged with the Socialist Party of France [which had been founded in 1901]. In the imperialist war of 1914-18 Guesde and the other French socialist leaders became social-chauvinists.” —Footnote 46, Lenin: SW I (1967).

[Sometimes with a hyphen.] A cynical, even nihilistic, trend in modern bourgeois philosophy (especially Continental philosophy) that denigrates concepts such as objectivity and reality and that denies there is any such thing as scientific truth in any sphere. [More to be added...]
        See also:

POTENTIAL OUTPUT   [Bourgeois Economics]
The output (as measured by GDP) of a capitalist economy during a given period when all its capital and technology are fully put to use. In other words, the output if all the machinery in all the factories was put to good use by the appropriately skilled labor force.
        At least that is what potential output is supposed to be in theory! In actuality, bourgeois economists are driven to cheat on this definition in a whole variety of ways. First, they acknowledge that at any given time there are a lot of machines which are not being utilized, and even some entire factories closed down, but say that it would be impossible to put all of them into full use because if all the companies involved tried to do that at the same time there would be shortages of raw materials, fuel, and so forth! Of course that is true, but if all these companies were to gradually crank up all their machines and factories, there would soon be much more raw materials produced. So this type of excuse is really pure baloney. After all, it is these same apologists for capitalism that claim that the market will soon correct for any short-term shortages!
        Another excuse for not counting all the idle machines and factories is the claim that a certain portion of them are not intended to be used full time. Instead, companies keep a certain amount of excess capacity around just to meet occasional bursts in demand.
        Yet another way in which the real potential production of companies (and the economy as a whole) is grossly underestimated is through counting “full production” as being based on “current industry standards”, which—given the steady overproduction of capital—keep getting lowered. If a company were really going all out to produce all it could, for example, it would be operating its production facilities around the clock, in three shifts. But if effective demand has long since been far exceeded by the expansion of capital, the “industry standard” might now be to operate only one or maybe two shifts.
        Through phony methods and excuses like these, the actual estimates by bourgeois economists of what the “potential output” of a capitalist economy is get grossly understated. Nevertheless, even given these maneuvers, these economists still need to admit at times of recession (at least) that the economy is not producing up to its “full potential”. This is embarrassing for them because their own economic theory states that capitalist economies always will produce at full capacity (barring “external forces”). Their adherence to
“Say’s Law” forces them to claim, as Ricardo loved to say, that any amount of capital can and will be put to good use.
        Reality shows otherwise, and even bourgeois economists are forced to admit the existence of “output gaps” between actual production and potential production.

The condition of lacking the usual or socially acceptable minimum amounts of money and material possessions; in other words, being quite poor. This often implies shortage of food, hunger, deficient nutrition, poor or unavailable health care, poor quality housing or even homelessness, lack of access to educational opportunities, and so forth.
        Capitalism as a socioeconomic system is unable (or unwilling) to prevent a significant portion of the population from living in poverty, even in the richest and most advanced capitalist-imperialist countries which steal enormous amounts of wealth from the rest of the world. The level of poverty in any given country depends on a variety of factors, many of which can vary over time. There is always much higher levels of povery in
“Third World” countries, which are exploited by foreign imperialism. And poverty levels generally fluctuate somewhat with capitalist economic cycles, and increase substantially in periods of economic crisis.
        Most governments rather arbitrarily set what they call a poverty line, or level of income below which a person or family is considered to be “in poverty”. This line is virtually always set absurdly low in order to try to hide the true extent of real poverty that exists. Even so, the poverty levels in the United States today are quite high and expanding rapidly. In 2009, by this government standard, 14.3% of Americans lived in poverty, which is the highest level in 15 years. That’s a total of 44 million people, or 1 in 7. Among children, 1 in 5 lives in poverty. All this in the richest country in the world. [Statistics from a Census Bureau report, quoted in the New York Times, Sept. 16, 2010.]
        See also below and: WORLD POVERTY

A dividing line in income levels below which everyone recognizes that a family is living in poverty, and slightly above which is not at all considered as poverty by the well-to-do bourgeois assholes who specify the line and who would squeal like stuck pigs if they were forced to live on even just 10 times as much!
        For the year 2009 the official U.S. poverty line was $10,830 for a single adult, and $22,050 for a family of four.
        See also the entry for POVERTY just above.

POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY, The   [Book by Marx (1847)]
[Intro material to be added...]
        In a letter to Marx (on May 12, 1851) commenting on this book Ferdinand Lasalle said that Marx showed himself to be “a Hegel turned economist, a Ricardo turned socialist”. And there is indeed something essential about Marxism ever since that it combines philosophy, political economy and politics into an integrated and coherent whole.

PRACTICE   [Term in Marxist Philosophy]
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Practice is higher than (theoretical) knowledge, for it has not only the dignity of universality, but also the immediate actuality.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:213.

[To be added...]
        See also my essay “Chopping Onions and Pragmatism” at

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PRATT, Elmer “Geronimo”   (1947-   )
A leader of the
Black Panther Party who spent 27 years in prison on trumped-up charges of murder and kidnapping, including 8 years of that time in solitary confinement. Pratt was targeted by the FBI program known as COINTELPRO, which aimed to “neutralize Pratt as an effective BPP functionary.” [From: LA 157-3436, the partially redacted COINTELPRO file on Geronimo Pratt.]
        In December 1968 Pratt was in the San Francisco Bay Area attending BPP meetings. At the same time a woman was kidnapped and murdered in southern California as part of a robbery. The woman’s husband, who was also wounded in that attack originally identified someone else as the killer. But a police and FBI informant within the BPP, Julius Butler, then claimed Geronimo Pratt was the killer.
        Since Pratt was a southern California leader of the BPP, both the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department had him under constant surveillance. The Oakland police also had (illegal) wiretaps of Pratt in conversations in the Bay Area at the time of the murder. They all therefore knew that he was innocent of the crime. However, they withheld this information, along with the fact that Julius Butler was secretly working for them. Thus, whether they put Butler up to his false accusation or not (and they very probably did, since they were holding serious criminal charges over his head that gave them powerful leverage with him), they definitely participating in the frame-up. This led to Pratt being falsely convicted in 1972.
        It was not until 1997 that Pratt’s conviction was overturned. He then won a false imprisonment lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the FBI, with a reported settlement of $4.5 million (including $1.75 million from the federal government). This was little enough recompense for the ruin of much of his life by the government. Since finally being freed, Pratt has worked as a human rights activist with a particular focus on other false imprisonment cases, and has participated in the campaign to free the political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
        See also: COINTELPRO: FBI’s War on Black America (1989) [high quality 50 min. documentary video by Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis].

PRAVDA   [“Truth”]
The official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party [Bolsheviks], later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from the paper’s establishment in 1912 until it was closed down by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1991.

Pravda (Truth) — Bolshevik legal daily published in St. Petersburg. It was founded in April 1912 on the initiative of St. Petersburg workers.
         “Pravda was a mass working-class newspaper maintained by funds collected by the workers themselves. Articles were contributed by a large group of worker-correspondents and worker-writers—in one year alone the paper published 11,000 items from its worker-correspondents. The average circulation was 40,000, and occasionally it reached 60,000 copies.
         “Lenin directed the work of the paper from abroad, writing an article almost daily; he gave his advice to the editors and mustered the Party’s best literary forces for the paper.
         “The police persecuted Pravda systematically; in the first year of publication 41 issues were confiscated and 36 summonses were made against the editors.
         “In the course of two years and three months Pravda was suppressed eight times but each time it again appeared under a new name—Rabochaya Pravda (Workers’ Truth), Severnaya Pravda (Northern Truth), Pravda Truda (Labor’s Truth), Za Pravda (For Truth), Proletarskaya Pravda (Proletarian Truth), Put Pravda (The Way of Truth), Rabochy (The Worker), Trudovaya Pravda (Labor Truth). The newspaper was finally [completely] suppressed on July 8 (21), 1914, on the eve of the First World War, and publication did not begin again until after the February Revolution. From March 5 (18), 1917, Pravda was published as the Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P. Lenin joined the editorial board on April 5 (18), 1917, on his return from abroad and guided the work of the editors. On July 5 (18), 1917, the Pravda offices were wrecked by military cadets and Cossacks. From July to October 1917, Pravda, persecuted by the Provisional Government, frequently changed its name and appeared as: Listok Pravdy (Pravda’s Sheet), Proletary (The Proletarian), Rabochy (The Worker), and Rabochy Put (Workers’s Path). Since October 27 (November 9), 1917, the newspaper has appeared regularly under its original name of Pravda.” —Footnote 13, LCW 19:564-565.

agitation or propaganda (in Lenin’s sense) at those who already agree with what is being said, rather than trying to reach and win over those who don’t already understand and agree with the ideas. This is a very common failing within most social movements, both left and right.

The idea that the terms of trade between raw materials (or “primary products” such as agricultural crops and minerals) and manufactured goods get worse and worse over time, so that countries that depend heavily on the export of raw materials and other bulk commodities should switch over to manufacturing, or at least diversify, as soon as they are able to do so.
        There is obviously some considerable empirical basis for this idea in the modern capitalist-imperialist world. But to be analytically coherent it would be necessary to explicate just how the imperialist domination of Third World countries has led to this very common result. In other words, the thesis should be viewed as just a very secondary corollary to the workings of capitalist-imperialism.
        The “thesis”, or observation, was first made separately by Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer in 1950, based on the extensive study of historical data of the trend in prices of different sorts of bulk commodities and manufactured goods. Bourgeois economists have sought to explain this observation with the claim that there is a “greater elasticity of demand” for manufactured goods, but that makes little sense. In any case, it is undeniable that this very unfair result occurred through the workings of the so-called “free market” which bourgeois economists have always exhaulted.
        There is also some reason to believe that the Prebisch Thesis may no longer be as true or evident as it used to be, no doubt largely because of the great fall in the prices of manufactured goods due to the rapid industrialization and exploitation of cheap labor in China and other parts of Asia. This strongly suggests that the relatively faster increase in prices of manufactured goods (versus bulk commodities) in former decades may have mostly been due to monopoly effects in the industrialized imperialist countries.

A common practice in contemporary capitalism whereby banks and other financial institutions issue mortgages or other loans to people in misrepresented or even outright fradulent ways, which end up severely harming these people eventually. Here are a just a few of the huge number of ways of doing this:
       *   Falsely representing an
adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) as a fixed-rate mortgage, thus exposing the mortgage holder to future payments which they cannot possibly afford.
       *   Failing to clearly and openly disclose balloon payments (very large individual repayments on the loan) which will become due at a later date, and which the mortgage holder will not be able to pay.
       *   Representing initial “teaser rates” (temporary low interest rates) on loans as the interest rate that would continue for the life of the loan.
       *   Signing people up for loans at higher interest rates when they actually have credit ratings that qualify them for lower interest rates. (Many people who were signed up for subprime mortgages over the past decade actually qualified for better mortgages with lower interest rates.)
        Of course people taking out mortgages were also always told that the economy would keep booming and that the prices of homes and property would continue to increase indefinitely. Thus they were led to believe that even if they were unable to make the mortgage payments in the future they could still sell the home and end up with a big profit.
        In the U.S. alone, millions of victims of predatory lending have lost their homes, lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, had their credit ratings ruined, and had their lives disrupted. But the banks have made billions of dollars of profits this way, and only a relatively small number of the most blatantly fraudulent mortgage salesmen have gone to jail.

PREDICTIONS — In Economics

An ill-defined or vague concept based on a crude and undeveloped theory, or where there is no overall theory as yet. Many categories in bourgeois ideology, such as
“middle class” might well be considered to be pretheoretic notions. However, it is probably true that all theoretical terms start out as pretheoretical notions; some always remain vague and confused, while others are eventually transformed into more definite and precise terms or categories in the course of developing the relevant theory in a scientific manner.

[Under capitalism:] The
value of a commodity expressed in money. “Price is the converted form in which the exchange-value of commodities appears within the circulation process.” —Marx, CCPE, p. 66. “Price is the money-name of the labor realized in a commodity.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, Ch. 3, sect. 1: (International, p. 101; Penguin, pp. 195-6.)
        The actual market price, however, tends to fluctuate somewhat around its value based on variations in supply and demand, and also deviates more systematically from its actual value from one industry to another based on the relative amount of machinery being used (because rates of profit tend to get equalized across industries). Prices may also systematically exceed value in industries because of monopoly conditions. Although the prices of individual commodities deviate in practice from their value, considered as a whole the sum of the prices of all the commodities produced in a capitalist system normally equals the sum of the values of all the commodities. When you go to buy something at the store you are concerned primarily with its price, but when you want to correctly analyze and understand the capitalist system of production you must focus first of all on the Marxist concept of value.
        See also: COST-PRICE
[Under socialism:] Prices under socialism are set according to a state plan for production and distribution, instead of constantly fluctuating as they do under a capitalist market system. Prices are still set, in part, according to the law of value, though to a gradually diminishing degree as socialism develops in the direction of communism where goods and services are distributed free. Moreover, the socialist state will tend to purposely lower the prices of basic necessities below their value, while somewhat raising the prices of luxury goods above their value. Thus the overall long-term trend for all prices under socialism is to fall, but for the prices of goods and services of special importance to the people (health services, food, everyday clothing, housing, transportation, education, etc.) to fall faster and more sharply.

The interest rate quoted by commercial banks for short-term loans to their best (safest!) commercial customers, usually big corporations. This rate fluctuates based on the cost of money to the banks themselves (the
discount rate) from the Federal Reserve, the health of the economy and that of the particular bank, and so forth. Despite the quoted prime rate, banks sometimes charge higher or lower interest rates for particular loans.

For the benefit of recent generations we should first say what “priming the pump” is literally, before talking about the analogy used in
Keynesian economics! Pumping the handle on old-style mechanical pumps was once the common method used to draw water up from a well. Once water was being pumped out, the damp leather (or similar) seal inside the pump kept air from rushing in at the top (which would allow the partially raised water to fall all the way back down again before the handle was pumped again). So in order to successfully raise water from the well to the spout it was often necessary to pour a bit of water down into the pump mechanism first. This was called “priming the pump”. Once the seal was damp, water could be raised to the spout, and the water being raised continued to keep the seal damp, allowing yet more water to be raised by further pumping.
        Keynes and his followers used this as an analogy for how government deficit financing could get a weakened economy, or one in recession, going strongly again. The problem is that this is a very weak analogy to the true economic situation.
        Keynes understood that sometimes “effective demand” was insufficient to keep the economy going, and that therefore the government had to somehow get more money into the hands of people who would spend it. This is the “priming” part! But he and his followers believed that once this happens the economy should from then on be able to run for a very long time without further government deficits, and even that government surpluses could be successfully managed that would make up for the previous deficits. There are actually some limited circumstances where this can be true for a time. If, for example, the reason for the weakness in the economy was primarily psychological, that people were not going into debt to buy things because they feared they might be layed off, then a fairly short boost to the economy might lead people to abandon their fears, and decide to take out new loans to buy TVs, cars and houses.
        But the problem in the economy eventually gets to be much more basic than something like that; the working class and masses will eventually pile up so much debt that they can’t obtain new loans when they apply for them. In that case, getting government money into their hands will still allow them to buy things but only as long as the government money keeps flowing! In this situation, government deficits still work to keep the economy going, but only as long as they continue (and, for reasons we won’t get into at the moment, for as long as these government deficits keep expanding at an ever faster pace). In other words, no pump is actually being primed, and the economy will not be able to continue on its own.
        However, Keynesian economists deeply believe in this “pump-priming” theory for several reasons:
        1) They see it work on occasion (as with the psychology example) and falsely conclude that it must always work, no matter what the situation.
        2) They have the theory that the Great Depression of the 1930s was resolved through this means; if not through government deficits for public works, then at least through massive government deficits accumulated during World War II. (“Military Keynesianism”.) Actually Keynesian deficits did interrupt the Depression, but only the massive destruction of capital during the war truly ended the Depression, and kept it from resuming after the war.
        3) Being bourgeois ideologists, they just can’t believe that capitalism has any internal flaw that might keep it from working smoothly most of the time. They imagine that all problems with the capitalist economy come from the outside and are fairly easily dealt with if the right techniques (such as Keynesian deficit pump-priming) are used. In other words, they don’t really understand how capitalism actually works, and its serious and inherent internal contradictions.

[Intro material to be added... ]

“Thus primitive accumulation, as I have already shown [Cf. the Grundrisse], means nothing but the separation of labor and the worker from the conditions of labor, which confront him as independent forces.” —Marx, TSV, 3:271.

“Accumulation merely presents as a continuous process what in primitive accumulation appears as a distinct historical process, as the process of the emergence of capital and as a transition from one mode of production to another.” —Marx, TSV, 3:272.

The first
socioeconomic formation in human history (and pre-history), which lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, and which is characterized by the collective ownership of the means of production (such as the land and nature’s bounty), an absence of social classes and exploitation, a primitive division of labor based only on “natural” factors such as age, sex and physical ability, more or less equal distribution of goods, and a very low level of development of the productive forces. For the most part people in this form of society were nomadic hunter-gatherers, without agriculture or any settled life.
        It is important to note that the people in these societies are/were not biologically “primitive” in any way (at least during the past tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of years), but rather their socioeconomic system that is/was primitive, when compared to more advanced societies.
        As of the year 2000 there were very few examples of primitive communal society still left in existence, and even those few which did remain were influenced to various degrees by the class societies all around them. One of the last remaining primitive communal societies (and one of the best studied) is that of the Dobe Ju/’hoansi people of the southern region of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and Namibia. There are about 50,000 Dobe people, who speak a San language which includes various click sounds, and who are nomadic hunter-gatherers subsisting on fruits, nuts, roots and hunted animals. They live in separate social bands of usually 25 to 50 people, with no organizational forms at any higher level. Even within each band there is no formal political or economic organization or leadership, and even very little specialization or division of labor (except along “natural” lines). However, they practice a form of what cultural anthropologists call “situational authority”, where leaders emerge and then disappear based on the varying tasks at hand. And of course there are no social classes. As one anthropologist, Edward Fischer of Vanderbilt University, comments: “The Dobe are noted for their fierce egalitarian ethic; when a Dobe hunter makes a kill, he must distribute the meat among everyone in his band. Dobe society does not distinguish between work and leisure time.” And what outsiders would consider work (such as actual time spent gathering food or hunting) usually takes up only a modest part of their day.
        Those people who claim that “human nature” prevents socialism or communism from ever working seem not to know that humanity arose and has spent most of the hundreds of thousands of years of its existence in a form of cooperative society which is based on sharing, cooperation and general equality.

The social organization in the earliest forms of human society, and especially within
primitive communal society. Although class society (primarily capitalism, of course) now exists in almost every corner of the world, there still exists today a few small and remote regions where pre-class, primitive communal society persists. Moreover, the scientific investigation of such societies began back in the 19th century when such societies existed in larger numbers. This has allowed us to develop some general understanding of how these societies function. It has been found that the social organization of these societies is/was very much simpler than has developed in class society, and—in particular—nothing like a government or a state existed.
        One widespread modern summary theory is that of the American anthropologist Elman Rogers Service (1915-96) who postulated the following four levels of social organization (in his book Primitive Social Organization: An Evolutionary Perspective, 1962):
        Level 1 — Band: Bands are groups of roughly 25 to 50 people, who have no higher form of social organization. While there will probably be other similar bands nearby, sharing a common language and culture, there is no formal organizational structure by which they relate to each other. Moreover, even within a single band itself there is no formal structure, no established leadership. As mentioned in the entry for PRIMITIVE COMMUNALISM above, the only form of leadership is a “situational authority” wherein some particular person might on this occasion or that take a temporary leadership role in some specific task (such as a hunt). Such an absence of government and institutionalized authority is possible only because there are no social classes, and a deeply entrenched culture of cooperation and sharing.
        Level 2 — Tribe: Tribes are groups of a few hundred to a few thousand people. This higher population density usually requires an increased dependence of plant food based on some form of low-intensity farming (such as by harvesting crops which were planted but perhaps not otherwise well-tended). Because of such primitive farming, tribes are most often sedentary at least for a few years. (The exhaustion of the farm land might then lead to a relocation to another spot for a few more years.) Anthropologist, Edward Fischer of Vanderbilt University, elaborates: “While there are status differences in tribes, these differences are generally fluid; social organization is governed by kinship ties. Tribal-level societies are led by headmen—individuals who have a formal position of power that they occupy through achieved status instead of inherited status. These headmen continually have to gain the support of the people they lead in order to keep their position.” The Yanomamö people in the Orinoco basin are one example of this social organization level. They have a slash-and-burn form of agriculture based on plantains, sweet potatoes and tobacco, and relocate their villages every three years.
        Level 3 — Chiefdom: Thousands of people, with a hereditary chief. There is a higher and more important level of status distinctions than in tribal societies. Edward Fischer remarks: “Politics and economics are built on the idea of redistributive exchange, in which gifts entail obligations that can often be converted into political power.” More intensive agriculture is required to support this level of society. An example is the Trobriand Islanders in New Guinea. A chief or nobleman inherits his position from his mother’s brother, rather than from his own father. And yams are both the economic basis and the social symbol of Trobrian society.
        Level 4 — Nation-State: Typically millions of people in a complex class society with a strong centralized authority supported by armed power (police and army). The first states arose in Mesopotamia around 2500 BCE.
        Social organizational “level 1”, the band, is the form of primitive communal society, and organizational “level 4” is obviously the form in not only modern capitalist countries, but also in all other class-based socioeconomic formations (i.e., in slave and feudal society). Levels 2 and 3 are transitional social organization forms that bridge the gap between classless primitive commualism and the major forms of class society in the world today.

The many dozens or hundreds of principles of revolutionary Marxism are summary results which have been abstracted out of the investigation and analysis of human history and experience, out of class struggles and revolutionary struggle from all parts of the world over all of human history, and from both their successes and failures. We accept these principles not on “faith”, but because of a serious, rational study of human experience. And we accept most of these principles not as absolute truths, valid everywhere and always, but as results of the experience of struggle at particular times and places. Thus, if new experience and a careful scientific analysis of that new experience dictates, we are prepared to modify and adjust these principles of revolutionary Marxism as appropriate. On the one hand, we are not flighty; we stick to our principles unless and until there are good scientific reasons to change them. But on the other hand we continue to investigate society and social struggles, and continue to think and analyze all the new developments and events around us. This of necessity leads to a gradual expansion, and sometimes a more sophisticated modification, of the many specific principles of revolutionary Marxism.

An internal logical flaw in the conception of God as put forward by many religions including Christianity. The religious doctrine is that God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnibenevolent (all good). The trouble is, given the obvious fact that there is much evil in the world, these three characteristics are logically incompatible and inconsistent with each other. David Hume expressed the difficulty this way:
        If evil in the world is the intention of the Deity, then He is not benevolent.
        If evil in the world is contrary to His intention, then He is not omnipotent.
        But evil is either in accordance with His intention or contrary to it.
        Therefore, either the Deity is not benevolent, or He is not omnipotent.
Of course from the materialist point of view there is one other, much more sensible, alternative: No “Deity” exists at all!
        See also:
Philosophical doggerel about the problem of evil.

See below, and:

While it is common to see statements by Marxists that production is central to the capitalist system, while distribution is not, this was not really Marx’s own view with regard to the fully elaborated complexity of capitalism as it actually functions (and as opposed to more simplified explanations that serve to help get the student started in his or her understanding of capitalism):

“A part of the surplus-value realized in profit, i.e., that part which assumes the form of interest on capital laid out (whether borrowed or not), appears to the capitalist as outlay, as production cost which he has as a capitalist, just as profit in general is the immediate aim of capitalist production. But in interest (especially on borrowed capital), this appears also as the actual precondition of his production.
         “At the same time, this reveals the significance of the distinction between the phenomena of production and of distribution. Profit, a phenomenon of distribution, is here simultaneously a phenomenon of production, a condition of production, a necessary constituent part of the process of production. How absurd it is, therefore, for John Stuart Mill and others to conceive bourgeois forms of production as absolute, but the bourgeois forms of distribution as historically relative, hence transitory. I shall return to this later. The form of production is simply the form of distribution seen from a different point of view. The specific features—and therefore also the specific limitation—which set bounds to bourgeois distribution, enter into bourgeois production itself, as a determining factor, which overlaps and dominates production.” —Marx, TSV, 3:83-84.

means of production (the non-human productive forces) together with human labor power.

[Under capitalism:] Productive labor is labor which produces value for the owner of that labor (the capitalist) and which therefore produces capital. “Labor itself is productive only if absorbed into capital, where capital forms the basis of production, and where the capitalist is therefore in command of production.” (Marx, Grundrisse, p. 308). “Only that labor is productive which creates a surplus-value.” (Marx, TSV 1:46) “Productive labor is therefore—in the system of capitalist production—labor which produces surplus-value for its employer, or which transforms the objective conditions of labor into capital and their owner into a capitalist; that is to say, labor which produces its own product as capital. So when we speak of productive labor, we speak of socially determined labor, labor which implies a quite specific relation between the buyer and the seller of the labor.” —Marx, TSV 1:396.

Labor productivity is the ratio of output (quantity of commodities produced) divided by the the number of workers (or the number of hours worked by the workers) to produce it. Thus if a given group of workers can now produce 25% more output in an 8-hour day as compared to a year ago, their productivity has increased by 25% over that period. Productivity can be increased through the use of better tools and machinery, through the better organization of labor (i.e., improving labor technique and efficiency), by increasing the amount of work demanded from each worker per hour (speed-ups), and by increasing the number of hours the workers must work each day. (This last method does not improve productivity/hour, but it does improve productivity/day.)
        See also:

“Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes [i.e., bourgeoisie]. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish.” —John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848), Bk. IV, ch. VI, sect. 2. [Since Mill’s day some very small proportion of the benefits due to the great advances in the productivity of labor have sometimes been won by the working class through their great struggles, but the vast preponderance still goes to the capitalists.]

“Capital therefore has an immanent drive, and a constant tendency, towards increasing the productivity of labor, in order to cheapen commodities and, by cheapening commodities, to cheapen the worker himself.” —Marx, Capital, Vol. I, ch. 12. (Penguin ed., pp. 436-7.)

PRODUCTIVITY — “Total Factor”
Bourgeois economists have a confused alternative concept of productivity which they term “total factor productivity”, which supposedly includes the “contributions” of increased capital, “improved management”, and the like, as well as labor productivity. This is part of their perpetual campaign to conceptually minimize the importance of labor in the production process and to absurdly claim that value comes not only from labor but also from capital. However, as these bourgeois economists admit, this concept of “total factor productivity” is extremely difficult to measure and is essentially useless.

“Alas, the usefulness of [total-factor] productivity statistics is questionable. The quality of different inputs can change significantly over time. There can also be significant differences in the mix of inputs. Furthermore, firms and countries may use different definitions of their inputs, especially capital.” —Matthew Bishop, Essential Economics: An A-Z Guide, 2nd ed., 2009.

[To be added...]

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“To be produced, to be brought to the market, the commodity must at least fetch that market price, that cost-price to the seller, whether its own value be greater or smaller than that cost-price. It is a matter of indifference to the capitalist whether his commodity contains more or less unpaid labor than other commodities, if into its price enters as much of the general stock of unpaid labor, or the surplus product in which it is fixed, as every other equal quantity of capital will draw from that common stock. In this respect, the capitalists are ‘communists’. In competition, each naturally tries to secure more than the average profit, which is only possible if others secure less. It is precisely as a result of this struggle that the average profit is established.” —Marx, TSV 3:83.

Someone who favors “progress”, which implies at least some sort of “change”. But beyond that, just what a progressive actually is is rather unclear in modern American politics, and sometimes it seems as if it is purposefully vague. There are a number of people who are fearful of being called revolutionaries, or communists, or even socialists, but who also view themselves as something more than simply ordinary political “liberals” like one of the Kennedy clan for example. These sorts of people like to call themselves “progressives”! This sort of “progressive” rarely if ever would mention or criticize capitalism or imperialism by name, though they might commonly deign to criticize the “establishment” or some particular criminal action by the government. While we can unite in common struggle with progressives in some mass campaigns, they tend to be very unreliable, flakey, and gutless allies.

“A progressive never asks people what they want—why should he, when he already knows what’s good for them?” —Derek Bickerton, Bastard Tongues (2008), p. 186. [This criticizes the tendency among “progressives” and liberals toward paternalism, which demonstrates their total ignorance of the mass line.]

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A political and cultural movement of the radical intelligensia in Russia (and beyond) from 1917 to 1932, which claimed to be working toward a “totally new” and truly proletarian art and culture which was supposed to be completely devoid of any bourgeois influences. The name comes from the contraction of the Russian words for “Proletarian Culture”.
        The founder and chief theoretician of the Proletkult organization was
Alexander Bogdanov, and it was based on his 3-volume work Empirio-Monism (1904-6) which was an attempt to combine Marxism with Machism and positivism. Another very prominent person involved in this movement was Anatoly Lunacharsky, who was the Commissar of Enlightenment (Minister of Culture) in the revolutionary government, and who was Bogdanov’s brother-in-law.
        Bogdanov viewed the Proletkult as the third part of a troika (a Russian vehicle drawn by 3 horses) advancing the revolution. The first two were the proletarian party and the unions. Thus implicitly (and in practice) he viewed the Proletkult as an organization independent of control and supervision by the Bolshevik party. Already by early 1918 Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife) and other Bolsheviks were criticizing this unjustified autonomy and independent political line of the Proletkult.
        Originally the Proletkult organization was supported politically and financially by the new revolutionary government in Russia. Under pressure from the Bolshevik party it somewhat reluctantly agreed to educate its members on pre-Revolutionary Russian and world culture. But the artistic styles and forms it mostly promoted were still somewhat far removed from the interests and appreciation of the workers and peasants. Thus it promoted Constructivism in painting and sculpture and Futurism in literature and other arts. Only because of Lenin’s disapproval (in “On Proletarian Culture” [1920; LCW 31:316-7]) did they pull back from focusing on promoting advant guarde experimental art.
        In 1920 the Proletkult was finally brought under better political control. To counteract Bogdanov’s strongly idealist influence in philosophy, Lenin re-issued his book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. And the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued some new guidelines, “On the Proletkults”, which restricted the activities of that group to just the arts and even there said that this should be monitored by the Party. Its funding was also reduced, though it still existed in this much diminished form until 1932.

“Despite this setback, Proletkult leaders continued after 1920 to exercise influence in other institutions and on Soviet intellectual life. The Bogdanovists considered the Soviet regime to be not a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ but rather a coalition of the proletariat, the poor peasantry and the bourgeois intelligensia. Given the cultural backwardness of the first two strata they considered it likely, under prevailing conditions of state capitalism [during the NEP], that the intelligentsia would emerge as the ruling class. Without challenging the role of the Party as custodian of the political interests of the working class or of the trade unions as custodian of their economic interests, the Proletkult had reserved for itself the role of guardian of the cultural development of the working class, arguing that the transition to socialism required the formation of a proletarian intelligentsia.” —John Biggart, in Harold Shukman, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution (1988), p. 271.


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“Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois dmocracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:243. (Of course Lenin’s comment became much less true in the Stalin period, and completely untrue during the revisionist period of the Soviet Union.)

The morality which expresses the class interests of the proletariat (whether or not individual proletarians are conscious of this).
Compare with

The working class; the class of people in capitalist society who, deprived of any ownership of the means of production, must sell their labor power to the capitalists in order to survive. Hence the exploited class in bourgeois society.

“By proletariat [is meant] the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor-power in order to live.” —Engels, footnote added to the 1988 English edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, MECW 6:482.

1. [In traditional Leninist usage:] Oral, printed and visual political views whose purpose is to influence people’s consciousness and mood with respect to multiple issues, or in general (as opposed to the narrow sense of
agitation), and to motivate them to take general political action.
2. [In bourgeois usage:] Lies and distortions designed to influence people politically. (They recognize no such thing as bourgeois propaganda of course!)

[In political economy:] The
relations of production expressed in legal terms. Note that personal property (such as a person’s clothes, house or automobile) is not at issue here; in political economy the important matter is who owns and controls the means of production.

PROUDHON, Pierre Joseph   (1809-1865)
French sociologist and economist, an ideologist of the
petty bourgeoisie. He was a “socialist” of sorts, but hostile to Marxism, and one of the founders of the social theory of anarchism. Proudhon is famous for the remark that “property is theft”, but he advocated “individual possession” of the means of production, which is an impossibility in modern industrial society, and also clearly shows his petty bourgeois perspective.

“Proudhon criticized big capitalist property from the petty-bourgeois position and dreamed of perpetuating petty property ownership; he proposed the foundation of ‘people’s’ and ‘exchange’ banks, with the aid of which the workers would be able to acquire the means of production, become handicraftsmen, and ensure the ‘just’ marketing of their wares. Proudhon did not understand the role and significance of the proletariat and displayed a negative attitude towards the class struggle, the proletarian revolution, and the dictatorship of the proletariat; as an anarchist he denied the necessity for the state. Marx and Engels struggled persistently against Proudhon’s efforts to impose his views on the First International. Proudhonism was subjected to a ruthless criticism in Marx’s Poverty of Philosophy. The determined struggle waged by Marx, Engels, and their supporters ended in the complete victory of Marxism over Proudhonism in the First International.
         “Lenin called Proudhonism the ‘dull thinking of a petty-bourgeois and a philistine’ incapable of comprehending the viewpoint of the working class. The ideas of Proudhonism are widely utilized by bourgeois ‘theoreticians’ in their class-collaboration propaganda.” —Footnote 76, LCW 5:547.



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        See also:
GOULD, Stephen Jay

The traditional way to calculate the income, standard of living, or gross domestic product (GDP) in a foreign country is to take the values in the local currency and translate them into dollars via the current official exchange rate. However, this does not take into consideration the fact that prices may also be lower in that country than in the U.S. (I.e., a dollar exchanged for the local currency may buy more actual goods there than a dollar buys in the U.S.) Thus a different translation of quantities expressed in local currencies must be made in order to determine the actual equivalent standard of living, GDP, or other quantity, relative to the situation in the U.S. This is called the translation into a purchasing power parity value.
        The PPP conversion factor is the number of units of a country’s currency necessary to buy the same amount of goods and services in that country as a U.S. dollar would buy in the United States. As noted above, this is in general not at all the same as the exchange value of that foreign currency.

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PYTHAGORAS   (c. 570-c. 495 BCE)
Founder of a mystical religious, philosophical
idealist, and political sect in the Greek city-state of Croton (in Southern Italy). He had many strange ideas, including the notion that it was wicked to eat beans. Pythagoras was also very mystical about numbers. His numerological system identified the number four with justice, and he thought that the number ten was the “most perfect number” (in part because the numbers 1 through 4 add up to 10). He is said to have proclaimed that “all is number”, after supposedly being the first to discover that musical notes are related in a simple fashion to the relative lengths of the vibrating strings that produce them. The Pythagorean Theorem in geometry is also named after him, though it was known long before his time.
        In ancient times Pythagoras was considered a very wise man and eventually an important philosopher (by the followers of Plato, for example). But modern scholarship has pretty much shown that this hugely exaggerates his real role in intellectual history. His followers had the habit of attributing all wisdom, including their own ideas and discoveries, to Pythagoras, in much the same way that Christians do with Jesus, and that dogmatists within what should be the revolutionary science of Marxism do with Marx, Lenin and Mao.
        See also below, and: Philosophical doggerel about Pythagoras.

Members of the sect founded by Pythagoras (see above), and also his later followers. This peculiar sect required self-discipline, silence, and the honoring of numerous taboos—especially the strict avoidance of eating meat and beans. Pythagoras and his followers expanded the concept of the
soul (which had originally only meant the physical breath that leaves the body when a person dies) into a partially mentalistic concept. However, they still also identified this “immortal” soul with gases, and seem to have believed that the eating of beans, which led to farting, allowed part of the soul to prematurely escape the body! (Religion is a very weird thing!) After a person’s death, however, they believed the soul could be reincarnated into a new body, or into other animals or plants, or to “rejoin” the universal “soul”. Politically, the Pythagoreans were a secretive, cultish faction of the slave-owning aristocracy.
        The followers of Pythagoras also discovered that the square root of 2 is an irrational number, which so upset them that they tried to hide this discovery from the world.
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Pythagoras and his followers.

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