Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Si - Sk   —


ŠIK, Ota   [Family name pronounced: shik ]   (1919-2004)
A well-known revisionist Czech economist and politician who led in the adoption of the “New Economic Model” (or economic “liberalization” plan) in nominally socialist Czechoslovakia in the mid 1960s, and who was also one of the leading figures in the so-called “Prague Spring” (a bourgeois independence movement that was then suppressed by the Soviet Union).
        Ironically, this struggle was not really about “socialism” at all! The existing Czechoslovak economy was by the early 1960s actually a form of
state capitalism which called itself “socialism”. And the “New Economic Model” was an attempt to turn this existing state capitalism into “market socialism” or perhaps only a “social market economy” (i.e., regulated private capitalism with a welfare state system). And the social-imperialist USSR was primarily concerned to keep its own tight political and economic control over Czechoslovakia. So nobody on any side in this struggle was actually a real socialist or a Marxist revolutionary.

“Until recently the connection between planning and the market was incorrectly understood and the concept of the market was applied to a socialist economy in a sort of shamefaced way. It was held, wrongly, that planned social coordination, planned management of production, was the absolute antipode of orientation on the market, of utilizing market levers. Planning was assumed to be an attribute of socialism alone, and production for the market a feature solely of capitalism. These tenacious theoretical premises brought much harm; because of them a system of planning and management was adhered to which meant that production could not be adequately geared to its proper aim—that of satisfying the home and foreign market demand—and consumers could not exert any direct influence on the producers.... Socialist planned production should consistently seek to satisfy the market demand, and sales of goods on the market should be the main criterion of the social usefulness of labor expended in the production process.” —Ota Šik, quoted by Maurice Dobb, “Economic Changes in the Socialist Countries”, New World Review, Nov. 1965, p. 43.
         [One way to see just how completely wrong and bourgeois this perspective is, is to recall that real Marxists want to build not only socialism, but eventually communism, and that for us a socialist economy is itself a series of transitional steps away from capitalism and in the direction of that future communist economy. Remember that under communism there can be no such thing as a “market”; nor even indeed any such thing as money! Yes, the market (at least for mass distribution), and money and the law of value do initially exist under socialism. But the genuine goal for Marxists is to gradually get rid of these remnants of capitalism, not to constantly reinforce them and permanently institutionalize them. Revisionists and capitalist-roaders do not even understand what the word socialism properly means! —S.H.]

SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY   [Philosophical categories]
Everything is simpler than people usually imagine, and at the same time much more complicated than they imagine. The reason for this is that while the world and human society are indeed very complex, the highest level principles describing them are fairly simple (even if they are not immediately obvious). Thus the first approximations of the correct descriptions of the world and society are fairly easily expressed and comprehended, but there is always more to say—more complications and secondary refinements to explore.
        (And how do we know this principle is true? It is an induction based on how humanity has come to understand the world so far. And it also derives from our hard-won much more general way of thinking: dialectics.)   —S.H. [From notes made in 2004.]
        See also:
SCIENTIFIC LAWS—Hierarchical Structure Of




“A revolution now cannot be confined to the place or people where it may commence, but flashes with lightning speed from heart to heart, from land to land, til it has traversed the globe ...”   —Frederick Douglass

An event which is “one of a kind” and is therefore often harder to analyze and understand because there are no patterns to discern from multiple instances of similar events.

“For now, let’s just note that any proper account must explain why the evolution of complex life [on earth] happened only once: our explanation must be persuasive enough to be believable, but not so persuasive that we are left wondering why it did not happen on many occasions. Any attempt to explain a singular event will always have the appearance of a fluke about it. How can we prove it one way or another? There might not be much to go on in the event itself, but there may be clues concealed in the aftermath, a smoking gun that gives some indication of what happened.” —Nick Lane, The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life (2015), pp. 50-51.

        1. [Physics:] A time and place (or point in space-time) where some physical quantity would appear to become infinite. This normally means a point where the known laws of physics, or at least the equations used to express them, no longer apply.
        2. [More generally:] A point at which there is a major qualitative leap in the state or condition of something. Although there are great numbers of qualitative leaps occurring all around us, the term ‘singularity’ is mostly used only for especially disastrous changes, particularly in human society. The possible future advent of
artificial intelligence on a level that far exceeds that of human beings is often called a singularity in this sense.

        1. A fund established, and then added to (generally periodically), so that the necessary money will be available to pay off a loan or other large debt when it comes due.
        2. The similar retention or accumulation of profits (or surplus value) by a company so that when the purchase of some major piece of
fixed capital (such as some expensive machinery or even a whole new factory) becomes necessary the money will be available for that purpose.
        In either case, if a sinking fund is not established ahead of time to cover such a major outlay, the primary remaining option is to borrow money from a bank or other source for the purpose. Of course in that case the individual or company will have to pay the going rate of interest on that loan, which will cut into future net income or profits.

SINN FÉIN   [Irish language, meaning “We Ourselves”. Pronounced: shin fayn]
Irish nationalist political party founded in 1905, which has undergone a number of changes and splits over the decades, with some of these parties being closely associated with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and armed opposition to British imperialism.

The major dispute and falling out between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union which first developed after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956. The dispute spread from merely the appraisal of Stalin and the issue of
cults of personality to encompass many other ideological issues, the question of whether the Soviet Union was still on the revolutionary path, and even territorial disputes. Though we revolutionary Marxists may disagree with China on some secondary aspects of this great dispute (especially with regard to Stalin and having cults of personality), overall we strongly side with Mao and China, and condemn the revisionist and social-imperialist nature of the U.S.S.R. in the Khrushchev and later periods.

SISMONDI, Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de   (1773-1842)
Swiss economist and historian. Considered by some to be sort of an early socialist. Marxist attitudes towards Sismondi have varied tremendously. Lenin looked down upon him as a vulgarizer of
Ricardo. But Marx himself (in volume 3 of TSV which was not available to Lenin at the time he made his judgments) had much more sympathy toward Sismondi and viewed him as understanding some very fundamental points about capitalism that Ricardo could not grasp or accept:

Sismondi is profoundly conscious of the contradictions in capitalist production; he is aware that, on the one hand, its forms—its production relations—stimulate unrestrained development of the productive forces and of wealth; and that, on the other hand, these relations are conditional, that their contradictions of use-value and exchange-value, commodity and money, purchase and sale, production and consumption, capital and wage-labor, etc., assume ever greater dimensions as productive power develops. He is particularly aware of the fundamental contradiction: on the one hand, unrestricted development of the productive forces and increase of wealth which, at the same time, consists of commodities and must be turned into cash; on the other hand, the system is based on the fact that the mass of producers is restricted to the necessaries. Hence, according to Sismondi, crises are not accidental, as Ricardo maintains, but essential outbreaks—occuring on a large scale and at definite periods—of the immanent contradictions.”   —Marx, TSV, 3:56.

Marx does go on to say that Sismondi “wavers constantly” on many issues, and that his ideas are anything but well-worked out. “He [Sismondi] forcefully criticizes the contradictions of bourgeois production but does not understand them, and consequently does not understand the process whereby they can be resolved.” [Ibid.] Nevertheless, Marx later says that “Sismondi was epoch-making in political economy because he had an inkling of this contradiction” (the profound difference between Labor and Capital in the capitalist production process), that Ricardo could not understand. [TSV, 3:259.]

The sabotage of real science and the real scientific method by treating scientific theories and findings as no more reliable or truthful than the directly opposing views. As the Doonesbury cartoon at the right puts it: “Situational science is about respecting both sides of a scientific argument, not just the one supported by facts.”
        See also:


SKEPTICISM   [General Concepts Of]
1. Questioning, or caution in accepting things as certainly true.
2. The view that human beings can attain no certain knowledge of the world; i.e., philosophical or epistemological
        Sense #1 is clearly rational and scientific, but sense #2 carries things to a ridiculous extreme.
        For an essay discussing this matter in more depth, see: “Do We Know For Certain that the Earth Goes Around the Sun?” at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/certain.htm. See also below and: DOUBT,   UNCERTAINTY

SKEPTICISM   [School of Philosophy]
An ancient Greek philosophical school or trend founded by Pyrrho (c. 365-275 B.C.). The best-known of the ancient Skeptics were Aenesidemus and Sextus Empiricus (2nd century A.D.).
        Skepticism has also arisen anew from time to time in later philosophy. Sometimes this has had a progressive effect (as when it was used to oppose medieval Christian dogmas), but more often since the time of Kant philosophical skepticism has been used for reactionary purposes (e.g., to oppose science and materialism). One of the most recent forms that bourgeois skepticism and pessimism has taken is in the school known as
        See also: TROPES

Skepticism—a philosophical trend that casts doubt on the possibility of knowing objective reality. It arose in ancient Greece as early as the 4th to 3rd centuries B.C. (Pyrrho, Aenesidemus, Sextus Empiricus). The adherents of ancient skepticism drew agnostic conclusions from the premises of sensationalism. Making the subjectivity of sensation into an absolute, the skeptics insisted on the need to refrain from any definite judgments about things. They considered that man cannot go beyond his sensations and determine their truth.
         “During the period of the Renaissance, the French philosophers Michel Montaigne, Pierre Charron and Pierre Bayle made use of skepticism for combating medieval scholasticism and the Church.
         “In the eighteenth century skepticism was revived in the agnosticism of Hume and Kant, and an attempt to modernize ancient skepticism was made by Gottlob Schulze ([in his book] Aenesidemus). The arguments of skepticism were used by the Machists, neo-Kantians and other idealist philosophical schools from the middle of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century.” —Note 49, LCW 14.

SKEPTICISM — Selective
People have a strong tendency to be very skeptical about facts (or possible facts) which conflict with their existing opinions or worldviews. Similarly, they tend to be far less skeptical, or even have no skepticism whatsoever, about facts (or possible facts) which support their existing opinions, biases or worldviews.
        These two biases are not always totally irrational! For example, we should indeed be at least initially quite skeptical of any claim that the bourgeois ruling class is doing some particular thing which actually benefits the masses—even though in rare, exceptional cases, this might in fact be true or partly true. Our initial skepticism is justified in light of our deep understanding that the bourgeoisie is totally concerned with their own class interests, which seldom coincide with the collective interests of the working class and masses.
        However, we do have to recognize that selective skepticism can lead people to serious error. Of course the biggest problem in this regard is with the sections of the masses—unfortunately, very large sections at the present time—who have been indoctrinated with ruling class points of view and biases. In fact, the continued rule of the bourgeoisie depends on this indoctrination.
        Being excessively skeptical about everything that disagrees with your present views is a way of not being sufficiently skeptical about your present views. So, curiously, being skeptical only about facts and ideas that disagree with your own views is a way of not really being skeptical at all!
        It is a sorry fact that in general in bourgeois society people are not raised to be anywhere near as skeptical as they should be. To some degree that goes even for us Marxist revolutionaries. (Hence the popularity of
dogmatism!) For this reason we need to train ourselves to be considerably more skeptical and cautious about going along with ideas and “facts” we hear, without carefully checking them out. This is especially the case in this age of the Internet where there is such a colossal amount of total nonsense surrounding us all the time. Yes, the truth can also usually be found on the Internet, but we often have to take great care to properly identify it.
        See also: CONFIRMATION BIAS


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