Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

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On May 26, 1939, at a time when the Communist Party of China was under heightened attack by reactionaries, Mao Zedong wrote an influential three page article, “To Be Attacked by the Enemy is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing”. This article was later included in the Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tsetung (Peking [Beijing]: 1971), and was also included in Volume 6 of the Selected Works of Mao Tsetung published in India. It is available online at:
        The basic theme of that fine article is summed up in this paragraph:

“I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.” —Mao Zedong, SR, p. 160.


TOBIN, James   (1918-2002)
American bourgeois economist in the Keynesian tradition. In 1981 he was awarded the so-called “Nobel Prize” in economics which is sponsored by the Bank of Sweden.

A tax proposed by James Tobin on foreign exchange transactions (the buying or selling of foreign currencies). The primary purpose of such a tax would be to reduce the level of speculation in international currency markets. Although often talked about, such taxes are virtually non-existent, and even if implemented would most likely be set at too low a rate to significantly reduce currency speculation.

TOKYO FIREBOMBING   [By the U.S. in World War II]
The purposeful murder of vast numbers of civilians in a major fire storm in Tokyo, Japan, caused by incendiary bombs dropped all around the city especially in residential areas, by the United States beginning in the early hours of March 10, 1945. This was a major war crime, though no punishment for it was ever administered or even contemplated. The damage to the city and the number of civilian deaths was comparable to that caused by the American nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

“Seventy-five years ago, less than 10 miles from where he now lives alone in a low-lying neighorhood known for its moderate rents, Saotome (pronounced SAH-oh-toe-meh) survived the brutally effective American firebombing of Tokyo. Over the course of nearly three hours, an attack by the United States Army Air Forces killed as many as 100,000 people—more than some estimates of the number killed the day of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. But while the Japanese public—and the world—rightly remember Hiroshima as a living symbol of the horrors of nuclear war, the Tokyo firebombing is generally regarded as a footnote in any accounting of the war in Japan.” —Motoko Rich, “This Survivor of the Firebombing of Tokyo Won’t Let Us Forget”, New York Times, September 6, 2020.
         [When imperialist powers go to war, whether against small “Third World” countries or against each other, they don’t care how many innocent people they murder; in fact, the more the better, they usually think. —Ed.]

“Over several hours, U.S. Army Air Forces warplanes destroyed the shitamachi, or the low-lying section of Tokyo, and killed an estimated 100,000 Japanese citizens in a firestorm. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey later wrote that ‘probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a six-hour period than at any time in the history of man.’ The devastating results motivated military leaders to continue incendiary bombing raids on Japan’s other cities—both large and small—in hopes of forcing the Japanese to surrender. Before the war’s end, firebombs dropped by B-29s killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens in more than 60 cities before nuclear bombs leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” —John Ismay, “‘We Hated What We Were Doing’: Memories From the Airmen”, New York Times, September 6, 2020.

Capitalism is an unstable system in many respects, and specifically competitive capitalism is unstable in that there are powerful forces which tend to transform it in the direction of monopoly, as Marx pointed out long ago. When severe economic crises develop, however, this creates additional major problems. It is no longer a question of a number of fairly inconsequential small companies going bankrupt, but now a question of some extremely large banks and other corporations failing. Some of these large corporations are now so important for the economy that their failure would lead to such drastic repercussions that the capitalist class in general has been forced to declare them “too big to fail”. In other words, it is forced to use its control of the state to
bail out these giant banks and other corporations which it deems “too big to fail”.
        In the Panic of 2008-9, which is part of the overall still-developing profound world capitalist economic crisis, the U.S. government has already spent literally trillions of dollars in both temporary and permanent bailouts of banks and corporations which it considered “too big to fail”. This has become a major feature of the crisis and will remain so from now on.

“By dividing the whole circulation [of bank notes] into a greater number of parts, the failure of any one [banking] company, an accident which, in the course of things, must sometimes happen, becomes of less consequence to the public.” —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Ch. II, (Modern Library, 1937), p. 313. [What Adam Smith did not understand, however, is that the growth of monopoly is in the interests of the most important and influential capitalists, who therefore also normally control the bourgeois state. Thus even if there are nominal laws against monopoly, there will eventually come to be giant monopolistic (or at least oligopolistic) corporations whose failure would indeed be tremendously disruptive to the entire capitalist economy. Therefore it is inevitable that banks and corporations “too big to fail” arise, and that the bourgeois state will then bail them out and prop them up when they get into financial difficulty. It is today a petty-bourgeois pipe dream to think that corporations can be kept small and inconsequential enough so that their individual failures really do not matter.]

TOOLS — Dangerous

TORTURE — By U.S. Government
It has long been known that the
CIA and other branches of the U.S. government routinely use torture in their interrogations of people. This was finally even officially admitted in a Senate report on CIA torture in 2014. The Obama administration then piously condemned the use of torture, while at the same time continuing torture and U.S. imperialist terrorism around the world through the use of drone attacks and in many other ways. (This hypocrisy is ridiculed in the cartoon at the right.)
        See also: WATERBOARDING

        1. [In British history:] A person who defended the King’s supremacy over parliament.
        2. [In modern Britain:] A member or supporter of the Conservative Party, which is a generally more reactionary party than the other leading bourgeois parties in Britain, such as the Labour Party. The Tories more or less correspond to the Republicans in the United States.

It is difficult to believe that there is ever any such thing as absolutely total agreement between two different human beings, on every single idea and on every imaginable issue. Of course a lacky or sycophant might feign complete and total agreement with their boss or leader or guru, or even be so trained to be intellectually submissive that they might feel compelled to adopt the entire viewpoint of the “dominant mind” as soon as they learn what that is. And one of the two might not have thought about some particular issue much at all, while the other has studied and considered the issue in depth. But to really, truly, sincerely agree about absolutely everything, the two would have to both be equally knowledgeable and equally ignorant, and at least one of them would in essence have no independent mind or brain of their own.
        And yet, quite strangely, many political groups or parties seem to believe that one of their most important tasks is to try to achieve absolute and total unity on all political and ideological matters, and that the existence of any continuing disagreement or difference of opinion whatsoever within their ranks is a dangerous and intolerable thing, which simply has to be immediately dealt with! Many
political cults and sects, like religious cults, expel or excommunicate anyone who insists on holding to some idea or point of view which differs from the group’s established doctrine. Others only do that after the failure of endless rounds of browbeating and harassment.
        Since the early days of Marxism, as created by Marx and Engels, genuine Marxist (or today Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) groups and parties, try to have a different approach entirely. We have always tried to defend democracy within our organizations, including the right to form, hold to, and defend individual opinions. Of course there needs to be some common sense with regard to this principle. An individual who does not understand and agree with at least most of the basic ideas of a Marxist revolutionary party should obviously not be a candidate to join such a party. But on the other hand, insistence on complete and total agreement on every single point cannot be reasonably required either! For one thing, some correct principles of MLM can only be fully and deeply grasped after considerable study and social practice. And for another thing, our organizations and our overall revolutionary movement can still be very effective even if some disagreements and differences of opinion do remain among us.
        And here is a point that non-dialecticians may not be able to grasp: Differences of ideas and opinions within our own ranks can sometimes actually prove to be a very positive thing! The fact is that sometimes each one of us is wrong about some particular point, and once in a while even our whole revolutionary organization or party will be quite wrong about something. In that case we will need another idea, another approach, another method, or another opinion. And, fortunately in any worthwhile real-world revolutionary organization there will be other opinions within it, and/or among the masses of people it is connected with. And in this situation we even have an extremely valuable tool to seek out these very important alternative ideas and approaches: namely, the mass line, or what Mao called the leadership method of “from the masses, to the masses”.
        Of course the mass line is mostly a tool of use in leading mass struggles. So, then, what about differences over theoretical matters, such as how to understand certain points in Marxist political economy, or dialectical materialism? Shouldn’t we more or less insist on doctrinal purity in those theoretical areas at least? Of course we want to come to mostly agree on matters of theory as well as on the tactics and strategy of the revolutionary struggle. But it is downright unscientific to assume that our existing revolutionary theory is already 100% correct, even in supposedly esoteric areas such as philosophy! In other words, it is quite possible that even in such theoretical areas, at least some of our existing ideas might be wrong. And if they are in fact wrong, it is a good thing that a few people, even within our own ranks, are exploring other possibilities. Sure, much of the time these “original thinkers” will in fact turn out to wrong too, and even sometimes ridiculously wrong-headed! But once in a while they might have a valuable correction which enables us to improve our revolutionary theory and our revolutionary work.
        Why do we try so hard to implement the principles of democratic centralism in our MLM revolutionary parties? It is so that we can collectively act as though every single member completely agrees on what is correct and precisely what should be done at the present time, even though we know full well that there are still many differences of understanding and opinion among us. Democratic centralism is the tool we use to both act in the most effective, unified way, and at the same time to encourage and preserve the serious individual thinking of every communist about how to advance the revolution. Of course every revolutionary comrade will have their own ideas and will struggle with others to explain and promote those ideas because they believe them to be correct. However, if we are smart enough to understand that good ideas arise in different heads at different times, then we should actually also be smart enough to oppose the cultist point of view that everyone should be hounded until they totally agree about everything. If, after some effort, we are unable to convince a revolutionary comrade that they are wrong about some point or principle, then we would allow the matter to be set aside for the time being, or to be put on the back burner for awhile. After all, we can be sure that differences of opinion will come up again of their own accord; they always do eventually.   —S.H. [03/19/23]

“When two guys agree, one of them is unnecessary.”   —Line from the movie I Cover the Waterfront (1933).

See: PRODUCTIVITY—“Total Factor”

The number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and bear children in accordance with the current age-specific fertility rates. Although the TFR is one of the better measures of fertility in different countries at use at the present time, it tends to overstate actual fertility levels during periods when fertility rates are rapidly declining (as is the case at present in most parts of the world).
        The Total Fertility Rates have been declining in almost every country as the people of the world have been more and more squeezed by the world capitalist overproduction crisis that has been developing since the early 1970s. It is more and more economically infeasible for people to have children! For various reasons the U.S. TFR has remained higher than that of most advanced capitalist countries, including Europe and Japan. But the special circumstances that have kept the U.S. TFR rate higher are now less and less effective, and the TFR in the U.S. is now quickly falling towards European levels. (See graph at the right.) Although there are also other social factors at work, just as in the Great Depression of the 1930s a low and/or falling birth rate is still a solid indicator of the worsening economic condition of the people.

“Soon after the great recession hit America, in 2007, the birth rate began to fall. Many people lost their jobs or their homes, which hardly put them in a procreative mood. But in the past few years the economy has bounced back [according to largely phony official statistics! —Ed.]—and births continue to drop. American’s total fertility rate, which can be thought of as the number of children the average woman will bear, has fallen from 2.12 to 1.77. It is now almost exactly the same as England’s rate, and well below that of France.”   —“The Birth Rate: Baby Bust”, The Economist, Nov. 24, 2018, p. 23.

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