Because of its growing size, this file has been split into these separate files:
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[Latin: literally, “that which follows after”.] The opposite of a priori. An a posteriori statement is one which can only be known to be true or false on the basis of experience. Thus, in reality, all of human knowledge is a posteriori in the strictest sense, though in a looser sense some types of analytic knowledge (i.e., that which is derived from other knowledge, especially from the meaning of terms, and in logic or mathematics) are often considered to be a priori rather than a posteriori.
[Latin: literally, “that which precedes”.] The opposite of a posteriori. A statement which can (it is claimed) be known to be true or false prior to (or independently of) any experience.
Of course no statements can even be understood at all by new-born infants; it requires considerable experience before even simple statements can be understood, let alone be formulated or be reasonably judged as true or false. So, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as any genuine a priori knowledge. Even innate behavior, such as the urge to suckle by infants, is not “knowledge” in the propositional sense. (Infants do not “know” that it is good or important to suckle; this is merely something which evolution has led them to do.)
However, there is a looser sense of the term a priori, meaning something which can be determined or known by extrapolating from existing knowledge without the necessity for further experience or investigation of the world. Sometimes this is described as “reasoning from self-evident propositions”, though that can be terribly misleading. The most persuasive examples of this sort of thing are in logic and mathematics where it is, for instance, quite possible to derive some new mathematical knowledge (such as a previously unknown theorem) merely through thinking about the abstract logical relationships of already known mathematical entities, such as numbers or geometrical figures. Of course this would not be possible if our previous experience in the world had not led us to create abstractions like numbers and lines and triangles.
Another sort of thing that can loosely be called a priori knowledge, is due to recognizing shared elements of meanings of words. Thus we know that all bachelors (in the usual context) are unmarried men simply from the definition of the word, and not from any investigation conducted among all the bachelors of the world. But here again, this implies we have enough previous experience in society to have correctly learned the meaning of the word ‘bachelor’. [See ANALYTIC STATEMENT]
Idealist philosophers, however, have often argued that—besides these sorts of commonplaces—there is another, much more important, kind of a priori knowledge. One of the worst offenders in this area was Kant, who claimed that all knowledge of the world gained through sensory perception (experience) was unreliable and contraposed it to a priori “authentic knowledge” such as of forms of sensibility (space and time) and reason (cause, necessity, etc.). In actuality, our concepts of space, time, cause, necessity, and other such abstractions are every bit as much derived from human experience in the world as is any bit of everyday knowledge; the process is simply larger, longer and more complex.
Because idealist philosophers have tried to promote this sort of invalid extention and interpretation of the term a priori, for materialists it has come to be a warning flag that idealist nonsense is on the way! Neither of the terms a priori or a posteriori is commonly used by materialists except when criticizing bourgeois ideologists.
[Criticizing Dühring:] “This is only giving a new twist to the old favorite ideological method, also known as the a priori method, which consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself. First the concept of the object is fabricated from the object; then the spit is turned around, and the object is measured by its reflection, the concept. The object is then to conform to the concept, not the concept to the object.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:89.
ABORTION — Morality Of
[To be added...]
See also: HOMUNCULUS [W.H.Calvin quote]
“By weight the human body is composed of 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10%
hydrogen, 3% nitrogen, 1.5% calcium, 1.2% phosphorus, and smaller amounts of other
Suppose we bring all the appropriate elements, in their proper proportions, together
in a container. Is this then the equivalent of a human being? Are we obligated to treat
this mixture of elements in the same moral way we should treat human beings? Of course
not! Even if there were a scientific way of transforming that pile of chemicals into an
actual human being, until that is actually done this is not yet a human being
and we have no moral obligations whatsoever toward the mixture of elements. The basic
principle here is this: What is only potentially a human being is not
actually a human being, and should not be treated as if it were a human
“In the same way, a human ovum and sperm, when brought together and nurished under the proper conditions (in the womb of the mother), have the potential to become a human being. This combination has the potential to change over time from what is not a human being into what is a human being. There is no precise dividing line as to when this happens, but it is most commonly considered to be at the moment of birth, or else at the point where the fetus is viable (i.e., is capable of living outside the body of the mother). In any case the early fetus is not actually a human being yet, and we have no moral obligation to treat it as if it were.
“Thus if a woman so chooses to have an abortion, for any reason, that is her right. There may be medical reasons to do so, or economic reasons, or it may just be because the woman does not wish to have a child (or another child). A woman has the human right to control her own body, and there is no valid moral argument which changes this.” —S.H.
A term used in bourgeois discussions of music theory to describe music which is supposedly free of external references, ideas or associations. Instrumental music, without lyrics and without any other explicit associations to ideas, human institutions, interests and the like, is thus categorized as “absolute music”. However, the fact that neither the composer nor any lyricist gave any explicit and definite guidelines to the sort of ideas and associations that the music should give rise to does not mean that the music does not nevertheless give rise to various definite ideas and such in the minds of its listeners. Moreover, most types or styles of instrumental music have conventional ideas and references associated with them because of their historical development or milieu.
In classical European music, where the term is most common, forms such as fugues, sonatas and symphonies are often considered to be “absolute music” (unless they have reference “programmes” associated with them). The opposite of “absolute music” is considered in bourgeois circles to be “programme music”, where there are explicit lyrics or other definite guidelines to the listener as to what ideas or moods the various parts of the music should give rise to.
Marxists have usually argued that in reality there is no such thing as “absolute music” in the bourgeois sense, and that all music has various kinds of human, social, and class associations, whether it has explicit lyrics and listening guidelines or not. See for example the articles: “Has Absolute Music No Class Character?”, by Chao Hua, and “Criticize the Revisionist Viewpoint in Music”, by Chu Lan, both in Peking Review, #9, March 1, 1974.
ABSOLUTE SURPLUS VALUE
See: SURPLUS VALUE—Absolute and Relative
Rule usually by just one person such as king, or sometimes by a few people (such as a ruling council), which is completely unrestricted and unconstrained by any other political force (such as laws or a parliament). The Russian Tsarist regime was one notorious example of absolutism. Absolutism has historically often been defended with the doctrine of the “divine right of kings”—that God has supposedly chosen to put the king on the throne as the absolute ruler.
Revolutionary Marxism views all class rule as a class dictatorship, or in other words as rule which is in the final analysis unrestricted by any laws or other constraints. However, some forms of the state (unlike absolutism) may spread this class-dictatorial power more widely. In a parliamentary bourgeois democracy, for example, it may be the parliament itself which exercises dictatorial power when necessary in order to maintain the rule of the capitalist class.
The act or process of dealing with (or explicating) the characteristics, features or nature of something in a general theoretical way and separately from (or in addition to) particular examples and instances. One illustration: Different people and objects have different weights on the surface of the Earth, but the concept of “weight” is itself an abstraction from all the different forces of attraction between various objects and the Earth. While we learn this abstract concept from more concrete instances, the abstraction itself is then employed as we talk about various specific instances. (I.e., there is a dialectical interrelationship here.) This in turn often allows us to further deepen our conceptions. The existence of the abstract concept of “weight”, for example, was a factor that allowed us to come up with the even more abstract concept of “mass”, which is now one of the foundation concepts in physics.
Why develop and use abstractions? In order to more deeply understand the world around us and to more easily discuss it. We often hear people complain about or object to abstractions and abstract thinking, but this is actually a very naïve viewpoint. It is true of course that abstractions themselves need to be explained to a considerable degree through the use of concrete examples. But on the other hand, coming to understand those abstractions then helps us more deeply understand even the concrete examples. Using abstraction it is possible to think more directly about general properties and attributes, while without abstraction our thoughts would be limited to particular instances, and often be confused by irrelevant aspects of the object or situation which apply only to that one special case. With abstraction our knowledge is deepened, and made more profound. Those who in effect reject the need to come to understand abstract ideas will never truly and deeply understand the world around them.
Abstraction is important in all areas, but it is especially important in mathematics. Indeed, mathematics might even be defined as the study of the relationships between certain types of abstract objects with regard to size, shape, and so forth. (See: MATHEMATICAL OBJECT.)
In politics and practical affairs abstract principles or generalizations do not prove or dictate how all new specific phenomena should be comprehended, but such principles do provide guidance and often very helpful suggestions about how to comprehend and deal with new concrete cases and situations.
See also: IDEALISM—Origin Of, REFLECTION THEORY, REIFICATION, UNIVERSALS (vs. PARTICULARS)
“In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both.” —Marx, Capital, Preface to the First German Edition: International ed., p. 8; Penguin ed., p. 90.
“Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract—provided it is correct (NB [nota bene: note well!]) ... —does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, of a law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely. From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice,—such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:171.
The academic life at universities and colleges, along with their usual esoteric and bourgeois concerns and pursuits. Also carries the implication that those who live and work there are divorced from the struggles of the masses in the real world. Of course, there have been an atypical few who have managed to contribute to the revolutionary struggles of the people even while holding down positions at universities. But on the whole academia has a well-deserved bad reputation amoung serious revolutionary Marxists.
“Who would want to have to talk always with intellectual skunks, with people who study only for the purpose of finding new dead ends in every corner of the world!” —Marx, after being well rid of any prospect of finding a professorship at a university.
[To be added...]
See also: CAPITAL—ACCUMULATION OF, PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION
“Actually, however, capitalist society cannot exist without accumulating, for competition compels every capitalist on pain of ruin to expand production.” —Lenin, “On the So-called Market Question” (1893), LCW 1:104.
“ACTUALLY EXISTING SOCIALISM”
This is a phrase that was (and sometimes still is) used by those who recognized that many countries which called themselves “socialist” (especially the Soviet Union during its last decades) had severe shortcomings, but who could still not bring themselves to admit that these countries were not really socialist at all! In other words, this is a phrase that was used by those who were unable to recognize revisionism and phony socialism when it stared them in the face. This syndrome was especially common among older Marxists who had developed emotional attachments to the Soviet Union in its earlier socialist period, and who could not face the fact that the nature of the Soviet Union had fundamentally changed from socialism to state capitalism.
[In India:] A sharecropper. (One of several terms used in India for sharecroppers.)
A term used in India (often not capitalized) to refer to what is in English often called a “tribal”, or person of a tribal community, most of whom live in the hilly, forested areas of a number of states in east-central India. The word Adivasi literally means “old inhabitant”, and is a general term for any of a variety of ethnic and tribal groups who are believed by many to be descendants of the earliest inhabitants of what is now India. They are a substantial minority of the population in India, constituting about 8.2% of the population, or over 84 million people as of the 2001 census. One major concentration of Adivasis is in the Jangalmahal region. Because the Adivasis live closer to nature than most Indian societies, they are particularly vulnerable to the environmental degradation frequently caused by capitalist corporations. Their lands are frequently stolen from them for agricultural, mining or industrial development. For these reasons, many Adivasis have joined the Maoist revolutionary movement in India.
“Tribals are the most marginalized section of Indian society, worse off than even the Dalits (formerly referred to as Untouchables). Around 49.5% of tribals live under the official poverty line, 76.2% are illiterate and almost 30% have no access whatsoever to doctors in clinics. Displaced from their land and discriminated against in the industrial job markets [they] are now fighting to keep their [remaining] land, their only remaining resource.” —Sudha Ramachandran, “India Drives Tribals into Maoist Arms”, Asia Times, Jan. 16, 2010.
ADLER, Victor (1852-1918)
A leading founder of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (in 1888-89). Later a prominent revisionist and reformist politician in that country during the period of the Second International. He took a centrist position during World War I, advocating “class peace” and opposing any revolutionary uprisings by the working class.
ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM)
A loan (or mortgage) to buy real estate (buildings or land) for which the interest rate is periodically adjusted, often every 6 months. The new rate is determined in relation to some common short-term interest rate, such as that of the 6-month U.S. Treasury bill. ARMs are designed to transfer the risk of rising inflation from the loaner to the borrower. While many ARMs specify a maximum interest rate, it is always much higher than the initial rate. Moreover, in recent years banks and financial companies have marketed ARMs which set the initial rate artificially low for a certain limited period as a come on. The family taking out the loan is then hit with a massive shock of a much higher monthly interest payment when the first interest “adjustment” is made.
[To be added... ]
See also: VANGUARD ACTION
Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller (c. 620-564 BCE) who used fanciful tales (or fables) to instill various morals or practical conclusions in his readers. That is, he put forward various ideas in a quite round-about way.
Because of the oppression and censorship by the ruling bourgeoisie, Marxists and other revolutionaries have also often been forced to put forward their ideas in “round-about” or euphemistic ways that are frequently referred to as Aesopian language. For example in Russia in the 1890s, revolutionaries frequently had to refer to the followers of Marx and Engels as “the disciples” (rather than Marxists) when writing in the legal press. Similarly, while in prison during the Mussolini fascist period in Italy, the Communist leader Antonio Gramsci had to use the circumlocution “modern theory” when he simply meant Marxism. Of course it is always better to speak plainly and openly when we can!
“This pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorhip. Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution, by hints, in an allegorical language—in that accursed Aesopian language—to which tsarism compelled all revolutionaries to have recourse whenever they took up the pen to write a ‘legal’ work.” —Lenin, from the Preface to his 1917 edition of “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, LCW 22:187.
A work of art. Most of the philosophical discussion around this topic centers on whether a work of art is a physical object, or some other kind of thing (such as an “idea”, “illusion”, or even something that “doesn’t really exist at all”!). In the case of a painting or a statue it seems at first quite reasonable to say that the work of art is a physical object, either the physical canvas covered with paint or the physical statue made of bronze, wood, or some other material. But what about a woodblock print that exists in multiple copies, none of which is more “original” than any of the others? What about a song? Or a new dance? Are they physical objects? Or a novel? Is it “really” the original manuscript (even if that differs from the final changed printed version that the author approved, and which exists in a million equal copies?). Or what about a poem that is recited verbally and never written down at all? These are the sorts of questions that arise. To cut a long story short, in my own opinion a work of art of any kind is actually a pattern or arrangement of some sort that is created by the artist and which can—in theory at least—be replicated in many individual copies, each of which is a token of that particular type. (See: types/tokens.) This, by the way, is not an idealist theory, but rather a materialist theory that undercuts idealism on this issue. —S.H.
Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy concerned with art. In popular usage, as well as in older bourgeois philosophy, aesthetics is often viewed as being focused on “the beautiful”, but actually the explication of beauty is just one of many issues in aesthetics, and not even the most important issue. Some of the many other questions in the philosophy of art are:
What sort of thing is a work of art? (Is it a physical object? An abstraction? An “illusion”, as some have claimed? Or what?) (See AESTHETIC OBJECT entry above.)
What makes a work of art a good work?
Why does art have such an impact on human beings?
What is the relationship of art to society?
See also: Philosophical doggerel on aesthetics.
See: UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND
AGE DEPENDENCY RATIO
The ratio of the number of people of ages which are normally dependent on others (i.e., children and old folks) to the number of people who are of working age. The World Bank generally defines the age dependency ratio as the number of people who are either younger than 15 or older than 64 divided by the number of people whose ages are 15 through 64. Of course not all working age people actually work (since some are disabled, sick or unemployed, for example), and some people outside the 15-64 range actually do work (including not only many older people but also considerable numbers of child laborers), but the ADR nevertheless gives a rough estimate of the relative number of non-workers to workers in a given population.
1. [Wide sense:] Oral, printed and visual political works or activity whose purpose is to influence people’s consciousness and mood, and to motivate them to take political action.
2. [Narrow (Leninist) sense:] As above, but specifically with respect to a single issue.
See also: PROPAGANDA
“Those who make nation-wide political agitation the corner-stone of their programme, their tactics, and their organizational work, as Iskra does, stand the least risk of missing the revolution.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:513.
AGNOSTICISM — About the Existence of God
Claiming not to know, or the view that one cannot know, whether or not God exists. Agnosticism in this sense is most commonly a liberal evasion of what in this modern scientific age should be considered common sense materialism, that no such thing as a “disembodied mind” (as gods and ghosts are supposed to be) can possibly exist.
“But this philosophical idealism, openly, ‘seriously’ leading to God, is more honest than modern agnosticism with its hypocrisy and cowardice.” —Lenin, referring to the neo-Platonists, in a note while reading Hegel’s book Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1915), LCW 38:303.
AGNOSTICISM — Epistemological
Philosophical, or epistemological, agnosticism is the view that no one can really know anything about the world, at least with any certainty.
See also: RELATIVISM—Epistemological, and Philosophical doggerel about agnosticism.
“Agnosticism (from the Greek words ‘a’ no and ‘gnosis’ knowledge) is a vacillation between materialism and idealism, i.e., in practice it is vacillation between materialist science and clericalism. Among the agnostics are the followers of Kant (the Kantians), Hume (the positivists, realists and others) and the present-day Machists.” —Lenin, “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Dietzgen” (May 5, 1913), LCW 19:80.
The ratio of agricultural production to the number of workers who produce that production. For a given crop, the production may be measured by volume or by weight, but for agricultural production as a whole it must usually be measured by the money value of all the crops added together. To compare agricultural productivity from one time to another or from one place to another, the money value must be translated into a single currency which is also adjusted for inflation. Even so, there will probably be problems in making such comparisons if the prices of the various crops have significantly changed for non-inflationary reasons (such as because of supply and demand fluctuations).
The philosophy of nonviolence as promoted by Mohandas K. Gandhi. He called nonviolent action itself satyagraha.
AI SIQI [Old style: Ai Ssu-ch’i]
[Pronounced (roughly): eye suh-chuh] (1910-66)
Well-known Marxist-Leninist philosopher in revolutionary China. Mao often sought him out for philosophical conversations both during the Yan’an (Yenan) period and in later years. Ai was well-known for his ability to explain and popularize abstract ideas to the masses, using easy to understand examples and ordinary language, and even employing Chinese proverbs and well-known literary allusions. His most famous book was Philosophy for the Masses (c. 1934-36), which—like his other works—has not been translated into English (unfortunately!).
Ai Siqi was actually a pen name; his original name was Li Shenxuan. As a young man he was educated in philosophy in Japan, and returned to China in the early 1930s. He joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1935, and went to Yan’an in 1937. There he taught both philosophy and Marxist-Leninist theory more generally, in higher party schools. In 1937 he published his book Philosophy and Life, which is said to address the unjustified criticism leveled at Marxism that it has no moral or ethical principles. Besides his own writing, he also translated many foreign works of Marxist philosophy into Chinese, including many Soviet books and articles.
In 1949 the CCP started an important theoretical journal (Study) and Ai was a frequent contributor. He was an important and influential person in philosophical circles in revolutionary China, and often led in the criticism of bourgeois and reactionary philosophical ideas including those which sometimes arose within the Party. Ai was one of the people in charge of establishing the China Philosophical Society, and was a member of the philosophy and social sciences section of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. But perhaps his most important contribution was that, after Mao himself, for three decades Ai was the most important populizer and polemicist in philosophy in China.
Greek philosophical term which means weakness of the will, lack of self-control, or doing something against one’s own better judgment. The first extensive discussion of this topic was in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, book 7.
“Alexandrian philosophy—several philosophical schools and trends that arose during the early centuries of our era in Alexandria, Egypt. Their distinguishing feature was their attempt to unite Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy and the mystical Eastern [religious] cults.” —Note 108, LCW 38.
A recipe or explicit step-by-step procedure to accomplish some goal. In mathematics this is usually required to involve only a finite number of discrete steps, though some algorithms may involve apparently infinite loops which are eventually broken out of, thus bringing the procedure to an end.
Are there algorithms in politics, or methods similar to this? Yes, there are some! For example, the mass line method of revolutionary leadership involves the endless repetition of this three-step algorithm:
1) Gather the ideas of the masses about what to do;
2) Process (select from) these ideas in light of the revolutionary goal and the principles of revolutionary Marxism, and in light of a scientific study of the objective situation;
3) Take these concentrated ideas back to the masses, popularize them more broadly, and lead the mass movement on this basis.
Each iteration of this 3-step algorithm is designed to advance the mass struggle in the direction of social revolution, or toward a new level of achievement in that revolution.
The past wealth created by labor which now exists as capital and no longer belongs to the workers who produced it, and furthermore which now confronts the workers as an alien force dominating them and working against their interests.
“To the same extent as political economy developed ... it presented labor as the sole element of value and the only creator of use-values, and the development of the productive forces as the only real means for increasing wealth; the greatest possible development of the productive power of labor as the economic basis of society. This is, in fact, the foundation of capitalist production. ... But in the same measure as it is understood that labor is the sole source of exchange-value and the active source of use-value, ‘capital’ is likewise conceived by the same economists ... as the regulator of production, the source of wealth and the aim of production, whereas labor is regarded as wage-labor, whose representative and real instrument is inevitably a pauper (to which Malthus’s theory of population contributed), a mere production cost and instrument of production dependent on a minimum wage and forced to drop even below this minimum as soon as the existing quantity of labor is ‘superfluous’ for capital. In this contradiction, political economy merely expressed the essence of capitalist production or, if you like, of wage-labor, of labor alienated from itself, which stands confronted by the wealth it has created as alien wealth, by its own productive power as the productive power of its product, by its enrichment as its own impoverishment and by its social power as the power of society.” —Marx, TSV, 3:258-259.
1. The process or result of transforming the products of human activity (that is, the products of labor, social and political relations, morality, and other forms of social consciousness) into something independent of humanity and alien to it. From something which should be serving humanity they are transformed into something which dominates humanity.
2. The psychological transformation of phenomena and relationships into something different than what they actually are; the distortion of such phenomena and relationships in people’s minds.
ALTHUSSER, Louis [Pronounced (roughly): al-toos-er] (1918-1990)
A French academic philosopher often described as a “Marxist”, but whose supposed “contributions” to Marxism are difficult for a revolutionary Marxist to see. He was a life-long member of the Communist Party of France, which was a revisionist party for the entire period that Althusser was a member. Although he criticized it from time to time, he never left it. He also opposed the great student uprising in France in 1968 as “infantile”. Nevertheless, Althusser and those he influenced remain popular in “left” student academia.
One of Althusser’s pet theories is that Marx remained “under the spell of Hegel” only for the first part of his life, and that Marx made an “epistemological break” with Hegel in his writings starting in the late 1840s. (As opposed to this, most Marxists recognize that while Marx and Engels did in fact break with Hegel’s idealism before the 1840s, they continued to uphold the dialectical approach they first learned from Hegel (and then put on a sound materialist basis) throughout their lives. There are thus no grounds for seeing any sort of “epistemological break” between “the early Marx” of the mid 1840s and “the later Marx”.)
Althusser’s notion of the “later Marx’s” dialectical and historical materialism is also quite distorted. He views things through a “structuralist” lens, or in other words, through one sort of restrictive bourgeois lens. This involves interpreting Marx as an anti-humanist and anti-historicist (thus having Marx supposedly agreeing with the positivist viewpoint of Karl Popper, who lambasted what he called Marx’s “historicism”). Althusser also had an affinity for various pseudo-scientific intellectual fads and philosophies such as Freudian psychoanalysis, and used the confused notions from such spheres to corrupt Marxist concepts such as dialectical contradiction. Like most academic Marxists, Althusser was fixated on long, meandering and essentially worthless discussions of ideology, into which he also inserted a lot of psychoanalytic nonsense. Althusser divorced Marx from political practice and activity, which is not surprising since this reflected his own academic approach to “Marxism”.
Althusser suffered from life-long bouts of mental instability, and in 1980 he murdered his wife, the sociologist Hélène Rytmann, and was locked up in a psychiatric hospital. While his reputation suffered because of this, it is surprising how seriously he is still taken by many revolutionary-minded students at universities! Among the many other academics (some of whom also have thought of themselves as “Marxists” at times) who were influenced by Althusser are Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Nicos Poulantzas, Jacques Derrida, Alain Badiou, Étienne Balibar, and even Che Guevarra’s one-time theoretician, Régis Debray.
“The full extent of Althusser’s ignorance was laid bare in his posthumous memoir, The Future Lasts Forever (1994), where he confessed to being ‘a trickster and a deceiver’ who sometimes invented quotations to suit his purpose. ‘In fact, my philosophical knowledge of texts was rather limited. I... knew a little Spinoza, nothing about Aristotle, the Sophists and the Stoics, quite a lot about Plato and Pascal, nothing about Kant, a bit about Hegel, and finally a few passages of Marx.’” —Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital (2006), pp. 109-110.
The subordination or sacrifice of one’s own personal interests to those of others. The opposite of egoism.
ALWAYS ATTACK FROM THE LEFT!
This is a political maxim for Marxist revolutionaries. It means that when criticizing ideas or policies of the ruling class we should strive to do so from a genuinely left perspective, and not from a liberal bourgeois perspective. Some right-wing ideas and policies of the government are also opposed by liberals, but their opposition is from within the framework of overall support for the capitalist system—and that is not the stance we should take.
For example, in opposing fascist laws such as the Patriot Act in the U.S. we should not use liberal bourgeois arguments such as that the law is “unnecessary to maintain public order”, but rather openly defend the right of the people to speak out freely even if that might sometimes lead to “disorder”. In condemning restrictions on voting rights, we should not give the impression that we think bourgeois democracy is the greatest political system; on the contrary, we should at the same time expose the essential limitations and restrictions of bourgeois democracy for the working class, and the ultimate need to overthrow the bourgeoisie and institute revolutionary proletarian democracy in its place.
In short, revolutionaries should not argue as if they were merely liberals.
A Japanese term referring to the common practice of important government officials in agencies which regulate various industries (such as nuclear power generation) who upon their retirement from government take on lucrative jobs in the industries which they formerly regulated. The prospect of such jobs for those who please these “regulated” corporations is one important means by which these “regulators” are brought to more fully serve the interests of the capitalists owning these industries. This phenomenon is very widespread in all capitalist countries, including the United States, though we don’t seem to have a specific name for this practice here. It is just one of many additional reasons why “regulated capitalism” simply doesn’t work in the interests of the people.
AMERICAN DREAM, The
A bourgeois fantasy inculcated into large sections of the people in the United States during the modern capitalist-imperialist era, according to which every person will enjoy an increasingly prosperous life providing only that they work hard. In addition, this apply named Dream promises the masses that their children will be even more prosperous and successful. The limited material basis for this Dream was the extraordinary exploitation of the rest of the world by U.S. imperialism which, for a time, did allow the ruling class to permit the living standards of at least a considerable section of the working class (and especially the top crust, or “labor aristocracy”) to improve during the quarter century following World War II. (But even then only because of union organizing, strikes, and other forms of struggle.)
When the post-World War II boom ended in the early 1970s the modest improvements in the lives of the U.S. working class also pretty much ended. However, during the next quarter century of the Long Slowdown, the real wages, benefits, and conditions of life of American workers declined only a little. But starting with the new millennium and especially with the Great Recession (of 2007-09), and continuing in its aftermath, millions of Americans have been losing their jobs, or having their wages and benefits cut in a bigger way, and many of them have also been losing their homes. Similarly, college tuition is jumping up wildly, and more and more families are unable to send their kids to college. It is suddenly becoming apparent to millions that the so-called American Dream is not coming true after all. We have entered a period of massive disillusionment about this. However, so far, the American people have not begun to understand that this is due to the very nature of capitalism, and many of them still look for one or another set of bourgeois politicians to restore their fading dream for them.
“Americans are obsessed with terrorism, China, and other threats from
beyond our borders, said Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times. But the
biggest threat to our future comes from the recent and dramatic erosion of ‘that rather
nebulous notion we call the American dream.’ An ABC News/Yahoo News poll last week found
that only half of us still believe in the dream—defined as the promise that ‘if you
work harder you’ll get ahead.’ More than 40 percent no longer think that’s true. The
Great Recession may explain some of this gloom, but polls from as far back as 1995 have
documented ever-rising doubts about the dream. This is alarming news, because ‘the dream
is the glue that keeps us all together.’ In this ‘diverse, highly competitive society,’
it’s the belief that our lives and the lives of our children will get better that keeps
our myriad ethnicities, races, religions, and regions ‘from ultimately tearing each
“Americans have every reason for their doubts, said Ronald Brownstein in [the] National Journal. The 10-year period between 2000 and 2009 was ‘an utterly lost decade for many, if not most, Americans.’ In inflation-adjusted dollars, the incomes of white families declined 5 percent over the decade, while the incomes of Hispanic families dropped 8 percent, and those of African-American families, 11 percent—an almost ‘unimaginable’ reversal, after decades of steady progress. More than 12 million people fell into poverty. Even though the population grew by 25 million, fewer people held jobs at the end of the decade than when it began. If Americans feel as though ‘the ground beneath them is cracking,’ can we blame them?” —“The American Dream: Going, going... gone?”, The Week, Oct. 8, 2010, p. 23.
Any of a series of quite erroneous ideas, theories or doctrines popular within various circles in the United States that this country is somehow so different from others that the political and historical laws and processes that work everywhere else do not apply here. Examples include:
1. The theory that political classes do not exist in the U.S. to the same degree they do in other countries, that the capitalist class does not really exercize a class dictatorship here, and therefore that there is no necessity in the U.S. for an actual proletarian revolution to overthrow a ruling bourgeoisie. (This version of American Exceptionalism has been promoted by various revisionists, including some of the leaders of the so-called Communist Party USA.)
2. The theory that the U.S. has been uniquely blessed by nature, by history, by its remoteness from Europe or by divine benevolence to pursue a more moral and peaceful course than other countries, and especially as compared to the countries of Europe. (This notion goes back to colonial days, but remains popular especially among religious patriots.)
3. The theory that American imperialism, if it is admitted to exist at all, is more benign and enlightened than that of all other imperialist powers in history.
4. [Sort of a corollary to the last notion:] The theory that the United States is destined to spread its “unique gifts of democracy and capitalism” to all the other countries of the world. (This version has been quite popular within the U.S. ruling class since the late 19th century, and has become a common “justification” for U.S. imperialism and its nearly constant wars of aggression.)
“Belief in ‘American exceptionalism’—the notion that this country is divinely sanctioned with ‘a special mission’ in the world—has become a litmus test of patriotism, said Michael Kinsley. Indeed, ‘the theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters.’ I find this conceit both puzzling and dangerous. ‘Does any other electorate demand such constant reassurance about how wonderful it is?’ Belief in exceptionalism has consequences, because its first tenet is that ‘the rules don’t apply to us.’ Thus, when we choose to start a war like the one in Iraq, the United Nations becomes irrelevant; when we lack the money to pay for our benefits and goodies at home, and our world-shaping ambitions abroad, we borrow what we can’t afford. [We believe] our greatness is destined by the stars...” —Summary of the comments of the bourgeois political columnist Michael Kinsley on Politico.com; quoted in The Week, Nov. 19, 2010, p. 14.
AMIN, Samir (1931- )
A prominent Egyptian-born Marxist-influenced economist, who now lives in Dakar, Senegal. He is variously associated with dependency theory; the “World Systems Theory” viewpoint; the quasi-Marxist trend known as “Third World Marxism”; and with the Marxist-Keynesian Monthly Review School.
Amin’s Egyptian father and French mother were both medical doctors. He was schooled in France and graduated with degrees in statistics and economics in 1956-1957. While studying in Paris he joined the revisionist Communist Party of France, but later broke with Soviet-style “Marxism” and was for a time associated with circles there who were influenced by Maoism. His university thesis was about the origins of underdevelopment in the Third World, and this has been his central focus ever since. After graduating, Amin returned to Cairo and worked for 3 years in government economic research. Then he worked from 1960-1963 as an adviser in the Ministry of Planning in Mali. From 1963 to 1980 he was associated with the Institut Africain de Développement Économique et de Planification (IDEP), the last ten years as its director. In 1980 Amin left IDEP and became a director of the Third World Forum in Dakar.
Amin is a prolific author, but his many books are usually short and sometimes tend to have an air of hurried superficiality to them. Furthermore, he has a poor writing style and it is often hard to understand exactly what views he is putting forth and defending. It is likely that this reflects the continuing confusion in his own ideas. Among his many works available in English are: Imperialism & Unequal Development (1976), The Future of Maoism (1981), Eurocentrism (1988), Maldevelopment (1990), Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997), Spectres of Capitalism: A Critique of Current Intellectual Fashions (1998), The Liberal Virus (2004), Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World (2006), The World We Wish to See (2008), The Law of Worldwide Value (2010), Global History—a View from the South (2010).
As that last title suggests, Amin views the world as “North versus South”, the “center versus the periphery”, or the developed world versus the Third World. This tends to blur the very different characteristics of different countries such as by lumping China together with Mali and Senegal. Although he does constantly mention imperialism, he thinks of imperialism in a somewhat non-Marxist way (rejecting Lenin’s conception of the equivalence of capitalist imperialism and monopoly capitalism).
Amin attributes the exploitation of and dominance over the Third World by the “center”, or “North”, or “the triad” (the U.S., Europe & Japan), as being due to “five monopolies” which the “center” possesses: 1) technology; 2) control over the global financial system; 3) access to natural resources; 4) international communication and the media; 5) the dominant military forces and means of mass destruction. These 5 monopolies are said to allow the extraction of “imperialist rent” from the periphery, though exactly what this means, and precisely how this is done (beyond just unfavorable terms of trade), are never clearly explained. Amin also believes that he has somehow transformed the Law of Value into something qualitatively deeper, which he calls the Law of Worldwide Value. This vague notion seems to have the effect of making the concept of surplus value more complex, less definite, and less clearly understandable.
In discussing the crisis of modern capitalism Amin pretty much follows Sweezy, Baran and the Monthly Review School, as he himself notes. But he adds to this some further dubious innovations. He views the entire period of 1873 to 1945 as being one long economic crisis, which seems to reflect something like the General Crisis of Capitalism Theory. Then there is his bizarre claim that modern capitalism now has a “Third Department” to it (in addition to Departments I & II which Marx described, the departments for the means of production and for consumption goods). This Department III supposedly absorbs surplus value in the form of financial speculation and the like. There is undoubtedly a huge sphere of financial speculation in modern capitalism, but how it helps to clarify anything by calling this a “Third Department” of production is never explained. —S.H.
[Intro to be added...]
“Everything in nature is analogical.” —Leibniz, quoted in Lenin, LCW 38:383. [It is not clear to me exactly what Leibniz meant by this; it could have just been a comment on how there are a great many analogies between the physical structures of different living things—for reasons that Leibniz himself did not understand. (A great many of the analogies between animals result from their common evolutionary descent, for example, which Leibniz was not aware of.) In any case, and for a great many additional reasons as well, this is a profound comment. —S.H.]
“How do we ever understand anything? Almost always, I think, by using one or another kind of analogy—that is, by representing each new thing as though it resembles something we already know. Whenever a new thing’s internal workings are too strange or complicated to deal with directly, we represent whatever parts of it we can in terms of more familiar signs. This way, we make each novelty seem similar to some more ordinary thing.” —Marvin Minsky, researcher in artificial intelligence, in his Society of Mind (1986), p. 57.
[To be added...]
See also: Philosophical doggerel about this topic.
A statement that is true by definition, or simply because of the meanings of the words in it. Thus the statement “All ducks are birds” is true (in the usual context) simply because the word ‘duck’ is defined as a certain type of bird. The opposite of an analytic statement is a synthetic statement.
The analytic/synthetic distinction (or at least this terminology) was introduced by Kant, but there are various sorts of questions and disputes that have been raised about it in academic philosophy. The logical positivists worried about proving that all knowledge which can be known a priori must be analytic. The bourgeois philosopher W.V.O. Quine claimed that we do not have sufficient criteria to be able to know whether or not the subject and object of a sentence have the same essential meaning. (This is a typical example of the sort of excessively picky quibbling that bourgeois philosophy is prone to.)
[To be added...]
See also below, and: CHOMSKY, Noam
ANARCHISM — Individualist
[To be added...]
See also: STIRNER, Max
ANARCHY OF PRODUCTION (Under Capitalism)
“[A]narchy, which is irreconcilable with the socialization of labor, is an inherent feature of capitalist society.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ are” (1894), LCW 1:177.
ANARCHY OF PRODUCTION THEORY (For Capitalist Economic Crises)
[To be added... ]
ANAXIMANDER OF MILETUS (c. 610-c. 546 BCE)
An early Greek materialist philosopher of the Ionian School, a pupil of Thales, and the first philosopher whose views are known to any significant degree. Like Thales and other members of the Ionian School, he was also in effect an early scientist. He constructed the first geometrical model of the universe, and made maps of both the earth and the skies. His cosmological theory consisted of the earth, which he thought had the shape of a flattened cylinder, at the center of the Universe, with three rings (solar, lunar and astral) surrounding the earth. He invented the gnomon (or upright pointer) on sundials, which gave them greater accuracy in keeping time. Anaximander also originated the concept of biological evolution. He thought that human beings, like other animals, had evolved from fish. (This idea probably arose from examining the fish-like appearance of spontaneously aborted early fetuses. See: “ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY”)
Anaximander was the author of the first written work of philosophy in ancient Greece, On Nature, which—unfortunately—has not been preserved. He was a natural dialectician. He introduced the concept of arché, or the “primary principle”, or the underlying impetus of all things, which however does not seem to be any sort of reference to a god or gods. And these “all things” themselves (or at least their original state) he called the apeiron, or the boundless, indefinite, never-ending, multiplicity of our surroundings which are in constant motion. This is perhaps the first attempt to refer to what materialists later came to call “matter in motion”. And Anaximander thought that out of the apeiron, all worlds, and all the objects in them, have been produced through a dialectical struggle of opposites.
ANAXIMENES OF MILETUS (c. 588-525 BCE)
Greek materialist philosopher and natural dialectician of the Ionian School who was a student of Anaximander (see above). He gave Anaximander’s conception of apeiron (original matter in motion) a more concrete form, by arguing that everything develops from the primary matter air, forming first clouds, then water, and finally earth and rock. Unfortunately, in this case this more definite form of the theory was a step backwards, similar to returning to Thales’s naïve idea that everything is composed of water. However, Anaximenes did seem to understand and utilize the general dialectical principle of the transition of quantity into quality.
ANDROID THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
Marx supposed that only the labor of human beings is capable of producing surplus value in a system of capitalist production. The android thought experiment, which occurred to me some decades ago, is a way of seeing that it is at least conceivable that Marx is wrong on this point.
The thought experiment starts by assuming that there is nothing mystical about human beings or their labor that allows them alone to create new value, but instead that it might just be because there is some special exclusive characteristic, or set of characteristics, of human beings that allows their labor alone to produce surplus value in capitalist production. Such a characteristic might be intelligence, ingenuity, creativity, or some such thing. (Marx himself implies at one place in Capital that the essential thing which distinguishes human labor from the industrious activity of other animals is our sense of conscious purpose.) But the thought experiment then supposes that some non-human entity might someday be created, such as an artificial “man” or android, which has that same characteristic (or set of characteristics). In short, an artificial human—if it truly replicates the relevant essential characteristics of a human being—should also be capable of generating surplus value in capitalist production. This is the foot in the door.
The next stage in the argument is to recognize that all characteristics of human beings come in degrees. Intelligence or creativity, for example, are not absolutely uniform characteristics of every human being. Some people are more creative than others. We do not say that a somewhat less intelligent or somewhat less creative human being is unable to produce surplus value in at least many forms of labor under capitalism. In the same way, we are forced to admit that an android might be able to create surplus value even if it were somewhat less intelligent or creative than the average human being. Further considerations along these lines leads us step-by-step to recognize that any “special characteristic” that might allow human labor to generate surplus value must be part of a continuum, only gradually rising from zero to the full abilities of the most capable human being (and then conceivably way beyond!). Finally, in this age of ever growing computer sophistication and artificial intelligence research, we have to at least consider the possibility that computer-controlled robots might someday possess enough of this hypothesized special characteristic (whatever that may be) that they too would have to be viewed as generating surplus value.
However, the main persuasiveness of this thought experiment does not depend on any belief that androids will ever actually be constructed! It just shows what we would have to say if they ever are constructed. It is a thought experiment, and not a prediction about robots and artificial intelligence. But it already shows that Marx’s insistence that only human labor alone can create surplus value is at least subject to serious doubt.
The android thought experiment then leads to the further idea that maybe there is no such “special exclusive characteristic” that human labor has which allows it alone to create surplus value. Moreover, more theoretical considerations suggest that it may be necessary to somewhat revise the labor theory of value from the precise form that Marx gave it. See LABOR THEORY OF VALUE—Revised Form —S.H.
See also: “Steve Keen on Marxist Economics, Together with a Mini Essay on the Labor Theory of Value” (especially sections 3-10) at http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/Keen_LTV.htm, and “Letter to Frank S. about the Labor Theory of Value” at http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/Keen_LTV.htm
The official news publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Its name means “The People” in English.
“Ang Bayan is the official news organ of the Communist Party of
the Philippines issued by the CPP Central Committee. It provides news about the work of
the Party as well as its analysis of and standpoint on current issues.
“AB comes out fortnightly. It is published originally in Pilipino and translated into Bisaya, Ilokano, Waray, Hiligaynon and English.” —Statement on the web page for Ang Bayan, at http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/ab/index.pl as of 10/21/10.
A series of equal payments as part of a retirement plan or an insurance policy payout (such as to someone who has a long-term disability insurance policy and becomes unable to work). The payments may continue for a fixed period, or on a contingent basis (such as until the beneficiary dies). (The payment of interest to the holder of bonds may amount to the same sort of thing but is seldom described as an annuity.)
[In Marxist usage:] Irreconcilability.
See also: CONTRADICTIONS—Dialectical
A reactionary political position, point of view, or piece of propaganda opposing communism, revolution, and often also opposing most other ideas or measures which significantly promote the interests of the working class or masses as a whole. Communism is often portrayed as the most horribly evil system, and communists are routinely portrayed as vicious man-eating monsters and the like!
See also: TO BE ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY IS A GOOD THING
This famous book by Frederick Engels, published in 1878, was directed against a crude petty-bourgeois theory of socialism put forth by Eugen Dühring. The formal title of Engels’ book is Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft (Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science). Engels did such an excellent job of exposing Dühring and at the same time putting forward the essentials of his and Marx’s much more coherent and profound theory of scientific socialism, that Anti-Dühring has ever since its publication been considered an essential textbook of Marxism.
[This book analyzes] “highly important problems in the domain of philosophy, natural science and the social sciences. This is a wonderfully rich and instructive book.” —Lenin, “Frederick Engels” (1896), LCW 2:25.
See also: HISTORICISM
“Nothing is more characteristic of the bourgeois than the application of the features of the modern system to all times and peoples.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:154 (footnote).
ANTI-LIN BIAO, ANTI-CONFUCIUS CAMPAIGN
A mass campaign in Maoist China launched in late 1973 and promoting criticism of both the disgraced Lin Biao and Confucius. Lin Biao died in 1971 in a plane crash in Mongolia while attempting to flee China after his plot to assassinate Mao had been exposed. Mao and the CCP recognized that Lin’s betrayal was connected to some deeper lingering problems in the ideology of people left over from the old China, and therefore appropriately attempted to criticize not just Lin, but the broader ideological problem that still remained. This campaign is sometimes considered to be one of the later phases of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and sometimes considered to be a separate mass campaign.
[Often without the hyphen:] An uncommon type of matter composed of “anti-particles” (such as anti-protons and “anti-electrons”, or positrons) which when brought together with ordinary matter leads to mutual annihilation and the release of enormous quantities of energy in accordance with Einstein’s equation: E = mc2
Some forms of anti-matter differ from ordinary matter in the electrical charge carried. Thus while ordinary protons carry a positive charge, anti-protons carry a negative charge. More fundamentally, the difference between ordinary particles and anti-particles lies in their internal characteristics or constituents. Thus ordinary neutrons and anti-neutrons are both electrically neutral, but consist internally of either quarks or anti-quarks which can still annihilate each other when brought together.
The term “matter” in physics can in one sense refer only to ordinary matter, and in a more inclusive sense can refer to both ordinary matter and anti-matter. Both particles of matter and anti-matter have mass and generally have the same intrinisic properties as their anti-particle forms.
The even more abstract conception of matter in the materialist philosophical sense includes both ordinary matter and anti-matter, and also energy in all its forms.
ANTI-SOCIALIST LAW (In 19th Century Germany)
“The Anti-Socialist Law was introduced in Germany in 1878 by the Bismarck government with the object of combating the labor and socialist movement. The law banned all Social-Democratic Party and mass working-class organizations, and the labor press; socialist literature was confiscated, and Social-Democrats were hounded and deported. These repressions, however, did not break the Social-Democratic Party, which readjusted its activities to the conditions of illegal existence: the Party’s central organ Sozial-Demokrat was published abroad and Party congresses were held regularly there (1880, 1883, and 1887); in Germany, Social-Democratic underground organizations and groups headed by an illegal Central Committee were rapidly restored. Simultaneously, the Party made wide use of legal opportunities to strengthen contact with the masses, and its influence steadily grew. The number of votes cast for the Social-Democrats in the Reichstag elections increased more than threefold between 1878 and 1890. Tremendous assistance to the German Social-Democrats was given by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Anti-Socialist Law was repealed in 1890 as a result of pressure from the mounting mass labor movement.” —Note 209, LCW 20:611-612.
Laws nominally for the purpose of preventing or restricting the growth of capitalist monopolies, trusts, cartels and oligopolies. Marx discussed the strong tendency toward the development of monopolies as weak firms fail or are bought out, especially during recessions or depressions. Bourgeois economists and politicians have been forced to acknowledge this trend as well, and also its economic harmfulness, usually after it has already become well advanced. Even some early economists such as Adam Smith considered monopolies, price agreements, and the like to be “conspiracies against the public”.
In 1890 the U.S. Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in response to public alarm about the growth of giant capitalist combines. While there were a few famous breakups of monopolies, “the primary effect of the Sherman Act over the next few decades was to weaken labor unions” [E. K. Hunt & Howard Sherman, Economics: An Introduction to Traditional and Radical Views, 1981, p. 118.] However, in 1914 the Clayton Act was passed to give the anti-trust laws a few more teeth, and to exempt labor unions.
The most famous anti-trust case was the breakup of the Rockefeller Standard Oil Trust in 1911 into 34 separate companies. But this was more a matter of the short-term, and for public image purposes. Even soon after the breakup these companies still colluded and engaged in price fixing, and the like. Many of the 34 companies were rather small and not central to the matter of industry price fixing, and this made it easier for the few big ones to collude, not only with each other, but also with the small number of other big oil companies around the world. For example, “In 1928 the heads of British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Standard Oil met in the Scottish highlands and secretly agreed to limit production in the wake of the huge discoveries in the Middle East.” [U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 14, 1998, pp. 26-27.]
More to the central point, there are today, after more than a century of supposed anti-trust regulation, a very small number of super-giant oil companies that completely dominate that industry worldwide. In the 1998-2001 period there was a further consolidation: Exxon merged with Mobil, Chevron with Texaco, BP with Amoco, Arco with both Conoco and Phillips, and in Europe, Total merged with PetroFina and Elf.
Even bourgeois economists recognize that anti-trust legislation has been largely ineffective. In 1949 there was a symposium on the topic in the American Economic Review, and every participant agreed that anti-trust legislation was a dismal failure. However, the situation is actually far worse than what these economists admit. Far from being an opponent of monopoly (though an “ineffective” one), governments in the imperialist era actually promote monopoly. The “anti-trust” legislation on the books is at most a false cover for this real stance. As the radical economists E.K. Hunt & Howard Sherman summed it up, “the enforcement of antitrust laws and the actions of the numerous government regulatory commissions have consistently aided and abetted the achievement and maintenance of monopoly power”. [Op. cit., pp. 329-330.]
[Greek: boundless] A term in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, introduced by the materialist Ionian philosopher Anaximander. It refers to the boundless, originally formless, ever-moving flux of nature, from which all worlds and physical objects as we know them today have arisen. It seems that this was an early attempt to form something like the conception that Marx and Engels referred to as “matter in motion”, though it is perhaps meant to be more like the original or primitive matter in motion.
Anaximander thought that there needed to be some principle (or peras) of order to render this original apeiron into the worlds and objects that we see today. He called this primary principle the arché. Apparently he considered the essence of this principle to be that of the struggle of opposites, since that is how Anaximander viewed the world and its objects as having arisen from the apeiron.
1. [In religion:] Renunciation of religious faith.
2. [In intellectual or political matters:] The renuciation or abandonment of a previous intellectual or political viewpoint, or defection to an opposing viewpoint.
A person who renounces their previous faith or viewpoint is called an apostate.
“... every philosophy of the past without exception was accused by the theologians of apostasy...” —Marx, leading article in the Kölnische Zeitung, # 179, 1842. [Marx’s point being that religion opposed all philosophical thought and progress.]
This is the jargon being used in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA for the following mouthful: “The culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian.” AP&P is thus a short-hand reference to what most people would simply call the ghastly personality cult which the RCP has created around its leader Bob Avakian.
APPEAL TO REASON
An important newspaper of the American Socialist movement which was founded in Kansas in 1895. During World War I it took up an internationalist position which brought it under government attack. It ceased publication in 1919.
The recognition and sensitive awareness of the aesthetic values in a work of art or other thing (such as a natural phenomenon).
An increase in price or exchange value.
APTHEKER, Herbert (1915-2003)
A historian specializing in African-American history, and a long-time leader of the revisionist Communist Party, USA. His book American Negro Slave Revolts (1943) was pathbreaking and important, but it seems he was never really a revolutionary Marxist.
Aptheker joined the CPUSA in 1939, and remained loyal to it until 1991, when at around the time of the collapse of the revisionist Soviet Union he left with the social-democratic breakaway group, the Committees of Correspondence. He strongly defended Soviet social-imperialism in 1956 when it invaded Hungary, and again in 1968 when it invaded Czechoslovakia.
After the death of Aptheker and his wife, his daughter Bettina wrote a book [Intimate Politics (2006)] in which she claimed that her father had repeatedly sexually molested her from the age of 4 until the age of 13—but that she had not remembered this until writing that book! We may not know what to believe about that accusation, but we can be very sure that Herbert Aptheker was definitely a revisionist.
AQUINAS, Thomas (1225-74)
The most important Scholastic philosopher and theologian of the Roman Catholic Church, which after his death declared him to be a “saint”.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Aquinas.
ARBENZ GUZMÁN, Jacobo (1913-1971)
Guatemalan social democrat who was the democratically elected president of that country from 1950-1954. He was one of the main leaders of the Guatemalan bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1944-45 which overthrew first the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico y Castaneda and then overthrew one of his generals who had seized power. After becoming president, Arbenz instituted large-scale land redistribution to the poor peasants, permitted the organization of labor under nominally “Communist” leadership, and nationalized portions of the country’s industry. The U.S. imperialists would not stand for this. In 1954 the CIA organized a coup, with the support of the Guatemalan military and reactionary classes, and ousted Arbenz. Thereafter he lived in exile, first in Uruguay, and later in Cuba.
The simultaneous purchase and sale of the same asset in two different markets (such as in two different countries) in order to profit from the price differential between them. This is just one of the many ways that capitalist fianciers cheat each other, though in bourgeois economic theory it is considered to be a necessary process, and even a “virtue”.
ARISTOTLE (384-322 BCE)
As Marx said, the greatest philosopher of antiquity. Engels commented that Aristotle “was the most encyclopedic intellect” of all the ancient Greek philosophers [MECW 25:21]. He had a more down-to-earth outlook than did his teacher Plato, and emphasized the observation of nature. Nevertheless he vacillated between materialism and idealism. He defended slave society and its political economy, and “was the first to analyze value and the two primitive forms of capital (merchant capital and money-lending capital)”. In the year 335 BCE he established an important school called the Lyceum in Athens.
Unfortunately, long after his death Aristotle was enlisted as an authority by the Roman Catholic Church (with regard to “non-spiritual” matters), and his ideas have often been considerably twisted because of this. As Lenin put it, “Clericalism killed what was living in Aristotle and perpetuated what was dead.” [LCW 38:367]
See also below, and: ENTELECHY, FINAL CAUSE, and Philosophical doggerel about Aristotle.
ARISTOTLE — and Logic
[Speaking of Aristotle’s book Metaphysics:] “Highly characteristic
in general, throughout the whole book..., are the living germs of dialectics and
inquiries about it....
“In Aristotle, objective logic is everywhere confused with subjective logic and, moreover, in such a way that everywhere objective logic is visible. There is no doubt as to the objectivity of cognition. There is a naïve faith in the power of reason, in the force, power, objective truth of cognition. And a naïve confusion, a dialectics of the universal and the particular—of the concept and the sensuously perceptible reality of individual objects, things, phenomena.
“Scholasticism and clericalism took what was dead in Aristotle, but not what was living; the inquiries, the searchings, the labyrinth, in which man lost his way.
“Aristotle’s logic is an inquiry, a searching, an approach to the logic of Hegel—and it, the logic of Aristotle (who everywhere, at every step raises precisely the question of dialectics), has been made into a dead scholasticism by rejecting all the searchings, waverings and modes of framing questions. What the Greeks had was precisely modes of framing questions, as it were tentative systems, a naïve discordance of views, excellently reflected by Aristotle.” —Lenin, “Conspectus on Aristotle’s Book Metaphysics” (1915), LCW 38:368-9.
See: ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE
See below and: AESTHETICS, AESTHETIC OBJECT, CONSTRUCTIVISM, SOCIALIST REALISM
ART — and REVOLUTION
[Intro to be added... ]
“Politics, whether revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, is the struggle of class against class, not the activity of a few individuals. The revolutionary struggle on the ideological and artistic fronts must be subordinate to the political struggle because only through politics can the needs of the class and the masses find expression in concentrated form.” —Mao, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), SW 3:86-87.
“ART FOR ART’S SAKE”
[To be added...]
ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS (of 1997-98)
A serious financial and economic crisis that struck many East Asian capitalist economies in 1997-98, and lingering in some countries beyond that period. Among the countries affected in a major way were South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. It also expanded to Brazil and Russia, and briefly threatened to become a worldwide financial and economic crisis. This crisis destroyed a massive amount of “wealth” (a large part of which was actually ficticious capital).
“In the banking system alone, corporate loans equivalent to around half of one year’s GDP went bad—a destruction of savings on a scale more usually associated with a full-scale war.... The crisis brought an end to a then widespread belief that there was a distinct ‘Asian way’ of capitalism that might prove just as successful as capitalism in the United States or Europe.” —Matthew Bishop, Essential Economics: An A-Z Guide (2009), pp. 25-26.
Bourgeois economists cannot agree on the precise immediate causes of the Asian Financial Crisis. Among the proposed causes were the inadequate financial reserves that many of the affected countries possessed, the fact that some of them had their currencies pegged to the dollar, the loosening of controls on the movement of capital between countries (part of the changes related to the new wave of globalization), and the relatively weak and poorly regulated banking systems in many of the countries. Looking at the situation from a longer and more fundamental perspective, however, we see that the basic causes were the weakening international economy which was approaching a new acute phase of the long-developing overproduction crisis, and an attempt to make up for this through ever-expanding financial speculation across international borders.
A collective name for a number of capitalist countries in East Asia which during the late 20th century, and before the Asian Financial Crisis of the mid 1990s and the great rise of capitalist China, were considered to be an amazing example of the productive power of unfettered capitalism. The four countries (or regions) most often referred to by this name were South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, but Thailand was often also included and occasionally Malaysia. The brief, but severe, Asian Financial Crisis [see above] tarnished the reputations of the Asian Tiger economies, and the even greater rise of mainland China at their expense, together with the world economic crisis which took a major turn for the worse in 2008, has already led to their eclipse. Thus the term “Asian Tigers” is less commonly used now than it used to be, and when it is still used it often has a somewhat ironic connotation.
ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION
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[Intro to be added...]
“[I]t is more advantageous to capital to allow a shorter working day
with a maximum intensity of labor, than it is to have a longer day with a lower intensity,
for constant capital (particularly the fixed part
of it) is in this way better employed, because a certain section of expenditure, lighting,
heating, administration, supervision, etc., remains the same whether more or less is
produced per day.
“This explains the tendency of capital to employ a greater amount of labor power in the shortest time. To accomplish this, capitalism has founded a new science, that of scientific management. Piece wages take the place of time rates. The premium system takes the place of simple time rates—that is, an increase in piece rates if a certain height of production is reached. And in place of the premium system, or combined with it, the minimum system, every worker who does not reach a certain minimum of production is dismissed. This is combined with time studies, with the dissection of labor into separate, exactly determined and strictly circumscribed movements of the worker.
“All this refers to the pre-war period [pre-World War I]. The latest development shows a dialectical change: back to time rates, but in conjunction with the introduction of the travelling belt. The travelling belt in conjunction with ‘serial’ production [one task following serially after another] makes the Taylor system, with all its tremendous supervising and preparatory apparatus, time and movement studies, time cards for each kind of labor and for each worker, entirely superfluous. The travelling belt establishes an automatic control of labor productivity, keeps up the worker to the speed of the travelling belt, enforces a superhuman intensity in the expenditure of labor power. Its employment can be observed in all spheres. Motors and machines move along the travelling belt in just the same way as slaughtered animals in the packing factory, the ingredients in a confectionery works, or the incoming mail at an American sorting station.” —Eugen Varga, The Decline of Capitalism (London: 1928), pp. 26-27.
A major increase in the price of some asset, often very rapid and massive, based primarily on speculation that the prices will continue to increase. The asset could be anything, and there is even one early historical example where it was rare tulip bulbs! But most often the asset in question is real estate, homes and property, and mortgages and other securities which are backed up by real estate. Asset bubbles are usually associated with easy access to credit and the rapid expansion of debt as speculators borrow as fast as they can to get in on the “sure thing”.
See also: HOUSING BUBBLE
[In bourgeois economics:] The differences in knowledge about the real situation between the parties to an economic exchange or transaction. (This allows one party to in effect cheat the other, though bourgeois economists shy away from such characterizations!)
ATTACK FROM THE LEFT!
See: ALWAYS ATTACK FROM THE LEFT!
ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY
See: TO BE ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY
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AUSTIN, John (1911-60)
Bourgeois British philosopher of the linguistic or ordinary language school, who was both educated and taught at Oxford University. His approach to philosophy centered on the extremely careful and detailed analysis of everyday language and its implications, even to the point of pedantry.
See also: DIMENSION WORD
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AUTUMN HARVEST UPRISING
An uprising of peasants and workers in September 1927 in Hsiushui, Pinghsiang, Pingkiang and Liuyang Counties in the Hunan-Kiangsi border area of China, who formed the 1st Division of the First Workers’ and Peasants’ Revolutionary Army. Mao Zedong led this uprising and led this force into the Chingkang Mountains to establish a revolutionary base area there.
AVAKIAN, Bob (1943- )
American revolutionary, the Chairman and dominant leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party since its formation in 1975. Avakian was raised in a middle-class family (his father was a judge), and was educated at the University of California in Berkeley, where he became radicalized in the 1960s. He participated in the Free Speech Movement there and, though white, was closely associated with the Black Panther Party. He was active in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and was a leading figure in the Revolutionary Youth Movement II faction of SDS.
In 1968 he was a co-founder of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (in the San Francisco area), which soon became a nationwide organization, the Revolutionary Union, by absorbing SDS collectives from other parts of the country. In 1975 the RU transformed itself into the RCP, with Avakian as the Chairman of the Central Committee. While Avakian was always a top leader of the RU/RCP, after several political struggles and splits in the organization he emerged after 1978 as the single dominant and effectively unchallengeable leader.
Avakian should get the credit for being the person most centrally responsible for the creation of the RCP, but also the blame for being the person most centrally responsible for wrecking it as an organization with any serious prospects of leading a revolution in the United States. He played a similar role internationally. Avakian took a lead in arranging for the creation of the international organization of Maoist revolutionary parties, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), but then through doctrinaire insistance on what its policies should be, played the leading role in disabling it as a functional organization.
In 1979 the new revisionist ruler of China, Deng Xiaoping, came to the United States on a state visit. Avakian personally led a demonstration that the RCP organized against Deng, which resulted in a conflict with the police. Avakian and others were charged with several felonies. While the charges were still pending, Avakian went into “exile” in France in 1981. While all the charges were dropped against him in 1982, he remained in a sort of romantic self-imposed exile in France for a couple more decades. (As many have joked, since Marx and Lenin were in long periods of exile, Avakian thought that he needed to be too!) His current whereabouts are kept secret by the RCP, since he is viewed by himself and his party as “irreplaceable”.
Avakian has a strongly authoritarian and anti-democratic streak (in practice and also even in theory: consider the title of his 1986 book, Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?), and the Party he leads has never allowed serious internal dissent. Always rather egotistical, Avakian has more and more demanded and achieved the creation of a grotesque personality cult around himself within his Party. The RCP has become pretty much a one-man operation, as far as new ideas and thinking go, as exemplified especially in Avakian’s supposed “New Synthesis” of communist theory.
See also: AP&P, “EMBRACES BUT CANNOT REPLACE”, INSTRUMENTALISM, and the “THREE OURS”
AVELING, Edward (1851-1898)
English journalist and socialist, and one of the translators (along with Samuel Moore) of vol. I of Marx’s Capital into English.
AVENARIUS, Richard (1843-1896)
German-Swiss philosopher who was a subjective idealist, and one of the first proponents of empirio-criticism, which he viewed as an attempt to base philosophy on “scientific principles”. For him this meant a radical positivism. He thought that the subject-object dichotomy falsified reality, and emphasized “pure experience” as the thing which would supposedly reconcile the two opposites, consciousness and matter. It is hard to make much sense of his theories. Lenin very strongly criticized Avenarius in his book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908).
A bourgeois nationalist political party in Bangladesh which reassumed power in early 2009. Over the decades it has been responsible for the murder of many communist revolutionaries.
AXELROD, Lyubov Isaakovna (1868-1946)
Russian Marxist philosopher who was a close follower of Plekhanov. She viewed her stance as being “orthodox Marxism”, and therefore used the pseudonym “Orthodox” [in transliterated Russian: Ortodox]. She was the leader of the Marxist philosophical school condemned as “mechanists” during the late 1920s.
Axelrod joined a Narodnik organization in 1884, and fled to Western Europe in 1887. In Switzerland she met Plekhanov and joined his Emancipation of Labor group. In 1900 she received a Ph.D. in philosophy at Bern University. After the amnesty in 1906 she returned to Russia, where she belonged to a series of Menshevik factions. After 1918 she was not a member of any party, but continued her work in Marxist philosophy.
During the 1920s two major schools of Marxist philosophy developed in Russia, the “dialecticians” (or Deborinists) led by Abram Deborin, and the followers of Plekhanov who were called the “mechanists”. The Deborinists were enthusiastic about Hegelian dialectics, whereas the mechanists tended to pretty much dismiss dialectics. Despite this and other serious weaknesses, Axelrod did do useful work in support of materialist perspectives and in opposition to Kantian idealism.
The branch of ethics concerned with “value”. The study of “value” separate from ethics in general is based on the mistaken idea that “values” are not derivable from factual relationships and must somehow be appended “from without”.
See also: DEONTOLOGY
AYER, A. J. [Alfred Jules] (1910-89)
Bourgeois philosopher whose views were closely related to logical positivism, especially in his early work, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936). This volume introduced the positivist ideas of the Vienna Circle to the English-speaking world. Ayer was also strongly influenced by Hume and Bertrand Russell, and remained a very strong empiricist throughout his life.
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