A series of revolts, uprisings and mass demonstrations that have spread throughout the Arab world (North Africa and the Middle East) in 2011 against corrupt and brutal tyrannies. The event that initially sparked the movement was the death of a young Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, whose fruit stand was shut down by corrupt local officials in Tunis. His self immolation and resultant death sparked the revolt that led to the ousting of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Inspired by these events, as well as by its own local outrage (this time the beating death of another young man, Khaled Mohamed Saeed, at the hands of police) protestors in Egypt mobilized in their millions and ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, a long-time servant of US imperialism and collaborator with Israel. The revolts have spread to Syria, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain, with ruthless subsequent crackdowns by the authorities.
Where possible, imperialism has tried to co-opt these movements to its own benefit, as seen most clearly in Libya with the NATO operation aimed at ousting Gaddhafi and installing a more pliable regime. The region’s dictators are clearly nervous at their prospects, and have offered a series of concessions to try to maintain their rule. But these overtures have been seen (rightfully) as “too little, too late”. On the other hand, the use of repression has only aggravated the situation, by giving people the sense that they no longer have anything to lose by protesting.
The uprisings have been largely liberal-democratic, reformist and nationalist in orientation (with some Islamist elements becoming more vocal and active as well, particularly in Yemen and Libya); Communist and Socialist parties have played an active, though as yet relatively minor role (and one certainly ignored by the mainstream media). Nothing approaching the mass line method of revolutionary leadership has so far transpired. The region, even if it does finally rid itself of the awful tyrannies that have suffocated it for so long, and even if it does boot out imperialism and Zionist aggression, still has a long way to go in terms of building up Communist mass-consciousness.
In spite of its severe political and ideological limitations, the Arab Spring is an inspiration to the world proletariat. Even while events threaten to see the whole process aborted, rebellions in the Middle East show how, even with misguided politics, it is possible for people to rise up against the cruelest dictatorships. —L.C.
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”.
ARCHIMEDES (of Syracuse) (c. 287-c. 212 BCE)
Ancient Greek mathematican, scientist and engineer. He was the greatest of all mathematicians and scientists in antiquity, and one of the greatest mathematicians in all history. Through the use of concepts such as the infinitesimal and the method of exhaustion he anticipated the development of the differential and integral calculus in modern times. However, following the mathematical tradition of that age, Archimedes always provided proofs of his discoveries made with such methods via rigorous geometrical demonstrations.
See also: INTEGRAL CALCULUS [Gellert quote]
See also: HORIZONTALIDAD
ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN [For the Existence of God]
This is a religious argument for the existence of God that claims that biological organization and complexity “demonstrate” the agency of a divine “designer”. Adherents of this view will often point to a highly complex biological entity (like the vertebrate eye or some biochemical pathway in a cell) and infer from this that it could “only” have come about through divine agency. This notion was seen to have several glaring problems even before the advent of the theory of evolution by natural selection as enunciated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace. The Scottish philosopher David Hume famously rebuked the design argument by saying that if design is invoked as an explanation for biological complexity, then the analogy should be carried further and applied to the designer itself. For example, it would make more sense to suppose that a team of deities, rather than a single one, was involved in crafting the biosphere. After all, most human artifacts are produced via inputs by many people (and this becomes all the more necessary with today’s technology, which has become so complex that whole teams of people are needed to design and construct even minor components of machines, though the process of automation is itself offering a countervailing tendency to this in many cases). Even if we suppose that there was only one designer, this designer need not have been particularly intelligent; it might well be a bumbling fool who produced the world and its inhabitants after countless failures.
Secondly, Hume pointed to a logical problem posed by invoking an all-powerful being: if complexity requires a conscious agent to bring biological entities into the world, then all the more must this being itself require an explanation in just such terms. Thus, the design argument doesn’t terminate the regress, but instead bumps it up another level, and in fact hopelessly aggravates it. Hume mused that perhaps it wasn’t a mind that produced biological nature, but a process in which countless configurations were “tried out” and tested. This was a prelude of sorts to the theory of evolution by natural selection, but in fact evolutionary ideas and notions had been around since the ancient Greeks. It was, however, Darwin and Wallace who started to properly formulate these ideas and back them up with empirical content, and subsequent discoveries in biology have strengthened (while also modifying in important ways) these basic concepts.
Finally, modern neuroscience definitively shows that minds are products of material processes taking place in highly organised configurations; they cannot exist as “stand-alone” “things” detached from any material basis, as such an entity would be devoid of any components required for the requisite processes of information transfer, retrieval, storage and so forth to take place. Minds are necessarily late-comers in the universe, and cannot possibly be used as an account for how biological complexity ultimately originated. —L.C.
ARISTOCRACY OF LABOR
See: LABOR ARISTOCRACY
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
For decades the U.S. has been, overall, the largest seller of military weapons by far. The U.S. imperialists are not only directly responsible for most of the many wars over recent decades, they are indirectly a major contributing factor facilitating and intensifying many of the other wars. The figures fluctuate from year to year, but in 2011 U.S. arms sales trippled from 2010 to $66.3 billion. This was 78% of the total world sales of arms in 2011. Russia was a distant second with $4.8 billion in sales. [Figures from the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service, as reported in the New York Times, Aug. 26, 2012.] A large part of current U.S. arms sales are to countries in the already very volatile Persian Gulf area, where the U.S. imperialists and/or Israel and other U.S.-client regimes are preparing for a probable attack on Iran.
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...]
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
1. The capability of a machine (which is either a computer or which includes a computer) to perform actions which—if done by a human being—would be viewed as demonstrating intelligence. (In this sense, AI only imitates or emulates genuine human intelligence.)
2. The capability of a machine or artificial entity of some sort to actually be intelligent in various ways. (It is not commonly understood that the first sense of the term merges into this second sense, and that genuine intelligence is not the mysterious thing it is often imagined to be.)
More or less everything that computers can do might be considered to be AI in the first sense, including even just adding two numbers together. The early work by computer scientists in the field of artificial intelligence was generally more like the first sense, whereas the goal has pretty much always been to develop AI in the second sense. At the present time the results of work in AI research are just beginning to move from the first sense of the term to the second sense, the real goal.
Serious efforts to develop artificial intelligence began during the 1950s, and it was not originally understood how difficult it would be to create computer programs which were truly intelligent. There were many naïve predictions that computers as intelligent as people were only a decade or two away. However, this initial and frequently repeated excessive optimism has led many people to falsely conclude that true AI will never really come about—even though we are seeing some major breakthroughs at the present time.
Once the initial notions that writing intelligent computer programs would be easy came to naught, a number of AI researchers turned to a more serious study of how the human brain works, and efforts were made to artifically model the networks of neurons which make up the brain. This showed some initial promise during the 1990s, but then seemed to reach a dead end. However, around 2009 some new thinking in this area (along with much faster computers) led to a sudden breakthrough. (See the entry below on ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORKS.) And now the AI field is advancing very fast.
These advances in computers and artificial intelligence mean that jobs which are done by human beings are disappearing ever more rapidly. One recent study (2013) by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University looked at the feasibility of automating 702 occupations and found that 47% of workers in the United States had jobs with a high risk of potential automation in the near future. [See: “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?”, online at: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf]
Longer term, the situation for employment is even more dire. Over the next few decades, and largely because of the rapid development of artificial intelligence, it will be possible to automate the vast majority of jobs out of existence. Under socialism or communism this would be a wonderful thing! People would be completely freed of almost all the unpleasant work, and the remaining work—which could become more of a thing of joy and self-fulfillment—would be rationed out to the population. Moreover, the scope for individual and collective participation of people in the arts, sciences and other human pursuits, would be truly opened up to the masses for the very first time.
However, under capitalism the disappearance of work will be such a major catastrophe that the capitalist system will likely not survive. Adding this rapid disappearance of jobs to the still developing world overproduction crisis, the constant imperialist wars, the capitalist distruction of the environment, and the already existing misery of literally billions of people, the capitalist-imperialist system is rapidly demonstrating once and for all that it is totally incompatible with the continued existence of humanity.
See also below and: COMPUTERS—and Unemployment, DEEP LEARNING
“It’s apparent that society is hitting a tipping point where humans are engineering our own obsolescence.” —Samuel Greengard, quoted in Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), p. 106.
ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORK
A computational program loosely modeled on the structure of neurons in the brain and the varying strength of the interconnections among them. In the simplified representation at the right each brown circle represents an individual “neuron” (or node). Input data arrives from the left and is then processed by the input nodes, which send information to one or more “hidden layers” of nodes, which then finally send data to the output nodes. While this approach to artificial intelligence computer processing may not be exactly the way the brain itself works, it has nevertheless been found to be very effective in simulating a number of brain and mental processes, such as the identification and appropriate labeling of visual images.
See also: DEEP LEARNING, and for more extensive and technical information see the Wikipedia entry at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network
“Artificial neural networks [ANNs] are biologically inspired
networks of artificial neurons, or brain cells.
“In a biological brain, each neuron can be triggered by other neurons whose outputs feed into it, and its own output can then trigger other neurons in turn. A simple ANN has an input layer of neurons where data can be fed into the network, an output layer where results come out, and possibly a couple of hidden layers in the middle where information is processed. (In practice ANNs are simulated entirely in software.) Each neuron within the network has a set of ‘weights’ and an ‘activation function’ that controls the firing of the output. Training a neural network inolves adjusting the neurons’ weights so that a given input produces the desired output. ANNs were starting to achieve some useful results in the early 1990s, for example in recognizing handwritten numbers. But attempts to get them to do more complex tasks ran into trouble.
“In the past decade new techniques and a simple tweak to the activation function has made training deep networks feasible. At the same time the rise of the internet has made billions of documents, images and videos available for training purposes. All this takes a lot of number-crunching power, which became readily available when several AI research groups realized around 2009 that graphical processing units (GPUs), the specialized chips used in PCs and video-games consoles to generate fancy graphics, were also well suited to running deep-learning algorithms. [One research group] found that GPUs could speed up its deep-learning system nearly a hundredfold.”
—Tom Standage, “The Return of the Machinery Question, Special Report on Artificial Intelligence”, the Economist, June 25, 2016, p. 5.
See: STYLISTIC STANDARDS
Every work of art (including every piece of literature and music) is ordinarily viewed as being in some style. A style, in this aesthetic sense, is a sub-category of works in that area of art. In painting, for example, there are the styles known as socialist realism, impressionism, expressionism, cubism, Chinese painting, classical Dutch genre painting, and so forth. Styles come in hierarchies; thus within the broader style of classical European painting there is Dutch painting of the 17th century, and within that style there is the narrower style of Dutch genre painting of that period, and within that there is the style of Frans Hals, and even within that there is the style of Hals’ painting “Singing Boy with a Flute” (a style used by Hals in some of his other paintings, but by no means all of them).
The concept of style is one of the most important basic categories in aesthetics. Aesthetic criticism, for example, can only be objective by comparing a work to the standards appropriate to some particular style.
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page