Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   At - Au   —

ATATÜRK, Mustafa Kemal   (1881-1938)

A means of turning what should be an educational institution into what is in fact also something of a semi-professional sports organization. A great many universities have instituted a program of athletic scholarships because in bourgeois society more economic support from alumni is generated if the school’s athletic teams are more frequently victorious. The more professional the school’s athletic programs become, the larger the alumni donations to the school will usually be. In a socialist society all this would be unnecessary because, as soon as is economically possible (i.e., immediately in a country like the U.S.), every student would get a free college education paid for by the state.
        Some people support college athletic programs in present-day capitalist society, and the athletic scholarships and slender hopes for a later entry into well-paid professional sports that go along with them, because they view this as one of the few possibilities for escape from poverty and ghettos for many poor people, especially oppressed national and ethnic minorities. However, as the following brief quotation demonstrates, this is mostly a forlorn pipe dream, akin to hoping to escape poverty by winning the lottery.

Portion of high school athletes who receive college athletic scholarships: 1/50
        Of high school athlete’s parents who think their child will receive one: 1/2
         —“Harper’s Index”, Harper’s magazine, July 2019, p. 9.

The basic particles of ordinary matter, which are themselves composed of smaller particles—
protons and neutrons which form a central nucleus, and a cloud of electrons surrounding the nucleus. The number of protons in the atom determines which chemical element it is an atom of. There are 92 elements found naturally, and elements with more than 92 protons have been created in the laboratory (all of which are unstable, i.e., radioactive).
        See also: John DALTON

“Matter, though divisible in an extreme degree, is nevertheless not infinitely divisible. That is, there must be some point beyond which we cannot go in the division of matter.... I have chosen the word ‘atom’ to signify these ultimate particles.” —John Dalton, A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808).

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.” —Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, vol. I, (1963), p. 1-2.

See also:

“An atomic bomb can be made with either highly-enriched uranium or plutonium. Uranium, refined from common minerals, is enriched through a large-scale, laborious industrial process; plutonium, a man-made element, is bred from uranium by neutron bombardment in a nuclear reactor and then chemically separated. Natural uranium consists primarily of two variant physical forms called isotopes and designated by the total number of protons and neutrons in their nuclei. U238 (99 percent of natural uranium) and U235 (0.7 percent). Only U235 both fissions and chain-reacts. A reactor with the right moderator—material such as graphite or deuterium oxide (‘heavy water’) that slows down neutrons produced in fission without absorbing too many to allow the chain reaction to continue—can be fueled with natural uranium. Reactors moderated with ordinary water (‘light water’), however, require uranium enriched to more than 2 percent U235 to function. (The higher the enrichment, the smaller the volume of fuel a reactor requires.) Nuclear weapons, which produce an uncontrolled fast-neutron chain reaction, use either uranium enriched to at least 90 percent U235—highly-enriched uranium—or plutonium. Enrichment (for uranium) or breeding in a nuclear reactor (for plutonium) thus represent alternative paths to a bomb.” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 15 fn.




“Fortune favors the audacious.” —Desiderius Erasmus.

The use of computers carried on the human body, and/or other similar technologies, to expand or embellish the information which can otherwise ordinarily be obtained through the senses. For example, special eye-glasses with a small built-in computer may be worn which can use artificial intelligence to recognize and identify people and to connect up to Internet databases which might allow the wearer to spontaneously learn further information about the people they are looking at (such as their addresses, phone numbers, social positions, wealth, political viewpoints, etc.). The earliest version of this technology, “Google Glass” was way too primitive and failed miserably. However, as of late 2019 more sophisticated products are now starting to become available. For better or for worse! (And virtually all technology as used by agents of the capitalist ruling class is seriously dangerous and harmful to the masses.)

AURIGNACIAN   [Physical Anthropology]
A human culture which is a sub-period of the Upper
Paleolithic culture in Europe, and which is characterized by finely produced tools and artifacts made of stone and bone, as well as artistic engravings and cave paintings. It is named after a cave at Aurignac in southwestern France, which was excavated in 1852-60.

AUSTERITY (As a Bourgeois Economic Policy)
A theory or policy often popular in bourgeois economic and political circles that a way to resolve economic crises is through “belt-tightening”. Whose belts are to be tightened? Those of the working class and masses, of course! These asterity programs generally focus on cutting back government expenditures, but the areas where the budgets are mostly cut are almost invariably in social programs such as social security, welfare benefits, unemployment insurance and health care programs. These programs were all won as reforms in an attempt to make life somewhat more bearable under capitalism, but no reforms won in a capitalist society are ever secure and permanent. When the capitalist economy enters a period of serious crisis, as it has done once again at the present time, then these reforms are cut back or even stripped away entirely under the excuse of “economic necessity”.
        The interesting thing is that doing this is actually economically counter-productive even for the bourgeoisie! The more the working class and masses are driven down, the less money they have and the smaller the market for the goods that the workers at the capitalist corporations produce! A capitalist
overproduction crisis develops because the capitalists do not (and cannot) pay their workers for the entire value of all that they produce. Things are kept going (for a while) by allowing working class consumers and the government to go ever deeper into debt. But when the expansion of these ever-larger debt bubbles begins to be curtailed—either through restrictions on consumer debt or through “government austerity” policies—then a crisis breaks out or further intensifies.
        So why then does the ruling class resort to austerity programs from time to time? First, they see the ever increasing government debt and know that it cannot increase forever (and at the ever faster speed that is required). Second, for bourgeois ideological reasons, most of the ruling class tends to disapprove of any government programs that in any way serve to benefit the workers and masses, even in limited ways. And third, their ideology blinds them to how economic crises actually develop under capitalism, and many of them even theorize that it is government debt which is causing these crises [!] (rather than being a temporary measure to prevent crises from developing and/or intensifying). The fact that austerity programs lead to a worsening economy always seems to surprise the largest section of the ruling class!

“A report by the IMF’s internal auditor concluded that having first advised countries to adopt fiscal stimulus during the [2008-2009] global financial crisis, the fund’s later push for austerity had ‘turned out to be a mistake and its timing unfortunate’, because the recovery was fragile. Christine Lagarde, who has led the IMF since 2011, said the auditor’s report benefited from hindsight.” —Economist, Nov. 8, 2014, p. 11.
        [This “mistake” was deep-seated and not just one of “timing”; it reflected the continuing failure of the bourgeois economists at the IMF (as well as those elsewhere) to understand the seriousness of the crisis, let alone its basic nature and cause—as a major overproduction crisis of the sort inherent in the capitalist system. Consequently, while the IMF now recognizes that the austerity program it encouraged actually aggravated the crisis, it still has no idea about how to resolve that continuing crisis!]

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:


AUSTRIAN SCHOOL (Of Bourgeois Economics)
A trend in bourgeois economic thought which originated in Austria in the late nineteenth century, has spread around the world among some of the most doctrinaire apologists for and defenders of capitalism, and which promotes an extreme form of
laissez-faire economic policy, with the absolute minimum of government “interference” in a private capitalist economy. In other words, the Austrian School wants to turn back the clock to the ideology that dominated bourgeois economic thought in the pre-monopoly capitalist era, and is ideologically blind to the absolute necessity in contemporary capitalism for there to be a partial merger of the capitalist state with the “private” corporate economy, if the system is to be kept going at all. Most contemporary bourgeois economists do understand this, to one degree or another, including not only the Keynesians but also those of the dominant neoclassical school. For this reason the ideas of the Austrian School are viewed by most contemporary bourgeois economists as sort of a quaint and outmoded expression of the economic ideas of the nineteenth century. This is especially the case during times of serious capitalist economic crisis, such as the present, which require much more state intervention. On the other hand, when the dominant schools of bourgeois economics seem to be failing so miserably, some bourgeois individuals are then drawn toward economic sects such as the Austrian School.
        The Austrian School was founded by Carl Menger (1840-1921) at the University of Vienna. Menger, along with William Stanley Jevons in Manchester and Léon Walras in Lausanne, Switzerland, was also a founder of the marginalist theory in the 1870s. Thus from the beginning, the Austrian School was totally opposed to the labor theory of value. Later Menger’s student, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914), led this informal “school”, and was especially well-known for his specious attacks on Marxist political economy. Prominent later adherents to this bourgeois school of thought include Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) and Friedrich Hayek (1899–1929), who both also made constant attacks on Marxism and socialism a major part of their work. At the present time many of the adherents of the Austrian School call themselves “libertarians”, or even (pro-capitalist) “anarchists”.
        One of the doctrines of the Austrian School is that interest rates which are too low lead to the growth of too much debt, which in turn leads to excessive investment based on debt or asset bubbles. This, of course is true, but it fails to understand that the creation of debt bubbles of one kind or another is absolutely necessary in the functioning of capitalism. If there were no debt bubbles building up, there would be no capitalist booms whatsoever! Nevertheless, the defenders of capitalism who don’t understand this point are sometimes attracted to those, like the Austrian School, who constantly rant against the growth of debt.
        Keynesians (correctly) view the basic reason for capitalist economic crises to be insufficient market demand (“effective demand”), although their rejection of Marxism (and the concept of surplus value) prevents them from understanding just why this insufficent demand is inherent in capitalism. However, the Austrian School holds that the business cycle is driven by “supply side” factors. They view overinvestment (due to low interest rates) as leading to overproduction and crisis. But they absurdly believe that if interest rates were at just the right level (the so-called “natural rate of interest”) this overinvestment and overproduction would not occur, and neither would inflation. Thus they conclude that all capitalist economic crises are due simply to the mismanagement of the economy by the government. The Austrian School, even less so than the Keynesians, is completely unable to understand how overproduction crises are inherent in capitalism, no matter what the government does.

Authorities, in the sense we are concerned with here, are individuals or groups who are cited or appealed to as knowledgeable experts. A good education should focus, in part, on helping students learn how to determine who the trustworthy authorities are in each major field of learning. In the age of the Internet, with ever-growing hoards of phony “authorities” pushing their lies and nonsense all around us, this skill is more desperately needed than ever!

“But while we should definitely oppose the superstitious belief in authority [which Marx condemned], we do not deny the existence of authorities, nor deny their importance. As Lenin remarked, ‘The working class, which all over the world is waging a hard and persistent struggle for complete emancipation, needs authorities.’ [Lenin, quoted in Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism: A Manual, (Moscow: FLPH, 1961), p. 236.] Authorities are needed in all fields of endeavor, and generally serve as welcomed guides for the rest of us.
       “Human authorities have produced references and guide-books in every field. These are not sacred books, by any means, but they are in many cases very important and generally trustworthy. Dictionaries, for example, serve as authorities (which are themselves produced by many human authorities) on the actual meaning and use of words. To refuse to use dictionaries would be foolish in the extreme. But, on the other hand, to believe that whatever a dictionary says must inevitably be correct is also foolish; it is to hold the dictionary (and dictionary makers) in superstitious reverence. There are in fact lots of errors in dictionaries. As Samuel Johnson remarked, ‘Dictionaries are like watches: the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.’ [Quoted in Rudolf Flesch, ed., The New Book of Unusual Quotations (NY: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 80.] And as Alfred North Whitehead said, ‘Learning preserves the errors of the past, as well as its wisdom. For this reason, dictionaries are public dangers, although they are necessities.’ [Alfred North Whitehead, ‘Immortality’, The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, ed. by P. A. Schilpp (1941), p. 691.] Despite their occasional errors, we still need dictionaries.
       “We need authorities, but we should not hold them to be infallible. On the question of authorities, as on every other question, it is wise to adopt a dialectical viewpoint. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for the anarchist slogan, ‘Question Authority!’ as long as it is not interpreted to mean ‘oppose all authority’, or ‘deny all authority’. (This slogan has been improved upon, by the way. I saw a bumper sticker which proclaimed: ‘Question Authority—Including Your Own!’)”
        —Scott Harrison, The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 12: Leadership of the Masses: Bourgeois and Proletarian, online at:

        See above, and:
PARIS COMMUNE [Engels quote],   CRISIS OF AUTHORITY (In the Capitalist System)

[From the Spanish word ‘golpe’ meaning “knock” or “physical blow” or coup d’état.] A “self-coup”, or in other words, the seizure of further power by someone already in authority, either by illegitimately extending their term in office or by forcing the expansion of the powers they already possess.
        President Trump’s attempt to falsely claim that he won re-election in 2020 and therefore should stay in power for four more years is one example of an attempted autogolpe. The term has also been used to refer to political leaders who undemocratically seize total control of their political parties or movements. This too could apply to Trump and the Republican Party in the U.S. But it has also been said of others, including
Bob Avakian in the period after the year 2000 when he suddenly demanded—and then forced the members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to agree to—a yet further reinforcement of his already unchallengeable leadership and adoration position in that sectarian organization. (See: AP&P)

The replacement of jobs by machines, which—these days—almost always means, or at least includes as part of those machines, electronic computers.
        In the industrial revolution machines replaced human labor but human beings were still needed to control or tend those machines. But major advances in
artificial intelligence are now allowing computers to replace the control functions too which humans were previously needed for, and machines are more and more able to “tend themselves”. Thus the role of human beings in production processes is being fairly rapidly and steadily diminished or even eliminated, not only in manufacturing but also in service industries.
        A two-minute You-Tube film of the Kia automobile factory in Slovakia, shown at the right, is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjAZGUcjrP8
        See also below and: COMPUTERS—and Society,   COMPUTERS—and Unemployment,   “GLOBOTICS”,   ROBOT (Industrial)

“Let us remember that the automatic machine, whatever we think of any feelings it may have or not have, is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic conditions of slave labor. It is perfectly clear that this will produce an unemployment situation, in comparison with which the present recession and even the depression of the thirties will seem a pleasant joke.” —Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1950) (NY: Avon Books, 1967), p. 220. [Wiener, along with the other pioneers of what we now call artificial intelligence, expected the advent of this new age of fully automatic machinery to be only a couple decades in the future. While he was wrong about the timing, the disaster for human employment under the capitalist system is now coming true after all, some 70 or so years later. —Ed.]

1.   Anything a human being is able to do, a machine will someday soon be able to do—and faster, cheaper and better.
         2.   Machines can do practically anything except buy the goods that are produced.
         —Two equally profound observations that both go back at least as far as the 1950s, but whose full truth is only beginning to dawn on people in the 21st century.

AUTOMATION — Low Wages as a “Protection” Against
        See also:

“Automation is reducing human wages; Messrs [Daron] Acemoglu [of MIT] and [Pascual] Restrepo [of Boston University] reckon that one additional industrial robot per thousand workers reduces wages across the economy by 0.5%. Real wage growth in many rich economies has been disappointing for much of the past two decades. Low wages are enabling some reallocation of workers. An overwhelming share of the growth in employment in rich economies over the past few decades has been in services, nearly half in low-paying fields like retailing and hospitality. Employment in such areas has been able to grow, in part, because of an abundance of cheap labour.” —“Free Exchange”, the Economist, April 1, 2017, p. 70.
         [Thus, what is happening is that some of the workers losing their jobs because of automation are finding lower-paying and less skilled jobs elsewhere. But even this is a fairly temporary phenomenon, as the next quotation indicates, because more and more of those low-paying and less-skilled jobs will themselves soon be automated. —Ed.]

“Robots are getting much lighter, they can be repurposed easily and can do delicate work humans find very difficult and once regarded as impossible for machines. ‘One company promises its robots eventually will be sewing garments in the U.S., taking over one of the ultimate sweatshop tasks.’ [‘Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing’, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2015.]
        “The one proviso historically offered by economists was that low wages slow down the incentive for businesses to turn to automation. The ‘good news’ for manufacturing workers was that, as long as they did not press management for higher wages or better working conditions, they might keep some of their jobs. How has this worked in practice? A firm like Nissan relies upon robots for its factories in Japan, but its factories in India rely on cheap local labor. Indeed, a good deal of economic analysis of the speed and intensity of technological innovation and diffusion is based upon the cost of labor. When wages are relatively low, innovation slows down, and when wages are high, firms have a greater incentive to turn to automation. The logic is that as American labor costs continue to decline, firms will be more likely to hire real workers and less inclined to turn to automation, or to move manufacturing jobs abroad to low-wage locales.
        “As we enter the second half of the chessboard, that economic thinking can be filed next to the discredited notion that market economies always gravitate toward full employment, or that market economies tend to reduce inequality. ‘China, India, Mexico, and other emerging nations are learning quickly,’ Rifkin writes, ‘that the cheapest workers in the world are not as cheap, efficient and productive as the information technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence that replaces them.’ [Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014), p. 124.]”
         —Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and the Citizenless Democracy (2016), pp. 99-100. [From a Marxist theoretical perspective, the price of labor power cannot fall significantly below the cost of maintaining basic human existence whereas there is in theory no limit as to how far the cost of automatic machinery may fall. Thus stagnating or even steadily falling wages can at most only slightly postpone the day when automatic machinery will replace the great majority of human labor. This once again shows that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the continued existence of humanity. —S.H.]

AUTOMATION — The Claim that Automation Creates More Jobs than It Displaces
Ever improving technology and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are obviously enabling the capitalists to automate more and more kinds of work, and to replace more and more workers with machines. However, the constant mantra of the ruling class is that workers need not worry about this because while old jobs are disappearing, new jobs are being created at an equal or even faster pace. Moreover, they falsely claim, these are almost always better jobs, requiring more skills, but offering better wages and benefits. This bourgeois argument is so widespread that perhaps we should give it a name, such as the “argument that automation benefits the working class”. The ironic thing, of course, is that this is actually quite true under (genuine)
socialism where the benefits of social production go either directly or indirectly to the working class; but it is more and more utterly false under capitalism where the wealth produced by the workers mostly goes just to the capitalists, the “one percent”.
        During some periods in the past, new technology has in fact led to more jobs, as with the advent of the automobile industry in the 20th century; and this can for a limited period continue to be the case even as automation begins in the new industry. Moreover, sometimes new technology can lead to more jobs because new sorts of work are being performed that did not even exist before. When mainframe computers were introduced into major use by American corporations in the 1950s through 1970s, for example, managers were able to use them to prepare all sorts of new detailed reports to help them make decisions about employees, investment possibilities, etc., that were simply not feasible before then. And even as computers displaced a lot of clerks they also created a lot of tech jobs. However, the more recent trend is for even many of these tech jobs themselves to be automated out of existence. Thus while the advent of computers may well have led at first to more jobs than it displaced, since the 1980s that is no longer true at all.
        In the double graphic at the above right (ironically from a study by some bourgeois economists!), we see that this is an overall trend in the American economy, and not just in the computer field. From World War II until around 1987 it is true that in the U.S. economy new jobs were being created at about the same pace as old jobs were being automated out of existence. The jobs being lost (in percentages of the overall labor force) are labelled as “displacement” in this graphic and are marked with the dashed black line. The new jobs being created are marked with the solid black line, and are labelled “reinstatement”. The net result is the middle blue line, which for the period 1947-1987 is roughly flat. I.e., the new jobs being created pretty closely balanced the old jobs being lost to productivity improvements and automation. However, from 1987 on things have been very different. The rate of new jobs being created is about the same as the earlier period (which is not obvious in the graph since the scale at the bottom is changed from the earlier period). But the rate of job losses due to automation has greatly increased. (I.e., the slope of the second dashed line is much more steeply downward if the space between the years is kept the same as in the first graph.) This leads to the net result shown in the blue line no longer being flat, but declining significantly. (And if the scale is kept constant the net rate of decline is even worse than they show.) In short many more jobs are now disappearing than are being created. (This of course is being hidden by the official employment statistics by simply not counting a large part of the unemployed workers as being in the labor force at all!) [This graphic is from “New Insights on Past and Present Impacts of Automation”, The NBER Digest, June 2019. Please ignore the bourgeois terminology and ideology in the graphic, including its implicit view in the title that labor is only responsible for “a part” of production—when in fact it is responsible for all of it! Machines, after all, also ultimately come from past human labor.]
        Is this change from 1987 just a temporary thing, even if it has lasted more than 30 years already? Is it perhaps due to government misteps or inadequate policies? Not at all; the problem is much deeper than that. Automation has been proceeding step-by-step. At first it was mostly simple repetitive physical work that was automated, such as on assembly lines. But workers were still needed to control those new machines. But now the trend in automation is to also automate the control functions involved in work. Thus even such work as truck driving is now being automated, and the human control function of the truck driver in driving the truck is becoming obsolete. Moreover, even the manufacture of robotic machinery is itself being more and more automated!
        We can therefore predict that this pace of automation will further pick up in the next few decades. Vast numbers of jobs will be automated out of existence and fewer and fewer new jobs will be created to replace them. The biggest leaps in this direction, however, will inevitably occur during periods of sharpened economic crisis, when corporations will cut jobs en masse, most of them never to return.
        If the capitalist economy is rapidly moving in the direction of no longer needing very many workers at all, and tossing them jobless and homeless out on the streets, then undoubtedly the working class should be moving to get rid of capitalism itself. In this way the improvements in increased productivity and automation can go to everyone, and can greatly benefit the people rather than severely harming them.

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.

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