Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Da - Dd   —

[From Hindi and related languages, ‘dakaiti’:] A term often used in English in India for armed robbery or banditry. More fully: the criminal activity of gangs of armed bandits, including not only armed robbery but also often murder and other crimes. Dacoit is the word for an individual bandit.

An armed squad. This is a term frequently used in India for small revolutionary guerrilla squads.

[Sometimes not capitalized.] The newer, respectful name in India and South Asia for what were once outrageously called the “Untouchables” or the “Scheduled Castes”. Unlike those terms, Dalit is the name used by these people to refer to themselves, and means “the crushed” or “the oppressed”. Traditionally they have been landless and restricted to the worst and poorest paying jobs. Because these people have been so victimized by the Hindu caste system, many of them in modern times have converted to Buddhism or Christianity, and some have given up on religion entirely.
        See also:

DALTON, John   (1766-1844)
The developer of the modern atomic theory in science, and thus one of the most important founders of the science of chemistry. He also made contributions to meteorology and the physics of gases.

“Dalton transformed the atomic concept from a philosophical speculation into a scientific theory—framed to explain quantitative observations, suggesting new tests and experiments, and capable of being given quantitative form through the establishment of relative masses of atomic particles.” —Arnold Arons, Development of Concepts of Physics (1965).

“So convincingly did Dalton present his [atomic] theory that within twenty years it was adopted by the majority of scientists. Furthermore, chemists followed the program that his book suggested: determine exactly the relative atomic weights; analyze chemical compounds by weight; determine the exact combination of atoms which constitutes each species of molecule. The success of that program has, of course, been overwhelming. It is diffiult to overstate the importance of the atomic hypotheses. It is the central notion in our understanding of chemistry.” —Michael H. Hart, The 100: A ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (1992).

A region of about 35,600 square miles in central India, where the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha (formerly Orissa), and Andhra Pradesh meet. The region is about 200 miles north to south, and about 300 miles east to west. It is one of the major centers of Maoist revolutionary activity in India, as led by the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

As everyone knows, many very useful and necessary tools are actually quite dangerous. Certainly box knives, chisels and saws, and even hammers, can be very dangerous if not used carefully. A friend of mine accidentally cut off several fingers with a power saw. But just because many tools can be very dangerous this does not mean that we don’t need them or should not use them; we just have to be very alert and very careful with these dangerous tools when we do use them.
        The point in bringing this up is to discuss just how dangerous some of the social tools can be which we revolutionaries and the working class certainly need to use, starting with our own revolutionary political party. Such a party gets started by those among the working class and masses who really are genuinely concerned to make that party an instrument of the masses, a tool for the people to make use of in helping to advance their own collective interests, and especially the very most central of those interests—making socialist and communist revolution. When the working class and masses come to rely on such a party they are in fact making use of a very dangerous tool. Even at the beginning, it may not be truly and completely under their control. And even it it is, for a time, it may not always remain so! This is the bitter lesson that history has taught us, with both the once great political parties which led the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, both of which eventually escaped the control of the oppressed and exploited people, and instead came under the control of a new class of exploiters.
        So how then can we train and condition ourselves and the masses to be very careful indeed with our revolutionary political organizations and eventual MLM communist party as they develop and gradually win mass confidence and support? It is a matter of working hard to both build trust and confidence in such an organization or party while at the same time also working dialectically in the other direction—of encouraging some real, if secondary, skepticism and distrust among both the members and among the masses. (Non-dialecticians don’t believe these supposedly “logically opposed” things are simultaneously possible; dialecticians are sure that they are. I personally have more faith in a party that strongly urges its membership and the masses to “constantly keep an eye on them” and criticize them if necessary!) In this way people must learn to be alert to any signs of danger from their social tools, any indication that the people (both the members and the masses) are no longer in control of their tool for changing society. To be safe with a potentially dangerous tool, the users of the tool must always be in control of that tool, and not the other way around.
        With regard to a genuinely MLM political organization or party, what this all especially means in practice is that the democratic aspect of
democratic-centralism (D-C) must be for real, and not merely window dressing, or in words only. If the democratic aspect of D-C is only nominal, then the members of the group are not really in control of it. And if the group or party is not using the method of “from the masses, to the masses” (the mass line), then the masses are not really in control of that organization either, no matter what anybody claims or thinks.
        The second social tool that the members of a revolutionary organization or party must always be concerned and alert about is the leadership of the group. Just as the revolutionary masses have to keep a close eye on their leadership (the revolutionary party), the members of that revolutionary party must themselves keep a close and cautious eye on the leadership of that party. Certainly, the masses do need leadership, they do need a revolutionary party to guide them. And just as certainly that revolutionary party itself does need a leadership structure. But leaders, just like parties and organizations, can potentially veer off course in all sorts of negative and dangerous ways, and begin to focus on their own personal interests instead of the interests of the working class. Leaders, like any tool of the masses, are in fact potentially quite dangerous! And the members of the revolutionary organization have to learn to not only keep an eye on them but to regularly criticize them when signs of inappropriate behavior occur. And if the leaders don’t like getting criticisms from the members, get angry, and punish those who do make criticisms, then that is itself a really major sign that the members of the party, and the masses, are in fact losing control over the party!
        Parties and organizations, and the leaders of these groups, are necessary but dangerous tools of the masses. We’ve got to keep a critical eye on them. If the parties, or organizations, and their leadership start to oppose this point of view, then that is in itself a sign that a “Cultural Revolution” style struggle is desperately needed.   —S.H. [June 9, 2023]


DARWIN, Charles   (1809-1882)
English naturalist and primary creator of the scientific theory of biological evolution by natural selection. He was one of the most important and most influential of all scientists in human history.
        See also below, and:

“How great is the stature of the thoroughly modest Darwin, who not only collects, arranges and elaborates thousands of facts from the whole of biology but takes delight in quoting any predecessor, however insignificant, even to the diminution of his own glory, in comparison with that braggadocio Dühring, who while contributing nothing of value himself is over-exacting of others...”   —Engels, preparatory notes for the writing of Anti-Dühring (c. 1876), MECW 25:599.

DARWIN — Marx Dedication Myth
The erroneous claim that Marx asked permission of Darwin to dedicate volume 2 of Capital to him, and that Darwin refused. No such events actually occurred despite the continuing repetition of this myth.

“In 1931 a Soviet journal claimed that it had a letter from Darwin rejecting a request by Marx to dedicate Capital 2 to him. In fact, the Darwin letter was written to Edward Aveling, partner of Marx’s daughter Eleanor, who wanted to dedicate his own book, The Student’s Darwin, to the great scientist. Darwin refused because he did not wish to be associated with the open attacks on religion. It was almost fifty years before the myth that Marx had asked Darwin’s permission to dedicate Capital 2 to him was disproved.”   —Ian Fraser & Lawrence Wilde, The Marx Dictionary (2011), pp. 73-74.

The general scientific theory of evolution by natural selection initially developed by
Charles Darwin, but also often including a variety of secondary erroneous scientific notions and/or reactionary political ideas.
        Marxism, of course, enthusiastically embraces evolutionary science, and sees in its materialist explanations for the origin of species some important additional verification of its whole philosophical outlook, including the fact that nature and society are not predetermined to develop according to some religious or cosmic plan. Marx, Engels, and other Marxists, have nevertheless been critical of some secondary views of Darwin and his followers, and especially their bourgeois tendencies toward “Social Darwinism”. The most extensive discussions of Darwinism in the Marxist classics are in Engels’s work Anti-Dühring (1878) and his unfinished manuscript Dialectics of Nature (1873-1882).

“[D]uring the past 4 weeks I have read all manner of things. [Among others] Darwin’s book on Natural Selection [On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection]. Although developed in the crude English fashion, this is the book which, in the field of natural history, provides the basis for our views.” —Marx, Letter to Engels, Dec. 19, 1860, MECW 41:232.

“Darwin’s work [Origin of Species...] is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. One does, of course have to put up with the clumsy English style of argument. Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.” —Marx, Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, Jan. 16, 1861, MECW 41:246-7.

“I’m amused that Darwin, at whom I’ve been taking another look, should say that he also applies the ‘Malthusian’ theory to plants and animals, as though in Mr Malthus’s case the whole thing didn’t lie in its not being applied to plants and animals, but only—with its geometric progression—to humans as against plants and animals. It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the society of England with its division of labor, competition, opening up of new markets, ‘inventions’ and Malthusian ‘struggle for existence’. It is Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes [war of all against all] and is reminiscent of Hegel’s Phenomenology, in which civil society figures as an ‘intellectual animal kingdom’, whereas, in Darwin, the animal kingdom figures as civil society.” —Marx, Letter to Engels, June 18, 1862, MECW 41:381.

“Darwin was led by the struggle for life in English society—the competition of all with all, bellum omnium contra omnes—to discover competition ... as the ruling law of ‘bestial’ and vegetative life. The Darwinism [i.e., Social Darwinism], conversely, considers this a conclusive reason for human society never to emancipate itself from its bestiality.” —Marx, Letter to Paul and Laura Lafargue, Feb. 15, 1869, MECW 43:217.

“Of Darwin’s doctrine, I accept the theory of evolution, but assume Darwin’s method of verification (struggle for life, natural selection) to be merely a first, provisional, incomplete expression of a newly discovered fact. Before Darwin, the very people who now, wherever they look, see nothing but the struggle for existence (Vogt, Büchner, Moleshott and others), once laid particular stress on co-operation in organic nature, the way in which the plant kingdom supplies oxygen and food to the animal kingdom and, conversely, the latter supplies plants with carbonic acid and manure, as indicated notably by Liebig. Both conceptions are to some extent justified, but each is as one-sided and narrow as the other. The interaction of natural bodies—both dead and living—comprises harmony as well as strife, struggle as well as co-operation. Hence, if a self-styled naturalist takes it upon himself to subsume all the manifold wealth of historical development under the one-sided and meagre axiom ‘struggle for existence’, a phrase which, even in the field of nature, can only be accepted cum grano salis [with a grain of salt], his method damns itself from the outset....
        “All that the Darwinian theory of the struggle for existence boils down to is an extrapolation from society to animate nature of Hobbes’ theory of the bellum omnium contra omnes and of the bourgeois-economic theory of competition together with the Malthusian theory of population. Having accomplished this feat (the absolute admissibility of which, as indicated above..., I contest, especially where the Malthusian theory is concerned), these people proceed to re-extrapolate the same theories from organic nature to history, and then claim to have proved their validity as eternal laws of human society. The puerility of this procedure is self-evident, and there is no need to waste words on it. If, however, I did wish to enlarge upon it, I should represent them, firstly as bad economists and secondly as bad naturalists and philosophers.” —Engels, Letter to Pyotr Lavrov, November 12-17, 1875, MECW 45:106-7.

Members of the Dashnaktsutyun Party, a reactionary party of the landlords and bourgeoisie in Armenia, which was formed in the 1890s.

DAVIS, Angela   (1944-   )
Prominent African-American revisionist who was a long-time member of the so-called
Communist Party USA, and then later split off with a CPUSA faction to form the Committees of Correspondence.

A violent demonstration, or riot, organized and led by the “Weathermen” (later
Weather Underground Organization) faction of the Students for a Democratic Society in Chicago on October 8, 1969, and two days later. This demonstration was against the U.S. imperialist war in Vietnam and was timed to coincide with the Chicago Seven trial. The organizing slogan was “Bring the war home!”, and the organizers hoped to create massive chaos in Chicago with many thousands of protesters causing widespread havoc. They expected this to start to “wake up” the American population to the vicious imperialist war going on, and to be the first step in a growing series of destructive and chaotic demonstrations by students and others which would eventually force the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam. One of the organizers, Bill Ayers, said much later that

“The Days of Rage was an attempt to break from the norms of kind of acceptable theatre of ‘here are the anti-war people: containable, marginal, predictable, and here’s the little path they’re going to march down, and here’s where they can make their little statement.’ We wanted to say, ‘No, what we’re going to do is whatever we had to do to stop the violence in Vietnam.’” [From the documentary The Weather Underground, produced by Carrie Lozano and directed by Bill Siegel and Sam Green, 2003.]

The organizers expected many thousands of protesters to come, but only two or three hundred actually showed up. Nevertheless they went ahead, first by rampaging through the afluent Gold Coast neighborhood, smashing the windows of a bank and many cars. After a few blocks they ran into a police barracade which they charged. More than a thousand police counter-attacked, and at least twice the cops purposefully ran squad cars directly into groups of protestors. The whole riot lasted only about half an hour, during which 6 Weathermen were shot by the police and a large number were injured. 68 rioters were arrested and 28 police were injured.
        Shortly before that demonstration/riot, the Weathermen had blown up a statue honoring the police. Two days later, they staged another violent demonstration of about 300 people which broke through police lines and smashed the windows of cars and stores in the downtown Chicago Loop area. Within 15 minutes more than half of the crowd had been arrested, including most of the leaders of the Weathermen.
        While the motives of the protesters (opposing the imperialist war and attempting to stop it) were admirable, this sort of “propaganda by the deed” turned out to be highly counter-productive. It did not serve to turn the American masses against the war; on the contrary, it served more to turn many of them against the students and the anti-war movement. It is not that violence is necessarily wrong, but people should be smart enough to only use it when there is good reason to believe it will advance a good cause. The Weathermen were so out of touch with the masses that they could not understand this. They were even quite out of touch with the thinking of most of the members of SDS itself, which is why they expected so many more members to show up at the demonstration. And, finally, this sort of pointless hooliganism (in the words of Engels), along with the destructive penetration of the Progressive Labor Party into SDS, ended up destroying that important organization, and seriously harming the student, anti-war, and revolutionary movements as a whole.


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