Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Di - Dn   —


“In the absence of ... physical measures [for the diagnosis of mental diseases], the American Psychiatric Association (APA) developed a psychiatrists’ ‘bible’—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)—from the sales of which the APA makes a handsome profit. First published in 1952 and currently going through its fifth revision, it is essentially a catalogue of reported signs and symptoms which form the basis of the classification of mental and nervous system diseases, categories often influenced by the raced [racial] and gendered values of the psychiatrists themselves. Not infrequently this resulted in inappropriate diagnosis and prescription. One conspicuous example was the classification of women experiencing the menopause as pathologically anxious and depressed, leading to the widespread over-prescription of diazepam, an addictive drug. Homosexuality, originally listed by DSM as a disorder, was only declassified in 1973 with the rise of the gay and lesbian movements, and removed from subsequent DSM editions. Old disorders disappear or are renamed. Minimal Brain Dysfunction becomes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Multiple Personality Disorder becomes Dissociative Identity Disorder; Manic-Depression becomes Bipolar Disorder. New diagnoses such as Panic Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder appear. Depending on which boxes are ticked, a diagnosis is made and a drug prescribed. The US origins of the manual lie not only in the expanding categories developed through psychiatric research but in the requirements of an intensely marketized medical system in which clinicians can only provide treatment if the symptoms presented to them are classified as fundable by medical insurance.” —Hilary & Steven Rose, Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology (2014), pp. 256-7.

A discussion or argument which proceeds in a dialectical manner. Sometimes bourgeois philosophers or commentators view this as simply meaning that each side in the argument tries to understand the point of view of the other side. However a dialectical stance is rather different than just seeing “both sides” of an argument. It is first a matter of understanding the complexity of most issues. It is understanding that opposing views cannot both be fully correct, but that there might be some partial or secondary truth even to the basically incorrect view. (Confer the dialectical principle of the “interpenetration of opposites”.) It is a matter of understanding that basically correct points of view can still usually be further improved. It is a matter of being respectful enough of the views of one’s opponent to at least consider if there might be some secondary truth to what they are saying. However, it does not require any respect for outrageously wrong or reactionary points of view.
        If neither side in a discussion or argument approaches it dialectically at all, then it will go nowhere; neither side will budge at all. If just one side approaches the argument dialectically, then that person stands the chance of learning something—possibly that they were completely wrong, or possibly only how to phrase their argument in a better or less misleading way. But the other side will probably still remain totally unconvinced. Probably only if both sides approach the issue in a more-or-less dialectical fashion will the result be totally satisfactory. Unfortunately, probably a rare thing in this society!

“When two dialecticians discuss some matter, it is like a single mind at work!” —Scott’s painfully obvious conclusion, #7.

An important statement of what dialectical and historical materialism are, which unfortunately became absolutely rigid dogma within the Soviet Union and the world communist movement for several decades. Nevertheless, even if it is not the be-all and end-all of these two topics, it still remains a very useful introduction to them.
        This work was written in 1938 as Chapter 4 of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)—Short Course, the whole of which was written under Stalin’s close direction, and published in Russian in 1938 and then in English in 1939. Afterwards, this chapter was issued as a separate pamphlet and long remained in print in that form. It is available online in HTML format at:
http://marx2mao.com/Stalin/DHM38.html and also at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm

“Stalin’s Dialectical and Historical Materialism is extracted from Chapter IV of the History of the C.P.S.U.(B). Defining dialectical materialism as ‘the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party,’ he explains that it is dialectical in its method, materialist in its theory. Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life.
        “This book contains a brilliant exposition of the principal features of (1) the Marxist dialectical method, (2) Marxist philosophical materialism and (3) the Marxist science of society. In it are summarized the fruits of the whole experience of the application and development of Marxist theory in the course of the working class struggle for socialism.
        “1. Stalin shows how the Marxist dialectical method studies things always in their inter-connection and in their movement. It studies development as taking place through the transformation of quantitative into qualitative changes and as the disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things. Whatever we may consider, there is always something coming into being and something ceasing to be, something arising and something dying—and so the struggle between new and old constitutes the motive force of all development.
        “2. Stalin shows how materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that matter is primary and thought secondary, and that the material world and its laws are fully knowable.
        “3. Stalin shows how society, too, develops according to regular laws, so that the study of history becomes a science. The working class party must be guided by knowledge of the laws of development of society.
        “The determining force of social development is always to be found in the material life of society, and this provides the basis for the development of men’s ideas, theories and political institutions.
        “This does not imply, however, Stalin explains, that theories and political institutions are of no significance in social life. On the contrary, theories and institutions which arise on the basis of the new developing forces in material life themselves become an active force in that development.
        “The chief force in the complex of conditions of material life that determines the development of society is the mode of production. Here Stalin distinguishes (1) the forces of production, consisting of (a) the instruments of production and (b) people with their production experience and skill, and (2) the relations of production, which in their totality constitute the economic structure of society.
        “He shows how the forces of production continually develop. And corresponding to their development there are five principal types of relations of production—primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism.
        “Three principal features of production are noted.
           “(a) Production never remains stationary for long, but is always in a state of change and development.
           “(b) Change and development of the mode of production always begins with change and development of the productive forces. First the productive forces change and develop, and then, depending on these changes and in conformity with them, the relations of production, the economic relations, change.
           “(c) The rise of new productive forces and new production relations begins within the old system and takes place independent of men’s will and intentions.
        “In the course of development, the existing system of production relations becomes a fetter on further development of the forces of production. Then follows a period of social revolution. New relations of production are established by the revolutionary overthrow of the old relations of production, and this is effected by class struggle, by the overthrow of the old ruling class and rise to power of a new ruling class.
        “Stalin shows how the capitalist relations of production have become a fetter of further development, and how under socialism the way is free for a great further development of the productive forces.
        “In conclusion, he quotes the passage from Marx’s Preface to the Critique of Political Economy in which Marx summed up the essence of historical materialism. [See entry for: "Critique of Political Economy: Preface" for Stalin and Cornforth’s summary of that passage.]
         —Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952), pp. 22-23.

DIALECTICAL LEAPS — Popular Terms For and Conceptions Of
Here are some of the terms often heard which seem to be grasping at one or more aspects of what we Marxists mean by dialectical leaps:
Qualitative leap
        Tipping point
        Coming to a head
        Tectonic shift
        Sea change
        Inflection point
        What all these (and sometimes other) terms seem to be most centrally getting at is that in nature and all spheres of human life, we often find relatively sudden, and relatively large, changes in some process or situation. The term qualitative leap emphasizes that this often entails a fundamental change in the nature of the thing. The term sea change is more limited in that it seems only to emphasize a change in magnitude. The term tipping point once again seems to suggest some qualitative change, or else some major change in the direction as well as the magnitude of a process. The term tectonic shift invokes the image of a sudden massive earthquake. An inflection point, in popular discourse, is similar to a tipping point. [In mathematics an inflection point is a point on a curve which separates an arc with a concave curve upward from an arc with a concave curve downward (or, in other words, the isolated points where the second derivative of the function equals zero.)]
        Other terms which sometimes have similar connotations are: dawn, awakening, crisis, snapping, bursting, explosion, etc. Many of these terms emphasize the suddenness of the change, as well as the magnitude.
        See also: CONJUNCTURE

“The Zen Buddhism/Chan patriarch Huineng (A.D. 638-713) espoused that enlightenment came as a ‘sudden awakening,’ as opposed to the gradual attainment by which earlier Buddhists set store.” —“Maverick Monks and Nothingness”, New York Times, National Edition, June 24, 2022.

The logic of dialectical reasoning, as opposed to formal logic (see
LOGIC—FORMAL). [More to be added...]

The scientific philosophy which underlies revolutionary Marxism (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) ... [More to be added...]

Neither Marx nor Engels appears to have actually used the precise term ‘dialectical materialism’, though it is clear that this name appropriately summarizes their philosophical outlook. They did occasionally use expressions such as ‘the materialist dialectic’, though it seems for the purpose of distinguishing their own conception of dialectics from that of Hegel and other idealists, and apparently not in a way which could be construed as the name for their overall philosophy.
        In their division of labor Engels wrote more about philosophy than Marx (who focused on political economy), but it was quite clear that they had essentially the same views on the subject. They read each other’s work and often helped each other in their writing projects. And no one should have any doubt that their common philosophy emphasized these two main points: dialectics and materialism. It is pathetic to see bourgeois commentators try to deny this or to absurdly attempt to show that Marx and Engels somehow had totally opposed philosophic viewpoints!
        The exact term ‘dialectical materialism’ itself was apparently first used (in German) by the marvelous German worker-philosopher, Joseph Dietzgen, in his work “Excursions of a Socialist into the Domain of Epistemology” in 1887. [English translation online at:
https://www.marxists.org/archive/dietzgen/1887/epistemology.htm ] It seems probable that his intent there was mostly to distinguish a new type of materialism from the earlier non-dialectical type, rather than to give Marxist philosophy as a whole a new name. Nevertheless, the continuing use of the term ‘dialectical materialism’ did soon evolve into the formal name for Marxist philosophy that it is today. Its first use in the Russian revolutionary movement appears to have been by Plekhanov in the German-language article “Hegel’s sechzigsten Todestag”, in Neue Zeit, vol. X, #1, in 1891. He also used the phrase (in Russian) in his introduction to the Russian edition of Engels’s Ludwig Feuerbach in 1892. Lenin seems to have first used the term in 1894 in his pamphlet What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are [Cf. LCW 1:181 & 183], but thereafter used the term routinely, especially in his important philosophical work, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908). And today all Marxist-Leninist-Maoists around the world use ‘dialectical materialism’ as the formal name for MLM philosophy.

NEGATION (In Dialectics)

The most abstract or general scientific laws or principles governing the development of nature, society and thought. The most basic and important of these principles is the law of contradiction in things, the conception of things and processes as a unity of opposites. Some of the more important subsidiary laws, principles or aspects of dialectics include the transformation of quantity into quality, dialectical or qualitative leaps, the interpenetration of opposites, the negation of the negation, the particularity of contradiction, the importance of recognizing the fundamental contradiction and of determining the principal contradiction at any given time, as well as the principal aspect of a contradiction, and so forth.
        Some beginning conceptions of dialectics developed in ancient times, especially in ancient Greece and in China. The three major stages in the development of dialectics are shown in the graphic on the right. [From: Marxist-Leninist Philosophy: Diagrams, tables, illustrations for students of Marxist-Leninist theory, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987), p. 20.] The major contribution of Mao Zedong to MLM dialectics should also be added to this Soviet graphic along with Marx, Engels and Lenin, especially in his important work “On Contradiction” (1937).
        See also nearby related entries, and:

“Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:131.

“In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:223.

“Dialectics in the proper sense [i.e., as opposed to Hegel’s idealist conception] is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects: not only are appearances transitory, mobile, fluid, demarcated only by conventional boundaries, but the essence of things is so as well.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:253-4.

“We want gradually to disseminate dialectics, and to ask everyone gradually to learn the use of the scientific dialectical method.” —Mao, quoted in Peking Review, #47, Nov. 20, 1970, p. 2.

[To be added... ]

“The old Greek philosophers were all born natural dialecticians, and Aristotle, the most encyclopedic intellect of them, had already analyzed the most essential forms of dialectic thought.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:21.

“When we consider and reflect upon nature at large or the history of mankind or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away. This primitive, naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that of ancient Greek philosophy, and was first clearly formulated by Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away.” —Engels, ibid.

[To be added... ]

CHANGE—Dialectics Of

NATURE—Dialectics Of, and the entry below for Engels’s book by this name.

        This work is available online in several places including:

“Engels’ Dialectics of Nature is an unfinished book. A few chapters were left by him at the time of his death in more or less finished form; but a great part of it consists merely of notes. In this book he intended to demonstrate how the discoveries of natural science confirm that the same dialectical laws which operate in human society operate also in nature, and how the dialectical method constitutes a great theoretical weapon of the natural sciences.
        “When Engels died in 1895, the manuscripts of the Dialectics of Nature fell into the hands of [Eduard] Bernstein (the ‘revisionist’), who did not see fit to publish any part of them. They never saw the light until published by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in the U.S.S.R. in 1927.
        “Parts of this book are hard to follow for readers who have not at least some knowledge of the natural sciences—though those who have will find every page a vertible gold-mine of ideas.
        “But the general reader will find little difficulty with the Introduction (which deals with the history of science, and shows how the old view of the universe as a static system has been replaced by a picture of universal evolution); with Chapter II (which explains the dialectical law of the transformation of quantitative into qualitative changes); with Chapter IX—‘The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man’ (which gives a classical exposition of the Marxist view of human nature and its development); and with Chapter X—‘Natural Science and the Spirit World’ (in which Engels gives his estimate of ‘Spiritualism.’).
        “The Introduction and The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man have been published separately in the two-volume Marx-Engels Selected Works, and can be studied independenly of the rest of the Dialectics of Nature.
        “Chapters III, IV and V—on ‘The Basic Forms of Motion,’ ‘The Measure of Motion’ and ‘Heat’ contain vitally important material on the dialectical conception of the forms of motion in matter, and give a brilliant account of the dialectics of the science of mechanics.
        “Two chapters, on ‘Electricity’ and ‘Tidal Friction,’ are of mainly historical interest.
        “The long chapter of ‘Notes’ contains material of the utmost interest and importance relating to the history of science, scientific method, the philosophy of science, the laws of dialectics, the materials of the special sciences."
         —Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics, prepared and edited by Maurice Cornforth, (London: 1952), pp. 25-26.

“The scientific term ‘dictatorship’ means nothing more nor less than authority untrammeled by any laws, absolutely unrestricted by any rules whatsoever, and based directly on force.” —Lenin, LCW 10:246. Under a dictatorship laws and conventions may still exist, and even be respected by the government most of the time; but they are dispensable whenever “necessary” in order to preserve the dictatorship. In Marxist theory, all states are dictatorships of one or another social class.
        The concept of dictatorship is often reduced, in bourgeois discourse, to personal dictatorship, or
absolute rule by one individual. But personal dictatorships are relatively uncommon and fleeting, while class dictatorships are universal in class society. Personal dictatorships are merely one of many forms that class dictatorships may take.

Bourgeois, or capitalist, rule; domination of society by the capitalist class. There are two main forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,
bourgeois democracy and fascism. In either case, bourgeois rule is based ultimately on force and violence directed against the lower classes, especially the proletariat, and whatever laws or rules the bourgeoisie may put in place are dispensed with whenever necessary to maintain its rule.

Proletarian rule. “The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws.” —Lenin, LCW 28:236.
        See also:
CLASS STRUGGLE—In Socialist Society

“The indispensable characteristic, the necessary condition of dictatorship is the forcible suppression of the exploiters as a class, and, consequently, the infringement of ‘pure democracy’, i.e., of equality and freedom, in regard to that class.” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:256.

“The exploiters and reactionaries are, under any circumstance, the minority while the exploited and revolutionaries are the majority. Therefore the dictatorship of the former is un-justifiable, whereas that of the latter is fully justifiable.” —Mao, directive regarding the Cultural Revolution, June 17, 1966. SW9:405.

DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT — Proletarian Democracy Within
[Intro material to be added... ]

“Chairman Mao teaches us that there should be democracy within the ranks of the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the safeguard for the implementation of extensive proletarian democracy. Extensive proletarian democracy in turn is aimed at consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. Without extensive proletarian democracy, there is the danger that the dictatorship of the proletariat will turn into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Without the dicatatorship of the proletariat there can be no proletarian democracy. There cannot even be democracy on a small scale, let alone extensive democracy. In the course of the great proletarian cultural revolution, our organs of proletarian dictatorship must resolutely and unswervingly guarantee the democratic rights of the people and guarantee that free airing of views, the posting of big-character posters, great debates, and the large-scale exchange of revolutionary experience proceed in a normal way.” — “Carry the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Through to the End”, a joint New Year’s editorial of Renmin Ribao [People’s Daily] and Hongqi [Red Flag], Jan. 1, 1967, Peking Review, vol. 10, #1, Jan. 1, 1967, pp. 13-14.

DIDEROT, Denis   (1713-1784)
French philosopher of the
Enlightenment, prominent atheist, and leader of the Encyclopaedists. He was a prominent ideologist of the French revolutionary bourgeoisie of the 18th century.


Die gedanken sind frei
         (My Thoughts Are Free)

        I think as I please
        And this gives me pleasure.
        My conscience decrees,
        This right I must treasure.
        My thoughts will not cater
        To duke or dictator,
        No man can deny —
        Die gedanken sind frei.”
         —A 16th century German peasant song.

A bimonthly socialist magazine issued by the women’s proletarian movement in Germany. It was published from 1890 to 1925, and was edited by
Clara Zetkin from 1892 to 1917.

DIETZGEN, Joseph   (1828-1888)
German tannery worker, Social-Democrat, and self-educated philosopher who arrived at the basic principles of dialectical materialism independently of Marx and Engels.
        For some of Lenin’s comments commending Dietzgen and in defense of him, and also some very secondary criticisms, see sections of his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908) and his article “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Dietzgen” (May 5, 1913) (LCW 19:79-82).

“Dietzgen wrote at a time when simplified, vulgarized materialism was most widespread. Dietzgen, therefore, laid his greatest stress on the historical changes that had taken place in materialism, on the dialectical character of materialism, that is, on the need to support the point of view of development, to understand that all human knowledge is relative, to understand the multilateral connections between, and interdependence of, all phenomena in the universe, and to develop the materialism of natural history to a materialist conception of history.
         “Because he lays so much stress on the relativity of human knowledge, Dietzgen often becomes confused and makes incorrect concessions to idealism and agnosticism....
         “By and large, however, Dietzgen was a materialist. He was an enemy of clericalism and agnosticism.” —Lenin, “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Dietzgen” (May 5, 1913) (LCW 19:80). [In my opinion Lenin’s observation about the connection of too great an emphasis on the relativity of human knowledge to idealism and agnosticism is positively brilliant! —S.H.]

DIFFERENTIAL   [Mathematics]
The product of the
derivative of a function of one variable with the increment of the independent variable; or analogs of this idea with sums of products of partial derivatives of multivariable functions with their corresponding increments.
        Example: For the function y = f(x) at the point x = a, the differential dy = f '(a) • dx

The part of
differential and integral calculus concerned mostly with determining the slopes of tangents to curves or the rate of change of functions with respect to their variables, especially through the use of derivatives and differentials (see above).

A mathematical equation containing
differentials or derivatives of a function.
        See also: INTEGRAL CALCULUS

The differential theory of rent is that the rent on any piece of land is determined by the relative productivity of that land compared to that of the least fertile land being rented for that purpose. Thus if a plot of land is twice as productive per acre as the worst land being used, then the rent on the better land should tend toward twice as much as for the worst land.
Sir William Petty was the first to put forward this idea.

A small radical group in England during the period of the Commonwealth, which attempted to institute rural communism through direct peaceful action. It was led by Gerrard Winstanley (1609-72), and confiscated unused wasteland owned by the local landlords on which to create collectively owned farms and dwellings. These settlements were attacked and ultimately dispersed by the landowners and their thugs.

“On Sunday, April 1, 1649, a group of poor men gathered with their families on St. Georges Hill, near the town of Kingston in Surrey, England. The hill was barren and seemed an unpromising locale for a new settlement. But the newcomers had come to stay: they had brought their belongings with them, and quickly set about building huts to shelter them from the elements. Then they began to dig. Day after day they continued digging, carving out trenches and planting vegetables on the rocky hill, while calling on others in the nearby towns to join them. ‘They invite all to come in and help them,’ noted one observer, ‘and promise them meat, drink, and clothes.’ They confidently predicted that ‘they will be four or five thousand within ten days,’ and while this proved overly optimistic, the community did attract newcomers, their numbers soon reaching several dozen families. And yet they went on digging.
        “As the community slowly grew, suspicion of the ‘Diggers’ in the surrounding towns and villages grew along with it. ‘It is feared they have some design in hand,’ noted the same observer, and he was not mistaken. Digging trenches on a barren hill may seem like an innocent act to us, but things were different in seventeenth-century England. With their actions, the Diggers were asserting ownership and their right to cultivate enclosed lands that were owned and controlled by the local grandees. It was a calculated and open assault on the ownership rights of the propertied classes, and if their intentions were not sufficiently plain from their actions, the Diggers soon followed up with a pamphlet they distributed far and wide. ‘The work we are going about is this,’ they explained: ‘To dig up Georges Hill and the waste Ground thereabouts... that we may work in righteousness, and lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All, both Rich and Poor... not Lording over another, but all looking upon each other, as equals in the Creation.’
        “Such a bold denial of the rights of private ownership, would have been enough to send chills down a landowner’s spine, then and now. But there was more: ‘that this Civil Propriety is the Curse, is manifest thus, Those that Buy and Sell Land, and are landlords, have got it either by Oppression, or Murther, or Theft.’ All private property was, according to this logic, stolen, and should by all rights be returned to its rightful owner: the people. True, the Diggers professed pacifism and made a point of disavowing the use of force to reclaim the land. But since several of their members were veterans of the English Civil War and its ravages, the ‘better sort’ of people in Weyburn and surroundings were far from reassured. Having been labeled thieves and murderers, and their property rights denied, they were understandably alarmed. Fearing for their land and possessions, not to mention their lives and safety, they struck back.
        “As established members of society, they first turned to the authorities.... [Who referred them to the courts. The landowners were disappointed with this limited initial result.] They charged the Diggers with sexual licentiousness, and prevailed on the courts to bar them from speaking in their own defense. Meanwhile, Francis Drake, lord of the nearby manor of Cobham, organized raids on the Diggers’ settlement, ultimately succeeding in burning down one of their communal houses. Faced with a concerted legal and physical assault, the Diggers gave way. By August they had been forced to leave St. Georges Hill and move to a new location some miles away. When this new refuge also came under attack, they abandoned the land and largely dispersed. The landowners had won.”
         —Amir Alexander, Infinitesimal (2014), pp. 183-5.

DILTHEY, Wilhelm   (1833-1911)

“German idealist philosopher and professor at Berlin University. He was a founder of ‘Lebens oder Erlebnis Philosophie’ [life or experience philosophy], a reactionary irrationalist trend in bourgeois philosophy during the epoch of imperialism. His works include a book on the Young Hegelians, Die Jugendgeshichte Hegels.” —From name index to LCW 38.

The most general and comprehensive word in a group of words which have closely related meanings, and which therefore serves as the best key to fully understanding the others once it itself has come to be thoroughly understood. This notion of a dimension word was introduced into linguistic philosophy by
John Austin in his book Sense and Sensibilia (1962). [For an example of its use in Marxist linguistic philosophy, see my work in progress, An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, Chapter 2, section 2.2, at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf —S.H.]

(German: Literally, “thing-in-itself”.) In
Kant’s subjective-idealist and empiricist philosophy, the unknown and unknowable “truer essence” of any object which lies beneath or behind the sense data which is all that we supposedly pitiful human beings (as opposed to “God”) can ever have direct contact with. In other words the mysterious “truer reality” that supposedly lies behind what we perceive as reality. This is clearly something akin to Plato’s idealist theory of “forms”, and other religious conceptions of reality.

DIOGENES LAERTIUS   (3rd century CE)
The author of a large work entitled Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. This is one of the major sources of information about the history of ancient philosophy.

Ancient Greek philosopher and one of the founders of the school known as the Cynics. “His views reflected the passive protest of the poorest sections of the population against the rule of the propertied classes.” [Note to LCW 38, p. 610.] Diogenes had a student called Crates, who in turn had a student, Zeno of Citium, who transformed Diogenes’s philosophy of Cynicism into the more important and much longer lasting philosophical school known as
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Diogenes.

The immediate, direct participation of everybody in a mass assembly to determine what to do, rather than selecting representatives to decide. It is also usually assumed that everyone at this big meeting is on a completely equal basis, with an equal right to speak and be heard. This tacitly implies that there are no formal leaders. It may also sometimes imply that no one person has a right to say too much (thus limiting the role of even informal leaders!).
        This is the original meaning of the word ‘democracy’, as it existed during some periods in some ancient Greek city states, such as Athens. (Of course, in ancient Greece this democracy was not extended to women, let alone to slaves.)
        Because of the practical impossibilities of bringing too large a group of people together in “one big assembly”, direct democracy is only really feasible for relatively small groups. (For example, it would be totally absurd to attempt to bring all the people living in Chicago together in one big assembly to create the laws for that city, let alone all the people in Illinois, or all the people in the U.S.) For this reason, democracy has come to mean representative democracy, where different local groups select their representatives, who then meet together to make decisions and pass laws.
        In class society, however, the representatives soon become not the representatives of all the people in their district or area, but actually only the representatives of the ruling class. In capitalist society, of course, this means that nearly always the supposed “people’s representatives” actually represent the capitalist class (or, as the current euphemism has it, “the 1%”). As is frequently joked (or perhaps only bitterly half joked), America has the best politicians that money can buy. Of course there are many methods by which only representatives are selected who act on behalf of the ruling class, and direct bribery is only one of them. Another way, for example, is to make being elected to office so expensive that only the rich or those strongly backed by the rich stand any chance at all.
        Because representative democracy in the modern capitalist state has become a complete and obvious fraud to so many of us, with little or no real actual democratic content left at all, there have developed strong feelings among anarchists and others that the only form of democracy that can be genuine is direct democracy. This confuses the situation that definitely exists in capitalist society with what could in fact exist in socialist or communist society. Even under socialism it will still be essential for the people to keep a close eye on their chosen representatives (and also other leaders such as those in the leading revolutionary party), but it will no longer be virtually impossible for those representatives to truly represent the interests of the people.


According to a study in 2011 by the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, have one or another disability, including missing limbs, paralysis, blindness, mental retardation, or a serious chronic disease such as cancer or emphysema.


DISCIPLINE — Of the Proletarian Revolutionary Party

“As a current of political thought and as a political party, Bolshevism has existed since 1903. Only the history of Bolshevism during the entire period of its existence can satisfactorily explain why it has been able to build up and maintain, under most difficult conditions, the iron discipline needed for the victory of the proletariat.
         “The first questions to arise are: how is the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and—if you wish—merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people—primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct. Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrasemongering and clowning. On the other hand, these conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated by a correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.” —Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism—An Infantile Disorder” (April-May 1920), LCW 31:24-25.

DISCOUNT RATE (Federal Reserve)
The discount rate is the interest rate that the
Federal Reserve (the U.S. central bank) charges private banks to borrow money from it. The raising or lowering of the discount rate affects the interest rates that the commercial banks in turn charge their customers, including the prime rate. When the economy is weak or in recession, the Fed drastically lowers the discount rate in order to bring all interest rates down, which in turn usually promotes borrowing and economic expansion. Once the discount rate gets very low (not much above zero percent) there is no longer much room for this policy of lowering it to work any further. (See: “liquidity trap”.) Moreover, in a major overproduction crisis, very low interest rates no longer help much at all, since there are no profits to be made from building new factories regardless of the low interest costs of the money borrowed to build them.
        See also: FEDERAL FUNDS RATE

A term in bourgeois economics referring to a declining rate of inflation. In other words, inflation still exists, and prices are still going up, but the rate of increase is not as fast as it was previously. To achieve “disinflation” after a period of higher inflation is considered in bourgeois circles to be an impressive accomplishment!

“What’s happening in America right now is what economists call ‘disinflation’: When you compare prices today with prices a year ago, the pace of increase has slowed notably. At their peak in the summer of 2022, consumer prices were increasing at a 9.1 percent yearly pace. As of November [2023], it was just 2.1 percent.
         “Still, disinflation does not mean that prices are falling outright. Price levels have generally not reversed the big run-up that happened just after the pandemic. That means things like rent, car repairs and groceries remain more expensive on paper than they were in 2019. (Wages have also been climbing, and have picked up more quickly than prices in recent months. [However, overall, ‘recent’ wage increases have by no means made up for all the decline in real wages during this whole inflationary episode. —Ed.]) In short, prices are still climbing, just not as quickly.”   —Jeanna Smialek, “Will America’s Good News Over Fading Inflation Last?”, New York Times, Jan. 5, 2024.

“False information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.” —Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (1993).
        Disinformation has always been part of bourgeois propaganda against socialism and revolution and also a part of their ideological struggle against competing or hostile ruling classes in other countries. But especially in times of growing economic and social crisis—such as the present—the use of disinformation becomes a more important part of intra-bourgeois politics as well. In the U.S. there are of course two major ruling class political parties at present, with the Democrats somewhat more often appearing to side with the
“middle class” against the big corporations. This means that the Republicans, who generally promote somewhat more vicious attacks on the working class, must in order to win votes and get into office, have to more frequently, and in a more extreme fashion, resort to disinformation to fool the people into supporting them instead. They must also resort to somewhat more divisive tactics among the masses, such as by blaming the problems of white workers on Blacks, Latinos and immigrants, and by working to build social outrage against minority groups such as liberals, homosexuals, trans people, and so forth. All this explains why recently it is the Republicans who have been much more active in spreading political disinformation than the Democrats. (However, it should not be forgotten that the Democrats do this too, as with their attempt in the 2016 presidential election to grossly exaggerate the disinformation efforts of the Russians in “secretly” backing Trump. The gross exaggeration of the disinformation from the other side can also be a form of disinformation in itself!)
        The most notorious individual purveyor of disinformation in the world at the present moment is no doubt ex-President Donald Trump. And his central theme in all this, which he harps on endlessly, is his totally baseless claim that “really” he won re-election in 2020, and that the “rigged election” was stolen from him. (Actually, all elections in bourgeois democratic society are in fact rigged, but not in the way Trump claims. See: ELECTION DENIALISM)
        The Liberals and most of the Democrats are aghast at the vast and ever-growing pervasiveness of disinformation about the 2020 election, and about so many other things these days. Those of us who have recognized all along that bourgeois elections are phony are more amused by it all. But we too need to be quite concerned about indications such as this that bourgeois democracy seems to be in the process of collapsing. It may not make much difference if the Democrats or the Republicans hold the Presidency and control Congress, but it does make a major difference to our efforts to build a revolutionary movement if the admittedly rather limited freedoms of speech, of the press, of assembly, and to organize ourselves, and so forth, that now exist are further restricted or eliminated altogether. And this is what the more serious aspect of the collapse of bourgeois democracy portends.
        Formerly it was thought that disinformation must have a certain plausibility to it, in order for it to be widely believed. However, disinformation is now so widely propagated in the U.S., and is so commonly of such a wild and extreme nature, that perhaps many people have become used to believing pretty much anything which seems to support their own existing biases. Here is one recent case in point:

“At least 20 Republican candidates and elected officials are falsely claiming that K-12 schools are providing litter boxes for students who ‘identify’ as animals. The myth that schools are catering to ‘furries’ has been cited by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, and many other conservatives as ‘a growing crisis’, but every rumor of a school providing litter boxes for students has proved to be unfounded.” —“Only in America”, The Week magazine, October 28, 2022, p. 6.

Many people seem to have lost much of what little natural skepticism and common sense they once had. The fact that growing numbers of people in the U.S. (and especially Republicans and Trump supporters) will believe just about anything their leaders tell them is quite possibly one of the most worrisome things about American society today. It is indeed a telling characteristic of a society falling apart and becoming ripe for fascism. —S.H. [10/29/22]
        See also: FAKE NEWS

“The hallucinatory claim that a grand if largely unnamed conspiracy managed to snatch victory away from Trump and hand it to Joe Biden is not a trivial, stand-alone falsehood. Instead, it has become as central to the MAGA [‘Make America Great Again’] belief system as the crucifixion of Jesus is to Christianity. In these fevered scenarios, Venezuela and South Korea have corrupted our electoral ballots, China has implanted Covid vaccines with mind-control devices, and liberal Jewish billionaires like George Soros have underwritten acts of domestic terrorism. The central premise is all-encompassing fraud: election fraud, medical fraud, monetary fraud, media fraud, judicial fraud, religious fraud. Everything is suspect.” —Robert Draper in The Atlantic; quoted in The Week, November 11, 2022 issue, p. 12.

“On the morning of July 8 [2022], former President Donald J. Trump took to Truth Social, a social media platform he founded with people close to him, to claim that he had in fact won the 2020 presidential vote in Wisconsin, despite all evidence to the contrary.
         “Barely 8,000 people shared that missive on Truth Social, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of responses his posts on Facebook and Twitter had regularly generated before those services suspended him after the deadly riot on Capital Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.
         “And yet Mr. Trump’s baseless claim pulsed through the public consciousness anyway. It jumped from his app to other social media platforms—not to mention podcasts, talk radio and television. Within 48 hours of Mr. Trump’s post, more than one million people saw his claim on at least [a] dozen other sites. It appeared on Facebook and Twitter, from which he has been banished, but also YouTube, Gab, Parler and Telegram, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
         “The spread of Mr. Trump’s claim illustrates how, ahead of this year’s midterm elections, disinformation has metastasized since experts began raising alarms about the threat. Despite years of efforts by the media, by academics and even by social media companies themselves to address the problem, it is arguably more pervasive and widespread today....
         “Not long ago, the fight against disinformation focused on the major social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. When pressed, they often removed troubling content, including misinformation and intentional disinformation about Covid-19.
         “Today, however, there are dozens of new platforms, including some that pride themselves on not moderating—censoring, as they put it—untrue statements in the name of free speech....
         “At least 69 million people have joined platforms, like Parler, Gab, Truth Social, Gettr and Rumble, that advertise themselves as conservative alternatives to Big Tech....
         “The diffusion of the people who spread disinformation has radicalized political discourse, said Nora Benavidez, senior counsel at Free Press, an advocacy group for digital rights and accountability....
         “The baseless idea that President Biden was not legitimately elected has gone mainstream among Republican Party memberrs, driving state and county officials to impose new restrictions on casting ballots, often based on mere conspiracy theories percolating in right-wing media....
         “The purveyors of disinformation have also become increasingly sophisticated at sidestepping the major platforms’ rules, while the use of videos to spread false claims on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram has made them harder for automated systems to track than text....
         “A study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe points of view. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, an online conspiracy theory.
         “QAnon believers promote a vast and complex falsehood that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries. Mr. Trump has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times....”
         —Steven Lee Myers & Sheera Frenkel, “Exploding Online, Disinformation Is Now a Fixture of U.S. Politics”, New York Times, National Edition, October 21, 2022.

The methods and characteristics of the transfer of goods which are produced in a society to the ultimate users of those goods.
        See also:

Payments to the owners of stocks or similar investments. This money comes ultimately from the profits of the corporation, which in turn are a portion (usually quite a small portion) of the
surplus value generated by the workers employed (i.e., directly exploited) by that corporation.
        There appears to be a long-term trend in modern capitalism for dividends to fall as a percentage of the company profits. The average percentage payout of officially stated profits (real profits are much higher and hidden in various ways, such as in the form of benefits to top managers), for the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index in the U.S. as of Oct. 4, 2011, was 2.31%. This represented only 27% of stated profits in the 2nd quarter of 2011, which was down from 30% of profits in 2008, and well below the 30-year average of 41%. This is despite the fact that U.S. corporations now have record hoards of undistributed profits, totaling $2.77 trillion, with few good options for new investments. [Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 17-23, 2011, p. 60.]
        In addition, more and more companies do not pay dividends at all, even when they are making huge profits. Google, for example, has $39 billion in cash, and Apple Corporation holds $76 billion (including long-term financial investments). Neither pays a dividend. Why would ordinary investors buy shares in companies that don’t pay dividends? The answer is that the stock market is primarily a gambling house, and “investors” (i.e. speculators) primarily buy shares on the hope that the price of those shares will go up. But the fact is that a declining share of the surplus value extracted by modern corporations actually goes to the official “owners” of them (let alone to the workers who produce that wealth); it is instead more and more appropriated by the top management of the companies, and by banks and financial institutions. Modern capitalism is more and more parasitic, even according to the logic of bourgeois economic theory.

A political issue which is viewed as so important that someone who disagrees with you on the matter is considered too politically opposed to you to be regarded as a comrade or member of the same revolutionary organization.
        Many political organizations, especially new or very small ones, have formal “principles of unity” which specify the issues on which everyone in their group must agree. However, in practice, these principles are rarely spelled out sufficiently so that they are understood in more or less the same way by all the members. In effect the true “dividing line issues” often really only become clear during concrete political struggles. The same situation exists for older and/or larger political parties or organizations, whose party programmes generally constitute their basic principles of unity. Although programmes spell things out in greater detail it often still happens that internal political struggles eventually bring out the fact that there are serious differences in opinion about the real meaning of key principles mentioned in the programme. This is one of several reasons why
one divides into two, and another reason why great care should be put into the preparation of party programmes and making the party’s core principles as clear as possible.
        There must of course be dividing line issues in revolutionary politics, especially with regard to the basic class stance of the party or group, and with regard to its basic strategy for revolution and its basic approach to the working class and masses. However, it is also true that there are strong tendencies in bourgeois society—especially in those societies with a large “middle class” or petty-bourgeoisie—to turn way too many things into dividing line issues. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if every difference in opinion is pushed into becoming a dividing line issue, and that parties or organizations in such countries really do not want to allow any internal differences of opinion whatsoever. This leads to two very negative effects: first, a multitude of small, ineffective political sects, and second, a powerful anti-democratic tendency within organizations toward gurus and cults of personality who ordinary members must always agree with. These tendencies are so strong that it remains to be seen if a large revolutionary mass party can actually be created in a country which is so strongly bourgeois and petty-bourgeois as the U.S. is today. It is perhaps one reason why the revolutionary movement in this country will not be able to truly get off the ground until the developing economic crisis destroys more of the middle class and petty-bourgeoisie, and weakens that sort of pervasive individualist ideology to a much greater extent.

A characteristic feature of industrial production [Cf. Marx, TSV, 3:271.] in which there is specialization in the production process, where the tasks are divided up into simpler and more repetitive smaller tasks, and individual workers are assigned to do just one or a few of these simpler smaller tasks.

Division of labor is, in one sense, nothing but coexisting labor, that is, the coexistence of different kinds of labor which are represented in different kinds of products or rather commodities. The division of labor in the capitalist sense, as the breaking down of the particular labor which produces a definite commodity into a series of simple and co-ordinated operations divided up amongst different workers, presupposes the division of labor within society outside the workshop, as separation of occupations. On the other hand, it [division of labor] increases it [separation of occupations]. The product is increasingly produced as a commodity in the strict sense of the word, its exchange-value becomes the more independent of its immediate existence as use-value—in other words its production becomes more and more independent of its consumption by the producers.... The division of labor within the workshop is one of the methods used in this mass production and consequently in the production of the product [as a commodity]. Thus the division of labor within the workshop is based on the division of occupations in society.” —Marx, TSV, 3:268-9.

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