EMANCIPATION OF LABOR GROUP
“The Emancipation of Labor group was the first Russian Marxist
group. It was founded in Geneva by G.V. Plekhanov in 1883; the group included P.B.
Axelrod, L.G. Deutsch, V.I. Zasulich, and V.N. Ignatov.
“The group did much to spread Marxism in Russia. It translated such Marxist works as the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Marx and Engels; Wage-Labor and Capital by Marx; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Engels; it published them abroad and organized their distribution in Russia. Plekhanov and his group dealt a serious blow at Narodism. In 1883 Plekhanov drafted a programme for the Russian Social-Democrats and in 1885 drew up another. The two drafts were published by the Emancipation of Labor group and marked an important step towards the establishment of a Social-Democratic Party in Russia. Plekhanov’s Socialism and the Political Strugle (1883), Our Differences (1885), and The Development of the Monist View of History (1895) played an important role in disseminating Marxist views. The group, however, made some serious mistakes; it clung to remnants of Narodnik views, overestimated the role of the liberal bourgeoisie, while underestimating the revolutionary capacity of the peasantry. These errors were the first projections of the future Menshevik views held by Plekhanov and other members of the group. The group had no practical ties with the working-class movement. Lenin pointed out that the Emancipation of Labor group ‘only laid the theoretical foundations for the Social-Democratic movement and took the first step towards the working-class movement’. [LCW 20:278] At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., in August 1903, the Emancipation of Labor group announced its dissolution.” —Note 102, LCW 5:552-553. [The internal Lenin quote has been corrected to the form it appears as in LCW vol. 20.]
Acquiring the characteristics of the bourgeoisie, and especially large parts of their ideology. Sometimes those classes, strata or individuals which are embourgeoised, or made more bourgeois, also acquire some objective characteristics of the bourgeoisie, such as partial bourgeois relationships towards the means of production. (For example, a relatively well-paid worker might buy some shares of stock or make other investments, even though he or she must still continue to hold down a job.)
A fundamental principle of historical materialism is that the prevailing ideas of any age are ordinarily those of the ruling class. And thus, in bourgeois society, most of the members of other classes are also indoctrinated to one degree or another with aspects of the ideology of the bourgeoisie. In other words, in bourgeois society most of the petty-bourgeoisie and even most of the proletarians are embourgeoised to some degree. However, the term embourgeoisment usually refers to situations beyond this mere superficial indoctrination, and where the members of other classes more deeply internalize bourgeois ideology and habits.
Embourgeoisment of the working class is more common in imperialist countries like the U.S. wherein a labor aristocracy arises which to some limited degree shares in the spoils the imperialists rip off from other countries. The ruling class has sometimes allowed this to happen in order to keep the workers quiet at home while they exploit the rest of the world. Interestingly enough, however, as economic problems and eventually a major economic crisis develops, the ruling class is forced to drive these relatively well off workers down again. The capitalist necessity becomes that of reproletarianizing the partially embourgeoised working class. This has been happening in the U.S. in recent decades, and as of 2009 is now tremendously speeding up as the intensifying crisis develops in the direction of a new great depression.
“EMBRACES BUT CANNOT REPLACE”
A phrase and concept used by Mao in his Talks at the Yenan Forum which describes the relationship between Marxism and other spheres such as art or natural science. This concept was later borrowed by Bob Avakian, and has apparently become one of the main points in Avakian’s claimed “New Synthesis” of communist theory. Here is what Mao wrote:
“To study Marxism means to apply the dialectical materialist and historical materialist viewpoint in our observation of the world, of society and of literature and art; it does not mean writing philosophical lectures into our works of literature and art. Marxism embraces but cannot replace realism in literary and artistic creation, just as it embraces but cannot replace the atomic and electronic theories in physics.” —Mao, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1941), SW 3:94.
Mao seems to mean here that there are many things of value in the world in addition to Marxism,
things such as aesthetic values in art and scientific theories of nature, which Marxism by no
means rejects or replaces. But ‘embraces’ means not just “accepts” or “welcomes”, but also “to
take in or include as a part ... or element of a more inclusive whole” [Merriam Webster’s
Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.]. Thus while Marxism does indeed accept or welcome
aesthetic values and scientific theories of nature, it also seeks to unite them with Marxist
principles into an overall coherent world outlook and expression. In art and literature,
for example, we by no means identify aesthetic merit with the exposition of or agreement
with Marxist ideas and principles; but we do judge works of art based not only on
their aesthetic merit, but also on the basis of whether or not they serve revolutionary
proletarian interests, both morally and politically.
Similarly, in natural science, we do use Marxist principles to help arrive at and evaluate scientific theories. Our philosophy, dialectical materialism, is simply the most abstract conceptions which we have derived from all the sciences, and therefore it is not surprising that it is of considerable value in determining and evaluatating new scientific theories even in other spheres besides social science. Even in the natural sciences there are sometimes put forward theories which purport to be scientific, but which can be almost immediately ruled out based on the principles of dialectical materialism. (Two recent examples are “creationism” and “intelligent design”, which have been promoted by Christian fundamentalists within biology and the educational system.) In other cases, certain aspects of a natural science theory must be revised in light of Marxist philosophy or principles. (For instance, we reject “Social Darwinism” even though this was a very secondary aspect of Darwin’s theory of evolution (and was promoted even more by bourgeois reactionaries after Darwin). Similarly, in evaluating the “Big Bang” theory in cosmology, by no means must we accept the religious dogma usually included in it that the universe and “time itself” were “created” in the Big Bang.) Of course, some dogmatists (e.g., Stalin and Lysenko) have gone too far with this evaluation of theories in natural science and rejected some valid and correct theories (such as basic genetics). We must of course carefully guard against that sort of thing happening again!
In addition to using Marxism to help derive or evaluate theories in natural science, we also insist on using the principles of Marxism (and most fundamentally, the basic interests of the people) as our primary guide in how the discoveries and theories in science are actually made use of in society. For example, the decision of whether or not to build a nuclear power reactor must be made not only on technical grounds, but also in light of the possible severe danger it may have for the people should an accident occur. “While we say that Marxism cannot replace natural science, we do not mean to weaken the guiding role played by Marxism.” [“Repulsing the Right Deviationist Wind in the Scientific and Technological Circles”, Peking Review, v. 19, #18, April 30, 1976, p. 7.]
There are in fact multiple aspects to what it means when we say Marxism embraces but cannot replace the theories of natural science. And while Mao first put it in these precise terms, this entire general approach to the arts and sciences has been a core part of Marxism from the very beginning. It is thus sheer nonsense to imagine that Avakian has added anything new to Marxism by including this principle of “embracing but not replacing” as a central element in his supposed “New Synthesis”!
The development of a new property, based on newly arisen dialectical contradictions, of a new entity, thing or process, which was formerly known only by the component parts which went in to constructing it. A few of the enormous number of examples which could be mentioned are:
• The phenomenon of air pressure which is an emergent property of the vast numbers of individual molecules in air considered together, as they move around and collide with each other and with other objects.
• The phenomenon of ocean waves. The individual molecules of water (and other substances) in the ocean only go to make up waves when enormous numbers of them move together in certain ways.
• The blue color of the sky. Individual air molecules are invisible, but visible light of the wave length we see as blue is scattered more effectively by masses of air molecules which is why we see the sky as blue.
• Human intelligence is an emergent property of the functioning of the brain. No individual neuron is “intelligent”, but intelligence (like all mentalistic terms and states) is a high level way of describing aspects of the functioning of the billions of components of the brain, or at least the possible functioning of such a brain, since “stupidity” is also an emergent property sometimes!
[More to be added... ]
“Simplicity in physics is an emergent phenomenon.” —Robert B. Laughlin, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (2005), p. 130. [This is a profound comment. At some levels of investigation and description of the world there appears to be enormous complexity. But, at least in some respects things are much simpler at a higher level of description. There are trillions and trillions of air molecules in the room buzzing around me right now and describing the precise situation seems totally impossible. But we can also describe the air in the room as simply being at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, where the temperature is an emergent characteristic of all those countless molecules of air considered as a whole. —Ed.]
“Emerging economies”, “developing economies”—these are the sorts of euphemistic terms used by the bourgeoisie to refer to the poor countries of the world, most of which are neither “developing” nor “emerging”, since they are bled dry under the thumbs of the imperialism countries. Even the bourgeoisie itself sometimes admits these terms are totally phony:
“It makes even less sense to speak of the ‘south’ as shorthand for the planet’s poor countries (what about Australia or Singapore?) or of the ‘West’ as synonymous with industrialization and political freedom—what’s ‘western’ about Japan? ‘Third World’ dates from the Cold War, when the planet had capitalist ‘First’ and communist ‘Second’ compartments. Its most recent replacement, ‘emerging economies’, already seems out of date, as some erstwhile star performers, such as Argentina, submerge. And the term unhelpfully lumps together hardworking manufacturers (Vietnam, say) and service-based economies (Dubai) with those blessed—or perhaps cursed—by natural resources (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia).” —“A menagerie of monikers”, leader (editorial) in The Economist, Jan. 9, 2010, p. 16.
The positivistic ethical theory that moral statements are neither true nor false, but merely express the emotions of the speaker. One exponent of this nonsense was Charles Stevenson.
[To be added...]
See also entry on Lenin’s 1908 book: MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM, and PHENOMENALISM
1. The view that the only source of knowledge of the world is the experience of the senses... [More to be added...]
See also: LOGICAL POSITIVISM, PERSONAL EXPERIENCE (esp. Mao quote)
“If one accepts the premise that all knowledge comes to us through
our senses, Hume says, then one must logically conclude that both ‘Nature’ and
‘Nature’s laws’ are creations of our own imagination.” —Robert Pirsig, Zen and
the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), chapter 11.
[This is the sort of classic non sequitur which empiricists are prone to. One might by the same “logic” conclude that since our awareness and knowledge of the moon comes to us through our senses, that the moon is only a “creation of our own imagination”. It is utterly amazing how idiotic philosophical empiricists can be! —S.H.]
“Empiricist ideology, which was the collaborator and assistant of dogmatism [within the Communist Party of China] in the period of its domination, is likewise a manifestation of subjectivism and formalism. Empiricism differs from dogmatism in that it starts not from books but from narrow experience. It should be emphasized that all the useful experience gained by vast numbers of comrades in practical work is a most precious asset. It is definitely not empiricism, but Marxism-Leninism, to sum up such experience scientifically as the guide to future action, just as it is definitely not dogmatism, but Marxism-Leninism, to take the theories and principles of Marxism-Leninism as the guide to revolutionary action and not as dogma. But if there are some comrades among all those versed in practical work who remain satisfied with their own limited experience and with that alone, who take it for dogma that can be applied everywhere, who do not understand and moreover do not want to acknowledge the truth that ‘without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement’ [Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?”, LCW 5:369] and that ‘in order to lead, one must foresee’ [Stalin, Works, 11:39], and who consequently belittle the study of Marxism-Leninism which is the summation of world revolutionary experience, and are infatuated with a narrow practicalism which is devoid of principle and with a brainless routinism that leads nowhere; and if they nevertheless sit and give orders from on high ... then indeed these comrades have become empiricists.” —Mao, “Appendix: Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party”, adopted April 20, 1941, SW 3:211-212.
Viewing one’s work within the revolutionary movement, or for a revolutionary party, in the same way an employee of a capitalist corporation might view their work. Naturally, since the corporation exists not to benefit its employees or the public, but only to make profits for its rich owners, few employees will go out of their way to do the very best job that they can. They will most often do only what they are told to do by their supervisor, and often only to the minimum acceptable level. However, when it comes to our revolutionary work, each of us involved in it shares the greatest responsibility for making it as successful as we can. Each of us must continually think about how we can do a better job in our revolutionary work, and about what further tasks we can perform that really need to be accomplished. We must not think like exploited employees, but rather like people who are really dedicating their lives to serving the people.
“3. The ‘employee’ mentality. Some comrades do not understand that the Party and the Red Army, of which they are members, are both instruments for carrying out the tasks of the revolution. They do not realize that they themselves are makers of the revolution, but think that their responsibility is merely to their individual superiors and not to the revolution. This passive mentality of an ‘employee’ of the revolution is also a manifestation of individualism. It explains why there are not very many activists who work unconditionally for the revolution. Unless it is eliminated, the number of activists will not grow and the heavy burden of the revolution will remain on the shoulders of a small number of people, much to the detriment of the struggle.” —Mao, “On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party” (Dec. 1929), SW 1:113.
The percentage of the population that has jobs. In the U.S. this percentage increased for a number of decades following World War II as growing numbers of women had to find jobs outside the home to help maintain family income levels (as real wages of men began to fall). However, in recent years, more and more people (men and women both) have been laid off and have been unable to find new jobs, as the economic crisis continues to develop. And many young adults who look for jobs once they are out of school cannot find them at all. The drop in this employment/population ratio was especially sharp in the “Great Recession” of 2008-9. Note that despite phony claims by the government that the unemployment rate has been falling since then, the employment/population ratio has remained low and essentially unchanged. A new recession will cause it to drop even further.
See also the related concept: LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE
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