The belief that the phenomena of nature or society can be, and should be, examined in the absence of any initial theory or hypothesis, and that mere raw observation will normally suffice to lead us to valid scientific explanations for the new phenomena. In reality, in both science and politics, we very rarely investigate any phenomenon starting with completely empty heads and with no guess whatsoever as to what might be going on. We bring to our investigations what we have learned (or think we have learned) earlier, including hypotheses that our existing knowledge has suggested with regard to the new phenomenon. Our new investigations may confirm those hypotheses, or else they may lead us to revise them or to reject the initial hypotheses entirely and construct new ones. This is the means by which we gradually extend and revise our existing knowledge based on new experience and new investigations.
A crude form of materialism which doesn’t really comprehend how mind and consciousness can arise out of complex organizations of matter such as brains. A naïve materialist might say something like “Mind is just an aspect of nature; even rocks have simple kinds of minds.” This sort of foolishness serves to discredit materialism in general, even though there are much more sophisticated kinds of materialism, such as dialectical materialism.
See also: NATURALISM, IDENTITY THEORY, MECHANICAL MATERIALISM
NAKED SHORT SELLING
See: SHORT SELLING
See: WAR ON DRUGS
[From the Russian word narod, meaning “people”.]
“Narodism—a petty-bourgeois trend in the Russian revolutionary
movement, which arose between the sixties and seventies of the nineteenth century. The
Narodniks were out to abolish the autocracy and hand over the landed estates to the
peasantry. At the same time they denied the tendency towards the development of capitalist
relations [of production] in Russia, and consequently considered the peasantry, not the
proletariat, the principal revolutionary force. They regarded the village commune as the
embryo of socialism. In their endeavor to rouse the peasants to the struggle against the
autocracy, the Narodniks went into the villages, ‘among the people’, but they met no
“In the [1880s and 1890s] the Narodniks adopted a policy of conciliation with tsarism. They expressed the interests of the kulaks and waged a fierce struggle against Marxism.” —Note 120, LCW 20:590-591.
NARODNYA VOLYA (PEOPLE’S WILL)
“The secret political organization of Narodnik terroists formed in
August 1879 following the split in the Zemlya i Volya organization. It was headed by an
Executive Committee consisting of A. I. Zhelyabov, A. D. Mikhailov, M. F. Frolenko,
N. A. Morozov, Vera Figner, Sophia Perovskaya, A. A. Kvyatkovsky, and others.
“While still adhering to the Narodnik utopian-socialist ideas, Narodnaya Volya believed also in political struggle, regarding the overthrow of the autocracy and the achievement of political freedom as a major aim. ‘The Narodnaya Volya members,’ Lenin wrote, ‘made a step forward when they took up the political struggle, but they failed to connect it with socialism’ [LCW 8:72].
“Narodnaya Volya fought heroically against the tsarist autocracy. But, going by the erroneous theory of ‘active’ heroes and a ‘passive’ mass, it expected to achieve the remaking of society without the participation of the people, by its own efforts, through individual terrorism that would intimidate and disorganize the government. After the assassination of Alexander II on March 1, 1881, the government was able, by savage reprisals, death sentences, and acts of provocation, to crush it out of existence. Repeated attempts to revive the organization during the eighties ended in failure.
“While criticizing Narodnaya Volya’s erroneous, utopian programme, Lenin expressed great respect for its members’ selfless struggle against tsarism and had a high opinion of their technique of secrecy and their strictly centralized organization.” —Note 78, Lenin, SW I (1967).
Supporters of Narodism.
See: STATE, PRIMITIVE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
The section of the bourgeoisie during a new democratic revolution which (unlike the comprador or bureaucrat bourgeoisie) is an intermediate class (between the people and the enemy), and portions of which may be won over to side with the people in that struggle. The national bourgeoisie is a class out for itself, and which strives to control the nation in its own class interests, which brings it into conflict with foreign imperialist intervention in the country. If it achieves power it may still be in conflict with foreign imperialism, but it also comes more powerfully into conflict with the proletariat and its allies such as the peasantry.
To continue to regard the national bourgeoisie as an ally (or potential ally) of the proletariat once the new democratic revolution is complete (or where there is no need for, or possibility for a new democratic revolution) is an extremely serious rightist or revisionist error.
“With the overthrow of the landlord class and the bureaucrat-capitalist class, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie has become the principal contradiction in China; therefore the national bourgeoisie should no longer be defined as an intermediate class.” —Mao, “The Contradiction Between the Working Class and the Bourgeoisie is the Principal Contadiction in China” (June 6, 1952), SW 5:77.
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH (NBER)
A private American organization of bourgeois economists. This organization is very prominent and even has quasi-official aspects to it. For example, bourgeois economists generally grant its Business Cycle Dating Committee the right to decide precisely when recessions begin and end. NBER’s website is at: http://www.nber.org
NATIONAL HATRED — Combating
“[The Narodnik] Mr. Mikhailovsky cannot grasp the simple truth that there is no other way of combating national hatred than by organizing and uniting the oppressed class for a struggle against the oppressor class in each separate country, than by uniting such national working-class organizations into a single international working-class army to fight international capital.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:156.
NATIONAL INTERESTS (Under Capitalism)
What are often described as “national interests” in a capitalist state are in fact the interests of its ruling class, the bourgeoisie. Thus when the U.S. government tells Americans that it is in the “national interests” of the United States that it should make war against Vietnam or Iraq, we should understand full well that this is only a camouflaged way of talking about the class interests of the capitalists who currently own and control the country.
“It’s in our national interest to prevent this from happening [the collapse of the giant insurance corporation AIG]. This is beyond a company and beyond its shareholders. It’s in our national interest.” —Hank Greenberg, former head of AIG, pleading on CNBC for the U.S. government bailout of the company, Sept. 16, 2008. The government proceeded to do just that, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, because Greenberg’s ruling class pals who were running the government felt exactly the same way.
NATIONAL INTERESTS (Under Socialism)
The true, long-term “national interests” of a socialist state are those of the ruling working class. However, it must be recognized that in the short term, even a socialist country may have “national interests” which diverge from the interests of the world communist revolution. And in that case, it is important and correct that the conflicting “national interests” of the socialist country be ignored or set aside, and the real interests of the people of the world and the world revolution be satisfied instead. This requires a greatness of mind and purpose on the part of the leaders of any genuine socialist country since in the short term it may create serious problems for them (including possibly even war).
The revisionist leaders of the old Soviet Union claimed that “National interests and the interests of the socialist system as a whole combine harmoniously.” [“The Letter of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. to the Central Committee of the C.P.C.” (March 30, 1963), included in A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement (Peking: FLP, 1963), p. 88.] But this just is not so! It is just a fact of life that sometimes short-term interests, including short-term “national interests”, conflict with the true and genuine long-term interests of the people and the world revolution. Revisionists, and social-imperialists always try to deny this truth.
See also: PATRIOTISM UNDER SOCIALISM
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“On the national question the world outlook of the proletarian party is internationalism, and not nationalism. In the revolutionary struggle it supports progressive nationalism and opposes reactionary nationalism. It must always draw a clear line of demarcation between itself and bourgeois nationalism, to which it must never fall captive.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 17.
[To be added... ]
NATURAL LAW (In Science)
See: SCIENTIFIC LAWS
“NATURAL LAW” (In Ethics and Politics)
The theory that there are laws, higher than any man-made laws, and which are universal, unchanging, and an inherent part of human nature. These “natural laws” are supposed to be discoverable through human reason, but oddly enough they always seem to be laws that the current ruling class would approve of. Advocates of the theory of “natural law” include the ancient Stoic philosophers, “Saint” Thomas Aquinas, and many modern “libertarian” reactionaries.
“NATURAL RESOURCE CURSE”
A term which refers to the very common phenomenon where the people of a Third World country actually suffer rather than benefit from having some major natural resource in their country. This phenomenon is particularly common in the case of countries which have large oil deposits. This “natural resource curse” seems inexplicable to most bourgeois economists and to many other people, but the primary explanation is not hard to determine: Countries with large natural resource wealth are simply major targets of foreign imperialism. Not only do imperialist powers end up with most of that natural wealth, they do so in large part by corrupting and dominating the government of the country. What little of the natural wealth remains in the country therefore goes to a small number of politicians and military leaders (and sometimes in part to a small comprador capitalist class), while the masses often end up worse off than if no oil or other natural resource existed there at all! In short, the real curse is not in having the natural resources, but rather in being the victim of the imperialists and their local agents because of those natural resources.
The notion that certain freedoms or privileges belong innately to human beings and cannot be denied in any society. One famous advocate of natural rights was John Locke, whose opinions on the matter helped inspire the framers of the American Constitution. However, the whole concept of “rights” is inferior to that of interests as a basis for morality and politics; “rights” are more of a legalistic concept.
NATURAL SELECTION [Evolutionary Biology]
At the most abstract level natural selection is the propagation of certain configurations of matter relative to other configurations by virtue of the effects that they have on the world. The English biologists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection to account for the diversity, complexity and functionality of life. Natural selection is a powerful and ever-present condition of biological nature, but it does not exist as an independent “force”; it is simply the consequence of certain ubiquitous features of this biological nature, namely variation (not all individuals are the same), heredity (some of those differences can be passed on to offspring) and differential “competence” (some variants happen to be more well suited to the prevailing conditions in an environment). Those variants that happen to be more competent at dealing with the constraints and challenges of a particular environment will automatically tend, on average, to have the opportunity to produce more offspring of their likeness more regularly than other variants (and, willy-nilly, be able to pass on those traits that conferred this greater success). Cumulative natural selection, taking place over many generations wherein “small but useful increments” (to borrow a phrase from Darwin) are added to existing configurations, is perhaps the most important mechanism by which biological complexity and diversity are generated. However, natural selection need not result in change per se; it can also maintain existing configurations, favouring them over alternatives that arise in a population, if those existing configurations are better suited to the environment. Like so much in biology and other complex systems, the answer to the question, “What will happen?”, will be, “It depends”.
Biological organisms, which always exist in the context of other organisms, have, through billions of years, evolved and adapted to live in each other’s presence and to benefit from this proximity. This has resulted in vastly different strategies for eking out an existence. The members of one lineage may evolve to exploit the members of another lineage, which will themselves evolve to avoid being exploited or to mitigate the harm done by exploitation; thus selection can result in biological “arms races”, and this is certainly an important feature of the struggle between hosts and parasites and predators and prey. Selection can also favour cooperative alliances (known as “symbioses”), in which two or more parties allocate resources in a mutually beneficial way. Exploitation and cooperation have evolved many times independently throughout the history of life, and they are present in varying degrees all throughout the tree (or web) of life. Within species, selection can also favour different behaviours or “strategies”, for example with regard to mating preferences and resource allocation in familial groups. However diverse the strategies, adaptations and complexes produced by selection, they only ever get to be selected if they can “pay” for themselves; that is, if the cost of their use does not, on average, outweigh their benefit. The sheer diversity of life, and the ubiquity of both exploitation and cooperation (and all the gradations in between) shows that there is certainly a lot hidden within this basic formula! But it is important to realise that there is nothing deeply mysterious about this; it all comes back to the qualifier, “It depends” (“it” being the pressures imposed by the environment, and the existing features and constraints of the organism—themselves products of past selection and evolution).
Selection can effect change at vastly different speeds, it can reverse direction, it can tend towards stable equilibrium, and it can produce recurrent patterns. This is all ultimately grounded in the everyday, mundane goings-on of material, biological entities interacting with one another.
Modern evolutionary theory recognises that selection can take place at various levels, from genes to individuals all the way up to species and even larger categories. Selection is one of several processes in the evolution of life, which biological science aims to understand by integrating these processes into a coherent framework. —L.C.
1. [In bourgeois philosophy of mind:] The view that there is no reality except that of the “natural world”, which is usually defined narrowly to exclude not only God and souls, but also mind. From the dialectical materialist point of view this is an example of naive materialism.
2. [In ethics:] Among cognitive ethical theories (which hold that moral judgments are meaningful and either true or false), the biggest division is between intuitionism, which holds that moral terms signify some supposed “non-natural” and “indefinable” quality of things, and naturalism, which holds that moral words (such as ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘ought’, etc.), can be defined in terms of non-moral concepts. Most versions of naturalism hold that “moral judgments are empirical statements verifiable by the same methods of natural science” as any other statements. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics is therefore one major type of ethical naturalism, and holds that moral terms can be defined and explicated in terms of people’s collective interests, and—in class society—in terms of class interests.
The belief of many bourgeois philosophers that it is invalid to infer any moral principles from factual statements. If, as Marxists hold, morality is simply a question of what is in the interests of the people, then it is a simple matter to deduce from a plain fact (such as that “A law against striking is harmful to the interests of the workers”) that something is morally right or wrong (“The anti-strike law is wrong.”). In short, talk about the “naturalistic fallacy” is itself a fallacy. An earlier version of the so-called naturalistic fallacy was Hume’s claim that you cannot derive ought from is.
NATURE — Dialectics Of
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“Marx and I were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics from German idealist philosophy and apply it in the materialist conception of nature and history. But a knowledge of mathematics and natural science is essential to a conception of nature which is dialectical and at the same time materialist.” —Engels, Preface to the 1885 edition of Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:11.
“... in nature, amid the welter of innumerable changes, the same dialectical laws of motion force their way through as those which in history govern the apparent fortuitousness of events; the same laws which similarly form the thread running through the history of the development of human thought and gradually rise to consciousness in thinking man.... And finally, to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it.” —Engels, ibid., MECW 25:11-13.
“And since biology has been pursued in the light of the theory of evolution, one rigid boundary line of classification after another has been swept away in the domain of organic nature.... It is precisely the polar antagonisms put forward as irreconcilable and insoluble, the forcibly fixed lines of demarcation and class distinctions, which have given modern theoretical natural science its restricted, metaphysical character. The recognition that these antagonisms and distinctions, though to be found in nature, are only of relative validity, and that on the other hand their imagined rigidity and absolute validity have been introduced into nature only by our reflective minds—this recognition is the kernel of the dialectical conception of nature. It is possible to arrive at this recognition because the accumulating facts of natural science compel us to do so; but one arrives at it more easily if one approaches the dialectical character of these facts equipped with an understanding of the laws of dialectical thought.” —Engels, ibid., MECW 25:14.
“Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern
science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasing daily,
and thus has shown that, in the last resort, nature works dialectically and not
“An exact representation of the universe, of its evolution, of the development of mankind, and of the reflection of this evolution in the minds of men, can therefore only be obtained by the methods of dialectics with its constant regard to the innumerable actions and reactions of life and death, of progressive or retrogressive changes.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:23-24.
Common name for Maoist revolutionaries in India. [More to be added... ]
See: NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NEGATION (In Dialectics)
Negation in dialectics is not the same thing as negation in formal logic. In formal logic, negation is the total denial of a statement or assertion. But as the term is used in discussing dialectics, negation involves the resolution of a dialectical contradiction which transforms or resolves a thing, situation or process in certain important respects, while also maintaining some similarity or continuity with the previous thing, situation or process in other respects. This is best illustrated by an example:
Capitalism is the negation of feudalism. The defining social contradiction of feudalism, that between landlords and peasants, is resolved when capitalism replaces feudalism, and (for the most part, at least) the nobility and peasantry no longer exist. However, capitalism continues some other aspects of the broader situation that formerly included feudalism, most notably the exploitation of one class by another, which now occurs in the form of capitalists exploiting workers.
See also entries below.
[On negation in dialectics:] “Not empty negation, not futile negation, not skeptical negation, vacillation and doubt is characteristic and essential in dialectics,—which undoubtedly contains the element of negation and indeed as its most important element—no, but negation as a moment of connection, as a moment of development, retaining the positive, i.e., without any vacillations, without any eclecticism.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:226.
“The error of formal logic is in its perception of negation as an
external negation between one process and another, which is moreover regarded as an
absolute negation; this approach completely misunderstands reality. The opposite of
this approach is dialectical materialism, that is, scientific observation and study.
Material reality is self-motion, and moreover this self-motion is interconnected. Any
process itself moves forward because of the struggle of contradictions, and through
a sudden transformation it changes to move in an opposite direction. The entire history
of development of any process is constructed of a thesis, an antithesis which negates
the thesis, and a synthesis which is a negation of the negation of the antithesis. The
thesis already contains contradiction or antithesis within it, the antithesis also
contains the thesis within it, and the synthesis incorporates both the thesis and
antithesis. So-called negation, as Lenin has stated, ‘is neither random nor complete
negation, is neither skeptical nor vacillating negation; it is rather negation as an
element which preserves connection, an element of affirmation, i.e., without any
vacillations, without skepticism’. [This is an English translation of the Chinese
translation of Lenin’s comment that Mao used. See standard English translation from
LCW 38:226 in the quotation just above this one.] Negation does not destroy everything
and make a clean break with the past, it is not absolute; things that are in front
contain things that come later, and things that come later contain things that are in
front. Without the motion of negation, there can be no motion of affirmation. All
processes are like this.
“Negation is the ever-higher development of a process.
“A dialectical negation does not constitute a complete break with the past or its complete elimination.
“The first negation creates the possibility of the second negation.
“A dialectical negation is the cause of movement of a process of development, and this negation manifests itself as two aspects: one aspect manifests itself as sublation, namely the overcoming of the principal things of the old entity which are incompatible with preservation; the other aspect manifests itself as affirmation, namely the provision of status to and the preservation of the various things of the old entity which are still temporarily compatible with existence.” —Mao, 1936/1937, marginal notes in his copy of the Chinese translation of M. Shirokov & A. Aizenberg et al., A Course on Dialectical Materialism; in Nick Knight, ed., Mao Zedong on Dialectical Materialism (1990), pp. 276-7.
“Marxist philosophy, as distinguished from preceding philosophical systems, is not a science dominating the other sciences, rather it is an instrument of scientific investigation, a method, penetrating all natural and social sciences, enriching itself with their attainments in the course of their development. In this sense Marxist philosophy is the most complete and decisive negation of all preceding philosophy. But to negate, as Engels emphasized, does not mean merely to say ‘no.’ Negation includes continuity, signifies absorption, the critical reforming and unification in a new and higher synthesis of everything advanced and progressive that has been achieved in the history of human thought.” —A. A. Zhdanov, “On the History of Philosophy”, 1947.
NEGATION (In Formal Logic)
The denial of a statement or proposition. If P stands for some particular statement (as for example “Today is Monday.”) then not-P (which can also be written ~P) stands for the denial of that precise statement (i.e., in this case, “Today is not Monday.”) If today is actually Monday, then statement P is true. If today is not Monday, then statement P is false, and statement ~P is true.
The simultaneous assertion of a statement together with its negation, P & ~P, is a logical contradiction (i.e., what is called a contradiction in formal logic, and not what is called a contradiction in dialectics).
See also the entry on NEGATION (In Dialectics)
NEGATION OF THE NEGATION
The central notion in the negation of the negation is that of certain common forms of dialectical development which, in some respects, return to (or come around again to) where they began, but which in other respects have fundamentally changed. The pictorial image which best illustrates this is the spiral, or better yet, the spiral in three dimensions which is known as a helix (e.g., a coiled telephone cord). Each time around the cord comes back near to where it started, while at the same time being in an entirely different geometric plane.
How can a process of development both return to, and not return to, its starting place? This is possible if there is more than one dialectical contradiction at work. Specifically, it is possible (and indeed typical, and perhaps even necessary) where one overriding contradiction works itself out via a sequence of sub-contradictions.
The favorite (and probably the clearest) example of this for us Marxists is the development of the overall exploitation contradiction according to historical materialism. The first exploitative socioeconomic formation was slave society, where slaves were exploited by slave owners. Slave society then developed into feudalism, which was different in many respects from slavery. But in at least one key respect it was the reproduction of slave society; that is, exploitation still continued, though in a new form (the exploitation of peasants by the landlord aristocracy). Society was then once again revolutionized, as feudalism was overthrown by capitalism, and once again a great many things changed. But that same key respect of exploitation was once again reproduced in a new form, the exploitation of workers by the capitalists via the extraction of surplus value. [Note, by the way, that this will be the end of the line for the progressive transformation of the exploitation contradiction. The only possible further step at this point is the ending of exploitation entirely, through the overthrow of capitalism, and the building of first socialism and then communism.]
The negation of the negation, then, as Lenin summarized it, is “the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower [stage]”, and 2) “the apparent return to the old” [LCW 38:222]. It is the development of a larger or overall contradiction by means of the replacement of one sub-contradiction with another sub-contradiction which has both differences from, and similarities to, the earlier one.
See also: HEGELIAN TRIADS, SUBLATION
“The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist
mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of
individual private property, as founded on the labor of the proprietor. But capitalist
production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is
the negation of the negation. This does not re-establish private property for the
producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisitions of the capitalist
era: i.e., on co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the
means of production.” —Marx, Capital, Vol. I, ch. 32: International ed., p. 763;
Penguin ed., p. 929.
[So Marx is saying here that capitalist private property is the negation of the individual private property that belongs to the artisan who produces it in a pre-capitalist economy; that the distribution of goods to individual people under communism is the negation of capitalist private property; and that communist distribution is the negation of the negation of the individual property of the individual artisan. In other words, Marx is explaining this specific example of the development of “private property” relations in society in terms of dialectical terminology. This, of course, is only one example of the negation of the negation in economics; political economy abounds with developments which can be explained in such terms! —S.H.]
NEGATION OF THE NEGATION — Engels’s View Of
“To attempt to prove anything by means of dialectics alone to a crass
metaphysician like Herr Dühring would be as much a waste of time as was the
attempt made by Leibniz and his pupils to prove the principles of the infinitesimal
calculus to the mathematicians of their time. The differential gave them the same
cramps as Herr Dühring gets from the negation of the negation...
“But what then is this fearful negation of the negation, which makes life so bitter for Herr Dühring and with him plays the same role of the unpardonable crime as the sin against the Holy Ghost does in Christianity?—A very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand as soon as it is stripped of the veil of mystery in which it was enveloped by the old idealist philosophy and in which it is to the advantage of helpless metaphysicians of Herr Dühring’s calibre to keep it enveloped. Let us take a grain of barley. Billions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which are normal for it, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture it undergoes a specific change, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain. But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilized and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unity, but ten-, twenty- or thirtyfold. Species of grain change extremely slowly, and so the barley of today is almost the same as it was a century ago. But if we take ... [an] ornamental plant, for example a dahlia or an orchid, and treat the seed and the plant which grows from it according to the gardener’s art, we get as a result of this negation of the negation not only more seeds, but also qualitatively improved seeds, which produce more beautiful flowers, and each repetition of this process, each fresh negation of the negation, enhances this process of perfection.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1876-1878), MECW 25:125-6.
[Ed. Note: On occasion some people have objected to Engels’s description here of the “normal” development of barley grains into plants, etc., as if this showed some teleological or other invalid viewpoint. That would be irrelevant even if it were true (which it isn’t). If the word “normal” bothers you in this passage, simply substitute a longer phrase it is short for, such as “in the way in which it evolved to develop under the appropriate conditions for its regeneration”. Notice that such a substitution does not in any way change the validity of the explanation of the negation of the negation that Engels was presenting. In other words, as I said, these sorts of misconstruals and pedantic objections are really quite beside the point. —S.H.]
“With most insects, this process follows the same lines as in the case of the grain of barley. Butterflies, for example, spring from the egg by a negation of the egg, pass through certain transformations until they reach sexual maturity, pair and are in turn negated, dying as soon as the pairing process has been completed and the female has laid its numerous eggs. We are not concerned at the moment with the fact that with other plants and animals the process does not take such a simple form, that before they die they produce seeds, eggs or offspring not once but many times; our purpose here is only to show that the negation of the negation really does take place in both kingdoms of the organic world.” —Engels, ibid., MECW 25:126. [Engels then goes on to give further examples of the negation of the negation in the inorganic world (e.g., geology), and in the world of ideas (e.g., mathematics). —S.H.]
“And so, what is the negation of the negation? An extremely
general—and for this reason extremely far-reaching and important—law of development
of nature, history, and thought; a law which, as we have seen, holds good in the
animal and plant kingdoms, in geology, in mathematics, in history and in philosophy...
It is obvious that I do not say anything concerning the particular process of
development of, for example, a grain of barley from germination to the death of the
fruit-bearing plant, if I say it is a negation of the negation.... That, however, is
precisely what the metaphysicians are constantly imputting to dialectics. When I say
that all these processes are a negation of the negation, I bring them all together
under this one law of motion, and for this very reason I leave out of account the
specific peculiarities of each individual process. Dialectics, however, is nothing
more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human
society and thought.
“But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot.... These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes.... [T]he kind of negation is here determined, firstly, by the general and, secondly, by the particular nature of the process. I must not only negate, but also sublate the negation. I must therefore so arrange the first negation that the second remains or becomes possible. How? This depends on the particular nature of each individual case.” —Engels, ibid., MECW 25:131.
“Once again, therefore, it is no one but Herr Dühring who is mystifying us when he asserts that the negation of the negation is a stupid analogy invented by Hegel, borrowed from the sphere of religion and based on the story of the fall of man and his redemption.... Men thought dialectically long before they knew what dialectics was, just as they spoke prose long before the term prose existed. The law of negation of the negation, which is unconsciously operative in nature and history and, until it has been recognized, also in our heads, was only first clearly formulated by Hegel.” —Engels, ibid., MECW 25:132.
NEGATION OF THE NEGATION — Mao’s View Of
Mao frequently referred to the concept of the “negation of the negation” over the years. But in August 1964 he was reported as saying in one conversation that “this does not exist at all”. (See first quotation below.) The Sinologist Nick Knight plausibly argues, however, that Mao did not at all abandon the concept of the “negation of the negation”, but rather merely used another term (“affirmation, negation”) for essentially the same idea. (See second quotation below.)
“Engels talked about the three categories, but as for me I don’t believe in two of those categories. (The unity of opposites is the most basic law, the transformation of quality and quantity into one another is the unity of the opposites quality and quantity, and the negation of the negation does not exist at all.) The juxtaposition, on the same level, of the transformation of quality and quantity into one another, the negation of the negation, and the law of the unity of opposites is ‘triplism’, not monism. The most basic thing is the unity of opposites. The transformation of quality and quantity into one another is the unity of the opposites quality and quantity. There is no such thing as the negation of the negation. Affirmation, negation, affirmation, negation … in the development of things, every link in the chain of events is both affirmation and negation. Slave-holding society negated primitive society, but with reference to feudal society it constituted, in turn, the affirmation. Feudal society constituted the negation in relation to slaveholding society but it was in turn the affirmation with reference to capitalist society. Capitalism was the negation in relation to feudal society, but it is, in turn, the affirmation in relation to socialist society.” —Mao, in an informal discussion about philosophy with Kang Sheng and other comrades, August 18, 1964; online as Talk on Questions of Philosophy.
“It is evident, therefore, that one can find a good number of
references to the concept of the ‘negation of the negation’ in the Mao texts of the
late 1950s and early 1960s. It would appear that Mao’s August 1964 ‘rejection’ of
the concept is thus at odds with his otherwise relatively frequent and positive
references to it. However, parallel to such references to the ‘negation of the
negation’ emerges a different appellation for the concept, one which suggests that
Mao was seeking a label more in keeping with the more fundamental philosophical
category of the unity of opposites. In his important ‘Sixty Articles on Work Methods’
of January 1958, we discover that in referring to the three categories of Marxist
philosophy, Mao did not actually employ the title of the ‘negation of the
“‘The law of the unity of opposites, of quantitative to qualitative changes, and of affirmation and negation, will hold good universally and eternally.’
“The formula used here to describe the third philosophical category—‘affirmation’ and ‘negation’—is identical to that used by Mao in his August 1964 talk on philosophy; ‘affirmation, negation … in the development of things, every link in the chain of events is both affirmation and negation’. What we have here is merely a change in title, for the substance of the concept remains unchanged. The concept of the ‘negation of the negation assumes that the factor which negates the negative (for example, capitalism’s negation of feudalism) will initially constitute a positive factor, the affirmative. Over time, however, its positive character will transform into its opposite, the affirmative becoming the negative, as a new and historically progressive force emerges to challenge it. This cycle, of negation, affirmation, negation as described by Mao in August 1964, is in essence no different from that described earlier by himself and other Marxist philosophers, including Lenin and Engels, under the rubric of the ‘negation of the negation’. Mao’s demonstrable predilection for linking and using oxymoronic categories (life and death, truth and falsehood, materialism and idealism, right and wrong, finite and infinite, advanced and backward, to name but a few) suggests that he would have been unsympathetic to a formula which described a contradictory process and yet appeared to link like to like: the negation of the negation. By renaming the concept ‘affirmation and negation’, Mao could leave the substance of the concept unaltered while bringing its title into line with the pervasive idea that the unity of opposites exists in all things and processes.” —Nick Knight, from the Introduction to Mao Zedong on Dialectical Materialism (1990), pp. 22-23. [A fuller extract, with citations, can be found at: http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/Others/Knight-Mao-NegOfNeg.pdf]
NEGATIVE AMORTIZATION LOAN [Capitalist Fianance]
A mortgage or other loan which allows the borrower to pay only a portion of the interest due in that particular month, and then adds the remaining portion to the principal (thus further increasing future interest payments). That is, for a certain period, the amount the borrower owes on the loan increases each month, rather than decreases! This is one of many methods the banks and other financial capitalists use to arrange for loans to people who really cannot afford them, and who—in the end—are likely to default on the loan, and lose their home or other collateral. I.e., this is one of many types of predatory lending practices used to cheat people.
[Sometimes with a hyphen: neo-classical]
Neoclassical economics is the revised version of classical bourgeois economics (of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, et al.) which originally developed as the “marginalist” school (of León Walras, Carl Menger, William Stanley Jevons, and Alfred Marshall) in the second half of the 1800s and which since then has been by far the most dominant form of bourgeois economics. When most bourgeois economists refer to “economics”, they mean neoclassical bourgeois economics. There have been some further more minor modifications to neoclassical economics as it has developed over the century and more since then, including: 1) demoting land from its place in classical economics as one of the so-called “three factors of production” (along with labor and capital) to being viewed as just one form of capital; 2) further emphasis on utility maximization; 3) rational choice theory (insisting that economics is just a matter of rational choices that people supposedly almost always make in the marketplace); and 4) the ever-greater abstraction and mathematization of economics based on these bourgeois principles and the ever-diminishing relevance of all this to the real world.
In addition, some bourgeois economists have claimed that there has been a “synthesis” of neoclassical economics with Keynesianism, though this “neoclassical synthesis” is essentially still the same thing as before (see entry below). Monetarism, as in the theories of Milton Friedman, though considered by bourgeois economists to be diametrically opposed to the “neoclassical synthesis”, is itself just another slightly different sub-variety of neoclassical economics.
“It is only natural that neoclassical economists should work on the principle that ‘what is good for capitalism is good.’ I only wish that they could achieve a degree of self-understanding sufficient to admit that this is their principle and to proclaim it as openly as we radicals proclaim the opposite.” —Paul Sweezy, “Comment”, in Assar Lindbeck, The Political Economy of the New Left (1977), p. 147.
“NEOCLASSICAL SYNTHESIS, The”
The supposed blending of bourgeois neoclassical economics (see above) with bourgeois Keynesian theory. In the mid-1950s the very influential American bourgeois economist Paul Samuelson, who had been trained at Harvard by an American follower of Keynes, Alvin Hansen, developed what he called a “grand neoclassical synthesis” of standard neoclassical economic theory and Keynesianism. However, the form of Keynesianism which was blended into this “synthesis” was what a more genuine follower of Keynes, Joan Robinson, called bastard Keynesianism, and the result therefore is scarcely distinguishable from standard neoclassical economics which has no mention of Keynes. It includes, for example, the implicit assumption that “Say’s Law” is valid, which Keynes himself partially rejected.
[Often without the hyphen.] Neo-colonialism is the modified form of colonialism which seeks to hide the real political control and economic domination and exploitation of a country by one or more outside capitalist-imperialist countries. An outright, old-style colony is “owned” and openly dominated, exploited, and administered by some imperialist power. This imperialist overlord maintains its domination through open military force, putting down any rebellions by the people in the colony, and by being willing to go to war when necessary against other imperialist predators to secure that colony as its private preserve and keep other exploiters out. But in a neo-colony the open, formal, and “legal” domination of the oppressed country is absent. Instead, most of the same results are accomplished surreptitiously, through the establishment by the imperialist power of economic and political control through local comprador agents who are in nominal governmental control of the neo-colony. However, if these local agents fail to follow the most important orders from the imperialists, they are then forcibly overthrown and replaced by more compliant lackies.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to neo-colonialism (as opposed to old-style colonialism) from the point of view of the capitalist-imperialists. By far the greatest advantage is that under neo-colonialism it is vastly easier to fool the people of the oppressed nation about who is really in control of their country. It is also easier to raise local armies to do the dirty work of maintaining the real control by imperialists. On the other hand, there are some increased secondary dangers to the imperialists. Thus their local agents might get too independent and try to govern more in their own interests rather than in the interests of the imperialists. This is why periodic coups or assassinations ordered by the imperialists are still “necessary”, or even military interventions by them. It is also true that it is more difficult to maintain each neo-colony as the private preserve of a single imperialist power. Still, on the whole, the great change from old-style colonialism to neo-colonialism—which was primarily accomplished in the world by (presumed) national liberation struggles in the several decades following World War II—has proven to be both necessary for the imperialists, and to their own net advantage.
See also below, and: NATURAL RESOURCE CURSE
NEO-COLONIALISM — Development Of
Open colonialism began in the early years of capitalism, such as with the conquest of the New World by Spain, Portugal, France and Britain, and then with the beginning conquest of India by Britain in the 18th century and of the conquest of the East Indies by Holland. But as many of the old colonial powers began to weaken, many colonies (especially in the New World) became formally independent.
In the Americas the newly developing capitalist power, the U.S.A., proclaimed the “Monroe Doctrine”, that no European power would be allowed to capture and control new colonies in the New World. Britain, however, found that it was able to economically penetrate South America quite well. As the British historian Eric Hobsbawm expressed it, South Amerca became “an informal part of the British Empire”. This was an early pioneer form of neo-colonialism. To some degree the British also economically penetrated the U.S. itself, and developed some of the mechanisms of neo-colonialism that way. But the U.S. was growing and developing very rapidly during the 19th century, and eventually began to challenge and surpass the economic might of Britain.
However, in the last decades of the 1800s capitalism developed into its new imperialist form, a form much more predatory and voracious. There was a mad rush of the major imperialist countries to carve up Africa and other regions and establish new outright colonies as their own private preserves for economic exploitation. The U.S. also joined this mad rush and seized a number of colonies (including Cuba and the Philippines) from Spain. In World War I the imperialist countries fought among themselves to see which would be top dog in a world completely dominated by imperialism and colonialism. World War I did not fully resolve the issue, and broke out again a generation later in the form of World War II.
Many colonial countries came out of World War II with tremendously increased nationalist sentiments, and over the next few decades a major change happened in the world: the transformation, over most of it, from colonialism to neo-colonialism. This was aided somewhat by some of the imperialist countries themselves, the ones (including the U.S.) which were late to the colonial banquet and which stood to benefit by ending the system of exclusive colonies. The existing imperialist powers tremendously resisted this change, but they were unable to stop this transformation in most of their one-time colonies. They were, however, able to co-opt it, to make neo-colonialism little different in reality from the open colonialism that preceded it. The imperialist powers still dominate most of the poorer countries of the world, and tremendously exploit them, including their material resources and their cheap supply of human labor.
NEO-KANTIANISM [Of the Late Nineteenth Century through the Time of Lenin]
“Neo-Kantianism—a reactionary trend in bourgeois philosophy
preaching subjective idealism under the slogan of a return to Kantian philosophy. It
arose in the middle of the nineteenth century in Germany, where at this time there
was an increased interest in Kantianism. In 1865 Otto Liebmann’s book Kant and
the Epigones was published, each chapter ending with the call: ‘Back to Kant’.
Liebmann put forward the task of correcting Kant’s ‘main error’—the recognition of
‘things-in-themselves’. The revival of Kantianism
was helped by the works of Kuno Fischer and Eduard Zeller, and one of the early
representatives of neo-Kantianism was Friedrich Albert Lange who tried to use
physiology as a basis for agnosticism.
“Later, two main schools of neo-Kantianism were formed: that of Marburg (Hermann Cohen, Paul Natorp, etc.) and that of Freiburg or Baden (Wilhelm Windelband, Heinrich Rickert, etc.). The former tried to substantiate idealism by speculating on the successes of natural science, especially on the penetration of mathematical methods into physics; the latter counterposed the social sciences to natural science, trying to prove that historical phenomena are strictly individual and not subject to the operation of any laws. Both schools put the question of the logical basis of science in place of the fundamental question of philosophy. Criticizing Kant ‘from the right’, the neo-Kantians declared the ‘thing-in-itself’ to be a ‘limiting concept’ to which knowledge was tending. Denying the objective existence of the material world, they regarded as the object of knowledge not the laws of nature and society, but merely the phenomena of consciousness. In contrast to the agnosticism of the natural scientists, that of the neo-Kantians was not ‘shamefaced materialism’, for it asserted the impotance of science in regard to cognition and changes of reality. The neo-Kantians openly attacked Marxism, counterposing to it ‘ethical socialism’. In accordance with their theory of knowledge they declared socialism to be the ‘ethical ideal’ of human social existence, an ideal to which mankind was striving but which it could not attain. This ‘theory’ of the neo-Kantians was seized upon by the revisionists, headed by Eduard Bernstein, who put forward the slogan: ‘The movement is everything, the final goal is nothing’. Neo-Kantianism was one of the philosophical pillars of the Second International. In Russia attempts to ‘combine’ neo-Kantianism and Marxism were made by the ‘legal Marxists’. G. V. Plekhanov, Paul Lafargue and Franz Mehring opposed the neo-Kantian revision of Marxism. Lenin laid bare the reactionary nature of neo-Kantianism and showed its connection with other trends of bourgeois philosophy (immanentism, Machism, pragmatism, etc.).” —Note 18, LCW 14.
NEO-KANTIANISM [Since the Time of Lenin]
Attempts to “return to Kant” have continued in bourgeois philosophy to the present time. In post-World War II West Germany many of the neo-Kantians have been grouped around the magazine Kantstudien published in Cologne. Kant remains a very strong influence within Continental Philosophy in general.
Worse yet, neo-Kantianism has again arisen within the contemporary revolutionary movement in the U.S. and other countries. See for example the entry on Bill MARTIN.
[To be added...]
[Often without the hyphen.] [Definition to be added...]
See also: LAISSEZ-FAIRE
The New Stone Age, or period from about 10,000 to 3,000 BCE. The term is generally used in reference to the social and cultural developements of Europe and the Mediterranean area.
See also: PALEOLITHIC AGE
See also: PLATO, PLATONISM
“Neo-Platonists—followers of the mystical philosophical doctrine, the basis of which was Plato’s idealism. Neo-Platonism (Plotinus was the head of this school) developed during the period from the 3rd to the 5th centuries and was a combination of the Stoic, Epicurean and Skeptical doctrines with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. The influence of neo-Platonism was strong in the Middle Ages; it was expressed in the doctrines of the leading medieval theologians and is also to be seen in certain trends of modern bourgeois philosophy.” —Note 105, LCW 38.
See: NEW ECONOMIC POLICY
See: JANA ANDOLAN, PANCHAYAT REGIME
A private capitalist, trader or profiteer in the early period of the New Economic Policy of the young Soviet Union.
NEUE RHEINISCHE ZEITUNG [New Rhenish Gazette]
Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung was a newspaper edited by Marx in Cologne from June 1, 1848 to May 19, 1849 when it was forced to cease publication.
“Marx and Engels managed the newspaper, Marx being the editor-in-chief. It educated the masses, roused them to take action against counter-revolution; its influence was felt throughout Germany. Because of its resolute and irreconcilable position, its militant internationalism and the political exposures it published against the Prussian Government and the Cologne authorities, the newspaper was hounded by the feudal-monarchist and liberal-bourgeois press and persecuted by the government. In May 1849, at the time of the general offensive of the counter-revolution, the reactionary Prussian Government took advantage of Marx not being a Prussian subject to banish him from Prussia. Because of the banishment of Marx and the persecution of the other editors, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung had to cease publication. The last issue (No. 301) appeared on May 19, 1849 printed in red. In a farewell address to the workers the editors said that ‘their last word will always and everywhere be: The Emancipation of the Working Class!’.” —Note 8 to Lenin, Selected Works, vol. I, (Moscow: 1967). [See also Engels’ article “Marx and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung”]
NEUE ZEIT [New Times]
Die Neue Zeit was the theoretical journal of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) during the period of the Second International.
“Theoretical journal of of German Social-Democracy, published in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Prior to October 1917 was edited by Karl Kautsky, then Heinrich Cunow. In 1885-95, articles by Marx and Engels appeared in its columns. Engels frequently made suggestions to the editors of Die Neue Zeit, and severely criticized them for departing from Marxism. The journal also published articles by Franz Mehring, Paul Lafargue, G. V. Plekhanov, and other leading figures of the international working-class movement. In the late 1890s, after the death of Engels the journal made a practice of publishing articles by revisionists. During the First World War (1914-18) it adopted a centrist position in support of the social-chauvinists.” —Note 13 to Lenin, Selected Works, vol. I, (Moscow: 1967).
The ability of the brains of humans and other animals to change their physical structure in various ways. These include: 1) the generation of new neurons (and other brain cells) and the death of old ones; 2) the modification of neurons (for example, through the addition or extension of axons and dendrites, or the degeneration of old axons and dendrites); 3) the establishment of new neural connections (synapses) or the removal of old connections; and 4) the modification of the strength of existing synaptic connections. Some of these types of changes are more frequent and important to the ordinary functioning of the brain than others. As recently as the 1990s it was still commonly thought that new neurons were not generated in the adult human brain, but this dogma is now known to be false.
Strangely, the overall concept of neuroplasticity is relatively new. Scientific materialism, however, has recognized from the beginning that if thoughts, thinking, memories, and so forth change, then the physical brain must be changing as well. But there was a long history of philosophical idealist resistance to this materialist conception. However, by now neurophysiology has fully established that the brain does change as a result of experience, and this is how humans and other animals learn new information and skills, acquire memories, develop new thoughts, and so forth.
[To be added...]
NEW DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION
[To be added...]
See also: NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE
NEW ECONOMIC POLICY (NEP)
[To be added...]
NEW KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS
[Not the same thing as NEO-KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS!]
This is a particular variety of Keynesianism that began to develop, especially among American bourgeois economists, in the decade of the 1980s. It is a reaction against the new classical bourgeois economic assault on Keynes after the application of Keynesian nostrums fared so poorly in the U.S. economy during the 1970s (with the advent of stagflation). This “New Keynesian” theory is a further development or extension of the neoclassical synthesis created by those such as Paul Samuelson who sought to blend classical bourgeois economics with Keynes’s ideas. Like the neoclassical synthesis, therefore, this New Keynesian economics is a form of what Joan Robinson labelled as “Bastard Keynesianism”.
This New Keynesian economics is an attempt to give a microeconomic foundation to Keynes’s macroeconomic theories. It focuses especially on the issue of “sticky” wages and prices. According to classical bourgeois economic theory, the forces of supply and demand very quickly adjust all wages and prices. But according to the New Keynesian economists, these adjustments can be much slower and this can lead to major problems in the economy such as fairly long periods of involuntary unemployment. In their view, this also explains why monetary policy (such as changing interest rates) can often be effective in regulating the economy.
No doubt there is some validity to the notion of “sticky” wages and prices, but this is still only one small adjustment to what remains a deeply bourgeois economic theory which is incapable of correctly analyzing capitalism. The New Keynesian economics explanation of crises and unemployment is hopelessly superficial and wrong.
[To be added... ]
NEW LIFE MOVEMENT
An ideological movement promoted by Chiang Kai-shek in China during the 1930s in opposition to the growing appeal of Marxism and revolution. It was designed to supposedly foster the “moral development of the Chinese people” and make them easier for Chiang’s regime to mobilize for reactionary purposes. Its ideological content was a mixture of traditional Confucian, Christian, and contemporary fascist beliefs.
“NEW SYNTHESIS” (by Bob Avakian)
A supposed further development of communist theory to a new stage by Bob Avakian of the RCPUSA. It has been presented by the RCP and by Avakian himself as “the most advanced representation of communist thinking”. One is temped to summarize this “new synthesis” by adapting the words of Samuel Johnson: “Sir, your ‘new synthesis’ is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” But the problem is in finding much of anything substantial that is really new or original in the first place! To see what an obscure mess of verbiage this “New Synthesis” really is, take a look at Avakian’s own description of it in the following single monstrous sentence:
“This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ‘civil society’ independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.” —Bob Avakian, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part I: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right” (2007), online at: http://rwor.org/avakian/makingrevolution/ [Uhhh, OK.... So what exactly is new in this “new synthesis” again? —S.H.]
See also: “EMBRACES BUT CANNOT REPLACE”
See: WHERE DO NEW THINGS COME FROM?
NEWS AND LETTERS
See: Raya DUNAYEVSKAYA
See: BOURGEOIS MEDIA
NEWTON, Isaac (1642-1727)
Great English scientist and mathematician.
See: NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich (1844-1900)
German reactionary philosopher and irrationalist. His ideology was in many ways a forerunner of fascism.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Nietzsche.
1. [Ethics:] The theory that no moral views are valid or justifiable, and that morality is therefore irrational or meaningless. Turgenev originated the term in his novel Fathers and Sons (1862). Obviously this is just a “sophisticated” excuse for acting according to one’s own selfish interests.
2. Political nihilism is the theory that society is so corrupt and despicable that its complete and utter destruction is necessary, which means that even the wildest and most aimless eruptions of violence are justified and appropriate. Such views are generally popular only amoung those who have no idea how to go about changing society; i.e., a few disillusioned students of bourgeois or petty-bourgeois origin.
NINJA LOAN (or MORTGAGE)
A mortgage or other loan which is issued by a bank or financial corporation even though the applicant has “No Income, No Job or Assets” (hence “NINJA”). Why would any company issue such a loan? Simply because they get a large initial commission and plan to soon sell the rights to collect on the loan to someone else (perhaps in the form of Collaterized Debt Obligations) and therefore really don’t themselves care if the loan will ever be repaid or not. In other words it is part of a fraudent scheme run by financial institutions to cheat investors. Moreover, most people without any job, or income, or assets, would never even think to apply for a mortgage if they were not strongly encouraged to do so by predatory banks or financial companies. These poor people generally end up losing their home, find their credit rating ruined and are unable to get a mortgage or other loan in the future.
NKVD [Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del]
Russian initials for the Commissariat (Ministry) of Internal Affairs in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, and which most notoriously included the secret police agency named OGPU, later renamed the NKGB, and eventually the KGB under the revisionist clique that took control after Stalin’s death. However, during most of this period the secret police were usually referred to as NKVD rather than OGPU or NKGB.
The NKVD was used to monitor and quell counter-revolutionary activity; however, it also instilled a significant amount of fear in the general population, and arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even killed many thousands of innocent people. No one was allowed to feel safe in Stalin’s USSR, not even close friends and allies of the revolution, many of whom were arrested or killed on suspicion of being either agents of foreign imperialism or of conspiring to overthrow the Soviet government. Much of this was the direct result of Stalin’s own paranoia following the uncovering of coup plots from within the state apparatus (and not just something emanating from some pathology of Stalin’s, as is often claimed or implied in bourgeois accounts of the Great Purges). Two heads of the secret police were themselves eventually executed (on charges of killing innocent people, among other crimes), but surely the primary blame must be placed with Stalin, who, through staggering irresponsibility, allowed and even encouraged this organ of the state to be bestowed with almost limitless power to arrest anyone it simply deemed to be a threat. Obviously, such a situation is extremely given to corruption and abuse (as indeed happened, and it is clearly mind-boggling that anyone can fail to understand this from the outset).
Over-reliance on “administrative” methods (repression) shows a fundamental failure to implement the mass line, and must eventually lead to a situation where the masses lose faith in the very party that is supposed to represent their interests. It is therefore clear that an organization like the NKVD (in the manner in which it existed in the USSR) cannot exist in a genuinely Marxist-Leninist regime, which must always, as Mao said, serve the people, listen to them and learn from them. Communists must ensure at all costs that the organs of the revolutionary state that emerges after the overthrow of capitalism all serve the masses with unfailing diligence and sincerity. —L.C.
See also: SOVIET UNION—Security Agencies, OKHRANA, SECRET POLICE, COINTELPRO, FBI
“NO INVESTIGATION, NO RIGHT TO SPEAK”
“Speaking specifically, people engaged in practical work must at all times keep abreast of changing conditions, and this is something for which no Communist Party in any country can depend on others. Therefore, everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the lower levels. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice. Although my assertion, ‘No investigation, no right to speak’, has been ridiculed as ‘narrow empiricism’, to this day I do not regret having made it; what is more, I still insist that without investigation there cannot possibly be any right to speak.” —Mao, “Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys” (March-April 1941), Selected Works, vol. 3, p. 13.
[In Hegel’s philosophy:] A definite point where a qualitative change takes place as the result of the gradual accumulation of small quantitative changes. In other words, a point at which a qualitative leap occurs.
NOM DE GUERRE
“War name”, or pseudonym used by a person during revolutionary work.
See also: PARTY NAME
[To be added... ]
Originally a trend in medieval philosophy which asserted that (contrary to idealists like Plato) only individual things really exist. Plato held that in addition to individual chairs there also existed the idea or “form” of “chairness” which was the deeper and truer reality. As Marx noted (in The Holy Family, in rejecting such nonsense nominalism was the first expression of materialism during the Middle Ages.
However the nominalists did not seem to understand that general concepts (abstractions) actually do reflect the real qualities of objectively existing individual things. The medieval nominalists, and their modern followers (especially bourgeois writers in the field of semantics), have often seemed unable to appreciate the power and importance of generalization and abstraction. Thus comments about chairs in general can actually be just as true statements about the world as are comments about individual chairs. “Chairs are for sitting on” is just as true and valid as “This chair is for sitting on”.
[To be added... ]
See also: BANDUNG CONFERENCE
“NON-CAPITALIST PATH OF DEVELOPMENT”
A term used by the Soviet revisionists to describe the attempts by various originally pre-capitalist or semi-capitalist Third World countries, under Soviet tutelage, to build government-owned industry (i.e., state capitalism). While it seemed ridiculous even to the revisionists to actually call this sort of thing “socialism”, they tried to characterize it as having a “socialist orientation”, and hence supposedly not really capitalism either.
A type of bourgeois ethical theory which—amazingly!—denies that moral judgments are meaningful and either true or false. Non-cognitivist ethical theories deny, for example, that saying “Genocide is wrong” is a meaningful statement, and also deny that the statement is true or false! The logical positivists, in particular, claimed this about moral judgments. Some people in this general positivist tradition, including Charles Stevenson, went on to claim that moral judgments are merely expressions of emotion and “commands” that others have the same emotional reaction to something as the speaker does. (Thus for them “murder is wrong” is roughly equivalent to “murder—UGH!—and that’s the way you should feel too!”) Another, much more widespread, variation of non-cognitivism is the notion that moral judgments merely express approval or disapproval, but are neither true nor false. This is the view of several influential British philosophers including John Austin and R. M. Hare, and—indoctrinated by them—the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary. Of course, according to our MLM ethical theory, moral statements are definitely meaningful, and are true or false. Thus we say that the statement “It will be a very good and important thing to overthrow imperialism and put an end to imperialist wars!” is both fully meaningful, and definitely true.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION (NGO)
Local, national, or international organizations or associations which are not set up by governments. They may have been established for, and pursue, any sort of purpose or agenda, from health and charitable work, environmental causes, cultural pursuits, or more overtly political sorts of agendas. While these are not government organizations, it must not be forgotten that we live in a bourgeois world, and therefore most of these organizations are still financed and run primarily by the rich ruling bourgeois classes of the world, and serve the interests of the bourgeoisie of one or another country first of all. There are indeed health NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders, environmental NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, and charitable NGOs such as Oxfam, which all do a lot of work for the benefit of the people. However, few if any of these sorts of NGOs make any real effort to change this capitalist-imperialist world which gives rise to the awful problems in the first place, the prolems which they are only attempting to ameliorate. But besides these well-intentioned (but largely ineffective) reformist NGOs, there are also much richer and far more influential NGOs such as the Ford Foundation, which in words support some of these same good causes, but whose actual primary focus and purpose is to keep the world pacified and under control of U.S. imperialism and their local agents. Because this is the real central core of contemporary NGOs in general, we revolutionary Marxists tend to be suspicious of NGOs, and even downright hostile and totally opposed to the most sinister of them like the Ford Foundation.
“The contemporary Indian economy is unduly influenced by the activities of carpetbaggers, a ruthless mafia, rapacious mining interests and giant speculators, all linked to the politics of criminality. The degeneration is so deep, the rot so acute that these same moneybags are floating thousands of non-government organizations (NGOs) in order to trivialise the ills of the system so that people are diverted from seeing that these are endemic to the very system itself and not due to just some bad individuals or policies.” —Azad, spokesperson for the Communist Party of India (Maoist), “Maoists in India: A Rejoinder”, Economic and Political Weekly, October 14, 2006.
See: GOULD, Stephen Jay
NONPROFIT SECTOR (Of the U.S. Economy)
The nonprofit sector of the economy includes all sorts of organizations and bodies of many different types, including religious organizations, charitable groups, professional associations, business associations, lobbying associations, political pressure groups, political parties, organizations concerned with certain health issues, environmental (and anti-environmental!) groups, reactionary indoctrination groups, educational and scientific associations and many educational institutions themselves, think tanks, and on and on. And some nominally non-government organizations (NGOs) are actually de facto agencies of the U.S. government (and are largely funded by the government); some officially “nonprofit” health, insurance or other organizations are actually for-profit business organizations. (Their profits are distributed in the form of high salaries and perks for their top management, for example.)
In an advanced capitalist-imperialist country such as the United States, the nonprofit sector is actually quite large. Many former governmental services are now left to be handled (often very inadequately) by nonprofits, for example. In 2009 the greatest portion of nonprofit expenditures (which are improperly included in the GDP statistical sub-category known as “Personal Consumption Expenditures”) came to about 2% of total GDP. However, a much larger section of the workforce is employed in the non-profit sector, around 10%. (See the quotation below.) This large nonprofit workforce is necessary to both further indoctrinate the population in views acceptable to the ruling bourgeoisie, and also to co-opt and buy-off a large number of those who would otherwise be dissidents and “trouble makers” agitating against the bourgeoisie. And this great expenditure on nonprofits is possible because of all the wealth being ripped off from both exploited American and foreign workers.
“According to a 2012 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies
at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit employment represents 10.1 percent of total
employment in the United States in 2010, with total employees numbering 10.7 million.
The nonprofit workforce is the third largest of all U.S. industries behind retail
trade and manufacturing.
“During the Great Recession (2007 to 2009), the nonprofit sector gained jobs at an average rate of 1.9 percent per year, while the private sector lost jobs at a rate of 3.7 percent per year.
“The average annual growth rate for employment has been higher for nonprofits during the 2000-2010 period at 2.1% whereas the for-profit sector shrank by -0.6%.
“Nonprofit employment by sector is approximately 57% for health services, 15% for education, 13% for social assistance, 7% for civic associations, 4% for other, 3% for arts and culture, and 2% for professional services.” —From a posting on Grant Space/The Foundation Center, at http://www.grantspace.org (accessed April 23, 2013).
The part of ethics (in the broad sense) which concerns what is actually right and wrong. In other words, what we more usually just call morality.
“NORTH” VERSUS “SOUTH” THEORY
A theory of the social world today which focuses on the exploitation and/or oppression of the “Southern” countries of the world by the “Northern” dominant countries. As with the alternative name, “Center” vs. “Periphery” Theory, it seems the terminology has been chosen in order to avoid the word ‘imperialism’.
See also: DEPENDENCY THEORY, Samir AMIN
See: UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND
NORTHERN EXPEDITION (Chinese History)
A major military campaign by the Guomindang led by Chiang Kai-shek, which included significant support from the Soviet Union and the Communists within China, and which defeated the warlords in the northern part of the country and more or less unified China. Nationalist troops set out from Guangdong (Canton) in 1926 and by 1928 most of China was under GMD control.
NOUMENA AND PHENOMENA
“Noumena and phenomena—terms used by Kant in his theory of knowledge. Noumenon means a thing-in-itself, while phenomenon means a thing as it appears to us. According to Kant, phenomena are formed as a result of the action on man of something unknown (a thing-in-itself). Noumena are supposed to lie beyond phenomena, and their essence to be unknowable.” —Note 116, LCW 38.
NOW: A Political and Cultural Weekly
A left-leaning magazine in Kolkatta [Calcutta], India which appeared from October 1964 to 1968. It was edited by Samar Sen, who was finally fired by the publisher for being too Left, and who then went on to found the weekly magazine Frontier. Many of the issues of Now are archived at: http://sanhati.com/now_archives/
Atom bombs (based on nuclear fission) and thermonuclear bombs (based on nuclear fusion), the most terrible weapons of mass destruction of our era.
“The complete banning and destruction of nuclear weapons is an important
task in the struggle to defend world peace. We must do our utmost to this end.
“Nuclear weapons are unprecidentedly destructive, which is why for more than a decade now the U.S. imperialists have been pursuing their policy of nuclear blackmail in order to realize their ambition of enslaving the people of all countries and dominating the world.
“But when the imperialists threaten other countries with nuclear weapons, they subject the people in their own country to the same threat, thus arousing them against nuclear weapons and against the imperialist policies of aggression and war. At the same time, in their vain hope of destroying their opponents with nuclear weapons, the imperialists are in fact subjecting themselves to the danger of being destroyed.
“The possibility of banning nuclear weapons does indeed exist. However, if the imperialists are forced to accept an agreement to ban nuclear weapons, it decidedly will not be because of their ‘love for humanity’ but because of the pressure of the people of all countries and for the sake of their own vital interests.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 32.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — America’s Use of in World War II
“Particularly important is the light shed on the American decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. At the time, the justifications were murky: some hoped the terrifying display would avoid what they feared would have been a bloody invasion. Others wanted to test the bombs on which so many billions of dollars had been spent. Still others had their eye on post-war diplomacy, seeking to intimidate the Soviet Union and secure American dominance. Newly declassified files show unambiguously that America was aware of Japanese attempts to sue for peace before the bombs were dropped, undermining the military reasoning for using the weapons.” —The Economist, “A Rush of Energy”, Aug. 27, 2009. [Even a reactionary publication like The Economist now implicitly agrees that this episode of imperialist mass murder and genocide must have been done primarily as a warning to the Soviet Union that U.S. imperialism would be the top dog in the post-World War II world. —S.H.]
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