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) and: LOGIC—FORMAL, CONTRADICTION—LOGICAL, CONTRADICTION—DIALECTICAL
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.
NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES
Normally interest rates are positive, which is to say that a bank or borrower of someone’s money will pay them something for the loan of their money to them. Real interest rates can be negative if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of interest. However, it is also possible for even nominal interest rates to be negative (without even taking the inflation rate into consideration). This only happens in very exceptional situations where the government is arranging things so that banks and other lending institutions are penalized if they hold too much money without lending it out themselves, which therefore forces the bank to discourage excess deposits by charging depositors to hold their money. In other words this situation can only develop, at least on any significant scale, where banks themselves cannot find sufficient profitable investment opportunities for their “excess” money; i.e., in the midst of a very serious capitalist economic crisis.
In 2008-2009 the long developing world capitalist overproduction crisis took a serious turn for the worse in the form of the “Great Recession”. Although the government proclaimed that this recession was “over” in the summer of 2009, everybody knows better. The U.S. and world capitalist economies have been very weak, stagnant, and in-and-out of official recession since that time. In this situation the capitalist ruling classes of the world are beginning to panic. Although their own theory says that capitalists will always invest in new factories and machines in order to increase production and profits, the actual fact is that the masses are already spending virtually all that they make and can borrow. And therefore it makes no sense for the capitalists themselves to borrow and build more factories—when they cannot sell everything that their existing factories produce. There is a world overproduction crisis, and therefore there is in effect an “investment strike” by the capitalists themselves.
By early 2015 it became apparent to the U.S. government, which is in effect the executive committee of the American capitalist ruling class, that this period of stagnation was not going to clear up by itself and that therefore some means had to be found to force consumers to spend more, and to force corporations to invest in many more factories. The leading, and most politically acceptable, method of doing this is to adopt policies which lead to negative interest rates. Those who have lots of money in bank accounts will not want to see their balances steadily erode, and will therefore be more likely to spend or invest. The Federal Reserve has already forced some banks, such as JPMorgan Chase, to in effect charge some of its biggest clients to hold their “excess money”. And all around the world other capitalist governments have been trying the same thing. In February 2016 the Japanese government lowered the interest rate on its 10-year bonds to -0.04% per year, and Sweden pushed its main interest rate further into negative territory, to -0.5% per year. “Nearly 30% of the global government bond market now trades on a negative yield.” [Economist, Feb. 13, 2016, p. 7.]
However, so far these slightly negative interest rates have proven to be rather ineffective. For that reason governments are trying to figure out how to force even more negative interest rates. One major problem for them is that people, and even corporations, will simply start taking their money out of banks if the interest rates get too negative. This is why governments are more and more thinking about the “necessity” of abolishing physical currency, and forcing all money to exist only in bank accounts! (See: ABOLISHING PHYSICAL CURRENCY.) If that becomes the case, governments can make their negative rates as negative as they like, and depositors will only have the option to move their money to another country. If all countries have negative interest rates, there will be no way to avoid the erosion of the value of money.
Nevertheless, even worldwide negative interest rates will not save the capitalists. If money is destroyed as a store of value, then the rich and their corporations will simply shift into using gold or other commodities for that purpose. The desperation of the capitalist ruling class continues to deepen as their overall economic crisis intensifies, and it pushes them into one unworkable scheme after another.
[For further information on this topic, see my 4-page letter “Negative Interest Rates, and Abolishing Cash Money” (4/26/2015), http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/CurrentCrisis/2015/NegInterestRatesAndAbolishingCash-150426.pdf —S.H.]
The term used in China for confidential internal documents circulated within the Communist Party of China. This includes documents which are critical of aspects of the Party and government and/or which might be embarrassing to the Party if made public. But it also includes other documents, such as background information for Party members. Sometimes very important documents are only available within China in neibu form—such as Mao’s own “Lecture Notes on Dialectical Materialism” from 1937. Fortunately for the rest of the world, many neibu documents are eventually leaked outside the Party and published in other countries.
[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 with a hyphen.] Neocolonialism 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 neocolonialism (as opposed to old-style colonialism) from the point of view of the capitalist-imperialists. By far the greatest advantage is that under neocolonialism 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 neocolonialism—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
NEOCOLONIALISM — 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 neocolonialism. To some degree the British also economically penetrated the U.S. itself, and developed some of the mechanisms of neocolonialism 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 neocolonialism. 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 neocolonialism 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.
“After World War II world imperialism underwent some major
changes. One of these very important changes was the forced replacement (in part
because of people’s rebellions) of most outright colonies which had been under
the exclusive control of a single imperialist power with neocolonialism.
Under this new arrangement, most countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle
East and Asia are now officially independent of their former colonial masters,
but are still subject to foreign imperialist exploitation and political or
“An aspect of neocolonialism that still often goes underappreciated is that the neocolonies are now open to imperialist predation by more than one imperialist power, and actually by all imperialist powers at the present time.
“This change to neocolonialism by all the major imperialist countries required the construction of an imperialist system to regulate this joint exploitation of the world, and to create and/or impose rules for how these vicious wolves would prey on the sheep, without constantly coming into bloody conflict against each other. International agencies, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization were set up to regulate this new imperialist system.
—N. B. Turner, et al., Is China an Imperialist Country? — Considerations and Evidence (2015), summary theses numbers 3-5, p. 144-145. Also available online at http://www.red-path.net, and in PDF format at http://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf and elsewhere.
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...]
Recent views and political stances within the nominal “Left” which are similar to, or reminiscent of, those of Karl Kautsky around World War I. These include:
1. Attitudes about globalization which grossly exaggerate the extent or degree to which the world economy has recently become integrated into an single unified whole, and essentially adopt the view that “ultra-imperialism” has now arrived, and permanently so.
2. The view that United States imperialism is in complete and permanent control of the world, both economically and militarily; and the view that “world imperialism” is essentially identical with “American imperialism”. Some of those supporting this general position are now finally beginning to recognize that economically the U.S. is weakening and starting to lose out to China and other rising powers, but still maintain that militarily the U.S. will remain unchallengeable by other imperialist countries at least for many, many decades and far into the foreseeable future.
3. Views, such as those of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri that the capitalist-imperialist system has already evolved, or at least is rapidly evolving, into a new transnational unified system of independent international corporations which they refer to collectively as “Empire”, in which individual nation states lose their power and their control over the world economy, and also lose their overall importance.
A primary implication of all these views is that the long nightmare of inter-imperialist struggle and world wars is now a thing of the past. Thus, all these versions of neo-Kautskyism are actually dream-worlds of a basically peaceful capitalist-imperialist future (even if it is admitted that capitalism itself is exploitive and despicable and that it continually engages in small-scale wars against “Third World” countries).
See also: KAUTSKYISM
“There is a tendency that some people have to discount any possibility of growing economic contentions within the world imperialist system, and to deny even the possibility that different economic blocs might arise within the current world system, on the grounds that the U.S. currently has unchallengeable military power and unshakable military alliances with most of the other powerful countries of the world. We see this tendency as sort of a neo-Kautskyian view similar to his theory of ‘ultra-imperialism’. First, it fails to take to heart the reality of uneven development in the world, and the genuineness of the rapid growth of Chinese economic power in particular, along with the U.S. economic decline and fragility. Second, it confuses the present situation of growing economic contention with the possible future development of military contention. Third, philosophically, it seems to reject the important dialectical law that ‘one divides into two’.” —N. B. Turner, et al., Is China an Imperialist Country? Considerations and Evidence (2014), chapter 11. [Available online at: http://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf ]
[Somtimes with a hyphen: neo-liberalism.] A set of economic and political views and policies used to administer a capitalist state, which is characterized by attacks on (or even the total destruction of) many previous concessions to the working class, such as unemployment insurance, welfare and other social programs, including public education; by further attacks against, and the destruction of, labor unions and whatever little pro-labor legislation may have previously existed; by promoting the lowering of real wages and, especially, benefits for workers such as abolishing retirement plans; by a freer hand granted to corporations to operate as they please and with many fewer (and weaker) regulations, including weakening or eliminating environmental safeguards; by much lower taxes for the rich and for their corporations; by international free trade, again for the benefit of big corporations; and by a general turn back towards the laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th century. More briefly, neoliberalism is the bourgeois dogma that everything should be left to the so-called “free market” to work out all on its own, and that things will always “work out for the best” if unrestrained market forces are given full play. Thus, neoliberalism is a very reactionary trend in modern capitalist rule which is serving to dismantle the welfare state and drive down the working class and the masses.
Neoliberalism became necessary for the bourgeois ruling class as a means of trying to deal with the long developing U.S. and world capitalist economic crisis. The leading capitalist-imperialist countries in the world over the past century made welfare state concessions to their own working classes in order to keep the peace at home while they plundered the rest of the world. However, with the growing overproduction crisis these concessions are no longer “practical”, and to keep corporate profits up they must now be rapidly eliminated. Neoliberalism amounts to a policy of trying to take out the very negative effects of the worsening capitalist economic crisis on the backs of the proletariat.
The advent of capitalist-imperialism initially permitted a temporary interruption in the trend toward the immiseration of the proletariat in the advanced capitalist countries, and even allowed for their partial embourgeoisment and the growth of a labor aristocracy. But the slowly developing, but inexorable, world overproduction crisis is forcing the ruling class to reproletarianize the working class and to renew the overall capitalist process of the immiseration of the proletariat and the broad masses—even at home.
See also: SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS
“Some people will obviously have to do with less.... It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must be done to make people accept this reality.” —Editorial, Business Week, October 12, 1974, as the period of neoliberalism and intensified austerity for the working class began in the United States.
NEOLIBERALISM VERSUS KEYNESIANISM
From an economic standpoint, neoliberalism is often claimed to be a policy in contrast and opposition to Keynesianism, although this is not actually correct. The promoters of neoliberalism, including their pioneers such as Ronald Reagan, also employed Keynesian deficit financing in very major ways. This has been true of later neoliberal presidents as well, including George W. Bush, as well as of contemporary social liberals such as Barack Obama who have also mostly upheld and further promoted many neoliberalist policies along with massive Keynesian fiscal deficits. The fact is that the growing world economic crisis is so extremely serious that the ruling class needs both Keynesian and neoliberalist policies to try to slow down its further worsening effects on their class. And in the end, even both together will not prevent a much greater economic disaster for the capitalists and for capitalism as a system—as well as for the masses who presently live under this horrible system and who more and more suffer from it.
NEOLIBERALISM — Reformist Opposition To
Neoliberalist policies have been forced on the ruling class by the continuing very serious development of the U.S. and world economic crisis, and their consequent need—to the maximum degree they can—to take this crisis out on the backs of the working class and masses. (See the main entry on neoliberalism above.) Thus neoliberalist policies are not really an “option” or a “free choice” on the part of the ruling class, but rather something that they must do to defend their own class interests.
However, this is something that many people do not at all understand. Many liberal reformers condemn neoliberalist policies but still defend capitalism as a system! This is sheer stupidity. An example of this is Naomi Klein’s 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, which—despite the sub-title—is entirely focused against neoliberalist policies which are leading to uncontrolled global warming and environmental destruction, but not against capitalism itself! She says that “the disastrous track record of the past three decades of neoliberal policy is simply too apparent” and then sums this up as “the failure of deregulated capitalism”. A few pages later she says: “The core of the problem comes back to the same inescapable fact that has both blocked climate action and accelerated emissions: all of us are living in the world that neoliberalism built, even if we happen to be critics of neoliberalism.” In reality, of course, the “core of the problem” is simply capitalism itself! Instead of going on about “the rubble of neoliberalism”, as Klein does on her final page, we should be condemning capitalism itself, as Klein promised to do in her title but then did not have the courage to follow through on.
Well, this is what we might expect from open reformists who always promote the absurd notion that capitalism can be made to work for the benefit of the people. But even more worrisome is the common tendency among those who call themselves Marxists or revolutionaries to focus their criticisms against “neoliberalism” rather than against capitalism in general. There is something highly suspicious about those who just criticize neoliberalism rather than capitalism specifically. Whether they mean to or not, they are giving the strong impression that it is not the whole capitalist system which has to go, but instead only certain misguided views and policies of the government which need to be changed. Revolutionaries should not promote mere reformist notions!
See also: The section on neoliberalism in the essay “Comments on Sison’s ‘Contradictions in the world Capitalist System and the Necessity of Socialist Revolution’” (2002), by S.H., online at: http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/SisonCr.htm
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 also below, and: JANA ANDOLAN, PANCHAYAT REGIME
NEPAL — Maoist Parties In
The story of the many political organizations in Nepal which have called themselves “Maoist”, or else which have at one time or another supported Mao and/or People’s War, is complex, and many of the parties have been “Maoist” in name only. Others have been revolutionary or Maoist for a time, and then changed into social-democratic or parliamentary reformist parties. There have been a very large number of splits, mergers, conflicting lines within parties, and drastic shifts in the dominant political lines—usually in a rightist direction. Here is a brief summary:
The original Communist Party of Nepal was formed at a meeting in 1949 in Calcutta [now Kolkata], India. It developed in a generally revisionist direction, though it also included revolutionary activists such as Mohan Bikram Singh who joined the party in 1953. Singh was born into a feudal landlord family in 1935, but rebelled against his father and became a Communist.
The first major schism in the CPN occurred in 1968 when a group led by Pushpa Lal [Pushpa Lal Shrestha] broke away. This new party developed along the lines of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) with which it was closely associated. [It merged into a new revisionist party, the CPN (Marxist) in 1987, which later become the CPN (Unified Marxist-Leninist).] In 1971 M. B. Singh was finally released after 9 years in prison, and he along with Nirmal Lama founded the Central Nucleus group which they hoped could unite the various truly revolutionary strands within the Communist movement. They tried to bring Pushpa Lal’s group into this effort, but were unsuccessful. In 1974 Singh and Lama founded a new party called the CPN (Fourth Congress) which soon became the largest of the various nominally Communist parties in Nepal. This party supported Mao Zedong Thought and a protracted armed revolution which would also require a mass uprising. However, this party made no immediate progress toward these goals and did not remain united for very long.
Independently of all this, in 1978 various factions of the Nepal Communist movement came together to form the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist). This party was initially founded on the pattern of the Communist Party of India (M-L), supported the Chinese Revolution, and itself soon engaged in armed struggle on a limited scale. However, in 1982 it changed its line and abandoned that armed struggle. [In 1990 it merged with another revisionist party, the CPN (Marxist), to form the present totally bourgeois reformist Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).]
Returning our attention once again to the CPN (Fourth Congress), in 1983 a schism developed between M.B. Singh and Nirmal Lama over the legitimacy of the Jhapa Revolt, and Singh left to found the CPN (Masal). In 1984 the CPN (Masal) was one of the parties which founded the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM).
In November 1984 the CPN (Masal) itself split, with the minority led by M.B. Singh keeping the original name, though it was also known as the CPN (Mashal-COC). The other faction, which was led by Mohan Baidya [or Vaidya], also known as “Kiran”, called itself the Communist Party of Nepal (Mashal). While M. B. Singh felt that the Jhapa revolt was unorthodox and divisive to the Nepalese Communist movement and not the correct path forward, Kiran and others (such as “Prachanda” [Pushpa Kamal Dahal] came to believe that the Jhapa rebellion had served to expose revisionism and was the Nepalese equivalent of the Naxalbari rebellion in India. Kiran now also felt that M.B. Singh was a right opportunist for constantly postponing the armed struggle. However, these political differences mostly coalesced after the late 1984 split in Masal, and the precipitating reasons for the split seem to have been personal, including Singh’s authoritarian leadership style and a scandalous adulterous affair that he had.
The new CPN (Mashal) also became a member of RIM alongside the CPN (Masal)—although the CPN (Masal) was later expelled. The CPN (Mashal) advocated immediate armed struggle, and like Masal was an illegal underground party. In 1986 the party reformulated its ideology from “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought” to “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism”. That same year the party attempted to launch a rebellion in Kathmandu under Kiran’s direct leadership. This was later called the “Sector Incident” and failed miserably. Just a few police posts were attacked and a statue of King Tribhuvan was painted black. The failure of this rebellion led to the resignation of Kiran and other party leaders and the elevation of Prachanda to the position of General Secretary. More significant than the Sector Incident was the popular uprising against the King and his regime in 1990, in which a united front of the CPN (Mashal) and the CPN (Masal), called the “United National People’s Movement”, played a key role. This won some short-term democratic concessions from the reactionary feudal regime.
In November 1990 the CPN (Mashal) merged with the CPN (Fourth Congress) and two smaller groups to form the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre). Shortly afterwards a group led by Baburam Bhattarai and Shital Kumar split off from the old CPN (Masal) and also joined the CPN (Unity Centre). In a period of economic and political chaos in 1992 the CPN (UC) joined in a united front with other Communist groups and called for a general strike on April 6th. Beginning on the eve of the strike the feudal regime began attacking activists and on April 6th itself the government shot and killed at least 14 people, some of them bystanders. Events such as this set the stage for the later People’s War.
In 1994 Prachanda and Bhattarai led a split away from the CPN (Unity Centre) and briefly formed a second party with that same name. In 1996 they changed that name to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). [The older CPN (Unity Centre) party continued and in 2002 merged with part of the old CPN (Masal), which had split again in 1999, to form a new party, the CPN (Unity Centre-Masal).]
On February 13, 1996 the CPN (Maoist) launched the 10-year Nepalese People’s War. Although the People’s War (PW) was initially quite small and primitive it gradually expanded and became more powerful as it spread throughout the rural areas. For some time the feudal government used only police forces (actually paramility forces) to attack the revolutionaries, and the Nepal Army mostly stayed on the sidelines. But gradually the Nepal Army became more active in its counter-revolutionary efforts and beginning in 2001 the Nepal Army and the revolutionary forces came into open confrontation. Nevertheless the PW continued to expand and win the ever-broader support of the Nepalese people. Some entire extensive regions of the contryside were liberated, and by 2006 some estimates were that the revolutionaries controlled 80% of the countryside.
And then a very strange thing happened—the CPN (Maoist) gave up the fight! There has never been a satisfactory explanation from Prachanda and the other leaders of the party as to just why they did so. In part it may have been a simple failure of nerve, or a fear that if they actually seized nationwide power the Indian Army or U.S. imperialist forces might directly intervene. (Of course this probability existed from the start, which is why any strategic plan for revolution should not just have been a People’s War until Kathmandu could be captured. That would very probably only mark the completion of the first stage of the PW, which might very well be pushed back into the countryside again for a long period because of foreign intervention.)
In any case, events have proven that aborting the People’s War was an extremely serious error. True, by ending the PW and forming the multi-party alliance with the leading non-revolutionary parties, the CPN (Maoist) was able to get rid of the monarchy, probably once and for all. And the massive support that the party won during the PW allowed them to win the highest number of votes in the 2008 Constituent Assembly, and for Prachanda to briefly become Prime Minister. But the real political power of the old bourgeois-feudalist regime actually still continued—as their control of the Nepal Army and the early pushing aside of the CPN (Maoist) demonstrated. The even worse problem was that the CPN (Maoist) itself changed irreversibly into a reformist social-democratic party with no real possibility of ever getting back on the road to revolution. And the masses too have been giving up on the party; in the 2013 Constituent Assembly elections they only won 80 of 601 seats.
In 2002 the part of the old CPN (Unity Centre) which had not gone on to become the CPN (Maoist) merged with the old CPN (Masal) to form the CPN (Unity Centre-Masal). These were people who had opposed the PW and had not taken part in it. After the fall of the feudal monarchy in 2006 there were several small factions which split off from this party, and the largest piece left merged with the CPN (Maoist) in January 2009, which then changed its name to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Additions of groups and individuals like this which had opposed the PW moved that party further to the right.
Since the UCPN (Maoist) terminated the PW and continued to move in a rightist direction, there have been several splits of the more Leftist forces away from it. In 2009 a small faction led by Matrika Yadav split and set up a new party with the previous name, the CPN (Maoist). In June 2012 a much larger split occurred when Kiran [Mohan Baidya] and a substantial number of other people broke away to form the Communist Party of Nepal—Maoist (with a dash). Although this party has threatened at times to relaunch a PW it has made no moves to actually do so. In fact, it has been difficult to see what the actual differences are between the CPN-Maoist and the UCPN (Maoist). Apparently the former is a bit more hostile towards Indian intervention in Nepal. There are continuing efforts from both parties to reunite into a single party, which seems likely soon.
There are currently [end of 2015] a total of at least five splinter parties from the UCPN (Maoist). The most determinedly revolutionary of these groups appears to be the split-off from the CPN-Maoist led by Netra Bikram Chand [“Biplap”] which occurred at the end of November 2014. This led to the founding of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), without the hyphen and once again using the old name. However, there have been many rumors that at least some of these five parties will merge once again back into the UCPN (Maoist). It remains to be seen how the Nepal Communist movement will develop from here.
NEPAL — People’s War (1996-2006)
[To be added...]
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).
See: ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORK
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.
“[T]he organ of mental phenomena [is] the brain...
“The nervous tissue whose activity constitutes the basis of intellectual and speech acts is characterized by a high degree of plasticity and interchangeability.” —Student’s Library: Psychology, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986), p. 30.
NEUTRAL MONISM [Idealist philosophy]
The name for a variety of closely related idealist theories which claim that mind and matter are at bottom composed of a single “neutral” substance which itself is neither mind nor matter. This incoherent theory was perhaps first put forward by Leibniz with his notion of “monads”. However, the name “neutral monism” itself seems to have been created by William James and then popularized further by Bertrand Russell (who was also strongly influenced by Leibniz). Other idealists who have believed similar notions are Ernst Mach and Henri Bergson.
It is easy to say that mind and matter are both composed of some deeper “neutral” substance, but no one has ever been able to go further than that and talk intelligibly about the actual nature of this imagined neutral substance. Now that cognitive psychology is finally recognizing that mind is just a set of high-level summary ways of looking at the functioning of the brain (or of an artificial equivalent), the whole motive for thinking of mind and matter in a dualistic way has disappeared. Thus the hypothesis that there is some neutral substance underlying these two supposed “totally different things”, mind and matter, now looks completely foolish.
See also: MONISM
An extremely light sub-atomic particle that is electrically neutral and which is affected only by the weak nuclear force and gravity. Originally thought to have no mass, it is now thought to have a very small mass. There are three types of neutrinos which are, rather oddly, capable of switching states into each other.
See also: STANDARD MODEL (Of Particle Physics)
Important electrically neutral sub-atomic particles which are components of the nuclei of most atoms. A neutron is a baryon and thus is composed of three quarks. Inside the nucleus of an atom neutrons are stable, but interestingly enough, outside of a neucleus they are unstable (radioactive). This suggests that somehow the quarks in the protons (which are also in the nucleus) serve to stabilize neutrons there.
[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 also: BOURGEOIS MEDIA
“Under capitalism, a newspaper is a capitalist enterprise, a means of enrichment, a medium of information and entertainment for the rich, and an instrument for duping and cheating the mass of working people. We have smashed this instrument of profit-making and deceit. We have begun to convert the newspapers into an instrument for educating the masses and for teaching them to live and run their economy without the landowners and capitalists. But we are only at the start of the road.” —Lenin, “The Work of the People’s Commissariat for Education” (Feb. 7, 1921), LCW 32:130.
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” —Malcolm X, in a comment on the capitalist media, quoted by Manning Marable.
NEWTON, Isaac (1642-1727)
Great English scientist and mathematician. His great book Principia Mathematica established mathematical physics as a systematic science. He was a creator of the differential and integral calculus which he used extensively in his work on physics. (Leibniz also independently created calculus.)
See: NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
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