Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Pl - Pn   —



PLANCK, Max   (1858-1947)
Important German theoretical physicist, the first of a series of physicists (including
Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr) who founded quantum mechanics. Philosophically, Planck was an inconsistent materialist.

“If a revolution occurred in physics in December 1900, nobody seemed to notice it. Planck was no exception, and the importance ascribed to his work is largely a historical reconstruction. Whereas Planck’s radiation law was quickly accepted, what we today consider its conceptual novelty—its basis in energy quantization—was scarcely noticed. Very few physicists expressed any interest in the justification of Planck’s formula, and during the first few years of the 20th century no one considered his results to conflict with the foundations of classical physics.” —Helge Kragh, “Max Planck: The Reluctant Revolutionary”, PhysicsWeb, Dec. 2000.

[To be added... ]


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“A plan which does not include a plan for its own implementation is useless as a plan, and should be abandoned.” —Niccolò Machiavelli

There are a great many forms of pollution of the environment under the present world capitalist-imperialist system, because of its unrestrained profit motive. One of the worst forms, though insufficiently appreciated, is the proliferation of more and more plastic products and pieces, in the oceans, in lakes and streams, virtually everywhere on land, and even—in the form of microscopic motes—in the air we breathe. And thus, even within virtually every human being’s own body. More and more evidence has been arising in recent years about just how very seriously dangerous this all is: Not just for the environment itself, but also for human health.

“The world produces about 400 million metric tons of plastic waste each year, according to a United Nations report. About half is tossed out after a single use.”   —“Plastic Surgery...”, New York Times, Jan. 15, 2023, p. 3.

“Greenpeace says about 95% of plastics used in U.S. households are not being recycled and wind up in landfills. The environmental advocacy group says it is not entirely because of the lack of recycling efforts, but that only a few types of plastics are actually recyclable. The sorting and collection of plastic items deposited in bins is also problematic, according to Greenpeace. It says a significant portion of the debris is contaminated with toxic materials. Because plasic containers and wraps are so cheap and easy to use, that global use and resulting waste could triple by 2060.”   —Steve Newman, “Earthweek: a Diary of the Planet”, San Francisco Chroncle, Oct. 30, 2022.

“A new U.N. report documents how plastic contaminants are building up in the soil around the world. ‘We are starting to understand that the buildup of plastic can have wide-ranging impacts on soil health, biodiversity and productivity,’ said co-author Elaine Baker of the University of Sydney. The report warns that as plastic breaks down, it interferes with the ability of plants to absorb water and nutrients in their roots and for water to be stored in the soil. Plastics are used extensively in agriculture.”   —Steve Newman, “Earthweek: a Diary of the Planet”, San Francisco Chroncle, Oct. 23, 2022.

“Standard plastic will take 450 years to degrade in ocean water.”   —New York Times, “Biodegradable Isn’t What You Think”, Oct. 3, 2020.

“To be human is to contain plastic. Maybe this has been our fate all along: to achieve final communion with our own garbage.”   —Mark O’Connell, “What Are the Plastic Particles In Our Bodies Doing to Us?”, New York Times, April 23, 2023.
         [However, note well the strong efforts of even those who lament plastic pollution and other forms of pollution to blame humanity in general for this, and not the corporations who profit so greatly from this and the entire capitalist system! The bourgeois message seems to be, yes this is all pathetic, all terrible, but it is the fault of the people themselves (and not those who actually profit from this madness). People without a strong class perspective haven’t got a clue about how to deal with the problems of the world! —Ed.]

“Microplastics have been found in human blood, breast milk, and placentas. They’re also pretty much everywhere you look. Yes, they are in our drinking water and the air we breathe. But they’ve also been found in regions of the planet that you might think of as pristine, such as the French Pyrenees, the Galápagos Islands, and even the Mariana Trench—the deepest part of the ocean. Most recently, we’ve heard that the recycling process can release tons of microplastics into the environment.”   —Jess Hamzelou, MIT Technology Review: “The Checkup” (health newsletter), June 1, 2023.

PLATFORM   [Internet]
An Internet operation or business which provides a service function for large numbers of people. Well-known contemporary “platforms” are Google (for searches) and social-media platforms such as Facebook. Although many such platforms are “free”, they are sometimes hugely profitable capitalist operations because of the enormous amount of advertising they sell (and thus inflict on the visitors to their sites).

“[There is] a shift from products to platforms. Many people encounter evidence of this every day. The largest cab service owns no vehicles (Uber), the biggest hotelier has no property (Airbnb), the most comprehensive retailer holds no inventory (Alibaba) and the most valuable ‘media’ company creates some content but not much (Facebook)....
        “Platforms are a way for companies to create marketplaces that allow both sides of the transaction to flourish—while the firm, as gatekeeper, enjoys a tidy revenue stream.” —“Business Technology: A New Way to Work”, a book review, The Economist, July 15, 2017, p. 72.

PLATO   (c. 427-347 BCE)
Ancient Greek philosopher, and one of the most famous philosophers in all of history. He was an objective
idealist, and ideologist of the slave-owning aristocracy. He was a student of Socrates and wrote most of his philosophical works in the form of dialogues wherein Socrates is the dominant speaker. It is often difficult to tell whether the views put forward in these dialogues were actually those of Socrates, or are really only those of Plato in the mouth of Socrates.
        One of the reasons that Plato is so important in the history of philosophy is that idealist philosophers ever since have appealed to his authority to back up their own views. The idealist bourgeois philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once went so far as to claim that “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” [Process and Reality (1929)] To the extent that this is true, it is a crying shame, and a very sad commentary on European philosophy!
        Plato was the teacher of Aristotle, though Aristotle rebelled to a considerable degree against Plato’s philosophical idealism, and was much more down to earth.
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Plato.

[To be added...]
        See also:

A monetary agreement made in 1985 between the U.S. and four other major capitalist-imperialist countries (Japan, West Germany, France and the United Kingdom) to depreciate the U.S. dollar in relation to the Japanese yen and the German Deutsche Mark in order to promote U.S. exports and attempt to reduce the huge and worrisome U.S. trade deficit. It is called the “Plaza Accord” because the agreement was signed at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
        Bourgeois economists like to pretend that their economic system is self-regulating through market forces, but this has never been completely true, and it is much less true in the capitalist-imperialist era (since the late 19th century). In the sphere of international finances it is especially untrue since the collapse of the
Bretton Woods System in 1971 when President Nixon refused to sell any more of the U.S.’s dwindling supply of gold in exchange for dollars held by foreign nations. From that point on, the value of one major currency in terms of another was allowed to “float”, but with substantial intervention by the central banks of each country to move the currency to “float” in a direction beneficial to their own ruling class. Exporting countries like Japan and Germany often seek to drive their own currencies lower (by printing more yens and Marks and buying dollars with them) in order to promote exports. But the resulting high price of the U.S. dollar then harms the exporting abilities of U.S. corporations, who put heavy pressure on U.S. politicians to do something about it. And what the U.S. did about it in 1985 was to in turn put heavy political pressure (no doubt involving behind-the-scenes economic and political threats) on Japan and West Germany to allow the yen and Mark to strengthen and the dollar to depreciate.
        From 1980 to 1985 the dollar had appreciated by about 50% against the yen, but following the Plaza Accord, in 1985-1987 the dollar depreciated by 51% against the yen. Ironically, however, the dollar was falling below the level desired and agreed upon (which was blamed by the U.S. government on “currency speculators”) and a new agreement among the major countries, called the “Louvre Accord” was made in 1987 to stabilize the dollar.
        In some limited respects the Plaza Accord was a “success” in the eyes of the U.S. ruling class. The big appreciation of the dollar in the preceding five years was in fact largely reversed. However, the primary goal of substantially reducing the U.S. trade deficit (especially with Japan) was only partially successful, and even then only in the short-term. Moreover, some bourgeois economists believe that this Accord was one of the major factors leading to the very serious stagnation in the Japanese economy which began around 1990 and which still continues decades later. For reasons such as these there has developed a strong feeling within the old-line capitalist-imperialist countries that “currency manipulations” and accords are rather dangerous and can have somewhat unpredictable and possibly perverse outcomes. In 2013 the G-7 group of countries agreed not to do this sort of thing anymore, in what has been termed a sort of “anti-Plaza accord”. Nevertheless, the continued development of the current world overproduction crisis will almost inevitably lead to further attempts to create “accords” to try to deal with a declining U.S. economy and its fragile dollar and to desperately try to stabilize an inherently unstable international monetary system.

The proclaimed theory in the bourgeois justice system is that when a person is arrested and charged with committing a crime there will then be a fair trial, and if they are found guilty, they will be given a jail sentence appropriate for that particular sort of crime. However, the reality is often very different indeed from that theory. There are a great many distortions and perversions in every bourgeois system of so-called “justice”. One such perversion is the extremely widespread system of plea bargaining. The fact is that the capitalist ruling class really does not want to have trials at all. They want to do everything they can to force those arrested to agree to plead guilty to the charges leveled against them and to be immediately sentenced without the cost and bother of any trial, and without having to actually prove their charges. And the usual method of accomplishing this is to offer a somewhat lighter sentence to those who agree to plead guilty, and to pile on unfounded additional charges which would force a much heavier sentence to those who insist on having a trial and who are then found guilty. What this means is that it is often wise to plead guilty to crimes you are completely innocent of! rather than risk the much heavier penalty of trying and failing to prove your innocence in court.
        This routinely happens, and one time it happened to my wife. Back some years ago she was at a peaceful demonstration in San Francisco which was nevertheless attacked by the riot police. She was charged with an array of phony felonies, including rioting and attacking a police officer. (She only weighed 90-some pounds at the time, and the cop that attacked her with his heavy police club, hitting her hard on the neck and injuring her, weighed around 200 pounds. The lie that she had attacked him was completely absurd.) She was offered the reduced charges of a few days in jail and a year’s probation if she accepted “a plea”; whereas if she went to trial and was found guilty she would likely receive a year in jail (and would also lose her job, a fairly good job for the times). Although it angered her in the extreme, she felt she had no choice but to agree to plead “guilty” to crimes she had not actually committed. But then, that is just another fine example of the American system of justice for you! —S.H.

“In 2021, 98.3 percent of federal criminal cases ended up as plea bargains.”   —New York Times Magazine, “Outside the Box”, June 12, 2022, p. 22.

1. [In ancient Rome:] A member of the lower classes (but not including slaves).
2. [In any class society:] One of the common (or ordinary) people, as opposed to the upper classes.

PLEKHANOV, George [Georgi Valentinovich]   (1857-1918)
Important early Russian Marxist leader and theoretician, who played a very positive role in building and promoting the Marxist movement in Tsarist Russia, but who in his later years broke with Lenin and sided with the Mensheviks. Nevertheless, his writings on Marxist philosophy are still very valuable and well worth serious study.
        Plekhanov was the first important disseminator of Marxism in Russia and the founder of its first Marxist organization, the
Emancipation of Labor group in 1883. Despite his important theoretical contributions to Marxism, his practical revolutionary work was quite deficient. Shortly after the real founding of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party at its “Second Congress” in 1903, Plekhanov switched sides and joined the Menshevik faction. In World War I he further degenerated and became a social chauvinist and supported the Russian Tsarist side in the War. After the February Revolution in 1917, he advocated maintaining the bourgeois provisional government, and was very hostile towards the October Revolution led by Lenin.

“Let me add ... for the benefit of young Party members that you cannot hope to become a real, intelligent Communist without making a study—and I mean study—of all of Plekhanov’s philosophical writings, because nothing better has been written on Marxism anywhere in the world.” —Lenin, “Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin” (Jan. 25, 1921) [after Plekhanov’s death], LCW 32:94.


“There are two modes of invading private property; the first, by which the poor plunder the rich ... sudden and violent; the second, by which the rich plunder the poor, slow and legal.” —John Taylor, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814).
        [Of course another big difference between the two situations is the miniscule degree to which the poor ever “plunder” the rich, and the colossal extent to which the rich constantly plunder the poor. —Ed.]

A variety of somewhat related bourgeois idealist theories of “multiplicity” in philosophy and politics, including:
        1. [In
ontology:] The anti-materialist philosophical view that there is more than one basic type of real entities which exist in the world. This is usually taken to mean that forms of both mind and matter independently exist (which is the specific theory known as dualism). In other words, pluralism in this sense is the opposite of monism, the view that the world consists ultimately of only one basic sort of thing (for materialists that means matter) and that apparently quite different things in the world (such as mind) are really only aspects or characteristics of certain types of “matter in motion” (as with functioning brains).
        2. [In epistemology:] The philosophical view that there is no provably correct knowledge or conception of the world (scientific or otherwise) and that therefore a variety of different and conflicting beliefs and “belief systems” are a good thing which should all be given equal respect and attention. This is related to the simple-minded agnostic doctrine known as post-modernism.
        3. [In ethics:] The notion that there is no real scientific basis for ethics, and that therefore different ethical views in different societies are due merely to custom or pecularities of that society’s historical development, and that all ethical views or “value systems” are therefore equally “valid” and should be equally respected. (See: ETHICAL RELATIVISM.)
        4. [In bourgeois sociology:] The denial that there is any basic principle or central organizing theory for understanding society, let alone for understanding how and why human society has changed through history. We Marxists dispute this of course, and put forward historical materialism as the basis for understanding society.
        5. [In sociology and politics:] The view that people of all sorts, of both sexes and of all “races”, ethnic groups, nationalities, linguistic communities, and so forth, in any country should be allowed to thrive, and should moreover be represented fairly and proportionally in all institutions and spheres of life. This view—unlike the other meanings of pluralism listed here—is of course generally quite valid. It is mostly a justified reaction against the tremendous inequalities, racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination which are so ingrained in capitalist society. Unfortunately, in practice this view is often blended with the other (bourgeois) doctrines of pluralism listed here, and care must be taken to avoid doing this!
        6. [In bourgeois political theory:] The view that political power either is, or should be, distributed among many different and conflicting interest groups and associations. However, this doctrine is most often essentially hypocritical, since in practice all the most powerful of these interest groups are part of the same capitalist ruling class.
        7. [In bourgeois political theory:] Views which deny the centrality of social classes in politics, deny the basic class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and which put forward instead the idea that there are large numbers of competing “interest groups” based on a multitude of very narrow concerns and goals. This theory is used to deny the necessity of social revolution and to argue against any program to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and establish instead the dictatorship of the proletariat.
        8. [In bourgeois (so-called) “political science”:] The doctrine championed by theorists such as Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom that true classical democracy, or even true representative democracy, as the ideal envisioned by so many earlier thinkers, was impossible, but that contemporary American society could still be considered a “democracy” because it consists of multiple private interest groups competing for power through the electoral process. Dahl viewed contemporary “liberal democracies” (i.e., present-day forms of bourgeois democracy) as “polyarchies” or systems of the rule of many competing elite interest groups and factions rather than of the rule of any single socioeconomic class. According to this theory this system is basically “fair” and “democratic” because every special interest can organize itself and struggle for influence (within this continuing contest of private grabbing for privileges and power). However, this supposed “countervailing power” of other interest groups ignores the fact that some interest groups have much more wealth (and thus power) than others. In this deeply anti-democratic bourgeois theory, elections determine which of these elite factions (or which coalitions of them) will govern for a period, and this is the claimed to be the best sort of political arrangement that is possible in the world today. (Ha!)
        9. [In bourgeois educational theory:] The view that since there is (supposedly) no one basically correct view of the world, acquiring a good “liberal arts” education means acquiring a general familiarity with a large range of views and theories in history, philosophy, politics, ethics, sociology, economics, etc. Such programs of study almost invariably turn out to be shallow and superficial. Moreover, while this strongly encourages eclecticism, it also nevertheless first of all promotes the essential doctrines and ideas favored by the bourgeoisie (such as their “right” to rule under one excuse or another). This is the sort of mis-education that leads academics to think they understand “Marxism” after what is in almost all cases the barest superficial and distorted taste of it.

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