Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Ri - Rn   —

RICARDO, David   (1772-1823)
English economist. Overall, his work reached the highest level of classical
bourgeois political economy.

Since World War II there has been an ever-growing percentage of total personal income in the U.S. which goes to the already very rich. In 2012 this percentage of income going to the top 10% of the population exceed 50% for the first time. The old popular slogan, that under capitalism the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, is truer than ever. And the powerful trend is for things to only get even worse in the future—unless this exploitative system is overthrown. Morever, when personal wealth is considered, i.e. the
accumulated wealth of individuals or families, the situation is even more extremely unequal than it is with personal income!

“Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.” —Will Rogers, 1931. Quoted in James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995), p. 194.

1. [In China before collectivization in the 1950s:] A peasant (farmer) who owned relatively large amounts of land (for the times), plow animals and farm equipment, and who both took part in farm work himself and also hired
rural laborers to work for him.
2. Someone in a similar situation at other times and places.
        See also: CHINA—Class Analysis Before 1949

“[T]he definition of rich peasant was a family that hired more labor power than it contributed from within the family.” —William Hinton, speaking of the land reform era in revolutionary China, Through a Glass Darkly: U.S. Views of the Chinese Revolution (NY: Monthly Review, 2006), p. 41.

RIGHT (Ethics)
In moral contexts, the adjective ‘right’ is normally used to characterize actions, and means “conforming to the standards we have for answering to the common, collective interests of the people for that sort of activity”. For further discussion of this word as it is used in ethics see section 2.8 in chapter 2 of my work in progress An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, at:


IX. The relationship between right and wrong
         “A clear distinction must be made between right and wrong, whether inside or outside the Party. How to deal with people who have made mistakes is an important question. The correct attitude towards them should be to adopt a policy of ‘learning from past mistakes to avoid future ones and curing the sickness to save the patient’, help them correct their mistakes and allow them to go on taking part in the revolution....
         “A clear distinction must be drawn between right and wrong, for inner-Party controversies over principle are a reflection inside the Party of the class struggle in society, and no equivocation is to be tolerated. It is normal, in accordance with the merits of the case, to mete out appropriate and well grounded criticism to comrades who have erred, and even to conduct necessary struggle against them; this is to help them correct mistakes. To deny them help and, what is worse, to gloat over their mistakes, is sectarianism.” —Mao, “On the Ten Major Relationships”, April 25, 1956, SW5:301-302.

Rights, or entitlements, are things granted to some individuals, to certain groups of people, or—in some cases—to everyone, in some particular society. Thus rights are socially determined and are enforced by social custom and generally also by the legal system (courts and police) when and where that is “necessary”. In class society these rights belong primarily to members of the ruling class. Subjected and exploited social classes have fewer and/or greatly restricted rights, if they have any at all.
        In capitalist society, the capitalists—as owners of the
means of production—have the right to hire and exploit workers (by simply taking from them most of the wealth they produce). In socialist society, no one has such a “right” to exploit other people. The entire wealth produced by the workers goes back to them, either directly as individual wages or else in collective form (such as by funding education, health systems, public works, transportation and communication systems, and so forth). In communist society, there is one basic economic right for everyone: To each according to their need. Most of the massive and entirely voluntary production in communist society will undoubtedly go to the creation of public goods and services.
        In a bourgeois democracy most adults generally have the right to vote (even though the elections are still basically phony and are mostly controlled by the bourgeoisie and their ownership and direction of the media and the educational system). Similarly, the rights of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and so forth, may exist for the working class only in an extremely limited and tenuous way in a bourgeois democracy. In truth, a great many of the “rights” that working class people and the masses in bourgeois society are told that they have are actually extremely limited, and are also subject to complete elimination if the ruling capitalist class should find that necessary for their own continued class rule.
        Many “rights” which nominally belong to “everyone” in bourgeois society mostly only belong to the rich, such as the right to start a newspaper, run for major political office, have any significant influence on politicians and the direction of society, etc. Even supposed rights such as the right to get a good education are actually restricted to a very small number of people, mostly the families of the rich.
        What rights should actually exist in a good society? In general, these are simply the things which are in the beneficial interests of everyone, including rights to economic comfort (good housing, food, reasonable personal possessions, etc.), a good education, a healthy life, safety and security, and genuine personal freedoms, including most especially the freedoms to act and organize themselves and to collectively control the direction of society. All these are the rights that produce a happy and productive life for everyone. But it will take a social revolution to bring them about.

Because of
uneven development the major economies of the world change in their relative size and importance over time. The graph at the right shows the rise and fall of four major world economies (or “empires”) over a period of almost 200 years. It shows the percentage of world GDP in real (Purchasing Power Parity) terms as produced by each of the four. Note that during the modern capitalist and capitalist-imperialist era the percent of world GDP produced in China first fell from over 30% to about 5% in 1949, then stabilized (i.e. grew at least as fast as the rest of the world) and finally began its renewed assent to over 20% of world GDP now. The chart only shows the data for the British empire until 1950, since that about marks its end of importance. Similarly, the USSR is only shown until its final collapse around 1991, at which time it was in major economic crisis. The two little red circles show the moment when the world percentage of U.S. GDP surpassed that of Britain and the current moment when the world percentage of China’s GDP is surpassing that of the U.S.
        The data points in this graph before 1950 are only rough estimates, and are not actually very accurate. Also the data for the USSR and China during their socialist periods is downplayed and inaccurate (which is not surprising since the chart was produced by the Deutsche Bank in Germany). The percentage of world GDP produced by the U.S. at the end of World War II was actually about 50%, so the fall shown for the U.S. since then should be much sharper. The data for the USSR is similarly distorted; during the 1920s and 1930s the growth of GDP in the USSR was much faster than shown, but there was a huge disruption and initial decline in Soviet GDP at the time of the Nazi attack in World War II. And much of the expansion of the Chinese economy is on the basis of the rapid economic advances during the Mao years, which is also downplayed here for bourgeois ideological reasons. Nevertheless, this graph does show the rough overall changes which have occurred in these four economies over the past two centuries.

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