See: DIALECTICAL LEAPS — Popular Terms For
SEATTLE — General Strike of 1919
“On a grey winter morning in Seattle, in February 1919, 110 local unions shut down the entire city. Shut it down and took it over, rendering the authorities helpless. For five days, workers from all trades and sectors—streetcar drivers, telephone operators, musicians, miners, loggers, shipyard workers—fed the people, ensured that babies had milk, that the sick were cared for. They did this without police—and they kept the peace themselves. This had never happened before in the United States and has not happened since. Those five days became known as the General Strike of Seattle.... Winslow describes how Seattle’s General Strike was actually the high point in a long process of early twentieth-century socialist and working-class organization, when everyday people built a viable political infrastructure that seemed, to governments and corporate bosses, radical—even ‘Bolshevik’.” —Advertising blurb for Cal Winslow’s book, Radical Seattle: The General Strike of 1919 (Monthly Review Press, 2020).
See: SOUTHEAST ASIA TREATY ORGANIZATION
An international association of socialist working-class parties, also known as the Socialist International. It was formed in Paris in 1889 after the collapse of the First International in 1876. Though it had a strong revolutionary Marxist flavor at first, in later years (and especially after the death of Engels in 1895), it became an association of revisionist parties. During World War I most of its parties supported their own capitalist ruling class in the inter-imperialist war.
“The Second International was formed at an international congress of of socialists in Paris on July 14, 1889, some six years after the death of Karl Marx. Under Frederick Engels’ leadership, the Second International implemented by and large the Marxist line, rallying the ranks of the working class, fighting against anarchism, disseminating Marxism on a broad scale and promoting the growth of the workers’ organizations and movements in various countries. After Engels’ death in 1895, the revisionists headed by Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky seized the leadership of the Second International, and this accounted for its degeneration. In subsequent years, united with the Leftists of various countries and holding high the revolutionary banner of Marxism and proletarian internationalism, the Russian Bolshevik Party led by Lenin waged uncompromising struggles against the revisionists. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 saw the open betrayal of the proletariat’s revolutionary cause by the Second International’s Social-Democratic Right-wing chieftains in various countries who by supporting the bourgeoisie in their own countries in the imperialist war degenerated into soical-chauvinists. This eventually brought about the collapse of the Second International.” —Reference note, Peking Review, #47, Nov. 1977, pp. 25-26.
SECOND INTERNATIONAL — Stuttgart Congress (1907)
“The Stuttgart Congress of the Second International, August
18-24, 1907. The R.S.D.L.P. was represented at this Congress by 37 delegates. From the
Bolsheviks were Lenin, Lunacharsky, Litvinov, Meshkovsky (I.P. Goldenberg), Ruben (B.M.
Knunyants), M.G. Tskhakaya, Y.B. Bosch and others. The Congress dealt with the following:
(1) militarism and international conflicts; (2) relations between political parties and
trade unions; (3) the colonial question; (4) the immigration and emigration of workers;
(5) women’s franchise.
“The main work of the Congress was done in commissions that drew up resolutions for the plenary sessions. Lenin participated in drawing up the resolution on ‘Militarism and International Conflicts’. Together with Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin introduced into Bebel’s draft resolution the historic amendment of the duty of socialists to use the crisis created by a war to revolutionize the masses and overthrow capitalism; the amendment was accepted by the Congress. [See: LCW 13:75-93]” —Note 310, Lenin, SW I (1967).
SECOND INTERNATIONAL — Copenhagen Congress (1910)
“The Copenhagen Congress of the Second International, August
28-September 3, 1910. At this Congress the R.S.D.L.P. was represented by Lenin,
Plekhanov, Lunacharsky, Kollontai, Pokrovsky and others. The Congress split into a
number of commissions for a preliminary discussion and to draw up resolutions on
individual questions. Lenin worked in the co-operative commission.
“The resolution on ‘The Struggle Against Militarism and War’, adopted by the Congress, confirmed the Stuttgart resolution on ‘Militarism and International Conflicts’. The resolution contained a number of demands to be put forward by socialist deputies to parliaments in the struggle against war: (a) the obligatory relegation of all conflicts between states to a court of arbitration for decision; (b) general disarmament; (c) the abolition of secret diplomacy and (d) the autonomy of all peoples and their defense against military attack and oppression.” —Note 311, Lenin, SW I (1967).
SECOND INTERNATIONAL — Basel [Basle] Congress (1912)
See also: BASEL MANIFESTO
“The Basle Congress of the Second International (November 24-25, 1912) was convened as an extraordinary congress in connection with the Balkan War and the menace of a European war. Its manifesto emphasized the imperialist nature of the impending world war and urged socialists everywhere to ‘take advantage of the economic and political crises’ the war would create to ‘accelerate the downfall of capitalism’. Kautsky, Vandervelde and other Second International leaders voted for this manifesto, but were deliberately oblivious to it when war broke out in 1914 and sided with their imperialist governments. [See: Lenin, LCW 21:208-17, 307-08.]” —Note 312, Lenin, SW I (1967).
A government organization charged with spying on and eliminating or neutralizing dissent. Secret police are typical features of fascist regimes, but are also found in bourgeois democracies. The FBI, for example, acted as a secret police force during the 1960-1970s when it undertook a program known as COINTELPRO that was designed to infiltrate, disrupt and neutralize activist and militant groups (mostly left-wing and Black groups fighting for social justice and equality). As long as they still rule society, the bourgeoisie will continue to act in this way, at whatever level of spying and political suppression of the working class and masses that they deem “necessary”.
While a secret police (of sorts!) may also be necessary to protect the revolutionary gains of the proletariat after they win power, it is absolutely essential that such an organization not be used to control or intimidate the proletariat itself, or to replace mass vigilance. As Mao insisted, the primary means of controlling any attempts by the old or new bourgeoisies to recapture state power must be through the enlightened vigilance and efforts of the masses themselves. The security agencies of the socialist state should be at most a supplement to the basic Marxist method of educating the masses in their own interests, and of organizing them to act to advance those interests through the democratic method of the mass line. —L.C.
See also: KGB, OKHRANA, SOVIET UNION—Security Agencies
SECT [In politics]
In the non-pejorative sense, a sect is simply “a group adhering to a distinctive doctrine or leader”. [Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.] However, the word ‘sect’ also carries with it the connotation of small size, and being outside of the mainstream. Thus a revolutionary sect is a small group which is outside the mainstream of the revolutionary movement. All new political parties either start off as sects, or else form out of other parties or mass movements which themselves started out as sects. There is nothing necessarily wrong about starting out small and different from the mainstream; but it is foolish and self-defeating for any political group to permanently remain just a sect, i.e. a small group unconnected to the masses and the mass movement.
See also SECTARIAN (below), and: CULT
“The International was founded in order to replace the
socialist or semi-socialist sects by a real organization of the working class for
struggle. The original Rules and the Inaugural Address show this at a glance. On the
other hand, the International could not have asserted itself if the course of history
had not already smashed sectarianism. The development of socialist sectarianism
and that of the real labor movement always stand in indirect proportion to each
other. So long as the sects are justified (historically), the working class is not
yet ripe for an independent historical movement. As soon as it has attained this
maturity all sects are essentially reactionary....
“And the history of the International was a continual struggle of the General Council against the sects and attempts by amateurs to assert themselves within the International itself against the real movement of the working class.” —Marx, Letter to Adolphe Hubert, Aug. 10, 1871, MECW 44:252.
1. [Primary sense in Marxist politics:] Having and promoting ideas which prevent or obstruct a political group or party from connecting up with the masses and the mass movement, and from transforming existing reformist mass struggle into revolutionary mass struggle. (See also: mass perspective.)
2. [Secondary sense in Marxist politics:] Being unwilling to work with individuals or groups (other than your own) for some common purpose, or obstructing such cooperation and “united fronts” through hostility and disrespect towards those with ideas differing from your own.
The legal right or ability in practice of trade unions to force companies in some entire sector of the economy to jointly bargain with the union(s) and come to some overall agreement, rather than to try to organize each company separately and come to a separate bargaining agreement in each case. Generally sectoral bargaining is extremely rare or even completely non-existent in countries where the trade union movement is very weak (such as the U.S.).
In 2019, during the early stages of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, some politicians contending for the nomination of the Democratic Party claimed that they support giving the labor movement the legal right to engage in sectoral bargaining, but whether or not one of these politicians is elected there is little or no prospect of such a pro-labor reform actually being implemented in the U.S. [See: “Democrats Grow Bolder with Pro-Labor Policies”, New York Times, Oct 12, 2019.] This nominal “pro-labor stance” is once again more a matter of politicians trying to fool the working class.
[As commonly used in economics, esp. bourgeois economics:] Of or relating to a long term trend. Example: A “secular decline in profits” means “a long trend of indefinite duration in the decline of profits.” The term usually implies that there is some unspecified (and perhaps unknown) force or cause which is behind the trend being mentioned.
Long-term economic stagnation, i.e., the extremely slow expansion of a capitalist economy (or in other words, the very slow rate of growth of GDP). For the most part, bourgeois economists and commentators try to claim that “from a theoretical perspective this should be impossible” (see “Say’s Law”). But in the capitalist-imperialist era these periods of prolonged secular stagnation have become so prominent that they can no longer simply be dismissed as impossible. The problem for bourgeois economists is then to try to explain why this “impossible thing” is nevertheless happening. And they have no good explanations.
From the point of view of Marxist political economy the explanation for secular stagnation is simple: it is merely a long stage in the development of an overproduction crisis, a stage which will eventually get even worse—in the form of an outright depression.
See also: STAGNATION
“Secular stagnation [is] the chronically weak growth that comes from
having too few investment opportunities to absorb available savings.” —Free Exchange
column: “Aging is a drag”, The Economist, March 30, 2019, p. 78.
[This statement is somewhat remarkable for a bourgeois commentator in that it spells out a little further than usual that secular stagnation is due to a shortage of good investment opportunities. But the question then is obviously why is there at that point a shortage of good investment opportunities? The real answer is that in a period of worsening overproduction it makes no sense to invest in building new factories and buying new machinery to expand production when the capitalist enterprises already cannot sell all that they can produce! But this answer is unacceptable to the bourgeoisie; they can’t admit that there is a flaw in capitalism that inevitably leads to this result. And this article, too, makes the erroneous claim that “slower growth is more a choice than an inevitability”. It attributes the slowing growth to the demographic aging of the population, which supposedly leads to falling rates of growth in productivity. And why is this the case? The article speculates that companies with older workers may be less inclined to adopt new technologies. On and on the excuses go! And never facing up to the blatant fact of growing overproduction. —S.H.]
SECURED LOAN or SECURED DEBT [Capitalist Finance]
A loan, or debt, in which the creditor (the person loaning the money) has the legal right to some property or other asset of the person borrowing the money in the event that the borrower fails to make scheduled payments on the loan. In the case of home mortgages, the house itself is the security, and if the person with the mortgage fails to make the monthly payments on time the bank has the legal right to kick the person and their family out of “their” home, seize it and sell it to somebody else.
It was once also virtually impossible to obtain other sorts of loans (besides mortgages) without providing security for them too. However, as the expansion of debt in contemporary capitalist society has mushroomed and become ubiquitous, and as fewer and fewer people or companies even have any adequate security available to provide for the loans they need to take out, those with piles of money to lend have become ever more willing to make unsecured loans rather than to let their money “sit idle”. Of course they are only willing to do this much more risky thing because they can charge much higher rates of interest on the loans they make. Thus, as capitalist society moves ever nearer to its next financial crisis, not only does the debt bubble grow ever bigger in volume, but the quality of that mountain of debt (i.e., the portion of it which is unsecured) has become much worse, even if nervous creditors are now once again starting to demand a little more security.
“We document a steady decline in the share of secured debt issued (as a fraction of total debt) in the United States over the twentieth century, with some pickup in this century.... The secular [long-term trend] decline in secured debt issuance seems to result from creditors acquiring greater confidence over time that the priority of their debt claims will be respected even if they do not obtain security up front. Instead, security is given [required!] on a contingent basis—when a firm approaches distress. Similar arguments explain why debt is more likely to be secured in the down phase of a cycle than in the up phase, thus accounting for the cyclicality of secured debt share.” —Efraim Benmelech, Nitish Kumar, Raghuram Rajan, “The Decline of Secured Debt”, NBER Working Paper No. 26637, January 2020.
[In contemporary financial capitalism:] The bundling together of numerous individual mortgages, or outstanding credit card debts, or auto loans, or other forms of debt into packages, against which bonds are sold to investors. This allows the banks or other financial companies which issued the loans to no longer care whether the loans are ever paid off, and therefore to escape the risk ordinarily involved in making such loans. Those foolish enough to buy the bonds, however, thereby take on risks which they have no real way of even properly evaluating. In short, securitization is a method for the banks and big financial corporations to cheat investors.
See also: COLLATERIALIZED DEBT OBLIGATIONS (CDOs), COLLATERIALIZED LOAN OBLIGATIONS (CLOs)
SECURITY — And Free Speech
“Citizens can now carry guns into the chamber of Tennessee’s state legislature, but can’t bring home-made signs. Critics of the new policy say it’s designed to curb the free speech rights of Tennesseans, in the wake of angry protests last year over immigration, Medicaid expansion, and other issues. Legislators said they banned ‘hand-carried signs and signs on hand-sticks’ because they ‘represent a serious safety hazard.’” —“Only in America”, The Week magazine, Jan. 12, 2018, p. 5.
Surveillance cameras watching and/or recording human activity in a specific area. These are generally closed-circuit (CC) television systems which record the images on data drives or backup systems. These security cameras are already very widespread and are rapidly becoming more and more ubiquitous. Two major factors are especially promoting this: 1) The technical improvement and declining cost of such systems; and 2) The growing fascist trends in capitalist society which lead the ruling class to be ever more concerned to monitor the every move of every person in society.
“The number of cameras employed for surveillance will exceed 1 billion by the end of 2021—an almost 30 percent leap from the 770 million cameras in service today. China is expected to account for more than half the total.” —Wall Street Journal report, as summarized in The Week magazine, Dec. 20, 2019, p. 16.
See: LOOKING AND SEEING
“SEEK TRUTH FROM FACTS”
A phrase from Mao’s writings, which was later given a perverted, revisionist interpretation by Deng Xiaoping. Deng distorted Mao’s meaning that revolutionaries must pay careful attention to objective conditions, into something very different—the assertion of an agnostic and opportunistic empiricism in which MLM theory is ignored and discarded. In this revisionist re-interpretation, “seeking truth from facts” has come to mean a bourgeois anti-theoretic reliance on pragmaticism.
“Secondly, there is the Marxist-Leninist attitude.
“With this attitude, a person applies the theory and method of Marxism-Leninism to the systematic and thorough investigation and study of the environment. He does not work by enthusiasm alone... To take such an attitude is to seek truth from facts. ‘Facts’ are all the things that exist objectively, ‘truth’ means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and ‘to seek’ means to study. We should proceed from the actual conditions inside and outside the country, the province, county or district, and derive from them, as our guide to action, laws which are inherent in them and not imaginary, that is, we should find the internal relations of the events occurring around us. And in other to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary entusiasm, not on lifeless books, but on facts that exist objectively; we must appropriate the material in detail and, guided by the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, draw correct conclusions from it. Such conclusions are not mere lists of phenomena in A, B, C, D order or writings full of platitudes, but are scientific conclusions. Such an attitude is one of seeking truth from facts not of currying favor by claptrap. It is the manifestation of Party spirit, the Marxist-Leninist style of uniting theory and practice. It is the attitude every Communist Party member should have at the very least.” —Mao, “Reform Our Study” (May 1941), SW3:22-23. [Contrast this Marxist-Leninist view to the perversion of the phrase “seeking truth from facts” as used by the capitalist-roaders below. —Ed.]
“Pragmatism, according to the dictionary, is a philosophy holding that practical consequences are the criterion of knowledge. More specifically, Webster’s Dictionary describes it as a method in philosophy which determines the meaning and truth of all concepts by their practical results. Despite its American origin, Chinese leaders are gradually finding the concept acceptable, whether as a general philosophy, or as a method in philosophy. Indeed, the press in China has their own definition for pragmatism: To seek truth from facts. The saying is regarded as applicable to the modernization drive, and to practical as well as ideological matters.” —“From the Editor”, Monsoon, a monthly magazine in Hong Kong promoting the political line of the capitalist-roaders who usurped power in China a few years earlier, Vol. 3, #7, August 1980, p. 2.
SEGREGATION (In the U.S.)
The viciously enforced separation of the “races” (blacks and whites), especially in the southern states of America, from the period after Reconstruction following the Civil War, until it was mostly made illegal in the 1960s. De facto segregation still exists in many forms, however, such as better schools reserved mostly for whites and poorer schools in neighborhoods where African-Americans or other minorities make up a larger proportion of the population.
“Well within living memory racial segregation was a brutal fact of
life in the South. As well as schools, transport, businesses and hospitals were
“As Ms Wilkerson, a journalist recalls, colored people in Miami Beach had to be off the streets and out of the city limits by 8 pm. In a North Carolina courthouse there was a white Bible and a colored Bible. It was against the law in Birmingham, Alabama, for whites and coloreds to play checkers together. In Mississippi in the 1930s white teachers earned $630 a year but colored teachers were paid only $215, hardly more than field hands.” —The Economist, in a review of Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010), Aug. 28, 2010, p. 73.
1. Uncomfortably aware of oneself as the object of observation by others; ill at ease.
2. [In the philosophy of mind:] Conscious of one’s own actions or internal states of mind as belonging to oneself; aware of oneself as an individual. Having the capacity to introspect, or to contemplate an internal model of the world which includes yourself in it. See: CONSCIOUSNESS
See also: CRITICISM AND SELF-CRITICISM, CONFESSIONS—False or Insincere, CONFABULATION
“Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades’ minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb ‘Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten’ means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as ‘Say all you know and say it without reserve’, ‘Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words’ and ‘Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not’—this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party.” —Mao, “On Coalition Government” (April 24, 1945), SW 3:316-317.
See: MASLOW, Abraham
SELF-DETERMINATION OF NATIONS
See: NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION
SELF-EXPANSION OF CAPITAL
“Alas! At this point I have a very strong feeling that there are many who use the excuse of altruism to seek their own egoistic gain. Truth is good; falsehood is bad. To act in self-interest may be small-minded, but is at least true. To pretend to be benefiting others when really acting in self-interest is a great falsehood. To extend self-interest to the greater self of benefiting all mankind, to the greater self of benefiting all living things, and to the greater self of benefiting the universe, this is to go from a small truth to a great truth.” —Mao, as a young man in 1917-1918 and before becoming a Communist, “Marginal Notes to: Friedrich Paulsen, A System of Ethics” (which Mao read in Chinese translation), Mao’s Road to Power, Vol. I: The Pre-Marxist Period, 1912-1920, ed. by Stuart Schram, pp. 201-2.
Self-reliance is a virtue to be strongly encouraged in individuals, in social organizations, in government units and, indeed, pretty much everywhere. On the other hand, it can sometimes be made a fetish of, or even become an excuse for not helping others (on the grounds that they should be “more self-reliant”). In that case what is fundamentally a “good thing has been turned into a bad thing”.
Self-reliance is an especially important principle to stress in a socialist economy. Although there is an overall production plan, and local production plans within each enterprise or production group, these plans will often prove very difficult to successfully fulfill unless each unit really has a spirit of self-reliance. This is, in part, why a successful socialist economy must be based on the genuine enthusiasm of the workers, who will bring that spirit of self-reliance with them as part of their enthusiasm for socialism. It also explains, in part, why the the phony “socialism” (actually state capitalism) in the Soviet Union during its last 35 years was such an economic disaster. Why, indeed, should the workers under any form of capitalism be enthusiastic or promote self-reliance at the work place?! They only work there.
“On self-reliance. Self-reliance is very important. It should be practiced not only by a state, but also by a factory, a people’s commune, and a production team. In managing people’s communes, those which practiced self-reliance showed real achievements whereas those communes and production teams which were supported by loans did not fare so well. At present, we have three truly self-reliant communes in the whole country: one is the Ch’en Yung-k’ang commune in Kiangsu Province; another is the Ch’en Yung-kuei commune in Shansi Province; and still another is the Ch’en X X commune in Ch’u-fou, Shantung Province. These three communes have never asked for a penny from the state as they were built up completely on the strength of their own effort.” —Mao, “Interjection at a Briefing by Four Vice-Premiers” (May 1964), SW 9:86-87.
How a person represents themself to others. (How a person privately represents themself to themself is called self-image.) Organizations, including political parties, also have self-representations which they promote publicly, or public images which they try to control. Honest individuals and organizations try to be honest in representing themselves—including both their positive and negative aspects—while dishonest individuals and organizations (and especially corporations and bourgeois or opportunist political parties) must, of necessity, lie to the public and do their best to cover up their actual nature and nefarious activities. This is why press agents and public relations are such a huge business in contemporary American society.
Of course, we should always be a little cautious about fully believing what individuals and organizations say about themselves, even in cases where they actually are trying to be honest. (See also in this connection the entry on CONFABULATION.) But in the case of bourgeois or opportunist individuals, organizations and parties, we should go way beyond mere caution and approach what they say about themselves with very serious skepticism. We should never forget that they are indeed a bunch of liars who are determined to put at least a “positive spin” on everything they really believe or do.
“This determined defense of the most pronounced Bernsteinians [revisionists] is not supported by any argument or reasoning whatsoever. Apparently, the author believes that if he repeats what the most pronounced Bernsteinians say about themselves his assertion requires no proof. But can anything more ‘shallow’ be imagined than this judgment of an entire trend based on nothing more than what the representatives of that trend say about themselves?” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (Feb. 1902), LCW 5:357.
The branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of words and sentences. The sub-branch concerned with the meaning of words, specifically, is known as lexical semantics. Scientific semantics should not be confused with the bourgeois pseudo-scientific academic sect which goes by the name of General Semantics.
Characterizing a state where the ruling classes (especially big business, big bureaucrats, and major politicians who together run the country) are still tied to imperialist interests, and are still subservient to them at least to some degree.
Characterizing a state where the feudal relations of production and society have not been completely smashed and eliminated by the completion of the bourgeois revolution, but where instead they remain to a considerable degree (especially in the countryside) while capitalism, and capitalist relations of production, are developed on top of this (especially in the cities). The countries of south Asia for example, including India, fit this discription.
1. A peasant who spends part of each year working as a wage worker in a town.
2. A poor peasant who owns no land, and who must therefore work as an agricultural laborer for other (richer) peasants. Also often called a rural proletarian.
SENECA, Lucius Annaeus (c. 4 BCE-65 CE)
Roman philosopher; one of the great representatives of Stoicism. He was the tutor of the young Nero and later his advisor when he became Emperor. Seneca was implicated (probably falsely) in a plot against the Emperor and was ordered by Nero to commit suicide—which he did.
SENIOR, Nassau William (1790-1864)
[“Senior” is his family name, and not a generational title.] English vulgar economist and apologist for capitalism. Marx called him one of the “economic spokesmen of the bourgeoisie”. He was strongly opposed to the shortening of the work day which at that time was often 12 hours/day, or more!
An ambiguous term in contemporary bourgeois philosophy which may refer either to those real objects in the world which are sensed (i.e., sensibilia def. 1), or else just the sensations themselves (i.e., sense data).
SENSATIONALISM or SENSATIONISM
The extreme empiricist theory associated with Ernst Mach that only sensations (or sense data) actually exists, or at least that this is all that human beings are capable of comprehending. According to this idealist theory, sensations are not only the source of all human knowledge, but may actually be all that really exists.
This is similar to the idealist philosophical theory known as phenomenalism.
See also: SENSUALISM, SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM
The mental processes (such as seeing, hearing, or smelling) which are the result of the immediate stimulation of one of the bodily senses. In everyday usage, we often refer to somewhat unusual, unexpected, or unexplained things, such as tickles, itches or pains, or sudden feelings of warmth or coldness, as “sensations”. However, the more abstract usage of the term (which is that found in philosophy) also covers the ordinary and routine seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting of things in the world around us.
In philosophy there are various doctrines about the nature of sensations and how they fit in with our overall conception of the world. The materialist conception is that sensations are (typically at least) caused by the real physical world around us. (In exceptional cases sensations may be due to the malfunctioning of our bodies.) We understand that our perceptions inform us about the nature of the objective world, and that these sensations reflect the nature of the real physical things in the world. (See REFLECTION THEORY.)
However, philosophical idealists often hold that our sensations are entirely mental phenomena which do not reflect the nature of the material world or inform us about the true nature of objective reality. In some cases they go so far as to claim that only mental sensations exist, and that there is no material world at all that lies behind these sensations! (This extreme viewpoint is known as “radical empiricism” or subjective idealism.)
See also: SENSUALISM, SENSE DATA, SENSATIONALISM
Raw sensations, or the private “data” (or what we immediately perceive) from our senses. Thus, the sensory qualities of things (colors, shapes, smells, etc.) which we supposedly experience directly, without any rational interpretation, and without any consideration of the physical objects which may be causing them. Thus the concept of sense data, as it is most often used in philosophy, is one of a strongly empiricist and idealist character. Empiricists usually make “sense data” the foundation of their theory of knowledge.
The traditional empiricist claim goes something along these lines: “We never see or otherwise perceive or sense, or at least directly perceive or sense, the real material objects of the world, but instead, only sense data, or our own ideas, impressions, sense-perceptions, or the like.” This notion is related to the silly Kantian theory that human beings are incapable of knowing anything about the true nature of any real world object, the so-called “ding-an-sich”. But by this strange logic, what would it even mean to “directly” perceive the world?! This could only be some sort of religious comprehension based not at all on any bodily senses.
Modern science has demonstrated quite well that seeing is not like an automatic image forming in the brain (as in a camera), and that similarly all the other senses also involve complex computational processing in light of previous knowledge. We have evolved to survive in the world, and thus our senses must help us comprehend the objective world. Therefore no epistemological theory whose foundation is raw, unprocessed, subjective “sense data” can possibly be correct.
See also: SENSIBILIA, QUALIA
1. Those things which are sensed; the immediate objects of sense perception. The things in, or aspects of, objective reality that we sense. (This is a materialist conception.)
2. [In the philosophy of Bertrand Russell and some other extreme empiricists:] Those subjective entities (tastes, smells, images, etc.) which no one at the moment is directly sensing, but which are otherwise like the “sense data” that people have when they are sensing things. (This is an idealist conception.) This idealist concept of sensibilia, i.e., the notion of “unsensed sense data”, is obviously incoherent.
Another name which has been used for the basic doctrine that holds that sensations are the source of knowledge. Of course there is some truth to this idea if it is properly interpreted.
If sensations are understood to be a reflection of the objective world, which are processed by the brain in light of previous knowledge and experience, then we have a materialist theory. This was more or less the path taken by the materialists of the Enlightenment (Holbach, Helvétius, and later by Feuerbach), and certainly by the most recent physiological science.
On the other hand, if sensations are regarded as subjective impressions with no relationship to any objective world, we are on the path of subjective idealism, and idealist philosophers such as Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Mach, Avenarius and Bogdanov.
Consequently, the recognition that knowledge of the world comes through sensation is by itself neither a materialist nor an idealist theory. It depends on what sensation is understood to be, and how it fits in with a broader understanding of reality.
A geographic area which, by showing early signs of a development or problem, should give advance warning that the development or problem will likely soon become more widespread. Thus the early outbreaks of AIDS/HIV in the “sentinel areas” of San Francisco and New York City should have alerted the medical profession and the U.S. government that a much more general spread of the disease was imminent. Similarly, the early local areas where the current U.S. opioid epidemic first appeared, such as the small town of St. Charles, Virginia, in 1997-98, should have alerted (but also didn’t) the medical profession and government as to the potential eventual seriousness of that now nationwide and still worsening social crisis (as of 2018).
In the sphere of the world capitalist economy a similar thing has occurred at times. For example, the very serious era of intensified stagnation in Japan—which began circa 1991 and which as of 2018 has continued now for more than a quarter century—should have alerted (but didn’t) the economics profession to more globally widespread stagnation (“in-and-out-of-recession”) in the near future. As usual, what was happening in what should have been recognized as a sentinel area was ignored or misconstrued by bourgeois economists. It seems that sentinel areas are very commonly unrecognized in a great many cases until after the fact because incorrect dominant theories (medical, economic, social, political and otherwise) do not prepare people to keep an eye out and be alert to them. This is another aspect of the social stupidity of the current bourgeois system.
“SEPTEMBER 18 INCIDENT” [Japan, 1931]
[To be added...]
An alternate name for peasant, especially in Europe.
SERFS — Emancipation of in Russia in 1861
“Peasant Reform—the emancipation of the serfs carried out by
the tsarist government in 1861. The Reform was made necessary by the entire course of
Russia’s economic development and by the growth of the mass movement among the peasantry
against feudal exploitation. The Peasant Reform was a bourgeois reform carried out by
serf-owners. Its bourgeois essence was the more obvious ‘the less the amount of
land cut off from the peasants’ holdings, the more fully peasant lands were
separated from the landed estates, the lower the tribute paid to the feudal
landowners by the peasant (i.e., the lower the “redemption” payments)’ [Lenin, LCW
17:121] The Peasant Reform marked a step in Russia’s transformation into a bourgeois
monarchy. In all, 22,500,000 serfs, formerly belonging to landlords, were ‘emancipated’.
Landed proprietorship, however, remained. The peasants’ lands were declared the
property of the landlords. The peasant could only get an allotment of land of the size
established by law (and even then only with the landlord’s consent), and he had to
redeem it, that is, pay for it.
“The Peasant Reform merely undermined but did not abolish the old corvée system of farming. The landlords secured possession of the best parts of the peasants’ allotments (the ‘cut-off lands’—woods, meadows, watering places, grazing lands, and so on), without which the peasants could not engage in independent farming. Until the redemption arrangements were completed the peasants were considered ‘temporarily bound’ and either rendered corvée service to the landlord or paid quit-rent. The redemption of their own allotments was a direct plunder of the peasants by the tsarist government and the landowners. The peasants were compelled to pay hundreds of millions of rubles for their land and this led to the ruin of the farms and to mass impoverishment.
“The Russian revolutionary democrats, headed by Nikolai Cheryshevsky, criticized the Peasant Reform for its feudal character. Lenin called the Peasant Reform of 1861 the first act of mass violence against the peasantry in the interests of the nascent capitalism in agriculture—the landowners were ‘clearing the land’ for capitalism.” —Note 56, Lenin SW I (1967).
SERVE THE PEOPLE
[To be added... ]
See also: PATERNALISM
“The motive of serving the masses is inseparably linked with the effect of winning their approval; the two must be united. The motive of serving the individual or a small clique is not good, nor is it good to have the motive of serving the masses without the effect of winning their approval and benefiting them.” —Mao, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), SW 3:88.
“SERVE THE PEOPLE” [Speech by Mao]
A famous speech delivered by Mao Zedong on September 8, 1944, at a memorial meeting for Comrade Chang Szu-teh, which was held by the departments working directly under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. (Chang Szu-teh was born in a poor peasant family and joined the Red Army in 1933 at the age of 17. He took part in the Long March, and became a selfless Communist soldier in Yenan. He died in a kiln accident.) This work by Mao, along with two others (“In Memory of Norman Bethune” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains”) were collectively known as the “three constantly read articles”. They promote the proletarian world outlook and firm devotion to the masses and the public interest.
“Serve the People” is included in volume 3 of Mao’s Selected Works, and is available online at: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_19.htm
SERVICE (Political Economy)
“A service is nothing more than the useful effect of a use-value, be it of a commodity, or be it of labor.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, ch. VII, sect. 2: (International, p. 192; Penguin, pp. 299-300.)
“In general, we may say that service is merely an expression for the particular use-value of labor where the latter is useful not as an article, but as an activity.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I: (Penguin, appendix, p. 1047. [Not included in the International edition])
“Where the direct exchange of money for labor takes place without the latter producing capital, where it is therefore not productive labor, it is bought as service, which in general is nothing but a term for the particular use-value which the labor provides, like any other commodity; it is however a specific term for the particular use-value of labor in so far as it does not render service in the form of a thing, but in the form of an activity, which however in no way distinguishes it for example from a machine, for instance a clock.” —Marx, TSV 1:403-4.
That part of the economy which provides services rather than producing articles for sale. As capitalism has developed, and (among other factors) productivity has tremendously increased in manufacturing, the proportion of the economy devoted to producing services rather than material commodities has greatly increased. (See: PETTY’S LAW.) As of 2010, about 83% of the workers in the private (non-governmental) sector in the U.S. were service workers. Of course, another reason for this change, which is very negative for the U.S., is that its manufacturing base is being rapidly moved overseas for the purpose of increasing profits through the extra exploitation of lower-wage foreign labor.
A person who makes a living selling their personal sexual favors to others; a prostitute.
However, there are reasons to oppose or avoid the use of the more ephemistic term “sex worker” rather than “prostitute”. (See the quote below.)
“Most prostitutes are of course women, and in modern capitalist society most of
them are technically (i.e., by the definition of technical terms) either workers (working
for employers such as pimps or in houses of prostitution) or else are
petty bourgeois (self-employed). However, outright slavery
or something damned close to it for prostitutes is also still quite common even in advanced
capitalist countries such as the U.S. And some prostitutes who are now employed workers, or
self-employed, originally became prostitutes because they were forced into it (or, in essence,
because they were originally enslaved). But even prostitutes who have never been enslaved,
strictly speaking, are still wage slaves or something close to that, and in no other ‘line
of work’ is that term more apt! For those who were not outright enslaved, it was the force of
capitalist economics that pushed them into wage slavery in this form.
“Prostitution is an inherently degrading and very dangerous occupation. Moreover, it is an occupation which should not exist, and which will eventually no longer exist. (It will be economically impossible in a future communist society, where even money no longer exists.)
“My reluctance to use the term ‘sex workers’ is in no way based on any denial that (most) prostitutes are either hired or self-employed workers. It is instead a matter of the connotations of that phrase which imply that prostitution should be viewed as respectable and non-degrading work, like any other labor. Our goal is to overthrow the capitalist system, in part so that we can get rid of things like prostitution, not to somehow make it respectable and a fine occupation. In other words, I agree that prostitutes (in large part) technically are ‘sex workers’, but I oppose the despicable motives of many of those who want to call them that in present capitalist exploitative society.” —S.H., adapted from a letter to a friend, September 2011.
The view that one sex is superior to, or should be given social primacy over, the other. Since during all human history (at least of class society) men have dominated and oppressed women, in practice sexism almost always means views which support this domination and oppression of women. Sexists believe that there are “natural” intellectual and psychological differences between men and women which supposedly justify this domination and oppression, and special privileges for men. Revolutionary Marxism is of course totally opposed to any form of sexism. And we believe that whatever significant differences there are in average “intelligence” or psychology between men and women in the present society are due virtually entirely to the differences in the ways men and women are brought up and educated (or mis-educated).
See also: WOMEN — Oppression Of
See: WOMEN—Sexual Crimes Against Under Capitalism, RAPE—Tacit Acceptance of in Bourgeois Society
See: SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page