National chauvinism on the part of nominal (phony) socialists. This term arose during World War I when Lenin and other revolutionaries condemned those revisionist “socialists” of the Second International who betrayed the international proletariat and openly supported their own bourgeoisies in waging war against other nations. Later on, in the revisionist eras in the Soviet Union and China, those countries also systematically followed social chauvinist policies.
“[In his work Socialism and War (1915), Lenin] shows that the support of the war by the ‘socialists’ of the Second International was a direct betrayal of socialism. He coins the phrase ‘social-chauvinism’ to denote their policy. Social-chauvinism is defense of the fatherland in an unjust war undertaken by people calling themselves socialists. Lenin calls for a break with opportunism and social-chauvinism on an international scale, and the setting up of a new Third International on a revolutionary basis.” —Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1953), p. 52.
“The elements of opportunism that accumulated over the decades of comparatively peaceful development have given rise to the trend of social-chauvinism which dominates the offical socialist parties throughout the world. This trend—socialism in words and [national] chauvinism in deeds ... [Lenin then lists many of the specific social-chauvinist individuals in Russia, Germany France, Belgium, and England —Ed.] ... is conspicuous for the base, servile adaptation of the ‘leaders of socialism’ to the interests not only of ‘their’ national bourgeoisie, but of ‘their’ state, for the majority of the so-called Great Powers have long been exploiting and enslaving a whole number of small and weak nations. And the imperialist war [World War I] is a war for the division and redivision of this kind of booty. The struggle to free the working people from the influence of the bourgeoisie in general, and of the imperialist bourgeoisie in particular, is impossible without a struggle against opportunist prejudices concerning the ‘state’.” —Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (August 1917), LCW 25:383-4.
The sum total of all the acquired ideas, opinions, views, concepts, knowledge, theories, dispositions, feelings, moods, abilities, skills, arts, practices, habits, customs and traditions that exist among the individuals in a society and which reflect the social being of its members (the material conditions of their lives).
An idealist theory in which society, law and morality are the result of either a conscious or implicit “contract” concluded among the people, or between the people and the state. The idea is that humans have agreed to give up some of their personal freedoms in exchange for a stable and secure political existence. This doctrine is historically incorrect, in that (among other reasons) it supposes that human society existed in a state of complete anarchy and bestiality (or alternately idyllic freedom according to Rousseau) until the “contract” was concluded. It is a crude, early attempt to understand how slave, feudal and bourgeois society could have developed. The view arose in antiquity but received its greatest development with the rising bourgeoisie in Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.
See also: CONTRAT SOCIAL
The theory that the struggle for existence and natural selection govern social development. It is an invalid extension of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution to society. Its most famous exponent was Herbert Spencer, but in various forms it is still quite popular in bourgeois circles.
See also: DARWINISM [Quotes by Marx & Engels], GEOPOLITICS
1. A form of the liberal capitalist welfare state mascarading as genuine socialism.
2. Political parties and movements which have this reformist accomodation with capitalism as their highest goal.
See also: COMMUNISM—Aims Of
“In the past, social democracy called for using the state to offset,
correct, regulate, and otherwise manage the workings of capitalism. It sought a
capitalism with a human face: one with fewer inequalities of wealth, income, power,
and access to culture. The state was to manage capital investment, regulate markets,
and shape the distribution of income and wealth: all in the interest of a society
with a deeper and more widely shared sense of community. Economic growth and efficiency,
attributed to capitalism, were to be supported while state policy would prevent or
counteract the socially undesirable consequences of private capitalist production and
commodity markets. State interventionist capitalism was the solution; private
capitalism free of state controls and interventions was the problem.
“The social democratic solution thus constrained what private capitalists could do in their profit-driven competition with one another and their profit-driven relations with employees and customers. But it left them in the position of receiving and dispensing enterprise profits. Social democracy thus left private capitalists with the incentive to weaken, deflect, or remove those constraints. It also provided capitalists with the means—their retained profits—to do so. In a sense, this was the historic capitalist-socialist compromise of the 19th and 20th centuries. Capitalists could keep their positions as receivers and dispensers of enterprise profits, but the conditions of those positions would be constrained by social(ist) welfare state policies.
“Whatever the benefits, this historic compromise set the stage for new struggles. Welfare states became contested terrains: social democrats sought to strengthen and expand them, while capitalists sought to reduce, weaken, or eliminate them. From gains, the trend moved in the direction that favored capitalists. The trend turned into a rout in the 1970s and has remained so ever since. The capitalists used their profits to improve their business prospects and performance by, among other strategies, undoing welfare statism. By lobbying, moving production outside national borders, immigration, common markets, media campaigns, and countless other mechanisms, the capitalists succeeded in bringing social democracy to its current sorry state.
“Even where trade unions and socialist and communist parties were strong, they proved no match for the profits capitalists could use against them.” —Richard D. Wolff, Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010), pp. 36-37. This is an outline of both the theory of social democracy and of how history has fully demonstrated the flaw in that theory. Social democracy has clearly been proven to be a major mistake, and a complete dead-end, for the working class. Of course this inevitable result was already obvious to revolutionary Marxists such as Marx, Engels and Lenin even at the very start of this whole disastrous social democratic experiment!
SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC FEDERATION (Britain)
A socialist organization in Britain in the late 19th century which later merged with other forces and eventually developed into the Communist Party of Great Britain.
“The Social-Democratic Federation was founded in 1884. Among the leaders there were reformists (Hyndman & Co.), anarchists and revolutionary Social-Democrats, supporters of Marxism (Harry Quelch, Tom Mann, Edward Aveling, Eleanor Marx and others); the last-named group constituted the Left wing of the socialist movement in Britain. Engels criticized the Social-Democratic Federation sharply for dogmatism and sectarianism and for its lack of contact with the mass working-class movement in Britain and ignoring of the specific features of that movement. In 1907 the Social-Democratic Federation was renamed the Social-Democratic Party which in 1911, together with Left elements from the Independent Labour Party, founded the British Socialist Party; in 1920 most of the members of that party helped found the Communist Party of Great Britain.” —Footnote 47, Lenin: SW I (1967).
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GERMANY (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - SPD)
[To be added... ]
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GERMANY — Gotha Congress (1875)
[To be added...]
See also: GOTHA PROGRAMME
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GERMANY — Erfurt Congress (1891)
[To be added...]
See also: ERFURT PROGRAMME
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GERMANY — Dresden Congress (1903)
“The Dresden Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party was held between September 13 and September 20, 1903. The main question discussed at the Congress was the tactics of the Party and the struggle against revisionism. The revisionist views of E. Bernstein, P. Göhre, E. David, Wolfgang Heine and a few other German Social-Democrats were criticized by the Congress. A resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority (288 against 11) said that the Party Congress most decisively condemned the revisionist efforts to alter the former tried and tested tactics of the Party, based on the class struggle, tactics that required the winning of political power by the overthrow of the ruling classes and not by adaptation to the existing system. The adoption of this resolution had a certain significance in the positive sense. The Congress, however, was not consistent in the struggle against revisionism; the revisionists among the German Social-Democrats were not expelled from the Party and after the Congress continued to spread their opportunist views.” —Note 199, Lenin: SW I (1967).
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GERMANY — Chemnitz Congress (1912)
“The Chemnitz Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party, September 15-21, 1912; the Congress adopted a resolution on imperialism that described the policy of the imperialist states as ‘a shameless policy of plunder and annexation’ and called upon the Party to ‘struggle against imperialism with redoubled energy’.” —Note 321, Lenin: SW I (1967).
A person, party, movement or ideology, which is socialist or communist in name, but which in actuality operates in a fascist manner towards the masses. Most revisionist political parties in power are social fascists to one degree or another. For example, during the revisionist period of rule in the Soviet Union (i.e., its last 35 years or so), the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was a social-fascist political party. In India the so-called Communist Party of India (Marxist) [or CPM] is a social-fascist party, as its rule and oppression of the masses in the state of West Bengal has amply demonstrated. (See: HERMAD)
Socialist (or Communist) in name, but imperialist in deeds. For example, the Soviet Union, which was a genuine (if seriously flawed) socialist country while Stalin was alive, became a social-imperialist country when the revisionists came to power after Stalin’s death. The U.S.S.R. then engaged in a long inter-imperialist struggle with the U.S. to see which of the two powers would control the world.
See also: AFGHANISTAN—Soviet Social-Imperialist Invasion Of
“In [the Peking Review article] ‘Total Bankruptcy of Soviet Modern Revisionism,’ the August 23 article by Renmin Ribao Commentator, there is this sentence: ‘The Soviet revisionist renegade clique has long ago degenerated into a gang of social-imperialists.’ [See Supplement to issue No. 34.]
“By social-imperialism is meant imperialism flying the banner of ‘socialism.’ In lashing out at the revisionists of the Second International who supported the imperialist and colonialist policies of the bourgeoisie, the great Lenin pointed out that these renegades were a gang of social-imperialists—‘socialism in words, imperialism in deeds, the growth of opportunism into imperialism.’
“After usurping Party and state leadership, the Soviet revisionist renegade clique has brought about a restoration of capitalism in all spheres of endeavour in the Soviet Union. It has at the same time frenziedly followed an imperialist policy abroad and redoubled its efforts to gang up with U.S. imperialism in counter-revolutionary schemes in all parts of the world, vainly hoping thus to redivide the world between them. Regarding a number of countries as colonial possessions, the Soviet revisionist renegade clique has savagely plundered and enslaved those countries, and by means of so-called economic and military ‘aid’ penetrated into other countries and controlled them. Where these Kremlin traitors are concerned, socialism is only a banner, the actual deed is imperialism. The current armed occupation of Czechoslovakia is a total exposure of the Soviet revisionist renegade clique as a gang of social-imperialists, a typical and concentrated exposure of its ugly features.
“Twenty-eight years ago our great leader Chairman Mao pointed out: ‘... the proletariat of the capitalist countries is steadily freeing itself from the social-imperialist influence of the social-democratic parties and has proclaimed its support for the liberation movement in the colonies and semi-colonies.’ The social-imperialism of the social-democrats has long been cast into the dustbin by the proletariat and the broad masses of the revolutionary people. It is certain that the social-imperialism of the Soviet revisionist renegade clique will go the same way—completely bankrupt.” —Note in Peking Review, #36, Sept. 6, 1968, p. 12.
SOCIAL JUSTICE INDEX
[Refer to large chart at the right:] This is a comparison of levels of equality and social justice within the different member countries of the OECD. Of course no country under capitalism, even the best of them, will have anything close to true equality or genuine social justice. But this chart demonstrates that many countries, including those in Scandinavia, rate much higher than the richest imperialist countries, and especially as compared to the United States. The U.S., though the richest of all countries, is one of the worst as far as the contrast of wealth and poverty goes; and the current trend is for it to get worse yet.
Most human knowledge is social knowledge rather than individual knowledge. That is to say, no individual knows all that much, often not even all that much about their own areas of interest and work, their own specialities. But humanity in its collectivity knows a tremendous amount. It possesses an astounding amount of social knowledge which is expanding every single day, whether any one individual lives or dies.
Most people in modern society have some few vague ideas about how internal combustion engines work, and automobile transmissions, and perhaps even refrigerators, microwave ovens, TVs, and computers. But those who know anything more than a few abstract principles about automobile transmissions are generally not the same folks who know the basic principles about how a computer operating system works, let alone how to cater a big festival or do successful brain surgery. It is almost certainly true that there is no one single individual who could entirely by themselves design and successfully build a modern airliner, or an economical and safe railroad bridge across a major river, or—entirely with their own exclusive ideas—successfully lead a social revolution. Projects like these require the knowledge of many people working together; they require social knowledge.
New knowledge is likewise most often created collectively, in a social way. With the rarest of exceptions, no one genius entirely figures out any entirely new thing or process. They are virtually always based on earlier steps by others, and later on will virtually always have their ideas improved or extended by others. This is true in science too. As brilliant as Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Marx were in their various fields of science, many others came after them to improve upon and extend their work. New knowledge, like existing knowledge, is largely social knowledge, and not the exclusive property of any individual.
And yet, strangely enough, we humans often tend to exaggerate our own individual knowledge and to deny the truly miniscule part of social knowledge that any one of us actually possesses. No doubt this tendency is even more pronounced in individualist bourgeois society which is so fixated on worshiping heroes. But it is a problem in the revolutionary movement too, and a major reason why even the revolutionary leaders need to regularly use the mass line to learn from the masses!
“Do you know how a toilet works? What about a bicycle, or a zipper?
Most people can provide half answers at best. They struggle to explain basic inventions,
let alone more complex and abstract ones. Yet somehow, in spite of people’s ignorance,
they created and navigate the modern world. A new book, The Knowledge Illusion: Why We
Never Think Alone (2017) sets out to tackle this apparent paradox: how can human
thinking be so powerful, yet so shallow?
“Steven Slowman and Philip Fernbach, two cognitive scientists, draw on evolutionary theory and psychology. They argue that the mind has evolved to do the bare minimum that improves the fitness of its host. Because humans are a social species and evolved in the context of collaboration, wherever possible, abilities have been outsourced. As a result, people are individually rather limited thinkers and store little information in their own heads. Much knowledge is instead spread through the community—whose members do not often realize that this is the case.
“The authors call this the illusion of understanding, and they demonstrate it with a simple experiment. Subjects are asked to rate their understanding of something, then to write a detailed account of it, and finally to rate their understanding again. The self-assessments almost invariably drop. The authors see this effect everywhere, from toilets and bicycles to complex policy issues. The illusion exists, they argue, because humans evolved as part of a hive mind, and are so intuitively adept at co-operation that the lines between minds become blurred. Economists and psychologists talk about the ‘curse of knowledge’: people who know something have a hard time imagining someone else who does not. The illusion of knowledge works the other way round: people think they know something because others know it.
“The hive mind, with its seamless interdependence and expertise-sharing, once helped humans hunt mammoths and now sends them into space. But in politics it causes problems. Using a toilet without understanding it is harmless, but changing the health-care system without understanding it is not. Yet people often have strong opinions about issues they understand little about. And on social media, surrounded by like-minded friends and followers, opinions are reinforced and become more extreme. It is hard to reason with someone under the illusion that their beliefs are thought through, and simply presenting facts is unlikely to change beliefs when those beliefs are rooted in the values and groupthink of a community.
“The authors tentatively suggest that making people confront the illusion of understanding will temper their opinions, but this could have the opposite effect—people respond badly to feeling foolish. Messrs Slowman and Fernbach show how deep the problem runs, but are short on ideas to fix it....” —“Cognitive Science: Mind Meld” [book review], The Economist, April 8, 2017, p. 75.
[The bourgeoisie worries about this problem mostly because their primary concern is always to maintain their class in power by controlling the ideas of the masses, which in some ways is becoming harder for them to do. From the proletarian revolutionary perspective there is another factor here, however, which the bourgeoisie of course tries to hide: Despite the limited individual knowledge and understanding of society by the masses, people also do have a tendency to form a community of understanding and action around an ever-deeper appreciation of their own group interests. Once the political education and actions of the masses can be better guided by a political party led by those whose own understanding of society and how to advance the struggles of the masses is deeper and more scientific, and essential tools like the mass line method of leadership can be systematically used, then finally the collective social knowledge of the masses can be employed in a way which truly does advance their real interests. The revolutionary party, too, must employ this wider political social knowledge of the masses, and fortunately there are in fact ways to do this! —Ed.]
See: PANOPTICON, TWITTER
See: PRIMITIVE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION, SOCIOECONOMIC FORMATION
SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM (U.S.)
A government-run retirement program for workers in the U.S. which is paid for by deductions from paychecks while people are working. The ruling class was forced to institute this plan during the Great Depression of the 1930s as part of their social welfare programs of the “New Deal” which allowed them to keep conrol over society. And while it is quite pathetically inadequate, it does at least keep many people from starving to death in their old age. The ruling class would very much like to get rid of this and other social programs (see quote below), but it is so popular with the working class that they have not so far been able to do so.
“When President George W. Bush had tried to privatize Social Security, a plan pushed by the [ultra-conservative] Cato Institute, he had been forced to retreat in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The reality was that despite mobilizing the Tea Party [a rightist mass movement], the big conservative donors had a number of different priorities from the less affluent followers. Tea Party leaders had deliberately ‘fudged’ their agenda on Social Security in order not to alienate the followers, according to one study. They talked in vague terms about keeping America from ‘going broke’ but avoided specifics. Meanwhile, not one grassroots Tea Party supporter encountered by the study’s authors argued for privatizing Social Security. Entitlement programs aiding the middle class were in fact so popular with most Americans that they were virtually sacrosanct. While rich free-market enthusiasts often favored replacing these programs with market-oriented [i.e., for profit] alternatives, polls showed that virtually everyone was adamantly opposed to the kinds of changes that Newt Gingrich candidly called ‘right-wing social engineering.’” —Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016), p. 286.
See also: HISTORICAL MATERIALISM, INTERESTS, SOCIOLOGY
“Now—since the appearance of [Marx’s] Capital—the materialist conception of history is no longer a hypothesis, but a scientifically proven proposition. And until we get some other attempt to give a scientific explanation of the functioning and development of some formation of society—formation of society, mind you, and not the way of life of some country or people, or even class, etc.—another attempt just as capable of introducing order into the ‘pertinent facts’ as materialism is, that is just as capable of presenting a living picture of a definite formation, while giving it a strictly scientific explanation—until then the materialist conception of history will be a synonym for social science. Materialism is not ‘primarily a scientific conception of history,’ as [the Narodnik] Mr. Mikhailovsky thinks, but the only scientific conception of it.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:142.
The name given to the political and social indoctrination of students in American high schools. One major goal in these “social studies” classes is to get students to believe that the United States is a “democracy”, and that the “people hold power”, because formal elections are periodically held (and despite the fact that these elections are virtually always controlled by the rich and the media they own). Another primary goal is to instill a solid respect for U.S. laws and government authorities, in order to make it easier for the ruling bourgeoisie to keep the masses under control. And of course yet another major goal is to instill a strong sense of patriotism among students with regard to the nation, including a willingness to support its endless imperialist wars. Capitalism may also be talked about, though only from a strongly positive viewpoint. Socialism, if it is mentioned, will be totally distorted and lied about, and will be absolutely condemned. All this is what is called a “social education” in American schools: It is basically lies piled upon lies.
“Social studies is not rocket science. It’s more difficult.” —Jim
Cameron, who led a committee charged with defining standards for Michigan’s social
studies curriculum, answering divisive questions like whether the U.S. is a democracy
or a republic, quoted in the New York Times, April 8, 2019, p. A3.
[Of course for the bourgeoisie “social science” is harder than rocket science! It is, after all, a determined effort to get students to believe things which are both ridiculous and false, and which (for the largest part of the population) go against their own class interests. —Ed.]
SOCIALISM (Socialist Society)
1. [Marxist conception:] An intermediate and transitional form of society between capitalism and communism, characterized in its economic aspect by the principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work,” and characterized in its political aspect by the genuine control and rule of society by the revolutionary proletariat and its party or parties.
Socialism is still a form of class society, where class struggle still exists, and bourgeois and proletarian ideology and tendencies still do battle. The ruling class in a genuine socialist society is the proletariat. But many countries call (or have called) themselves socialist even though the proletariat either never had power, or else no longer has power, and where society is not (or is no longer) advancing towards communism (e.g., China after Mao’s death in 1976).
[On the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist conception of Socialism, see also: “What is Socialism?”, by Scott Harrison (12/20/14). A letter to Bob Weil about determining whether a country is socialist or not, and specifically focusing on Stalin’s USSR and Castro’s Cuba. 6 pages, online at: https://www.massline.org/Politics/ScottH/WhatIsSocialism.pdf (87 KB)]
2. [Non-Marxist, bourgeois “socialist” or “social-democratic” conception:] State ownership of some or even most of the means of production in a society totally controlled by the capitalist class and run by them for the benefit of their own class. In no way is this really socialism from the Marxist point of view. [See also: STATE CAPITALISM]
3. [Non-Marxist, bourgeois “progressive” or “democratic-socialist” conception:] This even more ridiculous view of “socialism” identifies it with mere reforms and superficial ameliorations of capitalism. As Eric Foner, a history professor, put it in a recent public letter to Bernie Sanders in The Nation, a magazine which (like Sanders) supports this point of view, “As for socialism, the term today refers not to a blueprint for a future society, but to the need to rein in the excesses of capitalism, which are evident all around us....” [Nov. 16, 2015 issue, p. 4.]
SOCIALISM — Contradictions Within
[Intro to be added...]
“Any kind of world, and of course class society in particular, teems with contradictions. Some say that there are contradictions to be ‘found’ in socialist society, but I think this is a wrong way of putting it. The point is not that there are contradictions to be found, but that it teems with contradictions. There is no place where contradictions do not exist...” —Mao, “A Dialectical Approach to Inner-Party Unity” (Nov. 18, 1957), SW5:516.
SOCIALISM — Wages in Socialist Society
See: WAGES—In Socialist Society
“SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS”
The utterly absurd name the capitalist-roaders in China gave to their new capitalist, and then capitalist-imperialist, system they introduced once they seized power from the proletariat following the death of Mao Zedong. The phrase is so ridiculous that in China, especially, it has become an open joke!
“Almost everyone in the world knows by now that China is no longer a socialist
country. Even the capitalists in the West, and the U.S. government, have long since come to
recognize this full well—despite their continuing criticism that China is ruled by what is
still called a ‘Communist’ Party....
“But the CCP itself, and the Chinese government, still try to keep up the pretense that the country is ‘socialist’. According to them the Chinese system today is ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’. The Chinese ruling bourgeoisie fears that openly admitting the obvious—that China is a capitalist country ruled by its own capitalist class centered in the CCP—would destroy whatever lingering ‘legitimacy’ that they think they have. Hence the continuing absurd verbal pretense.
“Only a few revisionists, in China and elsewhere, have failed to understand this basic situation.
“Consequently, all around the world (and ... even for growing numbers of people within China itself), this phrase ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is viewed humorously, as the ridiculous nonsense that it clearly is. And this has led to the tag ‘with Chinese characteristics’ being tacked onto other features of contemporary China whenever an element of humor or ridicule is desired.
“A case in point is the small book by Michael Metcalf, Imperialism with Chinese Characteristics?, which was published in 2011 by the National Intelligence University operated by the Department of Defense of the U.S. government.... Metcalf’s central thesis is that China is now an imperialist country (though perhaps with ‘Chinese characteristics’) and that it is rapidly preparing its military to protect and promote Chinese imperialist economic interests abroad.”
—N.B. Turner, Is China an Imperialist Country? Considerations and Evidence (2014), chapter 20, online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf
“A revealing joke in Beijing elite circles describes how Deng Xiaoping, father of the past 40 years of capitalist ‘reform’ and economic opening up to the rest of the capitalist world, assembled two teams, one comprising the country’s best capitalist economic technocrats, and the other China’s most ingenious revisionist ‘Marxist’ theoreticians. Deng asked the first team what policies the new capitalist economy needed, and commanded the second team to define those policies as ‘socialist’.” —Adapted from, “Chinese Politics: On the Xi side, beside the sea”, The Economist, Aug. 11, 2018, p. 33.
SOCIALISM, UTOPIAN AND SCIENTIFIC [1880 Pamphlet by Engels]
A superb summary of Marxist scientific socialist theory by Frederick Engels, which has served as a concise introductory text on Marxism for generations. It is available online in several places, including http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/index.htm
“Of all the works of Marx and Engels, this is probably the best for
the beginner. Written in a very clear and easy style, it introduces the reader to the
basic ideas of scientific socialism.
“Its three chapters were extracted from Engels’ much larger work, Anti-Duhring.
“The chief difficulty which a new reader is likely to find lies in the Introduction, where a variety of philosophical views are discussed. In this Introduction, Engels deals with the history of modern materialism, and then refutes the views of the Agnostics and of the German philosopher Kant. The reader who finds such discussions difficult should read the Introduction after and not before the rest of the book.
“The following are the main points dealt with in the three chapters of Socialism, Utopian and Scientific:
“1. Socialism was first put forward as the dream of an ideal society—a utopia. The Utopian Socialists (St. Simon and Fourier in France, Robert Owen in Britain) could not show how socialism was to be achieved in practice. For they could not point to the social force, i.e. the working class, whose class interest demanded socialism and whose struggle would bring socialism into being.
“Engels shows that socialism must be turned from a utopia into a science, which means that it must be based on an understanding of the laws of development of society, of the class struggle, of the contradictions of capitalism, of the role of the working class.
“2. Scientific socialism has a philosophical basis—dialectical materialism.
“Dialectics, says Engels, means studying things in their real motion and interconnection. He contrasts this with ‘metaphysics,’ which considers things ‘one after the other and apart from each other.’
“Engels goes on to contrast dialectical materialism with the dialectics of the idealist philosopher, Hegel.
“3. Marxism extends materialism to the understanding of society and its laws. It demonstrates that the ultimate cause of all important historical events lies in the economic development of society, i.e. in changes in the mode of production and exchange. It is the development of production and exchange which leads to the division of society into hostile classes and to the class struggle.
“The task of socialists is not simply to criticize existing capitalist society as unjust, but to understand the nature of the capitalist mode of production and its laws of development. The essential nature of capitalism was laid bare by Marx’s discovery of surplus value.
“4. The fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the contradiction between the social production which capitalism has brought into being and the private capitalist appropriation. This contradiction contains the germs of the whole of the social antagonisms of today. And Engels further shows how capitalism in its development necessarily passes through periodic economic crises.
“The solution of the contradiction can be achieved only when the working class, as a result of its struggle, establishes social ownership to match social production.
“5. Engels goes on to show how, with the further development of capitalism, capital becomes concentrated into the hands of great trusts and combines.
“At a certain stage in this process, the state must begin to undertake the direction of production. Yet capitalist state ownership is not socialism, for the workers in state industries are still exploited for capitalist profit. The taking over of productive forces by the capitalist state does not solve the social conflicts. It does, however, bring them to a head, and creates the technical conditions for going forward to socialism. For this it is necessary that the working class should seize political power, taking possession of the productive forces and utilizing them, not for capitalist profit, but for the welfare of society as a whole.
“6. Here Engels deals with the nature of the state. The state is a product of the divisions of society into hostile classes, and its function is to preserve the conditions of class exploitation. It has therefore always been the instrument of the ruling class—in slave society of the slaveowners, in feudal society of the feudal lords, in capitalist society of the capitalist class. The modern state is essentially a capitalist machine, the organ of capitalist class rule.
“It follows that when socialism has abolished the exploitation of one class by another, there remains no more need for coercion and repression and therefore no need for any social repressive force, a state. So the state will wither away.
“7. Finally, with the establishment of socialism, anarchy in social production is replaced by planned organization. Consequently, instead of being at the mercy of economic forces which they cannot understand, men will be able more and more consciously to plan their lives and make their own history. ‘It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.’”
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952), pp. 7-9.
Economism under the conditions of socialism; i.e., the revisionist theory that under socialism the primary, or even only, task of the proletariat is to build up the productive forces. The transformation of the relations of production and the superstructure is either strongly downplayed or totally ignored.
See also: “THEORY OF PRODUCTIVE FORCES”. There are also many articles about economism under socialism in Peking Review during the GPCR; see especially issue #5 (Jan. 27, 1967) available at: https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1967/PR1967-05.pdf
“At the present time, those persons in authority within the Party
who are taking the capitalist road and the very few stubborn elements who cling to the
bourgeois reactionary line, working in collusion with monsters and demons in society,
are using economism to corrupt the masses, disrupt production, undermine the great
proletarian cultural revolution and sabotage the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“Economism leads people astray, causing them to pay attention only to immediate, partial interests, while ignoring the fundamental interests of the proletariat. It is against Marxism-Leninism, against Mao Tse-tung’s thought, and is out-and-out counter-revolutionary revisionist stuff.” —Guangming Ribao, Jan. 17, 1967; reprinted in Peking Review, #5, Jan. 27, 1967.
SOCIALIST EDUCATION MOVEMENT
A mass movement launched in 1963 by Mao and the Communist Party of China which promoted socialist values in Chinese society. As part of this campaign, and in order to start to break down the differences between urban and rural labor, many cadres from the cities were sent to the countryside. (This policy was later expanded during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.)
[To be added...]
“[A] petty-bourgeois party in Russia, which came into being at the
end of 1901 and beginning of 1902 as a result of a merger of various
Narodnik groups and circles. The S.R.s [Pronounced
ess-airs in Russian. —S.H.] saw no class distinctions between the proletarian and
the petty proprietor, played down the class differentiation and antagonisms within the
peasantry, and refused to recognize the proletariat’s leading role in the revolution.
Their views were an eclectic mixture of the ideas of Narodism and revisionism. In
Lenin’s words, they tried to mend ‘the rents in the Narodnik ideas with bits of
fashionable opportunist “criticism” of Marxism.’ [LCW 9:310]
“The Socialist-Revolutionaries agrarian programme envisaged the abolition of private ownership of the land, which was to be transferred to the village commune on the basis of the ‘labor principle’ and ‘equalized land tenure’, and also the development of co-operatives. This programme, which the S.R.s called ‘socialization of the land’, had nothing socialist about it. In his analysis of this programme, Lenin showed that the preservation of commodity production and private farming on communal land would not do away with the domination of capital or free the toiling peasantry from exploitation and impoverishment. Neither could the co-operatives be a remedy for the small farmers under capitalism, as they served only to enrich the rural bourgeoisie. At the same time, as Lenin pointed out, the demand for equalized land tenure, though not socialistic, was of a progressive, revolutionary-democratic character, inasmuch as it was directed against reactionary landlordism.
“The Bolshevik Party exposed the attempts of the S.R.s to pass themselves off as socialists. It waged a stubborn fight against them for influence over the peasantry, and revealed the damage their tactic of individual terrorism was causing the working-class movement. At the same time, the Bolsheviks, on definite terms, entered into temporary agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries to combat tsarism.
“The Socialist-Revolutionary Party’s political and ideological instability and organizational incohesion, as well as its constant vacillation between the liberal bourgeoisie and the proletariat, were due to the absence of class homogeneity among the peasantry. During the first Russian revolution [1905-07], the Right wing of the S.R.s broke away from the party and formed the legal Labor Popular Socialist Party, whose views were close to those of the Constitutional-Democrats (Cadets), while the Left wing split away and formed a semi-anarchist league of ‘Maximalists’. During the period of the Stolypin reaction, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party suffered a complete break-down ideologically and organizationally. During the First World War most of its members took a social-chauvinist stand.
“After the February bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1917, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, together with the Mensheviks and Cadets, were the mainstay of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government of the bourgeoisie and landlords. The leaders of the S.R. Party—Kerensky, Avksentyev and Chernov—were members of this Cabinet. The S.R. Party refused to support the peasants’ demand for the abolition of landlordism, and stood for the preservation of landlord ownership. The S.R. members of the Provisional Government authorized punitive action against peasants who had seized landed estates.
“At the end of November 1917 the Left wing of the S.R. Party formed an independent party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who, in an endeavor to preserve their influence among the peasant masses, formally recognized Soviet rule and entered into an agreement with the Bolsheviks. Shortly [after], however, they began a struggle against the Soviets.
“During the years of foreign intervention and the Civil War the S.R.s carried on counter-revolutionary subversive activities. They actively supported the interventionists and whiteguards, took part in counter-revolutionary plots, and organized terroristic acts against leaders of the Soviet state and the Communist Party. [Including an attempt to assassinate Lenin which did succeed in severely wounding him. —S.H.] After the Civil War, the S.R.s continued their anti-Soviet activities within the country and in the camp of the White émigrés.” —Note 14, LCW 20:566-567.
SOCIALIZATION OF LABOR
“The socialization of labor by capitalist production does not at all consist in people working under one roof (that is only a small part of the process), but in the concentration of capital being accompanied by the specialization of social labor, by a decrease in the number of capitalists in each given branch of industry and an increase in the number of separate branches of industry—in many separate production processes being merged into one social production process.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:175-6.
SOCIALLY NECESSARY LABOR TIME
[To be added...]
The more or less cooperative organization of people which is necessary to promote their collective welfare and existence. Some forms of human society are more cooperative and more beneficial to all their members than are others, but only in a future communist society and after all social classes have been eliminated, will this be completely true.
See also: SOCIOECONOMIC FORMATION
SOCIETY — As a Mere Collection of Individuals
“Nothing is more erroneous than the manner in which economists as well as [some contemporary] socialists regard society in relation to economic conditions. Proudhon, for example, replies to Bastiat by saying: ‘For society, the difference between capital and product does not exist. This difference is entirely subjective, and related to individuals.’ Thus he calls subjective precisely what is social; and he calls society a subjective abstraction. The difference between product and capital is exactly this, that the product expresses, as capital, a particular relation belonging to a historic form of society. This so-called contemplation from the standpoint of society means nothing more than the overlooking of the differences which express the social relation (relation of bourgeois society). Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand. [It’s] as if someone were to say: Seen from the perspective of society, there are no slaves and no citizens: both are human beings. Rather, they are that outside society. To be a slave, to be a citizen, are social characteristics, relations between human beings A and B. Human being A, as such, is not a slave. He is a slave in and through society. What Mr Proudhon here says about capital and product means, for him, that from the viewpoint of society there is no difference between captalists and workers; a difference which exists precisely only from the standpoint of society.” —Marx, Grundrisse, tr. by Martin Nicolaus, (Penguin: 1973), pp. 264-5.
“There is no society, only individuals.” —British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, expressing the extreme bourgeois individualist viewpoint where everyone is only out for themselves in a dog-eat-dog world, and the actual relationships which exist in society—including the exploitation of one class by another—are deemed not to exist. Quoted in Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (1996), p. 337.
SOCIETY — Dominant Ideas In
The Marxist view is that most of the time the dominant ideas in any society are those of the ruling class. This is because those controlling society have by far the greatest opportunities to promote and popularize their views, and even outright indoctrinate the people through such things as their control of the media and the educational system. In capitalist society this means that most of the time the dominant ideas are mostly those of the ruling bourgeoisie. Fortunately, rare moments do arise in times of social crisis when the masses can disagree on one very central idea which the bourgeoisie tries hardest of all to promote: that the capitalist bourgeoisie should continue to rule.
“If you live in a society where ‘to get ahead’ you must agree that the world is flat, it is amazing just how flat this round old world will come to seem!” —Larson’s cogent observation #16.
[To be added...]
See also: GOULD, Stephen Jay
One of the following stages in the development of society: primitive communalism (or primitive communism); slave society; feudalism; capitalism; socialism; and communism. Except for the first and the last of these, all are class societies. Slave society, feudalism and capitalism all rest upon the exploitation of one class by another, though this is somewhat hidden from view under capitalism.
These historical stages have been identified primarily through the study of European history, and sometimes variations are hypothesized for other areas, such as the Asiatic mode of production which Marx talked about at times in his writings. It is more common these days to view the “Asiatic mode of production” as a variety of feudalism.
[To be added...]
See also: SOCIAL SCIENCE
SOCRATES (469-399 BCE)
Famous ancient Greek idealist philosopher and ideologist of the slave-owning aristocracy. He was immortalized by his disciple Plato in a series of dialogues, in which Socrates is the dominant participant. However, it has never been clear to what extent the words of the character Socrates in these dialogues actually express the views of Plato rather than the historical Socrates.
It seems most likely that Socrates was a critic of democracy (even within just the slave-owning aristocracy), and for a time a group of tyrants led by some of his former students overthrew the democracy in Athens. No doubt partly because of this, some time after democracy was restored he was brought to trial on charges of impiety and corrupting the youth, was found guilty and was sentenced to death. He was given the opportunity to flee, but chose instead to stay and voluntarily drank the poison hemlock.
Socrates had some personal virtues, including modesty and intellectual honesty. (This is brought out well in a nice story written by Bertolt Brecht, “Socrates Wounded”.) But politically and philosophically he was actually a reactionary idealist, and the veneration of him down through the ages cannot really be justified.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Socrates.
See: CHINA—State-owned Enterprise
Computer programs. That is, the code, or “instructions”, which control the operation of computers. This is usually divided into two main categories, first, the system software (or the operating system) which handles the most basic operations such as the overall control of the computer and the input and output of data; and second, application software—such as word processors, database programs, Internet browsers, photo editors, etc.
There is still widespread confusion about the true “nature” or philosophical status of software. (See also the next entry for further discussion of this.) In the graphic at the right, an excerpt from a high-level computer program which simply swaps the position of two variables, is provided in the C-language in which it was originally written, then in Assembly language, and finally in machine code (ones and zeros). This machine code includes both the instructions and the data to be acted on. Even this final version is actually still an abstraction; as it is fed into the computer this code actually consists of pulses of electrons (for the ones), or the absence of electrons (for the zeros). Thus software is really just a material substance, i.e., a sequence of physical pulses of electrons with appropriate gaps in between the pulses. [Graphic is from the textbook by David Patterson & John Hennessy, Computer Organization & Design: The Hardware/Software Interface, 2nd ed., (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 1998), p. 7. As the text also states: “To actually speak to an electronic machine, you need to send electrical signals.” [p. 5] (It is true, however, that these days you can use voice input, or other forms of input, but all of which then still gets translated into electrical signals.)]
“A modern passenger jet employs about 15 million lines of [computer] code. A mass-market PC operating system has around 40 million lines. Modern cars employ about 100 million lines.” —“The Growing Threat of High-Tech Carjackers”, New York Times, March 19, 2021.
SOFTWARE — Ontological Status Of
What sort of thing is software anyway? For many people, hardware is the physical machine itself and software is the set of “immaterial instructions” that control the material hardware. This conception is analogous to that of brain and mind, where “mind” is also viewed as immaterial. This is a good analogy, but in both cases (hardware/software and brain/mind) there is something of extreme importance that is not commonly understood: namely, that both software and also mind of necessity must have a physical basis. Although we usually think of computers as a combination of both physical and “non-physical” components (hardware and software), in reality they are really completely physical (materialist) systems, one part of which (software)—for reasons of our own convenience—we are usually inclined to think of not in terms of its physical makeup, but rather in terms of how it functions logically within the computing system. This is further explicated in the quotation below.
“[Most people] don’t really understand what software is. They don’t
really understand what it means to say that software is ‘non-physical’.
“Ultimately, all software has a physical basis, even if we do reasonably think of it as ‘non-physical’ in contrast to hardware—which is undeniably physical. The programs and data running on a PC, for example, consist of electrical pulses, which are moving groups of electrons—physical things. Non-running programs and data are usually recorded in the form of physical modifications to the polarity of the magnetic material on the hard disk, or floppy disk, or backup tape. Of course, software can be kept in other ways, such as in the pattern of physical pits in plastic on a CD-ROM platter, or even as ink on paper. But all software has some kind of physical basis. (Even computer software that we humans are only thinking about writing already has a more or less sketchy material basis, though so far only in our brains.) There is no such thing as software which is not encoded physically in some way. There cannot conceivably be any such thing!...
“But if all software ultimately has a physical basis, what does it really mean to say that it is ‘non-physical’ in comparison with hardware? What the heck is the real difference between software and hardware?? In the final analysis, it is merely a distinction drawn for our own convenience in conceptualizing the operation of a complex machine of a certain type. Software is part of the computer system just as hardware is, but it is an abstract conception of part of that system based on its logical function rather than on its physical embodiment.
“There are intermediate cases between software and hardware, which are often called ‘firmware’. Part of the operating system in a PC is contained within a silicon chip, rather than on the hard disk with most of the programs.... It doesn’t matter to the logical functioning of the system; one way is a good as another....
“It is entirely possible to construct a computer that has no software whatsoever (in the usual sense). In fact, the very first ‘giant brain’ digital computers did not need or use any software! They were ‘reprogrammed’ by changing the hardware, by actually replugging the old-style telephone exchange connections between the physical components (relays, tubes and subassemblies of these).... Reprogramming a computer in this way is essentially the same as rebuilding it.
“Needless to say, programming computers through such cumbersome physical modifications was slow, difficult, and error-prone work. So better ways were found, ways that allow us to reprogram through the physical pressure of finger tips on typewriter keyboards. We are still making physical changes somewhere (in magnetic domains out on the hard disk for example), but it doesn’t seem like it! We are not thinking about magnetic patterns of physical materials at all, but rather about the logical flow of the program, arithmetical processes, the tasks of various subroutines, and so forth. We are thinking at a higher level, in terms of abstractions.
“At bottom, when we reprogram a computer in this easier way we are still rebuilding it; we are still changing the physical structure of the computing system as a whole. Ordinarily we don’t think of it this way, nor should we; but when you analyze the situation you will see that that is what it amounts to.
“When we program, it doesn’t seem like we are actually just modifying the physical world in small but definite ways, nor is there any reason why it should seem like it at the time! It would be ridiculous to be thinking at the level of the physical changes which are taking place out on some hard disk, because that would prevent us from thinking at the level of abstraction which is necessary for any kind of complicated programming. Abstraction is necessary in order to think about many kinds of complicated things, including computer systems (and human beings!). If we could not think about computers in terms of logical processes, arithmetical operations, subroutine functions and—more importantly—in terms of program goals and purposes, then we could not make or use computers at all.
“Computers are able to operate according to logical principles (whether in the form of hardware or software) because logic itself can be modeled or embodied in physical systems. Not only that, but logic can only be modeled, reflected, utilized—or even just thought about—in systems with a physical basis. (Such as human beings.)”
—Scott Harrison, “On the Analogy Between Mind/Brain and Software/Hardware” (1992), online at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/mindsoft.htm [As this paper argues, the fundamentally materialist nature of software is an important issue primarily because it helps clarify, by analogy, that mind also has a fundamentally materialist nature. —Ed.]
The crazy idealist view that there is only one thinker in the world, me!, and that everyone and everything else is a figment of my imagination. This is the most extreme, most consistent, and most absurd form of idealism. It is doubtful if anyone has ever really taken this idea seriously, but bourgeois philosophers talk about it a lot since many of them seem to think it is difficult or impossible to refute the notion!
See also: Philosophical doggerel on the topic.
One name for a status-quo point of view with some considerable currency within the U.S. government at times during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, that each of the two superpowers had “legitimate” spheres of influence (countries under their own domination), which—for the good of both sides—should remain stable and not be interfered with by the other superpower. The opposing view among many of the strategists in both imperialist camps was that the conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was ultimately a fight to the death, and that every effort should be made to undermine the stability of the opponent’s colonies and spheres of influence—regardless of the possible consequences.
Helmut Sonnenfeldt was a councellor to the U.S. State Department in the Ford administration. At a meeting in London of the U.S. ambassadors to European countries, which was called by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in December 1975, Sonnenfeldt stated: “The Soviets’ inability to acquire loyalty in Eastern Europe is an unfortunate historical failure, because Eastern Europe is within their scope and area of natural interest.” He added that “there is no way to prevent the emergence of the Soviet Union as a superpower” and “It must be our [U.S.] policy to strive for an evolution that makes the relationship between the Eastern Europeans and the Soviet Union an organic one ... so that Soviet-East European relations will not sooner or later explode, causing World War III.” It was said in U.S. press reports that this also reflected Kissinger’s view. More warlike U.S. imperialist strategists thought this amounted to a form of appeasement, however.
“Sophists (from the Greek sophos—a wise man)—the designation (since the second half of the 5th century B.C.) for professional philosophers, teachers of philosophy and rhetoric. The Sophists did not constitute a single school. The most characteristic feature common to Sophists was their belief in the relativity of all human ideas, ethical standards and value, expressed by Protagoras in the following famous statement: ‘Man is the measure of all things, of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.’ In the first half of the 4th century B.C., sophism disintegrated and degenerated into a barren play with logical conceptions.” —Note 92, LCW 38.
SOPS (PALTRY GAINS)
See: ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE! (Lenin quote)
1. [In religion:] An imagined immaterial essence of a human being which God supposedly “puts into” the body at conception or birth (or sometime in between!), and which “leaves” the body at death to go to heaven or hell or some other “place”. It is hard for a materialist not to simply guffaw at such a primitive, absurd and unscientific notion.
2. [In older philosophical speculation:] An alternative name for what is now more usually called the mind.
3. [In wider use:] Because of humanity’s religious past, the word ‘soul’ is also used even by non-religious people, but in more rational (if still somewhat poetic) ways, as in describing the essential aspect or nature of something as its “soul”. Example: “Her hard work and dedication make her the soul of the strike support committee.”
See also: SPIRIT, IDEALISM—Origin Of [Engels quote]
[Speaking of the “soul” in the sense of the human mind:] “The metaphysician-psychologist argues about the nature of the soul. Here it is the method itself that is absurd. You cannot argue about the soul without having explained psychical processes in particular: here progress must consist precisely in abandoning general theories and philosophical discourses about the nature of the soul, and in being able to put the study of the facts about particular psychical processes on a scientific footing. Therefore, [the Narodnik] Mr. Mikhailovsky’s accusation [against Marx] is exactly similar to that of a metaphysician-psychologist, who has spent all his life writing ‘investigations’ into the nature of the soul (without knowing exactly how to explain a single psychical phenomenon, even the simplest), and then starts accusing a scientific psychologist of not having reviewed all the known theories of the soul. He, the scientific psychologist, has discarded philosophical theories of the soul and set about making a direct study of the material substratum of psychical phenomena—the nervous processes—and has produced, let us say, an analysis and explanation of some one or more psychological processes.” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:144.
A charitable effort to feed unemployed, often homeless people, in order to keep them from starving to death. Soup kitchens became a symbol of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but have continued to exist in capitalist society.
See also FOOD BANK , and the illustration at: ROBOT (Industrial)
SOUTH VS. NORTH THEORY
As used by those discussing global politics while desperately trying to avoid using the word ‘imperialism’, the “South” or the “Global South” means the same thing as the term “the Third World”—despite the obvious fact that there are also many “Third World” countries in the Northern Hemisphere (such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Afghanistan) and also some non-“Third World” (“Second World”?) countries (such as Australia and New Zealand) in the Southern Hemisphere.
See also: NORTH VS. SOUTH THEORY
SOUTH AFRICA — And Israel
See: ISRAEL—And South Africa
[Offically called the “Republic of Korea”.] The capitalist regime in control of the southern part of the Korean peninsula, which was set up by U.S. imperialism (with the assistance of the defeated but cooperating Japanese imperialist military forces) at the end of World War II, forcibly splitting the Korean nation into two separate countries. South Korea was for many decades a comprador state completely subservient to U.S. imperialism. However, South Korea is a very exceptional example of a “Third World” comprador regime which has industrialized to the level of an advanced capitalist country. As such, it has in effect become a second-tier imperialist country itself, with large and growing exports of capital to other nations.
“In the modern era of capitalist-imperialism, at least from the early
20th century on, it has for the most part proven to be quite impossible for economically
undeveloped countries to break out of this condition and seriously begin to develop their
economies in a major, sustained and all-round way—except through socialist revolution
(as in the case of Russia and China). It is true, as Lenin noted, that the export of capital
to economically backward and low-wage areas does serve to promote the development of
capitalism there to some degree. But that development remains mostly in the hands of foreign
corporations (MNCs), and in a form that serves to primarily promote the extraction of wealth
from the undeveloped country. Independent local capitalist development in these countries is
choked by the stifling domination of foreign imperialist countries and their MNCs.
“However, there have been a very few exceptions to this general rule which require explanation. A few countries in East Asia, and South Korea most prominently, have managed to develop their economies even under the capitalist system. At the end of World War II, when Korea was split into two countries by the U.S., North Korea was much more developed industrially than the South—which was largely agricultural. But since then South Korea’s economy has developed in a truly major way until now the country actually qualifies as an advanced capitalist country. It is too far from our central topic to thoroughly explore how this was accomplished (let alone what happened to North Korea!). But we believe the basic explanation is that the two dominant foreign imperialist powers in South Korea (namely the U.S. and Japan) purposely promoted the independent development of a capitalist economy there as part of their geopolitical necessity to halt the advance of ‘Asian Communism’. For example Toyota, the Japanese auto company, gave tremendous help to the South Korea corporation Hyundai to build its auto division into a successful car company, even though this meant creating a major competitor to Toyota and the other Japanese auto companies! This sort of foreign tutelage and the limits forced on foreign MNCs operating in South Korea (by allowing the South Korean government to establish effective protective tariffs for example), allowed a national bourgeoisie to emerge in the country and develop its own locally-based economy.” —N. B. Turner, Is China an Imperialist Country? Considerations and Evidence, (Montreal: Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2015), pp. 27-28. Online (in at different edition) at: https://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf
See: UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND
SOUTHEAST ASIA TREATY ORGANIZATION (SEATO)
A short-lived and mostly ineffective effort by the United States to create a military alliance under its direction in Southeast Asia similar to their much more effective NATO alliance in Europe. SEATO was founded in 1954 and only had 8 member countries, just 2 of which were actually in Southeast Asia. It collapsed entirely in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
SOVEREIGN DEBT CRISIS
“Sovereign debt” is debt which is incurred by a country (or sovereign power). Or in other words, debt which is incurred by some government or governmental entity which has the legal right to borrow money in the name of the people of some country or region, and whose people then have the legal obligation to repay that debt. This debt is most commonly in the form of bonds which the government issues. A sovereign debt crisis, is therefore a financial crisis wherein a country has borrowed too much money, is at risk of defaulting on the loans it has already received (or the bonds it has already issued), and is thus unable to easily borrow more money, except possibly at extremely high interest rates. Generally a country in this situation must either be “bailed out” by other governments or international agencies such as the IMF; pay off the debt by just printing money (which results in inflation); or else must simply default. If it defaults, however, it will be considered a bad credit risk and will no longer be able to borrow money in the future, at least until it comes to terms with other countries or the IMF.
See also: EUROPEAN SOVEREIGN DEBT CRISIS
SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND
A investment fund set up and owned by a sovereign nation. In the contemporary world some countries—especially those enriched by their oil or other exports—accumulate massive amounts of foreign currency and seek to invest that money in foreign assets (by buying corporations or stocks and bonds of corporations and foreign governments). The chart at the right shows the countries with the largest sovereign wealth funds as of December 2016, in trillions of U.S. dollars. [From the Economist, Feb 25, 2017, p. 77.]
[To be added... ]
SOVIET UNION — Economic Collapse Of
[Intro to be added... ]
“By the 1970s the signs of deteriorating economic performance were accumulating rapidly. Most prominent was a steady and continuing slowdown in rates of annual economic growth, from a respectable 5 percent in the 1960s to 3 percent in the 1970s to 2 percent or less in the early 1980s. The growth of consumption likewise slowed amid periodic shortages, longer lines, and endless complaints about the declining availability and quality of consumer goods. Most Soviet consumers came to depend on the black market, or ‘second economy,’ which expanded greatly in the 1970s. Social indicators such as declining life expectancy for males and rising infant mortality rates gave added support to those who saw crisis in the making. Perhaps most embarrassing of all was the growing technological gap between the Soviet Union and the West. In 1987 the USSR had some two hundred thousand micro-computers; the United States more than twenty-five million. Even some of the newly industrializing countries such as Taiwan and South Korea surpassed the USSR in certain areas of technological development. Massive Soviet dependence on grain imports beginning in the 1970s was a further embarrassing sign of economic weakness.” —Robert Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? (1998), p. 57.
“We had plenty of everything: land, oil, gas and other natural
resources, and God had also endowed us with intellect and talent—yet we lived much
worse than people in other industrialized countries and the gap was constantly
widening. The reason was apparent even then—our society was stifled in the grip of
a bureaucratic command system. Doomed to serve ideology and bear the heavy burden of
the arms race, it was strained to the utmost.... The country was losing hope. We could
not go on living like this. We had to change everything radically.” —Mikhail Gorbachev,
Resignation Speech as President of the Soviet Union, included in his Memoirs
(1996), pp. xxvi-xxix.
[It wasn’t socialist ideology which stifled and bureaucratized the Soviet economy! It was the system of ultra-bureaucratic state capitalism that arose in the late 1950s, and got more and more sclerotic over the next several decades. Real socialism works in the interests of the working class and the masses, and thus wins their solid support and enthusiastic participation in both production and in managing the overall state. The so-called “socialism” in the state-capitalist Soviet Union was nothing like this, and was hated by the workers and the people. No wonder it eventually collapsed!
[The ruling class in the state-capitalist Soviet Union could not even imagine what real socialism might be like, let alone favor a program of implementing it. The only economic and social alternative to their moribund state capitalism that they could even conceive of was the somewhat less monopolistic, somewhat less moribund, form of state monopoly capitalism that existed in the United States and Western Europe. So that is what they decided that they had no choice but to switch over to. —Ed.]
SOVIET UNION — Economic Collapse Of [Erroneous Bourgeois Views]
[Intro to be added...]
“Starting in the 1980s, economic growth in the USSR became more and
more abnormal. The share of raw-material resources in exports grew while the share of
manufactured goods fell. In exports to developed capitalist countries the share of cars,
equipment, and transportation systems fell from 5.8 percent in 1970 to 3.5 percent in
1985, and in the total exports, from 21.5 percent in 1970 to 13.9 percent in 1985. In
conditions of chronic agricultural crisis, food imports grew sharply, a most important
factor in determining the growth of food consumption.
“This was when the switch was turned on the mechanism of the collapse of the socialist system, bring a sharp decline in production and standard of living.
“The slowed rates of economic growth in the USSR and in other industrially developed socialist countries were obvious. But the Soviet leadership did not see this as a challenge requiring decisive action. A note from Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers USSR Vladimir Kirillin to the USSR government, prepared in 1979, contained convincing arguments about the growing crisis in the Soviet economy. It proposed cautious measures intended to change the economic system. [Note: These were primarily measures designed to introduce more market mechanisms into the Soviet economy, and thus begin to more seriously transform the existing state capitalism into de facto Western-style oligopolistic capitalism. However Gaidar here calls these proposed “reforms” a move away from “socialism” in the direction of a capitalist market system. —Ed.] Gosplan [the state economic planning agency —Ed.], Gossnab [an agency established to specify economic input norms —Ed.], and the Ministry of Finance did not support them. The document had no political consequences.
“The political regime formed in the USSR and in the Eastern European states it controlled appeared stagnantly stable to observers within the country and abroad. Very few people in 1985 could have imagined that in six years the regime, the country, and the empire would cease to exist.”
—Yegor Gaidar, Russia: A Long View (MIT: 2012), pp. 188-9.
[Gaidar was a bourgeois economist who during the Boris Yeltsin era just after the collapse of the USSR became the Minister of Finance in Russia and then acting Prime Minister. This was the time of total economic chaos in Russia, and the period of one of the modern world’s greatest economic declines and disasters ever to occur in peacetime.
Gaidar’s explanation for the collapse of Soviet state capitalism is: 1) to call it “socialism”; 2) to focus on the failure of this “socialism” to compete with Western-style capitalism, and thus for Soviet exports of manufactured goods to fall precipitously; and 3) to argue that the “obvious” solution (in his eyes) was not employed, i.e., that Soviet “socialism” failed to strongly shift toward Western-style monopoly capitalism by introducing much greater market mechanisms. In short, from his bourgeois perspective, Soviet “socialism” collapsed because it did not employ extensive markets, and because the wise advice of bourgeois economists such as himself to switch to greater market mechanisms was ignored by Soviet leaders.
The partial aspect of truth to all this is that Soviet state capitalism was in fact moribund in comparision with the somewhat less monpolistic Western-style monopoly (actually, oligopolistic) capitalism and was definitely losing out in the great economic contest between the two. This, however, in no way serves to discredit true socialism which was politically destroyed and replaced with state capitalism by the revisionists in the Soviet Union decades earlier. —S.H.]
SOVIET UNION — Economic Problems In
See also above, and: HOARDING PRODUCTION
SOVIET UNION — Foreign Debt
During the socialist era the Soviet Union had little foreign debt. But after socialism was transformed into state capitalism by the Soviet revisionists economic problems gradually got worse and worse. This necessitated the development of significant amounts of foreign debt. As their economic crisis got really severe during the 1980s this debt began to grow in an exponential fashion. The chart at the right shows the rapid expansion of the foreign debt of the USSR during the period 1985-1991. The figures are in billions of U.S. dollars and do not take into account the Soviet satelite countries of Eastern Europe (which were also in growing economic crisis). [Source: S. Sinelnikov, Budgetary Crisis in Russia: 1985-1995 (Moscow: 1995).]
SOVIET UNION — Military-Industrial Complex
From the very beginning of the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917, and as it built a socialist society during its first three decades, it was forced to fight a major civil war which included a war against foreign capitalist-imperialist countries which invaded it. And when that civil war was won and the foreign imperialists countries all defeated and forced to pull out, it was still necessary to spend enormous resources on building up its military preparedness and the industrial strength in support of that, in preparation for a future imperialist invasion that Stalin and the CPSU knew full well would eventually occur. Then in the summer of 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the U.S.S.R. and of course the world’s only socialist country had to totally mobilize the Soviet peoples in a colossal war effort to defeat it. Finally, after that war was won, the new threat from the imperialist U.S.A. arose, and the Cold War began. So because of all these very negative circumstances, the Soviet Union during the entire socialist era had to devote truly enormous resources for military purposes, which of course necessarily led to a distorted economy with a very large military-industrial complex.
After the overthrow of Soviet socialism by Khrushchev and his revisionist cohorts, the Cold War continued, but now as a very dangerous inter-imperialist rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and their respective blocs. This meant that the military-industrial complexes in both countries not only continued, but continued to hugely expand over the years. By the final period of the state-capitalist Soviet Union this military-industrial complex had grown so enormously large that it is fair to say that it was by far the most central and most important part of the entire Soviet economy—even to the point where it virtually strangled the rest of the economy.
[T]he Soviet military-industrial complex had employed more than ten million people, directly or indirectly supporting about one-fourth of the Soviet population.” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 133. Rhodes is speaking of the Soviet Union’s final period.
SOVIET UNION — Nuclear Weapons: Development Of
[Yuli Khariton was the scientific leader of the project which created the
first atomic bombs for the Soviet Union, and thus functioned as the Soviet equivalent of
Robert Oppenheimer in the American Manhattan Project.] “Academician Khariton told us that
Klaus Fuchs, the German-born scientist who joined the Manhattan Project as part of the
British mission, delivered detailed diagrams and descriptions to Soviet intelligence
officials of the American device tested at Trinity [testing site in New Mexico] on July 16,
1945. He told us that he and other Soviet officials made the decision to build a copy of
the American device (although in the spirit of making scientists work hard and learn in the
process, only a few of his co-workers saw the American diagrams). With great pride, he
stated that by August 1949 they had actually developed a much superior design themselves
right here in Arzamas-16 [the first Soviet nuclear weapons lab, which was directed by Igor
Kurchatov]. The Soviet design weighed half as much and was demonstrated to be twice as
powerful when it was tested in 1951.” —Siegfried Hecker, an Austrian-born American
plutonium metallurgist who became the director of the U.S. Los Alamos nuclear weapons
laboratory in 1985. Quoted in Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010),
[Rhodes himself then goes on to add:] “Hecker couldn’t resist asking Khariton why he didn’t test the superior Soviet design first. ‘He said it was very simple—they knew the American design worked. Given the tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States at that time, failure was not an option.’ Khariton and Igor Kurchatov had met with Stalin, the Arzamas-16 scientific director went on, and told the Soviet dictator they’d gone over the espionage information in great detail and believed they could do much better. Stalin had looked him in the eye and said coldly, ‘The cost of failure will be proportional to your rank in the establishment.’ Both scientists understood that Stalin was threatening them with execution if the first test failed. Stalin’s threat was probably the basis for what Khariton called the ‘folklore’ that the prizes awarded to the scientists after the successful test inverted Stalin’s threat, that in Hecker’s words, ‘those who in case of failure would have been shot were to receive the title of Hero of Socialist Labor, those who would have been given the maximum prison term were to be awarded the Order of Lenin, and so on down the list.’” —Richard Rhodes, ibid., p. 129.
“The Soviet [nuclear weapons] program created huge amounts of weapons-usable materials, close to fifteen hundred metric tons, enough for fifty thousand to one hundred thousand weapons. [After the collapse of the USSR...] it was everywhere, at a hundred different sites across the former Soviet Union, in every imaginable form—weapons, scrap, acid solutions, waste ponds, waste dumps, fuel for reactors, experimental assembles. No one knew exactly how much was produced, and it only takes a few kilograms to make a bomb.” —Siegfried Hecker, quoted in Richard Rhodes, ibid., p. 129.
SOVIET UNION — Ocean Fishing Industry
“Soviet Fishery and Fishing Fleets
“At the beginning of the 1950s, the Soviet Union was an inland and coastal fishing country. Today , its catch is one of the world’s biggest. According to statistics published by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the Soviet fish catch was 5,099,900 tons in 1965, 7,252,200 tons in 1970 and it went up to 9,235,609 tons in 1974. Over 90 per cent of these catches were made in the offshore waters of other countries.
“In the latter part of the 1950s through the 1960s, the Soviet Union imported a large number of fishing vessels and by the end of the 1960s it had set up four ocean-going fishing fleets. Today, it has more than 4,000 fishing vessels with a gross tonnage exceeding 6 million tons. These include 643 giant modern trawlers of 2,000 or more tons each. The rest of the world, on the other hand, has a total of only 259 such vessels. Of the world’s 3.5 million tons of fish-processing ships, the Soviet Union takes up 3 million tons.
“Relying on their huge fishing armada, the new tsars stretch out their tentacles to the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Mediterranean and Black Seas and other bodies of water throughout the world. The coastal third world countries, particular those of Africa, suffer most from this.” —“For Your Reference”, Peking Review, #27, July 1, 1977, p. 24.
SOVIET UNION — Revisionist Seizure of Power In
[To be added... ]
See also: PATERNALISM
SOVIET UNION — Security Agencies
There were a series of different security agencies (or at least different names) during the existence of the Soviet Union, including the Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, and then after Stalin’s death the KGB.
The Cheka (or Vecheka), was set up in December 1917 to defend the October Revolution and the young revolutionary government against the continuing attacks by its enemies, the overthrown Tsarist aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Counter-revolutionary activity was forcefully suppressed, and enemy agents were rounded up and imprisoned or executed. The urgency of this task became all the greater as the “White” forces launched a civil war against the revolution; as the short-term Bolshevik allies the “Left Socialist Revolutionaries” turned against the revolution (and attempted to assassinate Lenin and did assassinate other Bolsheviks); and as numerous foreign imperialist powers employed counter-revolutionary agents and invaded Russia with their armies. ‘Cheka’ is the shortened Russian abbreviation of the official name, which translates as the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage.
The Cheka could certainly be ruthless, as was necessary given that the country was in the midst of a ferocious class war that was extraordinarily ruthless on the part of the enemy. But it was kept under the political control of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin, though this was somewhat difficult due to the decentralized structure of the Cheka and the chaos of the times. The head of the Cheka, appointed by Lenin, was the sincere and genuine Polish Marxist revolutionary, Felix Dzerzhinsky. Unfortunately such principled political leadership of the security agencies did not continue after Dzerzhinsky’s death in 1926.
The Cheka was as much a Party organization as a state agency, but in 1922 its functions were assumed by the State Political Administration (GPU). In 1923 the GPU was renamed OGPU (the Unified GPU). Vyacheslav Menzhinsky became head of the OGPU when Dzerzhinsky died, and until his own death in 1934. However, he was long in poor health and much of the actual control of the OGPU was in the hands of Menzhinsky’s deputy, Genrikh Yagoda. The OGPU was under the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), and therefore the security agencies were often called the NKVD rather than OGPU. By 1928 Stalin was in complete control of the CPSU and the Soviet Union, and therefore also of the NKVD and OGPU. During this period the NKVD/OGPU implemented (on Stalin’s orders) the ruthless collectivization of agriculture (completely failing to use the mass line) and greatly extended the system of forced labor in prison labor camps. Stalin had Yagoda replaced by Nikolai Yezhov as head of the NKVD in 1936 and then executed Yagoda in 1938. Although Yezhov denounced Yagoda for carrying out the Great Terror, he then supervised the even greater period of terror from 1937-38 which is sometimes called the Yezhovshchina (Yezhov era). Stalin then had Yezhov himself executed in 1940.
In 1941, under the new chairman Lavrenti Beria, the OGPU was renamed the People’s Commissariat for State Security (NKGB), still within the NKVD. Further changes of names and organizational relationships occurred in the period after World War II, but with Beria still in overall charge. In 1953, after Stalin’s death, and fearful of a coup d’état by Beria, Khrushchev and the other new leaders of the CPSU had Beria arrested and soon executed. The security organizations were reshuffled and in 1954 renamed the KGB [Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or Committee for State Security]. This organization and name remained in place throughout the entire revisionist and state capitalist era of the Soviet Union, until its final collapse in 1991. The KGB was then split and reorganized into the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) which continue in post-Soviet Russia.
See also: KGB, NKVD, OKHRANA, SECRET POLICE
SOVIET UNION — State Capitalist Era
[To be added...]
“The Soviet Union today is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a dictatorship of the grand bourgeoisie, a fascist German dictatorship, and a Hitlerite dictatorship. They are a bunch of rascals worse than De Gaulle.” —Mao, “Some Interjections at a Briefing of the State Planning Commission Leading Group” (May 11, 1964), SW 9:84.
The word ‘soviet’ means “council” in Russian. During the 1905 Revolution councils, or Soviets, were first formed in a major way by the workers, peasants and soldiers to represent their revolutionary interests. After the defeat of the 1905 Revolution these Soviets mostly ceased functioning. But with the overthrow of the Tsar in the February Revolution, they sprang suddenly back into existence as an even greater force. During the course of 1917 they settled down into being the primary representatives of the workers in their day-to-day struggles against the capitalists, of the peasants against the landlords, of the ordinary soldiers against the officer corps, and of all the masses against the flaky bourgeois Provisional Government. Lenin understood the nature of the situation, that despite the current practice of the Soviets as reformist or union-type organizations, they in effect formed a dual power along with the formal Russian government. He further recognized that because of this, and because the workers, peasants and soldiers viewed the Soviets as their own organizations which truly did represent their interests (unlike the government), that an insurrection could be led with a central slogan being “All power to the Soviets!” And, of course, Lenin proved to be correct in his assessment.
The strategy of working toward the formation of “soviets” or councils of workers in other countries as a step toward revolution has so far not been successful, though it was widely attempted—especially in the first decades after the Bolshevik Revolution. However, in the advanced capitalist world no other strategy has worked so far either, and it is still quite possible that something like workers’ councils will once again prove quite useful in promoting revolution.
SOVKHOZ [Plural: SOVKHOZY]
[Russian: Literally ‘soviet farm’] State farms in the Soviet Union, or sometimes similar farms in other countries, as contrasted with kolkhozy (collective farms).
The workers on these state farms were called and viewed as just that—workers, and not peasants. They were paid wages, as opposed to the cooperative-style sharing of production on the kolkhozy. But in some ways there were still feudal aspects (sometimes described by critics as “neo-serfdom”) to the workers’ existence on both sovkhozy and kolkhozy. The system of internal passports prevented even the workers on state farms from leaving that work and moving to the city for manufacturing jobs.
A state-appointed director managed each sovkhoz, and capital investment funds mostly came from the state. The state usually paid less for produce and crops raised on sovkhozy than they did for the same crops raised by kolkhozy. But due to the greater capital investment, the larger size and usually greater efficiency of the sovkhozy, at least in the period after World War II these state farms where overall in a better position financially.
Sovkhozy were first created in the early 1920s, generally on large estates formerly belonging to the Tsar or other nobility. The kolkhozy, in contrast, were generally organized through the collectivization of numerous small peasant holdings. Kolkhozy were viewed (quite appropriately) as intermediate forms between individual private farming of land and the more fully socialist state farms, and it was originally expected that all the kolkhozy would be transformed into sovkhozy in a short time. However, during the late 1920s and early 1930s, kolkhozy became viewed as more important than previously and for a while their transformation into sovkhozy was drastically slowed down. Still the long-term trend was toward the transformation of cooperative farms into state farms, and this rate of transformation became faster after World War II. The revisionists, who seized power in the mid-1950s, continued this transformation policy, but not for ideological reasons. They viewed state farms as more profitable.
The number of sovkhozy in the Soviet Union grew from about 1,500 in 1929 to over 23,000 by the late 1980s. The size of state farms also grew, though even in the mid-1920s they were sometimes of enormous size. In the 1930s the average sown area of state farms was about 3,600 hectares (6,000 acres), and by the 1980s the average sown area had grown to 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres). In 1990, near the end of the existence of the U.S.S.R., sovkhozy were 45% of the total number of state and collective farms added together. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and amidst the general transformation state capitalism into Western-style monopoly capitalism, many state farms were reorganized as capitalist corporations.
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