Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Su - Sv   —


SUBALTERN
        1. [In traditional (non-Marxist) usage:] A person holding a subordinate position, such as a junior officer in the British army.
        2. [In academic pseudo-Marxist or
post-colonialist discussions; used as a noun or adjective:] A peasant or ordinary lower strata individual in a colonial or formerly colonial country. The most notable thing here is the apparently purposeful avoidance of any explicit class designation for the person or people referenced. This is the sort of grandiose and esoteric language that these academics use among themselves to lend more “gravitas” to their absurdly intellectualized musings and debates.
        In the photo at the right, Jerry Dean Leonard appropriately ridicules these post-colonialist academics with a picture of some actual Chinese workers asking what ‘subaltern’ means! [From his book, Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak (Of Shenhe) (2013), p. 438.]

SUBALTERNITY
A term used in “subaltern studies”, or
post-colonialist academic discourse, when talking about the experience and outlooks of supposedly ordinary people in countries which are, or once were, controlled by foreign imperialism. The goal seems to be to do so in an extremely obscure and overly-intellectualized way, and to minimize references to social classes and to at all costs ignore the need for social revolution and belittle efforts in that direction. The idea was apparently to give an intellectualized voice to the previously voiceless, but in a way which both condemned colonialism but also avoided any suggestion of the necessity of revolution.

SUBBOTNIK
[From the Russian word subbota, meaning “Saturday”.] Voluntary unpaid collective labor performed for the public good by communist-spirited workers on their own time (often Saturdays). Although “subbotnik” is the more common and more general term, sometimes similar events performed on Sundays were called “voskresniks”. The practice was initiated by Bolshevik railroad workers on the Moscow-Kazan Railway in April 1919. It was then popularized by the Communist Party, and the first nationwide subbotnik in Russia was held on May 1, 1920. Subbotniks were most commonly organized for cleaning public streets of refuse, maintaining parks and other public facilities, gathering recyclable materials, and performing numerous other public services.
        Lenin was pleased and excited by the development of subbotniks, and regarded them as early seeds of a future communist society based on free voluntary labor rather than on wage labor which must necessarily continue to characterize production overall during most of the socialist transition period from capitalism to communism. In the picture at the left, Lenin is one of the subbotnik volunteers carrying away a heavy log during the Kremlin area clean-up on May Day, 1920.
        Subbotniks continued during the Stalin period, and even during the revisionist state-capitalist period after Stalin’s death. (For example, “Lenin Subbotniks” were held annually around the time of the anniversary of Lenin’s death.) Unfortunately, subbotniks soon lost their voluntary character and became virtually obligatory for worker participation. This is another aspect of how Soviet society came to be governed by orders from the top, rather than through the ideological education of the masses, and the use of the democratic
mass line method of leadership. But perhaps the tradition of subbotniks still did encourage some small degree of public-spiritedness, even during the revisionist period.

“The first communist subbotnik was held on April 12, 1919, by railwaymen of the Sortirovochnaya marshalling yards of the Moscow-Kazan Railway. Subbotniks were soon being held at many other enterprises in various cities. The experience of the first communist subbotniks was summed up by V. I. Lenin in A Great Beginning (Heroism of the Workers in the Rear. ‘Communist Subbotniks’) [LCW 29:409-34.]
         “An all-Russia subbotnik was held on May 1, 1920, with over 425,000 people in Moscow alone participating, including V. I. Lenin, who, together with Kremlin army cadets, worked on clearing away rubble on the territory of the Kremlin.
         “Lenin’s article ‘From the First Subbotnik on the Moscow-Kazan Railway to the All-Russia May Day Subbotnik’ was brought out on May 2, 1920, in a specially published handbill Per vomaisky Subbotnik, which was drawn up, set and printed during the May Day subbotnik by the staff of the newspapers Pravda, Izvestia, Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn, Bednota, the ROSTA Telegraph Agency, and by the workers at the printing-house of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.” —Note 42, LCW 31.

SUBCONSCIOUS, The
        1. The mental activities just below the threshold of consciousness. Or, those active mental processes (i.e., the overall characterizations of brain processes) which, though not fully conscious at the time, could have been so, and which serve to influence further conscious ideas and processes. This is the everyday, innocuous conception of the subconscious.
        2. [In
Freudian and similar psychoanalytic theories:] A hypothesized borderland area between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. According to Freud, the “psyche” has three layers—the unconscious, the subconscious, and the conscious. The unconscious is the underlying foundation of the psyche that ultimately determines the whole conscious life of the individual and of society as a whole. He viewed the subconscious as a frontier battle zone which is invaded by non-reformable unconscious desires, which are in turn “censored” by the individual’s so-called “super-ego” (or social conscience). There is little or no scientific evidence to support this precise theory, and it has largely fallen into disrepute even in bourgeois circles.

SUB-IMPERIALISM
A junior or subordinate type of
imperialism which cannot (at least yet) be considered to be full-fledged imperialism.
        If the present-day capitalist-imperialist world is viewed, as it should be, as consisting of both imperialist countries and of countries which are dominated and exploited by those imperialist powers, then there is the possibility of intermediate cases which have some of the characteristics of both types of countries. What then should these intermediate cases be called? One option is “expansionist”, and this is the term which has long been used by revolutionaries in South Asia to refer to India and its attempted domination and exploitation of other countries in that region. But another option is to call borderline countries like India and Brazil “sub-imperialist”. However, care should be taken in using this term to make sure you are properly understood, since various writers have used the term sub-imperialist in other ways. (See the quotation below.)

“A few words about the term ‘sub-imperialism’. This term can be used in various different senses, including:
        “A)   As a reference to countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Japan, in relation to the single U.S. superpower. However, this conception downplays the imperialist nature of countries other than the U.S., and therefore implicitly supports the erroneous idea that there really is just one imperialist country and not a world imperialist system.
        “B)   As a reference to countries which serve primarily as regional agents for the major imperialist powers (the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan, etc.) and for the world imperialist system. South Africa [during the apartheid era especially] has frequently been referred to as ‘sub-imperialist’ in this sense, since it has often intervened in other countries in southern Africa on behalf of international imperialism and with their backing. And India and Brazil could also be considered ‘sub-imperialist’ in this sense.
        “C)   As a reference to a few countries (especially India and Brazil) whose ruling classes have serious imperialist ambitions themselves, are showing somewhat more political independence from the existing powerful imperialist countries, and are starting to take on some characteristics of a national bourgeoisie rather than as a mere comprador bourgeoisie as in the past, and whose countries are starting to export capital. This is the sense of the term ‘sub-imperialism’ that comes closest to meaning a form of junior or want-to-be imperialism. (And what a despicable goal that is!)
        “In our view, sense A) is quite wrong and should be completely opposed. Sense C) makes the most logical sense. However, sometimes authors use the term ‘sub-imperialism’ in a rather ambiguous way, blending the B) and C) senses.
        “Calling countries like India and Brazil ‘sub-imperialist’ today does seem quite reasonable. But if we do so we must be sure to keep in mind that this does not mean that they are now full-fledged imperialist countries, but merely that their ruling classes have dreams of becoming such, and are presently just beginning to show some limited independence from the established imperialist countries. Their abilities (and need) to export capital and demonstrate independent military strength are still fairly small.”
         —N.B. Turner, et al., Is China an Imperialist Country? Considerations and Evidence (2014), chapter 9, p. 35. Online at: http://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf

SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE
        1. The specific experience of an objective physical or social event as viewed, understood or interpreted by one individual in their own particular way.
        2. Internal (mental) “experiences” which are directly accessable only to the person who undergoes or “has” the experience, and not to other people. Usually the word ‘experience’ refers to some interaction of a person with the objective or “
external world”, and that is why it often seems appropriate to put scare quotes around the word “experience” when used in this second sense; it is not the sort of thing we usually call having an experience! However, people do have dreams, hallucinations, and other sorts of internal mental phenomena which seem to be at least analogous to having experience with the external world, and sometimes the individual person is unable to even tell the difference. For example, a drunkard with delirium tremens may really believe that he is feeling and seeing ants crawling on his body. Later he might reasonably say, “I hope I never have that experience again!”
        While subjective experiences in this second sense are not real in one obvious way (there were not actually any ants crawling on the person), they were real enough to him at the time. And this means that there were in fact neurons firing in the person’s brain which formed the objective basis for the subjective “experience”. For another good example of this, where the neuronal basis has been partially discovered, see: OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE.

SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM
The extreme form of philosophical
idealism which claims that everything, including material objects, exists only because they are collections of sensations or “ideas” in someone’s mind, or else in the mind of God. A prominent champion of this bizarre view was Bishop Berkeley.
        See also: SENSATIONALISM

SUBLATION
In a
dialectical process, the negation or elimination of an element or aspect (of a dialectical contradiction) which is however preserved in a transformed or partial way in the resulting synthesis. In other words, a simultaneous cancelling and preservation of something. This term was frequently used by Hegel (as in his idealist philosophy about the historical movement of the “absolute idea”), and is occasionally used by Marxists speaking in Hegelian language (especially academics!).
        In a multi-stage process (involving a series of sub-contradictions) each of the intermediate stages is sublated by a later or superior stage, which accounts for both the change in and the continuity of the process as a whole. One concrete example, in historical materialism, is the development of the exploitation contradiction in human history. The first stage in the overall development of this contradiction was slavery, which involved the sub-contradiction between slaves and slaveowners and the exploitation of the slaves by the slaveowners. This was eventually transformed (or “sublated”) into the stage of feudalism, which was characterized by the new sub-contradiction between serfs (or peasants) and feudal landlords, but with still the exploitation of the former by the latter. Feudalism in turn was later transformed or sublated into capitalism, where another new sub-contradiction arose, this time between the workers and the capitalists, but still with the same exploitation of one social class by another class. Note that the term “sublation” is by no means necessary in describing this overall process; in fact, if the goal is to clearly explain (rather than to intimidate with esoteric language), the ordinary word “transformation” seems far preferable here! Note also that the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism (and then communism) will not involve the further sublation (or transformation) of the overall exploitation contradiction, but rather its complete abolition. Society as a whole will be much more profoundly transformed, but economic exploitation itself will be eliminated and not just transformed.
        See also: NEGATION OF THE NEGATION

SUBPRIME MORTGAGE
A
mortgage issued to someone with a fairly poor credit rating.
        Why would a bank or other financial institution make such a loan which stands a high likelihood of default? First of all, they usually charge a higher interest rate and a larger up-front fee. However, one of the main reasons that sub-prime mortgages became so common in the first decade of the 21st century is that the issuers of the mortgage (the banks, etc.) found ways to “securitize” it, i.e. to repackage the mortgage with others and sell bonds based on them to other investors in a form where their stupidity was not obvious. (See Collateralized Debt Obligation.) Thus the bank issuing the mortgage would not suffer even if the mortgage did go into default; that would only harm the suckers who bought the “sliced-and-diced” securities. Ironically, many of the issuers of CDOs seem to have got caught up in the marketing hype they generated to sell these wonderful new investments, forgot just what they were up to, and often kept or invested in these securitized bad mortgages themselves! Thus they also got caught in this trap of their own making.

“I don’t think it poses any threat to the overall economy.” —U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, pooh-poohing the dangers in the developing subprime mortgage meltdown, quoted in a Bloomberg.com news report, July 26, 2007. [What became known as the “Great Recession” began that following December, and over the course of the next year or so a major financial crisis broke out! —S.H.]

SUBURBS

“Despite all the talk about people moving back to big cities, more than 91 percent of population growth in the U.S. metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2010 occurred in suburbs rather than in city cores. Today, more than 60 percent of Americans live in suburbs, and non-whites constitute 27 percent of suburbs’ population.” —The Week, June 24, 2011, p. 20, reporting information from the New York Times.

“For more than half a century, Americans have fled the cities in their millions, heading away from crime and poverty towards better schools and safer neighborhoods in the suburbs. Now poverty is catching up with them. According to two new reports from the Brookings Institution, over the past decade the number of poor people in the suburbs has jumped by a whopping 37.4% to 13.7 million, compared with some 12.1 million people below the poverty line in cities. Although poverty rates remain higher in the inner cities, the gap is narrowing.
         “Suburban areas largely escaped during earlier downturns, but not this time. Support groups say people are using safety-net programs, such as food stamps or unemployment insurance, who have never applied for them before. They are often making tough choices. ‘It’s mortgage or food,’ observes [one person]...
         “The reports paint a grim picture. Poverty rates are expected to continue to increase. Non-profit organizations are having to do more with less staff and less funding. Almost a third of them have had to lay off staff because of lost grants, and one in five has had to reduce services. And with state and local governments lacking cash, more funding cuts are expected.” —The Economist, “Mortgage or Food”, Oct. 16, 2010, p. 39.

SUCCESSORS — Revolutionary
See:
REVOLUTIONARY SUCCESSORS

SUCHTING, Wal   (1931-1997)
An Australian Marxist-influenced philosopher who taught at the University of Sydney until his his retirement in 1990. His two major areas of interest were Marxism and the philosophy of science. He was more influenced by academic
“Western Marxism”, and especially by Althusser, than by Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophy. Best known for his book Marx and Philosophy (1986) which in three short chapters discusses Marx and epistemology, Marx and materialism, and the meaning of “the dialectic”.

SUDDEN CHANGE
See:
CHANGE—Sudden,   QUALITATIVE LEAP

SUEZ CANAL
An economically extremely important canal in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. This canal was dug by the Egyptian people themselves from 1859 to 1869. However, the Suez Canal Company which managed it was under the control of the French and British imperialists, especially the latter. Even before the discovery of oil in the Middle East, and the eventual huge importance of oil in the world economy, this canal was very important in facilitating the imperialist plunder of India and other countries in Asia and Africa.
        In July 1956 the Egyptian government nationalized the Suez Canal, which the British and French imperialists viewed as unacceptable. They first put pressure on Egypt to “internationalize” the canal. When that scheme failed, Britain and France, together with Israel, waged a war of aggression against Egypt and attempted to control the canal by military force. However, the United States imperialists, the hegemonic overlords of the region, and for reasons of their own inter-imperialist contention with Britain and France, refused to acquiesce in this British-French-Israeli invasion. In the face of Egyptian military resistance and U.S. opposition, Britain, France and Israel were forced to withdraw. The last batch of invaders were pushed out on December 22, 1956.

SUICIDE — Caused by Overwork
See:
KAROJISATSU

SUN SPOT THEORY (Of Economic Crises)
A theory originated by the bourgeois economist
William Stanley Jevons (1835-82) which claims that the periodic prominence of dark spots on the surface of the sun is responsible for economic cycles in the capitalist economies on earth. Though erroneous, this is not quite as ridiculous as it initally sounds! The sun goes through a 11-year cycle of varying numbers of sun spots, from almost none, to a great many, and back to almost none. These spots are actually plasma storms, and when they are abundant large quantities of charged particles are spewed off into space, some of which reach the earth and cause effects here, including the auroras and interruptions to radio communications. Moreover, the sun’s energy output varies during this 11-year cycle by about 0.1%, which causes the surface temperature of the ocean to fluctuate by a slightly larger amount. It is likely, therefore, that there are at least small changes to crop yields because of atmospheric and weather changes, and this was the basis for Jevons’ theory. (The astronomer William Hershel noted as early as 1801 that when sunspots were rare, the price of wheat in England increased.) However, such crop changes are probably fairly small, and this is only one small aspect of the overall economy. Moreover, neither the peaks nor valleys of the 11-year cycle of sun spots correlate with the varying periods of 5 to 10 years in the standard industrial cycle.
        Clearly bourgeois economists come up with rather silly theories like this, which try to explain economic crises by “exogenous” factors (i.e., factors external to the capitalist system), because they simply cannot accept that capitalism itself has any internal flaw which leads to such crises, despite the fact that Marx long ago explained in detail how this occurs.

SUN Yat-sen   (1866-1925)
Important early Chinese nationalist leader. [More to be added...]
        See also:
PREDECESSORS (Mao quote)

SUNDARBANS
[From Bengali: Shundorbôn] A very large area of tidal mangrove forest in the Ganges River delta area of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India.

SUNNI
The largest branch of Islam, practiced by about 83% of Muslims around the world. Sunni Muslims believe that Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of Mohammed, was the first caliph (or successor) to Mohammed.
        See also:
SHIITE

SUPEREGO
See:
FREUDIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS

SUPERSTRUCTURE
See:
BASE and SUPERSTRUCTURE

SUPPLY AND DEMAND
[To be added...]

SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS
The absurd bourgeois economic doctrine that the way to promote the expansion of a weakened capitalist economy (i.e., to promote the more rapid growth of
GDP) is to implement policies which create a bigger supply of goods and services, rather than to find ways to increase the effective demand for them (as Keynesians try to do). Supply-side economics requires bourgeois economists to strongly reaffirm “Say’s Law”, which Keynes and some of his followers had finally partially rejected (though they had not completely rejected it, as Marx did long before them).
        In a capitalist overproduction crisis the basic problem is that those who need and desire more goods and services do not have the money to buy them; in other words, there is a glut of commodities on the market which consumers are unable to buy even though they need and want them. (This is an inherent result of the capitalist system and the extraction of surplus value from the workers.) The supply-side theory is that the solution to the problem where supply greatly exceeds demand is to further increase supply! Which, of course, sounds absolutely daft!
        However, while it is in fact basically daft, so-called supply-side economics is not at all completely open and honest about what it is actually doing. The way in which it is trying to increase production is through a whole series of more specific policies which strongly benefit capitalist corporations and raise their profits, while seriously hurting the working class more than ever. These include:
        •   Cutting corporate taxes (even further than they have already been cut). This is the policy most strongly emphasized.
        •   Deregulation of corporations by reducing the already very weak legal requirements that they protect their workers’ health and safety, protect the environment, etc.
        •   Privatization of previously nationalized companies or industries where they exist (which was a major thrust of the Thatcherite supply-side program in Britain).
        •   Neoliberalist policies, including those designed to weaken or destroy labor unions, and drive the costs of labor-power down. Included here is the promotion of what they euphemistically call “labor market flexibility”, meaning making it easier and cheaper to layoff workers, making it easier to hire only part-time or contract workers, and to cut worker’s benefits, retirement plans, etc.
        •   Promoting trade agreements beneficial to the country, in order to both open up new markets overseas and to also increase opportunities for the export of capital.
        •   Various other policies beneficial to corporations, such as increasing government subsidies to them.
        All capitalist governments promote the interests of the capitalist class and their corporations, but supply-side economics is a set of intensified policies toward this same end, which have become necessary for the ruling class in the period of growing economic crisis.
        See also: LAFFER CURVE,   REAGANOMICS

SUPREME COURT (U.S.)
See:
CORPORATION—As a ‘Person’

SURPLUS VALUE
“The action of labor-power ... not only reproduces its own value, but produces value over and above it. This surplus-value is the difference between the value of the product and the value of the elements consumed in the formation of that product, in other words, of the means of production and the labour-power.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, ch. VIII: (International, p. 208; Penguin, p. 317.) Or, roughly equivalent, surplus value is the value of the commodities produced by the workers after deducting their wages, the cost of raw materials and the overhead.
        See also below, and:
Value, Price and Profit

“There is not one single atom of [surplus] value that does not owe its existence to unpaid labor.” —Marx, Capital, Vol. I, ch. 24, sect. 1. (Penguin ed., p. 728.)

[To lay bare the essential character of capitalist production:] “This was done by the discovery of surplus-value. It was shown that the appropriation of unpaid labor is the basis of the capitalist mode of production and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it; that even if the capitalist buys the labor-power of his laborer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for; and that in the ultimate analysis this surplus-value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up the constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. The genesis of capitalist production and the production of capital were both explained.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:27.

SURPLUS VALUE — Absolute and Relative

“The surplus-value produced by prolongation of the working day, I call absolute surplus-value. On the other hand, the surplus-value arising from the curtailment of the necessary labour-time, and from the corresponding alteration in the respective lengths of the two components of the working day, I call relative surplus-value.” —Marx, Capital, Vol. I, ch. 12. (International ed., ...; Penguin ed., p. 432.)

SURPRISE AND DECEPTION (In Tactics)

“All warfare is based on deception.” —Sun Tzu (c. 544-496 BCE), The Art of War.
        “A man surprised is half beaten.” —Thomas Fuller (1654-1734), Gnomologia.
        “[Surprise lies] at the foundation of all undertakings”; and “surprise becomes the means to gain superiority” —Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), On War.

“To have misconceptions and to be caught unawares may mean to lose superiority and initiative. Hence, deliberately creating misconceptions for the enemy and then springing surprise attacks upon him are two ways—indeed two important means—of achieving superiority and seizing the initiative. What are misconceptions? ‘To see every bush and tree on Mount Pakung as an enemy soldier’ is an example of misconception. And ‘making a feint to the east but attacking in the west’ is a way of creating misconceptions among the enemy. When the mass support is sufficiently good to block the leakage of news, it is often possible by various ruses to succeed in leading the enemy into a morass of wrong judgements and actions so that he loses his superiority and the initiative. The saying, ‘There can never be too much deception in war’, means precisely this. What does ‘being caught unawares’ mean? It means being unprepared. Without preparedness, superiority is not real superiority and there can be no initiative either. Having grasped this point, a force that is inferior but prepared can often defeat a superior enemy by surprise attack. We say an enemy on the move is easy to attack precisely because he is then off guard, that is, unprepared. These two points—creating misconceptions among the enmy and springing suprise attacks on him—mean transferring the uncertainties of war to the enemy while securing the greatest possible certainty for ourselves and thereby gaining superiority, the initiative and victory.” —Mao, “On Protracted War” (May 1938), SW 2:165-166.

SVERDLOV COMMUNIST UNIVERSITY
A higher educational institution originally set up in revolutionary Russia for the further political education and training of members of the Bolshevik Party.

The Sverdlov Communist University was formed from courses for agitators and instructors organized in 1918 under the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and later converted into a school of Soviet work. After the decision of the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) on the organization of a higher school under the C.C. for training Party cadres, the school was reorganized into the Central School for Soviet and Party Work; in the second half of 1919, by decision of the Organizing Bureau of the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B.) it changed its name to the Sverdlov Communist University.
        “This was the first Party higher educational institution. Lenin showed great interest in the organization of the University and took part in working out its first syllabus and curriculum.
        “On July 11 and August 29, 1919, Lenin delivered lectures on the state in the University. The text of the second lecture has not been preserved. On October 24 of the same year, Lenin made a speech to students of the Sverdlov University leaving for the front.” —Note 106, Lenin, SW 3 (1967).




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