Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Er - Et   —


The programme adopted by the Social-Democratic Party of Germany in October 1891 at its
Congress in Erfurt.

“Underlying the Programme was the Marxist teaching of the inevitable downfall of the capitalist mode of production and its replacement by the socialist mode of production. It emphasized the need for the working class to wage a political struggle, pointed out the role of the party as the organizer of this struggle, and so on. Lenin remarked that the chief defect of the Erfurt Programme, a cowardly concession to opportunism, was its silence on the dictatorship of the proletariat.
         “A thoroughgoing criticism of the draft Erfurt Programme was given in Engels’s work ‘A Contribution to the Criticism of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891’.” —Note 92, Lenin, SW 3 (1967).


“Over the past 500 million years, the rate of erosion on the continents—which ultimately depends on the rate at which tectonic processes lift up new mountains—has been equivalent to the loss of a layer twenty-four metres thick every million years, plus or minus about ten metres. Current rates of loss due to human activity are hard to judge but it seems sure that agricultural land is losing soil at many times that rate, and that the overall rate of sediment loss from the continents is something like three times the long-term average due to geology alone. It has been calculated that the rate at which the crust is reshaped purely for construction purposes is now greater than the average rate of natural erosion over geological time.” —Oliver Morton, Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (NY: Harper Perennial, 2009), p. 350.

MISTAKES—Attitude Towards,   REASON [Tom Paine quote]


[To be added...]
        See also:


The ethical theory that there is no objective basis for morality, that different moral views are simply a matter of custom or convention, and therefore vary from one place to another, and from one time to another.

And finally there is the view that nothing really makes anything “right or wrong”, “good or bad”, that these are merely arbitrary biases that people have, either in different cultures, or even individually. There seem to be three main motives for holding this view:
         1)   The argument from ignorance. (“I can’t figure out what makes human actions right or wrong, so it must be impossible to say.”)
         2)   Extreme cynicism about humanity. (“Everybody tries to justify what they say and do, but at bottom it is all just excuse making for doing whatever they selfishly want to do.”)
         3)   Learning about other cultures which have different ideas about right and wrong.
         This third reason is why cultural anthropologists have been particularly prone to ethical relativism, and why the theory was first put forward in a systematic way by philosophers such as Edward Westermarck who were strongly influenced by the rise of modern anthropology. A number of cultural anthropologists have at various times gone to live with native peoples in various parts of the world and have found (to their evident surprise) that these peoples have somewhat different conceptions of morality, conceptions which seem to serve them just as well as the differing moralities of other cultures serve those societies. Since these anthropologists had also not thought through the basis for morality in their own society, they tended to jump to the conclusion that no particular morality is really “better” or “more valid” than any other, but rather that all of them are merely somewhat arbitrary conveniences for particular cultures.
         More recently, this same sort of thinking has been generalized and spread to other academic departments, especially to English faculties at universities, in the form of “post-modernism”, which goes so far as to claim that the world views of the scientific community are really no better than those of native peoples living in the Amazon, or those of religious communities such as Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in 4004 B.C.! (Some people cannot recognize a reductio ad absurdum argument when they see it!)
         As with some of the specific traditional explanations of morality surveyed above, there are no doubt some small and secondary aspects of truth to the relativist viewpoint. Different societies, with different ways of living and different levels of social production, do require somewhat different social norms and moral codes in order to function smoothly. But what the central core of the relativist viewpoint fails to understand is that there is a deeper level of analysis which will explain why the moral systems of different societies still have so much in common, and also explain the differences between them in terms of the same underlying analytical concepts. Once we have that explanatory analytical framework in place we will be able to more rationally discuss the differences between moralities in different forms and stages of society. —S.H., An Introduction to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics, Chapter 1, section 1.2E, from the draft of 6/14/07 as posted at:

The branch of philosophy which deals with the theory behind
morality, including its explication and justification, nature and essence, structure and functions, origin and development.


The forcible removal of (and often even genocide against) one group of people by another, usually also implying the theft of land and possessions of the victimized ethnic group. The term “ethnic cleansing” is often used as a euphemism for outright genocide. Such horrible crimes against humanity are often the actions of some rising or expanding bourgeois nationality against “outsiders” whose lands they covet; that is, it is an extreme expression of bourgeois nationalism and/or imperialism.
        One of the worst examples of ethnic cleansing in human history is the displacement and extirpation (to a major degree) of the Native Americans by English and other European colonists in North America over the past 500 years. This was looked on with admiration by Adolf Hitler and inspired his own program of expanding to the East against the Slavs for more German “Lebensraum” (living space). This resulted in the Nazi murder of tens of millions of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Serbs, and others in World War II. The mass murder of millions of Chinese by the invading Japanese imperialists in the 1930s and 1940s was also in part a conscious attempt at ethnic cleansing.
        However, while not on that same scale, over the past century there have also been many other examples of ethnic cleansing. This includes the genocide by the Turkish government against Armenians around World War I; the mutual attempts at ethnic cleansing by different ethnic groups within the old Yugoslavia when it fell apart (and to a considerable degree fostered by the U.S. and European imperialist countries); and the tribal genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Another example of ethnic cleansing, which is seldom discussed in such terms even though it has been underway for an entire century and still continues, is the forcible ejection of Palestinians from their land, and the genocide against them, by the Zionist state of Israel. Here too, as in so many cases, this is only possible because of outside imperialist support for this ethnic cleansing from the United States and, especially earlier, Britain. [See also:
        In the modern era, by far the greatest force leading to these terrible crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide is capitalist-imperialism itself. It is almost always behind these horrendous crimes, either directly or indirectly.

“Even if some traditionalists among you do not understand me, I am in favor of forced migration of the entire Jewish element from Bessarabia and Bukovina; they must be driven over the border... In all of our history, there has never been a more appropriate, more complete, more far-reaching, freer moment for total ethnic liberation, for renewed national self-examination, for a cleaning of our nation... Let us utilize this historic moment... If need be, use machine guns.” —Mihai Antonescu, the Foreign Minister of fascist Romania, speaking to his cabinet colleagues on July 8, 1941. Quoted in Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (2013), pp. 335-6. [This of course is just one of the almost endless examples of ethnic cleansing of Jews by anti-Semitic regimes in modern history, which makes the long and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by the Zionist movement and Israel all the more ironic and disturbing. —Ed.]


“Ethnicity is as much a matter of perception as of reality. It depends on what is believed to be true, not on what is actually true. As we’ve seen, human groups are in fact highly fluid. They absorb new members, split into parts, are blurred around the edges, and eventually change into entirely new entities. Most of the ethnic groups of the ancient Middle East no longer exist—the Sumerians, Elamites, Amorites, Kassites, Philistines, and many others. They flared into prominence for a moment in time and then disappeared.
         Yet ethnic groups have an incontestable reality in the lives of individuals. They furnish at least part of the social setting in which people act and make decisions. Through their proscriptions on thought and behavior, they lend meaning and context to life.” —Steve Olson, Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins (Boston: Mariner, 2003), p. 105.
         [Olson connects up perceptions of ethnicity with ancient compulsions toward tribalism. We might also note the connection with
patriotism and other forms of “small group thinking”. And while close identification with one ethnic group might well promote greater appreciation for, and participation in, the culture and “belief system” typical of that one ethnicity, can it really be viewed as a good thing that people restrict their knowledge and appreciation of the much larger world of human cultures in this way? Can we really approve of “proscriptions on thought and behavior” that promote only the culture and understanding of a single ethnic group, and tend to alienate us from the rest of humanity? Of course we revolutionaries recognize that most people today have some sort of ethnic affinities, but instead of just going along with narrow ethnic thinking shouldn’t our goal be to help broaden everyone’s horizons to all of humanity? —S.H.]

The confusion of the current meaning of a word with the different meaning of a word (often in another language) from which it arose. Although the English word “person” derives from the Latin word “persona” for an “actor’s mask”, it would be an example of the etymological fallacy to think that the word “person” therefore “really means mask”. Words change their meaning over time, and their current meaning is not necessarily the same as their former meaning, let alone the same as the words in other languages from which they were long ago originally derived. It is surprisingly common for people to be unaware of this simple fact, and to therefore commit the etymological fallacy.

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