MODE OF APPROPRIATION
The means by which wealth (or the “surplus product”) is extracted from the laboring population in a particular form of class society. I.e., the way that economic exploitation occurs in that type of society.
MODE OF PRODUCTION
One of the major forms of the economic organization of society: primitive communalism, slave production, feudalism, capitalism, socialism or communism. The mode of production can be viewed as a combination of the productive forces of society together with the social relations of production. Once the ever-advancing and developing productive forces become restrained or fettered by the existing relations of production, the current mode of production begins to break down. An era of socio-economic revolution then begins which leads to a new mode of production more in tune with the advancing productive forces. We Marxists conclude that this social development must ultimately result in communist society with a communist mode of production.
“MODERN MONETARY THEORY” (MMT)
A new trend within bourgeois economics which has arisen since the Great Recession of 2007-9. This is a new acceptance of having much larger and more permanent government budget deficits to try to keep the capitalist economy from falling into seriously worsening crisis. It is therefore a much intensified commitment by many bourgeois economists and politicians to strongly promote and continually expand Keynesian deficit financing year after year. They falsely believe that this policy can be continued indefinitely into the future, and that if this is handled “properly”, no serious negative consequences (such as run-away inflation) will ever develop. Formal open support for MMT is strongest among “left” Democrats (i.e., those who call themselves “socialists” or “social democrats”), but wide de facto support also comes from a much broader range of politicians, including President Trump and other Republicans, at least while their party holds office.
This so-called Modern Monetary Theory goes well beyond what Keynes himself imagined was necessary, namely, just a very temporary period of government deficits to pull a capitalist economy out of a recession (or depression), which would then supposedly “prime the pump” and allow the economy to continue functioning well entirely on its own without any further deficits needed. Keynes even thought that small budget surpluses could then be accumulated to make up for the previous deficits. But Keynes’s nostrum has proven to be totally inadequate in dealing with the ever more powerful underlying overproduction forces building up over time. Because they don’t know what else to do, the theorists of MMT have come to believe that Keynesian budget deficits must instead not only continue indefinitely, but even that the annual deficits must be gradually expanded. So “Modern Monetary Theory” does go way beyond Keynes; it might even be considered to be a theory of what might be called Ultra-Keynesianism!
The U.S. Federal Government deficits required to end the Great Recession (at least as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned) topped $1 trillion a year at the beginning of the Obama administration. These annual deficits were gradually reduced to a “mere” multi-hundred billion dollars per year. But the economy has remained so weak that new tax cuts and new fiscal stimulation have been required which pushed the deficit up over $1 trillion again for 2019. These annual trillion dollar-plus federal deficits are now going to continue indefinitely. [See: “Budget Office Projects a Decade of Trillion-Dollar Deficits”, New York Times, Jan. 29, 2020.]
This situation seriously worries many of the more traditional bourgeois economists, though the new MMT proponents try to pooh-pooh the dangers. During the 1970s-1980s the Keynesian-inspired management of the U.S. economy led to double-digit inflation, and it took a major painful recession to wring that out of the economy. It is hard to imagine that inflation won’t become a serious problem once again if government deficits continue to expand uncontrollably. And should another recession become necessary to once again defeat run-away inflation, it is worth remembering that recessions are now getting much more dangerous. The Great Recession (2007-9) came very close indeed to becoming an outright depression as bad or worse than that of the 1930s. Moreover, the methods used to ward off recessions or depressions are the very same ones as those used to try to end them. If all the deficit “ammunition” available is used up in a futile attempt to ward off a new depression then there will be little or nothing left that can be done to try to end it once it starts. —S.H.
A superficial doctrine in recent bourgeois “political science” that holds that authoritarian regimes tend to “democratize” as incomes rise, that the creation of a large “middle class” speeds up this process, and that an economic slowdown or malaise following a long period of rapid growth makes such a transition more likely.
Thus, this “modernization theory” predicts that a country like contemporary capitalist China, which is ruled by a single so-called “Communist” Party and which has a rapidly expanding “middle class”, will fairly soon switch over to a multi-party political system. This may or may not actually happen any time soon. In any case, the implicit conceptions here only relate to bourgeois society. Their notion of “democritization” for example, really only means abandoning a one-party system, and has nothing at all to do with genuine democracy in the MLM sense, i.e., of people having actual individual and collective control over their own lives.
MODESTY ABOUT OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
See also: CREDIT—Acknowledgement of Efforts or Contributions
MOLOTOV, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich (1890-1986)
A top leader of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, and one of his main lieutenants. [More to be added... ]
When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 the U.S.S.R. was caught unprepared (largely due to Stalin’s extremely serious misreading of the situation). The Soviet Army was forced to fall back rapidly, and there were inadequate weapons in place to repel the German advance, especially their tanks. The Russians were forced to improvise by filling bottles with gasoline and other flammable liquids, lighting a cloth wick on fire, and tossing them at the tanks. These weapons, which were nicknamed “Molotov Cocktails” by the German soldiers, were sometimes effective, and thousands and thousands of them were then made in workshops and sent to the front to be used. It was not Molotov’s idea to make or use these gasoline bombs, but as deputy Chairman of the State Defense Committee he signed the order for their mass production. This may be why they got their nickname.
Most Americans, however, did not hear about “Molotov Cocktails” until they were used in the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 against Soviet tanks. In some countries in recent decades Molotov Cocktails have become a common weapon of the people when the authorities try to violently suppress political demonstrations.
[In the philosophy of Leibniz]: The supposed “ultimate” units of reality which give rise to matter and mind. Thus an entity postulated to underlie a dualistic conception of the world. The notion is clearly incoherent. God is supposed to be the “supreme monad”, whatever that means.
There was, however, an element of primitive dialectics in Leibniz’s conception of the monad, and (unlike Descartes) he recognized that substance has within it an active force or principle of movement. Both Marx and Lenin [LCW 38:380] took note of this. Today we would just say that movement arises (or development occurs) due to the opposing forces within things, i.e., because of the dialectical contradictions within them.
A complex of various theories in bourgeois economics, championed by reactionary economists such as Milton Friedman. Two prominent specific monetarist views are:
1. The theory that inflation is basically caused by the undue expansion of the money supply. (Marxist political economy pretty much agrees with this!)
2. The theory that capitalist economic crises (recessions and depressions) are caused by mismanagement of the money supply. (This is utter bourgeois stupidity which doesn’t begin to understand that crises are inherent in the capitalist exploitation of labor!)
[In bourgeois economics:] Attempts to control a capitalist economy simply through the manipulation of the money supply and interest rates. While such measures can be effective in “fine tuning” the economy in ordinary times (non-crisis situations), when a major economic crisis breaks out “monetary policy” soon proves virtually useless.
[To be added... ]
See also: ABOLISHING PHYSICAL CURRENCY, NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES
MONEY — and Commodities
“[Ricardo] completely fails to grasp the connection between the determination of the exchange-value of the commodity by its labor-time and the fact that the development of commodities necessarily leads to the formation of money. Hence his erroneous theory of money.” —Marx, TSV 2:164.
MONEY — Obsession With
[To be added... ]
“When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall… dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession… will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease…” —John Maynard Keynes, “The Future”, Essays in Persuasion (1931).
MONEY CREATION BY COMMERCIAL BANKS
[To be added... ]
MONEY MARKET FUND
A type of capitalist investment aimed at individual savers which pays interest, but which also attempts to keep the value of its shares constant. The intent is to avoid the risks associated with the rise and fall of stocks, and allow those who invest in these funds to treat them like interest-bearing checking or savings accounts. In recent decades these funds became very popular with many “middle class” investors.
The problem is that very few capitalist investments are really guaranteed to maintain their value—including those the money market funds themselves invest in. This is especially the case during a financial crisis. Thus on September 17, 2008 there was a major run on money market funds in the U.S. which caused them to “break the buck” (or in other words, to drop below their nominally “constant” $1.00/share price). This so threatened the very weakened financial system at that point that the government was forced to extend its guarantees (and possible bailouts) to these funds for a period of time as well as to many banks, Wall Street investment firms, and so forth.
The view that everything in the world is derived from, or can be explained by, the existence of just one fundamental type of thing. There are various kinds of naïve monism (“all is made of water”), but the more modern view of monism is just that it is a denial of dualism. Dialectical materialism is a type of monism because it holds that although mind exists, it exists as a set of characteristics or functional aspects of the brain (i.e., of highly organized matter in motion). That is, matter is primary, and mind depends on matter, is an “outgrowth” or “development” or set of aspects or characteristics of certain complex forms of matter (brains, or their equivalent).
There is also a perversion of the monist viewpoint, known as “neutral monism” in which the dualist viewpoint is smuggled back into monism by postulating some single substance, itself neither mind nor matter, which somehow gives rise to both mind and matter. Although this idea has been popular in the history of philosophy since Leibniz, no one has ever been able to propound it in any coherent fashion.
1. [Strictly speaking.] A company which is the sole supplier of a particular commodity. Since there is no competition, this gives the company the ability to raise the price of the commodity—often hugely—and thus to make much greater profits. Excess profits due to monopoly conditions are called monopoly profits.
2. [More loosely.] The production and sale of a commodity by just a few big companies, who because they can fairly easily collude and conspire, are able to minimize their competition, or limit it to just matters of style and advertising while not competing over prices, and thus to function as a partial collective monopoly with regard to that commodity. This form of monopoly is now more properly called an oligopoly, a term which did not exist when people first began talking about “monopolies”.
See also below.
MONOPOLY — Broad Vs. Narrow
A narrow monopoly is a company which is the sole supplier of one single commodity. A broader monopoly is a company that is the sole supplier of a large number of items, including perhaps, some which are not very closely related, and/or which is the only distributor of those many items, etc. This is clarified in the comment by capitalist media billionaire, Ted Turner, in the quote below.
“Every Company Strives to Take the Risks out of Capitalism
“Every company wants to grow, crush competitors, and minimize risks. If it can avoid the sheriff, every company lusts to become a monopoly. This truism is not peculiar to the digital age, but was clearly enunciated by a former media baron, Ted Turner: ‘You need to contol everything. You need to be like Rockefeller with Standard Oil. He had the oil fields, and he had the filling stations, and he had the pipelines and the trucks and everything to get the gas to the stations. And they broke him up as a monopoly. You want to control everything. You want to have a hospital and a funeral home, so when the people die in the hospital you move them right over to the funeral home next door. When they’re born, you got ’em. When they’re sick, you got ’em. When they die, you got ’em.’ He smiled and added, ‘The game’s over when they break you up. But in the meantime you play to win. And you know you’ve won when the government stops you.’” —Ken Auletta, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, (NY: Penguin, 2010), pp. 354-355.
[However, only in a handful of the very most egregious cases does the government actually break up monopolies these days. And oligopolies are just fine with the ruling class today—since the owners of these oligopolies are the core of the modern ruling bourgeoisie. —Ed.]
MONOPOLY — and CRISES
Although the concentration of production in the form of oligopolies or monopolies can provide the means for the capitalists to better postpone economic crises (because of their greater reserves, etc.), when these crises do finally break out they are then all the more extreme. Similarly, the tendency towards concentration that always existed during crises in pre-monopoly capitalism very much intensified in the monopoly capitalist era. Instead of small firms being swallowed up by larger firms, we now find firms which are themselves very large being swallowed up by the handful of truly giant firms which remain in that industry.
“Crises of every kind—economic crises most frequently, but not only these—in their turn increase very considerably the tendency towards concentration and towards monopoly.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” (1916), LCW 22:209.
MONOPOLY — History of Its Development
[Intro to be added... ]
“Thus, the principal stages in the history of monopolies [in Europe] are the following: (1) 1860-70, the highest stage, the apex of development of free competition; monopoly is in the barely discernible, embryonic stage. (2) After the crisis of 1873, a lengthy period of development of cartels; but they are still the exception. They are not yet durable. They are still a transitory phenomenon. (3) The boom at the end of the nineteenth century and the crisis of 1900-03. Cartels become one of the foundations of the whole of economic life. Capitalism has been transformed into imperialism.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” (1916), LCW 22:202.
MONOPOLY — Recent Intensification in the U.S.
Marx pointed out long ago that over time the level of monopoly in a capitalist economy inevitably tends to increase. And despite the more or less unenforced anti-monopoly laws that officially exist in the United States, in recent decades this intensification of monopolies in industry after industry has continued, and even speeded up. In the chart below we see this quite clearly in the increasing market shares of the top two corporations in specific industries, for the present (2018) as compared with the early 2000s. Notice that there are increasing monopoly concentrations in almost all industries, though in a small number of cases there may be short-term declines in concentration, usually very small.
Combined U.S. Market Share of the Top Two Corporations in Various Industries |
[Industries with the most intense new concentration toward monopoly at the top.]
|Industry||Early 2000s||Now (2018)||% Points Change|
|Credit Rating Industry||22%||34%||+12|
|Truck and Bus Mfg.||53%||62%||+9|
Source: David Leonhardt, “The Monopolization of America”, New York Times, |
Nov. 26, 2018. Percentage figures estimated from a graphic representation.
“Early 2000s” ranges from 2002 to 2007, depending on data availability.
Similar comparative data for most other American industries is not yet available, although
the anti-monopolist reformist organization Open Markets Institute is trying to gather it. For
the data in the above chart only the situation in tire manufacturing is a real outlier from
basic trends. In some U.S. industries the increase in the percentage of monopoly
concentration in recent years is small, but only because the degree of monopoly was already so
high in the first place! With smartphone operating systems, for example, the top two corporations
(Google and Apple) had 79% of the market in 2012, but 99% of the market by 2018. Although
comparative historical data is hard to come by for many industries, the current or recent
situation may be known. In beer, for example, 66% of the American market was owned by just two
companies (InBev and Miller-Coors) in 2017; in candy, 60% of the market was owned by Hershy and
Mars corporations in 2017. In the vast e-Commerce industry, Amazon now controls at least half
the market all by itself.
In world capitalism, and especially within the United States, there is less and less competition and ever more monopoly.
MONOPOLY CAPITAL (1966 Book)
This is an influential book written by Paul M. Sweezy and Paul Baran, and published in 1966. There are widely differing opinions as to just how correct and important this book is. John Bellamy Foster, who is now the editor of the magazine Sweezy co-founded, Monthly Review, talks about the book in rather glowing terms:
“The appearance in 1966 of Monopoly Capital by Baran and
Sweezy (published two years after Baran’s death) represented a turning point in
Marxian economics. Although described by the authors themselves as a mere
‘essay-sketch’, it rapidly gained widespread recognition as the most important
attempt thus far to bring Marx’s Capital up to date, as well as providing
a formidable critique of prevailing Keynesian orthodoxy.
“Where Sweezy himself was concerned, Monopoly Capital reflected dissatisfaction with the analysis of accumulation and crisis advanced in The Theory of Capitalist Development [his book from 1942]. His earlier study had been written when mainstream economics was undergoing rapid change due to the Keynesian ‘revolution’ and the rise of imperfect competition theory. Thus, he had provided a detailed elaboration of both Marx’s theory of realization crisis (or demand-side constraints in the accumulation process), and of work by Marx and later Marxian theorists on the concentration and centralization of capital. As with mainstream theory, however, these two aspects of Sweezy’s analysis remained separate; and hence he failed to develop an adequate explanation of the concrete factors conditioning investment demand in an economic regime dominated by the modern large enterprise. It was essentially this critique of Sweezy’s early efforts that was provided by Josef Steindl in Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism (1952: 243-6), who went to show how a more unified theory could ‘be organically developed out of the underconsumptionist approach to Marx’ based on Michal Kalecki’s model of capitalist dynamics, which had connected the phenomenon of realization crisis to the increasing ‘degree of monopoly’ in the economy as a whole.
“In fact, it was out of this argument, as outlined by Steindl, that the underlying framework for Baran and Sweezy’s own contribution in Monopoly Capital was derived. Thus, they suggested that Marx’s fundamental ‘law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ associated with accumulation in the era of free competition, had been replaced, in the more restrictive competitive environment of monopoly capitalism, by a law of the tendency of the surplus to rise (defining surplus as the gap, at any given level of production, between output and socially necessary costs of production). Under these circumstances, the critical economic problem was one of surplus absorption. Capitalist consumption tended to account for a decreasing share of capitalist demand as income grew, while investment was hindered by the fact that it took the form of new productive capacity, which could not be expanded for long periods of time independently of final, wage-based demand. Despite the fact that there was always the possibility of new ‘epoch-making innovations’ emerging that would help absorb the potential economic surplus, all such innovations—resembling the steam engine, the railroad and the automobile in their overall effect—were few and far between. Hence Baran and Sweezy concluded that the system had a powerful tendency toward stagnation, largely countered thus far through the promotion of economic waste by means of ‘the sales effort’ (including its penetration into the production process) and military expenditures, and through the expansion of the financial sector. All such ‘countervailing influences’ were, however, of a self-limiting character and could be expected to lead to a doubling-over of contradictions in the not too distant future.” —John Bellamy Foster, “Paul Malor Sweezy”, in John Eatwell, et al., eds., The New Palgrave: Marxian Economics (1990), p. 352-3.
However, to my eyes much of this seems to be unnecessary and even downright
wrong. Yes, there is a more fully coherent “underconsumptionist” approach (or
overproductionist approach, I would prefer to say) than Sweezy put forward in his
1942 book, and it comes straight out of Marx himself. The problem, it seems to me, is
that not only in 1942, but also in this 1966 book Monopoly Capital there
is an unnecessary and incorrect adulteration of Marx with Keynesian conceptions. Thus
contrary to Foster’s comment that this book provides “a formidable critique of prevailing
Keynesian orthodoxy”, I would say the book has still not sufficiently broken
The basic problem with capitalism is that it does not pay the workers enough to buy back all that they produce for the capitalists. The capitalists themselves can for a long while spend a large part of the surplus value they extract from the workers in building new factories and buying more machinery. And for a fairly long while they can still sell the output from these new and old factories by granting credit to the workers and by having the government borrow money from the rich (or else simply print up money) to buy weapons, military supplies, and other commodities. In other words, the continual and ever-faster expansion of debt can keep the system working for quite a while. But eventually this massive credit bubble must pop, and then—according to Marx—the only thing that can clear the ground for a new expansion is the destruction of all the old excess capital, including that massive overhang of excess factories and machinery that was artificially built up during the long credit boom. This is really pretty much all there is to it, and no Keynesian conceptions at all are necessary to further explicate the situation.
It is true that Sweezy and Baran were right to point out mechanisms such as wastefulness, innovation, and so forth, as ways which to a degree help keep the system going for a while. But these are quite secondary to the main thing, the expansion of the consumer and government credit bubbles. That is the place to focus one’s attention! And when this giant credit bubble pops it is totally inadequate to say that there will then be stagnation; actually there will then be long-term and intractable economic depression!
So while there are indeed some things of interest in the book Monopoly Capital, and some valid points, overall it still seems to me to be a Keynesian-influenced down-playing of how central and how serious the economic contradictions really are within the capitalist system. —S.H.
See also: STAGNATION THESIS
One of several names for the form capitalism has taken during the capitalist-imperialist era (starting in the late 19th century). It is also called capitalist-imperialism and finance capitalism. [More to be added... ]
A situation where there is only one single buyer for some particular commodity.
A form of religion, often viewed by biased contemporaries as a “higher stage” of religion, in which the doctrine holds that there is only a single God, rather than many gods (as in polytheism, such as among the ancient Greeks and Romans). It is usually said that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions, while Hinduism is not. However, the claim that Christianity, at least, is a monotheistic religion is essentially erroneous. First there is the totally incoherent notion of the “Trinity” among most Christians, that God is both a single god, while simultaneously being also three separate entities (“Father, Son [Jesus], and Holy Ghost”). Second, there is the claim that the “Devil” exists, who is in effect an evil god (though an inferior one). Finally, many Christians, including the largest group of them—the Roman Catholic Church—hold that there also exists the “Mother of God” [Mary], angels, and saints (humans raised to minor god-like status), all of which are claimed to have certain god-like attributes such as immateriality and immortality, and are said to “answer prayers”, and so on and so forth.
When people look at the world, even though mostly with a lack of scientific comprehension, they see multiple forces and agencies at work, and both good and evil, and it is very difficult for them to consistently fit these perceptions into the religious doctrine that one, and only one, supernatural god exists. For these reasons it may well be that virtually no religion is truly monotheistic, strictly speaking.
“Monsanto, the giant biotech corporation, owns the key genetic traits
in more than 90 percent of the soybeans planted by farmers in the United States and
80 percent of the corn. Its monopoly grew out of a carefully crafted strategy. It
patented its own genetically modified seeds, along with an herbicide that would kill
weeds but not soy and corn grown from its seeds. The herbicide and herbicide-resistant
seeds initially saved farmers time and money. But the purchase came with a catch that
would haunt them in the future: The soy and corn that grow from those seeds don’t
produce seeds of their own. So every planting season, farmers have to buy new seeds.
In addition, if the farmers have any seeds left over, they must agree not to save and
replant them in the future. In other words, once hooked, farmers have little choice
but to become permanent purchasers of Monsanto seed. To ensure its dominance, Monsanto
has prohibited seed dealers from stocking its competitors’ seeds and has bought up
most of the remaining seed companies.
“Not surprisingly, in less than fifteen years, most of America’s commodity crop farmers have become dependent on Monsanto. The result has been higher prices far beyond the cost-of-living rise. Since 2001, Monsanto has more than doubled the price of corn and soybean seeds. The average cost of planting one acre of soybeans increased 325 percent between 1994 and 2011, and the price of corn seed rose 259 percent. Another result has been a radical decline in the genetic diversity of the seeds we depend on. This increases the risk that disease or climate change might wipe out entire crops for years, if not forever. A third consequence has been the ubiquity of genetically modified traits in our food chain.
“At every stage, Monsanto’s growing economic power has enhanced its political power to shift the rules to its advantage, thereby adding to its economic power. Beginning with the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, and extending through a series of court cases, Monsanto has gained increased protection of its intellectual property in genetically engineered seeds. It has successfully fought off numerous attempts in Congress and in several states to require labeling of genetically engineered foods or to protect biodiversity. It has used its political muscle in Washington to fight moves in other nations to ban genetically enginered seed.
“To enforce and ensure dominance, the company has employed a phalanx of lawyers. They’ve sued other companies for patent infringement and sued farmers who want to save seed for replanting. Monsanto’s lawyers have also prevented independent scientists from studying its seeds, arguing that such inquiries infringe the company’s patents. You might think Monsanto’s overwhelming market power would make it a target of antitrust enforcement. Think again. In 2012, it succeeded in putting an end to a two-year investigation by the antitrust division of the Justice Department into Monsanto’s dominance of the seed industry.
“Monsanto has the distinction of spending more on lobbying—nearly $7 million in 2013 alone—than any other big agribusiness. And Monsanto’s former (and future) employees frequently inhabit top posts at the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department, they staff congressional committees that deal with agricultural policy, and they become advisors to congressional leaders and at the White House. Two Monsanto lobbyists are former congressman Vic Fazio and former senator Blanche Lincoln. Even Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was at one time an attorney for Monsanto. Monsanto, like any new monopoly, has strategically used its economic power to gain political power and used its political power to entrench its market power.”
—Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the U.S. government, in his book Saving Capitalism (2015), pp. 34-36. [Being a liberal reformer, Reich thinks it is both necessary and somehow possible to end this sort of monopoly controlled government without actually overthrowing capitalism, and in order to “save it”. —Ed.]
See: MOUNTAIN AND GIRONDE
MONTESQUIEU, Charles Louis (1689-1755)
Writer and thinker of the French Enlightenment, and political ideologist of having a constitutional monarchy. His major work was L’Esprit des Lois [The Spirit of the Laws] (1748).
An influential semi-socialist magazine in the United States, established by Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in 1949. After Huberman died, Harry Magdoff became a co-editor with Sweezy, and since Sweezy and Magdoff both died, it has been edited by John Bellamy Foster. Generally the best articles in the magazine are by the editors themselves, but—as editors—they have long had an unfortunate general tendency to open up their pages to a great many reformist and social democratic trends of thought. Still, there are also many useful and informative articles in the magazine.
We consider MR to be only a “semi-socialist” magazine, because—for one thing—the editors have never had an entirely clear idea what genuine socialism even is! This is evidenced by their failure to clearly understand that the Soviet Union was no longer socialist from the Khrushchev era until its demise in 1991. Similarly, the MR editors have been unable to recognize that neither Cuba nor China (since the death of Mao) are really socialist countries, at least not in the MLM sense of the word. (See my short essay on this, “What Is Socialism?” (Dec. 2014), at: https://www.massline.org/Politics/ScottH/WhatIsSocialism.pdf —S.H.)
“I would not call China capitalist. Major economic heights are nationally
owned and centrally planned. In addition, competition between private firms are not the
determinants of the economy’s laws of motion. (The latter is a key feature of a capitalist
society.) Nevertheless, the changes that have been taking place do increasingly take on features
of a capitalist society, plus being part of a trend moving more and more toward a society
resembling capitalism.” —Harry Magdoff, in a letter to Isabel Crook, Dec. 3, 2002, published
in Monthly Review, March 2021, p. 57.
[In the introduction to that letter, the current MR editor, John Bellamy Foster, says that Magdoff “saw China as a postrevolutionary society, neither socialist nor capitalist, but also having shifted in the direction of the latter.” And in Foster’s own “Notes from the Editor” (p. 62) he states something similar to this characterization as his own view: “China, ... which is neither entirely capitalist nor entirely socialist.” So here we have a view of what “socialism” is which is so vague and amorphous (and actually bourgeois social democratic!) that individual countries might even be simultaneously both socialist and capitalist, or perhaps in some “no man’s land” in between the two! In contrast, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist definition of socialism is quite clear and straightforward. Three conditions must hold: 1) Politically the country must be socialist: i.e., the working class must actually be in control; 2) Economically, the basic law must be “From each according to their ability, to each according to their labor.”; and 3) The society must be in a genuine transformation process away from capitalism and towards communism. Magdoff and Foster seem to pay attention only to the economic criteria, and even that they have basically wrong. They focus mainly on the question of state ownership of industry and seem to have never heard of such a possibility as state capitalism! Moreover they seem totally blind to the fact that China is now also a major capitalist-imperialist country. Instead they put forth their silly notion of China as a “postrevolutionary society” which is either “both socialist and capitalist” or else neither the one nor the other. What a pathetic liberal analysis! (See the above mentioned essay, “What is Socialism?”, for more on this from an MLM perspective.) —S.H.]
MONTHLY REVIEW SCHOOL
This is not a formal school, but a loose collection of political economists centered around the Monthly Review magazine (see above). Most of these economists are quite eclectic in their views and are especially strongly influenced by Keynes and Keynesianism to one degree or another, as well as by Marx. While some of the economic views and comments by Paul Sweezy and the others associated with the MR School are interesting and worth consideration, it should never be forgotten that their overall perspective is an attempted blending of Marxism with bourgeois political economy of the Keynesian variety.
See also: MONOPOLY CAPITAL (Book), STAGNATION THESIS, Paul SWEEZY, Paul BARAN, Harry MAGDOFF, John Bellamy FOSTER
“Nothing that has been said should be taken as belittling the importance
of Keynes’ work. Moreover, there has been no intention to imply that Marxists ‘know it all’
and have nothing to learn from Keynes and his followers. I have no doubt that Keynes is the
greatest British (or American) economist since Ricardo, and I think the work of his school
sheds a flood of light on the functioning of the capitalist economy. I think there is a great
deal in Marx—especially in the unfinished later volumes of Capital and in the Theorien
über den Mehrwert [Theories of Surplus Value]—which takes on a new meaning and
fits into its proper place when read in the light of the Keynesian contributions. Moreover, at
least in Britain and the United States, the Keynesians are far better trained and equipped
technically (for instance in the very important sphere of gathering and interpreting statistical
data) than Marxist economists, and as matters now stand there is no doubt which group can learn
more from the other.” —Paul Sweezy, “John Maynard Keynes”, Science and Society magazine,
Fall 1946, p. 404. (Written shortly after the death of Keynes in April 1946.)
[This promotion of Keynesian economics within Marxism, and the blending of the two together, has characterized the Monthly Review School from the start. It shows the severe limits and possibilities for this trend of thought. —S.H.]
MONUMENT TO THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL
A proposed ultra-modernistic monument by the Constructivist artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin. He constructed a 6 meter high model which was exhibited in Moscow in 1920, but the proposed 400 meter version—higher than the Eiffel Tower!—was never built. This design became very famous worldwide among those enthusiastic about abstract modern art.
See: MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES
MOON — Capitalism On
“[T]he original race [to the moon] was seen as a crucial test of whether capitalism or central planning was the better economic system (though NASA’s effort was probably the most centrally planned civilian operation in the history of the United States).” —“The New Space Race”, The Economist, Jan. 20, 2018, p. 15.
“A return to the moon could also inspire the next generation and
advance technology just as Apollo did—but do so in a sustainable, stepwise manner.
The taxpayer needs to see a return on investment for this endeavor and not only in
technology development. For example, a spacecraft-refueling depot orbiting the
moon—supplied with fuel refined from lunar resources, privately operated and selling
its products to various space agencies—is one commercial on-ramp to bring the moon
into our economic sphere of influence.” —Clive Neal, “A Return to the Moon is
Crucial”, Scientific American, July 2016, p.8.
[The capitalists have not even quite finished destroying the Earth, and yet they are already looking to extend their system of exploitation and environmental destruction to the moon and then to other planets! —S.H.]
MOORE, G. E. [George Edward] (1873-1958)
English idealist philosopher. In ethics he was an intuitionist who believed the word ‘good’ is indefinable.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Moore.
MOORE, Samuel (1838-1911)
English lawyer and member of the (First) International, and friend of Marx and Engels. He translated into English Vol. 1 of Marx’s Capital (in collaboration with Edward Aveling) and also the Manifesto of the Communist Party.
The word ‘moral’ is often a slightly more formal near synonym for either ‘good’ or ‘right’, depending on the context. Thus “He’s a moral person” means something very nearly the same as “He’s a good person”.
MORAL HAZARD (In bourgeois economics)
A variety of related views, such as:
1) The problem that having insurance can cause people to behave in more risky ways. (This is bad from the perspective of the bourgeoisie not because it increases the risk of harm to people, but because it increases the chances that they will collect insurance, thus leading to rising insurance premiums.)
2) Government bailouts of failing companies (even if there was no previous promise that this would occur), which amounts to a form of insurance payment anyway, and tends to increase the chances that companies will act imprudently (stupidly!) again in the future. This should lead bourgeois economists to oppose government bailouts, but most of them find some special excuse to make an exception when the matter comes up in any major way—such as at the present time with the trillions of dollars being given to banks that recklessly invested in “securities” based on highly risky sub-prime mortgages.
A general rule about what is right or wrong, such as “Lying is wrong.” According to Kantian ethics, such moral maxims are absolutes, and must always be followed regardless of the circumstances or the specific consequences. But more rational people understand that there are times when lying is not wrong (and even occasions when it is morally wrong not to lie!). Therefore, more rational people treat virtually all moral maxims not as absolutes, but rather more like “rules of thumb” which are generally valid, but not invariably so. On this conception, moral maxims must be evaluated in the particular situation, and by ascertaining if they agree or conflict with more general moral principles, and especially the most central moral principle: something is good and right only if it answers to (or satisfies) the interests (or meets the needs) of the people.
See also: CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
1. Conformity to the standards of right conduct.
2. The norms, standards, principles or rules of right conduct themselves.
3. Ethics, although most philosophers (Marxist and non-Marxist alike) try to keep the concepts of ethics and morality separate, with ethics being the theory behind any system of morality.
MORALITY — As Viewed by Different Classes
[To be added... ]
“But how do things stand today? What morality is preached to us today?
There is first Christian-feudal morality, inherited from earlier religious times; and
this is divided, essentially, into a Catholic and a Protestant morality, each of which
has no lack of subdivisions, from the Jesuit-Catholic and Othodox-Protestant to loose
‘enlightened’ moralities. Alongside these we find the modern-bourgeois morality and
beside it also the proletarian morality of the future, so that in the most advanced
European countries alone the past, present and future provide three great groups of
moral theories which are in force simultaneously and alongside each other. Which, then,
is the true one? Not one of them, in the sense of absolute finality; but certainly
that morality contains the maximum elements promising permanence which, in the present,
represents the overthrow of the present, represents the future, and that is proletarian
“But when we see that the three classes of modern society, the feudal aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, each have a morality of their own, we can only draw the one conclusion: that men, consciously or unconsciously, derive their ethical ideas in the last resort from the practical relations in which they carry on production and exchange.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:86-87.
MORALITY — and Capitalism
[Intro to be added...]
Many of the most determined defenders of capitalism have argued that morality has no place whatsoever in capitalist business. Milton Friedman, for example, argued that the doctrine of “social responsibility”, that corporations should care about the community and not just profit, is highly subversive to the capitalist system and can only lead towards “totalitarianism”!
[In a free market capitalist economy] “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits...” —Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962), ch. 8, p. 133. Friedman strongly reaffirmed this bourgeois point of view in his 6-page essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”, The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 13, 1970.
MORALITY — Common Elements of Different Class Moralities
[Intro to be added... ]
See also the discussion in the entry “CENTRAL PROBLEM” OF THE MLM THEORY OF ETHICS
“But nevertheless there is [a] great deal which the three moral theories mentioned above have in common — is this not at least a portion of a morality which is fixed once and for all? — These moral theories represent three different stages of the same historical development, have therefore a common historical background, and for that reason alone they necessarily have much in common. Even more. At similar or approximately similar stages of economic development moral theories must of necessity be more or less in agreement. From the moment when private ownership of movable property developed, all societies in which this private ownership existed had to have this moral injunction in common: Thou shalt not steal. Does this injunction thereby become an eternal moral injunctions? By no means. In a society in which all motives for stealing have been done away with, in which therefore at the very most only lunatics would ever steal, how the preacher of morals would be laughed at who tried solemnly to proclaim the eternal truth: Thou shalt not steal!” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:87.
MORALITY — Supposedly Unchanging
[To be added... ]
“We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality. A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:87-88.
A word in Hindi and related languages meaning “front”. In India the word morcha does not have the negative connotations that the word ‘front’ has in politics in the U.S. (i.e., as an organization secretly dominated by some political party), and many organizations have the word morcha as part of their name.
See: DEATH RATE
A loan (from a bank or other financial company) for the purpose of buying a house (or other real estate), and for which the property itself serves as the security for the loan. If the person buying the house fails at any time to make the interest payments due on the mortgage, the bank may foreclose on the loan and take ownership of the house (which it will then sell to someone else).
See also: ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM), NEGATIVE AMORTIZATION LOAN, REVERSE MORTGAGE, SUB-PRIME MORTGAGE
MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITY (MBS)
A special type of “bond” (or financial investment) which is backed by mortgages on homes or other property. In other words, the interest paid on these securities comes from the mortgage payments by home owners, and if home owners are unable to make their mortgage payments, the value of these MBS’s can collapse fast. Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs), which played such a shady role in the events leading up to the Great Recession of 2007-9, are one type of MBS.
MOSADDEGH, Mohammad [Pronounced, roughly: mo-sad-DECK] (1882-1967)
Nationalist prime minister of Iran, elected in 1951 and serving until August 19, 1953 when he was overthrown in a coup d’état organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Mosaddegh, who was from an aristocratic family, was actually quite conservative, and was opposed to communism and any type of “socialism”. But he was also a nationalist who opposed foreign intervention in Iran and who believed the national resources of the country (including its oil) should belong to Iranians and not foreigners. He also favored some bourgeois democratic reforms such as ending forced feudal labor on landlords’ estates.
The Iranian oil industry had been controlled since 1913 by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), later renamed British Petroleum, and then BP. When Mosaddegh tried to nationalize AIOC, the British imperialists and their American allies began falsely calling him “pro-Soviet” and “pro-Communist”. Winston Churchill, for example, said that Mosaddegh was “increasingly turning towards communism”. Determined not to lose their imperialist control of Iranian oil, Britain’s spy agency (MI6) arranged with the U.S. CIA to organize a coup to overthrow Mosaddegh. The chief of the CIA’s Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (the grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt) then went to Tehran and directed the coup, which the CIA called “Operation Ajax”. The fact that by their own bourgeois standards Mosaddegh had been democratically elected didn’t bother them in the least. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years and then kept under house arrest until his death.
This CIA coup restored the absolute monarchy of Shah Pahlavi, who ruled in a viciously tyranical manner with the aid of his secret police organization SAVAK until he himself was overthrown in 1979.
MOTION (Change of Position)
From the standpoint of classical physics, motion is a simple thing. Motion just means that an object (whether it be an electron, an atom, or a multitude of such particles making up a large conglomerate object such as a rock, a baseball, or a planet) changes its location (with respect to other objects) over time. Thus, if a car is heading from east to west, the measure of its average velocity during some interval (and hence the overall motion of the car during that interval) is the direction and distance traveled from one given point to another specific point divided by the time it takes to go from the first point to the second. And its instantaneous velocity, or velocity at a given instant or point in time, is defined as the limit of the average velocity in ever smaller intervals around the point of time in question. All this is elementary, and straightforward, and causes no serious conceptual difficulties once the mathematical concept of a limit is understood.
Thus the quantitative aspects of motion on the macro level, in the sense of the simple change of position of an ordinary object over time, are fairly easy to understand. (But see also: NEWTON’S THREE LAWS OF MOTION) However, to deeply comprehend what is actually physically happening at a sub-atomic level when an object physically moves may well be a much more complicated thing, which perhaps as yet no one understands. What does it mean physically at the sub-atomic level for an object to move at all? Does it make any sense to ask what it means to move from one spot “to the very next spot”? Or are space and time absolutely continuous (in reality and not just conceptually) so that there is no such thing as two minimally adjacent locations and two minimally adjacent moments of time? The answers to these questions still seem to be unclear and unsettled. There are scientific theories that maintain that the “Planck length” (10-20 of the diameter of a single proton) is the smallest distance which is meaningful in physics. If this is really the case, then motion might perhaps consist of a series of jumps each of which is some discrete number of “Planck lengths”. And presumably to really clarify what motion ultimately is, we would have to be able to say precisely what happens physically (to some object and to space itself) when the object traverses one or more Planck lengths. Or putting it all another way, can we be absolutely sure we understand exactly what motion is unless we are sure what space (or space-time) itself is, whether or not it is discrete or continuous at some super-tiny level, and how space and particles interact at that level?
Philosophically, the point is not really to engage in speculation about quantized space (or space-time), but simply to point out that from a philosophical perspective it is still possible to be puzzled about what space and motion actually are. Motion, in the sense of simple change of position, may or may not turn out to be the totally simple thing that it is assumed to be in everyday common sense, or that it is represented to be in introductory physics classes.
MOTION — Dialectics Of
Motion, in the general Marxist philosophical sense, refers not simply to the change of position of one piece of matter, but to any type of change since all change involves motion of one sort or another. As has so often been said, the world consists of matter in motion. The concept of motion in this abstract dialectical sense may indeed be one of the deepest philosophical categories to explore.
Engels wrote that “motion, as applied to matter, is change in general.” [Engels: Dialectics of Nature, Moscow, 1974, p. 247.] But if “motion”, in the context of dialectics, just means change, then why not simply use the word “change” (or perhaps even better, change and development) instead of the somewhat vaguer word “motion”?! Well, we can indeed use the word “change” if we want, and that is something that many of us now prefer to do in place of this abstract and dated-sounding term “motion”. But we also have to recognize that many of the terms used in philosophy, even in the latest and most up-to-date Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophy, were created long ago, and to read and understand older discussions we have to also understand the older terminology. Moreover, oftentimes the older terminology remains the most common in contemporary usage, for reasons of tradition. This is even true of the word “contradiction” itself despite the fact that the word “opposition” would actually be better and less confusing term today in many discussions of dialectics.
“To be ignorant of motion is to be ignorant of Nature.” —Aristotle, quoted in Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter, (NY: Penguin, 2000), p. 30.
“Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute, of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe, from mere change of place right up to thinking. The investigation of the nature of motion had as a matter of course to start from the lowest, simplest forms of this motion and to learn to grasp these before it could achieve anything in the way of explanation of the higher and more complicated forms. Hence, in the historical development of the natural sciences we see how first of all the theory of simplest change of place, the mechanics of heavenly bodies and terrestrial masses, was developed; it was followed by the theory of molecular motion, physics, and immediately afterwards, almost alongside of it and in some places in advance of it, the science of the motion of atoms, chemistry. Only after these different branches of the knowledge of the forms of motion governing non-living nature had attained a high degree of development could the explanation of the processes of motion representing the life process be successfully tackled.” —Engels, Dialectics of Nature (1873-1882), “Basic Forms of Motion”, MECW 25:362.
“The concept of motion, too, is important for all of modern science, including
physics and Marxist-Leninist philosophy. As a result of scientific generalization from the
history of cognition, from the achievements of social and natural sciences by Marxist
philosophers, it has been proved that matter and motion are inseparately linked, that motion
is the form of matter’s being. Engels wrote: ‘Matter without motion is just as inconceivable
as motion without matter.’ [Anti-Dühring, Moscow, 1975, p. 76.] Matter has never
existed without motion and cannot so exist.
“Even in antiquity, the philosophers of India, China and Greece made a number of brilliant guesses to the effect that the objective world is in motion, undergoes change and development, that motion is an inalienable property of everything that exists, an attribute of matter. Heraclitus’ dicta on motion (everything flows, everything changes, there is nothing immovable), on opposites and their role in nature’s changes, make an exceptionally strong impression even today. Marx, Engels and Lenin considered Heraclitus a brilliant spokesman of the spontaneous dialectic of the ancient Greeks. Engels, for example, stressed that, according to Heraclitus, everything is in a continual process of emergence and disappearance.
“The materialists of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially La Mettri, Diderot and Helvetius, made a major contribution to the doctrine of motion, repeatedly asserting that matter is unthinkable without motion, that motion is matter’s mode of existence.
“Hegel has a special place in the elaboration of the doctrine of motion. Though on an idealist basis he overcame the metaphysical and mechanistic limitations of his predecessors’ ideas on motion and showed that contradictions are the source of all motion; he discovered and gave philosophical generalization to the most general laws of motion.
“Marx and Engels, in creating dialectical materialism, showed that ‘motion, as applied to matter, is change in general’ [Engels: Dialectics of Nature, Moscow, 1974, p. 247.] Motion is the unity of opposites: of the absolute and the relative, of stability and changeability, of discontinuity and continuity. Motion is the unity of opposites—change and rest."
—V. S. Gott, This Amazing, Amazing, Amazing, but Knowable Universe, (Moscow: Progress, 1977 [original Russian ed. 1974]), pp. 50-51. Gott was a Soviet philosopher of science.
“[T]he question is not whether there is movement, but how to express it in the logic of concepts.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:256.
“Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of
position can only come about through a body being at one and the same moment of time
both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in
it. And the continuous origination and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is
precisely what motion is.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:111.
[Here I must disagree with Engels and the old Hegelian way of expressing all this. Motion (movement in position) is indeed a dialectical contradiction, but is is not a logical contradiction. That is, while there are opposing forces at work which lead to movement, the moving thing is, at any one instant, and from the point of view of formal logic, not actually both in one specific place and simultaneously not in that one place! The world consists of dialectical contradictions, not of formal logical contradictions. Hegel and other idealists confused and blended the two conceptions, and—unfortunately—Engels and other Marxists have, on occasion, themselves done the same thing. In part this was due to the undeveloped, confused and idealist state of the presentation of calculus in their day. (See: “Engels’s Confusion of Logical contradiction with Dialectical Contradiction” (Nov. 19, 2018), online at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/Dialectics/Engels'sConfusionOfLogicalContradictionWithDialecticalContradiction-181119.pdf ) However, it is also possible that some sensible physical interpretation of what it might mean for a body to be “in one and the same place” and also “not be in it” may someday be put forward, either within quantum mechanics or in some other conceptual framework. In other words, what appears on the surface here to be a logical contradiction might conceivably yet turn out to be a high-level characterization of some deep physical process. What a fascinating result that would be! Even so, it would still not actually be a real logical contradiction. —S.H.]
A traditional unit of land measurement in China equaling about 1/6 of an acre.
A Memorandum of Understanding, which is usually an agreement among governments, and/or between a government and one or more private corporations, and which is similar in nature to a bourgeois legal contract. The term MoU is currently especially common in India, where the central and state governments have frequently signed such agreements with giant corporations (including MNCs) allowing them to steal the land and resources of tribal peoples (adivasis).
Joshua Moufawad-Paul (henceforth “JMP”) is a (purported) Marxist-Leninist-Maoist academic at York University in Toronto, Canada, who also administers the “MLM Mayhem!” website.
While JMP has written extensively in defense of MLM and has dispelled various misunderstandings and outright lies about it, his books and articles suffer from being written in pretentious and high-sounding language (something upheld as a feature rather than a flaw among many academic “Marxists”), and are obviously written to appeal to a petty-bourgeois academic audience much more than to the broad masses of people. It is of course often necessary to write documents directed at people who are well-versed in Marxist terminology, especially when discussing theoretical points of debate and correct political line, but if one’s writings are only ever directed at “people in the know”, there is something amiss, and it is rather striking that JMP hardly ever writes in a way that is really comprehensible to the masses of people. And even many people who are well-versed in the terminology and special categories of the revolutionary science of Marxism will often find it difficult to wade through much of what he writes, given that the terminology he uses is an eclectic mish-mash from different schools of philosophy. This is symptomatic of much of academic “Marxism”, and is by itself an important qualifier to JMP’s claim of being an authentic Maoist.
Perhaps most gratuitously, he has also embraced the “universality of protracted peoples war”, a position that is quite common among Maoists today but that can only be sustained by diluting PPW of its specific concrete content that distinguishes it from other revolutionary strategies. In order to contend that PPW is an appropriate strategy applicable to an advanced capitalist country such as Canada, JMP essentially washes out the difference between the general (the “protracted process” of the Russian Revolution) and the particular (the protracted military struggle which is specific to PPW). That both the Russian and Chinese revolutions were protracted processes does not in any way actually lead to the conclusion that the former is an example of PPW. Of course, these revolutions did indeed share many aspects (including, importantly, the presence and essential role of armed struggle, which nevertheless took on a qualitatively much greater role in the Chinese case), but this does not at all mean that they were “basically the same”.
Unfortunately, some Maoists, partly motivated by petty-bourgeois impetuosity and adventurism, are unwilling to bother with investigations that properly identify the general, universal aspects of past revolutionary struggles and their relation to the specific aspects that are not universal. These people proclaim their “Maoism” by taking one of Mao’s contributions to revolutionary theory (namely, PPW and its successful implementation in China), and then dogmatically and mechanically applying it to all contexts. Mao himself urged against viewing PPW as an appropriate strategy to be used everywhere and at all times, and instead clearly explained why Marxism-Leninism needs to be creatively applied in the particular conditions of a particular country. In doing this, he analyzed the differences between Russia and China and correctly concluded that the “October Road” of urban insurrection, which was appropriate in Russia, was not appropriate in China. Despite the appalling set-back suffered by the Communist Party of China when they did try to implement urban insurrection, many “Marxist-Leninists”, particularly Trotskyists, have persisted in denouncing Mao and the Chinese communists whom he led for “deviating” from the “proper” October Road strategy! This error is just as dogmatic and idealist as the one made by JMP and other enthusiasts of the universality of PPW. JMP’s dogmatic rejection of tailoring tactics and strategy to the concrete conditions and washing out the differences between the general and the particular is doubly ironic given his own denunciation of dogmatism and his strong urging to avoid treating MLM like a set of religion.
(It should be noted that he does at least acknowledge the rift within MLM over the universality of PPW and does not claim that adopting the affirmative stance is required for one to be a Maoist; he claims that the universality of PPW is “only a hypothesis at this stage”. However, this “reasonable” position itself contains an element of obfuscation: it distracts people from seeing MLM as an evolving science which requires serious investigation before coming to a hypothesis, and instead allows for clearly erroneous ideas to be brought forward which are then meant to be “put to the test”! This irresponsible stance is a major abdication of the responsibility to not waste everyone’s time with erroneous formulations that will have harmful consequences for revolutionary struggles.)
JMP writes that he “upholds the legacy” of the Red Brigades and other urban guerilla/focoist groups in of the 1970s and 80s. While acknowledging that focoism and armed propaganda/urban guerilla warfare are not the same as PPW, one must question why he “upholds the legacy” of such obviously wrong tendencies. When assessing someone like Che Guevara, Maoists can certainly uphold and pay tribute to his courage and selfless devotion as things to emulate, but this cannot be a substitute for an objective evaluation of what is also wrong in Guevarism as a revolutionary strategy. Upholding the sincerity and courage of a particular personality or even group or movement does not at all mean crediting their particular approach to revolution. JMP simply states that he “upholds the legacy” of armed revisionism without qualifying just what he means by this. This betrays a sort of liberalism on his part. The inadequacy of the strategies of urban terrorism and armed propaganda, which largely corresponded in their general outlook with the aims of focoism, was already known to and correctly criticized by Lenin, who saw that the Russian anarchists and their line of “propaganda by the deed” would not and could not “shock” the masses into revolutionary action. Likewise, sweeping claims about the applicability of PPW to the advanced capitalist countries, where the state is able to deploy its armed forces in literally a matter of hours to any part of the country to put down threats to “social stability” (bourgeois rule), is petty-bourgeois adventurism and juvenile posturing (indeed, it is an example of “left-wing” phrase mongering of precisely the sort that Mao fought against).
Given the consistency of these deviations among JMP and some other self-styled “Maoists”, one can conclude that they are not really grasping the essence of the theory and practice they claim to be promoting. To summarize: they uphold the “universality” of a strategy which clearly has no such universality; they blur the distinction between the general and the particular in their evaluation of an appropriate revolutionary strategy, thus adopting the error of dogmatism; they “uphold the legacy” of groups following a strategic line that did nothing to advance the cause of revolution, let alone succeed in seizing state power (except in the rather lucky break of the Cuban Revolution); and their writings are crammed with pretentious and purposely (one must assume) difficult-to-penetrate language designed to give their musings an air of profundity.
Arguably, such posturing stances are born of an emotional desire to “jump-start” and seek short-cuts to revolution, but this itself betrays yet another shortcoming: not wanting to patiently engage with the masses and their concrete struggles, and seeing such things as a nuisance or a “waste of time”, as though Maoists are “above” such things (the masses, by implication, must therefore be “beneath” the exertions of these “Maoists”). This anti-people attitude is a dead-end, and those who subscribe to it will invariably discover this on those occasions when they do come into contact with the masses and do try to promote revolutionary ideas; such encounters will be painfully awkward, not least because the masses will correctly perceive the condescending overtones of phrase-mongering “rescuers”, swooping down from their academic ivory towers and issuing fancy sounding proclamations about “Gonzalo thought” and other as-yet indecipherable phrases to workers awash in bourgeois culture and who mostly lack even a rudimentary understanding of revolutionary politics. The self-proclaimed “Maoist revolutionaries”, in turn, will become frustrated, demoralized and resentful when the masses “just don’t get it”, and will ultimately feel “betrayed” by the masses and even denounce them as “unworthy” of the “brilliant” theoretical “contributions” they were ungratefully bestowed with — yet in still another dialectical twist, it is actually the masses who are “getting” it a whole lot more than they are!
Even the name of JMP’s website, “MLM Mayhem!”, betrays a kind of petty-bourgeois outlook tinged with notions of bravado and adventurism, as though the point of MLM is to “fuck shit up” or to engage in random philosophical musings on the Internet (what, after all, is the point of including the word “mayhem” in the name of a website that purports to develop and synthesize scientific theory for guiding the masses towards revolutionary action? What actual role can “mayhem” play in this?). Too many communists and progressive people, especially youth who are attracted to the vulgar aesthetic appeals of bourgeois culture, reduce MLM to something akin to a commercial brand which they swear allegiance to because it is “cool” but which they have little time for in terms of concretely investigating and practicing it. —L.C.
See also: “Protracted People’s War is Not a Universal Strategy for Revolution”, by the Mass Proletariat organization, Jan. 19, 2018, online at: http://www.massproletariat.info/writings/2018-01-19-ppw-not-universal.html This extensive article provides a careful and scientific MLM critique of the “universality of PPW” thesis, and includes a section specifically criticizing JMP on this and on some other of his erroneous views.
MOUNTAIN AND GIRONDE
La Montagne [the Mountain] and Gironde are two different Departments (administrative regions) of France. In the great French Revolution a group known as the Montagnards (from La Montagne) arose and formed a more determined revolutionary opposition to the irresolute bourgeois revolutionary forces from the Gironde. Although originally the “Mountain” consisted of diverse political forces, they soon came to be characterized as uncompromising men of action, and included such important revolutionary figures as Jean-Paul Marat, Georges-Jacques Danton, and Maximilien Robespierre. The Montagnards gained control of the Jacobin Club, and the terms “Jacobin” and “Montagnard” become virtually synonymous. The Mountain dominated the National Convention and Committee of Public Safety, and imposed what came to be called “The Terror”. The Mountain split into different factions, including the faction led by Danton which favored an alliance with the masses, and the proponents of The Terror led by Robespierre. After Robespierre’s execution the group dissolved.
After the February Revolution of 1848 in France, the Mountain was briefly reborn as the left-wing faction of the national Assembly.
“The Mountain (la Montagne) and the Gironde were
the names of two political groupings of the bourgeoisie at the time of the French
bourgeois revolution of the end of the eighteenth century. The Mountain—the Jacobins—was
the name given to the more determined representatives of the revolutionary class of the
time—the bourgeoisie—who advocated the abolition of absolutism and feudalism. Unlike
the Jacobins, the Girondists wavered between revolution and counter-revolution, and
entered into deals with the monarchy.
“Lenin called the opportunist trend in Social-Democracy the ‘socialist Gironde’, and the revolutionary Social-Democrats—proletarian Jacobins, the ‘Mountain’. After the R.S.D.L.P. split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Lenin frequently stressed that the Mensheviks were the Girondist trend in the working-class movement in Russia.” —Note 96, Lenin, SW1 (1967).
MOVEMENT — Dialectics Of
See: MOTION—Dialectics Of
See: MACHINE TRACTOR STATION
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