TRADE — Terms Of
See: PREBISCH THESIS (or SINGER-PREBISCH THESIS)
TRADE UNIONISM (As Merely Reformist Struggle)
[To be added... ]
See also: LABOR UNIONS
“For a number of years the English workers’ movement has been going round and round bootlessly in a confined circle of strikes for wages and the reduction of working hours—not, mark you, as an expedient and a means of propaganda and organization, but as the ultimate aim. Both on principle and statutorily the trades unions actually exclude any political action and hence participation in any general activity on the part of the working class as a class. Politically the workers are divided into Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, into supporters of a Disraeli (Beaconsfield) administration and supporters of a Gladstone administration. So one can speak of a workers’ movement here only to the extent that strikes take place which, victorious or otherwise, do not advance the movement by one single step. In my view only harm can come of inflating strikes such as these into struggles of world-historical importance (as does the Freiheit here), strikes which were, moreover, as often as not deliberately engineered by the capitalists in the late years of depression so as to have an excuse for closing down their factories, strikes in which the working class makes no progress whatsoever. No attempt should be made to conceal the fact that at this moment a genuine workers’ movement in the continental sense is non-existent here...” —Engels, draft of a letter to Eduard Bernstein, June 17, 1879, MECW 45:360-1.
“... any subservience to the spontaneity of the mass movement and any degrading of Social-Democratic [Communist] politics to the level of trade-unionist politics mean preparing the ground for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy. The spontaneous working-class movement is by itself able to create (and inevitably does create) only trade-unionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics is precisely working-class bourgeois politics. The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle, and even in the [bourgeois democratic] political revolution, does not in itself make its politics Social-Democratic [socialist/communist] politics.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:437.
Economic measures and conflict between countries designed to limit or harm the foreign trade of the other countries for the benefit of the corporations in the home country. This is done by establishing or raising tariffs to keep foreign products out of the home market (in order to increase the size of the market and especially the profits for local manufacturers); through establishing various other artificial barriers to international competition (such as unreasonable technical requirements for products and their sale); through currency manipulations; or even by establishing quotas or outright prohibitions on the import or export of certain commodities (called trade barriers).
Trade wars have become even more serious in the modern capitalist-imperialist era, becoming especially intense at times of growing economic problems such as during periods when an international capitalist overproduction crisis is intensifying—as it is again at present. Each capitalist country attempts to take out its own worsening economic problems by shifting the harm to the others. The net result is usually to intensify the harm done to all the counries involved. Trade wars often involve a series of tit-for-tat reprisals in response to the actions of the other side.
See also below.
TRADE WAR — Between the U.S. and China (2018-?)
After brooding over the idea for several months, on July 6, 2018 the Trump administration in the United States launched a trade war with China. At first this new trade war seemed to be relatively minor, with modest tariffs of 10% or so covering only a portion of China’s manufactured goods being imported into the U.S. It was apparently originally started and intended by Trump only for the purpose of putting pressure on China to take steps to reduce the unfavorable imbalance of trade levels (with the U.S buying far more from China than China buys from the U.S.). The U.S. buys more from China because Chinese goods are much less expensive. But while trying to work out an agreement, China put equivalent tariffs on some of the U.S. goods being sold in that country. This provoked Trump to extend the tariffs on Chinese goods to many more products and to raise the tariff rate to 25%. Again, China retaliated. (There have already been several temporary truces, which have not held for long.)
At one point it seemed that an agreement was close which would lead to the cancellation of most of the new tariffs on both sides. But Trump backed out at the last minute, blaming China for the collapse of the talks. At present (late June 2019) it now seems that Trump (with the general support of the Democrats as well as the Republicans—almost the entire U.S. ruling class is united on this!) is set to extend and intensify this developing trade war on a more or less permanent basis. Even if some sort of agreement is come to, it will almost certainly be limited and/or temporary.
What lies behind this U.S.-China trade war, which—after the very negative experiences of trade wars during the Great Depression of the 1930s—the bourgeoisies of the world have long promised they would never fall into again? It is merely yet another battle, yet another stage, in the unending contention and struggle between imperialist powers, economic and otherwise. There have been signs of deep and growing fears within the American capitalist-imperialist ruling class as they watch their own gradual decline and the rapid rise of China. The Chinese capitalist-imperialist economy has powerfully emerged and become ever more competitive with the U.S., especially since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. In fact, in reality, China’s economy has now surpassed the size of that in the U.S. when measured in the more rational purchasing power parety (PPP) terms. (In the U.S. the government and the media still prefer to use comparisons of the two economics at prevailing currency exchange rates, under which the U.S. is “still in the lead”, even though China actually produces more goods than the U.S. does.) In short, the new trade war launched by the U.S. is one of a series of acts of desperation to try to hang onto their position at the apex of the world imperialism. There will in the future certainly be even more desperate such acts, including more generalized economic war, proxy wars, and quite possibly even the launching by the U.S. of a third inter-imperialist world war. (Which, if it happens, humanity will be extremely lucky to survive.)
How serious is this new trade war for the U.S., Chinese and world economies? It is quite serious. Tariffs are in effect taxes on consumers, and so the working class and poor in particular will further suffer from this trade war. People will be able to afford to buy even fewer goods than they now can. (Which of course already falls way, way below their real needs in most cases.) But the trade war will also seriously harm the economy as a whole including corporate profits both in the U.S. and China. For example, the globalized production system developed over the past few decades will certainly be disrupted in a major way. The trade war cannot be blamed for economic problems which existed before it was launched—and which still continue and would inevitably become much worse before too long even if there were no trade war. But it can nevertheless make those economic problems worse, both now and even later on when they will be truly horrendous already. The more immediate question is whether this will soon become an all-out, no-holds-barred trade war, or if, because of some temporary and partial agreements it will take a longer time to get quite that extreme.
This new trade war between the U.S. and China should best be thought of as part of more general economic warfare between the two imperialist powers. Future historians, if any there be, might well also view the launching of this trade war as marking a significant escalation of the developing new Cold War between the U.S. and China.
“The US government has continued to collect tens of billions in tariffs despite an agreement to defuse a tit-for-tat trade dispute between the US and China. Additional tariff revenue increased by $46 billion from the start of the trade war in February 2018 through November 2019, according to new data. A National Bureau of Economic Research paper released this week said that ‘approximately 100 percent’ of tariffs had been paid by American buyers.” —Geena Heeb, in an article on the “Business Insider” web page, Jan. 9, 2020.
TRADE WARS — Interwar Period (1930s)
During this period, and especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the trade wars between capitalist-imperialist countries became quite intense. It is correctly thought that this served to aggravate the severity of the Depression, though it is also incorrect to think that this was a major “cause” of the Depression in the first place, as some bourgeois economists have claimed.
Looking back at this experience after the Great Depression was over, bourgeois economists—almost to a man (and most of them have indeed been men)—promised themselves that they would “never again” make this same error of worsening world economic problems through trade wars. However, as the current long-developing world capitalist overproduction crisis gets more and more serious, the imperialist nations of the world are once again engaging in ever more dangerous trade wars. Bourgeois economists just can’t help themselves, partly because they don’t know what else to do.
“What precisely were the causes and consequences of the trade wars in
the 1930s? Were there perhaps deeper forces at work in reorienting global trade prior to
the outbreak of World War II? And what lessons may this particular historical episode
provide for the present day? To answer these questions, we distinguish between long-run
secular trends in the period from 1920 to 1939 related to the formation of trade blocs
(in particular, the British Commonwealth) and short-run disruptions associated with the
trade wars of the 1930s (in particular, large and widespread declines in bilateral trade,
the narrowing of trade imbalances, and sharp drops in average traded distances). We argue
that the trade wars mainly served to intensify efforts towards the formation of trade
blocs which dated from at least 1920. More speculatively, we argue that the trade wars
of the present day may serve a similar purpose as those in the 1930s, that is, the
intensification of China and US-centric trade blocs.” —Summary of the paper, “Trade
Blocs and Trade Wars during the Interwar Period”, by the bourgeois economists David S.
Jacks and Dennis Novy, NBER Working Paper No. 25830, May 2019.
[It seems to me that this paper makes a valid point: Just as the trade wars of the 1930s (brought about because of the Depression) served to speed up and advance the already developing separate trade blocs in the world, so the new trade war between the U.S. and China (brought about by the currently worsening world economic problems) is virtually inevitably leading to the intensification and speeding up of the creation of new trade blocs led by the U.S. or China. However, the authors don’t seem to recognize just how much more prolonged and serious this is this time around. There are not just two different and opposed trade blocs forming, but rather the splitting of the entire existing world imperialist system into two more or less separate systems, each of which will have its own set of international agencies and rules.
[More generally, economic crises can indeed promote and advance many underlying trends which already exist. Including, not just the trends toward fascism and war, but also, just perhaps, the deepest of these trends of all—the underlying trend toward the total obsolescence and termination of the capitalist mode of production. —S.H.]
TRADITION and TRADITIONAL IDEAS
“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” —Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm
TRANCHE [Capitalist Finance]
[From French, meaning slice.]
1. A portion of a loan, investment, or sale of securities. As in “The first tranche of the new series of bonds issued by the corporation came to $100 million; the second and third tranches will be $75 million each.”
2. [In the context of mortgage-backed securities and CDO’s:] Portions of the CDO’s issued which are differentiated on the basis of the supposed safety of the underlying mortgages or other debt. Thus the “senior tranche” will be the portion of the securities which are backed up by the mortgages which are least likely to be defaulted on. Then there is the “mezzanine” tranche, with a greater risk of default, followed by the “equity” tranche (or “residual” or “first loss” tranche), which are the CDO’s backed by the mortgages with the highest probability of default. While this separation of mortgage-backed securities into tranches was thought to at least create some safe investments, so many sub-prime and other dubious mortgages were being issued in the period leading up to the Great Recession in the U.S. that even investors in the supposed “senior tranches” often suffered huge losses.
The techniques for setting the optimum price for transferring an asset (be it a commodity, a machine, a factory, an investment stake in another company or virtually any other asset) from one division of a corporation to another division. This is especially useful within multinational corporations (MNCs) where a division operating in one country may be instructed by the corporate headquarters to transfer an asset to a division in a different country. Each division will normally keep separate books, and therefore the transfer is considered to be a “sale” of the asset for one division and a “purchase” of the asset by the other division. However, the price set in these transfers is normally completely under the control of the corporation and need not necessarily reflect market prices. This gives the corporation the ability to maximize total profits by, for example, shifting assets at way below (or way above!) market prices to lower tax countries or regions. I.e., it is yet another method of corporate cheating.
An international form of the Soviet Union’s currency used mostly by them to promote trade with their CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Aid) “partners” who were economically dominated and exploited by Soviet social-imperialism. Even worse, the Transferable Ruble, along with joint Soviet-dominated national economic planning, was used to further integrate the CMEA economies into that of the U.S.S.R. and to force these other countries into having an ever-increasing focus on expanding the Soviet economy first and foremost.
The Transferable Ruble played an even more exploitative role in the promotion of Soviet social-imperialism than the U.S. dollar has long played in promoting the exploitation of the other countries in its imperialist sphere of control and/or influence. Of course, when the Soviet imperialist empire collapsed, and the Soviet Union then along with it, the Transferable Ruble and CMEA itself disappeared. However, most likely the new Russian imperialist state already has something similar, or else will attempt such a thing in the future.
See the quote below for a Soviet “explanation” of what its Transferable Ruble was all about, if you need some of the technical details and can stand the legalistic business jargon.
“TRANSFERABLE RUBLE (TR) is [a] collective currency circulated
on the international market of the CMEA countries, the basis of its currency-credit machinery.
By its economic nature, TR is credit money guaranteed with commodities, since it emerges only
as a result of the export of goods and services. The importer is granted credit in tranferable
rubles to be repaid by cross deliveries. This credit is given out of the means put to the
account of the exporter for the goods he had delivered.
“As collective currency TR operates, first, as a unit of measurement of contract prices by discharging the function of the measure of the value of goods circulating on the market of the CMEA countries. In this function TR represents ideal money, the more so that the cancellation of mutual demands and obligations existing between the CMEA countries in cases of bilateral or multilateral relations is in the final analysis effected through clearing. Second, TR discharges the function of payment facility in the payment of goods, services and repayment of credits and also in the regulation of the balance of non-commodity payments. The significance of this function of TR grows as the multilateral character of trade and accounts increases. It depends on the development and improvement of the system of international socialist credits. Third, TR discharges the function of the means of accumulation in the process of the formation of credit resources to be used by the International Bank of Economic Cooperation (IBEC) and the International Investment Bank (IIB) to grant credits to CMEA countries. This function finds expression in the concentration by these countries of their currency in TR in their current accounts and deposits to the IBEC.
“The improvment of TR’s functions is associated with the improvement of the whole system of economic cooperation and its machinery within the framework of which it is formed and the development of which it must serve.”
—“Our Glossary”, in Social Sciences journal, published by the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vol. X, #2, 1979, pp. 298-299.
The “problem” of transforming the value of goods and services, as measured by the socially necessary abstract labor times required to produce them, into the market prices for these commodities in terms of money. This is a supposedly insurmountable conceptual problem within the Marxist theory of the political economy of capitalism which, in reality, is a pseudo-problem; that is to say, which is not really a problem at all! It arises because many bourgeois or bourgeois-influenced commentators on Marx don’t understand at all what he is doing, and how he is going about doing it. That is, they do not understand the whole point of his analysis of how capitalism works.
Marx is concerned to explain where the wealth of the capitalists comes from and where their profits come from; how the workers are exploited by the capitalists (even though they are paid wages); why the capitalists constantly seek to extend the work day and to intensify it (through speedups for example); why it is that the working people of the world remain generally quite poor, in serious debt, and exist under precarious conditions, in perpetual danger of losing their jobs and their homes (if they even have one); how it is that capitalism regularly develops serious economic crises of overproduction (despite the continuing great need by the masses for more goods and services); and, in general, just how this monstrous capitalist system works for the benefit of the capitalists and against the interests of the workers and masses. Comprehending all of these things requires a basic understanding of where all wealth comes from and how the capitalists acquire the vast bulk of it.
So where does wealth come from anyway? Obviously it all comes from the labor of human beings acting upon the natural resources of the world around us. However, while this is indeed totally obvious and undeniable, this is not something the capitalists are willing to acknowledge. After all, if all wealth comes from labor then all wealth ought to belong to those who labor (whether individually or collectively)! Thus, Marx—following in the footsteps of the classical bourgeois economists including Adam Smith and David Ricardo, but in a more sophisticated way—upholds the labor theory of value, while bourgeois economists since Marx have almost to a man rejected the LTV and have instead tried to downplay and minimize the role of labor in the creation of wealth (economic value). Thus Marx must of necessity start his analysis of capitalism by talking about value, the value of commodities in terms of their incorporated socially-necessary labor times.
However, this is an abstraction from the way we ordinarily talk about commodities in a capitalist society. It is also obviously true that commodities are sold for given quantities of money; that is to say, they have market prices. So it (erroneously!) appears to many that Marx needs to provide some precise mathematical formula which explains how the specific prices we see for commodities are derived from their labor-time based values. But Marx is fully aware that this is a very complicated and irregular business, and that many factors may lead to determining actual prices including, most obviously, simple supply and demand variations. Much more fundamentally, Marx is well aware of the fact that the prevailing average rate of profit for capitalist enterprises is not determined simply by the amount of socially necessary labor time incorporated into the specific commodities produced, but rather by the tendency of capitalists to constantly shift their capital to more profitable areas. The average profit rate is therefore roughly proportionally determined by the total capital invested in a particular business—including not just the cost of labor power, but also the cost of machinery, raw materials, overhead, etc. Some industries use much more machinery than others, and therefore the relative amount of labor incorporated into their final commodities is less as a portion of the total capital outlay. This means that the prices of the commodities produced in industries with a higher concentration of machinery (i.e., those with a higher organic composition of capital) can be, and are, substantially higher than they would be if they were determined solely by the living labor employed in this final production process. As Engels summed up Marx’s view: “In point of fact, equal capitals produce, on average, equal profits in the same time, irrespective of how much or how little living labor they employ.” [For the fuller quote, see: LABOR THEORY OF VALUE—Ricardian and Pre-Marxist Form.]
Thus there may in fact be no mathematical function, whether simple or complicated, which allows us to transform values into prices in individual cases. This, however, does not really matter! We still know quite well that wealth (value) comes from human labor, and the fact that there can be no precise mathematical formula to translate value (in terms of labor times) into prices is at most a mildly interesting footnote to the tremendous complexities of the actual capitalist production process.
What the empiricist-minded critics of Marx completely fail to understand is that Marx’s book Capital is a profoundly dialectical work. Yes, it is setting out to explain how capitalism works in the real world, but it is doing this through stages of description and analysis. It must of necessity start by abstracting from the confusion of everyday capitalist production, marketing, finance, crises, and so forth that we see all around us, and instead look first of all at the essence of what is really going on. This is why it is absolutely necessary to talk first in terms of the value incorporated into commodities in the production process, and to at first assume (for reasons of simplification) that profits are proportional to the amount of living labor exploited. Only when this essence of the situation has become clear, can the level of analysis be shifted closer to the actual messy situation, and only then can the discussion be shifted from the deeper conceptual categories involved (such as value) to the more superficial but everyday conceptual categories (such as prices). And it is just of no major theoretical concern that quantities expressed in the deeper categories cannot be expected to be precisely mathematically translated into quantities expressed in the surface categories. This is basically only something that academic semi- or pseudo-Marxists worry about.
See also below, and: ROBINSON, Joan (esp. Albritton quote), STEEDMAN, Ian
TRANSFORMATION PROBLEM — Overall Equality of Value and Prices
[To be added.]
TRANSFORMATION PROBLEM — Neo-Ricardian Approach
[To be added.]
TRANSITION [In Philosophy]
“What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:284.
1. The ever-stronger and more determined demands made by the revolutionary party during the period leading up to insurrection and seizure of state power by the proletariat.
2. Demands made on the ruling bourgeoisie which appear to be reformist in nature (such as “bread, land and peace”) but which in extreme circumstances for the capitalists (such as in the midst of a major war or economic crisis) simply cannot be agreed to by them.
3. Demands which really amount to the demand for proletarian revolution, even if not stated in those explicit terms.
4. Demands issued by a revolutionary party which are known full well will not be granted by the capitalists, but whose failure to be agreed to will serve to raise the revolutionary consciousness of the workers and masses and help advance the struggle toward an insurrection.
5. Demands which are only appropriate as part of a near term program centered on the proletarian seizure of power, such as the demand for the nationalization of industry and its direct control by the working class.
It is sometimes claimed that the notion of transitional demands is a Trotskyist one, but this has actually been part of Marxist revolutionary thinking from the beginning and from long before Trotsky; and was further amplified by Lenin in the Bolshevik Revolution.
“When the revolutionary tide is not rising, the Communist Parties must advance partial slogans and demands that correspond to the every-day needs of the toilers, and combine them with the fundamental tasks of the Communist International. The Communist Parties must not, however, at such a time, advance transitional slogans that are applicable only to revolutionary situations (for example workers’ control of industry, etc.). To advance such slogans when there is no revolutionary situation means to transform them into slogans that favor merging with the captalist system of organization. Partial demands and slogans generally form an essential part of correct tactics, but certain transitional slogans go inseparably with a revolutionary situation. Repudiation of partial demands and transitional slogans ‘on principle,’ however, is incompatible with the tactical principles of Communism, for in effect, such repudiation condemns the Party to inaction and isolates it from the masses.” —Lenin, Program of the Communist International, (NY: Workers Library Publishers, 1933), p. 83. [Recall also that Lenin used the word ‘tactics’ where we would say either ‘strategy’ or else ‘strategy and tactics’. —Ed.]
“There is a specific part of Marxist-Leninist theory, generally known as the
theory of ‘transitional demands’, which bears a close relationship to the theory of the mass
line and therefore must be discussed here. This is all the more important in that this theory
has been seized upon and distorted by the Trotskyites and other opportunists in order to cut
the heart out of revolutionary propaganda [in the Leninist sense] and agitation.
“On the other hand, ‘left’ sectarians often fail to understand the real significance of this aspect of Marxist theory too, and may even ignore it completely. If we were to abandon every aspect of Marxism just because opportunists somewhere have distorted it and made a mockery of it, then there would be nothing left of Marxism at all. Our invariable response to opportunist distortions of Marxism must be to oppose the distortions and to uphold, and if necessary, restore the correct revolutionary interpretation.
“I pointed out in chapter 31 that new things arise through the transformation of old things. Specifically the revolutionary struggle of the masses arises through the transformation of their earlier non-revolutionary (reformist) struggle. As the mass struggle develops and gets closer to the leap to revolution, the demands of the masses upon the bourgeoisie must grow stronger and more insistent. When the bourgeoisie is very strong and confident it refuses to give in to the demands of the masses unless it sees that some small, short-term (in their eyes) concession will help them keep the masses from ‘getting out of hand’. But when the bourgeoisie and their system is in crisis, it can become impossible for them to accede to all the insistent demands of the masses, even if many of them see the wisdom of doing so in order to calm things down. In such a situation very basic reformist demands, even such simple things as ‘peace and bread’ can become in essence revolutionary demands.
“The heavy and insistent demands of the masses raised in a developing revolutionary situation are what we mean when we talk of ‘transitional demands’. Many of them, perhaps in some cases virtually all of them, are still reformist in appearance. But the bourgeoisie and its system either will not, or cannot, give in to them. As soon as the masses in general come to understand this (through both their own experience and the revolutionary agitational work of the proletarian party), their consciousness will have made a necessary qualitative leap. The same things which the masses at first viewed as demands for concessions from the government now come to be seen by the masses themselves as amounting to the demand for revolution. When this can be said to characterize the masses, the moment to launch an insurrection has arrived.” —Scott Harrison, The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 39: The Mass Line and ‘Transitional Demands’ (draft chapter from the 1980s).
TRANSLATION (From One Language to Another)
See: MACHINE TRANSLATION
Crimes and attacks by governments or their agents directed against individuals, including their own citizens, even though they are in foreign countries and are outside their legal jurisdiction. Included here are kidnappings, torture and assassinations. These attacks are virtually always illegal according to international law, although sometimes one government will ignore such activities by another government within its own territory, or even tacitly aid them. Recent well-publicized examples of transnational repression include Russian-government assassination attempts on Russian citizens in Britain and elsewhere, and the murder and dismemberment by the Saudi Arabian government of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018.
The U.S. government-funded organization “Freedom House”, which of course generally supports the views and actions of U.S. imperialism, issued a report on transnational repression in February 2021, and identified the following countries as being especially guilty of this crime: China, Iran, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. However, one of the worst offenders by far of these crimes over the decades has actually been the United States itself. Its Central Intelligence Agency has murdered or kidnapped a large number of people in foreign countries, both its own citizens and those of other nations. Those kidnapped are then often taken to “black ops” interrogation sites where they are imprisoned and tortured.
See also: RENDITION
A Pacific regional “free trade” proposal which the U.S. Obama Administration attempted to get set up and ratified. This proposal went beyond the World Trade Organization [WTO] agreements and requirements, and focused especially on issues such as easing legal regulations and border controls which interfere with trade between countries. The TPP was slated to include the U.S., Australia, Japan and a number of other Pacific countries, but not China! The goal of the TPP proposal was to try to slow down China’s ever-growing exports. I.e., this agreement, while officially for the purpose of promoting “free trade” among all Pacific nations, was actually conceived as a trade-war measure directed against China.
For demagogic reasons, the Trump administration dumped the TPP plan, but since it was negotiated to promote the interests of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class it may yet eventually be revived in some form or other. If some version of it does eventually go into effect (and China remains barred from membership) it is expected to somewhat negatively impact Chinese exports, but this impact will likely be fairly modest. The actual fact of the matter is that the more moribund U.S. capitalism is not able to successfully compete with contemporary Chinese capitalism, which has been much more vibrant over the past few decades. And even trade-war schemes like the TPP will not change this fundamental situation.
“The most glaring [fault of the Trans-Pacific Partnership] is that
China, the largest Pacific Rim trading nation and the world’s top exporter, was
deliberately left out by America. As a result, TPP is the near-equivalent of NAFTA
without the United States. It is a protectionist regional device to contain China’s
further rise as the world’s number one trading nation.
“The share of world trade of the pact’s two biggest countries, America and Japan, has been declining for some time in world and Pacific exports, because of the spectacular rise of China. TPP confirms once again that Washington’s China policy is less about win-win situations and more about seeking zero-sum outcomes, in this case by creating an integrated counter-weight to China in East Asia. The deal was designed to establish America as a leader in Pacific trade.
“The WTO does not describe regional trading deals as preferential trade agreements for nothing: one implicit objective is to discriminate against non-members. The pact’s signatories would be wise to leave the door open to newcomers, including China.”
—Istvan Dobozi, former lead economist at the World Bank, in a letter to the editors of The Economist, Oct. 24, 2015, p. 16.
“Naturally, at times individuals unconsciously drift from the social-chauvinist to the ‘Centrist’ position, and vice versa. Every Marxist knows that classes are distinct, even though individuals may move freely from one class to another; similarly, trends in political life are distinct inspite of the fact that individuals may change freely from one trend to another, and in spite of all attempts and efforts to amalgamate trends.” —Lenin, “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution: Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party” (Sept. 1917), LCW 24:77.
A term used by Samir Amin and others to refer collectively to the three dominant imperialist centers in the world as of the beginning of the 21st century: The United States, Japan and Northern Europe (Germany, Britain, France, etc.). With the rapid rise of China as a new imperialist power this term already seems quite out of date.
See: PRIMITIVE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
“TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE”
“[T]he Social-Democrat’s [i.e., communist’s —Ed.] ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of people it affects; who is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (March 1902), (NY: International, 1969), p. 80.
TRICKLE DOWN THEORY
A ridiculous notion championed by many defenders of capitalism that if we allow the rich to become even richer they will invest more, hire more workers, raise salaries, and thus indirectly increase the wealth of people at the bottom of society as well. The wealth will supposedly “trickle down” from the rich to the poor.
This theory is not only erroneous from a theoretical standpoint, it has over and over been shown to be totally false in practice.
See also: William Jennings BRYAN [quote]
“The most striking number in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Sept. 17 
report on income and poverty isn’t about poverty. It’s about middle-class, working
America. According to the Census, American men who work full time year-round earned less
in real terms in 2012 than they did in 1973.
“So much for a rising tide lifting all boats. Gross domestic product has nearly tripled since 1973, when President Richard Nixon was still flashing his V sign, but the gains have gone mostly to the people at the top.”
—Peter Coy, “The Trickle Down Has All But Dried Up”, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Sept. 20, 2013, pp. 18-19. The article goes on to report that real income for American men declined by 4% between 1973 and 2012. American women workers increased their real wages somewhat over that period (as more employment opportunities opened up for them, but they also now make less in real wages than they did in 2001. Of course the overall situation for the working class is even worse than these figures suggest, since a growing percentage of the U.S. population is now unable to find employment at all.
“The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.” —Will Rogers, American humorist.
TRIFFIN DILEMMA (or PARADOX)
A contradiction that develops between conflicting economic goals with regard to the amount of currency in circulation when that currency (e.g., the U.S. dollar) is used both as a national currency and as an international reserve currency by other countries. For example, the quantity of dollars in circulation may need to be restricted in order to lower inflation rates in the U.S., while other countries may at the same time need more dollars as reserves to promote international trade and to protect their own economies. Even if inflation at home is not a problem, other countries may insist that something be done about the enormous U.S. trade deficits that occur when dollars are held overseas as reserves and are not used to buy American goods.
Although this potential problem should have been obvious from the start (when the Bretton Woods international financial system was agreed to in 1944), it was first explicitly noted by the Belgian-American bourgeois economist Robert Triffin in the 1960s. The problem is in a way quite ironic! For the most part the U.S. has benefitted tremendously by having its currency be so important as an international reserve. It has allowed the U.S. to hugely exploit the rest of the world (including other advanced capitalist countries) by buying goods in dollars which then to a great degree are never redeemed for goods produced in America. In effect the rest of the world has given the U.S. an enormous amount of expensive goods for free!
The “Triffin Paradox” developed, however, in part from the huge abuse of this great advantage by the U.S. At times there are greater influxes of Euro-dollars and other dollars held overseas back into the U.S. to buy American goods (which can cause the dollar to fall in value). And even when that is not occurring, the U.S. got so dependent on running huge Federal government deficits to keep its own economy going that inflation at times has gotten quite alarming. (This was especially the case during the “Great Inflation” of the 1970s and early 1980s, though it will eventually recur again in a much more dangerous way.) This in turn reduces the value of the foreign reserves in dollars that other countries are holding, much to their displeasure.
It is obviously ridiculous to have an international financial system wherein some goals require an increase flow of dollars out of the U.S., and other goals require an increased flow of dollars back into the U.S.!
“As Francis Warnock (professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School
of Business) points out in a paper for the Council On Foreign Relations, in 2010, the US
confronted a dilemma first identified in 1960 by the Belgian-born Yale economist Robert
“To supply the world’s risk-free asset, the country at the heart of the international monetary system has to run a current account deficit. In doing so, it becomes more indebted to foreigners until the risk-free asset ceases to be risk-free.” —Wikipedia entry on the “Triffin Dilemma” (accessed Feb. 11, 2013).
An officially non-government discussion group or think tank founded by American financial capitalist billionaire David Rockefeller in July 1973 in order to foster closer cooperation between the leading capitalist governments of North America, Western Europe and Japan. Rockefeller advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski led in organizing the group along with other ruling class big shots such as George S. Franklin, executive director of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, William Scranton, and Edwin Reischauer. Brzezinski later became National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Two later heads of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker were also founding members. In addition to working to smooth international imperialist cooperation and globalization, this think tank has also spouted off on various other themes important to the world’s rulers, such as the need to better indoctrinate the youth in pro-capitalist ideology and to rein in “excessive democracy”.
“The pattern of praise and punishment is a familiar one throughout history:
those who line up in the service of the state are typically praised by the general
intellectual community, and those who refuse to line up in service of the state are punished.
“In later years, the two categories of intellectuals were distinguished more explicitly by prominent scholars. The ridiculous eccentrics [as they are perceived] are termed ‘value-oriented intellectuals,’ who pose ‘a challenge to democratic government which is, potentially at least, as serious as those posed in the past by aristocratic cliques, fascist movements, and communist parties.’ Among other misdeeds, these dangerous creatures ‘devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority,’ and even confront the institutions responsible for ‘the indoctrination of the young.’ Some sink so far as to doubt the nobility of war aims, like [Randolph] Bourne. This castigation of the miscreants who defy authority and the established order was delivered by the scholars of the liberal internationalist Trilateral Commission—the Carter administration was largely drawn from their ranks—in their 1975 study The Crisis of Democracy. Like the New Republic progressives during the First World War, they extend the concept of ‘intellectual’ ... to include the ... responsible and serious thinkers who devote themselves to the constructive work of shaping policy within established institutions, and to ensuring that indoctrination of the young proceeds on course.
“What particularly alarmed the Trilateral scholars was the ‘excess of democracy’ during the times of troubles, the 1960s, when normally passive and apathetic parts of the population entered the political arena to advance their concerns: minorities, women, the young, the old, working people ... in short, the population, sometimes called ‘the special interests.’ They are distinguished from those whom Adam Smith called the ‘masters of mankind,’ who are the ‘principal architects’ of government policy and who pursue their ‘vile maxim’: ‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people.’ The role of the masters in the political arena is not deplored, or discussed, in the Trilateral volume, presumably because the masters represent ‘the national interest,’ like those who applauded themselves for leading the country to war....”
—Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? (2016), pp. 8-9.
In 1964 a group of prominent liberal and social-democrat individuals, including Linus Pauling, Gunnar Myrdal and the New Left figure Tom Hayden, and billing themselves as the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution”, signed what soon became a famous document which they submitted to President Lyndon Johnson. The “triple revolutions” they were concerned with were those in cybernetics, military weaponry and human rights, but they focused mostly on the threat that automation would soon result in a world with fewer and fewer jobs. Because they were premature in raising this alarm their concern was soon forgotten—though a half century later it seems more timely than ever. The statement’s most important proposal was for a government-paid guaranteed minimum income for everyone even if there are no jobs for them. Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman pointed out in Monthly Review, however, that this was in effect merely a call for a streamlined welfare program for capitalism, when what was really needed was socialist revolution.
See: GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME [Sweezy/Huberman quote]
“In the developing cybernated system, potentially unlimited output can
be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings.
As machines take over production from men, they absorb an increasing proportion of
resources while the men who are displaced become dependent on minimal and unrelated
government measures—unemployment insurance, social security, welfare payments. These
measures are less and less able to disguise a historic paradox: that a growing proportion
of the population is subsisting on minimal incomes, often below the poverty line, at a
time when sufficient productive potential is available to supply the needs of everyone in
the United States.”
—“The Triple Revolution: An Appraisal of the Major US Crises and Proposals for Action”, March 22, 1964, available online at: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isr/vol25/no03/adhoc.html
“Tropes—the designation for the reasons for doubt advanced by the ancient Skeptics (ten tropes) and later supplemented (five tropes) by Agrippa. By means of these reasons the Skeptics tried to prove the impossibility of cognizing things and the absolute relativity of all perceptions.” —Endnote 104, LCW 38.
TROTSKY, Leon [Lev Davidovich Bronstein] (1879-1940)
Long-time centrist between Bolshevism and Menshevism and opponent of Lenin, who finally joined the Bolshevik Party not long before the October Revolution, and who played an important role in the Russian Revolution for a period of time. After Lenin’s death he led first the internal opposition, and later the external opposition from exile, against Stalin.
In the 1905 Revolution Trotsky became president of the first Soviet in St. Petersburg. After joining the Bolsheviks in 1917 and taking part in the October Revolution he became commissar for foreign affairs and conducted negotiations with the Germans for the peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk. However Trotsky himself opposed that treaty. Later as commissar for war he led in expanding the Red Army from a small initial core into a large fighting force and in conducting the civil war against the Whites (anti-Bolshevik forces). In 1920-21 he opposed Lenin’s policy on the trade unions and engaged in harmful factional activity which threatened the unity of the Bolshevik Party. At the Tenth Party Congress, Lenin pushed through a resolution and change in the composition of the Central Committee which greatly weakened Trotsky’s position.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, one of the central struggles was over the issue of “socialism in one country”. With the defeat of the socialist revolutions in the West (especially in Germany), it became necessary to try to consolidate socialism in Russia alone for a period, a policy which Stalin supported, but which Trotsky strongly opposed under the slogan of “permanent revolution”. This adventurist policy which Trotsky supported at the time would very likely have led to the early demise of revolutionary Russia. This program also cost Trotsky a lot of support in his leadership struggle with Stalin, and he soon lost out completely. In 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and in 1929 he was banished from the Soviet Union.
In exile Trotsky tried to build up and lead a world revolutionary force (the “Fourth International”) in opposition to the Comintern and the Communist movement. Many of his accusations against Stalin, such as that Stalin was bureaucratic, anti-democratic and authoritarian were largely correct (although Trotsky had those same strong tendencies himself!). In 1940 a supporter of Stalin murdered Trotsky with a mountain-climber’s ice ax while he was in exile in Mexico.
“When he [Trotsky] was playing against this surreptitious
master [Stalin], did he ever stand a chance? It is difficult to believe that he
did. He was, as I have hinted, an intellectual’s politician, not a politician’s.
He was arrogant, he was a wonderful phrase-maker, he was good at points of
dramatic action. But, as with Churchill (there are some resemblances), his
judgment, over most of his career, tended to be brilliantly wrong. In politics,
particularly in the life-and-death politics of revolution, you can’t afford to
be brilliantly wrong. He had opposed Lenin on most issues during the years before
1917. His colleagues hadn’t forgotten that anti-Bolshevik past. Further, he was
liable to sway himself with his own eloquence.... He was a brave and dashing
extemporizer: but when it came to steady administrative policies, he could
suddenly swing into a bureaucratic rigidity stiffer than any of the others....
“No, I don’t believe he could ever have made it. If by a fluke he had done, he wouldn’t have lasted long.” —C. P. Snow, Variety of Men (1971), p. 255.
A movement originated by Trotsky (see above) and his early followers, which has generally served a very negative role in the revolutionary movement. It has tended to be based mostly on petty-bourgeois elements and students from the upper, better educated strata of the working class. It has also tended to be highly dogmatic, sectarian and devisive (though the entire American revolutionary movement has also suffered from similar tendencies in recent decades). Lenin once remarked that anarchism was a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. In the same sort of way, it might be said that Trotskyism has been a sort of penalty for the sins of Stalin (and his followers) and his authoritarian and often mistaken leadership of the world communist movement. However, Trotskyism is clearly not the correct path forward. There has never been a successful revolution led by any Trotskyite/Trotskyist party or movement. Their function is always more to oppose and carp against correct revolutionary tactics and strategies, and to hinder revolutionary progress by sowing divisions and disunity in the revolutionary movement.
Curiously, the overall divisions within the revolutionary movement are almost always reproduced within Trotskyism itself. Thus there are both ultra-dogmatic “left”-sectarian Trotskyist organizations, and wishy-washy right-oppportunist Trotskyist groups and parties with little in the way of any clear or firm ideology. The largest Trotskyist organizations in the U.S. are the right-opportunist ones who are inclined to view anybody who calls themselves a “socialist” as being a real socialist, such as the Workers World Party (WWP) and its split-off, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
[More to be added... ]
See also: ENTRYISM
TROTSKYITE or TROTSKYIST
Followers and supporters of Trotsky generally call themselves “Trotskyists”. However, the term which was long used for them within the International Communist Movement was “Trotskyites”. Because those who strongly disagreed with Trotsky and Trotskyism were the ones to use the term “Trotskyite”, it immediately developed very strong negative connotations. This is one of the reasons that Trotskyists themselves strenuously object to being called Trotskyites! Here’s a little ditty on the topic I wrote some years back, entitled “Easily Insulted”:
The Trotskyite stepped up to say:
“You’ve got it wrong again today!
You’re really making me quite pissed;
The proper term is Trotskyist!”
In the last couple decades, however, within the very weak American revolutionary movement there has been a small tendency toward starting to reject some of the excessive organizational sectarianism of the past. (Possibly in part because of less firm ideological education in all the various left trends. In other words, there may also be a negative aspect to this!) And this has meant, in part, a toning down of mutually perceived insults such as “Trotskyite” and “Stalinist”. On the one hand we often do need to work together with people we strongly disagree with on other issues; on the other hand, there is a strong tendency toward liberalism (in the Maoist sense) in the contemporary revolutionary movement, a reluctance to make criticisms where they are actually appropriate, and to view just criticisms and accurate characterizations as “insults”. Personally, my old habit was to use the term “Trotskyite” rather than “Trotskyist”, but to be more polite I am trying to switch over to the latter. Still, for me, the connotations are exactly the same, whichever term is used! —S.H.
A unit of weight measurement in the old imperial system, now mostly used to measure the weight of gold and other precious metals. The Troy ounce is roughly 10% heavier than an avoirdupois ounce (which is much more broadly used in the U.S.). There are 12 Troy ounces in a Troy pound (as opposed to 16 avoirdupois ounces in an avoirdupois pound). The Troy ounce is now precisely defined as equal to 31.1034768 grams in the metric system, and there are 32.1507466 Troy ounces in 1 kilogram.
For more details see the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_ounce
A petty-bourgeois group formed in Russia in 1906, and consisting of a section of the peasant members of the First State Duma (parliament) headed by intellectuals belonging to the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.
A form of socialist theory circulating in Germany in the 1840s, and which was especially associated with the philosopher Moses Hess. This early socialist theory promoted an abstract form of justice and humanity (a la Kant), and rejected any proletarian class perspective. The adherents of this trend called themselves “true” socialists because they opposed even a temporary alliance with the bourgeoisie against feudalism, and regarded capitalism as the main enemy at all times and places. (This notion sounds very much like what came to be popular a century later among Trotskyists, with their rejection of any two-stage revolution in countries like China!)
Marx and Engels strongly criticized this trend in their early writings (including the Communist Manifesto). They regarded it as in effect opposing the struggle against feudalism and for democracy, and felt that it actually promoted the thinking of the German petty-bourgeoisie, rather than the revolutionary proletariat.
TRUMP, Donald (1946- )
Former president of the United States (who took office on January 20, 2017, and—very reluctantly and under protest!—left office on January 20, 2021) and who is noted for his egomania, dangerously impulsive nature, and constant lies. He is probably the most demagogic individual to have ever held that office, though all bourgeois politicians are demagogic to one degree or another. He and many of his strongest supporters are also known for their racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, anti-environmental, and other reactionary views. His administration gave further impetus to the long-existing trend toward more and stronger fascist laws and policies in the U.S., which is something that is increasingly necessary for the ruling class as their economic and social crisis continues to worsen and the masses become more upset at the way things are going.
During his 2016 electoral campaign Trump was frequently described as an “isolationist” in foreign policy. But one of his first acts on becoming president was to put forward a government budget which cut social programs and domestic spending in general, and greatly expanded military spending. In his first years in office he continued and expanded existing U.S. imperialist wars (such as in Iraq and Syria) and even threatened to launch new wars (such as a nuclear attack on North Korea). In 2019, however, he announced a pull out of some troops from Syria, while at the same time continuing U.S. intervention and involvement in wars throughout the Middle East, including in strong support of the genocidal war by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Near the end of his term Trump also ordered the removal of some of the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for more than 20 years! “Isolationalist impulses” or not, Trump continued to support the overall necessities of U.S. imperialism in the world, even if he did so in a rather erratic and incoherent fashion.
A major result of Trump’s presidency was to intensify the already developing new Cold War between the U.S. and China. One aspect of this was the U.S.-China trade war he launched, though that was done in his typically inept and mostly counter-productive way. Curiously, Trump avoided renewing the old Cold War against Russia, even though most of the capitalist ruling class in the U.S. wants to do that too. There have been wide suspicions that the Russian secret service had some very damaging personal information about Trump that they might make public if he was too hostile toward Putin and Russia.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge a clear defeat in the 2020 elections became something of a scandal for the liberal bourgeoisie, while at the same time serving to move the Republican Party even further in an authoritarian or fascist direction. His supporters even stormed Congress in a mob riot on Jan. 6, 2021, which Democrats characterized as an “attempted insurrection”. (If it was that, it was probably the world’s most inept attempt at one.) This, along with Trump’s whole time in office, has served to greatly intensify the already extreme polarization of bourgeois politics in the U.S., even to the point where it might soon become impossible for the bourgeoisie to continue ruling in the nominal form of a bourgeois democracy. Trump was impeached twice by the House of Representatives, but the Republican-dominated Senate refused to convict him both times.
See also below, and: CERTAINTY, EDITORIAL CARTOONS, FAKE NEWS, WATERBOARDING
“Ask Washington grandees to explain President Donald Trump’s rise,
and they often recommend reading ‘The Art of the Deal’. One piece of advice from that
I-got-rich-quick book, published in 1987, is cited more than any other. Mr Trump’s
boast that he built a property empire on ‘truthful hyperbole’, playing on the public’s
desire ‘to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most
spectacular’. It is a striking passage to choose, but also a misleading one—implying
that Trumpian success, in essence, rests on a talent for bamboozling rubes.
“Actually, at the heart of ‘The Art of the Deal’ lies a more subtle point about human nature: that some of the most profitable bargains are struck not with passive dupes, but with partners who are complicit in their own manipulation. A revealing episode describes Mr Trump tricking investors into thinking that a casino in Atlantic City is almost half-built by cramming the site with bulldozers under orders to look busy. Despite an awkward moment when an investor asks why one builder is refilling a hole that he has just dug, the gambit works. The investors had already been burned once by a project that ran over-budget so now needed a quick success. Mr Trump explains: ‘My leverage came from confirming an impression they were already predisposed to believe.’...
“Mr Trump has worked to forge similar bonds of complicity with voters. His pledges to put America First, to deport ‘criminal aliens’ or to bring back millions of manufacturing jobs make supporters feel empowered, heeded, safe and hopeful. Critics question such pledges at their peril: millions of Americans have invested a good deal in believing this president.”
—The Economist, March 18, 2017, p. 30. [The point seems to be that Trump is good at bamboozling not only “rubes”, but a great many other people too, who then become complicit in his actions. —Ed.]
“‘In the old days when you won a war, you won a war. You kept the country,’ [Trump] opined, adding later that he would ‘bomb the shit out of’ the Islamic State (IS) and ‘take the oil’.” —The Economist, Nov. 11, 2017, p. 11. [Unlike most imperialists today, Trump often doesn’t even try to hide his imperialist views, plans and actions. —Ed.]
TRUMP, Donald — As a Narcissistic Ignoramus
“Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents and says he does not have time to read books. ‘I never have,’ he says. ‘Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.’ What he mostly reads are articles about himself, which his staff prints out and delivers to his desk.” —Washington Post report, summarized in The Week, July 29, 2016, p. 16.
TRUMP, Donald — As a Notorious Liar
“In an impromptu half-hour interview President Trump gave to The New York Times on Dec. 28 , he made 24 false, misleading, or dubious claims—a rate of one every 75 seconds. Among them: ‘I am the one that saved coal’ and ‘I think it’s been proven there is no collusion’ [between his election campaign and the Russians]. In 2017, fact-checkers found, Trump made 1,950 false or misleading claims.” —News item in The Week magazine, Jan. 12, 2018, p 14. Since then, the constant flood of new lies and distortions by Trump has only further increased. —Ed.
“In the words of his [Trump’s] own lawyer, John Dowd—as cited by Bob Woodward in Fear: Trump and the White House (2018)—the president is ‘a fucking liar’. ... His underlings praise him lavishly in public, then tell journalists that he is a ‘moron’ (attributed to Rex Tillerson, his former secretary of state), an ‘idiot’ (attributed to John Kelly, his chief of staff) and has the understanding of ‘a 5th or 6th grader’ (attributed to James Mattis, the defense secretary). ... Mr. Trump is ‘a professional liar’, in the view of Gary Cohn, formerly the director of the president’s National Economic Council.” —“Truth and the President: The Trump Chronicles”, The Economist, Sept. 15, 2018, p. 87.
“Donald Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims during his four years in office. He averaged six such cliams a day in the first year, 16 in the second, 22 in the third, and 39 a day in his final year—including more than 800 repetitions of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.” —Washington Post, as reprinted in The Week magazine, Feb. 5, 2021, p. 16.
TRUMP, Donald — As a Racist and Fascist
The dominantly white American capitalist ruling class has always been very racist since the country was founded. But some periods, and some ruling class politicians, have been more racist than others. Trump is the prime example of one of the most racist of these bourgeois demagogues in recent times. The economic and political crisis which has been leading to the decline of U.S. power in the world requires that the ruling class step up its levels of racism, sexism, anti-immigrant policies, and other steps to blame scapegoats for the obviously increasing problems facing the working class and the masses.
Similarly, while the United States is still basically a bourgeois democracy, it has been necessary for it for some decades to gradually move in the direction of more and more fascist laws and actions to keep the proletariat and the masses under ever-tighter control. (See: FASCISM—Trends Toward Within the U.S.) But Trump has the “ideal” authoritarian attitude to lead in the adoption of the required intensified trends toward racism and fascism that the bourgeoisie now really needs.
One of the most outrageous incidents which showed what Trump and his most rabid supporters are really all about was the “white nationalist” (racist and fascist) demonstration in Charlottesville, VA on Aug. 12, 2017 inspired by Trump’s presidency. One pro-Nazi, pro-Trump demonstrator purposely ran his automobile into a peaceful counter-demonstration against Trump and his racist/fascist supporters, and killed a young woman. Afterwards, Trump said: “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent.” [New York Times, Aug. 15, 2017.] Demagogues are expert at promoting vile actions by their followers against the masses, which they can then piously claim was not their own doing. Trump, especially, is a master at this.
“After his [Trump’s] inept first response to the killing of a woman in Charlottesville by a white supremacist, he eventually delivered a speech to mollify those who said he had given racists the impression that he was on their side. He quickly regretted it. ‘That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made,’ he told an aide. ‘You never make those concessions. You never apologize.’” —“Truth and the President: The Trump Chronicles”, The Economist, Sept. 15, 2018, p. 88.
That which is actually the case; the facts of the matter. There are all sorts of foolish esoteric arguments about the “nature of truth” among bourgeois philosophers, but actually it is a quite simple concept.
“Communists must be ready at all times to stand up for the truth, because truth is in the interests of the people; Communists must be ready at all times to correct their mistakes, because mistakes are against the interests of the people.” —Mao, “On Coalition Government” (April 24, 1945), SW 3:315.
“Truth is a process. From the subjective idea, man advances towards
objective truth through ‘practice’ (and technique).” —Lenin, “Conspectus of
Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic” (1914), LCW 38:
TRUTH — Abstract “Concrete political aims must be set in concrete circumstances....
There is no such thing as abstract truth. Truth is always concrete.” —Lenin, “Two
Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, July 1905, LCW 9:86. [I
don’t think Lenin’s point is that there are no truths about abstractions or abstract
entities; there are geometric truths about circles and pentagons, for example, and
they are certainly conceptual abstractions. I believe his point is that political
generalizations may not always remain valid in specific concrete circumstances. —S.H.] TRUTH — Relative and Absolute “Marxists recognize that in the absolute and general process of
development of the universe, the development of each particular process is relative,
and that hence, in the endless flow of absolute truth, man’s knowledge of a particular
process at any given stage of development is only relative truth. The sum total of
innumerable relative truths constitutes absolute truth.” —Mao, “On Practice” (July
1937), SW 1:307. TSUNYI CONFERENCE Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index MASSLINE.ORG Home Page
In Anti-Dühring Engels ridiculed Dühring for his notion of “absolute truth” and talked about how in many cases “truths” are specific to a given age or form of society, or in other words, that many truths are “relative”. One example is morality, where what the bourgeoisie considers to be good and moral is quite different than what was thought to be moral in feudal or slave society, or what will be considered to be good and moral in a future communist society. Lenin, in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908) followed Engels in talking about absolute and relative truth, and as in the quote from Mao below, defined “absolute truth” as merely the sum total of many relative truths.
However, in my own opinion, this is probably no longer the best way of talking about these things. In modern science we try to restrict the concept of “truth” to something that is always true. If the statement or viewpoint is only true in some situations, in some eras, in some cases, and so forth, then we try to specify those conditions under which we deem the statement to always be true. So in this conception there are no such things as either “relative” or “absolute” truths. There are simply truths and falsehoods—that is to say, some statements which are true (and also, of course, many statements which are not true).
Instead of talking about relative and absolute truth, the modern scientific way of looking at the situation is not that actual “truth” itself changes (even from “relative” to “absolute”, or vice-versa), but rather that our knowledge and understanding of the real and complete truth continues to change and develop over time.
The tendency of Dühring (and others) to speak of “absolute truth” was actually a hold-over from traditional idealist philosophy, such as in the writings of Kant and Hegel. Modern science is no longer nearly as influenced by these specific idealist philosophers; though, of course, there are still many other idealist and religious influences which sometimes creep into and pervert science, especially in bourgeois society. —S.H.
[It is no doubt true that human understanding of any complicated process of development has to develop step by step. And also true that our coming to understand the processes at work in just one stage of the overall development is only part of the complete truth of what is going on. But the actual truth about what is happening at any point, or even in an overall sense, does not really change. Only our understanding of what these specific and more general truths actually are becomes gradually deeper and more profound. I believe that this is the essence of what Mao is saying here. —S.H.]
A turning point meeting of the Communist Party of China during the Long March in 1935. [More to be added.]
TRUTH — Abstract
“Concrete political aims must be set in concrete circumstances.... There is no such thing as abstract truth. Truth is always concrete.” —Lenin, “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, July 1905, LCW 9:86. [I don’t think Lenin’s point is that there are no truths about abstractions or abstract entities; there are geometric truths about circles and pentagons, for example, and they are certainly conceptual abstractions. I believe his point is that political generalizations may not always remain valid in specific concrete circumstances. —S.H.]
TRUTH — Relative and Absolute
“Marxists recognize that in the absolute and general process of
development of the universe, the development of each particular process is relative,
and that hence, in the endless flow of absolute truth, man’s knowledge of a particular
process at any given stage of development is only relative truth. The sum total of
innumerable relative truths constitutes absolute truth.” —Mao, “On Practice” (July
1937), SW 1:307.
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
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