People’s Glossary

Basic Historical Materialist Concepts

Anti-Imperialism: n: A broad radical trend rejecting the direct influence of Western and other imperialisms. Anti-imperialism is the basic political thrust of the popular classes of the colonies, and it is out of this struggle that widespread radical change can develop.

Dialectics: n: The study of contradictions within the very essence of things. The scientific analytical approach to studying contradictions within nature taking into account the historical development and interaction of related things. Dialectics holds that nothing exists independence, isolated or unconnected from each other, but that all phenomena are connected and part of the whole. They are dependent upon and determined by each other. Dialectics also holds that all things are in a constant state of motion, i.e. changes. They move from a qualitative level with constant small changes to a qualitative level with their very essence or character and make a leap to a new existence. These changes follow a definite pattern determined by the external and internal contradictions within themselves. This being that all phenomena are made up of opposite forces, i.e. internal contradictions, which are the basis for change and that all external force, i.e. external contradictions, interact and become the conditions or impetus to change. See also: Historical Materialism; Materialism.

Dialectical Materialism: n: Simply stated, this is a methodology that comes about through a combination of Dialectics and Materialism. The materialist dialectic is the theoretical foundation of historical materialist inquiry. While the formulation of Dialectical Materialism is often credited to German economists, philosophers and revolutionaries Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, the term itself was coined by the early 20th century European socialist Karl Kautsky. Since Marx and Engels many other have made contributions to Dialectical Materialism, but the most important important extensions originating with Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. See also: Dialectics; Historical Materialism, Materialism; Metaphysics.

Historical Materialism: n: The dialectical and materialist approach to understanding the history and development of society, understanding the source and origins of social ideas, theories, political philosophies and institutions, i.e. the spiritual life of society. The spiritual life of society is determined by the condition of the material life of society. See also: Dialectics; Dialectical Materialism; Materialism.

Idealism: n: The concept that states that mind primary and matter is secondary; and that all things originate from the idea and that matter is only a reflection of what exists in the mind, as one perceives it. The physical world can only be conceived as relative to, or dependent on the mind, spirit or experience. See also: Dialectics; Materialism; Metaphysics

Ideology: n: A conceptual framework or body of ideas which reflects the perspective or existence of the of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.

Materialism: n: A method of philosophic inquiry which sees material and social circumstance as paramount in shaping individual and social consciousness. Materialism developed in opposition to philosophical Idealism, which saw consciousness and ideas as the force giving order to the physical world. Materialist philosophy tends to look at how the social relations of production in a society give shape and form to the society and its members, i.e. how production and economic activity tend to determine laws, values, ideology, forms of government, etc. See also: Dialectics; Dialectical Materialism; Historical Materialism; Idealism; Metaphysics.

Mass-Line: n: A process of revolutionary leadership in which leaders in constant contact with the masses collect their diverse opinions and grievances, analyse outstanding problems in light of the long-term interests of the masses at large, concentrate their ideas into plans of radical social action and return with the concentrated ideas and plans for approval to the masses in the form of the cooperative implementation.

Metaphysics: n: Term referring to the idea that which exists outside of reality and cannot be perceived by the five senses. This concept states that the idea is the only true and permanent reality. Additionally, knowledge derived from acceptance of pre-existence ideas is the only genuine and valid wisdom, i.e. religion, which is based on belief in a Divine World. See also: Dialectics; Idealism; Materialism

Method: n: In philosophy, how information and knowledge is gained; in activity, how a process or action is conducted; in political activism and social struggles, how an organizations relates to and conducts itself internally and externally.

Third Worldism: n: The intellectual, political and social movement which stresses the primary importance of national liberation as part of worldwide revolution and the construction of a new world.

Political Economy

Abstract Labor: n: Socially necessary (i.e. under specifically social-historic circumstance) labour embodied in a commodity. See also: Capital; Capitalism; Commodity; Surplus Value.

Alienation: n: The process by or condition in which workers become divorced from the products of their labor, the means of production, other laborers and the natural environment. See also: Capitalism.

Base: n: Means of production and other physical components of production, from which capabilities in social organization and social conception are determined; the productive forces. See also: Means of Production; Productive Forces; Structure; Super-Structure.

Capital: n: The physical (money, commodities, machines, land, mines, roads, buildings, all the products of past or ‘dead’ labour or social embodiment (the classes which of have monopoly of control over such) of the means of production directed in such as way to produce surplus value or profit. For example, a given landowner may use start-up money to purchase tools and machines, hire workers and produce food, yet this relationship (the landowner towards those s/he’s hired) and its physical aspects (the land, money, machines, buildings, food produced) does not represent Capital unless such is directed (usually through trade on the market) in a way to acquire more land, machines, workers, etc and expand the dimensions of the relationship embodied in Capital itself; ‘Capital is like a vampire in that it is dead labour which feeds on living labour ; “The governing power over labour and its products.” (Marx) See also: Bourgeoisie; Capitalism; Monopoly Capitalism

Capitalism: n: A mode of production in which the means of production and distribution are increasingly concentrated into the hands of the few, Capitalists, leaving the vast majority of people with no means of survival beyond selling their labour power for wages. Typically under capitalism, workers received a wage to provide for their day to day subsistence, whereas the remainder of the value created through their work is appropriated by the Capitalist classes as surplus value, or profit, which is then utilized to expand this relationship. Modern capitalism has its origins in 17th century England, though features of it existed elsewhere at the same time, though capitalism in its modern form originated with the parasitic expansion of European (White) power throughout the world, a process generally referred to as colonialism or imperialism. Since this early period parasitism has been the central defining feature of capitalism. Today in practical terms it is contextually correct to speak of capitalism indelibly stamped with Western-led imperialism. However, Capitalism as a fundamental description of a mode of production, that which functions towards the end of producing surplus value or profit, has further reaching consequences as demonstrated by the history and failures of socialist lead experiments primarily in the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China. See also: Bourgeoisie; Capital; Capitalist-Imperialism; Communism; Exploitation; Feudalism; Imperialism; Labour Power; Monopoly Capital; Parasitic Capitalism, Proletariat; Socialism; Surplus Value; Value.

Causal Factors of Revolution: n: From the book, Taking Power, on the Origins of Third World Revolutions by John Foran, these causal factors are described as necessarily being present for the success of a social revolution: dependent development (i.e., an economy that fits into the model of national exploitation by an imperialist centre; exclusionary, repressive systems of rule; ‘political cultures of opposition’ and resistance; an economic downturn; a ‘world systemic opening’ (i.e., fracturing of solidarity within global reactionary camp); and a revolutionary outbreak featuring an alliance between various classes, national groups, etc. See also: Revolution; Third World; Unequal Exchange.

Class: n: A particular social group defined by its economic relationship with other classes within a mode of production; the economic relation of a social group to others. See also: Bourgeoisie; Capitalism; Proletariat.

Bourgeoisie: n: The class unto which the ownership and control of Capital is concentrated; imperialists; those whose income is solely derived through the exploitation of others.

Petty Bourgeoisie: n: Generally speaking, the class which receives part of its income through rents, profit and interest (i.e., the exploited labor of others) and another through their own labor.

Proletariat: n: The class of people who, as Marx said, have nothing to loose but their chains, and consequently are the primary revolutionary agent in whose interest it is to overthrow capitalism to establish socialism and then communism. Most conflate this term with the working class, the class of people who do not own the means of production and consequently sell their labour power, particularly the industrial working class, but this is in fact class reductionism. Simply being a member of the working class does not confer proletarian status as many workers, principally in the Imperialist Core, benefit from imperialist exploitation and make up the labour aristocracy – an embourgeoisified layer of workers with a petty bourgeois consciousness opposed to revolution and socialism/communism. Consequently the proletariat is concentrated within the oppressed nations and exploited countries of the world. See also: Working Class; Labour Aristocracy.

Commodity: n: A product of labour produced to satisfy a human want and sold on the market. A dominant feature of Capitalism is the production of goods as commodities. Within capitalism, commodities represent in material form the exchange of labour.

Communism: n: An abstract concept or regulative ideal encompassing a society in which class distinctions and hence classes cease to exist, whereby the state has also ceased to exist as a medium of power by some classes over others and has assumed merely the features of administrative power for the broad interest of the whole of human society; the mode of production associated with classless society: See also: Capitalism; Mode of Production; Proletariat; Structure. Further Reading: Political Economy; Theory.

Core: See: First World

Division of Labour: n: In reference to society at large, the condition of specializing and differentiation of labour in production and distribution.

Economics: n: The process or ideas concerning how societies organize themselves to produce and distribute wealth and resources.

Expansionism: n: Tendency of Capital to increase size and numbers of markets, manifested in political and economic domination of neighbours or those outside normal political jurisdiction.

Exploitation: n: The process, act or phenomena of rendering of surplus value from labour. See also, Capital; Capitalism; Labour, Surplus Value, Value.

Fascism: n: The terroristic form of the rule of the bourgeoisie.

First World: n: A term used by some to describe the social and geographical section of the world in which the majority of the population absorbs surplus value created through imperialist exploitation. In general the people of the First World are not part of the proletariat, however, particularly in north amerika and australasia, the First World does contain a number of significantly sized internal colonies who suffer under conditions of colonialism and national oppression. These nationally oppressed people in the First World are the natural allies of the exploited and oppressed people of the majority of the Earth. See also: Capitalism; Exploitation; First Worldism; Imperialism; Imperialist Core; Surplus Value; Third World.

First Worldismn: A ‘leftist’ ideology marked by chauvinism or adulation of the working class of the imperialist nations which obscures the class nature of the imperialist countries by minimizing the role of imperialist exploitation for the development and maintenance of material and social conditions therein.

Feudalism: n: A mode of production characterized by rule by a landlord system, found in agrarian societies. Under feudalism, land is the primary means of production and landless or semi-landless peasants are the primary producers. Social relations under feudalism are usually based on tradition. In Europe, feudalism was the immediate precursor to capitalism. See also: Semi-feudalism.

Golden Billion: See: First World; Imperialist Core

Imperialism: n: The social system in which the bourgeoisie of one or a handful of nations oppresses and exploits the proletariat of various nations. Imperialism implies that wealth in one portion of the world is due to apparent poverty in others. See also: Anti-Imperialism; Capitalism; National Oppression.

Labour: n: Work done as part of the basis economic process of a society.

Labour Aristocracy: n: A term used by some revolutionaries to refer to the portion of the working class which, owing to their physical and social proximity to the centres of capital accumulation, receive benefits drawn from the labour of the proletariat of oppressed and exploited nations. While many hold that the labour aristocracy did not fully development until the period of modern imperialism as theorized by Lenin, the labour aristocracy in fact goes all the way back to the parasitic origins of capitalism in the expansion of European (White) Power across the globe. The very socio-economic process that resulted in the transformation of European peasants into waged workers rested on the enslavement and genocide of millions of people in the colonies and the theft of their land and resources. See also: Imperialism; Pedestal of Colonialism; Proletariat; Settlerism

Labour Power: n: The abstract ability to work, objectified as a commodity within capitalist-imperialism.

Means of Production: n: The physical instruments and technical capacities (tools, machines), infrastructure (buildings, roads) and commodities (raw materials) employed in the economic activity, which represent a certain level of collective scientific and technical achievement accrued over time and play a determinate role in shaping the relations of production, social relations at large, social consciousness and political institutions. The means of production are commodities (in that they themselves are produced and traded) and Capital (commodities used by capitalists to extract surplus value from labor). Land and space represent a exception to this in that they are said to embody a certain value based on potential for the application of future labor.

Mode of Production: n: The method or circumstance of production in a society, involving the wedding of the means of production with the social relations of production. Today, the whole world operates along the lines of a capitalist-imperialism, in which the geography of the world is increasingly interconnected economically and in which most production of value occurs in and at direct expense of the Third World and the realization of value and surplus occurs in the First World. The mode of production is the definitive and determinate feature of a given society, and social struggles around the mode of production in large part propel history forward.

Money: n: A special commodity, i.e. the embodiment of past labor and hence value, whose sole function is to act as a medium of exchange and measure for labor and value.

Parasitism: n: The process or state of exploitation.

Political Economy: n: The study of the intersection and influence between economics and politics.

Primitive Accumulation: n: The process by which large swathes of people are violently disposed of their traditional means of production in service to capital. Though primitive accumulation did occur within European border through the violent concentration of capital through domestic policies of dispossession and concentration of formerly fuedally held land, the vast bulk of primitive accumulation took place outside of European borders with the genocide and conquest of Turtle Island and the development of the African slave trade. This initial concentration of wealth was invested into factories and new technologies, increasing the productivity and hence profitability of the latter mode of production. Today, primitive accumulation still occurs, whereas people are physically or socially dispossessed to make way for the further expansion of capital. See also: Capital; Capitalism; Colonialism; Feudalism; Imperialism

Primitive Communism: n: An ancient mode of production characterized by rudimentary technology and in which the land is the direct supplier and subsistence, with no class outstanding class divisions or exploitation.

Profit: n: The portion of selling price of a commodity above capital expenditures for rent, the means of production, raw materials and labor forwarded for its production.

Productive Forces: n: The constituent parts (laborers and their inherited physical and social condition, the means of production such as machines and buildings, and the subject of production such as the raw materials) of the production process; also known as the ‘base’ (in relation to the ‘structure’ and ‘super-structure’ of society); the productive forces determine the relations of production (i.e., how groups are organized for production) and hence the cultural, social, political and economic institutions which regulate and reflect these relations.

“The [productive forces] of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” Karl Marx

Relations of Production: n: The relations formed between people, irrespective of their consciousness or will, as part of production and exchange in a given society.

Socialism: n: Transitional period in which the proletarian has seized control of the state to suppress reactionary forces, struggle against international capital and develop the productive forces and social relations to accomplish communism.

State: n: Social institution through which one class or classes legitimize and maintain their rule over others.

Structure: n: The social relations of production; the fundamental relational elements of a given mode of production; the relations between classes in a given mode of production; class structure.

Super-Exploitation: n: The rate or process of exploitation over and above its normal rate due to imperialist or monopoly factors.

Super Structure: n: The cultural, ideological and institutional reflections of the social relations and means of production (structure and base) in a given society.

Surplus Value: n: The portion of exchange value above fixed capital inputs (the means production, materials and labor) of a commodity; profit.

Third World: n: Term used by some to refer to the portion of the geographic-social world subjected to imperialist exploitation by imperialism.

Triad: n: The post World War II imperialist bloc consisting of the United States, Japan and Western Europe.

Unequal Exchange: The process or condition in which the labor in the form of value is transferred from the Third World to the First through the manipulation of wages, prices and currency values.

Value: n: Labour materialized in commodities.

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