U.S.S.R. and communism historical discussion.
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Post 12 Dec 2008, 03:19
This is a thread where I want cohesive and Intelligent definitions of terms for what we on the left discuss everyday, but newcomers may not know.

This thread will be eventually replaced by a locked topic with the approved definitions that we keep.

What should be defined here?

Communism, Anarchism, Revisionism, Socialism, Etc.

What shouldn't be defined here?

Trotskyism, Stalinism, Leninism, Maoism, etc.

Also, No cut and paste from wiki, please let these definitions be understandable to many but intelligent, cohesive and original.

The Forum Commisar will have much say in this matter as well as admins as to what definitions we keep.

Please contribute on what you know of and be as objective as possible.

Post 12 Dec 2008, 16:31
Dictatorship of the Proletariat

A term coined by German American Marxist Joseph Weydemeyer[1] and later adopted by Karl Marx. As used by Marxists the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ refers to the period of transition between capitalist society and communist society[2]. The word ‘dictatorship’ refers to the dictatorship of an entire class, not a single individual or a party, so the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ refers to a state which is characterised by the working class also being the ruling class.

From Critique of the Gotha Program:
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Engels described the much earlier Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat, citing its revolutionary democratic character[3]. The term “Workers’ State” is often used as a synonym to avoid potential confusion with the negative meaning of the word ‘dictatorship.’

[1] ... _03_05.htm
[2] ... /index.htm
Post 12 Dec 2008, 17:49
As an addition to the above:

It is also worth noting that the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a direct translation of the German Diktatur des Proletariats. While Diktatur does indeed mean "dictatorship", in the 19th century the word had not yet come to denote an anti-democratic, totalitarian regime. Instead, Marx used it only to express the concept of "reign" or "governance".
Post 12 Dec 2008, 19:48
I'll give some a shot.

Communism: Theoretically, a stateless, classless society in which the means of production is collectively owned and goods & services are freely distributed according to need as oppose to wealth or social status. It has also been incorrectly used to describe countries that are ruled by Marxist-Leninist parties.

Anarchism: A general political philosophy that advocates the elimination of the central compulsory state. Anarchism has many diverse schools of thought, some of which advocate a market economy like anarcho-capitalism or mutualism, while other schools advocate the abolishment of the market and private ownership of the means of production, such as anarcho-communism, anarcho-collectivism, and anarcho-syndicalism.

Revisionism: Ideas based on the revision of the basic tenets of an ideology or theory. In Marxism, it usually refers to the ideas of Eduard Bernstein, who questioned many of the principles of Marxian economics and believed that capitalism could be reformed into socialism, and the ideas of Khrushchev and other post-Stalinist leaders who claimed that the Soviet Union was no longer a "dictatorship of the proletariat" but a "dictatorship of the whole people".

Socialism: in general, socialism means collective ownership of the means of production. In The State and Revolution, Lenin uses the word to describe what Marx called the "first phase of communism" since this phase was still not completely communist. In this phase, the workers overthrows the capitalist system, seizes political power, and makes the means of production into public property. Since socialism is born from the womb of capitalism, it will have several distinct features from communism. Since class antagonisms still exist, so will the state. Workers will still accustomed to capitalist traditions, so they will still be payed according to the labor they contribute. These aspects are expected to eventually die out and give way for a genuine communist society.

State: the institutions of coercion in society that serves & protects the ruling class(the owners of the means of production) and it's social system. Since the state has it's roots in class society, it will become obsolete in a classless society. The state should not be confused with all legal & administrative structures in society, so just because a society is stateless doesn't mean their will be no laws or organization in society.

Imperialism: Imperialism, as Lenin described it, is the highest stage of capitalism. Lenin's & Bukharin's analysis described the defining characteristics of imperialism is 1) the concentration of capital in the hands of a few monopolistic companies, 2) The dominance of finance capital and financial oligarchy, 3) the export of capital from imperialist countries towards underdeveloped countries to exploit cheaper resources & labor for superprofits, 4) formation of international capitalist associations, and 5) division of the world by the biggest imperialist powers. Imperialism is the realization of Marx's predictions on the increasing concentration of capital and the spread of capitalism through out the world. Imperialism also made it more difficult for workers' revolutions to occur in the first world since the super-profits allow capitalists to give into some of the worker's demands and buy out the leaders of the working class, creating a labor aristocracy.

Cultural Hegemony: A theory put forth by Antonio Gramsci explaining that a reason why the working class still hasn't overthrown capitalism despite Marx & Engels predictions. Cultural hegemony explains that the ideas of the ruling class are transmitted to the rest of the population and ultimately become "common sense". Louis Althusser explained that the these ideas are transmitted through "ideological state apparatuses" such as the church, the mass media, the education system, political parties, etc. Althusser believed that the dominant ISA in pre-industrial society was the church, and that the dominant ISA in industrial society is the education system, since it allows the ruling class to ideologically program students for hours a day all year round. Gramsci advocated that the revolutionary party should carry out a "war of position", basically a culture war that challenges the cultural hegemony of bourgeois society and creates "organic intellectuals" in the working class through popular education. The war of position would then lead to a "war of maneuver", the armed insurrection.


I'll add more later. Since you don't want to definitions for different communist schools of thought, maybe we should create a separate sticky about that?

EDIT: Oh wait, I saw you already did that in the other forum. Nevermind.
Last edited by Fallen Raptor on 12 Dec 2008, 22:12, edited 1 time in total.
Post 12 Dec 2008, 20:15
Perhaps Whitten overdid it with the sources, but I think he should be commended for doing a very thorough job and really should be held as an example. It's brilliant! That kind of effort is too much for most people.
Post 13 Dec 2008, 00:31
Thank you for getting this off to a good start.
Post 26 Sep 2009, 15:37
I think these will go better here as they aren't really mutually incompatible ideologies but someone can move this to the other sticky if you feel the need.

Structural Marxism

A school of thought which combines Marxism with Structuralism, it arose in France during the 1960's under the tutelage of Louis Althusser. Structural Marxism constituted simultaneously a revolt against the abandonment of historical thinking in Structuralist philosophy and the perceived historicism of Hegelian Marxism, whilst reaffirming the determinate role of economic factors. Althusser sought to remove what he saw as ideological impurities from Marx and reconstitute it as a fully scientific programme, in opposition to both Historicism and Positivism.

Structural Marxism posits that under a capitalist mode of production the State, law, political discourse, education, religion and other social phenomenon take on specifically capitalist forms in which the logic of capitalist system is reproduced and reflected in the social superstructure.

Further Reading:
For Marx (L Althusser)
Reading Capital (L Althusser)
Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory (R Resch)
Political Power and Social Classes (N Poulantzas)

Hegelian Marxism

Broadly speaking any form of Marxism which emphasises the role of Hegelian elements or is seen to interpret Marx through Hegel. Although the term is rarely used by thinkers to identify themselves, the trend is usually traced back to Lukács and Korsch and has been closely intertwined with the broad 'Western Marxist' camp.

Some go further and trace the Hegelian interpretation of Marx to Engels himself, arguing that the dialectical philosophy developed by Engels in his later life bore as much in common with Hegel as it did with Marx.

Further Reading:
History and Class Consciousness (G Lukács)
The Young Hegel (G Lukács)
Marxism and Philosophy (K Korsch)
Marx's Grundrisse and Hegel's Logic (H Uchida)

Marxist Humanism

A Marxist variant of Humanism, Marxist Humanists typically lay emphasis on Marx's theory of alienation and related elements of Marxist theory, particularly drawing from Marx's earlier works. Various Marxist Humanist trends emerged largely independently from the Praxis School in the East to Trotskyist variants in the West.

Marxist Humanism tends to grant a role for subjective human agency within Historical Materialism, and Marxist Humanists have often been particularly concerned with studying the field of ethics from a Marxist perspective.

Further Reading:
Marx's Humanism Today (R Dunayevskaya)

Analytic Marxism (or, Positivist Marxism)

Analytic Marxism was an attempt to reconstruct Marxism within the framework of Analytic philosophy. It was briefly popular in the Anglo-sphere during the 1980's. Analytic Marxists rejected dialectical logic, the labour theory of value seeking to re-derive Marxist theory using formal logic and neoclassical economics.

Using concepts in neoclassical economics Analytic Marxists developed their own theory of exploitation which claimed that labour played no special role but that exploitation could be shown to arise as a natural consequence of market exchange. Their theory of exploitation stood in contrast to that of classical Marxism in which exploitation was seen to occur primarily at the point of production, not exchange.

Analytic Marxists were divided on the question of whether a theory of history and the development of productive relations could be reconstructed within the Analytic framework. Those who did not reject such a theory outright developed it as a technologically determinist theory. Devoid of class based theory of history they attempted to redefine Marxism as a formulation of applied social and economic justice, rather than a scientific theory.

Further Reading:
Karl Marx's Theory of History (G Cohen)
General Theory of Exploitation and Class (J Roemer)
Making Sense of Marx (J Elster)
A Theory of Justice (J Rawls)

Also, someone may wish to flesh out the Marxist Humanism part, my backgrounds not too strong in that area.
Post 27 Sep 2009, 03:23
Karel Kosik would fall in the humanist camp (Dialectics of the Concrete), as would Adolfo Sanchez Vazquez (Philosophy of Praxis).

I think that you can add Lefevbre to the Hegelian camp, although he might dispute that (were he alive, of course).
Post 13 Nov 2010, 22:45
Rawls Theory of Justice isn't Marxian..its liberal, and is in fact deconstructed by G A Cohen.
Post 14 Nov 2010, 06:09
You're right of course, I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that.
Post 15 Nov 2010, 18:15
Whitten (and others), what are your feelings on Analytical Marxism?

I'm just getting into it a bit at the moment.
Post 17 Nov 2010, 19:16
Hi guys, I want to resume this thread so as to complete it, so that we can have a beginner's guide on terminology.

To get things started, I would appreciate if someone here would volunteer their definition of:

Commodity fetishism

Abstract labour

Surplus value


Class struggle

Thank you very much in advance.
Post 18 Nov 2010, 01:48
Abstract labor:

Abstract labour is value-creating labour. The purpose of this labour in capitalist society is not the benefit of the consumer of the product it creates, but the amount of value that it has created, and which remains with the seller in abstracted form, after it has been separated from its original product in trade. The purpose of abstract labour is to create value, not to create a product.
Post 16 Dec 2010, 21:33
Class Struggle Under Capitalism, the struggle of the working class (q.v.) and working masses led by it against the economic and political domination of the bourgeoisie (q.v.). Marx and Engels revealed its essence and aims, the reasons for its emergence, conditions and development prospects, on the basis of a profound study of the laws of the capitalist mode of production and summary of the first lessons of the working class’s struggle against the bourgeoisie. They showed that the inevitability of this struggle stems from the fundamentally opposite economic and political positions of the two major classes in bourgeois society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, hinging on capitalist production relations. Capitalism (q. v.) is the last antagonistic formation, so the irreconcilable struggle of the working people against the domination of the bourgeoisie leads not only to the abolition of the capitalist form of production, but also to the creation of the conditions required for finally eliminating classes and the class struggle (see Obliteration of Socio-Class Distinctions). Marx and Engels saw the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie as the highest form of the working people’s liberation movement, and the proletariat itself as the natural leader of all the oppressed and exploited. Only by actively participating in this struggle does the working class acquire class awareness; as a result, its organisational level and cohesion improve, and its alliance with the broad non– proletarian mass is consolidated. The MarxistLeninist Party has a major role to play in waging C.S. The consistent struggle of the working people against the sway of capital inevitably brings about a socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat (q.v.). Lenin said that the class struggle was a major issue of Marxism, and that "outside the class struggle, socialism is either a hollow phrase or a naive dream" (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 9, p. 443).
Post 20 Dec 2010, 04:42
What's Pan Communism? This is the first place I've ever seen the term used
Post 20 Dec 2010, 04:49
Some people round here use it to mean a version of Marxism-Leninism that's beyond the Stalin/Trotsky bitching. I guess most sensible communists would classify as pan-communists.
Post 20 Dec 2010, 07:35
What's Pan Communism? This is the first place I've ever seen the term used

It's more popularly referred to as 'Pan-Socialism' also referred to as Brezhnevite... or I guess Brezhnevitism. Basically it's an idea of gathering all versions and factions of socialist/communist thinking to come together. Optimistic at best, Dangerously idealistic at worst.
Post 29 Dec 2010, 06:53
Im not sure if this is 100% right but I would like to put it here to see if I fully grasp the concept. Obviously, any corrections or critiques will be gladly met (even if the full thing has to be re-written).

Dialectical Materialism - is a concept by which the universe is made of matter and this matter is in constant motion due to its inherrent contridictions. Ideas are a result of this matter in motion that surrounds the man or men as our concept of reality is based in our material world.

This is relevant to explaining eventual proletarian revolution as the two opposing forces of Capitalist society (which are related to their material position) are Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. They will act against each other until the stronger wins. As the Proleteriat outnumber the Bourgeoise all it would take would be class conciousness to activate their strength and end Capitalist society (through revolution).

I know its pretty simplified but thats all I can manage to type for now. Have I grasped the idea fully?
Post 29 Dec 2010, 07:00
Yeah, you have. If my opinion means anything. I think it's very important to stress that DiaMat is a way to explain/interpret the world, not some kind of "law" according to which the world works (as Soviet ideologists have often propagated). The difference might be subtle, but it is of tremendous importance.
Post 29 Dec 2010, 20:50
If it's not a means to understand how the world works, but only a mere viewpoint, what use is it?
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