In Issue 12, we began building a glossary of terms that are relevant to the discussions and articles printed in 4strugglemag. This is a collaborative project, with contributions from people in and outside of prison. The contributor’s initials are included after the definition, and contributor information is at the end of this page.
Some have requested that 4strugglemag include a glossary of terms in our issues. We agree it’s important for all of us to be on relatively the same page in our discussions.
Back in the day, when a group of academics set out to write the first comprehensive English dictionary they understood it was too big and important to be left to them alone to create. The first Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was written by soliciting contributions from the public (and over 11,000 definitions were provided by ONE man: a prisoner named W C Minor). If it was good enough a model for the OED, it’s good enough for 4SM.
But just as the history books of the bosses tell their side of the story, so too the bosses’ dictionaries define our words on their terms. When WE say “working class” we don’t mean the poor and destitute, we mean the people that produce the wealth of this world but hardly share in it. When WE say “capitalism” we don’t mean the free-market and private enterprise, we mean a system based on theft, greed, and inequality. OUR definitions should reflect that.
This list is not complete and the definitions are far from set in stone. We’re just trying to get the ball rolling. Everyone’s encouraged to contribute new defined words or revisions to definitions they feel aren’t accurate. This is only the starting point.
Abstract: A theoretical summary of essentials apart from application to a particular interest. An argument that treats a question in the most general or vague terms and expressions. [MHG]
Authoritarian personality: A person who has the dual requirements of conformity, accompanied by compulsive sadism. [MHG]
Austerity measures: Enforced or extreme economy, simple and unadorned, giving little or no scope for pleasure. The imperialist International Bank for Reconsideration and Development (aka the World Bank) introduces such to its victims via its Structural Adjustment Program/Plan (SAP) dictates, which are imposed on all countries that request finance/development loans from major lending institutions, most notably the International Monetary Fund. A parallel government established by the global financial institutions is installed in the debtor country and the SAP tool is utilized to transfer the poor country’s wealth (mineral resources, raw materials, cheap human slave labor and local market economy, etc.) to the capitalist exploiters via destructive draconian measures such as cutting social welfare spending/services which provide for the people’s basic human needs; removing food subsidies; privatizing the agricultural sector and importing expensive food stocks from the imperialist countries that the locals cannot afford; removing fuel subsidies that kept fuel costs down; creating high unemployment by firing government workers and with the help of imperialist agent U.S. Agency for International Development; drafting oppressive and exploitive labor laws that create $2 8 hour work days, depress wage levels to $1 to $2 per day, ease conditions to fire workers and outlaw the right to strike, and prohibit the formation of workers’ unions; devaluating and debasing the local currency by decoupling it from gold and silver standards and forcing the printing of excess paper currency, which in turn strengthens the U.S. dollar and collapses the local currency; deregulating and privatizing the state/people owned enterprises (the public sector) and forcing the monopolization of critical infrastructure industries like electricity and water distribution, banking, telecommunications and other sectors; cheapening the cost of exports, wholesaling barely above the slave labor costs; lowering or completely extinguishing trade tariffs on imports and eliminating internal price-controls, so imperialists country products can be sold to locals at maximum profits; and militarization buildup to repress uprisings. [MHG]
Authoritarian (dictatorship): Favoring blind submission to authority and a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people. [MHG]
Bourgeoisie: The middle class, distinguished from the working class primarily by their pro-capitalist and anti-working class bias. While the middle class / bourgeoisie work, their sympathy with the ruling class may be explained by the fact that they own property (stocks, their own homes, land, etc) and that their incomes are generally higher than those of the traditional working class because they have managerial or professional jobs. [BMD]
Bourgeoisie [revised]: “Bourgeoisie” is actually a synonym for capitalist class, not for today’s middle class. The origin of the term is indeed middle class, but it doesn’t refer to today’s middle class as given in the glossary. The root is from burgher, or townsman, because that was the class in the middle between nobility and peasants — a class that was emerging as the seeds of capitalism were sprouting in late feudalism. It was made up of the townsmen who developed workshops and commercial trade and captured the surplus that became capital. So, what was the middle class back then, under late feudalism, became the ruling class of capitalism. That history explains why, even though the historical origin of the word is middle class, the best synonym in a capitalist society for bourgeoisie is capitalist class. Otherwise such classics as “The Communist Manifesto” – where Marx describes capitalist society as being split into two great contending classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat — don’t make sense at all. [DG]
Brainwashing: A calculated merciless campaign of indoctrination meant to paralyze a person’s capacity to think, judge, and understand political, social, economic and religious matters for themselves. It is a system that inculcates people with self-serving regimented ideas by teaching them what to think, not how to think, and whose aim is to destroy the ability of the target to see the exploitation of oppression to which they are subjected and to understand its causes. [MHG]
Cadre: Framework – a nucleus of trained, experienced activists in an organization who are capable of assuming leadership and/or training and educating others to perform functional roles. [MHG]
Capitalism: An economic system in which property owners (capitalists) pay wages to workers at less than what their labour is worth, in order to make profit. This is the relation of exploitation through wage labour that differentiates capitalism from other economic systems. In other words, within capitalism, the lazy few get rich off thieving the labour power of the many for the primary benefit of a very small class of non-producing elites. [BMD]
Chauvinism: An undying or irrational love for one’s own sex, class, nationality, or race. Undue partiality or attachment to one group resulting in an attitude of superiority towards its opposite. [MHG]
Colonialism: The process of a foreign power setting up local outposts of control for the purpose of expropriating local wealth (e.g. land, labour power, raw materials) for the benefit of those colonial foreign powers. The western expansion of the American government, the following genocide of Native people and theft of the land are prime examples of American capital’s reliance on colonialism.
Concrete: To make actual, real and tangible; treating a question with conclusions that are precise, definite, practical and specific. [MHG]
Democracy (liberal/bourgeois/capitalist): The appearance of democracy maintained by capitalists that allow a few surface decision-making powers for the general population but never allow true power to be in the hands of the people. Capitalist democracy might applaud when we vote for a black president but will surely wage war if its white supremacy is truly challenged. [BMD]
Dictatorship: Autocratic (unlimited authority with unlimited rule) rule over the people by a dictator/single person or small clique of persons via despotic (absolute and unlimited) and often tyrannical (oppressive and brutal) power expressed by unquestionable orders imposed authoritatively. [MHG]
Exploitation: To use mealy or unjustly for one’s own advantage; unfairly or cynically using another person or group for profit or advantage. [MHG]
Fascism: In theory, fascism is a political ideology that is authoritarian (“obey!”), anti-democratic (“shut up!”), populist (“the leader’s will expresses the will of the nation!”), and violently repressive towards opposition (“Welcome to Attica”). In practice, fascism erupts when the capitalists give up on the appearance of democracy and turn to outright dictatorship to maintain their control of the working and oppressed classes. [BMD]
Fascism: More appropriately called “corporatism” because it is a merger of state and corporate power. This is the extreme response of capitalism to economic crises. It is a repressive form of government that has three (3) different faces: one, out of power; two, in power but not secure; and, three, in power and securely so. This type of government takes on police state characteristics wherein the political regime forcibly suppresses all opposition and enforces the severe economic and social regimentation of the masses in order to maintain the status quo of oligarchic plutocracy. Tell-tale characteristics of such a setup include centralization of monopoly finance capital under the guise of privatization, where even your so-called “public” utilities and other institutions (water, oil, electric companies, jails and prisons, roads and highways, welfare offices, and media/airwaves etc.) are brought under the cartel control of large corporations belonging to the ruling class; government intervention and controls that keep the business cartels from failing financially (e.g. bailouts of airlines, banking, insurance and automobile industries with tax dollars; and government subsidies directed to chosen businesses, etc.; interlocks wherein the corporate masters either instruct government officials on what course of action to take, or they hold actual government posts; totalitarian regimentation which includes government ID, censorship, gun control, unjust searches and seizures, omnipresent surveillance (cameras everywhere and big brother is watching), deployment of a massive snitch network, no-knock warrants, and private military forces like Blackwater Corp., and the forcible injection of people with anti-psychotic drugs, etc; and, the scapegoating of powerless groups based upon their race or sexual orientation. There is no such thing as a ‘free market.’ It is a social deception. The hand is very visible The fascist arrangement tolerates the existence of no valid revolutionary activity, and its deceptive nature can be seen in the fact that if one were forced to define it in one simple word, that word would be ‘reform: economic reform. [MHG]
Imperialism: The process of building empire – a system of interconnected colonial outposts that are politically governed by the same central power. In recent history, Imperialism isn’t pursued in only the manner of the Roman Empire. While not directly controlling their governments, the new American Empire can control nations economically with debt and the standardized US dollar, or politically with puppet governments. If the newer, subtler forms of imperialism fail though, the new empire is obviously not above reverting to the tried and true methods of military invasion and occupation as in Iraq and Afghanistan, presently. [BMD]
Lumpen-proletariat: The unemployed working class. The working class removed from the “point of production” that make-do economically through the black market or underground economy. While historically overlooked by the left, many revolutionaries have argued the necessity of organizing with the lumpen-proletariat as a focus for successful revolutionary struggle. [BMD]
Lumpen-proletariat: The definition of lumpen-proletariat isn’t exactly right either. Unemployed working class sounds like the reserve army of labor, which is a sector of the proletariat. Although there can be some overlap between the two, lumpen technically refers to declassé elements, often those who’ve fallen out of various classes, that don’t have a direct relationship to the mode of production. That position is the basis for their dual potential, as the glossary explains, to 1. (a la Marx) be dangerous and undisciplined elements that can be used by the ruling class against the struggle, and 2. (a la Fanon) to be very dissatisfied and militant against the status quo. [DG]
Oligarchy: Government by the few over the many, where a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes. [MHG]
Patriarchy: A social system designed for the legal, political, economic benefit of men to the detriment of women. In much the same way as collaboration with white supremacy, men that support patriarchal systems and the sexism that perpetuates them not only make a mockery of humanity but serve the interests of the system that oppresses us all.
Plutocracy: Government by a controlling class of the wealthy. [MHG]
Politics of two arms: the connection between military buildup and imperialist economic domination of Third World communities, joining an economics of appropriation of land, resources, labor and institutions with military bases for the control and monitoring of insurgencies and defending of imperialist economic interests. [MHG]
Proletariat: The employed/ “productive” working class at the “point of production”. The working class gets paid less than the full value of their work. Capitalist exploitation robs the proletariat of its labour value to produce profits without which the capitalist system would grind to a halt. For this strategic reason, the classic left has viewed the proletariat as the sector of the working class that has the capacity to lead the class struggle towards revolution. [BMD]
Protest: When I say that this or that doesn’t suit me and brings me harm which I intend to stop by any means necessary. [MHG]
Resistance/rebellion/revolt: When I ensure that what doesn’t suit me no longer occurs. [MHG]
Vertical integration: A form of business organization in which a single company/firm owns and controls the entire process of production from the procurement and unearthing of the raw materials to the manufacture and sale of the finished product; integrating and controlling economic activity from basic production to the point-of-sale. [MHG]
Welfare: Though many are brainwashed (see that definition above) into thinking that this is a bad thing and something to be ashamed of needing, it is simply aid for those in need; the state of doing well in respect to happiness and well-being, and the improvement of this state for disadvantaged social groups. It is a necessity created by the unjust and unfair economic system of capitalism. It is a civil and human right, although it is severely underfunded by the government politicians who practice to deceive. [MHG]
White supremacy: A social system designed for the legal, political, economic benefit of white people to the detriment of non-white people. White supremacist collaboration with the bosses by white workers will earn them privileges from the capitalists, but ultimately this betrayal serves to divide the working class and makes class-traitors of those white workers. [BMD]
Working class: Those who work. As opposed to capitalists, who own property and make money off of other people’s work.
BMD: Bryan Doherty, member of Toronto ABCF
MHD: Marland Henry Gibson, 952537, B. East – 311- SHU, P.O. Box 1111, Carlisle Indiana
DG: David Gilbert, anti-imperialist prisoner. David sent changes to existing definitions in winter 2009.