IV. Glossary

Please note that many of the terms listed below have several definitions (i.e. "liberal" also means generous). This glossary defines terms only in regard to how they are most commonly used in this packet.

Bolshevik Revolution (proper noun)

The violent struggle which removed the czar and brought communists to power in Russia in 1917. The Bolsheviks were a group of communists led by Vladimir Lenin.

capitalism (noun)

An economic system in which the means of production (factories, printing presses, etc.) are owned privately and operated for profit. Under capitalism, prices and wages are generally determined in the market rather than by voters or government officials.

communism (noun)

1. A system of political beliefs which advocates the abolition of most forms of private property and the creation of a society where property is owned in common, with all members of the community sharing in the work and the products.

2. The economic and political system instituted in the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Also, the economic and political system of several Soviet allies, such as China and Cuba. (Writers often capitalize Communism when they use the word in this sense.) These Communist economic systems often did not achieve the ideals of communist theory. For example, although many forms of property were owned by the government in the USSR and China, neither the work nor the products were shared in a manner that would be considered equitable by many communist or Marxist theorists.

Cold War (proper noun)

The struggle between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. The Cold War began shortly after the end of the Second World War and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-90. The Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War (1965-73) were part of the Cold War. The Cold War had both a military and an ideological component. The military component consisted of an "arms race" between the U.S. and USSR and also American and Soviet intervention in numerous civil wars in smaller countries. The ideological component consisted of arguments over whose economic system was superior and competition to be the first nation to achieve various technological feats (such as landing a man on the moon).

conservative (adjective)

Tending to preserve established political, economic, and social institutions; opposed to most forms of change.

conservative (noun)

A person who holds conservative ideas. American conservatives tend to favor the existing forms of American capitalism and democracy and tend to oppose efforts to modify or reform them substantially. American conservatives are usually strongly anti-communist.

fascism (noun)

Although there is no single body of political theory associated with fascism, it tends to include a belief in the superiority of one national or ethnic group over others, insistence on national unity under a powerful leader, and hostility toward democracy. Fascism developed in Italy in the early 1920s. It became quite influential in several European nations in the 1930s, most notably in Germany under the Nazi Party.

fellow traveler (noun phrase; slang)

A person who, although not a member of a given political group, cooperates with that group. This phrase was most commonly applied to the non-communist supporters of the Communist Party.

"front" organization (noun phrase; slang)

A political organization which is dominated by another political organization; a political group that is a "puppet" of another group. This phrase was most commonly applied to political groups whose leadership included communists. Such groups were also called "fronts."

left-wing; right-wing (adjectives)

Terms used to define political ideas or people who hold such ideas. If the variety of political beliefs is thought of as a spectrum, the more liberal or radical ideas are left-wing, while the more conservative or fascist ideas are right-wing. Many people commonly think of a political spectrum like the following:


Therefore, one could say that communism is to the left of liberalism, and so forth.

Leninism (proper noun)

The political and economic doctrines of Karl Marx as interpreted and applied by Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1924. Lenin stressed the need for a violent revolution to bring communists to power. He developed specific strategies and tactics for bringing about such revolutions. Lenin also argued that communist governments should not tolerate political opposition. Leninism is often used combined with other terms. Marxism-Leninism means the same thing as Leninism. Leninism-Stalinism means Lenin's doctrines as interpreted and modified by Josef Stalin.

liberal (adjective)

Tending to favor constitutional or legal reforms in the direction of greater freedom or democracy. Favorable toward social and cultural change.

liberal (noun)

A person who holds liberal ideas. American liberals approve of many features of capitalism, but believe that government action is needed to regulate some aspects of the capitalist system. Specifically, American liberals tend to favor programs designed to guarantee individuals a minimum standard of economic security. American liberals generally prefer gradual reform to dramatic political or economic changes. American liberals also tend to believe that all groups should have full political and civil rights. In the 1950s, however, American liberals were divided over the issue of whether communists deserved full political and civil rights.

Marxism (proper noun)

A system of thought based on the writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883). Marx claimed that all wealth was really created by workers, not capitalists. He argued that capitalism was wrong because capitalists controlled and profited from the products of workers' labor. He advocated a communist economic system where the working class would own and control the means of production (factories, printing presses, etc.). Marx believed that history followed a set pattern and that the working class would inevitably overthrow the capitalist class in a series of revolutions. Marxism and communism are not entirely identical terms. Many Marxists (followers of Marx) accept Marx's criticisms of capitalism, but reject his plan for a communist economic system. Thus some Marxists are not communists. Similarly, some communists are not familiar with or do not accept Marx's theories.

McCarthyism (proper noun)

1) A series of political attitudes and tactics associated Joseph McCarthy, a US Senator from Wisconsin from 1946 to 1958. McCarthyism is characterized by vehement anti-communism and the use of tactics involving publicizing unsubstantiated accusations about individuals thought to be subversive.

2) The persecution of communists and suspected communists in the U.S. after the Second World War. When used in this broader sense, McCarthyism is a synonym for Red Scare.

Nazi-Soviet Pact (proper noun)

A treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union signed in August 1939. The two nations promised not to attack one another and agreed to cooperate in a simultaneous invasion of Poland. This invasion triggered the start of the Second World War. The Nazis broke the Pact by invading the Soviet Union in July 1941. The American Communist Party was very unpopular while the Pact was in effect because communists were seen as allies of Hitler. The Nazi-Soviet Pact is also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

New Deal (proper noun)

The program of reforms advocated by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. These reforms included the construction of federally-owned hydroelectric dams as well as the creation of social security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, the forty-hour work week, and many other programs of economic security.

Pinks or Pinkos (noun; slang)

Derogatory terms for communists and socialists.

radical (adjective)

Extreme; outside the mainstream; favoring sweeping political or social changes. When used in regard to American politics from the 1930s to the 1960s, radical most often refers to extreme left-wing views.

radical (noun)

A person who holds radical views. In the United States, communists, socialists, and anarchists are generally thought of as radicals.

Red (adjective; slang)

A slang term for communist ideas or policies.

Reds (noun; slang)

A derogatory term for communists.

socialism (noun)

A theory or policy which advocates or aims at public ownership of land, factories, and a few other types of property. Most forms of socialism rely on a government to manage and distribute the property in the common interest of the community. American socialists have generally favored giving democratically-elected governments greater control over major industries. Socialism differs from communism in its willingness to allow more forms of private property and in its greater commitment to achieving economic change through democratic means.

Stalinism (proper noun)

1) Support for the policies of Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from the late 1920s until 1953. Stalin was known for absolute intolerance for internal political opposition. Many thousands of Soviet citizens who opposed Stalin's policies were killed in "purges" during the 1930s and 1940s.

2) A particularly ruthless form of communist theory or practice.

United Front (proper noun)

An alliance of communists, socialists, and liberals during the late 1930s and early 1940s. These groups formed a United Front in order to oppose the spread of fascism and to attempt to pass economic reforms to end the Great Depression. The American Communist Party supported the New Deal and reached the peak of its popularity during the United Front period. The United Front is also referred to as the Popular Front.

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