MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People


simone de Beauvoir


De Beauvoir, Simone (1908-1986)

French writer and feminist, and Existentialist. She is known primarily for her treatise The Second Sex (1949), a scholarly and passionate plea for the abolition of what she called the myth of the “eternal feminine.” It became a classic of feminist literature during the 1960s.

Schooled in private institutions, de Beauvoir attended the Sorbonne, where, in 1929, she passed her agrégation in philosophy and met Jean-Paul Sartre, beginning a free, lifelong association with him. She taught at a number of schools (1931-43) before turning to writing for her livelihood. In 1945 she began editing Le Temps Modernes with Sartre.

Her novels expounded the major Existential themes, demonstrating her conception of the writer’s commitment to the times. She Came To Stay (1943) treats the difficult problem of the relationship of a conscience to “the other”. Of her other works of fiction, perhaps the best known is The Mandarins (1954), a chronicle of the attempts of post-World War II intellectuals to leave their “mandarin” (educated elite) status and engage in political activism. She also wrote four books of philosophy, including The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947).

Several volumes of her work are devoted to autobiography which constitute a telling portrait of French intellectual life from the 1930s to the 1970s. In addition to treating feminist issues, de Beauvoir was concerned with the issue of aging, which she addressed in A Very Easy Death (1964), on her mother’s death in a hospital. In 1981 she wrote A Farewell to Sartre, a painful account of Sartre’s last years.

Simone de Beauvoir revealed herself as a woman of formidable courage and integrity, whose life supported her thesis: the basic options of an individual must be made on the premises of an equal vocation for man and woman founded on a common structure of their being, independent of their sexuality.

See Simone De Beauvoir Archive.


De Boer, Harry (1905-91)

American Trotskyist and member of the Socialist Workers Party (US). He was a paid Teamster organizer during the 1934 truck driver's strike in Minneapolis. Along with others he was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government under the Smith Act in 1941. He also was Vincent Dunne's Minneapolis mayoral race campaign manager in 1943.

Guy Debord


Debord, Guy (1931-1994)

Guy Debord was born in Paris in 1931 and joined the Lettrist International at the age of 18. The Lettrists fused poetry and music, and aimed to transform the urban landscape using the principle of “psycho-geography.”

In 1957 the Lettrist International joined another group of avant-garde artists influenced by Dadaism and Surrealism, called Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, to form the Situationist International (SI), and founded the magazine called Situationiste Internationale. Debord saw himself as the leader of the SI, which never counted more than a dozen or so Parisian intellectuals as members.

The SI held that capitalism diverted and stifled creativity, dividing the social body into producers and consumers, or actors and spectators. By 1962 they were applying their critique to all aspects of capitalist society, and no longer limiting it to arts and culture. Though inspired anarchism, their position was similar to that of “council communism.” They saw the USSR as a capitalist bureaucracy.

In 1967, Debord published his major work, Society of the Spectacle, arguing that the “spectacle,” or the domination of life by images, has subsumed all other forms of domination. He sees commodity production, as central to the of Situationist theory, including the creation of “pseudo-needs” by capitalism, and thus tended to shift criticism of capitalism from production to distribution and consumption. Society of the Spectacle had an great influence on the student rebellion in 1968.

The Situationist praxis was based on constructing situations that were disruptive to social norms to redirect images and events. To undermine consumer society and the constructed spectacle they encouraged vandalism, wildcat strikes and sabotage, seeing these as creative acts. The group disbanded over tactical disputes in 1972.

In 1984, Debord’s friend and pub;isher, Gerard Lebovici was assassinated, and Debord was implicated. He won the subsequent libel suits, and in 1985 published Considerations on the Assassination of Gerard Lebovici. He committed suicide in 1994.

See Guy Debord Archive.



Debs, Eugene (1855-1926)

Founder of the American Railway Union. Co-founder of the IWW and of the Socialist Party of America and the leader of it's revolutionary left-wing.

Debs was one of the greatest and most articulate advocates of workers’ power to have ever lived. During the early years of the labor movement in the United States, Debs was far ahead of his times, leading the formation of the American Railway Union (ARU) and the American Socialist Party.

Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on November 5, 1855. He left home at 14 to work on the railroad and soon became interested in union activity. As president of the American Railway Union, he led a successful strike against the Great Northern Railroad in 1894. Two months later he was jailed for his role in a strike against the Chicago Pullman Palace Car Company. While in jail, Socialist and future Congressman Victor Berger talked with Debs and introduced him to the ideas of Marx and socialism. When he was released from prison, he announced that he was a Socialist.

He soon formed the Social Democratic Party, which eventually became the Socialist Party in 1901. He became their perennial presidential candidate. He ran on the Socialist ticket in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 when he received his highest popular vote—about 915,000 (6%)—from within a prison cell. He had been arrested once again, this time for “sedition”; because he opposed World War I. Many Socialists were imprisoned during this time because they felt that the war was being fought for the profits of the rich, but with the blood of the poor. Debs was fortunately released in 1921.

Debs died in Elmhurst, Illinois, on October 20, 1926, but he is remembered to this day by countless labor activists from all over the political spectrum.

See Eugene Debs Archive.


Degeyter, Pierre

Musician and member of the Lille section of the French Workers' Party choir, La Lyre des Travailleurs. Degeyter was asked to compose music for Eugene Pottier's poem L'Internationale in 1888, which later became the socialist anthem The International.

During the 1930s, many cities in the U.S., including New York, formed revolutionary musical organizations called "Pierre Degeyter Clubs," which aimed to produce mass songs and unite class-conscious musicians.

Further Reading: USSR History: Sounds of the Soviet Union: The International.


Degmer, Sefik Hüsnü (1887-1959)

General secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (1925-1927).

He was born in 1887, in Salonica. He studied natural sciences and medicine in Paris. He participated in the nationalist struggles of the Balkan War in 1912 and the first World War. In 1919 he led the periodical "Kurtulus". In the same year found the "Socialist Party of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey ( TIÇSF ). At the first congress of the Communist Party of Turkey (10 September 1920, Baku) he was elected to the Central Committee. After the death of Mustafa Suphi and the other leaders of the Party, he re-organised the Party. In 1921 he found the periodical "Aydinlik".

The Second Congress of the Party was organised under his leadership at 1 January 1925. At this congress he was elected to the Central Committee as General Secretary. A month later the "Aydinlik" and other publications of the Party were banned. He was arrested in 1927 and sentenced to prison for 18 months. Between 1929-1939 he lived in Europe. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern between 1929-1935. He was arrested by the Nazis because of the case of "Reichstag Fire". He turned back to Turkey in 1939. After the second World War in 1946 he found legal Socialist Party of Labourer and Peasant of Turkey ( TSEKP ) 6 months later the party was banned and Degmer was again arrested. He was sentenced to prison this time for 5 years. In 1951 he was arrested again. He dead in exile in 1959.

De Leon


De Leon, Daniel (Dec. 14, 1852 – May 11, 1914)

Daniel De Leon was born Dec. 14, 1852, on Curacao, a Dutch-owned island off the coast of Venezuela, and died in New York City on May 11, 1914. During the second half of this relatively brief life span of 61 years, De Leon devoted himself to the cause of working-class emancipation from capitalist exploitation.

De Leon joined the Socialist Labor Party (SLP, originally the American Socialist League) and transformed it from a small propaganda group, based in the European immigrants, to a lively, if doctrinaire party, active in the powerful US workers movement. De Leon participated in the founding of the IWW in the USA in 1905. The SLP described itself with the metaphor of a 'beacon', the light from which workers would see when the moment for revolution arrived. De Leon described the aim of the ASL to be elected as a 'shield' to neutralise the power of the state, with the One Big Union (OBU) as the 'sword' to take and hold the means of production and administer the economy of a future socialist society.

As editor of The People, from 1892 until his untimely death, De Leon developed the strategy and tactics needed to establish socialism by civilized, but nonetheless revolutionary, means in highly industrialized countries like the United States—the Socialist Industrial Union program of the Socialist Labor Party.

That program, which also provides an outline of a democratic structure on which genuine socialism will be built, was not the work of a chair-bound intellectual or theorist. It was developed on the foundation of hard-fought battles within and around the labor movement over a quarter century.

De Leon was an active participant in those struggles, not only with the SLP on the political field, but also on the economic field, first from inside the Knights of Labor, then with the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, and ultimately with the original Industrial Workers of the World.

The US SLP was the dominant influence on its Sydney and British sister parties of the same name.

Further Reading: Daniel De Leon Archive


Democritus of Abdera (c. 460-370)

Most famous ancient European philosopher of materialism. In his Doctoral Dissertation, Marx supported the importance of Epicurus rather than Democritus in elaborating ancient materialism in Europe. See Leucippus.

See Hegel on Leucippus and Democritus.


Demuth, Frederick (1851-1929)

Son of the Marx family housekeeper's and rumored to be Marx's illegitimate son.


Demuth, Helene (1823-1890)

Marx family housekeeper and mother of Frederick Demuth.



Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997)

Former General Secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chief of general Staff, and head of central military commissions. Born in Sichuan province and studied in France. Joined CCP in 1924 and became close associate of Mao Zedong by 1931. Veteran of Chinese revolutionary movement, having played a prominent role in the Long March of 1934.

Purged with Liu Shaoqi during the Cultural Revolution amidst accusations of attempting to return capitalism to China. He was rehabilitated in 1973 and purged again in 1976. Deng was again rehabilitated in 1977 and rapidly rose to prominence following the dissolution of the Gang of Four.

Deng's role in the history of the People's Republic of China remains controversial. He wrote and spoke at length against the cult of personality following Mao's death. He also made numerous attempts at reforming China's social and economic policies, resulting in enduring criticism alleging Deng was a proponent of capitalism.

Further Reading: Deng Xiaoping Reference Archive

Off-site link: Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping


Denikin, Anton (1872-1947)

Once a General of Russian Tsarist army. Supporter of the Kornilov attempt to seize power from Kerensky in 1917. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he led the White Army against the R.S.F.S.R.. In 1919 set up a dictatorship in Ukraine and Southern Russia. Launched an offensive that summer and autumn against Moscow, but was defeated by the Red Army in 1920. Following defeat he resigned. Wrangel replaced him.



Derrida, Jacques (b. 1930)

Born in Algeria, the foremost living French philosopher, whose work encompasses literature, linguistics, and psychoanalysis; could be described as the Hegel of our time, inasmuch as he opposes Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism as a form of alienation having its roots in bourgeois society, like Hegel, asserting rather, that alienation is a characteristic of all production.

Derrida studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he taught the history of philosophy from 1965. His first work was a translation, with introduction, of a section of a work on geometry by Edmund Husserl, followed in 1967 by a study of Husserl called Speech and Phenomena, the essays, Writing and Difference and, probably his most important work, Of Grammatology.

In line with the post-modern current of which he is part, Derrida rejects the search for certainty or meaning in the world. Derrida coined the word “Deconstruction,” which is a development of the work of Roland Barthes, a method of literary criticism which seeks to undermine an writer’s argument by uncovering unstated assumptions within the text, and in particular focusses on “binary” determinations which are challenged with the effect of calling the meaning of the text into question.

See his article Speech & Writing according to Hegel and an excerpt from Specters of Marx in which he argues against Marx from the standpoint of Hegel.

His later works include Glas (1974), Truth in Painting (1978), and The Postcard (1980).



Descartes, Rene (1596-1650)

French mathematician (founder of analytical geometry), physiologist, physicist (vortex theory of origin of solar system) and philosopher; in philosophy a “dualist” - body and soul interacted via a special “organ” thus explaining how thought could “reflect” material reality; asserted that knowledge must be based (via deduction) on certainty, leading to search for rational beginning of knowledge which he solved with “I think, therefore I am” - the basic authentic certainty; founder of Rationalist school which opposed Reason to the dominance of theological thought of his time and was the historically important complement to Empiricism.

Descartes was a contemporary of Galileo Galiliei (1564 - 1642) and Cardinal Richlieu, absolutist ruler of France from 1631 till 1642. The Thirty Years War, which engulfed almost the whole of Europe, began when Descartes was 22 years of age. The Roman Inquisition burned the astronomer Giodarno Bruno in 1600 and declared Copernicus and Galileo heretics in 1616 and 1632 respectively. A Republic existed in the Netherlands until 1648 and Charles I of England was deheaded by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

These were dangerous times for thinkers. The Reformation and the Renaissance had certainly changed the landscape, but anyone who raised doctrinal questions in those days needed, and probably had, an army to make their point.

Armies were Descartes' “hobby” in fact, he would travel leagues to watch a military parade, but he was realistic, and travelled continuously, kept the lowest possible profile and spoke of his investigations only to close friends.

There was alomost no natural science in Descartes' day. Brecht's famous play,Galileo, gives an idea of the intellectual environment: when the Inquisitor looks down Galileo's telescope he sees “nothing". One could suspect that the saying: “curiosity killed the cat” dates from this period. When Galileo was forced to repent in 1632, Descartes destroyed the manuscript of his first work Cosmos.

Discourse on Method was first published anonymously in Leiden, Holland in 1637. Descartes' friend, Mersenne, had publicly announced Descartes' authorship, and Descartes was forced to admit to being author of The Discourse.

The Discourse was written in his native French “in the hope that those who avail themselves of their natural reason alone, may be better judges of my opinions than those who give heed only to the writings of the “ancients". And that was how debate over “scientific” questions was conducted in those days: one scripture was compared or contrasted with another, but never (apart from within the privileged confines of mathematics) was Reason or observation accepted as evidence.

It was with very good reason that Descartes held that there was nothing of the body of knowledge of the society of his day that he could affirm with any degree of confidence. “Knowledge” was dominated by myth, prejudice, doctrine, double-talk and above all Religion, backed by the threat of execution and torture.

It is therefore commonly suspected that Descartes's supposed proof of the existence of God could be seen as a transparent ploy to avoid declaration as a heretic. Likewise, his moral maxim of “adhering constantly to the religion in which God's grace I had been instructed since my childhood, ... etc.".

On the other hand, it worth noting that Descartes did not just “philosophise” about the capacity of the mind to accurately reflect the properties of space, time and matter: his discovery, Cartesian Geometry, is fundamental to every branch of science to this very day, establishing a correspondence between algebraic formulae and spatial forms which must astound every person who is newly introduced to its marvel.

Descartes also investigated optics (his vortex notion of light particles in some ways prefigured the modern wave-particle theory), physiology (reflex actions) and cosmology (formation of the heavenly bodies from vortices of matter).

Francis Bacon and Galileo were Descartes' predecessors in the search for scientific truth. Both were advocates of experimentation and observation of Nature and both advised that mechanics offered the best first step in building up a knowledge of Nature, Galileo making epoch-making discoveries in this domain. But Descartes craved after certainty, and that was, it appeared, nowhere to be found, only guesswork, speculation, approximate truth, possibility and sheer outright and obvious untruth.

Like most of the thinkers of the epoch, Descartes aspired to the kind of precision and certainty that Mathematics alone had achieved. While the simplest forms of geometrical measure and mechanical movement appeared amenable to mathematical precision, the whole rich Universe of natural, social and spiritual phenomena was totally out of reach of such analysis. Apart from the opinions of tradespeople, theoretical explanation of Nature was dominated mostly by superstition and baseless dogma.

Further Reading: (Related material:) Ilyenkov's Essays from the History of Dialectics.



de Tocqueville, Alexis (1805-59)

French politician and writer. He was prominent in politics, particularly just before and just after the Revolution of 1848, and was minister of foreign affairs briefly in 1849. His observations made in 1831 during a government mission to the United States to study the penal system resulted in Democracy in America (1835-40), are one of the classics of political literature. Tocqueville believed that political democracy and social equality would, inevitably, replace the aristocratic institutions of Europe, and he analyzed American society in terms of what lessons Europe could learn from them. Tocqueville’s other important works are L’Ancien Régime et la révolution (1856), which stressed the continuance after the French Revolution of many trends that had begun before, and his Recollections (1893).

See Alexis de Tocqueville Archive.



Deutscher, Isaac (1907 - 1967)

Trotskyist historian who wrote on the histories of Trotskyism, Stalinism and Maoism throughout his life.

Deutscher was born in 1907 near Krakow and joined the Polish Communist Party in 1926. He was from a Jewish middle-class family. Isaac joined the Communist Party in his teens. He broke with the party in 1932 on account with its policy on Germany, disagreeing with the stalinist leadership of the Comintern which he saw as unable to control the growth of Nazism. Deutscher was expelled from the Polish party in 1932.

He moved to London in 1939, where he worked as a journalist with The Economist. Deutscher's greatest works were written on the life of Leon Trotsky; including The Prophet Armed in 1952, The Prophet Unarmed in 1959 and The Prophet Outcast in 1963. In 1948 he wrote a biography of Stalin.

In his later life, he wrote on Maoism. He was a major critique of Stalinism and Maoism. In his view both were distorted forms of socialism. He defended Marxism by calling both Russia and China working class states. His major essay on China was Maoism, its Origin and Outlook. He thought Maoism had Confucian tendencies, and that Mao had been made into a god. He was bitterly critical of the cultural revolution.

His other famous works were on Marxism in our time On Socialist Man. Here he wrote philisophical essays.

See Isaac Deutscher Archive.

Contributed by Harsh Thakore

Devaldes, Manuel


Devaldes, Manuel (1875-1956)

French anarchist individualist, born Ernest Edmond Lohy. After a youth dedicated to poetry Devaldes’ meeting with the anarchists Han Ryner and Paul Robin in the final years of the nineteenth century led to his life being re-oriented towards anarchist activity. Anti-militarist, he refused service in World War I, was arrested and later deported to England. During his final years Devaldes’ focus was on amalgamating the theories of Thomas Malthus with anarchism.

See Manuel Devaldes Archive.


Deville, Gabriel (1854-1940)

Gabriel Deville was one of the theoreticians of the French Workers Party (POF) of Guesde and as such introduced Marxism into France.

Deville joined the First International after the Paris Commune and was a supporter of Marx. He joined with J. Guesde to publish a number of pamphlets. He was a key leader of the French marxist party, the Parti Ouvrier, founded in 1879 and wrote a number of documents while leading the POF, notably an introduction to Marx's Capital.

Deville moved slowly to the right during the 1880s, supporting the entry of Millerand into the bourgeois govt. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies twice, but defeated in 1906, after which he retired from active politics.

See Gabriel Deville Archive.



Dewey, John (1859-1952)

American philosopher and educator, one of the founders of Pragmatism, closely associated with William James; a pioneer in functional psychology, Chairman of The Case Against Leon Trotsky held in Mexico, and a leader of the progressive movement in education in the US. Dewey was one of the few Americans to study Hegel and he was unique among American neo-Hegelians for his grasp of the logical aspect of Hegel's system.

The son of a grocer, Dewey attended the University of Vermont and went on to John Hopkins University to study philosophy where he met George Morris, leading exponent of Neo-Hegelianism.

From 1884 to 1894, Dewey taught philosophy and psychology at the University of Michigan, during which time he studied Hegel and the British Neo-Hegelians, and the physiological psychology of G Stanley Hall and William James.

During these last years of the nineteenth century, the United States was beginning to emerge as a new world power. Charles Sanders Peirce had been the first to formulate a uniquely American position in philosophy, Pragmatism, and the times were now ripe for a reworking of all the ideas of the Old World in line with the democratic spirit promoted by wide sections of American society. With his knowledge of psychology and the grasp of the problems of knowledge gained from his study of Hegel, Dewey was in a unique position to develop an activity approach towards Progressive Education, emphasising the development of individuality and initiative in children, in opposition to the conservative traditions of education which emphasised the inculcation of learning.

Taking up a position as Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of Chicago in 1894, Dewey began to develop his Instrumentalist theory of knowledge. After the joint publication of a series of essays, Studies in Logical Theory, the group he had gathered around him became known as the Chicago School. In 1904, Dewey became Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and was associated with Columbia for the rest of his life.

Although the impact of his Hegel studies is clearly visible in Dewey's emphasis on the active role of the subject in knowledge, his holistic approach to questions, and in his developmental approach to social questions, he soon found Hegel's idealistic system unsatisfactory and rejected it in favour of the developmental theories of evolutionary biology and psychology. Dewey was one of the first to define man as a “tool-making animal”. According to his Instrumentalism, ideas and words are “tools” which people use to grasp a situation or event. The psychic and the physical then, are just differents aspects within the event or the situation. Along with his Hegelianism, Dewey rejected all belief in meaning and objectivity at the social and historical level. Laying a heavy emphasis on individuality, he regarded meaning as something which is created by the individual in their immediately given situation.

In his psychological research, worked out in close association with William James, Dewey arrived at the Functional approach which was to become dominant in sociology with the work of Talcott Parson, the founder of Functional Sociology. Functional psychology treats the individual and their situation together as a single “organism”, and studies the processes of mutual interaction and mutual reinforcement between them.

It was the Progressive Education movement that gave Dewey's ideas their most widespread and popular application however. Progressive Education stressed active enquiry, practical work and problem-solving on the part of the student, rather than emphasising curriculum and structured instruction by a teacher.

Dewey's most comprehensive presentation of his views was published in 1925 as Experience and Nature. His 1929 article The Question of Certainty succinctly explains his position on the theory of knowledge. His Having An Experience draws a line between Dewey's Pragmatism and Empiricism.