MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People



Plato (428-347 BCE)

Disciple of Socrates, objective idealist, fought against the materialist teachings of his time. Plato developed the theory of existence of immaterial forms of objects which he called "forms" (or "ideas"). To Plato, the sensible world is the product of these "forms", which are eternal, while sensible objects are transient and changeable.

See Hegel on Plato.



Plekhanov, Georgi Valentinovich (1856-1918)

Born November 29, 1856; died May 17, 1918. One of the founders of the first Marxist organisation in Russia: the Emancipation of Labour group, Plekhanov had at one time been a member of the Peoples Will party. After the dissolution of the Emancipation of Labour group, Plekhanov later joined the Russian Social-Democratic party, becomming a Menshevik after the split in the party.

Plekhanov studied in the St. Petersburg Konstantinovskoe Military school, but later transfered to the Mining Institute. While attending university Plekhanov became involved with Narodnaia Volia, the People's Will revolutionary party. After his second year in school, Plekhanov dropped out to devote himself entirely to revolutionary work. Despite the Narodnaia Volia's aim towards the emancipation of the peasantry, Plekhanov focused on organising the emerging Russian proletariat; Plekhanov understood, with the help of the writings of Marx and Engels, that only through the proletariat could Socialism be achieved.

The political differences between Plekhanov and the People's Will group, in addition to its adoptation of terrorism after several failed attempts to rally the peasantry to revolution, caused Plekhanov to split off from the group and form a smaller group continuing the old methodolgy of going to the people and agitating. By 1880, hounded by the Tsarist Okhanara, Plekhanov fled Russia, not returning until the General Amnesty granted by the Provisional Government, in 1917.

In 1882, while in exile, Plekhanov rendered a Russian translation of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, with a preface written by Marx and Engels, replacing the first translation that had been made in 1869 by the anarchist Bakunin, which had translation flaws. In 1883 Plekhanov helped form the first Russian Marxist organisation: the Emancipation of Labour group. Plekhanov renewed his struggle against Narodism, pointing out flaws in revolutionary appeals to the Russian peasantry alone, and flaws in the tactics of terrorism, being the opposite of mass action; a requirment for Socialist revolution.

Throughout the 1890s the influence of the Emancipation of Labour group on Russia's proletariat, through smuggling pamphlets into the country, built up a revolutionary following within Russia, enabling the party to be engaged in labour and union struggles in Russia. This upsurge of labour union activity, guided by the principles of Marxism which had been translated and distributed into Russia by the Emancipation of Labour group, gave rise to the Russian Social-Democratic Party, in 1898. The unity of this party Plekhanov would spend the rest of his life defending, save for when the Soviet Government was established, when he disavowed the left half of the party: the Bolsheviks.

In the late 1800s, one of Plekhanov's most passionate supporters was Vladimir Lenin. Lenin admired Plekhanov as the founder of Russian Marxism and strove to master the revolutionary activity and party building Plekhanov had begun. In 1900, when Lenin founded Iskra, Plekhanov wrote for the paper, and together, they supported proletarian revolution backed by Marxist theory while attacking revisionists such as Eduard Bernstein.

By the time of the split in the R.S.D.L.P., Lenin and Plekhanov came head to head, never to theoretically meet again. Plekhanov wrote a book entitled, What is not to be Done, explaining that the party should not split, that, "rather than having a split, it is better to put a bullet in one's brain". Lenin, on the other hand, emphasised the importance of a split, in order to develop the different trends and opinions in the revolutionary movement. The party did split during the Second Congress, forming the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties; of which Plekhanov ultimately sided with the Mensheviks.

Plekhanov theoretical position was that Russia's proletariat should be sent to the battlefields against the Russian autocracy, and after having overthrown it, they should work to establish a bourgeois government. This would allow the proletariat to grow to a great size, while so too did the bourgeoisie, allowing a bigger proletariat class to overthrow the now more powerful bourgeoisie, believing that the proletariat would eventually overpower the bourgeois government. Plekhanov stressed that Russia must pass through genuine capitalistic development, in order for the conditions and tools to be built to enable a Socialist revolution to occur.

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, Plekhanov's theories were shown to be incorrect in many respects, most prominently in his negligence towards the revolutionary strength of Russia's peasantry. Instead of revising his theories in accord with the new developments of history, Plekhanov stuck to them and defended them admist a now much larger chorus of attackers: his theories were rapidly being discarded into the dustbin of history.

During the first World War, Plekhanov took what Lenin dubbed a social-chauvinist stance: that German victory would be disasterous for the world's proletariat, but an entente victory would be much better for the world's proletariat. Plekhanov supported the World War, while millions of Russian's were dying and refusing to fight, up until the Soviet government signed the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which horrified Plekhanov.

By the 1917 February Revolution, Plekhanov returned to Russia and gave his support to the Provisional government, claiming it to have established a truly bourgeois government. By the time of the October Revolution, Plekhanov was outraged, and fought to usurp the Soviet government, believing it premature.

See Plekhanov Archive.


Planson, A. A.

Popular Socialist, and member of the Central Executive Committee (First Convocation). A leader of Vikzhel–the All-Russia Executive Committee of the Railwaymen's Trade Union, an organisation run by the compromisers.


Pletnev, Valerian F. (1886-1942)

Old Bolshevik and president of the Central Committee of Proletcult, 1920 until 1932.


Plunkitt, George Washington (1842-1924)

Long-time Senator for New York, representing the Fifteenth Assembly District, he was renowned as a representative of “Tammany Hall,” the corrupt Democratic Party machine which ran New York throughout the late 19th century, based on the support of poor Irish workers.

Plunkitt was known for becoming wealthy based on what he frankly called “honest graft” in politics. He was considered a cynically honest practitioner of what today is generally known as “machine politics,” and an archetype accumulator of “social capital.” He was especially well known for making money by speculating in land he knew would later be bought by the State.

His views are somewhat comically set out in reports by journalist William. Riordon, of a series of interview evidently given from his shoe-shine stand outside the New York County Court-House.

See George Washington Plunkett Archive.