[As used by Marx:] The price of labor-power.
Wages may be paid for employing labor-power by the hour (or other period of time), or as a piece-wage (a set price for the labor-power used to complete each unit of work done). But either way, the labor-power which is sold by the worker to the capitalist is (normally) sold at or near its actual value (i.e., its “value” considered as a technical term within Marx’s theory of capitalist political economy). Nevertheless, the worker’s actual labor creates more value in terms of his or her output than the value of his labor-power which he/she sells to the capitalist for wages. This surplus value is the source of the capitalist’s profit.
In other words, the wage paid by the capitalist to the worker does equal the value of his or her labor-power, but it does not at all equal the value of his or her actual labor. This distinction between labor and labor-power, while confusing at first, is thus critical in coming to understand how the capitalist exploitation of workers occurs.
While, strictly speaking, wages should be considered to be the price of labor-power, it is also possible to analyze either wages or the work day as a whole in terms of the actual labor the worker performs (and the full value that it generates). From this point of view the worker is only paid for part of his or her day’s work, say for 3 hours of the 8 hours actually worked, and works for free for the capitalist for the other 5 hours. Of course capitalists prefer that you do not analyze things this way!
Wages are discussed in depth by Marx in Capital, Vol. I, part 6. It is important for every Marxist to study this section of capital until they are quite clear on the basic concepts and can help explain them to others.
WAGES — As a Percentage of GDP
In the United States and most other capitalist countries the portion of GDP which has been going to wages and salaries has been falling rapidly for many decades now, even though this includes the huge salaries of corporate bigshots and managers. While the working class is being driven down, more and more money is going to corporate profits, banks, Wall Street firms, and other parts of the financial system, which is ever more predatory upon the economy and the people. The Federal Reserve graph at the right shows the large decline in the ratio of wages and salaries to U.S. GDP since around 1970.
WAGES — Falling
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“Men who do have jobs are getting paid less. After accounting for inflation, median wages for men between 30 and 50 dropped 27 percent—to $33,000 a year—from 1969 to 2009, according to an analysis by Michael Greenstone, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who was chief economist for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. ‘That takes men and puts them back at their earnings capacity of the 1950s,’ Greenstone says. ‘That has staggering implications.’” —“The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man”, Bloomberg Business Week, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2011, p. 26.
WAGES — In Socialist Society
“The wage question. It is difficult to further reduce wages at the upper levels. From now on, we will stabilize wages at the upper levels and raise them gradually at the lower levels.” —Mao, “Some Interjections at a Briefing of the State Planning Commission Leading Group” (May 11, 1964), SW 9:85.
WAGES, PRICE AND PROFIT
Alternate name for an important pamphlet by Marx now more usually refered to as Value, Price and Profit.
The center of the financial district in New York City, and—by extension—a nickname for the entire financial industry in the U.S.
“Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.” —Mary Lease, a populist reformer speaking on behalf of the Farmers’ Alliance in 1890, quoted in Bruce Levine, Who Built America? (1947), p. 147.
“If we are Rome, Wall Street’s our Coliseum.” —Paul Farrell, business news reporter with MarketWatch.com, August 2007.
“When as a child I first read stories of brokers jumping to their deaths after the 1929 Wall Street crash, I thought they were meant to illustrate the humanity of the situation. After reading about people’s anger at bailing out banks [in this latest financial crisis], I now understand that they were actually a manifestation of what the public wanted to see: the villains having the deceny to do themselves in.” —Harald Anderson, letter to the editor, The Economist, Feb. 13, 2010.
WALRAS, Marie Esprit Léon (1834-1910)
French-born bourgeois economist who taught at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and who, along with William Stanley Jevons and Carl Menger founded the marginalist school of bourgeois economic thought in opposition to the labor theory of value which is essential to both Marxist and traditional classical bourgeois political economy. Even Walras’s father, Auguste, had an informal notion of this idea of “marginal utility”, but Léon, with the help of a professor of mechanics, put it on a mathematical basis. (It should be noted that expressing a demonstrably incorrect idea in mathematical form by no means makes it more “scientific”!)
WANG Jingwei [Old style: Wang Ching-wei] (1883-1944)
[Born as Wang Zhaoming, but best known by his pen name Wang Jingwei.]
A participant in the 1911 Revolution which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, close associate of Sun Yat-sen, and a top political leader of the Guomindang (GMD) [Kuomintang] or Nationalist Party, who vied with Chiang Kai-shek for control of that party after Sun’s death in 1925. In the early period of this intra-party struggle for leadership Wang was viewed as representing the “Left” wing of the GMD and favored continuing Sun’s policy of cooperation with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China. However, like most bourgeois politicians he was basically a careerist and opportunist, and after totally losing out to Chiang, in late 1938 Wang Jingwei began to collaborate with the Japanese imperialists who invaded China and occupied much of the country. In March 1940, with the backing of Japan, Wang established a puppet regime with its capital in Japanese-occupied Nanking, and remained as “president” of this collaborationist regime until his death from old injuries in 1944. Wang Jingwei has been appropriately viewed as a traitor to China and its people, not only in the People’s Republic, but by almost all Chinese everywhere.
WANG Ming (1904-1974)
A leader of the Communist Party of China in its early middle period, who was trained and indoctrinated in the Soviet Union and then became a top leader of the CCP when he returned to China in 1929 as one of the notorious “28 Bolsheviks” group. Wang was dogmatic and ultra-“left” in his outlook, and had little appreciation of the requirements for a successful revolution in China. Wang called Mao’s line a “nationalist deviation” from Marxism-Leninism, though clearly this only really meant that Mao rejected control of the CCP and its line and policies from Moscow.
During the desperate days of the Long March Mao became the top leader of the CCP, but it was only with the Rectification Campaign of 1942 that the ideological line struggle against the dogmatism of Wang Ming and his followers was completed.
In 1956 Wang went to Moscow for medical treatment and never returned to China. During the Sino-Soviet dispute he sided with the revisionist Soviet Union against China and wrote many articles denouncing Mao and the CCP. Wang died in Moscow in 1974.
Armed struggle between states, nations, or classes. An extension of political struggle. (As von Clauswitz put it, war is the continuation of politics by other means.) Nations and states are of course dominated by one class or another. Since most modern warfare is a continuation of class politics, and class politics are at bottom a concentrated expression of economics, the ultimate cause of most modern wars is to be found in capitalist-imperialist political economy.
See also individual wars such as WORLD WAR I, and: VIOLENCE
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WAR—“Who Started It?”
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“All philistines and all stupid and ignorant yokels argue in the same
way as the renegade Kautsky supporters, Longuet supporters,
Turati and Co.: ‘The enemy has invaded my country, I don’t
care about anything else.’
“The socialist, the revolutionary proletarian, the internationalist, argues differently. He says: ‘The character of the war (whether it is reactionary or revolutionary) does not depend on who the attacker was, or in whose country the “enemy” is stationed; it depends on what class is waging the war, and on what politics this war is a continuation of. If the war is a reactionary, imperialist war, that is, if it is being waged by two world groups of the imperialist, rapacious, predatory, reactionary bourgeoisie, then every bourgeoisie (even of the smallest country) becomes a participant in the plunder, and my duty as a representative of the revolutionary proletariat is to prepare for the world proletarian revolution as the only escape from the horrors of a world slaughter. I must argue, not from the point of view of “my” country (for that is the argument of a wretched, stupid, petty-bourgeois nationalist who does not realize that he is only a plaything in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie), but from the point of view of my share in the preparation, in the propaganda, and in the acceleration of the world proletarian revolution.’” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:286-7.
WAR BETWEEN RELIGION AND SCIENCE
See: RELIGION VERSUS SCIENCE, “DOCTRINE OF THE TWO BOOKS”
The period in revolutionary Russia from around mid-1918 until March 1921 when in the midst of civil war and foreign military invasions, the new Soviet state was forced to employ drastic economic measures, and ones which would otherwise have at least been viewed as very premature, in order to defeat the enemies of the revolution. Lenin and the Bolsheviks sought to muster all the economic resources in the areas they controlled for the war effort and almost all industrial enterprises were nationalized. Strenuous efforts were made to centralize the management of production and distribution to the maximum degree possible within the social chaos then prevailing.
In this desperate situation all private trade was officially banned (though it continued illegally to a considerable extent) and a surplus-appropriation system was put into place in which the peasants were forced to sell all surplus agricultural products to the state at set prices. Because of the massive destruction and dislocations of the war a rationing system was established and widespread labor conscription and the leveling of wages was introduced. Although the outcome of the military and political struggle was close, these policies did allow the Bolsheviks to prevail.
It was by no means the original intention of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to immediately introduce socialism after achieving state power. “Everybody agrees that the immediate introduction of socialism in Russia is impossible,” he wrote in June 1917 [LCW 25:69]. And in December 1917, after the seizure of power, he still wrote that “There was not and could not be a definite plan for the organization of economic life.” [LCW 26:366] But the civil war and foreign invasions forced their hand.
Lenin and most of the other Bolshevik leaders seem to have expected that once War Communism was firmly established it would continue in place, only somewhat modified, even after the civil war was won and the foreign invaders were pushed out. However, it became obvious to Lenin, at least, that the increasingly desperate economic situation would not allow this. During the war the peasantry put up with a lot of harsh treatment, and even the confiscation of their agricultural products, because they feared the return of the landlords if the Bolsheviks were defeated. But black market activity had mushroomed and the people in the countryside were hungry, cold, exhausted and none too healthy—disease was widespread. Many city people had fled to the countryside during the civil war and were in the same serious situation there themselves. The peasants were now unwilling to produce goods that would simply be requisitioned from them without any real payment, and even some rebellions broke out. Most factories in the cities had closed down because of the lack of materials, fuel and available workers. In short the economic situation was even more desperate once the civil war ended. On top of this the Kronstadt Revolt of sailors which occurred during the Tenth Party Congress (March 1921) really shocked the Bolsheviks.
Lenin also acknowledged that mistakes had been made during the period of War Communism, and particularly in the treatment of the peasantry. Clearly a temporary retreat back to capitalism in both the countryside and the city was now necessary. (Although in industry the form it mostly took was worker-supervised state capitalism.) This retreat was necessary in order to preserve the worker-peasant alliance that was the backbone of the revolution.
Just as there was resistance—even within the Bolshevik party—to the establishment of War Communism, there was even more resistance to the temporary retreat from it which became known as the New Economic Policy (NEP). Lenin had great difficulty in convincing the party to go along with this retreat, and he might not have been successful if it was not for the Kronstadt Rebellion which so alarmed the party. And once the NEP was in place for a few years, there was likewise some major resistance from the right wing of the party to abandoning it! Lenin always argued that Marxism requires a “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” and every truly necessary change in political or economic policy in a revolution is met with resistance and the need for another round of struggle.
“WAR ON DRUGS”
A cynical, decades-long program conducted by the U.S. government in the name of “fighting” illegal narcotics. The real aim is to control and regiment the population, particularly the Black and lower working class population, and to act as a cover for continued U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the aim of the war on drugs is to find a solution to the “superfluous people” who were left out of Ronald Reagan’s free-market fundamentalist reforms. Actually, the war started under Richard Nixon, but it gained both momentum and ideological clout during Reagan’s presidency, and continues to this day in roughly this spirit.
The war on drugs reveals with unusual clarity the class component of state policy. Those who have been imprisoned are predominantly Black and Latino working class people, thrown behind bars on charges that would not even count as criminal offences in many other major capitalist states. The people who benefit most greatly from the flow and trafficking of narcotics remain relatively unscathed. Firstly, they are often themselves members of the ruling class or are closely linked to them, and hence can afford better legal representation in the event that they are caught; they can also distance themselves from the grubby business “on the ground” by hiring underlings to do their dirty work; they can hide their transactions more effectively (Noam Chomsky, writing around the time of the U.S. invasion of Panama, asked sardonically why George Bush did not also order commando raids on major New York banks, who were known to be benefitting from keeping drug money); etc.
Secondly, the war on drugs is characterized by an enormous amount of corruption. The police officers and detectives who staff narcotics bureaus and drug task-forces are themselves often in the pay of, or are in collusion with, drug dealers and traffickers. Thus, the people that they tend to actually target will be easy pickings, i.e. those who have already been stigmatized with the image of immersion in a drug-infested culture.
The war on drugs also incorporates the anti-cartel program in Mexico, which has experienced a horrific spiral in violence between the state and powerful drug cartels there (which have now become so powerful that state employees regularly complain that their resources and equipment are inferior to those of the cartels!). Ironically, many experts agree that the power of these criminal organizations is aided by anti-drug policies in the US, which has taken such an inflexible line on drugs such as marijuana that the demand from within the U.S. supplies a ready market for the cartels, who battle viciously for hegemony of transit routes to the United States.
Another front in the war on drugs involves the very bloody civil war in Colombia, an ongoing, decades-long struggle between nominally Marxist guerillas called the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) and the Colombian state and its capitalist-landlord benefactors. The Colombian military has benefitted from aid and training providing by the U.S. government, which claims that this assistance is primarily for the purpose of executing an anti-drug effort. However, even the U.S. government’s own agencies and research bodies affiliated with it (like the RAND Corporation) acknowledge that the FARC-EP plays a relatively minor role in the drug trade, and that the right-wing paramilitaries (allied both to the landlords and the official military) are by far the geater participants and beneficiaries of narcotics trafficking and production (indeed, the involvement of the Colombian government puts the FARC-EP’s collusion to shame); the RAND Corporation also found treatment programs to be much more cost effective than interdiction. The militarization of the drug war, then, is clearly something that primarily serves purposes other than fighting drugs! In Colombia, the U.S. involvement is simply counter-insurgency against a leftist group fighting the capitalist-landlord configuration that controls the state there.
Colombia is also a key U.S. ally in the region, which has seen the coming into office of various left-leaning governments, notably those of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. The Colombian state continues to be an important strategic resource for U.S. imperialist interference in the affairs of Latin America. Interestingly, Colombia is also where the U.S. government, then under the leadership of John F. Kennedy, initiated its policy of reorienting Latin American militaries from their hitherto role of “hemispheric defense” to “internal security” (fascist repression). This template was then adopted by the bourgeoisies in other Latin American countries, which experienced a series of bloody coups and militariy dictatorships, virtually all of which were supported by the United States. Now that the pretext of the Cold War has been lifted, the war on drugs provides the required cover for U.S. intervention. The guerilla threat has little to do with narcotics; the FARC-EP are much more troublesome in the sense of their targeting of oil pipelines and occupation of mineral-rich areas that the government wants to open up to exploitation by multinational corporations. Colombia, incidentally, has by far the worst human rights record in the Western hemisphere, and one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations. This is the true face of the war on drugs, largely hidden from view of American audiences, who are more accustomed to associating this campaign with what they are shown on TV shows about police, crime dramas, etc. —L.C.
“WAR ON TERROR”
An ongoing program by the American and other imperialist states around the world to “combat” and “defeat” terrorism. This purported aim is necessarily completely ridiculous, as capitalist states are themselves the biggest perpetrators and supporters of terrorism in the world, and there is certainly no talk of ending that! Nevetheless, this program does target certain terrorist organizations who oppose the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism, particularly Islamist groups in the Middle East who want to expel the Western presence in their countries.
The war on terror has both a law enforcement and a military component. The latter aspect has actually contributed to a sharp increase in terrorism (at least in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan that have been targeted and destabilized by imperialism), as anticipated by some agencies of the U.S. government itself. It has, however, acted as a cover for an expansion of state power over its own population, through increased powers of electronic surveillance and wiretapping, arrest and detention, the criminalization of protest, the furtherance of a type of quasi-fascist public discourse about “values” and “civilization”, the increasing normalization of torture, and a further expansion of military spending at the expense of urgently needed social programs. The war on terror has also been used by dictatorial regimes to increase their bargaining power and prestige with the imperialists, as they can present themselves as valuable and necessary bullwarks against Islamist extremism while continuing to rob and terrorize their own people.
The law enforcement aspect of the war has yielded some successes in the stated aim of neutralizing terrorist cells in the imperialist centers, but the broader war, which is overwhelmingly militarized, has been spectacularly stupid and self-defeating from the point of view of achieving the bourgeoisie’s more central aims (and, ironically, will probably come to undermine the law enforcement aspect, given the hatred generated by military action and occupation). The countries and communities that are targeted by the war on terror invariably end up becoming even more distrustful and hateful of the U.S. government; they correctly perceive what liberal bourgeois commentators and other “experts” can’t: that the invasions and occupations undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism are actually criminal operations aimed at controlling natural resources and gaining geopolitical leverage. In many cases these actions even lead to large segments of the population actively assisting groups who fight against the invasions, and who thus come to earn the designation “terrorist”, whether or not they are involved in killing civilians. However, it should be noted that even the term “civilian” can mean different things. People who are collaborating with the occupation, for example, can technically be civilians, and such people have certainly become the targets of insurgent attacks. In Iraq, for example, entire segments of the population supported armed groups who were fighting against and killing American troops; even the comprador state now in power in Bagdhad has insisted that the U.S. military leave their country because acquiescing to American demands has simply become too embarrassing!
On the other hand, of course, the U.S. government has no choice, when other measures fail, to engage in these aggressive actions if it is to maintain its control of strategically important parts of the world. Thus whatever the imperialists do will eventually blow up in their faces (unfortunately, at the cost of hundreds of thousands and even millions of working class and peasant lives). This is yet another example of capitalism’s contradictions: capitalist-imperialism cannot possibly serve both the fundamental interests of the people it represents (i.e the ruling class in the imperialist states, and secondarily the comprador bourgeoisie in the dominated countries) and the masses that it is bullying and harrassing. This elementary fact is completely lost on liberal bourgeois comentators, who believe that the root cause of antagonism between U.S. imperialism and the world’s masses orginates in “errors” made by U.S. presidential administrations, military commanders, etc! Thus we hear these commentators talk about things like the U.S. “commitment” to the people of Iraq (as though that were the focus and driving force of its criminal enterprise in that country), while ignoring the very reasons for the invasion and devastation of that country. These commentators simply cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what the internal record of their own favored state says about the actual reasons and ambitions propelling imperial policy.
The war on terror, needless to say, has killed far more people than the terrorists it is purportedly trying to root out. Interestingly, many of the same terrorists being captured and killed were once in cahoots with the CIA in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets, when the United States was funneling weapons and money to the religious fundamentalist forces of the mujahedeen. This covert operation was the most expensive in CIA history, and involved the cooperation and further financial backing of the clerical-fascist regime in Saudi Arabia and the fascist military dictatorship in Pakistan (which was funding its involvement partly through drug trafficking). It is also a massive source of corruption and waste. But its useful features for the bourgeoisie—ideological and police-state regimentation of the population in times of increasing hardship for the workers, and a cover for further imperialist intervention—are so great that the bourgeoisie is quite willing to overlook these negative aspects and keep promoting it as, at worst, a “necessary evil”, but more often as a “moral duty”.
More recently, the United States has made increased use of “unmanned aerial vehicles” or “drones” (remote controlled aircraft carrying bombs), particularly in Pakistan. One of Barack Obama’s first actions as President was to order a drone strike in a Pakistani village where some militants were thought to be present. The attack wiped out dozens of civilians. The drone program in Pakistan has killed hundreds of civilians over the past few years, angering and inflaming both the Pakistani masses and rotten Pakistani government (who, if for no other reason than self-preservation, have had to make a show of condemning these examples of U.S. terrorism and mass murder).
U.S. policy makers have indicated that the war on terror may last for decades more, if not indefinitely. Conveniently, this is also the timeframe in which China, the United States’ premier imperialist competitor, is expected to increasingly flex its military and economic muscle. A perpetual war on terror provides an excellent pretext to keep ramping up military spending and garrisoning the planet with military bases and naval forces, though an eventual full-blown “Cold War” with China will do the job just as nicely! —L.C.
See also: TARGETED KILLING
WARD, Frederick Townsend (1831-1862)
American adventurer and soldier of fortune who was primarily responsible for creating the small but effective mercenary force known as the “Ever-Victorious Army” which worked together with the Chinese imperial army to defeat the Taiping Rebellion.
WARRANT (Capitalist Finance)
A security which gives the holder the right (but not the obligation) to buy shares of stock in a company at a specified price, and either at any time or else at some definite time in the future. Warrants are very similar to options, except that they are issued by the company itself as part of a new share issue, whereas options relate to shares already in existence.
See also: AQUIFER
A 14th century Chinese novel, written in the vernacular, about a peasant war near the end of the Northern Song [Old style: Sung] Dynasty (960-1127 CE). This novel is also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men are Brothers, and by other names. It is attributed to Shi Nai’an and is often viewed as one of the four great classical Chinese novels.
The leader of the peasant uprising in this novel is Chao Gai [Chao Kai]. After his death, Song Jiang [Sung Chiang], a representative of the landlord class who has wormed his way into the ranks of the peasant army, grabs the leadership and surrenders to the emperor. Mao and other Chinese revolutionaries sometimes made reference to this novel.
“The merit of the book Water Margin lies precisely in the portrayal of capitulation. It serves as teaching material by negative example to help all the people recognize capitulationsists.” —Mao, quoted in Peking Review, #6, Feb. 4, 1977, p. 16.
WATTS, Alan (1915-73)
An influential western interpreter and popularizer of Eastern religious and mystical philosophies, especially Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He was born in England and became an Anglican priest, editor, professor, and finally a free-lance author and lecturer. Watts was widely known for his enthusiasm for meditation and mysticism.
A central aspect (dogma?) of the theory of quantum mechanics that maintains that light and all other matter simultaneously has characteristics which must be understood by assuming that it is a wave, and other characteristics which must be understood by assuming that it is composed of discrete particles. The idea of wave-particle duality was first formulated for electro-magnetic radiation (light) by early quantum physicists such as Max Planck and Niels Bohr, and for matter in general by the British physicist Louis de Broglie, and is now the standard view within quantum mechanics. However, some physicists (such as Richard Feynman) have denied that this is really true.
“I want to emphasize that light comes in this form—particles. It is
very important to know that light behaves like particles, especially for those of you
who have gone to school, where you were probably told something about light behaving
like waves. I’m telling you the way it does behave—like particles.
“You might say that it’s just the photomultiplier that detects light as particles, but no, every instrument that has been designed to be sensitive enough to detect weak light has always ended up discovering the same thing: light is made of particles.” —Richard Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), p. 15.
“This strange phenomenon of partial reflection by two surfaces can be explained for intense light by a theory of waves, but the wave theory cannot explain how the detector makes equally loud clicks as the light gets dimmer. Quantum electrodynamics ‘resolves’ this wave-particle duality by saying that light is made of particles (as Newton originally thought), but the price of this great advancement of science is a retreat by physics to the position of being able to calculate only the probability that a photon will hit a detector, without offering a good model of how it actually happens.” —Richard Feynman, ibid., pp. 36-37.
“WAVING THE RED FLAG TO OPPOSE THE RED FLAG”
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