WOLFF, Richard D. (1942- )
American Marxist-influenced economist who promotes a liberal-radical form of syndicalism. For many years he taught economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Since his retirement in 2008, he has continued writing and speaking about economics and the U.S. and world economic crisis, and has taught frequent classes at the Brecht Forum in New York City. He is also loosely associated with the Monthly Review School, and has posted a series of articles on the MR blog site. Many of his articles and video lectures are available on his own website at http://rdwolff.com/ Politically, Wolff has been part of various reformist projects; he was a founding member of the Green Party in New Haven, Connecticut, and was its mayoral candidate in 1985.
Wolff seems to avoid using the word ‘syndicalism’ to describe the form of socioeconomic society that he promotes, as if he is trying to hide or deny that characterization. However, there is no mistaking that syndicalism aptly describes his views. We see this in his focus on the central role of the “board of directors” under modern corporate capitalism—and, supposedly, under what he calls socialism! He doesn’t explain how all the workers at some large corporation could themselves simply become a new board of directors for the company. More importantly, he seems to be trying to avoid any discussion about how the whole economy of a post-capitalist society could be coordinated and managed. This first gives the impression that he has some sort of mystical or magical conception of how the masses might be able to run not just one company but the whole of society, immediately and directly, without a party or a state, etc.
However, the reason that Wolff usually does not think any mention is needed of how this overall economic organization of society might occur under socialism is that he tacitly assumes that the exchange of commodities will continue forever under some type of market socialism. Sometimes this is more overt, as in his statement that “commodity production has nothing to do with capitalism... nothing”. [From his “Intensive Introduction to Marxian Economics” video lectures, 2009.] Thus he thinks capitalism can be ended without ending commodity production and the exchange of commodities in the marketplace. This is, most essentially, why Wolff is not really a Marxist. The perpetual continuation of the law of value is required in his scheme. And this in turn means that the germ of an inevitable return to the present form of capitalism is inherent in his scheme as well! Capitalism cannot be completely and permanently gotten rid of while any form of commodity exchange still exists as the basic form of economic distribution, as Marx was the first to point out.
Philosophically Wolff is an epistemological agnostic, as evidenced by his bizarre claim that there are no right or wrong theories in economics, and that Marxist political economy is just “different” from bourgeois political economy. He is a partisan of the vague philosophical notion of “overdetermination”, which argues that there are a whole host of causes of things—which is another way of opposing the view that there are very definite specific causes of things. He openly proclaims his support for “non-determinism” in economics, and in general. He is also an implicit philosophical amoralist, as with his apparent claim that all criticism of capitalism from a moral perspective is invalid. (This view is often falsely attributed to Marx.)
All of Wolff’s conceptions, in philosophy, political economy and politics, are highly eclectic. One example of this is his strong advocacy of Freudian psychoanalysis, which is a pseudoscience. Also demonstrating this electicism, Wolff was one of the principal founders of the academic group, the Association of Economic and Social Analysis, in 1988, and has been an editor of and contributor to its revisionist journal Rethinking Marxism.
Much of Wolff’s economic writing has been done in collaboration with Stephen Resnick, and they claim to have developed a “new approach” to political economy. The two central thrusts of this “new approach” are supposedly a focus on social class (which of course initially derives from Marx, but which they reinterpret based on the writings of Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar) and, secondly, an opposition to “economic determinism” (which reflects an idealist philosophical perspective). The result, therefore, is quite far removed from genuinely Marxist political economy.
Even Wolff’s definition of capital itself is a bourgeois distortion of Marx; he states that “capital equals money used to make more money; this is all capital is”. [Ibid.] It is true that the basic way to analyze capitalist production is with the M-C-C’-M circuit of capital (as Wolff does.) But nevertheless, the vast bulk of productive capital at any time does not exist in the form of money, but rather in the form of factories, machinery, raw material, etc. One of the big problems that people in bourgeois society have in coming to comprehend how capitalism works is that they do not really understand what Marx means by (productive) capital. Instead of focusing on factories and machines, they tend to think of just money, and—worse yet—of what Marx called fictitious capital (such as stock market “values”). Wolff does his students a tremendous disservice by reinforcing that bourgeois bias. Wolff goes on to say that in any society “technically we have land, machinery and capital”. This is definitely not Marx’s view of what capital is! For him, industrial capital (at least) only exists within the capitalist mode of production. Capital is that which allows the capitalists to exploit their workers by extracting surplus value from them in a very definite mode of production. Of course we can talk about “capital” under socialism or communism too, but it is then a very different concept.
Wolff also fails to fully and correctly bring out the fundamental causes of capitalist economic crises. He attributes crises to a fall of real wages and the consequent increase in debt on the part of the workers. This implies (very falsely) that capitalist crises would not occur if real wages were not cut. Wolff doesn’t seem to understand at all how the very existence of the extraction of surplus value (and the expropriation of it by the capitalists) is the real root cause of crises. Similarly, Wolff’s suggestion that the capitalists are able to “manage” crises by simply switching back and forth between private capitalism and state capitalism is at best a very limited half-truth. He doesn’t seem to understand Marx’s view that the real resolution of crises involves the destruction of excess capital.
Richard Wolff has helped introduce many young people to some aspects of Marxism, and in a country as politically backward as the United States is today this is no doubt a good thing. But unfortunately, in the process of introducing Marx to students he also distorts Marx, and socialism, in some most essential respects. Marx was, if anything, a communist revolutionary; but Wolff is only a reformist syndicalist.
WOMEN — Oppression of
[To be added... ]
See also below, and: FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION, SEXISM
WOMEN — Oppression of in China
See also: BOUND FEET
“A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three
systems of authority: (1) the state system (political authority), ranging from the
national, provincial and country government down to that of the township; (2) the
clan system (clan authority), ranging from the central ancestral temple and its
branch temples down to the head of the household; and (3) the supernatural system
(religious authority), ranging from the King of Hell down to the town and village
gods belonging to the nether world, and from the Emperor of Heaven down to all the
various gods and spirits belonging to the celestial world. As for women, in addition
to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by
the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities—political, clan,
religious and masculine—are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal system
and ideology, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly
the peasants.” —Mao, “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan”
(March 1927), SW 1:44.
[Of course most of the overtly feudal aspects of domination, including the feudal aspects of the domination of women by men, were fairly quickly overcome during the Maoist revolutionary period in China, partially during the course of the revolution and then especially during the period of revolutionary power (1949-1976). But at least three of these four systems of authority, the political authority, the religious authority, and the male chauvinist authority, have become stronger and more oppressive again since the restoration of capitalism. Perhaps only the clan authority has continued to further weaken. —Ed.]
WOMEN — Sexual Crimes Against In Capitalist Society
The sexual mistreatment of women by men, including rapes and other outright sexual crimes against women, has probably always existed in human society thus far, to some considerable degree. However, in class society this is enormously intensified. This was obviously so in slave society on the part of slave owners who were almost always men, but it is also characteristic of any other oppressive society where a male-dominated ruling class has economic and social power over women of all social classes. And in such societies the mores of the male-dominated ruling class are commonly communicated even to males within the exploited class. Thus, in class society women face an additional abhorent form of oppression which consists not just of discrimination and inequality but also of widespread sexual crimes perpetrated against them.
In contemporary American capitalist society this is undeniably true; so overwhelmingly the situation, in fact, that it should be considered one of the major continuing general crimes of capitalism, along with not only economic exploitation and misery, mass murder in endless imperialist wars, and the like, but also other social outrages such as racism—which is also hugely intensified by capitalist society, and virtually necessary to it. (In part to keep the masses divided and unable to unite against their rulers and exploiters.) Discrimination against women also keeps the masses divided and even promotes feelings among many working class men that they “deserve” higher pay and better treatment than do women. The concomitant widespread feeling in this society that men of all classes have a “right” to force sexual favors from women qualitatively worsens this already deplorable situation, and again can make many men among the masses complicit in bourgeois sexual mores and crimes.
There have been some periods of improvement in the treatment of women in capitalist society, such as a hundred years ago when women finally won the right to vote (in part because of the positive example of revolutionary Russia), the Women’s Liberation movement of the late 1960s and later, and the current upsurge among women because of the outrageous sexual behavior of Hollywood moguls, other businessmen and politicians, and powerful men in contemporary society in general. Of course not only Marxists but all decent people must support and participate in such upsurges in support of women’s rights. But at the same time, we can never forget the powerful impulse towards sexual crimes and the sexual mistreatment of women that is a permanent aspect of capitalist society, even if it is forced back into the shadows by the masses of women at times. To really be in a position to virtually totally eliminate these sexual crimes in society we simply have to get rid of the capitalist system.
See also: RAPE—Tacit Acceptance of in Bourgeois Society
[By the numbers:]
Average daily number of [U.S.] workers nationwide who are sexually assaulted on the job, according to the Department of Justice: 50
Proportion of women farmworkers in California’s Central Valley who experienced sexual harassment on the job, according to a 2010 survey: 80%
“Then there were threats [that] if I continued with the case, I would be deported.” Statement by Maricruz Ladino, a farmworker in Salinas, California, after she filed a sexual assault complaint against her supervisor.
—Glyn Peterson, The Nation, Nov. 13, 2017, p. 4.
[By the numbers:]
Number of college men who said they would ‘force a woman into sexual intercourse’ if they were assured there would be no consequences: 32%
Number of rapes and sexual assaults against inmates that are committed by prison staff: 60%
Number of untested rape kits across the country [U.S.]: 200,000
—Elizabeth Adetiba, The Nation, Nov. 20/27, 2017, p. 4. [While the ruling class continues to push the notion that it is simply male “human nature” that leads to sex crimes against women, their notorious reluctance to even process the huge backlog of untested rape evidence, let alone prosecute most of the culprits responsible, is in itself powerful proof of where the dominant responsibility actually falls. And even the attitudes of so many college men mentioned here is in fact largely the result of their upbringing in this vicious male-dominated capitalist society which is so unconcerned with the rights and welfare of women. —Ed.]
“Women’s rights are human rights.
• Up to 70% of women in some countries report experiencing gender-based violence at some point in their lives.
• An estimated 1 out of every 3 women throughout the world will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.”
—From a leaflet issued by Amnesty International, 2019.
WOMEN — Sexual Crimes Against In U.S. Military
[By the numbers:]
Estimated number of sexual assaults in the military in 2016, according to the Pentagon: 14,900 Only 6,172 of these assaults were reported. —Glyn Peterson, The Nation, Nov. 13, 2017, p. 4.
WORDS — Meaning Of
See: MEANING OF WORDS, ZEUGMA
WORK — Disappearance Of
See: COMPUTERS—and Unemployment, JOBS—Disappearing, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
WORK — Political Work by Revolutionaries
See also: HARD WORK, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
“Now, a few more words about our work. Some comrades present will be leaving for the front. Many, full of enthusiasm, are vying with each other for the opportunity to go to work there, and this active and fervent spirit is very valuable. But there are also a few comrades who have mistaken ideas, who don’t think of the many difficulties to be overcome, but believe that everything will be plain sailing at the front and that they will have an easier time than in Yenan. Are there people who think that way? I believe there are. I advise such comrades to correct their ideas. If one goes, it is to work. What is work? Work is struggle. There are difficulties and problems in those places for us to overcome and solve. We go there to work and struggle to overcome these difficulties. A good comrade is one who is more eager to go where the difficulties are greater. The work in those places is hard.” —Mao, “On the Chungking Negotiations” (Oct. 17, 1945), SW 4:58.
The portions of one’s life devoted to working (and getting back and forth to work), or to one’s personal activities of choice. The New York Times noted that “Americans have among the lowest levels of happiness and work-life balance in the developed world”. [Dec. 29, 2019] Apparently most Americans do not yet realize that they can and should collectively resist the deep determination of the capitalists that all working class people should spend their entire waking lives working (or shopping).
WORKERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY
See also: HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WORKERS, “DEATH CEILING” PROGRAM (In Capitalist China)
WORKERS’ MAO TSE-TUNG THOUGHT PROPAGANDA TEAMS
[To be added... ]
WORKERS’ PARTY OF IRELAND
A small electoral-focused, essentially revisionist, “Marxist-Leninist” Irish nationalist party, which still operates in both Ireland and in British-controlled Nothern Ireland, though it has only a small following in both areas.
The WPI is one descendant of the original Sinn Féin Irish nationalist party formed in 1905. In the 1970s Sinn Féin split in two, the “Official Sinn Féin” (with its “Official IRA” associated armed movement) and the “Provisional Sinn Féin” (with its “Provisional IRA” armed movement). The first of these was a little more politically radical and becoming a bit more influenced by Marxist ideology, while the Provisionals were mostly just nationalists (and often more reckless in their armed actions, sometimes ignoring class differences among the people for example). In 1982 the “Official Sinn Féin” changed its name to the Workers’ Party of Ireland.
For more information, from non-MLM sources, about Sinn Féin, the WPI, and the “Irish Troubles”, see the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Party_of_Ireland, and the academic work, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2009).
WORKING CLASS — Spontaneous Impulses Of
See: SPONTANEOUS WORKING CLASS IMPULSES
Those who, despite having full time jobs, receive wages so very low that they must still definitely be considered as poor—even by the pathetically inadequate standards of contemporary bourgeois society. In the chart at the right, we see the long term trend for the massive growth of both the working poor and the unemployed in the U.S., despite some secondary ups and downs. [Chart from: Robert McChesney & John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), p. 59.]
“There are several reasons for the growth of America’s working poor.
First, wages at the bottom have continued to drop, adjusted for inflation. By 2013, the
ranks of the working poor had swelled to forty-seven million people in the United States,
one out of every seven Americans. One-fourth of all American workers were in jobs paying
below what a full-time, full-year worker needed in order to support a family of four
above the federally defined poverty line [which itself is defined ridiculously low! —Ed.].
The downward trend of low wages continued even in the so-called recovery following the
Great Recession. Between 2010 and 2013, average
incomes for the bottom fifth dropped 8 percent, and their average wealth declined 21
percent. According to a study by Oxfam America, more than half of America’s forty-six
million users of food pantries and other charitable food programs in 2013 had jobs or
were members of working families.”
—Robert B. Reich, Saving Capitalism (2015), p. 134. [Reich, who is a professor at the University of California in Berkeley and a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, provides sources for this data in his end notes. And, because of his own class position and despite many additional ever-worsening outrages like this under contemporary capitalism—even in this richest of all countries—and which he himself documents, Reich still thinks that capitalism can be and should be saved! —Ed.]
WORKING WHILE SICK
“Working while sick is an American pastime—one that a Covid-19 pandemic
didn’t disrupt. A survey of 3,600 hourly workers this spring found that two-thirds of those
who had been sick with Covid-19 or other illnesses went to work while sick, according to
the Shift Project at Harvard, a research project on work scheduling. Many of them cited
fear of getting in trouble with their managers, or financial pressures.
“The U.S. is the world’s only wealthy country that does not guarantee paid sick leave. Some 33 million Americans don’t have such benefits. Low-income workers are far less likely to take time off when sick.”
—“Working While Ill With Covid-19”, Chronicle News Services report, San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 2022.
[To be added... ]
The most basic dialectical contradictions in human society for the whole world, and therefore, those contradictions which are driving world social development. The most fundamental of all world contradictions is that between social production and private appropriation, or—in political terms—between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. But there are also major world contradictions between the imperialist powers and the nations they exploit and oppress, and among the imperialist nations themselves.
“What are the fundamental contradictions in the contemporary world?
Marxist-Leninists consistently hold that they are:
the contradiction between the socialist camp and the imperialist camp;
the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries;
the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism; and
the contradictions among imperialist countries and among monopoly capitalist groups.”
—A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 6.
Since the time that was written, the “socialist camp” has unfortunately disintegrated and collapsed (for now). But the other three world political contradictions all still exist, and are now even intensifying once again. In addition, we should these days add yet another major world contradiction: that between the rapidly intensifying capitalist destruction of the environment and the desire of the people to maintain the world in a livable condition.
See: GLOBAL GDP
Hunger in the world today is an extremely widespread and serious problem, as the statistics listed below from the United Nations World Food Programme demonstrate. Why does such widespread hunger and even starvation until death still exist in the world today? It is for one reason only: the continued existence of capitalism, which is a viciously murderous system even if we ignore its constant imperialist wars.
“Every year, authors, journalists, teachers, researchers, schoolchildren and students ask us for statistics about hunger and malnutrition. To help answer these questions, we’ve compiled a list of useful facts and figures on world hunger.
1 Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth.
2 The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.
3 Asia is the continent with the most hungry people—two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly.
4 Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished.
5 Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five—3.1 million children each year.
6 One out of six children—roughly 100 million—in developing countries is underweight.
7 One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
8 If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.
9 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
10 WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.”
—From the U.N. World Food Programme web site at https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats/ (accessed Jan. 29, 2016).
[We see from these figures that the U.S. alone could easily eliminate all the hunger and malnutrition of all the school-age children in the entire world for much less than it spends each week on its imperialist wars. But none of the fucking politicians in either the Democratic or Republican parties would even consider proposing such a thing! —S.H.]
WORLD IMPERIALIST SYSTEM
The modified neocolonial system of imperialism set up at the end of World War II by the U.S. and its capitalist-imperialist allies, along with its central institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and what eventually became the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The first step in the transformation of the World War II Allied bloc of imperialists into the present world imperialist system was the admission of the defeated Axis powers of West Germany, Italy and Japan into these institutions. At this point the “Allied Bloc” became the so-called “Western Bloc” (despite the inclusion of Japan).
At the end of World War II there were also a few countries completely outside the control of all the imperialist powers: most notably the socialist Soviet Union, but also a number of other Eastern European countries which had been liberated from the Nazis by the Sovet Red Army and/or by their own revolutionary efforts. In 1949 the great Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong also freed China from imperialist control. However, in the mid-1950s a new bourgeoisie led by Khrushchev captured the Soviet Union and transformed socialism back into capitalism, in the form of state-capitalism and social-imperialism (socialism in name, imperialism in actuality). At this point, and until the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the USSR and its sphere in 1989-1991, there were two separate imperialist systems: the Western Bloc and the Soviet Bloc. And China was outside of both.
However, when the Soviet Union and its bloc collapsed, Russia and the other countries from that once competing bloc also joined the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Similarly, the capitalist roaders in China seized power there after Mao’s death and China then joined these same world imperialist institutions. At this point there was truly only one World Imperialist System.
[More to be added, including a discussion about the major and growing internal contradictions which are inexorably leading to the breakup of the current World Imperialist System into separate competing imperialist blocs once again.]
The great majority of the people of the world live in poverty, and more than half live in what can only be described as extreme poverty. This is a direct consequence of the capitalist-imperialist system. See the entry on POVERTY-Extreme for the current statistics.
See also: IMMISERATION OF THE PROLETARIAT
WORLD SYSTEMS THEORY
[To be added...]
See also: DEPENDENCY THEORY
The sale and purchase of goods and services from other countries. Because of the serious world economic crisis, in 2009 the volume of world trade (the exports of all countries combined) fell by 12% from the year before, to $12.49 trillion dollars. Since then trade has expanded again, but more sporadically than before.
WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)
[To be added...]
See also below.
WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION — China’s Admission Into
A major shift in world trade patterns occurred after Deng Xiaoping and his fellow capitalist-roaders changed China back to a capitalist country, and especially after China joined the WTO in 2001. Based on the foundation of the already huge modernization and economic expansion during the socialist era, in the new capitalist era China quickly became the new “workshop of the world” and the number one manufacturing country, which meant that its exports became truly massive. Much of these exports, especially in the first decade or so, were by foreign-owned multi-national corporations (MNCs) who built factories in China in order to exploit the very cheap labor available there. (The trend now, however, is for more and more of Chinese exports to come from Chinese-owned companies.)
The U.S., which has the biggest say in the WTO (as it also does in the IMF and World Bank), drove a very hard bargain with China in allowing it to join the WTO. But in the end it agreed to let China join because of the pressures and interests of American MNCs who were desperate to get access to China’s cheap labor and its vast and expanding markets.
For the details in the agreement allowing China to join the WTO see: “Report of the Working Party on the Accession of China”, World Trade Organization, Oct. 1, 2001, online at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan002144.pdf
“The supposed willingness of China, a Communist country, to meet the
conditions for WTO membership was still justifiably viewed skeptically by many in the
U.S. government; as a result, China’s entry into the WTO took fifteen years and was the
subject of the most detailed agreement ever made with any new member of the
WTO—contrasting strongly, for example, with the far less demanding terms applied to
India a few years earlier. China knew that it would benefit enormously by joining the
WTO. But would the Americans let them in? When China joined the WTO in 2001, it agreed
to accept the organization’s provisions that member governments not influence, directly
or indirectly, the commercial decisions of their state-owned enterprises. However,
China has not kept this commitment. All Chinese SOEs [state-owned enterprises] operate
to serve state objectives rather than respond to market forces, and the Communist Party
isn’t shy about directing SOE investments. If a Chinese mining company is directed to
exploit a mine in Afghanistan or Angola to expand China’s political footprint, it will
do so, even if it must do so at a loss.” —Michael Pillsbury, a former CIA analyst,
The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global
Superpower (2015), pp. 164-5.
[First, China has never yet been a “Communist” country in the sense of the term we Marxists use. And with the coup d’état by the capitalist-roaders after Mao’s death, it also ceased to be a genuinely socialist country. So when China entered the WTO in 2001 it was clearly and definitely a capitalist country, although one with a large nominally state-capitalist sector of its economy. Second, all members of the WTO cheat with regard to WTO rules whenever it is in their interests to do so. And the biggest cheater by far is the United States. This is why U.S. efforts to punish China for violating WTO rules generally go nowhere; China simply plays tit-for-tat and turns around and charges the U.S. with violating the rules! Third, China correctly affirmed in 2001 that “the state-owned enterprises of China basically operated in accordance with rules of market economy.” That is, although state owned, China’s SOEs do for the most part operate as if they were ordinary multi-national corporations. Fourth, it must be remembered that the U.S. allowed China to join the WTO for its own benefit, not China’s. U.S. corporations wanted to move many of their factories to China in order to take advantage of the much cheaper labor there (as well as China’s huge and expanding market). It was in the short-term interests of the U.S. to let China into the WTO, and they were too stupid to even fully recognize their own long-term imperialist interests in preventing the rise of China as a competing capitalist-imperialist power. Nevertheless the U.S. did drive a very hard bargain with China. —Ed.]
WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION — Crisis of in the Trump Era
As the entry above on China’s admission into the WTO discusses, the United States—as the dominant force in the WTO—drove a very hard bargain but which finally did allow capitalist China to join the WTO in 2001. Even then, this only happened because of the great pressure by U.S.-based multinational corporations which sought access to China’s cheap labor and huge markets. But despite the difficult and prolonged negotiations and the additional restrictions and requirements the U.S. forced on them, the entry of China into the WTO really has turned out to be hugely beneficial to the new Chinese capitalist-imperialist ruling class. Despite the restrictions (some of which have actually been ignored), China has become the workshop of the world, and the world’s largest exporter. In effect, the Chinese capitalists have managed to beat the American and other capitalists around the world at their own game of world exploitation. This has been possible for a number of reasons, including the fact that capitalist-imperialist China exploits its own working class to a much greater degree than do other imperialist powers, and the fact that China came out of the Maoist socialist era with no internal or external debt whatsoever—which allowed them to stoke a huge economic boom through the expansion of vast amounts of new debt, which simply could not be matched by other capitalist powers who had been building up already excessive state, corporate and consumer debt for many decades.
Add to this the fact that the U.S. and other powerful WTO members have been almost completely unable to punish China for its violation of WTO rules (as well as for violations of the special requirements piled on China when it joined the WTO)—because these countries, and especially the U.S., all routinely violate WTO rules too!
What this all comes down to is that the WTO and the existing world trade system no longer works to the totally domineering advantage of the U.S. imperialists as it once did. For this reason, the U.S. began trying to partially circumvent and supplement the WTO in the Obama years. The basic ploy was to try to set up alternative trade agreements with major groups of other countries which excluded China. This amounted to tacit recognition on the part of the U.S. imperialists that allowing China into the WTO—even on unfavorable terms—had proven to be a serious mistake on their part. The two biggest efforts to circumvent and supplement the WTO were the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the Pacific Basin region and the similarly proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between North America and Europe. These two pacts were designed to be the de facto extensions and replacements for the WTO, which would then once again allow the exclusion of China. They were essentially meant to be the focus for a major new trade war against China. The WTO would still exist, but as a mere hollowed-out shell. This was actually a pretty rational scheme from the point of view of the real selfish economic interests of the American and other “Western” imperialist powers!
But then along came Donald Trump, a very loose cannon for the U.S. imperialists, who didn’t seem to understand what the overall plan was! Trump’s “Make America Great Again” logic is not simply to start a trade war alliance against U.S. imperialism’s primary economic enemy today, rising Chinese imperialism, but instead to take on all other countries—weak or strong—simultaneously in a new trade war against the entire world. In the first days of his administration Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP. Shortly after that he sabotaged the Atlantic TTIP proposal. The new American trade policy seemed to be to promote individual trade pacts with each separate country. So instead of circumventing and supplementing the WTO with other regional pacts, the U.S. seems to be on the road toward essentially abandoning the WTO! Instead of one unified WTO world trade pact, there are now already nearly 300 preferred trade pacts between individual pairs of countries—a real mess.
However, it is still not certain how complete and permanent this change of trade war strategy is for the U.S. NAFTA, the trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, was not abandoned after all, despite Trump’s many threats to do so. Instead, it was renegotiated (and renamed) by the U.S. to force somewhat more favorable terms out of Canada and Mexico. There is still the possibility that something like this may eventually occur with the TPP and TTIP, as well; if not by Trump, then after he is gone.
But for the present the WTO and the world trade system which has been slowly and painfully built up since World War II has been dangerously weakened. And this is happening just at a time when the world capitalist economy is once again showing very serious signs of slipping into a new phase of its long-developing overproduction crisis. This does not bode well for the world capitalist system.
WORLD — Unity Of [Philosophy]
See: UNITY OF THE WORLD
WORLDVIEW (or WORLD OUTLOOK)
A worldview, or world outlook, or Weltanshauung [in German], is some distinctive way of viewing the world and/or human society. Examples include the worldviews of native peoples in the Amazon forest, the dominant worldview of polytheistic slave society of ancient Rome, the contemporary Christian fundamentalist worldview, the mechanical materialist worldview of some scientists, and the more fully scientific dialectical materialist worldview of revolutionary Marxists. Philosophically, these very different worldviews fall into two categories, idealist worldviews and materialist worldviews. From a political perspective, worldviews are associated with the interests and outlook of one or another social class.
Sometimes rather small differences in outlook are characterized as “differing worldviews”, such as the sets of different views that Republicans and Democrats have in the U.S. today, and lie behind the so-called “culture wars” between them. Of course, from our Marxist point of view, these are just relatively minor variations on a theme, with both being philosophically idealist (for the most part), and also obviously bourgeois (in that they reflect the attitudes of the American capitalist-imperialists). The profoundly different worldviews are those which have, in the one case, an idealist philosophical outlook and which represent the class interests of the ruling bourgeoisie, or in the other case, a scientific materialist philosophical outlook and which solidly represents the class interests of the revolutionary proletariat.
Every worldview has a certain “inner logic” or inner “rationality” or “way of thinking” to it. In the case of a scientific worldview this inner rationality will indeed be truly rational, at least in its essentials. But in the case of religious, bourgeois, or other non-scientific worldviews, it would be more correct to describe this as a quasi-rationality or pseudo-rationality. For example, in a religious worldview, which assumes the existence of a God and human “souls”, it will seem to make sense within that worldview that heaven and hell also exist, as places where these “souls” go after they leave the human body when it dies. Of course in the Marxist scientific materialist worldview this is all complete nonsense, since (for one thing) there can be no such things as “disembodied” minds or “souls” to begin with, and therefore no such things as gods and devils (let alone realms where these fantastic entities “rule”).
Being truly rational involves not only reasoning in a logical way, based on facts and evidence, but also having a scientific materialist worldview which allows and promotes this.
See also: REMOLDING ONE’S WORLDVIEW
WORLD WAR I
“By the end of the 19th century the European security order was
disintegrating, pulled apart by nationalism, imperialism and globalisation. The empires
were like tigers, which even when threatened with extinction will not co-operate.”
—“Russia and the first world war: Blindly over the brink”, a review of the book Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia (2015), The Economist, May 16, 2015, p. 76.
“It is proved in the pamphlet that the war of 1914-18 was imperialist (that is, an annexationist, predatory, war of plunder) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital, etc.” —Lenin, “Preface to the French and German Editions” (July 6, 1920), Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, LCW 22:189-190.
“Lenin pointed out that on the basis [of the Marxist view of war] there was nothing just or progressive about World War I. He compared the imperialist war to a war between a slave-holder who owns 100 slaves and a slave-holder who owns 200 slaves for a more ‘just’ redistribution of slaves. The essential purpose of World War I was for redistribution of the colonial slaves. Thus there could not be anything progressive or defensive or just in that war. It was an unjust, reactionary war. The only stand towards it could be the call to convert the imperialist war into a civil war. Thus the only use of such a war was to take advantage of it to make revolution. In order to do this, Lenin pointed out that it was advantageous that one’s own country is defeated in the war. Defeat would weaken the ruling class and facilitate the victory of the revolution. Thus any socialist revolutionary must work for the defeat of his own government in the war.” —Slightly adapted from the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: Basic Course (Utrecht: Christophe Kistler, 2016), p. 103.
WORLD WAR I — Failure to Foresee
“Your list of fallacies from the past omitted perhaps The Economist’s most glaring error of all. In June 1913, the entente cordiale between Britain and France was described as ‘the expression of tendencies which are slowly but surely making war between the civilised communities of the world an impossibility’ (‘Neighbours and friends’, June 28th, 1913). Not quite.” —Matthew Rees, of McLean, Virginia, in a letter to The Economist, July 1, 2017, p. 16. [Just one year later World War I began. —Ed.]
WORLD WAR I — Late U.S. Entry Into the War
“World War I broke out in July 1914 between two imperialist blocs—the Allied Powers (England, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Italy and Austria)—all scheming to redivide the world. Although it first declared its ‘neutrality,’ the Wilson government (1913-1921) in the U.S. was actually ‘sitting on the mountaintop watching the tigers fight,’ letting the two sides slaughter and exploit each other so that it could get the spoils. When the belligerents had fought to the point of exhaustion and the war was drawing to a close, the U.S. saw its opportunity, tore off its mask of ‘neutrality,’ and in April 1917 declared war on Germany, thus becoming a victor in the war at very little cost. It took advantage of the deadlock between the two imperialist power blocs in Europe to drive British and German influence out of Latin America and secure its own ‘back yard.’” —Shih Chan, A Brief History of the United States (Peking: 1972), p. 23, available online in English translation at: https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/Pubs/History/A-Brief-History-of-the-United-States-Shih-Chan-1972.pdf
WORLD WAR I — Opposition To
[To be added...]
See also: ZIMMERWALD CONFERENCE, KIENTHAL CONFERENCE, LYNCHINGS—Political
WORLD WAR I — Stalemate on the Western Front
World War I was marked by long periods of trench warfare in which the opposing imperialist armies could advance only by climbing out of their trenches and rushing forward into withering machine gun and artillery fire. Their officers nevertheless ordered them to do so time after time, and millions of soldiers died as a consequence. During the longest part of World War I, from September 1914 to March 1918, there was a near stalemate between the two opposing armies on the Western Front. The front shifted very little, as the map at the right illustrates. But the massacres continued during this whole long period, all for a few worthless yards of territory.
WORLD WAR II — Beginning Of
In the U.S., and for Eurocentric or even narrower America-centric reasons, World War II is usually considered to have started with the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, or even only with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which brought the U.S. into the war. A much better case can be made that this world war actually started with the Japanese imperialist attack on Shenyang, China on September 18, 1931. Other major episodes of this war before 1939 include fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935; German and Italian military intervention in Spain in 1936; and the Japanese occupation of Beijing and Shanghai in 1937.
See also: POLAND—German Imperialist Invasion Of
“People all over the world, including Chinese, Eithiopians and Spaniards, waged anti-fascist wars from 1931 onwards. Further, September 1931 through September 1939 saw wars breaking out from the Straits of Gibraltar in the West to Shanghai in the East, involving 500 million people, a quarter of the world population at that time.” —Henan Shida Zuebao [Journal of Henan Normal University], #4, 1982. [Quoted in Beijing Review, issue #3, Jan. 17, 1983, p. 26.]
WORLD WAR II — Defeat of Fascism
“Only the temporary and bizarre alliance of liberal capitalism and communism in self-defense against this [fascist] challenger saved democracy, for the victory over Hitler’s Germany was essentially won, and could only have been won, by the Red Army.” —Eric Hobsbaum, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (1994), p. 7. [Of course the “democracy” referred to here is only bourgeois democracy. —S.H.]
WORLD WAR II — Eastern Front
See: EASTERN FRONT
WORLD WAR II — Nuclear Weapons In
See: NUCLEAR WEAPONS—America’s Use of in World War II
WORLD WAR II — Outcome Of
“From the outset of the war, in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the United States in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a ‘Grand Area’ that the United States was to dominate, including the western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British Empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, the Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible—at least its economic core, in Western Europe. With the Grand Area, the United States would maintain ‘unquestioned power’ with ‘military and economic supremacy,’ while ensuring the ‘limitation of any exercise of sovereignty’ by states that might interfere with its global designs.” —Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? (2016), p. 45.
WORLD WAR II — Political Nature Of
[To be added...]
WORLD WAR II — Predictions Of
Marxists, from Lenin on, recognized that with the semi-stabilization of capitalism after World War I that another imperialist world war would occur before too many years, and that imperialist wars are inherent in capitalist-imperialism as a system. Here are some specific predictions:
[Comments by the liberal American journalist George Seldes writing in
1929. He had interviewed Lenin in the early 1920s, sometime before his death in early
“On another occasion he [Lenin] showed the same stubborn prejudices which characterize all the revolutionary leaders.
“‘When is the war between Japan and America coming?’ he asked. He was assured there would be no war because there are no causes for war. ‘But there must be war,’ he insisted, ‘because capitalist countries cannot exist without wars.’” —George Seldes, You Can’t Print That!, (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., 1929), p. 221. [Of course events proved Lenin to be extremely prescient about a future war which very few others at the time saw coming; and George Seldes proved to be a liberal fool! —S.H.]
“Instead of the stability and super-imperialism foretold by the reformists, we see the greatest disintegration, the greatest instability in capitalism today, both in its economic substructure and in its political-social and ideological superstructure. The contradictions are becoming sharper and are making straight for a new imperialist war, either of the imperialists against the Soviet Union or of the imperialists among themselves, to determine the re-division of the world (a combination of both is possible).” —Eugen Varga, The Decline of Capitalism (London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1928), p. 15.
WORLD WAR II — Prisoners Of War
The treatment of prisoners of war during World War II was often horrendous—and downright murderous—especially by the German and Japanese imperialists. “It took only a few months, in the winter of 1941-2, for the Nazis to allow more than two million Soviet POWs to die in crowded camps, unseen and largely unrecorded.” [Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (2008), p. 11.] And many more Soviet POWs died (or were more directly murdered) over the next several years. The treatment of Russian and other Eastern European POWs by the Nazis was in general much worse than the treatment of American, British, and other Western forces, largely because of the genocidal racism of the Nazi regime and its desire to essentially wipe out the Slavs in order to make room for the expansion of Germany to the East.
The Japanese imperialists felt much the same way about China and Chinese POWs, and often preferred to simply kill them rather than take them prisoner at all.
WORLD WAR II — Resistance Movements in Europe
In most European countries overrun by the German Nazi imperialists during World War II, the national resistance movements were actually quite weak. (The greatest exception to this generalization was in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union, though there were also substantial resistance movements in the Balkans and Poland.) After the war was over, vast numbers of people claimed to have been “part of the resistance”, but in reality the active resistance in most countries was very small and rather ineffective. The leading force in what resistance did exist was mostly made up of those Communists who had not already been killed by the Nazis.
“One reason the Germans failed to think deeply about [how to politically reorganize the conquered parts of] Europe was that for much of the war they did not need to: Europeans fell into line and contributed what they demanded anyway. After 1945, this was conveniently forgotten. Those who had endured the German occupation hailed the heroic résistants and passed in silence over the fact that German officials in most of Europe had not been overly troubled by resistance until late in the day. That the Germans had managed to divert the resources of the continent to the benefit of their own war economy was attributed to coercion. Berlin’s dealings with cooperative businessmen and civil servants in western and central Europe went unmentioned. So did the fact that thousands of unemployed French, Dutch, Croatian, Spanish and Italian workers had volunteered to work in factories in the Reich before the slave labour programme came in.” —Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (2008), p. 6.
WORLD WAR II — U.S. Economy During
See: UNITED STATES ECONOMY—During World War II
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