Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   V   —

The value-augmenting process of capital.
        Valorization is a somewhat slippery concept to get a good handle on, and for that reason it is fortunate that the term can usually be avoided by circumlocutions framed in other terms, often including
productive capital and surplus value. The “valorization of capital” refers primarily to the use of existing productive capital together with human labor in the capitalist production process to produce new value in the form of commodities, which—when sold—will result in increased capital. Thus “valorization” in the political economy of capitalism may be defined as the employment of existing capital in the productive process in ways which create new value through the exploitation of human labor.
        However, even scholarly discussions of valorization often give confused or confusing descriptions or definitions of it. It is often said or implied, for example, that the valorization of capital is the increase in the value of capital assets in the productive process. The actual increase itself is instead the surplus value generated, and the valorization of capital is really more the fact that the existing capital is being used in the capitalist productive process in generating surplus value.
        ‘Valorization’ means in general terms “to get the worth or value (benefit) out of something”. How does the capitalist “get the value” out of capital itself? How do they make it “pay off”? Well, obviously by making use of that capital in the productive process, which means using their factories, machinery, and raw materials along with the labor of the workers they hire, to create more value, and thus to increase their capital. In other words, to valorize their existing capital they make use of it in the production process along with further human labor to create increased value, which can then become expanded capital to be used in the very same way once again.
        ‘Valorization’ is the English translation of the term ‘Verwertung’ (or more precisely ‘Kapitalverwertung’) which Marx used in Capital and other writings. But it is difficult to translate this German word into English in a single word or short phrase. One of the better older translations of the term was the “self-expansion of capital”, although one problem there is that it all sounds somewhat mysterious. Difficulties with earlier translations of ‘Verwertung’ have led many modern translators of Capital (such as in the Penguin edition) to employ the rather unfamiliar word ‘valorization’ as an English technical term for it. But it can also be objected that translations which use unfamiliar or undefined technical terms aren’t very helpful either!
        For reasons such as these, in presenting Marx’s basic economic theory to new people it is best to avoid the term ‘valorization’ altogether, and instead either to refer to it as the value-augmenting process or else explain the basic concept by using a few more words. The concept of valorization is in fact important; but it is also important not to make it so esoteric or mysterious through the use of peculiar terminology.

“In German, the general meaning of ‘Verwertung’ is the productive use of a resource, and more specifically the use or application of something (an object, process or activity) so that it makes money, or generates value [in the general English sense], with the connotation that the thing validates itself and proves its worth when it results in earnings, a yield. Thus, something is ‘valorised’ if it has yielded its value (which could be use-value or exchange-value).” —Wikipedia entry on ‘Valorisation’ (accessed on Feb. 2, 2018.)

Capitalist commodity production (the generalization of commodity production [which] first occurs historically under capitalist conditions) is, however, not geared toward the satisfaction of needs, but to the valorization of value. The satisfaction of needs only occurs as a by-product, insofar as it coincides with the valorization of capital. The aim of capitalist production is surplus value and not the satisfaction of needs.” —Michael Heinrich, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, translated by Alexander Locascio, (NY: Monthly Review Press, 2004) p. 87.
         [This is quite correct. However, in my opinion it would be far more intelligible to students of Marx if it were stated this way (and omitting any reference to “valorization”): “Capitalist commodity production ... is not geared toward the satisfaction of needs, but toward the endless expansion of capital through the endless exploitation of human labor. The satisfaction of needs (to the limited degree that this actually happens) only occurs as a by-product, insofar as it coincides with the continuous utilization and expansion of capital. The aim of capitalist production is to produce surplus value through the exploitation of workers, and to then turn the bulk of this surplus value into additional capital.” This rewrite still refers to “surplus value”, which is an indispensable term in political economy and must itself be carefully explained. But we do get rid of the need to clear up the inevitable puzzlement that will arise about just what the “valorization of value”, and such, is all about. —S.H.]

VALUE   [In ethics]
[To be added...]
        See also:

VALUE   [In political economy]
Social labor as materialized in the form of
commodities. The amount of value in a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labor time incorporated into it.
        Any useful object produced by human beings embodies their labor. And in any socioeconomic system there will be objects which are valued by people for the uses they may have and the needs they may fulfil. But only in economic systems which produce and exchange commodities (i.e., most notably capitalism, but also pre-capitalist economies which produced commodities even if only as a secondary feature, and also under socialism (the transition period from capitalism to communism), is there such a thing as the political-economic category of value. What is required for labor to produce value (in this technical sense in Marxist political economy) is that the item produced must first be a useful thing, but also that the actual ultimate user of the item obtain it through exchange. For such exchange to take place there must be some basis for the exchange, i.e., some valuation of the items exchanged. The only rational basis for calculating the relative value of two items being exchanged is the differing amounts of socially necessary labor time incorporated into each.
        “Marx, taking Ricardo’s investigations as his starting-point, says: The value of commodities is determined by the socially necessary general human labor embodied in them, and this in turn is measured by its duration.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, Part II, Ch. V: (MECW 25:178). “A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because human labor in the abstract has been embodied or materialized in it.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, chapter I: (International, p. 38; Penguin, p. 129.) “Value exists only in articles of utility, in objects.... If therefore an article loses its utility, it also loses its value.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, chapter VIII: (International, p. 202; Penguin, p. 310.)

VALUE — Categories Of (In Marxist Political Economy)
Marx talks about three direct types or categories of value: use-value, exchange-value, and the unqualified category of just plain value. Of these, the clearest for students of Marxist political economy to immediately understand is use-value, which is the usefulness of the commodity to people. (A coat is useful for keeping a person warm; a home is useful for protecting them from the weather.) But there is often confusion between value and exchange-value. What exactly is the difference?
        The tendency is for students to assume that the basic category of the two remaining ones is exchange-value, and to further jump to the only-roughly-true conclusion that exchange-value is merely an alternative name for
price. But this approach then leaves the student puzzled about what the unqualified term value is all about. Moreover, this really sort of sidesteps or downplays the whole point of the Marxist analysis of value.
        After briefly talking about the simple concept of use-value, the next thing to focus on is not exchange-value, but rather just plain value, which is the amount of labor incorporated into some particular commodity. (More precisely, it is the socially necessary abstract labor time required to produce that commodity.) This is the most important thing to understand.
        Why is value so important? It is because 1) it shows the central importance of labor in capitalist production, and establishes human labor (working on the products of nature) as the source of all value and all wealth; and 2) it provides the explanation for just why commodities are exchanged in the ratios they normally are. With regard to this second point, just why is it that a pair of socks costs only a twentieth of the kind of shoes I wear? This can only be understood as being due to the fact that roughly 20 times the labor goes into making my shoes than goes into making my socks.
        So the concept of value is in fact closely related to the concept of exchange value. Value is the basis for the exchange of commodities. In other words, as a first approximation, commodities are exchanged on the basis of their different inherent values (how much labor goes into creating each). But there are also additional factors that can somewhat modify this situation. Supply and demand factors, for example, can move the actual exchange value of a commodity in some specific transaction a little higher or lower than its inherent value. Thus value is inherent and fixed (for the time being at least) while the actual exchange value can fluctuate a bit around that inherent value, even though the strong tendency is for exchange values to approximate values in real-life transactions. This is the subtle and sometimes confusing point: While a commodity is generally exchanged for another commodity pretty closely on the basis of its value, its precise exchange-value in a particular transaction may be a little different than its actual value!
        It is also true, however, that in speaking in general theoretical terms about political economy we can often talk about either value or exchange value, since the one basically determines the other. In many contexts, it really does not make any difference which term we use. This, in fact, is one of the reasons for the confusion between the two terms.
        Values and exchange values can also be expressed more indirectly in terms of the values of other commodities. My shoes are worth 20 pairs of my socks; my socks have a value about 1/20th that of my shoes. The money commodity (originally gold in most cultures) standardizes this way of doing things. The price of any commodity is then the money-commodity equivalent of the exchange value of that commodity. And as with exchange value, directly speaking, the price can also fluctuate somewhat above or below the actual value of the commodity. —S.H.

VALUE — and Prices of Production

VALUE — As the Fundamental Concept in the Political Economy of Capitalism

“It is Marx’s purpose to understand all of the most abstract and general economic categories of capitalism as different objectifications of one basic substance: value, or, what is the same thing, abstract, homogeneous labour. All of the basic quantitative economic categories: ‘price’, ‘profit’, ‘interest’, ‘wage’, and ‘rent’ are understood as simply different forms of value, and, as such their connections are ‘inner’ connections.” —Robert Albritton, Economics Transformed: Discovering the Brilliance of Marx (2007), p. 97.

[As commonly used by bourgeois economists:] The value (in terms of selling prices) of the goods produced by a company after deducting the value (in terms of purchasing prices) of all the inputs used in the production process which were purchased from other companies (including raw materials and overhead). Curiously, the wages and benefits paid to their own workers (i.e. the value of the labor power the company purchases) are usually not deducted! This is a major reason why this is a bourgeois economic concept or category, rather than a Marxist category. Thus, roughly speaking, value added (in this bourgeois sense) is equivalent to the raw profits of the company plus the wages and benefits it pays to its workers and managers.

One of the most common forms of taxation used in many countries (as opposed to sales taxes, income taxes, or taxes on profits or assets). Each company is taxed a certain percentage of the value added which it generates. (Note that this is usually defined in non-Marxist terms; see the entry above.) Of course each company then adds the amount of this tax onto the price of the goods it sells.

VALUE, PRICE AND PROFIT   [Pamphlet by Marx]
This pamphlet, in other editions entitled Wages, Price and Profit, is an excellent introduction to the concept of
surplus value, the inverse relationship of wages to capitalist profits, and other fundamental topics in political economy. It is based on two speeches Marx made in 1865, and is designed to clarify directly to the workers themselves the basic economic workings of the capitalist system. Every Marxist revolutionary should be thoroughly familiar with the contents of this pamphlet and promote its study broadly within the working class.
        This pamphlet is available in printed form, and is also available online in several places, including: http://marx2mao.com/M&E/WPP65.html, and http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/index.htm

MARX: Wages, Price and Profit
        “This pamphlet by Marx (which is also known as Value, Price and Profit) contains a simple explanation of the basic ideas of political economy—value and surplus value.
        “This explanation begins with the sixth chapter. Marx explains what is the value of commodities, the relation of value and market prices, the value of labor power, the origin and nature of surplus value, the rate of surplus value and the rate of profit, how surplus value is decomposed into rent, interest and profit.
        “Thus all the most important conceptions worked out in Capital are here introduced to the reader in an easy and popular way.
        “The pamphlet is based on two speeches made by Marx to the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association in 1865. The First International was considering its attitude to the contemporary strike movement and to demands for raising wages: an English delegate, John Weston, put forward the idea that higher wages could not improve the conditions of the workers, since if wages went up, so would prices.
        “In answering him, Marx shows that wages can rise at the expense of profits. He cuts through all Weston’s confusions about ‘currency circulation,’ ‘supply and demand,’ the ‘regulation of prices,’ and proves that a general increase in wages would not mean a rise in prices but a fall in profits.
        “Marx here demonstrates how the science of political economy is an instrument for showing the workers the way forward, and for clearing up such confusions as those of John Weston. Though spoken nearly a hundred years ago, his words remain very contemporary—the same argument continues in the working class movement.
        “In concluding his address, Marx shows that there is no ‘economic law’ which fixes the level of wages and profits. How much shall be paid in wages, how much shall go for profits, is determined in the last analysis by the relative strength of the contending classes, by the class struggle.
        “He states in conclusion that instead of the conservative motto ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ the working class should inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system.’”
         —Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952), p. 39. [It should be remembered, of course, that Marx was speaking about pre-monopoly capitalism. Under monopolistic (or oligopolistic) conditions, the capitalists have a much freer hand to raise prices. —S.H.]


“Marx rarely describes capital as simply slaughtering labor, as having labor’s blood on its hands. Rather, it is something infinitely more gruesome and cannibalistic, something which feeds on blood in order to ensure its own strength. ‘Capital is dead labor that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.’
        “The vampire is perhaps the dominant image for capital, and the verbs Marx uses constantly to describe the capitalist processes which ‘absorb living labor’ and ‘swallow up unpaid labor’ evoke the vampire image even without using the word. Marx refers to the ‘vampire-thirst for the living blood of labor,’ and it is precisely this insatiability of the vampire, its capacity for more and more blood, which is its point of similarity with capital. The image compresses and focuses on the truth in its most striking essence. Marx also refers to the ‘werewolf hunger’ of capital, and since he is concerned throughout the work with revealing the reality that lies behind surface appearances, it is fitting that the images he chooses, of vampire and werewolf, should be creatures that are terrifying because of their illusory humanness.”
         —Adèle Geras, “The Language and Imagery of Capital (Volume One)”, Monthly Review, Nov. 1972; reprinted in the Nov. 2022 issue, p. 62.

An advance force at the head of and leading a whole army, movement or social class.

        1. An action or activity undertaken by a true vanguard (i.e., by a party or organization actually leading the masses in struggle) which really does promote the larger involvement of the masses in that struggle.
        2. An action or activity undertaken by a group or organization which falsely imagines that it is functioning as the vanguard (or supposed leadership) of the masses, and which—it is vainly hoped—will lead those broad masses to join up with it in that action. (See:
        Of course, only the first of these two is properly called a “vanguard action”; the second is more like a petty-bourgeois parody of one. To actually lead the masses in struggle a party or organization must be living and working with those masses, must be using Mao’s leadership method of “from the masses, to the masses” (also known as the mass line), and must be continually drawing new members from among those masses. A true vanguard arises from the masses it seeks to lead, and it cannot possibly lead those masses in any vanguard action unless it is deeply a part of their life and existing struggles.

        1. A political party which is actually acting as the leadership of a social
class or class-based political movement, and implicitly at least, a revolutionary class or political movement. This is usually in specific reference to a proletarian revolutionary party, such as the Bolsheviks in revolutionary Russia or the Communist Party of China during the Mao era.
        2. A political party which only imagines that it is doing this, or only aspires to do this, even though in reality it has little or no influence on the social class it claims to lead, and provides little or no leadership of that class in actual struggle. If such a party is termed a “vanguard party” it should of course have scare-quotes around the term, as in this example, in order to indicate that it is not really the vanguard that it claims to be! (At least not yet.)
        A true vanguard party functions as an actual vanguard (or advanced leadership body) of a social class and has no need to constantly proclaim itself as a vanguard. The reality of the situation speaks for itself. And the very fact that some tiny sectarian party might be constantly calling itself “the vanguard” strongly indicates that it really is nothing of the kind.
        Should a nominally Marxist party (such as the old CPUSA during the late 1930s) that actually does provide some substantial day-to-day leadership of the proletariat and the masses, but only in reformist struggle and in a way that never even begins to advance that day-to-day struggle in the direction of revolution, be considered a “vanguard party” in the Marxist sense? Of course not! In advanced capitalist countries during non-revolutionary periods most day-to-day struggles of the working class and masses will in fact be over reformist issues (or in warding off additional attacks from the bourgeois enemy). But if this day-to-day struggle is combined in a thorough and serious way with extensive revolutionary educational work, then the path of that reformist struggle can be more and more steered in the direction of making social revolution. Under genuine vanguard revolutionary leadership, reformist struggle can be gradually transformed into outright revolutionary struggle. The “secret” of doing this, developed first by Marx, Engels and Lenin, is to combine leadership with revolutionary education, so that the masses can learn through their own experiences in struggle the absolute need for, and also the proven methods of, making revolution.
        A supposed “Marxist” party which does not constantly work to educate the working class in the meaning of, and the need for, socialist and then communist revolution, is no real revolutionary party no matter how much leadership they provide in day-to-day struggles. Such a party, has no true vanguard role, and actually has no real long-term political significance whatsoever.
        For Marxist-Leninist-Maoists a true vanguard party is one that does in fact lead the working class and masses in major struggles (even if mostly around reformist issues in non-revolutionary times), but which—because of simultaneous educational work—also does this in a way that promotes and leads to proletarian revolution. On the other hand, a party which subjectively does strongly favor socialism and then communism, but which has no real desire or ability to lead the masses in actual struggle, both for their day-to-day interests and their long-term revolutionary interests, is no vanguard party either! It is merely a mostly irrelevant propaganda sect.
        A genuine MLM communist party is a vanguard in the sense that it is actually leading the masses in their existing struggles, and in the sense that these struggles are seriously and consciously being re-directed toward making social revolution.

“Being powerful is like being a lady—if you have to tell people you are, then you aren’t.” —Margaret Thatcher, quoted in the London Evening Standard (2005).
[In the very same way, if a Party has to tell people that it is the vanguard of the working class, then it is certain that it is not. —Ed.]

A pejorative term, used mostly by reformists and those opposed to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, to denegrate those who see the need for a revolutionary vanguard organization for the proletariat and who are trying to create such a vanguard party.
        Unfortunately, the widespread existence of tiny, phony so-called “vanguards”, i.e., those groups who call themselves vanguards when in fact they are nothing remotely close to the real thing, makes it easy for anti-revolutionaries to ridicule the whole idea as “vanguardism”.

VARGA, Eugen [“Eugene”]   (1879-1964)
[Varga’s Hungarian given name was “Jenö”; for most of his life and while living in the Soviet Union he was referred to by the German version of his name, “Eugen” (pronounced oy-ghen); in the English editions of his books he is usually referred to by the English version of his name, “Eugene”.]
        Varga was a Hungarian-born Soviet political economist who became one of the most famous and influential economists for the
Comintern. He made his reputation with his prediction in the mid-1920s of the forthcoming Great Depression. He was also the leading proponent of the General Crisis of Capitalism theory, both in the period between the two world wars, and also in the post-World War II period.
        Varga joined the Hungarian Social Democratic Party in 1906, and wrote articles on economics and other topics for the socialist press. In 1918 he became Professor of Political Economy at the University of Budapest, and the next year became the People’s Commissar of Finance and the chairman of the Supreme Economic Council of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. When that Hungarian revolutionary regime was overthrown (with the connivance of right-wing social democrats), Varga fled to the Soviet Union, and began work for the Comintern. He soon became its leading spokesman on economic matters. In the early 1920s he quickly recognized and gave emphasis to the significant economic recovery in capitalist countries after the sharp post-World War I recession of 1920-21. But by the mid-1920s he was emphasizing that this recovery would be short lived and that a powerful new economic crisis would soon develop (which of course it did). According to M.C. Howard & J.E. King, in their History of Marxian Economics (vol. I, 1989), Varga based this prediction on the increasing organic composition of capital and also on the prospect of reduced employment and ability of workers to consume (i.e., on two very different Marxist theories of economic crisis). But apparently the main thrust of Varga’s argument was based on Marx’s central theory of overproduction of capital (or what its opponents misleadingly call “underconsumptionism”).
        Varga wrote the economic reports for the Congresses of the Comintern from 1921 to 1935. Many of his writings in this period were focused on the international economic “conjuncture”, and reflected his great efforts to determine and organize the quantitative trends in output, investment and employment in many different countries. He especially investigated the economy of Germany and the economic development behind rising German imperialism.
        For 20 years, starting in 1927, Varga was the chairman of the Institute of World Economics (IWE) in Moscow. In the immediate post-World War II period he predicted a strong economic recovery in the capitalist West, and only later on the development of a new economic crisis—just as he had successfully predicted after World War I. It turned out that he was once again correct, but Stalin and the leadership of the Soviet Union and the Comintern expected that the capitalist world would almost immediately fall back into the Great Depression, which they thought had only been interrupted by World War II. (Those who expected the immediate return of the Depression didn’t really grasp Marx’s explanation that the basic resolution of overproduction crises comes through the destruction of excess capital, which is exactly what had happened in World War II.) This led to Varga’s removal from leadership of the IWE in 1947, and forced a total recantation and self-criticism by Varga in 1949. But after Stalin’s death in 1953 Varga was rehabilitated, and even presented the Stalin Prize in 1954 and the Order of Lenin (in both 1954 and 1959). But the new revisionist leaders of the Soviet Union paid little attention to his predictions of eventual new economic crises in the U.S., and were interested only in accomodation and peaceful co-existence with the West.
        Although Varga was one of the best Marxist political economists of his era, and in general had a remarkably good record of economic predictions, there were also some erroneous aspects and inconsistencies in his theories. For example, the idea that there could be a post-World War II economic recovery for capitalism was quite inconsistent with his theory in the 1930s that there was a General Crisis of Capitalism that could only be ended through social revolution. While he did expect a major recovery after World War II, the boom that followed the war was much bigger and longer than even he expected. By the late 1950s and 1960s he was already predicting a new economic crisis in world capitalism, but didn’t understand at all just how long it would take for that new crisis to fully develop, even once it finally did begin to develop in 1973, nine years after his death. Of course no other Marxist (let alone any non-Marxist) of that time really understood this either.
        Among Varga’s many books are these which have been translated into English: The Decline of Capitalism (1928); The Great Crisis and Its Political Consequences: Economics and Politics, 1928-1934 (1934); Two Systems: Socialist Economy and Capitalist Economy (1939); The Economic Transformation of Capitalism at the End of the Second World War (1946) [possibly not translated into English: this was the book that got Varga in trouble with Stalin, in which he argued that the capitalist system was somewhat more stable than had been previously believed, and that there would not be an immediate return to the Depression after the end of World War II]; Marxism and the General Crisis of Capitalism (1948); Twentieth Century Capitalism (1962); and Politico-Economic Problems of Capitalism (1968). After his death, his selected works in three volumes were published in the Soviet Union, Hungary, and East Germany. The German edition is entitled Ausgewählte Schriften 1918-1964. More recently an outrageously high-priced ($384) English-language work, Eugen Varga: Selected Political and Economic Writings: From the Hungarian Revolution to Orthodox Economic Theory in the USSR was published, (Brill Publishers, Historical Materialism Book Series, volume 225, Dec. 2020), xxiv + 1,204 pages.
        See also: “PARTY MAXIMUM”

“The Economics Institute of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences recently conducted a discussion on Academician E. Varga’s book, On Changes in the Economy of Capitalism as a Result of the Second World War. ... Academician Varga’s book contains a great deal of factual material and a number of theoretical generalizations.
        “However, the discussion showed that Comrade Varga’s book contains essential shortcomings as well as questionable and erroneous propositions with regard to a number of most important problems of present-day capitalism. ...
        “The basic shortcoming of Comrade Varga’s book consists in the fact that it does not furnish an integrated characterization of present-day imperialism. This deficiency, as the participants in the discussion noted, is explained primarily by the fact that the author considers the changes in the economy of present-day capitalism as isolated phenomena unrelated to the sharpening of the general crisis of capitalism as a result of the Second World War. The problem of the development and deepening of the general crisis of capitalism is essentially passed over in the book. And yet, a correct evaluation of the character and significance of the changes in capitalist economy during the years of the Second World War and in the postwar period is impossible without scientific analysis of the further development and of the depth of the general crisis of capitalism. The book does not give a general picture of the growth of parasitism and decay of capitalism, of the sharpening of the basic contradictions of the capitalist system, of the growth in the uneven development of capitalism, and of the sharpening of the problem of markets....
        “In the post-war development of capitalism Academician Varga distinguishes two stages, which supposedly have their own inherent laws. ‘In the first period, approximately the first decade after the end of the war,’ writes Academician Varga, ‘the unevenness of economic development, which occurred during the war, will have a decisive influence upon the course of capitalist economy.’ (P. 12) The second period, the author indicates, will proceed under the sign of ‘protracted’ changes in capitalism caused by the war. These changes ‘will find their expression in the sharpening of the basic contradiction of the capitalist system, i.e., the contradiction between social production and private appropriation, and first of all in the sharpening of the problem of realization, or in other words, the problem of the market.’ (P. 12)
        “Such a posing of the question called forth well-founded criticism from the participants in the discussion, who noted the incorrectness of the separation between the unevenness of the development of capitalism and the basic contradiction of the capitalist system. Comrade Varga, incorrectly, ‘postpones’ for a decade the sharpening of the basic contradiction of capitalism and the problem of the market connected with it. This contradiction is an incessantly operating law of capitalism....
        “Reality shows how devoid of value is Comrade Varga’s position on the postwar development of capitalism and especially his prognosis concerning the basic contradiction of capitalism. The postwar period is characterized by the sharpening of all the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system—by the intensified exploitation of the workers, by the growth of unemployment, by the sharp lowering of the living standard of the toiling masses, by the extension of the operation of the industrial plant below production capacity, by the intensified struggle for markets and spheres of capital investment, by the growth of miltarism, etc.”
         —I. Gladkov, “On Changes in the Economy of Capitalism as a Result of the Second World War”, English translation in the CPUSA journal, Political Affairs, Feb. 1948, pp. 181-183; original article in Russian in the journal Bolshevik, Moscow, No. 17, September 15, 1947.
         [This strong criticism of Varga was essentially wrong. He was quite correct in foreseeing a post-World War II capitalist boom, though he didn’t quite dare call it that! Moreover, he apparently didn’t note that there might also be an initial short but sharp recession during the re-tooling period after the war. This brief but sharp crisis helped reinforce the theories of Stalin and many others (including both Marxists and many bourgeois economists) who thought that the world capitalist economy would slip back into the Depression of the 1930s after the massive war spending ended. Even most Marxists did not really comprehend Marx’s explanation that overproduction crises can be resolved through the destruction of excess productive capital, allowing the accumulation process to start once again with renewed vigor. And as mentioned in the main article above, even Varga did not understand how big the quarter-century post-World War II boom would turn out to be, let alone how many long decades it would then take to gradually sink into a new Depression (a long-drawn out process which is still incomplete).
         [The Gladkov article raised some other incorrect criticisms of Varga’s book as well, such as his partial opposition to the “anarchy of production” theory of capitalist crises, and his acceptance of the fact that during major wars the State direction of the economy tended to be more organized and less anarchic. Gladkov (and Stalin, et al.), also didn’t like Varga’s quite valid assertion that the economies of the Eastern European “People’s Democracies” were really more like state capitalism than they were genuine socialism. He had to express some of these ideas in a cautious, tentative way, but he still stepped on many toes! All in all, today we need to admire Varga for his perspicacity in comparison with almost every other Marxist writer on economics in his era. —S.H.]

“The upsurge of production and the temporary absence of profound overproduction crises in the post-war period in the highly developed countries is primarily the result of World War II. Tens of millions of young men were taken into the army. Millions of others were employed in military enterprises producing instruments of destruction which were destroyed on the battlefields without any benefit to society. Arms and military equipment constituted about one-half of all production. Items intended for long use were not produced. New homes were not built and old ones were not repaired. Supplies of raw materials and manufactured goods were exhausted. Fixed capital was worn out, especially in non-military branches. Tremendous values were destroyed by aerial and artillery bombardments. Instead of real values, monetary means were accumulated: … deposits in savings banks, state loans in the hands of the urban population, and huge sums in bank deposits and government securities held by the capitalists. This extraordinary and significant expansion of the capitalist market led to an intense growth of post-war production in such countries as the United States and Canada, which were not theaters of war.” —Eugen Varga, Kommunist, #17 (1961). Translated into English as “Marx’s Capital and Contemporary Capitalism”, Problems of Economics (IASP Translations from Original Soviet Sources), vol. 4, #9, Jan. 1962, p. 62.
        [This is a remarkably good and concise description of how excess capital was destroyed in World War II, even in countries which were not themselves bombed or overrun. Varga went on, in this article, to predict that the post-WWII boom was drawing to a close (he was just a little premature on that) and implied that the (Western) capitalist countries might soon return to stagnation and depression (he was very premature about that—the development of the new crisis period which began around 1973 has been very drawn out and only took a qualitative leap for the worse in 2008). —S.H.]

“In a ‘testament’ written shortly before his death and published abroad afterward, the prominent Soviet revisionist academician E. Varga deplored ‘the contrast between the excessive material well-being of the ruling aristocracy and the extremely low wages of the majority of the workers, employees and collective farmers.’ He sermonized the ‘bureaucratic aristocracy’ for its ‘arrogance’ and its ‘conceit,’ which drive it to ‘sell off [the French is ‘brader’ — literally, to hold a garage or sidewalk sale] and to appropriate for themselves the property of the state, to satisfy unbridled passions which sometimes lead them to crime. ...’
        “At the same time Varga observed that ‘the precarious material situation of the workers ... results in all kinds of reprehensible phenomena: drunkenness, ill-treatment of spouses and children, domestic quarrels, the refusal to work, delinquency and sometimes crimes of desperation.’ (Le Monde, 12-13, September 1971, quoted in ‘Sur la restauration du capitalisme en USSR’ by Andre Pommier in Communisme, Paris, September-October 1974, pp. 56, 77.)
        “For this revisionist, who on his deathbed is seized by moral scruples, the working class exists only in the role of victim of the system. He does not see their resistance, their fighting spirit, the numerous strikes and other acts of rebellion. Thus he paints an image of the USSR that recalls the bourgeois novelists’ depictions of Old Russia, Russia under the Tsars, with the unbridled greed and limitless corruption of the big officials at the top and a vast panorama of suffering, frustration and desperation below. Precisely in this parallel, however, lies the core of truth in Varga’s deathbed confession.”
         —Martin Nicolaus, Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR (1975), chapter 23, pp. 167-168, online at: http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/RCSU75.html   [Nicolaus’ condemnation of Varga here seems wildly off base. There is evidence that Varga did in fact criticize and break with the Khrushchevites, though he was an old man by this time and even so it was not safe to be open with disagreements in the new bourgeois authoritarian circumstances. Nevertheless, Varga apparently went as far as siding with revolutionary China in its dispute with the revisionist Soviet Union. (See the volume, When and Why Socialism in the Soviet Union Failed (1995) online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/USSR/MiscAntiRevisionist/WhenAndWhySocialismInTheSovietUnionFailed-KPD-1995-OCR.pdf) Varga’s “testament” seems to indicate his complete disgust with the capitalist roaders ruling the Soviet Union at the end of his life. See also: “PARTY MAXIMUM” —S.H.]

Variable capital is the value of the human
labor-power purchased by the capitalists (by hiring workers) and employed by them in the production process. It is called “variable” capital by Marx because its value varies (actually, increases) with its use in the capitalist production process. That is, the capitalist pays a certain amount for the labor-power, but ends up with more value than he paid for, through the application of that labor-power to the raw materials and other means of production. (This is the source of surplus value.) In other words, the application of labor-power to the raw materials leads to an increase in the amount of capital.
        The rest of the capital employed in the production process is called constant capital, because its use does not itself lead to an increase in value or capital. Thus the value of the raw materials used does go into the value of the final commodity, but remains a fixed amount. The same is true for the apportioned value of the machinery (including its maintenance). So, for example, if a machine can be used to make 10,000 widgets before it wears out, one ten-thousandth of the value of that machine is also transfered to each widget as constant capital.
        However, there is a complication here which Marx did not explore. Machines may also be viewed as a way of re-using on many separate occasions the labor-power that went into the construction of the machine. From this point of view, if past labor-power is being re-used again in the present production process, then it should also be considered as variable capital in the present production process, just as much as the additional labor-power of the worker operating the machine is! This complicates the analysis to some degree, but does not change the basic fact that all wealth still comes ultimately from the application of labor to the raw materials of nature. [This topic is discussed further in the entries related to the Labor Theory of Value.]

VEBLEN, Thorstein Bunde   (1857-1929)
A witty, radical American economist and sociologist, very critical of capitalists and capitalism, who was once the best known American economist, but whose works—even his most famous, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)—are now not often read. He is best known for his concept of “conspicuous consumption”, the pervasive and sometimes quite wild extravagances of the capitalists which they use to mark their high social status and to impress others of their kind.
        Within bourgeois economics, Veblen is viewed as the leader of the “institutional econonomics movement”. His distinction between “institutions” and “technology” is still called the “Veblenian dichotomy” within that sphere.
        Veblen was not a Marxist, though like almost all radicals after Marx he was considerably influenced by Marx’s ideas. Veblen was also strongly influenced by Darwin, and especially embraced the correct idea that biological evolution is characterized by blind, purposeless drift, which he then improperly extended to humanity and social evolution as well. Thus he opposed the Marxist idea that there is a logic to human history and that the eventual overthrow of capitalism is inevitable—assuming capitalism does not destroy humanity first! Despite Veblen’s agreement with Marx about the reality and centrality of the class struggle, he was more of a reformist by inclination. Although he attacked the central fact of production for profit under capitalism, his views overall were more to the liking of the Progressives of the era who sought a non-Marxist and non-revolutionary solution to the problem of capitalism.
        Nevertheless, Veblen did often criticize capitalism and the American bourgeoisie, for which reason the ruling class is no doubt glad to see him long gone and forgotten. As one example, he once argued that the United States had only entered World War I near the very end of that murderous struggle in order to ensure that the transnational interests of the U.S. industrialists could be defended against any revolutionary socialist upheavals that the coming peace in Europe might unleash. That’s the sort of very plausible ideas that the American ruling class does not want anybody to hear or think about.

“As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace. ...this want ...is indefinitely expansible, after the manner commonly imputed in economic theory to higher or spiritual wants. It is owing chiefly to the presence of this element in the standard of living that J. S. Mill was able to say that ‘hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.’” —Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), ch. 5. [NY: Prometheus Books ed., 1998, p. 111.]

“The mechanical industry of the new order is inordinately productive. So the rate and volume of output have to be regulated with a view to what the traffic will bear—that is to say, what will yield the largest net return in terms of price to the business men who manage the country’s industrial system. Otherwise, there will be ‘overproduction,’ business depression, and consequent hard times all around.... That is to say, in no such community can the industrial system be allowed to work at full capacity for any appreciable interval of time, on pain of business stagnation and consequent privation for all classes and conditions of men. The requirements of profitable business will not tolerate it. So the rate and volume of output must be adjusted to the needs of the market, not to the working capacity of the available resources, equipment and man power, nor to the community’s need of consumable goods.” —Veblen, The Engineers and the Price System (1921), pp. 8-9.
         [This conclusion is akin in some ways with that of the more radical followers of Keynes, such as the
Monthly Review school. They also suppose that capitalism will continue to function at some level of stagnation, but do not understand why even that depressed level cannot be maintained over the long run unless there is a periodic massive destruction of excess productive capital (along with the cancellation of massive amounts of debt). This deep flaw in their understanding comes from not fully comprehending the inherent source of capitalist overproduction crises in the very extraction of surplus value itself. Thus no amount of self-restraint or “regulation” of capitalist production will save it from ever deeper economic crisis. —S.H.]

“Veblen’s analysis of Marxian thought was severely critical, and in some instances devastingly so; but if Veblen was critical of Marx for his metaphysical and teleological bent, for his optimistic assumptions about the place of reason and human volition in determining the rate and direction of social change, and for paying too little attention to the diversities among and between societies, still he appreciated Marx’s insistence on class struggle, the importance of technology as a prime mover in social change, and Marx’s analysis of the underlying factors making for persistent tendencies toward monopoly and depression in capitalist economies.
        “In Veblen’s hands, Marxian ideas were sometimes softened and sometimes hardened; always they were transmuted by the particular quality of Veblen’s viewpoint, affected by his time and place.
        “What Veblen named as the vested interests, Marx called the ruling class; Veblen’s underlying population was Marx’s proletariat. However, where Marx saw the proletariat ultimately rising up to overthrow the ruling class, Veblen saw it as emulating the vested interests, as seeking to be like them. Veblen had a substantially greater respect for the hold of the irrational and the traditional on the common man than did Marx, and it was this distinction—owed in large part to the different times and places in which they wrote and lived—that made Veblen a pessimist and Marx an optimist.”
         —Douglas Dowd, Thorstein Veblen, (NY: Washington Square Press, 1964), pp. 24-25. [Dowd is a left social democrat, loosely associated with the Monthly Review school. —Ed.]

VEHICLE   [Contemporary Capitalist Finance]
A nominally independent or dummy corporation, set up by a mother corporation or bank, in order to hold risky assets under another name, or in order to engage in clandestine, misleading or fradulent financial activity.
        See also:

        See also below, and:

The velocity of money, or—spelled out more clearly—the velocity of the circulation of money, is the speed at which money circulates in the economy, or in order words, the average number of times a given amount of money changes hands during a given time period. Thus if the money supply is $1 trillion, and the total amount of goods and services purchased in the economy in one year is $10 trillion, then the velocity of circulation during that year is 10. The velocity of circulation changes from time to time, and it used to be a closely watched figure in the American economy. However, since the 1970s there are so many different types of money (currency, checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, easily convertable investment funds, etc.) that it has become somewhat arbitrary to say precisely what the current money supply is. Moreover, on any given definition of the money supply, that supply has become highly erratic. Therefore monitoring changes in the velocity of circulation is no longer a very useful way to keep an eye on the economy.

VENCEREMOS (Political Organization)
The Venceremos organization (not to be confused with the
Venceremos Brigade), was originally a small radical Chicano political group in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1971 about a third of the Maoist organization, the Revolutionary Union, which was then also mostly located in the Bay Area, split off and joined Venceremos en masse. This greatly changed the character of the organization, and turned it into a multinational group with a lot of white students and ex-students.
        The leader of the faction that split from the RU was H. Bruce Franklin, one of the RU’s founders and one of its three top leaders. According to Franklin years later, the reason for the split was mostly that the RU back then was not a fully multinational organization, partly because at that time it referred interested Black people to the Black Panther Party instead. Actually, that was a very secondary issue, which all the RU leadership was soon to agree to change, partly because of the degeneration of the Black Panther Party itself. The real central dispute within the RU was over what basic revolutionary strategy to adopt: 1) merging with the working class, and at the appropriate time mass insurrection; or 2) urban guerrilla warfare led by ex-students and the lumpenproletariat. The Franklin group favored the second course, while the rest of the RU favored the first course. (For more on this, see: REVOLUTIONARY UNION — 1970 Split.)
        The very name “Venceremos”, Spanish for “We Will Win”, derives from a battle cry of Che Guevara. But the connection of this Venceremos organization to Che was much deeper than that. They were in essence proposing an urban guerrilla warfare version of his notorious foco strategy. However, Venceremos was much more talk than action, and it may not have actually undertaken any guerrilla actions. But it was consciously preparing to do so, acquiring arms and expertise in their use, and it definitely expected that armed struggle would not be long in coming. (This is a point that Franklin now seems to deny, according to the Wikipedia.) But their actual activity seems to have been more around reformist issues such as working for prison reform and defending war protesters.
        It seems fair to say that Venceremos was less of a Marxist group, and more of a student-based anarchist organization, which though known for its wild rhetoric and AK-47 logo, soon fell apart and disappeared.

An organization that sends annual volunteer work brigades to Cuba as an act of political solidarity, and for the purpose of further educating them (indoctrinating them?) in the political outlook of the Castro government. (Not to be confused with the Venceremos organization above.)


“A statue of Napoleon I was placed atop the bronze column erected in Vendome Square in the center of Paris. Napoleon I made this column from 1,200 captured artillery pieces to show off the victory of his wars of aggression. Called the ‘Victory Column,’ it was a symbol of aggression and chauvinism.
        “After its founding, the Paris Commune adopted a decree on April 12, 1871 calling for the dismantling of the column. It pointed out that it was a memorial to barbarism and a glorification of militarism. The Vendome Column was dismantled on May 16. It was restored by the bourgeois government in 1875.” —A note accompanying an article on the Paris Commune,
Peking Review, vol. 14, #13, March 26, 1971.

VENEZUELA — Bolivarian Revolution In
[To be added...]
        See also:

Good ventilation in buildings is an important, and often insufficiently appreciated, factor in promoting people’s health. Poor ventilation in schools and office buildings, for example, was a major factor making the
Covid-19 epidemic in the United States much worse than it would otherwise have been. Architecture and construction practices in capitalist America often ignore or downplay adding good ventilation to buildings because it somewhat increases costs and tends to decrease profits.

“We would not accept drinking water that is full of pathogens and looks dirty. But we’ve been living with air that is full of pathogens and dirty.”   —Lindsey Marr, an expert in airborne transmission of viruses, quoted in Apoorva Mandavilli, “Bad Ventilation Remains Threat to U.S. Students”, New York Times, National Edition, Aug. 27, 2023.

“Poorly ventilated spaces offer ideal transmission conditions for the coronavirus, and at the height of the pandemic, schools like East High [in Denver], were a searing point of controversy. An outbreak that began in November 2021 sickened more than 500 students—about one in five—and 65 staff members, one of whom died.
        “The pandemic led to repeated closures at tens of thousands of schools across the nation. The shutdowns sent educational achievment tumbling, disrupted the lives of millions of American families and set off a wave of anger, particularly among conservatives, that has not subsided....
        “But scientists who study viral transmission see another lesson in the school closures: Had the indoor air been cleaner and safer, they may have been avoidable. The coronavirus is an airborne threat, and the incidence of Covid was about 40 percent lower in schools that [had] improved air quality, one study found.”
         —Apoorva Mandavilli, Ibid. [The article goes on to show how little the U.S. political and educational system has learned from all this, and have even failed to use available money to improve the ventilation in schools. Once again it seems that this benighted capitalist country is unable to learn from past experience, and unable to do anything right! —Ed.]

A pooling of financial capital, usually from a number of large investors, from which investments are made in risky (but potentially very profitable) new companies. In recent decades this has been especially focused on seeking out and investing in new technology-based “start-ups” (new companies), in computers, electronics, and bio-genetics. One center for venture capital operations in the U.S. is in Silicon Valley (the southern San Francisco Bay Area). Before the 1990s venture capital was often called “risk capital”.


VERSAILLES   [Pronounced (in English): ver-SAI ]
A French city which is a southwestern suburb of Paris. Inside this city is the Palace of Versailles, the provisional palace of the French Emperor which was built in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the time of the
Paris Commune, the reactionary government headed by Thiers fled to Versailles.

VICO, Giambattista   (1668-1744)
Italian philosopher of the

Giambattista Vico: Neapolitan philosopher. His great work is his Scienza Nuova. Vico believed that history could provide knowledge no less certain than natural science. Vico put forward the idea that history was the process of the rise and fall of civilizations; each civilization, he thought, goes through the age of gods, the age of heroes and the age of man, after which it declines into barbarism when the whole cycle begins again.”
         —Editor’s note in Atonio Gramsci, The Modern Prince and Other Writings (NY: International, 1957), p. 192. [It should be mentioned that while there are some points of interest in Vico’s writings, his cyclical conception of history and lack of a full appreciation of the progressive developmental nature of society and history betrays a serious lack of dialectics. —Ed.]

An influential school of
logical positivism founded by Moritz Schlick in the 1920s and based on a neo-Kantian empiricist outlook. It was hostile to not only religion and metaphysics, but also ethics and abstract social principles of any kind. It took its inspiration primarily from modern physics, Ernst Mach, and the early writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein. (The group which eventually came to be known as the Vienna Circle was originally called the “Ernst Mach Association”.) Among its adherents were Otto Neurath and Rudolf Carnap. The reactionary anti-Marxist philosopher Karl Popper was also strongly influenced by this school.

VIETNAM — Foreign Direct Investment In

One of several related conclusions or predicaments which arose from the difficulties the United States imperialists had in carrying on their long murderous war in Vietnam (which finally ended in U.S. defeat in 1975), including:
        1.   The
near collapse of the U.S. military ground forces in Vietnam, and the conclusion that the military draft was leading to both an unreliable military invasion force and a “frighteningly massive” anti-war movement at home—which was even developing revolutionary overtones. Thus the conclusion that the draft had to go and the imperialist military had to be more of a professional army in the future, and had to rely much more on advanced technology and less on ground troops.
        2.   The very reluctant and temporary conclusion of the U.S. ruling class that they could not again get away with such a major imperialist war as in Vietnam against a people determined to resist them.
        In the first sense the U.S. imperialists have not been able to overcome the Vietnam Syndrome and they are still unable to bring back the draft and get away with sending huge numbers of ground soldiers into prolonged battle again. And they have in fact been forced to rely on volunteer and/or professional soldiers in their imperialist wars while expanding their use of technology (such as satellite directed drone warfare) as fast as they can.
        However, in the second more general sense the U.S. ruling class does more or less believe they have “overcome” the Vietnam Syndrome, and this is why they are now proceeding with one imperialist war after another in “Third World” countries, especially in the Middle East. The first triumphant announcement of this came from President George Bush (the First) after the “success” of his short war against Iraq in 1991: “It’s a proud day for America. And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” However, this triumphalism seems to have been merely wishful thinking to a considerable degree: None of the endless U.S. imperialist wars since Vietnam has really been able to achieve the complete and pacified control of the specific countries or regions, which was the central aim of those wars.

VIETNAM WAR — Near Collapse of the U.S. Military
        See also:

“On Armed Forces Day in 1970, thousands of people flooded Rowan Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to protest the Vietnam War. The protesters included the actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda, and several hundred soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, the massive base that abuts the city. Indeed, some soldiers were involved in planning the protest. And so it went at bases around the country that Saturday in May: military personnel, in uniform, protesting the war they were charged with fighting. A 1971 study commissioned by the army found, rather astonishingly, that 37 percent of enlisted personnel had engaged in some act of dissent.” —Binyamin Appelbaum, The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (2019), p. 45.

“The morale, discipline and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.
        “By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.
        “Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious.” —Marine Corps Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “The Collapse of the Armed Forces”, Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971, online at: https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

VIETNAM WAR — U.S. War Crimes In
One of the most horrible imperialist wars of the 20th century was the U.S. War Against Vietnam. On the part of the Vietnamese this was a
people’s war against a foreign invader. And therefore, on the American side, it was, and could have only been, a genocidal war against the people of Vietnam. About 3 million Vietnamese were killed in the war, and about 2 million of those were civilians murdered through bombings and in cold blood by U.S. soldiers. This war, along with other U.S. imperialist wars over the past century, puts America in the same league of mass murder and genocide as the German Nazis and the fascists of Imperial Japan.
        See also: MY LAI MASSACRE

[From a survey of reviews of the book by Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (2013):]
        “It turns out that we only thought we understood the Vietnam War, said Jonathan Schell in The Nation. More than four decades after the story of the My Lai massacre alerted Americans to atrocities being committed by U.S. soldiers, author Nick Turse has put together a comprehensive portrait of the war effort that reveals ‘an almost unspeakable truth’: The killing of roughly 500 civilians at My Lai wasn’t an aberration; ‘episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture were in fact the norm,’ all part of a larger campaign against the Vietnamese that resulted in as many as 2 million civilian deaths. By meticulously piecing together witness interviews and newly declassified documents, Turse has ‘once and for all’ disproved the popular idea that U.S. war crimes were the work of ‘a few bad apples.’ The barrel itself was ‘rotten through and through.’
        “Turse, a senior fellow at the Nation Institute, even finds an atrocity that should overshadow My Lai in membery, said Jeff Stein in Bookforum. In 1968, an infrantry division under the command of Gen. Julian Ewell undertook ‘a six-month spree of mass murder, rape, and pillaging’ in the Mekong Delta that pushed the unit’s ‘body count’ to nightmarish heights. One sergeant estimated at the time that Operation Speedy Express was killing more than 1,200 people a month, most of them civilians. This was ‘industrial killing on a mass scale,’ and Turse’s ‘grim but astounding’ book details how it grew out of senior officers’ illogical focus on using the body count as a measure of success. And Turse doesn’t stop there. He shows how the military worked after My Lai to keep similar stories from emerging, dropping investigations and telling witnesses to stay quiet.
        “We shouldn’t have needed a 2013 book to tell this story, said Michael Uhl in InTheMindField.com, a veterans site. Vietnam has used the 2 million figure for years, and enough has been written about pockets of the war that many readers long ago extrapolated what Turse is telling us. Yet even this account could fall on deaf ears, said John Tirman in The Washington Post. ‘There’s little evidence that the public wants to know more about atrocities’—particularly old ones. Reading Turse, ‘I couldn’t help wondering if, 30 years from now, we will see a similarly revealing book about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ But I was thankful that he had made war secrets a little harder to keep.” —The Week, March 1, 2013, p. 20.

[Russian term: obshchina] A limited and partial form of traditional rural collective ownership of land in tsarist Russia. Marx had some hopes that this might form a “fulcrum” for the transformation of the Russian countryside in a socialist direction. The Russian Narodniks took this beyond a hope and made it a programmatic dogma. However, after Marx’s day, the further development of capitalism and capitalist relations of production in Russia, including to some extent in the countryside, pretty much destroyed this possibility. Both Plekhanov and Lenin viewed any program of socialist transformation based on the rural village communes as essentially impossible.

“... the analysis provided in Capital does not adduce reasons either for or against the viability of the rural commune [in Russia], but the special study I have made of it, and the material for which I drew from original sources, has convinced me that this commune is the fulcrum of social regeneration in Russia, but in order that it may function as such, it would first be necessary to eliminate the deleterious influences which are assailing it from all sides, and then ensure for it the normal conditions of spontaneous development.” —Marx, Letter to Vera Zasulich, March 8, 1881, MECW 46:71-72.

“The village commune in [Tsarist] Russia was a communal form of peasant land tenure characterized by compulsory crop rotation and undivided woods and pastures. Its principal features were collective liability (compulsory collective responsibility of the peasants for making their payments in full and on time, and the performance of various services to the state and the landowners), the regular reallotment of the land with no right to refuse the allotment given, the prohibition of its purchase and sale.
         “The Russian village commune dates back to ancient times and in the course of historical development gradually became one of the mainstays of feudalism in Russia. The landowners and the tsarist government used the village commune to intensify feudal oppression and to squeeze redemption payment and taxes out of the the people. Lenin pointed out that the village commune ‘does not save the peasant from turning into a proletarian, yet in practice acts as a medieval barrier dividing the peasants, who are, as it were, chained to small associations and to categories which have lost all “reason for existence”’ [LCW 15:78].
         “The problem of the village commune aroused heated arguments and brought an extensive economic literature into existence. Particularly great interest in the commune was displayed by the
Narodniks, who saw in it the guarantee of Russia’s socialist evolution by a special path. By tendentiously selecting facts and falsifying them and employing so-called ‘average figures’, the Narodniks sought to prove that the commune peasantry in Russia possessed a special sort of ‘stability’, and that the peasant commune protected the peasants against the penetration of capitalist relations into their lives, and saved them from ruin and class differentiation. As early as the 1880s, G. V. Plekhanov had shown that the Narodnik illusions about ‘commune socialism’ were unfounded, and in the 1890s Lenin completely refuted the Narodnik theories. Lenin brought forward a tremendous amount of statistical material and innumerable facts to show how capitalist relations were developing in the Russian village, and how capital, by penetrating the patriarchal village commune, was splitting the peasantry into two antagonistic classes, the kulaks and the poor peasants.
         “In 1906 the tsarist Minister Stolypin issued a law favoring the kulaks that allowed the peasants to leave the commune and sell their allotments. This law laid the basis for the official abolition of the village commune system and intensified the differentiation among the peasants. In the nine years following the promulgation of the law, over two million peasant families withdrew from the communes.” —Footnote 72, LCW 19:573-574.

VILLAGE COMMUNE (Russia) — Collective Responsibility In
The collective responsibility for the prompt and full payment of numerous services and obligations, both to the state (in the form of taxes and the provision of recruits into the Tsarist army, etc.) and the landlords (in the form of land redemption installments, etc.), was the compulsory obligation of every member of the Russian peasant
“village commune”. This form of collective bondage remained in force even after serfdom was officially abolished in 1961, and up until 1906 after the serious scare put into the ruling class by the 1905 Revolution.

[Intro material to be added... ]

“Socialism is opposed to violence against nations. That is indisputable. But socialism is opposed to violence against men in general. Apart from Christian anarchists and Tolstoyans, however, no one has yet drawn the conclusion from this that socialism is opposed to revolutionary violence. So, to talk about ‘violence’ in general, without examining the conditions which distinguish reactionary from revolutionary violence, means being a philistine who renounces revolution, or else it means simply deceiving oneself and others by sophistry.
         “The same holds true of violence against nations. Every war is violence against nations, but that does not prevent socialists from being in favor of a revolutionary war. The class character of war—that is the fundamental question which confronts a socialist (if he is not a renegade).” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:285.

See also: WAR


“We are agreed on this: that the proletariat cannot conquer political power, the only door to the new society, without violent revolution.” —Engels, Letter to Gerson Trier, Dec. 18, 1889; Marx-Engels: Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress, 1975), p. 386; in a slightly different translation in MECW 48:423.

VIRCHOW, Rudolf   (1821-1902)
German physician, scientist and politician, who was the principal founder of the science of pathology. Virchow was progressive in many ways. He supported the attempted democratic revolution in 1848. He was the founder of social medicine, which understands that public health is best promoted through changes in social conditions. And he was strongly opposed to racism, even describing the notorious Aryan race theory as “Nordic mysticism”.
        However, Virchow also had his blind spots. He opposed the germ theory of disease and the efforts by Ignaz Semmlweis to promote disinfection (including more washing of hands) by doctors and health workers. He strongly opposed Darwin and evolutionary theory. And of course he was only a bourgeois democrat, and not a socialist. Nevertheless, Virchow did play an overall positive role within the crude bourgeois society of his day.

“In 1865, Rudolf Virchow, a German physician, writer, scientist and politician, criticized the government for investing in the military instead of on education and the elimination of poverty. Virchow is credited with the creation of Germany’s first public health programs.
        “According to legend, after a particularly severe attack by Virchow, prime minister Otto von Bismarck felt personally affronted, and sent seconds to Virchow’s laboratory to challenge him to a duel. Bismarck’s officials found him working on Trichinella spiralis, the smallest nematode parasite of humans and one of the most clinically important parasites in the world. The parasite is responsible for the disease Trichinosis, which was ravaging Germany, and Virchow was working on the best way to control it.
        “‘Oh,’ said Virchow, ‘a challenge from Prince Bismarck, eh? Well, since I am the challenged party, I suppose I have the choice of weapons. Here they are!’ He showed his visitors two large sausages which seemed to be exactly alike. ‘One of these sausages,’ said Virchow, ‘is filled with Trichinella spiralis—it is deadly. The other is perfectly wholesome. Externally, they cannot be told apart. Let his Excellency do me the honor to choose whichever he wishes and eat it, and I will eat the other one.’ The duel was quickly cancelled. The incident is informally known as The Great Sausage Duel of 1865.” —As recounted by Dr. Cesar Chelala, “Beyond Fauci: When Physicians are Victims”, CounterPunch, Jan. 20, 2022. [However, the Wikipedia says that there are no historical German-language texts which confirm this lovely story. It seems that Virchow simply “declined” the offer of a duel with Bismarck. How anti-aristocratic and bourgeois of him! —Ed.]


[To be added... ]
        See also:

VOLCKER, Paul Adolph, Jr.   (1937-2019)
An American bourgeois economist who was chairman of the U.S.
Federal Reserve System from 1979 to 1987. There was a very high level of inflation in the American economy during this period, and Volcker is considered a hero by the U.S. ruling class for finally bringing this inflation to an end. However, it required an extremely harmful economic recession to do this, from which the American working class never did fully recover. (See the quotation below.) However, this fact has not in any way concerned the bourgeoisie. Yes, serious inflation is itself a capitalist crime against the working class; but the way that the bourgeoisie always tries to deal with it is to make the working class suffer even more.

“Volcker carried in his pocket a card on which he kept track of union wage deals. Like many economists of both political persuasions [i.e., Democrat and Republican], he regarded unions as blackmail artists who interfered with market forces, thereby reducing economic efficiency and growth. He thought a free market would benefit everyone. ‘The prospects for sustained economic growth and increases in real wages for all Americans will improve as we achieve greater productivity and moderation in the demand for nominal wage increases,’ he said in September 1981. In fact, American workers did not recover from the Volcker shock. The median income of a full-time male worker in 1978, adjusted for inflation, was $54,392. That number was not matched or exceeded at any point in the next four decades. As of 2017, the most recent available data, the median income of a full-time male worker was $52,146.” —Binyamin Appelbaum, The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (2019), p. 83.

VOLOSHINOV, V. N. [Valentin Nikolaevich]   (1895-1936)
A Russian Marxist linguist and psychologist, best known for his book Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (1929; English translation 1973). He was a close associate of Mikhail Bakhtin and a key member of a group of Marxist scholars around Bakhtin in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Voloshinov’s linguistic theories derive primarily from Wilhelm von Humbolt, Ferdinand de Saussure, and his Russian contemporary Nikolai Marr. Voloshinov, however, criticized Saussure’s synchronic (unhistorical) form of
structuralism, and instead emphasized the dialectical changes in language over time. He argued that different social classes give many words and phrases quite different meanings, and that there is a continual struggle around this within the superstructure of society. He was also an early proponent of the idea that words derive their meaning from their various contexts. However, in his formulations and thinking—as with that of Bakhtin and the rest of his circle—there does seem to be certain tendencies toward philosophical idealism, or at least modes of expression suggesting such. However, probably unjustly, there were government arrests of some members of Bakhtin’s circle in 1929, which brought the meetings of that circle to an end. Voloshinov himself worked at the Herzen Pedagogical Institute in Leningrad until 1934 when he came down with tuberculosis. He died two years later in a sanitarium.

VOLTAIRE, François Marie Arouet de  (1694-1778)
Great French writer and philosopher of the
Enlightenment. He was a deist and historian, and strong opponent of absolutism and Catholicism. One of his most famous works is Candide, which ridicules the pro-religious claim by Leibniz that this is “the best of all possible worlds”.
        See also Philosophical Doggerel on Voltaire.

VON MISES, Ludwig   (1881-1973)
Ultra-reactionary social theorist and neoliberal bourgeois economist of the “Austrian School”.

“You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you.” —Ludwig von Mises, in a 1958 letter to the reactionary novelist Ayn Rand, praising her anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic novel Atlas Shrugged. [Quoted in T. Frank, Pity the Billionaire (2012), p. 147.]

VORWÄRTS   [“Forward”]
A daily newspaper and central organ of the
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Wilhelm Liebknecht, a follower of Marx, was one of its editors when it first began publication in 1876. Engels struggled against all forms of opportunism in his writings for Vorwärts. But in the late 19th century, after Engels’ death, many opportunist and revisionist articles were routinely published, reflecting the views then dominant in the SPD and the Second International.
        In reporting about the struggles within the Russian revolutionary movement, Vorwärts sided with the Economists and then the Mensheviks, and did not give Lenin and his followers any opportunity to reply. During World War I the newspaper took a social-chauvinist stand, supporting the German ruling class in the war. After the October Revolution, it carried on extensive anti-Soviet propaganda. It was suppressed by the Nazis in 1933.

VPERED   [“Forward”]
A journal by Russian exiles (and the loose organization around it) established by
Alexander Bogdanov and friends in 1909. He was an on-and-off renegade from the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. This group opposed the use of any legal tactics (even where quite possible) in the course of the Russian revolution.
        See also: OTZOVISM

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