[As used by Marx:] The price of labor-power.
Wages may be paid for employing labor-power by the hour (or other period of time), or as a piece-wage (a set price for the labor-power used to complete each unit of work done). But either way, the labor-power which is sold by the worker to the capitalist is (normally) sold at or near its actual value (i.e., its “value” considered as a technical term within Marx’s theory of capitalist political economy). Nevertheless, the worker’s actual labor creates more value in terms of his or her output than the value of his labor-power which he/she sells to the capitalist for wages. This surplus value is the source of the capitalist’s profit.
In other words, the wage paid by the capitalist to the worker does equal the value of his or her labor-power, but it does not at all equal all the value produced by his or her actual labor. This distinction between labor and labor-power, while confusing at first, is thus critical in coming to understand how the capitalist exploitation of workers occurs.
While, strictly speaking, wages should be considered to be the price of labor-power, it is also possible to analyze either wages or the work day as a whole in terms of the actual labor the worker performs (and the full value that it generates). From this point of view the worker is only paid for part of his or her day’s work, say for 3 hours of the 8 hours actually worked, and works for free for the capitalist for the other 5 hours. Of course capitalists prefer that you do not analyze things this way!
Wages are discussed in depth by Marx in Capital, Vol. I, part 6. It is important for every Marxist to study this section of capital until they are quite clear on the basic concepts and can help explain them to others.
See also the entries below.
WAGES — As a Percentage of GDP
In the United States and most other capitalist countries the portion of GDP which has been going to wages and salaries has been falling rapidly for many decades now, even though what is counted as “workers’ wages” includes the huge salaries of corporate bigshots and managers. While the working class is being driven down, more and more money is going to corporate profits, banks, Wall Street firms, and other parts of the financial system, which is ever more predatory upon the economy and the people. The Federal Reserve graph at the far right shows the large decline in the ratio of wages and salaries to U.S. GDP since around 1970.
In the other graph (at the near right), we see more clearly the trends over the past half century in real GDP growth (after inflation) as compared with the stagnation and decline of real wages (also after inflation). It should be noted, however, that all U.S. economic statistics are distorted in various ways. GDP has been gradually measured in ever more phony ways over the past 50 years, which means that the increase in real GDP is not quite as large as this graph shows. On the other hand, real wages have actually declined more than the graph shows since many workers are now only much lower-paid part time workers and not the full time regular workers indicated here. In addition, inflation has actually been higher than officially admitted, which means that real wages have really declined more than is shown here.
WAGES — Falling
Under capitalism wages must remain low, and must remain in general at or near the rate which just allows the workers and their families to continue to exist at the level socially acceptable in the given society, and which allows working class families to raise up new generations of workers to replace those who get old, sick or die. Capitalists absolutely need the working class to have no other way to survive other than to sell their labor-power to them in the form of wages. If wages were to become high enough so that workers could accumulate large sums and no longer need to work (by “living off their investments”, say, as financial capitalists do), or even to start or buy companies themselves, then the capitalists would have nobody to exploit and the capitalist system would immediately self-destruct. While a few individual workers may be able to do things of this sort, the overall prevailing level of wages must remain low enough so that only a very few workers can escape the working class in this way.
Moreover, because of continual technological advances, the productivity of labor increases year-by-year. Not only does this mean that the workers produce more during every hour of work, it also means that the value of individual commodities tends to continually fall (though not necessarily the prevailing nominal prices, because of inflation). This means that the level of real wages which is necessary to support working class families in the prevailing manner of subsistence is gradually declining. In this situation capitalist society has two options: First, it can accept a slowly rising level of real wages, providing that the workers still keep working (!) and spend their effectively larger income on new commodities (such as TVs, fancier automobiles and homes, etc.). This is the option partially (and somewhat reluctantly) accepted by American capitalists during the quarter-century post-World War II boom years. Or, secondly, the capitalists can drive down the level of real wages in rough proportion with the rising productivity of labor. This is the principal “option” that has more or less been forced on the capitalists during the neoliberal period from the 1980s on, as their economic crisis has continued to develop and worsen.
Thus overall, and especially in times of growing international competition and worsening capitalist economic crisis, the capitalists pretty much need to force the level of real wages to fall. And this, indeed, describes what is happening in the present situation.
See also: CHURN, LIFETIME INCOME
“Within capitalism, the particular determination of value of the commodity of labor-power is necessary: if workers would receive considerably more than the value of the means of subsistence that they have to buy on the market, then they would in the long term no longer be without property, and would be able to at least partially free themselves from the compulsion to sell their labor-power. The restriction of the value of labor-power to the costs of reproduction is a functional necessity of capitalism...” —Michael Heinrich, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital (2014), p. 95.
“Men who do have jobs are getting paid less. After accounting for inflation, median wages for men between 30 and 50 dropped 27 percent—to $33,000 a year—from 1969 to 2009, according to an analysis by Michael Greenstone, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who was chief economist for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. ‘That takes men and puts them back at their earnings capacity of the 1950s,’ Greenstone says. ‘That has staggering implications.’” —“The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man”, Bloomberg Business Week, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2011, p. 26.
“One-third of the families of frontline manufacturing workers in the
U.S. are enrolled in a government safety-net program like food stamps or Medicaid,
according to researchers at University of California, Berkeley. These factory
employees include machinists, assemblers, and metal workers.” —Washington Post
report as summarized in The Week magazine, May 10, 2016, p. 32.
[Wages have now often fallen so low that by themselves they are frequently not even adequate to continue the productive existence of the working class (and provide for the next generation of workers), without some govenment assistance in a growing number of cases. However, this assistance can never do more than bring workers back up to that rough minimum or possibly just slightly above it according to the basic socially necessary minimum living standards of the working class in that society. And even then it must be paid for either through taxes or else through government deficits. During periods of worsening economic crises and rapidly growing government debt (such as the present time), it gets harder and harder even for the government to keep providing what amounts to this form of “supplemental wages”. This can once again lead to real wages dropping below their value (i.e., below the level necessary to keep the workers alive, productive, and able to reproduce). However, this itself is not necessarily a problem for the capitalist system if there is already a large and growing reserve army of the unemployed. New hires can replace the older, injured, unhealthy, and otherwise inadequately reliably productive workers that the capitalists have used up. —Ed.]
WAGES — In Socialist Society
“The wage question. It is difficult to further reduce wages at the upper levels. From now on, we will stabilize wages at the upper levels and raise them gradually at the lower levels.” —Mao, “Some Interjections at a Briefing of the State Planning Commission Leading Group” (May 11, 1964), SW 9:85.
“WAGES” — Of the Rich
Wage labor under capitalism, as everyone should be well aware, is the means by which the great mass of the population (workers or proletarians) survive. Workers sell their labor power to the capitalists who pay them in the form of wages. The capitalists then make use of the labor of those hired workers to create enormous amounts of new value in the form of commodities to be sold in capitalist markets.
However, not everything called a wage is really a wage in this sense. That is, the way the bourgeoisie uses the term, “wages” are not necessarily the price of the commodity labor power. In particular, the top managers of corporations are compensated in part by what are termed “wages” (as well as with gifts of stock and in many other ways). These so-called wages must be viewed from a Marxist perspective as not being wages at all, but rather a portion of the surplus value directly created by the workers in that corporation (or elsewhere). The petty bourgeoisie, including the owners of small stores and independent lawyers, doctors and other professionals, often also set up shell companies or private corporations and pay themselves a “wage” from the profits of that company which they totally own and control.
It may surprise you to learn that according to this bourgeois definition, the largest part of even the top “1%” of the income earners in the U.S. receive the bulk of their supposed “earned income” from “wages”! (Of course they also receive other forms of income, including interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.) In the graphic at the right, we see that it is not until we get to the top one-tenth of one-percent that we find that the income from non-wage sources finally offically exceeds that of “wages”! [This graphic comes from the NBER Digest, May 2019, published by American bourgeois economics organization, the National Bureau of Economic Research. The article notes that the income “earners” discussed here are mostly those who “own mid-sized companies in the white-collar, skilled service industries”, and adds: “Near the top—the 99th to 99.9th percentile—they typically own single establishments that offer consulting, legal, medical and other highly specialized services. Among the top 0.1 percent, above the 99.9th percentile, the typical company is an auto dealership, beverage distributor, or large law firm.”] Thus the so-called “earned income” at this high level of 0.1% of the population (and above) is right at the boundary between the upper petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie. As for the big bourgeoisie itself, most of their income comes from interest, dividends, stock issues and appreciation, capital gains, and the like. None of that is included in “wages”, at least!
Because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes the grossly incorrectly labeled “wages” of the petty bourgeoisie, and even some substantial income of the top managers of corporations and other members of the big bourgeoisie, in their calculations of what they call the average wage levels of Americans, these figures are in fact considerably exaggerated. This is just one more way that the ruling class lies to the people.
WAGES, PRICE AND PROFIT
Alternate name for an important pamphlet by Marx now more usually refered to as Value, Price and Profit.
The center of the financial district in New York City, and—by extension—a nickname for the entire financial industry in the U.S.
“Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.” —Mary Lease, a populist reformer speaking on behalf of the Farmers’ Alliance in 1890, quoted in Bruce Levine, Who Built America? (1947), p. 147.
“If we are Rome, Wall Street’s our Coliseum.” —Paul Farrell, business news reporter with MarketWatch.com, August 2007.
“When as a child I first read stories of brokers jumping to their deaths after the 1929 Wall Street crash, I thought they were meant to illustrate the humanity of the situation. After reading about people’s anger at bailing out banks [in this latest financial crisis], I now understand that they were actually a manifestation of what the public wanted to see: the villains having the deceny to do themselves in.” —Harald Anderson, letter to the editor, The Economist, Feb. 13, 2010.
WALL STREET PUTSCH OF 1933 (Also known as the “BUSINESS PLOT OF 1933”)
A failed scheme by an inept cabal of reactionaries centered in the Wall Street financial community to seize political power from the new Franklin D. Roosevelt administration (which they viewed as “socialist”!) via a fascist military takeover. The plot soon collapsed, in part because the conspirators foolishly chose the wrong military man to lead it, namely General Smedley D. Butler, who was appalled by the very idea. This is a little known episode in U.S. history that the American ruling class is not anxious for you to learn about, and which it has tried over and over to totally dismiss as a complete myth.
“Consider ... the Wall Street Putsch of 1933.
“Never heard of it? Few have, for the financial establishment—along with its media and political henchmen—rushed out, clucking like mother hens to bury the story and protect the gentlemen of Wall Street implicated in the plot. But what a story! It was capitalist skullduggery by a few self-entitled Lords of Wealth trying to overthrow the government and enthrone a fascist regime friendly to themselves....
“The conspirators [including] such Wall Street multimillionaires as Grayson M. P. Murphy (banker and Anaconda Copper Mining head), Thomas Lamont (J. P. Morgan partner), and Robert Stirling Clark (heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune) were enraged by FDR’s moves [to ameliorate the Depression for the masses and to tax the rich to pay for it]. Class war, they wailed, claiming that their ‘liberty’ to grab as much profit as they could was being shackled—and for no better reason than to fund ‘socialism!’ Calling Roosevelt a traitor to his class, these men would later be named as instigators of the putsch to replace FDR with a military-backed government of capitalists—i.e., themselves.
“The hero [was] Smedley Darlington Butler... A retired Marine general, he became a well-known, influential advocate for veterans. The conspirators considered Butler the perfect choice to lead their takeover of Washington, and they spent a year wooing him, gradually laying out their plan.
“Apparently, being super-rich doesn’t make you super-smart, for the scheme these millionaires devised was hapless and cockamamie: They planned to oust Roosevelt by enlisting and arming a private military force made up of thousands of destitute World War I vets who were protesting their failure to receive federal bonus payments they had been promised. But how to engage them in the plot?
“Gerald MacGuire, Grayson Murphy’s bond salesman, was an ex-soldier and an active member of the American Legion veterans’ organization, so he was the one who first contacted the soldiers’ champion, Smedley Butler. After several meetings spent discussing veterans issues, MacGuire finally got down to business, explaining that the financial powers he represented wanted Butler to create a paramilitary corps of 500,000 vets and march on Washington to force FDR from the White House.
“As Butler later related, MacGuire told him that the Wall Street cohort, plus a new group called American Liberty League (made up of the right-wing bosses of such corporate giants as DuPont, Colgate, General Foods, and GM), would fund the cause to the tune of $300 million—that’s $5.6 billion in today’s money! MacGuire also claimed that the Remington Arms Company would supply the weapons.
“As investigative journalist Sally Denton wrote in her 2011 book, The Plots Against the President, the conspirators were so out of touch with reality that they actually expected Roosevelt to accept the takeover without a fight. They figured that (1) he knew he was in over his head as president, so he’d welcome these stronger people taking control, and (2) as a member of the patrician class himself, FDR would happily agree to become a ceremonial figurehead, while the financiers and militarists installed a ‘secretary of general affairs’ to run the country. Who was their choice to become this authoritarian SGA? General Smedley D. Butler.
“They chose the wrong general.... The general enlisted Paul Comly French, an investigative reporter he knew and trusted, to help gather proof of the bankers’ intent. French even got an interview with MacGuire, who was surprisingly unguarded: ‘We need a Fascist government in this country,’ he blurted to French, ‘to save the Nation from the communists who want to tear it down.... The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader.’
“Evidence in hand, Butler got a US House ‘Special Committee on Un-American Activites’ to conduct a two-month investigation, which convinced its members that, as Time magazine later reported, ‘General Butler’s story of a Fascist march on Washington was alarmingly true.’ The committee opened public hearings on November 20, 1934, with Butler giving detailed testimony. [However, HUAC refused to listen to any testimony implicating the top capitalist financiers who were actually behind the conspiracy. —Ed.] The next morning, French’s exposé ran in both the Philadelphia Record and New York Post. The story was out and Butler’s gutsy stand had halted the putsch.” —Jim Hightower, The Hightower Lowdown, March-April 2018.
[Hightower then gets into the story of the strenuous efforts to cover up this fascist plot, to claim it never really existed at all, and that Butler’s exposé was just a hoax. These efforts to ridicule the whole story, to deny its truth, to re-write history, continue to this very day. However, it should also be pointed out that “progressives” like Hightower simply do not understand the basic facts about bourgeois society. The capitalist ruling class is already in control of society even under a bourgeois democracy where there are formal elections. Fascist coups are attempted in periods of crisis, and are sometimes successful. But either way, bourgeois so-called democracy or open fascism, every bourgeois state is in reality the dictatorship of the bourgeois over the working class and the masses. —Ed.]
WALRAS, Marie Esprit Léon (1834-1910)
French-born bourgeois economist who taught at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and who, along with William Stanley Jevons and Carl Menger founded the marginalist school of bourgeois economic thought in opposition to the labor theory of value which is essential to both Marxist and traditional classical bourgeois political economy. Even Walras’s father, Auguste, had an informal notion of this idea of “marginal utility”, but Léon, with the help of a professor of mechanics, put it on a mathematical basis. (It should be noted that expressing a demonstrably incorrect idea in mathematical form by no means makes it more “scientific”!)
WANG Jingwei [Old style: Wang Ching-wei] (1883-1944)
[Born as Wang Zhaoming, but best known by his pen name Wang Jingwei.]
A participant in the 1911 Revolution which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, close associate of Sun Yat-sen, and a top political leader of the Guomindang (GMD) [Kuomintang] or Nationalist Party, who vied with Chiang Kai-shek for control of that party after Sun’s death in 1925. In the early period of this intra-party struggle for leadership Wang was viewed as representing the “Left” wing of the GMD and favored continuing Sun’s policy of cooperation with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China. However, like most bourgeois politicians he was basically a careerist and opportunist, and after totally losing out to Chiang, in late 1938 Wang Jingwei began to collaborate with the Japanese imperialists who invaded China and occupied much of the country. In March 1940, with the backing of Japan, Wang established a puppet regime with its capital in Japanese-occupied Nanking, and remained as “president” of this collaborationist regime until his death from old injuries in 1944. Wang Jingwei has been appropriately viewed as a traitor to China and its people, not only in the People’s Republic, but by almost all Chinese everywhere.
WANG Ming (1904-1974)
A leader of the Communist Party of China in its early middle period, who was trained and indoctrinated in the Soviet Union and then became a top leader of the CCP when he returned to China in 1929 as one of the notorious “28 Bolsheviks” group. Wang was dogmatic and ultra-“left” in his outlook, and had little appreciation of the requirements for a successful revolution in China. Wang called Mao’s line a “nationalist deviation” from Marxism-Leninism, though clearly this only really meant that Mao rejected control of the CCP and its line and policies from Moscow.
During the desperate days of the Long March Mao became the top leader of the CCP, but it was only with the Rectification Campaign of 1942 that the ideological line struggle against the dogmatism of Wang Ming and his followers was completed.
In 1956 Wang went to Moscow for medical treatment and never returned to China. During the Sino-Soviet dispute he sided with the revisionist Soviet Union against China and wrote many articles denouncing Mao and the CCP. Wang died in Moscow in 1974.
Armed struggle between states, nations, or classes. An extension of political struggle. (As von Clauswitz put it, war is the continuation of politics by other means.) Nations and states are of course dominated by one class or another. Since most modern warfare is a continuation of class politics, and class politics are at bottom a concentrated expression of economics, the ultimate cause of most modern wars is to be found in capitalist-imperialist political economy.
See also below, and individual wars such as WORLD WAR I, and: VIOLENCE
“War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions, when they have developed to a certain stage, between classes, nations, states, or political groups, and it has existed ever since the emergence of private property and of classes.” —Mao, “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War” (Dec. 1936), SW1:180.
WAR — Abolition Of
“We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.” —Mao, “Problems of War and Strategy” (Nov. 6, 1938), SW2:223.
“War, this monster of mutual slaughter among men, will be finally eliminated by the progress of human society, and in the not too distant future too. But there is only one way to eliminate it and that is to oppose war with war, to oppose counter-revolutionary war with revolutionary war, to oppose national counter-revolutionary war with national revolutionary war, and to oppose counter-revolutionary class war with revolutionary class war.... When human society advances to the point where classes and states are eliminated, there will be no more wars, counter-revolutionary or revolutionary, unjust or just; that will be the era of perpetual peace for mankind. Our study of the laws of revolutionary war springs from the desire to eliminate all wars; herein lies the distinction between us Communists and all the exploiting classes.” —Mao, “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War” (Dec. 1936), SW1:182-3.
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” —Unknown.
[Is this just a cynical bourgeois attitude? (Compare this remark to Mao’s comments above.) But if humanity is to truly end war for all time it will, as Mao indicated, have to be through the means of a successful world proletarian revolution which gets rid of capitalist-imperialism once and for all. If that is not accomplished, war will certainly continue. And if it continues with its ever intensifying death and destruction then humanity will not survive. All we can be absolutely certain of at the present time is that either humanity will get rid of war by overthrowing capitalism or capitalism will finally get rid of humanity. And in that latter case it will indeed be true that only the dead will have seen the end of war—because no living people will remain. —S.H.]
WAR — Just and Unjust
In every war at least one side is wrong; that is, for that wrong side which is waging war against the interests of the people, the war is unjust. Sometimes both sides are waging an unjust war, as for example between two imperialist powers struggling to redivide the world. But often one side in a war is not wrong; it is merely battling the wrong side, and thus is waging a just war in the interests of the people. Revolutionary wars are of this sort, including the revolutionary side in a civil war. What is right and just, after all, is simply a matter of what is in the real long-term interests of the people.
“History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We Communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we Communists not oppose just wars, we actively participate in them. As for unjust wars, World War I is an instance in which both sides fought for imperialist interests; therefore the Communists of the whole world firmly opposed that war. The way to oppose a war of this kind is to do everything possible to prevent it before it breaks out and, once it breaks out, to oppose war with war, to oppose unjust war with just war, whenever possible.” —Mao, “On Protracted War” (May 1938), SW2:132-3.
WAR — and “Liberty” at Home
“Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is
to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.” —James
Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1798, available at:
[See also Madison’s fuller expression of this thesis in the quotation below. Although there is obviously some truth to this idea, it is a classless analysis, typical of the way the bourgeoisie understands things. At times of danger a tiny exploiting ruling class virtually always feels the need to tighten its mechanisms of control over the working class and masses. So yes, a time of war or when there is a serious threat of war, is a time of greater danger for bourgeois democracy, but this is actually more because the ruling class itself feels more deeply that its class dictatorship is under more immediate threat. Moreover, if the ruling class was already in a state of heightened concern about maintaining its control over the masses, then the supposed “necessities of wartime” provide a great excuse to further restrict or eliminate civil liberties. —Ed.]
“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be
dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent
of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the
known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too,
the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out
offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds,
are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in
republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of
fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals
engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual
warfare.” —James Madison, “Political Observations”, April 20, 1795; ibid.
[This is a better statement, since it speaks in terms of “the many being under the domination of the few”, but it still does not talk explicitly about social classes or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which exists even under bourgeois democracy. We would also remind everyone that America today is indeed “in the midst of continual warfare”, and has been for many decades and for most of the last century and more of the capitalist-imperialist era. —Ed.]
WAR — Morality Of
See: WAR—Just and Unjust
WAR — Revolutionary
A revolutionary war is a war waged by an oppressed people to overthrow those oppressors. Most often in the modern world this means a war by the revolutionary proletariat and its allies in other classes (such as the peasantry), and directed against the bourgeoisie (possibly allied with feudal landlords or other reactionary classes and strata) and/or foreign imperialist powers controlled by their own bourgeoisie.
A successful revolutionary war replaces the class rule of a reactionary class (such as the bourgeoisie) with the rule of a more progressive class (such as the proletariat).
“Revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society and without them, it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power.” —Mao, “On Contradiction” (Aug. 1937), SW 1-144. (As slightly revised in Quotations from Chairman Mao, 1st ed. (1966), p. 60.
WAR — “Who Started It?”
[Intro material to be added... ]
“All philistines and all stupid and ignorant yokels argue in the same
way as the renegade Kautsky supporters, Longuet supporters,
Turati and Co.: ‘The enemy has invaded my country, I don’t
care about anything else.’
“The socialist, the revolutionary proletarian, the internationalist, argues differently. He says: ‘The character of the war (whether it is reactionary or revolutionary) does not depend on who the attacker was, or in whose country the “enemy” is stationed; it depends on what class is waging the war, and on what politics this war is a continuation of. If the war is a reactionary, imperialist war, that is, if it is being waged by two world groups of the imperialist, rapacious, predatory, reactionary bourgeoisie, then every bourgeoisie (even of the smallest country) becomes a participant in the plunder, and my duty as a representative of the revolutionary proletariat is to prepare for the world proletarian revolution as the only escape from the horrors of a world slaughter. I must argue, not from the point of view of “my” country (for that is the argument of a wretched, stupid, petty-bourgeois nationalist who does not realize that he is only a plaything in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie), but from the point of view of my share in the preparation, in the propaganda, and in the acceleration of the world proletarian revolution.’” —Lenin, “Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:286-7.
WAR BETWEEN RELIGION AND SCIENCE
See: RELIGION VERSUS SCIENCE, “DOCTRINE OF THE TWO BOOKS”
The period in revolutionary Russia from around mid-1918 until March 1921 when in the midst of civil war and foreign military invasions, the new Soviet state was forced to employ drastic economic measures, and ones which would otherwise have at least been viewed as very premature, in order to defeat the enemies of the revolution. Lenin and the Bolsheviks sought to muster all the economic resources in the areas they controlled for the war effort and almost all industrial enterprises were nationalized. Strenuous efforts were made to centralize the management of production and distribution to the maximum degree possible within the social chaos then prevailing.
In this desperate situation all private trade was officially banned (though it continued illegally to a considerable extent) and a surplus-appropriation system was put into place in which the peasants were forced to sell all surplus agricultural products to the state at set prices. Because of the massive destruction and dislocations of the war a rationing system was established and widespread labor conscription and the leveling of wages was introduced. Although the outcome of the military and political struggle was close, these policies did allow the Bolsheviks to prevail.
It was by no means the original intention of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to immediately introduce socialism after achieving state power. “Everybody agrees that the immediate introduction of socialism in Russia is impossible,” he wrote in June 1917 [LCW 25:69]. And in December 1917, after the seizure of power, he still wrote that “There was not and could not be a definite plan for the organization of economic life.” [LCW 26:366] But the civil war and foreign invasions forced their hand.
Lenin and most of the other Bolshevik leaders seem to have expected that once War Communism was firmly established it would continue in place, only somewhat modified, even after the civil war was won and the foreign invaders were pushed out. However, it became obvious to Lenin, at least, that the increasingly desperate economic situation would not allow this. During the war the peasantry put up with a lot of harsh treatment, and even the confiscation of their agricultural products, because they feared the return of the landlords if the Bolsheviks were defeated. But black market activity had mushroomed and the people in the countryside were hungry, cold, exhausted and none too healthy—disease was widespread. Many city people had fled to the countryside during the civil war and were in the same serious situation there themselves. The peasants were now unwilling to produce goods that would simply be requisitioned from them without any real payment, and even some rebellions broke out. Most factories in the cities had closed down because of the lack of materials, fuel and available workers. In short the economic situation was even more desperate once the civil war ended. On top of this the Kronstadt Revolt of sailors which occurred during the Tenth Party Congress (March 1921) really shocked the Bolsheviks.
Lenin also acknowledged that mistakes had been made during the period of War Communism, and particularly in the treatment of the peasantry. Clearly a temporary retreat back to capitalism in both the countryside and the city was now necessary. (Although in industry the form it mostly took was worker-supervised state capitalism.) This retreat was necessary in order to preserve the worker-peasant alliance that was the backbone of the revolution.
Just as there was resistance—even within the Bolshevik party—to the establishment of War Communism, there was even more resistance to the temporary retreat from it which became known as the New Economic Policy (NEP). Lenin had great difficulty in convincing the party to go along with this retreat, and he might not have been successful if it was not for the Kronstadt Rebellion which so alarmed the party. And once the NEP was in place for a few years, there was likewise some major resistance from the right wing of the party to abandoning it! Lenin always argued that Marxism requires a “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” and every truly necessary change in political or economic policy in a revolution is met with resistance and the need for another round of struggle.
“WAR ON DRUGS”
A cynical, decades-long program conducted by the U.S. government in the name of “fighting” illegal narcotics. The real aim is to control and regiment the population, particularly the Black and lower working class population, and to act as a cover for continued U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the aim of the war on drugs is to find a solution to the “superfluous people” who were left out of Ronald Reagan’s free-market fundamentalist reforms. Actually, the war started under Richard Nixon, but it gained both momentum and ideological clout during Reagan’s presidency, and continues to this day in roughly this spirit.
The war on drugs reveals with unusual clarity the class component of state policy. Those who have been imprisoned are predominantly Black and Latino working class people, thrown behind bars on charges that would not even count as criminal offences in many other major capitalist states. The people who benefit most greatly from the flow and trafficking of narcotics remain relatively unscathed. Firstly, they are often themselves members of the ruling class or are closely linked to them, and hence can afford better legal representation in the event that they are caught; they can also distance themselves from the grubby business “on the ground” by hiring underlings to do their dirty work; they can hide their transactions more effectively (Noam Chomsky, writing around the time of the U.S. invasion of Panama, asked sardonically why George Bush did not also order commando raids on major New York banks, who were known to be benefitting from keeping drug money); etc.
Secondly, the war on drugs is characterized by an enormous amount of corruption. The police officers and detectives who staff narcotics bureaus and drug task-forces are themselves often in the pay of, or are in collusion with, drug dealers and traffickers. Thus, the people that they tend to actually target will be easy pickings, i.e. those who have already been stigmatized with the image of immersion in a drug-infested culture.
The war on drugs also incorporates the anti-cartel program in Mexico, which has experienced a horrific spiral in violence between the state and powerful drug cartels there (which have now become so powerful that state employees regularly complain that their resources and equipment are inferior to those of the cartels!). Ironically, many experts agree that the power of these criminal organizations is aided by anti-drug policies in the US, which has taken such an inflexible line on drugs such as marijuana that the demand from within the U.S. supplies a ready market for the cartels, who battle viciously for hegemony of transit routes to the United States.
Another front in the war on drugs involves the very bloody civil war in Colombia, an ongoing, decades-long struggle between nominally Marxist guerillas called the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) and the Colombian state and its capitalist-landlord benefactors. The Colombian military has benefitted from aid and training providing by the U.S. government, which claims that this assistance is primarily for the purpose of executing an anti-drug effort. However, even the U.S. government’s own agencies and research bodies affiliated with it (like the RAND Corporation) acknowledge that the FARC-EP plays a relatively minor role in the drug trade, and that the right-wing paramilitaries (allied both to the landlords and the official military) are by far the geater participants and beneficiaries of narcotics trafficking and production (indeed, the involvement of the Colombian government puts the FARC-EP’s collusion to shame); the RAND Corporation also found treatment programs to be much more cost effective than interdiction. The militarization of the drug war, then, is clearly something that primarily serves purposes other than fighting drugs! In Colombia, the U.S. involvement is simply counter-insurgency against a leftist group fighting the capitalist-landlord configuration that controls the state there.
Colombia is also a key U.S. ally in the region, which has seen the coming into office of various left-leaning governments, notably those of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. The Colombian state continues to be an important strategic resource for U.S. imperialist interference in the affairs of Latin America. Interestingly, Colombia is also where the U.S. government, then under the leadership of John F. Kennedy, initiated its policy of reorienting Latin American militaries from their hitherto role of “hemispheric defense” to “internal security” (fascist repression). This template was then adopted by the bourgeoisies in other Latin American countries, which experienced a series of bloody coups and militariy dictatorships, virtually all of which were supported by the United States. Now that the pretext of the Cold War has been lifted, the war on drugs provides the required cover for U.S. intervention. The guerilla threat has little to do with narcotics; the FARC-EP are much more troublesome in the sense of their targeting of oil pipelines and occupation of mineral-rich areas that the government wants to open up to exploitation by multinational corporations. Colombia, incidentally, has by far the worst human rights record in the Western hemisphere, and one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations. This is the true face of the war on drugs, largely hidden from view of American audiences, who are more accustomed to associating this campaign with what they are shown on TV shows about police, crime dramas, etc. —L.C.
“WAR ON TERROR”
An ongoing program by the American and other imperialist states around the world to “combat” and “defeat” terrorism. This purported aim is necessarily completely ridiculous, as capitalist states are themselves the biggest perpetrators and supporters of terrorism in the world, and there is certainly no talk of ending that! Nevetheless, this program does target certain terrorist organizations who oppose the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism, particularly Islamist groups in the Middle East who want to expel the Western presence in their countries.
The war on terror has both a law enforcement and a military component. The latter aspect has actually contributed to a sharp increase in terrorism (at least in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan that have been targeted and destabilized by imperialism), as anticipated by some agencies of the U.S. government itself. It has, however, acted as a cover for an expansion of state power over its own population, through increased powers of electronic surveillance and wiretapping, arrest and detention, the criminalization of protest, the furtherance of a type of quasi-fascist public discourse about “values” and “civilization”, the increasing normalization of torture, and a further expansion of military spending at the expense of urgently needed social programs. The war on terror has also been used by dictatorial regimes to increase their bargaining power and prestige with the imperialists, as they can present themselves as valuable and necessary bullwarks against Islamist extremism while continuing to rob and terrorize their own people.
The law enforcement aspect of the war has yielded some successes in the stated aim of neutralizing terrorist cells in the imperialist centers, but the broader war, which is overwhelmingly militarized, has been spectacularly stupid and self-defeating from the point of view of achieving the bourgeoisie’s more central aims (and, ironically, will probably come to undermine the law enforcement aspect, given the hatred generated by military action and occupation). The countries and communities that are targeted by the war on terror invariably end up becoming even more distrustful and hateful of the U.S. government; they correctly perceive what liberal bourgeois commentators and other “experts” can’t: that the invasions and occupations undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism are actually criminal operations aimed at controlling natural resources and gaining geopolitical leverage. In many cases these actions even lead to large segments of the population actively assisting groups who fight against the invasions, and who thus come to earn the designation “terrorist”, whether or not they are involved in killing civilians. However, it should be noted that even the term “civilian” can mean different things. People who are collaborating with the occupation, for example, can technically be civilians, and such people have certainly become the targets of insurgent attacks. In Iraq, for example, entire segments of the population supported armed groups who were fighting against and killing American troops; even the comprador state now in power in Bagdhad has insisted that the U.S. military leave their country because acquiescing to American demands has simply become too embarrassing!
On the other hand, of course, the U.S. government has no choice, when other measures fail, to engage in these aggressive actions if it is to maintain its control of strategically important parts of the world. Thus whatever the imperialists do will eventually blow up in their faces (unfortunately, at the cost of hundreds of thousands and even millions of working class and peasant lives). This is yet another example of capitalism’s contradictions: capitalist-imperialism cannot possibly serve both the fundamental interests of the people it represents (i.e the ruling class in the imperialist states, and secondarily the comprador bourgeoisie in the dominated countries) and the masses that it is bullying and harrassing. This elementary fact is completely lost on liberal bourgeois comentators, who believe that the root cause of antagonism between U.S. imperialism and the world’s masses orginates in “errors” made by U.S. presidential administrations, military commanders, etc! Thus we hear these commentators talk about things like the U.S. “commitment” to the people of Iraq (as though that were the focus and driving force of its criminal enterprise in that country), while ignoring the very reasons for the invasion and devastation of that country. These commentators simply cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what the internal record of their own favored state says about the actual reasons and ambitions propelling imperial policy.
The war on terror, needless to say, has killed far more people than the terrorists it is purportedly trying to root out. Interestingly, many of the same terrorists being captured and killed were once in cahoots with the CIA in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets, when the United States was funneling weapons and money to the religious fundamentalist forces of the mujahedeen. This covert operation was the most expensive in CIA history, and involved the cooperation and further financial backing of the clerical-fascist regime in Saudi Arabia and the fascist military dictatorship in Pakistan (which was funding its involvement partly through drug trafficking). It is also a massive source of corruption and waste. But its useful features for the bourgeoisie—ideological and police-state regimentation of the population in times of increasing hardship for the workers, and a cover for further imperialist intervention—are so great that the bourgeoisie is quite willing to overlook these negative aspects and keep promoting it as, at worst, a “necessary evil”, but more often as a “moral duty”.
More recently, the United States has made increased use of “unmanned aerial vehicles” or “drones” (remote controlled aircraft carrying bombs), particularly in Pakistan. One of Barack Obama’s first actions as President was to order a drone strike in a Pakistani village where some militants were thought to be present. The attack wiped out dozens of civilians. The drone program in Pakistan has killed hundreds of civilians over the past few years, angering and inflaming both the Pakistani masses and rotten Pakistani government (who, if for no other reason than self-preservation, have had to make a show of condemning these examples of U.S. terrorism and mass murder).
U.S. policy makers have indicated that the war on terror may last for decades more, if not indefinitely. Conveniently, this is also the timeframe in which China, the United States’ premier imperialist competitor, is expected to increasingly flex its military and economic muscle. A perpetual war on terror provides an excellent pretext to keep ramping up military spending and garrisoning the planet with military bases and naval forces, though an eventual full-blown “Cold War” with China will do the job just as nicely! —L.C.
See also: TARGETED KILLING
WARD, Frederick Townsend (1831-1862)
American adventurer and soldier of fortune who was primarily responsible for creating the small but effective mercenary force known as the “Ever-Victorious Army” which worked together with the Chinese imperial army to defeat the Taiping Rebellion.
WARRANT (Capitalist Finance)
A security which gives the holder the right (but not the obligation) to buy shares of stock in a company at a specified price, and either at any time or else at some definite time in the future. Warrants are very similar to options, except that they are issued by the company itself as part of a new share issue, whereas options relate to shares already in existence.
WARRING STATES PERIOD (Chinese History: c. 475-221 BCE)
A period of about two and a half centuries in ancient China during which there were multiple states in northern China which contended against each other and were from time to time in open warfare with each other. This era followed the Spring and Autumn period and ended when one of the warring states, Qin, defeated all the others and established the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE. This was the first dynasty of imperial China.
Both in China, and now sometimes elsewhere in the world as well, the Warring States Period is especially studied to learn the strategic lessons that it may hold for international contention in the contemporary world, and for military and political strategy in general.
“[T]he Warring States period did not involve great military outlays.
Nonviolent competition for several decades constituted the main form of struggle. A famous
strategy was to deplete an adversary’s financial resources by tricking it into spending
too much on its military. Two thousand years later, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the
Chinese interpretation was that the Americans had intentionally bankrupted Moscow by
tricking it into spending excessively on defense.” —Michael Pillsbury, ex-CIA analyst,
The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global
Superpower (2015), p. 41.
[With regard to the U.S. and Soviet Union, there may be some truth to the widespread theory that the arms race was promoted in part by the U.S. in hopes of bankrupting the Soviets, though this also sounds like an after-the-collapse justification of what was actually a much more dangerous contention. This was a very serious arms race and there was a real possibility that it might lead to thermonuclear war. Moreover, the deeper reason why the Soviet Union fell was that its economy was simply much weaker and already in deeper crisis than that of the U.S. —Ed.]
See also: AQUIFER
A 14th century Chinese novel, written in the vernacular, about a peasant war near the end of the Northern Song [Old style: Sung] Dynasty (960-1127 CE). This novel is also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men are Brothers, and by other names. It is attributed to Shi Nai’an and is often viewed as one of the four great classical Chinese novels.
The leader of the peasant uprising in this novel is Chao Gai [Chao Kai]. After his death, Song Jiang [Sung Chiang], a representative of the landlord class who has wormed his way into the ranks of the peasant army, grabs the leadership and surrenders to the emperor. Mao and other Chinese revolutionaries sometimes made reference to this novel.
“The merit of the book Water Margin lies precisely in the portrayal of capitulation. It serves as teaching material by negative example to help all the people recognize capitulationists.” —Mao, quoted in Peking Review, #6, Feb. 4, 1977, p. 16.
A form of horrifying torture commonly used by both reactionary modern capitalist-imperialist states and by the tyrannical comprador regimes which they have set up in “Third World” countries. The U.S. CIA and other American agencies, are especially fond of this method of torture. In waterboarding the victim is made to feel like he or she is really drowning (and sometimes actually is).
“Waterboarding is a form of water torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death. Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.” —Wikipedia entry on Waterboarding, accessed on Aug. 8, 2017.
“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I’d approve it. In a heartbeat. And I would approve more than that... OK? It works... and if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they are doing to us.” —Donald Trump, during his presidential campaign in 2016, quoted in the Economist magazine, June 3, 2017, p. 55.
WATTS, Alan (1915-73)
An influential western interpreter and popularizer of Eastern religious and mystical philosophies, especially Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He was born in England and became an Anglican priest, editor, professor, and finally a free-lance author and lecturer. Watts was widely known for his enthusiasm for meditation and mysticism.
A central concept in the formulation of quantum mechanics, especially as it is conceived of within the Copenhagen Interpretation. However, as the quotation below amply demonstrates, the notion is basically incoherent, even after a century of pondering by idealistically inclined physicists. Sometimes physicists talk about a wave function as if it is a description of a particle, and sometimes they talk about it as if it itself is a physical thing, which has a size and so forth. They also talk about how the wave function “collapses” in the course of a measurement, though they admit they have no idea what that is even supposed to mean!
“A wave function can describe an electron moving through space or orbiting
an atom. In chemistry, the wave function is called an orbital. Because wave functions
are not point-like but are spread out, the position of the particle (where it will be
detected) is uncertain. The velocity of the particle, defined by the pattern of the wave
function, is also uncertain. All wave functions vary with time, and the energy of a particle
is directly related to the frequency, by the same formula that Einstein discovered for
photons, E=hf. ...
“This wave function is truly ghostlike. It can’t be measured. Every point on the function consists of typically two numbers (real and imaginary parts)—more if there is a superposition. Make a measurement and the new wave function is much simpler. This was part of the Born-Heisenberg Copenhagen concept, and it is still accepted today [by physicists wallowing in philosophical idealism!—Ed.] In fact, today physicists are trying to take advantage of the hidden ghostlike aspects of the wave function by using them in quantum computers. In computer lingo, an amplitude bit is called a quantum bit, or qubit.
“The wave function of an electron could be small in extent, orbiting a nucleus, or large, filling space between Earth and the sun. If you know its past and the forces acting on it, you can determine (for example, by using Schrödinger’s equation) what the wave function will be like in the future, but you can’t examine the wave function with instruments without causing it to change, to collapse. When you measure the position of an electron, the new collapsed wave function might be highly localized or spread out with the size given by your measurement uncertainty.
“What does it take to make the wave function collapse? We don’t know. I’m serious. When physicists don’t understand something, they frequently give it a name just to be able to talk about the puzzle. In this case, the thing that makes the wave function collapse is a measurement. As I just said, we don’t know what we mean by that. Generally, physicists ignore the problem... Some people argue that it [‘measurement’] requires some sort of ‘consciousness.’ That’s unhelpful, since we have no good understanding of consciousness. Einstein mocked this claim when he wryly commented, ‘Do you really think the Moon isn’t there until we look at it?’”
—Richard A. Muller, a prominent American physicist, in his book Now: The Physics of Time (2016), pp. 199-201.
[Actually, in its essence consciousness is not all that hard to understand, despite the endless puzzlement of idealist philosophers about it! In any case, consciousness (human or otherwise) has nothing to do with the fundamental workings of the physical universe. It should be quite obvious to any materialist that the philosophy of quantum mechanics, as it is currently “understood” by idealist physicists, is complete nonsense. —S.H.]
A central aspect (dogma?) of the theory of quantum mechanics that maintains that light and all other matter simultaneously has characteristics which must be understood by assuming that it is a wave, and other characteristics which must be understood by assuming that it is composed of discrete particles. The idea of wave-particle duality was first formulated for electro-magnetic radiation (light) by early quantum physicists such as Max Planck and Niels Bohr, and for matter in general by the British physicist Louis de Broglie, and is now the standard view within quantum mechanics. However, some physicists (such as Richard Feynman) have denied that this is really true.
“Physicists use the wave theory on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the particle theory on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.” —William Henry Bragg, “Electrons and Ether Waves”; quoted in the Dictionary of Scientific Quotations by Alan L. Mackay, 1994.
“I want to emphasize that light comes in this form—particles. It is
very important to know that light behaves like particles, especially for those of you
who have gone to school, where you were probably told something about light behaving
like waves. I’m telling you the way it does behave—like particles.
“You might say that it’s just the photomultiplier that detects light as particles, but no, every instrument that has been designed to be sensitive enough to detect weak light has always ended up discovering the same thing: light is made of particles.” —Richard Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), p. 15.
“This strange phenomenon of partial reflection by two surfaces can be explained for intense light by a theory of waves, but the wave theory cannot explain how the detector makes equally loud clicks as the light gets dimmer. Quantum electrodynamics ‘resolves’ this wave-particle duality by saying that light is made of particles (as Newton originally thought), but the price of this great advancement of science is a retreat by physics to the position of being able to calculate only the probability that a photon will hit a detector, without offering a good model of how it actually happens.” —Richard Feynman, ibid., pp. 36-37.
“WAVING THE RED FLAG TO OPPOSE THE RED FLAG”
[To be added... ]
See also: POSTURING
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