BABEUF, François Noël (Later known as Gracchus Babeuf) (1760-97)
Probably the first revolutionary communist in history! Babeuf was a prominent revolutionary activist in the great French Revolution of 1789. He advocated and worked for not only political equality but also economic equality. When the Jacobin faction was defeated in 1794 and there was a major shift to the right, Babeuf recognized that the full set of ideals of the Revolution had been betrayed. He took the name Gracchus from two ancient Roman brothers who championed the rights of the poor. He formed a secret revolutionary society, which later became known as the Conspiracy of Equals, and was planning an uprising against the government to take place in May 1796. But the plan was was betrayed and Babeuf was arrested and executed. The word ‘communism’ was coined by the utopian socialist Goodwyn Barmby after a conversation with those he described as the “disciples of Babeuf”.
[Spanish word derived from ‘bachaco’, a voracious large-bottomed leaf-cutter ant.]
Term used in contemporary Venezuela for black-marketeers who have become ever-more prominent due to the weakened state of the Venezuelan economy (which in turn is due in part to the lower price for oil in recent years). Bachaqueros are often found at the head of the long queues now pervasive in supermarkets and other stores, because of the scarcity of many price-controlled consumer goods. They buy up large quantities of these scarce items and then sell them for a big profit on the black market.
BACHELARD, Gaston [Surname pronounced (roughly): bash-lar] (1884-1962)
A minor French bourgeois philosopher of the Continental school who wrote on various topics including the philosophy of science (where he especially emphasized the role of psychology in scientific theorizing), psychoanalysis, dreams and poetry. He is best known for introducing the concepts of an “epistemological obstacle” (obstacle épistémologique) and “epistemological break” (rupture épistémologique) into French philosophy, though the second term was later popularized much more by Louis Althusser. According to Bachelard progress in science is frequently temporarily blocked by some conceptual “obstacle”, and then is resumed when a “rupture” breaking through that obstacle occurs. (This appears to be a rather trivial insight! Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts in science, which descends from Bachelard’s views, likewise greatly exaggerates the importance of this general idea.)
Bachelard was celebrated by the French establishment and was awarded some of the most prestigious positions in the Académie française. He also influenced a number of later French philosophers (some of whom are commonly supposed to have also been influenced by Marxism), such as Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Dominique Lecourt and Jacques Derrida.
BACON, Francis (1561-1626)
One of the most prominent early promoters and theorists of the experimental scientific method. His works The Advancement of Learning (1605) and the Novum Organum (1620) were highly influential in the development of science.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Bacon.
“The brilliance of Bacon’s reputation has hardly diminished, even to this day. Though not a creative scientist himself, he is nevertheless considered one of the crucial figures in the scientific revolution, whose writings made possible the growth and expansion of science. Bacon provided a brilliant defense of the experimental method, which had been viewed as suspect during the centuries in which Scholastic dispute and reliance on ancient authority were considered the proper path to true knowledge. He provided a road map for the development of experimental science, advocating for the systematic collection of data by a multitude of field-workers, and its concentration in a centralized institution for systematic evaluation. More than anything, perhaps, he made the experimental method respectable.” —Amir Alexander, Infinitesimal (2014), p. 254.
1. [In general:] Failing to answer to (or satisfy) certain interests (which interests and whose interests are implied by the context).
2. [In moral discourse in class society:] Failing to answer to the common collective interests of a particular class (which class being determined by the ideology of the speaker).
3. [In classless society:] Failing to answer to the common, collective interests of the people as a whole.
See also: GOOD
BADIOU, Alain (1937- )
A very confused and grossly overrated French petty-bourgeois political radical and idealist (non-materialist) philosopher of sorts, who once considered himself to be a “Maoist”, and still likes to associate himself with what some of his admirers call “post-Maoism”.
Badiou was strongly influenced by, and somewhat further radicalized by, the great student uprising in France in the spring of 1968. In 1970 he was the founder and leader of the Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes Léninistes, more commonly called the UCFML [Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist], one of several nominally Maoist organizations in France in that period. When the UCFML collapsed in 1985 he and his friends created L’Organisation Politique. This small group supported immigrant rights and other reforms, but apparently did no actual work toward social revolution. In any case, Badiou no longer believes that there needs to be, or should be, a revolutionary political party in order to transform society!
“Up to the end of the 1970s, my friends and I defended the idea that an emancipatory politics presumed some kind of political party. Today we are developing a completely different idea, which we call ‘politics without party’.” —Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. by Peter Hallward, (Verso, 2001), p. 95. (In the interview appendix.)
Even more absurdly, Badiou now explicitly renounces the class perspective in politics and ideology, and refuses to even think in terms of the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie!
“The second thing that has changed over these last twenty years concerns the status of class. For a long time we were faithful to the idea of a class politics, a class state, and so on. Today we think that political initiatives which present themselves as representations of a class have given everything they had to give.” —Alain Badiou, ibid., p. 97.
Badiou’s philosophical views are strongly influenced by Kant,
Althusser’s corruption of Marxism and by Lacanian
psychoanalysis, along with mathematical set theory. (What a mish-mash!) Badiou is sometimes
called an adherent of the “anti-postmodern” strand of Continental Philosophy. However, for the
most part his philosophical ideas are nearly impossible to describe in any intelligeable fashion,
since they are almost completely incoherent. But whatever his philosophical views are, exactly,
it is clear that he is not a materialist. One commentator (Johannes Thumfart) argues that
Badiou’s philosophy can be regarded as a contemporary reinterpretation of Platonism.
Badiou’s views on ethics are a blend of Kant, classless nihilism, and his usual general incoherence. [See my commentary: “Alain Badiou: A Pseudo-Maoist Obscurantist”, at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/BadiouAndEthics.pdf. —S.H.]
Oddly enough, for a person who is obviously not a Marxist nor even a real revolutionary, Badiou and his views have recently become something of a fad within radical movements led by intellectuals, not only in North America, but also in desperately poor and exploited countries like India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa! Even some revolutionary Marxists have been attracted to him, though it only serves to discredit their own good judgment. Just how much in politics and philosophy can we possibly have to learn from someone who rejects the class perspective, rejects the need for a revolutionary party (and apparently also for any actual revolution), and who derives his own ideas mostly from either bourgeois ideologists directly, or else from revisionist distorters of Marxism?!
See also: “Badiou, St. Paul, and the Mass Line” at: https://www.massline.info/Misc/BadiouMassLine.pdf; and LAZARUS, Sylvain
See: GOVERNMENT BAILOUT
BAKUNIN, Mikhail (1814-76)
Russian anarchist and determined opponent of Marx. He was born near Moscow of aristocratic descent. He took part in the German revolutionary movement of 1848-49 and was condemned to death. In 1855 he was sent to Siberia, but escaped to Japan and then came to England in 1861. In September 1870 he led an abortive uprising in Lyon.
Bakunin was the most prominent anarchist of his day and the leader of the anarchist opposition to Marxism within the First International. At the Hague Congress of the International in 1872 he was outvoted and expelled. But he and his followers had done major damage to that organization, and it disbanded a few years later.
“Bakunin joined the revolution at an early age, was imprisoned in Germany
in 1849 and extradited to the tsarist government in 1851. Shortly after, he wrote Tsar
Nicolas I a letter of ‘confession’ in which he expressed his repentance, thus betraying
the revolution. In 1857, he wrote several letters of repentance to Tsar Alexander II
pleading for mercy. In 1861, with official blessing, he effected a ‘miraculous escape’
to Western Europe. There, keeping his apostasy secret, he wormed his way into the workers’
movement and the First International to act as an informer and spy for the tsar. He
assiduously preached anarchism and opposed the theory of the dictatorship of the
“Marx and Engels pointed out that Bakunin was a ‘traitor to the European proletariat’ and that he and his lieutenants ought to receive ‘the benevolence of the governments whom they have served so well in disorganizing the proletarian movement.’ The Great Soviet Encyclopedia which was published by the Soviet Union in the early 1950s clearly condemns Bakunin as ‘an ideologist of anarchism’ and ‘a deadly enemy of Marxism.’ It points out that he was guilty of ‘betraying the fundamental interests of the revolutionary movement’ and ‘in fact played a treacherous role with regard to the Russian revolutionaries—democrats.’
“Now, this wretch has suddenly emerged covered with glory in the eyes of the Soviet revisionist renegades who have gone so far as to openly challenge the judgment of Marx and Engels on him and lavish praise on him. In Khrushchov’s time, they already set about ‘rehabilitating’ Bakunin. They acted in a more undisguised way after Brezhnev took over. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (third edition), published in 1970, actually hails this shameless renegade as a ‘revolutionary.’ Whitewashing his apostasy, it asserts that his betrayal of the revolution and grovelling before the tsar for mercy were ‘tactics designed to get himself free at any price.’ ....
“Bakunin, a notorious expansionist in his own right, sang the praise of the great-Russian chauvinism practised by the old tsars. During his exile in Siberia in the late 1850s and early 1860s, he showed himself a faithful servant of the tsar by applauding his policy of aggression against China. In a letter to A. I. Herzen in 1860, he brazenly acclaimed tsarist Russia’s aggression against China and lauded to the skies Nikolai Muraviev, then Lieutenant-Governor of Easter Siberia. Under his pen, this inveterate buccaneer of great-Russian chauvinism and expansionism who seized from China large tracts of territory south of the Outer Khingan Mountains, became ‘a fine man’ and ‘redeemer of Russia.’ He even hailed tsarist Russia’s piratic act of occupying Chinese territory as ‘a great patriotic cause.’
“While in exile in Western Europe, he vociferously advocated pan-Slavism in the interests of the tsar’s expansionist policy in Europe. In a paper submitted to the tsar, he even urged him to ‘lead’ the pan-Slave crusade ‘firmly and boldly’ so as to ‘bring good and glory to Russia.’ For this Bakunin was sharply denounced by Marx and Engels. In their work The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Workingmen’s Association (1873), Marx and Engels wrote: ‘That is the man [meaning Bakunin] who has styled himself as an internationalist since 1868, and in 1862 preached a racial war in the interests of the Russian Government. Pan-Slavism is an invention of the St. Petersburg cabinet and has no other aim than to extend the European frontiers of Russia to the west and to the south.’ They pointed out that ‘the pan-Slavism of Nicolas to the pan-Slavism of Bakunin... pursue the one and the same goal and all of them are in essence perfectly at one with each other.’”
—Excerpts from “Why Do the Soviet Revisionists Try to Reverse the Verdict on Bakunin?”, Peking Review, #43, Oct. 21, 1977.
“Followers of Mikhail Bakunin, an anarchist theoretician and implacable enemy of Marxism and scientific socialism. The Bakuninists conducted a stubborn struggle against Marxist theory and the Marxist tactics of the working-class movement. The basic postulate of Bakuninism was the rejection of all forms of [the] state, including that of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Bakuninists did not understand the historic role of the proletariat. Bakunin propounded the idea of class ‘levelling’, the alliance of free associations’ from below. A secret revolutionary society consisting of ‘outstanding people’ would lead popular revolts that were to begin immediately. In Russia, for example, the Bakuninists assumed that the peasantry were ready to start an immediate revolt. Their tactics of conspiracy, immediate revolts and terrorist acts was sheer gambling and was contrary to the Marxist theory of insurrection. Bakuninism was one of the sources from which the Narodniks drew their ideology.” —Note 9 in Lenin, Selected Works, vol. I (Moscow: 1967).
For further information about Bakunin and his followers see: Marx & Engels, “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the Working Men’s International Association” (1873); Engels, “The Bakuninists at Work” (1873) [online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1873/bakunin/index.htm ]; Engels, “Emigré Literature” (1875); and Lenin, “On the Provisional Revolutionary Government” (LCW 8:461-81), [online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/prg/article2.htm#v08fl62-474 ]
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS [International Economics]
1. An overall statement of the financial inflows and outflows for a given country during a given period (such as over one calendar year). There are three components to such an overall balance of payment statement:
The current account balance includes the value of imports and exports as well as receipts from or spending abroad in other ways, such as through tourism or workers in foreign countries sending money back home. It also includes receipts from foreign property income.
The capital account balance includes foreign direct investment, sales and purchases of foreign securities (such as stocks and bonds), and sales or purchases of domestic securities by foreigners.
The third component is any change in the foreign exchange reserves held by the government of that country.
2. The difference between the total inflow (receipts) or outflow (expenditures) in one of the above categories; i.e., either a net surplus or net deficit.
Changes in foreign exchange reserves are equal to the sum of the current and capital account surpluses or deficits for that period. Thus if there are deficits in the current account or the capital account, the foreign exchange reserves are depleted by that same amount. If the current account and capital account added together are in serious deficit, then the country has a “balance of payments problem”—in that if the trend continues it will run out of foreign reserves and be unable to buy anything more from foreign countries. A “balance of payments crisis” is a problem that has become so severe that immediate action must to taken to change the situation, such as by obtaining an emergency loan from the IMF or from another government, or by devaluing its currency.
A document of the British government issued in November 1917 that promised to support Zionism with the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in the then Ottoman-ruled region of Arab Palestine, and to allow large numbers of Jewish people in other countries to emigrate there. Britain expected to (and did) seize the region from Turkey at the end of World War I. So, in effect, British imperialism vaguely promised to eventually give away part of the land it was only then in the process of stealing for itself. At the time, less than 10% of the population in Palestine were Jews.
So what possessed Britain to promote Zionism in this way? Among the most important reasons were: 1) Because the British ruling class, like most or all of the other ruling bourgeoisies in Europe, were themselves rather anti-Semitic and wanted the Jews to go elsewhere. With regard to this first point, Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour himself “had successfully driven the Aliens Act through Parliament with impassioned speeches regarding the need to restrict the wave of immigration into Britain from Jews fleeing the Russian Empire”. [As noted in the Wikipedia (accessed Feb. 9, 2019).] 2) Because the British were in this period trying to promote greater American involvement in World War I on their side and believed that Jews in America were influential enough to help bring this about (based on the widespread—then and now—anti-Semitic notion that “Jewish bankers” were supposedly dominating much of the world). And 3) Because they believed that Britain could use a sympathetic and beholding population of European Jews in the Middle East region to help it safeguard and hold onto the nearby Suez Canal. [This point was noted decades ago in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.] In other words British support for Zionism was done both to promote their own perceived imperialist interests and because of at least two kinds of anti-Semitic views of their own.
In later years Britain did oppose the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine because Britain wanted Palestine to remain as its own colony and under its own control. But with the Balfour Declaration and the long support for large-scale Zionist emigration to Palestine they made the eventual creation of Israel, as a racist state run by and for Jews exclusively, virtually inevitable. They ended up supporting the theft of Palestine from the people born and living there, first for themselves and their own imperialist interests, and eventually by the Zionists. Thus began the long tradition of mutual interdependence and support between the major imperialist powers (of Britain and the U.S. especially) and Zionism.
A social group, typically consisting of 25 to 50 people. This is the level of social organization characteristic of primitive communal society. Each band is self-reliant and operates separately and independently from other bands, even those speaking the same language and sharing the same culture. See the entry for primitive social organization for a comparison with other levels of social organization such as tribes, chiefdoms and nation-states.
[From the Hindi word meaning “closed”.] A term for what is usually a one-day general strike in India and other countries in south Asia. Bandhs are generally called either by major political parties, or at least usually represent major concerns of a large section of the population. They tend to be very effective, with shops being closed, transportion nearly completely closed down, the streets empty, and so forth. While observance of bandhs is generally voluntary, sometimes force is used against those who ignore them. It often happens that governments order the population to ignore bandhs, but people seldom pay much attention to this. Bandhs have been illegal in India itself since 1998, but they are still common. Sometimes even large cities are brought to almost a complete standstill. Bandhs are most frequent in cities where there are the largest numbers of poor and harshly oppressed people. In the Indian state of West Bengal there are as many as 50 bandhs each year. Bandhs are a very powerful form of mass protest, but they are not the same as labor strikes or “hartals”, which can go on for much longer periods. However, where bandhs are illegal they sometimes still occur under the name of hartals.
The first conference of the “non-aligned” Afro-Asian countries which occurred in Bandung, Indonesia from April 18-24, 1955. Five countries sponsored the conference (Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon) and 29 countries attended, including the People’s Republic of China, whose delegation was led by Zhou Enlai. These countries were “non-aligned” in the sense that they were not formally in the camp of either superpower, the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. The countries at the Bandung Conference did not want to be caught up in the constant contention between the two superpowers, and were on one level or another opposed to the domination of either imperialist superpower. Moreover, they were concerned about the possibility of superpower attacks on other countries, and especially the danger of a U.S. attack on China, which was quite serious at that time.
However, most of these countries were not really independent of imperialist domination and control, as the hugely murderous CIA-arranged military coup d’état in Indonesia itself a decade later amply demonstrated. In 1977 the new revisionist rulers in China, in the course of pushing their “Three Worlds Theory”, called Bandung “the first international conference convened by the Asian and African countries, which had become masters of their own destiny.” [Peking Review, #46, Nov. 11, 1977, p. 27.] Since most of these countries were not actually the “masters of their own destiny”, this was a complete misrepresentation of reality.
The “Bandung spirit” continued long after the 1955 conference, and even persists today. Of course it is not wrong for countries to band together against imperialism and imperialist domination, but it is important for the people of the world to recognize that de facto neo-colonies of the imperialist powers are by no means the leaders of the international struggle against imperialism, nor even reliable allies in that great struggle.
A financial institution whose primary activity is the borrowing and lending of money. Banks borrow from the general public, both individuals and businesses, who become depositors in the bank. The banks normally pay only a rather low rate of interest to borrow this money. (Checking accounts usually pay no interest at all.) They then loan out money to others at a higher rate of interest, which is usually the main source of their profits. These loans are to businesses and also to individual people (for mortgages, car loans, and other purposes). To the extent that the bank interest income from loans comes from capitalist companies, the banks share in the surplus value generated by the workers at those companies. The banks centralize idle cash, not only from capitalist corporations but also a great many smaller deposits from workers and other non-capitalists, and serve the necessary capitalist function of accumulating and turning many isolated quantitities of idle money into large chunks of money capital available to companies to use in continuing and expanding production.
Commercial banks may be either general purpose or focus their activity mostly on certain areas of banking, such as savings banks (or “savings & loans” institutions) which specialize in gathering the savings of many small depositors and in issuing mortgages. Merchant banks specialize in servicing financial needs of businesses and promoting trade, including international trade. Investment banks specialize in handling transactions of large corporations and the rich, including loaning them large sums of money, handling their investments for them, helping arrange mergers and acquisitions of other companies, arranging for IPOs and so forth.
Central banks are government banks whose primary purposes are to supervise the commercial banks, regulate the money supply, and to try to keep the overall economy running smoothly. They do not accept deposits from individuals. The U.S. central bank is the Federal Reserve. Others include the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan. The European Central Bank regulates the monetary policy of those countries using the Euro currency.
Finally, there are a few international banks (meaning not those commercial banks which operate internationally, but rather banks set up by associations of many nations which try to regulate the world financial system). Most notably there is the International Monetary Fund, which is a crude sort of world central bank, and the World Bank, which is a world investment bank that in theory, at least, tries to promote economic development in more economically backward (i.e., more exploited!) nations. Both of these are tightly controlled by the imperialist powers, especially the United States.
See also entries below and: MONEY CREATION BY COMMERCIAL BANKS, ZOMBIE BANK
BANKS — Big
“They don’t call them big banks for nothing. Assessed by international accounting rules, the four biggest U.S. banks—JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo—have combined assets totaling $14.7 trillion. That’s the equivalent of 93 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2012.” —Bloomberg.com, as summarized in The Week magazine, March 1, 2013, p. 30.
“By 2014, Wall Street’s five largest banks held about 45 percent of
America’s banking assets, up from about 25 percent in 2000. They held a virtual lock on
taking companies public, played key roles in the pricing of commodities, were involved in
all major U.S. mergers and acquisitions and many overseas, and were responsible for most
of the trading in derivatives and other complex financial instruments. Wall Street’s
biggest banks offered the largest financial rewards and fattest bonuses, attracted the
most talent, oversaw the biggest pools of money, and effectively controlled the
fastest-growing sector of the entire U.S. economy. Between 1980 and 2014, the financial
sector grew six times as fast as the economy overall.
“Here again, economic prowess and political power feed on each other. As the big banks have gained dominance over the financial sector, they’ve become more politically potent. They are major sources of campaign funds for both Republican and Democratic candidates. In the 2008 presidential campaign, the financial sector ranked fourth among all industry groups giving to then-candidate Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Obama reaped far more in contributions—roughly $16.6 million—from Wall Street than did his Republican opponent, John McCain, at $9.3 million.” —Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Saving Capitalism (2015), pp. 40-41.
There are two main senses of this term: 1) the capital supplied by those who established the bank and the capital required to keep it functioning (either from actual business requirements or from legal requirements); and 2) all the capital concentrated in the bank, including both that supplied by the owners of the bank, and the much larger amount supplied by the depositors in the bank. In the writings of Marx and other Marxists, bank capital is most often used in this second sense, while in the discussions by bourgeois economists about banks, the term is most often used in the first sense.
In the first sense, bank capital is the capital required to establish and keep operating a bank. Banks make their profits through borrowing money from depositors and lending it out at a higher rate of interest to their loan customers. However, at times depositors also wish to withdraw their money and banks must have some money capital on hand to pay them back. The amount required varies from time to time, but the banks must have enough money on hand to deal with all normal situations. (During exceptional situations, such as a financial crisis, the bank may borrow temporarily from the central bank—the Federal Reserve in the U.S.—to tide it over.)
In the second sense, the basic function of bank capital is as a source of new capital for the active capitalists in industry to expand production and thus to further increase the extraction of surplus value from the working class. This aggregation and centralization of idle money and its transformation into new capital is an essential process under capitalism.
See also: FINANCIAL CAPITAL
The bankruptcy of a bank and either its dismantlement or its forced merger with another bank. There are at least a few bank failures in most years, even during booms, but during severe capitalist crises there are vastly more failures. In the U.S. the recent numbers of bank failures have been:
These figures show that the claim by bourgeois economists that the U.S. financial crisis ended in mid-2009 was very far from the case, and the Great Recession led to large numbers of additional bank failures for several more years. By late December 2012, 417 banks had failed since the start of Great Recession at the end of 2007. For the period 2008 through 2011, the total assets of these failed banks was $677 billion. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation fund, which is used to bail out depositors in failed banks, still had a deficit of $11.8 billion at the end of 2011. As of mid-December 2012 there were 694 “problem banks” on the secret FDIC list, or 9.7% of all U.S. banks.
Things have stabilized for a few years, but we will soon be entering a new financial crisis, and of course that will mean large numbers of new bank failures.
The FDIC list of all failed banks since 2000 is available at: http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/banklist.html
See also: GREAT DEPRESSION OF THE 1930s—1929-1933
BANK FOR INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENTS
An international bank based in Basel, Switzerland which is owned by the central banks of many nations (55 central banks as of 2009) and which serves as a transfer agent for currencies and gold between these various central banks. The heads of these central banks meet every two months in Basel and there is an annual General Meeting.
Interestingly, the Bank for International Settlements was originally set up by the victors in World War I to deal with the reparations they demanded from defeated Germany. But later it began to handle other financial transfers between various central banks.
BANKS — and Mortgage Business
Over the past 60 years, and especially since the mid-1980s, mortgages and mortgage securities have formed an ever-growing percentage of bank assets, and have contributed an ever-growing percentage of bank profits. (See graph at right for the situation in the U.S. from 1952 to 2004.)
Normally the primary source of profit for banks is from borrowing at a low rate of interest, and loaning out the money at a higher rate of interest. But how is it possible for the companies that borrow from banks to pay this interest at all? It is because they have extracted massive surplus value from their own workers. In short, bank profit, to the extent that it comes from the interest charged to capitalist corporations (and therefore to the greatest extent), comes ultimately from the surplus value created by wage labor in material production.
During the imperialist era another source of bank profit has expanded in a major way—financial manipulations and speculation. This was especially the case for American investment banks in the first decade of the 21st century, where such a speculative frenzy developed that it seems to have even become for a time the primary source of profits! That is, until the wild speculative bubbles in sub-prime mortgages, Collateralized Debt Obligations, and the like collapsed in 2008.
[Excerpts from a speech to bankers given by Will Rogers, probably to
the American Bankers Association in 1922 in New York City:] “Loan sharks and interest
hounds—I have addressed every form of organized graft in the United States, excepting
Congress, so it’s naturally a pleasure for me to appear before the biggest.
“You are without a doubt the most disgustingly rich audience I ever talked to, with the possible exception of the bootleggers’ union, Local No. 1, combined with the enforcement officers....
“I see by your speeches that you’re very optimistic of the business conditions of the coming year. Boy, I don’t blame you. If I had your dough, I’d be optimistic too....
“You have a wonderful organization. I understand you have 10,000 here, and what you have in federal prisons brings your membership up to around 30,000. So goodbye, paupers. You’re the finest bunch of shylocks that ever foreclosed a mortgage on a widow’s home.”
—Will Rogers, reprinted in Harper’s Magazine, Dec. 2008, p. 16.
A legal arrangement or status of a company (or individual) which is unable to pay their debts. Bankruptcy proceedings may be started by either the insolvent debtor, or by one or more of the creditors to which money is owed. Once the legal system (i.e., a judge) rules that the company (or person) is bankrupt, a receiver is appointed by the judge to seize and then sell some or all of the remaining assets and to use the funds to repay the creditors to the extent possible.
With regard to companies, there are two main types of bankruptcy in the United States: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In the former, the company is “liquidated” (closed down and all its assets are sold off for the benefit of the creditors). In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, an attempt is made to reorganize the company so that it can continue in business and eventually pay its debts. For the time being the company is protected against the claims for payment by its creditors. Both forms of bankruptcy are often used to screw the workers at these companies: labor contracts are often voided, as are the company’s obligations to pay pension benefits, etc.
“Bankruptcy was designed so people could start over. But these days, the
only ones starting over are big corporations, wealthy moguls and Wall Street.
“Corporations are even using bankruptcy to break contracts with their employees. When American Airlines went into bankruptcy three years ago, it voided its labor agreements and froze its employee pension plan.
“After it emerged from bankruptcy last year and merged with U.S. Airways, American’s creditors were fully repaid, its shareholders came out richer than they went in and its CEO got a severance packaged valued at $19.9 million.
“But American’s former employees got shafted.”
—Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, “Bankruptcy lets the rich make risky bets blithely”, San Francisco Chronicle, “Insight” magazine supplement, September 28, 2014, p. E8.
[French: pronounced roughly bon-lyoo]
A suburb of a large city. Unlike in the U.S., and although there are in France also some rich bourgeois banlieues, these suburbs are not generally more affluent than the cities themselves. In fact many of them are extremely poor. As the term banlieues is now being used in France the connotation is that these are districts of low income housing projects, where mainly foreign immigrants and poor French people of foreign descent live. Banlieues are now often perceived as poverty traps or slums.
BARAN, Paul (1910-1964)
Prominent American Marxist economist associated with the Monthly Review school. He was professor of economics at Stanford University from 1948-1964, and during much of this time may have been virtually the only Marxist economist allowed to hold a position at an American university. Baran’s most important works were The Political Economy of Growth (1957) and Monopoly Capital (1966) co-authored with Paul Sweezy.
BARANGAY or BARANGGAY
[Tagalog/Pilpino:] A village or community of people.
[In China during the Mao era, and especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution:] A para-medical worker with only limited formal training who provided medical services, sometimes only part-time, primarily in rural areas where there were as yet almost no doctors available to the people. They promoted hygiene, preventive health care, and family planning, and treated common injuries and illnesses. They acted as the primary health-care providers at the grass-roots level and brought the first wave of medical care to millions of people who never before had access to any at all.
See also: PUBLIC HEALTH—In China
“‘Barefoot doctors’ is the affectionate name Shanghai’s suburban poor and
lower-middle peasants have given to health workers who divide their time between farming
and medical work. [Note: Shanghai municipality itself included some large rural and
semi-rural areas at this time. —Ed.]
“In 1958 in response to Chairman Mao’s great call, medical circles in Shanghai organized a 10,000 strong contingent to go to the rural areas, where they trained, in short-term classes and through practice, large numbers of health workers who did not divorce themselves from production. Giving medical treatment and vigorously carrying out preventive measures and doing propaganda work, they achieved outstanding successes in transforming public health and medical conditions in the rural areas. In 1965, Chairman Mao issued his brilliant instruction: ‘In medical and health work, put the stress on the rural areas.’ The counties on the outskirts of Shanghai carried out a comprehensive job of reorganizing and training ‘barefoot doctors’ who both farm and give medical service to bring the number up to more than 4,500. These ‘barefoot doctors’ in turn trained more than 29,000 health workers for the production teams.” —Introductory note to two articles about ‘barefoot doctors’ in the magazine Chinese Literature, 1968, #12, online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/China/Magazines/ChineseLiterature/1968/CL1968-12.pdf
“Many people say, yes, you’ve got all these para-medical workers, but
what kind of level have they got? What kind of doctors are they really? Do they really
look after the health of the people? This raises very big questions, including the
question of what attributes a doctor should have.
“Some people think that the most important attributes are to have a lot of degrees, to have gone through a lot of specialist courses, to have a good bed-side manner, and so on. I’m not belittling the importance of professional skill, and mastery of modern techniques. But in my opinion, the most important attribute that any doctor can possibly have is the determination to put the interests of his patients before everything else, to devote his whole life to the service of his patients, of his fellow men. If he has this drive, if he has this motivation, he’s a good doctor. And if he doesn’t have it he falls short of being a good doctor no matter what his technical or professional level is.
“Peasant doctors have this determination to be of service to their fellow men. To whatever degree their technical or professional knowledge falls short of the ideal, that can be put right in time. And will be put right in time. Because to have a sense of responsibility towards your patients means that you also have the determination to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to serve their needs. It’s part of the same thing.
“So I say to those good people who say, ah well, what kind of doctors are they? they don’t really count—I say they do count. I say this is the kind of doctor of the future—this is not an expedient, this is not just a stop-gap measure. This is how doctors of the future will be trained, rooted among the people. They will come from the people, they will be motivated by a desire to serve the people, they will not be separated from the people, by their income, their dress, their motor cars, where they live, or anything else. They’ll merge with the people and serve them to the best of their ability.” —Dr. Joshua Horn, “The Mass Line”, a wonderful 1971 speech available in full at: http://www.massline.info/China/JHorn-ML.htm
BARMBY, (John) Goodwyn (1820-1881)
A British utopian socialist of the Victorian era. He and his wife Catherine were devoted followers of Robert Owen in the 1830s and 1840s, and were also strong feminists. They then shifted the focus of their attention to radical Christian Unitarianism.
Sometimes the most horrendous situations or circumstances have been called “socialist” or “communist” by those who don’t know any better. During the 20th century it is extremely doubtful if a great many of the regimes which have called themselves “socialist”, such as most of those in Eastern Europe after 1945, were properly so called. The same could be said of many of the regimes in Africa from the 1950s on, which were trying to escape imperialist control but often degenerated into personal or military dictatorships of the local elites. However, it is likely that the worst perversion of the name socialism has come with the regime in North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) of which it should surely be said that this was not genuine socialism by any stretch of the imagination, but rather an extremely perverted distortion of the idea, of the sort that characterizes military barracks and prisons.
“Herr [Karl] Grün says: ‘Listen to Mirabeau!’ and quotes some of the passages stressed by Cabet, in which Mirabeau advocates the equal division of bequeathed property among brothers and sisters. Herr Grün exclaims: ‘Communism for the family!’. On this principle, Herr Grün could go through the whole range of bourgeois institutions, finding in all of them traces of communism, so that taken as a whole they could be said to represent perfect communism. He could christen the Code Napoléon a Code de la communauté! And he could discover communist colonies in the brothels, barracks and prisons.” —Marx & Engels, The German Ideology (1845-6), Vol. II, Ch. 4, section IV, online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch04d.htm
The exchange of commodities for each other without using the medium of money. For example, someone might trade a TV set for a piece of furniture. Or on the international level, one country might trade a number of tons of iron ore for a certain large number of bushels of wheat.
Barter began in prehistoric times, before money even existed yet. The origin of money, in fact, lies in the tendency to compare the value of different bartered goods to a standard commodity (such as gold) which is relatively rare, indestructable, portable, and so forth. In the modern world, large-scale barter between nations is often an indication that no stable or otherwise acceptable common currency is available to smooth the transaction. Within a country, barter is sometimes used between individuals or companies to hide income and thus avoid paying taxes on that income.
A type of particle in physics which is composed of three quarks. Protons and neutrons are two of the most common and important examples. At one time baryons were considered to be “elementary particles”, just as atoms were before them.
BASE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE
Concepts of historical materialism: The base (or “basis”, or “economic base”) is the totality of the underlying relations of production in a given society, or in other words, the underlying economic structure; the superstructure is the totality of all the social phenomena which ultimately arise from this base and depend upon it, but nevertheless also tend to influence the base in its turn. The superstructure therefore includes social consciousness (including all forms of ideology), human social relationships other than those which constitute the relations of production, and institutions and organizations that make up society, such as the State, political parties, law courts, churches, etc.
“The general guiding principle of my studies can be summarized as follows: In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or—this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms—with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.” —Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Preface, (January 1859), MECW 29:263.
BASEL MANIFESTO (1912)
“A Manifesto on war adopted unanimously by an Extraordinary Congress of the 2nd International held in Basle [or Basel] (Switzerland) on November 24-25, 1912. The Manifesto pointed out the predatory aims of the war the imperialists were preparing and called upon the workers of all countries to wage a resolute struggle against war. The Basle Manifesto repeated the propositions of the resolution adopted by the Stuttgart Congress of the 2nd International in 1907, moved by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, that if an imperialist war should break out, socialists should take advantage of the economic and political crisis created by the war to prepare for a socialist revolution. When the World War broke out in 1914, the leaders of the 2nd International, Kautsky, Vandervelde and others, who had voted for the Manifesto, consigned it to oblivion and began to support their imperialist governments.” —Note 24, Lenin, SW 3 (1967).
See: GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME
One hundredth of one percentage point. This is a non-ambiguous way of talking about changes in percentages, which is most commonly used in discussing capitalist finance. If the interest rate on certain types of bonds rises from 7.52% to 8.02% then it has risen by “50 basis points”. (If instead you say that it has “risen by .50%” this could be misinterpreted to mean a rise of .005 x 7.52% = .0376 to a final value of 7.5576%.)
A term coined by Joan Robinson to refer to various other bourgeois economists (especially Americans such as Paul Samuelson) who adopted aspects of the Keynesian perspective but crudely distorted it in the direction of standard neoclassical bourgeois economics, especially by covertly restoring the supposed validity of “Say’s Law”. The “bastards” distorted Keynes by arguing that, given a certain level of savings, the government could ensure enough investment, which Robinson found little different than the neoclassical claim that savings determines investment, and which ignored the effect of insufficient market demand (underconsumption) upon investment. Robinson complained that Keynes’ concept of “effective demand” had been abandoned and also that there was little concern for understanding what capital actually was.
“Say’s Law implied that there could not be a deficiency of demand; the bastard Keynesian doctrine takes the rate of saving as knowable and then through fiscal and monetary policy arranges an equal amount of investment, thus restoring Say’s Law. [Robinson says:] ‘Under its shelter all the old doctrines creep back again, even the doctrine that any given stock of capital will provide employment for any amount of labor at the appropriate equilibrium level.’” —Marjorie Shepherd Turner, Joan Robinson and the Americans (M.E. Sharpe, 1989, p. 111.)
BASTIAT, Frédéric (1803-1881)
French bourgeois economist who preached the harmony of class interests in capitalist society.
The National Day of France, July 14th, which celebrates the storming of the notorious feudal Bastille fortress-prison in Paris by the masses on July 14, 1789. This was a key moment and turning point in the French Revolution. The Bastille, as a symbol of the old regime, was then soon torn down, and all that remains of it today is an outline of its boundary walls on the ground.
“The troops left the capital and the populace remained the unmolested masters of everything.” —The British ambassador in Paris, after the fall of the Bastille.
[Russian term:] A farm laborer or rural proletarian.
All that remains of great soldiers’
—Basho (Japanese poet)
BAUER, Bruno (1809-1882)
German idealist philosopher and ideologist who was one of the “Young Hegelians”. He was a bourgeois Radical and became a national-liberal in 1866.
BAUER, Edgar (1820-1886)
German political writer and “Young Hegelian”; the brother of the better-known Bruno Bauer (see above).
BAUER, Otto (1881-1938)
A prominent Austrian Social-Democrat, and revisionist ideologist of the Second International.
BAY OF PIGS INVASION
The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs location in April 1961 which was organized and directed by the American CIA in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime and put in power a puppet government controlled by U.S. imperialism. The goal from the beginning was to hide U.S. involvement in the invasion and maintain the pretense that the invasion was the work of anti-Castro exiles from Cuba, and this ultimately led to its failure. The CIA organized, trained and supplied the 1,400 member invasion force (which did however include a small number of U.S. military personnel as well as many CIA officers). This imperialist invasion and overthrow effort turned into a complete fiasco for the United States and was easily defeated by the Cuban military in just three days.
Many people are not aware of the back scenes struggle between the CIA and the Kennedy administration which led to this fiasco. The CIA, and its director Allen Dulles, were well aware by the time they assured President Kennedy that the plan would work that it could not actually work unless the U.S. military also supported the invasion. Kennedy had made it clear that he was unwilling to do this because he was pushing a new line for American imperialism and trying to make it appear less threatening to the rest of the world. But the CIA figured that in the end Kennedy would have no other choice and therefore tried to trick him into a course of action he was trying to avoid. It didn’t work. Not because Kennedy was opposed to imperialism, but because he was trying to do a better job of hiding the nature of U.S. imperialism from the world.
“Perhaps the most devasating revelation about the CIA operation emerged
years later, in 2005, when the agency was compelled to release the minutes of a meeting
held by its Cuba task force on November 15, 1960, one week after Kennedy’s election. The
group, which was deliberating on how to brief the president-elect on the pending invasion,
came to an eye-opening conclusion. In the face of strong security measures that Castro
had implemented, the CIA task force admitted, their invasion plan was ‘now seen to be
unachievable, except as a joint [CIA/Department of Defense] action.’ In other words, the
CIA realized that its Bay of Pigs expedition was doomed to fail unless its exile brigade
was reinforced by the power of the U.S. military. But the CIA never shared this sobering
assessment with the president.”
—David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), p. 398. [Talbot, a liberal bourgeois writer and fan of President Kennedy, argues extensively in this book that the CIA went ahead with this plan which—on the face of it—was doomed, because they believed that when it began to fail it would force President Kennedy to turn to a massive U.S. military invasion of Cuba with Marines and U.S. Air Force bombings, to bail out the feeble and inept CIA-organized invasion of Cuban exiles and soldiers of fortune. However, Kennedy was attempting to put a pretty face on American imperialism and hide any direct involvement of the U.S. in schemes to overthrow other governments. For this reason he refused to be manipulated by Allen Dulles and the CIA into using the U.S. military in Cuba, and was even willing to let the whole Bay of Pigs invasion—which he had authorized—collapse instead. However, following that embarassing fiasco, a major focus and even obsession of Kennedy and his administration was to try to arrange for the assassination of Fidel Castro. —Ed.]
“Years after the Bay of Pigs, historians—including the CIA’s own Jack
Pfeiffer—painted a portrait of Dulles as a spymaster in decline, bumbling and disengaged
and maybe too advanced in years, at age sixty-eight, for the rigors of his job. Only a spy
chief with a shaky grasp on the tiller could have overlooked the deep flaws embedded in
the Bay of Pigs strategy, it was stated.
“But, as usual, there was method to Dulles’s seeming carelessness. It is now clear that the CIA’s Bay of Pigs expedition was not simply doomed to fail, it was meant to fail. And its failure was designed to trigger the real action—an all-out, U.S. military invasion of the island. Dulles plunged ahead with his hopeless, paramilitary mission—an expedition that he had staffed with ‘C-minus’ officers and expendable Cuban ‘puppets’—because he was serenely confident that, in the heat of battle, Kennedy would be forced to send the Marines crashing ashore. Dulles was banking on the young, untested commander in chief to cave in to pressure from the Washington war machine, just as other presidents had bent to the spymaster’s will.”
—David Talbot, ibid., pp. 399-400. [Liberals, like Talbot, want to blame wars and most other major crimes of the United States on just the CIA and the Pentagon, and imagine that their heroes, such as John Kennedy and Barack Obama are actually trying to stop such outrages. The reality is quite different. It is just a matter of different imperialist strategies, and both Kennedy and Obama proved only too well that they were also willing and able to use the U.S. war machine when they saw the need to do so. Kennedy, for crying out loud, came close to ending human civilization in his game of nuclear chicken with Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis just 16 months later! But it is true that even intra-ruling class struggles over imperialist strategy can be quite ferocious at times. —Ed.]
BAYLE, Pierre (1647-1706)
French skeptical philosopher and critic of religious dogmatism. He was a forerunner of the French Enlightenment, and the author of Dictionnaire historique et critique (1695-7). This work was viewed as notorious in its own day for, among other things, arguing that morality and religion are not in any way essentially connected, and for illustrating this in part by exposing the outrageously immoral conduct of many Church officials.
Shorthand for “Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel”, called for by the growing numbers of people who oppose Zionism and the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. “Divest” refers to the demand that pension funds and other agencies sell all their stocks and bonds in companies or agencies that support Zionism.
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