Glossary of Revolutionary Marxism

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BACON, Francis   (1561-1626)
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Philosophical doggerel about Bacon.

BAD (Adj.)
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.
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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, with Paul Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (1966).

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.

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.)

BEBEL, August   (1840-1913)
One of the founders of the German Social-Democratic Party, and a prominent leader of it and the Second International. For the most part, he actively opposed revisionism and reformism.

1. [In psychology and and ethology (the study of animal behavior):] The view that a scientific approach to the study of mind should not discuss any internal mental states, but should rather simply focus on outward observable behavior. (However, often those psychologists who favor this approach also uphold behaviorism in the philosophical sense as well: see definition 2.) Among the well-known behaviorist psychologists were J. B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990).
2. [In philosophy:] An erroneous
naive materialist theory of the mind, which holds that for a person or animal to exhibit mental states or capacities is just for it to have certain behavioral dispositions. Behaviorism thus in effect denies the existence of mental phemonena. While it is true that mental phenomena have a material basis in the processes and functioning of the brain, it is absurd to deny the existence of these phenomena or to imagine that our internal recognition of them is some sort of invalid fantasy, as the behaviorists suggest.
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about behaviorism.

BENTHAM, Jeremy (1748-1832)
English moral philosopher and judicial reformer, and one of the main founders of
utilitarianism. Bentham, more than anyone, was responsible for giving utilitarianism its bourgeois, hedonist twist.
        Marx appropriately calls Bentham “an arch-Philistine” and an “insipid, pedantic, leather-tongued oracle of the ordinary bourgeois intelligence of the 19th century”. In a footnote he adds: “With the dryest naivete he [Bentham] takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shopkeeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is abolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future.... [Bentham is] a genius in the way of bourgeois stupidity.” —Marx, Capital, vol. I, ch. XXIV, sect. 5: (International, pp. 609-610; Penguin, pp. 758-9.)
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Bentham.

BERGSON, Henri (1859-1941)
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        See also:
Philosophical doggerel about Bergson.

BERKELEY, George (1685-1753)
Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop. Berkeley (whose name is pronounced “bark-lee”) was an exponent of
subjective idealism, and held that everything in the world is dependent for its existence upon being in someone’s mind, or in the mind of God.
        See also: Philosophical doggerel about Berkeley.

Monarchist gangs of thugs in Tsarist Russia formed by the police to fight against the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries, hounded progressives among the intellectuals and organized anti-Jewish pogroms.

BLANC, Louis   (1811-1882)
French historian and petty-bourgeois socialist. During the February Revolution in France in 1848 he participated in the Provisional Government, but through his conciliation with the bourgeoisie helped them to undercut the workers' revolutionary struggle. After the suppression of the June uprising in 1848 to went to England and returned to France in 1870. In 1871 he was elected to the National Assembly, but did not join the Paris Commune and instead remained one of its enemies.

BLANQUI, Louis Auguste   (1805-1881)
Dedicated French revolutionary and utopian communist. He was the leader of a succession of secret revolutionary societies, participated in several conspiracies to seize political power, and as a consequence of the failure of these plots ended up spending over 36 years in prison. It has aptly been said of him that whenever a revolutionary upsurge struck France Louis Blanqui was not a leader of it—because he was already in prison! Marx and Engels admired Blanqui for his revolutionary enthusiasm and dedication, but they strongly criticized him for his conspiratorial strategy and failure to understand the necessity of organizing the masses for revolution, and making the revolution a mass-based phenomenon. Blanqui himself had little knowledge about how to organize the masses, had little faith in them or their potential, and actually did not really trust the masses. He thought that once one of his conspiratorial plots was successful he would still not be able to fully trust the masses for some time or institute democracy. In this he showed his pronounced
paternalistic attitudes toward the people. (That is not a complement!)

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BOND [In capitalist economics]
A security certificate, or “IOU”, for a long-term loan either to a corporation or to a government (or government agency). Bonds usually pay a fixed rate of interest for a fixed period, and at the end of that period the principal must be repaid in full. (However, in a capitalist society—which inherently depends on ever-rising debt—the principal for expiring bonds is most often paid by raising money through the issue and sale of new bonds!) Most of the time bonds are more conservative investments than stocks; they have less risk of a sudden fall in market value, but also less possibility of increased value through any Ponzi-like general rise in prices such as often occurs in the stock market. Nevertheless, the owner of the bond may also sell it at market prices to another investor, who will then receive the interest and also get the returned principal when it comes due. Since there is this market of fluctuating bond prices, there is also gambling by speculators who hope to buy low and sell high and therefore cheat the other investors/speculators.
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The form of capitalist society in which the
dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is camouflaged by superficial (i.e., fundamentally false) democratic forms. One favorite technique is to alternate rule between two different bourgeois political parties, both of which represent the fundamental interests of the capitalists and which differ only on secondary questions on which the capitalists themselves are not in agreement. The masses are accorded a minor role in deciding which of these two basically indistinguishable parties (from the proletarian point of view) shall administer capitalist power in any given period, in order to give them the illusion that they are controlling society. Whenever bourgeois rule is seriously threatened the capitalists dispense with the camouflage and resort to fascism.

“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor.” —Lenin, “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” (Oct.-Nov. 1918), LCW 28:243.

“There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violation of public order’, and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner.” —Lenin, ibid., LCW 28:244.

Any of numerous variations of moral attitudes and views which express the basic interests of the bourgeoisie. For example all forms of bourgeois morality defend—either explicitly or implicitly—the right of the capitalists to exploit workers.

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The capitalist class; the ruling class in capitalist society, which owns the
means of production (factories, etc.) and exploits hired labor.

“By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labor.” —Engels, footnote added to the 1888 English edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, MECW 6:482.

BOURGEOISIE—Past Revolutionary Role Of
While the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, is today the most reactionary and anti-revolutionary class, and the class that stands in the way of social progress, this was not always so. In its youth the bourgeoisie led in the struggle against feudalism in Europe, and in that long past age actually played a most revolutionary role in society.

“Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communications by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
         “We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
         “Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class.” —Marx & Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), MECW 6:486.

“The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.
         “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” —Marx & Engels, ibid., MECW 6:486-7.

The basic post-World War II international monetary system between countries which was agreed upon in 1944 at a conference at Bretton Woods, a resort in New Hampshire, by the Allied capitalist powers who went on to achieve victory in the war. At that time, after a prolonged period of depression and world war, the U.S. held most of the gold bullion in the world, so the foundation of the new system was the U.S. dollar which was pegged to gold. All other currencies of capitalist countries were then fixed against the dollar.
        However, over the next quarter century, as the economies of other countries (including the defeated Axis countries of Germany, Japan and Italy) recovered and more rapidly developed than the U.S., the holdings of gold by the U.S. declined rapidly. If nothing was done the U.S. would soon be depleted of gold and the whole system would collapse. In 1971, President Nixon unilaterally abandoned the Bretton Woods system by removing the connection between the U.S. dollar and gold (i.e., refusing to exchange dollars held by foreign governments for gold anymore). Since the Bretton Woods system collapsed, the currencies of the major capitalist countries have generally had floating exchange rates with each other. (Many minor currencies, however, have still been pegged to the dollar, with re-pegging as necessary when the imperialist exploitation of these countries, and consequent financial crises there, leads to a fall in the perceived value of their currencies.)
        The Bretton Woods conference also led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which from the start have served the interests of the major Western imperialist countries, and especially the U.S.

BUKHARIN, Nikolai Ivanovich   (1888-1938)
One of the long-time prominent leaders of the Bolsheviks. While he had many disagreements with Lenin, Lenin still highly valued him. At the time of Lenin’s death he was one of the three most prominent leaders of the Communist Party (along with
Stalin and Trotsky). [More to be added... ]

BUBBLES [Economics]
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