Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Bl - Bn   —

The tiny part of the banking industry in the U.S. which is owned by African-Americans and whose customer base is usually almost entirely African-Americans. These banks are nearly always small, not very profitable (as compared to giant white-owned banks), and provide little support even for the feeble and generally hopeless efforts in American bourgeois society to promote
Black Capitalism.

“[F]or over a century, black communities have been urged by black and white leaders to rely on these segregated black banks in order to reach individual and community prosperity. What comes into stark focus as we study these banks over time is the tangible barrier to prosperty presented by segregation, racism, and government credit policy. The effects of these forces on black banks demonstrate that successful banking and wealth accumulation would remain perpetually elusive in a segregated economy. Housing segregation, racism, and Jim Crow credit policies create an inescapable economic trap for black communities and their banks. Black banking has been an anemic response to racial inequality that has yielded virtually nothing in closing the wealth gap.
        “Despite these grim economic realities, each of the following leaders has championed black banking: Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, President Lincoln, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Center Woodson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers, President Johnson, President Nixon, Alan Greenspan, President Carter, President Reagan, President Clinton, and President Obama among others. On issues of race, there is little else that these leaders would have agreed on. Black-owned banks represented something different to each of them, but to all they held the promise that a successful black bank would lead to prosperity for blacks regardless of external circumstances.” —Mehrsa Baradaran, The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap (2017), pp. 1-2.
         [With regard to Malcolm X, he did once say “show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a bloodsucker” (quoted in Earl Ofari, The Myth of Black Capitalism (1976), p. 3.) But Ms. Baradaran also quotes him as asking: “Why should white people be running the banks of our community?”, which is apparently taken from Malcom X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (1965), p. 39. While it is therefore true that Malcolm X was hostile to capitalism and even hostile to wealthy Blacks, it seems he was much more of a Black nationalist than he was an anti-capitalist. The Black Panther Party was in its best period a consciously anti-capitalist organization, but this greatly weakened or perhaps even disappeared in its last years. In the early 1970s they urged Blacks to “Support the businesses that support our community.” (Baradaran, p. 189.) And Baradaran quotes the Black sociologist Robert Staples as saying, “one of the most curious turnabouts was the Panthers’ embrace of Black Capitalism.”
         [Ms. Baradaran is a liberal reformer who thinks that this essentially total failure of Black banks to promote the economic development of Black people and increase their wealth is the fault not of capitalism, but of government policies which support giant white-owned banking corporations and discriminate against Black-owned banks. In reality, while such government discrimination does indeed exist and aggravate the problem, the vast and still-increasing profits of white-owned banks and financial corporations also does not flow down to working-class white people. The economic wealth of the entire working class—white, Black and others—has been slowly declining for the last half century, since the beginning of the Long Slowdown in the rate of growth of the U.S economy around 1973. In addition, the capitalist system absolutely needs a large army of the unemployed to keep wages down and the workers divided, and this in turn promotes the existence of an “underclass”, which for racist reasons includes a great many African-Americans. Black banks and Black capitalism no more work in the economic interests of Black people generally than white-owned banks and white-owned capitalist corporations work in the interests of white people. Despite what Ms. Baradaran believes, capitalism really is the central problem here. —Ed.]

“The black ghetto and the white suburb were created by heavy state intervention. A government credit infrastructure propelled the growth of the American economy and relegated the ghetto economy to a permanently inferior position. The government-created credit apparatus did not cross the red lines that policymakers drew around the ghetto, and within the color line a separate and unequal economy took root. If free-market capitalism is understood as allowing the laws of supply and demand to operate without state intervention, then the black ghetto was certainly engaged in capitalism, but at a time when white America was not. [Presumably she is saying this because the capitalist state is now partially merged with and supporting giant white-owned banks, but is not doing the same for small truly private black-owned banks. —Ed.] Black capitalism, as it turned out, meant capitalism only for blacks.” —Mehrsa Baradaran, ibid., p. 6. [Yes, the racist largely white American ruling class has indeed considerably aggravated the economic situation for African-Americans as compared with whites. But, again, this only compounds the basic reality that capitalism, whether owned and controlled by whites or blacks, is not at all in the interests of the workers and masses, period. —Ed.]

The region of the American Southeast in which the soil is a dark black color. This is also the region where most Black slaves were held on plantations during the slave era and where, in the aftermath of slavery, the African-American populations remained quite high. However, during the 20th century a large part of this Black or African-American population moved to northern industrial states to find jobs, especially during and after World War II. So since then it is no longer true that the Black Belt is the exclusive, or even primary, home region of Black Americans.
        See also below.

The theory or viewpoint that African-Americans not only have a moral right to reclaim their ancestral homeland in the Black Belt area of the American Southeast as their own, but that they absolutely should do so, and that any opposition to doing so (even on the part of Blacks!) is a white racist point of view.
        Of course, what people have a right to do, and what it is actually in their own true interests to do, can be very different things, as certainly seems to be the case here.

“Though the majority of Black people have been dispersed from their homeland in the U.S., millions remain in this ‘Black Belt’ area, mainly in the cities, and millions in the North still have ties with the deep South. Though the majority of Blacks living in the North were born there, 3 in 10 were born in the South, most in the ‘Black Belt’ area. The dispersal of millions of Blacks from the ‘Black Belt’ in the last several decades has been the result of economic compulsion; and often the same kind of terror that was used to force Blacks back onto the plantations after the Civil War and Reconstruction was used after WW II to force them off, when it became most profitable for the imperialists. For all these reasons the working class and its Party upholds the right of Black people to return to and reclaim their homeland.
        “The right of self-determination, the right of nations to establish their own independent state, is a key aspect of equality between nations, and the proletariat supports this right in order to unite workers of all nations in the common struggle against imperialism. The proletariat and its Party in the U.S. upholds the right of Black people to self-determination, the right to secede from the rest of the U.S. and set up a separate state in the general area of the ‘Black Belt.’
        “But at the same time the right to form a separate state is not the same thing as the obligation to do so, and upholding the right to secede is not necessarily the same thing as saying secession is correct. The proletariat and its Party does not advocate this separation for Black people nor favor it under present and foreseeable conditions. Nor does it see that reconstituting Black people in the deep South in order to exercise their right of self-determination is the main thrust and highest goal of the Black people’s struggle. Self-determination is a legitimate demand for Black people, but it is not the main demand.
        “The main demands are those common to all oppressed nationalities in the U.S. The main thrust of the Black people’s struggle is against these common forms of national oppression, against class exploitation, for proletarian revolution as the means to end both, and for socialism and communism as the highest goal.”
         —Programme and Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (1975), pp. 122-3. [In the almost 40 years since this was written the ties of most Blacks in the North to the “Black Belt” South have further weakened, and the actual feasibility of establishing an economically viable separate country in that area have further diminished. However, the general point of view in this passage still seems correct to me. —S.H.]

The Black Belt Theory [is] a dogmatist and narrow nationalist fantasy under today’s conditions, [and] is based on various resolutions on the Black national question passed by the Communist International (Comintern) in the 1920s and 1930s. It holds that the heart of the struggle for Black liberation is and should be for self-determination, the right to form a separate country in the Black Belt area of the South (a large, crescent shaped area in the South, named for the color of its soil).
        “Those who argue for this theory try to conceal their opportunism behind the fact that Black people are a nation and that this nation was forged in, and its people once lived primarily as sharecroppers and small farmers in, the Black Belt. But this theory ignores the tremendous changes in the conditions under which Black people are oppressed and exploited which have occurred since World War I and especially since World War II. Today Black people are overwhelmingly workers in the Northern and Southern cities and suffer national oppression under these conditions. Their struggle and demands reflect this central fact....
        “For more on the Black Belt Theory, see the article, ‘Living Socialism and Dead Dogmatism: The Proletarian Line and the Struggle Against Opportunism on the National Question in the U.S.,’ reprinted from Red Papers 6 in The Communist, Vol. 1, No. 2.” —Bill Klingel and Joanne Psihountas, “Important Struggles in Building the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” (Oct. 1978), p. 48, online at:
https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/RCP/Pamphlets/ImportantStrugglesInBuildingTheRCPUSA-1978.pdf   The article referenced in The Communist is online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/RCP/TheCommunist/TheCommunist-RCP-02-May1977.pdf

See also:

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.

The buying or selling of commodities under illegal circumstances. The goods sold may be stolen or smuggled, or have escaped government taxes, or be priced outside the bounds of current law (when price controls exist), or may consist of things (such as certain drugs or types of weapons) which the government has made illegal for ordinary people to possess.
        In recent decades the dominant currency used in many black markets overseas has been the American dollar. By the 1990s about 75% of all U.S. $100 bills in circulation were overseas. It is thought that the production of very convincing counterfeit $100 bills, largely for use in such black markets, is what forced the U.S. government to redesign that bill in 1996. (The currency used in illegal black markets mostly comes from, and eventually gets redeposited into, “legitimate” commercial banks.) The black market within the U.S. itself may account for as much as 10% of GDP, but in many Third World countries it is thought to be a much higher percentage than that.

[To be added... ]
        See also:
FRED HAMPTON,   GERONIMO PRATT,   “FIELD SLAVES, HOUSE SLAVES”,   COINTELPRO,   and COINTELPRO: FBI’s War on Black America (1989) [high quality 50 min. documentary video by Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis. Removed from the Internet at one point, but now as of Jan. 11, 2020, probably the same film is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYbxsXBYyk0].

A term invented by the Wall Street gambler Nassim Nicholas Taleb to refer to a major, supposedly unforeseeable event that fundamentally changes the situation. As applied to the bourgeois economy and the advent of financial crises, these things are not really “unforeseeable”, except for the precise timing of them. In other words, those who talk about “Black Swans” are usually only showing their own surprise and ignorance about some sudden new crisis and why it has developed.

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 he 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!)

“The Blanquists, Lenin wrote, expected ‘that mankind will be emancipated from wage-slavery, not by the proletarian class struggle, but through a conspiracy hatched by a small minority of intellectuals’. Substituting actions by a secret clique of conspirators for the work of a revolutionary party, they did not take into account the actual situation required for a victorious uprising and neglected links with the masses.” —Note 66, Lenin, SW 3 (1967).


“Communists must always go into the whys and wherefores of anything, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well founded; on no account should they follow blindly and encourage slavishness.” —Mao, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work” (Feb. 1, 1942), SW 3:49-50.

In physics and cosmology in contemporary bourgeois society the ancient mystical idea that “All is One”, and that there is no such thing as change (or time!), is still all the rage. One popular version of this nonsense is the “block universe” theory, sometimes also called “eternalism”. The “block universe” refers to the whole history of the universe at once. That is, it abstracts away from particular times, places and conditions. And, what do you know, if you abstract away (ignore) all changes and references to time, then there are no changes, and time is “unreal”. How about that! (Talk about daft!) Here is one cosmologist’s “explanation” of this dopey theory:

“This is a timeless picture, because it refers to the whole history of the universe at once. There is no preferred moment of time, no reference to what time it is now, no reference at all to anything corresponding to our experience of the present moment. No meaning to ‘future’ or ‘past’ or ‘present’....
        “The picture of the history of the universe, taken as one, as a system of events connected by causal relations, is called the block universe. The reason for that perhaps peculiar name is that it suggests that what is real is the whole history at once—the allusion is to a block of stone, from which something solid and unchanging can be carved....
        “These ... arguments lead to a view of nature that denies the reality of the present moment and instead speaks of nature in terms of the block universe picture in which what is real is only the entire history of the world taken as one.” —Lee Smolin, Time Reborn (2013), pp. 57, 58 & 94. [For some short reviews of this book see:

“... natural philosophy, particularly in the Hegelian form, erred because it did not concede to nature any development in time, any ‘succession’ but only ‘co-existence’.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, Preface to the 1885 edition, MECW 25:12. [Contemporary physics and cosmology in bourgeois society, though no longer explicitly Hegelian, often continues this general sort of philosophical idealism. —Ed.]


“A proposed bill in New York has suggested that blocking traffic, a tactic occasionally used in demonstrations, could be considered domestic terrorism.” —“‘Cop City’ Cases Hinge on a New Definition of Domestic Terrorism”, New York Times, Feb. 27, 2024.
         [When a capitalist world finds the masses objecting to their ever-worsening treatment, even if they object in rather mild ways, the ruling class gets more and more vicious (and more and more fascistic) in how it cracks down on the people. —Ed.]


“If your father’s a hero, you’re a good fellow;
          If your father’s counterrevolutionary, you’re a bad egg.”
          —A crude “rule of thumb” which was once used by politically unsophisticated folks in revolutionary China to unjustly condemn people based simply on their
class origin or on the incorrect or criticized views of other family members. Errors and unjust conclusions like this are inevitable when people have not yet had their political consciousness raised to the point where they can generally use more objective and valid criteria to determine the class position and attitudes of other people. A person’s class origin is indeed something to take note of, and if all you know of a person is their origin in a petty-bourgeois or bourgeois family then you certainly have the right to be suspicious. But a correct and reasonable political evaluation of a person requires further investigation and must take into consideration many other things, such as their recent statements and actions.


“On January 9, 1905, over 140,000 St. Petersburg workers carrying gonfalons and icons, marched to the Winter Palace to submit a petition to the tsar. The march was staged by the priest Gapon, an agent of the secret police, at a time when the strike of the Putilov workers, which began on January 3 (16), had already spread to the other factories in the city. The Bolsheviks exposed Gapon’s venture, warning the workers that the tsar might unleash a massacre. The Bolsheviks were right. On orders from the tsar, the troops met the demonstrating workers, their wives and children with rifle shots, sabres and Cossack whips. More than a thousand workers were killed and five thousand wounded. January 9, or Bloody Sunday as it came to be known, sparked off the 1905 Revolution.” —Endnote 113, LCW 31.

The unintended negative consequences of a policy or action.
        This term was invented by the American
CIA to describe some of the negative consequences (even from their own reactionary bourgeois perspective) of the overthrow they engineered of the elected Mosaddegh government in Iran in 1953. Of course no class, movement or political party is totally immune from making mistakes which lead to consequences they do not desire. But the U.S. government and its “intelligence” agencies, because of their notorious stupidity, have been particularly prone toward doing this. Chalmers Johnson, who was once a consultant to the CIA himself (but who later became an opponent of American imperialism) wrote a well-known book with the title Blowback (2000) which documents many such episodes, though still from a bourgeois, anti-communist perspective.

“Officials of the Central Intelligence Agency first invented [the term blowback] for their own internal use… [It] refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug lords’ or ‘rogue states’ or ‘illegal arms merchants’ often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.” —Chalmers Johnson, explaining the term ‘blowback’ in his book by that same name.

A Chinese paramilitary group formed by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1930s, on the model of the “Brown Shirts”, Schutzstaffel (SS) and similar groups in European fascist movements, which served as his secret police. They were led by graduates of the
Whampoa Military Academy who were loyal to Chiang. They spied on opponents of the Guomindang [Kuomintang] and carried out assassinations of political opponents and rivals. Blueshirt leader Dai Li is thought to have arranged the assassination of the editor of the leading Shanghai newspaper in 1934.

Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index