“BE OPEN AND ABOVE-BOARD”
See: “OPEN AND ABOVE-BOARD”
The qualities or collection of qualities in a person or thing which gives great pleasure to the senses and thus stirs one’s emotions. In the 19th century beauty was considered to be the exclusive, or else by far the main, concern in the philosophy of art. But over the past century aesthetics has expanded to include a great many other concerns, such as questions about what sort of thing a work of art is, why art is so important to human beings and why it has such a great impact on us, what the relation is between art and society, and so forth. Even the answer to the question “What makes a work of art a good work?”, which was formerly assumed to be simply beauty has now been greatly expanded to include things such as the effect of the work upon society, the degree to which the work influences other artists, etc. In short, beauty, while still quite important in aesthetics, is no longer all-important.
BEBEL, August (1840-1913)
One of the founders of the German Social-Democratic Party, and a prominent leader of it and the Second International. He was of working class origins and was President of the Union of German Workers’ Associations from 1867 on, a member of the First International and an elected Deputy to the North German and Imperial Reichstags. He opposed the Lassalleans, and during the Franco-Prussian War took a proletarian internationalist stand. In 1872, along with Wilhelm Liebknecht, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for treason because of his opposition to that war. Bebel was a friend and associate of Marx and Engels and for the most part he actively opposed revisionism and reformism.
1. [In psychology 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 or so-called “logical” 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; also known as “logical behaviorism”:] 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.
BEIJING (PEKING) OPERA
A traditional form of Chinese opera which originally developed during the period 1790 to 1828 during the Qing Dynasty, and has been widely viewed as one of most refined expressions of Chinese culture. Besides stage setting, music, singing, dance and drama it also frequently includes elements of ballet and even acrobatics. Works in this genre are often historical and cover the entire history of China. But for revolutionaries the most important era was that of Revolutionary Peking Opera during the Chinese Revolution and the Mao years of the People’s Republic, and especially the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing took a special interest in promoting the revolutionizing of this art form. Among the classic Revolutionary Peking Operas created and staged during this period are: “Shachipang”, “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy”, “The Red Lantern”, “The White-haired Girl”, and “On the Docks”. Probably the most famous of all (though it may be considered more of a ballet than an opera) was “The Red Detachment of Women”, the film version of which not only promotes revolutionary politics but features absolutely superb dancing.
When the capitalist-roaders seized power in a coup d’état after Mao’s death one of the first moves they made with regard to Beijing Opera was to try to deny the important role Jiang Qing had played. But as they moved to the right they soon rejected the works of Revolutionary Peking Opera almost entirely. Starting in 1978 they tried to reintroduce the older (especially pre-revolutionary) works of Beijing Opera again, including via television performances, but the interest and support of this art form based on those old or non-revolutionary themes rapidly diminished and has by now almost disappeared.
See also the pamphlet by Jiang Qing and others, “On the Revolution in Peking Opera” (1968), online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/G4/JiangQing/OnTheRevolutionOfPekingOpera-ChiangChing-1968.pdf
See: PEKING REVIEW
[To be added...]
See also: EXISTENCE
BELL, Daniel (1919-2011)
American bourgeois sociologist best known for his theories of so-called “post-industrialism” (a term which he coined). His early career was spent as a journalist on various establishment magazines, including 10 years working for the corporate business magazine Fortune.
A favorite theme in bourgeois sociology is that capitalist ideology has triumphed for all time and that all other ideologies, and especially Marxism, are now “dead”. The ruling class therefore welcomed with open arms his influential book The End of Ideology (1960) which proclaimed the “exhaustion” of non-bourgeois ideas. His obituary in the Economist (Feb. 5, 2011) wryly noted, however, that “His timing could hardly have been worse: the 1960s was one of the most ideologically charged decades in American history.” And, indeed, we are now once again entering another period of rising anti-capitalist ideology, as is inevitable when capitalism sinks into crisis.
In his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973), Bell noted the ongoing relative expansion of service industries (as compared with manufacturing), the growth of technology industries (as compared with old-line industries), the rise of what are now often called “knowledge workers” (as opposed to blue-collar and clerical workers), and the waning of the class struggle in the United States. The first and second of these trends were indeed occurring, but in characterizing this as the rise of “post-industrial society” Bell failed to appreciate the absolutely essential nature of the continuing manufacturing base in any economy. The long-term gradual destruction of the manufacturing base in the United States, which has been going on for decades now, has become one major aspect of its extremely serious structural crisis.
Bell’s third idea, about the rise of “knowledge workers” was also true for a time. But we are now in a period when even “knowledge work” is in very serious decline in the U.S. One reason is the offshoring of more and more of this work overseas. The other, deeper, reason is that computers are now leading to the automation of not just manufacturing and clerical jobs, but also ever-growing numbers of “high-tech” jobs. Bell’s fourth idea, about the decline of the class struggle in the U.S. also reflected a temporary phenomenon, which was only possible because of the expansion of American imperialism and the intensified exploitation of other countries. In recent decades, and especially since the collapse of the “New Economy” bubble around 2001, the ruling class has been forced to spread around ever fewer crumbs from the imperialist banquet table to the U.S. working class. In general Bell recognized some contemporary socioeconomic trends circa 1970, but did not begin to understand the limits of those trends.
Bell’s book The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976) worries that capitalist culture promotes insatiable desires for endless self-gratification by people, which might destroy the work ethic which he, like Max Weber, claims was a major factor in the development of capitalism. In fact, this type of unrestrained consumerism has helped promote huge debt bubbles which have allowed capitalism to avoid sinking into a new depression for as long as it has. Capitalism needs debt bubbles to function at all, and a culture which promotes such bubbles is therefore also necessary to it—despite the obvious fact that all such bubbles must burst in the end.
Daniel Bell considered himself to be a social democrat at least through the 1970s, and as late as 1978 wrote that “I am a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” However, this was always the absurdly phony “socialism” of those who think that socialism is compatible with capitalism. Bell served on a couple Presidential advisory commissions in the 1960s and 1970s, and was a life-long ideologist of the bourgeoisie. He was always totally opposed to genuine socialism and social revolution.
A logical demonstration, derived by physicist John S. Bell, from the axioms and postulates of quantum mechanics, that one or the other of the following two options must be true:
1) We must deny that particles (and other, larger quantum mechanical entities) have any definite properties until they are measured; or
2) We must allow that the separate and isolated particles in the universe are somehow connected with others distantly located in a way which allows instantaneous communication between them. (This option seems to violate Special Relativity.)
Bell’s Theorem has been used to argue for the absurd Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and against any possible validity for the Hidden-Variables Interpretation. Obviously neither option is very palatable to materialists, though perhaps the second is slightly less repulsive than the first.)
However, though deductively valid, Bell’s Theorem is only a sound argument provided that the initial assumptions (axioms and postulates of quantum mechanics) are actually correct (true). Several lines of opposition to the conclusions of Bell’s Theorem are therefore possible, since the conclusions seem to only hold within the theoretical framework of quantum mechanics. If there is some way to investigate particles (or other aspects of the physical world) in a non-quantum-mechanical way, then Bell’s Theorem may not even apply. Moreover, we know that in the macro world we have all sorts of ways of investigating reality in non-quantum-mechanical ways. The issue would then be whether or not there are similar methods to investigate the micro world.
Another possible line of opposition to Bell’s Theorem may lie in simply rejecting or reformulating one or more of the axioms and postulates that Bell used to prove his theorem.
Yet another line of attack on this apparently idealist theorem, and an attack that is quite devastating, is to demand some coherent explanation of what “measurement” is supposed to amount to in quantum mechanics. (This has never yet been reasonably stated or clarified.) We should by no means just assume that Bell’s Theorem is actually sound and applicable to all of reality. Personally, I’m quite sure that one of these forms of criticism of the Theorem will completely shoot it down in the end. —S.H.
BELL TRADE ACT
A law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1946 which re-established U.S. imperialist economic domination of the Philippines after World War II, and in effect restored U.S. economic control of the Philippines. The act had five major provisions: 1) It established reciprocal free trade (which favors the dominant country) until 1954, after which gradually increasing duties could be imposed on both sides until 1973 when full trade tariffs could be imposed; 2) The Philippines was prohibited from imposing taxes on exports to the U.S.; 3) Absolute quotas (limits) were imposed on 7 important Philippine exports to the U.S. (including sugar, coconut oil, hemp and tobacco); 4) It established a pegged rate of exchange between the Philippine peso and the dollar, so that the Philippines could not alter the exchange rate or impose restrictions on the transfer of money to the U.S. [In other words the U.S. had control over the Philippine currency.]; and 5) Granted the U.S. President the authority to suspend any part of the act if he should decide that the Philippines was discriminating in any way against U.S. citizens or business interests.
At the same time the U.S. Congress passed the Philippine Rehabilitation Act which provided $620 million in war damage payments to the Philippines, but only on the condition that the Philippines agreed to the Bell Trade Act. (This was the carrot that the U.S. dangled along with their big stick.) Part of this act also required “parity rights” for U.S. citizens in the Philippines equal to the economic rights of Filipinos in their own country. The Bell Trade Act enraged many Filipinos, but the compliant Philippine government voted to accept it. In 1955 the Bell Trade Act was modified by the somewhat less onerous Laurel-Langley agreement.
BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE
A major economic and political program by contemporary capitalist-imperialist China to expand trade with, and economic penetration into, other countries, especially in Asia and Europe. This program was first formally proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. It focuses on expanding trade and eliminating obstacles to trade, but also promotes economic policy coordination with other countries and more financial integration with them under Chinese leadership. Major efforts to expand and improve transportation and communication facilities between China and other countries are also involved. As of October 2017 more than 100 countries have agreed to support and participate in this plan; more than 50 countries have already signed cooperation agreements with China related to this initiative; and China has already built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 “Belt & Road” countries.
This Initiative is a major part of the growing internationalization of Chinese-based capital and an important part of the ever expanding Chinese economic challenge to the older imperialist powers, especially the United States.
See also: EUROPE-CHINA RAILROAD
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 absolutely 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.
BERDYAEV, Nikolai Alexandrovich (1874-1948)
Reactionary religious and idealist philosopher and mystic. In his youth he became what was called a “Legal Marxist”, but afterwards became very hostile to Marxism and the revolution. His philosophy has sometimes been characterized as a type of Christian existentialism. For a few years after the October Revolution he was permitted to continue writing and lecturing in Russia. But in 1922 he was exiled via a “Philosophers’ Ship” because of his unrestrained hostility to socialism and the Soviet Union.
BERGSON, Henri (1859-1941)
Reactionary French idealist philosopher known for his unscientific theory of vitalism.
See also: ÉLAN VITAL, NEUTRAL MONISM, and 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.
BERNANKE, Ben (1953- )
A prominent American bourgeois economist who was appointed by President George W. Bush to succeed Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 1, 2006. Four years later President Obama reappointed Bernanke for a second 4-year term. Bernanke oversaw the Federal Reserves’s greatest increase in power since its initial creation in 1913. But he was incapable of preventing the great financial crisis that developed so ferociously in the fall of 2008, as part of the what came to be known as the Great Recession.
Bernanke is supposed to be one of the greatest “authorities” on the financial and economic aspects of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but as the quotation below shows, he doesn’t even understand the basic cause of that Depression. In a speech in honor of the ultra-reactionary bourgeois economist, Milton Friedman, Bernanke said:
“Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna [Schwartz, Friedman’s coauthor]: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.” —FRB Speech: Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke, At the Conference to Honor Milton Friedman, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, November 8, 2002.
Thus Bernanke does not even recognize that depressions are inherent in the capitalist mode of production! Instead, like most bourgeois economists, he thinks the (last) Great Depression was entirely due to “mistakes” on the part of government officials. Meanwhile, he was in charge of the U.S. economy as it stumbled in the direction of the next Great Depression, and came damned close to tipping into it on his watch (in the form of the very serious Great Recession)! While the massive Keynesianism of both the Bush and Obama administrations, which Bernanke supported, did indeed mitigate that financial crisis and worst recession since World War II, it foreshadows a much worse scenario which is bound to arrive before long. And when it does, Bernanke and his fellow bourgeois economists will be left scratching their heads and wondering, “What the hell happened?!”
“We do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system.” —Ben Bernanke, May 17, 2007, just three months before those “spillovers” were a huge factor in causing a major financial crisis and the Great Recession. [Quoted in Business Week, Dec. 31, 2007, p. 24.]
BERNSTEIN, Eduard (1850-1932)
A prominent German social-democratic revisionist theoretician and politician, who led the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) into what he called “evolutionary socialism” and what we revolutionary Marxists recognize as mere bourgeois liberal reformism.
See also below and: BREAKDOWN THEORY, “ORGANIZED CAPITALISM”
A revisionist trend in international Social-Democracy which arose in Germany at the end of the 19th century and which is named after one of its most prominent advocates, Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein strove to revise the revolutionary heart out of Marxism in the spirit of bourgeois liberalism. In Russia Bernsteinism took form as “Legal Marxism”, “Economism”, Bundism and Menshevism. Similar trends have developed in other countries.
“The essence of the ‘new’ trend, which adopts a ‘critical’ attitude
towards ‘obsolete dogmatic’ Marxism, has been clearly enough presented by
Bernstein and demonstrated by Millerand [who gave
up revolution and joined the capitalist government].
“[According to them] Social-Democracy must change from a party of social revolution into a democratic party of social reforms. Bernstein has surrounded this political demand with a whole battery of well-attuned ‘new’ arguments and reasonings. Denied was the possibility of putting socialism on a scientific basis and of demonstrating its necessity and inevitability from the point of view of the materialist conception of history. Denied was the fact of growing impoverishment, the process of proletarisation, and the intensification of capitalist contradictions; the very concept, ‘ultimate aim’, was declared to be unsound, and the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat was completely rejected. Denied was the antithesis in principle between liberalism and socialism. Denied was the theory of the class struggle, on the alleged grounds that it could not be applied to a strictly democratic society governed according to the will of the majority, etc.
“Thus, the demand for a decisive turn from revolutionary Social-Democracy to bourgeois social-reformism was accompanied by a no less decisive turn towards bourgeois criticism of all the fundamental ideas of Marxism.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (February 1902), LCW 5:352-3; (NY: International, 1969), p. 9.
BETHUNE, Norman (1890-1939)
Norman Bethune was a Canadian surgeon and Communist who worked in Spain in support of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, and who later went to China to work in the medical core of what became the People’s Liberation Army. He died in China in 1939 of blood poisoning after nicking himself with a scalpel during a long day of operations on wounded soldiers.
In his early medical career in Canada he recognized that many of the greatest health problems arose because poor people did not have adequate access to the health care system; from the failure of the health system to focus on preventive medicine; and from other consequences of the capitalist social system in general. During the Great Depression of the 1930s Bethune frequently sought out the poor and provided them with free medical care. He was also one of the earliest advocates of a national health care system for everyone (“socialized medicine”).
While in Spain he developed the world’s first mobile medical unit which administered blood-transfusions and operated on soldiers near the front lines, thus saving many lives. In China he further developed this idea into more complete mobile surgical hospitals which saved the lives of a great many revolutionary soldiers. (Other armies later copied this idea, including the United States Army which developed its “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” (M.A.S.H.) units late in World War II and more extensively in Korea and other imperialist wars.)
After his death, Mao Zedong immortalized Bethune’s internationalist revolutionary spirit in a very famous essay, “In Memory of Norman Bethune” [available online at: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_25.htm ]. Ever since then Norman Bethune has been an inspiration to both the Chinese people, and to all Communists around the world.
“[Comrade Norman Bethune] arrived in Yenan in the spring of last year,
went to work in the Wutai Mountains, and to our great sorrow died a martyr at his post.
What kind of spirit is this that makes a foreigner selflessly adopt the cause of the
Chinese people’s liberation as his own? It is the spirit of internationalism, the spirit
of communism, from which every Chinese Communist must learn....
“Comrade Bethune and I met only once. Afterwards he wrote me many letters. But I was busy, and I wrote him only one letter and do not even know if he ever received it. I am deeply grieved over his death. Now we are all commemorating him, which shows how profoundly his spirit inspires everyone. We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people. A man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.” —Mao, “In Memory of Norman Bethune” (Dec. 21, 1939), SW2:337-8.
BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY (BJP)
The main parliamentary party in India which represents right-wing Hindu nationalism, and desires the establishment of a theocratic Hindu state. The largest force in the network of organizations behind the BJP is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is a fascist Hindu nationalist organization. The BJP/RSS/etc. groups seek to gather support from Hindus by attacking non-Hindus, and have been behind most of the “communal violence” that has been so frequent and horrific in India.
See also: HINDUTVA
BHOODAN ANDOLAN [“Land Gift Movement”]
A voluntary land reform movement in India started by Archarya Vinoba Bhave in 1951. It was launched in the same naïve spirit of the philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi, and begged the landlords to simply give some of their excess land to the landless poor. A few did so, out of guilt or to appear beneficent or else from fear that they might otherwise lose all of their land through mass violence. However, compared to the great need for land by the poor, only a pittance was donated. Moreover, much of the donated land was of poor quality, and actually unsuitable for agriculture. Even worse, much of the supposedly “donated” land was actually given in name only, with the rich landlords retaining possession and control in reality.
For a recent Times of India report (Dec. 10, 2009) describing how farmers who have supposedly been the “beneficiaries” of this “Land Gift Movement” are now completely disillusioned and turning to revolution, see: “Bhoodan Farmers Ready to Emulate Maoists”
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page