I'm following a tutorial where my urlpatterns are:

urlpatterns = patterns('',
    url(r'^passwords/$', PasswordListView.as_view(), name='passwords_api_root'),
    url(r'^passwords/(?P<id>[0-9]+)$', PasswordInstanceView.as_view(), name='passwords_api_instance'),
    ...other urls here...,

The PasswordListView and PasswordInstanceView are supposed to be class based views. I could not figure out the meaning of the name parameter. Is it a default parameter passed to the view?

No. It is just that django gives you the option to name your views in case you need to refer to them from your code, or your templates. This is useful and good practice because you avoid hardcoding urls on your code or inside your templates. Even if you change the actual url, you don't have to change anything else, since you will refer to them by name.

e.x with views:

from django.http import HttpResponseRedirect
from django.core.urlresolvers import reverse #this is deprecated in django 2.0+
from django.urls import reverse #use this for django 2.0+

def myview(request):
    passwords_url = reverse('passwords_api_root')  # this returns the string `/passwords/`
    return HttpResponseRedirect(passwords_url)

More here.

e.x. in templates

<p>Please go <a href="{% url 'passwords_api_root' %}">here</a></p>

More here.