Historic course

Historic course

In the period of capitalism's decadence, there are only two possible alternatives to the crisis of capitalism: proletarian revolution, or the destruction of humanity either through world war or the generalised decomposition of human society. Which direction humanity takes - what is the course of history - is determined by the balance of forces between the two fundamental classes in capitalist society, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Capitalism is in deep trouble - why is it so hard to fight it?

We are publishing - rather belatedly due to technical issues - a series of texts that have contributed to the public Day of Discussion held by the ICC in London, in July 2013. The presentations and summaries cover essentially two topics: "Capitalism is in deep trouble - why is it so hard to fight it?", and a discussion on the Transitional period from capitalism to communism. The audio recording for the first session is also available.

20th ICC Congress: Resolution on the international situation

An important part of an ICC Congress is always the discussion of the international situation, since this is a key element in determining the organisation's activity in the years to come. The discussion at the 20th Congress gave rise to the resolution, adopted by the Congress, which we are publishing here.

The Class Struggle In The US: What Point Has It Reached? How To Go Forward?

It is often said that the history of the class struggle in America for the last four decades, that is, since the late 1960’s, is the history of an almost uninterrupted wave of defeats and rollback.Is it then correct to conclude that the working class has lost its battle against capitalism? Should we accept  that we are at the point where the reversal of the balance of forces in favor of the working class is no longer possible?  Are the struggles that the working class still engages in a sign of its waning, a reflection of a slow, but irreversible process toward all-out defeat?  Does all of this mean that the working class is no longer the social force in society that has the potential and historic mission to destroy capitalist relations of exploitation and give birth to a communist world?

Why the proletariat has not yet overthrown capitalism, Part 2

The coming century will be decisive for human history. If capitalism continues to rule the planet, then before 2100 society will be plunged into such barbarism that it will make the 20th century look like a minor headache and either reduce human-kind to the stone-age, or destroy it altogether. If humanity does have a future, then it is wholly in the hands of the world proletariat, whose worldwide revolution alone can overthrow the domination of the capitalist mode of production whose historic crisis is responsible for today's barbarity. But to do so, the proletariat must find in the future the strength to carry out its task, which has been lacking up to now.

Why the proletariat has not yet overthrown capitalism, Part 1

We stand at the dawn of the 21st century. What will it bring humanity? Following the bourgeoisie’s celebrations of the year 2000, we wrote in no.101 of our Review: “So ends the 20th century, the most tragic and barbaric in human history: in social decomposition. The bourgeoisie has celebrated the year 2000 in pomp: it is unlikely to do the same in 2100. Either it will have been overthrown by the proletariat, or humanity will have been destroyed or returned to the Stone Age. And so we stated clearly what is at stake: the 21st century’s outcome depends entirely on the proletariat. Either it will make the revolution, or all civilisation, even humanity, will be destroyed.

Does marxism have a religious view of the historic mission of the working class?

Since the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989, the anti-communist propaganda of the bourgeoisie - based on the 'greatest lie of the 20th century' that claims Stalinism was the inevitable outcome of Marxism - has obtained heights never before imaginable. But moreover, the influence of the classical theses of anarchism - this 'radical' petty bourgeois critique of Marxism-has itself widened, touching even those political circles that seek to link themselves up with Marxism once again. The bourgeois critique, like the anarchist criticism of Marxism, affirms - even in the case where Marx is not relegated to the same ranks as Stalin - that certain fundamental theses of Marxism, supposedly false, prefigured the rise of Stalinism. Notably, the Marxist conception according to which the proletariat has an historic task, a mission to complete, is considered a residue of idealism and even as a religious deformation of the scientific spirit. One finds such anarchist influences even among the declared partisans of historical materialism, for example the review Soziale Befreiung (SB), written by the Unabh�ngige R�tekommunisten (independent council communists) in Germany. This influence does not surprise us since SB declares itself partisan of a "post-Marxist communism" in its new brochure The Terror of Capital (vol. 1).

Polemic with the CWO: Imperialist conflict or capitalist 'peace'?

The ideology of globalisation has generated many myths - as much by its ‘opponents’ as by its advocates. In particular there is the idea that multinational corporations are out of the control of nation states and can move capital to wherever they can make the most profit, regardless of the local circumstances. Ralph Nader wants to save capitalism from the big corporations. Noam Chomsky denounces unaccountable private power and the international institutions which impose the ‘Washington consensus’ of ‘neo-liberalism’. The power of ‘international capital’ (which can be used to mean the US, or big corporations, or the biggest powers, or just an abstract ‘evil’) is presented as being so great that it can even overcome the drive of national capitals towards war. In the words of a leftist group, the “pillage” of the poorest countries continues, not in the same way as the 19th century, but with “the urbane international banker replacing the colonial soldier and tax collector” (Workers Liberty, July 2000). To back up this view that the big global corporations now rule the world, it has been said that t has been said that ‘no two countries with a McDonalds have ever gone to war’.

Cajo Brendel Meetings in Germany

Through his exposes and his contributions to the discussions, Cajo Brendel proved, in our opinion, that the 'classic' positions of the German-Dutch left have lost none of their relevance even if, as Brendel asserted, along with Marx, "our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action". As has long been the case with, what can be called "the Dutch can be called "the Dutch school of marxism", which was animated by, among others, Anton Pannekoek and Hermann Gorter, comrade Brendel denounced the bourgeois character of parliamentarism, the trade unions, and social democracy, and the state capitalist nature of the former eastern bloc. And while the state capitalist currents like Stalinism and Trotskyism have welcomed the new "Red-Green" government in Germany as a step forward for the working class, Brendel showed the profoundly anti-working class nature of this government.

The idea of the historic course in the revolutionary movement

Since the report on the class struggle to the last Congress, there have been no immediate shifts in the overall situation facing the class. The proletariat has demonstrated, through various struggles, that its combativity remains intact and that its discontent is growing (eg transport workers in New York, 'general strike' in Norway, struggles in numerous sectors in France, postal workers in Britain, movements in peripheral countries like Brazil, China, etc). But the situation continues to be much more clearly defined by the difficulties facing the class - difficulties imposed by the conditions of decomposing capitalism but continually reinforced by the bourgeoisie's ideological campaigns about the 'end of the working class', the 'new economy', 'globalisation', and even 'anti-capitalism'. Within the proletarian political milieu, meanwhile, there remain fundamental disagreements about the balance of class forces, with certain groups using the ICC's 'idealist' view of the historic course as a reason for not participating in any joint initiative against the war in Kosovo. This is certainly one reason to focus this report not so much on the struggles of the recent period, but on trying to deepen our understanding of the concept of the historic course as it has developed in the workers' movement: if we are to answer these criticisms effectively, we must obviously go to the historical root of the misunderstandings that infect the proletarian milieu. Another reason is that one of the weaknesses in our own analyses of recent struggles has been a tendency towards immediatism, a tendency to concentrate on particular struggles as 'proof' of our position on the course, or on the difficulties of the struggle as a possible basis for calling our conceptions into question. What follows is very far from an exhaustive survey; it's main aim is to assist the organisation to acquaint itself more closely with the general method through which marxism has approached this question.

The CWO and the Course of History: Accumulation of Contradictions

Inn°5 of Revolutionary Perspectives, the organ of the Communist Workers’Organisation (CWO), we find an article entitled “Sects, Lies, and the LostPerspective of the ICC”, which is intended as a response to our article “ARudderless Policy of Regroupment”, published in the International Reviewn°87 (this text itself being a reply to a letter from the CWO published in thesame issue of the Review). The CWO’s article deals with many questions,notably the method by which communist organisations should be built, to whichwe will return in a later issue of this Review. In this article we willlargely limit ourselves to one aspect of the CWO’s polemic: the idea that theICC is in crisis because of its mistakes in analysing the historic course.

Reply to BC on the Course of History

Since 1968, the revolutionary groups which have come to form the ICC have been arguing that the international wave of workers’ struggles which began in France that year marked a new period in the balance of forces between bourgeoisie and proletariat: the ending of the long period of counter-revolution which followed the reflux of the 1917-23 revolution wave; the opening up of a course towards generalised was class confrontations. While the accelerating collapse of the capitalist economy could not fail to push the bourgeoisie towards another world war, this same economic disintegration was provoking a vigorous resistance by a new and undefeated generation of workers.

International correspondence: Consciousness and strategy of the bourgeoisie

‘Strategy' means forward planning, a serious capacity to weigh up contending forces and to foresee possible futures. To a large extent, and especially in the epoch of decadence, the bourgeoisie has understood (again, in its own mystified way - though we should take it as a rule of thumb that the bourgeoisie always tells less than it knows) that the defense of its most basic requirements cannot be entrusted to any one ‘faction' of capital, which is why it has developed huge state and bloc structures to ensure that this job gets done whatever the vagaries of this or that faction or party.

Why the alternative is war or revolution

Between 1845 and 1847, the world, and Europe in particular, following on from a series ofbad harvests, went through a grave economic crisis. In France the price of grain doubled, giving rise tohunger riots. The ruined peasants could no longer buy industrial products:unemployment  became general, wages fell,the number of bankruptcies soared. The working class embarked on a struggle forreforms: for the limitation of the working day, for a minimum wage, for jobs,for the right to form associations and to strike, for civil equality and thesuppression of privileges, etc.

The Historic Course

The Second International Conference of groups of the Communist Left (November 1978) showed that there is today an extreme confusion in the ranks of the revolutionary movement about the present historical period, and more precisely about:

The course of history

how is it that the ICC can talk about the intensification of inter-imperialist antagonisms today, while at the same time asserting that, since the end of the 1960s, bourgeois society has been in a period of rising class struggle? Isn’t there a contradiction between warning against the danger of war in Africa and the Middle East, and the analysis which holds that the economic crisis has opened up a new course towards proletarian struggle, towards a decisive confrontation between the classes? Are we living through re-run of the 1930s, with generalized war looming on the horizon, or is there a revolutionary perspective in front of us?
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