2019 Resolution on the International Situation – Some Observations and Questions

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KT
2019 Resolution on the International Situation – Some Observations and Questions
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History does not stand still and neither is a Marxist theoretical understanding of the world a static, immutable ‘program’, fit for all time. That said….In Point 6 of the  'Resolution on the International Situation (2019): Imperialist conflicts; life of the bourgeoisie, economic crisis' (1), we read:

“In the paradigm that defines the current situation (until two new imperialist blocs are reconstituted, which may never happen), it is quite possible that the proletariat will suffer a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering, but it is also possible that it will suffer a deep defeat without this having a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society. This is why the notion of "historical course" is no longer able to define the situation of the current world and the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.”

While any Resolution is a synthesis of discussion to which those outside the organisation are (quite rightly) not party, so to speak, nevertheless, as well as overturning theoretical  axes which have been in existence since before the founding of the ICC (the notion of the Historic Course), this development, I believe, requires further erudition.

Is the class struggle, under the conditions of decomposition, no longer the ‘motor force’ of history? Can the proletariat suffer a ‘deep defeat’ (and is that different from a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering?) without “this having a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society…”?

If the parameters are no longer ‘war or class confrontations', what is the perspective, the general ‘line of march’ of society? Presumably the alternative of ‘socialism or barbarism’ remains valid but in which direction is society travelling? Are both (to me) diametrically opposed perspectives – that of communism or that of the disintegration of society – developing simultaneously, along parallel tracks?  If decomposition is ‘the’ major factor defining the evolution of society, isn’t that tantamount to saying that the proletariat is no longer in a position to realise its character as the revolutionary class representing a new mode of production, that communism is off the historical agenda?

Two further elements of note from initial readings of this Resolution: Point 11, dealing with the rise of China, overturns an important plank of the ICC’s previous analysis which insisted on the “impossibility of any emergence of new industrialised nations" in the period of decadence and the condemnation of states "which failed to succeed in their ‘industrial take-off’ before the First World War to stagnate in underdevelopment, or to preserve a chronic backwardness compared to the countries that hold the upper hand."

This section – acknowledging the reality of China’s metamorphosis from ‘stagnation and under-development’ (and it’s not only China) to play the most destructively dynamic roles militarily, economically and in the degradation of the environment - is to be welcomed. The theoretical explanation – that it was the very stranglehold of tendencies toward dual-bloc imperialism between the late 1920s to the late 1980s that prevented the emergence of viable ‘new’ national centres of capitalist accumulation and that it was the implosion of this world imperialist order with the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 that has permitted the emergence of nations notably marked by decomposition – seems sound.

Similarly, Points 13 and 14 dealing with the change in orientation of US imperialism – from multilateralism to unilateralism, from globalisation to 'America First' – seem to be a correct recognition of social reality, the dynamics driving it and the implications arising.

  1. https://en.internationalism.org/content/16704/resolution-international-situation-2019-imperialist-conflicts-life-bourgeoisie

 

 

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

Two further elements of note from initial readings of this Resolution: Point 11, dealing with the rise of China, overturns an important plank of the ICC’s previous analysis which insisted on the “impossibility of any emergence of new industrialised nations" in the period of decadence and the condemnation of states "which failed to succeed in their ‘industrial take-off’ before the First World War to stagnate in underdevelopment, or to preserve a chronic backwardness compared to the countries that hold the upper hand."

This section – acknowledging the reality of China’s metamorphosis from ‘stagnation and under-development’ (and it’s not only China) to play the most destructively dynamic roles militarily, economically and in the degradation of the environment - is to be welcomed. The theoretical explanation – that it was the very stranglehold of tendencies toward dual-bloc imperialism between the late 1920s to the late 1980s that prevented the emergence of viable ‘new’ national centres of capitalist accumulation and that it was the implosion of this world imperialist order with the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 that has permitted the emergence of nations notably marked by decomposition – seems sound.

I don't find that explanation particularly strong. Japan, although developing prior to the First World War, did not emege as a dominant imperialist power until the 1930s. In some ways, the rise of Japan in this period defied the tendency towards "dual bloc" formation during this period. Although, nominally aligned with Germany during WWII, its pretty clear that Japan was something like a rogue imperilaist state, pursuing its own agenda. It didn't even participate in the war against the USSR and attacked a still isolationaist US, ensuring its own defeat and that of its "allies."

The so-called rise of China today has to be understood in the context of the re-emergence of the open crisis in the 1970s, the evolution of neo-liberalism and globailization in response to this crisis, the corresponding deindustrialization of much of the West (required to discipline the Keyensiano-Fordist proletariat) and the construction of a mutually dependent form of debt fueled development binding China to the West and the United States in particular. This is a sui generis situation that shouldn't be seen as a late example of previous waves of capitalist development.

Consequently, there is a more or less direct line between the construction of this relationship and the emergence some decades later of populism in the West as something like the last (futile?) gasp of resistance to this process by the Fordist working-class. This, of course, raises the issues broached in the first part of KT's post regarding the state of the proletariat and the communist perspective today.

Link
2019 Resolutions on Int Sit and the Balance of Class Forces

I would support KTs questions about the new Resolution on the International Situation  and add a few of my own as I do agree with him that the idea  being put forward in Pt 6 of the resolution on the international situation is not clearly developed and I don’t think is explained at all by the remainder of the text.  Indeed, I don’t find that the Resolution on the Balance of Class Forces reflects this new position either – was the writer aware of this change of position?

 

I certainly found the documents on the Int Sit and the British situation to contain a great deal of interested points about the current situation and made a lot of good contributions to an ongoing discussion.  

 

However this new concept that an analysis of the balance of class forces cannot explain the current situation and by implication that decomposition is a factor distinct from class forces and is a separate factor influencing the development of capitalism really does need more justification.   Yes clearly the concept of the historic course leading to a wc revolution needed revision.  I would say to KT although the ICC has rather stubbornly held to the concept, this has been a subject of discussion for some time,  the CWO has always been critical of the concept, and only recently myself MH and Cleishbotham took part in a very interesting discussion on this very topic on the CWO forum. Also I would say there’s been internal discussion in the ICC too about how to analysis the extended phase of decadence after the wave of struggles in the 70s as I seem to remember discussion documents being published and I think I’m correct in saying  this was a key area of discussion raised by the fractions in the ICC which went of to form IP and the IGCL. 

 

I disagree with the statement that this change of analysis doesn’t suggest that the ICC’s previously position was incorrect.   Clearly the balance of class forces can very from period to period, but if the balance of class forces is not the only factor affecting the development of capitalism then surely this has must always been true, its not a element of the capitalist system that can come and go at will.

 

Is this resolution suggesting that Decomposition means Barbarism?

 

I also note a remaining contradiction in the analysis in that the ‘machiavellianism of the Bourgeois is not to be underestimated’ yet this period of Decomposition appears to mean the bourgeoisie is also now in a mess and unable to manage society to its own benefit.  This is maybe an element of the discussion of Decomposition which seems to imply that in the 70s and 80s the Bourgeoisie was able to coordinate its actions absolutely to control the working class but suddenly after 1990 we have a period of growing loss of control.  Rather I think it that decomposition (small d) is an ongoing element in the progression of decadence and hence that the capacity of of the B to coordinate has always been at issue during the all periods of decadence

 

Lastly I would like to raise the issue of what is a defeat for the working class?  I don’t remember the ICC suggesting as it does in Pt 6 of the document that there were 2 defeats of the wc in 1914 and after the revolutionary wave of 1917-23 but I can see what is meant there. However, what caused the defeat of 1914 – the betrayal of 2ndInternational?  In which case, the defeat was simply a vote for war or maybe simply the start of a war itself.  There weren’t clear blocs prior to WW1, they were only finally completed as the war started.  So why is there a belief presented in Pt 5 and pt 6 that world war is impossible from 1990 onwards?  Why does Pt 6 seem to imply that the only options today are permanent defeat of the wc which I presume means the elimination of the possibility of a wc revolution or a deep defeat that is inconsequential to the general evolution of capitalism (whatever that means?) Is this not making the same mistake as was made after the 80s when the Years of Truth schema was defended, ie not critically discussed sufficiently well, even when there were clearly major problems with the schema.

 

I look forward to a further clarification of what is meant by Pt 6.

Link
2019 Resolutions on Int Sit and the Balance of Class Forces

I would support KTs questions about the new Resolution on the International Situation  and add a few of my own as I do agree with him that the idea  being put forward in Pt 6 of the resolution on the international situation is not clearly developed and I don’t think is explained at all by the remainder of the text.  Indeed, I don’t find that the Resolution on the Balance of Class Forces reflects this new position either – was the writer aware of this change of position?

 

I certainly found the documents on the Int Sit and the British situation to contain a great deal of interested points about the current situation and made a lot of good contributions to an ongoing discussion.  

 

However this new concept that an analysis of the balance of class forces cannot explain the current situation and by implication that decomposition is a factor distinct from class forces and is a separate factor influencing the development of capitalism really does need more justification.   Yes clearly the concept of the historic course leading to a wc revolution needed revision.  I would say to KT although the ICC has rather stubbornly held to the concept, this has been a subject of discussion for some time,  the CWO has always been critical of the concept, and only recently myself MH and Cleishbotham took part in a very interesting discussion on this very topic on the CWO forum. Also I would say there’s been internal discussion in the ICC too about how to analysis the extended phase of decadence after the wave of struggles in the 70s as I seem to remember discussion documents being published and I think I’m correct in saying  this was a key area of discussion raised by the fractions in the ICC which went of to form IP and the IGCL. 

 

I disagree with the statement that this change of analysis doesn’t suggest that the ICC’s previously position was incorrect.   Clearly the balance of class forces can very from period to period, but if the balance of class forces is not the only factor affecting the development of capitalism then surely this has must always been true, its not a element of the capitalist system that can come and go at will.

 

Is this resolution suggesting that Decomposition means Barbarism?

 

I also note a remaining contradiction in the analysis in that the ‘machiavellianism of the Bourgeois is not to be underestimated’ yet this period of Decomposition appears to mean the bourgeoisie is also now in a mess and unable to manage society to its own benefit.  This is maybe an element of the discussion of Decomposition which seems to imply that in the 70s and 80s the Bourgeoisie was able to coordinate its actions absolutely to control the working class but suddenly after 1990 we have a period of growing loss of control.  Rather I think it that decomposition (small d) is an ongoing element in the progression of decadence and hence that the capacity of of the B to coordinate has always been at issue during the all periods of decadence

 

Lastly I would like to raise the issue of what is a defeat for the working class?  I don’t remember the ICC suggesting as it does in Pt 6 of the document that there were 2 defeats of the wc in 1914 and after the revolutionary wave of 1917-23 but I can see what is meant there. However, what caused the defeat of 1914 – the betrayal of 2ndInternational?  In which case, the defeat was simply a vote for war or maybe simply the start of a war itself.  There weren’t clear blocs prior to WW1, they were only finally completed as the war started.  So why is there a belief presented in Pt 5 and pt 6 that world war is impossible from 1990 onwards?  Why does Pt 6 seem to imply that the only options today are permanent defeat of the wc which I presume means the elimination of the possibility of a wc revolution or a deep defeat that is inconsequential to the general evolution of capitalism (whatever that means?) Is this not making the same mistake as was made after the 80s when the Years of Truth schema was defended, ie not critically discussed sufficiently well, even when there were clearly major problems with the schema.

 

I look forward to a further clarification of what is meant by Pt 6.

Alf
historic course

KT and Link are right to pose questions regarding the new formulations contained in the resolution on the international situation, and we will certainly be developing more explanatory articles which go further into this. For the moment I just want to say that the 'change of paradigm' is not entirely a new departure for the ICC, rather it's an attempt to be more consistent with our overall analysis of the phase of decomposition. The concept of the historic course was developed by the communist left to deal with a situation where the alternative between socialism and barbarism - which still very much remains the choice facing humanity - took the concrete form of a choice between world war and world revolution, as in the 1930s (when the course was clearly towards world war) and the period 1968 to 1989 (when the working class struggle acted as an obstacle to world war). The onset of the phase of decomposition (conditioned, let's not forget, by the stalemate between the classes, so no question of the class struggle no longer being a factor in the historic situation) changed the situation radically, taking world imperialist war off the agenda as a result of the growing tendency towards every man for himself at the imperialist level. In a report written for the 14th ICC congress in 2001 we already recognised that this new situation had profound implications for the concept of the historic course: 

The onset of the period of decomposition has thus altered the way in which we pose the question of the historic course. But it has not made it irrelevant, on the contrary. In fact it tends to focus even more sharply the central question: is it too late? Has the proletariat already been defeated? Is there any obstacle to the descent into total barbarism? As we have said, it is less easy to answer the question today than in a period when world war was still a more direct option for the bourgeoisie. Thus, Bilan for example was able to point not only to the bloody defeat of proletarian uprisings and the ensuing counter-revolutionary terror in the countries where the revolution rose the highest, but also to the subsequent ideological mobilisation for war, the 'positive' adherence of the working class to the war-banners of the ruling class (fascism, democracy, etc). In today's conditions, where capitalist decomposition can engulf the proletariat without a single frontal defeat, and without this kind of 'positive' mobilisation, the signs of irrecoverable defeat are by definition harder to discern. Nevertheless, the key to understanding the problem resides in the same place as it did in 1923, or, as we saw in the GCF's analysis, in 1945 - in the central concentrations of the world proletariat, and above all in Western Europe. Did these sectors of the world proletariat say their last word in the 1980s, (or as some would have it, in the 1970s), or do they retain sufficient reserves of combativity, and a sufficient potential for the development of class consciousness, to ensure that major class confrontations are still on the agenda of history? https://en.internationalism.org/ir/107_class_struggle.html

We would stand by most of this but it doesn't follow the logic of the argument to its conclusion. The idea of the balance of class forces is not identical to the concept of a historic course, a course towards world war or a course towards class confrontation posing the question of revolution; as the resolution implies, the concept of a balance of class forces could be applied to the 19th century but not the concept of a historic course. This is also developed in the 2001 report. Other points posed by KT, JK and Link can be taken up later on. 

MH
Agree with KT and Link

I agree with pretty much everything KT and Link say and I share their concerns.

It’s perhaps significant that these resolutions have prompted swift reactions from ex-members and long-time sympathisers of the ICC, who not only recognise the departure they represent from previous positions but also some of the contradictions, inconsistencies and questions they raise.

As Link suggests, a lot of the issues raised by the resolutions can be traced back to the ICC’s position on the historic course. During the recent discussion on the CWO forum I changed my view of this and I now think the whole concept as defended by the ICC since its formation has been deeply flawed. Following on from this I think a lot of the confusions in the resolutions are the result of trying to reconcile changes in reality with the basic flawed concept and I’m writing something at the moment to try to better understand all this. 

We still await a report on the work of the Congress of course, which may reveal more about the reasons for the positions put forward here, and the apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in them. In the meantime, for those interested, I’ve written a more extended critique of these resolutions here.

I'd like to come back on some of the specific issues Link raises. 

 

 

Alf
22nd congress resolution

To further illustrate the point made in my previous post, I would like to point to a passage in the resolution on the international class struggle from the 22nd ICC Congress which returns to the problem posed in the 2001 text and comes closer to resolving it without explicitly concluding that the term 'historic course' does not apply to the present historical phase of decomposition: 

The class movements that erupted in the advanced countries after 1968 marked the end of the counter-revolution, and the continuing resistance of the working class constituted an obstacle to the bourgeoisie’s “solution” to the economic crisis: world war. It was possible to define this period as a “course towards massive class confrontations”, and to insist that a course towards war could not be opened up without a head-on defeat of an insurgent working class. In the new phase, the disintegration of both imperialist blocs took world war off the agenda independently of the level of class struggle. But this meant that the question of the historic course could no longer be posed in the same terms. The inability of capitalism to overcome its contradictions still means that it can only offer humanity a future of barbarism, whose contours can already be glimpsed in a hellish combination of local and regional wars, ecological devastation, pogromism and fratricidal social violence. But unlike world war, which requires a direct physical as well as ideological defeat of the working class, this “new” descent into barbarism operates in a slower, more insidious manner which can gradually engulf the working class and render it incapable of reconstituting itself as a class. The criterion for measuring the evolution of the balance of forces between the classes can no longer be that the proletariat holding back world war, and has in general become more difficult to gage.

In addition, I would suggest a re-reading of the Theses on Decomposition, first published in 1990, where this basic problematic was originally posed https://en.internationalism.org/ir/107_decomposition

MH
Response to Alf

Alf, I’ve now read both your posts and the quotes from the two ICC texts. I’m still struggling to understand what the ICC’s position is, I think partly because the quotes you provided both still defend the validity of the historic course.

So, just to be absolutely clear: the ICC has now concluded that the concept of a 'historic course' is no longer valid in the phase of decomposition, because world war is no longer on the agenda?

As Link has already pointed out, the resolution on the balance of class forces still uncritically defends the perspective of a course towards class confrontations. Is this just an error? 

 

Alf
Course and decomposition

Yes, we have "concluded that the concept of the historic course is no longer valid in the phase of decomposition, because world war is no longer on the agenda".

The resolution on the balance of class forces doesn't use the term "course towards class confrontations". It says that the working class in the centres of the system has not suffered major historical defeats and that the possibility of major class confrontations remains open. But the problem with this phase is that if the working class does not respond, does not take its resistance to a higher level, it can be gradually overwhelmed by decomposition to the point where revolution becomes impossible. The key difference with the previous period, in our view, is that a frontal defeat for the working class would open the way to world war. In this period it could simply accelerate barbarism past the point of no return, or (less likely, but not impossible) result in world war (and thus, again, irreversible barbarism).  And even without a frontal defeat the working class can be slowly ground down by decomposition. This is why this phase is even more dangerous than the previous one. These ideas are already put forward in the 1990 theses. 

jk1921
Alf wrote:

Alf wrote:

Yes, we have "concluded that the concept of the historic course is no longer valid in the phase of decomposition, because world war is no longer on the agenda".

The resolution on the balance of class forces doesn't use the term "course towards class confrontations". It says that the working class in the centres of the system has not suffered major historical defeats and that the possibility of major class confrontations remains open. But the problem with this phase is that if the working class does not respond, does not take its resistance to a higher level, it can be gradually overwhelmed by decomposition to the point where revolution becomes impossible. The key difference with the previous period, in our view, is that a frontal defeat for the working class would open the way to world war. In this period it could simply accelerate barbarism past the point of no return, or (less likely, but not impossible) result in world war (and thus, again, irreversible barbarism).  And even without a frontal defeat the working class can be slowly ground down by decomposition. This is why this phase is even more dangerous than the previous one. These ideas are already put forward in the 1990 theses. 

I don't see anything fundamentally new here, but how do we conceptualize a "frontal defeat'? The idea that communism could become materially impossible becasue the proletariat is "ground down by decomposition," adds a level of uncertainty to the equation. How do we know when such a point had been reached and "ground down" how exactly? Materially, on the level of its living and working conditions, or in terms of its consciousness, divisions, subcumbing to ideological campaigns, etc.? We are still thinking a "frontal defeat" is possible today absent an historic course? What would that look like?

jk1921
RE: Terminal Phase

The resolution says that China's development is marked by the "terminal phase" of capitalism. But it is not clear what argument is being made exactly here: a continuation of Luxemburg's idea that while new nations may be "born" in this phase, their development does not pose anything progressive for humanity? Or is something more specific being claimed about the global dynamics of the current period, something more in line with my observations above, regarding the reciprocal relationship between Chinese growth and deindustrialization and the deconstruction of the Fordist proletariant in the old capitalist core?

Alf
that's certainly part of it

Both the general and specific claims confirm that what has happened with China is closer to the death rattle than to the capitalism of its youth. Yes we are in the terminal phase of capitalism. Very few, even among the revolutionaries, are prepared to recognise this. 

Link
Yes it is difficult to gauge

Yes it is difficult to gauge what happens next, nobody disagrees.  Its never been anything else even for Marxists.

 

Yes there is a possibility of Barbarism. Of course that’s true.  Socialism or Barbarism has always been a Marxist long term projection.   Luxemburg said Barbarism had arrived with WW1 so barbarism gets ever closer.

 

Yes of course the collapse of the Russian Bloc made war less likely – well certainly in the short term!!           

 

Yes the collapse of the Russian Bloc initiated a new period in which the Bourgousie appears to be losing control of its system.  The old mainstream politicians can no longer convince anyone that a recovery can be made so new irrational populist policies are coming to the fore.   Not that during the past century, any left communists have been concerned to label the B as rational at any time!!  So in reality this new period is only being so extremely problematic to those that had the machiavellianist viewpoint that before 1990 all B factions worked together consciously and effectively to organise the world and control the wc.

 

The more I consider the attempts by Alf to explain this change of position the more confused I get.  I do hope somebody will make some effort to make a clear explanation of how the ICC analyses capitalism today  because I agree with MH  that the ICC is creating schema to justify past schema rather than to follow  “Self-criticism, remorseless, cruel, and going to the core of things.   If its wrong because the old theory no longer tallies to reality then say so and start afresh but don’t bullshit us as to how good you were in the past - that only makes things worse now.  Didn’t Luxemburg also say something like that the worst errors of revolutionaries are far better than best analysis of the reformists.

 

Yes I can see that the ICC is saying maybe there could be a world war and maybe not, maybe there could be a revolution and maybe not, maybe a war could lead to revolution and maybe not, and maybe there could be barbarism and maybe not.  Again whats new?   Apart from the last point, they all appear as afterthoughts though in this new version of the ICC schema

To be blunt,  isn’t the ICC  simply playing the  role of a prophet of doom by trying to say that we are already too late and that Barbarism is taking over?  

 

‘…the possibility of major class confrontations remains open. But the problem with this phase is that if the working class does not respond, does not take its resistance to a higher level, it can be gradually overwhelmed by decomposition to the point where revolution becomes impossible’   So whats new here, again nothing apart from the ever more overt negativity being expressed by the ICC .

 

Does this mean the ICC has either rejected or reduced (and if so by how much) the possibility of a wc revolution?

 

Not so long ago the ICC criticised everybody else quite vehemently because they saw that the wc struggle was weakening and the B was gaining ground and accused them of academicism and withdrawing from intervention.  This was followed after a few years by the ICC withdrawing from intervention for internal reasons and thereby following almost a decade of introspection!  So where is the ICC now, stressing the negatives in the present situation without any real need

What would the old ICC have said about the current ICC?

 

The class struggle is no longer the motor force of history!  Have we already reached the stage of Barbarism therefore?  That is the only way I can see any justification for saying such a thing.

 

Yes I agree the course of history concept had a lot of problems, and they apparently make it hard for the ICC to make a clear analysis of today situation, so it needs ‘remorseless self criticism’  - still

 

Why on earth is a major war impossible just because the Russian bloc collapsed leaving only 1 bloc.  Where is the historical justification for this?  WW1 is not relevant and WW2 only just fits with the idea of needing 2 blocs.  Is that sufficient historical precedent to justify the impossibility of war today.   Its absurd and trying to justify it leads to – rejecting class struggle as the motor force of history to explain the lack of a war!!  Dont circular arguments create  marvellous contortions.   Could it not just be that the lack or a 2nd bloc or a nascent bloc has lead to a temporary withdrawal from the perspective of world war?

 

Should it not be considered that the premise of the course of history is wrong as MH points out.   Perhaps just because there is no world war doesn’t mean there should be a movement to wc revolution and indeed vice versa.  Perhaps just because the Bourgoisie is on top in the class struggle doesn’t mean an automatic move towards war.    Perhaps these last few decades provide actual evidence of that,indeed even better evidence than that found to create the idea of the impossibility of a future world war.

 

The bourgoisie clearly regained a position of strength in the class struggle form the 80s onwards and this is one of the driving forces for a need to revise analyses of historic course.   A range of policies correctly mentioned in the resolution help the B achieve that.   I questioned the ICC with the idea the B is on top but it hasn’t gone to war.  For the ICC it was explained to me that yes this is true but this meant there is a stalemate in the course of history - justified by the idea that in a chess match you can have one side with a powerful position but still be a drawn match.  Stalemate means blocs are not policing capitalism as intently as before and so this further meant decomposition must be taking place and lo and behold populism comes along to  prove that.

 

After the 2019 resolution that stalemate is supposed to mean that the class struggle no longer has sufficient influence over moves to war or revolution because its decomposition that caused the stalemate.

 

Decomposition as the last phase of capitalism gained a lot of criticism from various perspectives mainly because it remains fundamentally unclear (and not least this schema that this is the last phase that surely precludes revolution as well as war).   Now we have further contortions to keep it justified (eg JK points out that China’s substantial development has lead to a theory that it is a product of  disintegration of capitalism – should this rather be a big question mark against Luxemburg’s markets theory and idea of saturated markets)

 

Again, is the ICC position that Barbarism has arrived.  If so say so.   I think this would be a much clearer point for discussion because only that situation would signify to the rest of us that the motor forces of capitalism have broken down.  Comrades could agree or not instead of just being confused by increasing complex and unclear ICC positions.

MH
Some more questions

Alf wrote:

Yes, we have "concluded that the concept of the historic course is no longer valid in the phase of decomposition, because world war is no longer on the agenda".

Ok, that’s clear. It raises a load of other questions, about whether the threat of generalised war is really off the agenda, but it’s probably helpful to put down a marker on this.

Alf wrote:

The resolution on the balance of class forces doesn't use the term "course towards class confrontations". It says that the working class in the centres of the system has not suffered major historical defeats and that the possibility of major class confrontations remains open.

Well…..it quotes without qualification the 1990 Theses on Decomposition which still defended the position that the historic course was towards class confrontations (Point 13): "Today, the historical perspective remains completely open … the class has not suffered any major defeats on the terrain of its struggle”.

But let’s move on. The Resolution on the Int Sit argues that since 1989 the ‘general dynamic of capitalist society’ “is no longer determined by the balance of forces between classes. Whatever the balance of forces, world war is no longer on the agenda, but capitalism will continue to sink into decay”.

We're all clearly struggling with this.

First of all, surely the decay of capitalism has never been determined by the balance of class forces - because it is located in the contradictions of the system itself? And if the balance of class forces is no longer the determining factor in capitalist society, what is to stop full-blown barbarism today? Is the balance of class forces stil la factor at all? If so, to what extent?

The ICC’s original position on decomposition was that it was the result of a temporary stalemate between the classes, in other words it was determined by the balance of class forces:

“It is precisely this temporary stalemate, where for the moment neither the bourgeois nor the proletarian alternative can emerge openly, that lies at the origin of capitalism's putrefaction, and which explains the extreme degree of decadent capitalism's barbarity.” (IR 57)

Has the ICC now rejected this view? 

baboon
I read through the relevant

I read through the relevant texts above a couple of times a few days after they were posted up. I intended to make some comments straightaway but what with one thing and another... There's some complexity to the texts and some difficulties in trying to clearly formulate developments and their place in the overall framework, but, on the whole, my first impressions was one of serious and positive work. I haven't seen anything so far to change that position.

During the phase of the ICC's "enthusiasms" over the immediate prospects of revolutionary struggle (late 70's, early 80's - a time when I was a member), a general over-estimation that was totally eclipsed by the CWO's, also came the warnings to stop and think, the need for sober assessments, the need to face unpalatable truths, which were all there in the positions and resolutions of the Current even at that stage of enthusiasm. There's no Royal Road to revolution and there's certainly no guarantee that even if a proletarian revolution took place it would be successful. It's interesting to see Link's assessment of the ICC's latest position as "negativity" and "Prophet's of Doom", precisely the terms used against it by layers of anarchism over ten years ago.

I think that the explanation about the rise of China is useful is useful in the context and negates nothing of the ICC's previous analyses.

Decomposition is now the major factor in the stakes of socialism or barbarism. The need for the bourgeoisie to mobilise the working class for world war is now off the immediate agenda. It's not eliminated but the overriding tendency is one towards fractionalisation and not one towards bloc coherence. That could change over a more or less indeterminate period of time but it's nowhere on the agenda in the coming period given the centrifugal tendencies of capitalism arising from its decomposition (what's "decomposition with a small d" Link?). Decomposition is not a fixed process and the longer it develops the more compromised becomes the possibly of a successful revolution. That much is obvious surely?

There's a lot of discussion, quite rightly, it's a very important issue, about working class defeats. Mobilised for war and defeated 1914, revolution and counter-revolution that took a decade to take hold and from that the long mobilisation for WWII. A defeat, but the line of march even in these depths still held and interventions were still made, while revolutionary work continued. It wasn't for nothing because we owe it to our existence. As far as general defeats of the working class goes since then, the crushing of the miners' strike in Britain and its international repercussions was a defeat of the working class; the collapse of the eastern bloc, a monumentus event that took place while a working class looked on as outside, bewildered observers, was a defeat for the working class; the war in ex-Yugoslavia, a particularly bestial atrocity orchestrated by the major powers that took place in a country where a few years earlier workers were mobilising, self-organisation and spreading strikes - that was defeat for the working class along with the wars that followed right up to the bloody retribution exacted by imperialism for the Arab Spring.

And I think that a particularly chilling defeat of the working class has been the movement of the "gilets jaunes", a populist, nationalist citizen's movement drowning the working class and its history under the banner of the bourgeois revolution of 1789 and present-day democracy (on populism, I'm bemused by Link's "along came populism", what does that mean?). Here, at the heart of Western Europe containing one of the most experienced and comative sector of the working class, was diffused and confused by a populist trap.

Positive elements of the class struggle have appeared interspersing these defeats and they have pushed the bourgeoisie back here and there, but they've hardly been up to the scale that we think is necessary. The clarification in the Resolution is that the working class doesn't have to be mobilised by war and during this period the working class could just be ground down by decomposition and the perspective of revolution disappear for a good, long time. It's possible that the effects of capitalist decomposition become such that almost all life with find difficulty surviving. I don't think that the proletariat is irreparably beaten today and its condition essentially remains the same but it is living through the final phase of capitalism and it has to face, cope with and overcome the growing consequences of that.

baboon
To take up another point

To take up another point raised in Link's post which is supposed to show the contradictions of the ICC's positions:
For Link, two aspects of the ICC's analysis are contradictory and serve to undermine its positions. These two points are: 1. the bourgeoisie's loss of control that comes with decomposition and 2. the ability of the bourgeoisie to use elements of decomposition against the working class - two elements that according to Link are mutually exclusive.

These two positions are certainly expressions of contradictory elements within capitalist decomposition but they are not contradictory within a marxist analysis and perfectly compatible from this point of view. There is both a loss of control by the bourgeoisie and an ability to use the effects of decomposition against the working class. It is happening everywhere in the international situation.

One major example of it that continues to this day, is the collapse of the eastern bloc and "the victory of capitalism". The ICC developed its analysis of the collapse of the eastern bloc and its global and historical consequences (with some difficulties it admits) while the bourgeoisie were still in denial. But events have demonstrated time and again that while this represented a loss of control by the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie, at significant levels against class consciousness, was able to turn this event and use it against the working class in a very powerful way.

Another, later example is the movement of the "gilets jaunes", a movement that the IC C (for all its deficiencies in analysing the class struggle) did not ignore. This reactionary movement was called what it was from the beginning by the ICC and it didn't make apologies for it, support it any way, nor close its eyes and wait for something positive to emerge from it - which was never going to happen. The French state was initially taken by surprise by its loss of control of the social situation provoked mainly by the petty-bourgeoisie. But, with a calculated policy it was able to use these same elements of decomposition against the movement that led to a further strengthening of the French state and a further weakening of the working class.

 

jk1921
"That could change over a

"That could change over a more or less indeterminate period of time but it's nowhere on the agenda in the coming period given the centrifugal tendencies of capitalism arising from its decomposition (what's "decomposition with a small d" Link?). Decomposition is not a fixed process and the longer it develops the more compromised becomes the possibly of a successful revolution. That much is obvious surely?"

What is not obvious is the idea that capitalism as a social relation is decomposing. The ICC's intial formulation of the concept was as "social decomposition," resulting from the crisis of capitalism and the inability of either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat to impose its historic solution to the crisis: generalized war or proletarian revolution. If this is now changed to suggest that capitalism itself is decomposing, this needs further explanation and development. How exactly does capitalism as a social relationship decompose? On the contrary, the period of social decomposition could even been seen as the increasing penetration of capitalist relationship into ever more proected areas of social life, i.e. the "commodification of everything." 

"And I think that a particularly chilling defeat of the working class has been the movement of the "gilets jaunes", a populist, nationalist citizen's movement drowning the working class and its history under the banner of the bourgeois revolution of 1789 and present-day democracy (on populism, I'm bemused by Link's "along came populism", what does that mean?). Here, at the heart of Western Europe containing one of the most experienced and comative sector of the working class, was diffused and confused by a populist trap."

This seems tautological to me. The working class has suffered a defeat because of its participation in a movement that defeated it? Surely, the defeat--if there was one--must have occurred beforehand. The disorientation that allowed participation in such a movement must have been preexisting. What was its nature? Where did it come from them? I do not agree with this conception of "populism," as some kind of independent force against the working class, emanating from some other social class. Populism is in part a feature of the working class' current condition: the conflict between a still dying Kenyensian-Fordist mode of regulation and a neo-liberal one, that by its very nature does not include the entire proletariat and evokes reistance against its particular features and contradictions: the casualization of work, the maximization of labour flexibility and mobility, mass immigration and its resultant social and cultural changes, etc.

MH
Good point

jk1921 wrote:

What is not obvious is the idea that capitalism as a social relation is decomposing. The ICC's intial formulation of the concept was as "social decomposition," resulting from the crisis of capitalism and the inability of either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat to impose its historic solution to the crisis: generalized war or proletarian revolution. If this is now changed to suggest that capitalism itself is decomposing, this needs further explanation and development. How exactly does capitalism as a social relationship decompose?

I think that's  a very good point. We sem to be seeing 'decomposition' change from being the result of a temporary stalemente between the classes to become a 'thing' in itself driving capitalist society in the ICC's analysis.

But decomposition only exists because capitalism is dynamic; it can't stand still. The cycle of accumuation continues. The productive forces are still growing even, though more and more constrained. Capitalism still shows signs of spectacular 'growth'. It's just that the consequences of this continue to worsen; in Luxemburg's view of decadence capitalism becomes even more of an 'accumulation of catastrophes' for humanity. This is inevitable in the absence of a response from the proletariat.

A secondary point; I do think there's something of a euro-centric, 'old world' vision of decomposition from the ICC sometimes. Go to Shanghai and talk about decomposition; it's there, but in the midst of dynamic, spectacular-looking development. That's capitalism.

 

baboon
Regarding Shanghai and the

Regarding Shanghai and the "scent" of progress:
"Capitalism is the most dynamic mode of production in history (Thesis 5) and "the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, which means the relations of production, that is to say the whole of social relations" (Communist Manifesto). This gives the impression of a permanent "modernity", of a society which, despite everything, "progresses" and develops. One consequence of this is that decomposition does not occur uniformly in all countries. It is more attenuated in China and other Asian countries. On the other hand, it takes a much more extreme form in other parts of the world, for example in Africa or in some countries of Latin America. All this tends to "hide" decomposition. One might say that the nauseating odour it produces is diminished by the seductive perfume of "modernity"". (Report on decomposition today, from the ICC's 22nd Congress).

I've read the two latest texts on decomposition posted from the ICC's 22nd and 23rd congresses and note that in these (although I may have missed it, there's very little mention, if anything), on the way the bourgeoisie, despite its general loss of control, continues to use the effects of decomposition against the working class further weakening it and its perspectives. The class struggle is not a major concern of the bourgeoisie at the moment but it is always a concern of the bourgeoisie and it doesn't lose an opportunity to drive home its advantage. It continues to use the "bankruptcy of communism" from the collapse of the eastern bloc. It has come up with various anti-populist strategies (anti-Trump, anti-Brexit, etc.) and it was used by the French state, mainly Macron and the trade unions, in order to drive home the disorientation of the working class - the redeeming feature of the latter being that it stayed away from the "gilets jaunes" mobilisations in large numbers. It has also used, while remaining problemmatic for it, the issue of independence (Spain) and devolution (Scotland, Wales and Ireland) in order to further divide the working class. It my be implicit in the texts but I think it deserves tobe drawn out more.

MH
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

Regarding Shanghai and the "scent" of progress “…decomposition does not occur uniformly in all countries. It is more attenuated in China and other Asian countries.”

Yes I did see that.

Elsewhere the ICC has written about the “never seen before in the whole history of capitalism” growth of China in the last 30 years.

It has also written about the contradictory development of the productive forces and the real scientific advances made in the phase of decomposition.

As decadence continues, the contradiction between the potential of the productive forces and the barrier of wage labour and capital becomes ever more extreme while decomposition continues to erode the superstructure of capitalist society.   

So I don’t disagree with the ICC’s basic position on decomposition. But I don’t think in the circumstances “attenuated” quite cuts it. I think we need a vision and an analysis which is fully able to express all these aspects of the contradictions of capitalism in this period.

Meanwhile, I don’t think KT’s original questions have really been answered:

KT wrote:

Is the class struggle, under the conditions of decomposition, no longer the ‘motor force’ of history? Can the proletariat suffer a ‘deep defeat’ (and is that different from a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering?) without “this having a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society…”?

 

If the parameters are no longer ‘war or class confrontations', what is the perspective, the general ‘line of march’ of society? Presumably the alternative of ‘socialism or barbarism’ remains valid but in which direction is society travelling? Are both (to me) diametrically opposed perspectives – that of communism or that of the disintegration of society – developing simultaneously, along parallel tracks?  If decomposition is ‘the’ major factor defining the evolution of society, isn’t that tantamount to saying that the proletariat is no longer in a position to realise its character as the revolutionary class representing a new mode of production, that communism is off the historical agenda?

On the specific question of the historic course I have written a longer text on the ICC’s position here.

baboon
The congress texts from the

The congress texts from the ICC bear a great deal of scrutiny still but having said that I think that some of the responses above show a certain amount of panic, excess and incomprehension - while others raise some pertinent points and elements of clarification.  I think that while there's a certain different emphasis given to some major  elements of the class struggle in the texts, this emphasis or "attenuation" is entirely in continuity with previous orientation texts of the ICC.

My opinion is that the class struggle remains the motor force of history as long as capitalism, as long as classes exist. While this represents the defence of a marxist framework it doesn't, particularly given the development of decomposition, cannot, guarantee a major clash of the two main classes, let alone a revolutionary insurrection. Such guarantees are not and have never been part of marxism. The alternative, the possible outcome to a constantly degrading stalemate between the two major classes has already been laid out clearly by Marx and Engels in the concept of the mutual ruin of the contending classes the consequences of which are not the result of "doom-mongering" but are becoming fairly obvious to many workers today. That outcome is a distinct possibility that is contained within the present situation and to ignore or reject it seems to be wishful thinking or folly.

From this the line of march, the needs of proletarian struggle remain the same, as does solidarity with and confidence in the proletariat even if the present direction appears to be more difficult. On defeats, no-one can give a precise assessment on weights and consequences of particular defeats or series of defeats but it's surely beyond dispute that the working class has suffered a number of serious defeats over the last couple of decades and that it can suffer such defeats while its revolutionary perspective can remain intact although weakened; the revolutionary perspective remains a distinct possibility.

I don't think that the ICC's analysis of capitalist decomposition is tantamount to saying that the proletariat is no longer in a position to realise its perspective and that communism is off the historical agenda but, for all the reasons given regarding decomposition, a perspective that was difficult enough anyway, has been rendered more difficult. And it's been made more difficult by a bourgeoisie that has used the effects of decomposition against the working class. The class struggle doesn't consist of one class even or particularly in its phase of decomposition.

Above in one post, the ICC is compared to "doom-mongers" an accusation used by anarchism against it over a decade ago for its perspective of socialism or barbarism.  In my opinion that perspective remains in circumstances that have become more difficult and dangerous for the working class.

Alf
class struggle and history

I strongly support Baboon's post, in particular its effort to understand the relation between the notion of decomposition and the class struggle as a a central determinant of historical unfolding. The concept of decomposition has no meaning separate from a recognition that "all hitherto rcorded history" is the history of class struggle. We are saying that it is the result of a stalemate between the classes, a concept that makes no sense to all those who dismiss the idea that the working class has any significant weight in society and its history. We are also saying, as Baboon points out, that until the working class is unable to pull back from its present retreat, the slide towards the "mutual ruin of the contending classes" can only go on accelerating. 

KT
Not the issue

As far as I can tell, this discussion, on this thread, does not involve militants who "dismiss the idea that the working class has any significant weight in society and its history". On the contrary. So while I can intepret or make my own version of the following statement from the Resolution, I still require further explanation. Because, taken at face value, it seem to deny the very point that Alf, and Baboon (and I) support.

“In the paradigm that defines the current situation (until two new imperialist blocs are reconstituted, which may never happen), it is quite possible that the proletariat will suffer a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering, but it is also possible that it will suffer a deep defeat without this having a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society."

I don't want to get fixated on a particular point, or phraseology of a Resolution whose general orientation I agree with. However, to repeat: I can guess at what the ICC is trying to get at here but guessing is not good enough. What is this passage trying to convey?

 

MH
Logical conclusion?

Alf wrote:
We are also saying, as Baboon points out, that until the working class is unable to pull back from its present retreat, the slide towards the "mutual ruin of the contending classes" can only go on accelerating.

As KT points out, this discussion is not about the role of the class struggle in general. It seems to me the only logical conclusion to be drawn from Alf's statement, and from the ICC's position on decomposition, is that in effect the 'course of history' is now towards the mutual ruin of the contending classes, although of course this isn't fixed or inevitable. In this context, the adoption of the dubious idea that the proletariat could suffer a deep defeat without this having an effect on the "general evolution of society", whatever that is, appears to be an avoidance of the consequences of such a conclusion?    

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

 

jk1921 wrote:

What is not obvious is the idea that capitalism as a social relation is decomposing. The ICC's intial formulation of the concept was as "social decomposition," resulting from the crisis of capitalism and the inability of either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat to impose its historic solution to the crisis: generalized war or proletarian revolution. If this is now changed to suggest that capitalism itself is decomposing, this needs further explanation and development. How exactly does capitalism as a social relationship decompose?

I think that's  a very good point. We sem to be seeing 'decomposition' change from being the result of a temporary stalemente between the classes to become a 'thing' in itself driving capitalist society in the ICC's analysis.

But decomposition only exists because capitalism is dynamic; it can't stand still. The cycle of accumuation continues. The productive forces are still growing even, though more and more constrained. Capitalism still shows signs of spectacular 'growth'. It's just that the consequences of this continue to worsen; in Luxemburg's view of decadence capitalism becomes even more of an 'accumulation of catastrophes' for humanity. This is inevitable in the absence of a response from the proletariat.

A secondary point; I do think there's something of a euro-centric, 'old world' vision of decomposition from the ICC sometimes. Go to Shanghai and talk about decomposition; it's there, but in the midst of dynamic, spectacular-looking development. That's capitalism.

 

You don't have to go to Shanghai to see it. Go to Washington, DC, London, Toronto--major metropolitan areas that are the geographical locus of a new form of "neo-liberal" capitalism (globalization) that has been emerging for several decades now--almost exactly the time period corrsponding to the ICC's period of social decomposition. Obviously, the nature of this epoch is much more complex than "all things get bad, all the time, for everyone." If decomposition is the result of a social stalemate between classes, neo-liberalism is the result of the crisis itself--a state capitalist engineered regime of accumulation that simulataneously attacks the living and working conditions of the old Fordist working class, whle creating new social agencies in the heart of the  advanced capitalist states: immigrants, professionalized white collar labor, etc. If social decompositon is real, it is nevertheless true that neo-liberalism produces winners along with losers. Immigrants improve their standard of living (generally speaking), while the younger, educated proletariat participates in new forms of social solidarity around progressive moral values (one is tempted to say, along with Roediger, that they earn a kind of "psychic wage"), in expressive communties based around common ideological values, but less differentiated material interests.

(Social) Decompositon then is expressed not so much in the leftist fantasies of rising fascism and a Nazi on every corner, but in social and political polarization (populism vs. progressivism), a warping of democratic ideology (the increasing problematization of the meaning of left and right), a remeergence of tribalism (racial, ideological or otherwise), the increasing vulgarization of intellectual life in general, rising social hostility, etc. All of this leads to an increasingly fraught public life for bourgeois society, with emerging doubts about democracy, liberal values, etc. being expressed on all sides (its not just the erstwhile "right" that has a problem with "democracy" today, doubts about the Enlightenment heritage of liberal universalism are increasingly expressed by those who call themselves leftists).

So while, the superstructure of somethign we might call "bourgeois society" is under stress today as a result of decomosition, capitalism itself remains dynamic. In fact, so dynamic that it increasingly calls the meaning of its basic poltiical form, the nation-state, into question. The intellectual crisis of bourgeois society, fueld by the polarizing logic of the Internet and social media (themselves a product of capital's continued dynamism, only deepens this process, with increasing calls for "open borders," etc. Even if this never comes to fruition, the cat is out of the bag, leading to a loss of confidence in the historical social and political forms of thebourgoeisie under pressure from an increasingly unfettered capital-logic.

The working-class is itself caught up in this malestrom and finds itself divded: the older Fordist sections of the class (although for many of them Fordism is just a memory at this point), are portrayed as "conservative" in their desire to defend their working and living conditions from neo-liberlaism. Abandoned by the erstwhile social-demcoratic parties and the unions who don't even pretend to fight for their interests anymore, many have turned to populism as a kind of last ditch effort to at least protect the social security offered, even in a recueprated and increasingly symbolic way, by the national-state. On the other side, many younger workers, immigrants, minorities, etc. subcumb to identity politics or a kind of moralistic progressivism that sees the enemy not so mucbh as capital, but as the Fordist working-class (the deplorables), who they think are riven with racism and intolerance. If this sector is itself under economic stress (young people pay an extraordinary percentage of their income on housing in any of the major cities mentioned above) and they emote sympathy for certain socialist or social democratic ideas (Medicare for All in the US, forgiving student debt, etc.) they are nevertheless generally unable to break through the traps of bourgeois politics that pit them against their class brothers in other sectors. Their cultural sensibilities for "progressive-urban" values, for now override any drive towards a broader class solidarity.

Consequently, for the older Fordist working class, "socialism" comes to be seen as a kind of undeserved free hand-out, a giveaway to those--illegal immigrants and those who game the system, irresponsible young people-- who have violated the social compact of an earlier era (hard-work and playing by the rules in exchange for a decent standard of living in a common civic culture--so called "industrial democracy").

So yes, the working class is itself very divided at the moment and it is not just something we can chock up to ideological manipulations, false consciouness and dirty tricks. There are real material divides that contribute to the broader "social stalemate," which itself fuels further decomposition in a reciprocal fashion. What is the end game here, I don't know. For Marxists, it is supposed to be the crisis--the very mateiral foundations of capialism itself, which eventually reveals to more and more workers, the unity of their common class situation. But as we are seeing today, capital has a way of distributing the pain unevenly, such that even in "social decomposition," it is possible to find winners and losers from the underlying dynamic of accumulation, and often they are pitted against one another politcally.

baboon
The idea of a stalemate

The idea of a stalemate between the classes "is a concept that makes no sense at all to all those who dismiss the idea that the working class has any significant weight in society and its history".  This point is entirely part of the issue of this discussion which is not the same thing as saying or implying that anyone on here holds that view. The general idea of the non-existence of the working class, an ideology generated by the right and left of capital, as well as elements and actions  of the petty-bourgeoisie, has been and remains a powerful tool of bourgeois ideology and therefore a factor of the present phase of the class struggle.

"... it is quite possible that the proletariat will suffer a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering." That can't be ruled out by any means particularly given the growing weight of decomposition and its accumulated effects on the class. It remains a distinct possibility and points to the growing dangers that continue to exist for the working class. The mutual ruin of contending classes certainly wouldn't be a victory for the working class and that perspective is entirely implicit in the present situation; it's implicit not just from the view of "revolutionary Jeremiahs" but from Marx and Engels and, more lately, from wider layers of the working class itself where this level of awareness regarding an absence of a future within capitalism (unlike twenty years ago say), can either be positive, i.e., a "crystallisation" of subterrenean maturation from developing struggles, or negative, a force bringing about more dispersion, dilution and centrifugal tendencies within the proletariat.

"... but it is also possible that it would suffer a deep defeat without this having a decisive effect on the general evolution of society." Neither can this be ruled out given that the history of class struggle is one of defeats and that, in my opinion, the working class has already suffered a serious series of defeats while its revolutionary perspective remains a distinct possibility. Even during global imperialist war - against the idea of Vercesi et aI that the working class disappears - the proletariat and class struggle continues to exist. The ICC can explain it but I assume that the "general evolution of society" is the class struggle - a bit of a confusing term - but this possibility of a major defeat leaving the question leaving a perspective for struggle open also remains distinct.

KT
Baboon wrote: "Even during

Baboon wrote: "Even during global imperialist war - against the idea of Vercesi et al that the working class disappears - the proletariat and class struggle continues to exist. The ICC can explain it but I assume that the "general evolution of society" is the class struggle - a bit of a confusing term - but this possibility of a major defeat leaving the question leaving a perspective for struggle open also remains distinct."

Yes. It is 'a bit of a confusing term'. Or at least it appears to be. That's one of the reasons (within the framework of generally supporting the Resolution) why I started this thread, seeking clarification. And, like, Baboon, I can assume what the ICC means but I’d rather know, be sure. It’s by confronting imprecisions that we all have the opportunity to better comprehend, using the marxist method, unfolding reality, the better to attempt to influence it.

When a serious proletarian organisation like the ICC radically alters two major axes of its analyses – the notion that in the decadence of capitalism, no new nations can emerge as major forces and, secondly, the abandonment of the concept of the Historic Course – then it’s little wonder that question arise. Be worried if they didn’t. See Alf in Post 5 on this. Proletarian political organisations are, after all, a privileged crucible for the development of theoretical weapons and “confusing terms” don’t help in this task. Certainly previous texts pointed in the theoretical direction now being travelled. But this Resolution marks a definitive break on these two issues, as well as a qualitative development on others. I’ll return to some of these later.

Meanwhile the ICC will clarify what this point implies and I agree that it probably means that unless the balance of forces between the major classes changes, society is headed for ruin and that is true whether the proletariat stays at its current levels of struggle and consciousness or it suffers a head-on, definitive defeat (and of course these terms and their implications require further elaboration). This appears to leave a perspective – socialism or barbarism – at a somewhat general, timeless level, but a correct orientation nonetheless.

I don’t think the Resolution suggests that the working class is enrolled behind the bourgeoisie or that the notion of it preventing a rapid degeneration into generalised world war over the past 30 years was wrong. The ‘social stalemate’, ‘decomposition’, ‘populism’; these are phenomena which are the product of a certain period of proletarian resistance.

But it’s not just the ruling ideology that is dominant in class society but also and obviously its relations of production. Uniquely, under capitalist social relations, the next revolutionary class – the proletariat - doesn’t develop its own economy within the shell of the decaying society. Once existing relations become a threat rather than a stimulus to social reproduction, it’s up to the working class to take political control by confronting the existing ruling class and its state, destroying both, and consciously replacing them with new relations in accordance with its nature – global, associated, non-exploiting labour.

If there were definite tendencies towards such initial confrontations between 1967-1989 – a tendency towards growing class confrontations opening up the possibility of a revolutionary perspective - such is not the case today and in retrospect it hasn’t been for a good number of years. That’s not to say it’s definitively off the agenda: just that there’s little prospect of rising class confrontations at present (as opposed to mass protests as in France or Hong Kong or over the issue of climate change which dissolve the revolutionary class as a mass of individuals in ‘the nation’ or as ‘citizens’).

In the meantime, society rots. Literally in some regions, with the decay of infrastructure; through the spread of devastating regional wars in others or the preventable ravages of climate change globally. In this regard, I’m not quite sure what the discussion about the ‘attenuation’ of decomposition is about. Coupled to this is a suggestion that perhaps the Resolution and/or Congress texts are somewhat ‘Eurocentric’. Linking both these issues is China…

I thought the Resolution integrated well the various aspects of China into the historical and present perspective, correctly situating the rise of this nation as a product of the decomposition of the old imperialist world order (the collapse of the blocs) in general and of capitalism’s tendency to over-produce in particular.

Shanghai has been mentioned as a city where capitalism’s dynamic drive to overproduction has produced superficially spectacular results: the whiff of modernity, acres of gleaming skyscrapers; a vast port supplying the world (while many of the rest of the world’s ports and industries rust away as cities built on speculation boom – see JK’s post 25).

It should be acknowledged that even the process of decay, of break-down, produces matter. Shanghai – the largest city in China - has overcome the dichotomy between town and country of which Marx spoke … through the ‘victory’ of one over the other! It is the product of enforced social engineering and rural desertification which make the Highland Clearances appear as a picnic in comparison. This nightmare crowding of 27 million souls into a zone governed by facial recognition technology in the sky and police on the ground has inherited the unfortunate mantle of the country’s (if not the world’s) most polluted city. Its growth was in part spurred by the brutal and deliberate ‘deindustrialisation’ of Beijing in order to relieve life-threatening atmospheric degradation there – a process during which millions faced the threat of freezing to death due to ban on burning domestic coal and a shut-down of power stations.

This doesn’t sound like an attenuation of decomposition to me but the epitome of it.

***

There is a further issue raised by Link of the Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie in a period when the ruling class is tending to lose control of its political apparatus. Briefly, I don’t think one precludes the other. The US bourgeoisie may not have planned for a Trump administration. But a Trump administration can certainly operate in a Machiavellian manner! See for example the way the UK was recently suckered by the US into detaining in Gibraltar the vessel loaded with Iranian oil – to the benefit of US imperialism. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/20/britain-lured-into-deadly-trap-on-iran-by-trump-hawk-john-bolton)

MH
I was already regretting my

I was already regretting my slightly off-the-cuff remark about Shanghai even before KT’s latest post…

At the risk of digging myself further into a hole can I just point out that not everything today is ‘decomposition’, which is a process affecting capitalism not a finished state; although the decay of the superstructure of capitalist society inevitably ‘infects’ every aspect of the life of decadent capitalism the same dynamism that accelerates the process of decomposition also drives the expansion of capital. We all agree, I think, that there is still ‘growth’ in decadence; the point is that this ‘growth’ can only be increasingly destructive as capitalism’s contradictions worsen. This destructive growth is infected by the process of decomposition, a process which in fact began with the entry of capitalism into decadence, but it is not decomposition itself.

Of course I don’t believe the spectacular growth of China is exempt from decomposition but at least some of the features KT mentions – “enforced social engineering and rural desertification which make the Highland Clearances appear as a picnic in comparison (…) nightmare crowding of 27 million souls into a zone governed by facial recognition technology in the sky and police on the ground” - I would argue are not in themselves symptoms of the decay of the superstructure of capitalist society but inevitable products of the decadence of the mode of production. You can argue that in practice it is impossible to separate this from decomposition but it was the ICC in the first place which identified decomposition as a distinct phenomenon and then talked about its ‘attenuation’ in certain parts of the world. I just happen to think its analysis of this phenomenon underestimates the extent of (destructive) growth in, eg. China.  

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

Of course I don’t believe the spectacular growth of China is exempt from decomposition but at least some of the features KT mentions – “enforced social engineering and rural desertification which make the Highland Clearances appear as a picnic in comparison (…) nightmare crowding of 27 million souls into a zone governed by facial recognition technology in the sky and police on the ground” - I would argue are not in themselves symptoms of the decay of the superstructure of capitalist society but inevitable products of the decadence of the mode of production. You can argue that in practice it is impossible to separate this from decomposition but it was the ICC in the first place which identified decomposition as a distinct phenomenon and then talked about its ‘attenuation’ in certain parts of the world. I just happen to think its analysis of this phenomenon underestimates the extent of (destructive) growth in, eg. China.  

 

If what is meant by "decomposition" is something to the effect of the social decomposition of classical bourgeois society, the progressive unravelling of its accomplishments and achievements, the undoing of certain mores and social bonds, then would decomposition even apply to China? Clearly there is a kind of "destructive growth" taking place there, but is all destruction decomposition or is this more on the lines of Schumpeter's "creative destruction"? What the so-called rise of China shows is that there other social outcomes to capitalist development that do not lead to a classic bourgeois society. Is that a function of decadence, decomposition or both?

I am still not sure we are employing the concepts of decomposition, decadence, and crisis consistently.

KT
Not in itself

I'm sure we're (or perhaps just me) are not "employing the concepts of decomposition, decadence, and crisis consistently." It's a valid point.

Regarding China. It's important (I think) to look at its 'development' not as a thing in itself (JK, for example, has consistently argued that the creation of US and western European 'rust belts' must be seen as some part of the equation in China's growth) but as part of a whole century of decadence: a failed revolutionary wave; two world wars, the rise and then collapse of two imperialist blocs and the regional wars they spawned and the re-awakening but subsequent quiessence of the working class - the balance of class forces...

KT
Or as MH Wrote:

Or what MH wrote: "We all agree, I think, that there is still ‘growth’ in decadence; the point is that this ‘growth’ can only be increasingly destructive as capitalism’s contradictions worsen."

baboon
I agree with KT on the

I agree with KT on the necessity for debate and it would be more than worrying if there wasn't one - it's a major question for the working class.

I used the word "attenuation" above in respect of what I think is a clarification of the ICC's analysis of the class struggle and the international situation, i.e., that previously major orientations remained basically valid and emphases and modifications were made to positions which on the whole I welcomed. I don't think that these positions have been "radically altered", as KT says, but a clarification for revolutionaries of a more dangerous situation for the working class.
The fundamentals of today's positions are those that were laid out nearly thirty years ago by the ICC and, given that time span, you would expect some differences of emphasis and further clarifications (one way or the other).

MH
China and decomposition

jk wrote:

If what is meant by "decomposition" is something to the effect of the social decomposition of classical bourgeois society, the progressive unravelling of its accomplishments and achievements, the undoing of certain mores and social bonds, then would decomposition even apply to China?

Against this distinction of ‘classical bourgeois society’ I suppose we would have to counterpose the global nature of capitalism and the inescapability of the effects of decomposition, but I certainly think we have not given enough attention to the fact that the spectacular growth of China coincided with the qualitative acceleration of decomposition at the end of the ‘80s; you could argue that by rejecting democracy and building up a sophisticated police state apparatus led by a Stalinist party the Chinese bourgeoisie offers a ‘model’ for how to operate in the new conditions for capitalism?

MH
Still questions

This thread was obviously prompted by questions about the meaning of some of the resolutions from the ICC’s latest congress, although I think there has also been an interesting discussion about aspects of decomposition..

Despite baboon’s reassurances, I have to say the more I look at this the more I am convinced the ICC has taken a wrong turn here, especially with its Resolution on the International Situation, so I still think KT’s concerns are absolutely valid. I’ve written a longer text about this here.

Just to recap, the ICC has now concluded that there is no longer a ‘historic course’, so the balance of class forces is no longer a determining factor in capitalist society. And because of this, the proletariat could suffer a deep defeat without this having a consequence for ‘the general evolution of society’.

But the ICC’s own analysis of decomposition surely tells us that the ‘evolution of capitalist society’ today is towards the destruction of the material conditions for communism?

In other words, in the terms of the ICC’s own schema, the ‘course of history’ today is towards the mutual ruin of the contending classes, ie. barbarism.

Of course this is not fixed or inevitable; it can still change as a result of the action of the proletariat, and this is why the balance of class forces therefore very much remains the determining factor in ‘the general dynamics of capitalist society’ - it is only the balance of class forces that contains the potential for an alternative to barbarism, because it is only the presence of the proletariat in capitalist society that determines the communist revolution is still a possibility.

But by the ICC’s own admission, time is not on our side. And that is why, if the proletariat suffers a deep defeat inevitably this must have a decisive consequence for the ‘evolution of society’ because it cannot fail to have an effect on the balance of class forces, making it even more difficult for the proletariat to respond in time.

If I’ve got this completely wrong, somebody needs to explain it to me.

Link
KT said that he agrees 'that

KT said that he agrees 'that it probably means that unless the balance of forces between the major classes changes, society is headed for ruin and that is true whether the proletariat stays at its current levels of struggle and consciousness or it suffers a head-on, definitive defeat’ and I would agree that this seems to be the most likely explanation of the ICC position.   MHs last post seems to pretty much agree.

 

However, a bit of thought about this leads me to the conclusion that this position has always been true throughout decadence!  Given that the resolution in Pt 6 also suggests the possibility of war through the emergence of a 2nd bloc though, I think we end up with the suggestion that anything is possible.    So where does that leave the ICCs analysis. In a muddle I think, whether you agree or not this was a very poor presentation of a major new idea.

 

MH criticisms of historic course appear valid to me as the text suggests that the ICCs problems with analysing the current situation lie in false assumptions at root of the historic course concept.   Ive never been particularly happy with the concept of the period of Decomposition and now, given that ICC is saying the historic course analysis became invalid in 1989/90,  that maybe this idea of decomposition should be seen equally as a product of immediatism and invalid too

 

As others in the thread have suggested JK’s point is excellent and really needs to be developed.  What events do we see now are a sympton of decomposition or a symptom of decadence ?

 

Furthermore I think it would also be useful to consider what is our current understanding of barbarism?  Certainly it would mark the end of class struggle but is it more likely to come about at a stroke by  a war that destroys civilisation or could be a product of a slow or long deterioration in the political or economic system. Maybe icc should have started with this discussion first.

 

I have gone back to read the theses on decomposition again and am inclined to find it a lacking in content.  Is  it not just another example of schema justifiying schema? (sorry MH haven’t read your new text)    It is analysis based on very little apart from an admittedly significant change in imperialist conflict.    Revolutionaries at the start of the 19th century talked of war or revolution and capitalism headed into barbarism even then, ie its last phase, and im sure they had no idea of another century of capitalism.   I would therefore  like to ask what is about the current situation that suggests decomposition or barbarism is far worse now than it was at the time of WW1 and up to WW2.   I agree China is an example of how bad life can be under capitalism but I don’t really think it is a sign of worsening of conditions when we look back through 19th and 20th centuries.  I saw the state of Lebanon as a sign of decay a couple of decades ago  (but it has recovered to some extent) as well as Syria today but then is that really worse than Germany or Japan or Italy at the end of WW2, or the break up of Yugoslavia or  Rwanda or Chile or Afghanistan.  I could also put down the wave of populism across the west at present but again is that worse than Europe in the 30s. 

 

The main symptoms of decadence would be imperialism, war and revolution, state capitalism, widespread use of credit, nationalism, ideological mystifications.  In the latest period the ICC suggests ‘the development of terrorism, populism is one of its most striking expressions’  and we also have an extended period with a lack of response from the wc,  regional conflicts,  major nationalist campaigns, Anyway im just posing questions to extend that point made by JK rather than theorising something specific 

 

Capitalism has always been a nightmare for some so what really is meant by decomposition as opposed to the normal state of affairs for capitalism since WW1?

Teivos
Class struggle does not stop in decomposition period

Dear comrades,

I read some contributions in this thread and I would just like to contribute over what I think has been a missunderstanding:

I did not see anywhere the ICC saying that the class struggle has stopped being the motor of civilized society. Moreover, the concept of the 'balance of forces' is the analitical application of this notion, and the ICC doesn't say that the balance of forces is no longer in the scenery. The exact opposite, it is by analyzing the balance of forces that the ICC can determine a new period in decadent capitalism, where proletarian consciousness has suffered a retreat but not a defeat, and the burgeois is not able to offer a perspective (war or reconstruction) either. This notion of a perspective is very important in the logics of class struggle. 
All of this causes a situation of blockage and putrefaction which has a lot of dangers (explained by the ICC in several texts). And the advance of this situation deepens a lot of difficulties for the class for reflourishing which have to be seriously taken into account to fight against them. This situation of putrefaction, decomposition is the main factor present in the evolution of society. But it has nothing to do with replacing class struggle as a motor of history. 

Fraternally,

Teivos

Teivos

Link
Teivos, Thank you for

Teivos, Thank you for confirming that the class struggle is still the motor force of society.  However you have not really clarified the new position of the ICC.

When you talk about a new period, do you mean the period from now or are you referring to the period from 1989?  Furthermore given that your analysis says there can be no world war but the working class is not defeated and a revolution depends on the reemergence of class struggle, what then has changed,  is this not exactly the same analysis as before?

MH
decomposition and what the ICC actually says

Link, I don't want to spoil the excitement of reading my text ;-)  ... but I don't believe the ICC's concept of decomposition is a schema; essentially it's another way of talking about 'a qualitative change in the decay of the superstructure of capitalsit society' and I think it's difficult to dismiss that without also dismissing the whole concept of decadence.  

Where I think the confusions in the 23rd Congress resolutions come from is the attempt to make the implications of decomposition fit with the schema of the 'historic course'. 

Teivos wrote:
“I did not see anywhere the ICC saying that the class struggle has stopped being the motor of civilized society. Moreover, the concept of the 'balance of forces' is the analitical application of this notion, and the ICC doesn't say that the balance of forces is no longer in the scenery.”

Teivos, we can only go with what the ICC actually says:  

1989 marks a fundamental change in the general dynamics of capitalist society: - Before that date, the balance of power between the classes was the determining factor in this dynamic: it was on this balance of forces that the outcome of the exacerbation of the contradictions of capitalism depended: either the unleashing of the world war, or the development of class struggle with the overthrow of capitalism as the perspective.

- After that date, this dynamic is no longer determined by the balance of forces between classes.” (Resolution on the Int Sit, Point 5):

At the same time the ICC has emphasised that in decomposition "More than ever, the class struggle of the proletariat is the motor of history." (IR 117) 

So, the class struggle remains central to the direction of history but the balance of class forces now no longer determines the direction of capitalist society?  I honestly don't see how you can have one without the other. Or am I missing something here?

 

Teivos
Understanding ICC's developments

There were some interventions saying that for the ICC decomposition means now that the balance of forces no longer is on work but a decomposition factor moves society. The first post was asking "if decomposition is ‘the’ major factor defining the evolution of society, isn’t that tantamount to saying that the proletariat is no longer in a position to realise its character as the revolutionary class?".
I think that this has to be clarified and it is a good idea to debate on this.

First of all, I do not think that there is a drastic change in ICC positions in this Congress and the central part of the analysis of Decomposition was already in the Theses.

Also, in my previous intervention I may have been not very clear about the 'balance of forces' concept. The reason is because I myself have doubts about its exact meaning. However, I will try to explain what I understand from the ICC:
The ICC says "- Before that date (90s), the balance of power between the classes was the determining factor in this dynamic: it was on this balance of forces that the outcome of the exacerbation of the contradictions of capitalism depended: either the unleashing of the world war, or the development of class struggle with the overthrow of capitalism as the perspective".

The notion of a perspective for society is very important here, as the Decomposition phase is marked by the lack of an emerging perspective (which does not mean that the proletariat can't re-emerge).

So, first, the ICC is not talking about a new period starting now, but trying to understand better a period that started in the 90s and also its evolution (populism rise, migration exhacerbation, etc).
Second, it says afterwards "after that date, this dynamic is no longer determined by the balance of forces between classes." (...) "In the paradigm that dominated most of the 20th century, the notion of a "historical course" defined the outcome of a historical trend: either world war or class confrontations".
As I understand it, the concept of historic course and balance of forces is also a historical concept used by BILAN and the italian and french communist left: " the notion of "historical course" as used by the Italian Fraction in the 1930s and by the ICC between 1968 and 1989 "-ICC.
This notion is mostly focused on the course towards war VS. towards revolution.
What the ICC means, I think, is that this notion is no longer applicable in the period of Decomposition where the burgeois is not able to move society towards world war. And the bourgeois not giving the perspective of war or reconstruction to society doesn't either mean that the proletariat is counterfighting with a revolutionary perspective. So, "in a way, the current historical situation is similar to that of the 19th century."-ICC.
Either way I think that this concept of 'balance of forces' (the one of the italian fraction) is not being discarded (as an analysis of class struggle) but perfectionated and seen in its evolution. As the ICC says in the resolution, the concept was in perfect use till the 90s. So it has been developed, not discarded as always wrong.

I would like to add that it is important to conceive the resolutions of ICC's 23rd Congress as a whole, and not pick an isolated document as all that had to be said. This has till a certain point served to what I think are irational interpretations about "ICC's negativity".

However, I have to read more about the Congress and I agree on the importance of this debate, which I think should have more of healthy debate and questions to try to understand the ICC's developments rather than a being-ashamed-of-the-ICC kind of talking such as "what would the old ICC have said about the current ICC?" (Link), or so easily saying that the ICC has lost its previous critical spirit or that all these documents are just complex formulations to justify themeselves (Link). More importantly, saying that a whole organization has fallen into doing blablabla to justify themeselves in its most important moment, the congress, is a very serious accusation which should not be said without serious proof. These statements should explain why the ICC can do that and at the same time produce documents against circle spirit and about culture of debate and morals and be a internationaly centralised organization with high polemics as it is reflected for example in this very forum.
Link, now you say that the concept of historical course was obviously poor in explaining society. Well, it was adequate till the 90s and that is why there is this deep effort to have a framework to better understand society, expressed in these resolutions. It is not "bullshit (ing) us as to how good you were in the past -". It is realizing that the analysis from the past (till 90s) was correct but since the 90s the situation had a qualitative change (which is already developed in the Theses on Decomposition). The complete opposite to saying that "the whole concept (of historic course) as defended by the ICC since its formation has been deeply flawed" (MH). If the old theory doesn't adjust anymore it does not mean that it was always wrong.
I think that a certain attitude should not be tolerated, by the way: Personally, I do not tolerate that you speak about ICC's Congress as "bullshiting" and I give my solidarity to the ICC against this malicious statement.

By the way, you call it "the negativity of the ICC" but ICC's position it is not a superficial feeling but a deep analysis to recognise which are the difficulties that the proletariat has to face, ever more severe, so to fight against them.
You also say that "rejecting class struggle as the motor force of history to explain the lack of a war!!" . The ICC says the exact opposite, it is precisely because the proletariat is not defeated that the bourgeois can not lead it to war.
I said in the last post that class struggle still works in decomposition, and now I add that you are perhaps mistaking the italian left concept of 'balance of forces' and 'historic course' with 'class struggle' itself. (I myself tend to identify the 'balance of forces' concept as the analytical application of the notion of class struggle). Its not the same, it is a concept that arised to explain class struggle in decadent capitalism. This concept has to be updated in the Decomposition period we are living in. The concept of a phase of Decomposition itself is mainly determined by an understanding of class struggle.
Moreover, this kind of words towards the ICC are, I think, very 'a priori' determined, and lacking a perspective of understanding:
"Lacking in content, contortions, self-justifying, very complex...etc". I think that a deep effort to understand the ICC is needed and not a will of finding simplistic, common sense stuff said by the ICC. The weight of burgeois ideology difficulties a lot the search of theory and a strong effort is required.
I might be wrong in my interpretations but I certainly do not tolerate this 'making the ICC Congress a bullshit' kind of statements.
By the way, could someone post a web link to this "very interesting discussion on this very topic on the CWO forum" (Link) which "changed my view of this"(MH)? It will be necessary to read this to better understand this position changes.

Greetings,

Teivos

Teivos

baboon
 

 

Agreement with the last post.

Firstly to reaffirm KT's point above about the absolute necessity for debate, for raising points of disagreements, clarifications and questions which are all part of the life-blood of the proletariat. More than this, it is necessary to do so within a framework of solidarity that we are all working for the same ends for the same class. The discussion has been very good in this respect despite "passions", but I don't see the ICC "buggering anyone about" in its responses - rather engaging in an attempt at clarification.

The idea of a "historic course", even if rejected as "idealist" by some, was a concept shared by the whole Communist Left from the late Sixties to the late Eighties. All the groups of the Communist Left, the ICC and CWO included, generally defended the concept of a mounting class struggle with a distinct possibility of revolution, while being aware of the dangers of imperialism and the danger that represented to the proletarian perspective and they defended this perspective of a general historic course over two decades. The collapse of the eastern bloc, an unprecedented event, changed all that dramatically. In a sense, the ICC's analysis of the "years of truth" of the 1980's turned out to be appropriate to the perspective of a course towards revolution being knocked off track in a situation, initially and persistently, of utter confusion on the international arena and the absence of the working class as a class.

There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the ICC's analysis of the historic course (an analysis that was de facto shared by the Communist Left), there was no basic error of method in the ICC's analysis, just as there's no "fundamental change" in the ICC's position today which seems to underline the argument of some of the posts above - they are in continuity with and developed from texts written at the end of 80's and into the early 90's which include, but not exclusively, the Theses on Decomposition. Of course if you disagree with the idea of decomposition (and by implication, as MH points out, capitalism's decadence) then you will, if consistent, disagree with all the fundamentals of the ICC's analysis today.

There's still a great underestimation of the change brought about by the collapse of the eastern bloc and the "victory of capitalism": each for themselves, centrifugal tendencies at every level, "rules" of the game out the window and all this within the framework of a deepening economic crisis. And this whole period from 89 to now has shown the basic validity of the ICC's position on decomposition and its consequences with knobs on. Capitalist decomposition by its very nature is not static and fixed but continues posing greater problems and dangers for the working class. Unpredictability is the "order" of the day; it is impossible in this situation to lay out any definite "courses" except in the most general sense of the defence of the existence of the working class and its perspective of revolution, which exists as long as the working class exists.

The rise of China as a major industrial power is an anomoly brought about from the decomposition of capitalism and it bears its scars. Far from pointing to an ability of capitalism to expand and offer any sort of economic relief or future it is rather an expression of the capitalist model to confront the working class: the fortress state (another idea of the ICC), repression and surveillance like never before, absolutely miserable exploitation - all factors that are increasingly being used by all states faced with the decomposition of their own system.

MH
Frustration?

There is a basic misconception in some of the posts above that the ‘historic course’ is just another way of talking about the balance of class forces. It isn’t. And contrary to what baboon says, the idea of a "historic course", was not shared by the whole Communist Left. In fact only the ICC has ever defended it.

As I have tried to show elsewhere, the concept of the historic course is based on the specific idea that world war and revolution are the two mutually exclusive opposites in capitalist society and that the conditions for one exclude the conditions for the other. 

To cut a long story short, this is why the ICC has concluded that in the phase of decomposition, because a world war is no longer supposedly on the agenda, there is no longer a ‘historic course’ – when of course the analysis of decomposition shows that, in the absence of an intervention by the proletariat, the direction of capitalist society is now definitely towards the mutual ruin of the contending classes.

There is a growing sense of frustration apparent in this thread now, on all sides. This is primarily I think due to the absence of the ICC from the discussion. The last intervention by Alf was some time ago and while baboon seems to have some role here in responding to questions on behalf of the Current, in the ICC’s absence we are left trying to work out what the ICC is saying, and why it might be saying what it is.

I agree that there needs to be a fraternal spirit in the debate – the ICC forum rules say so. And I also agree we need to avoid unnecessary hostility (although speaking for myself I haven’t been aware of any). On the other hand, if, as Rosa Luxemburg said “Self-criticism, remorseless, cruel, and going to the core of things is the life's breath and light of the proletarian movement" then there should be room for vigorous debate and disagreement, and if the worst anyone has said so far is “The ICC shouldn’t bullshit us” then personally I’d rather err on the side of hard Leninist polemic and put up with a bit of blunt Anglo-Saxon. This isn't a Victorian drawing room.

As for my own frustrations here, let me say I am fed up with being constantly reminded about the need for debate, and being constantly reassured, despite the specific evidence offered here and elsewhere, that “there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the ICC’s positions”.

We need to be clear about what is potentially at stake here. The ICC is now over 40 years old. That is longer than almost any other proletarian organisation (Communist League, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Internationals…). The ICC itself, at its 21st Congress, drew a critical balance sheet of its strengths and weaknesses, which concluded that “the revolutionary organisation must fight permanently against routinism, superficiality, intellectual laziness, schematism, to develop a critical spirit in lucidly identifying its mistakes and theoretical shortcomings.”

There is no guarantee that the ICC, let alone any other surviving minority of the Communist Left, will be able to do this, and certainly not on its own. This is where the real need for solidarity lies, so don't keep telling me there's no problem here.

baboon
I think that the conduct of

I think that the conduct of this discussion is just as important as its content, if not more so in the longer term. In this respect I think that Link's second post is an example, not of rigorous debate but of individualism and unecessary abuse. Further in his post it is difficult to discern where Link's sarcasm ends and political discussion begins. In this context, and in the context of open, public discussion, Teivios' point about the Link/MH/Clieshbottom discussion could be of use to us all.

MH says that I have a "role" in this debate responding on behalf of the ICC: I have no such "role" above giving my opinion (that may or may not be coincident with the ICC) on the texts put before us just as anyone who disagrees or questions them has a responsibility to say so and say so in a manner that's conducive to debate. Productive proletarian debate is no more a Victorian drawing room (MH underestimates the bear-pit qualities of such places) and nor is it a free-for-all where anything goes.

The Communist Left from the late 60's to the late 80's defended an analysis of increasing class confrontations alongside the dangers of imperialism. The CWO may not have called it the "historic course" but the CWO has always generally defined itself by its differences, real or imagined, with the ICC.

Link
I had an interesting

I had an interesting discussion with a comrade from the ICC at the last ICC meeting I attended.  The comrade was insistent the polemical approach to discussion is always a valid method to clarify positions and go forward.  Although I am still not convinced this is always the case,  I am sure the ICC does not use a definition  that suggests only they are entitled to use polemical arguments. despite what Teivos and Baboon appear to think.

 

Teivos, I thought from your first post you were an ICC member but your 2nd suggests that you are sympathiser using English as a 2nd Language.   Do clarify if I am wrong.    The discussion you requested a link is at this address is on the CWO website: http://www.leftcom.org/en/forum/2019-01-21/the-party-fractions-and-periodisation .  I hope you will read this with the same seriousness and respect that you say I should use toward ICC statements.  You accuse me of making a malicious statement but i will not make the same accusation at yourself on the basis that I am sure you have misunderstood or misinterpreted what I said.   Please go back and read my comments again and you will see that my use of the term bullshitting had nothing to do with the ICC conference documents at all.   In fact I complemented some of the content of the International situation report but, along with other’s, have raised serious criticisms of the main thrust of sections 5 and 6 and I criticised the text on class struggle for not reflecting the content of the text on the Int Sit. I have made the only  serious political response I can make (please note the heading of the thread says 'comments and questions')  I have raised what I see as a contradictions and lack of clarity in the short statement made in points 5 and 6 and indeed problems with the implications of what is said.   I would have been able to respond to what I do agree with in your contribution if you had avoided the personalised criticisms.

 

Baboon, you do know English however so i think you have distorted what I said about ‘doom mongering’.  I clearly presented this comment as a question - twice in different forms - so ok it was provocative but I was not the only one to ask it. Your responses have only detracted from the political discussions being raised. 

 

Baboon said ‘The discussion has been very good in this respect despite "passions" ..   This was at 13.43 on 27.8.19

 

However by 18.29 on 27.8.19, Baboon was saying : ‘I think that the conduct of this discussion is just as important as its content, if not more so in the longer term. In this respect I think that Link's second post is an example, not of rigorous debate but of individualism and unecessary abuse. Further in his post it is difficult to discern where Link's sarcasm ends and political discussion begins ..   ‘

 

These are very contradictory statements to make within such a short space of time and such a long time after my 2nd post on 25th July

 

I take back nothing of what I said because right or wrong I was being honest and expressing political views as well as my frustration at this state of confusion over the ICCs analysis which is not just in my head but is evident throughout this thread.  There are important issues which need clarification.

 

Yes it true I do tend to drift into sarcasm and flippancy at times.   I think I do this to avoid  pomposity and arrogance.  Baboon knows my history, I am sure he will agree that I have no basis to be pompous.    So again, I assure everyone that all my comments on this forum express honest political opinions and whether right or wrong you should take them as such.  Unlike Baboon and to a lesser extent Teivos I have never reverted to personal attacks and abuse of individuals posting contributions on this site and I have always presented what  criticisms I have of the ICC without abuse or name-calling. Such an approach which only makes the clarification of political issues more difficult as you well know.

 

Please focus on the political issues in future and allow me to do so too

 

I therefore reaffirm my view that these 2 conference documents are poor as evidenced by the much confusion and uncertainty amongst regular posters on this forum.  Whilst a political discussion amongst sympathisers is of interest and is constructive, it does need some detailed clarification or restatement of the issues from the ICC.

 

 

Teivos
Mostly just about the moral part of this discussion

I am not responding to most of the last posts here, just the last one by Link, because I think that it needs an answer. However, I also think that the discussion on the topic has to continue if it would be necessary.

First of all, I am indeed an ICC “sympathiser using English as a 2nd Language”.

Thank you for the weblink of the discussion in the CWO web. I think that “seriousness and respect” have to be used always and treating other organisations’ documents with this systematical seriousness is vital for the strengthening of the milieu.

I agree that polemical arguments are essential for debate, obviously when in coherence with oneself. But, just provisionally, I am not sure if we understand the same thing by “polemical”. Just to clarify what I still do not know if it was a misunderstanding or not (my English -or my interpretation- might yet not understand it completely and thus I might be mistaken): You say in a previous post: “I agree with MH  that the ICC is creating schema to justify past schema rather than to follow  “Self-criticism, remorseless, cruel, and going to the core of things.   If its wrong because the old theory no longer tallies to reality then say so and start afresh but don’t bullshit us as to how good you were in the past - that only makes things worse now.  Didn’t Luxemburg also say something like that the worst errors of revolutionaries are far better than best analysis of the reformists.” Here you are, I think, clearly referring to some ICC statements in the resolution, such as the following: the notion of "historical course" as used by the Italian Fraction in the 1930s and by the ICC between 1968 and 1989 was perfectly valid and constituted the fundamental framework for understanding the world situation. In no way can the fact that our organisation has had to take into account the new and unprecedented facts on this situation since 1989 be interpreted as a challenge to our analytical framework until that date.” (section 6, ICC). However, now you say that my use of the term bullshitting had nothing to do with the ICC conference documents at all”.  You are certainly not saying that the Congress as a whole was bullshit (as an insult) but you said that in certain statements the Congress is bullshiting. It is not the fact that it is a curse word why I say it's wrong, is the fact that you so easily say that the ICC is doing blablabla in its Congress. Of course, if you think that the ICC has made an opportunist mistake of trying to ignore a mistake from the past to preserve a "good image" then we can discuss this interpretation rigorously. However, you did not say this and you said it more as a despective generalization of ICC's attitude, if I am correct. 

You also said: “what would the old ICC have said about the current ICC?”. Is this not, as I said, “being-ashamed-of-the-ICC kind of talking”?

You say that I have (though in your opinion “to a lesser extent than baboon”) “reverted to personal attacks and abuse of individuals posting contributions on this site”. I think that I did not do “personalized criticisms”. I just expressed which attitudes I do not think are tolerable and I clearly referred you, Link as someone who performed them to a certain extent (though also discussing), because I think that saying names and speaking by a name (though not the real one) is a matter of responsibility and clarity, i.e not making indirect accusations. In that way, you can say if you agree or disagree with my interpretation, and change or maintain your attitude.

I still think that this discussion is needed, and that there are certainly important questions and disagreements raised.  These certain things with which Link you “do agree with in your (my) contribution” perhaps help in the actual discussion.

Teivos  

Teivos

baboon
On the conduct of a

On the conduct of a proletarian debate generally: the first four parts of the ICC's texts, "the hidden legacy of the left of capital" are on the website in English and the fifth and final part in French on the RI site and these are very important texts, clearly based on the ICC's own experience of difficulties in debate and discussion. They are based too on the question of debate throughout the workers' movement where the question is intimately linked to the moral integrity of the proletariat and its revolutionary expressions. While it can't be open-ended, there's no rights or wrongs in a proletarian debate and there is no brilliant leader to give all the right answers; so this makes it all the more important for debate to be as wide as possible, for all to speak in a spirit of fraternity and not of confrontation - a method of debate which, as the above texts show, is that of all bourgeois organisations, but particularly its left.

I don't think that a more robust, polemical approach to this current debate is helpful, no more than pomposity or flippancy. Speak and listen, but that doesn't have to mean acceptance. Another requirement is patience. It's not easy, it's not easy for us and nor is it for the working class at the moment but despite the current and historical weight of bourgeois ideology, we should at least create the conditions for a positive discussion in a spirit of solidarity.

 

MH
Answers?

This thread began with questions about the resolutions from the latest ICC Congress. In case comrades have not yet seen it, there is now a reply by the ICC to the text I wrote about this (which is reprinted with the ICC's reply, framed as a 'debate on the balance of class forces'). Rather oddly, this does not mention the discussion here, but I think it does provide some answers to the questions comrades have raised, so at least we can have a more informed discussion. I'm still digesting this and will comment soon but I'd be interested in other comrades' reactions. 

Link
MH, where is this text from

MH, where is this text from the ICC?  I cant find it im afraid.

MH
text here

text is here

baboon
This is my position on the

This is my position on the present stakes in the class struggle from the conclusion to the article on the website: "Ecological disaster: the poison of militarism".
"There is one force capable of arresting and overturning this descent: And that is the working class. In times of crisis, and this is definitely a time of crisis, it is necessary to go back to the fundamentals of the workers' movement. Essential to these fundamentals is the concept that class struggle is the motor force of society. It's not a pre-determined, linear process but advances, innovates, invents, regresses, gets caught in dead-ends. Throughout class-divided society, from about five thousand years ago, different forms of society have risen and fallen: despotism, slavery, feudalism. And here we stand at the denouement of this process: bourgeoisie and proletariat. It is certainly still around but we haven't seen much of the working class lately, especially with the news being dominated by the contortions and hysterics of the bourgeoisie - which is also an attack on the working class. While the working class daily runs the machinery of the massive service sector, transportation, provides power and the essentials of life, produces almost everything, at the present moment is has lost confidence in itself and the links with its historic struggle have been weakened. But this is a class with a history, a revolutionary history which makes it a revolutionary class with a future. It's not just the pinnacles that it reached: 1871, 1905, 1917-26, 1968 and the late 70's, but the whole of its struggles where there are endless examples of their self-organisation, their political strength and depth with the moral underpinning of a class with a future.
This perspective of a class with a future is underlined by the fact that: "Capitalist society, as well as sacrificing everything to the pursuit of profit and competition has also, inadvertently, produced the elements for its destruction as a mode of exploitation. It has created the potential technological and cultural means for a unified and planned world system of production attuned to the needs of human beings and nature. It has produced a class, the proletariat, which has no need for national or competitive prejudices, and every interest in developing international solidarity. The working class has no interest in the rapacious desire for profit. In other words capitalism has laid the basis for a higher order of society, for its supersession by socialism. Capitalism has developed the means to destroy human society, but it has also created its own gravedigger, the working class, that can preserve human society and take it to a higher level"[7].
The present state of its weakness, if persisting, raises the possibility that the working class could simply be side-stepped by a decomposing capitalism resulting in what Marx and Engels called "the common ruin of contending classes"[8]. To consider the real and dreadful possibility of the destruction of the planet by the dynamics and forces of capitalism is not to fatally accept it. On the contrary, nothing is written in advance and this increases the responsibility and necessity for the proletariat's revolutionary minority to put forward analyses that clearly lay out the stakes in the class struggle. Rather than a fatalist acceptance along the lines of panic and the idea that "we are all doomed", the present descent of capitalism into the abyss can be a spur, an element in the development of class consciousness in the sense that it is becoming apparent that, as Marx and Engels indicated in The Communist Manifesto, the present state of things has rendered the present society and its perspectives untenable. Thus the only possible result that can avoid the future destruction that capitalism holds for us, the only possible result for the defence of the whole of humanity, is the active emergence of the proletariat: a class with a future."

On the reply of the ICC to MH: On the question of going beyond the analysis of the Course of History, the period of stalemate from 1968 to 1989, where the drive of capital was towards war and the force opposing it was the proletariat, the ICC uses the analogy of "throwing away the baby with the bathwater". If my bath took 30 years to empty, I'd call a plumber in. Having said that, it's a good analogy for the reasons given which include not abandoning a tool until you're certain it's no longer useful - with the danger, as the ICC says, of being reluctant to get rid of something which has almost been a natural attachment, along with the necessity to fully understand the new situation. The other reason is if one discards a tool it does raise questions as to the method used in reaching that analysis. I don't think that there was anything wrong at all with the methodology of the analysis of the course of history. Nothing except that history changed. Though "better late than never", three decades is still a long time to draw the consequences from that, a process that's only just underway and it's fortunate that we have the time. So the development of the position is late, the debate is late, the critiques are late but they are welcome for all that in this opening of the discussion.

From memory, and memory is fallible, my understanding is that an idea of a "historic course", the drive of the bourgeoisie on one side and the struggle of the working class on the other, was, if greatly elaborated by the ICC, generally shared through the Communist Left. I think that there were some elements in Italy that still maintained an analysis of a counter-revolution but even these were amenable to developing struggles of the proletariat. Between the ICC and the CWO what differences there were on the issue were mostly contrived delineations and polemics that completely failed to bring the organisations any closer together (1975 conferences). On the class struggle, as on imperialism, there were very little fundamental differences between the two groups. Marxists, the advanced elements of the workers' movement, have generally been more prescient in their understanding of the period of unfolding social situations than the bourgeoisie and this comes both from their internationalism and their genuine debates; but nothing is fixed forever and nothing is determined in advance.

On the "fluidity" of events, there were warnings in the ICC at the time (70's, 80's) about revolutionaries being caught out by sudden or creeping changes and developments in the social situation, from the working class, the bourgeoisie and from unusual turns of events. Many examples in the workers' movement were examined in detail in ICC articles and their lessons drawn out including the dangers of taking anything for granted. Along with developments of what Link usefully describes as "decomposition with a small 'd'", there were other significant developments of imperialism around the late 70's, early 80's, the position of Iran for example, the rise of terrorism, etc., that indicated a constant, black and white alternative in relation to class confrontation and imperialist war was being undermined because the grounds that they were based upon were being undermined..

By 1990, the analysis of the course of history no longer applied or rather, the premise for the analysis of it no longer existed in reality. The perspective of a world war, one that had been part of the stakes, immediately came off the agenda in 1989 and those tendencies to every man for himself in international relations have been developing ever since while the tendency to world war has receded as imperialism has become more chaotic and unpredictable. As the ICC response says, while there's a weakening - possibly fatal - of the tendency to world war, there's been no weakening, no attenuation of war, militarism and decomposition, on the contrary, all three have intensified. I don't recognise MH's description that this is "the most dangerously naive aspect of the position defended (by the ICC)".

The positon defended by the ICC as I understand it is one that it laid down with its "Theses on Decomposition" and many other subsequent texts, on the developments of state capitalism and imperialism in a completely new period. For example just after the CPE revolt in France, the ICC had an article on the international situation in its Review sub-headed "twin-track to capitalist oblivion". The development of this present period places greater responsibility on revolutionary minorities and on the working class. The ICC response reaffirms the primacy of the proletariat in the process and nowhere is its struggle denied by saying that a situation of a historic course is no longer applicable and hasn't been for some time. In fact overturning such an analysis is indispensable for going forward. The Resolution should be welcomed, as its critiques, and the discussion should open up from here; it's only beginning.

 I think that revolutionaries need to be honest with the class and with themselves that they don't have all the answers off pat and the development of decomposition poses ever more problems and difficulties. But it's not the ICC that wants to hang onto outdated and inapplicable analyses in this discussion.

 

 

KT
In response to MH (post 46):

In response to MH (post 46):

I believe it’s important to recognize decomposition as the driver of social evolution at the present juncture (ie in the period dominated not just by a social stalemate but by a profound retreat in working class consciousness and combativity). I don’t think this denies the class struggle as the motor force of history, but is a product of the present stage of that struggle.

I agree with the following two ICC contributions to the ‘Discussion on the Balance of Class Forces’ :

  1. “The fundamental characteristics of decadent capitalism - militarism, imperialist war, state capitalism -  have in no way been undermined by decomposition or the collapse of the blocs. Instead a whole Pandora’s box of imperialist chaos and barbarism has been opened. The perspective is towards local and regional wars, their spread towards the very centres of capitalism through the proliferation of terrorism, along with growing ecological disaster,  and the general putrefaction of capitalist society.”
  2. “By saying that the historic course is no longer applicable to this period does not mean saying that the ability of the proletariat to advance its struggle towards once again posing the possibility of decisive class confrontations no longer exists. It means that this perspective will have to develop in the context of increasingly difficult circumstances for the proletariat. Unlike world war, the proletariat cannot hold back decomposition.” (my emphasis).

I still maintain that the Int Sit Resolution, point 6, which in part attempts to convey the above is a confused and confusing formulation (see the first post on this thread), but it’s the content and not the particular wording that’s important.

Regarding the concept of the Historic Course, or the Course of History, I'd like to await the fothcoming explanatory text from the ICC (as mentioned in the 'Discussion'). 30 years is not enough! However, once again, it's the content of the pespectives arising from the present situation more than the wording or wrap-around phrase that interests us. These perspectives are included in the extracts I've quoted above.

MH
On the ICC's response

The ICC’s response on the balance of class forces is obviously very welcome, not only in answering specific questions raised by comrades about the 23rd Congress Resolutions but also in clarifying the current thinking of the organisation on the whole question of the ‘historic course’. I don’t want to try to answer all of the points made about my original text but I do think the response shows that comrades here were essentially correct to highlight problems with the resolutions themselves.

KT wrote:

Is the class struggle, under the conditions of decomposition, no longer the ‘motor force’ of history? Can the proletariat suffer a ‘deep defeat’ (and is that different from a defeat so deep that it will definitively prevent it from recovering?) without “this having a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society…”?

Is the class struggle, under the conditions of decomposition, no longer the ‘motor force’ of history?

The Resolution on the International Situation actually states that in the phase of decomposition the balance of class forces is no longer the determining factor in “the general dynamics of capitalist society”.

Behind this statement is the idea that the dynamic of capitalist society in the previous period was determined specifically by the mutually exclusive opposites of the ‘historic course’; ie. by the struggle on the one hand of the bourgeoisie to mobilise the proletariat for a new world war and on the other the struggle of the proletariat against the effects of this on its conditions.  

In its response the ICC does not defend this specific statement, emphasising instead that “the evolution of our analysis does not call into question the vital importance of the balance of class forces for the future of humanity”.

This is surely correct. The period identified by the ICC when the ‘historic course’ was valid (1914 to 1989) was a specific form taken by the balance of class forces which in the changed historical conditions of decomposition has now been replaced by another. But the balance of power between the two classes remains the ultimately determining factor in capitalist society because in the phase of capitalist decomposition it is only the balance of class forces that contains the potential for an alternative to the evolution of capitalist society towards barbarism.

How could a deep defeat for the proletariat not have “a decisive consequence for the general evolution of society”?

We now have the clarification that “The proletariat could suffer a deep defeat but without it having a decisive impact because it could have time to recover due to world war not being the outcome of such a defeat.

It could. It's possible, although given the unpredictability of events in decomposition it's by no means certain. But interestingly the ICC’s response agrees that a deep defeat could not fail to have potentially fatal implications for the proletariat, and therefore for “the general evolution of society”, because it would accelerate the slide into full-blown barbarism: “The ability of the proletariat to hold back the imperialist ambitions of the bourgeoisie would be weakened and thus the descent into imperialist barbarism would be accelerated”.

Framed in this way, the speculation in the Resolution about whether or not a defeat would necessarily lead to a world war appears to be a secondary point; in terms of its effect on the slide towards barbarism decomposition itself is increasingly dissolving the distinction between a world war which mobilises the proletariat and generalised warfare possibly involving nuclear weapons, environmental catastrophe, etc. This serves to highlight the broader conclusion from the ICC’s analysis that due to the irreversibility of decomposition, in the absence of the intervention of the proletariat the ‘course of history’ today is towards barbarism.

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

Framed in this way, the speculation in the Resolution about whether or not a defeat would necessarily lead to a world war appears to be a secondary point; in terms of its effect on the slide towards barbarism decomposition itself is increasingly dissolving the distinction between a world war which mobilises the proletariat and generalised warfare possibly involving nuclear weapons, environmental catastrophe, etc. This serves to highlight the broader conclusion from the ICC’s analysis that due to the irreversibility of decomposition, in the absence of the intervention of the proletariat the ‘course of history’ today is towards barbarism.

However, this still leaves us with the undertheorized and poorly understood concept of "barbarism," such that it is not quite clear exactly what the historic course is towards. Still a form of capitalism? if so, doesn't capitalism have in and of itself certain needs to regulate social reproduction in such a way that mitigates against pure "barbarism'? At one point, there was a formulation in use by the ICC that suggested the proletarian class struggle could act as a kind of brake against the worst features of decomposition. Is that no longer the case? In any event, the class struggle has to be a kind of "counter-cyclical" social force otherwise there would be no stopping decomposition once it starts, so there must be other tendencies that are not toward decomposition and subsequent barbarism? Some kind of force towards, dare I use the phrase, towards the "recomposition" of something.

This is where I think we need to go beyond the old paradigms and start to ask questions about the nature of neoliberalism as a late form of capitalism; surely not all of its tendecies are towards decomposition and barbarism. In other words, socio-historical eveolution is rarely a linear path. Certianly, the collapse of the old two bloc world order and the decline of Keynsian-Fordist modes of regulating accumulation have unleashed a great deal of turbulence into the social, political and economic world order: populism, extremism, social polarization, increased intra-state competition, etc. but I am not sure a narrative of straight decline captures reality in its complexity today. While there is a great deal of social and political turmoil, accompanying the decline in the legitimacy of the nation-state, it seems that capitalism may be forming new kinds of social and political communities, legitmated in other ways. How this all shakes out going forward is unclear to me.

baboon
Welcome to KT's and MH's

Welcome to KT's and MH's posts above which are further clarifications in the ongoing discussion. Jk raises some further relevant points but to concentrate on a couple of points of the first two:
MH raises the issue over point 6, the elements of defeats or not, and I tend to agree with the point made that in some ways this is really a secondary issue in relation to the weight of the resolution overall. The possibilities put forward in the resolution about defeats or not for the working class in the future are very real and distinct and not at all contradictory. But, as MH says, the factor of decomposition itself plays a further role here in that one element weighs on another in a chaotic and unpredictable manner. There are possibily other possibilities that we are unaware of that could be thrown into the mix. As MH notes, the ICC further underlines this with its additional comments on the difficulties of prediction outside of the major lines of march.

Looking back, one of the most astonishing things about the possibility of a course to world war coming off the agenda is that it happened almost literally overnight. Of course dynamics, elements and incidents were building up towards this outcome but the actual speed and result was virtually instant. You can argue that the "course of history" also became defunct in the same time span. But these historical events have to be assimilated and absorbed in a proper scientific framework and discussion that follows the event. Even so, the ICC was quick on the uptake with its analysis developing from the events so far: thus, it wasn't the collapse of one bloc that was the issue, as important as this event was in that respect but the collapse of a whole world imperialist order, the collapse of all the major parameters of the international situation and further it developed on all the consequences of this: , decomposition as a central factor, centrifugal tendencies, "each for themselves", breakdown of imperialist order and so on. The two prime texts, valid today more than ever, were the Theses on Decomposition and Militarism and Decomposition. The working class had failed to reach its heights but it had staved off imperialist war which indirectly contributed to the "collapse" of 1989. A further "plus" for the working class here is that despite the barrage of stalinism=communism continuing, the actual blow to stalinism and the idea of a workers' state have both been greatly diminished - that's not to discount the continuing dangers of stalinism.
If the ICC's analysis continues to be the primacy of the class struggle and the ability of the class to raise its struggles - which it is - then the balance of class forces still has to play a role. I've noticed before that reports and resolutions and both individually can contain contradictions and, escpecially with such lengthy texts, this could be expected. This also shows that nothing is "finished", no words written in stone and the necessity for ongoing critques and deeper discussion.

MH
still outstanding issues

I want to come back to jk's last post, but I seem to remember an interesting discussion about barbarism and what might come 'after' capitalism here

In response to the ICC and baboon -

ICC wrote:

At the 23rd congress the ICC was able to make a decisive theoretical step forward, and draw all the conclusions of the analysis we had put forward three decades before. Better late than never, and much better with theoretical conviction!

As I said in my last post I don't want to try to reply to all the points made by the ICC about my original text, but I also think there is a risk some of the issues raised are lost.

Firstly, there is the question of why it took the ICC thirty years to decide that its position on the historic course was no longer valid.

baboon wrote:

the ICC uses the analogy of "throwing away the baby with the bathwater". If my bath took 30 years to empty, I'd call a plumber in.

:-) It’s true that the historical conditions we find ourselves in are by definition unprecedented. It’s also true that the decomposition of capitalism is not a finished state but a process which has been changing and developing over time. But I cannot think of a single historical precedent for a revolutionary organisation taking three decades - an entire generation - to decide that its political position is no longer valid due to changed historical conditions, so by its own standards (see ICC response), I think we have to conclude that the ICC has not been able to avoid succumbing to the danger of sclerosis on this question and the full implications of this failure will need to be addressed.

Secondly, do the resolutions of the 23rd Congress demonstrate this new-found theoretical conviction? Here we must point, again, to the inconsistencies between the resolutions adopted, which do not refer to this “decisive theoretical step forward” and even appear to contradict it. In particular, the Resolution on the Balance of Class Forces simply repeats without comment a section from the 1990 Theses on Decomposition suggesting that “the historical perspective remains completely open …”. I still find it hard to understand how this could have been passed. We are still awaiting the promised report on the work of the congress which may throw more light on this.

On the historic course itself, we probably need to start a new thread. We must also await the ICC’s promised texts, but in the debate that has now opened up I think comrades will need to ask themselves whether the reason for such a delay is due, as the ICC admits, to “an attachment to the safety blanket of the certainties of old analysis”, or is there something specific about its position on the ‘historic course’ that has contributed to its failure to respond to changed conditions?

I intend to write something more about where I stand on this but in the meantime there is already a discussion taking place within the Communist Left, with different positions defended, here.

 

baboon
I'd call in a plumber after

I'd call in a plumber after 30 years because I have a bath every fifteen years whether I need one or not.

MH refers to the Resolution quoting the Theses on Decomposition saying that "The historical perspective remains completely open...", and seems puzzled by it and asks how it could have been passed. Where, in all the positions of the Report and Resolution does it say that the historical perspective is closed? A closing, a closure of this perspective is a possibility and this is why it's correct to warn against it, to raise it as an issue. While the struggle between the classes remains, the balance of forces is central and the historical perspective remains open.

MH
drawing clear conclusions

baboon wrote:

MH refers to the Resolution quoting the Theses on Decomposition saying that "The historical perspective remains completely open...", and seems puzzled by it and asks how it could have been passed. Where, in all the positions of the Report and Resolution does it say that the historical perspective is closed? A closing, a closure of this perspective is a possibility and this is why it's correct to warn against it, to raise it as an issue. While the struggle between the classes remains, the balance of forces is central and the historical perspective remains open.

The whole point of the ICC’s analysis of decomposition is that the historical perspective is no longer “completely open” in the way that it was seen before 1989.

In the absence of an intervention by the proletariat the process of the decay of capitalist society is irreversible. More insidiously, decomposition actively worsens the difficulties of the proletariat. If this process continues long enough it will destroy the material conditions for a communist society. Clearly, time is no longer on the side of the proletariat.

So, far from being completely open the historical perspective today is inexorably closing. This is not just a possibility it is inevitable.

Of course It is still possible the proletariat will be able to respond. But due to decomposition there will be a point when this becomes impossible - whether the proletariat has suffered major defeats or not.   

At the time the Theses on Decomposition were written in 1990 this was not yet unambiguously clear and I think what we see in the resolutions of the 23rd Congress is the continuing struggle of the ICC to clearly draw all the conclusions of its own analysis. But it won’t be helped in this struggle by simply ignoring inconsistencies and contradictions. That's my point.

baboon
 I think that we agree that

 I think that we agree that the ICC has taken some time to develop  its analysis on the consequences of the collapse of the world imperialist order in 1989. From its reply, the ICC seems to also agree on that but its latest texts (and many more over a period of decades) have refined its analysis to a closer approximation of the perspectives facing the working class and humanity in the period of decomposition, the last stage of capitalism.

On those perspectives, MH writes above:
"In the absence of an intervention by the proletariat the process of the decay of capitalist society is irreversible. More insidiously, decomposition actively worsens the difficulties of the proletariat. If this process continues long enough it will destroy the material conditions for a communist society. Clearly, time is no longer on the side of the proletariat.
So, far from being completely open the historical perspective today is inexorably closing. This is not just a possibility it is inevitable.
Of course it is still possible the proletariat will be able to respond. But due to decomposition there will be a point when this becomes impossible - whether the proletariat has suffered major defeats or not."  

That seems to me a fairly accurate summing-up of the historical perspectives of the ICC deduced from the differences between now and the period of the "course of history" up to its collapse, which are: the continued primacy of the class struggle and the balance of class forces (emphasised more in the ICC's reply) and the potential dangers to the proletariat of a total defeat due to the effects of decompositon (not underestimated at all by MH above).  I don't see anything inconsistent or contradictory in the two elements above except in all the dynamics involved in the one against the other. At some stage the die will be cast definitively either by the working class or through the erosive and destructive effects of capitalist decomposition; but at the moment the door is not closed and even if it closes somewhat it is still capable of being kicked open.

 

jk1921
Is decomposition a "phase of

Is decomposition a "phase of capitalism," or is a period in the life of "bourgeois society"? It seems to me the phase of capitalism we are in is something like "neoliberal-globalization," (distinct from the preceding period, which we might call Keynsian-Fordism) which is accompanied by and increasing social decomposition of Western bourgeois society, in particular its democratic apparatus.

But what about China? In what sense can we say something is decomposing there? China seems like a state-capitalist entity that legitimates itself with authoritarianism, but also through a kind of increasingly consumerist social contract with a rising "middle class," (somewhat similar to the [post] Brezhnev era in the old USSR, which was the Eastern Bloc corrollary of Western Keynsian-Fordism). Where is the social decomposition there?