Despite the difficulties resulting from the pandemic, the ICC held its 24th International Congress and we can draw a positive balance sheet from it. As we have always done, and in conformity with the practice of the workers’ movement, we are providing a general overview of its work through this article and through a number of documents which will orient our activity and intervention in the two years ahead – reports and resolutions which have been on our website for several months. The Congress took place with a full recognition of the gravity of the current historical situation, characterised by one of the most dangerous pandemics in history, which is far from having been overcome.
The worst thing to do would be to under-estimate this situation at a time when governments are proclaiming that "everything is under control" and that "we are back to normal", while at the same time a horde of Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers (the other face, equally lying, of the government lies) who downplay reality with their talk of "conspiracies" and "dark manoeuvres"; who use a real fact - the strengthening of the totalitarian control of the state - to take things to absurd levels in the name of “the defence of democratic freedoms”, thus denying the very real dangers to human life that the pandemic entails.
The most serious thing about the pandemic has been how all the states have responded: in a completely irresponsible way, taking contradictory and chaotic measures, without the slightest plan, without any coordination, playing more cynically than ever with the lives of millions of people. And this did not happen in the states usually labelled as "rogue states", but in the United States, Germany, Britain and France, the "most advanced" countries, where there is supposedly "civilization and progress". The pandemic has brought to light the decadence and decomposition of capitalism, the rottenness of its social and ideological structures, the disorder and chaos emanating from its very relations of production, the “no future” of a mode of production gripped by increasingly violent contradictions that it cannot overcome.
Worse: the pandemic is the harbinger of new and deeper convulsions in all countries, imperialist tensions, ecological destruction, economic crisis ... The world proletariat cannot be fooled by vague promises of a "return to normal". It needs to look reality in the face, to understand that the face of barbarism has been clearly outlined by the pandemic and will be defined with even more virulence in the times to come.
The acceleration of capitalist decomposition
The 24th Congress of the ICC took place, like the congresses of revolutionary organisations throughout history, in a framework of fraternity and profound debate. It had the responsibility of confirming the framework of analysis of the decomposition of capitalism, rectifying possible errors or insufficiently elaborated appreciations. The Congress had to answer a series of necessary questions:
- Does the notion of decomposition and its progressive elaboration fully accord with the method of marxism?
- How are the effects of decomposition, its acceleration and intensification, and its interference on other planes of social life, mainly the economy, manifesting themselves?
- How does decomposition affect the class struggle and what is the perspective for its future development?
- Finally, what is the role of the organisation in this situation? How does it prepare for the future in the face of these challenges?
The method of analysis of capitalist decomposition
This Congress confirmed that the analysis of decomposition is in continuity with marxism. In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, marxists identified capitalism’s entry into its epoch of decadence, an analysis confirmed in 1919 by the platform of the Communist International, which spoke of “epoch of the breakdown of capital, its internal disintegration”. Faithful to this approach, the ICC more than three decades ago identified a specific and terminal phase of the decadence of capitalism: its decomposition. This phase of decomposition is the accumulation of a series of contradictions that capitalist society has been unable to resolve, as described in point 3 of the Theses of Decomposition :
“To the extent that contradictions and expressions of decadent capitalism that mark its successive phases do not disappear with time, but continue and deepen, the phase of decomposition appears as the result of an accumulation of all the characteristics of a moribund system, completing the 75-year death agony of a historically condemned mode of production. Concretely, not only do the imperialist nature of all states, the threat of world war, the absorption of civil society by the state Moloch, and the permanent crisis of the capitalist economy all continue during the phase of decomposition, they reach a synthesis and an ultimate conclusion within it".
This analysis, first developed 30 years ago, has been powerfully confirmed in all its gravity, leading us to conclude in the Resolution on the International Situation from the 24th ICC Congress "most of the important events of the last three decades have confirmed the validity of this framework, as witnessed by the exacerbation of the every man for himself at the international level, the ‘rebound’ of the phenomena of decomposition to the core areas of world capitalism through the growth of terrorism and the refugee crisis, the rise of populism and the loss of political control by the ruling class, the growing rot of ideology through the spread of scapegoating, religious fundamentalism and conspiracy theories…The current Covid-19 pandemic is a distillation of all the key manifestations of decomposition, and an active factor in its acceleration" .
Since our Congress completed its work, events have succeeded each other with an unprecedented virulence, clearly confirming our analysis: imperialist wars in Ethiopia, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria; intensification of the confrontation between the USA and China; huge imprint of the ecological crisis around the world, notably through the multiplication of catastrophic floods and wildfires. Today, the pandemic is seeing a new surge of infections and the very dangerous threat of the Omicron variant; at the same time, the economic crisis is aggravating… The defence of the marxist framework of decomposition is today more necessary than ever faced with the blindness of other groups of the Communist Left and the infiltration into the revolutionary milieu of all kinds of modernist, sceptical, nihilist positions, which close their eyes to the reality of the situation. At this moment, we are seeing the unfolding in a number of countries of combative workers’ struggles which more than ever need the strength and lucidity of this framework of analysis.
Accumulation and acceleration of the effects of decomposition
The 24th Congress was able to identify the acceleration of capitalist decomposition by examining in depth the roots and consequences of the pandemic, “the first on such a scale since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918… the most important moment in the evolution of capitalist decomposition since the period definitively opened up in 1989. The inability of the ruling class to prevent the resulting death toll of between 7 and 12 million confirms that the capitalist world system, left to itself, is dragging humanity towards the abyss of barbarism, towards its destruction; and that only the world proletarian revolution can halt this slide and lead humanity to a different future". The pandemic has demonstrated and confirmed the following realities:
- While capitalism is the first system in history whose relations of production have extended themselves and are dominant on a planetary scale, it is nonetheless the case that its rule is eminently chaotic because it is based on deadly competition for the domination of the world market between capitalist states. The world-wide character of capitalism does not enable it to achieve organised and coordinated action on a world scale – which would be the only rational and effective response to phenomena like the Covid pandemic - because it is not unified and centralised on a world-wide scale. On the contrary, the deadly competition for markets and for imperialist control of the globe has led to more and more aberrant and dangerous forms of behaviour on the part of the states, who have left populations defenceless against the pandemic and have even dramatically worsened it. China kept silent about the initial source of the pandemic in Wuhan; after that, big countries like the US, out of fear of their economies being paralysed, took a long time to react, which exacerbated the risks involved in the pandemic, then obliged them to take hasty, extreme and disorganised measures like the lock-downs.
- The capitalist states, without exception, acted in the same way against the working class: restrictions without any kind of planning and based essentially on repression; closing of supply centres without bothering about the economic conditions of the workers; maintenance of production and service sectors without caring about the lives of the workers, as happened with the health workers in all countries (according to Amnesty International, 17000 workers in this sector have died because of Covid and in America alone 570000 were infected ).
- After the Second World War, the WHO (World Health Organisation) was founded, which allowed a certain coordination between states to fight epidemics; however, in the face of the pandemic, the WHO has been ignored, each state has gone its own way, which has increased contagions and deaths and prevented any organised action. This is a clear expression of the advance of capitalist decomposition.
- The disputes over the production and distribution of the vaccine express the chaos and rottenness of the bourgeoisie. In the face of the economic crisis, such conflicts of interest within the ruling class will become more and more vicious.
The 24th Congress concluded that the pandemic cannot be reduced to a "calamity" or seen only as a health crisis (in the style of those that occurred periodically in pre-capitalist modes of production and in capitalism itself during the 19th century). It is a global crisis, manifesting itself at many levels: sanitary, economic, social and political, as well as moral and ideological. It is a crisis of capitalist decomposition: a product of the accumulation of contradictions of the system of the last 30 years, as expressed in our Report on Pandemic and Decomposition for the 24th Congress. Specifically, the pandemic is the result:
- of the dismantling of the health system in all the countries of the world. Since the beginning of the 21st century the capitalist states have known about the proliferation of epidemics such as EBOLA, SARS, etc. However, budgets have been decreased in health services and scientific research. This contrasts with the exorbitant increase in arms budgets and in the beefing up of the repressive forces.
- Viral diseases, such as Covid-19, are also the result of the living conditions of large sections of the working class in all countries, forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
- The irrationality of capitalist production that exclusively privileges profit devastates forests, rivers, and oceans. In particular, the destruction of forests dangerously alters the “biological links” between animals, plants and humans, with unforeseeable consequences… The majority of scientists attribute the emergence of Covid to this factor.
“The ICC is more or less alone in defending the theory of decomposition. Other groups of the communist left reject it entirely, either, as in the case of the Bordigists, because they do not accept that capitalism is a system in decline (or at best are inconsistent and ambiguous on this point); or, for the Internationalist Communist Tendency, because talking about a ‘final’ phase of capitalism sounds far too apocalyptic, or because defining decomposition as a descent into chaos is a deviation from materialism, which, in their view, seeks to find the roots of every phenomenon in the economy and above all in the tendency of the rate of profit to fall" (Resolution on the International Situation, 24th Congress). The Activities Resolution of the 24th Congress underlined that “The Covid Pandemic that began in early 2020 strikingly confirmed the acceleration of the impact of the period of the social decomposition of capitalism”.
The pandemic crisis has shown that decomposition has gone further: 1) it has hit the central countries with particular force, especially the USA; 2) there is a combination and concomitance between the different effects of the decomposition, which is unlike previous periods when they were contained locally and did not influence each other. What this crisis announces is increasingly violent convulsions, a sharpening of the tendencies to the loss of control of society on the part of the state. The decade ahead appears full of serious uncertainties, of more frequent and interrelated catastrophes. The slide of capitalism towards barbarism will have an increasingly terrifying face.
The perspective for the class struggle
The perspectives for the proletariat must also be analysed in the framework of capitalist decomposition. The Resolution on the Balance of Class Forces adopted by our previous Congress identified the difficulties and weaknesses of the working class over the last 30 years. With the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the ICC identified the opening of the phase of decomposition and its consequences for the proletariat in terms of increasing difficulties for the development of its struggles, difficulties which would be further aggravated by the campaigns about the "death of communism" and the "disappearance of the working class”. However, at its 24th Congress, the ICC argued, as it did at its previous Congresses, that the working class is not defeated: "
“Despite the enormous problems facing the proletariat, we reject the idea that the class has already been defeated on a global scale, or is on the verge of such a defeat comparable to that of the period of counter-revolution, a defeat of a kind from which the proletariat would possibly no longer be able to recover. The proletariat, as an exploited class, cannot avoid going through the school of defeats, but the central question is whether the proletariat has already been so overwhelmed by the remorseless advance of decomposition that its revolutionary potential has been effectively undermined. Measuring such a defeat in the phase of decomposition is a far more complex task than in the period before the Second World War, when the proletariat had risen openly against capitalism and been crushed by a series of frontal defeats." (Resolution on the International Situation)
Obviously, we have to sharpen our analytical skills in order to detect this "point of no return" because, “the phase of decomposition indeed contains the danger of the proletariat simply failing to respond and being ground down over a long period – a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ rather than a head-on class confrontation" (ibid).
However, the Congress affirmed that “there is still sufficient evidence to show that, despite the undoubted ‘progress’ of decomposition, despite the fact that time is no longer on the side of the working class, the potential for a profound proletarian revival– leading to a reunification between the economic and the political dimensions of the class struggle – has not vanished.
The Congress also noted "The small but significant signs of a subterranean maturation of consciousness, manifesting itself in efforts towards a global reflection on the failure of capitalism and the need for another society in some movements (particularly the Indignados in 2011), but also through the emergence of young elements looking for class positions and turning towards the heritage of the Communist Left".
We must also bear in mind that the situation facing the working class is not the same as that following the collapse of the Russian bloc and the confirmation of the phase of decomposition in 1989. At that time, the bourgeoisie was able to present these events as proof of the death of communism, the victory of capitalism and the beginning of a bright future for humanity. Thirty years of decomposition have seriously undermined this ideological fraud, and the pandemic in particular has exposed the irresponsibility and negligence of all capitalist governments, the reality of a society plagued by deep economic divisions where we are by no means "all in it together". On the contrary, the pandemic and the lockdown have revealed the conditions of the working class, both as the main victim of the health crisis and as the source of all labour and all material production and, in particular, as the force whose labour satisfies basic human needs. This can be the basis for a future recovery of class identity. And, along with the growing realisation that capitalism is a totally obsolete mode of production, this has already been an element in the emergence of politicised minorities whose motivation has been above all to understand the dramatic situation facing humanity.
Despite the social atomisation of decomposition, despite deliberate attempts to fragment the labour force through stratagems like the green economy, or ideological campaigns that aim to present the more educated sectors of the proletariat as "middle class" and encourage individualism, the workers remain a class that in recent years has increased and is globally interconnected; but with the advance of decomposition, it is also true that atomisation and social isolation intensifies. It is a factor that makes it difficult for the working class, for the time being, to experience its own class identity. Only through the struggles of the working class on its own class terrain will it be able to develop the collective strength that the proletariat will need on a world scale to overthrow capitalism.
The workers are brought together by capital in the production process; their associated work is carried out under coercion, but the revolutionary character of the proletariat means dialectically reversing these conditions in a collective struggle. The exploitation of common labour is transformed into the struggle against exploitation and for the liberation of the social character of labour, for a society that knows how to consciously use all the potential of associated activity. That society for which the world proletariat will have to fight is communist society.
Debate: a strength for the revolutionary organisation
"Contrary to the Bordigist view, the organisation of revolutionaries cannot be ‘monolithic’. The existence of divergences within it is the manifestation that it is a living organ which has no ready-made answers to provide immediately to the problems arising in the class. Marxism is neither a dogma nor a catechism (...) Like all human reflection, that which presides over the development of proletarian consciousness is not a linear and mechanical process, but a contradictory and critical one, which necessarily poses the discussion and confrontation of arguments".
Since before the 23rd International Congress divergences have been expressed on different questions: will the imperialist tensions lead to a new world war? Is the proletariat already defeated? What is the task of the hour for the organisation? This leads to the question of what does it mean to be active as a kind of fraction in the present phase of decomposition
The divergences on the analysis of the international situation had a first public expression in the document “Divergences with the Resolution on the international situation at the 23rd ICC Congress”. The Activities Resolution of our recent Congress underlines that “the organisation has made an effort at every level - at Congresses, meetings of central organs, section meetings along with some 45 individual contributions in the internal bulletins over the last four years - to answer the divergences of the comrades and has also begun to express the debate externally. …The organisation's effort to confront divergences during this period expresses a positive will to strengthen the polemical defence of its positions and analyses."
The divergences were made more precise at the 24th Congress:
- Isn't the polarisation of imperialist tensions, mainly between the US and China, paving the way for a Third World War?
- Wouldn't the brutal measures taken by the states of confinement etc. be a covert means of preparing the populations for imperialist war?
- Is the pandemic a "socio-natural" phenomenon that the states can take advantage of for population control purposes or does it express and accelerate, above all, the general decomposition of capitalism?
- How can the proletariat face up to this grave historical situation? Does it first need a consciousness of itself and the development of its historical perspective? Or would this require the development of a struggles on its own class terrain, the maturing of its consciousness and the strengthening of the capacity of its communist organisations to intervene?
These and other questions have been addressed at the Congress and, with the aim of reaching as much clarity as possible in their expression, will be presented publicly in discussion documents. This is a practice of the workers' movement that the ICC has taken very seriously, as the above-mentioned text from IR 33 points out:
"Insofar as the debates in progress in the organisation concern the proletariat as a whole, it is appropriate for the organisation to bring them to the outside world, respecting the following conditions:
- that the debates concern general political questions that have reached sufficient maturity to make their publication a real contribution to the consciousness of the working class;
- that the place of the debates should not compromise the overall balance of the publications;
- that it is the organisation as a whole that decides and takes charge of the publication according to the criteria that guide the publication of any article in the press: clarity and editorial form, the interest they present for the working class as a whole".
The pillars on which to build the organisation
The Congress drew a positive balance of the activity of the organisation in the last two years, in particular the solidarity with all the comrades affected by the pandemic or by the serious economic consequences of the confinement (a good number of comrades lost the means to earn a living).
This positive balance should not make us lower our guard. The communist organisation is subjected to multiple pressures, and acquisitions - which cost a lot to win - can quickly be lost. As the Activities Resolution adopted by the Congress points out "The acceleration of decomposition poses important problems at the level of militancy, theory and organisational tissue".
These problems are not new, they are an expression of the impact of decomposition on the functioning and militancy of communist organizations since
“The different elements which constitute the strength of the working class directly confront the various facets of this ideological decomposition:
- solidarity and collective action are faced with the atomisation of ‘look out for number one’;
- the need for organisation confronts social decomposition, the disintegration of the relationships which form the basis for all social life;
- the proletariat’s confidence in the future and in its own strength is constantly sapped by the all-pervasive despair and nihilism within society;
- consciousness, lucidity, coherent and unified thought, the taste for theory, have a hard time making headway in the midst of the flight into illusions, drugs, sects, mysticism, the rejection or destruction of thought which are characteristic of our epoch." (Thesis 13 of the Theses on Decomposition).
These dangers clearly show that our work is above all to prepare the future. The ICC's fundamental aim of building a bridge to the future world communist party of the proletariat has been set out since its founding Congress in 1975, and was reaffirmed at the 23rd Congress; but this has been brought into even shaper relief in recent years by several factors: the acceleration of decomposition, and the mounting difficulties faced by the proletariat’s struggles intensify the challenges for the organisation of revolutionaries; ageing of comrades and at the same time the emergence of new militants who are joining the organisation in the context of decomposition; the growing attacks of parasitism against the organisation; the weight of opportunism and sectarianism in the groups coming from the Communist Left.
At its 24th ICC Congress aimed to identify the perspectives, the difficulties and dangers we have to confront if we are to carry out this role of transmission. However, faced with this situation, the preparation of the future has to be clearly understood as going against the stream.
Historically, the marxist movement has only been able to develop by successfully confronting momentous events and therefore has always based itself on a fighting spirit, a desire to overcome all the obstacles that bourgeois society puts in its way. The ICC's experience is no different in this respect. The organisations which history requires to play a role of transmission have had to prove themselves through real trials by fire: the marxist current of the mid-19th century, despite the imprisonments, exile and great poverty of its militants after the defeats of 1848, provided the springboard for the creation of the 1st International in the 1860s. Bilan and the GCF went through the trials of the Stalinist counter-revolution of the 30s, 40s and 50s, fascism and anti-fascism, of the Second World War, to keep the revolutionary flame alive for future generations. It is clear that the period of decomposition is the ICC’s own trial by fire.
The ability to analyse the world and historical situation is one of the pillars of our immediate perspectives; the marxist method of historical materialism and the constant reference to the heritage of previous acquisitions, as well as the confrontation of divergences, are part of the preparation for the future. Our activity in the spheres of intervention, of theoretical deepening, of the defence of the organisation, are founded on the transmission and development of the historic acquisitions of a century of the Communist Left and it is only on this solid basis that the future world communist party of the proletariat can be prepared.
As part of the preparation for the future, there is also the uncompromising fight against parasitism. The effort of the last years shows the necessity to continue the fight against parasitism, denouncing it as the ICC has done in front of the working class, our contacts and in front of the milieu of the Communist Left.
The struggle against opportunism within the organisations of the Communist Left, linked to the struggle against parasitism, is going to be important in the next period; there is a great danger that the potential of the future unity of the revolutionaries could be lost and atrophy. The experience of the last two years of the defence of the organisation against the attacks of parasitism and for breaking the cordon sanitaire it tries to erect around the ICC shows that the struggle against opportunism and sectarianism is synonymous with the knowledge and defence of our history.
In the coming period the ICC intends to improve its press. In the last decades, the concern for polemics with the proletarian political milieu our ranks has diminished. In the next period the organisation intends to reverse this situation. Our fraction-like work, also involves preparing the future by widening polemics, inspired by those of the first phase of Iskra or the first issues of Internationalisme dedicated to the polemic against Vercesi and his opportunist drift. In response to the putrefaction of bourgeois ideology, to the obscurantist mystifications, the press must act as a reference point against the intoxication that emanates from the ideological decomposition of capitalism and offer the working class a rational and concrete perspective for the overthrow of capitalism; we must therefore strengthen the diffusion of our digital and printed press.
The perspective of communism is in the preparation of the future.
The central aim of the 24th Congress was the preparation of the future through drawing the lessons of past mistakes, relentlessly combating parasitism and opportunism, understanding as rapidly as possible the constant developments of historical evolution, defending the organisation and its united, fraternal and centralised functioning. This means firmly and critically basing ourselves upon the historical continuity of the communist organisations, as the Activities Resolution of the Congress put it:
“In the stormy transition to the future of ‘wars and revolutions’ Rosa Luxemburg declared at the founding congress of the German Communist Party in 1919 that they were ‘returning under the banner of marxism’. As the working class in Russia prepared for the first time in history to overthrow the bourgeois state Lenin recalled the acquisitions on the question of the state from Marx and Engels in State and Revolution…
The ICC, as it prepares for the unprecedented instability and unpredictability of the putrefaction of world capitalism must recover the heritage, the militant example, and the organisational experience of MC, thirty years after his death. That is, return to the tradition and method of the Communist Left which the ICC inherited...
This tradition lives on and must be critically reappropriated, in fact it is the only one which can guide the ICC and the working class through the test of fire that is to come”.
ICC, December 2021
 We judged it useful to add to these documents a report on imperialist conflicts adopted in a recent meeting of the ICC’s international central organ.
 All modes of exploitation that have preceded capitalism (slavery, feudalism, Asian despotism) have played criminally with the lives of thousands of people, but capitalism has taken this barbarism to its most extreme expressions. What is imperialist war? Millions of human beings used as cannon fodder, as playthings, for the sordid economic and imperialist interests of nations, states, capitalists. It is therefore nothing new that the management of the pandemic has been conceived by governments as an irresponsible game with the lives of millions of people.
 International Review 107, https://en.internationalism.org/ir/107_decomposition
 Capitalism is based, as we pointed out before, on mortal competition between states and between capitalists. That's why "every man for himself" is inscribed in its DNA, but this characteristic has been sharpened to extremes never seen before with the phase of capitalist decomposition.