Reply to Ferdinand

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The text “Divergences with the Resolution on the International Situation of the 24th ICC congress (explanation of a minority position, by Ferdinand)” presents comrade Ferdinand’s disagreements with the ICC’s analyses of the current period. These disagreements, as he himself stresses (“Because I had similar disagreements as comrade Steinklopfer”) to a large extent cover the same ground as those formulated by comrade Steinklopfer at the 23rd Congress of the ICC and recalled by him in a text presenting his amendments to the resolution of the 24th ICC Congress. We have broadly responded to these divergencies in 2019 and more recently in a contribution posted here. The arguments developed in the latter put forward arguments which are also generally valid in relation to the criticisms expressed in Ferdinand’s text, and we won’t go over them again here[1].

This contribution will instead focus on the understanding of the situation in China, which occupies an important place in Ferdinand’s contribution. Above all, we agree with Ferdinand when he stresses the importance of debate, particularly in a period marked by the appearance of new events where “it is no surprise that within a lively revolutionary organisation, controversies about the analysis of the world situation arise”. In fact, in a non-monolithic organisation like the ICC, it would be worrying if, faced with the convulsions of the last few years, no questioning or disagreement were to arise. At this level, understanding “the evolution of China, its economic power and state capitalism” constitutes a central question, not only for getting a better understanding of the present dynamic of capitalism but also for applying the marxist method to analysing the situation.

From the start of his contribution, Ferdinand expresses his criticisms of the organisation’s analysis of the situation in China and poses the method he intends to develop: “The assertions that China is a ticking time bomb, that its state is weak and its economic growth looking shaky are expression of an underestimation of the real economic and imperialist development of China in the last 40 years. Let us check first the facts and then the theoretical foundations on which this wrong analysis is based”. So let’s examine more closely what facts are being referred to here and then the theoretical foundations which Ferdinand judges to be erroneous. But before that, what about the assertion that the ICC has always underestimated the development of China and continues to do so?

1. A continual under-estimation of the development of China by the ICC?

A first somewhat insidious way of putting in doubt the organisation’s analysis is to assert that it has always neglected the development of China (“The development of China has been downplayed in our ranks for decades”) and that it continues to do so (“But this recognition was half-hearted. Soon the old schemes crept again into our analyses”). In fact, it is quite wrong to say that the ICC has neglected the development of China for decades.

Thus, at the end of the 1970s, the ICC pointed to a development in the relation of forces between the blocs that would have major importance for the future:

“as elsewhere, the slogan of Chinese capital has become ‘export or die’. But because of the weakness of its economy, and lacking positions on the world market, China can no longer play the Lone Ranger and is thus compelled to integrate itself more strongly into the western bloc, as can be seen at the economic level from its trade balance and at the political level with its support for all western or third world policies hostile to Moscow” (Révolution Internationale 41, September 1977)

“The past several years have seen a considerable strengthening of American imperialism and weakening of its Russian rival. The integration of China into the US bloc and the commitment to Peking’s massive rearmament mean that the Kremlin will face an increasingly powerful force on its eastern frontier -- and one which can firmly bar the way to the industrial riches of Japan. Not even Russian imperialism’s effort to outflank China through the Indo-Chinese peninsula can minimise this victory for US imperialism in the Far East” (International Review 18, Report on the International Situation from the 3rd ICC Congress)

This was a crucial dynamic which began in the 60s and 70s with China’s “ideological split with Moscow”, its detachment from the Russian bloc and, in the course of the 1970s (with Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972 and the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979), a gradual rapprochement with the American bloc, in order to “work together and unite to counter the polar bear” (Deng Xiaoping in 1979).

For 70 years (30 of them under the domination of the “Communist” Party), i.e. for the most part of the 20th century, China had been one of the most evident expressions of capitalism’s entry into decadence – an economy in ruins, civil wars, interference and invasion by foreign imperialisms, gigantic famines, floods of refugees and the massacre of millions of people. Its integration into the western market enabled its economic development and a formidable technological modernisation, in particular towards the end of the 80s and during the 90s. During the 90s and at the beginning of the 2000s. the ICC increasingly pointed to and analysed China’s rise to power:

  • At the economic level, underlining that this in no way put into question the analysis of the decadence of capitalism:

“The decadence of capitalism has never meant a final and sudden collapse of the system, as certain elements of the German left argued in the 1920s, or a total halt in the productive forces, as Trotsky mistakenly thought in the 1930s… the Chinese bureaucracy has pulled off an amazing feat merely by surviving, let alone by presiding over the current ‘boom’. Critics of the notion of capitalist decadence have even pointed to this phenomenon as proof that the system still has the capacity for real growth and development

In reality, the present Chinese ‘boom’ in no way calls into question the overall decline in the world capitalist economy. In contrast to the ascendant period of capitalism:

  • China’s current industrial growth is not part of a global process of expansion; on the contrary, it has as its direct corollary the de-industrialisation and stagnation of the most advanced economies who have re-located to China in search of cheap labour costs;
  • the Chinese working class does not have the perspective of a steady rise in living standards, but is predicated upon increasingly savage attacks on living and working conditions and on the continued impoverishment of huge sectors of the proletariat and peasantry outside the main areas of growth;
  • China’s frenzied growth will contribute not to a global expansion of the world market but to a deepening of the world crisis of overproduction: given the restricted consumption of the Chinese masses, the bulk of China’s products are geared towards export to the more developed capitalisms;
  • the fundamental irrationality of China’s swelling economy is highlighted by the terrible levels of pollution which it has generated – a sure sign that the planetary environment can only be harmed by the pressure on each nation to exploit its natural resources to the absolute limit in order to compete on the world market;
  • like the system as a whole, the entirety of China’s growth is founded on debts that can never be reabsorbed through a real expansion of the world market.

Indeed, the fragility of all such spurts of growth is recognised by the ruling class itself, which is increasingly alarmed by the Chinese bubble. This is not because it is worried about the terrifying levels of exploitation upon which it is based - far from it, these ferocious levels are precisely what makes China such an attractive proposition for investment - but because the global economy is becoming too dependent on the Chinese market and the consequences of a Chinese collapse are becoming too horrible to contemplate, not just for China, which would be plunged back into the violent anarchy of the 1930s, but for the world economy as a whole…

It is true that the onset of decadence occurred well before the total exhaustion of such markets, and that capitalism has continued to make the best possible use of such remaining economic areas as an outlet for its production: the growth of Russia during the 1930s and the integration of the remaining peasant economies in Europe during the period of post-war reconstruction are examples of this. But the dominant trend by far in the epoch of decadence is the use of an artificial market, based on debt. (IR 122, Resolution on the International Situation, 16th ICC Congress)[2].

  • As on the level of the expression of its increasingly predominant imperialist power from the beginning of the 21st Century:

In particular it will not be able to discourage China from pushing forward the imperialist ambitions which its recent status as a big industrial power enables it to have. It is clear that this country, despite its demographic and economic importance, does not have, and is unlikely to have, the military or technological means to constitute itself as the new head of a bloc. However, it does have the means to further perturb American ambitions, whether in Africa, Iran, North Korea or Burma, and to throw a further stone into the pond of instability which characterises imperialist relations. (IR 146, Resolution on the international situation from the 19th ICC Congress).

It was not a lack of attention to the development of China, but a certain schematism, in particular at the level of understanding the manifestations of decadence, which characterised the application and deepening of this framework of analysis, as the ICC itself noted at its 21st Congress in 2015:

“The denial, in some of our key texts, of any possibilities of expansion for capitalism in its decadent phase also made it difficult for the organisation to explain the dizzying growth of China and other ‘new economies’ in the period since the downfall of the old blocs. While these developments do not, as many have argued, call into question the decadence of capitalism, and indeed are a clear expression of it, they have disproved the assertion that in the decadent period there is strictly no possibility of industrial take-off in any of the ‘peripheral’ regions. While we were able to refute some of the more facile myths about ‘globalisation’ in the phase following the collapse of the blocs (from the right seeing it as a new and glorious chapter in the ascent of capitalism, from the left as a basis for reviving old nationalist and state capitalist solutions), we were not able to discern the kernel of truth in the globalisation mythology: that the removal of the old autarkic model did open up new spheres for capital investment, including the exploitation of a huge new fund of labour power reared outside of directly capitalist social relations” (IR 156, Resolution on the international situation from the 21st ICC Congress).

“However, we were less able to foresee the capacity of Russia to re-emerge as a force to be reckoned with on the world arena, and most importantly, we have been very late in seeing the rise of China as a new and significant player in the great power rivalries which have developed over the past two or three decades – a failure closely connected to our problems in recognising the reality of China’s economic advance”( IR 156, Resolution on the international Situation from the 21st ICC Congress, point 11).

However, the very assertion by Ferdinand that if this has been the case in the past it can still only be the case today is a fallacious method of argument. Since this danger was recognised by the organisation, we can see that the attention given to the framework for understanding the development of China has been maintained in the recent analyses of the organisation:

“The stages of China's rise are inseparable from the history of the imperialist blocs and their disappearance in 1989: the position of the communist left affirming 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’ was valid in the period from 1914 to 1989. It was the straitjacket of the organisation of the world into two opposing imperialist blocs (permanent between 1945 and 1989) in preparation for the world war that prevented any major disruption of the hierarchy between powers. China's rise began with American aid rewarding its imperialist shift to the United States in 1972. It continued decisively after the disappearance of the blocs in 1989. China appears to be the main beneficiary of ‘globalisation’ following its accession to the WTO in 2001 when it became the world's workshop and the recipient of Western relocations and investments, finally becoming the world's second largest economic power. It took the unprecedented circumstances of the historical period of decomposition to allow China to rise, without which it would not have happened.

China's power bears all the stigma of terminal capitalism: it is based on the over-exploitation of the proletarian labour force, the unbridled development of the war economy through the national programme of ‘military-civil fusion’ and is accompanied by the catastrophic destruction of the environment, while national cohesion is based on the police control of the masses subjected to the political education of the One Party and the fierce repression of the populations of Uighur Muslims and Tibet. In fact, China is only a giant metastasis of the generalised militaristic cancer of the entire capitalist system: its military production is developing at a frenetic pace, its defence budget has increased six-fold in 20 years and has been ranked second in the world since 2010” (IR 164, Resolution on the International Situation from the 23rd ICC Congress).

In reality, it’s not the underestimation of China’s expansion which poses a problem for Ferdinand, but the framework of interpretation with which it is approached (“The formulation ‘China’s extraordinary growth is a product of decomposition’”). For Ferdinand, examining “the facts” in themselves already demonstrates the inconsistency of the ICC’s approach

2 What sanction by the facts?

Ferdinand wants to examine “the facts”. But he begins by selecting those which suit him: “We cannot trust the Chinese propaganda about the strength of its system. But what the western or other non-Chinese media tell us about the contradictions in China is propaganda as well – and in addition it is often wishful thinking”. From there, he can sweep away one aspect of the “facts” advanced by the organisation (“The elements mentioned in the Resolution are not convincing”), while selecting those he thinks are “credible” (“I base the information in this article on Wikipedia and The Economist).

Consequently, the “facts” that he deigns to examine are limited solely to the question of the internal tensions within ruling classes. What’s more, his way of arguing is rather curious:

  • Ferdinand quite absurdly compares the changes in battle order among certain bourgeoisies in western Europe in the 1970s, under the pressure of the class struggle, with the exacerbation of internal tensions between cliques within the national bourgeoisies, which is above all a phenomenon of the phase of the decomposition of capitalism and more specifically of the last decade. It derives in fact from the increasingly strong pressures faced by the different bourgeoisies at the economic and imperialist level and the difficulty of maintaining control over the whole political system (as with the upsurge of populism in the US or Britain, but also with the tensions between cliques in the state apparatus in China).
  • It puts forward the false and preposterous idea that the ICC defends “the thesis that the proletariat is threatening Xi Jinping’s regime”.

This argument in fact hides (a) an underestimation of the weight of decomposition on the bourgeoisie’s political apparatus and (b) a tendency to see the form of Chinese capitalism as an “advanced” form of capitalism, like in the European countries, and not as a caricatural expression of the putrefaction of capitalism. The issue for Ferdinand is not one of a faction fight within the Stalinist party-state but is about proposing an alternative model (“no alternative model for the course of Chinese state capitalism is visible”) by bourgeois factions outside and inside the party.  This shows that he doesn’t see that the system of Stalinist state capitalism in China is not an expression of the strength of capitalism but is a pure product of barbarism, decadence and decomposition.

In this perspective, his analysis of the repression of the private capitalists singularly reveals the lack of method in his approach to “the facts”. He points to the recent repression of private capitalists: (“The Party is clipping the wings of some of the most profitable enterprises and richest tycoons; it is letting air escape from some speculation bubbles in order to control the whole economic activity more strictly”). But what is proved by this tighter grip by the state over the private enterprises? The context of the phase of decomposition highlighted by the ICC is precisely what makes it possible to understand that this “taking in hand” of entire sectors of the economy by the party, which underlines of the rigidity of the Stalinist political system in China under pressure at the economic and imperialist level, just as with the tensions between factions within it, are essentially an expression of the WEAKNESS of the regime and not of its strength.

Whereas the “facts” that he wants to examine are limited to the question of tensions within ruling classes, he remains silent about the multitude of elements advanced by the organisation that attest to China’s difficulties, since the report on imperialist tensions of June 2018 (IR 161) to the report on the pandemic and the development of decomposition adopted by the 24th ICC Congress in 2021 (IR 167):

“In the longer term, the Chinese economy is faced with the relocation of strategic industries by the United States and European countries and the difficulties of the ‘New Silk Road’ because of the financial problems linked to the economic crisis and accentuated by the Covid-19 crisis (with its impact on Chinese financing but above all because of the level of indebtedness of ‘partner’ countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, etc.) but also by growing mistrust on the part of many countries and anti-Chinese pressure from the United States. So, it should come as no surprise that in 2020 there has been a collapse in the financial value of the investments injected into the ‘New Silk Road’ project (-64%).

The Covid-19 crisis and the obstacles encountered by the ‘New Silk Road’ have also accentuated the increasingly evident tensions at the head of the Chinese state, between the ‘economist’ faction, which relies above all on economic globalisation and ‘multilateralism’ to pursue China's capitalist expansion, and the ‘nationalist’ faction, which calls for a more muscular policy and puts forward force (‘China defeated Covid’) in the face of internal threats (the Uighurs, Hong Kong, Taiwan) and external threats (tensions with the USA, India and Japan). In the perspective of the next People's Congress in 2022, which should appoint the new (former?) president, the situation in China is therefore also particularly unstable”.

Since then, all the reports on imperialist tensions have put forward a number of elements concerning the calamitous management of the Covid crisis: the accumulation of problems for the Chinese economy, the stagnation of the “New Silk Road” project and the accentuation of antagonisms within the Chinese bourgeoisie. The report on imperialist tensions from November 2021 (IR 167) synthesises China’s difficulties at the different levels:

“In the last decades China has undergone a dazzling rise on the economic and imperialist levels which has made it the most important challenger to the United States. However, as events of September 2021 in Afghanistan have already illustrated, it hasn’t been able to profit either from the decline of the US or from the crisis of Covid-19 and its consequences in order to strengthen its position on the level of imperialist relations; again quite the contrary. We’ll examine the difficulties which faced Chinese bourgeoisie in handling the pandemic, and in the management of the economy, imperialist relations and tensions within the ruling class”.

On each of these levels, precise elements are provided to illustrate that “far from taking advantage of the present situation, the Chinese bourgeoisie, as others, is confronted with the weight of the crisis, the chaos of decomposition and internal tensions that it is trying by all means to contain within the capitalist structures of a worm-eaten state”. (IR 167, Report on Imperialist Tensions, November 2021). Unfortunately, all this is studiously ignored by Ferdinand.

So what is it that pushes the comrade to dispute the assertion that “China is a ticking time bomb”, when this cannot be based on an insufficient following by or lack of evidence from the ICC, especially with regard to the present period, as all the references to our Congress texts show? In the last analysis, don’t the arguments discussed here constitute a smokescreen aimed at hiding the real reason for his disagreement, which is to be sought at the level of the “theoretical foundations”?

3. A wrong, schematic application of decadence and decomposition, but by whom?

Ferdinand aims to demonstrate that he is criticising “a wrong, schematic understanding of capitalist decadence” by raising a number of questions.

The first question is that the ICC is underestimating the tendency towards the constitution of new blocs (“The resolution downplays the danger of a future bloc constellation”), which for Ferdinand is the dominant one: “The capitalist logic of the polarisation between China and the US pushes both to find allies, to take part in the arms race and to head towards war”. This analysis however makes an abstraction of the characteristics of the present phase of decomposition which:

  1. Radically counterposes itself against the tendency towards the formation of imperialist blocs which marked the period of the “Cold War”. This has been clearly posed by the ICC since 1990:

“the tendency towards a new share-out of the planet between two military blocs is countered, and may even be definitively compromised, by the increasingly profound and widespread decomposition of capitalist society, which we have already pointed out” (IR 61, “After the collapse of the eastern bloc: destabilisation and chaos”).

And this reality will not be called into question by the disappearance of the world's division into two imperialist constellations as a result of the Eastern bloc's collapse.

The constitution of imperialist blocs is not the origin of militarism and imperialism. The opposite is true: the formation of these blocs is only the extreme consequence (which at certain mo­ments can aggravate the causes), an expression (and not the only one), of decadent capitalism's plunge into militarism and war”. (IR 64, “Orientation Text: Militarism and decomposition”).

Thus, in the present context of the war in Ukraine, the position adopted by India towards the US and Russia, by China towards Russia or by Turkey towards NATO (of which it is a member) and Russia underline, among other examples, the degree to which instability marks the relations between imperialist powers and not the constitution of imperialist blocs.

  1. In no way implies a reduction of military barbarism, of the danger of war, as we stressed more than 30 years ago:

“military confrontations between states are not going to disappear, even though they may no longer be used and manipulated by the great powers. On the contrary, as we have seen in the past, militarism and war are decadent capitalism's way of life, and the deepening of the crisis can only confirm this.

By contrast with the previous period, however, these military conflicts no longer take the form of a confrontation between the two great imperialist blocs” (IR 63, Resolution on the International situation, June 1990);

“…the end of the blocs can only open the door to an even more barbaric, aberrant and chaotic form of imperialism” (IR 64, Militarism and decomposition”).

And in response to Ferdinand’s interpretation that “Should we think that capitalism in its period of decomposition is more rational and thus more inclined to avoid war?”, the exact opposite is true: the ICC has pointed out that the current instability and chaos derived from the tendency towards every man for himself does not reduce militarism and the danger of war but paradoxically has made the danger of a nuclear spiral more real than during the “Cold War” between blocs ( see IR 168, “Significance and impact of the war in Ukraine”).

According to Ferdinand, another point that shows the schematism of the ICC is our failure to recognise that Chinese state capitalism is the big winner of the situation and is getting stronger: “The resolution underestimates the fact that the strong economies are far better off than the weak ones… And it denies that China is a winner of the situation… China is one of the winners of the pandemic crisis so far”. According to Ferdinand, “The ruling circles in this country are using the pandemic crisis to restructure its economy, its army, its empire. Even if the economic growth in China has slowed down in recent times, behind this is to some extent a calculated plan of the ruling political elite to harness the excesses of private capital and to strengthen state capitalism for the imperialist challenge”.

The ICC does not at all deny that in this phase of mounting decomposition, national bourgeoisies may, temporarily and in certain areas, profit from the situation: during the first decade of the phase of decomposition, the USA seemed to succeed in imposing its overall hegemony (first Gulf war, Dayton accords for ex-Yugoslavia); even today, certain oil or gas-producing countries are raking in an unexpected windfall of dollars; similarly, China did indeed experience a remarkable economic expansion between 1990 and 2016. However, the real issue is to explain the following: of what is this expansion the product?

For the ICC, capitalism’s entry since 1989 into the final phase of its decadence, the phase of decomposition, makes it possible to situate and comprehend both the ingredients in the sudden emergence of China but also the internal and external fragilities and contradictions which menace this expansion. This task of putting things into context is precisely what Ferdinand avoids in an extensive and explicit way.

Furthermore, contrary to Ferdinand who seems to see Stalinist state capitalism as the dynamic motor of China’s development, the Gauche Communiste de France in its review Internationalisme in 1952 was already underlining that state capitalism is not essentially a solution to the contradictions of capitalism, even if may delay their effects, but is an expression of these contradictions:

“Since the capitalist mode of production entered its period of decadence, the pressure to fight against this decline with state capitalist measures has grown constantly. However, the tendency to strengthen state capitalist organs and forms is anything but a strengthening of capitalism; on the contrary, they express the increasing contradictions on the economic and political terrain. With the acceleration of decomposition in the wake of the pandemic, we are also witnessing a sharp increase in state capitalist measures. These are not an expression of greater state control over society but rather an expression of the growing difficulties in organising society as a whole and preventing its increasing tendency to fragmentation” (IR 167, Resolution on the International Situation, 24th ICC congress, point 23).

In this framework, the implosion of the eastern bloc also signified the failure of Stalinist state capitalism, which is particularly outmoded and inefficient. If China, by going over to the side of the US, was able to open itself to private capitalists and to the world market (where it played a central role in the policy of the globalisation of the economy) it has held onto the decrepit structures of Stalinist state capitalism which necessarily imply (a) a closely monitored and relative freedom for capitals and private capitalists (b) a vivid fear of social conflict which it can only deal with through brutal repression and (c) Machiavellian and pitiless struggles between rival factions within the party-state.

The central question that emerges in a confused way through a forest of specific elements is that the framework of decomposition put forward by the ICC implies a univocal approach:

  • (…) everything is subordinated to “decomposition, a kind of homogenous fragmentation”) and misses out some of the central characteristics of capitalism: “understanding of the period of decomposition is schematic and – to the extent that it denies the persistence of elementary capitalist laws – for example capital concentration and centralisation –an abandonment of marxism”. 

In fact:

  1. Understanding decomposition as the dominant framework for grasping the development of the situation over the last 40 years was put forward by the ICC towards the end of the 1980s and has been confirmed by the events which have shaken the world order and the relation between classes since 1989-90:

“For a year, the world situation has undergone considerable upheavals, which have greatly modified the world which emerged from the second imperialist war. The ICC has done its best to follow these events closely:

- to set out their historical significance,

- to examine how far they confirm or invalidate analytical frameworks which had been valid previously.

Although we had not foreseen exactly how these historic events would take place (Stalinism's death-agony, the disappearance of the Eastern bloc, the disintegration of the Western bloc), they integrate perfectly into the analytical framework and understanding of the present historical period that the ICC had worked out previously: the phase of decomposition (IR 64, Militarism and Decomposition.

This situation provoked a dynamic of capitalism rotting on its feet, accentuating characteristics which were already present since its entry into decadence, such as the irrational explosion of militarism, an imperialist free for all, chaos or the difficulty of the bourgeoisie to maintain control over its political apparatus, but which become dominant characteristics in this final phase:

“it is vital to highlight the fundamental distinction between the elements of decomposition which have infected capitalism since the beginning of the century and the generalised decomposition which is infecting the system today, and which can only get worse. Here again, quite apart from the strictly quantitative aspect, the phenomenon of social decomposition has today reached such a breadth and depth that it has taken on a new and unique quality, revealing decadent capitalism’s entry into a new and final phase of its history: the phase where decomposition becomes a decisive, if not the decisive factor in social evolution” (IR 107, Theses on Decomposition).

Why doesn’t Ferdinand position himself in relation to the predominance of this framework in the ultimate phase of capitalist decadence, the phase of social decomposition, which has been discussed and unanimously approved by the organisation, and recalled in the preamble to the resolution on the international situation from the 24th ICC Congress:

This resolution is in continuity with the report on decomposition to the 22nd ICC Congress, the resolution on the international situation to the 23rd congress, and the report on pandemic and decomposition to the 24th Congress. It is based on the proposition that not only does the decadence of capitalism pass through different stages or phases, but that we have since the late 1980s reached its ultimate phase, the phase of decomposition”.

  1. Does this framework for understanding the situation imply, as Ferdinand claims, that the ICC has “forgotten” certain tendencies inherent to capitalism, such as the tendency towards concentration and centralisation, which has been further accentuated in decadence? Far from denying them, the ICC has shown how the application of these tendencies have further exacerbated the chaos and barbarism of the period:

“in continuity with the platform of the Communist International in 1919, which not only insisted that the world imperialist war of 1914-18 announced capitalism’s entry into the “epoch of the breakdown of capital, its internal disintegration, the epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat”, but also emphasised that “The old capitalist ‘order’ has ceased to function; its further existence is out of the question. The final outcome of the capitalist mode of production is chaos. This chaos can only be overcome by the productive and most numerous class – the working class. The proletariat has to establish real order - communist order”. Thus, the drama facing humanity was indeed posed in terms of order against chaos. And the threat of chaotic breakdown was linked to “the anarchy of the capitalist mode of production”, in other words, to a fundamental element in the system itself. According to marxism, the capitalist system, on a qualitatively higher level than any previous mode of production, involves the products of human labour becoming an alien power that stands above and against their creators. This decadence of the system, with its insoluble contradictions, is marked by a new spiral in this loss of control. And as the CI’s Platform explains, the necessity to try to overcome capitalist anarchy within each nation state – through monopoly and above all through state intervention – only pushes it onto new heights on a global scale, culminating in the imperialist world war. Thus, while capitalism can at certain levels and for certain phases hold back its innate tendency towards chaos (for example, through the mobilisation for war in the 1930s or the period of economic boom that followed the war), the most profound tendency is towards the “internal disintegration” that, for the CI, characterised the new epoch.” (IR 167, Resolution on the International Situation, 24th ICC Congress).

It appears then that the various disagreements expressed by Ferdinand with regard to the analysis of China basically derives from an insufficient assimilation of the central tendencies of the phase of decomposition. In reality, if you begin from this framework and take up the elements referred to in the preceding points, you can only conclude that the development of China is indeed “a product of decomposition”. Certainly, Ferdinand claims that he is in agreement with this framework “The polarising tendencies that I put forward are not in contradiction with the framework of decomposition”, it’s just that the ICC has exaggerated things with its “decomposition everywhere”. In fact, and the examination of the previous points confirms this, Ferdinand demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of decomposition, and one phrase is particularly illustrative of this: “The latter (= the “decomposition everywhere” position) is a permanent search for phenomena of dislocation and disintegration, losing sight of the more profound and concrete tendencies (our emphasis) that are typical for the current shifts”. In other words, every man for himself, chaos and exacerbated individualism are not fundamental tendencies of the present period: from here, despite a formal agreement with this framework, we see, through a cloud of smoke, a concrete undermining of this framework via an empirical and evasive approach.

4. How to go forward in the debate?

We began, along with Ferdinand, in stressing the importance of this debate. For Ferdinand, it consists in a confrontation between theories and affirmations, Thus, he underlines in his contribution on analysing the emergence of China that “my thesis is the opposite one. The ruling circles in this country are using the pandemic crisis to restructure its economy, its army, its empire”. As Ferdinand recalls at the beginning of his text, a debate in the ICC has to develop with a method. Let’s recall what is meant by the marxist conception of debate:

Contrary to the Bordigist current, the ICC has never considered marxism as an ‘invariant doctrine’, but as a living thought enriched by each important historical event. Such events make it possible either to confirm a framework and analyses developed previously, and so to support them, or to highlight the fact that some have become out of date, and that an effort of reflection is required in order to widen the ap­plication of schemas which had previously been valid but which have been overtaken by events, or to work out new ones which are capable of encompassing the new reality.

Revolutionary organisations and militants have the specific and fundamental responsibility of carrying out this effort of reflection, always moving forward, as did our predecessors such as Lenin, Rosa, Bilan, the French Communist Left, etc, with both caution and boldness:

- basing ourselves always and firmly on the basic acquisitions of marxism,

- examining reality without blinkers, and developing our thought ‘without ostracism of any kind’ (Bilan)” (IR 64, “Militarism and decomposition”).

In short, a debate does not consist in a free “confrontation of factually based arguments”, a free opposition between “hypotheses”, a juxtaposition of “theories”, “opinions” put forward by a “majority” and a “minority” as the comrade puts it on various occasions: («confrontation of factually based arguments”; “there are no elements in favour of the thesis that the proletariat is threatening Xi Jinping's regime (…), my thesis is the opposite one”; “we have to consider the theory behind the majority position and thus the present resolution »). The starting point of a debate is above all the framework shared by the organisation, adopted and made more precise by different reports from its International Congresses.

Consequently, the ICC’s approach is in no way a dogmatic one but simply applies the marxist method when it confronts new elements with the shared framework, acquired in common on the basis of the past debates in the history of the workers’ movement, in order to evaluate to what extent these new elements confirm or on the other hand put into question the acquired framework of analysis. In contrast, hidden behind the formally systematic approach of Ferdinand, who presents point by point his critical comments on the resolution on the international situation, adopted by the ICC at its last International Congress, lies the disarray of an approach which aims to befog the fact that the comrade is in reality tending to put the framework into question by starting off from a different implicit logic.

R. Havanais, November 2022 


[2] In reality, debt in no way creates a real “market” but consists of injecting ever greater sums into the economy in expectation of production in the years ahead. In this sense, debt represents an increasingly heavy weight on the economy. The level of debt in China is gigantic (300% of GNP in 2019)


Internal debate on the world situation