The acceleration of capitalist decomposition poses the clear possibility of the destruction of humanity

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The war in Ukraine is not a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky. Its devastation comes at the same time as a number of other catastrophic phenomena: climate change, environmental degradation, an accelerating economic crisis, political convulsions that are afflicting even the oldest country in capitalism (the United Kingdom), the return of terrible large-scale famines with mass migrations of populations fleeing war zones, slaughter, persecution, destitution... This combination of phenomena, and their interdependence and interaction, has led the International Communist Current to adopt and publish the document which appears below, which aims to integrate these aspects into a broader historical framework and which also takes account of the very important situation of the large-scale strike movement that has shaken the United Kingdom, an expression of deep discontent branded by the media "the summer of discontent".


1. The 20s of the 21st century are shaping up to be one of the most turbulent periods in history, and indescribable disasters and suffering are already mounting up. It began with the Covid-19 pandemic (which is still out there) and a war in the heart of Europe which has lasted for more than nine months and whose outcome no one can foresee. Capitalism has entered into a phase of serious difficulties on all fronts. Behind this accumulation and entanglement of convulsions lies the threat of the destruction of humanity. And, as we already pointed out in our "Theses on Decomposition"[1], capitalism "is the first [society] to threaten the very survival of humanity, the first that can destroy the human species" (Thesis 1).


2. The decadence of capitalism is not a homogeneous and uniform process: on the contrary, it has a history which is expressed in several phases. The phase of decomposition has been identified in our Theses as "a specific phase, the ultimate phase of its history, the one in which decomposition becomes a factor, if not the decisive factor, of the evolution of society" (Thesis 2). It is clear that if the proletariat is not able to overthrow capitalism, there will be an agonising descent into barbarism, leading to the destruction of humanity.


3. Following the sudden outbreak of the Covid pandemic, we identified four characteristics of the phase of decomposition:

- The increased severity of its effects. The pandemic caused between 15 and 20 million deaths, the general paralysis of the economy for more than a year, the collapse of national health systems, the inability of states to coordinate internationally to combat the virus and produce vaccines, each state sinking instead into a policy of every man for himself. Such a situation not only indicates the impossibility of the system to escape its laws dictated by competition, but also that with the exacerbation of these rivalries comes the negligence, aberration and chaos of bourgeois management and this at the heart of the most powerful and developed countries of the planet.

- the irruption of the effects of decomposition at the economic level. This tendency, already noted at the 23rd Congress of the ICC, has been fully confirmed and is quite "novel" because since the 1980s the bourgeoisie of the central countries had managed to protect the economy from the main effects of decomposition. [2]

- The growing interaction of its effects, which aggravates the contradictions of capitalism to a level never reached before. Indeed, in the previous thirty years, the bourgeoisie had more or less succeeded (especially in the central countries) in isolating or limiting the effects of decomposition, generally preventing them from interacting. What has become clear over the last two years is the interaction and interweaving of a warlike barbarism, a phenomenal ecological crisis, the chaos in the political apparatus of a good number of important bourgeoisies, the continuing pandemic and the growing risk of new health crises, famines, the gigantic exodus of millions of people, the spread of the most retrograde and irrational ideologies, etc. All this develops in the midst of a virulent worsening of the economic crisis which further threatens entire sections of the population, in particular those proletarians exposed to growing impoverishment and an accelerated deterioration of their living conditions (unemployment, precariousness, difficulty finding food and housing...)

- The growing presence of its effects in the central countries. If, for the last thirty years, the central countries were relatively protected from the effects of decomposition, today they are being hit hard and, worse still, they tend to become its greatest propagators, as in the United States, where in early 2021 we witnessed the attempted storming of the Capitol by the supporters of the populist Trump as if it were a regular banana republic.


4. 2022 provided a striking illustration of these four characteristics, with:

- The outbreak of war in Ukraine.

- The appearance of unprecedented waves of refugees.

- The continuation of the pandemic with health systems on the verge of collapse.[3]

- A growing loss of control by the bourgeoisie over its political apparatus; the crisis in the UK was a spectacular manifestation of this.

- An agricultural crisis with a shortage of many food products in a context of widespread overproduction, which is a relatively new phenomenon in more than a century of decadence: "In the short term, climate change is attacking the foundations of food security. Rising temperatures and extreme climate variations threaten to jeopardise the harvests; in fact, in 2020, crop growing times have been shortened by 9.3 days for maize, 1.7 days for rice and 6 days for wheat in winter and spring, compared to the period between 1981 and 2004”.[4]

- The terrifying famines that are affecting more and more countries.[5]

The aggregation and interaction of these destructive phenomena produces a 'vortex effect' that concentrates, catalyses and multiplies each of its partial effects, causing even more destructive devastation. Some scientists, like Marine Romanello of University College London, have formed a clear view on this: "Our report for this year reveals that we are at a critical juncture. We see how climate change is severely affecting health worldwide, while the continued global dependence on fossil fuels is exacerbating this health damage amidst a multiplicity of global crises”. This "vortex effect" expresses a qualitative change, the consequences of which will become increasingly evident in the coming period.

In this context, it is important to stress the driving force of war, as an action deliberately pursued and planned for by capitalist states, having become the most powerful and aggravating factor of chaos and destruction. In fact, the war in Ukraine has had a multiplier effect on the escalation of barbarism and destruction, involving the following elements:

- The risk of bombing nuclear power plants is always present, as can be seen particularly around the Zaporizhzhia site.

- The threat from the use of chemical and nuclear weapons.

- The violent ramping up of militarism with its consequences for the environment and the climate.

- The direct impact of the war on the energy crisis and the food crisis.

In this context, we can see the calamity of the growing environmental crisis, which is reaching levels never seen before:

- A summer heat wave, the worst since 1961, with the prospect of such heatwaves becoming a permanent feature.

- A drought unlike any before, the worst in 500 years according to experts, even affecting rivers such as the Thames, the Rhine and the Po, which are usually fast flowing.

- Devastating fires, that were also the worst in decades.

- Uncontrollable floods like those in Pakistan, which affected a third of the country's land area (and large-scale flooding in Thailand).

- A risk of collapse of the ice caps after the melting of glaciers comparable in size to the surface of the United Kingdom, with catastrophic consequences.

Other data linked to the environmental crisis, which at the same time aggravates it, relates to the dilapidated state of nuclear power plants[6] in the context of the energy crisis (resulting from the economic crisis) but also as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. There is clearly a risk of unprecedented disasters in addition to the risk of Ukrainian nuclear power plants being hit by bombs.

The seriousness of the situation is becoming even more clear. One person who can in no way be suspected of being an enemy of capitalism has declared that "the climate crisis is killing us. It would not only end any question about the health of our planet, but also that of its entire population through the contamination in the atmosphere." (says Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General in a message to his General Assembly in September 2022).


5. Underlying this catastrophic development is the dramatically worsening economic crisis that has been developing since 2019 and has been exacerbated first by the pandemic and then by the war. This crisis is shaping up to be a longer and deeper crisis than that of 1929. This is because the irruption of the effects of decomposition on the economy tends to cause havoc with the functioning of production, creating constant bottlenecks and blockages in a situation of growing unemployment - combined, paradoxically, with labour shortages in some areas. Above all, it is expressed in the outbreak of inflation, following various successive rescue plans hastily deployed by states in the face of the pandemic and the war, and thus caused and fuelled by a headlong rush into debt. The increase in interest rates by central banks in an attempt to curb inflation risks precipitating a very violent recession by shackling both states and companies. The proletariat in the central countries now faces a tsunami of misery and brutal impoverishment.


6. Some important countries are now in an increasingly dangerous situation, which may have serious repercussions for the world as a whole:

- Russia will not be able to avoid a massive upheaval. It is unlikely that a simple removal of Putin from office would be without bloody clashes between rival factions. The possible fragmentation of parts of Russia, the world's largest and most heavily armed state, would have unforeseeable consequences for the whole world.

- China is still suffering from repeated blows of the pandemic (with more likely to come), the weakening of the economy, repeated environmental disasters and the enormous imperialist pressure from the US. The economic and strategic initiative of the "New Silk Roads" can only further worsen the predicament of Chinese capitalism.

- As the Resolution on the International Situation of the 24e ICC Congress points out: "China is a ticking time bomb [...]. The totalitarian control over the whole social body, the repressive hardening of the Stalinist faction of Xi Jinping is not an expression of strength but a manifestation of the weakness of the state, whose cohesion is endangered by the existence of centrifugal forces within society and important struggles of the cliques within the ruling class".

- The US itself is in the grip of the most serious conflict inside the bourgeoisie since World War II, "the extent of the divisions within the US ruling class was laid bare by the contested November 2020 elections, and especially by the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters on 6 January 2021, driven by Trump and his entourage. The latter event demonstrates that the internal divisions shaking the United States run through society as a whole. Although Trump has been ousted from office, Trumpism remains a powerful, heavily armed force, expressed both on the streets and at the ballot box."[7] This was just confirmed recently with the Biden mid-term elections, where the divisions between the rival parties (Democrats and Republicans) have never been so deep and exacerbated, as have the rifts within each of the two camps. The weight of populism and of the most retrograde ideologies, marked by the rejection of rational, coherent thought, far from being curbed by attempts to block a new Trump candidacy, has only become more and more deeply and durably entrenched in American society, as in the rest of the world. This is an indication of how rotten the social relations are.


7. The degeneration of the world situation to an unprecedented level is further aggravated by two very important factors linked to the inadequate control of the social relations as a whole by the capitalist states, especially the most powerful ones:

- As we noticed with the Covid-19 crisis and even before (at our 23rd congress), the capacity for the big states to cooperate to delay and lessen the impact of the economic crisis and to limit or postpone the effects of decomposition on the weaker countries, has considerably weakened and the tendency is not for a "return" of "international cooperation", but rather the opposite. Such problems can only aggravate the global chaos.

- On the other hand, within the world's major bourgeoisies, one cannot reasonably detect an emergence of policies that could stem, even partially or temporarily, such a destructive and rapid erosion. Without underestimating the capacity of the bourgeoisie to respond, it is difficult to see, at least for the time being, the implementation of policies similar to those of the 1980s and 1990s that mitigated and delayed the worst effects of the crisis and decomposition.


8. This development, although it may have surprised us by its speed and scale, was largely foreseen in the update of our analysis on decomposition made by the 22nd congress (Report on Decomposition Today)[8]. On the one hand, the report clearly recognised the rise of populism in the central countries as an important manifestation of the bourgeoisie's loss of control over its political apparatus. Likewise, we identified the irruption of waves of refugees and the exodus of people to the centres of capitalism as another manifestation and placed particular emphasis on the environmental disaster and its scale.

At the same time, the report had identified problems that do not feature prominently in the media currently but which have continued to worsen: terrorism, the housing problem in the central countries, famine and in particular, “the destruction of human relationships, family ties, and human empathy has only worsened as evidenced by the use of anti-depressants, the explosion of psychological pressure and stress at work and the appearance of new occupations intended to "support" such people. There are also expressions of real carnage like that of summer 2003 in France where 15,000 elderly people died during the heat wave”. It is clear that the pandemic has had a considerable influence on the situation, pushing things to the limits, and that suicides and mental health problems during this period have been called "a second pandemic".


9. This current perspective follows coherently from the analytical framework developed by the "Theses on Decomposition" thirty years ago:

- “In this situation, where society’s two decisive - and antagonistic - classes confront each other without either being able to impose its own definitive response, history nonetheless does not just come to a stop. Still less for capitalism than for preceding social forms, is a ‘freeze’ or a ‘stagnation’ of social life possible." (Thesis 4). For thirty years, the decay has only deepened and is now leading to a qualitative worsening, showing its destructive consequences in a way never seen before.

- "No mode of production can live, develop, maintain itself on a viable basis and ensure social cohesion, if it is unable to present a perspective for the whole of the society which it dominates. And this is especially true of capitalism, which is the most dynamic mode of production in history." (Thesis 5). The current situation is the continuation of more than fifty years of unabated aggravation of the capitalist crisis without the bourgeoisie having been able to offer a perspective, while the proletariat has not yet been able to advance its own: the communist revolution. It is dragging the world into a spiral of barbarism and destruction in which the central countries, having played a role as a relative brake on decomposition for a whole period, are now becoming an aggravating factor.

Decomposition "does not lead back to a previous form of capitalism’s life. [...] Human civilisation today is losing some of its gains [...] The course of history cannot be turned back: as its name suggests, decomposition leads to social dislocation and putrefaction, to the void." (Thesis 11).


10. Faced with this situation, the "Theses on Decomposition", while warning that, "unlike the situation in the 1970s, time is no longer on the side of the working class" (thesis 16) and that there is the danger of a slow but ultimately irreversible erosion of the very foundations of communism, nevertheless make it clear that "the historical perspective remains completely open" (thesis 17).

Indeed, "Despite the blow that the Eastern bloc’s collapse has dealt to proletarian consciousness, the class has not suffered any major defeats on the terrain of its struggle. In this sense, its combativity remains virtually intact. Moreover, and this is the element which in the final analysis will determine the outcome of the world situation, the inexorable aggravation of the capitalist crisis constitutes the essential stimulant for the class’s struggle and development of consciousness, the precondition for its ability to resist the poison distilled by the social rot. […] Its struggle against the direct effects of the crisis constitutes the basis for the development of its class strength and unity." (Thesis 17).

"The economic crisis directly attacks the foundations on which this superstructure rests; in this sense, it lays bare all the barbarity that is battening on society, thus allowing the proletariat to become aware of the need for a radical change to the system, rather than trying to improve certain aspects of it." (Thesis 17).

This perspective is in fact beginning to emerge: "In the face of the bourgeoisie's attacks [...] the working class in Britain is showing that it is once again prepared to fight for its dignity, to reject the sacrifices that are constantly demanded by capital. It is indicative of an international dynamic: last winter, strikes started to appear in Spain and the US; this summer, Germany and Belgium also experienced walkouts; and now, commentators are predicting "an explosive social situation" in France and Italy in the coming months. It is not possible to predict where and when the workers' combativity will re-emerge on a massive scale in the near future, but one thing is certain: the scale of the current workers' mobilisation in Britain is a significant historical event. The days of passivity and submission are past. The new generations of workers are raising their heads".[9]

We have identified the struggles in the UK as a break from the passivity and disorientation that had existed previously. The return of workers' combativity in response to the crisis can become a source of consciousness, as can our intervention, which is an essential factor in this situation. It is clear that each acceleration of decomposition succeeds in bringing a halt to the workers' developing combativity: the movement in France 2019 came to a halt when the pandemic broke out. This shows an additional and not insignificant difficulty in the face of the development of struggles and the recovery of the proletariat's confidence in itself and in its own forces. However, there is no other way than the struggle. The resumption of the struggle is in itself a first victory. The world proletariat in very turbulent conditions, with many bitter defeats, can finally recover its identity as a class and eventually launch an international offensive against this moribund system.


11. Hence, in this context, the 20s of the 21st century will have a considerable impact on historical development. They will show with even greater clarity than in the past that the perspective of the destruction of humanity is an integral part of capitalist decomposition. At the other pole, the proletariat will begin to take its first steps, like those expressed in the combativity of the struggles in the UK, to defend its living conditions in the face of the multiplication of the attacks of the different bourgeoisies and the blows of the world economic crisis with all its consequences. These first steps will often be hesitant and full of weaknesses, but they are essential if the working class is to be able to reaffirm its historical capacity to impose its communist perspective. Thus, the two alternative poles of the perspective will confront each other globally: the destruction of humanity or the communist revolution, even if this latter alternative is still very far off and faces enormous obstacles. To deepen the understanding of the historical framework is an immense but absolutely necessary and vital task for the revolutionary organisations of the proletariat, which need to be the best defenders and propagators of a general perspective. It is also a crucial test of their ability to analyse and provide answers to the challenges posed by the different aspects of the current situation: war, crisis, class struggle, environmental crisis, political crisis, etc.


ICC, 28 October 2022


[1]Adopted in 1990. See International Review 107

[3]Globally, the risk to human health in all countries, including the "most developed", has increased dramatically, while scientists also warn of the possibility of new pandemics. The study by a team from London University College published in The Lancet also shows how the climate crisis has increased the spread of dengue fever by 12% between 2018 and 2021 and that "deaths from heatwaves have increased by 68% between 2017 and 2021, compared with the period between 2000 and 2004".

[4]The Lancet (2022). It should be noted that while the huge ecological deterioration is not the only factor in the food crisis, the concentration of production in very few countries and the heavy financial speculation with wheat and other basic foods further aggravate the problem.

[5]In its own way, the International Monetary Fund acknowledges the reality of the situation: "it is more likely that growth will slow further and that inflation will be higher than expected. Overall, the risks are high and broadly comparable to the situation at the start of the pandemic - an unprecedented combination of factors is shaping the outlook, with individual elements interacting in ways that are inherently difficult to predict. Many of the risks described above are essentially an intensification of the forces already present in the baseline scenario. In addition, the realisation of short-term risks may precipitate medium-term risks and make it more difficult to resolve long-term issues".

[6]In France, a global nuclear power giant, now has 32 of its 56 nuclear reactors shut down.

[8]See Report on Decomposition Today (May 2017), International Review No. 164.

[9]The ruling class demands further sacrifices, the response of the working class is to fight! (International leaflet).


The 20s of the 21st century