The decomposition of capitalism is accelerating!

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While the bourgeoisie and its media never cease to conceal the historic bankruptcy of capitalism, the bourgeoisie, when it brings together the world's major leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos and talks to itself, cannot avoid a certain lucidity. The conclusions of the general report submitted to the Forum are particularly revealing from this point of view. “The first years of this decade have heralded a particularly disruptive period in human history. The return to a ‘new normal’ following the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly disrupted by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, ushering in a fresh series of crises in food and energy – triggering problems that decades of progress had sought to solve.

As 2023 begins, the world is facing a set of risks that feel both wholly new and eerily familiar. We have seen a return of ‘older’ risks – inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, geopolitical confrontation and the spectre of nuclear warfare – which few of this generation’s business leaders and public policy-makers have experienced. These are being amplified by comparatively new developments in the global risks landscape, including unsustainable levels of debt, a new era of low growth, low global investment and de-globalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unconstrained development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and the growing pressure of climate change impacts and ambitions in an ever-shrinking window for transition to a 1.5°C world. Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade to come.

The next decade will be characterized by environmental and societal crises, driven by underlying geopolitical and economic trends. ‘Cost-of-living crisis’ is ranked as the most severe global risk over the next two years, peaking in the short term. ‘Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse’ is viewed as one of the fastest deteriorating global risks over the next decade, and all six environmental risks feature in the top 10 risks over the next 10 years. Nine risks are featured in the top 10 rankings over both the short and the long term, including ‘Geoeconomic confrontation’ and ‘Erosion of social cohesion and societal polarisation’, alongside two new entrants to the top rankings: ‘Widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity’ and ‘Large-scale involuntary migration’.” [1]

This long quote is not from an ICC publication. It is the fruit of the work of one of the most highly regarded think tanks among the world’s leading political and economic leaders. In fact, these observations are largely in line with the text adopted by the ICC in October 2022 on the acceleration of capitalist decomposition:

“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. […]

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

- The increased severity of its effects[…].

- the irruption of the effects of decomposition at the economic level […].

- The growing interaction of its effects, which aggravates the contradictions of capitalism to a level never reached before […].

- The growing presence of its effects in the central countries […].

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.

- 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.

- The terrifying famines that are affecting more and more countries.

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. […] This ‘vortex effect’ expresses a qualitative change, the consequences of which will become increasingly evident in the coming period.” [2]

In reality, it was not just by a few months that the ICC's analysis preceded that of the most informed experts in the dominant class, but by several decades, since the findings set out in this text are simply a striking confirmation of the forecasts we had already put forward at the end of the 1980s, notably in our "Theses on decomposition".
The “vortex” (or whirlwind) effect referred to in our text, highlights the fact that all it takes for one of these phenomena to worsen for partial crises to be transformed into a whirlwind of catastrophes.

The Global Risks Report says it all when it talks about the dynamic leading to what the bourgeoisie calls a “polycrisis”. “Concurrent shocks, deeply interconnected risks and eroding resilience are giving rise to the risk of polycrises – where disparate crises interact such that the overall impact far exceeds the sum of each part. Eroding geopolitical cooperation will have ripple effects across the global risks landscape over the medium term, including contributing to a potential polycrisis of interrelated environmental, geopolitical and socioeconomic risks relating to the supply of and demand for natural resources. The report describes four potential futures centred around food, water and metals and mineral shortages, all of which could spark a humanitarian as well as an ecological crisis – from water wars and famines to continued overexploitation of ecological resources and a slowdown in climate mitigation and adaption.” The Global Risks Report's very precise description of the “interconnectivity of global risks” is basically, without really being aware of it, the process that is leading to total barbarism and the destruction of humanity.

Identifying the causes of the "whirlwind” of crises

Bourgeois experts, on the other hand, abandon this objectivity when they try to explain the origin of these "risks". Although they do not set themselves this objective, we can deduce from the references they present that the roots of the cataclysms lie in inadequate decision-making. The solutions they propose are based on naive optimism, hoping for “significant policy change or investment”, a happy collaboration between states and between states and private capital.

Entangled in a bourgeois vision of the historical situation, the Global Risks Report fails to understand that the phenomena it manages to describe are the result of the very existence of capitalism, and that war, ecological destruction and economic crisis have no solution in this system. Although from its inception capitalism was a system based on human exploitation, on the depredation and destruction of nature, capitalism was a factor of political and social development at the time of its rise (mainly in the XIXᵉ century). But like any mode of production, it eventually reached its phase of decadence, a phase in which the development of the productive forces increasingly came into opposition with the relations of production that constrained them. It is no coincidence that the First World War initiated the process of decadence of the system, since militarism and war now define the economic and political life of the bourgeoisie.

Recognising capitalism's decadence, the revolutionaries of the Third International defined it in their programmatic platform as “The epoch of the disintegration of capitalism, of its internal collapse. The epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat”. In this way, decadence represents the material conditions that make social revolution possible.

More than 100 years after this tipping point, the impasse in which capitalism finds itself, and the appalling barbarity and massive destruction it wreaks, are more and more obvious to humanity every day.

Since the implosion of the Soviet bloc in 1989, the internal contradictions that characterised the decadent phase of capitalism have really broken out, highlighting the rottenness of the system. This new period, that of the decomposition of capitalism, is marked by a process of increasing atomisation and dislocation, which has become the determining factor in the evolution of society, bringing together and aggravating destructive phenomena and exposing the danger that capitalism represents for humanity.

These destructive trends have not only become more pronounced, but have also appeared in tandem and, above all, have interacted with each other. Thus, at the beginning of the decomposition phase, the various states could intervene and isolate the effects, so that each catastrophe occurred without being linked to the others.

The pandemic and above all the war in Ukraine marked a qualitative change in decomposition, not only because their effects were global and led to millions dying or being displaced, but also because they had an aggravating impact on conflicts in various fields: they highlighted the bourgeoisie's inability to contain disasters in a coordinated way and its irrationality, they paralysed the economy, accelerated the health crisis, sharpened commercial and imperialist rivalries, etc. 

It is precisely this interaction of the contradictions of decadent capitalism, moving forward in a whirlwind, that appears to be the major characteristic of this phase of decomposition. It is in the history of the decadence of the capitalist system that we can situate the foundations of current events and understand why the 20s of the 21st century are shaping up to be “one of the most turbulent periods in history”.

The capitalist mode of production is not eternal, any more than the modes of production that preceded it. Like the modes of production of the past, it is destined to be replaced (if it does not destroy humanity before then) by another, superior mode of production corresponding to the development of the productive forces that it made possible at a given moment in its history. A mode of production that will abolish the commodity relations at the heart of capitalism's historical crisis, where there will no longer be room for a privileged class living off the exploitation of the producers.

The communist alternative to the barbarity of rotting capitalism

While the bourgeoisie, with all its teams of specialists, can describe phenomena, it cannot fundamentally understand them, let alone provide a solution. The only class that can offer an alternative to its barbarism is the proletariat, the exploited class within capitalism, which has no privileges to defend. What's more, the proletariat is also the class that is bearing the full brunt of the attacks on its working and living conditions as a direct result of the pressure of the crisis, accentuated by all the manifestations of decomposition.

Despite all the attacks suffered in recent decades, two conditions enable workers to maintain themselves as a historic force capable of confronting capital: the first is that the proletariat is not defeated and maintains its fighting spirit. The second is precisely the deepening of the economic crisis, which lays bare the root causes of all the barbarity that weighs on society, thus enabling the proletariat to become aware of the need to radically change the system and no longer merely seek illusory improvements in certain aspects of it.

Precisely at the present time, under the impetus of the economic crisis, the proletariat has begun to develop its struggles, as shown by the mobilisations in Europe. Since the summer of 2022, the working class in Great Britain has taken to the streets to defend its living conditions. The same combativeness was then expressed in mobilisations in France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and in the United States. From this point of view, the decade that is beginning also expresses a break with the passivity and disorientation that the proletariat has weighed on it for decades.

The combativeness now being expressed in Europe underlines the fact that a process of maturation has begun, moving towards the reconquest of a genuine class identity and self-confidence at an international level. This process is the soil on which the historic struggle of the working class against the barbarity of capitalism in putrefaction can blossom, the basis for the revolutionary perspective.


MA, 15 May 2023




[1] The Global Risks Report  presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2023).
[2] The acceleration of capitalist decomposition poses the clear possibility of the destruction of humanity, International Review 169 (2022)


Crisis of the system