The ICC adopted in May 1990 Theses entitled "Decomposition, the ultimate phase of capitalist decadence" which presented our overall analysis of the world situation at the time of and following the collapse of the Eastern imperialist bloc in late 1989. The central idea of the Theses was, as the title indicates, that the decadence of the capitalist mode of production, which had begun in the First World War, had entered a new phase of its evolution, one dominated by the general decomposition of society. At its 22nd congress, in 2017, by adopting a text entitled "Report on decomposition today (May 2017)", our organisation considered it necessary to update the 1990 document, to "confront the essential points of the theses with the present situation: to what extent the aspects put forward have been verified, or even amplified, or have been disproved, or need to be completed". This second document, written 27 years after the first, showed that the analysis adopted in 1990 had been fully verified. At the same time, this 2017 text addressed aspects of the world situation that were not included in the 1990 text, but which complemented the picture presented in that document and which had taken on major importance: the explosion in the number of refugees fleeing wars, famine, persecution and also the rise of xenophobic populism, which was having an increasing impact on the political life of the ruling class.
Today, the ICC considers it necessary to update the 1990 and 2017 texts, not a quarter of a century after the latter, but only 6 years after, because in the last period we have witnessed a spectacular acceleration and amplification of the manifestations of this general decomposition of capitalist society.
This catastrophic and accelerating development of the state of the world has obviously not escaped the attention of the world's leading political and economic leaders. In the "Global Risks Report" (GRR) based on the analyses of a multitude of "experts" (1,200 in 2022) and which is presented each year at the Davos forum (World Economic Forum - WEF), which brings together these leaders, one can read:
"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 evershrinking window for transition to a 1.5°C world. Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade to come”. (Executive Summary, page 6)
In general, whether in government statements or in the mainstream media, the ruling class tries to downplay the extreme gravity of the global situation. But when it brings together the world's main leaders, or talks to itself, as at the annual Davos Forum, it cannot avoid a certain lucidity. It is significant that the alarming findings of this report have had very little echo in the mainstream media, whose fundamental vocation is not to honestly inform the population, and particularly the exploited, but to act as propaganda agencies designed to make them accept a situation that is becoming more and more catastrophic, to hide from them the complete historical bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production.
In fact, the findings contained in the report presented at the Davos Forum in January 2023 are largely in line with the text adopted by the ICC in October 2022 entitled "The acceleration of capitalist decomposition openly raises the question of the destruction of humanity". In reality, it is not by a few months that the ICC's analysis preceded that of the most informed "experts" of the ruling class, but by several decades, since the observations made in our October 2022 document are only a striking confirmation of the forecasts that we had already put forward at the end of the 1980s, notably in our "Theses on decomposition". That the communists have a certain lead, and even a definite lead, over the bourgeois "experts" in the prediction of the great catastrophic tendencies which work the capitalist world is not surprising: the dominant class can, as a general rule, only hide a fundamental reality from itself and from the class which it exploits, and which alone can bring a solution to the contradictions which undermine society, the proletariat: as with the modes of production which have preceded it, the capitalist mode of production is not eternal. Like the modes of production of the past, it is destined to be replaced, if it does not destroy humanity beforehand, by another, superior mode of production corresponding to the development of the productive forces that it has allowed at a certain moment in its history. A mode of production that will abolish the commodity relations that are at the heart of the historical crisis of capitalism, where there will no longer be room for a privileged class living off the exploitation of producers. It is precisely because it cannot envisage its own disappearance that the bourgeois class is incapable, as a rule, of taking a clear-sighted look at the contradictions that are leading the society it rules to its ruin.
In the afterword to the 2nd edition of Capital in German, Marx wrote: “The contradictions inherent in the movement of capitalist society impress themselves upon the practical bourgeois most strikingly in the changes of the periodic cycle, through which modern industry runs, and whose crowning point is the universal crisis. That crisis is once again approaching, although as yet but in its preliminary stage; and by the universality of its theatre and the intensity of its action it will drum dialectics even into the heads of the mushroom-upstarts of the new, holy Prusso-German empire.”
At the very moment when the ICC was adopting the Theses on Decomposition, announcing the entry of capitalism into a new phase, the ultimate phase, of its decadence, marked by a qualitative aggravation of the contradictions of this system and a general decomposition of society, the "practical bourgeois", notably in the person of President Bush senior, was ecstatic about the glorious new perspective which, in its eyes, had been inaugurated by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the "Soviet" bloc: an era of "peace" and "prosperity". Today, confronted with the "contradictory movement of capitalist society", not in the form of a cyclical crisis like those of the 19th century but in the form of a permanent and insoluble crisis of its economy generating a growing disruption and chaos of society, this same "practical bourgeois" is obliged to let a little "dialectic" enter his head.
For this reason, the updating of the Theses on Decomposition will be based on the analyses and forecasts contained in the 2023 Global Risks Report, as well as on our October 2022 text, which in many respects it confirms. This is a confirmation provided by the most lucid institutions of the ruling class; in reality it is an admission of the historical bankruptcy of its system. The use of data and analysis provided by the enemy class is not an "innovation" of the ICC. In fact, revolutionaries do not, in general, have the means to collect the data and statistics that the state and administrative apparatus of the bourgeoisie collects for its own needs for directing society. It was partly on the basis of this kind of data, obviously with a critical eye, that Engels fleshed out his study on The Condition of the Working Class in England. And Marx, especially in Capital, often uses the "blue notebooks" of British parliamentary enquiries. Concerning the analyses and forecasts produced by the "experts" of the bourgeoisie, it is necessary to be even more critical than on the factual data, especially when they correspond to propaganda intended to "demonstrate" that capitalism is the best or the only system capable of ensuring human progress and well-being. However, when these analyses and forecasts underline the catastrophic impasse in which this system finds itself, which obviously cannot function as an apology for the system, it is useful and important to rely on them to support and reinforce our own analyses and forecasts.
Part I: The 2020s usher in a new phase in the decomposition of capitalism
In the text adopted in October 2022, we read:
“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: Decomposition, the final phase of capitalist decadence (International Review 107, 4th Quarter 2001), capitalism "is the first [society] to threaten the very survival of humanity, the first that can destroy the human species" (Thesis 1).
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.
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 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”.
The findings of the WEF "experts" are no different:
“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’ …
Governments and central banks could face stubborn inflationary pressures over the next two years, not least given the potential for a prolonged war in Ukraine, continued bottlenecks from a lingering pandemic, and economic warfare spurring supply chain decoupling. Downside risks to the economic outlook also loom large. A miscalibration between monetary and fiscal policies will raise the likelihood of liquidity shocks, signaling a more prolonged economic downturn and debt distress on a global scale. Continued supply-driven inflation could lead to stagflation, the socioeconomic consequences of which could be severe, given an unprecedented interaction with historically high levels of public debt. Global economic fragmentation, geopolitical tensions and rockier restructuring could contribute to widespread debt distress in the next 10 years. …
Economic warfare is becoming the norm, with increasing clashes between global powers and state intervention in markets over the next two years. Economic policies will be used defensively, to build self-sufficiency and sovereignty from rival powers, but also will increasingly be deployed offensively to constrain the rise of others. Intensive geo-economic weaponization will highlight security vulnerabilities posed by trade, financial and technological interdependence between globally integrated economies, risking an escalating cycle of distrust and decoupling …
Interstate confrontations are anticipated by GRPS respondents to remain largely economic in nature over the next 10 years. However, the recent uptick in military expenditure and proliferation of new technologies to a wider range of actors could drive a global arms race in emerging technologies. The longer-term global risks landscape could be defined by multi-domain conflicts and asymmetric warfare, with the targeted deployment of new-tech weaponry on a potentially more destructive scale than seen in recent decades.
The ever-increasing intertwining of technologies with the critical functioning of societies is exposing populations to direct domestic threats, including those that seek to shatter societal functioning. Alongside a rise in cybercrime, attempts to disrupt critical technology-enabled resources and services will become more common, with attacks anticipated against agriculture and water, financial systems, public security, transport, energy and domestic, space-based and undersea communication infrastructure.
Nature loss and climate change are intrinsically interlinked – a failure in one sphere will cascade into the other. Without significant policy change or investment, the interplay between climate change impacts, biodiversity loss, food security and natural resource consumption will accelerate ecosystem collapse, threaten food supplies and livelihoods in climate-vulnerable economies, amplify the impacts of natural disasters, and limit further progress on climate mitigation.
Compounding crises are widening their impact across societies, hitting the livelihoods of a far broader section of the population, and destabilizing more economies in the world, than traditionally vulnerable communities and fragile states. Building on the most severe risks expected to impact in 2023 – including ‘Energy supply crisis’, ‘Rising inflation’ and ‘Food supply crisis’ – a global Cost-of-living crisis is already being felt. …
Associated social unrest and political instability will not be contained to emerging markets, as economic pressures continue to hollow out the middle-income bracket. Mounting citizen frustration at losses in human development and declining social mobility, together with a widening gap in values and equality, are posing an existential challenge to political systems around the world. The election of less centrist leaders as well as political polarization between economic superpowers over the next two years may also reduce space further for collective problem-solving, fracturing alliances and leading to a more volatile dynamic.
With a crunch in public-sector funding and competing security concerns, our capacity to absorb the next global shock is shrinking. Over the next 10 years, fewer countries will have the fiscal headroom to invest in future growth, green technologies, education, care and health systems.
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." (Executive Summary, Key Findings: some elements’, p7)
"Our global ‘new normal’ is a return to basics – food, energy, security – problems our globalized world was thought to be on a trajectory to solve. These risks are being amplified by the persistent health and economic overhang of a global pandemic; a war in Europe and sanctions that impact a globally integrated economy; and an escalating technological arms race underpinned by industrial competition and enhanced state intervention. Longer-term structural changes to geopolitical dynamics (…) are coinciding with a more rapidly changing economic landscape, ushering in a low-growth, low-investment and low-cooperation era and a potential decline in human development after decades of progress." (1.1.Current crises, p.14)
"A combination of extreme weather events and constrained supply could lead the current cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophic scenario of hunger and distress for millions in import-dependent countries or turn the energy crisis towards a humanitarian crisis in the poorest emerging markets.
Estimates suggest that over 800,000 hectares of farmland were wiped out by floods in Pakistan, … Predicted droughts and water shortages may cause a decline in harvests and livestock deaths across East Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa, exacerbating food insecurity.
'Severe commodity price shocks or volatility' was a top-five risk over the next two years in 47 countries surveyed by the Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey (EOS), while ‘Severe commodity supply crises’ registered as a more localized risk, as a top-five concern across 34 countries, including in Switzerland, South Korea, Singapore, Chile and Türkiye. The catastrophic effects of famine and loss of life can also have spill-over effects further afield, as the risk of widespread violence grows and involuntary migration rises." (‘Cost-of-living crisis’, p.16-17)
"Some countries will be unable to contain future shocks, invest in future growth and green technologies or build future resilience in education, healthcare and ecological systems, with impacts exacerbated by the most powerful and disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable." (‘Economic downturn’, p.19)
"In the face of vulnerabilities highlighted by the pandemic and then war, economic policy, particularly in advanced economies, is increasingly directed towards geopolitical goals. Countries are seeking to build “self-sufficiency”, underpinned by state aid, and achieve “sovereignty” from rival powers. …
This may spur contrary outcomes to the intended objective, driving resilience and productivity growth lower and marking the end of an economic era characterized by cheaper and globalized capital, labour, commodities and goods.
This will likely continue to weaken existing alliances as nations turn inwards." (‘Geoeconomic warfare’, p.19)
"Today, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have all reached record highs. Emission trajectories make it very unlikely that global ambitions to limit warming to 1.5°C will be achieved.
Recent events have exposed a divergence between what is scientifically necessary and what is politically expedient.
Yet geopolitical tensions and economic pressures have already limited – and in some cases reversed – progress on climate change mitigation, at least over the short term. For example, the EU spent at least EUR50 billion on new and expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and supplies, and some countries restarted coal power stations.
The stark reality of 600 million people in Africa without access to electricity illustrates the failure to deliver change to those who need it and the continued attraction of quick fossil-fuel powered solutions – despite the risks.
Climate change will also increasingly become a key migration driver and there are indications that it has already contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups and conflicts in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.” (‘Climate action hiatus’, p.21-22)
This assessment of the state of the world today contains all the elements that were cited in our October 2022 text, often in greater detail. In particular, the four major characteristics of the present situation:
- 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 ...
are indeed present in the WEF document, even if in somewhat different words and formulations, and even if the political impact of decomposition on the most advanced countries is addressed in somewhat "timid" terms: one should not anger the governments and political forces of these countries by referring to their increasingly irrational and chaotic policies.
In particular, the WEF report highlights the increasing interaction of the effects of decomposition, which we call the "vortex” or “whirlwind” effect". To do this, it introduces the term "polycrisis", which was already used in the 1990s by Edgar Morin, a French "philosopher" and friend of Castoriadis, the mentor of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group. The definitions of this term used in the WEF report are the following:
"A problem becomes a crisis when it challenges our ability to cope and thus threatens our identity. In the polycrisis the shocks are disparate, but they interact so that the whole is even more overwhelming than the sum of the parts.
Another explanation of polycrisis would be - when multiple crises in multiple global systems become causally entangled in ways that significantly degrade humanity’s prospects."
This "considerable deterioration in the prospects of humanity" is found in the WEF report in the chapter entitled "Global Risks 2033: Tomorrow’s Catastrophes", a title which is already significant for the tone of these perspectives. Some of the sub-headings are also significant: "Natural ecosystems: past the point of no return'; Human health: perma-pandemics and chronic capacity challenges; Human security: new weapons, new conflicts"
More concretely, here are some examples of how the WEF report addresses these themes:
"Biodiversity within and between ecosystems is already declining faster than at any other point during human history.
Human interventions have negatively impacted a complex and delicately balanced global natural ecosystem, triggering a chain of reactions. Over the next 10 years, the interplay between biodiversity loss, pollution, natural resource consumption, climate change and socioeconomic drivers will make for a dangerous mix. Given that over half of the world's economic output is estimated to be moderately to highly dependent on nature, the collapse of ecosystems will have far-reaching economic and societal consequences. These include increased occurrence of zoonotic diseases, a fall in crop yields and nutritional value, growing water stress exacerbating potentially violent conflict, loss of livelihoods dependent on food systems and nature-based services like pollination, and ever more dramatic floods, sea-level rises and erosion from the degradation of natural flood protection systems like water meadows and coastal mangroves.
Nature loss and climate change are intrinsically interlinked – a failure in one sphere will cascade into the other, and attaining net zero will require mitigatory measures for both levers. If we are unable to limit warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C, the continued impact of natural disasters, temperature and precipitation changes will become the dominant cause of biodiversity loss, in terms of composition and function.
Continued damage to carbon sinks through deforestation and permafrost thaw, for example, and a decline in carbon storage productivity (soils and the ocean) may turn these ecosystems into “natural” sources of carbon and methane emissions. The impending collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets may contribute to sea-level rise and coastal flooding, while the ‘die-off’ of low-latitude coral reefs, the nurseries of marine life, are sure to impact food supplies and broader marine ecosystems.
Pressure on biodiversity will likely be further amplified by continued deforestation for agricultural processes, with an associated demand for additional cleared cropland, especially in subtropical and tropical areas with dense biodiversity such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Yet, there is a more existential feedback mechanism to consider: biodiversity contributes to the health and resilience of soil, plants and animals, and its decline puts both food production yields and nutritional value at risk. This could then fuel deforestation, increase food prices, threaten local livelihoods and contribute to diet-related diseases and mortality. It may also lead to Large-scale involuntary migration.
It is clear that both the scale and pace needed to transition to a green economy require new technologies. However, some of these technologies risk impacting natural ecosystems in new ways, with limited opportunity to “field-test” results." (‘Natural ecosystems: past the point of no return’, p.31-32)
"Global public health is under growing pressure and health systems around the world are at risk of becoming unfit for purpose.
Given current crises, mental health may also be exacerbated by increasing stressors such as violence, poverty and loneliness.
Healthcare systems face worker burnout and continued shortages at a time when fiscal consolidation risks deflecting attention and resources elsewhere. More frequent and widespread infectious disease outbreaks amidst a background of chronic diseases over the next decade risks pushing exhausted healthcare systems to the brink of failure around the world. …
Climate change is also expected to exacerbate malnutrition as food insecurity grows. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can result in nutrient deficiencies in plants, and even accelerated uptake of heavy minerals, which have been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and impaired growth." (‘Human health: perma-pandemics and chronic capacity challenges’, p.35-37)
"A reversal of the trend towards demilitarisation will heighten the risk of conflict, on to a potentially more destructive scale. Growing mistrust and suspicion between global and regional powers has already led to the reprioritisation of military expenditures with stagnation on non-proliferation mechanisms. The spread of economic, technological and, therefore, military power to multiple countries and actors is driving the latest round of a global arms race.
The proliferation of more destructive and new-tech military weaponry may enable newer forms of asymmetric warfare, enabling smaller powers and individuals to have a greater impact at a national and global level." (‘Human Security: New Weapons, New Conflicts’, p.38)
"The set of emerging demand and supply concerns around natural resources is already becoming an area of growing alarm. The GRPS [Global Risks Perception Survey] respondents identified a strong relationship and reciprocal links between the “natural resource crises” and the other links identified in previous chapters.
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 over-exploitation of ecological resources and a slowdown in climate mitigation and adaption." (‘Competition for Resources: Four Emerging Futures’, p.57-58)
The conclusion of the report gives us an overall picture of what the world will be like in 2030:
"Global poverty, climate-sensitive livelihood crises, malnutrition and diet-related diseases, state instability and involuntary migration have all risen, elongating and spreading the instability and humanitarian crises …
Food, energy and water insecurity becomes a driver of social inequality, civil unrest and political instability.
Overexploitation and pollution - the tragedy of the global commons - has expanded. Famine has returned at a scale not seen in the last century. The sheer scale of humanitarian and environmental crises showcases broader paralysis and ineffectiveness of key multilateral mechanisms in addressing crises facing the global order, spiralling downwards into a self-perpetuating and compounding polycrises."
The report tries at times to guard its readers against despairing by saying, for example:
"Some of the risks described in this year’s report are close to a tipping point. This is the moment to act collectively, decisively and with a long-term lens to shape a pathway to a more positive, inclusive and stable world." But overall, it demonstrates that the means to "act collectively, decisively" are non-existent in the current system.
In the 1990 ICC text we based the development of our analysis on the observation of the emergence or aggravation at the world level of a whole series of deadly or chaotic manifestations of social life. We can recall them here to see to what extent the current situation, as presented above, has intensified and increased these manifestations:
- "More widespread famine in 'third world' countries"
- "The transformation of this same 'third world' into a giant slum with the development of the same phenomenon at the heart of the big cities of the 'advanced' countries"
- "An increase in 'accidental' disasters and increasingly devastating effects at a human, social and economic level of 'natural' disasters"
- "Environmental degradation (dying rivers, polluted oceans, unbreathable city air, radioactive contamination, greenhouse effect)
- "The development of epidemics
- "The incredible corruption that grows and prospers in the political apparatus of the ruling class"
The phenomenon of corruption is not dealt with in the WEF report (afraid to upset the corrupt!). Despite all the "virtuous" programmes aimed at dealing with it, this scourge still thrives, particularly in Third World countries, of course: for example, the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the advance of jihadist groups in the Sahel owe a great deal to the unbridled corruption of the regimes that were or are in power. In the countries that emerged from the former Soviet Union, like Russia and Ukraine, these are mafia-like governments. But this phenomenon does not spare the most developed countries, with all the shenanigans (which are only the tip of the iceberg) revealed by the "Panama papers" and other bodies. Similarly, "petro-dollars" are flowing to the advanced countries, particularly those in Europe, to buy compliance on the part of "decision-makers” in these countries with absurd and misguided decisions such as the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar or (unbelievable but true) the awarding of the Asian Winter Games to Saudi Arabia! But one of the high points was reached when the vice-president of the European Parliament, an institution that is supposed to fight corruption among other things, was taken by surprise, caught with suitcases full of banknotes from Qatar.
Finally, it is clear that the terrible human toll of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria in early February was largely the result of corruption that permitted developers to increase their profits by evading official earthquake zone building regulations.
"The general tendency for the bourgeoisie to lose control in the conduct of its politics":
We have seen this issue treated very cautiously in the WEF report, especially when it refers to “an existential challenge for political systems worldwide” and “the election of less traditional ('centrist') leaders”.
Finally, manifestations of decomposition identified in 1990 are not directly mentioned in the WEF report (usually for "diplomatic" reasons) nor in our October 2022 text because they were secondary to the central theme of this text: the considerable advance taken by decomposition as we enter the 2020s.
“the constant increase in criminality, insecurity, and urban violence, as well as the fact that more and more children are falling prey to this violence
Two examples (among many) are the continuation of mass killings in the United States and the recent murders of several teenagers by other teenagers in France.
"the development of nihilism, despair, and suicide amongst young people (expressed for example in the punk slogan ‘no future’) and hatred and xenophobia” The rise of racist hatred (often in the name of religion) which is the breeding ground for far-right populism (Nigel Farage in the UK, Trump and his followers in the US, Le Pen in France, Meloni in Italy, etc.).
"the tidal waves of drug addiction … especially prevalent among young people": this scourge does not diminish, as illustrated by the power of drug gangs like those in Mexico.
"the profusion of sects, the renewal of the religious spirit including in the advanced countries”: There are many examples today of the aggravation of this phenomenon with the rise of:
- Salafism, the most obscurantist version of Islam
- extreme right-wing Christian fanaticism, illustrated by the growing influence of evangelicals, as in the United States and Brazil
- a bellicose and xenophobic Hinduism in India (the most populated country in the world)
- an extreme right-wing "militant Judaism" in Israel.
Of course, the WEF report carefully avoids mentioning these phenomena: there is a need to be polite to the participants of the Davos Forum who represent governments where religion and religious fanaticism are a major political instrument of their power.
“the rejection of rational, coherent thought even amongst certain ‘scientists’ ": The recent development of conspiracy theories, particularly at the time of the Covid pandemic, often associated with an extreme right-wing ideology; and there is a counterpart, on the other side of the political spectrum: the growing success of "wokism", a current originating from American universities, whose "radicality" consists in regrouping in small "activist" factions around totally bourgeois themes that claim to be "fighting the system".
"the attitude of “every man for himself”, marginalisation, the atomisation of the individual”: A dramatic example during the pandemic, that of the isolation of the elderly, especially those in care homes, before the availability of vaccines. And also the distress caused to the families of the deceased.
All the above passages in bold and in inverted commas are based on the 1990 Theses. They reflect the characteristics that were already present in the world at that time and that provided the basis for our analysis. This simultaneous accumulation of all these catastrophic manifestations, their quantity, indicated that a qualitatively new period in the history of the decadence of capitalism was beginning. In the Theses, the interaction between a number of these manifestations was already present. However, at that time, we had mainly highlighted the common origin of these manifestations which, in a way, seemed to develop in parallel without interacting with each other. In particular, we noted that, although the economic crisis of capitalism was fundamentally at the origin of the phenomenon of the decomposition of society, it was not really affected by the different manifestations of this decomposition.
At the 22nd Congress, in addition to highlighting the emergence of two new and inter-related manifestations of decomposition, mass immigration and the rise of populism, we pointed out that the economy was beginning to be affected by decomposition (notably through the rise of populism), whereas previously it had been relatively unaffected. Today, this interplay between fundamental aspects of the world situation and its crucial historical importance is growing dramatically. Our October 2022 text, as well as the WEF report, highlights the extent to which these different manifestations are now intertwined.
Thus, with its entry into the 2020s, and particularly in 2022, we witnessed an acceleration of history, a further dramatic aggravation of the decomposition that is leading human society, indeed the human species, to its destruction - with a growing number of people becoming aware of it,
This intensification of the different convulsions on the planet, their increasing interaction, constitutes a confirmation not only of our analysis but also of the marxist method on which it is based, a method that other groups in the proletarian political milieu tend to "forget" when they reject our analysis of decomposition.
Part II: The marxist method, an indispensable tool for understanding the world today.
The part of the report being published here has been augmented by a series of developments which are part of the marxist method of grasping reality. They were not explicit in the version submitted to the Congress but underlay it. The aim of this addition is to fuel public debate in defence of the marxist conception of materialism against the vulgarised version defended by most of the components of the proletarian political milieu, notably the Damenists and Bordigists.
History is the history of the class struggle
Generally speaking, the groups of the PPM.have understood very little of our analysis of decomposition. The one that has gone the furthest in refuting this analysis is the Bordigist group that publishes Le Prolétaire in France. They have devoted two articles to our analysis of the rise of populism in various countries and its link with the analysis of decomposition (which they call "well-known and controversial" (in French “fameuse et fumeuse”)):
"Révolution Internationale explains the roots of this so-called ‘decomposition’: the present incapacity of the two main and antagonistic classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, to put forward their own perspective (world war or revolution) has resulted in a situation of "temporary blockage" and the rotting of society on its feet. The proletarians who daily see their conditions of exploitation worsen and their living conditions deteriorate, will be happy to learn that their class is capable of blocking the bourgeoisie and preventing it from putting forward its ‘perspectives’..." (LP 523)
"We therefore deny that the bourgeoisie has ‘lost control of its system’ politically and that the policies pursued by the governments of Britain or the United States are the product of a mysterious disease called 'populism' caused by 'society's sinking into barbarism'.
To put it in very general terms, these developments (to which one could add the progress of the extreme right in Sweden or Germany, with the support of a part of the bourgeois political personnel) have the function of responding to a need for bourgeois domination, whether internally or externally, in a situation of accumulation of economic and political uncertainty at the international level - and not something which ‘disturbs the political game with the consequence of a growing loss of control of the bourgeois political apparatus on the electoral terrain’." (LP 530)
Le Proletaire believes that populism corresponds to a genuinely "realistic" policy under the control of the bourgeoisie. The self-destructive economic policy of Brexit in the UK in recent years should give this group pause for thought.
Le Prolétaire nevertheless takes the trouble to go to the heart of our analysis: the situation of blockage between the classes that arose as a result of the historical recovery of the world proletariat in 1968 (which it did not recognise like the entirety of the PPM) and the inability of the bourgeoisie to therefore mobilise the working class for the capitalist solution of World War III. In fact, behind this misunderstanding, there is a lack of understanding and rejection of the notion of the historical course, which refers to a disagreement we have with all the groups which came out of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista of 1945 in Italy.
Well, this denial of the historical role of the ‘now hidden, now open’, class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, whether it be in 1945, 1968 or 1989, is a major problem for the marxist credentials of all these groups.
Denying the existence of the period of decomposition means in reality refusing to recognise the integral historical role played by the struggle between the classes in the development of the world situation. In other words a major departure from the marxist method. To only recognise the decisive factor of the class struggle in exceptional moments when the proletariat makes its presence felt openly on the world stage, i.e., when the capacities of the working class are obvious to everybody, is an indication of the decline of the epigones of the Italian left and the claims of all its groups to be the vanguard.
The fact that the bourgeoisie always, in every epoch, whether in periods of defeat or retreat or in periods of revolution, has learnt to take into account the disposition of the working class was known to marxism as far back as 1848, after the bloody crushing of the revolutionary insurrection of the French proletariat in June of that year. The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte of Marx, which Engels always held up as a prime example of the application of the method of historical materialism to world events, shows that, following the events of 1848, the bourgeoisie was obliged, henceforth, to nevertheless recognise the defeated working class as its historic adversary. This recognition was a significant factor in the alignment of the ruling class behind the coup d’état of Louis Bonaparte of 1852 and the suppression of the republican faction of the bourgeoisie. .
The rise and fall of modes of production in history
Another successor to the Partito of 1945, the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ex-IBRP), which shares the disdain for the decisive role of the class struggle, also proudly displays its ignorance of the historical specificity of the decomposition of world capitalism, the theory of which it describes as non-marxist and idealist:
"After the collapse of the USSR the ICC suddenly declared that this collapse had created a new situation in which capitalism had reached a new stage, which they called ‘decomposition’. In their lack of understanding of the way capitalism works, for the ICC almost everything that is bad - from religious fundamentalism to the numerous wars which have broken out since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc - is simply the expression of Chaos and Decomposition. We think that this is tantamount to the complete abandonment of the terrain of marxism, as these wars, just like the earlier wars of capitalism's decadent phase, are the result of this imperialist order itself ... An overproduction of capital and commodities, which is cyclically called forth by the tendential fall of the rate of profit, leads to economic crises and to contradictions which, in their turn, engender imperialist war. As soon as enough capital is devalued and means of production are destroyed (through war), then a new cycle of production can begin. Since 1973, we have been in the final phase of such a crisis, and a new cycle of accumulation has not yet begun”.
One wonders whether the comrades in the ICT (who think that it was following the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 that we suddenly pulled our analysis of decomposition out of our hat) have bothered to read our basic text of 1990. In its introduction, we are very clear:
"Even before the events in the East, the ICC had already highlighted this historical phenomenon (see, for example, International Review no. 57)".
It is also appallingly superficial to attribute to us the idea that "almost everything that is bad ... is simply the expression of Chaos and Decomposition". And their basic point is to claim something they think we had not thought of: "these wars, just like the earlier wars of capitalism's decadent phase, are the result of this imperialist order itself". What a discovery! We have never said anything else, but the question that is being asked and that they are not asking, is in what general historical context the imperialist order is framed today. For the ICT militants, it is enough to destroy enough constant capital for a new cycle of accumulation to begin. From this point of view, the destruction taking place today in Ukraine is a boon to the health of the world economy. This message must be passed on to the economic leaders of the bourgeoisie who expressed alarm at the recent Davos Forum, at the prospects of the capitalist world and in particular at the negative impact of the war in Ukraine on the world economy. In fact, those who attribute to us a break with the marxist approach would do well to reread (or read) the fundamental texts of Marx and Engels and try to understand the method they employ. If the facts themselves and the evolution of the world situation confirm, day after day, the validity of our analysis, it is largely because it is firmly based on the dialectical method of marxism (even if there is no explicit reference to this method or quotations from Marx or Engels in the 1990 theses).
In its rejection of the analysis of decomposition of world capitalism, the ICT distinguishes itself, or embarrasses itself, depending on your point of view, by also taking its polemical axe, however blunt, to another pillar of the marxist method of historical materialism that is summarised in Marx’s Preface (reprised, by the way, in the first point of the ICC platform). The relations of production in every social formation of human history - relations which determine the interests and actions of the contending classes issuing from them - are always transformed from factors of development of the productive forces in an ascendant historical phase, to negative fetters of these same forces in a later, downward phase, creating the necessity for social revolution. But the period of decomposition, the culmination of a century of capitalism’s decadence as a mode of production, simply doesn’t exist for the ICT.
While the ICT uses the phrase ‘capitalism’s decadent phase’ it hasn’t understood what this phase means either for the development of the economic crisis of capitalism or the imperialist wars resulting from it.
In the ascendent epoch of capitalism the cycles of production - commonly known as booms and slumps - were the heart beats of a progressively expanding system. The limited wars of this time could either accelerate this progression through national consolidation - as the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 did for Germany - or gain new markets through colonial conquest. The devastation of two world wars and the imperialist destruction of the decadent period and their aftermath express by contrast the historic ruination of the capitalist system and its dead end as a mode of production.
For the ICT however the healthy 19th century dynamic of capitalist accumulation is everlasting: for them the cycles of production have only increased in size. And this leads them to the absurdity that a new cycle of capitalist production could be fertilised in the ashes of a third world war. Even the bourgeoisie isn’t so stupidly optimistic about the perspectives of its system and has more insights into the age of catastrophic bankruptcy that it confronts.
The ICT maybe ‘economically materialist’ but not in the marxist sense of analysing the development of the relations of production in changing historical conditions.
In three fundamental works of the workers' movement, Marx's Capital, Rosa Luxemburg's Accumulation of Capital and Lenin's The State and Revolution we find a historical approach to the questions studied. Marx devotes many pages to explaining how the capitalist mode of production, which already fully dominated the society of his time, developed in the course of history. Rosa Luxemburg examines how the question of accumulation was posed by various earlier writers and Lenin does the same on the question of the state. In this historical approach, the point is to account for the fact that the realities under examination are not static, intangible things that have existed from the beginning of time, but correspond to constantly evolving processes with elements of continuity but also, and above all, of transformation and even rupture. The 1990 Theses try to draw on this approach by presenting the current historical situation within the general history of society, that of capitalism and more particularly the history of the decadence of this system. More concretely, they point out the similarities between the decadence of pre-capitalist societies and that of capitalist society but also, and above all, the differences between them, a question that is at the heart of the occurrence of the decomposition phase within the latter:
“whereas in past societies, the new productive relations which were to supersede the old were able to develop alongside the latter, within society - which to a certain extent limited the effects and the degree of social decadence - communist society, which alone can follow capitalism, cannot develop at all within it; the regeneration of society is thus completely impossible without the violent overthrow of the bourgeois class and the eradication of capitalist relations of production”
By contrast the ahistorical materialism of the ICT can explain every event, every war, in every epoch by incanting the same phrase: ‘cycles of accumulation’. Such oracular materialism, because it explains everything, explains nothing, and for this reason it cannot exorcise the danger of idealism.
On the contrary the gaps created by vulgar materialism need to be filled with an idealist glue. When the real conditions of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat can’t be understood or explained an idealist deus ex-machina is required to resolve the problem: ‘the revolutionary party’. But this is not the communist party that emerges and is constructed in specific historical conditions but a mythical one that can be inflated in any period by opportunist hot air.
The dialectical component of historical materialism
The epigones of the Italian left, in decrying the existence of a period of decomposition of world capitalism therefore have had to try and remove two major pillars of the marxist method of historical materialism. First, that the history of capitalism, as all previous history, is the history of class struggle, and secondly that the determinant role of economic laws evolves with the historical evolution of a mode of production.
There is a third forgotten requirement implicit in the other two facets of the marxist method: the recognition of the dialectical evolution of all phenomena, including the development of human societies, according to the unity of opposites, which Lenin describes as the essence of dialectics in his work on the question during the First World War. Whereas the epigones only see development in terms of repetition and in increase or decrease, marxism understands that historic necessity - materialist determinism - expresses itself in a contradictory interactive way, so that cause and effect can change places and necessity reveal itself through accidents.
For marxism the superstructure of social formations, that is their political, juridical and ideological organisation, arises on the basis of the given economic infrastructure and is determined by the latter. This much the epigones have understood. However the fact that this superstructure can act as cause - if not the principle one - as well as effect, is lost on them. Engels, towards the end of his life had to insist on this very point in a series of letters in the 1890s addressing the vulgar materialism of the epigones of the time. His correspondence is absolutely essential reading for those who deny today that the decomposition of the capitalist superstructure can have a catastrophic effect on the economic fundamentals of the system.
“Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc, development is based on economic development. But all these react upon one another and also upon the economic base. It is not that the economic position is the cause and alone active, while everything else only has a passive effect. There is, rather interaction on the basis of the economic necessity, which ultimately always asserts itself. (Engels to Borgius, January 25, 1894.)
In the final phase of capitalist decline, its period of decomposition, the retroactive effect of the rotting superstructure on the economic infrastructure is increasingly accentuated, as the negative economic effect of the Covid pandemic, climate change and imperialist war in Europe have strikingly proved - except to the blinkered disciples of Bordiga and Damen.
Marx did not have the opportunity to explain his method, the one he uses especially in Capital, as he had planned. He only mentions this method, very briefly, in the afterword to the German edition of his book. For our part, notably in the face of the often stupid accusations of the PPM (and even more so of the parasites) that our analysis "is not marxist", that it is "idealist", it is up to us to highlight the fidelity of the approach of the 1990 theses with respect to further aspects of the dialectical method of marxism, of which we can recall a few of the elements:
The transformation of quantity into quality
This is an idea that recurs frequently in the 1990 text. Manifestations of decomposition could exist in capitalism's decadence, but today the accumulation of these manifestations is proof of a 'transformational-rupture' in the life of society, signaling the entry into a new epoch of capitalist decadence in which decomposition becomes the determining element. This component of the marxist dialectic is not limited to social facts. As Engels points out, especially in the Anti-Dühring and The Dialectic of Nature, it is a phenomenon that can be found in all fields and which, moreover, has been detected by other thinkers. In the Anti-Dühring, for example, Engels quotes Napoleon Bonaparte saying (in summary) "Two Mamelukes were absolutely superior to three Frenchmen; ... 1,000 Frenchmen always knocked down 1,500 Mamelukes" because of the discipline that becomes effective when it involves a large number of combatants. Engels also insists that this law is fully applicable in the field of science. As far as the present historical situation and the multiplication of a whole series of catastrophic facts are concerned, to not rely on this law of the transformation of quantity into quality is to turn one's back on marxist dialectics (which is normal on the part of bourgeois ideology and the majority of academic "specialists"). This is however, the case for the whole of the PPM which tries to apply a specific and isolated cause to each of the catastrophic manifestations of current history.
The whole is not the simple sum of its parts
Though each has a specificity and though they may even acquire in certain circumstances a relative autonomy, the various components of the life of society are determined inside a totality governed "in the end" (but only in the end, as Engels says in a famous letter to J Bloch, September 21 1890), by the mode and relations of production and their evolution. This is one of the major phenomena of the present situation. The various manifestations of decomposition, which at first might have seemed independent but whose accumulation already indicated that we had entered a new epoch of capitalist decadence, are now increasingly having an impact one upon the other in a kind of "chain reaction", a "whirlwind" which is giving to history the acceleration we (as well as the "experts" in Davos) are witnessing.
The decisive role of the future
Finally borrowing this essential aspect of movement, of transformation, from the marxist historical dialectic, lies at the heart of the central idea of our analysis of decomposition:
"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)
And, at the current time, neither of the two main classes, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, offer such a perspective to society.
For those who call us 'idealists', it is a real scandal for us to assert that a phenomenon of an ideological order, the absence of a vision for society, can impact in a major way the life of society. In fact, they prove that the materialism they claim to be based on is nothing more than a vulgar materialism already criticised by Marx in his time, notably in the Theses on Feuerbach. In their vision, the forces of production develop autonomously. And the development of the forces of production alone dictates the changes in the relations of production and the relations between classes. According to them, institutions and ideologies, i.e. the superstructure, remain in place as long as they legitimise and preserve the existing relations of production. And so elements such as ideas, human morality or even political intervention in the historical process are ruled out.
Historical materialism contains, in addition to economic factors, other factors such as natural wealth and contextual elements. The forces of production include much more than machines or technology. They include knowledge, know-how, experience. In fact everything that makes the work process possible or hinders it. The forms of cooperation and association are themselves productive forces and are also an important element of economic transformation and development.
Those who could be called “anti-dialecticians” deny the distinction between the objective and subjective conditions of revolutionary struggle. They see the strength of the class is derived from the simple defence of its immediate economic interests. They consider that the class interests of the proletariat will create its capacity to realise and defend these interests. They disregard the forces at work to systematically disorganise the working class, divide it, disarm it and obscure the class nature of its struggle.
As Lenin noted, we have to make concrete analyses of a concrete situation. And in the most developed capitalist society, a very important role is given to ideology, to an apparatus which must defend and justify bourgeois interests and give stability to the capitalist system. This is why Marx pointed out that for the communist revolution to take place, its objective and subjective conditions must be met. The first condition is the capacity of the economy to produce in sufficient abundance for the world population. The second condition is a sufficient level of development of class consciousness. This brings us back to our analysis of the question of the "weak link" and the necessary historical experience expressed in consciousness.
The “mechanical determinists" remove the development of the productive forces from their social context. They tend to deny ANY significance to the ideological superstructure, even if they don't say this. Workers' struggles tend to appear as a pure question of reflexes. This is a fundamentally fatalistic view which is well expressed in Bordiga's idea that "the revolution is as certain as if it had already taken place". Such a view leads to a passive submission, a submission that awaits the automatic effects of economic development. In the end, it leaves no room for class struggle as a fundamental condition for any change, in contradiction with the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto: "The history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggles."
The third thesis on Feuerbach gives us a good understanding of historical materialism and rejects strict determinism:
"The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, that, therefore changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that circumstances are changed precisely by men and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, one of which towers above society (Robert Owen, for example).
The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can only be conceived and rationally understood as revolutionary practice."
The importance of the future in the life of human societies
It is likely that our detractors will see this as an idealistic view, but we maintain that the marxist dialectic attributes to the future a fundamental place in the evolution and movement of society. Of the three moments of a historical process, the past, the present and the future, it is the latter which constitutes the fundamental factor in its dynamic.
The role of the future is fundamental to human history. The first humans who set out from Africa to conquer the world, the aborigines who set out from Australia to conquer the Pacific, were looking to the future for new means of subsistence. It is the preoccupation with the future that drives the desire for procreation as well as most religions. And since our detractors need "good economic" examples, we can cite two in the functioning of capitalism. When a capitalist invests, it is not with an eye to the past, it is to obtain a future profit. Similarly, credit, which plays such a fundamental role in the mechanisms of capitalism, is no more than a contract with the future.
The role of the future is omnipresent in the texts of Marx and marxism more generally. This role is well highlighted in this well-known passage from Capital:
"Our starting point is work in a form that belongs exclusively to man. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will."
Obviously, this essential role of the future in society is even more fundamental for the workers' movement, whose present struggles only take on real meaning in the perspective of the communist revolution of the future.
"The social revolution of the 19th century [the proletarian revolution] cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future.” (Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)
"Trade unions act usefully as centres of resistance to the encroachments of capital. They partly fail in their purpose as soon as they make an unwise use of their power. They entirely miss their goal as soon as they confine themselves to a war of skirmishes against the effects of the existing regime, instead of working at the same time for its transformation and using their organised strength as a lever for the definitive emancipation of the working class, that is to say, for the definitive abolition of wage-labour.” (Marx, Wages, Prices and Profit)
"The final goal, whatever it may be, is nothing, the movement is everything. [according to Bernstein]. The final aim of socialism is the only decisive element distinguishing the socialist movement from bourgeois democracy and bourgeois radicalism, the only element which, rather than giving the workers' movement the vain task of plastering over the capitalist regime in order to save it, makes it a class struggle against this regime, for the abolition of this regime..." (Rosa Luxemburg, Social Reform or Revolution?)
"What is to be done?", "Where to begin?" (Lenin)
And it is precisely because today's society is deprived of this fundamental element, the future, the perspective (which is felt by more and more people, especially among the youth), a perspective that only the proletariat can offer, that it is sinking into despair and rotting on its feet.
Part III: The perspective for the proletariat
The WEF 2023 report convincingly alerts us to the extreme gravity of the current world situation, which will be much worse by the 2030s "without significant policy change or investment". At the same time, it "showcases broader paralysis and ineffectiveness of key multilateral mechanisms in addressing crises facing the global order" and notes "a divergence between what is scientifically necessary and what is politically expedient". In other words, the situation is desperate and the current society is definitively incapable of reversing the course of its destruction, which confirms the title of our October 2022 text: "The acceleration of capitalist decomposition openly poses the question of the destruction of humanity", as well as fully confirming the prognosis already contained in our 1990 Theses.
At the same time, the report repeatedly refers to the prospect of 'widespread social unrest' which 'will not be contained to emerging markets' (meaning that it will also affect the most developed countries) and that ‘are posing an existential challenge to political systems around the world.’ Nothing less! For the WEF, and the bourgeoisie in general, this social unrest falls into the negative category of "risks" and threats to "world order". But the WEF's forecasts timidly and unintentionally add fuel to our own analysis by pointing out that the proletariat continues to represent a threat to the bourgeois order. Like the bourgeoisie as a whole, the WEF does not distinguish between different types of social unrest: all this is a factor of "disorder" and "chaos". And it is true that some movements fall into this category, as was the case with the "Arab Spring" for example. But in reality, what frightens the bourgeoisie the most, without it saying so openly or being fully aware of it, is that among these examples of "social unrest" there are some that prefigure the overthrow of its power over society and the capitalist system: the struggles of the proletariat.
Thus, even in this aspect, the WEF illustrates our Theses of 1990 and our text of October 2022. The former text takes up the idea that, despite all the difficulties it has encountered, the proletariat has not lost the game, that “Today, the historical perspective remains completely open.” (Thesis 17). And it reminds us that "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 struggle and the development of consciousness, the precondition for its ability to resist the poison distilled by the social rot. For while there is no basis for the unification of the class in the partial struggles against the effects of decomposition, nonetheless its struggle against the direct effects of the crisis constitutes the basis for the development of its class strength and unity." (Ibid.).
In addition :
“unlike social decomposition which essentially effects the superstructure, 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 to change the system radically, rather than trying to improve certain aspects of it.” (Ibid.)
And in fact we can see today that, despite the weight of decomposition (notably the collapse of Stalinism) and the long torpor that affected it, the working class is still present on the stage of history and has the capacity to take up its struggle again, as demonstrated in particular by the struggles in the United Kingdom and in France (the two proletariats that were at the origin of the foundation of the IWA in 1864 (a mere wink ago in historical terms!)
In this sense, if the different manifestations of decomposition act in a negative way on the struggle of the proletariat and its consciousness (weight of populism, of inter-classism, of democratic illusions), we have today a new confirmation that only the directly economic attacks allow the proletariat to mobilise itself on its class terrain and that these attacks which are being unleashed at the moment, and which are going to worsen even more, create the conditions for a significant development of workers' struggles on the international scale. Thus, we must underline what is written in the October 2022 text:
“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.”
Indeed, the path that the proletariat has to accomplish is extremely long and difficult. On the one hand, it will have to face all the traps that the bourgeoisie will put on its way, and this in an ideological atmosphere poisoned by the decomposition of the capitalist society which permanently hinders the fight and the consciousness of the proletariat;
- 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)
The 1990 Theses insist on these difficulties. In particular, they stress that “it is ... fundamental to understand that the longer the proletariat takes to overthrow capitalism, the greater will be the dangers and the dangerous effects of decomposition.” (Thesis 15)
“In fact, we have to highlight the fact that today, contrary to the situation in the 1970’s, time is no longer on the side of the working class. As long as society was threatened with destruction by imperialist war alone, the mere fact of the proletarian struggle was sufficient to bar the way to this destruction. But, unlike imperialist war, which depended on the proletariat’s adherence to the bourgeoisie’s ‘ideals’, social decomposition can destroy humanity without controlling the working class. For, while the workers’ struggles can oppose the collapse of the economy, they are powerless, within this system, to hinder decomposition. Thus, while the threat posed by decomposition may seem more far-off than that of world war (were the conditions for it present, which is not the case today), it is by contrast far more insidious.The workers’ resistance to the effects of the crisis is no longer enough: only the communist revolution can put an end to the threat of decomposition.” (Thesis 16)
The brutal acceleration of decomposition that we are witnessing today, which makes the perspective of the destruction of humanity more and more threatening, even in the eyes of the most lucid sectors of the bourgeoisie, constitutes a confirmation of this analysis. And since only the communist revolution will be able to put an end to the destructive dynamics of decomposition and its increasingly deleterious effects, this can give an idea of the difficulty of the path that leads to the overthrow of capitalism. It is a path in which the tasks that the proletariat must accomplish are considerable. In particular, it will have to fully reappropriate its class identity, which has been strongly affected by the counter-revolution and the various manifestations of decomposition, notably the collapse of the so-called "socialist" regimes. It will also be necessary, and this is also fundamental, to reappropriate its past experience, which is an immense task since this experience has been forgotten by the proletarians. This is a fundamental responsibility of the communist vanguard: to bring a decisive contribution to this reappropriation by the whole class of the lessons of more than a century and a half of proletarian struggle.
The difficulties that the proletariat will have to face will not disappear with the overthrow of the capitalist state in all countries. Following Marx, we have often insisted on the immensity of the task that awaits the working class during the period of transition from capitalism to communism, a task that is out of all proportion to all the revolutions of the past, since it is a question of passing from the "reign of necessity to the reign of freedom". And it is clear that the longer it takes for the revolution to be accomplished, the more immense the task will be: day after day capitalism destroys a little more of the planet and, consequently, the material conditions for communism. Moreover, the seizure of power by the proletariat will follow a terrible civil war increasing the devastation of all kinds already caused by the capitalist mode of production even before the revolutionary period. In this sense, the task of rebuilding society that the proletariat will have to accomplish will be incomparably more gigantic than what it would have had to achieve if it had taken power during the revolutionary wave of the first post-war period. Similarly, if the destruction of the Second World War was already considerable, it only affected the countries concerned by the fighting, which allowed a reconstruction of the world economy, especially as the main industrial power, the United States, had been spared by this destruction. But today it is the whole planet that is concerned by the increasing destruction of all kinds caused by dying capitalism. Consequently, it must be clear that the seizure of power by the working class on a global scale will not in itself guarantee that it will be able to accomplish its historic task of establishing communism. Capitalism, by allowing a tremendous development of the productive forces, has created the material conditions for communism, but the decay of this system, and its decomposition, could undermine these conditions, leaving the proletariat with a completely devastated, unsalvageable planet.
It is therefore the responsibility of revolutionaries to point out the difficulties that the proletariat will have to face on the road to communism. Their role is not to provide consolations so as not to cause despair in the working class. The truth is revolutionary, as Marx said however terrible it may be.
That said, if it succeeds in taking power, the proletariat will have a number of assets at its disposal to accomplish its task of rebuilding society.
On the one hand, it will be able to put at its service the tremendous progress made by science and technology during the 20th century and the two decades of the 21st century. The WEF report refers to these advances as "dual-use (civilian and military) technologies". Once the proletariat has taken power, military use will no longer be necessary, which is a considerable advance since it is clear that today the military sphere accounts for the lion's share of the benefits of technological progress (alongside many other unproductive expenditures).
More globally, the seizure of power by the proletariat will have to allow an unprecedented liberation of the productive forces imprisoned by the laws of capitalism. Not only will the enormous burden of military and unproductive expenditure be eliminated, but also the monstrous waste represented by the competition between the various economic and national sectors of bourgeois society as well as the phenomenal under-utilisation of the productive forces (programmed obsolescence, mass unemployment, absence or deficiency of the education systems, etc.).
But the main asset of the proletariat in this period of transition-reconstruction will not be technological or strictly economic. It will be fundamentally political. If the proletariat succeeds in taking power, it will mean that it has reached a very high level of consciousness, organisation and solidarity during the period of confrontation with the capitalist state, of the civil war against the bourgeoisie. And these are gains that will be precious for facing the immense challenges that will come its way. Above all, the proletariat will be able to rely on the future, this fundamental element in the life of society, this future whose absence in the present society is at the heart of its rotting on its feet.
In its 2021/2022 Human Development Report, published last October and entitled Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives, the UN tells us:
“A new ‘uncertainty complex’ is emerging, never before seen in human history. Constituting it are three volatile and interacting strands: the destabilizing planetary pressures and inequalities of the Anthropocene, the pursuit of sweeping societal transformations to ease those pressures and the widespread and intensifying polarization…
Global crises have piled up: the global financial crisis, the ongoing global climate crisis and Covid-19 pandemic, a looming global food crisis. There is a nagging sense that whatever control we have over our lives is slipping away, that the norms and institutions we used to rely on for stability and prosperity are not up to the task of today's uncertainty complex." (Overview, p 15-16)
As can be seen, this UN report goes in the same direction as the WEF report. It goes even further in a way, since it considers that the earth has entered a new geological period due to the action of humans, which began in the 17th century and which it calls the Anthropocene and which we call capitalism. Above all, it emphasises the deep despair, the 'no future' that increasingly permeates society (which it calls the 'uncertainty complex').
Precisely, the fact that the proletarian revolution gives back to human society a future it has lost will be a powerful factor in the ability of the working class to finally reach the "promised land" of communism, not after 40 years, but after well over a century of "wandering in the desert".
 Proletarian Political Milieu: Those groups which, like the ICC, derive from the Communist Left and the intransigent internationalism of this tradition in the Second World War.
 For the sake of brevity we will use the term ‘epigones’ because all the descendants of the Partito of 1945 turned their back on the revolutionary theoretical work of Bilan, the Italian Left in exile, in the 1930s
 “They realized instinctively that although the republic made their political rule complete it simultaneously undermined its social foundation, since they had now to confront the subjugated classes and contend with them without mediation, without being concealed by the Crown, without the possibility of diverting the national attention by their secondary conflicts amongst themselves and with the monarchy. It was a feeling of weakness which caused them to recoil when faced with the pure conditions of their own class rule and to yearn for the return of the previous forms of this rule, which were less complete, less developed and, precisely for that reason, less dangerous.” 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. To be consistent the epigones of the Italian left would have to snigger at Marx here, just as they do at the ICC’s theory of decomposition.
 This qualitative (and not simply quantitative) and fundamental change in the life of capital was highlighted in the 1919 Manifesto of the Communist International: "If the absolute subjection of political power to finance capital led humanity to imperialist slaughter, this slaughter allowed finance capital not only to militarise the state from top to bottom, but also to militarise itself, in such a way that it can no longer fulfil its essential economic functions except by fire and blood (...) The nationalisation of economic life, against which economic liberalism protested so much, is a fait accompli. A return not only to free competition, but to the simple domination of trusts, trade unions and other capitalist octopuses has become impossible". But it would appear that either the comrades of the ICT don’t know this document , or they disagree with this basic position of the CI and should say so.
 Another letter of Engels on the subject of the marxist method seems perfectly suited to these disciples: “What all these gentlemen lack is dialectics. All they ever see is cause here, effect there. They do not at all see that this is a bare abstraction; that in the real world such metaphysical polar opposites exist only in crises; that the whole great process develops itself in the form of reciprocal action, to be sure of very unequal forces, in which the economic movement is far and away the strongest, most primary and decisive. They do not see here nothing is absolute and everything relative. For them Hegel has never existed.” Engels to Conrad Schmidt, October 27 1890.
 We should distinguish marxist, objective, dialectics from the empty and subjective dialectics of the various strands of anarchism and modernism which remain at the confused level of only finding contradictions in everything, without discovering their underlying unity. They may well recognise some of the phenomenon of the period of decomposition but characteristically refuse to see the ultimate cause and logical framework of the period in the economic failure of the capitalist system. For them objective historical dialectics is an anathema, since it would deny them their main preoccupation of dogmatically preserving, in the face of historical reality, their individual freedom of opinion. Since they treat the economic factor, if they notice it all, as only one factor among many of equal importance, their dialectics remains subjective, ahistorical and, like the epigones of the Italian left, incapable of grasping the trajectory of events.