On the indignation thread there's a misrepresentation in relation to my position on decomposition - I don't put one forward there - so I want to clarify the issue here as much as I can. I looked for a thread on decomposition specifically to add on to, I even considered "What are the most effective anti-wrinkle skin maintenance sytems for women over 40" (50 reads!), but it didn't seem appropriate. Although there are many issues that overlap and involve issues on the indignation thread, I think that are many questions on that thread already and therefore it may be useful to start a new thread here on decomposition.
My positon is simply that of support for the text "Decomposition, Final Phase of the Decadence of Capitalism" in the International Review number 62 (Third quarter, 1990). Capitalism is the first really global society that subjects all the planet to its own laws and the consequence of these laws of this last class society. And this last class society is the first to posit the ability and the means to destroy the entire human race. Decomposition, and its elements, has affected all declining class societies but it is the new quality of capitalist decomposition, the accumulation of all its contradictions, that poses a threat to the survival of humanity. Decomposition is a synthesis of decadence at a new level and there is no escape from it and no possible perspective, except a destructive one, within it for the future of mankind.
Over twenty years since the text was written, 40 years of economic crisis, and we've not seen world war nor revolution as decomposition militates against both "solutions", both outcomes. Within this phase of capitalism it's even more important for revolutionary minorities to highlight the dangers of decomposition to the working class which, as the text puts it: "... leads to social dislocation and putrefaction to the void" which is ultimately the same fate as world war, nuclear fall-out, epidemics, generalisation of small wars and so on. And also, as poiint 8 of the ICC's resolution on the international situation for the 20th Congress makes clear, the threat that decomposition, which has its roots in the decadence and economic contradictions poses through the environmental degradation of the planet is also a very real threat to humanity and another example of how decomposing capitalism expresses no other perspective than destruction. Again from the text is the vital need for the proletariat and its minorities to "grasp the full extent of the deadly threat decomposition represents for society as a whole". Decomposition, unlike decadence, is not a necessary precondition for proletarian revolution. On the contrary it can compromise the communist perspective through, amongst others, its attacks on proletarian consciousness which is not at all immune from its effects. In the face of this revolutionaries clearly can't put forward the necessity for the proletariat to have confidence in its own strengths, solidarity and struggles for a future without having themselves confidence in their own class. That seems to me a fundamental requisite.
One of the serious dangers to the proletariat during the period of capitalism's crisis and decomposition is that of the lumpenisation of the unemployed. However, since the text was written (1990), I think that what we've seen on the streets around the world in significant numbers is that rather than major expressions of lumpenisation there have and are significant numbers of the unemployed and potential unemployed (schoolchildren, students, along with unemployed youth) demonstrating and protesting against capitalism. These numbers have mobilised themselves all over the planet and they represent, in the first instance, a significant antidote to the poisoning effects of the decomposition of thought. One of the most expressive elements of decomposition was the collapse of the eastern bloc. Leaving aside for the moment the aspect of the imperialist consequences of this, the "victory of capitalism" and the "Russia = communism", even in the death throes of the Soviet bloc, was and still is, and will continue to be used to hammer the consciousness of the proletariat. But against this, the Russian bloc has gone and there are limitations to the playing of this card particularly as capitalism in its "victory" is exposed as hollow sham. And we are beginning to see elements of protests and class struggle re-emerging today in countries of the ex-Eastern Bloc which are now less prone to the lies around the superiority of the "capitalist west". Nationalism and a hankering after the past are real dangers in these countries but overall I think that there are more of a unification for potential conditions of struggle, which is again the real antidote to the poison of decomposition.
For other groups the ICC's concept of decomposition is an unwelcome "innovation" - as if marxism has ever stood still. I've not seen any critique of the analysis of decomposition that has any substance rather than secondary points which seem to me to be made with the idea of distinguishing these groups or individuals from the ICC in order to defend their own corner. Rather than strictly economic criteria for war, the ICT must, at least privately, see the spread of imperialist chaos, instability and irrationality underlined by the analysis of decomposition. Some of its own texts can't help to describe it (without mentioning the word) and how could it be avoided when its expressions are there, confirmed, validated day in and day out throughout the Middle East, Africa and so on. There is an economic "rationale" to al-Qaeda on the ground - these are capitalist gangsters after all. But the spread of jihadism, irrationality and madness throughout the Middle East and Africa (and back to the metropoles) is there for all to see. Who would have believed that after Afghanistan and Iraq the west would do exactly the same thing in Libya? But they did and it's totally irrational. They are also, though in slightly different circumstances, doing the same in Syria through their de facto, and open, backing of irrational force that will come back to bite them. We have the nuclear question with the Koreas and, in the face the lies about a nuclear-free Middle East, there is the news that nuclear bombs are there in Pakistan ready to be shipped to Saudi Arabia for use against Iran. The "War on Terror" itself has done nothing but spread terror, terrorism and chaos throughout.
In Africa, the old Cold War forces of Renamo in Mozabique and Unita in Angola have reappeared in military confrontations at different levels. The north of Africa sinks into chaos and instability with China fishing in these murky waters. Chinese and Zimbabwean troops are patrolling together and Chinese counter-terrorism "expertise" is on the ground in South Africa and Nigeria with its militatry attaches in Cameroon. Israel, India and Turkey have military forces in different parts of Africa, with Britain having brigades in northern Africa, southern and western Africa. France is militarily involved in Chad, Djibouti, the Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali, while the US has a substantial military presence in Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and around the Horn of Africa with its Africa Command. All of them contributing to the growing chaos and instability.
One the questions referred to here and there in the ICC's analysis of decadence and decomposition is the development of the "fortress state" and, latterly, "fortress Europe" or "fortress USA" which are significant elements of decomposition itself in the sense of keeping out migrants - many of whom are fleeing the poverty, misery and wars directly generated by the countries that they are coming to. In this respect there is a good piece in the Guardian on Tuesday by Joe Henley about the proliferation of walls. They are being built in unprecedented numbers and these are very suggestive of the descent into capitalist decomposition. As the article says, the rise of civilisation, of class society, has been accompanied by the building of some famous walls: Jericho ten thousand years ago, who walls according to the song came tumbling down after Joshua "fit" the battle; the Great Wall of China well over two thousand years ago, which, apparantly, you can't see from space; and the 19 centuries-old Hadrian's Wall which kept in as many elements of barbarians as it kept out. But, leaving aside the fall of the Berlin Wall and the mind-numbing noise around that, the article reports that 6000 miles of walls have gone up in the last decade alone - a real expression of capitalist decomposition. Walls of steel, concrete, watchtowers, armed guards, barbed wire, razor wire, check-points springing up everywhere suggesting every man for himself at the level of the state. From Belfast to Homs, the Mexico-US border (with recent suggestions from the US for a wall along the US/Canada border basically for the same reason as its Mexican one); India-Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, Egypt and Israel, the West Bank and Israel and walls put up in Southern Turkey recently to divide up continuing anti-war, anti-regime protests. Walls to divide migrants from indiginous, black v white, religion against religion, imperialism against imperialism, walls against "terrorism". And, paradoxically, as these walls and fortresses develop as an expression of decomposition, so does the breakdown of borders from the same expression, the increase of gangs, gangsters and warlordism, particularly where the working class is weaker or almost non-existent.
That's some elements of the position that I defend on decomposition and I think that it is very important for the ICC to put this position forward to the working class. Not to demoralise it but to show the potential dangers to its struggle and the scope that its struggles have to take.