Decadence After 1968

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Demogorgon
On another note, it can also

On another note, it can also be argued that if we abandon a theory of decadence based on capitalism's internal limits (based around the law of value and accumulation) and substitute one on the basis of ecological or external limits, we are also abandoning a genuine revolutionary position.

If the decadence of capitalism is to be found in external limits, on what is the revolutionary struggle based? Marx situated that struggle firmly on the ground of the accumulation process, its impact on the working class as it struggled to cope with the growing contradiction between capitalism's dependence on labour even as it makes labour more and more obsolete.

If "the system will keep chugging along", in what sense is their any historic crisis to the wage-labour relationship and the law of value? And if there is no crisis in that arena, then there seems to me to be no basis for struggle of the working class. After all, the struggle of the proletariat is triggered by the way that the crisis hits it directly and specifically at the core of the wage-labour relationship ... it's not simply a struggle of "the poor" or "the dispossessed" or the "victims of war" although it is, of course, all those things. But being "poor", etc. is not enough or all social strata outside of the property-owning classes (who also are poor, etc.) would be revolutionary and they are not.

I think this is the root behind why environmentalism is home to so many reactionary ideologies (reformism, primitivism, lifestylism, etc.).

jk1921
I don't think the point I am

I don't think the point I am making is anything like LBird's. LBird questioned the possibility of "growth" in decadence, while I am focusing on the possibility that China's economic development, take-off or what have you poses an issue. The two simply are not the same thing. Its not the trente glorieuse that bothers me--that can all be accounted for within decadence theory by the crisis-war-reconstruction-crisis framework. But once again, I do not state that this is actually what is happening in China. That is your argument, Demo. Moreover, if I am falling for the same error as LBird, then so are many in the ICC who seem to posses a need to explain what is happening in China as "fictional," "a bubble," etc. --in other words, not really real. This would seem to suggest that they actually agree that if there is something like real historical development taking place in China that it does in fact pose a problem for decadence theory. But I suppose Demo's issue with these kinds of explanations goes deeper and reflects a more profound disagreement with the dominant economic positions in the ICC about the role of debt, etc. in temporarily resolving crises.

In terms of whether there is an abandonment of revolutionary positions. I don't see this at all. The proletariat struggles against the effects of crisis, which we have already established is not the same as decadence. The proletariat does not need to wait for the "final crisis" of decadence to launch a revolutionary struggle. Surely, this is proven by the revolutionary wave after World War One. In fact, the proletariat even enaged in revolutionary struggles in ascendance, even if these were bound to fail. It seems like we can't have it both ways, if the proletariat has to wait for the final crisis then the post-World War One revolutionary wave couldn't possibly have succeded. Captialism doesn't need to have a final collapse or crises resulting from internal economic mechanism in ordet to experience instability, crises, turbulence or whatever that poses the social and political possibility of a revolution.

There is one thing I agree with LBird on, however. Its better to be right than to be a good Marxist. If the objective conditions no longer support revolutionary politics, so be it. I am not, of course, arguing that they don't, but to say a position is wrong because it leads to objectional politics is to commit the error of argument from consequences.

I think Demo's error is limiting the scope of decadence and crisis to the accumulation process itself (which may have been Marx's error as well in certain places), which forgets that accumulation takes place in a geographic, ecological, social and political context. The decadence of captialism has to be understood as a totality of all these factors, which render the system unable to advance humanity's interests across these many planes. Right now it seems much more likely to me that if there is a catastrophe to be had, it will occur as a result of the political stupidity of the bourgeoisie (itself an effect of decomposition) than any immediate economic mechanism--and I say this in the aftermath of the "worse economic crisis since the Great Depression"--even if the general crisis of accumulation forms the underlying context for these events.

But none of this means that capitalism will collapse on its own accord without running up against other limits first (which it is already doing as a matter of empirical fact). Of course, part of the theoretical problem we have here is that we do not have any kind of explanation for what comes after capitalism, if it is not communism. We claim that captialism is unlike any other previous mode of production in that there is no other mode maturing within it that can emerge through crisis. Its either forward to communism or a backward descent into "barbarism." However, we have no conception of what barbarism actually is. Is it not captialism of some form? Does capital accumulation just stop and we go back to feudalism, the Asiatic Mode of production or the state of nature?

I agree that bourgeois envrionmentalism gives rise to cross class movements (it is bourgeois envrionemntalism after all), but I think it is an error to associate the suggestion that the ecological crisis is a factor in captialist decadence with this kind of politics as a way of attacking the argument. That's guilt by association, isn't it?

jk1921
Proletarian crisis

Fred wrote:

jk wrote:
 The real limits of this system will be reached when it runs up against either 1.) the barrier of all out war (the so-called uranium barrier) or 2.) the limits of the natural envrionment.

Or  3.) the revolutionary proletariat. 

 

Except Fred that the system must be reaching some inherent limit of its own in order to create the crises that pushes the proletariat to act, doesn't it? The debate seems to be going in the direction of whether or not that limit is internal to the accumulation process itself or whether it is is some other factor; what is "internal" and what is "external"?, etc.

Demogorgon
"I don't think the point I am

"I don't think the point I am making is anything like LBird's. LBird questioned the possibility of "growth" in decadence, while I am focusing on the possibility that China's economic development, take-off or what have you poses an issue. The two simply are not the same thing. Its not the trente glorieuse that bothers me--that can all be accounted for within decadence theory by the crisis-war-reconstruction-crisis framework."

Hmm, I'm sorry then that I seem to have missed your point. Are you saying that China's growth would be fine if it took place after a world war or similar?

"In terms of whether there is an abandonment of revolutionary positions. I don't see this at all. The proletariat struggles against the effects of crisis, which we have already established is not the same as decadence."

Not identical, but surely related. After all, its the movement of the accumulation cycle in its entirety that leads us to decadence and the increasing intensity of the crisis is a result of that historic movement i.e. it's a symptom of the entirety of the crisis of social relations vs productive forces.

I should be absolutely clear ... I don't think you or anyone else who defends a position about the ecological crisis has necessarily abandoned revolutionary positions. But I do think positing ecological limits to capitalism (which are undoubtedly real) as opposed to internal ones raises a problematic about what we think the roots of decadence are and therefore what the revolutionary answer is.

Consider the development of certain types of plant: the grow from a seed, flower and die. Put it in too small a pot and it will encounter problems long before its "natural" lifespan would indicate.

Similarly, it seems conceivable that a society can outgrow its "pot" long before its internal mechanisms might indicate. Alternatively, some societies may reach their limits long beyond they test their geographical limits. I think capitalism began to breach those internal limits in the early 20th century ... I couldn't say for sure if its ecological limits were breached at that time, but surely that is true or close to true now. I don't think we disagree on this aspect of things.

But, let's consider another alternative. If the ecological crisis has come into evidence in the mid 19th century ... would this have meant that capitalism was ripe for revolution? I can't see how this could be the case in terms of either the technical base or the development of the proletariat at the material or ideological level. If decadence means that a higher form of society is both necessary and possible ... such a scenario cannot mean decadence. This is why I think its a mistake to integrate the ecological crisis into decadence, even if the ecological crisis absolutely makes the revolution more urgent than ever!

"I agree that bourgeois envrionmentalism gives rise to cross class movements (it is bourgeois envrionemntalism after all), but I think it is an error to associate the suggestion that the ecological crisis is a factor in captialist decadence with this kind of politics as a way of attacking the argument. That's guilt by association, isn't it?"

I was more trying to explain (to myself if no-one else) why environmentalism generates such movements. The organisation makes a similar point in Theses of Decomposition:

"while the effects of decomposition (eg pollution, drugs, insecurity) hit the different strata of society in much the same way and form a fertile ground for aclassist campaigns and mystifications (ecology, anti-nuclear movements, anti-racist mobilisations, etc), the economic attacks (falling real wages, layoffs, increasing productivity, etc) resulting directly from the crisis hit the proletariat (ie the class that produces surplus value and confronts capitalism on this terrain) directly and specifically; 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."

This is what I'm trying to get at in my own clumsy way.

Naturally, just because the ICC said it doesn't make it true. And while that passage implies that the environmental crisis (amongst others) is a superstructural or peripheral aspect of capitalism, its probably not specific enough to count as definitive statement in that regard. And even if it was, perhaps the organisation has evolved its position in a way that I haven't grasped.

Of course, saying the ecological crisis is peripheral to capitalism should not, in any way, be interpreted to mean that it is trivial!

Alf
jk1921 -three points

I am struggling to keep up with this discussion. It is certainly raising several points of interest, as Holmes would put it.

1. I agree with jk's most central idea - that the decadence of a society is not restricted to the mechanics of the accumulation engine but takes place in a vaster context, psychological, biological and maybe even geological and more. I think that there is a discussion to be had here about reification, the tendency to believe literally that the economy is a machine.  

2. On surviving precapitalist markets being a threat to decadence theory, this is based on an attachment to a distorted interpretation of Luxemburg that was once quite widespread in the the ICC: the idea that 1914 marked the exhaustion of precapitalist markets and the immediate onset of a permanent economic crisis. I think the more recent series on decadence, particularly the chapter on Luxemburg, tries to settle accounts with this idea

The essential conclusion of The Accumulation of Capital was, therefore, that capitalism was entering a "period of catastrophe". It is important to note that she did not, as has often been falsely claimed, consider that capitalism was about to come to dead halt. She makes it quite clear that the non-capitalist milieu remains "the largest part of the world in terms of geography" and that non-capitalist economies still existed not only in the colonies but also in large parts of Europe itself.[9] Certainly the scale of these economic zones in value terms was diminishing relative to the growing capacity of capital to generate new value. But the world was still a long way off from becoming a system of pure capitalism as envisioned in Marx's schemas of reproduction:

"Marx's model of accumulation - when properly understood - is precisely in its insolubility the exact prognosis of the economically unavoidable downfall of capitalism as a result of the imperialist process of expansion whose specific task it is to realize Marx's assumption: the general and undivided rule of capital. Can this ever really happen? That is, of course, theoretical fiction, precisely because capital accumulation is not just an economic but also a political process."[10]

For Luxemburg, a world of just capitalists and workers was a theoretical fiction, but the more this point was reached, the more difficult and disastrous the process of accumulation would become, unleashing calamities that were not "merely" economic, but also military and political. The world war, which broke out not long afterAccumulation was published, was a stunning confirmation of this prognosis. For Luxemburg, there is no purely economic collapse of capitalism, and still less an automatic, guaranteed link between capitalist breakdown and socialist revolution. What she announced in her theoretical work was precisely what was to be confirmed by the catastrophic history of the ensuing century: the growing manifestation of capitalism's decline as a mode of production, posing humanity with the alternative between socialism and barbarism, and calling on the working class specifically to develop the organisation and consciousness needed for the overthrow of the system and its replacement by a higher social order. 

 

3.  jk wrote: "Its not the trente glorieuse that bothers me--that can all be accounted for within decadence theory by the crisis-war-reconstruction-crisis framework"

But the majority of the ICC, as can hopefully be understood from the public debate on this question, has rejected the crisis-war-reconstruction model as a way of explaining the post war boom...Maybe you can explain this a bit more 

 

 

 

jk1921
News

Alf wrote:

3.  jk wrote: "Its not the trente glorieuse that bothers me--that can all be accounted for within decadence theory by the crisis-war-reconstruction-crisis framework"

But the majority of the ICC, as can hopefully be understood from the public debate on this question, has rejected the crisis-war-reconstruction model as a way of explaining the post war boom...Maybe you can explain this a bit more 

Well, that is certainly news to me. I simply can't keep up with it all. Of course, just because a majority now rejects that explanation doesn't make them right.

jk1921
Pre-capitalist markets

Alf wrote:

I am struggling to keep up with this discussion. It is certainly raising several points of interest, as Holmes would put it.

1. I agree with jk's most central idea - that the decadence of a society is not restricted to the mechanics of the accumulation engine but takes place in a vaster context, psychological, biological and maybe even geological and more. I think that there is a discussion to be had here about reification, the tendency to believe literally that the economy is a machine.  

2. On surviving precapitalist markets being a threat to decadence theory, this is based on an attachment to a distorted interpretation of Luxemburg that was once quite widespread in the the ICC: the idea that 1914 marked the exhaustion of precapitalist markets and the immediate onset of a permanent economic crisis. I think the more recent series on decadence, particularly the chapter on Luxemburg, tries to settle accounts with this idea

I don't think that surviving pre-captialist markets is per se a threat to decadence theory. The key question is capitalism's ability, or lack thereof, to postively transform these markets in a qualitative, historical way. Moreover, it makes a difference if we are talking about the remaining French peasantry after world war two or we are talking about the formation of a massive proletariat in the world's most populous country. As to whether or not the latter is actually happening sounds like an empirical question.

jk1921
What is really happening in China?

Demogorgon wrote:

Hmm, I'm sorry then that I seem to have missed your point. Are you saying that China's growth would be fine if it took place after a world war or similar?

Well, that depends on what is actually happening in China. Something which I must admit not to have a great handle on;  and, I think, as the discussion has demonstrated, there is much disagreement about generally. But if what is happening in China is as how you seem to depict it, then I have a very hard time reconciling this with decadence theory. Comrades seem to want to argue that China's transformation, regardless of what it does for the Chinese national captial or the development of the Chinese proletariat, is in some way not positive from the point of view of humanity as a whole. This seems like it could be a sleight of hand to me; at least from the perspective of "no social order expires until all the room for the development of the productive forces has been exhausted." Unless we argue that China's trajectory poses an existential threat to humanity through the agrravation of the ecological crisis, imperialism, etc. But then we are right back where we started.

Demogorgon wrote:

But, let's consider another alternative. If the ecological crisis has come into evidence in the mid 19th century ... would this have meant that capitalism was ripe for revolution? I can't see how this could be the case in terms of either the technical base or the development of the proletariat at the material or ideological level. If decadence means that a higher form of society is both necessary and possible ... such a scenario cannot mean decadence. This is why I think its a mistake to integrate the ecological crisis into decadence, even if the ecological crisis absolutely makes the revolution more urgent than ever!

But isn't the point of linking the ecological crisis to decadence that the ecological crisis couldn't possibly have emerged in the 19th century because the material conditions were not present? Similar to the way in which the material conditions for communism were not yet present. I suppose someone will come up with a citation about a revolutionary who saw an ecological crisis in 1870 any minute now!

 

Fred
Hi jk. Not revolutionaries

Hi jk. Not revolutionaries  perhaps, but Wordsworth, and Gerard Manley Hopkins were well aware of the ecological implications of people's actions even in the 19th.century. 

 

Wordsworth complained bitterly about the extension of the railway to Kendal and Windermere in 1844. Told that it would further the education of the working class, he thought that, in the condition the working class was at that time, workers wouldn't be up to appreciating the beauty of the lakes which visitors going there to see would in any case, destroy by their very presence.  The English Lake District is to day a giant car park. 

 

Hopkins, priest and poet, liked the natural world and its inhabitants very much.  He loved birds and trees.  When some poplars of which he was fond were chopped down in 1879 he wrote a poem pointing out the foolishness of attacking nature without giving the matter serious thought.  I quote some lines from it. Its called BINSEY POPLARS.  

Quote:
 

O if we but knew what we doWhen we delve or hew— Hack and rack the growing green!Since country is so tenderTo touch, her being so slender,That, like this sleek and seeing ballBut a prick will make no eye at all,Where we, even where we meanTo mend her we end her,When we hew or delve:After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.Ten or twelve, only ten or twelveStrokes of havoc unselveThe sweet especial scene,Rural scene, a rural scene,Sweet especial rural scene.  

     President Suharto of Indonesia when challenged as to the decimation of the forest in Kalimantan for profit, said that the Europeans  had done it first some centuries before so  why shouldn't he, and was filmed with cronies introducing baby turtles to the sea.   And, to end, Joni Mitchell sang a song that included the words: "they chopped down all the trees and put them in a tree museum; and charged all the people a dollar and a half  just to see 'em."  So there's profit even in destruction.    
jk1921
I have been giving this some

I have been giving this some more thought. I think there is still a tendency for many of us (myself included) to conflate decadence with something like "permanent crisis," even if we do this subconsciously. I am intrigued by the quotes Alf posted which seems to indicate the ICC has moved away from this notion of a permanent crisis. Is this in fact the case?

But then again, the way we understand "permanent crisis" can differ. For example, LBird seemed to think this meant "no growth" at all, the accumulation cycle comes to a halt, etc. However, the way I have always understood the ICC's appreciation of this is not that there is no growth at all, but that whatever growth occurs (even if it looks impressive from a statistical standpoint a la the trente glorieuses) is in some way a manipulation of the law of value through state captialism, based on the reconstruction after war or a debt fueled bubble. In other words, growth takes place but it is in some sense "fake," "contrived" or "illusionary." I was looking through some old issues of Internationalism from the 90s and most of them had an article about the "casino economy" which talked about how all the growth of the period was not real and that it would all come crashing down soon. Many of these articles were written more than a decade before the balloon actually did pop in the mid 2000s. So the point is that even though there is surface "growth" taking place; there can still be a "permanent crisis." (All of this of course raises other issues of empirical verification, etc. that I can't really get into here).

Now, the issue is how does this all relate to decadence. I think its clear that we all more or less agree that decadence is not the same as the crisis, but we all also seem to agree that it must be related somehow. The question is in what way? Does capital accumulation have to be in a "permament crisis" for decadence to occur (even if this permanent crisis is punctuated by periods of fictitious growth)? Or can captial accumulate "normally" even in decadence?

My sense is that decadence is a qualitiative measure not a quantitative one. Decadence means that the captialist system has reached a point where it no longer serves a progressive historical mission, because it can no longer develop the productive forces in a progressive fashion. I think this is where the sticking point on Chinese development comes into play. How can captialism be decadent if is now developing China towards a more modern captialist economy, creating a new major power, a new national capital and a new national proletariat in the worlds's most populous country (I am not arguing that this is what is actually happening). I think the way some comrades has dealt with this is to focus on the "progressive fashion" in the construction "development of the productive forces in a progressive fashion." Is what is happening in China progressive from the standpoint of humanity as a whole?

This seems to raise a new issue. Its not just that "growth" can be illusory, but now so can "development"? Can there be something like "excess development"?  Can there be too much capitalism in a global context? Captialism has become decadent before it even got around to really transforming the world's most populous country in its own image? Perhaps, but this seems very uncomfortable for Marxists who are used to arguing that captialism is obsolete because it can no longer develop the productive forces in the Third World condemning it to backwardness. This would all seem to require us to revise some of the assumptions Marxists have traditionally made about growth, development, historical progress etc. What other comrades have mentioned regarding there being "too much population" is a case in point.

I understand that this qualitative approach to decadence isn't quite so comfortable as a focus on quantitative profit rates and the like. It kind of leaves us dangling without something solid to ground it all on: profit rate declines to a point beyond which it is rational for captial to invest, completion of world market, etc. But I also think Demo is right to ask, but OK what makes capitalism no longer able to perform a progressive historical function? And it is here that we end back in a discussion of "internal" vs. "external" mechanisms. etc. We still need something to ground it all on, don't we?

 

 

 

Link
a fascination discussion

 

I'd like add a few observations and ask a few questions into the discussion

I agree with points made by KT and Ernie earlier on that the concept of decadence is important to our political understanding and that’s why ive stressed at the day of study, the changes to our view of crisis over the period.  I particularly agree though that there are questions that need explanation including the evidence of capitalist growth in decadence as suggested in this thread.

JK has also been pushing the understanding of the development in China and I think the basis of this does come back to what he suggests too -  that the concept of decadence and  decline has been too easily conflated with ‘permanent crisis’ and therefore with economic downturn. I want to agree with what Demogorgon expressed very well, decadence does not mean economic downturn, it means a fetter on economic development, a hindrance on the economy 

Just what could humanity have achieved without wage slavery, money, arms finance and insurance industries and so forth.  That’s the key issue

Even if capitalism does lead to 'the absolute pauperisation of the masses' at some point, is decadence more to do with social and political decay than actually economic decay??

It’s a truism for capitalist business and capitalism as a whole that if it not growing, it is collapsing and rarely have we seen periods where GDPs actually decline consistently.  Rather the reduction of growth demonstrates crisis not the absolute shrinking of the economy.

I think that post war growth, the crises of the 60s and 70s and more recently have to be seen in that context.  My problem with the period of Decomposition concept is that decadence as a whole is a period of social decomposition so why just use it as label on the 2 decades since 1990.  Surely the idea that this is definitively the final crisis is questioned when it is being accepted that capitalism has been growing economically in that period too. 

The growth of asian economies in the last couple of decades too.  It is capitalism fighting its own decadence.  Its not the cyclical growth within individual nations leading to formation of nation states and national economies.   Today there is a global economy and its struggles against its own fetters impact globally.  Growth in china needs an explanation but it is not internal funded by internal development of feudal resources into capitalism.  It’s a global economy funding foreign investment into low cost labour economies and the transferral of low tech production from areas where is production wages are unsustainably high and not least at a time when transportation is relatively cheap.

So I think there is something to be analysed about the period for global capital.

I had a look at a league table of current GDP growth figures as an indicator of what is happening and the highest European region in the list is Gibraltar in place 47 closely followed by Latvia 50th, Russia was 99th and Norway 106th place. 

About 20 countries do show a negative growth but I see that as insufficient to suggest the whole global economy is shrinking.

The growth in underdeveloped countries is clearly far higher than mainstream capitalist countries and, whilst size of many countries will be small , there appears to be a significant enough level of growth, enough to judge that there is a positive impact on the global economy. What does this mean? Well again I don’t think it is sufficiently to challenge the idea of decadence but it does seem to suggest and change in structure in the global economy to cope with this stage of decadence.   I don’t think these changes and developments have to be seen as progressive capitalism then as Jk is wondering, no matter,  how significant they are.

I think I would also suggest here that this change in structure in reflecting in the reorganisation of industries since the 1990s. Multinational and conglomerates are terms of the past.  The global firm has emerged and global industries dominate rather than national.  High tech production has changed the structure of major industries and global structure enable increased exploitation through cost reductions (despite increased transport costs)

I feel I am almost suggesting here that the collapse of the USSR has lead to a period of activity for global capital in which it could restructure itself.   I can’t see Decomposition as the key issue therefore but rather how this restructuring has lead to the current situation of financial crisis worldwide, class struggles in ‘3rd world’ countries and relative passivity in Europe and America.

I have also never quite understand when Marx and others discussed the working class population and reserve armies and things so I feel there is another relevant issue here that somebody could explain please.  How do we explain the growth of global population in decadence?  Global populations in 1850 was 1billion, in 1950 was 2 bn in 2013 is 7bn approx.  Has capitalism caused this growth and if so how?  If not is it a growth of lumpen proletariat?  If not does that mean pre-capitalist or extra capitalist markets are growing??   Surely not, but then how come the population can grow so much within capitalism when productive forces have reached a limit? 

China India etc have grown enormously precisely because of their previous underdevelopment but were they pre-capitalist beforehand.  I don’t think so but then how have they grown so much?

It seems to me that there is not a great deal of agreement in the ICC on the scale of pre-capitalism markets since 1917 let alone on their impact on decadence.  It seems to me though that there has been a significant period of growth in previously underdeveloped countries.  If it is argued that this is because they were still pre-capitalist areas, then I would agree with jk that this must raise a question about whether decadence has been reached.  Others would argue that pre cap markets are now relatively small and therefore decadence - but then what of the issue of population growth??

The world market has been created and it keeps growing even in decadence.  In this context the economy in decadence is not about pre cap markets or extra cap markets at all, thats the weakness that leads to the idea of permanent crisis. 

Capital is first and foremost an international system in this period and not a series of national economies.  So we need to start at the global level when analysing its performance.  Undoubtedly low growth and stagnation in certain countries of Europe is significant but also the recent growth in the far east must presumably represent a division of labour opening up in the global economy between high tech and low tech and service industries in a way that helps global capital maintain itself and its capacity to maintain accumulation.

Capitalism has taken measures throughout this period to maintain itself.  State capitalist management of society, globalisation, the growth of credit, increasingly efficient exploitation of workers, improved production processes  to name but a few.  Capitalism has focused on the development of  these elements in decadence and particularly in the past 30 years to maintain its levels of profitability  These aren’t tricks or deceits that make up for the lack of precap markets but countertendencies to the falling rate of profit.

I agree the concept of decadence must be separated from economic crisis theory therefore (which it was probably not possible to say prior to WW2) as overall capital has continued to grow.  Decadence is a political /social/historical state of being which has an impact on the political economy that is capitalism  but it is not a permanent crisis and  it should not now be seen as synonymous with collapse, absolute decline, final crisis, fatal crisis and so forth.  I think the CWOs approach of avoiding templates as to progress of capitalism in the current period is much more constructive here.  Yes it’s a period of crisis but world war and regional wars, revolution, decomposition, collapse seem to have a more complex relationship in terms of their evolution rather just directions that are either/or.  There are a range of contradictions operating within capitalism at present and whilst the risks for humanity are great, but the pattern of events leading to revolution is not laid down yet as should be seen by the period leading up to WW1 and the revolutionary period following it. 

LBird
Confused

jk1921 wrote:
For example, LBird seemed to think this meant "no growth" at all...

Well, to be fair, jk, I quoted the ICC, on my post #23, which doesn't mention 'growth'. It fact, its emphasis is anti- (or at least low-) growth.

I've pointed out that the reason commentators are confused with the ICC position is that, well, it is confusing.

I've repeatedly asked for a short summary of points, a basic explanation, as an introduction, and since it wasn't forthcoming, I dug out myself the ICC quote.

I'm still confused, even given the numerous posts on the subject on this thread.

jk1921
Confusion

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
For example, LBird seemed to think this meant "no growth" at all...

Well, to be fair, jk, I quoted the ICC, on my post #23, which doesn't mention 'growth'. It fact, its emphasis is anti- (or at least low-) growth.

I've pointed out that the reason commentators are confused with the ICC position is that, well, it is confusing.

I've repeatedly asked for a short summary of points, a basic explanation, as an introduction, and since it wasn't forthcoming, I dug out myself the ICC quote.

I'm still confused, even given the numerous posts on the subject on this thread.

 

You aren't alone. I am confused too. I wouldn't be surprised if the ICC is as well. I don't think its something to be embarrassed about. It is a really tough subject.

LBird
Explanation

jk1921 wrote:
You aren't alone. I am confused too. I wouldn't be surprised if the ICC is as well. I don't think its something to be embarrassed about. It is a really tough subject.

I'm not embarrassed about my ignorance, I'm keen to learn. There's lots of things I don't know.

I'm probably more confused, in fact, about the reluctance of the ICC to explain the theory, when asked.

jk1921
Decadence Pamphlet

LBird wrote:

I'm probably more confused, in fact, about the reluctance of the ICC to explain the theory, when asked.

They wrote and entire pamphlet on it. Have you read it?

LBird
Too complex for the likes of me?

jk1921 wrote:

LBird wrote:

I'm probably more confused, in fact, about the reluctance of the ICC to explain the theory, when asked.

They wrote and entire pamphlet on it. Have you read it?

No, I want them to explain it in simple terms, first.

If I then think that there's anything to it, I'll delve further.

That's what most people do when they come across a new idea.

I've heard the term, asked questions, read some stuff, couldn't make head nor tail of it, quoted the ICC here and used it as the basis of more questions, read this thread, asked for more explanation, but no attempts at explanation and I'm none the wiser.

If this 'theory of decadence' is so complex that even short list of points is impossible, as an introduction with which to take forward one's questions, then it will be ignored.

Which is a shame, because perhaps there's something to it. But as far as I can tell, going by other commentators on other sites, it's as meaningless to them as it seems to me, now.

Why the ICC won't deign to explain, I've no idea. One is inevitably led to the conclusion that it can't be explained. That would explain, I suppose, why so many posters here either disagree about it or are as baffled as me.

jk1921
There are a number of

There are a number of straightforward bullet point "explanations" of decadence available from the ICC. Just look at the list of basic political positions. Captialism has reached a point in its development where it no longer serves the interests of humanity, because its social relations are now in imminent conflict with the forces of production. This isn't just the ICC's position. Its the position of the ICT and IP as well, even if there are many differences about the mechanisms for all this. In fact, there are differences on this score between members of the ICC and between posters on this board. Is this a bad thing? It may make the topic more complex, but it should put to rest the idea that the ICC is monolithic. But it seems like it is damned if you do, damned if you don't for the ICC. Explantions too straightforward and unanimous--its a monolithic cult. Topics with a tinge of complexity--it can't speak ordinary folk language and is therefore irrelevant.

LBird, you can be very frustrating (perhaps that's what you want?). One day you are lambasting others for not understansing intricate details of the philosophy of science. Then, when the topic changes, you are condemning the ICC for not explaining decadence in simple language. We all have our contradictions, but it would be easier to take in your case if you weren't so absolutist about it all.

LBird
Frustrating?

jk1921 wrote:
There are a number of straightforward bullet point "explanations" of decadence available from the ICC.

Can you provide a 'bullet point' explanation, jk? I'd be grateful.

jk1921 wrote:
LBird, you can be very frustrating (perhaps that's what you want?). One day you are lambasting others for not understansing intricate details of the philosophy of science. Then, when the topic changes, you are condemning the ICC for not explaining decadence in simple language.

At least, on subjects that I'm qualified to comment about, I try to help other comrades for whom the subject is new. I might be hopeless at doing this, but I try to explain, using summaries and simplifications, and always give my sources, so that those so inclined can read the original and criticise me, if they feel my simplifications have gone too far.

I'm only asking for the ICC to return the favour.

baboon
a favour returned

I'll return you the favour. Go to the Home page of the ICC. Click onto "What is the ICC". A menu will appear and there you can read for yourself - rather than have anyone type it up for you - the basic positions of the ICC  and below that its Platform.

Demogorgon
There's a slight difference,

There's a slight difference, of course. You're just one individual with, to my knowledge, no published statement of positions on anything - nor would we expect you to have such. In other words, to find out what LBird thinks we're limited to ... asking LBird and hoping for a direct response.

The ICC (and organisations generally) on the other hand have put an enormous amount of effort into publishing (in print and online) our positions. The idea that we should be expected to deliver a personalised breakdown to every individual that passes our way is not only utterly ridiculous but far beyond our meagre resources.

Why should we dedicate that resource to you when there are other comrades who have had the good grace to familiarise themselves with the basics and are asking genuine questions or making sincere objections? In fact, the ICC has contributed over 20 posts to this thread alone, doing our best to tackle some of these questions, many of them yours! In some of them, we have been exploring ideas and theory ourselves rather than pretending we know all the answers.

LBird
Favouritism

baboon wrote:

I'll return you the favour. Go to the Home page of the ICC. Click onto "What is the ICC". A menu will appear and there you can read for yourself - rather than have anyone type it up for you - the basic positions of the ICC  and below that its Platform.

Thanks for putting yourself out, baboon.

'Decadence' is now so obvious.

You should try this method with every enquiry - the party will soon expand.

LBird
Criticism is valuable

Demogorgon wrote:
The ICC (and organisations generally) on the other hand have put an enormous amount of effort into publishing (in print and online) our positions. The idea that we should be expected to deliver a personalised breakdown to every individual that passes our way is not only utterly ridiculous but far beyond our meagre resources.

Why should we dedicate that resource to you when there are other comrades who have had the good grace to familiarise themselves with the basics and are asking genuine questions or making sincere objections? In fact, the ICC has contributed over 20 posts to this thread alone, doing our best to tackle some of these questions, many of them yours! In some of them, we have been exploring ideas and theory ourselves rather than pretending we know all the answers.

But the 'enormous effort' doesn't seem to be bearing fruit. Even on this thread there seems to be disagreement on what it means. I'm not asking for a 'personalised breakdown', but for a 'short summary' of what is, supposedly, a long-thought-out party position, one that prospective members have to subscribe to. Anyone could benefit from this, not just me.

As to 'exploring ideas and theory yourselves', this is to be applauded. As a party, you shouldn't 'pretend to know all the answers', I agree. Openness to new ideas is vital.

But on this issue of 'decadence', surely it's already been thrashed out over years and is in a form able to be understood by prospective members?

Once more, though, the personal slight against me about 'good grace' and 'genuine questions' makes me uneasy. I'm the one often quoting the ICC, or referring to books recommended by ICC tracts, so I have done some reading.

But there seem to be a distaste for critical questioning, especially about the theory of decadence, but also for other issues I've queried, like 'Freud', or the nature of the party.

It's not going to go away, comrades, even if I do.

Demogorgon
Baboon already pointed to our

Baboon already pointed to our Basic Positions and our Platform. You did read the section in the platform on decadence didn't you? Did you read the Manifestos? They both have sections on decadence. Did you read the section in the Unions pamphlet on decadence? Or the introductory sections of Chapter 2 of Nation or Class? We explain the basic concept of decadence in virtually every foundation text we write.

I also, earlier in this thread, pointed to at least two texts where Marx elucidates the concept: the Manifesto and the Preface. I also pointed out to you (in post #29) what the fundamental question behind decadence was: "The fundamental question here is whether capitalism is still revolutionary. Are we still in the phase where, in Marx's words, "the bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part"? Or are we now at the point where "for many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule"."

So please stop this ridiculous claim that we've made no effort to answer you.

As JK has said, there is a continuing debate within and without the ICC concerning the precise mechanisms involved and the implications of precisely what decadence means. That is where the complexity lies, not the basic idea.

LBird
Like many, still mystified

Demogorgon wrote:
So please stop this ridiculous claim that we've made no effort to answer you.

OK. I've tried. If you're all happy that the ICC theory of decadence is an 'open book', it must be me.

A.Simpleton
Slightly Mischievous

It took more than a minute :@-  and of course misses your date by 6 years :@{ ...but do I get a consolation prize or badge or something?

' I suppose someone will come up with a citation about a revolutionary who saw an ecological crisis in 1870 any minute now! '

'Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with these farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery consists of, is in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.'

Engels, The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man (1876)

Less superficially, it does prefigure ecological considerations - though note the 'who could have guessed ' tone . It does factor in human choice viz 'correct application' of human invention to redress such environmental degradation as he cites. I do get the sense that he warns against taking inexhaustible natural supply for granted .However, although never one to underestimate the ruthlessness of Capital - it doesn't sound as if knowing, blithely indifferent devastation of the whole planet ever figured in his worst nightmare. 

I concede : no revolutionary 'Eco-Nostradamus' there.

AS

 

baboon
quote from Engels

When I read jk's point about the 1870 ecological question, I also thought of the piece by Engels in "Transition" and think it shows that revolutonaries were concerned about capitalism's destruction of the environment at that early period. In Capital, I don't have the reference to hand, Marx talks about capitalism degrading the soil and destroying the workers in the same sentence.

A.Simpleton
you're right

Well remembered 

All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility… Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.'

Capital Vol. I : 638

And thanks, because while searching for the quote I discovered a great deal of research and analysis by him and Engels. Soil nutrition, exhaustion, the destructive relation of Capitalism to nature, its wastefulness: 'carried far beyond the bounds of one country'

Pretty close to a description of the 'food/air-miles' issue and others.

I stand corrected: my comment above underestimates the foresight and prominence given.

 

The issue of capitalism’s destructive metabolic relation to nature was raised by Marx in the nineteenth century. The German chemist, Justus von Liebig, in the 1850s and ’60s, employed the concept of metabolism in his studies of soil nutrients. He explained that British agriculture, with its intensive methods of cultivation to increase yields for the market, operated as a system of robbery, destroying the vitality of the soil. Liebig detailed how the soil required specific nutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—to maintain its ability to produce crops. As crops grew they took up these nutrients. In earlier societies, the produce of nature was often recycled back to the land, fertilizing it. But the concentration of land ownership, which involved the depopulation of rural areas, and the increasing division between town and country, changed this process. Food and fiber were shipped from the countryside to distant markets. In this, the nutrients of the soil were transferred from the country to the city where they accumulated as waste and contributed to the pollution of the cities, rather than being returned to the soil. This caused a rupture in the nutrient cycle.

Marx, who was influenced by Liebig’s work, recognized that soil fertility and the conditions of nature were bound to the historical development of social relations. Through his studies of soil science, Marx gained insights in regard to the nutrient cycle and how soil exhaustion was caused. On this basis he provided a materialist critique of modern agriculture, describing how capitalist operations inevitably produced a metabolic rift, as the basic processes of natural reproduction were undermined, preventing the return to the soil of the necessary nutrients.6

The transfer and loss of nutrients was tied to the accumulation process. Marx described how capital creates a rupture in the “metabolic interaction” between humans and the earth, one that is only intensified by large-scale agriculture, long-distance trade, and massive urban growth. With these developments, the nutrient cycle was interrupted and the soil continually impoverished. He explained that the drive for the accumulation of capital “reduces the agricultural population to an ever decreasing minimum and confronts it with an ever growing industrial population crammed together in large towns; in this way it produces conditions that provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself. The result of this is a squandering of the vitality of the soil, which is carried by trade far beyond the bounds of a single country.”  

http://monthlyreview.org/2008/11/01/rifts-and-shifts-getting-to-the-root-of-environmental-crises                                                                           

Demogorgon
If the quotes above are

If the quotes above are intended as a rebuttal to my points on the environment, I think they miss the point. Nowhere have I said that capitalism's development does not have an impact on the environment; nor do I think that the environmental crisis has no impact on decadence. But it's nonetheless clear that Marx dedicated his entire work to demonstrating that capitalism's doom was a product of its internal contradictions. At the level of crisis, for example, he was determined to demolish the idea that crises were solely a product of "external" factors like bad harvests, etc. but arose from the social relationships that composed bourgeois society.

This doesn't mean that a bad harvest (or any other resource constraint for that matter) couldn't trigger a crisis, but that even if you abstract from such constraints crises were still inevitable. While crisis per se is not identifiable with decadence, it is closely linked and of course springs fundamentally from the same social relationships and it is these social relationships that are no longer compatible with the forces of production.

For the defenders of "ecodecadence", can you explain why the environmental factor acts as a specific factor for the working class in its revolutionary struggle? This is should go beyond simply saying that the proletariat has something specific to say about the environment which, of course, it does. And can you also explain how what you seem to be saying is any different from the "greens" and other environmental activists?

baboon
not intended

It's not intended to be a rebuttal of any point - and I thought that that discussion - on bad harvests and the like being a factor - was on a separate thread?

It's intended to be a contribution to a deepening to the discussion on the decadence of capitalism showing, from quotes from the early workers' movement, how this was a concern for the latter. It's a question of the destruction that is a factor of and from capitalism that becomes more acute in its decadence. I'm not aware of any "Greens" that argue that.

jk1921
Ecodecadence

Demogorgon wrote:

For the defenders of "ecodecadence", can you explain why the environmental factor acts as a specific factor for the working class in its revolutionary struggle? This is should go beyond simply saying that the proletariat has something specific to say about the environment which, of course, it does. And can you also explain how what you seem to be saying is any different from the "greens" and other environmental activists?

I'm not a defender of "ecodecadence," and I doubt there is such a thing at the moment as it would need to be flushed out more, but to address the doubt about the ecological crisis being a factor for the working class in the development of its struggles, couldn't we say this about any theory of decadence? Isn't what changes the conditions of the working class struggle in decadence the bankruptcy of reformism and democracy as captialism becomes unable to grant "lasting reforms." Certainly, an ecological crisis poses the issue of captialism being unable to grant "lasting reforms," doesn't it? But in either case we have to pose the question, "How does the working class become aware that capitalism cannot grant lasting reforms?" Or is this a necessary condition for revolution? I am not sure the working class struggles against decadence per se, doesn't it struggle against the effects of the crisis, which is why there were revolutionary struggles even in ascendance? In the end, I think we are still stuck with the same question--how does revolutionary consciousness develop from the crisis, what level of crisis is necessary, what other factors come into play, etc.

A.Simpleton
no rebuttal intended Demo

Nor any 'defence' intended of some wrongly-prioritised alternative, even if the factor (external in this case) is a real factor...: my fault if it came across that way through mis-timing and clumsiness. I do try to read all posts carefully and 'as a whole' (including in the light of previous posts by the same poster): yours are a source of clarity... honest guv'.... 

I agree with you (two forum agreements in one month ...good 'heavens') with regard to 'internal contradictions' being primary: I also know that you clearly acknowledge the profound but 'secondary' effect of environmental degradation that Capitalism's relations of production and mode of production produce, because .... er ...you said it and I read it:@-

Add ineptitude to clumsiness in that I did indeed post this on the wrong thread and you have it.

I was briefly encouraged by the article from whatever this 'Monthly Review' is in that it goes on to state:

Capitalism continues to play out the same failed strategy again and again. The solution to each environmental problem generates new environmental problems while often not curtailing the old ones. One crisis follows another, in an endless succession of failure, stemming from the internal contradictions of the system. If we are to solve our environmental crises, we need to go to the root of the problem: the social relation of capital itself.

(However then it slides into more reformist territory of the 'but while we are waiting we might as well plant trees' sort of gist. I shall not be taking up a subscription.)

Apologies for the confusion: I am 62 (and a quarter) : is it time I was recycled? 

AS

 

 

 

  

baboon
decadence and ecology

I think that point 8 of the Extract from the resolution on the international situation from the 20th Congress of the ICC, dealing with the destruction of the environment takes on some form of a rebuttal to Demo's position.

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