How does the "Century of Decadence" explain this?

139 posts / 0 new
Last post
Pierre
How does the "Century of Decadence" explain this?
Printer-friendly version

     The population of the world in 1914 was ~1.8 billion people, give or take a few million. An estimated 70% lived in "extreme poverty" (Karolinska Institute), which refers to a condition of no reliable shelter or food. Mud huts, grass roofs and subsistence farming. Sharing a toothbrush between seven other family members.

     By 1970, half the world population still lived in extreme poverty. This was supposedly the beginning of the period of "super-decadence".

     Now, let's jump forward to the present. World population: ~7.3 billion. The percentage of Earth's population living in extreme poverty: estimated at 12%.

     So, in 1914 about 1.26 billion people lived in extreme poverty. In 2014: 876 million. Not only has the total amount of people living in extreme poverty gone down ~30% during the "decadent" period, in the last hundred years capitalism has somehow managed to add a staggering ~6.42 billion people to the global population without hurling them into extreme poverty.

     That sounds pretty fucking progressive to me. How do you defend the theory of decadence despite data like this?

Pierre
(No subject)

dp

schalken
Straw man

Hi Pierre,

From my perspective you are asking them to defend your own misinterpretation theory. Nowhere does their theory of decadence say that the capitalist economy will contract or even stagnate. From section 4 of their pamphlet "Decadence of Capitalism":

Quote:
Even if a large part of this production is used only for military purposes; even if the gap between industrialised countries and underdeveloped countries grows, it seems obvious that 'the productive forces have not stopped growing'. Even if the evolution of political structures indicates the decomposition of the dominant value system, the development of class antagonisms as well as conflicts within the ruling class are all evidence of a 'crisis of civilisation' - a decline of capitalism at the superstructural level - it seems that many marxists find it difficult to speak of 'decadence in the capitalist system' when they see so much 'economic expansion'.

...

From an economic standpoint, what characterises the decadence of a given social form is therefore:

- An actual slowing down of the growth of the productive forces with respect to the rates which would have been technically and objectively possible without the obstacle of the relations of production. This slow-down must have an inevitable and irreversible character. It must be caused specifically by the perpetuation of the relations of production which hold the society together. The discrepancy between actual development and possible development of the productive forces can only widen. This discrepancy thus appears increasingly clear to the social classes.

- The appearance of increasingly profound and widespread crises. These crises create the subjective conditions necessary for social revolution. In the course of these crises the power of the ruling class is profoundly weakened, and through the objective intensification of the necessity for its intervention, the revolutionary class finds the preliminary bases for its strength and unity.Our problem is therefore to find out whether these two phenomena characterise the capitalist system in the period from World War I to today.

If you look at the environmental problems we face, the continued prospect of imperialist war (e.g., Eastern Europe, Asia), the continued existence of poverty despite the possibility of material abundance, etc., it's clear (to me and others) that capitalism has outlived its usefulness.

LBird
Decadence and progression?

Pierre wrote:

      That sounds pretty fucking progressive to me. How do you defend the theory of decadence despite data like this?

I think that you, like me and most people who ask questions about 'the theory of decadence', suppose 'decadence' to be about 'decadence'.

But, as the first answer you've been given shows, there isn't a lot of what we understand by 'decadence' in 'decadence theory'.

After reading many discussions about it, on a number of sites, by genuinely interested comrades, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is simply the term 'decadence'.

Why the ICC continue to use an inappropriate term for their theory is another issue. I'd guess that it's an issue about party recruitment, but could be wrong.

Link
population expansion needs explaining

Please dont ignore the issue that Peirre raises.  I agree with the concept of decadence as a period in which capitalism is displaying its obsolesence and which aids our understanding of events but i have raised the question of understanding how come world population is growing so much several times before  and nobody has addressing it.

Is this large population expansion a product of the continued dynamism of capitalism relative to previous systems, is it capitalism unable to bring all the world into modern capitalist production systems as per western Europe,USA and so forth..  Marx writes about capitalism's need for reserve labour market and discusses population size in terms of the need of production albeit in a period where capitalism was still destroying feudal systems and developing its own.  Is there today a link between capitalisms production needs and population expansion??????

 Im sure its not a simple answer here but i would like someone to tackle the issue please

LBird
Obsolescent 'decadence'?

Link wrote:

Please dont ignore the issue that Peirre raises.  I agree with the concept of decadence as a period in which capitalism is displaying its obsolesence...

Unfortunately, Link, 'agreeing with the concept' (whether called 'decadence' or 'obsolescence') is precisely the issue which is being ignored.

What Pierre is saying, and I agree, as do many (most?) of those engaging with this 'theory', is that capitalism hasn't been 'decadent' (or obsolete) since 1914.

What makes you 'agree with the concept', if you know what it actually refers to?

Pierre
Schalken you realize you've

Schalken you realize you've just made *zero* sense, don't you?

Schalken wrote:
Nowhere does their theory of decadence say that the capitalist economy will contract or even stagnate.

Are we reading the same groups literature? This is the website for the International Communist Current, correct?

ICC Platform wrote:
The physical poverty which grinds down the underdeveloped countries is echoed in the more advanced countries by an unprecedented dehumanisation of social relationships which is the result of the fact that capitalism is absolutely incapable of offering any future to humanity

Umm...no. It sure as fuck has offered a future for the 6.42 billion people I mentioned earlier.

Schalken wrote:
Nowhere does their theory of decadence say that the capitalist economy will contract or even stagnate.

ICC: 100 Years of Decadence wrote:
For a century now, humanity has stood at a crossroads in its history. Already in the 19th century the working class starkly outlined this historical watershed in the expression: "socialism or barbarism".

...

Today the growth in the contradictions between the productive forces and the relations of production has reached a point where it threatens humanity not just with social and cultural decline, but with complete destruction. For the first time in history, a mode of production's decadence is a menace for the very survival of the human species.

...

These forces are so enchained and compressed by the logic of capitalist exploitation that society's development is dragged down into an ever more barbaric maelstrom.

ICC: Decadence of capitalism (i) wrote:
This epoch - in the absence of the victory of the proletarian revolution - has already been the most barbaric in human history and brings with it the threat of an even deeper descent into barbarism, whose ultimate consequence could be not only the "collapse of civilisation" but the extinction of human life on the planet.

Should I even continue?

And I'm the one building strawmen, Schalken? Do me a favor and don't insult my intelligence ever again.

 

Pierre
Also, since we're on the

Were the Barbarians not a part of the revolutionary class of their period?

Pierre
Re: double speak

LBird wrote:

I think that you, like me and most people who ask questions about 'the theory of decadence', suppose 'decadence' to be about 'decadence'.

LBird
Communism is freedom

Pierre, I should make it clear that my criticisms of the ICC are from the perspective of a Democratic Communist, who thinks that any party's theories should be easily explicable to workers, so as to be able to be voted upon.

Is your position one that places the proletariat at its centre, and regards democratic control by the proletariat as the final arbiter, or are you critical of the ICC for other reasons?

  

Pierre
LBird, I consider myself a

LBird, I consider myself a proletarian left communist. I'm not so sure what is meant by "Democratic Communist". Is that like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn? I hope not.

We're getting way off topic, but I do consider the ICC an authoritarian group, and from what I understand, so do most people today. It's our understanding the central committee is permanent and monolithic, in the sense that---from what I hear---most people on it's CC are very old and very French (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Speaking of final arbiters, we've also heard there's sort of a General Secretary of whom the whole organization has become more or less subordinate to.

But I digress, we are way, way of topic. My intention was not to attack the ICC itself. Just it's theory of decadence. They may be extremely authoritarian but they still fight for proletarian communism.

LBird
On topic

Thanks for your reply, Pierre.

We might have some differences, but I think that we're in the same ballpark!

Famous last words, eh?

jaycee
“The population of the world

“The population of the world in 1914 was ~1.8 billion people, give or take a few million. An estimated 70% lived in "extreme poverty" (Karolinska Institute), which refers to a condition of no reliable shelter or food. Mud huts and subsistence farming.”

 

This is characteristic of most of (settled agricultural) human existence and can certainly be said to be superior in many ways to corrugated iron and slum shacks.

 

A lot of these 'poverty reduction' statistics are based on this transition from peasant/semi-peasant life styles to that of wage slaves where obviously they will have more money because more of their life is dependent on having money. Has this actually improved peoples’ lives? In most cases I would be very sceptical of any claim that it has. Living in urban slums with its destruction of traditional communal ties, crime and poverty and the entrance into the even more alienated (than peasant life) life/work of a wage slave is not in itself progressive. It was progressive when it was laying the foundations for capitalism’s destruction and replacement (maybe it still is doing this but time seems to be running out) but in itself it does not mean people are better off.

 

I will admit that the ICC's claim made in the 70's/80's that capitalism could no longer incorporate massive amounts of new workers into the 'market' has been shown to be clearly false- the reasons why this has been done however I think make more sense in a framework of 'crisis-theory' (again not the same as decadence theory) than within a framework that just sees it as a natural progression i.e that they could no longer make a profit producing things in the capitalist heart-lands where workers had managed to wrestle too many wages etc from the capitalists over the years.

 

And now over-population is a sign that capitalism is totally healthy and fine and still progressive, ok good to know. Capitalism keeps making more of everything-including people/wage slaves that’s just what it does- at some point surely that becomes no longer a good thing for the future of the planet?

 

More and more people living in ‘mega-cities’ creating mass pollution, destruction and increasingly inhumane conditions for those living in them is also not a sign of progress as far as I am concerned. 

KT
Method, Method, Method

Marx and marxism disgust the abstract moralists of anarchism because its approach, its method, implies that dirty, rotten, stinking capital, exploitative capitalist social relations, born dripping blood and filth from every pore, represent at a certain stage – during Marx’s lifetime for sure – and in specific spheres, an historical advance.

In short, capitalist social relations were a necessary moment in the development of humanity’s productive forces without which a society of abundance, communism, would be untenable. It’s why Marx, whilst insisting on the political autonomy of the proletariat, took ‘sides’: saw for example that the victory of the ‘north’ over the Confederates in the bloody US Civil War was a necessary step in the development of global capital; that the unification of Ireland might weaken dominant British imperialism and similarly permit a development of capitalist relations of production where the British Empire maintained a backward, colonial form of exploitation and, above all, followed eagerly each and every political movement which threatened to weaken the enormous blockage that was feudal, Royal, imperial Russia.

It was not through some abstract love of democracy, or progress, or ‘lifting people out of poverty’ that Marx took such an attitude but through an immensely practical approach which, to put it simply, said that the sooner capitalism was established in all major world centres and continents, the quicker the proletariat, its gravedigger, could assert its own perspective – communism.

When asked what their greatest achievement was, Marx and Engels asserted, according to their close friend and biographer W Liebknecht, that it was the discovery of history’s laws, its dynamic, and the method of understanding its motion. Historical Materialism was the name they gave to this method which placed the development of tools and the social organisation of different societies to reproduce life’s necessities as the framework and the struggle between exploiters and exploited as the motor force. They noted that a given form of social organisation promoted an increase in humanity’s productivity but that, at a certain stage, these same ‘relations of production’ became a fetter on the further harmonious development and required changing, by force, if society was not to stagnate or even disintegrate.

The charting of the rise and fall of different class societies, the succession of different modes of production – this was the crowning achievement of Marx and the Marxists and, above all, they insisted that capitalism was no different – it too contained the seeds of its own destruction but that it had also created in the proletariat, the potential means to go beyond not just this particular form of class society, but class society in general. It was up to men to become conscious of what was at stake, of the reality unfolding in front of their eyes and to fight it out....

It was, as always, real events, in the real world, that signified to communists at the turn of the 20th century that the necessary period of capitalist rule was over: the communists in 1914 recognised that the world war was the definitive sign that capitalist social relations were becoming a block, a fetter on the further development of the productive forces. From the point of view of the proletariat – and what other point of view interests us? – capital no longer had a progressive function. Its continuation implies terrible wars, destructive crises, the despoliation of the environment and a growing brake on the achievements of which humanity was capable.

This was the epoch of wars or revolution: of socialism or barbarism... of the decadence of capitalism.

In this vision, it matters not one jot how many millions more humans inhabit the planet since 1914: the question to be posed is this: has the evolution of society and the productive forces (of which the class conscious proletariat is one if not the major factor) moved us towards communism or away from it? Has the last 100 years strengthened the proletariat and its consciousness of what it is and what it has to do, or retarded it?

We are not anarchists and we are not councilists. The question of the depth and extent of class consciousness within the proletariat isn’t one dimensional. Of course today, after two world wars, after two extensive world crises (it took decades after WW2 for world production to reach and eventually surpass pre-war levels – evidence of a serious fetter, wouldn’t you agree?), small minorities of the proletariat have a deeper understanding of capitalism, its tendencies in its decadent phase and the perspectives flowing from all this. But the generalisation of this consciousness within the class as a whole...? Is anyone saying at this point in history that communist consciousness is more generalised in the working class than it was in 1917, for example?

And as for the material we must work with after 100 years: please don’t talk about all the shiny toys that capitalism has produced: the internet, computers, robotics, etc – largely offshoots of the permanent and wasteful war economy and most of them, including quantum mechanics and nuclear science existing in embryo in capitalism’s ascendant period. Look instead at the price humanity and the planet has been obliged to pay for these small ‘advances’.

And, please, use a little imagination; adopt a questioning mind: what could humanity have achieved if it weren’t for the continuation of the destructive, narrow, wasteful social relations of capitalism?

Stating that capitalism is in its decadent phase in no way means it has stopped growing. What is does imply is that, at root, the diseased and distorted growth dictated by the increasingly agonised accumulation of capital is absolutely unnecessary from the point of view of the proletarian revolution and in fact is hindering it.

Whereas in the 18th and 19th century, the proletarian revolution was materially impossible without the global development of capitalist social relations and productive forces, the past 100 years have tended in the opposite direction – that this continued evolution has produced a growing despoliation of the planet, a fragmentation and alienation of the proletariat, a state of almost permanent warfare between capitalist nations and an incredibly narrow development of the productive forces which is tending to mitigate against the future abundance required in order to achieve communism. The social relations of capital have become – have long been – far too narrow to contain all the wealth of which humanity is capable of producing.

The communists understood this 100 years ago. Today, many appear to have never even considered things in this way.

So don’t stare goggle-eyed at the tarnished development of capital in China these past 25 years: instead ask why it has taken so bloody long?

Japan was transformed from rural peasant economy to a major imperialist world power within 20 years towards the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th. It has taken nearly 100 years to achieve anything like that in China. Why, if there has been no fetter on the productive forces? And why, despite all the genuine advances that have been made in the past 100 years (yes, they exist), has the development in places like China increasingly resembled that of some nightmare bygone despoiling age, even though even the ruling class understands this is in no-one’s medium-term let alone long-term interests?

Decadence deniers have a great deal to answer for in my book.

KT

This rant has been brought to you by a sympathiser of the ICC: it does not claim to represent the view or politics of the ICC

 

schalken
Pierre wrote: And I'm the one

Pierre wrote:

And I'm the one building strawmen, Schalken? Do me a favor and don't insult my intelligence ever again.

Despite an insult and several quotes, you still haven't shown where the ICC says a statistical (see jaycee's comment) decrease in poverty, or an increase in capitalism's productive forces, is impossible in an era of decadence. And yet this seems to be the crux of your contention with decadence.

For what it's worth, and perhaps to clarify what can be meant by decadence, let me say that I believe in decadence in a broad or perhaps "weak" sense. Capitalism was a progressive force in the 19th century. It created an international class that could socialize production and abolish class society once and for all. But by the first decades of the 20th century, it had become clear that capitalism was decadent (or obsolete); this was demonstrated by the carnage of the First World War and above all by the first international wave of proletarian revolutions. As the century progressed, this obsolescence was further confirmed by another imperialist world war, brutal regional wars, the development of nuclear weaponry, the potentially irreversible destruction of the environment, unparalleled plenty as tens of thousands of people starved to death each day (still do), etc. Nowhere in "my" conception of decadence do I say capitalism can't continue to grow -- only that this growth has some terrifying consequences, consequences best avoided by a communist revolution, something capitalism had already made possible 100 years ago.

Pierre
I'm really disturbed by these

I'm really disturbed by these responses. Do we live on the same planet? I provide well researched data and statistics and in return I get a bunch of non-sensical opinions and a guy trying to lecture me on communist theory.

Jaycee, surely you would prefer to go back to say, South Korea in the year 1950, when one of every three children were still dying before the age of 5.  This trend reflects the global one, so don't try to provide the excuse of imperialist conflict. It's part in parcel.

You know what the child mortality rate is in South Korea today? 3.2%. Would you like me to go on? Colombia, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Brazil, the list goes on and on and on!

You guys are just plain wrong. Why don't you do the milieu a favor, find some fucking humility, and except the fact that the period of decline is still a very real danger. You just have no grip on when it begins or how to even tell it has.

Give me one number, one piece of data to corroborate any of this dribble? You can't! So, I leave you with this:

Pierre
Look at Japan, KT. Would you

Look at Japan, KT. Would you like other figures? Just say the words.

LBird
Purpose of theory?

Pierre wrote:

Look at Japan, KT. Would you like other figures? Just say the words.

I don't think that giving statistics will get you anywhere in this debate, Pierre.

There seems to be an 'emotional attatchment' to 'the theory of decadence'.

This is clear from the tone of some of the answers that you've been given, which I've seen elsewhere. The next stage will be to suggest that those comrades opposed this 'theory' are somehow supporters of capitalism ('unconsciously', the more reasonable 'decadentists' will say).

I suspect that the theory's role is one of claiming that 'the end is nigh', that immediate action! is required, so 'join the party now!'.

Do you have any view yourself about the purpose of 'decadence theory', Pierre?

KT
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Lenin remarked that ‘Facts are stubborn.’ He also insisted upon a framework, a method, with which to examine them, not in isolation but in their relationship with other phenomenon, the overall result either strengthening the framework in use, or modifying it or perhaps overturning it. You don’t even have to be a revolutionary to recognise this and, outside the realms of pure propaganda, the utter uselessness of empiricism. Above all Lenin, along with other Marxists before or since, insisted that the world be examined not ‘dispassionately’ or with some faux ‘objectivity’ but from the point of view of the proletariat: its past, its present, its future - its needs. Otherwise it’s indeed a case of ‘Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.’

Take the chart of GDP for Japan, China and South Korea offered by Pierre/Jamal in post 17.

On its own it tells us little about anything, other than a vast period of apparent stagnation followed by an upturn (from a very low level, it should be noted) in Gross Domestic Product (or perhaps production) seemingly starting around the build up to ... the Second World War, and really taking off, in the case of S Korea and Japan, at the beginning of the ‘Cold War’ in the late 1940s (both countries having been rebuilt with US dollars as US outposts) and, in the case of China, around the early 1970s, shortly after the US began to walk away from the conflict in Vietnam to fry the bigger fish presided over by ‘Chairman’ Mao.

The chart offered by Pierre/Jamal is not accompanied by one covering a similar period which might show how these rises in GDP were financed: by a historically unprecedented rise in world, and particularly US debt!

Pierre/Jamal’s chart doesn’t tell us what was produced by this rise in GDP (millions of plastic yellow ducks from China may be proof of economic activity, but ...) nor what became of the items which were the product of capital’s inevitable tendency towards over-production.

In short, on its own, it shows us nothing. Except that the proletariat continues to be the source of capital’s surplus value and that its share of social wealth is falling (pace the assertion made by the communist Lauren Goldner that in the 1940s, it took the salary of one worker to maintain a family of 4, wheras it required two salaries to achieve the same ‘standard of living’ three decades later).

Goldner (he is not linked to the ICC in any way) also deals well, IMO, with the question of population:

“The expansion of the capitalist zone from 1914 to the present has integrated the great mass of humanity into commodity relations (whereas in 1914, the majority was only formally involved in these relations). But the increment represented by the industrial working class in this population has diminished considerably. On one hand, in the so-called OECD countries, there has been a proliferation of unproductive labor with the expansion of the tertiary sector, which constitutes 30-50% of the active population in this zone. On the other hand, in the great majority of Third World countries, petty production has generally been destroyed, but without the transformation of peasants into workers which characterizes the phase of absolute surplus value. In the 19th century, capitalism, on a world scale, transformed a mass of peasants into industrial workers; in the 20th century, it has transformed, for the "advanced" zones, productive into unproductive labor; in the "backward" zones, it has transformed peasant populations into an urban and suburban Lumpenproletariat (as in the "lost cities" of millions of inhabitants surrounding Mexico City, and other urban agglomerations in Latin America, Africa and Asia.)”

The Remaking of the American Working Class - Loren Goldner

http://libcom.org/library/remaking-american-working-class-goldner

Even the chart about life expectancy doesn’t appear to explain why it’s actually gone backwards in certain important countries (ie Russia until recently), nor which sections of the populace are benefiting most from this phenomenon.

Neither, it should be added, does it tell us anything of the conditions endured by the majority of those living longer. For example: The number of people living in poverty  [in the US] in 2012 (46.5 million) was the largest number seen in the 54 years for which poverty estimates have been published.” Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, U.S. Census Bureau. Or the ‘fact’ that, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the flooding of eastern Europe with venture capital in search of new markets and cheap labour, “Up to 40% of Polish households have to make ends meet on an income below the so-called social minimum, according to the latest calculations of the Labor and Social Policy Institute.” [This minimum for a household of three (one child) was set at PLN 2,661 ($740) per month.” ] (Warsaw Voice, September 26, 2015)

So L Bird is absolutely correct to say (#18) that I don't think that giving statistics will get you anywhere in this debate, Pierre.” Statistics, raw data are indeed necessary, but on their own insufficient and usually misleading, often deliberately so.

L Bird is also partially correct when he adds that: “There seems to be an 'emotional attachment' to 'the theory of decadence....“I suspect that the theory's role is one of claiming that 'the end is nigh', that ‘immediate action! is required, so 'join the party’ now!'

The theory of the rise and fall of different class societies, ie of ascendance and decadence (which applies not only to the capitalist mode of production) is in our view intrinsic to Marxism, is a theoretical acquisition of the proletariat, and one – like Marxism itself - that has been to a large degree buried by the bourgeois counter-revolution from the late 1920s onwards. I for one am emotionally, passionately attached to reclaiming, restating and where necessary refining all such precious lessons. Nothing on this thread has so far persuaded me that the theory of decadence should be abandoned.

Furthermore, if the realisation that ‘La Belle Epoch’ has ended; that lasting reforms are no longer tenable; that there’s no longer any progressive political faction of the ruling class; that capitalism has little but economic and social crisis and war to offer are a call to arms, a necessary and conscious adjustment to the ‘real movement unfolding in front of our eyes’, then why wouldn’t any militant fight for such a vision?

baboon
If capitalism remains a

Deleted

LBird
Lenin was an elitist

KT wrote:

Lenin remarked that ‘Facts are stubborn.’ He also insisted upon a framework, a method, with which to examine them, not in isolation but in their relationship with other phenomenon, the overall result either strengthening the framework in use, or modifying it or perhaps overturning it. You don’t even have to be a revolutionary to recognise this and, outside the realms of pure propaganda, the utter uselessness of empiricism. Above all Lenin, along with other Marxists before or since, insisted that the world be examined not ‘dispassionately’ or with some faux ‘objectivity’ but from the point of view of the proletariat...

KT, the opinion of Lenin that 'Facts are stubborn' is contradicted by your correct statement about 'the utter uselessness of empiricism'. As you also allude, 'facts' are created by the framework of reference which is employed by the creator.

Unless the creator of its 'facts' is the class conscious proletariat itself, not a party or a person (like Lenin and his alleged 'stubborn facts', which apparently only he is aware of their 'stubbornness' - otherwise, why would he have to point their 'stubbornness' out to workers, they'd be aware of them without his intervention?), then the proletariat will remain subordinate to an elite.

The class conscious proletariat has to take control of physics and maths, which are a fundamental part of the means of production, as well as of their political organisations, by democratic means.

The proletariat must democratically control its creation of its own world. It must determine its own 'facts'...

...and 'theories', like 'decadence'.

KT wrote:
...from the point of view of the proletariat.

Yes, not a party or an 'expert', whether cadre, central committee, physicist or mathematician.

baboon
The idea that it's generally

The idea that it's generally positive that capitalism is supporting billions of people living in  poverty, misery, fear, uncertaintly and repression is something that the Vatican could probably agree with. For marxists this phenomenon is yet another sign of the decay and growing decompostion of the system.

 

If, as some imply, capitalism is a dynamic, expanding system, capable of positively integrating more and more people into its future while, at the same time, halting and successfully overcoming its internal contradictions and its innate tendencies to destruction, then we should, critically, support it and its reformist organisations while holding out the possibility for revolution at any time now or in the future. The anarchists express this position "clearly".

 

The style and content of Pierre's posts above look strangely familiar. The arguments, such as they are, and the out of nowhere, spiteful personal attack on the ICC which the author says immediately, with no credibility, that he doesn't want to do, look very familiar. Pierre, do you go under any other name?

LBird
No argument, just slights

baboon wrote:

The idea that it's generally positive that capitalism is supporting billions of people living in  poverty, misery, fear, uncertaintly and repression is something that the Vatican could probably agree with.

Who, amongst the critics of 'decadence theory', have argued that 'the poverty of billions is generally positive', baboon?

It does your position no favours.

baboon wrote:
For marxists this phenomenon is yet another sign of the decay and growing decompostion of the system.

Which 'marxists'? In my experience, most Marxists, including me, don't see this 'sign'. As for the nature of these 'signs', what are they? If anything, as Pierre's posts have shown, your 'phenomenon' has actually lessened during the 20th century.

 

baboon wrote:
If, as some imply, capitalism is a dynamic, expanding system, capable of positively integrating more and more people into its future while, at the same time, halting and successfully overcoming its internal contradictions and its innate tendencies to destruction, then we should, critically, support it and its reformist organisations while holding out the possibility for revolution at any time now or in the future.

This is your political assumption. If... while... should...

baboon wrote:
The style and content of Pierre's posts above look strangely familiar. The arguments, such as they are, and the out of nowhere, spiteful personal attack on the ICC which the author says immediately, with no credibility, that he doesn't want to do, look very familiar. Pierre, do you go under any other name?

'Spiteful'?

Pierre's posts so far have been full of substantiated argument.

It's a pity that supporters of 'decadence theory' don't do the same. They might actually convince some Marxists.

It's easier to question the motives of the critics, though.

Pierre
Facts may be stubborn,

Facts may be stubborn, especially when you're in the business of adjusting them to fit your own reality.

Lenin was wrong about a lot of things and so is the ICC.

Nowhere am I arguing capitalism is a "generally positive" (baboon) thing! You're the group that calls it "progressive" in your literature, remember? I'm also not arguing that societies don't have declining phases. Using historical materialism we can obviously tell past societies have risen and fallen.

There's a a tendency within the ICC to focus on the central European nations and the US, which skews it's perspective on the class struggle today. As KT points out, the crisis may have hit the central countries hard, but for much of the world life in general has gotten a lot better in the 20th century, if you survived the wars. There's no denying that. This in a period since the 1970's that the ICC literally calls "mega-decadence".

This is not an arguement for capitalism or any of it's cronies. It's a warning that much like De Leon, your possible mischaracterization of the period may be rendering you impotent.

LBird
Political criticism, not personal spite

Pierre wrote:

This is not an arguement for capitalism or any of it's cronies. It's a warning that ... your possible mischaracterization of the period may be rendering you impotent.

This seems to me to be an entirely acceptable attempt at political criticism of the ICC and the 'theory of decadence', whether one agrees with it or not.

It's not 'spiteful', it's supported by argument and evidence. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily correct, but it's an arguable position for a Marxist.

The party is going to have to learn that it has to listen to genuine worker critics, and not believe that only it has access to 'tablets of stone'.

Oh, yeah, IMO Lenin was wrong, too!

 

baboon
New appearances are greatly

New appearances are greatly welcomed here but have you posted here before under another name Pierre? It's a reasonable question. There's enough in what you write to suggest you know something of left communism and there is, in some of your remarks, a suggestion that you are aware of some of  the internal activity of the ICC and the campaign against it. Have you posted anywhere else under the name "Pierre", Pierre?

LBird
'New appearances' are to be learned from

baboon wrote:

New appearances are greatly welcomed here but have you posted here before under another name Pierre? It's a reasonable question. There's enough in what you write to suggest you know something of left communism and there is, in some of your remarks, a suggestion that you are aware of some of  the internal activity of the ICC and the campaign against it. Have you posted anywhere else under the name "Pierre", Pierre?

It is a reasonable question to Pierre, baboon. Only Pierre can answer it.

For my part, I've only posted as LBird here, on LibCom, and on the SPGB site.

Regarding the ICC site, this is the only site of the three that hasn't banned me. I've defended the ICC site when it was accused of censoring comments.

But I still disagree with the 'theory of decadence'.

The ICC has to learn from workers. Lenin was wrong. Parties do not know better than the class.

Pierre
Yes, I'm familiar with left

Yes, I'm familiar with left communism. Yes, I'm aware of some of a tiny fraction of the internal functioning of the ICC.

No, I don't see any campaigns against the ICC, just theoretical disagreements. No, I do not post anywhere else on the web with this username.

Is this a way of side skirting my criticisms?

MH
Not much to add

Leaving aside issues about the validity/meaningfulness of the statistics, why are there fewer people living in extreme poverty today? Because despite the fetters imposed by capitalist social relations the productive forces of humanity have continued to grow!

As has already been pointed out, the real question we should be asking is: by how much more could they have grown if capitalism had not reached the limits of its progressive expansion at the turn of the 20th century, ie. the limits imposed by a relatively saturated world market?

The braking effect of decadence is clearly visible in the graph here: 

http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-prosperity/world-poverty/

This shows a slowdown in the reduction of the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty after the 1929 ‘Crash’ and the ensuing Depression leading to WW2. In fact if this had continued to fall at the same rate as between 1870 and 1929, hypothetically there would have been no one living in extreme poverty somewhere around 1970…

What does this prove? 

It proves that we need a theoretical framework and a method with which to really understand what is going on in capitalism underneath its appearance.

MH
key questions for decadence deniers

 The key questions for those who ‘disagree with the theory of decadence’ to answer are:

Is capitalism a historically transitory system?

If it is historically transitory, what are the seeds of its destruction, ie. the fatal contradictions that will – at least at some point in its development – lead to its historic crisis?

And if it has no fatal contradictions – no built-in tendency towards overproduction, for example – why can it not prolong its life indefinitely?

In other words, those who reject the Marxist concept of decadence need to explain how they distinguish their position from the cornerstone of bourgeois ideology that capitalism is the final finished product of the class struggle, ie. essentially an eternal system.

LBird
Marx and method

MH wrote:

As has already been pointed out, the real question we should be asking is: by how much more could they have grown if capitalism had not reached the limits of its progressive expansion at the turn of the 20th century, ie. the limits imposed by a relatively saturated world market?

 

The core of your statement, MH, is 'relatively saturated'.

You have to specify what this means, so that the 'relative saturation of the 1900 world market' can be compared with other periods of the 'world market'.

 

MH wrote:
It proves that we need a theoretical framework and a method with which to really understand what is going on in capitalism underneath its appearance.

I've tried several times to discuss 'theoretical framework and method', to no avail.

I suspect what you mean is to get workers to agree with the pre-existing 'ICC theory and method'.

That is, you have an axiomatic belief that the party knows better than the class.

I don't share that ideological belief.

I commence from Marx's axiomatic ideological belief that only the proletariat can determine its own 'theoretical framework and method'.

MH
marxism and markets

LBird wrote:

The core of your statement, MH, is 'relatively saturated'.

You have to specify what this means, so that the 'relative saturation of the 1900 world market' can be compared with other periods of the 'world market'. 

The  saturation of the market relative to the need of capitalism to continue to expand in order to avert its inherent general crisis of overproduction , which requires it to constantly find buyers outside its own sphere of capital and labour:

“Crises become more and more frequent and more and more violent because, as the mass of products and so the need for larger markets grows, the world market shrinks more and more, and there remain fewer and fewer markets to exploit, since each previous crisis has subjected to world trade a market which had up to then not been conquered, or had been exploited only superficially,” (Marx, Wage Labour and Capital).

Rosa Luxemburg developed this analysis, concluding that capitalism’s growth was dependent on the continuous conquest of extra-capitalist markets and the exhaustion of these relative to the needs of accumulation would precipitate its historic crisis, ie. decadence. WW1 was the proof that this point had been reached.

I think you now need to consider your answers to the key questions I've posed.

 

 

 

Demogorgon
Markets not the central question

I don't think comrades should get too hung up on the "markets" aspect of this question. Decadence as a concept and as an empirical reality does not depend on the "markets" theory derived from Rosa Luxemburg (or certain interpretations of Marx). Even if Luxemburg's theory is definitively refuted - a discussion for another time - this doesn't, in itself, harm the concept of decadence.

Decadence, in a nutshell, is basically this: "At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure."

The exact nature of the expression of this conflict is a matter for debate within Marxist theory (and within the ICC), hence the various debates over the years between the various theories of conjunctural and secular crisis in Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Luxemburg, Hilferding, Bukharin, Lenin, Grossman, and many others.

All the essential questions that MH posed in post #30 should be, IMHO, first approached in the framework of the quote from Marx.

LBird
Consideration is what we're all after

MH wrote:
 

I think you now need to consider your answers to the key questions I've posed.

 

On the contrary, MH, the adherents of 'decadence theory' need to 'consider their answers to the key questions that we've posed'.

'We', of course, being the dozens (that I know of) of workers who've asked (on three sites that I know of) for clarification of claims being made.

You make statements as if everybody already agrees with them, whereas workers keep asking for clarity and the response is always to retreat into further obscure theories, assumptions and claims, dating back to mid-19th century Marx.

Novel events have happened since Marx, Luxemburg and Lenin wrote.

'Marxism' is not a religion, which merely requires the re-reading of a 'correct' text.

It requires critical thought, not continuous mystification.

'Decadence' seems to require some axiomatic beliefs. It would be better if the ICC outlined those beliefs, rather than assuming that all Marxists share them.

baboon
Secondary

I know it's a secondary question Pierre but have you posted anywhere else under another name? I am not avoiding your basic question which I think has been adequately addressed above.

But, just to emphasise: you say that it is "progressive" that "a staggering" 6.42 billion people have been "added" by capitalism in the last 100 years without them being in "extreme poverty" and you give a definition of extreme poverty that includes how many people share a toothbrush and live in mud huts. I would think that the great majority of those 6.42 billion live in some form of poverty or misery and only an infinitesmal fraction of them have been integrated into the productive process of capitalism, i.e., become workers, In fact the general tendency is for workers in the main capitalist centres to be ejected from the production process and kicked into their own form of relative poverty and misery while in the peripheries the masses are wide open to recruitment into all sorts of expressions of imperialism and its reactionary ideologies.

So, on the contracy to the massive population explosion over the last hundred years being "progressive", I would say that it is expressive of the system's decay and its inability to go forward within its own confines and contradictions. It is a negative indication that supports the idea of a decadent social system.

What research I've seen on this matter - and it is necessarily restrictive given the subject - is that in periods of relative economic stability (few and far between that have effective research into them) shows that such stability favours only small, incremental increases in the population which, more or less, regulates itself. Such a masssive increase in population as the one cited above suggests that its economic basis is under severe stress and tends towards disarray and here all the other factors come into play including the development of state capitalism and the fortress state.

LBird
Essential questions

Demogorgon wrote:

Decadence, in a nutshell, is basically this: "At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure."

The exact nature of the expression of this conflict is a matter for debate within Marxist theory (and within the ICC), hence the various debates over the years between the various theories of conjunctural and secular crisis in Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Luxemburg, Hilferding, Bukharin, Lenin, Grossman, and many others.

All the essential questions that MH posed in post #30 should be, IMHO, first approached in the framework of the quote from Marx.

Right.

When is the 'certain stage'? How do we identify it?

Why, for example, Engels, Kautsky, Bukharin and Lenin, are included in your list, needs justifying. They wouldn't be on mine.

Kautsky, for example, was not a revolutionary, but an elitist. Lenin was not a democrat who would obey workers - he thought that  knew better than them. As to proletarian philosophy, neither Engels nor Bukharin seem to have had a clue. They were 'materialists', who believed that 'rocks spoke to them', but not to workers - otherwise, they could have asked workers their opinion of 'what the rocks were saying'.

LBird
'Basic' assumptions

baboon wrote:

Such a masssive increase in population as the one cited above suggests that its economic basis is under severe stress ...

That is an assumption.

It could also 'suggest' that the survival of the massively increased population of workers shows that "its economic basis" is working just fine, as Marx predicted, and that the 'severe stress' is yet to come, when those new workers develop their class consciousness.

These are both interpretations, not facts.

 

MH
answers LBird?

You've said you don't agree with the 'theory of decadence', so go on: 

MH wrote:

Is capitalism a historically transitory system?

If it is historically transitory, what are the seeds of its destruction, ie. the fatal contradictions that will – at least at some point in its development – lead to its historic crisis?

And if it has no fatal contradictions – no built-in tendency towards overproduction, for example – why can it not prolong its life indefinitely?

LBird
Answers, that any worker can understand

MH wrote:

You've said you don't agree with the 'theory of decadence', so go on: 

MH wrote:

Is capitalism a historically transitory system?

If it is historically transitory, what are the seeds of its destruction, ie. the fatal contradictions that will – at least at some point in its development – lead to its historic crisis?

And if it has no fatal contradictions – no built-in tendency towards overproduction, for example – why can it not prolong its life indefinitely?

All human societies are 'historically transitory'.

The 'seeds of destruction' are the class conscious workers.

If workers do not end it, it will continue, until some other factor intervenes: perhaps ocean levels, perhaps huge meteorite.

Waiting for 'matter' to build Communism will be a long wait, comrades.

Demogorgon
Why will workers become

Why will workers become conscious?

LBird
Getting to the crux of 'the matter'?

Demogorgon wrote:

Why will workers become conscious?

Because they want to. Because they are the source of criticism of 'what exists' and the creators of 'what will exist'.

Certainly not because 'matter' will enlighten them, as Engels thought!

Demogorgon
Why do they want to?

Why do they want to?

LBird
Why not?

Demogorgon wrote:

Why do they want to?

Why don't they want to?

I take it you've never met any workers?

Demogorgon
Now who's dodging the question?

Nice dodge. Let's try again. Why would workers - as opposed to capitalists or petit-bourgeois - need or want or be able to become conscious? Why would workers - as opposed to any other classes throughout history - need, want, or be able to develop communist consciousness?

As for why they might not want, need, or able, I refer you to Pierre: "[capitalism] sure as fuck has offered a future for the 6.42 billion people I mentioned earlier".

Of course, Marx gives a very, very specific answer to this question.

MH
Agree to a point

LBird wrote:

All human societies are 'historically transitory'.

The 'seeds of destruction' are the class conscious workers.

If workers do not end it, it will continue, until some other factor intervenes: perhaps ocean levels, perhaps huge meteorite.

Waiting for 'matter' to build Communism will be a long wait, comrades.

Ok that's a fair answer. We can agree up to a point.

Can capitalism be destroyed without the action of the class conscious workers?

Absolutely not. Class consciousness is the absolutely vital factor. Marx was clear: if the revolutionary class is unable to overthrow the old society, the outcome is “the mutual ruin of the contending classes.”

Where we disagree is that, for us, as defenders of the materialist conception of history, there are also material conditions for the overthrow of the old society. Hence the quote from Marx by Demogorgon above. Until capitalism has created the conditions for its own abolition – essentially, the potential for creating a society of abundance – a revolution is not yet possible.

So the next question for you is therefore: when did communism become possible? 1848? 1870? 1914? And why?

Or has it always been possible?

LBird
Dodging is for decadence theorists

Demogorgon wrote:

Nice dodge. Let's try again. Why would workers - as opposed to capitalists or petit-bourgeois - need or want or be able to become conscious? Why would workers - as opposed to any other classes throughout history - need, want, or be able to develop communist consciousness?

No 'dodge'.

Because they're workers - as opposed to capitalists or petit-bourgeois.

If workers don't become conscious, then capitalism stays.

Demogorgon
And what differentiates

And what differentiates workers from capitalists?

LBird
Workers, not widgets, are the gravedigger

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

All human societies are 'historically transitory'.

The 'seeds of destruction' are the class conscious workers.

If workers do not end it, it will continue, until some other factor intervenes: perhaps ocean levels, perhaps huge meteorite.

Waiting for 'matter' to build Communism will be a long wait, comrades.

Ok that's a fair answer. We can agree up to a point.

Can capitalism be destroyed without the action of the class conscious workers?

Absolutely not. Class consciousness is the absolutely vital factor. Marx was clear: if the revolutionary class is unable to overthrow the old society, the outcome is “the mutual ruin of the contending classes.”

We're singing from the same hymn sheet, so far, MH.

MH wrote:

Where we disagree is that, for us, as defenders of the materialist conception of history, there are also material conditions for the overthrow of the old society. Hence the quote from Marx by Demogorgon above. Until capitalism has created the conditions for its own abolition – essentially, the potential for creating a society of abundance – a revolution is not yet possible.

So the next question for you is therefore: when did communism become possible? 1848? 1870? 1914? And why?

Or has it always been possible?

This is where we disagree, MH.

The 'materialist conception of history' was Engels' baby, not Marx's.

Marx was an 'idealist-materialist' - that's why he emphasised 'theory and practice'.

Communism has never been possible, and never will be possible, until mass class consciousness exists, as you implied, above.

Not 'material conditions', but the active, critical, creative proletariat. Proletarian ideas and practice, to change their world, both ideal and material.

 

LBird
Circles

Demogorgon wrote:
And what differentiates workers from capitalists?

Exploitation.

Are we going anywhere with this, Demo?

Demogorgon
Indeed. Exploitation is

Indeed. Exploitation is always material, through the very material labour. But exploitatipn doesn't equal revolutionary or medieval serfs would have been so. Instead, the revolutionary class then was the bourgeoisie.

But Marx says something very specific beyond exploitation that makes the working class revolutionary.

LBird
Matter doesn't talk to workers

Demogorgon wrote:
Indeed. Exploitation is always material, through the very material labour.

No, 'exploitation' is a word, a concept, an idea used to explain to workers that they have opposed interests to bosses.

The bosses don't use this idea.

The practice of working doesn't explain what it is.

Workers require ideas that make sense for them of their social relationships - thus, 'exploitation' is 'ideal-material'.

Without the 'ideal', the 'material' remains silent.

Even physicists and mathematicians (the ones who can be arsed to think, that is) recognise this. Marx, Einstein, Godel, amongst many others, recognise the 'ideal-material' method of 'theory and practice'.

Demogorgon
The question of decadence

Workers can only become conscious of being exploited because they actually are being exploited. But I'll come back to this question later, as it's derailed the original debate a bit.

In response to your request that we "discuss 'theoretical framework and method'",  I gave you the simplest explanation I can find in Marx's works.

Now you have to decide whether you think Marx was correct or incorrect in what he said about class societies (and capitalism) having two broad periods: the first where the "relations of productions" are "forms of development of the productive forces"; the second where those relations of production are fetters on the productive forces.

This question - which is essentially what MH is asking, although his questions are more developed and concrete - are actually important because they are about getting to the core of the discussion.

Marx's entire theory of history, and his economic study of capitalism, is based on the conception that capitalism contains immanent barriers that make it a historically transient system. This is essentially about whether Marx was right or wrong about capitalism being historically transitory and whether he was right that this transitory nature is derived directly from the economic expressions of capitalism's social relationships as he clearly states on any number of occasions. For example, specifically on the falling rate of profit, Marx writes: "But the main thing about their horror of the falling rate of profit is the feeling that capitalist production meets in the development of its productive forces a barrier which has nothing to do with the production of wealth as such; and this peculiar barrier testifies to the limitations and to the merely historical, transitory character of the capitalist mode of production; testifies that for the production of wealth, it is not an absolute mode, moreover, that at a certain stage it rather conflicts with its further development."

There is also a question here about whether was Marx was right about the secular trends of these economic factors, expressed in the idea that "crises become more and more frequent and more and more violent".

In other words, we're trying to establish whether we are having a discussion within the framework of Marx's method and theory, or whether we need to convince you that Marx right. This needs to be established before an identification of the more technical aspects of the debate (mostly around crisis theory) can be discussed. These relate directly to your question "When is the 'certain stage'? How do we identify it?".

Which is where the list of other theorists come in. It is not necessary to agree with all (or any) of these positions but they cannot be ignored or simply dismissed - each made important elaborations or critiques of Marx's theory.

Essentially, they were trying to answer your question "When is the 'certain stage'? How do we identify it?". Can you really just dismiss Kautsky's theory of secular overproduction because he was an "elitist"? Or Bukharin and Lenin's elaboration of Hilferding's theory of monopoly capital as it relates to imperialism and the development of the state because you think they didn't listen to workers? This is just as false a method as agreeing with something simply because Marx wrote it, as you point out above. Both are examples of genetic fallacies at work.

Pierre
Who cares whether or not we

Who cares whether or not we are having a discussion within the framework of Marx? Are we not communists above anything else? During his lifetime, Marx was very clear and very harsh regarding attempts at turning his ideas into stone. Marx wasn't right about everything, everytime. If we could somehow resurrect him that would be the first thing out of his mouth! Just like no individual comrade today is always correct. To be honest, this whole approach of Marx quotations as the end all/be all is very religious and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

In post #45, MH highlights a major problem with the ICC's theory of decomposition. The ICC put forward it's decadence theory in the 70's, correct? There have been a number of splits from the organization regarding the topic. Yet the ICC stubbornly continues to build and build on it. Is capitalism in its fetters or decomposing? Which bloody one is it?

Instead of going back to square one, scraping the theory as we know, it has started adjusting reality to it's ideals. This terrible habit it blantantly on display in baboon's post #35. Look at all that Kung-Fu just to avoid admitting capitalism is much less in its fetters than the ICC insists.

If workers don't become conscious, then capitalism stays. Meanwhile what does the ICC do from a PR standpoint to engage them? Not a goddamn thing.

Oh, except for 24 month "integrations". There's those.

Pierre
baboon, what are you, a cop?

baboon, what are you, a cop? stop asking who I am and about my posting habits. it's right there next to the post

LBird
'Experience' does not tell us 'what it is'

Demogorgon wrote:

Workers can only become conscious of being exploited because they actually are being exploited. But I'll come back to this question later, as it's derailed the original debate a bit.

That's a bit like saying Ptolemy could only become conscious of the geocentric position of  the earth and planets 'because they actually' were like that.

You're ignoring the 'theory' in Marx's method of 'theory and practice'.

Neither the planets nor exploitation 'speak to us'.

Demogorgon wrote:
 

In response to your request that we "discuss 'theoretical framework and method'",  I gave you the simplest explanation I can find in Marx's works.

The real problem, Demo, is that you think the 'material' tells us 'what it is'. You've got this from Engels, not Marx.

Marx wanted to change the world.

If the 'actual' tells us 'what it is', how can we change it?

Workers don't become conscious of 'exploitation' by working for capitalists. They become conscious by discussing it with other workers who are critical of work in this society, and have a theory of 'exploitation'.

That's why we Communists have to talk to other workers.

LBird
Marx confuses as much as enlightens

Pierre wrote:

Who cares whether or not we are having a discussion within the framework of Marx? Are we not communists above anything else? During his lifetime, Marx was very clear and very harsh regarding attempts at turning his ideas into stone. Marx wasn't right about everything, everytime. If we could somehow resurrect him that would be the first thing out of his mouth! Just like no individual comrade today is always correct. To be honest, this whole approach of Marx quotations as the end all/be all is very religious and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

Marx is useful, but isn't perfect, Pierre.

He never used 10 words where 100 would do!

Much of what he wrote is so unclear, that we workers, today, have to interpret and translate his ideas. This is a task for the class, not any party.

 

MH
The idealist conception of history

MH wrote:

Where we disagree is that, for us, as defenders of the materialist conception of history, there are also material conditions for the overthrow of the old society. Hence the quote from Marx by Demogorgon above. Until capitalism has created the conditions for its own abolition – essentially, the potential for creating a society of abundance – a revolution is not yet possible.

So the next question for you is therefore: when did communism become possible? 1848? 1870? 1914? And why?

Or has it always been possible?

LBird wrote:

Communism has never been possible, and never will be possible, until mass class consciousness exists, as you implied, above.

Not 'material conditions', but the active, critical, creative proletariat. Proletarian ideas and practice, to change their world, both ideal and material.

Taken at face value, your answer to my specific question reveals an essentially idealist conception of history. Are there really no material conditions for communism other than class consciousness? 

As for your – literally – incredible assertion that the materialist conception of history was “Engels' baby not Marx's”,your basic misreading of Marx on materialism has been pointed out to you before here on numerous occasions.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859, my emphasis)

MH
What's the problem?

Pierre wrote:

In post #45, MH highlights a major problem with the ICC's theory of decomposition. The ICC put forward it's decadence theory in the 70's, correct? There have been a number of splits from the organization regarding the topic. Yet the ICC stubbornly continues to build and build on it. Is capitalism in its fetters or decomposing? Which bloody one is it?

Really? That’s news to me. Do you mean this?  

“Class consciousness is the absolutely vital factor. Marx was clear: if the revolutionary class is unable to overthrow the old society, the outcome is “the mutual ruin of the contending classes.”

Why is this “a major problem for the ICC’s theory of decomposition”?

Why is decomposition – which essentially describes a phase in the life of capitalism’s decadence – in opposition to the Marxist conception of the relations of production becoming a fetter on the productive forces?

And why is the fact that there have been a number of organisational splits in the ICC relevant to its defence of the Marxist theory of capitalist decadence? I mean, capitalism is either decadent or it isn’t, surely?

The real issue here is that you don’t believe that it is?

In fact the real issue here is that you don't appear to understand what the ICC's position on decadence is.   

 

LBird
Read Marx's words, not Engels' dire philosophising

MH wrote:

Taken at face value, your answer to my specific question reveals an essentially idealist conception of history. Are there really no material conditions for communism other than class consciousness? 

Your belief, garnered from Engels, that there are only two possibilities, idealism or materialism, compels your 'face value'.

No matter how often I say that I, like Marx, am an 'idealist-materialist' (the third option that Engels never understood), you are compelled to condemn me as an 'idealist' (although I am an idealist-materialist). There are lots of 'ideal-material' conditions (the result of human 'theory and practice') which are required for Communism. Both plans for houses and houses are required.

MH wrote:

As for your – literally – incredible assertion that the materialist conception of history was “Engels' baby not Marx's”,your basic misreading of Marx on materialism has been pointed out to you before here on numerous occasions.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859, my emphasis)

Yes, their social existence.

Why ignore 'social'? Society requires ideas and things, human production is 'social' and requires 'theory and practice'.

The consciousness of humans is determined by their society. In a class society, there are class consciousnesses. Hence, struggle.

Unfortunately, MH, like Engels, you wish to read Marx's 'social existence' as 'existence'.

baboon
No, I'm not a cop Pierre.

No, I'm not a cop Pierre. I've asked you several times now if you post or have posted under another name because your posts seem very familiar.

Pierre
?

MH wrote:
Why is decomposition – which essentially describes a phase in the life of capitalism’s decadence – in opposition to the Marxist conception of the relations of production becoming a fetter on the productive forces?

I'm having trouble reconciling these three concepts:

1. Social and technical relations of production becoming a fetter on the productive forces. (Marx, 1859)

2. Decadence and decomposition. (ICC)

3. The mutual destruction of contending classes. (Marx, 1848)

jaycee
Pierre, I find it hard to see

Pierre, I find it hard to see why you can't reconcile these three theories- maybe its because you see tham as seperate theories. They are all the same theory. 1. is the same as decadence (although i think it shouldn't be reduced to 'productive forces' alone) and 3 is a description of decomposition.

I do think the ICC can throw around the term decomposition a bit too much at times but as I understand it it basicly measn the last period of decadence. The threat of it is to produce the 'mutual destruction' of the contending classes- in the case of modern capitalism this means humanity in general.

I fail to see how this isn't an accurate description of our current epoch. If you did used to post as Jamal then I remember that Jamal was clear on this point-"communism or death" (I think he put it as) that is the historical choice facing humanity and we are in the period of this exact question in which death is looking more and more like the path humanity is walking down.

This isn't just a phrase or an exageration it is the truth (although perhaps death will turn out to be an exageration-collapse/barbarism possibly even a resetting of the historical process to a hybridmad-max/tribal scenario). This century could very well be humanities last on this planet- it will definitaly be the century which sees an answer to this question.

Pierre
I disagree.

I disagree. They are not the same theory.

If Marx wanted to reconcile what he wrote in The Manifesto with those few short sentences in the preface (Latin: prae fatia, "spoken before") of something called The Manuscripts, he would have done it unequivocally. Instead he didn't even have it published! He uses the term "sooner or later", which clearly demonstrates his temporal disconnection with these few lines he wrote.

The ICC has taken a paragraph worth of forethought and turned it into the whole theoretical basis of communism in the 21st century. That my friends is called distortion.

Nobody, except for a few idiots on Libcom, is arguing against the rise and fall of class societies. They have all had ascendent periods, followed by periods of decline, which typically coincide with the rise of another society.

In each example, there are centuries worth of time in transition where society becomes a uneven soup of two systems. Yet somehow the ICC, who perpetually reaffirms that they don't have all the answers and aren't prophets, have worked the current period's soup out into a tidy little theory used to explain every idea and justify literally every action, including but not limited to telling revolutionaries and workers what they can and can't do because of this.

Then there are special cases, like baboon, whom to which the whole thing just becomes a regressive-progression, a situtation of surviving progress.

Capitalist relations of production have always been a fetter to human potential. Relations of production in other social systems have always acted the same way, in terms of "fettering". Everyone on this planet at one point in time was living under communism. What is unique today is the establishment of the first non-exploiting class in history, the "living negation" of class division, the working class, and the shot it has at consciously establishing deliberate communism.

The "mutual ruin of the contending classes" is an outcome, an outcome at the end of a process. There will be, as we've seen throughout history with other societies, a long period of decline, which if not simulteaneously leading to the rise of a new society, leads to this outcome. So here we have, very clearly, three distinct concepts:

1. Decline
2. Collapse
3. Mutual destruction

It's not all just simply "decadence, decadence"! The question is how do we know when or if capitalism is in decline?

 

LBird
Pierre writes in an understandable way

Presumeably, the ICC set up this site to discuss with workers (rather than lecture them), so as to collaboratively produce (rather than simply impose) new ideas, theories, concepts, understanding, so as to provide a basis for class action (rather than an active elite party).

You could do worse than discussing further with Pierre, who seems, to me anyway, to have more of a handle on these issues than the ICC posters. I can actually understand Pierre's comments, whereas often I can't make head-nor-tail of the 'theory of decadence'.

I particularly like the view that the class must consciously establish Communism (as opposed to a unconscious mass following an elite 'conscious' party).

That eliminates 'materialism', IMO. Only the class can determine 'what is' and 'what will be'. Neither physics nor maths (and certainly not a cadre party) can tell us what our 'material conditions' are. That is a task for the democratic proletariat, as it consciously builds its world.

MH
Confusions

I’m glad LBird finds ‘Pierre’s’ comments understandable; perhaps he can explain them to the rest of us because I’m struggling to make head or tail of them.

In one breath Pierre claims that the entire theory of decadence defended by the ICC is nothing less than a distortion of Marxism.

The real problem, apparently, is that the ICC has developed a theory which can actually be used to explain the phenomena of capitalist society and orient the theory and practice of the working class movement.

So that’s all the work of Luxemburg, Lenin, the Third International, the KAPD and the comrades of the Italian and French Communist Lefts out of the window then!

Then in the next breath Pierre agrees that all class societies go through a phase of ascendance and decline, including capitalism.

So what are the key features or indicators of this concept of decline? Might they coincide at all with the features of decadence (braking effect on growth, world crises and world wars, growth of unproductive sectors, state capitalism, etc)? We’re not told.

Here’s the most confusing bit for me:

There will be, as we've seen throughout history with other societies, a long period of decline, which if not simulteaneously leading to the rise of a new society, leads to this outcome [ie. the mutual ruin of the contending classes].”

I think you’re going to have to explain exactly what you mean by capitalism’s decline leading “simultaneously” to the rise of communism. Are you saying that the working class, the first revolutionary class in history to also be an exploited class, can establish a new society, communism, within capitalism, “simultaneously” with capitalism’s decline, over a long period? How exactly?

Finally:

So here we have, very clearly, three distinct concepts:

1. Decline

2. Collapse

3. Mutual destruction”

It's not all just simply "decadence, decadence"!

No, it’s not just simply decadence. Decadence has its own evolution. This is where the concept of the final phase of decomposition comes in. And where did you get the idea of collapse from? 

I think the real problem here is not that you haven’t understood the position defended by the ICC (or, apparently, the revolutionary movement of the past 100 years). The real problem is your apparent keenness to attack the ICC an make baseless accusations against it . What are you doing here exactly? 

LBird
Standard retort

MH wrote:

I’m glad LBird finds ‘Pierre’s’ comments understandable; perhaps he can explain them to the rest of us because I’m struggling to make head or tail of them.

....

The real problem is your apparent keenness to attack the ICC an make baseless accusations against it . What are you doing here exactly? 

Why aren't I surprised at MH's defensive response?

But, yeah, what are well-educated, well-read, worker-communists, who have the capacity to engage in argument, 'doing here'?

Perhaps the ICC doesn't need them, given its existing talent?

LBird
Where is the role for workers?

Surely, the role of a workers' party is to act as a sort of organised 'clearing-house' for workers' ideas?

That is, the class educates the party, and the party is strengthened by workers participating in the discussions and becoming convinced by the best ideas on offer, and thus eventually joining an organisation that they themselves have helped to shape and build, and wish to extend its influence amongst other workers.

But, note, the workers determine 'best', not the party.

Why the ICC seems to think it knows better than Pierre or me, for example, and many others, I don't understand.

It's as if you agree with the elitist Lenin, about 'uncomprehending workers' being 'led' by a cadre who have a 'special consciousness' not available to most workers.

Surely over 100 years of Lenin/Trotsky/Mao/Stalin has taught us that that route does not lead to workers' self-activity, but does lead to cadre and 'Central Committees' unable to obey workers?

Demogorgon
If comrades want to discuss

If comrades want to discuss the role of the party or failings of the ICC as an organisation, do it on another thread. If you want to discuss / criticise / refute decadence (the actual topic of this thread) conceptually then do so.

Pierre
Quote:In one breath Pierre

Quote:
In one breath Pierre claims that the entire theory of decadence defended by the ICC is nothing less than a distortion of Marxism.

Ok. Nothing to say about The Manuscripts?

Quote:
ICC has developed a theory which can actually be used to explain the phenomena of capitalist society and orient the theory and practice of the working class movement.

Into solely defensive struggles.

Quote:
So that’s all the work of Luxemburg, Lenin...out of the window then!

You forgot Engels and Kautsky. Oh, and not all the work.

Quote:
I think you’re going to have to explain exactly what you mean by capitalism’s decline leading “simultaneously” to the rise of communism. Are you saying that the working class, the first revolutionary class in history to also be an exploited class, can establish a new society, communism, within capitalism, “simultaneously” with capitalism’s decline, over a long period? How exactly?

I should have been clearer here. I'm not sure about capitalism's decline and communism's potential rise. Just observing how past societies have risen and fallen. For example, when the bourgeoisie became a social force for the first time, they were not the ruling class.
 

Fred
centrism

In an article about Zimmerwald and Centrism elsewhere on this site, Marc Chirik had this to say about "centrism" which was for me a new concept.

So  I put this quote from him here, not because it is directly about decadence - sorry demogorgon - but I think it sheds some light on the predicament of comrades who find the ICC and its pronouncements on decadence, decomposition, class conscious,  the party and so on frustrating, over-confident and cocksure. Their protestations against this can make these  comrades appear continually antagonistic towards both  the ICC and its claims of serious proletarian legitimacy. This they sometimes feel bound to challenge - nothing wrong with that  - while insisting rightly on their own personal communist credentials. However,  while not questioning or doubting their communist convictions at all, it is the nature and source of the challenge they produce which has to be considered.

MC wrote:
....this is to recognise the existence within the class, in all periods, of centrist tendencies, since centrism is none other than the persistence within the class of political currents with confused, inconsequent, incoherent programmes, penetrated by and acting as a vehicle for petit-bourgeois ideology, making concessions to it, vacillating between this ideology and the historical consciousness of the proletariat, and trying unceasingly to conciliate them.

It is precisely because centrism cannot be defined in terms of a “precise programme”, which it hasn’t got, that we can understand its persistance, how it adapts itself to every particular situation, changing the position according to the balance of forces existing between the classes.

It is nonsensical to talk of centrism in general, in the abstract, in terms of a “social base” of its own or a “specific precise programme”. It has to be located in relation to other, more stable political current(s)....One can, on the other hand speak of a consistence in its political behaviour: oscillation, avoiding taking a clear and consequent position...

 

I realise this quote goes straight for the throat so to speak, but comrade Chiric wasn't someone to mince his words.  And I have put this quote here, not to stir the shit, but in an effort to help clarify and understand what's going on. I hope it does just that.   

 

LBird
Centrism? Or Heresy?

Fred wrote:

In an article about Zimmerwald and Centrism elsewhere on this site, Marc Chirik had this to say about "centrism" which was for me a new concept.

So  I put this quote from him here, not because it is directly about decadence - sorry demogorgon - but I think it sheds some light on the predicament of comrades who find the ICC and its pronouncements on decadence, decomposition, class conscious,  the party and so on frustrating, over-confident and cocksure. Their protestations against this can make these  comrades appear continually antagonistic towards both  the ICC and its claims of serious proletarian legitimacy. This they sometimes feel bound to challenge - nothing wrong with that  - while insisting rightly on their own personal communist credentials. However,  while not questioning or doubting their communist convictions at all, it is the nature and source of the challenge they produce which has to be considered.

MC wrote:
....this is to recognise the existence within the class, in all periods, of centrist tendencies, since centrism is none other than the persistence within the class of political currents with confused, inconsequent, incoherent programmes, penetrated by and acting as a vehicle for petit-bourgeois ideology, making concessions to it, vacillating between this ideology and the historical consciousness of the proletariat, and trying unceasingly to conciliate them.

It is precisely because centrism cannot be defined in terms of a “precise programme”, which it hasn’t got, that we can understand its persistance, how it adapts itself to every particular situation, changing the position according to the balance of forces existing between the classes.

It is nonsensical to talk of centrism in general, in the abstract, in terms of a “social base” of its own or a “specific precise programme”. It has to be located in relation to other, more stable political current(s)....One can, on the other hand speak of a consistence in its political behaviour: oscillation, avoiding taking a clear and consequent position...

 

I realise this quote goes straight for the throat so to speak, but comrade Chiric wasn't someone to mince his words.  And I have put this quote here, not to stir the shit, but in an effort to help clarify and understand what's going on. I hope it does just that.   

 

Thanks for your comradely acceptance, Fred, that posters critical of both 'decadence theory' and wider ICC issues, are still Communists.

However, I've come to the conclusion that the concept of 'centrism' for Leninist-inspired groups, plays the same role as 'heresy' does for religions.

A Christian or Moslem can agree that 'dissenters within' are still Christian or Moslem, but have strayed from 'the one True Path' (determined by the 'mainstream', of course), and so are even more dangerous because of their professed allegiance to The Faith: thus, damned as 'Heretics'.

And so it is for Leninists, in their condemnation of 'Centrists'.

Only the proletariat can build Communism, and no party has an access to a 'truth' not constructed by workers. That requires dissent. We need more 'Centrisms', not less.

Pages