I would like to make a few comments to follow up the decomposition meeting last weekend. I don’t know how clear I was in what I said and so a follow up sounds constructive and the ICC did ask for follow up comments.
I criticised Anton and Baboon for their lists of problems in todays society which was probably unfair in that I do lists myself but I think they are more useful to emphasise what capitalism is to non-politicos. I heard no-one in that meeting that needed convincing of the dangers of capitalism. The main focus should be the analysis that the lists can demonstrate and I think there are other analyses that should be considered in this respect. I don’t like the idea of a Period of Decomposition despite not objecting to a process of decomposition or decay taking place in society. For the workers movement I think this should actually be a Period of Reassessment and I appreciate that the ICC was calling for comments and disagreements in the meeting and to be honest I thought that was happening as well in the previous contacts meeting I was invited to. Luxemburg’s comments on the need for rigorous self-criticism that MH emphasised a while back should be the approach for all of us.
While complimenting the ICC on I am sure a genuine desire to hear criticisms, I am nevertheless critical that the ICC does not appear to reassess itself very thoroughly and tends to self-justify too much.
In this respect one aspect I am critical of is the tendency to create forecasts periods that say far more than the balance of class forces. These forecast become set in stone and end up being justified in order to justify the next set of predictions. Without suggesting at all that the ICC in not left communist or revolutionary, the forecasts generate a lack of trust because they are not rigorously criticised when they prove to be wrong.
The period since the end of the 80s has been too long, 40+ years, and demonstrated too many new circumstances not to lead to criticisms of concepts such as permanent crisis, war or revolution, course of history. I don’t think the ICC has critically reassessed these concepts as well as it should have.
In the ascendant period of the 19th century, the dominance of private capitalism led to particularly dreadful conditions for the working class. Marx called these conditions despotic as the working rules and conditions were imposed by the employers themselves with purely financial motives, the state played little role as a mediator, the wc remained uneducated but also uncontrolled.
Decadence or obsolescence of capitalism came to the for at the start of the 19th Century with the emergence of the state and state capitalism, education became the norm for the wc and the state needed ideological control to maintain the position of the ruling class, imperialism came to dominate all inter state relationships, credit became a dominant fixture of the economy. These are the initial signs of decomposition
The first 30 years of this period were dominated by war and revolution, and by cycles of crisis war reconstruction. It was easy to identify the dominance by the bourgeoise meant war and that working class reaction meant revolution. Again major evidence of decomposition.
The recent period of 40/50 years can and should be seen in distinction to these periods. Capitalism has changed again initiated by the period of reconstruction after the war and the bloc policies that facilitated international growth from then on. The state and these international policies have worked well to support capitalism through ideological and political means, the wc movement is held under control unlike in the 19th C, population growth and economic growth in this period have been major although what has happened is that capitalism gets larger and the rich get richer and the workers stay poor if not poorer.
Baboon and MH recent text have made substantial contributions to an analysis of the 80s and the end of the wave of class struggle, the implications of which have a major impact on the ICCs idea that the collapse of the USSR was the defeat of the wc that caused a change in period. The fact that the USSR recognised it lost the inter-imperialist conflict with the USA was precisely that, an inter imperialist event which has been significant for capitalist restructuring since. Rather than being the determining event in the class struggle, this collapse becomes another ideological defeat for the wc in the same vein as Brexit and the storming of the Capitol (what are we calling it?). Standout events yes but the ruling class always wins in these situations doesn’t it, that is not unusual. The end/defeat of that wave of struggle has not lead to war but the Bourgeoisie is clearly in control and has strengthened its control significant over the period and the working class is docile and uncombatative. Regional wars have dominated but the ruling class has shown little sign of moving to a world war but has focused on increasing exploitation and restructuring global capital with the use of the new digitised and miniaturised technologies. Frankly, both the historic course and the core assumption that when the ruling class or the working class dominate, society moves directly towards world war or revolution respectively, have been demonstrated to be incorrect.
So yes we can see signs of ongoing and escalating decomposition of capitalism, but these can be analysed in context of ongoing class struggle and economic development and not necessarily as signs of another final phase.
Over the recent period different interpretations of what is happening to capitalism today have emerged and I don’t think this should be a surprise, in fact I think its probably good even if they are not all correct. The ICC has its period of decomposition, the CWO have 3 phases of accumulation of which the latest is coming to an end, I note that some others are suggesting that decadence is only just about to start, others suggest a slide in barbarism (what is barbarism please?). There is common ground between all of these isn’t there and I would say understanding the different interpretations has to be more valuable for us all rather than rigorous defence of one prediction against the others.
In terms of today, comrades were emphasising Covid as a product of capitalism, but not the perspectives it presents. Maybe the vaccines will work and things will return to normal (!?), but maybe the variants will win and capitalism won’t be able to manage the international eradication of the virus (what would be the long term repercussions if the poor countries never get sufficient vaccines). In these latter context, economic disruption will win and this itself would lead to a new phase of capitalism (the guesswork in a suggestion that we are already in a final phase is, I find, quite absurd. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day, so to keep repeating this is the final phase will be right at some point but its not a good analysis).
I know ive been brief here , but I hope it makes clearer my analysis on capitalism in this recent period.