Recent texts and discussion
I agreed with the presentation and the emphasis on the conclusions of the Communist International because they are fundamental today for the stakes facing the working class and humanity.
Against Link, I don’t think it’s silly to state that, at a certain stage, a dying body enters a stage of decomposition; if it doesn’t do so then questions have to be raised about whether indeed this body is actually dying (decadent) or is it still very much alive with at least some progressive purpose? A rejection of capitalism’s decomposition – a final stage of its decay – has to call into question whether, from a communist perspective, this body is decaying at all and has finally served its purpose or does it have more to offer the working class and humanity? In short, I believe that this obsession with bourgeois graphs and figures, that can be useful if handled with care, showing capitalist growth is not only a rejection of decomposition but a calling into question of decadence and all the consequences that come from that.
If we leave WW2 and its consequent misery across the globe out of the equation for now, we’ve had seven decades of economic and social crisis generating misery for the working class – which through this period has, more or less, engaged in a war of attrition with the bourgeoisie. Recent major events, the pandemic, the effects of climate change, the profusion of and preparation for war, refugees and retreats behind walls and barbed wire, and now the further scourge of inflation have, during a period of significant technological advances by capitalism, brought the crises, misery and irrationality of capitalism to a further point, a qualitative shift in its decay into its final phase.
Link’s position that capitalist growth continually overcomes its problems – which he’s repeated several times – is also underlined by his uncritical use of the bourgeoisie figures for military spending, i.e., around 2.5% of GDP. This figure, widely disseminated by the bourgeoisie, is a complete fiction showing how the official figures from the state can be meaningless, mystifying and manipulated. The real figures for direct military spending are obscured and likely way above the bourgeoisie’s famous 2.5% and, much more than this; capitalism’s war economy is far wider and deeper than direct military spending.
Link several times talks about capitalism’s general and ongoing growth that is, he says, responsible for capitalism overcoming its problems. The problem with this argument is that capitalism has never overcome its problems but at best put them off for a while the price of which is for them to become more chronic, i.e. capitalist solutions (“overcoming its problems”) only makes the situation worse; seven decades of misery since WW2 and all the problems of capitalism have continually worsened to the point of a qualitative change in the threat that they pose to the working class and humanity in general. No fundamental problems of capitalism have been overcome by capitalism and new, profound problems can be added which marks this period as one of the decomposition of a dying body. There have been previous attempts within the workers’ movement to show that capitalism can achieve an equilibrium between some form of growth and a status quo; they have all failed.
In response to Jaycee on the question of the US and China: I think that on the latter, as the ICC has stated, it has not been the clearest but its fundamentals linking it to decomposition are correct in my opinion. There is certainly no underestimation of the rise of the USA in relation to decadence (Jaycee’s position) . In fact for the ICC the rise of the USA is essential for its analysis of decadence (see for example: https://en.internationalism.org/content/17068/superpower-capitalist-deca...). The rise of the USA as a superpower, undisputed bloc leader and world policeman is as much a vital, essential component of capitalism’s decadence as its weakening is a major factor in its decomposition. Similarly, the rise of China, which has used debt as a motor force of its imperialist expansion, as a major power (and Russia’s “regeneration” by the way) is also an expression of decomposition.
In the report on the pandemic the text uses the, scientifically accepted, description of “waves” to describe the activity of this virus. I don’t think that this is a good description in that it tends to tail-end the idea of national and local expressions. There have been not been waves but a global tsunami of infections (a pandemic) that have been mitigated here and there by lock-downs and vaccine suppression. What very much remains are vast pools of viral activity of SARS-Cov-2 which, given its make-up, is I think “aware” that there is a threat to it and it must make the best use of these deep pools of infection to up its game and refine its response. There is certainly a threat of new virus outbreaks but this one (Sars-Cov-2), despite what the bourgeoisie want us to think (“live with it”), is very far from over yet.
I don’t think that the pandemic represents a “new stage” of decomposition but rather an affirmation of the acceleration of capitalist decay, a concentrated expression of decadence (part of a “string of disasters”, Luxemburg) and the growth of capitalist self-destruction. It also demonstrates a loss of control by the bourgeoisie as well as showing the working class and the poor, through deaths and long-term consequences, as the main victims of the virus.
In one of the reports highlighted for preparation for the discussion, the ICC put forward the position that so far decomposition has largely not affected the economy. I think that this needs more thought because the development of the war economy (the war on terror, the war on drugs, external and internal repression, etc) are all drains on the economy, the sterilisation of capital and can’t help but adversely affect the global economy.
But the pandemic, as an expression of decomposition, certainly directly and adversely affected the global and national economies in ways that are contradictory, surprising and destructive. The “just-in-time” economy has been knocked bandy as supply chains are dramatically thrown out of sync and, like the vaccination process itself, has brought forward more elements of everyman for himself as capitalism continues to try to “overcome” its problems. How, for example does capitalism “overcome” the contradiction between global production or global responses and the confines of the nation state and the national interest? The “overcoming” of the specific problems of the pandemic by the efforts of state capitalism has overcome nothing but simply added to the problems and the growing pauperisation of the working class. The weight of the pandemic on the class struggle has been heavy but it has nevertheless continued in the most difficult circumstances and, in response to this, we’ve seen the unions playing a more active role in the “interests of our members” and the interests of the nation-state.
The class struggle, undoubtedly affected by the outbreak and continuation of the pandemic and the development of which therefore is even more difficult to predict, remains a central question for revolutionaries and the class’ perspective is still there despite its difficulties.
In the resolution on the international situation (point 29), the ICC once again, against the concept of identity or partial struggles, affirms the economic crisis as the “ally of the proletariat”. Some years ago, at least a decade, (I think that we have to get used to longer time scales than we thought before – immediatism can be dangerous) a comrade from WR made the point on the website that the idea of the crisis as an ally of the class was to wish misery onto the back of the proletariat. That was it and the discussion went nowhere. I can see the point of the objection because at the time – as the ICC has taken on board now – there was a certain over-estimation of the immediate capacities of the working class, a certain triumphalism (“Roll on the crisis” sounded a bit like “come on if you think you’re hard enough”) which in my opinion was marked here and there by a concomitant under-estimation of the bourgeoisie. But nevertheless the position of the economic crisis as an ally of the working class is a correct one and one that gives a perspective to a developing but non-linear “school of defeats” struggle. Should the proletarian struggle reach such a point where it’s potentially able to threaten bourgeois rule in a significant way then I think that we can confidently say that, whatever their differences, the bourgeoisie will unite against such a threat. Even today, in the present free-for-all, each for themselves and centrifugal tendencies of capitalism, the bourgeoisie has been able to use its own weaknesses, not least from the effects of decomposition, in order to conduct telling ideological campaigns and attacks on the working class on an international scale. The bourgeoisie is very aware of the dangers of the class struggle and to this end has fanned various identity and partial elements in a work of division.
On the last point the question of these “sectional” struggles was an important one for the discussion to confront but there is still much to be said about the dangers of these type of “struggles” for the working class and the sense of some of the international situation texts about the weaknesses shown by revolutionaries to the Arab Spring “movement” for example, needs more consideration.
Top tip: if you want to take part in on-line discussions make sure that your new computer has a microphone.