Rejecting the notion of Decadence, Part 3

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IR79, 4th quarter 1994

The Conception of Decadence in Capitalism

Polemic with IBRP

Is imperialist war solution to the capitalist cycles of accumulation

The future world Communist Party, the new International, will be built on political positions, which will supersede the mistakes, inadequacies, or unresolved questions of the old party, the Communist International. This is why it is vital that the organisations that claim their origins in the Communist Left continue to debate together. We consider that the decadence of capitalism is fundamental among these positions. In previous issues of the International Review, we have shown how their ignorance of this notion led the Bordigist current into theoretical aberrations on the question of the imperialist war, and led to a political disarmament of the working class [1].

In this article, we will look at the positions of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista and the Communist Workers’ Organisation, which together form the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP) [2]. Both these organisations clearly base the necessity for the communist revolution on the analysis that capitalism has entered its decadent phase since World War I. However, while in this they are different from the Bordigist groups, both the PCInt and the CWO defend a series of analyses, which in our opinion imply a weakening, or even a rejection, of the notion of capitalist decadence.

In this article, we will examine the arguments that these organisations defend on the role of world wars and the nature of imperialism, which we believe prevent them from defending the communist position on capitalism’s decadence to the hilt, and in all its ramifications.

The Nature of Imperialist War

The IBRP explains world imperialist war, which is a fundamental characteristic of decadent capitalism, as follows: “And just as in the 19th century, the crises of capitalism led to the devaluation of existing capital (through bankruptcies), thus opening the way to a new cycle of accumulation based on the concentration and fusion of capital, in the 20th century the crises of world imperialism can no longer be resolved other than by a still greater devaluation of the existing capital, through the economic collapse of whole countries. This is precisely the economic function of world wars. As in 1914 and 1939, this is imperialism’s inexorable “solution” to the crisis of the world economy[3].

This vision of the “economic function of world wars”, via “the economic collapse of whole countries”, by analogy with the bankruptcies of the previous century, in fact boils down to regarding world war as a means for world capitalism to launch “a new cycle of accumulation”, in other words according an economic rationality to the phenomenon of world war.

This rationality existed in the wars of the previous century: in the case of national wars (e.g. in Italy, or between France and Prussia), they allowed the formation of great national units, which meant a real advance in the development of capitalism; the colonial wars extended capitalist relations of production to far-flung corners of the globe, and so contributed to the formation of the world market.

The same is no longer true in the 20th century, in the period of capitalist decadence. Imperialist war has no economic rationality. World war’s “economic function” in destroying capital may seem analogous to what happened in the previous century, but this is only in appearance. In the 20th century, war’s function is radically different, and the IBRP must feel this, confusedly, since they put the word “solution” in quotes. Far from being a solution to a cyclical crisis, “thus opening the way to a new cycle of accumulation”, war is the clearest expression of capitalism’s permanent crisis. It expresses the tendency to chaos and disintegration that grips world capitalism, and moreover it accelerates this tendency.

The last eighty years have fully confirmed this analysis. Imperialist wars are the fullest expression of the infernal spiral of disintegration that capitalism has been caught in since entering its period of decadence. The cycle is no longer a phase of expansion followed by a phase of crisis, national and colonial wars, leading to a new phase of expansion and expressing the overall development of the capitalist mode of production; this cycle passes from generalised imperialist war for the re-division of the world market, through post-war reconstruction, to a new, far worse crisis, as has already happened twice in this century.

The nature of reconstruction after World War II

For the IBRP “Of course, the two previous crises [i.e. the two World Wars] had dramatic consequences for capitalism, but they still left enough room for manoeuvre for further development, including in the framework of decadence[4].

The IBRP realises the seriousness of the destruction and suffering caused by imperialist war; these it calls the “dramatic consequences” of war. But the wars of the ascendant period were also “dramatic” in this sense: they caused terrible destruction, hunger, and suffering. Capitalism was born “in blood and filth” as Marx put it.

Nonetheless, there is a vast difference between the wars of the ascendant and decadent periods: in the former, capitalism still had “enough room for manoeuvre for further development” as the IBRP puts it, while in the latter this room for manoeuvre was drastically reduced, and no longer allowed the further accumulation of capital.

This is the essential difference between wars in the two periods. To think that the two World Wars “left [capitalism] enough room for manoeuvre for further development” is to throw overboard precisely what distinguishes the period of capitalist decadence.

Obviously, this analysis of “room for manoeuvre” in capitalist decadence is closely linked to the IBRP’s explanations of the crisis, based solely on the theory of the tendential fall in the rate of profit, without taking account of the theory developed by Rosa Luxemburg on the saturation of the world market. Without entering into detail, a rapid overview of the reconstruction that followed World War II is enough to do away with the idea that capitalism still had “room for manoeuvre for further development”.

After the cataclysmic 1939-45 war, the world economy seemed not only to “return to normal”, but to have exceeded all previous growth rates. However, we should not let ourselves be blinded by dazzling statistics. If we ignore the problem of statistical massaging by governments and economic institutions - which exists, but is entirely secondary in the case that concerns us here - then we have to analyse the nature and composition of this growth.

If we do so, then we can see that a large part of this growth is made up of arms production and defence spending on the one hand, and of expenditure (state bureaucracy, marketing, publicity, “communication” media), which is totally unproductive from the standpoint of global capital.

Let us begin with the question of armaments. Contrary to the period following World War I, after 1945 the armies were not completely demobilised, and arms spending went on rising almost without interruption until the end of the 80s.

Before the collapse of the USSR, US military spending swallowed 10% of GNP. In the USSR, the figure stood at 20-25%; in the EEC it is currently 3-4%, while in many Third World countries it stands as high as 25%.

Arms production does at first increase the volume of production. However, because the value created does not “return” to the production process, but ends up either being destroyed or rusting in barracks and nuclear silos, armaments in fact represent a sterilisation, a destruction of a part of global production: with military spending, “an ever-growing share of production goes into products which do not reappear in the following cycle. The product leaves the sphere of production, and does not return to it. A tractor returns to the sphere of production in the form of harvested wheat. A tank does not[5].

In the same way, the post-war period witnessed a huge increase in non-productive spending. The state developed a huge bureaucracy, companies followed the same principle in disproportionately increasing the mechanisms of control and administration of production; faced with ferocious competition, the cost of marketing has grown constantly, to the point where it absorbs as much as 50% of a product’s cost. Capitalist statistics put this huge mass of expenditure on the positive side of the balance-sheet, under the heading of “services”. However, this growing mass of unproductive spending in fact constitutes a drain on global capital. “When capitalist relations of production cease to be the instrument for the development of the productive forces and become fetters, all the “artificial” costs that they entail become simple waste. It is important to note that this inflation of artificial costs is an inevitable phenomenon, which imposes itself on capitalism with as much violence as its contradictions. For half a century the history of capitalist nations has been filled with “austerity programs”, attempts to turn back the clock, struggles against the uncontrollable expansion of government costs and unproductive expenses in general. (...) All these efforts, however, systematically end in failure. (...) The more difficulties capitalism faces, the more it must develop its artificial costs. This vicious circle, this gangrene rotting the core of the wage labour system, is only one of the symptoms of the real disease: the decadence of capitalism[6].

Having seen the nature of capitalist growth since the second imperialist massacre, let us see how it is shared out among the different zones of world capital.

Starting with the ex-Eastern bloc, a substantial part of the USSR’s post-war “reconstruction” was in fact the wholesale dismantling and transfer of entire factories from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, the GDR, Manchuria, etc to the USSR itself. This was not a real growth, but merely a change in the geographical location of production.

On the other hand, as we have said for years [7], the Stalinist economies produced goods of more than dubious quality, such that a substantial proportion of them were unusable. On paper, the growth in production reached “tremendous” levels, and the IBRP falls headlong for these figures [8], but in reality this growth was largely fictitious.

As far as the ex-colonies are concerned, we have laid bare the lie of their “growth rates in excess of those of the industrialised world” in our article on “Still-born nations” in the International Review [9]. Today, we can see that many of these countries have entered an accelerating process of chaos and decomposition, hunger, epidemics, destruction and wars. These countries have become the terrain for a permanent confrontation between the great powers, with the active complicity of the local bourgeoisies, subjecting them to the devastating plague of imperialist war as the permanent way of life of decadent capitalism.

From the strictly economic standpoint, most of these countries have been trapped for decades in a permanent depression. Nor should we be deceived by the “fantastic” growth rates of the “four Asian dragons”. The latter have carved themselves a niche on the world market by selling some consumer products and electronic components at ridiculously low prices. These prices are possible on the one hand by the massive exploitation of cheap labour [10], and above all by the systematic use of state export credits and dumping (sales at prices below the cost of production).

These countries cannot, any more than the others, escape the implacable law for any country arriving late on the world market: “The law of supply and demand works against any development of new countries. In a world where markets are saturated, supply exceeds demand and prices are determined by the lowest production costs. Because of this, the countries with the highest production costs are forced to sell their commodities at reduced profits or even at a loss. This ensures that they have an extremely low rate of accumulation and, even with a very cheap labour force, they are unable to realise the investments needed for the massive acquisition of modern technology. The result of this is that the gulf which separates them from the great industrial powers can only get wider[11].

As for the industrial powers, it is true that between 1945 and 1967 they underwent real economic growth (from which we should deduct the enormous volume of military and unproductive spending).

However, there are at least two points that need making here. Firstly, “Some growth rates reached since World War II come close to, or even exceed, those reached during capitalism’s ascendant phase prior to 1913. This is the case for countries like France and Japan. However, it is far from being the case with the greatest industrial power, the USA (50% of world production at the end of the 50s, 4.6% average annual growth rate between 1957-65, as opposed to 6.9% between 1850 and 1880)[12]. Moreover, world production between 1913 and 1959 (including arms production) grew by 250%, whereas if it had increased at the same rhythm as between 1880 and 1890, the period of capitalism’s apogee, it would have grown by 450% [13].

Secondly, these countries’ growth was achieved at the expense of an increasing impoverishment in the rest of the world. During the 70s, the system of massive loans from industrialised countries to the Third World, to allow the latter to absorb the former’s vast stocks of unsaleable commodities, gave the whole world economy an appearance of “rapid growth”. The 1982 debt crisis burst this enormous bubble, revealing a very serious problem for capital: “for years, a large part of world production has not been sold, but given away. This production may correspond to really manufactured commodities, but it has not produced value, which is the only thing that interests capitalism. It has not allowed a real accumulation of capital. Global capitalism has been reproducing itself on ever-narrower foundations. Taken as a whole, capitalism has not got richer. On the contrary, it has become poorer[14].

It is significant that the “solution” to the Third World debt crisis of 1982-85 was the massive indebtedness of the USA, which between 1982 and 1988 went from the being a creditor nation to being the world’s biggest debtor.

This demonstrates the dead-end that capitalism has reached, even in its strongholds - the great Western industrial metropoles.

Seen in this light, BC’s explanation of the American debt crisis is wrong and seriously under-estimates the situation: “but the real lever which has been used to drain the wealth of every corner of the world towards the United States has been the policy of rising interest rates”. BC describes this policy as “the appropriation of surplus-value through the control of finance revenue”, emphasizing that “we have gone from the increase in profit through industrial development to the increase in profit thanks to the development of finance revenue[15].

BC should ask itself why it is that we go “from the increase in profit through industrial development to the increase in profit thanks to the development of finance revenue”. The answer is obvious: whereas during the 1960s, industrial development was still a possibility for the major capitalist countries, and during the 1970s “development” was kept afloat by massive loans to the “Third World” and the Eastern bloc, these outlets were closed in the 1980s, and the only way out was provided by the gigantic arms spending of the United States.

This is why BC is wrong in viewing the massive indebtedness of the USA as part of a “struggle for finance revenue”, and is consequently incapable of understanding the situation in the 1990s, where the possibility of the US taking on more debt as it did in the 1980s simply no longer exists. The world’s “most developed capitalism” has closed another illusory way out of the crisis [16].

The relation between imperialist war and capitalist crisis

For BC, war “is on the historical agenda from the moment that the contradictions of the capitalist accumulation process have developed to the point where they determine an over-production of capital and a fall in the rate of profit[17]. Historically, and historically only, this position is correct. The era of generalised imperialist war springs from the dead-end that capitalism has entered with its phase of decadence, when it is unable to continue accumulating because of the scarcity of new markets, which had previously allowed it to extend its relations of production.

BC tries to use a series of elements on unemployment before World War I, and on unemployment and the use of productive capacity before World War II, to show that “the data (...) shows unequivocally the close link between the course of the economic crisis and the two World Wars[18]. Apart from the fact that the data is exclusively limited to the United States, we will repeat here, without developing it, the argument put forward in International Review 77/78 in response to the same idea defended by Programme Communiste. Apart from the economic conditions, the outbreak of war requires one vital condition: that the proletariat of the major industrialised countries should be enrolled for imperialist war. If this condition is not fulfilled, war cannot begin, even if all the “objective” conditions are present. We will not go back over this fundamental position, which BC also rejects [19]. Suffice it to say that the mechanical link that BC claims to establish between economic crisis and war (and in which BC joins with the Bordigists, who reject the notion of decadence altogether), leads them to under-estimate the problem of war in decadent capitalism.

In The Accumulation of Capital Rosa Luxemburg shows that “the greater the violence with which capitalism annihilates both external and internal non-capitalist strata, and debases the living conditions of the working class, the more the day-to-day history of capitalist accumulation worldwide becomes a series of catastrophes and convulsions, which, combined with the periodic economic crises will eventually make continued accumulation impossible, and will raise the international working class against the rule of capital, even before the latter has reached the objective economic limits to its development[20].

In general, war and economic crisis are not mechanically linked. In ascendant capitalism, war is at the service of the economy. In decadent capitalism, the reverse is true: imperialist war arises from capitalism’s historic crisis, but it then acquires its own dynamic, and becomes progressively capitalism’s very way of life. War, militarism, armaments production, tend to subject all economic activity to their own demands, so creating monstrous deformations in capitalism’s own laws of accumulation, and generating further convulsions in the economic sphere.

This was put forward clearly by the Communist International’s 2nd Congress: “The war has subjected capitalism to a change (...) War has accustomed it, as if this were the most ordinary thing in the world, to reduce whole countries to famine by blockade, to bomb and torch peaceful towns and villages, to infect springs and rivers with cholera, to carry dynamite in diplomatic bags, to print counterfeit currency of the enemy country, to make use of corruption, espionage and contraband on an unheard-of scale. Once peace has been concluded, the methods used in the war continue to be used in the world of commerce. Commercial operations of any importance are conducted under the aegis of the state. The latter has become more like a criminal gang, armed to the teeth[21].

The nature of “cycles of accumulation” in capitalist decadence

According to BC, “each time that the system can no longer counter, by an opposing impulse, the causes that provoke the fall in the rate of profit, then two kinds of problems are posed: a) the destruction of excess capital; b) the extension of imperialist domination over the world market[22].

First of all, we should point out that BC is a century late: the question of “the extension of imperialist domination over the world market” began to be posed more and more acutely in the last decade of the 19th century. The question has not been posed since 1914, for the simple reason that the entire planet has been inextricably bound in the bloody nets of imperialism. The question, which has been repeated, more and more sharply, since 1914 is not the extension of imperialism but the division of the world among the various imperialist vultures.

BC’s other “mission” for imperialist war - “the destruction of excess capital” - tends to compare the destruction of productive forces as a result of the system’s cyclical crises during the 19th century, with the destruction caused by this century’s imperialist wars. Nonetheless, BC recognises that there is a qualitative difference between them: “whereas then it was part of the painful cost of a “necessary” development of the productive forces, today we are faced with a systematic devastation spread over the entire planet, in the economic sense today, in the physical sense tomorrow, plunging the whole of humanity into the abyss of war[23]. But this is not enough, and BC has always insisted on under-stating this difference, by insisting much more strongly on the identity between capitalism’s functioning in its ascendant and decadent phases: “the whole history of capitalism is an endless race towards an impossible equilibrium; only crises, in other words famine, unemployment, war and death for the workers, are the moments whereby the relations of production recreate the conditions for a further cycle of accumulation which will end in a still deeper and vaster crisis[24].

It is true that the system is unable to escape the periodic crises, which lead it to blockage and paralysis, in both ascendant and decadent capitalism. But if we stop here, then we remain on the same terrain as the bourgeois economists, who comfort us by repeating that “recovery always follows recession”.

Of course, BC does not follow such chimera, and clearly defends the need to destroy capitalism and make the revolution. It still remains a prisoner of its schematic “cycles of accumulation”.

In fact:

 - the cyclical crises of the ascendant period are different from the crises of decadence;

 - the root of the imperialist war does not lie in the crisis of each cycle of accumulation; it is not a sort of dilemma reproduced each time the cycle of accumulation enters a crisis: it lies in a permanent historic situation which dominates the whole of capitalist decadence.

During capitalism’s ascendant period, crises were short-lived and occurred fairly regularly every 7-10 years. In the eighty years since 1914, and considering only the great industrialised countries, we have had:

 - ten years of imperialist war (1914-18, 1939-45) which left more than 80 million dead;

 - 46 years of open crisis: 1918-22, 1929-39, 1945-50, 1967-94 (we are not taking account of the brief “drugged recoveries” during the periods 1929-39 and 1967-94);

 - only 24 years (scarcely a quarter of the period) of economic recovery: 1922-29 and 1950-67.

All this shows that the simple schema of accumulation is not enough to explain the reality of decadent capitalism, and prevents us from understanding its accompanying phenomena.

Although BC recognises the phenomenon of state capitalism, which is an essential component of decadence, it fails to follow all its consequences [25]. A vital characteristic of decadence, which decisively affects the expression of “cyclical crises”, is the state’s massive intervention in the economy (closely tied to the formation of the war economy), through a whole series of mechanisms, which the economists call “economic policy”. This intervention profoundly alters the law of value, provoking monstrous deformations throughout the world economy, which systematically exacerbate the system’s contradictions, leading to brutal convulsions not only in the economic apparatus, but in every sphere of society.

State capitalism, and the permanent weight of the war economy, transform radically both the substance and the dynamic of the economic cycle: “Particular conjunctures in the economy are no longer determined by the relationship between productive capacity and the shape of the market at a given moment, but by essentially political causes. (...) In this context, it is no longer the problems of the amortisation of capital that determine the length of phases of economic development but, to a great extent, the level of destruction in the previous war. (...) In contrast to the 19th century, which was characterised by “laisser-faire”, the scale of recessions in the 20th century has been limited by artificial measures carried out by the state and its research institutes aimed at delaying the general crisis (...) [with a] whole gamut of political measures which tend to break with the strictly economic functioning of capitalism[26].

The problem of war cannot be placed in the dynamic of “accumulation cycles”, which BC moreover stretches out for the decadent period, to make them fit the cycles of “crisis-war-reconstruction”, when in fact, as we have seen, the latter are not purely economic in nature.

It is however very important to note first of all that this periodic succession of conjunctures and the crisis, while they are essential elements of reproduction, do not constitute the real problem of capitalist reproduction. Successive periods of conjunctures and crisis are the specific form of movement towards capitalist production, but they are not the movement itself” (Rosa Luxemburg) [27].

The problem of war in decadent capitalism must be situated outside the strict oscillations of the economic cycle, outside the ebb and flow of the conjunctures of the rate of profit.

In this region, not only is the bourgeoisie no longer able to develop the productive forces, it can only survive on condition that it destroys them, and annihilates the accumulated wealth of centuries of social labour. Generalised imperialist war is the main expression of this process of decomposition and destruction, into which the whole of capitalist society has entered” (“Notre réponse à Vercesi”, in Bulletin Interne International de Discussion no 5, published by the Fraction Italienne de la Gauche Communiste in May 1944).

The IBRP’s hands are tied by its theories on the cycles of accumulation, determined by the fall in the rate of profit, and it explains war through an “economic determinism” of crises in the cycles of accumulation.

As marxists, it is clear that we know very well that “the economic infrastructure determines the whole of society’s superstructure”. However, we do not understand this as a stencil, to be applied mechanically to every situation, but as a world-historic viewpoint. This is why we understand that while the chaos of decadent capitalism has an economic origin, it has been exacerbated to such a point that it cannot be understood in the limits of a strict economism.

The other aspect of capitalist accumulation concerns the relations between capital and non-capitalist modes of production, where it has the whole world for its theatre. The methods used here are colonial policy, the system of international loans, the politics of spheres of interest, war. Violence, swindling, oppression, pillage, show themselves in the open, unmasked, and it is difficult to recognise the rigorous laws of the economic process in the inter-meshing of violence and political brutality.

Bourgeois liberal theory only considers the one aspect of “peaceful competition”, the marvels of technology and the pure exchange of commodities; it separates the economic domain of capital from the other, violent aspect, whose acts are considered as more or less fortuitous incidents of outside politics[28].

The IBRP rigorously denounces the barbarity of capitalism, the catastrophic effects of its policies and wars. And yet, it is unable to arrive at a unitary and global vision of war and economic evolution, which is necessary for a coherent theory of decadence.

The blindness and irresponsibility implied by this weakness are manifest in this formulation: “From the first signs of the world economic crisis, our party maintained that there was only one way out. The alternative before us is clear: either a bourgeois overcoming of the crisis in a world war leading to a monopolist capitalism further concentrated in the hands of a small group of powers, or the proletarian revolution[29].

The IBRP is not sufficiently aware of what a third World War would mean: nothing other than the complete annihilation of the planet. Even today, when the collapse of the USSR and the consequent disappearance of the Western bloc make the formation of new blocs difficult, the risk that humanity will be destroyed through a chaotic succession of local wars remains very serious.

The degree of capitalism’s putrefaction, the gravity of its contradictions, have reached a level such that a third World War would lead to the destruction of humanity.

It is an absurd game, played with schemas and “theories” which do not correspond to historical reality, to suppose that a third World War could be followed by “a monopolist capitalism further concentrated in the hands of a small group of powers”. This is science fiction... but unfortunately anchored in the phenomena of the end of the previous century.

The debate among revolutionaries should start from the highest level reached by the old party, the Communist International, which stated very clearly at the end of World War I: “The contradictions of the capitalist régime revealed themselves to humanity after the war, in the form of physical suffering: hunger, cold, epidemics and a resurgence of barbarism. Judgment was passed, without appeal, on the old academic quarrel among socialists on the theory of pauperisation and the gradual passage from capitalism to socialism. (...) Today we are faced, not just with social pauperisation, but with a physiological and biological impoverishment, which appears before us in all its hideous reality[30].

The end of World War II went still further in confirming this crucial analysis by the CI. Since then, the life of capitalism, in “peace” as in war, has aggravated the tendencies that revolutionaries predicted, but to levels that they could not imagine at the time. What is the point of playing with ridiculous hypotheses of a “monopolist capitalism” after a third World War? The alternative is not “proletarian revolution or war leading to the birth of a monopolist capitalism”, but proletarian revolution or the destruction of humanity.

Adalen, 1/9/94

[1] See International Review 77/78, on “The Rejection of the Notion of Decadence”, polemic with Programma Comunista.

[2] The Partito Comunista Internazionalista publishes the paper Battaglia Comunista (BC) and the theoretical review Prometeo. The Communist Workers’ Organisation publishes the paper Workers’ Voice. The Communist Review is published jointly by the two organisations and contains articles by the IBRP as such, as well as translations from Prometeo.

[3] “Crisis of Capitalism and the Perspectives of the IBRP”, in Communist Review no. 4, autumn 1985.

[4] Communist Review no. 1, “Crisis and Imperialism”.

[5] Internationalisme no. 46, summer 1952 (publication of the Gauche Communiste de France).

[6] ICC pamphlet: The Decadence of Capitalism.

[7] See “The Crisis in the GDR”, International Review no. 22, and “The Crisis in the Eastern bloc”, International Review no. 23.

[8] In 1988, when the chaos and collapse of the Soviet economy had become obvious, the IBRP said that “during the 1970s, Russia’s growth rates were still the double of those in the West, and the equal of Japan’s. Even in the crisis of the early 1980s, the Russian growth rate was 2-3% higher than that of any Western power. During these years, Russia had largely equalled the USA’s military capability, overtaken its space technology, and was able to undertake the biggest construction projects since 1945” (Communist Review no. 6).

[9] International Review no. 69, 3rd quarter 1992, 3rd part in the series “Balance sheet of 70 years of ‘national liberation’”.

[10] Suffice it to recall the importance, in China, of the virtually free forced labour provided by prisoners. A study by Asia Watch (an American “human rights” organisation) has revealed the existence of these Chinese gulags employing 20 million workers. In these “re-education camps”, work is carried out under contract for Western firms (French, American, etc). Quality defects discovered by Western contractors are immediately visited on the prisoner responsible for the “mistake” by brutal punishments inflicted in front of his comrades.

[11] International Review no. 23, “The Struggle of the Proletariat in Decadent Capitalism”.

[12] ICC pamphlet: The Decadence of Capitalism.

[13] Ibid.

[14] International Review no. 59, 4th quarter 1989, “The International Situation”.

[15] Prometeo no. 6, December 1993, “The United States and World Domination”.

[16] BC, launching into speculation on its theory of the “struggle to share out finance revenue”, moves onto a dangerous terrain in affirming that this “is a parasitic form of appropriation, the control of this revenue excludes the possibility of redistributing wealth among the different categories and social classes through the growth in production and the circulation of commodities”. Since when has growth in the production and distribution of commodities tended to redistribute social wealth? As marxists, we understand that the growth in capitalist production tends to “redistribute” wealth to the benefit of the capitalists and at the expense of the workers. But BC discovers the contrary, by falling into the arguments of the left of capital and the unions, who demand investment “to provide work and well-being”. Faced with this kind of “theory”, we should remember how Marx answered citizen Weston in Wages, Prices, and Profit: “Thus citizen Weston forgets that this soupbowl, from which the eat, is filled with the whole product of national labour; what prevents them from getting more out of it is neither the smallness of the soupbowl, nor its being insufficiently filled, but solely the smallness of their spoons”. (Chapter 1, “Wages, Prices, and Money”).

[17] Prometeo no. 6, “The United States and World Domination”.

[18] “Crisis and Imperialism” in Communist Review no. 1.

[19] See International Review no. 36, “Battaglia Comunista’s vision of the course of history”.

[20] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, Chapter 32.

[21] Manifesto of the 2nd Congress of the Communist International.

[22] Prometeo no. 6, “The United States and World Domination”.

[23] Battaglia Comunista no. 10 (October 1993).

[24] 2nd Conference of Groups of the Communist Left, Vol. I, Preparatory Texts, “On the theory of crisis in general”, Contribution from PCInt/BC.

[25] The comrades explicitly identify decadent capitalism with “monopoly capitalism”: “It is precisely in this historic phase that capitalism enters its decadent phase. Free competition, sharpened by the fall in the rate of profit, creates its opposite, monopoly, which is the form of organisation that capitalism adopts in order to stave off the threat of a further fall in the rate of profit” (2nd Conference of Groups of the Communist Left, text quoted). Monopolies survive in decadence but are far from constituting its essential characteristic. This vision is closely linked to the theory of imperialism, and to BC’s insistence on the “sharing out of financial revenue”. It should be clear that this theory makes it difficult to understand in depth the universal tendency (i.e. not limited to the Stalinist countries) to state capitalism.

[26] International Review no. 23, “The Struggle of the Proletariat in Decadent Capitalism”.

[27] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, Chapter 1.

[28] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, Chapter 31.

[29] “Crisis and Imperialism” in Communist Review no. 1.

[30] Manifesto of the Communist International, 1st Congress of the CI, March 1919.


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