Understanding the decomposition of capitalism: Marxism at the roots of the concept of capitalism's decomposition

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In the “Theses on Decomposition” (published for the first time in International Review no 62 and republished in International Review no107) as well as in the article “The decomposition of capitalism” (published in the International Review no57) we argued that capitalism had entered into a new and final stage of its decadence, that of its decomposition, a phase characterised by the aggravation and culmination of all the contradictions of the system.

Unfortunately, the effort by our organisation to analyse this important evolution in the life of capitalism either aroused the indifference of certain groups of the Communist Left, or met with complete incomprehension, or accusations of abandoning Marxism and the like.

The most caricatural attitude was probably that of the Parti Communiste International (PCI, which publishes Le Proletaire and Il Comunista). Thus, in a recently published pamphlet, “The International Communist Current: against the current of Marxism and the class struggle”, this organisation described our analysis of decomposition in these terms: “Neither will we make a definitive critique here of this hazy theory, content to note that this brainwave has nothing to do with Marxism and materialism”

And this is all that the PCI finds to say on our analysis even when it consecrates 70 pages to polemicising with our organisation.

It is however a primary responsibility for an organisation that pretends to defend the historic interests of the working class to undertake a theoretical reflection on the conditions of the class’ combat and to criticise those analyses of society that it judges erroneous, particularly when the latter are defended by other revolutionary organisations.[1]

The proletariat and its vanguard minorities need a global framework to understand the situation. Without it they are condemned to only give blow-by-blow and empirical responses to events, and to be buffeted by the consequences of them.

For its part, the Communist Workers' Organisation (CWO), the British branch of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP), has taken up our analysis of the decomposition of capitalism in three articles in its publications.[2] We will return later to the precise arguments put forward by the CWO. We note for the moment that the principle critique which is made of our analysis of decomposition is quite simply that it is situated outside of Marxism.

Faced with this type of judgement (which the CWO is not alone in making) we consider it necessary to argue for the Marxist roots of the theory of the decomposition of capitalism, to make it precise and to develop different aspects and implications. That is why we are undertaking a series of articles entitled “Understanding Decomposition” that is in continuity with those we produced some years ago entitled “Understanding the decadence of capitalism”[3]. In the last analysis decomposition is a phenomenon of decadence and cannot be understood outside of it.

Decomposition, phenomenon of capitalist decadence

The Marxist method provides both a materialist and historical framework to characterise the different moments in the life of capitalism, whether in its phase of ascendance or of decadence.

In fact, just as capitalism itself traverses different historic periods - birth, ascendancy, decadence - so each of these periods itself consists of several distinct phases. For example, capitalism's ascendant period can be divided into the successive phases of the free market, shareholding, monopoly, financial capital, colonial conquest, and the establishment of the world market. In the same way, the decadent period also has its history: imperialism, world wars, state capitalism, permanent crisis, and today, decomposition. These are different and successive aspects of the life of capitalism, each one characteristic of a specific phase, although they may have pre-dated it, and/or continued to exist after it.”[4] The best known illustration of this phenomenon undoubtedly concerns imperialism which “properly speaking begins after 1870, when world capitalism configures itself in a significantly new way: the period of the constitution of national states in Europe and North America is completed and in place of Britain as the world factory, we have several national capitalist factories developing in competition with it for the domination of the world market - in competition not only for the internal markets of others but also for the colonial market”. (“On imperialism”, International Review no19). However, “it is only in the decadent period that imperialism became predominant within society and in international relations, to the point where revolutionaries of the period identified it with the decadence of capitalism itself”.[5]

Moreover, the period of capitalist decadence has contained since its origin elements of decomposition characterised by the dislocation of the social body and the putrefaction of economic, political and ideological structures. Nevertheless, it is only at a certain stage of this decadence and in well-determined circumstances that decomposition becomes a factor, if not the decisive factor, in the evolution of society, opening up a specific phase, that of the decomposition of society. This phase is the completion of the phases that have preceded it ititduring decadence attested by the history of this period.

The first congress of the Communist International (March 1919) argued that capitalism had entered into a new epoch, that of it's historic decline. It identified in the latter the germs of the internal decomposition of the system: “A new epoch is born: the epoch of the dissolution of capitalism, of its inner collapse. The epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat” (Platform of the CI). Humanity as a whole is faced with the threat of destruction if capitalism survives the proletarian revolution:

Humanity, whose whole culture has been devastated, is threatened with destruction (...) The old capitalist 'order' is no more. It can no longer exist. The final result of the capitalist process of production is chaos”. (ibid) “Now its not only social pauperisation, but a physiological, biological impoverishment that is presented to us in all its hideous reality” (Manifesto of the CI to the proletariat of the entire world).

This new epoch carries the stigmata of the historical event which opened it, the First World War: “If free competition, as regulator of production and distribution, was replaced in the principle areas of the economy by the system of trusts and monopolies several dozen years before the war, the very course of the war has transferred the role of regulating and directing the economy to the military and governmental powers.” (ibid). What is described here is not a conjunctural phenomenon linked to the supposed exceptional character of the war situation, but a permanent and irreversible tendency: “If the absolute subjection of political power to financial capital has driven humanity into the imperialist butchery, this butchery has allowed financial capital not only to militarise the state, but to militarise itself, in a way that it can no longer fulfil its essential economic functions except by blood and iron (...) The statisation of economic life, against which liberal capitalism protests so much, is an accomplished fact. It is no longer possible to return to the domination of trusts, syndicates and other capitalist octopuses, let alone to return to free competition. The question to know is uniquely what form statised production will take: the imperialist state or the state of the victorious proletariat”. (ibid)

The following eight decades have only confirmed this decisive turning point in the life of society. They have seen: the massive development of state capitalism and the war economy after the crisis of 1929; the Second World War; the reconstruction and beginning of an insane nuclear arms race; the “cold” war which left as many dead as in the two world wars combined; and, from 1967, which marked the end of the post-war reconstruction, the progressive collapse of the world economy into a crisis which has so far lasted more than 30 years and been accompanied by an endless spiral of military convulsions. A world, in sum, which offers no other perspective than an interminable agony created by destruction, poverty and barbarism.

Such an historical evolution can only favourise the decomposition of the capitalist mode of production at all levels of social life: the economy, political life, morality, culture, etc. This is what is illustrated on the one hand by the irrational savagery of Nazism with its extermination camps and of Stalinism with its gulags; and on the other by the cynicism and moral hypocrisy of their democratic adversaries with their murderous bombardments responsible for hundreds of thousands of victims amongst the German population (in the town of Dresden particularly) and in Japan (particularly the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) even though these two countries had already been defeated. In 1947 the Communist Left of France argued that the tendencies toward decomposition within capitalism were the product of its insurmountable contradictions: “The bourgeoisie is faced with its own decomposition (...) it always looks for the lesser evil, it patches up here, and stops a leak there, all the while knowing that the storm is gaining more force”. (Internationalisme no23, “Instability and capitalist decadence”).

Decomposition, final phase of the decadence of capitalism

The contradictions and manifestations of decadent capitalism, which successively mark its different phases, don't disappear with time, but continue. The phase of decomposition which opened up in the 80s appeared “as the result of an accumulation of all the characteristics of a moribund system, completing the 75-year death agony of a historically condemned mode of production. Concretely, not only do the imperialist nature of all states, the threat of world war, the absorption of civil society by the state Moloch, and the permanent crisis of the capitalist economy all continue during the phase of decomposition, they reach a synthesis and an ultimate conclusion within it.[6]

Thus the opening of the phase of decomposition (Decomposition[7]) doesn't appear like a bolt from the blue, but is the crystallisation of a slow process at work in the preceding stages of capitalist decadence, which becomes, at a given moment, the central factor of the situation. Thus the elements of decomposition which, as we have seen, accompany the whole of capitalist decadence, cannot be put on the same level, quantitatively and qualitatively, as those that appeared after the 1980s. Decomposition is not simply a “new phase” succeeding the others within the period of decadence (imperialism, world wars, state capitalism) but is the final phase of the system.

This phenomenon of generalised decomposition, of the putrefaction of society is caused by the fact that the contradictions of capitalism can only worsen, the bourgeoisie being incapable of offering the least perspective to the whole of society and the proletariat unable to affirm its own perspective in an immediate way.

In class societies, individuals act and work without really consciously controlling their own lives. But that doesn't at all mean that society can function in a totally blind way, without orientation or perspective. “In fact, no mode of production can live, develop, maintain itself on a viable basis and ensure social cohesion, if it’s unable to present a perspective for the whole of the society which it dominates. And this is especially true of capitalism, which is the most dynamic mode of production in history.” [8]

This growing loss of compass to guide the fate of society is an important difference between the present phase of decomposition of capitalism and the period of the Second World War. The second great war was a terrifying manifestation of the barbarism of the capitalist system. But barbarism is not synonymous with decomposition. At the heart of the barbarism of the Second World War society was not lacking an “orientation” since the capitalist states were able to hold the whole of society in an iron grip and mobilise it for war. At this level, the cold war had similar characteristics: the whole of social life was contained by the states engaged in a bloody struggle between the two blocs. The whole of society was enveloped by an “organised” barbarism. By contrast, what has changed since the opening of the phase of decomposition, is that “organised” barbarism is replaced by an anarchic and chaotic barbarism, dominated by each for himself, the instability of alliances, the gangsterisation of international relations...

Decomposition and class struggle

For Marxism “the social relations of production, change, are transformed, with the change and development of the material means of production, the productive forces. The relations of production in their totality constitute what are called the social relations, society, and, specifically, a society at a definite stage of historical development, a society with a peculiar, distinctive character. Ancient society, feudal society, bourgeois society are such totalities of production relations, each of which at the same time denotes a special stage of development in the history of mankind” (Marx, Wage Labour and Capital in Collected Works Vol 9, p.212). But equally these relations of production constitute the framework within which the class struggle acts as a motor force of their evolution and that of humanity: “…economic production and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently (ever since the dissolution of the primeval communal ownership of land) all history has been a history of class struggles, struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social development….” (F. Engels, Preface to the 1883 German edition of the Communist Manifesto in Collected Works Vol 26, p.118).

The links between, on the one hand, the relations of production and the development of the productive forces and, on the other hand, the class struggle has never been understood by Marxism in a simple, mechanical way: the first being determinant and the second determined. On this question in response to the Left Opposition, Bilan warned against the vulgar materialist interpretation of the fact that “the whole evolution of history can be reduced to the law of the evolution of the economic and productive forces”, the new element of Marxism in relation to all the historical theories which preceded it and fully confirmed by the evolution of capitalist society. For such a vulgar materialist interpretation, “the productive mechanism represents not only the source of the formation of classes but it automatically determines the action and policy of classes and the men that constitute it; thus the problem of social struggles would be singularly simplified: men and classes would only be puppets operated by economic forces.” (“Principles, weapons of the revolution”, Bilan no5)

Social classes don't act according to a scenario fixed in advance by economic evolution. Bilan adds that “the action of classes is only possible as a result of a historic intelligence of the role and means appropriate to their triumph. Classes, their birth and disappearance are due to an economic mechanism, but to triumph (...) [they] must be able to give themselves a political and organic configuration, without which, even though they are selected by the evolution of the productive forces, they risk remaining prisoners of the old class which, in its turn - to resist - imprisons the course of economic evolution” ibid. [9]

At this stage, two very important conclusions must be drawn.

Firstly, while being determinant, the economic mechanism is also determined because the resistance of the old class - condemned by history - imprisons the course of its evolution. Humanity today has behind it nearly a century of the decadence of capitalism which illustrates this reality. In order to avoid brutal collapses and to assume the constraints of the war economy, state capitalism has cheated the law of value in a permanent way[10] while locking the economy into more and more insurmountable contradictions. Far from being able to resolve the contradictions of the capitalist system, such escapism has had no other consequence than to aggravate these contradictions considerably. According to Bilan, it has imprisoned the course of historical evolution in a Gordian knot of insurmountable contradictions.

In the second place, the revolutionary class, while being invested by history with the mission of overthrowing capitalism, has not, until now, been able to accomplish this historic mission. The long period of the past thirty years is a luminous confirmation of this analysis of Bilan which is situated along the same line as all the positions of Marxism. If the historical resurgence of the proletariat in 1968 has prevented the bourgeoisie from dragging society toward generalised war, it has not however been able to orientate its defensive struggles toward an offensive combat for the destruction of capitalism.

This setback, which is the result of a series of general and historic factors that we cannot analyse here,[11] has been determinant in the entry of capitalism into its phase of decomposition.

Moreover, if Decomposition is the result of the difficulties of the proletariat, it also contributes actively to their aggravation: “the effects of decomposition…have a profoundly negative effect on the proletariat’s consciosuness, on its sense of itself as a class, since in all their different aspects - the gang mentality, racism, criminality, drug addiction, etc - they serve to atomise the class, increase the divisions within its ranks, and dissolve it into the general social rat race”.[12] In fact:

- intermediate classes like the petit bourgeoisie, or even the lumpens, tend, under Decomposition to have a behaviour that is more and more linked to the worst aberrations of capitalism or even of systems that preceded it. Their revolts without hope or future may contaminate the proletariat or drag some sectors of the latter with them;

- the general atmosphere of moral and ideological decomposition affects the capacities of the proletariat to become conscious, to unify, to solidarise and generate confidence: “a Chinese wall does not separate the working class from the old bourgeois society. When the revolution breaks out it's not like taking away a dead man and burying him. At the moment when the old society perishes, one cannot gather its remains and put them in a coffin. It decomposes among us, it rots, and its putrefaction surrounds us. No great revolution in the world has been accomplished otherwise and never can be. That is why we must fight to safeguard the germs of the new [world] within this stinking, poisonous atmosphere of a body in decomposition”. [13]

- the bourgeoisie may utilise the effects of decomposition against the proletariat. That has been particularly the case at the time of the collapse, without war or revolution, of the old soviet bloc, a major and typical manifestation of Decomposition. This event allowed the bourgeoisie to unleash an enormous anti-communist campaign resulting in an important reflux in consciousness and combativity in the proletarian ranks. All the effects of this campaign are still far from having been overcome.

Marxism against fatalism

The passage from one mode of production to a superior mode of production is not the fatal product of the evolution of the productive forces. This passage can only be effected through a revolution by which the new dominant class overthrows the old and constructs new relations of production.

Marxism defends historical determinism but that doesn't mean that communism will be the inevitable result of the evolution of capitalism. Such a vision is a vulgar materialist deformation of Marxism. In fact, for Marxism historical determinism signifies that:

a) A revolution is only possible when the preceding mode of production has exhausted all its capacities to develop the productive forces: “A social order never perishes before all the productive forces for which it is broadly sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the womb of the old society.” (Marx, Preface to the Contribution to the critique of political economy. Peking 1976)

b) Capitalism cannot return to the past (toward feudalism or other pre-capitalist modes of production): either it is replaced by the proletarian revolution, or it drags humanity to destruction.

c) Capitalism is the last class society. The “theory” defended by the group “Socialism or Barbarism” or by certain splits from Trotskyism[14] announcing the rise of a neither capitalist nor communist “third society” is an aberration from the point of view of Marxism. The latter strongly underlines the fact that The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production…The prehistory of human society therefore closes with this social formation”. (ibid).

Marxism has always posed in alternate terms the denouement of historical evolution: either the revolutionary class imposes itself and opens the way to the new mode of production, or society falls into anarchy and barbarism. The Communist Manifesto shows how the class struggle manifests itself through “an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” (Collected Works, vol.6, p.482)

Against all the idealist errors which try to separate the proletariat from communism, Marx defines the latter as its “real movement” and insists on the fact that the workers “have no ideals to realise, but to set free elements of the new society with which the old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant.” (The Civil War in France in Collected Works, vol.22, p.335)”[15]. The class struggle of the proletariat is not the “instrument” of an “historical destiny” (the realisation of communism). In the German Ideology, Marx and Engels strongly criticise such a vision: “History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which uses the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding generations, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances and, on the other modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity. This can be speculatively distorted so that later history is made the goal of earlier history, e.g. the goal ascribed to the discovery of America is to further the eruption of the French Revolution.” (Collected Works, vol. 5, p.50).

Thus, applied to the analysis of the actual phase of capitalism's evolution, the Marxist method permits us to understand that, despite its real existence, Decomposition is not a “rational” phenomenon in historical evolution. Decomposition is not a necessary link in the chain leading to communism. On the contrary, it contains the danger of a progressive erosion of the material bases of the latter. Firstly because Decomposition signifies a slow process of destruction of the productive forces up to the point at which communism would no longer be possible: “Thus we cannot say, as the anarchists do for example, that a socialist perspective would still be open if the productive forces were in regression. We cannot ignore the level of their development. Capitalism has been a necessary, indispensable stage towards the establishment of socialism to the extent that it has sufficiently developed the objective conditions for it. But, as this text will attempt to show, just as in its present phase capitalism has become a fetter on the development of the productive forces, so the prolongation of capitalism in this phase will lead to the disappearance of the conditions for socialism”[16]

Consequently, because it erodes the bases of the unity and identity of the proletarian class: “The process of disintegration created by massive and prolonged unemployment particularly among the young, by the break up of the traditional combative concentrations of the working class in the industrial heartlands, all that reinforces the atomisation and the competition among the workers (...) The fragmentation of the identity of the class during the last decade in particular is in no way an advance but a clear manifestation of the decomposition which carries profound dangers for the working class”.[17]

The class struggle, motor of history

The historical stage of Decomposition carries within it the threat of the obliteration of the conditions for the communist revolution. In this sense it is no different from the other stages of the decadence of capitalism that also contained such a threat as put forward by revolutionaries at the time. In relation to the latter, there are however a certain number of differences:

a) the war led to a reconstruction, while the process of the destruction of humanity, under the effects of Decomposition, even though long and disguised, is irreversible;[18]

b) the threat of destruction was linked to the outbreak of a third world war, while today, in Decomposition, different causes (local wars, destruction of ecological equilibrium, slow erosion of the productive forces, progressive collapse of the productive infrastructure, the gradual destruction of social relationships) act in a more or less simultaneous way as factors of the destruction of humanity;

c) the threat of destruction presented itself in the brutal form of a new world war, while today, it is cloaked in a less visible costume, more insidious, much more difficult to appreciate, and even less easy to combat. [See note * at the end of the article].

d) the fact that decomposition is the central factor of the evolution of the whole of society signifies, as we have already argued, that it has a permanent and direct impact on the proletariat at all levels: consciousness, unity, solidarity, etc.

However, “understanding the serious threat that the historical phenomenon of decomposition poses for the working class and for the whole of humanity should not lead the class, and especially its revolutionary minorities, to adopt a fatalist attitude.”[19] In fact:

- the proletariat has not suffered important defeats and its combativity remains intact;

- the same factor which is the fundamental cause of decomposition - the inexorable aggravation of the crisis - is also “the essential stimulant for the class' struggle and development of consciousness, the precondition for its ability to resist the poison distilled by the social rot”. [20]

But, to the extent that only the communist revolution can definitively overcome the threat of decomposition weighing on humanity, the workers struggles of resistance to the effects of the crisis are not sufficient. In fact, the consciousness of the crisis, in itself, cannot resolve the problems and difficulties that the proletariat confronts and must confront more and more. That's why it must develop:

- “an awareness of what is at stake in the present historical situation, and in particular of the mortal danger that social decomposition holds over humanity;

- its determination to continue, develop and unite its class combat;

- its ability to spring the many traps that the bourgeoisie, however decomposed itself, will not fail to set in its path.[21]

Decomposition obliges the proletariat to develop its weapons of consciousness, unity, self-confidence, its solidarity, its will and its heroism, the subjective factors which Trotsky, in the History of the Russian Revolution considered were enormously important in the victory of the latter. On all the fronts of the class struggle of the proletariat (Engels spoke of three fronts: economic, political, and theoretical), revolutionaries and the most advanced minorities of the proletariat must cultivate and develop these qualities in a profound and extensive way.

The phase of decomposition reveals that, of the two factors which direct historical evolution - the economic mechanism and the class struggle - the first is more than mature and contains the danger of the destruction of humanity. As a result the second factor becomes decisive. More than ever, the class struggle of the proletariat is the motor of history. Consciousness, unity, confidence, solidarity, will and heroism, qualities that the proletariat is capable of raising through its class struggle to a completely different and superior level to other classes in history, are the forces which, developed to the highest degree, will allow it to overcome the dangers contained in Decomposition and to open the way to the Communist liberation of humanity.



* In a leaflet entitled “Questions to the militants and sympathisers of the ICC today” and distributed at the door of our public meetings as well as in the pacifist demonstration of 20th March in Paris, the parasitic self-styled “Internal Fraction of the ICC” (composed of some ex-members of our organisation) commented on extracts from the resolution on the International Situation adopted by our 15th International Congress.

First extract:

Although capitalism's decomposition results from this historic ‘stand-off’ between the classes, this situation cannot be a static one. The economic crisis, which is at the root both of the drive towards war and of the proletariat's response, continues to deepen; but in contrast to the 1968-89 period, when the outcome of these class contradictions could only be world war or world revolution, the new period opens up a third alternative: the destruction of humanity not through an apocalyptic war, but through the gradual advance of decomposition, which could over a period of time undermine the proletariat's capacity to respond as a class, and could equally make the planet uninhabitable through a spiral of regional wars and ecological catastrophes. To wage a world war, the bourgeoisie would first have to directly confront and defeat the major battalions of the working class, and then mobilise them to march with enthusiasm behind the banners and ideology of new imperialist blocs; in the new scenario, the working class could be defeated in a less overt and direct manner, simply by failing to respond to the crisis of the system and allowing itself to be dragged further and further into the cesspool of decay.” (emphasis by the FICCI)

Commentary of the FICCI: “This clearly opportunist introduction of a 'third way', is opposed to the classical thesis of Marxism of an historic alternative. As with Bernstein, Kautsky, and their epigones, the very idea of a third way is opposed to the historic alternative, to the 'simplism' according to opportunism of 'war or revolution'. Here there is an explicit, open, revision of the a classical thesis of the workers' movement...”.

Second extract:

What has changed with decomposition is the possible nature of a historic defeat, which may not come through a frontal clash between the major classes so much as a slow ebbing away of the proletariat's ability to constitute itself as a class, in which case the point of no return will be harder to discern, coming as it would be before any final catastrophe. This is the deadly danger faced by the class today.

Commentary of the FICCI: “Here the opportunist, revisionist tendency 'liquidates' the class struggle. “

In fact, what is expressed in these lines of the FICCI is the deliberate intention of this regroupment to harm our organisation (for want of destroying it) by any means. Effectively the members of the FICCI, who after several decades as militants within our organisation have lost their communist convictions and in blaming the loss on the ICC for this loss are ready to stoop to the lowest acts to achieve their ends: theft, police informing (see our article on this subject “The police methods of the FICCI” on our Internet site and in our territorial press) and obviously the most shameful lies. The ICC has in no way “revised” its positions since the white knights of the FICCI are no long there to prevent it “degenerating”.

Thus the 13th Congress of the ICC adopted, with the full support of the militants who would later form the FICCI, a report on the class struggle where one can read:

The dangers of the new period for the working class and the future of its struggle cannot be underestimated. While the class struggle was definitely a barrier to war in 70s and 80s, the day to day struggle does not halt or slow down the process of decomposition. To launch a world war, the bourgeoisie would have had to have inflicted a series of major defeats on the central battalions of the working class; today the proletariat faces the more long term, but in the end no less dangerous threat of a 'death by a thousand cuts', in which the working class is increasingly ground down by the whole process to the point where it has lost the ability to affirm itself as a class, while capitalism plunges from catastrophe to catastrophe (local wars, ecological breakdown, famine, disease, etc.).” (International Review no99)

Moreover, in the report on the class struggle adopted by the 14th Congress of the ICC in the spring of 2001 (with the support of the same future members of the FICCI) one can read:

...this evolution has created a situation in which the bases of the new society may be sapped without world war or thus without the necessity to mobilise the proletariat for war. In the preceding scenario, it was a nuclear world war which would have definitively compromised the possibility of communism (...) The new scenario envisages the possibility of a slower but no less deadly slide into the situation where the proletariat would be fragmented beyond all possible repair and where the natural and economic bases for the social transformation would be equally ruined through a growth of local and regional military conflicts, ecological catastrophes and social collapse” (International Review no107).

As for the resolution adopted by this congress, it evoked in point 3 “the danger that the most insidious process of decomposition may bury the class without capitalism inflicting a frontal defeat upon it.” (International Review no106).

Were the glorious defenders of the “true ICC” (as they define themselves) asleep when these documents were adopted or did they raise their arms mechanically to give it their support? If the former then they must have been asleep for more than 11 years since in a report adopted in January 1990 by the central organ of the ICC (and which these elements supported without the least reserve) one can read: “Even if world war is no longer a threat to humanity at present, and perhaps for good, it may be replaced by the decomposition of society. This is all the more true in that, while the outbreak of world war requires the proletariat's adherence to the bourgeoisie's ideals (...) decomposition has no need at all of this adherence to destroy society. (International Review no61).

[1]. For our part, we have devoted numerous articles in our press to the critique of visions that we consider mistaken, beginning with the “innovation” of Marxism known paradoxically as “invariance”. In the name of the latter, the Bordigist current (like the ICC a current of the communist left) dogmatically refused to recognise the reality of the profound evolution of capitalist society since 1848, and thus the entry of this system into its decadent period (cf the article “The rejection of the theory of decadence” in International Review no 77 and 78).

[2]. In the following articles: “War and the ICC” in Revolutionary Perspectives (RP), “Workers' struggles in Argentina: Polemic with the ICC” in Internationalist Communist 21 and “Imperialism’s New World Order” in RP27

[3]. See the following numbers of the International Review: 48, 49, 50, 54, 55, and 56.

[4]. “Theses on decomposition” point 3, International Review, no 62 and 107.

[5]. ibid.

[6]. ibid

[7]. When we refer to Decomposition as a proper name, we are referring to the phase of decomposition, a distinct expression of the phenomenon of decomposition. The latter, as we have seen, accompanies the whole process of decadence, in a more or less marked way, and becomes dominant in the phase of decomposition.

[8] “Theses on decomposition” point 5, International Review no 62 and 107.

[9] We are well aware that an idea put forward by the Italian Communist Left doesn't give it an irrefutable Marxist character in the eyes of the reader. However, it should cause reflection among comrades and sympathisers of organisations that today defend this historical current, such as the IBRP or the different groups called International Communist Party.

[10]See the article “The proletariat in decadent capitalism” in International Review no23.

[11]. See, amongst others, the article “Why the proletariat has not yet overthrown capitalism” International Review no 103 and 104.

[12]. Report on the class struggle - the concept of the historic course in the revolutionary movement, adopted by the 14th Congress of the ICC; International Review no107.

[13]. “Lenin: the struggle for bread” (speech by Lenin at the CCE Pan Russian CCE of the Soviets) cited by Bilan no 6.

[14]. Burnham and his theory of the new “managerial” class.

[15]. “The proletariat in capitalism decadent” International Review no23

[16]. “The evolution of capitalism and the new perspective”, Communist Left of France, Internationalisme no 46 May 1952, republished in International Review no 21.

[17]. Report on the class struggle adopted by the 14th Congress of the ICC. International Review no107

[18]. The period of the “cold war” with its insane nuclear arms race already marked the end of all possibility of reconstruction following the outbreak of a third world war.

[19]. “Theses on decomposition”, point 17 International Review no62 and 107

[20]. ibid

[21]. ibid


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