Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?

The Falsehoods of the International Communist Current (ICC) — A critique (Ch.1 & 2)

The following contribution challenges a fundamental programmatic position shared by several groups of the contemporary communist Left, in continuity with the beginnings of the III. (or Communist) International, namely that capitalism has entered its phase of decline as an historical mode of production since the outbreak of World War 1. It does so following the method that Marx applied in his (unfinished) magnum opus ‘Capital’, comparing the evolution of capitalism before and since 1914 at the hand of documented empirical data. These are summarized in a series of graphs and contrasted with the affirmations by one of the most outspoken protagonists of this position.

Introduction

Formally the ICC defends a series of pertinent political positions like the capitalist nature of all countries that have pretended to be ‘socialist’ – or still do so; the institutional integration of so-called “left” organizations, including the trade unions; the outdated character of “revolutionary parliamentarism”; self-management as self-exploitation of the waged workers, etc.

  1. However, the theoretic framework that supports them is completely obsolete, because it frontally contradicts the facts; it is anachronistic according to historical materialism and beyond the Marxist critique of political economy. It results in a sum of explanations without objective foundations; in reality idealist ones.

  2. As a consequence, it implies dangerous political aberrations, for instance on the immediate struggles and the so-called impossibility to obtain real and sustainable reforms since 1914; (1) the impossibility of real national developments in the 20th Century; an idealist conception of human nature and morals; (2) productivist visions of historical materialism; (3) not taking into account objective divisions within the working class, whose origins are not specific of class societies (like for example gender); an idealized vision of the first societies…

  3. Consequently, this theoretical framework has to be replaced by a corpus with really scientific foundations, one that establishes a new coherent whole in which material reality and theory are conjugated and respond to one another.

  4. This implies to amend certain basic positions of the ICC (4) in the light of the evolution of Capitalism, like on the national question, or the place occupied by the reformist forces since the First World War and the defeat of the insurrectional movements from 1917 to 1923.

  5. Moreover, two positions of the ICC are only stated without really being defended by it, like the non-substitution of the workers’ councils by the party, and the respect of non-violence when deciding on divergences within the working class.

  6. Finally, numerous questions are either absent from its basic corpus or are only marginally treated, albeit they are crucial: gender, human nature, the relationship with nature, new technologies, the changes in the composition of the proletariat, the period of transition, ecology, etc.

Our objective here is not to develop all these points, that will be treated in subsequent contributions, but only to treat the first one, in order to demonstrate the incoherence of its basic credo – the decadence of capitalism since 1914 – in its version inherited from the Gauche Communiste de France (5) since the Second World War, and which, essentially, has not changed one iota. Well, this framework, which at the time already was shaky on many points, is totally outdated today.

C.Mcl., August 14, 2019

Source: Les impostures du CCI (Courant Communiste International)

Translation: H.C., October 2020.

Update November 6, 2020: added Chapter II

 


Notes

1 Cf. C.Mcl., How to understand ‘May 1968’ in France? (Abridged version, September 23, 2018, also in ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.2#5, October – November 2018). The full version appeared in French on May 11, 2018 at the ‘Controverses’ website: Mai 68 : la signification des luttes de 1966 à 1972, and in ‘Controverses’ no. 5, May 2018.

2 Cf. C. Mcl., Morale et matérialisme historique – Ière partie (‘Controverses’ no. 2, September 2009); only available in French.

3 Cf. Matérialisme historique et dialectique – La société se complexifie-t-elle au cours du temps? in Controverses No. 5, May 2018 [“Historical and dialectical materialism – Does Society become more complex over time?”]

Contents

  1.  A Brake on the Productive Forces since 1914 – or their Acceleration?

    1. Historical materialism

    2. A brake on the absolute production of wealth since 1914?

    3. A brake on the relative production (per inhabitant) of wealth since 1914?

    4. A brake on the population since 1914?

    5. Production versus distribution of wealth

    6. The distribution of incomes before and after 1914

    7. Life expectancy and the body length of inhabitants before and after 1914

    8. The development of the working class since 1914

  2. A Halt to Real and Sustainable Reforms after 1914 – or their Accentuation?

    1. Real wages and working time before and after 1914

    2. The rate of exploitation of the wage earners before and after 1914

    3. Unemployment before and after 1914

    4. On the nature and function of the Trade Unions since 1914


 

Accepted Commentaries Below

(Extracts)

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8 thoughts on “Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?”

  1. I would like to start of by absolutely agreeing with CM’s presentation of empirical facts about the developments during the past century. The ICC in particular has had major problems recognising what has been actually happening in the world economy because it is stuck in Luxemburg’s theories about accumulation being dependant on non-capitalist markets.

    I however disagree with the interpretation that leads to a rejection of the idea of decadence and indeed the suggestion that the ICC presents falsehoods.

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  2. fredocorvo commented on Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?
    November 13, 2020:

    The author of this (and other) works in progress, has set himself the task to confront the positions of the ICC with reality. In doing so, he is contributing to a necessary revision of the heroic effort of the ICC to synthesize the historical contributions of the Italian, German-Dutch, and other Communist Lefts. I can only confirm the urgent need for this work.

    Unfortunately, he does so in partly self-chosen isolation from other comrades and from the work of analyzing present reality, taking a position, and contributing to the actual class struggle, even with the present limited possibilities. He has defended this double isolation with reference to Lenin that withdrew from the life of his party to write Materialism and Empiriocriticism; an exceptionally bad example, and in no way justifying C.Mcl.’s retreat, that has reached now about five years. Unfortunately, the dangers of this isolation from class struggle are starting to become evident when his latest publications ignore the specter of generalizing inter-imperialist wars that are haunting the proletariat, from the Middle East to Indochina, and from the Caucasus to Libya.

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  3. Link commented on Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?
    November 13, 2020:

    In terms of CM’s piece, ive reread some and it appears i may well have misunderstood the first part of the intro and i can now see in the section on Brake on the Productive Forces that there is agreement with the idea of periods of ascendancy and decline in capitalism. Im afraid i got that wrong but i still cannot find anywhere that actually agrees that 1914 was a turning point and that capitalism is in decadence now. In fact items 2 – 6 of the introduction are full of criticisms of the ICCs positions about the political consequences of decadence eg reformism, leftism, national question, national development, identity politics, workers councils.

    If i am misunderstanding this, please let me know, but my interpretation of the text is that it must be saying capitalism is still in its ascendant period?

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