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– or still do so; the institutional integration of so-called “left” organizations, including the trade unions; the outdated character of “revolutionary parliamentarism”; self-management as self-exploitation of the waged workers, etc.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

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

  1. We received the following reply from the author to the three foregoing comments:
    (November 15, 2020)

    Thank you for critical reading of my contributions. They are welcome. Here are some quick comments to clarify some topics. Hoping that my poor English doesn’t create more misunderstandings.

    My critical contribution begins by reaffirming the relevance of the Marxist concepts of ascendancy and obsolescence for understanding the evolution of modes of production. What I question is the diagnosis of obsolescence of capitalism from 1914.

    Read the full comment on the topics pages

  2. Fredocorvo commented on Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?
    November 16, 2020:

    With this answer F.C. makes the following remark about the way Pannekoek is interpreted, an interpretation with far-reaching consequences:

    C.Mcl. ignores the fact that in “De economische noodzakelijkheid van het imperialisme” part V, p. 280 (never translated from Dutch), Pannekoek assumes that capitalism comes to an end when it can no longer draw on an industrial reserve army. Consequently, C.Mcl has not examined this, whereas there are indications that the part of the population expropriated from its means of subsistence, but which cannot be included in the capitalist production process, is increasing in certain regions and possibly worldwide, rather than decreasing. See for further explanation in “When in China a butterfly flaps its wings”: Instead of a Foreword on Controversies. [The postscript is available there in pdf]

  3. inter-rev (Aníbal) has commented on Fredo Corvo and C.Mcl
    (Monday November 23):

    – The decline of an economic and social formation such as the capitalist one occurs when its historical trends of growth and its catastrophic consequences pile up in a context of serious problems to maintain or continue its accumulation. This leads to strong devaluation crises, inducing even greater difficulties. In other words, a general trend that is different from and contrary to that which characterizes its historical rise, with its dynamics of economic development (the latter has been the subject of several studies). The upward trend of the economy is intrinsically contradictory, is not permanent and necessarily generates partial crises and general crises of capitalism.

    Read the full comment on the topics pages

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