Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?

The Falsehoods of the International Communist Current (ICC) — A Critique

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.

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

  3. The national question before and after 1914 

    1. The national question before 1914

    2. The national question after 1914

    3. Theoretical framework and national liberation struggles

    4. The Four Curses of the ICC

    5. The National Question and the ICC’s theory of accumulation in face of the facts

 

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– or still do so; the institutional integration of so-called “left” organizations, including the trade unions; the outdated character of “revolutionary parliamentarism”; self-management as self-exploitation of the waged workers, etc.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., September 2020 (Ch. I & II); June 2021 (Ch. II). Reviewed by the author.

Latest additions:

  • Index of graphs, Ch. III (July 2021)

 

 

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

(Click below on page 2)

 


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); currently 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?”); currently only available in French.

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

  1. Could i just ask for an explanation of the theory being presented here about decadence/obsolesence just beginning now and what your explanation is for the changes that took place in 1914 please. This is new to me and if there are previous texts on the topic, links to them would be good. As i said previous the stats presented by CMcL do i think reject the ICCs version of decadence but i dont think they necessarily rule out obsolescence or social/political decay so i am interesting to hear your theorisations of periods. thanks

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