In Defense of Historical Materialism (Part II)

5.4 On ‘Cancerous Growth’

Link’s maintenance of the dogma of the decadence of capitalism in 1914 led him to make a second concession by adhering to the ICC’s concept of “cancerous growth”: “Concerning the issue of the growth of the Chinese economy I am not particularly objecting to the term cancerous growth but I don’t think this term should just be applied to China. (…) Firstly I think it is more appropriate to call all growth by capitalism cancerous not just China’s.” (Link). This concept has recently been put forward by this organization in an attempt to hide all the contradictions in its analyses: “growth” because this organization is obliged to recognize a significant development of the productive forces in the twentieth century, particularly in China, whereas it had always claimed that this was an absolute impossibility (1) … but “cancerous” because the dogma of decadence in 1914 must be maintained. Thus, according to this organization, the formidable economic growth of China for more than four decades would be the prototypical example of what would be a “cancerous growth”.

Let us then examine some essential dimensions of the productive forces from the point of view of the exploited, such as real wages, life expectancy, the quantity of the population, its size…. Indeed, the interest of such statistics is that they represent integrated indicators of a multitude of aspects of life, including material ones, and their mode of calculation does not suffer much discussion. Now, the evolution of the Chinese population and its life expectancy are all the more remarkable since they have almost stagnated during a century (1850-1950) to more than double for the population and almost triple for the life expectancy by gaining about fifty years – that is to say, by passing from 30 to 80 years (see graph 26 below)! Finally, the icing on the cake, the average body-length of the Chinese has only increased. (2)

Graph26 - Life-Expectancy-China-1850-2020
Graph 26: China: Life Expectancy from Birth (1850 – 2020) – Source:

In other words, if a country can rapidly double its population, while almost tripling its life expectancy and ensuring equally large increases in production and material income (see graph 27 below), then long live cancerous growth!

Graph27 - Average real wages and earnings per worker and hour worked_1952-2016
Graph 27: Average real wages and earnings per worker and hour worked (1952 – 2016) – Source: Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, nr. 5 (2020) p. 266–278.

Not only will a Chinese person, whose real salary has increased three to five times in four decades and who has gained about 50 years more since 1950, give no credence to the diagnoses of “doctor” ICC, but he will rightly call him a charlatan. A Chinese wage earner living 50 years longer in 2020 than in 1950, who has seen his real salary increase significantly and who only dreams of buying his next smartphone … will cry long live cancerous growth !! And for good reason as, medically, a cancer corresponds to the death of human cells and the death of life: does living 50 more years correspond to that? Link redefined historical materialism, maybe he also redefined what a cancer is with the help of doctor ICC?! In any case, if cancer is redefined by claiming that living 50 more years is a “cancerous growth”, then there will be many candidates to catch that cancer!

Next page: 5.5 Marxism, Decadence and Nature


1 “The period of capitalist decadence is characterised by the impossibility of any new industrialised nations emerging. The countries which didn’t make up for lost time before World War I were subsequently doomed to stagnate in a state of total underdevelopment, or to remain chronically backward in relation to the countries at the top of the sandcastle. This has been the case with big nations like India or China, whose ‘national independence’ or even their so-called ‘revolution’ (read the setting up of a draconian form of state capitalism) didn’t allow them to break out of underdevelopment or destitution.” (The proletarian struggle under decadence, International Review No. 23, 4th quarter 1980)

2 Source : NCD-Risk.

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