Day school on the crisis - Brighton - Sat 29th Nov

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Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Nov 17 2008 20:55
Day school on the crisis - Brighton - Sat 29th Nov

2pm - 7pm at the Cowley Club (map).

Programme:
2pm-4pm: What’s happening and why
The credit crunch and the housing bubble explained in simple terms. Why is this happening? The context behind the crisis. Followed by questions/discussion.

5pm-7pm: What it means for us
What happened in the 1970s’ crisis and how it relates to today. Current people’s struggles around the world and how they are linked to the crisis.

Discussion on responses to crisis - What has happened in these situations in the past? What's going to happen this time? How can we be prepared? Does this open up opportunities for radical politics?

With tea, coffee and cake.

for more ideas: http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/

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Nov 17 2008 21:10

Whose putting this on? Is it worth traveling 3/4 hours to go to?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 17 2008 21:24

Some of the people involved with Aufheben, some of the Cowley Club milieu, some of the non-aligned class politics types. I'm hoping it will be good, and the Brighton Solfed local are hopefully attending en masse, but don't want to make a promise that makes you travel that far! Can find you somewhere to crash if you do though (pm).

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Nov 19 2008 10:10

I wish I lived in the south, this looks like it'll be great.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 19 2008 10:36

i'll make notes. i'm sure there's enough politicos in manc to pull off something similar, and i'm sure the combined might of the AF and Solfed could subsidise a speaker to travel up if there's no-one local. if it's actually any good i'll let you know and i'm sure there'll be discussion on here too.

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Nov 19 2008 10:40

Yeah I'll suggest it, its a good idea, but there might be a couple of other things coming up in the near future that'll take up a lot of time and energy. But let us know how it goes.

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Nov 21 2008 16:53

Myself and some other contacts of the ICC hope to come along... see you there.

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Nov 27 2008 23:09

ok, everytime someone says how this just oncemore confirms decadence, i'm saying the same about the holy spirit. let's try and keep things constructive eh? reasoned analysis and practical suggestions for a communist response would be good.

at least 3 of brighton solfed are coming, 2 are working and 1 has family commitments. don't know about the other one.

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Nov 27 2008 23:18

I've got nothing against you confirming the holy spirit, JK smile

I'll only mention decadence if someone says something along the lines of 'it's just another crisis in the cycle of crises' or, better still 'we'll come out of it eventually'.... (or if someone asks what my position is) and I'll always "try and be constructive", in fact I've tried my best to do that since my school teachers never stopped going on about it.....

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Nov 27 2008 23:22

well, we will come out of this crisis eventually, unless you think it's the final crisis of capitalism. i don't find the concept of 'permanent crisis' very useful to describe capitalism over almost a century of various developments, as a crisis is my definition a deviation from the norm. but yeah hopefully something concrete will come out of it, rather than just a bunch of lefties telling each other they're right tongue

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Nov 28 2008 04:36
Joseph K. wrote:
Discussion on responses to crisis - What has happened in these situations in the past?

But this begs the question whether there has been a situation like this one in the past. Sure, there have been crises, recessions, even a great depression. But a situation like this one? I don't know.

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Nov 28 2008 04:57
Joseph K. wrote:
i don't find the concept of 'permanent crisis' very useful to describe capitalism over almost a century of various developments, as a crisis is my definition a deviation from the norm.

Yes, but this begs the question of what the norm is. The ICC could argue that capitalism has deviated from the norm for the past 94 years. I think the term 'permanent dysfunction' is more accurate than 'permanent crisis', though. smile

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Nov 28 2008 06:48
waslax wrote:
Yes, but this begs the question of what the norm is. The ICC could argue that capitalism has deviated from the norm for the past 94 years.

they could, but they'd fail at statistics wink

waslax wrote:
But this begs the question whether there has been a situation like this one in the past. Sure, there have been crises, recessions, even a great depression. But a situation like this one? I don't know.

clearly every historical event is in some respects unique, but this is not to say we can't learn anything from past or recent responses to crises (the 70s, when the balance of class forces was much stronger in our favour, argentina 2001 which is clearly a different social context to the UK, the current struggle in iceland which may be informative or be rooted in specific local/historical conditions...).

it's also important to research the local conditions; our solfed local is compiling some info (won't be ready for saturday) on how the recession is likely to effect brighton in particular - employment in financial services, retail, and tourism is above the national average here and these are some of the most at risk sectors for job cuts. major employers have already started making redundancies. i think it's important to survey the local conditions as well as the global-historical ones and a theoretical grasp of what's happening. local councils and development agencies have loads of stats on this kind of thing we can use for our purposes.

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Nov 30 2008 13:03

You missed out jack, was a good day. At least 50 people attended, possibly more as the cowley club was packed. the first session was a good introduction to the immediate causes of the credit crunch and how banking works (which i found useful even though i work in the sector and have some knowledge of it). the second session gave a marxian analytical framework to understand the crisis (that profits come from labour etc). was a bit jargon-heavy but it is hard to condense marx into a 20 minute presentation for beginners. the second half of the day was more about struggles - some of the presentations strayed back into more abstract theoretical territory but there were good ones on the struggles in iceland (lots of historical background, if a bit fetishising of aggro with the cops) and a talk by a guy mentioning struggles in various places (Germany, China...) which made some really good points, like this isn't a zero-sum crisis where redundancies here mean new jobs in china, but a generalised world crisis with redundancies and attacks everwhere.

the implications of globalisation for the international circulation of struggles were discussed. myself and another guy stressed the recession will hit brighton and the south east hardest because of the financial services-bias of the local economy (25% of employment and up to 33% of GVA is in financial/business services. retail and tourism both also make up significant sectors of employment, and are expected to suffer). there's a wealth of information on this kind of stuff from local councils and development agencies, and i'd encourage people to do a bit of research as to the likely impacts locally to inform a more strategic approach.

also had some good discussions with old comrades and new in between sessions, shame there wasn't more time for discussion but i plugged libcom and encouraged people to carry on the discussions and organising. met miles from the ICC, who seemed sound, made some sensible points, didn't mention the 'd-word' and came off definitely less mental than the guy who insisted the government owns a supermarket, and the petrol pumps, and should 'just raise prices to solve the crisis' (?!). there may well be a follow-up event organised for different groups to co-ordinate their activities, and discuss further practical responses.

i was pleasantly surprised at the turnout - brighton has a large lefty milieu but rarely do you get activists and communists in the same room reading from the same page. in fact haven't seen that spectrum of people in one place since the anti-war movement in 2003. whether any similar movement or wider politicisiation will happen like it did then remains to be seen, i guess we'll see as the crisis radiates out from the financial sector and becomes a material reality for more people, not just something on the news.

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Nov 30 2008 17:11

This happened on the same day Mute had a talk, if anyone went there would be good to hear about

Quote:
Hillel Ticktin's reinterpretation of Marx's ideas enabled him to foresee the disintegration of Soviet Stalinism years before it occurred. Since then he has argued that capitalism itself is in a state of inexorable decline. During the 20th century, world wars, reformism, Stalinism and recently the credit boom successfully maintained capitalism by keeping the working class passive. But does the end of the credit boom mark the end of capitalism's survival strategies? Will the coming recession spark a new working class movement? Come and join the debate.
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Nov 30 2008 18:35

I agree with JK that it was a good day overall. I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of people there - and also the fact that many of them stayed all throughout the different sessions. I was also heartened by the seriousness of the questions and points that were posed - although I have to say that the seriousness of the atmosphere was rather punctured by the last presenters 'jokiness'. I have to disagree with JK on that one - I really didn't know what that guy was doing there. He seemed to be saying the problems in Iceland were all the fault of other countries (notably the US) foisting debt onto them - oh, and the IMF area really nasty organisation, best to be avoided at all costs...

Regarding the organisation of the day, it was a bit ambitious to have so many speakers and different sessions. I asked JK at the half way break why the presenters were talking so long? They were supposed to be 30 minutes followed by 30 mins discussion (although the format seemed to be a 'question and answer' one, which tends to inhibit a free discussion - why should everyone pose questions solely to the presenter?) There tended to be about 10-15 mins left for discussion. I can see that it was also difficult for the presenters to necessarily know what level to pitch the presentation at. Overall I would say that the old maxim 'less is more' could have been usefully applied here...

The only real criticism I would make is based on my frustration that there was no real 'conclusion' or summary of the day, an attempt to try and draw together points of agreement, points raised for future discussion etc. It tends to feel like 'ok, we've come together, had a discussion, listened to several differnt points o f view - way you go now till next time'

Quote:
met miles from the ICC, who seemed sound, made some sensible points,

Thanks smile Although I think my comrades also made some pretty decent points, as did you.

Quote:
didn't mention the 'd-word'

I really don't know what the relevance of this is - what, if I had mentioned 'decadence' that would have made me 'more mental'? After all, for the ruling class, we're all 'mental' for thinking there's an alternative to capitalism...

Quote:
and came off definitely less mental than the guy who insisted the government owns a supermarket, and the petrol pumps, and should 'just raise prices to solve the crisis' (?!)

Well, you gotta have standards, no?

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the next meeting(s)....

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Nov 30 2008 19:15
miles wrote:
I really don't know what the relevance of this is

was just nice to hear an ICCer making some solid points without the metaphysical baggage wink

miles wrote:
I have to disagree with JK on that one - I really didn't know what that guy was doing there. He seemed to be saying the problems in Iceland were all the fault of other countries (notably the US) foisting debt onto them - oh, and the IMF area really nasty organisation, best to be avoided at all costs...

i think he's coming more out of the anarchist-activist milieu than the communist one, and his analysis was shaped accordingly. however i thought a lot of the historical context was useful, even if he seemed to want to frame the current protests as 'national liberation' against the US/IMF as much as anything, apparently not seeing anything problematic with that. i don't think that there's much we can take from the iceland protests, other than people sometimes react to economic collapse with spontaneous anger and a mish-mash of incompatible ideas.

ernie
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Nov 30 2008 20:30

Sounds an excellent meeting, good that there was such a turn out, even better that there will be more such meetings. Are the presentations available? Perhaps in future meetings it could be possible to take minutes in order that those not there can read the discussions and make written comments.

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Nov 30 2008 20:41
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i think he's coming more out of the anarchist-activist milieu than the communist one, and his analysis was shaped accordingly. however i thought a lot of the historical context was useful, even if he seemed to want to frame the current protests as 'national liberation' against the US/IMF as much as anything, apparently not seeing anything problematic with that. i don't think that there's much we can take from the iceland protests, other than people sometimes react to economic collapse with spontaneous anger and a mish-mash of incompatible ideas

yes, I agree with that. Anyrate, it was good to meet you and hope to see you again sometime.

raw
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Nov 30 2008 21:54

I went to Hillel's talk, there were around 60 - 70 people and was fairly heavy though he did manage to communicate complex turns more simpler. Hillel Tickpin was apparently attributed with being one of the first marxist economists to predict the fall of the stalinists regime. He has not taken the view that every crisis that has occured was the final crisis, and explained that capitalist economics has always found ways to restabilise and reform itself - he now says that the mechanisms that Capitalist economies has used to stabilise itself no longer exists to the extent they had existed in the past. These mechanisms were the war economy, the reserve army of labour and ....forgot the other!

He made the anaylisis of capital flight from manafucaturing to finance to service. He suggests that there is upwards of $527 Trillion dollars contained in the financial markets and banks that cannot be invested to accumulating more capital.

Finally, he does not know how capitalism can move on from this - he thinks that above and beyond other financial crisises - the entire system is faced with a historical break-down. He did clearly state that he was never fooled about the previous crisis being final or to the extent of this one - but he admits that what we are faced with is historically unparrelled in capitalism.

Sorry for the skecthy feedback, the lecture was difficult to take it all in and I did get very, very drunk afterwards

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Nov 30 2008 23:49

Cheers for that.

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Nov 30 2008 23:58
ernie wrote:
Sounds an excellent meeting, good that there was such a turn out, even better that there will be more such meetings. Are the presentations available? Perhaps in future meetings it could be possible to take minutes in order that those not there can read the discussions and make written comments.

the talks and discussions were recorded (audio), i presume these will appear online, and if not i'll suggest they're put up. i know comrades elsewhere are considering organising similar events so this could be very useful; the aufheben guy's explanation of the credit crunch and how the modern banking system works was very useful and pretty clear.

no1
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Dec 1 2008 12:55

I thought the day school was pretty good, for the reasons others have mentioned, but also mainly because it brought people together and showed that we're thinking along similar lines. I thought it would have been good to try and relate the theoretical part more to our every day experiences, make it more tangible, and to show how the theory can help us understand better what's happening and point the direction to concrete action (quite noticeable that all the speakers were male btw). There should be more meetings like this that further develop what the day school started.

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Dec 9 2008 09:31

Comments on the day school from one of the ICC sympathisers who came along:

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2008/12/brighton-day-school

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Dec 10 2008 10:01
the ICC wrote:
one of the unanswered questions of the day was whether ultimately we are seeing today a cyclical crisis of the capitalist system, in other words essentially a crisis of growth, or whether in fact we are seeing a crisis of a system in its death throes. Without answering this basic question, we cannot be clear about the questions of strategy and tactics for todays and future struggles.

out of interest, do the ICC think this is a crisis of a system in its death throes? because in normal english, justaposing a 'crisis of a system in its death throes' to a cyclical crisis of growth would suggest you think this is the final crisis of capitalism, since a subsequent upswing and resumption of accumulation/economic growth would make it look rather er... cyclical, whereas death throes tend to be... terminal.

in any case, i'm not sure how any of this has implications for strategy and tactics. i don't think this is a crisis of a system in its death throes, should i stop calling for mass assemblies and run for parliament?

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Dec 10 2008 12:48

I think this is a language problem. This is not the "final crisis" of capitalism but a moment in an epoch of long-term historic decline. The Great Depression demonstrated that capitalism can, in the absence of a proletarian threat, limp on through very serious crises, without the system necessarily being destroyed. One thing to remember about the Great Depression though was that there was no "spontaeneous" recovery - it was only a combination of war and state intervention that finally allowed it to regenerate. The consequence was an escalation of barbarism, however - and some aspects of this do directly threaten the survival of the system: war, ecological disaster, social breakdown, etc. So it's perfectly possible to conceive of cyclical crises taking place in the context of a wider secular decline at all levels of social life (which doesn't preclude occasional respites).

Like all previous social systems, capitalism has a finite end. As Marx said in the Manifesto, this can either come through a revolution or the destruction of the society in question and "the common ruin of the contending classes". We can already see in embryo the form this"common ruin" could take in the current period.

As for strategy and tactics, if capitalism is still a progressive system that offers the best framework to advance the productive forces of humanity then why get rid of it? Best to work to mitigate its worst aspects and let it get on with the job. If it is not the best framework, if it now constitutes a fetter that must be burst asunder for humanity to progress, then reforming it is hopeless. The question then becomes is how do we know which condition is the case? What phenomena should be expected from a social system that has become a fetter and is capitalism displaying those phenomena?

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Dec 10 2008 13:09
Demogorgon303 wrote:
I think this is a language problem.

indeed

Joseph K. wrote:
in normal english, justaposing a 'crisis of a system in its death throes' to a cyclical crisis of growth would suggest you think this is the final crisis of capitalism, since a subsequent upswing and resumption of accumulation/economic growth would make it look rather er... cyclical, whereas death throes tend to be... terminal.

if you think growth and accumulation can resume, then by your own arguments it's a cyclical crisis (however it is historically situated). it seems you want to toy with hostage-to-fortune eschatology whilst moving the goalposts when called on it. when capitalism is finally overthrown, you'll be right in the manner of a broken clock.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
As for strategy and tactics, if capitalism is still a progressive system that offers the best framework to advance the productive forces of humanity then why get rid of it?

there is a false opposition here. something doesn't have to be in decline to be opposed to our interests. my boss is in great health, but i still oppose him. the nazi party were bad news for the working class even during their ascendancy. capitalist social relations do not serve our needs regardless of whether or not they are in inexorable decline. you're mixing up 'progressive' as a value-judgement with 'not in inerxorable decline' as a historical one.

the incompatibility of capital's interests and our interests does not require any particular historical trajectory, and it's perfectly consistent to argue for strategies like mass assemblies without declaring the end is nigh.* thus i think it's more constructive to focus on precisely the required strategies and tactics than the metaphysical framework you've constructed and which you consider it a failing in others not to mention.

* at some unspecified point in the future

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Dec 10 2008 15:38
Quote:
if you think growth and accumulation can resume, then by your own arguments it's a cyclical crisis (however it is historically situated). it seems you want to toy with hostage-to-fortune eschatology whilst moving the goalposts when called on it. when capitalism is finally overthrown, you'll be right in the manner of a broken clock.

I'm hesitant to speak for the ICC on this because I'm not sure I understand what they think about cycles but as far as I can understand they do think cyclical movements occur in decadent capitalism, just that they are driven by different factors.

Personally, I've never denied it's a cyclical crisis. It seems obvious to me there is some cyclical movement otherwise everything would be same all the time! This is why I think it's a mistake to pose the question in terms of cyclical crisis vs. death throes. There's no reason why death throes can't also be cyclical wink

The real question here is whether the accumulation cycle functions in the same way as it did in previous eras. As I mentioned above, there seem to have been no "spontaneous" recoveries for capitalism since the Great Depression. The post-war boom was built on the "Keynesian Dispensation". Every recovery from recession since has been managed in one form or other by the state which is now reaching unprecedented levels. Can we at least agree that something has changed in the core processes of capitalism to necessitate this?

Quote:
there is a false opposition here. something doesn't have to be in decline to be opposed to our interests. my boss is in great health, but i still oppose him. the nazi party were bad news for the working class even during their ascendancy.

I think these are false analogies. Neither the health of your boss or the Nazi party has any bearing on capitalism as a whole. You may as well point to the budget supermarkets (doing very well at the moment) and say there's no recession.

Quote:
capitalist social relations do not serve our needs regardless of whether or not they are in inexorable decline. you're mixing up 'progressive' as a value-judgement with 'not in inerxorable decline' as a historical one

This is an ahistorical judgement. Capitalism was, in fact, essential for the proletariat's existence because it was capitalism that created it. It is also capitalism that destroyed feudalism and created the historical basis for a truly unified world economy which is a precondition for communism. It has also created the most advanced form of socialised production in history, another precondition for communism. Today, despite having created such an economy it prevents its full unification because it preserves the commodity form. I think it's quite obvious that capitalism served the ultimate needs of humanity at one point in history, unless you think the world communist revolution was the answer to the decay of feudalism in the 16th or 17th centuries.

Quote:
the incompatibility of capital's interests and our interests does not require any particular historical trajectory, and it's perfectly consistent to argue for strategies like mass assemblies without declaring the end is nigh

I repeat my earlier question: "if capitalism is still a progressive system that offers the best framework to advance the productive forces of humanity then why get rid of it?". The reason why this question is vital is because it answers the question asked by other social classes - what's in it for us? The bourgeoise was able to answer this question positively when it faced down the feudal classes - at first, it promised the working classes freedom from serfdom and slavery ("city air is free air" was the moto of the newly proletarianised serf on the run from the manor) and later incredible advances in the standard of living for the ordinary person.

The proletariat has to answer this question asked by the rest of humanity today. If capitalism can still deliver the promises that ensured its rule in previous centuries, i.e. it can continue to assure the development of the productive forces in a progressive manner, the rest of humanity (not to mention the proletariat itself) is hardly going to risk upsetting the apple-cart beyond skirmishes over the redistribution of wealth within a generally bearable framework.

An all-out assault against the state in all countries of the world, followed by the radical transformation of the root and branch of society on a global scale can only take place when the majority of the proletariat and significant proportions of the rest of humanity are convinced that capitalism can no longer offer them anything. This is a necessary precondition for such a struggle.

If we're going to call for mass assemblies and revolution then we need to be able to demonstrate why revolution is necessary why things have come to this and that there can be no turning back. Workers can move massively into struggle without necessarily understanding the implications of their own actions. One of the big problems during the German Revolution was that large prorportions of the proletariat believed that it was possible to simply end the war and return to "normality" - as a result the mass assemblies were easily ideological prey for the social democrats who offered precisely that along with a little bit of "socialism" thrown in. In Russia, where there was far less optimism about what capitalism had to offer, the workers were much more militant.

Without such conviction, the masses will not push forward their revolutionary struggle. And without some objective basis for such a conviction then there's no reason for the masses to believe this other than an appeal to idealism which, quite frankly, is not going to win over the majority of people as long as they can feed their families.

Fast forwarding to the present, if this crisis is simply a momentary relapse in an otherwise upwards trajectory then we have no hope. One of my friends, who is just becoming interested in politics put this to me quite starkly the other day: "It all goes in cycles doesn't it, we've always had boom bust. As long as people are prepared to accept two years of painful bust for every 8 years or so of boom, then you haven't got a hope". Unfortunately, he's quite right.

So it is very important to understand the historical context this crisis is taking place in. If we're saying that people should take up arms against the state, arrest their MPs, and all the rest of it just because of a recession which'll be over in a couple of years they will (quite rightly perhaps) cross over the other side of the street and thank Christ they managed to avoid being ensnared by the nutters! Far better to demand Obama and Brown get a wiggle on and help out those people hit worst than fighting battles in the street! The problem at the moment is that most people really do think this.

But, if capitalism is dying, if the ability of the bourgeoisie to hold back the crisis is diminishing, if workers are now going to be pulverised regardless of "recovery" or "recession", if society is disintegrating into a bloodbath of war, poverty and chaos, if the only way to stop this is to rid of capitalism then there is real reason for battles in the street. The bourgeoisie has gone to enormous lengths to disguise this reality from the proletariat at all costs, because it knows this is the case.

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Dec 10 2008 17:04
Demogorgon303 wrote:
There's no reason why death throes can't also be cyclical wink

The real question here is whether the accumulation cycle functions in the same way as it did in previous eras (...)

This is an ahistorical judgement (...) I think it's quite obvious that capitalism served the ultimate needs of humanity at one point in history, unless you think the world communist revolution was the answer to the decay of feudalism in the 16th or 17th centuries.

you're equating the possibility of communism with inexorable decline. the two are not the same thing. at all. there's nothing ahistorical about asserting the contradiction of capital's needs and the proletariats, it's a contradiction constitutive to the relation. pre-1914, capitalism was driven to develop the forces of production, unify the world market etc, at great human cost to workers. post-1914, capitalism has continued to develop the forces of production, unify the world market etc, at great human cost to workers. rejecting an arbitrary division into rise and fall is not ahistorical. capitalism is always progessive and regressive at the same time, but the specific interaction of each is historically contingent (so the 20th century brought the golden age of medicine and the internet, and two world wars). the "incredible advances in the standard of living for the ordinary person" you cite were won in blood, not some side effect of a teleological arc. if all 'decadence' means is 'communism is possible' then there would be no disagreement, since you're on a communist board we all obviously think it is.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
An all-out assault against the state in all countries of the world, followed by the radical transformation of the root and branch of society on a global scale can only take place when the majority of the proletariat and significant proportions of the rest of humanity are convinced that capitalism can no longer offer them anything. This is a necessary precondition for such a struggle.

one only need note the pareto distribution of wealth in the world to realise that significant concessions are possible from the global bourgeoisie to the global proletariat, should our struggles force them. you seem to think this very possibility means we should all be social democrats. but whether they are possible or not we have to struggle in our own interests. if concessions are granted, it's the job of communists to argue it's not enough, that the bourgeoisie are running scared and that we have a world to win if only we want it.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
without some objective basis for such a conviction then there's no reason for the masses to believe this other than an appeal to idealism which, quite frankly, is not going to win over the majority of people as long as they can feed their families.

are you saying a population with food on the table will never make communism? i think in a situation capital can't afford to throw us bread we're rather too late. it's not a binary between idealism and necessity. workers have agency and make choices. in a situation of temporary dual power, workers councils etc, there is a choice to move decisively to smash the state and communise the means of production, or take whatever desparate concessions are on the table and step back from the brink. rhetorical appeals to neccessity (as well as halfway revolutionaries being their own gravediggers) may help tip the balance, but you can only declare historical necessity after the fact. history is not like some individual person, which uses men to achieve its ends. history is nothing but the actions of men in pursuit of their ends.

dismissing agency as idealism allows one to step back from difficult questions as to what exactly communists should do to advance the things we advocate, with all the unavoidable contradictions involved in such practice (such as communist shop steward comrades i know opening up meetings to all workers regardless of union, or anarcho-syndicalists trying to build industrial networks). communist practice is reduced to sideline agitating waiting for history and 'the masses' to take their inexerable course, with a triumphant declaration of historical neccessity made after the facts of struggles.

in any case, my point is that the metaphysical narrative of rise and fall is not "the real question here", the real question is what we actually do, to which all this circular argument is of no import (because it does not follow that if you do not think capitalism is in its "death throes" you should try and reform it; you should try and instigate its death throes!). there seems to be broad agreement on mass meetings etc, so the real question is how we advance these in an atomised and defeated class, not which particular narrative convinces us of their necessity. i won't presuade my workmates to all come to the pub together and discuss the drip-drip redundancies by telling them capitalism is in its death throes (though maybe i could persuade them of it in the style of an anabaptist prophet, and make myself a hostage to fortune), but i might by appealing to the evident fact that alone there's nothing we can do about them, but together we might just have a chance of at least upping the severance pay to tide us over while we find something else. material interests not metaphysical necessities are the order of the day.

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Alf
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Dec 11 2008 08:46

I agree entirely that it's possible (and necessary) to work together whether or not we agree about decadence.

However, when we're defending communism down the pub, I would say that a fair number of our fellow workers will already have a pretty strong feeling that the capitalist system is absolutely fucked. All we left communists are doing is putting that intuition in a broader historical context.

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 11 2008 09:31

it depends what you mean by "absolutely fucked." i mean a few of us (co-workers) went to the pub last week to meet a former workmate who was made redundant a couple of weeks ago. when we were discussing the accounts director who's been brought in as a cost-cutting hitman, i relayed the (true) story he'd told me on the train about the time he was employed by a factory to lay off half the staff and had to have his car escorted by police as it got pelted with eggs and stuff at the gates. one of my workmates replied "now i'm not being against capitalism or anything, but they're absolutely ruthless." the fact the disclaimer was necessary says something about the opening of a space for questioning not just the bosses, but the whole social system.

now i reckon i probably could convince at least a few of my workmates this is "the death throes of capitalism", since i'm fairly articulate, trusted, and i'm often asked about inflation/recession and the like because i know a bit about it. but i'd be making myself a hostage to fortune and completely discredit communist arguments when the upswing kicks in. so instead i'm just trying to stress the 'us and them' nature of the cuts, how we're being laid off one by one to cut costs when the 3 directors took dividends roughly the size of the whole wage bill for 40 or so staff last year. we lose our jobs and our boss still drives an aston martin etc.

i mean there's no culture of collective action, and the odds are we're going to get absolutely screwed. the bosses have got us stitched up with a drip-drip of reduandancies one by one, first the less popular incompetent new staff, most recently two of the longest serving and popular ones. this precludes the possibility of a 'spontaneous' mass meeting following mass redundancies. we're atomised and weak. but i think a rhetorical appeal to death throes would be ultimately counter-productive; really what we need is an inspiring example of collective action to show what is possible, but of course everyone's in that boat. in the meantime it's a case of trying to see it as us and them and looking out for each other as much as we can, which mostly means posting condolences on laid off co-workers facebooks sad