The period, 1924-1967

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Jan 8 2007 17:31
WeTheYouth wrote:
I reckon the ICC is gonna post and say that they was wrong after all.

bollocks mate, since when facts should come ahead of a good theory?

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Jan 8 2007 18:09

What is it we are going to say we were wrong about? That capitalism in crisis tends to head towards war?

posi
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Jan 8 2007 21:40
Alf wrote:
posi: To be honest I don’t altogether understand your question about “what make things periods”. Why is it “opaque” to talk about periods? How else can you identify broad historical trends and overall tendencies rather than simply piling up collections of facts?

Look, no one disagrees on the question of whether there are trends of certain historical motifs: that mass strikes, for example, are more common in certain times and places than others. So it makes perfect sense to say something along the lines of "during times in which proletarianisation is rapid, due, for example to 'globalisation', capitalist reliance on particular groups of workers will be relatively low and hence, working class industrial strength will, in general, be low", or something like that. Statements like this are fine, helpful.

My main problem with the left-communist analysis (as I understand it, from yourself, Lurch, baboon, etc.) is that your statements about periods have no equivalent to the italicised phrase in the underlined sentence above. Why was 1924-67 a period of defeat? Because Saturn was high in the ides of March (or something)? Since you're so keen on being Marxist, where is the materialist underpinning to your story?

My second problem with the theory is a consequence of the first. This is that it necessitates an idealist picture of the conditions facing the proletariat. Because no materialist underpinning is given to the "periods" you posit, it's impossible to explain why they might apply more, or less, or not at all to a set of workers in one industry, or situation, or country but not in another. Sure, Marx says the proletariat only exists 'world historically'.

Marx, in the German Ideology, wrote:
Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples “all at once” and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with communism. Moreover, the mass of propertyless workers – the utterly precarious position of labour – power on a mass scale cut off from capital or from even a limited satisfaction and, therefore, no longer merely temporarily deprived of work itself as a secure source of life – presupposes the world market through competition. The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically, just as communism, its activity, can only have a “world-historical” existence. World-historical existence of individuals means existence of individuals which is directly linked up with world history [my emphasis].

Nothing in this quotation says anything to the effect that the proletariat in every location faces the same conditions to immediate struggle. Marx's definition of the proletariat as existing world historically, as emphasised by his final sentence, is only supposed to establish that every proletarian is 'directly linked up with world history', not that they are 'directly linked' in the same way, or even that the various direct linkages might not have contradictory implications for the proletarians concerned.

The passage just says what we all accept anyway, that the social revolution must be a world-historical event; and that the proletariat must be constituted globally for it to occur. Obviously, at the moment, the consitution of the proletariat as global actor is not complete. Sure, no part of the class is an island wholly unto itself; but neither is there any entity with a unified experience to be part of.

I can't find the minutes of the League from September 1850 which you refer to online; are they available?

In any case, I asked for evidence from Marx that he believed, in the 1850s, that capitalism was entering a phase, as you put it, of 'global expansion' (your phrase). And it wasn't forthcoming; unless by 'global expansion', you just mean 'growth in the productive forces'? The relevant sentences being

those in which Marx wrote:
wherein the productive forces of bourgeois society arc developing as luxuriantly as it is possible for them to do within bourgeois relationships, a real revolution is out of the question. Such a revolution is possible only in periods when both of these factors — the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production — come into opposition with each other. [my emphasis]

Lookking at that section of the Class Struggles in France, though, does show that Marx did want to analyse how the proletariat in different countries were differently effected by economic events, and did want to specify - unlike yourself - the material bases of these effects.

Marx wrote:
In spite of the industrial and commercial prosperity that France momentarily enjoys, the mass of the people, the twenty-five million peasants, suffer from a great depression. The good harvests of the past few years have forced the prices of corn much lower even than in England, and the position of the peasants under such circumstances, in debt, sucked dry by usury and crushed by taxes, must be anything but splendid.

[...]

First, the Continent exports to England disproportionately more than to any other country. This export to England, however, depends on the latter's position, especially in regard to the overseas market. England exports disproportionately more to overseas countries than to the whole Continent, so that the quantity of continental exports to those countries is always dependent on England's foreign trade. Hence when crises on the Continent produce revolutions there first, the bases for them are always laid in England.

Third, it puts you in a position of making contortionist claims about the significance of various events. Thus, for example, you say that the British General Strike is part (albeit a tale end) of a non-defeat-type period. But you think that the pre-CIO strikes/unemployed workers' movement in the US and the Spanish Civil War are plainly part of a period of defeat. Now, for myself, I don't think that any of these three were ever likely to end up much different from how they did - but the idea that the first is inherently more indicative of a period of proletarian strength than the latter two is odd. I don't know what you have to say about the 1946 uprising in India mentioned by WeTheYouth.

Fourthly, the practical usefulness of the theory is severely damaged by its lack of reference to specific, material conditions and processes. That is because if the current period (and the analysis can only be of practical value insofar as it defines a current period) is just defined by the incidence of X type A-events, and the absence of Y type A-events, there is nothing about that theory which tells us whether the next A-event will be X- or Y-type. (e.g. 'the current period is defined by a high incidence of strikes in which unions betray the working class, and a low incidence of strikes in which they aid them'.) Unless there is something you can point to about the current conditions of capitalism in general which mean that unions will tend to betray strikes, then what reason do you have to predict that the next strike won't be the one in which unions start not betraying strikes? And hence what reason them? Inductive arguments are fallacious. (The sun will not 'rise' tomorrow because it rose today, it will rise because there are physical laws, cosmological facts which make it so, and when they change, so will the sun's ascendance or other wise).

Now, I think that there are plenty of material conditions which mean that unions will tend to betray strikes. Fine. But my issue is: (i) that you don't specify them; and (ii) you hence don't have a theory which is useful for analysing specific circumstances, understanding exceptions, etc. (If anyone wants to pick up the particular issue of unions, please go to the unions and communists thread; this is just an example to set out the form of the objection here.)

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Jan 8 2007 21:54
WeTheYouth wrote:
The Bolivarian revolution for example, could in the future go towards a more libertarian direction, and i doubt that it wouldn't able to spread across south americal just because europe is not in revolt.

I don't really want to get involved with all of this as I am a bit busy, but can't you see that the problem with the 'Bolivarian revolution' is not that it is authoritarian, or centralised, but the fact that it is a totally capitalist anti-working class movement?
Devrim

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Jan 9 2007 09:00

I second Devrim on that. But to return to posi: I think we have a different understanding of what a materialist aproach means. To you it seems that you have to relate the class struggle directly and immediately to changes in the capitalist division of labour or the technical organisation of production. Thus to find whether the period after 1924 was a period of defeat, you could only be a materialist if you related it to..what, the development of 'Fordist' methods on the assembly line? But to me the real reasons why this was a period of defeat are perfectly material: the crushing of the 1919 Berlin uprising and the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the slaughter of revolutionary workers in Finland and Hungary in 1918-19, the defeat of the Italian factory occupatioins in 1920 and the rise to power of Mussolini, the isolation of the revolution in Russia, the loss of soviet power in Russia in the course of the civil war, the repression at Kronstadt, the increasing domination of counter-revolutionary Stalinism within the communist parties....in short, the defeat of the world's first international wave of proletarian uprisings against capitalism. It was this defeat, historic in its scope, which paved the way for the ensuing decades - a period Victor Serge so eloquently called 'Midnight in the Century' - and the holocaust of the working class (above all in what had been the very centres of the world revolution, such as Germany and Russia) at the hands of Stalinism, Nazism and democracy.

The method you seem to be advocating can only have a limited application as long as it doesn't bring it broader historical, social and political factors. For example, it's true that the break-up of traditional industrial sectors like the mines and steel in Britain have had a negative impact on the proletariat's sense of identity in the past decade or more, but you can't restrict it to this: you have to understand the huge weight of bourgeois ideological campaigns about the end of the working class, of actual defeats of struggles like that of the miners' strike, of the more general break-up of social ties and the pervasive atmosphere of every man for himself..... All these have very material roots in the decline of the capitalist mode of production but they have their own impetus and dynamic as well.

Furthermore, looking for the possibilities for the mass strike in the apparatus of production won't give you much of an explanation of why one of the most important 'embryos' of a mass strike movement in recent times - the students' movement in France last spring - arose in a sector of the proletariat which, in the immediate sense, is very marginal to the production of surplus value. By the same token, your method would seem to imply that the centre of gravity of the future world revolution has now been 'outsourced' to China or India, but for a combination of historical reasons (above all, the revolutionary experience of the working class) the 'old' fractions of the working class remain absolutely central to any such perspective.

I looked on marxists. org for the minutes of the central committee of the Communist League but haven't found them. If I do find something online, I'll let you know.

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Jan 9 2007 09:24
Alf wrote:
to me the real reasons why this was a period of defeat are perfectly material: the crushing of the 1919 Berlin uprising and the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the slaughter of revolutionary workers in Finland and Hungary in 1918-19, the defeat of the Italian factory occupatioins in 1920 and the rise to power of Mussolini (...)

it's true that the break-up of traditional industrial sectors like the mines and steel in Britain have had a negative impact on the proletariat's sense of identity in the past decade or more, but you can't restrict it to this: you have to understand the huge weight of bourgeois ideological campaigns about the end of the working class, of actual defeats of struggles like that of the miners' strike, of the more general break-up of social ties and the pervasive atmosphere of every man for himself..... All these have very material roots in the decline of the capitalist mode of production but they have their own impetus and dynamic as well.

i'm sorry, what? i hate to use gratuitous latin but there's a screaming non sequitur there; you list all these working class defeats/capitalist victories, then conclude the capitalist mode of production is in decline :?

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Jan 9 2007 12:47
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I don't really want to get involved with all of this as I am a bit busy, but can't you see that the problem with the 'Bolivarian revolution' is not that it is authoritarian, or centralised, but the fact that it is a totally capitalist anti-working class movement?
Devrim

The seizure of the revolution and the coercion of the workers in venezuala has sent the revolution into an anti working class direction, but my post said that the bolivarian revolution has the potential to progress in a more libertarian way, simply because there is growing struggles against Chavez such at the protests of the street vendors in Caracas in '03.

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But to me the real reasons why this was a period of defeat are perfectly material: the crushing of the 1919 Berlin uprising and the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the slaughter of revolutionary workers in Finland and Hungary in 1918-19, the defeat of the Italian factory occupatioins in 1920 and the rise to power of Mussolini, the isolation of the revolution in Russia, the loss of soviet power in Russia in the course of the civil war, the repression at Kronstadt, the increasing domination of counter-revolutionary Stalinism within the communist parties....in short, the defeat of the world's first international wave of proletarian uprisings against capitalism.

Why does the revolutionary wave stop there? There were struggles across the globe throughout your assumed period of defeat. This aint a materialist analysis is nothing more than a nice bit of theory that may look good with you big words but in reality is utter bollox and i think posi has shown that in far better ways than i have attempted to, beyond 1924 the working class still engage in extremely militant strugges across the globe, just because the majority of the european workers had been defeated does not mean the global proletariat has also been defeated, and i think there has been enough examples of how the working class was not defeated in this thread already.

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The method you seem to be advocating can only have a limited application as long as it doesn't bring it broader historical, social and political factors.

Are you serious? You decide to focus your analysis of global capitalism on one fifth of the worlds workers, i dont think you have any grounds to be calling anyones approach limited.

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All these have very material roots in the decline of the capitalist mode of production but they have their own impetus and dynamic as well.

Prove it.

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Jan 9 2007 13:47

i'm sorry, what? i hate to use gratuitous latin but there's a screaming non sequitur there; you list all these working class defeats/capitalist victories, then conclude the capitalist mode of production is in decline
(Joseph K)

Joseph, if ever there was a non-sequitur this is it. Revolutionaries like Luxemburg concluded that the war of 1914 had proved that the system had reached its epoch of decline, the result of its own inner social/economic contradictions, and "independent of men's wills". She did not, like a good autonomist or 'anti-objectivist', predict that if the revolution was defeated this would open the door to a new period of capitalist ascent. She said that it would lead to even more terrible wars, threatening the very survival of humanity.

She was right, no? The defeat of the revolutionary wave was followed not by a new period of capitalist glory but by the depression and an even more terrible war. The objective basis of capitalist decline means that there is no outcome to it other than socialism or barbarism. We still face that dilemma today.

Anyone would think I had invented all this, given the surprise expressed on some of these posts.

I'll have to come back to WeTheYouth later.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 13:47

This post was written and posted before I saw alf's last post, it should be seen as complementary to it.

Joseph K the point that alf is making is that there is a nexus of dynamics unfolding.
Capitalism had entered its decadence i.e., it had formed the world market, laid the basis for communism and that all it had to offer humanity was barbarism. This does not mean that there cannot be a development of the productive forces etc but that such developments can only take place within the context of the permanent war economy, state capitalism, the state engulfing of civil society, endless wars, worsening economic convulsions, starvation.
The revolutionary struggles that unfolded between 1917 and 1927 posed the proletarian alternative to this barbarity. The only alternative.
The ruling class may have defeated the revolutionary proletariat and saved its own bacon, but that did not mean that the contradictions causing the decadence of capitalist society had gone away. All of the major imperialisms were faced with the question of how they were going to compete with and beat their rivals. German imperialism may have been defeated but its rivals knew that it would be forced into a desperate effort to break out of its confinement eventually. At the economic level they were faced with the unprecedented situation of permanent mass unemployment (one million unemployed in Britain and the US throughout the 1920's the so-called roaring 20's) and this was before the depression. Confronted with all of these contradictions pulling at it, the state had to become the central pivot of each national capital.And the central concern of each state was the preparation of the next war i.e., the development of the permanent war economy.
The defeat of the proletariat let rip the decadence of capitalism. If the proletariat had defeated the ruling class the decadent social system would have been overcome. It did not and humanity paid a terrible price due to the economic and imperialist convulsions that followed.
To try and simplify this already too long answer: the objective outcome of the bourgeoisie's defeat of the revolutionary proletariat was the acceleration of the decent into imperialist and economic chaos opened up by the First World War.

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Jan 9 2007 14:20

i'm not gonna do the whole decadence debate again here, but a few things. ernie, what you describe as decadence i see as capitalism functioning normally (strangely making deleuze & guattari sound like they're talking sense when they say "it only works when it's breaking down" tongue). and the linear periodisation of capital according to ascendent and decadent epochs is frankly at best an oversimplified projection onto history. capital can be, and often is, progressive and barbarous simultaneously to varying degrees in different places and times. i'm not as much of a fan of postmodernism as my verbiage may sometimes suggest, but this kind of linear grand narrative of history stuff makes me cringe, tbh.

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Jan 9 2007 16:21

Call me an old pre-post-modernist if you will, but why would you want to have your vision restricted in this way? What attracted me to marxism in the first place was precisely its urge to examine history on a grand scale, encompassing not just the history of capitalism but the entire story of humanity, whereas what I found increasingly unsatisfactory in the offical academic historiography (which apparently impresses Revol so much) was its apparently growing fixation on tiny details and restricted time-frames. Same goes for anthropology and similar disciplines, where the fear of generalisation (i.e. a theory) and the triumph of relativism and narrow empiricism can only signify a refusal to face up to the overall reality of the system we live under.

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Jan 9 2007 16:33

except you know full well that i'm not opposed to trying to understand history, i see class struggle as a major part of it, etc. i've no postmodern fetish for the particular, but that doesn't mean general theories have to be so linear/teleological, it's like the worst of marx's newtonian pretensions distilled into a non-falsifiable ideology. I mean

ernie wrote:
This does not mean that there cannot be a development of the productive forces etc but that such developments can only take place within the context of the permanent war economy, state capitalism, the state engulfing of civil society, endless wars, worsening economic convulsions, starvation.

whereas the birth of capital peaceful and tranquil? obviously it is important to try to understand both the particularities of our situations and the general historical context in which we live, in order to struggle more effectively for what we want. i think such crude periodisation is an obstacle to this, tbh, because the definition of decadence seems broad enough to evade falsification the facts are always fitted to the theory. and isn't it time we dropped this 'ever worsening economic convulsions' lark. i mean the east asia crisis was hardly the wall street crash, and even a new crisis on that scale wouldn't imply a linear history which can be plotted by astute marxologists.

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Jan 9 2007 16:44
Alf wrote:
I think we have a different understanding of what a materialist aproach means. To you it seems that you have to relate the class struggle directly and immediately to changes in the capitalist division of labour or the technical organisation of production. Thus to find whether the period after 1924 was a period of defeat, you could only be a materialist if you related it to..what, the development of 'Fordist' methods on the assembly line?

I know that this was a rhetorical question, but I'd say the answer's a resounding "yes". For example, I could argue that the development of 'Fordist' methods resulted in the need for less skilled labor, and a decrease in the amount of labor needed per item produced, which signalled a hard time for worker's rights, or a "period of defeat", if you will. It may be a simplistic argument, but well within the spirit of Marxist historical materialism, which you allege to exemplify.

Alf wrote:
But to me the real reasons why this was a period of defeat are perfectly material: the crushing of the 1919 Berlin uprising and the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the slaughter of revolutionary workers in Finland and Hungary in 1918-19, the defeat of the Italian factory occupatioins in 1920 and the rise to power of Mussolini, the isolation of the revolution in Russia, the loss of soviet power in Russia in the course of the civil war, the repression at Kronstadt, the increasing domination of counter-revolutionary Stalinism within the communist parties....in short, the defeat of the world's first international wave of proletarian uprisings against capitalism.

No, those aren't the reasons, but rather the consequences, of a period of defeat. To put it differently, these constitute evidence for this being, indeed, a period of defeat.

Reasons would answer the questions "why" or "how"; however, the items you've listed only answer the questions "what", "when" and "where". They are part of historiography, which is the data of historical materialism, not its content.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 17:17

treeofjudas and joseph K. A question to try and help the discussion: Why did the first world war take place?

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Jan 9 2007 17:23
ernie wrote:
treeofjudas and joseph K. A question to try and help the discussion: Why did the first world war take place?

Don't know enough about the historical background, material or otherwise, to answer that, regardless of my method of analysis. How does this help the discussion?

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Jan 9 2007 17:34
tojiah wrote:
No, those aren't the reasons, but rather the consequences, of a period of defeat. To put it differently, these constitute evidence for this being, indeed, a period of defeat.

Reasons would answer the questions "why" or "how"; however, the items you've listed only answer the questions "what", "when" and "where". They are part of historiography, which is the data of historical materialism, not its content.

The reasons behind the defeat of those movements were the weakness of the proletariat's political organs, the grievous errors made by these organs (the Bolsheviks use of terror, the German Left's inability to organise itself against the Reformists before it was too late), the rapid moves the bourgeoisie made (especially in Germany after 1918) to contain the revolution at all costs, the illusions in the proletariat concerning democracy and unionism.

Nevertheless, the concrete defeats Alf mentions also became factors in reinforcing the atmosphere of defeat. It was precisely the containment of the Revolution in Italy, Germany, etc. that compounded the errors of the Bolsheviks and lead to the rampant opportunism which in turn destroyed the capacity of the working class to draw the appropriate lessons of those defeats.

By the 20s we have Lenin, who previously had rejected bourgeois democracy and who had previously formed minoritarian fractions on the basis of clarity, laying the ground for the United Front, particpation in elections, etc. to create a "mass movement".

In Capital, Marx points out again and again, that effects can become causes in their own right. Remembering this is essentialy when trying to apply dialectics.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 17:37

It would help the discussion because historical materialism has a clear explanation of this turning point, where as Joseph K and you appears to say that there has been not fundamental change in the nature of the capitalist system. Understanding the nature and causes of the First World War are essential to fully understanding the period since: and we are discussing the question of periods.
For Marxists the first world war market the end of the process of the progressive development of capital: formation of the world market, bring the world under its social relations, developing the productive forces to the level where the working class could have the material basis for building communism. By 1914 this process had finished and the progress historical role became regressive because the perspective capitalism had to offer was barbarity because the only way it could survive was through going to war with each other.
Capitalism was born dripping blood and guts, but up until the First World War it had not reached a stage where all it had to offer was war and economic chaos.
In your response you do not take up the question of the characteristics of decadence: permanent war, state capitalism, the engulfing of civil society by the state, the war economy. How do you explain them, without taking account of the change in the historical nature of capitalism?
As one can see the question of the First World War does have a lot to do with this whole discussion.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 18:20

So Marx did not hold a theory of the periodisation of civilisations, revol. An interesting position and one that it would be very interesting to see some proof of.
The question of the decadence of capitalism did not emerge from our heads but is integral to the Communist Left, and before that Marxist left and Marx and Engels.
For those who which to investigate the question or at least our defence of marx's analysis of decadence the following article would be a good starting point:
http://en.internationalism.org/ir/118_decadence_i.html[url=http
://]
A couple of quotes make clear that Marx and Engels saw that understanding the historical rise and fall of social systems as a vital part of their analysis

Quote:
“But Fourier is at his greatest in his conception of the history of society (...) Fourier, as we see, uses the dialectic method in the same masterly way as his contemporary, Hegel. Using these same dialectics, he argues against the talk about illimitable human perfectibility, that every historical phase has its period of ascent and also its period of descent, and he applies this observation to the future of the whole human race” (Anti-Dühring, 1877, Socialism I, Collected Works Vol.25, p.248, our emphasis)"

And in relation to Marx's development of this analysis in Capital

Thus in the pages of Capital Marx confirms his analysis of the decadence of feudalism and within the latter, the transition to capitalism: “The economic structure of capitalistic society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former (…) Although we come across the first beginnings of capitalist production as early as the 14th or 15th century, sporadically, in certain towns of the Mediterranean, the capitalistic era dates from the 16th century. Wherever it appears, the abolition of serfdom has been long effected, and the highest development of the Middle Ages, the existence of sovereign towns, has long been on the wane (...) The prelude of the revolution that laid the foundation of the capitalist mode of production, was played in the last third of the 15th, and the first decade of the 16th century” (Capital, Vol 1, Lawrence and Wishart edition, p. 668-9 and 672). Similarly, when Marx looks at capitalism’s insurmountable contradictions and when he envisages its replacement by communism, he indeed talks of “capitalism becoming senile”: "Here the capitalist mode of production is beset with another contradiction Its historical mission is unconstrained development in geometrical progression of the productivity of human labour. It goes back on its mission whenever, as here, it checks the development of productivity. It thus demonstrates again that it is becoming senile and that it is more and more outlived" (Marx, Capital, Vol III, Part III, Chapter 15, Exposition of the internal contradictions of the law, our emphasis).

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Jan 9 2007 18:31
Demogorgon303 wrote:
The reasons behind the defeat of those movements were the weakness of the proletariat's political organs, the grievous errors made by these organs (the Bolsheviks use of terror, the German Left's inability to organise itself against the Reformists before it was too late), the rapid moves the bourgeoisie made (especially in Germany after 1918) to contain the revolution at all costs, the illusions in the proletariat concerning democracy and unionism.

Okay, we're getting somewhere, but it's still not the material basis of this defeat. For example, what is the material basis for the Bolsheviks starting to use state terror, or for a party with such potentialities becoming dominant in the Russian revolution in the first place? I could then claim that this has to do with the agrarian basis of the discontent, and the absolutist rule that was overthrown.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
In Capital, Marx points out again and again, that effects can become causes in their own right. Remembering this is essentialy when trying to apply dialectics.

I think that it is also important to remember that this is material dialectics, not just any dialectics, that we are discussing. Otherwise, we shall find ourselves degenerating into postmodernism.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 18:31

Revol68 its for you to show that Marx did not make the analysis of the historical evolution of different social systems, including capitalism, one of the foundations of his method.
Your reply was a very nice dodge though: totally avoid responding to what is being said by insulting the poster and throughing in a red herring. But thanks for the red herring because we more than welcome the opportunity to defend the central place of the analysis of decadence to historical materialism. Cheers old chap

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Jan 9 2007 18:40

ernie, revol's point seemed to be that the charge of 'rejecting marx' smacks of heresy, and thus a theological deference to his word, rather than arguing the toss of what marx wrote

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Jan 9 2007 18:43
ernie wrote:
It would help the discussion because historical materialism has a clear explanation of this turning point, where as Joseph K and you appears to say that there has been not fundamental change in the nature of the capitalist system. Understanding the nature and causes of the First World War are essential to fully understanding the period since: and we are discussing the question of periods.
For Marxists the first world war market the end of the process of the progressive development of capital: formation of the world market, bring the world under its social relations, developing the productive forces to the level where the working class could have the material basis for building communism. By 1914 this process had finished and the progress historical role became regressive because the perspective capitalism had to offer was barbarity because the only way it could survive was through going to war with each other.

I don't see any point of contention up to here.

ernie wrote:
Capitalism was born dripping blood and guts, but up until the First World War it had not reached a stage where all it had to offer was war and economic chaos.

Isn't that war or economic chaos?

ernie wrote:
In your response you do not take up the question of the characteristics of decadence: permanent war, state capitalism, the engulfing of civil society by the state, the war economy. How do you explain them, without taking account of the change in the historical nature of capitalism?
As one can see the question of the First World War does have a lot to do with this whole discussion.

I did not take up many questions in my response, mainly because they weren't relevant. Civil society has always been controlled by capital, why does it matter whether it's under direct state fiat or not? Also, I still don't think that any "nature" of capital has changed, and none of you have provided any support for it. What has changed is the prevalence of capitalism in the world. We are now at a stage of world socio-economy where capitalism has become truly global. Absolutism is gone from this world. That seems like a better point of entry into analysis than claiming that somehow capitalism has gone through stages itself.

In any case, I think that WWI may have benifits as a point of discussion for you, since you seem to know a lot about the background, but that it is detrimental to discussion in general, since it puts me, for example, at a disadvantage; moreover, it is a large subject, where nuances may well be lost.

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Tojiah
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Jan 9 2007 18:45
revol68 wrote:
there really is no point trying to have a discussion with the chumps from the ICC about this sort of thing because ultimately it comes down to decadence theory as an article of faith. Best to leave them alone in their we cult. I say that as someone who tried to discuss decadence theory and it's theoretical underpinnings and was told I was wrong because if I was right I would have to reject Marx.

Dogmatic intellectual cretins whose take on Marxism is theological.

I find their position on Marxism to be very close to Orthodox Judaism. And I did spend a while during the first year of my now aborted graduate studies debating with an Orthodox Jew about it. My experience tells me that there is much to learn from such discussions.

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 19:03

Joseph K I think you are correct to point out that I did miss read what Revo68 was saying in his post(though he does reject theory of decadence). However, I am very confused now about what I am meant to be saying, doing or what. I felt that I was trying to debate the question of periodisation and thus decadence. I do not remember saying that rejecting decadance is 'rejecting marx', though this is logically the point if the question of the historical development of social systems is fundamental to historical materialism. The ICC has not refused to discuss with any group or individual that does not accept the idea of decadence we have sort to prove that it is a central part of marxism through discussion. And that is what we are trying to do here by replying to the discussion. There is noway that we expect people to simply accept something because we say it. That is why I wrote

Quote:
For those who which to investigate the question or at least our defence of marx's analysis of decadence the following article would be a good starting point:
http://en.internationalism.org/ir/118_decadence_i.html[url=http
://]

ernie
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Jan 9 2007 19:33

treeofjuda thank you for the reply.

Quote:
I don't see any point of contention up to here.
ernie wrote:

Capitalism was born dripping blood and guts, but up until the First World War it had not reached a stage where all it had to offer was war and economic chaos.

Isn't that war or economic chaos?

Yes there were wars during the period of capitalism's rise, for example the Franco-German war of 1870, and others but they did not have the nature of the wars of decadence. I do not know alot about the franco-German war but as far as I know it did not involve the total mobilise of soceity and the economy for war, nor did it see wholesale slaugther of civilians or the destructions of cities. The wars during this period usually helped to establish nations, expand the presence of capitalism. However, they were usually short, and did not involve the whole of society. There was certainly barbarity, such as the slaughter of the Indians in the US, the Aborigins in Australia, or the foretaste of the total war fare of WW1 seen during the American Civil, however this was not the dominant tendency in society.
There were certainly economic crises in the ascendent phase, but these were generated by the development of the capitalist system and lead to a new process of development. The cycles lasted about every ten years, but over the course of the period 1820 to the early years of the 20th century these crisis were moments in the general development of the capitalist system into a world wide social system (the first in history). In decadence, with the completion of the formation of the world market and thus capitalism ability to expand by absorbing new areas of the planet, crisis has become permanent. There was no mass permanent unemployment in the 19th century, the state did not dominate economic planning, nor was the economy subordinated to the preparation for and fighting of war.
As for the state's aborption of civil soceity this was not the case in the 19th century. Yes capitalism dominate but this is not the same as the state dominating every aspect of civil life. The size of the state in the ascendent period of capitalism was minimal, it did not directly seek to direct the economy, the making of war was a concern of the state but it was not its main objective and also the different class were able to develop their own political parties etc. The working class was able to develop a whole political and cultural life with its unions, parties, mutual socieites etc. From just before the first world war the bourgeoisie took an increasing interest in controlling every aspect of civil life, especially that of the proletariat: for example the establishing of state penions in Britain. After the War, during which the whole of the economy and political life was brought under the control of the state, for example the trade unions fully integrated into the war economy as where the social democratic parties, the state took an increasingly important role in the management of the economy and society. This process reach a reach its most brutal forms in Stalinism and Fascism, but also its most sophisticated form with the so-called welfare state when the state took over every aspect of the workers lives.
Hopefully this helps to explain what we are trying to say. I think there is more common ground that would appear to be the case initially. When you say about the global presence of capitalism being important we would not disagree, but we think that this has been the case since the beginning of the 20th century. The development of the discussion should hopefully help us all to understand what we are all saying.
As regards knowledge of WW1 in now way do I mean to put you at a disadvantage, but it was a pivitol moment in the development of capitalist society.

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Jan 9 2007 19:56
tojiah wrote:
Okay, we're getting somewhere, but it's still not the material basis of this defeat. For example, what is the material basis for the Bolsheviks starting to use state terror, or for a party with such potentialities becoming dominant in the Russian revolution in the first place? I could then claim that this has to do with the agrarian basis of the discontent, and the absolutist rule that was overthrown.

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here, TOJ. Are you asking for an economic explanation for the retreat of the revolution? In Russia certainly, economics played a part as this article in the latest issue of WR attempted to show:

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/300/anarchism-and-workers-control

Taking a wider view, the Revolution grew largely out of reaction to the privations of war. These privations hit the losers of the conflict more seriously than the others, which limited the ability of the whole class to understand it was under attack. It's no accident the biggest movements took place in the countries that suffered most from the War - Russia, Germany, Italy, etc, and elsewhere the reaction was comparatively weaker.

But the political and ideological dimension cannot be ignored. Once the bourgeoisie understood its danger it immediately took steps to end the war thus removing one of the main stimulants to proletarian revolt. In addition, a whole series of ideologies were developed such as Wilson's theory of self-determination an open attempt to contain Lenin's, the concept of the League of Nations that promised peace, the use of the left-wing to contain revolt, etc. These things didn't appear by accident but were consciously put in place by a ruling class forced into unity against its fundamental enemy, the proletariat.

There's no question that this ideological offensive had a calming effect on the massive struggles that had developed. Ideology, for Marxists, is itself a material force that springs from the bourgoeisie's dominance of society and the proletariat's lack of any independent means of production.

War and economic crisis does not therefore mean an automatic revolution, although it may stimulate class struggle. But what matters is the ultimate balance of the forces invovled. The Depression in the 30s, despite causing a great deal of anger in the proletariat was unable to push it forward to another revolution. The bourgeoisie was able to contain its revolt and drag those outbreaks of revolt (such as Spain)that did occur into dead ends and ultimately dragoon the proletariat into WW2. The War - far worse than its predecessor - also failed to produce a revolution. The struggles in the Warsaw Ghetto and in Italy remained isolated and easily crushed.

Two main factors caused the reignition of autonomous class struggle in the late 60s. Firstly, the memories of the counter-revolution had faded and a new generation of workers who hadn't directly experienced the total inhumanity of the war was now in existence. Secondly, this new generation had got used to a reasonable standard of living provided by the expansion triggered by the reconstruction at the end of the war. The renewal of economic crisis and the resulting attacks on living conditions produced increasing discontent. The explosion of 68 was the detonation of this discontent - and, once again, this effect became an inspiration for other workers around the globe who launched massive strikes in the following years, openly talking about the spirit of '68.

I'm not sure if this answers your question, but I think it shows the interplay between objective and subjective factors in the class struggle.

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Jan 9 2007 20:13

Thanks for the analysis, Demogorgon303. Ideology as a material force is an idea I'll have to ponder.

WeTheYouth
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Jan 10 2007 09:44
Alf wrote:

I'll have to come back to WeTheYouth later.

Can you come back to me soon, or have the ICC fled the field?

mic
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Jan 10 2007 10:07

IBRP has always criticized ICC for this rigid and irrealistic periodization. Moreover, ICC has a wrong understanding of what decadence and crisis are. For a different point of view: Refining the Concept of Decadence.

Probably a bit OT, but I hope this helps. Ciao. Mic

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Jan 10 2007 12:46

OK, mic, you disagree with us about when the counter-revolution ended (you don't think 1968 changed very much), but you do say that there was a fundamental defeat for the world revolution, a counter-revolution in the 20s and 30s. Perhaps you could argue in favour of that position against those who say this whole idea is nonsense and not worry about appearing to say similar things to the ICC. Likewise with decadence: you disagree with our interpretation of decadence, but perhaps you could defend the basics of historical materialist analysis in the face of those who quite openly say that they don't agree with them - who, for example, reject the very idea that you can categorise modes of production as passing through epochs of ascent and epochs of social revolution. And not worry about appearing to say similar things to the ICC.

How have we fled the field, WeTheYouth? There have been a number of long posts by Ernie, who's in the ICC, supported by Demogorgon, who is a close sympaythiser.

I think the very fact that you call what's happening in Venezuela a 'revolution' undermines your argument that a genuine proletarian revolutionary process can somehow emerge in one region of the world, divorced from the rest of it. What's happening under Chavez has nothing to do with the proletarian revolution, even one that has been recuperated. By spreading this confusion about a 'bolivarian revolution' you are sailing very close to the leftists who peddle this myth, as well as about the Cuban revolution, the Vietnamese revolution, and similar frauds.

As far as the 1930s are concerend, you are mixing up miitancy with class consciounsess. There is no absolute identity between the two. We don't deny that there were very militant struggles in the 1930s, a real will to fight, but the level of consciousness that informed these strugles was very different from the one that had been present in the struggles of 1917-20. During that period, millions of workers saw their mass struggles - which had already forced the bourgeoisie to call a halt to the first world war - as part of the world revolution. In the 1930s, workers who fought very hard for the defence of their living standards could not see the contradiction between doing that and fighting for a 'popular front against fascism', which was a trap leading them towards the second world war. That is a dramatic reversal in consciousness which reflects a basic shift in the balance of class forces. And yes, although the post-war revolutinary wave was indeed a global movement, it was pushed back by the defeats suffered by its most important sectors - above all those who had been in the vanguard of the movement in the first place (Russia, Germany, Italy, etc).

A lot more could be said, but I or other comrades will have to come back to them later.