a bit about Luxemburg

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Mar 29 2010 13:46

That's correct, I don't see how the conflict between relations of production and forces of production must mean the decline of capitalism, rather than a characteristic part of its normal functioning.

Okay, the Belgian Fraction's declaration of principles upholds it and quotes the second comintern congress, but if you look at the articles that appeared in Bilan over the years there is barely mention of it. And in the 2-article series "cycles and crises in the economy of dying capitalism" the only passage about it stands out as rhetoric:

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La société capitaliste, de par l’acuité qu’atteignent les contrastes de son mode de production, ne peut plus poursuivre ce qui constitue sa mission historique : développer, de façon continue et progressive, les forces productrices et la productivité du travail humain. La révolte des forces de production contre leur appropriation privée, de sporadique devient permanente. Le capitalisme entre dans sa crise générale de décomposition et l’Histoire enregistrera ses sursauts d’agonie en traits sanglants.

Notice how History is capitalized.

Zizek once made a good comment about Naomi Klein's Disaster Capitalism - capitalism is the disaster. Likewise, the catastrophes Mitchell analyzes are not signs of a declining capitalism, the point is rather that capitalism as it normally works, is catastrophic.

An article from the Communist Program says the same thing but better;

The outbreak of the war in 1914, the first full-scale war of a capitalist world that had entered its highest stage, imperialism, ushered in the era of wars and revolutions. [...] This does not mean that crises, wars and revolutions occur daily. Certain texts from the period 1914-1924 would seem to imply this, but these were propaganda texts and not scientific studies. For agitational purposes, it was perfectly legitimate, in the midst of war, to talk of the «disintegration» of capitalist society, of the «final» crisis of capitalism, of struggles «decisive» for the survival of humanity, but these formulas should not be taken literally. Even at the stage in which its contradictions manifest themselves most brutally, capitalist development has a cyclical and not a linear movement. A period during which contradictions and antagonisms are accumulated along with capital leads to a violent explosion. If the proletariat does not have the strength to take advantage of the general crisis in order to win a decisive victory, the bourgeoisie will resolve it in its own way, that is, as the Manifesto states:
«On the one hand, by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones»,
and thus by clearing the way for a new period of accumulation of capital, and at the same time, of contradictions and antagonisms, on an even larger scale.

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Apr 8 2010 15:24

See how I discarded the idea of Decadence in a couple of posts, while the amateurs of Aufheben needed 3 long articles.

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Apr 8 2010 16:55

Sorry, the argument that Bilan didn't base its positions on the concept of decadence remains incomprehensible to me and would have been even more incomprehensible to a comrade like Marc Chirik who was a member of the Italian Fraction in the 30s. The phrase you cite from 'Crises and cycles' is hardly rhetoric but an analysis underpinning the entire article and the perspective flowing from it (the push towards a second world war). If you look at what they wrote about Spain, for example, refuting the Stalinist idea that it was a bourgeois revolution; if you look at the series on the period of transition (which we have published in the International Review) against the Menshevik idea that the revolution couldn't be socialist in Russia, insisting that the question of ripeness for socialism could only be assessed on a global scale and at the level of an entire epoch....there are many other examples. It's certainly true that the issue becomes rather confused with the Bordigists, who sometimes seem to agree with the concept (they after all claim adherence to the theses of the CI) while at other times rejecting it; on the other hand, the Damen tendency which split from them in 1952 was much clearer in defending a notion of decadence, and on some of its implications for questions like the unions and national liberation (on the latter in particular they were much more in continuity with the ideas of Bilan...)

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Apr 8 2010 19:57

Mitchell wrote the series on the period of transition, right? Well, he also wrote 'Roosevelt au gouvernail', which explains the 'push towards a second world war' without mentioning Decadence at all. And in only 2 articles of the 6-article series of the period transition does Mitchell briefly mention decadence, and again very clearly not as his central point. I don't know what Bilan-article about Spain you are talking of (I bet there is no mention of decadence there either).

I don't know why you mention Chirik, to my knowledge he didn't write for Bilan. If you have articles of Chirik dating from the 30s where he speaks about decadence, let me know.

BTW, I think it was Demorgon who mentioned the platform of the comintern, well, if you look at the way decadence is mentioned, its not an 'objectivist' observation that now capitalism has entered its phase of decline, but its a political statement which declares that the revolutionary rising of the proletariat has made capitalism become decadent, which is much closer to the way Pannekoek saw it.

I found a place where Onorato Damen uses decadence when talking about the degeneration of organizations into Bordigism (and Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism), and in a reversal of ICC terminology, Damen calls capitalism parasitic (as well as decadent in a moralizing sense). Maybe there are other places where Damen talks more extensively about the decadent era of capitalism, but it will probably be another wild goose chase.

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Apr 8 2010 23:14

Noa: you could consider the following:

First, an article from Bilan, no. 33, July-August 1936, republished in number 6 of the International Review (http://en.internationalism.org/node/2547) along with others by Bilan on the war in Spain,. Marc’s introduction to this article focuses precisely on Bilan’s insistence on placing the war in a historical context where the bourgeoisie has ceased to play a progressive role; he contrasts this with the Bordigists who were still seeing bourgeois democratic tasks in the peripheries of the system. The Bilan article here and there uses terms like decay, decadence and parasitism to describe Spanish capitalism but the word is secondary; the point is the method, which allowed the communist left to understand why the positions defended by Marx and Engels in a previous epoch were no longer valid:

Marx, writing about the events of 1808-1814, and Engels about those of 1873, advocated the same tactics for Spain that they had elsewhere applied to Germany. They advised socialists of other countries to take up a position of ‘innoculating’ the bourgeois revolution with the virus of proletarian struggle in order to propel the situation towards its final goal: the victory of the working class. But October 1917 exists to show us that the continuation of the work of Marx does not consist in repeating, in a profoundly different situation, the positions our mentors defended in their era. In Spain, as in all other countries, the democratic forces of the bourgeois left have shown themselves to be not a step towards the final victory of the proletariat, but the last bastion of the counter-revolution. In 1854 Marx wrote that the Central Junta could have brought about changes in the Spanish social structure. If these changes were not realized at that time this could be put down to wrong tactics, but the Republic of 1931 had an entirely different function from that of the Junta of 1808: the latter had a progressive character, while the Republic represented a weapon of the most savage reaction against the workers’ movement. The same applies to Engel position with respect to the Republic of 1873 where he foresaw the possibility of a parliamentary workers’ group acting effectively both to aid the victory of Pi y Margall against the right and also to push the left towards taking up the demands of the workers. Within the Constituent Cortes of 1931 and the others which followed there was no lack of a ‘workers’ group, but since it was rooted in a very different social terrain, a terrain upon which the Republic showed its real nature as a bloody expression of anti-working class repression, the ‘workers’ group could only be a tool in the bands of the bourgeoisie.
In this epoch, the regroupment of the working class cannot be achieved on the basis of a dual programme agitating for partial demands while making propaganda for the ultimate goals of the movement. There is no possibility of linking the partial conquests of the working class to a Republic which could conceivably evolve towards a progressive transformation of Spanish society and so would become favourable to the interests of the masses”.

Perhaps even more explicit is the article by Jehan (another pseudonym for Mitchell), ‘The war in Spain’, published in the old series of Revolutionary Perspectives (no. 5). The article begins as follows:

“We can only understand the events in Spain if we refer to the historical reality expressed on the one hand by the decadence of the capitalist system and, on the other hand, by the deep depression of the international workers’ movement...
Concerning Spain, there is a lot of talk about the ‘bourgeois revolution’, which forgets that this is an anachronistic notion, swept aside by the evolution of capitalism and refers to an epoch of history now well and truly completed. The bourgeois revolutions which took place from the middle of the 17th century and over the next two centuries expressed the birth of a new society germinating in the womb of feudalism.
In contrast, in the epoch of imperialist decadence, the bourgeois revolution loses its historic significance as the objective conditions for the disappearance of capitalism arise
….”

Regarding the Communist International, you could if you really tried to force things interpret the “epoch of capitalism’s disintegration, of its inner collapse” announced in the CI platform and elsewhere as meaning simply a period in which the working class brings capitalism to an end, but this does not stand up when you look at later, more considered positions adopted by the International. As we put it in an article in IR 121(http://en.internationalism.org/ir/121_decadence)

This analytical framework (of capitalism’s ‘epoch of inner disintegration’) would appear with even greater clarity in the “Report on the International Situation” written by Trotsky and adopted the Third Congress: “Cyclical oscillations, we said in refutation in our report and resolution at the Third World Congress, accompany capitalist society in its youth, in its maturity and its decay, just as the beatings of a heart accompany a man even on his deathbed” Trotsky, “Flood-tide”, 1921) It was also attested by the discussions around this report: “We saw yesterday in detail how comrade Trotsky – and all those who are here, I think, agree with him – shows on the one hand the relationship between short crises and short periods of momentary cyclical rises, and,on the other hand, the problem of the rise and decline of capitalism seen on the scale of great historical periods. We are all agreed that the grand rising curve will now irresistibly go in the opposite direction, and that within this grand curve there will be further oscillations up and down” (Authier D, Dauve G, Ni parlement ni syndicats..les conseils ouviers! Edition ‘Les nuits rouges, 2003 [1]). Finally, even more explicitly, this framework would be reaffirmed by the “Resolution on the Tactics of the CI” at its 4th Congress:
“II. The period of the decline of capitalism. On the basis of its assessment of the world economic situation the Third Congress was able to declare with complete certainty that capitalism had fulfilled its mission of developing the productive forces and had reached a stage of irreconcilable contradiction with the requirements not only of modern historical development, but also of the most elementary conditions of human existence. This fundamental contradiction was reflected in the recent imperialist war, and further sharpened by the great damage the war inflicted on the conditions of production and distribution. Obsolete capitalism has reached the stage where the destruction that results from its unbridled power is crippling and ruining the economic achievements that have been built up by the proletariat, despite the fetters of capitalist slavery…What capitalism is passing through today is nothing other than its death throes”.

(1) This passage is an extract from the intervention by Alexander Schwab, a KAPD delegate at the 3rd Congress of the CI, in the discussion around Trotsky’s report on the world economic situation, “Theses on the world situation and the tasks of the Communist International”. It gives a clear insight into the tenor, the direction, and above all the conceptual framework of this report and the discussion in the CI around the notion of the rise and decline of capitalism on the level of “great historic periods””.

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Apr 9 2010 03:06
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It was also attested by the discussions around this report

Any chance those discussions were noted down?

There is an interesting thing I just want to throw out here for further discussion. How to account for Israel in the age of decadence? To put in simple terms, here you have an extremely successful nationalism emerging right at the start of decadence.

Abram Leon's chapter on decaying capitalism ( http://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/leon/ch7.htm ) states:

"Capitalist decay—basis for the growth of Zionism—is also the cause of the impossibility of its realization."

Leon seems to use a Luxemburgist argument for his theory of decadence, and as he was in the french speaking part of Belgium at the time maybe he knew Mitchell.

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Apr 9 2010 07:51
Noa Rodman wrote:
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It was also attested by the discussions around this report

Any chance those discussions were noted down?

Some of them were, in fact. The interventions by KAPD members on that report at that congress can be found here.

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Apr 9 2010 07:54

I haven't been able to catch up with this thread thanks to some personal issues, but I have to say that Israel is a classic example of a nation state in decadence. Its precursor (the British Mandate in Palestine) was a site of imperialist manouvres between the UK, USSR (who tried to influence the construction through some of the Jewish partisan groups it had supported during the War) and the USA.

Its existence as a nation state has been dominated by naked imperialism, both as a pawn of the larger imperialisms (US) and its own imperialist needs. There is no prospect of any peaceful coexistence between Israel and its neighbours. The Israeli state is an affront to the territorial and political integrity of the arab states and vice versa - the Middle East really isn't big enough for the both of them (a key characteristic of imperialism in the decadent era).

For all its pretensions to autonomy, it remains utterly reliant on its US ally and has absolutely no prospect of any true independent existence. This doesn't mean the relationship between Israel and the US is devoid of contradictions and conflicts, far from it, as our article here shows.

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Apr 9 2010 15:03

Trotsky is not speaking for decadence, in fact there he is more speaking against it.
The discussion by the KAPD members does not make much sense to me. They do believe in decadence, but say nothing meaningful (things like; capitalist production in the era of decline is solely for profit, no longer for productivity's sake as well).

Demogorgon, the claim made by Leon basing himself on what is the most explicit use of a Luxemburgian inspired notion of decadence for political analysis I have found anywhere, is that Zionism would not succeed in setting up a state, and if it did it would be an 'abortive state'. Now, you say the middle east isn't big enough for both Israel and the other states in the region, but surely that is because Israel is an all too successful state, with a powerful army, high GDP, etc.

P.S.

Here is a video from the 3rd congress, though not relevant at all to the topic:

http://giovaninternazionalisti.forumcommunity.net/?t=32175739

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Apr 9 2010 16:20

Noa, I think that when you use the term decadence and I use it, we must be talking about different things.
At the third congress, it seems to me, the issue was this: almost everyone agreed that the war marked the opening of a new epoch, in which capitalism was clearly an obstacle to human progress, a system in decline. The problem was this: at the first congress, there were hopes that the working class would be able to overthrow capitalism almost as soon as this new period dawned. By 1921, it had become clear that the decline of capitalism did not immediately mean the triumph of the proletarian revolution. Nor did it mean that the economy would be in a state of total collapse, that the bourgeoisie would be completely incapable of bringing about some kind of temporary stabilisation or even recovery. Consequently, the question posed to communists is how do you respond in this new situation, when the system is rotten but revolution is not necessarily an immediate possibility? Disagreements on the way forward in these circumstances were at the root of the divergence between the CI's 'official' positions - which increasingly tried to compensate for the lack of immediate revolutionary prospects by engaging in opportunist schemes such as the United Front, by returning to semi-social democratic tactics - and the positions of the left communists, who understood that there could be no return to the old methods (even though they weren't exempt from sectarian and adventurist errors).

But Trotsky arguing against decadence? Have a look at the opening section of this text, written by him and published June 12 1921, which has the title 'The main lessons of the Third Congress'. It is dealing exactly with the problem I outlined above:

"Classes are rooted in production. Classes remain viable so long they can fullfill a necessary role in the process of social organization of labor. Classes begin losing the ground under their feet when the conditions necessary for their further existence come into contradiction with the growth of productive forces, i.e., with the further development of economy. Such is the situation in which the bourgeoisie finds itself at the present time.

[i][i]But this does not at all mean that a class, which has lost its living roots and has become parasitic, is by this very reason doomed to instantaneous death. While economy constitutes the foundation of class rule, the respective classes maintain themselves in power by means of the state – political apparatuses and organs, namely: army, police, party, courts, press, etc., etc. With the aid of these organs, which in relation to the economic foundation represent a “superstructure,” the ruling class may perpetuate itself in power for years and decades after it has become a direct brake upon the social development. If such a situation endures too long, an outlived ruling class can drag down with it those countries and peoples over whom it rules.

[/i]Hence arises the necessity of revolution. The new class with living roots in economic development – the proletariat – must overthrow the bourgeoisie, must tear power out of its hands and convert the state apparatus into an instrument of economic reorganization of society.

The bourgeoisie had become a parasitic and anti-social class even prior to the World War. The incompatibility of bourgeois rule with the further development of economy, and even with the further preservation of economy, has been disclosed on a grandiose scale during the war. Furthermore, the war has not only laid bare this incompatibility but has also reinforced it in the extreme, bringing it to the highest pitch of intensity..."

[/i]

If Trotsky isn't talking about decadence here, then what is he talking about?

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Apr 10 2010 21:05

Of course all this is beside the argument, it does not matter which authority believes in decadence. I engage with the material you're bringing up though, which reminds me, did you read the article by Bellofiore on Luxemburg which is in the libcom library?

I'll grant you that Trotsky did believe in decadence. BTW, if Trotsky was such a connoisseur of decadence how did he arrive at his wrong position on the Spanish war?

In Floodtide (1921 December 25) Trotsky's point is indeed as you wrote 'that the decline of capitalism did not immediately mean the triumph of the proletarian revolution. Nor did it mean that the economy would be in a state of total collapse, that the bourgeoisie would be completely incapable of bringing about some kind of temporary stabilization or even recovery.'

Its boring, but here are 2 passages from the text;

"Commonplaces to the effect that the present crisis is the final crisis of decay, that it constitutes the basis of the revolutionary epoch, that it can terminate only in the victory of the proletariat – such commonplaces cannot, obviously, replace a concrete analysis of economic development together with all the tactical consequences flowing therefrom."

Trotsky asks rhetorically about the emerging economic boom;

"Does this mean that the decay of capitalist economic life has halted? That this economy has regained its equilibrium? That the revolutionary epoch is drawing to a close? Not at all. The break in the industrial conjuncture signifies that the decay of capitalist economy and the course of the revolutionary epoch are far more complex than certain simplifiers imagine."

Trotsky is arguing against a 'vulgar' version of decadence. But the Church also fights against vulgar interpretations of the Apocalypse, to a non-believer it really makes no difference. These texts are all formulated very loosely anyway. In the text 'The main lessons of the Third Congress' (June 12 1921) which you bring up, Trotsky says:

"The economic preconditions for the victory of the working class are at hand. Failing this victory, and moreover unless this victory comes in the more or less near future, all civilization is menaced with decline and degeneration."

Again, very loosely. Civilization is menaced with decline, not, we are in the era of decline, just menace.

In answer to your question about what Trotsky is talking in the opening section. I really don't know. Just prattling maybe.

EDIT:

Its getting a bit chaotic in this thread, there are several arguments going on at the same time. I'ld just want some of the defenders of decadence to answer my claim that the creation of a powerful Israeli state disproves their theory.

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Apr 12 2010 13:00
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Its existence as a nation state has been dominated by naked imperialism, both as a pawn of the larger imperialisms (US) and its own imperialist needs. There is no prospect of any peaceful coexistence between Israel and its neighbours. The Israeli state is an affront to the territorial and political integrity of the arab states and vice versa - the Middle East really isn't big enough for the both of them (a key characteristic of imperialism in the decadent era).

For all its pretensions to autonomy, it remains utterly reliant on its US ally and has absolutely no prospect of any true independent existence.

If you hold the reality to the ideal Zionism proclaimed itself to be pursuing, then yes, it could not but fail to save the Jews in Nazi Europe, it did not improve the lot of Jews in the Diaspora regarding antisemitism (it even worsens it), Israel did not assimilate itself in to the region, there is no chance for peacefull co-existence (what a bourgeois phrase!), its still a vassal under the domination of bigger imperialists, etc.

In that sense Leon Abram was absolutely correct and Luxemburgian decadence theory explains it well.

This is all moralizing, its like people saying that the democracy we have is not the true democracy.

Nationalism is not about security of its citizens, this is giving way too much credit to Zionist ideology.

Saying Israel is under the pressure of bigger imperialists is a critique from within the terrain of nationalism itself.

When in a Western someone says 'this place really isn't big enough for the both of us', the problem usually gets solved by a duel. And so the problem was solved, when Israel defeated the Arab nationialisms.

Let me clarify what I mean by Israel's success; making the desert green, worldleading high-tech industry, high GDP, military strength, winning all the wars and so on. That's an example of successful nationalism.

It disproves Decadence, and shows that in reply to Leon Abram concluding remark 'By misconstruing the real sources of the Jewish question in our period, by lulling itself with puerile dreams and silly hopes, Zionism proves that it is an ideological excrescence and not a scientific doctrine.'

Theodor Herzl could easily admit zionism is not meant to be a scientific doctrine and that;

' If you will it, it is no dream.'

and;

'Our opponents maintain that we are confronted with insurmountable political obstacles, but that may be said of the smallest obstacle if one has no desire to surmount it. '

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Jun 23 2010 22:29

bump

First off, I hold that capitalist accumulation needs a non-capitalist buyer (and seller), but obviously only the ICC (to their credit or not) has elaborated Luxemburg's theory into a full-blown theory of decadence.

Having said that and insisting on my last point, how can the theory of decadence account for the rise of a successful nationalist project like the Israeli state?

Finally, I have a question about extra-capitalist demand. Is there a way to measure or calculate this? Are there statistics that show how much non-capitalist markets still exist, and how rapidly they are disappearing (to be more precise, shrinking relatively to capitalist production)?

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Jun 23 2010 23:22
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a successful nationalist project like the Israeli state?

Do you find Isreal "succesful"? I think it is a militaristic state which can hardly survive by its own outside of the existing decadant imperialist relations. In that sense if we accept state capitalism as the concretization of decadance in burgeois politics-militarism, isreal is one of the most clear form of this in the whole world. Obviously the question is how do you define "succesful"...

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Jun 24 2010 11:30

Israel is an example par excellence of nations born in decadence, an expression of full-blown imperialism. In Israel's case It is the gendarme of the major powers in the region whatever differences that they may have among themselves. The role of Isreal as a gendarme for the major powers is similar (but obviously different) to the role of gendarme played by the "successful" Nazi state as the gendarme in Europe for the powers of Britain, France and the USA in 1930's Europe.
The Middle East "problem", the Palestinian "question" cannot be solved within imperialism but can only become more acute and more dangerous with the further decomposition of imperialism.

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Jun 24 2010 15:21

Indeed it depends how you define success, i.e.what economic stats you're looking at and with what you make the comparison. The statistics can prove anything.

Yes, Israel's military spending is extremely high, 7th in the world (the percentage is only higher in states like Oman and Saudi-Arabia). But the GDP per capita in Israel is fine (comparable to Taiwan) and much higher than neighboring Jordan (with has also a very high military spending). Or how about comparing countries that were founded before the era of decadence, with countries founded in the era of decadence like Israel, and then you see for example Portugal is doing less well than Israel in GDP per capita, which you wouldn't expect according to decadence theory. Maybe this is partly thanks to Israel's economic policy (it seems that Michal Kalecki thought kibbutzim were a success).

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Jun 24 2010 15:58
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Yes, Israel's military spending is extremely high, 7th in the world (the percentage is only higher in states like Oman and Saudi-Arabia). But the GDP per capita in Israel is fine (comparable to Taiwan) and much higher than neighboring Jordan (with has also a very high military spending). Or how about comparing countries that were founded before the era of decadence, with countries founded in the era of decadence like Israel, and then you see for example Portugal is doing less well than Israel in GDP per capita, which you wouldn't expect according to decadence theory. Maybe this is partly thanks to Israel's economic policy (it seems that Michal Kalecki thought kibbutzim were a success).

Forgive me if I understand you wrong but it is as if you are assuming that decadance should be "economically" observed in national situations. But decadance is not a concept that it is applicable to "national capitals". It is the decadance of "global capital" or global capitalist production/reproduction relations. For instance for ICC;

http://en.internationalism.org/pamphlets/decadence/ch8

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Jun 24 2010 16:32

I think it should also be noted that the decadence of "global capital" doesn't correspond to a decadence of "global GDP." I don't find GDP to be a particularly useful indicator, anyway.

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Jun 24 2010 17:29
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First off, I hold that capitalist accumulation needs a non-capitalist buyer (and seller), but obviously only the ICC (to their credit or not) has elaborated Luxemburg's theory into a full-blown theory of decadence.

Do you accept that Luxemburg's theory is a "breakdown theory"?

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Jun 24 2010 19:08

Certainly decadence is about global capital. My point, whatever its significance, is the following. The theory of decadence says that the emergence of new nations on the world stage in the era of decadence and their ability to carve out a portion of the market for their own development is much more difficult in comparison with the emergence of nation-states in the ascendant period. The old countries who got their share during the early phase of capitalism more or less have been able to consolidate (and even expand on) their position vis-a-vis the less powerful, 'newcomer' states. So Israel is a player that entered relatively late in the game, but managed to become 'successful', in the sense of military influence and economic development. Demorgorgon already mentioned how Israel is not just a puppet of the US, but has a fair amount of independence. And it's growth is not just in unproductive sectors, but also in stuff like IT and medicine or what not, and also agriculture. Doesn't this make Israel an exception to the rule of decadence theory, or are the things I mentioned just deceiving appearances or maybe just a small part of a picture made up of larger imperialist strategies? I'm no longer saying that the decadence theory would be disproved by this, just that Abram Leon (on the basis of a theory of decadence) didn't expect Israel to become a nuclear power and have a world-leading high-tech industry.

To me, figures on world extra-capitalist demand relatively to global capitalist production, spanning the whole period of capitalism's existence, would make it possible to empirically verify or invalidate the theory of decadence. These figures probably don't exist, but its interesting just to ask if anybody from the ICC has checked for this.

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Do you accept that Luxemburg's theory is a "breakdown theory"?

But recall that she said it was a tendency, she didn't believe a collapse caused by lack of non-capitalist markets would actually occur.

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Jun 24 2010 22:33

This article begins the work of looking at the role of extra-capitalist markets during the post 1945 period, although it would be very difficult to come up with any exact calculations

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/141/post-war-boom-part-5

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Jun 25 2010 07:36
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But recall that she said it was a tendency, she didn't believe a collapse caused by lack of non-capitalist markets would actually occur.

Mainly because the convulsions invoked by the systems movement to that point would push the working class to revolution. What would you call that period of convulsions?

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Jun 25 2010 13:41

On the question of nationalism and imperialism, the Israeli state, established in 1948 but really born around the turn of the century, faced the same problem as the technologically advancing and "successful" Third Reich, that of a lack of "lebensraum" (moving into space, as I understand it). Israel, as a state born in the decadence of capitalism can only rule through militarist terror and war at the expense of rivals and to the detriment and misery of adjoining populations.

The proto-Zionist state was originally a weapon of Britain in the region against France first of all and then the local Arab bourgeoisie. It was immediately a pawn in the imperialist power game. After WWII and during the Cold War, the US muscled its British rival out and provided the Israeli ruling class, as it still does, with all the wherewithal it needed. It was essentially a US outpost.

This is not to say that from the very beginning the Zionist state didn't pursue its own national interests - as an expression of nationalism it could do no other and this brought it into conflict with its US paymaster even during the depths of the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the cement of the US-led Western bloc, Israel, as Demo says, is not simply a puppet of the US and this is a further example of the free-for-all and instability that increasing characterises imperialist relations and the weakening of the US Godfather across the globe.

On the level of imperialism, the Zionist state is a pure product capitalism's decadence.

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Jun 25 2010 17:46

Right Alf, I didn't think it was easy to find much statistics about extra-capitalist demand, but the article does try to go in that direction a bit more. The article, like you said, only deals with the post-1945 period, so no comparison is possible to data from the pre-decadent period. And the source for the post-1945 period is slightly dated (1970). Also, Figure 1 is not depicted on the site, and doesn't say how much of the export to colonial countries was destined to capitalist markets. There are also no data on the demand of internal non-capitalist markets.

Quote:
What would you call that period of convulsions?

I think it was Lucien Laurat who coined the phrase 'decadence' (Luxemburg didn't use it, instead she used 'decline'). In French the word 'décadence' fits well with the meaning of her theory, but in English 'decadence' is mostly used in another way. I don't know if any of those terms are good names for "the era when extra-capitalist markets started to become insufficient", because, as Schumpeter writes, there is maybe little difference between the failure and success of capitalism, so the problem with speaking of an era of decadence (certainly in English) is that it probably gets up being wrongly associated with the 'moral' failure of capitalism. I also think that when marxists wrote of an era of decline or decadence it was always as a shorthand phrase, which in itself didn't explain much, and also they didn't go around saying they have 'a theory of decadence/decline', they just saw it as a natural element of their analysis.

Baboon,

Almost all states in the region have high military expenditures, almost all have been and still are pawns in the hands of the great imperialist powers, and almost all have tried to conquer territory from their neighbors. But almost none have an economy the size of Israel or its military strength, so that's a bit of an exception which needs further explanation; maybe Israel's comparatively high GDP and so on are mere appearances, maybe the great imperialist powers decided to boost Israel's economy and not those of others for some reason, what do you think?

baboon
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Jun 26 2010 11:17

Noa, I'm off to work now until Monday morning. Will get back with some thoughts early next week.

baboon
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Jun 28 2010 14:32

Israel is an expression of the decadence of capitalism, specifically its descent into full-blown imperialism. A bit of a potted history with reference to the ICC’s International Reviews on the Middle East, nos. 116, 118.
Zionism began to emerge at the end of WWI and, from the beginning, was an expression of imperialism. During capitalism’s ascendant phase it, more or less, managed to integrate different ethnic or religious groupings into nationhood by proletarianising the great majority and thus reduce divisions and tensions by creating one class. Zionism emerged at the end of this stage when the world was, more or less, carved up and any new nation could only appear on a reactionary and militaristic basis. The left wing of Social Democracy openly rejected the formation of a national Jewish state in Palestine.

Britain used the influx of Jewish settlers in Palestine (around 70,000 in 1914) as a card to use against French imperialism and the Arab bourgeoisie. Britain, as was its wont, double-dealt against both the Zionists and the Arabs. The “colonial bureau” set up to promote Jewish colonisation of the land in Palestine wasn’t just a weapon of the British, but took on its own national interest with a policy of expansion into “its” living space. Here is one of the elements of decadence: it was set up on the basis of military expansion, exclusion, containment, ethnic cleansing, displacement and segregation. This is the fundamental basis of the establishment of the Zionist state of 1948. This is also a global feature of decadent capitalism – imperialism – in the Middle East, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, central Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Communist Party of Palestine, founded in 1922, supported the Mufti of Jerusalem in advocating an independent Palestinian state. This further underlined the disastrous turn of the Comintern on the national question. The Jewish C.P. (Poale Zion) called for the settlement and colonisation of “Palestine on communist principles”. All were betraying the principles of internationalism expressed in the revolutionary wave and best summed up in the works of Rosa Luxemburg. The Baku Congress of 1920, also denounced the Jewish/Arab division and the nationalist appetites of the Jewish bourgeoisie.

The position of the degenerating Comintern, increasing erroneous and increasingly to defend the position of Russian imperialism, also pushed Palestinian workers to support their own bourgeoisie’s “against imperialism”, in a similar but different period to the SWP and its push for workers to defend their imperialist states in war “against (American) imperialism”. Against this degeneration, the KAPD in 1925, stated that: “British imperialism has managed to hide class antagonisms” (in the region), pitting Arab against Jew. The group Bilan in 1936, summed it up: “For a true revolutionary, there is no ‘Palestinian question’, there can only be a struggle of all the exploited in the Middle East, Arabs and Jews included, and this is part of a general struggle of all the exploited of the world for communist revolution”.

The framework for the subsequent influx of Jewish refugees was the development of global imperialism, capitalism’s economic crisis and the specific repression of Jews by Stalinism and fascism (as well as anti-Semitism elsewhere). Imperialist conflicts sharpened in the 30s with global warfare on the horizon and affected the Middle East as well as all the major and permanent (to this day) fault lines of rivalries. In the Middle East this sucked in powers outside of the two major protagonists Britain and France (it’s interesting to note Germany’s involvement in the Middle East “peace process” today). The Zionist “self-defence” unit Hagar turned into a military unit. In 1935, Irgun, a terrorist group was founded and introduced general “conscription”. On the other hand, factions of the Palestinian ruling class received the backing of neighbours, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Germany and Italy were getting involved and the British policy of “divide and rule” was breaking apart. WWII saw Zionism take Britain’s side against German imperialism and the Arab bourgeoisie split between Britain and Germany. The importance of the Middle East to Britain was shown in the fact that on the eve of an expected German invasion of Britain, the latter sent a quarter-of-a-million troops to defend the Suez Canal.

Nazi policy (and the democracies) continued to contribute to the increase of Jewish refugees and the Germans courted and gained Arab allies. With the defeat of Germany, the Zionists resumed their attacks against Britain eventually resulting in the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 – a Jewish state that was a complete configuration and expression of global imperialism with a whole continuity of events from one world war to the next where all local factions had to choose between one imperialist camp or the other.

WWII confirmed the victory of the US over Britain as much as anyone else.
Already, from 1942, Zionist organisation was turning towards the US and they weren’t rebuffed, providing them with arms and money. The US could clearly see the advantages of Zionism to themselves over their British rivals. The European powers that benefitted from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, mainly Britain and France, were now supplanted by the US in the Middle East and a rising Russia power even provided arms to the forces of Zionism in an attempt to gain influence.

All throughout the first half of the twentieth century (and beyond), the position of Rosa Luxemburg on the impossibility of national liberation and the domination of global imperialism was confirmed time and time again and there was nothing any local nationalist factions could do about it even if they wanted to – when they wasn’t a creation of those imperialisms pure and simple. Whatever specific weaknesses she had on the question, Rosa’s uncompromising criticism of the Bolshevik Party policy in the first place and her general analysis of imperialism has been confirmed in spades. No local factions could avoid being sucked into it. The formation of an Israeli state could only be an imperialist abortion and, if it ever happens, so too the formation of a Palestinian state.

Israel has been a US outpost in the Middle East for decades relying more on brute force rather than the Arab/Israeli “divide and rule” of the British. It has been bankrolled by the US and its military has been fashioned as a direct tool of the Pentagon. But this doesn’t mean that it is simply a puppet of the US and it doesn’t make technological advances (how could it fail to do so as a war machine?). It is also a factor of imperialism that each nation state will vie for its own interests against all and sundry. In 1953, Israel even aligned itself with Britain and France in one of its expansionist adventure that went directly against US interests. During the Bush senior administration, the latter had to threaten to pull the rug from under Israel’s feet to pull it into line. And that was during the Cold War when Israel needed the US more than ever.

Imperialism, as the destructive “qualities” between the first and second world wars, and their “development” from the latter to now show, is not a static phenomenon. The centrifugal tendencies expressed in and around the Middle East are expressions of even the breakdown of imperialism exemplified in the Cold War to the current and even more potentially dangerous war of each against all. The present go-it-alone policies of Israel and its tensions with its US paymaster are examples of it. But decomposing or not, the analysis of Luxemburg on imperialism has stood the test of nearly a century. It may be difficult to envisage Palestinian and Israeli workers joining up against their respective imperialisms given what seems to be an overwhelming grip of the latter over them. But these are the stakes and these are their interests. Such a movement is by no means impossible and could receive a major boost in the struggle of the working class in the major centres of imperialism.

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Jun 28 2010 19:51

Getting back to this quickly...

Riccardo Bellofiore wrote:
This is an idea foreign to Marx, who wrote that permanent crises do not exist, and who saw them as not only a temporary breakdown of the system but also as purging this latter from its contradictions for a while.
capricorn wrote:
RedHughs wrote:
I have heard the claim that Marx didn't see a tendency to permanent crisis made a number of places. What is the standard reference for this?

It's in Part Two of Theories of Surplus Value in a footnote in section 7 of Chapter XVII on "Ricardo's Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it". The context is interesting as it is relevant to some contemporary theories of crisis:

Quote:
A distinction must be made here. When Adam Smith explains the fall in the rate of profit from an over-abundance of capital, an accumulation of capital, he is speaking of a permanent effect and this is wrong. As against this, the transitory over-abundance of capital, over-production and crises are something different. Permanent crises do not exist (Marx's emphasis)

Scanning the discussion, it seems to me that if the original is coming from the Marx quote "Permanent crises do not exist", then it is reading to much into it. In this quote, Marx is discussing market disruptions and indeed a permanent market disruptions won't exist - sooner or later the results of over-production work their way out of the system.

At the same time, it seems pretty clear to me the process of the decline in the rate of profit outlined in Capital vol 3 is a secular process. In that schema, the rate of profit declines as the overall organic content of capital declines. That is going to continue as the production process itself becomes more interdependent. The Capital vol 3 schema describes a decline in the rate of profit, not a capitalism that becomes mathematical impossibility. Still, my interpretation is that this decline results in a capitalism that is more and more unstable and which must resort more and more to "artificial" and unstable means of shoring up it's profits - ie, the capitalism which we can around us today.

Thus, I don't think we can look at crisis as a merely periodic phenomena - crisis appears, is purged by the system, reappears and so-forth (until the sun goes out or the earth is destroyed by a meteor or whenever). Capitalism gives every impression of transforming irreversibly at a rapid rate instead. Specifically, it seems fairly clear that capitalism didn't solve its current dilemmas in 2008 and couldn't solve them even if it imposed austerity on the working class of every country in the planet.

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Jun 28 2010 22:52

That's a good observation RedHughs. Clearly in this text Bellofiore does not want to follow Luxemburg's conclusion about an 'era of decline' which she draws from her theory. Maybe this is because Bellofiore, in order to defend Luxemburg from her critics, is strategically prepared to make too many concessions. Such a quick mention of Marx's supposed opinion on permanent crises (if that was its purpose) hasn't disproved her conclusion (probably he's only referring to The Communist Manifesto, this is anyway the Bordigist reference to counter the ICC's theory). But in a later text (Finance and the realization problem) Bellofiore's position now does seem closer to accepting Luxemburg's conclusion. If net exports to non-capitalist markets are a temporary solution to the realization problem and if capitalist markets are conquering non-capitalist markets, then doesn't it logically follow that capitalism is in its phase of decline? I would like to hear if the critics of décadence think still further arguments/facts are necessary to arrive at this conclusion.

baboon
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Jul 2 2010 13:51

I think that the important point about Luxemburg’s analysis of imperialism is that it demonstrates the bankruptcy of capitalism – its decadence if you like – prior to the open expression of its economic crisis. The First World War didn’t come out of an open economic crisis but predated it within a period of open prosperity. The first major, open expression of capitalism’s economic crisis didn’t appear until 1929, a decade-and-a-half later.
Luxemburg said (in the Junius Pamphlet) that the world war was the demonstration of “a reversion to barbarism”, millions upon million deaths in the “civilised world, nations destroyed” and the vast majority of these deaths and even more mutilations suffered by the workers of the towns and the country. The proletariat in its centres and all over the world was being butchered en masse and intoxicated by imperialism into wholesale fratricide. This expression of imperialism is qualitatively different to anything that had gone on before and sends out a strong signal of the decay of the system.

There is no need to have read a word of Capital to understand what this butchery of the proletariat represented. No need to weigh up disappearing third markets against falling rates of profit. Rosa makes this point about German Social Democracy criticising the British for using Negro, Sikh and Maoris to fight their war:
“If the Maoris of New Zealand were eager to risk their skulls for the English king, they showed only as much understanding of their own interests as the German Social Democratic group that traded the existence, the freedom and the civilisation of the German people for the existence of the Habsburg monarchy, for Turkey and for the vaults of the Deutsche Bank.
One difference between the two. A generation ago, Maori negroes were still cannibals and not students of Marxist philosophy”. And, “these peoples play a role in this war that is approximately identical with that played by the socialist proletariat in the European states”.

Capitalism was bankrupt as a social system, from the origins of the contradictions of capitalist production, years before its first economic meltdown. Indeed, world war could have broken out years earlier if not 1/ for the actions of the proletariat and 2/ (related) the lack of preparation for war (mainly by Germany). From 1890, a period of enormous growth for capitalism, really the height of its economic power, all the major nations were moving against one another and, more or less, cohering into imperialist blocs, with new antagonisms emerging all the time. Economically German and British capital were interdependent to a large degree but the former had arrived relatively late on the scene with most of the choicest parts of the world carved up already and its militarism represented “a mailed fist shaken at the world”.

And German militarism was just another expression of the global development of imperialism: “Imperialism is not the creation of any one or of any group of states. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, and indivisible whole, which is recognisable only in all its relations, and which no nation can hold aloof at will”.

War was no longer a struggle for the establishment of progressive nations, for “national liberation” but a competitive struggle of fully developed nations for supremacy and henceforth war is permanent, more atrocious, always finding material for new conflicts and creating material for new conflicts. Victory of defeat means nothing but the continuation and re-emergence of war with no possibility of any side, any bloc, representing progress against reaction. Imperialism in 1914, was shown to be incompatible with the progress of humanity. Only war on war, civil war of the proletariat could represent any possible progress. Despite the technological advances of capitalism (not least in its war industries) during the twentieth century, the Second World War absolutely confirmed the position of Luxemburg as does the wars and destruction that have resulted in the deaths of many more millions in the period of imperialist “peace”.

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Jul 2 2010 21:36
baboon wrote:
Luxemburg said (in the Junius Pamphlet) that the world war was the demonstration of “a reversion to barbarism”, millions upon million deaths in the “civilised world, nations destroyed” and the vast majority of these deaths and even more mutilations suffered by the workers of the towns and the country. The proletariat in its centres and all over the world was being butchered en masse and intoxicated by imperialism into wholesale fratricide. This expression of imperialism is qualitatively different to anything that had gone on before and sends out a strong signal of the decay of the system.

There is no need to have read a word of Capital to understand what this butchery of the proletariat represented. No need to weigh up disappearing third markets against falling rates of profit.

Right, but it is interesting how Luxemburg somehow knew that capitalism was approaching its decline (cf. Reform or Revolution) already before the outbreak of the first world war. But how could she know this if presumably she had not yet studied the schemes of reproduction and furthermore there was not yet the hindsight-advantage of such a qualitatively different expression of imperialism as 14-18? So Luxemburg, indeed as you say, believes that one doesn't have to wait for the theoretical proof of the realization problem to see that capitalism is in decline.

But hypothetically someone could accept the realization problem but still say capitalism is not in decline and the point of pure capitalism will never be reached, i.e. collapse. Then in addition it would be necessary to interpret history, i.e. the first world war and the other wars and crises you mentioned, to see if capitalism is in decline.