ICC position on Decadence and the Bourgeoisie in Developing Nations?

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Khawaga
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Jun 11 2015 15:45
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Khawaga, jura, Artesian what are you theories on the trajectory of capitalism since the early 20th century?

Still no unique insight from any of you on state capitalism, democracy, the unions, etc.

I thought this thread was about decadence theory? It's the proponents of that ideology that stresses those elements (and everything and nothing it seems). I don't profess to have any unique insights into those, they're rather run of the mill veering into ultra-left territory. But the point is that decadency theory does not have any unique insights on those either.

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Jamal
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Jun 11 2015 15:58

What are we doing if we're not working towards a theory to explain these things? Attempting to debunk Marxism?

S. Artesian
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Jun 11 2015 16:01
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
jura wrote:
Wait, so have we established the bankruptcy of decadence theory?

Seems established to me.

Well, then, start a new thread. This one's on decadence theory.

S. Artesian
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Jun 11 2015 16:02
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
What are we doing if we're not working towards a theory to explain these things? Attempting to debunk Marxism?

Read the thread title. We're trying to stay on target here.

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Jun 11 2015 16:28
Artesian wrote:
Read the thread title. We're trying to stay on target here.

He should know, he was the OP!

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Jun 11 2015 16:41

Weee oooo OT police nobody move!!!!!

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Khawaga
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Jun 11 2015 16:54

???????

S. Artesian
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Jun 11 2015 17:38
Khawaga wrote:
Artesian wrote:
Read the thread title. We're trying to stay on target here.

He should know, he was the OP!

Egg-zackly.

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Jun 11 2015 18:17

Spikymike
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Jun 11 2015 19:56

This thread was quite interesting for a while but seems to have deteriorated - so I will indulge myself by referencing two other library texts with my comments that seem to intersect with the issues raised earlier in this thread:
http://libcom.org/library/communism-has-not-yet-begun-claude-bitot and
http://libcom.org/library/investigation-supposedly-victorious-capitalism...

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Jun 11 2015 21:00
Spikymike wrote:
This thread was quite interesting for a while but seems to have deteriorated

ffs

S. Artesian
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Jun 11 2015 21:19

^^^^Really. It became decadent. Oy vay.

slothjabber
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Jun 11 2015 22:25
Joseph Kay wrote:
My point about Latin America is that the capitalist states are breaking up and privatising 'feudal' land arrangements (large estates, ejidos) in the name of capitalist modernity (i.e., enclosures), while being resisted by communal agrarian movements. So you have simultaneous attempts to destroy feudal structures and communal insurgencies/land expropriations...

And yet, neither you or I thinks they're feudal. So why do you keep using the term 'feudal', as if you do think they're feudal?

slothjabber wrote:
Do you think it was possible to establish socialist society on the back of intermittent feudal and other forms of production?

Joseph Kay wrote:
...Depends what you mean by a socialist society. The gap in military capacity between an armed peasantry and mercenary knights in the peasant wars was far less than between proletarians and predator drones. If omnia sunt communia had prevailed in central Europe I don't see why it wouldn't have been a form of socialism. If you mean it wouldn't have extended itself globally, almost certainly not, unless it somehow spread to peasant uprisings in the Ottoman Empire, Qing China etc (and there wasn't any obvious mechanism for that)...

So, socialism in one country is possible, but only if it's under-developed?

Joseph Kay wrote:
...But I don't get what this has to do with decadence, unless all decadence means is 'socialism is possible', in which case every socialist believes in decadence. But this seems back to the bait-and-switch from the stronger claim to the weaker one...

It's not 'all' decadence means. As in, there are other aspects. But it is an aspect of what it means, yes.

There are other things. Like the involvement of the state in the economy.

Joseph Kay wrote:
...

slothjabber wrote:
I'm not sure any supporter of decadence theory has used the word 'decline'

Alf, post #5: "capitalism is a world system, which reaches its period of decline"
Leo, post #13: "Most decadence theories assert that capitalism entered its period of decline and fall around WW1"
Jamal, post #63: "I still see lots of evidence showing the general decline of health" (though not sure if he counts as a supporter)

etc...

Fair go, I didn't review the whole thread to find out. I don't use the term 'decline' as I don't think it makes sense. To return to the cancer analogy, the cancer cells show a great amount of growth. It may not be healthy but it's growth.

Joseph Kay wrote:
... This isn't just about semantics, ('decadent' vs 'mature' or whatever), it's about analysis that turns reality on its head. Capitalism has grown massively over the past century, commodified whole new areas of life, and over the past 30-40 years has been smashing the living standards of workers in the 'post-industrial' states (offset only by cheap clothing/gadgets from East Asia, which is seeing rising workers' struggles and living standards). Asking questions like "If capitalism isn't decadent then what's up with the world and human society?" (Jojo) makes out like class weakness vis capital is somehow a weakness/decline of capitalism, rather than capitalism functioning normally.

Rosa talked about this a hundred years ago; when capitalism is unable to extend to new territories, it will seek to exploit more intensively the sources of wealth that it has. The commodification of everyday life (the fact that we now labour for free to put our shopping in bags and take it home rather than getting the guy at the shop to do it, or the fact that we buy entertainment devices and then buy copies of entertainment to play on them) and the increasing role of the state in civil society go side-by-side, and they're not signs of capitalism's good health or its socially-progressive nature, but demonstrations of its need to replicate itself and take root everywhere, which seems pathological.

I dunno. It seems obvious to me that capitalist society is characterised by certain phenomena, that these phenomena are different to corresponding phenomena over time, and that currently the phenomena that capitalism exibits indicate that its negative effects outweigh its positive effects. The gap between 'what is' and 'what could be' is growing; the shit keeps piling up; the noise-to-signal is increasing. This doesn't mean that there were no negative effects previously, it means that the negative for some time has outweighed any positives.

Sorry Jura, missed this before, I suspect you posted it while I was answering something else:

jura wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Jura asked for defining characteristics, the absence or opposite of which would disprove decadence. I gave some. Now some people who don't think decadence is real are arguing with definitions.

As far as I can see there were four in your post: the growing role of the state, the impossibility of territorial expansion unopposed by other capitalist powers, the complete defeat of feudalism and the existence of a "post-industrial society". Do you think decadence is the only explanation for these characteristics?

You asked for some markers that could be used to falsify decadence. So I gave some. If there are some successful feudal states out there, or successful states where the state itself is only a tiny player in the national economy, then decadence as I understand it would be falsified. The inability of the capitalist economy to expand beyond the bounds of Earth is a given (at the moment) - I don't expect you to magic a new undiscovered continent out of somewhere; therefore teritorial or even economic expansion can now only come at the expense of other powers (economically through competition, or militarily through conquest and ruination). That's not a consequence of decadence, so decadence doesn't explain it - it explains decadence. The existence of a post-industrial society I'd see as being a consequence of decadence, yes, but I wouldn't regard it as 'proof'.

So to re-arrange those four, capitalism revolutionised societies wherever it came across societies it could exploit (meaning that it destroyed the feudal and other highly organised societies it came across), until it ran of easy markets and sources of wealth to tap; because of capitalism's increasing inability to become more 'expansive', it became more 'intensive', leading to the commodification of areas of life not 'capitalised', and also increasingly the state and the economy became intertwined; this also caused more vast and more intense wars, and the progressive ruination of the industries of some capitalist areas (eg the UK) through intense competition.

'Is decadence the only explanation?' - now I admit I'm puzzled by that question. Decadence seeks to explain those things, but the things are what constitute decadence. No, decadence isn't the only answer, I guess... but if you explain those things, if you accept that the framework is real, I don't really care what the word is that you use. If you have a theory of the development of capitalism that says 'up to the end of the 19th century capitalism was spreading around the globe, the imperialist powers were busy builing empires, but in 1891 they realised there was no-where left to conquer, capitalism was busy in embryo at least exploiting everywhere that could be exploited, so the imperialist powers began fighting amongst themselves over their colonies; meanwhile the working class was in a position, at least materially, to implement a truely socialist society - but it failed to do so and capitalism continued to produce more and more severe economic and military crises, while at the same time extending itself more deeply in the territories it controlled through the state and the commodification of everyday life' - but don't call it decadence - then I'm not going to complain. I might wonder what you've got against the term 'decadence' though.

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Jun 11 2015 22:30
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I dunno. It seems obvious to me that capitalist society is characterised by certain phenomena, that these phenomena are different to corresponding phenomena over time, and that currently the phenomena that capitalism exibits indicate that its negative effects outweigh its positive effects.

I completely agree with this, but how would that be proof of decadence. Is it just a case of the same shit, but just with some wrapping? What's the point of wrapping other than to conceal?

slothjabber
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Jun 11 2015 22:44

I said:

"...these phenomena are different to corresponding phenomena over time..."

You said:

I agree that the shit is different, but isn't it the same shit?

My reply:

No, I think the shit is different, that's why I said it was different. If you don't agree with the shit being different, how can you agree with what I said?

The characteristics of capitalism now are different to the characteristics of capitalism in the 18th or 19th century. So far so good.

The characteristics that capitalism exhibits are either signs that it has ceased to be any kind of positive force for human development; or they aren't such a sign. I think they are such a sign.

I'm not sure in the end why this is so hard.

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Jun 12 2015 04:05

The cancer analogy is interesting. Remarkable growth, leading to death. Failing to "survive progression".

Maybe capitalism is still progressive, but only for certain sections of the populous. Not necessarily restricted to class. Certain workers are in a progressive situation, certain bosses are. Certain bosses aren't. Etc.

The gap between "what is" and "what could be" seems to have a negative correlation to the amount of funds in your bank account. For $20 million, I could have doctors put my head on someone else's body, and most likely live. But I don't have $20 million.

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Jun 12 2015 07:11
slothjabber wrote:
And yet, neither you or I thinks they're feudal. So why do you keep using the term 'feudal', as if you do think they're feudal?

I've put it in inverted commas because it is and isn't. I'm no expert on Latin American land reform, but my understanding is that patterns of land tenure still widely reflect the colonial/feudal encomienda system, ownership of these large estates is still with the descendents of conquistadors (hence why so many Latin American land movements are indigenous ones), and a big section of the agrarian population is involved in subsistence production paying 'rent' in kind (sharecropping etc). As far as I'm aware there are no longer obligations of military service that go with customary usufruct of land, though in the case of landlord-led paramilitaries and/or drug armies, mandatory military service for local barons isn't completely a thing of the past either.

My point is, modes of production don't neatly follow one another, they unevenly combine, especially in areas which were incorporated into the capitalist mode of production via colonialism. (One criticism of the Zapatistas, MST, etc, is that it is they who are taking on the 'historic mission' of land reform which the state has been unable to do. I don't really agree, but the point is these movements are unintelligible without the legacy of feudal land tenure/the encomiendas, and the struggles to 'modernise' it).

slothjabber wrote:
So, socialism in one country is possible, but only if it's under-developed?

Nice try, but pointing out that peasant communes seemed viable in late Medieval Europe is not a blanket endorsement of 'socialism in one country'.

slothjabber wrote:
Rosa talked about this a hundred years ago

Yeah she did, but I think she was wrong. I don't think territorial expansion and/or a non-capitalist 'outside' is necessary for capital accumulation. Capital will happily colonise new territories or new domains (genetic material etc), but I think the intervening century has proved her pretty wrong on this.

slothjabber wrote:
I dunno. It seems obvious to me that capitalist society is characterised by certain phenomena, that these phenomena are different to corresponding phenomena over time, and that currently the phenomena that capitalism exibits indicate that its negative effects outweigh its positive effects.

I'm not sure this balance sheet logic makes sense. I mean to pose another historical counterfactual - I wouldn't have been cheering on colonial genocide because it might, a century or so later, create conditions for proletarian revolution. So even if 'positives outweighed the negatives' at some point, I'd still fight the negatives (e.g. struggles over the working day, colonial genocide). And this isn't entirely in the past either; Canada's just admitted to ('cultural') genocide for the residential schools program which abducted indigenous kids, conducted forced sterilisations, and had an anomalously high death rate. The program only ended in the 1990s, and the struggles over it are still live.

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Jun 12 2015 10:06

Good to see this discussion back on track and to prove my credentials as one still ''sitting on the fence'' I have broken my self-imposed opposition to the 'up/down' faciltity by 'upping' both Joseph and slothjabber in their latest contributions!

Mad Marx 3
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Jun 13 2015 10:41

What are the positive sides to capitalism?

Lurch
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Jun 13 2015 13:02

For all its horrors (it was born sweating muck and blood from every pore) its development (including the creation of a global proletariat) laid the potential for a society of abundance, communism. Those who support the notion of the ascendance and decadence of different class societies argue that capitalism had by and large achieved this by the beginning of the 20th century.

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2015 15:17

Even some of those that don't (eg the SPGB) believe this. Their foundation in 1904 was predicated on notion that capitalism's historic role in creating the material conditions for a socialist society was complete and the working class's role was now not to fight for reforms in capitalist society but to fight for the creation of a socialist society. ALB uses the term 'obsolete' to discribe capitalism.

Which, it seems to me, is pretty much exactly the same as the ICC's contention, though neither organisation is terribly keen to admit it.

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Jun 14 2015 09:31

slothjabber,
Getting the spgb on side in this argument doesn't really help much since it just sends us back to the rather ideologically arbitary selection of which might be the key historical juncture for determining the shift from ascendance to decadence eg 1904, 1914, 1939, earlier or later, rather than identifying the continueing underlying tendencies in capitalism which have expressed themselves with greater or lesser force in different regions of the world to-date and which might help a little in understanding why the working class has not consistently carried out it's 'historic role' as alotted to it by communist minorities.

slothjabber
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Jun 14 2015 11:20

Just pointing out that there's more than one way to describe the phenomena that the ICC see as 'decadence', though it does seem to me that some of the explanations are essentially the same thing. I also don't see any real difference between the SPGB deciding that the possibility of reforms was over by 1904, and the Communist International deciding it was over by 1914. If the SPGB are right, then so are the Communist International (and therefore the ICC). There's a very slight possibility that the CI was right but the SPGB wasn't (maybe it was possible to get reforms between 1904-1914) but I don't think anyone argues this.

Personally, I think people get too hung up on dates. 1914 isn't the point where capitalism shifted from one thing to another; it's the point that demonstrated there was no posibility of it shifting back. To return - again - to medical metaphors, it's not the point that the patient contracted the thing that killed it, nor the point it started to show symptoms, nor the point that it was laid up in bed, nor the point where it too weak to recover, nor even the point that it died, it's the point it was pronounced dead.

Decadence describes a bunch of growing tendencies in capitalism. The point where these tendencies (in aggregate) change from being 'less than 50% of the life of capital' to being 'more than 50% of the life of capital', in other words the point where they become generalised or dominant, is not something I think you can determine 100% accuracy - any more than one can determine the exact moment the world revolution failed or any other similar moment in history. So, searching for 'key historical junctures' is I think a fool's errand. The best we can manage I think is to identify periods where things change. For the proponents of the bundle of theories that might be labelled as 'decadence/obsolescence', capitalism was not decadent/obsolete by 1870, but it definitely was by 1914. It might not have been decadent/obsolete by 1895, but surely the signs of the onset of decadence/obsolescence were more manifest than in 1870. But what year was the 'tipping point'? I don't think it's a useful question. What was the process, and what are the cosequences, are more useful questions I think.

As to why the working class hasn't carried out its 'historic role' if as Trotsky thought the 'objective conditions' were in place a century ago, there are a lot of reasons. The most massive attempt the international working class has made to overthrow capitalist relations and the bourgeois machinery of the state was between 1917-1927. It failed in my view primarily because of the failure of the revolution in Germany. The Friekorps on behalf of the SPD (on behalf of German and international capital, of course) massacred the German workers (and communists); this meant I think that from then on the world revolution was essentially fighting a losing battle. The eventual massacre of the Shanghai Commune by the KMT (while Mao and other members of the CCP were working for them on the orders of the CI) was in my estimation the 'last gasp' of the revolutionary wave that ended WWI.

Why hasn't the working class been able to do it since? The vast weight of the counter-revolution, ushered in by the Bolsheviks is hugely important. The 'big lie', endlessly repeated by the ruling class in East and West alike over 70 years (and the West since then, and the Stalinist cheerleaders of the Eastern model since) that the state capitalist regimes of the Soviet Bloc were 'communist' in some way is a huge ideological weight. Likewise, the notion that 'communism' failed in 1989 reinforces the narrative that there is no alternative to capitalism (not even a slightly different organisation of capitalism). And while the political minorities of the working class have been so woeful at articulating an alternative it's hardly surprising that a great many workers don't believe there is an alternative.

Whether there are any answers in that I don''t know.

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Jun 14 2015 12:37

slothjabber,
We can of course agree on some of those last points (although there were surely material reasons for the isolation and failure of the 1917-1927 revolutionary wave) and I consider it essential to analyse capitalism as a global system - even more global today than in the past, but we shouldn't underestimate the significant development both socially and geographically that has taken place in the past and that continues today and the different impact that may have on the material development of class struggle in different parts of the world at any given time. On one level it would seem that the material conditions of global capitalism and a global working class should make the revolutionary transition to communism a necessary and more practical proposition than at any time previously but capitalism in other ways reinforces divisions and seems stronger than in the past in terms of the depth of it's ideological and psychological roots in our everyday life. I'm all for some periodisation in our analysis but there are some significant periods of capitalist development/expansion both before and after circa 1914-18 that we need to understand.

LiberArchie
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Jun 15 2015 10:37
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
If capitalism in it's ascendant period was progressive, why isn't capitalism in any of the developing nations ascendant or progressive in the 20th and 21st centuries?

it's because they've skipped out all the parts in the middle, ie: gone from very primitive to relatively advanced in one quick step - partly due to aid money and Western prodding

noclass
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Jun 17 2015 14:01
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If capitalism in it's ascendant period was progressive, why isn't capitalism in any of the developing nations ascendant or progressive in the 20th and 21st centuries?

To me, capitalism was and is neither progressive nor regressive. Capitalism is a modern slavery system and was cruel to dominated classes from the outset. I never use those concepts and I strongly suggest not to be used.

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Jamal
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Jun 16 2015 00:10

Can we at least all agree that capitalism inhibits the innovative potential of our scientists?

S. Artesian
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Jun 16 2015 00:31

Whether we agree to that or not is immaterial. The issue is is that inhibition now qualitatively different than it was 150 years ago?

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Jun 16 2015 01:22

Maybe the longer there's been pure capitalism in a given country, the more likely it is the markets are declining since 1900?

S. Artesian
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Jun 16 2015 02:00
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
Maybe the longer there's been pure capitalism in a given country, the more likely it is the markets are declining since 1900?

What does that mean "markets are declining since 1900"? Are markets smaller since 1900? Is the volume of world trade smaller now than it was in 1900?

Tell me what, and how, markets are declining since 1900?

Is the market for automobiles larger or smaller than the market was in 1900?

How about coal, oil, copper, cement?

Where markets are "smaller"-- like say the market for coal oil, or whale oil, you think that might have something to do with overall expansion of capital; overall expansion of the productivity of labor?

What do you mean by "pure capitalism"?

And where and when, ever in history, has there existed "pure capitalism"?