ICC position on Decadence and the Bourgeoisie in Developing Nations?

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jura's picture
jura
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Jun 21 2015 07:49

Could the pro-decadence people please stop trying to turn this into a philological debate? If decadence theory is true, it should be able to stand on its own regardless of what Marx wrote. If there's substantial evidence for that theory, then that should itself be enough to convince opponents. Even if you "prove" that those who oppose decadence are not true marxists or whatever, that does not "prove" decadence theory.

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2015 12:47
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Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Capitalism will last until it's overthrown or until its evolution results [i]"in the ruin of the contending classes."

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Capitalism will last until it's overthrown, or until its evolution results "in the ruin of the contending classes," or until a comet hits the earth.

You forget the apocalypse.

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Alf
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Jun 21 2015 13:20

Before a theory can be tested empirically, we need to establish what the theory is. Furthermore, in this case it's not only a theory about capitalism's rise and fall, but about the rise and fall of all previous modes of production. That at least is our view, and, we think, the view of Marx, who we do need to go back to precisely because it's 'his' theory we are examining. It's not a discussion about philology, but about a certain view of history, a method of analysing it. . The problem is that there is no agreement about what this method is.

I really do have to go away now.....

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2015 14:10

What you describe is not Marx's "theory" of capitalism. It is not Marx's critique of capitalism. What you have done with your "theory about the rise and fall of all previous modes of production" is opt for some meta-theory, some ahistorical, in fact, historicism, where the past statements of Marx are substituted for the actual investigations of previous, and current, modes of production. This is analagous, IMO, to those who want to make Marx's work into "dialectical materialism" that accounts for, and explains, everything, and changes nothing.

That you can derive your "theory" of decadence from Marx's correspondence, rather than his actual critique of capital; the actual conflict between labor and the condition of labor is its own criticism.

Your argument that before you can critique a theory, you need to present the theory is a bit humorous since you were the one who introduced ICC's "is/was" matrix much earlier, and which all the "pro" decadent theorists have since avoided like the plague.

What you are continuing to do is disregard the concrete nature of Marx's work in favor of abstraction. This allows you to advance an ideology in place of critical analysis: i.e "now capitalism has run out of room, and this time, unlike 30 years, 50 years, 100 years ago, there is no opportunity for expansion." That's not Marxist analysis; that's religious cant.

If any "pro" ICC theorist wants to explain why markets are geographic rather than social, I'm willing to listen. If any pro ICC theorist wants to tell me how capitalism could have run out of room and markets in the 1970s, but still produce cellphones, microprocessors, fiber optics, artificial hips, container ships, since then, I'm all ears. However, if someone wants to argue that capitalism is decadent because Marx's theory holds that all civilizations rise and fall, I'm not interested. Those people are saying nothing. They might as well be arguing on behalf of entropy, heat death, and evolution of species. It's been done by others, and much more scientifically.

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2015 15:55

I want to expand on the above, if only for my own self-clarification. I think the problem I, and perhaps others, are having with decadence theory is that the so-called decadence of capitalism is not determined by the very basis of its social reproduction, but rather by some notion that capitalism has exceeded its historically allotted life-span. That seems to me part and parcel of teleological argument; as if somewhere someone is keeping the great accounting book of history, with so much allotted for this mode of production, and so much allotted for that mode of production, and when the negatives outweigh the positives, well "time's up!"

Well, there's no big banker in the sky, and bankruptcy doesn't mean you can't or won't ever get another line of credit.

Now I will easily admit that Marx's writings contain a bit more than just a little bit of teleology. In his enthusiasm for Hegel, and later for Darwin, I think he misapprehends Darwin and the meaning of evolution-- evolution is not about progress, improvement, ascent or decay. It's about adaptation. Marx, and certainly Engels, regard evolution as concerned with purpose.

Marx certainly carries this over in (some) of his writings, in his attempt to establish the credentials of his critique as a "scientific critique" of capitalism. IIRC it's in the Grundrisse where Marx refers to the purpose of capitalism as being increasing the productivity of labor, and once having done that, capitalism can or will or should disappear.

It doesn't quite work that way. Capitalism's only purpose is the reproduction of capitalism. And it can and will do that not only despite, but because, of its organic, essential, inherent contradictions. That's what gives capitalism its horrible persistence, its cyclicality, its continued animation, within overall structural changes in rates of growth, profitability, social welfare.

When profitability is undermined by that productivity, capitalism has and will take every action to "redress" that predicament, including wholesale liquidation of its own components, and in that self decomposition, maintain its persistence and dominance.

That's why it will persist until it's overthrown, and the mutual ruin of the contending classes as classes is not the ultimate critique of capital. The ruin of the ruling class as an entire class will not occur. There may be the ruin of the species as the entire species, but the bourgeoisie will, like cockroaches, find a way to survive, in enclaves, in their gated communities, in hollowed out bank vault/safe rooms.

Until the comet hits, of course. Don't forget the apocalypse.

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Jamal
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Jun 21 2015 16:23

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 21 2015 18:37
ICC series on decadence wrote:
Whereas in the ascendant period the overall tendency is for prices to remain stable or fall, in decadence this tendency is reversed. 1914 inaugurates the phase of permanent inflation.

I think generally the end of gold convertibility is seen as a significant, qualitative, irreversible break. And for me it is the main basis for decadence theory. So if anyone wants to disprove it, I think they have to believe in the possibility for a return to the gold standard (eg by China).

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Jun 21 2015 19:26

I thought we had established markets are not bound by geographic localities?

"Since the 1950s, annual gold output growth has approximately kept pace with world population growth of around 2x,[4] although far less than world economic growth of some 8x,[5] or some 4x since 1980.[6]"

So there goes that theory...but for good measure...

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cedricmuhammad/2013/11/01/the-worlds-next-go...

http://www.businessinsider.com/is-china-trying-to-create-a-new-gold-stan...

http://sputniknews.com/analysis/20150208/1017977151.html

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Prepare-for-a-new-gold-standard-...

There's also the emergence of "Internet gold"---Bitcoin. I've made money on it myself, about $300.

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Jamal
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Jun 21 2015 19:27
Noa Rodman wrote:
irreversible

Says who? Why and how?

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2015 21:18

Noa had made an assertion and then asks us to prove the reverse of the assertion which may be slick maneuver, but not slick enough, and by a mile.

What about governments being on a gold standard defines capital ascendant?

What about governments not explicitly maintaining a gold standard, although maintaining gold reserves; along with convertibility of currencies into gold is qualitatively, fundamentally different enough to warrant the term "decadent"?

petey
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Jun 22 2015 02:07
jura wrote:
Could the pro-decadence people please stop trying to turn this into a philological debate? If decadence theory is true, it should be able to stand on its own regardless of what Marx wrote. If there's substantial evidence for that theory, then that should itself be enough to convince opponents. Even if you "prove" that those who oppose decadence are not true marxists or whatever, that does not "prove" decadence theory.

this

markyhaze
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Jun 22 2015 14:34
S.Artesian wrote:
What you describe is not Marx's "theory" of capitalism. It is not Marx's critique of capitalism. What you have done with your "theory about the rise and fall of all previous modes of production" is opt for some meta-theory, some ahistorical, in fact, historicism, where the past statements of Marx are substituted for the actual investigations of previous, and current, modes of production.

The onus is on you to prove it is not Marx’s theory of capitalism. Our view is that the “theory about the rise and fall of all previous modes of production” is at the heart of Marx’s theory and the ICC has written at length, with ample quotes, including from Capital, to show why this is the case.

Aufheben wrote the best part of a book trying to separate revolutionary Marxism from the concept of decadence and ended up (to their credit) publically admitting defeat. But good luck anyway.

S.Artesian wrote:
Your argument that before you can critique a theory, you need to present the theory is a bit humorous since you were the one who introduced ICC's "is/was" matrix much earlier, and which all the "pro" decadent theorists have since avoided like the plague.

The ‘was/is matrix’ introduced by Alf was a specific article written 30 years ago which rejects the possibility of new capitalist units emerging in capitalist decadence. This was clearly wrong, or at least requires a lot more explanation, and can probably be criticised for over-optimism in expecting that before this happened the period of capitalism’s decadence would be cut short by a successful proletarian struggle…. This doesn’t mean it is invalid as a summary of the main changes in the proletarian struggle in ascendance and decadence – changes that have largely been ignored in this discussion.

S.Artesian wrote:
What you are continuing to do is disregard the concrete nature of Marx's work in favor of abstraction. This allows you to advance an ideology in place of critical analysis: i.e "now capitalism has run out of room, and this time, unlike 30 years, 50 years, 100 years ago, there is no opportunity for expansion." That's not Marxist analysis; that's religious cant.

Religious cant”? That’s not a serious refutation of the ICC’s position, that’s just abuse.

S.Artesian wrote:
If any "pro" ICC theorist wants to explain why markets are geographic rather than social, I'm willing to listen. If any pro ICC theorist wants to tell me how capitalism could have run out of room and markets in the 1970s, but still produce cellphones, microprocessors, fiber optics, artificial hips, container ships, since then, I'm all ears. However, if someone wants to argue that capitalism is decadent because Marx's theory holds that all civilizations rise and fall, I'm not interested. Those people are saying nothing. They might as well be arguing on behalf of entropy, heat death, and evolution of species. It's been done by others, and much more scientifically.

The main point about markets and decadence is that by 1914 extra-capitalist markets had become too restricted for capitalism’s needs for further progressive expansion, ie. for the unfettered development of the productive forces; not that they had disappeared entirely or that markets as a whole had ceased to exist. Since we all seem to agree that capitalism above all lives for the extraction of profit and the accumulation of capital it must continually attempt to create new markets for the commodities produced – otherwise it would cease to exist, and I don’t see anyone here arguing that decadence = inevitable collapse. It’s also worth pointing out the increasing role of wars and mass destruction in helping to create markets in decadence - and don't tell me it was exactly the same in the 19th century, the scale is not comparable.

S.Artesian wrote:
I want to expand on the above, if only for my own self-clarification. I think the problem I, and perhaps others, are having with decadence theory is that the so-called decadence of capitalism is not determined by the very basis of its social reproduction, but rather by some notion that capitalism has exceeded its historically allotted life-span.

Perhaps you’ve realised you can’t quite so easily dismiss the historical element of Marx’s theory? It’s not “some notion that capitalism has exceeded its historically allotted life-span”. Once again, it’s about the point at which capitalist relations of production come into conflict with the further progressive development of the productive forces; at this point the conditions for its superceding exist and the mode of production enters into a period of acute crises, convulsions and struggles. Capitalism’s actual ‘life-span’ depends on the outcome of the struggle between the main classes.

S.Artesian wrote:
Capitalism's only purpose is the reproduction of capitalism. And it can and will do that not only despite, but because, of its organic, essential, inherent contradictions. That's what gives capitalism its horrible persistence, its cyclicality, its continued animation, within overall structural changes in rates of growth, profitability, social welfare.
When profitability is undermined by that productivity, capitalism has and will take every action to "redress" that predicament, including wholesale liquidation of its own components, and in that self decomposition, maintain its persistence and dominance.

There is no disagreement that capitalism is ‘horribly persistent’ or ‘continually animated’ (see my point above about markets). But nor is it simply cyclical, as you seem to imply. This is where the historical element in your analysis is missing. Capitalism’s essentially blind drive to ‘persist and dominate’ eventually has consequences both for it and for humanity and even the planet…

S.Artesian wrote:
That's why it will persist until it's overthrown, and the mutual ruin of the contending classes as classes is not the ultimate critique of capital. The ruin of the ruling class as an entire class will not occur. There may be the ruin of the species as the entire species, but the bourgeoisie will, like cockroaches, find a way to survive, in enclaves, in their gated communities, in hollowed out bank vault/safe rooms.

Until the comet hits, of course. Don't forget the apocalypse.

Yes, the comet, funny.
The mutual ruin of the contending classes” is the potential consequence of the failure of the proletariat to destroy capitalism. Yes, you are strictly correct to point out that the bourgeoisie will survive – along with, in some kind of utterly degraded and desperate condition, the proletariat. But that rather ignores the main political point that the defenders of Marx’s theory are making in their use of this phrase; in the context of 21st century capitalism this would imply the potential destruction of the conditions for proletarian revolution, maybe for centuries or even permanently, along with the gains of human civilization, and a descent into (capitalist) barbarism from which humanity may never recover. The ‘cockroach’ thing kind of gives it away really…

Guerre de Classe
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Jun 22 2015 14:58

Hi Folks!
I finally intervene in this thread a bit late.
Here's a draft translation of GCI-ICG’s text “Theories of Decadence, Decadence of Theory” originally published in French in “Le Communiste” N°23 (November 1985) and in Spanish in “Comunismo” N°25 (October 1988).
[url= https://libcom.org/library/theories-decadence-decadence-theory/]https://libcom.org/library/theories-decadence-decadence-theory/[/url]
I will upload an improved version ASAP.
Good reading.

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Jun 22 2015 15:34

Markyhaze, you're merely justifying some connection to Marx there not actually explaining why decadence theory is necessary of what new unique insights it gives us either into the functioning of capitalism or for revoltuinary activity. Most of your reply says nothing adds nothing and really is just sometimes confusing as to what point you're trying to make. On the last point,for example

Quote:
There is no disagreement that capitalism is ‘horribly persistent’ or ‘continually animated’ (see my point above about markets). But nor is it simply cyclical, as you seem to imply. This is where the historical element in your analysis is missing. Capitalism’s essentially blind drive to ‘persist and dominate’ eventually has consequences both for it and for humanity and even the planet…

Is this supposed to be a rebuttal? A defense of decadence? Agreement? Rejection of the cycliucality of capital's expansion and depression (you fail at rthat BTW)? Broad agreement? Overall, this comment has basically no content.

And then you appear to go on some kind of attack, blaming Artesian for something. But you're again so horribly coy that it is almost impossible to figure out what it is you're attacking him for. At the ICC's forums you may be completely understood, but please understand that you're not preaching to your congregation here.

S. Artesian
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Jun 22 2015 15:39
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The onus is on you to prove it is not Marx’s theory of capitalism. Our view is that the “theory about the rise and fall of all previous modes of production” is at the heart of Marx’s theory

Yes we know what you think-- that Marx begins with a philosophy of history, that history has a grand rhythm to it; a rising and falling; a sequential logic, where slavery gives rise to feudalism, feudalism decays and gives rise to capitalism; capitalism decays and gives rise to socialism. That's how you think Marx develops his critique.

That, of course, is a highly un-materialist analysis of Marx-- taking what he says in correspondence, in the Manifesto, at the outset of his investigations as the real motivating force; rather than look at how Marx actually begins his critique which is the criticism of Hegel's philosophy of right, a critique that is initiated by the conflict between material reality and Hegel's theory of reason, of consciousness.

Marx's "rational kernel" is based on the specificity of the production relations he analyzes; and the origin of those relations is in the dispossession of the direct producers-- that's the origin of capitalism, and the condition of labor, wage-labor that defines capitalism. not the meta-theory about the sequences of historical development. And that examination of those relations is what propels Marx's work-- the methodology is so strong that he carries it over throughout his examination of non-capitalist modes, his ethnographic studies where we do NOT find this so-called historical sequentialism.

(Comic break: Aufheben? That group? You mean the Aufheben that thought 2008 was an inflection point in a new upturn of capitalism? Yeah that group really has its finger on the pulse)

We've had various explanations, or non-explanations of what decadence is. One such explanation was the irresolvable crisis of overproduction leading to continuous what? crisis? decay? When that was challenged, we now move to this one:

Quote:
The main point about markets and decadence is that by 1914 extra-capitalist markets had become too restricted for capitalism’s needs for further progressive expansion, ie. for the unfettered development of the productive forces;

First, let's at least acknowledge that this is based on Rosa's theory [which most definitely is about trying to resolve the conflict, the separation, between production and consumption in capitalism] that non-capitalist, or extra-capitalist markets are essential for capitalism. Rosa's Accumulation of Capital is wrong; and lends itself to the notion that somehow primitive accumulation is the essential determining condition of capital.

Secondly, your argument is loaded with assumptions: like that prior to 1914, extra capitalist markets where adequate for the unfettered development of the productive forces. Now anyone looking at the world markets pre-1914 will see that there was exactly NO UNFETTERED development occurring. At every point, and every moment, capital encountered limitations to the development of the productive forces, at every point capital accommodated those limitations; at every point capital absorbed those limitations; at every point, capital's own limitations were what it was confronting in its INABILITY to break through the non-capitalist relations of land, labor, and particularly landed labor in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, in Russia, in Turkey, in Greece. Your argument is blind to history-- (as in fact was Rosa's-- for example in her mis-characterization of the Egyptian rural producers as peasants).

The problem with the "extra-capitalist market" argument is not only that restrictions of those markets have been restrictions on capital from the getgo; became restrictions of capital in the development of capitalism; but that it leads to this notion that conflict within capitalism, between the famous means and relations of production is NOT a conflict between labor and the condition of labor; between the labor-process and the valuation process, where development of the productivity of labor leads to declining profitability, that is to say the overproduction of capital, but rather a problem with finding extra-capitalist markets to "dump" or dispose of the commodities, i.e. of the "saturation" of markets with use-values.

Fettered development of the productive forces is the sine qua non of capitalism. The extra-capitalist markets are precisely the living proof of the ungoing, historically limited development of productive forces by capitalism. And again, that is the internal limit of capital; the limits of profitabililty in the exchange between capital and labor-power.

This:

Quote:
Once again, it’s about the point at which capitalist relations of production come into conflict with the further progressive development of the productive forces; at this point the conditions for its superceding exist and the mode of production enters into a period of acute crises, convulsions and struggles.

Doesn't have anything to do with decadence, unless of course you think that there were no conflicts in capitalism between the means of capitalist production and the relations of capitalist production prior to.......1914? In which case, we might ask, how the %$#@ did Marx ever come up with this notion, and determine that it applied to capitalism?

No capitalism is not "simply" cyclical. I have repeatedly addressed and identified long-term structural changes in capital. The issue is decadence-- that is to say, decline, decay, deterioration from some former peak of vitality. That's the normal everyday use of the word decadence. I like using the everyday language when I describe a condition of a social system.

My view is a bit contrary, to say the least, of yours-- this notion of conflict between means and relations of production as triggering an era of social revolution is NOT derived from Marx's grand view of history, but develops from his examination of the conditions specific to capitalism. It is precisely the product of the "dual role" of wage-labor, as both a social process and private property. It flows precisely from his analysis of the commodity; the industrial production of commodities by capitalism. It comes directly from his examination of profit, and the tendency for profitability to decline.

Everything Marx does, he does from analyzing the precise conditions of social labor. Rosa doesn't do that. Lenin tries and fudges it royally in the Development of Capitalism in Russia

baboon
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Jun 22 2015 16:58

Keeping it simple, let's say that capitalist decadence implies socialism or barbarism. The economic system is only kept going by debt - a debt that will have to be paid for by the working class. As much as the economic system depends on the increasing role of the state - and it has also provided itself with international bodies of financial order (more or less acting in the interests of the USA) - it cannot forever calibrate levels of destruction in order to generate new levels of accumulation and nothing more. It cannot do this because of the now overall irrationality of production for profit and the fundamental nature of capitalist competition. From the declaration of "peace and prosperity" in 1990, the threat of imperialist war - whether the bourgeoisie want it or not - has returned to centre stage. This has consequences for communists, society and the working class.

S. Artesian
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Jun 22 2015 17:31

No, the economy is not "only kept going by debt." That's nonsense. The system is kept going through the exploitation of labor, the intensity of which, at certain points and times when there is a change of the proportions of living and accumulate capital, cannot offset the tendency for profit to decline. Debt is not the determining characteristic but comes into play as a distributive process, helping to transfer profits and create the general rate of profit. Debt's origin is not in the "decay of capital" but in the different realization times, circulation times of the different capitals.

As for the rest, increasing role of the state-- we've already pointed out how that is nothing but the left wing version of the liberal laissez-faire mythology.

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Red Marriott
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Jun 22 2015 17:41
baboon wrote:
The "decadent period" Red, involved two unprecedented world wars, the second more destructive of proletarian and oppressed life and the means of production and culture than even the first and an almighty economic crisis that reduced millions to misery and opened the way to the development of militarisation and imperialism more than ever before. If the working class doesn't move effectively Red, we will certainly be "winning some more of it", that is crisis, decomposition and imperialist war. You must have an inkling of what the capitalist perspective is given the developments of war since 1945 and particularly since the "victory of capitalism" in 1989. Washing machines don't really come into it.

Yet in what is claimed as the “ascendant, progressive” era many millions died in the slave trade, millions also died as a result of being kicked off the land and into diseased slums and hellish factories. That capitalism has since developed greater technological skill in both military slaughter and medical resources, social hygiene, diet etc to increase life expectancy is unsurprising. But your beloved “ascendant, progressive” era was still pretty good, even with its more primitive warfare, in killing off people; see estimates here where there are dozens of 18th & 19th C wars, genocides, famines etc listed showing 100s of millions of deaths – including 20 million in the Taipang Rebellion and 27 million in the Colonial El Nino Famines. http://necrometrics.com/wars19c.htm
http://necrometrics.com/wars18c.htm You’ll surely not resort to the crude empiricism we were warned about earlier and claim that the quantative increase in destructive military capacity, ie higher numbers for the 20th C, is proof enough of a qualitative change to decadence? All you are really saying is that there are unsurprising variations and continuous development in capital’s military needs and capacities – but I don’t see that as proof of decadence. That capital has developed in tandem both military and medical advances (as well as washing machines) suggests, not decadence, but that periodic war crises and rising living standards have (even before 1914 or whenever) been integral and related components of capitalist development – and have both been delivered at an accelerating pace in the supposedly decadent era. All part of capital’s cruel dialectic, eg; http://www.researchtrends.com/issue-34-september-2013/military-medicine-...

Determinism sees all necessary stages leading to a pre-ordained conclusion; so History is and always has been a supposed sequential unfolding of these stages – a comforting narrative. This is a reification of history mistaken as a separate animated and determining force rather than as the process of self activity of humans. The proletariat as an active subject and contributor to outcomes by its struggles seems largely missing from the decadence descriptions offered here; except to heed the warnings of the ICC doomsayers. Yet it is the proles who won by their struggles the rising standards of living so quickly dismissed (reduced to "washing machines") as historically irrelevant/insignificant by ICCers & co. If there's no correspondence with the highs and lows of class struggles but instead all is overshadowed by the overarching greater determining category of "decadence" then it's hard to see much practical relevance for that theory.

markyhaze wrote:
Aufheben wrote the best part of a book trying to separate revolutionary Marxism from the concept of decadence and ended up (to their credit) publically admitting defeat.

This has been claimed by ICC & co before, but can you show here where they “publically admit” this? In the conclusions to their articles on decadence they don’t admit such a defeat, they say;

Quote:
In Place of a Conclusion
Is capitalism in decline? Coming to terms with theories of capitalist decline has involved a coming to terms with Marxism. One of the essential aspects of Marx's critique of political economy was to show how the relations of capitalist society are not natural and eternal. Rather, he showed how capitalism was a transitory mode of production. Capital displays itself as transitory. Its negation is within it, and there is a movement to abolish it. However, the theory of decline is not for us. It focuses on decline as a period within capitalism and it identifies the process of going beyond capital with changes in the forms of capital rather than the struggle against them.
Decline cannot be seen as an objective period of capitalism, nor can the progressive aspect to capital be seen as an earlier period now passed. The progressive and decadent aspects of capital have always been united. Capitalism has always involved a decadent negative process of the commodification of life by value. It has also involved the creation of the universal class in opposition, rich in needs and with the ultimate need for a new way of life beyond capital.
The problem with Marxist orthodoxy is that it seeks capital's doom not in the collective forms of organization and struggle of the proletariat but in the forms of capitalist socialization. It imposes a linear evolutionary model on the shift from capitalism to communism. The revolutionary movement towards communism involves rupture; the theorization of the decline of capitalism misses this by identifying with aspects of capital. As Pannekoek pointed out, the real decline of capital is the self-emancipation of the working class. http://libcom.org/library/decandence-aufheben-4

Can you also show where they state their intent as

Quote:
“trying to separate revolutionary Marxism from the concept of decadence”

They state their intention in the intro as ;

Quote:
in the face of unsatisfactory drifts in theory it is not the case that the only alternative is to reassert the fundamentals, rather we can and must critically re-examine them. http://libcom.org/library/decadence-aufheben-2

markyhaze
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Jun 23 2015 14:13
Red Marriott wrote:
markyhaze wrote:
Aufheben wrote the best part of a book trying to separate revolutionary Marxism from the concept of decadence and ended up (to their credit) publically admitting defeat.

This has been claimed by ICC & co before, but can you show here where they “publically admit” this?

It’s surprising just how often Aufheben’s text still gets referenced here as the last word in rebutting ‘decadence theory’ – despite the fact that the group’s own self-critical introduction on libcom admits it does no such thing.

In their own words, Aufheben set out to answer "ostensibly the basic question – are the theories of decadence true? Has capitalism entered the era of its decline?

Tens of thousands of words later, they were forced to admit that their resulting text was “ultimately flawed both in its conception and in its execution”, and its “non-conclusion” revealed that there were “serious problems” with their “ill considered”, “increasingly tenuous”, “fatally flawed” arguments.

In conclusion, “we did not pursue a thorough ‘critique’ of decadence theory very far” and as far as the original question was concerned, they “had not gone very far towards answering it

All quotes are from Aufheben’s own introduction to their text on libcom.

Spikymike
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Jun 23 2015 14:22

markyhaze quotes from the original linked text provided by steven in post no2 at the beginning of this discussion which includes some comments of my own. Not a full-blown retraction by Aufheben but some useful self-criticism.

S. Artesian
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Jun 23 2015 16:26

That's all swell, but what Aufheben says or doesn't say about decadence theory means nothing here.

The issues are what the ICC means by decadence, and I think every argument raised by those supporting the ICC theory can be and has been shown to either be inaccurate, or to not apply exclusively to capitalism post 1914, or fails to explain what decadence is.

And then there's the parts that are flat out self-contradictory, i.e the "is/was" matrix, where we get this "criticism":

Quote:
The ‘was/is matrix’ introduced by Alf was a specific article written 30 years ago which rejects the possibility of new capitalist units emerging in capitalist decadence. This was clearly wrong,

followed by this:

Quote:
The main point about markets and decadence is that by 1914 extra-capitalist markets had become too restricted for capitalism’s needs for further progressive expansion, ie. for the unfettered development of the productive forces;

Leaving aside for one moment the implication that markets were ever capable of supporting "unfettered development of the productive forces," the fact is that the ICC argument about new capitalist units emerging is fundamentally derived from, dependent upon the notion that the extra-capitalist markets "have become too restricted."

Guerre de Classe
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Jun 23 2015 17:03

https://libcom.org/library/theories-decadence-decadence-theory/

Quote:
Besides the fact that obviously the materialist dialectics is grossly discarded, the decadentist conceptions represent a serious alteration of the practical comprehension of the revolutionary struggle itself. If indeed, it’s the society itself that declines at a certain point, there is almost no reason anymore to see an always growing contradiction between the antagonistic classes (nevertheless we have seen that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”) since the collapse of the society is “automatic,” and even inherent to the naturalist process of societies’ “decline”. Therefore the only thing the revolutionary class has to do is to peacefully wait (as bourgeois wait their relatives’ legacy) the mortal conclusion of this decline.

[...]

Once again, the common point of all the decadentist theories (as well as the social practice of their defenders) lies in the negation/destruction of the dialectic method. For them, after having determined arbitrarily a peak to each mode of production, they determine the progressive and “rising” stage of the former, confirming thus the very ideology of the dominant class of this period; what at the political level is equivalent to actively supporting, not communism, but the current system, and to praising it under the pretext of progressivity, that is to say that it’s equivalent to negating and refusing the interests of the exploited classes and therefore of the revolutionary proletariat within this mode of production.

[...]

So, let’s be clear: either each class society is permanently based on class antagonism (which is the communists’ thesis) or during an ascending stage peculiar to each mode of production, this contradiction would disappear (or would become of “secondary importance”), and we fall inevitably in the bourgeois thesis of evolutionism towards an always greater progress, even if this progress is arbitrarily limited to such or such date and/or in such or such area, according to opportunist contingencies.

[...]

The decadentists are therefore in favour of slavery until such date, in favour of feudality until such other date... and pro-capitalist until 1914. As a result of their cult of progress, they are therefore each time against the class war of the exploited, against the communist movements that have the misfortune to start in the “wrong stage” because, according to them, the exploited would have had to support their exploiters, considered as being still progressive, as if exploiting and massacring the mankind in the general interest of human development. The ridicule turns into tragedy when the decadentists have to take a stand, for example on the Commune of Paris that, as everybody knows, revolted “in a full ascending stage of capitalism.” As utter clowns they are they evade the question: “It was an accident in history...” Babeuf and the Enraged, Blanqui, Marx and the thousands of proletarian fighters were as well? Thus, once again, either these movements are the expression of the permanence of class war (through all the class societies) and therefore of the communist movement (of which the communists of today inherited), and the invariant task of the communists is to take on their revolutionary direction, or these movements (all the more so when it’s about the proletariat as the bearer of the communist resolution of class antagonism) go against the current of history (and therefore the communists would no longer be the heirs of the struggle of the exploited classes of prehistory, but the heirs of the exploiters), and the communist movement, in each ascending stage, would therefore become a reactionary movement. Within the capitalist mode of production, the proletariat invariably exists and struggles as a class when it fights for the defence of its own and exclusive historical interests. When it becomes allied with any bourgeois faction, even a progressive and humanist one, the proletariat no longer exists as a class and is nothing else than a mass of citizens, atomised by democracy (it’s the tendency to be nothing else than “variable capital”); it then acts as a mass to be manipulated by the different bourgeois factions (republicans vs. royalists, fascists vs. popular fronts, etc.). Therefore as soon as the capitalist mode of production appeared, class struggle materializes the permanent confrontation between both poles of the capitalist contradiction: i.e. proletariat vs. bourgeoisie. The proletariat in its struggle for its historical interest is therefore directly antagonistic to all the bourgeois factions; it is invariantly and systematically anti-frontist, rejecting (because mortal) any alliance with a bourgeois faction. Moreover it’s what the experience of workers’ struggles proved us each time, when the proletariat lost its class independence to become allied with such or such bourgeois faction: it’s with its blood that it paid for this loss of historical perspective.

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Jun 23 2015 17:45
Artesian wrote:
That's all swell, but what Aufheben says or doesn't say about decadence theory means nothing here.

True, and I have no interest in defending Aufheben, but whether certain statements made about them are accurate means something. And these two statements by markyhaze in their contradiction suggest to me that at least one of them is inaccurate;

Quote:
1) Aufheben wrote the best part of a book trying to separate revolutionary Marxism from the concept of decadence and ended up (to their credit) publically admitting defeat.

2) In their own words, Aufheben set out to answer "ostensibly the basic question – are the theories of decadence true? Has capitalism entered the era of its decline?

It’s not like their final conclusions “admit” anything like ‘yeh we failed in our goal of separating Marxism from decadence’ as markyhaze claims; as the 2nd quote above shows, that wasn’t their stated intention. They say the failure of the text was that the approach to the subject was poorly planned and structured from the start and that some of their inherited assumptions didn’t hold up, not that their enquiry found decadence theory to be ‘undefeatable’. They say that some of the ICC’s criticisms of the text were valid; but they certainly seemed to remain unconvinced by their version of decadence theory, as shown by what they said in footnote 9;

Quote:
‘Black Wednesday’ in October 1992, which saw the pound evicted from the European Exchange Rate mechanism, seemed to vindicate the ICC’s contention that EMU was doomed to failure. However, with hindsight, ‘Black Wednesday’ also marked the beginning, particularly in the UK, of a new prolonged resurgence in capitalist accumulation that has done more to rebut their theory of decadence than any number of articles we could have written. http://libcom.org/aufheben/decadence#footnote9_671dc2r

Markyhaze may be right that it’s wrong to reference the article as a final refutation of decadence – but his/her description of it seems also biased and inaccurate.

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Jun 23 2015 17:53

Jamal, Artesian, this article argues that the end of gold convertibility means decadence of capitalism:
"A Marxist account of the relationship between commodity money and symbolic money in the context of contemporary capitalist development."
by Peter Kennedy in
What is Money?
Edited by John Smithin
Routledge 1999
https://books.google.com/books?id=VtSFAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA194#v=onepage&q&f=fa... (I'm sure a pdf is online)

S. Artesian
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Jun 23 2015 19:14

Could you summarize the argument; or at least something less than a book sized reference. We do want to keep the thread moving.

S. Artesian
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Jun 23 2015 19:33

Sorry Noa, I read (as much as I could, some pages are missing) the essay on the Google book format and Kennedy proves zero, nothing. He assumes what needs to be proven; more exactly he says:

Quote:
From 1972, in the context of the breakdown of Bretton Woods system and social welfare, capitalism entered an 'unmanaged' phase of decline where the antagonism between commodity and money all but diminished

WTF does that mean? First off, 'unmanaged'? As opposed to 'managed' phases of decline and/or ascendancy? Secondly the antagonism between the commodity and money all but diminished? Really? Examples please? Did barter replace money in liquidating and establishing trades in the market? Were letters of credit secured by something else other than a) the resources of the issuer backed up by b)the commodities being shipped?

Oh, and if the decline is unmanaged, how do we account for precisely the "management" of the issues of profitability and wages by the attacks on living standards and wages, by periods of capital retrenchment and capital expansion, etc. etc.?

Lack of antagonism between commodities and money? That's why the US bourgeoisie when on its great adventure of asset stripping, of asset liquidation, of private equity, leveraged buyouts etc etc? Because the antagonism was diminished?

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Jun 23 2015 20:06

It's just an article, I uploaded it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?b7d3tzz6o2gfzt1

S. Artesian
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Jun 23 2015 21:22
Noa Rodman wrote:
It's just an article, I uploaded it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?b7d3tzz6o2gfzt1

Thanks

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Jun 27 2015 20:18

slothjabber has been making some pretty interesting points on the ICC thread. Maybe he could summarize his current postilions here and we could keep the discussion going?

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Jun 27 2015 20:30