ICC position on Decadence and the Bourgeoisie in Developing Nations?

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Jul 8 2015 19:40

A translated fragment from a 1886 article by Kautsky on the Chinese railways and the European proletariat:

"...Herr (Ferdinand von) Richthofen [after quoting him, btw he coined the phrase "silk road"] is of course a passionate advocate of Chinese railways, although he sees, that they are a powerful means for the spur (/forderung, requirement) of a big industry, which even more than American industry, can become dangerous for the European, since it has available a much larger number of labour forces than it and possesses an extensive market in its own country. But Herr v. Richthofen thinks really in a capitalist way: after us can come what may, if only for the moment an advantage for us is in prospect. Such is for European industry indeed to be expected.

The Chinese railways will eventually lead to it that China becomes a formidable competitor for Europe; but at first they, when their construction is carried out quickly and energetically, must make China into a big market for Europe. It is the latter prospect which lets the capitalists and their representatives in science and the press rhapsodise so much for the Chinese railways, as a powerful means of spreading European culture among the barbarians of Eastern Asia.

They have indeed all cause to wish themselves luck, when the construction of railways in the Middle Kingdom is taken up.

The capitalist class feverishly seeks new markets, to get rid of their overproduction. The smallest tribe of naked savages today becomes a bone of contention, around which capitalist nations scuffle. But neither on the Congo nor in East Africa, neither on New Guinea nor on the half-forgotten island groups in the Pacific ocean are there markets of greater expansion, to open a drain for European and American overproduction. Only ignorance and confusion, if nothing worse, can let many of our colony-enthusiasts say, that our overseas possessions will exert the same effect on Germany, as India did on England.

There is still only one area on the whole globe, that offers a great market outlet for European industry, which was until now only little opened to it, that is China. This enormous area with a civilised population, which despite its little needs nevertheless has a very different need for industry products than the Negros or Papuans, will by its opening vastly expand the world market. The construction of railways will already on the iron industry have a stimulating effect. In the same degree, to which they extend, also the outlet for textile industry must grow.

If the construction of railways in China is carried out with sufficient zeal and is not hindered by inner relations, and if not certain events in Europe give the development another direction, then in the wake of the Chinese railways at first is to be expected a resurrection of economic activity, yes perhaps still one more time an economic upswing.

The European bourgeoisie expects indeed something like that. It has however no cause to raise its hopes too high. This economic upswing will, if it at all takes place, be the last, which is still possible under the modern mode of production, for a considerable expansion of the world market is no longer to be expected. The crash, which follows this upswing, must naturally leave behind it all previous events of this kind in scope and severity, and shake the entire building of our mode of production in its grounds. The upswing itself will however only for the smallest part benefit the European bourgeoisie, rather much more serve to develop the young industries in and around the immediate basin of the Pacific ocean, the industries of India, America, Australia, Japan. The opening of the Panama canal will shorten the distance between China and Western Europe only little, but between the east of the US and China in contrast very considerably. Also the industry in the river basin of the Mississippi will get an increased importance due to the Panama canal.

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Jul 9 2015 07:09

meh

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Jamal
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Jul 9 2015 07:09

meh

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Jul 9 2015 09:29

Engels 1892 letter quoted in Luxemburg:

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These [countries more or less fit to compete in the open world market] can find some means of relief in this seemingly hopeless situation by heroic measures of commercial policy, that is to say by forcibly opening up new markets. China is the most recent market to be opened up for English commerce, and it proved adequate for a temporary revival of prosperity. That is why English capital is so insistent on railroad building in China. Yet railways in China mean the destruction of the entire foundation of China’s small rural enterprises and her domestic industry.

A couple of articles in Die Neue Zeit dealing with China (its political course, rise of the bourgeoisie, history of railway construction):
by Parvus: A new China, 1908 (Ein neues China) part one and part two
by Theodor Rothstein, 1913: International finance and policy in China
" same year: China's strangulation

So I think that, like Alf says, there's need to further research China's development. It seems that Kautsky (and to some extent Engels) made a too hasty prediction about the pace of China's opening to the world market. Just looking at the increase of total railroad tracks, the "rapid development" of 1895-1911 seems rather small eg compared to India. And it's pretty slow increase until 1970.

S. Artesian
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Jul 9 2015 12:37

But what's your point Noa? The "anti-decadents" have not argued that China's development, pace of development, or lack of development indicates anything about capital ascending or descending.

"Opening China" as a market did not restore prosperity in 1892. Just the reverse. The recovery in prosperity is what "opened China" as a market, with all its limitations, including the failure of capitalism to transform the relations of agricultural production.

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Jul 9 2015 14:42

Yeah, I am also wondering what the latest posts by Noa amounts to. Sure, lots of quite interesting historical material, but what does it amount to? Nothing, considering that they can't even explain what decadence really is other than the normal course of history in the context of capital accumulation.

slothjabber
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Jul 10 2015 10:25

How do we know what 'the normal course of history in the context of capitalist accumulation' is? How do we compare to find the 'normal' when we don't have any control experiment?

Capitalism starting as the new economic system in a small number of territories that trade with each other = normal. Capitalist states aggressively expanding into new areas to dominate sources of materials and labour = normal. Capitalism not finding any new areas to dominate = normal. Capitalism repeatedly plunging the world into war over the attempt to re-divide territory = normal. States increasingly intervening in the economy = normal. Increasing commodification of all aspects of life = normal. Capitalism establishing the bloc system and teetering on the brink of destruction of humanity for half a century = normal.

These things aren't 'normal', they're just 'what happened'. The point is, what was happening in the 20th century was not the same as what was happening in the C19th (or even, from say the C16th onwards in some places). So come what is 'normal' in one period is not what is 'normal' in another?

baboon
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Jul 10 2015 13:28

Red Marriott above makes the point about the Taiping Rebellion which resulted in the deaths of millions, and uses this argument against the idea that there's been any fundamental change in capitalism. The Taiping Rebellion resulted in about 20 million deaths, which is some massacre. The First World War - an unprecedented world war - resulted in the deaths of some 40 odd millions with a level of destruction far deeper and far more extensive than Taiping. But decaying, decadent feudalism had its fair share of massacres and destruction. Following the First World War there was a Second World War, the levels of massacres and destruction dwarfed that of the First World War. And both the causes and effects of both these imperialist wars have continued unabated since 1945 up to today where we see the irrationality and destruction of the Middle East and Africa reaching new levels of absurdity and barbarism.

It's not a numbers game through the different periods of capitalism but, more importantly, one of perspectives. I'm not suggesting Red, or anyone else is saying this, but the bourgeoisie constantly secrete the idea that "there's always been war", "there's always been aggression and greed", thus this, capitalism, is the best there is.

Taking a basis from Capital and the inherent contradictions of the system, then a line through the last hundred years of capitalism and imperialism, from, say, World War One, through World War Two, to today, then what perspective do we have for capitalism's future?

S. Artesian
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Jul 10 2015 15:02

So the meaning of decadence is that as capitalism expands, it becomes more and more destructive? If that's what your meaning is, that's fine. But that's not decadence as posited by ICC.

To my understanding-- reading the ICC was/is matrix, the destructiveness is indicative of a capitalist decline; capitalism's deterioration; it's inability to expand sources of accumulation; the inability to find new markets, the constant saturation of existing markets..as opposed to ascendant capitalism, where theoretically the markets were not ever a fetter to the productive forces, accumulation was supposedly not constrained by markets, or the lack of markets.

Now if my interpretation of what ICC calls decadence is correct-- then there need to be theoretical underpinnings of the theory in the relations of capital itself, and there has to be empirical evidence of a "peak"-- where the constraints of markets did not restrict accumulation, and a decline-- where the markets "witness" the inability of capital to accumulate, to profitably exploit labor power, to create "new" markets, etc. etc.

Yes capitalism is more destructive than ever. It's bigger, more developed than ever. ICC decadence theory says the latter -- the bigger, the development should not have taken place from the getgo.

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Jul 10 2015 16:11
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Capitalism starting as the new economic system in a small number of territories that trade with each other = normal. Capitalist states aggressively expanding into new areas to dominate sources of materials and labour = normal. Capitalism not finding any new areas to dominate = normal. Capitalism repeatedly plunging the world into war over the attempt to re-divide territory = normal. States increasingly intervening in the economy = normal. Increasing commodification of all aspects of life = normal. Capitalism establishing the bloc system and teetering on the brink of destruction of humanity for half a century = normal.

Yup, given the frequency of this occurences I'd characterize that as the normal course of history within the context of capital accumulation. That's the fucking point' capitalism is an inverted world that is set against humanity, set on destroying it and our ecosystem if we do not change it.

Of course, there are a few things I'd say you're just wrong about like "Capitalism not finding any new areas to dominate". And that "]Capitalism starting as the new economic system in a small number of territories that trade with each other" is just the beginning of capital and therefore cannot be a recurring event.

slothjabber
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Jul 10 2015 17:00

What do you mean by 'the frequency of these occurances' Khawanga? Each has only really happened once.

How would be able to tell what (if anything) is 'abnormal', if as you seem to suggest, 'whatever happens' is 'normal'?

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Jul 10 2015 18:34

Really slothjabber? They've only happened once? Take off your ideological glasses and maybe you'll see clearly.

slothjabber
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Jul 10 2015 19:42

Capitalism emerged from England and the Low Countries and came to dominate the globe. I'm not aware that it did this more than once. I'm not aware that the European conquest of the world was also conducted by the Indonesians or Peruvians or some other set of 19th Century colonial powers. I'm not aware that the European (and US and Japanese) powers found that the limits of territorial expansion had been reached, and then fought amongst themselves - only for some other set of colonial powers to expand into the non-existant territory that the Britain, France, the USA etc had ignored... maybe there have been multiple World War Ones and World War Twos without me noticing. Maybe the state in the 17th and 18th Centuries came to dodminate the economy without leaving any record to be divined by anyone other than yourself.

I don't see how you can possibly claim that these events have happened repeatedly.

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Jul 11 2015 02:03

And I recognized that capitalism started in England.

Quote:
And that "]Capitalism starting as the new economic system in a small number of territories that trade with each other" is just the beginning of capital and therefore cannot be a recurring event.

And capitalist states aggressively going into new geographical areas happen again and again unless you take a very eurocentric view of world history. After the European powers, the US aggressively expanded world wide (they have military bases in some 100+ countries), today China is expanding into Africa etc. Sure if you take a simplistic view that markets=territorial control then you'd be correct, but that's not how capitalism works. See for example US in Vietnam; military intervention did fuck all, but through trade they achieved what they tried to militarily.

But in any case what I replied to what this

Quote:
Capitalism starting as the new economic system in a small number of territories that trade with each other = normal. Capitalist states aggressively expanding into new areas to dominate sources of materials and labour = normal. Capitalism not finding any new areas to dominate = normal. Capitalism repeatedly plunging the world into war over the attempt to re-divide territory = normal. States increasingly intervening in the economy = normal. Increasing commodification of all aspects of life = normal. Capitalism establishing the bloc system and teetering on the brink of destruction of humanity for half a century = normal.

Which is very different from your last goalpost shifting post. How on earth was I supposed to scrye that what you ",really" meant was colonialism, and not merely "Capitalist states aggressively expanding into new areas to dominate sources of materials and labour", which is clearly something recurring and not simply one off.

And this below qouote is rather silly considering the numerous wars since those two. Again a rather eurocentric view of wars, as if the only ones that matter is when European powers and big capitalist state are warring. I guess Jamal OP was spot on

Quote:
maybe there have been multiple World War Ones and World War Twos without me noticing.

slothjabber
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Jul 11 2015 10:03

Do only wars between European states matter? No. Do the wars of the major capitalist powers (several of which are in Europe) matter more than those between smaller and less-dominant states? Yes - to the majority of the world that isn't directly involved in the latter. Is that Eurocentric? No, it's 'capitalist-centric'. For specific historical reasons, capitalism developed in Europe. Some other countries (and I did specifically mention the USA and Japan) also became major capitalist powers. But Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia are all in Europe, yes. It's a bit disingenuous to claim that talking about that is 'Eurocentric', I think.

Having said all that - I knew what I meant when I wrote that list, but if you didn't realise that I was talking about specifics then that's my failure to clearly communicate. I'm talking about the secific way capitalism developed as a world system (not how the development of individual capitalist countries might have progressed) - which is an unrepeatable experiment and had a specific trajectory, so my problem with your characterisation of this as 'normal' is, how do we know what's 'normal' if it's only happened once?

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Jul 11 2015 13:18
Baboon wrote:
Red Marriott above makes the point about the Taiping Rebellion which resulted in the deaths of millions, and uses this argument against the idea that there's been any fundamental change in capitalism. The Taiping Rebellion resulted in about 20 million deaths, which is some massacre. The First World War - an unprecedented world war - resulted in the deaths of some 40 odd millions with a level of destruction far deeper and far more extensive than Taiping.

I think capitalism is continuing to change – it’s the ICC who think it’s stagnating now in a permanent decadence. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, those changes include growth in military capacity so it’s unsurprising that this has resulted in greater devastation. Though when one takes into account relative growth in population the deaths generally aren’t of greater magnitude, fwiw; the ‘pre-decadent’ wars & conquests killed much greater proportions of the population than World Wars I & II.

I showed that Lurch’s claim about WWI that there’s “Nothing to compare to the scale of it” is wrong; the Taiping figures of 20-30 million war deaths are conservative estimates – others claim 40 million or more - and commonly accepted figures for WWI war deaths are 17 million. Dunno where the WWI 40 million figure comes from, probably you’re incorporating the post-war global flu epidemic. But if one wants to resort to such counting then surely we have to also take account of how many lives saved by medical advances, some of which – as I showed earlier - are as a result of research deriving from military medicine. Add in increased life expectancy (a global phenomena) etc and then the decadence numbers argument looks unconvincing and poorly researched.
Estimates for deaths in war & other conquests vary widely. But in this “List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll”; https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=1iS8dcgxO1TWP4-q6zU...
7 of the top 10 are in the ‘pre-decadent’ era – the relative percentages of population affected also show that the devastation was in many ways worse in the pre-decadent era. They also fail to include the Atlantic slave trade for which estimates vary widely between 2.5-58 million – or the European conquests of the Americas which resulted in tens of millions of deaths, both ‘pre-decadent’. So “barbarism” is nothing new and there’s plenty “to compare to”, eg the Mongol conquests starting in 1207 killing an estimated 30-60 million accounting for 7.5-17% of the global population.

Quote:
But decaying, decadent feudalism had its fair share of massacres and destruction. Following the First World War there was a Second World War, the levels of massacres and destruction dwarfed that of the First World War. And both the causes and effects of both these imperialist wars have continued unabated since 1945 up to today where we see the irrationality and destruction of the Middle East and Africa reaching new levels of absurdity and barbarism.

Capitalism has always been “barbaric”; enclosures, slavery, wars, child factory labour, diseased slums, short brutal lives of proles, imperialist plunder and destruction of cultures & ecology etc. All you can respond to that is that the quantative effects and abilities of capitalist destructiveness have enlarged. Well of course they have! They’re accumulative and they inevitably continue to technologically expand – which is hardly a sign of a decadent capitalism unless you’re using it in a very unmarxist moralist way.

The essentially moralistic condemnation of “barbarism” etc implies that capitalism once had a higher, healthier moral ethic and objective effect – a laughable idea, given its bloody history. It’s a moral judgement of history rather than an assessment from the view of class struggle. It’s strange how little the proletariat itself figures in the descriptions of decadence given here – their agency and ability to affect capitalist development is largely ignored except for a fetishisation of the end result of revolutionary overthrow. No permanent reforms can be won, it’s claimed (though social development in, eg, Asia is refuting this – insofar as there is permanence to anything) so one solution – revolution. Like the communisationists, decadence fetishises the millenarian day of judgement in a way that disconnects from any necessary historical process of its arrival. Decadence is like a biblical parable for the proles on the necessity of belief in that day – but more so, on why capitalism needs to be destroyed before it destroys us. It’s like the original sin of ICC’s defending ascendant capitalism will be redeemed by continually prophesying and proclaiming its decay and fall. In that sense ICC, communisationists (& also SPGB’s fetish of a mirage parliamentary majority) all become myth builders like Sorel advocated – creators of an inspirational happy-ever-after goal-oriented narrative. But at least Sorel was explicit about his myth making.

Quote:
It's not a numbers game through the different periods of capitalism but, more importantly, one of perspectives. I'm not suggesting Red, or anyone else is saying this, but the bourgeoisie constantly secrete the idea that "there's always been war", "there's always been aggression and greed", thus this, capitalism, is the best there is.

Clearly no one is saying that here – and decadence theory is not necessary to reject any claims of an eternal capitalism. But it’s almost like possessing a comforting decadence “perspective” is more important than testing the truth of it; even when the historical claims don’t add up, as shown above. Its function seems to be to reassure that capitalism will destabilise enough to make revolt possible – which implies little confidence in the proletariat as potential revolutionary subject and more in objective determinations of a reified history. Yet, from our present perspective, capitalism seems very strong with whatever crises it faces utilised to suppress an already weak class struggle further (austerity etc). As has been said many times in many ways; if capital can make us pay it’s always our crisis more than theirs – they keep getting richer, we get poorer. That’s not a comforting “perspective” – but more accurate and so useful than proclaiming decadence and looming Armageddon constantly as if it’s gonna shock everyone into sudden revolt. (Which is not to underestimate the likelihood of future disasters.)

Quote:
Taking a basis from Capital and the inherent contradictions of the system, then a line through the last hundred years of capitalism and imperialism, from, say, World War One, through World War Two, to today, then what perspective do we have for capitalism's future?

For the ICC, it’s apparently ‘continued growth within stagnating decadence’ – so one could point out that “where there’s muck there’s brass”; the wars, austerity, management of ecological crisis and other ingredients of the “barbaric” decadence description are all very profitable industries at present. But according to the ICC’s logic perhaps space travel is capital’s next “extra-capitalist market”? Then a new round of primitive accumulation and imperialist plunder can begin and so a new inter-planetary ‘progressive, ascendant era’ of pre-decadence?!

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Jul 11 2015 16:59
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For specific historical reasons, capitalism developed in Europe. Some other countries (and I did specifically mention the USA and Japan) also became major capitalist powers.
But Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia are all in Europe, yes. It's a bit disingenuous to claim that talking about that is 'Eurocentric', I think.

But that wasn't what I called Eurocentric or disagreed with, at all actually. What I referred to as Eurocentric was the claim that only "European wars" matter. That's rather callous for one, but also a strange way of mining for evidence for a very specific claim.

Quote:
Having said all that - I knew what I meant when I wrote that list, but if you didn't realise that I was talking about specifics then that's my failure to clearly communicate. I'm talking about the secific way capitalism developed as a world system (not how the development of individual capitalist countries might have progressed) - which is an unrepeatable experiment and had a specific trajectory, so my problem with your characterisation of this as 'normal' is, how do we know what's 'normal' if it's only happened once?

Sure, there is only one history of how capitalism developed if we take a really wide and macroscopic view that includes the entirety of the planet and we flatten all local differences. Then we're talking about an abstraction and what Marx would refer to as its ideal average. Edit: and it's because of that you appear to be Eurocentric. If war in inherent to capitalism, and capitalism is world system, then surely the wars between capitalist states that developed after Britain, France, Germany etc. also matter because their wars would be capitalist. What is capitalist-centric is not limiting it to European or Imperial states because that turns capitalism into something Eurocentric or something purely imperial.

But a lot of what you decadence folks cite as evidence of ascent or decline is either something repeating (numerous wars) or cyclical, which is based on the normal course of capitalist accumulation (repeated crises etc).

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Jul 12 2015 10:27
jojo wrote:
Cancer is growth too. Not all growth is good.

A witty quote from our friend slothjabber which has now become the ICC's official party line. But this cancerous "growth" you talk about is bad for the body and mind no matter what way you chop it. Cancer is not progressive to the body in the early stages of the disease. Cancer is obviously a regressive thing overall. Just like human society has been for 10,000 years or more.

For example, this site demonstrates that even in it's so called "progressive era", early capitalism managed to kill 45 million people in wars and rebellions. 45 million deaths---how progressive!

Chris Knight suggests primitive communism itself may have been the result of a political revolution, an empathy revolution, an egalitarian movement away from "Alpha"-male domination. If this was the case, and we may never know for sure, we should be saying human society has been nothing but regressive for over 10,000 years. Class society is regressive. Period.

To quote my close comrade:

Leo wrote:
I think any theory of rise and fall of production relations need to be stripped out of any progressivist influences. Every progress in terms of class based production relations include a regression in some sense, as with every progressive class based production relation in comparision to the previous one is also a regression in terms of a move away from the classless society which dominated the majority of our species existance on the planet whereas it is progressive in that it brings our species to a new classless society. Is there a good arguement against the idea that communism was directly possible from slave societies or feudalism? Well, yes - it didn't happen or even appear as a realistic possibility. Are there examples of non-communist struggles in earlier capitalism which were worth the support of revolutionaries? I can think of two examples from North America: abolitionism and the Native American struggle. Was Marx wrong in supporting the Germans initially in the Franco-Prussion war? Yeah, probably.

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Jul 12 2015 11:02

"Marx in his reply to Vera Zasulich on the Russian commune was quite prepared to en­dorse the view that “the new system to which modern soci­ety is tending 'will be a revival, in a superior form, of an archaic social type’”

This concept of a “revival” on a higher level is integral to dialectical thinking but it is a real puzzle to the bourgeois outlook, which offers us a choice between a linear view of history and a naive idealisation of the past. When Marx was writing, the dominant trend in bourgeois thought was a simplistic evolutionism in which the past, above all the primitive past, was repudiated as a fog of darkness and childish superstition, the better to justify “present day civilisation” and its enslavement or extermination of the primitives who stood in its way. Today the bourgeoisie car­ries on exterminating what’s left of the primitives, but it no longer has the same unshakable faith in its civilising mis­sion, and there is a strong counter-trend, especially among the petty bourgeoisie, towards “primitivism”, the hopeless desire to return to the primitive way of life, now imagined as a kind of lost paradise.

For both these outlooks, it is impossible to look at primitive society lucidly, recognising both its “grandeur”, as Engels put it, and its limitations: the lack of real indi­viduality and freedom in a community dominated by scarcity; the restriction of the community to the tribe, and thus the essential fragmentation of the species in this epoch; the inability of mankind in these formations to see himself as an active, creative being, and thus his subordination to mythical projections and unchallengeable ancestral tradi­tions. The dialectical view is summed up by Engels in The Origins of the Family: “The power of these primordial communities had to be broken, and it was broken. But it was broken by influences which from the outset appear to us as a degradation, a fall from the simple moral grandeur of the ancient gentile society”. A fall that is also an advance; elsewhere in the same work Engels writes that “Monogamy was a great historical ad­vance, but at the same time it inaugurated, along with slav­ery and private wealth, that epoch, lasting until today, in which every advance is likewise a relative regression, in which the well-being and development of one group are at­tained by the misery and repression of the other”. These are scandalous concepts to bourgeois common sense, but, just like the “revival on a higher level” which complements them, they make perfect sense from the dialectical point of view, which sees history moving forward through the clash of contradictions"

(An extract from an article in our series on communism,http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/199506/1685/mature-ma...)

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Jul 12 2015 12:00

The communities had to be broken....Much like the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, the Students of the late 60's...Is modern human civilization just one big counter revolution? Or rather a revolution, of social class, private property, sexism, etc. And the communist movement a counter revolution to this movement?

I don't see anything in Alf's post that contradicts my previous post. He seems increasingly skeptical of the ICC's theory of decadence.

slothjabber
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Jul 12 2015 12:13
Khawaga wrote:
... What I referred to as Eurocentric was the claim that only "European wars" matter. That's rather callous for one, but also a strange way of mining for evidence for a very specific claim...

And I wonder where you mined it from, because I never said it.

Khawaga wrote:
...
If war in inherent to capitalism, and capitalism is world system, then surely the wars between capitalist states that developed after Britain, France, Germany etc. also matter because their wars would be capitalist. What is capitalist-centric is not limiting it to European or Imperial states because that turns capitalism into something Eurocentric or something purely imperial...

It's an historical accident that capitalism developed in Europe and then conquered the globe. But not all major capitalist powers are in Europe. A war between the US and Japan, or between China and India, would be more important than a war between Croatia and Serbia, or between the Netherlands and Denmark, because the US, Japan, India and China are major powers whereas Serbia, Croatia, Denmark and the Netherlands aren't. On the other hand, wars between France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK are more important than between Peru and Bolivia, or between Uganda and Somalia. Not because the theory is Eurocentric, but wars between big powers have more of an impact than wars between smaller powers. I really don't see how that's 'Eurocentric'.

Khawaga wrote:
...
But a lot of what you decadence folks cite as evidence of ascent or decline is either something repeating (numerous wars) or cyclical, which is based on the normal course of capitalist accumulation (repeated crises etc).

Again I don't know how you define 'normal'. What in your view would be 'abnormal'?

S. Artesian
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Jul 12 2015 13:00

Would somebody from the "pro-decadence" group please go through the "was/is" matrix and provided evidence for those assertions that is not, or cannot be, contradicted by the actual history, and present, of capitalism?

Or, if you prefer, I'll do it for you-- although it won't actually be a defense

slothjabber
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Jul 12 2015 15:25

Well, count me out, because I think the 'was/is matrix' is a bit sketchy.

Support for a theory of decadence doesn't rely on that document. So perhaps as this thread is specifically about 'the ICC's' theory of decadence I shouldn't have stuck my oar in. But I certainly don't think that the position I've been defending is very far from the ICC's.

S. Artesian
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Jul 12 2015 15:39

OK, Alf?

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Jul 12 2015 19:35

I can't promise anything in the immediate, but I do agree it's an important task. As I said, the text was written over 30 years ago and it needs updating

S. Artesian
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Jul 12 2015 23:55

Have at it, my brethren.

Lurch
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Jul 13 2015 18:30

Red Marriot wrote (post 287):

“I think capitalism is continuing to change – it’s the ICC who think it’s stagnating now in a permanent decadence. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, those changes include growth in military capacity so it’s unsurprising that this has resulted in greater devastation. Though when one takes into account relative growth in population the deaths generally aren’t of greater magnitude, fwiw; the ‘pre-decadent’ wars & conquests killed much greater proportions of the population than World Wars I & II.”

Whether Red Marriott finds it ‘surprising’ or ‘unsurprising’ that the “growth in military capacity” has “resulted in greater devastation” is of no interest to anyone but Red Marriott. The fact is that it has.

It’s the ‘greater devastation’, the danger that the continued development of the capitalist mode of production poses for the future evolution of the species and the planet that concerns us. Red Marriott would rather echo, like some glossy PR brochure, all the benefits that modern-day capitalist social relations bestow on mankind.... “Surely we have to also take account of how many lives saved by medical advances, some of which – as I showed earlier - are as a result of research deriving from military medicine. Add in increased life expectancy (a global phenomena) etc and then the decadence numbers argument looks unconvincing and poorly researched.”

He’s got to be having a laugh, no? Why should we fall on our knees to Red Marriott’s capitalist God in praise for any advances that have been made in the past 100 years? The question, surely, is how much further, how much better, how many more lives and their quality might have been enhanced without the vile law of profit dictating who does what to whom; without, the historically outmoded division of the planet into 200 or so competing nation states when this form of existence has, from the point of view of the exploited, from the point of view of the vast majority, long shown it’s utter bankruptcy?

Furthermore: “I think capitalism is continuing to change – it’s the ICC who think it’s stagnating now in a permanent decadence.”

It’s true that the decadence of any mode of production is a permanent, irreversible feature. But that hardly implies – Marxists and the ICC have never said -that there’s no change, no evolution in decadence. On the contrary, the ICC has always insisted that decadence itself, as well as being a constant feature of historical evolution, itself has a history.

The history of Feudal decadence is different from the history of the history of capitalist decadence. And the decadence of capitalist society itself has a history. It’s not something static. The First World War was an immense shock, a terrible wake-up call that echoed throughout society (except, perhaps, Red Marriott). But, following the unprecedented economic Depression of the 1930s, the Second World War was again an incremental, mathematical notch in the scale of capitalist barbarism. And that’s the point: Red Marriott can’t tolerate the idea, the reality, that ‘things are getting worse’. All the shiny glister of capital: it’s blinded him.

Red Marriott boasted: “I showed that Lurch’s claim about WWI that there’s “Nothing to compare to the scale of it’ is wrong; the Taiping figures of 20-30 million war deaths are conservative estimates – others claim 40 million or more - and commonly accepted figures for WWI war deaths are 17 million. Dunno where the WWI 40 million figure comes from, probably you’re incorporating the post-war global flu epidemic.”

Red Marriott ‘showed’ nothing of the sort.

For a start, the horrendous massacre in China to which he referred was itself the result of the decadence of that particular form of the Asiatic/Feudal mode of production – combined with the pressure of the newly-rising capitalism (Palmerston’s gunboat policy, etc). It shows the corrosive effects of the social stalemate that decadence represents. In this sense, it illustrates, rather than contradicts the case of the ‘decadentists.’.

Secondly, this human tragedy (1850 to 1864) did not inhibit, become a fetter on, the further development of the capitalist mode of production but, on the contrary, was, I would argue, a factor in the acceleration of this development.

“While from 1850 to 1913 the volume of world trade increased by more than tenfold, from 1919 to 1936-38, world trade increased by only 7.4 per cent (1913 = 100 per cent; 1936-38 = 107.4 per cent), and the level of trade in industrial products was lower in 1936-38 (92.2 per cent) than on the eve of World War I. It must be added that in 1950, the world economy after great difficulty caught up with the 1938 trade level; in other words, world trade stagnated from 1938 to 1950.... During World War I, production in the European countries decreased by more than one third and world production by 10 per cent. Never before had capitalism experienced such a decline in production . [Fritz Sternberg, Capitalism And Socialism On Trial, Greenwood Press, New York 1968]

The ‘Taiping figures’ cynically used by Red Marriott, had no comparable effect on the evolution of the world economy. On the contrary...

Red Marriott is wrong to contradict the idea and reality that the First World War, in its fundamental origins and in its fundamental consequences, was not a qualitative and quantitative break from the past, an ‘omen’ of capitalist decadence.

Finally, for the moment, Red Marriott wrote: “Capitalism has always been “barbaric”; enclosures, slavery, wars, child factory labour, diseased slums, short brutal lives of proles, imperialist plunder and destruction of cultures & ecology etc.”

I agree with this statement. Karl Marx agreed with this statement. Capital was born oozing blood and muck from every pore.

Red Marriott wrote: “The essentially moralistic condemnation of “barbarism” etc implies that capitalism once had a higher, healthier moral ethic and objective effect – a laughable idea, given its bloody history. It’s a moral judgement of history rather than an assessment from the view of class struggle.

First of all I have no problem in making a moral judgement about capitalist society. It’s a class society, in continuity with previous class societies, which is based on the exploitation of man by man. This is in itself a condemnation, which is why Marx and those who followed him like Rosa Luxemburg, denounced its reified inhumanity, even as they recognised it as an inevitable stage in the evolution of human social relations.

However, the following two questions remain: why did Marx and the Marxists him who followed argue that capitalism was a necessary evil; and under what circumstances was it necessary to break from promoting this horrible social relation, and begin, in earnest, to work not for its spread, but for its destruction?

The answer lies in the essence of historical materialism, in this discussion around ascendance and decadence.

And to conclude, on the Marxist, historical, and moral level:

“The Great Famine (Irish:an Gorta Mór) or the Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. It is sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine .... During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%” (Wicki).

There are few more morally bankrupt moments in the ascendance, the growth, of capital than this period. And yet ... The millions who were forced, on pain of starvation, to emigrate from Ireland (or, if you adopt a global vision) from Eastern Europe, from other centres raped by the decay of feudalism and the rise of ascendant capital found new lives; found work.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

That was the siren song of ascendant capitalism, of America and elsewhere in the mid-late 19th century. Millions of those ruined by capital’s destruction of the previous mode of production found jobs, and increased humanity’s productive capacity.

Contrast that today to those separated by walls in Calais, in Israel, in Mexico, to the thousands drowning the in the Mediterranean, to the short-term jobs of China and India....

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Khawaga
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Joined: 7-08-06
Jul 13 2015 18:45

Talk about entirely missing the point of Red Marriot's posts, which is a critique of the so-called evidence for ascent/decline. What he is arguing, if I understand him correctly, is that you can't data mine evidence, i.e. ignore the evidence that doesn't support your thesis. If you point out the increased destructive capacity you also need to point out increases in life-saving tech etc. Just one little example to that effect: compared to the Vietnam war the casualties of the US in Iraq was really, really low mainly thanks to massive improvements in dealing with extreme bodily trauma. Sure, there are lots of people now without limbs, chronic concussions etc. and not to mention that civilians typically never get such treatment as US soldiers and thus died in horrible numbers, but this is just to point out that you cannot simply take one set of data, but ignore the rest. It is not scientific, it is ideological and disingenuous. Moreover, just pointing out positive developments does not mean adherence to the rigid stages of history thinking where capitalism was a necessary evil on the way to communism. It's just pointing out historical facts.

Quote:
The answer lies in the essence of historical materialism, in this discussion around ascendance and decadence.

More world spirits...

Lurch
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Jul 13 2015 18:56

"Just one little example to that effect: compared to the Vietnam war the casualties of the US in Iraq was really, really low mainly thanks to massive improvements in dealing with extreme bodily trauma. Sure, there are lots of people now without limbs, chronic concussions etc. and not to mention that civilians typically never get such treatment as US soldiers and thus died in horrible numbers, but this is just to point out that you cannot simply take one set of data, but ignore the rest. It is not scientific, it is ideological and disingenuous. "

Brilliant: we're to bow to the advance of capital by citing the effectiveness of its drones. I don't believe that it's the 'decadentists' who've missed the point here, tbh....."

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Khawaga
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Jul 13 2015 19:12

Again, you're completely missing the point. It is not "bow to the advance of capital", but pointing out the disingenuous and unscientific mining of evidence on behalf of the supporters of decadence theory.

And where did I even mention drones? Seems like the ICC has even affected your reading comprehension. If I need to spell it out you; given the increased destructive capacities of weapons, the number of fatalities of combatants should go up everywhere. It hasn't when it comes to modern armies because of the advances of medical science. But that it's fucking normal of capital to apply those advances not to people as such, but is left for the iron gauntlets of the market. Misery on one side, wealth and prosperity on the other.

Do you understand that pointing out facts that do not support decadence theory is not the same as saying "hooray for capital"?