Decadence theory

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jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Apr 2 2006 11:01
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Therefore there can be no communism in just one country or just a handful of countries, and, Jef, there can also be no country that isn't decadent because it is the entire era that is decadent. The reason the revolution is possible is because the material basis for a communist globe exists. Willing it to happen isn't enough. The reason the revolution is necessary is because the system is dying and leading mankind into the abyss.

Why is it not possible?

I see that, for example, a feudal relic would be colonised by capital but I fail to see why it is impossible for a large enough group of countries could not be communist.

South America for example could comfortably support itself as a bloc, they might be a little short on weapons-producing capacity and infrastructure though.

In terms of expansion of capital, domestic credit by UK householders, is not merely used to buy imported goods, large amounts of it are being exported into European property markets. France/Spain were early targets but the market has started to become saturated, so now its Bulgaria/Croatia etc.

I am largely in agreement with you Alibadani, although I think you have misrepresented my questions

Quote:
Willing it to happen isn't enough

I am suspicious of the decadence argument because I am never sure at what point the revolutionary phase is entered.

You have mentioned the First World War, but I think that capital has managed to be progressive since the First and Second World Wars.

Can I ask for a clear response, are we in a revolutionary phase or not? Is communism possible now?

If so how do you account for the continued existence of a country like Nepal, for example?

It seems obvious to me that barbarism is possible now, I find it odd that socialism is not.

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Apr 2 2006 11:08

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Why is it not possible?

By definition, given the Internationalists' interpretation of communism

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 11:31

In reponse to a couple of points raised by Jef.

Could a feudal serf understand communism if we explained it to him?

I don't think that's the right question. In the course of their struggles, pre-capitalist exploited classes like the slaves (eg Spartacus revolt) or the serfs (1381, John Ball etc) did give rise to a communist vision of sorts. But it was a vision tinged with all kinds of mythological projections and could not develop a lucid understanding either of the past or the future. This was certainly connected to the absence of the material conditions for a communist society which could permit every individual to develop his/her capacities to the utmost. Capitalism - both because it made possible the scientific world view, and because it creates the technical potentiality (not the actuality) for solving the 'economic' problem - was a necessary stage towards communism. And the working class is the only exploited class that can develop a clear self-knowledge, a programme for the future of the human species.

Could South America create a 'communist bloc'? You begin the answer to your own question when you bring in the problem of weapons. A society that had to defend itself from military attack could not be devoting itself to the all-round development of the individual and to overcoming the conflict between work and play. And since it would in any case be surrounded by a capitalist world market, the laws of the market would inevitably distort and ultimately undermine its efforts to get rid of the wage system and commodity production.

So, answering LR as well, while the revolution will not be completely simultaneous in all countries, its fundamental priority is to extend across the globe as rapidly as possible. LR, of course, may not agree because he doesn't appear to identify communism with the abolition of commodity production.

I don't fully understand Jef's question about whether we are in a revolutionary phase. Marx talked about "the epoch of social revolution" in which a new mode of production becomes necessary and possible - that's what we mean by decadence. But this epoch itself has a history and is not in a permanent revolutionary situation. There was a revolutionary situation in 1917-20. But with the defeat of the revolutionary wave, the situation changed. In the 1930s the objective necessity for communism was certainly still there (the world economic crisis made that clear) but a defeated working class lacked the subjective capacity to turn the crisis to its advantage. Today we are not yet in a revolutionary situation, but there is the possibility that the working class, which is no longer a defeated class depite all its difficulties, will repond to the deepening crisis with revolutionary means.

Even if you don't share this assessment of the different phases in the balance of class forces in the decadent epoch, the distinction between the overall nature of the period and its more short-term perspectives should be comprehensible.

Some of the other points made seem to criticise decadence by implying it means that if something is historically necessary, then it will inevitably happen. That would certainly be 'objectivism' gone mad, and it's a criticism that has long been levelled at marxism in general. But putting forward the alternative 'socialism or barbarism' clearly signifies that the working class has to intervene in history as a conscious subject, otherwise the objectivism of capital will indeed drag humanity into barbarism.

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Apr 3 2006 11:52

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LR, of course, may not agree because he doesn't appear to identify communism with the abolition of commodity production.

Explain how you mass produce dildos that are not "commodities".

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 13:23

Karl Marx does it better...

Try Chapter one of Volume one of Capital - the difference between use value and exchange value. It applies to dildos as much as to anything else.

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Apr 3 2006 15:08

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Ho ho. Believe you me, I’ve got a better developed understanding of the commodity than you unlikely allies, plus whatever dead beards whose track record of success you drawn upon with such relish.

Perhaps you’d like to answer my question without recourse to Marxist jargon, which is one minority language we can certainly do without.

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It applies to dildos as much as to anything else.

Dildos are especially decadent though, and as such are more resistant to being abolished as commodities than toothbrushes. Explain to me how to mass produce toothbrushes that are not "commodities".

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 15:30

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you do understand that just mass producing something doesn't make it a commodity?

I understand the Marxist notion of commodity perfectly well.

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You do understand that a commodity is linked to the production for it's exchange value and not for use.

I understand that Marxists have a special definition of commodity as “something which is made to be sold”.

Quote:
companies produce dildos cause they can make a profit, rather than cause they really like things up their ass. They are produced for accumulation rather than use.

Companies produce dildos because people like dildos and a living can be made from their production. If people didn’t like them up ‘em, do you think they would still be made? Course not.

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Maybe you'd best go back and ponder the distinction between use and exchange value.

I assume the distinction between use and exchange value remains central to Marxist “theories” of capitalist crisis and decadence. All discourse on Marxist decadence eventually ends up in LTV-land.

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 18:10

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really, Lazy Riser, plenty of people want anti aids drugs and clean water but no fucking companies seem willing to bring these products to huge swathes of the third world.

Thank you Bob Geldof. You can’t get that stuff in Okehampton either, and they need it badly, I can tell you. It’s not capitalism’s fault they’re poor, they bring it on themselves through their utility in bourgeois debate. If reactionary arguments like this didn’t require their existence they’d cease to be.

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and do you have any actually criticisms of marx's labour theory of value?

I don’t need any. The right have already done an excellent job of discrediting it without me adding insult to injury by attacking it from the left.

Nevertheless, you fancy yourself as a bit of Marxist, explain the connection between LTV, crises and decadence. Make yourself useful.

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 19:04

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this is what the labour theory of value is about, very little to do with economic alchemy that tries to explain mythical iron laws that somehow transcend all social relations and even less to do with working out commodity prices vis a vis complex equations.

I’m pretty happy with the way you’ve framed LTV there. Catch makes a similar pitch.

Does this soft-LTV make the tension between a discrete “exchange value” and the number of labour hours congealed in an object disappear? If so there are adverse consequences for (strictly) Marxist theories of crisis and decadence.

Love

LR

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Apr 3 2006 19:32
Alf wrote:
And since it would in any case be surrounded by a capitalist world market, the laws of the market would inevitably distort and ultimately undermine its efforts to get rid of the wage system and commodity production

.

I see your point but I'm not convinced that the market would be able to distort it, provided it was a self-sufficient bloc.

Quote:
I don't fully understand Jef's question about whether we are in a revolutionary phase. Marx talked about "the epoch of social revolution" in which a new mode of production becomes necessary and possible - that's what we mean by decadence. But this epoch itself has a history and is not in a permanent revolutionary situation. There was a revolutionary situation in 1917-20. But with the defeat of the revolutionary wave, the situation changed. In the 1930s the objective necessity for communism was certainly still there (the world economic crisis made that clear) but a defeated working class lacked the subjective capacity to turn the crisis to its advantage. Today we are not yet in a revolutionary situation, but there is the possibility that the working class, which is no longer a defeated class depite all its difficulties, will repond to the deepening crisis with revolutionary means.

I wanted to know if it was linear, as has been hinted at, and that therefore once capitalism had become decadent then it could no longer return to an earlier phase.

I didn't realise that you didn't make a direct lik between decadence and the revolutionary situation (which is, I'm assuming) a situation where a communist revolution can happen.

Quote:
Some of the other points made seem to criticise decadence by implying it means that if something is historically necessary, then it will inevitably happen. That would certainly be 'objectivism' gone mad, and it's a criticism that has long been levelled at marxism in general. But putting forward the alternative 'socialism or barbarism' clearly signifies that the working class has to intervene in history as a conscious subject, otherwise the objectivism of capital will indeed drag humanity into barbarism

Is it possible for some states to be barbaric/decadent/progressive at the same time.

I can see how the expansion of developed countries into less developed countries is a method of siphoning off the pressures that would lead to barbarism and keeping them in a state of decadence.

But that would mean that unless a revolution is possible now, then it never has been and will not be until every country has been brought to the point of decadence.

A commodity is something that has exchange value simply because people want it isn't it, not because they actually need it.

Just because people want/need things doesn't mean that they are privileged enough to obtain them under capitalism. I'm surprised to see this argument from you Revol.

I would hope that commodity production still exists to an extent. I like to read books, but I want to read them rather than need to read them. Unless you reformulate the concept of need, people need leisure items to fill leisure time unless you plan for them to do nothing but work. In which case although the system of commodity production as it stands will be abolished, but there will still be items produced simply because people want them.

Please don't be arsey if I've messed up the Marx, just correct it. This has been informative.

baboon
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Apr 4 2006 11:28

Devrim, re your April 1st post

I didn't for one minute think that you were saying that the working class was "stupid" or anything else I put in quotes. You said nothing like it nor did you in the least imply it. The point I was making was that in capitalism's ascendent period the working class could express the consciousness of itself as an historical class and could act thus (eg. the Lancs' cotton workers' strike), despite the denigrations heaped upon it by all the elements of the bourgeoisie "stupid", "thick", "greedy", etc. Similarly, the working class as a whole "understood" the decadence of capitalism through its revolutionary action and that this was no abstract, theoretical question alone, but was again expressed through its proletarian consciousness forged through its link with Bolshevism; succinctly summed up in the slogans "All power to the soviets" and "Turn the imperialist war into a civil war". I put the terms of denigration in quotes, not because you said them, you clearly didn't, but because such attitudes of contempt for the working class are common currency among the bourgeoisie, leftism and a great part of anarchism.

Alibadani, I can give my opinion about anarchism though (a part of) it provides this site. Similarly, I can give my opinion about capitalism, though it provides me with everything.

To return to the point. A good example for the basis of the contempt that a great part of anarchism has for the working class, can be seen in the ideas of what I will call the "Bakuninism" of the 18th century - a period of capitalism's meteoric rise. Let's say straightaway that Bakunin early on had some insights into the revolutionary perspective but these were soon lose completely.

Bakuninist anarchism was based on abstract, eternal principles, whatever the period. Whereas marxism analysed the historical dimension of capitalism while never losing sight of the final goal - communism, anarchism saw the problems of capitalist society being in contradiction with the timeless principle of "human nature", Thus, for Bakunin's anarchism, the revolution is on the cards at any time and through any vector (crooks, criminals, declasse, lumpen elements), whereas for marxism the proletariat is the sole subject of the revolution and that revolution is only a material possibility when the current economy has become a fetter (ie, when that society goes into decadence).

Many anarchist came to see this clearly. Take one, Muhsam, a German anarchist writing in 1919 "... anarchist communists... have had to give ground on the most important disagreements between the two great tendencies in socialism; they have to renounce Bakunin's negative attitude o the dictatorship... and rally to the opinion of Marx" (from the ICC's International Review, no. 102).

The anarchist conception of the revolution taking place at any time, with any old "people" making it, has been parodied on this site with the suggestion that it could have happened any time after the end of hunter-gatherer society. Why stop there? Why not Homo Erectus?

During capitalism's ascendency, while marxism fought for proletarianisation, for trade unions, for reforms and progressive legislation, Bakunin's anarchism was against such developments, harking back to the utopian ideals of the petty-bourgeoisie and a world that never was. It was Bakunin's "enlightened minority" which was to lead the blind, oppressed, elementary masses in the abstract struggle of "freedom versus authority". Bakunin's hierarchical, conspiratorial elite, highlights the contempt of this current for the working class.

The Bakunist tendency of pointless, destructive, so-called radical revolt and thus the rejection of the working class as revolutionary, still exists today. Similarly, the anarchist penchant for eternal, abstract principles and the timeless principle of mankind's unchanging existence, led them to support the abstract principles of "liberty and fraternity". In decadenct capitalism, when the question is posed of "socialism or barbarism", when the acid test is imperialist war when all war is reactionary apart from the civil war, anarchism, in large part, lacking any class analysis, supported, during WWII, the eternal, abstract principle of "the struggle against evil" and lined up alongside the democratic and stalinist bourgeoisie's.

jaycee
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Apr 4 2006 11:38

the point about a self sufficient block is that you have to ask, how can it become self sufficient. If we take Latin America as an example then we see the problems clearly, the economy in these countries is massively dependent on foriegn investment. THis means not only that any revolutionary 'state' in these countries would very quickly be strangled by the surrounding capitalist nations(economically as well as militarily, as Alf already said) but it would find it impossible to both resist this and completely re-organise society. The answer to the scarcity this situation would produce would be to develope along capitalist lines, i.e keeping wage relations, commodity production etc. This is because communism needs as its basis a society capable of producing an abundance for all, without this class will remain.

this might be a bit rambling but i'm going to come back to it again later.

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Apr 4 2006 12:50

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If we take Latin America as an example then we see the problems clearly, the economy in these countries is massively dependent on foriegn investment

From South Africa to Iraq to Cuba, everywhere the national bourgeoisie cripple the proletariats’ economic resilience in order to allow the threat of sanctions to consolidate their grip on power.

The phenomena are more a consequence of international fiscal manipulation than scarcity per se.

Love

LR

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Apr 4 2006 14:06

The problem concerning self-sufficiency is a problem that arises from the nature of capitalism itself. As it spreads across the globe, it finds new materials and invents clever uses for those resources. The vast majority of products that we use in every day life now contain materiel and labour from a vast range of different regions.

The PC which I'm using to connect to this site is produced from a multitude of materials, including several different metals, a range of petrochemicals, plus sundry amounts of silicon, carbon, etc. Not only have these actually had to be searched for and extracted from the Earth (and unfortunately for bourgeois nations, these resources are not evenly distributed around the globe), they've also had to be processed into the right chemical forms and then physically assembled in the object I'm using. Add to that the energy requirement to a) run this manufacturing process and b) actually run the machine, we can see that modern commodities are vastly complicated objects! Even something as simple as a pencil sharpener will have this international process of labour congealed in its form.

The absurdity of any modern economy existing in isolation thus becomes apparent - and also reveals instantly the profound contradiction between the economic formation of capitalism (global, associated labour) and its sociopolitical formation (nation states, private property (also sometimes incarnated in the state)).

At the birth of capitalism, to some extent, all its contradictions provide the motor for its growth even if they periodically exploded into crises. But as the system develops as whole, eventually the mutual antagonism between these opposite poles becomes irreconcilable. It is when this point is reached that we can say it has become decadent and the periodic crises of the past are transformed into a permanent crisis.

It is this global nature of mature capitalism that answers this question:

Jef Costello wrote:
Is it possible for some states to be barbaric/decadent/progressive at the same time?

If part of capitalism's decadence is the unfolding contradiction between its global nature and hypertrophied nation states, we see instantly that it is the system as a whole that is in crisis, because every state confronts the economy as a global phenomenon. Therefore, in that sense, every state is decadent.

This doesn't preclude growth in this or that section of the economy, or in this or that region or country. It certainly doesn't preclude growth in the global economy - for example, there has been an absolutely massive increase in manufactured goods since the end of World War 2. But this is where another of capitalism's contradictions comes into force - where does the market to absorb these commodities come from. The proletariat cannot absorb the full value of its own labour, because a significant proportion of that labour is appropriated by the bourgeoisie - and the bourgeoisie obviously cannot consume all the production of capitalism. So the proletariat has larger share of the need for use-values, while the bourgeoisie has the power to purchase them but doesn't really need them because it's a small part of the population. In the period of capitalism's growth, other sectors of the population outside the capitalist-prole relationship absorbed this surplus (aristos, peasants, the "middle classes"). But as capitalism absorbs these sectors into its own relations of production, this market shrinks (It's important to note that this shrinking is of a relative nature, not absolute. This extra-capitalist market could multiply in size in absolute terms, but still not be sufficient to absorb capitalism's production at a particular stage of its development).

Capitalism can still grow in some sense as long as the bourgeoisie can take steps to counter this growing problem of market shrinkage. Leaving aside the question of war for reasons of space, the bourgeoisie has adopted all sorts of strategies to solve this question. Firstly and most importantly, it has adulterated the money supply firstly by abandoning the gold standard and detatching as far as possible price from value, by overworking the state printing presses. Secondly, they have mobilised the mass of capital sitting around doing nothing because it can't find a profitable outlet and converted it into ever increasing masses of credit or diverted it into speculation. This credit allows companies, states and individuals to increase their consumption (ala Keynes) and thus restart production. It's no accident that all the different credit instruments aimed at workers starting with Ford's scheme allowing his workers to buy cars, later mutating into "hire purchase" and today's credit cards all began to appear at the beginning of capitalism's historic crisis. Another qualititative difference is the transformation of the stock market from buying a share to receive a dividend to buying stocks to sell them higher, which is increasingly divorced from the real world of production yet nonetheless has a profound effect on society.

Capitalism today thus continues to grow, but in an increasingly problematic manner. And because its beyond any individual company or even state to solve the problem of the market, they have to deal with the crisis of profitability by attacking the working class - which, of course, by shrinking the market further increases the problem.

Mike Harman
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Apr 4 2006 14:14

Jef - not much time on this, but commodities isn't synonymous with goods/products in this context, it refers to particular social relationships which result in all of human production taking on the commodity form, including human labour itself.

It's to do with the dual nature of value - use value and exchange value - which would be superceded by/in communism.

I quite like this:

http://libcom.org/library/commodities-hawkins-wright

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Apr 4 2006 14:22
jaycee wrote:
the point about a self sufficient block is that you have to ask, how can it become self sufficient. If we take Latin America as an example then we see the problems clearly, the economy in these countries is massively dependent on foriegn investment. THis means not only that any revolutionary 'state' in these countries would very quickly be strangled by the surrounding capitalist nations(economically as well as militarily, as Alf already said) but it would find it impossible to both resist this and completely re-organise society. The answer to the scarcity this situation would produce would be to develope along capitalist lines, i.e keeping wage relations, commodity production etc. This is because communism needs as its basis a society capable of producing an abundance for all, without this class will remain.

this might be a bit rambling but i'm going to come back to it again later.

A self-sufficient bloc would be fine, as long as it was self-sufficient.

I realise that my logic is a little circular there.

But South America can feed itself, it has most minerals and it has oil and gas. On a practical level there is little need for interaction with world markets and the extra cost of interacting with the external markets could be as easily calculated as with any other resource. In this case rather than looking simply at the costs associated with one resource they would have to look either at which resource would be most effective if produced for exchange or for sale to buy the import. And of course the benefits of the import would have to be greater than these costs.

South America exports huge quantities of resources, rather than selling these cheaply and buying expensive western goods with the profits the abundance already present couldbe harnessed.

In the foreseeable future oil can be sold for export, so South America could sell some oil to cover costs of importing machinery etc. Capitalism would be pleased to sell it to them.

I think military intervention is the greatest risk.

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Apr 4 2006 14:31
Jef Costello wrote:
In the foreseeable future oil can be sold for export, so South America could sell some oil to cover costs of importing machinery etc. Capitalism would be pleased to sell it to them.

The fact that they're selling on the world market immediate plugs them into the capitalist economy, meaning that they have to compete with other oil producing nations, e.g. the Middle East. In order to compete, they will need to lower prices, increasing the exploitation of labour, etc.

This shows exactly how the global capitalist economy would enforce its laws on a socialist bastion.

jaycee
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Apr 4 2006 14:34

the point is one of business with the capitalist world, it relies on the idea that the capitalists will blindly sell to a communist 'state' at a time of revolution. THis is mistaken the bourgeoisie are intellegent they would not allow a state like this to survive.

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Apr 4 2006 14:37

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The fact that they're selling on the world market immediate plugs them into the capitalist economy

Indeed. They'd be be better off giving it away to other socialist bastions.

Love

LR

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Apr 4 2006 14:47

Other socialist bastions? Are they popping up all over the place? Sounds like a world revolution doesn't it ...

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Apr 4 2006 14:52

Hi

You, of all people, should appreciate the importance of spreading the revoluton as rapidly as possible. A large enough collective of economies could operate without fear of "international market forces".

Love

LR

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Apr 4 2006 15:03

Hey Lazy

That's exactly my point. The only way a revolution can resist the invisible hand of capitalism is to spread as quickly and thoroughly as possible. But where the revolution is stymied and unable to spread, it will quickly revert to capitalist forms of organisation simply in order to feed itself. While a bastion might be able to hold out for a while under such conditions, sooner or later capitalist relations will reappear.

This is exactly what happened in Russia and although the profound errors made by the Bolsheviks undoubtedly accelerated the process, it was to a large extent inevitable once the revolution was crushed in Germany.

Without a world revolution which encompasses at the very least the main industrial centres(europe and america), the energy producing centres (middle east, latin america, russia) and agriculturally rich regions a viable economy could not be maintained for a significant period of time - and that's without worrying about whether the bourgeoisie would just nuke us and be done with it.

Thanks for helping me clarify that.

petey
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Apr 4 2006 16:07
baboon wrote:
the contempt that a great part of anarchism has for the working class

eek

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Apr 4 2006 23:06

“It is not the primacy of economic motives in historical explanation that constitutes the decisive difference between marxism and bourgeois thought, but the point of view of the totality. The category of totality, the all-pervasive supremacy of the whole over the parts is the essence of the method which Marx took over from Hegel and brilliantly transformed into the foundations of a wholly new science. The capitalist separation of the producer from the total process of production, the division of the process of labour into parts at the cost of the individual humanity of the worker, the atomisation of society into individuals who simply go on producing without rhyme or reason, must all have a profound influence on the thought, the science and the philosophy of capitalism. Proletarian science is revolutionary not just by virtue of its revolutionary ideas which it opposes to bourgeois society, but above all because of its method. The primacy of the category of totality is the bearer of the principle of the revolution in science”.

This is Lukacs in 1921, in an essay called ‘The Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg’. In it Lukacs defends Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation from those critics (many of them ‘marxists’) who denied that capitalism had a fundamental problem of realisation of surplus value. From the point of view of the individual capitalist (or the individual capitalist nation) there is no irresolvable problem of realisation, of finding sufficient markets for the absorption of its commodities. But from the point of view of the total social capital – of global capital – there is indeed a problem and this is precisely why capitalism’s crisis of overproduction becomes chronic at the point where it has effectively constituted itself as a world economy. This does not of course imply that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the entire world had become capitalist, that all pre-capitalist economic forms had been swept away. But it does mean that as a global system these “outlying fields of production”, as Marx had called them, were too limited to enable the accumulation process to continue without growing convulsions and catastrophes.

As Lukacs says, this is first and foremost a question of method. From the very beginning, the evolution of capital can only be understood as a total process. And for the reasons given above, this is all the more true for the decadence of the system. Hence the epoch of social revolution, for capitalism, is an epoch of world wars and of the world revolution. It does not become decadent in one part while remaining progressive in others. The entire social relation of capital becomes a fetter on human progress. This is not a purely quantitative question. Russia under Stalin, like China today, may display huge growth rates for a certain period, but seen from the global and historic standpoint, this is precisely what Marx meant in the Grundrisse when he talked about “growth as decay”. These developments are not taking humanity forward but are expressions of the global crisis of the entire mode of production.

What applies to capital – the impossibility of separating national units from the global reality – must also apply to the revolution itself. As several comrades have pointed out in reply to Jef, the idea of a separate communist region is an absurdity because both the objective laws of the world market and the subjective will (and military threat) of the remaining bourgeois states would make it impossible for it to create a harmonious island of authentic human relations. Socialism in one continent is as impossible as socialism in one country.

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Devrim
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Apr 7 2006 08:51

I think that before we continue I should sum up in very simple terms what the ICC mean by the ‘Theory of Decadence’. To put it very simply the ICC believe that as in the traditional Marxist schema society had to pass through various stages until it reached the point where it was capable of producing the material basis that was necessary to create communism. The ICC draw this point in 1914 (actually August 4th 1914). This isn’t an arbitrary date, and I think that they are quite willing to accept that the material conditions for communism existed before then. They chose this date as it is the day that the German Social Democracy voted for war credits in support of the first World War. From this point on capitalism was incapable of bringing further development, and was only capable of delivering war, and barbarism. Also the official workers organization had completely passed over to the side of the working class. Today what were once genuine working class organizations (Social Democracy, and the Unions) have passed completely onto the other side, and are entirely anti-working class.

ICC, Please correct me if you feel I have misrepresented you.

Opposed to this on a theoretical basis is what we could call the ‘Theory of Invariance’. Basically, it sates that capitalism wasn’t necessary to develop the means of production to allow the creation of communism, and therefore Communism was theoretically possible, at any point in History. I am not sure, but I believe that this tendency first emerged in a ‘Marxist’ form in the group, around Jacques Camette called, by chance, ‘Invariance’. Of course this position was there before Camette in the anarchist movement, and one of the insults that is thrown at it by the ICC is that of anti-historical anarchism. I think the main group that supports this position today is the GCI (Internationalist Communist Group). It was also supported by the Wildcat group in the U.K. before it lapsed into primitivist madness.

Now, both of these positions today can have exactly the same positions (against the unions, social democracy, and national liberation). Differences between the GCI, and the ICC are not down to the differences between these positions.

Now, I don’t side with either one. I think that it is an interesting discussion, but not real relevant. Until we have a time machine, and can go back, and intervene in the past wink , I think that it is a bit irrelevant. I am not questioning decadence theory. I am questioning its relevance.

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Alf
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Apr 7 2006 10:17

A couple of brief thoughts on your last post.

August 4 and all that the question is when it was possible to say, for certain, that a new epoch had dawned. Many of the symptoms of decadence had already been appearing prior to 1914, but the war made it possible for revolutionaries to say very clearly that this fundamental change had come about and that there was no going back.

Your summary of the theory of invariance is not exact. First of all Camatte took the notion of Invariance from classical Bordigism, which doesn't say that communism was possible at any time - that was anarchism if you like, but not marxism. The Bordigists tend to argue that communism was possible from 1848 onwards and since then there have been no fundamental changes in the communist programme. But they don't dispute that capitalism was a necessary precondition for communism.

We would argue, of course that Wildcat's plunge into "primitivist madness" - or Camatte's wanderings into the hills to oppose the community of capital by eating raw vegetables - were not accidental but have a certain logic. For Marx, the whole historical process was the "act of genesis" of communism. In other words, although the process is not guided in advance by a supreme spirit, there is a necessity in the historical process, and communism would not be possible without prior human advances. To argue that communism has been possible at any time in history is to reject not simply the notion that capitalism is decadent, but also the notion that there has been any historical progress at all.

So then why not go back to hunter gatherer society, where human beings were indeed less alienated in some ways? Or go further, like John Zerzan language itself is simply a product of alienation, so would it not have been better if mankind had not emerged at all?. Wildcat and Camatte were consistent up to a point. In rejecting marxism, they rejected the whole of history. So I think the question goes deeper than the ICC's understanding of decadence. It's really about the most basic premises of marxism.

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Lazy Riser
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Apr 7 2006 10:44

Hi

Quote:
From the point of view of the individual capitalist (or the individual capitalist nation) there is no irresolvable problem of realisation, of finding sufficient markets for the absorption of its commodities

That's simply not true. Every individual capitalist I know suffers sleepless nights on treadmills of debt precisely because they can't find a market for the things they've borrowed so heavily to "produce".

Love

LR

jaycee
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Apr 7 2006 11:29

i think what was meant was that it isn't a permanent problem for individual capitalists, i.e some capitalists can sell all their goods. But it is a problem for capitalism as a whole, the capitalist class can't sell back what they 'produce' as the working class as a whole can't buy it back.

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Lazy Riser
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Apr 7 2006 11:46

Hi

Whatever. More flawed axioms emit from the Internationalist position.

Quote:
the capitalist class can't sell back what they 'produce' as the working class as a whole can't buy it back.

1.

There isn’t enough produced to supply the whole working class. Believe you me, they can shift it if they have to. Stocks of goods are trashed before they ever hit the shelves in order to make a market for newer technology.

2.

Most firms make stuff to be bought by the managerial strata in other companies, not working class consumers.

3.

Given that the bourgeoisie ignore their own “laws of value”, it’s all academic anyway. The crisis we face is not one of the tension between commodity exchange and labour but our continued capitulation to the middle class agenda.

Love

LR

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jef costello
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Apr 7 2006 12:05
Quote:
August 4 and all that: the question is when it was possible to say, for certain, that a new epoch had dawned. Many of the symptoms of decadence had already been appearing prior to 1914, but the war made it possible for revolutionaries to say very clearly that this fundamental change had come about and that there was no going back.

So we are in a period of decadence and revolution is possble then?