World Socialist Movement and "decadence"

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Craftwork's picture
Joined: 26-12-15
Jan 13 2019 22:56
World Socialist Movement and "decadence"

I've noticed that the World Socialist Party of India employ the concept of 'decadence':

"However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the situation reversed. Capitalism entered into its era of decadence. Decadence – because, from then onwards, the revolutionary situation (objective condition) remains ready but the revolution has not happened owing to immaturity of working class consciousness and organization (subjective condition). ("

Which I would normally associate with left communists.

So where do SPGB/WSM actually stand on this, considering SPGB member Edgar Hardcastle criticised the concept of 'decadence'?

"Capitalism did indeed change in 1914. As Professor E. H. Carr puts it, up to 1914: "Britain was the pre-eminent Great Power, and the directing centre of the worldwide capitalist economy." Now the industrial and military centres of power have shifted to New York, Moscow and Brussels; but this has not altered capitalism's economic laws or introduced a new "decadence". ("

Joined: 6-01-07
Jan 14 2019 12:12

The spgb has always held a simplified version of decadence theory in my opinion without using that terminology. I mentioned this before in my brief comments #43 and #52 in the 'Confusion about decadence theory' thread. There is some discussion between the spgb and IP in the old IP archives site but I can't just lay my hands on it now. The spgb Indian group did of course have some previous discussion with left communist groups in the UK. before throwing their lot in with the WSM/spgb.

PS; as an aside the new IP website looks better but is worse than the old one if you are trying to find individual articles, including past texts that I and others have linked in libcom discussion threads. I've tried to raise this with IP but no change so far.

Joined: 28-03-10
Jan 14 2019 15:53

As Spiky has just pointed out, this is a question of language. Hardcastle was debating with the ICC and their theory of decadence that after 1914 capitalism was not longer capable of further developing the forces of production and had gone into economic decline. As he wrote:

ICC think they have an answer to this. They say that the present depression is permanent, that it throws up problems the capitalists are impotent to deal with, and that capitalism cannot afford any more concessions to the workers. (….) ICC’s belief that since 1914 capitalism cannot afford to make concessions to the workers is belied by the facts, and betrays a failure to understand the economics of capitalism. The capitalists (supported by ignorant or servile academics) have always “proved” that they could not afford to concede anything, as for example giving up the twelve-hour working day and the employment of small children: but the concessions have continued since 1914 as before, and particularly since the second world war.

The ICC theory doesn't really require theoretical refutation as it has been refuted by the facts. Capitalism has continued to develop the forces of production and the working class have been able to extract concessions.

Sarkar was making a different point: that by about the end of the 19th century capitalism had developed the forces of production to a point that socialism as a world system had become a material possibility, and so was no longer progressive, had passed its sell-by date or however you want to put it; which meant that the establishment of socialism should be the immediate agenda. Which is not the same as saying that capitalism had gone into economic decline since that point; nor saying that no more pro-working class reforms were impossible.

His choice of language no doubt reflects the fact that he had once been associated with a Left Communist group, one linked to the CWO I think. But he broke with them (and Left Communism) over their residual Leninism and support for the Bolshevik coup. It's all explained in detail in the Manifesto of the World Socialist Party (India)) on their site here (scroll down a bit).