Decadence

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lem
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Feb 2 2006 19:56
Decadence

Are we in a period of decadence? Can the productive forces no longer be developed to the interests of humanity, no longer aford significant gains to the workers?

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 2 2006 20:16

Hi

I should coco.

Love

LR

Vaneigemappreci...
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Feb 2 2006 20:58

i always thought decadence meant palatial extravegance and wealth, then one day i looked it up in the dictionary and the defintion was something along the lines of 'moral bankruptcy', sorry for playing the philistine but, what does it actually mean?

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 2 2006 21:03

Hi

I always thought is was like "decay", the fall of Rome.

Love

LR

lucy82
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Feb 2 2006 21:12
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Are we in a period of decadence? Can the productive forces no longer be developed to the interests of humanity, no longer aford significant gains to the workers?

working people are the productive forces. i guess i don't understand the question confused

lem
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Feb 2 2006 21:15

Its a theory by the ICC that they are very keen on, I think a few other left communist groups believe in it too. They think that Marx reffered to it when he mentions capitalism becoming a fetter on development.

It is something along the lines of that we are now in the period of decadent capitalism in that the productive forces can no longer develop, and can no longer improve the workers situation within capitalism (when before the decadent phase it had been amenable to parliament and the unions). Its "because" of a saturation of markets, permanece of the crisis of overproduction, crystalization of the falling rate of profit, and under utilisation of productive apparatus.

It seems to go hand in hand with a certain amount of moral cultural institutional and ideological decomposition.

I'mcertainly not the best person to ask

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working people are the productive forces.

I didn't think of it like that. Still kind of makes sense, I guess.

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 2 2006 21:28

Hi

It is true that capitalism under-performs as an economic model, and that will be its downfall. But I dispute the notion of inescapable and final crisis as an historic inevitability. In fairness to the ICC, I like to think they have a more sophisticated and embracing philosophy of there being a choice between Socialism or Barbarism. The spirit of which I wouldn’t counter.

Love

LR

Beltov
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Feb 2 2006 22:28
lem wrote:
Are we in a period of decadence? Can the productive forces no longer be developed to the interests of humanity, no longer aford significant gains to the workers?

Well: Yes and yes, but I guess you’d expect that from us! What do you think?

We defend the conception of the decadence of modes of production because it is at the heart of historical materialism. For us,

Platform of the ICC wrote:
Marxism is the fundamental theoretical acquisition of the proletarian struggle. It is on the basis of marxism that all the lessons of the proletarian struggle can be integrated into a coherent whole... Consequently, although it is not a fixed doctrine, but on the contrary undergoes constant elaboration in a direct and living relationship with the class struggle, and although it benefited from prior theoretical achievements of the working class, marxism has been from its very inception the only framework from which and within which revolutionary theory can develop.

http://en.internationalism.org/node/606

This theory can only develop within a revolutionary organisation, such as the ICC, which has to show itself capable of understanding the changes in the life of society and the implications they have for the activity of the class and its communist vanguard. By identifying the First World War as marking the point where capitalism definitively entered it’s epoch of decadence we are taking up the position of the Third International in 1919. This watershed meant that:

- Now that all nations are manifestly reactionary, it is necessary to fight against any idea of supporting so-called ‘national independence’ movements.

- Now that all wars have an imperialist character, it in necessary to denounce any idea of participation in today’s wars, under whatever pretext. Now that civil society has been absorbed by the state, now that capitalism can no longer grant any real reforms, it is necessary to fight against any participation in parliament and the election masquerade.

- With all the new economic, social, and political conditions facing the class struggle today, it is necessary to combat any illusion in the class about restoring life to organisations which can only be an obstacle to the struggle - the trade unions. It must put forward the methods of struggle and forms of organisation that came out of the experience of the class during the first revolutionary wave of this century (1917-23): the mass strike, the general assemblies, the unity of the political and the economic, the workers’ councils.

- Finally, if it is to truly carry out its role of stimulating the struggle, of orientating it towards its revolutionary conclusion, the communist organisation must give up tasks which no longer belong to it - the tasks of ‘organising’ or ‘representing’ the class.

Some have said that the positions of the ICC constitute an ‘abandonment’ or a ‘revision’ of marxism. On the contrary, our positions are based on a real loyalty to what is essential about marxism. It was this capacity to understand - against the ideas of the Mensheviks - the new conditions of the struggle and their implications for the programme which enabled Lenin and the Bolsheviks to contribute actively and decisively to the revolution of October 1917.

Rosa Luxemburg took up the same revolutionary standpoint when she wrote in 1906 against the ‘orthodox’ elements of her party:

Rosa Luxemburg wrote:
If, therefore, the Russian Revolution makes imperative a fundamental revision of the old standpoint of Marxism on the question of the mass strike, it is once again Marxism whose general method and points of view have thereby, in new form, carried off the prize. The Moor’s beloved can die only by the hand of the Moor.

(The Mass Strike: http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1906/mass-strike/ch01.htm

The ICC's pamphlet the Decadence of Capitalism is now available free on-line here:

http://en.internationalism.org/pamphlets/decadence

Beltov.

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Feb 2 2006 23:42

Just to add one point in response to lem, and to avoid false discussions. Decadence - or decline, decay, etc - does not mean that the productive forces have ceased to grow. It means

- that the social relations, the relations of production, have become a growing barrier to their development

- that as a result, their very development increasingly takes on an irrational and destructive character, antithetical to the needs of humanity.

The starting point, in Marx, is the Preface to an Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, where he defines the characteristics of "an era of social revolution".

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 3 2006 00:04

Hi

There. Thanks for that.

Love

LR

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jef costello
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Feb 3 2006 00:22
Alf wrote:
- that the social relations, the relations of production, have become a growing barrier to their development

- that as a result, their very development increasingly takes on an irrational and destructive character, antithetical to the needs of humanity.

Interesting, I was wondering if you could clarify a few points?

Are social relations therefore relations of production and in what sense?

What do you mean by development?

Surely capitalism is always antithetial to the needs of humanity, or is it merely the irrationality and destructiveness that is new?

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Feb 3 2006 13:25

A fundamental difference between Marx and the anarchists in the 19th century was his argument that, despite all its horrors, capitalism was playing a progressive role by creating the world economy and laying down the material bases for a world human community. In that sense, during its ascendant period, capitalism was not simply 'antithetical' to the needs of humanity. In our view - along with most of the revolutionary marxists at the time - the outbreak of the first world war, and of the revolutionary uprisings it provoked in Russia, Germany, etc, proved that capitalism's progressive phase had definitely come to an end. Henceforth the communist revolution was both possible and necessary. Its survival ever since has had ever-more destructive consequences for humanity.

In this respect, capitalism was no different from previous modes of production, which had also gone through epochs of ascent and decline.

So Jef's question leads to a debate on the marxist and anarchist views of history. In our opinion, Aufheben’s critique of decadence boils down to a rejection of the Marxist view of history, and thus to an ultra-sophisticated restatement of the anarchist position. But it is important that those who agree with their critique put forward its arguments in this discussion.

Armchair Socialism
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Feb 3 2006 15:45

There was a rather long thread on it here....

http://www.revolutionaryleft.com/index.php?showtopic=45003&st=0

As a concept, I think it has some value. The problem however is that people (starting with Lenin) tend to make "blanket statements" about decadence. Which are useless.

For instance, Capitalism may well be becoming "decadent" in parts of Europe, but in China and India it is booming and very much in its "ascendancy".

Third International? wrote:
- Now that all nations are manifestly reactionary, it is necessary to fight against any idea of supporting so-called ‘national independence’ movements.

Talk about a way to give "back handed" support to the Imperialists.

Third International wrote:
- Now that all wars have an imperialist character, it in necessary to denounce any idea of participation in today’s wars, under whatever pretext.

So you'd "denounce" the Iraqi resistance???

Alf wrote:
In our view - along with most of the revolutionary marxists at the time - the outbreak of the first world war, and of the revolutionary uprisings it provoked in Russia, Germany, etc, proved that capitalism's progressive phase had definitely come to an end.

And the "revolutionary marxists" of that period were wrong!

Capitalism after the First World War continued to grow and progress everywhere. You could say that Capitalism started to decline in some countries around 1980, but in a lot of the world, Capitalism still has progress to make.

_____

Back to the original question....

lem wrote:
Are we in a period of decadence? Can the productive forces no longer be developed to the interests of humanity, no longer aford significant gains to the workers?

In some places that is probably correct.

Western Europe, North America, Japan and (perhaps) Australia, all appear to be going into decline. Where as China, India, South America etc. all seem to be progressing.

So really you couldn't say that the world is either "decadent" or "ascendant", because what you really need to do is provide specific analyses for specific regions.

Armchair Socialism
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Feb 3 2006 16:08
Jack wrote:
Armchair Socialism wrote:
So you'd "denounce" the Iraqi resistance???

I think (close to) everyone on here would.

Are you being serious? confused

Armchair Socialism
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Feb 3 2006 16:26
Jack wrote:
Armchair Socialism wrote:
Are you being serious? confused

Nationalism doesn't become progressive just because it's in an 'opressed' nation.

Quite right, the Iraqi resistance are reactionary assholes, but the American Government is even worse!

They will destroy Iraq, taking all the plunder they can lay their grubby little paws on and then leave the rest of the country to rot.

The Iraqi resistance on the other hand, if successful, will likely start to develop Iraq, using the capital produced from its oil exports to build up the rest if the country, which will then bring Iraq into the modern world.

America will never do that.

Plus, if you think what the Iraqi resistance would do in Iraq is "bad", think about this....

Iran is a horrendous theocracy, however it is independent and is also developing. "Saudi" Arabia is another horrendous theocracy, only it is ten times worse than Iran, supported and "held up" by America and has about as much chance of developing as the Pope has of becoming a Muslim.

Really, is your response to the question "what do you think of America and Britain looting Iraq?"...."I don't care"???

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Feb 3 2006 16:48

Hi

Quote:
So you'd "denounce" the Iraqi resistance???

Not to their face I wouldn't. But the Iraqi Worker-Communists do.

http://www.wpiraq.net/english/index.htm

Amazing how that got Frank Zappa as leader. Good on ‘em! I think a Mansoor Hekmat limerick is in order.

Quote:
The Iraqi resistance on the other hand, if successful, will likely start to develop Iraq, using the capital produced from its oil exports to build up the rest if the country, which will then bring Iraq into the modern world.

You’d better stump up some evidence for that. You cheeky person.

But we’re derailing. Has the relationship between war and decadence been diluted since WII? I could be convinced that the “huger slump-greater war-shallower recovery” cycle still approximately holds.

Love and Peace

LR

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Feb 3 2006 20:17

Jack is right. The argument about Iraq is on the ‘Quebec National Question thread. When he says that most people on here wouldn’t support the resistance, he is certainly right if you judge from the postings there. The issue here (and I will go back to that thread to answer STI) is about the ‘Theory of Decadence’.

Personally, I don’t see why it is important [pauses for breath whilst the ICC slams into him]. It seems to me that it is just a theory that allows the ICC to allow extra individuals/groups into their family tree. The ICC believe that communist theory is impossible without Marxism. I disagree.

I think the ‘Theory of Decadence’ is worth discussing though.

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Feb 3 2006 20:34

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Oh no. Now you've done it. Um, today it's necessary to choose whether to remain a Marxist or to remain a revolutionary, or something.

Devrim, Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης was born in Istanbul. You’re not related are you?

Love

LR

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Feb 3 2006 20:41

I don't read Greek well, but I pressume 'Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης' is Castoriadis/Cardan from the French group 'Socialism or Barbarism' (I write french even worse, so I didn't try to spell it). No, I am not related.

I am sorry if I have set it off with the ICC, but I do think it is worth talking about.

Again I apologise.

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Feb 3 2006 21:10

Hi

Quote:
I don't read Greek well
Quote:
Again I apologise.

You’re my new fav. poster.

Love

LR

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Feb 3 2006 21:19

When I said that I don't read Greek well. I was talking about the alphabet. I can't speak Greek at all, but I can make out the phonetics. After all they are our next door neighbours, and I do go there on holiday occasionally. If only to plant a Turkish flag on Meis (STI if you are reading that last bit was a joke. I am not supporting Turkish nationalism agaist the oppresive EU and American imperialism).

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Feb 3 2006 21:53

Hi

Through it’s miserable anti-materialism, the left has encouraged the conflation of decadence, indulgence, and moral bankruptcy via the orgies and feasts that accompanied Rome’s fall. As if untrammelled desire is sinful and, unless we convert to fundamentalist Marxism, we will meet our end on judgement day when we’ll realise that the only way forward is to all wear Mao suits and use rough toilet paper.

The irony is that leftism’s elevation of impoverishment as a virtue only serves to make it easier for the bourgeoisie to sequester our property.

Love

LR

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Feb 3 2006 23:19

Rome fell because it couldn't or wouldn't pay for enough troops to defend itself and because it stopped expanding. There was also a certain tactical inability to fight the Germans but that was again linked to economic problems in many ways.

Rome didn't fall because the forces of production could no longer offer any benefit to the w/c. That was unnecessary, it fell because it couldn't defend itself.

Did anyone see Boris Johnson creaming himself on that programme about the Romans? I only watched about five minutes "Low taxes, you mean the Romans believed in small government...squirt"

edit:

Quote:
The irony is that leftism’s elevation of impoverishment as a virtue only serves to make it easier for the bourgeoisie to sequester our property.

That's not a problem on this board.

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Feb 4 2006 00:27

I agree that this thread isn't specifically about the Iraqi resistance, but the issues raised by Armchair Socialism's posts are very relevant to the question of decadence, and show why this question is indeed a crucial one for revolutionaries.

Armchair Socialism claims that large parts of the capitalist world can still go through a progressive development he sees China as a current example of this and Iraq (after a 'victory for the Resistance') as a possible future example. There is a logic here, which can even claim to be 'marxist'. After all, Marx did support certain fractions of the bourgeoisie because he judged them capable of playing a progressive role in the struggle to free the (capitalist) productive forces from feudal obstacles or vestiges. The anarchists generally opposed him on this, but their arguments were ahistorical for them capitalism was just bad and there was no reason why revolution couldn't succeed even in the most backward societies. Against this, Marx insisted that the communist revolution - which had to free mankind from millenia of domination by scarcity - could only come about on the basis of certain objective material conditions. He himself was often too impatient to declare that these conditions had already arrived, but his basic method is what is important here.

How can we answer all the current arguments about China representing a whole new phase of development for capitalism? Or the idea that 'national liberation' can still play a progressive role and should therefore be supported? For the ICC, the theory of decadence provides the only coherent framework for refuting these ideas. From this starting point, it is evident, for example, that the present 'growth' in the Chinese economy has nothing in common with, say, the development of capitalism in Britain or America in the nineteenth century. Not because the latter was free from horror and monstrous injustice - on the contrary. But because it was, in spite of all this, laying down the preconditions for a higher form of social life. Whereas the frenzied growth taking place in China today is an example of a 'development' that is threatening to undermine the very bases of a future communist society, because it contains the seeds of gigantic catastrophes on the economic, military, and ecological levels. There is no benefit for the future generations in the continuing diseased growth of capitalism anywhere on the planet. The very survival of this system holds the danger that there will be no future generations. And that to my mind is the firmest possible basis for rejecting any support for any part of the bourgeoisie.

lem
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Feb 4 2006 01:21

I personally find the theory of decadence kind of attractive. It seems to explain alot simply (Like Alf has said, but I would have thought it also explain why some parts of the world are underdeveloped, I dunno?), and makes predictions about the way it will be - which is good for a theory, I think. Other than that I cannot tell if its true.

But after this thread I don't know if it is a fetter on just the social relations, or to material development as well?

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Feb 4 2006 08:52

It's the social relations which are the fetter. Example food produced in America being thrown away because it can't be sold, while millions go hungry. It's the very form of commodity exchange - which is based on a social relation - which is holding back the satisfaction of human need. And I agree that decadence certainly provides a coherent explanation for why some parts of the world are 'overdeveloped' and others 'underdeveloped'.

alibadani
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Feb 4 2006 09:01

I thought I would quote the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Marx wrote:
At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

That's decadence. It's unfortunate that some left communists groups are abandoning this idea.

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Feb 4 2006 10:57
alibadani wrote:
I thought I would quote the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
Marx wrote:
At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

That's decadence. It's unfortunate that some left communists groups are abandoning this idea.

But this definition is basically what happens all the time as part of capitalism's reinvention is it not?

Rise of China etc is simply because they can compete more cheaply, for now; this is merely another competing force within capitalism.

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Feb 4 2006 14:40
Devrim wrote:
If only to plant a Turkish flag on Meis (STI if you are reading that last bit was a joke. I am not supporting Turkish nationalism agaist the oppresive EU and American imperialism).

grin

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Feb 4 2006 15:05

Hi

Alf wrote:
It's the very form of commodity exchange - which is based on a social relation - which is holding back the satisfaction of human need.

Thanks for bringing this important idea up. Please explain how commodity exchange is based on a social relation and how that holds back the satisfaction of human need.

I would also appreciate some insight as to whether communism determines the objective needs and abilities of each individual. Does it in some way ensure people take on behaviours required to satisfy social human need?

Does the Left Communist position proffer any specific candidate models for marshalling the distribution of wealth?

Love

LR

Armchair Socialism
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Feb 4 2006 17:42
Jack wrote:
Armchair Socialism wrote:
Really, is your response to the question "what do you think of America and Britain looting Iraq?"...."I don't care"???

Is your responce "what do you think of the would-be Iraqi ruling class plotting to drag Iraq back to feudalism, execute Trade unionists and oppress women even more than they are now by way of a bloody campaign of murder against the working class?" ... "I don't care, because they're better than America"???

Well we know America has been dong those things already.

The American Government forced changes in the Iraqi Constitution which resulted in the Constitution going from a sort of Social-Democracy to the foundations for a theocracy.

The Iraqi's initially had stuff like the oil money been reinvested in Iraq, now they have stuff which restricts the rights of women.

The American Government kept Saddam Hussein's legislation against Trade Unions and for all we know those big underground "chambers" being used in Iraq now, may house troublesome Union men and women.

Plus, I'd called the bombing of Baghdad or Fallujah "a bloody campaign of murder against the working class" wouldn't you?

So really the things you list are already happen and will continue to happen if America stays. In most of its neo-colonies America has installed brutal and "backward" Governments. Personally I don't see how an Iraqi Government (not made up of "lackeys") could be any worse.

Lazy Riser wrote:
Not to their face I wouldn't.

Indeed.

However, I bet your average Iraqi would feel the same way about American and British troops.

Lazy Riser wrote:
But the Iraqi Worker-Communists do.

Yes they do and to be honest you'd have to admit they are in a really difficult situation.

There is no "material base" for Communism (or Communists) in Iraq and this means that they really can't do anything significant.

What you have to remember though, is that one day there will be a material base for Communism in Iraq. So the question (should) become what is the "best" (and quickest) way to get to the point where there is a "material base" for proletarian revolution in Iraq (i.e. Modern Capitalism).

There are mountains of evidence that suggest that the process of creating a Modern Capitalist country is significantly hindered by being under the Imperialist "thumb".

However, there is also a lot of evidence that suggests a country that breaks free from Imperial domination will develop Modern Capitalism very rapidly.

So that's what situation like Iraq really reduce themselves to....figuring out who are the "most gracious masters of capital" and "supporting" them, because without their success, we will never succeed.

Lazy Riser wrote:
You’d better stump up some evidence for that.

Well I touched on it above, but really the "evidence" is the history of the bourgeois. A successful bourgeois that is not "under the thumb" of an Imperialist country, will start to develop said country.

Really, the only example of a bourgeois that removed Imperialist rule and then failed, is the Khmer Rouge. On the other hand, there is only one significant example of a "dependent" bourgeois creating Modern Capitalism (South Korea).

Alf wrote:
Armchair Socialism claims that large parts of the capitalist world can still go through a progressive development....

Yes I do "claim" that because it's obvious.

Surely you wouldn't dispute that Capitalism doesn't have progress to make in certain parts of say Africa?

Alf wrote:
....communist revolution [....] could only come about on the basis of certain objective material conditions.

Absolutely.

So why do people (who claim they're "materialists") oppose those that will bring about these conditions?

Alf wrote:
He himself was often too impatient to declare that these conditions had already arrived, but his basic method is what is important here.

Well he didn't declare it, because the evidence suggested that this wasn't the case.

If the "material conditions" for proletarian revolution are there, then one would expect to see proletarian revolutions happening, or at least a very militant and confident working class.

In the absence of these things, we can't "declare that these conditions had already arrived". Doing so would be silly!

Alf wrote:
For the ICC, the theory of decadence provides the only coherent framework for refuting these ideas.

And Christians burned "witches" because God refuted the idea that they weren't "witches"!

Alf wrote:
Whereas the frenzied growth taking place in China today is an example of a 'development' that is threatening to undermine the very bases of a future communist society....

Poo!

The "frenzied growth" in China is creating a modern proletariat, which is an essential requirement for a proletarian revolution.

Alf wrote:
....because it contains the seeds of gigantic catastrophes on the economic, military, and ecological levels.

Have you ever heard of the "Rapture"? ....I think it would appeal to you.

Alf wrote:
There is no benefit for the future generations in the continuing diseased growth of capitalism anywhere on the planet.

Moralism masquerading as materialism.

Alf wrote:
The very survival of this system holds the danger that there will be no future generations.

Wow, you seem to love "doom scenarios".

Alf wrote:
And that to my mind is the firmest possible basis for rejecting any support for any part of the bourgeoisie.

And also the "basis" with which you give "back handed" support to every Imperial adventure.