Revolution or War n°12

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Historical and theoretical impasse of the ICC theory of the social decomposition phase (Internal Fraction of the ICC, 2005)

We are republishing here a 2005 IFICC text that quickly reviews the genesis of the adoption of the theory of Decomposition by the ICC in the 1990s. It seems important to us to arm the younger generations of revolutionaries, as well as the not-so-young, against this theory, which was the theoretical and political vector for the penetration of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology into the ICC and for the rise of its opportunist course that everyone can see today. Beyond the capacity of the ICC itself to be able to introduce this ideology into the proletarian camp, there is little doubt that, in one form or another, a flag or another such as Decomposition, opportunism will continue to try to penetrate the communist ranks and "thoughts". The FICCI’s fight, with its strengths and weaknesses, against the theory of Decomposition is an experience that can be useful today and for the future.
This text highlights how Decomposition can only lead to the questioning of the historical alternative, the perspective of generalized imperialist war and the notion of "historical course" that the ICC has just abandoned. He also briefly mentioned how it made it possible to introduce the notions of clans – according to the ICC, the source of all organizational crises since the confrontation between Marx and Bakunin in the 1st International – and parasitism. Finally, it should be made clear to the reader that while we share the substance of the IFICC’s criticism, the IGCL does not set itself in the same fight today – that of the ICC fraction – and that we do not necessarily share all the points and arguments that this text develops.


Since some 15 years, the International Communist Current had defended that capitalism had entered into a new and last phase of its evolution : the phase of social decomposition ( [1]). At its origin, the ICC defined it as the last stage within capitalism decadence with some new and particular features. Actually, and contrary to the theory of the decadence which is one of the foundations of the ICC principles and which finds it roots within the development of marxism since more than a century ( [2]), the theory of decomposition constitutes a particular theoretical development of the ICC. It has no precedent in its foundation despite the fact the ICC tried to link it with all the previous theoretical developments, and in particular with the theory of decadence. These last years, and every time in an accelerated manner, the theory of decomposition has been presented in terms which are opposed to the very basic principles of marxism ( [3]). Thus, it unfortunately became a additional expression of the tendency towards the political degeneracy of this organization.

For the ICC, the beginning of the phase of social decomposition has its fundamental cause in a ’blockage’, or historical impasse ( [4]), in which the bourgeoisie and the proletariat got stuck. The 1990 thesis on decomposition turn precisely around this notion of historical blockage as foundation for decomposition :

"Decomposition is thus the result (...) [amongst other historical facts, of] the capitalist economy’s 20 year dive into a new open crisis, without the bourgeois being able to take it to its logical conclusion (which of course is not a solution) - world war - due to their inability to control the working class.
4) This last point is precisely the new, specific, and unprecedented element which in the last instance has determined decadent capitalism’s entry into a new phase of its own history: decomposition. The open crisis which developed at the end of the l960’s, as a result of the end of the post-World War II reconstruction period, opened the way once again to the historic alternative: world war or generalised class confrontations leading to the proletarian revolution. Unlike the open crisis of the 1930’s, the present crisis has developed at a time when the working class is no longer weighed down by the counter-revolution. With its historic resurgence from 1968 onwards, the class has proven that the bourgeoisie did not have its hands free to unleash a Third World War. At the same time, although the proletariat has been strong enough to prevent this from happening, it is still unable to overthrow capitalism, since:
* the crisis is developing at a much slower rhythm than in the past;
* the development of its consciousness and of its political organisations has been set back (...).
In this situation, where society’s two decisive - and antagonistic - classes confront each other without either being able to impose its own definitive response, history nonetheless does not just come to a stop. (...) As a crisis-ridden capitalism’s contradictions can only get deeper, the bourgeoisie’s inability to offer the slightest perspective for society as a whole, and the proletariat’s inability, for the moment, openly to set forward its own can only lead to a situation of generalised decomposition. Capitalism is rotting on its feet.
5) (...) By contrast, in a historical situation where the working class is not yet capable of entering the combat for its own, and the only “realistic” perspective - the communist revolution - but where the ruling class is not able either to put forward the slightest perspective of its own, even in the short term, the latter’s previous ability during the period of decadence to limit and control the phenomenon of decomposition cannot help but collapse under the repeated blows of the crisis. (...)
6) Thus, even if the phase of decomposition appears as the conclusion, the synthesis of all the successive contradictions and expressions of capitalist decadence (…). This phase of decomposition is fundamentally determined by unprecedented and unexpected historical conditions: a situation of temporary “social stalemate” due to the mutual “neutralisation” of the two fundamental classes, each preventing the other from providing a definitive response to the capitalist crisis. The expressions of this decomposition, the conditions of its evolution and its implications can only be examined by putting this factor in the forefront"
(Theses on decomposition, International Review 62, 1990, see the english pages of the ICC web site, underlined by us)

Thus the theory of decomposition defines the entry of capitalism into a new historical phase which would have begun from the end of the years 1980 (the collapse of the Eastern bloc would be the definitive mark of the entrance into decomposition even though its origin would go back to some years beforehand) up until the end of capitalism. This phase of decomposition, the last and definitive one for capitalism, would be caused by a momentary phenomenon : the impasse in which is the historical alternative presented by the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of war or revolution, ’a situation of temporary “social stalemate” due to the mutual “neutralisation” of the two fundamental classes’.

As long as the ICC didn’t forget that the "historical impasse" [the "historical stalemate"], the "mutual neutralisation of the two fundamental classes" was not but a momentary phenomenon which will finish to give place to a new dynamic situation in which the path towards an historical solution to the capitalist crisis (generalised imperialist war or international proletarian revolution) will clearly express again, this notion succeeded to explain the turning situation we were actually living : the disappearance of the old set of imperialist blocs (USA-USSR) which temporally put away the perspective of a third world war and which produced a terrible decline in the consciousness and in the struggle of the whole working class.

But now, the fundamental problem with the theory of decomposition is precisely that it developed up until stopping to consider the "historical impasse" as a ’momentary’ phenomenon and considering it as a definitive characteristical feature, as THE permanent characterictic of the present historical phase.

It’s true that - in society or in nature - a ’momentary’ phenomenon can produce, can give place to, a ’permanent’ situation. In this sense, this ’momentary blockage’ as cause couldn’t be understood but as a point of departure, as a ’detonator’ of the new historical phase. But in no way as the characteristic of the phase. Because, otherwise we would fall into a logical nonsense : the ’momentary’ situation would be at the same time ’permanent’.

Unfortunately, this evolution developed not through an open debate with two explicit different positions in struggle, but as a constant fluctuation in the statements on the international situation and in the orientations of the ICC. We can clearly verify it with a look back to the editorials of the International Review. For instance, this fluctuation can be seen in relation to the possibility or not for a new set of imperialist blocs and, thus, in relation to the possibility that the bourgeoisie can or can’t march again towards ’its’ solution to the economical crisis : the generalised imperialist war. During several years, this question remained ’open’ within the ICC even though the idea according to which the ’chaos’ and the ’each one for himself’ will impose against the tendency to form this new set of imperialist blocs, has progressively dominated.

We already brought to the fore that the theory of decomposition has evolved, these last years, towards denying every time more the historical alternative of generalised imperialist war or world proletarian revolution. At the beginning, the ICC was trying to put the alternative in accordance with the theory of decomposition. We refer to the quotation of the International Review 62 we reproduced above, or to this one which ends the Thesis on decomposition :

"17) (...) Understanding the serious threat that the historical phenomenon of decomposition poses for the working class and for the whole of humanity should not lead the class, and especially its revolutionary minorities, to adopt a fatalist attitude. Today, the historical perspective remains completely open. (...) The same factor which is at the origin of the decomposition ( [5]), the inexorable aggravation of the capitalist crisis, constitutes the essential stimulant for the class’ struggle and development of consciousness" (idem).

As far as the blockage of the society is theoretically expressed, not as an historically momentary phenomenon, but rather as a ’constant’, this ’fatalism’ against which the ICC prevented itself in 1990 increasingly wins more space in its present statements and articles : the "phenomenon of generalised decomposition, of the putrefaction of society is caused by the fact that the contradictions of capitalism can only worsen, the bourgeoisie being incapable of offering the least perspective to the whole of society and the proletariat unable to affirm its own perspective in an immediate way.(...) The process of the destruction of humanity, under the effects of Decomposition, even though long and disguised, is irreversible (...). Today the proletariat faces the more long term, but in the end no less dangerous threat of a ’death by a thousand cuts’, in which the working class is increasingly ground down by the whole process [’of decomposition’ says the french version] to the point where it has lost the ability to affirm itself as a class, while capitalism plunges from catastrophe to catastrophe" (Marxism at the roots of the concept of capitalism’s decomposition, International Review 117, 2004, underlined by us).

Coming back on the theoretical elements which found this political ’fatalism’ which invades every time more the present ICC, we had to get back to the origin of the theory of decomposition. We could notice that some of its ulterior developments, made by the ICC, could not but drive towards a theoretical impasse from which one can escape only by questionning the very theory of decomposition. It’s to this necesary reflection we want to call the attention of all the comrades of the ICC who haven’t yet lost any critical spirit. They should publicly state, forgetting at least for once, the fact that those who bring it to the fore are officially considered by the ICC as hooligans, thiefs, gangsters, betrayors, stalinists, nazis, snitchers for the police and, as such, indignous of any argumented political response. Thus what does this theoretical impasse consist in ?

There is a logical nonsense in this theory. How is it possible that a definitive historical phase - it means long-lasting, permanent up until the end of capitalism - can have as essential, constant, charasteristic and feature a momentary phenomenon ?

This logical nonsense can’t end up but in the two following solutions :

- whether the impasse, the historical impasse - considered as momentary, temporary - is followed by a new dynamic situation, it means a new course opened to the historical alternative of war or revolution, and then the mentionned characteristic for decomposition disappears ;

- whether the historical impasse stops to be ’momentary’and it reveals to be a permanent situation, and then the historical alternative vanishes (there is no possibility for a new generalized imperialist war and, in the same time, the conditions for the proletarian revolution go away always more). Capitalism collapses and humanity enters into an irreversible process of destruction. Without expressing it clearly and frankly, it’s nevertheless the theoretical path the present ICC is following.

These last years in the ICC, the influence of the theory of decomposition has strenghtened itself to the detriment of the attention for the moment when the movement of the fundamental classes will bring back again in the forefront the historical alternative (with an increased tendency to the giving-up of the analysis and the following of the economical crisis and the imperialist conflicts which tended to the formation of new blocs, with a growing distance and a growing ’indifferentism’, indeed a contempt, for the expressions of workers struggles). Finally, when the historical situation has opened up in 2001 - with the revival of the proletarian struggles (Argentina, France, etc.) and with the march towards war from part of the bourgeoisie (marked with the fall of the New-York Twin Towers) - in order this contradiction could find its solution in a clear, frank and open debate, this possibility kept blocked with the break-up of the new organizational crisis of the ICC. At that moment (September 2001, see our bulletins 4, 5 and 6 [6]), the alternative analysis about the revival of the classes struggle and about the march towards war of the comrades who were going to form the fraction, were received with attention and sympathy by quite a good part of the organization.

In 2004, the ’Decomposition’ (today with a D according to the International Review 117) has become for the present ICC ’the central factor of the evolution of the whole of society’ (sic). But then, the historical impasse which was firstly defined only as ’momentary’, must be now considered - explicitly or implicitly - as a phenomenon also permanent. From here, the increasingly strong and open tendency in the present ICC publications for despise or hide any event which is opposed to this theory and to replace theoretically the basic marxist vision of the historical alternative ’war or revolution’, by a vision which comes close not only to the ’collapse’ theories we still find within the marxist camp ( [7]), but also the theories coming from the fundamentalist sects which predict the inevitable end of the world.

Moreover, the liquidationist faction which ended by seizing the leadership of the ICC, begun to base its ’disciplinary’ measures on the theory according to which the social decomposition produces too a permanent tendency to the formation of clans within the revolutionary organisation which needs, according to it, a special ’vigilance’ and a permanent struggle against those supposed clans. But with this theory, has been eliminated the possibility that not only tendencies or fractions within a revolutionary organization, but also disagreements and serious contradictory debates can exist. Since, now on, it’s enough to label every divergence, tendency or fraction as ’tendency towards clanism’ to bury it and to sanction or to ’ bring its representatives to heel’.

Here is how, though the ICC has not yet modified its political program so as to include into it the theory of decomposition, this one has converted to a dogma, to an article of faith which can’t be criticized within the organization as reveals it the new ’striking denounciation’ of the liquidationist faction against the members of our fraction who ’now criticize this theory after having voted during years different resolutions in which they accepted it’. Actually this ’denounciation’ is directed to the present ICC militants because they all have also voted these resolutions all along these years. It means they too can’t begin any criticism of the theory of decomposition in the ’official’ framework without risking to be accused at their turn to be renegades, to be ’weather vane’ [of changing their mind with the wind], to be adepts of the ’double language’, since they would withdraw from their past vote. Then they would be led to an open and frontal political struggle against the liquidationist faction which will necesarily utilize the same methods at the organizational level than the ones it utilized against our fraction.

Given the importance of the questions of principles which are today betrayed, given the degree of revision of programatical positions of the ICC, given the giving-up of the most elementary ’classical’ positions of the workers movement, any internal political struggle which would want to be consequent, militant, communist, won’t be but an organizational struggle. And it won’t be able to develop but through the constitution of an organized minority within the ICC, in this case in fraction... exactly what has been liquidated and forbidden for ever in 2001 by the policy and the methods utilized by the liquidationist faction and accepted passively by the majority of the militants.

The Internal Fraction of the ICC, February 2005.



[1. The Thesis on decomposition were published in the International Review 62, 1990. They were republished in the Review 107. They synthetized the theory of decomposition which was discussed for some time yet.

[2. It’s what we tried to show in our serie on the capitalism decadence (see our bulletins 19, 20 and 22, Imperialist War or Proletarian Revolution : the Decadence of Capitalism and Marxism, not transalted into english).

[3. See our bulletin 25 : In the serie ’Rome is no more in Rome’ : The historical falsifications and betrayals of the International Review 117 (translated into english) and bulletin 26 Revolucion Mundial 79 : Or how the proletariat of the peripherical countries is lost for the revolution… And how United-States are the only ones to oppose to chaos ! (not translated into english).

[4. The word used at the origin in french is impasse. In French, in Spanish and english too, the ICC has used also the term blockage

[5. This sentence we translate, isn’t in the english version of the thesis whose original version is the french one. It’s worth noting the (unconscious ?) tendency or reluctance of the english translators to use as much as the french writters the term ’decomposition’. It doesn’t appear up until one makes attention as we do when we look for the english version of the quotations [english version note].

[6. The New world situation and the present tasks for the revolutionaries (bulletin n°4, December 2001, translated into english) ; In front of the crisis and in front of the militarist response of the bourgeoisie, the struggles in Argentina confirm the perspective towards decisive confrontations between the classes (bulletin n°5, January 2002, not in english) ; Statement on the international situation (for the International Bureau Plenum of the ICC, bulletin n°6, February 2002, not in english).

[7. The same as footnote 3. See too Automatic Collapse of Capitalism or Proletarian Revolution in bulletin 26, not translated in english.