Comments on the Latest Crisis of the ICC

We find ourselves facing yet another political/organisational crisis of the ICC, the conclusion of which is still undecided. It occurs at a delicate moment for the capitalist dynamic as well as the proletarian movement. On the bourgeois side, the drive towards war has accelerated with the military initiative of the USA following the attack on the World Trade Centre. As for the proletariat, Argentina is the first great episode of class revolt which in spite of, or rather, because of its considerable limitations, poses enormous problems for the proletarian vanguards, or those who thus describe themselves.

At the same time as issuing this document the Bureau is distributing an international document/manifesto regarding events in Argentina. Besides being an urgent call for the international party, this aims to be a serious invitation to all those claiming to be the class vanguard. Faced with that, what is the ICC doing? Instead of discussing the events which are occurring before the international proletariat, they call for plenary meetings in order to... sort out their organisational problems, and use all manner of devices to prevent internal dissidence, going so far as writing to all the supposed milieu to denounce it.

It is not for us to act as arbiters in the disciplinary quarrels of the ICC. We limit ourselves to pointing out that they arise - and not for the first time - at a moment when the reality and momentum of economic and social relations challenge the very methodological and theoretical foundations of the ICC. It is natural, inevitable, that an organisation whose methodological and political base is situated outside of historical materialism, which is powerless to explain the succession of events in the 'external world', is forced to close up and turn in on itself in order to defend its own organisation. Hence the formal aspects of organisation and militancy tend to be exaggerated, resulting in non-compliance and personal tension. This said, it remains to demonstrate the erroneous nature of their positions. Here, we can go back to the time when the Internationalist Communist Party called the International Conferences of the Communist Left which would serve, amongst other functions, to illustrate the profound divergence between the ICC and the organisations which would go on to found the Bureau.

Let us recall the key themes amongst these differences: analysis of the capitalist crisis, conception of historic periods, the transition period, the role and function of the party. As regards the crisis, we already opposed the ICC's position as outside of Marxist method, poorly hidden by a formal adhesion to the Luxemburgist theory of the exhaustion of pre-capitalist markets, but with an obvious incapacity to explain the relatively new aspects of capitalist self-preservation which the ICC group effortlessly under the concept - as universal as it is confusing - of decadence.

We note that this is followed by the facile but inconsistent generalisations of "decomposition and chaos" with which they currently claim to explain all events, from the Afghanistan war to the Argentine revolt. The schematic conception of historic periods - itself historically belonging to the original current of the French Communist Left to which the ICC owes its existence - characterises historic periods as revolutionary or counter-revolutionary on the basis of abstract deliberations about the condition of the working class. Thus, according to the French Communist Left it was wrong (entirely opportunistic) to build the PCInt of Italy in 1943 during the Second Imperialist War as the period was utterly counter-revolutionary. According to the ICC at the International Conferences, this counter-revolutionary period had ended in 1968 and was followed by a period which henceforward would prevent imperialist war whilst, conversely, allow for proletarian revolution. The "undefeated" proletariat was again in good shape and unwilling to allow itself to be marched off to war, thus able to prevent a bourgeois solution to the crisis (not better defined). Little did it matter that alongside the peace in the metropoles, murderous local wars were being conducted in which the proletariat, semi-proletariat and sub-proletarian masses slaughtered each other in the name of their imperialist "puppet-masters". Little does it matter that the proletariat at a world level, (in the periphery as well as the metropoles) suffered, practically without reacting, one of the gravest capitalist attacks against their wages and living conditions as capital implemented measures to counter the crisis (of the falling rate of profit). For the ICC the proletariat was in a position to stop war!

The implosion of the Soviet bloc somewhat changed the situation for the ICC. Whilst the proletariat, still undefeated, could prevent the world descending into war, the rupture of the imperialist equilibriums of the Cold War "gave rise to a phenomenon of generalised decomposition, of society rotting on its feet" (from 'Decomposition, The Final Phase Of Capitalist Decadence' International Review 62), or a series of violent convulsions, during which the appetites of all states, large or small, exploded. Such is 'decomposition', a catch-all category.

It is the use of such generalised concepts to subjugate reality which moves the ICC towards St. Bruno (Bauer) who, "like all philosophers and ideologues, take thoughts, ideas, conceptual expressions, made autonomous, regarding the existing world as the foundation of the existing world." (Marx, Engels, The German Ideology II Saint Bruno).

It is obvious that this method - which replaces reality by its arbitrarily decided conceptual expression - does not contribute to equipping the proletariat with the weapon of criticism, nor does it furnish our organisations with the vital instruments to confront reality.

Now let us return to the initial concept of decadence. We must emphasise that this only makes sense when applied to the general state of society, but it makes no sense if it is used to refer to the mode of production's capacity for survival. In other words, one cannot talk about decadence if by that is meant a presumed growing incapacity of capitalism to make one cycle of accumulation follow another. The shortening of the upswing phase of accumulation might also be considered an aspect of 'decadence', but the experience of the last cycle shows that the shortening of the ascendant phase does not necessarily entail the acceleration of the total cycle of accumulation/crisis/war/new accumulation. What role then does the concept of decadence play in terms of the militant critique of political economy, i.e. for a deeper analysis of the characteristics and dynamic of capitalism in the period in which we live? None. To the extent that the word itself never appears in the three volumes constituting Capital.

It is not through the concept of decadence that one can explain the mechanics of the crisis, nor criticise the relationship between the crisis and financialisation, the relationship between the latter and the politics of the super-powers for the control of financial income and its sources.

Thus it seems at least strange, and in any case politically inopportune, to derive from what is at best an imprecise concept and alien to the critique of political economy, another concept, this time completely abstract - like 'decomposition and chaos'.

Having established that these concepts are strangers to the method and the arsenal of the critique of political economy, a poor understanding of agitation and revolutionary propaganda might see these notions as useful elements for the denunciation of capitalism, necessary for the organisation of the vanguard of the struggle. But in fact this would be a totally erroneous conception of agitation and propaganda, in so far as they are the basis for the organisation of the revolutionary advance guard. The latter have to be armed with the critique of political economy, with an understanding and the genuine instruments to criticise the real mechanisms of capitalism, of its real contradictions, for herein resides the ignominy of capitalism.

The role and function of the party have been another important point of divergence between the ICC and ourselves throughout their history. In fact the ICC has moved considerably from its original position on the party. The first turn round gave rise to the first important split amongst the founding nucleus of the ICC with the birth of the EFICC (now Internationalist Perspectives).

The other ICC turn round (defined by some as Leninist) on the question of the party led to what they called the struggle against clanism, the circle spirit the origins of the expulsion of another founding member (RV). On that occasion it was characteristic that certain aspects of Lenin's theses during the 1903 Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party and the polemic between Lenin and Martov were used. Paradoxically, during the second International Conference, we ourselves had referred to these themes and polemics, against the councilism at the root of the ICC.

Even today, the ICC letter of 6/2 refers to this Congress in order to compare the current behaviour of the internal fraction with that of the Mensheviks in the past. We believe we are not mistaken when we say that the 'partyist' turn is a move back to the logic of looking in on itself, within its own shell, at the moment when real life gives the lie to and mercilessly ridicules their abstract schemas on the themes considered above.

One cannot otherwise explain the 'Leninist' nature of the ICC on the one hand and its parallel rejection of the Marxist, and Leninist, conception of the state during the period of transition. The ICC in fact considers the proletarian dictatorship as a different entity and external to the state of the transitional period. For them, the organisation of workers' councils and their delegates does not constitute the real body of the workers' state, but rather the instrument to control a state constituted in another way. Frankly, we do not know if there are variations from the original positions that we polemicised against in 1979 (as early as that!) (1). However, their positions at the time can be synthesised in a sentence from the resolution quoted; "This (state) cannot be identified with any dominant class, for such a class does not exist in society during the transitional period". In substance this means for the ICC that:

  • The transitional state is not the dictatorship of the proletariat.
  • The transitional state passes to socialism by the power and virtue of the holy spirit, here incarnated in the alliance of all non-exploiting classes, who with equal rights, without one being more important than another, are also at the same level as the remnants of the bourgeoisie.
  • The proletarian dictatorship takes on no specific dictatorial role.

For us, despite its well known claims, the ICC has clearly placed itself outside of the tradition of the Communist Left. These are the issues and problems with which those on the inside, who live through the crisis situations of this organisation, have to 'settle accounts'. Otherwise the same thing will happen as we have already seen with the ICC's previous crises (which are strikingly reminiscent of Programme Communiste, the source of multiple tendencies claiming Bordigist orthodoxy): the appearance of new groups polemicising with the ICC and accusing it of deviating from... its origins.

(1) See "Elementi per la critica alla risoluzione della CCI sul periodo di transizione" ("Elements for a critique of the ICC resolution on the transitional period") In Prometeo IV series 3, December 1979).