Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Movement

The “Absolute Decline” of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

The Absolute Decline of Capitalism

The 4th Congress document opened with the concept of the “continual and absolute decline” of capitalism.

Marx correctly stated that capitalism was doomed from the day of its birth. “Absolute decline” is a metaphysical distortion of Marx’s analysis. Dialectical materialism reveals that all phenomena come into being and die, or decline to be transformed into new phenomena. Capitalism is no exception. That capitalism as a mode of production has outlived its historical role, that it is moribund and dying is not in question. Nor is this a new significant concept. Of much greater significance and importance is how and when it will finally die.... what is going to happen today and tomorrow for it is still very much alive and kicking, and will not die yet. Perhaps more important, it will never die unless the working class destroys it.

Further the absoluteness of the decline is elevated to a position of significance which has little relevance to the problems and tasks of revolution. It is an idealist concept. Marx criticised the idealists for...

the lazy lust of the absolute ... Give me, they all cry, absolute truth, absolute justice, some rule of thumb standard, by which I can evade the strenuous task of finding the features of reality by ultimate contact with it, in action...

The decline and death of capitalism is as much “relative” as it is “absolute”. There can be no absolute truth separated from relative truth – “from contact with it in action”. To separate them is to seek “the lazy lust of the absolute”, to avoid the concrete tasks of the revolution and sink into the fancies of idealism.

This concept is reminiscent of the trotskyite declaration that capitalism was on the verge of collapse but for the “Stalinist betrayals” – What nonsense!

Moreover, if decline is absolute, from the moment of capitalism’s peak, (according to the 4th Congress document) why has capitalism survived so long? The document answers: because of the backwardness of the opposing force, the proletariat.

But if the working class is backward, it follows that there must be a forward opposite force, the bourgeoisie.... But if the bourgeoisie is forward, how can they be in absolute decline? How can the crisis be absolute?

This formulation is clearly wrong. Dialectically, both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are backward and forward in varying degrees. Both account for the longevity of capitalism and its crisis, and the significance of both forces must be evaluated to understand its survival and how to destroy it.

The document goes on to suggest that the decline is absolute because of the overcoming of backwardness in some areas, particularly Albania and China. But, why was the decline so-called “absolute” long before these areas were overcome? Moreover, why are these areas in so much flux? There is a big struggle going on in China. Can we be certain that she will not become revisionist? And what will happen if she does? Will the decline be more or less absolute?

Like other documents of the party reveal, this is a subjective view of history.