- Samir Amin Passed away, but he continues to Develop and Eternalize Maoism, by Adel Samara
- Samir Amin: How to defeat the Collective Imperialism of the Triad, An exclusive interview for Katehon
- Samir Amin stood for People, by Farooque Chowdry
- Samir Amin: a vital challenge to dispossession, by Nick Dearden
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Samir Amin Passed away
but he continues to Develop and Eternalize Maoism
Samir Amin is one of the greatest Marxist thinkers whose works will be eternally in developing the thinking of human beings. His pioneer works educate for revolutionary class struggle to change the world. It is the dialectical change.
While Amin’s contributions to Marxism are too many, the following are his main ones:
The Tribute mode of production which dominates a lot of eastern social formations, especially in Arab-Islamic social formations before capitalism. This contribution uncovers the fact that while human history is one in general but it varies in concrete cases. His main argument was that history of the west does not represent that of the rest of the world, i.e. the rest of the world was never a mere extension to that of the west. His works negate the racist European pretend that:”Only the west can do it”, and “The west and the rest”. By this contribution, Amin challenges the western pretence that the world develops only on the western manner or as he and others call it Eurocentricism.
This contribution strengthened his inclination towards the reality that the Third World needs theoretical research and theorization according to its own history, current situation and the nature of its social formations which contradicts the western supremacist pretence that the entire world will follow the western development route. In this position, Amin was and still is close to Moist China’s theorization of the Third World development considering at least one important phenomenon regarding the size and role of its’ peasantry in revolution and development.
On the same line of thinking, Amin’s theory in de-linking is the most revolutionary route for the South to embark for development in a different route from that of the capitalist west.
It is enough to understand the importance of his de-linking theory when one looks at the numerous bourgeois theories, analyses, propaganda and lies which preach for “Open Markets”, “liberalization of trade”, “anti Protectionism” , but act the opposite way. US policies under Trump, i.e. Trump’s wars against all other nations, are the strongest confirmation on the importance and necessity of Amin’s theory of delinking.
Amins’ development theory of law of value which is close to the Chinese/Maoist reading of the role of value in the capitalist formations and its possible existence even in the socialist formations and the only possibility to transcend it is the transformation to communist formations.
Amin rightly considers the importance of historical materialism and accordingly differentiates between law of value and historical materialism.
According to Foster, “insists that the economic laws of capitalism, summed up by the law of value, ‘are subordinate to the laws of historical materialism.’
“In Amin’s analysis, then, the law of value and historical materialism do not have equal standing — if only because the former offers the world no way out, while the latter does.”
On the practical field, let’s remember that Amin’s position in support of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is a great and courageous position challenging the western bourgeois and revisionist deformation of this form of revolution which is from inside targets the party headquarters which became a shelter for the Capitalist Roaders.
“Bombard the headquarters” – meant targeting the leadership of the communist party taking the capitalist road.
It is important to mention here that critiques against Amin’s writings on Arab issues were mainly false and exaggerating. Amin was a victim of two problems far from his hand:
He was a victim of Naser’s nondemocratic rule in Egypt which pushed him to leave Egypt. While this regime was progressive led by nationalist developmental regime, Amin was one of the Egyptian communists who refused the Soviet theory of non-capitalist development and the communist party dissolves itself and integrate into the regime’s party which was also recommended by the Soviet Union. Amin’s attitude encouraged his understanding of Maoism.
Since Amin lived most of his life far from Arab Homeland, he got a lot of distorted information and analyses about Arab politics as long as he never believes Arab bourgeois, the western, and the revisionist media and analyses. The other source about Arab politics is intellectuals who are either revolutionaries or pretend that they are. Amin was cheated by some of those distorted information and analyses.
Take the Oslo Accords as an example. Palestinian lecturers invited Amin to visit the occupied West Bank and Gaza after the Oslo catastrophic Accords which are a mere Internalization of Defeat against our people’s struggle. They told him that West Bank and Gaza are liberated from the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime; he accepts the invitation imagining that he is going to liberated areas. I explained to him, at that time, what was the reality in the West Bank and Gaza under Palestinian Self-Rule which is under real Zionist settler colonialism. He cancelled the visit since it would mean normalization with Zionist Ashkenazi Regime.
Amin spent his life fighting in the core of theoretical and political struggle. One of his last contributions was his article on Kurds Issue. http://monthlyreview.org/2016/10/01/the-kurdish-question-then-and-now/.
In this article, he sheds an important light on this debatable issue especially his strong argument that there is no one Kurds nation or nationalism for Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Through this article Amin develops his understanding of the issue of Arab nationalism in a very clear and correct manner.
It is important to mention here that, while Amin like many welcomed the events of 2011 in Arab Homeland even without deep reading of it at least in the beginning, he did not go too far like the so-called Socialist Revolutionaries, the Trotskyites who are still argue that in Syria there is a revolution and cheating many intellectuals around the world to sign manifestos against Syria in harmony with the Counter Revolution’s war against Syria, Libya, Yemen and for sure Palestine.
Finally, Amin is one of few communists who did not collapse or renegade following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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How to defeat the Collective Imperialism of the Triad
Samir Amin, world-known economist, explains the reason of decadent condition of the modern economy and gives the recipe of the salvation from global imperialism.
An exclusive interview for Katehon
I can sum my point of view on the situation over the modern economy in the following way. We have been in a long systemic crisis of capitalism, which has started in 1975 with the end of the convertibility of the Dollar in gold. It is not a like the famous financial crisis in 2008. No, it is a long systematic crisis of monopoly capitalism which started forty years ago and it continues. The capitalists reacted to the crisis with the sets of measures. The first one was to strengthen centralization of control over the economy by the monopolies. An oligarchy is ruling all capitalist countries - the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain and Russia as well. The second measure was to convert all economic activity productions into subcontractors of monopoly capital. I mean, they have not even a hint of freedom. Competition is just rhetoric, there is no competition. There is an oligarchy which is controlling the whole economic system. Now, we are facing a united front of imperialist powers, which are forming a Collective imperialism of the Triad.
The Triad is the United States, Western and Central Europe, and Japan. This group of countries has become a single imperialist power, the leader of which is the US. This has led to the deepening of the depth of the crisis. The crisis is in the shape of an “L”. The normal crisis is in the shape of a “U”, the economy rises up after the decline. But this crisis is different. There is no way out of the crisis; the only way to get out is to move out of capitalism. There is no other possible solution. Capitalism should be considered as a moribund system. In order to survive it is moving to destruction and to wars.
We have an alternative which is the socialism. I know that it is not very popular to say, but the only solution is socialism. It is a long road which starts from reducing the power of the oligarchy, reinforcing the state control and establish a state-capitalism, which should replace private capitalism. It doesn’t mean that private capitalism will not survive, but it should be subordinated to state control. The state control should be used also in order to support a social progressive policy. This should guarantee good full-employment, social services, education, transport, infrastructure, security etc.
The role of China is very big, because it is, perhaps, the only country in the world today, which has a sovereign project. That means that it is trying to establish a pattern of modern industry, in which of course, private capital has a wide place, but it is under the strict control of the state. Simultaneously it gives a view of the present to the culture. The other pattern of Chinese economy culture is based on family producers. China is walking on two legs:
following the traditions and participating globalization. They accept foreign investments, but keep independence of their financial system. The Chinese bank system is exclusively state-controlled. The Yuan is convertible only to a certain extent, but under the control of the bank of China. That is the best model that we have today to respond to the challenge of globalists imperialism.
Maybe Russia is moving in this direction, but not as much as China, because it has payed a very big price for the destruction of the shock therapy from Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Those leaders have led Russia to a private oligarchy, closely related to the international financial capitalism of the US, Germany and others. This has reduced Russian capacity of control. But now Russia is moving gradually towards reestablishing control of the state over its own economy.
The world now is in serious danger. The collective imperialism of the US, Western Europe and Japan are run by US leadership. In order to keep their exclusive control over the whole planet, they do not accept independence of other countries. They do not respect the independence if China and Russia. That is why we are about to face continuous wars all over the world. The radical Islamists are the allies of imperialism, because they are supported by the US in order to carry out destabilization. This is permanent war. I do believe that the best response to it is the Eurasian project. Russia should unite with China, Central Asian countries, Iran and Syria. This alliance could be also very attractive for Africa and good parts of Latin America. In such a case, imperialism would be isolated.
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Samir Amin stood for People
August 13, 2018
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.
Samir Amin lives as long as peoples’ revolutionary journey moves forward. And, peoples’ revolutionary march is unending as revolutionary advancement opens path for further revolutionary advancement. Samir Amin walks along peoples struggling against exploitation, against imperialism in countries. Samir Amin transcends all borders capital creates to divide peoples struggling against exploiters, against all divisive politics, against all sectarian ideologies, which serve imperialism. Samir Amin stands for a modern life for peoples while opposes all backward ideas and ideologies serving exploiters.
Samir Amin breathed his last on August 12, 2018 (Sunday afternoon) in Paris from a brain tumor as reported by his colleague Cherif Salif on Linkedin. The revolutionary Marxist economist was 86. Samir Amin was hospitalized on July 21, and returned home on Saturday.
Samir Amin, one of the foremost Marxist theoreticians in contemporary world, was a communist. He was born in Egypt in 1931.
A long-standing activist, writer and one of closest associates of Monthly Review, the world famous independent socialist magazine, Samir Amin’s journey as a communist began in his school-days as he said in an interview:
“I considered myself a communist already at secondary school.” (“Revolutionary change in Africa: an interview with Samir Amin”, by Leo Zeilig of Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE), in Dakar on February 5, 2017)
He elaborated the point as he said:
“[W]e knew [to be a communist] meant […] equality between human beings and between nations, and […] this has been done by the Russian revolution, the Soviet Union. That was our definition […] at secondary school in Egypt […]” (ibid.)
Immediately after his secondary school, according to Samir Amin, he got in contact with the Communist Party in Egypt and he joined the Party. (ibid.)
He has “been a communist since then.” (ibid.)
His “struggle in the Egyptian Communist Party between the Soviet line and the Maoist line […] compelled [him] to try to be rigorous and continuously on the frontline, politically and ideologically.” (ibid.)
Samir Amin said:
“I am active – action is the key.” (ibid.)
Samir Amin emphasizes the importance of struggle, and forcefully suggests swimming against the tide.
He was a member of the Communist Party of France during his time as a student in France.
His spending a substantial time in “militant action” allowed him least time to preparing for his university examinations. In France, he gained a diploma in political science (1952), and graduated in statistics (1956) and economics (1957).
On his return to Egypt, he remained a member of the Communist Party.
The Nasser’s years, according to Samir Amin, “was a very, very difficult time. [….] We had very strong arguments […] on the ground that the struggle was not just a national liberation struggle; it has to be associated with radical change on the road to socialism.” (ibid.)
Then, the communist party was divided. A small majority accepted the Soviet view of the non-capitalist road. But, Samir Amin was one of those who did not accept the road suggested by Moscow. A strong minority, perhaps 40%, did not accept that road. “And [he continued] to consider [himself] a communist.” (ibid.)
During his work in Egypt, Samir Amin witnessed from his position of work, “the public companies [were] being captured by a small tiny class, a kind of bourgeois caste, a corrupt class, including financing indirectly through their private enterprises.” (ibid.)
He “became even more radicalized.” In 1966, there was the Cultural Revolution in China. He supported the Cultural Revolution. Mao’s slogan – “Bombard the headquarters” – meant targeting the leadership of the communist party taking the capitalist road. (ibid.)
To Samir Amin, the only meaning of radicalism is to be anti-capitalist and be a socialist: “A socialist review should call upon […] people, not necessarily academics, who are directly involved in politics, in leadership of movements, social movements and parties and so on.” (ibid.)
He worked in Egypt, after completing university studies, and then in Mali, and then, at the head of Institut Africain de Développement Économique et de Planification (IDEP), and then as director of the Third World Forum in Dakar.
All through his work, he maintained a radical critique of society. “[O]therwise”, said Samir Amin, “none of those institutions [would] have been able to survive, succeed even, in doing many things. We have not changed the world but we have kept the flag flying, which is important also.” (ibid.)
Samir Amin, noted for introducing the term Eurocentrism in 1988, felt:
“[T]he challenge for all of us […] now is how we find the practical policies and strategies for progressive social change?
“I call it revolutionary advances, which means that we achieve revolutionary changes but which only create the possibility of later, further revolutionary advances.” (ibid.)
Samir Amin “reject[s] completely the naïve view that we can change the world without seizing political power; that is changing state power.” (ibid.)
“The power of the most advanced, the US today for example,” said Samir Amin, “cripples the developments of a new society”. (ibid.)
His main contributions to radical theory have been in the field of international political economy.
Considering class struggle as one of the basic questions in interpreting political issues is one of Samir Amin’s world view.
Samir Amin considers theories and interpretations useless that don’t challenge the “sacred” character of property, legitimizes inequality and the prerequisites of capitalist reproduction, and empowers the property owners.
Samir Amin said about delinking. Delinking, according to Samir Amin, is a principle of strategy: Instead of adjusting to the needs of capitalist, global expansion, the pattern has to be broken. [….] It means rejecting the logic of unilateral adjustment to the needs of further capitalist and imperialist expansion, and trying to reverse the relation and focus on projects of development ourselves.” (ibid.)
“[I]f we start, we will succeed, that we will compel imperialists to accept it and that would create a logic, a possibility of further advances.” (ibid.)
So, Samir Amin suggests: You try to succeed, as far as possible, to have your own strategy, independent of the trends of the unequal global system. (ibid.)
Samir Amin opines: If the delinking is led by bourgeois forces, it will never go beyond a small class, however, if it is a process powered by popular forces, it will lead to other questions, namely industrialization and reviving peasant agriculture, as a means of having, ensuring food. It’s more than security, sovereignty, and having policies, economic policies including control of foreign capital. This might not mean that you reject completely foreign capital, but you control it.
He terms this program as a sovereign popular national project for African countries.
Samir Amin views globalization as an extension of capitalist imperialism. So, he calls attention to capitalist-imperialist globalization controlled by financial monopoly capital, by a set of imperialist countries – principally the triad: the US, Western Europe and Japan. They are strong enough to control the processes of economic life and production and also political life at a global level. (ibid.)
He suggests getting out of this globalization.
His suggested sovereign popular national project for Africa will be national, but, not nationalist; will mean change of political power. He considers change of political power can’t be done at global level or even at a regional level before being changed at national level. It will not be a bourgeois, capitalist project. The required steps cannot be achieved while accepting the pattern of globalization and capitalism.
In works including Accumulation on a World Scale, and Maldevelopment, Samir Amin argues against neo-classical economics from a class perspective.
He was active in different places including the Third World Forum, the World Forum of Alternatives and the Arab Centre of Research.
Optimistic about class struggle, Samir Amin provides excellent critiques of the effects of imperialism. He strongly denounces compradors and charlatans, and their loot.
John Bellamy Foster, editor, Monthly Review, writes:
Amin’s wide-ranging work can be most succinctly described in terms of the dual designation of The Law of Value and Historical Materialism — the title of one of his books, now in a new edition as The Law of Worldwide Value. Marx’s intellectual corpus, he notes, appears to be divided into writings on economics and writings on politics. (“Samir Amin at 80: An Introduction and Tribute”, Monthly Review, October 2011)
Samir Amin, according to Foster,
“insists that the economic laws of capitalism, summed up by the law of value, ‘are subordinate to the laws of historical materialism.’
“Economic science, while indispensable, cannot explain at the highest level of abstraction, as in mathematical equations, the full reality of capitalism and imperialism — since it cannot account either for the historical origins of the system itself, or for the nature of the class struggle. Nor indeed can it present in a strictly determinant fashion the contemporary historical manifestation of the law of value, expressed as the theory of ‘globalized value,’ which requires recognition of such factors as monopoly power and unequal exchange. At best we can see value relations as historically ‘transformed’ in ways that are less determinant than in the abstract models based on a freely competitive economy, but which are still subject to meaningful political-economic analysis.”
“In Amin’s analysis, then, the law of value and historical materialism do not have equal standing — if only because the former offers the world no way out, while the latter does.
“In his own words, Amin’s analysis of ‘the history of capitalism meshes with the conclusions that Baran, Sweezy, Magdoff (and following them, the Monthly Review team) have drawn from their precocious analysis of monopoly capitalism.’”
The Monthly Review editor writes:
“The theory of worldwide value is Amin’s signal economic contribution, summing up as it does the system of unequal exchange/imperial rent that divides the global North and the global South.”
Foster cites Samir Amin:
“Capitalism only adapts to the exigencies of the unfolding of struggles and conflicts that form its history at the price of accentuating its character as destroyer of the bases of its wealth — human beings (reduced to the status of labor force/commodity) and nature (reduced in the same way to commodity status). Its first long crisis (begun in 1873) paid off with thirty years of wars and revolutions (1914–1945). Its second (begun in 1971) entered the second, necessarily chaotic, stage of its [own] unfolding with the financial collapse of 2008, bringer of horrors and destructions that henceforth are a menace to the whole human race. Capitalism has become an obsolete social system.”
Citng Samir Amin;s The Law of Worldwide Value, and Eurocentrism, Foster writes:
“If we are to come out in the end from this ‘long tunnel,’ [Samir Amin] declares, it will be into socialism…a society aimed at transcending ‘the legacy of unequal development inherent to capitalism’ by offering to ‘all human beings on the planet a better mastery of their social development’—in line with ecological requirements.”
Works by Samir Amin
Samir Amin’s works are important for understanding the present imperialist world order, inequalities at world scale, and capitalist structures, a few of which include:
Accumulation on A World Scale, Monthly Review Press (henceforth MR Press), New York, 1974, The Law of Value and Historical Materialism, MR Press, 1978, The Law of Worldwide Value, MR Press, 2010, Imperialism and Unequal Development, MR Press, 1977, Class and Nation, Historically and in the Current Crisis, MR Press, 1980, Eurocentrism, MR Press, 1989, Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, Zed Books, London, 1997,
Obsolescent Capitalism, Zed Books, 2003, Neocolonialism in West Africa, Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism, (with G. Arrighi, A. G. Frank and I. Wallerstein), La crise, quelle crise? (Crisis, what crisis?), Transforming the world-economy? : nine critical essays on the new international economic order, (Andre Gunder Frank, Giovanni Arrighi and Immanuel Wallerstein), Transforming the revolution: social movements and the world system, L’Empire du chaos (Empire of Chaos), Empire of Chaos, Spectres of capitalism: a critique of current intellectual fashions, The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World, Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World, (with James Membrez), The World We Wish to See: Revolutionary Objectives in the Twenty-First Century,
Eurocentrism – Modernity, Religion and Democracy: A Critique of Eurocentrism and Culturalism, Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?, Maldevelopment – Anatomy of a Global Failure, Imperialsim and Globalization, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism, Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism.
The communist, who began journey from the land of the Nile, upholds the standard of the revolutionary proletariat through his life and activism. The world proletariat recollects his role as a comrade, as a fighter.
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Samir Amin: a vital challenge to dispossession
Nick Dearden looks at the theories of one of Africa's greatest radical thinkers
August 13, 2018
Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign
Samir Amin (1931-2018) was one of the world’s greatest radical thinkers – a ‘creative Marxist’ who went from Communist activism in Nasser’s Egypt, to advising African socialist leaders like Julius Nyerere to being a leading figure in the World Social Forum.
Samir Amin’s ideas were formed in the heady ferment of 1950s and ’60s, when pan-Africanists like Kwamah Nkrumah ran Ghana and Juliuys Nyrere Tanzania, when General Nasser was transforming the Middle East from Amin’s native Egypt and liberation movements thrived from South Africa to Algeria.
Africa looked very different before the International Monetary Fund destroyed what progress had been made towards emancipation and LiveAid created a popular conception of a continent of famine and fecklessness. Yet through these times, Amin’s ideas have continued to shine out, denouncing the inhumanity of contemporary capitalism and empire, but also harshly critiquing movements from political Islam to Eurocentric Marxism and its marginalisation of the truly dispossessed.
Amin believed that the world capitalism – a rule of oligopolies based in the rich world – maintains its rule through five monopolies – control of technology, access to natural resources, finance, global media, and the means of mass destruction. Only by overturning these monopolies can real progress be made.
This raises particular challenges for those of us who are activists in the North because any change we promote must challenge the privileges of the North vis-à-vis the South. Our internationalism cannot be expressed through a type of humanitarian approach to the global South – that countries in the South need our ‘help to develop’. For Amin, any form of international work must be based on an explicitly anti-imperialist perspective. Anything else will fail to challenge structure of power – those monopolies which really keep the powerful powerful.
Along with colleagues like Andre Gunder Frank, Amin see the world divided into the ‘centre’ and the ‘peripheries’. The role of peripheries, those countries we call the global South, is to supply the centres – specifically the ‘Triad’ of North America, Western Europe and Japan – with the means of developing without being able to develop themselves. Most obviously, the exploitation of Africa’s minerals on terms of trade starkly favourable to the centre will never allow African liberation, only continual exploitation.
This flies in the face of so much ‘development thinking’, which would have you believe that Africa’s problems come from not being properly integrated into the global economy which has grown up over the last 40 years. Amin believes in fact Africa’s problem stem from it being too integrated but in ‘the wrong way’.
In fact, as long as the monopolies of control are intact, countries of the centre have had few problems globalising production since the 1970s. Sweatshop labour now takes place across the periphery but it hasn’t challenged the power of those in the North because of their control of finance, natural resources, the military and so on. In fact, it has enhanced their power by reducing wages and destroying a manufacturing sector that had become a power base for unionised workers.
So there is no point whatever in asking countries of the centre to concede better trading relationships to the peripheries. Amin is also concerned at environmental activism which too often becomes a debate about how countries of the centre manage their control of the world’s resources, rather than challenging that control. It is vital that Northern activists challenge the means through which the ruling class in their own society exerts control over the rest of the world.
Of course, this is not just a project for activists in the North – far from it. The theory for which Amin is most famous that of ‘de-linking’.
De-linking means countries of the periphery withdrawing from their exploitative integration in the global economy. In a sense it is de-globalisation, but it is not a form of economic isolation – something which African socialist leaders too readily fell into. Rather it means not engaging in economic relationships from a point of weakness.
Amin argues that Southern countries should develop their economy through various forms of state intervention, control of money flowing in an out of their financial sectors and promoting trading with other Southern countries. Countries must nationalise financial sectors, strongly regulate natural resources, ‘de-link’ internal prices from the world market, and free themselves from control by international institutions like the World Trade Organisation. Whatever problems come with nationalised industries, it is the only possible basis for a genuinely socially controlled economy going forward.
After 30 years of being told that their problems would be solved by exporting more, privatising their natural resources and liberalising their financial sectors, many developing countries would today do well to heed Amin’s advice. Instead, too many countries have bought into a de-politicised narrative which posits ideologically loaded terms like ‘good governance’, ‘poverty’ and ‘civil society’ carefully disguising questions as to how poverty happened, what interests governance serves, or the legitimacy of organisations claiming to speak on behalf of the dispossessed.
Amin did not believe that the ‘rise’ of China, India and other emerging economies has in any way broken the power of the oligopolies, in fact that power has only become more concentrated. But there have been important changes. Imperialist powers have realised competition between themselves is not helpful and have created a sort of collective imperialism which is expressed through institutions like the WTO and IMF.
Capitalism, ‘a parenthesis in history’
Capitalism is experiencing a profound long-term crisis to which Amin believes it has no solution short of political barbarism. He describes this form of capitalism as ‘senile’.
This crisis is characterised by an increased dependence on finance, which means less and less money is being made from productive activities, and more from simple ‘rent’. It is a far more direct means of stealing wealth from the majority of the world. The accompanying form of politics means that democracy has been reduced to a farce in which people are spectators in an elite drama – that is when they’re not fulfilling their proper role of consuming.
Capitalism necessarily requires an ongoing process of dispossession so that it can accumulate and continue to expand. Capitalism could not have developed without the European conquest of the world – the availability so many ‘spare’ resources was vital. The safety value for many of those dispossessed from European land was the ‘new world’ which allowed mass emigration – though of course others died in droves, witness the Irish potato famine.
So as much as many of the dispossessed might aspire to the lives of those in advanced capitalist countries, it is simply not possible. Nor can traditional Marxists be correct when they say capitalism is a necessary stage on the path to socialism – a view which Amin describes as ‘Eurocentric’.
Industry cannot incorporate more than a small fraction of humanity, but it does require the resources that that humanity depends upon. So the only way that capitalism can move forward is through the creation of a ‘slum planet’ – a sort of ‘apartheid at the world level’. Amin sees the dispossession of the peasantry across the peripheral countries will become the central issue of the twenty-first century.
This is one reason why Amin see the role of the peasantry in the South – almost half of humanity after all – as key to determining the future. The strength of movements around food sovereignty, against land grabbing and supporting the rights of indigenous peoples, give support to this theory. But for Amin, agriculture is not merely a big opportunity, the existence of the peasantry presents capitalism with an insurmountable challenge.
Amin believes the road to socialism depends on reversing this trend of dispossession meaning, at national and regional levels, protecting local agricultural production, ensuring countries’ have food sovereignty and de-linking internal prices from world commodity markets. This would stop the dispossession of peasants and their exodus into the towns.
Only this revolution in the way the land is seen, treated and access can lay the basis for a new society. This also means ditching the idea of ‘growth’ as it is spoken about today and by which all world economies are judged, which really benefits only a minority of the world population. The rest of humanity is “abandoned to stagnation, if not pauperisation”.
The long road to socialism
Perhaps this makes Samir Amin sounds rather idealistic in his approach, but this is far from true. Amin explicitly rejects the idea of a ‘24 hour revolution’ – a single insurrectionary act which ushers in a period of socialism. Indeed he accepts there may well be a need to use private, even international capital, in order to diversify Southern economies. The important thing is control. For this reason Amin also refuses to use the phrase “socialism of the 21st century” focussing on the need for “the long route of the transition to socialism”.
But that’s not to say there have not been significant victories. Interestingly, Amin is less interested in developments in Latin America, which he believes contain risks of repeating the mistakes of many national liberation movements on the 1950s and 60s in becoming a form of “popular statism”. Amin is more interested in Nepal as an possible future model to look towards. He also sees the Chinese revolution as an incredibly significant event in directly challenging the basis of capitalism and in the struggle for democratic socialism, most especially in its “abolition of the private property of land” and the formation of powerful communes and collectives.
Amin’s somewhat romantic view of the Chinese revolution is certainly challenging to Western sensibilities, but his underlying view that the formation of democracy must go beyond a narrow political project, and that peasants – and especially women – through collective organisations, might be better placed than Western individualists to define a really progressive vision of democracy needs to be properly taken on board by activists.
Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.
He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.
Amin’s view is that organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, with their cultural and economic conservatism, are actually viewed positively by the US and other imperialist governments. And he doesn’t limit his critique to Islam either, launching similar criticism on political Hinduism practiced by the BJP in India and Political Buddhism, expressed through the Dalai Lama.
Samir Amin decribes himself as a ‘creative Marxist’ – “to begin from Marx but not to end with him or with Lenin or Mao” – which incorporates all manner of critical ways of thinking even ones “which were wrongly considered to be ‘alien’ by the dogmas of the historical Marxism of the past.”
These views are surely more relevant today than when Amin started writing. A creative Marxism takes proper account of the perspective and aspirations of the truly dispossessed in the world, break out of historical dogmas and rejects attempts to stick together a broken model, but equally sees the impossibility of overthrowing this model tomorrow.
A version of this article was first published in December 2011.
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Kana’an – The e-Bulletin
كنعان النشرة الإلكترونية
Volume XVIII – Issue 4832
17 August 2018
In this issue: