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Samir Amin and The Way Forward

Volume 17, Issue 1  | 
Published 07/07/2020
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Samir Amin and The Way Forward Apocalypse by inSOLense.

I - Introduction

I have known Samir since the early 1970s, and attended his burial in Paris following his death on 12 August 2018. I wrote an obituary on him in the form of an ode to his memory, the first and last lines of which go as under:

          Rhyming along the sound of guitar

          Cascades my ode to Comrade Samir

                   ……….

          You have left us, Dear Samir, but only your body

          Your spirit will continue to fuel the African revolutions

          Until the Empire succumbs and its spineless toddies

          Will flee to their hidden loots for their final dissolution

 

The final dissolution of Capitalism is well-nigh.  However, the problem is that a dying system becomes more dangerous and violent. In this brief essay I’d like to explore two of Samir’s revolutionary ideas, and how these might be applied in the evolving future. One is on the ‘National Question’ and the other his proposal for embarking on a ‘Fifth International’.

II - The National Question

Samir’s ideas on the National Question are often misunderstood.  This is not surprising. In the rich tapestry of his writings there are bound to appear certain contradictions mainly because of the context in which these ideas are explored.  The context is broadly (and in detail) analysed in his best known book – ‘Accumulation on a World Scale: Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment’ (1974).  This book analyses the process of capital accumulation on a global level, and how this thwarts development in the peripheral social formations.

The most important application of this theory, in my view, is his ‘Class and Nation Historically and in the Current Crisis’, 1980. I would strongly recommend this book to those who want to understand the process of peripheralisation of the former colonies in the global south, especially Chapter 6: ‘Centre and Periphery in the Capitalist System: The National Question.’  He starts this by saying:  ‘The theme of this chapter relates to the whole of my work...’  This is a significant statement.

In a small essay, I will limit myself to a few pertinent quotes from this chapter:

‘… the national liberation movement is a moment in the socialist transformation of the world and not a stage in the development of capitalism on a world scale … analyzing the class structure of the contemporary imperialist system and for placing contemporary national questions within this context.’

‘… the concepts of centre and periphery, basic to my analysis but rejected by all pro-imperialist currents within Marxism, were introduced by Lenin in direct relation to his analysis of the imperialist system.’

‘… the internal market created by the development of the export sector will be limited and biased. The limited nature of the internal market accounts for the fact that the periphery attracts only a limited amount of capital from the centre, although it offers a higher return on it.’

‘This model is qualitatively different in three respects from the central model:

First, the capitalist model was introduced from the outside by political domination. Here precapitalist rural relations did not disintegrate but rather were deformed by being subjected to the laws of accumulation of the central capitalist mode that dominated them. We can see this in the absence of a prior agricultural revolution, that is, in the stagnation of agricultural productivity.

Second, the class alliances that provided the political framework for the reproduction of the system were not primarily internal class alliances but rather an international alliance between dominant monopoly capital and its (subordinate) allies.

Third, external relations were here not subject to the logic of internal development but rather were the driving force and the determinant of the direction and pace of development.’

 ‘Overall, this first phase ended in the victory of the national liberation movement under bourgeois leadership.’

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