9/11 with Samir Amin

Via: MRZine.

A Video Conference Moderated by Biju Mathew

“Libya is something very different from what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. It was not a pacific demonstration of people.  It was, from the very start, armed groups against other armed groups, the regime. I’m not at all defending Gaddafi, but what is very specific of the case of Libya is that the so-called opposition, armed from the first minute, called NATO to their rescue. The target here . . . is not only oil, because they already have control of this oil, but more importantly water, the immense water resources of Libya. . . . And a third is to establish in Libya permanent US military bases, in order for AFRICOM, which is still based in Stuttgart, Germany, to be based in Africa. That is a direct menace against Egypt, against Algeria, . . . and against the countries of the African Sahel.” — Samir Amin

Samir Amin is a Marxist economist. This video conference, moderated by Biju Mathew, was sponsored by Brecht Forum on 11 September 2011. The text above is an edited partial transcript of the conference.


Egypt in Movement. By Samir Amin

Via: NewsClick.

Samir Amin (SA): In the short paper, I wanted to stress the strategy of the enemy, that is, the strategy of the USA and the ruling class of Egypt. Many people do not understand this. Now I would like to discuss the components and the strategies of the movement.

There are four components of the opposition. One is the youth. They are politicized young people, they are organized very strongly, they are more than one million organized, which is not at all a small number. They are against the social and economic system. Whether they are anti-capitalist is a little theoretical for them, but they are against social injustice and growing inequality. They are nationalist in the good sense, they are anti-imperialist. They hate the submission of Egypt to the US hegemony. They are therefore against so-called peace with Israel, which tolerates Israel’s continued colonization of occupied Palestine. They are democratic, totally against the dictatorship of the army and the police. They have decentralized leaderships. When they gave the order to demonstrate, the mobilization was one million. But within a few hours, the actual figure was not one million, but fifteen million, everywhere throughout the whole nation, and in the quarters of small towns and villages. They had an immediate gigantic positive echo in the whole nation.

The second component is the radical left, which comes from the communist tradition. The young are not anti communist, but they do not want to be put in the frame of a party with chiefs and orders. They do not have bad relations with the communists. Absolutely no problem. Thanks to the demonstrations, there is a coming together, not of leadership, but of interaction.

The third component is the middle class democrats. The system is so police and so mafia that many, including small businessmen, were continuously racketed in order to survive. They are not part of the left; they accept capitalism, business and the market, they are even not totally anti-American, they do not love Israel but they accept it. But they are democrats, against the concentration of power of the army, police and the gang mafia around. El Baradei is typical of them, he has no idea of the economy other than what it is — the market. He does not know what socialism is, but he is democrat. Continue reading

Managing the Euro: Mission Impossible! By Samir Amin

Via: MRMzine.

1. No state, no money. Together, a state and its currency constitute, under capitalism, the means to manage the general interest of capital, transcending the particular interests of competing segments of capital. The current dogma that imagines a capitalist system managed by the “market,” i.e. without the state (reduced to its minimal functions of ensuring law and order), is based on neither any serious understanding of the history of real capitalism nor any “scientific” theory capable of demonstrating that management by the market produces — even as a tendency — any such equilibrium (a fortiori “optimal”).

The Euro was created in the absence of a European state that substitutes for national states, whose essential functions of managing the general interests of capital were themselves on the way toward being done away with.  The dogma of a currency that is “independent” of the state is an expression of this absurdity.

“Europe” does not exist politically.  Despite the naive illusion that calls for transcending the principle of sovereignty, national states alone remain legitimate. The political maturity that could make people of historical nations accept a Europe constituted by a “European vote” doesn’t exist yet. One can only hope for it at this point; it remains the case that we would have to wait for the emergence of a politically legitimate Europe for a long time.

Worse, “Europe” doesn’t exist socially and economically either. A Europe composed of 25-30 states remains profoundly unequal in terms of capitalist development. The oligopolies that control the economy of the region (and its current politics and political culture besides) are groups whose “nationality” is determined by that of their major directors. These groups are primarily British, German, and French, only marginally Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, and Italian. Eastern Europe and in part Southern Europe are to Northwestern and Central Europe what Latin America is to the United States. Under these conditions, Europe is little more than a common, indeed single, market, part of the global market under late capitalism of generalized, globalized, and financialized oligopolies. From this perspective, as I have written before, Europe is the “most globalised region” of the world system. This situation, reinforced by the impossibility of a politically united Europe, results in differentiated levels of real wages, systems of social solidarity, and regimes of taxation that cannot be done away with in the framework of such European institutions as exist today. Continue reading

The Marxism of Samir Amin. By Giuliano Battiston

Via: Monthly Review.

An interview with Egyptian economist Samir Amin: his latest book reiterates his search for alternatives to surpass capitalism, which he describes as “a historical parenthesis”; meanwhile, processes of migration are building a planet of slums.

“Memoirs of an Independent Marxist”: that is the subtitle of A Life Looking Forward (Zed Books, 2006), the latest autobiography by Egyptian economist Samir Amin, who has devoted much of his life as a scholar and activist to seeking alternatives to surpass the historical parenthesis called capitalism.  In his most recent book that has been translated into Italian, La crisi. Uscire dalla crisi del capitalismo o uscire dal capitalismo in crisi? (The Crisis: Emerging from the Crisis of Capitalism or Emerging from Capitalism in Crisis? Punto Rosso, pp. 208, €13), he continues to assert the necessity to invoke a critical utopia and “to begin with Marx without ending with him” in order to understand and transform the world.  Despite the obsolescence of capitalism and the failure of the neoliberal model — “apartheid on a global scale” — Samir Amin is nevertheless aware of the obstacles to the “long transition to global socialism” that he proposes.  After all, as he wrote in his last book, the financial crisis “is not the product of a surge of social struggles” but of the contradictions inside the system of capital accumulation.  And “the initiative remains in the hands of capital.”  That is because, as he explains in his manifesto, ten years after the first World Social Forum, “movements are terribly fragmented and weak: they defend themselves from the attacks of the capitalism of financialized oligopolies but do not elaborate effective political strategies and actions.  They still suffer from the naïve illusion that it is possible to change the world without taking power.”  For Amin, however, only by recognizing “the inescapability of the question of the relation between power and transformation” will it become possible to build a “convergence of struggles in all their diversity” for the emancipation of individuals.

With the economic-financial crisis, we are again examining the limits of neoliberal globalization and, more generally, the limits of capitalism.  Can you explain to us in what sense, as you write in The World We Wish to See, “global development of capitalism has always been polarizing” and imperialism does not represent “a phase of capitalism, but it is the permanent characteristic of its global expansion”?

At first, I adopted Lenin’s theory, according to which monopoly capitalism constituted a new phase in the history of capitalism in the late nineteenth century and capitalism became a form of imperialism only after that.  Later, however, I ended up developing the idea of the originally polarizing — therefore in some way imperialist — character of capitalism from its very beginnings.  I believe that accumulation on a global scale has always been, not exclusively but predominantly, accumulation by dispossession.  Dispossession is not only a matter of “primitive accumulation” analyzed by Marx and referred to as the origins of capitalism, but it is a permanent feature of the history of “actually existing” historical capitalism, starting with the mercantilist epoch.  During that long period of transition, the central role in globalization, organized around the conquest of the Americas and the slave trade, was clearly and unquestionably played by accumulation by dispossession.  Accumulation by dispossession unfolds itself throughout the course of the nineteenth century, and it intensifies with the formation of monopolies, which promote capital export on a much larger scale, “establishing” segments of the globalized capitalist system in “overseas” colonies, semi-colonies, and the colonies of Latin America.  Moreover, that polarization is immanent in the globalized development of capitalism, accompanying it from its very origins, is demonstrated by a simple fact: until about 1820, China’s per capita GDP was higher than the average per capita GDP of advanced Europe.  Between 1820 and 1900, however, a ratio of 1:1 shifts to a ratio of 1:20, and from 1900 to 2000 the ratio shifts from 1:20 to 1:50. Continue reading

‘Dead Aid’: A critical reading. By Samir Amin

Via: Pambazuka News.

Dambisa Moyo was no doubt an excellent student. Unfortunately, she is a product of the conventional economics curriculum, which is great if one is to embark on a career at the World Bank, or Goldman Sachs. She attempts a radical critique of ‘aid’ but sadly she is not up to the task, her noble intentions notwithstanding.

Dead Aid’ is written in the same style as World Bank ‘reports’ and is extremely boring. Moyo seems to be speaking only to her ‘peers’ (at the World Bank, or Goldman Sachs). She lends a lot of credence to a long list of ‘experts’ from the bank (Jared Diamond, Paul Collier, Dani Rodrik, Przeworski, Bill Easterly, Clemens, Hadji Michael, Reichel, Djankov, Romalho, Burnside, Dollar, Mancur Olson etc) whose works are by and large inconsequential (lacking comprehension of the real world) and at times even ridiculous. They are all very good at developing ‘models’ whose conclusions are as senseless as their original premise. She only seems to be familiar with a few blinkered development theorists, like David Landes, whose ‘revelations’ are at best trivial (he concludes, for example, that ‘aid’ tends to benefit a small elite minority). The key question – still unanswered – remains: What strategic political aim does this aid serve?

A critique of aid can only be conducted within the framework of political economy. Moyo clearly abhors this framework, which she considers to be ‘ideological’, and thus ‘non-scientific’. She seems to miss the fact that the issue is about ‘capitalist markets’ (based on the valorisation of capital), and not ‘markets’ per se. She also seems to believe firmly in ideological flights of fancy in which capital-driven growth benefits everybody (what is good for Goldman Sachs is good for everyone).

Her so-called ‘apolitical’ stance is incredibly naive. One of many examples is her reference to Lumumba as a ‘communist leader’ (p. 44 in the French edition). This may be believable, but only to the average television-dulled citizen of the US. An African with even the most fleeting interest in the history of liberation struggles on the continent would balk at this. Continue reading

The Battlefields Chosen by Contemporary Imperialism: Conditions for an Effective Response from the South. By Samir Amin

Via: Monthly Review.

In the art of war, each belligerent chooses the terrain considered most advantageous for its battle for the offensive and tries to impose that terrain on its adversary, so that it is put on the defensive.  The same goes for politics, both at the national level and in geopolitical struggles.

For the last 30 years or so, the powers forming the Triad of collective imperialism (the United States, Western Europe, and Japan) have been defining two battlefields, which are still current: “democracy” and “the environment.”

This paper aims first to examine the concepts and substance in the definitions of each of these two themes selected by the Triad powers and to make a critical analysis of them from the viewpoint of the interests of the peoples, nations, and states at which they are targeted, the countries of the South, after those of the former East.  Then we shall look at the role of all the instruments brought into play by the strategies of imperialism to wage its battles: “liberal” globalization, with its accompanying ideology (conventional economics), the militarization of globalization, “good governance,” “aid,” the “war on terrorism” and preventive warfare, as well as the accompanying ideologies (cultural post-modernism).  And each time we shall highlight the conditions for an effective response from the peoples and states of the South to the challenge presented by the reorganization of the Triad’s imperialism.

1. “Democracy,” What “Democracy”?

It was a stroke of genius of Atlantic alliance diplomacy to choose the field of “democracy” for their offensive, which was aimed, from the beginning, at the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the re-conquest of the countries of Eastern Europe.  This decision goes back to the 1970s and gradually became crystallized in the Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and then with the signing of the final Act in Helsinki in 1975.  Jacques Andreani, in his book with the evocative title Le Piège, Helsinki et la chute du communisme (The Trap: Helsinki and the Fall of Communism), explains how the Soviets, who were expecting an agreement on the disarmament of the NATO and a genuine détente, were quite simply deceived by their Western partners.1

It was a stroke of genius because the “question of democracy” was a genuine issue and the least one could say was that the Soviet regimes were certainly not “democratic,” however one defined its concept and practice.  The countries of the Atlantic Alliance, in contrast, could qualify themselves as “democratic,” whatever the limitations and contradictions in their actual political practices, subordinated to the requirements of capitalist reproduction.  The comparison of the systems operated in their favor. Continue reading