Samir Amin’s last two battles

By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos

Shortly before his death, in a series of writings, Samir Amin unfolded the two issues that mainly concerned him. The first was China’s refusal to succumb to financial globalization, that is, to the totalitarian power of global financial capital; the second was the need to build a “Fifth International.” We had been to China together, and I remember his immense anxiety on both subjects. One day he woke me up and asked me to urgently go to his room, where he was interviewed on a Chinese television, in order to talk, to describe to the Chinese public what I had experienced in Moscow, watching as a journalist the collapse of the Soviet regime and the restoration of capitalist relations of production and distribution. He feared that Beijing might, in some twist of its so sui generis evolution, make a decisive turn towards capitalism and wanted to ”inoculate ” somehow the Chinese in advance. 

Samir did not believe that the Chinese regime is a socialist one. “I will not say China is socialist, I will not say China is capitalist,” he said in a speech at a prestigious University of Peking. Sometimes he hoped, he thought, that there might be a way leading through state capitalism to state socialism and finally to socialism. 

If China were to completely embrace the financial globalization and its hierarchical structure, it would face enormous problems itself, but it would also decisively reinforce a rapid-forming Hyper-imperialist system, the one whose operational framework we all witness now in the war in Ukraine. Today, all the states of the collective West, with the exception perhaps of Turkey and in a very limited form, of Hungary, are acting in blatant opposition to their most elementary national interests. Turkey is an exception. It belongs half to the West and half to the periphery of the planet. It is not of course in any way an anti-imperialist force, still it disposes of a considerable degree of independence, using it in order to negotiate a privileged status in the ranks of western imperialism without identifying with all his policies.

The rise of Hyper-imperialism tends to reduce Western nation-states to mere pawns, as big international finance capital gains control over all democratic institutions, stripping them of their national and democratic essence. In the principal capitalist countries there is still a remnant of the type of bourgeois democracy, but it is becoming increasingly hollow.

How a road to socialism can be reopened, after the distortions and defeats of the 20th century, is certainly an open question. In order for this path to be unlocked, it is crucial to simultaneously shut down the path towards the further empowerment of the fast-evolving totalitarian Western capitalism, with the collusive possibilities offered to it by modern technological forces. 

And this has become possible today thanks to the resistance of the peoples of Yugoslavia and the Middle East, thanks to the social struggles in Europe and Latin America, thanks to the return of Russia to world politics, thanks to the fantastic economic rise of China.

That is why every revolutionary Marxist, wherever he comes from, from the South, the East or the west of our continent, must be resolutely against Western imperialist interventions and not be led astray by the humanitarian and “democratic” pretexts used by western imperialism. None of their interventions brought democracy, all of them led to social and national disasters in the countries where they took place. The first duty of every conscious militant of the Left today is the opposition to imperialist wars and sanctions.

This certainly does not mean unconditional support for the regimes that are attacked every time by imperialism, be it Serbia or Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran, Russia or China. It means an understanding of what the total domination of the West on the planet would mean for human civilization and for the very survival of the human species. 

Today, the emergence of the BRICS, the moves towards a multipolar world, the weakening of the role of the dollar are paving the way for a new, democratic world order. These are huge, historic steps. But it is only the necessary, not the sufficient, condition for a new world order. Our problem should not be a question of defeating the Western world in order to just replace it, but of moving all of humanity towards a new civilization that can face the enormous threats that have appeared for the first time in human history, due to the productive forces and technologies we have developed and which, if not controlled, will very soon put the very survival of humankind at risk.

The West does not have the means to defeat the emerging majority of humanity. But in its effort not to lose its global dominance, it can proceed with policies that can blow up humanity with the means of mass destruction, a danger inherent in its adventurist policies towards Russia and China.

Even if this scenario does not come to pass, the climate crisis is rapidly evolving and neither the West nor emerging global powers are taking action to address the most severe threat to humanity in the history of our existence, one that surpasses even the danger of nuclear conflict.

Because nuclear war may or may not happen. But the Climate Change is coming with certainty, not with probability and humans will not survive it. They have to stop it but in order to stop it another social system and another civilization is what is needed. That is, even if we avoid the catastrophe of a World War, we risk finding ourselves in an environment of destruction due to a prolonged stalemate and conflict between North and South, East and West. If Rosa Luxemburg declared a century ago we had to choose “socialism or barbarism,” the dilemma today is: “socialism or extinction.”

In our fight against climate change we fight for socialism. And in our fight for socialism we fight to save the planet.

No one of the big problems humanity is facing can be addressed now on a national or regional level. This is one of the reasons we badly need a new International.

The problems I mentioned above and other such issues cannot be solved solely by the action of states which are opposed to the dominant Western powers, These States are, by the way, mostly conservative, and just aim at the West leaving them alone and not interfering in their affairs, which is impossible because Imperialism is the nature of Capitalism. In any case, merely relying on states is not enough to tackle the challenges that humanity is up against, we need the conscious mobilization of vast popular masses in both the North and the South of the planet. We need also an alliance between western popular classes and the oppressed nations of the South and a mobilization of peoples all over the world.

Such an alliance means addressing simultaneously socio-economic, geopolitical and ecological problems in the direction of a nationally, regionally and globally planned and democratically controlled economy. This should be our strategic goal. You cannot nowadays address the ecological but not the social, the social but not the geopolitical, the geopolitical but not the social. We need a 5th  International for a variety of reasons, in order to unite the regions of the world on the basis of a new socialist project – because without such unity war will become unavoidable. We need also unite and coordinate the fights against capitalism, against imperialism, against totalitarianism, against climate change and degradation of nature. We cannot for example phase out the use of fossil fuels without taking into account the different position of different countries, etc. etc. Progress and planning become synonymous. 

In the light of the experience of the 20th century we cannot contain ourselves to the state ownership of the productive forces; we need to seek social ownership and control through the extensive use of methods of self-management. Socialism does not mean state ownership, it means the exercise of power by the people at all levels. It also means that we must rethink the pursuit of the constant perpetual development of the productive forces. For some ideas as to what this alternative transitional program of a fifth international should be, I refer you to a text of mine which asks some first questions.

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(*) This text was presented at a symposium on the World System held at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, on September 22nd, 2023.