Globalization and its Alternative: An Interview with Samir Amin (Part 1)

✑ SAMIR AMIN (Tricontinental Institute)` ╱ ± 10 minutes ╱ Part 2 & 3 here
Our countries are invited to be sub-contractors for imperialism.


Globalisation is nothing new, but its nature has varied throughout history. From colonial globalisation, to negotiated globalisation, to liberal globalization. The challenge for us today is to look for a new alternative.


From: Tricontinental Institute, Oct 29 2018. ╱ About the author(+)
Samir Amin (1931 - 2018) was an Egyptian-French marxian economist and viewed as "a leading social thinker, campaigner and activist of and for the South". He is the author of many books on globalization, imperialism and North-South relations in general. He was the co-founder and director of the Third World Forum. Several obituaries and articles summarizing his ideas were published last year by for instance IDEAs, URPE, Africa is a Country and International Viewpoint and Tricontinental Institute.
Editor’s note: This is an extract from a longer interview with Samir Amin by Tricontinental Institute, to be published as a series of articles on Socialist Economist. The interview, titled "Globalisation and Its Alternative", lays out Samir Amin’s assessment of the concept of globalisation as well as his concept of ‘de-linking;’ that is, for the Third World to compel imperialism to accept its conditions and to be able to drive its own policy. Amin was interviewed by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research fellows Jipson John and Jitheesh P. M.

How do you understand the social process of globalisation?

Globalization is nothing new. It is an old and important dimension of capitalism. You Indians would know better than anyone else. You have been conquered and colonised by the British starting in the eighteenth century and ending in the twentieth century. That was also globalisation. Not the globalisation you wanted. But you were integrated into the global capitalist system. Colonisation was one form of globalisation. But the people of India struggled against it and re-conquered their independence under a leadership that was not a socialist revolutionary leadership but was the national-populist leadership of M. K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Your independence in 1947 came at two costs. First, an important part of India, which now happens to be Pakistan and Bangladesh, was separated from India. That was a criminal act of the colonialists. Second, the independence that was won was then re-conquered by the Indian bourgeoisie, led by the Congress Party with a wide popular alliance that included parts of the working-class.
It is usually fashionable today to say that globalisation after World War II was bipolar – the United States on one side and the USSR on the other, locked in a Cold War. That is basically wrong.
It is usually fashionable today to say that globalisation after World War II was bipolar – the United States on one side and the USSR on the other, locked in a Cold War. That is basically wrong. The globalisation we had after World War II, to say from 1945 to 1980 or 1990, is what I have called Negotiated Globalisation. By ‘negotiated globalisation’ I mean that the governments and peoples of Asia and Africa, the USSR and the United States and its allies created a multi-polar negotiated structure that governed the world order. This structure was imposed on imperialism and forced it to adjust to the power bloc that emerged out of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and the Bandung conference of 1955. Industrial progress, initiated during the Bandung era, did not follow an imperialist logic, but was imposed by the victories of the peoples of the South. It was in this era that countries like India and Indonesia, Ghana and Tanzania won their independence. This Negotiated Globalisation was produced by four different historical blocs, each of them pushing against the other:
  1. The imperialist alliance of the United States and Western Europe with its allies in Japan, Australia and Canada.
  2. The Soviet Union with its allies from Eastern Europe.
  3. The People’s Republic of China, which in spite of belonging to the so-called socialist camp had developed an independent policy since at least 1950.
  4. The countries that created the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, but that met in Bandung in 1955. At Bandung, the representatives of the people of Asia, China, India, Indonesia and a number of other countries met for the first time in Indonesia. It was just a few years after India re-conquered its independence, a few years after the Chinese Communist party had entered into Beijing; it was also a few years after Indonesia re-conquered its independence from Dutch. This was a camp not only of Asian countries, but one that included most of the newly independent countries of Africa at that time. The Portuguese colonies joined later, and South Africa joined later still. Cuba was the only country from Latin American that joined this group. The national-populist regimes of this fourth group came together institutionally in the NAM, which would meet every year and harmonise a political line as well as in the Group of 77, which would be the bloc of the South inside the United Nations.
We had a pattern of globalisation that was a multi-polar globalisation, one that was negotiated between the four groups. From the point of view of the peoples of Africa and Asia, this was a time when imperialism was compelled to make concessions and to accept the national-popular programmes of India and other African and Asian countries. Instead of the countries of the south adjusting to the needs and demands of globalisation, it was the imperialist countries which were compelled to adjust to our demands. Each of these parts of multi-polar globalisation developed their own forms of development.
Instead of the countries of the south adjusting to the needs and demands of globalisation, it was the imperialist countries which were compelled to adjust to our demands.
  1. The West, as a result of the victories of the working-class, developed a pattern of so-called welfare states.
  2. The Socialist bloc – the USSR, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam and Cuba – developed different patterns of socialism.
  3. The third pillar of India – led by the Congress Party – Nasserite Egypt and also of the other so-called socialist type states in Africa and the Middle East developed forms of socialism.
The three pillars reached their historical limits by the 1980s and 1990s, when they broke down. Some break-downs were brutal, such as the Soviet Union in 1991. Not only was the country divided and split into fifteen republics, but the majority of them moved to the European orbit – some entering the European Union and the military alliance of the West, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The defeat of Communism in the East did not result in the victory of Social Democracy in the West. Even Social Democracy was defeated. The social democrats became social liberals – or, in other words, they adopted the political terrain that accepted the inevitability of capitalism and they accepted the idea that a ‘low-intensity democracy’, a democracy of heavily funded elections, overshadows class politics (as I lay out in The Liberal Virus, 2004). Now, there is no difference between the social-democratic or socialist ruling parties in Western Europe and the normal, traditional right-wing parties. They are all social liberals. It means that both the old conservatives and the old social democrats are now in alliance with Global Monopoly Capital [see below].

The third pillar, our pillar, also broke down in different ways. In some cases, there were coup d’états. In other cases – such as in India – the dominant class moved right-ward and it accepted the conditions and patterns of so-called liberal globalisation. This was from the time of Indira Gandhi onwards. The process was similar in Egypt. After the death of Nasser in 1970, his successor Anwar Sadat said that we have nothing to do with this ‘bullshit’ called socialism and that we should go back to capitalism and have an alliance with the United States of America and others.

The Chinese went their way differently after the death of Mao in 1976 and moved to a new pattern of globalisation, but with some specificity to their own needs. It is not only the political specificity of the Communist Party of China maintaining its rule over China, but also its socio-economic specificity which differentiates China from India. The enormous difference between China and India is that China had undergone a radical revolution, which India has not yet.

So, we have a variety of patterns. It is the breakdown of these three systems – so-called Social Democracy in the West, the Soviet system and the Bandung system – which provides all the conditions for imperialist capitalism to move on the offensive and to enforce its new pattern of globalisation.


What are the characteristics of this new pattern of globalisation?

The increased offensive of imperialist capitalism is not only related to the defeat of the socialists or the communists or indeed the national-populists. It is also related to the changes in the imperialist-capitalist countries of Europe, the United States and Japan.

The key term here is Global Monopoly Capitalism. Monopoly capitalism, as a social force, is nothing new. It moved in two stages.

  1. The first stage of monopoly capital was from the end of the nineteenth century to World War II – a long period of more than half a century. This monopoly capital was analysed by social democrats such as John A. Hobson and Rudolf Hilferding. During this period, monopoly capital was national in character. There was British imperialism, US imperialism, German imperialism, Japanese imperialism, and French imperialism. As Lenin wrote in his studies of imperialism in 1916, these imperialist forces were not only conquering and subjugating the periphery, but they were also fighting among themselves. The struggle amongst themselves led to two World Wars. All the socialist revolutions of that period took place in the periphery of the global imperialist system: beginning in the semi-periphery with the weakest link – Russia – and then in the real peripheries of Vietnam and Cuba. No revolution took place in the West. There was no socialist revolution on the agenda in the United States, in Western Europe or in Japan.
  2. After World War II gradually and then suddenly in the middle of the 1970s, monopoly capital in the West moved to a new stage which I call the stage of generalised monopoly capital. Monopoly capital was successful enough to submit all the other forms of social production to a position of being its sub-contractor. This meant that the value produced through human activities was to a large extent absorbed by monopoly capital in the form of imperialist rent.
    Related: "Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy" by Jayati Ghosh. .
    In this new globalisation, our countries are invited to be sub-contractors for imperialism. That is obvious in the case of India. Take the case of Bengaluru city. It has developed as the most promising region of sub-contracting for Monopoly Capital not only of Britain and the United States but also the Monopoly Capital of Europe and Japan.
In this new globalisation, our countries are invited to be sub-contractors for imperialism. That is obvious in the case of India.
One important element is to clarify that the machinery of the state does not dissolve in this era of globalisation. The reality is that the monopoly capital, even in the imperialist countries, needs the machinery of the state. The state has been domesticated to serve the exclusive interests of the imperialists. You can see it in the way Donald Trump uses the government in the United States and you can see is in the so-called national consensus state of Britain, France and Germany. So, to say that the market forces replace the states is nonsense. The state – with its apparatus of military and police power – is essential to the process of globalisation.


What are the challenges posed by this globalisation for the countries of the South?

The challenge for us today is to look and strive for an alternative to globalisation. We have to move out of this pattern of globalisation. Globalisation has to be qualified. In the earlier days it was colonial globalisation for India and other nations. After our victory, the victory of the people of India along with the victory of Chinese and others, we have had negotiated globalisation. Now we are back to the so-called liberal globalisation which is unilaterally decided by the countries of the G7 (Group of 7), that is the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The challenge before us is not to accept this pattern of globalisation, not to have illusions about this globalisation. For the African countries, this globalisation means plunder of their national resources of oil, gas, minerals and also arable land. For India, just as for many other countries of Latin America and South Asia, it takes other forms. This includes taking advantage of our cheap manpower, transferring the values created in our countries through the extraction of monopoly rent for the imperialist system. This is the challenge before us.


This was part 1 of a longer interview. See part 2 & 3 here



Top image: a Hanjin container ship while sailing on San Francisco Bay, 2006. From: Wikimedia

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