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Book Review Direction of travel for anti-imperialist advance

CARLOS MARTINEZ recommends Samir Amin's invigorating reflections on how revolutionary change can be realised in the Global South

The Long Revolution of the Global South: Toward a New Anti-Imperialist International
by Samir Amin
(Monthly Review Press, £23.54)

THE FIRST volume of Samir Amin’s memoirs, published over a decade ago, dealt primarily with his early life and the experiences that contributed to his intellectual formation and the major ideas with which he is associated —  the critique of Eurocentrism, the notion of the “long transition” to socialism and his insistence on “delinking” from the imperialist triad of the US, Europe and Japan.

This second and final instalment, published a few months after his death, combines a reiteration of Amin’s key political ideas with a whirlwind tour of the dozens of countries he visited, from Algeria to Zambia, and they include many places, such as Mauritania and East Timor, that one doesn’t hear about often enough.

As a government adviser, guest lecturer or sometimes just visiting friends, Amin always sought out the local movements working for progressive change, be they part of socialist or radical nationalist states or underground groups fighting for liberation.

As such, the reader is introduced to a dizzying array of fascinating people and important ideas from around the world. The book gives a flavour of the state of politics across the continents — with a particular focus on Africa, Asia and Latin America — and gives a sense of the innumerable challenges and contradictions involved in the process of building socialism in a hostile world.

A recurring theme is the idea of responding to capitalist globalisation with a globalisation of struggle. This concept is all the more urgent in a context where long-established networks of solidarity are being, or have been, broken down — the result of fragmentation of production, sustained attacks on unions, casualisation of labour and the replacement of certain branches of productive labour by automated processes.

Amin calls on the global progressive movement to take on board the Occupy slogan of “We, the 99 per cent” and  recognise both the diversity and common fundamental interests of “the new generalised proletariat” in order to unite a broad array of forces including workers — among them “informal” ones — peasants, critical intelligentsia and the progressive elements among the middle classes.

He notes that Latin America, led by Cuba and Venezuela, has taken the lead in this project. “The movements that have mobilised there are not small, marginal organisations or movements limited to the middle classes,” he writes.

“There are large, popular (in the good sense of the term) movements, leading into action masses of people counted in the millions. That is what I call a revolutionary advance.”

Amin also reminds the reader that  “defeating the US project for military control of the planet” is the number one priority for progressive forces throughout the world.  This project specifically aims to divide and rule those countries outside the imperialist triad — all the more important, therefore, that we promote the closest possible co-ordination between China, Vietnam, Russia, India and the progressive states of Africa and Latin America.

The author’s proposal is straightforward: “Russia should unite with China, the 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.”

Having witnessed the radical nationalist projects in Egypt in the Nasser era and Algeria at close quarters, and seen their successes and weaknesses, Amin proposes “democratisation” as a key measure for sustaining progressive projects and allowing them to develop in a socialist direction.

This democratisation means constantly pushing to engage more people in the organisation of society, constantly struggling against corruption, alienation and bureaucratisation and serving the masses and putting their needs first.

Amin distinguishes democratisation, a continuous and complex process, from the simplistic idea of democracy that’s promoted by the major capitalist countries — a plutocratic “low-intensity democracy,” where multiple parties represent the same capitalist class interests.

This all too easily “turns into farce and runs a serious risk that the struggle for democracy will lose legitimacy,” Amin contends.

Such an insight typifies a captivating and endearing read that will spark the interest of all engaged in the worldwide struggle for socialism.

 

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