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Echo-nomic Development?

The first part of his autobiography is scheduled to be published in October. However, he will not be present on the occasion. Samir Amin – the Egyptian-French Marxian economist who is noted for his introduction of the term ‘Eurocentrism‘ in 1988 – passed away on August 12, 2018 in Paris at the age of 87. Amin is one of those scholars who explained the economic backwardness of the Third World countries from a Marxist point of view.
Amin was born in Cairo to an Egyptian father and a French mother (both medical doctors) on September 3, 1931. As per the tradition followed by the North African elite families, he received the excellent French education in Paris University. From 1947 to 1957, he studied in the French capital, gaining a diploma in Political Science (1952) before graduating in Statistics (1956) and Economics (1957). After completing his PhD in Political Economy, Amin might have joined a university as a faculty. However, he didn’t do so….. Instead, he joined the French Communist Party and started monitoring the political developments in Egypt and other Third World nations.


Samir Amin

In Cairo, Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein led the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy and introduced far-reaching land reforms the following year. Following a 1954 attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member, he cracked down on the organisation, put then President Muhammad Naguib under house arrest and assumed the executive office. He officially became president in June 1956. Amin joined the Cairo-based Institute for Economic Management after Nasser became the president, as he wanted to do something for the betterment of the Egyptian economy. After spending three years in Cairo, he decided to leave for Bamako, the capital of Mali, as Nasser launched attacks on the Communists. He served as an adviser to the government of Mali for three years.
Amin’s experience in Cairo and Bomako formed the base of his political theory. In those six years, he realised that it would be difficult to prepare policies freely in Third World countries, like Egypt and Mali. And he made the expansion of imperialism through the invasion of monopoly capital responsible for this situation. According to Amin, the outcome of the reconciliation process of multinational capital is the super-exploration of Third World workers. The lower value of labour in the Third World didn’t allow the Third World economy to maintain a steady growth rate, explained the economist.

Amin wrote a lot in 60 years, but never diverted from this basic position. The main ideas of his political theory were monopoly of finance capital, Karl Marx’s ‘labour theory of value’ and modern imperialism. A number of times, Amin explained how the monopoly of finance capital affected the developing nations’ economic prosperity. And every time, he mixed the subject with global economy and contemporary political events. It was his speciality! He tried his best to inspire the Third World to deprecate the modern imperialism.
There is a lot of debate among Marxists about the relevance of imperialism after the rise of China in global geopolitics two-and-a-half decades ago. Amin’s theory, too, had come under severe criticism. However, no one denied his importance. The economist used to consider Marxism as a creative subject and believed that this creativity would help us understand the relation between the mass and the ‘constantly changing’ capitalism. Interestingly, Amin didn’t restrict himself to political theory and intellectual discussions. He openly expressed his views on many issues, including the Arab Spring and movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He was of the opinion that there was no alternative to Marxism to understand contemporary global events. Many of us may consider him as a dogmatist, but his writings can help us realise that Amin was not a purist.

As Amin concentrated mainly on the monopoly of finance capital and the development of the Third World, he gave importance to the exchange of views between communists from different parts of the world. He spent many years in different African countries and the last 40 years of his life in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. He kept in touch with the Marxist thinkers and parties around the world from there.
Amin published some of his articles, under the title ‘Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism’, a decade ago. For him, Political Islam is basically an ideological position that is popular in West Asia and Africa, and Muslim Brotherhood is a fine example of Political Islam. According to the noted economist, it is important to know about Political Islam in order to understand the political movements in this particular region. Stakeholders of this movement became popular by highlighting the cultural difference between Islam and the West. However, they believed that only religion made this difference. “It’s unfortunate…..,” said Amin. He explained that the followers of Political Islam have always diverted the people’s attention from the real conflict by presenting the cultural difference through the lens of religion. Amin clearly mentioned in his articles that the conflict between the monopoly of finance capital (or the global capital) and the marginalised class in the Third World was the real conflict. Even the supporters of Political Islam could have driven the public awareness towards right direction……. but they made a mistake by adding the religious flavour, stated Amin. That’s why the Arab Spring failed to deliver results.

It is to be noted that Amin, unlike the traditional Marxists, had never ignored the importance of cultural conflict. His experience helped Amin realise the fact that the cultural conflict would never pose a serious threat to the monopoly of finance capital, if an attempt is made to analyse the situation through nuances of religion. Yet, the Political Islam has always claimed that it fights against the Western aggression. The economist rubbished the claim, saying that the Political Islam was a by-product of the imperialist aggression of metropolitan capital!
Amin’s analysis does not begin with criticism and end with frustration. Instead, he tried to say that the Political Islam could pose a real threat to modern imperialism by properly utilising various social movements. Amin advised the progressive people not to underestimate the Political Islam that enjoyed a huge popularity in West Asia. At the same time, he asked the progressive forces not to make pre-poll or post-poll alliances with the followers of Political Islam. In that case, the progressive forces will be isolated immediately after the election, predicted Amin.
We may not agree with Amin’s views….. But, we have to admit that it has become increasingly difficult to find such a voice in the contemporary world. His death is a great loss to this world….

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