SAMIR AMIN (1931-2018)

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On August 12, 2018 humanity lost one of its tireless and formidable voices that long advocated for the demise of the global greed system. Samir Amin was, without a doubt, one of the world’s most profound thinkers on all aspects of social thoughts. His contribution to progressive thoughts as well as revolutionary engagements will continue to resonate across the globe, for a long time to come. To say Samir dedicated his life to the liberation of Africa and the emancipation of its people is a trite understatement. A prolific writer (over 30 books) and lucid speaker, Samir Amin was the quintessential activist-intellectual, nay, revolutionary-intellectual of the highest order. Erudite, poised, humble, gracious, modest, buoyant, principled, ethical; Samir will be missed by all good-willing people, especially the ‘wretched of the earth’! See the various articles on page 46.
Those who have tried to study his works realize Samir’s intellectual integrity was at once uncompromising and awe-inspiring. Here is a recent happenstance illustrating his unflinching stand when it comes to core principles. Many of Samir’s fellow Egyptians who used to revere his teachings were put off by his political position against the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideologies/policies. (Naturally, he was also opposed to the previous Mubarak regime.) Characteristically, Samir put his considered theses bluntly forward; ‘Political Islam’ will neither liberate the Egyptian mass, nor the Arabs in general! This, of course, was not palatable to the typical Egyptian sheeple (human mass), hence the row. Nonetheless and however one tries, it is not easy to hide Samir’s contributions. “ ‘The deceased’, one of the great thinkers who enriched his field of achievements remains a bright spot in history” (Egyptian ministry of culture). To this intellectual giant of repute, identity politics (or any other archaic obsessions) was always a sham, no matter who practiced it; crusaders or ISIS! According to Samir Amin, ‘Islam leads its struggle on the terrain of culture, wherein “culture” is intended as “belongingness to one religion”. Islamist militants are not actually interested in the discussion of dogmas, which form religion, but on the contrary are concerned about the ritual assertion of membership in the community. Such a world view is therefore not only distressing, as it conceals an immense poverty of thought, but it also justifies Imperialism’s strategy of substituting a “conflict of cultures” for a conflict between the liberal, imperialist centers and the backward, dominated peripheries.’
Obviously, it is impossible to even attempt canvassing the major works of Samir here. We will only try to highlight what we consider to be some of his significant ideas that will leave indelineable mark in the history of critical thoughts, particularly as they pertain to the wretched of the earth. Amin has always been a thinker, and an original one at that. Ever since his university days Amin was not one to take assumptions for granted, unless derived from logical rigor applied on substantive facts, a quality reserved to the genuinely outstanding. ‘Development theory’ as was narrated by globally dominant interests left him unsatisfied, to say the least. Samir soon embarked on his own independent studies to un-fathom the phony assumptions about the underdevelopment of the global South, particularly Africa. The rigidly built-in unequal exchange (super exploitation) that still obtains and continues to bring about persistent underdevelopment in the global South is one of his significant contributions. This lopsided structural relations, economic and more, between the core countries (of the West) and the peripheries of the world system, is one of the major impediments to Africa’s economic wellbeing. According to studies done by Samir (a while back) the inequality, as measured by income/wealth, between Africa and the core countries of Western Europe prior to colonialism was, at the most, one to three. Today, this has gone up many folds and is close to a hundred, even after taking population explosion and other factors into consideration. The prevailing globalization, which insists on the free circulation of capital and goods (services), while pointedly truncating the free movement of labor, can only result in what Samir insisted on calling ‘polarizing globalization’! Samir also elaborated on the five monopolies of the core countries and their impacts in sustaining imperialism. He classified these five monopolies as; capital, weapons of mass destruction, technology, resources and the media. Unless these five elements are de-monopolized by emerging multi-polarity, imperialism will not be tempered, let alone defeated! Sure enough, the multi-polarity that is now in the ascendance is gradually chipping away these monopolies of empire. The new polycentric world is already having its presence felt, just like Samir elaborated and predicted!
Here is another of Samir’s contribution. Amin was one of the developers of the ‘world system analysis’, along with Immanuel Wallerstein, Andre Gunder Frank (deceased) and Giovanni Arrighi (deceased); affectionately called the ‘gang of four’. See Wallerstein’s article on page 51. Since Samir played a prominent role in the systemic disentangling of the stupefying mainstream narratives from the reality of the South, he became the archenemy of establishment economics. Ironically, no Nobel Price winning economist has ever come close to attaining the number of hits as Samir Amir, in the various search engines like Google, etc. We cannot help but reminisce an occasion that sends the message home. It was in 1997, during the height of the Asian financial crisis. We were having lunch with Samir in a five star hotel, where a group of well dressed and well fed individuals were also dining. After recognizing Samir, one of them came to our table and started to express his admiration of Samir’s works, particularly his prescient prediction of the ongoing Asian financial crisis. As usual, Samir graciously invited him to take a seat with us, but the fellow, maybe sensing trouble, declined and departed immediately. Before doing so however, he revealed that the group he is with at the big table is from Washington D.C. (Bretton Woods). Then he blurted out; ‘amongst these highly paid experts, not even one has a clue as to why this crisis is happening’! Samir and his Asian colleagues had already published a book, months earlier, predicting the crisis!
Samir surmised; the ‘senile system’, as he used to call this final stage of the prevailing greed system, will become more barbaric in the domain of society and utterly destructive in the world of the natural, unless it is cut to size by the logic of humanity. The liberation of humanity, Samir conjectured, will have to be spearheaded by the global South, as it is not comprehensively affected, at least not yet, by the overwhelmingly dehumanizing rationality. The northern sheeple, besides being a sort of beneficiary (of the loot), has also lost touch of actual reality as propagated by natural phenomenon. In this, he was close to Herbert Marcuse, the father of the new left, popular in the Western world. ‘Delinking’ and ‘Eurocentrism’ are two of Samir’s easy to understand ideas. He employed them, rather successfully, to elaborate the actually existing global order and its highly influential narratives. Amin propounded; Eurocentrism is one of the tools of the reigning globalization used to destroy the history and knowledge of the peripheries. Thanks to Samir, Afrocentrism, has now become the tempering or even the rejection of once dominant Eurocentrism. Delinking stipulates the global south, particularly Africa, must vigilantly negotiate its incorporation to the world system, on its own terms!
Radical thinker through and through, Samir lately proposed the convening of another International, albeit a broader one. Following the Fourth International of Leon Trotsky, we can construe his initiative as the Fifth International! We believe Amin’s original ideas, some of them cited above, can serve as kernels of critical thoughts, not only to the intellectuals of the wretched of the earth, but to all humanely disposed thinkers. Many of Africa’s postcolonial intellectuals owe their critical bent to Samir Amin. We believe African universities should incorporate his works along with other critical thinkers in their curriculum. We also believe there are many profound ideas encapsulated in Amin’s works still needing further explication and reflection, warranting a new nomenclature –“Aminism”! No accolade can express Samir’s unbelievable devotion to the welfare of all humanity! Samir is dead, but “Aminism” will live forever! Rest In Peace Samir Amin, Africa will sorely miss you!
“Of all the third world intellectuals, there is nobody else I know; whose commitment, whose dedication and whose insights in the struggle against imperialism are as great as that of Samir Amin’s.” Prabhat Patnaik (Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.) Good Day!