Samir Amin: A socialist devoid of a proletariat
Aydın Çubukçu wrote about Samir Amin, the Egyptian Marxist economist and thinker who has passed away recently.
What is called a “theoretical impasse” is actually the impasse of practice. The thing Samir Amin claimed there was a deficiency of in the course of the struggle he waged with all means against colonialism and imperialism through a venerable intellectual effort about the world’s state and its future, was about theory. As for the age in which his life passed, it was a period characterised by the discrepancy between the need for change after the Great War and the social conditions expected to give a revolutionary reply to this. The problem was really important, yet the forces containing the possibilities of a resolution were scattered and disorganised.
When Samir Amin’s theses on this question are considered, it is considerably difficult to assert that his death means for us “an irreplaceable loss.” He had almost spoken to the void. The scope of their influence was not able to become the response to his great effort. Despite being followed avidly in a restricted intellectual-academic circle, he never reached the material social dynamics which he expected would mobilise. After his death, the Venezuelan president Maduro and Bolivian president Morales made statements expressing their condolences. As though a joke for a theoretician who did not ascribe any role to the social section called “national bourgeoisie” in the liberation of the colonies!
Doubtlessly, it cannot be expected for us to consider here Samir Amin’s theses on imperialism and relations of dependency; but we could ascertain something about the nature of the interest it raised. Amin addressed the setting of intellectuals of his age who did not entertain any hope for a proletarian revolution and who had set out to find “a new theory” to compensate for this. At the hands of those who enjoyed wondering in such labyrinths, it provided a basis for deriving results he himself did not conceive either. The main character of the struggle encompassing the world in the 1960-70s period was the disintegration of the former colonies and the raising of the flag of struggle in many countries, with Vietnam in particular, against imperialism. Amin, who was the child of a former colony, thought that the question, rather than being based on the relationship of particular countries with imperialism, was based on a state of the world. The route he takes in considering this state on the theoretical level is, as though, the composite of the common sentiments of many intellectuals of Asia, Africa, and Latin America of the period. In summary, we could assert: Samir Amin and many other socialists of the colonies were attempting to enlighten the road for their countries with a “socialism theory” devoid of Marx and Lenin. Particularly African revolutionaries, although of course acknowledging Marx with reverence, but with “theory of class struggle” in the main, did not think his theses would amount to much in their own revolutions. And as for considering that the concept of class struggle was about not only the relationship in between bourgeoisie and the proletariat but about the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed in history in its entirety, perhaps they did not find any time! They were not able to see what the Capital said as “their own story.” This “story” was about the Europe of the last century and Africa was not there!
On this line, Samir Amin easily met Mao Zedong. Deeming especially the concept of “third world” functional and influential, he undertook theoretical and organisational work in relation to this. We could define his trajectory as an attempt to produce theory in the daily fluctuations of the vortex of periodical conditions. Marx had founded a theory which was universal and encapsulated the entirety of history together with its future. For intellectuals of this current Marx was a thinker belonging to past centuries! Considered from this angle, “the image of the proletariat” was not able to find a place in their search for emancipation! As such, Samir Amin did not object to being dubbed a “pro-Marxists.”
On the other hand, Samir Amin, never forgot in the Paris environment, in which almost all his life passed, that he was born in a country like Egypt, which was a centre of the world for thousands of years but only to suffer afterwards for centuries to be reduced to the state of a poor, ill, ignorant and colonised country. He worked tirelessly not only for his own country but for the emancipation of the entirety of the world composed of countries like his own. He supported all struggles of this kind across the world, participated in them. All his article and books are dedicated to the history of colonies written with blood and tears. No matter how much his theses and his political position is critiqued, the undaunted struggle of this passionate anti-imperialist and his heartfelt devotion to the culture in which he was born and to the peoples deserves complete reverence.