The South challenges globalization

Published on Pambazuka News, by Samir Amin, April 4, 2012.

The increased strength of emerging countries of the South confronts the challenges of contemporary globalization.

The current situation finds the decline of old centers (USA, Europe and Japan), in crisis, in opposition to the impetuous growth of emerging countries (China and others). There are three options: the current crisis spreads to the emerging countries and seriously hinders their development; they nevertheless continue to grow and lead to a revival of capitalism, more focused on Asia and South America; the development of emerging countries deconstructs globalization as it is now and produces a truly polycentric world in which they will combine and confront, progressing towards democratic and popular alternatives and violent restorations.   

The most popular thesis argues that the victories of the anti-imperialist struggles of the past have paved the way not for socialism, but for a new rise of capitalism. The main argument of my criticism of this view stems from the finding that the historical capitalist model, which is now considered the exclusive model, was established from its beginning based on the production and reproduction of global polarization. This feature is itself the product of the mass expulsion of the peasantry from the land, upon which capitalism’s expansion was founded. This model was sustainable only because the safety valve of mass immigration to the Americas allowed it. Reproduction of this same model is strictly impossible for the peripheral countries today – they comprise nearly eighty percent of the world population with almost half of it rural – five or six Americas would be needed to “catch up by imitation” … //


The terms in which the challenge is to be analyzed must consider three views of reality: peoples, nations and states.

It is possible to construct a hegemonic bloc made up of different dominated and exploited classes, a bloc alternative to the one that allows the reproduction of the system of domination of imperialist capitalism, exercised through the comprador hegemonic bloc and the state devoted to its service.

By nations we refer to the fact that imperialist domination denies the dignity of “nations” shaped by the history of societies of the peripheries. It systematically destroys the components that give them their originality, in favor of a trash “Westernization.” The liberation of peoples is then associated with the nations that they make up. The slogan, “Nations want liberation,” should be understood in a sense complementary to the struggle of peoples and non-confrontational with it. The liberation in question is not the restoration of the past — the illusion of backward-looking cultural nationalism — but the invention of the future starting from the radical transformation of the historical legacy, instead of the artificial importing of a false “modernity.”

The reference to the State is based on the need to recognize its autonomy of power in its relations with the hegemonic bloc upon which it bases its legitimacy, even if this bloc is popular and national. Not only because the popular and national progress should be protected from the permanent aggression of still dominant imperialism in the world, but also– and perhaps especially — because “to make progress in the long transition” in turn requires “developing the productive forces,” i.e., to carry out what imperialism prohibits countries of the periphery from doing: erasing the legacy of the global polarization that is inseparable from the global expansion of historic capitalism. The program is not synonymous with “catching up” in imitation of models of the capitalism centers; a catching up that is impossible and moreover is undesirable. It requires a different approach to “modernization/industrialization” based on the effective participation of the popular classes for its implementation and for their immediate benefit at every stage of progress.

“States want independence.” This must be understood as having a dual purpose: independence (extreme form of autonomy) with respect to the laboring classes and independence from the pressures of the capitalist world system. The “bourgeoisie” (more broadly, the ruling class in the commanding positions of the State, whose ambitions always take the path of bourgeois evolution) is simultaneously national and comprador. If circumstances allow it to expand its degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the dominant imperialism, it chooses the path of “national interests.” But if circumstances do not allow it, it chooses the path of “comprador” submission to what imperialism requires. The “new ruling class” (or “leading group”) is still in an ambiguous position in this plan even when they are supported by a people’s block, because of the “bourgeois” tendency that at least partially animates it.

The proper articulation of these three instances of reality determines the success of progress on the long road to liberation. It is possible to further strengthen the progress of the people, the liberation of the nation and the achievements of state power. If, on the contrary, the contradiction between the popular will and the state is allowed to develop, the advances in question may be foiled.

Because neither the people nor the nation nor the states of the periphery have a comfortable place within the imperialist system, “the South” is the “zone of storms” of permanent uprisings and revolts. And recent history has been mainly that of the revolts and independent initiatives (meaning independent of the dominant trends throughout the capitalist imperialist system in place) of peoples, nations and states of the peripheries. It is these initiatives — despite their limitations and contradictions — that have shaped the most crucial transformations in the contemporary world, far more than the progress of productive forces and the relatively easy social adjustments that accompanied the centers of the system.

The long decline of obsolete capitalism/imperialism and the long transition to socialism constitute two antagonistic poles of the challenge. The decline by itself does not produce progress on the path toward socialism; on the contrary, the logic of the responses that capital gives the answers to this challenge leads toward the slippery slope of barbarism — “apartheid on a world scale.” Nevertheless, this decline simultaneously creates the conditions for a commitment to take the path to the long transition to socialism.

How are these two possible futures entwined? “The other world” under construction is always ambivalent; it carries within it the worst and the best, both “possible” (there are no laws of history before the events occur). A first wave of initiatives of the peoples, nations and states of the periphery was put into action in the twentieth century until about 1980. A second wave of initiatives is already underway. Some “emerging” countries and others, like their peoples, are fighting against the tactics by which the triad’s collective imperialism is using to perpetuate its rule. The military intervention of Washington and its subordinate allies in NATO have been frustrated. The globalized financial system is collapsing and autonomous regional systems are being formed in its place. Technological monopolies of the oligopolies have been set back. The recovery of control over natural resources is on the agenda. Grassroots organizations and parties of the radical left in struggle have in some cases already defeated neoliberal programs or are on the road leading to this defeat. These initiatives, primarily and fundamentally anti-imperialist, carry with them a potential that allows them to embark on the long road of socialist transition.
(full long, long text).

Comments are closed.