Only people make their history

Eduardo Berliner, trumpet


Commentary on the book by Samir Amin

“Marxism, which analyzes the reality of the world in order to make the forces act for a change as effective as possible, necessarily acquires a tricontinental vocation (Africa, Asia, Latin America)” (Samir Amin).

At the end of 2020, Expressão Popular published a collection of articles by Egyptian Marxist economist Samir Amin. The small repercussion of the work of Amin, who died in 2018, in Brazil can be explained by the endogenist siege of most of the academy, including Marxists, and the high degree of depoliticization of most of the political party groups of the Brazilian left.

First, the problem of “endogenism” understood by the condition that capitalisms would all be local and there would be no central external influences, beyond the already typified trade relations, in other words, the idea of ​​imperialism, so dear to classical Marxism, was practically erased from the vocabulary, the costs of this have been and will be very high.

Second, since the end of the former USSR (Soviet Union) most of the Brazilian left has taken refuge either in generic notions of national sovereignty or in postmodern discourses, to a large extent completely neglecting the relations of dependency and uneven development under which the capitalism expands worldwide, or treating the notion of globalization as a “civilizational achievement”, in the case of postmodernists.

Theotonio dos Santos – a personal friend of Amin – already noted, quite correctly, that the capitalist world economy creates two major types of formations: central and dependent, and these capitalisms present the “same temporality”, that is, center and periphery. build their history simultaneously, and the development of underdevelopment that comes to constitute the peripheries demands as a counterpart the overexploitation of their workers and makes the expansion of the productive forces much more contradictory than in the centers. This perception was largely shared by the African author.

The work contains eleven articles that the author worked on and published in the Marxist magazine Monthly Review between 2000 and 2018, therefore the last articles produced by this brilliant and prolific social scientist and revolutionary activist. It is worth noting that the introduction of the Indian Marxist Aijaz Ahmed allows us to travel through five decades of Amin's theoretical production, from his doctoral thesis to his recent analyzes on the organic crisis of capitalism, an excellent introduction to an author who, like another Marxist, , who also died in 2012, Eric Hobsbawm, argued that the historical interpretative action was part of his own experience and struggle for human dignity, something that would necessarily require overcoming capitalism.

Amin, like the Latin American authors linked to the Marxist theory of dependency, had a very specific expectation about the Marxist theoretical construction, according to the author himself, contemporary capitalism required the theoretical basis of classical Marxism, but an enormous interpretative inventiveness of Marx was essential all the more necessary to deal with the XNUMXst century. Historical capitalism, considering its localized development, constitutes a concern for many authors, mainly knowing that the interaction between the systemic totality and the cultural, social and economic conditions were never easy theoretical movements to be developed.

Amin's work is published in his doctoral thesis under the title Accumulation on a world scale a research and study agenda that he will keep until the end of his life. At the turn of the two centuries, between the brief 1875th and the unknown of the 1950st, an organic crisis of capitalism asserts itself. In the author's reading, capitalism exists as a mode of production in continuous crisis of long cycles, with the great period between XNUMX and XNUMX being the “first long crisis of historical capitalism”.

Capitalism constitutes a systemic totality, even though its essence is based on competition between capitals and the drive for the concentration of wealth, but as the author observes, historical capitalism has a dimension of destructiveness based on the “cultural and material dispossession of peoples dominated by peripheries” (Amin, 2020, p. 95).

Capitalist imperialism changes in the 2020th century and assumes an even more senile configuration in the XNUMXst. The imperialist trilateral, constituted by the US hegemonic power and surrounded by part of Western Europe and cordial Japan, has a fundamental gear in the so-called “empire rents” (Amin, XNUMX). These “empire rents” are nothing more than the continuous transfer of wealth (economic surpluses) from the South to the Global North.

The interpretation of “empire rents” is very close to the perception of transfers of value (wealth) from the periphery to the center, something that constitutes the basis of dependence, founded on a situation of compromise between the interests that move the internal structures of dependent countries and those of big international capital, centered according to the author on the imperialist trilateral.

This interpretation implies that the structures that drive commitment in dependent countries generally internalize the interests of international monopolies and the corresponding international division of labor, which strongly limits the degree of autonomy of their economies and societies, including with regard to democratic aspects, what the author observes in the form of religious and political interactions, what he calls “political Islam”.

Social resistance and the projection of a long-term alternative system to capitalism would go through a very broad set of movements that Samir Amin calls “historical socialism”, before considering the possible perception of transition from capitalism that the author denotes, it is worth noting two aspects: (1) the criticism of Trotsky and his analysis of the error and inability of Lenin, Stalin and Mao to interpret the impossibility of “localized socialism”. This debate is in fact central to rethinking an “international farm” as proposed by the author. Samir Amin saw both Lenin and Mao as coherent in the main decisions taken, specifically the NEP (New Economic Policy) and in the case of Mao the “cultural revolution” and the permanence of the peasant logic as part of the strategic relations of the Chinese revolution, of course the author was a staunch critic of Stalin and his logic of restriction of popular action, especially peasant expropriation and forced collectivization, which according to him would be at the root of the “break in the worker-peasant alliance” and “behind the abandonment of the democratic revolution and the autocratic turn” (Amin, 2020, p. 161).

(2) Current imperialism is based on a “generalized monopoly capitalism”, whose core constitutes value transfers from the periphery to the center in different formats, but which constitutes a logic that, on the one hand, does not lead to a “super super” type of solution. imperialism” as thought by Kautsky and Hilferding, but also maintains the dispute of national States and their systemic and multipolar intervention.

The analyzes developed by Amin lead us to visualize how capitalism moves as a globalized phenomenon. As the author warns, the current globalization is the third of a process that began in the 2020th century, always establishing a long systemic crisis whose historical solution always appears in the form of profound destruction of lives and capital. However, it alerts us to a more serious logic, capitalism is a long and continuous transition whose cyclical links, as Marx stated, are an “infinite spiral”. Thus two movements seem to be derived from the development of capitalism in these last moments: (a) “the revival of fascism in societies that are increasingly in total disarray” and; (b) “multipolarity is simply unacceptable for the” imperialist triad” (Amin, 190, p. 191-XNUMX).

Considering what Amin put to us, two concrete and militant actions of the organized movements in the current moment are necessary to be observed, beyond what we have to grumble: first, how much the social resistance of the periphery or of the Global South can build new links of rebellion and revolution and, according to how much humanity will be able to oppose a “civilizational suicide”, as this last Egyptian prophet warns us.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at UFPA. Author, among other books, of Criticism of the Political Economy of the Public Debt and the Capitalist Credit System: a Marxist approach (CRV).



Samir Amin. Only people make their history. São Paulo: Popular Expression, 2020, 252 pages.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank