Written by Samir Amin

Excerpt from https://medium.com/@bbryyyy/revolution-from-north-to-south-dc7e51b01e41


United States

The political culture of the United States is not the same as the one that took form in France beginning with the Enlightenment and, above all, the Revolution. The heritage of those two signal events has, to various extents, marked the history of a large part of the European continent. U.S. political culture has quite different characteristics. The particular form of Protestantism established in New England served to legitimize the new U.S. society and its conquest of the continent in terms drawn from the Bible. The genocide of the Native Americans is a natural part of the new chosen people’s divine mission. Subsequently, the United States extended to the entire world the project of realizing the work that “God” had ordered it to accomplish. The people of the United States live as the “chosen people.”

Of course, the American ideology is not the cause of U.S. imperialist expansion. The latter follows the logic of capital accumulation and serves the interests of capital (which are quite material). But this ideology is perfectly suited to this process. It confuses the issue. The “American Revolution” was only a war of independence without social import. In their revolt against the English monarchy, the American colonists in no way wanted to transform economic and social relations, but simply no longer wanted to share the profits from those relations with the ruling class of the mother country. Their main objective was above all westward expansion. Maintaining slavery was also, in this context, unquestioned. Many of the revolution’s major leaders were slave owners, and their prejudices in this area were unshakeable.

Successive waves of immigration also played a role in reinforcing American ideology. The immigrants were certainly not responsible for the poverty and oppression that lay behind their departure for the United States. But their emigration led them to give up collective struggle to change the shared conditions of their classes or groups in their native countries, and adopt instead the ideology of individual success in their adopted home. Adopting such an ideology delayed the acquisition of class consciousness. Once it began to mature, this developing consciousness had to face a new wave of immigrants, resulting in renewed failure to achieve the requisite political consciousness. Simultaneously, this immigration encouraged the “communitarianization” of U.S. society. “Individual success” does not exclude inclusion in a community of origin, without which individual isolation might become insupportable. The reinforcement of this dimension of identity — which the U.S. system reclaims and encourages — is done to the detriment of class consciousness and the forming of citizens. Communitarian ideologies cannot be a substitute for the absence of a socialist ideology in the working class. This is true even of the most radical of them, that of the black community.

The specific combination of factors in the historical formation of U.S. society — dominant “biblical” religious ideology and absence of a workers’ party — has resulted in government by a de facto single party, the party of capital. The two segments that make up this single party share the same fundamental liberalism. Both focus their attention solely on the minority who “participate” in the truncated and powerless democratic life on offer. Each has its supporters in the middle classes, since the working classes seldom vote, and has adapted its language to them. Each encapsulates a conglomerate of segmentary capitalist interests (the “lobbies”) and supporters from various “communities.” American democracy is today the advanced model of what I call “low-intensity democracy.” It operates on the basis of a complete separation between the management of political life, grounded on the practice of electoral democracy, and the management of economic life, governed by the laws of capital accumulation. Moreover, this separation is not questioned in any substantial way, but is, rather, part of what is called the general consensus. Yet that separation eliminates all the creative potential found in political democracy. It emasculates the representative institutions (parliaments and others), which are made powerless in the face of the “market” whose dictates must be accepted. Marx thought that the construction of a “pure” capitalism in the United States, without any pre-capitalist antecedent, was an advantage for the socialist struggle. I think, on the contrary, that the devastating effects of this “pure” capitalism are the most serious obstacles imaginable.

The avowed objective of the United States’ new hegemonic strategy is not to tolerate the existence of any power capable of resisting Washington’s commands. To accomplish that, it seeks to break up all countries considered to be “too large” and create the maximum number of rump states, easy prey for the establishment of U.S. bases to ensure their “protection.” Only one state has the right to be “large”: the United States. Its global strategy has five objectives: neutralize and subjugate the other partners in the triad (Europe and Japan) and minimize their ability to act outside of American control; establish NATO’s military control of and “Latin Americanize” parts of the former Soviet world; assume sole control of the Middle East and Central Asia and their petroleum resources; break up China, secure the subordination of other large states (India, Brazil), and prevent the formation of regional blocs that would be able to negotiate the terms of globalization; and marginalize regions of the South with no strategic interest. The hegemonic ambitions of the United States are ultimately based more on the outsized importance of its military power than on the “advantages” of its economic system. It can then pose as uncontested leader of the triad by making its military power and NATO, which it dominates, the “visible fist” in charge of imposing the new imperialist order on all possible recalcitrants.

North-South

The North-South conflict between centers and peripheries is a central factor throughout the entire history of capitalist development. Historical capitalism merges with the history of the world’s conquest by Europeans and their descendants, who were victorious from 1492 to 1914. This success provided the foundation for its own legitimacy. With the presumption of superiority, the European system became synonymous with modernity and progress. Eurocentrism flourished in these circumstances and the peoples of the imperialist centers were persuaded of their “preferential” right to the world’s wealth.

We have been witness to a fundamental transformation in this phase of history. The South has been slowly awakening, clearly apparent during the twentieth century, from the revolutions undertaken in the name of socialism, first in the Russian semi-periphery, then in the peripheries of China, Vietnam, and Cuba, to the national liberation movements in Asia and Africa and the advances in Latin America. The liberation struggles of peoples in the South — increasingly victorious — have been and still are closely linked with the challenge to capitalism. This conjunction is inevitable. The conflicts between capitalism and socialism and between North and South are inseparable. No socialism is imaginable outside of universalism, which implies the equality of peoples.

In the countries of the South, most people are victims of the system, whereas in the North, the majority are its beneficiaries. Both know it perfectly well, although often they are either resigned to it (in the South) or welcome it (in the North). It is not by accident, then, that radical transformation of the system is not on the agenda in the North whereas the South is still the “zone of storms,” of continual revolts, some of which are potentially revolutionary. Consequently, actions by peoples from the South have been decisive in the transformation of the world. Taking note of this fact allows us to contextualize class struggles in the North properly: they have been focused on economic demands that generally do not call the imperialist world order into question. For their part, revolts in the South, when they are radicalized, come up against the challenges of underdevelopment. Their “socialisms,” consequently, always include contradictions between initial intentions and the reality of what is possible. The possible, but difficult, conjunction between the struggles of peoples in the South with those of peoples in the North is the only way to overcome the limitations of both.

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