Amin Bets on the State for Development
Great Goal but Blunt Tool
Samir Amin’s article “The Sovereign Popular Project; The Alternative to Liberal Globalization in Labor and Society” contains important and debatable issues in which many Marxists were engaged for nearly for a century: Development, forces of development, forms of development, chances for development, routes for development and goals of development…etc. All these questions are necessary and as questions are justified to be raised.
The following argument is with another issue, which is the most sensitive one; it is about the political party and class tool of development, a new tool that I proposed, and confirmed by first Palestinian Intifada in 1987. A tool that combines both, forces and decision of development on the one hand, to remain free from dependency on the “state” on the other. It is the “Development by Popular Protection” (DPP).
While working on my PhD thesis at the University of Exeter in the second half of 1980s, I reached the conclusion that there is no way for development under the settler colonial regime, the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime (ZAR, and since that this occupation might stay for long time, the sole route for development is “Development by Popular Protection”. It is a struggle for development without a state, but in the case of West Bank and Gaza (WBG) it is the state which is the settler colonial one.
The paradigm is simply:
- Internal Withdrawal from dependency on the enemy’s working place, and its products through boycotting the enemy’s work place and products as much as possible.
- A return to the land which was neglected as a result because of Israeli enemy’s policies of linking and subordinating the local Palestinian economy to its economy through monopolizing WBG market for its’ products, subjecting export-import to be only from and through the enemy’s channels, imposing it’s price system and currency over WBG which made living cost unbearable, especially since prices are the same in both markets (Israeli and Palestinian), while the income gap in those areas was too large, (1-10, which, in turn, forced many Palestinians to work in enemy’s economy and gradually became their consumers too. In fact, ZAR imposes nearly two thousand military orders to subjugate and link Palestinian social classes economically with its’ own economy. This is, in fact, the most effective tool for dismantling Palestinian social fabric and annexing it with that of ZAR.
- A wave of self-re-education to depart from consumerism and adopt conscious consuming. This concept was opposed by many Palestinian liberal economists who argued in favor of joint economic relationship with the Israeli settler colonizers.
- A re-structuring of local Palestinian industries to prioritize local inputs and produce local needs
- A call for the PLO, to adopt DPP, support land reclamation and infant industries. When the Intifada took place in 1987, PLO was still in Lebanon, i.e. before Oslo Accords 1993.
In October 1987, I was forced to return to occupied WBG, escaping assassination threat following the assassination of Palestinian great Cartoonist comrade Naji al-Ali on 22 July 1987.
By 11th of November 1987, the masses of WBG launched Intifada and the enemy deployed tens of thousands of its military machine in every single inch in WBG, with the support of counter-revolution (CR):
- All western capitalist regimes,
- Most of Arab regimes which were terrified by the possibility of the Intifada expanding to their countries.
That is why, the decision for terminating and betraying the Intifada directly followed the Intifada itself. It is due to the fact that CR early entrenched in the region and world scale.
The most astonishing event is that the people, far from any ideas including mine contrive Internal Withdrawal and apply it through:
- Workers boycott enemy’s working place.
Masses boycott enemy’s products.
- Peasants returned to land reclamation and exploitation;
- Manufacturers started producing basic needs;
- Consumption was minimized in general;
- Women, in addition to participation in street fights, pioneered in boycotting enemy’s products since they were the ones who managed the family budget, and started building local food cooperatives in neighborhoods and communities…etc;
- The only social faction which attempted to smuggle enemy’s products is the local comprador.
Despite enemy repression against Intifada as DPP, PLO bureaucracy in Beirut failure to adopt DPP, and Arab regimes insisted to stop Intifada fearing its’ expansion to their masses, and large sums of “poisoned” monetary liquidity in the form of rent flooded the WBG from western and Arab regimes either directly or through NGOs, but Intifada continued for six years and the Zionist economy relatively lost that large open and monopolized market.
The Intifada was terminated by Oslo Accords (1993) signed between PLO leadership and ZAR where PLO declared that it is time of “Peace of Braves” and boycotting must stop…etc. In fact, it was peace of capital on the one hand, and we realized year after another that peace for ZAR is no more than another edition of war.
PLO leadership and economists did not develop a development policy or even a theory, they dreamt of a tiny state in WBG a state like Taiwan. They never understood that imperialism needs only one Taiwan here, which is ZAR.
This is not the place to discuss that DPP is socially applied without a state, but even against state which is settler colonial occupation the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime, but I realized that DPP as a developmental paradigm is a proper developmental strategy for WBG and even other Arab and peripheral countries ruled by comprador capitalist classes because DPP is a social challenge carried by popular classes which create its’ own parliament and revolutionary political party which must report to popular classes through its parliament. Through that I found that DPP is possible as a popular initiative independent from the state economy on the one hand, so as to force the state to follow DPP on the other. My conclusion is that what is proper is a paradigm beyond de-linking policy led by state.
The role of the State role in development shouldn’t be an absolute condition, and it (the role) never proved it’s’ credibility. The state’s sole control and leadership of development failed in the USSR, China, Bandung states and later in South America. While all those experiments were against the dream of catch-up, they failed to achieve much better than that!
I might venture to say that in certain periods or, in fact, events, the absence of the state is a good opportunity for victory. Palestinian resistance, Arab and international revolutionary volunteers from Jordan 1967-1970 took place through the weak and nearly absence of state in Jordan following its defeat in 1967 war which led to the occupation of the remainder of Palestine (WBG and Gaza Strip), the same in Lebanon for Palestinian and later in the case of the Lebanese resistance, the absence state was a “gift” for guerilla fighters. But the direct and practical application of DPP at the development level was far from state, was the Palestinian Intifada 1987-1993.
This is the core of my critique of Amin’s position which fluctuates between dependency theory, Bandung states, ex-socialist states and the current progressive states in South America. His good theorization on development lacks calling for a vanguard pioneer revolutionary party. He might be still influenced by the passive role of bureaucratic Communist parties in the former Soviet Bloc, or because, if I am right, he is like dependency school figures who never were members and or do not believe in political parties which the reason that kept them in the range of state role.
While Amin, in his entire article, as I will show below, nearly adopts a position close to DPP, he time and again returns to re-emphasize in other places the role of the state, showing that he did not depart from state de-linking strategy.
Andre Gunder Frank’s pioneering article on Development of Underdevelopment (1965), laid the base for development by national state in the periphery. Amin who as a contributor in dependency school is still under its influence regarding state’s role despite of current crisis of development experiences in South America progressive states:
“This article argues that the cooperation of independent nation states founded on the Sovereign Popular Project (embracing industrial self-sufficiency, food sovereignty, and popular democracy) is a fundamental precondition for a progressive move beyond the current international system of imperialist hegemony”
As a wishful thinking, this is nice. But, the experience of the periphery reveals no real cooperation between independent states, because they were not really independent on the one hand, and there is a big question even if there is a real post-colonial era.
Amin argues for a joint developmental project in form of states cooperation founded on the Sovereign Popular Project (SPP). But, how will it be founded? Is it founded by the ruling state or by the people who are not ruling, i.e. the popular classes? To what class does SPP belong? If the SPP is another group that is not part of the state authority, who is its’ leadership? If it is the independent state, then we are still under the mercy of dependency theory and its’ failed state.
To elaborate, I believe that the DPP must be an initiative by popular classes on the one hand, and led by a pioneering party, playing the role of development on the ground independent from state economy and its’ class interests, its’ limitations and the world market imperatives. Accordingly, DPP must apply pressure on the state to follow its own route, i.e. DPP must start independently to be able to pressure state to follow its own developmental paradigm and to fight for the state to be its’ own state. If Amin believes in harmony between his form of state and SPP, then he had left it without logical support taking into consideration that all forms of “independent” states in the past and recently in South America did not support Amin’s argument.
State, as a state of class, and or as several tiny classes in alliance with it, do not in general represent the majority of society especially in capitalist social formations, and if the state adopts Amin’s project, then the question would be: who will guarantee that it’s bureaucracy will continue in that direction other than popular control by a social party applying its’ conditions, serving its’ interests, representing it and reporting to that majority?
Here, modes of production are vital. The capitalist modes of production of the ruling state/class, both national and comprador, is the decisive factor in development if it is internally or externally oriented. Its’ logic is capitalist. While the popular classes are at least looking for another mode of production, their interests are towards a socialist one.
Any developmental project aimed at transcending capitalist logic must have a cooperative/socialist orientation, and accordingly, it shouldn’t be led by certain state representing one class. It must be under the control of a social parliament on the ground bred by a social party that is controlled by that popular parliament to pressure the state to move towards its own economy and power until state’s withering. Both parliament and party represent social majority.
The DPP paradigm, while it is a mere beginning towards socialism and finally the withering of state, is the proper challenge to the most horrible states/classes alliance on the world scale between:
- Its’ leadership the state/s/ruling capitalist classes of core capitalist countries and
- Its’ dependents the states/comprador ruling classes of the periphery.
This alliance, especially following the dismantling of USSR, made the world as a World Capitalist Public Sector (WCPS). This strong and large alliance will never be defeated by states but by organized popular classes.
The core capitalist countries, especially US, monopolize accumulated capital, offices and decisions of MNC’s and even all world capital.
Amin is right arguing that:
“… national sovereignty is the instrument which allows ruling classes to maintain their competitive positions within the system”
This recalls Marx’s Argument that nationalism used as a tool for the interests of the bourgeois, an argument that many Marxists later failed to grasp the context in which Marx wrote it, and they launched a continuous war against nationalism in general without considering, stage, specificity and circumstances! They failed to read even the introduction of The Communist Manifesto, where Marx considers the strong nation state is the proper base to be transformed for socialism.
It is right that nationalism is a period in social historical development, but a period that most societies live and pass it. Every society/nation is split into two forms and levels of nationalism both based on class/s:
- The ruling bourgeois nationalism serves its own class interests over those of other classes. This is the state in Western Europe which Marx argued against it but in a specific era. It is the bourgeois nationalism which laid down the base that capitalist development must be limited to Europe, no Europe after Europe, not only “No Japan after Japan”. It is the designer of “Blocked development” and is still fighting for the same class interest.
- The latent nationalism which is that of popular classes, the social majority, and potentially progressive and even socialist.
“Yet we should not reduce the defense of sovereignty to that modality of bourgeois nationalism. The defense of sovereignty is no less decisive for the protection of the popular alternative on the long road to socialism”.
This is right, but the popular alternative must fight for its’ own sovereignty. Let’s recall Gramsci’s argument on that bourgeois hegemony must be challenged by proletariat one.
In the following, Amin explains concretely what he meant by national sovereignty in core capitalist countries:
“The government of the USA offers the clearest example of that constant practice: sovereignty is conceived as the exclusive preserve of US monopoly capital and to that effect the US national law is given priority above international law. That was also the practice of the European imperialist powers in the past and it continues to be the practice of the major European states within the European Union (Amin 2013, Chapter 4).
In fact, the world in the era of Globalism has been, and relatively still is, divided into three groups according to my analysis 2005, i.e. before emerge of new possible poles: Russia, China and BRICS:
- The sole real independent sovereign state is the US,
- EU is relatively a Self-Rule, and
- The rest are colonies, or semi colonies.
I agree that the new merging states still lag behind developing to a real opposition to US unilateral position.
Unfortunately, Amin still fluctuates between state and popular leadership of development as he wrote:
“The nation state remains the only frame for the deployment of the decisive struggles which ultimately transform the world”
As a nation state in general, yes. But, to leave it open or vague, there is no guarantee that the result of its role may not repeat the failed experiences. But again, he restores his theoretical balance:
“The peoples of the peripheries of that system, polarizing by nature, have a long experience of that positive progressive nationalism which is anti-imperialist, rejects the global order imposed by the centers, and, therefore, is potentially anti-capitalist. I say only potentially because this nationalism may also inspire the illusion of a possible building of a national capitalist order able to catch up with the national capitalisms ruling the centers. Nationalism in the peripheries is progressive only at that condition, as long as it remains anti-imperialist, that is, today conflicting with the global liberal order”
This point recalls the second nationalist wave in periphery 1940s-1970s which started as progressive, anti-imperialism, but lately changed to be dependent. The first wave was in the middle of 19th century in Europe which started progressive at least in discourse but turned to be colonialist. In today’s time, we witness the third nationalist wave which is manufactured by imperialism, as ethnic, sectarian, comprador, reactionary and a direct tool for counter-revolution (CR).
“Consequently, national liberation struggles of the people in the peripheries have always, objectively, been in conflict with the logic of capitalism”
This is right before victory and even few years after, as Fanon early warns, but not sufficient according to the experience of local/national bourgeois which fall on its’ knees for the logic of capitalism, even dependent capitalism. That is why DPP is necessary to guarantee the independent, non-capitalist but socialist logic.
Again, Amin gets close to the right direction, but in the end did not nominate the leading tool, i.e. he remains satisfied with SPP without explaining its’ class base and political party tool.
“In its manifestation as a political and social strategy, this general principle signifies that the long transition calls for the indispensable establishment of a popular national society associated to an auto-centered national economy. Such a creation is contradictory in every aspect: it associates capitalist criteria, institutions, and operational modes to social aspirations and reforms which are in conflict with the logic of global capitalism; it also associates an external exposure (controlled as much as possible) to the protection of the demands of progressive social transformation which conflict with dominant capitalist interests. Due to their historical nature, governing classes generally formulate their visions and aspirations within the perspective of really existing capitalism and, willingly or unwillingly, subject their strategies to constraints of global capitalist expansion. This is the reason why they cannot really envisage a delinking.”
De-linking by whom? By state, is not enough because the same state might re-link itself with global capitalism. De-linking didn’t work or last without being led by DPP as a strategy that guarantees two main conditions:
- An increasing de-linking from capitalist logic of national state capitalism
- And, for the long run, a transcendence of state itself reaching its’ withering and fall.
“On the contrary, popular classes must give in to this whenever they try to use political power to transform their conditions and liberate themselves from the inhuman consequences which the polarizing expansion of capitalism subjects them to. The appraisal of the strategic choices of government policies and movements of the dominated masses in the global South should attend to the following proposal: An inward-looking development option is indispensable.”
In my thesis I suggest Internal Withdrawal (IT) as the first step for DPP in the occupied WBG during Intifada 1987-93. But I did not stop there, I continued that DPP must be led by a party not by the state, and the party must be under the control of a popular parliament of the popular classes.
Here Amin is mistaken:
“This articulation falls in line with a social relationship whose main terms are set up by the two main blocs of the system: the national bourgeoisie and the labor force.”
The question here is: are they allies? And if yes, which one of them will lead? If they are two blocs, then each must adopt different developmental route or logic. Most of experiences in periphery show that relationship between these two main blocs is too fragile, and it fail because the “national bourgeois” betrays it.
Later Amin jumps to design the policy of inward-looking capitalism and the antinomy between local comprador and national bourgeois. In this place, Amin lost direction since he did not insist on two points:
- DPP is in contradiction with the local bourgeois “comprador or national”
- And who must lead development?
Amin refers to the new Leftist regimes in South America, Nepal, and even China saying that:
“… by the New Leftist governments in Latin America and Nepal (whatever the limits of the victories), the progressive radicalization of many of these movements, and the critical positions taken by governments of the South within the WTO, are proof that “another world,” a better one for that matter, is possible… China was better equipped than others to positively exploit this option and to draw unquestionably brilliant results. Can this experience be followed elsewhere? And what are some of the possible shortcomings? An analysis of the contradictions presented by this option has pushed me to conclude that the project for a national capitalism capable of asserting itself like that of the dominant powers of the global system is very much an illusion…Neither Brazil nor India—because they did not experience radical revolutions as in China—are able to efficiently resist the combined pressures of imperialism and reactionary local classes”
I will leave all these issues for another discussion, but neither South America left nor China was promising. In South America, the state developmental approach lacks DPP and real revolutionary party, it suffers from corruption, did not de-link, it left foreign trade in the hands of the comprador, and even in some countries depended on renter policies! Depending on rent to bribe the masses (similar to Arab renter regimes in the Gulf!). In China, creeping capitalism with deteriorating conditions of the working class and corruption are clear, both cases too far from DPP.
The rosy picture of the South which Amin paints in his article might not be realized if the state, and not DPP, is leading:
“Can these nations achieve this? And who will do it? The governing bourgeoisie classes in place? I strongly doubt it. The popular classes who have come to power? This could probably begin with transitional regimes of national/popular natures.”
But, how will popular classes come to power without DPP first?
Finally Amin returns to hesitation:
“On the other hand, the analysis I have made of the “generalized compradorization” of dominant classes and authorities in all the regions of the South leaves us with the conclusion that there are no great things to be achieved from ruling governments or those likely to be in place in the nearest future, even if they are of course “fundamentalists” (Islamists, Hindus, or ethnic groups)”
This concrete analysis must take Amin directly toward two results:
- To deduce that only DPP led by revolutionary party could achieve the change either directly or gradually, and
- In the case of Arab Homeland he must refer to the current dark situation, not only that governments are unable (and are opposed) achieve development, but that the masses are in a terrible situation, a tragedy which taught us that we, Marxists, must restore the masses.
The four conditions which Amin is looking for to achieve a reliable multi-polar world, took him back to depend mainly on the good will of the “state”, while what is needed is not a change through the “state”. The change must be either by direct revolution or DPP separated from hegemony of the state and aiming at transcending the state.
Here is another argument of wishful thinking:
“The axis around which the states and nations of the three continents should organize their solidarity in struggle can be formulated as building a common front against unbalanced, neoliberal, imperialist globalization”
After wishful thinking on the role of state, Amin recalls the “programs and actions of popular movements of struggle against the official systems of power”, which is good, but what form of struggle? Is it independent from the “system and power” or an integrationist on the one hand, and what is the real structure and ideology of those movements on the other? Are they similar to what started in Seattle protests?
Amin continues his bet on the state:
“My alternative concept implies state intervention, that is, state planning, managing an independent national financial system with a view to prioritizing finance for the construction of industries in the framework of budget constraints to avoid inflation and the growth of foreign debt.”
These are good technical recommendations, but still to what extent is it possible to depend on the state?
Unfortunately, Amin’s last conclusion and recommendation confirm his entrenchment in the old and failed position of dependency school which hangs developmental project on the same:
“Practically speaking, achieving these three goals means opening channels for a debate with citizens, trade unions, and other organizations of authentic popular civil society, resulting into a plan for state support of projects of comprehensive industrialization; and opening channels with peasant popular organizations with a view to defining a plan of action for the revival of rural peasant agriculture. These are the first concrete steps we can take toward achieving the ambitious goals set out in this essay.”
This recalls Amin’s past job as an adviser to some progressive peripheral regimes in Africa which ended as comprador.
- The opinions and views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Kana’an’s Editorial Board.
 Published in the Journal of Labor and Society (Volume 20, Issue 1 March 2017 Pages 7–22, URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/wusa.12276/full
 Samara, Adel, Industrialization in the West Bank. Al-Mashriq Publications, 1992. Original, a PhD Thesis submitted at the University of Exeter, London, England.
Samara, Adel, The Epidemic of Globalization, Palestine Research and Publishing Foundation, USA, 2001.
Samara, Adel, Beyond De-Linking: Development by Popular Protection vs Development by State, Palestine Research and Publishing Foundation, USA. 2005.
Also available in French: Samara, Adel, La Contagion de la mondialisation Les nouveaux risqué de l’ordre mondial, de la Nation arabe, et du Sionisme. Translated and published by: ALBA MALTA NORTH AFRICA COORDINATION 2016.
 Samara, Adel, Industrialization in the West Bank.
 Samara, Adel, The Political Economy of the West Bank: From Peripheralization to Development, Khamisn Publications, London, 1988.
 Samara, Adel, Industrialization in the West Bank. Al-Mashriq Publications, 1992.
 Samara, Adel, Women vs Capital in the Social Formation in Palestine, Al- Mashriq Publications, 1996.
 The West Bank witnessed three generations of comprador, the first under Jordanian regime 1950-1967, the second under the direct Zionist rules 1967-1993 and the third under Palestinian Authority. Each of those rules encouraged its’ own comprador ally.
 Samara, A. Industrialization in the West Bank. Al-Mashriq Publications 1992. Original, a PhD Thesis submitted at the University of Exeter.
 Samara, Adel. Beyond De-Linking: Development by Popular Protection vs Development by State.
 Samara, Adel, see The Epidemic of Globalization.
 K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto. Ed. By Samuel J. Beer Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. New York, 1955. P. 21.
 Samara, Adel, The Epidemic of Globalization.
 Samara, Adel, Beyond De-Linking: Development by Popular Protection vs Development by State.
 Samara, Adel, Industrialization in the West Bank.
 Mass protests that took place in 1999 in Seattle, (Washington State, USA), surrounding the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999. They are also known as the Battle of Seattle. These protests, initially characterized by spontaneous mass support, eventually almost disappeared due to the absence of an internationalist popular movement which will lead the anti-globalization struggle as part of larger project for revolutionary change and anti-capitalist struggle.