SMAIAS-ASN SUMMER SCHOOL 2022 17–21 January 2022
Pathways to a Just Transition: Ecology and Popular Movements in the South
In the current stage of systemic crisis, the harnessing of non-human nature in the global peripheries by monopoly capital has become a central concern. The free appropriation of nature from the peripheries is not new, yet its manifestations and character have been altered with the reemergence of finance capital and its hyper-speculative force. There has been an intensified penetration of corporate foreign investments in the peripheries, especially in nature-based industries such as forest produce and wood-based products, fishing, mineral extraction, and land and food systems, while the climate debate has also shifted the onus for preserving the ecological balance of the planet onto the countries of the South. Click link for morehttp://www.agrariansouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SMAIAS-ASN-Summer-School-2022__Call-for-Papers-1-2.pdf
The current crisis is a permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism (Yeros & Jha, 2020). Its precise character must continue to be interrogated as it evolves so that focused attention may be brought to the politics and solidarity that are required. This is an ever more urgent task as that the Covid-19 pandemic has compressed and accelerated the course of contradictions in the world economy. Analogies with other systemic crises may be drawn, but none is quite the same. Ours is the crisis of monopoly capitalism in its late neocolonial phase.
Some further ideas will be shared regarding the ongoing tendencies of polarization in North and South and the insurrectional politics that have resulted. In the last two decades, we have already witnessed at least two revolutionary situations; we should expect that the terrain of struggle will now be fast changing in this direction. Certain misconceptions about the trajectory of capitalism as a social system also need to be confronted at this stage, so as to dispel illusions about its future. The call for a New Bandung also needs to be taken more seriously, as it is time that a coherent anti-imperialist movement takes shape to illuminate the way forward and fulfil the potential of the present.
Polarization and insurrection
One of the key traits of late neocolonialism is the intense and sustained political polarization across the peripheries: from the 1990s onwards, the historical realities of global integration and national disintegration were reinforced, as one country after another succumbed to neoliberal restructuring and new rounds of social and political conflict. As has been observed (Moyo & Yeros, 2011), in some cases nationalist radicalization ensued, in confrontation with the monopolies; in others, temporary stability was recomposed under the wing of the monopolies; in still others, competition over natural resources resulted in state fracture or foreign occupation. Imperialist strategy never missed a step in this restructuring: it deployed a mixture of economic statecraft, punitive sanctions, political destabilization, and its military arsenal. But the chickens have now come home to roost in the imperialist centres, most spectacularly so in the United States, as the pacts led by monopoly capital are in disarray and overtaken by intense polarization there as well. Just in the last six months, in the nerve centre of the world economy, in the midst of pandemic catastrophe, we have witnessed a massive uprising against racism and police brutality, and then a fascist putsch on the Capitol. Polarization is here to stay in the metropolitan centres as well.
The dramatic form that this has taken reflects a second trait of late neocolonialism: insurrectional politics. Massive popular uprisings in open defiance of authority have been spreading in similar direction, across the South and from South to North. Perhaps the most dramatic has been the Arab Spring for the manner in which it gripped a whole region, only to become embroiled in insurgencies, external interventions, invasions, and civil wars. In Tunisia, where the uprising was first ignited, constitutional reform and transition eventually occurred, but a different outcome awaited the rest. In Egypt the armed forces regained control from the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, while foreign intervention, civil war, and state fracture ensued in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, in addition to Iraq.
Experiences in other regions, however, have been noteworthy for their historically progressive results and relative autonomy that was wrested from imperialism, namely in the Andean region of South America, following uprisings in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and in Southern Africa after apartheid and Zimbabwe’s remobilization. Notable have also been the armed insurrections with a liberation perspective: in Southern Mexico, the Zapatista uprising in January 1994, which carved out an autonomous space up to the present; and the People’s War in Nepal, from February 1996 to November 2006. And as we speak, India is undergoing a massive process of mobilization by farmers’ movements and other social forces which have joined in support to sustain a countrywide struggle for nearly two months now, for which there is no parallel in the post-independence period.
The term ‘insurrection’ is not used here a priori in a pejorative sense, as is often the case in public discourse; it is used precisely in the definition given above: a massive popular uprising in open defiance of authority, which may be armed or unarmed. In theory it is distinguishable from a conspiracy or a coup d’etat or a putsch or a regime-change operation, which by definition lack a significant popular base and find recourse mainly in violence. Yet, two caveats are in order. We are dealing with a complex phenomenon whereby what goes as an insurrection can morph into a military coup, as it did in Egypt in 2013, or an ‘institutional’ coup with the backing of the parliament and judiciary, plus the military, as was the case in Brazil after the uprisings of June 2013, leading to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016.
Such a trajectory has partly to do with the chaotic manner in which insurrectional politics evolve, often lacking in political organization and ideological coherence. It has also to do with reliance on social media for mobilization, which render such uprisings susceptible to government shutdown or capture and manipulation by intelligence agencies, other obscure corporate entities, and not least the corporate media monopolies which at the end are still standing to control the narrative. However, what goes as a ‘coup’ also has a complicating factor: the growing ability of fascist forces and neocolonial elements to mobilize a significant popular base, drawing upon various ideological and organizational sources including those of religious fundamentalism (Christian, Islamic, Hindu). Despite these conceptual difficulties, the terms here will be maintained for the heuristic value they bring, mindful that, ultimately, the character of the phenomenon must be judged on a case-by-case basis by its actual social character, political organization, ideological orientation, and relationship to imperialism.
Amorphous though they appear or become, insurrectional politics do not spring from an organizational vacuum. They spring from organizational work and stages of conscientization and cultural change (or otherwise degradation) obtained over longer periods of time. The experience of Latin America, where the Zapatistas took up arms in the 1990s, has been undergoing such cultural change with the emergence of indigenous, black, women’s, and rural and urban working people’s movements: when economic and social crisis struck, a new basis already existed for a sustained challenge to the settler-colonial establishment and the neoliberal dispensation. This also applies to the United States among community activism and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, whose conscientization work has capillarized in society. And it is the case in Southern Africa after decades of armed struggle and negotiated transitions to independence, where popular demands for land were marginalized and eventually reorganized in Zimbabwe with a radical nationalist perspective.
The relationship with the state apparatus adds a further element of complexity, which is decisive. Control over the state apparatus is naturally the object of coups d’etat and regime-change operations, while insurrectionary movements also take aim at the state, or at least certain state institutions (such as the police). In the case of imperialist regime-change operations, support or direction is found in branches of the state apparatus, most naturally the security forces: in the last twenty years in Latin America and the Caribbean alone we have witnessed five such successful coups, in Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, and several other attempted coups with crucial support from inside the state apparatus. On the other hand, mass popular uprisings are most commonly on the receiving end of the wrath of the repressive branches of the state. This was the case again in Latin America and the Caribbean in the serial insurrections of 2019, whose epicenters were Haiti, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia.
However, there are also the exceptions of revolutionary situations, in Lenin’s sense of the term: when hostile classes have been weakened, intermediate elements disgraced, the vanguard class emboldened, and the armed forces disorganized or defeated (Lenin, 1917a, 1920). It is perhaps needless to say that insurrections hardly ever amount to revolutionary situations; and that revolutionary situations rarely result in revolutions. But we have indeed had analogous revolutionary situations in the 2000s, namely in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, where polarization dynamics approximated the first three conditions above, and where a patriotic army, instead of being disorganized and defeated, actually closed ranks with the vanguard forces. In Venezuela, this was the case after the defeated coup attempt of April 2002, when control over the military was consolidated and the Bolivarian revolution taken to a new level. In Zimbabwe, the liberation forces had already replaced the Rhodesian settler army forces after the transition to independence, such that, when the mass land occupations broke out in February 2000, the army and the whole of the state apparatus was radicalized in support of the occupations (Moyo & Yeros, 2007).
In this regard, the military factor and the radical outcomes of these two experiences – albeit each with its own particularities, and both short of revolution – go far to explain the response of imperialism and the viciousness of its twenty-year-long counter-revolutionary regime-change operations that have ensued against Venezuela’s PSUV and Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF: economic sanctions have been imposed and escalated to the point of destroying national currencies with the purpose of intensifying internal contradictions and exploiting them to maximum effect. The means used include support to the opposition, attempts to militarize it, and propagation of vile social and corporate media campaigns in the name of ‘pro-democracy’ and ‘anti-corruption’ so as to cause despondency and ignite a new ‘people’s spring’ beholden to imperialism.
If one generalization can be made it is that insurrections are springing from the world’s bourgeoning labour reserves. These, moreover, are segmented and hierarchically ordered between North and South, as has been argued by Patnaik and Patnaik (2017) and Jha et al. (2017). There are, in effect, two labour reserves, which are articulated in the world economy, but which are not to be conflated in their economics, or their politics. In the South, insurrections spring from semi-proletarianized social formations, whose political fluidity is mostly uncaptured by conventional trade unionism or peasant organization (Moyo & Yeros, 2005). As peripheral social formations plunge deeper into social crisis in rural and urban areas alike, insurrectional pressures intensify. A delayed global demographic transition has dovetailed with this tendency, having produced a youth bulge in the population pyramids of the countries and regions of the South. Indeed, the new generations coming on board are staring at a future of none other than extreme vulnerability and misery. This, in turn, explains the opportunistic politics that we have seen again and again which politicize the category of ‘youth’ and easily obtain the backing of imperialism when needed.
In the North, where the world’s fulltime salaried workers remain concentrated, the transition to service economies, the decline in real wages and secure work, and erosion of social rights have put the brakes on security and upward mobility and stripped the new generations of a future better than that of their parents. It is likely that the most consequential of popular movements will spring from the most insecure and oppressed social layers, those pushed, pulled or stuck in the metropolitan labour reserves, especially from the black movements that hold the promise of mobilizing a broader section of the working class with an antiracist and anti-patriarchal perspective. Such political energy showed its might in the protests against the killing of George Floyd, which also evoked international support and even presented unique anti-imperialist potential. Others such as the occupation of public squares in Spain and Greece a decade ago (Papatheodorou et al., 2012), or the more recent yellow jackets in France, despite their perseverance, have not produced sufficient ideological coherence, or marked a substantial change of direction in national politics. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, a final and courageous attempt to transform the Labour Party has now come crashing down.
It remains the case that a radical break from late neocolonialism can only be led from the South, and this requires coherent anti-imperialist ideology and historically conscious alliances in the North. This point requires further elaboration, but before that some additional conceptual comments are in order to dispel illusions regarding the ‘future’ of capitalism as a social system.
End of cycle, stage or system?
There has been hope in different quarters for the relaunching of a new global cycle of accumulation as a way out of the current crisis, by means of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ or the ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, or most likely a combination of the two. But this misnamed industrial revolution, being a major labour shedding exercise by design, will only sweep millions of jobs off the face of the planet without any commensurate replacement. For its part, the OBOR initiative, albeit capable of sustaining new infrastructural and other direct investments into the foreseeable future, will necessarily feed off of the same worldwide structures of dependency on primary materials that have been the basis of colonialism and neocolonialism. The hopes, therefore, of a new cycle of accumulation and prosperity for the world are misplaced. Polarization and insurrectional outbreaks will persist and intensify, and no new cycle will be had.
Let’s look at this idea of a cycle a bit closer. The notion of world order as consisting in a sequence of historical cycles has, in fact, been predominant for several decades in the North Atlantic. This notion is the pseudo-scientific basis of fascistic theories regarding the rise and fall of great powers; at a certain juncture in the 1970s, this discourse also coopted the free-marketeers. At that same juncture, however, it also found remarkable resonance in progressive circles, among world-system theorists. In relation to the reactionary camp, we are referring mainly to the Hobbesian inspired theories of world domination, the so-called ‘realists’, in all their reactionary differences, plus the neoliberal institutionalists concerned with maintaining the sway of the monopolies via multilateral institutions. Both currents have emanated from the US establishment and have invariably been seized with the fate of US ‘hegemony’ since the 1970s.
In the other camp we find renowned intellectuals with a critical edge whose lifetime contribution to the social sciences has been to bring focus to the shifting centre-periphery relations in the international division of labour. Nonetheless, finding a seat at the table of the US mainstream has also required shedding the theory of imperialism in favour of the repertoire of ‘hegemonic’ cycles. World-systems theorists have posited that the 500-year world system has conformed to essentially similar capitalist accumulation cycles, characterized by periods of economic expansion, crisis, general war, and cycle revival, where one great power alone rises to the top of each cycle to exercise ‘hegemony’. From Immanuel Wallerstein to Giovanni Arrighi, we have an extensive body of thought in this field, with nuanced internal debates and differences, but animated by an eclectic mix of Braudelian, Marxian, neo-Smithian, and neo-Gramscian notions of ‘capitalism’. One of Arrighi’s last great books was entitled Adam Smith in Beijing. In it he held out the hope that China would become the centre of a new cycle of accumulation without pursuing military domination of the world, but inaugurate a ‘new Bandung’ that could ‘mobilize and use the global market as an instrument of equalization of South-North power relations’ (Arrighi, 2007, p. 384).
There have also been sustained attempts in this camp to come to grips with the ‘end of cycles’ in the current crisis, either by pointing to the limits of the political scale among the leading great powers required for the management of the world economy, or the limits imposed by ecological and labour costs – see, for example, Minqi Li’s The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy (2008). We are dealing with powerful statements, indeed. But any exogenous conceptual additions to what is essentially an ahistorical, circular theory of history will remain deficient. Theory is either our weapon, or it will be used against us. Fetishized notions of history will not serve the historical consciousness needed for a radical break in this late phase of neocolonialism. We cannot but recognize the cumulative stock of productive capacities that century after century propelled the West to world domination, or that the same productive capacities are now under the control of the most advanced and obsolete form of monopoly capitalism, the ‘generalized monopolies’ in Samir Amin’s (2019) terms. Nor can we fit into hegemonic cycles the various evolving forms of accumulation known to capitalism, including primitive accumulation of the past and the present, over which there has never been any ‘hegemonic consent’; or, indeed, the singular rise of the Third World after five centuries of colonial domination.
These are formulations that have marginalized the crucial Leninist notion of historical stages and diminished the qualitative transformations of capitalism. We must maintain our focus on such qualitative transformations so that the insurmountable contradictions peculiar to the present can come into sharp relief, those between the extreme centralization of productive forces, the degraded systemic relations of production and reproduction, and the planetary metabolic rift. If our question refers to the ways and means of exit from monopoly capitalism, we cannot nurture illusions about a capitalism beyond monopoly capitalism, or place our hopes on a moribund system to resolve the whole range of existential issues faced today.
Capitalism is a social and economic system with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As Amin tirelessly argued, capitalism as a system is now obsolete, incapable of resolving the challenges faced by humanity in the twenty-first century. It is necessary now to make the transition to a system of central planning with new hybrid forms of property, including collective and state property, to suppress private control over the commons and strategic industries, and put in motion a sustainable development paradigm. Such a transition does not preclude private property, in smallholder farming, popular residence, and small enterprise, all of which will continue into the future and are subject to guidance towards cooperativism. But central planning and new forms of socialist property must resolutely take the upper hand to serve popular consumption needs and modern social reproduction requirements at a just and sustainable world level.
Towards a New Bandung
Capitalism may have survived several qualitative transformations from one stage to the next, but for the largest part of its life as a social system it never contemplated the possibility of a non-colonial world economy. The most important transformation in the current stage of monopoly capitalism has been the rise of the peoples of the South after half a millennium of European domination. The fact that the principle of national sovereignty has now spread throughout the system, despite its still feeble application, is an existential threat to capitalism as a social system. Decolonization has been the systemic ‘game changer’, which struck against the extraordinary profits of the monopolies and obliged them to retreat in the post-World War II period. It is not a coincidence that the postwar crisis of monopoly capitalism began in the mid-1960s, when anti-colonial movements advanced against colonial rule. The fact that monopoly capitalism struck back after the 1970s in a highly financialized form should not lead to conclude that it has found a way out of the systemic crisis.
If, for the West, decolonization was an imperialist maneuver to coopt anti-colonial movements, for the South it was an historic breakthrough to bring about a new system of mutual respect among peoples, nations and civilizations, new economic relations, and the spread of social progress. This was expressed most poignantly in the political earthquake that was the Afro-Asian meeting at Bandung in 1955. Despite the absence of economic relations among these new nations, they were able to call for cooperation with ‘politics in command’ and a general posture of ‘positive non-alignment’. The challenge today, in the spirit of Bandung, in this late phase of neocolonialism, continues to be the mapping out of a way forward to strengthen popular sovereignty and the autonomy of national and regions. This means that politics must still be in command, and non-alignment with imperialism must remain a cardinal principle. But unlike Bandung, the New Bandung must now obtain clarity on the imperative of world socialist transition, forge more organic and enduring alliances on a tricontinental level, and articulate a new world development paradigm.
Much has changed since Bandung. Some countries have undergone industrialization under the wing of Western monopolies and finance. Most others have not made much of an industrial transition, remaining dependent on agriculture and primary commodities. But whichever the case, the national development project driven by capitalism’s own logic and mirrored in the idealized urban-centred modernity of the West set off a massive rural exodus everywhere. This is a reality that has weakened the capacity of countries to provide for the welfare of their people, to reap the fruits of independence, create stable and coherent nations, and affirm their autonomy in the world system. The Chinese revolution, in fact, was the only one to delink form this logic, by pursuing in its first thirty years an industrialization path that retained nearly eighty percent of the population in the countryside.
The historical evidence is sufficient. There should be no question now of resurrecting the bourgeois hopes that predominated at Bandung. Today, over half of the world’s workforce is trapped in vulnerable and precarious work, located largely in the South and living in degraded rural areas and urban slums. The majority of the vulnerable workforce lives in the countryside, and a large proportion still maintains close rural-urban links. The overall world population trends, according the UN estimates, have already tipped the scales between town and country, but this does not imply urban absorption or permanency for the semi-proletarianised workforce. What is more, women compose over two-thirds of the world’s vulnerable and insecure population, making it clear that capitalist advance against the countryside relies on, and intensifies, gender stratification for its profitable growth. It has done so by stratifying paid employment, displacing the costs of social reproduction onto households and especially women, and spreading households over diverse gendered economic activities (Tsikata, 2016; Ossome, 2016, Prasad, 2016). There is no chance that monopoly capitalism will absorb or stabilize this population, or alter the course of its contradictions in the interest of working people. Clarity on the imperative of world socialist transition and sustainable rural-urban equilibrium cannot go missing at this late stage.
Not all regions of the South participated at Bandung. Latin America and the Caribbean were officially absent. Most of the Caribbean was under colonial rule; and Latin America, whose colonial elite had gained juridical independence from the Iberian metropoles over a century earlier, remained in a settler-colonial situation well into the twentieth century. These are societies born of genocide and slavery; to this day, proper recognition of this past has not obtained. The transition from Iberian settler-colonialism to neocolonialism proceeded in fits and starts in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, obtaining only one clean break in the Cuban Revolution. Brazil was once again the latecomer (it was also the last to abolish slavery in 1888), making the transition to neocolonialism as late as the 1980s – coinciding effectively with the end of apartheid across the Atlantic in South Africa (Yeros et al., 2019). Under such conditions, the intense racism that organizes class and gender relations has persisted in Latin America, which has also prevented a more substantive identification with the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.
At the level of official foreign policy, the participation of Latin America in South-South initiatives dates back to UNCTAD and its focus on trade and development issues. But UNCTAD lacked organic political roots and ideological depth, and was sidelined by the GATT and further undermined by the crisis of the 1970s. Throughout this period, Cuba was indeed the great exception in the promotion of solidarity. It hosted the Tricontinental Conference in 1966, itself a second political earthquake, whose great feat was to forge tricontinental convergence and also put socialist politics in command. The ramifications were far reaching in the solidarity that was created especially with respect to the national liberation struggles in Africa and Vietnam. But its momentum reached its limits after decolonization in Africa and the neoliberal turn of events generally. Moreover, no new economic model was to emerge or take root, beyond the Chinese. Overall, with the exception of Cuba, as well as the Caribbean countries which nurtured a Pan-Africanist culture, solidarity with Africa and Asia has been difficult to attain.
There has been one more recent round of South-South initiatives in the 2000s in Latin America. This has much to do with the fact that over the last thirty years indigenous and black movements have advanced to challenge settler culture and perspective, achieving official recognition and constitutional reforms with regards to a range of social policies, the demarcation of indigenous, quilombola and other traditional lands, and the criminalization of racism. In the 2000s, the UN Conference on Racism of 2003, held in Durban, South Africa, was a milestone in mobilizing social movements and putting the spotlight on state policies. In subsequent years, two states in particular, Venezuela and Brazil, pursued South-South initiatives in substantially different directions, albeit without diplomatic estrangement; they included ALBA, IBSA, and BRICS. Crucially, such initiatives were launched at a time when China grew rapidly in an outward direction to become the leading force of a new convergence with an economic emphasis. Relations among the regions and continents expanded rapidly, while a select few among the ‘emerging’ countries joined to form the BRICS.
The great dilemma has been precisely how to construct this new South-South relationship on the basis of new investments and trade, coming in large part from China, and on new surpluses deriving from primary exports. This experience did not displace historical relations of dependence with the North, particularly on Western-based finance capital, but commercial flows were very substantially diverted and new opportunities did emerge. When Arrighi held out hope for a new Bandung with ‘economics in command’, this was precisely the optimistic scenario. The new relationship with China provided Latin America with a breathing space in terms of export growth and accumulation of reserves. However, it also fed on existing contradictions by strengthening the traditional export sectors and their reactionary lobbies in national politics, including the agribusiness and mining monopolies.
Brazil’s trajectory is telling. The country’s economic expansion of the 2000s was linked both to China and the parasitic needs of the Western-based financial circuit, all of which had the effect of deepening the process of de-industrialization that had begun earlier. It also continued to transform the employment structure of the country, creating jobs of the more vulnerable and informal type in services, even if the minimum wage was raised, and perpetuated the rural exodus. One of the effects has been the weakening of traditional forms of worker organization in this transition, and also of landless workers and peasants’ movements that found themselves in ‘reflux’. Much of this political terrain was encroached upon by the social organization of evangelical fundamentalism. The militarization of state and society also advanced, to turn the urban peripheries into killing fields, notching up over 50,000 violent deaths annually, especially of black youth, and an eight-fold expansion of the prison population system just in a decade. Overall, this economic trajectory strengthened the most conservative forces in society linked to corporate agriculture, minerals, real estate, high finance, the arms industry, and evangelical churches. When the 2008 crisis struck in Wall Street, it was clear that Brasil was going to be in serious trouble. And when commodity prices plummeted a few years later, Brazil bottomed out. The massive wave of demonstrations in 2013 expressed the simmering disenchantment and produced a perfect opportunity for an institutional coup by the regrouped reactionary forces (Schincariol & Yeros, 2019).
This type of scenario has similarities across counties in the region which rode the wave of China-oriented commodity exports, but differences are also important. The exception in economic terms has been Bolivia, but this did not spare the country of a fascist coup. On the other hand, the experience of Venezuela in economic terms has been even more dramatic than that of Brazil, but no coup attempt has succeeded (Schincariol, 2020). The point is that an ‘economic’ New Bandung that follows the logic of monopoly capital and places its hopes on ‘cycle revival’ will still wreak havoc on the peoples of the South. South-South convergence must recover politics in command so that economic relations can be steered in a progressive and sustainable direction. It must also produce a different development paradigm focused on sustainable rural-urban equilibrium.
The art of insurrection, the weapon of theory
In September 1917, Lenin admonished his comrades in the Central Committee with the following: ‘at the present moment it is impossible to remain loyal to Marxism, to remain loyal to the revolution unless insurrection is treated as an art’ (Lenin, 1917b, emphasis in original). By this he urgently pressed for an armed insurrection and takeover of power in Petrograd and Moscow, where the Bolsheviks had already prevailed politically. The revolutionary situation was ripe.
The foregoing discussion has identified an overall permanent state of polarization together with permanent insurrectional politics and counter-revolutionary coups and regime-change operations. The art of insurrection today requires not only that organizational work continues but also that the terrain of tricontinental unity is prepared for the revolutionary situations that will arise. For it is the success of these revolutionary situations that will tip the balance in whole regions and establish new conditions for anti-imperialist struggle and delinking for sustainable development. There is much more to be said here, but suffice it to point out that the two revolutionary situations mentioned above, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, elicited all kinds of muddled thinking, conditional solidarity, silence, or outright condemnation, in the North but also in the South. Especially Zimbabwe’s radicalization and fast-track land reform brought out the worst of the so-called progressive world, which suddenly could no longer see the importance of land reform or national liberation. The terrain of tricontinenal unity must be prepared to rise to the occasion.
It has also been noted here that a New Bandung must bring back politics in command, obtain clarity on the imperative of socialist transition, and also illuminate the way forward in development planning. The content of socialist transition is not given in advance and must be based on a proper assessment of world realities. A New Bandung will require an overall paradigmatic shift in both politics and planning. If the twentieth century set as its ideal an urban-centred industrialization path at all costs, the twenty-first century must seek a rural-centred industrialization path to establish a new egalitarian and sustainable rural-urban equilibrium (Moyo, Jha & Yeros, 2013), where every country and region must seek its own equilibrium on the basis of its own realities.
This brings us to the basic issue of reconciling politics and planning to the realities of given social formations. It is worth recalling the words of Amilcar Cabral (1966) on the occasion of the Tricontinental Conference, when he posed the problem of ‘ideological deficiency’ in the national liberation movements and called for strengthening the ‘foundations and objectives of national liberation in relation to the social structure’ (emphasis in original). He continued thus: ‘[t]o those who see in it a theoretical character, we would recall that every practice produces a theory, and that if it is true that a revolution can fail even though it be based on perfectly conceived theories, nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory’. We may take two points of guidance from this. First, national liberation struggles are an intrinsic part of world revolution and must be engaged accordingly, in the interest of overcoming ideological deficiencies and internal contradictions. The struggle against imperialism remains the foundational aspect of struggle in this late phase of neocolonialism, and this cannot be undermined as we look ahead. Second, the precise nature of peripheral social formations and their particularities must be interrogated with theory that is consistent with the struggles for national and regional liberation. This means recognizing particular patterns of accumulation and social organization, while also identifying the precise nature of the vanguard class and the contradictions to which it is subject.
It is heartening to know that an epistemic shift of this sort has been ongoing in our very own Agrarian South Network and that this challenge has been taken most seriously. May this be a contribution to a New Bandung in the current crisis.
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 Professor at the Federal University of ABC, São Paulo, Brazil, and member of the editorial board of Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy. Some of the ideas herein were first presented at the Conference on ‘One Belt, One Road Initiative and New Modes of Globalization’, 10–11 December 2016, Guangzhou, China.