Paris Yeros & Praveen Jha
Tradução por Kenia Cardoso
Resumo: Este artigo celebra a obra de Samir Amin por avançar a análise sobre a longa crise do capitalismo monopolista. A análise apresentada confronta teorias reducionistas e a-históricas da crise para compreender a natureza do presente como crise sistêmica terminal, crise essa que tem evoluído durante a longa transição da última fase do período colonial, em meados do século XX, para a era do domínio neocolonial. Kwame Nkrumah já havia anunciado a natureza destrutiva dessa transição para o Norte e para o Sul, e, de modo astuto, visualizara nesse processo “o último estágio do imperialismo”. O neocolonialismo tardio representa o impasse dessa transição. Seus elementos incluem, por um lado, o colapso do movimento de Bandung e do sistema soviético e, por outro, a crise permanente do capitalismo monopolista. A ofensiva neoliberal sobre os povos do Sul, em particular, não trouxe solução para a crise de lucratividade. A concentração de capital atualmente persiste juntamente à escalada da acumulação primitiva e da guerra, enquanto a soberania nacional continua a se desgastar nas periferias, onde uma série de países sucumbe a uma nova situação semicolonial e outros caem na armadilha do fascismo. A crise do capitalismo monopolista só será superada quando solidariedade genuína se arraigar entre Norte e Sul e a transição socialista se consolidar – assim como defendeu Amin tão enfaticamente.
Agradecimentos: Originalmente publicado com o título ‘Late Neocolonialism: Monopoly Capitalism in Permanent Crisis’, na revista Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2020, no dossiê “Homenagem a Samir Amin: O Retorno do Fascismo e o Desafio da Desconexão [Tribute do Samir Amin: The Return of Fascism and the Challenge of Delinking]. Uma versão prévia foi apresentada por Paris Yeros na Palestra Memorial de R.N. Godbole na Universidade Jawharlal Nehru, Nova Delhi, em 26 de fevereiro de 2020. Agradecemos aos participantes por suas contribuições.
Sobre os autores: Paris Yeros é professor adjunto e membro do corpo docente do Bacharelado em Ciências Econômicas e dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Economia Política Mundial e de Ciências Humanas e Sociais da Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC), em São Bernardo do Campo. Praveen Jha é professor de economia no Centro para Estudos Econômicos e Planejamento e no Centro para o Setor Informal e Estudos Laboriais da Universidade Jawaharlal Nehru, em Nova Déli, Índia.
Samir Amin foi um gigante de nossos tempos, um estudioso de raro intelecto e coragem que deixou uma marca indelével nas ciências sociais. Tem em seu nome nada menos do que a revisão de aspectos-chave do materialismo histórico e a contribuição de toda uma vida à construção de solidariedades Pan-africanistas, Sul-Sul e globais. Amin incorporou a essência da emergência intelectual do Sul na maré dos movimentos de libertação que atravessaram o Terceiro Mundo para pôr fim a quinhentos anos de dominação colonial europeia. Ele proveu contribuições singulares ao novo projeto civilizacional forjado em Bandung, na Conferência Afro-Asiática de 1955, fazendo sua missão o avanço e a renovação da crítica marxista da economia política para iluminar o significado histórico do presente. Amin tornou-se fonte de inspiração a gerações de estudantes e ativistas, por meio das quais ele segue vivo. Sua contribuição continuará a iluminar nossa batalha porvir.
No que segue, fundamentamo-nos nos escritos finais de Amin sobre democracia e fascismo (AMIN, 2011, 2014) e em outros dedicados à economia mundial para avançar a nossa análise sobre a longa crise do capitalismo monopolista. A transição histórica que levou o colonialismo a o fim é o palco em que esse duradouro ato se desenvolve. A transição abriu caminho para um novo regime de soberania, cheio de promessas para os povos do Sul. Não obstante, as limitações e contradições dessa transição estiveram explícitas desde o início. Kwame Nkrumah (1965), como é sabido, denunciou esse estágio como uma situação neocolonial, ainda mais perigosa para o Norte e para o Sul, prevendo seu curso como “o último estágio do imperialismo”. Hoje, as soberanias nacionais continuam a se degradar sob uma prolongada ordem neoliberal, sob a escalada da violência imperialista e a ascensão do fascismo. Podemos falar de uma fase tardia do neocolonialismo, e afirmar, com Nkrumah, que dela o capitalismo monopolista não sairá para ter outra vida; ele permanecerá em constante crise até que uma transição socialista tome lugar. O capitalismo, como Amin (2003) observou, é um sistema obsoleto.
A crise permanente do capitalismo monopolista
Se tomarmos ipsis litteris a lei de Marx sobre a queda tendencial da taxa de lucro,poderíamos facilmente chegar à conclusão de que a presente crise do capitalismo é essencialmente semelhante a qualquer outra. De fato, grande parte da literatura cai nessa armadilha, focando apenas na trajetória da taxa de lucro e atribuindo seu declínio durante tantas décadas essencialmente à crescente composição orgânica do capital (SHAIKH, 2010; CARCHEDI & ROBERTS, 2013; KALOGERAKOS, 2013; ROBERTS, 2016). A essa linha de argumentação agrega-se uma crítica à “hipótese da financeirização” (MAVROUDEAS, 2018), vista como uma mistificação das contradições reais do capitalismo situadas na esfera produtiva.
O que as estimativas dos autores acima nos dizem sobre a taxa de lucro? De forma geral, tem havido um declínio de longo prazo na taxa de lucro nos setores produtivos do principal país capitalista. Esse declínio se iniciou efetivamente em 1965 e persistiu durante toda a década de 1970. Ocorreu, então, uma recuperação parcial de 1982 a 1997, a aproximadamente 2/3 do nível de 1965. Essa foi seguida de outra queda após 1997, e novamente outra recuperação em 2000, de volta aos níveis de 1997. Porém, esta foi seguida por uma queda acentuada ao longo da crise que estourou em 2008, a qual reduziu a taxa de lucro para aproximadamente 1/3 do nível de 1965. Dalí então, nova fraca recuperação sucedeu. Essa trajetória, de fato, revela uma longa crise – e nesse ponto concordamos. Tem sido uma longa crise sistêmica marcada por quebras, recessões, até mesmo depressões em alguns países, particularmente nas periferias e semiperiferias, inclusive dentro da Europa. De fato, não é mais estranho encontrar condições comparáveis àquelas encontradas entre os países avançados depois de 1929, com perdas dramáticas de mais de 30% no PIB e níveis de desemprego ultrapassando os 20%.
No entanto, essa não é uma crise essencialmente igual a qualquer outra, tampouco sua contradição principal é reduzível àquela entre capital e trabalho. Alguma perspectiva histórica e analítica sobre a longa transição permanece necessária, para uma explicação mais robusta sobre o que está em jogo. Estamos testemunhando não apenas uma repetição da crise capitalista, mas o dramático desfecho de um sistema social de quinhentos anos. Não podemos concordar com a afirmação de Roberts (2016:6) de que “não há queda permanente no capitalismo que não possa eventualmente ser superada pelo próprio capital”. Isso apenas pode se tornar mais claro se iluminarmos os mecanismos de crise sistêmica e construir em cima da formulação original da lei de Marx. Pois o foco exclusivo nas mudanças tecnológicas e a atribuição das crises de forma isolada à composição orgânica do capital obscurece a operação do imperialismo e seus modos de domínio, e acaba reduzindo o próprio imperialismo a um mero anexo – se é levado em consideração de alguma maneira. Mesmo na época de Karl Marx, a conexão entre tecnologia e lucros estava empoleirada numa relação colonial de acumulação primitiva; essa dinâmica foi observada, descrita e denunciada, mas nunca propriamente teorizada por Marx (WILLIAMS, 2012; RODNEY, 1975; AMIN, 1973; PATNAIK & PATNAIK, 2016; U. PATNAIK, 2020). Seríamos negligentes se persistíssemos nessa falha.
O contexto de Marx precedeu transformações significativas, incluindo a emergência do capitalismo monopolista e da classe trabalhadora organizada, e a ascensão e queda de uma nova partilha imperialista das periferias. Pode-se desejar concluir que, nessas condições anteriores de “livre concorrência”, havia uma relação mais imediata entre tecnologia e lucros, mas, ainda assim, o argumento continuaria fora de foco, dado o escoamento de riquezas que o colonialismo promoveu (PATNAIK & PATNAIK, 2016). Além do mais, o surgimento dos monopólios tem reposicionado a dinâmica da tecnologia, ao deslocar o foco principal da concorrência desde os preços de venda para os custos de produção. Nesse deslocamento, a própria tecnologia ganhou um novo papel na acumulação (BARAN & SWEEZY, 1996), assim como a produção e o consumo nas periferias, que continuaram a evoluir sob o peso dos monopólios (PATNAIK & PATNAIK, 2016). O colonialismo e o capitalismo monopolista continuam sendo, como diz o provérbio, “os elefantes no meio da sala”, cujo reconhecimento é essencial para entender a crise permanente do sistema capitalista e a natureza de suas contradições.
A crise maturou-se nas condições inéditas de rivalidade sistêmica depois da Segunda Guerra Mundial, quando o capitalismo monopolista confrontou tanto o planejamento soviético, quanto o Terceiro Mundo emergente (MOYO & YEROS, 2011). A base colonial dos lucros monopolistas estava colapsando, enquanto o bloco soviético se enraizava (AMIN, 2003). Do mesmo modo, a competição monopolista estava se intensificando entre a Tríade (Estados Unidos, Europa e Japão), assim como o trabalho organizado estava entrando em um novo período de agitação (para alguns dos contornos dessas contradições, veja BRENNER, 1998, 2003; ARRIGHI, 1996, 2008). As placas tectônicas estavam se movendo. Para tornar as coisas piores à competição monopolista, havia controles sobre os movimentos do capital e os mercados financeiros. Se, sob níveis existentes de produtividade e lucro, era impossível absorver a produção doméstica e ao mesmo tempo reduzir o Estado de Bem-Estar Social, também era impossível escalar a acumulação primitiva no exterior ou jogar o excedente sobre populações camponesas. De fato, boa parte do Terceiro Mundo estava exercendo controle sobre seus recursos naturais e agrícolas neste momento, em busca de maiores níveis de produção e reprodução via políticas de substituição de importações. Quer se queira ver essa conjuntura como uma nova crise de superprodução ou uma tendência histórica de subconsumo, do ponto de vista do capital foi uma crise de rentabilidade sem histórico equivalente em suas contradições.
De fato, a primeira resposta não foi embarcar numa destruição massiva de valores de ativos ou, sequer, expandir massivamente o crédito para estimular o consumo, mas, sim, uma escalada da agressão imperialista contra o Terceiro Mundo. Os gastos de guerra aumentaram para conter as periferias emergentes, o Vietnam em particular. A consequência natural foi um excesso de dólares na economia mundial e uma espiral inflacionária que desestabilizou o sistema monetário por inteiro. Conforme os monopólios continuaram a pressionar por aberturas de mercado, golpes foram aplicados pelo Presidente De Gaulle, que demandou ouro pelas aplicações da França em dólar, e pelos exportadores de petróleo do Terceiro Mundo que elevaram os preços do dia para a noite. Juntos, eles foram exitosos em desestabilizar os acordos vigentes do sistema monetário-financeiro. As medidas adotadas daí em diante para recuperar os lucros, com algum sucesso entre 1982–1997, também revelam muito mais sobre os mecanismos do capitalismo monopolista do que as suposições da “livre concorrência” invocadas. Em resposta à estagflação dos anos 1970, um esforço hercúleo foi realizado em todas as frentes, num épico exercício encapsulado no termo “globalização neoliberal”. É válido retomarmos brevemente seus elementos-chave.
Primeiro, os acordos de Bretton Woods sobre controle de capital e relações monetárias foram desmantelados, com a exceção de que o dólar americano manteve sua posição como moeda referencial em uma nova relação com o ouro. O desmantelamento dos acordos sempre foi uma exigência dos monopólios em sua busca por maior espaço de manobra, assim como o Estado norte-americano, conforme a situação evoluiu. O fim de Bretton Woods, portanto, serviu a três objetivos imediatos. Ele libertou as corporações americanas para a expansão externa ao estimular suas fontes e volumes de financiamento nos mercados de capitais nascentes. Do mesmo modo, emancipou o dólar americano de suas obrigações anteriores com outras moedas, transformando-o em mero título de dívida dos EUA, impossível de resgatar, mas ainda extraordinário em sua capacidade de impor disciplina sobre as demais moedas e absorver as poupanças do mundo. Com o devido respeito a Patnaik e Pantaik (2016: 130–137), podemos, sim, falar de uma retomada do escoamento colonial de riquezas, ora em termos neocoloniais, se considerarmos os volumes em que as reservas mundiais e o excedente de capital e dívidas são canalizados pelos títulos do Tesouro norte-americano ou pelas instituições de Wall Street para cobrir os déficits comercial e orçamentário dos EUA. Portanto, o fim de Bretton Woods também posicionou Wall Street para a reciclagem dos fluxos globais de capital para muito além de qualquer outro centro financeiro e consolidou a capacidade do principal país capitalista de financiar suas dívidas e seus monopólios com praticamente nenhuma restrição.
Segundo, as exportações de capital pelos monopólios avançaram entre as economias avançadas, e – mais dramaticamente, dados os precedentes históricos – nas periferias, onde, hoje, toma lugar a maior parte do trabalho industrial, especialmente em dois países, China e Índia. Terceiro, rápidos saltos tecnológicos foram realizados via as chamadas terceira e quarta revoluções industriais, que turbinaram de forma generalizada a composição orgânica do capital, por exemplo via robótica e inteligência artificial, enquanto criaram também capacidades de logística e comunicação para estender e aprofundar os sistemas globais de valor na indústria e na agricultura (JHA & YEROS, 2019). Quarto, esse processo foi acompanhado pela aceleração das fusões e aquisições em todos os setores – indústria, agricultura, mineração, bancos, seguros, comunicações e outros serviços – com os monopólios ganhando terreno a montante e a jusante da produção para estabelecer o que Samir Amin chamou “monopólios generalizados” (AMIN, 2019).
Quinto, a financeirização dos lucros consolidou-se de forma jamais vista. As companhias industriais tornaram-se dependentes dos lucros financeiros, mesmo contra os lucros industriais, e as dívidas escalaram entre as corporações, governos e famílias, com os Estados Unidos na dianteira e o apoio ativo das autoridades monetárias. Essa política atingiu o nível hoje de obter taxas de juros negativas ao longo da Zona do Euro, Japão e Estados Unidos (em termos reais) – sem consequência para o crescimento. Podemos, de fato, falar do estabelecimento de uma duradoura lógica de financeirização sistêmica, ou do capital monopolista-financeiro (FOSTER, 2010), cujo grande feito foi a perpetuação de um “efeito de riqueza” pela inflação sistêmica dos preços dos ativos, contra os lucros decrescentes na produção. Isso colocou o capitalismo monopolista no suporte à vida e explica sua persistência, senão também a magnitude de seu colapso premeditado.
A financeirização também explica o sexto, e ainda mais crucial, elemento de preocupação: a escalada da acumulação primitiva, de forma mais devastadora nas periferias. Aqui, afinal, é onde o valor das moedas globais centrais está ancorado e que, constantemente ameaça a exprimir lucros, perfurar bolhas e pôr fim ao efeito de riqueza (PATNAIK AND PATNAIK, 2016). A acumulação primitiva adquire diversos formatos: da mais visível apropriação de terras, água, energia e florestas (MOYO, JHA & YEROS, 2019); à privatização dos bens comuns, serviços públicos e material genético; ao aprofundamento da superexploração pelo deslocamento dos custos da reprodução social para as próprias reservas de mão-de-obra em expansão, para as mulheres em particular e as camadas sociais mais oprimidas (MOYO & YEROS, 2005; TSIKATA, 2016; PRASAD, 2016; NAIDU & OSSOME, 2016; JHA, MOYO & YEROS, 2017). Esse é um sistema que depende cada vez mais de trocas desiguais – de trabalho não-equivalente – especialmente do trabalho não-pago da reprodução social. Esse é um subsídio massivo aos lucros monopolistas: se a composição orgânica do capital está crescendo e as taxas de lucro estão encolhendo, a apropriação do trabalho por outros meios também precisa crescer para prevenir os lucros de despencarem ainda mais.
Se investigarmos mais de perto a estrutura das formações sociais periféricas hoje, veremos tendências à proletarização em vigor, mas também o crescimento do trabalho autônomo nos setores informais, concomitante a uma corrida pela reprodução social, que apenas pode funcionar com a intensificação das contradições de gênero, raça, casta e outras conforme as particularidades de cada região do mundo. Encontraremos uma força de trabalho com uma relação instável, periódica e episódica com o trabalho assalariado, em constante fluxo sem chance de obter estabilidade assalariada, ou mesmo de romper definitivamente com a agricultura (ver, especialmente, JHA, MOYO & YEROS, 2017). Isso é o que buscamos conceituar como uma ‘formação social semiproletarizada’ (MOYO & YEROS, 2005; EDITORAL, 2012; MOYO, JHA & YEROS, 2013), baseando-se em análises clássicas sobre a transição para o capitalismo (LENIN, 1982 ; MAO, 2011a ; FANON, 1968 ).
O sétimo e último elemento que precisa ser destacado nesse exercício épico de recuperar lucros monopolistas é a escalada dos gastos de guerra e de sua execução, mesmo depois do fim da Guerra Fria. Esse é, em si, um exercício contraditório: cria enormes pilhas de estoque de equipamento sem objetivo produtivo, ao mesmo tempo em que propulsiona inovações tecnológicas e reforça segurança geoestratégica para os monopólios em todos os cantos do planeta. Os Estados Unidos gastam muito mais em “defesa” do que todos as outras potências militares juntas. Em 2018, o orçamento de defesa dos Estados Unidos atingiu USD 645 bilhões, contra a soma total de USD 575 bilhões da China, Arábia Saudita, Rússia, Índia, Reino Unido, França, Japão e Alemanha (IISS, 2019).
Não é preciso dizer, que a ofensiva neoliberal do último meio século não resolveu a longa crise sistêmica. O capitalismo monopolista subsiste no suporte à vida por uma combinação de produção de alta tecnologia e acumulação primitiva, facilitada pela financeirização e pela guerra. A natureza das contradições fica mais clara por examinar de perto a evolução dos modos de dominação política, ou modos de governo, sob o capitalismo monopolista.
Neocolonialismo: inicial e tardio
É importante reconhecer desde já que, mesmo nos centros do sistema, democracia liberal com sufrágio universal não tem uma história longa. Esse modo de governo passou gradualmente a existir depois da Primeira Guerra Mundial com a expansão do sufrágio feminino, e alcançou seu ápice depois da Segunda Guerra Mundial com a consolidação do Estado de Bem-Estar Social no Norte em geral, e com o fim do Jim Crow nos Estados Unidos. A democracia liberal encontra-se agora em crise profunda, enquanto o fascismo cava seu retorno às burocracias estatais e aos parlamentos. Se a democracia liberal marcou uma vitória histórica para a classe trabalhadora, foi limitada em sua capacidade de servir ao capitalismo monopolista. De fato, sua contradição com o fascismo é não-antagônica, dado que o capital monopolista tem um compromisso apenas superficial com a democracia liberal. Sob a democracia liberal, o capital monopolista opõe-se, sim, ao fascismo, mas tipicamente por via da teoria dos “dois extremos”, pela qual ele defende a democracia liberal como a solução não apenas ao fascismo mas também à esquerda radical. No entanto, é apenas a esquerda radical que representa desafio ao capitalismo monopolista. Explica-se, portanto, a tolerância que o capital monopolista e suas classes de apoio tendem a mostrar em relação ao fascismo na hora do ‘vamos ver’, e sua consequente virada a posições da extrema-direita, especialmente em relação a imigração e guerra, enquanto competem com o fascismo por votos.
No entanto, a democracia liberal dificilmente é o principal modo de governo sob o capitalismo monopolista. Ele se apoiou, para sua sobrevivência não na democracia liberal, mas em modos coloniais de governo, incluindo colônias de exploração, colônias de assentamento, e semicolônias – os três modos básicos de dominação colonial. Até os anos 1960, as democracias liberais centrais – em seu ápice histórico – tinham uma relação muito direta com o colonialismo. Lembre-se que o Tratado do Atlântico Norte (OTAN, 1949) e o projeto integração europeu (os Tratados de Paris e de Roma, respectivamente de 1952 e 1957), que sustentaram a reconstrução econômica e a democracia liberal em sua fase social-democrata, foram implementados sob a base do regime colonial ainda vigente. As condições para uma transição geral para o neocolonialismo maturaram, não obstante, de tal forma que era possível – até preferível, sob pressão – recuar do controle direto das periferias e se utilizar dos mecanismos econômicos dos monopólios para preservar o acesso à agricultura tropical, aos recursos naturais e à mão-de-obra barata. É desse modo, que o neoconialismo evoluiu como um subsistema político para as social-democracias centrais (NKRUMAH, 1965).
Estamos na posição hoje de fazer uma distinção entre neocolonialismo inicial e tardio para esclarecer a longa duração desse último estágio do imperialismo. No neocolonialismo inicial, a independência era ainda uma concessão extraída do capitalismo monopolista pelos movimentos anticoloniais que travaram luta política e armada durante muitas décadas. Conforme essas lutas persistiram e entraram em uma fase de radicalização durante a Guerra Fria, um reposicionamento estratégico pelo capitalismo monopolista se tornou ainda mais necessário. A sobrevivência do Estado de Bem-Estar Social requeria um contínuo escoamento de excedentes para compensar a classe trabalhadora, enquanto a retirada do controle colonial direto libertaria as metrópoles da responsabilidade pelas consequências desse escoamento. Nessa mudança de estratégia, a social-democracia, com poucas exceções, deu suporte sistemático para forças reacionárias, colonos e ditadores contra os nacionalismos radicais nas periferias, ou, mesmo, qualquer nacionalismo que não curvasse a cabeça. Com efeito, os sindicalismos europeu e norte-americano jogaram o “bom policial, mal policial” contra as aspirações de libertação dos povos do Terceiro Mundo (YEROS, 2001).
No entanto, no neocolonialismo inicial, muitos estados periféricos – além dos estados revolucionários de China, Vietnam e Cuba – foram suficientemente radicalizados para manter autonomia substancial e sustentar postura anti-imperialista no espírito de Bandung, sem sucumbir imediatamente aos ditames do domínio neocolonial. E, de fato, o nacionalismo nas periferias libertas geralmente ainda mostrava comprometimento com o desenvolvimento econômico e social, ainda que permanecesse deficitário em seu conteúdo democrático, e mesmo quando debandava para o campo Ocidental. Sua legitimidade decorreu de promessas feitas e parcialmente entregues às enormes populações camponesas, e do restabelecimento da dignidade nacional e civilizacional. Fosse radical ou moderado, o momento nacionalista foi sustentado por tempo considerável em alguns países, especialmente aqueles que haviam conquistado independência mais cedo. Mas a situação virou novamente nos anos 1970, conforme a estagnação econômica e a crise da dívida os atingiu.
Havia também um número significativo de estados periféricos juridicamente independentes que não fizeram a transição para o neocolonialismo nesse momento, não participaram em Bandung ou partilharam de seus ideais, mesmo que tenham demonstrado interesse no desenvolvimento das forças produtivas internamente. Esses foram os estados de assentamento branco da África do Sul e da América Latina, que permaneceram no modo de assentamento colonial de dominação política (também conhecido como “colonialismo interno”) muito tempo depois de obter independência jurídica das metrópoles britânica ou ibérica. Em geral, a transição neocolonial nessas regiões perdurou por décadas depois da Segunda Guerra Mundial, até a derrota dos governos minoritários e regimes militares. Em quase todos os casos, o sufrágio universal sem qualquer qualificação avançou apenas depois da Segunda Guerra Mundial, mas, de novo, a maioria das transições foi abortada pelo recrudescimento do supremacismo branco e por uma série de golpes de Estado. Na maioria dos casos, a transição para o neocolonialismo foi apenas possível sob o neoliberalismo, nessa fase tardia do neocolonialismo, com a África do Sul e o Brasil, em particular, estremecendo o estrangulamento do colonialismo interno simultaneamente (YEROS et al.., 2019).
É de grande significância, ademais, que o fim definitivo aos cinco séculos de dominação colonial europeia tenha transformado as periferias da economia mundial não apenas em estados independentes, mas também em zonas de conflito – como Nkrumah havia previsto – tanto durante a Guerra Fria quanto depois dela. Propriamente falando, a transição ocorreu durante a Terceira Guerra Mundial, nos dois sentidos possíveis do termo: uma terceira Guerra Mundial imperialista e uma guerra contra o Terceiro Mundo. Com frequência, tais guerras são de “baixa intensidade” por sua natureza limitada em termos de abrangência geográfica e das armas convencionais usadas. De todo modo, o resultado foi uma escalada da agressão imperialista, especialmente depois da Guerra Fria, gerando uma série de estados fraturados e ocupados, uma realidade que se instalou em regiões inteiras. Sob essas condições, podemos evidentemente discernir o retorno da forma semicolonial de dominação política (para a qual iremos retornar).
Finalmente, precisa-se ainda enfatizar que naquela rivalidade sistêmica global entre Leste, Oeste e Sul, o movimento de Bandung era a força mais fundamental contra o colonialismo e o imperialismo. Nascido como um movimento de paz e justiça mundial nas ex-colônias da Ásia e da África, a despeito das inevitáveis mudanças em relação à luta armada nos anos 1960, o espírito de Bandung, e o Movimento dos Não-Alinhados que o incorporou, permaneceu como a força civilizatória mais básica no mundo da época. Nkrumah foi coerente de novo em prever que o aprofundamento da dominação neocolonial contra os Estados não-alinhados teria consequências severas para todos, Norte e Sul.
O neocolonialismo tardio é resultado desse impasse. Seus elementos incluem o regime de soberania nacional já estabelecido, mas também o ocaso de Bandung e do sistema soviético e a permanente crise do capitalismo monopolista. O neocolonialismo tardio nas periferias também corresponde politicamente à fase neoliberal da democracia liberal no centro. Sob o neocolonialismo tardio, o capitalismo monopolista-financeiro escalou o escoamento de riquezas das periferias, mas com compensação decrescente para as classes trabalhadoras no centro. Além disso, ele continuou a escalar suas intervenções e a manipular situações de conflito nas periferias, a inventar novamente inimigos estratégicos para justificar a guerra permanente, agora apresentados nos termos apocalípticos do “terror” e do “mal”. O neocolonialismo tardio tem sido marcado pela degeneração do nacionalismo nas periferias na esteira da ‘compradorização’, ou subordinação, da burguesia periférica. A última tem essencialmente se “separado” da nação, como Prabhat Patnaik (1995: 2051) colocou. Esse período tem sido acompanhado do êxodo rural acelerado, da expansão dramática do trabalho informal e vulnerável, da intensificação da crise da reprodução social e da semiproletarização generalizada. É esse quadro que agora constitui a base social periférica de um desgastado regime de soberania nacional.
Semicolonialismo e fascismo
O retorno do fascismo tem ganhado bastante atenção hoje, mas a situação semicolonial, como tal, não. A situação semicolonial é geralmente chamada de muitos outros nomes, sem ter sido entendida como um fenômeno que pertence a essa fase tardia do neocolonialismo. Num estudo publicado há uma década (MOYO & YEROS, 2011), diversas trajetórias de Estados periféricos foram identificadas sob o neoliberalismo, duas das quais estavam, em retrospectiva, situações semicoloniais, embora não tenhamos avançado em adotar tal conceito. Lembre-se que Lenin e seus contemporâneos haviam usado o termo, mas não o haviam desenvolvido (LENIN, 2003 : cap. 6). Ele estava para ser compreendido como uma “forma transicional”, tendendo à completa dominação colonial, ou um caso de intensa dependência financeira. O conceito recebeu a explanação mais sistemática subsequentemente pelo Partido Comunista Chinês, nos escritos de Mao Tse-tung (2011a, 2011b, 2011c), onde os padrões subjacentes de acumulação e formação de classe obtiveram significância maior e ficaram associadas ao modo de governo. Entre vários elementos identificados (ver, especialmente, MAO, 2011b), dois são mais pertinentes aqui:
- o semicolonialismo é baseado num padrão de acumulação específico que se ampara na força extraeconômica e em trocas não contabilizadas pelos mecanismos de mercado, que, no caso chinês, foram entendidas como semifeudais, não propriamente capitalistas, mesmo que o capitalismo tenha por muito tempo se enraizado na China sob a égide de monopólios e potências estrangeiras;
- além dos vários conhecidos mecanismos econômicos, políticos, militares e culturais empregados pelos monopólios e potências estrangeiras, há sob o semicolonialismo a tomada parcial do território por meio da guerra de agressão, imposição de tratados desiguais, instalação de forças militares, e exercício da jurisdição consular dentro do território.
Em Moyo e Yeros (2011), as quatro trajetórias identificadas incluíam Estados “radicalizados”, que implicaram certa retomada do tipo anti-imperialista de Bandung; Estados “reestabilizados” depois de crise, pelo retorno ao controle dos monopólios; Estados “fraturados” que perderam sua coesão territorial-burocrática para rebeldes armados e senhoras da guerra; e Estados e povos ocupados que sucumbiram à guerra de agressão imperialista. Os dois últimos foram concebidos especialmente como trajetórias permeáveis, dado que o fracionamento estatal facilmente leva à intervenção estrangeira e vice-versa, intervenção estrangeira facilmente leva ao fracionamento estatal. Os dois últimos são, de fato, as situações semicoloniais dos dias modernos, convergentes com as duas características básicas indicadas acima. Eles são sujeitos à mais intensa acumulação primitiva, embora não nas condições feudais do passado. E eles estão sujeitos à intervenção militar, posicionamento de forças, arrogação de privilégios consulares e imposição de tratados desiguais. Atualmente, a Ásia do Oeste, o Norte da África, o Sahel, o Chifre, a África Central e o Caribe são regiões onde muitos países podem devidamente ser compreendidos como tendo sucumbido à situação semicolonial – incluindo Iraque, Afeganistão, Síria, Iêmen, Líbia, Mali, República Centro-Africana, Chade, Níger, República Democrática do Congo, Somália, Haiti – com diversos outros na beira do penhasco. Essa é uma tendência real hoje, e um dos principais resultados do desgaste do regime de soberania nacional nessa fase tardia do neocolonialismo. Isso pode até ser visto como uma “forma transicional”, mas não propriamente um retorno ao colonialismo; o objeto de tal transição, se existe, permanece sendo o retorno ao modo neocolonial de governo.
Enquanto isso, dentro da situação neocolonial, tem havido avanço das forças fascistas, que precisam ser examinadas mais de perto. Geralmente, podemos identificar três elementos básicos constitutivos do fascismo, dois dos quais são claramente ressaltados por Amin em seus últimos escritos sobre o fascismo (2011, 2014) e um terceiro pode ser deduzido de sua análise nesses mesmos e como em outros mais gerais (AMIN, 1999). Primeiro, o fascismo emerge como uma resposta política aos problemas de gestão do capitalismo monopolista. Quando o capitalismo monopolista entra em crise sustentada, o fascismo emerge como uma força contra as instituições e práticas da democracia liberal. Dado que as situações nacionais e o pleito social podem diferir significativamente de um lugar para outro, o fascismo pode ser evitado ou derrotado aqui e alí, e as instituições liberais podem ser resgatadas. No entanto, as forças fascistas, mesmo quando marginais, veem sua melhor oportunidade no curso de crises prolongadas e podem até emergir para oferecer ao capital monopolista sua estratégia mais viável de acumulação.
Segundo, o fascismo consiste na rejeição categórica da democracia. Fascismo propõe providenciar salvação contra uma crise crescente resgatando ou reinventando tradições corrompidas e minadas pela democracia liberal. As tradições, em um nível, pertencem àquelas da família e de gênero; em outro, buscam recurso em diferenças raciais, de casta, religiosas, e outras comunais que possam ser matéria de racialização, em que a exaltação de um grupo implica subjugação e segregação ou extermínio de outro. Como tal, os inimigos da tradição e da “nação suprema” sofrem o risco sempre iminente de serem isolados ou removidos, não apenas cooptados ou assimilados, como no liberalismo. O fascismo é assumidamente supremacista.
Terceiro, o fascismo é uma força no impulso imperialista para a dominação mundial. O fato de o fascismo no centro não estar desbravando territórios como no passado colonial, ou que tenha criado raízes nas periferias, não deve nos iludir. O fascismo europeu clássico, sob o regime de soberania imperialista prevalecente naquele momento, consistiu na rejeição categórica da soberania nacional ao longo das regiões periféricas. Se não parece categórico atualmente, é porque o capitalismo monopolista tem meios excepcionais de conter a soberania nacional e precisa apenas reprimi-la esporadicamente. Essa, afinal é a essência do modo neocolonial de dominação e da situação semicolonial. O fascismo ao centro pode buscar a repartição de esferas de influência por outros meios. Contudo, uma das indagações mais recentes diz respeito ao serviço específico que o fascismo periférico presta ao imperialismo hoje.
O fascismo periférico preenche o vazio deixado pelo nacionalismo de Bandung e está intimamente ligado à escalada da acumulação primitiva sob a ofensiva neoliberal. Ainda assim, é diferente do fascismo do centro em três pontos: primeiro, é limitado à nação ou, no máximo, a disputas regionais, não tendo condições para disputar a dominação mundial. Mas, segundo, ele busca alinhamento por sua própria sobrevivência e expansão com o capital monopolista do centro, tornando-se, portanto, um instrumento na buscada dominação mundial. Isso explica porque permanece tão comprometido com o neoliberalismo em sua política econômica. Terceiro, forças fascistas beneficiam-se de espaços liberais para ganhar chão no novo terreno social e político inaugurado pela semiproletarização generalizada. Nessas novas condições, o nacionalismo de Bandung do passado está sendo ultrapassado pelo fundamentalismo Cristão, Islâmico e Hindu – ao longo da África, Ásia e América Latina – que buscam e recebem todos apoio do capital monopolista.
A ressurgência do fascismo também avança nos centros, no interior da política liberal e no terreno da degradada e insegura classe trabalhadora – a chamada classe-média – que é essencialmente destituída de consciência histórica mundial. Mesmo que não compensada na dimensão em que era no neocolonialismo anterior, ainda há grande dificuldade por parte dessa classe trabalhadora em imaginar ou de se comprometer com uma aliança em pé de igualdade com os povos trabalhadores do Sul. Mas o capitalismo monopolista e suas tendências fascistas não serão derrotados a menos que uma solidariedade genuína de classes trabalhadoras e povos se estabeleça ao longo do Norte e do Sul – com a qual Samir Amin havia se tornado intensamente preocupado nos últimos anos. Essa mesma falta de consciência histórica também invade teorias que reduzem a crise capitalista a determinantes tecnológicos e noções puras de conflito. O conflito entre capital e trabalho não está dado no capitalismo realmente existente, ele permanece um projeto político de reconhecimento e superação das contradições que prolongam a vida desse sistema moribundo. Um bom ponto de início seria o reconhecimento de que a destruição do movimento de Bandung abriu caminho para a consolidação do neocolonialismo e da degradação da visão alternativa para uma ordem mundial mais civilizada. É isso que, também, pavimentou o caminho para ressurgência do fascismo no próprio centro. Como Malcom X certa vez ressaltou – antecipando por dois anos a alerta de Nkrumah – ‘as galinhas estão voltando para o poleiro’.
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Coronavirus, Lockdown and Alternative
After the completion of forty (40) days of lockdown on the morning of May 5, 2020 the emerging COVID-19 situation due to mismanagement by the Modi government is becoming a cause for concern on several counts for everyone. Today is the second day of lockdown 3.0 that is expected to end on May 17, 2020. and has recorded the biggest single-day jump in the number of coronavirus patients and deaths linked to COVID-19. Three thousand nine hundred (3,900) new cases have so far been reported. 195 COVID-19 patients died in the last 24 hours. This 4th highest spike takes the total to 46,433 COVID-19 cases, including 1,568 deaths. The average daily rate of infection, now below 4% can rise fast.The states that are the biggest cause for worry, both as a source of infection and spread include Maharashtra (high infection rate of about 10.78%, way above the national average), Delhi (almost all districts are affected, with an infection rate of 7.78%), Madhya Pradesh ( 6.4%), West Bengal (testing low, infection rate of over 6%), Gujarat (infection rate of 6.6%) and Uttar Pradesh (testing smaller, with an infection rate of 6.6% and increasing numbers over the past week). There is no information on the number of people who may have succumbed to non-COVID-19 medical conditions and a live dashboard for those numbers, which could well be higher.
Lockdown is not the way ahead
Today the Indian Express (Tuesday, May 5, 2020) carried an interview with Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Among the issues expressed was an honest admission for the first time that “the curve has not shown a downward trend”. He also claimed that the lockdown helped in flattening the curve and provided a buffer for the country to upgrade its medical infrastructure, and also added that “the next four to six weeks will be very important because the lockdown cannot be there forever”. Even while admitting that “the ideal dream would be to have zero cases (the criteria for area to be declared as green zone with no local hotspot areas)”, he also added “that is not happening” soon because “the number of cases is increasing every day”. Of course, as he wanted to sound hopeful, he also claimed that “the rise in the curve is not so sharp and can be handled”.
When he talked about the way ahead, the pathway was clear that “the solution is to identify the areas where the maximum number of cases are coming, and focus on containment to bring down the number of cases, and convert the districts to orange and green zones. To mitigate the economic impact of the lockdown, the reclassification strategy should be more granular, with focus on local hotspot areas rather than an entire district labelled as a red zone”, he suggested while adding that the most important data point to watch out for, ahead of May 17, would be the cases reported in the hotspots and reclassification zones. Recalling the lesson from history of India’s experience with the Spanish Flu, he added that most of the 7 million deaths happened in the second wave after the lifting of lockdown. He underlined that while India’s case count and mortality will remain relatively low, and added that “we will have to learn to live with COVID-19 for quite some time. We will have to have strategies which will work with COVID-19 being around”.
Creating spaces for alternate strategy
With this scenario of rising COVID-19 positive cases the shut door to politics is opening now. Yesterday the media and the Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi too picked up the required courage to say that the lockdown cannot be forever and we need to learn to live with coronavirus”. In the latest statement of JSA-AIPSN, the collaborating networks of peoples’ science movements (PSMs) and of peoples’ health movements (PHMs) released more than 28 joint statements in India since March 25th. The challenge is clearly brought out that how India took 10 days to go from 5000 to 15,000 cases but it has taken only 5 to 6 days to go from 25,000 to 35000 cases (JSA-AIPSN, May 3, 2020, see aipsn.net for news, background papers and statements).
The steps recommended in the JSA-AIPSN statement are clear that the central government should “adopt a framework of cooperative governance for determination of criteria for the identification of hotspot areas and of restriction of movements and activities, guidelines for implementation of relief measures and allocation of resources, deliberate, make the guidelines part of a legal framework which would also mandate functional consultative mechanisms that would have to involve public health expertise, healthcare providers and organizations of working people who all would be affected, and mandate watchdog bodies that ensure that the sweeping powers given under the Disaster Management Act are not misused and that the cooperative framework is maintained.
The JSA-AIPSN statement advocates as a part of the strategy to strengthen the disease surveillance mechanism, with appropriate design for collection, flow and analysis of information to inform decision making at national, state and local levels, not make “Zero case reporting” the exit criteria for lockdowns or the basis for zoning and shun the coercive measures and treat the public in a humane manner and to follow complete transparency in policy making and decision making processes. A strategy of safe human distancing, social solidarity and neighborhood preparedness, involving the practice of door to door volunteer support for motivating the people to learn and live a “Safe and Healthy Life” in the times of corona is advocated. Of course, high risk cases will have to be managed by the governments in ramped up healthcare facilities at the sub district / district level. Low / mild risk residents / workers will have to be supported through the publicly funded efforts with the solidarity committees formed with grassroot volunteers taking charge of the containment, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work.
Open, transparent and accountable tools
Screening, monitoring and testing of the residents of these densely populated clusters must be practiced on a regular basis to give courage and confidence to the society as a whole to get on with the normal life. The key to moving forward is, smart and innovative disease monitoring tools and apps provides for the ethical evaluation of the algorithms in use to monitor the movements of targeted publics. The use of digital tools should be governed and supported by appropriate legislation with the privacy considerations taken care of fully before these tools are put into wider use or made mandatory.
Safe sample collection and testing (which should include targeted, opportunistic and rapid testing) would have to be practiced. Humanitarian approach to the quarantine, diagnostic and treatment needs to be rolled out for the management of COVID and co-morbidities. The government needs to promote and champion “voluntary and early disclosure of symptoms with acceptable diagnostic drives and community / neighborhood led quarantine measures in the urban slums and densely populated low-income urban areas. The government must establish integrated neighborhood settlement / contiguous area-based centres for “clinical diagnosis, monitoring and surveillance.
Testing and quarantining (institutional and locally organized) with clear Do’s and Don’ts regarding the principles to be followed by the centres formed at the ward level and not at the district level is the way forward. Dignified and safe facilities need to be provided for the management of low-risk (mild to moderate cases) in community quarantine / primary care facilities. High risk cases will have to be managed at identified secondary health facilities to minimize the number of adverse health outcomes from the densely populated urban areas.
The alternate strategy is an exercise in the adoption of a humanitarian, compassionate and benevolent, non-threatening approach, uncompromisingly safe, transparent and answerable (secure quarantine) support to the quarantined workers, motivation for disclosure through direct cash transfer to the family members of the quarantined workers in order to compensate them for the lost wages of the quarantined (incentivized and wage compensated quarantine). No naming and shaming of the quarantined and their family members would be acceptable.
Name the quarantines as places of community care and provide top class hygiene facilities. Essentials and food would have to be appropriately supplied to the people under quarantine and their family members out of quarantine run by NGOs / CBOs / CSOs. Employment guarantee to those left behind family members who can work to make a living and cash support for non-earning pivotal adult family members consumption is the way ahead.
Opening up of the space for democratic politics
During the lockdown period the political opposition to Modi demonstrated lack of confidence. The politics got suspended. The BJP did open politics. They chose to stigmatize corona virus. Modi has failed the country. Even the government’s experts have started speaking. The number of outbreaks and hotspot areas is growing. The authoritarian leadership is caught in a vicious cycle. The lockdown 3.0 is informed by the approach of there is no alternative (TINA syndrome which was used to implement the policy regime of economic liberalization, privatization and imperialist globalization). The problems with the choice of the pathway of total lockdown are becoming obvious.
The open politics on the part of forces opposed to Modi is getting started. Opening up of the space for democratic narrative on coronavirus containment is essential. The political opposition to Modi will have to change the fearful cognitive mindset inhibiting emergence of systemic thinking enabling a more fruitful and democratic response for the alternate strategy to materialize. Can we seize the moment? How to break the chain of thought which is fueling undemocratic and unsustainable approaches to the governance of pandemic locally in India is the moot point? The political opposition to Modi will have to criticize openly the approach of arbitrarily declaring the whole living or working space as hot spots and waiting for the areas to become COVID free zones. This approach is taking way the civil liberties of the people as a whole.
The authoritarian political narrative is squarely responsible for damaging the livelihoods of the poor. Participation of the neighborhood area / sector / mass and class organizations / social groups-based organizations in the governance with guidelines can help in bringing this virus under the control of people. Poor residents of densely populated areas need to be supported in housing and getting declared as safe green and healthy workers. The virus of social apartheid, stigma and prejudice associated with the threat will have to be contained by opening up the space for democratic politics.
The demand for legislation which will provide for the employers of domestic workers and work spaces employing informal workers to formalize and register contracts and the employers and government jointly taking the responsibility of providing the workers with social protection through the formation of labour welfare boards for all types of occupations and categories of workers. They should be given necessary support to get themselves declared as green workers capable of working in a safe manner in any kind of work place. Working people should be allowed to work with all the precautions and be provided with the appropriately chosen protective gear in the workplaces.
The authoritarian political narrative is misrepresenting the sources of crisis caused by coronavirus. With the poor choosing to come out on the street in several large cities are confused and uncertain. The cost of total lockdown for the economy is borne by the poor. They are now coming out on the streets. They are being sent them back to places where it is difficult to live safely. The democratic leadership required for corona governance needs open political spaces to bring down the fear, reduce uncertainty and organize the people for the demonstration of social solidarity beyond providing food for survival. Peoples’ participation in the proposed collaborative efforts required to be undertaken for the implementation of alternate strategy of containment of coronavirus should be encouraged. The people need to be organized through the peoples’ solidarity committees. Purposeful contestations need to be actively encouraged on the way forward on all the relevant fronts-be containment, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
 The Communist party of India (Marxist) has reached out to other opposition parties to bring them on a common platform to deliberate on the adverse economic fallout of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Union government was getting clueless, and so on (May 5, 2020, The Hindu, Delhi Edition).
 See the Edit Page for the write up by Pranab Dhal Samanta entitled “Lock Down on Viral Politics” by in the Economic Times (p 10), the write up by Jacob Koshy with headline “States with high swine flu rate record most COVID-19cases) that points out how the cases of swine flu are already emerging and the same five COVID-19 states also account for majority of H1N1 infections. As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data, the H1N1 virus killed 981 people in 2009 and 1,763 in 2010. The mortality decreased in 2011 to 75 but claimed 405 lives in 2012 and 699 lives in 2013. In 2014, a total of 218 people died from the H1N1 flu. Event post the outbreak, the Ministry data reveals that due to swine flu, the country recorded 265 deaths in 2016, 2,270 in 2017, 1,128 in 2018, 1,218 in 2019 and 28 in 2020. The WHO has declared COVID 19 to be ten times more dangerous than H1N1.
 The first set of 6600 cases occurred in 70 days. The latest set happened in 4 days (Hindu, May 1, 2020). Arvind Kejriwal, the CM of Delhi also went ahead to state that the city needs to learn to live with COVID-19, and the space for alternate strategies needs to be opened up and we should be more granular, with focus on the strategy of local hotspot areas containment as the way ahead.
Thiago Lima, Atos Dias, Igor Palma, Igor Palma & Lucas Amorim
As in historical times, the catastrophe that unfolds with the outbreak of a pandemic such as the COVID-19 has a great propensity of triggering isolationism, protectionism and unilateralism while at the same time threatening the stability of the International System. It is with this in mind that Director-Generals of the largest United Nations (UN) agencies namely the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) – and the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a joint statement, raising concerns about the international food security situation.
In remarks contained in a joint statement issued on the March 31st, entitled “Mitigating Impacts of COVID-19 on Food Trade and Markets” they caution that the pandemic may exacerbate already existing challenges in the global food supply chain if governments globally begin putting in place export barriers on food crops as an attempt to preserve food supplies and to avert looming domestic food shortages. Resultantly, this would in their view cause distortions in food prices making food access almost impossible for the majority of the people in countries which are generally food importers. Potentially, such protectionist measures will also negatively impact the formation of national food stocks for emergency situations making the purchase of food for humanitarian aid by the World Food Program (WFP) difficult.
Urgency for international cooperation
From an International Relations perspective, we are reunited with an old acquaintance: uncertainty at an anarchic international system. According to the Directors the “uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market” and “it is at times like this that more, not less, international cooperation becomes vital.” Issues like minimizing uncertainties and ensuring that governments keep their economies’ role in the global agri-food value chain operational are quite critical from the Director’s point of view.
As observed during the 2007/2008 food crisis, several states restricted food exports as a strategy to avert national shortages. In practice, this contributed to shortages in other countries, especially the poorest. Unlike that crisis, however, there is currently no production shortage in sight. The greatest risk relates to breaking the logistics chain for the most basic foods and animal feeds including grains such as wheat, corn, soybeans and rice. This will occur, mainly, because of the restrictions placed by different countries on the movement of people and the flow of commercial activities, as well as by the drop in demand resulting from the brutal slowdown in economic activities.
Thus, abroad international cooperation effort is critical by different countries to identify stages of production and logistics chains in the agri-food sector’s to be classified as essential services. This would eventually exempt these from movement restrictions that aim to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. As the leaders of the UN agencies state: “In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortage (…) Now is the time to show solidarity (…)”.Likewise, governments and banks should guarantee resources so that demand does not collapse and logistical bottlenecks can be widened at this critical moment.
The international community’s inaction in the face of the crisis
The appeal for greater cooperation by the leaders of the International Organizations comes up in the face a huge barrier: the United States’ anti-multilateral policy of the Trump administration. Some international cooperation theories argue that liberal arrangements tend to emerge and be kept when the most powerful actors assume disproportionate costs in maintaining the system. Yet, this is a role Washington does not intend to play today.
In the most recent crises such as the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the financial crisis in 2008, the USA assumed a leading role, a position that it is not playing under the current crisis. What has been witnessed in the past few days has been an expression to withdraw from key institutions such as the World Health Organization. Neither has Beijing been able, or willing, to defend the liberal international order at this time. The European Union has also not called this burden on itself. Previously, the EU countries, at most, have normally sent aid to ex-colonies – and such aid has not been received without criticism, or distrust by some analysts. According to Yuval Noah Harari , the international community seems to be collectively inept in the face of the current threat, and, using his own words, “there seem to be no adults in the room”. One of the symptoms of this reality is the absence of emergency meetings among global leaders to build an action plan capable of combating the pandemic efficiently.
In this context, an element cannot be lost sight of. The great powers are, almost all of them, relatively food self-sufficient at the current moment. In addition, they also have financial and logistical resources (merchant marine, for example) to purchase food in open markets or to take it by force using primitive accumulation. Therefore, they have much lower food vulnerability when compared to developing countries, especially the poorest ones, if the international agri-food interdependence is severely shaken.
The vulnerability of developing countries
What about developing countries? Since the 1990s, dependence on food imports has been growing in these countries. This has been fuelled by the neoliberal agenda which has been encouraging these governments to produce for exports thereby discouraging food production for domestic consumption. According to the advice from the World Bank and the IMF food grains should be imported from international markets, at a cheaper price. In addition, there was an incentive for countries to dismantle their national food stockpile systems, both to monetize the sale of products and to save on the cost of maintaining equipment and food. Thus, they would pay part of their debts and avoid future indebtedness. One effect of this was that, in the 2007/2008 crisis, this worsened world hunger. Since then, it seems that there has been no significant change in this model.
In Brazil, for example, the Bolsonaro administration has started dismantling CONAB, the National Food Supply Company, a state-owned entity that manages national food stocks. Furthermore, Brazil became a net importer of beans and returned to the FAO Hunger Map.
Therefore, if International Organizations continue to press for the maintenance of the functioning of the international agri-food chains as a strategy of guaranteeing the global food security in a context of a very serious economic crisis – which seems correct in this immediate conjuncture – it would even be more important for these bodies to come together and defend, in the short and medium term, agrarian reforms, reducing dependence on food imports, creating food stocks to cope with eventual shortages, as well as socioeconomic programs that strengthen the resilience of rural populations. It is worth remembering that, as a rule, the hungriest people in the world are those who live in rural areas. Therefore, if more local people consume food from their vicinal rural areas, the more they will contribute to mitigating hunger in their countries.
It is still too early to talk about the collapse of the international agri-food system. In several parts of the world, however, evidence is beginning to emerge from agricultural producers who throw their production away, or feed animals with fruits, because there are no markets. The question now is whether economic globalization can still represent a card up the sleeve for the heads of state. On the other hand, it would be very useful for a deglobalization project to be mapped and executed with broad international cooperation, aiming to create food sovereignty wherever possible.
About the Authors
Thiago Lima is a professor in the Department of International Relations and faculty member of the Postgraduate Program in Public Management and International Cooperation at the Federal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil.
Atos Dias is a PhD student of Political Science at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil. He graduated with an MA in Public Management and International Cooperation and a BA in International Relations from the Federal University of Paraíba.
Igor Palma is an MA student of Political Science and International Relations at the Federal University of Paraíba and graduated with a BA in International Relations from the same institution.
Lucas Amorim is an MA student of Political Science and International Relations at the Federal University of Paraíba. He graduated with a BA in International Relations from the Federal University of Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
All authors are members of FomeRI – Research Group on Hunger and International Relations at UFPB
Tribute to Samir Amin: The Return of Fascism and the Challenge of Delinking
This special issue is a tribute to Samir Amin, who left us in August 2018. Amin was a dear friend, inspiring teacher, and comrade who was on the frontlines of the most decisive political and ideological battles of our times. Born in Egypt in 1931, he came of age in the aftermath of the Second World War to become a leading light in the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles of the ensuing decades. He was an organic intellectual with a unique capacity to maintain links to liberation and revolutionary movements all across the world, while exercising his powerful acumen to enrich Marx’s thought and even rewrite fundamental aspects of historical materialism. Indeed, there are few scholars in his league, and we are honoured to have received his support in the making of the Agrarian South Network.
Amin was on the International Advisory Board of this journal since its launch in 2012, and contributed several articles over the years. In fact, our Editorial Board, in association with The Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies, had decided in 2018 to invite Amin to proffer the Second Annual Sam Moyo Memorial Lecture in January 2019 in Harare, but alas the invitation could not be sent. Amin did, however, pay homage to our brother Sam previously by contributing an article to the special issue dedicated to Sam’s memory in 2016 (republished in our recent book, Rethinking the Social Sciences with Sam Moyo, Tulika Books, 2020). Samir and Sam had a strong and solidary relationship stretching back to the 1970s, when Sam visited Dakar as a postgraduate student, and they collaborated, together with others on this Board, on the initiatives that Amin spearheaded over the years, including the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA), the Third World Forum (TWF), and the World Forum for Alternatives (WFA).
Amin left us with an autobiography, A Life Looking Forward: Memoirs of an Independent Marxist (Zed Books, 2006), and other retrospectives on his intellectual trajectory, such as his Re-reading the Postwar Period: An Intellectual Itinerary (Monthly Review Press, 1994). A second volume of his memoirs, The Long Revolution of the Global South: Toward a New Anti-imperialist International, was published posthumously by Monthly Review (2019). We will not review here his vast contribution, but only take inspiration from his works to advance the analysis of the present. One of Amin’s greatest insights was that Marx’s expectations on the development of capitalism – as manifest in Marx’s famous remark, ‘de te fabula narratur’, in the first preface to Capital, by which he warned late developers of an impending capitalist trajectory in the image of the leading capitalist country – could not be vindicated, given that capitalism was imperialist in nature and thrived on global polarization. There was no chance of a generalized ‘catching up’ for the Third World. This diagnosis was reinforced by the alternative experience of the Chinese Revolution which led Amin to conclude that ‘delinking’ from the worldwide law of value was the only plausible path to development in the peripheries of the world economy. We bring attention to this insight and exhort our readers to keep it in their sights as we look ahead in these troubled times.
We must also take stock of the long attrition wrought by neoliberalism on the Third World, a policy framework which has persisted for four decades now and which has undermined national sovereignty and stoked fascistic tendencies in many of our societies. The bourgeoning of labour reserves to unprecedented proportions, the scarcity and instability of wages and peasant incomes, and the perpetual crisis of social reproduction have all combined with the decay of the liberation promise to created fertile ground for the spread of backward-looking movements. Religious and communal fundamentalisms have spread all across Africa, Asia and Latin America during this long period. Amin was a most astute critic of Islamic fundamentalism in particular, and his insights apply to extremist movements that prey on followers of Christianity and Hinduism as well. Amin insisted that such fascistic forces in the peripheries are essentially subservient to imperialism and inimical to delinking. We require a fuller grasp of such reactionary dynamics, which explains the main concern in this tribute.
This special issue brings together close associates of the journal who were touched and inspired by Amin, some of whom collaborated with him over many years. Beginning with Issa Shivji, his article discusses the crisis of the liberal democratic form and its manifestation in the rise of the far right and the popular resistance to it. These developments have recently found their concentrated expression in Latin America which has witnessed swaying of the pendulum from dictatorship to radical populism through the episodic detour into liberal democracy and back to endemic popular revolts with historic participation of thousands and millions of working people, indigenous communities, and sections of the middle classes, in particular students. Shivji briefly surveys the Latin American scene because of the important lessons that it has to teach the international left, but also because it opens up a possible trajectory of political developments in Africa.
Prabhat Patnaik argues that although fascist, semi-fascist, proto-fascist, or neo-fascist movements exist in almost every modern society as fringe phenomena, they must be distinguished as movements from the general right-wing parties and movements of different hues. The latter, Patnaik argues, would no doubt appear to shade into the former; nonetheless, the sui generis character of the former must be underscored. The article explores the characteristics specific to these movements and poses the following questions: under what conditions do these fringe movements come to occupy centre-stage? What is the class-basis for their coming to power? How do we explain the rise of these movements in contemporary times? And how can we visualize, in the current conjuncture, the further journey of these movements in situations where they happen to have actually come to power?
Amiya Bagchi provides a brief overview of Samir Amin’s intellectual trajectory to understand his development as a fiercely committed Marxist who throughout his life was dedicated to changing the world. Bagchi notes that all the disappointments and defeats of the cause that Amin espoused only sharpened his determination. The article traces Amin’s experience in economic planning in West Africa and some of the key concepts that he elaborated in the interest of social change, including eurocentrism, the law of worldwide value, and maldevelopment. Bagchi then turns to Amin’s concern with political Islam, which he was saw as an accessory to imperialism.
Ng’wanza Kamata revisits Samir Amin’s influence on the debates among students at the University of Dar es Salaam in the 1980s. This was a generation of students, Kamata argues, that joined the University in its final years of glory as a site for critical thinking and a culture of free-flow of ideas. There were many contradictions during that time on campus, which ranged from demands for increasing funding for higher education to pressures to review the syllabus on various subjects, especially in social sciences, in order to accommodate and create more space for bourgeois ideas. Amin’s innovative ideas regarding modes of production, the capitalist world economy, dependency and delinking inspired students and has left a legacy which needs to be taken forward.
Paris Yeros and Praveen Jha celebrate Amin’s contribution by advancing the analysis of the long crisis of monopoly capitalism. This article takes issue with reductionist and ahistorical theories of crisis to grasp the terminal systemic crisis, which has played out in the long transition from colonialism to neo-colonial rule. The authors note that Kwame Nkrumah had foretold of the destructive nature of this transition, and had astutely seen in it ‘the last stage of imperialism’. Late neo-colonialism represents, they argue, the stalemate of this transition; its elements include, on the one hand, the collapse of the Bandung movement and the Soviet system, and on the other, the permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism. Today the concentration and centralization of capital persists hand-in-hand with the escalation of primitive accumulation and war, while national sovereignty continues to fray in the peripheries, where a series of countries, it is argued, succumb to a new semi-colonial situation while others fall prey to fascism.
This tribute to Amin has one further and more lasting commitment to his legacy, which is the inauguration of the Samir Amin Young Scholars’ Prize in Political Economy of Development. The prize has been instituted by the Editorial Board of Agrarian South in honour of Amin’s exemplary intellectual courage and path-breaking contribution to the study of the capitalist world economy and the challenges faced especially by the peoples of the South. The prize was announced in 2019 and an invitation for previously unpublished articles was circulated. Eligibility for the prize was limited to Masters or Doctoral students, or those who had received a Doctoral degree within the last five years. Nonetheless, the receipt of adequate articles was not forthcoming, which behoved us to change strategy and adopt the common practice of awarding the prize to eligible authors whose articles have already obtained publication in the journal. We thus resolved to consider articles published in Agrarian South over the last two years by authors who fit the eligibility criteria – and to establish this as the definitive selection procedure. From now on, the Prize will be awarded every two years to an author whose article has been published in our journal and is either a postgraduate student or received a Doctoral degree within five years of publication of the article.
For the first Samir Amin Young Scholars’ Prize, the Editorial Board considered six eligible articles. We are pleased to announce that Editorial Board has awarded the Prize to Manish Kumar, a Doctoral student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, for his article entitled ‘India’s Rice Export: What is in it for Farmers’, published in the special issue on Global Agricultural Values Systems: Trends and Alternatives (Vol. 8, Nos. 1–2, 2019). Kumar’s article provides a conceptually refined and empirically rigorous study of the economic impacts of rice exports on farmers and other actors involved in paddy value systems in India. He notes the importance of India’s rice exports, which command the highest share in the country’s total agricultural exports, and paddy cultivation, which involves almost half of India’s agricultural households. Kumar analyses the production trends of basmati and non-basmati rice since trade liberalization and demonstrates the differentiation of each crop among classes of producers, as well as the vulnerability of excessive specialization manifest in the reduction of buffer stocks and exposure to volatile world prices. Kumar demonstrates in detail the mechanisms by which small producers get squeezed in these values systems, providing strong evidence of the perverse effects of exposure of small producers to the influence of world market forces. Our congratulations to Manish Kumar!
In closing, we must also add, on a sad note, that besides the loss of Samir Amin, our journal has lost two more members of the International Advisory Board over the last two years. They include Theotonio dos Santos (1936–2018) and Reginaldo de Moraes (1950–2019), both Brazilian, great thinkers, inspiring teachers, and big-hearted human beings. Theotonio was best known for his contribution to Dependency Theory and his outstanding role in advancing Latin American social sciences. He was Professor Emeritus at Fluminense Federal University in Rio de Janeiro and UNESCO Chair in Global Economy and Sustainable Development. Reginaldo was a versatile thinker, a philosopher by training, who interrogated the inner workings of neoliberalism over many years. He was a devoted teacher who taught generations of students in political science and international relations. He was Professor at the State University of Campinas in São Paulo. Agrarian South intends to honour their contributions in due course.
Late Neo-colonialism: Monopoly Capitalism in Permanent Crisis
Forthcoming in Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2020, Special Issue, ‘Tribute to Samir Amin: The Return of Fascism and the Challenge of Delinking’.
Abstract: This article celebrates the lifelong contribution of Samir Amin by advancing the analysis of the long crisis of monopoly capitalism. It takes issue with reductionist and ahistorical theories of crisis to grasp the nature of the present as a terminal systemic crisis which has played out in the long transition from colonialism to neo-colonial rule. Kwame Nkrumah had foretold of the destructive nature of this transition for both North and South, and had astutely seen in it ‘the last stage of imperialism’. Late neo-colonialism represents the stalemate of this transition. Its elements include, on the one hand, the collapse of the Bandung movement and the Soviet system, and on the other, the permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism. The neoliberal assault on the peoples of the South in particular has not brought resolution to the profitability crisis. The concentration of capital persists today hand-in-hand with the escalation of primitive accumulation and war, while national sovereignty continues to fray in the peripheries, where a series of countries succumb to a new semi-colonial situation while others fall prey to fascism. The crisis of monopoly capitalism will only be overcome when genuine solidarity takes root among North and South and the socialist transition takes hold – as Amin so fervently defended.
Samir Amin was a giant of our age, a scholar of rare intellect and courage who left an indelible mark on the social sciences. He has to his name no less than the rewriting of key aspects of historical materialism and a lifelong contribution to the building of Pan-Africanist, South-South, and global solidarities. Amin epitomized the intellectual emergence of the South on the tide of the liberation movements that rolled across the Third World to bring to an end five hundred years of European colonial domination. He made singular contributions to the new civilizational project forged at Bandung, making it his mission to update and renovate the Marxist critique of political economy so as to illuminate the historical significance of the present. Amin became a source of inspiration to generations of students and activists, through whom he lives on. His contribution will continue to illuminate our struggles ahead.
In what follows, we take our cue from Amin’s final writings on democracy and fascism (Amin, 2011, 2014) and others on the world economy to advance our analysis of the long crisis of monopoly capitalism. The historical transition that brought colonialism to an end is the stage on which this long act has played out. The transition gave way to a new sovereignty regime, full of promise for the peoples of the South. Yet, the limitations and contradiction of this transition were clear from the beginning. Kwame Nkrumah (1965) most famously denounced it as a neo-colonial situation, ever more dangerous for North and South, foretelling its course as ‘the last stage of imperialism’. Today, national sovereignty continues to degenerate under a protracted neoliberal order, the escalation of imperialist aggression, and the rise of fascism. We may speak of a late phase of neocolonialism, and affirm, with Nkrumah, that from this, monopoly capitalism will not rise to see another day; it will remain in permanent crisis until a socialist transition takes hold. Capitalism, as Amin (2003) observed, is an obsolescent system.
The permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism
If we take Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall ipsis litteris, we could easily reach the conclusion that the current crisis of capitalism is essentially like any other. In fact, a spate of literature has fallen into this trap, focusing solely on the trajectory of the rate of profit and attributing its decline over several decades essentially to the growing organic composition of capital (Shaikh, 2010; Carchedi & Roberts, 2013; Kalogerakos, 2013; Roberts, 2016). This line of argument is appended with a critique of the ‘financialization hypothesis’ (Mavroudeas, 2018), seen as a mystification of the real contradictions of capitalism located in the productive sphere.
What do the estimates by the authors above tell us of the rate of profit? Overall, there has been a long-term decline of the rate of profit in the productive sectors of the leading capitalist state. This decline began in earnest in 1965 and persisted all through the 1970s. Then, a partial recovery occurred from 1982 to 1997, at roughly two-thirds the 1965 level. This was followed by another drop after 1997 and then another recovery in 2006, back up to 1997 levels. But this was then followed by a sharp fall in the course of the 2008 crisis, which took the profit rate down to roughly one-third of the 1965 level. Thereafter, another weak recovery ensued. This, indeed, makes for a long crisis – and on this we can agree. It has been a long systemic crisis punctuated by crashes, recessions, and even depressions in some countries, particularly in the peripheries and semi-peripheries, including inside Europe. Indeed, it is no longer odd to encounter conditions comparable to those obtaining among advanced countries after 1929, with dramatic losses in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of up to 30 percent and unemployment levels surpassing 20 percent.
Yet, this is not a crisis essentially like any other, nor is its primary contradiction reducible to that between capital and labour. Some historical and analytical perspective on the long transition remains in order, for a fuller explanation of what is at stake. We are witnessing not just a re-run of capitalist crisis, but the dramatic denouement of a five-hundred-year-old social system. We cannot agree with Roberts (2016: 6) that ‘there is no permanent slump in capitalism that cannot be eventually overcome by capital itself’. This can only become clearer if we illuminate the mechanisms of systemic crisis by building on the original formulation of Marx’s law. For the exclusive focus on technological change and the construal of crisis exclusively to the organic composition of capital obscures the operation of imperialism and its modes of rule, reducing imperialism to a mere add-on – when considered at all. Even in Marx’s time, the connection between technology and profits was perched on a colonial relationship of primitive accumulation; this was observed, described, and denounced, but never properly theorized (Williams, 1944; Rodney, 1973; Amin, 1976; Patnaik & Patnaik, 2016; U. Patnaik, 2020). We would be remiss if we persisted with this flaw.
Marx’s context predated significant transformations, including the rise of monopoly capitalism and organized labour, and the rise and fall of a new imperialist partition of the peripheries. One may wish to conclude that in those prior conditions of ‘free competition’ there was a more immediate relationship between technology and profits, but this would still fall short of perspective, given the sheer drain of wealth that colonialism entailed (Patnaik & Patnaik, 2016). The rise of monopoly capitalism also recast the technological dynamic, by shifting the main focus of competition from sale prices to production costs. In this shift, technology itself gained a new role in accumulation (Baran & Sweezy, 1966), as did production and consumption in the peripheries which continued to evolve under the weight of the monopolies (Patnaik & Patnaik, 2016). Colonialism and monopoly capitalism remain the proverbial ‘elephants in the room’, recognition of which is essential to understanding the permanent crisis of the capitalist system and the nature of its contradictions.
This crisis matured in the unprecedented conditions of systemic rivalry after the Second World War, when monopoly capitalism confronted both Soviet planning and an emergent Third World (Moyo & Yeros, 2011). The colonial basis of monopoly profits was collapsing, just as the Soviet bloc was digging in (Amin, 2003). Monopoly competition was also intensifying across the Triad (United States, Europe, and Japan), just as organized labour was entering a new period of unrest (for some of the contours of these contradictions, see Brenner, 1998, 2003; Arrighi, 1994, 2007). Tectonic plates were shifting. To make matters worse for monopoly competition, controls were in place on capital movements and financial markets. If at existing levels of productivity and profits it was impossible both to absorb production at home and curtail the welfare state, it was also impossible to escalate primitive accumulation abroad or vent off the surplus among peasant populations. Indeed, much of the Third World was seizing control over its own natural resources and agricultures at this time, in pursuit of higher levels of production and reproduction via import-substitution policies. Whether one wishes to see this conjuncture as a new overproduction crisis or an historic trend of underconsumption, from the point of view of capital it was a profitability crisis with no historical equivalent in its contradictions.
In fact, the first response was neither to embark on a massive destruction of asset values at home or massive credit expansion to stimulate consumption, but to escalate imperialist aggression against the Third World. War spending increased to contain the emerging peripheries, and Vietnam in particular. The unintended consequence was a dollar glut in the world economy and an inflationary spiral which destabilized the whole of the monetary system. As the monopolies continued to push for market opening, blows were dealt by President De Gaulle, who demanded gold for France’s dollar holdings, and Third World oil exporters who hiked prices overnight. Together they succeeded in unhinging the prevailing agreements of the monetary and financial system. The measures taken thereafter to recuperate profits, with some success in 1982–1997, also reveal much more about the mechanisms of monopoly capitalism than the ‘free competition’ assumptions invoked. In response to the stagflation of the 1970s, a Herculean effort was undertaken on all fronts, in an epic exercise encapsulated in the term ‘neoliberal globalization’. It is worth briefly recalling its key elements.
First, the Bretton Woods agreements on capital controls and monetary relations were dismantled, with the exception that the US dollar retained its position as the key currency with a new relationship to gold. The dismantling of the agreements was always a requirement of the monopolies in their search for room to maneuver, as by the US state as the situation evolved. The end of Bretton Woods thus served three immediate objectives. It freed US corporation in their outward expansion by enhancing their sources and volumes of finance in the bourgeoning capital markets. It also freed the US dollar from its prior obligations to other currencies, transforming it into a mere claim on US debt, impossible to redeem yet still extraordinary in its capacity both to impose discipline on other currencies and absorb the world’s savings. Pace Patnaik and Pantaik (2016: 130–137), we actually can speak of a re-run of the colonial drain of wealth on neo-colonial terms, if we consider the extent to which both the world’s reserves, surplus capital, and debts are channeled either through US Treasury bills or Wall Street institutions to cover US trade and budget deficits. Thus, the end of Bretton Woods also positioned Wall Street to recycle global capital flows far above all other financial centres and consolidated the capacity of the leading capitalist state to finance its deficits and it monopolies with hardly any constraints.
Second, capital exports by the monopolies surged amongst advanced economies, but also – and more remarkably given historical precedents – to the peripheries, where today the bulk of industrial labour takes place – especially in two countries, China and India. Third, rapid technological leaps were realized via the so-called third and fourth industrial revolutions, which boosted overall the organic composition of capital, such as via robotics and artificial intelligence, while also creating the logistical and communication capabilities to extend and deepen global values systems across industry and agriculture (Jha & Yeros, 2019). Fourth, this has been accompanied by the acceleration of mergers and acquisitions across all sectors – industry, agriculture, mining, banking, insurance, communications, and other services – with monopolies gaining ground upstream and downstream of production to establish what Samir Amin called ‘generalized monopolies’ (Amin, 2019).
Fifth, the financialization of profits has taken hold in an unprecedented manner. Industrial firms have become dependent on financial profits, even against industrial profits, and debt has ballooned among corporations, governments, and households, with the United States at the forefront and with the active support of monetary authorities. This policy has reached the point today of obtaining negative interest rates across the Eurozone, Japan, and the United States (in real terms) – to no good effect. We can, indeed, speak of the establishment of an enduring, systemic financialization logic, or monopoly-finance capital (Foster, 2010), whose great feat has been the perpetuation of a ‘wealth effect’ by the systematic inflation of asset prices, against falling profits in production. This has placed monopoly capitalism on life-support and explains its perseverance, if not also the magnitude of its foretold collapse.
Financialization also explains the sixth, and even more cricual, element of concern here: the escalation of primitive accumulation, most devastatingly in the peripheries. This is, after all, where the value of the world’s key currencies is anchored and which constantly threatens to squeeze profits, puncture bubbles, and bring the wealth effect to an end (Patnaik and Patnaik, 2016). Primitive accumulation takes a number of forms: from the more visible land, water, energy, and forest grabs (Moyo, Jha & Yeros, 2019); to the privatization of the commons, public services, and genetic material; to the deepening of super-exploration by the offloading of the costs of social reproduction unto the expanding labour reserves themselves, and unto women and the most oppressed social layers in particular (Moyo & Yeros, 2005; Tsikata, 2016; Prasad, 2016; Naidu & Ossome, 2016; Jha, Moyo & Yeros, 2017). This is a system which depends more and more on labour that is exchanged on non-equivalent terms, especially unpaid labour expended on social reproduction. This is a massive subsidy to monopoly profits: if the organic composition of capital is growing and profit rates are shrinking, the appropriation of labour by other means must also grow to keep profits from dropping further.
If we interrogate more closely the structure of peripheral social formations today we will see ongoing tendencies towards proletarianization, but also the growth of ‘own account’ labour in the informal sectors, together with a scramble for social reproduction, which can only proceed by the intensification of gender, race, caste, and communal hierarchies. We will encounter a workforce with an unstable, periodic, and episodic relation to wage labour, in constant flux, with no chance of obtaining waged stability, or making a clean break from agriculture (see, especially, Jha, Moyo & Yeros, 2017). This is what we have sought to conceptualize as a semi-proletarianised social formation (Moyo & Yeros, 2005; Editorial, 2012; Moyo, Jha & Yeros, 2013), drawing on classic insights on transitions to capitalism (Lenin, 1964; Mao, 2004a; Fanon, 1968).
The seventh and final element that needs to be highlighted in this epic exercise to recuperate monopoly profits is the escalation of war-spending and war-making, even after the end of the Cold War. It is, in itself, a contradictory exercise, creating huge stockpiles of equipment with no productive purpose, at the same time as it propels technological innovation and bolsters geo-strategic security for the monopolies in all corners of the earth. The United States spends far more on ‘defence’ than all other major military powers combined. In 2018, the US defence budget reached USD 645 billion, against the sum total of USD 575 billion among China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Germany (IISS, 2019).
Needless to say, the neoliberal assault of the last half-century has not resolved the long systemic crisis. Monopoly capitalism subsists on life-support by a combination of high-tech production and primitive accumulation, facilitated by financialization and war. The nature of the contradictions can be further elaborated by looking at the evolving modes of political domination, or modes of rule, under monopoly capitalism.
Neo-colonialism – early and late
It is important to acknowledge at the outset that, even in the centres of the system, liberal democracy with universal suffrage does not have a long history. This mode of rule entered gradually into force after the First World War with the expansion of women’s suffrage, and reached its apex after the Second World War by the consolidation of the welfare state across the North and the end of Jim Crow in the United States. Liberal democracy is now in deep crisis, as fascism claws its way back to state bureaucracies and parliaments. If liberal democracy marked an historic victory for the working class, it has been limited in its capacity to serve monopoly capitalism. Indeed, its contradiction with fascism is non-antagonistic, given that monopoly capital has only superficial commitment to liberal democracy. Under liberal democracy, monopoly capital does oppose fascism but typically via the theory of the ‘two extremes’, whereby it defends liberal democracy as the solution not only to fascism but also to the radical left. Yet, it is only the radical left that presents a challenge to monopoly capitalism. Hence the tolerance that monopoly capital and its supporting classes tend to show toward fascism when push comes to shove, and hence their typical swing to far-right positions, especially on immigration and war, as they compete with fascism for votes.
However, liberal democracy is hardly the main mode of rule under monopoly capitalism. Monopoly capitalism has relied for its survival not on liberal democracy, but on colonial modes of rule, including colonies of exploitation, colonies of settlement, and semi-colonies – these being the three basic modes of colonial domination. Until the 1960s, liberal democracy at the centre – at its historic apex – had a very direct relationship with colonialism. Recall that the North Atlantic treaty (NATO, in 1949) and the European integration project (the Paris and Rome treaties of 1952 and 1957), which backed up economic reconstruction and liberal democracy in its social democratic phase, were launched on the basis of a colonial regime still in force. The conditions for a general transition to neo-colonialism had matured, nonetheless, such that it was feasible – and even preferable, under pressure – to retreat from direct control of the peripheries and rely on the economic mechanisms of the monopolies to preserve access to tropical agricultures, natural resources, and cheap labour. It is thus that neo-colonialism evolved as a political sub-system to the social democracies at the centre (Nkrumah, 1965).
We are in the position today to make a distinction between early and late neo-colonialism, so as to clarify the extended duration of this last stage of imperialism. In early neo-colonialism, independence was still a concession extracted from monopoly capitalism by the anti-colonial movements that waged political and armed struggle for over several decades. As these struggles persisted and entered a phase of radicalization in the Cold War, a strategic repositioning by monopoly capitalism became ever more necessary. The survival of the welfare state required a continuous drain of surplus to compensate the working class, while the retreat from direct colonial control would free the metropoles of responsibility for the consequences of this drain. In that strategic shift, social democracy, with few notable exceptions, gave systematic support to reactionary forces, settlers, and dictatorships against radical nationalisms in the peripheries, or indeed any nationalism that would not bow its head. In effect, US and Western European trade-unionisms played ‘good-cop, bad-cop’ with the liberation aspirations of the peoples of the Third World (Yeros, 2001).
Yet, in early neo-colonialism, a number of peripheral states – beyond the revolutionary states of China, Vietnam, and Cuba – were sufficiently radicalized to retain substantial autonomy and sustain an anti-imperialist posture in the spirit of Bandung, without succumbing immediately to the dictates of neo-colonial rule. And, in fact, nationalism in the liberated peripheries generally still showed a commitment to social and economic development, even if it remained deficient in democratic content, and even if when it gravitated to the Western camp. Its legitimacy stemmed from promises made and partly delivered to the large peasant populations, and from the restoration of national and civilizational dignity. Whether radical or moderate, the nationalist momentum was sustained for a considerable amount of time in some countries, especially those that had gained independence earlier. But the tables turned again in the 1970s, as world economic stagnation and debt crisis struck.
There was also a significant number of juridically independent peripheral states that did not make the transition to neo-colonialism at this time, did not participate in Bandung or share its ideals, even if they displayed interest in the development of the productive forces internally. These were the white-settler states of Southern Africa and Latin America, which remained in settler-colonial mode of political domination long after obtaining juridical independence from the British or Iberian metropoles. Generally, the neo-colonial transition in these regions dragged on for decades after the Second World War, until the defeat of minority rule and military regimes. In almost all cases, universal suffrage without any qualifications advanced only after the Second World War, but again most transitions were aborted by the hardening of white supremacism and serial coups d’etat. In most cases, the transition to neo-colonialism was only made possible under neoliberalism, in this late phase of neo-colonialism, with South Africa and Brazil in particular shaking off the settler-colonial stranglehold simultaneously (Yeros et al., 2019).
It is of great significance, furthermore, that the definitive end to five centuries of European colonial domination transformed the peripheries of the world economy not just into independent states but also into conflict zones – as Nkrumah had predicted – both in the Cold War and after. Properly speaking, this transition has been an ongoing Third World War, in both of the possible senses of the term: a third imperialist World War and a war against the Third World. Often such wars are ‘low intensity’ by their limited nature in terms of the geographic spread of warfare and the conventional weapons used. Yet, the outcome has been an escalation of imperialist aggression, especially after the Cold War, leading to a series of fractured and occupied states, a reality which has taken hold across whole regions. Under these conditions, we can clearly discern the return of a semi-colonial form of political domination (to which we will return).
Finally, one must still emphasize that in that global systemic rivalry between East, West and South, the Bandung movement was the most basic force against colonialism and imperialism. Born as a world peace and justice movement in the ex-colonies of Asia and Africa, and despite the inevitable shifts towards armed struggle in the 1960s, the Bandung spirit, and the Non-Aligned Movement that incarnated it, remained the most basic civilizing force in the world of the time. Nkrumah was again correct to predict that the deepening of neo-colonial rule against the non-aligned states would have severe consequences for everyone, North and South.
Late neo-colonialism is the result of this historic stalemate. Its elements include the national sovereignty regime already in place, but also the demise of Bandung and the Soviet system and the permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism. Late neo-colonialism in the peripheries also corresponds politically to the neoliberal phase of liberal democracy at the centre. Under late neo-colonialism, monopoly-finance capitalism has escalated the drain from the peripheries, but with declining compensation to the working classes at the centre. Furthermore, it has continued to escalate its interventions and manipulate conflict situations in the peripheries, to invent strategic enemies anew to justify permanent war, now couched in the apocalyptic terms of ‘terror’ and ‘evil’. Late neo-colonialism has been marked by the degeneration of nationalism in the peripheries on the heels of the compradorization of peripheral bourgeoisies. The latter have essentially ‘seceded’ from the nation, as Prabhat Patnaik (1995: 2051) has put it. This period has been accompanied by accelerated rural exodus, the dramatic expansion of informal and vulnerable employment, intensification of the social reproduction crisis, and generalized semi-proletarianization. This now constitutes the peripheral social basis of a fraying national sovereignty regime.
Semi-colonialism and fascism
The return of fascism has been gaining significant attention today, but the semi-colonial situation, as such, has not. The semi-colonial situation is usually called a number of other things, without having been grasped as a phenomenon that pertains to this late phase of neo-colonialism. In a study published a decade ago (Moyo & Yeros, 2011), several trajectories of peripheral states were identified under neoliberalism, two of which were in retrospect clearly semi-colonial situations, although the conceptual stride was not then taken. Recall that Lenin and his contemporaries had used the term, but had not developed it (Lenin, 1963: ch. 6). It was to be understood as a ‘transitional form’ tending toward full colonial takeover, or a case of intense financial dependence. The concept received the most systematic exposition subsequently by the Chinese Communist Party in the writings of Mao (2004a, 2004b, 2004c), where the underlying patterns of accumulation and class formation obtained higher significance and were associated to the mode of rule. Among the various elements identified (see, especially, Mao, 2004b), two are most pertinent here:
- semi-colonialism is based on a specific pattern of accumulation based on extra-economic force and on exchanges not accounted for by the market mechanism, which in the Chinese case was understood as semi-feudal, not properly capitalist, even if capitalism had long taken root in China under the aegis of foreign monopolies and powers;
- beyond the various known economic, political, military, and cultural mechanisms known to be employed by foreign monopolies and powers, under semi-colonialism there is also partial seizure of territory by means of war of aggression, the imposition of unequal treaties, the stationing of military forces, and exercise of consular jurisdiction within the territory.
In Moyo and Yeros (2011), the four trajectories identified included ‘radicalized’ states, which have entailed a certain re-run of the Bandung type of anti-imperialism; ‘re-stabilizing’ states after crisis, by the return to the fold of the monopolies; ‘fractured’ states which lost their territorial-bureaucratic cohesion to armed rebels and warlords; and ‘occupied states and peoples’ which succumbed to imperialist war of aggression. The last two were conceived as especially permeable trajectories, given that state fracture easily leads to foreign intervention and, vice versa, foreign intervention easily leads to state fracture. The last two are, in fact, the modern-day semi-colonial situations convergent with the two basic characteristics indicated above. They are subject to the most intense primitive accumulation, albeit without the feudal conditions of the past; and they are subject to military intervention, stationing of forces, arrogation of consular privileges, and imposition of unequal treaties. Presently, West Asia, North Africa, the Sahel, the Horn, Central Africa, and the Caribbean, are regions where a number of countries can properly be understood as having succumb to the semi-colonial situation – including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Haiti – with several more possibly treading on this situation. This is a real tendency today, and one of the main outcomes of the fraying the national sovereignty regime in this late phase of neo-colonialism. It may still be seen as a ‘transitional form’, but not back to colonialism proper; the object of such transition, if it exists, remains the return to the neo-colonial mode of rule.
Meanwhile, within the neo-colonial situation, there has been an advance of fascistic forces, which also need to be interrogated closely. Generally, we can identify three basic elements constitutive of fascism, two of which are clearly noted by Amin (2011, 2014) and a third might be deduced from his analysis. First, fascism emerges as a political response to the problems of management of monopoly capitalism. When monopoly capitalism enters into sustained crisis, fascism emerges as a force against the institutions and practices of liberal democracy. Given that national situations and social plight may differ significantly, fascism may be averted or defeated here or there, and liberal institutions may be salvaged. Nonetheless, fascist forces, even when marginal, see their best opportunity in the course of protracted crisis and may even rise to offer monopoly capital its most viable strategy of accumulation. This is a fundamental starting point for the analysis of fascism.
Second, fascism consists in the categorical rejection of democracy. Fascism proposes to provide salvation against an evolving crisis by rescuing or reinventing traditions corrupted and undermined by liberal democracy. The traditions, at one level, pertain to those of the family and gender; at another, they seek recourse in racial, or caste, religious, and other communal differences that become subject to racialization, whereby exaltation of one group implies the subjugation and segregation or extermination of the other. As such, the enemies of tradition and the ‘master nation’ are to be isolated or removed, not just cooped or assimilated as under liberalism. Fascism is avowedly supremacist.
Third, fascism is a force in the imperialist drive for world domination. The fact that fascism at the centre is not carving out territories as in the colonial past, or that it has taken root even in the peripheries, should not illude us. Classical European fascism, under the prevailing imperial sovereignty regime of the time, consisted in a categorical rejection of national sovereignty among peripheral regions. If it does not appear categorical today, it is because monopoly capitalism has exceptional means to contain national sovereignty and need only suppress it sporadically; this, after all, is the essence of the neo-colonial mode of rule and the semi-colonial situation. Fascism at the centre can pursue the repartition of spheres of influence by other means. Nonetheless, one of the novel questions pertains to the specific service that peripheral fascism provides to imperialism today.
Peripheral fascism fills the void left by Bandung nationalism and is intimately linked to the escalation of primitive accumulation under the neoliberal assault. Yet, it is different from that of the center on at least three counts. First, it is limited to the nation or at most regional disputes, having no conditions to vie for world domination. But – and second – it seeks alignment for its own survival and expansion with monopoly capital at the center, thereby becoming an instrument in the drive for world domination. This explains why it remains so committed to neoliberalism in its economics. Third, fascistic forces take advantage of liberal spaces to gain ground on the new social and political terrain ushered in by generalized semi-proletarianisation. On these new conditions, the Bandung nationalism of the past is being overtaken by fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – across Africa, Asia, and Latin America – all of which seek and receive the support of monopoly capital.
The resurgence of fascism also advances at the centres within liberal politics and on the terrain of a degraded and insecure working class – the so-called middle class – which is essentially devoid of world historical consciousness. Even if not compensated to the extent that it was in early neo-colonialism, there is still great difficulty on the part of this working class to imagine or commit to an alliance on an equal footing with the working peoples of the South. But monopoly capitalism and its fascistic tendencies will not be defeated unless genuine solidarity of workers and peoples takes hold across North and South – with which Samir Amin had become intensely preoccupied in his later years. This very same lack of historical consciousness also imbues theories that reduce capitalist crisis to technological determinants and pure notions of conflict. The conflict between capital and labour is not a given in really-existing capitalism, it remains a political project of recognizing and overcoming the contradictions that prolong the life of this dying system. A good starting point would be the recognition that the destruction of the Bandung movement paved the way to the consolidation of neo-colonialism and the degradation of the alternative vision for a more civilized world order. It is this that has also paved the way for the resurgence of fascism at the centre itself. As Malcom X once remarked – anticipating Nkrumah’s warning by a couple years – ‘the chickens are coming home to roost’.
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 Paris Yeros (email@example.com) is professor of international economics and faculty member of the Postgraduate Programme in World Political Economy, Federal University of ABC, São Paulo, Brazil. Praveen Jha (firstname.lastname@example.org) is professor of economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning and Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. A version of this article was presented by Paris Yeros at the R.N. Godbole Memorial Lecture, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi, on 26 February 2020. We wish to thank the participants for their stimulating comments.
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Entretien avec Max Ajl
This interview was conducted by Selim Nadi and originally appeared in Contretemps in French.
You work mainly on agrarian political economy and your PhD is on Tunisian state agriculture development policy in the post-1980s period. But let’s go back to the Tunisian independence period: to what extent was the issue of agriculture a key issue in the debates within the Tunisian national movement in the mid-1950s? How did Bourguiba and Ben Youssef differ on the issue of land?
From the 1930s to the 1950s, agriculture was central to the discourse of the national movement. Publications, communiques, speeches, and other documents were salted with references to how colonialism drained the wealth of the land, and most especially how colonialism as a specific set of institutional mechanisms pushed small landholders into debt and hastened their transformation into a rural proletariat or a semi-proletariat. During the 1950s, the Neo-Destour was aware that independence was breaking over the horizon and began to speak more and more of the Neo-Destour’s holding within it all the classes within the Tunisian nation. His major priority was to maintain the integrity of the cross-class national front. That front enfolded large farmers, many of whom who were quietly funding the Neo-Destour or in its leadership, small farmers, the landless, slum-dwellers in the bidonvilles, and the massive UGTT – the nationalist, Western-aligned trade union. In many ways, the UGTT was the primary articulator of social issues during the 1950s, more so than the Neo-Destour which focused on the colonial-national contradiction. The notion that colonialism was a social machine which was damaging every class in Tunisian society was broadly shared, but it was left to the UGTT to articulate more specific grievances and programmatic solutions. The UGTT put a sharper and redder redistributionist edge on its nationalism, suggesting that agrarian reform was needed, but also frequently softened such calls by avoiding explicit mention of the liquidation of the large Tunisian estates. This was in part due to its own subservient incorporation into the nationalist front, which its own leader, Ahmed Ben Salah, thought would allow for a union-party fusion and thereby allow for the UGTT to push a harder economically redistributive line after independence – an ambition which shipwrecked on the shoals of Bourguiba’s late 1956 move to sharply subordinate the UGTT, remove Ben Salah from its leadership, and ensure that its economic ambitions could only take shape within parameters with the Neo-Destour delimited.
The question of land is most visible as refracted through the prism of nation and decolonization, and this was Bourguiba and Ben Youssef’s major line-of-difference. Before discussing that, it may be worth quickly noting in brackets that the peasant, herder, and semi-proletariat movements which propelled decolonization did not necessarily take political cues directly from Ben Youssef or Bourguiba at any stage, and the nationalist movement was a quite fissiparous entity, since leadership was frequently in prison, scattered across several continents, and the struggle was carried out under conditions of severe colonial repression.
That said, Ben Youssef and Bourguiba’s major distinction was that one called for full decolonization, and one did not. Ben Youssef’s call for full decolonization was not drawn from the well of Cabral-style clarions demanding to liberate the land and place the productive forces under the control of the land’s people. The difference was more sub rosa: since the June 1955 autonomy accords allowed for the French to retain control of tariffs, to maintain full Tunisian-French economic integration, and to keep their 800,000 or so hectares, much of it the most fecund soils in Tunisia, alongside the many mines and railways pocking and striating Tunisia, Ben Youssef’s opposition to that program and call for full independence was a call for the sovereign control of the country’s economic resources – but more by default than explicitly so. Ben Youssef was much more explicit about policies like tariffs and how they would prevent sovereign control of the country’s development path. In assessing Ben Youssef, we also have to keep in mind that he was in the gravity well of the radicalizing Bandung conference only late in his political career, in 1955, and left a comparatively scanty written political record. He left behind a much smaller paper trail than did Bourguiba.
You argue that while the peasantry made revolution in Tunisia, this revolution was robbed from them. Could you come back to this?
While working through the timelines of the dominant historiography of Tunisian decolonization, there were odd starts and stops which did not make sense to me, and certainly factors which seemed relatively de-emphasized. There is a tendency to counterpose Tunisia’s pacific decolonization to the violent decolonization which unrolled to Tunisia’s west, in Algeria, and it seemed to me this comparison was drawn too sharply. Furthermore, as I arrived to Tunisia, colleagues told me that the question of the Youssefites – the partisans or followers of Ben Youssef – was emerging more clearly as an object of political and historiographical contention in post-revolutionary Tunisia, both in political culture and through the Instance Verité et Dignité – Tunisia’s truth commission. The first half of my dissertation has been an attempt to make sense of these gaps. What I found was that, first, it was crystal-clear that the armed fellaga insurrection, in its first stage – from 1952 to late 1954 – drove the French to the negotiating table in the first place. The fellaga were armed brigades, created in some coordination with the Neo-Destour and the UGTT, and who came primarily from mixed herder-farmers of the South, at least at first. They spread elsewhere – to date-tree owners elsewhere in the oases of the South, people tending rain-harvested plots, those nearly landless due to the one-two of land alienation due to the settler-capitalist regime and successive shrinkage of plots due to inheritance, and also to those entirely ejected from rural production. Part of why they demobilized in November-December 1954 was Neo-Destour success in using them as leverage to force autonomy, and fear that Neo-Destour control of the fellaga was slipping, as the Algerian revolution had started to rage to the west, and Nasserism was increasingly compelling.
One of the fellaga, Lazhar Chraiti, refused to surrender his arms and was part of organizing an attempted cross-Maghrebi armed insurgency, drawing materiel from recently decolonized Egypt under the Free Officer’s government and some say, even Maoist China. By early 1955, he was creating plans for a new army, and the conflict burst out sometime after Ben Youssef split from Bourguiba – in a low-intensity manner from November 1955 to January 1956, and the really pitched battles afterwards. This army fought for full independence, sometimes mentioning land issues, sometimes not, but aiming to expel the French from Tunisian lands, and certainly influenced by the Arab nationalist vision of unity, anti-imperialism, and sovereignty beaming out over radio waves from Cairo. In fact, this armed insurgency was 50 percent bigger than the first, with a clearer line of demarcation: they fought for full decolonization against the June 1955 internal autonomy accords. Once again, it was the people of the South – then and now the poorest region of the country – at the core of the fighting forces, and they were herders, smallholders, and others who made a poor living from agriculture. They forced the French to allow what was mis-named a “full” independence in March 20, 1956, and then Bourguiba’s proto-national army and even more the colonial French forces inflicted several military defeats upon them, some of which were actually massacres of surrounded, surrendering, or wounded Tunisian guerrillas. Still, under the pressure they exerted, the government agreed to a 15 million old Franc a year allotment for developing the Center and South – a massive sum, which would have been close to a revolutionary redistribution of income if it had been implemented. Of course, it was not, and in this sense, the poor of the Center and South were thrice-robbed of their revolution: first, although they forced what there was of independence in 1956, it was the Bourguibist wing of the Neo-Destour which harvested the fruit of the military victory which the Youssefites had achieved by force of arms and martyrdom. Second, because the state was soon a neo-colonial state, and thus in material terms their victory was robbed from them, as the development project brought them only poverty. And thrice-over, as their lives and even their deaths were erased from history books and not allowed to be taught in schools, reducing the historiography of the nationalist movement into a hagiography of the Great Man Bourguiba, thereby robbing them of their claim to the state as the commonwealth of its people, and justifying the Bourguibist anti-peasant developmentalist project.
Some scholars have written that the transfer of power from elite to elite was central to the decolonisation process, and national liberation did little to disrupt Western dominance of the global economic order: How was this “Western dominance of the global economic order” expressed and how did it evolve, especially regarding the issue of peasantry and agriculture during the post-Independence era of Tunisia?
I would first say that this is reductive. Colonization lasted a very long time – in Algeria from 1830, for example, in India from even earlier. Pace formalist models of the origins of capitalism, capitalist development, and the Great Divergence, it is clear that the wealth France and the British looted from their colonial possessions was not the result of their dominance of the global economy, but in fact helped constitute that dominance, and it did not happen with a snap of the fingers – it took time. Since to build Western dominance took time, to unbuild it will take time, and while such statements are true in word, they are false in framing – it’s quite early to say that national liberation did little to break the Western supremacy in the global order. It also collapses national liberation into the formal and juridical process of decolonization. But these were not the same thing. Take, again, Cabral’s position, which saw national liberation as a complete shattering of Western control over the domestic productive forces, including as such control occurred through the neo-colonial state and accompanying sectors of social power. National liberation was an aspirational horizon. It was about the self-directed development of the productive forces. Political decolonization, as it was in Tunisia, was often a mechanism to short-circuit a more encompassing national liberation.
Furthermore, what has happened in China would bely even this formal statement. Even with the anti-Maoist counter-revolution, China has a massive economic weight in the world-system and poses a tremendous threat to Western dominance of the global economic order. This is explicit in Pentagon planning documents, for example. It is not clear what people are expecting vis-à-vis national liberation’s threat and horizons – colonialism took hundreds of years of stolen labour and its fruits and slowly transmuted that stolen labour into Western dominance of the global economic order. Why would anyone expect this to change immediately, or even within a period of one, two, three decades? It relativizes away the very real achievements of national liberation, which played a massive role in putting a stop in many places to colonial genocides and famines across Africa and Asia, and stopped the flow of drain, as Utsa Patnaik has shown in detail with respect to India. These processes were only stalled – and emphasis on stalled – amidst a massive militarized counter-revolution against every experiment in national development. So, when people say that the process of decolonization did not (yet) level out world economic hierarchies, they ought also say that the prospects for doing so were leveled by precisely those hierarchies. And still, the future is open.
Regarding Tunisia, this goes back to my earlier point about neo-colonialism. The post-colonial government under Habib Bourguiba was the major pendant of the US political architecture in the Western Arab world, and the West considered Tunisia a possible model for nominally non-aligned – in fact, entirely Western aligned – developmentalism. It poured in one of the world’s highest per capita rates of foreign aid in order to protect the Neo-Destourian government. Even then, across the government, elites and dirigiste planners were petrified of the prospects of a “demagogic” – their word – agrarian reform unfolding in Tunisia, as was happening in Algeria, Egypt, or China, a frequent bugbear. The framework of planning was to put in place an agricultural revolution in order to avoid an agrarian revolution – that is, to apply the faith of modernization theory and development-through-technological-diffusion to peasant agricultures and try to modernize them. This occurred through a cooperative experiment, which took place at first on the lands the state slowly nationalized in the late 1950s and early 1960s, then on another larger tranche of colonial lands the state nationalized in 1964, alongside lots of picayune minifundia clustered around these larger plots.
Now, what was central was that modernization took place within two parameters, both reflecting the Bourguibist outlook and Western imperatives: massive infusions of capital into farming and accordingly top-down attempted reworking and takeover of peasant life by the state; and until the late 1960s, respect for the large private property in Tunisian hands. The replacement of animal traction with imported tractors and other forms of mechanization, and also imported fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers to compensate for the broken nitrogen cycle, was massively expensive. It also ensured that the technological path these cooperatives took ensured a massive under-utilization of labor, and thus made them all the more difficult to economically sustain, while alienating and spurning peasant knowledge, and erasing peasants as both political and social subjects, turning them into the objects of planning. Alongside this project, the state put footloose labor to work in “work-groups” which were basically sustained by US aid. They were designed to absorb social pressure building on the neo-colonial state and allowed the state to avoid an agrarian reform.
By the late 1960s, two tracks were in motion. One was the first rumblings of a Green Revolution, sponsored by the US, which would further empty out the Tunisian countryside, increase rural differentiation, and decrease nutritional quality, as high quality durum wheats and barley, far preferred by the population, partially gave way to Green Revolution soft wheat and durum wheat hybrids. The second aspect, which was a partial challenge to the Western economic order, was a move by Ben Salah, by then the Planning Minister, to spread the cooperatives country-wide under the social use of land justification. This really accelerated from 1967-1969, while Bourguiba was quite sick. But in 1969, as large farmers made their qualms known to Bourguiba and amidst pressure from the World Bank, he terminated the cooperative program and switched to a state-supported medium-to-large-farmer commodity-production capitalist rural order. This was enabled by US-supported cereal breeding programs and massive input subsidies to assist the larger farmers – the only ones who could afford such capital-intensive imported inputs, even if we put a parenthesis around the long-term ecological effects of pouring such poisons into the soil and the water table. Thus, it is far less accurate to that that “national liberation” did not do much to shift Western dominance, but rather that national liberation was bridled if not broken in order to ensure that it would not disrupt, and would in fact buttress, Western economic dominance.
What was the position of what you call the “Tunisian school” regarding the question of food sovereignty? How did they regard the question of self-management? To what extent was there a Latin-American influence on Tunisian economists and agronomists concerning food sovereignty?
The “Tunisian school” was a loose cluster of economists, agronomists, and other researchers in alternative technology and dependency theory which developed in the mid-1970s to the early-to-mid 1980s in reaction to the tremendous social and ecological costs of capitalist modernization in Tunisia, and who put out a small book in 1983, Tunisie: Quelles Technologies? Quel Développement? I would say they were very much advocates of food sovereignty avant la lettre. The dominant lexicon in Tunisia was food security, but as with many such discourses under the developmentalist dictatorship of Bourguiba, so long as one adhered to the letter of the dominant framework, once could break from it in spirit. Thus, they used the discussion of “food security” to call for a return to the peasant vis-à-vis agricultural technology. That meant using native landraces, or the seeds of the region, to use native animal breeds in agriculture. That also meant a massive advocacy for native water-harvesting technics, made of earth and stone, in place of the massively expensive dam technology which cost so much while shattering one after another watershed’s water cycle, and delivering so little vis-à-vis irrigated land per dollar invested. These dams also incurred large loans and relied on foreign expertise to build – another mechanism of neo-colonialism. They wished to do all of this while reducing agriculture-related imports, reducing the use of hydrocarbons in farming, eliminating to the extent possible unneeded food imports, and setting in motion native programs to research camels, dates, barley – all the arid-land crops which neo-colonial technics had spurned. To be clear, none of this work deployed the words agro-ecology or food sovereignty, but the entire project looked, technically speaking, quite like what now goes by the name of food sovereignty within Via Campesina.
Essentially, this seemed to have occurred in parallel rather than by way of diffusion from Latin America – the “return to the peasant” was at that time occurring in much of the Third World in reaction to the wrenching dislocations of modernizing agriculture. I am doing some collaborative work with my colleague Divya Sharma bringing India and Tunisia into comparative perspective, and many countries in Latin America have their own genealogies of agro-ecology, which developed out of work to understand the ecology of traditional peasant farming systems.
The project of the “Tunisian school” was based on valorizing the technical capacity of Tunisian artisans, builders, and peasants. Their concerns went beyond food and agriculture – they drew on broader critical currents, from French and US technology criticism, to the appropriate technology movement which was blooming across the First World and also the Third, and also had a heavy influence from radical French agronomy, especially Rene Dumont, who extensively studied Tunisia and made many trips there. In this sense, they did not directly call for cooperatives or economic democracy, and only sometimes and guardedly called for agrarian reforms – recall that most of them could not so easily speak their minds given that they worked for a state which was in close alliance with big landholders. But the state was still purportedly the commonwealth of its people, and they could certainly call for redirecting state budgetary spending and research priorities towards the peasants, and even decentralizing planning itself so that it would follow instead of lead the peasants. Self-management was certainly an ambition vis-à-vis peasants and smallholders having a full and autonomous control of their own production cycle, and a similar process taking place at the national scale. But they did not call, for example, for co-gestion of the large farms, or the large factories – it seems to me such a call would have been enormously politically dangerous, even under the relatively more permissive Bourguiba regime. Under Ben Ali, of course, social scientific inquiry was asphyxiated.
Who was Slaheddine el-Amami and what was new in his thought regarding agriculture in Tunisia? How did he change the relations between agrarian technological advances and the Tunisian peasantry?
El-Amami was a Tunisian agronomist, who came out of the radical left student movement in the late 1950s, then began working his way through the Tunisian government research institutions. By the mid-1970s he ran the influential Centre de Recherche en Genie Rurale. In my reading, he essentially was the first to apply the methodology of dependency theory – that is, a theory which sought to understand the adjustment and damage done to peripheral and semi-peripheral economies as they were reworked by internal and external class forces to suit the needs of the core – to the agricultural sector. He also entirely infused that approach with state-of-the-art knowledge of ecology and agronomy. Essentially, he was the vanguard, and as far as I can see the pioneer, of the “return to the peasant” in the Tunisian context. From his perch at the CRGR, he carried out dozens of field investigations into indigenous water-harvesting systems, to evaluate how much salt content the indigenous land-races could tolerate, and other experiments, including looking at the uses of windbreaks – vital in the warding off the desert sirocco. The core novelty was that he looked askance on the merits of modernization in the agricultural sector and thought instead that what was needed was not an antediluvian traditionalism, but an alternative modernity based on building out from the existing strengths and technical knowledges of peasant farmers. This was revolutionary.
He sought to do several things technologically speaking. First, he wanted to put the national research institutions at the direct service of peasants and their landraces and technologies. That is, rather than evangelizing new technology, they would co-develop existing technologies – water-harvesting, seeds, and so forth, bearing in that, as Braudel pointed out, that agriculture is a technology – into more sophisticated forms, to make them more efficient, and more productive, without damaging human or ecology. Second, he sought to find ways to bring the insights of appropriate technologies to the Tunisian countryside – e.g. he was an advocate of solar power, and in one of his experiments sought to combine solar powered pumps with supplementary irrigation, as when the sun shone more intensely, water would flow for the suddenly thirstier plants. But this was an approach to technology which totally rejected the dominant model of technology transfer, which Amami knew had constituted Tunisia and the Third World as dependent entities. He refused to wall off technology from social relations, ecology from import dependence, but knew that the right agriculture, which is to say the right farming technics, based on valorizing peasant skills, could actually best serve Tunisia and provide the framework for a sovereign development model.
A famine is currently occurring in Yemen. To what extent is the food crisis in Yemen due to external factors? How is this crisis linked to the war?
In 1970, Yemen was essentially food-independent. In 2015, as the US war, under Saudi and Emirati branding, scoured Yemen, much of Yemen relied on imported food as a means for day-to-day survival. The shift from a country which could feed itself to a country which could not do so is at the root of the current crisis. Much of the previously subsistence production shifted to water-intensive and less calorically-dense crops, especially fruits and vegetables, and furthermore shifted to irrigated-based crops, which rely on expensive pumps to get at reservoirs. There is also a great amount of land devoted to qat, which relieves hunger and is also a commodity crop. These shifts are inseparable from the monetization of the Yemeni rural sector, wherein wages increased post-1973 as Saudi Arabia drew on its neighbor to supply the Kingdom’s proletariat. US food aid and Green Revolution technologies undercut local cereal production, both making cereals relatively cheaper, and replacing labor with capital. At the same time, since wage costs increased to match those in Saudi Arabia, people switched to more profitable rural crops, or left the countryside. Several consequences ensued. First, terraces collapsed without people being able to helm them. Second, national development itself became impossible as much of the skilled workforce, literally reared on the use-values of Yemen, went to Saudi Arabia. Both countryside and city became highly dependent on remittances and markets for food. When Saudi expelled those workers for Yemen’s decision not to toe the Saudi/US line vis-à-vis Iraq and the US presence in the region, Yemen’s remittances ran dry and there was suddenly ever-more-rural labor available. Rather than turning to the rural sector, Yemen’s government enjoyed a small oil boom, and used those monies to subsidize imported cereal consumption – a Yemeni decision, but also a US/European once, since excess cereals on the global markets is not due to that phantasm of fossil capitalism, “productivity” but because large producers of cereals receive massive subsidies, and they export their ecological costs for monocrop cereal production onto the rest of humanity, and onto the future.
Until the outbreak of protests in 2011, this process continued and even accelerated, as more and more land and water went to fruit and vegetable production for the protected internal market, even while less and less land went to cereal production. Imports made up the difference. This created two interlocked vulnerabilities. One, instead of the poor relying on their own production for survival, they relied on the market. And instead of that market being internal, it was tied to international commodity prices. Thus, when the 2015 war began in an attempt to destroy the anti-Zionist Houthi movement and to re-install a US-Saudi client, several dynamics interlaced to produce the famine. One was the direct targeting of agriculture, as meticulously documented by Martha Mundy. Second was the overall targeting of the economy, increasing poverty and thereby reducing families’ capacity to secure goods on the market on the demand side. Finally, blockades and destruction of import capacity has meant increased prices for purchasers. Here it is worth stating that famine even in this kind extreme case of extreme imperially-induced food dependence, is not due to lack of food to feed people inside geographical Yemen, but decades of stunted dependent capitalist development and imperialist development which has so immiserated people that they can no longer get the food which exists in the country. As for responsibility, that of the US is massive.
According to the Belgian specialist of China, Roland Lew, the peasantry is a “classe en trop” for Marxists – a class that they often prefer to forget about but that they cannot ignore. How would you characterize the current state of Marxist research regarding the relevance of the peasantry and of agricultural issues?
I might slightly redirect the question. In reviews like Journal of Peasant Studies, Agrarian South, Economic and Political Weekly, and in a slightly more popular but still extremely rigorous way, Monthly Review, inquiry into peasant and agricultural issues is not merely alive and well. It is flourishing – indeed, having a dazzling renaissance after a period of dormancy. The quality of the literature in these journals concerning peasant and agrarian issues is extremely high, ranging from revitalized inquiries into semi-proletarianization, food sovereignty, agro-ecology, the politics of peasant movements, the many agrarian questions of our day, matters of food, finance, and imperialism, work on the intersection of agricultural trade and imperialism, seed questions, and peasant matters across Latin America, South Asia, to a slightly lesser extent Africa, and to a far lesser extent the Middle East – North Africa region. It would be fair to say that not all of this literature is cast in the classic framework of Marxist analysis – much of it, for example, in JPS finds itself in the more catholic categorization of critical agrarian studies or political ecology – but it certainly applies a materialist method to the study of contemporary social reality in the world’s countrysides. I would worry less about the state of this literature (although certainly I would like to see broader conversations occurring between this field and Marxist approaches to economic development, and more openness to the national question and anti-imperialism in some places) and much more I am apprehensive that this literature is often not known by many in other Marxist traditions, where as you stated, they often “prefer to forget” about the campesinos. It would be gratuitous to name names, but clearly the problem is generalized, although with the caveats I mentioned.
Why is this the case? For one thing, most people in the Global North are not peasants or farmers, and these concerns may seem very distant from their lives – few academics have experience in factory labor, or in prisons, but at least those problems are closer at hand. Furthermore, few academic departments study peasants, even though the rural sector is absolutely central to development issues in North and South alike. There has also been a broader turn away from issues of development within Marxism, and that has brought with it a turn away from issues of rural development. I think also that there are residual or not-so-residual investments amongst many Marxists in the myths of modernity – the idea that what capitalism has produced is somehow progressive, and thus the agrarian question is an antediluvian remnant. One can see sentiments like this sprouting in many Marxist circles, open mockery of the role of peasants or smallholder production in a sustainable modernity, and even where it is not explicit, there is a comfortable turning-away from the kind of production which is central to the livelihoods of much of the planet, even though it is the most concrete of the many determinations which produce our contemporary world-system. In fact, it is remarkably underknown that smallholder farming produces at least half the planet’s food. On an energetic basis – that is, energy returned on energy invested – smallholder traditional farming systems are far more efficient than the industrial agriculture, dollar-cheap but entropy-heavy, which underpins contemporary urbanization and suburbanization. Smallholder production, however, is made invisible, because that labor is exploited to produce the semi-proletarianized labor reserves upon which capitalism rests. It seems to me that there is far more interest, for example, in logistics workers than massive vibrant social movements like the Landless Workers Movement, fighting for their survival and their future in Brazil, or other peasant-based revolutionary movements which are in fact criminalized by the US state. Some of this also has to do with the anti-peasant bias of Western ideology, which very often Marxists inherit.
Still, there are glimmers of changes – I think Marxism is having a return to ecological issues amidst global warming’s civilizational threat, and from ecology there is a very possible although far from inevitable turn to agriculture and agro-ecology. I would also hope that amidst recent turns to urban farming and forms of agro-ecological production in Europe and the US, alongside what seems to me to be the unarguable fact that the agrarian question is the question for the Global South’s escape from poverty for this century, the current situation could change, and we could see a renewed engagement with these questions amongst the Marxist journals.
Freedom Mazwi and George T. Mudimu
Indeed the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTRLP) foregrounded many patterns, at the same time calling for improved and more reality oriented heuristics. Thus, prompting the rise of various models and conceptualisations as researchers and policy makers grappled to have a better understanding of the emergent reality. In this small contribution we aim to stimulate more debate, discussion and more importantly, a better understanding of one of these models, more specifically, the Trimodal Agrarian structure. This blog article is grounded on the thesis propounded by Moyo and Yeros (2005), Moyo (2011; 2013; 2016) and Chambati (2011; 2017). Understanding the features and characteristics of the trimodal agrarian structure, is important for policy makers at this stage as the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) is undertaking a land audit with a view of restructuring the countryside 19 years after the implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). In this article we proceed by outlining the origins, key features of the trimodal and some emerging debates on the trimodal structure. More critically, we seek to address the question whether the classes identified in the trimodal agrarian structure are static or fluid. In short, are there capitalist tendencies within the peasantry or vice-versa?
The Changing Agrarian Structure: From Bimodal To Trimodal
During the colonial and early post-colonial period Zimbabwe was characterised by a bimodal (dual) agrarian structure. This structure was made of ‘extremely’ large scale and small-scale farms (Moyo, 1995:302; 2011). A significant proportion of the peasantry acted as a labor provisioning class for the capitalist farmers. The bimodal structure was composed of 6000 white farmers, limited number of agro estates and about 700 000 peasant farmers and a few indigenous commercial estates (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013:200,201). The Large-scale Commercial farmers (LSCFs) dominated in terms of land ownership and capitalisation etc. Peasant farming households mainly relied on self-finance to fund their agricultural operations although less than 10 percent of these households were able to access formal agricultural bank credit from the state owned Agricultural Finance of Zimbabwe (AFC) (Chimedza, 1994). Moyo (2000) and Sachikonye (1989) have demonstrated how a few peasant households located in high potential agro-ecological zones produced horticultural crops for exports under former white commercial farmers and also through cooperative schemes supported by international agencies such as the USAID. This phenomenon laid the basis for social differentiation within the peasantry. It must also be pointed out that differentiation within the peasantry during the first decade of independence was driven by a cotton boom which led to the emergence of successful farmers “Hurudza” (Nyambara 2003).
Apart from agricultural financing models, labour utilisation patterns and levels of capitalisation, the peasantry and LSCF sector under the bimodal agrarian structure were also differentiated in terms of levels of education as well as production orientation (Sachikonye 1989: Moyo 1995). The LSCF sector mainly produced export crops such as tobacco, horticulture and cotton while the peasant sector was less inserted into global markets and largely produced maize for auto-consumption although there were tendencies to sell the surplus in good agricultural seasons (Moyo, 2000). At this stage, it is critical to highlight that the peasantry is not a homogenous group (Yeros 2002, Moyo 2016). Within this category, one finds the “poor”, “middle” and “rich” peasants who are all differentiated on the basis of asset ownership, access to other forms of finance, labour utilisation, production orientation, education, land sizes and employment (Sachikonye, 1989; Moyo, 2016). For the record, we state that it is highly problematic to reduce the bimodal or the trimodal (which is discussed later) agrarian structures to a question of varying land sizes and the number of land beneficiaries per each settlement model as has been done by most agrarian scholars on Zimbabwe. An analysis of the emergent social relations is of paramount importance in any discussions of the emerging /existing agrarian structure (See Moyo and Yeros, 2005; Moyo, 2016; Chambati, 2011).
Fast forward to the post fast track land reform era, the trimodal structure has been largely inserted and more pronounced. This trimodal structure it is argued, is a broadly based structure with various modes of accumulation (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013:200). This structure is largely characterised by accumulation from below ( Moyo etal, 2009; Moyo and Yeros, 2005). The focus of this article is on the well-pronounced trimodal structure that is the one that arose out of the Fast Track Land Reform Program. The propounded trimodal agrarian structure is made up of three categories and is a result of state policy (Land reform program, state input programs etc.). These 3 categories are:
(i) The peasantry (communal areas, old resettlement and A1 farms);
(ii) The Medium to large scale farms and A2 farms;
(iii) Agro estates (state or private owned) agro conservancy and institutional estates (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013; Moyo and Yeros, 2013; Sakata, 2016:5).
In essence the peasantry now dominates in terms of aggregate number of farms, thus, by and large the FTLRP reduced the LSCF and increased the middle sized farms and the peasantry (Moyo et al 2009).
These three categories are in a constant flux, but broadly are differentiated according to access to different farming resources, land size, tenure, social status and labor forms (Chambati, 2013:2017; Moyo and Nyoni, 2013; Moyo and Yeros, 2013). Moyo (2016) argues that with the penetration of agrarian capital in recent decades, the agrarian structures of most African countries have since been reconfigured to a trimodal structure characterised by the persistence of the peasantry. The trimodal structure has been more recognised by broader studies that cover major agro- regions of Zimbabwe (Moyo et al, 2009). However, its existence can also be discerned in localised studies (sub-national level etc.) although there have been few studies that interrogate the trimodal structure at a sub-national level. In exploring any agrarian structure it is critical to pay attention to the factors listed above; land size, capitalisation, labor forms, land tenure, state role etc. Thus, capitalist farms are recognisable by their labour hiring practices and continuous accumulation (reinvestments of profits into the production processes), emphasis on cash crops over auto-consumption crops and on the other hand the peasantry would engage in semi-proletarianisation.
A number of studies have been conducted to analyse the evolving differentiation processes in the countries post- FTLRP (see Moyo et al, 2009, Scoones et al, 2010; Shonhe, 2017). These studies have used different models with Moyo et al, (2009) statistical clustering process identifying capital intensive farmers (12 percent), unmarried (widowed farmers) (14.5 percent), civil servants (27 percent) and latest entrants (15 percent). Overall, Moyo et al, (2009) study noted that although differentiation was beginning to occur, constraining this process was public policy which was not geared to provide subsidised inputs to farmers and as such close to 50 percent of the farmers were likely to remain poor. As they point out, ‘unequal class-based access to farming inputs will remain a determinant of social differentiation, and a key source of rural grievance’ (ibid: 178)
From these findings, one can easily tell that the trimodal agrarian structure remains critical in furthering class-based social differentiation as other studies have also shown that middle-scale capitalist farmers are likely to benefit more when compared to peasant farmers from state policies. A recent paper on Command Agriculture showed how the middle-scale A2 capitalist farmers have more influence of the public policy making process and the resultant state support policies (see Mazwi et al, 2019).
Other key studies to have emerged post FTLRP analysing the class dynamics in the countryside have identified the emergence of a Quad- PMMR model structure (Shonhe, 2017; 2019). This, the proponents of the Quad-PMMR acknowledge the emergence of four classes namely the ‘poor peasants’, ‘middle peasants’, ‘middle to rich peasants’ and ‘rich peasants” . To this, this article takes an opposing view because the Quad-PMMR model labels the transition from middle to rich peasant as a class on its own (Shonhe, 2017; Shonhe, 2019:18). The labeling of the transition as a class ignores the very basic tenets of class analysis that assumes that classes are in a constant flux. In fact, numerous studies point out that the middle peasant has more chances of backsliding to the poor peasant category compared to forward progression to the rich peasant.
Hence, if one were to follow the quad modal theorizing of transition from middle to rich peasant as a class, one would end up with 6 classes yet in essence the other three are merely transition phases that are a sui generis to class analysis. Thus, we are inclined to argue that the trimodal offers a better understanding of agrarian change in that it infuses the classical debates of social differentiation at the same time paying attention to the broader and nuanced realities of the countryside, more specifically to the post- fast track Zimbabwe. Thus, this article posits that any analysis of the agrarian structure must (i) contend with the basics of the differentiation within the various classes (ii) be aware of the tendencies and flux among these classes (least we brand transitions as emergent classes); (iii) pay attention to land size, capitalisation of farm production, labour, tenure, role of the state etc. Hence, the future of the studies on agrarian change can be thought of in light of arguments by Moyo and Yeros (2013:341), ‘Any genuine class analysis of the new Zimbabwe must come to grips with the tendencies and contradictions of this tri-modal structure and avoid regime-change theories of ‘rentier economy’ (Davies 2005) or ‘crony capitalism’ (Bond 2009), or notions of ‘passive revolution’, which are based on nebulous assessments of the new class relations (e.g., Raftopoulos 2010). The fundamental question is whether Zimbabwe will be able to sustain, via this tri-modal structure, an introverted process of accumulation ‘from below’.
The purpose of this article has been to stimulate debate on the tri-modal agrarian structure thesis. We have argued that it would be an act of intellectual suicide to reduce the thesis to landholdings and settlement model categories without going deeper to examine the fundamental social relations. We contend, without dismissing the rise of any other heuristics, that any serious conceptualisation of agrarian change must pay attention to the basics of agrarian change at the same time paying deeper insights to the ground level realities in the countryside. We have restated the position advanced by the forbearers of the thesis (trimodal) that of importance are issues to do with the orientation of production, access to other forms of finance, employment status, labour utilisation and farm mechanisation when analysing the trimodal agrarian structure or any other agrarian structure in a post land reform context. The paper also showed that any study of agrarian change must recognise that agrarian classes are in constant flux (they are not static) and transitions are not classes. Going forward, we propose that agrarian scholars on Zimbabwe must engage in a deeper analysis of the trimodal agrarian structure (or any other structure) and conceptualise how large-scale A2 farmers who at the beginning of the FTLRP were meant to be capitalist farmers but after almost two decades are seen to be performing poorly when it comes to production, mechanisation and labour utilisation. This is an issue, which the ongoing land audit must address by way of downsizing such farms. The exercise of downsizing ‘oversized’ farms is a necessity to give a true meaning to the trimodal agrarian structure, that which can only spur accumulation from below and reduce the peasantry’s precarity which has become more acute in recent days.
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2. Chambati, W. (2017). Changing Forms of Wage Labour in Zimbabwe’ s New Agrarian Structure. Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1177/2277976017721346
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17. Shonhe, T. (2019) The changing agrarian economy in Zimbabwe, 15 years after the Fast Track Land Reform programme. Review of African Political Economy, 46:159, 14-32, DOI: 10.1080/03056244.2019.1606791
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19. Yeros, P. (2002). The political economy of civilization: Peasant-workers in Zimbabwe and the neo-colonial world. Doctoral dissertation. London School of Economics and Political Science.
By Boaventura Monjane
After ten years of the liberation war against the Portuguese colonial regime, Mozambique ended the colonial system of land tenure, access and management, and nationalised all land. The Mozambique Liberation Front, Frelimo, introduced a socialist economy, based on the nationalisation of industry, state-controlled land reform, and a heavily supported social sector, including education, health and housing.
Land as state property
The first Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique establishes agriculture as the basis for the development of the country. The state is responsible for guaranteeing and promoting rural development, in accordance with the needs of the people and the socio-economic progress of Mozambique. According to the Constitution, land became state property and it “cannot be sold, or otherwise alienated, mortgaged or seized”. This means that, in theory, there are no commercial/financial values attached to land access.
As a universal means of creating wealth and social welfare, access to land was established as a right of all the Mozambican people.
The 1979 Land Law, which gave the state and Frelimo power over land management and decision making, was changed and a new Land Law came into effect in 1997. Mozambique was a single-party state from 1975 to 1994, when the first multi-party elections took place. Under the first land law (1979) foreign private capital investment in agriculture and other land uses was not possible, although there were cases of power abuse, corruption and expropriation of peasant farmers.
The country experienced a 16 years civil war, from 1977 to 1992, involving the National Resistance of Mozambique, Renamo (a former guerilla/militant organisation, now an opposition political party) and the Frelimo/state armed forces. Although the war had local dynamics, it was exacerbated by polarising effects of the Cold War. While Frelimo received support from the Soviet Union, Renamo received support from the CIA. National politics then had great influence in land dynamics and rural politics more broadly.
According to Bridget O´Laughlin, there were three main phases of agrarian transition until the end of “socialism”:
“The first phase, from 1975 to 1980, was defined by broad-ranging political consensus around the need for a rapid socialisation of production and residence through the expansion of state-farms, co-operatives, and communal villages. The second highly contradictory phase, from 1980 to 1983, was defined by Frelimo’s shift to a bureaucratic and hierarchical model of rapid socialist accumulation based almost exclusively in state farms. Starvation in rural areas, the stagnation of state farm production, and widening support for the Renamo opposition movement from South Africa (amongst others) led to a rapid expansion of both the war and parallel markets in rural areas. Frelimo’s strategy in the third phase, beginning with the Fourth Frelimo Party Congress in 1983, was initially defined as market socialism, but moved rapidly towards increased support for private commercial farming, and the distribution of some state farmland to multinational enterprises, Mozambican commercial farmers and some peasant households”.
The Post-socialist Land Law
Officially, the 1997 revision of the 1979 Land Law was in order to adapt it to the new political, economic and social situation. It was to guarantee access to and security of land, both for Mozambican peasants and for national and foreign investors. This went hand in hand with the adoption of neoliberal policies promoted by the Bretton Woods Institutions, namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Together with these institutions, there were many forces pushing for land privatisation, i.e. market intervention in land access and management. But this was strongly opposed by the counter forces of the “Land Campaign” . This was a dynamic and highly participatory process, with contributions from various sectors of Mozambican civil society. The participation of the Mozambique National Peasants Union, UNAC in the campaign was very crucial. As a result, state ownership of land remained unchanged in the new law, although it opened up possibilities for private capital to penetrate.
Foreign investors were allowed to invest in the agricultural sector (and others, including mining, etc.). This was permitted on the assumption that such investment would facilitate quick mechanisation of agriculture, rural industrialisation and, therefore, the resolution of the agrarian question. But that did not take place in the short- or medium-term, since the conditions for the massive creation of employment, industrialisation and urbanisation of society were not created. The peasantry did not transit to a full proletarianization. They remained either precarious agricultural workers or “semi-proletarians”. Semi-proletarianisation is the process of combining wage labour and other activities, such as farming for economic subsistence. As the “Handbook of alternative theories of economic development” puts it: “semi-proletarianised peasants struggle for a living against richer peasants, large-scale commercial farmers, and other employers who hire semi-proletarians at wages below the cost of social reproduction.”
How to access land
Individuals and companies can access land by acquiring the right to use and benefit from the land. This is known as Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra (DUAT). Local individuals and communities can access rural land though customary norms. So, in accordance with customary norms, any individual or community that has stayed in and used land for at least ten years in “good faith” has a natural right of use. To a certain degree, these norms have legal status, as they are established by the law. However, they can be manipulated, disregarded or simply ignored, as we will see later.
The concession of a DUAT is free of charge and for life for peasant farmers, cooperatives and local peasant associations. According to the law, the absence of a written DUAT title does not prevent them from exercising their customary rights.
Foreigners – and national investors – have to acquire a written DUAT title, through a number of procedures, including consulting members of the communities in which the land is being requested. In such cases, the state issues and reserves the right to withdraw the DUAT title. All DUATs and land use can also be withdrawn for reasons of public interest. For purposes of economic activity, the DUAT is granted for 50 years, renewable for an equal period at the request of the interested party. DUAT fees are “symbolic”, therefore very low.
Why land grabs?
First, we have to understand the formation of a national capitalist class. In order to have access to Mozambican resources and markets, international capital needed a compliant domestic capitalist class. No such class existed, so there was a need to create it. “Privatisation” of the state was a necessary condition for the process of capital accumulation and the creation of local oligarchies. From generals to top politicians and lobbyists, a small number of individuals reaped benefits from the privatisation of state enterprises, banks and services. This was also true in the natural resources sector. Fertile farmlands and mines were appropriated, in most cases from the peasantry.
In the whole economy more broadly, this has led to a kind of porousness. According to the economist Nuno Castel-Branco, there has been an inability, deliberate or not, to retain the uncommitted surplus that could be used for the reproduction of the economy as a whole. In other words, elites capture the state in order to generate surpluses. These surpluses are then financialized, either in domestic capital markets, or, more often, in international capital markets. Of course this also results in capital flight.
In land access and use, the “progressive” land law has been breached or manipulated. Traditional or community leaders have been coopted and fake community consensus and agreement has been fabricated to allow capital to penetrate. Over the last decade, land conflicts have got worse and the number of dispossessed peasanty has been increasing.
In Nampula and Zambezia provinces of Northern Mozambique, family agriculture was replaced by industrial monocrops of soya. One agribusiness company that dislocated hundreds of peasant families has connections with a former president and other political elites.
Reclaiming the state, intensifying the struggles
In Mozambique, agrarian movements – and organised civil society more broadly – have been fighting to defend the current land law, even though it can be manipulated by elites. What emerges from this discussion is the need to reclaim the state and make it more progressive and work for the people.
The other element to highlight is that the attainment of democratic rights – including the right to access, control and defend land – must be defended and advanced through everyday struggles. Laws and policies on their own won’t make significant change. Elites always threaten to capture progressive policies.
Boaventura Monjane is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra and associate researcher at the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies.
He is a Mozambican journalist and social activist. His research interests include agrarian social movements, agrarian political economy, climate change and “alternatives from below”.
This article summarises Monjane’s input into the Land Debate, convened by the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education in Cape Town, in June 2019. This article of first published in Amandla Magazine, Issue No. 65, August 2019
I would like to thank Sameer Dossani for his comments and proofreading.
Women and Naked Protests in Uganda: Breathing new life into feminist discourse that women do not own land
Theresa Auma Eilu*
Blog Article submitted to SMAIAS to be posted on Agrarian South Network (ASN)
24 July 2019
As a form of resistance to the recent emergence of large-scale land acquisition in Uganda, women have been at the forefront of violent confrontations with state authorities and investors. In a context where the dominant feminist discourse declared that patriarchal customary norms hinders women from owning and having rights over land, it has become a surprise that women are leading all forms of resistance to large-scale land alienation, instead of men. One of the major forms of women’s resistance has been through their engagement in naked protests in different parts of the country. The most famous women naked protest was cited in Amuru district in northern Uganda when women led their communities is resisting government acquisition of about 40,000 hectares of land for Madhvani sugar plantation in 2015. Another incidence of women naked protests was in 2012 when women of Lakang sub-county in Amuru district undressed before the district resident commissioner who had led a delegation to take their land for a sugar cane plantation. In 2014, a group of women in Soroti district in eastern Uganda also staged a naked protest against government effort to give away their land for the expansion of Soroti University. In 2015, women in Bukedea district in eastern Uganda further engaged in a naked protest to resist a Chinese investor grabbing their land. In 2015 women from Apaa sub-county in Amuru district also staged a naked protest to stop further evictions (after 6,000 people were evicted in 2012) to allow government allocate their land to a South African investor to establish wildlife hunting grounds. The contestation exhibited in these naked contests is purely of agrarian nature, one in which women who engage in smallholder agriculture on customary land are contesting the advance of agrarian capital through the expansion of large-scale agricultural (foreign) investments. It is a manifestation of the tensions that emerge as a result of an attempt to force a capitalist shift towards large-scale agriculture, to the disadvantage of the rural smallholder farmers in different parts of the global south.
The dominant feminist discourse that customary law and customary practices in Uganda do not allow women to own land; that patriarchy stood on the way for women’s access to and control of land reached a climax in Uganda during the writing of the 1998 Land Act. During this period, the women’s movement operating in the context of civil society organizations (CSOs) towed the individual rights-based approach and called for the law to give equal rights over land between husbands and wives, in what famously became known as the Co-Ownership campaign. During this campaign, the women’s movement deployed statistics showing that although women do 70-80% of agricultural food production, only 16% of these women own land, and that women owned only 7% of the land titled in Uganda. Because of its unpopularity within the Ugandan (patriarchal) society and among policy makers, the co-ownership clauses were rejected and never found its way into the 1998 Land Act, or any subsequent land laws in Uganda to-date. Only one clause on spousal consent during sale of family land was included in the 1998 Land Act, but this clause has not been supported by state enforcement to ensure that women’s consent is secured before family land is sold.
Contemporary studies conducted in the areas where women engaged in naked protests show that resistance to large-scale land acquisition involving investors and state agents has been left to women because when faced with the Investor-State power, men exhibit a sense of powerlessness while women stage resistance because they argue that as mothers, their duty is to feed their children and it is from land that they draw subsistence. A section of contemporary feminist writers in Uganda have begun to shift the nature of the debate and breathing new life into the former feminist discourse within the women’s movement that customs do not allow women to own land. They argue that women have been able to sustain naked protests in resistance to large-scale land alienation due to the fact that customary law guarantees the land rights of women (equally with men), but the difference is that these rights are not accorded on individual terms as envisioned by the women’s movement during the 1998 Co-ownership campaign, but rather through collective rights within families and clans.
Feminist writers are now framing new questions that, if women who are declared by the dominant feminist discourse not to own land are currently at the forefront of resisting expansion of large-scale land alienation in Uganda, what is their stake over this land? Feminist scholars are asking how the new knowledge that customary land tenure actually caters for women’s land rights should sit with the former advocacy stance of the women’s movement – alongside feminist scholars – that women do not own land. The emerging feminist discourse is that the women’s movement can not continue to present simplistic propositions about co-ownership of land between husbands and wives (in the individual sense) because this is not applicable to land relations within the customary system. Feminist scholars in Uganda are re-visiting their earlier analysis of patriarchy by noting that patriarchy is not as rigid and disempowering to women as previously presented, but rather that it is flexible and has room to cater for women’s interests.
* The Author is a PhD Fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University