Samir Amin lectures on Egypt's Nasser and dangers of 'new imperialism'

Mary Mourad, Wednesday 19 Sep 2012

Celebrated Marxist economist Samir Amin discusses two of his recently re-printed books on Nasserism, communism and globalisation, warning against depredations of the 'new imperialists'

Samir Amin during book discussion
Samir Amin during book discussion (Photo: Mary Mourad)

In the company of a small crowd of writers, politicians, intellectuals and admirers, Samir Amin, renowned Egyptian Marxist economist, spoke of his two books: 'On Nasserism and Communism in Egypt' and 'Globalized Value and Added Value,' both recently reprinted by Al-Ain Publishing in cooperation with the National Centre for Translation and the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces.

Amin began introducing his first book by describing the Nasserist era as the "last phase of a development" that started with the Wafd Party soon after World War I and extended until the early Sadat era, noting that Sadat marked the "new wave" that continued until the end of the Mubarak regime.

For Amin, the experience of "deformed development" – a "condition that prevents death yet doesn't allow real development to take place" – is what we have suffered. He analysed the Nasserist era in various phases: the first, before 1952, when President Abdel-Nasser looked to the US for assistance.

Starting in 1954, Nasser started turning to the left. However, by then, the expansion of globalised capitalism was already taking over, and all attempts to develop were bound to fail. "The challenge in Egypt isn't too much planning, but rather the lack thereof," the economist stressed.

In his second book, Amin reflected on Marx's Das Kapital, a book which he reads once every 20 years, and each time within a different context. Where he found the weakness of the theory is how it relates to tackling of the globalisation context, not as a new phenomenon but as a force for change.

Samer Soliman, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, commented on the books by Amin, stating that Marx's theory of "labour as source of value" itself required some rethinking, since the "capitalist" demeaned by the theory is himself/herself "labour," adding "value" albeit of a different sort.

The second comment by Soliman pointed to failure to find a "replacement" for the capitalist in question. The Soviet Union's experience with the enlarged state didn't offer a suitable solution, he noted, and thus there is still a need to consider what could be done to replace the exploiting "capitalist."

Renowned Egyptian philosopher Hassan Hanafi was also present at the event and pointed to the importance of re-evaluating the Nasserist experience following the significant votes received by Hamdeen Sabahi, who belonged to the Nasserist current, in recent presidential elections.

Yet Hanafi was fiercely critical of Amin's theories, saying they were best suited for the 1960s, stressing that now, after the revolution – which he and others missed while living abroad – the theories should be reconsidered to better help us overcome the fake dichotomies of Civil vs. Islamists, which we see today.

In his concluding remarks, Amin replied that his books don't include all the answers to all questions. He mentioned state capitalism as the road out of individual capitalism until the gradual move to socialism, indicating that Nasser had failed in this experience midway and that we must understand the reasons behind his failure before moving forward.

On renewing socialist thought, Amin sees this as a global issue, to which no one today has solutions, but only parts of solutions; that the current target of imperialists is to break down the state, which is what we saw in Libya, Sudan, Somalia and in Syria, and that the Islamist agenda cannot stand strong against these attempts.

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