Samir Amin, who died this year at the age of 87, was one of the foremost writers of the “dependency theory” which, in the 1960s and 70s came, many left-wing activists came to think was “the Marxist theory of imperialism”.
Many even thought it was “Lenin’s theory”, although the whole structure of the theory was different.
Amin, of Egyptian-French background, lived most of his life in France, and was in the French Communist Party then associated with Maoists. The basic idea of “dependency theory” was that ex-colonial countries were underdeveloped because of a drain of surplus to the richer countries.
The answer — often implicitly, and although many of the “dependency theorists” were or came to be critical of the USSR — was the model provided by the Stalin’s USSR: expropriate the parasitic old property-owning classes, centralise resources in the hands of the state, cut down economic relations with the rest of the world to a minimum.
Amin wrote of “autocentric” development (and he also coined the term “Eurocentrism”). So for example, he wrote a detailed study on the Ivory Coast in the mid-1960s: in which he concluded that industrial development there was possibly only through an “autocentric” version of what he thought to be socialism. In the early 1980s, the Marxist writers Marcussen and Torp showed in detail that the vocally pro-capitalist regime in Ivory Coast had actually achieved what Amin said could only be done through socialism.
The Ivorian capitalists had exploited the workers — and built industry, capitalist industry. Amin continued to write prolifically, adjusting as he went. In later years he looked to the creation of a “multipolar” world as the progressive alternative to US domination. Again, we may get his “progressive” vision realised... by the activities of Trump.
Amin, however, did separate from many of those who have sunk their socialism into a negativistic, “enemy’s enemy is my friend”, “anti-imperialism”.
“Political Islam”, he wrote, “is... fundamentally reactionary and therefore obviously cannot participate in the progress of peoples’ liberation...
[Some say] “that political Islam, even if it is reactionary in terms of social proposals, is ‘anti-imperialist’...
“What I contend is that political Islam as a whole is quite simply not anti-imperialist but is altogether lined up behind the dominant powers on the world scale”.