Features: capitalism in crisis – an obsolete system

December 4th, 2010

Published on Pambazuka News, by Samir Amin, Interview conducted by Zahra Moloo, Dec. 02, 2010.

With Samir Amin speaking in the UK this week, Pambazuka Press is pleased to announce the publication of three of his books, ‘Eurocentrism’, ‘Global History: A View from the South’ and ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?’ In an interview with Zahra Moloo, Amin discusses capitalism in crisis, global financialisation and moving beyond capitalism. This interview is also available as an audio

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Can you tell me very briefly what your book, ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?’, what is it about? 

SAMIR AMIN: The title of my book is indicative of the intention. The title, in a provocative way, is ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism in Crisis?’ As you can see, these are two different visions and strategies of action. Capitalism is currently in a crisis. This is not just a financial crisis which started with the breakdown of the financial system in September 2008. The financial crisis is itself the result of a long, a deep crisis which started long before, around 1975 with as of that time, unemployment, precarity, poverty, inequality, having grown continuously. And this real crisis of really existing capitalism has been overcome by financialisation of the system and the financialisation of the system has been the Achilles heel of the system. Therefore I thought that, and I wrote in 2002 that financialisation, being the Achilles heel of the system, the system will start breaking down and moving into a deeper crisis through a financial crisis, which is what happened. Now we are at that point in time and we have to look into what strategy. Can we develop … is it reasonable to think that the system was not so bad and that therefore we should go back, restore the system as it was before the financial breakdown. That is one alternative. It is the choice of the ruling power of capital. It is the choice of, for instance, Stiglitz and people who are presented as critical – they are not critical. Or, the alternative – and it is the alternative which I think is the only reasonable one – is to look at that deep crisis of the system as the signal that the system is an obsolete system. That is, it has now come to a point where continuing the accumulation of capital is deepening and continuing the destruction of the natural basis for the reproduction of civilisation. And therefore that we ought to move and start moving beyond capitalism … //

… PAMBAZUKA NEWS: In an interview with Pambazuka, you talked about – if we turn specifically to Africa – you talked about African countries that have the weakest economies are also in this moment the most open and therefore the most easily exploited. And then you talked about Latin American social movements. In Africa you said that the struggle for liberation was discontinued. Why was the struggle discontinued?

SAMIR AMIN: There is never an end to history and what we have had in the 20th century and particularly in the second half of the 20th century was a first wave of emancipation of the nations of the South, particularly of Africa. I think that the independence re-conquered by the African people – it was not given on a golden plate by the West as is being said often – it was conquered by the struggles, including armed struggles which started in Kenya with the Mau Mau, which continued with the Portuguese colonies, which continued with the Algerian war of liberation. But also more pacific patterns of struggle but still struggles on a wide scale, of the peasants and working people almost everywhere over Africa and of the black working class of South Africa, not only against apartheid but simultaneously against apartheid and exploitation by capital. These were victories, but a victory in history is never the end of the story, it’s just the beginning of a phase which has its own limitations, internal contradictions and coming to an end. We are moving into a second wave of emancipation of African popular classes along with liberation of their nations. We are at that point in history where the first wave has come to an end and the second is just starting. Now today for imperialism, Africa is very important because of the enormous natural resources of the continent, not only oil and gas, but also rare minerals, a lot of minerals common like copper and less common but no less important like cobalt and other rare minerals, but also more and more, land, which is becoming a scare resource at the global level and Africa has plenty of it. But for imperialism, Africa is important for its resources, not African people. They are rather an obstacle to the exploitation of natural resources. This is why the US and their European allies in NATO are developing a planned strategy of military control of important areas in Africa to be plundered for their natural resources. And they are assuming that the African people will remain passive and will not move into active agents which will stop their plunder of the continent. I think they are wrong. Just as the colonialists thought that the colonial system was there forever and that the peoples of Africa would have to adjust to it and they were for a number of decades adjusting to it, but that could not continue forever. Exactly in the same way, the idea that the African resources can be plundered without the African peoples responding to the challenge and taking over the control of those natural resources is a big error of judgment of imperialism. (full interview text).


Building Africa’s tax havens, by Khadija Sharife, Dec. 2, 2010;

Resistance beyond borders: Irish lessons and international workers’ solidarity, by Horace Campbell, Dec. 2, 2010;

Zimbabwe, private companies and the Mauritius money, by Khadija Sharife, Dec. 2, 2010;

Old, bad habits die hard, Khadija Sharife, Dec. 2, 2010.

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