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Radical responses to the crisis: democratisation of the societies, social progress, a responsible management of the ecological challenge, reinforcing the sovereignty of nations and peoples, South South cooperation – WORLD FORUM FOR ALTERNATIVES AND THIRD WORLD FORUM

July 3, 2013

Third World Forum

Naima Bouteldja interviews Samir Amin

NAIMA BOUTELDJA: You have been an academic and an activist for decades now, notably in the Third World. Could you tell us a bit about your journey?  

SAMIR AMIN: I have always been an activist, since a very young age. I don’t think I am an “academic” in the conventional sense of the term, that is, someone who is hidden away in an ivory tower observing the world from afar.  

I was born in Egypt and went to school there. I went to university in France and then returned to Egypt where I worked for the government on the national economic plan. I had to go into exile a few years later for political reasons. Taking refuge in Europe did not appeal to me at all. I wanted to continue working in the Third World and in particular in Africa, our homeland. I held numerous positions and then became the co-coordinator of a rather large international organization: the Third World Forum. I have kept close ties with Egypt and return there often. I’m the president of the Center for Arab Studies in Cairo, which I think is one of the most active places for thought and reflection in Egypt. 

What does your role in the Third World Forum involve and what contacts do you have with the World Social Forum? 

The Third World Forum is an organization which a number of friends and I helped create 30 years ago. The aim was to create an independent international association of intellectuals of the Third World (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). We wanted to organize an exchange of ideas, and have a discussion centered on the ongoing debate about the challenges that global capitalism poses to the peoples of the Third World. Those challenges are not only economic; they are cultural, political, and geo-strategic. Our organization has about 1,000 members, about 300 per continent, and I am the co-coordinator. Our head office is in Dakar in Senegal and we have offices throughout the three continents. A few years ago, we began to think that the current world condition meant we had to move to a global level—that is, our alliance needed to include progressive forces from the North. With others, we therefore created the World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) in Cairo in 1997. The Third World Forum is a member, together with various organizations from the North, including CEDETIM (Center for the Study of and Initiatives in International Solidarity) from France. The WFA took the initiative in 1999 to organize a counter-Davos event. “At the Davos for the billionaires you will also find a Davos for the underprivileged,” was our statement. This first gathering was a significant media success given that we were not many. This prompted our Brazilian friends to organize on a greater scale: a World Social Forum. This is how the idea of Porto Alegre was born and many other continental forums, notably an Asian forum in Hyderabad and a European forum in Florence. All these forums helped to develop a network of organizations that work against both neo-liberal globalization and U.S. hegemony.

Does the emergence of a global movement that explicitly links the North and the South, and which has probably found new dynamism from initiatives such as the World Forum for Alternatives, undermine arguments for “delinking?”—that is, the need for Third World countries to break with the capitalist model of development in order to find another way to develop.  

De-linking remains the key. Capitalism in its globalizing form is leading to the widening of the gap between the center and the periphery (in common language: North and South). Attempting to “catch up” by remaining tied to capitalist thinking is not an option. We need to break with this thinking. This is how I understand de-linking. However, “de-linking” is not about running away from the rest of the world nor is it about autarky. De-linking is the opposite strategy to that proposed by the dominant capitalist forces, which invite us to “adjust” to the powerful current flowing from the logic of capitalist expansion. De-linking implies requiring the North to adjust to the development of the South. It’s all about working for another globalization. 

The idea that the anti-corporate globalization movement was born in the West, in Seattle, and then spread across the rest of the world, is widely believed in Europe. 

That idea is false. The Third World Forum, which has existed for more than 20 years, and is an Asiatic-African-Latin American organization, was the instigator of the World Forum for Alternatives. This initiative was an important step in the development of the Social Forums. Two reasons could explain the confusion. First, the events that have occurred in the Northern countries are more widely reported. Second, in spite of everything, people in the North benefit from a more democratic environment and can therefore organize enormous demonstrations more easily than people in the South where it would be practically impossible to do so in most African and Asian countries.  

How would you explain the rapid growth in the anti-corporate globalization movement?  

It was a predictable development, though I was surprised by the strength and expansion of the movement. It was so apparent that global neo-liberalism would cause social catastrophes throughout the world, including in countries of the North and by definition in those of the South, who are the most vulnerable and fragile, that the emergence of a resistance movement was only a question of time. It is these reactions that are at the heart of the U.S.’s “permanent war,” even if other factors clearly also play a role in the policy. This concept of a permanent war highlights an important reality—neo-liberalism can only continue through violence. 

The Middle East is a characteristic example: In 1993-1994 the U.S., under the Clinton administration, tried to impose a Middle East Common Market on the Arab countries and Israel and/or with Israel. The Gulf countries would contribute capital and countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and Syria would contribute labor, while Israel would be an obligatory intermediary, even though nobody quite understood why we needed such an intermediary. At the time, Arab governments accepted this plan, but were unable to put it into action partly because of resistance from their people. Only the Gulf countries could contribute, because they are not concerned about the details. 

Thankfully, albeit not surprisingly, the vast majority of public opinion in the North, especially in continental Europe and even in Britain, was against the war. The very interesting thing about the demonstrations was that they not only brought together peace activists, but also citizens who have a clear grasp of the political link between neo-liberalism and U.S. military hegemony. This was very visible at the European Social Forum in Florence, which took place last November. There were similar forums, albeit on a more modest scale because of the political environment, in Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere. There also we found the same political consciousness. 

Where does the anti-corporate globalization movement in the Third World, find itself today? 

The movement in sub-Saharan Africa is more developed where there is a greater degree of democratic freedom, which enables people to organize popular protests and events. This is the case in South Africa where the movement is strong and has mobilized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the roads, in the context of specific meetings. The movement is a lot weaker in other countries of the South, notably in Arab and Asian countries where there are significant democratic restrictions. There were just as many participants at Hyderabad for the Asian Social Forum as there were at Porto Alegre and, for geographic reasons, they were mainly Indian and Asian.  Incidentally, as in the North, the Southern movements remain fragmented. That is, one or a number of alliances of dominant political forces has not united them by proposing a short and long-term strategy and goals. If we go back to the example of the war, the vast majority of public opinion in Spain and in Italy (even in Poland) was against Bush’s policy, yet their governments were able to support it without having to worry too much about political consequences. In spite of the strength of the movement, due to its fragmentation, those in power retained room to maneuver, but that room is going to dwindle in the near future. 

Is it possible to create unity between the differing multiple political forces that exist within the movement? 

It’s not about unifying. At this time the creation of a new International is not on the agenda. It’s about finding “convergence in diversity”—to organize a continuous debate between all the organizations who wish to participate and who are struggling sometimes in a specific sector. Today in France, there is a very dynamic struggle going on over pension reform. Certainly, all those who oppose the liberalization of the pension system are not necessarily against capitalism in general, the market, competition, and indeed, maybe some of the protestors are not even against neo-liberalism about which they don’t know much. They are nevertheless struggling and, as always, it is about finding a way to find a consensus with the various demands of the organizations involved. 

Our hope at the World Forum for Alternatives is that we remain a forum, that is, we do not end up creating a general political line for others, but we provide a space where people are invited to give their point of view and to understand the importance of this convergence. A common action needs to be taken by all democratic forces, progressive and anti-imperialist, from North to South. All those in the South who develop ideological themes along the lines of “we have nothing to do with this, that is a problem for these people from the North,” are playing into the hands of the U.S. 

What ideological themes are you referring to?  

I am thinking, for example, about political Islam, a movement that was created in a systematic way by the Americans and which often uses the theme “we have nothing to do with this, we are Muslims, etc.” as if we could ignore the challenges we face from the global system currently in place. In the Egyptian Parliament, the few elected representatives who claim to have their roots in political Islam have all voted for the most reactionary and anti-social policies possible. For example, they voted for the liberalization of the land tax regime that was inherited from the Nasser regime, which was controlled by the state and operated in favor of the peasants. But I could say the same thing about Hindutva, the Hindu chauvinist ideology of the BJP government in India. 

What do you think about the claims that the anti-war movement has taken some of the dynamism away from the anti-capitalist movement? 

That seems to be nonsense. The anti-war movement is an anti-imperialist movement, which does not mean to say that each and every one of the millions of people who marched against the war have a crystal clear understanding of the link between the war and capitalism. It is clear that a certain number of the demonstrators are pacifists who do not like war, but I do not believe that this was the defining characteristic of the movement. On the contrary, I would say that the anti-war movement has engendered progress in people’s conscious political understanding and is not a regression.  

What is your analysis of the links between the war and capitalist logic?  

I refer to this as the collective imperialism of the Triad—that is the fact that the internationalized dominant capital of the U.S., Europe, and Japan shares a common interest up to a certain point in global economic management. The U.S. does not benefit from a crushing economic advantage, as some people seem to think. On the contrary, their economic position is extremely fragile, and vulnerable. The trade deficit, which has increased from $100 billion to over $500 billion, is a clear example of that vulnerability. This indicates that the U.S. would not be certain of its competitiveness in a world where competition was truly free. Nor would they be certain of their ability to out-perform their competitors, most notably Europe and Japan, but also various Asian countries in specific sectors. Under these conditions, it is because they are subject to such vulnerability, that the ruling U.S. classes have chosen to play the military card. They have chosen to mount an offensive in the area where they, unfortunately, have a crushing advantage over the rest of the world for the moment, what I refer to as the “capacity to bomb without punishment.” Their military prowess enables them to impose a form of neo-liberal globalization that benefits the U.S. through the use of military force or the threat of its use. I would compare this project to that of Hitler’s, but not because U.S. society is necessarily the same as that of the Nazis. Rather, the choice of the ruling class is of a similar nature: to overturn normal economic and social relations for their own benefit through the use of military force. Hitler thought that by controlling Europe, he could control the world. Today, the U.S. wants military control over the entire world. As with all immoderate projects, it is probably destined to failure, but not without tragedy. 

How does the movement combat the grand strategy of the American government?  

The battle can be fought on all fronts. First of all, it can be fought in the context of international law and diplomacy. France did so brilliantly within the Security Council and I hope it will continue to do so. The defense of international law is primordial and this defense is not a backward-looking and nostalgic discussion. On the contrary it is the discourse of the future.  

The battle on the streets is as important, to the extent that governments will be forced to take account of growing public opinion. However, it is not just a question of protesting against war, rather, it is about protesting each time people are attacked, such as what we see in France at this moment with the pensions’ debate. Every defeat inflicted on neo-liberalism is a positive one because it forces the system to think of an alternative to itself, to make concessions. 

There is also an ideological battle to be won, which will happen through the creation of a grand alliance between interests and people, all people, North and South. The creation of an alliance as large as possible is imperative. It could be that people find themselves immediately confronted by violent choices, as the Iraqi population is currently facing with the U.S. occupation of their country. Resistance to that occupation, the form of which I can’t predict, will certainly develop and we will have to lend our support and solidarity to that struggle. 

Are you an optimist?  

I am an optimist in the way that Rosa Luxembourg wrote in 1918 that the choice presenting itself to humanity at that time in our history at the end of World War I was “socialism or barbarism,” i.e., the capitalist regime was constrained by its internal logic to become more and more barbaric. At that time, World War I was already a pretty barbarous thing. I think that “socialism or barbarism” is truer than it was when Rosa Luxembourg was writing, truer than it has ever been. 

I am not a believer in the idea that justice will always prevail and that the masses will be necessarily victorious in the end. I believe that history should permit people to prevail, and that human reason could allow people to ultimately win. But I am not necessarily persuaded that this will come to pass. So the choice is clear. Otherwise the reactions of the people will be confused, inadequate, and they will be made powerless by divisions leaving the “U.S. Hitler-Bushist project” to develop. Within this logic, the possibility of genocide cannot be excluded as it is in the tradition of projects such as theirs. How long will it survive—100 or 50 years? I don’t know, but I think it will not last that long. This project will be de-railed before then, but not without suffering along the way. 

What is the future for socialism in the world? 

The future is socialist. One is not very popular when one says this these days because people always retort, “Yes, but look at what it leads to with communism, etc.”  Socialism offers humanity a route to freedom from the economic alienation imposed by the logic of capitalism. The logic underlying capitalism is not only about private ownership of the means of production by a small minority, it’s not only about the market and competition in the marketplace, it is also about the alienation within and of the market. I am a Marxist, I have always been a Marxist. Many are not Marxists in the way that I am, in the sense that I often remember that one of the first chapters ofDas Capital is called “The Fetishism of Commodities.” That is, it begins not with an analysis of the positive and negative aspects of competition, but addresses the fundamental problem—the alienation of human beings and their submission to a logic that they believe to be exterior to their being, while it is in fact a product of their social organization. 

Socialism or even I would say communism, because it is the term used by Marx, offers freedom from that alienation. So that idea of freedom has been taken on by various political and social movements in the context of their own particular struggles, together with its strengths and weaknesses and its limitations. It was first put into action by the European workers movement through the Second International before 1914, then through the Russian Revolution, then the Chinese, and the Third International. I consider these to be steps in its history. 

Why not believe that history is continuing as it has always done so, where things do not necessarily succeed the first time. I am convinced that the failure of neo-liberalism will enable a new dawn towards a long-term socialist society. Socialism, notably as it evolved from the Russian Revolution, offered a short-term perspective on its development, no longer than a decade. One does not de-alienate human beings in so short a period of time, and we should conceptualize the transition to global communism from global capitalism as a long-term transition. I do not have a crystal ball, but if it takes a century or longer I would not be surprised.  

Naima Bouteldja is a French Algerian Muslim activist. She is a freelance journalist living in London



Radical responses to the crisis: democratisation of the societies, social progress, a responsible management of the ecological challenge, reinforcing the sovereignty of nations and peoples, South South cooperation

Third World Forum and World Forum for Alternatives have participated in the World Social Forum last edition, which was held in Tunis from 26 to 30 March 2013.

Indeed we consider important that voices from the South aware of the challenges to which their peoples are confronted and the manoeuvres of the imperialist forces and their local reactionary allies aiming at destroying the chances of authentic revolutionary advances be heard.

The programme of our activities in Tunis was conceived as a contribution to a radical critique of the contemporary global system of so called “neo liberal” globalization, that very system that has entered into a deep systemic crisis, and as well to review critically the strengths and the weaknesses of the movements in struggle and their capability to develop a positive alternative to the neoliberal regime.

The program included four blocs of questions for debate:


1. What are the main characteristics of the new imperialism in the economic, political, ideological and theoretical fields? Under what conditions emerging countries and other countries of the South can meet the challenge successfully?

2. Looking at the political, social and cultural struggles in the South and in the North. How to move from a low to a high intensity internationalism and solidarity?

3. Ecological sustainability. Why the neoclassical political economy, which is at the core of the neoliberal discourse, is not credible? What are the limits of the non-socialist radical discourse?

4. The agrarian question. The lumpen urbanization is a characteristic not only of the countries that are excluded from industrialization but also of the emerging markets. It is a product of the general rural crisis rooted in land tenure systems, low productivity and low income, socio-cultural and socio-power relations. What are the political,socio-economic and cultural conditions for providing good living conditions to all city-dwellers, and achievinga rural developmentwhich allows enough young people to voluntarily stayin the countryside?

WFA and TWF organised in that frame 5 round tables, held on 27 and 29 march 2013 under the general title mentionned above. According to the published programme of the WSF the titles of these round tables are:

1. Radical Critique of Policies Based on the Consolidation of Power of Transnational Financially Structured Oligopolies

2. An Essential Demand for the South: Democratisation of Societies Associated with Social Progress (including Abolition of the Patriarchy)

3. The Arab Revolutions, Two Years Later

4. Radical critique of the dominant forces responses to the ecological crisis. Alternative approach based on the concept of the common heritage of humanity

5. The agrarian question. Critique of dominant theories and policies. Theoretical reformulations of radical alternatives

WFA and TWF also participated in the debates organised by the network ‘South South Cooperation”




Contemporary capitalism is a capitalism of generalized monopolies. By this I mean that monopolies are now no longer islands (albeit important) in a sea of other still relatively autonomous companies, but is an integrated system. Therefore, these monopolies now tightly control all the systems of production. Small and medium enterprises and even the large corporations that are not strictly speaking oligopolies are locked in a network of control put in place by the monopolies. Their degree of autonomy has shrunk to the point that they are nothing more than subcontractors of the monopolies.

This system of generalized monopolies is the product of a new phase of centralization of capital in the countries of the Triad (the United States, Western and Central Europe, and Japan) that took place during the 1980s and 1990s.

The generalized monopolies now dominate the world economy. ‘Globalization’ is the name they have given to the set of demands by which they exert their control over the productive systems of the periphery of global capitalism (the world beyond the partners of the triad). It is nothing other than a new stage of imperialism.

The capitalism of generalized and globalized monopolies is a system that guarantees these monopolies a monopoly rent levied on the mass of surplus value (transformed into profits) that capital extracts from the exploitation of labour. To the extent that these monopolies are operating in the peripheries of the global system, monopoly rent is imperialist rent. The process of capital accumulation – that defines capitalism in all its successive historical forms – is therefore driven by the maximisation of monopoly/imperialist rent seeking.

This shift in the centre of gravity of the accumulation of capital is the source of the continuous concentration of income and wealth to the benefit of the monopolies, largely monopolised by the oligarchies (‘plutocracies’) that govern oligopolistic groups at the expense of the remuneration of labour and even the remuneration of non-monopolistic capital.

This imbalance in continued growth is itself, in turn, the source of the financialisation of the economic system. By this I mean that a growing portion of the surplus cannot be invested in the expansion and deepening of systems of production and therefore the ‘financial investment’ of this excessive surplus becomes the only option for continued accumulation under the control of the monopolies.

This financialisation, which is responsible for the growth of inequality in income distribution (and fortunes), generates the growing surplus on which it feeds. The ‘financial investments’ (or rather the investments in financial speculation) continue to grow at dizzying speeds, not commensurate with growth in GDP (which is therefore becoming largely fictitious) or with investment in real production.

The explosive growth of financial investment requires – and fuels – among other things debt in all its forms, especially sovereign debt. When the governments in power claim to be pursuing the goal of ‘debt reduction’, they are deliberately lying. For the strategy of financialised monopolies requires the growth in debt (which they seek, rather than combat) as a way to absorb the surplus profit of monopolies. The austerity policies imposed ‘to reduce debt’ have indeed resulted (as intended) in increasing its volume.

It is this system – commonly called ‘neoliberal’, the system of generalized monopoly capitalism, ‘globalized’ (imperialist) and financialised (of necessity for its own reproduction) – that is imploding before our eyes. This system, apparently unable to overcome its growing internal contradictions, is doomed to continue its wild ride.

The historical circumstances created by the implosion of contemporary capitalism requires the radical left, in the North as well as the South, to be bold in formulating its political alternative to the existing system. This moment demands as the only effective response a bold and audacious radicalization in the formulation of alternatives capable of moving workers and peoples to take the offensive to defeat their adversary’s strategy of war. These formulations, based on the analysis of actually existing contemporary capitalism, must directly confront the future that is to be built, and turn their back on the nostalgia for the past and illusions of identity or consensus.

Audacity, more audacity

The historical circumstances created by the implosion of contemporary capitalism requires the radical left, in the North as well as the South, to be bold in formulating its political alternative to the existing system. The purpose of this paper is to show why audacity is required and what it means.

Why audacity?

1. Contemporary capitalism is a capitalism of generalized monopolies. By this I mean that monopolies are now no longer islands (albeit important) in a sea of other still relatively autonomous companies, but are an integrated system.Therefore, these monopolies now tightly control all the systems of production. Small and medium enterprises, and even the large corporations that are not strictly speaking oligopolies are locked in a network of control put in place by the monopolies. Their degree of autonomy has shrunk to the point that they are nothing more than subcontractors of the monopolies.

This system of generalized monopolies is the product of a new phase of centralization of capital in the countries of the Triad (the United States, Western and Central Europe, and Japan) that took place during the 1980s and 1990s.

The generalized monopolies now dominate the world economy. “Globalization” is the name they have given to the set of demands by which they exert their control over the productive systems of the periphery of global capitalism (the world beyond the partners of the triad). It is nothing other than a new stage of imperialism.

2. The capitalism of generalized and globalized monopolies is a system that guarantees these monopolies a monopoly rent levied on the mass of surplus value (transformed into profits) that capital extracts from the exploitation of labor. To the extent that these monopolies are operating in the peripheries of the global system, monopoly rent is imperialist rent. The process of capital accumulation – that defines capitalism in all its successive historical forms – is therefore driven by the maximization of monopoly/imperialist rent seeking.

This shift in the center of gravity of the accumulation of capital is the source of the continuous concentration of income and wealth to the benefit of the monopolies, largely monopolized by the oligarchies (“plutocracies”) that govern oligopolistic groups at the expense of the remuneration of labor and even the remuneration of non-monopolistic capital.

3. This imbalance in continued growth is itself, in turn, the source of thefinancialization of the economic system. By this I mean that a growing portion of the surplus cannot be invested in the expansion and deepening of systems of production and therefore the “financial investment” of this excessive surplus becomes the only option for continued accumulation under the control of the monopolies.

The implementation of specific systems by capital permits the financialization to operate in different ways:

(i) The subjugation of the management of firms to the principle of “shareholder value”

(ii) The substitution of pension systems funded by capitalization (Pension Funds) by systems of pension distribution

(iii) The adoption of the principle of “flexible exchange rates”

(iv) The abandonment of the principle of central banks determining the interest rate – the price of “liquidity” – and the transfer of this responsibility to the “market”.


Financialization has transferred the major responsibility for control of the reproduction of the system of accumulation to some thirty giant banks of the triad. What are euphemistically called “markets” are nothing other than the places where the strategies of these actors who dominate the economic scene are deployed.

In turn this financialization, which is responsible for the growth of inequality in income distribution (and fortunes), generates the growing surplus on which it feeds. The “financial investments” (or rather the investments in financial speculation) continue to grow at dizzying speeds, not commensurate with growth in GDP (which is therefore becoming largely fictitious) or with investment in real production.

The explosive growth of financial investment requires – and fuels – among other things debt in all its forms, especially sovereign debt. When the governments in power claim to be pursuing the goal of “debt reduction”, they are deliberately lying. For the strategy of financialized monopolies requires the growth in debt (which they seek, rather than combat) as a way to absorb the surplus profit of monopolies. The austerity policies imposed “to reduce debt” have indeed resulted (as intended) in increasing its volume.

4. It is this system – commonly called “neoliberal”, the system of generalized monopoly capitalism, “globalized” (imperialist) and financialized (of necessity for its own reproduction) – that is imploding before our eyes. This system, apparently unable to overcome its growing internal contradictions, is doomed to continue its wild ride.

The “crisis” of the system is due to its own “success.” Indeed so far the strategy deployed by monopolies has always produced the desired results: “austerity” plans and the so-called social (in fact antisocial) downsizing plans that are still being imposed, in spite of resistance and struggles. To this day the initiative remains in the hands of the monopolies (“the markets”) and their political servants (the governments that submit to the demands of the so-called “market”).

5. Under these conditions monopoly capital has openly declared war on workers and peoples. This declaration is formulated in the sentence “liberalism is not negotiable.” Monopoly capital will definitely continue its wild ride and not slow down. The criticism of “regulation” that I make below is grounded in this fact.

We are not living in a historical moment in which the search for a “social compromise” is a possible option. There have been such moments in the past, such as the post-war social compromise between capital and labor specific to the social democratic state in the West, the actually existing socialism in the East, and the popular national projects of the South. But our present historical moment is not the same. So the conflict is between monopoly capital and workers and people who are invited to an unconditional surrender. Defensive strategies of resistance under these conditions are ineffective and bound to be eventually defeated. In the face of war declared by monopoly capital, workers and peoples must develop strategies that allow them to take the offensive.

The period of social war is necessarily accompanied by the proliferation of international political conflicts and military interventions of the imperialist powers of the triad. The strategy of “military control of the planet” by the armed forces of the United States and its subordinate NATO allies is ultimately the only means by which the imperialist monopolies of the triad can expect to continue their domination over the peoples, nations and the states of the South.

Faced with this challenge of the war declared by the monopolies, what alternatives are being proposed?

First response: “market regulation” (financial and otherwise).

These are initiatives that monopolies and governments claim they are pursuing. In fact it is only empty rhetoric, designed to mislead public opinion. These initiatives cannot stop the mad rush for financial return that is the result of the logic of accumulation controlled by monopolies. They are therefore a false alternative.

Second response: a return to the post-war models.

These responses feed a triple nostalgia: (i) the rebuilding of a true “social democracy” in the West, (ii) the resurrection of “socialisms” founded on the principles that governed those of the twentieth century, (iii) the return to formulas of popular nationalism in the peripheries of the South. These nostalgias imagine it is possible to “roll back” monopoly capitalism, forcing it to regress to what it was in 1945. But history never allows such returns to the past. Capitalism must be confronted as it is today, not as what we would have wished it to be by imagining the blocking of its evolution. However, these longings continue to haunt large segments of the left throughout the world.

Third response: the search for a “humanist” consensus.

I define this pious wish in the following way: the illusion that a consensus among fundamentally conflicting interests would be possible. Naïve ecology movements, among others, share this illusion.

Fourth response: the illusions of the past.

These illusions invoke “specificity” and “right to difference” without bothering to understand their scope and meaning. The past has already answered the questions for the future. These “culturalisms” can take many para-religious or ethnic forms. Theocracies and ethnocracies become convenient substitutes for the democratic social struggles that have been evacuated from their agenda.

Fifth response: priority of “personal freedom”.

The range of responses based on this priority, considered the exclusive “supreme value”, includes in its ranks the diehards of “representative electoral democracy,” which they equate with democracy itself. The formula separates the democratization of societies from social progress, and even tolerates a de facto association with social regression in order not to risk to discrediting democracy, now reduced to the status of a tragic farce.

But there are even more dangerous forms of this position. I am referring here to some common “post modernist” currents (such as Toni Negri in particular) who imagine that the individual has already become the subject of history, as if communism, which will allow the individual to be emancipated from alienation and actually become the subject of history, were already here!


It is clear that all of the responses above, including those of the right (such as the “regulations” that do not affect private property monopolies) still find powerful echoes among a majority of the people on the left.

6. The war declared by the generalized monopoly capitalism of contemporary imperialism has nothing to fear from the false alternatives that I have just outlined.

So what is to be done?

This moment offers us the historic opportunity to go much further; it demands as the only effective response a bold and audacious radicalization in the formulation of alternatives capable of moving workers and peoples to take the offensive to defeat their adversary’s strategy of war. These formulations, based on the analysis of actually existing contemporary capitalism, must directly confront the future that is to be built, and turn their back on the nostalgia for the past and illusions of identity or consensus.

Audacious programs for the radical left

I will organize the following general proposals under three headings: (i) socialize the ownership of monopolies, (ii) de-financialize the management of the economy, (iii) de-globalize international relations.

Socialize the ownership of monopolies

The effectiveness of the alternative response necessarily requires the questioning of the very principle of private property of monopoly capital. Proposing to “regulate” financial operations, to return markets to ‘transparency’ to allow “agents’ expectations” to be ” rational” and to define the terms of a consensus on these reforms without abolishing the private property of monopolies, is nothing other than throwing dust in the eyes of the naive public. Monopolies are asked to “manage” reforms against their own interests, ignoring the fact that they retain a thousand and one ways to circumvent the objectives of such reforms.

The alternative social project should be to reverse the direction of the current social order (social disorder) produced by the strategies of monopolies, in order to ensure maximum and stabilized employment, and to ensure decent wages growing in parallel with the productivity of social labour. This objective is simply impossible without the expropriation of the power of monopolies.

The “software of economic theorists” must be reconstructed (in the words of François Morin). The absurd and impossible economic theory of “expectations” expels democracy from the management of economic decision-making. Audacity in this instance requires radical reform of education for the training not only of economists, but also of all those called to occupy management positions.

Monopolies are institutional bodies that must be managed according to the principles of democracy, in direct conflict with those who sanctify private property. Although the term “commons”, imported from the Anglo-Saxon world, is itself ambiguous because always disconnected from the debate on the meaning of social conflicts (Anglo-Saxon language deliberately ignores the reality of social classes), the term could be invoked here specifically to call monopolies part of the “commons”.

The abolition of the private ownership of monopolies takes place through their nationalization. This first legal action is unavoidable. But audacity here means going beyond that step to propose plans for the socialization of the management of nationalized monopolies and the promotion of the democratic social struggles that are engaged on this long road.

I will give here a concrete example of what could be involved in plans of socialization.

‘Capitalist’ farmers (those of developed countries) like ‘peasant’ farmers (mostly in the South) are all prisoners of both the upstream monopolies that provide inputs and credit, and the downstream ones on which they depend for processing, transportation and marketing of their products. Therefore they have no real autonomy in their “decisions”. In addition the productivity gains they make are siphoned off by the monopolies that have reduced producers to the status of “subcontractors”. What possible alternative?

Public institutions working within a legal framework that would set the mode of governance must replace the monopolies. These would be constituted of representatives of: (i) farmers (the principle interests), (ii) upstream units (manufacturers of inputs, banks) and downstream (food industry, retail chains) and (iii) consumers, (iv) local authorities (interested in natural and social environment – schools, hospitals, urban planning and housing, transportation), (v) the State (citizens). Representatives of the components listed above would be self-selected according to procedures consistent with their own mode of socialized management, such as units of production of inputs that are themselves managed by directorates of workers directly employed by the units concerned as well as those who are employed by sub-contracting units and so on. These structures should be designed by formulas that associate management personnel with each of these levels, such as research centers for scientific independent and appropriate technology. We could even conceive of a representation of capital providers (the “small shareholders”) inherited from the nationalization, if deemed useful.

We are therefore talking about institutional approaches that are more complex than the forms of “self-directed” or “cooperative” that we have known. Ways of working need to be invented that that allows the exercise of genuine democracy in the management of the economy, based on open negotiation among all interested parties. A formula is required that systematically links the democratization of society with social progress, in contrast with the reality of capitalism which dissociates democracy, which is reduced to the formal management of politics, from social conditions abandoned to the “market” dominated by what monopoly capital produces. Then and only then can we talk about true transparency of markets, regulated in institutionalized forms of socialized management.

The example may seem marginal in the developed capitalist countries because farmers there are a very small proportion of workers (3-7%), however, this issue is central to the South where the rural population will remain significant for some time. Here access to land, which must be guaranteed for all (with the least possible inequality of access), is fundamental to principles advancing peasant agriculture (I refer here to my previous work on this question). “Peasant agriculture” should not be understood as synonymous with “stagnant agriculture” (or “traditional and folklorique”). The necessary progress of peasant agriculture does require some “modernization” (although this term is a misnomer because it immediately suggests to many modernization through capitalism). More effective inputs, credits, and production and supply chains are necessary to improve the productivity of peasant labor. The formulas proposed here pursue the objective of enabling this modernization in ways and in a spirit that is “non-capitalist”, that is to say grounded in a socialist perspective.

Obviously the specific example chosen here is one that needs to be institutionalized. The nationalization / socialization of the management of monopolies in the sectors of industry and transport, banks and other financial institutions should be imagined in the same spirit, while taking into account the specificities of their economic and social functions in the constitution of their directorates. Again these directorates should involve the workers in the company as well as those of subcontractors, representatives of upstream industries, banks, research institutions, consumers, and citizens.

The nationalization / socialization of monopolies address a fundamental need at the central axis of the challenge confronting workers and peoples under contemporary capitalism of generalized monopolies. It is the only way to stop the accumulation by dispossession that is driving the management of the economy by the monopolies.

The accumulation dominated by monopolies can indeed only reproduce itself if the area subject to “market management” is constantly expanding. This is achieved by excessive privatization of public services (dispossession of citizens), and access to natural resources (dispossession of peoples). The extraction of profit of “independent” economic units by the monopolies is even a dispossession (of capitalists!) by the financial oligarchy.

De-financialization: a world without Wall Street

Nationalization / socialization of monopolies would in and of itself abolish the principle of “shareholder value” imposed by the strategy of accumulation in the service of monopoly rents. This objective is essential for any bold agenda to escape the ruts in which the management of today’s economy is mired. Its implementation pulls the rug out from under the feet of the financialization of management of the economy. Are we returning to the famous “euthanasia of the rentier” advocated by Keynes in his time? Not necessarily, and certainly not completely. Savings can be encouraged by financial reward, but on condition that their origin (household savings of workers, businesses, communities) and their conditions of earnings are precisely defined. The discourse on macroeconomic savings in conventional economic theory hides the organization of exclusive access to the capital market of the monopolies. The so-called “market driven remuneration” is then nothing other than the means to guarantee the growth of monopoly rents.

Of course the nationalization / socialization of monopolies also applies to banks, at least the major ones. But the socialization of their intervention (“credit policies”) has specific characteristics that require an appropriate design in the constitution of their directorates. Nationalization in the classical sense of the term implies only the substitution of the State for the boards of directors formed by private shareholders. This would permit, in principle, implementation of bank credit policies formulated by the State – which is no small thing. But it is certainly not sufficient when we consider that socialization requires the direct participation in the management of the bank by the relevant social partners. Here the “self-management” of banks by their staff would not be appropriate. The staff concerned should certainly be involved in decisions about their working conditions, but little else, because it is not their place to determine the credit policies to be implemented.

If the directorates must deal with the conflicts of interest of those that provide loans (the banks) and those who receive them (the “enterprises”), the formula for the composition of directorates must be designed taking into account what the enterprises are and what they require. A restructuring of the banking system which has become overly centralized since the regulatory frameworks of the past two centuries were abandoned over the past four decades. There is a strong argument to justify the reconstruction of banking specialization according to the requirements of the recipients of their credit as well as their economic function (provision of short-term liquidity, contributing to the financing of investments in the medium and long term). We could then, for example, create an “agriculture bank” (or a coordinated ensemble of agriculture banks) whose clientele is comprised not only of farmers and peasants but also those involved in the “upstream and downstream” of agriculture described above. The bank’s directorate would involve on the one hand the “bankers” (staff officers of the bank – who would have been recruited by the directorate) and other clients (farmers or peasants, and other upstream and downstream entities).

We can imagine other sets of articulated banking systems, appropriate to various industrial sectors, in which the directorates would involve the industrial clients, centers of research and technology and services to ensure control of the ecological impact of the industry, thus ensuring minimal risk (while recognizing that no human action is completely without risk), and subject to transparent democratic debate.

The de-financialization of economic management would also require two sets of legislation. The first concerns the authority of a sovereign state to ban speculative fund (hedge funds) operations in its territory. The second concerns pension funds, which are now major operators in the financialization of the economic system. These funds were designed – first in the US of course – to transfer to employees the risks normally incurred by capital, and which are the reasons invoked to justify capital’s remuneration! So this is a scandalous arrangement, in clear contradiction even with the ideological defense of capitalism! But this “invention” is an ideal instrument for the strategies of accumulation dominated by monopolies.

The abolition of pension funds is necessary for the benefit of distributive pension systems, which, by their very nature, require and allow democratic debate to determine the amounts and periods of assessment and the relationship between the amounts of pensions and remuneration paid. In a democracy that respects social rights, these pension systems are universally available to all workers. However, at a pinch, and so as not to prohibit what a group of individuals might desire to put in place, supplementary pensions funds could be allowed.

All measures of de-financialization suggested here lead to an obvious conclusion: A world without Wall Street, to borrow the title of the book by François Morin, is possible and desirable.

In a world without Wall Street, the economy is still largely controlled by the “market”. But these markets are for the first time truly transparent, regulated by democratic negotiation among genuine social partners (for the first time also they are no longer adversaries as they are necessarily under capitalism). It is the financial “market” – opaque by nature and subjected to the requirements of management for the benefit of the monopolies – that is abolished. We could even explore whether it would be useful or not to shut down the stock exchanges, given that the rights to property, both in its their private as well as social form, would be conducted “differently”. We could even consider whether the stock exchange could be re-established to this new end. The symbol in any case – “a world without Wall Street” – nevertheless retains its power.

De-financialization certainly does not mean the abolition of macroeconomic policy and in particular the macro management of credit. On the contrary it restores its efficiency by freeing it from its subjugation to the strategies of rent-seeking monopolies. The restoration of the powers of national central banks, no longer “independent” but dependent on both the state and markets regulated by the democratic negotiation of social partners, gives the formulation of macro credit policy its effectiveness in the service of socialized management of the economy.

At the international level: delinking

I use here the term “delinking” that I proposed half a century ago, a term that contemporary discourse appears to have substituted with the synonym “de-globalisation”. I have never conceptualised delinking as an autarkic retreat, but rather as a strategic reversal in the face of both internal and external forces in response to the unavoidable requirements of self-determined development. Delinking promotes the reconstruction of a globalization based on negotiation, rather than submission to the exclusive interests of the imperialist monopolies. It also makes possible the reduction of international inequalities.

Delinking is necessary because the measures advocated in the two previous sections can never really be implemented at the global scale, or even at a regional level (e.g. Europe). They can only be initiated in the context of states / nations with advanced radical social and political struggles, committed to a process of socialization of the management of their economy.

Imperialism, in the form that it took until just after the Second World War, had created the contrast between industrialized imperialist centers and dominated peripheries where industry was prohibited. The victories of national liberation movements began the process of the industrialization of the peripheries, through the implementation of delinking policies required for the option of self-reliant development. Associated with social reforms that were at times radical, these delinkings created the conditions for the eventual “emergence” of those countries that had gone furthest in this direction – China leading the pack, of course.

But the imperialism of the current era, the imperialism of the Triad, forced to retreat and “adjust” itself to the conditions of this new era, rebuilt itself on new foundations, based on “advantage” by which it sought to hold on to the privilege of exclusivity that I have classified in five categories.The control of:

  • technology;
  • access to natural resources of the planet
  • global integration of the monetary and financial system
  • systems of communication and information
  • weapons of mass destruction.


The main form of delinking today is thus defined precisely by the challenge to these five privileges of contemporary imperialism. Emerging countries are engaged in delinking from these five priveleges, with varying degrees of control and self-determination, of course. While earlier success over the past two decades in delinking enabled them to accelerate their development, in particular through industrial development within the globalized “liberal” system using “capitalist” means, this success has fueled delusions about the possibility of continuing on this path, that is to say, emerging as new “equal capitalist partners”. The attempt to “co-opt” the most prestigious of these countries with the creation of the G20 has encouraged these illusions.

But with the current ongoing implosion of the imperialist system (called “globalization”), these illusions are likely to dissipate. The conflict between the imperialist powers of the triad and emerging countries is already visible, and is expected to worsen. If they want to move forward, the societies of emerging countries will be forced to turn more towards self-reliant modes of development through national plans and by strengthening South-South cooperation.

Audacity, under such circumstances, involves engaging vigorously and coherently towards this end, bringing together the required measures of delinking with the desired advances in social progress.

The goal of this radicalization is threefold: the democratization of society; the consequent social progress achieved; and the taking of anti-imperialist positions. A commitment to this direction is possible, not only for societies in emerging countries, but also in the “abandoned” or the “written-off” of the global South. These countries had been effectively recolonized through the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s. Their peoples are now in open revolt, whether they have already scored victories (South America) or not (in the Arab world).

Audacity here means that the radical left in these societies must have the courage to take measure of the challenges they face and to support the continuation and radicalization of the necessary struggles that are in progress.

The delinking of the South prepares the way for the deconstruction of the imperialist system itself. This is particularly apparent in areas affected by the management of the global monetary and financial system, since it is the result of the hegemony of the dollar.

But beware: it is an illusion to expect to substitute for this system “another world monetary and financial system” that is better balanced and favorable to the development of the peripheries. As always, the search of a “consensus” over international reconstruction from above is mere wishful thinking akin to waiting for a miracle. What is on the agenda now is the deconstruction of the existing system – its implosion – and reconstruction of national alternative systems (for countries or continents or regions), as some projects in South America have already begun. Audacity here is to have the courage to move forward with the strongest determination possible, without too much worry about the reaction of imperialism.

This same problematique of delinking / dismantling is also of relevance to Europe, which is a subset of globalization dominated by monopolies. The European project was designed from the outset and built systematically to dispossess its peoples of their ability to exercise their democratic power. The European Union was established as a protectorate of the monopolies. With the implosion of the euro zone, its submission to the will of the monopolies has resulted in the abolishment of democracy which has been reduced to the status of farce and takes on extreme forms, namely focused only on the question: how are the “market” (that is to say monopolies) and the “Rating Agencies” (that is to say, again, the monopolies) reacting? That’s the only question now posed. How the people might react is no longer given the slightest consideration.

It is thus obvious that here too there is no alternative to audacity: “disobeying” the rules imposed by the “European Constitution” and the imaginary central bank of the euro. In other words, there is no alternative to deconstruct the institutions of Europe and the euro zone. This is the unavoidable prerequisite for the eventual reconstruction of “another Europe” of peoples and nations.

In conclusion: Audacity, more audacity, always audacity.

What I mean by audacity is therefore:

(i) For the radical left in the societies of the imperialist triad, the need for an engagement in the building an alternative anti-monopoly social bloc.

(ii) For the radical left in the societies of the peripheries to engage in the building an alternative anti-comprador social bloc.


It will take time to make progress in building these blocs, but it could well accelerate if the radical left takes on movement with determination and engages in making progress on the long road of socialism. It is therefore necessary to propose strategies not “out of the crisis of capitalism”, but “out of capitalism in crisis” to borrow from the title of one of my recent works.

We are in a crucial period in history. The only legitimacy of capitalism is to have created the conditions for passing on to socialism, understood as a higher stage of civilization. Capitalism is now an obsolete system, its continuation leading only to barbarism. No other capitalism is possible. The outcome of a clash of civilizations is, as always, uncertain. Either the radical left will succeed through the audacity of its initiatives to make revolutionary advances, or the counter-revolution will win. There is no effective compromise between these two responses to the challenge.

All the strategies of the non-radical left are in fact non-strategies, they are merely day-to-day adjustments to the vicissitudes of the imploding system. And if the powers that be want, like le Guépard, to “change everything so that nothing changes”, the candidates of the left believe it is possible to “change life without touching the power of monopolies”! The non-radical left will not stop the triumph of capitalist barbarism. They have already lost the battle for lack of wanting to take it on.

Audacity is what is necessary to bring about the autumn of capitalism that will be announced by the implosion of its system and by the birth of an authentic spring of the people, a spring that is possible.



This term has been used by some to mean one thing and by others something entirely different in different contexts, often without any caution regarding precision around the meaning of the term. I will therefore here define the sense that I will give to the set of economic, social, political, and cultural transformations which permit one to speak of the ‘emergence’ of a state, a nation, and a people who have been placed in a peripheral place in the capitalist world system. (The term peripheral having the meaning that I have defined in my own work.)

Emergence is not measured by a rising rate of GDP growth (or exports) over a long period of time (more than a decade), nor the fact that the society in question has obtained a higher level of GDP per capita, as defined by the World Bank, aid institutions controlled by Western powers, and conventional economists.

Emergence involves much more: a sustained growth in industrial production in the state in question and a strengthening of the capacity of these industries to be competitive on a global scale. Again one must define which specific industries are important and what is meant by competitiveness.

Extractive industries (minerals and fossil fuels) must be excluded from this definition. In states endowed by nature with these resources, accelerated growth can occur in these countries without necessarily leaving in its wake productive activities. The extreme example of this situation of ‘non-emergence’ would be the Gulf States, Venezuela, Gabon, and others.

One must also understand that the competitiveness of productive activities in the economy should be considered as a productive system in its entirety and not a certain unit of production alone. Due to the preference for outsourcing and subcontracting, multinationals operating in the South can be the impetus for the creation of local units of production tied to transnationals, or autonomous and capable of exporting to the world market, which earns them the status of competitive in the language of conventional economists. This truncated concept of competitiveness, which proceeds from an empiricist method, is not ours. Competitiveness is that of a productive system. For this to exist, the economy must be made up of productive elements with branches of this production sufficiently interdependent that one can speak of it as a system.

This competitiveness depends upon diverse economic and social factors, among others the general level of education and training of workers of all levels and the efficiency of the group of institutions which manage the national political economy – fiscal policy, business law, labour law, credit, social services, etc. The productive system in question cannot reduce productive transformation to only activities involved in manufacturing and consumption – although the absence of these annuls the existence of a productive system worthy of the name – but rather must integrate food and agriculture as services required for the normal functioning of the system.

A real productive system can be more or less ‘advanced’. By this I mean that the group of activities must be qualified: is it involved in ‘banal’ productions or high technologies? It is important to situate an emerging state using this point of view: in what measure is it on the path of generating value added products? It is important to see emergent states from this point of view: at what stage are they in mounting the ladder towards producing value-added products?

The question of emergence therefore requires both a political and holistic examination. A state cannot be emerging if it is not inward (rather than outward) looking with the goal of creating a domestic market and thus reasserting national economic sovereignty. This complex objective requires sovereignty over all aspects of economic life. In particular it demands policies which protect food security and sovereignty, and equally sovereignty over one’s natural resources and access to others outside of one’s territory. These multiple and complementary objectives are contrasted with those of the comprador class who are content to adopt growth models which meet the requirements of the dominant global system (liberal-internationalism) and the possibilities which these offer.

This proposed definition of emergence does not address the political strategy of the state and society: capitalism or socialism? However this question cannot be left out of the debate as the choice made by the leading classes will have major effects, both positive and negative, for a successful emergence. I would not say that the only option is to follow a capitalist perspective, which implements a system of a capitalist nature – control and exploitation of the workforce and a free market. Nor would I suggest that only a radical socialist option which challenges these forms of capitalism – property, organized labour, market controls- is able to last over long periods of time and move the society forwards in the world system.

The links between the politics of emergence on one hand and the accompanying social transformation, on the other hand, do not depend solely on the internal coherence of the former, but equally its degree of complementarity, or conflict, with the latter. Social struggles, whether class based or political, do not adjust themselves to fit the logic of a state’s implementation of an emergence. Rather they are a determinant of this program. Current experience shows the diversity and dynamism of these links. Emergence is often accompanied by inequalities. One must examine the nature of these: inequalities where the beneficiaries are a tiny minority or a large minority (the middle class) and are realised in a framework which promotes the pauperisation of the majority of workers, or, on the contrary, one where the same people see a betterment in their quality of life, even if the growth rates of compensation for workers will be less than those who benefit from the system. Said in another manner, politics can associate emergence with pauperisation or not. Emergence does not follow a definitive set of rules. Rather it is a series of successive steps; the first can prepare the way for following successes, or bring about deadlock.

In the same manner the relation between the emerging economy and the global economy is constantly transforming as well. From these two different perspectives come policies which can promote sovereignty or weaken it, and at the same time promote social solidarity in the nation or weaken it. Emergence is therefore not synonymous with growth in exports and an increase in power measured in such a manner. Growth in exports can strengthen or weaken the autonomy of an emerging state relative to the world market.

We cannot speak of emergence in general, nor can we speak of models – Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Korean – in general. One must concretely examine, in each case, the successive steps in the evolution of their emergence, identify the strong and weak points, and analyse the dynamic of their implementation and the associated contradictions.

Emergence is a political and not only economic project. The measure of success is therefore determined by reducing the means by which the dominant capitalist centre perpetuates their domination, in spite of the fact that economic success of emergent states is measured in the conventional economic terms. I define the means as control of the dominant powers over the areas of technological development, access to natural resources, the global financial system, dissemination of information, and weapons of mass destruction. The imperialist collective triad – United States, Europe and Japan – intends to conserve, using all of these means, their privileged positions in dominating the planet and prohibiting emergent states from bringing this domination into question. I conclude that the ambitions of emergent states enter into conflict with the strategic objectives of the triad and the measure of the violence emanating from this conflict will be determined by the degree of radicalism with which the emergent state challenges the aforementioned privileges of the centre.

Economic emergence is not separable from the foreign policies of the states. Do they align themselves with the military and political coalition of the triad? Do they accept strategies put in place by NATO? Conversely, will they oppose them?

Emergence and Lumpen Development

There can be no emergence without state politics, resting on a comfortable social bloc, which gives it legitimacy, capable of constructing a coherent project an inward looking national productive system. They must at the same time ensure the participation of the great majority of social classes and that these groups receive the benefits of growth.

Opposing the favourable evolution of an authentic emergence is the unilateral submission to the requirements of the implementation of global capitalism and general monopolies which produce nothing other than what I would call ‘lumpen development’. I will now liberally borrow from the late Andre Gunder Frank, who analysed a similar evolution, albeit at a different time and place. Today lumpen development is the product of accelerated social disintegration associated with the ‘development’ model (which does not deserve its name) imposed by the monopolies from the imperialist core on the peripheral societies they dominate. It is manifested by a dizzying growth of subsistence activities (called the informal sphere), otherwise called the pauperisation associated with the unilateral logic of accumulation of capital.

One can remark that I did not qualify the emergence as ‘capitalist’ or ‘socialist’. This is because emergence is a process associated with complementarity, while at the same time conflict, of the logic of capitalist management of the economy and the logics of ‘non-capitalist’ – and potentially socialist – management of society and politics.

Among the experiences of emergence, some cases merit special mention as they are not associated with the processes of lumpen development. There is not a pauperisation among the popular classes, but rather progress in the living standards, modest or otherwise. Two of these experiences are clearly capitalist – those of South Korea and Taiwan (I will not discuss here the particular historical conditions which permitted the success of the implementation in the two countries). Two others inherited the aspirations conducted in the name of socialism – Vietnam and China. Cuba could also be included in this group if it can master the contradictions which it is currently going through.

But we know of other cases of emergence which have been associated with lumpen development of a massive nature. India is the best example. There are segments of this project which correspond to the requirements of emergence. There is a state policy which favours the building of an industrial productive system. Consequently there is an associated expansion of the middle classes and progress in technological capacities and education. They are capable of playing autonomously on the chessboard of international politics. But for a grand majority, two thirds of society, there is accelerated pauperisation. We have therefore a hybrid system which ties together emergence and lumpen development. We can highlight the link between these two complementary parts of reality. I believe, without suggesting too gross a generalisation, that all the other cases that are considered emergent belong to this familiar hybrid, which includes Brazil, South Africa, and others.

But there exist also, and it is most of the other Southern countries, situations in which there are no elements of emergence as the processes of lumpen development occupy much of the society.


THE NEW AGRARIAN QUESTION : What alternatives for the Third World peasant societies ?


1. All societies before modern (capitalist) time were peasant societies and their production ruled by various specific systems and logics sharing nevertheless the fact that these were not those which rule capitalism (i.e. the maximisation of the return on capital in a market society).


Modern capitalist agriculture, represented by both rich family farming and/or by agribusiness corporations, is now looking forward to a massive attack on third world peasant production. The project did get the green light from WTO in its Doha session. Yet, the peasantry still occupies half of humankind. But its production is shared between two sectors enormously unequal in size with a clearly distinct economic and social character and levels of efficiency.

Capitalist agriculture governed by the principle of return on capital, which is localised almost exclusively in North America, in Europe, in the South cone of Latin America and in Australia, employs only a few tens of millions of farmers who are no longer “peasants”. But their productivity, which depends on mechanisation (of which they have monopoly worldwide) and the area of land possessed by each farmer, ranges between 10.000 and 20.000 quintals of equivalent cereals per worker annually.

On the other hand, peasant-farming systems still constitute the occupation of nearly half of humanity – i.e. three billion human beings. These farming systems are in turn shared between those who benefited from the green revolution (fertilisers, pesticides and selected seeds), but are nevertheless poorly mechanised, with production ranging between 100 and 500 quintals per farmer, and the other group still excluded from this revolution, whose production is estimated around 10 quintals per farmer.

The ratio of productivity of the most advanced segment of the world agriculture to the poorest, which was around 10 to 1 before 1940 is now approaching 2000 to 1 ! That means that productivity has progressed much more unequally in the area of agricultural-food production than in any other area. Simultaneously this evolution has led to the reducing of relative prices of food products (in relation to other industrial and service products) to one fifth of what they were fifty years ago.

2. The new agrarian question is the result of that unequal development.

Indeed modernisation had always combined constructive dimensions (accumulation of capital and progress of productivities) with destructive aspects (reducing labour to the statute of a commodity sold on the market, often destroying the natural ecological basis needed for the reproduction of life and production, polarising wealth on a global level). Modernisation had always simultaneously “integrated” those for whom employment was created by the very expansion of markets, and “excluded” those who, having lost their positions in the previous systems were not integrated in the new labour force. But, in its ascending phase, capitalist global expansion did integrate along with its excluding processes. But now, with respect to the area of Third World peasant societies, it would be massively excluding, including only insignificant minorities.

The question raised here is precisely whether this trend continues and will continue to operate with respect to the three billion human beings still producing and living in the frame of peasant societies, in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Indeed, what would happen as of now, should “agriculture and food production” be treated as any other form of production submitted to the rules of competition in an open-deregulated market as it has been decided in principle at the last WTO conference (Doha, November 2001) ?

Would such principles foster the accelerating of production?

Indeed one can imagine some twenty million new additional modern farmers, producing whatever the three billion present peasants can offer on the market beyond them ensuring their own (poor) self-subsistence. The conditions for the success of such an alternative would necessitate the transfer of important pieces of good land to the new agriculturalists (and these lands have to be taken out of the hands of present peasant societies), access to capital markets (to buy equipments) and access to the consumers markets. Such agriculturalists would indeed “compete” successfully with the billions of present peasants. But what would happen to those?

Under the circumstances, admitting the general principle of competition for agricultural products and foodstuffs, as imposed by WTO, means accepting that billions of “non-competitive” producers be eliminated within the short historic time of a few decades. What will become of these billions of humans beings, the majority of whom are already poor among the poor, but who feed themselves with great difficulty, and worse still, what will be the plight of the one third of this population (since three-quarters of the underfed population of the world are rural dwellers) ? In fifty years’ time, no relatively competitive industrial development, even in the fanciful hypothesis of a continued growth of 7 % annually for three-quarters of humanity, could absorb even one-third of this reserve.

The major argument presented to legitimate the WTO-competition doctrine alternative is that such development did happen in XIXth century Europe and finally produced a modern-wealthy urban-industrial-post industrial society as well as a modern agriculture able to feed the nation and even to export. Why should not this pattern be repeated in the contemporary Third World countries, in particular for the emerging nations?

The argument fails to consider two major factors which make the reproduction of the pattern almost impossible now in third world countries.

The first is that the European model developed throughout a century and a half along with industrial technologies which were intensive labour using. Modern technologies are far less. And therefore if the new comers of the third world have to be competitive on global markets for their industrial exports they have to adopt them.


The second is that Europe benefited during that long transition from the possibility of massive out migration of their “surplus” population to the Americas.

That argument – i.e. that capitalism has indeed “ solved” the agrarian question in its developed centers – has always been admitted by large sections of the left , including within historical Marxism ,as testified by the famous book of Kautsky – “the agrarian question” – written before world war I . Leninism itsef inherited that view and on its basis undertook a modersation through the Stalinist collectivisation, with doubtful results. What was always overlooked was that capitalism while it solved the question in its centers did it through generating a gigantic agrarian question in the peripheries, which it cannot solve but through the genocide of half of humankind. Within historical Marxism only Maoism did understand the size of the challenge. Therefore those who charge Maoism with its so called “ peasant deviation “show by this very criticism that they do not have the analytical capacity for an understanding of what is actually existing imperialist capitalism ,that they reduce to an abstract discourse on capitalism in general.

3. Modernisation through market liberalisation as suggested by WTO and its supporters finally aligns side by side, without even necessarily combining two components : (i) the production of food on a global scale by modern competitive agriculturalists mostly based in the North but also possibly in the future in some pockets of the South ; (ii) the marginalisation – exclusion – and further impoverishment of the majority of the three billion peasants of present third world and finally their seclusion in some kinds of “reserves”. It therefore combines (i) a pro-modernisation- efficiency dominant discourse and (ii) an ecological cultural reserve set of policies making possible for the victims to “survive”. These two components might therefore complement one another rather than “conflict”.

Can we imagine other alternatives and have them widely debated. In that frame it is implied that peasant agriculture should be maintained throughout the visible future of the XXIth Century but simultaneously engaged in a process of continuous technological/social change and progress. At a rate which would allow a progressive transfer to non rural – non agricultural employment.

Such a strategic set of targets involves complex policy mixes at national, regional and global levels:

(i) At the national levels it implies macro-policies protecting peasant food production from the unequal competition of modernised agriculturalists – agro-business local and international. With a view to guaranteeing acceptable internal food prices eventually disconnected from the so called international market prices (in fact also markets biased by subsidies of the wealthy North-USA/Canada/Europe).

Such policy targets also question the patterns of industrial – urban developments, which should be less based on export oriented priorities, themselves taking advantage of low wages (implying in their turn low prices for food), and be more attentive to a socially balanced internal market expansion.

Simultaneously such a choice of principle facilitates integrating in the overall scheme patterns of policies ensuring national food security, an indispensable condition for a country to be an active member of the global community, enjoying the indispensable margin of autonomy and negotiating capacity.

(ii) At regional and global levels it implies international agreements and policies moving away from the doctrinaire liberal principles ruling WTO, imaginative and specific to different areas, since it has to take into consideration specific issues and concrete historical and social conditions.




The case of Egypt

A.” Liberal “Capitalism or conniving capitalism ?

Liberal capitalism (or neoliberal) proposed and imposed as without alternatives is based on seven principles considered as valid for all societies in the globalized world.

1. The economy must be managed by private companies because they only behave normally as actors subject to the requirements of the transparent competition , moreover beneficial to society, it ensures economic growth based on the rational allocation of resources and fair remuneration of all factors of production – capital, labor and natural resources. Accordingly if there are assets owned by the state, unfortunate legacy of “socialism” (productive enterprises, financial institutions, urban land or agricultural land), they should be privatized.

2. The labor market must be liberalized; fixing compulsory minimum wage (and a fortiori a sliding scale for the latter) should be removed. Labor law must be reduced to the minimum standards to ensure the morality of human relations between employer and employee. Trade union rights limited and controlled for this purpose. The wage hierarchy result of individual and free negotiations between employees and employers must be accepted, as well as the sharing of net national income between labor income and capital income as a result.

3. Services called social – education, health, or the supply of water and electricity, housing, transport and communications – when they were in the past provided by public agencies (state and local authorities ) should also be privatized as much as possible, their cost must be borne by the individuals who are the beneficiaries and not covered by the tax.

4. The tax function should be the minimum necessary to cover only sovereign functions (public order, national defense in particular), the tax rate must remain relatively moderate, not discourage private initiative and to guarantee their reward.

5. Credit management should be undertaken by private interests, allowing the free encounter between supply and demand of credits to form itself in a rational monetary and financial market.

6. Public budgets must be designed to be balanced without deficit other than circumstantial and conjunctural. If a country suffers from a structural deficit inherited from a past that we want to deny his inheritance, the government must commit to reforms that reduce the scale as quickly as possible. Meanwhile the deficit must be covered by the borrowing on the private capital market, domestic or foreign.

7. The six principles are considered to be implemented not only in all the nations of the globalized world, but also in international relations, regional (for example the EU) or global. Private foreign capital must be free to move and be treated on an equal footing with local private capital.

These principles together constitute the “market fundamentalism”. I shall recall here the inconsistency of the assumptions and the lack of compliance of the scheme with reality. Very briefly the proof by logical reasoning that the free play of market widespread, even in the extravagant (not according to reality) assumption that the existence of a competition called transparent wouldproduce a balance between supply and demand (in addition socially optimal), has never been made. Instead logical reasoning leads to the conclusion that the system moves from imbalance to imbalance never arriving to balance. Successive imbalances in question are produced because this theory (which defines the conventional economics) excludes from its scope of investigation   the conflicts of social and national interests .Moreover, these assumptions describe an imaginary world that has nothing to do with the contemporary system that really exists, which is that of a capitalism of generalized,financialized, and globalized monopolies. This system is not viable and its ongoing implosion shows that. I refer here to my writings on this radical critique of the system in question and the economic theory which legitimizes it.

Implemented globally the principles of liberalism do not produce anything in the outskirts of the “south” else than a connivance capitalism (crony capitalism ),hinged on a comprador state, as opposed to the national state embarked on a path of sustainable economic and social development. This form of capitalism (and there is no other possible) therefore produces no development, but a lumpen-development. The example of Egypt, considered in what follows, provides a good example.

B. Connivance capitalism, comprador state and lumpen development: The case of Egypt (1970-2012)

Successive Egyptian governments since Sadat ‘access to Presidency (1970) have so far implemented with all diligence all principles proposed by the liberal fundamentalism. What has resulted has been the subject of serious and accurate analysis with definite conclusions, as follows:

1. The Nasserist project to build a national developmentalist state had produced a model of state capitalism that Sadat pledged to dismantle, as he told his U.S. interlocutors (“I want to send to the devil Nasserism, the socialism and all this nonsense and I need your support to achieve that”, a support which was obviously given ??without restriction). Assets owned by the state – industrial, financial and commercial, agricultural land and urban or desert land – have been “sold”. To whom? To businessmen in collusion, close to the power system : Senior army officers, officials, rich merchants returned from their exile in the Gulf countries equipped with beautiful fortunes (in addition to the political and financial support of the Muslim Brotherhood).But also to “Arabs” of the Gulf countries and foreign US and European companies. At what price? At ridiculous prices, incommensurate with the real value of assets.

It is in this way that has been built the new “owning” Egyptian and foreign class that fully deserves the qualification of capitalist collusion/crony (rasmalia al mahassib, Egyptian term to designate it and understood by all).Some notes:

a. Property granted to the “army” transformed the character of the responsibilities it already exercised in certain segments of the productive system (“the army factories”) that the army managed as state institution. These powers of management became those of private owners. In addition to privatization in the race the most powerful officers also “acquired” the property of many other state-owned assets: commercial businesses, suburban and urban land and housing estates in particular.

b. The opinion describes these Egyptian practices of “corruption” (fasad)located in the field of morality, making the assumption that justice worthy of the name could fight it successfully. Much of the left itself makes the distinction between this condemnable corrupt capitalism and an acceptable and desirable productive capitalism. Only a small minority understands that when the principles of “liberalism” are accepted as the basis for any policy called “realistic” capitalism in the periphery of the system can’t be different. There is no bourgeoisie building itself on its own initiative as the World Bank wants us to believe. There is a comprador state active behind the creation of these colossal fortunes.

c. The fortunes of Egyptian and foreign were formed through the acquisition of existing assets without adding productive capacities other than negligible. The “capital inflows” (Arab and other), moreover modest, fall within this framework. The operation ended with the establishment of private monopoly groups that now dominate the Egyptian economy. It is far from healthy and transparent competition liberal discourse trumpeted to them. Moreover, the greater part of these colossal fortunes consists of real estates: Holiday villages (“Marina”) on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, new neighborhoods closed, guarded (at Latin American fashion – previously unknown in Egypt), desert terrain in principle intended for agricultural development. These properties are retained by their owners who speculate on resale after the State has provided staggering costs of infrastructure that give them real value (and these costs have obviously not been included into the sale price of the land).

2. The monopoly power of the new capitalism of complicity has been systematically reinforced by the almost exclusive access of these new billionaires to bank credit (including for the “purchase” of the assets in question) at the expense of lending to small and medium producers.

3. These monopolistic positions have also been reinforced by massive subsidies from the state, for example, granted for the consumption of oil, natural gas and electricity by industries that had been privatized (cement, iron metallurgy and the aluminum, textiles and others). But the “free market” has allowed these companies to raise their prices to adjust to those of competing imports. The logic of public subsidy which compensated for lower prices by the state sector is broken in favor of super profits of private monopolies.

4. Real wages for the vast majority of unskilled and medium qualifications deteriorated by the effect of the laws of the free labor market and the fierce repression of collective action and trade unions. They are now located at rates much lower than they are in other countries of the South, whose per capita GDP is comparable. Super profits of private monopolies and poverty go hand in hand and result in the continued widening of inequality in income distribution.

5. Inequality has been reinforced consistently by a tax system which denied the principle of progressive taxation. This low tax for the rich and corporations, praised by the World Bank for its alleged virtue to support investment resulted simply into super-profits.

6. Throughout these policies implemented by the state, comprador/crony capitalism does not produce by itself but a low growth (less than 3%) and hence the continued growth of unemployment. When the rate was a little better, it was out of the expansion of extractive industries (oil and gas), associated with a conjuncture of better prices, the growth in fees from the Suez Canal,tourism and remittances from migrant workers.

7. These policies have also made it impossible to reduce the public deficit and the external trade balance. They have led to the continuing deterioration of the value of the Egyptian pound, and imposed growing public debt. This gave the opportunity to the IMF to impose ever greater respect for the principles of liberalism.

C. Immediate responses

These answers have not been imagined by the author of these lines. I merely collected them from the various components of the movement – left and center national democratic forces, trade unions, various youth and women organizations etc. .Considerable work and of quality was conducted for more than a year by activists responsible for the formulation of a common program to meet the immediate requirements. Their formulations (repeated here) have already been published, among others by our colleague Ahmad El Naggar. The salient points are:

1. Transfer operations of public assets should be subject to systematic revision. Specific studies – equivalent to good audits – are available for many of these transactions and prices corresponding to the real value of these assets calculated. Given that the “buyers” of these assets have not paid these prices, the property acquired assets must be transferred by law after an audit ordered by the court to state corporations whose shareholder is equal to the difference between the actual value of the assets and that paid by buyers. The principle is applicable to all these buyers be it Egyptian, Arab and foreign.

2. The law should establish minimum wages, amounting to LE 1200 per month (155 Euro at rate of exchange in effect, the equivalent purchasing power of 400 Euros). This rate is lower than it is in many countries whose GDP per capita is similar to that of Egypt. The minimum wage must be associated with a sliding scale and unions responsible for monitoring its implementation. It will apply to all activities of public and private sectors.

Given that the beneficiaries of the freedom of prices, private sectors that dominate the Egyptian economy have already chosen to locate their prices closer to those of competing imports, the measure can be implemented and will reduce margins of monopolies profit without destroying the viability of the industries. This adjustment does not threaten the balance of public accounts, taking into account savings and new tax legislation as proposed later in the paper.

The proposals made by the movements concerned will be strengthened by the adoption of the maximum wage: 15 times the minimum wage.

3. Workers’ rights – conditions of employment and loss of employment, working conditions, health insurance / unemployment / retirement – should be discussed in a major tripartite consultation (unions, employers, government). Independent unions formed through the struggles of the past decade should be legally recognized as the right to strike (always “illegal” in the current legislation).

A “survival benefit” must be established for the unemployed, the amount and conditions of access and funding of which should be subject to negotiation between the unions and the state.

4. Subsidies granted by the colossal budget to private monopolies should be abolished. Again the specific studies conducted in these areas show that the abolition of these benefits does not affect the profitability of the activities involved, but only reduce their monopoly rents.

5. New tax legislation should be implemented based on progressive taxation of individuals. The rate of taxation of profits of enterprises employing more than 20 workers should be raised to 25%. Tax exemptions granted with extreme generosity to Arab and foreign monopolies should be abolished. Taxation of small and medium enterprises, often heavier now (!) should be revised downward. The proposed rate for the upper brackets of personal income – 35% – also remains low in international comparison.

6. A precise calculation was conducted which shows that all the measures proposed in paragraphs 4 and 5 can not only remove the current State budget deficit (2009-2010) but also provide a surplus. This will be used to increase public spending on education, health, popular housing subsidy.. The reconstruction of a public social sector in these areas does not impose discriminatory measures against private activities of a similar nature.

7. The credit must be placed under the control of the Central Bank. Extravagant facilities granted to monopolies should be abolished in favor of the expansion of credit to small businesses in action or that could be created in this perspective. Specific studies have been conducted in the areas concerned, craft, industrial, transport and service. The demonstration has been made ??that the candidates to take initiatives in the direction of creating business and employments exist (particularly among unemployed graduates).

8. Programs offered by the components of the movement remains less clear with regard to the peasant question. The reason is that the movement of resistance to the expropriation of small farmers accelerated since the current policies of “modernization” of the World Bank were adopted remains fragmented and never went out of the village concerned – especially because of the fierce repression to which it is submitted and the non-recognition of its legality.

The current claim of the movement – mainly urban, admittedly – is simply passing laws making it harder for the eviction of tenants unable to pay excess rents charged on them and the expropriation of indebted smallholders.. In particular, it advocates a return to a law fixing the maximum rent (they were later freed by the successive laws revising the agrarian reform).

But it should go further. Progressive organizations of agronomists have produced concrete projects and argued for ensuring the development of the small peasantry. Improved irrigation methods (drip etc.), choice of rich and intensive cultures (vegetables and fruits), remove of the upstream monopoly control of inputs by suppliers, remove of the downstream monopoly power through the creation of marketing cooperative associated with consumer cooperatives. But it remains to establish an enhanced communication between these organizations of agronomists and agricultural smallholders involved. Legalization of organizations of farmers, their federation at the provincial and national levels should facilitate progress in this direction.

9. The action program set out in paragraphs above would certainly initiate a resumption of healthy and sustainable economic growth. The argument advanced by liberal critics – that would ruin any hope of new entries of capital from external sources – do not hold. The experience of Egypt and other countries, particularly in Africa, who have agreed to comply fully with the requirements of liberalism and renounced to develop by themselves a project of authentic development shows that these countries do not “ attract” foreign capital despite their uncontrolled opening (precisely because of it).Foreign capital will simply then conduct raid operations on the resources of the countries concerned, supported by the state and collusion of comprador capitalism .On the other end emerging countries who actively implement a national development project do offer real opportunities to foreign investment that accept to engage in these national projects, and accept the constraints imposed on them by the state as well as the adjustment of profits at reasonable rates.

10. The government in Cairo, composed exclusively of Muslim Brotherhood chosen by the President Morsi has immediately declared its unconditional adherence to all the principles of liberalism, and taken measures to accelerate their implementation, and deployed to this end all means of repression inherited from the former regime. The state and comprador capitalism connivance continue   ! Popular consciousness that there is no change is growing as evidenced of the success of popular demonstrations on 12 and 19 October. The movement continues! The people say in the streets: “the revolution has not changed the regime, but it has changed the people”.

11. The program of immediate demands which I have traced the dominant lines here only concerns the economic and social challenge. Of course, the movement also discusses its political sides: the draft constitution, the democratic and social rights, the required “citizens state” (Dawla al muwatana) contrasting with the proposed theocratic state (Dawla al Gamaa al islamiya).These issues have not been addressed here.



This project, which has been constantly elaborated for juridical and pedagogical purposes by an international group of jurists and social leaders was presented at the Peoples’ Summit in Rio de Janeiro (July 2012) by the World Forum for Alternatives. It has been revised following the comments in order to be redistributed at the World Social Forum in Tunisia in March 2013. All contributions by groups and individuals who support the initiative are welcome; please send them to the following email


We live in a critical time for the survival of natural and human life. The attacks against the planet are multiplying, affecting all living species, ecosystems, biodiversity, even the climate. Peoples’ and communities’ lives are destroyed by land dispossession. The monopolistic concentration of capital, the hegemony of the financial sector, the rapacity of the economy, the alienation of peoples’ minds and consciousness, but also deforestation, monoculture agriculture, the massive use of toxic agents, wars, economic, political, military and cultural imperialism, austerity policies and the destruction of social advances, have become the daily bread of Humanity.

We live in times of a multidimensional crisis; it is financial, economic, food, energetic, climactic. It is a systemic crisis, a crisis of values and civilization.Their common origin lies in the irrationality of an economic system that is concentrated on profit and not on needs, which brings with it its dynamic of deadly logic. This historic moment does not allow for partial answers. It demands a search for alternatives.

We live in times marked by a demand for coherency. The Resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the United Nations’ International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (1974), the World Charter for Nature (1982), the Declaration on the Right to Development (1986), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the Earth Charter (2000), the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), among others, demand the articulation of a holistic perspective and an integrated ecological, economic, political and cultural system for decision-making, in the service of life.

We live in times in which human beings are realizing they constitute the conscious part of a Nature that can live without them and that they are progressively destroying the Earth. The vision of development, inherited from modernity and accelerated by the evolution of the capitalist world system which ends up in such destruction is seen as linear progress on an inexhaustible planet. Reality is segmentalized and an overall and holistic vision of the universe is eliminated. It disregards nature’s reproduction, particularly of the other living species, in order to concentrate exclusively on the growth of the human species (anthropomorphism). It trivializes cultures, destroys utopias and instrumentalizes spiritualities. In its capitalist version, it leads to exploitation, injustice and growing inequality between social classes, genders and peoples. In its socialist version of the 20th century it overlooked the reconstruction of the relationship with nature and ignored the democratic organization of society.

We also live in times when social and political movements’ actions are multiplying as they fight at the grassroots for ecological and social justice and peoples’ collective rights. The perception is growing that the life of Humanity is a common and shared project, conditioned by the life of the planet and this is expressed in various documents such as: the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (Algiers, 1976), the Declaration of Indigenous Women (Beijing, 1995) and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (Cochabamba, 2010). This vision needs to be intensified and disseminated, requiring a shared effort that respects social and cultural differences.

To reestablish the rights of nature and to construct interpersonal solidarity globally, tasks inseparably linked, a new initiative parallel to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is today necessary. Its aim is to redefine, from a holistic perspective, the essential elements of humanity’s collective life on the planet, in order to propose a new paradigm around which social and political movements can converge.

The Declaration attempts (1) to shift from exploiting nature as a natural resource to respecting the earth as the source of all life; (2) to privilege use value over exchange value in economic activity; (3) to introduce the principle of spreading democracy in all human relations, including gender relations, and in all social institutions and (4) to promote interculturalism to allow all cultures, knowledge, philosophies and religions to clarify the perception of reality, to participate in the construction of the ethic necessary for its permanent construction , and contribute to the anticipations that make it possible to state “Another world is possible.” It is the paradigm of the “Common Good of Humanity” or the principle of the “Good Life” (BuenVivir) that offers the possibility, capacity and responsibility to produce and reproduce the planet’s existence and the physical, cultural and spiritual life of all human beings in the world. Hence, the proposal of a Universal Declaration.

It is a question of expressing an objective, a utopia in the positive meaning of the word: what it is that helps us forward. This has to happen at all levels, from personal behaviour to international organization and in all sectors, from relationships to nature and to culture. Utopia must take concrete form in transitions, conceived not as simple adaptations of the system to new ecological and social demands, but rather as a step forward, appropriate for each situation. Of course declarations do not change the world, social struggle does. However if declarations stem from the cries of the earth and the clamours of the exploited, they can help to make objectives more precise and bring together the many combats that are taking place all over the world. Hence the proposal for a Universal Declaration. Each article is divided into three parts: the juridical status of the question, the action required and sanctions.


Universal Declaration of the Common Good of Humanity

– 1. Respecting Nature as the source of physical, cultural and spiritual life

Article 1 (Establishing the symbiosis between the earth and the human species, which is the conscious part of nature)

Nature is the origin of the multiple forms of life, including humanity, having the earth as its home. The air, sunlight, atmosphere, water, soil; the rivers, oceans, forests, flora, fauna, biodiversity; the seeds and living species’ genomes are all elements that constitute her reality. Nature should be respected for her fundamental integrity, her equilibria, her processes and the richness of her ecosystems that produce and reproduce biodiversity; for her beauty and her capacity for regeneration. It is the responsibility of the human race, as the conscious part of the planet, to respect ecological justice and the rights of nature, on which its existence and the Common Good of Humanity depend.

Nature must also be able to reproduce life, which is equivalent to a right.

All practices that destroy the regenerative capacities of “Mother Earth” such as the unbridled and anti-ecological exploitation of natural resources, the destructive use of chemical products, the massive emission of greenhouse gases, the depletion of soils and aquatic reserves, the irrational use of energy, the contamination of the earth, of ground water, of the rivers and seas, as well as the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are inconsistent with the responsibility of humanity towards nature, with the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir). For these reasons these practices are sanctionable.

Article 2 (Building harmony between all elements of nature)

The harmony of the universe and its diverse elements Is a precondition of life. All living species form part of a whole and each vital piece has its own function. Biodiversity is essential in this process and the material exchanges between species (metabolism) must respect the equilibria. The peoples of the earth have the duty to live in harmony with all other elements of nature.Development action must not be undertaken if it involves serious, irreversible damage to nature, which is also the key to the reproduction of the physical, cultural and spiritual life of humanity. It is the responsibility of all the peoples in the world to live in harmony with nature’s elements.

All actions, institutions and environmental systems that implement development models contrary to the integrity and reproduction of the ecological system are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and will therefore be subject to sanctions.

Article 3 (Protecting the Earth, the foundation of all physical, cultural and spiritual life)

Nature is a unique and finite reality, the source of life for all species that inhabit her and all living entities not yet born. The earth can be administered by human beings with the necessary guarantees for the continuity of the administration, but it cannot be appropriated, commodified, or made a source of speculation. It cannot suffer irreversible systematic aggression for the purpose of any mode of production. Natural wealth (land, mineral, oil, oceanic and forestry resources) are a collective heritage and assets cannot be appropriated either by individuals, corporations or financial groups. The elements of the earth (soil, air, water, seas, rivers, forests, flora, fauna, spaces, genomes) should be administered, extracted and treated with the upmost respect for the reproduction of ecosystems, biodiversity, the life of species, the equilibrium of the metabolism between nature and the human species, as well as the welfare of both the present and future generations.

Respect for ecosystems, for biodiversity and for the equilibrium of the material exchanges (metabolism) between human beings and nature must be guaranteed.

The privatization and commodification of land, of natural wealth and the elements necessary for the reproduction of living species – particularly water, oxygen, seeds, as well as the patenting of nature are contrary to the respect for nature and the Common Good of Humanity and they are consequently subject to sanctions.

Article 4 (Ensuring the regenerating capacity of the earth)

It is urgent that the regenerative capacity of the earth be restored. All peoples and human groups are obliged to contribute to this objective. Environmental impact inventories and audits must be implemented, assessments and reparations for damages administered. All peoples and individuals and especially industries, corporations and governments, have the responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials used in the production, circulation and consumption of material goods.

Nature’s capacity to regenerate must be ensured through the joint organization of the human species.

Planned obsolescence, the waste of energy and other primary materials, the irresponsible disposal of waste, and the omission of systematic reporting on ecological restoration are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity, and therefore liable to sanctions.

– 2. Economic production at the service of life and its continuation

Article 5 (Organizing social forms of production and distribution, without private accumulation)

It is necessary for the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir) that people, institutions and economic systems prioritize social forms of ownership of the principal means of production and economic distribution through community, family, communal, cooperative, citizen, and public, thus avoiding the processes of individual or corporative accumulation that cause social inequality. Workers’ and consumers’ control of the production and distribution of goods and services, a well as the financial system will be organized through appropriate social forms, from cooperatives to citizen participation and, if necessary, nationalization.

The production and circulation of goods and services are social activities that should ensure the welfare of everyone and they must be carried out through appropriate forms of action and common organization.

The appropriation of the means of production and distribution by individuals, enterprises and financial groups for private capitalist accumulation is contrary to the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir) and therefore prohibited.

Article 6 (Prioritizing use value over exchange value)

Work (formal and informal) that is subordinated to the accumulation of capital destroys the autonomy of workers and their capacity to be actors in economic activities. Such subordination leads to the breakdown of social peace. The economic system of production and distribution is destined to satisfy the needs and capacities of all peoples and all individuals on the planet. Accessing use values is a fundamental right necessary for the production and reproduction of life. The exchange value, product of commercialization, should be subjected to use value rather than serving private capital accumulation and creating financial bubbles resulting from speculation and being a source of increased social inequalities.

The function of all economic systems is to satisfy necessities and to promote the capacities of all human beings on the planet. The redistribution of the surplus is a common responsibility.

All individual or corporate actions that commodify use values as mere exchange values, that instrumentalize them with advertising for irrational consumption by consumers, and that encourage speculation for the private accumulation of capital, are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity.Also inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity are: tax havens; banking secrecy; speculation on food commodities, natural resources and energy sources. Public and private “odious debts” and poverty as the result of socially unjust relations, are declared illegal.

Article 7 (Promoting dignified and non-exploitative labour)

The processes of production and distribution should ensure that workers have dignified and participatory jobs that are adapted to family and cultural life, fostering their skills and guaranteeing them adequate material means of existence. For work, in all its forms, fulfills human beings as social actors in the Common Good of Humanity. Workers associations to organize the production and distribution of goods and services constitute the basis of this objective.

Work has priority over all the other elements of the production and distribution of goods and services. Solidarity should be given to those who, for reasons of age, physical handicaps or adverse economic circumstances, cannot accede to work.

All organization of the production and distribution of goods and services under the auspices of capital is contrary to the Common Good of Humanity. All modern forms of slavery, servitude and labour exploitation, especially of children, for the purposes of individual profit or private accumulation of surplus value as well as limitations on labour organizing are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir) and are therefore prohibited.

Article 8 (Reconstructing territories)

Confronted by globalization, which has favoured a unipolar economy, the concentration of decision-making powers, the hegemony of financial capital and the irrational distribution of goods and services, it is indispensible to reconstruct territories as a base for resistance to the globalization hegemonized by capital. They should promote the autonomy of peoples, the decision-making powers of the communities and citizens, and food and energy sovereignty, as well as for the main trading exchanges. With this in view, the regionalization of economies should be carried out in accordance with their complementarity and solidarity and not competitivity, thus enabling the peripheral regions to ‘delink’ from the hegemonic economic centres in order to ensure autonomy of production, commerce and finance.

Territory as a basis of social life must be recognized in its different dimensions – local, regional and continental. The principle to be respected is that the populations affected by mining extraction projects, public works and all utilization of natural wealth should be informed and consulted in advance.

The constitution of monopolies and oligopolies, whatever their fields of production, distribution or finance is prohibited, as well as all political centralization that involves the disappearance of territories and all abuse of territorial power to the detriment of other, similar bodies. These are incompatible with the Common Good of Humanity.

Article 9 (Guaranteeing access to common goods and universal social protection)

There are certain common goods that are indispensible for the collective life of individuals and peoples and that constitute inalienable rights. These are: food, housing, health, education, and material and immaterial communication, not only quantitative but also qualitative. Various forms of citizen control or social property exist for the effective organization of access to these goods. “Universal protection” is a right of all peoples and individuals, a responsibility of public authorities that should be guaranteed by an appropriate fiscal policy.

Access to common goods must be recognized as a right of peoples and of individuals

The privatization of public services, particularly in the fields of health and education, in order to contribute to capital accumulation is inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and is therefore prohibited. Specifically, speculation on food, housing, health, education and communication is sanctionable, as is corruption while exercising these rights.

– 3. Collective democratic organization based on participation

Article 10 (Generalizing democracy as a basis for building the subject)

All peoples and human beings are subjects of their histories and have the right to a social and political organization that respects this principle. This organization must ensure harmony with nature and access to the material needs of life through production and distribution systems built on social justice principles. To achieve these goals, collective organization should enable everyone to participate in the production and reproduction of the life of the planet and of human beings, i.e., of the Common Good of Humanity.The organizing principle of this goal is to spread democracy into all social relationships: family, gender, work, political authority, between peoples and nations and in all social, political, economic, cultural and religious institutions. This is valid for all institutions that represent specific sectors of activity or interests, such as industrial and agricultural enterprises, financial and trading bodies, political parties, religious institutions and trade unions, non-governmental organizations, sports and cultural groups and humanitarian institutions. All this means returning to the subject, collective or personal, as the actor in social construction.

The generalization of democracy must apply to all social relations and all institutions.

All non-democratic forms of organizing society’s political, economic, social and cultural life are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir) and are therefore prohibited. Genocides are condemned as irreparable and criminal acts of discrimination. All segregation based on gender, race, nation, culture, sexual orientation, physical or mental capacity, religion or ideological affiliation are liable to sanctions.

Article 11 (Building the equality of relationships between men and women)

Particular importance will be given to relations between men and women, unequal from time immemorial in most societies in the course of human history (patriarchy).

All institutions and all social and cultural systems must recognize, respect and promote the right of women to a life that is equivalent in all fields to that of men and guarantee them their participation on an equal basis.

Social and economic practices, institutions and cultural or religious systems that defend discrimination or actively discriminate against women are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity. All forms of masculine domination, particularly differences in wage income and the non-recognition of family domestic work linked to the reproduction of life, are subject to sanctions.

Article 12 (Prohibiting war and collective violence)

Democratic international relations do not allow the use of war to resolve conflicts. In this day and age, peace is not guaranteed by an arms race. The availability of nuclear, biological, chemical weapons directly jeopardizes the life of the planet and of Humanity. Arms have become a business. Their production causes an immense waste of energy, natural resources and human talents; their use brings about, apart from the loss of lives and infinite physical and moral suffering, serious environmental destruction.

Peace, which is based on Justice, is built up on dialogue.

Incompatible with the Common Good of Humanity and therefore forbidden are:the manufacture, possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, the accumulation of conventional weapons to guarantee regional hegemony and control of natural resources, the destruction of the bases of life (water, food, micro-climates), the use of rape as a weapon of war, the incitement to war by social communications, hegemonic regional pacts and military solutions to solve internal political problems.

Also prohibited are generalized acts of social violence. Genocides are condemned as irreparable and criminal acts of discrimination, as are also ethnocides and ecocides. All segregation based on gender, race (ethnics), nation, cultural, social status, sexual preference, physical and mental incapacities, religious and ideological convictions.

Article 13 (Building the State in function of the Common Good)

The role of the State, as collective administrator, is to guarantee the Common Good, i.e. the public interest, as compared to individual or private interests. Democratic participation is therefore needed to define the Common Good (constitutions) and how it will be applied. All peoples and communities of the earth, in the plurality of their components (members, organizations and social movements), have the right to political systems of direct or delegated participation with a revocable mandate. Regional governments and international organizations, particularly the United Nations, must be constructed on democratic principles.

Social and political organization must be built from below upwards, through participation and social representation, in order to guarantee a fair and equitable functioning of public institutions.

All dictatorial or authoritarian forms of exercising political or economic power, where non representative minorities, formal or informal, monopolize decisions without participation, initiative or popular control, are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and are therefore prohibited. Also forbidden are public subsidies for organizations, social movements, political parties or religious institutions that do not respect democratic principles or that practise any kind of discrimination whatsoever (gender, racial or sexual preference).

Article 14 (Guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples)

Indigenous peoples have the right to be recognized in their differences. For this they need the material and institutional foundations necessary for the reproduction of their customs, languages, cosmovisions and communal institutions, that is, a protected territory, a bilingual education, their own juridical system, public representation, etc. They make important contributions to the contemporary world: for the protection of Mother Earth, resistance to the extractive-export mode of production and accumulation, and a holistic vision of the natural and social reality.

Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities have the right to exist as such.

Actions, institutions and economic, political and cultural systems that destroy, segregate, discriminate against or hinder the physical, cultural and spiritual life of indigenous peoples are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and are therefore prohibited.

Article 15 (Recognizing the right to resistance)

All peoples and social groups have the right to develop critical thought, to practise peaceful resistance and if necessary, insurrection against destructive actions taken against nature, human life, collective or individual liberties.

Resistance to injustice is a right and a duty for all peoples and all human beings.

All censorship of opinion, all criminalization of resistance and the violent repression of liberation movements, are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and are prohibited.

– 4. Interculturalism as a basic dynamic for thinking and social ethics

Article 16 (Building up interculturalism)

The Common Good of Humanity requires the participation of all cultures, knowledge, arts, philosophies, religions, and folklore in interpreting reality and in the development of the ethics necessary to its social construction, the production of its symbolic, linguistic and aesthetic expressions, as well as the formulation of utopias. The cultural richness of humanity, built up throughout history, has become our heritage, and cannot be destroyed. Science and its technological applications must serve the welfare of humanity and not the accumulation of capital. Interculturalism involves the contribution of all cultures, in all their diversity, to the various dimensions of the Common Good of Humanity: respect for nature as the source of life, the priority of use value over exchange value within processes of justice, widespread democratization and diversity and cultural exchange.

All cultures, knowledge and spiritualities in accordance with the principles of this Declaration must have the means for contributing to the pursuit of the Common Good of Humanity – the only definition of progress.

Cultural ethnocide, the practices, institutions and economic, political and cultural systems that hide, discriminate against or turn into folklore the cultural riches of peoples, together with those that impose a monocultural homogenization, identifying human development with Western culture, are incompatible with the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life and are therefore prohibited. Also forbidden are the practices, institutions, and political and cultural systems that demand the return of an illusory past, often endorsing violence or discrimination against other peoples also within their own societies.

Article 17 (Ensuring the right to education and to the transmission of communication)

Information has become central in a production system that employs immaterial means in a globalized world. According to the logic of capital, information is monopolized by the economic powers, both in its production and in its use, thus causing a certain kind of alienation. As regards mass communication, this acts against the exercise of genuine liberty. State monopolies without citizen participation are not an appropriate solution. Only rules that have been democratically established can ensure the free circulation of information that is responsible, critical and constructive.

All peoples of the earth have the right to information, to critical opinions and to knowledge. They also have the right to exchange knowledge and know-how in the pursuit of information useful for constructing the Common Good of Humanity. They should democratically establish their norms of operation.

Monopolies of the media by groups with financial or industrial power, commodification of the public by advertising agencies, exclusive and non-participatory control by States over the content of information, and patents of scientific knowledge that impede the circulation of knowledge useful for the well-being of peoples are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and are therefore prohibited.

– 5. Obligations and sanctions for noncompliance with the Declaration

Article 18 (Applying the paradigm of the Common Good of Humanity)

All noncompliance with, or violation of the rights set forth in this Declaration, which aims to construct permanently the Common Good of Humanity, or the non-execution of the mechanisms set forth herein, shall be known, prosecuted, punished and redressed according to the scale and impact of the damage caused, in accordance with the dispositions of national and international law. Short-term or mid-term transition measures (reforms and regulations) should open up the way to changing relations with nature, establishing the priority of use value, generalizing democracy and creating multiculturalism. However they should not become mere regulations of the contemporary mode of accumulation in order to enable it to adjust to new requirements for the protection of nature and the survival of human beings.Rather they should constitute stages for adopting the new paradigm of the Common Good of Humanity.

The implementation of this Declaration must be guaranteed by appropriate measures that have been democratically drawn up.

All forms of impunity, amnesties and any other laws that deny justice to victims, that is, to nature and her conscious part, humankind, are inconsistent with the Common Good of Humanity and the Good Life (BuenVivir) and are consequently.


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