[Marxism] Samir Amin's Liberal Virus

Gilles d'Aymery aymery at ix.netcom.com
Tue Oct 11 15:50:43 MDT 2005

Samir Amin's "The Liberal Virus"
by Gilles d'Aymery

    Amin, Samir: "The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the 
Americanization of the World," Monthly Review Press, 2004, ISBN 
1-58367-107-2, 128 pages, $15.95 (paperback) 

(Swans - October 10, 2005)  People who believe that the 
"indispensable nation," in the words of former US Secretary of State 
Madeleine Albright -- from K Street to the Capitol and from the 
White House to Wall Street -- can do no wrong, and that the 
"Americanization of the world" by any necessary, but primarily 
military, means, is an ardent obligation, if not yet a fait accompli, will 
have no use for Samir Amin's 128-page book, The Liberal Virus: 
Permanent War and the Americanization of the World (Monthly 
Review Press, 2004). However, the partisans of the view that the 
U.S., in her efforts to dominate and subjugate friends and foes, 
presents a clear danger to the whole of humanity, should definitely 
read Mr. Amin's cogent and somber analysis.

Samir Amin, the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, 
Senegal, a neo-Marxian economist and social scientist, advocates a 
new internationalism in which Europeans, Asians, Africans, and Latin 
Americans pull together to defend their own interests and counter "the 
excessive and criminal ambitions of the United States" -- what he calls 
the "American project" or the "Americanization of the world" by 
"securing military control of the planet." "At the present moment," he 
writes, "this objective should be considered an absolute priority. The 
deployment of the American project overdetermines the stake of 
every struggle: no social and democratic advance will be lasting as 
long as the American plan has not been foiled." (p. 111)

Unencumbered by a sense of history, with no long-term vision but a 
future "conceived as the simple projection of the immediate," guided 
only by capitalist accumulation and corporate profits, "the sole 
principle and objective [of] Washington in its imperial policy is 
immediate pillage" -- petroleum resources being at the forefront of that 
plunder. Amin traces a parallel between the "chosen people" and the 
Nazi terminology, Herrenvolk. He warns that, "the militarist option of 
the United States threatens everyone. It arises from the same logic as 
Hitler's: to change economic and social relations in favor of the current 
chosen people (Herrenvolk) through military violence," and he affirms 
that, "to bring the militarist project of the United States to defeat has 
become the primary task, the major responsibility, for everyone." (p. 
81) He considers this project no less than "barbaric," and leading to 

(On a the subject of fascism, before dismissing Amin's views as too 
radical, far-fetched, and grossly exaggerated, one should read the 
ominous essay by Lewis H. Lapham, "On message," in the October 
issue of Harper's Magazine (which is covered elsewhere in this issue). 
Mr. Lapham is a member of the East Coast liberal intelligentsia, 
certainly not a Marxist or a radical; but his "On message" substantiates 
Amin's analysis. That an Egypt-born, Paris-trained, neo-Marxian 
thinker and an Ivy-League educated American editorialist reach 
parallel conclusions should be noted.)

Samir Amin traces the extreme form of American neo-liberalism to 
European liberalism, which fostered the growth of capitalism and 
modernity from the Renaissance onward by elevating individual liberty 
as the single most important human value above earlier forms of 
societies (tribes, communities, families). Modernity led to the break 
between religion and the state, and capitalism developed on new 
social relations, "free enterprise, free access to markets, and the 
proclamation of the untouchable right to private property (which is 
made 'sacred')." Gradually, the traditional relation -- "power is the 
source of wealth" -- was replaced by "wealth is the source of power." 
Economic liberalism thus becomes inherently anti-democratic, a 
fundamental contradiction of bourgeois thought that was realized 
during the French Revolution by the Jacobins. On or about that time 
the liberal virus took two different forms -- the European and 
American strains.

While the French Revolution was in many ways a bourgeois 
revolution, it nevertheless "put equality of human beings and their 
liberation from economic alienation at the heart of their project," (p. 
57) as did the Russian and Chinese Revolutions later, and it was 
predominantly a secular revolution. It was both a political and social 
project. In contrast, the American Revolution took place in the fertile 
soil of apocalyptic fundamentalism of the early immigrants. They were 
the "chosen people" who had reached the "promised land." Writes 
Amin, "In their revolt against the British monarchy, the American 
colonists did not want to transform their economic and social 
relations; they just no longer wanted to share the profits with the ruling 
class of the mother country. They wanted power for themselves, not 
in order to create a different society from the colonial regime, but to 
carry on in the same way, only with more determination and more 
profit." (p. 64) It was a political project only.

The logic of capital accumulation, disguised behind the mealy-
mouthed rhetoric and work-of-god ideology, led to Westward 
expansion, the genocide of the Indian nations, slavery (until it became 
an impediment to capitalist expansion), unfettered raw material 
plundering, etc., all the way to the current imperialist ambitions, 
without any social constraints. The American strain of the liberal virus 
is an undiluted economic liberalism, which is the actual meaning of 
liberty in the U.S., the so-called "pursuit of happiness." There never 
was, and there is no, egalitarian project in American liberalism. Where 
the "dominant culture of European societies has up to now combined 
liberty and equality," Amin says that "American society despises 
equality. Extreme inequality is not only tolerated, it is taken as a 
symbol of 'success' that liberty promises." He adds: "But liberty 
without equality is equal to barbarism."

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