Multipolarity and the Prospect for Socialism


With the onset of the American empire’s decline, China is fast emerging as a global actor capable of steering the world towards a multipolar arrangement. The country has repeatedly affirmed its conviction in the creation of a polycentric system of sovereign states which work together, while each respects the national politico-economic order of the other – encapsulated in the motto “Peace, development and win-win cooperation”. In 2013, Xi Jinping conceptualized this international perspective as a process of “building a community for a shared future for humankind.”

The IMF has predicted that 60% of the growth in the global economy next year will take place in China, an economic fact which will greatly accelerate the weakening of the US and thus, bring an end to the “unipolar moment” the world has been experiencing. Unfortunately, a major section of the Left has failed to comprehend the anti-imperialist potential of this conjuncture, mistaking it for another inter-imperialist conflict. Such a viewpoint is based on an incorrect analysis of China’s internal economic structures and its negotiated entry into global capitalism’s mechanisms, both of which call for a historically rooted, dialectical examination. When that kind of assessment is made, the concrete effects of American imperialism’s atrophy are brought to light.

Principal Contradiction

In his book Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World, Samir Amin says, “The main immediate task is to frustrate Washington in its military project: this is the absolute prerequisite for creating the leeway we need, and without it any social or democratic progress and any advance towards a multipolar world will remain vulnerable in the extreme.” The urgency of thwarting USA’s ruthless unilateralism derives from a Maoist understanding of the contradictory tendencies of reality.

In a 1937 essay, Mao Zedong wrote: “if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved.”

In each concrete situation, a different particular contradiction is the predominant one, in the precise sense that, in order to win the fight for the resolution of an over-arching contradiction, one should treat a particular contradiction as a principal one. While struggling against this principal contradiction, one should not ignore the presence of other contradictions. Since a principal contradiction is invariably a means through which a larger, strategic objective can be achieved, elements of the latter are always present in the former.

Contextualizing Amin’s statement in Mao’s theoretical framework, we see that fighting against the American empire does not signify unconditional support for oligarchic states opposing it for the benefit of their own capitalists. Rather, it translates into a qualitatively different political outlook, which sees the latency of socialism within multipolarization i.e. the process of narrowing the options of western imperialist capitalism and making economies more national and therefore more susceptible to democratic pressures. It is due to this type of understanding that Amin is able to insist that “Multipolarity is…synonymous with the real autonomy margin of states. This margin will be used in a given manner as defined by the social content of the state in question.”

Popular National Construction

When the world becomes multipolar, possibilities abound for embarking on the path of Popular National Construction (PNC) – a term coined by Amin to denote the primary stage of socialism in Third World countries. In this stage, a process of erasing the heritage of capitalism’s unequal development is unleashed, through the use of socialist, capitalist and statist tendencies.

Amin defines it as following: “the long transition [to socialism] calls for the indispensable establishment of a popular national society associated to that of an auto-centered national economy. Such a creation is contradictory in every aspect: it associates capitalist criteria, institutions and operational modes to social aspirations and reforms which are in conflict with the logic of global capitalism; it also associates an external exposure (controlled as much as possible) to the protection of the demands of progressive social transformation which conflict with dominant capitalist interests.”

PNC is primarily distinguished from the dominance of comprador bourgeoisie – a fraction of capitalists whose interests are entirely subordinated to those of foreign capital, and which functions as a direct intermediary for the implantation and reproduction of foreign capital. Instead of unilaterally adjusting to the needs of the global system, PNC implements policies which assert sovereignty in all aspects of economic life. Whereas compradorized power works like a handmaiden of foreign companies, PNC puts into action national development projects where foreign investors have to accept the restrictions imposed by the state and the consequent adjustment of their profits to reasonable rates.

Despite being situated in a multipolar environment, a country carrying out PNC has to constantly devise new methods to counter-act any tendential movement towards the consolidation of imperialism. While imperialism has certainly been weakened, the global structures of accumulation are still shackled to neoliberal forces which dislike any progress towards socialism. In an environment like this, socialist countries have to pursue regionalism – the adjustment of needs and interests away from the metropole and towards one’s neighbors. In the face of the globalization of capital, the unification of Third World nations is a necessary first step prior to deepening the process of far-reaching change.

Late Neo-Colonialism

Under a barbaric neoliberal order and US unipolarity, national sovereignty has continued to decline. After the demise of Bandung and the Soviet system, monopoly-finance capitalism has used increasingly inhumane methods to stave off a seemingly permanent crisis. While financialization of capital accumulation has manifested itself in the hyper-exploitation of peripheries, mechanisms of monopoly have led to the conscious planning of imperialist wars for the purposes of capitalism. All this has led to the emergency of late neo-colonialism – the apparently total suffocation of Third World nations through brutal neoliberal policies and compradorization of economic power. The rise of China promises to alter this landscape as the vice-like grip of the American empire over the Global South declines and opportunities open for the pursuit of socialist-oriented de-linked regionalism.

Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India




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