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Former Chief Justice of Kenya, Willy Mutunga, gives a special tribute to Samir Amin. 

The sad news of the passing on of Samir Amin found me reading Karim Hirji’s brilliant new book The Enduring Relevance of Walter Rodney’s ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. Samir Amin appears, as one would expect, in pages of the book. Both Samir and Karim are brilliant anti-imperialist, pan-Africanist, organic intellectuals whose writings the youth of Africa must read and internalise.

Recently, I have been re-reading two of Samir Amin’s books (The Long Road to Socialism 2010 in Reimagining Pan-Africanism: Distinguished Mwalimu Nyerere Lecture Series 2009-2013 and Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism) because I have for decades been deeply engaged in thinking freedom and emancipation of Africa and the planet.

I am convinced that socialism is what should engage revolutionaries if we take seriously Eric Hobsbawm’s assessment that “our world risks both explosion and implosion. It must change.” In this regard, I believe Samir Amin’s two critical messages in his distinguished lecture to public and organic revolutionary intellectuals and activists the world over should be two great pillars among many in his revolutionary legacy.

On page 24 of that lecture he argues: “Marx has never been more useful and necessary in order to understand and transform the world than he is today. Being Marxist in this spirit is to begin with Marx and to stop with him, or Lenin or Mao, as conceived and practiced by historical Marxists of the previous century. It is to render unto Marx that which is owed to him: the intelligence to begin a modern critical thinking, a critique of capitalist reality and a critique of its political, ideological and cultural representations. A creative Marxism must pursue the goal of enriching this critical thinking par excellence. It must not fear to integrate all the input of reflection, in all areas, including those which have wrongly been considered to be ‘foreign’ by the dogmas of historical Marxisms of the past.”

He ended his lecture at page 63 by stating boldly that, “our project is to bring together a critical mass of intellectuals capable beyond the analysis of the disastrous politics underway, of outlining an authentic renaissance of thinking that is audacious, independent and up to the challenge.”

Revolutionaries will also never forget Samir Amin’s (Dani Nabudere’s and Lucas Khamisi’s and others also) engagement with the political economy of social imperialism to challenge the imperialist narrative that neo-liberalism is the only choice for the survival of the planet. He kept the revolutionary spirit alive that the great revolutionary paradigms of socialism and communism were never interned in the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the “collapse of socialism” after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The historicising, problematising, and interrogating what “collapsed” has been a great intellectual, ideological, and political struggle against imperialisms of the West and East.

We must keep this revolutionary legacy of Samir Amin forever alive.


* Doctor Willy Mutunga is former Chief Justice and President of Supreme Court of Kenya, 2011-2016.