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1. The agricultural revolution and industrialization

The failure of the modernization strategies
The agricultural revolution, but how?
The alternative strategy

Samir Amin

This chapter starts with the recognition that globally, the development strategies implemented in Africa since independence have neither aimed at achieving the priority task of an agricultural revolution, nor really aimed at any significant industrialization, but basically extended the colonial pattern of integration in the world capitalist system. The catastrophic results are now obvious; moreover the Western inspired policies of so-called 'readjustment' to the new conditions created by the global crisis (through the IMF and World Bank recipes) would only worsen the case. Hence another development, fundamentally based on a popular alliance, is the only acceptable alternative. The priority target of achieving the agricultural revolution clearly calls for industrialization, but a pattern of industrialization quite different from the conventional one. This chapter attempts to show the ways in which this pattern presupposes some form of 'delinking' from the system governing the economic global expansion of capitalism. This national and popular content of development, in its turn, is virtually inconceivable without significant change toward democratization of the society, allowing for an autonomous expression of the various social forces and creating the basis for a real civil society. Simultaneously, the weakness of African states, referred to here, calls for co-operation and unity without which any national and popular attempt would remain extremely limited and vulnerable.

The failure of the modernization strategies

Twenty years ago when most African countries were acceding to independence, the view prevailing at that time, even among Africans, attributed under-development on the continent to an historical backwardness which was to be overcome simply by redoubling efforts aimed at progress in a previously defined and known direction. The national liberation movement, such as it was, blamed the colonizers precisely for the fact that they were not up to the task.

African 'left' and 'right' were hence convinced that independence was a sure guarantee of, and a sufficient precondition for, the acceleration of modernization rates. The liberal thesis considered that the means to accelerate growth was to maintain a large opening to foreign capital. The government's role was to create more favourable conditions likely to generate new opportunities for capital investments by accelerating education and training, so feared by the colonizers, as well as modernizing both infrastructure and administration. The socialist thesis of the time, suspicious of foreign capital, argued that the government was itself to compensate for the lack of capital, specifically with a view to effectively speeding up the modernization process, In other words, the socialist thesis was not rejecting either the 'modernization' perspective or that of integration into the international division of labour.

Both theses shared the same basic views concerning the neutrality of technology: both were arguing that the direction of modernization could be and was known. A mere glance at both Western and Eastern advanced societies would convince of the similarity of a number of objectives in terms of consumption, organization of production, administration, and education. The 'socialists' were probably more sensitive to such issues as national independence, which is why they were on their guard against the recourse to foreign capital. They were also probably more sensitive to issues related to income distribution and the priority of collective services. But the 'liberals' retorted that capitalism would also solve these problems and moreover, would gradually lead to a democratization of social and political life. Both theses were finally based on the same West-centred and technico-economistic view, the common denominator of a popular version of Marxism and the best of bourgeois social science.

Only 15 years ago protests were still rare and unwelcome, considered as peasant utopias and culturalist nationalisms. It is true that, because of a lack of sufficient support, the protectors were often guilty of such weaknesses. The outcome of the real history of the last two decades has been such that the two theses are systematically called into question today. It is this twofold historical 'frustration' that gives the thesis of unequal development the strength it is gaining.

The thesis of unequal development began by the affirmation that under-development far from being 'backwardness', was the result of integration into the world capitalist system as an exploited and dominated periphery, fulfilling specific functions in the process of accumulation at the centre of the system. This integration, contrary to superficial points of view, did not date from the colonial scramble of Africa at the end of the 19th century, but from the very beginning of mercantilism in the 18th century, a period when Africa was 'specialized', through the slave trade, in the supply of labour power which, exploited in America, was to speed up the process of capital accumulation in Atlantic Europe. This 'specialization' - apart from its horrors - was not only leading to a regression of local production systems as well as state organizations, and marking the ideology of the societies involved in this shameful trade with features that will remain for a long time, but was also impoverishing Africa.

The thesis of unequal development continued its analysis by trying to understand the mechanisms by which capital, dominant on the world scale, was subordinating pre-capitalist modes of production while distorting them. Whereas the ethnological mainstream was carrying on its research on the singularities of African societies, trying to isolate them conceptually, the thesis of unequal development was laying stress on the integration of apparently 'traditional' rural societies in the process of capital accumulation. This is how, in the first half of the 1960s, the essential characteristics of the modes of formal domination of capital over the African rural world were defined. It was shown how in the 'trade economy', the technical and commercial systems of control were depriving peasant producers of their control over the means of production they still formally owned, in order to extract a surplus of labour, transformed through commodity trade into profit for the capital of the dominating monopolies. It was shown how driving back the peasants into intentionally small reserves in South Africa and Zimbabwe was intended to supply cheap labour power to industries, mines and plantations. These analyses lead to a consideration of the fundamentally different alternative of a development, based on popular alliance between workers and peasants.

The way was thus opened for a positive rethinking of all the issues of development: orientations of industrialization, the question of state and nation, and so on. Within this perspective industry is meant to support the technical and social revolution in the rural area. This inversion of priorities also, by force of circumstances, involved fundamental revisions at the level of reflection on consumption models, the articulation of big and small industries, modern techniques and artisanal and traditional techniques, and so on. A positive content could be given to a strategy of delinking, that is, to refuse the imperatives of the international division of labour, heretofore considered as inevitable necessities.

The seed was sown. But it could not germinate unless it had fallen on fertile soil. Ideas become realities only if they are supported by effective social forces: the ground is, however, becoming increasingly solid. The old movement of national liberation, whose objective was political independence, has exhausted its potentials. The 50-state Africa to whose creation it contributed finds itself in a dilemma: of economic development whose contrasted effects are ever more explosive: urbanization and mass unemployment, agricultural stagnation, soil deterioration, famines and massive imports of food products, growing external dependency. A dilemma of national construction: a political dilemma: imitative democracies give way to tyrannies, single parties of national construction give place to military and bureaucratic cliques. An ideological dilemma: capitalist liberalism and bureaucratic socialism do not answer any needs of the popular masses: a cultural dilemma: imitative education shows all its dysfunctionality, the imposition of the foreign languages of colonization is a vehicle of alienation as ineffective as it is unsupportable.

The reason is that the old movement of national liberation was, in fact, a bourgeois movement even though it was able to mobilize peasant masses and its petit bourgeois component had given the illusion of a possible socialist prospect. The newly emerging movement will, necessarily, be one of peasants and workers: and probably, inevitably assume populist forms in a first stage before the seed sown has germinated.

The present crisis of the imperialist system obviously enhances all these contradictions. The solutions offered by the system imposing its 'adjustment' policies do not answer the real questions. There is no alternative to a strategy of national and popular reconstruction, self-centred and delinked from the world capitalist system.

The agricultural revolution, but how?

The failure of 'development' has been more dramatic for Africa as a whole than for any other region. Africa has not yet started its agricultural revolution without which no further stage of development can be considered. The production and productivity per rural family have been almost stagnant for long and might have even begun to decline in many places. Out-village migration is not the result of a relatively surplus population created by some agricultural progress, even if socially unequal, but is a desperate attempt by the whole population to escape from famine. This type of migration generates a monstrous type of urbanization with no hope of industrial employment, since it provides no means of financing new activities. Simultaneously, African countries, with very few exceptions, have not begun to enter the industrial age from any viewpoint. There is neither a minimal network of inter-related industries, nor a minimal financial and technological capacity to pursue any consistent industrial policy. Elsewhere, in many areas of Latin America and South. South-East and East Asia, such minimal tasks have already been accomplished, even if in a chaotic, regionally and socially unequal way, hence inadequate from a national and popular viewpoint.

Of course, this failure has deep roots, both pre-colonial and colonial, but in no way can it be considered that the post-colonial decades have begun reversing the negative processes.

Achieving the agricultural revolution is' therefore, the priority target for the decades to come. This is a very complex, multi-dimensional undertaking. It has technological dimensions: what type of equipment and other inputs (for example, control of water, use of chemicals) may bring, simultaneously, significant increases in production per capita and per acre. These technological choices imply the production per capita and per acre. These technological choices imply the design of adequate supportive economic policies: of price and income systems ensuring the rationality of the choices they induce; of the supportive industrialization priorities, the pattern of financing among others. These policies in their turn bear complex social and political consequences: how the various types of social control in rural areas (land property and use, rent and wage system, co-operatives of producers of a variety of types, from lower to higher forms, and so on) command the direction of change (or make it impossible); how the types of social control in place are the historical result of social power balances and imbalances (particularly the result of the relation of the State to the rural communities and their components). And, through which political moves they could be changed, how the various types of social control on trade systems and industry (state, basic collectivities, private national capital, transnationals) combine with the need for agricultural changes.

On none of these aspects, and on how they interrelate, are the lessons from the historical experiences - either of the developed West, the East or of Latin American and Asian regions - transferable to Africa today. There are many reasons for this: differences in the availability of disposable land, differences in pre-modern patterns of social organization and levels of productivities, differences in available industrial technologies, are some. Similarly, the lessons from other experiences of industrialization, whether conceived in the perspective of the world division of labour or 'delinked' from it, based on private capital initiative or state intervention, are of a limited significance for Africa.

Yet perhaps because the task is totally new and the challenges too complex, recipes are suggested hurriedly by agencies (notably from the UN family, World Bank and major bilateral agencies) few of which pass the test of experience. Hence the flow of short-lived 'fashions'. In the name of 'immediate efficiency', those who do not recognize our deep ignorance of what can be done, easily substitute for deeper studies their 'theological' beliefs, whether in market efficiency (as if some minor changes in prices would create ipso facto adequate incentives), or in the state efficiency (without questioning enough the historical, political, cultural dimensions of the state).

Considered from the global perspective of today's world system, the failure of African development bears further dramatic consequences The continent's weakness both at economic and financial levels and, perhaps consequently, at political and military levels, encourages cynical attitudes, allowing the powers to give priority to their geo-strategic views without being compelled to consider local forces and interests. This weakness, combined with the global strategies of the powers, thus creates an additional set of conditions unfavourable for internal changes.

A glaring example of how 'theology' is substituted for scientific analysis of the roots of Africa's failure to achieve its agricultural revolution is provided by the famous World Bank Report on 'accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa'.

It was to be expected that the World Bank would produce a critique of local social and economic systems and the world system of the division of labour, responsible for this failure. Or even that the Bank would make some sort of self-criticism, since for the past 20 years it has supported most of the basic principles underlying the development system now being called into question But instead, the Bank attributes the failure entirely to the African governments, accusing them of having held agriculture in contempt and given far too much priority to industry!

The Bank's proposed strategy can be accurately summed up as follows:

The internal structural problems and external constraints impeding African economic growth have been exacerbated by domestic policy inadequacies ... trade and exchange-rate policies [which] have overprotected industry, held back agriculture... the public sector has become over-extended.

Upon which, the Bank goes on to suggest a strategy of adjustment to the demands of the world system, based on exports (agricultural and mining commodities), supported mainly by devaluation measures and resort to a larger measure of liberalism, these to be accompanied by offering greater scope to private initiative. A carrot, that of doubling external aid in real terms during the 1980s, is dangled to encourage countries to accept these principles of 'healthy' management.

Low agricultural productivity in Africa is a platitude. What the World Bank report does not say is that this low productivity, which goes hand in hand with the land-extensive type of agriculture, was - and still is - economic from the point of view of the world system of the division of labour. It allowed the West to acquire raw materials without having to invest in its colonies. It has been clearly shown that this mechanism is responsible for the impoverishment of the land that has resulted in poorer yields. The transition to intensive agriculture, a necessity today, implies an increase in the world prices of raw materials, if they are to be exported: land, like oil or water, is no longer an 'unlimited' resource. Yet the Bank has managed to discover only three ills from which Africa suffers: overvalued exchange rates; too high a level of taxation of farmers; and excessive growth in administrative expenditure.

Obviously, if prices in foreign currencies are maintained, devaluation would allow the exporter to obtain more in the local currency. But it cannot be assumed either that devaluation would bring about equilibrium in the balance of payments without control or that prices in foreign currencies would remain stable if the African countries devalued their own currency. Experience has repeatedly shown that in many Third World countries the whole range of local prices tends to adjust to the import prices and that, therefore, the effect of devaluation both on comparative price structures and on the balance of payments is cancelled out. The absence of a self-reliant and autonomous economic structure explains this generalized contagion' which reflects how local price systems are dependent on the world price system.

It is true that peasants in Africa are subjected to a considerable degree of 'hidden taxation,- the difference between the export price, the real cost of internal marketing deducted, and the price paid to the producer. But where else would the state raise these resources if this margin were abolished and if the country were to give priority in its development to the production of such export commodities as suggested by the Bank? Why not reduce consumer taxes (for example, on coffee) in the developed countries for the benefit of the African peasant? Clearly, such hidden taxation reflects the local states' 'antipeasant' bias, but this bias is a consequence of the nature of the states' relations with the world system. The anti-peasant feature is not that of the local state alone, but that of the global system of exploitation within which it functions.

By failing to extend the analysis of the system further, the World Bank condemns itself, on the subject of public expenditure as on others, to distribute advice that is hardly efficient and to suggest ways and means of tinkering with the economy in order to reduce this expenditure (by very little). Such savings are invariably made at the expense of the poor, in contradiction to the fine speeches about 'basic needs' Moreover, does not the IMF, a close partner of the World Bank, always impose devaluation, austerity and a reduction in the standard of living of the poorest sections of the population? 'Real prices' (world prices being the supreme reference) and the abolition of subsidies for the most basic consumer goods always operate against the interest of peoples.

Conversely, is industry in Africa really over-protected? Will not reducing such 'over-protectionism' of an industry which is still the most fragile in the world reduce even further its already negligible rate of growth?

Wages in Africa are said to be too high and those of Bangladesh are held up as a model. Does the World Bank see the future in terms of the Bangladeshization of the Third World? How does one reconcile this statement with that on satisfying 'basic needs'? In addition, there is no discussion on industrialization strategies, and import substitution is considered as by far the superior option (no attention is paid to the fact that this strategy reproduces and reinforces inequalities in income distribution) although it is said to have been 'badly applied' in Africa because it too often required state intervention (without which, despite the Bank's pious hopes concerning 'entrepreneurs', the rate of industrialization would have been even lower). The Bank also recommends processing mineral resources for export, although it is a known fact that such processing swallows up considerable capital without leading to interaction between the exploitation of the resources and national development. It also recommends light export industries. Have the disasters of the textile industries in Morocco and Tunisia been forgotten which, after having followed such 'recommendations', saw the doors of Western market firmly closed to their products? As for the industrialization required to ensure agricultural development, this is one aspect of which the Bank is, apparently, quite unaware.

The alternative strategy

Instead of the false, and metaphysical, opposition between agriculture and industry, consideration should be given to how they are interlinked in 'modernization' theory and practices and how they should be linked in an alternative national and popular strategy. For the agricultural revolution needs industry to make it possible, but not the type of industries so far developed (poorly) in Africa.

To try to schematize the opposing autocentred model/extraverted model, a four sector analysis had been proposed: 1) production of the means of production; 2) production of goods for mass consumption; 3) luxury production/consumption; 4) exports. The autocentred model is defined as one mainly governed by the interlinkage of sectors 1) and 2), and the extraverted model as one mainly determined by the interlinkage of sectors 3) and 4). This analysis leads to a major conclusion: in the autocentred model labour remuneration (wages and peasants' incomes) must necessarily increase according to the pace of the progress of productivity; in the extraverted the labour remuneration can be delinked from the productivity growth.


(i) the development of a contemporary Third World country cannot be achieved through the adjustment of its economy to the requirements of the international division of labour, but through delinking this economy from the international division of labour;

(ii) this delinking is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an autocentred development which remains impossible if it is not intended for the people (that is, if the benefits of the productivity rise do not go straight to the greater majority);

(iii) conversely, a growth, mainly of benefit to a minority, is possible on the basis of an extraverted development (not always and everywhere possible), but such development is more effective for this objective than is an autocentred model.

In the contemporary Third World, autocentred development is synonymous with a national and popular content. It is now possible to see that the policies implemented in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s have been mainly extraverted In Africa, bearing in mind the contrasts and differences, and different political regimes and numerous changes, there have been four sets of experience:

a) 'Stagnation', associated with a lack of natural resources and/or a stagnant world demand for these resources.

b) 'Stagnation', despite the existence of such resources either potential (but well-known), or even exploited (and at times on a large scale).

c) 'Relatively marked growth', at times even high, associated with the exploitation of these resources, either by the multinationals or by the national state.

d) 'Marked growth', despite the fact that the exploited resources (often agricultural rather than mining) are moderate, due in general to an extensive opening to the exterior; this marked growth being associated with an uneven distribution of its benefits.

Within that framework of conventional economic analysis some motors of effective growth (when it has existed) may be identified: (1) oil and mines; (2) export agriculture (relatively rich: coffee, cocoa; or poor: groundnut); (3) light consumption industries managed in an acceptable way, established by multinationals or the state, modern in techniques, responding to the internal market (import substitution); (4) a lively building sector (linked to the accelerated urbanization and 'prosperity'); (5) administrative expenditures conceived in very classical terms, miming the West in its form and, to some degree, so-called social (education first), growing at a sustained pace; (6) tertiary activities (trade, finance) almost always stronger in growth than the other sectors.

When the global growth has been slight (or zero, or negative) it seems attributed to an insufficient dynamism of (1) and (2) and/or to a doubtful character of (3). If, in addition. (5) and (6) have been pushed, then the linked double crisis of public finances and balance of payments ineluctably worsens the situation. The lack of dynamism of (1), (2) and (3) is attributed either to the evident shortcomings of the country or to its lofty nationalism that refuses foreign capital, a rare factor, It is, or can be, aggravated by the unconcern of the elite, its corruption, and so on.

A steadily backward agriculture almost always stagnant (except in export products) is incapable of releasing a marketed food surplus up to the standard of the effective urban demand. In the most extreme cases, it becomes increasingly difficult for the rural world to feed itself. These disasters or shortages are easily attributed to the climate (drought) or to the careless administrative bureaucracy of the rural world. The policies draining the rural world, which these conventional global strategies of growth necessarily imply, are rarely analysed.

In these experiences, industry has rarely been the driving force of the growth, but the product of a response adjusting to growth, whose chain effects are limited: (i) upstream, through the shortage of basic industries and the weak inter-industrial integration: (ii) downstream, through the uneven character of the incomes it distributes. If the industry restricts itself to a definite number of production units in a position of quasi-monopoly on a small market, and these units provide consumption goods for middle classes, then, even if efficiently managed (that is, without need of subsidies and with prices competitive with those of imports), this industry is derived, and not a driving force.

The alternative option of a national and popular autocentred strategy rests first on the principle of an equitable distribution of income, especially between rural and urban sectors, between the modern sectors with higher productivity and the backward ones. The surplus of the production over the remuneration of labour thus equalized constitutes an excess which, if it is national and retained for accumulation, guarantees a marked growth and a parallel and even progression of popular consumption. Constituted in this way, the structure of demand would show priority in basic needs and orient the productive system towards their satisfaction.

Without entering into an illusory description of concrete details of the measures necessary to implement a development pattern of this type, it can be assumed that:

a) It not only implies a declaration of an agricultural priority, but also its effective implementation. This priority requires that other activities with higher productivity should not provide an opportunity for the distribution of incomes in excess of those distributed in agriculture. The reason for this is that to structure demand in such a way would satisfy the needs expressed by the privileged at the expense of agriculture.

b) It implies that industrialization be first conceived to maintain the progress of productivity in agriculture: production of adequate inputs; infrastructural works; preserving and processing the produce, and so on. It then ensures that industry satisfies the non-food consumption needs of the rural and urban population, on as egalitarian a basis as possible. This national industry cannot be abandoned by substitution through imports, because imports must be paid for through exports, and the comparative advantages are those resulting from the price and income system of the world order, in conflict with the political coherence outlined above. Therefore, imports must be reduced to a strict minimum.

c) It thus implies national and popular forms of social organization of the production: peasants' control over agricultural projects: real co-operatives (which should not be a way of draining the rural areas, depriving the peasants of their hold on production); institutions for collective bargaining of agricultural prices: national control of industries; a national wage policy: redistribution of the financing means on a country scale, and so on It is difficult to imagine how, for instance, multinationals would find a place in this organizational pattern, except, in time and under the strict national control, to provide some limited production or organizational models.

d) It implies that technology is not reduced to its transfer. It is in fact a matter of creating an inventive capacity, not for reasons of cultural nationalism, but because available techniques, especially the more advanced ones, are specific with regard to the range of products, the structure of demand to be satisfied (Western patterns), the price and income structures which control the profitability of these techniques.

e) It implies limited external relations radically different from those derived from the various industrialization strategies, import substitution, or export industrialization. Import substitution is based on an already actual demand in a structure of income distribution characterized by inequality, and on this basis respects the principles of the profitability (with at most some arguments of 'moderate protection of infant industries' during a brief transition). It can, therefore, only displace imports towards the intermediate goods (the industrial apparatus remaining non-integrated) and sophisticated capital goods (as the demand to be satisfied, in competition with the imports reproduces the Western capital's exacting consumption model): it thus remains extraverted National and popular autocentred industry, however, is not built in response to a pre-existing demand, but is created on the basis of the satisfaction of peoples' needs (incomes policy) and intermediate and derived capital needs Imports aim at filling the gaps in the range of these derived needs, but progressively reducing their relative importance (but not necessarily their absolute bulk). External relations are therefore bound to the logic of internal accumulation. The export industry, by its very definition, is extraverted especially as, forced to compete with advanced countries' industry in their own homeland, advanced technology must be extensively imported. This explains why the newly industrializing countries (NICs), which are the most advanced in that direction, are also the most indebted: the export industry does not alleviate the balance of foreign trade (contrary to the argument put forward to that effect, by the World Bank in particular), it aggravates it.

f) It implies building up a national structure of interdependence price/financing means which is in conflict with the principles of the criterion of micro-economic profitability. In fact, the autocentred industry, to comply with the peoples' needs, must accept the juxtaposition of diverse productive units modern industries, semi-mechanized manufactures, handicrafts manufactures. The unit of labour remuneration and that of prices thereby entail unequal surplus, which must be redistributed in order to avoid the polarization of progress in the modern units: and to finance progressive modernization of the backward sectors with the modern sectors' surplus. This is hardly possible on a large scale without big public property: the private national enterprise and, a fortiori, the multinational sub-company cannot at this level accept loss of profitability. In fact, such enterprises act in a directly opposite sense: by destroying the non-competitive cottage industry, they have contributed to increasing unemployment and simultaneously depriving the population of useful products.

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