Only People Make Their Own History

Political Essays, 2000-2018

Aijaz Ahmad, Samir Amin

Introduction by Aijaz Ahmad


LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2018

246 pages

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'Samir Amin was one of the grand intellectuals of our time. A distinguished theoretician, his life of political activism spanned well over six decades. . . . [His] ambition always was to retain theoretical rigour while also communicating with the largest possible number of readers and activists in particular through exposition in relatively direct prose. His readership, like his own political activism, was spread across countries and continents.' – Aijaz Ahmad
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Samir Amin's primary concern as an economist is the form that imperialism takes in the last hundred years – driven at first by capitalist monopolies and later by what he calls generalized monopolies of the imperialist Triad (United States, Europe and Japan). He shows how this new system not only amplifies capital accumulation, and thereby world poverty and pauperization, but also how it gives rise to fascism. Originally written for Monthly Review, the essays selected for this volume provide the most fundamental coordinates of Samir Amin's thoughts in the last decades of his life. His range is wide, moving from Chinese socialism to political Islam, from the weakened political power of the working class and peasantry in the world and the potential for a revived political movement towards socialism.

Aijaz Ahmad

Aijaz Ahmad (1941-2022) was one of India's best-known Marxist scholars. His best-known books include In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (1992), Lineages of the Present: Ideological and Political Genealogies of Contemporary South Asia (1996), and, from LeftWord Books, Nothing Human is Alien to Me: Aijaz Ahmad in conversation with Vijay Prashad (2020), Iraq, Afghanistan and the Imperialism of Our Time (2004).

Read Vijay Prashad's tribute to Aijaz Ahmad here.

Samir Amin

Samir Amin was born in Cairo, the son of an Egyptian father and a French mother (both medical doctors). He spent his childhood and youth in Port Said; there he attended a French High School, leaving in 1947 with a Baccalauréat. From 1947 to 1957 he studied in Paris, gaining a diploma in political science (1952) before graduating in statistics (1956) and economics (1957). In his autobiography Itinéraire Intellectuel (1990) he wrote that in order to spend a substantial amount of time in "militant action" he could devote only a minimum of time to preparing for his university exams.


Samir Amin had a total and absolute commitment to praxis for the cause of socialism. He was not a mere armchair theorist who used Marxist tools to analyse the contemporary reality as a form of detached intellectual activity. He was on the contrary a passionately committed activist, for whom intellectual activity was quintessentially an aid to praxis.

Prabhat Patnaik