The Imperialism Question and the Twentieth Century
A panel discussion event held on May 28th, 2010, at the 2010 Platypus International Convention held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
To many on the Left today, opposition to imperialism has become a political litmus test of sorts, but historically anti-imperialism was by no means an exclusively leftist political projectâwhether we are speaking of right-wing anti-colonialism in the metropole or in the colonies. In light of these confusions, this panel seeks to clarify the character of the imperialism question on the Left from the Second International to the contemporary anti-war movement, in three interrelated papers. The first will begin at the end of this trajectory by examining anti-anti-imperialist discourse on the Left from the debate Bill Warrenâs Imperialism through Bosnian solidarity in the 1990s and the writings of anti-anti-imperialist leftists such as Fred Halliday, Christopher Hitchens, and Moishe Postone after 9/11. It will address centrally the question of the status and strategic significance of left anti-imperialism in the context of a moribund world revolution as well as in light of the 19th century Marxist legacy respecting the National Question. The second paper will revisit the foundational debates on "imperialism" in the Second International and the early Comintern. By returning to this locus classicus the aim is to examine the impetus given to the âcolonial questionâ by the Bolshevik Revolution and the formation of the Third International. The interconnection for Lenin and Third International radicals between the national and the colonial questions with world revolutionary strategy came to be unhinged for later apologists of Third World nationalism. The third will consist a close consideration of the Stalinization of the imperialism question with special reference to the Communist parties of India and Pakistan from 1928-1968. This is a particularly appropriate test case given the centrality of the subcontinentâs centrality in the history of decolonization and the fact that the Marxist Left in India emerged only after the Stalinization of the international Left.