What is Imperialism? (What Now?)
A panel held on April 6, 2013, at the 2013 Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Transcribed in Platypus Review #59 (Click below to see):
Ten years on from the US invasion of Iraq, are we any closer to understanding what Imperialism is and why we are against it? The problem of Imperialism seems to be getting more difficult to clarify, in relation to our present moment. Since the euphoria around the Arab Spring has passed, the Left has had mixed responses to the interventionist foreign policy of the US, UK and France in the Middle East and North Africa.
It is difficult to disentangle and to clarify what relation the Left’s responses to current issues in Libya, Mali and Syria bear to the history of anti-Imperialism. Never-the-less, if we are to ever overcome Imperialism, we must also confront the history of the Left’s attempts to overcome it.
Just over thirty years ago, the Falklands war presented problems for the Left, in terms of being, on the one hand, against imperialism of British intervention, on the other hand, against a brutal military dictatorship in Argentina. Anti-fascism and anti-imperialism have not always been in ideological conflict on the Left. But, it could be argued, that they have increasingly become so. If this is the case, it might suggest a changing character of anti-Imperialism during the history of the 20th Century. Looking further back, to WW1, what did Marxists understand by the term Imperialism? Does being anti-Imperialist, today even mean to be anti-Capitalist? Does being anti-Capitalist, mean to be anti-Imperialist?
In asking ‘What is Imperialism and for what reasons are you against it?’ this panel is also attempting to address ‘What does it mean to be Marxist, and what does it mean to be on the Left, today?’ It is also to ask, what has become of the Left, and conversely, what could it become?