In a debate over the nature and contours of imperialism between the Marxists John Smith and David Harvey, Smith makes this concluding point,
“Harvey defends his call for a “benevolent imperialism” on the grounds that “it would have been better for the left to support a Keynesian alternative.” But there was, and is, no Keynesian alternative; this is nothing else than a social-democratic fantasy, just as was Kautsky’s dream, shared by Harvey, of an end to inter-imperialist rivalries. And as Lenin explained, social democracy is a nothing else than a euphemism for social imperialism.”
Set aside whether there is something that might lift up the fortunes of the majority between our current economic predicament and socialist revolution, I strongly believe that Smith’s claim that Harvey is a “social imperialist” out of bounds. Actually, it’s juvenile and divisive, closing off mutual discussion and joint action on the left.
Moreover, if experience is a reliable guide, such a method of discussing differences on the left didn’t serve well either Lenin or the parties that embraced Leninism or the working class and socialist movement generally in the 20th century. In Stalin’s hands, in fact, it turned millions into “enemies of the people. And you know where that led.
Needless to say, we should turn the page on that method of interaction on the left. At a moment when the struggle for unity is paramount and no one has an exclusive franchise on the best way of comprehending and changing the contemporary world, the expelling of those on the left with whom we differ from our circles strikes me as a non-starter. Or, to put it more bluntly, boneheaded.