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Power, Threat and Violence

Anuradha Chenoy

By Leo Panitch and Colin Leys
Socialist Register 2009, 2008, pp. 277, Rs. 350.00

By Antonio Giustozzi
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2007, pp. 259, £45.00


Violence is practised to maintain state hegemony; to gain and maintain power; as an intimidatory tactic to establish hierarchy of power; in interpersonal and gender relations; between communities and individuals. There is something abhorrent about violence, yet it is seen as legitimate instrument when practised within the frame of law for the sake of maintaining state power. Political ideologies have viewed it differently with Gandhians absolving themselves from it totally, to the ultra Left and xenophobic right justifying its use to capture power and intimidate and enforce control over the ‘other’. It is thus of great use that Socialist Register and its fine editors Leo Panitch and Colin Leys have this year brought together its yearly contribution of essays on issues relating to different aspects of power, threat and violence. The frame of the essays is the violence that attends the development of capitalism; the counter resistance to capitalism and imperialism, the violence of people within contemporary capitalist society and the role of the US as global policeman and once again socialism or barbarism. Henry Bernstein, Panitch and Leys use the classic Marxist texts in their introductory essay to show the linkage of violence at every stage in the development of capitalism for accumulation through colonialism to contemporary control by empire. Michael Brie sees violence as action that seeks to degrade subjects to mere objects and uses this as a means to exert power.   On contemporary US imperialism and the US as global police, an excellent piece by Vivek Chiber, ‘American Militarism and the US Political Establishment: The real lessons on the invasion of Iraq’ examines the logic of the invasion. He inverts the argument that the US invasion of Iraq—a catastrophe of epic proportions was just the consequence of neo-conservative influence on the George Bush regime. In fact Chiber looks much deeper to argue that the two preceding presidential terms were the ones by the Democratic Party and the administration that came after the end to the Cold War that established US supremacy. But far from demilitarization, the US did the opposite, in that it further militarized and the idea of a peace dividend was a short-lived one, if under consideration at all. Chiber’s argument is that this turn of events was both a Democratic and a Republican agenda, as evident from Operation Desert Storm and the extension of US bases into East Europe by Bill Clinton, ...

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