Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 September 2011

Book review

Power and terror

Matt Dobson reviews: Power and Terror: Conflict, Hegemony, and the Rule of Force, by Noam Chomsky

In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Bush neo-con administration unleashed a military onslaught on Afghanistan and Iraq that seemed to display invincible power.

Writers churned out articles and books predicting the dawn of a "new world order". Commentators claimed the US ruling elite was building a Roman-like empire that would exert hegemony for decades across the world. What a different world we live in today!

This collection of Chomsky's essays, interviews and lectures shows how much can change in ten years. Chomsky highlights the change in the balance of power in terms of inter-imperialist relations. The US empire is now in decline. US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are besieged garrisons. But he never fully explains the changed world situation and the change in the imperialist policy of the US ruling class.

Throughout the last decade the Socialist Party and the international organisation to which it is affiliated, the CWI, pointed out that the US ruling class would not be able to dominate world relations indefinitely.

We also said that it would face resistance, highlighting the example of the Vietnam conflict, and would come up against the contradictions its policies had created.

Chomsky eloquently exposes the brutal nature of imperialism. For him, imperialism is the moral hypocrisy of powerful regimes using "power and terror and the rule of force" to further their political and economic aims. This cannot be disputed but for socialists there is more to it.

As Lenin explained, the capitalist class also turns to imperialist policies under pressure from the contradictions of their own system and as a way out of the limitations of the nation state. They are compelled by the threat from their rivals to seek out new markets and maintain dominance over areas.

The US ruling class, while loudly proclaiming their unchallenged authority and satisfying their hunger for prestige, was also compelled by unsustainable economic problems that came to the surface in 2007-8, to embark on imperial adventures.

A commendable thrust of Chomsky's arguments is against the hypocrisy of liberal intellectuals who critically supported the neo-cons' imperialist strategy. As a consequence he has suffered isolation from mainstream debate in the US.

Chomsky reacts to US imperialism's brutality and uses 'moral authority' to condemn but never provides a solution or a strategy for defeating imperialism. His limitations are exposed. A discussion on "how should we respond?" solely focuses on what citizens in the west can do to restrain the imperialist policies of 'their' governments. The only idea discussed is individual boycotts of arms companies.

The recent revolutions in the Arab world have seen mass movements developing where workers and the poor decisively entered into struggle and toppled or weakened seemingly all powerful dictatorships propped up by imperialist powers. In the light of those developments, Chomsky's ideas appear out of tune and out of date.

This is an interesting read but Chomsky's analysis and reliance on individual moral solutions is limited. Those coming into struggle against imperialism and capitalism today will require a collective strategy based on mass action.

Power and Terror: Conflict, Hegemony, and the Rule of Force, essays, interviews and lectures in the ten years since 9/11, Noam Chomsky, Pluto Press, 2011

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 September 2011:

Socialist Party features

We need a programme of action to fight back!

Austerity policies strangle growth

Socialist Party youth and students

Pampered politicians plan education massacre... STOP THEM!

Low pay and the housing crisis

Youth must join pensions struggle

EMA cuts: doors close on our future

Cuts hit young people hard in Hastings

Stop attacks on pensions

Hands off our pensions!

NHS pensions - Pay more, work longer and get less!

Socialist Party workplace news


Support Wyndeham workers

No to pay cuts in Carmarthenshire

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

How can the national rights of Palestinians be achieved?

Socialist Party news and analysis

NSSN calls on TUC to open the floodgates of mass action

Nationalise the banking system!

Childcare costs push parents into hardship

Save our NHS

Fast news

Socialist Party review

Power and terror

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Save Surrey libraries!

Bristol: Labour's short-lived valour

Hundreds march against Dale Farm evictions

May Day protest case goes to Strasbourg


Home   |   The Socialist 14 September 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleFar right pose increasing terrorism threat

triangleNew Zealand mosque terror atrocity

triangleHow 'Prevent' training fosters racist paranoia

triangleCaerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: Stop Israeli state terror

triangleFinsbury Park attack: No to terror, racism, war and austerity!


triangleSelling the Socialist

triangleAmazon bosses defeated in Seattle - Kshama Sawant reelected

triangleSwansea: students protest against Hillary Clinton hypocrisy

triangle"This is going to be the biggest battle we've seen in Britain for a number of years"


triangleRatcheting up of Iran-US tensions

triangleWhat lies behind the US-China trade war?

triangleThe striking relevance of Leon Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution


triangleMass protests rock the globe

triangleAssange arrest: US and allied governments seeking revenge for exposing dirty wars


triangleThem & us

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments


Socialist Party

The Great Big Socialist Party Quiz 2019



Plymouth Blairites side with anti-tenant landlords


Minimum wage

Minimum wage debate



The private sector will never provide broadband to every home, nationalisation will



The Socialist Inbox



Theatre: On Bear Ridge - an examination of loss, set in a post-apocalyptic world


Social Media

Readers' opinion: Twitter's banning of political ads threatens workers' voice


Minimum wage

Minimum wage debate: what should we be demanding?



TV: Crime and Punishment - this brutal watch is a damning indictment of cuts and capitalism



The Socialist inbox



TV: The Accident - Will capitalism be exposed in upsetting, true-to-life drama?



Film reviews: Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach



Life in the gig economy



Opinion: Labour Party is structured to block left councillors



Tony Mulhearn - a Eulogy

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019