The Socialist Register 2009

Violence Today Actually Existing Barbarism

Edited by Colin Leys and Leo Panitch  

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This, the 45th volume of the Socialist Register, takes up a question that has preoccupied socialists for over a century–the likelihood that if capitalism is allowed to persist it will be characterised by increasing violence. When Rosa Luxemburg in 1916 quoted Engels’ famous statement that ‘Capitalist society faces a dilemma: either an advance to socialism, or a reversion to barbarism’, she asked: ‘What does a “reversion to barbarism” mean at the present stage of European civilisation? We have all read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without a notion of their terrible seriousness. At this moment, one glance around us will show what a reversion to barbarism in bourgeois society means. This World War–that is a reversion to barbarism’. Given the extent and extremity of violence today, even in the absence of world war, and two decades after the end of actually-existing socialism, it is hard not to feel that we are living in another age of barbarism.

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  • The Human Shield (John Berger)
  • The Endemic Violence of Contemporary Capitalism (Leo Panitch and Colin Leys)
  • Reflections on Violence: A Critical Review of Left Thought (Peter Thomas)
  • From Imperial Aggression to World War: Was Lenin Right? (Vivek Chibber)
  • ‘Failed States’: Actually Existing Barbarism in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Christian Parenti)
  • A History of Violence: USA (Ruth Wilson Gilmore)
  • A History of Violence:  Russia (George Derluguian)
  • A History of Violence: Nigeria (Sofiri Joab-Pederside & Anna Zalik)
  • A History of Violence: Colombia (Ulrich Oslender)
  • A History of Violence: India (Achin Vanaik)
  • India’s History of Violence: Women and Children First (Barbara Harriss-White)
  • Violence Against Women Today, and Women Against Violence and Violent ‘Crime’ in the UK (Joe Sim & Steve Tombs)
  • ‘Social Death’: Urban Gangs from Managua to Cape Town (Dennis Rodgers)
  • The Privatisation of War (Avishai Erlich)
  • Hollywood’s Violence (Philip Green)
  • Diseases as Weapons of Mass Destruction (Garance Upham)
  • Nepal: A ‘Successful’ Guerrilla War? (Mary Des Chenes & Stephen Mikesell)
  • In Defence of Armed Struggle: ‘The Defence of Humanity Requires the Radicalization of Popular Struggles’ (Samir Amin)


  • Colin Leys


    Before coming to Queen’s in 1975 Colin Leys taught at Balliol College, Oxford; Kivukoni College in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; and the Universities of Sussex, Nairobi, and Sheffield. His work has primarily been on the theory and politics of development, with particular reference to Africa and the UK. His publications include European Politics in Southern Rhodesia; Underdevelopment in Kenya;The Political Economy of Neocolonialism; Politics in Britain; Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword (with John S. Saul and others); The Rise and Fall of Development Theory; The End of Parliamentary Socialism (with Leo Panitch); and Market Driven-Politics: Neoliberal Democracy and the Public Interest.

  • Leo Panitch

    York University

    Leo Panitch was a Distinguished Research Professor, renowned political economist, Marxist theorist and editor of the Socialist Register. He received a B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Manitoba in 1967 and a M.Sc.(Hons.) and PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1968 and 1974, respectively. He was a Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor at Carleton University between 1972 and 1984. He was a Professor of Political Science at York University since 1984. He was the Chair of the Department of Political Science at York from 1988-1994. He was the General Co-editor of State and Economic Life series, U. of T. Press, from 1979 to 1995 and is the Co-founder and a Board Member of Studies in Political Economy. He was also the author of numerous articles and books dealing with political science including The End of Parliamentary Socialism (1997). He was a member of the Movement for an Independent and Socialist Canada, 1973-1975, the Ottawa Committee for Labour Action, 1975-1984, the Canadian Political Science Association, the Committee of Socialist Studies, the Marxist Institute and the Royal Society of Canada. He was an ardent supporter of the Socialist Project.

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