Book review: Resistance Against Empire by Derrick Jensen


Founded in 2007, PM Press is fast becoming one of the best publishers of radical books in the world.

Their latest offering is Resistance Against Empire – ten wide-ranging interviews with progressive thinkers, activists and writers conducted by the radical American author Derrick Jensen. Taking place between 1999 and 2004 the Q&A sessions concern “the consequences of empire and the methods issues to enforce its licence to extract and exploit”. The focus is largely on the US, described by one of the contributors as “the ultimate rogue state, the sort of country that can basically do anything it wants anywhere it wants anytime it wants”.
 
Initial concerns that the interviews may have dated are quickly superseded by the engrossing and fresh analysis on display. It turns out the world hasn’t changed much over the last ten years – the US state-corporate power structure is still firmly entrenched and extreme wealth inequality and unequal power relations have, if anything, increased. In fact Stephan Schwartz’s interview about nuclear weapons speaks directly to our current malaise in the UK. “Every decision to spend money on nuclear weapons in a de facto decision not to spend money on something else” he argues. “As the economy slows, and as we start to tighten our belts, I think we need to look at paring away those expenses – and those entire parts of our military and economic systems – that do not benefit us”.
 
Elsewhere British academic Kevin Bales discusses the horrors of modern day slavery, Food First’s Anuradha Mittal takes on global hunger and former US attorney general Ramsey Clark dissects his country’s foreign policy and ‘defence’ spending.
 
Some interviews work better than others, with media scholar Robert McChesney’s incisive analysis of the “for-profit, highly concentrated, advertising-saturated, corporate media system” a highlight. Referencing Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, McChesney maintains the US has “the greatest propaganda system in human history”, noting how the increasing commercialisation and concentration of ownership in the early twentieth century was “the spawning ground for the modern notion of professional, ‘objective’ journalism.” One fact will be of particular interest to Morning Star readers: in the 1940s there were over 1,000 full-time labour reporters in the US. By 2000 there were just four. 
 
Throughout Jensen is a skilful and generous interviewer, interested but puzzled, often asking
the interviewee to clarify a specific point. As the book’s title implies, resistance is a central concern with each author giving their own take on the eternal question “What can be done?” As Schwartz implores: “Stand up and make certain that the government cannot ignore your voice. The current state of affairs can only exist as long as the public lets it.”
 
Resistance Against Empire is published by PM Press, priced £14.99.
 

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