“American Apocalypse”: What It Looks Like When A Collapsing Empire Eats Itself
Reblogged from last year, before Washington’s obsession with crushing Russia led to a rapid rise in prices that’s accelerating the deterioration of U.S. living standards.
In a 2018 article, media theorist and futurist Douglas Rushkoff wrote an account of his experience with being paid to speak at “a super-deluxe private resort … on the subject of ‘the future of technology.’” The ultra-wealthy hedge fund managers he encountered at the event confronted him with queries that didn’t reflect what the affair was supposedly going to be about. Instead, he was met with a morbid insight into what the richest benefactors of capital and empire expect their system to look like after a civilizational collapse:
After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own … Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? … Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?’ The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down … They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for survival.
Implied in this hypothetical scenario where billionaires create a hostage situation so that they can turn their guards into post-apocalyptic slaves is a context where the population outside of these luxury doomsday bunkers has been thoroughly ravaged by engineered destruction. For the angry mobs to be held back from storming the compounds, the mobs will need to lack the organization and resources to mount an armed revolt against the ruling class. This will require a population that, in the event of a destabilizing event like a countrywide power grid breakdown or a pandemic worse than Covid-19, has been preemptively demobilized by the class warfare tools of the elites.
These tools are the same ones the imperialists have used to subdue nations like Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine: strategic disinformation designed for giving the masses reality-defying views of history and current events, bombings and drone strikes which destroy critical infrastructure and allow for the carving up of lands by corporate interests, drone strikes that disproportionately kill civilians, the use of private mercenary companies to carry out violence against the targeted population with impunity, military occupations that are done either by U.S. forces or by imperialist proxies, resource blockades that seek to weaken rebellions by depriving civilians of nourishment and medical supplies, deliberate shootings of children and other defenseless individuals to try to terrorize the targeted population into submission.
If these billionaires have considered scenarios of capitalist collapse enough to have human shock collars enter their minds, they must also be contemplating how indispensable these atrocities will be for ensuring that their guards will merely have to fight off disorganized angry mobs rather than a revolutionary People’s Army.
It’s apparent that this is the mentality of the ruling class simply from judging their recent actions; ever-increasing militarization of the police, the waging of endless wars abroad that facilitate this excessive arming of the empire’s internal law enforcement, border militarization, ICE concentration camps, the construction of highly intrusive surveillance towers along the southern border which replicate Israel’s monitoring of Gazans, the implementation of the most expansive and invasive digital surveillance state on the planet within U.S. borders, the training of U.S. police by Israel to deadly effect, the legalization of covert CIA psychological operations in the U.S. media, the deployment of unidentified federal troops into cities so that protesters can be black-bagged and put into unmarked vehicles, social media micro-targeting by U.S. intelligence that manipulates public sentiments, the ongoing erosions of privacy and right to due process under the “War on Terror.” Neoliberalism is also part of this reaction to imperial decline, because its ever-growing policies of privatization, austerity, regressive taxation, wage cuts, and deregulation are the only ways the bourgeoisie can maintain upward profits in an environment where capital and empire are perpetually weakening.
As the commentator John C. Whitehead has concluded, all of these policies reflect an engineered effort by our government to create an “American Apocalypse,” where destabilization gets inflicted upon the American masses in the same ways that have occurred in Washington’s foreign interventions:
The government is anticipating trouble (read: civil unrest), which is code for anything that challenges the government’s authority, wealth and power. According to the Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. government is grooming its armed forces to solve future domestic political and social problems. What they’re really talking about is martial law, packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security. The chilling five-minute training video, obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request and made available online, paints an ominous picture of the future — a future the military is preparing for — bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.
The step after this one is the environment that those hedge fund managers described, where society has collapsed so much that money is no longer useful and the elites have to retreat to makeshift feudal fortresses. Ideally for these elites, the collapse of capitalism will allow for a total transition back into feudalism, with them taking the position of royalty. But how plausible is it that our current socioeconomic order will simply convert into a high-tech version of the system that capitalism grew out of? The fact that the super rich anticipate such desperate scenarios for themselves in the leadup to this hoped-for dictatorship, where all that’s stopping their own guards from rebelling against them are flailing coercive measures, shows just how fragile the control of the ruling class will get after capitalism has fully eaten itself.
U.S. imperialism, and capitalism in general, are in a state of unprecedented and accelerating contraction. When the U.S. dollar crashes, as Chinese experts have been predicting, Washington is going to be forced to withdraw many of its global military forces — a retreat that will be furthered in the coming decades by the grave damage which will be done to Washington’s military installations and armed occupation capabilities by global warming. The imminent new wave of socialist revolutions is also going to diminish the military capacity of the imperialists and the global bourgeoisie. Since the Pentagon has expressed that it’s worried climatic catastrophes will immensely strain the U.S. military’s resources in the coming decades, it’s clear that this implosion for the armed strength of capital and empire will apply to the affairs within the core of imperialism the U.S. First the empire will have to retreat abroad, then at home.
As this implosion progresses, the ruling class will increasingly resort to paramilitaries to try to suppress revolts. This is something the revolutionaries must take into account if we intend to survive the violent capitalist reaction of the coming decades. But as we’ve seen in capitalist regimes that have already been resorting to this tactic, such as India, paramilitaries aren’t necessarily as reliable as official armed forces; the relatively meager training of America’s private mercenaries shows this will likely also be the case in the U.S.
The fact that these mercenaries were cultivated through the profit motive is likely why this inadequacy exists within their preparations for the coming class war; capitalism and imperialism are ultimately incompetent at military strategy, putting short-term economic interests and reactive military adventures ahead of pragmatism. This was what set off U.S. imperialism’s decline in the first place; the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq may have advanced imperialist economic interests in the short term, but the blowback they created set off an ongoing unraveling of Washington’s global hegemony. One that will put the U.S. bourgeoisie in an even worse position when the class confrontation comes to a head.
To carry out anti-colonial proletarian revolution within what’s currently called the United States, we must build the organizations capable of taking on the task of overthrowing and replacing the capitalist state after the system’s contradictions have produced a sufficient mass uprising. And we must do this in a way which allows our cadres to survive the state repression, paramilitary violence, and imported imperialist interventions that the ruling class will meet us with. The imperialists are growing desperate, they’ve as much as admitted this. But we won’t be able to defeat them unless we adopt a revolutionary strategy that’s better than the strategy behind their domestic counterinsurgency effort. As The Art of War concluded, “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
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