If your goal is to help liberate this continent from capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism, you have to accept that you’ll at some point need to defend yourself against the full fury of the United States military, along with the country’s heavily armed police state and right-wing paramilitary forces. All successful proletarian revolutions in history, from the one in Russia to the one in China to the one in Cuba to the one in Vietnam, have had to overcome the equivalent of this obstacle. So what we face is nothing special.
This reality of violence being inevitable amid class conflict is so obvious that as the U.S. sinks deeper into neoliberal mass impoverishment, and therefore gains more and more potential for a class revolt, the country’s national security state is preparing to fight a near future internal war. The rise of this mindset among U.S. intelligence and military analysts has become especially prevalent in the last decade, when a population that’s been hit by the irrecoverable 2008 economic crisis has increasingly turned against capitalism.
In 2016, it was revealed via the Freedom of Information Act that the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University had been using a training video that warned of an “inevitable” dystopian future where poverty, unemployment, and deteriorating infrastructure spawn complex new urban threats which the U.S. army will need to address. The video, titled Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity, says that the urban areas of the coming decades will be characterized by vast “subterranean labyrinths” governed by their “own social code and rule of law.” The video anticipates that the insurgents who emerge from this environment will use tactics like hacking to do damage to digital domains, which it says will “add to the complexities of human targeting as a proportionally smaller number of adversaries intermingle with the larger and increasing number of citizens.”
A U.S. Army War College report from that same year, titled Military Contingencies In Megacities and Sub-Megacities, expands upon which kinds of groups the military expects these adversaries to consist of. It warns that the growing poverty of the coming years will produce “a surplus of unemployed males with little to do but join gangs or engage in crime as a source of income. Joining extremist or terrorist organizations might also appear attractive as a way out. At the very least, in the event of some kind of conflict, these young men would provide a pool of potential recruits for those opposing the United States. In short, slums would be an inordinately difficult battlefield.”
There’s a clear theme where U.S. military experts worry about the urban environments of these areas posing an unprecedented challenge for U.S. counterinsurgency operations. Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums, has said about the urban warfare strategy presented by the Pentagon training video that “This is a fantasy, the idea that there is a special military science of megacities. It’s simply not the case. … They seem to envision large cities with slum peripheries governed by antagonistic gangs, militias, or guerrilla movements that you can somehow fight using special ops methods. In truth, that’s pretty far-fetched…You only have to watch ‘Black Hawk Down’ and scale that up to the kind of problems you would have if you were in Karachi, for example. You can do special ops on a small-scale basis, but it’s absurd to imagine it being effective as any kind of strategy for control of a megacity.”
This irreconcilable contradiction between the confident language the Pentagon shows to its future counterinsurgency fighters, and the objective reality that you can’t use special operations forces to defeat a guerrilla movement that’s attacking from within a large urban area, is the chip in the U.S. repressive state’s armor. Such problems will be doubly daunting when these urban guerrilla movements are targeting urban areas within the U.S. itself, since carpet bombing an American city or otherwise indiscriminately destroying its infrastructure (like the U.S. can do to cities abroad) will decimate the productive capacity of U.S. capitalism.
This self-destructive potential in applying the kinds of heavy-handed warfare tactics the U.S. uses abroad to the coming class war at home is potentially why the Pentagon is so insistent on sticking to smaller scale warfare operations. They’re scared to go too far.
In short, if guerrilla fighting gets going within the U.S., things will get out of hand very quickly for the U.S. empire. The training video comes close to acknowledging this dilemma, stating that “Even our counterinsurgency doctrine, honed in the cities of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, is inadequate to address the sheer scale of population in the future urban reality. We are facing environments that the masters of war never foresaw. We are facing a threat that requires us to redefine doctrine and the force in radically new and different ways.” Given the limited potential that the video’s supposed solution of special operations will have to address the threat, they’ll no doubt resort to a counterinsurgency approach that isn’t radically new in the slightest: terrorizing the entire population from which the rebel forces are emerging.
The U.S. empire has used this strategy to win its wars against the Natives. The diseased blankets, massacres of indigenous people who aren’t involved in any battles, forced relocations onto reservations, and systemic impoverishment of Native communities have all served to shrink the potential for anti-colonial revolt by weakening Native morale, social cohesion, and access to helpful resources like weapons and education. The same has gone for the efforts to suppress revolts from the colonized African community, which has experienced discriminatory laws, enforced poverty, police violence, and (especially in the last half-century) mass incarceration in order to keep the potential black rebels in line.
The militarization of U.S. police forces in the last decade or so has been part of the preparation for carrying out such an all-encompassing crackdown against the unruly underclass, with the Native and black communities naturally already being the most impacted by the resulting increases of police violence. The state’s response to this year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations have shown an early version of this deliberately overkill crackdown, with the police firing paint rounds at people simply for sitting on their front porches and the DHS using Gestapo-style mass arrest tactics at protests.
The 2016 U.S. Army War College report as much as admits that when the state gets desperate enough to put down a guerrilla insurgency, it will take these kinds of terroristic measures to the extreme. It assesses that “Megacities and dense urban areas also contain numerous slums or ‘sheet metal forests,’ which are very different from ‘concrete canyons’ [i.e., commercial centers]…These areas can provide significant concealment to the adversaries and even become strong operational bases. Apart from moving the population out and bulldozing the slum, there is very little that can be done.” Their solution to the dilemma of special forces being insufficient for suppressing future urban guerrilla cells is to put the entire impoverished urban population under military occupation, and to engage in the kinds of forced relocations and home demolitions that Israel uses to suppress the Palestinian population.
Yet this will only intensify the issue that will have led to a class war in the first place: the poor feeling like they have no other option than to try to overthrow the government. What kinds of actions would you be willing to take if you, as a mid-21st century American, have experienced declining living standards all your life and then had the government expel you from your neighborhood before bulldozing it?
There already are plenty of people who feel backed into a corner in a similar way-it’s the middle of a depression, and hunger in the U.S. has tripled during the last year alone. Our job as Marxists is to bring these people (who will grow exponentially more numerous in the coming years) into a movement that can overthrow the state and improve their living conditions. We need to educate the masses about the need for proletarian revolution, and build up cadres of people who are equipped with the knowledge and the tools to survive the internal war that the state has planned.
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