In the world that our decaying capitalist order is going to create, the types of desperation that afflict the victims of Washington’s imperialist wars in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere will be experienced by ever growing amounts of those within U.S. borders. Our status as the imperial epicenter makes us blind to this reality; when we think of the refugee crises of the 21st century, we always think merely of the people who will be driven to try to come into our borders. But what about those already living within our borders who will be forced to flee?
“When we contemplate this possibility of ‘societal collapse’, it can seem abstract,” writes Professor Jem Bendell in his paper on adapting to the climate crisis. “The previous paragraphs may seem, subconsciously at least, to be describing a situation to feel sorry about as we witness scenes on TV or online. But when I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”
What’s essential to understand about this reality of a coming social collapse throughout the capitalist world is that it’s by design. The billionaires who are profiting off of crises like the pandemic, the military technocrats who plan to facilitate post-collapse operations like water wars, and their aligned forces in the reactionary militias are preparing for a scenario where the same imperialist tactics used against places like Afghanistan and Yemen are applied to the core of the empire. In an era where capital is going to be destabilized drastically by the catastrophes at play, these tactics are the only hope for maintaining bourgeois dominance.
In addition to the countries I’ve mentioned where U.S. interventions have taken place, the example of imperialist destabilization and carve-up that haunts me the most while considering America’s bleak near future is Yugoslavia. Throughout the NATO campaign to dismantle Europe’s last bastion of socialism, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, and homes were bombed, and NATO at one point even bombedAlbanian refugees in its carelessness. These acts of destruction served to allow the imperialists to integrate pro-NATO propaganda networks into the nation, carve up the land for the installation of Washington puppet regimes, and enact neoliberal policies which looted the populous. As Michael Parenti wrote in The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia:
The dismemberment and mutilation of Yugoslavia was part of a concerted policy initiated by the United States and the other Western powers in 1989…The U.S. goal has been to transform the Yugoslav nation into a Third-World region, a cluster of weak right-wing principalities with the following characteristics: incapable of charting an independent course of self-development; a shattered economy and natural resources completely accessible to multinational corporate exploitation, including the enormous mineral wealth in Kosovo; an impoverished, but literate and skilled population forced to work at subsistence wages, constituting a cheap labor pool that will help depress wages in western Europe and elsewhere; dismantled petroleum, engineering, mining, fertilizer, and automobile industries, and various light industries, that offer no further competition with existing Western producers.
As those of us within the U.S. experience refugee crises on top of refugee crises in the coming decades amid our own country’s “third worldization,” we can expect to be targeted with by same imperialist model: destroy the foundations of a society, pacify the population through terror and propaganda, and seize whatever wealth is made available through this manufactured chaos.
I don’t use this phrase “refugee crises on top of refugee crises” hyperbolically. This is an objective description of what the signs say will happen to this country in the coming generation. A 2018 study published in The Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists suggests that over the next half-century, global warming will force 1 in 12 Americans in the southern half of the country to migrate to California, the Mountain West, or the Northwest. Environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten wrote last year that “Such a shift in population is likely to increase poverty and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. It will accelerate rapid, perhaps chaotic, urbanization of cities ill-equipped for the burden, testing their capacity to provide basic services and amplifying existing inequities. It will eat away at prosperity, dealing repeated economic blows to coastal, rural and Southern regions, which could in turn push entire communities to the brink of collapse.”
It’s for these reasons — and for even more sinister ones — that this migration of tens of millions of U.S. citizens due to climate influences alone will be only the first wave of the country’s internal refugee crisis. This initial wave of internal U.S. climate migration, which has already begun with the evacuation of tens of thousands from climatic disaster zones during the last year alone, will be compounded by a second series of disasters which force people to flee. These disasters will partly come from the additional climatic disasters which will afflict the areas the refugees are expected to flee towards; the Pacific Northwest and the Mountain West are to be increasingly affected by fires, and California’s future is one of drought. But the primary reason why these near-future “safe” zones will themselves be rendered largely unsafe is that it will serve the bourgeoisie’s interests to destabilize them and cut them off from humanitarian aid.
The vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation that Lustgarten describes for the future refugee-crowded zones is not unavoidable. Capitalism, with its drive towards carrying out ever more destructive amounts of neoliberal shock therapy, is choosing to set these places on a path towards desperate conditions, to engineer mass suffering. The cutting off of social services, the privatization of resources like healthcare and education, the price gouging of electricity and water during disasters, the lowering of wages, and the expansion of corporate monopolies are all laws when it comes to how neoliberalism responds to climatic disasters. It’s these kleptocratic policies which will facilitate what’s estimated to be the greatest upward transfer of wealth in U.S. history as a result of global warming. Our socioeconomic system has tied us into a future of needless and ever greater scarcity.
And this isn’t even the most frightening aspect of the compounding humanitarian crisis that our ruling class is going to engineer. The U.S. military has plans, made for a scenario of great instability within U.S. borders, where the army will be sent in to invade and occupy the country’s urban areas. These operations are described to entail the shutdown of internet and cell phone access within the occupied zones, the imposition of official U.S. military propaganda through making local media in the occupied zones only put out the military’s carefully crafted narratives, the use of mass surveillance against the occupied populations through spies and digital monitoring, and the use of Israeli-style warfare tactics for smoking out potential members of near-future class revolts. We could see repeats of the U.S. government’s 1985 bombing of a Philadelphia city block to destroy a black liberation group, except on an unfathomably wider scale. In response, the people within these U.S.-located conflict zones Washington has created will be forced to leave like the victims of Washington’s regime change war in Syria have had to leave.
Faced with a decline in profits, a shrinking of global U.S. geopolitical influence, and an environmental crisis that will plunge our civilization into chaos, our ruling class can only maintain their power by importing the destabilization tactics they’ve used abroad. Seeing the fundamental inability of our socioeconomic system to remain stable amid the climate crisis, they’re going to inflict destabilization upon the population as a pre-emptive move, one which will allow them to loot the masses Yugoslavia-style while retreating to fortified doomsday bunkers. Unless we turn their plan on its head and carry out a proletarian revolution.
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