I got the image above from here.
In the future that capital and empire are creating, the ones with the power will be people like Erik Prince. The ultra-wealthy oligarchs that have created private armies, and can hold a monopoly on violence in a world where even the imperialist countries have largely devolved into failed states. This type of dystopian vision for what could come after capitalism collapses has been called techno-feudalism. A reversion to the socioeconomic system that produced capitalism, one where the new feudal lords have the powers of modern weaponry.
This is the ominously realistic element behind the outlandish arguments from the extreme libertarians about gow rich people should be able to own private nuclear weapons; no billionaires are currently known to possess nukes as a piece of personal property, but it’s private corporations that have been manufacturing the nukes Washington has used in its recent years of cold war arms buildup against Russia and China. And if corporations are so deeply involved in the creation of weapons, they’ll be able to leverage this into carving out spheres of totally sovereign influence as states continue to break down in the coming decades.
“Governments will face an expanding array of threats and issues over the next 30 years, including terrorism and international crime, migration, automation and climate change, that they will not be able to solve alone,” warned a U.K. military report from 2018. “Countries that enjoy strong, effective and trusted state institutions and a stable economy are more likely to have the capacity to address these challenges effectively. However, weak and ineffective governments may be overloaded by the scale of future problems, exacerbating state fragility. Some countries are likely to face opposition to their system of government as other actors increase in power and influence, both nationally and internationally. The rise of new political movements (such as those based around populism and nationalism) will probably also challenge existing regimes. Although the next 30 years are very unlikely to see the end of the state system, it may signal the erosion of state sovereignty.”
If the military intelligence gatherers of the imperialist countries are aware that civilizational collapse is going to get far worse, the U.S. empire’s war machine is sure to be coordinating with the oligarchs it serves to exploit this chaos. Robot armies are another one of the things that we can not just easily imagine being wielded by oligarchs and corporations during a societal collapse scenario, but are already within the control of the military-industrial complex. U.S. Special Forces are now using armed robots, though the military doesn’t call them that or try to draw any attention to them. And military drones are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the imperialist bloc’s arsenal, with Canada being on track to attain armed drones by 2025.
The explosion in Washington’s use of private military contractors throughout the War on Terror, which have become more pronounced than ever with the withdrawal of official U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has established a precedent for the other unaccountable and secretive warfare approaches the imperialists have been incorporating. It’s an ominous sign that at the same time these mercenaries have unprecedentely risen within Afghanistan, mercenaries have become normalized as police forces in U.S. borders, with completely unaccountable armed contractors patrolling Minneapolis and regularly engaging in arbitrary detentions of residents. Assaults and intrusive surveillance by these mercenaries have also been reported. They’ve even used chemical weapons that would be impermissible in a context of war.
When the United States and Canada descend into the kind of failed state status that victims of U.S. imperialism like Ukraine and Libya have, the power vacuum will let the rich run wild with these tools for violence. The mercenaries will be able to let loose, doing far worse things than what they’ve so far done in the mercenary policing laboratory of Minneapolis. There are quite clear precedents for mercenaries flagrantly violating laws; in 2019, Erik Prince tried to use his mercenary company to arm a Libyan warlord, an action which violated international law by attempting to defy the country’s arms embargo. Even after this, Prince hasn’t been jailed, and has been able to charge Afghanistan refugees extravagant fees in exchange for their survival. Imagine how far Prince and other private army wielders will take things when a functioning state has unraveled even in the United States, allowing for their forces to bypass rules with even more impunity than now.
Without a sufficient revolutionary vanguard in place to form a workers state that can suppress the reactionary terrorists (a scenario which the U.K. report implicitly portrays as unfavorable), such forces always emerge from the rubble of a failed state. And the forces of capital and empire always prefer reactionary terror to prevail within these destabilized zones, rather than class and national liberation movements.
As the U.K. report clarifies, the imperialists are conscious of the atrocities that will come from the extreme global inequalities and breakdowns that they’re engineering, and cultivating death squads is their strategy for retaining control in the destabilized zones:
Over the past 30 years, economic inequality between countries has reduced, mostly because of the fast growth seen in Asian countries. By contrast, economic inequality within countries has increased in Central Asia, Europe and North America…Economic inequality will be shaped by rapid population growth in developing countries and rising wage inequality within developed countries (probably compounded by a scarcity of jobs caused by greater automation). If economic inequality within countries continues on current trends, global income inequality will continue to rise steeply. The share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% of the population could increase from nearly 20% today to almost 25% by 2050, and if all countries were to follow the trajectory of the US since 1980, that figure would rise to 28%. Crime may become more socially acceptable in some communities if inequality within countries increases.
The imperialists are increasingly applying this societal destruction strategy into practice. The state’s breakdown in Ukraine following the 2014 U.S. coup has allowed for fascist militias to hunt down Jews and Romas with impunity, and Libya’s civil war following the 2011 NATO invasion has allowed for the rise of slave traders. Ethiopia, which has been experiencing a resurgence of the food-hoarding terrorist organization the TPLF amid Washington’s sabotage of the country’s state apparatus, is another example of how a failed state can be an opening for rogue armed forces which operate totally outside of international human rights laws. When the U.S. becomes a failed state to the extent that these places have, there will be ample terrorist groups ready to step in and wreak further havoc. And the mercenaries will be just the tip of the iceberg.
On the lower rungs of these post-American collapse terrorists will be the fascist militias, created by the white petty-bourgeois landowners who will seek to protect their settler-colonial holdings by hunting down colonized peoples. These types will be the ones who carry out TPLF-esque terror methods, which is to say attacks that involve depriving non-combatants of essential resources. They could cut off water to communities, utilizing the tactic of weaponizing water that’s becoming increasingly common during the era of global warming-induced water scarcity. They could do the equivalent with food supply chains, or electricity. They could even try to weaponize the pandemics that global warming is expected to produce during the coming decades, as neo-Nazis have talked about doing with Covid-19.
On the highest rung will be the super-rich individuals who won’t flee to bunkers on other continents, but build makeshift techno-feudal kingdoms within the indigenous territories here that they’ll continue to try to occupy. Jeff Bezos and other billionaires have been buying uplarge chunks of the American heartland, preparing for a scenario where they’ll have to abandon the unrest-ridden metropolitan areas and retreat into fortified rural compounds. These self-appointed monarchs, with their de facto states in the form of corporations, will partner with the remaining stable imperialist states to try to leverage those lower forces of reactionary terror.
Militias like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Boys, the Three Percenters, and the Oath Keepers could be used in the U.S. the same way the TPLF or the Azov Battalion are used in their respective countries: to shore up territory for corporate primitive accumulation, and to preemptively terrorize the masses into not pursuing socialist revolution. Garnering control over these groups will simply require the tactics the imperialists use to control their current proxy terrorist groups: funding them, training them, giving them weapons, making deals with them specifically to curry favors, using intelligence operatives to directly cultivate their leadership and guiding ideologies.
Washington has done these things not just with the terrorist groups I’ve mentioned, but with terrorist groups Washington is supposedly enemies with such as ISIS and Boko Haram. So if the imperialists claim to be opposed to the coming atrocities of America’s facist militias, it will only be posturing; it’s an open secret that white supremacists are deeply embedded within law enforcement and U.S. intelligence, making the government‘s post-January 6th crackdown on right-wing extremism mainly aesthetic. When destabilization occurs, this dynamic will be taken to its logical conclusion, where Washington’s proxy wars abroad are replicated at home.
The U.K. report’s section on state fragmentation admits that this kind of terrorism-enforced total corporate sovereignty, where corporations and their doomsday compound-building CEOs take on the role of the state, is inevitable should capitalism continue:
Devolutionary pressures and continued separatist demands mean that some countries may not exist in their present form by 2050. Greater globalisation and advances in technology may lead to the fragmentation of some states as sub-regions are able to deal directly with counterparts in other countries, effectively bypassing governments. In other cases, while there may not be pressure for national borders to be altered, there could be increasing calls for devolution of power to the local level, particularly as cities gain greater economic, demographic and political weight.
Today’s megacities have bigger economies than many countries, and their economic weight is likely to grow. This will increase their ability to act independently of their national government. For example, the decision of several US cities, states and technology firms to sign up to the Paris Agreement on climate change, in response to the US Federal Government’s decision to withdraw from it, may in the future be replicated by other cities on different issues. As urban areas grow, the capacity and mandate of municipal authorities is also likely to increase, not least to handle the challenges of developing and expanding new urban infrastructure. If the power and influence of major global cities expand in the coming decades, they (and their populations) may have more in common with other cities around the world than with their national government. Those multinational corporations that thrive in the coming years are also likely to become bigger and more powerful, and they too may be increasingly able to act independently from the state.
Maintaining this corporate absolutism will be the automated weapons, mercenaries, and proxy terrorists that these corporations and their partnered intelligence actors are preparing. Perhaps even more destructive tools for violence will get involved in this; the U.S. military has already implicitly articulated plans for invading communities within U.S. borders when society breaks down enough for this to be deemed necessary. When the foundations of capital and empire fall out, our ruling class aims to plunge society into an engineered state of neo-feudal warfare. This is what it looks like when an unsustainable system eats itself.
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