One of the graphics from NATO’s 2020 report on the future of warfare
Since the 2008 financial crisis, where inequality has gotten so monstrous that class conflict is more palpable than it’s been in living memory, the U.S. ruling class has grown more open in treating society as a battlefield. The recent wave of U.S. strikes is the latest indication that capital is under growing threat, a threat that capital is responding to with paranoia and brutality.
A ruling class preparing for war
The militarization of police, the training of police in Israeli repressive techniques, the black-bagging of protesters by unidentified officers, the direct collaboration between big banks and law enforcement, have given off the impression that our government is coming to view the masses as enemy combatants. It’s the logical conclusion of the War on Terror’s human rights abuses, a development where imperialism’s tactics get brought home in reaction to imperial decline and the weakening of capital.
The U.S. military shares this drive towards treating class politics in the country’s borders as a war. A war in the same sense that Washington frequently treats it in places like Colombia, where the U.S. tacitly backs the fascist death squads. U.S. militia culture is morphing into an early version of when those death squads are replicated here, and sent in to try to crush this country’s growing social movements. Law enforcement, which regularly collaborates with militias in countering protests and is deeply tied to white supremacist groups, is standing by to assist in this coming anti-communist purge. And the military and intelligence centers are preparing to integrate America’s brewing right-wing vigilante violence into their designs.
Pentagon documents from recent years have described a near-future domestic conflict as “inevitable” and “unavoidable,” citing the growth in poverty and social dysfunction that the country is going to continue to experience under neoliberalism. The capitalist state knows its socioeconomic system, as well as its intensifying military occupation of colonized communities, are going to provoke mass backlash. And it sees domestic warfare as the cost of keeping these oppressive structures in place. Utilizing the fascist militias as proxies will be as much a believable tactic for the government to take up as bombing neighborhoods, which Philadelphia police actually did in 1985.
If the ruling class sees our situation as one of imminent physical war, we must learn to anticipate their warfare maneuvers. Maneuvers that have already been in place for many decades in non-physical forms, and that are now ramping up as the capitalist reaction intensifies. These tactics are the covert dividing and weakening of liberation movements, which have taken on even more insidious forms than the COINTELPRO approach of infiltrating organizing spaces. Sabotaging a social movement can be as broad and hard to pin down as spreading a lie among the general public, one designed to blunt the spread of class consciousness.
The Xinjiang genocide narrative as a weapon in cognitive warfare
A recent example is the lie that China is committing a genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. This narrative, which has been objected to by many Xinjiang Uyghurs themselves, originates from the kind of source that the CIA and NATO are now especially pivoting towards the use of: an academic. Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist with a Master's degree in development studies, has had his blatantly biased research (which is motivated by his extreme Christian ideology) promoted uncritically throughout the entire bourgeois media, as well as by virtually all of Western academia. The Western academia outlet Research Gate has even featured an article which states (not inaccurately) that “Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang,” and justifies this widespread failure of academic integrity by uncritically promoting the baseless assertion that “upwards of one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been forced into internment camps.”
This narrative manipulation fits with the model of warfare that a NATO-sponsored study from last year laid down for the imperialist governments to utilize, wherein the minds of the masses are turned into weapons for whatever wars—externally or internally—the imperialists seek to win:
Today’s progresses in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC), boosted by the seemingly unstoppable march of a triumphant troika made of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and civilisational ‘digital addiction’ have created a much more ominous prospect: an embedded fifth column, where everyone, unbeknownst to him or her, is behaving according to the plans of one of our competitors…The modern concept of war is not about weapons but about influence. Victory in the long run will remain solely dependent on the ability to influence, affect, change or impact the cognitive domain…Cognitive warfare may well be the missing element that allows the transition from military victory on the battlefield to lasting political success. The human domain might well be the decisive domain, wherein multi-domain operations achieve the commander’s effect.
What does this mean when it comes to the U.S. government’s strategy for stopping proletarian revolution? It means preemptively sabotaging the Marxist-Leninist movement within U.S. borders by convincing the public to hate Marxism-Leninism. Which can be done through a myriad of narrative approaches, with the Uyghur narrative being just one facet in this vast, overarching psychological warfare campaign. By propagating the Xinjiang genocide lie, the U.S. government has convinced around 70% of its citizens to agree with the following answer in a Pew Research question from this year: “Try to promote human rights in China, even if it harms economic relations with China.”
Most Americans now believe that the world’s largest and most geopolitically influential Marxist-Leninist party has been committing a genocide, which gives great propaganda ammunition for U.S. cognitive warfare’s more important anti-communist tactic: the manufacturing and weaponization of divisions within the U.S. left. It’s more important because while the masses will continue to radicalize against capitalism despite their largely swallowing the CIA’s geopolitical narratives, the ruling class can stop the masses from gaining access to the communist organizations which can help them gain liberation. This can be done by subjecting these organizations to concerted attacks by saboteurs from anti-communist sectarian factions within the left.
Cultivating anti-communist wreckers
This combination of class warfare tactics—emotionally charged disinformation about communism and stoking of sectarian rifts within social movements—applies not just to the U.S., but to all the other countries in Washington’s sphere of influence. Especially since the start of the campaign to scapegoat China for the pandemic, Sinophobia has been made into the center of foreign affairs thinking throughout the entire liberal world. And before the communist organizations that seek to challenge this Sinophobia experience direct state repression, they have the state’s movement wreckers in the anti-communist left to deal with.
Reporting on the documents from the FBI’s Cold War era counterintelligence programs, journalist Ben Norton has described how the feds have used these sectarians as anti-communist proxies:
US police used anarchist talking points and ideology to “disrupt” the left and demonize Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and other targets of imperialism, according to internal FBI documents released through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “The anarchists point of view is the most disruptive element in the New Left and should be capitalized on in the most confusing ways,” the FBI wrote. In its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which aimed to destabilize and destroy the socialist, anti-imperialist left in the United States, the FBI realized that anarchism and other ultra-left movements could be an effective weapon…The feds also created a Maoist, staunchly anti-Soviet newspaper called Chevara News. This later turned into a right-wing, Ayn Rand-adoring objectivist publication under the name The Rational Observer.
When you’ve studied how the imperialists dismembered Yugoslavian socialism, these details feel familiar. By the admission of some of their own former agents, the CIA scapegoated the Serbs, painting them and their leader Milosevic as perpetrators of genocide and as the source of the conflict. The CIA manufactured ethnic tensions throughout the Balkans, explained by atrocity propaganda that’s since been debunked with Milosevic’s 2016 exoneration on his war crimes charges. And as Michael Parenti observed, the imperialists even got a handful of anarchists and other such sectarian leftists to cheer for Yugoslavia’s destruction, believing Milosevic to be a fraudulent socialist who was guilty of the CIA’s atrocity accusations.
If the imperialists succeeded at Balkanizing China in the same way through their propagandistic inflaming of Han-Uyghur ethnic tensions, these kinds of sectarians would no doubt cheer it on as well, claiming the tragedy to be a victory against China’s “authoritarianism.” This is how the imperialists win: by convincing the masses, including the “leftist” ideological factions that are supposed to stand in solidarity with class and national liberation movements, that there’s a moral imperative to break apart the nations Washington targets. Even if the imperialists won’t succeed at doing to China what they did to Yugoslavia, they’re determined to preemptively sabotage socialist development within the core imperialist countries. And their narrative weapons in the campaign to Balkanize China have served as useful weapons in this fight against communism at home.
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