The ruling class has more class consciousness than the lower classes do. They’re the ones who have to manage the relationship between the classes, and to keep this relationship in balance so that revolution is prevented. This makes them especially equipped to engage in what Marxists call dialectics—the practice of assessing material factors and opposing social forces. With this ability, they can adapt the power structure to be able to best respond to whatever threatens their interests.
In the U.S. and the other core imperialist countries, the main threats to the power structure right now are the risk of a successful proletarian uprising and the loss of U.S./NATO global hegemony. America has lost military primacy in the Indo-Pacific, American influence in the Middle East has been declining in Iran’s favor throughout the last decade or so, and the EU and NATO are weakening. The rise of China has been making the U.S. lose economic allies, perpetuating the decline of the dollar and the contraction of the American corporatocracy’s economic power. This shrinking of global leverage for the U.S. capitalist class has increased the risk of civil unrest, both within the U.S. and in the countries that remain tethered to American imperialism.
Upon assessing these material conditions, the ruling class within the imperial core has initially responded by restructuring neoliberalism. The increased monopolization of banks after the 2008 financial crisis, the austerity and privatizations of the last decade, and the consolidation of economic power into the tech monopolies amid this year’s economic crisis have maintained profit increases for the very wealthiest people as the economy has overall declined. But the ongoing realities of imperial decline and growing inequality have made these measures only a temporary solution to capitalism’s contradictions. The elites may still be getting richer, but tens of millions in America alone are slipping into terminal unemployment and insurmountable household debt.
With corporations and governments either isolating themselves from China, or turning away from America’s floundering economy so that they can benefit from the rise of the East, the Western capitalist class is finding itself more and more cornered. If the trends I’ve described continue—which we have no reason to expect not to happen—by the end of the decade the Western corporatocracy will be presiding over a far more impoverished and restless population, while Washington and its loyalist countries lack the power to exert their interests on a global scale. The U.S., along with all of the countries that remain part of the pro-Washington alliance, will increasingly find themselves at risk of internal uprisings and isolated from the rest of the world.
This is the consequence of neoliberalism, and of the rise of the 21st century American cold war with Russia and China. Yet there’s no way the empire will reverse these two developments, because they’re both crucial for propping up capitalism in the imperial core. So the imperial core will keep expanding its internal inequality and pursuing geopolitical tensions with its rivals, just as inevitably as the planet will continue to warm.
If our ruling class has decided that these trends are in their rational self-interest, it’s also natural that they plan to put ever more effort into retaining control over the population of the imperial core. In a world where deglobalization is speeding up, the proletariat within the imperialist countries is becoming the most valuable commodity of the U.S. corporatocracy, because it’s getting harder to exploit the populations outside of this zone. So as the exploitation of these workers increases, and along with it the deterioration of proletarian living conditions in the imperial core, it’s becoming paramount to stop these proletarians from successfully rebelling.
The first step taken towards this solidification of internal control has been the manufacturing, through government and media propaganda, of a worldview that the people within the imperial core are now expected to accept. This worldview says that Russia and China need to be feared and hated, that socialism is an evil force which needs to be stamped out, and that those who challenge the official narratives are working in favor of the nation’s enemies. In other words, a resurrection of the American Cold War narratives—except now the information deemed to be “dangerous” or “treasonous” is primarily in the online sphere.
This has necessitated the increased censorship of online anti-imperialist voices in the last several years. It’s also necessitated a greater fusion of power between the big tech corporations and the intelligence agencies. Social media companies have come to act both as tools for intelligence agencies to collect data on the population, and as reliable facilitators of the censorship that these agencies want carried out. In this way, surveillance capitalism—the term for our modern situation where personal data is commodified—has become a tool for social control, one that lets the state monitor and remove whatever online information it desires. Since 2018, NATO and the U.S. military have been openly policing Facebook through a partnership to fight “fake news,” as facilitated by the neoconservative think tank the Atlantic Council. Similar policing efforts have been directed towards Google, Twitter, and YouTube.
The extent to which these censors police the discourse will depend on how far the ruling class thinks freedom should be restricted in each given country. In Victor Orban’s Hungary, it’s already gotten to the point where the country’s now autocratic president can arrest anyone judged to be spreading dangerous information. It’s uncertain whether all the other members of the pro-Washington alliance will become quite like Hungary has, but the U.S. military has long been making plans to shut off the Internet in certain areas and crack down on dissent. The censorship and political persecutions will only get more widespread as time goes on.
While the severity of the imperial core’s crackdown will vary from country to country, what will encapsulate every part of it is the proliferation of new technologies for social control. The American national security state and its partnered think tanks want the West to compete with China not just in arms buildup, but in surveillance technology. Like how the political establishment is using the supposed threat from China as justification for building more nuclear weapons and militarizing space, the neoconservative intelligentsia is saying that the U.S. must respond to China’s technological advancements by bringing about a “fourth industrial revolution.”
This revolution is planned to be an event where progress in artificial intelligence and quantum computing lead to the creation of “smart cities,” urban centers with fully automated transportation and an “internet of things.” A replacement of retail with home delivered goods is also part of this vision, introducing a potential near future scenario where Amazon gains even more of a hegemonic presence in daily life.
The desired results from these changes in infrastructure are streets that can be blanketed with cameras, and daily appliances that can work as surveillance tools. The prospect of a new industrial expansion for the high-tech sector is also exciting for the military-industrial complex, since the Pentagon believes America’s industrial base will need to be fortified for arms buildup to continue. The big tech companies are predictably supportive of these plans, and Covid-19 is furthering their role in the construction of this future societal model. As these companies openly work with governments in censoring “dangerous” information related to the pandemic, the idea of AI-driven mass surveillance is gaining credence amid concerns over how to track infections.
The global refugee crisis is creating a similar kind of drive towards mass surveillance, one that pertains to the imperial core’s borderlands. Surveillance towers that can track all of the outdoor movements of those in the surrounding areas are being installed along the U.S.-Mexican border, creating a “virtual wall” whose construction is enriching Israeli security tech contractors. The end goal of this project is to encircle the United States with a layer of intensive digital monitoring.
The more “smart city” planning becomes normalized in the coming years, and the more the refugee crisis develops, the closer the security state will get to its desired vision. This is how bio-politics, bio-economics, and global instability are expanding the potential for social control, while enriching the tech plutocrats who are positioned to take advantage of the 21st century’s crises.
These developments are expanding both the surveillance state and the police state. Amazon has patented drones for police departments to use. It’s also supplied technology for the U.S. military—which has the potential to be used in domestic policing, since the military can easily be used to quell unrest. The next step is for police departments to use drones that have weapons on them, which is an idea that’s been floated by U.S. law enforcement in recent years.
Whether or not this actually happens, the last decade or so’s integration of military-grade weapons into American police departments is turning into a larger domestic policing role for the military itself. The National Security Council, the intelligence agencies, and the U.S. military have been heading the government’s official response to Covid-19, portending to the plans for imposing martial law and deploying military police. Trump’s deployment of troops to the southern border, which is ongoing after it began a year and a half ago, is the start of a broader effort by the United States to effectively invade itself.
All of the other authoritarian steps that the imperialist powers have been taking—the legalization of covert state propaganda in U.S. media, the persecution of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, the ongoing normalization of torture in prisons like Guantanamo and Belmarsh, the expansion of inhumane migrant camps, the militarization of borders, the erosion of democratic institutions, the casual and sometimes violent arrests of political dissidents, the endless legislative efforts to renew the spying powers the government gained after 9/11—are part of the preparations to maintain the power structure going into an unstable new decade. Imperial decline, the destabilization of the climate, and growing social unrest will be dealt with through a brutal clampdown, both in military terms and in terms of the public consciousness.
If this clampdown succeeds at maintaining order throughout the next few decades, the people within the territories still controlled by Washington will get used to a new normal. Despite the collapse of U.S. hegemony, the imperialist wars will keep dragging on, along with the exploitation of the Third World by multinational corporations. At the same time, the exploitation of the imperial core’s proletariat will increase to a point equivalent to that of the Third World’s proletariat. These measures to keep the flow of capital going will come with the expansion of capitalism’s sacrifice zones—from the ghettos and slums, to the coastal lands that have been flooded, to the uninhabitable areas within desert lands, to the places that have descended into warfare.
If revolution doesn’t come to the imperialist countries, the geopolitical shifts and revolutions that happen outside of them in the coming decades won’t have a positive material effect on the living standards of those trapped in the imperial core. If the information control becomes thorough enough, the popular consciousness of the people within this zone won’t be positively impacted either. Whatever advances that socialism and anti-imperialism make externally to the empire will be erased by the empire’s internal propaganda, and by ever-expanding censorship measures.
China, the DPRK, Cuba, and the other socialist nations will continue to be portrayed as dictatorships with miserable living conditions, no matter how far this perception is from reality. Washington will continue to be portrayed as the dominant world power, however untrue this becomes. American military propaganda will work to manufacture consent for all of Washington’s experiments in militarism, from the drone wars to Space Force to the new nuclear arms race. Already the American public has become very well acclimated to perpetual war, merely because of the fact that their country has been at war for nineteen years straight.
The increasing censorship of anti-Zionist voices will go along with the effort to legitimize Israel in the minds of the Western public, as well as the erasure of Palestinian oppression. The oppression of colonized peoples and the persecution of immigrants will continue to be erased by these narratives as well, something that will go along with an aggressive promotion of Americanism and a growing presence for ethnic nationalism.
Those at the very top of the system are in a position to maintain their power after the fall of the U.S. empire—the world’s 25 richest billionaires have collectively gained hundreds of billions of dollars in the last several months alone, and Jeff Bezos could potentially become the world’s first trillionaire. The essential step in their plans for maintaining operations is to stop the escalation of class conflict, to freeze the imperial core’s history at the point right before a revolution would otherwise have happened.
In the society they’re creating, the events outside of the remaining zone of imperial control will become simultaneously relevant and irrelevant. The outside world may change, but the core will remain under their control. And in a desired future where the empire’s manufactured worldview is all that the imperial core’s people can know, the realities outside of the propaganda bubble won’t intrude. For all that they’re concerned, the U.S. corporatocracy will be the only thing that matters—an indisputably dominant force that can overcome all enemies, dispel all noncomforming ideas, and decide what’s to be accepted as “normal.”
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