The world that late-stage capitalism is creating is one where the only stable states—or things that resemble states—will be the fortified high-tech enclaves that the super-rich create in the wake of a collapsed civilization. In the scenarios that some futurists have been anticipating, by the end of this century the only places with reliable electricity are going to be the walled off communities of these elites, guarded by those seeking to be rewarded with food and housing and sustained by a neo-feudal network of farming.
Amid the current campaign by BlackRock and other Wall Street firms to monopolize the housing market by aggressively buying up homes, it’s increasingly clear that the capitalist class is aiming to adapt to the crises of these next few decades by engineering a scenario like this. Landlords are themselves a remnant of feudalism, and this rapid expansion of the power of corporate landlords represents the resource consolidation which could let feudalism soon come back in the ruins of capitalism.
Other ways that capital has been trending towards this transformation amid its own weakening are the weaponization of increasingly militarized borders, and the proliferation of warfare which serves corporate interests. Especially in the era of post-9/11 imperial decline and climatic catastrophe, where refugees have reached record numbers amid natural disasters and imperialist wars, these projects have both been facilitated through the privatization of the tools which make them possible. Like how BlackRock has been pushing the U.S. government to privatize critical U.S. infrastructure to create “efficiencies that can only be achieved through private ownership,” the companies behind these efforts are seeking to further the goal of neoliberalism: to compensate for capital’s growing deficiencies by streamlining the process towards enriching the very wealthiest.
The consequences are greater loss of human life and accelerated destruction of the natural world. Since the Israeli tech company Elbit built a network of surveillance towers along the U.S.-Mexico border, this “virtual wall” has been used to deadly effect. Journalist Erica Hellerstein has described it as an instance of “authoritarian tech”:
“Crossing through southern Arizona’s rugged desert is a potentially lethal endeavor. The harsh and searingly hot landscape is a “land of open graves,” according to University of California, Los Angeles anthropologist Jason de León. Over the past two decades, the remains of 3,721 people have been uncovered in the region, with a significant increase in the early 2000s. Experts have connected the death toll to a 1994 border enforcement policy established under former president Bill Clinton. Known as Prevention Through Deterrence, it pushed migrants away from traditional urban crossing points in places like San Diego and El Paso, and into the desert. Humanitarian and migrant rights groups have argued that the border’s high-tech surveillance infrastructure funnels people into ever-deadlier corridors.”
Elbit aims to expand its tower network to the northern border, and to all of the country’s ports and harbors. Canada might very well become the next country to integrate Elbit’s weaponized border surveillance system, since the Canadian government has already purchased Elbit’s Hermes 900 StarLiner remotely piloted aircraft system so that it can attain surveillance drones. These will be used alongside the armed drones that Canada’s military is set to begin operating within the next three to four years.
As the contradictions of capitalism and imperialism produce growing crises—which Canada’s prime minister warned about last year upon Covid-19’s first waves—our neighboring settler state is adopting the hyper-militarized characteristics of the U.S.
This is what it looks like when the imperialist powers are contracting in the face of the decline in profits that’s been taking place for the last half-century, the decline of U.S. power that’s depriving capital of its crucial ability to expand into new markets, and the climatic crisis that’s threatening to destabilize the capitalist world. Washington’s current effort to recolonize Cuba via color revolution is a desperate bid to make the empire’s instability spill into the socialist republic. The tactics the imperialists have used to try to destabilize Cuba amid the ever-tightening blockade, where desperate Cubans are being paid to sabotage societal pillars like gas stations and crops, are about trying to expand the empire’s dysfunctionality and misery.
The empire’s bourgeoisie wants to grab up as much territory as possible in anticipation of the coming collapse, hoping that the crushing of the hemisphere’s only proletarian state can somehow save them from the prospect of revolution following society’s unraveling.
This fear of a lower class uprising after the U.S. and Canada become failed states has been explicitly expressed by billionaires, who’ve been privately at work throughout the last decade or more arranging for fortified doomsday shelters. According to the reported statements of some wealthy hedge fund managers, the plan is to relocate to relatively safe places like New Zealand and Alaska, then use tactics like disciplinary collars and rationed food to keep the security forces at the compounds loyal after money becomes worthless. The elites see the level of upheaval that’s on the horizon, how eventually their all-powerful capital will turn to ashes and they’ll have to resort to more drastic measures to keep the angry mobs at bay.
So as if to comfort themselves, they’re coupling their privatized border and drone surveillance with an explosion in the use of mercenaries. U.S.-financed mercenaries are believed by Cuba’s government to be behind the recent anti-communist terrorist attacks there, Colombian mercenaries were behind last month’s assassination of Haiti’s president that allowed Washington to manufacture counterrevolutionary destabilization, and mercenaries are filling the role of the troops Biden has withdrawn from Afghanistan. Mercenaries have even begun patrolling the streets of Minneapolis, with an unnamed private military company sending contractors to profile and assault Black Lives Matter protesters. These kinds of unaccountable hired guns are going to show up throughout many more parts of the country as unrest proliferates in the coming years, both to make repression easier and to let the bourgeoisie squeeze the last drops of profits they can out of a dying system.
As political scientist Matthew Sutherland has written this year, the impunity of private military companies is being used to further the extraction of natural resources, letting the bourgeoisie lean ever more onto primitive accumulation:
“Contemporary PMSCs handle everything and anything, from combat missions to delivering humanitarian aid, to equipping and operating drones… PMSCs do not operate strictly at the behest of their host state—at least not anymore. Beyond states, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, and multinational corporations represent a significant customer base. Particularly the mining and extraction industries in Africa and the Middle East, opting to pay top dollar for PMSC protection rather than risk the often corrupt local government protection. More concerning is the potential for PMSCs to be used by terrorist or criminal elements (e.g. Malharma Tactical, a PMSC based out of Uzbekistan, caters exclusively to jihadist extremists. Its members, primarily Sunni, operate not only for ideological reasons but also for profit).”
In Latin America, the equivalent types of private military operatives are facilitating an intensification of corporate mining. Much like how the mercenary company TigerSwan infiltrated and surveilled water protectors at Standing Rock in 2016, these private military industries have been manufacturing smears against environmental activists within Peru and other countries while carrying out COINTELPRO-esque infiltration tactics. It’s a reversion to the early centuries of colonialism, when landowners hired mercenaries to protect their property and keep their slaves from escaping. As Michael Wilson Becerril of Truthout recently wrote, this modern colonialist counterinsurgency is making corporations act increasingly as states, with their own armies, spies, and intelligence centers:
“While they are clear legacies of colonialism, the operations of extractive policing are becoming more secretive and private in a context of so-called liberal democracy and growing public scrutiny over human rights violations. A mining company manager I spoke with admitted the company had engaged in spying and blackmail… in a context of privatization and growing media scrutiny, neoliberal counterinsurgency is on the rise. This may help explain the escalating number of people killed for defending the environment, an activity that has never been deadlier or more important… Growing privatization of counterinsurgencies unsettle traditional ideas about repression. Dominant models that explain repression as a state-specific practice are becoming less useful in a context of corporate-community conflicts. Neoliberal counterinsurgency, an extreme form of waging repression through private means and for private interests, is subtler than judicial repression, and more difficult to trace and hold accountable.”
In the near future where many states have imploded, it’s these corporations that will serve as the new enforcers of capital. They’ll plunder the natural world with impunity while expanding their neo-colonial exploitation into the imperialist countries, fulfilling privatization’s end goal: a “libertarian” social order where anything resembling democracy has been stamped out, leaving only the iron heel of capital in the form of mercenaries and weaponized monitoring technologies.
But the underclass is asserting itself. Like how Bolivia’s proletariat reversed 2019’s coup and returned the socialists to power within the country last year, depriving the imperialist billionaires of lithium to extract, Peru’s proletariat has elected the socialist Pedro Castillo as president. Now Peru’s mining companies are worrying about raised taxes and other checks on their power, like how the capitalist class in Chile may soon become worried should the country’s leading communist candidate win there. Latin America’s masses are on the edge of an uprising against imperial control. And they and the other exploited peoples will have an opening for a new wave of revolutions after the U.S. dollar crashes, taking away the imperialist financial leverage that’s long made the Global South’s liberation struggle discontinuous.
When this integral economic foundation for the empire falls out, the imperialist bourgeoisie will frantically turn their nastiest weapons against the empire’s internal proletariat, as they’re already doing with measures like the Minneapolis mercenaries and the militarization of U.S. police. They’ll try to exterminate the communists and other undesirables, as imperialist-installed regimes like the ones in Indonesia and Argentina have done throughout the last century. They’ll have the military invade and occupy urban areas, making PMCs an essential part of this imported imperialist war. They’ll further expand the migrant concentration camps while converting them into a secret prison network for journalists and dissidents.
Then, when capital grows too weak to sustain this makeshift fascist state and civilization on this continent falls to ruin, the strongholds of the bourgeoisie will fight the final battle against the forces of proletarian revolution.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here. Follow Rainer on Twitter, and Youtube.
From the archives: