What is Net-Centric Warfare?

On “innovative” imperialism and the farce of American democratic republicanism

By Daniel K. Buntovnik, 6 November 2016

This piece addresses dilemmas facing opponents of war and imperialism in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, the future of war-profiteering, eumemicist racism, the “alt-right” rehashing of neo-Nazi occultism, and Net-Centric Warfare as black magic.

Note: The U.S. presidential campaign season will have come to an end soon, but the general dynamics of the two-party system discussed under the first subheading of this analysis are unlikely to disappear in 2020.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the Anti-War Citizen

Although the ruling class of the United States of America bends over backwards to display its cleavage into so-called “Republican” and “Democratic” factions, this apparent split is, to a significant degree, exaggerated. Every day, conscious and unconscious agents of plutocratic, oligarchical dictatorship are working hard to drum up minor differences between the political parties of the bourgeoisie. This encourages us to spend a disproportionate amount of our time focusing on the disagreements between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and their parties, disengaging from the reality of their joint pursual of key political objectives.

The deeper the illusion of Democratic-Republican cleavage is driven into the citizenry’s consciousness, the more the popularity contest in which the masses are quadrennially enticed to (indirectly) participate is lent legitimacy. The suggestion that this contest represents a real opportunity to take part in the national policy-making process is enhanced by the impression of cleavage, while elevated awareness of bipartisan fusion and unity across the bourgeois political spectrum threatens to foment disenchantment and revolt, because it leads to the conclusion that American elections offers little in the way of actual choice.

The scope of the great false dilemma goes beyond what is commonly understood by the term “two-party system”. This is because U.S. presidential electoral politics have, in the 21st century, actually developed into a four-party system, composed of two “Big League” parties and two “Little League” parties. The Little League parties, by virtue of each one functioning as a fallback or an auxiliary to its Big League counterpart, serve as a farcical opposition force to what is generally understood by the term “two-party system” (i.e. the two Big League parties). Presently the Little League two-party system is composed of (1) the Green Party, absorbing disaffected ex-Democrats such as Jill Stein and the Gaddafist Cynthia McKinney as well as syphoning off resources from opportunistic Marxian micro-sects, and (2) the Libertarian Party, absorbing disaffected ex-Republicans such as Gary Johnson and Ron Paul (in whose case we see the revolving door between “Libertarians” and the GOP). Other “third parties” are relegated to competing with each other as well as with the Greens and Libertarians to gain access to the Little League two-party system.

Both the Libertarian and Green parties attempt to harness the storm of anti-war sentiment, but fail to adequately address imperialist war as an integral function of the capitalist system. Both pledge to put an end to what Gary Johnson calls the “imperialistic foreign policy” of the U.S.A., which Jill Stein says is “turning our republic into a bankrupt empire”. Notice how for these peewee politicians, U.S. foreign policy is not imperialist, but imperialistic—implying that it merely resembles imperialism; and nevermind the multi-century policy of invading and annexing foreign nationshalf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, just to name a fewthis doesn’t have anything to do with why the U.S.A. is a wealthy country today; the wars and drone attacks of the 21st century are only in the process of transforming the country into a “bankrupt” empire… but we’re not there yet! The Little League political players qualify their anti-imperialist posturing with significant caveats; the figurative fine print of Johnson’s program lets us know that he still wants “to build a strong military”, and Stein meanwhile pledges to continue spending as much as $298.5 billion per year on public sector U.S. militarism. That’s still $83 billion more than the country with the second highest military budget in the world, the People’s Republic of China [X].

Some attempt to paint an image of the Green Party as an attractive political center for revolutionary socialism and peace, but the Green Party and its micro-sect surrogates are oriented towards accommodating right-wing nationalist theory. Their objective is to co-opt supporters of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic “socialist” ex-competitor, Bernie Sanders, whose campaign’s central theme was about “saving capitalism for the many, not the few” with a national “political revolution”, the very notion of which stands in antagonistic contradiction to the act of abolishing capitalism through transnational social revolution (for a variety of reasons, some of which I explored here). Rather than criticizing the “trustbuster” thrust of Robert Reich inspired slogans like “political revolution against the billionaire class”, the Greens and their surrogates facilitate assimilation of the fantasy implicit in these slogans, that of a salvageable capitalism based around restored small business competitivity and regulationnot expropriationof the big corporations (labelled “democratic socialism”), along with continued deportations and borders, a fantasy which is rendered explicit upon closer examination of the discourse of individuals like Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, and Robert Reich.

If Jill Stein, the theoretically electable candidate in this year’s Electoral College with the most far-reaching proposals for U.S. militarism reduction, became the president of the United States and implemented her reforms, the U.S. war machine would likely be slightly weaker than it is now (although it would probably remain quite powerful, given Jill Stein’s pledge to provide it with an approximate yearly budget surpassing that of any other nation), but this would only be worthwhile if in the process of implementing these reforms, awareness of the need to ultimately abolish the basis of war (capitalism and hegemony of the bourgeois state) grew and the movement centered around this awareness became stronger. Otherwise the next president could simply reverse the course, and it’s not inconceivable that the Pentagon would find some sly way to circumvent those hypothetical budget cuts or perhaps even orchestrate a coup. However, given that Stein has virtually no chance to become president, why should anyone lend support to “anti-war” individuals and groups who do not plainly articulate abolition of capitalismthe precluder of peace in modern timesthrough social revolution as their ultimate goal? Are we really so cynical to believe that people are too stupid to understand the basic demands of socialism? Tax the rich, sure, but don’t become a stooge of the richplenty of them ultimately wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes if it meant saving even a bit of their privilege. The would-be revolutionary’s entryistic support, even if “critical”, for the reformist political center degenerates into de facto agitation for reformism, promoting non-abolitionist consciousness, which cannot be reconciled with abolitionist consciousness. The anti-war movement would be strongerwould existif it was centered around the objective of ending the basis of war, not around the idealistic embrace of leaders like Jill Stein, who vows to maintain the U.S. position of global supremacy in military financing, or Bernie Sanders, who views each imperialist war through an atomizing lens so that he can pick and choose which ones to support (such as the ones in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Syria to which he gave and gives thumbs up).

Given this reality and the hopelessness of leveraging the electoral process towards anti-war ends, the voter who would like to contribute to the stopping of imperialist war and militarist aggression only has one realistic option: throw away her vote. A protest vote for one of the “fifth party” candidates existing outside of the Big and Little League two-party systems (aka the four-party system) who may propose the actual abolition of capitalism and imperialist warfare is essentially equivalent to writing-in “flip tha system” and can be considered the most desirable fashion of throwing away one’s vote. The vote can be considered thrown away, because these candidates are denied even the hypothetical possibility of election by the nature of the system. But they are still a leg up over abstention because at least in certain cases they may be tallied and recorded, contributing to statistics which may stand as a testament to present levels of vanguard working class consciousness for generations to come, and at the very least there is a chance that, even if the write-in vote is not counted, it may appear as an unsettling anomaly to the one tasked with disregarding it. In that regard, and following the line of thought advanced by Eugene Debs on the desirability of not getting what one wants as opposed to getting what one doesn’t want, these hopeless votes are not thrown away but serve a kind of a purpose; they communicate anti-war sentiment.

Votes which can truly be considered thrown away are those cast “tactically” based in the doctrine of “lesser evilism”, in which case a vote for one of the peewees of the Little two parties registers simultaneous disaffiliation and affiliation with one of the Big two parties insofar as a Green vote is a disaffected Democratic vote and a Libertarian vote is a disaffected Republican vote. Then there are those who consider it better to vote for a Big evil (as opposed to the Little lesser evil), so long as it’s not the greatest Big evil. Perhaps the most twisted are those who believe it best to institute the most backward, reactionary, fascistic government possible, in the hope that this will be more likely to stir up revolt than a somewhat less murderous and oppressive bourgeois dictatorship, which is a dubious proposition to say the least. All these votes are thrown away, from the perspective of the anti-war voter, because they contribute to the perpetuation of mass criminal state violence and signal the voter’s consent to this, whether it be reluctant or enthusiastic.

The Next POTUS and the War-Profiteering of Futurity

A key point of unity in the political programs of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is their mutual promise to engage in war-profiteering once elected. To be sure, although there is a general consensus among the U.S. ruling class about the need to wage war for profit, there are indeed nuances between Clinton and Trump’s visions for the future of war-profiteering, rooted in a real cleavage of the U.S. bourgeoisie. While Trump has taken up the cause of the backwards and regressive old stock white supremacist and “nativist” bourgeoisie by advocating protectionism, trade tariffs, and the mass deportation of Mexicans as a sort of neo-Indian removal policy, Clinton represents the progressive faction of the bourgeoisie which embraces a new stock-inclusive white supremacy wherein the impression of cosmopolitanism is fostered by augmenting fluidity between manners of othering and ascribing social inferiority (i.e. by supplementing racism with civicism and culturism, allowing for the development of a black bourgeoisie), and the “progressive” extension of the government’s conception of whiteness as it is nowadays defined by institutions such as the Census Bureau and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which essentially occurs in two waves: first, the extension of whiteness in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the descendants of non-Anglo Saxon Germanic peoples and shortly thereafter to non-Germanic peoples of Christian Europe, followed by extension of whiteness in the late 20th and early 21st centuries which de-emphasized the alignment between Christianity and whiteness and began to include peoples of certain parts of Asia and Africa, the Balkans, Iberia, and Latin America as white persons.

The language deployed by the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns in the political platforms presented on their official websites is a 21st century confirmation of the assertion made long ago by high-ranking U.S. militarist turned anti-war dissident Smedley D. Butler that “War is a racket”. Although both campaigns frame their proposals for financial investment in war not as direct investment into warfare itself, but as investments in weapons manufacturing and war waging capabilities (i.e. the military industrial complex), both nevertheless take for granted that war is, was, and should continue to be a profitable business. Perhaps both presidential candidates have a sense that the public at large would find the proposal to perpetrate mass violence and terminate countless human lives in exchange for the accumulation of wealth distasteful if not presented delicately, cloaked as a call to invest in the mere machinery of war. However, this tactic is transparent; the call to invest in the tools and technologies of war is in fact inseparable from the call to invest in war itself, for these investments would be obsolete if there was no war in which to deploy them. And insofar as these weapons systems, war waging capabilities, and an empowered military industrial complex are said to function as a deterrent to hot war, they escalate the renewed cold war between great power factions, resulting in proxy-type wars.

Consider the following definitions from OxfordDictionaries.com before we examine the candidates’ programs more closely:

  • Racket – An illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money.
  • Invest – Put (money) into financial schemes, shares, property, or a commercial venture with the expectation of achieving a profit.
  • Profit – A financial gain, especially the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating, or producing something.

First, Donald Trump’s official presidential campaign website (donaldjtrump.com), informs us that Trump’s “vision” is to:

Invest in a serious missile defense system to meet growing threats by modernizing our Navy’s cruisers and procuring additional, modern destroyers to counter the ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea.

The only “profit” this investment will bring to anyone other than “defense” contractors is the metaphorical wages paid to cover the psychological cost of irrational paranoia over “the ballistic missile threat [to people in North America] from Iran and North Korea”, countries whose militarism is largely a reaction to U.S. jingoism in the first place. Of course, we should also all know by now that “defense” is really a militarist dog whistle for “war”: the so-called United States Department of “Defense” was more accurately and less Newspeak-ishly called the “Department of War” between 1789 and 1947. Hence why, for Trump’s PR team, the way to “invest […] in […] defense” is by “procuring […] destroyers”!

The fact that Trump openly calls for (primarily poor non-U.S. citizen) human lives to be sacrificed for the purpose of (primarily rich white American) financial gain should not even come as a surprise, given the blatantly imperialist statements he and his associates like Rudolph Giuliani have made, such as:

“In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils. Instead, all we got from Iraq—and our adventures in the Middle East—was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss.”   Donald Trump [X]

Enduring the Net-Centric Onslaught of the Ruling Class

While Hillary Clinton does employ the same lexical register of financial speculation to proudly raise the call for war-profiteering just as loudly and just as clearly as Donald Trump, her team’s investment pitch is nuanced by the form of “innovation” it advocates. The Klinton-Kaine Kampaign website (hillaryclinton.com) promises us that, “as president, Hillary will”:

Invest in innovation and capabilities that will allow us to prepare for and fight 21st-century threats. That includes leveraging our information advantage through what’s called “net-centric warfare” capabilities and preparing for asymmetric threats.

Clinton’s P.R. team has spiced up the war-for-profit pitch by plugging in a reference to what seems to be one of the latest militarist buzz phrases: “net-centric warfare”. A Wikipedia article on the term defines it as a “doctrine or theory” developed by the U.S. baby killer establishment in the 1990s which “seeks to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust computer networking of well informed geographically dispersed forces.”

In Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority (2000), David Alberts, John Garstka and Frederick Stein describe “Network Centric Warfare” as “the best term developed to date to describe the way [U.S. militarists] will organize and fight in the Information Age”.

The intuitive connection between networks, information, cyberspace, and global media is indicative of the fact that militarist buzzwords like “net-centric warfare”, “information warfare”, and “cyberwarfare” are essentially all iterations of the same thought process. Thus Hillary Clinton’s call to “invest” in Net-Centric Warfare in 2016 echoes her words to Congress in 2011, when she lamented (in a global context wherein non-American media networks such as Al Jazeera, RT, Sputnik, CCTV, and teleSUR were gaining traction in the Anglosphere as well as a stronger foothold in other regions) that “We are in an information war, and we’re losing that war”. Thus Hillary’s campaign pledge cannot be seen as an addendum thoughtlessly tacked on to the platform so as to pander to the pro-military crowd, but a longstanding sign of her approach to imperial affairs.

In Network Centric Operations: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress (2007), Clay Wilson explains that “Network Centric [Warfare] relies on computer equipment and networked communications technology to provide a shared awareness of the battle space [sic] for U.S. forces”.

One might well imagine some “Defense” clerks producing a flashy video of U.S. Army/Marine Corps baby killers consulting their smartwatches in between murdering savage Near Oriental men to “post statuses” on each other’s “timelines” about where the remainder of the unarmed men are seeking asylum from these brainwashed SS-worshipping death squads and “livestreaming” satellite images as they operate a genocidal dragnet across a dusty and generic Fallujah-esque town (perhaps filmed on the set of Homeland), their wounded comrades meanwhile being treated by medical androids remote controlled by ethically-compromised doctors on another continent, to sell this concept to bloodthirsty sociopaths in Washington D.C. The U.S. military would probably prefer that when the public hears the term “net-centric warfare”, it would imagine something like this, happening far away, directed at un-American others, and keeping America safe—but “leveraging ‘our’ information advantage” has much broader implications.

One indication that the scope of this project goes well beyond the battlespaces of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen is the fact that the term “net-centric warfare” is regarded as being synonymous with that of “net-centric operations” (Wilson, 2007). This supplanting of “warfare” by “operations,” like the supplanting of “battlefield” by “battlespace”, signals an important shift in the way U.S. militarists perceive the nature of conflict in the 21st century, sometimes referred to as the “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)”. The supplanting of the term “warfare” with that of “operations” marks a symbolic step towards the normalization of the state of perpetual warfare and the rendering ubiquitous of military operations outside their traditional spheres which have become reality under the so-called “War on Terror”.

This shifting emphasis in bourgeois military theory (from “warfare” to “operations”) can be traced back to the emergence of the “asymmetric warfare” paradigm (also alluded to by Clinton, cf. “asymmetric threats”) which began to gain currency towards the end of the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam as baffled U.S. militarists struggled to fathom how their country had allowed them to be defeated (see “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars” [1975]). The architects of the U.S. genocide in Vietnam expressed dismay at their defeat because they felt there had not objectively been sufficient loss or degradation of U.S. military machinery or manpower to warrant defeat; instead they identified the erosion of the subjective political will to continue fighting among the U.S. populace as the cause of their defeat. This view can be summed up in the rhetorical question of one U.S. militarist: “Was the United States defeated in the jungles of Vietnam, or was it defeated in the streets of American cities?” [Aquino, p. 6].

Similarly observing that “[the Vietnam War] was fought as much, if not more, in the living rooms of America as in the living jungles of Southeast Asia,” the U.S. militarist authors of Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority resolve that “the battlespace of the future […] will no longer be private or remote” [Alberts, p. 63]. But because the “political costs of using [lethal weapons]” against domestic anti-war dissidents and peace activists are likely to “far outweigh their effects”, the crushing of domestic civilian and non-state actor threats to the will to sustain U.S. militarist campaigns of genocide abroad (“the national will to victory” [Aquino, p. 4]) is primarily viewed as being a job for methods like “Information Warfare”, “Military Information Support Operations (MISO)” (also known as “Psychological Operations [PSYOP]”), “Operations Other Than War (OOTW)” [Alberts, p. 59], and “Effects-Based Operations (EBO)” [Smith, p. 1], although that’s by no means to say that they don’t consider the brazen use of lethal force against U.S. citizens out of the question [X]. The same authors note that in “some instances” of so-called Operations Other Than War “the line between war and peace and between friend, foe, and neutral is blurred beyond recognition” and that Information Operations “blur the boundaries between civilian and military,” having “the potential to totally redefine the nature of warfare” [Alberts, p. 59].

The doctrine of “net-centric warfare” thus encapsulates the idea that anyone who does anything to oppose the U.S. war machine must be regarded as a foe of the state, including those who do so in totally non-violent ways such as:

  • marching in the street,
  • spreading reasoned anti-war and anti-capitalist arguments,
  • educating soldiers about their legal right to become conscientious objectors, freeing them from their supposedly irrevocable soul-selling contract to the devilish forces of militarism,
  • or even merely sharing objectively true raw pieces of information that would lead normal human beings to conclusions that are unsupportive of current military operations, diminishing what’s called “information dominance” by U.S. militarist fiends and neoliberals.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s helped to further entrench the paradigm of “asymmetric warfare”, as the subsequent Soviet/Russian geopolitical recession undid the relative symmetricality of what had previously been seen as a bipolar global battlespace. Nowadays the U.S. military behemoth swallows up a whopping 37% of global military spending, more than China, “Saudi” Arabia, Russia, the U.K., India, France, and Japan combined, perpetuating the asymmetry between U.S. militarism and all other centers of militarism, competitors and partners included. This trend is tempered however by certain developments, such as the so-called “Sino-Russian rapprochement” and the recent expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a geopolitical counterweight to U.S. military dominance and a vehicle for the joint operations of Russian and Chinese capitalists and militarists eager to further develop their own brands of imperialism.

Nevertheless, despite the Klinton Kaine Kampaign’s programmatic inclination towards the discourse of warfare (i.e. its selection of the term “net-centric warfare” as opposed to “net-centric operations”) and its characterization of Russia as “a foreign adversarial power”, the displacement of “warfare” by “operations” as the dominant theoretical framework of U.S. baby killer circles is unlikely to be reversed because the threat of massive nuclear annihilation encourages the reframing of 21st century conflict between similarly matched great power blocs as “symmetrical operations”. The current U.S.-Russian “cyber” or “information” war, although these refer to operations other than war in the traditional sense, may be considered a “symmetric” situation or perhaps even a situation of U.S. inferiority. For example, despite having an inferior budget, the number of Russian intelligence operatives in the U.S. is said to be at least three times superior to the number of U.S. ones in Russia [X]. Hillary Clinton and U.S. militarists’ broad conceptualization of warfare, redefined and expanded to include a variety of operations which were heretofore held to be “operations other than war”, should be read as an attempt to accelerate the militarization of domestic policing, expand proxy wars, and work around the limitations imposed by mutually assured destruction, not as an imminent push to engage Russia with nuclear warheads, as the peewee two-party system bourgeois candidate Jill Stein has argued in her alarmist pro-Trump lesser evilist discourse [X].

In a country with few immediate signs of threat to the national will to “victory” in the form of mass movements, perhaps just as critical as directly suppressing dissident voices, if not more so, is the manufacturing of consent which seems to assure that a minimal amount of dissent hardly pops up in the first place. We know that the U.S. and global public is targeted by the military and intelligence forces en masse through operations such as the “Message Force Multipliers” program, which sought to achieve “information dominance” by saturating U.S. television with war-mongering talking heads around the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Another example of this kind of operation is the Pentagon spending half a billion dollars on the production of “fake Al-Qaeda videos that portrayed the insurgent group in a negative light”. That’s almost an entire fiscal year of U.S. military funds spent on some videosbut how could we even know what the real U.S. ritual human sacrifice budget is when U.S. militarists can’t account for $6.5 trillion in funds [X]? Surely the fact that U.S. militarists do not release such information is part of some asinine strategy on their part to “leverage [their] information advantage” over us information scroungers who are not privy to those “classified” true facts. A President Jill Stein might well leave us with a military caste who can “only” not account for $3.25 trillion!

Towards a “Memetically Engineered” Racist Empire

One expression of “Effects-Based Operations” (which a U.S. militarist named Smith defines as “military operations directed at shaping the behavior of foes, friends, and neutrals in peace, crisis, and war”) is the emergent military strategy of “meme warfare” or “memetic engineering” [X, X, X]. Modelled on an analogy to genetics (the science of biological heredity) first posited by raging anti-Muslim bigot Richard Dawkins of the Islamophobic “New Atheist” set, memetics (the science[?] of cultural “heredity” [as well as intra-generational cultural transmission]) supposes the existence of the meme as a “unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds” [Brodie, p. 11]. Another theorist describes memetic engineering as the conscious construction of information packages which are likely “to replicate themselves across a network of minds” [X]. The prevalence of memes is thought to be “a consequence of our evolved capacity to imitate” [X]. Meme warfare proposes the weaponization of mimesisdelivering ideas to targets (enemies, friends, and neutrals) in such a way that they assimilate those ideas which in turn induce behaviors that facilitate the meeting of the weapon-handler’s objectives.

We can anticipate that the project of creating a memetically engineered (or psychocivilized) society entails the desirability of control and influence over information distribution networks as well as control and influence over the production of knowledge and information, helping to explain the drive of U.S. militarists to forcibly penetrate media and academia, like the horrific and snarling incubi which these demonic rape culture perpetuating militarists are.

Closely related to the concept to “memetic engineering” is “eumemics”. Like eugenicists, advocates of eumemics believe that populations can be “improved” by the manipulation and control of “scientists”, though in this case it is the pathologization of devalued thoughts (dubbed “mind viruses”), not biological traits, which prevails. Nevertheless, memeticists do hypothesize that “memes drove biological selection as well as genes” [McNamara].

The transition from eugenics to eumemics nevertheless proceeds relatively seamlessly from the perspective of so-called “race science”, for the neo-Nazi movement’s embrace of anti-Semitic American fascist Francis Parker Yockey’s critique of materialistic scientism reveals a perspective on “race” which leads quickly to the supplantation of eugenics by eumemics.

In “The Scientific-Technical World-Outlook” (a chapter from his 1948 book Imperium), Yockey argues that “[by 1850] science was on the road which was to cultuminate in […] frank admission of the subjectivity of physical concepts”, that “the very study of matter itself” revealed “the profound knowledge […] that matter is only the envelope of the soul”, and that “the transition from 19th century materialism to the new spirituality of the 20th century was thus not a battle, but an inevitable development”. For Yockey, the neo-Nazi worldview is not based on science or materialism, although these are seen as useful “in the service of […] unlimited will-to-power”. The Nazi blowhard concludes that “the Idea [of a strong Western Culture that ‘creates Races’ and is the ‘higher Reality’] is primary,” though “superiority in weapons [furnished by techno-scientific methodology] is essential”. Neo-Nazism thus attempts to remedy the fact that the racial basis of German Nazism was objectively pseudoscientific by dislocating race from this framework and repackaging it as a transcendent subjectivity, beyond science and pseudoscience. This outlook may be rooted in the adoption of an “asymmetric” model of warfare by Nazi strategists in the post-war years, in which case Operation Paperclip signals the beginning of the supplantation of “warfare” by “operations”.

In another chapter of Imperium on the “Subjective Meaning of Race”, the fascist Yockey argues that “race is […] what a man feels” and that “this [feeling] influences, whether immediately or eventually, what he does”. “Race is not,” according to Yockey, “the way one talks, looks, gestures, walks, it is not a matter of stock, color, anatomy, skeletal structure, or anything else objective”. He further elaborates that “every race […] expresses a certain idea […] and its idea is bound to be attractive to some individuals outside it”, and that “every healthy, ascendant race accepts recruits who come in on its terms and who have the proper feeling”. This notion of the “true meaning” of race being a subjective feeling, existing independently of objective scientific study, is expressed by government policy in cases such as United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the law must uphold a “popular”, but “unscientific” conception of the so-called “white race” [X]. Popular and governmental conceptions did evolve thereafter, but remain unscientific. Perhaps it is this subjectivity that permits anomalous individuals such as Leo Felton, an African-American man, to become accepted as leaders in White Power prison gangs [X], and others, such as Barack Obama, to become legatees of the world’s leading white supremacist institutions.

From Memes to Occultism

The so-called “Alt-Right movement”, an “innovative” reiteration anti-Semitic, white supremacist, and Nazi bullshit for the Information Age which has emerged as one of the most vocal factions of Donald Trump supporters, places a heavy emphasis on memes and the memetic model of cultural evolution [X, X]. One “Alt-”right-wing 8chan forum set up last year calls itself “The Bureau of Memetic Warfare” and greets visitors with a “Black Sun” banner. It would almost be “edgy” if U.S. militarists had not already proposed a “Meme Warfare Center” a decade sooner [Prosser].

Seeming to fulfill the late comic George Carlin’s prediction that “when fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts, it will not be with jack-boots; it will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts,” The Daily Stormer, an Alt-Right website, notes that “a movement which meets all of the [Southern Poverty Law Center]’s definitions of Neo-Nazi White Supremacism using a  cartoon frog to represent itself takes on a subversive power to bypass historical stereotypes of such movements, and thus present the ideas themselves in a fun way without the baggage of Schindler’s List [sic] and American History X [sic].” They are talking about the so-called “Pepe”, a cartoon frog and internet-centric meme which even the Klinton Kaine Kampaign has addressed [X].

The same neo-Nazi website notes that “the Alt-Right is in the process of forming an actual religious doctrine around the god Kek, who is believed to be the spiritual root of meme magick” [X]. Alt-Right occultists have actually come to believe that the net-centric meme “Pepe the Frog” is a hierophany of the Ancient Egyptian god called Kek, who was depicted as a frog or theriocephalous frog-man [X].

Of course, some Alt-Right “irony bros” will inevitably fall back on the plausible deniability tactic when it suits them, and claim that internet meme-cum-hierophany discourse is pure satire done simply for “the lulz”; however, it is obvious from white nationalist texts like Esoteric Kekism, or Kek as a Bodhisattva of Racial Enlightenment that there is a genuine desire on the part of the so-called “Alt-Right” to engage in the time-honored fascist pastime of blatant cultural misappropriation of Eastern religious traditions so as to try to rehash yet again the aestheticized pseudo-mystique of an esoteric neo-Nazism, pioneered by “classics” like Maximine Julia Portas (“Savitri Devi”). Plausible deniability of the sincerity of Alt-Right discourse is stoked by public figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, who has emerged as a cultural broker between the mainstream world and the largely web-bound (net-centric) movement. In a March 2016 Breitbart piece, Yiannopoulos argued that the reactionary/misogynistic/racist memes produced by the movement are merely meant to poke fun at “political correctness”, but the other representatives of the Alt-Right have vehemently scoffed at the idea that “no one in the Alt-Right actually believes anything that they are saying, and simply say it as part of some obscure joke” [X, X]. Meanwhile, there are others on the Alt-Right who are less chagrined by the fact that a gay Jewish man (Yiannopoulos) has become their unofficial spokesperson, basically seeing him as a useful idiot who is “contributing to the rightward shift in the Overton Window” [X].

Right-wing occultists are likely to the view those who “ironically” or “jokingly” spread the “Cult of Kek” and “meme magick” memes in a similar light, as the former use it to recruit devotees and initiates to their race-hate occultist worldview (see, for example, the Alt-Rightist recommendation made in the hypertext of the previous link that readers familiarize themselves with the work of British occultists Phil Hine and Peter J. Carroll to begin understanding “meme magick” as a form of “chaos magick”). “Chaos magick” is in turn considered to be a form of Satanism by prominent proponents of Satanism. For example, Anton Long (alleged alias of David Myatt, a proponent of neo-Nazi Satanism) writes in “Toward Understanding Satanism” (a “classic Order of Nine Angles text”) that, “standard definitions of Satanism […] encompass, and so may describe […] the type of esotericism propounded by advocates of ‘chaos magick’ and others who assert such things as ‘reality is what I make it or what others have made it, or perceived it to be’, so that ‘Reality is a matter is perspective [sic] and thus demons/gods/religions/techniques beliefs can be usefully used without believing in them’” [X]. Hine is extensively cited as an authority in the book Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology (2009) [X] and Carroll has associated with activists in the British neo-Nazi movement via his involvement in the magazine Chaos International [X, X]. Additionally, in a subsection of The Occult World (2014) entitled “Contemporary Occult War”, religions studies professor Christopher Partridge relates that the interest of Carroll (described here as “the founder of of chaos magic”) in waging “a purely politicized occult war in the form of a conspiracist libertarian condemnation of the European Union” should be contextually understood in relation to “the ‘sinister’ family of traditions derived from the [‘(explicit concern) with esoteric conflict against Jewish influences’ of the] Order of Nine Angles” (the previously mentioned neo-Nazi/Satanic group which developed out of English Wicca in the late 1960s or early ’70s) [Partridge, pp. 632-3].

Another self-described “Satanic” grouping, with documented ties to U.S. militarism and whose original High Priest’s contributions to the theoretical framework of U.S. militarist operations in the 1980s prefigure the emergence of Net-Centric Warfare in the 1990s in ways explored below, is the “Temple of Set”. This occultist religious sect was founded in 1975 by the U.S. militarist Michael Aquino, a PSYOPs officer during the U.S. genocide-war in Vietnam, after he left his position as a high-ranking member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. In addition to reported disillusionment with LaVey’s proposal to sell positions in the Church of Satan to those willing to pay big bucks, the split may have arisen in part from what Aquino saw as the Church of Satan’s equivocal stance on the question of whether Satan was “real” or “symbolic”. “The Temple of Set”, Aquino writes in Black Magic (1975-2010), “resolved this dilemma […] by asserting the actual existence of ‘Satan’ (as Set – the original, pre-Judaeo/Christian entity)” [X]. Aquino’s collapsing of Christianity into Judaism and expression of desire to bypass its framework by displacing the figure of Satan with that of Set can be seen as an iteration of the same anti-Semitic concern with “esoteric conflict against Jewish influences” described by Partridge (2014). The anti-Semitic leitmotiv of Western esotericists can be traced back even further, to foundational figures of the contemporary occultist worldview such as Aleister Crowley, who lamented that “The Jew has eaten his way into everything. The caricature of Semitic thought, Christianity, rotted Roman virtue through introducing the moral subterfuge of vicarious atonement” [X]. In many ways modern proponents of “magick” in the West are heavily indebted to blatant cultural misappropriation which was facilitated by European colonialism. (For examples of the way in which contemporary Western esotericism and occultism cannot be contextually separated from their basis in Orientalism and cultural misappropriation, see the pivotal role played by European, especially British, colonialism in opening up “mystical” countries like Egypt and India to raging anti-Semitic white supremacists such as Aleister Crowley, Helena Blavatsky, and C. W. Leadbeater).

Like the newly “founded” occult-oriented neo-Nazi “Cult of Kek”, the “Temple of Set” was also based on cultural misappropriation of Ancient Egyptian/Kemetic mythology. The Egyptian gods Set and Kek share a number of similarities. Both have been called gods of chaos. Ancient Egypt Online notes that Set “was a storm god associated with strange and frightening events” including “eclipses” and that “his glyph appears in the Egyptian words for ‘turmoil’, ‘confusion’, […] ‘storm’ and ‘rage’” [X]. The same source indicates that Kek (or Kuk) “represented darkness, obscurity and night” and that “this darkness was the chaotic darkness which existed before the creation of the world [and] although he was a god of the darkness, he was also associated with the dawn and given the epithet, the ‘bringer-in of the light’” [X]. It is further noted that Kek “was also associated with Sobek”, depicted as a theriocephalous crocodile-man who was said to be the son of Setwho also took the form of a crocodile [X].

The Religious Character of Net-Centric Warfare

Net-Centric Warfare theorists posit the existence of three domains relevant to the warfighter:

  • (1) the physical domain,
  • (2) the information domain, and
  • (3) the cognitive domain [X, p. 10].

The quasi-religious underpinnings of this three-domain model of the battlespace need to be rendered explicit to understand, in the following section, Net-Centric Warfare as a reflection of the darker side of modern Western “esoteric” thought. We would also do well to take into consideration and keep in mind the argument of religions scholar Mircea Eliade that, contrary to what may still be considered conventional wisdom by some, religion “does not necessarily imply belief in God, gods, or ghosts, but refers to the experience of the sacred, and consequently, is related to ideas of being, meaning, and truth” [X].

Though the doctrine of the domains of Net-Centric Warfare is presented as trinitarian in form, in essence it replicates the Cartesian dualist meme; it is the bifurcation of the battlespace into physical and cognitive fronts, echoing long-posited binary oppositions between the body and mind, the material and the spiritual, which is fundamental to Net-Centric Warfare theory. Information is an intermediary between these two poles because it “inhabits” consciousness (where it is processed), but it can also be materialized into the external world via systems of communication (e.g. a book contains information which derives from the cognitive domain but exists in the physical domain). The “information domain” is thus not autonomous, but exists only in the relation to, and as an aspect of, the physical and cognitive domains. (The question of the nature of the information domain and its relation to the central dichotomy between tangible (external/physical) and intangible (internal/cognitive) which we find in the discourse of Net-Centric Warfare can also be located in the field of memetics, in the debate between memeticists of “internalist” and “externalist” persuasions [X]). The information domain is therefore secondary to the fundamental dynamic of Net-Centric Warfare, which is concerned with the ability to influence a target’s feeling or cognitive state so as to affect what he or she does in the world, thus altering the physical state of the battlefield. Net-Centric Warfare utilizes objective means (such as physical control of external information flows) to target subjective phenomena (e.g., morale, the “will to victory”, the will to resist, and the “will-to-power”). This is why “information dominance” is in fact a euphemism for “cognitive dominance”.

Returning to the notion of “the sacred” as the defining element of religion, we see that Net-Centric Warfare is in essence a theological expression of U.S. militarism in the way that it recognizes the mind itself as sacred. The Cartesian split between spirit and matter observed in U.S. militarist doctrine is imbued with the analogue which Mircea Eliade called the sacred-profane polarity and analysis of the discourse on Net-Centric Warfare (and similar militarist buzzwords) reveals numerous traits consistent with a type of religious thought. Elaborating on this dichotomy between sacrality and profanity which he argued was key to understanding the constitution of religious thought, Eliade put forth in The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959) that:

[In] all pre-modern societies, the sacred is equivalent to a power, and, in the last analysis, to reality. The sacred is saturated with being. […] The polarity sacred-profane is often expressed as an opposition between real and unreal or pseudoreal. […] Thus it is easy to understand that religious man deeply desires to be, to participate in reality, to be saturated with power [X, pp. 12-13].

By inaugurating the pursual of general dominance in the “cognitive domain” as the ultimate key to victory in any war, the cognitive apparatuses of not only enemy combatants and their host populations, but also those of the U.S. military protagonists’ civilian co-nationals became consecrated as sites of battle. For U.S. militarists, the lesson drawn from their defeat in Vietnam was that domination of the battlefield’s physical domain amounts to an unreal victory if the enemy is still able to “leverage information superiority” and prevail in the cognitive domain. The consequence of being made acutely aware of the possibility of defeat in spite of superior physical force was the invigoration of a militarist discourse around the menace of “asymmetric threats”. To pursue an old-fashioned warfighting strategy that did not adequately take the nature of “asymmetric threats” into account became sacrilege. Focusing too narrowly on the physical, material domain (unreal) at the expense of having a sense of concern for the cognitive, spiritual domain (real) became a form of profanity in the militarist mind, a vulgarization of what it means to pursue victory, a kind of false idol worship. The newfound reality of the all-encompassing nature of war, its delineation so blurred that it was no longer distinguishable from peace, no longer fought exclusively on the traditional “battlefield” but across a vaster “battlespace” that penetrates inside the hearts and minds of “foes, friends, and neutrals in peace, crisis, and war” was the new theology of Militarism. War was profane; operations became sacred.

U.S. militarist Michael Aquino, the self-proclaimed “Setian” Satanist who ran PSYOPs in Vietnam in the early part of his career, called this shift from the battlefield of the physical domain to the battlespace of the cognitive one “MindWar”. In a 1980 military research paper co-written with another U.S. militarist named Paul Vallely (now a Fox News “senior military analyst”i.e. Message Force Multiplier) and entitled “From PSYOP to MindWar: The Psychology of Victory” Aquino (and Vallely, although Aquino’s voice seems to dominate the text) explain how, in their view, victory on the physical battlefield is only assured by militarist domination of the cognitive battlespace. One source claims that although the paper never appeared in its intended publication outlet (Military Review), it was nevertheless “widely circulated among military planners, and […] distributed by Aquino’s Temple of Set” [X]. Implying that commanders should be more concerned with the conquest of minds than with “tangible” victories, Aquino writes:

The MindWar scenario must be preeminent in the mind of the commander and must be the principal factor in his every field decision. Otherwise he sacrifices measures which actually contribute to winning the war to measures of immediate, tangible satisfaction.

It seems clear that Aquino’s articulation of the need for U.S. militarism to switch gears from traditional war to sublime MindWar developed in tandem with his involvement in the Satanic cult scene. In one of his more esoteric ramblings, Aquino notes that,

Perhaps the most important contribution of the original Church of Satan (1966-1975CE) was its focus upon and glorification of the psyche, even though its original ambition was to downplay that concept in favor of mere fleshly gratification [X].

This critique was likely formed, if these precise words were not themselves written, around the time of his break with the Church of Satan to form the Temple of Set in 1975, five years before writing the “MindWar” paper. With the help of a thesaurus, his criticism of the Church of Satan’s undue emphasis on “fleshly gratification” became that directed at the U.S. military for its undue emphasis on “tangible satisfaction” (i.e. the “physical domain”). Moreover, his appreciation of the Church of Satan’s “focus upon and glorification of the psyche” forms the entire basis of the MindWar doctrine, with its focus upon and glorification of the cognitive domain.

Aquino argues that MindWar only operates in “nonlethal, noninjurious, and nondestructive ways” and that it essentially amounts to “[overwhelming] your enemy with argument.” This is apparently as simple as “[seizing] control of all the means by which [the enemy] government and populace process information to make up their minds, and [adjusting] it so that those minds are made up as you desire”. But Aquino also makes it clear that, in the MindWar scenario, the U.S. populace is approached by its would-be militarist overlords as an enemy. While at first painting Americans who called for the defeat of the U.S. effort to commit genocide in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as victims fallen to the lies of enemy propaganda, Aquino goes on to imply that MindWar “must attack and ultimately destroy” the will of anti-war citizens because their opposition to the jingoistic “national will to victory” of the U.S. is merely a sign of their weakness and vulnerability to enemy psychological operations, arguing:

[The main PSYOP/MindWar effort] must originate at the national level. It must strengthen our national will to victory and it must attack and ultimately destroy that of our enemy. It both causes and is affected by physical combat, but it is a type of war which is fought on a far more subtle basis as well – in the minds of the national populations involved.


MindWar must target all participants if it is to be effective. It must not only weaken the enemy; it must strengthen the United States. It strengthens the United States by denying enemy propaganda access to our people, and by explaining and emphasizing to our people the rationale for our national interest in a specific war.

Of course, to accept MindWar as “noninjurious” and “nondestructive”, we would have to ignore the destruction and injury such a practice perpetrates against freedom of thought, freedom of information, and freedom of expression. We would also have to ignore that, given the fact that in most cases and for obvious reasons (e.g. bumbling U.S. militarists’ inability to even speak “enemy” languages) it is more feasible for U.S. militarists to strengthen the U.S. national will to victory with programs like the “Message Force Multipliers” than it is for them to “destroy” the will of the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries to resist U.S. military occupations and bombing campaigns, MindWar perpetuates lethal operations and augments the death toll by keeping the U.S. populace compliant with the war effort and consistently failing to keep “enemy” populations submissive to occupation forces and unresentful of U.S. bombing campaigns. In what seems a telling Freudian slip, Aquino recently uttered, “MindWar […] was an attempt to […] stress out the conscious parts of the human mind, to sort of […] create a mind slave” [X].

Aquino’s twisted conception of “truth” is also revealing of the fact that we are dealing with a religious concept when we talk about Net-Centric Warfare and MindWar. Arguing that legal restrictions on PSYOPs which forbid them from being deployed against the U.S. public are wrongheaded, Aquino writes:

Under existing United States law, PSYOP units may not target American citizens. That prohibition is based upon the presumption that “propaganda” is necessarily a lie or at least a misleading half-truth, and that the government has no right to lie to the people. The Propaganda Ministry of Goebbels must not be a part of the American way of life.

Quite right, and so it must be axiomatic of MindWar that it always speaks the truth. Its power lies in its ability to focus recipients’ attention on the truth of the future as well as that of the present. MindWar thus involves the stated promise of the truth that the United States has resolved to make real if it is not already so.

Here we arrive at the eschatological aspect of U.S. militarist doctrine; it deals with the end of days or the end of an age. By laying claim to knowledge of future events, to the power to preordain or predestine the ultimate outcome of any given U.S. military endeavor (which will invariably be “victory”), Aquino invokes what Afrofuturism scholars dub “the futures industry”, a synthesis of the “scientific and corporate activity [of ‘big science’ and ‘big business’] into a relatively coherent narrative” which is “then [disseminated] throughout the world [by ‘global media’]” in this way exercising control over the future through the art of prediction and the imperial production of futurist narratives [Eshun, Yaszek]. Investment in the futures industry is evidenced by the work of think-tanks such as the “Project for the New American Century”, and the impetus towards an eschatological approach is demonstrated by U.S. policy-maker initiatives to transform the “War on Terror” into a “New Thirty Years’ War”. The interest of the bourgeois futures industry in occultism may also derive from the latter’s conceptualization of “aeonics” (“the magical manipulation of ‘psycho-historical’ forces” [Partridge, p. 632]) or “aeonic magick” (i.e. the kind of magic “concerned with producing large-scale [civilizational] changes [‘altering the destiny of millions of peoples’] over […] centuries” [X]).

Net-Centric Warfare as Black Magic

The first words had a magical aspect to them, and the modern word still retains much of the powerful magicality of the primitive utterance. With words, one person can render another happy or push them to despair, and it’s with the help of words that the professor transmits her knowledge to students, that an orator leads his audience to predetermined conclusions, affecting their decisions. Words provoke emotions and constitute the general means by which human beings reciprocally influence one another.

Sigmund Freud, in Introduction à la psychanalyse (1916) [Freud, p. 11]

In light of the exposition of the religiosity implied by Net-Centric Warfare theory and its constituent concepts (including but not limited to: the physical/information/cognitive domains, meme warfare, information warfare, operations other than war, and psychological operations), as well as the occultism of its state actor pioneers (Aquino/the Temple of Set) and non-state actor practitioners (the Alt-Right/the Cult of Kek), it is reasonable to expect that further unpacking Net-Centric Warfare in the context of its esoteric underpinnings will help to demystify its actual workings. As a consequence of seeking an answer to the question “What is Net-Centric Warfare?”, we have been been confronted by the pioneers and practitioners of it with the concept of “magic[k]” and a variety of “types” of it, including: meme magick, chaos magick, black magick, and aeonic magick.

When we talk about “black magic” in particular, it is possible understand a number of different things. It is commonly understood that “black magic” is the evil kind, while “white magic” is the good kind; the person whose words render another happy does white magic and the one who pushes another to despair does black magic. Black magic and white magic are also said to correspond to the terms “Left Hand Path and Right-Hand Path”. Some have argued that good and evil are relative to the perspective of the individual, the cultural or class grouping, and that for this reason “black magic” cannot be equated with evil, nor can “white magic” be equated with good. The Temple of Set’s Michael Aquino would be an example of someone who falls into this camp, in that, although his religious worldview is indebted to a profound degree to early modern occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Helena Blavatsky, he does not seem to like the fact that they used the terms black magic and white magic “simply to identify their moral biases” (in the sense that they upheld the convention that black stands for that which is immoral and white stands for that which is moral). For Aquino, “black magic” (or the “left-hand path”) does not imply any “moral or ethical stance”, since according to him, it refers to one of two approaches to magic in general “rather than to the ends to which [it is] applied” [X, p. 61]. However, given what we know about Aquino’s almost five decades of prominence on the Satanic cult scene, we cannot take his theory of morally ambiguous “black magic” as a pure abstraction; consideration of his actual life and career, which we have already seen was dedicated not just to serving, but also enhancing the efficacy of, the genocidal enterprise of U.S. militarism, might be taken as an indication of this particular approach’s predisposition to being used towards unethical ends.

A closer examination of Aquino’s discourse in Black Magic (1975-2010) reveals that his attempt to dissociate the concept of black magic from its common definition (evil) is mired in contradictions. Here Aquino argues that the ideal member of his Satanic cult is “initially amoral” but that the cult “does argue for a high personal ethical standard” which is based on a Platonic “love of and dedication to virtue for its own sake – not on social or religious-ideological conditioning, threats, or enticements” [Aquino, p. 4]. Elsewhere in Black Magic, however, Aquino does express clear concern about safeguarding what he calls the “ethical reputation of the Temple” [p. 40], noting that, “Only if [a Satanist is] known to be a strictly ethical individual will [his or her] freedom from social norms be tolerated. Otherwise [he or she] will be ostracized and probably persecuted by society” [p. 94]. Contradicting his initial claim that the Temple’s argument for its members’ high ethical standards is not based on “social or religious-ideological conditioning, threats, or enticements”, Aquino admonishes his followers that ritually sacrificing “any life-form” will result in “the offender’s immediate expulsion [from the cult] and referral to law enforcement or animal protection authorities” [p. 119]. Aquino again contradicts his initial claim of the cult’s recognition of the supremacy of the individual Satanist’s “personal ethical standard” over “social conditioning” when he elaborates on the formula by which the Satanist is to avoid persecution/cultivate an ethical reputation: he is to “determine not only whether [a particular black magic ‘working’] will be ethical in his eyes, but also ethical according to the cultural mind-sets of all other parties to the working” [p. 106]. We see thus that the Temple of Set’s concern about projecting out an “ethical reputation” as a law-abiding, non-human/animal (or even plant) sacrificing cult into the world functions as a defense mechanism, its “ethical reputation” being a mere shell to protect its actual mission, which is to create an “unsafe space” (since Aquino asserts that black magic is “dangerous”) for “freedom from social norms” and the “social morality” [p. 112] of intrusive “subjective universes” (Aquino’s term) of other psyches, to the extent that such freedom and occult deviancy can be cultivated without provoking ostracization and persecution by the wider society.

Aquino’s concern with dissociating black magic from its connotation of evil cannot be understood without apprehending his view that “‘good/evil’ values are merely appropriate for the profane masses, who can’t – and don’t want to – understand anything more precise” [p. 106]. Aquino’s attempt to dissociate black magic from its connotation of evil mirrors the way in which his conception of the net-centric MindWar doctrine was intimately tied up with the desire to dissociate U.S. militarism (particularly in Southeast Asia) from its connotations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Turning the basic question of what is good and what is bad into a mystical equation serves to transform that which is unethical (imperialist war, use of “black magic” to manipulate the “profane masses” into compliance with the former by painting it as “good” from the perspective of their class-blind/class-collaborative “national interests”) into that which is ethical. Publicly identifying oneself as a Satanist and establishing a cult institution with the exoteric façade of an “ethical reputation” rather than keeping one’s wacko beliefs to oneself would seem to serve the purpose of, not only empowering oneself and gaining social influence (to the extent that one can accrue cult members and rise in the military industrial hierarchy), but also transforming the lay public’s perception of Satanists into its oppositei.e. from equating Satanism with evil and unethical practices to equating it with decent, ethical people who don’t really want to hurt anyone.

What does make the term “black magic” problematic is not its moral connotation by itself, but this in combination with its racial one. We must be skeptical when accusations of “black magic” are levelled in order to smear that which is genuinely good. For example, televangelist Pat Robertson has infamously called Haitians “cursed” in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2010 for “[swearing] a pact with the devil” [X], in reference to the sacrificial Voodoo ritual performed in the Kayiman woods which is said to have initiated the slave rebellion against French rule, which was a revolution whose basis was the super-exploited and racialized enslaved proletariat of the island. From the perspective of international scientific socialist and transmodern decolonial communist ethics, the Haitian revolution was much more ethical than anything the Temple of Set ever dideven if we are to accept that the former did involve animal sacrifice and the latter wouldn’t hurt a flybecause it was revolutionary and promoted freedom while the latter was/is a cesspit of fascist U.S. militarist reaction. Certain African and Afro-diasporic artists have appropriated terms commonly associated with “Satanism” in Western thought such as “black magic” and “black mass” to affect decolonization. For example, in the music video to the song “Black Magic Woman”, the Ghanaian singer Azizaa plays up the notion of “black magic” and some of its tropes in a way that is feminist and coloniality-confronting. It is dubious however to suppose that the “path” of revolutionary or afrofuturist “black magicians” such as Dutty Boukman or Sun Ra is one and the same as that taken by imperial militarist or fascist “black magicians” such as Michael Aquino or David Myatt/Anton Long. Their paths could not be more opposite. Furthermore, two people cannot follow the same “path” and arrive at different ends, unless they started at different ends, and in that case one’s left-hand would be the other’s right.

Although it is genuinely possible to detourne “black magic” from connotations of evil as certain artists have succeeded in doing, we will nevertheless put aside the problematic “black is wack, white is right” racial baggage of the “black magic/white magic” distinction from this point forth and use the term black magic in the traditional sense of pertaining to that which is evil, as we move now to analyse bourgeois Net-Centric Warfare as it relates to the black magic worldview of its U.S. militarist, neo-Nazi, Satanist, and bigoted Eurocentrist neo-pagan pioneers and practitioners.

* * *

Many of the constituent concepts of the theory of Net-Centric Warfare can be read as analogues to those which are elaborated upon by self-proclaimed Satanic organizations. To illustrate these striking parallels, which show how the idea of “black magic” as it is understood/explained by Satanic groups meshes almost perfectly with that of “Net-Centric Warfare”, a three-column table is presented below. The first two columns in the table present the terminology used by the Satanic cults known as the “Temple of Set” and the “Order of Nine Angles”. According to religions professor Connell Monette, these are two out of the “three western esoteric groups that are openly aligned with the Left Hand Path” (i.e. black magic) [X], the other being the “Church of Satan” (founded by Anton LaVey in 1966 as the first above ground, openly Satanic organization). Monette’s claim is likely inaccurate (see other groups such as the Satanic Temple, Brotherhood of Satan, etc.though some of these may treat the figure of Satan as “symbolic”), but these are certainly what we might call “the big three”.

As previously alluded to, the Temple of Set split off from the Church of Satan in 1975 when many of its members became disillusioned with LaVeyan Satanism and can thus be seen as its successor, so LaVey’s cult has been omitted from the table. The Order of Nine Angles, meanwhile, is also said to have formed sometime in the 1960s or 1970s in Shropshire, England but takes a more “underground” approach. Its number of adherents is rumored to range anywhere from a handful of people or even a single individual using numerous aliases (David Myatt) all the way to anywhere from 300 to 2,000 people spread throughout the world [Monette, 2014]. Both the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles proclaim themselves to be genuine Satanists, with Aquino stating that the Temple upholds the “actual existence” of Satan and Myatt stating that the Order represents “traditional Satanism”. There are some signs that the Order of Nine Angles was influenced or took inspiration from the Church of Satan; e.g. its name is said to have been appropriated from a text called “Ceremony of Nine Angles” written by Aquino in 1971 when he was a member of the Church of Satan (although the Order claims its name comes “from an aspect of esoteric tradition which existed before [1966]”[X]) and the pen name of the Order’s primary theorist (“Anton Long”) also seems to have been pastiched from the name of Anton LaVey, former head of the Church of Satan.

One of the most fundamental differences between the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles is their approach to public relations. While the Temple, as we have seen, is concerned about maintaining an “ethical reputation” and not portraying itself as evil, the Order actively tries to cultivate an evil reputation. It does this in part by defending human sacrifice as “part of traditional Satanism”. To become a full-fledged “Adept” of the Order, one is expected to partake in what it calls “human culling” to “[remove] the worthless and thus [improve] the stock”. Monette mentions that ONA members are said to have joined police and military forces in seeking out opportunities to kill people and the Order also claims that in 2011, “several images were circulated on the internet of someone in NATO-issued combat fatigues with a NATO-issued weapon and next
to an O9A sigil [in Afghanistan]” [X].

In The Satanic Letters of Stephen Brown: Vol. I—which detail written correspondence between the Order of Nine Angles and the Temple of Set from 1990 to 1992 (in addition to ONA letters to third parties)the ONA criticizes Aquino’s group for instructing its members to disaffiliate from and disavow connections to Satanic groups and individuals advocating human sacrifice (e.g. the Order of Nine Angles) and pedophilia (e.g. the “Ordo Templi Baph-metis” and its magazine Abraxas, which were both under the thumb of a member of the Temple of Set named James Martin). Here the ONA derides Aquino and the Temple of Set as inauthentic Satanists, insufficiently loyal to the genuine “tenets of traditional Satanism” because their policy of public disaffiliation with persons openly calling for sexual abuse and murder constitutes “a code of ethics which members must adhere to”. In a true Satanic organization, the ONA argues, “there is nothing that is restricted or forbidden”.

However, it can also be remarked that the ONA’s literature is similar to that of Aquino’s in that it is riddled with internal contradictions. While human sacrifice and sexual abuse are necessarily permitted under the premise of “nothing is forbidden”, the ONA literature on “culling” nevertheless mentions that “victims [of human sacrifice] can never be children” and “voluntary sacrifices are always male”, thus positing restrictions on the practice [X, pp. 12, 14]. The fact that the ONA generally posits human sacrifice within a eugenics type framework (by virtue of likening it to “culling”) also contradicts the claim that the organization embraces evil, given that the supposed goal here is to improve the human race and do it good by transforming it into a more highly evolved god-race which Myatt calls “Homo Galactica”. The claim of “no restrictions” on individual members of the Satanic cult also disappears when the ONA literature notes that a “group wishing to conduct such a sacrifice with magickal intent must first obtain permission from the Grand Master or Grand Lady Master” [ibid., p. 12].

We also find in the Satanic Letters that in about 1986 or 1987 Aquino was a sent “a copy of a magazine called Ganymede” which had “a reputation in the UK for promoting pedastry and paedophilia” because “Martin had written an article” in the magazine which “was […] along those lines”. After members of the “Setian” priesthood were ordered by Aquino to “interview” James Martin, he resigned from the Temple. (This would have been right at the beginning or middle of the Presidio of San Francisco military base sex scandal in which Aquino was accused of sexually abusing dozens of children.) Additionally, it is explicitly revealed that at least one member of the Temple of Set, identified as “John [REDACTED]” later known by the alias “Richard Saunders or Bro Richard of Shropshire”, had a “working relationship” with the Order of Nine Angles via the “Brotherhood of Balder” (an organization in which he “held dual membership […] whilst a Priest of Set”). The Satanic Letters implicitly suggest a working relationship between the ONA and another (then) member of the Temple of Set, the New Zealand neo-Nazi Kerry Bolton, because in the Letters ONA member “Stephen Brown” (probably David Myatt) is forwarded a copy of and replies to an intra-Temple of Set letter between Bolton and a U.K.-based “David Austen” within a few weeks of it being sent.

Examine below each row from left to right as you observe the parallels between Satanic cult and U.S. militarist jargons.

Net-Centric Warfare as Black Magic:

Similarities in Conceptualization Between Occult Groups and the U.S. Military

Satanic cult jargon


U.S. militarist jargon


Temple of Set

Order of Nine Angles

Net-Centric Warfare

Objective Universe (OU)

  • “the vast expanses of space and the masses of animate and inanimate matter & energy occupying it”
  • “Non-conscious […] phenomena”
Causal World

  • “the ‘physical’ universe described by three spatial dimensions […] and linear time”
  • Being, order, linear, progressive, evolutionary
Physical Domain

  • “the place where the situation the military seeks to influence exists”
  • “where physical platforms and the
    communications networks that connect them reside”
  • “encompasses all the physical actions or stimuli that
    become the agents for the physical and
    psychological effects we seek to create”
Magical Link (ML)

  • “The concept of magic postulates that there is a continuous ‘linkage’
    generally referred to as the Magical Link (ML) – between the OU and [Subjective Universes]. Hence a change occurring in one will have at least a partially similar effect in the other.”
Gate/Nexion or

The Abyss (1)

  • “the region where the ‘acausal’ and the ‘causal’ meet”
  • “The individual is but a nexion: an affective and effective means of synchronicity, of
Information Domain

  • “Where information lives”
  • Where “collecting and reporting [of information] to create a shared situation awareness” happens
  • “encompasses all of the means of [translating] a
    cognitive response into physical actions”
Subjective Universe (SU)

  • “the ‘lenses’ or ‘windows’ through which the OU is perceived, assigned
    significance, and interpreted.”
Acausal World/Realm

  • Non-being, chaos, irrational, the Occult, magick
  • the universe (or universes […]) described by an unspecified number of spatial dimensions
    and by non-linear (or acausal) time.
Cognitive Domain

  • “in the minds of the participants”
  • “the place where perceptions, awareness, understanding, beliefs, and values reside”
  • Where “sensemaking [and] decisions are made”
  • “the domain of intangibles”
  • Its internal workings cannot be observed [Smith, p. 386]
Causal aspect

of the acausal world

  • Consciousness, rational thought, science, logic

  • “parts of the cognitive process” that are “observable”
  • “reflections of the cognitive domain decisionmaking process that occur in the information and physical domains”
The Abyss

  • “the ethereal chasm between that which man can systematize and that which is infinitely beyond the reach of his most advanced mathematical estimates” [X]
The Abyss (2)

  • “a connexion between the individual and the acausal”
  • “separates our everyday consciousness from the consciousness
    (and thus apprehension) of the Dark Gods”
Surveillance Systems

  • “the interface between the cognitive domain and the information
  • A connection between the reflections of the cognitive process that are observable and intangible awareness
  • “the means by which a stimulus is recognized and conveyed to a human or to a human organization”
Acausal aspect

of the acausal world

  • Unconsciousness, the unconscious mind
  • “The Dark Gods”

  • “cannot be measured,
    and therefore, cannot provide meaningful
Lesser Black Magic (LBM)

  • “language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts [the Objective Universe]”
  • “the influencing of beings, processes, or objects in the OU by the application of obscure physical or behavioral laws.”
  • “Applied / scientific / manipulative magic”
  • “the magician uses forces and features which are of the OU to accomplish his goal”
External Magick

  • “the use of energies [drawn ‘from the acausal’ via the ‘psyche’], directed by individual desire, to
    bring about changes in the causal”
  • “the changing of external events, circumstances or individuals in accordance with
    the wishes of the sorcerer”
Military Information Support Operations (MISO)

  • physical-information domain penetrating (external meme altering)
  • “an action creates a physical effect that […] crosses into the [information] domain”
Effects-Based Operations” (EBO)

  • a “combination of actions aimed at forming a specific model of behavior among friends, neutral forces, and enemies during peace, crisis, and war”
Greater Black Magic (GBM)

  • “language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts [the Subjective Universe(s)]”
  • “the causing of change to occur in the SU in accordance with the will. This change in the SU may cause a similar and harmonious change in the OU.”
  • “focusing of the will of the creative self to adjust features of the SUs (personal and others’) to the desired state, which may or
    may not be ‘real’ in the OU”
  • “a supra-rational
    experience, not a logical, scientific, or artistic exercise”
  • “Has no purpose other than itself”
Internal Magick

  • “the use of […] energies [drawn ‘from the acausal’ via the ‘psyche’] to bring psychic, internal change”
  • “magick used to bring about personal development (of consciousness and so on)
  • “used to provoke an altered state of consciousness, leading to a process of ‘individuation’”
  • “Always individual”
Medial Black Magic

  • Aims to alter the Objective Universe but via “metaphysical means”i.e. “the [Magical Link]” (as opposed to physical ones, as in “Lesser Black Magic”)
  • “Not as ‘pure’
    as true [Greater Black Magic]”
  • “no calculable cause-and-effect”
Aeonic Magick

  • Aim is “to influence large numbers of people over a long period of time, i.e. it is to influence ‘aeons’, either by altering or distorting existing forces, or creating new ones […] in order to change the evolution of man”
  • “is focused not on the sorcerer or her/his particular aims, but rather on the creating widespread (perhaps memetic) change on a social scale”
  • “enable individuals to
    fulfil their potential, evolve to become like gods and so on. […] the goals are seen as long term – of centuries of more. The aim […] is to increase the number of genuine Satanic Adepts, and to provide changes which enable this.”
Psychological Operations (PSYOP)

  • cognitive-information domain penetrating (internal meme altering)
  • “an action [taken by a state actor after going through a cognitive domain decision-making process] creates a physical effect that somehow crosses into the cognitive domain [of targeted populations], as an indirect effect”
  • Effectiveness can only be calculated, measured, or observed insofar as it is reflected in the physical and information domains
Black Magic

  • “the language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts upon all else”
  • there is “no turning back”
Black Magick

  • “an act of defiance against the restrictions
    imposed by the mediocre and the cowards”
  • practitioners “might bring you to the notice of the Intelligence Services” [X]
Black Operations/Black Ops

  • “Clandestine or covert operations not attributable to the organization carrying them out” [X]
  • Surreptitious: “kept secret, especially because it would not be approved of” [X]

Michael Aquino, Black Magic (1975-2010).


Jacob Christiansen Senholt, The Sinister Tradition (2009).

Anton Long, The Error of Egoism (2011).

Order of Nine Angles, Naos (1989).

Connell Monette, “Ch. 3: The Order of Nine Angles” (2014).


Edward Smith, Effects Based Operations (2002).

David Alberts et al., Understanding Information Age Warfare (2001).

As we can see in the table, the dynamics of Net-Centric Warfare are very much akin to those of “black magic”.

Firstly, the framework within which the psychological manipulation/black magic is posited to occur is similar. The elaboration of a trinity of “domains” in Net-Centric Warfare theory corresponds to a trinity of “universes”, “worlds”, or “realms” which are elaborated upon in the literature of the modern Satanic movement. Recall that the Net-Centric Warfare trinity of domains is in actuality a Cartesian duality between the physical domain and the cognitive domain. This dualism is paralleled by the Satanic cults, which call these two domains the “objective universe” or the “causal world” and the “subjective universe” or the “acausal world”. Like Net-Centric Warfare, they also posit some kind of mechanism for the transcendence of these two poles, the two fundamental domains/universes/worlds. In the case of Net-Centric Warfare, this intermediary is the “information domain”, while the Temple of Set refers to a “Magical Link” between the physical domain and the cognitive domain, and the Order of Nine Angles meanwhile calls this interstice the “gate”, “nexion”, or, alternatively, “The Abyss”a Crowleyan trope which has worked its way into the Satanic discourses of late-stage capitalism, along with the related idiomatic phrase “to cross the abyss”.

What is the pertinence of this notion of “crossing the abyss” to Net-Centric Warfare?

The goal of the practitioner of Net-Centric Warfare is to “cross the abyss” between the physical domain and the cognitive domain and vice versa. First, it is the awareness in the cognitive domain of U.S. militarist which acquaints him with knowledge of his will, which is to conserve and expand his physical dominance over the modern imperialist order via the military industrial complex. Then, and still in the cognitive domain, this awareness of his desire/will informs a decision-making process which results in the U.S. militarist selecting the course of action most likely to lead to best rates of non-threatening meme replication. The memes he desires to cultivate are non-threatening to him because they diminish and eradicate awareness in non-militarist cognitive domains of the need to abolish the U.S. war machine and militarism. Thus the will of the militarist crosses the abyss from his cognitive domain into the physical domain when it is enacted through cognitively-determined physical action. It is generally thought that the physical domain tends to influence or determine the cognitive domain to a much greater extent than the latter determines the former, thus with “proper” management of the physical-information domain, where external memes or “e-memes” reside, the cognitive domain of the civilian population can be determined by the will of the U.S. militaristthe consciousness and will of the civilian populace will align with U.S. military interests as the U.S. militarist engineered e-memes cross the abyss and become internal memes or “i-memes” in the civilian cognitive domain.

Mao Tse-tung problematized these dynamics in On Contradiction (1937), where he evoked the impact of the “mental on material things”:

When the superstructure (politics, culture, etc.) obstructs the development of the economic base, political and cultural changes become principal and decisive. Are we going against materialism when we say this? No. The reason is that while we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also—and indeed must—recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base. This does not go against materialism; on the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly upholds dialectical materialism.

Crossing the Abyss also happened to be the name of a white supremacist journal written by members of a hate group called the White Order of Thule which was widely circulated in U.S. prisons [Christiansen, p. 40]. The FBI has acknowledged that street and prison-based white supremacist criminal organizations operate in every branch of the U.S. military [X]. Net-Centric Warfare’s revelling in the notion that the socio-economic class configuration of physical dominance can, despite the inherently alienating and revolting character of capitalist society which leads naturally to the persistence “enemy” ideas, perpetuate itself virtually indefinitely through the willed engineering and “force multiplication” of information packages and policing the information “nexion” echoes the theses of Ragnar Redbeard in Might is Right as well as Francis Parker Yockey’s Imperium, pillars of the ultra-reactionary ideological program of the White Order of Thule, publishers of Crossing the Abyss [X].

Next we must examine more closely black magic itself. Both the Satanic cults under study uphold the existence of three different kinds of magic. For Aquino, the first kind is “Lesser Black Magic”, which he basically defines as a person’s ability to manipulate objects, or the objective behaviors of other subjects in the world around them, and doesn’t seem to involve anything particularly supernatural, other than a vague allusion to “obscure physical laws”. The ONA literature refers to that which Aquino calls “Lesser Black Magic” as “External Magick”, and defines it in such a way that the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other. At some point, Aquino likens “Lesser Black Magic” to the phenomenon of reciprocal influence which Freud alluded to above. Thus it is in keeping with the perspective that Satanism is a mere implement, and a universal one at that, rather than evil in and of itself (which he shares with the ONA) that Aquino stakes out the claim that “everyone in the world is practicing [Lesser Black Magic] on everyone else, usually unconsciously and usually extremely unskillfully”.

And it is with clear implications for his MindWar concept that Aquino notes:

[Lesser Black Magic] is also a useful technique in mass situations. The governing principle remains the same: to impel behavior at the subconscious level, to control
people without their realizing how or why they are being controlled.

Here we have Aquino explicitly conceptualizing MindWar/Net-Centric Warfare as a form of black magic. “Lesser Black Magic” or “External Magick” can especially be likened to what U.S. militarists call “Military Information Support Operations (MISO)”, which have in turn been closely associated with the idea of “Psychological Operations (PSYOP)”, although we might distinguish MISO from PSYOP in that MISO implies a lesser degree of “focus upon and glorification of the psyche”, targeting the physical domain and the external information domain (e-memes) as opposed to the cognitive domain and the internal information domain (i-memes).

Also compare Aquino’s description of the applicability of “Lesser Black Magic” to “mass situations” with Smith on “Effects-Based Operations”:

The main content of all “net-centric wars” consists of “effects-based operations” (EBO). This is the most important concept in the entire net-centric warfare theory developed in the US. EBO are defined by US specialists as a “combination of actions aimed at forming a specific model of behavior among friends, neutral forces, and enemies during peace, crisis, and war.”

The second type of black magic according to proponents of Satanic cultism is a more “mystical” type which Aquino calls “Greater Black Magic” and which Myatt calls “Internal Magick”. This is the only “esoteric” cult terminology under study here that does not seem to have a neat corollary in U.S. militarist jargon, although it could be likened to the way in which the soldier introspects after committing war crimes. By not becoming a conscientious objector despite taking part in a mass murdering organization, the soldier’s “subjective universe” or “acausal world” edges closer to “The Abyss” of suicide, now the leading cause of U.S. militarist deaths.

Both the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles also propose a third type of magic which can be likened to PSYOPs in that it synthesizes the concern with the “mystical”, non-observable cognitive domain with the more mundane, “observable” physical domain and focuses on the interplay between them. The Temple of Set calls its third type of magic “Medial Black Magic”; medial in the sense that it is in between the “Lesser” and “Greater” varieties, combining (1) the former’s concern with changing the “objective universe”/“physical domain” in accordance with the Satanist/U.S. militarist’s desire, with (2) the latter’s concern with expanding one’s mind beyond the conventional plebeian’s moral concerns about “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “evil” through Satanic ritual (becoming god-like by extricating one’s own individualist subjectivity from all other collectivism-tinged influences). The ONA’s “Aeonic Magick” is quite similar to “Medial Black Magic” in that it deals with the Satanist’s desire to self-deify or become god-like by influencing the course of human society long beyond one’s own “causal”/“physical”/“objective” lifetime, which involves efforts to “influence large numbers of people” with a long-term timeframe in mind. PSYOPs like the “Message Force Multipliers” do this by promoting memes (i.e. units of information) that, as an ensemble contribute to the construction of a general public perception about the “War on Terror”/“New Thirty Years’ War” that is desirable from the point of view of the bourgeoisie as it seeks to “[alter] or [distort] existing forces” in late-stage capitalist society but also “[create] new ones” which assure the project for the new U.S. militarist “aeon”.

The exaggerated difference of “aeonic” vision between the two Satanic cults parallels that between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in that Aquino is more Clintonian in the way he, on the surface, repudiates openly white supremacist movements and tries to dissociate his cult’s image from Nazism (despite having clearly flirted with it [see Wewelsburg castle incident where Aquino held a Satanic ritual and founded the “Order of the Trapezoid” at the former SS-cult site] and in practice recruited neo-Nazis, like Bolton) and seems more favorable to harnessing the existing force of U.S. neoliberalism with MindWar. On the other hand, the Order of Nine Angles is more Trumpian in the way that it embraces Nazism and the pseudo-“revolutionary” nationalist reaction to “globalism” which pretends that it is a “revolution” to stage a violent coup d’etat in which a reactionary element within the ruling class which favors closed borders and trade protectionism mobilizes mass petit bourgeois disdain against the progressive element of the ruling class which favors open borders and free trade by sublimating the impetus to address the root cause of the disease (discontent caused by the capitalist system) into addressing merely some of the symptoms or consequences of capitalist state management (such as deindustrialization, labor and capital migration flows), thus aiding the cause of counterrevolution by preserving class society. The sublimation of class conflict into a Spengler-inspired culture war between the “Faustian” and “Magian” elements allows figures such as Trump to seem superficially “revolutionary” while in actuality halting revolutionary movement, which is socialist movement from primitive communism back towards communism albeit in a different, advanced form, not fascist movement from liberal capitalism back towards semi-feudalism.

Another memetic correspondence (that’s to say, a similarity in theoretical understanding of mental content) between U.S. militarist discourse and that of neo-Nazi Satanism is revealed in their shared conception of units of information (memes) as living entities which are created after intangible feelings and perceptions render themselves tangible by entering the physical-information domain (in effect, through inter-dimensional travel). As Alberts (2001) argues in Understanding Information Age Warfare that information “lives” in the information domain, so the Order of Nine Angles argues that “once an image or idea is born by magick through the desire of an individual it will, if possessed of sufficient magickal energy at its birth, spread via the acausal to the minds of other individuals and generally becomes a form of living entity”.

Computer scientist and digital culture critic Jaron Lanier (whose work will be revisited below) has challenged this tendency to anthropomorphize information/memes, describing it as characteristic of a group he calls “cybernetic totalists” (perhaps an apt name for Net-Centric Warfare practitioners):

Cybernetic totalists love to think of the stuff as if it were alive and had its own ideas and ambitions. But what if information is inanimate? What if it’s even less than inanimate, a mere artifact of human thought? What if only humans are real, and information is not? [X]

Finally, there is the notion of “black operations” or “black ops” which is key to Net-Centric Warfare and which has an obvious parallel in the term “black magic”. The Satanic discourse of the ONA defines “genuine Black Magick” as “act[s] of defiance against the restrictions imposed by the mediocre and the cowards”. Thus it is no hyperbole to say that U.S. militarists practice black magick when they target U.S. citizens with PSYOP programs in defiance of the legal restrictions against this practice.

Given the apparent compatibility of theoretical models and overlap of personnel between U.S. militarism and the late modern Satanist movement, which parallels the closeness between British colonialism and the rise of the early modern Western esoteric movement in the cultural misappropriation by figures such as Crowley and Blavatsky of aspects of religions and mythologies indigenous to North Africa and South Asia (consider also that David Myatt was born in British colonial Africa), we might question whether, rather than exploring “Net-Centric Warfare as black magic”, it might actually make more sense to interrogate “black magic” as a construct (an engineered meme) of imperialism and U.S. militarism in particular. Here it becomes a question of which came first: the chicken or the egg?


“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

Karl Marx in The German Ideology (1845)

“Developing and leveraging information superiority” by means such as “memetic engineering” and “weaponizing cultural viruses” towards the ends of achieving “information dominance” (i.e. cognitive dominance) are just a few examples of the new idiom spoken the U.S. military industrial complex. This vocabulary has been developed in a conscious effort to refine the same process by which physical dominance via the capitalist state and its constituent “special bodies of armed men” translates into domination of the cognitive domain of subaltern humans by their ruling class “betters” which Marx described one hundred and seventy-one years ago.

Hillary Clinton and the U.S. ruling class support financial investment in Net-Centric Warfare with the expectation of dividends, believing that the forcible penetration of our cognitive apparatuses by a material reality which has been manipulated to impel behaviors favorable to the achievement of U.S. ruling class objectives will generate profit. The same investments have yielded returns such as MindWar, Meme War, PSYOP, and a variety of other right-wing militarist acronyms and buzz phrases. It is only natural that the opponent of imperialist war and militarism would regard these with the utmost suspicion. This wariness might arise not only from the origins of these terms but also from their appropriation by prominent white supremacists such as the Alt-Right and bigoted right-wing conspiracist outlets such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars.

But what if Net-Centric Warfare is, in itself, neutrala weapon or a tool which can be picked up and used for either “noble or ignoble” ends? Is it not tempting to believe that perhaps if the Left were simply to hone its meme-engineering skills and produce the correct meme(s), it/they will catch on, almost like magic? Why couldn’t the Left appropriate it and wage its own net-centric counteroffensive against the abysmal memes of the reactionary cloud?

Unfortunately, the “fittest memes” thrive not because they are more innately suitable to mimicry, but because they emanate from the ruling material force of society, which seeks to dominate all pivotal information-sharing networks. The etymology of the word “meme” implies that memes are, by definition, received ideas. Through mimesis, the status quo (of exploitation founded upon class distinctions) reproduces itself. Innovations to the capitalist system like financialization and globalization serve mimesis because they reproduce capitalism, while communist revolution brings forth authentic innovation in that it does not serve the reproduction of classes and exploitationit entails rupture with these. (Capitalism was itself a memetic innovation on feudalism as opposed to a revolutionary rupture in the real sense, insofar as bourgeois-democratic “revolutions” merely re-configured the dynamics of exploitation by class). What seems innovative in the net-centric approach is on the engineering side of the operation, while the memetic side is imitational. The engineer is the active subject, while the target’s cognitive apparatus is objectified, reducing the mind to a passive physical vessel which becomes infected by outside ideas and units of information (memes), themselves conceptualized as the living entities. The objectified cognitive apparatus is merely the host for the meme subject, which travels via networks.

The preceding exposition of Net-Centric Warfare has revealed that, like black magic, it is orientated towards the internal manipulation of receivers by the emitters/broadcasters. Something about this paradigm does not sit right, and is incompatible with an egalitarian approach which centers on inter-subjectivity. (Although this last formulation may be oxymoronic since inter-subjectivity supposes a multiplicity of centers, lacking thus any intrinsic “center”). Network-centricism, while ostensibly valorizing inter-subjectivity, in fact devalues it, promoting instead an attitude of subject-object manipulation. More precisely, this approach is actually subjectified object-objectified subject manipulation (in that, in the topsy-turvy world of Net-Centric Warfare, information is considered to be “alive” and the targeted cognitive apparatus is considered to be determinable).

These contrastive attitudinal orientations (inter-subjectivity v. subject-object manipulation) correspond to egalitarian and hierarchical modes of thought and behavior. The hierarchical mode of Net-Centric Warfare is witnessed in its arborescent schemathe cognitive domain of the U.S. militarist MindWar technician or PSYOPS engineer represents the underground, occult roots of the “the tree”, whose trunk corresponds to the physical-information domain and is memetically determined by their engineering effort. Branches reach out from the trunk of the tree into the collective cognitive domain of the members of the populace, who are plugged into the network interface of the meme-implanting tree. For Deleuze and Guattari, “All of the logic of the tree is a logic of calque and reproduction […] The tree articulates and organizes calques into a hierarchy, the calques are like the leaves of the tree” [X, p. 20]. (Cf. the “Tree of Wyrd” employed by the Order of Nine Angles, another [ironic] case of calque, a mashup and imitation of the “Septenary” of Theosophy with the “Tree of Life” or Sephirot from Kabbalah which has been altered enough to fit into an anti-Semitic form of mysticism. The Order of Nine Angsty neo-Nazis claims of course to have culturally misappropriated only Judenrein texts and artifacts from “ancient sources that are Hellenic, Arabic, Persian, and Indic” [X, p. 27]). If the tree is hierarchy and “filiation”, then the rhizome is said to represent “alliance” [X, p. 36]. The rhizome concept could thus provide a possible starting point for considering revolutionary alternatives to Net-Centric and Memetic Warfare.

The danger of buying into militarist doctrines like “net-centric operations” and “meme warfare” lies in the implicit worldview bourgeoisification which doing so necessarily entails. The fact that theories of net-centric operations and meme war are presented as objective scientific descriptions of the dynamics of warfighting and not as political arguments per se augments the temptation to adopt these principles. They are, however, anything but neutral. Their implicit promotion of the subject-object (or subject-objectified subject) manipulation attitude is a prime demonstration of this, and a good reason to be wary of them.

Let us recall that, for PSYOP officer Aquino, the idea of MindWar was this: “Essentially you overwhelm your enemy with argument”. And, “[You explain] and [emphasize] to [your] people the rationale for [your] national interest in a specific war”. But what if you didn’t need to present people with arguments to compel them to think or behave according to your wishes? The reality of this possibility is confirmed by computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who writes in You Are Not a Gadget (2010), “We [technologists] tinker with your philosophy by direct manipulation of your cognitive experience, not indirectly, through argument”.

Once you begin to model your thought (and therefore your action) along the lines set out by U.S. militarists, whether you do so using the lexicon of Memetic/Net-Centric Warfare or that of a Satanic cult, you have succumbed to a form of mental colonization not dissimilar to what Lanier calls “the process of lock-in”. Lanier uses this expression to refer to the way in which software transforms the subjective worldview of the programmer into what the user of that software perceives as an objective cyber-world. Lanier compares “the process of lock-in” to “a wave gradually washing over the rulebook of life, culling the ambiguities of flexible thoughts as more and more thought structures are solidified into effectively permanent reality”. Adopting Net-Centric Warfare-esque or memeticist thinking has a similar constricting effect.

The fact that net-centric operationsespecially when considered in the broader sense in which their (pseudo[?]-)demilitarized applications impact ongoing cultural development such as through that series of net-centric operations called the “world wide web”have fomented new and “innovative” forms of fascist reaction (e.g. the meme-centric Alt-Right) cannot be overlooked, and there is something to be said for the argument that the current configuration of this increasingly commercialized network also inclines it towards political reaction.

If we consider the notion of “Web 2.0”, one of the most, if not perhaps the single most increasingly pivotal element of the information domain which Net-Centric Warfare practitioners seek to dominate, as a meta-meme in and of itself, we see that it functions like an operating system which reduces the capacity for critical thought by promoting:

  • (1) the user-generated meme-upvote-downvote construct as the predominant information domain interface which the internet-accessing masses encounter, combining encouragement of reactionism, passivity, and non-creative deferment to the hive mind with the illusion of participatory empowerment,
  • (2) “meme-splicing” as the predominant expressive mode of the middle classes, whose creativity is limited to “second-order expression” (i.e. expression “made of fragmentary reactions to first-order expression” [Lanier, p. 82]),
  • and (3) “memetic engineering” as the reserve of ruling class media moguls, monopolizing “first-order expression” (i.e. the sort of expression which “presents a whole, […] that integrates its own worldview and aesthetic[, and is] genuinely new in the world” [Lanier, p. 82].

The big social media and social networking platforms may be considered higher order, engineered memes, while the user or “community” member, may be considered to engage in meme-splicing when they generate “original” content, in that they connect and weave their micro-meme into the fabric of the pre-existing higher order meme, although one may be hard-pressed to qualify many of the micro-memes as “genuinely new”; each one is simply another post, tweet, update, etc. barely distinguishable from the others. Still, the interface encourages the bulk of user activity to remain passive (lurking, scrolling) and reactive (liking, favoriting, retweeting, upvoting).

Much of Lanier’s previously cited book is dedicated to criticizing “cybernetic totalists”a name he uses to describe “one subculture of technologists [which] has recently become more influential than the others”. According to Lanier, the capital of “cybernetic totalism” is the Silicon Valley, whence was spawned a new “digital culture” whose “central mistake […] is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that [it ends] up with a mush,” lifting up “the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless”.

Lanier also unpacks the quasi-religious, eschatological character of these technologists’ transhumanist belief that the noosphere, the collectively harnessed power of individual human consciousnesses, will one day form an immortal Singularity or that the internet itself will develop its own god-like consciousness, echoing a common theme which we have already covered here.

Furthermore, it is this subculture’s penchant for anonymous trolling and the hive mind concept which leads Lanier to believe that “with millions of people connected through a medium that sometimes brings out their worst tendencies, massive, fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly”.

Developments in the 2010s have proven that last piece of speculation, about the potentially menacing real world implications of “cybernetic totalism”, somewhat premonitory, such as when misogynistic users of the Web 2.0 platform “4chan” began cheerleading and encouraging mass shootings in 2012 [X]. The year 2016, with the marriage between digital meme culture and neo-Nazism seen in the rise of the Alt-Right to mainstream prominence, also seems to bring us closer to realization of Lanier’s 2010 speculation about embryonic Silicon Valley-inspired fascist mobs.

An antifascist writer by the name of Josephine Armistead provided in mid-2016 a relevant overview and analysis of the roots and emergence of this new breed of Information Age fascism identified with “neo-reaction, or ‘NRx’” as well as the Alt-Right in “The Silicon Ideology” (2016). Armistead concludes the report with the recommendation that “neo-reactionaries must be fought on their own ground (the internet), and with their own tactics”. But given that their tactics include things like “meme magick”, we might take this recommendation, at least in part, with a grain of salt.

Digital meme culture is not particularly conducive to the preeminence of critical thought. If it was, it would not have devolved into far right mysticism. It is rather conducive to the preeminence of calque and imitation. It is a branch sapping from the sickly tree of Net-Centric Warfare. We cannot be sure what or who exactly are at the roots of this tree, though it might well be folks like Michael Aquino and Paul Valley. Hives hang from the branches of this tree. Jaron Lanier is of the belief that “we will only escape” the imitative and second-rate cultural production of the memetic zeitgeist “when we kill the hive”. But what if the whole damn tree is rotten?

Liberation demands that we assault not just the bad “reactionary memes”, but the pseudoscience of memetics itself. The attitude of subject-object manipulation is anathema to revolutionary movement-building. The subaltern force of society will become the ruling one not because a radical hive mind spawned a vanguard cloud of “dank commie memes” which infected the minds of the proletarian masses, nor because it sufficiently “downvoted” reactionary memes, but because it overcame the meme-upvote-downvote construct. The revolution will not be memeticized.

But anyway, here’s a meme:


Together with Russia?

A Critique of the Pro-Sino-Russian “Anti-imperialism” Trend in the USA and Western Europe, or Part I of a response to “Position paper from Red Guards Austin, 2016”

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

17 July 2016

The appearance of new political centers for the advocacy and advancement of Marxian revolutionism in the United States is a good thing. It would, however, be unreasonable to suppose that any one of these centers is infallible, no matter how grounded in the “science” of whatever “-ism” it pretends to be. Revolutionary agitators, organizers, and educators should avoid the pitfalls of sectarianism and provincial-particularism-cum-universalism by remaining open to the ideas emitted by a panoply of political centers (which need not necessarily be constituted by sects), moving in this way towards a decolonial transmodern pluriversalism as an authentic universalism. The potential mass organization of futurity operating on a genuine democratic centralism need not conceptualize its constituent political centers as tentacle-like “branches” sprouting from the sectarian center of one metropolitan province, but as disparate centers, autonomous in and of themselves, which link up, like the social individuals who exercise agency in coming together to take part in the formation of a collective, even though they may not have been previously “related” in the mundane sense.

It is in this spirit of critical open-mindedness that I received some of the criticisms of American left-wing activist groups that a Maoist-oriented organization based in Austin, Texas and calling itself the “Red Guards” after the eponymous Red Guards of 1960s China made in their 2016 position paper “Condemned to Win!”. What follows are some of my reflections on what they put forward in that paper, which serves also as a launch pad to further elaborations.

Allegations of bogus “anti-imperialist” posturing

The author(s) of “Condemned to Win!” see as problematic a trend they identify among the formally organized leftist groups in the United States (and beyond) in the form of a vulgar anti-imperialism which they call “alternative-imperialism”. They argue that one “cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.” Others have argued exactly the opposite. For example, that there is at the present moment no such thing as Russian imperialism and that you cannot oppose imperialism without standing in solidarity with certain key policies of the government of the Russian Federation [X, X]. Before we can evaluate both lines of argumentation about how we are to oppose imperialism and come to a sound conclusion as to which one, if any, is correct, we must first consider what imperialism is, what its essential features are today, and how developments in imperial systems over the course of the last one-hundred years which have passed since the “classical” Marxian theorists first described modern imperialism might change our orientation towards it.

A brief overview of “imperialism” and its development

Human societies have been confronted by something we might call “imperialism” (the system of empire) for thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries that a number of political theorists (the “classical” Marxians) began to elaborate analyses of a new form of imperialism that was qualitatively different from that of Imperium Romanum or Manden Kurufaba. Whereas in those ancient and medieval empires, outgrowths of the earliest agricultural class societies, the basic schematic elements of imperialism (the amassing of wealth and privilege by members of one class and/or polity to the detriment of others, combined with an expansionist thrust) could be found in practices of conquest, colonization, enslavement, tribute collection, and vassalage, the arrival of modernity signalled the beginning of a long process of progressively layering new features onto the imperial schema, as well as transforming or discarding some of the old.

While the embryonic capitalism of the first modern empires arising around the 15th century CE preserved many of the trappings of the older class system of feudalism, such as the continued predominance of artisanal and handicraft-type manufacturing, their distinctive novelty was in the emergence of a wealthy and powerful merchant class associated to a large extent with the transatlantic triangular trade.

A middle phase of capitalism seemed to be inaugurated when these empires underwent industrial revolutions and holders of capital in the form of “large-scale machine industry” (prefigured by those plantation-capitalists who made factories out of the land and machines out of human beings) became the principal basis for an imperialist power elite. In this middle phase of empire (safeguarding some of its predecessor’s traits as had its predecessor kept some of those of the system preceding it), factories, mills, and industrialization were concentrated more densely in the imperial “core” or “metropolitan” countries, the objective being to plunder resources and raw material from the “savage” peripheries, refine/assemble/upgrade them into more valuable finished products with “civilized” know-how, and sell them back in the colonies at a profit, fulfilling in this way a little bit of the mission civilisatrice through commodification and exports.

But by the “late stage” of capitalism, which we seem to still be stuck in and which had already begun to take shape by the time the classical analysts of modern imperialism produced their theories, new developments in the financial sector signalled another shift; the financier, the rentier, the investor, the banker, the holder of a more abstract and vertically concentratible form of wealth called finance capital began to supersede the robber baron industrialist of yesteryear as the archetypal representative of the power brokering imperialist class.

It is the superior vertical concentratibility of wealth permitted by financialization which allows modern imperialists, in what would seem a paradox to those of olden days, to “[exploit] inequalities in the world economy” by outsourcing industrial capital to poor (“Third World”) semi-peripheral to peripheral countries—dismantling their factories and mills at the heart of “civilization”, setting up shop in places where labor is sold at a fraction of the cost—and importing the manufactured goods to the core (at an immense rate of profit to the core-based financier, of course). And though the (super)exploitation is palpable, these imperialist profiteers claim to be doing a favor to those neocolonial countries by providing them with “more jobs”. The industrial core becomes the rust-belt, and “hard work pays off” becomes more jobs, more poverty.

It is the topsy-turviness of this stage in which “certain of [capitalism’s] fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites” that Vladimir Lenin identified as being at the essence of modern capitalist imperialism. Another important inversion of capitalism’s fundamental characteristics, one identified by Lenin, is the transition from free competition to monopoly; that is, the lessening of competition, the greater concentration of power in lesser numbers of hands. Ironically, apologists for today’s monopoly capitalism defend this system by barking about mythical “free markets” at the mere insinuation that trust-busting state intervention might threaten to undermine their rate of return investment.

The newest imperialist phase

Lenin described imperialism as the transition from “free competition” to “monopoly” in 1916, one-hundred years ago. To what extent has monopolization progressed since then?

Answering the question of whether or not monopoly capitalism has progressed to such an extent that we face before us now a form of imperialism (call it “unipolar imperialism”) in which Empire is axed around a unique central core—a monopole—centered in the United States, perhaps on Wall Street, is paramount to determining whether or not it is anti-imperialist to rally behind the proverbial barricades of pro-Russian and pro-Chinese forces as they make their stand against American Empire. Clearly the United States played a hegemonic role in world affairs throughout much of the last two (maybe even three) centuries and it has continued to play that role throughout this century. It is the dominant great power in the world today in terms of military, economic, political, and perhaps pop-cultural force… the top dog, so to speak. But is it the only great power capable of contesting international hegemony? The only dog in the fight for monopolization?

In “The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital”, University of Oregon sociology professor and Monthly Review magazine editor John Bellamy Foster identifies three key “classical” Marxian analyses of imperialism: Bukharin’s Imperialism and the World Economy (1916); Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913); and Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Foster argues that these analyses “were responses to a period of international instability, marked by the decline of Britain as the hegemonic power in the world economy and the rise of competing nations, particularly Germany and the United States, leading in the ensuing struggles to the First and Second World Wars” [X]. Thus the imperialism which they grappled with was clearly multipolar in nature, emanating from more than one center. Indeed, for Lenin, “an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony”. Lenin also noted that, despite monopolization being a trend towards severely reduced free competition, monopolies nevertheless “do not eliminate [free competition], but exist above it and alongside it, and thereby give rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts” [X].

Foster also suggests that there is now a ubiquitous belief among leftists that “the world has entered a new imperialist phase” which “is widely referred to as neoliberal globalization”. Given that many of the theorists of this 21st century phase of imperialism highlight major differences from the classical Marxian theory of imperialism outlined by thinkers like Lenin, key among these differences being the shift from multipolarity to unipolarity, a new name is needed. If “imperialism” was the stage of capitalism described by Lenin in which inter-great power rivalry and conflict was “an essential feature”, and if today capitalism is essentially different in that it has reached a stage where such rivalry is non-existent, giving way in its stead to a unilateral global assault by fascistic Empire, we must give this stage a name to distinguish it from the fundamentally dissimilar stage described by Lenin and other classical Marxians a hundred years ago.

Theories of “super-imperialist” neoliberal globalization

Some (e.g. Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, William Robinson, and Leslie Sklair) see the latest stage of capitalism (neoliberal globalization) as being led by a deterritorialized and/or transnational state entity one might name simply “Empire”; not centered in any one nation-state but represented by multinational corporations and privately contracted security/mercenary/intelligence firms, much of its wealth is hidden away in offshore accounts, only a fraction of which was revealed by the Panama Papers. Foster further relates that Robinson’s idea that “globalization involves a supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” is said by Ernesto Screpanti, another 21st century imperialism theorist, to be the approach “that today most nearly replicates the outlook of Kautsky’s ultra-imperialism”. (Kautsky, a German Marxist leader and contemporary of Lenin, forewarned at the beginning of the 20th century of a coming imperialist phase in which “the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital in place of the mutual rivalries of national finance capitals” would take place. Lenin mocked this theory as “notorious” [ibid] and “ultra-nonsense”).

Others (e.g. Michael Hudson, Peter Gowan, Leo Panitch, and Sam Gindin) make the case that neoliberal globalization represents the ascendency of a quasi-“all powerful” American Empire which dispossesses all other empires. In this analysis, Europe and Japan have become wholly-owned subsidiaries of American Empire. These theorists call the current stage of capitalism “super-imperialism”, a term which Lenin also used a synonym for Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism.

What both of the theories of neoliberal globalization described above seem to share is their acceptance of “end of history”-style narratives of the post-Cold War era. While the first emphasizes the beginning of inter-imperialist co-operation—the deterritorialized ultra-imperialist Empire is made possible through capitalists’ class conscious realization that transcending the obsolete form of the nation-state will lift impediments on their ability to accumulate wealth via multinational corporations, the second theory posits the end of inter-imperialist conflict through American Empire’s victory over great power rivals Germany and Japan in two world wars, further cemented in place by the apparent defeat of Communism seen in the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, political revolutions and coups in Eastern Europe, the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and the defeat of Central American national liberation movements. Nevertheless, the theory of deterritorialized transnational Empire, although many elements of it resonate, seems, for now, to fit better on the pages of sci-fi books than in objective analyses of the dynamics of imperialism in the present, for who can deny that the division of the world into nation-states continues to be very real and significant? Whoever denies this has surely never travelled across any international border that is not between the US and Canada or outside of the Schengen Zone. Foster’s essay further points to the fact that although the “reach [of multinational corporations] is global[,] their property and their owners have a clear national base”. It is the second theory of neoliberal globalization, that which posits it as the project of a uniquely American “super-imperialism”, that seems to justify the pro-Russian/Chinese position, and which needs unpacked.




Sino-Russian regroupment against neoliberal globalization?

With the exit of the Soviet Union from the world stage, why are the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation increasingly paired in any informed discussion of 21st century global geopolitics? How was this rapprochement possible after the outright disavowal of Marxian ideals by Russia’s post-Soviet political system (ideals which are still paid lip service by the Chinese leadership), given the legacy of the three decades long Sino-Soviet split, born from the Chinese Communist perception that the Soviet Russian Communists were revisionist traitors to the cause, “bent on seeking Soviet-U.S. co-operation for the domination of the world”?

In parallel to the emergence of a new scheme to implement a US expansionist drive on the global level at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st (in large part dependent upon the discovery/construction of NATO’s new raison d’être: “radical Islamism”, perhaps with Russian containment coming in a close second), notoriously outlined by the think tank “Project for the New American Century”, Sino-Russian rapprochement took shape through the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a political, economic, and military alliance between China, Russia, and several Central Asian states, which is on course to expand and incorporate several other states in the near future, including India and Pakistan as soon as this summer (putting China in the awkward position of being in alliance with a capitalist state’s decades long fight against Maoist rebels), as well as Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia. This realignment of great powers was a sure sign that the predicted era of global unity and long-lasting peace founded on the evolutionary plateau of “liberal free market democracy” heralded by Fukuyama after the disintegration of the Soviet Union was an illusion. Furthermore, the fact that both of these strategic initiatives (the “Project for the New American Century” and the Sino-Russian regroupment) essentially occurred in tandem indicates that, rather than one initiative being purely reactive to the other, the bourgeoisies of each great power were simply following the imperial logic of carrying out the struggle for international hegemony.

Opponents of American “super-imperialism” paint this trend towards regroupment outside the spheres of US-EU-Japanese influence as strictly anti-imperialist. For them, it is a question of nations seeking to liberate themselves from “Dollar Dependency” and “Debt Peonage”. In this perspective, China and Russia are “ex-empires which have taken the political decision to become mutually dependent on each other, […] creating [a] symbiotic relationship.” Brazil and South Africa are posited as potential collaborators with the SCO in a bid to “create a new, dollar-free and independent economy and market” [ibid].

But the ideological basis of this supposed “anti-Empire alliance” has nothing to do with any kind of Marxian class conscious objection to the underlying logic of late stage capitalist development. The “anti-super-imperialists” demonstrate a willingness to overlook the Sino-Russian national bourgeois leadership at the heart of appeals to the possibility of a “dollar-free and independent economy and market” through SCO-led “anti-super-imperialism” as an alternative to neoliberal globalization. The underlying suggestion here is that, with the right balance of power between global bourgeois forces, fairer and freer conditions can be won under capitalism which would put some wind in the sails of the working class movement. These “super-imperialism” analyses posit the national bourgeoisies of Russia and China as classes who unconsciously advance the movement towards socialist revolution.

Even if one does accept the premise that the SCO represents strictly an oppositional bloc to Empire, that is, the theory of “super-imperialism” as the end of inter-imperial rivalry through the arrival of an all-powerful US-led Empire on the world stage, this nevertheless downplays the presence of tension between the United States and its imperial allies and the possibility of rising antagonisms in those relationships. A variety of these antagonisms can be identified: American policymakers have openly discussed plots to “[take] the Saudi out of Arabia”, replacing the House of Saud with “the Hashemite monarchy that now rules Jordan”. Another example would be a leaked phone call that revealed antagonism between the US and EU with regard to the Ukraine conflict, with the Assistant Secretary of State telling the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, “Fuck the EU.”

A modest decline in US imperialism’s ability to enforce policy objectives through brute militarism seems to be evidenced by two key trends. First, there is the fact that another quasi-unilaterally US-implemented “coalition of the willing”-style invasion à la Iraq and Afghanistan seems increasingly unfeasible as it would be incredibly unpopular and likely lead to an undesirable backlash for the US bourgeoisie. Secondly, there are also signs of Europe and Japan emerging as independent imperial militarist centers. Top EU officials have called for the formation an EU military force. German leaders have recently discussed the need to amend their country’s constitution to allow for leeway in military adventures in Iraq [X, X], while Japan has in the last year lifted constitutional restrictions preventing its military from carrying out overseas assaults [X]. The Japanese government is also fostering its own military-academic industrial complex by directing universities to abolish social science and humanities departments and move towards weapons research, including notably weaponized robotics research.

Pro-Sino-Russian revolutionary US defeatism, pan-defeatism, or “neither victory nor defeat”?

For subjects in the heart of American Empire who desire to see the defeat of capitalist neoliberal globalization and the wars and neocolonial occupations that go along with it, it is of paramount importance to determine whether the material dialectic flipside of this equation is the victory of the bourgeois great powers China and Russia.

Important questions must be asked:

  • If revolution is not immediately feasible in the Bible-thumping heartland (much less the liberal-progressive cosmopolitan burgs) of American Empire, will the defeat of the latter at the hands of a Sino-Russian-led alliance facilitate the revolutionary movement in the core?
  • If the ruling capitalists in China and Russia are victorious in facilitating the unhinging of US hegemony, will this accelerate the revolutionary movements in those Eurasian countries?
  • Should socialists in the United States and the European Union hail the Russian social-patriotic defense of the fatherland in Donbass and Lugansk as a historically progressive struggle? And what of the Russian military intervention in Syria, ostensibly on the same side as the US military intervention?

During much of the First World War, Lenin endorsed a policy called “revolutionary defeatism”. Lenin posited revolutionary defeatism as the axiom that “during a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government”. Lenin was careful to explain that this policy of calling for the defeat of the Russian Empire did not imply a desire for “the victory of Germany” as its compliment [ibid]. Instead, it was held that “in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government” [ibid]. Here Lenin presents revolutionary defeatism not as the argument that German victory would be a “less evil” outcome of revolution in Russia throwing a wrench in the country’s war machine than a continued costly struggle for Russian victory and defense of the tsarist fatherland, but that Russian defeat would accelerate the revolutionary movement in Russia, making the defeat-slogan a call to defeat all imperialisms; the transformation of imperialist war into civil war would spread to Germany and “the German victory [would] be short-lived”. It was not a pro-German defeatism, but an anti-imperialist pan-defeatism. If we accept Lenin’s 1915 formulation, that proletarians of “all” imperial core areas must desire the defeat of their own government (implying that in a colonial national liberation war, proletarians do not need to wish for the defeat of their government), the answer to the questions posed above then depends on whether we see modern Russia and China as imperialist in the modern sense, a question which we will return to later.

The idea of “revolutionary defeatism” was not a new one on the Russian political scene when Lenin was writing about it in 1915. A prototype of the call for “revolutionary defeatism” was deployed by Russian revolutionaries a decade earlier, during the inter-imperialist Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In that earlier instance however, Lenin’s explanation of what revolutionary defeatism entailed was quite different from the one he offered during the First World War. While, during the First World War, Lenin tried to distance the notion of revolutionary defeatism from formulations that “[put] the question in the form of a choice between military outcomes on the government plane”, Hal Draper argues in The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism” (1953) that Lenin was in fact guilty of doing exactly this as he deployed a lesser evilist line of argumentation for defeatism that glamorized Japanese imperialism as a progressive force during the Russo-Japanese War. Draper further shows that Soviet (Stalinist) historiography covered up this inconsistency between Lenin’s early pro-enemy nation defeatism and later pan-defeatism out of embarrassment. (Lesser evilist, pro-enemy nation defeatism being considered an error—Lenin and Trotsky split on the question of the defeat-slogan during the First World War with Lenin criticizing Trotsky’s characterization of Russian defeatism as implying a desire for German victory, a difference which the supporters of Stalin were keen to play up in an effort to discredit Trotsky as thoroughly un-Marxist-Leninist). Draper’s book makes the case that Lenin actually abandoned slogans of revolutionary defeatism after returning from exile in Switzerland after the February Revolution (in March 1917) and realizing that it was too “theoretical” and out of touch with the common people of Russia, many of whom were not chauvinistic “social patriots” but had “defensist sentiments” out of an instinctual desire to defend their country from oppression; they “[accepted] the war only as a necessity and not as an excuse for making conquests” [Lenin].

Draper points to the fact that during the 1904-1905 war, “pro-Japanism in the sense of desiring the victory of Japanese imperialism but also in the sense of ‘idealizing’ Japan as a progressive force” was commonly associated with the policy of revolutionary defeatism. He explains that “a ‘desire for defeat’, tended to merge this sentiment into its obvious consequence: a wish for the victory of Japan”. It is in an article written by Lenin in 1905, after the surprise attack on the Russian naval fleet in Manchuria, “The Fall of Port Arthur”, where he exhibits most strongly the pro-enemy nation essence of his formula for revolutionary defeatism at that time. But what was the basis for this Japanophilia?

In “The Fall of Port Arthur”, Lenin writes, “Advancing, progressive Asia has dealt backward and reactionary Europe an irreparable blow.” At that time, the Empire of Japan was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization, developing free market capitalism following the end of sakoku isolationism. Japan was a constitutional monarchy with a House of Representatives while Russia was a semi-feudal absolutist dictatorship with no constitutional law.

Key to Lenin’s enthusiasm here for the “advancing” and “progressive” character of Japanese imperialism was the notion that Japan was at a higher stage of social development than Russia. Lenin rebuked his contemporaries who argued “that a socialist could only be in favour of a workers’ Japan, a people’s Japan, and not of a bourgeois Japan” because, this, he argued, “is as absurd as blaming a socialist for admitting the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”.

Lenin reiterates this point several times over:

“The proletariat is hostile to every bourgeoisie and to all manifestations of the bourgeois system, but this hostility does not relieve it of the duty of distinguishing between the historically progressive and the reactionary representatives of the bourgeoisie.”


“While struggling against free competition, we cannot, however, forget its progressive character in comparison with the semi-feudal system. While struggling against every war and every bourgeoisie, we must draw a clear line in our agitational work between the progressive bourgeoisie and the feudal autocracy; we must recognise the great revolutionary role of the historic war in which the Russian worker is an involuntary participant.”

If we transpose this formula for revolutionary defeatism by the progressive power which states that, when conflict arises between two bourgeois great powers, the bourgeoisie of the more socially advanced nation plays a revolutionary role in dragging forward the bourgeoisie of the backwards nation, then the 21st century “anti-imperialist” enthusiasm for the “progressiveness” of the national bourgeoisies of China and Russia quickly loses steam, because, in the Leninist schema for stages of economic development, monopoly-finance capitalism is a progressive outgrowth of free competition under industrial capitalism. If, in 1905, capitalist, constitutional Japan was more advanced than semi-feudal, autocratic Russia, then it follows that today the measure of a great power’s progressiveness is the degree to which it has developed socially by transitioning via financialization from the more primitive system of nation-state-based industrial capitalism to the “higher”, more “civilized” system of free transnational trade: neoliberal globalization.

A proponent of this view might argue that the neoliberal austerity measures implemented across the Global North in recent years are progressive in that, in globalizing poverty, cutting the social benefits/privileges found only in the wealthy countries, and dismantling the welfare states whose construction was only possible with Marshall Plan imperialist superprofits, they reduce the inflated living standards of the labor aristocratic imperial core middle class and professionalized workers and their excessive consumerism run amok. By polarizing the rich-poor divide in wealthy countries and rendering the petit bourgeois downwardly mobile (proletarianizing them), as well as trending towards multiculturalism, the revindication of postcolonial centripetal migrations of labor as a path to reparations, and the dissolution of the nation-state system, neoliberal globalization sets the stage for a globalized class struggle, wherein a super-rich global ruling class and a global poor face off in struggle relatively freed up from the hindrances of national division.

While the old school Marxian theorists supposed that it would be the working class socialist movement which would carry out the task of establishing “the future union of peoples in a single world economic system, which is the material basis for the victory of world socialism” [Stalin], neoliberal globalization confronts us with the possibility that this system may be brought about not by proletarian revolution but by bourgeois-globalist revolution. This is what makes neoliberal globalization, as opposed to neoconservative protectionist isolationism, progressive from the scientific perspective.

Proponents of “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” base their argument for the progressiveness of the defeat of American imperialist machinations as a whole or partial result of the strategic initiatives of the Russian bourgeoisie on the denial of Russia being imperialist. For proponents of this position, as we shall examine more closely in sections below, Russia is a non-imperialist capitalist power not because it has advanced to a higher stage of development than US capitalism, but precisely the opposite: because it is at a lower stage; privatization has not progressed as far as in the West (much of its industrial capital is state-owned) and its economy is not as financialized as that of the US. And since it is assumed that Lenin’s conclusion that it is only in imperialist countries that socialists must subscribe to defeatism is a scientific axiom, it is therefore thoroughly un-socialist to desire the defeat of capitalist, underdeveloped Russia. But if we accept the kind of pro-enemy nation defeatism espoused by Lenin during the Russo-Japanese War and its accompanying lesser evilist proposition that scientific socialists must admit “the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”, then one is forced to uphold the American bourgeoisie as progressive as compared with the backwards Russian bourgeoisie. While the American bourgeoisie is leading negotiations for significant new free trade measures such as the TPP and T-TIP, the Russian bourgeoisie and its satellite bourgeoisies in Belarus and Kazakhstan are the most protectionist in the world [X, X]. Other SCO states, including China and India, are also world leaders in protectionism [X].

Take a step back from this economism and, on the cultural plane, the outlook for a “pro-(Sino-)Russian anti-imperialism” is not much better. Although critiques of “pink imperialism” accurately point out the shamelessness of imperial recuperation of the struggle for LGBTQIA+ liberation and the absurdity in the idea that rights for gays will come to Afghanistan via American drone campaigns, reactionary outbursts against “Gayropa” from the Russian state and Orthodox and fundamentalist Christians do not under any circumstances lend themselves to progressiveness. Western “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” lefts seem blissfully unaware, or just don’t care, that their counterparts in the East base a significant part of their case against integration into neoliberal globalization on socially conservative arguments against a culturally decadent West. In Eastern European states town between US/EU and Russian great powers, it is the Soviet nostalgic pro-Russian “socialists” who propose laws to, in their own words, “do everything possible to stop propagation of homosexuality and the destruction of Christian values and the traditional family” [X, X].

Nevertheless, it does seem that, in slowly backing away, at first from the pro-“progressive enemy” and quasi-two-stagist narrative of revolutionary defeatism as the triumph of modern bourgeois-democratic liberal capitalist imperialism over outmoded semi-feudal autocratic capitalist imperialism in the Russo-Japanese War to the pan-defeatist calls for simultaneous revolutions in Germany and Russia (and all state participants in the inter-imperialist conflict) during the First World War, and then away from defeatism tout court after the bourgeois-democratic February Revolution to an appreciation of the “‘conscientious’ revolutionary-defensism” of the Russian masses, Lenin discretely abandoned the defeatist formula because it had become a roadblock to revolution.

So is it this “revolutionary defensist” path which allows us to transcend the binary trap of “victory or defeat” which implicitly excludes the possibility of working class leadership in its formulation of inter-capitalist conflict as a sadistic restaurant of mass slaughter where the only items on the menu are those outcomes offered by bourgeois governments? Only if the addition of a transcendental “third way” was somehow enough to everytime set us free from the trap of binary thinking. Alas, we have merely shifted to another duality: “victory or defeat” or “neither victory or defeat”. What is clear is that revolutionaries must blaze their own trails.

In the words of the cat-dog:

“All categorical options are a trap. There are not only two paths, just as there are not just two colors, two sexes, or two beliefs. The answer is neither here nor there. It is better to make a new path that goes where one wants to go.”

The anti-austerity fightback attempts to apply a kind of revolutionary defensism of social benefits and public services under attack, though its successes seem to be relatively few and far between. But this kind of defensism, if it is not principled, can easily slip into chauvinism, e.g. from defending the right to a job to the “right” to defend against an immigrant competing for a job.

Revolutionaries within US Empire must assess to what extent the masses sincerely accept the “War on Terror” and its next phase which US military policymakers call “The New Thirty Years’ War” as a necessary evil—some kind of just war—and not just a cynical “excuse for making conquests”, before calculating how effective defeatist-sloganeering might be. Certainly the effects of sustained mass hysteria following 11 September 2001 must be considered. Broadcasting Twin Tower collapses on repeat was a powerful trigger for defensive instincts and amplifying perceptions of an oppressive Axis of Evil “hating us for our freedom”, but its effect may be wearing off. If such sincere defensism does still exist on a mass scale, the defeatist slogan may prove counterproductive to anti-imperialist mobilization. On the other hand, if defensism has become largely insincere, with young people joining the US military for its promises of career advancement and the chance to “see the world”, all while basically knowing full well that it is fighting for imperial hegemony and hydrocarbon conquest, then perhaps embracing desire for defeat still has its place. In that case, it is important to articulate who—what social forces—will defeat US militarism and global economic exploitation: Sino-Russian capitalists leading a new economic bloc against Dollar Dependency and Debt Peonage, low-class Westerners leading a struggle against capitalism, a combination of the two? If we opt for the first or the third, we must ask whether socialist struggle in China and Russia to defeat those nations’ bourgeoisies parallel to the low-class Westerners’ struggle undermines the SCO economic project.

Revolutionaries in Russia and China, meanwhile, are advised to determine to what extent NATO’s geostrategic war games and containment policies foster genuine sentiments of oppression among the masses there. In those places it might also be considered to what extent scaremongering about the decadence of Western culture can also be used to project class antagonism between the workers and the national and comprador bourgeoisies within those countries externally. If Russian and Chinese proletarian comrades come to the conclusion that they are indeed at the butt end of a super-imperialism, then they must determine whether antagonism and strife between them and their patriotic national bourgeoisies undermines the struggle against super-imperialism.

But it must also be clarified whether a non-super-imperialist country can still be imperialist in the sense of a lower stage of imperialism; for the Old Bolsheviks certainly did not negate in their scientific analysis that the underdeveloped Russia of 1905 was imperialist, even if it was a semi-feudal imperialism, qualitatively different from the higher stage imperialism of Japan. The Chinese and Russian revolutions, though they failed to bring about a socialist world, did fulfill the development tasks of the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution in their countries (i.e., they are no longer “semi-feudal” to any significant degree; the veneer of “socialism” was used to build monopolies through state ownership of industry).

Thus it is the supposition of “super-imperialism” (again, that is unipolar globalist imperialism—unforetold by the classical Marxians but by Kautsky) as marking a revolutionary new stage of capitalism that begs the question of whether the socialist revolution in countries poorly integrated into the super-imperial globalized system no longer faces before it the “simple” task of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and instauring the socialist stage of development, but must also carry out the task of the bourgeois-globalist revolution before it can move on to the socialist and communist stages. It is this suggestion, that a unique and new historical stage of development has been reached, or is being reached by something we must call bourgeois-globalist revolution, where the revolutionary class is the transnational bourgeoisie who grows class consciousness, attacks and overthrows the reactionary national bourgeoisies and which sheds the old imperialism of its essential feature of inter-great power imperialist rivalry, which justifies the characterization of China and Russia as backwards (non-imperialist) countries. The thesis of neoliberal globalization as unipolar super-imperialism negates the old school Marxian idea that the union of peoples into a single world economic system “can only be voluntary, arising on the basis of mutual confidence and fraternal relations among peoples”. The decolonization wave of the 1960s did indeed “lead to the crisis of world capitalism” [ibid], but capitalism managed to survive this crisis by initiating the bourgeois-globalist revolution of neoliberalism, instauring a neocolonialism which seems immune to the old school national liberation movements.

The confusion of “pro-Sino-Russian anti-imperialism” is in the fact that it is reactionary against the bourgeois-globalist revolution for the wrong reasons. It opposes the globalist half of the revolution but embraces the bourgeois half. This is inherently and doubly un-socialist because the socialist revolution is, if not globalist, not socialist. Socialist revolution in the 21st century must carry out, in addition to the expropriation of the means of production, certain tasks of the bourgeois-globalist revolution associated with “supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” (e.g. removal of barriers to free movement of labor [passport privilege], removal of protections which sustain inequality between countries). Socialist revolution cannot and will not be led on by nationalist and protectionist bourgeois forces.

Towards a sharper critique of masquerading “anti-imperialism”

Now let us go back to the allegation of the Red Guards Austin introduced at the beginning of this essay that a trend exists among certain Western leftists to substitute opposition to American imperialism with support for alternative imperialist projects, namely Russian and Chinese.

There are varying degrees to which this trend is realized. In its mild form, opposition to imperialism downplays the imperialist ambitions (if not outright real imperialistic actions) of foreign capitalist polities engaged in self-interested resistance to the ongoing process of US-led neoliberal globalization. In its severe form, opposition to imperialism is essentially reduced to cheerleading what we might call, if not imperialist, petit-imperialist and aspiring-imperialist forces who are engaged in contests for international hegemony not with the aim to abolish exploitation or liberate countries from neocolonial subjugation, but to increase their own competitivity in global markets. No matter the severity, at the heart of this tendency is the substitution of principled revolutionary opposition to all imperialism (not only “super-imperialism”) with opportunistic enthusiasm for the weakening of one country’s imperialism at the hands of powerful capitalists from another, or a powerful coalition of capitalists from multiple others.

Vulgar anti-imperialism (anti-super-imperialism) is akin to championing the plight of mom ’n’ pop shopkeepers displaced by Wal-Mart, calling it anti-capitalism, and accusing any worker who criticizes their small business boss of being a Wal-Mart PR Rep or an ultra-leftist unwittingly undermining solidarity with the enemy against the bigger enemy. Vulgar anti-imperialism is the projection of the petit-bourgeois populism of “Main Street versus Wall Street” or “the super-rich 1% (billionaires) versus the 99% (including ‘middle class’ multi-millionaires)” onto a global scale.

A number of would-be “anti-imperialists” have appeared out of the woodwork in recent months and years to weave twisted defenses of 21st century Great-Russian “social patriotism” [X, X, X, X]. These polemics are no doubt reactionary outbursts to geopolitical developments which point towards the re-emergence of Russia as a great power in inter-capitalist competition following the brief disorientation triggered by Soviet collapse: namely, the Russian Federation’s decisions to annex the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 (first colonized by the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century and home to a strategically located Russian naval base) and to intervene militarily in Syria (also home to a strategically located Russian naval base [X]) in 2015 (still ongoing). These confused would-be opponents of imperialism deny that spacefaring, nuclear warhead-armed, expansionist [X] polities like the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are highly advanced capitalist states, claiming that they have not yet developed monopolistic capitalism.

What happens when you discard the fact of monopoly capitalism’s essential multipolarity: the tragic case of the “hardcore anti-Germans”

An apt comparison might be made between this anti-Americanism cum anti-imperialism and a heterogenous political identity claimed by some radicals leftists in Germany known as Antideutsch (“anti-Germans”). The anti-Germans argue that German national identity has been so tainted by the legacy of the Holocaust and Nazism and that it stands as a barrier to internationalism and the struggle against capitalism. They reject the notion that the left can “rely on the German working-classes”, the vast majority of whom harbor “a deep authoritarian disposition”. One anti-German group calling itself sinistra! explains the tendency as “a radicalization of anti-national theory” whose roots go back to the First World War, when Karl Liebknecht remarked that “the most dangerous enemy is to be found in your own country”.

Where anti-Germans stand out from much of the left is in their self-declared solidarity with the state of Israel and their prioritization of the critique of antisemitism masked in anti-Zionism. But where the tendency really veers away from the vast majority of what we conceptualize as “the left” is in their embrace of Americanism. Like with the “anti-American/pro-Russian anti-imperialists”, this embrace of the “enemy” varies in degree from group to group. It is said that “all anti-Germans […] denounce anti-Americanism” because of the German heritage of Nazi resentment at American and Allied troops (and not the German left) preventing the full realization of the Final Solution which they allege occupies the core of much of Germany’s anti-Americanism.

The embrace of the myth of the “progressive enemy” in its more severe form described by the anti-German sinistra! group is not pretty:

“[S]ome anti-German groups (often referred to as ‘hardcore anti-Germans’, although this term might be quite misleading) made it a point to celebrate every single move in American foreign politics in the past and present. Instead of just giving the US credit for the major role they’ve played in defeating Nazi-Germany in World War 2 and thereby putting an end to the holocaust, these groups are drawing close similarities between WW 2 and the “War on Terror”. By this they are putting the reactionary and anti-Semitic regimes in the so called Islamic world on one level with the Nazis. This is not only a serious minimization of the nazi era and the holocaust, but also a violation of the (radicalized) categorical imperative of Karl Liebknecht, that the main enemy is one’s “own country”. These anti-Germans see themselves on the side of civilization and declare Islam their main target instead of Germany.”

Like the “hardcore anti-Germans”, the “hardcore anti-American imperialist” tendency makes the error of discarding the essential multipolarity of imperialism. Further, Liebknecht wasn’t calling for the defeat of German Empire at the hands of Russian and American imperialisms, but by a revolutionary social movement led by its own working class.

Coupling Liebknecht’s axiom with the acceptance of the unipolarity of imperialism leads to lesser evilist thinking: “If, as an American, my enemy is my ruling class, then it’s good if the Russian ruling class hurts my ruling class. If Russians of the subaltern sort get fed up with their government’s participation in wars in the Ukraine and Syria and form an anti-war movement that leads to decline in Russian influence there, then Ukraine will join NATO and turn away from Russian/SCO protectionist capitalism and Syria will undergo regime change, and that’s what my enemies at home want so that’s bad.” The moment you accept this lesser evilism, you begin to look to the Russian ruling elites as your friends instead of the common people of Russia. Taken to its extreme, this “hardcore” tendency to make saviors out of perceived foreign enemies can lead to even more cringeworthy iterations than “pro-Russian anti-imperialism”. Some would-be leftists in the West apply the same faulty way of thinking to extend “critical support” to ISIS as an enemy of US imperialism [X]. Sometimes this phenomenon even works in reverse, such as when American white supremacists managed to receive official DPRK sponsorship for their self-declared support and solidarity for the besieged North Korean state [X].

The Liebknechtian “enemy at home” theme of anti-Americanism can soon be forgotten when one begins to accept the idea that American imperialism is the only imperialism in the world today. Focus is displaced in the same way that the “hardcore anti-Germans”, in their unthinking embrace of Americanism, forgot that Germany was supposed to be their main enemy. By assimilating the American ruling class point of view, they began to view America’s main enemy du jour, “radical Islam”, as their main enemy. The same process of displacement and forgetting occurs with the “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” variety of anti-Americanism. When one adopts this attitude, one begins to see the cohesion of the “most realistic” social force for the defeat of US imperialist machinations (i.e., Sino-Russian/SCO-led capitalism) as more essential than organizing or mobilizing in one’s own Western community, where the people are too brainwashed, unreliable, holding a deeply reactionary disposition. Whenever one adopts any sort of “pro-enemy” anti-imperialism, there is a real danger that the struggle against the enemy at home is displaced by prioritizing the struggle against “the enemy’s enemies” wherever they are, often leading to cheerleading because those enemies are physically nowhere near the “anti-imperialist” living in the heart of Empire. The pro-Russian Westerner begins to spend more time sharing Russia Today articles, complaining about Pussy Riot psyops, and speculating about the collapse of the dollar as the world reserve currency, than he does organizing and mobilizing to defeat empire at home. And even if he does take this step, it is to organize a pro-Russian micro-sect whose members’ activity are directed to amplifying the cheerleading he would otherwise do individually. He begins to fret as much about Ukrainian enemies as American ones, if not more.

Russian monopoly-finance capital

The majority of the “anti-imperialists” we have been discussing here bank their thesis of (Sino-)Russian non-imperialism on the presence of lower levels of finance capital found in countries like Russia (and China) relative to countries like the United States, France, Britain, and Japan. They argue that finance capital does not dominate the Russian economy in the same way that it does in these other countries, and therefore it is not imperialist.

But here they have abstracted one essential feature of imperialism outlined by Lenin (the importance of finance capital’s role) from the synergetic whole and discarded the equally essential notion that imperialistic monopolization can never totally eliminate competition. Although imperialism’s monopolization and elimination of free competition is not equivalent to the implementation of centralized economic planning, the latter was used to varying degrees to modernize Russian and Chinese imperialisms. Indeed, as we have seen, the supposition of a super-imperialist elimination of all imperialist competition requires adjustments to old school Marxian theory; it requires admittance of a new stage of development unforeseen by most of the classical Marxian scientific social theorists. In other words, supposition that Russia and China’s successful bourgeois-democratic and failed socialist revolutions during the 20th century have not pretty much brought them up to speed with the rest of the imperialist world only makes sense in the case that the rest of the imperial great powers have entered, and are already quite advanced in, a new revolutionary period; namely, the idea that neoliberal globalization is in fact a bourgeois-globalist revolution. On the other hand, the Sino-Russian rapprochement and its expansionist policy to incorporate the South Asian subcontinent into its own almost demi-global economic bloc shows that there are now two great camps vying for hegemony to carry out the bourgeois-globalist revolution according to their own interests. Within each camp there are antagonisms too innumerable to cover here.

The other problem with the “not enough finance capital in Russia and China for them to be true imperialists” argument is that this ignores the vast discrepancy between the levels of finance capital in Russia and China relative to the smaller sovereignties whose territories fall within the Russian and Chinese traditional imperial spheres of influence, which date from the pre-capitalist period.

Before looking at the inequalities between China and Russia and their supposedly “ex-”imperial spheres of influence, it is important to iterate the notion of continuity between semi-feudal, national capitalist, and globalist capitalist imperialisms, including the American and Western European empires. It is certainly no coincidence that pre-capitalist empires have a tendency to become monopoly-finance capital empires. Russia and China are no different in that Russian and Chinese “socialist” dominion over what were once semi-feudal empires evidences both a lack of true socialist commitment to unification of peoples on a voluntary basis as well as continuity between imperialisms. Bourgeois-democratic modernization under the veneer of “socialism” allowed 20th century Russian and Chinese nationalists, many/most of whom likely genuinely thought they were Communists, to save their backwards semi-feudal empires from being transformed into colonies of the more advanced empires by reversing the order of the Western recipe for modernization by implementing nationalization-cum-monopolization before and in parallel to industrialization. (In other words, free competition was ended in order to accelerate development to a level which would increase competitivity vis-a-vis other monopoly capitalisms).

One “anti-imperialist” analyst and apologist for Great-Russian chauvinism identifies a group of countries “very poor in finance capital” among which are categorized Russia and “most of the Eastern European countries”, as if the Russian Federation were on equal finance capital footing with the Republic of Moldova, when in that country 70% of the banking sector is controlled by Russian capitalists. It was in Moldova, said to be the poorest country in Europe, that a scandal dubbed “the theft of the century” unraveled last year in which a sum equivalent to one-eighth of the country’s GDP (about one billion USD) was apparently syphoned off to a pro-Russian politician. To give an idea of the scope of this neocolonialist robbery, this would have been proportionately equivalent to over 262 billion USD “disappearing” from Russian banks and funneled to a foreign country.

“One can only conclude that foreign investment, far from being an outlet for domestically generated surplus, is a most efficient device for transferring surplus generated abroad to the investing country.” – Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy in “Obstacles to Economic Development”

The migrant flow from Moldova to Russia also resembles that seen in other neocolonial-type relationships, such as that between Mexico and the United States. It is said that “foreign remittances constitute 30 percent of [Moldova’s] GDP – ‘and 60 to 65 percent of these remittances come from Russia’”. In recent years, Russia has used denial of entry to Moldovan migrants as a means of economic sanction and intimidation to deter Moldova from opening up to trade with the West [ibid].

The intermediary strength of Russian capitalist imperialism is apparent here. Russian finance capital does not dominate globally to the extent of US capital, but it is clear that it plays a petit-imperialist role in regional markets. To deny this would be to paint the relationship between Russia and countries like Moldova as one in which each party comes to the table as an equal, overlooking the inequalities of this nested financial core and periphery relation existing semi-independently of the global core-periphery schema. Middle countries like Russia and China are not at the vanguard of neoliberal globalization, nor however are their throats under the jackboot of it. They do have some aspects that could be characterized as semi-neocolonial; for example, the exploitation of Chinese workers by American corporations like Apple, which takes more than 98% of the profit for each iPhone assembled in China [Foster], but they are nevertheless capitalist great powers whose ruling bourgeois cliques’ class character is more patriotic nationalist than comprador. The simultaneous appearance of semi-neocolonial aspects does not negate the monopoly type relationship between the banking sectors of countries like Russia and Moldova or perhaps China and North Korea or the imperialist logic behind SCO bids to unseat US hegemony or at the least prevent US encroachment into their spheres of influence. They are simply less developed, poorer great powers, but imperialist nonetheless.

We can already anticipate what the apologists for petit-imperialism will retort to such facts: this imperialism “doesn’t count” because Moldova is a former Soviet republic that had previously been annexed by the Russian Empire after a semi-feudal inter-imperialist (and therefore not really imperialist) war between the Ottoman and Russian Empires; there are a lot of Russian settler-colonizer descendants there; and US/NATO/EU imperialism is bigger and badder; and therefore countries colonized by Russia should keep adhering to Russian capitalism. But this is exactly what makes “alternative-imperialism” an apt name for this position. The authors of “Condemned to Win!” are right to declare, “You cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.”

The binary political thinking of vulgar “anti-imperialism”, an international analogue to domestic lesser evilism in the two-party system

The illusion-sowing and myopic opportunism of Westerners who deploy “‘pro-enemy’ anti-imperialist” analysis of foreign affairs is mirrored in their countries’ domestic politics. It must be understood how and why lesser evilism drives reactionary approaches both abroad and at home.

We can observe the fundamental similarity of these two lesser evilisms by continuing briefly the case study of Moldova introduced above, where, much like in eastern Ukraine, the “Party of Socialists” engages in pro-Russianism, based more on nostalgia for the Soviet era than on any genuine will to build socialism, by using as its slogan, “Together with Russia!”. Together with capitalist Russia, together with undocumented migrant-exploiting Russia. Thus in Eastern European countries Democrats and Republicans find their analogues in pro-Westerner and pro-Russian political camps. The difference between “Together with Russia!” and “Together with Europe!” is as palpable as “I’m with Her!” and “Make America Great Again!”.


“Party of Socialists – Together with Russia!” (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Let us take as another example the case of NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. Certain sections within America’s organized Left moved beyond agitating to arouse opposition to US-led NATO intervention, into the pitiful realm of attempting to arouse admiration for the Libyan Jamahiriya, the “state of masses” and land of universal health-care, vast sums of free money, and direct democracy as a legitimate and “actually-existing” form of socialism. This push to switch and/or pair opposition to US imperialism with support for the Islamist “socialist” ideology concocted by Muammar Gaddafi in The Green Book [X] is mirrored in the attempts of the organized US Left to switch and/or pair opposition to that edifice of the US bourgeoisie’s class dictatorship known as the two-party system with support for the pseudo-anticapitalist Green Party of Jill Stein and Cynthia McKinney, in whose personnage we see perhaps most clearly the rapprochement between Green political movements of the Islamic “socialist” and environmentalist varieties. (Note that voting for an evil third party does not constitute a break with lesser evilism).

Opportunistic adhesion to “actually-existing socialism” abroad (which places the political center “out there” to the detriment of emerging political centers “over here”)—whether it’s in the form of shrieking defensively about the the “state of the of the masses” in Libya, the “socialist state control of industry” in secular Arab national “socialist” Ba’athist Syria (the same state that agreed to systematically torture people on behalf of the CIA “in a gesture of goodwill towards the United States”), or the world’s youngest “Red-Brown” coalition-based “people’s republics” in Donbass and Lugansk—follows the same logic which leads too many left-wing activists in the US to rally behind (without voicing much, if any, criticism) the “actually-existing movement for political revolution” in the US, even though this movement remains firmly opposed to social revolution with weak sauce ideologues like Bernie Sanders, Robert “Saving Capitalism” Reich, and Jill Stein at the helm.

When this part of the US left forces do finally arrive at the call for a bourgeois (Green) break with the two-party system, it’s only after they abandon Wall Street’s left wing and graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party, with great reluctance. Even into July 2016, some “socialist” two-party system critics still had such hyped-up levels of delusion in the “progressiveness” of elements of the Democratic Party that they were still openly discussing the possibility that Bernie Sanders would break from the Democrats to run as a Green Party candidate, even though he announced many times his intention to support Hillary Clinton.

At home and abroad, work with bourgeois forces competing to implement their mildly differing imperialist visions of capitalist globalization, some a little more protectionist, some a little more neoliberal. These are the courses of action, the arguments go, that will “advance the working class movement”; because by tossing another big-contender reformist pro-capitalist party in the electoral mix, you pave the way for a revolutionary mass party of the working class, and by deluding yourself into believing that Bush-Cheney C.I.A. torture infrastructure was partially socialist, you pave the way for the final annihilation of monopoly capitalism. Although it is common for groups advocating these positions to pick one or the other—lesser evilism abroad (pro-Russian but anti-two party system) or lesser evilism at home (pro-Green/Bernie but anti-‘vulgar anti-imperialist’), they really evidence two sides of the same coin.

In truth, people who cannot argue for the defense of Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and so many other countries from the US war machine, or breaking with the two-party system, without sowing illusions in and glamorizing the lacklustre leadership of these causes (Gaddafi, Putin, Stein, Sanders, et al.) show the hollowness and bankruptcy of their own thought.

The theories espoused by United Kingdom-based blogger and “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” Phil Greaves (picked here as an example of the wider trend and political current he represents) illustrates the mistake of reducing anti-imperialism (and therefore imperialism) to mere policy options that great powers can pick and choose in whether or not to implement. This is the same error which Lenin criticized Kautsky for making a century ago, when he lambasted Kautsky’s non-sensical talk of a unipolar imperialism that did not take into account “the competition between several imperialisms”:

“The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy ‘preferred’ by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which, he alleges, is possible on this very same basis of finance capital.” [X]

According to Greaves, the bourgeois government of the Russian Federation implements certain key “objectively anti-imperialist” [X] policies (which good Western leftists ought to “support” by joining good pro-Russian [“Communist”] organizations in the West) by sending its military to intervene in Syria against ISIS and in Ukraine against the pro-Western government installed after the Maidan movement (both identified as fascist US puppets). This abstracts politics from economics by positing that Russia, an imperialist country (because, as we have seen, it uses monopoly finance capital to exploit countries in its sphere of influence in a neocolonial fashion), can in one place be “objectively imperialist” and in another be “objectively anti-imperialist”. One can only come to the conclusion that the Russian bourgeoisie has implemented a “bad” imperialist policy decision in Moldova, while at the same time implementing a “good” anti-imperialist policy decision in Ukraine and Syria, if one wears the ideological blinkers of an unscientific school of “thought” we might term neo-Stalinism.

Concluding remarks

Going back to the catalyst of this essay, the 2016 position paper of the “Red Guards” of Austin, Texas also resonated with me in their condemnation of the vulgar Third Worldism of the Jason Dumbruhe and LLCO variety, which I criticized some months ago here on my blog. The Red Guards Austin note, as I did, that this Third Worldism originated on Ivy League campuses.

In this essay I have focused on the critique of vulgar anti-imperialism, an area where I found myself to be in agreement with the Red Guards Austin. There are nevertheless some areas where I feel the Red Guards’ positions, which are not unique to their group, should be contested. I will present the bulk of these criticisms in Part II of my response to “Condemned to Win!”. In light of their self-declared willingness to accept criticism, I hope that Part II and the following section will be received by them in a comradely fashion.

It has to be admitted that use of the term of derision “bastard” is problematic and stands in dissonance with Red Guards Austin statement that they “hold that bad gender practice is not acceptable for Maoists and that rectifying this should be given the utmost priority, without delay, excuses, or liberalism.” The term “bastard”, having arisen in English common law as a synonym for “whoreson”: the child of an “illegitimate” sexual liaison, is steeped in misogynist and patriarchal thinking. The Oxford dictionary informs us that the etymology of the insult “bastard” is ultimately Latin, coming from the word bastum which means “packsaddle” and entered the English language via the related Old French expression fils de bast, “son of a mule driver who uses a packsaddle for a pillow and is gone by morning” (compare with modern French fils de pute). Formulations found in “Condemned to Win!” like “arch-revisionist bastard Deng Xiaoping” and “bastards like Krushchev, Brezhnev, and their crews” are no less problematic bad gender practice than if they were to refer to these people as “sons of bitches”.



“Dirty War” Revelations Could Impact Race for the White House

Top Democratic and Republican contenders rub elbows with high profile individuals implicated in U.S. sponsored genocide, receive their endorsements

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

Much hullabaloo has been generated by the recent six day foray of America’s First Family into their “Backyard”. Arriving in Havana on March 20th, 2016 before heading to Buenos Aires on the 23rd and back to Washington on the 25th, President Obama visited two countries whose relations with the United States have rightly been described as being strained at best.

While President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit long embargoed Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, in the case of Argentina, it’s only been 11 years. When George W. Bush took a trip to Argentina in 2005 with the goal of shoving neoliberal free trade dogma down South American throats, he provoked riots in Buenos Aires and saw then Argentine president Nestor Kirchner side with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Lula da Silva in rejecting the Washington Consensus. This moment is seen now as a milestone for the then rising “Pink Tide” in South America, as well as an important step towards the creation of UNASUR, the South American alliance viewed as a challenge to U.S. hegemony in the region (1).


Hugo Chavez, Nestor Kirchner, and Lula da Silva: nefarious trifecta of 21st century “anti-Americanism” (photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obama’s trip to Argentina coincided with the 40th anniversary of the March 24, 1976 coup d’etat that instaured a six year reign of right-wing, quasi-fascist State Terror that some have dubbed the “Dirty War”: a campaign of severe political repression carried out under U.S.-backed dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and a succession of five other military junta rulers who held power until 1983. They called their extraordinary and murderous measures the “National Reorganization Process” (or El Proceso for short). Originally justifying El Proceso under the pretext of subduing left-wing guerrilla groups, the repression actually intensified after the armed “terrorists” (in actuality mostly just violent protesters) no longer posed an actual threat, and it began targeting anyone deemed “subversive” to Western and Christian values: political dissidents, student activists, intellectuals, artists, gays, Jews, and so on (2). Some 30,000 persons labelled subversive were murdered or “disappeared” (giving us the term desaparecidos). Similar to the “MindWar” doctrine of psychological warfare developed by U.S. intelligence operative Michael Aquino in the early ‘80s, the Argentine militarist leadership came to view the mere expression of left-wing ideas as grounds for designation of political opponents as enemies of the state:

“A terrorist is not just someone with a gun or a bomb, but also someone who spreads ideas that are contrary to Western and Christian civilization.” – Jorge Rafael Videla

The campaign of social-thought repression was transnational. El proceso was only the Argentine iteration of a wider conspiracy to commit state terror in the name of anti-communism known as “Operation Condor”, which affected almost every South American nation between 1968 and 1989 and was made possible in large part thanks to U.S. sponsorship via the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Obama visit also comes just three months after the inauguration of Mauricio Macri as the new president of Argentina. Critics point out that President Macri comes from a wealthy family of war-profiteers whose fortune grew exponentially during El Proceso, and that three months before his inauguration, Macri and his party voted against a law that would launch investigations into how businesses that supported the dictatorship participated in crimes during the 1976-1983 period (3).

Macri’s ascent to power marks a rightward shift in Argentine politics, ending the Kirchnerist era which began in 2003 with the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, who was succeeded by his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2007. Under the Kirchners, the 1986 “Full Stop Law”, which mandated that all dictatorship era war criminals were immune to investigation (granted amnesty), and the 1987 “Law of Due Obedience”, which excused all dictatorship military personnel who held a rank below colonel or general from culpability on the basis of “they were just following orders” were both repealed in 2003, and more was done to bring those responsible for the “Dirty War” atrocities to justice than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the dictatorship, when in 1985 the “Trial of the Juntas” resulted in Videla and a handful of others who occupied the higher echelons of the junta being given long prison sentences, before being pardoned a mere five years later, in 1990.

Neoliberal free trade dogma is said to be on the agenda again, Obama’s visit being timed to take advantage of the new “business-friendly administration” (4). The POTUS proclaimed, “I’m in Argentina because I like the moves that Macri made at the start of his government to reconnect Argentina with the world (5).” In the week leading up to his visit, Obama also criticized Fernandez de Kirchner for being an “anti-American” who’s out of touch with modernity, and praised Macri for “recogniz[ing] that we are in a new era” (6).

In a bid to solidify the return of prodigal Argentina to the yoke of U.S. imperial subjugation, Obama has vowed to declassify U.S. military, intelligence, and law enforcement agency documents relating to U.S. collaboration with the military junta. Given the heinous nature of the State Terror committed during the “National Reorganization Process”, which was recognized as meeting the definition of genocide by the La Plata Federal Oral Court in 2006 (7), and also given the complicity in abetting this genocide on the part of at least two prominent U.S. political figures who have given high profile endorsements to leading 2016 U.S. presidential candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties, we should not discount the possibility that forthcoming revelations may shake up the U.S. political scene, as well as that of Argentina.

Clinton and Kissinger


Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton kissing (photo source: Mother Jones)

If the promised declassification has even a shred of sincerity, there is surely a good chance that Henry Kissinger will be implicated in crimes against humanity, further than he already has been. This presents a slight problem for Hillary Clinton, who has embraced Kissinger and called him a “friend”. The standing evidence against Kissinger is strong enough that Hillary’s Democratic Party challenger, Bernie Sanders, felt compelled to criticize Clinton during the Univision Debate Democrata for her close relationship with the Nixon-era Secretary of State whose foreign policy decisions are estimated to have led to the deaths of more than a million persons (8). Before being attacked by Sanders over Kissinger, Hillary bragged sometime earlier that she “was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said [she] ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time (9).”

A transcript released in 2003 provided solid evidence for the thesis that Kissinger gave the “green light” for the genocide, revealing that he told the following to Videla’s foreign minister, Argentine militarist Cesar Guzzetti, in 1976:

“Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems, but not the context (10).”

Kissinger is also notorious for his role in the overthrow of the democratically elected socialist head of state Salvador Allende in Chile three years before the debacle in Argentina, on September 11, 1973 and supporting the subsequent brutal capitalist dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Trump and Arpaio

(IPA pronunciation guide: [ɑɹpæ’ijoʊ̯])


Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio (photo source: TheDailyTrump.org)

In addition to the relatively well known connection between El Proceso and Kissinger, and in turn that between Kissinger and Hillary Clinton, is another, less publicized liaison dangereuse: that between El Proceso and the racist Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona.

Arpaio, made famous for his systematic racial harassment of undocumented migrant workers that has earned him a reputation as an “illegal immigration hardliner”, made headlines recently for tossing anti-Donald Trump protesters in jail and enthusiastically lauding the douchebag real estate magnet for his calls to cleanse the United States national territory of an estimated twelve to thirty million persons, many of them indigenous to the Americas (11).

But what is less discussed is that Arpaio was actively involved in Operation Condor, the C.I.A. orchestrated genocide campaign. In 1957 or 1958, towards the beginning of his career in law enforcement, Arpaio began working at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (or FBN), the agency that would later go on to form the Drug Enforcement Administration (12).  Arpaio continued to work for the DEA for the next 25 years, i.e. until 1982 or 1983. Arpaio has bragged on numerous occasions about having served as a DEA agent around the world, including in Argentina.

For example, between rounding up immigrant workers and arresting peaceful protesters, @RealSheriffJoe had time to tweet:

On an archived web page called “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio”, the far right leader lists his DEA assignments in chronological order, suggesting that his post in Buenos Aires was at the end of his 1957-1982 DEA career, precisely during the “National Reorganization Process”:

[…] from the day I started working for the then Bureau of Narcotics in 1957 ( which later morphed into the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration), I loved the work. It was dangerous, exciting, exhilarating…and downright scary. It took me to places I never thought I would go – from Chicago where I started my career with the Feds to the hills of Turkey to Beirut and on to Paraguay, Panama, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, just to name a few (13).

Arpaio goes on to suggest his possible direct involvement in secret meetings with Jorge Videla and other leaders of the military junta:

[My DEA work] brought me face to face with small time and big time drug dealers. It brought me into classified meetings with Ambassadors, foreign heads of state and U.S. Presidents.

We know for sure that Racist Joe was in Argentina no earlier than 1970, as it was shortly after that year that the DEA began operating in Argentina. Historian David M. K. Sheinin notes in Argentina and the United States: An Alliance Contained, page 154:

In 1970, an informant gave the U.S. Embassy in Mexico information on Buenos Aires as a major transit destination for heroin coming into South America with the United States as a final destination. Shortly after, the two governments launched a long-term cooperative project to stop the international drug trade through Argentina that included U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] training programs in Argentina for Argentine police and the supply of military equipment to break the traffic in cocaine. As Argentina experienced a rapid rise in left-wing political violence, American officials turned increasingly to strong Argentine anti-Communists for political advice and information. Despite Argentina’s spiral into severe political turmoil between 1970 and 1976, U.S. government and business officials were uncharacteristically calm and lucid about the Argentine polity.

This places Sheriff Joe squarely in contact and collaboration with Argentine authorities under the framework of Operation Condor and, in all likelihood, during the “National Reorganization Process” genocide.

In “Creating a Crime: How the CIA Commandeered the DEA”, investigative journalist Douglas Valentine details the overlap and collaboration between these two agencies, particularly through the Bureau of Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network (BUNCIN), which was managed by CIA officers and later became the DEA Clandestine Operations Network (DEACON) in July 1973 when the DEA itself was formed (14). Valentine notes that “The CIA supplied BUNCIN’s assets with forged IDs that enabled them to work for foreign governments[.]”

During or around Arpaio’s sojourn in fascist Argentina,  Argentine intelligence operatives helped orchestrate the 1980 “Cocaine Coup” in Bolivia, bringing right-wing drug lords to power with the help of Nazi war criminal and CIA asset Klaus Barbie, the likely assassin of Che Guevara. It’s a well known fact that the South American countries whose governments carried out Operation Condor were notorious for being safe havens for hundreds, if not thousands, of fugitive Nazi cadres. These were the same people who committed genocides in Europe known as the Holocaust and the Porrajmos some decades earlier and were given a one-way ticket to impunity by the CIA’s Operation Paperclip. And who can forget Gary Webb’s expose on the CIA support for Contra drug trafficking, also around the same time? These facts demonstrate Arpaio’s hypocrisy and the farcical nature of the so-called “War on Drugs”. How can you be tough on crime when the criminal is you?

Are Kissinger and Arpaio really responsible for “genocide”?

The 2006 La Plata Federal Oral Court ruling on Proceso era Buenos Aires police boss Miguel Etchecolatz, sentenced to life in prison, marked the first time that the State Terror was legally qualified as constituting the crime of genocide. While the Genocide Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, does not recognize systematic attempts at group extermination as genocide when it concerns political groups, the court based its conclusion on a 1946 UN General Assembly resolution which held that “crimes of genocide have occurred when racial, religious, political, and other groups have been destroyed, entirely or in part.”

The subject of political group extermination and their legal exclusion from subjection to the crime of genocide is problematic. Martin Niemoller famously pointed out in his “First they came…” poem that the process of Nazi German perpetrated genocide began with the targeting of political opponents such as Communists and trade unionists before moving on to racial and religious group extermination.

Like the Nazi genocide, the “Dirty War” also fed into and off of racialized scapegoating of the “Other” (i.e., groups perceived as being “subversive” due to their non-Western and/or non-Christian values). Argentine Jews, the sixth largest Jewish group in the world by citizenship, were disproportionately represented among the desaparecidos (15). The Condor Plan continued a centuries long campaign to uproot and eradicate the indigenous populations of the Southern Cone region of South America. In neighboring Chile, the Pinochet regime denied the very existence of the Mapuche people, native to Patagonia, which comprises both Chile and Argentina (16). In Brazil, entire indigenous communities were destroyed during the military dictatorship there (17). Furthermore, the European Roma Rights Center notes that “the existence of [some 300,000] Roma in Argentina is covered by silence (18).” Research also reveals that the LGBT minority was targeted by the Argentine junta (19).

Following the ascendency of Mauricio Macri to power, the right-wing in Argentina celebrated and began immediately to call for an end to the “culture of revenge” that they accused the Kirchnerists of instigating (20). Confounding justice with revenge, they want to go back to a culture of impunity for the perpetrators of genocide. Meanwhile, in the United States of America, figures such as Joe Arpaio and Henry Kissinger face hardly any scrutiny at all for their role in collaborating with fascist genocide by training, advising, and supplying State Terror forces with arms. They are celebrated and embraced by both ruling class parties.

Obama’s regret for the “controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days” means little if it is not accompanied by a recognition of those policies as genocidal and a serious effort to hold the people who enabled this genocide to occur accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the timing of the statements, immediately following the ouster of the Kirchners, who ended the era amnesty for perpetrators of the genocide, and the inauguration of a new president who has displayed obstructionist tendencies, shows disingenuity on the part of Obama. This timing suggests a calculated decision to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to minimize the consequences of disclosing wrongdoing and disavow the continuity between the “early dark days” and the present.