Walter Benjamin wrote that "Behind every fascism there is a failed revolution." What about when the failure of the revolution and the subsequent establishment of fascism precludes an extreme deterioration of living standards for the vast majority of the population? What about when the type of fascism that becomes established involves not just the destruction of freedoms, but a warlike effort to stop a vast and deeply impoverished underclass from rising up?
This type of fascism is different from the fascism of Mussolini's Italy or Pinochet's Chile, which were able to keep most of their citizens above the poverty line. In Gaza, nearly 60% of the people are in poverty, just 10% of Gazans have access to safe drinking water, and 1.3 million out of Gaza's two million residents are food insecure. This makes the fascist regime of Israel treat the captives of its open-air concentration camp both as prisoners, and as a collective group of enemy combatants. Israel's fascism goes so much further than Mussolini's gutting of the trade unions with the goal of better exploiting workers; under Israel's model of tyranny, people are treated as totally expendable prisoners who get largely deprived both of employment and of nourishment. When 45% of Gazans are unemployed, a stable working class barely even exists within the area.
War is the reality that Israel's victims, both in Gaza and in the other occupied territories, perpetually face. For twelve years under Pinochet, everyone was forced to stay in their homes each night for risk of being arrested without right of appeal or shot, and those who politically stepped out of line were tortured or killed. The Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation are shot or bombed at random, and the system of state control that they live under is even more thorough than what the past victims of fascism have experienced.
This system has more dimensions than Israel's frequent imprisonment, torture, and harassment of Palestinian acivists, or Israel's discriminatory laws that deprive Palestinians of the right to vote. Israel's goal is not just to silence the Palestinians who speak out, but to terrorize the Palestinian masses into staying compliant. As Professor Mark Levine has concluded, this practice involves a network of intense and ubiquitous tools for psychological control within the occupied territories:
Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. It's through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell's description of totalitarianism, to "control the past as well as the future""[there are] numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even "nature reserves". The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people's behaviour and movement.
With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of "bio" and "necro"-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.
This matrix of control is the self-preservation tool of a Zionist settler-colonial system that's driven millions of Palestinians into poverty, and that seeks to prevent these people from rising up against Israel by imposing the most thorough social control systems imaginable.
While looking at the explosion of unemployment that's hitting the U.S. and other neoliberal countries, and while looking at the projection that global warming will drive over 100 million people into poverty by 2030, it occurs to me that the system Israel has imposed onto Palestinians will resemble the system the rich will impose onto the poor in the coming years.
As the capitalist world becomes ever more unequal, and as crises like Covid-19 and climate destabilization create more refugees and impoverished people, the capitalist ruling class will have to resort to drastic measures to maintain their own position. To be poor in the 2020s is to be trapped in a system that's gradually becoming more like the repressive tyranny which Palestinians live under.
For the victims of America's own colonization project, life under the U.S. and other settler states has never been too far removed from Gaza. Throughout the last decade alone, indigenous people in the U.S. have been killed by police at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, with black people being a close second. 1 in 3 Natives are living in poverty by the conservative definition, with black and brown people making up the second and third poorest ethnic groups. In the communities where these impoverished colonized peoples live, Covid-19 has been able to run rampant at rates far higher than is the case for white communities. And an increasingly militarized police state enforces a deadly reign of terror, using excess army equipment which includes armored personnel carriers, tanks with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets, grenade launchers, drones, and assault weapons.
This reign of terror may not currently involve bombs, but the U.S. government has bombed its own people at times throughout the past; in 1985, Philadelphia police bombed a city street, killing eleven people including five children. The goal of the airstrike, which ended up burning down an entire neighborhood, was to counter a black liberation group. Will the government do this again? Will events like it become normal in the near future? The accelerating collapse of global capitalism makes these outcomes more likely every day.
The conditions of the lower classes are rapidly deteriorating; the amount of hunger in the U.S. has tripled between 2019 and August of this year, and the number of U.S. children who sometimes don't have enough to eat has become 14 times larger throughout these last ten months. Already, at least half of the U.S. population is effectively in poverty, and a Columbia University study has predicted a "coming poverty epoch, rather than an episode." In the U.S., as well as in increasingly unstable Washington neo-colonies like Colombia, unrest is going to keep increasing in the coming years. And the states which govern these countries will react not just with extreme violence, but with the normalization of Gaza-level coercive measures.
Already, aspects of the Pinochet regime are becoming widespread. Minneapolis police have fired paint rounds at people simply for staying out on their porches, police have been using curfews as a weapon against protesters, and Trump's DHS has been sending unmarked federal agents to arrest people at random. What's next, as explained by a 2016 U.S. Army War College document on preparing for urban warfare, is to "bulldoze the slums" while targeting poor and working class districts with military intervention; to strategically enact censorship so as to control the information that comes out of domestic war zones; and to carry out mass surveillance against besieged cities by using drones, mobile devices, and spies that act as "sensors" to monitor entire populations.
It's no surprise that the authors of the document praise an Israeli Defense Force commander who wrote that during its 2002 attack on a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank, the IDF used a "strategy of 'walking through walls' [that] involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare"--"-a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux." Tactics like this one, which was carried out by having IDF troops move "horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors," will be emulated by the U.S. military.
This will come along with the trend of building various walls, from Gaza-style barbed wire fences to hostile architecture, in order to partition the lower classes from the privileged enclaves of the wealthy. Under this occupation, the areas the upper class inhabit will be the equivalent of the affluent sections of the Israeli settler-colonial sphere, with the rich and their petty-bourgeois armed forces claiming to represent a noble model of governance. At the same time, the poor will be relegated to a world that increasingly resembles Gaza and the other occupied Palestinian territories: highly militarized, tight restrictions on freedom of movement, plagued by unemployment and resource scarcity, and thoroughly monitored by a techno-authoritarian state.
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