Existing on a level of poverty and marginalization that's in many cases more severe than that which can be found in the Third World, there exists a facet of society called the Fourth World. In this zone, the underdevelopment that a community experiences as a result of its place in the global capitalist hierarchy doesn't just entail poverty for this community-often it entails a paradigm of warfare, one that makes the poverty compounded. Afghanistan and Yemen are considered part of the Fourth World, mainly as a consequence of the U.S. imperialist violence that their populations have been subjected to for many years.
"The Fourth World" is a phrase that's also used to refer to populations within a First World country whose conditions match those of the Third World. Those living in rich countries who are homeless, who dwell in substandard housing, or who struggle to afford necessities like food and healthcare fit this category. Prisoners within America's for-profit mass incarceration system occupy a similar role, since their movements and economic wellbeing are severely restricted by the militarized capitalist state. Aside from when "Fourth World" is used to describe isolated indigenous populations, it represents a miserable and oppressed facet of humanity-a facet that's forced into poverty and marginalization through the use of warfare.
For this reason, the consequences of this year's economic collapse are not just that more people in America are coming to live in Third World conditions, but that the brutality of the Fourth World is becoming more prevalent in our society. As tens of millions of people have permanently lost their jobs in the last few months, they've entered into the desperate state which characterizes the country's Third World communities; it's now much harder for them to pay for essentials, and the government won't bail them out from their crumbling financial situations. This unemployed 20% or so of the population, along with the broader section of the population that's employed but still falling into poverty, is rapidly losing whatever security it had prior to the crash.
So these desperate and angry masses have begun rioting throughout the country, making for a summer of revolt that's no doubt going to consist of many new waves of unrest. As this depression gets worse in the next decade, the summer of revolt will turn into a generation of revolt. But the ruling class has already shown that it will respond to any unrest by waging war against the population.
Not just war against the protesters and rioters themselves, but against the poor and middle classes at large. It's no accident that random bystanders near the demonstrations have been shot with rubber bullets, or that an old man has had his head bloodily shoved onto the sidewalk for coming too close to the police, or that police have been patrolling neighborhoods in order to shoot people on their own property. The objective of this police and military crackdown is to terrorize the populace into submission, to counter an insurgency by invading and occupying the land.
Since these forces of internal repression are using the same combat tactics that the U.S. has developed in its imperialist wars abroad, and since the U.S. police are using weapons that have been given to them directly by the military, it's predictable that America's wars are now coming home in this way. The warfare tactics the empire uses in Afghanistan and Yemen are what it will use against the rebelling poor and colonized peoples in America's urban areas. With these tactics comes a violent environment which resembles the one of these Fourth World countries.
This warfare against the marginalized groups in the imperial core is nothing new; the police in capitalist society were created for the purpose of repressing the poor. In this time of crisis, the dynamics of violent repression are increasing, and the state plans to escalate things further in the coming years. A 2016 Pentagon training video described how the military will need to respond to the "emerging complexity" of urban areas that will be experiencing widespread poverty and the effects of climate change in the coming years. "Megacities are complex systems where people and structures are compressed together in ways that defy both our understanding of city planning and military doctrine," says the video's narrator. "These are the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats."
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