US imperialist “Futures Command Center” coming to Austin
The United States Army announced this month that it has selected Austin, TX for its new Futures Command Center, a control nexus for modernizing the military’s land division. According to Army under Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Austin made the cut out of 150 candidate cities due to its booming tech sector and culture of innovation. McCarthy reassured skeptics at a press conference that there was an “overwhelming level of support” coming from city representatives. “I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler was thrilled. “This announcement is great for our economy and presents endless possibilities to develop collaboration with our vibrant and thriving technology industry,” he said.
This partnership between city and country in an imperialist center has been drawn neatly along class lines. The local bourgeois, represented by the Chamber of Commerce and the Technology council, gape their mouths like baby birds to catch the regurgitated exploits of the US government at any opportunity. They lobbied zealously to win the bid to host the Futures Command Center, and claim the victory as their own. “We look forward to helping make the Austin region home of the Army Futures Command as they centralize and seed innovation to the battlefield under a new four-star general,” said Chamber chairman Phil Wilson.
The new Army post will bring in 500 military personnel, half of which will be hosted by downtown’s Capital Factory, a co-working space and tech startup incubator. Their goal will be to dream up 21st century methods for terrorizing oppressed nations and clamping down on those who dare oppose US military dominance. By enhancing US imperialism’s pillaging of the third world and the robbing of its resources, they will further the deindustrialization of cities like Austin in imperialist centers. The decline of an industrial proletariat in US urban centers has created a vacuum rapidly being filled by high-salaried tech employees and low-wage service workers.
For the past two decades, however, the tears in the paper tiger of the US military have started to show. In May 2017, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley admitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee that there was a looming danger of quickly falling behind US adversaries in terms of technological development. The army does not even have designs in place for some next-generation vehicles, and those being used today are severely outdated.
“The M1A1 Abrams tank was commissioned when I was a lieutenant in 1980,” Milley said at the hearing, as an example. “That would be the equivalent of someone coming in, when I was commissioned, training on the M4 Sherman from World War II.”
Since the end of the cold war, modernization initiatives have fallen short due to budget sequestration and bureaucratic inertia. The Future Combats System program launched in 2003 is perhaps the most impressive blunder, doing almost nothing with the $18 billion budgeted before it was finally cancelled in 2009.
In an act of desperation, the Army announced last October that it would be debuting a new command dedicated to modernization. At a February Brookings Institution event, McCarthy said that it would most likely be located in an urban setting, not just to be closer to tech companies and academia, but so that Army personnel could “embrace the cultural dynamics” of the host city. In so doing, they will be taking part in the prolific cultural erasure endemic to cities like Austin.
The culture of innovation worshipped in tech metropolises is a liberal charade. The anarchism inherent to capitalist production sabotages the progressive capacity of tech companies in the same way that it compromises peace between imperialist states. Contrary to the facade of collaboration portrayed in the media, the tech sector is a cutthroat battlefield where ideas are regularly stolen, partitioned, and snuffed out. The flow of capital into technology has proven to be a reactionary step backward in humanity’s struggle for liberation.
The commodification of knowledge has acted as a sponge to soak up excess finance capital in the context of monopoly capitalism. Imperialism cannot sustainably move technology forward in the interest of humanity, because the contradiction between private ownership and socialized production is an irreconcilable relationship. Without a Maoist Party to lead the masses and resolve this essential contradiction, social progress of any sort in an imperialist society is condemned to setbacks and regression.
The cold-blooded backstabbing carried out between tech companies may happen behind closed doors, but the enterprise as a whole has openly wreaked havoc on the masses. The reckless solicitation of technology firms by the City of Austin and the local bourgeois has spurred rapid redevelopment of the urban core, slowly but surely pushing immigrant and working class communities outside city limits and ripping them away from their former homes and livelihoods.
In 1983, the City won the bid for Microelectrics and Computer Corporation’s new headquarters, primarily because of the University of Texas at Austin’s land-acquisition capabilities. Through Section 112 in the 1959 Housing Act, campuses like UT were granted funding and exemptions for grabbing up urban property as part of the federal government’s urban renewal policy, a thinly-veiled campaign to remove Black people from city centers. William Slayton, the commissioner of the federal urban renewal administration at the time, wrote in 1963 that the purpose of Section 112 was to “provide space for university expansion or create a more compatible environment for university functions.”
MCC’s decision to move to Northwest Austin triggered a flurry of real estate developers eager to accommodate the influx of newcomers. The high price of oil in the early 1980s and the savings and loan craze facilitated fast and loose lending practices, so the redevelopment of land became particularly lucrative. Additionally, the full capitalist restoration in China prompted the wide-scale deregulation of international trade around this time, making cities like Austin more exposed to foreign investment.
The subsequent S&L crash precluded this 1980s development spike before it really got started, but the rise of information technology reignited Austin’s urban growth in the 1990s. Between 1989 and 1999, over three hundred companies located their offices in Austin, the majority being in the business of technology. This was largely thanks to a reconfiguration of regulations around intellectual property that had started in the 1970s but had picked up steam as computers and the internet evolved. In the service of the bourgeoisie, lobbyists were able to convince legislators to approve legal mechanisms which made it much easier to safeguard privately-owned knowledge.
With intellectual property sanctioned as a profitable investment, domestic and foreign capitalists have ruthlessly stolen and profited off of Austin’s working class culture. Bourgeois festivals like South by Southwest exploit East Austin music and art even as they perpetuate gentrification, unleashing hipsters and outside capital on the streets of the Eastside. Over the past century, the growth of finance capital has surpassed the growth of manufacturing financial needs, and so capitalists have transplanted their fight to re-divide the world to the peripheral corners of production, like the domains of land and knowledge. Lenin writes, “the fact that the world is already partitioned obliges those contemplating a re-division to reach out for every kind of territory.”
In 21st century Austin, this imperialist logic has played out in a fiercely competitive technology sector with a corresponding redevelopment hurricane. Between 2004-2014, Austin’s growth in tech jobs was 73.9%. The high salaries of these tech workers have sparked a rush to build luxury apartments in the urban core, and the city government has been more than willing to greenlight the destruction of working class homes to make room.
In anticipation of large tech companies like Oracle, the 2006 East Riverside/Oltorf Combined Neighborhood plan and its sequel the 2013 East Riverside/Oltorf Corridor plan condemned residents to displacement by zoning the area for intense redevelopment. These plans effectively offer rewards for developers to transform these working class south central neighborhoods into bourgeois boulevards. Working class complexes like Shoreline and Lakeview were mercilessly demolished after these plans were adopted and the tenants, with few affordable places to relocate in Austin, were essentially banished to live outside the city in boundary towns like Del Valle or Buda.
This trend of accelerated suburbanization/ghettoization is characteristic of cities in imperialist centers. Comrade Pierre from PCM (Maoist Communist Party of France) analyzed this same phenomenon in Paris, France, where 80% of residents have been exiled to housing projects circling the city known as the banlieue. We wrote in a recent paper on the universality of Protracted People’s War that “the banlieue are a glimpse into the future of all major and mid-sized U.S. cities as the proletariat gets pushed into ring-like formations around the cities – the servants’ quarters on the master’s plantation, and the hot spot for rebellions against the master.”
The bourgeois is keenly aware that suburbanization and mass ghettoization will fan the flames of revolution, and developing new methods of counterinsurgency will be a priority for the Futures Command Center. The City of Austin has been on the cutting edge of leveraging technology to conduct surveillance on mass uprisings, with the Austin Police Department colluding with the Department of Homeland Security at the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.
There, APD shares data it has collected on activists and communists with Homeland Security, some of which has been obtained through third-party software. Developer Snap Trends has been one of APD’s providers, and assured the department in a document that their program “will help you proactively find people you weren’t aware of in advance by capturing them in a geo-query” as well as allow the police to “create a Person Profile on [targets] to pull historical data and collect future posts.”
The Police and FBI’s joint counter-terrorism task force has not idly held onto these tools but actively uses them to directly repress comrades in Austin. This technology has been used to monitor, track, and ambush Maoists and others, most egregiously in the arrest of Comrade Dallas, who is still facing serious prison time on account of trumped-up charges.
We have also seen this outside of Texas. Recently, Kansas City’s own joint task force corralled and intimidated student activists, arresting and pressing charges against one. Comrade Dallas and all comrades facing political repression deserve our unflinching and relentless support!
Communists should be aware of these technological assets and prepare for the devices that will come out of the Futures Command Center. At the same time, we do not fear these weapons because we know that they will not be decisive in the coming People’s War, just as the US military’s powerful arsenal was no match against the people’s resistance in Vietnam.
The 21st century contraptions made to protect the bourgeois will be overcome by the crashing wave of the masses, the motive force of history. The rush to devise these futuristic arms will be outpaced by the rising tide of socialist revolution around the world. The culture of innovation, beleaguered by its imperialist contradictions, will be outplayed by a red proletarian culture!
The US Army is coming to Austin to find a cure for its disease, but the Army’s lethargy is part of a larger stagnation at the heart of imperialism. Lenin writes, “On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before; but this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general, its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital.”
Austin’s tech sector may be flourishing at the moment, but it will inevitably dry up as monopolies tighten their grip on the market. As of this year, Amazon already processes half of all online spending, Google takes in 85% of total search ad revenue, and Apple collects 91% of total smartphone profits. In this languishing economy, the US Army will not find its future, but will replay the modernization failures of its past.
Though we are certain of socialism’s victory over the reactionary imperialist forces, we recognize the real terror unleashed by the US military against the peoples of the world every day. The Futures Command Center will be added to a list of over 800 US military bases that occupy the world and protect US imperialism. As Mao said, “When we say U.S. imperialism is a paper tiger, we are speaking in terms of strategy. Regarding it as a whole, we must despise it. But regarding each part, we must take it seriously. It has claws and fangs. We have to destroy it piecemeal.”
Austin may not be at the front-lines of US imperialism’s tyranny abroad, but we are on the frontlines of the US’s internal colonies. Central Texas is within the Chicano Nation and adjacent to the Black Nation, which have both resisted the settler-colonial US empire for generations. Since the beginning of this imperialist country, the indigenous North American nations have fought against it.
We invoke this long legacy of defiance to US imperialism as we call on the oppressed peoples of Austin to stand against the Futures Command Center!
US imperialism is a paper tiger, Fight it everywhere on earth!
Yankee leave town!
-Red Guards Austin, 2018