Dictatorship & Mass Extermination Are the Endgames of Neoliberalism

Rainer Shea
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The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish

-Charlie Chaplin

Neoliberalism, with its goals of freeing up the marketplace for maximum capitalist exploitation and neglecting the people who the system deems to be expendable, has been very consciously implemented with the intent of destroying democracy. This was made clear by Friedrich August von Hayek, the social theorist who concluded that a “liberal dictator” was preferable to a “democratic government lacking in liberalism.” Hayek’s argument was that “the condition of freedom” is “a state in which each can use his knowledge for his purposes.” In other words, that democracy is tyrannical when it restricts the ability of the capitalist class to make profits, and that democracy should therefore be abandoned in favor of dictatorship when such a shift becomes necessary to preserve this type of liberty.

Hayek obfuscated the reality of the torture, political imprisonments, and mass executions that were taking place under Pinochet and the other Washington-installed Latin American dictators of the 20th century, anecdotally reporting that “I have not been able to find a single person even in much maligned Chile who did not agree that personal freedom was much greater under Pinochet than it had been under Allende.” This attitude of moral equivalence has since been used as a rationale for glorifying fascist regimes by Pinochet’s supporters within Chile, as shown by the objection from pro-Pinochet TV personality Raúl Hasbún Zaror when asked about the regime’s human rights abuses:

Could you name me one single government, military or democratic, under which there aren’t hundreds, thousands of human rights abuses being committed? Do you have any police, any security force, any CIA, any FBI, any armed force that has never been found guilty of excesses in suppressing a protest, that didn’t use torture to get confessions out of prisoners or suspects, or that never exercised poor treatment or even brutal violence against those under its rule? Don’t be such hypocrites!

This is how the violence inherent within these processes of capitalist reaction get normalized: through engaging in whataboutisms against other governments, even when those governments are part of the very same imperialist structure as the regimes under scrutiny. (The CIA installed Pinochet, and it was one of the entities Hasbún chose to portray as an opposing force!) All of this rationalization of atrocities serves to legitimize the rejection of democracy that libertarian economists like Hayek viewed as necessary, and that’s again being advanced more and more by U.S. imperialism as the capitalist class reacts to our current crises.

The idea that democracy needs to be destroyed if the survival of capital requires it was expanded on by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, an associate of Hayek’s so-called Austrian School of economics. In his 2001 book Democracy: The God That Failed, he concludes that democracy is unjust because it creates a “publicly owned government,” which he says is worse than monarchy. The solution to the democratic model’s restrictions on private enterprise, he says, is a system where corporations can operate totally independent of any state, which he calls “private law society.” Under this vision, says Hoppe, there will need to be a “physical removal” of undesirable people in a libertarian “compact”:

There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They — the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.

This sounds like fringe Nazi-esque absurdity, but how hard is it really to find parallels between Hoppe’s societal ideal and the social systems that late-stage capitalism is moving us towards? In its mission to preserve the global neoliberal order amid growing class struggle, keep up rising profits in the face of economic and climatic shocks, and wage a new cold war against a rising multipolar order, the Washington imperialists are set on a path whose logical conclusion is what Hoppe describes.

Myanmar’s new military coup government, which seeks to spurn China while embracing relations with the U.S., just killed 38 pro-democracy protesters by having police open fire on them. This is the true face of Washington’s “democratic” and “humanitarian” alliance in the cold war against China: a necro-political tyranny that’s eager to violently dispose of anyone who challenges the corporate order. We’re seeing the same thing in Ukraine, where U.S.-backed armed fascist groups are enacting terror while the Washington-installed Nazi regime acts as a proxy warfare imperialist battering ram against Russia. We’re also increasingly seeing it in the core of the U.S. empire, where U.S. police have killed over 130 unarmed black people in the last five years alone amid growing militarization of U.S. police departments.

This trend of rising political repression and state violence is present everywhere that capitalism finds itself in crisis, from India under the fascist BJP (which is now deporting refugees back to Myanmar even amid the horrific situation there) to Brazil under Bolsonaro, who’s been committing crimes against humanity through his destruction of the Amazon and his facilitation of attacks against indigenous people. It’s the trend of reactionary brutality. Which, as Hoppe’s writings demonstrated, seamlessly intertwines bigotry with a calculating desire to defend capital.

The Biden administration is as complicit in the trend as anyone else. Biden is building upon Trump’s interventionism and cold war maneuvers throughout Latin America, except with even more of an emphasis on alliances with the region’s right-wing leadership. The consensus among team Biden and the reactionary leaders to the south, including dictators like Haiti’s Jovenel Moïse, is that the region must be treated by Washington as a neo-colonial proxy which enacts even more austerity, privatization, and wage cuts at the behest of the IMF. Biden is also replicating Trump’s cruelty towards immigrants by focusing on limiting the extent to which the victims of the U.S.-backed Central American regimes can flee to the U.S.

In the places in Latin America where class struggle is most powerful, capital’s reaction is most drastic. Ecuador’s neoliberal government, which is circling the drain amid great likelihood that an anti-IMF candidate will win the country’s election next month, is seeking to make its neoliberal paradigm institutionally entrenched by passing an unconstitutional law. A law which will privatize the country’s central bank-freeing the financial institution from any government oversight-while solidifying the socioeconomic inequalities that have been making its people suffer so much during the pandemic.

Sound anything like Hoppe’s “private law society?” Or like Hayek’s conclusion that democracy needs to be combated as soon as it starts threatening the interests of private capital? In all the places where the imperialists are still in control, the prevailing paradigm is becoming one of corporations carrying out total hegemonic rule, and of the people the systems deems expendable getting shot by police, killed by lack of access to healthcare and food, or put into concentration camps (which themselves serve to enrich the private prison industry). The Biden White House may be giving the U.S. a veneer of progressivism, but it’s building upon the evils of empire, which will inevitably come to afflict the empire’s core.

When Biden’s austerity policies further discredit America’s liberal class and leave things open for a Republican to win, this country’s fascist movement might eventually be able to stage its own equivalent of the Pinochet coup-far more effective than the fascist coup attempt we saw in January. America’s far-right paramilitaries have already adopted Pinochet and his death squads as idols, and have even been absorbing the violently anti-democratic theory of Hoppe. If they get their way, we could end up living Hoppe’s fantasy a lot sooner than we’d like to think.