As the economic crisis sparks upheaval globally, analysts fear possibility of class war in the USA

As global capitalism implodes there is has been a marked uptick in social upheaval worldwide and now establishment analysts are expressing their concerns about “class conflict” and “civil war” in the USA.

The Economic Meltdown Sparks Global Unrest

The financial crisis has sparked unrest globally and particularly across Europe, with demonstrations, strikes, and protests in 16 European countries. Here are a just a few examples:

  • Tens of thousands of workers marched in Lisbon, Portugal on March 13 against the policies of the Socialist government, which unions say are increasing unemployment and favoring the rich at a time of crisis;
  • Hundreds of workers at Bulgaria’s Kremikovtzi steel mill protested on March 9 over planned lay-offs and unpaid salaries, demanding the Socialist-led government find a buyer for the insolvent plant; thousands of police officers marched in Sofia on Sunday to demand a 50 percent wage rise and better working conditions;
  • In Greece, the fatal police shooting of a 15-year old in December sparked the country’s worst riots in decades, fueled by anger at economic hardships and youth unemployment. Anarchists and left wing guerrilla groups have followed up with a wave of attacks against banks and police; Greek unions, representing about 2.5 million workers, have also staged repeated protests against the government saying its measures to tackle the global crisis only burden the poor;
  • Last month over 100,000 people marched against cutbacks in Ireland.

High unemployment rates have led to protests in Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.

Last month, a half-million Mexican truckers shut down the countries highways to protest high fuel prices.

In December, Russian riot police busted up protests in Vladivostok against new taxes intended to “help prop up Russia’s domestic car industry and prevent people buying cheaper, imported products.” BBC reports that the protests were fuelled by the severe impact of the global economic crisis on Russia. According to Newsweek, “the Russian Interior Ministry set up a special command center in Moscow, packed with surveillance equipment designed to deal with street unrest. The Duma, on Kremlin instructions, added seven new articles to the criminal code including a law that makes “participating in mass disorders” such as the one in Vladivostok a ‘crime against the state.'” 800,000 Russians lost their jobs in December and January, making the total number of unemployed more than 6 million or 8.1 percent. Gennady Gudkov, former KGB colonel and current chair of the Duma’s security committee, said, “We are expecting mass unemployment and mass riots. There will be not enough police to stop people’s protests by force.”

There a have been massive general strikes in the French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion. The general strike in Guadeloupe prompted the French government to fly in riot police (Guadeloupe is a French “overseas department” in the Caribbean). And while the general strike lasted 6 weeks—it ended on March 4 with an agreement among the strike collective, the employers federation and local and French governments, which granted 20 of the strikers primary demands and set out negotiations on a long list of remaining issues—strikes and protests continue, involving tens of thousands of workers.

The agreement to end the Gaudeloupe strike , called the “Jacques Bino Accord”, identifies the underlying cause of discord as “the present economic and social situation existing in Guadeloupe [that] results from the perpetuation of the model of the plantation economy”. An economy “based on monopoly privileges and abuses of dominant positions that generate injustices.” The accord calls for an end to these obstacles “by establishing a new economic order enhancing the status of everyone and promoting new social relationships”.

Just as the general strike ended in Guadeloupe, social unrest over economic conditions spread to Réunion (a French “overseas department” in the Indian Ocean).

There is a definite pattern developing world wide. And now, US elites are starting to worry about what might happen if the American workers take action as a result of their frustrations with massive economic inequalities.

USA Prepares for Class War

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In his latest monthly commentary (Mar. 15, 2009, Commentary No. 253), sociologist and world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein discusses the breakdown of taboos as the world’s economy continues to disintegrate.

He notes, for example, that “nationalization” of banks and industry is now being seriously discussed by establishment intellectuals and analysts such as Alan Greenspan, Senator Lindsay Graham, and economist Alan Blinder.

But Wallerstein’s most dramatic example of the breakdown of taboos is the open discussion of the possibility of class war breaking out in the USA. Wallerstein says that “after hearing nationalization proposals by arch-conservative notables, we are now hearing serious discussions about the possibilities of civil war in the United States. Zbigniew Brzezinski, apostle of anti-Communist ideology and President Carter’s National Security Advisor, appeared on a morning television talk show on February 17, and was asked to discuss his previous mention of the possibility of class conflict in the United States in the wake of the worldwide economic collapse.”

In Brzezinski’s interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC about his recently published book—America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, co-authored with another former National Security Advisor (to Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush) Brent Scowcroft—Brezenzki was straightforward about the belief that class war in America is real possibility:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits.  And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America…And you sort of say to yourself: what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?

We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out.  But what about the rich guys? Where is it?  [What are they] doing?

Brzezinski went on to compare the current economic meltdown to the “Panic of 1907”:

It sort of struck me, that in 1907, when we had a massive banking crisis, when banks were beginning to collapse, there were going to be riots in the streets. Some financiers, led by J.P. Morgan, got together.  He locked them in his library at one point. He wouldn’t let them out until 4:45 AM, until they all kicked in and gave some money to stabilize the banks: there was no Federal Reserve at the time.

Where is the monied class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions.  I’m sort of thinking of Paulson, of Rubin [former treasury secretaries]. Why don’t they get together, and why don’t they organize a National Solidarity Fund in which they call on all of those who made these extraordinary amounts of money to kick some back in to [a] National Solidarity Fund?

Brzezinski continued saying,

“And if we don’t get some sort of voluntary National Solidarity Fund, at some point there’ll be such political pressure that Congress will start getting in the act, there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots!

Wallerstein points out that “almost simultaneously” LEAP/Europe a European agency that issues monthly confidential bulletins for its clients—politicians, public servants, businessmen, and investors—devoted its February issue to global geopolitical dislocation, discussing the possibility of civil war in Europe, in the United States, and Japan; and foreseeing a “generalized stampede” that will lead to clashes, semi-civil wars.

Wallerstein quotes the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin as saying:

“If your country or region is a zone in which there is a massive availability of guns, the best thing you can do…is to leave the region, if that’s possible.”

And Wallerstein also points out that, “the only one of these countries which meets the description of massively available guns is the United States. The head of LEAP/Europe, Franck Biancheri, noted that ‘there are 200 million guns in circulation in the United States, and social violence is already manifest via gangs.’ The experts who wrote the report asserted that there is already an ongoing emigration of Americans to Europe, because that is ‘where physical danger will remain marginal.'”

Wallerstein emphases that “these analyses are not coming from left intellectuals or radical social movements.…Verbal taboos are broken only when such people are truly fearful. The point of breaking the taboos is to try to bring about major rapid action – the equivalent of J.P. Morgan locking the financiers in his home in 1907.”

And US elites are obviously fearful enough to start planning for military responses to potential social upheaval as a result of the collapsing economy.

Last November, the US War College’s Strategic Studies Institute posited a number of  “strategic surprises” that the country should be prepared for, including potential for disruption and violence caused by the economy’s failure. The report Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development, says “widespread civil violence inside the US would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”

And now, for the first time ever, US military units are staged and are training inside the country to address civil unrest rising from inequality. The Army Times has reported on the US Northern Command’s (NORTHCOM) deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Combat Brigade Team (BCT) on U.S. soil for “civil unrest” and “crowd control” duties. The 5,000-member force was one of first units deployed in Baghdad.


  1. To be honest I believe this possibility of this was far greater when Bush/Repubs were still president/house/sentate. I could see the middle and working class rising up against Bush but Obama I don’t think so. They are benefiting the most from what Obama is trying to do. The rich are by far the minority and they best be willing to share more. It’s the most human and safest thing (for all of us) to do.

  2. A narrated self-running PowerPoint presentation that decsribes protests arising from the economic crisis around the world can be found here: — There I identify three characteristics that these protests share in common: 1) they are being conducted by the middle/working class, 2) who focus their ire at rulling (sometimes formerly ruling) governments, bankers, the investment community and certain corporations, and 3) they seek for the government to remedy their economic situation by spending money the government doesn’t have and to spend it on “us” and not “them” — with the “us” and “them” usually defined by class. I have also suggested here: that the kneejerk question of “how does the current economic crisis compare to the Depression?” should be replaced or at least augmented by: “how does the current economic crisis compare to the period leading up to the French Revolution?”

  3. Wow, that is a lot of information. Unfortunately here in N. America we won’t actually believe in social upheaval until we SEE it, either televised from the U.S. or in pockets here and there in Canada. It’s a dilemma, one doesn’t know if we are realist or in denial. Regarding using U.S. military, apparently a test trial has already happened in Alabama, going against the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 according to

    The contempt by the greeders including portions of the gov’t has met the public’s limits, and yet the public seems resigned to let the govt’s relieve us and do not seem to know how to protect themselves. The public no longer knows what the ‘goals’ are. And since we’re not being told we must surmise we are on our own. That is very dangerous for all. Freedom is up for grabs in these uncertain and strange times. The public in many countries will be pushed further into hardship as the stupidity of the bailouts increases. Even the public knows it is not going to work.
    Now the news is the WH and O have known for months about the huge bonuses paid for by ordinary people. Is that coincidental? It doesn’t feel like it. Civil breakdown is probably a surety. Yet is that all it took to get the public interested? To find out the lesser problem of bonuses is being paid with their money? It boggles.

    Will a new system favour the banksters or us? No doubt many already know that answer, as their intentions have been written if one takes the time to read inbetween the lines, it is all there. And from my understanding what a total lack of imagination it took to swindle us. The only thing I am resigned to is it will be a bare knuckle ride with a grand finale of epic proportions to include war because all leaders must have war for the banksters and gangsters.

    The disinformation will quicken to keep us off-balance and that is to the detriment of everyone.

    Great post, thanks, keep them coming.

  4. It would be better if you could post all replies as they come in timestamped. It doesn’t seem fair we cannot refute POV’s that come before us. Essentially we write our opinions in a vacuum. Unless of course you do not want a debate or differences of opinion. I bring that up because I am an uneducated ‘class’ apparently. Just saying thanks.

  5. Toe, I’m not sure what you’re asking for. All the posted comments are timestamped and appear chronologically from earliest to latest. I welcome and comments and debate on the blog

  6. No, not exactly. I wrote my POV in a vacuum, having no idea what others thought before me. And I see by the timestamps they wrote their own opinions much before myself. I would have liked to refute Woman at Mile 0, but had not seen her post at all, before I wrote my own.

  7. The implications for civil liberties are dire, and we know that elites have been thinking ahead on this turf. One of John Yoo’s tasks at the U.S. DoJ’s OLC was to tailor legal opinions that could sidestep the Fourth Amendment (re unreasonable search and seizure, requiring probable cause, etc), and there has been ongoing finagling with the Posse Comitatus Act (restricting the feds’ power to deploy the military domestically) and to redefine military action within the U.S. as “counterterrorism.”

    NORTHCOM was established in 2002 under the Department of Homeland Security specifically for this purpose, and Canada is tied into NORTHCOM.

    So far, they’ve been able to make all this sound good, pure defence against “terrorist” threats coming from elsewhere, but the increasing focus on militarizing North American law enforcement is chilling, and we’d be naive to think that our elites haven’t been worried for some time about controlling their own citizens.

  8. 1st BCT, 3rd ID is under NORTHCOM for a reason. This brigade is the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to natural disasters and terrorist attacks on homeland soil IF AND ONLY IF the National Guard / Civilian authorities cannot handle the situation themselves. The reasoning behind placing them under NORTHCOM’s command was to centralize this QRF with the people that would need it most. It eliminates the complicity should they be needed.

    That being said, should they be called upon they would serve the role of logistical support. I understand that some feel it violates Posse Comitatius. I tend to disagree that it is in violation as the role that 1st BCT is filling isnt one of a police force but instead a support role.

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