President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex as he left office in 1961. Even this former military commander was alarmed enough to call for the country to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
He could scarcely have imagined the technological capabilities that now, 50 years later, are in the hands of the Pentagon and the secretive “Puzzle Palace” — the National Security Agency.
Soon after Eisenhower’s speech, it became common knowledge that the U.S. government was spying on civil rights and anti-war activists. Today, revelations by Edward J. Snowden, former NSA contractor, are rocking U.S. imperialism’s diplomatic relations with countries around the world. Not only is the NSA monitoring hundreds of millions of phone calls and emails inside the U.S, but they are reaching across the globe, spying upon “enemies,” imperialist allies and everyone in-between.
On Oct. 21, French media and government officials loudly condemned revelations that the NSA had intercepted 70 million communications inside France in just one month earlier this year. Three days later, the German government angrily denounced reported widespread NSA spying that included surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and German business secrets that might be handed over to U.S. corporate competitors.
Snowden also revealed that the NSA was keeping tabs on Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderón, while he was in office. Brazilians were so incensed over NSA penetration into their country that President Dilma Rousseff had to cancel a long-planned state visit to the United States. Other NSA targets included the European Union, United Nations diplomats and even the U.S. junior partner in aggression, Britain, which the U.S. purportedly had agreed not to spy on.
All this uproar shouldn’t hide the fact that this sort of spying, diplomatic and economic, is a permanent feature of imperialism. The capitalist system is driven by economic necessity to expand throughout the world. Oppressed and underdeveloped nations know full well the ruthlessness of colonial and neocolonial Western powers to dominate and, if necessary, terrorize them.
The U.S. has the largest capitalist economy. It also has the world’s largest military apparatus. Thus the U.S. is the biggest imperialist power. But its weaker allies — Britain, France and Germany — all have their own economic ambitions and military/spying establishments to further their own imperialist goals. Their complaints of U.S. arrogance and Washington’s responses should be used to expose them all as a gang of thieves — with the U.S. at the head — who plunder the world.
What workers and oppressed people inside the U.S. and around the world should remember as they contemplate the vast spying power of the NSA is that, despite having all this information, the capitalist system cannot manage to provide jobs, food, health care or security to the working class — the majority of the population — nor is it structured to do so. But spying can’t stop the truly massive uprisings against poverty, racism and war that have erupted around the world and become increasingly likely to arise right here at home.