Militarization, the highest phase of extractivism

CSC note: In 2019, to address the devastating narco war, Mexico consolidated it security and police forces and renamed the new formation “Guardia Nacional,” the National Guard, further militarizing policing, using the GN to patrol its northern and southern borders against migrants. Above: Mexico’s Guardia Nacional action, on the border with Guatemala, attacking Honduran migrants fleeing the ravages of capitalist extractivism and narco-neoliberalism.(Photo: Cambio16)

By Raúl Zibechi

The growing militarization of our societies is a clear sign of the autumnal phase of the patriarchal capitalist system. The system gave up on integrating the popular classes, and no longer even aspires to dialogue with them, but limits itself to surveilling and controlling them. Before this militaristic period, the “misguided” were locked up in order to set them straight. Now it is a matter of open-air  surveillance of entire social layers making up the majority of the population.

When a system needs to militarize daily life to control the majority, we can say that its days are numbered. Although in reality those days would have to be measured in years or decades.

A good example is the legacy of the Pinochet regime in Chile, in particular the central role played by the military and the militarized police, the Carabineros, in social control.

One of the legacies is that  armed forces control the   surpluses of the state copper company. Copper is Chile’s main export.

The Restricted Law on Copper   was approved in the 1950’s, in the midst of rampant mobilizations of   workers and the poor in the city and the countryside. 

During the military dictatorship, this secret law was modified seven times.

Only in 2016, thanks to a leak from the digital newspaper El Mostrador, was it revealed that 10 percent of the profits of the state copper company are transferred directly to the armed forces. (

The  secret law was not repealed until 2019, (, when the streets of Chile began to burn with a string of protests and uprisings that started in 2011 with the resistance of students and the Mapuche people, and later the feminists.

The damage that the military regime inflicted on society can be seen in the fact that more than half of Chileans do not vote, when before, the vast majority voted; there is  tremendous delegitimization of political parties and state institutions.

It is not the only case, of course. The Brazilian military played a prominent role in Lula’s imprisonment, the removal of Dilma Rousseff, and the election of Bolsonaro.

In all cases, militarization violates the so-called “rule of law,” the legal norms that society has adopted, often without being duly consulted.

CSC note: The military forces, as essential to capitalist state power, in Latin America have evolved to meet the coercive needs of capitalism. (Photo from Americas Quarterly)

Militarization comes hand in hand with the imposition of a model of society that we have called extractivism, a mode of capital accumulation by the 1% based on the theft and dispossession of the peoples, which entails a true military dictatorship in the areas and regions where it operates.

Militarism is subordinated to this logic of accumulation through violence, for the simple reason that people’s goods cannot be stolen without pointing weapons at them.

Militarism comes with violence, forced disappearances, femicides and rapes. Besides that, it always encourages the birth of paramilitary groups, which always accompany large extractive works. And though they are considered illegal, the paramilitaries are trained and armed by the armed forces as we see in Mexico and Colombia. 

Now we know that the great beneficiary of the Mayan Train will be the armed forces. The López Obrador government has given them  all the sections of the train, adding that it is “an award” to that institution ( 39aURjh).

There is more than one similarity with the case of copper in Chile.

The first is the direct delivery of benefits, which is how the government gains the loyalty of the uniformed, to whom, in reality, it is subordinate.

The second is the “national security” argument used by the governments. In Chile it was the fight against communism. In Mexico it is the southern border, with arguments about migration and trafficking.

The third is that militarization is both a project and a way of governing. It is followed by airports, internal order and the most varied aspects of life. By force, they manage to subvert legality at will, such as budgetary regulations.

We observe processes of militarization from the United States, Russia and China, to all the Latin American countries. It consists in the control of rural and urban geographies by armed men at the service of capital, in order to control the peoples who resist dispossession.

It is not about a president or a government being evil. Not that I doubt it, but that’s not the point. We are facing a system that, to stretch its agony, needs to implement figures born in the twentieth century, which are the themes of Giorgio Agamben: the state of exception as a form of government, the legal civil war against the “non-integratable” and the open air concentration camps guarded by paramilitaries.


The original was published by La Jornada, click here

Translation provided by the Chiapas Support Committee.

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