The Jakarta Method: The Project to Preserve Capitalism Through Terror

Rainer Shea 
Late-stage capitalism began when capitalism ceased to be a revolutionary force, and started being a reactionary one. By the middle of the 19th century, when the bourgeoisie had overthrown feudalism throughout most of the globe, their new system became a force for regression, something that still existed not because of progress but despite it. This was inevitable, because capitalism had always facilitated exploitation and therefore was destined to be met with resistance from new revolutionary forces. And in the indigenous territories where the bourgeoisie had imposed capitalism through colonization, capitalism didn’t even represent any kind of progress, since many of these lands had effectively been communist instead of feudalistic. And capitalism’s introduction drove these societies into slavery and deep poverty regardless. The colonized peoples, as well as the proletariat in Europe, had everything to gain from implementing socialism. The bourgeoisie suddenly found themselves in the same position that the previous ruling class had been in prior to its downfall: fighting to keep history from reaching its next stage.

Yet at the same time, capitalism gained unprecedented potential to ensnare and hold leverage over the globe. This was the point when the new imperialism began, where the central capitalist powers exported capital to the peripheral countries instead of merely exporting goods. When imperialism—the highest stage of capitalism—reached this unprecedented point, it could itself reach its highest stage by evolving into neo-colonialism. With the official independence of much of the colonized world, culminating in the mid-twentieth century decolonial breakaway of numerous African countries, the imperialists worked to keep these countries under their grip. They used financial instruments to assimilate the Global South into an empire that was both historically unparalleled in scope, and easily concealable, as it dominated countries not by formally colonizing them but by opening them up for business.

With this arrangement, the bourgeoisie could make capital stronger than ever, despite its having long been retrograde in nature and ripe for replacement. Neo-colonialism let them foist capitalism’s worst exploitation onto the peripheral countries, keeping the proletariat in the core countries materially privileged enough to not pursue revolution. Revolutions happen where capital is weakest, and the elevation of imperialism to these new heights fortified capital in the core countries.

The problem was that this didn’t stop massive chunks of the countries where capital was weakest from undergoing revolutions. Russia, eastern Germany, China, several additional Asian countries, and some of Africa and Latin America broke from capital’s grip throughout the 20th century’s revolutionary wave. If too much of the rest of the Global South joined them, the capital within the core countries would lose its foundations of exploitation, and even these countries would undergo revolutions. So the imperialists devised a plan to freeze history in place forever, to permanently hold back the progress that was sprouting up around them. Or at least this was what the plan would do according to its internal logic, which didn’t take into account the decline in profits that capitalism has since undergone regardless.

This plan involved installing dictatorships throughout most of the Global South, and mass anti-communist killings by these dictatorships in partnership with the U.S. empire. It was these measures that likely made it possible for the U.S. bloc to win the Cold War, and to therefore make liberalism the predominant global force that it is today. This is because the dictatorships provided preemptive counterrevolutions, exterminating or terrorizing into submission all of the communists—or suspected communists—within the countries that were most important for the imperialists to control. To do this, it was necessary to drop the pretense that the imperialists sought to bring “democracy” to the world. In practice and in rhetoric, their focus throughout the Global South became centered around a coldly technocratic vision for what it would take to preserve U.S. global primacy. This vision being an indefinite pause on democratic systems within much of the globe, and an extermination campaign against all who were judged to be threats to capital.

Brazil and Indonesia were two of the geographically largest, and most geopolitically pivotal, of the countries where Washington carried out these counterrevolutions. The imperialists had already been building such dictatorial structures with the “banana republic” U.S. puppet governments of the twentieth century’s first half, and with the 1950s coups in Iran and Guatemala. But what came next would make neo-colonialism essentially synonymous with the most blatant forms of bourgeois dictatorship, spawning regimes that were unambiguously autocracies—rather than the bourgeois “democracies” which present themselves as something besides dictatorships. No such attempts to conceal their undemocratic natures were made. When Brazil and Indonesia respectively underwent military coups in 1964 and 1965, not even the imperialist propagandists tried to portray the new regimes as proper democracies. So was the case for the parallel military dictatorships that the CIA put in place in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and many other places during the coming years.

Instead, U.S. officials and their adjacent intellectuals framed these countries according to how their post-coup governmental systems would benefit the empire’s markets. They concluded that it’s possible for a dictatorship to be liberal as long as it accommodates the market, affirming how liberalism’s primary goal is not liberty of human beings but liberty of capital. This rationale went behind their conclusion that the coming of dictatorship to Indonesia was not merely a necessary evil, but something to celebrate. With Washington’s loss of Vietnam to the communists, which inflamed fears of a “domino effect” of revolutions, this embrace of military rule among the imperialist intelligentsia was made to feel further justified. The assimilation of Indonesia, one of Asia’s most resource-rich countries, was seen as more than making up for the empire’s defeats elsewhere.

The same reasoning was applied to the other regimes Washington created as Cold War buffers. It was decided that democracy, even in its truncated bourgeois form, would have been an unacceptable environment in the war against communism. The Bolsheviks had only had a couple dozen thousand members when the Russian revolution occurred, showing that theoretically, even a small communist party can take power within an enormous country if its cadre is sufficiently trained. In the era of late-stage capitalism, the bourgeoisie are always under threat from this vulnerability  which can open up in their system, and therefore are constantly paranoid. So like the Nazis, who were motivated by such paranoia when they killed virtually all communists under their jurisdiction, these regimes worked to execute or torture every dissident they could detect.

The proportions of dead varied widely. Colombia’s most infamous anti-communist killing effort picked off several thousand over the course of a generation, whereas Indonesia killed around a million in its first year of dictatorship alone. But the regimes and their CIA facilitators had no reservations about how many they killed, so long as the killings eliminated the people who were judged necessary to eliminate in order for revolution to be prevented in each given country.

This process didn’t need to be scientific or surgical in order to be effective. The purges were often done haphazardly, and therefore killed countless bystanders. In the same way the imperialists always kill massive amounts of civilians when they wage wars, the killings the dictatorships carried out were frequently arbitrary, knowingly targeting enormous masses of people who weren’t even communists. Chinese people were massacred in Indonesia, indigenous people were massacred in Latin America, and numerous other ethnic or religious groups were persecuted. The precedent for carrying out genocide with anti-communism as the rationale was established with the Jakarta Method, the Indonesian dictatorship’s approach towards extermination. The Method was replicated by the other dictatorships, with the military regime in Argentina laying out its reasoning most plainly: that terrorism consists not just of the overt act, but of the thought. That all who deviate from the ultra-nationalist, religiously centered ideology of the regime they live under (in Latin America the religion is Christianity, but it can differ under reactionary regimes in other regions) are automatically guilty.

The extermination campaign extended not just to the countries Washington had outright turned into dictatorships—which in Latin America made up the vast majority of the region—but theoretically to the entire world. Operation Condor, the terror campaign Washington carried out in partnership with Latin America’s military regimes, let the U.S. authorize itself to kill anyone it deemed dangerous across the hemisphere and beyond. The CIA was working to advance the anti-communist mission of the juntas it had installed, from both within and without their borders.

The effect of this was, and continues to be, a version of capitalism that’s reached the extremes of its contradictions. And that’s therefore more and more resembling feudalism. The extreme consolidation of wealth into monopolies, the pushing of ever greater sections of the population into what amounts to serfdom, the negation of democracy—all of these traits echo back to the system that capitalism replaced. With the implementation of neoliberalism, and the intensification of inequality throughout the entire capitalist world, the Global South has most of all been pushed in this retrograde direction.

The transition away from military rule that occurred within these countries during the wind-down of the Cold War made no difference in this area. Apart from liberated countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, they’ve remained under neo-colonial control, and have therefore been subject to the restructurings towards neoliberal policies that the imperialists have imposed. And brutal repression has existed under both military rule and liberal “democracy.” In Colombia, military rule has for the most part not even been necessary for the political genocide that its government has carried out, where thousands have been killedover the decades for communist affiliations. A formal dictatorship isn’t required for Jakarta to be replicated, any capitalist state is capable of implementing it.

Even as the Global South’s conditions have deteriorated to the point of neo-feudalism, the revolutionary struggle within it has remained discontinuous and filled with setbacks. This is because today’s neo-colonial regimes, like their master countries in the imperial center, are better than ever at policing their populations. As capitalism’s socioeconomic conditions increasingly look like those of the old order which fell so easily, it’s taken on tools for retaining social control that the feudal ruling class couldn’t have dreamed of. Today, governments can keep their entire populations under constant surveillance. And since the government that’s pursued this mass monitoring technology most rapidly is the United States, the precedent has been set for the NSA’s all-encompassing digital surveillance apparatus to be applied globally.

In Brazil, the Bolsonaro regime—which stokes nostalgia for the military dictatorship—is transforming the country into a digital surveillance state by taking advantage of the pandemic. Indonesia, which shed its dictatorship the last and has done nothing to rectify the killings, uses internet surveillance to aid a fresh wave of political persecution. India, which is veering towards a dictatorship of its own under the rule of Hindutva fascism, has embraced surveillance so much that some of its urban areas are at risk of becoming total surveillance cities. Colombia is undergoing state-sponsored mass surveillance like never before. Similar instances abound across the rest of the exploited countries, where the advancements in mass spying serve as ways to make repression more effective.

These advancements tie in with the laboratory for innovations in necro-politics that the occupation of Palestine has provided. To police the Palestinians, Israel has constructed the most intricate and intrusive repressive apparatus in history. The daily movements, caloric intake, access to water, and political statements of those living under Israeli apartheid are scrutinized and controlled to the maximal extent. The methods for enforcing this junta have been exported throughout the rest of the imperialist sphere, particularly the United States, where law enforcement has been Israelified through Israeli training of police. The colonial warfare tools of both of these regimes are perpetually spread to the peripheries. Everywhere from Colombia to the Gulf monarchies to Ukraine to India, Israel provides military technologies, propaganda models, death squad training techniques, border fencing designs, surveillance tools, and on-the-ground paramilitary weapons.

By cultivating Zionism, the imperialists have created a testing ground for the logical conclusion of their project to retain global primacy. One where entire populations live under the tightest control that current technology could theoretically allow a government to exercise. With every year that the capitalist reaction grows, the world comes to live more like the Palestinians. With the intensification of class conflict that’s been developing during recent years, both in the neo-colonies and in the imperialist countries, state terror has suddenly become undeniably visible. This has been most true in Colombia, where the last year’s anti-austerity demonstrations have been met with police and paramilitary violence that’s shocked the world. It’s no coincidence that Colombia has the most special relationship with Israel in the region, with Israeli spies having played a crucial role behind the country’s political genocide and Israel still providing ample military technologies to the country’s narco-regime.

Like during the last great wave of terror, the imperialists see the growing human rights abuses of these regimes as in their interests. The groundwork is being laid for new versions of the Jakarta Method and Operation Condor, this time with them extending so far that their terror may well reach into the imperialist countries. India is being brought into the new set of countries where anti-communist mass killings will take place, with the country’s intensifying violence against Muslims serving as the precedent for this coming fascist purge. U.S.-backed dictatorships like the one in Uganda are undergoing a rise in killings and human rights violations, a sign of larger violence on the horizon. Brazil, whose leader is so paranoid about communists that he sleeps with a gun at the ready every night, verges on another reactionary coup as the imperialists try to stop the country from electing a leftist.

Washington has officially ceased aid to Colombia’s security services following the recent police brutality wave, but it won’t stop aiding Israel, which is the narco-regime’s main foreign military assistance source. The U.S. and NATO also won’t stop helping the fascist regime that they installed in Ukraine as a cold war buffer against Russia. With the intensification of the narrative that Russia is imminently going to invade Ukraine, the imperialists are even able to fortify their backing of the regime and its human rights abuses. So is the case for the parallel ultra-nationalist governments in Poland, Lithuania, and the other countries that Washington has recruited as assets for countering Russia and China. Ukraine and India have joined in the 21st century’s Jakarta Method because in addition to them having become easier to assimilate after the Soviet Union’s fall, they’re instrumental in the hybrid wars against Washington’s current rival superpowers.

Washington’s willingness to reduce direct support for Colombia is motivated entirely by optics. Whenever the empire can get away with advancing the atrocities of an allied regime, it will. Because in terms of suppressing national and class liberation movements, these atrocities are not liabilities but assets. When post-coup Ukraine has banned the country’s communist party, portrayed Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators as heroes for fighting the Soviet Union, illegalized speech challenging the government’s glorification of those collaborators, promoted Nazi anti-communist propaganda like the “Holodomor,” tortured suspected subversives, massacred hundreds of civilians at a given time during the proxy war effort, and unleashed fascist militias to kill political dissidents and disfavored ethnic groups, it’s all served Washington’s goals. These goals are not just to make the country prime for geopolitical maneuvers by cleansing it of its Russian identity—which is inextricably tied in with its communist history—but to negate its revolutionary potential. The killings, the torture, the warfare, and the propaganda all reinforce the effort to destroy revolutionary consciousness, and to terrorize into submission anyone who’s gained that consciousness.

As class conflict intensifies, and the U.S. empire’s collapse speeds up, the same approach towards counterrevolution is increasingly being applied around the globe, including the imperial center. Last year’s reactionary terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol has further consolidated and strengthened the country’s fascist movement, establishing a precedent for broader terror. The government has responded to the attack by building up the military budget, and by creating a counterterrorism program designed primarily to target not white supremacists but social movements. The courts have enabled Kyle Rittenhouse, and all future reactionary vigilantes, to kill with impunity. When the empire loses too many of its neo-colonies, and capital in the imperial center gets weak enough to be vulnerable to revolution, these are the instruments the empire will use to try to crush the communists.

Rainer Shea: Exposing the lies of capitalism and imperialism. Subscribe to his newsletter on Substack.