Strikes, Political Factions, Revolutions

Strikes, Political Factions, Revolutions

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning


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May 9, 2010
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For some time I've been looking for a game which focuses on detailed economic and political development so I was intrigued to try Vic 2 with its two expansions recently. The inter relations of social classes and modes of production, the development of class consciousness in different social strata and its expression in political options that reflect their interests, is exactly what I wanted. On the off chance that a Vic 3 or expansion developer, or modder might pick this up, some thoughts on the above.

There is something innately self contradictory in a player being the head of one set of productive social relations and, following a successful revolution, the next. Being able to manipulate conditions to bring about your own overthrow and to benefit from it, is intensely silly. In EU IV, the replacement of feudal relations and their kingdoms with bourgeois nation states could just about pass, as one geographical entity was replaced by another. When one arrives at socialist internationalism, however, this system is at its weakest and seems to take the counter revolutionary model of Stalinist bureaucratic nationalism to be communism. Hence workers states are unable to trade with other, even allied workers' states, when the basis for building socialism is an integrated international planned economy.

What would really improve these issues in my view, would be the ability to pick a faction whose time has not yet come. As such, a player would adopt the role of a class, its party or faction of such, within the old society while trying to advance its interests, class consciousness and militancy and to break free and come of age. Within this framework would also be the ability to choose a faction within each class as the political positions of these shift, to jump faction.

The same could be argued of bourgeois and petty bourgeois factions but in the case of the working class, then, you might begin with Chartists or Utopian Socialists, and Marxism might arise as byproduct of industrialisation, scientific development and philosophical thought. Marxism might initially take the political form of a working mans international and Social Democracy, then fragment into new political factions as the old ones degenerate. Thus a reformist, faction would be distinct from revolutionary internationalism and within a workers' state, bureaucratic nationalism, Economy and culture should be the basis for tension, heterogeneity and potential fragmentation within factions and classes.

Historically, unions variously formed social democratic parties or were formed by them. The duality of unions as organisations to advance workers' interest, but within capitalism, evolving into corporate entities to police the working class for the employers, would be interesting to model. Strikes, both economic and political, have an enormous impact on economic output, prestige, class consciousness, militancy and more, yet I saw no representation in my game. The latter can also be prelude to socialist revolution.

I was able to manipulate an uprising and communist takeover with about 2-3% popular support, less among craftsmen and labourers, which is more a putsch than a revolution. This should be a feature of Blanquists, not communists. Nevertheless, rebels spawned across the country and, after wiping out other factions, I simply disbanded most of the army. When, without warning, the communist government formed, in the same structure as the regime it had overthrown, this army then became a communist army while the red guards disappeared. None of this in any way represents socialist uprisings as they occurred historically, in Paris, Russia, Germany Spain and more.

It was disappointing but not entirely surprising, to find no Soviets and no suffrage, no Red Army, the possibility of introducing slavery, a one party dictatorship, no free press, a nationalist orientation etc etc all the right wing tropes and fictions about communism rolled into one. The dynamics of economy and politics are replaced by immutable qualities of "communism" derived from the conditions of its bloody birth in Russia and a counter revolution dressed in revolutionary clothes. The real dynamics of modern history are not even touched upon. Imagine if the bourgeois revolutions had failed and the feudal lords created game depicting the brutality of Cromwell, the bestiality of The Terror, industrialised chattel slavery etc etc.

As Marx put it, "A development of the productive forces is the absolutely necessary practical premise [of Communism], because without it want is generalised, and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and that means that all the old crap must revive." And so it did in backward, isolated Soviet Russia. But what if the German revolution of 1919 or 1923 had succeeded and a federation of economically integrated socialist states formed? If the Left Opposition had been a majority in the 1920's and closed the scissors between agricultural and industrial production through regulated industrialisation? Would an alternative feedback loop have formed and Communism be considered in a different light? Where games like this work best in my view, is where they allow the exploration of different but possible historical outcomes.