Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Ephraim Ben Raphael, May 19, 2011.
Another great map
State of New Russia
Zone 1, formerly known as Eyvongrad, is one of the most isolated cities on Earth. Of all the capitals on the planet, it is the second most distant from any other population center; only Jamestown, the capital of Saint Helena, is more isolated. Zone 1 is the only large city on the western coast of Oceania, facing the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean to the west and the Great Red Desert to the east. Many foreign commentators believe that this isolation from the outside world which has allowed the Totalist system to survive into the modern age.
I was eager to visit this relic of decades past. New Russia has developed a reputation in the Nutshell for being an enigmatic, but pleasant, society. While many societies are governed by totalitarian systems, New Russia represented a degradation of this system which resulted in a peaceful and free society.
I make a point of only visiting the focus of my entries when invited; those societies which reject a visitor from elsewhere tend to be those where my safety cannot be guaranteed. The Ministry of Travel granted my request to visit, and issued me a tourist visa without incident. The same could be said for my flight to New Russia, which was as pleasant as a six hour flight could be.
The plane touched down on Aerodrome Prime, located over fifty kilometers from Zone 1. A single highway connected Aerodrome Prime to the city, one lined with fencing and barbed wire. Occasional exits connected the highway to nearby government buildings, many of which looked abandoned. Rusting posts with lamps and cameras dotted the road every kilometer. All of the telltale signs of a totalitarian state in decline.
But I was taken from the airport in a private taxi, a Japanese import. Aerodrome Prime itself was filled with stores selling foreign luxury brands, and foreign restaurants outnumbered the locally-owned. Government security forces checked my bags and frisked me before I could leave the terminal, but nothing more egregious than what a democratic country may implement in an age of terrorism.
Zone 1 itself was almost one city surrounding another. On the outside, the outer zone, a gleaming modern metropolis. Glass skyscrapers which would not be out of place in any other major metropolitan area on the planet. If it weren’t for the flags and the occasional image of the Chief Executor, nobody would be able to tell the difference between Zone 1 and London. But the city center, where the once-supreme government is centered, is mostly decayed. Decades-old concrete structures covered in mold and damaged by the weather. Plenty of buildings, particularly those of the Ministries, were undermanned. Many floors are abandoned, although some found a second life in the private sector: apartments, restaurants, and other businesses that catered to Party members.
Here, in a small Dutch restaurant set in the ground floor of the Ministry of Media and Publications building, I met my first contact. Mr. Andrei Akimov, a public relations official, recommended to me by the Ministry of Travel. He chose the building because he worked in the Ministry upstairs. The restaurant food was cheap, another plus for Mr. Akimov; he informed me that Party members do not get much pay. After a waitress took our orders, I asked him to explain his role in the New Russian government.
“I am part of a team working in the Ministry of Media and Publications to explain our unique system of government. Ever since New Russia opened to the multiverse, we have had many travelers who are interested in our system. Our government understands that Totalism is alien to most of our visitors, so it is our hope that more people can learn about our system and emulate it.”
I nodded and asked him to explain why Totalism is so unique.
“Most countries have a tripartite system of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. I believe it was the English who came up with that nonsense. It is far too inefficient a form of government. In New Russia, both the creation of laws and the enforcement of laws is handled by the same branch.”
I brought forth the obvious objection: isn’t that a vector for tyranny?
“No more than rulemaking for the executive branch of any other government,” Mr. Akimov replied. “Few of these rules are made by the Chief Executor himself. Normally, rules are made by executive bureaucrats, and apply only to their ministry. These rules are passed upward through various political organs until the Chief Executor or a ministry head signs off on them.”
New Russia was formerly New Holland, the Dutch half of the Oceanian continent. The land was ceded to Russia after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and his Dutch allies. Considered too distant to be worth colonizing by the other colonial powers of the age, New Russia was mostly taken to give Russia the pride of an overseas colony. Nevertheless, the Russian government sent settlers and explorers to the territory, and was interested in turning New Russia into a hub for commerce in Asia.
My order arrived, a ham and egg sandwich. After one bite, I realized the bread was stale, and Mr. Akimov asked me if he could have the rest. I handed him the sandwich, and I asked him how the Chief Exectuor selected.
“The Chief Executor is selected by the Supreme Council of the Executive, and he is selected for life. The Supreme Council is made up of the heads of the different executive ministries, and they are all ineligible for the position of Chief Executor. While we venerate him as a symbol of the state, the Chief Executor’s power is not absolute. His power is checked by the constitutional courts, and the Supreme Council can always hold a majority vote to remove him from office.”
The constitutional courts? I asked Mr. Akimov to clarify what he meant.
“I mentioned previously that our government has a separate judiciary. Most of the judiciary concerns itself with regular matters. Criminal and civil disputes. However, we also have a set of constitutional courts which determine whether a law is being enforced in a manner consistent with our constitution. These courts are staffed by men dedicated solely to ensuring that our system works as intended by our founders.”
And what were the intentions of New Russia’s founders?
“To be a beacon for stability and sanity in a radical, unreasonable world. Our country was founded from the ashes of the Napoleonic Wars and the chaos it created. But even after the Frenchman was defeated, the poison of liberalism spread around the world. Even the Motherland was not immune, and after the death of Tsar Alexander III, anarchy followed. In New Russia, our forefathers understood what needed to be done. We closed ourselves to the mad world around us, but we understood the failures of feudalism and monarchism. The system had no accountability, yet it allowed agent provocateurs in the intelligentsia to operate without appropriate oversight.”
As the Russian Empire disintegrated, New Russia became an independent state. The local anarchist movement was destroyed, but many officials – some of whom fled Russia – became concerned about the possibility of a revolution. It was because of this fear that the New Russian government turned to the works of Aleksandr Raskolinkov. Raskolinkov, a self-described “anti-radical,” proposed the system of Totalism as a direct counter to liberal, socialist, and anarchist thinking popular in Russia at the time.
Mr. Akimov continued after finishing my sandwich.
“The basis for Totalism is that a country and the state are a singular organism, and individuals are just cells in the organism’s body. Nothing can exist outside of the state, because the state is the people. The English philosopher, Hobbes, he thought much the same way. But where Hobbes wanted a single absolute monarch, like the old Tsar, Raskolinkov believed that only men of exquisite character and intellect should lead. He married Plato’s ideas with Hobbes’ to create Totalism.”
And these men of character are the Party?
Mr. Akimov nodded.
“Yes, the Totalist Party of New Russia. The Party makes up the leadership of the entire Totalist system. Government employees like myself do not need to be Party members, of course. It would be too difficult to staff every government position with a Party member. But all positions which can craft policy, finalize rules, all of the so-called ‘political offices,’ they must be staffed by Party members.”
I asked Mr. Akimov if he ever considered becoming a Party member. He laughed and shook his head.
“Mr. Chana, you flatter me, but no. Party members are highly vetted. They are chosen from gifted children, with a knack for leadership. They have to have served in the military. They must constantly meet standards of physical and mental health. Even the test they have to take to become a Party member, it is two weeks long and most fail. Even if I could be a Party member, I would not choose to become one.
Why? I thought being a Party member meant more privileges and more wealth. This was certainly the case in most authoritarian countries.
“Yes, the Party has many privileges, and that is important in any country. But it also has many disadvantages. In many other countries, the ruling party is a club for the elite. An irresponsible de facto aristocracy, above the law. Naturally, corruption becomes rampant. In New Russia, Party members are held to very high standards. If they are convicted of a felony, the punishment is death, automatically. Convicted Party members are executed in public, and this footage is broadcast nationwide. Corruption is a felony charge, and the number of possible offenses are massive and grow every year. There is no appeals process, and begging for mercy can increase the sentence.”
I asked Mr. Akimov how the Party can ‘increase’ a death sentence. He looked down at his plate and whispered.
“The Party has its methods of breaking people.”
I replied that these measures were unnecessarily harsh and draconian.
“All of these measures are necessary, Mr. Chana, because it is the price of the Party’s unlimited power over society. Even lesser offenses are serious, and grounds for permanent expulsion. Imagine working all of your life to achieve something great, and then having that taken away from you because you were irresponsible. That fear is enough to keep any Party member who thinks about breaking the rules in line.”
What sort of rules?
“Anything that disparages the image of the Party, or reflects poorly on a Party member’s character. Use of illicit substances. Excessive drinking. Sexual infidelity or open promiscuity. Voicing anti-patriotic sentiments. Dereliction of duty. The state does not need people like that in positons of power.”
I remarked that these offenses are very vague, and could be politicized through selective enforcement.
“Yes, it can be,” Mr. Akimov admitted to me. “But on the other hand, we put a lot of faith in our Party members. While it is easy to accuse another member of an offense, it is a felony to make false accusations. And, on balance, we would rather have a system where Party membership is strictly exclusive.”
And who judges Party members? The courts?
“For criminal matters, yes. But for matters of Party decorum and behavior, the Party itself conducts the investigations.”
I asked how they are kept accountable.
“There are many ways, but all Party members sacrifice their privacy for service. Their homes are constantly monitored. Their communication devices are all bugged. Party members are require to report violations, and not to do so is grounds for expulsion from the Party. In my conversation with you, I have been far more critical of the system than a Party member could be. Raskolinkov wrote that the Party is a circle of accountability, and they take this seriously.”
I wanted another take, so I met with Boris Saratov, a local business leader. Mr. Saratov also agreed to meet me in a restaurant, a high-end Tuscan restaurant in one of his lavish hotels. He generously promised to pay for my meal. By the time I arrived, he was already digging into a large steak.
“Totalism is a failure,” Mr. Saratov told me immediately. I was shocked at the bluntness of such a statement, particularly in an authoritarian state. I voiced my concerns to him directly.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Chana. This building is in the citizen’s sector, and I’m just a citizen. The Party doesn’t bug anything over here, and they don’t give a damn about what I have to say.”
Didn’t such neglect go against the essence of Totalism? I quoted Mr. Akimov’s words: nothing exists outside of the state.
“Of course he would give you that impression, that’s his job. They can say that all they like, but it’s not true. Hell, they’re smart, none of them likely believe it.” Mr. Saratov gestured to the window opposite him. It overlooked the civilian sector of Zone 1, the richest part of the city.
“Look out there, Mr. Chana. All of that was made possible because the Totalists ignore what they believe are people ‘beneath’ them. I’ve read Raskolinkov. Brilliant man, but he didn’t need to waste so much time stating the obvious.”
I asked what was so ‘obvious’ about Raskolinkov’s work. I waited for Mr. Saratov to finish chewing.
“Raskolinkov divided society into three parts: the leadership, the intelligentsia, and the citizenry: everyone else. He believed that the intelligentsia always wants to be the leadership, and so it plots to use the citizenry as a weapon against the leadership. He saw all of the philosophers and ideologues in Europe and believed that they were all jealous. The citizens, they just want to live their lives, so they’re always duped by these shysters into doing the dirty work. He believed it worked the same everywhere, it’s human nature, and this has been happening since people formed tribes.”
If Raskolinkov believed that this was the state of nature, how did he try to solve it?
“He designed his system so the intelligentsia had a way to become leaders without throwing everything off balance: Party membership. The leaders and the intelligentsia are now in the same club, but maybe the Party members who aren’t in charge want to take power immediately? That can’t happen, they have to wait their turn. To guarantee that no internal revolutions happen, the Party’s leadership monitors them constantly.”
And the citizens are free to do what they please? Mr. Saratov grinned.
“Exactly! In the past, the Party tried to monitor everyone, but they stopped when they realized it was impossible. We don’t have ‘rights’ as the foreign liberal powers think of them. The Party could crack down at any time, and in the past, they have done exactly that. You wouldn’t have wanted to be here in 1971, for example. But the Party is smart enough to leave us alone. And why shouldn’t they? The boys up there are smart, they know that a population with full bellies and guaranteed security will never revolt. So long as the people can become rich and fat and entertained, they will never risk revolution. Especially if all of the rabble-rousers are kept under the Party’s gaze. Raskolinkov says as much himself.”
I asked Mr. Saratov about citizens who became “rabble-rousers,” as he put it.
“That’s happened before. Like I said, in 1971 a bunch of non-Party students decided to spread anti-government leaflets here in the citizens’ zone. The Party came down hard on them, and anyone dumb enough to follow them. But after that, the Party opened New Russia up to the world. They thought that doing that would lead to an influx of foreign capital, and they were right.”
I asked Mr. Saratov if he felt the students had a point. If he was being denied a fundamental right. If he felt he was being oppressed.
“I honestly do not give a damn about any of that. Most people don’t. Who wants to worry about politics and policy? I have a business to run, that gives me more than enough trouble. Others, they’re too busy with their jobs, their children, their marriages, to do anything. So long as the Party leaves me alone, I don’t care.”
This was my attempt to create a "working" 1984 system, although it also evolved into a study on how to make a philosopher-king system.
When I wrote a story about a segregation system that worked I thought I was being "out there" and pushing the boundary of what could be made to make sense. I knew nothing. This might just be my new favorite.
Wow, that was brilliant.
That state should not function. Its leadership class would be in a constant state of internecine feuding and purging over imagined abuses, just as Chana pointed out. It would effectively become an anarchic oligarchy at that level, as everyone went out for themselves and alliances formed and broke in fluid chaos.
Neat idea though.
EDIT: To clarify;
It is impossible for me to believe that any mentally healthy person will go through all that obscene training and testing and voluntarily live a hellish life of poverty and no privacy, just to...
...nominally be one of the leaders of the country.
They have no actual power. If they rock the boat at all, if they try to change policy in a way that anyone disagrees with, they open themselves up to a risk of extremely slow and painful death.
This system cannot endure for more than a few months, or with extreme luck and not one single "bad egg" at the start perhaps a generation, because being one of the country's leaders is like being a slave. Why not just become a powerful businessman and build yourself a private army? This state is thinly populated and only draconian to its nominal leaders. Bring in a bunch of "guards" for your "hotels" and boom, replace the state. We know from the entry that the citizenry is wealthy enough (possibly due to tourism, since I have no idea what this state can actually base an economy on) to have fancy food and restaurants; all it takes is one ambitious rich dick and welcome to the Free Republic of Galtville-in-Oceania (praise Rand, praise Atlas's shrugs).
Or the ruling class go through a cycle of purges until a few guys who like each other are left, they rig things so that any of their kids they can tolerate are let in, and boom, say hello to Prince Dumbass the Second and neo-feudalism but with lots of wiretapping.
>State of New Russia
Imagine the abomination that is the Bogan gopnik hybrid
While not exactly the same this reminds of that cyberpunk scenario you did recently. The ‘willing and constant surveillance’ and I actually find it to be one of those more interesting ideas for a more futuristic government.
Anyway so New Russia is basically PRC with extra steps right?
Thanks. I always try to come up with weird stuff.
The one thing the Party does maintain consistently is monopoly on force. I tried to get at that with the student uprising, but if a non-Party member tries to start a private army, they will get crushed. And as of the moment, the rich movers and shakers see the Party itself as a way to protect themselves from outsiders. A lot of these people are outright gangsters
The Party is starting to suffer from talented people just “staying private.” Savinkov is one such man. And yes, the Party system will eventually be changed so that it becomes de facto hereditary.
As for where the money comes from? New Russia has opened itself to the world, but it still has a horrendous reputation abroad. This means the New Russian government feels no obligation to international laws and standards. A lot of this money is dirty.
Anyway, Galt’s Gulch in Oceania is partially what I was going for. The totalitarian system has become so myopically focused on watching itself that it creates a de facto ancap society. Neo-feudalism is where this is going, which would be a state stable enough to sustain itself.
I’ve been considering a future government that mixes the positives and negatives of a more technologically advanced society, so that it shakes out to be no better or worse than our own. For example, fair, electronic voting that allows for a measure of direct democracy, but the system also implements Chinese-style social credit to put more weight on the votes of more “virtuous” or “influential” people.
That was the inspiration. There’s less corruption from individual government officials, and there is less intermixing of government and private interests.
For New Russia, I presume that Eastern Australia & New Zealand are British Empire (or at least British owned during colonization), what's with the North Australia nation?
Like a ‘Merit-based Democracy’ like everyone get 1 vote, but doing thing like serving in the military, get you another vote. Serving in the bureaucracy get you another. Getting a certain age, passing various wealth milestones etc etc
Depending on the nation/culture things could go even further:having a certain amount of children, buying a certain amount of domestically-made products, attending a certain amount of cultural/patriotic events-the possibilities are endless.
Yep. A system that goes further will start giving buffs or issuing limitations depending on their score. For example, access to exclusive places, or being denied access to some public infrastructure. It could even start messing with the purchasing power of the individual; a person with a high score may get discounts or have their money artificially given more value.
As a resident of Perth, WA, locating a 1984esque nation here offends me. (Only joking, can't wait to see the full world map)
You think that's bad? In the last map California owns Texas. It's like all my nightmares at once.
Great scenario, @rvbomally . Very well written and thought-provoking.
I've just thought this up at lunch at some restaurant: a government that relies on self-hatred of its own majority ethnicity and an extreme distaste towards nationalism/extreme xenophilia, basically OTL's post-WWII Germany's take on pre-war nationalism cranked up to eleven.
Perhaps something like this..
Since making that post I read Dissenting Japan, a book about the Japanese New Left/post-WW2 dissident movements that goes into more detail on them than is available on most of the English-speaking web, maybe sometime I will try updating my post based on information from that but I can't even remember if I said anything inaccurate or not without looking at it
So little is available about much of the Japanese New Left in English online its a pain in the ass
Separate names with a comma.