Vignette: Selling Out

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Uhura's Mazda, Aug 26, 2015.

  1. Uhura's Mazda represented by Skinny's broken cuckoo clock Banned

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    Tamaki Makaurau
    In early 2001, Cherry DeLuxxx was undergoing the most stressful hour of her career so far. It had taken her twelve years to get here, after leaving School at 18 with eight Standardised Qualifications to her name and a burning ambition to getting into politics by whatever means necessary - even if it meant selling out her principles. She had needed a female-friendly career with good promotion prospects and an opportunity to network with Syndicalist bigwigs. Naturally, she had chosen Prostitution.

    Ms Krystal VavaVoom, Secretary of the Syndicate of Escorts, was peering over her half-moon glasses, her hazel eyes smouldering over the desk at Cherry, who was sat in an uncomfortable wooden chair opposite. Although she was pushing seventy, Secretary VavaVoom still gave the impression of utter competence. Although she'd started out in the bedroom (at the Limehouse Factory of Companionship, no less, legendary for its endless corridors of beige wallpaper which muffled, to a certain extent, the animal noises coming from off-work dockers) she was legendary for her talents at Trade Union organisation, and pretty soon she wasn't even required to undo the top three buttons of her blouse at work anymore. It was said that, just by dint of her power over her industry, she could hold the Organisational Bureau to ransom. Now, she was peering at Cherry DeLuxxx as if she were an insect.

    "So, Miss DeLuxxx," she pronounced every X - in hindsight, it had been a bloody mawkish name, but she could hardly have known better - "what makes you think you would be an effective Representative for the Syndicate at the Congress?"

    This was an easy starter. Cherry brushed her hair back behind her ears and poured forth the platitudes she'd prepared. "Well, Ms VavaVoom, I've been drawn to politics since I was a girl. Even at middle school, I spent my free time working out how the different organs of the Corporatist State fed into one another: how the New Congress, elected from Syndicates, Trade Unions and Guilds, promulgates laws, which are both proposed and enacted by the Political Bureau and enforced by the Organisational Bureau; how the General Secretary of the Organisational Bureau appoints all office-holders in the State and ratifies all decisions made; and how all this is carried out under the auspices of the Crown - "

    "Believe it or not, Miss DeLuxxx, I do know how our country operates." She sounded a bit acidic, but that might have been a result of trying to hang on to her dentures. "Perhaps you would like to get round - in your own time, of course - to answering my question: what makes you think you would be an effective Representative?"

    Cherry gulped. "Well, in working at the St James' Park Guest House, I've become well-acquainted with many eminent statesmen, who, in their tenderest moments, have drawn me into their confidence. For instance, I could tell you that the Deputy Premier of the Congress is in talks with the Air Chief Marshal to organise a controlled retreat from what few beachheads we still hold in Tanganyika, against the wishes of General Secretary Monks. I cou - "

    "Tell me more of this plot." Ah. In fact, poor little Jimmy had been far too pissed to complete his anecdote and had fallen asleep in her arms on that particular night, so Cherry had been more concerned with making sure his sick didn't get in the lace than in deciphering his somnolent mutterings. She made the best of it:

    "Perhaps if I were a Representative I'd tell you the full plot. But let me tell you more about why I would be an excellent Representative. I've had twelve years' experience working with a range of colleagues, and I feel that I can represent their most desperate needs. For instance, greater provision for Venereal Disease and Abortion Clinics by the Syndicate of Hospital Workers - "

    "Yes, yes, yes. Now: you know all about the current war. It's us and Intercom - the International Community of Freedom, of course, comprising most of the free states of Western Europe - against a whole panoply of so-called 'anti-colonialist' rebels across Africa. This is causing a great deal of unrest, not least in the Estado Novo and French Socialist Republic, and our economies are in dire straits. We are stuck between a hostile American Bloc and a Communist Bloc which can't make up its mind whether it loves us as allies or hates us as Imperialists. Now, in our Profession, we thrive by propogating friendship, and before the recent unpleasantness, out membership was 60% African or African-descended. How can you possibly represent those poor, unfortunate women who didn't go to school in Watford?" A pause. "Surely the unity of the Syndicate comes first, over petty political ambitions?"

    "Europe comes first, Ms VavaVoom. If we pull as many resources out of Africa as we can in the inevitable retreat, we'll be able to thrive economically - mark my words, the Americans and the Russians will end up forgetting their opposition to Corporatist Europe before too long." That got her attention.

    ---

    It was the day of the election. Cherry had, in the end, been selected as part of the Official List. There were three spaces for her Syndicate, in which every sexual worker in the Corporatist Kingdom was a member, and she was in the third position. If the list passed the vote, she'd be one of the six hundred Representatives to the Congress, and from there she could climb to an office which was actually relevant. Maybe even Chairwoman of the Political Bureau one day? It was, after all, a position reserved for women, though no prostitute had, as yet, been appointed as such by the General Secretary of the Organisational Bureau.

    Some groups had presented alternative lists to be voted on by the rank and file of the Syndicate, and these were what worried Cherry. A client from the Union of Mineworkers had told her on the down-low that his crowd were actually very close to electing a so-called 'SociaList' instead of the Official List. Of course, political parties were banned - a good thing, too, to look how Parties had ended up in America - but people insisted on opposing the status quo. They somehow thought that a form of Democratic Economics guided by the State should be replaced by bloody Socialism, like those French fools. Literally every other country in Intercom - Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United Netherlands, Greece, Yugoslvia, Ireland, and all the 'colonies' which they still had a presence in - were Corporatists, even the ones which ad followed the perverse ideology of Fascism. Even the Nordics had admitted that it made no sense, and the only successful examples were the USSR, the Asian Peoples' Republics and their neighbour the GDR, which was pushing it a bit far, for saying that they owed more than twice their GDP to Greek banks. Anyway, opponents of the State insisted on making their own little lists and standing for elections they were never going to win. Cherry hoped so, anyway, as she watched table upon table of women counting the votes.

    An ex-colleague of hers at the St James branch waved hello as she carried a ballot box under her other arm, to which an unprepared Cherry returned an awkward half-point, half-thumbs up gesture. Damn. It was exactly this kind of thing she should have been practicing during all those days she spent daydreaming about this moment.

    Eventually, Jade Khrystle, the Acting Returning Officer (a black chick who insisted on wearing the frankly inappropriate Syndicate Uniform on formal occasions) stepped up to the podium in Escort Hall. Suddenly, Cherry felt a little nervous. To calm herself down, she went through in her head how it was supposed to go: 'I hereby pronounce that, pursuant to the ratification of the General Secretary, the following candidates are hereby elected to the New Congress of the Corporatist Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern IReland and her Dominions beyond the Seas: Bambi Deerstalker [Sherlock Holmes was in right now, apparently] Amber Destini and Cherry DeLuxxx. God Save Queen Margaret the Second, and may the People's Market set her right!'

    She didn't say that, though. She didn't even say 'hereby', which was a bit of a shame, because Cherry had never seen someone with more botox than lip say that word. What Jade Khrystle actually read out was this:

    "
    I, Air Chief Marshal David Murray, proclaim the current elections suspended until further notice. The Congress is dissolved, pending the full-scale retreat of Intercom troops from Africa and the pursuant restructuring of the Corporatist system to account for population discrepancies and the like. Please remain calm. The Royal Air Force has merely taken over until order is restored, trade links reforged with the rest of the world, and economic growth achieved. While the Organisational Bureau will be untouched, the Political Bureau is henceforth to be replaced with the RAF High Command, while I, the son of former General Secretary Len Murray, of respected memory, take over from Colonel Jeremy Ashdown as Premier. Please remain calm. Military rule will only last a few years. Normal service will then be resumed, I can assure you.

    God save the Queen!"​

    Fuck. That was Cherry's career down the drain. What was she supposed to do now? Be an actual prostitute? The very question filled her with existential dread as a roomfull of women who'd been counting identical bits of paper all night for no reason huffed off around her.

    Secretary VavaVoom passed Cherry's slumping form on the way to the stairs. "Well, well, well. Look at that Constitution of yours now."

    "Wh - I'm - What are we supposed to do now?"

    "What we've always done: spread a bit of harmony. For a price."

    "Where are you going?"

    "Where do you think? The Air Ministry, of course!"

    Cherry realised that she still had a lot to learn about politics.​






    For a bit more context, see here: https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showpost.php?p=11225009&postcount=5445
     
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  2. Lemon flavoured British Miami Dolphins fan

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    Hucknall, Notts, UK
    Bizarre, but I like bizarre, and paints an interesting picture. Its also really well written.
     
  3. Sideways they/them/terrifying abyssal god monster Donor

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    Ubiquitous Greater Cornwall
    Very weird, very interesting. It tied together well at the end, too.
     
  4. Agent Boot Failing upwards

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2014
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    East Birmingham
    This is very good, not just the writing but the concept. Highly original.

    I can't even tell whether I like this world or not, relative to OTL. Not only does clearly legalised (hell, even aspirational career path) prostitution throw up uncomfortable conflicts between my liberal and authoritarian sides, but you've also created a *fascism I think I'd be comfortable with, because syndicalism and industrial democracy. Of course the colonial situation is hellish, and the international scene doesn't sound too healthy. And to top it all you've still got the principle-free climbers of the political career ladder, achieving their ends by means that are alien but at the same time ring quite true.

    Seeing the full timeline in the Alt-PMs list, are you planning further vignettes set in this universe? Given the impressive world-building so far I'd say that there's definitely scope for it. And you do narrative-style very well.

    Incidentally how fares the final chapter and epilogue of "To Hell With Hatton"?
     
  5. Uhura's Mazda represented by Skinny's broken cuckoo clock Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2014
    Location:
    Tamaki Makaurau
    Thanks, guys! Considering I only had the spark of inspiration for this about an hour after I should have been asleep, and I was essentially making it up as I went along after the first couple of paragraphs, I'm relatively pleased with how it turned out. Many of the sentences make grammatical sense. In the end, I almost deleted the whole thing because of the weirdness and the particular subject matter, but hit the 'post' button by accident!

    Yeah, the original idea sprang from reading about Guild Socialism/Syndicalism/etc. and liking it, before realising that there wasn't much constitutional difference between that and Mussolini-style Fascism. So Corporatism (in Britain, at least) is a kind of idealised fusion of workers' democracy and the ice bits of Fascism. Then as soon as I began writing the Alt-PM list, I started thinking about everything that could go wrong, and how an isolated Western Europe would be dependent on their colonies, and how you always get people in trade unions who are just in it for their own benefit, and it quickly became a bit dystopian. I'd certainly rather prostitutes had a body which could regulate the industry and ensure their safety (and prostitution being legal in NZ doesn't pose many problems IOTL) but I'm a bit too prudish to allow that making it a legitimate career choice would be a good thing.

    I find this world quite alluring, so if the right idea comes along I'll write it. I'm certainly encouraged by your confidence in me. :)

    Ah. I thought everybody had forgotten about that. Really, I'd spent twice as much time as I'd intended on it, real life was catching up, and all the bits I'd really wanted to write were already posted. Looking back, the final chapter would have been mainly involving characters who I haven't really captured, so I'll probably fold in all the info into the Epilogue which, since you've asked, will be posted at some point today. Sorry for the delay.