Saturday, May 31, 2014

One Party Rule

I attended David Ramsay Steele's "libertarian seminar" discussion group last night. He and Yuri Maltsev were discussing totalitarianism, coming from very different viewpoints about it. Really they didn't even agree on what it is exactly.

David took what I think of as the standard meaning. I think I was influenced a lot on the topic by reading Hannah Arendt's writing on the topic.  David specifically mentioned the phenomenon of one-party rule, which Arendt also dwelt upon quite a bit.

I've always been a bit puzzled by the one-party rule feature. There's something paradoxical about having a political party when there's no competing party. If you, Mr. Dictator, already control the government completely - if your word is law and your elections (if any) are rigged - what is this "party" for exactly?

It seems to have been a 20th century innovation. Dictatorships of the past didn't work like that. But the Communist Party in the Soviet system played a very active ongoing role, as kind of a parallel structure that coexisted with the government and seemed to watch over the ideological purity of citizens and administrators. Of course, the secret police kept an eye on people too.

Anyway, the ideological purity angle reminded me a little bit of the Spanish Inquisition, especially because I was just listening to a discussion of Schiller's scene with the Grand Inquisitor.

Arendt's theory, if I recall, addressed the issue of the totalitarian state sprouting a variety of internally competing agencies of vigilant enforcement. Her view was that they served to keep everyone off balance. No one could feel secure. Top party members had to fear the KGB. Top KGB officials had to fear the party. It's like the American system of checks and balances - but in reverse - in the sense that instead of providing a stable environment for individuals to blossom, as in James Madison's scheme, the Soviet and Nazi schemes provided fearful environments for crushing the individual soul.

The goal is to control
the individual soul.

It never completely works.
Individuals are such jerks!

Human nature
struggles against erasure.

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