Note: The regular Taki post is up. This week it is another dive back into the Covid pool, with an eye to what is happening to the official narrative. Behind the green door is another world class episode of Sunday Thoughts, in addition to a review of Clarkson’s Farm and the detective series Bosch.
In authoritarian societies, the people have no real way of knowing what is happening inside the ruling class. The media is controlled by the regime, so they are not reporting on what is happening internally. Instead, they are broadcasting the official truth from the regime or elements within the regime. Often, regime elements have their own media platforms through which they speak to other regime elements. This is a form of signaling to avoid open confrontation between regime elements.
Otherwise, the public is left to guess about what is happening inside the regime, even when the policy is clear. During the Cold War, Kremlinologists would study what was happening in Russia to try and guess what was happening in the party. If someone stopped showing up to public events, a mountain of narratives would appear building on this one event. We see this with North Korea today. When one of his uncles is missing from the team photo, it is assumed he fell out of favor.
In America, this opacity is complicated by the grand delusion of liberal democracy, which blinds people from the reality of the political arrangements. The trappings of popular government add another layer to party rule. It often means that the signals coming from inside are warped by the pretensions of openness and transparency in party media. The need to pretend the system is working as advertised means that decrees must be dressed up as the result of consent.
With that in mind, the ongoing show trial for the January 6th protests gives an opportunity to do a little regime analysis. Nancy Pelosi has forced through a series of hearings about the protests, despite nothing new to reveal. The right-side of the party engineered their way out of the process. They knew it was a loser for them, so they are now on the sidelines commenting about it. The left side is forging ahead, with the first round wrapping up last week.
The term “show trial” has been with us since the 1920’s, but gained wide currency during Stalin’s purges in the 1930’s. By definition, a show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The point of the trial is to serve as a warning to political opponents of the regime, but also to serve as an expression of power by the dominant elements within the regime. It is all about violence capital within the ruling class.
From the outside, the show trial looks like a display of absolute power. After all, the condemned is usually required to confess to crimes that everyone, including his accusers, know he did not commit. The condemned is forced to humiliate himself as a way of showing his submission to power. Similarly, the people administrating the show trial must pretend to be enthusiastic believers in the proceeding. One element of the show trial is the manufactured appearance of unity.
In reality, show trials are an indication of conflict within the ruling regime, where the dominant camp feels the need to display their power. The point of it is to advertise the violence capital of the side holding the show trial. The reason Stalin had to kill so many old Bolsheviks was he needed to establish himself as the most violent member of the party, the one member willing to kill in order to maintain power. Stalin was making himself into the most dangerous man in a dangerous world.
The thing with Stalin’s purges and show trials is they were not just about his rise to one-man rule of the Soviet state. There were real policy disputes within the party in the 1920’s that are relevant today. The left side of the party, represented by Trotsky, was the accelerationist wing. They wanted rapid adoption of socialism. The right side was the incrementalistic wing, represented by Bukharin. They wanted socialism to evolve over time with party guidance and motivation.
Initially, Stalin sided with the right. In retrospect he chose this course because it gave him time to solidify his hold of the party organization. Stalin was not a theorist or a strategist, but he was an adept organizer. The slow and steady approach, while not living up to the ideals of Bolshevism, meant he could stock the growing bureaucracy with his people. By the late 1920’s when it was clear that the slow approach was far too slow, Stalin switched sides and embraced the accelerationist approach.
The party purges and show trials of the 1930’s coincided with what amounted to a genocide of the Russian peasants. Forced collectivization, execution squads and mass deportations wiped out close to half the agricultural output. Confiscation of crops resulted in widescale famine. It was all part of the revolution from the top in order to turn Russia into an industrial nation. in that regard, it worked. Manufacturing soared and whole cities were created to produce industrial goods.
The point here is the show trial is the bit of the iceberg we can see from outside the ruling regime. The part we don’t see is the party struggle over how to move forward with their stated agenda. In the age of Covid, which started with the chants of “build back better”, it is not unreasonable to see the current show trials in this light. The new rounds of Covid panic, which are a prelude to an autumn lockdown, suggest there is a power struggle inside the party as to how best to force the great reset,
The 18-month campaign against Covid has seen trillions shifted from the white middle-class to elements of the ruling class. The tech oligopoly has profited wildly from the massive changes in society in the name of Covid. Small business has been devastated, much in the same way the kulaks were crushed by Stalin. On the other hand, similar to Stalin’s revolution from above, the great reset is not going to plan. The purge of Trumpism did not end resistance to the party.
Another clue here is the slow maneuvering to pass what is being called an infrastructure plan but is in reality the end of the two-party charade. The $4T plan working its way through the Senate will lock in the gains made by the Left over the last year and foreclose any electoral resistance. The show trial appears to be an effort to whip up support on the left in order to force some elements of the right to sign onto what amounts to their own death certificate.
In our sissified age, the show trial is more about the show than the trial. In this case, men with guns were sent out to arrest the protestors and lock them away in dungeons around the capital. The party leaders lack the courage to bring these people in for a show trial, so they remain incommunicado. Instead of having them shot and air brushed from the history books, they are a silent voice in the proceeding, a reminder to the right side that behind the performance is a will to power.
This is why people should not be fooled by the collection of sissies they rolled out in the first phase. Sure, the those mall cops reading speeches provided to them by the party were ridiculous. One of them was barely literate. The typical mall Santa sees tougher action than these wimps saw on January 6th, but that was never the point of this highly orchestrated drama. Stalin’s show trials were not about public support. The public supported the victims. It was about party politics.
That is the other parallel worth considering. The victims of Stalin were on the side of policies that enjoyed broad public support. Stalin was easily able to overcome this by having control of the instruments of state power. This is why voting harder is not a path out of the current crisis. Your vote does not matter. Instead, what comes next is always what comes next when a ruling elite believes they are the embodiment of the revolutionary dream. The revolution from above will continue.
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