Absolutist theory, however, can provide illumination on this; the connection is a necessary one for an unsecure power system, as the promotion of anarchist ontologies – of which liberalism is the prime example – is a necessary development of an unsecure power system of which the modern nation state is the example par excellence.
Virtues and Absolutism. Reactionary Future.
…role of power, as following certain imperatives dependent on the relative position of the actors in question.
The Patron Theory of Politics. Reactionary Future.
2: The Praxeology of Power or the Science of Elite Action.
3: The Game is the Game.
4: The Iron Law of Unsecure Power.
5: The Rules of Rulers.
6: Mao’s Cultural Revolution: A Model of Unsecure Elite Action.
7: Design Principles.
In part 1, we set out the basics of praxeology (the science of human action) – what it is and why it matters.
In part 2, we examined the epistemological foundations of praxeology, the concept of the a priori synthetic proposition and the significance of this type of proposition for economics and politics.
In part 3, we then linked praxeology and the use of the a priori method to order, shape and interpret the facts of social and political history; then, we presented three reactionary philosophies of history and finally explained their logical and epistemological underpinnings.
Here, in the final part, we develop the praxeology of power or the science of elite action.
We describe and explain the reasoning that an unsecure Elite must perform and the actions that they must take using the categories and methods of praxeology.
Thirdly, using a praxeological framework, we place the work of political scientist, Bruce Beauo de Mesquita within a praxeological framework and explain how his work illustrates the a priori conclusions of the praxeology of power.
Then, to illustrate the necessary, a priori synthetic nature of Patron Theory we present what is, perhaps, the greatest example in history that demonstrates the logic of unsecure power:
Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Finally, we set down some basic design principles for avoiding the problems of unsecure power or Imperium in Imperio.
2: The Praxeology of Power and the Science of Elite Action.
For Ruling Elites their end – their Real end or Real reason – is to, necessarily, secure their power against what in our terminology we call Essentials. If Elites cannot secure their power directly (such as replacing Essentials by command) or by directly using organised violence (such as simply executing them) then there is only one possibility left.
The remaining possibility is to employ either or both external and internal Expendables as proxies in order to diminish, degrade and destroy the power of Essentials.
Furthermore, if necessary, the Elite will fabricate (or adopt) whatever religious, philosophical or ideological rationale (a political formula) that can provide Formal cover for the Real reasons. Later, we shall see Mao’s Cultural Revolution illustrate, with almost mathematical precision, the science of Elite action.
First, however, we must re-construct the claims made in the Patron Theory in praxeological terms.
To begin with, let’s re-cap what praxeology is.
From Part 1:
Praxeology is the scientific study of human action, which is purposeful behavior. A human acts whenever he uses means to achieve an end that he or she subjectively values. Human action is thus teleological or intentional; a person acts for a reason. Therefore not all human behavior is action in the praxeological sense: purely reflexive or unconscious bodily movements (such as coughing when exposed to tear gas) are not examples of action.Praxeology starts from the undeniable axiom that human beings exist and act, and then logically deduces implications of this fact. These deduced propositions are true a priori…
Every action involves not only a value judgment concerning different ends, but also a belief on the part of the actor that he possesses adequate means to achieve his desired end.
The Fundamentals of Human Action. Man Economy and State. Murrary Rothbard.
Implied within the axiom of action are the following, necessary formal features of acting:
4: General conditions.
5: Scarce resource (time and materials.)
Then, we have the scope and scale of what praxeology applies to:
- The Theory of the Isolated Individual (CrusoeEconomics)
- The Theory of Voluntary Interpersonal Exchange(Catallactics, or the Economics of the Market)
The praxeology of power is both a sub-set of and overlaps with both the theory of war and the theory of games.
In part 2, we quoted the Austrian, syllogistic, method. We reproduce the passage from Hoppe again, but this time with some changes.
Specifically, all hostile and game-playing reasoning consists of the following:
1: an understanding of the categories of action and the meaning of a change occurring in such things as values, preferences, knowledge, means, costs, etc;
2: a description of a world in which the categories of action assume concrete meaning, where definite people are identified as actors with definite objects specified as their means of action, with some definite goals identified as values and definite things specified as costs.
Such description could be one of a Hobbesian world in which hostile, competitive and cooperative relationships are possible; of a world of conflict and betrayal, that make use of deception and religious and ideological memetic fabrication as a means of control; a world where pay, perks and prestige are a scarce resource.
3: a logical deduction of the consequences which result from the performance of some specified action within this world, or of the consequences which result for a specific actor if this situation is changed in a specified way.
Provided there is no flaw in the process of deduction, the conclusions that such reasoning yield must be valid a priori because their validity would ultimately go back to nothing but the indisputable axiom of action.
Economic Science and the Austrian Method. Hoppe.
The central claim of the praxeology of power is that, as in economics, there are a priori synthetic propositions. For example, Master Future claims that Elites will, necessarily, act in ways described in Patron Theory and if this is true – which it is – then this type of proposition is an a priori synthetic proposition.
Strategic thought is a type of rational thought and as such it shares, necessarily, many of the formal features of praxeology.
One definition of strategy is the art (and science) of creating power.
Strategic thought, whether in economics, war or “games” involves the following:
1: Defining and determining ends.
2: Analysis of the obstacles – human or natural – to one’s ends. An analysis could consist of facts, causes and reasoning about probability; interpreting the intentions – indeed the strategy – of other players. Analysis also involves taking stock of one’s resources – which are always limited – such as men, money, materials and time.
3: Calculation. This involves reasoning regarding the various choices and the probable costs and consequences, profits and losses of each respective choice along with the potential and probable reactions of other players.
4: Fantasy or imagination. Inventing or designing innovative, bold and surprising means to reach ends.
5: Plans. A plan will involve sequence – the logical order in which action proceeds – and schedule – the time when each action is to be performed, which necessarily involves calculating how long an action will likely take. Naturally, the concept of plans implies the concept of contingency planning.
3: The Game is the Game.
One way of looking at politics and war (which exist along a continuum) is try to understand this kind of human activity as a game.
The game is Power. The Power game occurs, necessarily, when either individual humans cooperate in order to achieve some goal or whenever any human social structure (a state, a corporation, a church, a military or a gang) already exists and individuals compete for power, prestige, perks and pay within that structure.
The Power game has three types of players (the internal aspect of the game anyway), they are:
Elites are defined functionally as the players who “decide the exception”; more broadly, Elites define or re-define the ends of the structure via an exercise of judgement and have the power to define and re-define the rules that regulate action within the structure. Examples of Elites within a structure are King, CEO, Pope, Field Marshall or mafia Don.
Essentials are “essential” because without them, Elites could not achieve their ends.
Functionally, Essentials are those players whom the Elite depend upon, in the first case, for gaining, maintaining and exercising their power.
Essentials could be the financial donor without whom the political campaign could not succeed; the Lord who commands and controls an army which is needed to win in a war; a Mafia captain whose “crew” brings in the most cash that is necessary for the Don to pay for his legal costs.
Expendables are players who can be used, abused and discarded by either the Elite or the Essentials. Expendables are the pawns, the foot soldiers, and the employees – the temps.
Formal Reasons and Real Reasons.
Imperial Energy reasons in the tradition of Machiavelli-Mosca-Burnham and Moldbug; thus, in any structure of humans aimed at a purpose (making money, wining wars etc) there will always exist two types of intentions or reasons for each player in the game.
One type of reason is the Formal Reason and the second type of reason is the Real Reason.
Depending on the design of the structure and the stability of the structure (for either internal or external reasons), players will devote either more or less resources (attention, time and money) to either Formal or Real reasons.
Formal reasons are the publicly stated purpose of the structure and the formally defined purpose of each player.
For example, the Formal purpose of an Army is to win wars and the Formal reason for the Field Marshal is coordinate all aspects pertaining to the military in such a way as to win. In a for-profit corporation, the Executive’s overall purpose is to maximize profit.
The role of Essentials – managers, captains and priests – is to execute and or oversee the plans as set down by the Elites.
Real reasons are the implicit, unstated and often hidden, private reasons of both the structure and each player.
To a close approximation, Real reasons can be understood via Napoleon’s apparently honest belief that men are motivated solely by “fear and self-interest.”
In short, self-interest for players is pay, perks, prestige and power.
Fear, for players, is the reduction or loss of pay, perks, prestige and power.
4: The Iron Law of Unsecure Power.
The Iron Law of Unsecure Power:
The greater the insecurity of a Ruling Elite, the more resources an Elite will devote to real reasons and not formal reasons and will thus degrade, diminish, destroy and defeat any and all Essential opposition and obstacles, using any and all means necessary.
By insecurity, we mean the following:
1: Physical. (The possibility of being assassinated.)
2: Positional (The possibility of being replaced or removed via the formal rules of the structure – voted out of office, impeached.).
3: Command and Control (the power of Elites to use Essentials and Expendables as means to realize the Elites ends.)
4: Psychological (the concern, based on reasoning, feeling and imagination, that someone or some group threaten 1-3 – even if it is only a possibility).
General Conditions or Constraints Upon Elite Action.
If Elites were omnipotent, then other players in the structure are then extensions of the Elite’s own personal will – one wonders if they would be called players at all then.
Since this is not – yet – possible, there will always be a gap between the desire and ability of Elites to realize their Formal and Real goals.
In other words, like in war, there is friction and uncertainty.
Friction exists when Essentials reject, undermine or sabotage the will of an Elite or who attempt to negotiate a better deal with the Elite.
Uncertainty, for Elites, is that they can never be fully confident that Essentials are loyal and are not seeking to replace or remove them.
One way of understanding the relationship between Elites and Essentials is that it is a trade or an exchange of goods and services.
Elites want some good or service that Essentials provide and Elites have something Essentials want in return. However, as with most trades, the traders do not have an equal bargaining position.
If Elites are more powerful relative to Essentials, then they can get their goods and services at a lower production cost but if Essentials are more powerful relative to Elites, then Elites must pay more.
All humans exist in a condition of scarcity – which includes intangible goods such as prestige, rank and esteem. Thus, since demand for these goods will always outstrip supply – necessarily – Elites will have to decide how and to whom these goods via pay or reward will be spent.
Again, to be clear, these goods are:
Elites will decide the question of distribution for either two reasons:
1: Formal reasons. (The Elite rewards those who have or who will help Elites achieve the Formal reasons or purpose of the structure – i.e. win a war, provide good governance, maximize profit etc.)
2: Real reasons. (The Elite rewards those who have or who will help achieve the Real reasons or purpose of either the Elite or the structure – gain or maintain power.)
Thus, necessarily, there is always a tension or a conflict between Elites and Essentials and between Essentials and Essentials for the production, control, distribution and possession of pay, prestige and power.
In short, Elites have only two options when dealing with Essentials and this choice can is captured in Slivo Dante’s rule of mob management:
“Make nice or make disappear.”
That is, either Tony (the Elite) rewards Ralph (an Essential) with either more pay or more power and prestige or Tony makes Ralph “disappear” by killing him.
Rulers Only Become Tyrants When They Don’t Have Enough Power.
The central problem is when either Elites cannot remove or replace Essentials or that Elites decide that the “production costs” are too high because Essentials are too powerful.
The same incentives that influence Executives to cut costs in a business are similar to the incentives that drive political Elites to reduce the relative power of Essentials. (Compare, for instance, the Iron Law of Wages with the Iron Law of Rebellious Tools.)
If these factual or synthetic conditions and constraints exist then, assuming nothing more than the fear and self-interest of the Elite, they will, necessarily, engage the use of proxies and develop a client-patron relationship with players who are either willing and able to be Essentials or who are willing and able to degrade, diminish, defeat or destroy the power of current Essentials.
The Forced Move.
The central idea of Patron Theory is that given the position and psychology of Elites and the friction they encounter from Essentials and whatever political, legal, economic or military constraints Elites face on their power, there are, therefore, only a few moves open to them. Indeed, their choice to use proxies – to embrace destructive, leveling or “left-wing” ideologies – can be compared to what in chess and other games is called a “forced move.”
This article defines the move this way:
An important principle in chess is the concept of the “forcing move”. A forcing move is one which requires the opponent to reply in a certain way, or which greatly limits the ways in which he can respond. Essentially, a forcing move is either a check, a capture, or a threat. In the case of a check, it is the rules which force the opponent to respond – he must get out of check. Capturing moves and threats are also usually forcing, because while the opponent may legally be allowed to make any move, most of the moves will be bad.
In other words, Elites are forced to become tyrants because they do not have enough power.
When we come to examine Mao’s Cultural Revolution, we will see how true and important this fact is.
5: The Rules for Rulers.
The following (though with now a slightly new angle) is from part 3a of the STEEL-cameralist manifesto:
For the elite, or just the ruler himself, there are a few key rules that must be followed.
According to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita there are five fundamental rules for rulers that he laid down in his book the Dictator’s Handbook. Mesquita’s descriptive work perfectly aligns with what we would expect a priori from Patron Theory and the praxeology of power. The five key rules are:
Keep your winning coalition as small as possible. A small coalition allows a leader to rely on very few people to stay in power. Fewer essentials equals more control and contributes to more discretion over expenditures.
(Strong and Secure High; Small and Weak Middle.)
Keep your nominal selectorate as large as possible. Maintain a large selectorate of interchangeables and you can easily replace any troublemakers in your coalition, influentials and essentials alike. After all, a large selectorate permits a big supply of substitute supporters to put the essentials on notice that they should be loyal and well behaved or else face being replaced. (Bold mine.)
(Did someone mention Muslims? Muslims? Do I hear Muslims? Hello?)
Control the flow of revenue. It’s always better for a ruler to determine who eats than it is to have a larger pie from which the people can feed themselves. The most effective cash flow for leaders is one that makes lots of people poor and redistributes money to keep select people—their supporters—wealthy. (Bold mine.)
(To paraphrase Alexander Hamilton, if you control their pay, then you control their principles.)
Pay your key supporters just enough to keep them loyal. Remember, your backers would rather be you than be dependent on you. Your big advantage over them is that you know where the money is and they don’t. Give your coalition just enough so that they don’t shop around for someone to replace you and not a penny more.
(Sometimes treat em mean, but always keep em keen.)
Don’t take money out of your supporter’s pockets to make the people’s lives better. The flip side of rule 4 is not to be too cheap toward your coalition of supporters. If you’re good to the people at the expense of your coalition, it won’t be long until your “friends” will be gunning for you. Effective policy for the masses doesn’t necessarily produce loyalty among essentials, and it’s darn expensive to boot. Hungry people are not likely to have the energy to overthrow you, so don’t worry about them. Disappointed coalition members, in contrast, can defect, leaving you in deep trouble.
The Iron Law of Unsecure Power is that the greater the extent of Elite weakness the more resources they will have to devote to attain their real and not formal reason: Power.
If Elites cannot secure their power either by removing or replacing Essentials by direct command or by direct physical aggression and if they cannot secure either their loyalty or compliance with rewards, then only one option (besides surrender) is possible:
6: Mao’s Cultural Revolution: A Model of Unsecure Elite Action.
Here, we will draw upon the book Mao: the Untold Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday that offers us a rich, descriptive model of everything we have reasoned out a priori.
The Elite in this case is Mao Zedong and his action was the design and implementation of what is known as the Great Proletarian Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Everything in what you are about to read is a necessary consequence of certain general facts such as that an organisation exists (The Communist Party in this case) and facts about human nature (fear and self-interest of all players) with their resulting actions explained by the categories of praxeology.
We draw attention, in particular, to the following key points:
1: Mao launched the Cultural Revolution because – due to “his” failure over the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in Mao losing power and prestige relative to Essentials – he wanted to diminish, degrade, defeat and destroy practically all his Essentials and replace them with a new, small and weak, Essential “machine”.
2: Given that Mao could not remove, replace or kill his Essentials directly, Mao selected, as his means, the proxy strategy that Patron Theory would lead us to expect.
3: The Cultural Revolution’s Real reason, as expected, differed from the Formal or public reason. The Real reason was the destruction of Essentials and the destruction of the old culture was incidental.
4: Mao’s proxies – Mao’s Expendables – were students. As we make clear here, the young are the ones who invest in new “paradigms” because it offers them the opportunity for pay, perks, prestige and power – which is exactly what Mao offered the students.
5: As made clear below, the students were (so it appears) completely ignorant of Mao’s Real reasons. They were nothing more than “rebellious tools”; furthermore, as made clear below, the greatest atrocities of the Cultural Revolution were all state sanctioned – they were not spontaneous, but designed from above (or so it is asserted in the book). In other words, the students (Expendables) took their orders from the Elites – the Gang of Four, who were themselves a proxy for the Elite Mao.
From Mao: The Untold Story:
AMBUSHED BY THE PRESIDENT
A MORE URGENT concern for Mao in September 1961 was the chance of losing power at a Party congress. Mao’s “biggest worry,” Lin Biao wrote in his diary, “is whether he can get the majority in a vote.” And a congress was due that very month. The previous one had been held in September 1956, and the Party charter stipulated one every five years. Mao had to fend off the threat of being deposed
When he called the conference, Mao had had no intention of stopping his deadly policies. On the contrary; his aim had been to use the occasion to spur on his officials, so that they would go back home and turn the screws tighter.
But Mao’s cosy plan fell apart. On the 27th, Liu did something that took Mao utterly by surprise. With Mao in the chair, Liu gave a different speech from the circulated keynote text he was supposed to deliver. With this huge audience of all the 7,000 top officials in the country listening, Liu laid into Mao’s policies. “People do not have enough food, clothes or other essentials,” he said; “agricultural output, far from rising in 1959, 1960 and 1961, dropped, not a little, but tremendously … there is not only no Great Leap Forward, but a great deal of falling backward.” Liu dismissed the official explanation for the calamities, saying there was “no serious bad weather” in the areas he had visited, nor, he strongly hinted, anywhere. He called on delegates to question the new Leap that Mao had advocated, and raised the possibility of scrapping the communes and even the Mao-style industrialisation programme. Liu established beyond a glimmer of a doubt that past policies had been disastrous, and had to be discarded.
BEING FORCED TO change policy by his own Party-without the backing of Moscow-was the biggest setback Mao had suffered since taking power. First he had been outsmarted by the seemingly ultra-cautious Liu. Then he had effectively been given the thumbs-down by virtually all of the stratum that ran the country From this moment on, Mao nurtured a volcanic hatred for Liu and the officials who had attended the conference-as well as for his Party; which these people obviously represented. He was out for revenge.
The president of China and the backbone of his Party were his target.
That is why; a few years later, he launched his Great Purge, the Cultural Revolution, in which Liu and most of the officials in that hall, and numerous others, were to be put through hell.
As Mme Mao spelt out, Mao had “choked back this grievance at the Conference of the Seven Thousand, and was only able to avenge it in the Cultural Revolution.”
Of course Mao was not just in quest of revenge, savage and devastating though that was. It was obvious to him that this set of officials was not prepared to run the country the way he wanted. He would purge them and install new enforcers. ~ite a few left the conference with a sense of foreboding for Liu.
Liu himself knew that this was the biggest turning-point in his life, but he had decided that his priority was to fend off more tens of millions of deaths. During this period the normally reserved Liu was unusually passionate and vocal about the plight of the Chinese people, who had suffered so terribly at the hands of the regime of which he was a leading member. Over the next few years, Liu and his like-minded colleagues worked at getting the economy back into shape-while Mao planned revenge.
A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY AND SETBACKS
IN THE YEARS 1962-65, Mao made some headway in turning every facet of life into something “political” and killing culture, but the result was far from satisfactory for him.
He had to rely on the Party machine to execute his orders, and virtually everyone had reservations about his policies, all the way from the Politburo downwards. Few welcomed a life without entertainment or colour. Mao found that almost everyone was dragging their feet, and that recreations patently harmless to the regime, like the classics and flowers, continued to exist. He was angry and frustrated, but was unable to have his way.
This episode enormously stoked Mao’s suspicions that there might be a vast plot against him involving senior colleagues in cahoots with the Russians. Nothing could be more dangerous for him than the Kremlin expressing a serious wish to oust him.
THIS WAS AN exceptionally unsure time for Mao, and Liu Shao-ch’i exploited it.
He made a bid to strengthen his position by having himself reconfirmed as state president.
This would provide an opportunity for a huge burst of profile-building, as a sort of personality cult for himself Reconfirmation of his tenure was long overdue. Mao had not allowed the body that “elected” the president, the National Assembly, to convene as it should have in 1963, because he only wanted it to meet when he was ready to purge Liu. But within weeks ofMalinovsky’s remarks about getting rid of Mao, Liu convened the Assembly on extraordinarily short notice, calculating that Mao would feel too insecure either to veto this move or to purge him. Mao saw what Liu was up to, and erupted. “Let’s do the handover now,” he said sarcastically to Liu on 26 November: “You take over and be the chairman. You be Qi_nshihuang [the First Emperor] …” Mao could not prevent the Assembly meeting. All he could do was withhold his blessing by not calling a Party plenum beforehand to set the agenda-the only time such an omission ever happened during his reign. In the Politburo the day before the Assembly opened, Mao snapped at Liu repeatedly: “I just won’t endorse [you].” At one point, he told Liu: “You’re no good.” Outside the meeting room, Mao exploded to a couple of his devotees: “Someone is shitting on my head!” Then, on his seventy-first birthday, on 26 December, he took the most unusual step of inviting Liu for dinner.
Mao almost never socialised with Liu or his other colleagues, except for being on the dance floor at the same time. Beforehand, Mao said to his daughter Li Na: “You are not coming today, because your father is going to curse the mother-fucker.” Mao sat at one table with a few favourites, while Liu was put at a separate table. There was not an iota of birthday atmosphere.
While everyone else sat in frigid silence, Mao ranted on with accusations about “revisionism” and “running an independent kingdom,”…
(Imperium In Imperio “state within a state” indeed.)
(Mao was soon to catapult Chen to No.4 in the Party.) On 3 January 1965, Liu was reappointed president, to a blaze of publicity, quite unlike the occasion of his original appointment in 1959, when there had been little fanfare. This time there were rallies and parades, with his portrait carried alongside Mao’s, and firecrackers, drums and gongs. Newspapers ran headlines like “Chairman Mao and Chairman Liu A Time of Uncertainty and Setbacks 493 are both our most beloved leaders.” (The president is also called “chairman” in Chinese.) Liu plainly had many supporters rooting for him. He had earned a lot of credit with senior Party officials for extricating China from the famine. Even devoted Mao followers in the inner circle showed signs of switching allegiance.
Most incredibly, the idea was mooted of hanging Liu’s portrait on Tiananmen Gate-alone, without Maos!-which Liu had to veto at once. On the day Liu was being re-elected, his wife was summoned, for the first time ever, to a meeting in Mao’s Suite n8 in the Great Hall. The Lius were very much in love, and Mao knew it. He chose this day to signal his intention to make them both suffer. When Liu walked in after the vote, he was taken aback when he saw his wife was present. Mao pounced, bellowing a long tirade. Mme Liu felt immense hatred radiating from Mao. She and Liu looked at each other in silence. Mao wanted Mme Liu to witness her husband being abused, and for Liu to register: I will make your wife pay too. Yet, even after such an overt display of hostility, no colleague took Mao’s side and denounced Liu. Most just expressed concern about the discord between “the two chairmen,” and urged Liu to adopt a more obsequious posture towards Mao. Liu eventually apologised to Mao for not being respectful enough. Mao’s response was as menacing as it was arbitrary: “This is not a matter of respect or disrespect. This is a question of Marxism versus Revisionism.” Echoing Stalin’s remark about Tito (“I will wag my little finger and there will be no more Tito”), Mao told Liu: “Who do you think you are? I can wag my little finger and there will be no more you!” But in fact, for now, there was a stand-off Mao could not get Liu condemned just on his own say-so.
A HORSE-TRADE SECURES THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
The fact that an article so overtly sponsored by Mao was treated in this way showed the degree of resistance he was facing from very powerful forces in the Party.
Mao needed a system to carry out his will, and that made Lin Biao’s instant help essential. Lin knew it, and he knew what he wanted in return: Chief of Staff Luo must suffer. So Mao conceded, even though Luo the Tall had been ultra-loyal, and Mao needed such men more than ever at this of all times. But Lin was the man he could not do without: there was no one with comparable clout who would do Mao’s bidding. Luo the Tall was able and loyal, but he was not a marshal, and did not have long-established prestige in the army; and so he was sacrificed.
MEANWHILE, MAO WAS getting desperate. That same February, with the backing of Liu Shao-ch’i, Mayor Peng issued a national “guideline” forbidding the use of political accusations to trample on culture and the custodians of culture. Moreover, he went further, and actually suppressed Mao’s instructions aimed at starting a persecution campaign. The obstruction from the Party was being highly effective. Nor was this all. As soon as he issued the guideline, Mayor Peng flew to Sichuan, ostensibly to inspect arms industries relocated in this mountainous province. There he did something truly astonishing. He had a secret tete-a-tete with Marshal Peng who had been banished there the previous November when Mao began clearing the decks for the Great Purge. What the two Pengs talked about has never been revealed, but judging from the timing, and the colossal risk Mayor Peng took in visiting a major foe of Mao’s, without permission, in secret, it is highly likely that they discussed the feasibility of using the army to stop Mao.
Mao was already suspicious that there might be a vast conspiracy between his colleagues and Moscow against him. The previous November, in the opening stage of the Purge, one of his first moves had been to fire the man who handled the leadership’s communications with Moscow, the Russian-speaking director of the Central Secretaries’ Office, Yang Shangkun, and exile him to Canton, in the far south.
This was a real crisis for Mao, and he needed forceful support from Lin Biao-at once. He consented to Lin’s demand to have Chief of Staff Luo condemned for “treason.” On 18 March, Luo threw himself off the roof of his house, in a failed attempt to kill himself This was regarded, as always, as “betraying” the Party, and qualified him for the nastiest punishment.
Most unusually; in the speech Lin spoke explicitly about the possibility of a coup d’etat, a subject which was normally taboo. Mao had him talk in this way in order to knock any lingering dreams of a palace coup on the head. Mao had been making preparations against a coup for years, Lin disclosed, and particularly “in recent months,” when Mao had “paid special attention to the adoption of many measures toward preventing a . . . coup.” Mao had “deployed troops and key personnel … and made arrangements in critical departments like radio stations, the army and the police. This is what Chairman Mao has been doing in the past few months … ” He also divulged that Mao had taken the possibility of a coup so seriously that he (Mao) had “lost sleep for many days.”
Mao had indeed been making arrangements to forestall a coup. Army units officered by Lin men had been moved into the capital. “We transferred two more garrison divisions [into Peking],” Mao told Albania’s defence minister. “Now in Peking we have three infantry divisions and one mechanised division, altogether four divisions. It is only because of these that you can go anywhere, and we can go anywhere.” The Praetorian Guard was drastically purged, including three deputy chiefs, one dying a terrible death, two barely surviving. The only person left unscathed was its chief, Mao’s trusted chamberlain Wang Dongxing.
Mao’s Great Purge was rolling thanks to a horse-trade with his crony Lin Biao.
(Now, it begins.)
THE GREAT PURGE (1966-67 *AGE 72-73)
In June, Mao intensified the terrorisation of society.
He picked as his first instrument of terror young people in schools and universities, the natural hotbeds for activists.
These students were told to condemn their teachers and those in charge of education for poisoning their heads with “bourgeois ideas” -and for persecuting them with exams, which henceforth were abolished. The message was splashed in outsize characters on the front page of People’s Daily, and declaimed in strident voices on the radio, carried by loudspeakers that had been rigged up everywhere, creating an atmosphere that was both blood-boiling and blood-curdling.
Teachers and administrators in education were selected as the first victims because they were the people instilling culture, and because they were the group most conveniently placed to offer up to the youthful mobs, being right there at hand.
The young were told that their role was to “safeguard” Mao, although how their teachers could possibly harm “the great Helmsman,” or what perils might beset him, was not disclosed. Nevertheless, many responded enthusiastically.
Taking part in politics was something no one had been allowed to do under Mao, and the country was seething with frustrated activists who had been denied the normal outlets available in most societies, even to sit around and argue issues. Now, suddenly; there seemed to be a chance to get involved.
To those interested in politics, the prospect was tremendously exciting.
Young people began to form groups. On 2 June, a group from a middle school in Peking put up a wall poster, which they signed with the snappy name of “Red Guards,” to show that they wanted to safeguard Mao. Their writing was full of remarks like: “Stuff ‘human feelings’!” “We will be brutal!” “We will strike you [Mao’s enemies] to the ground and trample you!” The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping.
Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent element of society.
To make sure that students were fully available to carry out his wishes, Mao ordered schooling suspended from 13 June. “Now lessons are stopped,” he said, and young people “are given food. With food they have energy and they want to riot. What are they expected to do if not to riot?” Violence broke out within days.
IT was in these nondescript changing-rooms that Mao created the terror of “Red August,” with the aim of frightening the whole nation into an even greater degree of conformity. On August, he wrote to the first group of Red Guards, who had vowed in their posters to “be brutal” and to “trample” Mao’s enemies, to announce his “fiery support.” He circulated this letter, together with the bellicose Red Guard posters, to the Central Committee, telling these high officials that they must promote the Red Guards.
Many of these officials were actually on Mao’s hit list, but for now he used them to spread terror-one that would soon engulf themselves.
Following Mao’s instructions, these officials encouraged their children to form Red Guard groups, and these children passed the word to their friends. Red Guard groups mushroomed as a result, invariably headed by the children of high officials. Learning from their fathers and friends that Mao was encouraging violence, the Red Guards immediately embarked on atrocities.
With models set up by Mao, this practice then spread to all schools, accompanied by a “theory of the bloodline,” summed up in a couplet as ridiculous as it was brutal: “The son of a hero father is always a great man; a reactionary father produces nothing but a bastard!”
(Notice next, the distinction between Formal and Real reasons.)
This was chanted by many children of officials’ families, who dominated the early Red Guards, little knowing that their “hero fathers” were Mao’s real targets.
(Iron Law of Rebellious Tools comes next.)
At this initial stage, Mao simply used these children as his tools, setting them upon other children. When the Sichuan boss returned from Peking, he told his son, who was organising a Red Guard group: “The Cultural Revolution is the continuation of the Communists against the Nationalists … Now our sons and daughters must fight their [Nationalists’] sons and daughters.” This man could not possibly have given such an order unless it had come from Mao.
AFTER TERROR IN SCHOOLS, Mao directed his Red Guards to fan out into society at large. The targets at this stage were the custodians of culture, and culture itself On I8 August, Mao stood next to Lin Biao on Tiananmen Gate while Lin called on Red Guards throughout the country to “smash … old culture.”
The selection of the victims, all household names, was unquestionably done at the very top, since till now they had all been official stars. There can be no doubt that the whole event was staged by the authorities; the loosely-banded teenage Red Guards could not possibly have organised all this on their own.
There was a short list of notables to be exempted, drawn up by Chou En-lai. This later brought Chou totally unmerited plaudits for allegedly “saving” people. In fact, it was Mao who got Chou to draw up the list, on 30 August, and the purpose was purely utilitarian. The only reason Chou had charge of it was because he was running the whole show, not because he stepped in to save people. The list comprised a few dozen names. By contrast, later official statistics show that in August-September, in Peking alone, 33,695 homes were raided (which invariably involved physical violence), and 1,772 people were tortured or beaten to death.
One of Mao’s aims with the house raids was to use the Red Guards as proxy bandits.
They confiscated tons of gold, silver, platinum, jewellery; and millions of dollars in hard currency, which all went into the state coffers, as well as many priceless antiques, paintings and ancient books. The looting, along with mindless on-site destruction, cleaned virtually all valuable possessions out of private hands. Some of the plunder was exported to earn foreign currency.
(State sanctioned and not “spontaneous” violence.)
Contrary to what is widely believed, the vast majority of the destruction was not spontaneous, but state-sponsored.
(Now, when Mao had built his “machine” with “proxies” who had a taste for blood, and while all this was hidden behind a Formal rationale, Mao now went after his real target – Essentials.)
BY MID-SEPTEMBER 1966, the country was thoroughly terrorised and Mao felt confident enough to start stalking his real target: Party officials. On 15 September, Lin Biao instructed a Red Guards’ rally on Tiananmen Square that they were to shift their target and “focus on denouncing those power-holders inside the Party pursuing a capitalist road,” known as “capitalist-roaders.”
What Lin-and Mao-really meant was the old enforcers who had shown distaste for Mao’s extremist policies. Mao aimed to get rid of them en masse, and the call went out to attack them right across China.
(Formal v Real reasons.)
Now he was moving against his real enemies, Party officials; and for this he used a broader, mainly older force. With Mao’s explicit support, Rebels denounced their bosses in wall posters and at violent rallies.
After some months to generate momentum, in January 1967, Mao called on Rebels to “seize power” from their Party bosses.
Mao did not differentiate between disaffected officials and those who were actually totally loyal to him and had not wavered even during the famine. In fact, there was no way he could tell who was which. So he resolved to overthrow them all first, and then have them investigated by his new enforcers.
The population was told that the Party had been in the hands of villains (“the black line”) ever since the founding of the Communist regime. It was an index of how deeply fear had been embedded that no one dared to ask the obvious questions, like: “In that case, why should the Party go on ruling?” or “Where was Mao all these seventeen years?”
The Rebels’ basic assignment was to punish Party cadres, which is what Mao had been longing to do for years. Some Rebels hated their Party bosses, and jumped at the chance to take revenge. Others were hungry for power, and knew that the only way to rise was to be merciless towards “capitalist-roaders.” There were also plenty of thugs and sadists.
The first senior official tortured to death was the minister of coal, on 21 January 1967- Mao hated him because he had complained about the Great Leap Forward-and about Mao himself He was exhibited in front of organised crowds, and had his arms twisted ferociously backwards in the form of torment known as being “jet-planed.”
…officials were exiled to de facto labour camps which went under the anodyne name of “May 7 Cadre Schools.” These camps also housed the custodians of culture-artists, writers, scholars, actors and journalists who had become superfluous in Mao’s new order.
THE REPLACEMENTS FOR the ousted cadres came mainly from the army; which Mao ordered into every institution in January 1967. Altogether, over the next few years, 2.8 million army men became the new controllers, and of these, 50,000 took over the jobs of former medium- to high-ranking Party officials. These army men were assisted in their new roles by the Rebels and some veteran cadres who were kept on for continuity and expertise. But the army provided the core of the new enforcers-at the expense of doing its job of defending the country.
One of the new tasks the new enforcers was to screen the old cadres to explore whether they had ever resisted Mao’s orders, even passively. Each of the millions of ousted officials had a “case team” combing through his or her past. At the very top was a Central Special Case Team, a highly secret group chaired by Chou En-lai, with Kang Sheng as his deputy, and staffed by middle-ranking army officers. This was the body that investigated people personally designated by Mao. Since he especially wanted to find out whether any of his top echelon had been plotting against him with the Russians, the key case in the military was that of Marshal Ho Lung, the unlucky recipient of Russian defence minister Malinovsky’s remarks about getting rid of Mao. All Ho’s old subordinates were implicated in this case, and Ho himself died as a result.
Out of his remaining top echelon, there came only one burst of defiance. In February 1967, some of the Politburo members who had not fallen spoke up, voicing rage at what was happening to their fellow Party cadres. Mao’s old follower Tan Zhenlin, who had been in charge of agriculture during the famine (showing how far he was prepared to go along with Mao), exploded to the Small Group: “Your purpose is to get rid of all the old cadres … They made revolution for decades, and end up with their families broken and themselves dying. It is the cruellest struggle in Party history; worse than any time before.”
But these elite survivors were either devoted veteran followers of Mao’s, or men already broken by him. Faced with his wrath, they folded. With the critical duo of Lin Biao and Chou behind him, cowed, he extended them an olive branch. The mini-revolt was easily quelled. Mao had the dissenters harassed; then, when they had been suitably
UNSWEET REVENGE (1966 -74 *AGE 72-80)
Mao’s persecution of the man he hated most could now begin. He started with Liu’s wife, Wang Guangmei.
On 25 December, the eve of Mao’s seventy-third birthday; on the orders of the Small Group, Kuai led 5,000 students in a parade through Peking with trucks fitted with loudspeakers blaring “Down with Liu Shao-ch’i!” This unusual demonstration was a step towards preparing people for the fact that the president of China was about to become an enemy; and even though it was not announced in the media, it made Liu’s fall known to the nation. Kuai and his “demonstration” also enabled Mao to make it seem that Liu’s downfall was by some sort of popular demand.
(They were “tools” and “cowards”.)
Kuai recounted- 530 * 1966-1974 * The students never thought Liu Shao-ch’i would come, and they were all frightened. They knew they couldn’t touch Liu Shao-ch’i … the Centre had given no instructions (about handling Liu in person]. We dared not be rash … We knew this kind of “Down with” in politics could well turn to “Up with” … Without clear and specific instructions from the Centre, when it came to blame, we would have had it. So my pals asked Liu to go back, and kept Wang Guangmei. This is a good self-confession of how the Rebels really worked; they were tools and cowards, and they knew it.
So ended the only spontaneous move by the Rebels against the Lius. Chou’s order to spare Guangmei was not made out of the kindness of his heart. Kuai’s action was unauthorised, and did not fit in with Mao’s timetable.
THE CHAIRMAN’S NEW OUTFIT (1967-70 *AGE 73-76)
BY EARLY 1967, Mao had axed millions of Party officials and replaced them mainly with army men. But he immediately found himself facing problems with the replacements. Most lacked sufficient brutality, and often protected and even re-employed purged officials, a feat they achieved by enlisting Mao’s hypocritical remark that “most of the old cadres are all right.” This was bad enough, but there was an additional cause for concern on Mao’s part.
He had to rely on army officers to choose Rebels to staff the new set-up. The trouble was that in every region and institution there were different, rival groups, all calling themselves Rebels, and the military tended to incorporate the more moderate ones, even though Mao told them to promote “the Left,” i.e., those harshest in persecuting “capitalist-roaders.” If the army men were allowed to…
(Tools getting out of control.)
Most scary for Mao, hundreds of demonstrators and armed soldiers broke into the grounds of his villa, and got within a stone’s throw of him, carrying off a key member of his entourage, Small Group member Wang Li, who took a fearsome beating. Never in eighteen years of compulsive, all-inclusive self-protection had Mao faced so concrete a threat, both to his personal safety and to his sense of total power.
General Chen was purged, and replaced by a man of unquestioning loyalty to Lin Biao. Army units involved in the defiance were disbanded, and sent to do forced labour. The Peerless disintegrated, and those who tried to hold out were physically beaten into collapse. Over the next few months, as many as 184,000 ordinary citizens and cadres were injured, crippled or killed in the province. General Chen and his deputies were ordered to Peking. There something else extraordinary happened, probably a world “first.” The Wuhan generals were beaten up-and not in some squalid dungeon, but at a Politburo meeting chaired by Chou En-lai. The perpetrators were senior officers headed by air force commander-in-chief Wu Faxian. The scene in the Politburo chamber was just like a street denunciation meeting, with the victims made to stand bent double, their arms twisted back in the jet-plane position, while they were punched and kicked. General Chen was knocked down and trampled on.
Even in Mao’s gangster world, for the Politburo to become the scene of physical violence was unprecedented.
THE UPRISING IN Wuhan led Mao to conclude that over 75 per cent of army officers were unreliable. He had a stab at initiating a huge purge among the military, and started denouncing “capitalist-roaders within the army,” but he had to pull back almost immediately. Having sacked most civilian officials, he simply could not afford to create more enemies in what was now his only power base.
(Government as a criminal enterprise.)
Lin let Liu and his other cronies wage their vendettas and build their own gangs as long as they obeyed him. Mao did the same with Lin. For a while, Mao tried to keep his own men in the army; and appointed one of his acolytes, General Yang Chengwu, as acting chief of staff But Lin did not want General Yang on his back, and eventually got Mao to clap him in prison in March 1968. Mao even suspended the Military Council, the old supreme authority which he himself chaired. Mao retained just one vital veto: moving any force from battalion-strength up required his direct authorisation.
IN SUMMER 1967, dissatisfied with the army, Mao contemplated forming a kind of”storm trooper” force, composed of those Rebels whom he called “the Left.” After the Wuhan scare in July, in a vengeful mood, Mao incited “the Left” to stage assaults on other groups that he termed 542 “the Conservatives.” When Mao fled to Shanghai, he got “the Left” there to attack the rival group. The result was the biggest single factional battle in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, which took place two weeks after Mao arrived.
That day; 4 August, over 100,000 “Left” militants, armed with spears and iron bars, surrounded some 25,000 of their rivals in a factory by the sea, with the exit sealed off by the navy-a deployment inconceivable without Mao’s orders.
But this order to distribute arms to civilians opened up a can of worms. While in some places, like Wuhan, the distinction between moderates and “the Left” was fairly clear, in many others even the most devoted Mao followers could not tell which group was more militant, as all the groups were vying to appear the most aggressive. Typical was Anhui province, where the two opposing blocs rejoiced in the ultra-political names of “Wonderful” and “Fart.” Because the former had got into the old government offices first, it declared that it had seized power from the capitalist roaders, and proclaimed:
(Auditioning for power.)
“Our seizing power is wonderful.” The latter snorted: ” ‘Wonderful’? What a load of fart!” Neither in fact was more militant than the other; both were just competing to be incorporated into the new power structure.
Lacking any criterion more precise than the ill-defined “militancy” towards capitalist roaders, army units handed out weapons to whichever faction they decided was “the Left.” Other factions then raided arsenals to seize weapons for themselves, often with the collusion of their own sympathisers in the army. As a result, guns became widely available. Factional fighting escalated into mini-civil wars across China, involving practically all urban areas. The regime began sliding into something close to anarchy for the first time since taking power nearly two decades before.
(Power, via the use of proxies, secured.)
BY EARLY I 9 6 9, Mao’s new power apparatus was secured. In April, he convened a Party Congress, the 9th, to formalise his reconstructed regime. The previous congress had been in 1956.
Although the Party charter stipulated one every five years, Mao had held off letting this one convene for thirteen years, until he felt that all opposition had been thoroughly purged.
The new delegates were selected exclusively for their loyalty to Mao, and the yardstick of loyalty was how cruel and harsh they had been to Mao’s enemies.
Inside the congress hall, where no such enemies were present, they tried to demonstrate their fealty by jumping up incessantly, shouting slogans such as “Long live Chairman Mao!” while Mao was speaking. It took Mao twenty minutes to get through two pages of his opening address. This farce was not something he wanted from his top echelon, which was meant to be a practical machine.
He looked irritated, and cut short his speech. After the session, he had the congress secretariat issue rules banning unscheduled slogan chanting. The core leadership under Mao now consisted of Lin Biao, Chou En-lai and two chiefs of the Small Group: Chen Boda and Kang Sheng. The Small Group, Mao’s office dealing with the Cultural Revolution, was wound up.
Mme Mao was brought into the Politburo. So were Lin Biao’s wife and his main cronies, such as army chief of staff (and Lin’s wife’s lover) Huang Yongsheng.
In the Central Committee, 81 per cent of the members were new, and nearly half the new intake were army men, including the generals who had presided over the atrocities in Guangxi, Yunnan and Inner Mongolia. Lin himself collected the ultimate prize of being written into the Party charter as Mao’s No. 2 and successor, an unprecedented badge of power and glory.
(State sponsored “killing”.)
Mao had completed his Great Purge, though this did not mean that killings ceased. In the ten years from when Mao started the Purge until his death in 1976, at least 3 million people died violent deaths, and post-Mao leaders acknowledged that 100 million people, one-ninth of the entire population, suffered in one way or another.
The killings were sponsored by the state. Only a small percentage was at the hands of Red Guards. Most were the direct work of Mao’s reconstructed regime.
7: Design Principles.
The question then is, assuming you want to avoid something like the Cultural Revolution what can be done?
Firstly, unless you are actually the designer of a new system, or have a great deal of power already within one, then almost absolutely nothing can be done.
So, the following design principles are for those who are in the position to create a structure that prevents Imperium in Imperio.
Assuming nothing more than fear and self-interest on the part of the players and the categories of praxeology, the following principles can be known via reasoning a priori.
The following principles apply to any structure.
The purpose of principles is that they inform your thinking and deciding. Principles are, by their very nature, general and have a “wholesale” quality rather than a “retail” one.
Thus, when applying principles, one must pay very close attention to the particular facts and circumstances in each case and then decide how to apply the principle.
When principles are applied with precision, they are applied via rules in the form of “if X then Y.”
1: Create a structure with as small as powerful and as secure an Elite player or Elite players as possible.
2: Create a structure with as small and as powerless (relative to Elites) set of Essential players as possible.
3: A structure with as small a number of total players as possible, but with as large as possible pool of potential replacement players for Elites and Essentials – though crucially constrained by a selection mechanism (see 4).
4: As hard a selection process for Essentials and Elites as possible. A selection mechanism that selects for A: skills, abilities and traits necessary for the Formal reason of the structure and that the selection process aids (as a by-product) the Formal reasons of the structure.
5: If Elites could use clients or proxies to better their position, then the design of the selection mechanism and the pool of potential proxies should be as few, weak and individualistic as possible; in addition to having skills, abilities and traits that serve the Formal purpose.
6: The rewards (pay-offs) in power, prestige and perks — including compensation for being made redundant — should be as great as possible for both Essentials and Elites.
7: Design the system, with the rules, rewards and feedback loops leading to outcomes where the only thing that threatens the power of Elites and Essentials is their lack of success regarding Formal reasons.
8: Formal reasons or goals need to be defined as precisely as possible. Formal reasons need to be possible, simple, coherent and internally consistent.
9: Formal reasons or goals need to be capable of being as precisely measured as possible
and as difficult to mask, obfuscate, cheat or rig as possible.
10: Rewards not only need to be contingent upon Formal success but also the scope and scale of the rewards needs to be contingent upon the scope and scale of the success.
11: Cheating, rigging, corruption and private profit-making – contrary to the stipulated rules of the game – need to be punished as harshly as possible.
(The overall design should free the Elites and the Essentials — as much as possible — from having to devote resources to Real goals (securing and fighting for power) instead of the Formal goals.)