state authoritarianism

glevy at glevy at
Sun Jul 9 23:49:43 MDT 1995

Bryan wrote the following very challenging post:

> This discussion of the limits and evils of state power seems to lack a
> crucial - and very modern - element: the promulgation of supporting
> fictions.  Premodern states might be limited by external forces (I won't
> contest this now, accept as given) - but our states now generate "external
> forces" to maintain and extend their power.  "Policy" is always fictive.
> That there are so manye xamples to choose from tells us something - but
> think of the blatant invention of the menace of Islamic fundamentalism: a
> force essentially external to the US, whose contours are shaped by foreign
> policy think tanks, the State Department, and corporate-owned mass media.
> Or: Yeltsin's unsuccessful attempt to narrate a story of Chechen
> mafia-nesting.  Or: Hitler's volk vs Jews.  The pomo fixation on current
> fictions and the fictive nature of most institutional products misses, as
> has been said, the crucial function of state mythography.  Orwell famously
> writes of this - and we could call this phenomenon an iteration of
> ideology.
> 	Further, the contract idea has always struck me as potent, rather
> than deeply right.  I remember the first time I heard of the Rurik myth:
> the Rus invited the Vikings to rule over them.  Same reaction to social
> contract theory - what a scam!  The power of this idea to influence and
> control - not so much in the hands of resistance movements, but in the
> hands of the state - is clear and enormous, as well as fictive.
> 	In other words, I argue that the state is a machine necessarily
> addicted to its own power, its maintenance and extension (and, as Marx
> tells us, this last is literally intensive and extensive - I'll get the
> cite if someone asks).  The state is based on INvoluntary power; myths of
> voluntarism are just that, and are useful props.
> 	My apologies for delurking into such a belated thread.

Well, I'm certainly glad you delurked.  If we accept the above, then one
of three positions are possible.

Position One:  We agree not to take or hold state power (a respectable
left anarchist position that shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand).

Position Two: We agree that the working class in power should not develop
"supporting fictions" (possibly a utopian position depending on your
conception of the role of the state).

Position Three: We agree that the workers' state should be allowed to
develop self-serving "supporting fictions."

I find Position Three to be unacceptable.  Either the state should be
honest with its citizens or there should be no state at all.

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