Saturday, 17 September 2016

Social Upheaval

Earth has been undergoing the social upheaval of urban civilization for several thousand years. Merseia was starting a machine age when a ship of the Grand Survey arrived and departed.

"A fierce, proud people had their noses rubbed in their own insignificance. Chee guessed that here lay the root of most of the social upheaval which followed. And belike a more urgent motive than curiosity or profit began to drive the scientists: the desire, the need to catch up, to bring Merseia in one leap onto the galactic scene." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 232)

This recalls Stalin, crushing any trace of workers' control or of popular resistance in order to enforce industrialization without delay - in order to compete militarily against the Western powers; also, Chinese and Japanese regimes modernizing as rapidly as possible.

Technic civilization continues to generate discontent:

David Falkayn secretly founds Supermetals to help the many planets that lack the resources to join interstellar civilization;

the Baburites militarize and conspire to seize Mirkheim, the source of Supermetals' wealth;

the Baburites' armed forces include disaffected human beings and also Merseian aristocrats outraged that the Polesotechnic League had bypassed them to deal with the Gethfennu (organized crime);

the Merseian Roidhunate later competes with the Terran Empire.

Re Stalin:

"Chee got a distinct impression that the Republic [of Lafdigu] was actually a hobnail-booted dictatorship. Its own imperial ambitions clashed with those of the Hands. Nuclear war was averted on the ground..." (p. 233)

When Chee learns about the dynastic and nationalistic rivalries on Merseia, Anderson is most open to the charge leveled by Brian Aldiss. See here. However, when Anderson presents Terretrial-style politics on other planets, he does it extremely well - and also conveys that these are indeed other planets.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It wasn't just Stalin who crushed all resistance to the Soviet regime. Lenin was just as merciless and ruthless in stamping out resistance to the regime. Stalin merely completed and extended what Lenin began. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn made amply plain in THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO.

Btw, I clicked the link to Brian Aldiss' complaints about Poul Anderson, and I did not agree with them! To quote from Lewis' poem, "The same old stuff" about "Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love" is precisely what we have to expect to SEE from a fallen race like mankind, prone as we are to sin and error. And all known races in the Technic civilization series are also fallen. Meaning we HAVE to expect strife, contention, wars, etc.


S.M. Stirling said...

In the modernization of the main civilization on Merseia I think Poul had the Meiji Restoration in Japan more in mind than Stalin. In particular, the modernization is led by the traditional ruling class, who avoid being overthrown by putting themselves at the head of the movement. Hence their -ethos- survives into the new society, rather as the oligarchs of Meiji Japan drew on the values and legitimizing myths of Edo Japan and earlier periods. Emperor worship, "State" Shinto, the samurai code of bushido -- all modified and adapted to new needs.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I actually thought of Japan's Meijii Restoration as I was reading Paul's comments before I read yours. Japan succeeded in modernizing herself while preserving most of her inherited beliefs/institutions (I do wonder if "Emperor worship" was an aberration in Japan). China, by contrast, in the late Ch'ing Dynasty, did not. Because many Chinese leaders feared that to do so would undermine and destroy their Confucian ethos.

The Stalin analogy is more correctly applied to the Republic of Lafdigu. Perhaps an older regime, unable to adapt to changing times and needs, was overthrown and replaced by a more brutal government?