The three struggling powers of non-socialist systems

There are always three currents in each society, striving for dominance. Conservatives, Progressives and Socialists. The former seek to retain rule, the second to achieve it and the later to dismantile it forever.

Image by Dr Case via Flickr

It is a rare occasion when I get an insight for a blogpost from a comic but this is what happened as I was reading this one. Although the part that spoke to me was just the buildup to the main even, it seems to me that the author did present the powers that struggle for dominion in all non-socialist systems quite succinctly.

So basically, every system characterized by class struggle (thus anything other than socialism) has the following three movements vying for control.The Conservatives, the Progressives (or liberals) and the Populists (or Socialists in recent centuries).

The Conservatives

The ruling elite of any society is generally conservative and thus generally belongs to such parties. This is born out of basic self-interest. The current ruling elite was once the progressives who have reached a position of power and through this leverage has slowly consolidated their gains by pushing for the appropriate legal or ruling system. The best way to preserve this position of course is to oppose progressive reformation of the current system so as to conserve their profit sources and prevent future progressives from overtaking them.

That is not to say that the conservatives are comprised only of the ruling elite, although historically it has been the case. Monarchs, Aristocracy and Feudal lords were all at some point the only conservative aspects of society, opposing transitions to another type of society, such as Capitalism. In recent centuries however, through misinformation and propaganda the conservative agenda has managed to make limited headway in the middle and lower class.

This is generally achieved through faulty reasoning, which is why it is mostly based on irrational beliefs such as religion and nationalism, through which you can make people follow you even if it will be against their own best interest. As such, the progressives either find it impossible to convince people through reason,  and even if they do manage to attack a particular point, as they don’t have the leverage of power, the argument can simply be ignored.

This path of a progressive becoming the conservative is the norm and examples of it abound in history, but one very recent example is none other than the success of Microsoft. Here we have a company which in the 80s and even up until the early 90s was hailed as someone who was doing everything right, the underdog that was challenging the status quo and coming out on top, putting one over the Big Blue etc etc. Back then, while MS was still growing, it was very tolerant of piracy (they didn’t like it but they took only token action against it) and against software patents.

Once Microsoft became the power in the software world however it started singing a different tune. Suddenly patents are necessary and good, piracy must be squelched by any means necessary and political lobbying has increased hundredfold. Looking at this change alone, it doesn’t really make sense and it just feels like a company suddenly turning “evil” for no reason. But from the perspective of power consolidation, the actions of Microsoft (and other in a similar position) make a lot more sense. They are the type of actions any entity which gains the power takes in order to be able to retain it with the least amount of effort.

Think of that the next time you wonder why Google “does evil” now.


The progressive or liberal part of any society is simply those who are moderately well off but cannot ascend to the position of ruling elite due to the barriers the previous batch of progressives – the current ruling elite, has put up. In short the progressives are generally the middle class with great expectations.

The progressive face changes form in every epoch. They were the artisans under the monarchs, the bourgeoisie under the aristocracy and today they are the right-libertarians, the minarchist-capitalists etc. The “progress” they seek, is their progress to the top, and the “liberty” they ask  is the liberty to rule. Like all progressives before them, once power is in their hands they become tomorrow’s conservatives in their attempts to retain it.

Like the conservatives above of course, their number are not limited simply to the middle class, although that is their base. Their rationalistic rhetoric can easily demolish the weak arguments of the conservatives and draw in people with dreams of grandeur. It is convenient that a fact which can be ignored is that there is simply not enough room at the top in they pyramidal form of all hierarchical systems. As such, only the most capable and/or brutal progressives will achieve ruling position. But of course, all progressives consider themselves the most capable.

It is not realistic to expect progressives or liberals to stick to their values once society has been reformed to their liking (ie with them on top). History is ample proof of that. This is something to keep in mind when you listen to rhetoric from “anarcho”-capitalists about how good a society would be under unregulated capitalism.


I use the label ‘Socialists’ instead of ‘Populists’ for while the former is a relatively recent movement in the history of mankind, (whereas populism, or movements “for the people” have always existed to some degree) populism without a socialist or egalitarian perspective has always been hijacked by the few for their own ends. The people have always been betrayed by those liberals or Authoritarian “Socialists” leading them to fight “for the people”.

And while there have always been egalitarian ideologues, they never gathered a lot of momentum before the Marxist and Anarchist movements which presented not only a reasonable argument on why an egalitarian society is preferable but also practical methods to achieve it. And while both Progressives and Socialists are disgruntled with the current ruling elite and rules of society, that is where their similarities end, for only the later seek a permanent end to ruling elites.

So where the Conservatives struggle to retain their rule and Progressives strive to claim it for themselves, it is only the Libertarian Socialists who wish to allow each person to achieve self-rule, and actualization. All three currents will use populism as reasoning but only the libertarian socialists have a concrete way to achieve it.

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The Internet has a well known liberal bias

The other day while I was browsing through the articles linked from The 5 stage of Republican Grief and reading the bugfuck crazy comments, I came to the realisation that I just do not see this kind of inanity in most of my online activity.

But why is that? Why is the conservative presence so limited in most of the online nexus points? Not only will you very rarely find sentiments such as those expressed in popular news sites like digg and reddit, not only will you rarely find them in online fora and commenting on random blogs, but when they do come up, they’re immediately striken down in flames either through rebutals or downvoting, which just shows how much in the minority such commenters are.

My take on this is that they simply cannot survive in this world. The reason for this I believe lies in the following

1. Conservatives are, well…conservative.

As a result they have not started using the internet as much as the more progressive members. They were late to get online, late to start doing anything other than surfing&emails and the last to go social. As a result most places are already filled with progressive regulars ((Not to mention that because of the distributed and geeky nature of the Web, most of the early adopters are liberal and…Geeks)) and when a conservative attempts to take part, they are skewered. This of course turns them off and they slither back into the depths from which they came which of course does not allow a critical mass of them to gather and start shifting pushing the status quo.

Many, I’m sure choose to lurk instead where then, in combination with the Libertarians (see below), they have a chance to make themselves heard on specific topics.

2. The internet is an extremely toxic environment.

The conservative mind is a sensitive beast. There is a profound sense of denial necessary to avoid cognitive dissonance when you are not only a fundamental christian but you consider that the Bush regime was doing a damn good job.

Reality has a well-known Liberal Bias
Image by oztenphoto via Flickr

As the saying goes, reality has a well known liberal bias and as the internet does not have the strict filters this denial requires, so does it. As a result, the hapless conservative is assaulted on all sides by information conflicting his preconceptions. Not only do they have to dodge surprise buttsex Daily Show videos and ridicules of their personal zombie saviour, but whenever they so much as open their mouth to protest in an online dialogue, they are shortly refuted, to say the least.

Indeed, there is precious little a conservative can do when the hard facts are staring them in the face and there is no Fox Network to hide or twist those uncomfortable truths. As an extra bonus, because of the dynamics of online conversation, it is not unlikely for someone to take the time to educate the unfortunate conservative which further shakes his psyche.

Since it is pretty much impossible now to both deny reality and muster the presence required to “detoxify” the online environment (see point 1), the conservatives prefer to simply huddle together in their own little corners of the internet, where they can preserve their groupthink.

There is not better example of this point than the creation of Conservapedia which happened because the disorganized nature of Wikipedia and the liberal nature of reality meant that Conservatives either had to avoid using an online encyclopedia or suffer more cognitive dissonance.

3. They are suddenly in a very small minority.

Whereas in the USA the Conservatives have roughly half the population (or at least are vocal enough to seem this way) online, where location is meaningless, they suddenly find themselves very, very lonely. They cannot even expect support from conservatives of other cultures since:

  1. They usually have wholy different values.
  2. Conservatives of other countries would be considered liberal for U.S. American standard. It is not simply a joke when people say that in the US you do not have left and Right but only the Right and the Extreme Right. For everyone else outside the US, it definitely seems that way. Your Obama would probably be quite capable of leading the Right party of any European country without batting an eyelid.

Thus, not only do the conservatives have to argue against their own countrymen who happen to be liberal, but they have to tackle with the liberals of other countries who they must think are like the extreme fringe left. I sometimes get the impression that if I ever had to discuss with such a conservative, their Left/Right compass would not have any position left for me except than outside the range.

They are in a way a bit fortunate that most of the world does not speak English as then they would have seriously have been the footnote in this story. Unfortunately for them, there are enough English speakers from many countries to seriously outnumber them.

The only thing somewhat pushing the conservative agenda is…you guessed it

The Libertarians

It is a well known fact that most Libertarians are only by name. Like true game theory defectors they declare loyalty to the Libertarian party but come election day, they cast their vote for Republicans as they promise to cut taxes ((for the rich)) and let them keep their guns. They conveniently ignore how the Republicans end up doing the opposite of what they say and have subsequently expanded the Government more than ever before, which for a Libertarian should have been anathema.

Nevertheless, because they are committed to the Republican ticket, they feel the need to defend their choice whenever they can. They will thus attack the Government tactics when it is going against their libertarian stances (Drugs, Abortion, Religion)  but  defend it when it reduces taxes to the rich, cuts healthcare and welfare etc, even if all of this is against their own hide.

The only thing saving them is that because they lack true faith in the Regime and they also tend to be more liberal in their faith (if not outright irreligious) they suffer much less of a cognitive dissonance and can much more easily take part in the social networks.

And this is of course the only way the Conservative agenda can ever appear. The Libertarians are generally active because they can, while conservatives probably just lurk around for fear of the intellectual smackdown. When however a topic where their two worldviews merge appears, they can combine their voices and votes and downvote the opposition effectively. Thus the reason why libertarian topics happen now and then to bubble up to the surface.

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