by Max Barry

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Uan aa Boa - an OOC introduction

Although located in the region of Forest, in my imagination Uan aa Boa is somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa and comprises the basin and delta of the mighty (if fictional) River Uan. It's an eco-communist state some 25 years after its founding revolution and represents the dream of a Leninist government that remains true to its original vision without lapsing into purges, corruption and incompetence. I'm not so naive as to overestimate the chances of this happening in real life.

Uan aa Boa was originally classed as a Psychotic Dictatorship and then, for a long time, as an Authoritarian Democracy. The Revolutionary Workers' Party, formed out of the guerilla groups that overthrew the old President, was unashamedly paternalistic and authoritarian and didn't hesitate to impose on its people the things it considered good for them. Veganism was compulsory while alcohol and tobacco were illegal, there were no cars or planes, religion, hate speech and public rudeness were banned and those who failed the parenthood exam were sterilised.

In recent years society has been transformed by two political initiatives. Ten Thousand Flowers ended earlier militarism and disposed of nuclear weapons (and other WMDs) and the developing space programme, making environmentalism the government's first priority together with a new spirit of internationalism. Munu Kibeni (I Myself) relaxed the strict government controls on many aspects of life, emphasising revolutionary self-discipline over external constraint. While now permitted to make their own decisions on family life, drugs and alcohol, and many other aspects of their behaviour, citizens continue to be guided by societal conservatism (emphasising the small c) and a strong set of social pressures to conform. The state remains, by most standards, militant and prescriptive.

I hope it goes without saying that Uan aa Boa doesn't reflect my real life politics. It is, however, a response of sorts to the dilemma facing many social democrats and environmentalists: the gap between what needs to be done and what an electorate will accept. A democratically elected (and re-elected) government that could seriously take the necessary action on climate change is surely even more of a fantasy than Leninism with integrity.

Uan aa Boa is also my reflection on how far the pendulum has swung towards civil rights viewed in terms of negative freedom, the right of the privileged to free choice without government interference prioritised over the right of everyone to food, shelter, healthcare and education.

The Boani people themselves are both patriotic and proud of their tribal heritage, though marked by a history of colonialism, a period as a corrupt banana republic and a brutal civil war. Total social transformation and the nation's explosion into modernity as a wealthy, IT based tiger economy has left them a little disorientated. I like to poke affectionate fun at their slightly naive earnestness.

Much more flavour is available to anyone interested: -

The tropical communist regime of Uan aa Boa has long been known for its sometimes bizarre authoritarian pronouncements - so how can it be that new World Assembly Census data classifies its government as "tiny?" And does this apparent reform have a darker side? Our dedicated reporter Lex Quaestor investigates.
The heat is nothing short of oppressive as I make my way through the courtyards of Northwest Aa District Software Collective #14. The surfaces of the buildings are mostly covered in solar panels while the paving between them is a bright and contrasting white. The walkways travel through beds of small trees, shrubs and aromatic flowering plants. Everywhere is pedestrianised - there are no cars in Uan aa Boa. In a wider space twenty or so teenagers, boys and girls together, are playing kogo. I don't understand the rules but it looks like a cross between hockey, kendo and tag. The players glisten with sweat but seem otherwise untroubled by the temperature. I feel exhausted simply watching.

The medical centre is a 4 storey cubic building. Stepping through its open doors I'm disappointed to find it only slightly cooler. While the Boani computing industry no doubt has plenty of equipment to cool its servers, air conditioning for people is as unheard of as cars. I'm here to meet Joseph Wangui, the commune's assistant pharmacist. The receptionist keys in a message and, moments later, he comes rapidly down the staircase looking ridiculously cool in his white shirtsleeves. He shakes my hand enthusiastically and politely enquires about my journey.

Now in his late 20s, Joseph has worked at the centre since joining the commune as a newly qualified pharmacist. His partner Meliah is expecting their first child. It seems a strange profession for an IT collective to employ, but the commune has its own health centre, schools and many other facilities so as to be almost self-contained, a village in the heart of the city. Almost half of the commune's 2000 adults work in roles that having nothing to do with its main business of developing and maintaining the government's preferred compiler program. Joseph didn't ask to come here. He was posted by the government without being consulted, but in changing times for this communist nation he could now decide to leave.

"I always knew as a student that I would be sent where my skills were needed," he explains in strongly accented but perfect English. "Each commune needs only 2 or 3 pharmacists, so that could have been anywhere." Wasn't he sorry to be made to leave the collective he grew up in? "The pharmacist there is a young woman," he explains, "there would not be a vacancy for many years. Perhaps if I had been more interested in engineering..." His parents belong to a commune that manufactures semiconductors.

The economy of Uan aa Boa is ruthlessly controlled by the artificial intelligences that administer the Ninth Economic Plan. Autonomous and centralised software systems issue each commune with continually updated instructions regarding what to produce and where to send it. As part of a new government reform programme opaquely called A Gift of Wings, however, that centralised control now ends at the commune gates, with human decisions in the local community determining how best to fulfil those computerised instructions. Crucially that means that the commune hires its own people, leaving workers like Joseph free to negotiate a transfer without the involvement of central planning.

I ask Joseph whether he thinks that in reality the machine intelligences would organise the commune more efficiently. "Perhaps," he replies, "if the people who worked here were machines too. We learnt from previous attempts in places such as China that it is a mistake to collectivise at too large a level. Farmers who were accustomed to growing their own food with a small surplus to sell were told they would be able to eat from communal supplies regardless of what they produced. The result was that they stopped producing. It was foolish, but people are people. If all our actions were determined by the Plan the same thing might happen to us." Like most Boani speakers of English, Joseph is formal and never abbreviates anything.

"In the same way, if I worked in the West I would no doubt be employed by some enormous company, and the result of my work would be profit for its shareholders. I would not really care if those profits were large or small. Here, though, I work for my neighbours and friends. I know the people who come to the Centre by name, and the whole commune succeeds together when we meet or exceed our production quotas. A person will always work hardest for their tribe."

This doesn't constitute anything like a free market in the normal sense of the term, but isn't just in the organisation of workplaces that the central government is taking a step back. The judicial system is also being left almost entirely for communes to deal with themselves. The same meetings that decide work rotas and organise communal leisure activities are now acting as judges and juries essentially as they see fit, without legal training. In the absence of prisons, however, the most severe sentence they can impose is expulsion from the commune.

What happens to those expelled is not entirely clear - rigid social structures mean that life without a commune is extremely difficult. In a nation with very low crime rates this doesn't involve a huge number of people, but there are rumours of state run "default" communes that are said, in practice, to be little more than prison camps. Reliable information is hard to come by - there have been a small number of online testimonies by people who claim to have passed through this system but they're hard to substantiate and often sensationalist. No official information exists.

I ask Joseph if the possibility of being exiled by his neighbours, without recourse to a legal system, concerns him. Isn't there a risk of local feuds and victimisation getting out of hand? He shrugs. "In the end, it depends on whether you trust ordinary people to manage their own affairs. Here in Uan aa Boa, we do." But what of the possibility of people who haven't committed a crime being driven out of mainstream society? "I have seen the statistics for prisoners and for poverty, unemployment and addiction in your country," Joseph replies. "What did all these people do to be pushed to the margins? Often no more than being born into a poor home, or being of the wrong race, or becoming ill or losing their job at the whim of wealthy investors. Forgive me, but I do not think it is the place of the West to give us lectures."

The kogo players have vanished into the dusk as Joseph walks with me towards the station. Pungent spices scent the air as people make their way toward the communal canteen. The meal is scheduled to be followed by a discussion group on postcolonial theory and an e-sports tournament. As on other visits to this enigma of a country I'm struck by how quiet a city without traffic actually is. People seem calm and serious, but with a hint of underlying resolve absent in other nations. Not for the first time I wonder what they might be capable of if roused.

My eye was caught by something Errinundera posted in the maps thread on the Forest forum: "The nation is fully landlocked. Not only are there no sea borders, there are no lake borders. Indeed, Errinundera has no lakes at all. With no passable roads and no airports the only way into the country is by riverboat or by bushwalking."

Checking policy pages I found that Uan aa Boa has some similarity here, since it also lacks (civilian) airports and neither it nor any of its neighbours possess a road network. Of course Uan aa Boa is far from being a post-economy society like Errinundera, and there are rail links to the extent that the neighbouring countries (Altmer Dominion, Tauride and Montmorencia) are happy to have them. There are also 3 major port cities - Kingolo, Kikangane and the capital Aa - but strict environmental standards determine which vessels are permitted to enter Boani waters.

In the years since the revolution the Party has largely dismantled the existing infrastructure and started again. Society has been designed with the avoidance of the need for transport as one of its guiding principles. Firstly, the majority of the population has been transferred to the cities where they live in communes that are centred around a particular economic activity. As a result there is almost no commuting. People live in close proximity to where they work. Boani cities have been described as cellular because they have no central business district and each area, occupied by a particular commune, is in many ways self-contained. Shopping is not a popular activity and takes place online, with goods dispatched straight from the communes that produce them. There are large areas of public parkland and recreational space, but this doesn't look much like a traditional city centre. Each commune is connected to the rail network that brings goods, and people where needed, in and out.

Secondly, the Party has long pursued a policy of economic self-sufficiency, originating in the early days of blockades and trade sanctions but persisting into more harmonious times for ecological reasons. Economic planners tend to see a need to import as an admission of failure, and goods cannot be legally purchased outside the planned economy. Stringent environmental regulations again limit what can be brought into the country, with the planned-obsolescence products that fill many shopping malls absolutely forbidden. With IT dominating the economy most exports are too intangible to require physical transport, though there is some movement of manufactured items, and traditional crafts destined for foreign boutiques. Manufacture and agriculture are also sited as close to consumption as is practical - each of the cities is fed by the belt of farmland and food processing that surrounds it, while other essentials are produced by smaller scale facilities distributed throughout the country.

Inland transport is almost exclusively by rail. Apart from the movement of essential goods this is mostly for the purposes of domestic leisure and foreign tourism. Although most Boanis are now city dwellers, outdoor pursuits are encouraged to an extent that borders on compulsion. Citizens and tourists, both mainly in organised groups, together travel by train to leisure hub points deeper into the rainforest, where there is accommodation and onwards transfer to hiking and cycle trails, kayak routes, climbing, hang gliding etc etc. All this happens in a belt of forest moderately far from the cities. The deeper forests of the Uan basin have been emptied of human activity and the Party intends to keep it that way.

Current transport policy is turning to the question of how to run train lines through rainforest with a minimum of impact. The chosen solution is a phased replacement of lines with routes that run through deep tunnels, underground stations connected by lifts to the leisure hubs. Replaced lines are removed as far as possible and the site left to be reclaimed by the forest. This is all extremely expensive, with the full project being equivalent to building the Channel Tunnel several hundred times over. Few things are as single-minded as a Boani economic planner, however, and criticism that the tourist industry is being crippled by the demise of the scenic train journey in addition to the obstacles to entering the country in the first place are shrugged off as the price of principle.

As the dawn light flows into the cellular city Adeayla is watching from her balcony. She cradles her third coffee. On a plate beside her, half a browning breadfruit is all the breakfast she'll manage. She won't go to the communal canteen. She'll take little Rosa straight to the daycare centre where they'll give her a bowl of porridge. "Participate more than ever in the public life of the commune," her new instructions say. "Know the concerns of the people you represent." Adeayla feels as though she's disappearing.

Her hair is elaborately beaded and braided. Her nails are polished and she's wearing the latest in a sequence of new dresses. Last week she slept until the alarm every morning and dressed quickly in her overalls, scragging her hair into a practical bun. Last week, however, her business had been rope access repair of solar panels in situ. Light, agile, nimble fingered and comfortable with solitude, she had taken pride and pleasure in her work. This week, selected at random, she is her commune's People's Representative, whether she likes it or not.

The first month will be training at the District Assembly, making her one of Aa's few commuters. On the second day the new representatives had been addressed by the Chairman himself, white haired and care worn in his combat fatigues, his sonorous bass unchanged by the years.

"We have allowed ourselves to believe," Mazemba had said, "that the business of government is beyond the grasp of the builder and the farmer. In doing so, we have fundamentally betrayed the Revolution and allowed the creation of a new elite. These past months all I have heard from the Assemblies is back scratching and deal making, the exchanging of favour and the building of petty empires. No more. I understand that there is much for you to learn and I humbly ask you to apply yourselves with diligence. Know this, however. I am an old man, but you are young and ready to grasp at life with 20 hands. I trust what is in your hearts over words and rules wrangled over by secretariats and committees."

Francine set off for her early shift hours ago, but has left a firewheel flower on the table, latest in a long line of gifts and tokens. How tired she must be after another midnight watch listening to Adeayla's anxieties, kissing away her tears. It must hurt that the position she once sought election to has fallen into the lap of her partner, who sees it only as a curse. She cannot fail to be aware of how much better she would have done the job, but she has spoken no word of reproach.

In the nursery room Rosa is stirring. We couldn't even agree who we named her for, Adeayla thinks, Parks or Luxembourg. We agreed only that, unlike our mothers, she had been born into a world where she could be anything at all. But what if she doesn't want to be?

Over the years there has been more confusion caused by foreign concepts that are difficult to render in Boani, particularly the idea of civil rights. In the days of the embargo that followed the revolution this was much discussed in Uan aa Boa, since unsurprisingly people wanted to know what it was about them that was so unacceptable to others. Clearly a high value was being placed on free individual choice. Party educational sources likened civil rights to heaping praise on a person who refuses to take part in a communal attempt to save life and property from a spreading fire or rising flood and instead simply looks after themselves. Or to look at it a different way, suppose your neighbour is a drunkard who spends his wages on palm wine while his children go without shoes. Obviously you would reprimand him for his conduct, but if he were a Westerner he might reply "Ah, but I am free to do this." Westerners want to behave as if they are not bound by ties of kinship and community and their laws aim to shield from the consequences of such foolish behaviour. It it as if they do not realise that everyone is connected. Why anyone would aspire to such fundamental loneliness remains a mystery.

The embargo eventually ended and the Ten Thousand Flowers policy removed controversial measures such as parental licensing and the offence of public rudeness, yet many commentators would say that the same control over citizens is still exerted by means of unofficial social pressures.

Freedom of speech is another difficult topic. The naturally reserved and somewhat formal nature of Boani social interaction is well suited to the Leninist doctrine of democratic centralism - freedom in discussion but unity in action. Once a collective decision has been taken both social and political expectation is that people will stop talking and unify behind it. Someone who dissented would be like a person standing idle amidst the evacuation of a burning building saying "you are doing this wrong, stop." Such a person would be lacking in solawa, the bearing of a tribal warrior that defines much of what is commendable in Boani society.

Solawa involves self-mastery, resolve and wisdom in knowing when to act ferociously and when to be still. It requires awareness of one's place in the natural order and an attitude of respectful coexistence with, rather than domination of, the great forest. It is bound up with the concept of tsuanae, which has been variously translated as discipline, harmony, correctness and skill, none of which entirely capture the meaning. Tsuanae is achieved when something is managed or accomplished in an exemplary manner, whether that thing is a plot of vegetables, a game of kogo or the economy. In a political education session the topic might equally well be foreign policy or the logistics of the train network without these being seen as significantly different subjects - both are a context in which one should strive for tsuanae.

While news coverage remains focused on the recent coup attempt and the selection of a new nation to lead the Forest federation ordinary national life continues. In Kikangane District Manufacturing Collective #19 the debate on how to cast the commune's vote on foreign trade policy has gone off on something of a tangent.

First Speaker Can anyone say what would actually be wrong with importing Eckie-Cola? It is by far the most popular soft drink in every nation where it is available, far superior to cheaper imitations. Who are we to say that so many ordinary members of the international proletariat are mistaken? We will not be turned into imperialist lackeys by means of a bottled drink. I for one am tired of scrutinising every action for the least hint of class treachery, cultural colonialism and heteronormative assumptions. It is socialist orthodoxy gone mad! At the end of hard day's work I want a cold Eckie-Cola and I cannot see the problem with that.

Second Speaker Comrade, why are do you persist in talking down Boani industry? When we now rank amongst the most successful nations for high tech manufacturing why would we be unable to make for ourselves what is essentially sugary water? And what of the carbon footprint involved in transporting from far away a product whose ingredients we are naturally rich in? Our traditional knowledge of rainforest plant lore will allow unparalleled secret flavour blends. It is our patriotic duty to support The People's Cola!

Third Speaker And what of the environmental cost of all these plastic bottles? However good our recycling facilities it will always be better not to use them in the first place. Cola is nutritionally devastating. Comrades, do we want an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay like the one that besets the capitalist world? When the Beloved Comrade Chairman and his followers were guerillas in the jungle securing our liberation by means of their blood and sweat did they drink cola? Join with me in denouncing this bourgeois decadence!

• 9 minutes ago: Following new legislation in Uan aa Boa, graffiti artists spend lengthy periods of time in jail.
• 3 hours ago: Following new legislation in Uan aa Boa, the military has quashed a recent coup attempt.
• 7 hours ago: Following new legislation in Uan aa Boa, Uan aa Boans incessantly needle their doctors for relief.
• 13 hours ago: Following new legislation in Uan aa Boa, the WhoTube comments section has gone strangely quiet.
• 13 hours ago: Uan aa Boa was reclassified from "Inoffensive Centrist Democracy" to "Moralistic Democracy".

Reporting from Routers News Agency
Newly released World Assembly Census reports have downgraded civil rights in the tropical communist nation of Uan aa Boa to "Few." This follows the imposition of martial law in the capital after the army stormed the People's Assembly building, which had been seized by protesters in an apparent attempt to overthrow the government. 24 dissidents are believed to have been killed and dozens more arrested. The identity of the rebels is unclear but their demands appear to have included democratic elections, an end to support for paramilitary groups abroad and the legalisation of cheese pizza.

In recent weeks the governing Revolutionary Workers' Party has allowed schools to give academic penalties to students accused of online bullying, severely restricted the use of prescription painkillers by doctors and dentists and imposed harsh prison sentences on those convicted of graffiti and vandalism. It's a backwards step for a country that had, in recent years, reformed significantly under the twin policies of Ten Thousand Flowers and Munu Kibeni (I Myself), sometimes dubbed a modern version of the perestroika and glasnost reforms that rocked the socialist bloc in the 1990s. The country had given up its nuclear weapons programme, legalised alcohol and tobacco and allowed its people to have children without first applying for a licence, although more controversially it had also ended recognition of the institution of marriage, which it described as "irreparably patriarchal."

Uan aa Boa has been ruled for 27 years by RWP chairman Jean Baptiste Mazemba, who seized power at the end of a bloody civil war. News agencies in neighbouring countries this week reported that Mazemba had denounced his cousin as a conspirator in the uprising and had him fed to piranhas, though photographs online appear to show the same cousin returning to his job in the Agriculture Ministry after his death had been reported. Living alone without domestic staff in a spartan two room flat annexed to the People's Assembly and drawing only a manual worker's wage, Mazemba is a controversial figure who has long divided left wing groups in the West. Some express concern for Uan aa Boa's human rights record and call for immediate elections while to others Mazemba is a heroic figure akin to Guevara or Castro. Supporters point to the allegedly extensive role of ordinary people in the running of local communes which go on to influence government policy, a system called the mass line in Maoist theory, and to the undeniable improvements in living standards, literacy rates and infant mortality under Mazemba's rule. "You need to understand that Boani democracy is something people take part in every day," said Anton Scherzinger, editor of Socialism Now! International, "not once every four years in a ballot box."

With Mazemba's grip on power seeming as secure as ever it remains to be seen whether further reforms will take place.

Revolutionary Greetings, comrades. The Revolutionary Workers' Council for the Interior has prepared this podcast to address recent concerns among certain sections of the public and the increase in unrest as we approach tomorrow night's full moon.

The Council has been updated by the School of Anthropology at the University of Aa regarding the ancient Djemu'ata people and their prophecy regarding the end of the world. It appears that they believed that at the appointed time a traveller from a land of smoke beyond a blackened sea would walk amongst the tribes of the Uan and make a sacrifice of goat flesh to the dark guardians. Thereafter Mount Kyapanu would shake and the people would be possessed by these spiritual forest creatures and driven mad, hurling themselves from the tops of cliffs, before the final appearance of the World Eater at the full moon. The Council emphasises that it had no knowledge of this ancient superstition until a few days ago and denies in the strongest terms that it has shaped government policy.

The new calculations for Seasonal Time Corrections are intended purely to reduce the energy consumed by lighting for reasons of environmental policy. The Council acknowledges some superficial similarities to the Djemu'ata calender used to predict the end of the world but it clear that these are purely coincidental.

With the restoration of diplomatic relations with Candlewhisper Archive after the recent dispute, the Council concedes that their ambassador could, given the environmental degradation that was the subject of the conflict, be tenuously described as a traveller from a land of smoke beyond a blackened sea. It is stressed, however, that this week's public burning of impounded smuggled goats meat was absolutely standard practice as a reaffirmation of the nation's commitment to plant based life. Moreover, inviting the ambassador to attend, and indeed to light the fire, was purely a diplomatic courtesy.

Recent readings from Kyapanu District do indicate an increase in seismic activity, but the public should rest assured that it is well within normal parameters. It should be clearly understood that when, in his recent speech reviewing the Ten Thousand Flowers policy, the Beloved Comrade Chairman said that all Boani people should invite the spirit of the forest to inhabit their hearts, this was obvious poetic language referencing the Chairman's well known commitment to environmental issues.

The report on rising levels of mental illness is obviously a cause for concern, and will be studied by the RWC for Health in conjunction with the review of the legalisation of hashish. These are long term trends and to describe them as the people going mad shows a flagrant disregard for the proper use of statistics. Similarly, the record number of communes offering base jumping as a weekend leisure activity is part of a general rise in the popularity of extreme sports and with exemplary safety standards in place could hardly be compared to throwing oneself off a cliff.

In summary, comrades, everything is completely normal and you are urged to go about your business as normal tomorrow night and, indeed, for many nights after.

105 minutes ago: Uan aa Boa was reclassified from "Authoritarian Democracy" to "Democratic Socialists".

From Routers International News Agency
The notoriously authoritarian communist state of Uan aa Boa today took a first tentative step towards liberalisation with an announcement by the ruling Revolutionary Workers' Party that phone tapping would no longer be admissible as legal evidence and would no longer be carried out without a warrant.

An announcement of this type has been eagerly awaited since the Chairman's recent Revolution Day speech, which he used to set out a new social policy called munu kibeni or "I myself." Although it is couched in the Party's typically authoritarian rhetoric, speaking of the need for unwavering self-control and revolutionary discipline, the unmistakeable change of emphasis is towards citizens controlling themselves rather than being controlled by the apparatus of the state.

"Revolution is not a moment in history but a continuing process," the Chairman declared to an estimated 120,000 people gathered in and around Revolution Square, "moving forward in each nation, each movement, each individual comrade. In the beginning we were as children, or as prisoners breaking free of their shackles and stepping blinking into the sunlight, and we needed guidance to be prepared for the struggle that was to come. Now we are become soli (traditional tribal warriors) - proud, disciplined and determined, ready to be unflinching in the fight for equality, justice and the environment. We are become a bright light in what our colonial oppressors were pleased to call the dark continent."

There has been growing pressure for change from local communes and social media which this year began to find a voice in the Peoples' Assembly, the quarterly parliament that at least theoretically controls national policy. How far liberalisation will go in this teetotal, non-smoking, vegan nation remains to be seen. Seasoned observers believe it is unlikely that there will be any fundamental change to the system of locally based direct democracy, or any introduction of political parties other than the RWP. It may well be, however, that breeding licences are eventually discontinued and the offence of public rudeness (which carries heavy fines) abolished. There is even some talk of a return to trial by jury.

The RWP did not respond to Routers request for an interview.

Post an account from your nation.
Night falls suddenly in the tropics and the light that spills out onto the forest is no longer the flickering of wood and dung hearthfires but a steady electric glow. This has happened in scarcely a generation. The World Assembly Census says that we are among the least religious of nations, but religion is a Eurocentric notion. Our ancestors' compact with the supernatural (which they would not have differentiated from the natural) was never a matter of theology and grand buildings. It consisted in dozens of gestures to attract inkane, good luck, and to ward off misfortune. Visitors have remarked before on our household shrines where the trinkets and scarlet threads are joined by pictures of the Chairman and military badges. This act of assimilation is no different to four centuries ago, when the rosaries and images of saints were similarly added. It amuses me the way that the cognitive flexibility of ordinary people is taken by the white man for simplicity.

If the more extravagant features of the old ways are still practiced in remote places, if petitioners gather while wise women inhale the narcotic smoke and invite possession by their guardians, then I have never seen it... but of course I would say that, wouldn't I? The Party views such practices as obstacles to progress, believing that if you think a fever is to be broken by boiling bitter roots in a rooster's blood you won't take your child to be vaccinated, much less raise her to be the scientist who develops the vaccines of the future. I think that, again, this underestimates people's mental suppleness. Mothers will take their babies for the injection and make their offerings to the spirits on their return.

There's no doubting the Party's achievement in raising life expectancy by fully 40 years, but how much harm do these practices really do? At worst, they cost a few hours of time and some basic resources, and they remind us that we are intimately connected to the world around us, given life by the same forests that can quickly take it back. Can the same be said of that other great myth, that the earth is man's dominion to be bent to his will in pursuit of endless growth and the unstoppable march of progress? Sometimes I gaze out across the bean fields and solar farms to the encircling jungle and I wonder.

Games of Perfect Information

“In Gale-Stewart Games the two players continue forever. When they have finished…”

With those few words my fate was sealed. A teenager reading beneath the covers, I glimpsed machinery that could make a concrete fact of the end of forever. I was a mathematician.

The result of an endless game is an infinite string of moves each represented by an integer, such as {3, 7, -8, 0, 115, 6, … } and endlessly onward; a point in the Baire space that is made of all such sequences. For every game there is a win set, a part of Baire space that contains all the outcomes that count as a win for White. Conversely, every region of Baire space corresponds to a possible game for which it is the win set. What we wanted to know, what we always want to know, is when there is a guaranteed winning strategy. When the game is determined.

By 1975 it was known that all Borel sets (and hence all Borel games) are determined, and also that this was as much as it would be possible to prove to the cast-iron standard of certainty the mathematician expects. At least using the standard mathematician’s toolkit. By the 1990s a group from Southern California, absurdly calling themselves The Cabal, were dealing in large infinities. I mean, all infinities are large, obviously, but as I read to my delight beneath those covers, we can paraphrase Orwell to say that some infinities are larger than others. An endless hierarchy of them ascends upwards like a stairway to the stars, their names a mystical role call: Inaccessible, Reflecting, Berkeley, Ineffable, Supercompact. They can’t be built using that standard toolkit, but they can be ranked depending on how many extra tools they would need. And it turned out that this ranking was all about games and determinacy. If there is a Measurable infinity, all analytic games are determined. Given a Woodin infinity, so are all Pi-(1,2) games.

When Uan aa Boa and the other members of the New Socialist Union came to apply their mathematical knowledge to the task of central planning, to Five Year Plans backed by AI rather than pen, paper and vodka, we were very interested in determined games and winning strategies. As a postdoctoral researcher I realised that just as adding new axioms to the mathematical rulebook yields new strategies, so reliable assumptions about human behaviour could yield new economic techniques. It was a matter of deciding which assumptions were reliable.

For several years we combed all the data we possessed again and again because, we thought, in a nation that implants microchips in every citizen and has long since dispensed with the bourgeois fantasy of privacy we have a lot of data. But it wasn’t enough. We were close to despair when someone mentioned Candlewhisper Archive, a nation founded and still ruled by mathematicians.

The Archive is a cesspool of capitalism, a blighted wasteland, a debauched parade of all humanity’s worst excesses. The Archive is also dedicated to the preservation of any and all information and to its accessibility to all… at a price. Our foreign currency, backed only by our refusal to participate in corrupt financial markets, was worthless to them. It had to be information in return. As far as data is concerned they are the ultimate omnivores. Climate data from throughout the Uan basin? Thank you very much. The burgeoning catalogue of new insect species being recorded in the jungles of the Ulterior? That’ll do nicely. Academic papers across a range of disciplines. At first we really did intend to avoid those sensitive or military applications.

It was like drowning in a flood of information, hunched in that cubicle in a Monaster basement. Everything about all of them. Where they went, what they ate, what they viewed on the internet. Their sickness and health. What they thought, who told them what to think, what entertained them, what bored them, what they fantasised about while their partners were sleeping. The patterns were everywhere… and eluded my grasp. I needed more. I bought another level of access with my own genome. Their dreams, their primal fears, the masks of cynicism they prayed would hide the howling void beneath. The need to live, to belong, to feel… at all costs to feel. Souls and data points in a blizzard in infinite dimensional space. Just… need… a little… more…

Aa Central Station
The train slid noiselessly to a halt as it followed the monorail beneath the vaulting arch of the station roof. The sea of white - the train, the stone walls and platforms, the sinuous curves and contemporary lines of the canopy - was punctuated by bursts of vibrant colour where huge woven banners hung above the scene. Food waste insults the farmer and taunts the world's starving read one. As the builder labours with the hammer, so the artist labours with the brush said another.

Doors slid noiselessly open and released a stream of passengers who moved with quiet purpose into the concourse, forming into lines without thinking before dispersing to the exits or to the clusters of stalls offering dried fruits, rice crackers and juices. Hands held up to paypads dealt with the transfers of funds. Pages from The Rifle, Hoe and Sun flickered across wall screens. People of all nations and all classes continuously and unanimously condemn The Black Hawks' hegemony. The heat of the city outside could be sensed lurking behind the archways.

The conductor followed the last of the passengers down the train corridor, a final check that everything was being left as he would wish to find it. Oddly, one compartment door remained closed. Fingers brushed the pad and it swished aside.To his surprise, the conductor saw four adults fast asleep in their seats, heads lolling, streaks of spittle on chins and collars. Two overalled men, a young woman in a floral dress and a second woman wearing a medical uniform. An angry red welt curved across her face, forming an almost complete circle. The conductor bent to look closer. The rise and fall of the chest was barely perceptible. The mark hadn't been there when the woman had got on so many hours before, her chip transmitting details of her passage to... With a mounting sense of alarm he fumbled for the scanner and moved it above her right hand. Dr Grace Mangane, the screen reported, pathologist second class. Bound for Kingolo. She should have got off six hours ago. How had he not noticed? The chips of the other passengers revealed that two of them had also travelled far too far.

Cursing his own inattention, the conductor reached out and touched Mangane's shoulder. No response. He gave it a slight shake. Nothing. More vigourously, alarmed now, and her head rolled to one side. The mouth opened and she exhaled with a rasping sound, releasing a heavy, musky scent into the cabin.

This was wrong. He stood up and left the compartment, flicking open his phone, then paused, leaning against a luggage rack as a wave of dizziness passed over him. His eyes itched dryly and he was tired, so very tired...

So you want to travel to Caracasus?
A guide by the Revolutionary Workers’ Council for International Relations

Disclaimer - this guide has not been approved by the government of Caracasus and any inaccuracies are the responsibility of our researchers who will, if necessary, be assigned for mandatory re-education.

The Council concedes that, as a comrade citizen of Uan aa Boa, foreign travel is technically your right. It trusts that you have thoroughly examined your sense of social duty and have a very good reason for absenting yourself from the cultural and leisure activities your Commune will have prepared for the holiday period. If determined to travel abroad, however, Caracasus is the obvious destination. As well as being the PVM’s longest standing ally and a bastion of solidarity in the fight against global capital, the instruction in the Caracasusian language that is now part of the RWC for Education’s curriculum make it uniquely accessible. Other publications detail the many sights, cultural highlights and natural wonders that may be visited, but the Council has here prepared a simple list of dos and don’ts to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and embarrassment.

As at home, money is digital for all practical purposes and, for visitors, accessed via your smartphone. As part of the reciprocal agreement between our nations you will be credited with a daily allowance of funds. The exchange rate is approximately 0.96 tiny elephant figurines to the jade heart but you will rarely encounter anything as obvious as a displayed price. Indeed it is often difficult to know which goods and services there is a charge for and which are free. In most cases any charge that applies will automatically be debited from your balance without it being obvious that anything has happened.

DO check your balance regularly and, if it seems insufficient, visit the Boani consulate website for support. DON’T inquire about prices or offer alternative forms of payment as discussion of money is consider gauche in the extreme. DON’T attempt to use cash. Not only are the tusks and trunks likely to damage your pockets but traditionally the value of a tiny elephant figurine depends on its aesthetic qualities, leading to a potential minefield of haggling and artistic criticism. In the event of confusion or dispute DON'T ask to see the person in charge. In a strictly non-hierarchical society this will be met with incomprehension.

Although Caracasus is not a vegan nation is relatively easy to find suitable food. People eat far less meat than in (even more) decadent lands and the predominant diet of rice and spiced vegetable dishes is surprisingly amenable to the Boani pallet. It’s recommended that you DO politely inform your hosts of your vegan diet as the use of ghee, a form of solid fat derived from butter, is widespread. Dishes inspired by many other national cuisines and themed restaurants dedicated to particular types of food (including Boani, even if not entirely convincingly) are widely available. Many “meats” on offer are actually not animal derived but entirely synthetic. The Council concedes that there is nothing strictly speaking wrong with this, but nonetheless disapproves on general principle. Avoiding undesirable drugs and stimulants is harder. Alcohol is routinely served with meals and many seemingly innocuous offerings will turn out to be hallucinogenic, so DO take care to discretely find out what you are being offered. DO also remember that the Caracasusians have had a high material standard of living for many decades and are overall a force for good in the world, and so should not be judged too harshly for their minor bourgeois indulgences.

The Caracasusian commune system is in many ways similar to the one back home, but much harder to navigate. This is mainly because where a Boani commune is sensibly named to tell you what it does with a designator to distinguish it from others engaged in the same activity (e.g. Basket Weaving Collective #5), Caracasusian communes are named in a way that is wholly fanciful and arbitrary. Names our researchers encountered include Sunlight Wind on Water, Narcissus Turns From His Reflection and Respectfully I Say To Thee I’m Aware That You’re Cheating.

Urban areas are often almost completely covered in murals and graffiti. Astonishingly, they are supposed (or perhaps simply not forbidden) to look like that. Does that indicate a failure to take their communal spaces seriously? Perhaps, but on the whole there appears to be very little that Caracasusians take seriously. DO give an honest opinion of the quality of the artwork that would be involved if it was displayed inside a gallery rather than all over a public building.

Urban spaces will also involve the unfamiliar experience of navigating traffic, so be careful! The prevalence of street musicians, public discussions and conceptual sound art can add to the bewilderingly multisensory nature of the experience. Be assured that standards of environmental protection are high – see above for non-judgement of bourgeois indulgences.

With leisure time mostly neglected by the commune and left to the individual, most Caracasusians have “hobbies” which they are usually enthusiastic to share and explain. Examples include collecting and repairing antique clocks or recreating traditional Noh theatre. DO appreciate these for the skill and dedication they embody. DON’T ask what the point is.

Caracasusians love to debate and discuss. As well as being daily participants in their own democratic system they are exceptionally well informed in international affairs and also domestic issues within other nations, including Uan aa Boa. Nonetheless, the debate and discussion you will encounter will take some getting used to. You are accustomed to democratic centralism and debates that continue for a period of time and then give way to consensus and action. Caracasusian debates are interminable and result in neither. DON’T rebuke them for their lack of internal discipline. The habit of accepting comradely criticism has lapsed somewhat. DO remember, again, that Caracasus is a force for good in the world and they can’t really help it. In a complex and confusing society, Boani politics seem to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the simplicity and clarity of Caracasus’s long ago revolutionary period, so DO base your conversation on clearly stated socialist orthodoxies. These are considered surprisingly charming, the more so the more obvious they are.

Caracasus is a melting pot containing ethnicities from all over the world. Before the Revolution, many Uan aa Boans fleeing oppression first from the imperialist colonial government and later from the corrupt presidential regime settled there, though intermarriage and integration means you are more likely to encounter "normal" Caracasusians who have a Boani grandparent than actual Boani enclaves. Nonetheless, DO remember that after the revolution arrangements were made to support the return of Uan aa Boans around the world. Those that chose not to contribute to our new society are not, and should not be treated as, citizens or comrades of the PVM.

From the World News Desk of the Associated News Agency
Controversy has engulfed a town in Uan aa Boa after government officials banned sporting contests between different workplaces. Last week a game of Kogo between a printworks and a ceramics factory degenerated into a brawl that hospitalised 24 players and spectators.

Like most of Boani industry, the two factories are workers' cooperatives owned and run by their employees. Rivalries between communes are intense and often take the place of tribal allegiances in a country that has seen two decades of unprecedented urbanisation and social change. The ruling Revolutionary Workers' Party has generally encouraged these antics, believing they promote comradeship and increase productivity, but last week's incident was clearly a step too far.

In a sign of the changes happening in this famously authoritarian country, where meat, smoking and alcohol are banned and parents must apply for a breeding licence, the Party's prohibition is not going unchallenged. Industrial communes elect delegates to their district soviets, which in turn send representatives to the Peoples' Assembly in the capital Aa. With voting due next month, candidates have come forward in both factories whose main election pledge is to overturn the decision and the ban has also been criticised in the regional assembly. The print workers involved in the brawl are also demanding the return of bull jumping, a traditional test of manhood banned with the Party's introduction of compulsory veganism two years ago.

The government has made no official comment and there was no response to our request for an interview. The police commissioner in the affected district has spoken extensively saying that any unrest on the streets before the election will be severely dealt with.

Post an account from your nation Wednesday - C.H.A.O.S.


From The Committee on Health And Orderly Society, Kikangane District
To All Commune Secretariats

Revolutionary greetings.


We write following the recent controversy concerning Kikangane Software Collective #7 and their decision to paint their communal areas in red and purple, with motifs taken (we are informed) from popular computer games.

It is the view of this committee that the traditional white colour scheme is the aesthetic best suited to a socialist lifestyle in that it fosters the alert and sober clarity of purpose that must guide all our efforts in the construction of our new society. We note that officially there are no legally binding regulations in this area and that decoration is a matter for individual communes. We are, however, mindful that all communes play host to external visitors on a regular basis and that it is important for them to consider their wider reputation in the district. Commune secretariats are reminded that, if this reputation is felt to have been neglected, it is within the authority of the Regional Assembly to instruct the transfer of personal, both to bring in to the commune those who will guide it more wisely and to remove influences judged to be reactionary.

We trust that you will continue to make the best possible decisions in this area.

Revolutionary regards.

No class but the proletariat!
Unity! Discipline! Progress!

We of the Revolutionary Workers' Party take great exception to the latest edition of the WA World Census, which classifies Uan aa Boa's civil rights as "unheard of." It is true that ours is in many ways a more disciplined society than others. A strictly vegan diet is both provided and compulsory, alcohol and tobacco are prohibited and cars and aeroplanes are banned. Adultery and rudeness in public are crimes with and, among the many sweeping powers the police possess, telephone and internet traffic is monitored to prevent criminal activity. Those who fail the parental capability assessment are sterilised. Yet we would invite international observers to note the rights that the citizens of Uan aa Boa do enjoy, perhaps to a greater extent than the citizens of more liberal nations. These include the right to eat, the right to housing, healthcare, employment and education, the right to health, safety and air, water and an environment free from pollution, the right to benefit materially from their own labour without exploitation by capitalist profiteers.

We note the continued prevalence in more liberal nations of poverty, crime, drug abuse, homelessness, inequality, obesity, preventable diseases, child abuse, antisocial behaviour and environmental degradation. We wonder if these are a price with paying for your liberal bourgeois conception of "rights" which is, when all is said and done, no more than the fetishism of choice and the "freedom" to choose badly, the glorification of the individual at the expense of the community.

I’m sorry, Comrade Director, but I must respectfully ask you not to bring that sandwich into the laboratory.

What? Oh, yes… Here, what’s your name? Yes, you. Get rid of this sandwich for me.

I trust it was a satisfactory sandwich, Comrade Director?

What are you blathering about? Yes, fine. Most satisfactory. Are we going in or not?

Of course, Comrade Director.

By all the… What is this… thing?

We call it the Tank, Comrade Director.

Yes, well, I can see that makes sense. And the brown, er…, growth?

Protein, Comrade Director.


Yes, Comrade Director. A cultured mycoprotein. We’re calling it agaricus incertus. I can email you the specifications.

Listen, you’ve been shut up in here for more than 3 months. While I appreciate that it is technically part of my remit to supervise your work, I perhaps naively assumed that as we had been instructed to work on the problem of algal bloom pollution from agricultural run-off that might in fact have been what you were doing.

Well, the thing is, Comrade Director…

Which makes this somewhat difficult to explain in the quarterly report.

… this doesn’t grow next to rivers. It doesn’t send any run-off anywhere. Whatever you grow in a field, there’s no way of preventing run-off. The wash from the Tank gets filtered for nutrients and added back in again.

So you’re suggesting we stop farming and eat this brown goo? Do you realise how proud the Agricultural Council are of a 28,750% productivity increase?

But Comrade Director…

I know! But do you think I’m going to explain to the Council that they can’t work out simple percentages?

The Council ended up endorsing the use of kelp, Comrade Director.

Which damn near caused riots. People won’t stand for it. Beans and vegetables, that’s been the basis of a healthy communal diet since before the Vegan Directive. What does this stuff taste like anyway? I mean, back in the bourgeois days you’d have said it tasted like chicken. Every bloody new-fangled exotic thing tasted like chicken. I always thought it would be simpler just to have chicken. Mind you, that looks like it must smell worse than chicken.

Well, Comrade Director…


You remember that sandwich?

I'll admit now that I was far from happy to receive a posting to Akala, a new town in Chola district on the fringes of the Western Forest Zone. Exchanging the bustling streets and squares of Aa for the middle of nowhere had not featured in my plans. Nonetheless, the Party's directive that every district should have a college for science, technology and engineering meant that as a teacher of mathematics I was a prime candidate for redeployment.

Until recently, the name Akala referred only to a string of small villages that comprised the workforce of Chola District Agricultural Collective #7. There was no town. Much has changed in response to the elimination of animal farming and motor vehicles together with the new energy policy, forest zones and pollution cap. There's a clear need to house the population in a smaller space and find ways to incorporate the required area of solar panelling. It seems that a committee in Aa picked ambitious targets out of thin air and left their realisation to the ingenuity of the Chola soviet. As a result, every available surface has a photovoltaic cell stuck to it and the burgeoning high rise buildings are designed to have maximum surface area, making them look from a distance like glistening black trees.

Electric winches pull in cages from the kelp farms in the bay. At the refinery on the shore the kelp combines with the town's human waste to produce a pungent organic fertiliser for the ring of fields surrounding the town. On the western side yams, plantains, ground nuts and soya make Akala self-sufficient in food with a surplus to send to the city, though the attempt to introduce kelp into the diet has met with considerable grumbling. On the east, reed beds that supply Basket Weaving Collective #2. The new work isn't only for those able to embrace new technologies, though the scale is baffling for some. An old woman at a commune meeting asked who it was that needed so many baskets. In truth, much of the production sits unused in warehouses in Aa, but it is hoped that one day soon the sanctions will be lifted and handwoven ethnic baskets in the boutiques of the West will help us begin to build a reserve of foreign currency. The more I think about that, the more I share the old woman's puzzlement. Beyond the fields the forest is reclaiming the sites of the huts and cottages where she and her comrades were born.

The new pier is almost complete, ready to convey the solar cells from the new factories out to where they are to be mounted in huge offshore arrays. The work has already begun but will be much faster when it can be supplied from here rather then up the coast. For now, the small pier hosts the tourist ships as our guests transfer to the new hotels, festooned with solar panels like everything else, from which the excursions into the rainforest depart. Their curious white faces regard us as if we were another rare forest species, building great collective structures like our comrades the termites.

My students are more earnest and serious than their urban comrades. The first in their families to be offered an education, they feel the burden of the expectation of their ancestors. The ancient ones do not understand that in the new world schooling is a right and not a gift. Still, I try to prevent the lessons from being too dry. If ever a teacher was surrounded by the applications of calculus and trigonometry, that teacher is me.

I met Etimbuk on a hike organised by the Recreation Committee. We fell behind and he cleared the way of vines for me with hands like shovels. It's hard to imagine they're technicians hands. Things moved quickly and today the unthinkable happened. I felt like a person in a dream as I stood at the counter in the soviet house and withdrew my request to be transferred back to Aa.

Stranger in a strange land
Hotel Excelsior, Waters City

The diplomatic mission had gone as smoothly as Adeema could have hoped for. They had toured the Waters City Theatre, the oldest bridge in Watersville that crossed the Lightning River and on into the main square in Old Town Waters City, with its statue of the Earth assembled from rocks which each bore a word of the constitution. The itinerary had included, at her request, a project reintroducing native salt marshes on reclaimed land, a humanitarian centre poised to fly assistance to storm-struck islands elsewhere in the archipelago and Waters City children’s hospital.

She had been surprised at the apparent level of interest among ordinary citizens. Before the visit some newspapers had resurrected the old stories of mad communists. This time, apparently, a woman who fled her burning house without saving a portrait of the Chairman had been fed to piranhas. She also sensed curiosity, however, and a genuine sense of the possibilities of a new relationship – plus a surprising level of interest in her personally. Her old Party mentor would have been proud of her newfound diplomatic skills, for when invited to be photographed by a prominent fashion magazine she had declined politely and said nothing of patriarchy and objectification.

The Watersvillian attaché had been keen to avoid the awkwardness of demonstrations in solidarity against the blockade and seemed to suspect her of fomenting them. Meetings had been arranged with two leftist groups who would, in exchange, keep their people off the streets, tiny cells of student radicals and bearded pedants who clearly hated each other far more than their allegedly oppressive government. Discussion, photographs, signed copies of the Chairman’s book On Dialectical Praxis in a Postcolonial Age. The reverence of these amateurs for the real thing disconcerted her, but not as much as the fact that the government was introducing her to its dissidents. She had indeed misjudged the place.

The meeting with the king had been thoroughly planned and took place in front of the palace. The khaki clad delegation was preceded by dancers in tribal costume, ululating wildly as they twirled and dipped in spiral patterns across the grass. As the noise faded, a small orchestra struck up and, at its crescendo, Joseph Watters appeared on the steps. Adeema had resolved that bowing would be a compromise too far and suggested the pressing together of foreheads, a warrior’s greeting whose outlandishness would distract from the difficulty of the question. The attaché had, barely, kept a straight face as he explained to the diminutive Marxist that with the height difference that would involve the king bowing deeply to her and, in any case, it wasn’t the Middle Ages and why couldn’t she just shake his hand. Again, she had misjudged.

She was, against her will, impressed by the king, whose strong presence made him the sun others felt compelled to orbit. He had a bearing, a way of fixing ones gaze that, she had to admit, reminded her of only one other man she knew. She had presented him with a tribal shield inlaid with shells, a gourd of perfume and an illuminated book of poetry and received a steel medallion engraved with the words "Together, we will help to create a better world" in English and Boani, a miniature scale version of the high speed train she had taken earlier, and a vial of medicine that represented a shipment of medicine that would be sent to Uan aa Boa in 12 hours

In his speech the king had welcomed the making of friendships and urged the Party to pursue democratic reforms and give assurances on human rights. He offered to mediate talks with the old powers if the missile tests were first suspended. She in return praised Watersville’s social achievements, thanked the king for extending the hand of peace in warlike times and assured him that his requests would be relayed to the Peoples’ Assembly. She had written the speech and was determined to deliver it in English, but despite her crash course she didn’t fully understand the translation and had spent long hours with a voice coach learning the intonations by rote.

The real business with the minister came in private later, and was more brusque. A lifting of sanctions? If it was up to us, multilateral commitments, clear statement of intent. A permanent embassy in Waters City? Subject to ratification by parliament, already oversubscribed this term. A return visit to Aa? Certainly.

Now, late on the last evening, she stood at the window of the hotel suite looking over the park. Her secretary stepped out into the evening cool, the bodyguard declining the offers of further accompaniment. Across the green space she bent to smell a flowering bush and then, for a brief moment, disappeared from view. Minutes later, the bodyguard returned with his arm around his stricken companion, whose streaming eyes were buried in a handkerchief. An unfamiliar pollen no doubt. Most kind of you, we have our own doctor. Please, do not distress yourselves. Goodnight.

The women was helped through Adeema’s door and snatched up the bottle of corrective eye drops that stood ready before withdrawing to wash her face. On her return she nodded acknowledgement to Adeema. She was the same build as the secretary who had been recruited for the purpose, though her eyes were larger and her nose more aquiline. Adeema proffered the ID and passport with the photographs and biometrics already corrected.

“Do you have it?” The newcomer nodded as she produced the memory card hanging on a chain around her neck.

The argument between the two friends made its way the whole length of the bustling, twilit street and then, because it was too late to get back to their commune before serving ended, continued in the neighbourhood canteen. The room fell quiet as two unfamiliar Council officials entered. Bidding a good evening to the each comrade they passed and waving away those who tried to give up their places, Adeema and Tsente jointed the queue. Had she not already been so filled with righteous indignation, Adeema would have been annoyed at the instinctive deference, might have stopped to explain that a tram driver or a cleaner should be shown no less respect than a Representative. A matronly woman heaped mashed yam and beans into bowls. Surrounded by curious faces, the discussion was awkwardly halted until the two had taken their seats on the most sparsely occupied of the long wooden tables.

“Watersville,” Adeema sighed again. “A monarchy. A capitalist monarchy. That’s all I’m saying.”

“He isn’t really a king,” her companion replied. “You need to read the briefings. He was elected. He’s more of a figure head. Anyway, it’s the parliament that counts.”

“Elected too no doubt? The hollow tyranny of the majority.”

Tsente reflected that had Adeema been five years older, had she fought in the civil war or played a greater role in the final push than that of a child throwing stones, she would have been spared this constant drive to prove herself. There was no need. Aside from the obvious fact that everyone was equal, her status as one of the rising stars of the Council couldn’t be denied.

“Read the briefings. Truly, they have no poverty. Their hospitals want for nothing, their schools are exemplary. They live in peace, with the world and with each other. You should see the reality, not just the titles. And consider, you are not called to be like them, only to represent us to them.” Recognising the expression, the older man spread his hands to forestall the outburst. “Truly, you should be happy. Every one of the people moving to the Diplomatic Council is noted for their talent, zeal and dedication. It is an honour to be counted in their number. And remember,” he knew it was the trump card, “it is the beloved Comrade Chairman himself who asks it.”

“I do not question his wisdom.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Yet I do not understand. For all these years the Diplomatic Council has been small and unimportant. What is different now?”

“It is not for me to say. And yet, if you can keep my confidence, I will tell you what I think.” Adeema nodded. “Before, there was no-one to talk to. The condemnations, the sanctions. When there was something to say, we let Caracasus say it for us. No longer.”

“The beloved Comrade Chairman considers them our comrades.”

“And so they are. But many are troubled. I should not speak of this. Forgive me.”

“You are like a father to me, comrade. I do not gossip.”

“You do not. Comrade, the rumours you have heard are true. The Intended Consequences will rescue the capitalist spacecraft. After inviting our participation, Caracasus puts us in the most embarrassing of positions. We will be their lapdog no longer. That is why we must speak to the nations in our own right.”

There was a silence, which Tsente took advantage of to finish his now lukewarm beans.

“But a monarchy!”

“You had no complaint all these years we have embraced Caracasus, a land so crazy that a regiment may vote on whether to follow its orders.”

She smiled. As they finished eating, people began to lift the tables and carry them from the hall. Curtains were opened to reveal a cinema screen.

“And now,” said Tsente, “we cannot insult the hospitality of this commune. We shall watch the Broadcast here, and then participate in their entertainments.”

The Rifle, Hoe and Sun
First Edition

Humiliation of Mars Colony for the Super Rich!
Socialists Worldwide Unite in Ridicule of Stricken Capitalist Spaceship

News broke yesterday of a secret plot to transport a number of the world's richest people to a private colony on Mars. The plan now lies in ruins,
however, after a distress signal from the capitalists' vessel was received, forcing the corporation responsible to humiliate itself by begging the international community to mount a rescue mission!

Frederick Gruber, infamous plutocratic proprietor of Grubicon Incorporated, confessed that for all the wealth and technology at the his disposal, and all the corrupt political power of his corporate paymasters, he was powerless to intervene as the stricken spaceship, USS Enterprise, hurtled into the void beyond the orbit of the moon. Any nation willing to mount a rescue was urged to visit Gruber on his private tropical island.

Gruber is from the nation of Significance, an infamously rapacious capitalist hell hole whose government provides no education whatsoever and whose people die, on average, at an outrageous age of less than 25 years, such is the deplorable nature of their enslavement. Even such a corporate wasteland has proved insufficient for Gruber, however, and having made his fortune through immoral and degenerate casinos and the sale of brightly coloured soda drinks believed to contain waste from the nuclear power plants he also owns, he disavowed the nation of his birth and based his exploitative businesses from this tropical hideaway, no doubt to keep himself hidden from the justified wrath of those whose toil has provided his rise to wealth.

The previously secret Mars colony project offered a place on a new world to anyone able to pay the multi-billion credit cost of a ticket. It was flocked to by arch capitalists, no doubt hoping to escape the day they will be called to answer for their numberless crimes and instead begin the rape and destruction of a new planet's environment after they have wreaked so much destruction here on Earth.

Speaking from orbit as he prepares to depart for Mars with the international socialist mission on the vessel Intended Consequences, Cosmonaut First Class and Honorary Peoples' Representative Solomon Lotoa said "This clearly shows the inferiority of capitalist space technology, built like all their contemptible machinery without regard for the lives of the workers called upon to operate it. The coming socialist mission will demonstrate to the world the superiority of collectivised labour over deregulated and botch-ridden bourgeois engineering."

We say let the bosses wait in vain for a rescue mission! We condemn their brazen assumption that those they have oppressed will now further risk their lives in an attempt to save them! Let the imperialists perish in the freezing vacuum of space!

5 years of prohibition preceded by a decade of voluntary temperance had not fully dulled her senses. Peoples' Representative Miriam Tilese was certain that the Caracasusian "doctor" had been drunk and probably under the influence of stranger substances. She smiled to herself as she realised she was grappling with the urge to have him arrested. Still the idealist then, despite everything. As she left the embassy she felt the usual bewilderment on dealing with Caracasasians, so vague, so evasive and enigmatic regarding their precise function or the scope of their authority. Marx had foreseen that in time the state would outlive its purpose and wither away, but back in the days of studying revolutionary texts by the light of guerrilla camp fires she hadn't realised that when it happened it would seem so... bohemian.

The embassy was housed in one of the old colonial mansions on a sunny, tree lined street. In the days after the Revolution, Miriam had favoured razing them and starting over, though she accepted that a house was a resource there was wisdom in not wasting. Still, the proper use for such historically tainted buildings was a difficult subject. The ones in this street mostly housed the proliferating IT projects, producing code that would help district economic planners struggling with the scale of their task or manage the variable flow of power from the new wind and solar powered grid. The First Economic Plan had imported such software from Caracasus as a finished product with an instruction manual. The Second accepted slower growth so as to start the work of self reliance. There was no denying that these antique houses were a more opulent working environment than the fields or factories. Miriam noted this favouring of the educated, as if they were a class separated from the rest of the proletariat, and thought no good could come of it.

She was tired. In a land encircled by enemies with superior armaments she had held out such hope for the effect on morale of Comrade Lotoa planting the Rifle, Hoe and Sun on the surface of Mars, years before it could be reached by the nations that threatened the Revolution on Earth. Now it seemed that the encirclement might be replicated on a cosmic scale. The signal from Titan was not yet public knowledge, but whispers were spreading across the borders and an announcement would soon be necessary. She needed a plan.

For ten years Miriam had been beset on every side. The role she had carved out for herself in the Party had been that of preventing corruption. She had been the first to realise what should have been foreseen from the start. The more aspects of life fell under the control of the Party and the lower the chances of an official's conduct rebounding on them, the more abuse would occur. It was nobody's fault. Just as capitalism eventually collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, so it was a mechanistic, predictable consequence of people being people. Still, it had been hard to plan for the mixed motives of her comrades when she herself had given everything.

After endless debates and arguments, planning was decentralised to a district level. The decision makers were no longer those that had caught the eye of a commander, but were chosen by the communities they served and to which, after a fixed term, they would return to experience their comrades verdict on their performance. Miriam was grateful that although the Chairman listened every day to those who told him he was supremely wise, he retained enough wisdom to keep company with old comrades who would tell him when he was wrong.

Her husband had told her she had done enough, begged her to step back and apply for a parental licence while there was still time. In a brave new world the burden of his ancestors weighed heavy on him, but she knew there was so much more to do. He wanted them to retreat to a bigger house outside the city. It could have happened - in those days she controlled the grading of his post as harbour master and the housing entitlement it carried. She wouldn't have been challenged, but she hadn't done it. She knew she had been right, but there were nights when that was small comfort alone and waiting for the dawn.

Striding off down the road towards her office, she forced the memories from her mind and tried to focus on the draft of the announcement.

Solomon Lotoa, member of Uan aa Boa's Revolutionary Workers' Council with responsibility for science and technology, speaks to journalists in the specially prepared pavillion in the shadow of the launch site.
Comrades, colleagues, esteemed guests and ladies and gentlemen of the press, today our small but courageous nation steps out into the eye of the world. With the participation of our first cosmonaut in this historic venture we reach a new landmark in the programme of scientific and technical development so wisely initiated a decade ago by our beloved Comrade Chairman. We must first and foremost extend our thanks and admiration to our comrades and colleagues from the United Socialist States of Caracasus. Their nation stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when the wealth and labour of a society is used to advance the good of the many rather than sate the greed of the few.

Proud though I am on this most historic of days, I must be frank with you and acknowledge that in the eyes of many, especially those bourgeois powers whose influence on our continent has so dramatically decreased of late, our People's Republic should not be in possession of the the kind of technology being displayed here today. Although today we see technology used for the purposes of peace and the advancement of mankind, they consider only its potential for destruction and the waging of war. To them I say this. Perhaps if your soldiers did not lurk on our borders, your warships infest our seas or your satellites scrutinise our people we would have no need of such technology. Uan aa Boa holds out to the whole world the hand of friendship, but we must insist on the right to take those steps that are necessary to ensure our peace and security in the face of imperialist intimidation. Your lands are vaster than ours, your weapons more numerous than the ones you would seek to deny us. Why then does our commitment to maintain a credible deterrant for peaceful purposes cause you such vexation? I tell you the truth. You fear the proletariat armed and militant, and it is well that you do, for a day is coming when your own suffering masses will rise up and throw off the yoke of your oppression.

I must also say frankly to you that many others watching today feel that our partnership in this mighty endeavour is not appropriate because, they say, our Revolutionary Workers' Council has not been democratically elected. It lacks, they say, the mandate of our people. To them I say this. What do you know, you bureaucrats who dwell in offices and mansions, of building a mandate through twenty years of guerilla conflict? Of hammering out a mandate in the white heat of the struggle to be the revolutionary vanguard of the dictatorship of the proletariat? When your former puppet government, through it's grossest of incompetance, plunged our nation into famine the Revolutionary Workers' Party distributed grain throughout the countryside and educated our comrades in the techniques of collective farming that would allow them to feed themselves. When your pharmaceutical companies, acting as an illegal cartel, forced the price of malaria treatment beyond the means of the worker our fighters burst open their warehouses and distributed those drugs freely in every town and village. When the financial restructuring that was the condition of your so-called foreign aid, money that did no more than line the pockets of your corrupt puppet President and his family, caused our schools to be closed we convened a classroom in every forest clearing to raise the revolutionary class consciousness of our brothers and sisters. When your mining corporations sought to fell the forests of our ancestors we destroyed bridges, roads and machines until the rapacious capitalist oppressors were driven from the land. The glorious martyrs of the revolution were, to the last drop of their blood, the shield, guide, sanctuary and servant of the people. That is our democratic mandate. Do you truly think that freedom consists of sheeplike slaves making a cross on a ballot paper every four years? Why do you, whose streets are filled with the cardboard boxes of the destitute and whose workers toil for a pittance while the bosses grow fat in guilded mansions, presume to speak to us of freedom at all? Enough. Let us have no more of this talk.

Today is a day of celebration as the socialist nations of our region march, in unity and brotherhood, towards the stars.


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Political and social structures (essentially the same thing) are described here: -

The basic unit of Boani society is the commune. A commune is primarily economic rather than geographical; it might be based around a factory, an agricultural collective or an IT project. They average about 2000 adult members. A commune provides its people with many services including housing, education and basic healthcare so most will fully occupy a discrete area of land. Members of a commune eat together in canteens and share care facilities for children and the elderly and disabled, measures intended to strengthen community ties and release as many adults as possible into the workforce. Commune members are expected to take part in shared cultural, recreational and political activities and to volunteer labour to commune projects in addition to their regular employment.

Some services are too large for communes to provide themselves. The activities of universities, major hospitals, large scale construction work and the provision of water and sewerage for a larger area would themselves be the focus of the work of their own communes.

A commune is a participatory democracy with frequent meetings deciding on both the running of the business or service the commune provides and matters of local government in the area it occupies. The commune also sends a representative (chosen by sortition) to the District Assembly. Many national decisions are made by referendum on a one commune one vote basis, with commune meetings deciding how that vote will be cast.

The Fifth Economic Plan and the District Assembly provide a commune with many targets, both in productivity in its primary economic area and in maintaining standards in areas such as education. Achieving and surpassing these is a source of considerable pride, and the extent to which a commune distinguishes itself through high standards and Stakhanovite feats of productivity tends to correspond to the political heights climbed by its delegate, reflecting further prestige on the commune. The central government is concerned, however, that communes should not become excessively tribal or sectarian and citizens are subject to compulsory transfer between communes according to demand for their skills.

District Assemblies are responsible for coordinating the activities of the various communes in their area and fitting them in to the planned economy, which operates at a district level within parameters set by the central government. The Assembly employs civil servants and, increasingly, AI technology. The role of the commune representatives consists largely of governance and ethical oversight. The Assembly in turn elects sends one of its number to represent the district in the Peoples' Assembly in the capital Aa.

The Peoples' Assembly meets quarterly and functions as the republic's parliament. It deals with major questions of legislation and also, at least in theory, appoints the executive government. The post of Chairman, however, is still a lifetime appointment (recall and impeachment are possible in principle but without precedent) held by the Beloved Comrade Chairman who led the original revolution. He remains able to veto a majority (though not a super majority) of the Peoples' Assembly.

All levels of decision making are bound by the principles of democratic centralism - freedom in discussion followed by unity in action. In practice this means that when a decision has been taken it's binding on everyone and not up for further review. The First Speaker of any commune or assembly is expected to be assertive in clearing from the floor any discussion which is critical of past decisions. This, together with the formal and generally modest character of Boani society, is a powerful force for the status quo. Neither the Chairman nor the Peoples' Assembly had seriously tested the limits of their powers until the Chairman's recent imposition of sortition, presented as a response to the unwelcome emergence of a class of professional politicians prioritising their own interests over those of the public.

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I'm more than happy to accept NS stats (with the usual caveat about population) for all role-playing purposes.