Guest feature by Kazmr, former Chairman of the People's Republic of Lazarus
The red banner flies no longer in Lazarus. After a year and a half which witnessed perhaps the greatest activity in the region's history, the People's Republic fell in April 2015. This is a history of the People's Republic of Lazarus (PRL), but not merely a chronological tale. This is an account of Lazarus's place as a leftist region from the perspective of one of its real-life leftists. This is the story of struggles between ideology and theme, socialism and nationalism, sovereignty of the people and authoritarianism. This is a look at how a region burst forth waving red, and slowly receded until the traditional emerald took over once again.
The circumstances surrounding the founding of the People's Republic of Lazarus make for an odd background for a revolution, and in the long-term may have sowed the first seeds of its demise. In early 2013, the year of the revolution, Lazarus was the site of a deadlock between two competing imperialist factions (in the real-world, rather than NationStates sense): the New Pacific Order (NPO, of The Pacific) and NS Imperialists, most notably North East Somerset. Both sides desired to enforce their will on Lazarus, but the conflict kept the region mired in inactivity, with barely a dozen residents with any sort of activity whatsoever. That changed when the delegate and "Emerald King," Feux, organized a secret vote amongst the non-imperialist members of the region to expel the opposition, and followed through with unanimous support. The nature of this purge is debated to this day, regardless of ones opinion on whether or not it was justified, it is undeniable that it played a major role in the PRL, both in the circumstances of that regime's founding and in complex role the NPO would continue to play in Lazarus.
Rather than continue to rule, Feux handed the reins to Harmoneia, one of the oldest and most storied members of Lazarus, but stayed in the region and continued to hold various roles. It was under Harmoneia that the PRL came into being, and thus with her lies the foundation upon which leftism in Lazarus was build. Recognizing the need for a fundamental change, Harmoneia opened up voting for a new theme and "socialism" won in a (for such a small community) landslide.
At this point, there are a couple of important takeaways for anyone seeking to understand what sort of leftist region Lazarus was. To begin with, the revolution itself came from the top; both the actions which cleared the path for a new era and the initiative to reshape the region were spearheaded by delegates with wide-sweeping powers, though there was certainly input on the part of other citizens. The ramifications of this are most visible in the role the delegate would continue to play as a "vanguard" of sorts, perhaps a dictator with the support of the proletariat rather than a true dictatorship of the proletariat. Secondly, the security of the revolution was compromised, though perhaps unknowingly at first, by the continued involvement of the NPO. As they had been the ones who enabled its existence, most in the PRL looked favorably on the NPO despite its tenuous past, and the trust placed in its members proved, in the end, to be misguided.
“There was always a debate amongst the
citizens of Lazarus over how much the PRL was
a "theme" versus a true application of socialist
ideals to NationStates”
All of this is not to say that Lazarus was not a genuine leftist region. The guiding philosophy in Lazarus, particularly under its early delegates, was grounded in socialist principles applied in NationStates. One excellent example was a treatise by Harmoneia, "The False Independence," underlining Lazarus's decision to reject "independence" and the primary justification behind the defender stance that continues to this day (reprinted here). "The False Independence" established the majority of players, natives, as being the closest equivalent in the game to a proletariat. Meanwhile, a "bourgeoisie" can be found in the forumites who generally rule over and make decisions for the wider region from their offsite forum, often doing so in multiple regions to advance their agenda, and in the imperialists and invaders who routinely oppress natives for their own amusement and political aims. As a revolutionary body, it was thus the PRL's duty to take a leading role in liberating the proletariat from oppression, thus a defender stance. The region jumped wholeheartedly into this new alignment, and at one point was perhaps the strongest active force in the defender sphere. Furthermore, it was the duty of the PRL to reject Independence, the ideology of much of the NationStates bourgeoisie, seeing it as a vehicle for outside domination of Lazarus's affairs, both internal and external.
Lazarus's leftist credentials are also shown by the solidarity shown with other leftist regions. Beyond simply establishing diplomatic relations, for instance with The Internationale, Communist International, and others, the Lazarene Liberation Army frequently cooperated with The Red Fleet and left-aligned militaries when defending and liberating left regions. The most notably instance was in the defense of The Internationale following La Pasionaria's deletion, for which Lazarus was awarded Hero of The Internationale, Fourth Class.
However, from the start there was always a debate amongst the citizens of Lazarus over how much the PRL was a "theme" versus a true application of socialist ideals to NationStates. A number of the most involved members of the region were true leftists in real life, Milograd, Harmoneia, and Kazmr being prime examples. However, there was always an acknowledgement that anyone was welcome in the region, and as such many, if not a majority, of residents did not necessarily subscribe to socialist ideals. Even among those who did, there was perhaps a tendency in public expressions to veer towards absurdism and satire, a sort of /r/FULLCOMMUNISM in NS, exemplified in some of the more casual articles found in the Lazarene Gazette.
“Lazarus's new blood came from those
already part of the "gameplay elite,"
many of whom already had citizenship
elsewhere and may have been there
largely for the roleplay aspect”
Over time, two factors contributed greatly to the slow retreat from earlier ideals. One was the combination of inactivity on the part of real life socialists and a corresponding increase in importance for those who were there for the fun of roleplaying as a socialist. Though the aforementioned members served as the first three Chairmen of the region, the final two did not share the same commitment, though Funkadelia certainly supported the red theme throughout his tenure.
Perhaps more insidious, though, was the failure to transition to a true democratic worker's state. Time and again, motions for increased democracy were rejected* while a cult of personality was slowly built up around the office of Chairman. In the final year, a point was reached where it seemed the Chairman could do no wrong, and the elected People's Congress even gave the office the power to unilaterally amend the Constitution even over the objection of the sitting Chairman, Funkadelia.
* The author participated in this at the time, and fully admits to his mistake. The experience of the PRL was been eye opening for him both with regards to NS, and, in a way, real life.
The trouble may also have been exacerbated by the struggle Lazarus had with gaining new blood, particularly those who would have been willing to commit to a socialist ideal. As a game-created region, Lazarus faced overwhelming social pressure, both from other feeders and sinkers and from user-created regions, allied or otherwise, to refrain from recruiting. However, as a region where people returning to the game revived, rather than new players being born, most who passed through already had a previous home to return to. Thus, most of Lazarus's new blood came from those already part of the "gameplay elite," many of whom already had citizenship elsewhere and may have been there largely for the roleplay aspect.
The final Chairman, Stujenske, saw the culmination of the various issues faced by the PRL expressed by a full-on retreat from socialism. Rising to the position due to a crisis of inactivity, Stujenske himself once privately expressed that he thought the theme was holding the region back. Over his tenure, he both further centralized power into his own hands and introduced a new "iron" theme that seemed to have a more nationalistic, almost right-wing tone as opposed to socialism. In retrospect, Stujenske's ultimate betrayal of the revolution to the New Pacific Order, which he had long been a member of along with others in the region, seems clear.
Unfortunately, in defeating the NPO, the revolution died as well. Those who had viewed the PRL as a roleplayed theme were willing to abandon it in order to garner more widespread support, while the handful of true-believers may well have subscribed to the anarchist theorist Mikhail Bakunin's words that, "the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better than the most enlightened monarchy." A democratic but self-ruled Lazarus was certainly preferable to a dictatorship imposed by a foreign power, and to try and install the PRL without the support of most of Lazarus's allies and the underground state would have led to disaster.
The People's Republic of Lazarus now seems consigned to history's dustbin, but that does not mean the end of its ideals. Some of those most devoted to the founding principles of the PRL remain in the region, and there is hope that they may at the very least keep Lazarus on a free course. The Lazarene Liberation Army, born from a combination of defender and socialist ideals, still lives with its name intact, and may be at its strongest since the peak of its early days. And of course there is always the memory, burning bright red, to inspire hope for the future.