Alliance structure as we know it began from the primordial ooze of the first corp, the single-celled autocratic organizational lifeform, the default government of New Eden. From that exceedingly simple dictatorship a whole variety of political systems have developed over the years, sometimes mirroring those in reality – as real-world models are the only ones players can source their ideas from – but usually diverging wildly as time passes due to the unique circumstances of ‘life’ in a post-scarcity world where everyone is functionally immortal.
The first developed form of advanced EVE government is what we might call ‘Space Feudalism’, where a powerful alliance rules directly over explicitly subordinate renters or serfs and extracts both financial tribute and military service from them. Because nerds playing spaceship games are hardly known for their loving kindness, the lot of a serf is rife with humiliation; members of the ‘master’ alliance glory in reminding the serfs of their place in the pyramid, and – for a time – the serfs accept it; usually they hope to somehow impress their masters enough to be recruited to the primary alliance. This brain drain, where the competent players native to a serf alliance are sucked up into the master alliance, has the primary impact of keeping the serf alliance both talentless and docile; any leaders who would emerge to take the serfs in a new direction are co-opted.
Most of the Drone Russian territory is run under this system, covering the Northwestern section of the galaxy; IT Alliance and their forebearers in Band of Brothers were at one point similarly proud of their ‘pet’ system. Yet, while it is quite profitable to have a legion of serfs under your whip, the lords of old have discovered a frightening truth: the feudal system is militarily helpless before more modern systems of government. In a straight up war, the serfs – humiliated and treated like bumbling incompetents – melt away to Empire, leaving their lords impotently pointing towards the front lines, orders quietly but firmly disobeyed. With their talented members stolen, serf alliances are also completely incapable of standing on their own as effective entities; they cannot be relied upon to accomplish independent objectives.
Unsurprisingly, the feudal system sows seeds of bitterness in its wake; every former serf who hasn’t become completely lost to sycophancy resents their former bondage. In a backlash against the feudal structures, some alliances began dabbling in democracy.
The Council system grew in EVE not only as an attempt to import real-world political ideals into the game, but also as a reaction against the injustices of the Feudal system. Councils (and the whole spectrum of representational government, of which there are myriad flavors) have several legs up on the Feudal system. It’s much simpler to form a Council alliance, as the government seems less threatening to member corps than an autocracy. While with a feudal alliance you typically need one strong corp to overpower the others such that the authority of the leader is not questioned, councils allow corps of roughly equal power to come together without fear of domination. Councils also tend to get along better with their allies, as they don’t view the game through the lens of entitlement.
Yet despite their ease of creation and better diplomatic skills, Council alliances have met ignominious fates in New Eden. Ultimately this is a game of military might, and centralized decisionmaking is key. The bickering within councils not only makes it easier to form an alliance, but easier to cascade as well. Just within the past few months we have seen a number of ‘hilarious’ Council-related idiocies, such as the Mostly Harmless high command kicking out one of their corps in a fit of pique, in the process severing the absolutely crucial EC-8PR empire bridge network, which was used by not only Mostly Harmless themselves, but the entirety of their Northern Coalition allies. Similarly, the avid democrats in Majesta Empire recently voted out their most successful leader in an opaque backroom deal between council corps; their pilots have since decided layer on the excitement even thicker by staging a ‘peaceful protest’, staying logged into EVE but pointedly not joining alliance combat operations in order to make a political point.
Recently an alternative has emerged to both the barbarities of the Feudal system and the flailing ineffectiveness of the Councils: Space Communism, it is colloquially called – though in practice ‘Space Socialism’ would probably be more apt. The Communists (who include Goonswarm and most of the so-called ‘Deklein Coalition’) adopt the autocracy of the feudal system yet take it further, with all alliance-level assets entirely under the aegis of the leader, with no corp-level assets to speak of. This income is used to institute a total reimbursement program, where pilots flying the appropriate ships in fleets fly for free, meaning that a Communist alliance at war never has to pause to allow its pilots to recover isk for ships between campaigns. Because there is no longer a personal economic barrier for warmaking, there is no point to having serfs as in the Feudal system; the Communists have no social divisions between stronger and weaker allies. This is not to say that everything is smiles, red banners and singing L’Internationale, though; the removal of the need for personal profit means that there is an undeniable bias against ‘production’ corps and pilots with a more mercantile focus.
In the past two months we have seen the Communist alliances of the Deklein Coalition on the campaign in Fountain against a classic Feudal bloc: IT Alliance and their many serfs. Things have not gone smashingly for IT so far.
I won’t say that the success of the ‘Space Communist’ model in Fountain is assured, not because I don’t believe this, but because I am almost comically biased on the topic; my own alliance is one of the Communist bloc, and this structure is partially of my own design. At this stage we have been successful and the vassals of IT Alliance have collapsed like feudal pets always do; meanwhile we have managed to maintain equanimity in our own bloc between massive alliances like TEST and smaller, younger entities like Fatal Ascension. So I leave it to the reader to judge; you can chart our progress in Fountain through sites like EveNews24 (whose coverage can be a bit spotty, but gets the rough gist of things) and unfiltered forum threads such as the ones on Kugutsumen. The true test of the viability of a political system in nullsec is bloc war; within a month or two, events will either prove the success of the communist model or relegate it to being a mere footnote in New Eden’s political history.
The modern nullsec alliance – as of mid-2012 – is almost certainly modeled on Space Socialism; the form has proven to be so effective militarily that, in order to stay competitive, almost every nullsec bloc now offers generous pilot reimbursements from a centralized income source, whether the income be from moons or renters. The alternative – corporate infighting, drama, and poverty – is not a risk worth taking if one hopes to maintain soverign space.
Councils remain a complete joke, yet there’s always someone willing to try them – just like there’s always someone willing to buy a supercap from me.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by The Mittani.