Terror and Governance


"The true felicity of ruler and subjects reaches perfection when all enjoy that tranquility of spirit, which comes from an inner assurance of security. This is the real political freedom of a nation. Then everyone is free to do what is to be desired, and no one compels anyone to do what is not to be desired." Fonvizin

Terrorism presents the greatest threat to any form of organized government and civil society. Acts of terrorism induce a primal, utterly disorganizing fear, which can alter instantaneously and lastingly the behavior of entire nations. This fear erodes the fabric of civility. Terror-stricken people cannot function as citizens. Terrorism not only impacts the public sentiments but it can trigger serious societal mutations. Therefore, the common wisdom says, it becomes essential for governments to respond swiftly and decisively in order to arrest civility-degrading terror.
In times of terror, governments seek safety in revamping and reorganizing their own institutions. They reinvent their systems of control and policing in an effort to contain the fear and straitjacket its source. The history of the last two centuries shows that many modern systems of governance have altered considerably while seeking to answer this threat. While waging wars on terrorism and instituting general safeguards, modern polities wind up revising their founding codes and reinventing their legal systems.
Since its emergence in nineteenth-century century Russia, organized terrorism has forced governments to develop new agencies and branches of state that are set on a public mission to devise and implement extraordinary policies, which invariably change these governments’ nature. Moreover, regimes of reinforced security that restrict civil liberties have proven to be simply ineffective with regard to the main task -- the eradication of terrorism, as they cannot remove but rather bolster the causes for any domestically based terrorism. The society is put to test as a society when it hits the threshold where the intolerance toward any further enforcement of collective safety outstrips the intolerance toward the threat that causes it.
Seemingly, in times of trouble, politicians are not inclined to ask history for answers, as if our present is a violent interruption of our past, so unusual and unprecedented, that it invalidates history. Nevertheless, if not explicit answers history certainly presents us with a telling enactment of various scenarios. Consider, for instance, late imperial Russia. At the time terror and counter-terror methods were so thoroughly developed and experimentally tested that we find there a universal laboratory of sorts, where our present-day predicaments were “invented.” The more we examine this particular moment of history, the stronger becomes the conviction that today we find ourselves caught up in a mere replay of what played out already a century ago.

I. The Lesson of History

The assassination of Russian Tsar Alexander II in 1881, which “crowned” a long string of attempts on his life, triggered a massive overreaction on the part of the government. Yet, the subsequent reforms exacerbated the situation even further, which effectively broadened the basis of terrorism. Special regimes of “safeguard” were established. The police had to issue “certificates of trustworthiness” to those who aspired to enroll in universities or work in the administration. Russia became an accomplished Police State characterized by severe marginalization of the law and a marked shift of judiciary prerogatives to the Ministry of Interior. The new system of security bolstered the regulatory-administrative initiative of the executive branch in all matters of private and public life. The authorities resorted to intrusive policing, to courts marshal, and tribunals as the main, if not the only instruments of governance. But to no avail, as networks of terror thrived on the social and political aggravation that the reinforced security created. The failing policies of safeguard prompted the Moscow secret police to engage in experimental social engineering, the effects of which could challenge the constructive premises of any counterterror policy. The effects, I will argue, were daunting. But before I go any further with the presentation of this original experiment, I need to elucidate its ideological basis, as it could constitute the basis of any other counterterror initiative of the same nature and, as such, produce a similar effect. We can call it – the Frankenstein effect.

“In the Name of the People”

Organized terrorism emerges in the 19th century as an instrument available to people, ethnic groups, national minorities, religious communities, and oppressed classes who seek to assert in a militant way their unrecognized differences or unacknowledged existence. Pariahs who strive to change political systems and policies to their own advantage, to raise the consciousness of their own people and promote their own identity often use the instrument of terrorism and organized militancy when confronted by hostile or unresponsive governments.
Terrorists act “in the name of the people” while seeking to reverse the economy of fear, that is, to make the government fear “the people.” Thus, identifying who are the people that they claim to stand for is the sine qua non of any terrorist formation. In order to cope with the primal lack of legitimate mandate to act in the name of any people, terrorists need to define and mobilize their own social base, gain its support and recognition. That is why terrorists often engage in community development, social work, and “diffusion of knowledge among the people,” in order to become the one and only controlling authority for them.
Terrorists are self-appointed dark apostles who act in the name of the inert masses. The bomb, they maintain, speaks for the silenced, and they must mandate its explosion. The people should recognize that this is their own voice that roars in the destruction.
Terrorists believe that the very application of violent force is rehabilitating, as it disorganizes the system of oppression and vents the peoples’ anger. In 1881, the year of the Russian Tsar’s assassination, Tkachov, a red-hot ideologue of terror, published an article called “Terrorism as the only means for the moral and social revival of Russia.” There he wrote as follows: “Revolutionary terrorism is not only the most adequate and practical way of disorganizing the existing police-bureaucratic state, but also a uniquely real means for the moral rebirth of the enslaved subject into a person-citizen.” (Istoria Terrorizma, 153-154.) He knew that the French citizen was born and tempered in revolutionary terror.
The social base is the root system of the terrorist networks, which, if severed or reengineered, could cause their extinction. This constitutes the only vulnerability of terrorism, its doom – to become baseless.

Steal Their Base

Russian revolutionary terrorists identified the city workers as their proper social base in the late 1870s after their grand failure to mobilize the masses for revolution in the populist campaign known as "going to the people"(khozhdenie v narod.) At the time, they believed that without directly engaging the Russian people, the political revolution couldn’t take place. Their campaign derailed in mass arrests, as the people routinely tipped off the police as to the consciousness-raising efforts of the activists. Subsequently, the proponents of terrorist methods gained prominence, as they argued that without violently disorganizing the system of governance that contained and dulled these masses, nothing could possibly turn them into a revolutionary force. Therefore, not the obscure Russian masses, but the city workers were identified as that particularly alienated group, which the revolutionary terrorists had to approach and structure into a solid social base.
After two decades of counterproductive intrusive policing that followed the assassination of the Tsar, the Moscow counterterror force (Okhrana) came to a historical realization – terrorism would whither away only if rendered baseless. Thus, they took it upon themselves to remobilize the Russian city workers by structuring them into an official, police-guided, and self-contained class, which was expected to develop gradually into an independent estate with its own system of political and public representation. This experiment became known as “police socialism.”
Sergei Zubatov, the chief of Moscow Okhrana at the time, takes all the credit for masterminding and conducting the experiment. He came to believe that the revolutionary spirit would never die and the underground would never cave in if the social base of its very existence constituted a vital part of the body politic. Nonetheless, he would argue, terrorism could be crippled, rendered inapt to inflict any serious damage if it were to lose its social ground. Thus, Zubatov in effect launched the official labor movement in Russia that sought to engage workers in a governable “proletarian pursuit of happiness.”

The Police Happiness of Nations

Zubatov’s experimental initiative exemplifies the kind of economic and social constructivism embedded in the original agenda of modern policing as we see it defined in Catherine the Great’s Nakaz and Zertsalo -- two constituent documents of the Russian Enlightenment that hadadopted the main postulates of good and efficient governance as forged by various French and German eighteen-century schools of political-economic thought, such as Polizeiwisenshaft and Cameralism. These schools promulgate that the main object of the police is the cultivation and procurement of a collectively shared sentiment of happiness and wellbeing. Effective policing invents instruments of social engineering that can create subjects who in good will do what they ought and thus become eligible for happiness. Therefore, the immediate task of modern policing is to make subjects identify their personal goals with the causes of government, which makes the populace perceive the officially administered order as a prerequisite for a prosperous life. Thus, the well-policed state is identified as the dominion of happiness and prosperity.
Drawing on the enlightened propositions of Cameralism, Zubatov’s initiative successfully placed the proletarians under police patronage in a well-planned effort to voice their interests in the public domain and render their claims officially negotiable. Although it was short-lived (from 1901 to 1903), the experiment successfully engineered and put into place for the new dawning century a notable structure known as the Soviet -- the organ of working class representation and self-government that was destined to become the governing body of the Bolshevik State.
Notably, Zubatov spirited the experimental creation of yet another bold organization -- the independent Jewish labor party in the city of Minsk – in an effort to splinter the existing Jewish revolutionary labor movement. He thought that it would be beneficial for both the society at large and the Jewish community in particular if the police could redefine the ultimate causes of the Jews by diverting their movement from political revolution toward a moderate ethnic-cultural patriotism. By supervising the creation and the activities of this new party, Zubatov intended to engage the Jewish toilers in a police-guided Zionism and ultimately turn them into a self-contained nationality that recognizes the political absolute of the Tsar – yet another scandal for the Russian anti-Semitic elites that supported forced russification of the national minorities. The first congress of Russian Zionists met in Minsk thanks to his secret assistance (Karasilk, 40.)

Police Socialism: Soviets in the Making

This art of directing the activities of the masses on the basis of organized self-government is here applied for the first time on Russian soil.
Trotsky (Anthology, 53)
In his youth, Sergei Zubatov (1864-1917) became a disciple of the Russian nihilist Pisarev and formed a circle of students in his Moscow gymnasium. Later, he befriended established terrorists such as Nikolai Morozov (a member of the executive committee of the People’s Will) and Gotz (one of the founders of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party) while managing a bookstore owned by his future wife through which they supplied the underground with illegal literature. Consequently, the Moscow Okhrana arrested him and recruited him as an informant. After years of undercover work, in 1890s he was appointed as assistant chief of police. Zubatov took it upon himself to modernize police work by introducing innovative techniques of interrogation and recruitment, and photographic file system for registration of political suspects. Okhrana operatives had to go through a special training of undercover clandestine work that also involved instruction in conspiratorial methods, subversive activities, and the revolutionary mentality. He created a special rapid-reaction unit -- the “flying squadron” -- ready to engage the enemy wherever it became active. He avoided mass arrests, as they were causing public intolerance and aggravation. He would take into custody only the key figures, try to convert them and release them for “breeding purposes.” He was a very convincing speaker, as he truly believed in the causes of his work, which secured him a great success in converting and recruiting many revolutionaries, putting them on police payroll. During his tenure, his office provided well-acknowledged examples of innovative and effective police work. Thus, in 1896 at the age of thirty-two, Zubatov was appointed Chief of Moscow Okhrana.
During the period of his own conversion and his later rise as a highly celebrated ideologue of constructive policing, he had reformed his political convictions and now promulgated the peculiar idea of a socialist monarchy where Tsar and people formed an inalienable unity (Schneiderman, Sergei Zubatov 49-59).
Unlike Bismarck, however, Zubatov did not believe in legislating as a way to govern the working class. He pushed for police administrative methods instead. For him the working class had to be officially regulated without involving any legal process. He intended to use the press as a proper medium that could create and maintain an official image of the working class in the public domain. He knew that any form of legalization would create sovereign rights and thus the basis for institutional independence of the proletarian organizations and their leadership. The process of their creation and the mode of their existence had to depend entirely on the methods of administrative policing. They had to be official, nevertheless not legislatively enacted bodies in order to be instrumental for the effective and lasting containment of the working class.
Zubatov saw the creation of the official labor movement as the result of gradual police-regulatory steps. Thus, on April 8, 1898, Zubatov drafted a memorandum regarding the official regulation of the labor movements and the relations between workers and factory owners. The real threat to the Russian government, he saw coming from the systematic effort of the radical intelligentsia to mobilize the working class for revolution:
“The history of the revolutionary movement has shown that the intelligentsia by itself has insufficient forces for a struggle against the government even if by chance it is armed with explosives [yet] … having united the workers to antigovernment undertakings, it (the social-democratic movement) has at its disposal such a mass force that the government must seriously take into account.” (Schneiderman 63).
According to the report, the danger of this happening was increased by the situation in the factories that had put the workers in a severely disadvantaged position. In this respect, an urgent involvement of the police in the process of exploitation had become necessary:
“The relationship between employers and workers…cannot avoid strict police surveillance.” (65).
General Trepov, the chief of Moscow police, presented this document to the Moscow Governor-General Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich and secured his approval. On November 11, 1901, the first official organization of the Moscow workers was created with a special instruction signed by Trepov. In March 1902 this organization became known as "The Soviet of Workers of the City of Moscow." Its overriding purpose was the creation of an authoritative organ of coordination and representation of the working class -- a General Soviet. The idea was commonly regarded as a fascinating novelty (Palat 91-92; Korelin, Krakh 120).
"It was an entirely novel creation; and it is no accident of history that the Autocracy, like its triumphant opponent subsequently, hit upon the very word sovet , customarily spelled soviet, to denote the undifferentiated class and political organization of the workers of a city" (Palat 93).
The first Soviet took charge of a complex program developed with the collaboration of the liberal faculty of the Moscow University who formulated the scientific, historical, and ideological basis of the experiment. Zubatov needed to engage the liberally-minded moderate learned community as a replacement for the revolutionary intelligentsia that was seeking aggressively to imbue the toiling masses with militant subversive class-consciousness. The experiment involved the spiritual enlightenment of the workingmen, consciousness-raising that recognized the supremacy of national values, and cultural recreation during leisure time. Thus, the Soviet was expected to know about, regulate, and aid the life of the working class in all of its professional, public, and private aspects. Ideally, the Soviet had to render the class self-contained and impregnable for terrorists.
The Soviet was experimentally created as a representative body of proletarian self-government with a police-defined mandate and function. Nevertheless, its ultimate objective was to develop an autonomous estate out of a system of soviets, which were seen as transitional forms. Lev Tikhomirov, a former terrorist and member of the executive committee of People’s Will, now converted ideologue of “police socialism” advocated that this estate had to comprise communes of workers and peasants, and had to enjoy a limited independence and elective bodies of self-government of zemstvo type (Krakh 131; Palat 121-122).
The experiment was abolished, but not because it proved to be ineffective. Quite to the contrary, it took off very strongly and enjoyed a great popularity among the workers, who did not doubt Zubatov’s endeavors to ease the severity of their exploitation. The reason was too trivial -- it had deepened the institutional conflict between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Interior, two branches of government that at the time served two opposing agendas. The latter advocated the necessity of an officially recognized system for negotiating class differences and formal-contractual regulation of the relations between workers and factory owners as the only way to socially alienate and eradicate terrorism in Russia. Contrastingly, the former was pushing aggressively for unregulated expansion of capitalism, minimal interference, traditional subordination in the work place and paternal care of the employers for the needs of the workers as the only way to eradicate the economic backwardness of Russia. The antagonism grew so vehement and the intolerance against the experiment became so overwhelming that the Interior Minister Plehve transfered Zubatov from Moscow to St. Petersburg while blocking all efforts to expand the practices of “police socialism” into the capital city. In August 1903, Zubatov was dismissed from service and later exiled to Vladimir (Korelin, Russkii 58). It wasduring dinner when he learned about the abdication of the Tsar. He left the room and shot himself.
In order to frame the working class in a system of officially regulated civility, the police had to free it from both the militant underground and the patriarchal yoke in the factories. Thus, “police socialism” conflicted with the essential interests and methods of both the industrialists and their lobbies and the revolutionary underground whose reason d’etre was to act in the name of the proletariat.
In a note dated March 4, 1902 Zubatov defined his purpose -- to break the labor mass into cells and influence their leadership. Thus, the police could effectively contain their “spontaneity” and predilection for struggle (Korelin, Krakh 121). Notably, in the same year, Lenin drafted his seminal work "What is to Be Done?" In it, he developed the underground doctrine of class struggle in an urgent effort to counter the expanding influence of the “police socialism.” Lenin aggressively promulgated that only a party-minded political conspiracy of professional revolutionaries would be the right method of capturing and transforming proletarian spontaneity into an effective force. Any official organizing and unionizing, he claimed, was a police stratagem that could have only a degrading effect on the movement. The pamphlet called for a general revamping of the underground toward increasingly professionalized activism.
Arguably, the experiment had challenged and thus utterly radicalized both prevalent policies of governance and methods of revolution, which created an unprecedented historical-political dynamics.

The Runaway Soviet

                Notably, the police experiment did not produce trade unions but soviets instead. When the minister of the interior inquired about the legal basis for the creation of the “trade unions,” general Trepov, a strong supporter of the experiment, as already noted, made the following remark:
”In fact, there exists no Union in Moscow, as for the Soviet of workers approved by me, it is an exclusively original phenomenon, since by its own principle this particular Soviet has no corresponding organized society of workers" (Korelin, Krakh 120).
The fate of these pioneering processes and initiatives could be utterly ironic. Notably, the story of the Soviet did not end with its abrupt abrogation. On January 9, 1905, a peaceful workers’ demonstration took the streets of St. Petersburg to carry a petition to the Tsar. In front of the Winter Palace, the guards started shooting at the workers and violently dispersed them. This day became known as Bloody Sunday – the day that signaled the start of the Russian revolution of 1905. Father Gapon led the procession, being the head of the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of St. Petersburg and, confessedly, a most ardent epigone of Zubatov.
In 1903, clearly inspired by the Moscow experiment, Father Gapon started the organized labor movement in the capital city. In September of the same year, he wrote Zubatov as follows:
“We are not forgetting you, our teacher – we remember … we are not concealing the fact that the idea of a special kind of labor movement is your idea, but we emphasize that our connection with the police is now broken (which is true), that our cause is just and aboveboard, and that the police can only check on us but not keep us on a leash.” (Schwarz, 272)
The result of the abovementioned drive for independence was the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of St. Petersburg, created on February 15, 1904 when its statute was officially approved by the authorities.The Assembly resembled the Moscow Soviet, being a single unified organ of proletarian representation operating under official supervision. Nevertheless, its statute was much more explicit and detailed with regard to its prerogatives and responsibilities to provide lawful representation of and legitimate leadership to the working class. By the beginning of 1905, the Assembly already had more than ten thousand members organized in eleven regional sections. Both organs -- the Moscow Soviet and the Petersburg Assembly -- shared structural characteristics with the revolutionary soviets of 1917 (Korelin, Krakh 141; Palat 110-111). In fact, Gapon’s contribution to the original Zubatov initiative was the swift shift from regulatory police socialism to mass militancy, all within the same organization (Palat 134-135).
Bloody Sunday triggered a rapid chain reaction. In the aftermath of the event, the government appointed a special commission chaired by Senator Shidlovskii to investigate the reasons for the workers’ unrest in the capital city, study the nature of their needs and demands, and recommend appropriate actions. In addition to governmental officials and factory owners, the commission included a group of worker's deputies. In order to secure proportionate representation of all major industrial sectors in the city, the workers were instructed to select voters, who, for their part, had to elect the representatives of the working class to the commission. As a result, 372 voters designated 50 deputies to the commission, each of them representing 500 workers. The commission, which was soon dismissed, nevertheless had a serious impact on the emerging culture of working-class consciousness-raising and mobilization around elective bodies with a public mandate.
Thus, by actively promoting working class elective representation, the Shidlovskii Commission, after the Moscow Soviet and St. Petersburg Assembly, contributed to the emergence of the “genuinely” revolutionary October Soviet in the fall of the same year. One can speculate that by the fall of 1905, the process that had started in 1901 put into place a system for creation of deputized bodies of proletarian self-government in a country reigned by the spirit and the institutions of Orthodox-Autocratic fundamentalism.
A clear continuity of personnel can be established if one takes into account the fact that many of the electors to the commission later became deputies to the October Soviet. (Khrustalev-Nosar’, Palat 131-132). Miliukov, for instance, remembers how Khrustalev, one of the workers’ deputies who had landed on the Commission, transferred his mandate to an intellectual, a young lawyer by the name of Nosar’ who soon after that was banished from the capital. Nevertheless, in October 1905, the same person reemerged on the political scene as the leader of the “first” Soviet (Miliukov 78).
In “The Unknown Revolution,” Voline, an outspoken revolutionary and anarchist, points out that Nosar’ was the material link between the Gaponite Assembly, the Shidlovskii Commission, and the October Soviet, since he was the initiator of the very first, the unrecognized Soviet.
“One evening” – Voline remembers – “about eight days after January 9, someone knocked at the door of my room. I was alone. A young man came in: “I’m George Nosar’, a legal clerk. I’ll get to the reason of my visit. On January 8, I listened to your reading of the petition. I’m a revolutionary ... but I don’t have any acquaintances among workers. On the other hand, I have extensive contacts with circles of bourgeois liberals who oppose the regime. So I have an idea” (97).
Thus, Voline dates the creation of the first Petersburg Soviet not to October but to January or February, immediately after Bloody Sunday but before the convocation of the Shidlovskii Commission. He remembers how the very concept of the Soviet as a “permanent social assembly of workers” originated during an evening gathering of worker-activists at his house. At this event, Nosar’ was offered a leading post in the organization and was given the workers’ card of a factory delegate by the name of Khrustalev. At the first meeting of the factory delegates, Nosar’ was nominated for the position and thus became president of the first Petersburg Soviet. Notably, in this capacity he entered the Shidlovskii Commission. Thus, the first Petersburg Soviet, according to Voline, was created earlier in1905 as an immediate consequence of Bloody Sunday. Soon after that, it dissolved itself into the Shidlovskii Commission to be reinstated later in October by this same Nosar’ when it resumed its public function (Voline 91-101).
Trotsky – commonly celebrated as the “first” true chairman of the “first” Soviet -- remembers Nosar’ as an “accidental figure in the revolution, representing an intermediate stage between Gapon and the Social Democracy (Trotsky My Life, 182). Many workers and revolutionary activists while remembering the turbulent year of 1905 acknowledge the distinct evolution of the structures of proletarian representation from the Gaponite Assembly, through the Shidlovskii Commission, to the October (Trotsky’s) Soviet. Mensheviks and liberally-minded people perceived the October Soviet as an organ of “revolutionary self-government” (Miliukov 78). In 1905, Lenin himself hailed the shift of the proletarian movement from purely economic and unionist to political revolutionary grounds while making a specific note that the working class had outgrown its "Zubatovist jacket."
Finally, by October 1905, the process of creating social, political, organizational as well as behavioral basis for proletarian self-government had completed itself. Resolutely, Trotsky seized the moment and captured its organ. Obviously, it was not difficult for him to depose Nosar’ -- a man stricken by vanity, a poseur, who was never able to resolve a single issue of principle (Sverchkov 182). This might qualify for a micro coup with historical consequences. Now, imbued with the spirit of subversion, the very image of the Soviet will become “ingrained in the consciousness of the workingmen as the first prerequisite to revolutionary action of the masses” (Trotsky, Anthology 55-56).
Neither a trade union nor a party, the Soviet was designed as a representative and deliberative (as opposed to executive) body of proletarian self-government. Trotsky, the new ideologue and chairman of the Soviet, defines its organizational principle as follows: "... the Soviet was not formed on the basis of a group of persons holding the same political opinions (like a political party or conspiratorial organization), but on the basis of electoral representation (like Duma or Zemstvo) ... a representative body whose further activities were to be determined by the subsequent collective decisions of its members."(Palat 128-129)
In the fall of 1906, the Soviet deputies were put on trial charged with the planning of an insurrection. During its proceedings, Trotsky made a clear remark to the prosecutor emphasizing the elective nature of the Soviet in contrast to a league of like-minded revolutionaries. Its nature as nonpartisan deputized body of proletarian self-government was crucial to him.
The original goals of the Soviet as a public organ of working-class self-government were redefined after Trotsky steered it in the revolutionary underground. Now, the Soviet was set on a new subversive mission: “to create conditions for disorganizing the government, for “anarchy” ... for revolutionary conflict.” (Trotsky, Anthology 55-56).
Finally, by 1907 the Russian government had completely lost not only control over, but sight of the organ of working-class representation. Yet, in just about a decade, the Soviets would claim all power in Russia.

The New Frankenstein

By its enlightened eighteen-century postulate, the modern police act as a creative force rather than as an enforcer. In this respect, “police socialism” provides a bold evidence of genuinely programmatic, regulatory governance and police constructivism. Inspired by this postulate, Zubatov invented the Soviet in a calculated effort to steal and reinvent the social base of the terrorists. Ironically, he soon lost control over his creation as it was “stolen” by the revolutionaries and plunged into the underground.
Zubatov -- the New Doctor Frankenstein -- engineered the Soviet as a non-party-partisan and non-union-professional structure of proletarian self-containment. The political process in the country, which had become utterly volatile after the experiment, engaged this structure in a series of dynamic transformations until finally the Bolshevik revolution instituted it as the governing body of proletarian sovereignty.
The Soviet constitutes a unique contribution not only to the working-class organizations existing in Europe at the time of the experiment, but more importantly, to the institutional formation of the future proletarian body politic. Originally created in 1901 as a police instrument for containing the working class, the Soviet reemerged in the fall of 1905 in St. Petersburg and soon after that was high-jacked and once again reengineered to become the main vehicle of the political revolution. In the summer of 1917, we find an entire system of Soviets of the Workers’ and the Solders’ Deputies functioning already as a parallel government in Russia. History had taken staggering turns.
Following the party directives, the newly born soviet historiography buried the umbilical cord of the proletarian governmentality in a sea of ideological fallacy, lest the tsarist secret police claim it as its own invention.
After the revolution, the Soviets themselves engaged in grandioso campaigns of social engineering and nation building while launching a campaign of total industrialization and collectivization of the country as they sought to mass-produce, purify, and secure an unlimited supply of their own social base -- the working class.
Nevertheless, the brave new world of the Soviets added no distinctly original quality to the ethos of constructivist policing that was imported to Russia by Peter the Great and perfected by Catherine the Great – the main architects of Russian modernity.
A special affinity exists between the police practices, institution-building, and social-programming of the Russian Imperial and Soviet authoritarian regimes that promulgated one cause – provisioning for a happy population that integrates many national minorities on the basis of a commonly shared prosperity under an efficient government.
The Red terror that ensued after the revolution resorted to universally executed and excessively theatricalized techniques of discipline and regulation, many of which were already invented and tested in alternative, White regimes of terror. Originally, the Red terror had to provide the cathartic means, not the tragic ends of the Soviet disciplinary power. The Red terror had its communist design as it served an utopian vision of ultimate “condensation,” and “concentration” of the entire mass of the population into a singularly aggregated and utterly agitated, happily toiling Red Leviathan.

II. The Present-day Predicament

The Asymmetrical Threat

The terrorist attack on September 11 rendered pointless our almighty military, our sophisticated high-tech intelligence, and our “star-wars” capabilities. The entire architecture of global security, put in place during the cold war, collapsed under an attack that strikes with deadly simplicity. The subsequent rampage of suicide bombings in the middle east and the recent Moscow hostage crisis clearly demonstrate that a critical mass has formed itself of young, all-too-young men and women, as much prone to die for their cause as those who are prone to live regardless of any cause. It has become flagrantly obvious that the people who triumph as they die are simply unstoppable.
The difference between the American and the Russian tragedy is suggestive. On September 11, the suicide terrorists skipped the hostage-taking part of the terrorist act, which secured them maximum effect with minimum resources. They showed no need to engage the authorities in any demands-negotiating process. To all appearances, 9/11 was planned as a massive punitive strike. Thus, the fact that the suicide squad in Moscow took hostages already demonstrated an anachronism. They gave chance to the Russian government to consider and comply. In turn, Russian authorities approached the Moscow theatrical complex as an enemy territory and launched a military attack to free the hostages and recapture the place. By an arbitrary imposed wartime standard -- factoring a gross 30% “collateral damage” among the civilians -- the operation was pronounced a success. Yet, what a sickening victory! It is foreseeable that the next time there will be no more “hostage taking,” no demands and no time will be given to any authorities to comply.
The fact that the suicide bombers could “take out” civilians indiscriminately and on a mass scale without even taking them hostage, strikes truly atavistic terrors in the heart of any modern society. An entire nation can be held hostage if random members of it, in random numbers, and in random fashion are being executed with maddening irregularity.
The terrorists entered the 21st century with a new attitude -- they do not negotiate with governments, and they do not care to draft ultimata anymore. They have adopted a correspondingly unyielding counter-policy of “zero-tolerance” to governments. Seemingly, this completes a historical cycle – in the beginning, nineteenth-century organized terrorism targeted mainly the bodies in power, members of governments and heads of state, while in the twentieth century hostage taking established itself as a general method of leveraging demands and causes. Suddenly, the twenty first century broke with a mass-annihilation of civilians. This marks the beginning of something that could be defined as organized suicide terrorism that responds to policies of forced political and cultural modernization, of ethnic cleansing or genocidal military campaigning such as the Russian permanent pogrom in Chechnya.
It was the attack on September 11, and not the NATO enlargement that tore down the “theater” of the Cold War. Ironically, the Cold War now appears to have been the safest period in the history of the 20th century. During that war, the Iron Curtin secured military parity and effective deterrence that sustained general peace despite the booming warnings of so many prophets of doom. There was peace, however tense, in both worlds – in the West and in the East -- notwithstanding the miseries of the third one.
The “safest war” ever fought is over. We live in one world now, however unevenly endowed. This new reality renders NATO meaningless in its original form, as its purpose was to parry a symmetrically structured enemy -- its own “evil twin.” Contrastingly, the new global terrorist threat is asymmetrical and it cannot be countered by any cold-war force or deterred by any cold-war means. The world has changed, as the “evil” that defined its principle has changed – it cannot be found on the map, as it is not an empire but a mutating Hydra.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict of the last two years demonstrates the mind-bending asymmetry of the new condition. It cannot be resolved by any of the forces engaged in it regardless of how adversely fanatical, how cunning or self-sacrificial they might be, as there is no common battleground. Tanks cannot engage suicide bombers in battle and therefore they cannot stop them. Nevertheless, the nature of the conflict is essentially territorial, hence the recent idea of erecting an Israeli Wall, an Iron Curtain of sorts, that will create a frontline/borderline and thus compensate for the disorganizing lack of symmetry. It has become painfully obvious that only a self-contained Palestinian state can stop the bombers. Only institutional self-containment -- a legitimate system of self-government and self-policing of the rebellious elements -- can root out terrorism lastingly and dismantle its militant formations.

The Gordian Knot

Arguably, in a modern society that faces a societal threat of this severity, civil liberties may no longer be advantageous for the common good, as their strict observance might cause a general vulnerability. Terrorism can be extremely perilous for all governments that recognize the inalienability of civil rights and liberties. In the face a terrorist threat, these governments become flawed by their own constitutional system, by their very nature as being modern, civil, and open societies. Thus, urgent revisions and radical corrections of principles may become inevitable in the process of reinforcing general safety, which, in turn, may lead to a departure from the founding premises of the nation.
Can we dispel fear by giving up essential liberties? Can our government effectively combat terrorism without violating its founding principles and still govern the general pursuit of happiness? There are no easy answers to these questions, for the very dilemma of “collective safety versus civil liberties” ties up a knot -- a Gordian knot that cannot be undone once tied. In an effort to cut that knot, governments declare wars on terrorism, operating under the assumption that sufficient force exacted with precision should resolve any problem. “War” on terrorism implies campaigning against its militant structures. Yet, such a war cannot engage and successfully eliminate the cultural, religious, social, economic, or political bases of terrorism -- for terrorism is never baseless. It is fair to say that a war would rather solidify the “human base” of terror and thus tighten the knot even stronger. Moreover, a general discontent could soon emerge as any militant enhancement of collective safety translates directly into revisions and even violations of individual freedoms.

The Counterterror Social Engineering

History shows that an intrusive homeland security can straitjacket the devils of terrorism only temporarily. It is commonly advocated that in order to dispel them for good, we need to reengineer their social base – the communities that harbor and cherish them. Battered by waves of terror, governments engage in nation-and-community building in an effort to render self-contained the alienated and rebellious societies. G. W. Bush vehemently opposed any “nation building” and “social engineering” after Clinton’s experimentation with the Balkans in the 1990s. Now, his administration plunged itself into the uncharted waters of region building where modern nation states will replace evil regimes and unruly tribes. On the domestic front, the office of Homeland Security was created in the wake of the attack. This institution of All-American Safeguard, almost unthinkable before that day, is designed to coordinate all branches of government in an effort to straitjacket and eventually make terrorism disappear.
Arguably, these large-scale undertakings appear to be consistent with the twofold counterterror method that was first tested in the nineteen-century by the Russian Imperial government. It involved, as shown above, the implementation of a system of general security and universal policing intended to destroy the terror networks as well as social engineering that would reform their social base. Historically speaking the counterterror effort has been consistently twofold -- domestically, we need an integral system of homeland security, while internationally we need a union of self-contained nations. Nevertheless, the effects of this approach could vary dramatically. The aggressive reforming could cause civil discontent domestically while internationally, it could lead to a crisis that would trigger a major geopolitical restructuring. Seemingly, Al Qaeda seeks to provoke the Great Western Powers to step with a big foot in a big boot in the “host of terror.” Supposedly, this would trigger civil disobedience and violent disorders in the region until the “big foot” sinks in a quagmire of civil wars toppling all puppet governments.
Faced by a faceless and stateless enemy, the modern powers find themselves caught up in a vicious circle or rather in an uncontrollable spiraling into some unknown condition. What is the way out of it, how do we find it and should we seek it at all?
Normally, governments that face terrorist threats promulgate aggressive reforming while the media feeds fear to the public in order to rally the citizenry behind them. Notwithstanding, good students of history would argue that the ultimate danger of terrorism could very well hide in the counterterror reforms, as they could damage the body politic irreparably.
How do we find the way out of the land of terror and most importantly, what kind of a nation we will become while walking out of it? Do we need to take yet another lesson of history in order to answer this question?

Final Proposition

In its present form, terrorism was born with the dawn of modernity and will stay until this epoch survives. Terrorism is an effect of the modern condition and within its parameters is indestructible. In one form or another, it will exist as long as this condition perseveres globally and/or locally. Reforming will not destroy it. Reforms in effect could very well fulfill its cause. Nevertheless, cunning policing could degrade it, render it inapt, and keep it in a state of chronic incapacitation, quietly!
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