Show Less
Open access

The Historical Distinctiveness of Central Europe

A Study in the Philosophy of History

Series:

Krzysztof Brzechczyn

The aim of this book is to explain economic dualism in the history of modern Europe. The emergence of the manorial-serf economy in the Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary in the 16th and the 17th centuries was the result of a cumulative impact of various circumstantial factors. The weakness of cities in Central Europe disturbed the social balance – so characteristic for Western-European societies – between burghers and the nobility. The political dominance of the nobility hampered the development of cities and limited the influence of burghers, paving the way to the rise of serfdom and manorial farms. These processes were accompanied by increased demand for agricultural products in Western Europe

Show Summary Details
Open access

6 The Basic Ideas of Non-Marxian Historical Materialism

6 The Basic Ideas of Non-Marxian Historical Materialism

1 Presentation of Basic Ideas

1.1 A Typology of Societies

According to non-Marxian historical materialism, class divisions are emerged not only in economy but also in other fundamental domains of the public life: politics and culture.246 These three spheres of public life, or social material momenta: culture, politics, and economy, have parallel internal structures comprised of material, institutional, and consciousness levels.247 The material level ←171 | 172→of political life includes the means of coercion – weaponry, prisons, police bats, etc. The relation to the above means determines a division into two social entities: the class of rulers, which controls the means of coercion, and the remaining civil class. These two great collective entities are organized into institutions, such as political parties, social organizations, associations, etc., that channel social activities performed by various groups of people. The above-listed organizations form an institutional level of politics. Still, a consciousness level of politics includes ideological doctrines and political programs, which motivate the members of this aspect of public life to adopt and accept certain social roles.

Economy has an analogical internal structure. Correspondingly to the case of politics, the material level of economy includes the means of production, which determine a division into two classes: owners and direct producers. Trade unions, employers’ organizations, consumer associations, etc. establish the institutional aspect of economy. At the same time, however, the consciousness level of economic life includes doctrines and economic viewpoints that provide a justification for significant actions undertaken by social groups within the domain of public life.

In a corresponding manner, the cultural domain comprises three above-mentioned levels: material, institutional, and consciousness-related. The means of spiritual production – printing press, radio, television, etc. – constitute the material level. The relation of to them determines a division into two social classes: priests (secular and religious who decide on the purpose of the means of spiritual production and believers who do not have such possibilities. The institutional level of spiritual life comprises organized castes of priests: churches, universities, writers’ associations, creative organizations, etc. The aspects of the diffused world-view doctrines, which provide a justification of actions, undertaken by particular castes of priests forms a meta-consciousness level of spiritual life. Following from this, a given worldview is scientific, since it includes only the true interpretation of the revelation provided by God; it is “civilized,” in contrast to the opposed “barbaric” standpoints.

For this reason, the above-mentioned division of public life brings about a distinction between three separate types of class divides. In the domain of politics, the class of rulers, having the means of coercion at its disposal, enlarges the global sphere of influence, thereby restricting the autonomy of citizens. In the economical sphere, the class of owners, having the means of production at its ←172 | 173→disposal, is able to maximize the surplus product to maximum, at the expense of producers’ direct profit. In the cultural domain, the castes of priests, which monopolize the control over the mass media, increase spiritual indoctrination, thereby reducing the autonomy of the believers. Social antagonisms – which result from the unequal access to the material means of coercion, production, and indoctrination in each of the three spheres of public life – have an autonomous character. Social divisions present within other aspects of public life may only weaken or reinforce these antagonisms. Moreover, class divisions may accumulate. A given social class, in order to increase its social power, may acquire control over the means of coercion and production, or the means of coercion and spiritual indoctrination, etc.

For non-Marxian historical materialism, social divisions are founded on access to material social means. Based on this criterion, it distinguishes between class societies with individual classes and supra-class societies with overlapping classes.

There are several types of class societies distinguished with respect to which of the social classes prevails – rulers, owners, or priests. The dominance of one class over another means that, for instance, the social interest of class A dominates over the social interest of class B and when a conflict of interests occurs, the interest of class A is to maximize in a long-term. A principal social class dominates over the remaining classes in the following way: providing a conflict of interests occurs, the social interest of a principal class is to maximize in a long-term.248

Within supra-class societies, one could distinguish totalitarian societies with a double class of rulers-owners and fascist societies with the double class of rulers-priests. Each of the above-described types of societies may exist in a number of variants distinguished with respect to a domineering type of class interest and an instrumental type of class interest. For example, in a P-totalitarian society, rulers-owners maximize political control and subjugate a maximization of profit to reinforcing power. In an E-totalitarian society, an increase of political control is subordinated to the maximization of profit. One may also distinguish a balanced ←173 | 174→variant of the above-mentioned type of society, where both social interests – an increase of political control and an increase of profit – are implemented evenly.

Finally, there is a socialist society with a social class in control of the means of coercion, production and indoctrination. There is a number of variants of this type of society depending on which type of class interest holds priority and which is instrumental. A priority of class interest A over class interest B means that providing a maximization of the interest B collides with a maximization of interest A, in a long-term perspective interest A is maximized. In other words, class interest B is instrumentally subjugated to a maximization of social interest A. Following from this, the principal class interest in a given society implemented by a triple-class of social potentates is the class interest that holds priority, as understood in the above terms, over the remaining two, let us call them, derivative class interests.

For instance, in a hierocratic variant of a socialist society, the fundamental interest of a triple-ruling class is to maximize spiritual dominion, thereby instrumentally subjugating control over the means of coercion and production to an increase of spiritual power. An economic variant of a socialist society occurs when a ruling class maximizes the surplus product to. As a result, an expansion of power and spiritual authority is instrumentally subjugated to a maximization of profit. At the same time, however, in a political variant of a socialist society, the ruling class maximizes political control. The remaining two types of social interest, a maximization of profit and spiritual domination, are instrumentally subjugated to a maximization of power. One may also distinguish a balanced variant of a socialist society where the ruling class evenly maximizes three types of class interests: power, profit, and spiritual domination.

Furthermore, supra-class societies may be divided into pure supra-class societies and quasi-supra-class societies. The latter group of societies comprises of double-classes and single-classes. For example, in a quasi-socialist society there exist separate single classes of rulers and of priests, besides a triple-ruling class.249

←174 | 175→

1.2 A Model of Evolution of a Purely Political Society

Let us now outline a given part of non-Marxian historical materialism, namely the theory of a socialist society, which will serve as an example here. The initial model of that society is theory of political power. Let us now recapitulate the main ←175 | 176→theses of the model.250 The theory of political society comprises a static part that illustrates relations between the political authorities and a class of citizens, and a dynamic part that investigates the evolution of these relations over time. The static part of the theory of power consists of three kinds of presumptions about:

(i) mechanism of political competition;

(ii)  tendency of gradual revitalization of autonomous social ties;

(iii)  dependency between civil alienation and level of political resistance.

A political society is divided into three social layers: rulers who are in control of the means of coercion, citizens do not control of the means of coercion and servants. In order to present this structure more systematically, let us assume that there are three persons: A, B and C. Person A controls a given fragment of the sphere of activity of person B, hence B is subjugated to person A. A situation is possible where person B controls a segment of activity of person C who is subjugated to B. If voluntary subjugation of person B to person A is required to subjugate person C to person B, than individuals A, B, C form a chain of dominance. This chain is founded on a tender consisting in a resignation from a part ←176 | 177→of personal freedom in exchange for a possibility to enslave others. Following from this, the class division to rulers and citizens does not correspond with the division into those who rule and those who are ruled by others. The criterion of being a ruler is purely materialistic – a ruler controls the means of coercion, and a citizen does not control them. The criterion of being a servant is relative – a servant participates in the structure of subjugation.

In the enough large hierarchized class of rulers, the mechanism of political competition enforces a typical ruler regardless of his personal view to increase his/her sphere of influence. Otherwise a given ruler would lose his position in the power structure. There are two principal means of control over the class of citizens: terror and bureaucracy. Terror is a physical elimination of citizens who form centers of social state-independent ties, and bureaucracy consists in substitution of autonomous social relations of a citizen-citizen type with etatized social relations of a citizen-ruler-citizen type. As a result, authorities gradually infiltrate the structure of public life and, in consequence, it becomes impossible for citizens to undertake social actions without their consent.

It is assumed that the actions of a citizen are guided by a set of preferences. Civil actions include regulated and autonomous actions. A citizen undertakes a regulated action in response to a sanction (or threat of it) imposed by a ruler. Autonomous actions are undertaken without threat of repression made by rulers. As a result of the mechanism of political competition, the field of civil autonomy is shrinking and the field of regulation enlarges.

If the level of subjugation reaches a certain threshold, there appears a tendency in a society to gradually revalorize autonomous civil ties. Bureaucratic social ties, where the authorities adopt the role of an intermediary, are substituted with autonomous social ties, not intermediated by interfering authorities, i.e. information control brings about a boom in gossip; economic control causes an emergence of a “black market;” and introduction of control into public life results in the appearance of informal and conspiratorial organizations. As a result, when “almost all” civil actions are controlled by the political authorities, the tendency to revalorize autonomous social ties brings about an outburst of a social protest.

According to the third kind of static presuppositions, the level of civil resistance depends on the number of actions controlled by political authorities. The ratio of the number of regulated actions to the total number of actions undertaken by citizens (the universe of action) is called civil alienation. It is assumed that intensity of civil resistance depends on the level of civil alienation and can be presented as follows:

←177 | 178→

when the number of regulated action is low (and thus civil alienation is also low), social peace prevails, because citizens have no reason to rebel;

when civil alienation is moderately high, a political revolution of the first kind breaks out: the political control becomes painful for citizens, but does not diminish an ability of citizens to cooperate and resist;

when the level of civil alienation is high, social peace also prevails because atomized citizens are unable to resist;

when civil alienation is extremely high, appears the tendency of gradual revalorization of autonomous civil bonds that lead to an outbreak of political revolution of the second kind.

Let us now investigate an evolution of the relation between authorities and a class of citizens. The first model of political society in n-Mhm is based on a set of idealizing assumptions.251 The modeled political society S:

(a-i) is divided into only two political classes of rulers and citizens; as a result, the model disregards a differentiation of the investigated society into economic and spiritual classes;

(a-ii) is isolated from the outside;

(a-iii) technological level of means of coercion is constant;

(a-iv) rulers apply the means of coercion directly;

(a-v) the influence of political institutions into socio-political processes is disregarded;

(a-vi) the influence of political consciousness is disregarded.

←178 | 179→

Let us assume that at the onset of the phase of growing civil alienation class peace prevails in the relations between rulers and citizens. Subsequently, a typical ruler decides to broaden the scope of public life under his/her influence, in response to the competition between those in control of the means of coercion. Rulers who refuse to react in the above way are being eliminated from the power structure, or finally increase their domain of influence. As a result, the enslavement of servants, who have already been dependent on rulers, increases and they respond with subjugation of citizens who have until then remained free. In consequence, the sphere of civil autonomy is reduced and the global level of civil alienation increases. The increased political resistance of citizens gradually transforms into an open political revolution and the system enters the phase of the revolution of the first kind.

A revolutionary engagement may conclude with a defeat of citizens or their victory. In the first case, after crushing a revolutionary movement, authorities introduce a post-revolutionary terror. Initially, it is directed against the citizens who formed centers of state-independent social ties. The atomization of a civil class allows the authorities to increase control over public life, since, in the situation of declassation, disappears the resistance of citizens, which is the only factor capable of restraining the pressure of authorities.

A victorious political revolution of the first kind does not bring about any significant changes, since a revolutionary elite transforms into a budding new class of rulers. This new class controls of the revolted masses and, moreover, of the armed paramilitary units that, in fact, soon become the seed of forces of coercion. Subsequently, under the mechanisms of political competition, the members of a new class of rulers maximize their control over citizen’s action. Idealistic revolutionists, who do not aim to increase their influence, are being eliminated from the political structure or in time learn how to take care of their (material) interests. As a result of the above-described social processes, the domain of state control increases once more bringing about an increase of social resistance. The latter transforms into another revolution and closes a civil loop. A civil revolution of the first kind – this time directed against the new class of rulers – once more faces two outcomes: victory or defeat. A lost revolutionary movement brings about a post-revolutionary terror, while victory once more leads to a civil loop. In consequence, after a series of civil loops, one of the subsequent revolutions is crushed and a declassation of citizens follows.

In the phase of enslavement, a declassation of citizens allows rulers to increase their spheres of influence without facing a social resistance. When almost all spheres of public life are controlled by the rulers, the system enters the state of total enslavement. In this sub-phase of a evolution there are no ←179 | 180→autonomous social spheres open to subjugation. The mechanisms of competition for power continue to force a typical ruler to increase his/her sphere of influence and, in turn, political competition progresses at the expense of the spheres of public life that have already been subjugated to other members of power hierarchy. Initially, political competition targets the spheres of influence subjugated to servants, subsequently, the spheres subjugated to individual rulers. The state over-competition in the conditions of the model would lead to a destruction of the entire system of power. The only way to weaken the mechanisms of competition and to sustain the political structure are purges that eliminate the surplus of candidates for power. Their victims in the first order are servants, and in the second order – rulers who take the lowest position in the power hierarchy. The areas of social life abandoned by them are then subjugated by new candidates for power. Following from this, a sub-phase of power self-enslavement is characterized by periodic purges that interrupt the periods of total enslavement.

The above-described vicious circle of purges and self-enslavement of power is interrupted by a growing ability of a civil class to resist. Gradual revalorization of autonomous social ties brings about an outburst of a civil revolution of the second kind, one which allows the authorities to extricate from the mechanism of purges and establishing new relations between rulers and a civil class, with a reduction of political control at its core. Rulers crush the revolution and repress its participants, however, in order to avoid another revolution, they agree to introduce concessions to the civil class. The decrease of political control brings about emergence of an autonomous civil domain that may become subject to enslavement by rulers. As a result, the threat of power self-enslavement is eliminated.

However, after a certain time, the mechanisms of political competition bring about a secondary increase of civil alienation. In the phase of cyclical declassations, the growth of political control causes an outbreak of another revolution of the second kind of a broader social base and enforcing substantially greater concessions on the part of authorities. A political society evolves according to the following pattern: revolution of the second kind – declassation – concessions – increase of political control – another revolution of the second kind of a broader social base – declassation, etc.

The rebirth of civil society brings about an increase of the number of citizens participating in political revolutions. This, in turn, leads to a mass revolution that forces authorities to introduce concessions instead of repressions and, moreover, these concessions have to be so significant that they bring about a class compromise. In the phase of cyclical revolutions of the second kind, the mechanism of social evolution transforms into the following pattern: revolution of the ←180 | 181→second kind – concessions – increase of political control – another revolution of the second kind of a broader social base – concessions of a broader scope. The cycle of revolutions continues until the system reaches the stage of class peace characterized by a level of political control acceptable to a civil class.252

1.3 The Global Model of a Political Society

In the following section of the book, I shall present a concretization of a basic model of political society. One of the idealizing assumptions (a-ii) – the assumption concerning isolation of a political society under investigation will be removed.253 The model iv includes an inter-social system (I will also use the term “country” due to stylistic reasons) consisting of a domineering society and a number of conquered societies that have a similar social structure and that fulfil all of the previously adopted idealizing assumptions (i and iii–vi). To sum up: they are two-class societies comprising of rulers and citizens, with a constant level of the means of coercion directly controlled by the rulers, and deprived of political institutions and political doctrines.

←181 | 182→

A successful aggression and conquest of foreign societies brings about an extraordinary (external) increase of sphere of regulation. The aggressiveness of a political system understood as such is not its permanent feature, but it is manifested in certain phases of evolution of a political society. In the development of a political society, it is possible to distinguish two ranges of aggressiveness. A political society enters the first range of aggression in the final stadium of the phase of growing civil alienation from the threshold of class peace to the phase of revolution of the first kind. In that stage, the extraordinary rise of external sphere of regulation allows for stabilization of internal relations and dismissal of the threat of a civil revolution. A political society enters the second range of aggression in the phase of enslavement. At this stage of a social evolution, the extraordinary rise of external sphere of regulation postpones the threat of power self-enslavement.

It is noteworthy to devote the following paragraph to the conquered country. As a result of foreign subjugation, its citizens become declassed. Conquest has the same consequences as a crushed civil revolution, since it shifts the victim backwards to the phase of enslavement, regardless of its current evolution stage.

Let us now present a course of evolution of an empire. In the phase of growing civil alienation there is social peace in a society S. However – as a result of the mechanism of political competition – rulers increase the internal sphere of regulation. In consequence, civil alienation and in consequence – civil resistance increases. Rulers conquer a society S’ in order to postpone the risk of social unrest. In consequence, a political system enters the first range of aggression. After a successful conquer, a budding imperial system is created, comprising of a metropolis and a subjugated province. Enslavement of provincial citizens allows the imperial rulers to maintain social peace in the metropolis. Although not for long. After a certain time, a conquered society is declassed and profits gained with the aggression end. Rulers are forced to launch another aggression or to increase political control in the metropolis, risking an outburst of resistance of the largest segment of a civil class. By conquering subsequent societies, rulers dismiss the threat of outbreak of a revolution in the metropolis. After some successful conquests, an imperial system was emerged, consisting of a metropolis and a number of provinces. This empire has a benevolent center, since the citizens of the metropolis are less enslaved, in comparison to the citizens of the provinces.

After a certain time – in a situation of a given level of the means of coercion, the resistance of provincial citizens and the enslavement of metropolitan citizens ←182 | 183→who gradually become unsuitable for the role of an imperial policeman – the empire runs out of the possibilities of growth. Moreover, a number of provincial sub-societies reach the threshold of civil awakening, exit the state of enslavement and enter the phase of cyclical declassation. Since then, imperial rulers begin to increase the scope of political control in the metropolis. An increase of civil alienation brings about a growing opposition of the metropolitan civil class that transforms into a revolution, during which the level of aggressiveness of the empire rapidly decreases.

If the revolution concludes with a victory of the metropolitan civil class, the new authorities established in the course of the revolution will behave just as the old ones and will increase their power control. As a result, they will be faced with an immediate resistance of their own citizens. The way of avoiding of revolution is to enter the first range of aggression. When the possibilities of conquer end, imperial rulers increase power in their country at the cost of own citizens what leads to another revolution of the first kind. Providing it is victorious, the entire cycle of evolution repeats from the beginning. Finally, one of the subsequent civil revolutions is crushed and metropolitan citizens became enslaved. A crushed revolution is followed by an immediate decrease of aggressiveness of the empire. As a result, rulers can increase their internal sphere of regulation. However, in the phase of enslavement, political over-competitiveness causes the imperial society to enter the second range of aggression. In this case, subjugation of foreign citizens brings about weakening or postponement of self-enslavement of power. In this stage of social evolution, the empire transforms from an empire with a benevolent center, characterized by lower subjugation of metropolitan citizens in comparison to the subjugation of provincial citizens, into an empire with a malicious center, where enslavement of metropolitan citizens is higher in comparison to provincial citizens.

After a certain time, metropolitan civil class exceeds the threshold of civil awakening. In the phase of cyclical declassations the aggressiveness of the empire decreases. The imperial system re-enters the first strip of aggressiveness in the final stadium of the phase of cyclical revolutions of the second kind. The internal increase of political control comes to an end when a strong metropolitan civil society is developed and the provinces experience a civil awakening. In response, the imperial class of rulers engages in a foreign expansion. However, as Nowak aptly argues:

This growth […] is already pathological. The occasionally rebellious citizens of the metropolis are constantly worsening their role of imperial gendarmes. The authority’s ←183 | 184→aggressiveness, with a diminishing potential, only accelerates the destruction of the empire.254

2 On the Class Divisions in the State of Teutonic Knights

2.1 Problem

Let us now apply the model of political society outlined in the previous sub-chapter for interpretation of the history of a peculiar type of society – the Teutonic State.

The Teutonic State in Prussia (1226–1525) exerted a significant influence on the history of its neighboring societies. Therefore, it is understandable that the history of the Order of the Teutonic Knights has always been one of the most popular subjects of the Polish medieval studies. However, the internal evolution of the Teutonic State substantially differs from the evolution of its neighboring state societies. In the history of the Teutonic society there appeared phenomena of an extraordinary force, in comparison to other societies present in the medieval Europe, and this raises many problems concerning conceptualization of history of the society under investigation. I will discuss only two phenomena. Historiography particularly struggles to explain the phenomenon of the state-controlled type of economy characteristic for the Order:

Instead of protecting their subjects’ trade practices and supporting their merchants in growing wealthier by engaging in overseas trade, the Teutonic Order not only oppressed its own townspeople with the means of a system of protective laws, prohibited export but it also engaged in trade itself. Historiography never attempted to justify the above policy and harshly condemned it at the same time. For that kind of policy turned Order’s own subjects into its enemies, hindered any evolution of the oversees trade in the Polish towns and tied the hands of the Order in the attempts to get along with those who traded on the Baltic Sea.255

The second example of an incomprehensible phenomenon is the immutable aggressiveness of the Teutonic State. Even the most prominent historians tried to account for it by traditionally evoking the German spirit of eternal desire for conquer:

The Order laying the well-planned foundations of their self-dependent state in Prussia joined Germany in their policy of Drang nach Osten, and particularly the German ←184 | 185→expansion that moved from the Polish-German coastal territories, Lübeck and other nearby towns, and the towns on the rivers Elbe and Saale, along the Baltic coast toward the mouths of the Vistula, Neman, and Dvina.256

The Teutonic State was created by Germans who exploited the sympathetic attitude of the Christian world to their own benefit and exploited its services to support Drang nach Osten.257

The difficulties faced by historians, who attempt to explain the two above-mentioned trends in the history of the Teutonic Order, may result from the fact that the social structure of the Teutonic State was different from the social structures of their neighboring countries. According to the authors of the most recent monograph on the history of the Teutonic State, “[t];he legal system in the Teutonic Prussia varied (…) from the model of estate monarchy which was prevalent at that time in the neighboring countries and which ensured a real influence to the privileged classes.”258 Thus, the aim of the society of the Order was to reach a structure of a state country:

It was characteristic of the Teutonic State toward its dissolution and during the first half of the 15th century that the opposition of its subjects against the authorities (…) was growing: knighthood and townspeople primarily aimed at transforming the State into a state country.259

Therefore, provided that the social structure of the Teutonic State varied from a typical social estate structure and that only the opposition of its subjects could bring about a social transformation, one ponders what type of society was the Teutonic Order in Prussia and what were the underlying principles of its evolution?

2.2 The Social Structure of the Teutonic State

In order to provide answers to the above-posed questions, one must investigate what type of social means the ruling class of the Teutonic society controlled. The ruling class comprised around a thousand knights-monks who ruled a society of more than half a million subjects. The Teutonic Knights were in control of the ←185 | 186→means of coercion, since “they organized the armed forces of the State, initially by enlisting their own subjects and not by employing mercenary troops.”260

Friars were organized in convents belonging to a single commandry (Komturié) – a basic administrative unit of the State. There were a dozen or so friars in a convent. A Komtur, or a Commander-in-Chief controlled a convent and a commandry. Komturs wielded power over the military forces of a district and thus assumed administrative, judicial and fiscal power. Almost every friar held a separate administrative position.261 Since the knights-monks controlled the means of coercion, they constituted a political class of rulers.

Land was the principal mean of production in the Middle Ages. The class of Teutonic rulers owned the majority of land:

The Teutonic Order had a major share of land property in Prussia. The Order was simultaneously the sovereign of the State and the greatest feudal lord, and this land was visibly compact. There is no data available concerning the number and size of the landed estate of the Order, but one may assume that in the territory of the colonized proper Prussia, it would own around two thirds of the cultivation land. In Gdansk Pomerania were the Order conquered and obtained by means of purchase or by expropriation of knights an area previously controlled by Pomeranian dukes, it possessed up to 50% of cultivation land […]. The order owned relatively the smallest share, of around 40% in the district of Chelmno, since that land remained in possession of knights and bishops. One should add that the Order also owned the majority of extensive forests and borderland deserts in proper Prussia, which increased the range of its territorial property.262

The Catholic Church was the second biggest landowner in Prussia owning a third of land. It was organized into four bishoprics: Warmia, Pomesania, Sambia, and Chelmno. The Catholic bishoprics were subjugated to the Teutonic monastic authorities. Hence, the economic control of the Catholic Church was purely nominal:

The administrators of the land estates, called “voyts,” were appointed by bishops or the Chapter, but even in this case the Teutonic authorities enforced the principle that voyts were recruited among the members of the Order, thus making them dependent from the Grand Master of the Order; even the Bishops of Warmia (but not the Chapter) accepted the principle. Following from this, through its administrative apparatus, the Order exerted a decisive influence over the internal affairs of the land estates belonging to bishops, thus indirectly included into the administrative system of the Teutonic state.263

←186 | 187→

In addition to the land property of the Order and, mostly nominal, property of the Catholic Church, on the territory of the Teutonic State there were also estates owned by knights (a single class of owners) limited geographically to the district of Chelmno and Gdansk Pomerania. However, the double-class of rulers/owners gradually reduced the rights of property of the knights. For example, all legal transactions concerning this social group had to be approved by the Teutonic authorities. The Order also reserved for itself the right to build mills and town settlements on properties belonging to knights.264

The Teutonic Order exerted a decisive influence on the functioning of the new domains of manufacture – the town economy. It founded 93 towns. By creating “new” town settlements, the Order balanced the impact of old pre-Teutonic town centers. The new towns, despite the fact that they were given less rights, constituted a substantial economic competition to the old towns founded before the appearance of the Teutonic monks. The dominance of Teutonic authorities was clearly visible in all town centers:

[T];he influence was exerted by Teutonic officials, particularly by Komturs […] who interfered into the matters concerning the election of town authorities, town legislation and, partially, the judiciary, craft, trade, and the issues of the policy of the Hanseatic League. As a result, the internal autonomy of towns was vastly restricted, including the large ones, and simultaneously allowed for abuse of power on the part of the Teutonic authorities.265

The interference into internal town affairs went down as deep as the craft guilds, since “the Order not only had the statues of guilds presented for acceptance, but it also interfered with the internal system of relations within guilds and dictated prices for craft goods.”266

Teutonic monks were directly involved with banking, trading and crafting activities. For this reason:

[d];uring the first half of the 14th century at the latest, a trading apparatus was developed designed for supervision over a vast trading area which included Prussia, northern Poland, Lithuania and Western-European counties, particularly Flanders. The apparatus was headed by Teutonic officials in Marienburg and Königsberg, called the Grand Stewards). The Grand Steward of Marienburg was predominantly responsible for grain trade […]. The Grand Stewards controlled the apparatus of buying and selling with the help of lower trade clerks, Commission Merchant (Lieger) and Trade Servants (Dienen) ←187 | 188→[…]. Every Teutonic castle had its own officials – stewards dealing with trade at a local level.267

The Order traded predominantly with amber, wood-ash and timber.268 It was also buying Flemish woolen cloth, which they distributed within the country. The Order basically monopolized export of agricultural goods, by making it obligatory for grain producers to sell produce, by issuing licenses to trade it and by blocking the Baltic Sea to ships. The Teutonic institution also organized its own craft production that provided a substantial threat to the evolution of town manufacturing business:

[I];nstalment of Teutonic officials, known as botchers, in the settlements at the foot of the castles constituted a substantial competition to the guild craftsmen. The increase of fees in the Order-monopolized industrial establishments, particularly in mills and fulleries hit the two trades most popular in towns, namely brewing and cloth making; similarly, the production of the Order-owned breweries supplying village inns was economically disastrous for small towns in particular, as beer-making was the only source of their profit.269

The Teutonic Order had substantial financial resources and was a financier of the State, loaning money to its subjects. In this respect, according to Karol Górski, the Order “was an exceptional phenomenon among Medieval countries, as everywhere else sovereigns would borrow money from its subjects, and [Teutonic Knights] were lending money to them.”270

The direct involvement of the Order in economic activities was exceptional for Medieval Europe, since: “[a];t that time, never did any European country engage itself in an economic activity of its own, but limited to possession of land estates and mines, but even these properties and often salt-mines were being leased.”271

Thus, one can interpret the Teutonic Knights as a double-class of rulers/owners. Moreover, they managed to completely subordinate the clergy of the Catholic Church:

←188 | 189→

[T];he Order authorities, aware of the significance and role of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, already in the second half of the 13th century conducted an action designed at establishing control over individual Prussian bishoprics by means of incorporating their Chapters into the Order. […] Teutonic Knights exerted influence in the incorporated Chapters particularly concerning the election of bishops, usually suggesting the appointment of their own protégés (typically, the Grand Masters’ chaplains); additionally, they influenced the election of new members of the Chapter who had to become monks. The Grand Masters reserved from themselves, as the Order’s superiors, the right to inspect the Chapters, considering their members and the bishops to be their subjects.272

This resulted in that:

the Prussian Church hierarchy became entirely subordinated to the Teutonic authorities and played a subservient role. From amongst the Prussian clergy were recruited many of the Order’s members, i.e. the Grand Masters’ chaplains and convent’s scribes, prosecutors, who supported the strengthening of power.273

The Order exerted decisive influence on the development of other congregations of monks. Its permission or objection was decisive for the establishment of new monasteries, and donations and inheritance could not be made to other orders without the permission of the Teutonic Order. Within the boundaries of the Teutonic State there were only the monastic orders that have appeared on the Prussian territory before the arrival of Teutonic Knights – Franciscans, Dominicans, and monk congregations in Gdansk Pomerania that had been incorporated into the Teutonic State in 1309. The subordination of the Catholic Church to the Teutonic authorities prevented a separation of politically and economically independent bishoprics, as it happened in the German Reich and the neighboring Livonia. To the outside world and to its own subjects, the authorities of the Teutonic State and bishops took the shape of a unified organism. By subordinating the Catholic Church, the Teutonic authorities became, in fact, in control of the means of spiritual production.

Thus, the knights-monks had the means of coercion at their disposal; they owned the vast majority of land and the most essential means of production in towns, and they were in control of the means of spiritual production. As a result, they were a class of triple-rulers. However, in a Teutonic society, except for the triple-ruling class, there existed both layers of a single-class of owners: knighthood and townspeople. And in some periods of history of the Teutonic State, bishopric in Warmia enjoyed a relatively large independence from the Teutonic ←189 | 190→system. For this reason, the Teutonic society cannot be considered an ideal socialist society, but a quasi-socialist society.274 Nonetheless, it is worth investigating if the internal evolution of the society under study is in line, at least roughly, with the mechanism of evolution of a political variant of a socialist society.

2.3 Evolution of a Teutonic Society

Let us now investigate whether the history of the Teutonic society includes developmental phases characteristic for the evolution typical for a political society: the phase of growing civil alienation – the phase of the revolution of the first kind the phase of enslavement – the phase of cyclical declassations, and the phase of cyclical revolutions.

After they had come to terms with Prince Konrad of Mazovia, the Teutonic Knights settled in 1228 in the District of Chelmno. The day before the settlement, there were around 170,000 inhabitants in the Prussian territory.275 Native Prussians were organized into non-state tribes-families: “The free native Prussians formed the core of the Prussian population; at the two extremities of the social ladder there were: a small group of wealthy citizens (nobles, warriors) on one side, and groups of slaves on the other.”276

The Teutonic rule substantially reduced the autonomy of the Prussian people – in terms of politics, they became feudal subjects, and in the spiritual sphere, they were subjected to obligatory Christianization.

In 1231–1242, the Teutonic Knights subjugated Prussian tribes living on the right bank of the lower reaches of the Vistula river in the territories of Pomesania, Pogesania, and Warmia. The Teutonic rule brought about a drastic reduction of the autonomy of the local people. A Prussian insurrection broke in 1242 and lasted for eight years. It spread over the entire Prussian territory occupied by the Knights. The Teutonic Order crushed the insurrection and, as a result, conquered all of the remaining Prussian territories. In 1250–1260, the Teutonic Knights subordinated Natangia, Bartia, and Sambia. Once more, the reduction of freedom of the Prussian people brought about an outbreak of an insurrection ←190 | 191→(1260). The insurrection lasted for fourteen years and it spread over all territories occupied by Knights, with the exception of initially conquered Pomesania. In the initial stage of the insurrection, native Prussians managed to gain control over almost all major Teutonic strongholds and towns. Only with the external help of, predominantly, the German and Czech knights, the scale of victory tipped to the favor of the Order.277 After fourteen years of struggle, the Knights implemented mass terror and crushed the Prussian insurrection. Henryk Łowmiański describes the Teutonic/Prussian battle in the following way:

[the Teutonic Knights] had systematically destroyed tribal districts one by one, razing their settlements to the ground, taking women and children prisoner, and murdering all the men who were attempting to defend the country. Teutonic troops marched through the land leaving only burned-out ruins and empty fields.278

The total loss of Prussian life equaled from 20 % to 50 %, depending on the district, with respect to situation before the uprising.279 The South-East regions of Prussia became almost completely depopulated. The Teutonic conquest of Prussia concluded in 1283 with the subordination of the tribes of Nadrowia, Skalowia, and Sudowia to Knights. Thus, one can interpret the evolution of the Teutonic society in the years 1228–1283 in terms of an increase of civil alienation and a revolution of the first kind.

After the defeat of the Prussian uprisings, the influence of the subjects on the (triple-) authorities of the Teutonic Order was minimal. The Knights intervened in all spheres of public life, since they enlarged their administrative apparatus dealing with trade, banking and even manufacturing of certain basic craft goods. By competing against its own townspeople in grain trade, the Order succeeded to completely monopolize the field in the 14th century. In order to limit the social impact of large town centers that pre-dated the arrival of the Knights or were established under their rule, the Teutonic monks surrounded them with “new towns” that had, as a rule, a smaller autonomy.280 As a rule, the new towns were not given the right to issue internal regulations (Germ. Willkür) controlling the ←191 | 192→life of towns, the right to issue own coins and autonomous judiciary. For instance, in the 14th century, there were as many as four town settlements in Gdansk alone: Main Town, Old Town, New Town, and Osiek. Next to Königsberg, New Town grew in 1300 and soon afterwards Knipawa was founded. In 1347, a New Town appeared also in Elbing close to the old part of the town. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Order usurped the right to the municipal trade taxes paid voluntarily by towns belonging to the Hanseatic League – this was a sign of a growing interference of the Order into the functioning towns.

In the case of knights inhabiting the District of Chelmno granted to the Teutonic Order and Gdansk Pomerania conquered in 1308, the intensification of state control was reflected in limiting the process of granting land estates in conformance of the local Chelmno Law. The Chelmno Law allowed the daughters of knights to inherit property and made the military service compulsory only within the borders of the country. On the contrary, the Polish and Magdeburg law limited the group of beneficiaries to males. In the absence of male heirs, the possessions became the property of the Order. Moreover, the Polish and Magdeburg law made it obligatory for the knights to perform territorially and temporarily unlimited military service and requested a series of other, minor contributions. Thus, the Polish and Magdeburg law undoubtedly restricted the autonomy of knighthood more than the Chelmno law. After 1340, the Order started to limit the number of locational charters granted in conformance with the Chelmno law, by using several variants of the law. According to cautious opinions of historians, “probably the principal criterion” of the choice of a variant of the Chelmno law “was the level of readiness [of the knights] to cooperate with the Order and its officials.”281 And after 1410 the Order stopped to grant locational charters in conformance with the Chelmno law altogether. Furthermore, making use of the rights of the Polish law, in the years 1308–1454, the Order became the owner of ca. 100 villages, which had been previously owned by local knights.282 This period of reinforcement of the ruling of the Teutonic Order may be interpreted in terms of the phase of political enslavement.

At the end of the 14th century, the most powerful layer of subjects of the Teutonic State, the knighthood of the Chelmno District, set up the Lizard Union ←192 | 193→(Eidechsengesellschaft).283 This action may be interpreted as a manifestation of formation of independent social ties that gradually covered more and more social circles. The Prussian Union established in 1440 grouped the representatives of knights, townspeople and wealthy peasants. According to Marian Biskup and Gerard Labuda: “given the specific conditions of the monastic state, the Prussian Union was a representation and an embodiment of the opposition aims of the majority of subjects that coordinated their further strife.”284

An attempt at repressing the rebelling subjects brought about an outbreak of an anti-Teutonic uprising. The uprising started in 1454 and spread over the southwest provinces of the State. Insurgents managed to gain control over the Teutonic castles in the towns of Pomerania, even before they received help from the Polish troops. The support of Poland transformed the uprising of subjects into a long-lasting Polish-Teutonic conflict concluded in 1466 with the acquisition of Gdansk Pomerania and Warmia to Poland, and subordination of the Teutonic society to Poland.

The weakening of the Teutonic rule forced the authorities of the Order to grant concessions. The rights of the Order were predominantly reduced in the economic sphere. This process was manifested in a resignation from the previously favored. the Magdeburg law and in granting a mass number of locational acts concerning the land formally owned by the Order. The new class of nobility, established as a result, became an equal partner to the Teutonic authorities. Additionally, the internal monastic hierarchy underwent a transformation concerning control over land. Monks of lower rank considered their spiritual function as a mere source of additional income and decided to take Order-owned land on security or lease. This way, these monks became legal landowners (they had already been the real owners due to their affiliation to the triple-class of rulers). At the same time, the higher layers of the Order’s hierarchy close to the Grand Master were gathering a purely political power in their hands. The above were the social implications of the administrative-military reform of 1506 that deprived the former Komturs of their power in this field, and of the centralization of judiciary. The Grand Master and his vicinity were gradually transforming into a center of purely political power, and the monks of lower ranks – into possessors of purely economic power.

←193 | 194→

The factor accelerating the disruption of socialism in Prussia was the lost war against Poland (1519–1521) that ended with a four-year truce. This war intensified social transformations occurring within the structures of power and ownership, which caused the Teutonic society to resemble more and more a typical class society. Most importantly, the intensification concerned the processes of granting monastic land to individual owners in order to compensate for war damages. Otherwise, the noble class would have supported a fusion with Poland. The Cracow treaty from 1525 conclusively confirmed the secularization of Prussia, hence, the dissolution of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem. It appears that political authorities perceived the institutional structure of the monastic order to be dysfunctional for a class society. Former monks gave up their monopoly over control of the means of spiritual production and created a single-class of owners or rulers. In consequence, a typical class society was formed, with separate classes of rulers, owners and priests (who, as a result of the secularization, changed their ideological doctrine from Catholic to Lutheran). The final episode of the history of the Teutonic Order corresponds with the phase of regular revolutions of the second kind of the model of a political society, where political control is reduced to a strip of class peace.

Considering the strong simplifying assumptions of the basic model of a political society (disregarding economic and cultural influences, neighboring societies, political institutions and political awareness), it provides a satisfactory approximation to the history of the Teutonic society, since it includes the phases: of growing civil alienation, revolution of the first kind, enslavement, and cyclical declassations. However, there are discrepancies between the historical evolution of the Teutonic society and the idealized course of an evolution of a socialist society. I shall name only the most significant differences. Most importantly, a crushed revolution of the first kind is supposed to bring about social enslavement. In contrast, there was a social group of “Prussian free” peasants within a Teutonic society until the end of the 15th century. Furthermore, the basic model of a socialist society assumes there should appear a sub-phase of self-enslavement of power – a phenomenon absent from the history of the Teutonic society. It is noteworthy that the basic model assumes there should appear a series of lost revolutions in the phase of cyclical declassations. Yet, the period in the history of a Teutonic society corresponding with this phase of evolution of political society is definitely shorter. As a matter of fact, one revolution was sufficient to reduce the scope of state control to the area of class peace.

The above-described deviations from the basic model might probably be accounted to interference of factors that were disregarded within the initial model. The inclusion of the economic aspect of social processes might explain ←194 | 195→the presence of the social category of “Prussian freeman.” This group originated from the treaty of Dzierzgon from 1249 that concluded the Prussian insurrection. The treaty granted Prussians personal freedom and the right to own and inherit land in return for military service and acceptance of the political power of the Order.285 To put it in more general terms, when faced with the revolution of the Prussian natives, Knights who held political and economic power reduced their control over the economic sphere, in order to preserve political control. In consequence, they disrupted the solidarity of the Prussian people and curtailed the insurrection. Historians have expressed accurate intuitions in this respect:

The Teutonic Knights attempted to disrupt the solidarity of the insurgents by widely allocating land among the class of wealthy Prussians whom – by means of that – they kept loyal or forced to side with the Order. This activity, undertaken particularly among the noblemen of Sambia, soon resulted in the Order re-conquering the district.286

On the other hand, by including the influence of internal social relations, one would allow an explanation of the absence of power self-enslavement in the history of the Teutonic society. Self-enslavement of power is a stage in the evolution of a political society, in which, having gained control over all spheres of public life, a ruler moves on to the spheres of influence of other rulers. Under the conditions of social isolation the only solution to the problem of competition between rulers is regular elimination of the surplus of the candidates to power. However, if the simplifying assumption concerning social isolation is reduced, competitiveness for power could be weakened with external expansiveness. Conquest of foreign societies is a more effective method of finding additional spheres of state control than competition between rulers. In this case, political rivalry does not have to take place at the expense of social territories controlled by other rulers, but at the expense of the, until then, autonomous spheres of public life in the neighboring societies. Teutonic aggressiveness, by adding new unexpected spheres of state control, removes the threat of power self-enslavement and weakens the danger of total enslavement of the society.

Furthermore, the impact of unsuccessful aggressions would allow for a better understanding of the final period in the history of Teutonic society. The lost wars against Poland – the state with a substantially higher level of social ←195 | 196→autonomy – weakened the rule of the Knights.287 The wars also reinforced the process of formation of state-independent social ties, since the representatives of the Teutonic society frequently served as guarantors of the agreements signed between Poland and the Order. The Polish intervention of 1454 contributed to the success of the anti-Teutonic insurrection and the war of 1519–1521 concluded the period of triple-power system in Prussia.

2.4 Conclusions

I will now use the above-presented model of explication of the history of the Teutonic society to interpret the phenomena in the history of the Teutonic Order that, as was presented in the sub-chapter 2.1 (“Problem”), are difficult to account for in terms of traditionally applied theoretical assumptions. The first phenomenon is the unique for medieval Europe state-controlled type of economy, which substantially decreased the income of townspeople. This phenomenon is, however, perfectly understandable in terms of the offered model of explanation. For a triple-power, economy, correspondingly to other spheres of public life, primarily serves maximization of political control. Consequently, all matters pertaining to ownership, organization of production and trade come to be subordinated to the criterion of maximization of power. However, if the aim to increase profit to maximum is not the primary criterion determining the type of economy but becomes a merely secondary criterion, then the economy becomes less effective and profitability of the economic activities decreases.

The second problem is the phenomenon of eternal Teutonic aggressiveness, which has been traditionally explained in terms of Drang nach Osten. This concept is associated with the idealistic notion of the Spirit of the Epoch fatalistically predetermining the history of humanity. With respect to Germans, it was supposed to account for their expansiveness of this nation by invoking factors inherent in its national character. The concept of Drang nach Osten treated disparate phenomena, such as the campaign of Charlemagne, the wars of Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, German settlements, Teutonic aggressiveness and even the participation of the absolutist Prussia in the Partitions of Poland, as a unified whole.288

←196 | 197→

The model of explanation proposed here does not perceive the aggressiveness of the Knights as a part of the manifestation of the Spirit of the Epoch, but as a result of objective evolution of class (political) relations within the society of the Teutonic state.

In the evolution of a typical socialist society there are two waves of aggressiveness.289 The Teutonic wars of the 13th century against Swietopelk I, Duke of Pomerania, may be interpreted in terms of the first wave of aggressiveness which weakens the danger of an outburst of civil revolution. Whereas the Teutonic aggressiveness after the crushing of the Prussian insurrections, including the conquers of Gdansk Pomerania and Kuyavia, campaigns against Lithuania and the occupation of Samogitia (Žemaitija), the conquest of Swedish Gotland, may be interpreted in terms of the second wave of aggressiveness which hampered the danger of self-enslavement of political authorities.

3 Alternative History and the Rise of Socialism in Russia

For the purpose of this book, I have adopted the assumptions of non-Marxian historical materialism. However, I do not accept this theory unconditionally because certain problems demand a clarification. One of them is the issue of mono-linear historical evolution. I will now discuss the problem with the case of Russia. Russian historiography offers two basic concepts of the origins of Russian socialism. According to the first interpretation, reconstructed by Mikhail Heller and Aleksander Nekrich:

Many Western historians […] find the sources of the 1917 revolution in the internecine warfare of the Kievan princes, the Tatar yoke, the atrocities of Ivan the Terrible, […] Reaching back into the distant past […] Western historians draw a direct line from Ivan Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible) to Joseph Vissarionowich (Stalin) or from Malyuta Skuratov, head of the Ivan the Terrible’s bodyguard and secret police force to Yuri Andropov, the longtime head of the KGB who recently headed the Soviet state, thus demonstrating that from the time of Scythians Russia was inexorably heading toward the October revolution and Soviet power.290

The second interpretation, favored e.g. by the above-quoted authors aims to prove that the transformation from the pre-October Russia to the Soviet Union was:

←197 | 198→

The history of the Soviet Union is the history of the transformation of Russia – a country no better no worse than any other, one with its own peculiarities to be sure but a country comparable in all respects to the other countries of Europe – into a phenomenon such as humanity has never known.291

Leszek Nowak expressed his standpoint in line with the first of the above-presented interpretations.292 In terms of n-Mhm, the fundamental distinctiveness between various European societies is the simultaneous division between and balance of three social classes of rulers, owners and priests, which occupied the most significant positions in politics, economy and economics. This balance had been substantially disturbed within the Russian society when, at some point in history, political power merged into one with control over the means of production. As a result, a double class of rulers-owners was created. The competition between landed gentry – a social class that cumulated ownership with power, and boyars – a class of individual owners, exhausted the social aspect of the modern history of Russia. This totalitarian anomaly caused state feudalism, without the stage of free competition to transform into state capitalism, and then into socialism, where political power took control over the means of production and propaganda.

Thus, it is noteworthy to repeat the question of the mechanism of development of Russian socialism. Did this system emerge as a result of blind necessities – as suggested by the first mono-linear interpretation, or as a result of blind faith, as suggested by the second, multi-linear concept of the Russian history? Did history unfold as it did because it was bound to, or was it just a combination of fatal coincidences?

I would argue that neither of the two counter interpretations is entirely true. However, there is another possible answer assuming that Russia indeed had a totalitarian anomaly, but that it did not evolve in a straight line connecting Genghis Khan and Joseph Stalin. There were moments in the history of the investigated country when various social powers were approximately equally capable of enforcing their class interests. Then, coincidence would have frequently decided which tendency had dominated. In the interest of landed nobility or landed gentry (the double-class of rulers/owners appears in source materials under a number of names) was to combine ruling with land ownership. On the other hand, division of land and making land ownership independent ←198 | 199→from power manifested the social interest of boyars. Providing the influence of both classes and their ability to implement their social interests was equal, the additional circumstances decided which social tendency prevailed and which class interest was implemented. To put it differently, there were turning points in the Russian past when history could have unfolded either way. Let us now attempt to enrich the image of the evolution of the Russian society described by Nowak with the not-implemented alternatives of development. One of the turning points of the Russian history was the beginning of the 17th century. After the unsuccessful military campaign of False Dmitry I supported by Polish magnates, a rebellion led by Ivan Bolotnikov broke out. It spread over all layers of the Russian society and disrupted the foundation of a system of pomeste. The year 1608 saw another interference of the Polish magnates who found the second Dmitry. The following year, the Polish army besieged the city of Smolensk initiating an open military intervention. In February 1610, Russian boyars approached Smolensk and addressed the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa with a proposition to put his son on the Muscovite throne. Sigismund III agreed and soon a treaty followed. According to the treaty, prince Vladislav IV Vasa would convert to Orthodox Christianity and the country was to be co-ruled by the Boyar Duma. The signed Smolensk treaty was soon reinforced by a military victory of hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski in the battle of Klushino (4 July 1610). As a result of a coup in Moscow, the then tsar Vasili IV of Russia was deposed and forced to become a monk. In August 1610, another treaty was made between the representative of Vladislav IV, Żółkiewski, and the Russian boyars. The treaty prepared by Żółkiewski:

obliged Vladislav IV, when he becomes tsar, to rigorously follow the existing supremacy of Orthodox Christianity, to maintain the existing laws and traditions, unless the Boyar Duma and the representatives of the “entire land” decide otherwise, and that he will not punish anyone with death and confiscation of possessions.293

Ludwik Bazylow adds “[a];fter the treaty was signed, Moscow swore by the faithfulness of Vladislav IV, and the same was done in many other towns. It appeared that the end of the Time of Troubles was coming.”294

The perspective of putting Vladislav IV on the Kremlin throne was very real – in light of opinions expressed by historians specializing in the history of Russia and the epoch. Why it did not happen? Historians explicating this episode in the history of Polish-Russian relations refer to the personal ambitions of Sigismund ←199 | 200→III Vasa who succumbed to the whispers of the Society of Jesus and prevented his son to convert to Orthodoxy, because he wanted to sit on the Muscovite throne himself. As a result, a Polish king would become a ruler of a gigantic Polish-Lithuanian-Muscovite country with introduced compulsory Catholicism.295 As a result:

[t];he stance of Sigismund III brought about a mere ceasefire, particularity when also the Swedes announced their candidate to the throne and occupied Novgorod. In this desperate situation, the Russian masses voiced their demands. A mass fight with the invaders begun. Thousands of people formed a mass mobilization and headed toward Moscow causing an insurrection to outburst and a siege of Poles in Kremlin.296

Following from this, the unsuccessful attempt of Vladislav IV to assume the Russian throne was a consequence of factors identified in terms of n-Mhm as accidental: personal ambitions of Sigismund III, his attachment to Catholicism, his aversion toward Orthodoxy, him succumbing to the whispers of the Society of Jesus, etc.

What if Vladislav IV became tsar?

Vladislav IV would have to found his rule on the social group that led him to power – the boyars. Alliance with landed nobility that supported the then tsar Vasili IV of Russia was impossible. The rule of Vladislav IV would have been a consequence of the dominance of boyars over landed nobility, a social class that grew in strength as a result of the accumulation of power and ownership. Moreover, in this theoretically possible social coalition of tsar Vladislav IV and the boyars, Vladislav IV, a foreigner unfamiliar with the local relations and agreements, would have been a significantly weaker link. Weak authorities have only one way of gaining social support at disposal –concessions. Concessions granted by Vladislav IV would have taken the same form, as in the entire Europe – the act of granting land – since the Russian state was the largest landowner, but on terms established by the stronger part of the coalition.

At the turn of the 16th and the 17th centuries, there appeared at least theoretical perspectives for weakening or even annulling the totalitarian anomaly present within the Russian social structure. Russia could have become a regular feudal state with political power subjugated to large land ownership.

←200 | 201→

The second turning point in the Russian history was the period between February and October 1917. When German intelligence smuggled Lenin into Russia in April 1917, he barely managed to disturb the plans of Kamenev and Stalin that included “to unite with the Mensheviks and collaborate to a certain degree with the Provisional Government.”297

Furthermore, by threatening to resign from the Central Committee, Lenin basically forced the leadership of the Bolshevik Party to appoint a date for a military coup.

Let us now pose the same question as before: what if Lenin did not succeed in stopping the Party from forming the coalition with the Mensheviks and in persuading the Party that a military coup is necessary to gain power, or if the coup was unsuccessful? Nowak provides an explicit answer:

The October Revolution lead from a totalitarian society to a totalitarian society – it merely brought about a substitution of the people in power, not a transformation of a social structure. […] New rulers-owners substituted for previous rulers-owners and the society evolved in the same direction, only faster.

Moreover, the change of personnel in the Russian social structure was possible because the politics of previous rulers-owners brought about an opposition of the Russian people – an opposition skillfully directed and controlled by the new state structure that grew in power.298

I shall now attempt to demonstrate that the substitution of the political force of Liberals, Mensheviks and the Social-Revolutionary Party into Bolshevik one cannot be simply explained with the terms of substitution of personnel. These differences can be expressed in terms of the conceptual apparatus of n-Mhm. Furthermore, the accumulation of these differences – providing the Russian Provisional Government continued to rule instead of the Bolsheviks, would have brought about social consequences reflected in the social structure of the country.

There were two hierarchies of power in Russia during the revolution: the first based on the former tsarist administration, the second based on a system of Soviets (political and governmental councils). For this reason, cooperation between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks would have brought about an incorporation of Lenin’s party into the official power structures. It would have caused the hierarchy of power based on the system of Soviets to weaken, making it capable of stimulating social opposition, yet not of taking over. The official power structures ←201 | 202→introduced totalitarianism to public life causing an immediate social resistance and, as a result, the objective result of the above actions was naturally smaller. The situation would have been different in case of the hierarchy originating from civil society. There would have had to pass a certain period of time for a society to realize that the nature of the new system of power is similar to the old one. For this reason, the hierarchy of power based on the system of Soviets was more effective in introducing totalitarianism, since initially it would not have had to face social resistance.

Moreover, the official hierarchy of power comprised a three-party coalition: Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets), Mensheviks, and Socialist-Revolutionary Party. Each of these parties had a more democratic internal structure than the Bolshevik Party. The elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly would have brought about changes causing the official power elites to be elected democratically and to be controlled by civil society. The above does not apply to tsardom or the Bolsheviks. As a result, the democratic channels of control of political power would have had substantially disturbed the accumulation of power and ownership.

Contrary to its political rivals, the Bolshevik Party had a compact and concise organized ideology. Marxism was more than a concept of social organization but also a worldview, or even a religious doctrine. As a result, it exerted greater impact on the then unfolding social processes, in comparison to any standard political ideology. Moreover, its influence accelerated the growth of totalitarianism within the Russian society. Thus, in terms of the philosophy of history, Marxism provided an explanation of the behavior of the Bolsheviks and justified the abolition of private ownership. The existence of owners in a class society is the only real counterweight securing the interest of civil society against the omnipotence of the state. By questioning the significance of private ownership, Marxism objectively supported totalitarian tendencies in Russia.

The list of differences could be extended with indecisiveness of the leaders of the Provisional Government versus Lenin’s political abilities, financial support for German intelligence, etc.

The common trait of both hierarchies of power – the official and the unofficial one – was the social situation they were forced to face. The necessary condition for political stability, regardless of the governing hierarchy of power, were the concessions granted to the most powerful social sub-structure in Russia – peasantry. Bolsheviks were the first to understand it. They encouraged peasants to occupy land without official authorization, a practice later approved by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Providing the Russian Provisional Government had remained in power, it would have had to do the same. The Russian Constituent Assembly was supposed to deal with the issue. ←202 | 203→In terms of n-Mhm, the enfranchisement of peasants was a creation of a new class of owners. Thus, the enfranchisement of peasants reinforced civil society in Russia and a single-class of owners not associated with power.

Providing the Russian Provisional Government had remained in power, the Russian social structure would have reflected the differences between the Liberal-Menshevik-Social-Revolutionary structure of power and the Bolshevik one. There are two possible variants. In the first, “optimistic” variant, Russia would have remained a quasi-totalitarian country with a class of rulers/owners and independent owners. Compared to the pre-revolutionary period, however, the enfranchisement of peasants would have reinforced the class of owners, and the introduction of parliamentary democracy would have subjected the entire power structure to the control of citizens. Two social tendencies could have manifested in such society: first, for a state-controlled type of economy, in line with the interests of the bureaucratic sector and, second, for liberalization of the economy, in line with the interests of pure bourgeoisie. In the situation of political democracy, one cannot predict which of the two trends would have prevailed. In favorable conditions, the Russian society could have become a standard class society, or a society where the interests of both social classes would have been implemented evenly.

In the “pessimistic” variant, Russia would have remained a quasi-totalitarian country, where a class of triple-rulers was accompanied by independent elites, private ownership and free circulation of information. In terms of philosophy of history, the difference between socialist and quasi-socialist societies is unsubstantial. However, in an ethical or individual perspective, the difference becomes enormous. According to the adopted theory, there are two ways to increase state control to maximum – terror and bureaucracy. Strong authorities employ terror, since it is more effective and brings about more control in a shorter period of time. Weak authorities employ time-consuming bureaucracy. For this reason, one may assume that in a weak-socialist society, the processes of accumulation of power, ownership and authority would have unfolded more moderately and gradually, if brought about by bureaucracy, in comparison to terror. Following from this, provided a similar social system had been created without Lenin or the Bolshevik Party, it would have been less dreadful – without the collectivization of agriculture and causing millions of Ukrainian and Russian peasants to starve to death, without the terror of Cheka and NKVD (abbreviated from: Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, in English: People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), without the Gulag and the concentration camps, without the enforcement of atheism and the stupefying propaganda. I would argue that the list is long enough to note this possible development of events.

←203 | 204→

In light of the above-presented observations, the rise of Russian socialism was neither an inevitable necessity nor a pure accumulation of coincidences. The history of this country included totalitarian social trends but it had also turning points marked by social counter-trends that balanced the impact of the totalitarian ones. Under the above circumstances, the course of the social evolution in Russia was influenced by secondary and circumstantial factors to a larger degree than usually. For this reason, Russian socialism was equally brought about by secondary and principal factors.

←204 | 205→

246 Leszek Nowak, Property and Power. Towards a Non-Marxian Historical Materialism (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983), pp. 169–186.

247 The present chapter offers a drastically simplified presentation of the core of non-Marxian historical materialism. The selection of some dimensions and motifs of this theory serves the interpretation of the evolution of Central-European societies. For a complete presentation, see: Leszek Nowak. U podstaw teorii socjalizmu, Vol. 1: Własność i Władza. O konieczności socjalizmu; Vol. 2: Droga do socjalizmu. O konieczności socjalizmu w Rosji; Vol. 3: Dynamika władzy. O strukturze i konieczności zaniku socjalizmu (Poznań: Nakom, 1991) and in English: Nowak, Property and Power; Nowak, Power and Civil Society. Extensions and a different application of this theory are included in the following volumes published in Polish: Jerzy Brzeziński and Krzysztof Łastowski, eds., Filozoficzne i metodologiczne podstawy teorii naukowych (Poznań: PWN, 1989); Leszek Nowak and Piotr Przybysz, eds., Marksizm, liberalizm, próby wyjścia (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 1997); Krzysztof Brzechczyn, ed., Ścieżki transformacji. Ujęcia teoretyczne i opisy empiryczne (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 2003); Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski and Eliza Karczyńska, eds., Jednostka w układzie społecznym. Próba teoretycznej konceptualizacji (Poznań: Wyd. Naukowe WNS UAM, 2013); and in English: Piotr Buczkowski and Andrzej Klawiter, eds., Theories of Ideology and Ideology of Theories (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1986), Leszek Nowak, ed., Dimensions of the Historical Process (Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1989); Leszek Nowak and Marcin Paprzycki, eds., Social System, Rationality and Revolution (Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA., Rodopi, 1993). On non-Marxian historical materialism, see: Jerzy Topolski, “Refleksje o systemie historiozoficznym nie-Marksowskiego materializmu historycznego,” in: Ścieżki transformacji. Ujęcia teoretyczne i opisy empiryczne, ed. Brzechczyn (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 2003), pp. 279–294, Waldemar Czajkowski, “Kilka uwag o Leszka Nowaka nie-Marksowskim materializmie historycznym i Andre G. Franka teoriach systemu światowego,” in: Jednostka w układzie społecznym. Próba teoretycznej konceptualizacji, ed. Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski and Eliza Karczyńska (Poznań: Wyd. Naukowe WNS UAM, 2013), pp. 187–206.

248 This is a modification of a definition put forward by Nowak, see: Nowak, U podstaw teorii socjalizmu, Vol. 1, p. 176. One may also paraphrase the definition of estate society in terms of n-Mhm. It is a class society with individual classes of rulers, owners and priests. A class of owners is divided into two layers: a sub-class of owners of means of production of the old sphere and a sub-class of owners of means of production of the new sphere. Such society is a balanced society with each class controlling material social means – rulers, priests, and owners of means of production in both spheres – may implement their class interests evenly.

249 For a development of the presented typology, see: Krzysztof Brzechczyn, O wielości linii rozwojowych w procesie historycznym. Próba interpretacji ewolucji społeczeństwa meksykańskiego (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, 2004), pp. 73–86; Mieszko Ciesielski, “Problem kumulacji podziałów klasowych we współczesnym kapitalizmie. Próba interpretacji teoretycznej,” in: Jednostka w układzie społecznym. Próba teoretycznej konceptualizacji, eds. Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski and Eliza Karczyńska (Poznań: Wyd. Naukowe WNS UAM, 2013) pp. 131–152; Tomasz Zarębski, “Struktura klasowa społeczeństw hydraulicznych. Próba parafrazy teorii Karla Augusta Wittfogla w aparaturze pojęciowej nie-Marksowskiego materializmu historycznego,” in: Jednostka w układzie społecznym. Próba teoretycznej konceptualizacji., eds. Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski and Eliza Karczyńska (Poznań: Wyd. Naukowe WNS UAM, 2013), pp. 207–222.

250 For a complete basic model of a political society, see: Nowak, Power and Civil Society, pp. 21–46, 55–67. Presently the theory of political power is a multi-model conception, which takes into account the influence of state political systems and organizations of civil society, political awareness, external aggressiveness, and technical advancement with respect to the means of coercion, link between the coercive force and the authorities, and rivalry between fractions, on the evolution of the political system. For subsequent developments of the conceptions investigate the impact of ineffective conquest and subordination on the evolution of a political society, see: Krzysztof Brzechczyn, “Unsuccessful Conquest and Successful Subordination. A Contribution to the Theory of Intersocial Relations,” in: Social System, Rationality and Revolution, eds. Leszek Nowak and Marcin Paprzycki (Amsterdam – Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 445–456, various types of political systems (two- and multi-party), see: Tomasz Banaszak, “Problem autokratyzacji ustroju demokratycznego,” in: Marksizm, liberalizm, próby wyjścia, eds. Leszek Nowak and Piotr Przybysz (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 1997), pp. 381–399 and Marcin Połatyński, “O koalicji i rozłamie partyjnym. Przyczynek do teorii sub-społeczeństwa partyjnego w nie-Marksowskim materializmie historycznym,” in: Jednostka w układzie społecznym, eds. Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski and Eliza Karczyńska (Poznań: Wyd. Naukowe WNS UAM, 2013), pp. 153–160, or the role of secret police in the political system, see: Krzysztof Brzechczyn, “Tajna policja polityczna w systemie totalitarnym. Próba modelu,” in: W stronę antropologii bezpieki. Nieklasyczna refleksja nad aparatem bezpieczeństwa w Polsce Ludowej, eds. Jaroslaw Syrnyk, Agnieszka Klarman, Marcin Mazur and Eugeniusz Kłosek (Wrocław: IPN, 2014), pp. 31–50.

251 Nowak, Power and Civil Society, pp. 49–54.

252 For alternative models of the final stages of the socio-political development, see: Krzysztof Brzechczyn, “Civil Loop and the Absorption of Elites,” in: Social System, Rationality and Revolution, eds. Leszek Nowak and Marcin Paprzycki (Amsterdam – Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 277–283, Grzegorz Tomczak, “Is It Worth Winning a Revolution,” in: Social System, Rationality and Revolution. Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, Vol. 33, eds. Leszek Nowak and Marcin Paprzycki (Amsterdam – Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 265–276.

253 Nowak, Power and Civil Society, pp. 123–148.

254 Nowak, Power and Civil Society, p. 136.

255 Leon Koczy, Polityka bałtycka Zakonu Krzyżackiego (Toruń: Wyd. Instytutu Bałtyckiego, 1936), p. 50.

256 Stanisław Zajączkowski, Podbój Prus i ich kolonizacja przez Krzyżaków (Toruń: Wydawnictwo Instytutu Bałtyckiego, 1935), p. 8.

257 Henryk Łowmiański, Prusy – Litwa – Krzyżacy (Warszawa: PWN, 1989), p. 164.

258 Marian Biskup and Gerard Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego w Prusach: gospodarka, społeczeństwo, państwo, ideologia (Gdańsk: Wyd. Morskie, 1986), p. 285.

259 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 503.

260 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 279.

261 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 203.

262 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, pp. 300–301.

263 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 278.

264 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 209.

265 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 322.

266 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 328.

267 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 330–31.

268 For a genesis of Teutonic trade, see: Udo Arnold, Zakon Krzyżacki. Z Ziemi Świętej nad Bałtyk (Toruń: Wyd. UMK, 1996), pp. 50–60.

269 Marian Biskup, Zjednoczenie Pomorza Wschodniego z Polską w połowie XV wieku (Warszawa: PWN, 1959), pp. 28–29.

270 Karol Górski, Państwo Krzyżackie w Prusach (Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Instytutu Bałtyckiego, 1946), p. 123

271 Górski, Państwo Krzyżackie, p. 120.

272 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 426.

273 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 427.

274 This is a modification of my previous standpoint expressed in: Krzysztof Brzechczyn, “The State of the Teutonic Order as Socialist Society,” in: Social System, Rationality and Revolution, eds. Leszek Nowak and Marcin Paprzycki (Amsterdam – Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 397–417.

275 Łowmiański. Prusy – Litwa – Krzyżacy, p. 59.

276 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 76.

277 For example, the campaign of the Teutonic Knights against the Prussians was supported in 1265 by Albrecht, Duke of Brunswick and Albrecht, Landgrave of Thuringia, in 1266 by Otto III, Margrave of Brandenburg, in the years 1267–1268 by Ottokar II, the king of Czech and in 1272 by Theodoric, Margrave of Meisen.

278 Łowmiański, Prusy – Litwa – Krzyżacy, p. 140.

279 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, p. 190.

280 Edmund Cieślak, Walki ustrojowe w Gdańsku i Toruniu oraz w niektórych miastach hanzeatyckich w XV w. (Gdańsk: Gdańskie Towarzystwo Naukowe, 1960), pp. 30–33.

281 Maksymilian Grzegorz, Struktura administracyjna i własnościowa Pomorza Gdańskiego pod rządami Zakonu Krzyżackiego w latach 1309–1454 (Warszawa-Poznań-Toruń: PWN, 1987), p. 151.

282 Grzegorz, Struktura administracyjna, p. 147.

283 Marian Bartkowiak, Towarzystwo Jaszczurcze w latach 1397–1437 (Toruń: Towarzystwo Naukowe, 1948), pp. 5–6.

284 Biskup, Labuda, Dzieje Zakonu Krzyżackiego, pp. 398–399, my emphasis.

285 Cf. The interpretation of the Dzierzgon treaty in: Karol Górski, Zakon Krzyżacki a powstanie państwa pruskiego (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1977), p. 40.

286 Zajączkowski, Podbój Prus, p. 26.

287 Hans Rosenberg, “The Rise of the Junkers in Brandenburg-Prussia, 1410–1653,” part I, American Historical Review, No. 1, Vol. 49 (1943), pp. 6–7.

288 Benedykt Zientara, “Drang nach Osten (Parcie na Wschód),” Mówią Wieki, No. 4 (1984), pp. 1–2.

289 On the weaker forms of expansionism, see: Brzechczyn, “Unsuccessful Conquest,” pp. 445–456).

290 Mikhail Heller and Aleksander Nekrich, Utopia in Power. The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present (New York: Summit Books, 1986), p. 10.

291 Heller, Nekrich, Utopia in Power, p. 11.

292 Nowak, Droga do socjalizmu, an abbreviated version is available in English in: Nowak, Property and Power, pp. 239–378.

293 Ludwik Bazylow, Historia Rosji (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1985), pp. 138–139.

294 Bazylow, Historia Rosji, p. 139.

295 Cf. Bazylow, Historia Rosji, p. 139; Jerzy Gierowski, Historia Polski 1505–1764 (Warszawa: PWN, 1983), p. 156; Jerzy Ochmański, Dzieje Rosji do roku 1861 (Warszawa: PWN, 1983), p. 131; Zbigniew Wójcik, Historia powszechna XVI–XVII w. (Warszawa: PWN, 1979), pp. 316–317.

296 Gierowski, Historia Polski, p. 156.

297 Heller, Nekrich, Utopia in Power, p. 29.

298 Nowak, Droga do socjalizmu, pp. 245–246.