This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
"Superpower 2" (S2) is a sequel to a video game that gave the secret services a strategic role fixing elections in countries of the player's choosing. Although some of the shock of the original "Superpower" is now lost, "Superpower 2" is one of the few video games worth playing. This review may give away some of the tricks of winning (the equivalent of the plot in a movie).
S2 is a real strategy game, because the player carries out shocking actions like espionage, sabotage, assassination and terrorism without seeing them performed. What is important is not the action itself, but its success or failure and how it tallies up and alters the global situation. The most a player can see in detail is the battle at the group level, where 10,000 or even 750,000 troops have representation in one icon on the battlefield. S2 is also typical of a real strategy game in that one does not have to watch any particular battle at that level in order to play and win.
We had several open-ended goals in the game-- economic development of China and the Third World, peace, legalization of gay marriage and abortion and abolition of polygamy and child labor among other goals. Players of other games will know that designing evermore advanced military units and training them is important, but the full advantage of S2 comes out in going beyond a short-term fixation on battles.
The reviewer played the game three times as China. In the first game, the reviewer built China to have the world's leading military, but a gang of countries sided with Taiwan's leaders in a war initiated by China to take back its renegade province. As a result, China went broke and lost the war and the game.
In the second game, China built up its forces a little more, but this time Russia invaded China to occupy its provinces as the United $tates also backed Taiwan. In fact, not the United $tates, but Russia initiated an extended nuclear war in response to China's invasion of Taiwan. Although the detonations occurred in remote provinces, the reviewer considered the game to be over. Nor was it too pleasing to consider that the game makers saw an exchange of hundreds of nuclear missiles as survivable in the short run. The loopy notion of a missile shield is also part of the game.
In the third game, the strategy was for China never to fire a shot and after hundreds of years, China never did. This strategy brought the success that using election-rigging brought in the original version of "Superpower." (Covert actions in S2 are annoying by comparison with separate nursing stages for creation of special services units, preparation of a mission and execution of a mission.)
S2 includes all the countries, unlike the original game. The provinces chosen could be still a little source of controversy, with "Leningrad" province still in play in Russia instead of the pre-1917 names for example. Also, we see all the colonial possessions of England in the game, but England proper is only one province after exclusion of Scotland and Wales.
After building some nuclear weapons to deter would-be opportunists, China built its economy steadily and then simply bought countries, province by province-- including all of Europe and Australia plus almost all of Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Other countries engaged in wars in the meanwhile. The Western imperialists invaded the Middle East-- especially United Arab Emirates and Iraq-- repeatedly. In 2400, the United $tates is still occupying Iraq. Japan also took over the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Even when China took over most of the planet and after hundreds of years of global peace, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates returned previous favors and attacked I$rael. By that point, the united $tates had 7 million people, compared with Kanada's 80 million, I$rael's 300,000 and China's 1.9 trillion people. Since Kanada's population grew with a lower death rate while Amerika's population fell, it seems likely that Amerika did not pay much attention to health care. Also, since Kanada and Amerika have similar racial compositions, we cannot attribute the switch in position to sheer demographic racism, much as we suspect some of the people working on S2.
(Kanadians made the original game and the small manual for S2 shows the united $tates invading Kanada.)
The sheer size of China's population brings out a bug in the program in addition to questions about S2's realism. A number that size does not present consistently in the information encyclopedia, which also caused the game to crash a few times. There does not appear to be enough space on the information page for that many digits, so sometimes one has the impression that there are only 40 or 60 billion people when other sources report over a trillion.
In fact, even with the 1.4 patch to correct errors on the disk sold in the box, the game as a whole is pretty buggy. A portion of the data saved for games is 5 megabytes. With real CIA data for 190 countries--all the world's countries in this version of the game-- Windows did crash from time to time. There was also no minimum wage variable in the game despite what the manual said, and in fact, there was also no extended manual despite what the shorter manual said. At first glance, players may even think the game is not worth playing with all the bugs, including the difficulty of simply starting the game, but that would be a mistake. "Superpower 2" is worth sticking with for thinking about how it combines demography, sectoral thinking for the economy, politics and war. Ignore the bad reviews from people who simply do not like games this massively complex. Not everything can be Gamebox or Nintendo.
Politically, there is a communist option; yet, northern Korea and Cuba are not listed as communist, at least not automatically. When the game opens, China could start as a "one party democracy." One has the option of switching any country to "communist state." There is also a separate section considering what sectors of the economy the state owns and which are private.
Merely switching the state form from multi-party democracy to communist state without changing the state ownership knocked 60% off the income per capita of the citizens in one simulation. On the other hand, there was no noticeable blip in stability or public opinion supporting the government, because the political situation was already very stable.
Generally, it is quite possible to make a few decisions and lose 60 points in the opinion poll: among other things, the player gets to decide on the legality of abortion, polygamy, gay marriage, child labor etc. (The meaning of "left" and "right" to S2 seems completely adrift, so we suggest ignoring the graphic for that.) It's only over time that it is likely that a communist state with poor leadership will go down to defeat in S2. There is nothing instantaneous about it.
The meat of the game comes in investment decisions by sector. If the player leaves the budget untouched as set up initially by the program, it's highly likely that the government will go bankrupt and we are to imagine that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) takes the country over according to the box. No self-respecting player wants that.
Like many games, S2 has features for government budget decisions on heath care, education and research. What makes S2 unique is how the economy sectors relate. Both in tabular form and in the underlying math, there is a hierarchy to the production which approximates the distinction between necessary and luxury good production and productive and unproductive (in the Marxist sense) labor. These are subjects Marx discussed at length in mathematical form. Rosa Luxemburg and N. Bukharin also wrote books on the relationship between the luxury and non-luxury departments of the economy. Under Mao, phony communist Chen Yun had the most responsibility in connection to the idea of balancing the sectors for optimal growth. After Mao died, Chen Yun continued to speak on the subjects central to S2. MIM has also touched on these subjects in Congress resolutions, where we raise the question of a parameter for the proportion of the population working with a communist ethic and the portion for which luxury goods is still principal as motivation-- and not assuming the existence of a communist work or study ethic in the population.
Grain comes first in the S2 economy detail table and grain production impacts all the others. Mao could have no disagreement, because he said "grain is the key link" in China's situation. Within the agricultural sector, tobacco and illegal drugs come last. They will impact the economy but in a different way than grain. The reviewer set up tobacco for permanent and increasing shortage and slight export without any fatal consequences for the economy.
Last in the detail budget are services including legal and marketing. These refer to what Marx called the unproductive sector, because they share in surplus-value distribution without producing any. Marx died writing on this topic. At least a portion of his theories and those of other classical economists survives on in how the service sector is derivative in S2.
With the loss of Marx's teachings on unproductive labor over time, something that needs more emphasis is that service sector workers are not in strategic sectors of the economy. The police and army are unproductive sector, but once a new political force is in power, the police and army play no decisive economic role and this is even more true of other unproductive sector workers. To the extent that there is ideology propagated on behalf of unproductive sector workers, that ideology is parasitic. The vicious downward spiral at work against any government in S2 is no threat if a player is clear about this. It is neo- classical economics which does not distinguish among demands for various work sectors except by consumer preference and ultra-democratic bourgeois Liberalism which introduce a false egalitarianism in discussion of service sector work.
S2's focus on investment decisions is quite dialectical. Success does not come from investing in all sectors equally and the various industries start from different sizes (in dollar terms) to begin with. For the derivative sectors to expand, the productive, non-luxury sectors must also expand or imports must expand (which is not always possible at the pace necessary for the fastest growth). Players in S2 can see this very clearly if they study the budget detail, as is necessary to win. Players can determine how much a particular sector is lagging based on demand from the other sectors. Then the game makes possible an investment to increase that sector 1%, 2%, 5%, 10% or 25%, the money for which comes out of surplus. In cases of resource exhaustion, investment will not bring any returns.
China was able to take over the world, because investment did pay off. Third World labor produced surplus while imperialists bogged themselves down in narrow resource questions as in Iraq. The imperialists started with superior technology, military forces and economy, but in the end China had enough resources and obtained more through the accumulation of surplus from working its vast population.
A 5% investment in energy at the right time can drive all the other sectors forward. This is what we mean by "balance." Balanced economic advance is the goal. Back-to-nature anarchists would disagree, but we pay no attention to them as the majority of the world has no choices available to the First World back-to-nature anarchists. In this sense, we share more in common with the imperialists who pay lip-service to economic development than some anarchists lying around considering how to squander their share of the surplus that 90% of the world does not have.
So, the dialectical message is that uneven investment brings more balanced development. Even meeting demand perfectly will involve uneven investment. The player almost never invested in services, except very rarely in government-owned health care. The budget was set for economy-wide expansion, but such an even-handed approach by itself does not suffice: extra and special investments by sector are necessary.
In S2 and in our Marxist dialectical understanding of the world, uneven investment is also necessary. Seeing this at work in the S2 economic detail tables played out dynamically is a worthwhile investment of time by itself. It can expand the imagination more quickly than reading tomes of economic theory, though both are a good idea.
It's very difficult to balance the budget in S2 without having a private sector to tax heavily, so the reviewer made the strategic decision to leave luxury commodities and services except for health care in private hands. The goods production at the basis of the economy including agriculture, energy, raw material and industrial materials were under government control by the reviewer's decision. It may seem blasphemous, but S2 quickly forces a consideration of the mixed economy even for a MIM player. It's easy to experiment with switching back and forth in the game. There's no revolution or political mobilization required; though at least there is a public opinion poll and political stability variable.
So by the reviewer's decision, derivative luxury and service sectors were in private hands and created demand for state-owned products. We can think of this as allowing the private sector to have competition to use state-owned products. The reviewer allowed the export of services and the private sector accumulated surplus for re- investment in the state sector. Thus, the state ownership of most of the economy did not come under threat. In hundreds of years, the proportion of the economy under state control would only increase and it would be no difficulty to put the whole economy under state control-- after achieving world dominance. This all comes out in S2.
It's easy to get into a vicious spiral of privatizing more and more of the economy to advance the economy and fund government services in S2. Thus, in S2, leadership competence matters. It's a question of knowing where to take political control and where it is possible to make concessions to the bourgeoisie without getting into a spiral of corruption and inefficiency. Incompetence can lead to bankruptcy quickly.
S2 models the relationship of the private and public sectors, and in a fashion not completely unfriendly to Marxism, but in fact, one might wonder whether S2 underestimates the corrupting effect of having any private sector. Government expenditure to fight corruption becomes a huge budget item in S2; yet one cannot help wondering whether capitalist competitors in the services and luxury goods sector would compete by bribing the state-run industries for special prices or supplies, thus making a farce of all the state's understanding of accumulation dynamics and dragging the whole economy into capitalism. According to S2, the answer is no: it is possible to get corruption under control with a partly capitalist economy. So to S2's credit, we cannot say that S2 sidestepped the question of corruption in either private or government-dominated economies. Perhaps it is true that internal police can keep an eye on the private sector's interactions with the public sector. No doubt in the future, we need further work on a parameter for the corrupting influence of the private sector and we need to understand the tipping point at which a private sector ruins any public sector.
At the same time, the export of services and other products introduces the question of whether China was really socialist in this simulation. The S2 designers seem to be saying China should not take a wack at Taiwan anytime soon. The door to expansion including through Taiwan is open through money instead according to S2.
Although there is a public opinion poll and figure for government stability, there is no sense of how much workers control their worksites. Unemployment stabilized at around 2% as did poverty with income per head over $20,000, ten times its beginning level. The more advanced countries of pure capitalist history had figures such as $44,000 per head.
We're not sure that 0% unemployment is possible in the game, so we might question it on that front. At the same time, S2 designers do not leave out the possibility of success under communist leadership, at least on the middle setting for the aggressiveness of the computer players given by the program initially.
Under socialism we expect 0% unemployment, worker control of production and a declining role for economic competition. If S2 is closer to reality than what most people including communists think in their own minds, one might wonder whether success comes from combining Napoleon with an Anglo-Saxon trader mentality. By letting the game run overnight, the player accumulated a surplus in the quadrillions of dollars and then it became easy to buy the other countries for incorporation into communist China. Realistically this meant a huge improvement in living standards for most of the world.
Napoleon conjures up expansion but with the incorporation of new territories as citizens. If we combine that with a notion of economic expansion driven by capitalist accumulation, we have to wonder whether China that takes over the world in S2 is socialist in name only.
Undoubtedly, China's success was a huge achievement. Before accumulating quadrillions in surplus, China can incorporate other countries depending on their economic success level. Poorer countries are cheaper to buy. For example, China bought Papau New Guinea (except for its inconsequential capital) for $100,000--a bit unrealistic, but it would have mattered little if the figure had been 1000 times higher. So for the beginning expansionist, it's easiest to buy the basket-case countries and raising those to have China's level of health, education and well-being is a huge accomplishment. So the question is whether S2 is saying that progress goes to the credit of capitalism or communism. S2 says that China as the reviewer played it was communist, but we real Marxist- Leninist-Maoists are not so sure we deserve the credit! We question whether it's possible to keep the public sector from getting corrupted internally and externally!
According to S2, in at least some parts of the world, the imperialists will allow bidding on some sort of fair basis while they invade other countries outright. Aiding China in this effect is its military deterrence power. At the end of bidding for a country, the result is that the citizens of the capital have all been bribed with a huge budget transfer that allows that capital to enjoy all self-financed services. So it is a one- time transfer of labor from the Third World to the capital of each country that makes alleged communist success possible. Underlying the realism of this strategy is the ratio of labor to land. Communist China has the labor to be able to bid effectively for poorly utilized land. Peace and prosperity both stem from labor.
In such a context of a high labor to land ratio it is completely worthwhile to pension off the minority of every country. At the end, Communist China even pensioned off Kanada, England, Australia, Germany etc. Some countries have to be paid more than others. When the reviewer stopped playing, nuclear weapons still existed and the first case of a pensioner capital attacking another happened. Pensioned-off northern Korea's capital attacked the pensioned-off capital of Algeria. Still no one had dared to attack Sovietized China that encompassed most of the world's land surface.
Connected is the whole theory of imperialism-- whether it is possible for a communist China to bring communism to the whole world through peaceful expansion driven by accumulation of a surplus. We cannot say that the imperialist world is without war in S2, so it's not that simply stupid, Khruschev and Nixon notwithstanding. To the very end before Soviet China buys the United $tates and when China has over 80% diplomatic dominance of the world, the united $tates occupies Iraq and the UAE. Soviet China was able to dislodge imperialists from all other occupied countries without a nuclear exchange before buying the united $tates. It's just that the imperialists find other targets worthy of attack, not China. In any case, Sovietized China has military superiority.
According to S2 at the middle setting of computer aggressiveness, there is a chance for communism to take over the vast majority of the world. It's definitely worth pondering. S2 is in fact more realistic than the original in many regards, but both games have considerable merit separately.
Tips for use: Use the keyboard letters to select country names in pop-up lists. Type "M" to get to the countries starting with "M." Hit "M" again to scroll within the countries starting with "M."
Hitting return does not save the game. Hit the "Save" button with your mouse cursor.