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Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy

Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy

I’ve always been really interested in
history. So interested in fact, I got a useless degree in it. I also like video
games. I really liked video games. So you could understand why I’ve ended up
playing a lot of historical grand strategy games I’ve also played popular
games like civilization and total war and while those games are very fun and
relatively accessible Neither have a level of detail that can compare to the
several series of games produced by Paradox Interactive paradoxes games have
a reputation for depths that’s pretty well deserved, especially in comparison
to Civ or total war but there’s one big point that I want to discuss where I’ve found that they fail when it comes to representing ideologies left-of-center there’s a notable lack of depth and an over-reliance on stereotypes that
ultimately originates in anti-left propaganda Crusader Kings 2 and Europa
Universalis 4 are two of paradoxes biggest and most recent hits in this
genre set vaguely and the Medieval and Renaissance eras respectively While the historical periods of ck2 and eu4 are primarily dominated by what we now term
right or far-right politics with mostly kingdoms some oligarch republics and a
little bit of democracy. there are two games from paradox that cover later historical time periods when left politics were ascendant these are the
Victoria and Hearts of iron series For the sake of time I’ll mainly focus on
the most recent installments: Victoria 2 and hearts of iron 4 real quick before I move past Crusader Kings, you might have heard of the recent uproar from the
far right about the possible removal of the phrase Dave’s volt from the upcoming
Crusader Kings 3 I’m not gonna be talking about that since it’s a bit outside the scope of this video but if you do want to know more about that I
recommend AndarNation propaganda’s video Deus Vult and the paradox of
history, which I’ll link in the description but now let’s get started
with Victoria 2 Victoria 2 covers the years 1836 to 1936. Perfectly encapsulating an era of violent, frequently leftist revolutions. To compliment this revolutionary period the game has mechanics covering the
political alignments of the populace, their political consciousness and their
militancy throughout the game the politics of the population shift from conservative and reactionary to liberal and further left and then eventually to
socialism and communism during this time period anarchism was one of the major revolutionary political forces throughout Europe alongside socialism
and communism, which makes the two ways that anarchism appears in these games
confusing and flawed the most obvious appearance of anarchists are as a political faction called anarcho-liberals you’ll notice that these
anarcho-liberals appear to be flying the black and red flag usually used to represent
anarcho-syndicalists and anarcho-communists in these games however the
red and black flag is instead used to represent literally any and all rebels,
regardless of what kind of rebel they may be fascist, nationalists, religious,
whatever.. they’re all going be flying this flag while the flag of anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists appears in Victoria 2, these political
ideologies themselves… don’t the true identity of these anarcho liberals can be discerned by focusing on a key term in their description free market to further this point when the anarcho-liberals take control of a country the government becomes a bourgeois dictatorship ruled by free markets
without any government intervention like minimum wages or limited hour workdays based on these facts I have a hard time categorizing these guys as anarchists without getting into the issues of anarcho-capitalism overall, the fact that
these guys preferred form of government is a dictatorship of the bourgeois is
enough for me to conclude that these people don’t represent the kind of
anarchists you’d find in the game’s historical time period and if paradox thinks they do… then paradox doesn’t really know what anarchism is the weirdest thing about the inclusion of these guys in the game is the notable absence of non capitalist anarchism weirdly left-wing anarchism isn’t
represented as a party or ideology despite having immense historical
significance during this time period unlike the anarcho-liberals who weren’t
really a thing Victoria includes Pierre Joseph
Prudhon, considered by many to be the father of anarchism but only as an invention that increases your country’s prestige with a little blurb very briefly mentioning libertarian socialism in other words, just a little footnote like your country getting credit for making impressionist
art or rubber vulcanization the only other representation of anarchists is anarchic bomb throwers a crime event that can occur in a territory of administration and crime-fighting statistics are very low, which increases
the revolutionary desire of the territory I’m not just complaining that
my favored political ideology isn’t in a game i like if there were no anarchists
and that would be one thing but to include an anachronistic anarcho-capitalist faction when this was such a heyday for actual anarchism… seems
weird to me this time period covers the events of the Paris Commune of 1871, the Ukrainian free territory of 1918, and the Korean anarchist Federation in Manchuria
of 1929 while each of these had a fairly brief existence at least they were… you know, real? in the context of leftist history the Paris Commune is a famous event for both anarchists and communists and yet it doesn’t even get a blurb in an
event pop-up or anything like that if we discount the game to anarcho-capitalists since they didn’t actually exist then the only portrayals of historical
anarchists in the game are as dynamite obsessed criminals who don’t have a
coherent ideology worth talking about while this representation is far from
historically accurate it does line up perfectly with stereotypes of anarchists
that were prevalent during this period from “Anarchism in British public
opinion 1880 to 1914” by Haia Shpayer Makov the conservative papers tended to
atribute anarchist behavior to individual pathological disorders.
according to this approach the anarchists moral and mental
characteristics were symptoms of a deep and incurable inner disease and not the
effects of social circumstances. this conviction offered a convenient
rationalization when anarchist violence begged for political analysis. The
motives behind anarchist aggression were located in the individual anarchist.
malignant, fierce, and aggressive by nature, the anarchist acted in response
neither to deprivation nor to governmental violence if social causes had nothing to do with anarchist modes of thought and behavior,
society was blameless and anarchism had no worthwhile lessons to teach.
Propositions attributing a rational point of view to anarchists were
overshadowed by stereotyped assertions insofar as any reference was made to
anarchist ideas, these were presented as wholly destructive and immoral, provoking
violence against life and property in other words, Victoria twos depiction
of anarchists resembles historical reality much less than it resembles old
propaganda that presented anarchism as more of a symptom, even a criminal
pathology, rather than as an ideology and legitimate political movement while anarchism is oddly snubbed by Victoria 2 despite its historical significance, communism does appear, although its appearance is equally soured by stereotypes while communism during this period was an untested idea with many
different interpretations Victoria 2 chooses to only represent communism as it existed in the early USSR while certainly the most common examples of communism in modern minds are of totalitarian single-party States this isn’t so much due to the actual ideological underpinnings of communism it has much more to do with what flavours of communism have happened to be most
successful in a world overrun by capitalist States all too willing to use
any means to restrict the possibility of structural economic change simplifying communism down just to Marxist-Leninism Due to its historical success only
makes sense if you ignore the fact that the Marxist Leninist interpretation of
communism was largely shaped by the political and economic situation of
Russia at the time of the revolution rather than being a fully industrialised
democratic capitalist state like much of Western Europe Russia before the Revolution was a feudal absolute monarchy the method of centralized and
generally authoritarian rule by the revolutionaries was undoubtedly influenced by the situation that they were trying to escape from while this form of communism seemed to make sense to many Russians at the time it generally didn’t make as much sense in many countries in Western Europe where
communist revolutions did take place but with less success in countries with
well-developed democratic traditions powerful trade unions and industrial
capitalism a revolution of a more libertarian Marxist
character, with expanded Democratic possibilities, could have occurred by ignoring dissenting opinions on the role of democracy in communism. communist states in Victoria 2 are only ever able to have a reactionary approach towards
political freedoms in attempting to represent this via game mechanics, communism in Victoria 2 is inherently opposed to political reforms like expanding voting rights, allowing labor unions, or having a free press You can’t do this to me, I’ll strike! the state forbid strikes Wait till the union hears about this! ah yes the Union, welcome to
our ranks number 1313 this results in strange situations where
you can have a communist government supporting the legalization of slavery Eh, the farm vote’ll put a stop to this! farmers don’t vote anymore! what’ll I do for seed next year? you won’t have to worry about next year the state will do your planning from now on! even if the Communists take power in a country via democratic elections rather than a revolution they continue to support the rollback of voting rights regardless of the existing political situation this is because, in Victoria 2s model, an authoritarian dictatorship is the
preferred form of government for all communists, which they will continue to agitate for until it is achieved while this isn’t accurate it does allow paradox to use a simplistic and monolithic understanding
of communism which, as I’ll discuss later, has its inspiration in the anti-communist anxieties of the past shifting our focus to the economic side
of communism in Victoria 2 doesn’t make things much better even though from an
economic perspective communism and capitalism are usually considered polar
opposites, Victoria 2 oversimplifies that continuum so that the most communism you
can have is essentially just state capitalism Laissez-Faire capitalism is
well represented, with capitalists making sweeping economic decisions based on
whims, and dooming factories and workers to disuse and unemployment on the other side, with a planned economy, the player decides which factories are built and can subsidize the employment of workers but beyond this there is no change in
the fundamental way that the economy is organized by showing communism as just capitalism but the state has more control the game glosses over the fundamental differences in property relations between capitalism and communism which is kind of the most important difference! because the workers can’t own the factories, one of the main ideas of communism and one of its biggest theoretical benefits: communal ownership of the means of production is impossible while this may be, again, an attempt to simulate soviet-style communism with de facto state ownership acting as a proxy for worker ownership the end result is that communism is “when the government does all the things” which is the same level of understanding of communism you’d get from a PragerU video if we jump forwards in history a little bit, we can see another recent entry in one of paradoxes popular franchises, hearts of
iron 4, making a lot of these same mistakes this supports the idea that Victoria 2’s representation of leftist politics isn’t an exception… it’s the rule with hearts of iron 4 starting in 1936 there’s a great opportunity to
present the events of the Spanish Civil War a conflict in which both communism
and leftist anarchism played a big part to summarize the conflict extremely briefly it included both anarcho-syndicalists and communists initially cooperating on the Republican side against Franco’s fascists ultimately this alliance broke down and the anarcho-syndicalist were driven out of power and suppressed, by communist forces operating in concert with supporters from the Soviet Union hearts of iron 4 has things go… a bit
different immediately upon the outbreak of the war Republican Spain becomes just fully communist anarchists are mentioned as part of the International Brigades and as part of the forces on the Communist side but this is only flavor text the events within the Spanish Civil War on the anti Franco side, like the conflicts between the soviet supported communists versus anarchists and the anti
Soviet communists aren’t represented and ultimately the anarchists are only included as a footnote unity within the Republican Spanish ranks is unquestioned this view is in line with the anti-communist propaganda of the time which represented the Spanish Civil War as a simple struggle against godless
Bolsheviks by Franco’s rebels from “Red Scare 1936: anti-bolshevism and the origins of British non intervention in the Spanish Civil” consul Stanley gudgeon who monitored the Spanish strife from Oporto Portugal was even blunter, calling the carnage across the border a struggle between nationalism on the one
hand and Bolshevism naked and unadorned on the other fearing the nationalization of British companies holdings within Spain and the possibility of communism
spreading into France and Portugal should the Spanish Republicans be
victorious British politicians pushed a strategy of non-interference for themselves and for France from the same source: Sir Winston Churchill despite his
own personal animus against Nazism began to echo fascist charges that a
Republican victory in the Spanish Civil War was certain to produce a communist
Spain spreading its sneaky tentacles through Portugal and France a communist
Spain would not only mean the loss of the whole of British invested capital
there Sir Horace Seymour fretted on the 1 September but might also favour the
spreading of communism into France the British not intervention strategy left
the Republican forces to rely heavily upon the Soviets while Franco’s forces received support from Italy hearts of iron 4’s configuration of Republican Spain as exclusively communists aligned with the USSR erases the legitimate question of why the UK and to a lesser extent France refused to provide material support to the Republicans in their fight against Franco the excuse provided by British anti communist propaganda is given undue precedence
compared to the actual reason: fear of British wealth being expropriated by the proletariat which led conservatives in Britain to quietly back Franco’s fascism so that they wouldn’t lose any of their money ultimately, what does this revisionism accomplish well for one it saves paradox time and effort they don’t
have to explain or model a complicated multi-side conflict with internal
struggles it can just be fascism versus communism it also saves them from having
to get into what anarcho-syndicalism actually is since in their
representation it’s mechanically identical to status Stalinist communism
while both syndicalism and even anarcho-communism
are featured as sub ideologies in the game sub ideologies are just labels and
they don’t have any mechanical effect what this means is that even if you have
a nation which is labeled as syndicalist or an OCO communist they remain statist
and authoritarian again this simplify it ignores the real differences between
leftist ideologies and compressive them all into a Soviet shaped mold a glaring
example of this has revealed when we talk about elections as a communist
nation you can intentionally create support for democratic reforms open a
national conversation about democracy and then ultimately hold a referendum on
if democracy is right for your country and if it is you stop being communist
communism and democracy in this game are mutually exclusive what this means is
that in the context of a continuum between fascism democracy and communism
we see that hearts of iron for models it’s politics off of the horse-shoe
theory in hearts of iron for the differences between fascism and
communism are effectively just that fascism can make war declarations more
easily and communism can force other countries to become communist neither
can have elections and both are totalitarian these mechanical
similarities also extend into the economic systems in the game since the
economic options don’t include anything resembling a planned economy or
communism they’re just a continuum between an economy only producing
civilian Goods and one only producing military items which causes the
economies of fascist and communist nations to be mechanically identical
this makes the differentiation between fascists and communists just a question
of what decorations you want on your authoritarian empire I had to pick a
side George it was an aesthetic choice as much as a model one the problem with
this goes back to the very narrow view of what communism can look
which we also saw in Victoria to these games say communism can happen anywhere
but it can only be Stalinism the belief that all communists are aligned
politically and ideologically with the USSR or more recently Communist China
has been the inspiration for anti-communist propaganda from before
the Spanish Civil War through the American Red Scare and Beyond on a
mechanical level this simplification of communists being indistinguishable from
fascists is likely inspired by and in turn supports that same long-running
propaganda campaign to muddy the waters of what communism actually means by
turning communism into just another variant of fascism you make communist
ideology immediately dismissible by association number one the Nazis were
alive the Nazis were alive this is what
between the National Socialists and the communists was displayed overpower not
only fundamental principle and the fact is that communists were Baptists I don’t
have a drop a massive distinction really ideologically between Nazism and
communism because they both have the same source while the simplicity and
childís of the portrayal of communism in these games could be the result of some
intentional anti-communist bias within paradox it could just as easily be the
result of lazy research and lazy implementation this wouldn’t be the only
example of that either for instance in hearts of iron for Pol
Pot is listed as an anarchic communist which has no basis in reality that I
could find and as numerous people on the forums pointed out the pull top would
have been 11 years old at the start of this game in 1936 making it very odd
that he’d be running Cambodia another oddity is the description of the party
that starts out in power in Austria the Austrian fatherland front they’re listed
by Wikipedia as a far-right Ostrow fascist party but paradox has their
government type marked as centrist but what does centrism as a government type
devoid of any other context mean the description provided by paradox
centrism is a form of government which wants to achieve common-sense solutions
that appropriately address current and future needs that support the public
trust and serve the common good with consideration of risk and capacity and
context of these needs this is a super weird way to describe a Nationalist
Party modeled after Italian fascism if you look into things a bit the following
front actually did claim to be nonpartisan which I could see someone
interpreting as non-political or centrist but even a glance at their
Wikipedia page shows this centrism to be less on Goa Merkel and more Tim Poole to
clarify I don’t think that either of these things are examples of paradox
making a choice to whitewash a fascist party or intentionally associating
anarcho-communism with Pol Pot as some way to discredit the ideology what’s far
more believable to me is that these are examples of paradox making decisions
quicker than they can really think about them and skimming the surface of topics
where a deeper look would be warranted I honestly think that this is a case of
quick low effort decisions being made and it’s in these situations where
propaganda can be the most effective propaganda typically relies on quick and
simple explanations of complex issues which makes it the perfect accomplice
for those trying to move quickly through complex topics like a filled out answer
sheet casually passed you by someone who looks suspiciously like Mussolini in
this way grand strategy game development and propaganda are sort of a match made
in heaven they have a symbiotic relationship with propaganda
facilitating easier production of games which then spread that very propaganda
one last point I want to touch on regarding communism in these games is
the tone of the writing about it going back to Victoria to the description of
the communist workers goal of a stateless utopia has to be qualified
with the inescapable bloodiness of communism and this trend continues on to
hearts iron for with the description of Stalin mentioning the great costing
human lives of Russian industrialization interestingly the description for
Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy don’t mention their
or racist violence and there’s even a fawning description of Hitler’s economic
successes that last point in particular is notable because it’s a commonly
repeated talking point on the right especially when they feel like they need
to say something nice about Hitler Hitler just wanted to make Germany great
and have things run well okay fine the problem is is that he wanted he had
dreams outside of Germany hearts of iron for takes a similarly negative tone
towards communism in the generic communist tech tree with descriptions
like internationalism focus ideology knows no borders another nation may call
itself sovereign but our convictions are above such claims and political
correctness people holding mildly controversial or otherwise embarrassing
opinions appear to be concerned that there is a wide reaching conspiracy
against them this seems like an excellent idea certainly political
oppression existed within the USSR and one could argue that communism is a
threat to a certain kind of sovereignty but this cartoonishly villainous
description of communism isn’t matched by a similar tone for the fascists for
example some matching tech descriptions from the same level of the fascist tech
tree nationalism focus our nation is unique and our political achievements
could only have happened here we must fight for it at any cost and militarism
those who view the military as a necessary evil are doomed tazza me in
the face of war we will ingrain militarism into our culture to become a
people of soldiers so now communism and fascism aren’t just
being portrayed as equally bad anymore now we’ve got descriptions which have a
specifically negative tone directed towards the Communists while these games
generally pretend that they’re non-political in most of their
descriptions and representations the idea of a non political game about
history is an obvious oxymoron even with non political as their goal
the biases of the developers will inevitably slip into their work
particularly the unconscious biases and unconscious biases are often formed from
messages and imagery found in propaganda so ultimately what are these games
saying about left just ideologies one consequence of the
Stalinism only communism of these games is that they reinforce existing cultural
stereotypes about communism in the same way that conservatives who constantly
ask but what about Venezuela are repeating unhelpful and inaccurate
thought terminating cliche these games are repeating an older set of cliches
that prevent serious engagement with the idea of communism basically it’s lazy it
means the developer doesn’t need to really think about how come it works
outside of fascism without some of the nationalism and it means that the people
playing these games won’t be challenged on their existing beliefs about what
communism is and how it works walvis is expedient it has the major
downside of repeating propaganda and critically in carrying water for rabid
anti-communists who tend to have fascist leanings while the messages these games
have about communism are pretty obviously the result of
oversimplification stemming from a reliance on propaganda the messages
about anarchism are much less clear anarchists are according to these games
simultaneously not important enough to meaningfully include but also one of the
most prevalently annoying types of rebels in Victoria – has the Anarchy
liberals the games say that anarchism is a distinct leftist ideology but also
that it isn’t different from communism in any way and can be folded into
communism without discussion analysts are represented as bomb-throwing
assassins except where they need to appear as rebels who desire a
dictatorship of the rich the anarcho communist flag is used to represent all
non-government armed forces and yet the flag itself also somehow represents
nothing at all the overall message from the developers seems to be we don’t
really understand anarchism and you don’t need to either these messages have
the end result of making left-wing ideas either undesirable or at least
impossible to intellectually engage with due to the frequent repetition of
anti-communist and anti anarchist stereotypes these propaganda driven
stereotypes rely on being able to explain ideas quickly and simply make
human easier to consume by a general audience than act
information this then creates a snowball effect of propaganda the stereotype
appears in films books and newspapers at a higher rate and volume than the truth
can keep up with and then ultimately this regurgitation becomes accepted fact
for a large portion of society if you’ve seen my video about capitalism and the
Sims then you know that paradox aren’t alone in conveying pro-capitalist Pro
status quo anti left propaganda in their games without necessarily even realizing
it what makes the repetition of propaganda worse in this case is that
while the Sims is pretty explicitly an aspirational fantasy game that only kind
of looks like reality paradoxes games are intended to be based on the real
world and it’s real history if it seems like I’m giving paradox a lot of benefit
of the doubt as far as ignorance versus maliciousness and spreading these
messages that’s because paradox are by their own admission armchair historians
just Paradox Interactive pop historians on the staff when making a new game
slash expansion mm-hmm we don’t really we are armchair historians just like
everyone else edit actually now that we are much
bigger we probably do have someone that studied history and university or
something but for the games you mentioned and definitely not in light of
comments like this it’s easy to see why in the rush to complete these projects
they found themselves at the mercy of relying on the simplest explanations
available which in this case happen to have their roots in propaganda by
presenting communism as only Stalinism and the leftist anarchism as either
non-existent or not meaningfully different from Stalinist communism these
games create a situation where the biggest ideological gap is only between
capitalist democracy and the mostly identical extremes of fascism and
communism this is not only a silly oversimplification but also ignores that
capitalism and fascism frequently have a symbiotic relationship and that
communism is not inherently antithetical to democracy these decisions to avoid a
nuanced understanding of anything left to Center
ultimately results in a kind of safe space for people who are into centrist
and right-wing ideologies centrists won’t be challenged on the idea that
maybe a neoliberal democratic isn’t the final correct ideology
far-right people won’t be challenged in their beliefs that communism is a
murderous death cult in which their murderous death cult of super racists
have to violently oppose at any cost and neither group will be challenged by the
idea that anarchism is a well-established political ideology and
not just an excuse to spray-paint the cool a on things and listen to loud
music in real life a lot of people aren’t satisfied with the status quo
which makes sense because the status quo sucks and I think it’s worth pointing
out that the messaging of these games Finals people to the right if they’re
dissatisfied with the status quo since the left isn’t presented as having
anything worthwhile to say the far-right becomes an appealing option to folks who
are looking for radical change at the end of the day these mechanics find
themselves serving the same conservative anti-communist in anti anarchist
purposes that they were originally designed for over the last couple years
paradox have made moves to distance themselves from the more terrible
far-right sections of their audience and while these changes are a step in the
right direction they don’t change the fundamental
mechanics of their games that create an atmosphere that is conducive to
far-right rhetoric fortunately it appears that paradox are planning to
make positive changes in a mechanical direction as well the recently announced
la resistance expansion for hearts of iron for promise is an expanded Spanish
Civil War with mechanics for both non Stalinist aligned communist and
anarchist forces assuming these promises are fulfilled the result will be a more
fleshed out and fair portrayal of both anarchists and communists than have ever
been seen in these games by actually changing the mechanics surrounding these
ideologies paradox can finally escape from the propaganda cycle that these
games have best Farben trapped in by extension this also means that their
audience will be exposed to these ideologies in a way that isn’t so mired
in the baggage of propaganda for the people who like these games it’s not
just real history that inspires the imagination it’s the possibility of what
history could have been as a result of these positive changes from this more
impartial starting point what could have been for both anarchism
and communism can in the imagination of the audience turn into what could be hey folks hope you enjoyed my video if
you did like my video then you’ll definitely my friend Becca’s videos and
she just came out with a new one about Elizabeth Warren and how she’s not as
progressive as you might think that’ll go into the description do all them
something to say like check it out check out

100 comments on “Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy

  1. I am genuinely pleased and scared when you upload because it makes me think about the inevitable growth of your channel and how more likely your interactions with tankies will become. Tankies will be the end of us all.

  2. i like how that stupid horshoe spectrum has "catholicism" as a political position XD
    and hedonism??!?!? … on the left??? i'm anti-hedonist (philosophically, but i really don't care what philosophy or religion people are as long as they are lefties. I myself was a former left wing catholic) but the bulk of hedonists today seem to be utilitarians, which seems to be mostly held by neoliberal free market types, and people like the proto-fascist sam harris.

  3. I think it is sort of an extension of the "end of history" effect on media since the fall of the soviet union. Actual Leftist Ideas a literally unheard of in media. You get your social democrats and that is as far left as you get. If you are a millennial game designer there is nowhere to learn this stuff unless you go looking for it. That does seem to be changing though and I hope they are actually gone looking for it now.

    I am super concerned about the light touch on the Fascists though… they were truly horrifying in everyway. So much of their "improvements" to the economy was from literally stealing from minorities and slavery. Not to mention the fear of communism tends to drive conservatives right into their arms (to protect their investments).

    I feel like in a game about nations, having anarcho-communism will kind of break them up into communities without a concept of a nation-state. That might break the games fundamental premise.

  4. Excellent video and thank you for the shout out.
    It's good to see that Paradox is adding more leftist stuff into their games. Stuff like showing anarchism in Spain is a good and obvious step.
    Which is why a Victoria 3 would be cool because the ancaps tend to be high on all people's criticism lists. I do wonder how they would model these ideologies if they were able to build their mechanics and systems from scratch. But also, I don't expect too much because they've previously showcased such unwillingness to do so.
    At this point Im kinda ready to just give up on them. When I play HoI4, I only ever play mods. And if some developer came along and started making games like these but with actual heart, I'd switch over immediately.

  5. From the sound of the next patch's dev diary, the HOI4 team do at least plan on expanding that a bit, giving the Liberals, USSR puppets, independent spanish communists and spanish anarchists all their own paths within the republican storyline, with different choices and paths forward.

  6. I have very little first hand experience with Paradox games (I've played some Stellaris) and am not too into history. From an outsider's perspective it seems that even if Paradox as a whole is not fascist or does not align themselves with fascist ideology, at the very least they seem to have no problem with appealing to far right or fascist consumers. They can include whatever topics they like I'm the games they create, but if it looks like a fascist and talks like a fascist….

  7. This was a great video. I've never been much into these games, but I've known many who were. They would often discuss the great lengths they had to go to do anything dramatically different from what one might expect. This was a very good in depth examination of that 🙂

  8. Pretty strong argument for Paradox's slanted portrayal being merely ignorant, not malicious, but I'm not entirely convinced. If it were just the unflattering descriptions of leftist ideas, maybe. But, alongside that, the depiction of far-right ideas as either value-neutral or desirable in the context of a wargame is highly suspect.

  9. That "political correctness" flavor text has me rolling my eyes so hard. Can we get someone who knows/cares what they're talking about and aren't afraid to get "political" make some games like this?

  10. I really really like this video. I've been pissy about Paradox's view of leftism in their games for a long time now.

  11. The way paradox represents politics in HoI4 is honestly one of the things that puts me right off it. It's hard to be invested in a game that purports to be a historical simulator which includes historical politics but where the entire understanding of them is from such a warped, far right perspective. Especially when you compare it to something like kaiserreich which tonally is clealy written by people with a much better actual understanding of the political realities of the time, the alt history game is more historical and believable than the supposed actual history game, somehow. I think the community having so many nazi weirdos in it isn't surprising tbh.

    Ace vid though, started watching after the dwarf fortress one.

  12. idk but maybe they could introduce anarcho-communism by making or splitting countries that the anarcho-communist factions overthrow the government into federation/s (depends on the size of the country, cultures and there compatibilities to each other and there geographical spread and other factors related to culture and religion, random factors) that are/is made-up of communes that have independency that have there own armies and economic systems but they have consensual representation by there leader and all the leaders of the communes or a collectively chosen representative for a cluster of communes that are within the federation and all those representatives would plan the federation military coordination and strategies, logistics and etc, would also deal with the diplomatic relation of the federation with other nations.

    to be clear each communes could basically ignore a call for mobilization and decide it won't stay in the federation and some communes might even try to force them by threatening to wage war against them if they tried to leave the federation, those are just hypothetical scenarios so they are for debate for sure.

    economic representation would be tricky because how much the level of "consensual" coordination in economic plans, so to put it in simple terms i didn't think this part through well nor think i have a solution for but i don't think it's impossible either so i would be happy to see other comrades opinions on the matter.

    #edit note: sorry i just finished the video, i didn't know that they would release a dlc that would introduce anarchism into HoI IV

  13. I know it’s really new news but the next dlc for hoi4 will expand the Spanish civil war greatly, allowing you to choose to side with the fascists or republicans, and I’m pretty sure making choices about the conflict between syndicalists and communists. it also allows you to implement a unique economic style in syndicalism. So it looks like they did their research on this one

  14. "Democractic tradition" is a spook invented and supported by western establishments. Ancient Greece had a democracy – for slave owners. Rome had a democracy – for slave owners, again, but with minor tribal representation existing solely to funnel in plebeian frustrations in a controlled fashion. Britain had a democracy – for lords and commoners, just like in Rome. Today's democracy is no different, but leftists (mainly anarchists and socdems) confuse plunder of Third World and resultant expansion of consumerism and consumer market in the West for representation in democracies of the West. USA democracy was set up with the sole purpose of making sure to limit any popular sentiment and to give those with wealth leverage against the people. Democratic tradition is a joke.

    In comparison USSR with no "democractic tradition" built up it's system from ground up without electoral barriers (for working class) at all. It's council -> to bigger regional council -> to representatives in whole-Union meetings. Ideally Party gets to oversee everything while being overseen by everyone else in return – for example, army had commissars not to shoot people in the back like portrayed by the western media, they were there to propagandise soldiers, to make them aware of politiics and to make soldiers' voices heard as well. Any government institution strives to be bureaucratized and to close off, to be intransparent to the society, and Party was tasked with promoting transparency at every level.

  15. Very important, thank you! Would love to see an analysis of Civilisation games too, how cultures started to shift to have special traits (strengthening some kind of racial concepts out there), or the leaving out for very long the once present climate change (Civ V and up until now Civ VI).

  16. Main problem with Paradox games is their love for culture-religion mechanics and player playing as "state". Those two assumptions in the base of the game is the reason for their unrealistic portrayal of any ideology or form of government (even western democracies). This base forces them into a situation where they have to ditch (and plausibly so) certain aspects of other ideologies because "engine has it's limitations". Core and claim confine diplomacy to nationalistic "blood and soil" spooks, accepted and unaccepted cultures make it so there is actually a justified reason to go out and conquer stuff, there is a hatred towards rebels but states switching governments on their own is fine because it's the same player playing that country instead of a dozen ministates getting independence because of rebellion. CK2's religion and religious unrest forces player to play as proselytizer while in actuality religious hatred was mainly a result of hostility between classes – kind of like irish are catholics to spite british aristocrats' anglicanism. From Paradox's choice of basic features sprout limitations to their games. Fascists and communists are the same in HOI4? So are democratic countries. Main mechanics are the same for all three of them, and it's factories and army building and cores and claims. The same is true for every other Paradox game.

    Closest thing to depicting western democracy right is Plutocracy game. There you get basic mechanics – characters acquiring money and holdings and possibility to meddle in democratic institutions for profit – just right from the bourgeois side. Developers are even planning to code in imperialism – characters lobbying the state to invade other countries and give their riches to you.

  17. sadly, the ussr storyline is real bad when it comes to western revisionism and propaganda. its bs, and almost as stupid and bad as animal farm lmao

  18. This exists so viciously at the intersection of my interests it feels like a call out. Another amazing video.

  19. Most accurate exploration of leftist politics in a Paradox game mod?

    I'm surprised but it's Equestria at War: The My Little Pony mod!

    You know what I'm actually not that surprised a bunch of fans of MLP recognize liberalism often turns into fascism and know how socialism is actually supposed to function.

  20. Awesome video. Have you ever played Stellaris? It has a government option called “Shared Burdens” which seems kind of like a democratic socialist system. It can only be chosen if you have the “Fanatic Egalitarian” government ethic, which also means the only type of government that will be available is democracy, so in that game socialism is completely incompatible with authoritarianism, which is a pretty interesting 180. Still no anarchism though 😢.

  21. Though next dlc will include better representation of civil war including infighting and Stalinist betrayal. Still anarchists would be considered non-aligned. Monarchists too are considered non aligned.
    Edit: You mentioned it near the end

  22. The only Paradox game that even remotely presents a form of anarchism/communism in good faith (that I know of) is Stellaris, specifically the "Megacorp" DLC.
    The Fanatic Egalitarian only civic "Shared Burdens" that treats all populations strata the same with the same consumer goods and pretty much free movement between them and increases your empire stability slightly.
    They also have a "The Worker" voice pack that gets auto-assigned if you take the civic who sounds like a stereotypical revolutionary breadsanta (you have nothing to lose but your chains etc. etc. in a thick pseudo-slavic accent) so I guess someone's in the know.

  23. In regards to first thing about Anarcho-Liberals being in Vicky2 and the absence of Leftist Anarchists.

    The way paradox set up the 7 Ideologies was that there was a moderate faction and a radical faction for each branch. Moderate Socialists and Radical Communists. Moderate Reactionaries and Radical Fascists. With Conservatives in the center as the default. They included Anarcho-Liberals because they needed a Radical Branch of the Liberals which otherwise wouldn’t have any. Meanwhile, Anarcho-Communists and Anarcho-Syndicalists are considered part of the Communist faction since they are Radical forms of Socialism. Yes it doesn’t make much sense historically since Tankies and Anarchists fought amongst eachother, but not every single ideology can be represented fairly because that would be too much work for the developers. It’s pure game design, not a lack of understanding.

    I’d also like to bring attention to the Reactionaries. I don’t think a single person on earth identifies as a ‘Reactionary’. It’s more of a derogative word used by Leftists against Right Wingers, or at best a persons position on specific social progress. The only reason it’s used however is because there’s no better word to describe all Right Wingers between Conservative and Fascist. There’s not even a unified ideology for that group, it’s a mish-mash if a bunch of things: Confederates, Military Dictatorships, Absolute Monarchists. So if you’re upset that the Left isn’t properly represented, neither is the Right.

  24. I was legitimately confused by that clip where the worker says “I’ll strike!” And the narrator says “ the state says you aren’t allowed to strike.” It sure sounds like an American cartoon, but it’s describing reactions to strikes that happened in America.
    Well, I mean, I was confused for a few seconds. Then I remembered that the US is full of blatant hypocrisy.

  25. Was that dig at anarchists at the end genuine, or was it a continuation of the discussion of preconceived notions of the right wingers?

  26. I don't know if it has already been said but i think they at least are going th right way : in stellaris even if it doesnt change much in gameplay there is the shared burden civic that apear to be the communist civic. It require the fanatic egalitarian ethos and you are lock in the "democracy" political system.

  27. I love Paradox games. In earlier times, I would probably have disliked this video for 'making way too big a deal' of something not directly related to the game mechanics and yelled about keeping politics out of video games, but I've grown enough as a person to realize that criticism like this is valid, and the politics were always there.

  28. Wouldn't the Banana Republics be good examples of Anarcho-Liberalism? Businesses running entire central american countries. And lets not forget the British East India Company, basically ran the Indian subcontinent until the Sepoy Rebellions.

  29. Hey what about Dithmarschen in EU4? Doesn't it start put as a Peasant Dictatorship or something? How accurately left is that implemented? I agree with you on all the points you make

  30. AMAZING work as usual comrade, top tier production value, the sound is also much clearer than some of your past videos, the points are well stated with constant visual examples on the topic at hand and the script is also very well written with pacing and topics. Thank you for your contributions and this video specifically since I personally as well have seen this prevalence of these grand strategy games in leftist spaces and it always struck me as odd! Abolish empires!

  31. I have to recommend Kaiserreich mod too. It's got one of the best alt-history visions of socialism.
    Some of the alt-history focus trees in vanilla just underline this problem in HoI4. Like, Communist USA has focuses like "Democratic Socialism" but since that's not really a thing in the game, it's just flavor text completely at opposition with the game mechanics. The French Commune and Union of Britain does have similar problem – Stalinism in these countries seems both implausible and stupid. Democratic Socialism/Communism? That would be a lot less implausible.

  32. The way paradox set up the 7 Ideologies was that there was a moderate faction and a radical faction for each branch. Moderate Socialists and Radical Communists. Moderate Reactionaries and Radical Fascists. With Conservatives in the center as the default. They included Anarcho-Liberals because they needed a Radical Branch of the Liberals which otherwise wouldn’t have any. Meanwhile, Anarcho-Communists and Anarcho-Syndicalists are considered part of the Communist faction since they are Radical forms of Socialism. Yes it doesn’t make much sense historically since Tankies and Anarchists fought amongst eachother, but not every single ideology can be represented fairly because that would be too much work for the developers. It’s pure game design, not a lack of understanding.

  33. the reason for austria being non-aligned is that paradox cant represent the pro-german facist and the pro-austria facism is an error that could be easily fixed by multiple partys whit the same idealogy (and the spanish civil war is going to be improved in the next update)

  34. Some of this was quick low-effort decisions. Some was actually pure ideology. "King", one of the main devs on Victoria 2 was an admitted Thatcherite and hated the "left bias" that Victoria 1 had and resolved to create a market economy that shows its superiority to planned economies. The incredibly fucked up broken economy on the games release, the economy that would quickly implode if you were not at least state-capitalist because the economy was so fucked up and the capitalist AI so bad, was created by an actual right wing capitalist with the intent to prove markets and capitalism were superior.

  35. Hey! Yeah, I play CK2 a lot and I did get curious why the ancom/syndicalist flag is always used for the rebels. :/ Only 4 minutes in so i'l still watching. Just blegh Paradox, whyyy

  36. People keep saying try Kaiserreich, I'd like to suggest another Hearts of Iron IV mod – Equestria at War. The Baltimare Commune is one of the best libertarian socialist implementations (or even not completely dickish centralized socialism, unless you do the meme route) in any mod

  37. I know you you claim that you don't think Paradox did this intentionally. I FULLY DO. Paradox is FULLY aware of what they're doing. They had to remove a Holocaust reference in Cities: Skylines. And that's a non-political game.
    Either Paradox doesn't do enough QA for potential PR risks, or they have fascists there working on the games.

    Edit: Even after the armchair historian part, I don't fucking buy it. They can do so much fucking research for various medieval events, Renaissance events – look up so many peoples and places. They don't have anything about the Holocaust or any of Hitler's genocidal policies or even Mussolini's atrocities and death… yet they go into every single British warcrime they can like the Bengali famine. They are fascists. Boycott their games – not a single penny more than you already have.

  38. The HoI4 Spanish Civil War section was incredibly confusing. All depth and variety in that game is obtained almost exclusively via the National Focus Tree, and Spain having only the generic National Focus Tree means that any true unique mechanics are impossible. Both sides are oversimplified as a result.

    If you really want to cover this subject you should read their dev blogs on the Nation Focus Tree that is currently being worked on for Spain. There is a dedicated section of the focus tree just for the Anarchists and they are being labeled as "Unaligned" (In HoI4 "Unaligned" is a blanket term for every ideology that isn't Democratic, Communist, or Fascist) although they do concede "as Anarchist society is inherently incompatible with the way Nation-States are represented in HoI4, we’ve had to get creative with their representation."

  39. Love this video!.
    I agree about your criticism to paradox.
    But it let me thinking about marxists and anarchist mechanics in games. Paradox also do city builders games, like my favourite Cities Skylines. But it's imposible to have a communist or anarchist city.
    So i had played other citybuilder games, like "workers and resources of the soviet republic" which is a very good game, with some good communist (stalinist) mechanics.
    But how would an anarchist city builder game, or strategy game would be?
    There is plenty of room for imagination and new mechanics.
    Just imagine a city builder where sims (or Cims) have an opinion and vote!!!. Ive been spamming paradox forums and subs asking for that.
    The tropico series have some of these mechanics. Sims vote, Sims demand, sims protest, sims have a life.
    I dont know, there is so much to imagine and create if developers just let their imagination go away from capitalist propaganda.

  40. They labelled a far-right party as "Centrism"? That sounds about right, I've heard plenty of far-right people who called themselves centrists before.

  41. I think in addition to being a result of propaganda influencing the subconscious biases of developers, I think Hoi4 at least is a very meme-centered game. The idea of "political correctness" is treated like a memetic joke in the description you mention, and in some respect defangs the idea by being so blatantly propagandistic it's hard not to read it as a joke. In the Mexico focus tree introduced in Man the Guns, Leon Trotsky can take over the government of Mexico and declare war on the Soviet Union, which is a ridiculous concept from front to back, but it's memey. Interestingly enough, that focus tree allows for Mexico to be a Communist government that still has elections, and a lot of the focuses leading up to it tie Mexico's history of revolution to agrarian socialism fighting against the landlord class, so it's clearly a small step away from presenting leftist ideas as simplistically as they did before.

    It's worth noting that HOI4 simplified a much more complicated ideology tracker from HOI3 with the intent to enable a greater freedom for players to change ideologies and enable a greater diversity of faction swapping. It is simpler to think of Democracy/Fascism/Communism as indicating what side of a three-way conflict you will be a part of, and thus when you're playing as Romania, Democracy means allies, Communism means comintern, Fascism means Axis, and Unaligned means going it alone. It lets you set the computer AI for the US to "Fascist" and Japan's to "Communist" and thus change the battle lines. (Except AI Japan's communists or democrats never win the civil war, so they're never really an option)

  42. I think, it will be very interesting if you will also analize the HoI4 take on alternate history (via focus trees) from the ideological perspective.

  43. Saved me some times I've seen this game on sale so many times I wonder to pick it up. Now, I know if I want a eye rolling simulator I'll just go look at some red scare propaganda or Europes version the communist specter.

  44. Stellaris: A game with a political spectrum ranging from fascist genocidal authoritarianism to… socialist democracy. No, you cant not have a currency. Great work guys

  45. So the new Focus in Spain is covering the POUM (Independent Communist), the CNT-FAI (Anarcho Syndicalist/Anarcho Communist) And the Stalinist Communist in Spain. Fleshing out both the Republican faction and also the Nationalist with their own factions that can end up taking over after the war is over. Even though the Anarchist are labeled not as Libertarian Socialist or some form of Syndicalism like in Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg (Which I think makes a better depiction of the varying level of ideologies that may exist in the world aside from the COM/DEM/FST trichotomy) They are instead labeled as non-aligned, not the best step but at least they're learning

  46. Good video i would have maybe interjected about alpha centauri but it falls to capitalist propoganda aswell-

    You handled marxist leninism fairly well for an anarchist

  47. super informative well made video, thanks  for your work comrade you have solid content!

  48. I think Hearts of Iron 4 suffers from being pulled in multiple directions, from the idea of being a good, meat and potatoes wargame on one side, and then being a 1936 simulator on the other. Most wargames don't really bother too much with with the mechanics of the different governments as in war time, they became more similar, rather than more different with the needs of wartime mobilization.

    Most spanish civil war games(at least in the cardboard space) do include the anarchists and the other factions of the Republican side, though usually in terms of their military significance(the Durruti column, for example.).

    The Victoria II notion of politics is quite bizarre and i'm not hugely into what the game offers, Anarcho-Liberalism is some bizarre inclusion but not necessarily the biggest sin in victoria 2 politics. I generally prefer more focused games that pick a thing to be about and then focus on being a good game in that context, rather than vague everything-games where you play the disembodied God of History but only for one country.

  49. Dang, that got more and more grim the more the video went on.

    In the context of Victoria, it really sounded like it was a limitation of the game's scope (not that that justifies it) – but in that it's a State Simulator. Same way as in, say, Civilization, your only method of manifesting your will is through a state apparatus, so by definition, Anarchism doesn't make sense to you, it doesn't, it *can't*, enter into your consciousness as anything other than an annoyance or setback. But then, oh lord, you went and reminded me of how 'you know, fascism is *practical*' these games can get.

  50. I hate "reactionary" being an adjective meaning "right-wing" and "radical" meaning "left-wing".
    They're such loaded terms that give an inherent implication that the Right is always justified, while the Left is always extreme/unjustified.
    The Right doesn't react to anything when they march into Fascism. If anything, the left is the reactionary side, always growing in response to the bullshittery the Right shits out.

    At least unless one considers Jews and people of color existing at all as something that can be "reacted to" legitimately.

  51. Love your content. You're one of my favorite lefty u2be content creators.

    I think it's also worth mentioning that these games are produced under a capitalist system by a capitalist company with capitalist goals. So it makes senses that they operate from that perspective.

  52. It's not a political strategy game, but I'm now a bit nervous about how paradox's upcoming Bloodlines 2 is going to handle the Anarchs… the original game and the source material already were far from perfect, but I was hoping for an improvement from "angry vampire in a red beret calls you bougie and says vampires could be better at communism than humans and then doesn't elaborate on her politics or philosophy at all." Hopefully it has a better educated writing team than the games you discussed.

  53. Wow! You're really killing it with these video topics. All very niche stuff that happens to apply specifically to me.
    Love the video, as always!!

  54. Don't know what you are talking about. Everything left of the democratic party is just waves of evil Russians who are both very dangerous and easily defeatable.

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