Politics in Elysium Before the Fool's War
Political activity within Autarchic Elysium can be separated into three broad, overlapping categories: the politics of the unemployed and unbonded laboring classes; the politics of the Guilds, merchants, minor aristocracy, and other educated elites; and the politics of the Autarchic court.
The character of court politics was determined by the character of the Autarch. Unfortunately, Autarch Miraxus II was a man of very weak character indeed. Miraxus II was not unintelligent, and had enjoyed the best education that late feudalist Mars could offer. But he suffered grievously from a lack of imagination, and even more from an inability to tolerate anyone who threatened to outshine him – in one infamous incident, he ordered a Major in the Municipal Defense Force barred from the palace for correcting a minor point of nomenclature (a punishment that would do the Major no small good during the Revolution). As a result, his court was dominated by the mediocre and the corrupt, who could be counted on to pose no threat to the Autarch's self-esteem.
The politics of the educated classes was dominated by the struggle between the emerging middle classes and the reactionary aristocracy and Guilds. Although formal political parties were outlawed in Elysium as subversive, the views of these groups could be broadly categorized into several factions: the Autarchial faction, supporting the Autarchy and the court; the Traditionalists, supporting the rights of the Guilds and aristocracy, though generally in alliance with the Autarchy; and the Progressives, supporting the new middle classes. Each of these factions had their own daily newsfiles, informal clubs of supporters, and political agendas. Broadly speaking, the Progressives sought to expand the ranks of the Aristocracy and the Guilds, both in recognition of the new economic realities, and to create new social and economic opportunities for themselves and their children. The Autarchials and the Traditionalists sought to constrain this expansion, while feuding amongst themselves over how much control the theoretically-absolute Autarch should have over the Guilds and the aristocracy. Besides these three main factions, there were also smaller radical factions, most notably the Zealots, the Republicans, and the Martians.
The politics of the lower classes was mostly nascent. We say that it was dominated by the Zealots, the Republicans, and the Martians, because these were the three factions competing for influence and support among the lower classes. But, prior to the Fool's War, these remained extreme minorities within a largely apolitical, apathetic mass. The primary difference between the three groups was their focus: while all three were theoretically committed to the overthrow of the Autarchy, and both the Zealots and the Republicans to the reconquest of Earth, the Zealots focused on the former, the Republicans on the latter. The Zealots, in particular, were uncompromising in their demand for social justice, with articulate and elaborate plans for the establishment of a democratic government and the dismantling of the Guilds and the aristocracy. The Republic, on the other hand, was explicitly, and deliberately, vague about its immediate political plans, calling for a pragmatic approach that made use of whatever resources and structures were available to achieve the grand aim of retaking Earth. The Martians rejected any attempt to retake Earth, believing that the only reasonable objective for humanity was to make as good a life as possible on Mars.
In the short run, the Zealots far outstripped the Republicans and the Martians in support, both because of their more immediately appealing aims and because of their larger initial cadre in Elysium. In the long run, however, the deliberate flexibility of the Republicans would prove decisive.
After the collapse of Hellas Trading, the political landscape of Elysium began to shift, slowly at first, but quickly accelerating as Elysium approached the Fools' War. Although the Traditionalists remained nominally supportive of the Autarchy – anything less would be grounds for arrest by Internal Security – the long-simmering resentment of the upper aristocracy towards the “malcon-in-chief” began to boil over, and there were whispers that, perhaps, the interests of the aristocracy and the Guilds might be better safeguarded by a different Autarch. Within the Progressives, attitudes towards the Autarch became positively venomous, and Progressive newsfiles made a game of skirting the edges of what IntSec would consider treasonous.
As yet, little of this penetrated to the lower classes, who were used to destitution. But that would change, soon.