THREE – The Statist Society: The Formation of Slave Society

Hierarchical society represented the intermediate link between natural society and statist society based on class. A typical feature of this era was that both authority and military fealty were bound to a particular person. The subsequent institutionalization of authority implies a qualitative change. The state basically was an authority that gained continuity by its institutionalization.

Even though the state is possibly the most dangerous instrument in history, it remains one of the least understood. The culture it contains and the diversity of the interests that it carries out play a decisive role. Everything said and written about the state contributes to making it more mysterious and obfuscating its true meaning. Just as it is erroneous to regard the state as no more than a tool of coercion, the idea that it is a sacrosanct authority also obscures what is going on.

The analysis of the state is a fundamental problem that social science has yet to successfully grapple with. But without a comprehensive analysis of the state, no genuine solution to any social phenomenon or problem can be found. I think I am able to show that even a revolutionary like Lenin committed his greatest mistake when it came to analyzing the state.

What we have presented so far in our analysis of the state is far from adequately defining this phenomenon and must be supplemented. In doing so, we must always keep in mind the Sumerian model, since it is the original and has been transmitted to us by its written documents. When we try to define the “state” institution and its notion, we must be careful to free ourselves from some faulty ideas. For example, the view that states are established and then destroyed and replaced by others needs to be abandoned. We should also beware of overly focusing on the different forms of the state and the distance between the communities where the state is located, which could cause us to erroneously speak of a large number of states. These issues all have serious drawbacks.

It might be helpful to conceive of the state as a “society within society” or as a second society within the first society or, put another way, the lower society’s upper society. A second useful basic assumption is that the state, as a concept and as an institution, fragments lower society and has continuity over it. A complementary assumption is that the state is not just some arbitrary form of authority but is fundamentally a military-political authority.

Because of the respective perspectives and interests involved, the definitions of the state used by the various clerics, philosophers, or scientists are by no means objective. Moreover, for the most part, they attach importance only to one particular aspect. If the state is an obstacle to their interests, they are even prone to ignoring objective facts, embracing a fierce subjectivism and cursing the state. The approach of revolutionaries, on the other hand, seems to be susceptible to a moral pragmatism according to which the state is particularly evil when the task is to smash it, while it is a very good thing when the task is to establish one.

If one is not the founder of a state or inclined to philosophize about it, the state is a social instrument that has always turned people’s heads with the irresistible seduction of power and of possessing it and, in the process, has promoted them either to the rank of divinity or delivered them to annihilation.

The state is generally defined as a “republic,” a “democracy,” a “monarchy,” an “oligarchy,” or a “dictatorship,” making it even more difficult to understand its core and essence.

Observing how the Sumerian priests established a state-like institution gives us perhaps the most realistic information for understanding the state. At the outset, they established the temple, called the Ziggurat. They raised it toward the sky and dedicated the top floor to God and the bottom floor to their servants. The intermediate floors were then opened to the representatives of the middle classes. The surrounding houses and land were mere extensions of the temple. Their productive technology was stored in a section of the temple, and they kept very precise records of their quite substantial production. It was clear that this institution was a new society that obviously subsumed elements of the previous hierarchical and natural societies. They integrated from these societies whatever was useful for building the new one; anything that was useless or presented an obstacle was discarded.

The concept of “social engineering,” although new, is, nonetheless, a good description of what the Sumerian priests did. They functioned like “holy engineers of society” and created an apparatus that was initially greeted by the people with enthusiasm and festivity. A big mill wheel had been established; it was driven by the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris to create a historically unmatched surplus.1 Could there have been a greater feast for humanity than this? If this arrangement is not the greatest divinity, what is?

Undoubtedly, the essential nourishment for all of this came from the achievements of Neolithic natural society, the magnificent establishment in the foothills of the Zagros-Taurus Mountains. The means of production and the species of plants and animals in the area had been turned into a culture by the mother-woman society over thousands of years. The dexter-ity of the priests lay in their reorganization of all of this to create an upper society and to achieve a new mode of production by introducing artificial irrigation in the fertile lower Euphrates and the Tigris basin. This lies at the core of the invention of the state, an enormously important historical event. Subsequent processes were to add new floors to this state edifice and to erect the edifice anew in other places.

The congenial location for this upper society was the city. The mentality of the city and the state hasn’t by any means been exhaustively analyzed. This location, often described as “civilized society,” brought revolutionary changes both to the humanity’s mentality and the material structure of production—or perhaps one should say it forms the basis of a great counterrevolutionary change in comparison to natural society. It improved rationality, writing, and many forms of the arts and crafts, but at what price? Whether this was an urban revolution or an urban counterrevolution is still of great importance, something that we must comprehensively reflect upon. In that context, we must not forget that many historical movements, especially the monotheistic religions, were also directed against these structures. The vice-like grip of urban society on humanity resembles hell much more than paradise, or, to put it more precisely, as illustrated by examples to this day, has brought paradise to a very few, while condemning the overwhelming majority to a life in hell.

The substance of the society of the city-state is such that it invites domination, property, and oppression in every respect. It was not easy to habituate people who came from a natural society to this system. Among the absolutely necessary preconditions for this system were domination of the minds of the city dwellers by frightening gods and the use of women as instruments of seduction—the initial prostitution. Entrenching servitude was only possible with these two deep-seated institutions, religion and prostitution, and by constant and daily supervision. Both institutions have profound opiate-like characteristics.

This structure of mentality and production formed around the first original exemplar of city-state society has since been perfected in all areas. It was created in Sumer and never disappeared. It is that structure of mentality that has reached the present like so many links in a chain. The Egyptian, Hittite, and Greek city-states represented slight variations on the original. That the roots of this trio stretch back to Sumer as the first link in the chain is further corroborated by an increasing number of historical documents.

The next links in the chain, China, India, and Rome, achieved universal significance. Because this is not a historical treatise, we will not deal further with these epochs here.2 Rather, we are trying to establish the unity and continuity of the state—unity in the sense of existence and continuity in the temporal sense are important factors in the life of the state. To describe each occurrence as a distinct and separate founding of a state would not provide a useful basis for analysis. Repeatedly analyzing the same essence does not enhance its meaning; it only repeats it.

When we examine the Sumerian example closely, we discover right from the outset that two functions have been interwoven in state society. On the one hand, the state serves as an instrument of authority and repression and, on the other, as a public productive system that feeds the whole city. From that point on, this double quality would preoccupy the people as the fundamental contradiction of the state. One cannot do with it or without it. As an instrument of repression and power, the state is all but unbearable, but, as an instrument of public safety and production, it has become indispensable.

Here, the main problem is whether or not public safety and production—the common good of society—require repression and authority from the start. Is it not possible for the society to have common safety and production for all without the state? If it is possible, this would make the state as an instrument of force superfluous. This is the crucial point of this problem. In a way, the state has turned into a huge conglomerate of interests, a configuration where a certain amount of a drug is mixed into a good meal. The very subtlety of the clerical state system is demonstrated by the way that it enables the emergence of an exploitative and parasitic group by obfuscating this distinction.

Even an anarchist theorist like Mikhail Bakunin, who considered the state absolutely “evil,” had to concede that it is a necessary evil. Marxism has likewise considered the state as necessary at a certain stage of social development. In what follows, I will show in detail that the state as an instrument of force and repression is neither a necessary instrument of progress nor a necessary evil. It is an instrument that has been an unnecessary and superfluous plague right from the start and has gradually transformed itself into the equivalent of a gang of thugs. Seen from that perspective, it would be best to regard it as a social metastasis from the very first day, something that should have been denounced, isolated, and removed immediately. We ought to treat it as an instrument of collective security and production for society and define it as a social instrument that would no longer be called a state in the classic sense. It is more realistic and appropriate to call such a social entity “democracy.” This is something I will go into in more detail in the next sections.

The prototype of democracy can be seen in the beneficial hierarchy that exists in natural society. Both the mother-women and the experienced old men are essential and useful fundamental elements that ensure collective safety and the management of the community, a community not based on accumulation and property, and are, thus, accorded great uncoerced respect.

As soon as this is taken advantage of, and authority and selfish interests take the place of voluntary loyalty and considerations of utility, the superfluous instrument of violence establishes itself over society. It is part of the essence of all exploitative and repressive systems that the instrument of force masks itself as an instrument of collective security and collective production. This was the most malign of all inventions and would bring with it all later forms of slavery, terrorizing mythologies and religions, systematic annihilation and plunder, massacres and genocides.

Marxism’s explanation for the emergence of this process is that a more advanced society is born from the womb of the previous backward society, with violence as its midwife. But this belief, which we all once shared, fundamentally deforms our understanding of the state, as well as of revolution, democracy, and the practices of organization. I don’t think any movement for freedom and equality in history has succeeded in overcoming this approach within this scope through the articulation of such a self-critique. Because of these deformed views, all religious orders and philosophical schools and all states and political movements supposedly working for the benefit of the oppressed in effect achieved the opposite of what they originally set out to achieve.

As the comparison with the Leviathan suggests, the tradition of the state as an instrument of domination is indeed that of a monster with an insatiable thirst for blood and exploitation. It sustains itself on blood down to its very last cell. Many examples have shown how this monster destroys and sacrifices the most valuable individuals, including its own apparent masters, without batting an eye, and how it crushes all of society’s moral traditions to dust without the slightest hesitation. If an Ottoman sultan murders his seventeen brothers in a single night “for the well-being of state,” even he, as the “master” of this instrument, knows that he is merely following its rules.3 In Roman history, the history of Iran, and in all histories of the state as a tool of arbitrary force, we likewise find innumerable examples of the ideological cover-up of all forms of cruelty.

Here, it is particularly important to investigate the mentality and social institutions formed by the phenomenon of the state. The alienation of mentality from nature, unimaginable class formations, and a whole series of special organizations and military institutions are all inventions of this coercive instrument. The sultan, the emperor, the shah, the raja, and the imperator turned into almost godlike beings, even though they merely represented a culture characterized by total contempt for work and the praise of plunder and robbery—a world of parasites with an understanding of a “god” who orders what they want done, and which includes both bogus paradises and bogus netherworlds. For thousands of years, rivers of blood have been flowing for the glory of these foul highnesses.

Filling this instrument of domination and force with revolutionary content is like giving a fox in charge of a henhouse a revolutionary role. On the other hand, stressing only the repressive side of the state, while simultaneously denying its effect on the social forms, leads to anarchism. The state is a Janus-faced phenomenon that, thus far, has always had the last word.

The real challenge is to make the distinction between the necessary and unnecessary aspects of state power. We should regard this phenomenon neither as a necessary evil nor as a sacred being. It is just such one-sided approaches that have led to the biggest errors of the human intellect.

When we say that the state has essentially remained the same over time, we are, of course, not saying that it did not change form. On the contrary, the sameness of the essence has required changes in form. This dialectical principle applies to every phenomenon.

We can learn more about the state by observing it in the era of slavery, the state-based form of society that existed for longer than any other where the state became deep-seated. We can see slaveholding states in their purest form in the Sumerian and Egyptian societies. The Sumerian and Egyptian slave state forms entrenched fundamental changes in the way the mental, social, and economic institutionalization developed in society. The mindset of natural societies is based on an understanding of animate nature. People believed that each phenomenon of nature has a soul. These souls or spirits are understood as the carriers of life.

In totemistic belief, there was no concept of a “transcendent god” who is different from humans and who rules from the outside. People strove to be in consonance with the spirits of nature. To deviate from this practice was tantamount to death. This fundamental view of nature necessarily leads to the need for extraordinary harmony. We see a life lived according to the most basic principle of ecology. Contradictions between social life and the forces of nature were something people tried their utmost to avoid. Life in consonance with the environment—the forces of nature—was, thus, the basic principle kept in mind while a belief system and morality were being developed. This life principle was so deeply rooted in the minds of all human beings that it occupied a privileged place in their religious and moral traditions.

Actually, this is tantamount to the transfer of the principle of the general flow of natural life to human society. Nothing and nobody can exist without concern for the environment. Under new internal and external conditions, transient deviations from the main flow will always reunify with it, because otherwise they would remain outside of the system and cease to exist. The particular significance of the ecological principle in human society is due to this fundamental subjectivity of nature.4

The emergence of statist slave society resulted in a clear departure from this vital and essential principle. The problems of ecology and the environment are closely related to the emergence of the society in this manner, to the beginning of civilization; class society stands in contradiction to nature. The main reason for this is the new society’s paradigm based on a slave mentality that was formed through a profound counterrevolution. In natural society, all members of the community participated in all aspects of life in an organic way. Each person counted as a genuine, true member of society. Beliefs and feelings were shared by all, and the concepts of “lying” and “cheating” had not yet developed. They seemed to speak in the same child-like language as nature. To rule over nature and to misuse it was considered the greatest sin and was taboo in their morality and religions—their newly developed laws of society.

In the new statist slave society, these fundamental religious and moral views were turned into their opposite. From that point on, gaining social legitimacy not only required resorting to violence but also to lies. It is impossible to run the system of slavery exclusively by force. The system cannot be maintained without binding the society to deep-seated beliefs. This was the historical phase when the fundamental ideological inventions of the Sumerian and Egyptian priests made their first appearance, inventions that have pervaded all of history until today. The most fundamental basis for legitimacy and “acceptance” of the system is the mythological framework of thought that the priests grouped around a number of concepts they had invented. The most important feature of this mythology was that it put the new world of the gods above natural events. En, Enlil, and Ra, as the initial gods, were perfectly suited to the task of elevating the new class of the masters— Rab—and mystifying them.5 The gods and the rule of the slaveholder class were intertwined when they emerged. Just as the new masters now led a hitherto unknown palace life from a throne, without working but through commanding alone, the gods, as their fictional symbols, were also enthroned above all forces of nature. Rule over society was thus projected as rule over nature. It was the beginning of the rule of the religion of the commanding gods superseding animism, the religion of natural spirituality. The shift to explaining natural events by gods instead of by spirits led to radical changes in mentality.

There are lucid reasons for not calling this a revolution but, rather, a counterrevolution. It was the beginning of the most dangerous and negative period in history. As I briefly mentioned in the discussion of quantum physics, today the conception of nature as something that is actually alive is once again widely discussed in scientific circles, albeit in a manner quite different from the way it was understood in natural society. Indeed, the assumption that every natural object has subjectivity, a “law in which it acts and a level of meaning,” has something revolutionary to it. The subjectivity that governs materialized matter is the energy it holds. Energy is a reality that is not matter; in a sense, it is the spirit of matter.

In the end, albeit differently, this understanding bases itself on an ecological life that is in consonance with the natural flow in a way similar to the understanding of initial society. The rupture from this basic principle constitutes the reason that environmental problems have become the greatest danger that faces humanity today. The mentality and mode of production of class society are what lies at the foundation of this rupture.

A second important related turning point that sparked a huge and perilous leap was the rupture between emotional intelligence and analytical intelligence. All living beings have emotional intelligence. In a certain sense, it represents subjectivity, the state of mind that is specific to natural processes. On the other hand, the evolutionary development of humans was accompanied by a tendency toward analytical intelligence.

Analytical intelligence enables faster decisions and, therefore, faster changes, but, along with this, the rate of aberration also increases. Emotional intelligence is simple, but it deploys the “certainty of instincts.” Instincts develop through the transformation of conditioned reflexes into unconditioned reflexes. Even though they represent the simplest form of learning, they have proven to be very stable. Since they are the product of hundreds of thousands of years of experience, they are not easily fallible. They have close relations to life and, thus, immediately react to internal or external conditions that are threatening life or are otherwise relevant to it. These aspects quickly prevent them from playing the role of analytical intelligence. Nevertheless, emotional intelligence remains the prevalent force at work for life. It doesn’t interpret things—it enables survival. Increased interpretation always leads to a greater rate of aberration.

Analytical intelligence, on the other hand, mostly through interpretation, tries to tailor new courses and new forms of behavior to emotional intelligence. The fact that human species live in a social manner is related to the level of development of analytical intelligence. It is analytical intelligence that provides rapid social development, but because, alone, it lacks the emotional dimension, it becomes dangerous when given free reign. Analytical intelligence becomes particularly frightening once human beings get used to the culture of power and war. Among the most telling expressions of this form of intelligence are the recent wars of annihilation. Analytical intelligence is literally cold mechanical precision without empathy and sympathy or feelings of compassion, fear, or love, making this destructive feature extremely dangerous. On the other hand, if it works in harmony with emotional intelligence, it can play a decisive role in the formation of healthy and competent individuals and communities.

Within the society of the slave state, a grand rupture developed between these two forms of intelligence. Perhaps one could speak of a class intelligence, a mind that breaks away from the emotional intelligence that dominated natural society, an intelligence that instead exclusively specializes in the art of repression and exploitation. This is a development that would lead to extremely harmful results. The material basis for the formation of the class we are talking about is the abundant surplus product of the slave production mode,6 which developed based on the surplus product of Neolithic society. Only by administering production did this class acquire the ability to seize a large part of the production for itself. At this point, the only thing missing was a new mentality that justified this mode of production. The mythologies woven around the new ruling gods were the result of the search for this mentality. What we have before us is a phase of radical reorientation toward analytical intelligence, an intelligence mainly preoccupied with designing laws for the subordination of the servants and presenting this process as a commandment that came from the immortal gods. The immense historical importance of the Sumerian and Egyptian priests was a result of this issue having played such a large role in the history of humanity. Their particular form of intelligence, which broke with natural life and with natural society, has succeeded in creating an enormous mythological and fictional system. To make the servants believe all of this, they created a system of schools, temples, and statues designed to impress and mesmer-ize them. By replacing the harmless animistic religions of natural society with religions dominated by ruling gods, they increasingly extended the realm of submission. By contorting and exploiting the feelings of fear, they carefully explained why one had to be afraid of these new gods and what the reward would be if one followed their commandments. For the first time, they invented utopias that featured both heaven and hell. They developed an ideological system designed to guarantee a perfect consonance with the new class of masters. The fact that their way of thinking was mythological suited the spirit of the time. The religion of animism was actually libertarian and egalitarian. This new religion, primarily characterized by mythology, was a class religion, a religion of inequality and slavery. It demanded absolute subordination to its gods—i.e., to the “masters.”

This counterrevolution in mentality was actually one of the greatest triumphs of analytical intelligence in human history; it was the development of the class mind. From that point on, history, literature, the arts, law, and politics were reproduced with this class mentality. We can see the clearest, most unadulterated expression of this process in Sumerian and Egyptian mythology. At this point, the ideology of the ruling exploiter class was on its way to creating an upper society—a statist society. Each step in this direction was carried out in the name of the whole society and was, accordingly, attributed to it. Little by little, the ideology of the mother-goddess that had been transmitted from natural society was exploited, emptied of its content, and assimilated. In this way, everyone was pushed into the service of the system of male gods. In the same way, women were pushed into the service of men. This was the beginning of both public and private prostitution.7 The free and equal members of natural society were transformed into the new class of servants. A Sumerian myth describes how humans were created from the excrement of the gods. The claim that the first woman was created from a man’s rib also first figured in Sumerian mythology. Sumerian mythology was indeed a truly remarkable success that greatly influenced all later mythologies. It is, thus, the primordial source of the monotheistic religions, as well as of literature and law. A similar influence can be attributed to the Gilgamesh epic, which has found an echo in legends all across the world.

As an extended analysis of the structure of the Sumerian mentality is not the topic of the present remarks, it is sufficient to state that what was at the beginning of history and, therefore, of civilization, was not just coercion but also analytical intelligence. Sumerian mythology was undoubtedly the main source of the process. And the origin of later metaphysical thought should be sought in this intelligence. A handful of masters at the top did not stop at simply living in their heavenly palaces but simultaneously laid the foundation for the world of legends and utopias that has tantalized and consoled humanity ever since. Indeed, this “big society lie” took root in the minds of all of humanity and institutionalized itself in a most powerful manner through all sorts of mythologies, legends, temples, and schools.

This counterrevolution in Sumerian society was actually the most radical change in mentality of all time and radically changed the paradigm, that is, the fundamental view of nature and the universe, first in society in the Middle East, then in that of all humanity. Natural society and its concept of an “animate nature and universe” are both colorful and productive. Its members don’t see nature as vengeful and evil but regard her as a mother. Amargi, the Sumerian word for freedom, simultaneously means return to the mother. This word alone illustrates an important aspect of the counterrevolutionary mindset. From the perspective of the new mythology, however, both nature and the universe are full of dominating and punitive gods. These gods—in reality, oppressive and exploitative despots—are elevated outside of nature and increasingly hide themselves. It is as if they had dried up nature itself. Thereafter, the perception of inanimate nature and inanimate matter were developed. Just like servants created from the excrement of the gods, all living beings were increasingly humiliated in the same way. This paradigm, which increasingly became more deep-seated, paralyzing the mentality of the society in today’s Middle East, must be seen as a key reason for the region’s failure to pull itself together. European society only succeeded in demolishing this paradigm with the Copernican Revolution and the Christian Reformation. Giordano Bruno, a genius of the Renaissance, was burned alive at the stake, because he vehemently advocated the perception of animate nature.8 But the paradigm never really managed to penetrate formations like Chinese and Japanese societies, which is why these societies adapt to positive developments much more quickly. One reason for this is their perception of an animate universe. There was a similar factor at play in the development of Greek and Roman civilization, namely, the fact that the philosophical way of thinking overcame Sumerian-Egyptian mythologies and replaced them with metaphysical and dialectical constructions.

While “the state” as a concept and its core features emerged in the priests’ temples, it was the domain and responsibility of the hierarchical society’s council of elders and the military chief’s entourage to institutionalize it and to elevate it to a ruling power. The power of the state is determined by the intense and long-term relationships and contradictions between these three groups. First, we witness the rule of priest-kings, who then gradually retreat into the background and are replaced by a council of elders—a primitive form of democracy. Later, we see the development of the rule of a military chief whose power was the ultimate determinant. This process is reflected in the poetic-mythological language of the Gilgamesh epic. Gilgamesh himself represents the military chief, the “hero.” Compared to him, the once powerful priests and priestesses appear quite pale. Enkidu represents the first known example of the military recruitment of other ethnic groups, who are called “barbarians.” This was the point at which organization beyond family ties first emerged.

The intoxicating effect of power led to the subjugation of the powerless and the self-representation of the owners of the surplus product as god-kings. An era began in which the human ego conceived of itself as “the greatest of all.” Nature and society were now reinterpreted as the creations of a god-king. This interpretation occupies a privileged place in all mythologies. The apprehension that God is the “master of all things” has its roots in Sumerian and Egyptian mythology. They are the source from which it made its way into the Holy Scripture. In this way, the power of the state was to be eternalized.

If the state hadn’t undergone further development, in particular, if it had not armed itself with mythology, it would have never been more than a gang of thieves. The impressive productivity of state power at that time led to a situation in which it was presented as the reflection of an extraordinary divine institution and could, thereby, dominate people’s minds. In this sense it could be understood as the most refined organization of extortion. At this point, we encounter the power of ideology. It persuaded people to regard this great extortive organization as the sacred institution of a divine commandment. Whenever the power of the state is praised beyond measure, we have to assume that some great robbery accompanied by a mystification of interests is taking place. The god-kings knew this very well when they presented and institutionalized themselves. Magnificent palaces, a military entourage composed of the strongest men, an effective secret service, an impressive harem, a renowned dynasty, a lineage showing which god a particular god-king descended of, and grov-eling ministers and subordinates who rendered homage—these were all indispensable elements in this institutionalization. The pyramid tombs were actually more like a permanent earthly palace. Garments, scepters, and seals were standard accessories that were always with them. Now, the role of other members of society was to constantly worship this supreme divine establishment and show gratitude. The attributes of God recounted in the Holy Scripture are mostly reiterations or partially altered versions of those of the Sumerian and Egyptian god-kings.

When they died—or, rather, when they made the transition to the afterlife—their whole entourage was buried alive with them, because the existence of an entourage separated from the body of the king was unthinkable. Another reason for their burial was the fact that the king needed their services in the afterlife. The descendants left in the world had the task of continuing their existence. This also played a part in the emergence of the concept of “immortality.” This striking example clearly shows how analytical intelligence transformed society by detaching from reality.

The construction of a single pyramid required the work of hundreds of thousands of slaves, who were often worked to death. The form of state power erected at that time has been a permanent and destructive catastrophe for humanity. From then on, concepts like “atrocity,” “judgment day,” and “savior ” became part of humanity’s vocabulary. Under these circumstances, the concept of “prophetic personalities” as freedom fighters takes shape. The prophets would emerge as the ones who could provide salvation from this great disaster. Again, the source is Sumerian society.

One social group that lost out, along with all of natural society, was women. Sumerian mythology reads like the lamentation of women who lost. The Inanna cult carries the traces of the previous women-centric society and reflects the major struggles waged against the rising male-dominated society. While the majority of the gods of the first cities were of female origin, they were increasingly replaced by gods of male identity. And, again, the temples were the key institutions when the fall of women was prepared. The temples devoted to the mother-goddess Inanna, led by female priestesses, that had been widespread in the beginning, were now taken over one by one and gradually transformed into brothels.

The domestic order of natural society around the mother-woman was a completely different institution. While women were no one’s property, the mother-woman herself was the leader of her children and the man she desired. At this time, the institution of marriage in the classic sense had not yet developed. The patriarchal family under the rule of the male became widespread as male-dominated society took shape on the basis of the state institution. This is how the institution of the family first took shape, lasting until the present day, even if in a modified form. Within the patriarchal family, the position of women grew weaker and weaker until, like the children, they became the property of men. For women this kind of family is nothing but a cage.

Leading social scientists agree that there is no other form of slavery that is as deeply entrenched and permanent as the patriarchal family under male rule. To be able to analyze the degree of enslavement in a particular society, you must analyze the degree of enslavement of women in its many forms. It is not just about the practical and mental dependency that materializes in women. Her emotions, her physical movements, her voice, and her way of dressing herself all reflect the way in which she is enslaved. Rings were affixed to her nose, her ears, her wrists, and her ankles. They were symbols of the chains of slavery. In medieval times, she was even forced to wear a chastity belt. A very one-sided code of honor and moral understanding developed. Women were ideologically nullified. They were stripped of all the valuables they possessed and were themselves transformed into merchandise. They were reduced to the value of their bride price.

Women’s slavery, which has its roots deeply embedded in Sumerian society, is a topic that remains seriously understudied. The bondage that began with hierarchical society continued through the temple of the priests and ended with them being forced into men’s huts and assigned the lowest status. Since then, in effect, it is this status that has been continuously fostered. As far as women are concerned, the basic focus of education, morality, and literature is on how they are to serve their men with all their feelings and actions, all the while “minimizing their mental power.”

Male slaves gain a certain status by using their physical strength and by providing a lot more surplus product. Their slavery is primarily economic. Women, however, are enslaved, body, mind, and soul. If released from his bondage, a male slave can possibly become a free person. If women are set free, they are then often re-enslaved in an even worse way. This phenomenon shows how intensely this slavery has been internalized. On close inspection, it is easy to see how everything about women has been mercilessly designed according to the wishes of men. The way they walk and talk, their gaze and bodily posture, everything seems to say: “I’ve been forced to submit and surrender.” The primary reason that the enslavement of women is not analyzed is the insatiability of men, the satisfaction that they get from this dictatorship. The prototype of the god-king in society is the man as the master of the woman at home; he is not just a husband but, in effect, the “god-husband.” This quality, without losing anything essential, is one that has continued its effect into the present.

Economically, slave state society functioned like a huge factory, although it was different from the modern factory with regard to technical equipment and property relations. The masters drove the slaves like a herd of cattle. The surviving buildings and edifices from that ancient time are testimony to the unbelievable amount of slave labor exerted in the fields, in the quarries, and on the construction sites. Driving slaves required more force and violence than driving animals. The slave was a work animal, a matter of property and a mere means of production. Slaves were outside the scope of the law, without emotions, as if they were merchandise. The form of analytical intelligence in men can best be seen in the reality of slaves.

Another institution that made a solid start in slave state society was the institution of property. In its essence, the system was based on a process whereby upper society turned lower society and all they had into property. The god-kings and their representatives owned everything. Ownership was the natural consequence of domination. If the human ego was given the opportunity to put on airs, there was no longer any limit. The lack of factors that could have a constraining effect during the system’s founding period led to the cult of the god-king. Beginning with and from the state, a property order unknown to natural society infiltrated all institutions, including the family, and created a sense of property as central among all members of society. Property was regarded as the foundation of the state and declared sacred. From then on, there was a drive to turn the whole world into property. To this day, property boundaries—as state borders, dynastic landholdings and homeland borders—are in various forms engraved into the consciousness of humans as almost God-given.

Actually, property as the source of unearned income is indeed theft. Of all the institutions, it is the one that disrupts the collective solidarity of society the most. But it is indispensable as the fundamental institution for nurturing upper society.

We defined natural society as the spontaneous state of ecological society. One of the most fundamental social contradictions to date is the fact that ecological society is continuously pushed back by the expansion and deepening of state society. The more the internal contradictions of a society develop, the greater its contradiction with its external environment becomes. Domination of humans is accompanied by the domination of nature. Of course, a system that has no mercy on human beings will not hesitate to do all kinds of damage to nature. In any case, dominance and conquest have firm places within ruling-class morality. Ruling over nature is regarded as a right and honorable behavior as is ruling over humans. Natural society’s animist approach to nature and the sacredness attributed to it are ignored. It is conquered as if it were enemy territory. As long as these concepts dominate the mentality of statist society, the way is paved for ongoing environmental disasters, which have already taken on colossal dimensions.

All this may suffice as a definition of statist society in its foundational phase. It might be asked why I speak of “slave state society” rather than simply “slave society.” I think the former notion is more concrete and serves the purpose if the state is seen as upper society.

Slavery is unthinkable without the state. State power is the fundamental condition for its existence. The state is not an abstract institution. It is the joint organization of those who have taken control of the instruments of repression and exploitation. We should view public safety and all its other public works as necessary services to mask its real purpose and gain greater legitimacy in the eyes of society. Another important reason to call it a statist society is the fact that the feudal and the capitalist forms of society had also come into existence in rudimentary forms and continue their development based on this very same state. The common and indispensable institution for those groups that exploit and repress is the state. With regard to repression and exploitation, no other institution has ever been more effective and successful.

While Sumer and Egypt were the original forms of the slave state society, the Hittite, Chinese, and Indian examples are like a second ring that replicate these forms. Institutions that are the same at the core reemerge in different forms. The more original examples of Iran and the Greek and Roman civilizations have attained an important transformation in the realm of mentality, with philosophical thought making significant progress in the area of a morality of freedom. As a result, the institution of slavery was somewhat relaxed. As such, we can talk about the archaic and primitive founding phase of the system from 3000 to 2000 BCE, the time of its maturation from 2000 to 1000 BCE, and its classical period from 1000 to 300 BCE.

Of course, humanity also continued to develop during the phase of slavery, the foundational social system of class-based civilization. The system of slavery did not, however, determine everything. For example, the urban revolution should not be regarded as the result of slavery. Cities were possible with neither a state nor slavery. There are numerous examples of cities that did not become states. It would also be a terrible mistake to regard slavery as the necessary precondition for writing, mathematics, other sciences or skilled crafts, architecture, or the various arts that developed alongside the city.

The idea that slavery is a lever of progress in this sense is a fundamental error that many schools of thought—including Marxism—have subscribed to. This, in fact, only proves that science and the arts were not able to detach themselves from the state. Instead, the state took control of them whenever it could, thereby preventing their free development and putting them to use for its own interests. History shows us that science and the arts did not develop as a consequence of slavery. Actually, they were seriously hampered by its very existence. The most important inventions and discoveries made between 6000 and 4000 BCE, when there was no slavery, were unparalleled until the period from 1600 to 1900 CE. In the five thousand years in between, comparatively little happened. It is well known that from 1600 to 1900 CE, it was primarily individual researchers who contributed to scientific advances. The state, for its part, always monopolized the results.

Even though the emergence of analytical thought has much to do with the development of the cities, the slave state society proceeded to distort this way of thinking to advance its own class interests. It was not slavery that brought about the development of analytical thought. The slave system came upon humanity like a nightmare by misusing this mode of thought to create a gigantic world of lies. The fact that people have located the development of science and the arts, the common culture of humanity, in slavery and other classed society forms can only be explained by the existence of a power-knowledge complex,9 i.e., by the power of the state over the arts and sciences. If evaluations of the above sort made in the name of ideologies and movements for freedom and equality are not the result of conscious efforts, they must be the subconscious consequence of a loyalty to this power complex. Even when talking about Marxism-Leninism, this assessment remains accurate.

In the following chapters, I will try to show in detail that even Marxism-Leninism was unable to free itself completely from the dominating power-knowledge complex, and that this was one of the main reasons for the collapse of real socialism.

Between 250 BCE and 500 CE, the slave society form of the state fell into a general crisis and came to an end with the rule of feudal society as the upper form. Decisive factors were external attacks by “barbarians”— having the characteristics of natural society—and internal social erosion, along with the struggle with emerging Christianity. What dissolved, however, was not the state but only its slaveholding form. As events showed, the state would fortify itself and transform into the feudal state.


1 Unlike Upper Mesopotamia, the country of the Sumerians in today’s southern Iraq required artificial irrigation to develop and a great deal of well-organized labor, rendering it extremely fertile. The mill wheel in the text should, therefore, be understood in a literal sense.

2 For a comprehensive presentation, see Abdullah Öcalan, Sümer Rahip Devletinden Demokratik Uygarlığa: AİHM Savunmaları I. Cilt I. (Neuss: Mezopotamien Verlag, 2002); in English, see Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization (London: Pluto Press, 2007).

3 This is a reference to Sultan Mehmed III (1566–1603), but fratricide was a fairly frequent phenomenon among Ottoman sultanates.

4 Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (Cheshire Books, 1982).

5 In the patriarchal pantheon of the Sumerians, En was the god of the heavens and Enlil the god of the wind. Ra was the Egyptian god of the sun.

6 The term “surplus product” describes all products that exceed the immediate needs for survival.

7 The latter term, “private prostitution,” refers to the institution of marriage; see Öcalan, Sümer Rahip Devletinden Demokratik Uygarlığa; in English, see Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization (London: Pluto Press, 2007).

8 Giordano Bruno advocated a pantheism according to which God was present in everything. At the time, the Church treated pantheism as equivalent of atheism.

9 “Perhaps, too, we should abandon a whole tradition that allows us to imagine that knowledge can exist only where the power relations are suspended and that knowledge can develop only outside its injunctions, its demands and its interests. . . . We should admit rather that power produces knowledge. . .; that power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations. These ‘power-knowledge relations’ are to be analyzed, therefore, not on the basis of a subject of knowledge who is or is not free in relation to the power system, but, on the contrary, the subject who knows, the objects to be known and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so many effects of these fundamental implications of power-knowledge and their historical transformations”; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 8.

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