The revisionist historians of Free Mars paint the corporate order of the post-Hellas and pre-Revolution days as a totalitarian tyranny, holding the entire planet in a fist of steel. The truth is very different: the power of the corporations was comparatively weak outside the major cities. The Martian Outback was a myriad of small, effectively self-governing settlements scattered across a territory with land area equal to Earth. Crucially for the independence movement, many regions remained officially under martial law after the overreactions to the Hellas Revolt. Policing this martial law was extremely difficult, but even its existence precluded the operation of a lawful opposition to the regime. From the beginning, those groups calling for Martian self-determination had the character of a revolutionary underground.
The nascent Martian culture and national identity were rapidly entangled with the secessionist movement. Indeed, many second and third generation Martians had no allegiance to the "Mother Planet" whatsoever. The Underground was a loose alliance of groups drawn from many backgrounds and supporting many ideologies. It was bound together by calls for Martian independence: "All Martians are revolutionaries; all revolutionaries are comrades." The Underground had mostly moved from vulnerable tent-canyons into mesas, cavern systems and lava tubes. Many Martian natives had never even been to the corporate strongholds of the old cities. By the 2190s there were three quarters of a million Martians living outside the corporate order.
However, the major factor in Martian population growth was the vast flood of immigrants from Earth, who greatly outnumbered the native population. The separatists of Hellas had considered the Beanstalk a danger to the Martian culture, and in a sense it was. However, the very diversity of Terran cultures brought to Mars by immigrants actually facilitated the rapid assimilation of many immigrant populations into the cohesive Martian culture. Almost all new settlers, however, were linked by commercial interests to the metanationals.
The increase in population within the corporate sphere lead to a diversification of legal political parties and to the emergence of Mars-based corporations as a significant element of the Martian economy. These corporations employed not only recent immigrants, but also many native Martians, who saw devolution of corporate power to Mars-based companies as the first step towards gaining political independence. The Martian corporations and Reformist factions within the IDC formed the core of a moderate political bloc intermediate between the Earth-Metanational order and the indigenous culture. In the middle years of the century, this liberal alliance was supported by the vast majority of Martians.
Liberalism was eventually squeezed between Earth colonial hardliners amongst corporates and Martian radicals as the immigration question approached revolutionary crisis. The reformers simply lacked the political strength to oppose the overwhelming power of Earth's metanationals. As this weakness became apparent, many groups withdraw from corporate-dominated Regional Assemblies in favour of the Underground's truly democratic Martian Councils. Soon the ground had crumbled beneath the political centre.
As the relationship between the Martian natives and the IDC became openly confrontational, Arkady Aharanov's Krasnaya Volia Party emerged as a major force. The principles of the Underground had become increasing anarchist, but Aharanov reversed this trend within his party. Although a Free Mars would, of course, be decentralised and democratic, the centralised control of the Party would enable Krasnaya Volia to act with greater coordination and decisiveness against the "Terran oppressors". Aharanov's party became the first of the Free Martian Alliance to begin construction of ASAT missiles, stealthed comsats and other military assets for the coming struggle for near-Martian space and the Beanstalk.
Inevitably, the interests of corporate citizens began to align with those of the native Martians, for further immigration was against the best interests of all those on Mars. The Underground began to spread to most of the older settlements and many corporate sites, and revolutionary propaganda began to stress the need for the solidarity of all Martians in the opposition to Earth. Although outlawed by the IDC, Krasnaya Volia became the fastest growing political party amongst the newly radicalised corporate workers. Strikes and demonstrations against Terran hegemony became endemic even in the northern cities, the heartland of the metanational order on Mars. Intercorporate Security responded by attempting to suppress both legal and illegal political parties, dissolving the Regional Assemblies, extending curfews, instituting random security checks and attempting to control information flow on the metanational networks. Significantly for the later Revolution, corporate security troops by this time were on five-year fixed terms from Earth to prevent infiltration by Mars natives and to maintain allegiance to the Cis-Lunar corporations. Intelligence operations, however, remained largely in the hands of Martians.
The Martian separatists of this era perfected so-called "hostile take-over techniques", gaining control of opposing assets through infiltration rather than armed assault. The doctrines of mainstream revolutionary parties still aimed for a largely bloodless revolution. Radical splinter groups, however, began preparations for terror and assassination campaigns against metanational targets and even Terran sympathisers amongst the general population. To many, the hardening of the IDC position made clear that the Martian crisis would only be resolved by violent struggle.
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