So we actually had a concept of authority just like in the writings of Confucius. Parents are superiors of their children and this can not be questioned. Same goes for teacher and his pupils, for the director and his workers, the party leader and well...everybody else. That was something never directly set in stone, but always implied-fear and listen to authority as it is all the same figure, the harsh but fair father that may spank you from time to time but does it only for your own good. And I mention spanking for a reason-it may sound shocking to western liberals, but in communist society it was considered a-ok to hit your child and there could be some questions raised when a teacher does it to a student but it was generally deemed acceptable as well. This authority stemmed from the state which was giving almost unrestricted rights to the superior. Parents and teachers could spank the kids under their supervision, the general could tell a soldier to sacrifice his life the director could tell his workers to do weird, unrelated to the job activities if he deemed such activities ideologically fit. That hierarchical approach was everywhere. Kids were not allowed to talk back to grown ups-it was unthinkable. Workers had utmost respect and feared their directors. And everybody feared and hated the "political representatives"-people whose job was mainly to sniff and snitch any sign of dissent. Yes, every big enterprise-scientifical or economical had one of those.
And then there was the fear. The fear that propaganda was masking as righteousness. It was in part to aimed to create and support authority and in part to suppress those that have dissenting thoughts. Every repression was clearly described instead of being hidden. Instead it was explained, reasoned. Since day one of your life you were told that there is no other course of history, that history is linear and you were lucky to live in the most progressive part of the world. You were reminded of all the blood spilled to get your nation to where it is(the blood of those disagreeing being left out of the story ofc) and of how bad the poor in capitalist countries have it. So isn't it only natural if someone tries to put a stick in the wheels of history that the state punishes him viciously? After all they are robbing the future of the children. In other words-the classical sophistry where a chain of reasonable, undeniable conclusions is based on a falsehood at the very first claim in the chain.
So it was all about fear and respect, you could see them everywhere. The police were allowed to beat suspects-common knowledge even if it has never been put in a law.A schoolmate of mine slapped back his teacher-his life was ruined forever-we were 6th graders and we knew that with our bones, no need for logic to get involved. Now, I m not saying a kid hitting a teacher should be tolerated in any way, but was the punishment equivalent to what he did?The fear had 2 dimensions. One the fear of authority I described + the fear of the "other".
.I remember that fear going to my first day at school. And do notice I was from a privileged family-an ex-partisan granddad and the other being member of the party's nobility, being on top of that in every wonderkid program the country had. The teachers were encouraged to express and assert their authority over the kids however they please. Some were slapping, others were yelling at their students. There were those that chose not to exert their "rights" ofc, no one was telling them they had to act as dictators in the classroom but no one was telling them they shouldn't either. That was the stick. The carrot was endless propaganda against anything that was considered enemy of the state or idea that could swerve the nation from the historical course it has taken.
Teacher explaining in class about religion: It is a silly prejudice like knocking on wood, we don't persecute it since we're civilized society. Example kids would be those crazy 20-30 fanatics that stay up whole night waiting for some miracle to happen in the church on Easter(referring to an Orthodox tradition where you light a candle at midnight on Easter's eve). There are policemen monitoring that fanatic behaviour ofc, since these people are dangerous but they are more crazy than dangerous so we just watch that they don't succumb to foreign propaganda and start acting against the state.
Notice how between the mockery and contempt we got subtle threat here? It was a real thing-the fact you are a kid was of no excuse. Remember/know of this logo? It was edginess in the West but a neighbour got 1 year ban from school
for carving it on his school desk. That technically meant he had no life ahead of him. He just thought rock and roll is cool and his life perspectives were destroyed because of that. In our early program core element was also reading about Pavlik Morozov-a kid who betrayed his father. The father acted against the state. The implication here is quite clear-we get gradation of authority. Your father is important of course, you love for him is important but it is not sacred. One individual can not outweigh the society. Those who chose to immortalize Pavlik's martyrdom(he was killed, presumably by his angry relatives) never questioned if it is smart to put betrayal on a pedestal I guess.
The concept of the "other" wouldn't end here. It was almost everywhere from caricatures of fat ass Uncle Sam spilling the blood of innocent kids in Third World countries to posters warning you to be aware of the intentions of any foreigner that may start a casual talk with you(as if there were any foreigners visiting the country). The west has sold it's soul for few bucks, Mao is corrupt and Israel is literally Satan-there you don't have to read Pravda from it's last 20 years of existence-I summed it up for you. The propaganda machine would go as far as to try to prove that the working class in USSR has it better than it's counterpart in US. They hate you because you are free, because you know truths that are hidden for them was the constant message trying to bring the fear to personal level. Sounds similar to a cult preacher? In fact it is no coincidence that the communist regimes crumbled one after another in the late 80s. It was the time when even the unemployed in western societies undeniably achieved better living standard compared to working class under communist rule. While the poor people from pre-communist times were alive they would back it with their stories(the middle class was purged so there was no one to tell THEIR stories). The propaganda machine was focusing on poverty and criminality in the West-2 things the communist regime successfully purged. So it is no coincidence either that the regimes crumbled when the last generation to remember that old state of things was dying.
So what we got so far? State=good, acting against it=evil. And here comes the concept of Stasi. Telling on your neighbour, colleague or even your mom can't be wrong under these circumstances-can it? And indeed it was. At the age of 12 I got new history teacher who became obsessed with my ability to analyze.She would push me into getting more involved with her subject, constantly praise me and promote me to lead various youth organizations, which left me flattered ofc. Until 1 day a couple of secret police guys came home to inform me my future is underlined since the country needs kids with amazing ability to extrapolate from real life facts...guess where they learned about it from. I still remember my granddad stepping between us as if he wanted to physically protect me from the "recruiters". Do note he did so not only as the oldest man in the house(highest authority figure) but also as he was the only one in our family with high enough societal status allowing him to talk back to the agents. But even the small pile of medals he had in store was not enough to deter them, they left me "for now" with the promise that when I reach conscription age they'll be back. Thankfully the fall of communist regimes happened before that. Was my teacher trying to harm by doing this report? I'm still convinced she believed she was working for the greater good-mine and of our country. After all I got recruited for one of the few better paying jobs, let alone the authority and power connected to it. The fact that my grandfather who sincerely believed in communism fiercely opposed such recruitment is telling of the level of trust the current regime had with the citizens tho.
That was a core tenet and a core model of controlling the population-the state is the ultimate good and everyone doing something remotely against it therefore is the ultimate evil. Spying on your neighbour was widespread and encouraged. We had a neighbour trying to prove my mother has "antisocial tendencies" for example being motivated by pure greed and not idealism. He has many times expressed his envy caused by the fact he had to share his 2-room flat with his wife, 2 children and mother-in-law while we had same "luxury" just for me and my single mom. And yes, I am talking of living space of 65 square meters here btw. He believed if he can prove my mother is not aligning with socialist morale it will be enough to get her expelled from the apartment and in turn allow him to obtain it for himself. To achieve that he would write thorough reports of every party she would have and how many times she came home in a taxi. His latest report was after he...searched our garbage to find out she smokes Marlboro. So he would inform the police of each of his suspicions and grievances: music too loud after 10 in the evening not compatible with morale lifestyle, having money to use one too many times a taxi, and the even more susceptible fact of having foreign currency to buy cigarettes with. If you have undeclared foreign money they can only come from suspicious foreign individuals of course. And why would they give you money if not in exchange for secrets of importance to the national security?
And here we land to the question of treason and how seriously it was taken. From what I already wrote you get the idea how and why it was deemed so crucial-acting against the state is pure evil as we already established. This is why the secret services had such an important role and also why they were the most feared institution . They could widen the definition of treason and fit you in, fabricate evidence or read the evidence the way that fits them best. Prime example would be the director of a large commercial enterprise executed for "appropriating national resources". In other words "He stole too much money from the state"-claim his daughter objects to this day btw. Either way the punishment went bit behind the lines of what anyone even with slight liberal leaning would consider reasonable. In the eyes of the true believer it was the only logical course of action tho-stealing from the hard earned money of the working class is a direct hit on the bright future everybody worked for.
The last thing preventing people from revolting was bit more subtle. It was a sense of timelessness, of everything being static. And of the state as a giant, untouchable machine driving the people towards the bright future of communism. Nothing changes and nothing can be changed, we were on a ship following the right course and there was no climbing down, no way to make the ship go in a different direction. That was the communist state. The state that was on the top of the giant pyramid of authority. Of course people will think it is untouchable. It was not just that the state had guns, nor that it knew whom you go to bed with and if you fart while taking a poop. It was built in our brains since very young age.