The Syndic by C. M. Kornbluth
In a future America, the country is ruled by organised crime, with the Mob in charge in the West and the Syndic in the East. The remnants of the North American Government has been exiled to Iceland, with a naval base in Ireland; Europe has descended into barbarism.
Two Syndic agents infiltrate the Government Navy and discover a plot between the Government and the Mob to overthrow the Syndic. Unfortunately they are captured, and must escape with the help of a psychic Irish shaman to warn the Syndic of the plot.
You can look at this novel in two ways — either as a pulpy, 1950s gangster adventure, or as commentary on different political and social systems. The gangster trappings are there for all to see — extortion rackets, control of gambling, Wise-Guys and their Molls, a single Family in charge. But there is also a contrast between the blocs ruled by the Mob and the Syndic — the Mob territory is a cruel dictatorship, where travel passes are required to move around and corruption reigns supreme, while the Syndic rules with the consent of the people and runs a liberal, welfare state where nearly anything goes.
At the end of the novel, the Boss of the Syndic must decide whether or not to give up the Syndic’s liberal ideals to become a society dominated by security fears and militarism. And that’s the problem with this novel — it really doesn’t know whether it wants to be serious social commentary or an adventure pulp, so it ends up with a bit of both and doesn’t really work.
Not a bad novel, but nothing to write home about.