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June 15, 2012


john b

That's every totalitarian regime, from Henry VIII through Stalin, and probably including pre-modern examples I don't know enough about to cite, innit? The only difference is the increasing size of the in group (in absolute terms, at least).


Actually that sounds significantly better than the US legal system.

The mainstream US prison system can often be worse than Guatanemo. Certainly, worse things have happened within US prisons than anything that happened during the Iraq occupation.

john b

Cian: v good friend is US prison academic, well ware of how US prison system is almost unimaginably bad, and basically = slavery 2.0 in terms of deliberately calculated impacts on black people.

BUT: fairly sure Iraq featured at least a million excess deaths in aggregate, and the Fallujah massacres in specific. Struggling to come up with anything comparable in US prison system.


re johnb @1. I can't think of anywhere else where a regular, systematic winnowing of the overclass on this scale was a feature. I'm not counting the Yezovschina in this, since that was basically a tyrant destroying his rivals and their clients and spreading terror to inspire personal loyalty.

john b

I've never made a study of overclass immiserations and fatalities across despotic regimes, which I now regret.

My perception is that being an overclass member in, say, Reformation England was not condusive to a long and prosperous life, to the extent that I wouldn't be surprised if the "punished/exiled/killed" figure approached 10%. That may be dominated by the headline martyrs, of course.

chris y

My perception chimes with John's, and I suspect it would be a similar story in, say, France or Florence, but the thing to remember is that the overclass affected at that level was incredibly small compared even to the cadre level membership of the CCP, so it would appear as a less systematic process in the history books.


I suppose you could look at - say - Walsingham's secret service in the same way, but that was basically a counter-subversive operation. And the general lethality of life in reformation England or renaissance Italy was more about faction fighting and control of the state. CDIC is more like a kind of excretory function of the Party as an organism.


Wait, which bit of reformation England and which time? There were one or two treasonous plots, from which obviously the majority of gentry and a lot of nobility weren't involved; there were some high ranking churchmen and such burnt or executed for getting in the way, but I don't recall there being that many.
Or you look at the Marian burning period, I thought most of those killed were of the lower sorts, who aught to just have shut up and done as their betters did instead of cleaving manfully to protestantism.

Maybe you'd be better comparing it to the wars of the roses, although there was perhaps less randomness involved, it was politics all the way down and a reasonably high rate of death for important nobles. (Although I read an article once that said the rate wasn't any worse than in the previous century or so, especially if you laid it out over the 40 odd years of disruptions)


Quite a few periods of Chinese history - the Hongwu Emperor's reign, for instance - saw regular winnowings of the official-aristocratic class.

john b

This seems like a good place for the new Curtis. Both of the books mentioned at the end seem like the right sort of book.


880,000 is 1 percent of total Party membership, not 10 percent.


fairly sure Iraq featured at least a million excess deaths in aggregate, and the Fallujah massacres in specific. Struggling to come up with anything comparable in US prison system.

Was it really not obvious that I was referring to the prison abuses in Iraq, rather than the entire war? Did not think I needed to be that specific.


Urgh, 'slaps head', cheers James. Duly amended.

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