The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

I Was Shocked To Find Out How Many People The Terror Killed

Twenty-seven thousand. Seventeen thousand executed, ten thousand died in prison.

This is slightly less than 1/1000th of the French population.

This was the Terror? A higher percentage of Americans died in WWII, the Civil War, this pandemic (1 in 500) and nothing compared to, say, the Great Irish famine or hell, tons of other geopolitical events.

Now I’m not saying it was good, but the shadow it throws over our imagination is HUGE and I genuinely thought far more people had died because of it.

Perhaps it’s who mostly died: first aristocrats then various radicals (largely bourgeois) as they fought among themselves. Mostly somewhat important people. That must have terrified everyone of importance in every other European country: if it spread, they were for the chop. They wrote the first edition of history, and their personal terror has come down to us.

Napoleon, now his wars killed a vast number of people, somewhere between 3,250,000 to 6,500,000, but the Terror itself? No.

Mark Twain probably said it best in his “The Other Terror”, which I’ve quoted before and will quote again today.

THERE were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

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The Perceived Self-Interest Of The Rich And Powerful


Open Thread


  1. Plague Species

    Hopefully future Terrors, wherever or whenever they may be if there are any more, will live up to the name. Surely there are more than 10,000 aristocrats and their arrogant non-essential minions.

  2. Plague Species

    Like, let’s say there was a contemporary American version of the Terror coming to a theater near us soon. Who would get chopped? Surely Al Gore would and so many more like him and worse, but what about Matt Stoller and those like him, would they get the chop too? Matt’s bourgeois, right?

    Al Gore and Melink

  3. bruce wilder

    Some years ago, I realized, while talking to a well-educated lawyer friend casually, that almost no one outside academic specialists knew much about the French Revolution. Some Americans, including me at one time, become obsessed with the American Civil War or World War II. But, the French Revolution, despite its importance as precedent and milestone on the road to modernity in Western Europe, is not familar — not even to the common Frenchman!

    There is a reactionary trope that not much changed as a result — or as Alexis DeToqueville, writing after the 1848 echo, argued: the changes were already well underway in the late years of the ancien regime and the violence was unnecessary to the course of that progress. That reactionary argument has been applied to the American Civil War to suggest that eventually the slaveholders would have freed the slaves — slavery as an institution was dying, being killed by modern progress. I have seen it applied to the horror of the First World War: reactionaries sometimes argue that “the wrong side” won and the world might have been better served by a German victory and that Woodrow Wilson ushered in all kinds of ills with his Fourteen Points, including Big Government.

    Anglophile French idealists of the Enlightenment, admiring the British and American examples, approached the French Revolution with expectations of a consensus in favor of some form of constitutional monarchy, Westminister parliament, rationalized law in equity, religious tolerance, free market economics, and an efficient civil administration amidst a society cleansed of hereditary privilege but celebrating merit. Expectations of such progress were almost tangible and swayed the king at times, who sought the approbation of Public Opinion. The Rights of Man would be declared with great enthusiasm.

    Where the violence of the Terror came from remains mysterious, if all could agree upon the Rights of Man. If the Terror had simply consumed oppressive nobles of high rank, we could make some sense of it. It was the way the Terror consumed so many of the Revolutionaries themselves, masses of random criminals, many poor and pious priests, that made such an impression on historical memory. That and the terrible echo of Russia under Stalin with his purges. Must Revolutions eat their young? Are ideals poison?

  4. someofparts

    Speaking of older, cold-blooded terrors, the Democrats are making another run at gutting Social Security. Clinton got stopped by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Obama got stopped by getting shellacked in the mid-terms. Now they are at it again. So it pleases me that they look like they will get kicked out in the mid-terms again.

  5. Ché Pasa

    Who constitutes our Ancien Régime?

    This is where it gets tricky, right?

    Who represents the status quo, and who represents “revolutionary” change?

    Dems in the US have been mired in protecting and preserving the status quo (whatever it is or might have been) for decades, since Reagan, though they have not held the reins of power most of that time. Nevertheless, they are seen by many Americans as throwbacks and recalcitrants. Sticks in the mud as it were.

    Meanwhile the Rs have become more and more emboldened and more extreme, edging closer to fascism all the time, and truly never facing consequences except for occasional sexual impropriety.

    The voters may reject them but it doesn’t matter. Pretty much anything they want is doable given enough time and the propaganda mills that support them. On the other hand, very little is possible by the Dems — who almost always go along with what the Rs want.

    We’ve analysed this situation to death. We know why it is so: the Overclass rules both parties, and only what they want will get done. Period.

    So who should be the first against the wall when the Revolution comes? Remember the Revolution is on the right and has pretty much completely captured the Republican Party. So when they win — which is looks like they will beginning next year — who do they select for punishment/elimination? Not those of their own kind, at least not until much blood has been shed on the other side (if I recall correctly more than 60 were killed by rightists during the BLM protests…) and they start turning on one another (cf: Night of Long Knives, etc.)

    No the Terror in France nor the Bolshevik overthrow of Kerensky’s “government” did not produce the mountains of bodies and rivers of blood we’re often led to believe. A large number of aristos managed to escape as they always do. Some of their descendants make their mischief to this day.

    A leftist revolution is almost inconceivable these days, and even moderating the depredations of those in power — whoever they might be — seems next to impossible.

    What then is to be done?

  6. Hugh

    It’s really very simple. Violence, murder, and terror occur against the powers that be, and occasionally as a tsk, tsk what can you expect when they happen among the lower orders. By definition, they do not exist when the powers that be commit them on the rest of us. Then it is natural law, the way things are and meant to be, what are you, a commie?

    As for Social Security, take the income cap off the payroll tax and include capital gains.

  7. Antibody

    If Americans today tried to emulate the original “Terror” in order to prune or destroy the ruling class, many people would die and the result would be chaotic violence and harsh state repression (if the ruling class survives) or warlordism (if it does not survive).

    No genuine revolution is possible without a new system of governance and economic redistribution to replace the old.

    In today’s world neoliberal capitalism is the only game in town. Russia and China, the two main rivals to American dominance are both capitalist nations hooked into the global economy, The left wing governments of Latin America are capitalist, with a few “socialist” tweaks around the edges of the system. Even the Chavistas in their heyday only reformed the system (and left in place the privileged elite which would later revolt and, with American help, stick a spanner into the spokes of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revival).

    A revolution without a coherent ideology underpinning it will fail. Think how easily and quickly Occupy Wall Street was crushed by the cops, how the Bernie Sanders-led “movement” collapsed after he joined mainstream Dems or how the post-George Floyd BLM protests petered out after the initial cathartic release of tension.

    Nobody is going to sacrifice their family and any creature comforts they might enjoy to risk life and limb on behalf of a leaderless group without a plan. Vague slogans and a laundry list of grievances (no matter how valid these might be) do not a genuine revolution make.

    People calling for revolution today are just LARPers high on internet fumes. When I see Twitter accounts labelling themselves ‘proud Communist’, ‘proud anarcho-syndicalist’ or whatever I have to laugh. Do these people work in an organized political movement or are they isolated individuals alone behind a screen who’ve confused making revolution with posturing on the corporate/national security state controlled internet?

    (Imagine also how quickly Twitter and Facebook would be shut down in the event they are used to plan a coherent revolution that genuinely threatens power.)

    People forget that “the system” is not primarily driven by individuals and egos. These play a roll but every system has an internal logic that runs on autopilot, enabling it to promptly replace any key players that are taken out. That’s what systems “do” and this little fact is easily forgotten in a world where “evidence based” rationalism rules supreme and everything that cannot be observed and quantified is treated as an externality and ignored.

    This simplistic thinking also, partially, explains why conspiracy theories that involve secret cabals and smoke-filled rooms are so popular. In a highly-individualistic world, it must be individuals that drive events, right?

    Anyway, my point is that there won’t be a revolution any time soon. There is no alternative system/ideology waiting in the wings; there are no popular radical movements for people to unite around and, besides, the citizenry is too busy fighting itself and pretending the internet = real life.

    The German economic sociologist Wolfgang Streeck wrote about how the future in capitalist democracies will unfold in his book ‘How Will Capitalism End?’ and he has hit the nail on the head. Basically he says that when capitalism is hegemonic it will double down on itself when in crisis and that it can function just fine without democracy.

    This outtake published at NLR explains some of his key points

  8. bruce wilder

    Antibody raises an interesting point: the extent to which political consciousness has been hijacked into a parallel pretend world of greatly simplified “analyses” of society and economics, silo’ed for various demographics. It is almost as if “the revolution” is being stoked in some virtual game world. I, myself, have been thinking that the movie, the Matrix, may be prophetic: humanity’s version of eusociality thrown into overdrive by AI will reduce the individual to a role as a passive generator of energy otherwise lost in her own fantasies.

    Still, I would counter that historical revolutions have been marked by plenty of preliminary collective delusion and fantasy, even without the internet or the latest forms of social media.

    The French Revolution originated in the bankruptcy of the state and the financial pressure that created for the King’s chief minister to attempt to manufacture a new popular consent to the authority of the regime to implement far-reaching fiscal and legal reforms, reforms that required an end to tax farming, rampant financial speculation in government debt and a web of privileged exemptions. This incompetency in the state, a state ordered in a theory of royal absolutism and arbitrary use of authority but nevertheless suffering a deficit of actual power and commitment, coincided with a series of harvest failures that threatened many in the most seriously overpopulated large country in Europe.

    It was commonplace for educated people to think that “solutions” were known for all the problems of France, but what was lacking was the will to implement these obvious measures of reform. That wasn’t always wrong, but the bourgeoisie had many illusions and prejudices. The consensus of Enlightenment opinion seemed to accept the notion that free-market principles would “solve” the problems of grain supply in the Île-de-France even in the midst of famine, a foolish prejudice reinforced by the interests of grain speculators but provocative at critical moments to the people of Paris worried about their next meal.

  9. Hugh

    “Vague slogans and a laundry list of grievances (no matter how valid these might be) do not a genuine revolution make.”

    Seems to have worked for Trumpism. And Facebook continues to duck and weave around its facilitation of Jan. 6.

    Speaking of which, should we call it the metaverse or the zuckerverse because as P. T. Barnum said, There’s a zucker born every minute.

  10. Astrid

    Capitalism as it’s currently practiced in US and UK can’t last. Financialization has completely hollowed them out after 40 years. The only thing propping the system up is US’s military force and bribery of the global 0.001% to act against their own people. I think Russia and China can lead the rest of the world to a better deal, even for that 0.001%. Once the petrodollar can’t be propped up by arms and SWIFT, loyalty and resources will drain away quickly.

    At home, Covid related stupidity is doing a great job of alienating even the enforcers (LEOs and military and MIC, which is being hit hard by the vaccination mandate, maybe even some cracks in the PMC – currently they whine about “why can’t they just take the shot” but as more of them get Covid despite their vaccinations and as twice annual booster shots becomes mandatory, they’re going to drop off).

    No matter how repressive the system is, if it can’t competently at least prevent the masses from starving, then it is only days from revolution. It may start out as unfocused LARPing, but hunger and homeless over a certain critical mass will focus minds. Radicals are always marginalized and ridiculous, until the “very serious people” accept that there is no alternatives. It might start on the right, but frankly the right is as incompetent as the left, so who knows where it will end up.

    But again, overthrowing an oppressive and decadent elite is the easy part, albeit still very painful to live through. It’s been done innumerable times by people at all levels of technology, belief, organization, and size. We still have resource depletion, climate change, disease, and famine to contend with. No, I don’t really expect Russia or China to crack these problems either, but at least I don’t hear about people hanging black Russian Federation or PRC flags outside their houses.

  11. The British Civil Wars of the 17th century were rife with elite incompetency and a proliferation of sects and civil ideologies: Quakers were thought a great threat to civil order; Fifth Monarchists anticipated a Second Coming, Cromwell went to Ireland bloody-minded with a belief that Irish Catholics had perpetrated a slaughter of Protestants, Levelers propagated an ideology that immigrated to America.

    Before the First World War, the hunger for a cleansing war was palpable in certain quarters, even as others, led by the unlikely form of the Czar of All the Russias, campaigned for peace at the Hague. And, nationalisms were giving rise to Young Turks and Young Bosnians and all sorts.

  12. Hugh

    I don’t know about a cleansing war but there was a whole subgenre of English popular literature beginning with the Battle of Dorking in 1871 (the same year of the German invasion of France). Sometimes it was the French or Germans or Russians doing the invading of Dear Olde England. It varied according to who looked more menacing at the time.

    I thought the Russian tsar was pretty keen to go to war in 1914 much more so than anyone else though everyone was primed to go. So there’s that.

  13. bruce wilder

    Revolutions, historically, are rarely made by the oppressed rising up. A society organized around exploitation of the masses usually has the means in place to keep them down. More common trigger scenarios are a reactionary right over-reaching in an attempt at pre-emptive counter-revolution or a stubborn and contentious liberal center unable to overcome their own petty corruption long enough to solve acute problems.

  14. someofparts

    starter kit – includes a good reading list two entries down –

  15. someofparts

    I agree with Astrid and others here who don’t see the current leadership of this place hanging on. That said, analogy to the previous revolutions seems farfetched. Some kind of breakdown is clearly ahead when the petrodollar and the SWIFT system stop holding up the house of cards here, but I imagine it will look more like what happened to the Soviet Union in the 90s than any revolution. Lots of people will die and terrible hardships never experienced here previously will be widespread. Eventually when millions have died and other millions have fled the country, some new competent leadership will emerge and cobble together something new from the rubble. It will be more impoverished, more local and nothing like anything we can imagine from where we are today. Comparing what will soon happen here to any revolution is much too flattering to a rag tag citizenry like ours.

  16. bruce wilder

    In 1914, the initiation of war came down almost entirely to the German determination to have the damn war already.

    But, all the great powers had been experiencing great internal political stress as the vestiges of feudal power — the titled and landed hereditary aristocracies with monarchs at the head — contended with the rising political consciousness of wage-earning classes with nationalist ideas.

    The Hapsburg Empire was, perhaps, the most precarious after the Ottoman “Sick Man of Europe” and Russia was not looking good after losing to Japan. The French had a military with a rotten core, revealed by the Dreyfus Affair. The British Army with a key fraction of the officer corps drawn from the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland had just experienced the Curragh Mutiny.

    The Concert of Europe, built by reactionaries to contain the pressures from below revealed by the French Revolution, had tried mostly successfully to dampen and negotiate the rivalries of the great powers in Asia and Africa and the emergence of the new nation-states in the interstices of Empires in eastern and central Europe.

    The power bestowed by the progress of the Second Industrial Revolution was coveted by the old and new empires of Europe, but the conservative masters of those Empires were increasingly forced to accept mass conscription armies as a corollary to emergent mass-production industry. As figures like Disraeli and Bismarck emerged as conservative leaders, nationalism was harnessed to Empire. Germany, suddenly a nation-state, slowed emigration with social and economic reforms to build an industrial and military work force at scale. The collapse of the Second French Empire in defeat gave birth to a fierce French nationalism that embraced the Republic’s military, even while the social core of that military failed to embrace the Republic.

    To bring this discursion back on point, WWI revealed the incompetence of the political and military leadership of the six or seven Empires in contention. Mutiny or near-mutiny of common soldiers were significant events. Four great Empires collapsed, and the populations in Britain, France and Italy variously disillusioned even if their countries remained intact. An international conflict between states, it became functionally several revolutions each overthrowing an ancien regime.

  17. Soredemos

    Nearly as many people were butchered when the Paris Commune was crushed as died in the whole Terror.

    The real problem with the Terror is that it didn’t kill enough of the right people, in multiple senses of the word right.

    Revolution isn’t a time to be nice, and class warfare isn’t a metaphor. When the opportunity arises to slaughter the ruling classes, take full advantage of it. One of Castro’s mistakes was letting so many of the land owners flee to Florida, where they became a permanent anti-revolutionary force, perpetually directing US policy to attempt to screw Cuba.

    Another American example would be the fact that after the Civil War ended, thousands of former Confederate officers should have been hung as traitors. A huge swath should have been cut through the Southern gentry, such that it would never fully recover. This should have been combined with forceful breaking up of the land holdings, divvying them up among both former slaves and poor whites.

    @bruce wilder

    One of these is not like the others. World War I was a war of monarchist thugs in which no side were the good guys. Would it have been better if Germany had won? I don’t know, but we likely wouldn’t have gotten the Nazis in that scenario.


    Stoller doesn’t deserve to get his head chopped-off, but he’s also of extremely limited usefulness. He, vocally, isn’t a leftist, not really. He’s an FDR/New Deal Liberal, who wants to turn the clock back to an era of meaningfully enforced regulations and anti-trust law.

    Which is fine, so far as it goes. But Stoller has very hard limits on his political vision. He absolutely refuses to engage with Marx, and on that topic he sounds like any right-wing reactionary, citing black book of communism-level propaganda as evidence of the evil of Marx.

  18. someofparts

    Soredemos – Impressive commentary at NC yesterday.

    October 28, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    ‘ “This is not due process of law. Nor is it justice.”

    Oh just hand over the laptop and documents the federal court ordered you to, Steve, you disbarred drama queen.”

    So you think Steven Donziger is a drama queen and attorney-client privilege is a joke? Wow, good thing I saw that before I made the mistake of taking you seriously.

  19. Mark Pontin

    Hugh: ‘Sometimes it was the French or Germans or Russians doing the invading of Dear Olde England. It varied according to who looked more menacing at the time.”

    H. G. Wells did what’s now the best-remembered variation on this by picking invaders _nobody_ had thought about before.

  20. Mark Pontin

    someofparts: ‘…when the petrodollar and the SWIFT system stop holding up the house of cards … I imagine it will look more like what happened to the Soviet Union in the 90s than any revolution.’

    Yup. As Dmitry Orlov has been saying for a couple of decades.

    Though there’s an extra factor in a US collapse scenario as compared to the USSR. The areas around Silicon Valley and Boston — hot spots for IT and biotech, respectively — will likely remain wealthy because they’re centers for technofeudalist Big Tech (I prefer the term ‘vectoralist overclass’ to technofeudalist, but that’s a little recondite for most), which is globally profitable and has already floated free of being merely ‘American’ since the megacorps can have their headquarters anywhere else in the world for tax or other purposes. The USSR had no equivalent of that.

    Also, from talking to people who were there at the time of the Soviet collapse, something else to factor was that it wasn’t necessarily that noticeable while it was going on and you were walking around in the middle of it. After all, (a) people still went shopping and to their jobs as long as those were around and came home to their families, and (b) a lot of it happened in gradual stages, and (c) the same buildings were still standing, so everything _looked_ the same.

    The eventual setup in the US may resemble that old SF movie ZARDOZ, in that there’ll be a few enclaves of high-tech wealth, with AI-monitored smart towns where citizens live extended lifespans and normals face restrictions like vaccine passes to enter (at the very least) — in the movie, those longer-lived citizens are called Eternals — while the rest of the country is populated by poorer, shorter-lived deplorables — Brutals in the movie — kept down by overflying drones and such when necessary, but mostly just ignored.

    In other words, just like today, only more so.

  21. Hugh

    someofparts, no. US leadership hasn’t been great, and its hegemony is passing –because of its dysfunctional/nonfunctional political system and climate change. But there is a simple law of hegemony. It takes an enormous outlay of resources to maintain it even if you are doing it well, and we aren’t. And there are zero contenders to replace us. Both China and Russia draft off the current system. The Russians’ economy is small. It can’t even rebuild its client Syria. It can’t even pretend to. China has its Belt and Road, but it is structured to return a profit to China. The problem is it goes through and deals with some of the most unstable real estate on the planet, and it assumes that sufficient US hegemony will be around to keep its security and stabilization costs small to non-existent. The costs of power are what get left out of all these next hegemon scenarios. And it is certainly not just these two countries. Take Germany and the EU. The EU has been wildly profitable to Germany and Germany’s rich. But we not Germany bear most of the costs for Germany’s and the EU’s defense. Just consider what they would have to spend if we weren’t there. But Germany nickel and dimes its, and by extension, the EU’s defense. And it does the same economically. It destroyed Greece to save some losses for its banks. It exercised not no leadership but negative leadership in the crisis that followed. And it has steadfastly refused to extend real aid to the EU’s whole eastern tier to keep it going authoritarian, which it has.

    What I see as US hegemony recedes is much more chaos and many more failed and failing states. There are no post-US hegemons in waiting. There is no world system to replace it. There will be chaos.

  22. Hugh

    Mark Pontin, it’s a good point. War of the Worlds (1897) is, in fact, considered part of this pre-First World War invasion genre.

  23. someofparts

    Hugh- I don’t disagree with any of your points. Just because we cease to dominate the world does not mean anyone else can do it, or even wants to.

    Mark Pontin- I wish the scenario you describe in Zardoz sounded improbable, but it sounds altogether too likely. The thing I remembered about Zardoz was what a fool Connery looked like in that red diaper and those ridiculous boots.

  24. Hugh

    Countries like China, Russia, Germany depend on the current American hegemony. Less powerful countries even more so. The problem is that as American hegemony weakens and fragments, it will not be business as usual just without the US. Raw resources, trade routes, and end markets will all be at risk. We are already seeing areas of regional instability, such as Central America, the Middle East, and South Asia. These will increase as suppressed tribal and sectarian conflicts re-ignite. My point is there is currently no replacement for American hegemony, American hegemony is fading, and as it does a huge number of people are going to die and an even bigger number will be in danger.

  25. Astrid

    The US is a terrorist state. It ignores international laws and norms. It supports other evil states such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Columbia, to the detriment of whole regions. It meddles in the internal politics of other nations. It killed generations of the Left and deprived us of better options than Biden or Trump. In this, perhaps it’s not so different from the Brits, the Spanish, the Romans, the Greeks. But go ask Syrians or Iraqis or Libyans or Okinawans how they feel about this Pax Americana.

    I don’t think a post-US world will be more violent. Sure, neighbors may go to war against each other, but they would be constrained by their respective resources and popular will. There are also super-national organizations that may help facilitate peaceful coexistence. But even without, going it alone seems better that than having an ignorant, evil, master of chaos dictating war after civil war, sanction after sanction, coup after coup, supporting the worst elements of those societies to subvert them within, and then sanctimoniously condemn those countries as incapable of competent self governance.

    Only someone as deluded and ignorant as Hugh can still believe that America is still the essential and essentially good country, after 250 years of history showing otherwise.

  26. Purple Library Guy

    I’ve read that The Terror didn’t actually kill a lot more people than the state normally killed in France at that time . . . and did it more humanely, at that. One thing that’s rarely remembered is that the Ancien Regime itself was pretty dashed murderous just in its normal day-to-day operation, dispensing the death penalty, usually accompanied by torture, for fairly minor crimes. Petty criminals were getting broken on the wheel and all that kind of slow-tormented-to-death stuff routinely, in pretty large numbers. But nobody cared because it wasn’t like anyone who MATTERED was being killed.
    During “The Terror” they did it quick and merciful by comparison, the Guillotine being the most humane method of execution invented to that date (and frankly, way more quick, reliable and painless than either of the main methods used in the US today). But it was real people getting killed! Aristocrats! The sky was clearly falling. And to be fair, the later stages where people were being killed for the wrong politics does seem to have induced quite a bit of fear and paranoia. The people doing it had their reasons–clearly they did have something to fear, note that Napoleon reached power via a coup, and his backers weren’t the first to try. But it was probably counterproductive, and it does seem to have created an atmosphere of fear.
    But still, in terms of how many people were being killed, it wasn’t actually out of the ordinary for the time.

  27. Mark Pontin

    someofparts: ‘The thing I remembered about Zardoz was what a fool Connery looked like in that red diaper and those ridiculous boots.’

    That whole movie is something else, given that it starts with a giant flying stone head spewing rifles out of its mouth and booming ‘The gun is good! The penis is evil!’ and then gets stranger from there.

    I doubt if anybody could get the money to make a movie so ludicrously weird today. But for the first two-thirds — till the scene where Connery’s character says “Stay within my aura” and it jumps the shark — it actually makes more sense as a piece of quite visionary science fiction than people give it credit it for.

    That director, John Boorman, has a long string of amazingly individual movies from the likes of POINT BLANK (best use of Lee Marvin ever) and DELIVERANCE, through stuff like EXCALIBUR (with its weird post-modern Merlin who’s into the Tao and knows about nuclear weapons) and HOPE AND GLORY (about Boorman’s childhood during the London Blitz).

  28. Diogenes

    Astrid – consider what replaced the Roman Empire. A bad hegemony is very often better than power vacuum filled with lawlessness and perpetual warfare.

  29. Diogenes

    Che –

    Regarding “ No the Terror in France nor the Bolshevik overthrow of Kerensky’s “government” did not produce the mountains of bodies and rivers of blood we’re often led to believe. A large number of aristos managed to escape as they always do. Some of their descendants make their mischief to this day.”

    It might be useful to consider what happened after. There is a direct link between the Bolshevik overthrow of Kerensky and Stalin.

    For everyone who despairs of the terrible US ruling class, I recommend reading about Lavrentiy Beria – a true product of the Russian revolution.

  30. Astrid


    I’m of two minds about Rome. The peace and trade that it facilitated brought safety and trade to people under its rule. But that peace in the center was bought by brutal wars of conquest and a slave fueled economy, with slaves coming from the wars. Once the expansion stopped, the civil wars restarted, until Diocletian brought about a feudal society that does not seem better for most people. The benefits of peace and trade accrue most heavily to the top echelon, while the burdens fall lower down.

    Still, it does seem qualitatively better than post-Columbian European empires that are purely extractive and impoverished formerly prosperous lands. While those lands went through their cycles of wars and repression, the European yoke made sure they never had the chance to self correct and get better.

    The US does the same through SWIFT, IMF/WorldBank, CIA/NED/VOA/USAID, sanctions, arms sales, and 800 military bases around the world. It causes wars and violent conflicts. It funds terrorist like the ETIM and rebranded Al Queda and call them freedom fighters, while branding nationalistic freedom fighters against such as Hezbollah terrorists. I can’t think of any wars that the US prevented in the last 50 years. Just tons of wars and conflicts that it encouraged, took side on (typically with the more xenophobic and repressive elements of the conflict), or directly fought. All funded with USD printing press extracted tribute from world trade and on behalf of the US financial and intellectual property rentiers who make nothing but make the world pay trillions for it.

  31. someofparts

    MP – Well, now I’m going to watch Zardoz again and take a look at some of those other Boorman films. Thanks.

  32. astrid


    Russian secret police is bad. But in the west you don’t hear about the mass torture and killing by the US’s right-wing allies. Read about Pinochet’s regime or KMT persecution of Communists and suspected Communists from 1927 onwards. You don’t need a revolution to institute that level of repression. Just a desire to utterly crush the opposition.

    Admittedly, seeing what the US top 10% is doing to the bottom 90%, makes me considerable more sympathetic to what Stalin and Mao did to the former elites. Perhaps not fully justifiable, but perhaps those who lived through the white terrors of old regime had good reasons for wanting to exterminate with extreme prejudice.

  33. Plague Species

    I don’t think a post-US world will be more violent.

    Just stop, will you please. Your incessant propaganda is ridiculously transparent and obvious.

    Antibody produced an excellent reply and provided a link to an excellent analysis. It’s not America per se. It’s late stage capitalism and the the global economy, of which every nation is a part and player, is late stage capitalism. A “post-US world” is still late stage capitalism and as such, the doubling down in the late stage will continue unabated. Late stage capitalism transcends America. Late stage capitalism is the cancer and America is one massive tumor but there are many other tumors as well to include China and Russia.

  34. Ché Pasa

    The October Revolution in Russia was essentially bloodless. The Winter Palace was stormed by a small contingent of Bolsheviks, the Provisionals put up almost no fight, and that as they say was that.

    What happened afterwards is something to consider. There was a nasty civil war. An invasion by Britain and the United States. Famine. Chaos. Destruction. And in some regions, much worse. Few in this country would want to go through what the Soviets did.

    It wasn’t an exact parallel to what happened in France after the Revolution, but it mirrored some of it.

    In other words, these Revolutions were considered so dangerous by the Powers that they had to be crushed somehow. Eventually, France would be restored to the Bourbons, forcing more revolutions to be viciously put down, and Russia (as the Soviet Union) would soldier on, through even worse perils, especially during WWII, than they had been through during the first WW and its catastrophic aftermath. That the Soviet Union survived at all was little short of a miracle.

    But then there was Stalin, wasn’t there? And the Purges, right? True enough. I can’t say that all of what happened was either wise or necessary. But it’s an example — one of many — of what can happen when any government becomes so insular and paranoid about the Outer Darkness, Because they don’t know what’s happening outside their tight little circles (and even then….) they assume the worst and act accordingly.

    We’ve seen it happen in our own governments. It is happening.

    Despite all, Stalin is relatively highly regarded in the former USSR — for saving the Motherland from the Nazis if for nothing else. There’s quite a lot else, but that’s the main thing.

    The point is that there are mixed results from Revolution, as there are from Not-Revolution (preserving the status quo). Many things are better, many things are not. The question is always who benefits — and who doesn’t.

    The fact that the glittering aristos were put against the wall — if they could be caught before they escaped — or paid a visit to Mme. Guillotine, or whatever is what has driven our inbred horror of Revolution since the French example.

    Yet Britain went through decades of revolution and civil war long prior to the US or French Revolutions. Very, very bloody business that. Yet hardly anyone shudders about it these days; reenactments of the goriest battles are commonplace. It’s as if it was all a lark.

  35. Plague Species

    Once again I will state, history is useless as to what will come next. So much has changed at this juncture, history doesn’t even rhyme let alone repeat. Many of you have an impressive knowledge of history but it cannot and will not serve you for what is coming. It does make you appear intelligent though, and I guess when all is said and done that’s all that matters. I mean, you can’t even agree that Stoller should get chopped if there is a Terror. Who else will you save? See, you don’t want change. You just want to continuously whine about the permanent Ancien Régime because it’s better than prunes or Metamucil in keeping you regular.

  36. Plague Species

    Despite all, Stalin is relatively highly regarded in the former USSR — for saving the Motherland from the Nazis if for nothing else. There’s quite a lot else, but that’s the main thing.

    It’s because Russian culture is paternalistic and has always been ruled by a strong male with one rare exception. As long as Russia exists, it will always be Tsarrist for this very reason. Putin is just the latest.

  37. Plague Species

    Logan’s Run is more like it. How is it a remake of that movie has never manifested? Perhaps it’s because that’s what’s in store and they know it. Soylent Green too. Maybe a hybrid of those two movies.

    Can you see it? Isn’t it beautiful? How could I know? How could I ever have imagined?

  38. Hugh

    Astrid is just being modest. The greatest mass murderer of the 20th century was Mao Zedong. He killed tens of millions in his Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and a million or two more in his Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Outside of World War II, Hitler is thought to have killed off about 11 to 12 million and Stalin 6 to 9 million. It is hard to put exact numbers on mass murder because the dead can not speak and the murderers have every reason to deny and minimize their crimes. In mass murder, you aren’t even a number.

  39. Astrid

    Yet the Chinese by and large forgave Mao. I knew people (now dead) who suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, people who went hungry during GLF and people who were tortured and hailed for years doing the Cultural Revolution. But none of them want to roll back 1949. How many Chinese (and Indians and Africans and aboriginals of the Americas and Oceania) died in the century of humiliation between 1842 and 1949? Want to run a body count and see how the ledgers run up?

    But what else would you expect from a know nothing woke imperialist? One who continues to repeat the empire’s debunked lies while loudly proclaiming his wisdom over people who actually have to face the bayonet’s end of Hugh’s intersectional empire.

  40. Hugh

    The essence of Astrid’s defense of mass murder is that it is OK if the Chinese do it. It says everything you need to know about her, her arguments, and her values.

  41. Soredemos


    Yeah, I stand by that. Donzinger is a comically corrupt lawyer, who won a fraudulent judgement in Ecuador through bribery and other corruption. That judgement was subsequently ruled unenforceable by an international tribunal in the Hague:

    The Kaplan Federal court judgement is brutal, and if you think Donzinger is a hero, I recommend you go and read it, because it goes in depth into very specific examples of how Donzinger achieved his victory in Ecuador through deceit.

    His current status as being in contempt of court stems from his refusal to hand over data related to that case. It’s pretty obvious there’s stuff in there he doesn’t want the court to see.

    On top of that, there was a fawning documentary, Crude, made about the Ecuador case. It presents Donzinger and his team as heroes, but Chevron later successfully subpoenaed hundreds of hours of outtake footage that features numerous examples of Donzinger openly talking about how he used lies and manipulation to win.

    He’s a disbarred fraud of a lawyer, who is attempting to portray himself as a hero as a last ditch effort. And much of the left has fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker (the left often overzealously rallies around bad causes. Wesley Cook/’Mumia Abu-Jamal’ is almost certainly just a cop killer, as another example).

    If you actually take the time to look into it, instead of just accepting Donzinger’s narrative, it quickly becomes clear that his claim that he’s the victim of the of an omnipotent Chevron-led conspiracy is all wet. Chevron have already won their side of the case Ecuador case; the judgement was ruled unenforceable (incidentally, they weren’t even the largest stakeholders in that oil project. Petroecuador was. Chevron aren’t the ones who have to pay out compensation). They have literally nothing to gain by persecuting Donzinger. He isn’t being persecuted. He’s being held to account for being a corrupt lawyer.

    It takes a lot of be more slimey than an oil company, but Donzinger is managing to do it. For the record, the oil giants absolutely were guilty in that Ecuador case. But because Donzinger decided to resort to scummy tactics to win, he rendered his victory invalid. Chevron was a minority in that project, and Texaco already paid to clean up their share of the damage. Meanwhile Petroecuador continues to drill in that region to to his day.

    This is a super high-profile case, in a super-liberal circuit court. It isn’t some minor case in some fringe court out in the boonies, away from the major media spotlights. The story he is spinning about corrupt judges on the Chevron dole simply doesn’t hold up.

  42. Astrid

    Hugh’s view is to ignore the opinions and complexity of the peoples who actually live through the history he is misrepresenting. Keep insisting on moral authority and superiority of the West to act against other countries, ignoring (or more likely just not knowing) the long history of Western atrocities and injustices that show it has no moral authority or ability to act humanely or justify.

    Human history is messy and ugly. Frankly I wish humans went extinct during the last Toba Eruption and saved humans and other living creatures a lot of misery. But since we are all here, asserting moral superiority of the West, as Hugh smugly does over and over again, is Woke Man’s Burden and as ugly as it was during the Cold War “freedoms”, the British Raj’s “civilization”, or the Spanish Empire’s Christianization.

    Soredemos-it doesn’t matter what Donzinger did (which is a lot of he said she said in a foreign jurisdiction-unless you’re some kind of expert in Eucadoran law, you’re just regurgitating reporting by a heavily biased press). Chevron privately prosecuted him in the US for a non-crime. They put clearly conflicted judges in to prosecuting him. Didn’t allow jury trial for any of it. Charged him for activities that would never land another lawyer in jail. The witness they used against him is a proven liar.

    If Chevron had a legal argument, they can pursue that in appellate court and pay up when they ran out of appeals.
    Instead, they went scorch Earth to destroy his life as a warning to anytime else who would dare try. Lawfare is very real and a frequently used tool of the US government and US corporations, to destroy and discredit its enemies.

    Though, given some of your other views, where you blithely characterize anyone who disagrees with you as dishonest. I am not surprised that you prefer victim blaming to examining the fundamental injustice and corruption of the prosecution.

  43. Astrid

    Considering that Soredemos doesn’t even touch on the fact that this is a private prosecution with a Chevron paid prosecutor, both judges have strong ties to Chevron and didn’t recuse themselves, and one is a leading member of the Federalist Society…and Donzinger is the one that “doesn’t hold up”?

    Anyhow, I’m out. My own fault for following after a someofparts response to Hugh. Feel free to call me all the vile names you like, better to expose the vile people that you are. Enjoy the USian justice that you all want to foist on everyone else in the world.

  44. Hugh

    Astrid has no problem defending mass murderers –if they are Chinese. But it hurts her feelings getting called on it. Irony truly is dead.

  45. different clue

    @Plague Species,

    When the EuroExplorers brought their diseases to North and South Turtle Island, most of the Indigineous nationals died in the Great Exploration Germocaust of the Native Peoples.

    Best estimates made by combining reports of Arellana and other Spanish exporers who floated down the Amazon River combined with more-and-more recently discovered evidence of massive earthworks, systems of broad-acre agriculture, etc. in the Amazon which show Arellana was not making it up show that before the Germocaust, about 6 million people lived in the Greater Amazon Basin. Best estimates are that 99% of them died in the Germocaust. So the survivors of the Germocaust and their descendants unto today have experienced something like what the coming Great Jackpot will offer to everyone from today going forward.

    Perhaps the survivors of the Great Germocaust have survival lessons. Perhaps they plan to keep those lessons a secret from us.

  46. different clue

    And perhaps the survivors of Mao’s Great Leap Famine and his Great Cultural De-Evolution would have things to say about how to survive. But they probably won’t say it. They will say they forgive Mao because if they say anything else, the Communazi authorities will have them shot in the head, have their organs harvested, and bill their family for the bullet.

  47. Soredemos

    The petrodollar isn’t a thing, at least not in the way people who are constantly talking about it imagine it is. The entire oil economy could be magically replaced by renewables tomorrow and the status of the US dollar as global reserve currency wouldn’t change one iota, because it isn’t dependent on oil trade. It’s dependent on the US intentionally running massive, permanent trade deficits.

    That’s also why coming up with a viable alternative payments system that bypasses Wall Street would only be of limited usefulness. Yeah, it would enable the transfer of money outside of Wall Street, but it would do nothing to alter that fact that most producers *want* to do business via Wall Street because they want to sell to the US.

    If a country wants to overthrow the dollar as GRC, they’d need to deliberately sacrifice their own domestic jobs in favor of running trade deficits. And China definitely doesn’t want to do that, and I see no sign that Russia, or any other major economy, does either.

  48. StewartM

    Bruce Wilder:

    Anglophile French idealists of the Enlightenment, admiring the British and American examples, approached the French Revolution with expectations of a consensus in favor of some form of constitutional monarchy, Westminister parliament, rationalized law in equity, religious tolerance, free market economics, and an efficient civil administration amidst a society cleansed of hereditary privilege but celebrating merit. Expectations of such progress were almost tangible and swayed the king at times, who sought the approbation of Public Opinion. The Rights of Man would be declared with great enthusiasm.

    I’d argue that the original French “revolutionaries” WERE like that. They were quite moderate in their goals, seeking nothing much more than to make France a constitutional monarchy like England. The problem was, Louis XVI wouldn’t play along, and ended up getting his aristocratic pals in Austria and Prussia and elsewhere to make war upon France to crush even these moderates. With the Revolution fighting for its very survival, the awful logic of those wishing to crack the most heads becomes sensible.

    So what happened in France, and to some extent Russia in 1917, was due to the elites failing to heed JFK’s admonition: “those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.

    This is also why I’ve never admired Edmund Burke. Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was written in the Revolution’s moderate stage. It only become violent *because* of the intransigence of its opponents, like Edmund Burke. Despite all the heavy breathing in the Reflections Burke was simply protesting Frenchmen who wanted to enjoy the same liberties that he had as an Englishman, under a constitutional monarchy. It was not prophesy, except of the self-fulfilling kind.

  49. Soredemos


    I don’t care what the media reports. Go and read Kaplan’s judgement. There’s a lot more than ‘he said, she said’ going on there:

    “Cabrera was not even remotely independent. He was recruited by Donziger. He was paid under the table out of a secret account above and beyond the legitimate court-approved payments. He was promised work on the remediation for life if the LAPs won. The LAPs gave him an office and life insurance, as well as a secretary who was a girlfriend of one of the LAP team members. Stratus and, to some extent others, wrote the overwhelming bulk of his report and his responses to Chevron’s objections, as well as to the deceitful comments Stratus had written on its own report. And, in accordance with Donziger’s plan to ratchet up the pressure on Chevron with a supposedly independent recommendation that Chevron be hit with a multibillion dollar judgment, he repeatedly lied to the court concerning his independence and his supposed authorship of the report. – G. Donziger’s Explanation ”

    “Parts of the meeting were recorded by the film makers. Yanza began by introducing the participants and setting out the general agenda. He introduced Cabrera to the full team for the first time. Fajardo set forth the plan for the final phase of the evidentiary period, explaining that, while Cabrera was likely to be appointed the global expert, “the work isn’t going to be the expert[‘]s. All of us bear the burden.” Maest then asked whether “the final report [was] going to be prepared only by the expert?” Fajardo responded, “what the expert is going to do is state his criteria, alright? And sign the report and review it. But all of us, all together, have to contribute to the report.” Maest commented, “But .. not Chevron,” which provoked laughter. The video clips of the meeting ended with Donziger commenting, they could “jack this thing up to $30 billion in one day.”

    “Reyes—who had been Mr. Donziger’s first choice for appointment as global expert—testified that:

    “At the meeting, Mr. Fajardo, Mr. Yanza and Mr. Donziger dropped any pretense that Mr. Cabrera would act independently in writing an expert report that would be technically sound and executed according to professional standards. On the contrary, it was obvious that the plaintiffs had already predetermined the findings of the global assessment, that they themselves would write a report that would support their claim for billions of dollars against Chevron and would simply put Mr. Cabrera’s name on it. The purpose of the meeting was to establish all the conditions for controlling and managing the expert’s work, in secret, in accordance to the plaintiffs’ interests.”

  50. someofparts

    Astrid – Sorry if I pulled you into frustrations here by jumping into parts of the conversation I usually sidestep. I have had some recent success finding limited bases for agreement with local friends who hold views that I mostly don’t share. I think I brought some of that sense of the conversation here where it is mostly out of place.

  51. Synoptocon

    “…better than prunes or Metamucil…”

    Genius. LOL

  52. Lex

    Mike Duncan’s “Revolutions” is a brilliant podcast. It doesn’t replace real research but it is both accessible and presented with significant depth and context. The sub-series on the Haitian revolution is excellent and goes with the huge sub-series on the French Revolution.

    We seem to forget the revolutions of 1848 in the march of history, even though it was them that most profoundly shaped the modern world in partial success. Most started as both social and political revolutions (or actions) but the former was subsumed to the latter once the new middle class got its constitution and political power. The reactionary response to them was generally directed at the social revolution component, since it didn’t impact the bourgeoisie’s gains they often supported the reactionary politics. May also be worth noting that nationalism arose in the 1848 context and was an important part of the revolutions.

    Also interesting that the biggest wave of German immigrants to N. America was comprised heavily of liberal “Germans” (no such place really existed in their lives) who left because of the reactionary response at home.

  53. Astrid


    You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. I just said that because I routinely skip over comments by Hugh and a couple others that I stop responding to, due to past nastiness. I mentioned that do it’s clear that I only commented on his comment because I still read other comments, not because I routinely take time to read and respond to him and others like him. I’m trying to minimize the amount that they think their nastiness can exert control over me. That’s all I can control for.

  54. different clue


    I once read a hypothesis suggesting that so many liberal-minded Germans fled the Germanies after the suppression of the Revolutions of 1848 that the stay-behind German population was rendered conservative-overweighted by demographic default.

  55. Astrid

    And okay, I can’t resist. Soredemos, you managed to not respond to any of my points about the nature of the private prosecution that sent Donziger to jail, that they start witness against him is a process liar, or the conflict of interest of Kaplan and Preska. Instead, you cite to the Kaplan’s opinion, presumably the one that put Donziger under house arrest and now jail for an offense that, even if proven true, almost never results in jail sentences.

    This is you “holding up”? By going off on irrelevant tangents and quoting the very people whose opinions are highly suspect due to known conflicts of interest and whose actions are extremely unusual and punitive, to say the least. I hope I never come under your powers of judgment.

  56. Soredemos


    ‘They’re servants of Chevron’ is a great out. It enables you to not have to actually wade into any evidence.

    Donziger certainly didn’t seem to care about attorney-client privilege when he was actively conspiring in front of film cameras.

  57. Astrid

    Which has nothing to do with why he is in jail or why Chevron is allowed to privately prosecute him. And that’s not even getting into why the US has any say in what happens in an Ecuadorian court. And again, your evidence comes from Kaplan and Preska, who are clearly departing from judicial norms (albeit not that much, certainly lots of crooked judges in this country, mostly against the poor) in their rulings against him. And those accusations are largely coming from a discredited witness.

    This blame the victim routine was tired and ugly when used against Assange regarding his purported sexual abuse. In this instance, I can only conclude that you have a particular interest in closing your mind to the transparent injustice of privately persecuting Donziger, putting him under house arrest for over a year, and sending him to jail, because the judge found him in contempt for refusing to hand over attorney client privileged information.

    Makes me wonder why you go to such length to not think about it or make a valid case for why it’s okay for corporations and their conflicted judges to prosecute people who just happen to have a large judgement against the corporation.

  58. Astrid

    This goes into the discussions about Soredemos’s evidence against Donziger, which, even if it wasn’t highly dubious and rejected by numerous appellate courts in Ecuador and Canada, still doesn’t justify house arrest of 2+years and 6 months jail sentence for wanting appellate review before turning over attorney client privileged information.

    What does it say about a person who quotes Kaplan’s ruling (nevermind that Preska’s rolling sent Donziger to jail) extensively, but doesn’t even review the circumstantial evidence that around this private prosecution?

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