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Unwelcome reality excursion

Here's a brief thought-experiment for you: imagine what the UK would look like today if the outcome of the second world war had taken a left turn early in 1940, and the whole of western Europe somehow ended up under Soviet control by 1946. (No nuclear weapons or gas attacks need apply: this speculation is about outcomes, not processes—so discussion of precisely how the British People's Democratic Republic comes about is left as an exercise for the reader (and is not to be explored in comments)).

Let us further postulate that Stalinism passes with its creator, much as happened in our own experience of history: that the Soviet empire eventually undergoes the same fiscal crisis and collapse (alternative discussion of the same process by a former Soviet minister—you can forget the urban legend that Ronald Reagan did it) much as we remember, except possibly somewhat later—as late as the early 21st century, perhaps.

What interests me, in view of recent revelations about police spying and the extent of the British surveillance state is: How would the practice of internal suppression of dissent and state surveillance have differed in a post-Soviet Britain from what we appear to be living with right now?

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent": as we have no way of knowing when the regime of the British Democratic People's Republic fell, or what level of technology was available to them, purely technical aspects of the Communist surveillance state of the British Isles must be excluded.

However, we know the general shape of the ideological envelope within which Warsaw Pact regimes operated (or were allowed to operate, before the Kremlin jerked their choke-chain), and so we can speculate as to the structure and objectives of the British regime under Actually Existing Socialism.

As with all such governments, Parliament embraced a number of divergent factions—nominally all part of the Communist Party, but in practice splintered between doctrinaire and pragmatist poles. The doctrinaire faction wanted to establish a true socialist state and work towards achieving communism; the pragmatists were more concerned with reconstruction, economic development, and not rocking the boat and thereby inviting Soviet correction (the lessons of East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956 did not go un-learned). Nevertheless, both factions agreed on the need for internal monitoring and control of dissent.

Although the regime initially enforced its rule savagely (the number of executions in the immediate post-war consolidation period is believed to be in the high five digits), after Stalin's death it moderated its approach. Control proceeded by surveillance, harassment, and public ridicule of non-active political deviants, with prosecution and imprisonment reserved for those who actively took steps the regime deemed to be "hostile to the security of the state"—questioning the dominant ideology in public, writing pro-democracy or anti-communist tracts, or engaging in a variety of other activities seen as subversive. These included promoting animal rights, protesting against industrial pollution, and complaining about corruption in the administration as well as more overt political right-deviationism.

From the 1990s on, under the policy of New Liberalisation, increasing diversity in public expressions of political sentiment were tolerated as long as they fell within unspoken guidelines. Questioning of the key tenets of Marxism-Leninism was off-limits, and people who published arguments against the dominance of the Governing Party tended to find themselves targeted for tax audits or charged and imprisoned for possession of illegal pornography. Attempts to organize ad-hoc pressure groups on specific issues would only be tolerated if the issues in question did not contradict specific state interests, be they economic or political. The fate of Greenpeace UK remains a particularly salient example of the limits of the regime's tolerance for dissidence, although the protestor's eventual release when their conviction for malicious hooliganism was overturned (after their protest against the acid rain emissions from the Drax B power station was found to have been orchestrated by a police spy operating under instructions from the British Coal Collective) deomnstrates that towards the end of the regime the administration became increasingly concerned with its image, and tended to blame excesses on zealous subordinates rather than crediting them as the inevitable outcome of state policy.

As to the mechanisms ...

The BDPR maintained the traditional British system of local constabularies, augmented by a national-level Security Service derived from the previous organization MI5 (suitably purged). The SS's remit included monitoring of high-profile dissidents and intellectuals, identification of foreign spies and saboteurs, and coordination of action against threats to the state (insofar as the state existed as a vehicle for the Party): it did not generally engage in extralegal assassination or wetwork because by definition the targets of SS monitoring were suspected of crimes against the state and could be prosecuted by the police and courts, thereby maintaining constitutionality and the rule of law.

The Police, for their part, maintained some thousands of active undercover officers who infiltrated illegal groupings, where necessary leading anti-state activity that could be prosecuted.

The London Metropolitan Police acquired responsibility for any national-level activities directly supporting SS operations. This included running the Special Demonstration Squad for monitoring and controlling dissident protestors at non-local events, e.g. protests against global warming or Party corruption (in particular, the revolving door between the Politburo and the well-padded boardrooms of state enterprises).

Telecommunications in the BDPR remained the monopoly of the General Post Office and, later, it's spun-out subsidiary, British Telecom. State enterprises were created to operate three rival cellular mobile phone networks (one of which was reserved for party, police, and military usage). The BT monopoly on connecting terminals to the national trunk backbone was preserved until very late in the process of de-Sovietization, and ensured that the post-BDPR internet architecture of the UK made is particularly easy to insert taps into all routers: these were subsequently mandated under the Communications Data Bill. This permitted the regime to make enormous cost savings by downsizing its army of paid informers from an estimated five million (at peak, circa 1965) to less than 50,000 by the turn of the century, allowing GCHQ to focus on traffic analysis based on metadata logging. In London, in 1970, the GPO had five thousand staff permanently listening in on wiretaps among the capital's estimated 500,000 telephones; by 2005, this had shrunk to an estimated sixty personnel in one call centre, but the capital's 9,200,000 cellular devices all contributed location tracking and call data to the surveillance system.




The citizens of the British Democratic People's Republic, languishing under the Communist yoke, were roughly where we are today in terms of their relationship with the panopticon presided over by an entrenched political elite who share a consensus ideology and differ only in their approach to it.

Today, we are dominated by the Washington Consensus (much as the BDPR operated under the unquestionable diktat of the Fifth International). Conservative, Labour, or Liberal Democrat, our main parties are dominated by an elite of wealthy technocrats who all share a common set of assumptions not only about the way the world operates, but about the way the world should operate. To question this neoliberal capitalist consensus singles one out for attention as an enemy of all right-thinking persons just as emphatically as questioning the commissars of the BDPR singled one out during the dark years of the 1970s. We do not have a single governing party riven by factional splits; we have that situation's Rubin Vase counterpart: multiple governing parties united by a common cause.

The tools of the modern surveillance state require fewer direct telephone taps, fewer eyeballs on email, fewer envelopes to be steamed open, and fewer police spies. That is because the machinery of surveillance has largely been automated. The ends of surveillance remain the same in a neoliberal capitalist democracy as they were in a Communist satellite state: the difference in scope and severity of punishment is merely one of degree, not of kind.

236 Comments

1:

What would Britain look like? I would say like China looks now, but without the spectacular economic growth.

2:

I think Britain would look a lot like Scarfolk.

But in surveillance state terms? It's a wash.

3:

We have all the latest technology in Night Vale without losing our core values. Maybe Scarfolk should send a fact finding delegation and investigate the myriad benefits of twinning with sister cities.

4:

The new Britain might look like East Germany if enough was invested in it by some other country that took it over post Communism (the US?) - basically democratic, with the secret police disbanded. It might not be a security state as you describe.

There'd be sure to be continuing complaints about how the soviets stripped off Scotland to remove the potential threat of a United Kingdom though.

5:

Actually Night Vale is kind of warm and folksy. True Corporate Distopia is found in Desert Bluffs, where an always smiling Sun-God watches over a never-ending Company Picnic. So there are your choices: Tea Party Gemeinschaft (as long as you can pass as a "true" member of the community) or Technocracy that Pays Lip Service to Your Particular Pet Peeves.

6:

Administrative note:

This side-discussion is off-topic and I'd be grateful if you'd drop it now.

7:

first thoughts
A Britain without aristocratie. Who has lost it's ideas of invincibility.
Probably a restless Scotland and Wales. They were better off under communism (lots of employment in the coolaghs and mines). Surveillance would be concentrated on workers trying to form unions as the government is privatizing the mines.

8:

That's not the 1979 I remember...

9:

So Orwell's "1984" was not a warning as we tend to believe, but just a fictionalized prediction of what actually happened?

My thought that the parallels are not so much between a neoliberal capitalist democracy as they were in a Communist satellite state but rather the convergence is due to similar "state security from foreign enemies" that was driving Cold War surveillance and the need to find reasons to maintain the apparatus after the threat was gone.

If we no longer are always at war with Eastasia, then we need to be always at war in some other way, and foreign and domestic terrorism fits that bill nicely. Just look at the response to Ebola in the west - we are treating it as if it is a biological attack from foreign soil, rather than a public health issue. Ebola "suspects" are incarcerated as "criminals" with their rights stripped until they are proven "innocent". This is not unlike the stance of customs and immigration officials questioning why your passport shows you visited country X and questioning your motives for the visit - Cold War border security.

10:

it's a mistake to think that because the system of surveillance is nominally as extensive, the ends are the same. to do so would be to conclude that the structure of power in your "neoliberal" state is the same as the late soviet socialist states. the people's republics were directed by a political elite. however, the neoliberal state conforms to the interests of business and financial elites by a variety of processes and, perhaps, pure ideology.

but you can't talk about GCHQ without talking about the USA (NSA). the question you really need to ask is: what is the value of secret and perhaps illegally secret information within the U.S. national security bureaucracy? that is, there is a demand for secret information within the US government and with demand has sprung a market of US spy agencies to supply that demand for secret information, of which the NSA is the largest and best funded. what drives this demand? what makes information gained from secret and possibly illegal surveillance so valuable?

11:

You're assuming the value to the US national security complex lies in the secret surveillance information. I don't think it does; rather, the value lies in the process, which justifies a roughly $65Bn/year budget on gathering the information, of which maybe 80% is outsourced to large federal contractors. Who in turn recycle some of the profits, via lobbying, to their political patrons.

It's a tail-eating snake and the value it delivers is the salaries of the people who perform the service, rather than the product of the service itself.

As for the neoliberal state conforming to the interests of business and financial elites -- in what way is that not an ideological proposition? Money is power, and power is money, after all.

12:

Sticking with the topic at hand, more people would be in jail for political dissent, and their would have been more informers. The most notable part of the East German regime was how many friends, family and neighbors passed material onto the secret police.

Secondly, I would argue that in terms of automation and wire tapping, the west was ahead of the Soviet Union for many years and probably still is. Its the one ironical part of the plot. You're more likely to get your phones automatically tapped in the west compared to the east, in which you're more likely to be targeted because of who you are and what you believe. That I think, is the big difference.

13:

just to restate, just like the Soviet economy was run as a vertically-integrated conglomerate corporation that maintained a nominal system of invisible paper profits between divisions, surveillance in Soviet society operated like surveillance within a modern western corporation: intrusive, it could get you "fired", clunky, and largely circumvented and a source of derision. an episode of "The Office" where employees occasionally got a bullet in their skull and transferred to the prison division.

The explosion of surveillance in Anglo-American sphere has an entirely different political economy. the biggest difference between the soviet sphere and the anti-soviet sphere wasn't economics but how information and media was/is handled.

14:

i thought the process by which cheney and rumsfeld created a demand for certain kinds of secret information about Iraq, the way the secret nature of that information made it powerful, and the way that "demand" created a supply of information within the intelligence bureaucracy wasn't just a case of "bad apples" (i.e. cheney and rumsfeld) but broadly descriptive about how intelligence data collection works in the US state...

15:

the biggest difference between the soviet sphere and the anti-soviet sphere wasn't economics but how information and media was/is handled.

See also Chomsky, to the effect that in the west -- with nominal freedom of speech -- censorship must be exercised more subtly than in a totalitarian regime. So we have evolved really efficient propaganda tools (that don't look like propaganda at all until you're sensitized to the implicit subtexts).

16:

I think that illegally obtained secret information fit well with the non-existent respect the recipients had for citizens. Possibly somewhat closer to the topic, thoughts on the western re-creation of Stalinist tools of government and economy?

17:

I'm just wondering where Thatcher would have ended up. Head of the STASI? Or just highly placed in the Politburo?

I guess all of the companies that became BAe would have still existed as design bureaus, creating aircraft for the USSR to blunt the threat from the ever belligerent yanks. Perhaps the British talent with computers (eg LEO) would have helped the adoption of microprocessors across the entire USSR. Certainly our experience with radar would have been very useful for keeping an eye on the Atlantic.

Also, you should ask Ken MacLeod to weigh in on this topic.

18:

Perhaps the British talent with computers (eg LEO) would have helped the adoption of microprocessors across the entire USSR.

The USSR was spectacularly inept at designing/building microchips on a large scale. At least in comparison to the companies in the West.

Was that due to the political process or just that they kept killing off the best and brightest or that they "knew" that better electronics make it harder to control the populace? Sort of like how they deal with copiers.

19:

The Soviet approach to security was all about human intelligence, not electronic intelligence. Part of that came from the ideology of communism; people were supposed to pay attention to each other and keep each other on the straight and narrow. It's not just private property but privacy in general that was considered un-communist.

Of course, part of it was their complete lack of microprocessors.

I suspect that post-Soviet England would rely far more on informants for security from tiny groups (terror cells &c) but develop some signals intelligence capability to deal with larger scale concerns (like drug traffickers or organized political dissidents).

20:

If you look at almost any modern multinational corporation, they are internally constituted as Stalinist dictatorships -- only with an employment market outside the enterprise to handle externalities such as what happens to people who become inconvenient to the dictator management. (Unemployment replaces execution or imprisonment as a discipline on the subjects. Although unemployment in the neoliberal no-safety-nets system carries its own risks.)

21:

The CPSU accidentally denounced computers as some sort of bourgeois capitalist deviation in the mid-1950s, if I'm not mistaken. Consequently interest in them was relegated to the mathematics faculty of universities. By the time it became obvious that they had uses outside of commerce, it was A Bit Too Late to play catch-up from cold.

What I'm mystified by is why Gosplan didn't pick up on computers for the five year plans, or even push for something like Project Cybersyn. (Although I believe Francis Spufford had something to say on this subject ...)

22:

It's not just private property but privacy in general that was considered un-communist.

As pointedly critiqued by Zamyatin in We ...

23:

Here's the dumbass but serious question: why would the system end up like the USSR and not like China?

What I'm thinking about here are the myths of the Chinese Empire and the Roman Empire. The contrast is interesting: China has this story of empire, so that, even when it falls apart (as it did between every dynasty, except when the Mongols came in and seized control directly), the story of empire is so strong that the states fight until one state emerges victorious and recreates the empire through the Mandate of Heaven. Even the Mongols used this story, rather than killing China off to make it part of the Mongol Empire.

Now, the Roman Empire has played a similar role in western Europe. There's this ancient idea that all of Europe can be ruled by one empire. While we brush off the massive success of the Byzantines, Ottomans, and Russians (forgetting that only the western Roman Empire shattered, while the Eastern Roman Empire held on for most of a thousand years thereafter), would-be emperors tried to conquer all of Europe right up to Hitler in WWII.

So Charlie, what you're proposing is that the Soviets actually remake the ancient dream of Rome, and reunite all of Europe and a good chunk of Asia into one empire that's bigger than Rome was at its height.

Yes, I agree that such a huge empire could shatter--look at what happened with the Mongols.

What I don't understand is why that shattering would look like what happened when the USSR schismed, and why it might not look like a liberalized Moscow letting the old European genius for capitalism flourish under Party control, as happened in China. After all, Empire's a powerful dream, and the Chinese communists decided to hold onto that dream even at the cost of much of their ideology. Why wouldn't the Soviet Empire do the same thing?

24:

That's a really good question. The only solid answer I can think of is "because the USSR politburo didn't roll that way". Glasnost aside, attempts at reforming imperial dominions along other lines were ruthlessly suppressed whenever they crossed the line into actual reform -- look at Czecheslovakia in 1968, for example, or Poland in 1982. A successful province running along different lines would have reflected badly on those running the centre of empire, and thus could not be permitted to emerge.

A key point is that China didn't go for full-scale capitalism-under-party-control until they began to assimilate Macau and Hong Kong in the late 80s/mid 90s. They needed to demonstrate a two-system solution, in part to also justify their claim on Taiwan/Formosa. China's governing mythology is of being an ethnically homogeneous, integrated empire-state. In contrast, nobody thought of Europe as being part of Russia -- indeed, the Warsaw Pact was pretty weird in that it was an empire where the dominions sucked money and resources out of the centre, rather than vice versa: it was actually a military buffer zone against western invaders, defense-in-depth in case the United States turned into Hitler 2.0. Blame the trauma that the Mongols, Napoleon, two world wars, and so on inflicted on the Russian psyche for that.

25:

I know you said no processes - but it's hard for me to imagine without the UK losing a lot of its industrial base one way or another. Either the US doesn't enter the war and Germany pounds on us better, or the Western fronts don't work and Hitler gets pushed back to Britain which gets flattened by the Red Army.

At which point I'm wondering how different we look to say Poland today?

But given your postulates, I wonder what would have happened in the Yeltsin era which seems to have disappeared from your alternate history. I can't help thinking something like that is probably an inevitable result to the collapse of the soviet system and Mother Russia. Mainline history essentially tells us even the closest satellites broke free, although some like Chechnya, Ukraine and others had or are having are hard time making it stick. But many of the others - the former DDR integrating into Germany for example - seem to have got away completely. Given the geographical distance, the collapse of the heartland of the empire typically results in the zealots going home and the fringes going their own way. Perhaps the Celtic Tiger would have roared in a rather different way and we'd all be carrying green passports with a harp on them?

But, if we assume a post-Yeltsin, British Putin figure emerges to lead us back to the Motherland and the Party - grinning like a The Joker and behaving like Putin's Poodle instead of Bush's because it alliterates better - I suspect Russia is our best model. Oligarchs, Mafias, tattooed criminals and all. I would imagine the police and security services would have been reorganised into something more like the Russian model, with something like the FSB and then local law enforcement. Given the FSB took over from the KGB I imagine there's a lot more bodies on the ground and informants rather than reliance on monitoring electronic communication although I'm sure they do that too.

Britain is probably not the CCTV capital of the world. The equivalent of GCHQ probably exists but it's not necessarily much bigger than Bletchley Park was. It would be kind of apt if it was still at Bletchley since there's no need to give it back after the war. Codebreaking is important but electronic intelligence doesn't take off compared to informants, spying on your neighbours and the like - the Stasi model even if not implemented to quite that level.

Given the current regime in Russia, I'm probably in jail if I'm lucky - human rights, equal rights for woman, gay rights, disabled rights and the like. Bye. I wonder where our gulags are?

26:

True that, wonder though if Stalin was copying an existent structure, or were western capitalists aping Moscow? If the latter, I'd say it was at "Rule 34" level of twisted, time for the brain bleach...

27:

I see the final, current state of Communist Britain, but there's one critical point that might affect the entire structure: Oct, 1963: was Kruschev in power, and rather than being quiet, did he trumpet his victory over the US, forcing them to remove the missles in Turkey?

In that case, did he retain his hold on power, and thus bring about a more controlled version of glasnost and perestroika, successfully?

Carline (Cherryh), in a conversation with my late wife and me, noted that in her universe, Union and Alliance, over the decades and centuries, alternated in freedom vs. control....

mark

28:

Carline (Cherryh), in a conversation with my late wife and me, noted that in her universe, Union and Alliance, over the decades and centuries, alternated in freedom vs. control....

Hmm. I had wondered about that! (Nice bit of background detail.)

We now return you to the main discussion topic.

29:

Britain is probably not the CCTV capital of the world.

A bit off topic but I've always wondered. Just what is done with all those CCTV feeds? Do cops in front of screens radio cops on the street and alert them to things? Or is it all just recorded and played by when needed? (Instantly like shown on TV and movies. :) )

Or something else?

30:

Basically comes down to a formula:

control = delta(current, required) economic system

The bigger the difference between the economic system you have and the one you want to impose, the more oppression you end up using.

For Lenin and Stalin that value was big. Russia was only about 10/20% socialist, and they wanted something that was 90% or more. So gulags and no elections. Which, it should be pointed out, didn't work to reduce the gap, if only because a forced labour economy is further from socialism than capitalism is.

Then the later Soviets were less ambitious while the economy was no more, and perhaps less, socialist. So oppression could drop down to only 'no elections and hardly any massacres'.

But surely a more successful Soviet Union wouldn't have had that disillusionment and loss of ambition? So it would have either somehow succeeded in pushing through the pain barrier and actually establishing some kind of socialist economy, or got stuck indefinitely in a high-oppression state.

Eric Blair, after all, _did_ successfully predict the future, with perhaps more accuracy than any other famous work of SF.

It's just the future he predicted was the future of North Korea.

31:

A bit off topic but I've always wondered. Just what is done with all those CCTV feeds?

It's economics. 99.99% of them are owned by shops, restaurants, garages, etc.

The owners of those institutions want an economy in which people pay for the goods they consume. A certain proportion of their customers disagree.

Guns would work in this case as an alternative tool, as is more common in the US. Or I suppose you could use some kind of dye spray or something. But CCTV seems about the lowest-impact way of applying the oppression inherent in the economic system.

32:

I think the answer is "it depends."

Not all of them are hooked up to the police. For example, when I walk home, most of the CCTV cameras I walk by are on shops and are either fake, watched live when the shop is open or go into the shop and on to some recording medium that might be recorded over after a while.

In a shopping centre it goes to the shopping centre security. They should have someone watching it all the time and some protocol for saving it when something interesting/relevant happens.

The CCTV that is monitored by the police... is only a small subset of the cameras. I don't know how small. I don't know for sure what the police do but I imagine it's something like the shopping centres.

The only thing I've seen where they talk about it is at football grounds, which are obviously not staffed all the time and are heavily staffed during the game and before and after while the crowd are in. They operate like the shopping centres except in a more restricted area and with a variety of wide views and zooms and facial recognition and things lined up from what they've said. How much truth is in that I don't know. They're trying to control and arrest hooligans obviously but there's an obvious benefit to overstating their capabilities.

33:

The owners of those institutions want an economy in which people pay for the goods they consume. A certain proportion of their customers disagree.
Guns would work in this case as an alternative tool, as is more common in the US.

I guess I was thinking of the ones on public right of ways. Light poles and such. Seems from what little I know London has way more of these than most any city in the US. Then again it has been over 25 years since I walked the streets of NYC. About the only "public" CCTV cameras I see in the US in the cities I frequent are for traffic. Or stop light ticket writing.

As to shops with guns. Way fewer than tabloid news would have you think. Almost impossible in some cities. Like New York.

34:

In Soviet Britain, TV watches *you*.

One of the fundamental questions if things had gone that way would have been what happened to the British and French Empires, now that Britain and France were part of the Soviet Empire. Would the Empire have the resources to keep them? Would all of that anti-colonialism rhetoric apply when the colonies were now owned by Soviets, or would it be replaced by some kind of modernization program? India probably ends up independent, Africa probably ends up chaotic but different, but does Ho Chi Minh's nationalist struggle in French Indochina succeed?

So much of the Cold War was fought in third-world ex-colonies, and so much of the surveillance and spying was either about US vs. Communism or, in the US, about spying on domestic leftists and the prohibitionist wars on drugs and gambling, all of which would end up much different.

35:

In the 1940s and early 1950s Britain was not that far from a communist economy. Food was rationed and everbody with children used National Dried Milk and National Orange Juice. Moving to a completely communist economy from a wartime economy would have been easy.
Even the country houses of the rich had been requisitioned for government use by the early 40s.
The NHS and all the other nationalised industries - including steel would be just as simple to deal with under a communist government. The education system with Grammar, Technical and secondary modern schools would probably had much more emphasis on the Technical Schools.
The removal of the royal family might have been difficult. When the King died (I was four at the time) I remember big groups of grown-ups standing round talking about it in a way that would just not happen today.
It seems to me that communism would be more congenial to the British than the kind of society in SS-GB.

36:

Correction to my post: Carolyn, not Carline, Cherryh....

mark

37:

I don't have much to add in terms of details, just speculation.

This scenario would not play out in a power vacuum so much of what happens internally to Soviet Europe would play out against what happens in the West, though in this case the West is basically just the US and Canada. If the US remains rabidly anti-communist and no longer has European allies, it makes me wonder what would happen in Asia and South America, potentially even Africa. The Vietnam conflict came about when the French tried to reassert control over colonies they lost control over during WWII. The US got involved to keep France happy and in NATO which didn't work out.

I subscribe to the theory that the excesses of capitalism were moderated in part due to the presence of communism as an alternate case. Of course, it was still terrible to "not technically slave labor" in banana republics or to the underclasses like racial minorities but it was good to a broader swath of the nation than most government and economic systems in the past. After the fall of communism, capitalism seems content to devour itself for maximum returns.

What constraints would the presence of the United States have for the Soviet Empire?

While the remit is to ignore the technical questions, they would shape many of the possibilities. I don't know how technology would progress in this kind of scenario. Even with the UK having invented computing, in the original timeline they conceded the lead to the US.

We can't look at the current mess in Ukraine absent the prior history of the Russian empire. They love their buffer states. To the west the Cold War is over but to Russian eyes NATO, an alliance whose aison d'etre is supposed to be gone, is steadily expanding. Security states can invent external threats but I think it's usually more effective to talk up a foreign power than invent the threat from whole cloth.

I remain curious to see where this line of speculation ends up.

38:

The 'right of way' ones can be monitored in real time but mostly aren't (economics again).

The retention policies for the feeds are pretty extensive however, so the cops can pull images from quite an archive if a particular locality becomes interesting for some reason.

The recent disappearance (subsequently found to be murder) of Alice Gross featured a bunch of CCTV images of her and the prime suspect on the day she disappeared for instance, but of course that particular time/place wasn't of interest to the authorities until after she had been reported missing - so what the coverage did was constrain the parameters for the missing person search (which search still took almost six weeks to find the bodies).

Regards
Luke

39:

What I think would be lost in Britain is all of the postWWII research for research's sake, starting with Watson & Crick's DNA discovery/work. Literature, particularly fantasy/SF would also have suffered. The Lord of the Rings could not have been published. A system that only values 'production units' would not tolerate this. In some ways the alternate world you're describing sounds similar to George Lucas' THX1138.

40:

I have no idea where you got that idea; Communist regimes are generally pretty hot on the idea of pure scientific research, except where it stomps on particularly ideological territory or gets over-politicized (see also Trofim Lysenko and genetics under Stalin). As for literature, Soviet orbit regimes had no shortage of it -- indeed, they had state funding and writers' unions to encourage cultural activity. "Lord of the Rings" as such might have been published as children's literature or ignored and marginalized -- but it was by no means impossible: you're familiar with the history of SF/F in the Soviet Union and other eastern bloc countries, I hope?

Far from only valuing "production units" the Communist bloc placed rather less emphasis on requiring the arts to be revenue-positive. (On the other hand, they required slightly tighter adherence to ideological guidelines than is the case in the west -- although we are by no means free of such censorship here today.)

41:

I got 'that idea' from my family (parents and much older sibs who were born, educated and worked there). The university grads who pursued practical careers fared much better than the 'dreamers'. Pure math is the only exception I can think of -- and probably because it doesn't cost much to produce. Biology experiments cost a lot -- one big Soviet bio experiment cost about 15 million lives. I don't speak/read Russian, and Lem is the only Russian SF author I've ever read. (I've read the classic Russian lit stuff, been to Russian plays, concerts, ballets, etc. Based on that, Russians are too terminally depressing regardless of genre for my taste.)

Lastly, even though admittedly my opinion is based on a very small sample, it tracks pretty well with quite a bit of what I've further read about that region/time on other 3rd-party sources.


42:

The modern British surveillance state depends on cheap integrated circuit electronics. ICs were invented at least partially due to the "connection problem" prize money offered by the US Air Force, developed in the early ways with DoD funding, and then made cheap and ubiquitous by mass production to feed the booming 1960s consumer market.

Without something like the Cold War and its frantic spending, plus the consumer boom, the hardware to base a British-style surveillance state would possibly be too expensive even for nation to justify. Even Communist states have to balance their allocation of resources.

There's still the question of whether street cameras and SIGINT would be as effective as a Cheka-style system of informers and recordkeeping. Consider both the CIA and KGB learned of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran via local TV broadcasts...

There's also the question of why you'd be watching. Most secret police are formed to monitor political dissidents and to counter terrorists. But a socialist/Communist state doesn't *have* to be a horrible place to live. It's just that they're ususually just false fronts for repressive totalitarian regimes.

43:

First, I don't really care for the Soviets - knowing from age 12 on you're a half hour from death really sucked.

Second - 15 million lives? I think you mangled a decimal somewhere. Link please?

Third - Lem was Polish. Not Russian. So Soviet for sure, but not Russian.

44:

Interesting...

Ok, then Britain would have been on the front line in the Cold War, with many attempts at US infiltration (Britain would have become the weak underbelly of the USSR)...consequently, a heavy Soviet hand, which means the "locals" nominally in charge would have had no latitude. Ideological purity would have been important.

Who would constitute the new elite? Oxbridge Kim Philby types? Labour leaders? how much old score settling would have taken place?

In any event, i expect it would end up looking a lot like this fantastic movie: "The Lives of Others" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lives_of_Others)

45:

The 15 million lives lost is based on information that Ukrainians found.

Lem was ethnically Polish but was considered 'Russian' by some. Ethnicity was subject to change over there: if you were hot, you were Russian; if you were on the sh*t-list, you were another nationality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko

Excerpts ...

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (Russian: Трофи́м Дени́сович Лысе́нко, Ukrainian: Трохим Денисович Лисенко; 29 September [O.S. 17 September] 1898 – 20 November 1976) was a Soviet biologist and agronomist of Ukrainian origin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of the hybridization theories of Russian horticulturist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, and adapted them to a pseudoscientific[1][2][3] movement termed Lysenkoism.

His experimental research in improved crop yields earned the support of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, especially following the famine and loss of productivity resulting from forced collectivization in several regions of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. In 1940, he became director of the Institute of Genetics within the USSR's Academy of Sciences, and Lysenko's anti-Mendelian doctrines were further secured in Soviet science and education by the exercise of political influence and power. Scientific dissent from Lysenko's theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in 1948.

In 1964, physicist Andrei Sakharov spoke out against Lysenko in the General Assembly of the Academy of Sciences:

He is responsible for the shameful backwardness of Soviet biology and of genetics in particular, for the dissemination of pseudo-scientific views, for adventurism, for the degradation of learning, and for the defamation, firing, arrest, even death, of many genuine scientists.[16]

46:

I think what Charlie's trying to explore here is the uses a totalitarian regime would have for PRISM-style surveillance. The catch is that the Soviets are the wrong flavor of totalitarianism; nosy neighbors are more appropriate to communism than signals intelligence.

A different take on the same question would involve the way a busybody Islamic regime (Iran, ISIS, or something similar) could use the same technology. Don't pray five times a day? Your phone reports you. Merge the first two prayers and the last two prayers? You're a Shia, which may be good or bad depending on who's asking. An unmarried girl calls a boy on the phone? Call blocked. Alcohol sensors mandatory in all phones, perhaps. Mandatory daily quizzes on Islamic law, with penalties for the worst performers.

47:

I'd also point out that we've got to watch our capitalist brains here.

Currently, much as we might rail against capitalism, we live in a world where capitalism won the Cold War. In the real world, we're grappling with the problem that the dominant ideology isn't good enough to keep the system from crashing, and none of the alternatives look to be even that useful.

Now, had the USSR conquered Europe after WWII, despite the US' massive industrial might, we'd be living in a world where Communism arguably won. We'd not only have communist China (and unlikely a free Taiwan), we'd probably have communist Korea (the entire peninsula--the commies were the only anti-Jap forces on the peninsula until after WW2), and probably Japan would be split into Northern Communist and Southern Capitalist countries somewhere in Honshu. Tokyo might have been split the way Berlin was.

In fact, I can probably give you a mechanism for how the USSR conquered Europe after WW2. It's fairly simple:

1. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki failed (either they failed to detonate or were dropped over the ocean when the targets couldn't be approached. They were bombing in typhoon season, after all, and the weather was marginal for bombing).

2. The US defeated Japan by implementing Operation Downfall, which resulted in over six million American casualties, even more Japanese casualties (most of whom were civilians) and turned Japan into a basket case with no industrial structure whatsoever. Every city, bridge, harbor, and factory was firebombed into oblivion, and famine and disease were the order of the day for the entire peninsula for most of the 1940s.

3. Japan was only conquered with Soviet assistance, hence the division of the country. There is no Japanese Emperor (Hirohito and his entire family died during Downfall). South Japan is ruled by a "democracy" run by strong industrialists, more on our South Korean model. North Japan's ruling ideology mash-up of Soviet communism and xenophobic Japanese nationalism, and the ruling northern cadre rose from the ranks of the street protestors and hoodlums who managed to survive the bloody purges of late WWII imperial Japan. You can probably find their names if you look hard enough. The Japanese Communist Party was staging street riots in the closing days of WW2.

4. Due to the huge number of casualties and horrendous destruction of Downfall, the US has turned seriously isolationist. Yes, it would have been great to save Europe, but we have enough trouble saving the western hemisphere, thank you very much.

5. The Marshall Plan never happened. The USSR rebuilt Europe after WW2.

6. And the might of capitalism is very much in question. After all, we lost six million people in a battle with a technologically inferior (Japanese) foe, and only won with the help of another technologically inferior (Soviet) ally. As in Japan, there would be a strong argument that the fighting spirit of a people could conquer the technological sophistication of capitalism, and it would be very hard to disprove it. After all, our crowning technological achievement (the atom bomb) failed to detonate.

7. Oh yeah, and there might have been a Japanese War in the 1950s, akin to the Korean War of our era. If it was fought, it probably went nuclear, because no one knew how devastating those weapons really were until they were used near the start of a war, rather than at its end.

As for how this means the USSR fell apart in the 1980s and 1990s, I haven't a clue, but if you want a mechanism for how the US and the West failed to stop communism, here's my offering.

With that cleared out of the way, let's get back to Charlie's scenario.

48:

I suspect you might be right that Charlie's interested in exploring PRISM-style surveillance in a modern totalitarian regime but I need to think about what that might look like in a non-fundamentalist state a bit.

I think it's interesting to explore why most of the communist regimes seem to go down the nosy neighbours route while the capitalist countries go down the technological surveillance route - and why perhaps we're struggling to match up to Charlie's vision. Communist societies can certainly have ideological backwaters and hiccoughs, but generally their science isn't too shocking. They've certainly made some excellent tanks and and guns over the years. That's obviously not the same as sophisticated computers and so on but you don't manage it without some good science.

I think the neo-Con, small government agenda actually drives electronic intelligence agenda. You can't have the budget to put spies everywhere you want, so you've got to have something to monitor automatically for you.

In communist countries it's not quite a case of money no object, but small government just isn't in the lexicon but buying a new supercomputer is much harder. Even if you can go and buy one, or steal one, there's not the urge. You can do it with person-power.

The accounting paradigms are different. In the UK and USA capital spend and low running costs are lauded. In Russia (I assume, certainly the USSR), China and so on, low capital spend is lauded, high running costs are acceptable. PRISM fits the former model and wouldn't occur to the British Democratic Republic. They'd be incapable of imagining it, or if some intelligence officer has wet dreams about it, the cabinet/politburo would never pass it because they'd be taken to wherever (The Tower of London maybe, through Traitor's Gate restored to its old purpose?) for execution.

Where it might happen is if there's a Yeltsin-type event after the collapse of the Party in Mother Russia and Britain escapes as the E. European countries did. As most of them have, it charges towards capitalism and democracy of a sort.

The old mechanisms of surveillance and control are well established but the new accounting paradigm takes hold and they start looking for low running cost surveillance rather than an informant in every household.

And then I'm back at us looking rather like Poland... but we're not a totalitarian state. Or rather like modern Russia, but we wouldn't do PRISM, we'd do informants.

49:

Thank you.
I knew about Lysenko, and Lysenkoism, but not the wider consequences. I kept thinking of bioweapons...

50:

The modern British surveillance state depends on cheap integrated circuit electronics. ICs were invented at least partially due to

Stop it.

You are getting hung up on details of this, and treating it as an alternate history tech development scenario.

It's not: it's a metaphor about totalitarian surveillance states -- how would we in the UK be morally worse off if we were in a Soviet satellite, in terms of being subject to gratuitous state interference in our daily lives?

51:

Hermeles, this is a yellow card warning.

You explicitly disregarded the guidance in the very first paragraph of the essay.

Further comments on the subject of how-it-happened will be unpublished, because that's fundamentally uninteresting to me and is derailing the discussion.

52:

Is Comrade Brown still head of the Supreme Soviet and the People's Commissariat of Finance, in this Gosplan Britain.

I can't believe he would have allowed capitalist roaders like the infamous Cameron to usurp him, now even Emanuel Goldblair is believed to be in the South Yorkshire gulags, or the "Re-education" camps on the Isle of Man?

53:

How physically mobile is real-world modern U.K. vs. pre-WWII? One of the easiest ways of keeping tabs on people is by limiting their ability to travel. This also keeps down the exchange of ideas.

If only state-approved traveling occurred, you could actually run all sorts of different 'controlled social experiments' simultaneously. You'd also have to control all communications - electronics. If you did this, then you could also pull the switch on any failed experiment and pretend it never happened. Using different countries/cultures for such social experiments could be rationalized -- different starting points, different experimental variables, etc. For example -a multigenerational study where women have complete vs. no rights: what are the differences in crime rate statistics, life expectancy, rate of scientific discovery, etc. Micro-experiments could also be done - say for testing different management theories.

Depending on the motives of the government/ruling party, such studies could actually help improve lives overall.

54:
It's not: it's a metaphor about totalitarian surveillance states -- how would we in the UK be morally worse off if we were in a Soviet satellite, in terms of being subject to gratuitous state interference in our daily lives?

Morally better or worse? Somewhat worse I'm sure in general but I'm not convinced that would be mostly due to the surveillance.

Totalitarian regimes (except North Korea which is really an inherited kingdom and seems to be doing their best to get rid of the young king and keep the old guard) skew old in their leadership. Where's the drive for sex equality, doing away with the death penalty, gay rights, disability rights and so on? I know this is off topic but they're important for the moral state of the country IMO.

To go back to surveillance, I think it depends. Russia today certainly has its ways of shutting up and excluding its political dissidents and unwelcome figures. Historically it's had some brutal methods too. But Michael Gove and Teresa May clashed over the direction of something or another - one is still in post, the other got shuffled from a post where he was in the news weekly to a post where we don't hear of him, even though he's Callmedave's mate. With the exception of the last two Mayors of London, marital infidelity is a sure-fire way to end a political career. How many have been ended by blackmail before they've reached high office? Is that actually much better?

We would probably have more people arrested, jailed and whatever, yes. I'm sure absolute freedom of speech is not a moral good thing but I am equally sure the right to criticise the government is. Being imprisoned for that is a bad thing - but I think the conservatism of an older ruling group, the kind of "reforms" we're seeing under Putin to reverse equal rights are morally far worse.

55:

Actually, given Browns background I wouldn't expect him to be in finance, more the area to do with history and propaganda.

As for the question in the OP, I would say that there simply wouldn't be much difference, except that a larger percentage of the populace simply wouldn't trust the official media organs of power, which would be the mail, torygraph etc. Instead, we have people who seem to get their ill-informed world view from them, which helps reinforce the activities of the ruling class/ politburo members.
There would also be more arrests etc as El says.

56:


Would there ever be the information technnology to modernise mass surveillance in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Albionia?

I'll pick up on a key point, mentioned earlier by TRX: CCTV, cellular phones, home computers and the whole idea of 'software' that grew out of that could never have arisen without cheap and widely-available integrated circuits.

Cheap integrated circuits are absolutely, unequivocally, and exclusively a product of the 1960's USA economy - and of a very particular evolution of that economy combining both 'dirigisme' (the massive shift to engineering in the universities to close the 'missile gap) and free-market dynamism picking up the products of military investment when they were released into the civilian economy.

The home-computer hobbyists of the seventies, who became the Silicon Valley Titans of the nineties, began with motherboards that were quite recognisably the guidance computer from an Atlas missile.

The integrated circuits that both found and built mass-markets, and turned up in every medical device and home appliance manufactured after 1980, all had origins in military technology.

You might want to think about a world in which all of that stayed locked away in a cold, cold war.

There's a relevant precedent for that: the lockdown of British computer science in the 1950's which stifled a world lead in the technology...

...A lockdown which might not have happened in the peculiar alt-history of Soviet Britain: there's no need to suppress all public knowledge of technologies that would reveal our capability in reading postwar Eastern European 'Enigma' traffic.

So you *might* posit a Soviet British state with pretty-damn-good mainframes in the 1960's. Better-than LEO, for sure; probably better than the KDF9... But would there ever be a line of IBM-360 clones turning up in offices in this alternate timeline?

And programming? Well, that has strong roots in Britain - Maurice Wilkes, for a start - but the cold, cold war might keep Algol, COBOL, and Fortran under wraps. That being said, CLEO (the language available for business applications on LEO) could well have developed into a better language than COBOL and brought computing into all the enterprises of The State.

So we do have IT in this timeline, and computers in large state communes - the corporations of this alternative future - which makes the technology available for routine work (and, eventually, mass surveillance) by the security services; but I don't see mass-produces I/O chips and network switches bringing coax-cable video and data networks into every house and onto every desktop in 20th-Century Albionia.

And I don't see much progress with 'software' in the Soviet republics - programmes are 'proprietary' - the property of the State, no less! - inviolable, unmodifiable, and conidered part of the computer, performing the predefined tasks allocated to it with the perfect foresight of a planned economy.

57:

Nile, please read comment 50.

That is all.

58:

Charlie, I think we would be morally worse off in freedom of movement between countries.

I'm using "we" here because I was born in England but my family emigrated to Australia in the 1970s. Based on what happened in the Soviet Bloc, that would not have been nearly as easy to do under the BPDR.

Going in the other direction, the population of the BPDR would be a lot less diverse. The USSR wasn't nearly as welcoming to immigrants, even from supposedly friendly countries. The USSR was happy to educate and train people from for African and Caribbean countries, but then sent them back - Wikipedia gives the black population of Russia as just 40,000.

59:

I suspect that the main form of surveillance in a soviet of post-soviet Britain would be undercover operatives in targeted organisations rather than a Stasi -like widespread network looking at everybody.
Unions would be state controlled and could suggest names of people to be investigated. An inversoin of the British habit of investigating unions as enemies of the state (see Peter Wright's spycatcher)
This would be less invasive of privacy than our currernt fashion of paying good money for pocket devices which monitor our every movement and most of our communications.
I think it unlikely that smartphones would be available until well into the post - communist state and became available for import.

60:

I don't know if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, or not. Britain would be considerably more sexually... repressed, let's say. None of the "revolutions" of the 60s would have happened, or at least, the most extreme parts wouldn't have happened. The people who disapproved of young people's behavior in that era would have been the ones acting on surveillance information, and would have had the power to suppress it completely (power that they didn't have in our own timeline).

61:

We would probably have more people arrested, jailed and whatever

Although interestingly enough, the US has more people jailed per capita than Russia. On that criterion, "soviet communism" might be better than capitalism.

62:

Fair enough. Feel free to unpublish that one if you wish. My mind has trouble starting in the middle, especially when the formative years of the people in charge of dealing with the crisis are deliberately left undescribed.

I'm trying to figure out if we have a good model already: Poland? Germany? The Czech Republic or Slovenia? Romania? Ukraine? One of the 'Stans? Cuba? North Korea? If MI-5, that relic of empire, morphed into a (cough, cough) SS, then morphed into the new security service of a post-Soviet state, it strongly suggests that the history would be much like what happened with the Russian security apparatus, which went from serving the Czars to serving the Premiers to serving the President(s), all the while keeping much of their apparatus intact.

If the last is the case, does it mean anything to the British spies to go from serving the crown to serving the state to serving the prime minister? Or is that a stupid question? I'm thinking of the way the CIA's generally considered the US President's dirty tricks team, while the much larger DIA serves the military, while the FBI considers itself a law enforcement bureau, even though it runs civilian counterintelligence for the US. In the US, each of these loyalties (president, military, law) affects how the spies do their work. Is the same true in the UK?

63:

Apologies, I hadn't seen that before I posted...

The moral equivalence argument has come into focus in the last year or so: I remember posting, back in 2009, that I had some sympathy for Labour politicians who displayed such disregard for civil liberties and privacy - they had spent their entire adult lives under hostile surveillance, knowing that they could be next in the News of the World with some deliberate smear or distorted remark or videotaped 'lapse' in their private lives; and this was so little different to living under a totalitarian police state that these poloticians might have no concept of the freedoms private citizens enjoy, regarding all of 'civil liberties' as nothing more than empty rhetoric in a Guardian article.

Because, for them, privacy and freedom from surveillance were a joke, a yokelish belief of ill-informed outsiders to the politice of modern Britain.

There was no point in saying that five years ago. But now, when we all feel eyes on us and *know* that everything embarrassing we've ever said or done in electronic media is available - accessible and searchable - to a hostile surveillance state, now we know that we're in a police state, and we are beginning to suspect what that could mean.

The practical difference between us, and the citizens of the DDR, is that they grew up knowing it, and being careful; and we've been terribly, terribly careless. We still are, all the time.

Unlike the citizens of former Soviet states, we haven't felt the other shoe drop: we haven't seen and felt the 'take' from mass surveillance used against us.

Not yet, anyway. Not unless you're a trade unionist in the construction industry, or an elected Labour politician.

Or you suspect that someone that you haven't seen at Friday prayers for months, and no-one's heard of in a while, is dead in an unmarked grave outside the walls of an undocumented prison in a country with a name like '-stan'.

But that sort of thing will never happen to ordinary people like you and I. Or so we all believe, and we have become well-practised at ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

When *that* shoe drops, when mass surveillance is used in massive blackmail or in massive blacklisting or Soviet-scale incarceration or in open-air forced labour, *then* we will have descended into moral equivalence with Soviet-era socialist republics; your alt-history explores it, labour camps and purges, show-trials, mocking propaganda and exclusion; but very few of Britain's citizens have gone further than an intellectual exploration.

I note, as an aside, that the USA has now surpassed the Stalin-era gulag archipelago in both the numbers and proportion of the population incarcerated.

But what will make the British public *feel* it, know it, fear it and - perhaps - find some way of rolling it all back, before we reach a state in which the 'Velvet Revolutions' of the former Soviet satellites are the only means available?

64:

Would Spain and Portugal have survived outside the Soviet umbrella? Would Vichy France? Turkey isn't going to roll over easily, it's a fool who takes on the Turkish Army (look at their performance in Korea to see why).

Everyone appears to be assuming an "efficient" BDPR, and not a "realistic" one.

What about corruption? In WW2, corruption of the ration system was rife (for example), and there was a large and thriving black economy. This was the case throughout the Eastern Bloc (less perhaps int the DDR). No reason why an invaded UK should somehow become more honest, and more efficient.

What about inefficiency? We lived in Bulgaria for three years, in the 1970s (my father was posted to the British Embassy there). I remember the tales of a goods transport / logistic infrastructure that operated at less than 50% efficiency - because without incentives, why bother being flexible? There were farmers ploughing harvests back into the fields, because they had spent too long rotting at the side of the road waiting for pickup.

Give it a decade or two, and what about the Nomenklatura? Sansom and Deighton both touch on it in Dominion and SS-GB, and even Honecker and the DDR had their "we're special, we get the nice stuff" as witnessed at the close of Animal Farm. Once the system is corrupted... the children of the elite start doing better than the children of the masses, because they have the networks and the "roof". Patriarchy and promotion beyond the level of incompetence was just as widespread in the Communist system as in the wildest dreams of old-school-tie UK.

What about... "extreme" suppression of dissent? After all, it was the Bulgarians who compromised the shiny new Soviet assassination tool of ricin-doped micro pellets by going after the BBC World Service presenters with an airgun in an umbrella. Does Radio Free Lisbon, or Radio Free Damascus, get jammed by the Peoples' Republics? Does Turkey exist as a gateway to a non-Soviet bloc?

What about... the Siloviki? Apparatus members with an awareness of "other ways of doing things", and the training to survive in it. Would the emerging systems be compromised by the former members of the Organs of the State?

Apologies for looking at this with a cynical and embittered eye :)

65:

I think the best answer is that suppression of dissent in post-Soviet Britain would be a lot less subtle. Everyone would know people who've disappeared in the middle of the night. People would try not to be seen laughing at the idea of "innocent until proven guilty". Arrests would not generally involve charges being filed, and the Prime Minister's least favorite people would go missing with some regularity. The idea of "exposing" government corruption would be ridiculous; everyone would already know but nobody would dare complain too loudly.

66:

I should say - that as Diplomatic Staff in a Warsaw Pact country, we were bugged and followed.

We lived in an 18-story apartment block in Sofia; two apartments per floor. Smaller nations combined consulate and residence, so we were a few floors up from the Iranian Embassy. We were on the 15th floor; there were some Russians on the 16th floor; and the top two floors had a stream of people coming and going during the day, but wre obviously not residences - it was where the listeners worked.

As my father said later, they were bugged in stereo in their bedroom, but quadraphonic in the bathroom.

If Dad wanted a packed lunch for a day driving around the countryside looking for convoys, he'd write on the kitchen tiles with a chinagraph pencil; otherwise he'd walk outside in the morning to find his two chunky lads sitting waiting to tail him. It did have the advantage that on one occasion when the phone wasn't working, my Mum spoke loudly to the walls - "Boris, the phone's broken" - and it pinged and start working again. "Boris" became a family joke.

Apparently, by age eight I could spot the tail car (mind you, they didn't need to be subtle) and at age nine I remember the Bulgarians making a propaganda film by the car park outside, using the diplomats' personal cars and childrens as plausible and unpaid set dressing - they had actors dressed as US soldiers, burning a pile of books, while the cameras rolled.

The reality of a post-war surveillance state is labour-intensive and boring...

67:

Imagine Poland without the religion (I doubt that the anglican church would play the same role as the catholic in communist poland). Certainly not Germany - there is no free West Germany, and there is no easily available western propaganda (the whole of Europe has been conquered (maybe even including the Vatican).

Aside (sorry Charlie): With an invasion in 1940 if most scientists from Bletchley (Turing...) and those ending up in the Manhattan project would not have escaped, I seriously doubt that that world would have the computers and nuclear weapons we have now - at least it would have them much later.

68:

We had cleaners made available for the Diplomatic accommodation at insanely low prices - obviously, because they were briefed/threatened to look out for "things of interest".

We took it as read that the flats were insecure - one person came home early to find a Bulgarian security officer climbing out over the balcony into the next flat. I discovered by accident that the circular door pull was actually a stiff-turning handle that would open the front door without the use of key - that's probably the first time a cute access method has been compromised by an eight-year-old desperate for the toilet, and a five-lever Chubb lock was fitted soon afterwards.

The cleaning ladies gave us a small insight into the reality of Bulgarian life. One told of posting food parcels to relatives in Eastern Bulgaria because there was an (unreported) famine; and of the practice of "key money", even though cars and flats were supposedly state-supplied to the workers according to need, not profit. I still have a wedding present from her, embroidered tablemats in the traditional style.

69:

What if Stafford Beer had tried 'Cybersyn' in a peaceful Socialist Britain instead of Allende's Argentina? According to Beer (can't beat that) it was working well- bottom-up surveillance of the government, by the socialist people, heroic bureaucrats who made things work being rewarded by a grateful people as they fixed one social problem after another- and then Allende's enemies used the system for assassination targets. He was trying to replace the immediate feedback capitalism gets from people who buy good stuff and don't buy obvious crap. He thought he was succeeding. What if he was right?

70:

Still sort of new here, but I'm going to take a small stab at this. One of the things that brought down the Soviet state was the Mafiya (the Vory). Because of and in spite of the ubiquitous surveillance, a huge subculture was created in which jail was home, thieves were family. The thieves-in-law were against the Soviet state and were also rotting it from the inside. My guess is that Britain might have a similar sort of more organized criminal element. Some of them might become "respectable" businessmen as the state industries are privatized, turning it into a more or less criminal oligarchy. Maybe the UK's Putin would now be taking power and returning some of the old regime's policies, including surveillance as a means of restoring "order". So there would be a lot more of the strongman element in government. Tell me if I need to stop writing in the evenings...

71:

Maybe - but certainly under Soviet rule there was punishment short of prison, you could be banned from the "top 10" or the "top 25" or similar, and not allowed in the biggest X cities. Quite a few famous dissidents suffered this: Solzhenitsyn was sent into internal exile for example and I think barred from the top 100 cities until the relented and allowed him to enter Tashkent for treatment for his cancer.

That's easier to do when you're the size of Russia and you have 100 cities. I'm a bit surprised to find we now have 69 spread across the four parts of the UK, so I guess we could still impose internal exile and ban people from the top 50. (There'd have to be banning by metropolitan district rather than city status in the current status because Greater London isn't a city of course but you'd want to ban from it. The largest city is Birmingham.) But I expect we'd rather pragmatically just send people to prison instead and have a bigger prison population. Variations on internal exile were always popular in Russia, the soviet regime merely carried it on. Once we got over deportation, we liked prison. We'd carry that on.

72:

At the risk of sounding a bit harsh, I think that the UK is a satellite of the USA pretty much as the DDR was a satellite of the USSR. The way the GCHQ implements US surveillance policy is telling: national boundaries are meaningful only insofar as differences in legal regimes create gaps that widen possibilities (e.g. the USA cannot spy on their own citizens, but the British can do that for them and forward the results, etc.). The selective information of MPs on the matter is telling: GCHQ is in practice more loyal to its US overlord than it is to its own political authorities. They even accept US funding, for goodness' sake!

What contrasts the UK from Soviet Poland of the DDR lie in the surviving traditions and in the ideology:


  • from the traditions, we have a good degree of a cast-based society (cue Bullingdon Club and that sort of things)
  • from ideology, we have this very efficient technology (why recruit hundreds of thousands of informants when you can subvert a handful of telecom companies) and a crapsaccharine world, where you do not even actually need to shoot people.

Note that for the last point, I am a bit doubtful. The Stalinist show trials were very picturesque indeed, but occurred in a time when democracies would machine-gun unionist protesters. We have to allow for inflation, as repression becomes more and more subtle over time. By the 70s and 80s, repression in the Soviet block was more light-handed than during Stalin, and we are aware of it because our own Western anti-Soviet propaganda increased the contrast and helped make sense of what happened to Eastern dissidents, in a way that was less obvious for Eastern citizens living in the Communist propaganda all the time.

Are the treatment of Chelsea Manning and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn all that different? Julian Assange and József Mindszenty? Should we not laugh at a super-power invading Afghanistan and claiming to bring democracy and progress while holding single-candidate elections? What does "democracy" even mean if all you do is cast a ballot? What good are politics if the range of policies is strictly constrained? And if discussion of all important subjects (global warming, energy, economy and budget...) is tightly limited, what will happen to immigration paranoia or euro-bashing, which you can use as rhetorical tools to divert public angst and anger at convenient scape-goats?


73:

I have quite deliberately (at this point) NOT read any of the preceding / intervening comments.

However, I met someone from the doughnut a few weeks ago - & pointed out, as I will point out to "all our readers": - -

Some people NEED spying on - but (& very imprtant but) spying on everyone is a waste of time & effort - you need to concentrate on real enemies, not imagined ones."
I agree that we are spied on, far too much, but it is, in fact (as stated) a waste of time & effort, allowing real enemies ( Like Da'esh / ISIL ) to escape.

Past errors: spying on Greenpeace, but not ALF.
spying on "open" Marxists, but letting Burgess/Maclean/Philby etc get away - idiots!
Allowing vast amounts of Brit poplice corruption flourish, lest people ask too many questions.
This list could go on & on & on .....

Incidentally, I'm surprsied Charlie has not taken that related theme, of institutionalised police ( & local/national) government corruption up.
It isn't "just" the case of S. Lawrence, where the local cops were: a) In the pay of the local mob & b) actually were racists. But "they" wanted (a) hidden - & got away with it.
Look at Rotherham, if you can bear it.
The S Yorkshire police are obviously at the least grossly incompetent & very likely ( i.e. 95%+) to be corrupt. They were/are covering-up & ignoring years of sickening abuse & torture - why? Who were they fronting for & who else is involved?
We may never know.
THIS is the true price of a surveillance state.
It rots the entire structure from within.

74:

>> Lem was ethnically Polish but was considered 'Russian' by some.

As an attempt to quantify 'some' -- after a lifetime of reading Russian SF, this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone considering Lem a Russian writer. 'Translated from Polish' was a major giveaway.

On the general question that OGH asks -- i would venture that form follows function, and the surveillance state is just a natural consequence of running a very large state/empire.

75:

There would certainly be a lot of corruption, but I wonder if there would be the extremes, as least as seen by ordinary people. Something such as Rotherham would have to pay off both the local police and the Secret Police, and something like that is top grade blackmail material.

Would you take the chance of being bribed for that, especially if it could be dealt with by indirect means? I can't dredge much from my recollection, but consider the example of "hooliganism" was one of the lesser catch-all crimes in the Soviet system. How about Anti-Sovietism?

Essentially, there are legal mechanisms to drop on these people from a great height, but the crime charged may not be obviously linked to the crime committed. And it's worth remembering that the police forces of the 1940s were mostly much smaller. They were amalgamated later, losing some countries and the small cities, and that could have happened under a Soviet system. But you would, I think, still have the Secret Police watching.

And I am forgetting the military. Under the Soviet system the Police watched everybody else, the military watched everybody else, and the Secret Police and Party watched everybody else. If any one of these made a big mistake they other two could lean on them. The checks and balances are different.

So something such as Rotherham could come out differently. It's not necessarily taking bribes, it's what you are being bribed to do.

(Another thing: all three of those groups in the Soviet system had large-scale infantry units, maybe biased towards riot police for the Interior Ministry and frontier guards for the KGB, but they had some serious muscle, and all three would have had special forces units.)

76:

My direct experience is nil, but those ultimately reliable narrators of the news and film/TV both talk about how rampant organised crime is in modern Russia as well under the soviets. But Russian literature talks about it too, pretty widely - not in quite the same lurid terms maybe, but everyone knows someone who operates in the black market and will fix you up with whatever.

The style of the crimes would probably be different, although maybe not that different. Organised crime is about exploiting human weakness for money after all - sex and drugs will still do it and there will still be people that like underage girls, have fantasies about virgins, or want to take part in a gang bang and all the rest of it.

The excuses about racism may disappear when, or if, the corruption is uncovered - there are interesting (but irrelevant to Charlie's question) alternate history building questions about what happens to the Empire that tie to the mechanics of how we become the BDR and so does the WIndrush ever arrive? Do the refugees from Uganda ever arrive? Do we have a significant communities from the commonwealth countries? They were (mostly) present before and during the war of course, but quite a lot have grown since the war with easier travel. That might well not have happened. But the powerful, even if they're not necessarily rich in the same ways, still think the rules don't apply to them, their vices are still the same, and people will seek power or money or whatever by supplying them.

77:

I don't think people are less creative or scientifically interested based on the political system. In fact I believe that people are much the same, everywhere.

What would have been different is pop culture. In capitalist countries pop stars attract lots of money and that generates power structures of its own (see Hollywood and music labels). Marketing also homogenizes pop culture products. Alternative stuff still exists, but it's not as visible.

78:

Charlie, I think we would be morally worse off in freedom of movement between countries.

I doubt it. The UK today is horribly hostile towards immigration. With the exception of existing UK citizens returning from overseas, and EU citizens who have automatic right of residence anywhere in the UK, it's increasingly difficult to get permission to live here -- to the point where US citizens who've been married to Brits and living in the UK for 20 years and have children here are being deported if they can't prove that they earn enough to justify being allowed to stay! Our immigration policies are effectively being set to meet the requirements wanted by our neo-nazi parties in the 1980s.

However, if you have £20M in your back pocket and want a British passport, just talk to the Home Office. There's an investor's visa process with concierge service and a red carpet for the Money -- you get assigned your very own immigration officer, to handle the red tape!

The dominant ideology is, as usual, privileged ...

79:

If MI-5, that relic of empire, morphed into a (cough, cough) SS

MI5 doesn't officially exist by that name, and hasn't, for decades: it is officially The Security Service. Yes, they have a web site (www.mi5.gov.uk), but if you look at it you'll note that they're using "MI5" as a trademark or brand indentifier; the actual site belongs to the Security Service. (The problem is that the name "MI5" is so well known that they can't get rid of it.)

80:

But what will make the British public *feel* it, know it, fear it and - perhaps - find some way of rolling it all back, before we reach a state in which the 'Velvet Revolutions' of the former Soviet satellites are the only means available?

The previous Ukraine government jumped on the cellphone companies to provide the IMEIs of all phones in the vicinity of the Maidan, then text-spammed them with dire threats that anyone who participated was guilty of counter-state subversion and would be prosecuted. So the tech is there.

We're all carrying our personalized tracking devices around with us at all times these days; my guess is the shoe will drop when everyone on a demonstration the government doesn't approve of wakes up one morning to an arrest warrant. If they'd had the infrastructure during the riots in 2010 it would have happened then; if there's a repeat of 2010 ...

81:

The hallmark of the Soviet Empire was drabness. "We pretend to work and you pretend to pay us". 1979 Britain, but with an even more oppressive and corrupt police force.

The elephant in the room, or Empire, would be united Germany. East Germany in our timeline almost made their system work. I suspect that a united Germany would undermine the USSR and re-implement what would be National Socialism except in name. The tail would eventually wag the dog.

And as for why the Nazi alternative worlds get more words than USSR alternative worlds is because the Soviets were boring, while the Nazis were genius insane. If we lived in the latter world, it would most likely be in the ruins of a well nuked world.

82:

In our world, the USSR and "the west" differed quite strongly in their consensus mythology. The Soviet bloc ran on the notion that the individual was just a bit player in achieving the great destiny of the collective. In contrast, the media in the west focused on the heroism of individual effort and skill, and the magnificence of the invisible hand. (I am not saying this mythology was consistent: the USA economy has been incongruously command-driven since WWII, and ridiculous deference was shown in communist countries towards favoured individual academics, coaches, and politicians.)

A post-Fall BDPR would therefore seem to be emerging from a collectivist consensus. In such a society it would quite possibly have previously been normal to observe and interact with the neighbours closely (as opposed to not even knowing their names). This would have been not only for ideological reasons, but also to help provide the simple things that fell between the cracks of the Five-Year Plans. I am thinking of things like finding someone with the tools to fix a leaking toilet, a contact who can source jams and pickles from their rural relatives, or knowing whom to approach with a gift to attempt to have the communal heating in one's area fixed.

I therefore claim that surveillance would in the BDPR have been easiest done by exploiting this dense social network, and therefore likely to have been similar to East Germany in our world. Post-Fall, Britain would probably have rejected attempts to convert the village granny style surveillance apparatus into more efficient technological surveillance. I think the momentum would have been away from pervasive surveillance towards more privacy.

However, if the economic disruption of the Fall created conditions similar to Russia in our world, then state suppression of dissent would have been vigorous.

The main question is therefore: is there a general feeling of being under threat? If there is, then dissent is suppressed. If not, then it is celebrated. It is not clear in the BDPR scenario sketched whether the dominant mood would be of waking up from a bad dream, secure in the feeling of endless possibility (perhaps similar to Germany today), or if it would be dominated by a pervasive paranoia, fostered by a military-industrial complex in a Kleinian dystopia.

With pervasive fear, I think surveillance would be similar, and might even be worse. With a healthier outlook, I think the situation would be rather more chaotic but surveillance would be less pervasive.

So I don't think it is clear which way things would have gone in the BDPR scenario -- it seems to depend on the fear factor.

83:

Martin (67 above) mentioned the importance of the Church in Soviet Poland but that it might not be as large a factor in soviet alt-history Britain. I disagree simply because religion and other 'folk traditions' have been used as popular alternate authority/rallying posts. Religion/folk customs are things that children are taught and usually associated with innocence - getting rid of or banning these would probably require more effort than simply ignoring them into near non-existence (as in Western Europe).

Probably the most effective surveillance style would be non-oppressive/helpful -- a matter of positioning/perception. E.g., Did you forget where you placed your keys -- find them with our video tracker; Worried that your elderly mom fell because she didn't pick up the phone when you called - check up on her with our video feed, etc.

Any surveillance society would have to start at the crib --- get the little kiddies used to being watched. And would probably take at least 4 generations to become internalized unless inter-generational communication became inconvenient/costly/uncool - but never 'forbidden'. (1950's and on city/town planning in NA and more recently China (Shanghai) is probably doing this already.)

Never let any of your citizens find out that any part of the world anywhere is not being surveilled - surveillance has always been going on and is natural/normal.

84:

One other give-away ..
That shows that, although all the spying apparat is in place here, Charlie is being (just a tiny little bit) too paranoid, at the moment - please note all the qualifiers, there!
There's a. n. other dead give-away for the question:
"Is it a police/autocratic state?"
Does it viciously censor the arts?
[ Hint; listen to the BBC radio4 programme: "Germany, memories of a nation" - all available on-line. ]
Both the Nazi & Soviet systems did this with astonishing verve, the PRC is doing it, Ethiopia is kidnapping artists & sending them to death row.
Here - de nada.

P.S.

Charlie @ #11 ...

Yes - as I was intimating, the sheer "weight" of the surveillance slows the whole system down - it is a huge extra drag on the economic "body politic", never mind the implicit corruption that it engenders.
It feeds on itself & it will never be satisfied a cross between the mythical Hydra & Cerberus, perhaps.
How we conned ourseleves into believing this stupidity, when we know that it's a dead-end is what beats me.

85:

China's governing mythology is of being an ethnically homogeneous, integrated empire-state.
Yeah
Ask the Tibetans or the Uighurs or the Miao or the Turkic/Mongolians ......

86:

Both the Nazi & Soviet systems did this with astonishing verve, the PRC is doing it, Ethiopia is kidnapping artists & sending them to death row. Here - de nada.

I'm afraid you need to read your Chomsky; that's not how we do things under Late Period Capitalism, but censorship of the arts happens nonetheless.

The way it works is that art is expected to be commercially profitable. There's very little room in today's UK for art for its own sake, or art that isn't commercial; your average artist makes relatively little money and the move away from a basic safety net and towards workfare and/or multiple low-paid part time jobs is inimical to the former artists' lifestyle (work part-time, make art, hope to eventually break through once you've perfected your skills). The upshot is that there's intense pressure for art to be commercial -- with results you can see in the pop charts every week, or in the cinema multiplexes.

It's a cliche to say this, but a work as determinedly eccentric, non-conformist, and unconventional as "Lord of the Rings" couldn't have been published in the 1980s-2000s; the only reason it might be viable today is because of the ease of self-publishing, but the self-publishing boom itself makes it easier to hide undesirable material (by simply down-ranking it in search results online).

Maybe this is a little paranoid, but we already know that Amazon's search results are being politically biased at the high end (bestsellers/national figures), and we'd probably never know if they were practicing subtle search censorship at the low end. Or rather, nobody of any importance would know ...

87:

Food was rationed and everbody with children used National Dried Milk and National Orange Juice.
NO
I got FRESH milk, every day, until the end of rationing ( & most of it went 1948-51 ) ... & I then went on drinking it ....
[ I was born in 1946 ]
You forget that "officially" our nutrition was better 1940-49 that at any previous time & there are some deeply unpleasant nannies around, who want to return us to those times - because, although the food may have been "good for you" it was boring & tasteless.

88:

I'm not sure how hostile the UK actually is towards immigration.

There is a significant chunk of the media that is definitely hostile. There is rhetoric from various sections of various political parties (using the term loosely to include UKIP) that is hostile. There is, as with so much in our public life, certainly nothing approaching an informed debate in public.

At the same time there was a survey published recently that whooshed across my awareness that basically said there's more anti-immigrant feeling the more we don't know any. Places like Clacton, with a tiny immigrant population vote UKIP and froth about immigration. Travel to Haringay (about 80 miles along the roads, 60 as the crow flies) and while you probably can find someone who considers immigration a problem and that might affect how they'll vote at the next election, it's about as easy as finding an immigrant living in Clacton.

The Border Agency or whatever they're going to be reorganised into (or is that Passport Agency, I lose track) are certainly a bunch of incompetent fucktards. When I mentioned Teresa May above keeping her job after a spat with Callmedave's mate Gove... The passport people and the Border Agency are both under her purview and she *still* kept her job! They certainly ease the passage for the ultra-rich. They certainly ham-fistedly implement stupid and short-sighted policy.

They also fail to keep track of criminals, people in detention centres and all kinds of things.

But officially we're not really hostile. We don't put detention centres on Dartmoor or in the Brecon Beacons (we don't have a nice desert like Australia, but we use both places to train the SAS in survival skills so they're probably pretty hostile). We don't shoot people trying to get in. Until yesterday we weren't into letting them drown despite all the water around us and even now we're trying to pretend we're not, we're just letting the Italians do our dirty work for us.

I, for one, would be happy for us to be officially much more welcoming, and more competent. I'm not saying we have to take everyone and maybe if we were friendlier we'd keep track of the bad apples more easily. But I also think there's more of a mismatch on this issue between the media and the politicians than there is on many. They're seeing immigration raised as an issue and assuming that always means "tighter controls" is certainly one sort of confirmation bias that I'm pretty sure is going on.

89:

Second - 15 million lives? I think you mangled a decimal somewhere. Link please?
No problem, comrade!
They add up, actually:
Ukraine Famine
PLUS famines in 1921 & 1946
PLUS loss of life after the able geneticists were murdered, like N Vavilov & Trofim Lysenko's daft ideas ( Lamarckian "evolution" ) were implemented.
So at least 10 million & probably close to 15.

90:

You only too obviously have not seen the vigorously-flourishing "Arts" scene round here, then!
[ Walthamstow is positively filling up with art-experimenters & practitioners & events. ]

91:

The question is not if quaint artists who do not annoy anybody get shot, but whether things that sting a bit are allowed to get any traction.

What happens with The Death of Klinghoffer is an example of the sorts of threats that will spontaneously start to appear when something a little bit dissident gains attention. For most works of art, you do not even need such level of directness, you can simply ignore them or subvert them into irrelevance (like what is happening to Star Trek, with the latest films being canonical advocacy for trigger-happy violence, much in contrast with the original series and the Next Generation universe).

92:

"Maybe - but certainly under Soviet rule there was punishment short of prison, you could be banned from the "top 10" or the "top 25" or similar, and not allowed in the biggest X cities. Quite a few famous dissidents suffered this: Solzhenitsyn was sent into internal exile for example and I think barred from the top 100 cities until the relented and allowed him to enter Tashkent for treatment for his cancer."

I can think of a lot of punishments which would be easy, starting with firing the person from their job, kicking them (and their family) from housing, and exiling them from any city/area of interest. In a communist-GB, it might mean exiling them *to* an area, like a coal-mining town.

In addition, I'm sure that the local Mafiya would have arrangements with the police beyond the usual bribes, such as beating the sh*t out of designated dissidents.

Getting to Charlie's thread, and not being original, I agree with the idea that the main differences would be:

(1) This would be a country where many thousands of people were flat-out massacred several decades ago for political reasons.
(2) There would have probably been a fair number killed over the decades since.
(3) Dissidents (or people p*ssing off the wrong people) would have routinely been savagely assaulted, and basically outlawed on a continual basis.
(5) A lot of organizations which were crushed by Thatcher would be run by the state for purposes of control.
(6) The Mafiya would be very powerful.

93:

I'm not saying you couldn't, and maybe we would have done. All of your examples are plausible.

But internal exile was part of the Czarist Russian punishment culture. It carried into Soviet Russian punishment culture. It wasn't part of ours, except for rustication from university, once we stopped sending people to America and Australia. We sent them to prison instead. Would we really have started a new punishment culture to ape Mother Russia or would have continued punished by execution and imprisonment with or without hard labour? My guess is the latter.

I think you're right about the various pogroms though.

94:

Something else to remember: agriculture.

It cannot be run to a clock as other industries can.

Britain depended on importing food, and still does. Population has risen from around 46 million to about 64 million since WW2, and it wasn't until the 1960s that the modal age of death shifted from zero.

We have had some big changes of production per acre. Optimum fertiliser started being used in the 1950s, followed by herbicides and fungicides. Yields went from 3 T/Ha to about 8 by the mid Nineties, and since then seem to have plateaued. While Rothamsted has talked about doubling wheat yield in the next 20 years, I am a bit doubtful. In the USA, the average is still only about 2.7 T/Ha

The Soviet Union shows a bigger growth on the post-war figures, but they suffered some 30 million total casualties in the war.

The Soviet Union apparently started large-scale grain imports to feed livestock, not to directly feed humans.

So what does that suggest? First, a lower-meat diet than we're used to today. This may even be healthier, though it may not be as at low a level as WW2 rationing. There would have likely been some increase in grain yields, but the Soviet Union was self-sufficient, and Britain was not. Would there be food imports from Europe to replace the imports from the USA, Canada, and Australia?

The farming communities started to change during WW2, with tractors replacing horses. Horses need year round feeding and maintenance. The New Order probably cannot turn the clock back, but horses in rural England would be more common as working animals than in OTL.

It's likely that pesticide use would be delayed, and I have seen stories of inept use of fertilisers in the Soviet Union. But the basic tech is present. A chunk of the extra wheat yields was the breeding of shorter varieties: would that have happened?

You probably would have a bigger rurally active population in the Soviet era, but the Nineties were littered with stories of farmers moving out to Eastern Europe and making money, before they lost it. Maybe the change was slower, but it still happened when the Iron Curtain came down. And it didn't take so long to catch up.

The Eastern European tractors, incidentally, started to lag a little in the Seventies, and some of that initial lag was probably styling rather than mechanics. The manpower shift here didn't start until the Seventies. You would likely have seen different names on the tractors, but farming might not have looked so different until then from what it was.

95:

Seems that most posters feel that the extra-large alt-history version of the soviet empire would be just a bigger, more mean-spirited version of the real-history USSR. Okay -- but this means more bureaucrats ... and China is probably the oldest continuously operating bureaucracy ... and either the alt-history soviets might actually look at how things are done elsewhere or end up having to figure out how to fight this phenomenon.

Pearl S Buck was on my high school's reading list ... She wrote extensively on the Chinese, and the only bit that I recall is that whenever China was 'conquered', their bureaucrats bent over backwards to appease their new overlords ... to the point of effectively cutting these new overlords off from any day-to-day decision-making. Feasts and pageantry, in-court intrigues and romances, etc., were the tactics used. In "Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy: Variations on a Theme" (Etienne Balazs) - the author talks about how the Chinese bureaucracy was staffed/run by the Chinese intelligentia. Same result ... the conquerors were cut off.

96:

"But internal exile was part of the Czarist Russian punishment culture. It carried into Soviet Russian punishment culture. It wasn't part of ours, except for rustication from university, once we stopped sending people to America and Australia. We sent them to prison instead. Would we really have started a new punishment culture to ape Mother Russia or would have continued punished by execution and imprisonment with or without hard labour? My guess is the latter."


Remember, the historical background is on in which Stalin conquered the UK (maybe after the Nazis did). The history of the UK in the 1940's will include a vast amount of domestic mass murder.

97:

I would expect a BDPR security expert to be pretty scathing about surveillance as reported by Snowden, on the grounds that it just isn't the best solution, either for the stated problem, or for any other remotely plausible goal, short of throwing money at the capitalist military-industrial complex, largely because it attempts to substitute ridiculous levels of technology for a job that people are evolved to do - keeping other people in check.

The BDPR don't need it because communism is a _totalitarian_ system. Everything not permitted is forbidden, and everything permitted is run by the Party. The party owns the means of production. All workers are members of party-run trade unions. All voluntary organisations are offshoots of Party organisations, such as the Young Pioneers. Each of these organisations is also an opportunity for the local leader to submit reports on the behaviour of those under them. High tech monitoring doesn't have much to add to this - being high tech it isn't even a particularly good place to dump loyal but unproductive Party members. There is also less need to snoop on telecommunications, because there is less need for telecommunications - all the information you need to do your job comes from your manager or trade union official, and your social life revolves around organisations run locally by the Party. This is just as well, because I see BDPR as a combination of Cuba today and the acceptance of managed decline that characterises my memory of the pre-Thatcher years. I don't see them finding very much foreign exchange to pay for IT or telecommunications equipment that needs chip factories of multinational scale. If they did have, for instance, a bulletin board system, you can bet that each message would be preceeded by the sender's real name and trade union or party affiliation. In any media, of course, campaigns against politically incorrect statements would be backed by the full resources of the state.

I imagine that the main security challenge for the BDPR would be a much-mutated IRA backed by Irish-American money, now with a right-wing libertarian/Randian political line instead of a downplayed socialist workers line, and very likely viable even in a united BDPR/IDPR Ireland. Growing up in Northern Ireland in our timeline, I was most worried by the firebomb campaigns that came close to destroying Belfast city centre - one theory is that they stopped only because the damage worried enough sympathisers that they found it hard to find volunteers to place firebombs in shops. I am assuming without knowledge that arson is easy enough to do that restrictions on the sale and ownership of materials will not stop it. The BDPR would of course allow no message to be propagated about the reason for the campaign except that it was counter-revolutionary sabotage funded by foreigners. Reportedly, in our timeline, the British Army amassed a large volume of information on trouble spots based on reports from patrolling soldiers - this would be right up the BDPR's street. I would expect IRA cells to be based on personal contact between individuals at whatever social or work contacts were permitted by the BDPR - again vulnerable to informers and human intelligence in general, but not to Snowden-style mass data collection. (Some work suggests that terrorist organisations are also social clubs, so it may be very hard to run a terrorist organisation without allowing enough social contact and mixing to produce vulnerabilities to informers/human intelligence)

I can see some point to storing communications for criminal investigation after crimes are committed, much as is done openly with CCTV. This is small-scale enough to be manageable, and to make authorisation by detailed warrant manageable, on either timeline. Similarly, there might be some point to targetted monitoring of known high-risk/high-value targets selected by other means. If there was sufficient data in mass communications alone to make monitoring for crime/terrorism prevention sensible, I would expect to see some shadow of the technology required surfacing in papers on big data or statistics, and I don't. If anybody seriously wanted to prevent future serious crime/terrorism then, based on the news so far, they should be throwing resources at support and actuarial risk assessment of the small fraction of mentally ill people who are genuinely dangerous, and of people put under extreme levels of strain by their circumstances or by the government. Again, that would go for either timeline, with changes of emphasis on what information was available, and on the exact definition of mentally ill.

98:

Without a US-allied bloc to pick up the pieces and set the rules in western europe, a post-soviet settlement here would have looked more like the states of the former USSR than our-reality Poland or Czech republic. So this version of the panoptikan state would be a dysfunctional kleptocracy run by the final generation of soviet allied apparatchniks turned capitalist titans, with a tradition of large scale human surveillance of domestic suspects.

99:

Second reply
Sorry, but do, please, grow up Charlie!
In the SovUnion, artists who were "unfashionable" were at the least publicly denounced & given low-grade work if lucky, or much more likely, simply "vanished"
The worst that can happen here is that you don't get guvmint money.
Big fucking hairy deal.
So, you're starving in a garret, same as everbody else - this is NOT official persecution, is it?

100:

That depends on the criteria applied to the idea of fashionable etc.

101:

Greg
Perhaps I am assuming more knowledge about National Dried Milk is now current, It was for babies, The orange juice (sickly sweet stuff) was delivered by the milkman with the pasteurised milk, I lived in inner city Manchester while rationing was still in place and my diet was good - the nation's top nutritionists had designed it.
But portions were small, the ration for cheese meant it could only be bought every two weeks, butter was supplemented with beef dripping and all the houses in the streets around where I lived had a pig bin for any waste food which was collected and used for swill.
I managed to get enough sweets but only because I lived in a house with seven adults and one child, me, who was given ration coupons to take to the sweet shop on the corner,
People wore drab clothes mostly and wedding dresses were generally short,
A lot of the deliveries were by horse and cart and the streets were lit by gas.
This is getting to sound like the Monty Python Yokshiremen but mypoint was that Britain could slip into communist control and not notice too much difference in the basics of living

102:

One thing I feel needs saying is that the subtle nature of modern Western social control actually counts for quite a bit. There's a big difference between being subtle to subtle social controls and being subject to brutal social controls. It's a difference of degree more than of kind, but one that has a large effect in quality of life for the average person.

103:

I'm from the U.S., and two things strike me that have been touched on only lightly.

The first is the English class system. E.M. Forster's famous remark that "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my
friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country" worked to the benefit of the Cambridge Five, but might have worked against a British Communist Party. Lower classes, kept out of the clubs, might have been much happier with a change of masters. In surveillance terms, one might imagine a government drawn from the 1940s working classes, with the gentry now a hard-to-penetrate core of resistance naturally organizing in cells based on family and school relationships. Institutions like trade unions and social clubs (brass bands, football clubs, trainspotters) would seem to be both good things to monitor and control (and might be encouraged by the government for just that reason) and good places to spread dissent.

The other is that to this day Britain has nothing like the US Constitution. Limitations on government action seem to be based on custom but there's no formal barrier like the Fourth Amendment (the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures). Slippery slopes seem to me much easier to start in the British system, which might be how a surveillence state came about. Whether a sense of fair play limited it would be an interesting question to explore; it might pop up at inconvenient times for the government, or it might have just gotten buried.

All of which says little about how the mechanics of the state would work, but to me the sociology of it might be just as interesting. I hope it's some help.

104:

I think that your faith in the US Constitution is misplaced.

We have seen that when confronted with texts that directly contradict their intended policies, US politicians resort to secret interpretations of the law. They blur things so that nothing seems clearly illegal and nobody can outright refuse an illegal order (those who do are rare and can be singled out as nutters or even traitors). Just for a reminder, the US consider it permissible to


  • torture
  • assassinate without a trial
  • detain arbitrarily for illimited durations
  • spy on entire populations
  • deny basic human rights to foreigners (i.e. non-US citizens are Untermenschen)

You are right that a slippery slope is possible in the UK, but your notion that it would be harder in the USA is, I think, overly optimistic.

On the other hand, your remark on the English class system is spot on. All the more joy to see the socio-monetary aggregation process at work in the USA, which would logically lead to a similar system in a few decades.

105:

but there's no formal barrier like the Fourth Amendment (the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures).
Wrong
We have the Bill of Rights, 1688 - converted to an Act in 1689.
Which prohibits arrest & imprisionment without cuase & a Prima facie case.
Just sold down the river by Camoron - temporarily fortunately rescinded & now under dispute again, with of course the police forces baying for this safeguard to our libeties being removed.
[ For those who are confused, I'm talking abut the European Arrest Warrant, again. ]

Incidentally, both Ted R & cath3iK are wrong about the "class" system - this would have been true in 1945-7, yes, but it is presently dead, except in the minds of some deluded people still trying to fight the day-before-yesterday's battles.

106:

As you correctly say, some parts of the UK are hostile to immigration. Others are actively welcoming. For example, a typical "where are you from?" conversation in Scotland is likely to start "Excuse me, I don't recognise your accent. Would you mind telling me where you're from so I'll know in future?" The questioner will be actively seeking to expand their knowledge of non-British accents and nothing else.

107:

"If you don't want to find yourself on a 10 year diet of Lossiemouth..." ;-)

108:

You appear to have confused "Communism" (the means of production are held in common by the people) with "State Capitalism" (the means of production are owned by the state).

109:

There are actually quite a lot of checks and balances to the power of HMG. None of them are spelt out as baldly as the US Constitution, agreed - they're generally more subtle but they're also layered and often somewhat harder to work around.

That's not to say it's impossible. But while I am completely in favour of an elected second chamber, the current mob often force amendments to the most egregious bits of authoritarian legislation - even when the so-called natural majority of the HOL is aligned to the government of the time. The UK also has an independent and non-elected judiciary who routinely kick the executive branch fiercely where the sun don't shine when the introduce silly legislation and try to railroad daft decisions through. The current minister for justice is trying to remove a range of their powers to do this, and in a wonderfully British twist of irony that the satirists couldn't write, they've used the biggest of the powers he's trying to remove to overturn the process he used to try and remove it, because he basically lied about how he did it. (That's a paraphrase of a high court judge!)

If you don't believe the British system works better, in general, to protect people, look at what the US does to people it doesn't like that it thinks are linked to Al Qaeda, specifically look in the direction of Guantanamo Bay. Wikipedia lists 9 British citizens 7 released for lack of evidence eventually for example, most of whom allege abuse that we might call torture.

Compare that to messy story of the arrest and extradition of Abu Qatada - and although there are a number of points in there where the British government should be truly ashamed, remember they're arresting him to try to send him back to the country of which he is a citizen to stand trial from 2002 onwards.

Fourth amendment vs the subtler checks and balances... I'll stick in the UK thanks.

Although, of course, under the BDR the whole question is probably moot.

110:
Incidentally, both Ted R & cath3iK are wrong about the "class" system - this would have been true in 1945-7, yes, but it is presently dead, except in the minds of some deluded people still trying to fight the day-before-yesterday's battles.

... says the man who can't get over European construction and thinks that the imperfections of the European warrant can only be corrected by shredding the entire system. ;)

111:

Ok, given that an EAW can result in indefinite detention without trial, and even without the applicant having to demonstrate that there is any case for the arrested to answer, what are your options for improving the system? I do have ideas short of scrapping the EAW, but I want to see what you have, in the spirit of habeus corpus.

112:

Spirit of habeas corpus? The Habeas Corpus is typically Anglo-Saxon law. I fail to understand why the European Union, which is overwhelmingly using the Roman legal system, should use such idiosyncratic standards as measuring sticks for fundamental rights. Especially in light of the effective situation in the UK, where the population is under constant surveillance and where an accusation of terrorism can land somebody in pre-indictment detention for months (which is not possible in France, for instance). I'd understand the requirement if the Habeas Corpus had proved an efficient guarantee, but as it is, you are hard-coding the arbitrary conventions that you are accustomed to as if they were a theoretical absolute. The Habeas Corpus is historically significant, but it is neither a perfect safeguard, nor the only way to defend the rights of the accused.

As for the rest, give me a specific problem with the EAW and we can idly muse as to how to solve it. I do not expect that to result in a very worthy legal reflection, but it cannot possibly be worse than advocating a return to the past, to a breakdown in judiciary cooperation and to arbitrary decisions.


113:

I just translated that as your view being "Something must be done about extradition; this is something, therefore we must do it". Mine, as you might have guessed, is that detention without trial is a worse problem than cross-border flight of criminals to escape a jurisdiction that has an actual case against them.

So my proposal would be that, even without an individual right of appeal against the warrant, the serving jurisdiction would have to show that it did actually have some sort of case against the indiviual to the judiciary of the served jurisdiction.

114:

You've highlighted two specific problems with EAW both of which I agree with and both of which could be addressed without scrapping the whole lot.

Although our current government's backbenchers would howl and froth, put forward legislation at the level of the ECHR for a maximum period of detention without trial as a basic human right. I don't see any reason that shouldn't be set at say 6 months.

While I'm not really in favour of a pre-trial situation, however since the EAW is only used for bringing people to trial, having the prosecution present an executive summary of its case - we've got these witnesses, this other evidence and so on - to ensure there is an actual case. The home court is not able to judge on the merits of the case whether the person should be extradited but to check that there is actually a case there and prepared. If that turns out to be abused, and it could be of course but you have to start with some level of "they're not all slitty eyed foreign devils" then you can move to a more rigorous presentation of the evidence and examination by the home court - bearing in mind everyone will have to do that.

115:

That is already the case.

Are you by any chance thinking of Julian Assange as a case showing faults with the European warrant?

116:

Fascinating post! Been too busy to keep up (new job) and a bit late to the party, but I think what Charlie is getting at is tendency for the current forms of governance to converge (or even an end state) to a beige dictatorship. I'm not only in complete agreement, I assume that most people accept this thesis as an 'of course' -- or should. It's just an implication of the iron law of oligarchy, after all.

117:

OTOH -- let's be honest and say that that Charlies thesis is also just a reformulation of what a lot of grumpy old men (who also appear to converge to a few common ur-types) think ;-)

118:

says the man who can't get over European construction
No comprende senor - please explain?
I lurve the Channel tunnel (I'm royally pissed off withthe fake "security" checks, but that's another story).
If you mean I loathe the high-level corporate corruption inside the EU &/or TTIP, than can I assume you are in it's favour?
Thought not.
As for shredding the whole system
Well YOU try to reform or stop this juggernaught - better to simply get out of it's way (maybe)
Meanwhile there is the slight problem that the entire "Euoropean justice" so-called system is deeply inimical to Common Law.
And I don't want to go there, thank you.
We were talking about arbitrary arrest, remember?

119:

And THAT explains why I'm agin it, entirely!
And
THANK-YOU to Paws @ #111.
Spot on

Again, from your self: give me a specific problem with the EAW and we can idly muse as to how to solve it.
And the reply is from Paws:
an EAW can result in indefinite detention without trial, and even without the applicant having to demonstrate that there is any case for the arrested to answer
Now, solve that, or, please shut up?

El @ #114
But that's not the case - would that it were!
People have been slung in (foreign) jails, with no Prima facie case shown, at all. that's the problem - & it is contrary to British/English law AND (some interpretations of) the EHCR

120:

Here's a problem with the EAW:

The EAW is a perfectly sensible measure -- viewed from a federal level -- except that it can be invoked by individual states who have wildly differing criteria for what justifies issuing an EAW.

The UK, for example, considers it an extradition warrant -- serious arrestable offenses only (murder, rape, robbery) ... but the Polish judicial system as I understand it requires the arrest of anyone who is charged with anything. The outcome may be a trivial fine if it's something like a speeding ticket -- just as it would in the UK -- but police don't get to hand out the fine; it's for the justice system to decide. (Consider this an appropriate measure against police corruption.) In addition, once an arrest warrant is raised, all such warrants are extraditable. Thus, we get Polish speeding tickets and minor offenses accounting for 25% of all the occasions in which the EAW is served in the UK, and resulting in people being extradited to a foreign jurisdiction for what is basically a trivial misdemeanour.

This does not mean that Poland is wrong to put judicial determinations and punishment firmly in the hands of the courts, rather than the police. Nor does it mean from their point of view that serving an EAW is the wrong approach: if it's a German driver who broke the speed limit driving through the former East Prussia, it makes sense to send them a court summons and say "if you don't turn up we'll issue this warrant that tells the Bundspolitzei to arrest you". What causes outrage is the intersection of these differing norms with the UK (which has traditionally been a whole lot more isolationist wrt. the continent than, say, Germany and Poland).

The detention-without-trial is also a problem (are we thinking about Greece and Italy here?) but at this point we're into "corrupt sheriffs in Mississippi" territory; we need a higher level review of judicial standards throughout the EU to ensure that we don't get anomalies like the Italian system, where about 50% of judgements are overturned on appeal -- but not before the accused have spent years on remand awaiting their day in court. But that's not a problem with the EAW; the problem lies elsewhere.

121:

Reportedly, in our timeline, the British Army amassed a large volume of information on trouble spots based on reports from patrolling soldiers - this would be right up the BDPR's street. I would expect IRA cells to be based on personal contact between individuals at whatever social or work contacts were permitted by the BDPR - again vulnerable to informers and human intelligence in general, but not to Snowden-style mass data collection.

It did, but at an eye-wateringly huge cost. At any given time, at least 10,000 soldiers were operating in support of the civil power; in the early 1970s it was over 20,000+ soldiers, from an army about 150,000 strong. At any given time, a quarter of the Army's infantry units were based in Northern Ireland, sometimes more. This was such a stretch on resources that all arms were involved - you'd see Gunners, or Engineers, or Truckers patrolling the streets.

This managed to suppress the activities of a few hundred terrorists among a total population of only two million, and two major cities. And think of the bandwidth - information goes stale, so to keep the intelligence picture that well fed, needs an awful lot of input and an awful lot of collation and interpretation.

Note also that after twenty or thirty years, PIRA was thoroughly penetrated (once described as "touted to b***ery") by SIGINT and HUMINT sources. Not everything could be stopped, but an awful lot was stopped - and enough of PIRA were left alive (and enough repression avoided) to negotiate the Republican moves towards democratic means.

Once you scale that up (in terms of force necessary to suppress genuine terrorism), you're looking at needing twenty times as many soldiers to act as "policemen in green", and twenty times as many Special Forces operators to take on the terrorists. An army with 200,000-400,000 soldiers on the streets means conscription, because it's going to need to be nearly a million strong to deploy those numbers.

By way of support for this position, look at the British performance in Basra by the middle of the last decade - it was unable to dominate armed gangs within a city of two million with a brigade of 5,000 soldiers or so.

This is why I think that OGH can sometimes overstate the risks of a police state in the UK. It's his site, his right, and IMHO it's great that someone watches the watchers, and warns of the dangers - but frankly, if the entire staff of GCHQ and the Security Service is under 5,000 strong, they're busy enough trying to track the truly bad. We should worry when the numbers climb much higher than that...

122:

I know that's not the case. paws4thot raised two specific concerns. I suggested a solution (actually two for one of them) for each of them rather than just throwing the whole lot out.

I think the EAW is broadly a good thing with a number of abuses that have taken place rather than a frothing cess-pit of evil. Any time you have the power to arrest or not there will be abuses and corruption and a need to think and tinker and try to improve the system.

It actually works well often - there are roughly 10-15,000 per year and a small number of cases of it being used clearly unjustly, maybe about 10 without spending too long searching. Even if I've missed by a factor of 10 that's still a very small percentage. That suggests a law that needs reform not scrapping to me.

There are cases not covered by paws4thot's original objection where I'd also like to see its use changed. For example, Poland uses it for what the UK considers trivial offences like speeding tickets and parking fines, where the defendant goes to court to be fined and the cost all round is greater than the penalty. I'm not picking on Poland's justice system: from what i understand the system is fair and just, it simply seems odd to go to such a lot of expense to serve justice. Perhaps the EAW should be limited to cases where the crime carries a prison term or a chance of a prison term at least, and allow cases where there will be a fine levied to be tried and sentenced without an EAW. If the defendant decides to contest the case they are not arrested on an EAW, they simply travel in person to contest the case.

But it is still a tweak to the system, not throwing it out.

123:

Apparently, when the War Office became the Ministry of Defence* in the 1960s, many of the branches were renamed from "Military..." to "Defence...". Including Intelligence.

As the story goes, MI5 and MI6 became DI5 and DI6. But because they weren't acknowledged, the new names never stuck...

(as the joke phone reply goes: "War Office - want a fight?")

124:

"In surveillance terms, one might imagine a government drawn from the 1940s working classes, with the gentry now a hard-to-penetrate core of resistance naturally organizing in cells based on family and school relationships."

Probably not; such a well-known class-based resistance would be trivial to crush, by the simple means of imprisoning all possible people (0.1% of the population?). Those not imprisoned would be 'sent down' to the countryside for farm labor.

125:

An army with 200,000-400,000 soldiers on the streets means conscription, because it's going to need to be nearly a million strong to deploy those numbers.

And that's not all. Conscription means unwilling or semi-willing troops. They can be expected to contain the same proportion of subversives/terrorists as the general population, and they can't do their job without access to weapons. So you end up having to run a counter-intelligence operation against your own soldiers. Or needing an elite volunteer force to keep them in line.

This isn't purely a problem for totalitarian states: it's general to all conscript armies. You end up with the surreal sight of the Israeli Army finding neo-nazis in its ranks ("hated the State of Israel ... has a swastika tatooed on his left arm" -- we're not talking about metaphorical neo-nazis here!).

Oh, and another thing. Let us postulate one year of national service (on the short side!) at age 18. Your men enter the work force at 16 and retire at 65: that gives them a working life of 49 years. Congratulations: you've just diverted 2% of your entire male labour force into filling boots on streets. This is before we add in all the support labour (making uniforms, barracks, guns, etc) necessary to supply a conscript army. (Wear and tear on a rifle and a year's supply of practice ammo: call it £1000. Dress uniform, 3 sets of fatigues, winter gear, tent, bivvy bag, mess kit ... it can't add up to less than another £1000. Accommodation: call it £1000 in building costs depreciated over time plus heating, water, maintenance, etc.) So that's another few billion blown on a force which is utterly useless against an actual modern military threat (I know some folks who have gone through 12 month conscription terms: their opinion of the level of training and the competence of their colleagues was not high.)

So let's pencil it in at a 2-3% constant drain on GDP!

Frankly, the system of automated repression we've built is a whole lot cheaper and more comprehensive than a traditional totalitarian state relying on massive manpower for repression. And that's what I'm getting at in this analogy.

126:
Meanwhile there is the slight problem that the entire "Euoropean justice" so-called system is deeply inimical to Common Law.
ZOMG!!! Almost the entire European Union drives on the wrong side of the road! We must correct this problem or the continent will be isolated!

Sorry, but we continentals are vastly more numerous than the English, with histories just as rich and glorious. We do not have any particular reasons to yield to the common law system or any other British or English idiosyncrasy in normal time; the present British government gives us lots of reasons to be rather dismissive.

Most "problems with the EU" come from member-States, rather than from the European institutions. The case of Assange is typical: we have member-States whose institutions are infiltrated by what are basically agents of influence working for a foreign power (non-EU), and functionally become US satellites. These people go to great lengths to accommodate the desires of their masters. They will use their positions in all branches of the government to subvert the regular working of the law. At some point they use an EAW to export their persecution of a political dissident across the borders of another US satellite, and suddenly the EAW is at fault?

The EAW could and should be improved (my pick is increasing the threshold of the offence and taking statues of limitations into account; the suggestion of habeas-corpus fans are fair enough too). But it is non-sense to fault the EAW for a miscarriage of justice in which several countries see their regular process subverted in such a magnitude. No safe-guard in the EAW can protect against a complete break-down of good faith at all ends of the warrant.

In this context, the EAW is the manifestation of the sole power susceptible to cure the evil from where the injustice originates. Only with a strong European system can we deter interference from authoritarian foreign powers (the USA now, Russia in some parts of the UE, maybe China tomorrow). Complaining about the EAW now is like refusing to abandon the Titanic because the lifeboats have no heating: it's not that what you say is wrong, but you are missing the big picture, tragically so.


127:

Probably not; such a well-known class-based resistance would be trivial to crush

It didn't work that well against Poland (I'm thinking about Katyn). It destroyed the country in Cambodia (I'm thinking Year Zero). It hobbled Germany (the "Jewish" sciences turned out to be rather important) and the USSR (taking out an entire layer of the Soviet Army in the Purges). It certainly didn't work on the Chechens.

"Ruthless" / "Robust" in Ireland in 1916 led directly to 1922; Bloody Sunday and the Rape of the Falls were the best recruiting sergeant that PIRA ever had. As a forty-year policy, it hasn't exactly calmed things down in Gaza or the West Bank, either (if you can, watch the excellent documentary "The Gatekeepers", might still be on BBC iPlayer).

"Trivial"... generally isn't, and appears to be both a short-term solution and a long-term rallying cry. You can't fix socio-political problems with a (para-)military solution, as the UK Government is too-occasionally aware.

128:

Frankly, the system of automated repression we've built is a whole lot cheaper and more comprehensive than a traditional totalitarian state relying on massive manpower for repression. And that's what I'm getting at in this analogy.

Except... is it an automation-friendly problem domain? You can indulge in mass surveillance, but at the end of the day there are currently far fewer than a thousand security officers able to look at the filtered results, even briefly.

If we assume that there are genuinely bad people out there trying to subvert democracy by most foul plot and infernal device, and guess that there are maybe a few hundred with the indoctrination, will, and brain chemistry to do it - then I rather suspect that they're rather too busy tracking seriously bad people to bother with repressing subversive artists.

I mean, those artists of great ego would no doubt like to think that their painting and sculpture challenges the great and the good, and their installations cause the powerful to tremble; and that they are worthy opponents of the Beige Dictatorship. In reality, it's unlikely that anyone in power with a brain will bother, they'll be too busy watching CIRA/RIRA and trying to identify the local al-Qaeda franchises. Nice trope, mind.

My question is this - what are the appropriate surveillance means by which "we" can protect ourselves in advance against those who would undoubtedly do us harm? On what scale, with what mechanism? A secret state of 6,000 seems fairly proportional to me...

129:

The number of people currently holding security clearances in the USA is 3.5 millions. That means that a significant percentage of the US population works for the security sector (for any person holding a security clearance, several colleagues do not). We are far from your 6000 people.

You do not need to send a squad of goons to make the life of a dissident miserable, you can co-opt auxiliaries, madmen and even a portion of the general population. There are many pundits willing to repeat and embellish what government officials will want to see broadcasted. When Wikileaks had its sources of funding cut, it was done very simply and privately by credit cards oligopolists. When Gabrielle Giffords was shot, her would-be assassin was not on the payroll of Sarah Palin. Look up the life of the Dixie Chicks after they started criticising Bush. The very basics of an authoritarian government is to recruit the population itself in their schemes, starting with the nexus of power.

As for "watching CIRA/RIRA and trying to identify the local al-Qaeda franchises", remember that after 9/11, the Bush administration spent its time looking for pretexts to invade Iraq, not tracking down al Qaeda. Bush even said that ben Laden was not a problem anymore at some point, so eager he was to talk about Saddam Hussein. An authoritarian government does what strikes its fancy, not what its propaganda says.

130:

IMO, the best argument in favor of tech vs. human surveillance is: Human witnesses are too easily fooled, mis-remember key details, have other motivations, lie, etc.

Okay - I get that the head honcho in the alt-soviet Britain will be a jerk who will surround himself with the stereotypical toadies and sociopaths. However -- I'm assuming that the distribution curve of human personality types is not something that can be commanded: the proportion of good/non-violent/helpful humanity is not going to change overnight. And just because someone is 'good', doesn't mean he's a pushover. So where does this segment fit in alt-historically?

A comment about conscription etc. -- the bigger economic problem and concomitant social unrest would come when conscription is terminated. Remember what happened in Iraq when the old regime's military was mass pink-slipped? The military was the key source of personal/family income/community standing for a significant portion of the population. Also, the military can be re-purposed on-demand: not all soldiers fight wars -- some build sand dykes during floods, clear highways after blizzards/ice storms, deliver food/medical supplies, etc.

131:

the UK (which has traditionally been a whole lot more isolationist wrt. the continent than, say, Germany and Poland).

In all fairness, the Polish would love a chance to be isolationist. They just suffer from inconvenient geography.

132:

I don't know about you, but I really wish that the BBC* would bring back that old programme "Comrade Academician Who". I loved that show!

*British Broadcasting Collective

[Sorry, I got nothing else, also late to this for reasons]

133:

Add consequences of knee-jerk purging of the civil service by new overlords:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bremer#.22De-Ba.27thification.22_of_the_Iraqi_civil_service

"De-Ba'thification" of the Iraqi civil service

Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party counted among its members a huge majority of Iraq's governmental employees, including educational officials and some teachers. By order of the CPA, these skilled and mostly apolitical people were banned from holding any positions in Iraq's new government and public service. Critics claim these extreme measures, resulting in the firing of thousands of school teachers and removing Ba'ath party members from top government positions, helped create and worsen an atmosphere of discontent among those who did not "fit in" with the socioeconomic profile the Americans wanted to impose. This policy of "de-Ba'thification", now widely seen as having created bitter, new divisions in the country, and fuelling the violence that has torn Iraq apart, was reversed in January 2008.[53][54]

Bremer was once again warned of the harm his actions would have. According to Woodward, when Garner asserted that none of the ministries would be able to function after this order, Bremer asked the Bahgdad station chief for his thoughts. "If you put this out...you will put 50,000 people on the street, underground, and mad at Americans", he replied. Woodward: "And these 50,000 were the most powerful, well-connected elites from all walks of life".[49]

134:

there are currently far fewer than a thousand security officers able to look at the filtered results, even briefly.

Riiiiight.

If you'd followed all the links in the original essay you'd have noticed a report that there are nearly double that number of undercover police spies infiltrating protest/dissident groups in the UK. GCHQ is known to have around 6000 employees ... but how much of their work is out-sourced? We know there's a totally melted stovepipe between GCHQ and the NSA -- GCHQ has unlimited access to PRISM and the NSA' intel take, and presumably the reverse is true under the UKUSA agreement -- so how much surveillance is outsourced to the private sector? There's a huge difference between a 6000-body agency and an agency with 6000 managerial HQ staff supervising the outsourced work.

GCHQ's budget was £850M in 1993 (1.5Bn in 2014 money), and that was at the bottom of the post-Cold War draw-down, before the war on terror was declared. Does a £1.5Bn organization sound to you like it should only employ 6000 bodies?

How many staff, for that matter, does the Communications Capabilities Directorate have? (Given that they spent over £14M in one month on start-up costs in 2010, I'd say they've got to rival that GCHQ head-count; we can very roughly approximate annual IT spend per employee in most organizations to £4K/year, so if those setup costs apply to internal IT then CCD would have around 4500 staff ...)

Final note: the UK armed forces have a total regular head-count of 177,000, plus 28,000 volunteer reserves and 85,000 civil servants. There were 209,000 police workers in England and Wales in 2013 -- we can approximate that to 220,000 UK-wide. So police just about outnumber military, in pure head-count terms. The Police budget is £12.1Bn; the military get around £45Bn. Using these as very rough guidelines for proportionality in spending, then I find it rather odd for GCHQ to be spending £375K/employee, compared to the military spending of roughly £150K/body (including civil servants as well as Army, Air Force, and Navy) and Police spending of £55K/body. Assuming GCHQ's budget is still still in line with the 1993 nadir (rather than having been drastically raised, which seems more likely), what exactly are they doing that costs on average twice as much per body as building and operating Vanguard-class SSBNs, procuring nuclear warheads, and flying Typhoon-IIs (which apparently cost on the order of £15,000 per hour to keep on quick reaction standby)?

Wool, as they say, is being pulled over eyes ...

135:

War gadgets/arms/munitions are expensive. What proportion of military budget is for salaries/personnel? I'm guessing that salaries for the military are probably much lower than comparably ranked civil police. How much of the military budget is wasted money? 'Wasted' only in that the goods/services never get used but must always be at hand just in case.

136:

The number of people currently holding security clearances in the USA is 3.5 millions. That means that a significant percentage of the US population works for the security sector (for any person holding a security clearance, several colleagues do not). We are far from your 6000 people.

I had to get a security clearance years ago to work as a weed cutter as a summer job while in college. And the plant where I did this had lots of outsiders with such clearances. Truck drivers. Plumbers. Etc... Does your 3.5 million include or exclude such jobs?

137:

War gadgets/arms/munitions are expensive.

That was exactly my point: if we take GCHQ's nominal headcount at face value, and assume a low budget for them (based on published 1993 figures), then GCHQ are spending more than twice as much per employee as the military, who get to play with really expensive toys like nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers.

So what are they spending it on? A billion pounds' worth of IT spending is on the same order as a top 10 global bank, or the NHS. It's enormous. And you don't do that with a head count as low as 6000 bodies. My money is on the GCHQ budget covering up a lot of other stuff, including outsourced contractors (just as 85% of the USA's black budget goes to contractors -- like Edward Snowden).

If we assume the same outsourcing ratio as for the NSA, and include outsourced workers in the headcount, then GCHQ should have more than 30,000 people working for them.

138:

I am talking of security clearances for "secret", "top secret" or above. Yes, I too know people cleared for such documents too and who are neither spies nor soldiers, but they do orbit the security apparatus.

139:

Apparently there are about 850,000 Top Secret clearances in the US, as of 2010.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_clearance#Jobs_that_require_a_clearance

140:

Yes - thanks, I see ..

I'd like to return to a previous comment I made about the real history Soviets screwing up their scientific research because of ideology. Assume that your alt-history allows for all of Britain's really bright science types to flee to Argentina. (If the U.S. didn't bother to join the Allies, why go there? Plus Britain did have historical presence in Argentina - Falklands. Some to Canada if only to patrol the Arctic from across-Pole soviet incursions plus tap into Alberta oil.) This would then allow for some modern Western world science/tech to take place although probably not as quickly as it actually did. (Let's call this new Argentina, British Argentina -- BA).

So - let's say that BA basically ends up producing the same level and type of research/tech as we've seen produced in the U.S. First off, this means that the Internet might be created but connecting it to the rest of the world would be problematic because a soviet Europe would be a real physical barrier. (Any indication if real-world soviets ever tried to develop anything similar?)

Using the above scenario, I'd leverage another difference between real-history Soviet and Western research: psychology, sociology & neuroscience.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressed_research_in_the_Soviet_Union

If the BA continued work in these sciences, then this could change how any further wars between the two would be fought: the alt-history soviets would rely on heavy slow war machines, the BA would increasingly rely on smaller nimbler, less obviously natural resource-intensive means - especially human minds. Still assuming that the U.S. is not allied to the BA - therefore somewhat less xenophic paranoia and Christian-fundy decision making with respect to electronic surveillance and social sciences generally - this could mean that the BA might be able to better infiltrate and therefore erode (rather than 'overthrow') the alt-history soviet regime.

I think that my biggest assumption here is that the real-world US government/society is much more fundamentalist and xenophobic than Britain's ever was. Not sure at all if this is true. (Anyone know?)

141:

"If we assume that there are genuinely bad people out there trying to subvert democracy by most foul plot and infernal device, and guess that there are maybe a few hundred with the indoctrination, will, and brain chemistry to do it - then I rather suspect that they're rather too busy tracking seriously bad people to bother with repressing subversive artists."

'Subvert democracy by most foul plot and infernal device'? That's what the Establishment does every day.

My assumption is that those are actually rare, and generally not harmful to the Establishment. Every Joe Schmoe setting off a bomb helps them. An actual terrorist ring causing serious trouble is an actual problem, but the surveillance system + police work tends to shut those down, and the side effect helps The Establishment.

My orientation (and worry, and I think Charle's, as well) is that the true enemies of the state are those who challenge the system, and try to bring accountability, transparency and democracy *to* the system. That's who the surveillance structure and laws are aimed at.

142:

You've got a very valid point. However, you could argue that many of the military are on three-year contracts, have little pension overhead, and are lower-paid than police or fire service employees; that you're including the reserves in your headcount (who cost a tenth even of that); and that the equipment that the military operates (drive a truck, build a bridge, work a radio) while occasionally expensive, is concentrated in fewer hands. A couple of hundred people get to drive a Typhoon at work - presumably a thousand or so get to drive supercomputers at GCHQ.

Meanwhile, much of the military's cost over the last decade is soaked up by the Treasury in its "let's fight wars" fund, rather than the MoD's "normal jogging" budget. If you added in the billions wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers might get closer to the per-head budget of GCHQ.

You don't get high-end mathematicians, or do ragged-edge electronic development, on the cheap; you start with M.Sc and Ph.D and keep many/most of them for a full forty-year career, not hire a 17-year-old school leaver for a three-year engagement as a soldier. The pension commitments are somewhat different as a result. You point out that a Typhoon costs £15k per flying hour, it's just as well we only fly a couple of hundred such beasts. I might point out that the enhanced security check (developed vetting as was) required for GCHQ costs well into five figures, before they even turn up for work - as opposed to the bog-standard security check that I underwent, even at a List X firm.

Meanwhile, the Met Office just splurged £100M on a new Cray - want to bet that GCHQ bought a couple while the production line was warming up? Or perhaps we paid for something to fly up from Vandenberg - it does make me wonder whether we're still paying for / still trying to develop another ZIRCON?

BAe blew four billion in a decade doing a strip-down-and-rebuild of Nimrod for MRA.4 - far fewer than 6000 employees will have been involved there. Look at the price of the QE-class, and ask whether we employ 6,000 people building those.

This stuff is expensive, so we have a choice:

1. We're paying the salaries and pensions of a proportionally more-expensive group of employees, and concentrating some hideously expensive cutting-edge kit in their hands. Add typical values of "Government IT Project success rates and costs" to season.

2. We're paying for tens of thousands of contractors to surveil our nation among others - but we're _so_ much better at hiding this fact than anyone else, that no-one has leaked it in the last two decades, nor produced any detectable output within either the Manning or Snowden data...

143:
You don't get high-end mathematicians, or do ragged-edge electronic development, on the cheap; you start with M.Sc and Ph.D
Right... and how much do you suppose a post-doc is worth? They are paid less than mid-ranking non-commissioned officers.
144:

Thank You Charlie!
Your last paragraph is spot on to the central part of the problem with the EAW.
And, unless & until we can be sure that similar standards are met for British citizens under EAW rules as would be met in our own courts, we should not be touching this with someone else's bargepole.

Meanwhile, If you are talking about (attempts at) arbitrary arrest ... is this lunacy be relevant or not?
especially since this is a US citizen in the USSA, not some "non-citizen" foreigner?

145:

Ahem: GCHQ's people are civil servants. They're on civil service pay and pensions. Yes, they have PhDs there; they're recruited straight out of university and a civil service job with the fast-track promotion scheme and a pension looks like heaven compared to the typical one year rolling contracts that post-doc researchers get in academia, which is the other place they'd end up.

Yes, a chunk of them get lost to the private sector -- but the UK is so notoriously bad at treating boffins in business that, again, GCHQ can offer an attractive package: nice working environment, pension, reasonable (not huge) pay.

AIUI GCHQ doesn't do bleeding edge electronics research; neither do the NSA. What they have is connections to industry that let them buy into the most advanced fruits of commercial and academic research before anyone else gets it. The actual research/innovation they do is rather more abstract -- mathematicians trying to come up with better algorithms -- and the competition for that is academia.

My point is: the sort of people GCHQ employ are not priced like bankers or rock-star-ninja-super-programmers in the smartphone app bizniss. And there's a limit to how much firepower an extra Cray supercomputer can buy GCHQ compared to, say, a few more brilliant mathematicians (who don't know enough about the world of business to know how to add a zero or two to the end of their salary by rewriting their CV and heading for the City).

146:

I am talking of security clearances for "secret"

I'm fairly sure mine was secret. Seemed silly to me at the time.

This was for a Gaseous Diffusion Plant for nuclear fuel. If you didn't have the clearance and it wasn't specific for the plant you had to have a body escort the entire time at the plant. Which is why truck drivers for shipping things in and out had the clearances.

Anyway, such things as this distort the numbers a lot.

147:

Oh dearie me ...
Only with a strong European system can we deter interference from authoritarian foreign powers
Can't you see the deep irony in that statement?
A really strong "European" system, that is just as susceptible to corruption & internal repression - in fact a funhouse mirror-image of the wonderful "justice" system that the USSA has,
Oops.

148:

Really!
You, of all people should know ...
The LAUNDRY of course!

See also your own post @ #145 - where you point out that they are Civil Servants.

At this point, it looks as though this discussion is going to imitate the Ouzlem bird

149:

If the U.S. didn't bother to join the Allies, why go there?

Yes. If Britain had fallen before Pearl Harbor then the US voters would have not joined the war in Europe. In face Roosevelt and the administration was trying to figure out how to expand the war against Japan when Hitler solved the problem for them. Much to the relief of Roosevelt and Churchill.

And AIUI Britain was about a week from loosing the air war when Hitler gave it up. Brilliant military move of his #2304 out of 329430.

The US had a LOT of people who thought Germany was the side to be on before Pearl Harbor.

150:

Are we looking for a 'shoe' that is already in plain view, and dropping on a target population of dissidents from a great height?

Not political or artistic dissidents, nor even 'ordinary citizens' (although I can easily see a future in which the cack-handed social media team at the DWP lurch from being laughably inept in their propaganda, to doing something genuinely oppressive or threatening to a large number of citizens on Facebook)...

....I mean the very worst kind of bad citizen in late-stage capitalism: the poor.

Remember the benefit cheat helplines? I wonder if the 'successes' attributed to informers are actually the sanitised 'take' from mass surveillance. And, in an age of benefit sanctions, evictions, and labour-for-dole in the service of the state, I would say that our workers' paradise is using tools of real oppression.

The question, then, is who feels the shoe as a Soviet-era jackboot, and who reads the Daily Pravda and thoroughly approves of giving a good British shoe-ing to the underclass?

151:

And AIUI Britain was about a week from losing the air war when Hitler gave it up.

Sorry, myth. On the day where Churchill is reputed to have been told that there was no more reserve, everything was committed - that was still just 11 Group. The rest of the RAF was still there, and stronger in men and machines than at the start of the battle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain#Attrition_statistics

152:

Ahem: GCHQ's people are civil servants. They're on civil service pay and pensions.

That's as may be - but you're the one comparing them to the Armed Services, and I'm the one pointing out that even with Civil Service pay and conditions, they're more expensive per head than a 19-year-old squaddie; who by their number and typical engagement period make the median salary and resulting pension costs of HM Forces proportionally cheaper than GCHQ...

153:

And AIUI Britain was about a week from loosing the air war when Hitler gave it up.

Then you understand incorrectly then. Hitler abandoned plans to invade Britain on Sept 17 1940. The air war, by day, ground on through September, October, November and December 1940, and night attacks to May 1941.

The RAF stood up to them, and kept growing and introducing new aircraft. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe attacked the USSR with same number and types of a/c it attacked France with.

We also inflicted a heavy defeat on the Italians at Taranto and in Cyrenaica [Operation Compass]

Britain made more tanks in 1941 than the Germans, and did so every year until 1944. And we weren'tinvading Russia ;-)

The Nazis were never going to defeat Britain, not without landing ground troops, and probably not even then. Only HMG looking at the balance sheet and deciding to quit before the UK went bankrupt was likely to happen...as per Hess' visit.

Then Roosevelt opened the chequebook, and all was right with the world again.

154:

Since a strong, federal European Union could grow corrupt, we have to surrender our lives to foreign super-powers among which the best practices torture, arbitrary executions, unlimited detention without trial, and does not recognise us human rights? And you think that my worldview is ironic?

For some time I though that you were of the "let's protect Britain and screw the rest" variety, and failed to see that Britain cannot protect herself alone not by allying with a vastly more powerful authoritarian state that would regard it as a pet. But now, I am starting to wonder whether you care at all even for your own people (what "youw own people" is in your view, anyway) and what sort of world you wish to live in. I suspect that deep down, you are still frightened of Napoleon.

Wake up. The threat to Britain does not come from across the Channel anymore. If member-states continue playing their petty interest one against the other, the EU will amount only to a free-trade zone (Thatcher's dream) and her members will be picked one by one and enslaved to the interests of bigger players. Boots will be stomping on our faces forever. The softest boots are the US ones, and I don't know if you've looked at these recently but even these are not really appealing. Divided, we will never be allowed to chose our model of society; it will be chosen for use by others, who will not consider us equals. Basically everything you complain about with the EU results from that process, and is allowed to exist because of a lack of eurofederalism.

In the Thirteen Colonies, they did not fault the Declaration of Independence for British tariffs; I don't see why we should fault the EU for the external pressure and the inter-state bickering that it is being built to protect us from.


155:

FOR THE RECORD:
I voted FOR the EU in the referendum we had on the subject.
I did not then believe Wedgie Benn's plea that it was a giant employer's ramp, & the only other parties agin the EU at that time, were the BNP (shudder) & the CPGP (cringe) ...
I have only turned against the EU ( or what it has become ) in the past 2 years (approx))

The weak current, federal Europe is alredy corrupt - or hadn't you noticed?
"Protect Britain & screw the rest" - I can do without the personal insults, thank you. Actually, protect Britain, because I live here, which I would have thought a sufficient reason.
"My own people" - my you are really good at dog-whistle accusations of racism, aren't you? "My own people" are those who live & work here & do their best to get along with everyone else. Given that I'm descended from Huguenot refugees & a lady named Paramour & saxon nud-farmers (Oh & a lord Chancellor) ... that's pretty mixed, as is the street where I live - my next-door neighbours grandpsrents had the same experience as my distant ancestors - they had to flee the freedom-loving Pakistani army when it invaded Kashmir. ( Yes, they're brown & very nominally muslim (perhaps)) ....
Oh & when not prevented by serious family illness (this year) I go to Germmany every year & I lurve the food & beer in Belgium .... What was that about the Corsican Tyrant, then?
I don't want ANY boots on any faces - just like Charlie.
My preferred point of dynamic stasis will be different from his, but not too far away, actually.

What do YOU want, apart from an opportunity to be personally nasty?
From the hints in your comment you would prefer the multiple petty tyrranies of the EU & undemocratic diktat for the Commission, to some "Other" foreign power - presumably US or Russian (Though I doubt the latter, if Putin goes on like this he will go bankrupt). Except, of course, the petty tyrranies will grow slowly, with almosy no-one noticing, until it is too late.
Yes the same process is occurring here, but we stand a better chance of reversing it internally, compared to fighting the Berlaymont - don't we?
I don't want ANY of that, as stated above.

156:

The EU is not particularly corrupt. There are problems, but they exist because were are presently in the process of building the thing.

I still fail to understand what you want; a proud Britain standing alone, beacon of democracy? That is not possible. Britain is intrinsically too small to be a player in the modern world (there is no shame in that: unless your population is in the 300+ million range and you have massive resources, you cannot compete, so most formerly relevant countries, like France or Germany, fall into that category). Britain does not rules the waves, the USA do. "I don't want ANY boots on any faces"? Well nobody does, it is the nature of the boots landing on a face that the face has no saying in the matter. Splendid isolation is the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "la la la can't hear you". It did not protect Japan from the world in the 1880s, did not shield the USA from fascist aggression in the 1940s, because you cannot isolate yourself from history.

Britain is too small to be relevant: even if it was a shining beacon of liberty, she would be subdued from outside. As it is, the British government is led by a privileged white man running on a pro-patrician programme, who wants to repel Human Rights standards in the UK, and whose immigration policy is for all accounts far-right-wing (Our gracious host says "80s neo-nazi"; look at Australia for credible projections for the next years: people in offshore concentration camps dying from lack of medical care for light wounds). The UK, always torn between Europe and America, is looking more and more servilely to the US; that includes explicitly rooting for some of their darkest features.

If you want respect for Human Rights, progressive taxes for the rich, industrial standards, financial regulation, a social safety net and that sort if things, you will have to resist pressure from the biggest players. No second- or third-tier country is capable of resisting that. A federal European Union is the only chance we have of being anything more than provinces of somebody else's empire. And since we are heading for major economic and ecological catastrophes, that will be being a province of a dying empire, which is particularly not desirable.

On the other hand, a federal EU will have the population and the assets to set her own policies. She will be in a position to be a beacon for Human Rights, and have traction for other superpowers to imitate her - which will benefit everybody in the world. Case in point, mass surveillance: it is imposed by the USA with complicity of GCHQ, while Russia and China do their own things; when confronted with the issue, Germany ignores the problem and protests only when her rulers happen to be taken in the net; who is taking a stand for the people? The European Parliament. That's what I am talking about.

157:

Yeah, that's where my issue with Charlie's analysis in the OP lies. If things go South for UK (and allies) in 1940, then either there's a negotiated armistice with Germany or a German invasion.

Either way, much of the RN is negated or working with Germany and Italy, so there is no Western front or North Africa Desert war tieing up German forces, allowing them to attack the USSR instead in 1941. Meantime, there can be no PQ convoys to supply the USSR, and HXQ convoys against the combination of the German and UK air forces and navies make PQ-17 look like a garden party.

As a result of all this, German military makes it to the Urals so holds most of Russia in population terms, and as a result there can be no Westward expansion of Soviet State Capitalism since that has effectively ceased to exist.

158:

I agree with everything you say until "A federal European Union is the the only chance..."

It's not the only chance. For you, and for me it has to be said, it's the best choice by far.

But if you look at UK politics there's a strong lean towards aping the US and following where they lead in preference to anything else. Becoming the de facto or official 51 state might well be more palatable to many of them. Unless they're the UKIP MP of course. There are problems with making this actually work and big problems for most of us with making it palatable. We don't like Americans, we despite a lot of American institutions and institutional concepts a lot more than we do European ones.

Since we live in a 'shrinking' world and still have good trading and cultural relationships with much of the Commonwealth we could look at becoming a power block there again. THAT could easily gain a lot of traction with the muddle-headed that go for the were #1 thought process. This is actually quite palatable I suspect for a lot of people, and it easily meets just about any size criteria you want to set (even if we miss India out or they don't want to play it's a lot of countries and gets up to a big population). It's whether enough of them would go for closer integration over integrating locally and where the power centre would be - if India does want in, it's hard to see it not shifting to India, to howls of protest.

Then you get other weirder choices. We could join a Russian federation, or a Chinese one, or a South American one... they're all bad choices for various reasons but they're alternatives.

But this is a big part of what really annoys about the press and the politicians in this country. The debate is presented as "OMG the EU is evil! EVIIIL!!!! We must leave!!!" There is no rational debate about what happens if we leave, who we will ally ourselves with if we do and what that will look like.

We can, maybe we should, become a second or third rate power with, it would be hoped, decent human rights and the like still. The countries that currently don't have them have largely never had them and while there is certainly pressure to erode them here there is counter-pressure to keep them.

Personally I'd still rather be a part of a federal Europe. But I would welcome a full and frank debate of the options rather than just making up my mind from my own completely unbiased and rational perspective. (Yes, if you can't detect it, there's a big dose of sarcasm there. I like myself and my biases but I do know I have them.)

159:

There isn't a "Like", "Upvote", or "+1" button here but if there was I'd be clickimg on it as you've just saved me an awful lot of typing.. :-)

160:

Quite. There are two unspoken hypothesis behind my "only chance":

  • "we" refers to all the people in the European Union, many (most) of whom are not Anglo-Saxon and thus would be considered Untermenschen even if the UK joined a union with the USA
  • I assumed that the aim was not only to maintain some degree of existence and relevance for Britain by allying with somebody, but also to steer the country in a certain direction (that of overall social justice). If willing to renounce Human Rights and relapse into a Jack-the-Ripper-friendly Gilded Age, you can indeed ally with anybody.

    Ironically, should the UK go further down the road of ultra-liberal kleptocracy and hysterical xenophobia, we might reach a point where it would be better for the realisation of a strong and socially just European Union that the UK quit it and cease to sabotage her construction. Possibly with Scotaland seceding and joining the EU herself (or shall I say Scotland expelling England from the EU...). The British europhobes who claim that isolationism would bring about a better society would be vindicated, but not quite in the way they thought.


  • 161:

    Still bearing in mind I do think remaining in a federal Europe is the best way, I'm not sure that, if the Commonwealth would go for it and it could be made to work, point 2 fails. Lots of the Commonwealth has a pretty decent record on human rights. We tend to regard it as part of the rules about staying in.

    Obviously point 1 does because most of the members of the Commonwealth aren't in Europe. But if the UK is turning it's back on Europe the rest of Europe could certainly press ahead. It would probably press ahead more smoothly. Whether it would press ahead better is a more difficult question. And way, way off-topic. But I can't help feeling democracies work well when someone asks awkward but reasonable questions. Not all of the questions the UK raises are awkward, nor reasonable, but enough of them are that it probably helps build a stronger Europe. Nor is the UK the only member of the awkward squad but it's a regular one.

    162:

    I thought these current lines of discussion were exactly what Charlie did NOT want to hear.

    He was basically asking would Britain have the same surveillance state at this point in technological history regardless of its surface ideological history. If we accept his terms the answer is mostly yes. We can point out his terms don't exactly match a likely historical development, but if we respect his wishes, we cannot mess with his world-building.

    Maybe a more interesting formulation would have been: would a Britain without Thatcherism have had these issues? Would an America without Reagan or at least without Bush the Lesser? (I think we know Ken MacLeod's answer on these at least.) At least it would have avoided the inevitable re-fighting of WWII on these boards.

    163:

    It's hard to say what a different POTUS to Dobya would have done.

    It kind of looks like a lot of the decisions that Dobya made had close to bugger all to do with improving the defence of the USA and a lot to do with lining the bank accounts of his mates. The Patriot Act included. They may have also done something about security or the appearance of security, usually at the expensive of civil liberties, constitutional rights, due process and anything else.

    Lets pretend that there is such a beast as an ethical POTUS and 9/11 happened on his watch. Clearly something would have had to have been done. But probably not the Patriot Act in anything like the form the Dobya pushed through. Where would we be now? Somewhere very different. Better? Probably. Safer? Yes, probably. Us in the UK - well that depends, but we're looking deeply into alternate histories rather than thinking of different modes of the panopticon society really.

    164:

    Where does the GCHQ money go? Well some of it undoubtedly goes on tech that is in general 5-10 years or more ahead of what is available commercially. For example, back in the late 70s there was (IIRC) a specialist TRW signal processing chip that ran at 300MHz. Most other processors at the time struggled to exceed 10MHz, and it reputedly cost a fortune because the yield was so low.

    Also look at tech like electron beam lithography

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron-beam_lithography

    that could/can scribe line lengths in the low nm at a time when line lengths were typically 100nm+ from conventional mass production tech. The reason electron beam lithography never became mainstream was because of cost, not capability.

    It would not surprise me if vast amounts of R&D money was being poured into quantum computing, possible with some success compared to existing (almost exclusively) academic research.

    165:

    Hmm, I don't know if you remember, but ECHELON. That was way before 9/11, and there was already quite some amount of anger directed at the UK for harbouring the European chapter of that endeavour. In fact, there were talks scheduled at the European Parliament (go go, Europarliament, go!) on the matter, but they sort of dropped off the radar because 9/11 occurred at that time and fighting US overreach abrubtly fell out of fashion.

    ECHELON was apparently more focused on satellite transmission that on the Internet, like contemporary surveillance is, but the notion of a planetary surveillance network creeping from the USA into the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, conduction mass surveillance in complete disregard for alliances or international law, and used for economic advantage, was already there. So, at most, Bush Junior took off whatever gloves remained to be removed (actually probably Cheney, a true Cold Warrior with corporate ties, whose snarl would instantly cure a shark's hiccup), but he certainly did not initiate anything.

    Surveillance is systemic to the USA, and that goes far back (think Watergate). The modern incarnation in merely a technological update made possible by the very recent generalisation of the Internet. Since the USSR and her satellites also had mass surveillance in their genes and I see no reason why they would not have updated their systems as well (didn't Russia do it?), I think that the answer to "surveillance in the UK vs in the BDR" is: "same difference". At most, political intimidation is more subtle in the monetarist dystopia than in the communist one, and even there, David Kelly, Julian Assange, Jennifer Robinson or David Miranda might disagree.


    166:

    As a result of all this, German military makes it to the Urals

    Not going to happen.

    Germany had an Army that at its best, was still only 50% motorized. Its strategic transport was hopelessly flawed, which meant that as the troops advanced into Russia they relied upon local resources (i.e. steal it). Much of its soldiers and artillery travelled east the same way as Napoleon's, namely marching there on foot and towed behind horses.

    The original operational planning documents were the subject of a debate on the Army Rumour Service - "hopelessly ambitious" was a universal observation from trained readers, extending to "fantasy". Formations given frontages that were absolutely unachievable, etc, etc. That fits with SEELOWE - their plan for "invade Britain" was effectively "treat it like a big river crossing". No-one has ever come up with a credible means by which Germany makes the invasion succeed (in the 1970s, they tried a detailed wargame of it at Sandhurst, and included many of the personalities involved at the time).

    The Wehrmacht were successful at a tactical level, mostly because they had a two year training headstart on everyone else. As the saying goes, this may be true, but it is also irrelevant - they got pwned at an operational level (i.e. Corps level and above) time and time again, and utterly hammered at the strategic level of warfare.

    So, Stalin on the Channel? Perhaps. Hitler visiting the Urals? Nope.

    167:

    Per James Bamford, who I tend to trust on such matters, the NSA had a 10 year lead on the consumer state of the art in the 1970s and early 1980s; by the late 90s/early 00s it had eroded to 1-2 years at most. Now we've hit a point where a large corporation like Apple can distort markets by throwing Sagans of capital investment at building plant to meet their requirements -- sapphire displays being a notable failure: new chip fab lines, insanely high-resolution displays, and robot factories with tens of thousands of robots replacing hundreds of thousands of skilled human workers being a quiet but unsung success -- and the high end of the consumer state of the art is actually more capital-intensive than anything the US government has been able to do since the Apollo program.

    I suspect that, yes, NSA and GCHQ are pouring money into quantum crypto -- because that's the only place where their money can give them a serious leg up ahead of the commercial state of the art (because cryptanalysis isn't that important to the consumer industry -- it's an overhead, not a sales point).

    168:

    Another reason it ain't going to happen (abandoning my scruples about getting side-tracked into a derailing alt-hist discussion -- it's too late in the day): Britain isn't going to loan the Royal Navy to Hitler. The whole thrust of British foreign policy for 500 years or so was to prevent one continental power from becoming a hegemon and cutting the UK off from trade access.

    Hitler is clear existential threat to the UK, even if he's bombed the RAF into a cocked hat and Churchill choked on a fish-bone in 1938. So an armistice-stalled UK in 1940-41 is not obviously going to be helping the Reich; rather, they're going to be playing "let's you and him fight" between Hitler and Stalin, which is an insanely dangerous game but the best they can hope for from a position of weakness while they rearm for round two (due 1942=46) with Centurions on the ground and Meteors in the air, and pursue Tube Alloys.

    This plays out brutally on the ground, with Russian tanks entering Germany in 1945-46 and continuing to roll west, just as the UK is gearing up for its first atomic test at Woomera while teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and starvation. And of course there is no Manhattan Project (because there's no UK/USA alliance and half the atomic scientists are working away at Tube Alloys sites in Australia and Canada) but the atom bomb spies are delivering lots of interesting snippets to Mr Kurchatov ...

    169:

    I thought these current lines of discussion were exactly what Charlie did NOT want to hear.

    He was basically asking would Britain have the same surveillance state at this point in technological history regardless of its surface ideological history. If we accept his terms the answer is mostly yes.

    I'll go with "mostly no" - any such pervasive surveillance would be different.

    My reasoning is that the current capabilities are technology-heavy, people-scarce. We don't have a tradition of secret policemen, and we change government at least every decade(ish), so hiring lots of people to snoop on "political undesirables" (as opposed to terrorists or organised criminals) is going to be a hard secret to keep. OGH may believe it's going on, I'm a skeptic.

    The Stalinist, totalitarian, tradition is technology-light, people-heavy (because the official ideology demands employment, prizes collective effort over individual effort, etc). There is no equivalent stigma against employing people to listen, report, collate, and file. The perceived threat isn't so much "overthrow of the whole system" as "one of the other organs of the state holding too much power relative to the others" - tyrannies do seem to like to have multiple competing power bases keeping an eye on each other, it keeps them too busy to try knocking off the tyrant at the top.

    IMHO the doctrine of "how we carry out surveillance" will follow from the scale of the organisations involved. Nearly all of the Warsaw Pact nations ended up with bureaucracies handling this stuff. If you've got a mass resource of informants, you don't need to read every email - you probably own one of the people in any conversation.

    The primary mechanism of restraint in Charlie's state would be to cause you to mistrust not your means of communication, but to mistrust your co-conspirators...

    170:
    We don't have a tradition of secret policemen
    What? Have you missed out entirely about the Special Demonstration Squad? Just for the record, the British secret police was providing material to the French police about French anarchists operating on French territory (the Julien Coupat group, look it up). I don't know what you call a tradition, but that's been going on for decades. If infiltrating political dissidents to the point where neighbouring countries have less information about their own than you do is not a tradition of secret policeman, the UK has either a very peculiar tradition of covert milkmen, or an amazing bit of beginner's luck.
    171:

    I think it's a matter of semantics.

    We certainly have a long tradition of spies. Spying on what various foreigners get up to on their soil and ours, well we know that goes back at least as far as the Tudors and I'm sure it goes back further. Without stretching too hard I can think of known spymasters for Elisabeth I and Henry VIII without reaching for a search engine or a book. Actually, having said that, they both had secret police in various forms too.

    But part of the outrage about what the Special Demonstration Squad got up to is that we don't have a tradition of our police spying on us in that fashion. We don't expect it and as a culture we really don't accept it.

    Case in point: one of my exes received death threats from the Animal Liberation Front, as did I. I really have little love for them. I am in favour of them being arrested for their criminal acts, including sending death threats. I have qualms about routine undercover work to determine who they are and them arrested but on balance I think it's justified. I still think the SDS work with animal rights protestors was wrong and disbanding them and stopping that kind of work was the right thing to do.

    We really are getting into splitting hairs territory but there is a difference between pursuing an investigation into known criminal activity to make sure you arrest all the right people (dubious, but provisionally OK) and going on fishing and surveillance expeditions (definitely not OK). It shouldn't be OK to just randomly do it to foreign people just because they're foreign either (and I don't think we do really) but we're sure a proportion of people from a number of foreign embassies are spies and keeping an eye on what they get up to isn't just paranoia.

    Saying we can tell the French authorities about the activities of the Julien Coupat group possibly says a lot about our spies AND their secret police. It really says nothing about our secret police.

    And, of course, there's nothing to say we couldn't apply those same skills to the secret police if we were to have them. The various security services did a pretty good job against the PIRA over the years and decades - they'd probably be a scary good secret police.

    172:

    Add up the cost of a million specialist leading edge processors optimized for cryptanalysis put into One Big Machine and you have just sucked up several £billion

    173:

    Well what is it you call "secret police" then?

    To me, "secret police" means "any organisation operating under secret rules and assuming duties typically in the purview of the police". Examples: an intelligence agency working properly is not secret police, even when engaging in counter-spying; a police team working unaccountably under a nominal authority is a secret police.

    What the SDS did was apparently target groups for purely political reasons. Pushing a dissident ideology without engaging in any form of illegal activities apparently warranted their attention. That is typically the realm of a secret police: you can't know what will attract their attention by reading the law.

    I know what you mean about the ALF, there is little love lost between them and me as well, and I do think that the judiciary should fall on them like a ton of bricks. Because they break the law, not because their ideology is stupid or repugnant (which it is).

    The thing with Coupat shows that the French will probably not go to the length that the British or Americans go to infiltrate their dissidents, but will happily allow British intelligence to operate on their soil if they can get their hands on the proceedings. Which yields fascinating results: the information gathered by the spies is predictably a mix of things you can't say, to protect the agents and because the procedure is void and null, and things that have little actual basis and are said essentially to pander to the fantasies of the hierarchy (wooo, far-left terrorist groups!)

    Anyway, I am willing to accept that by your definition of the term the SDS was not an actual secret police and was merely dangerously close to acting like one, but then it'd be illuminating to see your definition of the term. I'm not challenging or anything, it's just that without understanding your acceptation of the term, I have a hard time of picturing what you mean in the later paragraphs of your post.

    174:

    Your second paragraph is entirely true, I agree with it 100%. Slight problem - equally 100% irrelevant to what we are discussing - oops.
    I'm am horribly afraid that most of your second paragraph is also correct, though I do not infer the darkest of motives to all tories & damn the whole party. I am of the "A pox on all you houses" school as regards politicians - including a lot of UKIP - again, for the record, I was one a member of the Lem-o-Crats & stood for local council election upon a day.
    I resigned when it became obvious that their "support for education" policy was a load of lying shit.

    If you want respect for Human Rights, progressive taxes for the rich, industrial standards, financial regulation, a social safety net and that sort if things, you will have to resist pressure from the biggest players. No second- or third-tier country is capable of resisting that. A federal European Union is the only chance we have of being anything more than provinces of somebody else's empire. And since we are heading for major economic and ecological catastrophes, that will be being a province of a dying empire, which is particularly not desirable.
    REALLY?
    And a federal EU is going to deliver all of that, with no corruption, unjust imprisonment, justice for all & no corruption?
    I'd LURVE to know what you are smoking.
    I'd disagree about the economic/ecological catastrophes, because they are aviodable, if someone gets their arse in gear, but it won't be the EU, in hock to the big corporations.

    A very simplistic "only" solution to a complicated set of problems.
    If it's any consolation, I used to believe a lot of this shite, too - 20+ years ago.

    175:

    JG @ 159
    SECONDED!

    176:

    Of course, Cath carefully disregards the cruel, oppressed, downtrodden & exploited nature of those two non-EU countries of Norway & Switzerland ...
    Oh the terrible oppression of the peoples in those states is such a dreadful example of what being outside the EU might mean!
    /snark

    177:

    No, sorry I wasn't clear.

    The SDS certainly were a secret police group. But they're an exception not the rule here. You objected in comment 170 to Martin saying in comment 169 We don't have a tradition of secret policemen.

    I'm saying we don't have a tradition of it. The SDS being a notable exception.

    178:

    I cannot guarantee that the European Union would remain free of corruption, no. On the other hand, I can guarantee that countries with decaying economies and less than 100 million inhabitants will be protectorates of someone else and cannot have meaningful policies of their own. I can guarantee that Russia and China will not be overlords you want to suck up to. I can guarantee that the USA will oscillate between irresponsible isolationism and irresponsible overreach, alternatively not giving a shit what happens outside their borders and actively promoting torture and warfare - because that is what they have always done. The European Union is not a promise of paradise; it is our best chance, by very very far, of avoiding hell.


    I am not much into Norway, but I know a bit about Switzerland. 20% of her economy comes from tax evasion schemes, and much more stems from partially parasitic activities - it is no way a model you can extend to others.

    The country was long monitored by an underground far-right para-military organisation known as P-26, with ties to the pan-European subversive organisation GLADIO, and an arm in the police that kept tabs on political dissidents (and I mean, political; I know people who were on file and are very very far from posing security threats, I assure you). These files were destroyed in the 90s when the scandale broke - except that information strikingly similar to what they held has popped up in court in the late 2000s, oooops...

    Switzerland is also the crib of Minaret construction ban, of expulsion of foreigners convicted of minor offences, and other similarly palatable things like this. With a grand population of 8 millions, it is totally the country that will impose industrial standards to the USA and be efficient in promoting Human Rights in China, I am sure. In diplomatic circles, they are mostly known for allying themselves with Russia to resist the European Union in negotiations. Is that really a model you want to promote? Is that the best you can dream of?

    179:

    Ah, I see. Actually it was a semantic problem, but on "tradition", not "secret police".

    I'd say that the existence of the SDS gives a template to organise a secret police service, and in that sense there will be a "tradition" of secret police in intelligence circles in the UK.

    Now, I'd be quite willing to accept that the general population would find the notion of a British secret police odious, creepy and unacceptable. In fact that would be my impression, and I am certainly taking your word (El and Martin) for it.

    The irony is that this perception is probably due in good part to denial and somewhat willful ignorance. The police and the British Army practiced widespread political arrests and torture in Ireland, much in the same way that Pinochet's forces acted - albeit more targeted. Such willful ignorance is quite common in democracies, I wonder how many French are still wary of the SAC, for instance.


    180:

    Greg, I have a similar problem as cahth3iK in understanding what your position is.

    Here's what I seem to have grasped from your comments so far:

    On the one hand you seem to be opposed to the EAW on the grounds that the EU is corrupt, and the foreign authority issuing an EAW may be corrupt and/or incompetent, and therefore you only trust the British law enforcement system, which should therefore have the power to reject an EAW against a British citizen..

    On the other hand you have been very vocal (not only in this thread, but also in previous threads) that you don't trust the British law enforcement system, citing examples of racism, corruption and incompetence.

    So, if I've summed up your various comments half-way accurately, I've got to ask: which one is it? Obviously you can't hold both positions at the same time.

    And that's why I have such a hard time trying to follow your argumentation.

    181:

    The police and the British Army practiced widespread political arrests and torture in Ireland, much in the same way that Pinochet's forces acted - albeit more targeted.

    Utter rubbish.

    The arrests in NI were not "political" (in the "I disagree with their ideology"), they were counter-terrorist (in the "they are killing people, robbing, extorting, and threatening violence").

    The short period of internment without trial (Operation DEMETRIUS) was exactly that, short. There were no protest singers having their hands chopped off, no bodies dropped off at the edge of town (unless it was PIRA doing it). Google 'Jean McConville', if you don't believe me.

    There was a short period where torture was used by soldiers - and it was banned, for two reasons. Firstly, it was wrong. Secondly, it was counter-productive; talk to a good interrogator sometime. Torture for information is strictly for the second-rate and amateurs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_techniques

    Note that this period was the early 1970s. Hundreds of soldiers, and hundreds of civilians, were being killed with bomb and gun, by terrorists - and yet the football stadiums weren't filled with dissidents, there were no death squads. There was amateurism, as soldiers learned how to gather intelligence in a lethally hostile environment (see Robert Nairac).

    David Hume, for instance, wasn't arrested. Gerry Adams was. That was because one was a legitimate political campaigner for civil rights, while the other was (for the sake of OGH, Brownie was alleged to be) on the Army Council of the Provisional IRA. The admitted leader of the Derry Brigade of PIRA is now the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

    There were periods where the 'robustness' was of arguable effectiveness; read Mark Urban's excellent 'Big Boys' Rules' to understand the limits of the British use of lethal force - in other words, only against those with a gun or bomb in their hands. Note that those terrorists killed in Gibraltar were in the course of planting a bomb designed to kill civilians, although if the rules of engagement were dubious if justifiable.

    So - credibility check. If this torture was so widespread, why doesn't Martin McGuinness claim it happened to him?

    182:

    The arrests in NI were not "political" (in the "I disagree with their ideology"), they were counter-terrorist (in the "they are killing people, robbing, extorting, and threatening violence").

    There are certainly, or were certainly at the time, Republicans, even those who didn't take up the gun and the bomb, who would disagree with that.

    That's the Unionist, and the Westminster (of all political parties) party line.

    I don't think it's an Aristotelian A or not-A proposition. They had a political ideology that was fundamentally so different to the majority they decided to exercise violence rather than the democratic process. HMG responded with the UK's only fully armed police force (that was so corrupt it had to be disbanded and completely reformed as part of the peace process) but which is still fully armed. It responded with the army deployed on the streets over decades and so on. Their actions were characterised as counter-terrorist, absolutely, but they were using a combination of spying, policing and the army against citizens of the UK over an extended period of time.

    The thing that, to me, makes it NOT a secret police action is that there is no doubt PIRA and others were engaging in criminal acts. They were shooting people, setting off bombs and the like. It's not a case of "we think you might be know someone a bit dodgy, so we're going to seduce you and bug you" it's a case of "we're afraid you're going to blow a hotel in Brighton where the Prime Minister is staying and we're going to damn well do our best to stop you." There was certainly secrecy about the individuals involved and exactly what they were doing and there were undoubtedly times at which the lines were crossed. There really wasn't any secrecy that all of this was going on though.

    The most shocking of these really was the institutional biases of the RUC which continued unchecked for so long. Most of the rest were caught and stopped quickly - abuses can happen and will happen. The system isn't perfect but is pretty robust at saying "Hey, that's going to far, stop it, don't do it again." It did so, although some will disagree, about the Army got up to in NI. It took way to look to do it to the RUC for some reason.

    183:

    "we're afraid you're going to blow a hotel in Brighton where the Prime Minister is staying and we're going to damn well do our best to stop you."

    Except they didn't, did they?

    I think the leisurely, Philby-obsessed toffs of Five were forced to undergo a culture change after that event. Army and INT infiltration of PIRA was far more effective in Ulster/"the statelet" than in GB as a whole.

    Another culture-change was forced upon them by 9/11 and the use of the internet in terrorist communications and propaganda, and then even the 5/7 bombers got through unscathed.

    OGH's grim meathook alt-hist would have a much larger and more ideologically invasive security service.

    This plays out brutally on the ground, with Russian tanks entering Germany in 1945-46 and continuing to roll west

    Possibly, but without US Lend-Lease and the British Arctic convoys, the picture looks worse for the Soviets. Nearly all the Red Army's motor transport were US Jeeps and Studebaker trucks, and nearly all their locomotives and rolling stock was shipped from America. Somebody Russian has got to make those now, and get the harvest in. No relying on US and Canadian wheat.

    And of course, what was the third most numerous tank of the Red Army, after the T-34 and the SU-76?

    The M4 Sherman. 18.6% of the total produced in the US.

    184:

    That was kind of the point of choosing that example. We don't know exactly how many times they succeeded but we know from Gerry Adams said they succeeded more often than your next paragraph suggests.

    But we also know that the threat of what PIRA was trying to carry out was very real.

    185:

    I cannot guarantee that the European Union would remain free of corruption, no.
    It is already, hopelessly corrupted - that is my entire point.
    It is worse than the internal corruption we already have in the UK.
    OK?
    (or not, as the case may be....)

    186:

    Who said I "trusted" the current British law enforcement system?
    My stance is that it is (currently, on the whole, over all samples) less corrupt the the alternative being offered & we know how to work it..... I never claimed it was perfect - just less imperfect.

    187:

    Here's something else that's worrying - one of the lego playsets I have seen recently features "Super Secret Police" with lots of gizmos and a snazzy mobile HQ. Are they softening us up?

    188:

    See my reply @ #186 above .....
    Our system has bits of it that stink ...
    I also think that "their" system stinks even more .....
    Does that make some sort of sense?

    189:

    mcdowella @ 97 : (IRA/NI/..)

    under a soviet BPDR, there may not have been the egregious social inequality to spark such drama in the first place.

    That said, it's as likely a context as any (e.g. 'scottish liberation'?, royalists? ..) to attract the attention of externally-funded saboteurs ..

    190:

    I'm with you 100% on the EU. They're the lesser evil. The greater evils are all much, much worse. (For one thing: they all have the death penalty. For another: they all have extrajudicial rendition/torture/secret police MOs. The EU may have a fair bit of fiscal corruption and a tendency to bore you to death with committee meetings, but it's rather less likely to pull out your fingernails and shoot you in the back of the head ...)

    191:

    The problem in Ulster/NI was that PIRA had infiltrated the Army as thoroughly as the Intelligence services had infiltrated PIRA, up to and including bugging the phones at Thiepval and Ballygawley Barracks.

    Internment, "sensory deprivation" [ie torture] were the response to this, as were the decentralised border watchtowers "Super Sangars" in "Bandit Country"

    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Northern-Ireland-Sangar.jpg

    In the end, Bandit Country remained in the hands of the Bandits, a continual reminder that a military/intelligence solution would always be over the horizon.

    It didn't stop the security services wanting greater powers, that even Thatcher thought would unleash an "Unacceptable level of violence" to paraphrase the Maudlin euphemism

    It was this that motivated the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which was not a success, and the Good Friday Agreement, which was.

    192:

    Tedious bureaucracy and fantastic corruption are after all, two of the thing Britain is really good at [cf British Empire] which is why [still] only a few Conservatives really, really want to leave the EU.

    The EU is even more anodyne than British Empire, by quite some distance and compared to the American Empire it's a Wellsian socialist utopia.

    193:

    The problem in Ulster/NI was that PIRA had infiltrated the Army as thoroughly as the Intelligence services had infiltrated PIRA

    That's overstated. They had one or two intelligence successes, but that was it.

    For instance, Shayetet 13 lost nearly half a platoon when they were ambushed by Hezbollah in Lebanon; that didn't happen to SAS/SBS.

    194:

    Mark Urban reasons differently; he contrasts the survival rates of PIRA terrorists caught during an operation (i.e. actually carrying a gun or bomb) before and after the Brighton Bombing; and comes to the conclusion that there must have been political direction to produce a more lethal response to attempted murder.

    In other words, "Big Boys' Games, Big Boys' Rules".

    He also pointed out that it was ineffective; the East Tyrone ASU that was wiped out at Loughgall was replaced with a team operating at a similar intensity within six months. It hadn't solved things as much as create new recruits.

    195:

    That's overstated. They had one or two intelligence successes, but that was it.

    Who do you mean? The Security Services or PIRA?

    196:

    Mark Urban reasons differently; he contrasts the survival rates of PIRA terrorists caught during an operation (i.e. actually carrying a gun or bomb) before and after the Brighton Bombing

    As you say, the Loughall operation was probably the biggest success of that phase. But it achieved nothing in the long term, and Gibraltar turned into a long-running multi-funeral clusterfuck that no-one was willing to repeat.

    And still PIRA managed to get close to Thatcher, and kill her close political allies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Gow#Death

    The real game changer in NI politics/strategy was disaster unrelated to PIRA terrorism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_Scotland_RAF_Chinook_crash

    197:

    Oh for goodness' sake.

    Since 2000, the UK has taken part in an illegal war of aggression and been complicit in systemic torture. It derives important revenues from parasitic financial activities that harm the world economic fabric, while victimising its poor class. It is an eager accomplice in the US persecution of political dissidents. It has unelected representatives in its upper house who get to go there because they are aristocrats. Right now, its secret police is spying on you and can prevent you from traveling for no reason, habeas corpus-boy. Right now.

    What has the EU done to you that remotely resembles that? Set standards for industrial safety and food hygiene that guarantee your security and get adopted worldwide because they are the best and conforming to them makes you compatible with all other markets anyway, thus benefiting consumers worldwide? Set up an aid fund for underdeveloped European regions to help them converge with the European average? Set standards of Human Rights that the British Tories can't seemed to be bothered with respecting?

    Come on, show us EU corruption. Get us something other than a knee-jerk "No, no, no". It's going to be British handling of Brazilian plumbers versus micro-critical examination of the EAW, all the way down.


    198:


    Utter rubbish. The arrests in NI were not "political" (in the "I disagree with their ideology"), they were counter-terrorist (in the "they are killing people, robbing, extorting, and threatening violence").

    Well, it always starts like that, does it not? And then it becomes the reason, then the rational, then the excuse... What you said above can be said as well of what happened in Algeria in the late 50s; and I do not look kindly on the behaviour of the French Army there.

    I think it is really a matter of perception. In the overall history of the UK, torture in Ireland might be a relatively small detail - though there have always been tendencies towards extreme brutality in policing (think Churchill's recipe to cure the Iraqis from their tendency to unrest...). But in the history of torture, and especially of torture in democracies, the "Five techniques" are a milestone.

    199:

    What's wrong with being a larger, more populous version of Norway?
    THAT is surely a viable alternative?
    It's certainly what my drift of argument is for, as opposed to all the nightmare (& franky unrealistic) scenarios that cath is proposing)
    I can quite understand how people here say what they do in favour of the EU - after all, I used to do exactly the same until less than 3 years ago.
    It is "just" that I have ceased to believe.

    200:

    Ah, you've obviously never encountered l'administration than, have you?
    Try French bureaucracy some time - & run away screaming!

    I could tell you a classic story about that, comparing French/British/German & Italians, all working on a joint project in Paris - & how all the others suddenly wanted the Brit deal, where you got lower pay - i.e. what you got in England, but "Head office" dealt with l'administration for you!

    201:

    Since 2000 (?)
    Don't you mean 2003 - the Shrub - T B Liar invasion of Iraq? Now that really was an illegal & stupid thing to do. It's a disgrace & a shame.

    As for files on me, of course they have - I know a now-retired member ( he's 67 now) of the Artists Rifles, and a fleeting contact with someone in the Doughnut.
    So?

    The EU standards on food & consumer safety are based on the Brit "Sale of Goods Act" that we had first.

    The corruption is publicly visible in the restriction of sale of goods that are no harm or threat to anyone, except certain big manufacturer's profits & Agribusiness' desire to make sure that we have no food supplies other than what they provide.
    I could quote specific examples of these, but be assured that they exist.

    Like I've just said (above) there is another alternative - imitate Norway. SEE: #199
    Which you are carefully pretending does not exist.

    In fact, your hyaterical response is very similar to what happens when I put the boot into the christians - because I know all of their arguments, too ( & I'll let you guess why that might be so )

    202:
    What's wrong with being a larger, more populous version of Norway?

    Oh, nothing. If your Norway is large and powerful enough to maintain its economy, its social model, its security, and promote its values. Else you are in "denial-of-history" realm, which will earn you a place with such so-called "neutral" countries as Sweden or Switzerland, irrelevant de facto US protectorates (for an idea of how much independence and liberties that earns you, look up "GLADIO" and "Julian Assange"). There is no refuge in isolation, and never has.

    If you want to maintain your society as you want it, you will have to stand to powers like the USA or China, which necessitate a large economy, large resources, and a population a around half a billion people. Now, which sort of political entity would fit that sort of description in Europe, I really wonder...

    (Hint: two letters, one of which is "U" and the other of which is "E", maybe not in that order. Three guesses.)

    203:
    As for files on me, of course they have (...) So? The corruption is publicly visible in the restriction of sale of goods

    Right. Of course if you consider industrial standards as evil and Human Rights as something moot, then of course your position makes plenty on sense. And that makes up for aristocracy... how, exactly?

    imitate Norway. SEE: #199 Which you are carefully pretending does not exist.
    I don't pretend that Norway does not exist (not more than you pretend that your beloved Switzerland has ceased to exist since I explained a bit about it), I just don't pretend to know the country well. Which should give you a hint of its relevance in worldwide international affairs, incidentally.
    204:

    > what exactly are they doing that costs on
    > average twice as much per body

    Considering how much money gets frittered away in supposedly-scrutinized public budgets, my first guess would be that in a black budget, a substantially higher percentage of funding would vanish due to corruption and malfeasance.

    Even with public accounting, it can often be hard to tell where money goes. I had always thought accounting was a cut-and-dried thing. It wasn't until I read a couple of accounting text that I realized that, at least as practiced in the USA, it is a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

    When The Day comes, I'm going to advise holding off on the lawyers; shoot the accountants FIRST...

    205:

    I'm not terribly interested in the anti-EU crankery; we've seen that particular strange attractor before.

    Getting back to Charlie's actual question about surveillance, I think there's at least one previously overlooked point where the British Democratic Peoples' Republic would be very different from the UK we know.

    Mobile phones. By they time the technology shows up to make cheap and portable wireless phones possible for the general public the potential consumers will have had decades to grow used to the idea that all telephone conversations are monitored. (Back in the analog celphone days it was possible to do this with a commercial scanner, although all that you'd be likely to learn was that other people's conversations were boring.) So while the idea that our phones might not be private came as a surprise to many people in our world, it wouldn't occur to most BDPR residents that a phone, corded or wireless, might not be a microphone connected to the secret police. How does this affect adoption and usage patterns?

    For one thing, people might do things that only the semi-paranoid bother with today. Habits like physically removing the battery except when you actually wish to make a call might be widespread. (So much for being able to reach someone on his mobile.) On the other hand, police might get suspicious about anyone turns off their phone - better carry a 'spare' battery in your pocket and an 'accidentally discharged' battery in the phone. No doubt some expert would explain that a phone can't listen if it's turned off, but who would believe it?

    Assume anyone planning to discuss anything they didn't want recorded for the secret police would check each other for phones. Maybe a lot of business gets done in places like swimming pools and saunas.

    Radio direction finding was well known in WWII; everyone would understand that this thing would reveal its location even without understanding cellular service areas and other arcana. This sounds sinister to us, but it reminds me of a story I heard of the USSR having trouble getting people to comply with a rule that they had to register their residential addresses. The Russian people had a hard time grasping the idea that the government didn't already know where they were, and couldn't see why they had to tell the government something it already knew.

    So assume that the rulers decide to allow mobile phones to the public. (They'll be eager to get radio communication to police and other government agents.) What's the public reaction? Are they still tempting gadgets? There was a status display function in our world when they first appeared; perhaps the early models are issued to 'important' functionaries. If so we can expect middle managers to test their importance by trying to get one; oh, the pointless drama. The side effect is that they're seen much as people viewed beepers, anchors which you had to carry around but never really liked because they could interrupt you at any time and it's basically never good news when they go off.

    What of the rest of the population, the faceless masses? There would certainly be niche demand from people who really do want to be reachable at any moment but aren't saddled with one by the government. Teenagers, no doubt (my sister lived with a phone growing out of her ear for roughly the ages of 13 through 18 and I can guarantee that in five years she never said anything the secret police would want to record). But...do these things catch on with a populace that's learned never to say anything secret in a room with a wired telephone in it?

    Camera abuse and GPS tracking may be a non-starter here...

    206:

    & also # 203
    (202)So you are claiming that the EU is simply the least worst dictatorship to join?
    Or have I got that wrong?
    {203)
    Right. Of course if you consider industrial standards as evil and Human Rights as something moot, then of course your position makes plenty on sense. And that makes up for aristocracy... how, exactly?

    AND WHERE have I even suggested this?
    Nowhere, at all, not ever.
    You are making stuff up that I have never said or implied & there's avery ugly word beginnig with "L" to describe that sort of thing.

    I was a shop steward when the H&S @ Work act came in, with an employer that thought it had a good safety record. We were all surprised at how much standards improved & accidents went down, because we HAD TO observe sertain procedures.
    Note that this was "real" H&S not the "fake" H&S used by far too many jobsworths of recent years.
    You have the insulting nerve to imply that I am against this?
    Similarly, where/when have I claimed that real Human Rights are a bad idea?
    I have not, & you are, yet again, making up falsehoods about me that I have never supported or stated.
    A very nice little smear campaign, or so it seems to me.
    Do I get an apology?

    208:

    P.S.
    "Industrial standards" which are (EU) designed NOT for public or consumer safety, but for the benefit of Corporate profits.
    Two small examples:
    Incandescent light-bulbs (which is just stupid) & low-power "vacuum" cleaners ... which is all too clearly a profit-amking rip-off.

    209:

    Actually, you make a very good point about the transition between technologies.

    - The BPDR will very probably have come from a system of mass surveillance by a mostly-part-time mass of informants, and have created a system in which no technology is trusted.

    - The BPDR will now have available all of these shiny new pervasive surveillance techniques - on phones, through computers, etc. Except, the populace won't trust them anyway, and will be innately aware both of the risks and of counter-surveillance techniques to mitigate those risks.

    The new technology allows the same level of pervasive surveillance to be conducted, by far fewer secret policemen. Which leads to the second-order problems:

    - How does this affect the career prospects of the secret police? Does the State pay the secret police to carry out the same effort of gather and collation from the new sources (hopefully to achieve a greater effect), or does it accept current levels of confidence in gathered intelligence, cut the workforce, and redeploy a couple of hundred thousand workers? Do the risks of downsizing your Securitate outweigh the benefits of doing so?

    - Or do you see the wise old secret policemen suggesting that SIGINT is all very well, but unless you've got the HUMINT to back it up, you're never going to be able to trust it.

    See the desperation with which Western intelligence agencies sought reliable human sources from pre-2003 Iraq. In other words, they keep all the informants and policemen, because all this modern technology can't beat a trained officer walking their beat, and talking to their informants and suspects face to face.

    No-one has suggested we replace the PC on foot patrol with a drone (although various Chief Constables have tried and failed to replace them with the PC in a car). I suspect that the BPDR would have a heavily-staffed service much like the Stasi, possibly only affordable because of North Sea Oil :)

    210:

    Er, David Hume (the one who could outconsume Schopenhauer and Hegel) had been dead for quite some time. I think you mean John....

    211:

    Close, but no cigar.

    There are several key ommissions from Martin's post here. The most important is, first of all, that no attempt was made to round up Loyalist paramilitaries in the initial wave of arrests that began internment in the north of Ireland in 1971.

    That's consistent with what we now know about collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries over the entire course of the northern Irish conflict - collusion that may have involved Nairac himself (consider that the Ulster Defence Association was not made an illegal organization until as late as 1992).

    As for internment as a whole, it may have been sold as a counter-terrorist operation, but that seems to jar with the fact that no attempt was made to use up-to-date intelligence to grab genuine paramilitaries. Instead, numerous people who had no involvement in physical force activities were interned, leaving the real gunmen on the streets (including Martin McG., by the way).

    The political angle of the internment sweeps was this: it was a method by which the old Stormont regime (still in existence, and still the legal government of NI - direct rule wouldn't come until a year later) could tell the 'uppity' minority who was still boss. So long as those rounded up were members of that minority, it didn't really matter if they were involved or not. Though many people who were not involved before their arrest certainly became involved later on.

    That's why internment was a political, not a policing measure. Northern Ireland was a sectarian entity which had delegitimized itself in the eyes of a substantial section of its population. Rather than end the discrimination which alienated that section of the population, it tried to suppress the alienated minority by force. This produced exactly the opposite effect from that which was intended, and you know the rest of the story.

    Now, even though you're itching to do it, don't respond by accusing me of being a PIRA fan, or in any way a devotee of the Beard. I used to share a house with a woman who'd witnessed the Enniskillen bombing at the age of 16. She was an angry person at the best of times, but I remember coming home after hearing Gerry Adams say that he hoped nothing like it ever happened again, on the tenth anniversary of that atrocity. . . she'd heard this in a shoe shop where the radio was playing, and after hearing that she was spitting feathers. . .

    212:

    I think your bit:
    "(although various Chief Constables have tried and failed to replace them with the PC in a car)"
    is a gross over simplification. Patrols in cars started in the 1920's or 30's, in response to the simple fact that criminals were using motor vehicles to commit crimes and could therefore disappear faster than the local consntable could run.

    Over the ensuing decades the car became more and more common, interacting with improved telecommunications to make the response to actual crimes quicker and easier. There was quite a debate about all this back in the 1970's, about which I don't know all the details. Of course there are also issues oc centralised versus local control (so I suppose in the putative BPDR there would be more radios and you couldn't ever switch them off and they would be tied into tracking systems as soon a possible) and the radio gives centre more immediate control over the officer, but you should also remember that there was an entire apparatus of monitoring and control in place in order to ensure the constables walking the beat weren't dawdling or doing anything that wasn't in the very strict regulations.

    And as far as I am aware, foot patrols have been replaced by PC's in cars in most cases, because it permits quicker response, means the management don't have to think about beats and how to organise them, which is hard and requires actually considering crime in real life rather than spreadsheets. Foot patrols are still done in crowds and some other occaisions, and also when you want to hassle law abiding members of the public, as police scotland have been doing more recently. Here's a hint, you braindead fuckers, random searches aren't any use, only targeted ones are.

    This is all basic policing, but when you have a target driven bureacracy rather than a learning and service oriented one, you end up re-inventing the wheel every 2 or 3 years as managers chase promotion and metrics to keep the politicians happy.

    213:

    You do know that Norway ends up having to play by EU rules without having any say in how they're made?

    214:

    What if Hitler had become a Communist?

    215:

    What if my granny ran on rails? She'd be a tram.

    216:

    When you dismiss mass surveillance with a "so what", you are attacking Human Rights.

    Your view of the light bulb ban is probably a good illustration of the magnitude of our difference. I see incandescent light bulbs as an abomination for the obscene waste of energy that they entail. Their banning will accelerate the inevitable transition to a vastly better technology, and constitute a glowing example of wise and decisive long-term thinking. It is simply incomprehensible for me that you would feel threatened by such a decision; it looks as if you put an enormous weight on the preservation of details of how life was lived in your youth, and practically neglect serious issues of our future.

    217:

    Except incandescent light bulbs have not been banned. Halogens are still on sale in all power ratings and are only marginally more efficient than the old style. Certainly compared to LEDs. The forced move to fluorescent lamps was both wasteful and polluting (ie mercury). If it had been delayed 5 years the move to LEDs would have been ideal, and would have been seen as such. The EU directive was a technologically illiterate political move.

    218:

    What energy does an incandescent bulb waste? Any electricity that doesn't come out as light comes out as heat, and most places when you need lights you also need heating.

    219:

    For a large proportion of the world's population, air-con is as important as heating. And when you use A/C, the extra heat from lights costs yet more to get rid of.

    So yes, that's waste. Even in the UK, it's comparatively wasteful under current economics since there are cheaper ways than electricity of heating your house.

    220:

    Don't worry - I'm not itching to mischaracterise your position... I might disagree with your interpretation, though.

    As for no attempt was made to round up Loyalist paramilitaries in the initial wave of arrests

    Apparently, the UK Government wanted UVF lifted in the first wave, but apparently the NI Prime Minister Brian Faulkner refused (remember that at this point, Stormont is the only devolved Assembly in the UK). About 6% of internees were Unionist - almost 1900 Republican, just over 100 Unionist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Gibson_%28loyalist%29

    That's consistent with what we now know about collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries over the entire course of the northern Irish conflict

    Not quite. It's consistent with what has been alleged about collusion. That's not the same thing. There have been lots of allegations, but most fail the conspiracy test.

    The primary problem is that if you've got touts operating in the terrorist organisations, the terrorists evolve a defence - they move to a cell structure ("Belfast Brigade" becomes "South Belfast ASU") and the planner of an operation tells the fewest people, as late as possible, and with restricted opportunities to alert any handler.

    If you have an informant, who is told at the last minute that they are participating in a terrorist act, they may not get an opportunity to warn of it. In such a case, you have the "Army agent involved in murder of XXX" - and while it may look like collusion, it may well not be.

    Please correct me where I get the emphasis wrong, but I'd propose a slightly different narrative...

    The 1960s arrives, and the Civil Rights movement. In America, it's about equal rights regardless of the colour of your skin; in NI, it's about the discrimination against Roman Catholics. The time is right, and the scale of the movement exceeds previous attempts to address what was fairly naked religious bigotry. Even the NI Government takes its first limited steps to address things in the mid-60s.

    However, once the Civil Rights movement starts to have an effect, the "anti-" brigade start to riot. The religious loonies kick off (including one I. Paisley), and whip up the mob with tales of the Antichrist. Note that the very first policeman killed in the Troubles was PC Victor Arbuckle; shot by Unionist rioters, who were protesting that the police would not be routinely armed...

    One problem in the early 1970s was, as you say, the RUC was small and discredited - particularly the RUC Reserve, or "B Specials"; they're the morons seen beating up NICRA marchers in the classic photos from 1969. Anyway, the "Protestant" mobs, whipped up by their mullahs, kick off. They start to try for ethnic cleansing of RC areas of Belfast, the UVF is bombing the Belfast water supplies. The RUC can't cope, the discredited B Specials can't be trusted (see Burntollet Bridge), and the British Army is deployed in aid of the Civil Power.

    So - in 1969, you have the sight of the British Army being made welcome on the Falls Road by the Nationalist community; the IRA is ridiculed as meaning "I Ran Away". The old Marxists in Dublin are regarded as out of touch by the angry young men in Belfast, and there's a split between the Official IRA and the Provisional Wing of the IRA

    It starts to go wrong fairly quickly. The Army is operating under the political control of Stormont for those first few years. It also has no historic intelligence, no means of gathering appropriate intelligence, and is utterly reliant on the RUC. The IRA see this as an opportunity to jump in and legitimise their position, Stormont overreacts, things don't calm down, the Prod nutters derail anything that looks like change (i.e. they might not stay in charge), and a spectacularly clumsy Army gets tasked to stop the IRA from causing trouble... (never underestimate the power of anti-intellectualism in the Army, or the "but we did it this way in Malaya")

    ...and internment (which had actually worked before in the 1940s and 50s, because they knew who the players were, and it was always on a smaller scale) is attempted at Stormont's direction. And is utterly counterproductive. The intelligence provided by the RUC is out of date; as you say, many were on the lists who had stopped, many of the new recruits weren't on the lists.

    By this point, you've got the Rape of the Falls (mass house searches that alienated Nationalist Belfast, perhaps they shouldn't have involved a Glaswegian infantry battalion), Ballymurphy, and Bloody Sunday (Paras screw up COIN yet again by killing the innocent), and before you know it the outraged young men are queueing up to become Volunteers.

    So: the early 1970s is Gerald Seymour's "Harry's Game"; cowboy country, as the soldiers at the bottom of the learning curve make their best efforts to try and operate in an impossible situation. By the mid-90s, it's Gerald Seymour's "The Journeyman Tailor", as professionalism takes hold. Remember that the Army is trying hard to stay even-handed - I've been in the NI briefings where they pointed out that the biggest gun battles the Army ever had in NI, up until the 1990s, were with the UVF.

    221:

    NOT internally they don't.
    They do for good made for export to the EU.

    222:

    You've done it AGAIN.
    I was referring to "them" having a file on ME, not anyone else.
    I am of the opinion stated here several times, over several threads, that mass-surveillance, apart from any other considerations at all, is a waste of time, effort & money.
    Apart from that it is an infringement upon (etc - take that as read, ok?)

    Your frothing rant on incandescent (PUN!) bulbs is indicative of a lack of proportion.
    Incandescent bulbs are going to go, anyway, replaced by LED's ...
    Meanwhile the idiot legislators, whom you are publicly supporting are encouraging wasteful, dangerous, flickering not-quite-proper-discharge tubes.
    Start slowly, give a dull light, contain Mercury, etc.....
    The legislatoirs fucked up a techniocal solution (AGAIN) & you are agreeing with them, not the technocrats.
    Oops.
    I suspect that you are attackiong my comments, simply because I wrote them. I also suggest, again, that you take a deep breath & examine what I actually write, not any convenient interpretation you choose to put on it?.

    SEE ALSO: Dirk @ #217
    Oh & Paws @ #218
    Recently, I actually had to deliberately look for "inefficient" old-fashioned bulbs (15W), bacause I wanted to use them as heaters, under seedlings & tender plants in my (just frost-free) conservatory ...
    Makes the tomato & Capsicum seedlings go very nicely, thank you! { A record crop this year, oink )

    223:

    I wonder ...
    If a large part of the whole "modern" (i.e post WWII) Irish problem was ... corruption, deep & entrenched, on both sides of the border.
    And that corruption rotted the chains of command, control & direction, screwing it for everybody.
    In such a situation, religious & social tensions will naturally erupt, because there is, quite simply, no other outlet.
    Also, as is usual, injuring, maiming & killing a lot of innocent bystanders.

    224:

    I just don't understand you.

    You have protested of being scandalised by things like mass surveillance or the aggression against Iraq; yet it stands to reason that these are two of the foremost consequences of the servility of the UK towards the USA. Do you see no relation between the European Union and the capability of resisting US domination? You imagine some sort of thatcherite UK going "no, no, no" on the USA?

    225:

    I was referring to "them" having a file on ME, not anyone else. I am of the opinion stated here several times, over several threads, that mass-surveillance, apart from any other considerations at all, is a waste of time, effort & money.

    No, no; everything vague and shadowy enough to be called "Them" has its own file on you (except Them!). This is only a waste if you ask what you or other actual humans get out of the expense. It's quite obvious that They get what They want - continued funding for keeping up surveillance on everyone who might someday be of interest to somebody for some reason. If that means working more people with a larger budget that's just a sacrifice They need to make.

    226:

    At the risk of necroposting - there was an interview with a High Court Judge on the Today programme a few minutes ago. UK law about the EAW has been amended and there is now some degree of proportionality included. You can't be extradited under an EAW for parking fines any longer. (That was the specific example raised.)

    He didn't have time to specify exactly what the situation is but there's some sense of "it's for serious crimes only" built in now.

    227:

    Until the UK govmint (tries to) reverse that ....
    Vote on the subject this week, IIRC.

    S-S & Cath13K
    What bothers me about all-pervasive surveillance is the coupled inefficiency & automatic corruption that follws along with it.
    By spying on everyone, the "spies" are making their own work more difficult & at the same time, there is always the dreadful temptation (Always given in to as far as I can see) to start "interfering" & "nudging" people who are no real threat at all, but whom "they" think could do with a push ....
    Which then, every single time (again as far as I can see) results in some appalling screw-up or other.

    WHat bothers me is that we can see all of this & I'm sure some in "security" can see it, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on cutting down on or reducing the overkill in this area.
    I agree the self-perpetuating budgets for "spies" are not helpful, either.....

    228:

    There are a fair number of cases of conversions between Communism and Fascism.

    To the best of my knowledge, there are no reported cases of trams becoming grandmothers, or vice versa.

    229:

    There are a fair number of cases of conversions between Communism and Fascism.
    Like this, do you mean?

    I can see why the Cliffe burnt him in effigy, this year ....

    230:

    I may be wrong about the figure, but what I recall is there being a possible prison sentence necessary. Was it four months? There's some room for abuse, and maybe room for improvement in the details. Does the Polish government accept Paypal for Parking Fines? I am not sure that is the best way, but it's the direction things have to move in.

    231:

    "However, once the Civil Rights movement starts to have an effect, the "anti-" brigade start to riot. The religious loonies kick off (including one I. Paisley), and whip up the mob with tales of the Antichrist. Note that the very first policeman killed in the Troubles was PC Victor Arbuckle; shot by Unionist rioters, who were protesting that the police would not be routinely armed..."

    In terms of fairness, was detention without trial, torture, 'shot while attempting escape', 'committed suicide', destruction of houses, etc. used against the Nationalists?

    IMHO, there's a word which applied to Paisley, which I will not repeat on this blog due to British libel law, but which in olden days could have been followed by 'you are sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, and your body parts to be displayed so that all may learn the fate of [REDACTED]'.

    232:

    "By spying on everyone, the "spies" are making their own work more difficult & at the same time, there is always the dreadful temptation (Always given in to as far as I can see) to start "interfering" & "nudging" people who are no real threat at all, but whom "they" think could do with a push ....
    Which then, every single time (again as far as I can see) results in some appalling screw-up or other."

    '...making their own work more difficult' = 'justifying a larger budget.

    '"interfering" & "nudging" people who are no real threat at all' = 'have more power, and use it'

    'Which then, every single time (again as far as I can see) results in some appalling screw-up or other."' = 'appalling for the victims; the higher ups are rarely held to account'.

    233:

    If your rude word applies to the Rev. Ian Paisley, you should know that he died on September 12th. So as long as you make it clear you're not talking about the other Rev. Ian Paisley (his son, who is still very much alive) you can rant about him as much as you like: you can't libel the dead.

    234:

    Also very true, unfortunately - until, eventually it collapses under its own weight (DDR) or someone calls a halt (Church commission)
    Hasn't happened here, yet, AFAIK, more's the pity,

    235:

    In terms of fairness, was detention without trial, torture, 'shot while attempting escape', 'committed suicide', destruction of houses, etc. used against the Nationalists?

    As I understand it, yes (briefly), yes (in the early days), no, no, no. And against the Unionists, yes (briefly), yes (in the early days), no, no, no - but on a lesser scale.

    236:

    You could be right, the interview I heard didn't go into details, just said the law had been amended so there was a minimum qualifying standard.

    And then of course our glorious government pulled a bait and switch and denied everyone a vote on the issue even though they'd have won handily because it's the frothing nutters that want to vote against it, most MPs of all parties would vote for giving them a big majority. But can't let those Eurosceptic voices get heard this close to Rochester. Oops, Labour are going to table an Opposition Day motion the day before the Rochester by-election and make you look REALLY atupid.

    I know I'm not a Tory voter but I can't help thinking they're so scared on Europe they're shooting themselves in the foot. Again. "We've won a great victory on the £1.7 billion!" "OK we've made sure the rebate that should apply does apply, and arranged to defer it to the next parliament, when even if it is our problem, it's not nearly so embarrassing." "We're going to have a debate on the EAW that we can' those." "People might say nasty things and we'll lose Rochester, you get this weird debate on combined EU justice measures and no vote on the EAW" and even loyal Tories in favour of the EAW shout you down as idiots. Way to go.

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