Socialism: Orwell's comments - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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As either the transitional stage to communism or legitimate socio-economic ends in its own right.
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#14631632
From Orwell's memoir Homage to Catalonia:

"I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life-snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.-had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master...One had breathed the air of equality. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this." George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia

Maybe I'm wrong but often it seems we hear more about the things Orwell opposed rather than his thoughts on the things he might have been for.
#14631653
I've read many of Orwell's essays, novels, and other, shorter writings, and he did seem to focus on writing pieces highly critical of Marxist movements. If you like Orwell, I'd recommend Essays, a roughly 1400 page book containing most of his essays and articles over the years. Three essays that come to mind that help explain his positions would be "The Freedom of the Press (Animal Farm)" written in August 1945, "What is Socialism?" written in January 1946, and "Why I Write" written in 1946. You have to dig into his essays to grasp the things he was for: democratic socialism, humanism (he believed socialism's foundation was, among other things, rooted in humanism), political plurality (he strongly opposed purges and a Marxist party seizing power), and so on.

I would highly recommend that book.
#14631676
The more I read Orwell, the more of a titan he clearly is. He doesn't get enough credit that he deserves.
#14631709
The more I read Orwell, the more of a titan he clearly is. He doesn't get enough credit that he deserves.

Orwell's literary and popular reputation was largely posthumous and was largely a product of the political needs of the Cold War. This has had both good and bad effects - it made him more famous than he might otherwise have been, and the reputation of his literary work was higher than it really merits. But it also meant that his essays - which are actually his best work - were downplayed by the Establishment. His essays make clear his commitment to democratic socialism and class equality. This wasn't what the ruling elite wanted to hear, which is why they teach you about the novels 1984 and Animal Farm but never so much as mention the existence of Homage to Catalonia or the fact that Orwell fought on the side of the Communists during the Spanish Civil War. After all, it might make you actually start to think, and we can't have that. This has led to Orwell having a rather distorted literary reputation. He is chiefly remembered for something he wasn't particularly good at - writing politically tendentious novels - and is not remembered for something he was superlatively good at - writing essays. In my opinion, Orwell was actually one of the greatest essayists of the 20th century. The best part of the novel 1984 is actually the essay on 'Newspeak' at the end. He doesn't get the credit he deserves as an essayist, mainly because the political and literary Establishment during the Cold War didn't like what he was saying in those essays.
#14631916
Chomsky remarked, more or less, that Orwell's novels Animal Farm and 1984
might've been used by the establishment for propaganda purposes during the Cold War, otherwise his work might have been discarded or even ridiculed.

From Orwell's Collected Essays:

"If I had understood the situation a bit better I should probably have joined the Anarchists."

re; Mairin Mitchell's book Storm over Spain:

"Her book is valuable for a number of reasons, but especially because, unlike almost all English writers on Spain, she gives a fair deal to Spanish Anarchist. The Anarchists and Syndicalists have been persistently misrepresented in England, and the average English person still retains his eightneen-ninetyish notion that Anarchism is the same thing as anarchy. Anyone who wants to know what Spanish Anarchism stands for, and the remarkable things it achieved, especially in Catalonia, during the first two months of the revolution, should read chapter VII of Miss Mitchell's book."

There is much about Orwell we don't seem to hear too often about.
#14631948
Chomsky remarked, more or less, that Orwell's novels Animal Farm and 1984
might've been used by the establishment for propaganda purposes during the Cold War, otherwise his work might have been discarded or even ridiculed.

Indeed. Most of Orwell's novels are rather dreary and boring, and his conscious efforts to overcome his own class consciousness and snobbery as an Old Etonian slumming it among the proles is embarrassing to read nowadays. And he was politically damaged goods; utterly compromised. He was too left-wing to be politically reliable as an anti-Soviet Cold Warrior, and his work as an informer for MI5 against his former leftist friends and colleagues made him into a social pariah. His essays, however, are superb. Orwell was at his best when he was casting a jaundiced eye on the antics of the British Establishment in Burma, or when he was dismantling the pretensions of well-born British 'socialists' (which included himself, be it noted), or analysing the abuse and deformation of human language at the hands of politicians.
#14633715
"Indeed. Most of Orwell's novels are rather dreary and boring..."

I think his writing is pretty vivid. Look how he describes the proletarian quarters or Victory Mansions which many feel are drawn from personal experiences (i.e. Down and Out in Paris and London, his numerous essays, etc.)

"and his conscious efforts to overcome his own class consciousness and snobbery as an Old Etonian slumming it among the proles is embarrassing to read nowadays..."

Yet he took a bullet while in the trenches in Spain. His memoirs and novels did reflect his disillusionment and terror regarding the Stalinists. And he did make this distinction between grass-roots activists who actually did fight and die from those that directed things from afar:

"Please notice that I am saying nothing against the thousands of Communists who died heroically round Madrid. But those were not the men who were directing party policy. As for the people higher up, it is inconceivable that they were not acting with their eyes open." -- Homage to Catalonia
#14633721
Stop Corruption wrote:"and his conscious efforts to overcome his own class consciousness and snobbery as an Old Etonian slumming it among the proles is embarrassing to read nowadays..."

Yet he took a bullet while in the trenches in Spain. His memoirs and novels did reflect his disillusionment and terror regarding the Stalinists. And he did make this distinction between grass-roots activists who actually did fight and die from those that directed things from afar


There's much that Orwell wrote, but Potemkin may partly be referring to Down and Out, which was not entirely factual, and did have many instances of Orwell's "class consciousness" coming to the surface, although he intended to sympathize with the poor. Some unintended comedy is when Orwell writes a few times about how he can easily escape the conditions of being a tramp, when he seems to brag to himself about how he can just easily resort to his friends and family to give him whatever money he needed, or when he's literally playing dress-up to become sufficiently tramp-like. It's still a decent read, but comedic enough at times to give it added entertainment value.
#14633748
There's much that Orwell wrote, but Potemkin may partly be referring to Down and Out, which was not entirely factual, and did have many instances of Orwell's "class consciousness" coming to the surface, although he intended to sympathize with the poor. Some unintended comedy is when Orwell writes a few times about how he can easily escape the conditions of being a tramp, when he seems to brag to himself about how he can just easily resort to his friends and family to give him whatever money he needed, or when he's literally playing dress-up to become sufficiently tramp-like.

Precisely. As Gandhi once said, "My friends complain that they can no longer afford to keep me in poverty."

And, to be fair, Orwell wasn't alone in this. Many of the well-heeled 'socialists' of the 1930s often indulged in this sort of unintentionally comedic behaviour. For example, WH Auden used to dress up in workman's clothes and a cloth cap and would deliberately eat his peas with his knife. He seemed to think that he was thereby showing his solidarity with the working class. He did not seem to realise that in reality he was actually mocking the working class. He seemed completely oblivious to the contradictions in his behaviour and his position, hence the unintentional comedy of it all.

It's still a decent read, but comedic enough at times to give it added entertainment value.

Indeed.
#14929473
I suggest that what Orwell was looking at was a community of like-minded people.
One could expect the same harmony in a religious or art community too.
The Real Problem is shoehorning politically variegated people into a political system.
This is where the tragedy of Lenin's quote about eggs and omelettes comes to the fore.
#14929484
Prue wrote:I suggest that what Orwell was looking at was a community of like-minded people.
One could expect the same harmony in a religious or art community too.
The Real Problem is shoehorning politically variegated people into a political system.
This is where the tragedy of Lenin's quote about eggs and omelettes comes to the fore.


Yes, it is not surprising he found the best example of Socialism in a small tight knit community.
Telling people they own everything on an ideal level is meaningless unless that ownership is real to individuals.
Telling people you own everything therefore you must do exactly what the leaders say is not something the average person is going to believe very long. You shoehorn people in through decentralization.
#14929672
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