Monday, 7 June 2010


I have often seen George Orwell quoted for his defense of clear language as the key to clear thinking, so I thought I should read The Road to Wigan Pier. The first part is a very moving account of poverty in 1930s Britain, which he explored by staying in doss houses and miners' homes. But the second part is a confused and repetitive account of how he became a socialist in spite of the awfulness of his fellow socialists. Here is a sample of his dislikes: "England was full of half-baked antinomian opinions. Pacifism, internationalism, humanitarianism of all kinds, feminism, free love, divorce-reform, atheism, birth control - things like these were getting a better hearing than they would get in normal times."

He sets up Socialism as the only alternative to Fascism, but he is at a loss to explain. He repeatedly says that the essence of Socialism is "justice and liberty" and seems unaware that there might be any conflict between the two aims. This was in 1937, at the height fo Stalin's purges, so it seems a very serious oversight. It is hard to see how he got from there to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Things have not evolved at all in the way Orwell expected. The battle between socialists and fascists has not taken place. Instead the world has been stealthily taken over by giant corporations, which deliver enough of the goods to enough of the people to keep them quiet. However, pacifism, internationalism, humanitarianism, feminism, divorce, atheism and birth control are flourishing.

No comments:

Post a Comment