Thursday, April 24, 2008


Finished reading Inside George Orwell, by Gordon Bowker.

A fine biography, digging into the person who lived behind the pen name of George Orwell - Eric Arthur Blair, the author of Animal Farm and 1984 two books he wrote as a criticism of revolutions (not just the Russian but ALL revolutions) and the totalitarian state (again his prime target was Stalinist Russia, but his aim was to warn against all societies run by totalitarian governments who use language to brainwash its citizens and edit history to control the past and present)

Orwell comes out as a very complex man and his entire life filled with contradictions. His life begins with the English middle classes during the peaceful pre - WWI era he would later view with nostalgia as "a golden age" (his father was a civil servant in the crown colony of India)

He becomes a student at Eton (on a scholarship) where he rubs shoulders with the future British elite and learns to hate both the snobbishness, brutality and general incompetence of the class-ruled educational system where people from the middle classes (like Orwell) could never expect to reach the higher echelons in society but were kept merely as hangers-ons to fill out various positions with the British Empire's huge administration.

He spends most of his life mingling with the left-wingers of British literature, but defines himself as being "...a Tory anarchist..." a man with a conservative view on life but carrying with him a spiritual heritage from the free thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, predominantly a basic desire for "freedom and justice".

Unfortunately for Orwell he is living in the twentieth century, an age of huge political and social upheaval which forces him to decide that he cannot devote his life and writing to purely aesthetic and philosophical matters but must engage in the political questions of his times.

Disgusted by the squalor of working class lives described in The Road to Wigan pier and equally disillusioned by the brutality of the Communist agents of Moscow he meets during the Spanish Civil War (and the phony Marxist intellectuals he finds at home) he defines himself as a supporter of "democratic socialism" and decides to elevate political writing to an art form (he viewed the political pamphlets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as an undiscovered source of great writing and sometimes even referred to himself as "a pamphleteer")

A life of poverty and obscurity as a writer and journalist (he made a living from writing from the early 1930's) culminates with international success (and some wealth) with Animal farm (1945) and 1984 (1949), but by then his health is ruined by a lifelong battle with bad lungs (ending with tuberculosis) and he dies only a few months after the publication of 1984.

In my opinion one of the major tragedies of Orwell's life was the way his books were used by anti-communists propaganda after his death, his original foreword to 1984 read: "Since the 1930's everything I write has been against totalitarianism and in defence of Democratic Socialism"

He believed in a planned economy and nationalization of key industries, he had no illusions about the exploitation found in the class society, he hated empires because they were founded on racism and brutality and he viewed free market capitalism as a failure that would repeatedly throw the world into economical crises.

His problematic relationship with "the left" was rooted in the fact that in Britain a great deal of its followers came form the upper middle class or upper classes and most of its members had a love affair with Stalin, which stood in sharp contrast to the fact that they would be exactly the people (free thinkers and free speakers) the GPU or the KGB would bring in for interrogation and torture if Stalin had ruled the world.

When the Labour Party assumed power in Britain after WWII, Orwell was a supporter and the welfare state planned at the beginning of the post war era was very much the class-dissolving and wealth distributing society which he felt was the only way to oppose the threat of totalitarianism.

He was quickly disappointed, feeling that not enough was being done to reform society towards Socialism and it is too bad Orwell died in 1950 since it would have been interesting to know his views on the Vietnam war, the youth rebellion of the sixties, the fall of the Soviet empire, etc, etc.

In my opinion we are right now living at the beginning of a capitalist version of 1984, complete with never-ending wars "for peace" - "freedom is slavery" (and work is freedom...) a dissolving system of justice, brainwashing media monopolies, etc, etc, not to mention the rising power of China, a country which seems to be on its way of combining the all powerful control state with the earning power of market capitalism...and then there's the beginning global struggle for fuel supplies....

but then - I'm just a "glum chum" not?..

(For more Orwell, you can access his writings Here)

Retro babe"..Sorry about that Honey, must have gotten a bit premature..."
Panzer Sturmgeschütz III, Ausf C
A fine photo of a Stug in mint condition.
(unfortunately) Also my people
(regrettably) Also my war

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