Bad writing

Paul Flewers paul.flewers at
Sun Dec 5 21:33:10 MST 1999

Louis Proyect wrote: < Orwell, by the same token, was against capitalism
but only in the sense that a Fabian socialist was against it. It
offended his moral sensibility to see working and poor people degraded,
but he never thought much about the programmatic imperatives to abolish
the conditions which caused such misery... So the choice in Miller's
left is basically one between a cranky Adorno who struck Nietzschean
elitist poses and the sentimentalist Orwell who hated capitalism, but
not enough to become a revolutionist... A book like "The Road to Wigan's
Pier" is filled with righteous indignation but it is not, nor are any of
Orwell's books, conjoined with a materialist analysis of society and how
to change it. The working class is depicted as a permanent underdog,
which seems incapable of emancipating itself. "1984" is liberal moralism
turned into dystopian despair. Not only is the working class oppressed,
it seems to lavish in its own oppression, kowtowing to Big Brother -- a
vision, in many respects, not all that different than Adorno's. >

List members may be interested in an excerpt from my pamphlet 'I Know
How But I Don't Know Why': George Orwell's Conception of


Orwell’s conception of socialism was essentially ethical. Warren Wagar
concurs with Julian Symons’ comment that it was ‘of the heart rather
than the slide-rule’, and says that Orwell was amongst the socialists
who were ‘drawn to the cause by compassion or guilt or nostalgia for
simpler ages, rather than by hard-boiled socio-economic analysis and
theory’. Orwell summed up socialism in the words ‘justice and liberty’.
He called upon left-wingers to unite and build a socialist party as ‘a
league of the oppressed against the oppressors’. However, he claimed
that workers were predominantly concerned with the bread and butter
issues of the day, and were not interested in socialist theory; indeed
he said that ‘no genuine working man grasps the deeper implications of
socialism’. He implied that workers who did educate themselves would
automatically be corrupted by becoming union or Labour Party officials,
or by squirming their way into the literary intelligentsia and the
radical middle class, the very people whom Orwell considered were
predominant in the socialist movement, and whom he deeply distrusted.

If, however, the socialist movement was ‘invaded by better brains and
more common decency’, then the ‘objectionable types’ would no longer
dominate it. So if the untheoretical workers could provide the ‘common
decency’, who would provide the ‘better brains’? It could not be the
workers, because they would most likely be corrupted if they educated
themselves. Although he assumed that the leadership of any revolt would
tend to be from the middle class, he considered that socialists from a
bourgeois background at bottom still despised the class that they
claimed to champion.

Ultimately, he tied a Gordian knot, one which he was never to
disentangle, even though he was soon to see [in Spain in 1936] a
revolutionary working class in action.


Actually, Orwell is not the best example for clear writing. To be sure,
he had a very good writing style, but when one considers that his last
two novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, were and continue to
be used as Cold War propaganda, something went severely wrong. He
complained about their misuse, but if to have one novel misinterpreted
looks like misfortune, to have two misinterpreted in exactly the same
way looks like carelessness.

Anyone wanting a copy of my pamphlet is out of luck for the while
because I have sold all the copies. I hope to get it reprinted
reasonably soon, perhaps early next year.

Paul F

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