2007 - 2020

The Unicorn Alone

George Orwell’s The Lion and The Unicorn is more relevant than it has been in decades. Left-wing supporters of Scottish independence should read it.

The Coronavirus lockdown gives most of us time for reading, perhaps even for re-reading. When I first read The Lion and The Unicorn as a teenager, it felt like reading history, something that had recently been declared over by Francis Fukuyama. I came to believe that my beginning was the world’s conclusion: ‘boom and bust’ was over according to Gordon Brown and the class war was over, according to Tony Blair. Orwell’s declaration that England is the most class ridden country under the sun felt like a relic of another time.

It doesn’t now.

Supporters of Scottish independence may choose to avoid this brilliant essay on the reputation of its author or due to the fact is uses the word “England” 125 times. Worst of all, they may passively accept the unionist claim to Orwell on the basis of the oft-quoted-and-even-more-misinterpreted Notes on Nationalism, published in 1945, that Ruth Davidson and others have used to support the Scottish unionist cause. That would be wrong. Unionists are not so fond of referring to Orwell’s work after he learns something of Scotland. Anyone who has read Norman Bissell’s wonderful novel Barnhill will know that Orwell first arrived on Jura in 1946. By the February of 1947, he wrote:

“Scotland is almost an occupied country. You have an English or anglicized upper class, and a Scottish working class which speaks with a markedly different accent, or even, part of the time, in a different language.”

Orwell goes on to emphasise his support for Gaelic medium education. I suspect these views would get most folk, even an old Etonian, kicked out of a Scotland in Union meeting.

So why is an essay composed in 1941 relevant to our current predicament? Surely our situation is not as dramatic as: As I write, highly civilized human beings are trying to kill me? Would ‘As I write, highly civilized human beings are spending a third consecutive day in their pyjamas’ not be more appropriate? Yes and no. It is not a war that we face, but the frequent sirens in the background remind all of us that we face a significant collective existential threat.

The Lion and The Unicorn could scarcely be more relevant to our current situation. It was composed amid a widespread threat to life; describes a Tory government completely unable to manage that threat and castigates a class system and self-important intelligentsia that exacerbated the threat. Sound familiar?

Consider our current predicament with personal protective equipment (PPE). While everyone from the Queen to the mass media compares our current woes to the heroics of WWII, it is worth remembering that the initial response to that crisis was mismanaged as well. Orwell describes an army that was 300,000 helmets short, with one aeroplace against three, with rifles against tanks, with bayonets against Tommy guns. Such is his disgust with those in power that he goes on to declare a generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses. Today and then, thousands died due to imbecility in the government and ineptitude in the opposition.

However, I feel hopeful reading this. It was disgust for a broken system that created the NHS and the welfare state, not a charitable handout following war service. Unlike the New Labour years, when it seemed that the world was in thrall to capitalism, now contempt for neo-liberalism is a mainstream view. The Lion and The Unicorn describes not only a crisis, but an awakening. Perhaps we could replace the word ‘war’ with ‘virus’ in this sentence? “What the war has demonstrated is that private capitalism… does not work. It cannot deliver the goods.” Just as the war left the legacy of the welfare state so too might the Coronavirus bequeath us the universal basic income.

The idea that makes The Lion and The Unicorn so pertinent is encapsulated by its opening anecdote. The “highly-civilised” German dropping bombs on Orwell would not normally go about behaving in a violent way. It is the nation, patriotism, that has led him to behave in a way that he otherwise would not. Those of us who favour democratic socialism face a conundrum: how do you ask the rich to part with their wealth without the use of violence? Orwell’s answer is the most coherent I have read: People who at any other time would cling like glue to their miserable scraps of privilege will surrender them fast enough when their country is in danger.” For the first time in seventy years the Western world faces a situation that brings it home to the individual that he is not altogether an individual”. We are unlikely to find a better opportunity for change.

The less repellent unionists in Scotland are often fond of declaring that they belong to no nation, or as the Labour MSP Neil Findlay put it “I don’t like politics rapped in any national flag”. However, the stance of the Scottish unionist left, self-described ‘democratic socialists’ is not even supported by the most prominent self-described ‘democratic socialist’ ever to have lived. As Orwell makes clear, patriotism is essential to all successful moves towards equality. I believe that is true whether we favour the lion or the unicorn. Left-wing unionists need to be honest – if the nation is necessary to bring about equality which nation do they think might bring about that equality?

Some of humanity’s greatest achievements came from adversity. Some of the best times in our history came straight after the worst. The Lion and The Unicorn is an invaluable time capsule as it shows how we move from misery to hope. Then, as now, “England is family with the wrong members in control.” But they won’t be in control forever. And Scotland will not be adjoined to England forever. The first premise of socialism – value is created by key workers not key bosses – has gone from heresy to common sense in the space of a few weeks. Greater realisations will follow. History is back. Read The Lion and The Unicorn in order to learn from it.

 

 

References

http://www.telelib.com/authors/O/OrwellGeorge/essay/tribune/AsIPlease19470214.html

https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/the-lion-and-the-unicorn-socialism-and-the-english-genius/

https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/05/16/ignorance-is-bliss/

Bissell, Norman, Barnhill, 2019

https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/notes-on-nationalism/

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/i-do-not-politics-wrapped-any-national-flag

 

 

 

 

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  1. Kevin Hattie says:

    A couple of questions:

    (1) “The less repellent unionists in Scotland are often fond of declaring that they belong to no nation, or as the Labour MSP Neil Findlay put it “I don’t like politics rapped in any national flag”. However, the stance of the Scottish unionist left, self-described ‘democratic socialists’ is not even supported by the most prominent self-described ‘democratic socialist’ ever to have lived.”

    Is it really that important to have your views align with George Orwell’s if you are an advocate of Socialism? I’m a fan of Orwell’s work myself, but I wouldn’t necessarily feel awkward about disagreeing with him.

    (2) “As Orwell makes clear, patriotism is essential to all successful moves towards equality.”

    Could you explain this a bit more? I’m not familiar with the link between patriotism and equality. I will try and read the essay by Orwell at some point, but given that the quoted point is quite important for the point you’re trying to make, it wouldn’t hurt to flesh it out a bit more.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      KH: I don’t think your views have to align precisely with Orwell’s to be a ‘Socialist’. Having been on the Nationalist Left almost all of my life, I agree with much of what Orwell says, but I would not describe myself as a fully-fledged Socialist either. Orwell’s take on the society he was living in when he wrote ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ is pretty relevant today, but even more applicable in some ways. I do think the stupidity level has risen across all the classes, and Brexit stands as the indicator of that. Not because the working class voters in England who voted for it are stupid in the sense of being just racist and exceptionalist, but because they have allowed themselves to be led by the nose by people who are fundamentally stupid in a way that will set their country back decades for them, but which works in the favour of those who adhere to this kind of British exceptionalist stupidity. They have been used and have allowed themselves to be used for no reward except to further enrich those with the most already.

      The Scots can no longer afford to be tied to this kind of stupidity: we have our own in spades, anyway; and that, too, must not be allowed to linger and hinder. It is in land reform that Scotland must break the chains first and foremost. In the end, the breaking of the Union might – and I say only might – break the chains of the past in such a way as to allow growth by all the four parts of the UK into something resembling four modern social democratic states of Europe, willing to embrace each other and the world rather than shrinking from it. Orwell did eventually understand that Scotland had and still has a case against being part of the UK (England), but he, perhaps, did not go far enough in that Scotland must break away from England-as-the-UK because that is all there is, even more so today than when he wrote the essay. We are living, all four nations, atrophied and inward-looking existences – politically, socially, economically – because of the nature of the UK, essentially. In the past forty odd years, certainly since Thatcher to the present day, we have steadily been moving towards a fascist/totalitarian political existence even as we have become more and more divided by wealth inequality and inequality of opportunity. Basically, we are dying as a political state and morphing into something frighteningly alien whilst also being scarily familiar. The problem for Scotland is that the status quo is ‘Britishness’ and it is unsustainable, but too many in Scotland simply refuse to see it or acknowledge it, and their ‘patriotism’ is wholly invested in ‘Britishness’ which never existed anywhere at any time. It is an illusion clung to by deluded people.

      1. Kevin Hattie says:

        All valid points, Lorna.

        The reason I asked the questions is just for clarity. On the first question: perhaps I’ve picked the author up wrong, but the way I read his point suggested something along the lines of this: (1) Left-wing Unionists claim to reject patriotism. (2) George Orwell thinks that patriotism is essential for achieving equality. (3) Therefore, Left-wing Unionists should reconsider their rejection of patriotism. Aside from the fact that there are some ambiguous terms here, I don’t think the argument is valid or rationally persuasive. If I am mis-reading the paragraph, I apologise to the writer, but from my reading of the argument it is a bit of an appeal to authority. George Orwell is a terrific writer and he has contributed some excellent insights through his political essays, but I don’t think it really matters whether he supports “the stance of the Scottish Unionist-Left” when we come to ask ourselves the question of whether their stance is correct or not.

        On the second question I asked: I’m not familiar with the argument Orwell makes for the necessary link between patriotism and “all successful moves towards equality”. Given that the point is very important in the overall argument, it wouldn’t hurt to flesh it out a bit more and give a greater explanation of what Orwell means by this.

        1. Lorna Campbell says:

          I think he means, KH, that those with the privilege and wealth must also feel that their country is under threat before they are willing to part with their wealth, even to a limited extent. That translates as patriotism, although, personally, I might put it down to a common threat. Today, that is less obvious in the rich and they simply decamp to a safer place – such as their own, private islands and tax havens, and leave the less well-off to their fate. Personally, I think Orwell might have been just a tad too idealistic and naive, but he had not really witnessed the globalism and immense wealth accumulation of the few as we have, in the past decades, and how politicians have been their apologists, advance guard and bagmen all rolled into one. We actually saw something of what Orwell was getting at, assuming I’m not misinterpreting him, in WW I when the scions of the ‘great families’ of the land were all but wiped out in defence of Britain, never mind that it was an imperialist war and the lower orders made even greater sacrifices. We saw something of the same in WW II, for a better moral cause, but I do think those days are gone. Globalism in all things capital has meant that everything is for sale and the rich recognize no borders or barriers to their own privilege, so nothing short of a global nuclear war would disturb their sociopathy. We must remember, of course, that some, if not many, are also philanthropists in their own way, too, so we have to be careful not to tar everyone with the same brush. We must also remember that patriotism is often the last refuge of the scoundrel, and the old word, ‘Tory’ meant a brigand on horseback.

          1. Kevin Hattie says:

            Aye, it would be a bit of a stretch to call that patriotism. I think an argument could be made to say that they are still protecting their own class interests. Having a healthy workforce and a functioning State to prop up Capitalism is very much in their own narrow set of interests.

            I don’t think we can appeal to the better qualities of those in a position to oppress others, tbh. I’d be very pessimistic about our chances anyway. I know there are wealthy capitalists who give a lot of their time and money to charity, but I don’t consider charity to be the moral choice when compared with solidarity and promoting system change.

            If we are going to radically alter things I believe we are going to have to stop asking for permission. Easy to say that on the internet, I accept. But we have no real alternative. I think Extinction Rebellion realise this. Those who profit from injustice cannot be relied upon to contribute to changing it. It has to come from below and it has to be direct.

  2. Josef Ó Luain says:

    If all that comes out of this pandemic is a Universal Basic Income, it’ll be because we weren’t sufficiently ambitious or imaginative enough to demand a whole lot more.

    1. Kenny says:

      UBI would arguably be even more transformative than the NHS. There are few things more powerful than the abolition of poverty. If people have an unconditional income on which they can survive without ever having to alienate their labour, low waged work will have to change dramatically. Who would choose to work in a shitty job that effectively pays below the minimum wage if the alternative didn’t entail trying to survive on Universal Credit and facing the sanctions and other pressures associated with it? An adequate UBI would also function as a permanent, inexhaustible strike fund. Workers could never again be starved into submission by an oppressive employer. Abolishing poverty and insecurity like that would also have an enormous impact on mental health, especially in kids. Imagine a world where so many children no longer grow up in households with chronic stress and anxiety? Imagine the difference it would make to their education and their long term health. Then imagine how many artists and musicians wouldn’t have to do lousy jobs to support their art habit. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer said that with a UBI, America would produce a new Beatles every single year, because nobody would end up starved into abandoning that “unproductive” work. We know that UBI reduces domestic violence too, and empowers women in a radical way, because there would no longer be a meaningful distinction between “breadwinning” men and “dependent” women. The woman working in the home would be at least partially compensated for her work, economically valuable but persistently unvalued and uncompensated by society.

      Almost all of the effects listed above have been demonstrated through research conducted over decades, but the time is now. The time has arrived.

  3. Lorna Campbell says:

    Interesting piece, and I take the author’s point. I have always wondered why so few understood the crucial nature of ‘Mein Kampf’ to all that came later. Of course, when you are looking backward, in hindsight, I suppose it is easier to think: oh, yes, it’s all there. It really was all there, though, for those with eyes to see, just as Orwell’s work was prescient, and we can see that he had it about right, too. The young Hitler was an embryo politician, laying out his wares, and, at that point, he might never have gone on to become the German leader. He did, through the most short-sighted stupidity, greed and ambition of others, and the rest is history, as they say. Orwell, however, was a writer, a wordsmith, and we all know, or should know, that writers, artists, film makers, etc., usually can ‘see’ what is coming before the rest do. It might even be a subconscious knowing, but too many have been right about future events to dismiss it all as coincidence. Perhaps they just have the kind of insight and intellect that acts like a jigsaw puzzle picture, with all the small pieces, the details, falling into place once the big picture starts to emerge and form. I often think that the human species is the sum total of its parts: that we are all the jigsaw pieces; and some are destined to interpret the bigger picture for us, either abstractly through patterns of maths and science or intuitively, through the patterns of artistic intellect and interpretation; and there are those who implement what these people ‘see’, and they tend to be the ones who do the front-line work, as we can see with this pandemic. Then, of course, there are those whose instinct is to exploit everyone else and control the knowledge that comes from ‘seeing’ and implementing the ‘patterns’. As Orwell knew, even these ‘parasites’ or exploiters have to face their own mortality when the threat is large enough to encompass them as well as everyone else, whom they would ordinarily sacrifice, and it is at that point that they, too, act as part of the whole of the species – through necessity. On the other hand, I could be talking untreated ordure. It’s just how I see it.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Lorna Campbell, it is interesting, since you talk about film-makers and other creatives, to consider what happened to George Orwell’s work after his death. In the case of his Animal Farm, the CIA secretly funded a British feature animation and required that the ending be changed. There is some coverage of this in the richly-informative documentary Secrets of British Animation which is broadcast on BBC4 tonight, and available on iPlayer afterwards:
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0btynjg

  4. John S Warren says:

    Thank you. On Scotland and George Orwell, it may be worth remembering that Eric Blair had a rather difficult and complicated attitude to a number of issues, not just Scotland. First, his use of a pseudonym may be connected with a certain antipathy to Scotland, but at the same time Orwell’s attitude to his own family name was probably influenced by the fact that his family had connections with Jamaica and the slave trade through his grandfather, and his father was a Civil Servant who earned his living in the department responsible for the British bureaucracy assiduously supporting the important Opium trade into China. Britain was probably the biggest drug dealer of the nineteenth century. More narrowly, Orwell’s antipathy to Scotland may have been affected by his angst at school in Sussex, before going to Eton. This is scarcely novel ground for English upper middle class boys, especially perhaps for a socialist who never quite felt he part of the right social set of ‘insiders’ and toffs, and worried about his own background; he depended on scholarships to pay for both his school’s fees.

    He describes the ethos of the school in Sussex, in these terms: “The school was pervaded by a curious cult of Scotland ….. Scotland was a private paradise which a few initiates could talk about and make outsiders feel small.” (‘Such, such were the Joys’, Complete Works of George Orwell). He probably felt he was an ‘outsider’ at both schools. Orwell nevertheless changed his attitude to the Scots in the POUM during the Spanish Civil War. He refers to a remarkable young Scotsman, from a famous coal mining background, Bob Smellie. Smellie was a very effective activist, but tragically, was eventually arrested by the Fascists. imprisoned and possibly tortured in Valencia. He did not come out, and was never seen again. Orwell wrote this: “Perhaps the best of the bunch was Bob Smillie—the grandson of the famous miners’ leader—who afterwards died such an evil and meaningless death in Valencia.” (Homage to Catalonia).

    1. Stroller says:

      Smilie’s death is shrouded in mystery but he was most likely killed by the Communists, like POUM leader Andre Nin was, not by the fascists who were not in control of Valencia at the time of his death – the Republican govt was.

      Orwell himself was very lucky to get out of Spain alive, his life was in serious danger from May 37 onwards, but not from the fascists but Stalin’s Russian agents in Spain. This is the whole paradox of his time in Spain, and what haunted him for the rest of his life.

      Nin was taken to a house in Alcala Dr Henares just outside Madrid, where Cervantes was born, brutally tortured by Orlov, Stalin’s henchman in Spain, and then executed and buried probably on the road between Republican held Valencia and Madrid. I have read that Nin was flayed alive during his torture. Orlov, if I recall correctly, was himself liquidated by Stalin later on, like so many Soviet agents were.

      The only problem about Orwell’s time in Spain is that his experience is taken as a kind of shorthand for why the Republic lost the war, that is to say, because of internal division. Ken Loach for example, falls in to this trap in “Land and Freedom”.

      But in fact all the main historians concur that the Republic lost the war because of the double whammy of the arms embargo imposed on it by the farcical International non-intervention committee and Hitler and Mussolini’s massive military aid to Franco. Even in the early months of 1939 there was a standing Republican army of 500,000 men in central Spain, but they were poorly equipped and had been abandoned by Britain and France in a bid to appease Hitler…

      1. Stroller says:

        Sorry, turns out Orlov was not liquidated, he defected: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Orlov_(Soviet_defector)
        He was almost certainly one of those responsible for the death of poor Bob Smillie though…

  5. SleepingDog says:

    I have only read an excerpt from The Lion and the Unicorn in a book collecting Orwell’s political writings, but I recall his criticisms of British war profiteers who were feeding the enemy, selling “tin, rubber, copper and shellac” to Germany right up to the war; perhaps in the same way that industries like airlines fed this coronavirus with warm bodies even as the crisis developed. Orwell is excellent on Anglo-British hypocrisy and cant: “An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount — that is our danger.” Curiously enough, the cover of my copy of Andrew Carnegie’s fatuous Gospel of Wealth seems to be illustrated by that famous sermon of Jesus’. I think Orwell called for a limit on maximum income to 10x the minimum, and democratic reform of education, abolishing privilege. He goes on to say abolish the House of Lords, but why keep the monarchy?

    In a letter from London at around the same time, Orwell wrote “in England there is a great respect for freedom of speech but very little for the freedom of the press” which I think is a neat summary that continues to apply in certain areas. He describes England as a lowbrow country with little sympathy for writers, working class endemic grumbling, political espionage, spreading alarm and despondency a wartime criminal offence, ruling class too stupid to create totalitarianism on their own.

    Of course, Orwell was involved in the state fake news industry of the time, and his wartime writings may need some decoding (or at least helpful footnotes). His views on how far the British establishment was forced to tell the truth, and why, may also have a relevance still. Particularly how the wartime government needed to manage criticism amongst its frontline troops, presumably to stave off a realistic threat of mutiny.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      SD: the meek shall inherit the Earth. Monty Python’s Life of Brian: Oh, the meek are getting something? That’s good. About time they got something. My words, but it went something like that. Orwell saw through that in a way that the general population don’t to this day – Brexit, again.

  6. Stuart Vallis says:

    That is an excellent article, and some interesting comments, I’ve read a lot of Orwell when I was younger and Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan pier stand out, I think I must have missed The lion and the unicorn, I’ll have to look it out.

  7. RMac says:

    I’ve never read ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ James, and will probably do so now, with your comments on unionist misinterpretation of Orwell in mind. On a similar note, I’m often baffled by left responses to ‘Animal Farm’. Surely the novel not only eviscerates Soviet communism, but reveals the flaws in ‘socialist’ thinking of any and every kind? I’ve read it dozens of times and never found a word of comfort for socialists in the text: the animals had a beautiful dream; sadly it was a fantasy, doomed from the start; even a child can understand this. It cannot be read only as a cautionary tale about tyranny, a reminder to true believers that socialism must be done ‘properly’. Had ‘Animal Farm’ been written by Evelyn Waugh, socialists would have no trouble interpreting its meaning.

    1. Kevin Hattie says:

      How does Animal Farm reveal the flaws in socialist thinking “of every kind”? You’ll have to explain that one a bit more.

      1. RMac says:

        To do so would be a fool’s errand Kevin.

        1. Wul says:

          Surely the socialism is ” All animals are Equal” and the (inevitable?) corruption is the pigs’ codicil; “but some are more equal than others” ?

          It wasn’t socialism that destroyed their “beautiful dream” it was greed. If both right and left can see lessons in Animal Farm its a sign of it’s essential truth.

          I see both Animal Farm and 1984 as warnings against the concentration of power in few hands and “isms” of all kinds. Any government that needs to control mass media is lying to its citizens and fearful of the truth.

          1. Kevin Hattie says:

            Absolutely, Wul.

            I think Mikhail Bakunin warned against it before Orwell. The “Red Bureaucracy”.

          2. RMac says:

            You didn’t find “warnings against the concentration of power in few hands and ‘isms’ of all kinds” in the text of Animal Farm Wul. The novel deals with the failure of one ‘ism’ in particular and raises very difficult (unanswerable?) questions for proponents of that ‘ism’.

    2. Wul says:

      “You didn’t find “warnings against the concentration of power in few hands and ‘isms’ of all kinds” in the text of Animal Farm Wul. The novel deals with the failure of one ‘ism’ in particular and raises very difficult (unanswerable?) questions for proponents of that ‘ism’.”

      Amazing that you can know what I read in Orwell’s work better than I do myself, but OK. Let’s not have Soviet Communism here then. That will suit me fine. Same for Stalinism.
      We arguably already have socialism here; we all chip in for our NHS and universal old age pensions. Our markets are built on the socialism that ensures that every child gets a free school education and everyone’s property is protected by the rule of law, police and fire service. How successful would our various celebrity entrepreneurs be if the entire workforce were starving, criminal, illiterate and disease ridden?

      It would be good to have an agreed definition of “socialism” and “capitalism” and a mature debate about what kind of country we want to live in and what the achievable possibilities are, given what we know of human nature .

      Friedrich Hayek wished to avoid the horrors of 1940’s German National Socialism and proposed free markets as a benign and self-regulating economic foundation. Instead, he spawned a neo-liberalism that has produced suffering and loss of freedom for millions.

    3. SleepingDog says:

      @RMac, Animal Farm is a fable. By the same logic, you would believe that a hare could never outrun a tortoise. What might have been the outcome if the hare had read Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare? And what might we learn about fables from that?

  8. RMac says:

    My point Wul is that we should focus on the text, on what Orwell actually wrote. Your interpretations are contextual.

    Animal Farm traces the failure of one ideology; it does not warn against ‘isms’ of all kinds. It also presents a character (Napoleon) around whom power is concentrated to malignant effect. This does not make the novel a warning against ‘the concentration of power in few hands’. You mistake correlation with causation. Had Snowball concentrated power to himself, the revolution might have succeeded. The problem is not the concentration of power per se; the problem is Napoleon.

    The real-life relevance of this to socialism need hardly be stated. How many grisly tyrants has socialism thrown up in the years since Animal Farm was published? If it is a ‘warning’, it’s a spectacularly unsuccessful one.

    In ‘Why I Write’, Orwell describes his ‘power of facing unpleasant facts’. If we must draw on context in interpreting Animal Farm, let’s use that. Can we face and answer the novel’s profound challenge to socialism?

    1. Wul says:

      Fair do’s, I bow to your superior knowledge of Orwell’s writings. It has been many years since I read Animal Farm.

      Socialism “throws up dictators”. Does it? Or do some dictators use socialism as a populist vehicle to build their dictatorship?

      There are plenty of examples of working social democracies that are OK places to live. For myself, the idea of a full socialism, where everyone gets exactly the same, is a grim one. Where’s the fun or opportunity? Also, for me, there is a problem with any “ism” that runs counter to human nature and has to be increasingly imposed on the population, stricter rules made, media message more strongly managed etc. until you have citizens spying on each other.

      What’s your vision for a fair, sane country RMac?

      1. Kevin Hattie says:

        I don’t think Socialism amounts to everyone getting “exactly the same”. I think it is more about democratic principles governing economic, as well as social and political life. The core element of Socialism, in my view, is that the productive capacities of society should be owned by the community, rather than private individuals. This can take the form of the State owning industries or worker-self management. I think Orwell himself praised the experiment in worker self-management that he witnessed in revolutionary Spain. I have sympathy for that form of Socialism, that belongs in the Anarchist tradition. Animal Farm does nothing to discourage Libertarian Socialists. In fact, it can be used as support for favouring it to the more authoritarian version.

        1. RMac says:

          Your comment illustrates my point Kevin. Animal Farm critiques X. You favour Y. You understand from other texts that Orwell also favoured Y. Ergo, the novel can be read as an endorsement of Y.

          True, Animal Farm ‘does nothing to discourage Libertarian Socialists’. But it can only be ‘used as support for favouring [this system] to the more authoritarian version’ by those who have already made up their mind.

          I’m sure you’ve answered the difficult questions posed by the novel to your own satisfaction Kevin. I haven’t.

          1. Kevin Hattie says:

            What point would that be?

  9. J Galt says:

    What about the “civilised” Englishmen dropping bombs on the German civilians a good 4 months before the quid pro quo, or indeed on the Arab tribal villages in the early 1920s both with the enthusiastic backing of Winston Churchill.

    Of course two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Yes prescient in many ways – both Animal Farm and 1984 are grimly magnificent, 1984 in particular relevant in these dark and deeply sinister times we’re living through just now.

    Perhaps the State serving mythologizing got him a reasonable living from the BBC?

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