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Posts Tagged ‘orwell’

The Road to Wiggan Pier by Orwell

I read this several months ago, and the strongest memory I have now is Orwell’s description of visiting a coal mine and the physical agony involved in the kilometer (or more) long walk from the bottom of the shaft to the coal face. the passage would be 4 feet high, or less where the braceing came down and likely scraped your spine as you passed under it.

Also what I remember is Orwell’s description of the conditions of the boarding house that he stayed in; filthy eating conditions, bad food, rooms packed with beds, shared beds (either at the same time, or in shifts i.e. I sleep there while you work at night and you while i work at day), bedbugs, etc. What strikes me now that I think of it is the frightening similarity to the boarding house for ex-psychiatric patients in Toronto described by Pat Caponni in her book Upstairs in the Crazy House (which I comment on here)

On Homage to Catalonia by Orwell

From December 17, 2008:

“Just finished reading Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Though repetitive, confusing, and rambling in style, it is still a very interesting book about fighting for one’s ideals and the realities of war. It is also a window into a time when other political systems were available options in the West, i.e. communism, anarchism, and fascism, which is interesting to me because communism and anarchism now are dismissed as impossible or dead, though I suppose “socialism” is alive and well. [interestingly, in some left-history and writing on that time period, i.e. early to mid 20th century, socialism or social democrats are disparaged as sellouts or collaborator, mostly because they are anti-revolutionary, unlike the anarchists and communists. In this light, it is disappointing that social democracy seems to have emerged from the left as the victor, disappointing in so far as it is the most accepting of capitalism, the least threatening towards it....] The book is also interesting to me because it talks about Spain and Spaniards and makes me think of recent experiences in Tegucigalpa with Spaniards. Orwell’s portrait of them resonates with me: paradoxical, romantic, passionate, giving and friendly, in an unassuming way, almost blind or ignorant in that exuberance, full of a joie de vivre. I feel that I expected to have more thoughts related to the book, and even while reading it I didn’t. It just sits there. It is what it is, an account of a young man going to fight. But the Spanish war experience was different. The war comes across as necessary but disappointing due to the infighting between anarchists and communists, and the general (and later aggressive) anti-revolutionary policy adopted (by the communists) as time went on. Though, Orwell says that the big hope was to stop fascism in Spain, as an example to the rest of the world, and by setting this example perhaps stop the looming WWII.

It is strange to me to read of intra left wing fighting, the 3rd International, the anarchists, the Trotskyists, etc.  It seems so petty and distracting to me having grown ip in a time when destructive capitalism has prevailed, and the right is so powerful. The luxury of having debates and rivalries within the left!”

That being said, I recently read something by Naomi Klein arguing that it is important to have debate within the left, or rather that it is important to voice opinions that are farther to the left in order to try to shift the centre leftwards, rather than to subdue one’s political views with the hope of attracting a wider audience of people closer to the centre….