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George Orwell Now!

Preface by Richard Blair, Son of George Orwell

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Edited By Richard Lance Keeble

George Orwell remains an iconic figure today – even though he died in 1950. His dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a Big Brother society in which the state intrudes into the most intimate details of people’s lives – and, not surprisingly, it became a constant reference point after Edward Snowden’s revelations. The word «Orwellian» is constantly in the media – used either as a pejorative adjective to evoke totalitarian terror or as a complimentary adjective to mean «displaying outspoken intellectual honesty». Interest in Orwell’s life and writings – globally – continues unabated.
Beginning with a preface by Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, George Orwell Now! brings together thirteen chapters by leading international scholars in four thematic sections:
• Peter Marks on Orwell and the history of surveillance studies; Florian Zollmann on Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2014; Henk Vynckier on Orwell’s collecting project; and Adam Stock on ‘Big Brother’s Literary Offspring’
• Paul Anderson «In Defence of Bernard Crick»; Luke Seaber on the «London Section of Down and Out in Paris and London»; John Newsinger on «Orwell’s Socialism»; and Philip Bounds on «Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain»
• Marina Remy on the «Writing of Otherness in Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying»; Sreya Mallika Datta and Utsa Mukherjee on «Reassessing Ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma»; and Shu-chu Wei on Orwell’s Animal Farm alongside Chen Jo-his’s Mayor Yin
• Tim Crook on «Orwell and the Radio Imagination»; and editor Richard Lance Keeble on «Orwell and the War Reporter’s Imagination»
Peter Stansky, in an afterword, argues that Orwell is now more relevant than ever before.
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Chapter Seven: Orwell’s Socialism

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Orwell’s Socialism

JOHN NEWSINGER



In George Orwell: English Rebel (2013: 1), Robert Coles refers to Orwell as being what ‘they used to call a “socialist.”’ This, of course, begs many questions. What kind of socialist: reformist, revolutionary, rhetorical, gradualist, catastrophic, statist, fake? … We could go on. Coles himself demonstrates the problem when he ascribes a range of different meanings to Orwell’s socialism from ‘present society with the worst abuses left out’ to ‘a form of upper-middle-class charity for the poor’ (ibid.: 67). Indeed, we are assured that the nearest Orwell ever came to describing ‘the sort of socialism he wants lies in liberty and justice … and more help for the unemployed’ (ibid.: 188). And, of course, on top of this, Orwell was also, according to Coles, ‘nearly’ or ‘not quite’ a Tory! His final resting place politically, however, was his embrace of British Labourism. Obviously dazed and confused by all this, Coles concludes ‘that it is hard to find a consistent political voice in Orwell’ (ibid.: 193).

What this chapter will attempt to show is that this confusion is actually in the eye of the beholder. In fact, Orwell developed an understanding of socialism out of his experiences during the civil war in Spain (1936–1937) that placed him firmly on the far Left, and, moreover, he remained remarkably consistent in adhering to this understanding until his early, indeed sadly premature, death. What perhaps...

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