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The Socialist Fogey October 1, 2008

Posted by guestposter in Culture, The Left.
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A post from ejh of these parts and here [I'd strongly advise a visit]…

We are nothing
We have fallen
Into the dark and shall be destroyed.
Think though, that in this darkness
We hold the secret hub of an idea
Whose living sunlit wheel revolves in future years outside.

(from Spender, Trial of a Judge, quoted in Orwell, Inside the Whale.)

Many, many years ago – before the free market liberated us all from the tiresome requirement to pretend we cared about people poorer than ourselves – there was a small group of rightwingers who made it their business to ponce about it Oxbridge colleges calling themselves young fogeys”.

Studied in mannerisms and style of dress, their views and their self-image were predicated on two assumptions. The first – more of a conceit than an assumption – was that rightwingers were a tiny minority among a vast horde of socialists. This assumption was, regrettably, false. The second was that if young and clever rightwingers publically ponced about for long enough in the right Oxbridge colleges, they would end up being paid a lot of money by rightwing periodicals to do much the same in their pages. This assumption, regrettably, was true. We knew it. Still, we laughed at them all the same.

A generation or so passed by. Most of the young fogeys ended up rich and editing the same periodicals to whom they had appealed for succour in the darkest days of trades unionism and free school milk. Their socialist opponents, by contrast, find themselves speaking almost entirely to one another, in constantly reducing numbers, shuffling around like the figures at the end of Fahrenheit 451, mumbling the great socialist texts to ourselves – for only we remember them.

Yet, like those figures, we remain. Defenders and preservers of civilisation, remembering better days than these and better futures than the one which we are facing. Socialist fogeys we are, defenders of civilisation, rooted in the past, remembering social provision and the days before mass homelessness, seeing no contradiction between equality and excellence, considering culture and socialism two aspects of a single view. We carry on for no other reason than this: because we still are what we are.

Few, becoming fewer: but we are still here, and like endangered birds, occasionally glimpsed, perhaps at long distance, yet easily identifiable from a few shared characteristics. You may recognise us from the list below. You may even recognise yourself.

Do you like and admire most or all of the following:

• cricket?
• the Welfare State?
• public services and social provision in general?
• Radios 3 and 4?
• classical music?
• comprehensive education?
• the use of ‘an’ before ‘hotel’ and ‘historian’?
• knowledge of other languages, especially Ancient Greek and Latin?
• Orwell’s Politics And The English Language?

Do you dislike and deplore most or all of the following:

• advertising?
• crassness, ignorance and philistinism?
• jingoism?
• people on the make?
• controversial columnists?
• teenage internet libertarians?
• tax cuts and whining about taxes?
• vulgar celebrity culture?
• text messaging and internet posting in poor English?

If your answers in both groups are all, or mostly, or even predominantly “yes”, you may be a socialist fogey yourself. Mumble, shuffle, remember and memorise. We hold the secret hub of an idea, whose living sunlit whel revolves in future years outside.

[A previous version of this routine appeared on the website Urban75.]

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Comments»

1. Omar Little - October 1, 2008

‘vulgar celebrity culture’
Doesn’t bother me-has existed as long as there has been a popular press. Sneering at it usually a sign of a middle class liberal looking down on the proles for being stupid. I don’t have to watch Big Brother or read Heat- so I don’t. I know active trade unionists who do.
Text messaging etc- couldn’t give a shite.
Crassness, ignorance, etc – listen mate theres plenty of it on the left.
Orwell’s politics were often up his own arse.
Not hugely into classicial music- again a matter of personal choice, nothing to do with politics.
Radio 3 and 4? I listen to Today FM.
If being a socialist has anything to do with most of the above choices then you can keep it. Some of them are just a bit close to snobbery.

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2. ejh - October 1, 2008

Ah, a specious invocation of “snobbery”. I was wondering how long that would take. Also note “middle class liberal”. Empty phrases.

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3. Omar Little - October 1, 2008

‘You can shove yer Greek and Latin up yer arse’
Hows that for vulgarity?

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4. Phil - October 1, 2008

What would a non-specious invocation of snobbery look like?

I only get three and a half out of nine on ‘like’, but a clean sweep on ‘dislike’. Wonder what that means.

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5. Graham - October 1, 2008

What is the connection between the cultural preferences and the political beliefs? Of course they don’t need to go hand-in-hand. You could abandon socialism without abandoning classical music, ancient languages, or hatred of advertising, jingoism, etc.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people (from all sides of the political spectrum) have a tendency to conflate their political beliefs with their personal identity. Rather than meaning “I’m a libertarian” or “I’m a socialist”, maybe it would be healthier if what they really meant was “I agree with libertarian political philosophies” etc.

I know that most political people, especially those who get involved in political parties and campaigns, become like football team supporters in the sense that they will always think of their side as the good guys, while the other teams will always be thought of as the enemy. This makes it so much harder for them to be intellectually honest, since that might require them to change sides some day and then their friends and their enemies would be reversed.

I was very aware of the danger of this, and I switched teams several times. And it disappoints me that so few people are willing to change sides. I’m sure that far more of them would if they weren’t convinced somewhere inside of them that their political allegiances were an important part of their personality, rather than just a bunch of boring opinions.

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6. ejh - October 1, 2008

What would a non-specious invocation of snobbery look like?

Brian Sewell, probably…

Our hotheaded friend seems not to have noticed that it’s a humorous piece which sends up what it describes. Well, it is not necessary to have a sense of humour to be a socialist any more than it is necessary to like the Cantata of Bach, but it is a shame in each case to lack the capacity for appreciation.

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7. ejh - October 1, 2008

If I were to make a serious point, though, it’s that I don’t think socialism has anything whatsoever to do with philistinism.

There’s an old saw about being so Left you’re Right, and it doesn’t always mean very much. Culturally, though, sometimes it does. The snobs, the Sewells, think that fine art and high culture are just for the elite. The poseurs, the more-proletarian-than-thou mob, think the same thing. In essence, it’s precisely the people who cry “elitist!” who are the elitists: they are the people who wish to separate working people from the greatest achievements of the culture which was built on those people’s labour. They’re not on those people’s side, in any way other than saying “look at me, look how proletarian I am!” and while I’d like to say “they hurt nobody but themselves”, it isn’t true.

It is all out there, waiting for you to read it, to listen to it, to look at it. That’s what egalitarianism is all about, the idea that it is for everyone.

(This posting was composed to the accompaniment of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto.)

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8. Conor McCabe - October 1, 2008

Frank Lunz was given a fuck-load of Irish taxpayers’ money last year (a bit like our bankers) to produce a show on the election called “the Lunz Effect” – where he went around the country and got focus groups together. It was all spin. A friend of mine actually fell for it, and for Lunz, actually thinking that Lunz was a clever man with insight. I gave him a copy of Orwell’s politics and the english language. That did the job.

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9. Omar Little - October 1, 2008

I have a sense of humour you patronising cunt. I just don’t laugh at your jokes. Now find yourself a decent football instead of pretending to support crap like Oxford.

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10. Jim Monaghan - October 1, 2008

Reminds me of McDowell and Hardiman when they were in UCD

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11. ejh - October 1, 2008

I gave him a copy of Orwell’s politics and the english language

I once recommended it to a pop music writer who, as it happens, is now the regular pop critic for a leading British Sunday newspaper. He said he disagreed with it pretty much in its entirety (actually, he may have been harsher than that, may have said he hated it). Then again, reading his prose was not quite like looking through a windowpane.

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12. garibaldy - October 1, 2008

I can never understand how it is that a narrow-minded, petty bourgeois English nationalist informer like Orwell is so beloved of so many on the Left.

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13. ejh - October 1, 2008

Because of his honesty – especially important given that he was honest when all about him were telling untruths – and because of the readability of his prose. Can you show me a Stalinist of similar honesty, let alone similarly pleasing yet memorable style?

Incidentally, given that the Stalinist societies were absolutely rife with informing – with rather larger consequences than anybody suffered from being named by Orwell – are you sure it’s a point you are wise to pursue?

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14. Omar Little - October 1, 2008

You see Jim Monaghan’s joke WAS funny.

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15. skidmarx - October 1, 2008

“crassness, ignorance and philistinism?”

As an old Punch cartoon about the Philistines had it, “I like Walt Disney”.

One might have thought that “a historian” would recognise that languages change. I think that “an” is awkward before an “h”. Or maybe you just wanna drop that “h” so much…

“The poseurs, the more-proletarian-than-thou mob, think the same thing.”
I think the phrase is prolier-than-thou. And this seems to have an undercurrent that those who generally prefer low to high culture are wrong.

John Berger’s “Ways Of Seeing” is finishing its rerun on BBC4 tonight. If you can’t get it it’s all on youtube.

” knowledge of other languages, especially Ancient Greek and Latin?”
Didn’t learn any at school, unlikely to learn much now. My uncle’s street in Bradford had a building with a motto something like “Fidem Parit Integras”. I suggested that maybe it meant “My dog is still in one piece”.

“controversial columnists?”
Me, I love uncontroversial columnists.

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16. Phil - October 1, 2008

I won’t hear very much said against Homage to Catalonia, but apart from that I loathe Orwell & find him profoundly dishonest – too much haven’t-we-all-thought special pleading, too much last-man-in-Europe doomsaying* and much too much speaking-for-the-democratic-Left proto-Decency*. Zeal of a renegade, perhaps – I was a huge fan between about the ages of 16 and 19, read the CEJL cover to cover and frequently quoted from it. Then I discovered Raymond Williams, and that was it for Orwell.

*As an illustration of both of these, here’s Orwell’s reaction to the Lidice massacre, from his diary:

“It does not particularly surprise me that people do this kind of thing, nor even that they announce that they are doing them. What does impress me, however, is that other people’s reactions to such happenings is governed solely by the political fashion of the moment. Thus before the war the pinks believed any and every horror story that came out of Germany or China. Now the pinks no longer believe in German or Japanese atrocities and automatically write off all horror stories as ‘propaganda’. In a little while you will be jeered at if you suggest that the story of Lidice could possibly be true. … Cf. the long list of atrocities from 1914 onwards, German atrocities in Belgium, Bolshevik atrocities, Turkish atrocities, British atrocities in India, American atrocities in Nicaragua, Nazi atrocities, Italian atrocities in Abyssinia and Cyrenaica, red and white atrocities in Spain, Japanese atrocities in China – in every case believed in or disbelieved in according to political predilection, with utter non-interest in the facts and with complete willingness to alter one’s beliefs as soon as the political scene alters.”

(I remember thinking I’d test this – or rather prove it – and asked my mother if she remembered a story about a place called Lidice. She remembered it perfectly well, rather to my disappointment.)

Anyway, that’s a hell of an indictment, which extends to ‘the Left’ and ‘the Right’ as a whole (just below this he draws up a table headed ‘Believed in by the Left’ and ‘Believed in by the Right’) – and it doesn’t seem to be based on any evidence at all. (Apart from anything else, it ignores the substantial difference between “the Communist press tells lies” and “Communists believe lies”.) There’s a distinct air of arguing with the lefties in his head about it all.

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17. Seán - October 1, 2008

“…like the figures at the end of Fahrenheit 451, mumbling the great socialist texts to ourselves – for only we remember them.”

Nice image.

I’ve always found a huge contradiction at the heart of the Thatcher and post-Thatcher conservatism which predominates in Britain to this day. And it is this: they extol the virtues of the free market, proclaim that people have choices and choose what is best and in their own interest…then fucking moan about how our once vibrant culture and language is being dumbed down and the yoof aren’t interested in Milton or Shakespeare anymore.

With culture, as with everything in this free market world, the market dominates too. The market, in my view, appeals to the lowest common denominator, to cheapness, to convenience. Knowledge is not sought after for itself, but is merely a commodified entity. I need to pass a certain amount of A’levels to get into this University so as to get a job that earns X amount of money. Knowledge thus becomes a vehicle to greater earnings and not much more. There are of course exceptions, but that – to me at least – seems the predominant view .

That is not to say that all pop culture is worthless or cheap. But taking on a cultural ‘artifact’ that is difficult or time-consuming for that old fashioned notion of self-satisfaction is seen as pointless and, indeed, profitless.

I agree, sometime I do feel like a bit of a fogey. Interesting post.

(Written while listening to Radiohead’s Kid A)

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18. garibaldy - October 1, 2008

EJH,

Was he honest? Didn’t he steal much of animal farm from a Czech communist he was working with in the propaganda department during the war? Is writing to a bourgeois government naming communists the act of an honest man? That, it seems to me, is the difference with those in the old socialist states. Those governments at least sought to be on the side of the proletarians. Churchill’s didn’t.

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19. Phil - October 1, 2008

Me, I love uncontroversial columnists.

M3 T00. I miss Paul Jennings. And Alan Coren. David Stafford, he’s good. James Thurber, there was a columnist for you.

Controversial views are greatly overrated.

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20. ejh - October 1, 2008

As an old Punch cartoon about the Philistines had it, “I like Walt Disney”.

Yes, and a more philistine cartoon would be hard to imagine. Ignorant bastards. Mind you, Punch really was (and presumably is) for snobs. Phil will want to know that Orwell didn’t like it.

I think Orwell is often unfair to people: this is partially balanced by the fact that he was a good apologiser. I do think he is right in suggesting that people’s willingness to believe or disbelieve atrocity stories hsa a great deal to dowith their politics: but of course he exaggerates to a degree. One thing I don’t like about Orwell is his tendency to make grand statements about The Left – but at the same time, given his experience, not only of Spain but of how it was reported, I am inclined to cut him some slack.

And this seems to have an undercurrent that those who generally prefer low to high culture are wrong.

I don’t think it does: I think it says what it says. The “seeming” is for the prolier-than-thou. Personally, I don’t really give a damn whether anybody else prefers low or high culture: what I dislike is people being crass about it. It’s not the choices people make that indicate ignorance, it’s the attitude they have to the choices they didn’t make.

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21. ejh - October 1, 2008

Is writing to a bourgeois government naming communists the act of an honest man?

I think you should stop waving around the word “bourgeois” as an alibi for what your supposedly proletarian governments actually did, and for the motives of the trash who actually acted as informers within them.

Moreover, Orwell named people, but he didn’t actually try to have enormous numbers of them killed on the basis of lies. You are not on safe ground here and you would be wiser not to dig.

Didn’t he steal much of animal farm from a Czech communist he was working with in the propaganda department during the war?

I don’t know, but I can say definitely that Isaac Deutscher (another good man who the Communists tried to kill) correctly identified 1984 as having had its plot and characters lifted from Zamyatin’s We. Nobody cares: Shakespeare (a better writer than Orwell by some distance) did much the same thing. Good writers do.

The names of good Stalinist writers, or for that matter artists or composers, escape me.

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22. garibaldy - October 1, 2008

I see. So Orwell should be forgiven all his sins because he could write properly? This seems to be your argument. So that strikes me as an artistic rather than a political judgment. I’ll stick to judging his politics, which were, as I say, petty-bourgeois English nationalist when it boiled down to it.

What was Picasso btw?

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23. Pavement Trauma - October 1, 2008

I’ve long suspected Cricket was a socialist metaphor. Eleven players work together to remove the guys wielding those obvious symbols of oppressive power, cricket bats. Then when they succeed in that, one by one they get to be the bat brandishing ones…

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24. skidmarx - October 1, 2008

And 1984 correctly predicts a country with CCTV everywhere and a National Lottery.Aesop probably nicked some of his ideas for fables.

” what I dislike is people being crass about it.”
Of course when people disagree with you it’s easy to see them as more Crassus than Spartacus.

Rachmaninov features heavily in the film “Shine”. About a complete loon.I did mean to make a coherent point about the Pink Floyd lyric “Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter as the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky” being emblematic of my preference for rock over classical.

David Stafford wrote a column in the Guardian once claiming to have had an unexpected hit with a marxist allegory song called “When A Dinosaur’s Feeling Lonely” and I couldn’t work out if he was making the whole thing up.

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25. Phil - October 1, 2008

ejh – I ran across Orwell on Punch earlier today, actually. From “Literature and the Left”:

“in its attitude towards ‘highbrows’ – that its, towards any writer or artist who makes experiments in technique – the Left is no friendlier than the Right. Not only is ‘highbrow’ almost as much a word of abuse in the /Daily Worker/ as in /Punch/, but it is exactly those writers whose work shows both originality and the power to endure that Marxist doctrinaires single out for attack.”

Again, no word on who he’s actually talking about. He’s a very slippery writer when you start to look closely.

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26. harpymarx - October 1, 2008

God I dislike cricket… Ok, got that off my chest so dunno what that classifies me as…?
And what are “teenage internet libertarians”?

I like the word vulgar (not used enough) and I do deplore SMS txting and the shortcuts. Proper words!

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27. Redking - October 1, 2008

I quite enjoy cricket but when I confided this abberation to a friend from Galway he called me a “Fucking Black and Tan bastard” for liking a “garrison sport”. Crikey!

“The names of good Stalinist writers, or for that matter artists or composers, escape me.” – if it counts I used to know of a Stalinist house painter – a great man he was-tried to stop a civil war, in fact.

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28. Omar Little - October 1, 2008

An injustice to CG to call him a ‘Stalinist.’
Cricket was the people’s game in mid 19th century Ireland and played by nationalists and unionists.

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29. Redking - October 1, 2008

Tongue in cheek there, Omar, about Cathal.

That’s a good point about Cricket-there’s an argument that says the GAA was set up amongst other things, to counteract the popularity of so-called “foreign” sports.

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30. ejh - October 1, 2008

I see. So Orwell should be forgiven all his sins because he could write properly? This seems to be your argument. So that strikes me as an artistic rather than a political judgment. I’ll stick to judging his politics, which were, as I say, petty-bourgeois English nationalist when it boiled down to it.

Well, we’ll have to put that down as an intenet “seems”.

No, I’ll tell you what exactly sticks in my craw about your attitude to Orwell. It’s that it’s a classic Stalinist example, not just of double standards, but of the most extraordinary, grotesque double standards. This is always how the Stalinists used to behave, it’s what Orwell said about them and it’s why the rest of the Left used to fear them. They had a moral freee pass: they smeared who they liked, they denounced who they liked and where they were in power they killed who they liked. Yet let anybody make an unproven accusation against them and they were up in arms screaming slander and outrage.

Let’s remember. Orwell went to Spain to fight fascists. When he was there he saw the Stalinists systematically lie about and murder his friends, their socialist rivals. He saw Stalinists outside Republican Spain faithfully repeat every lie and support every murder. And when he got home they tried to prevent him speaking out about what he had seen.

That strikes me as a pretty gigantic provocation. But for garibaldy, it doesn’t make any difference. Orwell’s letter – some way short of a death list, by the way, rather less than the Stalinists had tried to do to him – puts him betyond the pale. We should excommunicate this man. But we do not need to excommunicate the murderers, do we? The people who told lies for years about socialists who took up arms against fascism? Or the people who set up networks of real informers, in their police states, and the informers who served in them, not doing so because of any <i<bad reason, like the slaughter of their friends, but because of the much better reason that they got a few small privileges and the pleasure of sucking up to the police and the Party boss.

You know, I don’t often make blanket statements about the Left. But I would without hesitation say that nobody ever again should have anything to do with the Stalinist morality by which nobody who acts against Us can ever be tolerated, but We, because we are on the side of the proletariat, can say that black is white, can execute our rivals and plead “fascism” in mitigation, and that’s OK, at worst it is a small thing.

Again, no word on who he’s actually talking about. He’s a very slippery writer when you start to look closely.

Yes, he is, and I think one reason why the Decent Left like him is that he has the habit you identify – of referring to the Left tout court and yet of very often not finding a single name to name.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that he was writing at the time when Stalinism was at its height – and during the War, too ,when criticising the Stalinists was not done much – and therefore when the Left was a very different animal to what it is today. Far more full of speak-your-phrase machines, of professional denouncers, of Party men, of people who saw no wrong in what their side was doing and no right it what the others did. Possibly the need to ask “precisely who are you talking about here?” was rather less in the Forties.

Rachmaninov features heavily in the film “Shine”. About a complete loon.

Your point eludes me.

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31. ejh - October 1, 2008

I do deplore SMS txting and the shortcuts. Proper words!

Also see computer grammar checks, and Satnav.

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32. crocodile - October 1, 2008

Nothing irks the Irishman more than calling him a snob. It’s a dangerous country in which to espouse any standards – you’re a westBrit or an elitist if you advocate any kind of discrimination – not just the evil kind.
Do we have a tradition of left-wing elitism? I’m not sure. In Britain there’s the Reithian tradition of high culture for the masses.
I recently heard a schoolgirl being mercilessly insulted on the top deck of a Dublin bus because she spoke with an RP accent – surely our teenagers should he be over the ‘tones of the oppressor’ attitude by now?
Isn’t it a sign of immaturity to think that all culture is equal except high culture, all accents equal but RP, all success admirable except intellectual success? Inverted snobbery is alive and well in Irish teen culture.

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33. Hugh Green - October 1, 2008

Which forms of non-evil discrimination result in getting called a westBrit or an elitist if you advocate them?

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34. WorldbyStorm - October 1, 2008

Great as it is to see such interest, remember, it’s a humorous piece with some serious points in it.

As for my ‘score’, cricket – no, classical music – ish, other languages – contemporary ones, not fussed about Latin and Greek. Dislikes, all bar advertising which can be useful. Depends on it really…

Anyhow, carry on.

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35. Mark P - October 1, 2008

My suspicion is that in the passage about “highbrow” culture and the attitudes of the left and right towards it, Orwell was talking about Socialist Realism and its ideological enforcers. If so, what he said was broadly speaking correct.

The Russian Revolution coincided with and inspired a great deal of avant-garde art, from painting to architecture to textile design to poetry. Such art was systematically wiped out and replaced by a Socialist Realist orthodoxy under Stalinism. The Daily Worker was indeed virulently hostile to “experiments in technique”, which it would denounce as “bourgeois formalism”.

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36. WorldbyStorm - October 1, 2008

True to a point Mark P, I think the retrenchment in art predated Lenin’s death – but yes, once he had gone there was a considerable swing against any experimentation.

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37. Phil - October 1, 2008

I think it’s a fair bet he was talking about what was appearing in the Daily Worker at the time he was writing, i.e. 1943.

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38. Starkadder - October 1, 2008

Interesting-there were lots of anti-Stalinist leftists in
the 1940s and ’50s-Bertrand Russell, E.M. Forster,
H. N. Brailsford, John Cowper Powys. The first
two would have been well known. Yet Orwell often
seems to me in his essays to be writing as if he the were the only
one on the British Left who saw through Stalinism.

I find now I prefer Orwell as a novelist-his essays leave
me increasingly cold,the last time I read them was a month
ago and I was irritated by his sweeping generalizations.

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39. crocodile - October 1, 2008

‘Which forms of non-evil discrimination result in getting called a westBrit or an elitist if you advocate them?’
Cricket over Gaelic Games; theatre over cinema; The BBC over RTE; The Guardian over the IT…..

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40. WorldbyStorm - October 1, 2008

Hmmmm…. gaelic before cricket… theatre *and* cinema, BBC always! Guardian sure, but maybe the FT if it weren’t so expensive….

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41. Dunne and Crescendo - October 1, 2008

The Wire over The Sopranos
Hurling over Gaelic Football
Roisin Murphy over Duffy…..
Can’t think of anymore!
Maybe the original post was meant to be humerous, but it was a very ‘English’ list, as was Orwell. 1984 ok, the essays, no thanks.

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42. Phil - October 2, 2008

Roisin Murphy over Duffy

Well, obviously, on dress sense alone. And has Duffy ever appeared on an album cover holding two pints of beer and not wearing a bra? I think not.

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43. ejh - October 2, 2008

it was a very ‘English’ list, as was Orwell. 1984 ok, the essays, no thanks.

Well, it was written by an Englishman whose personal experience of Ireland consists of two short holidays and a couple of day-trips.

Orwell’s essays include not only Inside The Whale but Charles Dickens. The latter is, I think, one of the greatest in the English language.

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44. ejh - October 2, 2008

Oh, the socialist fogey’s favourite film is quite likely to be A Matter Of Life And Death. Quite a lot of the socialist fogey’s roots lie in the war, I think.

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45. skidmarx - October 2, 2008

On Sky News last night the presenter thought FDR was a what rather than a who. I’d tuned in hoping to see some more “Flailin’ like Palin”. As Bill Maher said on The Daily Show:”Even stupid people are calling her stupid”.She actually reminds me of a rabbit (moose) caught in the headlights, like Carlos Tevez when he signed for West Ham United [ http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uEnLqQBw_mo ]. The previous night she’d managed to say something like “I don’t blame man’s activities on climate change.”

I like that modern romantic comedy, Natural Born Killers, or maybe the Australian film, Bad Boy Bubby. There was a time when I thought the best film I’d seen was Kind Hearts and Coronets, which is a bit older.

“Rachmaninov features heavily in the film “Shine”. About a complete loon.”

Making the point that you can be aware of classical music and still reject it and possibly making an unfair implication that those who like it are a bit Helfgott.

I don’t have a problem with mistakes in spelling and grammar, it’s just that it can be inconvenient. It’s just funny when someone mispells “grammar” when not referring to a “grammer” school. [ A further note to johng: My objection to your use of "refute" comes from playing a lot of chess as a kid, where one only refutes an opening when one can really show how to beat up on it, seeing it used in science to mean a theory(or hypothesis) is disproved, not just disagreed with, and years of seeing the spokesman for the Police Federation saying "I refute the allegations every time someone died in a police cell]

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46. ejh - October 2, 2008

Making the point that you can be aware of classical music and still reject it

Well, it depends what you mean by “reject”, I think.

Re: Helfgott, it’s some time since I saw the film and while I recall that his madness is triggered in some way by Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto, I can’t remember whether it is the power of the piece or the sheer difficulty of playing it that is the culprit. Either way, I doubt that madness is any more widespread among aficionados of classical music than anybody else, or among skilled classical musicians more than any other comparable group.

(Of course there is a similar dicsusion about chess: I personally am inclined to the view that it appeals more to the introvert than the extrovert, and it’s quite possible that madness – if we can use that, ah, often misued word – is greater among the former group than the latter. So there’s a connection, but not, I think, a causative one to any significant degree.)

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47. Jim Monaghan - October 6, 2008

George Orwell
Perhpas some might be interested in this series of articles on the somewhat complicated socialist. It is published by Revolutionary History.
Jim Monaghan#

George Orwell: Enigmatic Socialist

Essays by Ian Birchall, Paul Flewers, John Molyneux, John Newsinger, Paul O’Flinn and Peter Sedgwick

Collected and Introduced by Paul Flewers. Socialist Platform Ltd, London, 2005

George Orwell is almost certainly the only socialist to have suffered the indignity of being championed by large numbers of his political enemies. Rather than staking a claim upon him, Dr Flewers and his fellow contributors to this collection, Ian Birchall, John Molyneux, John Newsinger, Paul O’Flinn and Peter Sedgwick, critically assess Orwell’s works, especially Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and conclude that alongside his positive aspects — his clarity of observation, his quest for human decency and his condemnation of the abuse of power — he also demonstrated serious theoretical and political weaknesses that have enabled his legacy to be systematically and wilfully wielded as a weapon against the very ideas for which he fought during much of his adult life.

Contents

* Paul Flewers, Introduction

Orwell’s Socialism

* Peter Sedgwick, George Orwell: International Socialist?

Orwell and Totalitarianism

* John Molyneux, Animal Farm Revisited

* Ian Birchall, Orwell, Ideology and the Working Class

* Paul O’Flinn, Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984

* Paul Flewers, ‘I Know How But I Don’t Know Why': George Orwell’s
Conception of Totalitarianism

Orwell and the World

* John Newsinger, ‘Pox Britannica': Orwell and the Empire

* John Newsinger, George Orwell and the Revolutionary Left

* John Newsinger, Destroying the Myth: George Orwell and Soviet Communism

* John Newsinger, Orwell and the Spanish Revolution

* John Newsinger, George Orwell and Searchlight: A Radical Initiative on the
Home Front

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48. ejh - October 6, 2008

Paul O’Flinn, Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984

Always liked that piece. (Elitism-detectors may like to know that the author and I attended the same Oxford college.)

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49. Starkadder - October 6, 2008

Thanks for the info, Jim. Also of interest on Orwell
would be Hitchens’ sympathetic Orwell’s Victory (unwisely re-titled
from its superior US title, Why Orwell Matters) and
Scott Lucas’ short critical bio of Orwell.

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50. skidmarx - October 6, 2008

I read a bit of 1984 over someone’s shoulder on the train the other day. He is noticeably off on the lack of need for the Party to have a personality cult. I know I shouldn’t expect a 1-1 corrrespondence, but…

I also saw someone reading Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson, and one of the characters was called Hiro as in Heroes.

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51. WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2008

Hmmm… never much warmed to Stephenson… don’t know why.

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