Certainly, George Orwell’s 1984 struck a responsive chord among natural enemies- the left and right- that it said a great deal about the world in which they lived. Both factions draw what they please from it, but they usually miss Orwell’s central point which is society’s evolution towards a rationalism gone mad: the most pervasive development of post WWII political thought being the bankruptcy of liberal rationalism. The complete sham in the belief that if only the weight of human institutions is more equitably distributed , individuals will finally behave decently and rationally. Orwell warned that the rationalist spirit of progress represents in fact, the the first step towards the very thing it aims to prevent because it gives power, institutionally backed, the right to enforce ideas on the individual…..
Orwell deliberately ignored the two major areas of the social sciences where his era had made its most researched advances which were in economics and psychology. “Economic injustice will stop the moment we want it to stop, and no sooner,” he wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier. He was never attracted to Freud, Jung or Kafka.
He was a man who never really decided who he was, although there was no doubt his loyalties lay on the left. He was not a modern man. He abhorred critical thought, but he was also a down and out tramp revolutionary socialist, a literary propagandist and apocalyptic allegorist. This constant confrontation of values, shaped by a personal honesty made Orwell what he was. In a way the nagging dilemma came to a head during the war, when the pacifist and intellectual left revolted him and the rest of England got out and fought. Scott Lucas: Little wonder, then, that Malcolm Muggeridge, who saw Orwell frequently during the war, called him “deeply conservative”, or that George Woodcock, another friend, later wrote of his simultaneously radical and conservative Englishness. Little wonder also that, when the common man and his Home Guard did not shoulder arms for the New Society during the war, Orwell was stranded, his programme of “socialist” war aims in ruins: “The forces of reaction have won hands down . . . as to the real moral of the last three years – that the right has more guts and ability than the left – no one will face up to it.” ( 1943) Read More: http://www.newstatesman.com/200005290038
It is no accident that after a lifetime as a political essayist and a writer of starkly realistic novels, Orwell suddenly shifted to allegory in Animal Farm and 1984. It is the literary form best suited to pointing up the contradictions between idea and reality. For Orwell, it became the vehicle for explaining the major intellectual event of the first half of the twentieth-century, the failed utopia in Russia and elsewhere. The raw material consists of the curiously dated sectarian quarrels of the left in the 1930′s, which Orwell captured in Homage to Catalonia. But the issue described there is still real. Freedom vs. power. In a time of social change, how much freedom can be allowed the individual to adhust to it, and at what rate must they adjust? Their own or theirs? Totalitarianism insists on controlling the speed of change without reference to individual needs and finally must insist on trying to mold those very needs to fit its predetermined utopia.
Theodore Roszak: In the past people optimistically believed that, given enough time, man could be improved and perfected. They may have disagreed about the method but they all agreed on one thing: that man could be made better. Afraid of being laughed at after centuries of failure, they started pretending that man is getting better. They pretended that man’s technological advance was making him a better person. They proclaimed that man and his society had improved since the animalism of cave-men and the barbarism of the Dark Ages. Certainly, things had happened to make our lives easier but that was no proof that man himself had changed. But all of the optimists ignored this obvious problem and breathed a sigh of relief. They felt safe enough to ignore a few pessimists like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
The only problem was their children. They grew up in a society where christian morals were taught from an atheistic foundation and they saw through this contradiction. So they tried to live according to the atheistic ideas during the Sixties. This produced the student riots, the extremist terrorist groups and a new breed of pessimistic atheists. They saw through the lie that man was getting better. They saw that man was as petty and mean and vicious and selfish as he had ever been. They saw that the present was awful and the future was not going to be any better. This was belief beneath the rebellion of punk rock. The pessimists do not believe that man can be corrected. Their solution is control – and suppression and oppression are their tools. Read More: http://hubpages.com/hub/Todays-Problems-Tomorrows-Crises
Enzo Traverso: If fascism buried liberal democracy, it did so by attacking first the left, the worker’s movement, then the Jews and other “anti-national elements,” not by calling into question the traditional elite that had established its power in the framework of liberal institutions. Can we forget the adherence to fascism of all the pillars of Italian conservative liberalism: the monarchy, the bourgeoisie and even a considerable part of intellectual society (Vilfredo Pareto and Giovanni Gentile, even including, until 1925, Benedetto Croce)? Can we forget Winston Churchill’s praise of Mussolini? Can we forget the thoroughness with which, between 1930 and 1933, the Prussian elite rid themselves of their façade of lib
ism and dismantled the democracy of Weimar while preparing for Hitler’s accession? In such a context, in western Europe, the USSR seemed much more apt to block fascism than the traditional forces of a deliquescent liberalism…Read More: http://newpolitics.mayfirst.org/node/333 …
…This jumble of contradictory sensibilities hid the nature of fascisms as “revolutionary” regimes, whose rejection of liberal and democratic modernity aimed not for a return to a bygone era but to the establishment of a new order, hierarchical, authoritarian, non-egalitarian, nationalistic, even racial, but not backward-looking: fascist mysticism is biologized, its cult of technology aesthetisized, its scorn for democracy founded on the mobilization of the masses, and its rejection of individualism proclaimed in the name of a “community of the people,” sealed by war.
It is impossible, however, to grasp the modernity of fascism on the basis of a philosophy of history postulating the evolution of humanity toward the ineluctable triumph of reason. An important characteristic of anti-fascism, which helps to explain its complacency with respect to Stalinism as well as its blindness before the genocide of the Jews, lies in its stubborn defense of the idea of progress, one of the great categories inherited from the European culture of the nineteenth century. Read More: http://newpolitics.mayfirst.org/node/333