Skip to comments.Orwell's Struggle May Be Over
Posted on 11/22/2012 5:45:29 AM PST by No One Special
By his own admission George Orwell was a committed socialist. About a year before his death in 1950 Orwell responded to the leftist charge that his recently published novel 1984 represented a direct attack on both socialism and the British Labour Party. Orwell calmed the fears of his progressive friends with the following response:
"My recent novel  is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralized economy is liable and which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism."
In other words, Orwell tirelessly promoted a kind of socialism that promised "political democracy, social equality, internationalism" and most importantly "freedom of thought and speech." Orwell was under the impression that a "humanized" collectivist society was possible.
Indeed, those of us who have read and thoroughly enjoyed Orwell's Animal Farm, 1984, and other great books and essays understand that Orwell truly hated despotism. But a more complex portrait of Orwell has to account for Orwell's distaste for what he calls a "particular kind" of economic despotism -- capitalism. Writing in the magazine Politics and Letters in 1948 Orwell said the following:
"Until well-within living memory the forces of the Left in all countries were fighting against a tyranny which appeared to be invincible, and it was easy to assume that if only that particular tyranny -- capitalism -- could be overthrown, Socialism would follow."
What most post-WWII British leftists failed to recognize, said Orwell, was that the material prosperity and rising living standards guaranteed by the socialist representatives in Parliament could not be achieved without continuing the hated policy of British imperialism. Orwell's solution to this dilemma was simple honesty: leftist politicians in power need to be...
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...
It’s always easier for someone to advocate for socialism while they are free to enjoy the wealth and prestige they obtain from book and movie sales.
Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, thought that socialism could be separated from its tendency towards totalarianism. We have seen that it can’t.
The very people that think they know better than others tend to gravitate toward positions of power. The more power, the more it attracts the self-centered egomaniac who has no problem being a dictator. This sort of person becomes enraged when the populace doesn’t bow to his will and implement his “perfect” plan. The mass killings then start.
Orwell was brilliant. I would proffer that deep down in his soul, he knew socialism could not be separated from its tendency towards totalitarianism, but to his dying day, he fervently clung to the hope that it might be.
Yes, I’ve seen this view again and again, where people think that the world can simply be reduced to Barny the Dinosaur’s “sharing is caring” without ever understanding that reality simply does not work that way in the same fashion that the laws of thermodynamics work say that you can’t create energy.
The people in question aren’t evil (for the most part, though some Leftists certainly are), but merely deluded by the promise of a utopia which can be obtained “if we just try harder with better people”.
The millions dead, the trillions of dollars squandered, and the wrecked environments are blithely ignored. Those were just done by the wrong people. That’s all. Somehow, somewhere, that utopia will work, no matter the track record.
Yet, even with his innate understanding of the human condition, he fell into the trap of most progressives, believing that humanity could and would 'evolve' into something better.
Our founders knew that people were people, that individuals needed to have their behavior constrained by a moral code, and that governments needed to be constrained by the people.
Progressives believe, ultimately, that people must be ruled by benevolent dictators, but they can never seem to find quite the right guy for the job.
To the left, “!984” is a handbook.
Uhhh.....that does not apply in any way, or on any level to Orwell.....he lived, an died , sick with various ailments, and broke. Indeed, he profited so greatly from his writings that he had to scrounge together enough money to open a small
stationery shop just to keep his head above water.
socialism is always good for others but not the people pushing it.. they seem unable to put themselves in the shoes of the ones who actually have to live with it.
Exactly. Always they assume, they just need the right savior and all will be well.
Then you get the killing fields.
Collectivism, though rejecting the Bible and particularly the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, ends up consistently proving it true.
“he had to scrounge together enough money to open a small
stationery shop just to keep his head above water.”
I didn’t say it was easier for Orwell, only that in general for those that advocate the glories of socialism tend to be the very ones that are living the high life courtesy of capitalism.
Speaking of which, you mean Orwell had to “make ends meet” by resorting to capitalism?
The type of utopian society that socialists seek is only possible — if it even is possible — in a truly righteous society and only where individuals share by their own volition and not by force.
Well obviously everybody in a capitalist system has to make ends meet by “resorting” to capitalism, even when that capitalist system has stretched its operating practices to include the massive welfare structures they currently have.
Your comment came out of the blue within a particular thread anatomizing the supposed ‘flaws’ or shortcomings of Orwell’s worldview. I assumed you were talking about Orwell.
This article, though, is flawed in its own way, and doesn’t take into account the historical period that Orwell matured in, which presented to thinking people maybe the original False Choice, i.e., having to choose between two basically totalitarian worldviews.Some very smart, but not smart enough, intellectuals, wound up choosing “The God that Failed”. In this regard, a better testifier for the truth may have been Arthur Koestler. Those choices may be with us still, in different disguises, but in Orwell’s time it wasn’t quite as clear as it is now that Socialism was a lost cause, at least in civilized Great Britain.
But Orwell remained very much a man of the left. In "1984" his desire for a truly classless society where everybody lives at about the same level of reasonable comfort is very evident. But here he makes a very simple mistake that he should not have made. He isn't taking his own advice and accepting the facts as they really are.
And the fact that he's not accepting is a well-known law of economics called "Pareto's Law." Basically, and I'm no economist, Pareto's Law states that a so-called "power law" that applies to all biological systems applies to economics: that a 80/20 relationship will always prevail over time.
You've probably heard people say things like "my business derives 80% of its income from 20% of its clients" or "20% of my sales staff close 80% of my sales." I even hear these things on advertisements of various kinds. And it's true. It's the same for the economy at large. Liberals breathlessly state that "20% of the people enjoy 80% of the wealth produced." What they forget to say is the converse: 20% of the people produce 80% of the wealth. But you see, that's just the way it is, so there's nothing to complain about (unless you want to lodge your gripe with God). It's Pareto's Law.
Pareto's Law relates somehow to the conservation of energy in biological systems striving for stasis. Somebody much smarter than me can maybe explain it better. But I do know this much - it's simply a fact of life like Newton's laws of thermodynamics. You can't escape it, because it's rooted in biology and ultimately in physics.
So, once we've accepted the inevitability of Pareto's Law and the ensuring 80/20 inequality as a relative matter, we immediately recognize that if we want to improve the lot of the 80% then we need to grow the economy as rapidly and as sustainedly as possible. How do we do that? I think rather obviously, the best way to do that is to incentivize the 20% who are producers to produce as much as they can by letting them keep what they make. Get rid of things like progressive taxation and the death tax, strive to reward risk-taking and innovation, etc. Basically, what Ronald Reagan wanted as a program. That way the pie grows and grows to the point where in a couple of decades the 80% are living like the 20% are now in absolute terms. The unpalatable thing for those of a socialist bent is that such a thing - desirable in itself - must under the inescapable hand of Pareto come at the "cost" of continued 80/20 relative inequality. The 20% will be enormously richer, in short. That bothers a lot of people, even as their lives have improved immensely in relative terms.
I think that one thing that Pareto's Law doesn't dictate is who the 20% are. Socialism is not - indeed, cannot - really be about sharing out the wealth equally, since this is impossible as a matter of immutable law. Rather, when you dig down to the essentials, Socialism is all about ensuring that the 20% are people who wouldn't otherwise be in the 20%. It's all about non-producers playing the leading role in society. It's all about a coalition of non-producers thrusting the productive 20% into the 80%, taking their relative place in society - and of course at the cost of making everybody absolutely poorer.
A careful reading of 1984 indicates that Orwell understood the difference between absolute wealth and relative wealth, and that for the socialist nomenklatura relative wealth was all that mattered. He called it "the distinction that wealth conferred" - the feeling of relative wealth of possessing the last lump of horseflesh in a besieged city, if memory serves. At the same time he recognized that in a world where everybody had plenty to eat, access to basic services, and even leisure time and some luxuries, that the social importance of relative wealth would decline. Odd.
His problem is that he never confronted the inevitability of relative inequality under Pareto's Law. And even though I'm a great admirer I have to say that Orwell's inability or unwillingness to confront Pareto's Law is troubling. Was he trying to force reality into his preconceived socialist narrative? Was he thereby practicing the very doublethink he condemned so powerfully in 1984?
Here's a link to a nice little article on this point:
“This article, though, is flawed in its own way, and doesnt take into account the historical period that Orwell matured in”
I couldn’t agree more. Orwell’s Soclialism was one that would feed those starving on the streets of London and Paris and one which would provide work for anyone who needed it. It was not the Socialism of free handouts, in fact he detested them and saw them as undermining the nobility and morality of men.
Having said that and even though Orwell bemoaned the types of person’s who called themselves Socilaists and railed against the Communism of Russia he still believed that somewhere in the British character was the civility and decency that could make his brand of Socialism work. Of course he was wrong, hindsight is too easy. He was also right in that the sort of “Lord of the Manner” Capitalism had had it’s day and needed to be replaced.
More troubling though is that 1984 seems to be finding it’s modern fulfilment in the political left of today.
Capitalism is “tyranny” only to a people who have no self-esteem.
It's a mystery to me, and many others, how someone who could write a book (1984) clearly aimed at a Stalinist-type of society could fail to understand that all attempts to centralize power leads to tyranny. In short, instead of proving their love of humanity, the intellectual love of socialism proves their intense dislike of human beings. People must be controlled for their own good.
If you are referring to Orwell, he didn’t have any movie sales in his lifetime, and never made more than a subsistence living from his books. He was not famous or a celebrity in his lifetime.
"This article though, is flawed in its own way, and doesn't take into account the historical period that Orwell matured in"
I can agree entirely and I have read both "The Road to Wigan Pier" and "Down and out in London and Paris". Few persons can have endured the hard scrabble years of the 1930's. My childhood memories are still with me from that era. Army child though and we at least ate (chuckle).
Orwell was opposed to the elite English Public School system (a misnomer, if one is American). The taxpayer funded an almost closed system of privilege. He thought the new Socialist government should at least withdraw taxpayer funds and let these institutions pay their own way. Orwell was disgusted as the socialist ranters against such an elite system, then sent their own sons and daughters to those very schools. They had arrived of course!
A bit of a late ramble by me up in Great Lakes Country- Canada/USA. The temperature hit 17 cel today and I just got out and did stuff, prior to the expected snow and freezing temperatures.
Down and Out in Paris and London
——an unforgettable book. A perfect example of Orwell’s
stubborn insistence, as cited elsewhere in the thread, to look at life exactly as it presented itself to him ‘in front of his eyes”.
Have read all his books and enjoyed most. His descriptions of life at that time are harrowing. I admire him and his works greatly and continue in understanding of the world because of them.
35C here today in Aus - summer is here!
Never heard of Pareto or his law. That is very iteresting. Thanks so much for the post and the link.
Thanks. Paretos’ Law stands for the simple scientific fact that economic equality is an impossibility. We need to rub this into liberal noses at every turn.
We also need to recognize the possibility that 20% of the people are power mongers who need to tell others what to do. Those, of course, are mostly on the left. We need to identify these people and blow their cover.
You know, you just made me realize something else about "1984." Orwell described Oceanic society as a basic 80/20 split:
Below Big Brother comes the Inner Party, its numbers limited to six millions, or something less than 2 per cent of the population of Oceania. Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party is described as the brain of the State, may be justly likened to the hands. Below that come the dumb masses whom we habitually refer to as 'the proles', numbering perhaps 85 per cent of the population.
I forget what little I ever knew about statistics but we’re probably talking about the normal distribution of human characteristics of any sort. There will always be those that stand out from others and the real stand outs will be a minority, 20% or less. I look back at growing up and the athletes that were in my classes. There was always a superstar or two in every class but from those at the top it trailed off to those who could only “throw like a girl.”
I read this article that applies the principle to more that just economics:
Now if only the media would pick up and expose the idea.
What I call “the manual” from 1984 is online:
The Theory And Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism:
The first chapter, “Ignorance is Strength”, makes so much sense to me it is scary. I am sure the left understands the truth that is embodied in it and what is worse, they know how to use it to gain and consolidate power.
It's like a gyroscope. You can push it one way or the other, but it will tend toward the 80/20 split.
Like I said, it relates to energy conservation in biological systems. There's a branch of economics called "econophysics" that developed from this insight.
But, it's not news by any stretch of the imagination. Guys like Krugman surely know that any system will move to the 80/20 split.
It is not the countries with abundant raw materials that have grown fastest, and often they are held back, because natural assets give rise to internal conflicts. No, the main reason for the 20 per cent [of the world's population] consuming 80 per cent of resources is that they produce 80 per cent of resources. The 80 per cent consume only 20 per cent because they only produce 20 per cent of resources. It is this latter problem we ought to tackle, the inadequate creative and productive capacity of the poor countries of the world, instead of waxing indignant over the affluent world producing so much. The problem is that many people are poor, and not that certain people are rich. - Johan NorbergThe post is here.
Thanks for this.