Viewing posts tagged george orwell

This Irregularity Has Been Recorded

Doctor Who frequently did stories which critiqued capitalism to one degree or another.  But there's an interesting dialectical twist to this, which is that it usually cloaked such critiques in the aesthetics of (for want of a better term) 'totalitarianism'.

It begins, arguably, with 'The Macra Terror'... though so much of what that story does 'first' is actually just being done openly and consciously for the first time.  Other examples include (most graphically) 'The Sun Makers', 'Vengeance on Varos', and 'The Happiness Patrol'.  I'd argue for a few others to go on the list, but these are the most obvious examples.  'The Beast Below' carried on the tradition, as did 'Gridlock' before it (albeit mutedly).  Yet many of these stories have been subject to readings which interpret them as right-wing and/or libertarian attacks on aspects of socialism and/or statism (often assumed to be synonymous).  I might even (overall) support such a reading in some cases.  'The Beast Below', for example, is a story which critiques aspects of the capitalist world, but which (to my mind) ends up supplying more alibis than indictments - partially through its use of totalitarian/statist ...

Damp Little Ideas

Phwoar, look at the imperialist symbolism on that!
That bit in 'The Empty Child' when the Doctor talks about the "damp little island" standing alone against Hitler... when I first saw that I hurled a coat-hanger I happened to be holding at my television.

Okay, so: patriotism as progressive, yeah?  "Don't forget the Welfare State" or whatever he says.

Hmm.  You will unsurprised to learn that I have doubts.


There is sometimes an unwarranted elision of the idea of 'patriotism' with the idea of 'loving one's home'.  This is an elision that many left-wingers have been guilty of, from Orwell to Billy Bragg.  But it confuses distinct concepts.  Moreover, it acquiesces in the ideological project of confusing these concepts, a project of immense utility to ruling classes going back to the very birth of the state.  Patriotism isn't just a cynical scheme of the rulers... though it is  that, amongst other things.  The point here is that it is an ideological construction and a form of social practice which cannot be simplistically overlaid upon personal affection for one's origins and surroundings.

I love London.  In order ...

Homage to the Future

I'm currently re-reading George Orwell's best book Homage to Catalonia.  It's one of those books I re-read every few years.

I came across this lovely, compact, resonant passage:

I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.

Orwell saw the essential nature of Stalin's Russia better even than Trotsky.  A state-capitalist bureaucracy, with the role of private capitalists taken instead by an equally-exploitative class of managers.  He also saw that Stalin's Russia was not socialist, since the essence of socialism is the abolition of an exploiting class, not its replacement by a new set of exploiters.

However ...

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