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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

7 Comments

  1. Roobin
    September 21, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    It's a shame he didn't apply this insight to his later stuff, Animal Farm or 1984 etc. Totalitarian theory is an empty vessel, filled with all sorts of bourgeois swill. Today he's the ruling class's House Red.

    It is only supposition, but I really wonder if the ruling class think socialism's a busted flush. Why spend all that time and effort trying to head off an impossibility?

    I suspect the most clearheaded among them only think they are buying time from an inevitable result. The 30s (and Orwell) are a case in point. By the end of the decade no one believed in private property, hence so many young bourgeois fell in love with Stalinism and Russia, a force that seemed so vital at the time.

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  2. Jack Graham
    September 21, 2012 @ 6:00 am

    "Totalitarian theory is an empty vessel, filled with all sorts of bourgeois swill. Today he's the ruling class's House Red."

    I agree. Totalitarian Theory allows people like the ‘anti-totalitarian’ left and the French ‘New Philosophers’ to argue for imperialist wars waged by America, the UK and NATO, on the grounds that their opponents are ‘totalitarian’ and are therefore akin to the powerful states that created the Gulag and the death camps. It's a strand of humanitarian intervention.

    But I'm not sure how directly one can blame Orwell for this. Animal Farm and 1984 shouldn't be seen as 'last testaments'. He just happened to die before he wrote any more books. I don't think his commitment to democratic socialism (as he understood it) was diminished by his critique of totalitarianism.

    The big mistake in 1984 is the drift away from the idea that Stalinism was a kind of state capitalism and the drift towards the idea that totalitarianism is a distinct form of society ('oligarchical collectivism')… though its notable that the sections which appear to offer this analysis are from Goldstein's book, which was actually written by the Party, or so O'Brien claims. It'd be darkly amusing to think that 'Totalitarian Theory' was influenced by a fiction within a fiction, a misleading analysis written by a fictional totalitarian Party.

    As for the ruling class' view of socialism… maybe there an extent to which Orwell's concept of doublethink is useful here (as I think it's useful in many contexts beyond 'totalitarian' societies). It may be a basic tool of thought in all class society. The rulers need to simultaneously be ruthlessly pragmatic and also believe their own cant. Hence our modern right-wing ideologues, sincerely believing that Obamacare is equivalent to Stalinism while also knowing that they are manipulating the facts to make a mild (largely cynical) gesture towards socialised medicine sound like it's being run from the Lubyanka.

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  3. Roobin
    September 23, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    I keep telling myself I need to go over some Orwell again. His non fiction is a fairly mixed experience. The Lion and the Unicorn is fairly batty. The only people remember it is because he wrote it, although give him his due I don't think anyone else has tried to prognosticate on revolution in modern Britain.

    As for the rest of it there seems to be limitless room for parodies of sandal wearing vegetarians and gimlet-eyed communists. It's partly the source, I think, of left-wing intellectual party scorn, a cheap bit of custom where lefty writers are critical both of the right and the left… but mostly the left. When he gets to a positive of the time he seems to be explaining the benefits of socialism to his own class, which, give him his due, were the people who bought books back then.

    But then there's Homage to Catalonia, and Down and Out…

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  4. Wm Keith
    September 23, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    They have been "buying time from an inevitable result" for several tens of thousands of years so far.

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  5. Jack Graham
    September 23, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    Humans only started domesticating plants about 12,000 years ago.

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  6. Roobin
    September 24, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    All together now: This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!

    Reply

  7. Wm Keith
    September 25, 2012 @ 3:07 am

    Really? How could things have gone so wrong so quickly?

    Reply

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