Posts Tagged ‘George Orwell’

The Road to Wigan Pier, redux

12/06/2016, 10:33:58 AM

In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, Rob Marchant gives his perspective on Wigan.

As someone who is half-Indian, Lisa Nandy MP – author of the book’s piece on Wigan – is pretty well-placed to comment on modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural Britain. And as “a Wiganer by choice”, in her own words, she clearly has a grasp of the problems facing Labour in our northern industrial towns. For example, in Wigan as in many other such towns in 2015, UKIP was close to beating the Tories to second place.

Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier spoke about the conflict between the need for Labour to be able to help and transform such communities and, often, resistance to Labour from within those very towns and villages themselves. Eighty years on, a comparable conflict is starting to return and those communities are no longer the heartlands that Labour can take for granted.

When I spent time around Wigan around the millennium, what struck me was the tightly-knit nature of the communities – often keenly competitive – in each separate town within the borough. Whilst their solidarity was their strength, there was always the danger that solidarity could tip over into insularity: a fear of the outside. It is easy to see how they could come to feel threatened by, say, immigration, or any other laws imperiously imposed from the other end of the country. And let alone the EU, also the current source of much of that immigration.

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Rooted in community: Labour should listen to Orwell – less ideology, more local action

30/12/2014, 11:07:43 PM

In an occasional series to run through the new year, the “Rooted in community” posts will look at those practical, local activities where Labour values are transforming peoples’ lives.

In this post, Paul Dulley gives some historical perspective looking at the importance of a community approach to one of the left’s great heroes: George Orwell

In his 1935 review of Tropic of Cancer, George Orwell praised Henry Miller’s novel for its ‘Whitmanesque enthusiasm for the process of life’, describing it as a ‘remarkable book’. It certainly was.

Published in France in 1934, the novel’s near pornographic depictions of life amongst the Parisian underclass saw it banned in America, Canada and Britain. Orwell’s own imported copy of the novel was seized by two detectives in 1938, a rather sorry letter to his publisher Victor Gollancz reveals.

What is perhaps surprising is that Orwell should have been so enamoured of this work, given Miller’s diametrically opposed view of the world. At the time of his review, Orwell was a member of no political party, and had yet to take his formative trips to Spain or the North. Nevertheless, he was becoming very proactive kind of socialist, his determination to enter unfamiliar communities and witness events for himself contrasting sharply with Miller’s brand of quietism. The one meeting between the two authors perhaps illustrates this difference more than any exposition.

Christmas, 1936. Orwell had resolved to travel to Spain, ostensibly to write war articles from a Republican perspective, but with an itch to ‘kill fascists’. He used his stopover in Paris as an opportunity to pay a fan visit to Henry Miller, who was holed up in a local hotel.

Although the meeting was a cordial one, Miller poured scorn on Orwell’s ideas about defending democracy, countering that civilization was doomed and that there was nothing that individuals like he could do about it. Nevertheless, he was impressed by Orwell’s determined self-sacrifice and, as a symbol of his blessing, gave him a corduroy jacket with which to keep warm on the front line.

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