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     In December of 1936, George Orwell left England and traveled to Spain in to fight in the Spanish Civil War. If we want to understand Orwell's classic novel 1984, if we want to know what he was writing about and where his ideas came from, we must begin in Spain.

And then, next night, waiting at Torre Fabian for an attack that was called off at the last moment by wireless. In the barn where we waited the floor was a thin layer of chaff over deep beds of bones, human bones and cows' bones mixed up, and the place was alive with rats. The filthy brutes came swarming out of the ground on every side. If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness.
                                                      George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, 1938

     The Spanish Civil War began with a military coup to overthrow an elected government. A left-wing government under the Popular Front had been elected in 1936 and in July of of that year a group of generals made their move. They were unable to control the entire country and war broke out. Fascist parties had already come to power in Germany and Italy by then and Leftists, Trade Unionists and Socialists from all over the world volunteered to fight on the Republican side in Spain. George Orwell was one of these. Spain was a poor country. Neither side in the Civil War could afford much in the way of modern armaments so both sides appealed to friendly foreign governments for assistance. Germany and Italy sent men and equipment in support of the Falangists, the Spanish Fascist party, and Mexico and the Soviet Union sent military assistance to the Republicans. Mexico, under left-of-center president Lázaro Cárdenas, sent only some financial aid, rifles and ammunition. The Soviet Union sent guns, tanks, aircraft and, of course, advisers. It is the work of these advisers that turned Orwell against totalitarian Communism forever and gave him the ideas for 1984.

      Some date the beginning of Stalin's Great Terror to the 17th Party Congress in January of 1934, others to the assassination of Sergey Kirov in December of that year. However you date its beginning, the Terror was in full swing when the Spanish Civil War broke out. As a practical matter this meant that if the Spanish Republicans wanted Soviet arms and equipment, they had to accept them on Stalin's terms. The Spanish Republican forces were a broad coalition of anti-fascist parties and organizations. Soviet tanks, air support and technical assistance were given only to units under the control of the Spanish Communist Party which, in turn, was under the direct control of the Bolsheviks in Moscow. NKVD officers advising the Spanish communists encouraged them to set up a system which mirrored the Bolshevik regime with its purges, paranoia and blatantly counter-factual propaganda. The Republicans had something called the Servicio de Investigación Militar, SIM for short, which was sort of a Spanish NKVD that carried out purges and assassinations and ran its own prisons where torture was practiced on those suspected of disloyalty.

      When Orwell went to Spain he signed up with the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista. The POUM was a Trotskyite party; they believed in worldwide Marxist revolution. Stalin, on the other hand, had declared "socialism in one country" and was busy purging the Bolshevik party of all internationalists. In the Soviet Union, to be linked to Trotsky was a death sentence. George Orwell was wounded in Spain, he took a sniper's bullet in the throat, and while he was recovering the Spanish Communists decided to purge the POUM. They claimed that the POUM was actually in secret alliance with the Germans. This is exactly the sort of outrageous charge that Stalin's NKVD was using against the Old Bolsheviks in the Soviet purges. Orwell was lucky to get out of Spain alive and, although he remained a Marxist, he developed a lifelong hatred for Stalinist totalitarianism.

      Orwell's political novels, Animal Farm and 1984, were not about the economic system known as Communism nor were they about some generalized Fascism. Orwell's subject was Stalinism and nearly everything in both novels has its counterpart in Soviet reality. Animal Farm, for example, can almost be read as straight history. Did the pig dictator Comrade Napoleon eventually amend the 7 Commandments, adding, "some animals are more equal than others?" Here's what Stalin had to say about strict equality: "a piece of petty bourgeois stupidity, worthy of a primitive sect of ascetics, but not of a socialists' society organized on Marxian lines." It's the same with 1984. Everything in it, save the love story and two-way TV, is based on life in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

      The class structure of Oceania under Ingsoc has a lower class of proles and an Inner and Outer Party. The term proletarian is straight out of Marxist theory and the Inner Party represents the nomenklatura, the privileged officials who ran the Soviet bureaucracy. The two-minutes hate was based on the first Moscow show trial in December of 1935. Trotsky, represented by Emmanuel Goldstein in the book, had been exiled in 1929. Stalin wanted to get rid of two old Bolsheviks, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, so he had them arrested and charged with an outlandish Trotskyite conspiracy. They were beaten until they confessed and then convicted and executed. Since the organization Orwell joined in Spain actually espoused Trotsky's internationalist program it's obvious why the NKVD would have to purge it.

      Newspeak is based on the Russian habit of compressing the names of various government organs. Sometimes it was just initials. The Cheka was the original Bolshevik terror organ, precursor to the NKVD, and its name is just the initials for extraordinary commission, Che and Ka. GULag was short for Gosudarstvennoe Upravlenie Lagerei or State Administration of Labor Camps. The Ministry of Truth, or Minitrue, where Winston Smith worked is based on the Glavlit. The Glavnoe Upravlenie Literatury was the centralized bureau that censored all printed material. They did indeed declare some people nonpersons after they had been purged and removed all mention of these people from all printed documents. The example in the picture is the one Wikipedia uses and shows how NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov was removed from all official photos after he was shot and replaced by Lavrenty Beria. The prison where Winston is taken after his arrest is obviously the Lubyanka. The Lubyanka was the building in Moscow that housed the NKVD's central headquarters and it contained a prison and interrogation rooms, like the novel's room 101.

      This brings us to the famous rat torture and this too has a real, or at least legendary, antecedent in history. The following account comes from an anti-Soviet/anti-Semitic tract circulated in Germany in the 1920s. (I'll link it below but remember, right-wing German propaganda in the 20s was very anti-Semitic and conflated Bolshevism with Judaism. Be warned.)

They take hostages — such as people who wore ties (which also included
workers wearing their Sunday best) — stripped them naked (since their torture-sprayed blood would otherwise soil their clothes, which normally became torturers’ property) and then bound onto the stomach of the murder victim an empty flower pot into which a ravenous, starving rat had been placed. Through the small water hole
in the base of the flower pot a red-hot iron rod was pushed to torment the rat and make him wild, causing him to try to burrow himself away from the rod — and into the abdomen of the horrified human victim.
The legend of the Bolshevik rat torture was circulating in Spain during the Civil War. I read one account that described it as putting a rat in a steel pipe, pressing the pipe up to the victim's abdomen and then heating the other end of the pipe with a torch.

      So there you have it. I mean in no way to diminish Orwell's achievement but 1984 was not a completely original and prescient vision of some future dystopia. It was a thinly veiled description of Stalinist Russia. If you seek a current example of such a society look to North Korea, a closed society remarkably unchanged since its founding in Stalin's time and with his assistance.

Sources -
Wikipedia:
George Orwell
Spanish Civil War
1984
Leon Trotsky
Moscow Show Trials
Further Reading:
Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell, Project Gutenberg Australia, full text, here
The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, Antony Beevor
Stalinism As A Way of Life, Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov
A Sea of Blood: The Truth About Bolshevism, German, ca. 1926, pdf

     

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent diary, Azazello, thank you! (18+ / 0-)

    Before reading this I had never understood--or indeed, even thought much about--the events leading up to Orwell's writing Animal Farm and 1984. This really enlarged my understanding of how and why he wrote what he did.

    How did reading 1984 change your life? Did it make you question authority, perhaps, whereas before you had accepted everything our government said without question?

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 05:13:59 AM PDT

  •  Morning Azazello, an excellent read and (18+ / 0-)

    enlightening. I really enjoy thinking on writer's motivations and origins of their styles. Your diary explains much about Orwell.

    Found this in his preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm (March 1947)

    On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.

    I proceeded to analyse Marx’s theory from the animals’ point of view. To them it was clear that the concept of a class struggle between humans was pure illusion, since whenever it was necessary to exploit animals, all humans united against them: the true struggle is between animals and humans. From this point of departure, it was not difficult to elaborate the story. I did not write it out till 1943, for I was always engaged on other work which gave me no time; and in the end I included some events, for example the Teheran Conference, which were taking place while I was writing. Thus the main outlines of the story were in my mind over a period of six years before it was actually written.

    http://georgeorwellnovels.com/...

    Hope today brings brighter news to the world than yesterday. :)

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 05:55:19 AM PDT

    •  Good catch. (16+ / 0-)

      The thing that puzzles me is that so many on the Left believed for so long that there might really be a worker's paradise and that the Soviet experiment was a successful one. One thinks of John Reed and Paul Robeson among Americans and there were Communist parties in Europe right up until Khrushchev's speech at the 20th Party Congress. American radical Emma Goldman was deported to the USSR in 1919. She came back and reported to anyone who would listen that the Bolsheviks were thugs and gangsters (and this was before Stalin) but they continued to believe and make excuses.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 06:36:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Read the eulogies (12+ / 0-)

        from American Communists to Stalin, surely one of the most evil people to walk the face of the earth.  They astound.  This is what Robeson said

        They have sung - sing now and will sing his praise - in song and story. Slava - slava - slava - Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

        In all spheres of modern life the influence of Stalin reaches wide and deep. From his last simply written but vastly discerning and comprehensive document, back through the years, his contributions to the science of our world society remain invaluable. One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin - the shapers of humanity's richest present and future.

        Politicians - "You can't be a pimp and a prostitute too"

        by fladem on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 06:47:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  how it happened: (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, HeyMikey, JayBat, spacecadet1

        Minus a deity, assuming that Stalin's supporters were good Stalinists and thus atheists, humans tend to seek some other personification for their ideals, their hopes and dreams, sense of meaning and sense of purpose.

        Stalin was a convenient God-replacement.

        He was also a diagnosable sociopath and psychopath (they are not the same things), but thousands of miles of distance can blur those details.

        Today we know better, or think we do.

        Today's atheism seeks no personifications, and grounds its sense of meaning and purpose in the natural world as elucidated by science.

        But none the less, for those who are susceptible to seeking replacement-Gods, there are the Singularity and AI, and various other tickets to immortality.  

        Contemplating nothingness is a most salutary exercise for getting over that need.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:21:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not to derail your comment, but (0+ / 0-)

          there is no ultimate "meaning and purpose in the natural world," given that, as far as we understand, the universe will perish in a cold heat death.  Life has what meaning we as humans ascribe to it; this used to give me hope, but lately it's only underscored how futile & absurd the whole enterprise is.

          But you were saying something uplifting.

  •  1984 was a changer for me (17+ / 0-)

    ... thanks for the diary! Reinforces the notion that I have always had that the best writing is from experience and not so much from imagination

    Dudehisattva...

    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"

    by Dood Abides on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 06:06:36 AM PDT

  •  Great piece here, Azazello. As much as I liked (9+ / 0-)

    Animal Farm and 1984, I never realized all the back story there--thanks!

    Tipped and Rec'ed and well deserved.

  •  He would've been a great novelist, but died at 46. (20+ / 0-)

    Whatever the sources of his tales, Orwell really found his voice as a writer in the last decade of his life.

    He always had a keen sense of clarity and color, of how to spin a story. His best essays (e.g. Politics and the English Language, Shooting an Elephant, Dickens) are perfect gems. In the '30s he wrote 4 decent novels, and 3 better non-fiction books.

    But after WWII he came out with Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which are both such powerful fables. Though they directly address the political struggles of his time, they also speak to our universal human condition, and will be read in centuries to come. I wish he'd been granted another few decades, to build upon his evident gifts.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 07:24:45 AM PDT

  •  There's much more, incl Orwell's UK war exp (14+ / 1-)

    Orwell was simultaneously inspired by his experiences working for the British government as a wartime broadcaster for the -- yes it was called -- the Ministry of Information.

    To reach the colonies and either spur allying with the Allies or prevent allying with the Axis, the UK government hired credible voices including those of Orwell and other leftistsand other generally anti-colonialists as broadcasters -- because the colonial territories wouldn't be listening to British broadcasts if the airtime was filled with nationalist, pro-colonialist figures as they predominantly were.

    In fact one of the direct inspirations for NewSpeak was the Ministry of Information's subtle attempt at not simply making broadcast English more accessible to populations speaking English as a second language, but to control the content of what was sayable in the guided language.

    During the Second World War, George Orwell wrote a weekly radio political commentary, designed to counter German and Japanese propaganda in India, that was broadcast over the BBC overseas service. His wartime work for the BBC was a major inspiration for his monumental novel, 1984. Very few readers of 1984 know, for example, that Orwell's attack against the perverse double-talk language called Newspeak was based on the author's revulsion against Basic English, an artificial language that Churchill's wartime cabinet wanted the BBC to use in its overseas propaganda. Similarly, Orwell's model for the lying Ministry of Truth was the British wartime Ministry of Information, which censored BBC broadcasts. The shorthand form, Minitrue, was taken directly from the Ministry of Information telegraphic address, Miniform.
    Source.  I wish I had time this morning for better links & contents but thought this might be of use.

    Also important is Orwell's lifetime work and his particular emphasis in Thought Control in Democratic Societies, which was the preface he wrote for Animal Farm -- and to complete the irony, his emphasis on self- and private publisher censorship was made manifest in the publisher's decision not to include the preface.

    •  Yeah, too bad you were forced to link to a Holo... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, mimi

      Yeah, too bad you were forced to link to a Holocaust denier as your source for an engaging yarn that sounds quite plausible

      I need to figure out how to tr you on the mobile version.

      Hope I don't have to go full site as that's a pita....but will be worth it if needed

    •  Damn it I can't get the training to work mobile... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, mimi

      Damn it I can't get the training to work mobile.

      Holocaust Denials really don't fly here. ...someone will catch this and fix it....

    •  I actually restarted my home internet to TR you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mimi

      feel special....

      And I'm sorry but it wasn't hard to find the Jew Hate, only a couple paragraphs below your excerpt....

      Amazing to me how some will use shit like this assuming no one will bother to click the link......

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 12:46:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that linking to holocaust denialists (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, cville townie

        undermines rather than supports credibility. I also agree that one shouldn't lend a spurious legitimacy to such by doing so.

        That said, the excerpted quote is an entirely accurate representation of a widely held view of Orwell's inspiration for aspects of 1984.

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:07:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  then it's available from a reputable source. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves, mimi

          I don't link to anything I haven't read.  

          I could see getting caught by a link or something but literally a few paragraphs beneath the excerpt is the beginning of the crap.

           I can't and won't give that a pass and I think the upraters just didn't click through as often happens.

          Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
          I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
          Emiliano Zapata

          by buddabelly on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:40:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  actually, linking to a Holocaust Denier website (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves, mimi

          as evidence for anything would get you banned here as I recall......

          Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
          I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
          Emiliano Zapata

          by buddabelly on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:44:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think you're right about that. Which is why (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            buddabelly, mimi

            I tend to think it was motivated by cluelessness rather than malice.

            Unfortunately, anti-Semites, Nazis and Fascists of all stripes have no hesitation in appropriating Orwell for the purposes of cynical propaganda. They intend to capture the naive and ill informed in their net.

            We are all obligated to know what we are linking to. This kind of thing amounts to enabling their efforts at historical forgery.

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:58:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  especially now when page views are up but (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WB Reeves

              actual commentary is down.  When the place is slammed, stuff gets buried in the noise.....in times like these, a link from here to there shows up like a sore thumb.

              I always try to remember that while having a conversation with you, I'm also talking to possibly thousands of readers who just never comment or sign up.  I just went a few days with a phone only, what a pita....I can see why participation is down if the traffic is heavily mobile because as nice as the mobile site is and it is nice, it sucks compared to the real McCoy.....Very difficult to do more than the occasional comment and rec stuff....

              That could explain why the numbers seem so at odds, I think it's a real good possibility actually.

              Anyway, I just don't like to see that coming from somewhere I participate and I think most here, if they clicked through and read the page, would pull the rec and hide the comment.  At least that way even if a mistake, the average non contributor won't see us linking to shit like that.  No need to pile on or ban if it was a mistake....I don't recognize the commenter myself though the name is vaguely familiar.....

              Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
              I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
              Emiliano Zapata

              by buddabelly on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 03:18:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  well, that's quite Orwellian in itself (0+ / 0-)
    •  Uprated to counter the childish h/r (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaharazade

      "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man..." Robbie Robertson

      by NearlyNormal on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 01:03:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for mentioning "Homage to Catalonia" (14+ / 0-)

    Orwell wrote other books besides 1984 and Animal Farm. I've read most of them. Homage and The Road to Wigan Pier are especially good.

    •  I liked Down and Out in Paris and London, (10+ / 0-)

           very Jack London-ish.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 09:05:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Adored "Down and Out," Azazello (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, HeyMikey

        Especially the thought of the "plongeur" plunging the dirty dishes into the soapsuds.

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 09:53:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree! And more! (4+ / 0-)

          I've been an Orwell fan since reading 1984 in high school in the 1970s. Read many of his essays in college & after. Just got around in the last few years to reading Homage to Catalonia, The Road to Wigan Pier--both brilliant, still timely, which means they're probably timeless. Now in the middle of Down and Out in Paris and London, also excellent, also timely.

          More: apart from subject matter and substantive insight, Orwell is notable for the quality of his prose. It's very smooth, unobtrusive, yet clear, and persuasive as hell. After you read something by Orwell, you think, "Of course he concluded that. Anyone of ordinary intelligence and ordinary decency who saw the same things would've reached the same conclusion." But that's not so; many of ordinary decency and ordinary intelligence did see the same things, yet reached very different conclusions. That Orwell can get us to see the extraordinary as obvious is the genius of his persuasion. As in one of his famous quotes:

          To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 11:27:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Yes. While fascism is typically (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, blueoasis, shaharazade

    a right-wing phenomena, it can grow from left-wing movements as well... I guess the main difference would be that left-wingers would be appalled, while right-wing adherents would welcome a fascist enforcer of their ideology.

    Yo, Az!

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 09:19:30 AM PDT

    •  Fascism Compared To Communism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello

      From my Fascism Super Meta Diary

      The Differences between Fascism and Communism:

      Fascism is explicitly racist and focused on racial purity. Communism is not racist, which allowed it to spread to many countries. Fascism attacks immigrants as the "enemy within."

      Fascism condemns "class warfare" and creates new classes that may reduce certain people to slaves.  Communism is all about "class struggle"

      Fascism protects private property and factory owners. Communism promises that the workers will control the "means of production."

      Fascism is a "spiritual" movement and condemns Communism's "materialism" (pseudo scientific rules). Marx used "dialectic materialism."

      Fascism is almost never atheist. It may embrace organized religion, but it will usually use "syncretism" - a mixture of beliefs. Fascist countries may have an official state religion, and Hitler came to power by pandering to Christians. Communist societies are often officially atheist.

      Fascism will destroy society to return to the Utopian past. Communism will destroy society to create the Utopian future.

      Fascism believes human nature is cemented by their racial identity - people don't change. Communism believes that man and nature are plastic and can be molded by society.  People in China and Russia starved because their crop scientists were forced to reject genetics.

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 10:08:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While I admire Orwell and am quite fond (6+ / 0-)

    of Animal Farm, I've always felt that the heavy-handed Stalinist state depicted in 1984 is something of an anachronism. What you have there is a totalitarian state that ruthlessly and actively micromanages literally every part of its citizens lives. Your North Korea comparison is apt, but I don't think that's where we (or the world) is heading.

    For that reason, I've always preferred Huxley's Brave New World. There you have a population that's similarly controlled, but who nonetheless have the illusion of choice. In 1984, it's completely obvious to everyone, whether they accept it or not, that they're under the control of the state (Big Brother is Watching You). In Brave New World, it's not even necessary to have a Big Brother. The society is set up in such a way that the people control (discipline, in the Foucault sense) themselves without even being aware of it.

    To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

    by sneakers563 on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 09:24:40 AM PDT

    •  try The Road to Wigan Pier, and... (4+ / 0-)

      Homage to Catalonia, and Down and Out in Paris and London. All relate closely to contemporary politics and economics. All--of course--extremely well-written.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 11:29:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In high school I wondered which would come true (4+ / 0-)

      Brave New World or 1984.  At times before the end of the Soviet Union it appeared that Brave New World had won in the West and 1984 had won in the East.
      But today I think we have a hybrid.  The consumerism and sensuality of Brave New World combined with the thoughtcrime detection of 1984.
      BTW check out the Japanese novel 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)

      Lost Tom. Lost Charlie. Can't read (Paul Newman, 'The Left Handed Gun')

      by richardvjohnson on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 04:04:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, there's certainly elements of both (4+ / 0-)

        Certainly, the NSA revelations are straight out of 1984. When i was writing my comment above, I kind of struggled with bringing Foucault into it, because on the one hand, his thoughts on the Panopticon align really closely with 1984 and our modern surveillance state. But there's also something there about the ways that people discipline themselves that I think is more evident in BNW. In the end, after all, it doesn't even matter if there is anyone in Foucault's tower - the advantage of the Panopticon is that the prisoners police themselves.

        Perhaps it's kind of the next step after the Panopticon / surveillance state. Eventually those kind of self-disciplining behaviors become so ingrained, so tied to people's identity, that they cease to even be aware of them. Maybe this is all more Althusser than Foucault.

        In any case, in the end I think that maybe I'm just more interested in the kind of "soft" control that's evident in BNW. The world of 1984 is self-evidently a nightmare, but it's harder to say that about BNW. The people are happy; they would describe themselves as "free". And yet, they're not, and they do live in a kind of nightmare. I think that BNW challenges the reader to question their own situation and life in a way that 1984 doesn't.

        I'll definitely check out that book - thanks!

        To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

        by sneakers563 on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 04:27:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary btw good read and I learned som... (6+ / 0-)

    Excellent diary btw good read and I learned something....... good start to the day.

  •  One thing to add (5+ / 0-)

    In order to understand Orwell, I think you have to mention that he was a "socialist" in the sense that he opposed "capitalism", but he wasn't a "state socialist" like most of use understand, but an anarchist.

    When Orwell went to Spain he signed up with the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista. The POUM was a Trotskyite party; they believed in worldwide Marxist revolution. Stalin, on the other hand, had declared "socialism in one country" and was busy purging the Bolshevik party of all internationalists. In the Soviet Union, to be linked to Trotsky was a death sentence. George Orwell was wounded in Spain, he took a sniper's bullet in the throat, and while he was recovering the Spanish Communists decided to purge the POUM. They claimed that the POUM was actually in secret alliance with the Germans. This is exactly the sort of outrageous charge that Stalin's NKVD was using against the Old Bolsheviks in the Soviet purges. Orwell was lucky to get out of Spain alive and, although he remained a Marxist, he developed a lifelong hatred for Stalinist totalitarianism.
    I think this misleads Orwell's politics.  Orwell opposed Stalin because he saw communism as the ultimate heirarchy.  It has little to do with "national" vs. "international" socialism.  Orwell may have fought along side some trotskyist elements, but it was a union of convenience not of united politics.  His opposition to Stalin may have hardened because of his experience, but he would've opposed Stalin anyway.

    Our Dime: Understanding the Federal Budget

    by Dustin Mineau on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:29:05 AM PDT

    •  Socialism in one country vs. international (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey, WB Reeves, shaharazade

      revolution has everything to do with Stalin's purges and their reflection in Spain. I didn't mean to imply that Orwell was a Trotskyite himself and certainly he would have opposed the totalitarian nature of the USSR even had he not read Trotsky.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:59:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Orwell wrote that he wished he had (5+ / 0-)

      joined the anarchist (anarcho-socialist, anarcho-communist, for the uninformed) militias in Spain, for he admired what he saw in the anarchist controlled areas of Spain. The war in Spain was a revolution within a civil war, because the anarchists were the first to begin the pushback against the fascists while the Spanish state stood by paralyzed, without an army, since the fascist generals controlled the military. The anarchist handed control of the areas they liberated to the people themselves, who organized in horizontally socialist, non-statist form (anarchism), something Marxist-Leninists argued against from the beginning of the USSR. Anarchists were murdered and suppressed on a large-scale by the Bolsheviks, especially in the Ukraine, where Trotsky ordered the slaughter of thousands of Makhnovist peasants (who were anarchists).

      Thus, Orwell knew communism didn't have to be statist and thus authoritarian (in the manner Marx himself had staunchly advocated), but that it could be libertarian communist (in the original sense of the term libertarian, not the Americanized, capitalist version of the term which is an oxymoron).

      "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

      by ZhenRen on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 03:44:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is a thread of anarchist sentiments (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, liz, Brown Thrasher

        which run through Orwell's history. He expressed in Homage he much admired the anarchist-controlled regions of Spain precisely due to its form of organization, and he commented that he would have preferred to have joined the anarchist militias instead of the POUM, whom he had been directed to enlist with from the outset. He said what the anarchists had created in Spain was "worth fighting for".

        It seems everyone seems to want to claim Orwell, but his anti-authoritarianism was clearly very well developed, whatever his preferred form of socialism. The POUM, in the form its militia took in Spain, was very horizontal, if not anarchist. Anarchism has a particularly strong history and influence in Spain, going back to the days of Bakunin and the First International.

        "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

        by ZhenRen on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 03:54:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  All true enough but (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Azazello

          the fact remains that Orwell never described himself as an Anarchist and never endorsed an explicitly Anarchist politics.

          Had he done, it's highly unlikely that he would have taken the job of making BBC propaganda broadcasts to Britain's overseas Imperial possessions on behalf of the Government during WWII.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 07:20:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  He came very close to an endorsement (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves, Azazello, Brown Thrasher

            but as far as I know fell short of one sufficiently explicit to settle the issue. By his own words, he was very sympathetic to anarchism, far more than many would like to admit, no matter how they would like to define him.

            Let's let Orwell speak for Orwell:

            http://www.reddit.com/...

            "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

            by ZhenRen on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 07:35:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  By all means let's let Orwell speak for (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZhenRen, Azazello

              himself.

              The way to do that is to read Homage to Catalonia in it's entirety, rather than a handful of quotes lifted from their context.

              For example, where Orwell writes of joining the Anarchists, he is referring to their militia formations, rather than a political allegiance.

              Moreover, it is important to recognize the unique features of Spanish Anarchism during the period, the participation of the Anarchist CNT in the Republican Government being an outstanding example of such.

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:14:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But you're interpretation (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Brown Thrasher

                serves your own bias.

                Think of this dear readers:

                Orwell complemented the anarchists throughout the book. There is hardly an instance of criticism, and even when he does find fault, speaking of "indiscipline" he turns it into a compliment by stating that despite the lack of training of the anarchist militia, they were the best fighters in Spain. He speaks of the war torn anarchist streets, and isn't sure he even likes it, but says he "immediately recognized it as "worth fighting FOR".  Immediately... that's quite a statement.

                Orwell said in the opening page of the book that what the anarchists had accomplished was "worth fighting for." Understand that Orwell almost died from fighting against the fascists with the POUM. Thus, he knew that such fighting could well cost one his or her life. When he said it was "worth fighting for", he knew that was tantamount to saying it was worth dying for.

                I recognized it immediately as a state of
                affairs worth fighting for.  George Orwell -Homage to Catalonia
                Having said that, he also stated later in the book he would have preferred to have fought with the anarchists:
                "If I had understood the situation a bit better I should probably have joined the Anarchists." George Orwell - Collected Essays; Vol 1 page 289
                "As far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists." George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia page 116
                So, this is far from the rambling musings of blogosphere armchair theorists, but that of a man who went to Spain to fight against the fascists, but while there found something not merely to fight against, but to fight for, and that was the equality, mutual aid, and horizontality of anarchism which, unlike his modern day would-be interpreters, those who would now try explain his words from their safe, comfortable homes, he had the benefit of witnessing and experiencing an anarchist society first hand.

                And a person who would fight for, and die for anarchism, because he determines it is something worth fighting for is not your average social democrat, no matter how much bourgeois socialists would love to frame him as just like them. He clearly was a lot more complex than that, and he clearly, in his own words, had great affinity and sympathy for anarchism.

                This man was no staid daily kos reader unwilling to take a stand for anarchism. He supported the anarchists. Whether or not anyone thinks this makes him an anarchist hardly matters to me, for what is most important is he saw the good in what they were doing, and supported their efforts enough to want to fight for them. That means sit in a trench with a weapon in his hands for the sake of the Spanish anarchist cause.

                Remember, he wrote those words after he had time to reflect on all that he had seen and experienced in Spain. He was a thoughtful writer, and chose his words with skill and deliberation.

                Let's let Orwell speak for himself, and allow for the complexity, nuances and insights which his writing reveals.

                "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                by ZhenRen on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 11:31:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  edit - "your interpretation" (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Azazello, Brown Thrasher

                  Not "you're".

                  "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                  by ZhenRen on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 11:34:16 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Zhen, if you're going to invoke my supposed (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Azazello, Brecht

                  "bias" you should be prepared to specify what that "bias" is and to demonstrate it based on what I've actually said.

                  All I've done is point out is that Orwell could have identified himself as an Anarchist if he chose to. The fact is he never did. He could have identified as a Marxist. Here again the fact is he never did.

                  I think it severely underestimates Orwell to imagine that he would have failed to make such declarations if they were the case.

                  Frankly, I think  it's your own bias that's showing. Otherwise I can't explain why you would represent Orwell's statement that:

                  "All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs well worth fighting for."
                  as referring specifically to Anarchism when, in his own words, what he was describing was the reaction of  someone experiencing the reality working class power:
                  "It was the first time I'd ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle."
                  Now if he'd meant to say Anarchist rather than "working class" I'm fairly sure he would have done so.

                  Likewise your quote from page 116 is taken completely out of context:

                  "And besides all this I was making preliminary arrangements to leave the P.O.U.M. militia and enter some other unit that would ensure my being sent to the Madrid front.

                   I had told everyone for a long time past that I was going to leave the P.O.U.M. As far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists. If one joined the C.N.T. it was possible to enter the F.A.I. militia, but I was told that the F.A.I. were likelier to send me to Teruel than to Madrid. If I wanted to go to Madrid I must join the International Column, which meant getting a recommendation from a member of the Communist Party. I sought out a Communist friend, attached to the Spanish Medical Aid, and explained my case to him."

                  It seems clear from the above that Orwell's primary motivation was joining any militia that would get him to Madrid. His preference for an Anarchist militia was, as he himself says, personal rather than political or ideological. Were it otherwise it would difficult to explain his choosing to join the International Column, much less looking up a Communist friend who could and would vouch for him.

                  You're entitled to disagree if you like but I take Orwell at his word. I won't impose preferred meanings that he never expressed.

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 02:20:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, I shouldn't have said you were biased. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Azazello, WB Reeves

                    I'm in the habit of feeling so embattled when I post on dkos that I sometimes put too much bite in my comments. I could have phrased that more politely.

                    All I've done is point out is that Orwell could have identified himself as an Anarchist if he chose to. The fact is he never did. He could have identified as a Marxist. Here again the fact is he never did.
                    I've answered this. No matter what Orwell called himself, he expressed admiration, support, and thought they were worth fighting for, and expressed that he would have preferred to have been among them as fighting comrades. Your notions of what he meant when he wrote that his reasons were "personal", that this meant not "political" or didn't reflect which group seemed preferable to him in terms of organizational structure, purpose, or sociopolitical foundations, denies Orwell's own words of admiration. Also there is a bit of a strawman going on here, in that I did not say Orwell was an anarchist, but rather that he had strong sympathies for anarchism, and expressed support, which is reflected throughout Homage (see link above). I will not fight with your strawman.

                    I think Orwell was more complex in his sociopolitical views than the simplistic projections people today want to impose on him (which tends to reflect their own predispositions), and within his views was a strong anarchistic streak, and this is supported by his statements, not to mention his fictional works.

                    As to his remarks, quite extensive in Homage, about what he saw in Catalonia (the epicenter of the anarchist region), he of course knew it was under anarchist control, knew of the CNT/FAI, saw the red and black painted vehicles, and the letters CNT/FAI written everywhere, saw the red and black militia caps, and knew what he was seeing was an anarchist structured society. By "workers in control" he knew that is exactly how anarchists describe an anarchist social structure. Anarchism is precisely that. In Catalonia, there was no strong arm of the state dictating the collectives how to operate. Each collective (there were hundreds of them) were self-managed by the workers, and these in turn formed federations with other collectives.  Do you imagine that when Orwell was writing Homage he was unaware of this? And when he praised what he saw, he didn't know exactly what he was seeing, despite being there to witness it?  I'm going to include below the opening paragraphs of his book and I will bold Orwell's statements which indicate exactly what he knew, and thus what he meant. "Workers in control" in anarchist Catalonia meant no state, but rather a bottom up organization with direct democracy, horizontal equality, liberty, solidarity, mutual aid, and no state or "Big Brother" dictating the lives of free people. Orwell certainly knew this was what he had been witnessing.

                    As to his wanting to be in Madrid, that is precisely why he didn't join the anarchist CNT/FAI. In other words, if not for wanting to be in Madrid, he would have joined the CNT, because he PERSONALLY wanted to be in that milieu. That he wrote it in that manner doesn't mean it had nothing to do with the sociopolitical structure of the CNT, in fact he praises what he saw when he first arrived (see excerpts I will highlight below). Why would he want to be with the anarchists, if he would have preferred a more conventional army? He could have joined the Republican Army if he wanted that. He admired the anarchist fighting skills, but also said the worker's egalitarianism created in Catalonia was immediately recognized as worth fighting for. That you think he was speaking generally of worker's control, as if ignorant of precisely what he was witnessing, is rather dismissive of his reporting skills. Worker's control means workers control, and anarchist theory does not view a top-down structure, with workers under party or union or any other form of hierarchical, central control, to be "worker's control" and Orwell certainly, without any doubt, had learned this while there.

                    As to joining the International Column, that was the way foreigners got involved. One didn't usually just show up, since the militias would want to have some sense of who was being admitted into their midst's. This was a war after all. Orwell went with other Brits to Spain. Once he got there, he learned which group were to his personal liking. To interpret this your way is to ignore all that he knew, and what he stated.

                    In the excerpt below, key words that tie in with anarchist theory are his reference to "equality and freedom", these two words forming two of the three basic principles of anarchism, those being liberty, equality, and solidarity (freedom and liberty being emphasized far more in libertarian socialism, aka anarchism), the reference to an end to worker wage slavery (anarchists see the statism of Marxism as simply a change in bosses), the cessation of the use of titles (funny that there is a comment in the thread that says anarchists spent enormous time arguing over whether to salute non-existent "officers," which is simply not true, since these principles of equality and lack of immutable rank were part and parcel of the CNT/FAI), and notice the constant reference of everything being painted in red and black, the colors of the CNT/FAI.

                    He knew what he was praising, knew what it meant, knew what he was writing, because he had been there with the initial intention of reporting on the events. When he said it was worth fighting for, he was directly referring to anarchist controlled Catalonia.

                    Homage to Catalonia:

                    This was in late December 1936, less than seven months ago as I write, and yet it is a period that has already receded into enormous distance. Later events have obliterated it much more completely than they have obliterated 1935, or 1905, for that matter. I had come to Spain with some notion of writing newspaper articles, but I had joined the militia almost immediately, because at that time and in that atmosphere it seemed the only conceivable thing to do. The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it probably seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said ‘Senior’ or ‘Don’ or even ‘Usted’; everyone called everyone else ‘Comrade’ and ‘Thou’, and said ‘Salud!’ instead of ‘Buenos dias’. Tipping was forbidden by law; almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from a hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy. There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered, and all the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and black. The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud. Down the Ramblas, the wide central artery of the town where crowds of people streamed constantly to and fro, the loudspeakers were bellowing revolutionary songs all day and far into the night. And it was the aspect of the crowds that was the queerest thing of all. In outward appearance it was a town in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist. Except for a small number of women and foreigners there were no ‘well-dressed’ people at all. Practically everyone wore rough working-class clothes, or blue overalls, or some variant of the militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for. Also I believed that things were as they appeared, that this was really a workers’ State and that the entire bourgeoisie had either fled, been killed, or voluntarily come over to the workers’ side; I did not realize that great numbers of well-to-do bourgeois were simply lying low and disguising themselves as proletarians for the time being.

                    Together with all this there was something of the evil atmosphere of war. The town had a gaunt untidy look, roads and buildings were in poor repair, the streets at night were dimly lit for fear of air — raids, the shops were mostly shabby and half-empty. Meat was scarce and milk practically unobtainable, there was a shortage of coal, sugar, and petrol, and a really serious shortage of bread. Even at this period the bread-queues were often hundreds of yards long. Yet so far as one could judge the people were contented and hopeful. There was no unemployment, and the price of living was still extremely low; you saw very few conspicuously destitute people, and no beggars except the gipsies. Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine. In the barbers’ shops were Anarchist notices (the barbers were mostly Anarchists) solemnly explaining that barbers were no longer slaves. In the streets were coloured posters appealing to prostitutes to stop being prostitutes. To anyone from the hard-boiled, sneering civilization of the English — speaking races there was something rather pathetic in the literalness with which these idealistic Spaniards took the hackneyed phrases of revolution. At that time revolutionary ballads of the naivest kind, all about proletarian brotherhood and the wickedness of Mussolini, were being sold on the streets for a few centimes each. I have often seen an illiterate militiaman buy one of these ballads, laboriously spell out the words, and then, when he had got the hang of it, begin singing it to an appropriate tune.

                    "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                    by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 11:24:52 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Why do you insist on second guessing Orwell? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Brecht

                      If he'd meant "political" I think he would have said "political". Since he said "personal", I think we have to accept that he meant "personal" and that the distinction was intentional.

                      This is George Orwell we're talking about. The writer who abhorred euphemism or ambiguous language in political discourse. Who viewed it essentially as a form of lying. Who considered opposition to such to be a political first principle. Suggesting that he meant more than he said, that he was being less than scrupulous in his use of language, does him a grave disservice.

                      This isn't about whether or not Orwell sympathized with and admired the Spanish Anarchists. It's plain that he did. It is only a question of whether that expressed admiration rose to the level of embracing Anarchism as a political ideology. Again if it had, it is inconceivable that Orwell wouldn't have stated so frankly.

                      What we know is that he never made such an affirmation. Further, we know that when he had the opportunity to join an Anarchist formation, he chose to join the Communist backed International Column instead in order to get to Madrid. Whatever else might be said about this, it doesn't argue for a deep ideological commitment to either Anarchism or Communism. At least not so deep as to not be trumped by a desire to get to Madrid.

                      If you are not attempting to enroll Orwell posthumously as a convinced Anarchist, we have no major disagreement.

                      I would point out though, that Orwell cites both Socialist and Communist as well as Anarchist symbolism in his description of the revolutionary conditions in Spain. That he gives greater space to Anarchist examples reflects his commitment to accuracy and truthfulness rather than a partisan bias. While it is well understood today that the Anarchists played a pivotal role in the Spanish Civil War and deserve credit for thwarting the initial Fascist coup, that was not the case at the time. Indeed, the contemporary defamation and distortion of the role played by Spanish Anarchism was a primary reason for the writing of Homage to Catalonia.

                      As you said previously, let Orwell speak for Orwell.  

                       

                      Nothing human is alien to me.

                      by WB Reeves on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 01:35:27 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Well, we'll just disagree then (0+ / 0-)

                        Not surprisingly or unexpected, we perceive things differentially. And I won't argue with a strawman.

                        "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                        by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 09:08:58 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  Orwell also pointed out... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Azazello

                ... that while the Fascists were winning the war, the Anarchists were arguing over whether or not they should salute officers.

                One of the characters in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls expressed a different point of view: When the war started, we should have shot all the anarchists first. Then we would have had a chance of winning.

                •  I'd have to read the context of that reference (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Brown Thrasher, Azazello, WB Reeves

                  to see what Orwell had actually stated. Even the POUM had a somewhat horizontal organization.

                  According to anarchists who were actually there in the militias, there was no argument on that issue at all. They would never salute officers because they didn't have "officers" in the conventional sense. All delegates in positions of leadership were elected. They did not salute these elected leaders, and they didn't argue over that. The POUM may have, but they weren't specifically anarchist.

                  As to Hemingway, and fictional characters who reflect his views, he may not have known that if not for the anarchists, the fascist coup would have been over in a matter of weeks, not years, since it was the anarchists through their large worker's organizations (the CNT/FAI) that began the initial pushback against the fascist generals while the state stood by paralyzed. If anything, this underscores a flaw of statism, in that the institutions of the military and command are completely broken from civilian control when commanders take over, and state officials don't have any way to deal with this. Anarchists don't have that structural problem, being bottom up in structure. The anarchists broke into armories, armed themselves, and fought back. They used the same organizational structure as always, that of direct democracy and horizontal free association. It worked, as Orwell himself recognized when he said the anarchists were the best fighters in Spain.

                  The anarchist movement in Spain was at its peak when the war broke out in '36, and was far more influential than most people today have been taught.

                  The problem that I detect is that people, even historians, tend to make up history when it comes to anarchists in order to suit their predilections.

                  "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                  by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 10:13:52 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I don't know if the character (0+ / 0-)

                  in For Whom the Bell Tolls was expressing Hemingway's personal view or not.

                  If that was Hemingway's opinion, I can only say that he managed to be profoundly ignorant of how the war developed.

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 01:53:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If it weren't for the anarchists (0+ / 0-)

                    Both Hemingway and Orwell, and countless others for that matter,  wouldn't have had much of a story to tell... It would have been over by the time either of them had a notion to write about it.

                    "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                    by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 09:19:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think it is accurate to describe Orwell (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, myrmecia gulosa

    as either a Marxist or an Anarchist unless you can point to where he described himself in this fashion. I know of no instance where he did so. Perhaps you do?

    I do think that Homage to Catalonia makes it plain that his political sentiments were those of a revolutionary socialist and that he viewed both the Anarchist formations and the POUM as the authentic political expressions of the Spanish Revolution.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:29:18 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for providing the necessary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Brecht, DaNang65

    context usually absent from textbook discussions of 1984. I do have a few caveats, some of which I've already mentioned in the thread above.

     While 1984 is clearly an anti-Stalinist work, it is equally concerned with contemporary realities in war time Britain that Orwell feared were trending in a similar direction.

    As the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher observed:

    Although his satire is more recognisably aimed at Soviet Russia than Zamyatin’s, Orwell saw elements of Oceania in the England of his own days as well, not to speak of the United States. Indeed, the society of 1984 embodies all that he hated and disliked in his own surroundings: the drabness and monotony of the English industrial suburb, the ‘filthy and grimy and smelly’ ugliness of which he tried to match in his naturalistic, repetitive and oppressive style; the food rationing and the government controls which he knew in wartime Britain; the ‘rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex'; and so on. Orwell knew well that newspapers of this sort did not exist in Stalinist Russia, and that the faults of the Stalinist press were of an altogether different kind. Newspeak is much less a satire on the Stalinist idiom than on Anglo-American journalistic ‘cablese’, which he loathed and with which, as a working journalist, he was well familiar.
    The above is excerpted from The Mysticism of Cruelty, a penetrating and provocative essay written by Deutscher in response to the use of 1984 in Cold War propaganda. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a deeper appreciation of Orwell's work.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:48:18 PM PDT

  •  Best way to understand Orwell is to read Zamyatin. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Brecht

    Something that is little known is that 1984 is actually based on and a retelling of Yevgeny Zamyatin's book, We.

    http://www.amazon.com/...

    An article mentioning their connection in The Guardian.

    http://www.theguardian.com/...

    How the two differ however makes all the difference between the two men and their beliefs.

    We, written in the 1920's, is a fervently anti-communist novel that rather than attacking the hypocrisies of the "communist" state" attacks it's ideological basis.  Indeed the state it attacks is not a dystopian failure like Ingsoc but a utopian communist state that is prosperous and where just about everyone is content, happy, and on equal footing.  Some of it's attacks were quite potent and paint how dehumanizing a "perfect" state would be.  And some are quite dated (attacking interracial coupling).  Despite it's flaws it's actually a book I still find interesting and relevant.  Even if inferior to 1984 in many ways.

    But Orwell of course retold a similar story from a different perspective because he wasn't out to attack "socialism" or depending on how you define it, communism.  It was an attack on Stalin's Soviet Union.  And not on it's ideals but on it not living up to them.  This is seen more blatantly in Animal Farm where two of the good guys are the pigs meant to represent Lenin and Trotsky.  And the end of the book attacks the character representing Stalin for being little different from the farmers who represented the "capitalists."

    The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

    by Taget on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 02:50:11 PM PDT

    •  Actually, it could be argued that Zamyatin's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Taget, Azazello

      was a critique of modernism, science and rationality in general, rather than an explicitly anti-Soviet tract.

      In this he would have been a part of a long established trend of thought in Russian Literature and would have much in common with Dostoyevsky.

      For more on this you can check out the essay linked to above.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 03:17:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The way I see it.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, WB Reeves

        ....that is what communism at least in theory pretended to be.  "Scientific socialsm" that was rooted in what would enable the most "progress" for "society" even if it was at the expense of the individual.  It's a militantly "utilitarian" ideology.  So I still see it at it's root an anti-communist / anti-soviet tract.  

        That it can be applied to more than and it's very humanist message is what in my mind keeps the text relevant.  Particularly it's embrace of imperfection.  Can't find a great quote that is just on the cusp of my mind about it.  But in looking for it I think I found a quote I'll replace my signature with.

        But back on point.  Changes Orwell made to the framework of the story he borrowed from Zamyatin showed just how much the right-wing misread Orwell.

        The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

        by Taget on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 03:44:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Orwell On Income Inequality And Perpetual War (7+ / 0-)

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    In 1984, O'Brien has Winston on the rack, and he alternatively brainwashes and tortures Winston.  Winston will eventually be liquidated, but first he must be saved and taught love Big Brother.

    The Party's main problem is to keep the middle and lower classes hungry and fearful, and to make sure that the products of automation don't supply them with comfort and leisure. And here O'Brien says quite explicitly that war is essential to create income inequality, that this is the actual purpose of war:

      The primary aim of modern warfare... is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods.....when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations
    But eliminating poverty would be a good thing right? What's the problem?  

     

      ...But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction--indeed, in some sense was the destruction--of a hierarchical society....wealth would confer no distinction... the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 05:38:38 PM PDT

  •  This is a spirited, thought-provoking discussion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Brecht

    I do urge all you readers and book lovers out there to follow Azazello's excellent example and contribute a diary to "Books That Changed My Life."

    Kosmail me with your offers--they'll be accepted instantly!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 06:42:45 AM PDT

  •  I had to read 1984 for a journalism class. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Brecht

    Today as a composition teacher, I make sure my students read 1984 for their research paper.

    This was a terrific diary.

    "Do they call you Rush because you're in a rush to eat?" -"Stutterin' John" Melendez to Rush Limbaugh.

    by Nedsdag on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 09:08:51 AM PDT

  •  Orwell was part of the ILP contingent of 25. (3+ / 0-)

    He was all about solidarity in a time when he was soon to learn that Stalin was the antithesis of solidarity. Soon after the 25 left, the UK cut off all further persons from going to fight against fascism in Spain. The Independent Labour Party was a fifty year old British socialist party that had adhered for a time to the Labor Party but by then had broken back off.

    When he got to Spain he "did not realize that there were serious differences between the political parties" on the left. "Aren't we all socialists?" http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/...

    His contingent was attached to the Trotskyites, many of whom he befriended, and he came to have a deep respect for the anarchists, but he also had communist friends and recognized that many brave and sincere communists lost their lives. He did not hold against the rank-and-file communists the terrible abuses of solidarity mandated by Stalin.

    He never detracted from his sincere devotion to socialism. He got a taste of socialism particularly while being around the anarchists, and to him equality, i.e., a classless society, was a critical component. (Ch. 8) It is fair to say that he thought the anarchists of Catalonia were largely getting it right, but he remained a non-dogmatic socialist.

    When he got back home he made it clear intense democratic socialist participation in government reform was going to be necessary. Indeed, he proposed serious socialist reforms in the UK, including in the middle of WWII. It was a tragedy to the human race that he did not live a long life to disabuse those on the rightwing who cite him of their delusions about his views. At the beginning of this piece about the opportunity presented by Pope Francis for the left to begin again is a poem I wrote inspired by Eric Arthur Blair and his clear-headed devotion to humanity: http://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/...

    Thank you for an excellent diary.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 06:18:16 PM PDT

    •  Well, yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Galtisalie
      He got a taste of socialism particularly while being around the anarchists, and to him equality, i.e., a classless society, was a critical component.
      Orwell indeed wrote about anarchist concepts of freedom and equality, and obliquity touched on anarchist concepts of solidarity, these being the three basic principles of anarchist theory.

      But equality is much more than simply getting rid of class. In the anarchist society Orwell experienced in Spain, it was also without the overbearing hierarchy found even in statist socialism. This is what so many miss in reading such things as shoe-shiners and waiters not saying "usted" (literally, your grace, vuestra merced), instead using the familiar form, tu.

      Orwell didn't experience what most socialists pine for, but something far more profound: a non-hierarchical social structure, at least to the degree possible in the short period the anarchist regions were under anarchist influence.

      "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 09:31:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was something he "experienced." (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZhenRen, Azazello

        Looking back it had a "magical quality." I think it is fair to say that whatever combination of inspirations allowed his anarchist comrades to embody socialism so well under such trying circumstances deserves the credit:
        "[S]paniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance."

        And here I would say all leftists can learn important things today: (1) to nourish not abandon our "innate decency"; (2) to learn from and be in solidarity with anarchists because we all need an "ever-present Anarchist tinge"; and (3) to remember that human beings need to be able to live out what we are trying to establish.

        The idea that "the opening stages of Socialism" should be flipped upside down and be their opposite was something Orwell rejected. Not only was it demoralizing and against solidarity in the short run but in the long run, as shown in the Soviet Union which Stalin imposed, and which is embodied in Animal Farm and 1984, it becomes the permanent corrupt norm of so-called "real" socialism because of the concerns expressed by the anarchists. (Many persons not claiming to be anarchists have made similar points, including Orwell himself, but also Rosa Luxemburg before him and Reinhold Niebuhr contemporaneously.)

        The bold-faced words are at the end of what for me is the key paragraph in the book. He emphasized the equality component, contrasting that with "planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive intact." But more generally he evidenced a core desire for a humane life for all:

        The workers’ militias, based on the trade unions and each composed of people of approximately the same political opinions, had the effect of canalizing into one place all the most revolutionary sentiment in the country. I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life — snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. — had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money — tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality. 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. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me. For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance.

        http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/...

        garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

        by Galtisalie on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 04:36:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And Chapter 8 even references rats. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Azazello

          "I am in the mucky yard at La Granja, among the mob of men who are struggling with their tin pannikins round the cauldron of stew. The fat and harassed cook is warding them off with the ladle. At a table nearby a bearded man with a huge automatic pistol strapped to his belt is hewing loaves of bread into five pieces. Behind me a Cockney voice (Bill Chambers, with whom I quarrelled bitterly and who was afterwards killed outside Huesca) is singing:

          There are rats, rats,
           Rats as big as cats,
           In the . . .
          A shell comes screaming over. Children of fifteen fling themselves on their faces. The cook dodges behind the cauldron. Everyone rises with a sheepish expression as the shell plunges and booms a hundred yards away."

          garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

          by Galtisalie on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 05:03:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't have a lot of time this morning (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Galtisalie, Azazello

          So, I can't elaborate much upon my thoughts that I have while reading your post, but I feel I should point out at least one thing.

          "[S]paniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance."
          This approach to revolutionary change is not just a Spanish tendency, but a well-developed tenet of anarchist theory dating back to Bakunin. It is the primary basis and reason for the split between Marxists and anarchists back in the 1870s in the First International. Marx and Engels argued that first socialists should achieve political power, and the social changes would come later. Marx manipulated the International behind the scenes to impose hierarchical, central control to oust Bakunin and gain power, putting into practice his approach, while anarchists have always believed that a movement must apply in its own organizations the very egalitarian principles it would use as the basis to a socialist society. One must live one's ideals not after achieving political power, but all along the way, as well. If socialists adopt a centralized, hierarchical form of power from the outset, as we have historically seen, the elites at the top never relinquish this power later, and the people become hungry, without basic needs, and the revolutionary spirit is lost. The state never "withers away" on its own.

          Anarchists have long held the view that a revolution must be social as well as political.  It must immediately create the changes in social relations, organizing in a bottom-up approach, eliminating hierarchy, based on participatory communities and worker associations which federate together. Anarchists hold the view that failing to do this immediately results in a failure of the revolution, as we have historically seen. One can see this theme throughout anarchist works.

          This is why the Spanish anarchists made these changes at the outset. It was not simply due to Spanish civility. It was anarchist theory in practice. They were well practiced with this in Spain, with anarchist organizations already in place to help create these changes from day one.

          And the excerpt you posted is something I had forgotten, and perhaps its time a read again Homage. For those well versed in anarchist theory, one can see in Orwell's descriptions these same theories, as elucidated in anarchist texts, clearly embedded in Orwell's remarks.

          It is frustrating to observe this so clearly, and yet encounter a denial  by people who dismiss the fact that Orwell would have been profoundly influenced by the anarchist ideas which had been put into practice all around him. But I've no idea how much Orwell later read of anarchist theory, if at all, to recognize that what he witnessed was no mere predilection of the Spanish, but of the anarchist movement itself.

          "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

          by ZhenRen on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 08:46:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well said. So much goes back to the response to (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Azazello, ZhenRen

            the brutal repression of the Paris Communards. I'm not without sympathy to Marx on aspects of this. He was determined to not have that happen again. I traced some of that history in my Orwell/Pope Francis-related essay cited elsewhere in these comments. I think it is valuable for those wanting solidarity to understand some of this history in order to heal the differences as much as possible.

            By the time Rosa Luxemburg plainly stated the risks of Marx's choice as it was being applied by Lenin, she was being harassed, imprisoned, and then murdered by the combined efforts of pro-War social Democrats and fascists. Thus the Marxist communist left for generations lost it's chance to be democratic.

            A generation later, whether or not Orwell ever before or after read anarchist theory, he saw it in flesh and blood and was lastingly impressed, and he saw its Stalinist anti-thesis and was horrified. Even Christopher Hitchens in his book "Why Orwell Matters" concedes Orwell's innate respect for, and one might say homage to, anarchist thought in the grassroots component of his socialism. Hitchens also correctly disagreed with those who seek to cast Orwell as being some kind of Oxford fireplace pro-British non-internationalist. Beginning with Burma, Orwell came to realize justice has to be for all. The very reason the UK wanted him in a public affairs role in WW2 was because he oozed anti-imperialism, so he had cred in the third world.

            This and the anarchist issue Orwell learned by experience, and we are all so much the richer because of experiences coupled with his honest open writing.

            garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

            by Galtisalie on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 12:35:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Marxists have greatly distorted anarchist (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Galtisalie

              views and analysis of the Paris commune, and unfortunately, Marxist "history" and distortions have tended to become accepted without question. It's so prevalent and so off the mark I can see why anarchists avoid mainstream blogs so much... its gets old.

              Here's an in-depth anarchist analysis of the Paris commune to clear up some of the old distortions bandied about. It's quite long and involved, but worth reading.

              http://anarchism.pageabode.com/...

              "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

              by ZhenRen on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 12:03:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you for the link. I'm reading it now. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ZhenRen

                I hope to one day ask you for some other recommended anarchist reading material on other topics.  

                garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

                by Galtisalie on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:41:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's great (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Galtisalie

                  At the least, this will offer another side.

                  "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                  by ZhenRen on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:01:51 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It was a very helpful article. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ZhenRen

                    I have three huge questions:

                    1. If we could turn back the clock and redo the Commune, (a) how would anarchists like to see things run?
                    (b) would this approach under (a) have succeeded militarily (which seems to be Marx's main concern)?

                    [Obviously the same set of questions could apply to the Spanish Civil War. Fair disclosure, I'm sort of like Orwell I think, struggling to balance pros and cons, with abhorrence of Stalinism, loving the humane spirit of the anarchists, but also wanting to see socialism prevail, and concerned that the lack of federation fruition in a timely manner and lack of central military organization can allow the fascists to exploit and win, whether in Paris or in Spain.]

                    2. What are a couple of the best books or papers to read on these subjects? I realize that the piece you linked to gives a long list of cites, but if I can't read them all on these subjects, which would be best.

                    3. Forward looking,
                    (a) what are a couple of the best books or papers to read on how anarchists see the struggle today?
                    (b) similarly, how would anarchists ensure that everyone's basic needs are met globally? [Fair disclosure: I cannot morally leave it to chance that everyone's basic needs will be met. To me, failure is not a humane option.]

                    I realize that this is a lot to ask. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

                    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

                    by Galtisalie on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:22:45 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I accidently deleted a long reply (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Galtisalie

                      Most of your questions are answered in that long piece I linked to before. Basically, Marx and Engels have this notion that anarchists are against association, and Engels actually claimed Proudhon hated association. This is completely wrong, and in fact so absurd one can only assume its disingenuous. If the only history one reads if Marxist influenced, it will be completely distorted and skewed.  The distortions are so numerous that I'm getting really weary of trying to get the facts presented on dkos. People seem to assume everything Marxist is accurate. Most don't realize how political Marx and Engels were, and how much they strove to achieve political dominance over what were, at the time, the far more popular figures of Proudhon and Bakunin (who were both anarchists), with Bakunin having greatly extended and evolved Proudhon's ideas into revolutionary collectivism. The only way for an individual to clear up the confusion is to always compare with anarchist sources to check on Marxist commentary, because Marxism is rife with distortions about anarchism.

                      Anyway, I've personally read things written by Marx or Engels that are astonishingly wrong, and I know this from my first hand reading of Proudhon and Bakunin, contemporaries of Marx. Proudhon, for example, wanted regional, national, and international federations of participatory communities. I've read Proudhon, and I can attest that this is true. The last I knew, those are associations! But Engels says this, in his postscript to The Civil War In France:

                      Proudhon, the Socialist of the small peasant and master-craftsman, regarded association with positive hatred.
                      This is such a completely wrong, distorted, even shockingly bad interpretation that I can only surmise it is done to defame a major figure whom Marx and Engels clearly wanted to defeat in order to establish Marxism as the prevailing socialist political movement. Anarcho (Ian Mckay), who wrote the piece I linked to, is absolutely correct in his scholarship. He's a published author, and recently published a new, highly acclaimed collection of Proudhon's writings.

                      So much has been lied about. Few know, for example, that the First International was not created by Marx, but mostly by early anarchists, with the first organizational meetings occurring in 1862, with Marx having been invited by happenstance to a meeting in 1864. Marx gradually manipulated behind the scenes to arrange a gerrymandering of votes, dominated by his German section of the International, and took over the organization, ousting his adversary, Bakunin. He imposed a top-down central structure, and removed the autonomy of the individual sections (not exactly a bottom up social structure!).

                      I suggest rereading that article. It's almost so detailed that the point is obscured; the point is that anarchists do, in fact, organize with federations on local, national, and global scale, simply that it is "from below" in flow of authority. That Marx and Engels laud the Paris Commune for "mandated and recallable" delegates is incredulous... it was Proudhon, Bakunin, and the anarchists who came up with this concept, and Marx and Engels don't really understand this or practice it, instead always going back to central control. This bears some study to understand the contradictions. Thus, Marx and Engels kept misconstruing anarchist views, even co-opting those views, but modifying them to be something completely different.

                      So, since Marxists think anarchists don't want to organize, they think anarchists can't defend a revolution, can't meet needs of people globally,  etc. So much has been mischaracterized.

                      For example, the anarchist Makhnovists of the Ukraine whom I wrote about at length in the post I deleted took on three armies at once, with remarkable success, and brilliant military strategy, all with a bottom up strcture. They were eventually crushed by Trotsky, and slaughtered by the thousands (the Bolshviks didn't tolerate socialists who didn't want to be subjugated to the Bolshevik state.

                      The anarchists in Spain were the first to organize to oppose the fascists who had taken control of the Spanish army, using the top down command structure to get an entire army under their control. That could not happen with a bottom-up organizational structure of the anarchist militias. So the Spanish state was immobilized, and caught so off guard, the government had no idea how to respond, while the anarchists using their existing organizations formed militias and fought back until the state woke up and began to help.

                      So much for Marxist notion anarchists can't be effective militarily. The Makhnovists, in particular, were downright brilliant and nearly miraculous in their victories.

                      And through these same organizations anarchists would make sure the needs of all communities which were willing would be met. But all by mutual aid and bottom up organizational methods, not by coercion, force, or expecting obeisance.

                      An Anarchist FAQ - an enormous reference in two volumes, online

                      The Conquest of Bread - Pëtr Kropotkin (book)

                      The Commune of Paris - Peter Kropotkin (essay)

                      Bakunin on Anarchism (book, PDF)

                      The Paris Commune and the idea of the state - Mikhail Bakunin (essay)

                      The Paris Commune - anarchist faq (essay)

                      Do anarchists reject defending a revolution? (essay)

                      What parts of anarchism do Marxists particularly misrepresent? (essay)

                      Why do anarchists oppose state socialism? (essay)

                      Is Marxism "socialism from below"? (essay)

                      Do Anarchists and Marxists want the same thing? (essay)

                      Very Brief History of Anarchism

                      "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                      by ZhenRen on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 03:09:06 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Thank you for all of the explanation and (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        ZhenRen

                        the links. I'm doubly appreciative that you did this after losing a lengthy reply. I knew that I needed to reread the article, and this gives me many additional resources you personally rely on to consult.

                        I will study these all in times ahead, I promise. I know it must be discouraging to battle with distortion constantly. I can only imagine what it feels like to have heroes you greatly believe in distorted or even disparaged. I'm sorting this all through. I believe that where we need to be heading needs a lot of anarchist strategy both on a local and a global level. I know I am only one person, but your amazing effort and generosity of scholarship and spirit is not lost on me.

                        Deep democratic regards.

                        garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

                        by Galtisalie on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 04:00:20 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Thanks... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Galtisalie

                          I just don't have the time to devote to offer a different point of view, which is frustrating. It would be fun, but I can't allow myself to get drawn in for days.

                          "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

                          by ZhenRen on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 05:56:35 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

        •  And... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Galtisalie, Azazello

          I really value your comments. Thank you.

          "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

          by ZhenRen on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 11:09:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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