What Orwell discovered in the North

George_Orwell_press_photoStephen Ingle at Prospect Magazine:

Significantly, Orwell didn’t leave us with only a picture of a northern working-class managing to survive the ordeals of poverty through a value system based on egalitarianism and common decency. He had in mind something far more ambitious and controversial: the conscious adaptation of these values, with the support of “all right-thinking people” to the public sphere as a form of politics. This is a massive leap of faith but Orwell was unapologetic, writing “all over England, in every industrial town, there are men by scores thousands whose attitude to life, if only they could express it…would change the consciousness of our race.” This was democratic socialism.

So what would Orwell’s democratic socialism amount to? He took for granted that retention of the basic structure of working-class culture would be a prime objective (family, pub, football, betting)—how else could their values be sustained?—and that consequently utopianism and any form of scientific or indeed ideological socialism would be inappropriate. “The working-class Socialist, like the working-class Catholic, is weak on doctrine and can hardly open his mouth without uttering a heresy, but he has the heart of the matter in him.” Orwell’s democratic socialism—no more and no less than the public endorsement of what he called “common decency”—couldn’t be elaborated into a programme of action any more than it could be formulated into a systematic ideology because it represented the way of life of a community. It would be quite wrong to think that Orwell’s rejection of ideology was based upon lack of understanding or knowledge of ideological debate.

more here.