Reading George Orwell, pt 3

In Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell describes the hierarchies that exist among hotel staff. These are crucial to the success of the operation, both in terms of getting the food out, and in terms of morale.

“Thus everyone in the hotel had his sense of honour, and when the press of work came we were all ready for a grand concerted effort to get through it. The constant war between the different departments also made for efficiency, for everyone clung to his own privileges and tried to stop others idling and pilfering.”

Note: the sense of honour – the effort – the constant war – the clinging to privilege. These values are not the cunning creation of the capitalist class to make for a more efficient workforce – these are basic psychological forces. When, on the other hand, it speaks of another world and a kinder politics, “left-wing politics” is insipid, stupid, ill-tempered, disingenuous, self-righteous, sanctimonious, hopeless, lame, turgid and limp (in a word: impotent). Left-wing politics is potent when it aligns itself with the real forces Orwell describes.

You would have to laugh at the poor squirming Labour MPs having their careers vengefully sabotaged by the Labour membership and “supporters” – if it weren’t for the attractive devil-may-care gallows-humour enjoy-it-while-you’ve-got-it spirit among them, an openly bemused amusement and disbelief at this surreal moment, and a sort of jolly attempt to outdo each other in the keeping-the-face-straight and focus-on-the-positives stakes.


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