Sometimes I look at a Socialist —-
the intellectual, tract-writing type of Socialist,
with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation —-
and wonder what the devil his motive really is....


'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force
every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac,
Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

The Road to Wigan Pier, published in 1937, when he was thirty-four years old, is Orwell's fifth book. The first half describes the living and working conditions of England's coal miners. In the second half Orwell explains how the Communists have stolen the Socialist cause and given it a bad name. After its publication the Communists (who called themselves Socialists) hated Orwell with a passion. They attempted, but failed, to have the second part of the book suppressed from publication. Orwell wrote this book after leaving Wigan and moving into his little house in Wallington, Hertfordshire. ~ Jackie Jura

Part 2, Chapter 11

Meanwhile what about Socialism?

It hardly needs pointing out that at this moment we are in a very serious mess, so serious that even the dullest-witted people find it difficult to remain unaware of it. We are living in a world in which nobody is free, in which hardly anybody is secure, in which it is almost impossible to be honest and to remain alive. For enormous blocks of the working class the conditions of life are such as I have described in the opening chapters of this book, and there is no chance of those conditions showing any fundamental improvement. The very best the English-working class can hope for is an occasional temporary decrease in unemployment when this or that industry is artificially stimulated by, for instance, rearmament. Even the middle classes, for the first time in their history, are feeling the pinch. They have not known actual hunger yet, but more and more of them find themselves floundering in a sort of deadly net of frustration in which it is harder and harder to persuade yourself that you are either happy, active, or useful. Even the lucky ones at the top, the real bourgeoisie, are haunted periodically by a consciousness of the miseries below, and still more by fears of the menacing future. And this is merely a preliminary stage, in a country still rich with the loot of a hundred years. Presently there may be coining God knows what horrors—-horrors of which, in this sheltered island, we have not even a traditional knowledge.

And all the while everyone who uses his brain knows that Socialism, as a world-system and wholeheartedly applied, is a way out. It would at least ensure our getting enough to eat even if it deprived us of everything else. Indeed, from one point of view, Socialism is such elementary common sense that I am sometimes amazed that it has not established itself already. The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all cooperate and see to it that everyone does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that no one could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system. Yet the fact that we have got to face is that Socialism is not establishing itself. Instead of going forward, the cause of Socialism is visibly going back... What I am concerned with is the fact that Socialism is losing ground exactly where it ought to be gaining it. With so much in its favour—-for every empty belly is an argument for Socialism—-the idea of Socialism is less widely accepted than it was ten years ago. The average thinking person nowadays is not merely not a Socialist, he is actively hostile to Socialism. This must be due chiefly to mistaken methods of propaganda. It means that Socialism, in the form of which it is now presented to us, has about it something inherently distasteful—-something that drives away the very people who ought to be flocking to its support.

A few years ago this might have seemed unimportant. It seems only yesterday that Socialists, especially orthodox Marxists, were telling me with superior smiles that Socialism was going to arrive of its own accord by some mysterious process called ‘historic necessity’. Possibly that belief still lingers, but it has been shaken, to say the least of it. Hence the sudden attempts of Communists in various countries to ally themselves with democratic forces which they have been sabotaging for years past. At a moment like this it is desperately necessary to discover just why Socialism has failed in its appeal. And it is no use writing off the current distaste for Socialism as the product of stupidity or corrupt motives. If you want to remove that distaste you have got to understand it, which means getting inside the mind of the ordinary objector to Socialism, or at least regarding his viewpoint sympathetically. No case is really answered until it has had a fair hearing. Therefore, rather paradoxically, in order to defend Socialism it is necessary to start by attacking it...

Anything is relevant which helps to make clear why Socialism is not accepted. And please notice that I am arguing for Socialism, not against it. But for the moment I am advocatus diaboli. I am making out a case for the sort of person who is in sympathy with the fundamental aims of Socialism, who has the brains to see that Socialism would ‘work’, but who in practice always takes to flight when Socialism is mentioned.

Question a person of this type, and you will often get the semi-frivolous answer: ‘I don’t object to Socialism, but I do object to Socialists.’ Logically it is a poor argument, but it carries weight with many people. As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.

The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting. This last type is surprisingly common in Socialist parties of every shade; it has perhaps been taken over en bloc from the old Liberal Party. In addition to this there is the horrible —- the really disquieting —- prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got on to it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink, and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long grey hair bobbed in the Lloyd George style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured ‘Socialists’, as who should say, ‘Red Indians’. He was probably right-—the I.L.P. [Independent Labor Party-jj] were holding their summer school at Letchworth. But the point is that to him, as an ordinary man, a crank meant a Socialist and a Socialist meant a crank. Any Socialist, he probably felt, could be counted on to have something eccentric about him. And some such notion seems to exist even among Socialists themselves. For instance, I have here a prospectus from another summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say ‘whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is by itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.

To this you have got to add the ugly fact that most middle-class Socialists, while theoretically pining for a class-less society, cling like glue to their miserable fragments of social prestige. I remember my sensations of horror on first attending an I.L.P. branch meeting in London. (It might have been rather different in the North, where the bourgeoisie are less thickly scattered.) Are these mingy little beasts, I thought, the champions of the working class? For every person there, male and female, bore the worst stigmata of sniffish middle-class superiority. If a real working man, a miner dirty from the pit, for instance, had suddenly walked into their midst, they would have been embarrassed, angry, and disgusted; some, I should think, would have fled holding their noses. You can see the same tendency in Socialist literature, which, even when it is not openly written de haut en bos, is always completely removed from the working class in idiom and manner of thought. The Coles, Webbs, Stracheys, etc., are not exactly proletarian writers. It is doubtful whether anything describable as proletarian literature now exists—-even the Daily Worker is written in standard South English-—but a good music-hall comedian comes nearer to producing it than any Socialist writer I can think of. As for the technical jargon of the Communists, it is as far removed from the common speech as the language of a mathematical textbook. I remember hearing a professional Communist speaker address a working-class audience. His speech was the usual bookish stuff, full of long sentences and parentheses and ‘Notwithstanding’ and ‘Be that as it may’, besides the usual jargon of ‘ideology’ and ‘class-consciousness’ and ‘proletarian solidarity’ and all the rest of it. After him a Lancashire working man got up and spoke to the crowd in their own broad lingo. There was not much doubt which of the two was nearer to his audience, but I do not suppose for a moment that the Lancashire working man was an orthodox Communist...

To the ordinary working man, the sort you would meet in any pub on Saturday night, Socialism does not mean much more than better wages and shorter hours and nobody bossing you about. To the more revolutionary type, the type who is a hunger-marcher and is blacklisted by employers, the word is a sort of rallying-cry against the forces of oppression, a vague threat of future violence. But, so far as my experience goes, no genuine working man grasps the deeper implications of Socialism. Often, in my opinion, he is a truer Socialist than the orthodox Marxist, because he does remember, what the other so often forgets, that Socialism means justice and common decency... His vision of the Socialist future is a vision of present society with the worst abuses left out, and with interest centring round the same things as at present — family life, the pub, football, and local politics. As for the philosophic side of Marxism, the pea-and-thimble trick with those three mysterious entities, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, I have never met a working man who had the faintest interest in it. It is of course true that plenty of people of working-class origin are Socialists of the theoretical bookish type. But they are never people who have remained working men; they don’t work with their hands, that is. They belong either to the type I mentioned in the last chapter, the type who squirms into the middle class via the literary intelligentsia, or the type who becomes a Labour M.P. or a high-up trade union official. This last type is one of the most desolating spectacles the world contains. He has been picked out to fight for his mates, and all it means to him is a soft job and the chance of ‘bettering’ himself. Not merely while but by fighting the bourgeoisie he becomes a bourgeois himself. And meanwhile it is quite possible that he has remained an orthodox Marxist. But I have yet to meet a working miner, steel-worker, cotton-weaver, docker, navvy, or whatnot who was ‘ideologically’ sound...

Sometimes I look at a Socialist —- the intellectual, tract-writing type of Socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation —- and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed. The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chessboard... The truth is that, to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’, the Lower Orders. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard the book-trained Socialist as a bloodless creature entirely incapable of emotion. Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred—-a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacua hatred—-against the exploiters. Hence the grand old Socialist sport of denouncing the bourgeoisie. It is strange how easily almost any Socialist writer can lash himself into frenzies of rage against the class to which, by birth or by adoption, he himself invariably belongs...

The fact is that Socialism, in the form in which it is now presented, appeals chiefly to unsatisfactory or even inhuman types. On the one hand you have the warm-hearted un-thinking Socialist, the typical working-class Socialist, who only wants to abolish poverty and does not always grasp what this implies. On the other hand, you have the intellectual, book-trained Socialist, who understands that it is necessary to throw our present civilization down the sink and is quite willing to do so. And this type is drawn, to begin with, entirely from the middle class, and from a rootless town-bred section of the middle class at that. Still more unfortunately, it includes—-so much so that to an outsider it even appears to be composed of—-the kind of people I have been discussing; the foaming denouncers of the bourgeoisie, and the more-water-in-your-beer reformers of whom Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers who are Communists now, as they will be Fascists five years hence, because it is all the go, and all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat. The ordinary decent person, who is in sympathy with the essential aims of Socialism, is given the impression that there is no room for his kind in any Socialist party that means business. Worse, he is driven to the cynical conclusion that Socialism is a kind of doom which is probably coming but must be staved off as long as possible. Of course, as I have suggested already, it is not strictly fair to judge a movement by its adherents; but the point is that people invariably do so, and that the popular conception of Socialism is coloured by the conception of a Socialist as a dull or disagreeable person. ‘Socialism’ is pictured as a state of affairs in which our more vocal Socialists would feel thoroughly at home. This does great harm to the cause. The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs, and he gets ready to fight...



BkOrwellTodayName ORWELL TODAY BOOK NOT WEBSITE (based on academic seminar in Letchworth, England similar to one attended by Orwell in 1936 as described in The Road to Wigan Pier), Email, June 2013

watch WORKING IN A COAL MINE (going down, down, down...). Lee Dorsey song, You Tube

...Before long we saw signs announcing "Baldock" which is the closest big town to Wallington. As we approached the centre of town we saw a turn-off to the city of "Letchworth" which is where Orwell used to attend seminars of the Independent Labour Party summer school which, as he wrote in Road To Wigan Pier, attracted "sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers like bluebottles to a dead cat".


Coal shortage chills Pennsylvania homes (gov't closing down anthracite mines). Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb 28, 2005. Go to 9.Keeping Masses Down & PENNSYLVANIA IS WIGAN PIER


...There was a stack of coal in clear plastic bags destined, we assumed, for Barnhill. I imagined it to be a gift to Orwell from the coal-miners he'd immortalized in The Road to Wigan Pier. He said, "Our civilization is founded on coal and in the metabolism of the Western world the coal-miner is second in importance only to the man who ploughs the soil...You could quite easily drive a car right across the north of England and never once remember that hundreds of feet below the road you are on the miners are hacking at the coal. Yet in a sense it is the miners who are driving your car forward. Their lamp-lit world down there is as necessary to the daylight world above as the root is to the flower'. Orwell would be disgusted with the treatment of the coal-miners these days who are permanently out of work while coal is brought to Newcastle on Russian ships. I'd read about it in Canada just before leaving and had looked for coverage of outrage in England but I'd found none.



Taking coals to Newcastle (it finally happens). Northern Echo, Aug 5, 2004
In the once coal-rich North-East, the phrase "taking coals to Newcastle" was a definition of the absurd. But now, what for centuries was unthinkable, has happened - and shipments of cheap Russian coal have arrived on the Tyne. Tyne Dock expects to import up to 70,000 tonnes by December in an experimental deal with a North-East smelter plant. It is a complete turnaround for the port, which at its peak was the largest exporter of coal from the North-East's collieries, sending millions of tonnes a year from the Tyne. The managing director of the Port of Tyne, Keith Wilson, said the port has not exported coal since 1998 but was now delighted to have secured the contract with Alcan for its aluminum production in Lynemouth, Northumberland. He said: "During the last two months, we brought in two shipments of low sulphur coal from Russia. The Tyne was the largest exporter of coal. We do not export coal now but it is ironic we are now starting to import it."

Mr Wilson said the deal had in part helped the port's rail division take off in the past two months, with the number of trains using the port rising from one or two a week to up to 12 a week. A spokesman for Alcan said the firm had been importing coal for some time but this was the first time it had been delivered through the Port of Tyne. "The company has a contract to take coal from the nearby Ellington pit in Northumberland, but the colliery has not been able to produce enough coal to power the station for around ten years," he said. But Dave Hopper, North-East secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, branded the coal imports into the Tyne a disgrace. Mr Hopper said: "Ellington, which is the last colliery in the North-East, is only two miles away from Alcan and is struggling to stay open."

ENGLAND'S GOOD KING EDWARD (...King Edward's warmth and concern for the poor marked him out as different from previous monarchs. He had first visited South Wales in 1919, after the end of the war, when he had spent four days visiting slum areas and had gone down a pit. This was the first of his numerous tours as Prince of Wales to the industrial and impoverished parts of Britain....

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~