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Tag Archives: Book Club

Postscript: Orwell for Socialism

[Scroll to the end for a couple final reactions to comments .] In a reflective moment, George Orwell wrote, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”  Yet if you actually read his oeuvre, you’ll find a striking disparity: Orwell’s anti-totalitarian writing is massive, but his pro-socialist writing is wafer thin.  As far as I know, the...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club: Final Thoughts

In “Why I Write,” Orwell declares “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”  A curious claim.  I’ve read 1984 at least ten times and Animal Farm at least five times, plus much of his other work.   Orwell’s attack on totalitarianism is blatant, trenchant, and thorough.  His defense of democratic socialism, in contrast, is practically...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 6

Here are my reactions to last week’s Book Club comments, starting with a fine exchange between John Alcorn and KevinDC. Alcorn: 1) In previous posts, you argue that totalitarian regimes can maintain power indefinitely — or at least much longer than they do — if successors would practice ruthless repression like the founders. For example, loss of nerve among rulers after Stalin, culminating in Gorbachev, explains the collapse of communism. In your post about war, you...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 5

We continue our discussion of Orwell’s “War Is Peace.” Abe: I don’t think that Orwell did believe the Soviet system could last for a long time. In fact, I’ve always suspected that the last third of 1984 was more tongue-in-cheek than people believe; Orwell was in fact poking fun at people in his time who believed that such a society could be perpetuate itself. My reason for believing this is this essay where he reviews James Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution”:...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 4

We’ve now moved on to “War Is Peace.”  Here are my thoughts on your latest comments. LEB: I know you were speaking to the specific Huxley quote, but on the whole I wouldn’t dismiss “Brave New World” so quickly.  Americans have willingly ceded a great deal of their freedom to the government in recent decades… I agree that Americans ceded a great deal of freedom to the government over the last century.  I don’t see that there’s been a net loss of freedom in American...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club, Part 4

Now our ongoing Book Club turns to Chapter 3 of Orwell’s book-within-a-book, famously entitled “War is Peace.”  I continue to refer to Orwell as the author of the book even though he’s playing a role and may not have fully agreed with his own words. Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments and I’ll do an omnibus reply later this week. The splitting up of the world into three great super-states was an event which could be and indeed was foreseen before...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 3

You’ve got reactions to Orwell; I’ve got reactions to your reactions.  Here goes: robc: How close are your 5 steps to what Pinochet did in Chile? I think he at least followed steps 1 and 2. I was offering for steps for reforming a socialist dictatorship from within.  While Pinochet did step down and allow a return to democracy, the dictatorship he built was mild enough (and non-socialist enough) that he didn’t need a master plan to unravel it. Thomas DeMaio: I can’t...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club, Part 3

Today, the Book Club finishes with Chapter 1, “Ignorance Is Strength.” Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments and I’ll do an omnibus reply later this week. The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 2

Here are my thoughts on the latest batch 0f Book Club comments.  Your words are in blockquotes; mine aren’t. Weir: If your ideology of unfreedom is open, uninfected by any vestige of tolerance, then you can’t pay lip service to some other ideology. If hierarchy is what you consciously aim at, then you can’t also delude yourself that you’re not a slave-driver. If equality is no longer an ideal to be striven after, then you openly call yourself the factory boss, and...

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