The Communist movement

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The Communist movement
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The movement for a Communist world is amazing isn't it? Isn't it great reading the history of struggle and our brief moments of success? Reading about people's hopes and aspirations for a better world and their joy when they ever so briefly taste success and hearing about people celebrating in town squares with red flags fluttering in the sun really does cheer me up. Even hearing about how the workers looted the Tsarist wine cellars and everyone had a massive hangover the next day puts a smile on my face- I remember watching the documentary 'The Russian Revolution in Colour(unbelievable biased btw)' and hearing the narrator solemnly declare 'The world's first socialist revolution was saw in with the biggest hangover in human history'- as if we're meant to shake our heads in moral disapproval! Later that documentary whines about 'The closing of the constituent assembly crushed the aspirations of an entire people'- but even hearing the genuine moral outrage of the Capitalist media makes me happy. Anyway, just thought I'd share a nice excerpt:

 There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered, and 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 loud-speakers 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 militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in this 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 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 gypsies. 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'

Orwell- Homage to Catalonia


It is a nice literary excerpt

It is a nice literary excerpt Communist and I like reading Orwell.  But...there is much in the excerpt I don't understand and in some ways I don't like it,  to paraphrase Orwell!  .  But not being  sure why I dont like it I have submitted it to a dose  of literary criticism. 


The "well dressed" have buggered off or taken to disguise, and everyone is garbed in poor working class clothes.  So? The revolutionary posters are in dazzling colors and almost jumping from the walls, while the revolutionary songs are deafening.  I am being cynical here, but do we measure the quality of a revolution, I mean its sincerity and consciousness,  by the amount of noise created or color employed?  Orwell says he recognized in this "something worth fighting for" and he thought people were "contented and hopeful". So  what precisely was the "something worth fighting for" are we all supposed to know without it being  explained?  Is it communism, or just a wage rise?  Also: were folk  contented  that the revolution was already achieved, or hopeful that it would be?   Isn't all this a little vague for a writer of Orwell's quality, and he a journalist too? Where are the slogans in all this?  Where is "All power to the Workers Councils" or some similar evidence of workers' political understanding?    


"Above all," he writes, without much in the way of evidence having been provided, "there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom."  How does he know there was a belief  in the revolution?  Did he talk to anyone?  What were people saying?  What exactly did people think was going on? Why doesn't he tell us?   Did they think this was a genuine proletarian revolution, or just some kind of mass outburst, some bourgeois take-over masquerading as working class?  Or a sort of Arab Spring revolution: all swarming and hot air, but no direct leadership from the working class itself?  I don't know. But reading the excerpt raises a number of questions about what exactly the author is describing - a real serious working class movement taking place before his eyes, or a desired interpretation  of events which he is imposing on the events himself? 


And as to having emerged into "an era of equality and freedom" well this hope this aim and goal must surely have been in the air,  if this really was a conscious working class uprising that he was witnessing or taking part in, but even if the hope was there these workers and their internationalist supporters from  various countries  could hardly think that the "era of equality and freedom" - if that's Orwell's  description of communism - had already been achieved, over night so to speak. Is communism to be gained so quickly, so easily?  


I think that the lack of political content in this excerpt (I say nothing about the book as a totality) reveals the underlying political failure of the revolution in question in Spain in the thirties which, to give Orwell the benefit of the doubt, he merely reflects.   It is a sparkly piece of prose - had Orwell been reading "Ten Days that shook the World" I wondered? - but unlike "Ten Days" appears to lack a communist political content or even a coherent conviction about communism itself.   But I still like Orwell, and his sympathies for the working class. 

Reply to Fred

Interesting, if somewhat uncomprimising analysis there Fred. I kind of get the impression that Orwell thought the revolution had already succeeded, if only in Catalunya. As for the questions you raise in the first paragraph, I don't know if Orwell answers these questions, certainly not in this excerpt, but perhaps he does later in the book, it's been a while since I read it. I do however remember a part of the book where he briefly denounces the USSR as 'state capitalist'- he actually uses this term. I think the first sentence of your last paragraph is a good analysis particularly.

I had actually been looking for an excerpt from one of Victor Serge's works but I couldn't find it, so Orwell had to do.

I'm a big fan of Orwell's writing, in spite of the fact he held some very reactionary 'social' views and later became a defender of WW2 and the Labour Party and collaberated with MI5 in identifying 'Communists', all of which I think can largely be explained (not excused) by his antipathy to Stalinism and his experiences of Fascism in Spain.



Ten days that shook the world

Just been reading 'Ten days' on, been meaning to get round to it for a while. As much as I love Orwell he isnt in the same league as Reed!