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September 18, 2007


Christiaan Strong

Orwell’s analysis of the working class in The Road to Wigan Pier details his sentiments of socialism and the obstacles it faces in the 1930’s. One of the greatest factors hindering the implementation of socialism is the difference in social class as viewed by the classes. The middle and working classes do not greatly differ, as far as family association and cultural background is concerned, but are visibly separated economically. Orwell notes that dissention between different socialist classes is perhaps the most pressing problem facing its advancement and implementation.
Orwell finds that these economic disparities, which are quite apparent to him, are made to appear as if they were not nearly as bad as they really are. The miners live and work in condition that are quite unhygienic and receive a wage that is not consistent but often based on amount and quality. It is hard to believe that one of the driving forces of the English economy are treated as if they contribute nothing to society. Yet, I do not find that the government of the time could correct the situation but that it must come from the different socialists groups. The only thing hindering these groups is the recognition of the middle and working class groups that are in fact the biggest hindrance to socialist advancement.

Lisa Xu

As others in the class have mentioned, Orwell's own proposed solution to his dilemma is to redefine (not merely reframe, it seems) socialism so that it is more attractive to the majority of society, by emphasizing improving the economic circumstances of the poor, and rejecting more radical elements, such as Leninism. His strategy to recapture socialism from those who have made it an unworkable ideology involves “intelligent propaganda”, and he figures that the economic deprivation of 20 million Englishmen, and the looming specter of fascism over Britain, is reason enough for people to see that his brand of socialism is the practicable only way out of a desperate situation. Orwell’s brand of socialism is fuzzily defined as whatever the interests of the working class happen to be, although these are likely to include a set of concrete things like more social services, higher wages, better working conditions, wealth redistribution, and solving the housing shortage.

I agree therefore agree with Dave that Orwell seems to be essentially arguing for post-war democratic socialism. However, could this type of arrangement have flourished before the war, when Orwell was writing “The Road to Wigan Pier”? Economically and politically, it seems unlikely. The Marshall Plan, and the export-oriented and indicative planning economic policies which jump started two decades of rapid economic growth in Europe after war, were what enabled European countries to adopt the welfare state. Before the war, England, like much of the world, was still in the throes of the Great Depression, which better government policy could have ameliorated, but the government may have been too starved for funds to radically reform itself. However, the election of FDR across the Atlantic does offer a different view of what may or may not have been feasible at the time. In either case, while Britain neither adopted socialism, nor succumbed to “a slimy anglicized form of Fascism” with “cultured policemen”, it was unable to avoid being pulled into conflagration started by the “Nazi gorillas” in Germany. Orwell saw clearly the economic origins of fascism, and how oppression of one sort could lead to oppression of the other.

Danielle Mahan

Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier seems somewhat of a biblical prophecy. He explains all of the failing of English society (economic strife and inter-class mistreatment), warns what will happen if the English don’t reform (Fascism will take hold), and makes suggestions about how to avoid this predicted doom (create a large, viable, and strong Socialist Party). Orwell’s dilemma, the size, appearance, and organization of the Socialist Party, is only half-solved in this paper. Many of those who have already commented say Orwell calls for the elimination of the English class system. While he does recognize this as one of the main problems in the formation of the Socialist system, he doesn’t insist on its elimination because he thinks it is impossible feat.
The Socialist party in England, at the time this piece was written, often appeared unappealing to many people for two main reasons. They were regarded either as (1) one might regard hippies today- radical, outlandish, and out of touch with reality or (2) insensitive to the possible dangers of a completely mechanized world. In order to ensure the growth of their party, Orwell suggests that Socialists focus on uniting against a common enemy- Fascism. He also hopes that the English will be able to see that Socialism isn’t about being excessively progressive – whether in the realm of thought, economics, industrialization, or wardrobe. Citizens should not base their vote and personal views on those who claim to have the same views but instead on the substance of given views. As an example, Orwell says that if a Bourgeois was not made to feel uncomfortable around the current group of Socialist, he would be inclined to join because he too suffers as a result of the capitalist class. Orwell does not know how to erase class divisions; he simply asks people to ignore them.

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