Monday, 19 December 2011

A Hitch In History

In the words of a comment on an earlier post: "A lot of pieces in print and online saying that Hitch had no obvious successor. But he wouldn't have had, would he? There is a generational shift in play. People who were never Tankies or Trots in the aftermath of 1968 can never be neocons in middle age. The next wave is Red Tory/Blue Labour/Crunchy Con."

It is we who are the patriotic, morally and socially conservative, anti-Communist Left, who are the true heirs of the best of George Orwell. Orwell is good. He is important. But he is still overrated. Not least, his depiction of Wigan is still resented in the town to this day. His famous remark about the goosestep was just plain wrong, like many of his others.

However, Orwell's patriotism, his moral and social conservatism, and his anti-Communism are vitally important in reminding the British Left that those are indispensable, and indeed definitive, aspects of our own tradition. All three, though perhaps especially the last, make him a particularly significant figure when set alongside Christopher Hill and E P Thompson in rescuing demotic culture from what Thompson called "the enormous condescension of posterity", even though Orwell himself was not above condescension.


  1. You missed out the last bit of my comment: "Your next couple of books and the reactions to them should confirm that, in Britain if not farther afield, the leader of that pack is David Lindsay."

    Sanity seems to have broken out on Brendan O'Neill's post about Hitchens and Orwell, with people pointing out that they assumed Hitchens to have been dead for years when he was writing his unread column on the unread Vanity Fair.

    Plus those saying, as you did on Toby Young's laughable effort, that Hitchens was not as good as his brother. Whether they will agree with your view that he was not as clever or important as Justin Bieber remains to be seen. But I do.

  2. Why was Orwell wrong about the goosstep?

  3. He was expressing a certain silly smugness in the British, perhaps especially the English: the sense that somehow we dug the Channel ourselves. We did not.

    No, of course the inhabitants of an English country town, say, would not have laughed at a contingent of the Wehrmacht or the Red Army goose-stepping up their front street. They would have been as cowed as Johnny Foreigner, and it is grossly offensive to suggest otherwise.