The Road Wigan Pier – George Orwell on Fascism

Hoard of United States penny coins isolated on table

Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, wrote The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937.  Among other political and philosophical topics, he discusses is the rise of fascism. Some of his observations, such as the role of a communist party in the west, are surely outdated, but his views on the rise of fascism are just as poignant in today’s political ecosphere. He realizes that the standard progressive stance fails to see that many of the goals of MAGA are compatible with a progressive program – it’s the higher-level ideology that results in the cause ‘that dares not speak its name ‘– fascism.

Here’s an extended quote from the book (emphases mine):

… English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate at first, it won’t be called Fascism), and it is doubtful whether a Gilbert and Sullivan heavy dragoon of Mosley’s stamp would ever be much more than a joke to the majority of English people; though even Mosley [founded and led the British Union of Fascists ] will bear watch­ing, In order to combat Fascism it is necessary to understand it, which involves admitting that it contains some good as well as much evil.

Hoard of United States penny coins isolated on table

 In practice, of course, it is merely an infamous tyranny, and its methods of attaining and holding power are such that even its most ardent apologists prefer to talk about something else. But the underlying feeling of Fascism, the feeling that first draws people into the Fascist camp, may be less contemptible. It is not always… a squealing terror of the Bolshevik bogeyman. Everyone who has given the movement so much as a glance knows that the rank-and-file Fascist is often quite a well-meaning person… 

But more important than this is the fact that Fascism draws its strength from the good as well as the bad varieties of conservatism. To anyone with a feeling for tradition and for discipline it comes with its appeal ready-made. Probably it is very easy, when you have had a bellyful of the more tactless kind of Socialist propaganda, to see Fascism as the last line defence of all that is good in European civilisation. Even the Fascist bully at his symbolic worst, with rubber truncheon in one hand and castor oil bottle in the other, does not necessarily feel himself a bully; more probably he feels like Roland in the pass at Roncevaux, defending Christendom against the barbarian. 

We have got to admit that if Fascism is everywhere advancing, this is largely the fault of Socialists themselves…  to the fact that Socialists have, so to speak, presented their case wrong side foremost. They have never made it sufficiently clear that the essential aims of Socialism are justice and liberty. With their eyes glued to economic facts, they have proceeded on the assumption that man has no soul, and explicitly or implicitly they have set up the goal of a materialistic Utopia. As a result Fascism has been able to play upon every instinct that revolts against hedonism and a cheap conception of” progress.” It has been able topose as the upholder of the European tradition, and to appeal to Christian belief, to patriotism and to the military virtues. It is far worse than useless to write Fascism off as ” mass sadism,” or some easy phrase of that kind. If you pretend that it is merely an aberration which will presently pass off of its own accord, you are dreaming –a dream from which you will awake when somebody coshes you with a rubber truncheon.  [ cf:  from 1984: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”]

 

The only possible course is to examine the Fascist case, grasp that there is something to be said for it, and then make it clear to the world that whatever good Fascism contains is also implicit in Socialism.

A recent take on Orwell’s analysis

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