Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Brother

Time and again these days, criticism of our President and his party is laced with a single incendiary term: socialism. And if you ask the critics why they have a problem with socialism, they will invoke, as often as not, the name of one of the most mysterious, ominous and frightening characters in literature: Big Brother. Why? Well, here's as good an explanation as any, from an article by ultra-conservative Dennis L. Cuddy, entitled You Will Come to Love Big Brother:
Most people see George Orwell’s 1984 (published 1949) as fiction, but Orwell had been a Fabian Socialist and was actually warning people about a planned future dictatorship under Big Brother. When Big Brother’s agent O’Brien is torturing Winston, who eventually reluctantly submits, O’Brien tortures him again and Winston is bewildered because he has already submitted. However, O’Brien explains that the goal is to have people submit not out of fear, but because they have actually come to love Big Brother and his rule over them.
A typical conspiracy theorist, Cuddy is intent on "exposing" a worldwide cabal made up of what he calls the "power elite," which includes, oddly enough, both the Clintons and Dick Cheney, among a host of other well known names from the world of politics and high finance. His greatest fear is the spread of, you guessed it, socialism:
As I’ve written many times before, the power elite’s plan is to bring about a World Socialist Government, and in my books I have reproduced a 1911 cartoon showing Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc. welcoming Karl Marx and his “Socialism” to Wall Street.
I won't comment on the extreme strangeness of the above conjunction, but there is nothing strange or unusual about the tendency to equate socialism with the sort of ruthless dictatorship portrayed in Orwell's highly disturbing novel. Here's a sample of titles, drawn from the first page of a Google search: Big Brother had nothing on the Socialist Marxist radical Obamas; The Joys of Socialism: Big Brother Mania!; Big brother Socialist won't let it fail. And here's another typical screed, gleaned from a website called, appropriately enough, Patriots and Liberty -- Making Sense of Big-Brother's Doublespeak:
George Orwell, author of ’ Animal Farm’ and ‘1984,’ had to invent terms such as ‘group-think’ ‘double-think’ and ‘double-speak’ in order to describe international Progressive-Socialism’s misrepresentations, outright lies, inverted morality (immoralism), distortions, irrationalism, and convoluted reasoning. He invented another term—’Big Brother’—by which he characterized the overall totalitarian agenda of international socialism. With practiced deception, Big Brother continues using double-think and double-speak to keep secret the truth of his totalitarian intentions.
In most people's minds, Orwell (a pseudonym for Eric Blair) was a former socialist and/or communist who "saw the light," recanted his former views and wrote a scathing novel, warning about what could happen in a society dominated by "international socialism." This characterization, however widespread, is nevertheless completely false. Orwell never changed his socialist views, which were, in fact, well to the left of Communism. A clear sense of Orwell's politics can be gleaned from the remarkable documentation of his experiences during the Spanish civil war, as published in his little known masterpiece, Homage to Catalonia. Here are some excerpts [emphasis added]:
The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it
probably seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. . . .
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 the militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in it 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 for. . . .
The P.O.U.M. (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista) [the party Orwell remained closely aligned with throughout his time in Spain] was one of those dissident Communist parties which have appeared in many countries in the last few years as a result of the opposition to 'Stalinism'; i.e. to the change, real or apparent, in Communist policy. It was made up partly of ex-Communists and partly of an earlier party, the Workers' and Peasants' Bloc. Numerically it was a small party, with not much influence outside Catalonia, and chiefly important because it contained an unusually high proportion of politically conscious members. . . The P.O.U.M. 'line' was approximately this: 'It is nonsense to talk of opposing Fascism by bourgeois "democracy". Bourgeois "democracy" is only another name for capitalism, and so is Fascism; to fight against Fascism on behalf of "democracy" is to fight against one form of capitalism on behalf of a second which is liable to turn into the first at any moment. The only real alternative to Fascism is workers' control. If you set up any less goal than this, you will either hand the victory to Franco, or, at best, let in Fascism by the back door. Meanwhile the workers must cling to every scrap of what they have won; if they yield anything to the semi--bourgeois Government they can depend upon being cheated. The workers' militias and police-forces must be preserved in their present form and every effort to "bourgeoisify" them must be resisted. If the workers do not control the armed forces, the armed forces will control the workers.'
to be continued . . .

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