Paul Anderson, George Orwell Studies, vol 2 no 1, 2017
George Orwell at work in the 1940s
No political writer of the 20th century has been subject to more analysis, controversy and speculation than George Orwell – and for good reason.
Many see Orwell as the greatest political writer in the English language of the past 200 years, a consummate stylist, always direct and provocative, and many of his big concerns have continuing resonance even though he died nearly 70 years ago.
He wrote a lot, and in a multitude of genres: fiction, criticism, reportage, poetry, polemical essays and columns. His conception of what is political was breathtakingly broad, he changed his mind over time (and in public), and there are innumerable tensions and contradictions in his life and work. Since his death in 1950, partisans of every political tendency, apart from fascists and Stalinist communists, have tried to claim Orwell as one of their own.
Paul Anderson, in Kevin Hickson and Ben Williams (eds), John Major: An Unsuccessful Prime Minister? (Biteback, 2017)
John Major’s governments of 1990-97 are not often discussed in terms of their impact on Labour – except insofar as Major’s travails with his party from summer 1992, particularly over Europe, provided the backdrop against which first John Smith and then Tony Blair built commanding opinion-poll leads for Labour, culminating in Blair’s general election victory of May 1997.
Even two decades after that triumph, protagonists, commentators and historians typically assign only a minor role to Major in the making of New Labour. As in the dog days of his administration and in Blair’s first years in office, he is still considered primarily as the inept grey man who happened to be at the helm of the doomed Tory ship as Labour rode a tide of popular enthusiasm to win an inevitable landslide. Continue reading
The new conclusion to Moscow Gold? The Soviet Union and the British Left by Paul Anderson and Kevin Davey. Published by Little Atoms, 28 December 2015
By the end of the 1990s, to most observers of the British left, the Leninist era seemed to have come to an end. The Socialist Workers Party, quasi-Trotskyist and owner of a competent offset press in east London, still had some life about it, but not a lot.
The Scottish Socialist Party – essentially the renegade Glasgow office of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, which had been expelled by Labour in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with SWP and independent barnacles hanging on – had some support in urban western Scotland. And the hardline Communist Party of Britain, the main Stalinist splinter from the ‘official’ Communist Party of Great Britain (which had given up the ghost in 1991, 70 years after its launch with a giant subvention from Moscow), was still influential in a few trade unions. The CPB still had a daily paper, the Morning Star, though hardly anyone read it any more. Continue reading
Paul Anderson, from Richard Keeble (ed), George Orwell Now! (Peter Lang, 2015)
George Orwell’s politics have always been contentious. In his lifetime, he was a notable intellectual contrarian whose antipathy to received wisdom of all kinds made him admirers and enemies across the political spectrum – and since his death the argument about where he stood politically has been vigorous. It shows no sign of ending soon. Of course, the polemics ebb and flow according to events in the real world and publishers’ schedules, and there has been little in the past quarter-century to match the vituperation of the cold-war battle for Orwell. Continue reading