Monday, 7 October 2013

George Orwell's take on the British in the 1940s

British values:  Xenophobia or 'Racism'
IN an essay published in his 'As I Please'  column in the Labour weekly Tribune in November 1946, George Orwell wrote:
'Take one question that has been in the news lately but has never been properly thrashed out:  the immigration of foreign labour into this country.  Recently we have seen a tremendous outcry at the T.U.C. conference against allowing Poles to work in the two places where labour is most urgently needed - in the mines and on the land.'

Orwell describes the kind of left-wing opposition to Polish refugees at that time as 'saying that the Polish refugees are all Fascists who "strut about" wearing monocles and carrying brief cases.'

He then draws attention to the hundreds of thousands of homeless Jews in Europe and suggests inviting 'say 100,000 Jewish refugees to settle in this country'.  Orwell asks about the 'Displaced Persons, numbering nearly a million, who are dotted in camps all over Germany, with no future and no place to go...', and he suggests:  'Why not solve their problems by offering them British citizenship?'

Then Mr. Orwell imagines what the answer of the average British citizen would be, and concludes:  'Even before the war, with Nazi persecutions in full swing, there was no popular support for the idea of allowing large numbers of Jewish refugees into this country:  nor was there any strong move to admit the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who had fled from Franco to be penned up behind barbed wire in France.'

And Orwell concluded then that:
'The fact is that there is strong popular feeling in this country against foreign immigration.  It arises from simple xenophobia, party from fear of undercutting wages, but above all from the out-of-date notion that Britain is overpopulated and more population means more unemployment.'

Despite the protestations to the contrary, both the right-wing UKIP of the popularist Nigel Farage, and 'no2eu' the leftist no hope party of Bob Crow and the former anarcho-syndicalist railwayman, Alex Gordon, are rooted in this age-old xenophobia of the British public opinion with regard to Europe.  Alex Gordon in a recent glossy information bulletin on developments 'for the labour and trade union movement' within the European Union introduces the publication by announcing 'EU unemployment soars', and goes on to tell a terrible tale of what he calls 'the EU's anti-social reality - an economic straitjacket to boost German capitalism at the expense of weaker economies'.    Bob Crow echoes Mr. Gordon's tune in the next article asking 'What happened to "Social Europe"?'  And he concludes that 'the model is now dead - if indeed it was ever alive at all.' 

Ralph Miliband wrote:  'The Englishman is a rabid nationalist' , but perhaps the average Englishman is more guilty of 'xenophobia' as Orwell suggested. 

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