Wednesday, 6 June 2018


North West trade unionists merge with poet of common decency
by Brian Bamford

THIS year, Tameside Trade Union Council [TUC] in Greater Manchester became the first corporate affiliate of the ORWELL SOCIETY.  This SOCIETY is dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of George Orwell's life and work as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

The Society is a registered charity in the UK and it aims to keep the study of Orwell alive through its educational activities.  The Orwell Society is without political affiliation,and was founded in 2011, and though it is based in the UK its membership is worldwide.  George Orwell (the pen-name for Eric Blair; 1903-1950), was the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Society's intention is to embrace a grasp of Orwell's life and writings, from his literary criticism to his diaries, and from his political writings to his poetry. . 

Last Friday, the President of Tameside, Derek Pattison, announcing this said:  'In an Age of Post Truth, Fake News, and Alternative Facts, we need George Orwell's guidance more than ever.'  

When I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Orwell Society on the 28th, April this year, I spoke to Richard Blair, the son of George Orwell, and to Quintin Kopp, the son of George Kopp Orwell's commander as captain in the general staff of the 45th Mixed Brigade of the Spanish Republican Army.  Both were anxious to get more participation in the Society from trade unionists such as ourselves.

Since Tameside TUC  first published our booklet commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in 2006, and followed this up with the unveiling of a blue plaque for James Keogh in 2011 who died fighting with the republicans in the Spanish Civil War, this trade union council has had a special interest in both George Orwell and his experiences of the Spanish Civil War.

Malcolm Muggeridge in his essay 'A Knight of the Woeful Countenance' wrote about this:
'I FIRST became aware of the existence of George Orwell in the middle thirties when I read some articles of his on the Spanish Civil War which appeared in the New English Weekly, a publication founded by A.R. Orage to expound the principles of Social Credit.  They provided the basis for Homage to Catalonia, one of his best books.  These articles made a great impression on me.  I liked their clear, simple style, and the obvious honesty of purpose which informed them,  They touched a chord of personal sympathy, too.  I saw in Orwell's strong reaction to the villainies of Communist apparat in Spain a compatible experience to my own disgust some years previously with the Soviet regime and its fawning admirers among the intelligentsia of the West as a result of a stint as Moscow correspondent of the Manchester Guardian....'

When we at Tameside TUC began to produce and publish a balanced account of the Spanish Civil War  in 2006, we were confronted with resistance from some elements within the more narrow-minded political left of the trade union movement in Greater Manchester.   These people deliberately tried to stiffle our efforts and those of other local trade unionists to bring about publication.  Both Orwell and Muggeridge had had difficultes getting their articles published by the so-called progressive publishers like Kingsley Martin at the New Statesman and C.P. Scott at the Manchester Guardian, and perhaps even more absurd, was the Victor Gollancz rejection of Animal Farm.

Muggeridge relates how when Orwell and he were lunching together in a Greek restaurant in Percy Street, Orwell asked if he would mind changing places?  When Muggeridge asked him why?  Orwell just said 'he just couldn't bear to look at Kingsley Martin's corrupt face, which, as Kingsley was lunching at an adjoining table, was unavoidable from where he had been sitting before.'

I feel much the same when I am forced to gaze into the faces of Ronald Marsden and his friend Mike Luft of the International Brigade Memorial Trust:  two people who did their utmost to undermine the production of the Tameside TUC memorial booklet about the Spanish Civil War.





Your members may also be interested to learn that Wigan Reference Library now has Peter Davison's Orwell library on long-term loan. (In the same room in which Orwell researched the statistics underlying The Road to Wigan Pier).



Alec said...

Interesting Brian
Please keep me updated
Always amazed how many comrades have neither read or studied George Orwell