Orwell wote in his book “The Road to Wigan Pier” about hardship and poverty, poor housing and hard jobs, your place in society and your expectations and visions of the future, how the working class , or at least the poor people who lived in the slum dwellings in conditions of extreme hardhips weemed to be glad to have what little that had, as after that there was nothing. You might not have much, but you could , (as Pratchett noted), have standards. The second part of the book reads like a pamphlet .
He states that these conditions can’t continue (I agree, and they didn’t in the main post war)
He says that socialism is a solution infact THE solution to the problems. But he says that there are so many fruitcakes and weirdo’s, people who talk about the intricates ond mechanics rather tha the humanism that most people get fogged by the debate.
Common decency and fair shares was the basic objective. But he lightly forgets the role of time. Perhaps by providing the decent housing and working conditions and health and eduation, the socialist government forgot that people take pride from their ability to provide and work. If you give people to much, they take it for granted and don’t maintain it, or even fight for it. Too many council houses became burn’t out estates. The doorstep so clean you could eat your dinner off it of my grandmothers Attercliff estate has been replaced by the platic bottles and burnt out sofas, the pizza box living rooms and bins rolling round in the kitchen. A personal view.
I’m not judging these people. Orwell points out that Northern people thought themselves the best, with the exception of the coal workers. He also notes the solidarity and communities, the middle class nblackleg aproach to stikes as this meant promotion, and the general sketch is probably flawed as it bounces on the path of stereotype. So even in the tightknight communities, outsiders were seen as different. Humans always look to put each other in a category. Class, and wealth, job and position.Country and creed, religion and race. “Them and us” rather than “we together”.
Orwell records the poverty he sees, and its a view of the shock of economic collapse and unemployment. The end of a society. Only ten years later, his view of a Socialist society came true, and perhaps the slums were almost completely cleared, Council housing was put in place by Conservative yes, Neville Chambelain and Labour governments. Blocks of flats became the new slums, perhaps, and people forgot their pride when given things , at least in the long run. Good things came of this, the NHS and the welfare state, free education, nationalisation and so forth. But the years wore them down , as governments didn’t invest and finally sold them off in the 1980’s and henceforth.
Orwell notes the real power of coal, which has all but dissapeared in the years since. In 1920 over a million workers worked in the coal industry, in 1930 it was over 900 thousand. In the 40’s 750 thousand men. So we see a decline even before. As late as the 1960’s, 600 thousand workers worked , today, its 4 thousand workers. Before the strike of 1985 there wre 237 thousand workers, after in the 1990’s 49 thousand workers. Coal , and indeed many industrial jobs have declined or dissapeared. Shipping, steel, tin, many heavy and even light industries have gone to low cost countries. Only the industries that offer clear added value in terms of technology or quality remain. Of course, this isn’t entirely bad a smillions have come out of poverty in the developing world, and our economy has evolved to adapt to this.
It shows that socialism is a great idea , but when economics evolves, markets evolve and industry evolves it needs to adapt instead of which it becomes militant. The road from Wigan Pier is this. The faiure of socialism to adapt, the birth and growth of neoliberalism, the privatisation of common assets, the movement of common wealth into private hands, the withering on the vine of education, health and other sercvices, arts, libraries, as we move towards the idea of price rather than that of cost.
We could say that all is is inevitable. Globalisation moves jobs and money around. We could mourn the loss of comunities in the North of the UK as coal and steel and ship building dissapeared, or celebrate the fact that billions move out of povery in Asia. Companies look to save cash were they can. Eventually, everyone will earn the same wage. The flat world of Thomas Freidman. But this idea ignores the develpoment of idea, technology and the evolution of industries, just as socialism does.
Supply chain dynamics insits that no countries with highly integrated logistic chains can or even will consider war.The idea that our interconnected world somehow prevents war is shown to be fake with ll the wars around us. Oil, Opium poppies , influence, religion, dogma, all outweigh logistics.
Brexit seems to have thrown a brick through the holy stained window of all these ideas.
Perhaps now we’ll see the bug infested world of wage slaves come to pass.Or perhaps something else. The road from Wigan Pier certainly will be an interesting on.
History show us, before socialism, we have to endure fascism.