June 22, 2015
George Orwell only agreed to write about the poor after getting a big advance
Lancashire was the home of football, but there is no football in Orwell. Yorkshire was a stronghold of the Workingmen’s Club and Institute Union, but when he attends their delegate meeting in Barnsley he does not approve of the free beer and sandwiches … The friendly societies took the subscriptions of half of all working-class men in 1914, but Orwell says not a word on how they had managed to organize such a vast undertaking, nor indeed on how, along with all the other mutual societies, sick clubs, and boxes, they had secured their place in law to allow them to do so. There is no fun, no ambition, no zest, no obscenity, and precious little sociability in Orwell’s north. A night out in Blackpool would have done him (and English literature) the world of good. Where are the comedians? Where is George Formby, Wigan’s favourite son? Where are the factory lasses? Where’s our Gracie? He says that all trade-union and Labour party officials are middle-class, automatically so, and shows almost no time for those bulwarks of working-class defence – the Miners’ Federation, the cooperative societies and guilds, the trades councils, the Labour party, and the multi-layered and infinitely resourceful female communities of the street. He notes the poverty, but where is the thrift? He notes the grind, but where’s the Ritz Super [cinema] … ?