Blogland,  History

Orwell diaries get more interesting

Last August the website of The Orwell Prize began publishing George Orwell’s diary entries starting from 1938, each entry appearing on the same date 70 years later.

If you started reading but, like me, got a bit weary of his weather reports and rather mundane observations about life in Marrakech (where he was living in an effort to improve the health of his lungs), you might want to take another look.

By the summer of 1939, Orwell and his wife Eileen had returned to England and were living in Wallington, where they grew vegetables and flowers, and raised ducks, hens and goats.

While Orwell’s diary entries still obsessed about weather, and discussed his farming activities and recorded his hens’ egg production, he started writing brief observations about political developments in England and Europe– including, of course, the threat of war with Nazi Germany. He clipped and pasted newspaper articles about these events, which the Orwell Diaries reproduce. He also took an interest in “lighter” news, such as this report about a fight among the “gentlemen” (the biggest display of hat-bashing since 1919) at a cricket match between (his alma mater) Eton and Harrow. If the hat-bashers had been considerably lower on the class ladder, I suppose they would have been called yobs.

One event which Orwell mentioned several times was an unsuccessful effort by the British delegation at a conference of International Federation of Trade Unions to invite the phony government-controlled Soviet “trade unions” to affiliate. Orwell notes that the move was defeated largely because of the opposition of the American Federation of Labor.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed all that much. While AFL-CIO president John Sweeney wrote last year to Raul Castro calling for the release of imprisoned (and genuine) Cuban trade unionists and for full trade union rights, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber was in Cuba last May for a friendly and fraternal meeting with leaders of the phony government-controlled CTC “trade union” movement. Independent trade unions in Cuba are prohibited and there is no legally-recognized right to strike.

As the International Trade Union Confederation notes:

According to the government there is no need to call strikes since the demands of official trade union organisations will always be heard by the authorities.