Amid renewed interest in the work of George Orwell, the Morning Star heads into the archives and reprints here how Harry Pollitt reviewed The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937
'Mr Orwell will have to try again'
Poor old Wigan! What things have been done in your name! From bad music-hall jokes to literary gents trying to hang their pegs around your name. The great thing is that we who come from Lancashire long ago learned to laugh at it all, in a way those who try to raise the laughs would never understand.
Here is George Orwell, a disillusioned little middle-class boy who, seeing through imperialism, decided to discover what socialism has to offer.
What a tragedy that a man can give up a position that the best years of his life were spent trying to fit him for, and then at a crisis in his life not see the real way to go.
Fortunately, Orwell has the sense to admit his own ignorance.
He tells us: "But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"
"When I thought of poverty, I thought of it in terms of brute starvation. Therefore my mind turned immediately towards the extreme cases, the social outcasts, tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. These people were the 'lowest of the low,' and these were the people with whom I wanted to get in contact."
"But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"
It is perhaps natural that a late imperialist policeman should only see "the lowest of the low," as the place from which to get his new understanding of social conditions and socialism. But, of course, it was completely wrong, and must be responsible for the terribly distorted view that the author seems to have of everything connected with the working-class movement.
I suspect he knows nothing about this at all.
What a pity to travel all the way from Mandalay to disguise yourself as a tramp who can get into a Limehouse lodging-house without betraying his middle-class accent.
If ever snobbery had its hallmark placed upon it, it is by Mr Orwell.