George Orwell's dystopian classic, 1984, published less than a year before the English novelist and journalist's untimely death in 1950, has had extraordinary staying power. Indeed, twice in recent times it has raced up the bestsellers lists, to the Number 1 position at Amazon in 2013 after the "Snowden revelations" about the massive surveillance operations of the N.S.A in the United States, and again since the election of Donald Trump as president. I hate to say it, but the constant recourse to Orwell's novel as the "go-to" work of political fiction for masses of readers worried about various manifestations of government dominance and control over the lives of citizens raises my hackles. The novel is a strong work in its way, a prescient warning about the dangerous prospects for totalitarian forms of control by the truly scary "Big Brother" who rules the fictional Oceania. Obviously, it's a book everyone should read at least once. That being said, I would make the case that other political novelists who are today unjustly neglected should be turned to in this Age of Authoritarian Populists.
I would like to propose another British writer, Storm Jameson, a writer who, like Orwell, developed a pronounced anti-imperialist and democratic socialist positions in response to the injustices they perceived in their society. Both were galvanized by authoritarian political tendencies that they realized would undermine the rule of law and lead to suppression of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and thought.
I have just read Jameson's novel about the 1926 General Strike, one of the most significant and momentous political events in 20 th century British history, None Turn Back. But before turning to the novel, let me touch on a few of the important political and legal themes that Orwell treats in his last work.
Winston Smith, the protagonist, is one in a long line of Orwell's misfits, who back into some form of rebellion after being forced, against their better judgment, to display disobedience to the laws and conventions of the organizations they work for. In Smith's case, it is the Ministry of Truth, the sinister arm of the government that rewrites history and assists in the relentless distortions, lies and propaganda that Oceania propagates in order to assert total control over its citizens. It also engages in massive surveillance, albeit it does so openly, unlike the N.S.A. and other modern state security organizations. Orwell brilliantly...