The Old Etonian Stalinist

And I don’t mean Guy Burgess.

Czeslaw Milosz wrote in ‘The captive Mind’ that Eastern European intellectuals, reading 1984 in clandestine editions, were amazed to find that its author had never visited the Soviet Union. Among the insights that Orwell had was his understanding of how important the falsifying of statistics was to the regime:

‘For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small.’

On Boxing Day, large parts of the centre of Leeds were under water. In 2011 the government of which David Cameron was head cancelled a flood protection scheme designed to stop that happening. Yesterday that same David Cameron, still Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons and flatly denied that any flood schemes had been cancelled since 2010. He will get away with it, because – as in Stalin’s Russia – the mass media have been corrupted and intimidated into quiescence.

Nikita Krushchev – a Russian peasant Stalinist – once said “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge where there is no river”. Cameron – the old Etonian Stalinist – has updated this for the twenty first century: don’t build anything and the river will come to you.


“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ” George Orwell, 1984

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