"‘I understand how: I do not understand why’ is the refrain of 1984….
This was Orwell’s own predicament. He asked the Why not so much about the Oceania of his vision as about Stalinism and the Great Purges….
But Orwell could not content himself with historical agnosticism. He was anything but a sceptic. His mental make-up was rather that of the fanatic, determined to get an answer, a quick and a plain answer, to his question. He was now tense with distrust and suspicion and on the look-out for the dark conspiracies hatched by them against the decencies of Billy Brown of London town. They were the Nazis, the Stalinists, and – Churchill and Roosevelt, and ultimately all who had any raison d’état to defend, for at heart Orwell was a simple-minded anarchist and, in his eyes, any political movement forfeited its raison d’être the moment it acquired a raison d’état. To analyse a complicated social background, to try and unravel tangles of political motives, calculations, fears and suspicions, and to discern the compulsion of circumstances behind their action was beyond him. Generalisations about social forces, social trends and historic inevitabilities made him bristle with suspicion. Yet, without some such generalisations, properly and sparingly used, no realistic answer could be given to the question which preoccupied Orwell. His gaze was fixed on the trees, or rather on a single tree, in front of him, and he was almost blind to the wood. Yet his distrust of historical generalisations led him in the end to adopt and to cling to the oldest, the most banal, the most abstract, the most metaphysical and the most barren of all generalisations: all their conspiracies and plots and purges and diplomatic deals had one source and one source only – ‘sadistic power-hunger’. Thus he made his jump from workaday, rationalistic common sense to the mysticism of cruelty which inspires 1984.
Of course, Orwell intended 1984 as a warning. But the warning defeats itself because of its underlying boundless despair. Orwell saw totalitarianism as bringing history to a standstill. Big Brother is invincible: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.’ He projected the spectacle of the Great Purges on to the future, and he saw it fixed there for ever, because he was not capable of grasping the events realistically, in their complex historical context. To be sure, the events were highly ‘irrational’; but he who because of this treats them irrationally is very much like the psychiatrist whose mind becomes unhinged by dwelling too closely with insanity. 1984 is in effect not so much a warning as a piercing shriek announcing the advent of the Black Millennium, the Millennium of damnation.
The shriek, amplified by all the ‘mass-media’ of our time, has frightened millions of people. But it has not helped them to see more clearly the issues with which the world is grappling; it has not advanced their understanding. It has only increased and intensified the waves of panic and hate that run through the world and obfuscate innocent minds. 1984 has taught millions to look at the conflict between East and West in terms of black and white, and it has shown them a monster bogy and a monster scapegoat for all the ills that plague mankind.”
- Isaac Deutscher, “1984 – The Mysticism of Cruelty" from Heretics and Renegades and Other Essays (Hamish and Hamilton, London, 1955)
"As a mostly 20th century academic reader, #Accelerate includes some of the worst examples of self-indulgent left academic frivolity. We can track the evolution of Anglo-French accelerationism through the “Ferment” section, which reads in part like a game of Marxist telephone on acid. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s daring fusion of Marx and Freud yields Lyotard endorsing the joy of being fucked by capital yields Gilles Lipovetsky’s foolhardy “acceleration of critique.” Class struggle falls out of these accounts, as the authors arrogantly pronounce that capital’s blender has abolished such distinctions.
Although these pieces of writing are useful in constructing a genealogy, I wonder what purpose they serve acceleration itself. If we are for technosocial acceleration, then surely one of the things we can leave behind is leftist professors from the 1970s who thought “what is important is to be able to laugh and dance.” They laughed and danced into tenure and home loans, and now here we are.”