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Orwell Centenary: George Orwell, 1903-1950

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George Orwell was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth we examine the controversy around his work and his legacy for today. The facts of Orwell's life.

25 June 1903
Eric Arthur Blair born in the Indian village of Motihari, son of a minor official in the opium department of the Indian civil service.

1907
The Blairs return to England.

1911
Eric sent to St Cyprian's preparatory school in Sussex.

1917
Wins a scholarship to Eton.

1921-22
Joins the Indian imperial police. Stationed in Burma from January 1922.

Orwell Centenary: From 2003 to 1984

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George Orwell was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth we examine the controversy around his work and his legacy for today. Andrew Stone assesses the relevance of Orwell's most famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Whenever a politician says one thing but means another, we think of 'Newspeak'. Whenever we need shorthand for the intrusive power of the state, the media or big business - such as the RMT's dispute with PPP contractor Metronet over a CCTV camera at Baker Street - the spectre of Big Brother is raised. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is ensconced in our political (and - in the case of the facile gameshow Big Brother - not so political) vocabulary, synonymous with rampant authoritarianism and oppression.

Lions and Jackals

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Lindsey German celebrates the re-release of 'The Leopard', the classic film about the conflict between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie during the creation of Italy.

Luchino Visconti's 'The Leopard' is a great Marxist film. It tells us about a crucial point in Italian history through the story of one man, the prince of Salina - head of an aristocratic Sicilian dynasty. In 1860, when the film opens, Italy as a unified state only exists in the imagination. The country we now know is comprised of dozens of states, with no unified politics or civil society or even language.

Haven in a Heartless World

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The third volume of Tony Cliff's selected writings is now available and contains this extract on the family, first published in 1984.

The family does not serve as a safe haven insulated from the world of work. Work intrudes into every aspect of the worker's life. Lasch writes [in 'Haven in a Heartless World']: 'The same historical developments that have made it necessary to set up private life - the family in particular - as a refuge from the cruel world of politics and work, an emotional sanctuary, have invaded this sanctuary and subjected it to outside control. A retreat into "privatism" no longer serves to shore up values elsewhere threatened with extinction.'

Revolt on the Nile

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Anger against Mubarak's regime is growing.

An Egyptian socialist recalls his exchange with an officer of the mukhabarat (secret police) as riot squads attacked a huge anti-war protest in Cairo in March: '"We have to stop you," shouted the officer. "If we don't stop you now, you won't stop at all".'

Proud to be Awkward

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There is a golden opportunity for the trade union movement to revitalise itself, and rebuilding grassroots networks is the key.

On the day of the 2 million strong Stop the War Coalition demonstration, one union general secretary went around his delegation recording the names of the young activists who were marching. These, he claims, are the future of the union - the next generation of reps. There is no doubting the impact the anti-war movement has had on the trade union movement. Millions of trade unionists were inspired and involved in this mass movement. Inspired by the school students' strikes, at least 360 workplaces took part in unofficial action on the day war broke out.

A Warning to Us All

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Although in the May 2003 local elections the British National Party (BNP) achieved the biggest fascist vote since the late 1970s - its 221 candidates polled around 100,000 votes - it failed to achieve the electoral breakthrough it had been hoping for.

The BNP won a total of 13 seats, seven of them in Burnley alone. In Sunderland none of its candidates were elected but the party won over 13,000 votes.

Electing to Fight

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Carlo Morelli, Joe Hartney and Mike Gonzalez examine the success of the Scottish socialists, while Michael Lavalette explains how he won in Preston.

The political landscape of Scotland was transformed on 1 May, with the election of six Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSPs to the Scottish Parliament. In the face of Blair and New Labour across Britain, we cannot overestimate how important it is that a party that openly talks about socialism and is consistently anti-war has won mass support. Even the most reticent bourgeois commentators agree on that.

Young, Gifted and Back

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Cabinet resignations, backbench rebellions and increasing public anger are all making life difficult for the government. Rob Hoveman views the prospects for the left.

Tony Blair and New Labour are in trouble. The most dramatic political event in years - the war on Iraq and the mass movement against it - created deep splits in the party. Some 140 Labour MPs voted against the government even though Blair effectively made it a vote of confidence in him. The movement against the war very nearly forced Blair from office. Two cabinet ministers - Robin Cook and belatedly Clare Short - have now resigned because of the war.

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