Are there any circumstances under which people won’t go on holiday?
In summer 1917, Russia was three years into a war that it was losing badly, there had been a revolution in February and there would be another one in October, and after that there would be years of civil war. Casualties in the army were shocking, as were civilian deaths from hunger and disease. Everything was chaotic and unstable; all that was solid had melted into air.
But when Lenin fled from possible arrest in St Petersburg in July 1917, leaving from Sestroretsk Station, the terminus for a small coastal railway, the trains were busy with holidaymakers:
It was the peak of the summer season and the trains were packed with middle-class passengers leaving the capital and going off to enjoy the seaside and the fresh air.1Continue reading →
In the real dark night of the soul, it’s always election o’clock. Here come the endlessly repeated phrases, the lines to take today, the turgid interviews, the letme be absolutely clears and hard-working families, the swapping of business/celebrity/expert endorsements, the gaffes and the unread manifestos.
Russell Brand doesn’t vote. Having been goaded about this by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in 2013, Brand wrote a book, Revolution, to show that he’s both right and in earnest. Many people are angered by others not voting, it’s a shibboleth of sorts, but Brand’s position seems reasonable to me; there are many causes for indignant scepticism in public life and much of it is a sham. I don’t share his seeming surprise, though, that wealth buys influence and that rich and powerful people generally want to protect and expand their wealth and power. You’d think someone on the threshold of middle-age (he’s 39) would have noticed a little earlier. This is what George Orwell published in 1941, when he was 38. Continue reading →