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-Did Orwell know about these camps?

-No, he died before they got going. And they didn't know about him. But the interesting thing is that they were immensely popular for a time, and that was when the term camp and the thought of even harmless regimentation ought to have sickened the average Briton. Of course, they were comparatively cheap. But that wasn't enough to recommend them. Men came out of the army to spend a summer fortnight with wife and family in an ambience which had a great deal of the army about it -reveille, cookhouses, dining-halls, organized diversions, physical jerks (an aspect of army life which most soldiers hated worse than going into battle). There were uniformed camp officers called redcoats -a name uncomfortably close to redcaps, which was what the Military Police were called. And there was always this loud big-brotherly voice from the loudspeakers, exhorting everybody to be happy. Late drinkers-up in the canteen at closing-time were danced off in a cunning conga-line by the female redcoats. The Butlin Holiday Camps proved that the British proletariat was not really averse to discipline. The working man opposed to army life not civilian freedom so much as the infusion of geniality into regimentation. The post-war proletariat accepted the Holiday Camps as readily as they accepted American Army units in English villages, endless shopping lines, the insolence of petty bureaucrats.

(Bolds by me) 1985 bu Anthony Burgess

I can't give a real meaning to this sentence. I have two versions. V1. The working class was opposed to army life as much as they were opposed to "the infusion" but not to civilian life. V2. In the mind of the working class the opposite of the army life was not the civilian freedom but "the infusion".

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  • The working man contrasted army life not so much with civilian freedom as with the infusion of geniality into regimentation. It's not that "working men" were "opposed = against" anything - it's simply an assertion about how they contrasted ,military and civilian life (they had no problem with "regimentation" in "Civvy Street", because it was genial / good-natured, unlike "hard-nosed, unforgiving military discipline". Jul 31, 2023 at 16:24

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Your V2 is closer. He is not saying that they are opposed to military life. "Opposed to" here means "considered in contrast to", which is very close to your second interpretation.

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Your second interpreation is the nearest.

The construction not something so much as something else is used when we wish to say that a product, result or consequence is something unexpected, unintended, other than advertised, or seemingly unlikely is the case.

The last leader of my country was not so much a gifted leader as a narcissistic criminal.

In the section you quoted in bold, the verb 'opposed' is used to say that the 'working man' opposed (created an opposition of ideas in his mind) between the unkind regimentation of army life and genial (kind, fun-oriented) regimentation found, for example, in holiday camps. This is an unexpected result because a naïve observer might imagine that a person leaving army life might want freedom.

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