George Orwell

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George Orwell (Eric Blair)

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair (June 25, 1903 - January 21, 1950), was a leading and open-minded English writer, essayist and journalist who became critical of his ideological allies on the left. He hated imperialism[1] and grew increasingly conservative, adopting and raising a child and becoming a member of the Church of England.[2] The tension between the conservative Orwell grew to become, and the democratic socialist he still allowed others to view him as, may account for some of his interesting word inventions like "doublethink". Because of his liberal past, Orwell's increasingly conservative writings were accepted and praised by the clueless liberal intelligentsia.

Unlike most writers, Orwell's greatest works came late in his life. He harshly criticized communism and totalitarianism in 1984, his finest novel, as well as in his shorter fictional work Animal Farm, an allegorical reference to the Russian Revolution. These works were far more influential than his first novel, based on his experiences on the Imperial Police Force in Burma, Burmese Dаys, which explored the evils of coloniаlism. His highly influential essay, "Politics in the English Language," attacked the liberal obfuscation which was already present in his day, and championed clear speech.

The inspiration for Orwell's growth into conservatism remains unexplored. Likely reasons include his open-mindedness, his adopting and then raising (due to his wife's untimely death) a child, and his disillusionment with leftists while fighting on their side in Spain.

Contents

Biography

Orwell's political views began to move away from the far left when he volunteered to fight the Spanish Nationalist forces to keep them from overturning the Soviet-backed revolutionary socialist government of Spain[3] in the Spаnish Civil War (1936-1939). He enlisted in the POUM (In English, Workers Party for Marxist Unity) Militia, and saw action on the Aragon front, where he fought side by side with Anаrchists and Communists, as well as Republican regulars.

He became disillusioned with the Spanish government's policy of withholding arms from the POUM and the Anarchists, which he saw as an attempt by the Communists to water down the revolutionary nature of the Anti-Fascist resistance, and centralize power in the hands of the Moscow-backed Communist Party. Taking a bullet through his neck but surviving, Orwell was invalided to Barcelona, where he witnessed the Stalinist repression of Trotskyist and Anarchist parties. Orwell and his wife were forced to escape from Spain as fugitives, after the POUM was banned by the increasingly repressive regime.

Despite his persecution, Orwell initially continued to support the Republic upon his return to England, viewing a Communist dominated Spain as better than a Nationalist Spain. He recounted his experiences in Spain in the book Homage to Catalonia.[4] He remained a socialist, and was for a time in the late 1930s a member of the Independent Labour Party, although he split from the ILP over its opposition to the Second World Wаr. Orwell served in the Home Guаrd during the war.

In 1941, Orwell wrote his essay “The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius”, in which he summarised Britain’s wartime situation, and expressed his political opinions. He called for a particularly English form of socialism, which would democratically replace the capitalist model and create a fairer society, while being informed by the most attractive English characteristics, such as love of privacy and law abidance.

Orwell had only ten years left in his life when he returned. During that period he and his wife adopted a baby boy, but Orwell's wife died shortly thereafter.

In those ten years Orwell wrote his famous anti-communist fictional works, demonstrating how much his views had moved to the right from his youth. First he spent three years writing Animаl Farm (1944), and then perhaps five years on the longer novel 1984 (1949). Orwell continued to espouse forms of sociаlism[5] right up to his death, but utilized his position as a regular columnist for the left-labor Tribune paper to strongly criticize the USSR. Such criticism was unusual for a left-winger of the period, but Orwell was so well respected that his position was secure. "I belong to the left and must work with it," he declared in 1945.[6] He died of tuberculosis in 1950.

Views on Socialism

  • Up to 1930 I did not on the whole look upon myself as a Socialist. In fact I had as yet no clearly defined political views. I became pro-Socialist more out of disgust with the way the poorer section of the industrial workers were oppressed and neglected than out of any theoretical admiration for a planned society. [5]

Quotes

  • "In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
  • "Truth is treason in an empire of lies."
  • "In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia."[7]
  • "It cannot be said too often—at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough—that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of."[8]
  • "To this day it gives me a faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during ‘God save the King’. That is childish, of course, but I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions."[9]
  • "It is all very well to be 'advanced' and 'enlightened,' to snigger at Colonel Blimp and proclaim your emancipation from all traditional loyalties, but a time comes when the sand of the desert is sodden red and what have I done for thee, England, my England? As I was brought up in this tradition myself I can recognise it under strange disguises, and also sympathise with it, for even at its stupidest and most sentimental it is a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia."[10]
  • "One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist and feminist in England."[11]
  • "The truth is that to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which 'we,' the clever ones, are going to impose upon 'them,' the Lower Orders."[12]
  • "[T]he intellectual, book-trained Socialist... is drawn... entirely from... a rootless town-bred section of the middle class.... [I]t includes—so much so that to an outsider it even appears to be composed of—... the foaming denouncers of the bourgeoisie, and the more-water-in-your-beer reformers of whom Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers who are Communists now, as they will be Fascists five years hence, because it is all the go, and all that dreary tribe of highminded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of 'progress' like bluebottles to a dead cat."[13]
  • "If only the sandals and pistachio-colored shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaler and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly. As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents."[14]
  • "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'.... Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism?"[15]
  • "[T]here is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States."[16]
  • "Fifteen years ago, when one defended the freedom of the intellect, one had to defend it against Conservatives, against Catholics, and to some extent—for they were not of great importance in England—against Fascists. Today one has to defend it against Communists and ‘fellow travellers’"[17]
  • "War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it."
  • "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."
  • "I have no particular love for the idealized 'worker' as he appears in the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on."
  • "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Bibliography

Books

Essays

Poetry

  • Romance
  • A Little Poem
  • Awake! Young Men of England
  • Kitchener
  • Our Minds are Married, But we are Too Young
  • The Pagan
  • The Lesser Evil
  • Poem From Burma

See also

References

  1. "I went to Burma and joined the Indian Imperial Police. This was an armed police, a sort of gendarmerie very similar to the Spanish Guardia Civil or the Garde Mobile in France. I stayed five years in the service. It did not suit me and made me hate imperialism" [1]
  2. "There are nevertheless four aspects of Orwell's later work which are more closely linked to conservative than to left-wing styles of thinking." [2]
  3. "Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of state archives in Moscow, scholarship has considerably darkened the view of the Communist role in Republican Spain.... [The] Spanish government... was in no serious sense democratic.... [I]t was composed largely of revolutionary parties that showed no willingness to allow the right wing a political future in Spain, and it was extremely brutal in its treatment of clerics, landowners, and suspected Fascists.... [It] was probably headed toward Soviet-style totalitarianism before Franco ever launched his rebellion.... Stalin was among the Spanish government’s first arms suppliers of choice." George Packer, "The Spanish Prisoner," The New Yorker, October 31, 2005. Cf. Stanley G. Payne, The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism (Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN 030010068X
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. http://revel.unice.fr/cycnos/document.html?id=1391
  7. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
  8. George Orwell, "Review, The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek," The London Observer, April 9, 1944, reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 3: As I Please, 1943-1945 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921353, p. 118
  9. George Orwell, "My Country, Right or Left," New Folios of Writing, Autumn 1940, reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 1: An age like this, 1920-1940 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921337, p. 540
  10. George Orwell, "The Limit to Pessimism," New English Weekly, April 25, 1940, reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 1: An age like this, 1920-1940 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921337, p. 535
  11. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 115
  12. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 119
  13. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 121
  14. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 147
  15. George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," Horizon, vol. 13, issue 76 (April 1946), reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4: In Front of Your Nose, 1946-1950 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921337, pp. 132-139
  16. George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism," Polemic, October 1945, reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 3: As I Please, 1943-1945 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921353, p. 374
  17. George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature," Polemic, No. 2 (January 1946), reprinted in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4: In Front of Your Nose, 1946-1950 (London: David R. Godine Publisher, 2000) ISBN 1567921361, p. 62
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