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Inside the Myth

Orwell: Views From the Left

edited by


Lawrence and Wishart Limited
39 Museum Street
London WC1 A 1LQ,

This edition first published 1984

Lawrence and Wishart, 1984

Each essay the author

This book issold subject to the condition that it
shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the
publishers prior consent in any form of binding or
cover other than that in which it is published and Introduction 7
without a similar condition, including this condition
being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Malcolm Evans
Text, Theory, Criticism: Twenty
Things You Never Knew About George Orwell 1

Alan Brown
Examining Orwell: Political and Literary Values
in Education 39

Alaric Jacob
Sharing Orwells Joys - But Not His Fears 62

Bill Alexander
George Orwell and Spain 85

Robert Stradling / Of A.'CRiANO
LIS;: Orwell and the Spanish Civil War:
A Historical Critique 103

Beatrix Campbell
Orwell - Paterfamilias or Big Brother P 1 26

(fL Deirdre Beddoe

Hindrances and Help-Meets:
Women in the Writings of George Orwell 139
Photoset in North Wales by
Derek Doyle & Associates, Mold, Clwyd
Stephen Sedley
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
Oxford University Press An Immodest Proposal: Animal Farm 155
6 Inside the Myth

Lynette Hunter
Stories and Voices in Orwells Early Narratives 163

Andy Croft
Worlds Without End Foisted Upon the Future -
Some Antecedents of Nineteen Eighty-Four 1 83
Christopher Norris
Stuart Hall
Conjuring Leviathan: Orwell on the State 2 1
Christopher Norris
Language, Truth and Ideology:
Orwell and the Post-War Left 242
Few readers will need to be warned in advance that this book is
Antony Easthope no pious celebration of Orwell in the wake of his annus
Fact and Fantasy in Nineteen Eighty-Four 263 mirabilis. Orwell and the Left is a violently disjunctive
coupling, as many of these essays make clear. They focus on the
Notes on Contributors 286 ways in which Orwell has been kidnapped by the forces of
reaction, taken over triumphantly by those who hold him up as
the great example of a socialist who finally saw the light. No
matter how ambivalent (or downright contradictory) his
writings, Orwell is now firmly established as the voice and
conscience of liberal values against everything perceived as a
threat to consensus democracy. The fact that such consensus is
largely manufactured - and by methods which Orwell clearly
foretold - is an irony which socialist readers will recognise but
hardly relish. The prophecies lent themselves all too readily to
the kind of right-wing recuperative reading which has turned
Orwell into the patron saint of current Cold-War doublethink.
One can imagine his misery and revulsion had Orwell lived to
read some of the subtle and not-so-subtle propaganda put out
in his name during 1984. The ghost must still be dancing on
his grave in a fury of impotent scorn. But the fact that his
writings are subject to such gross appropriation is evidence of
their deeper complicity with those who would so use them.
Alan Brown shows this process very strikingly at work in the
school examination system, where Animal Farm and Nineteen
Eighty-Four are among the perennial O and A Level texts, with
students left in no doubt as to what kind of model answer the
examiners are looking for. The simplest-seeming questions

8 Inside the Myth Christopher Norris 9
conceal a whole rhetoric of loaded politcal values. Malcolm Fredric Jameson makes of his book The
this the central issue
Evans extends a similar analysis to the way that Orwell has Political Unconscious (1980). The
negative labour of demysti-
been processed by the popular media as a handy source of fication is a necessary stage but the first stage only in what
images and slogans for various propaganda purposes. That Jameson sees as the project of Marxist criticism.
these are often crude interpretations - strategic misreadings at
some crucial point - doesnt alter the fact of Orwells being A Marxist negative hermeneutic, a Marxist practice of ideological
constantly available for just such uses. Stephen Sedley makes analysis proper, must in the practical work of reading and
thispoint very firmly in his discussion of the weaknesses of interpretation be exercised simultaneously with a Marxist positive
Animal Farm whether judged as political tract or narradve
, hermeneutic, or a decipherment of the Utopian impulses of these
fiction. The deep-laid
conservative cast of Orwells writing same still ideological cultural texts.
goes along with the repeated assertions that everything he
wrote was devoted to defending democratic socialism against Jameson writes in passing of Nineteen Eighty-Four as a
all forms of totalitarian threat. Nowadays he is cited as chief counter-revolutionary text, but one which possesses the
witness for a form of repressive consensus politics which finds disrupdve potential to undermine
confidently orthodox
no need for the cruder methods predicted in Nineteen readings. This merest of hints amplified here by Antony
Eighty-Four. This, more than anything, requires that the left Easthope, whose essay develops a strategy of reading to
should address itself to analysing the Orwell myth in all its discover (by way of the Lacanian unconscious) what textual
latter-day manifestations. symptoms are repressed or occluded in the authorized version.
Weneed to demythologize Orwell so as to see more clearly Lynette Hunters is also a redemptive reading, though one
the nature of that common-sense ideology which lends itself which places more faith on Orwells conscious management of
so willingly to propaganda purposes. A
number of narrative technique. She sees the novels as developing steadily
contributors here Easthope, Evans, Norris draw upon from an immature stage of confusedly subjective self-assertion
recent (post-structuralist) theories of language as a means of to a point of more where
sophisticated narrative control
relating that covert ideology to Orwells style and narrative charactersassume a certain credible autonomy of viewpoint.
stance. But to leave the analysis there would be to give Orwell There is an obvious tension between Hunters reading and the
up into the hands of a dominant consensus reading utterly argument (implicit in Easthope and Evans) that any such talk
indifferent to such challenges. Theory, after all, is a of the autonomous individual is falling directly into Orwells
well-known affliction of left-wing ideologues, deprived of the ideological trap. What these essays share is a clear
common-sense wisdom that comes of accepting things as they understanding that the honest George style of plain,
are. This attitude is doubtless reinforced by the fact that most no-nonsense reportage has to be patiently deconstructed if we
varieties of left criticism tend to take a negative or strongly want to resist its more insidious rhetorical effects. Otherwise
demythologizing view of whatever they interpret. In Orwells that style will continue to impose its bogus common-sense
case, such a reading would point to the delusions of a values in the service of every kind of reactionary populist
common-sense empiricist idiom that sets itself up as a creed.
knowledge independent of language, ideology and politics. The left has need of theory in its task of challenging the
One can hardly begin to take account of the Orwell apparendy self-evident truths of consensus politics. One effect
phenomenon unless by way of this negative critique. But of Orwells style was to institute a certain idea of documentary
clearly there is something more to be said if one wants to go on realism which sounded very much (in Raymond Williamss
and reclaim Orwells writing - some of it at least - for the phrase) like a man bumping up against experience and setting
purposes of socialist critique. down the facts in a straightforward, truth-telling way. But this
10 Inside the Myth Christopher Norris 11

raises the question of how to draw a line between consciously distort. None of these essays can be taken to deny
documentary texts (like The Road To Wigan Pier) and those of that belief, whatever their suspicions of the form it took in
Orwells novels which exploit the same devices of style and Orwells plain-dealing literary style.
narrative stance. To point out such signs of rhetorical His treatment of women gives further cause to look at the
convergence between Orwellian fact and fiction is to throw a forms of ingrained prejudice which skewed Orwells vision in
very sizeable paradox into the myth of Orwell as an unbiased novels and documentary writing alike. Deirdre Beddoe brings
partisan of social and historical truth. This myth has been out the very marked sexual politics which effectively confines
constructed around the twin presumptions of his factual his female characters to a role of passive dependence or (like
accuracy as a recorder of events and his authenticity as the Dorothy in A Clergyman's Daughter) short-lived domestic
intellectual conscience of an age. It is a view which finds rebellion. Beatrix Campbell pursues this analysis into Orwells
classic expression in the well-known essay by Lionel Trilling, failure to understand the politics of working-class sexual and
where Orwells style is taken on trust as the very embodiment family life, as portrayed with such offensive disdain in Wigan
of political good faith against the pressures of conformist Pier and elsewhere.
ideology. Hence the desire of these essays to read Orwells texts In the end - as Alaric Jacob remarks in his essay - the reader
against the grain of their own clearly- marked values and is brought up against the same negativity, the same despairing
assumptions. This in turn means pressing hard on the upshot to every line of thought in Orwells political writing. It
distinction between novel and documentary modes, since it is is the left to point out the varieties of false logic
for critics on
here - in the tensions necessarily ignored by wholesale and crudely stereotyped thinking that produced this vision of
admirers and ideologues that Orwells writing comes up terminal gloom. Thus Stuart Hall, for one, brings out the
against the limits of its own contradictory project. mixture of half-truths and predisposed pessimist conclusions
Other contributors are not so much concerned with matters which characterized Orwells thinking on the origins and logic
of language, ideology and representation. They focus more of the modern totalitarian state. From a different but related
specifically on the ways in which Orwell either falsified the angle, Andy Croft places Nineteen Eighty-Four in the company of
documentary record or allowed mere prejudice to pass for other, less celebrated works of political fiction which held out
objective fact. Bill Alexander, who fought in Spain with the against the Orwellian malaise. Either they preserved some
International Brigades, challenges Orwells version of events measure of utopian commitment, or - failing that - they
on various points of detailed historical accuracy. His diagnosed contemporary dangers and evils with a force and
conclusion is that Homage to Catalonia not only treats the record acuity wholly lacking in Orwell. It is too much to hope that
selectively but practises a form of systematic distortion wholly Nineteen Eighty-Four like 1984, will soon be consigned to the

in keeping with Orwells anti-Communist bias. Robert dusty annals of Cold-War cultural propaganda. Celebrations
Stradling likewise casts a cold eye on Homage and the other, may cease upon the stroke of twelve, but there will still be
more overdy polemical wridngs which came out of Orwells many whose interests it suits to go on mistaking the Orwellian
Spanish experience. As an historian of the period, with pumpkin for a Natopolitan coach-and-six.
knowledge of other contemporary sources, Stradling is
prompted to reflect on the ambiguous status of Orwells text,
its failures in point of historical accuracy going along with its

almost novelistic sense of worked-up narrative involvement.

But of course it is impossible to criticise Orwell on
documentary grounds without believing that there is, after all,
an historical truth of the matter which his wridngs more or less
Malcolm Evans 13

Thus Orwells comments on the conservatism, snobbishness

and insularity of the weeklies constitute, for Richards, an attack
on a typically English decency and geniality which it is
incumbent on the writer of popular fiction to nurture, so
protecting the nations youth from overwrought foreign duds
Malcolm Evans like Ibsen and Chekhov, and from intellectuals, like Orwell
himself, preoccupied with sex, class, strikes and politics. The
function of the boys writer to entertain, turn the readers
Text, Theory, Criticism: is

mind to healthy pursuits, givehim a feeling of cheerful

Twenty Things You Never Knew security, and any engagement with politics
to avoid at all costs

About George Orwell or an incitement to unhealthy introspection, both of which

are harmful to the young: If there is a Chekhov among my
readers, I fervently hope that the effect of Magnet will be to turn
him into a Bob Cherry! (CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 540)

1. In his essay Boys Weeklies, Orwell maintained that the two * * *

basic political assumptions of publications like the Gem and

Magnet were nothing ever changes, and foreigners are funny, 1
2.This exchange, published in Cyril Connollys Horizon in
illustrating the second with an account of some popular March and May 1940, sketches a theoretical conflict which
conventions: remains unresolved. While Richards promotes pure enter-
tainment, decency and an unchanging human nature, Orwell
FRENCHMAN: Excitable. Wears beard, gesticulates wildly. focuses on popular literatures reproduction of hegemonic
SPANIARD, MEXICAN etc.: Sinister, treacherous. constructions of class, race, manliness and the distinctively
ARAB, AFGHAN etc.: Sinister, treacherous. English. Stripped of Richardss overt prudishness and his
CHINESE: Sinister, treacherous. Wears pigtail. willingness to declare assumptions about foreigners, some of
ITALIAN: Excitable. Grinds barrel-organ or carries stiletto. the basic positions outlined in the two essays might reappear in
SWEDE, DANE etc.: Kind-hearted, stupid. a contemporary debate on professionalism, ideology and
NEGRO: Comic, very faithful. CEJL Vol.
( 1, p. 517) popular demand between a producer of television comedy, for
example, and a researcher in Cultural or Communication
In response to this and Orwells broader critique, Frank Studies, disciplines anticipated to a degree in Orwells writing
Richards, the editor of Magnet and doyen of the genre, argued on popular culture. But this conflict also shapes Orwells own
that barring a few temporary mutations, such as the craze for practice in fiction, his comments on more conventionally
lipstick and modernist literary muck, nothing ever does literary topics,and the contention of critical discourses within
change: Decency seems to have gone - but it will come again. which his criticism and fiction are themselves now reproduced
As for the comic
qualities of foreigners, Richards goes on, and evaluated. Frank Richardss defence of a fiction which is
outside politics, which deals with matters ultimately more
I must shock Mr Orwell by telling him that foreigners are funny. human and fundamental, is a demotic analogue of the
They lack the sense of humour which is the special gift of our disinterested criticism dominant in English schools and
chosen nation: and people without a sense of humour are always universities from the 1920s to the mid-1970s, in which the
unconsciously funny. (CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 538) literary is constructed precisely in terms of its transcendence, in

14 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 1

the last analysis, of the ephemeral, the ideological, the totalitarianism and its own imaginary future. So what could
propagandist. Before this tradition was isolated by contem- have been another wildly inaccurate prediction becomes a
porary feminist, post-structuralist and post-Althusserian successfully self- negating projection, a minor landmark on the
criticisms, and its own ideological interests disclosed, it was road to Rupert Murdochs ownership of The Times in 1984 and
already subject to the challenge of a series of propositions to that papers financial and ideological alliance, linking both
popularized by Orwell - All art is propaganda, All issues are ends of the free market in information, with the News of the
political issues,The opinion that art should have nothing to World (all human life is here) and the Sun (the place where
do with politicsis itself a political attitude 2 - and a critical there is no darkness).
practice which implicitly questioned formalism, aestheticism
and the fetishization of the literary by returning to history, *
politics, material factors operating in the texts production and
reception, and the conditions of its reproduction in criticism
and commentary. When Orwell writes about Shakespeare, 4. The Macherey argues, 5 is impenet-
literary text, as Pierre
Dickens or Henry Miller, no less than in his work on boys rably encrusted with its criticism, commentary and other
weeklies and comic postcards, there is a call for something nominally secondary discourses, which all become assimilated
more than literary criticism, a gesture toward articulating to it as part of material history. For this reason Britains

literature within a larger theory of discourse and

itself best-selling daily newspaper was essential reading for Orwell
ideology. The need for this articulation to continue, against the scholars in 1984. The Sun s consideration for slow readers, in
inertia of the loosely contextualized and nominally apolitical underlining, italicizing or capitalizing all essential phrases, has
discourses that constitute traditionalist literary studies, is the useful side-effect of producing a sketch-map of ideological
nowhere clearer than in the problems posed by reading Orwell landscapes less clearly visible through the balances and
in 1984. superior textuality of more reputable institutions (The Times ,

the BBC). Here, in its refreshing simplicity, is an uncluttered

* * *
version of hegemony, and a key to discourses that have
continually reworked Nineteen Eighty-Four since 1949. The Sun s
3. The Orwellian future became the present and soon the first leader page of the new year was, predictably, devoted to an
past, the preoccupation with prophecy giving way to an oblique celebration of Orwells work under the headline
examination of the forces that sustained its vitality for so long 1984: What we must do to keep Big Brother at bay. (2 January
and in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Orwell 1984, p.6) The prose is urgent and concise, almost as clear as a
predicted, at various times, that the Stock Exchange would be window-pane, producing which is readable,
a world
pulled down after World War II and the country houses turned incontestable, out there Orwell foresaw an
. England dominated
into childrens holiday camps, that the Conservative Party by Marxist tyranny, but Margaret Thatcher, at the passing of
would win the 1945 election, and that England would be blown the old year, spoke of the reality of 1984 as a time of liberty
off the map by atomic weapons before 1967. He imagined that and hope. While accepting the truth of her words, set against
he would end up in a concentration camp. 3 Even these Orwells fictional view, the Sun insists that its readers must
miscalculations pale beside the vision in Nineteen Eighty-Four of maintain their customary standard of critical awareness.
The Times as an organ of Ingsoc (English Socialism in Orwell saw Marxism leading inevitably to what he described
Oldspeak). But this, as Orwell insisted in his comments on the as a foot stamping constantly on the human countenance. This

novel, 4 was not so much a prophecy as part of a satirical

has happened in Russia, where Yuri Andropov presides like
warning, a possible scenario itself engaged in the fight against
some invisible Big Brother denying freedom and privacy:
16 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 17

IT HAS HAPPENED in Poland, where basic human rights are and establishes the frame for an accompanying feature - 20
regarded as a crime against the state. THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT GEORGE
IT HAS HAPPENED in China,under the lunatic Red Guards. ORWELL. 6 Most of these you knew already. Orwell, whose
IT HAS HAPPENED everywhere in the third of the world that real name was Eric Blair (1), was the son of a minor civil
now lies under the Communist heel. servant (2), served in the Imperial Police in Burma instead of
going to university (6), became fiercely anti- Communist
Moving back from this boys weeklies site of sinister and during the Spanish Civil War (12), married twice (10,18),
treacherous foreigners, the editorial warns that the threat smoked too much (17) and, mostly in circumstances of
diagnosed by Orwell comes not just from the military power financial hardship, wrote books that became modern classics
of Russia but from the enemy within. The Oppositions (14,20). These items establish Big Brothers paternity and
programme for the 1983 General Election was Marxist in produce for the author a history and a private life in no way
everything but name, and had it prevailed we would have incompatible with the leader writers appropriation of Nineteen
been taken so far down the path to the Corporate State, there Eighty-Four. There is even leeway for some faint traces of the
could have been no turning back. The Labour Party spent left Orwell - his formative experiences at St Cyprians (3) and
much of 1983 purging itself of socialists but it remains, in spite sense of social inferiority at Eton (4) - and for an
of its cosmetic treatment, in the hands of all manner of acknowledgement of other factors contributing to the

extremists, while the ugly face of Socialism is still shown by nightmare qualities of his last wouldnt have
novel, which
industrial bullies who try to take away mens livelihood if they been so gloomy if I hadnt been so ill (18). Such details add

are not in a union. The piece concludes with a guarded an element of complexity and a solidity of specification which
optimism: vouches for the metonymic realism of the pivotal, editorial
construction of Orwell-in-1984. But this, like any other text
As 1984 opens, we have been spared the Orwell nightmare. We signifies as much through its strategic silences as by what it
have liberty under Margaret Thatcher. We have hope of a better makes manifest, 7 and there are at least twenty other things the
tomorrow. ideal Sun reader never knew about George Orwell, each of
Yet all these things are not automatic. which would tend to decentre the text, disclose its contrivance,
We have to deserve them. We have to earn them. and displace its evasively tendentious subject. This silenced
We must be vigilant every day in 1984 and beyond to preserve them discourse, largely Orwells own, includes:
from any assault.

a) The writer who specifically refuted any interpretation

of Nineteen Eighty-Four as an attack on socialism or the
British Labour Party and who claimed, in 1947, that all
5. HereSocialist slides into Communist via the intermediary his serious work during the previous decade had been
term Marxist to constitute a lunatic and nightmare order written against totalitarianism and for democratic

directly opposed to liberty, hope, truth, human rights, Socialism, as I understand it. CEJL Vol. 4, p. 566;
( ,

Margaret Thatcher and to what we must strive for and Vol. 1, p. 28)
preserve according to the choric exhortation which blends the b) Orwells ability to distinguish socialism or communism
Sun s public discourse with the private voices its antagonists in from the prospect of Soviet state capitalism. {CEJL,
Russia, the British unions and the Labour Party would seek to Vol. 1 , p. 369)
silence.This basic opposition, in all its banality, is validated by c) His belief in the need for revolution in England,
the authority of astringent prophecy and literary canonization, coupled with his contempt for the small percentage of
18 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 19

the population in control of the countrys wealth and 6. For Orwell the aesthetic response was something of a
land - people who, historically, seized it by force, luxury, albeit one finally subject to democratic validation. If
afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with you are hungry, frightened or suffering, King Lear is no better
title-deeds, and whose privileged descendants are just than Peter Pan. {CEJL, Vol. 4, p. 258) At the best of times there
about as useful as so many tapeworms. ( CEJL Vol. 2, , is no way of definitively proving that one writer is good,

pp. 105-134; Vol. 3, pp. 241-2) another bad {CEJL, Vol. 4, pp. 334-5), and there is ultimately
d) Orwells acceptance, along with most enlightened only one test of literary merit. Against Tolstoy, who compared
people, of the Communist thesis that pure freedom the popularity of Shakespeare to such epidemic suggestions
will only exist in a classless society, and one is most
that as the Crusades, the quest for the Philosophers Stone and the
nearly free when one is working to bring such a society Dutch mania for tulip growing, Orwell argued the criterion of
about. {CEJL, Vol. 4, p. 84) survival, itself an index of majority opinion confirmed by the
e) Those who now themselves Conservatives are
call Shakespearean fragments scattered throughout vernacular
either Liberals [the of 1984], fascists or the
wets English. {CEJL, Vol. 4, pp. 335, 345-6) In the case of what he
accomplices of fascists. ( CEJL Vol. 2, p. 228)
, considered the major works of modem literature - Ulysses ,

f) Journalists who wish to retain their integrity are Maughams Of Human Bondage, most of Lawrences early
frustrated by the concentration of the Press in the writing and Eliots poems up to 1930 - he was prepared, as
hands of a few very rich men [1984 revision: ... and early as 1940, to provisionally affirm that they had survived and
multinational corporations]. The freedom of the to remove the question of their value from the sphere of an
press in Britain was always something of a fake academic and journalistic debate which he viewed only in
because, in the last resort, money controls opinion. terms of an insoluble struggle between a theory of art for arts
(CEJL Vol. 4, p. 82; Vol. 1, p. 373)
, sake on the one hand and reductive evaluations of ideas in
relation to formalized systems of thought such as Marxism or
The Suns catalogue could also be extended by human interest Catholicism on the other. 10
elements. The fact that Orwells father - the minor civil
servant - was, more specifically, a Sub-Deputy Agent in the * * *

Opium Department of the British Raj, involved in the narcotics

trade with China, legalized, since 1860, as a government 7. According to this test of time, particularly the shortened
monopoly, adds a historical resonance to editorial comments version of employed in Inside the Whale, the status of

on the lunatic Red Guards. 8 The list might also specify the Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four as modern classics can
side on which Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War, and the go unquestioned, adding Orwells seal of majority opinion to
confirmation of his socialism in Barcelona. It can, of course, the great commercial and ideological feast centred on his work
go on almost indefinitely. It ends with the Orwell of Boys in 1984. But the check on this aesthetic idealism endorsed by
Weeklies, well qualified to read another Orwell out of this what seems the most empirical and natural of tests emerges
now familiar type of propaganda, with the critic who could from the contradictions in Orwells own writing. Anything
distinguish a truly popular culture, in England something that worth reading always dates , he claims elsewhere in
goes on beneath the surface, unofficially and more or less reference to Twains Roughing It {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 62), and the
frowned on by the authorities {CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 78) from an literary language which gains majority approval by filtering

administered prolefeed
- rubbish entertainment and spurious into the vernacular is not inevitably from work of the highest

news. 9 quality: The phrases and neologisms which we take over and
use without remembering their origin do not always come
20 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 21
from writers we admire. ( CEJL Vol. 2, p. 224) Isaac
, 9. This principle, which moves from an aesthetic idealism to
Deutschers extension of Orwells remark on Kipling to the the material production within ideology of a body of texts
reception of Nineteen Eighty-Four makes it clear that, in certain deemed aesthetic and valuable, also emerges in another
cases at least, survival may be related less to a spontaneous Orwellian persona, that of the hard-pressed and hard-bitten
majority taste than to the business of cultural and ideological professional writer. As a critic Orwell is quite capable of
reproduction. A book that lends itself to adventitious lapsing back into judgments that idealise literature as a
exploitation, Deutscher suggests, needs not be a literary universal dialogue of free spirits. Even Shakespeare receives a
masterpiece or even an important and original work, and a mild reprimand for refusing to challenge the rich and
great poets words are not easily transformed into slogans them in the most servile way and allowing
powerful, flattering
and hypnotizing bogies. They enter the language by a process subversive opinions to be expressed only by fools and mad
of slow, almost imperceptible infiltration, not by frantic people - points Kenneth Muir despatches succinctly with
incursion. 11 reference to the conditions of production in the English
* * *
theatre, most notably censorship and the screening of all
play- texts by the Master of the Revels. 13 But Orwells
8. The survival through four decades of Big Brother and his

vocabulary, and their apotheosis in 1984, represent, of course,

comments on his own experience of publishing and on the
practical determinants of reputation and survivability trace a
a very special case. Twenty-One Eighty-Four would, for obvious
reasons, have received less attention not only in political
network of relations which is the obverse of this idealist coin.
speeches and tabloid journalism, on television and in the Few modem texts have a more illuminating institutional genesis
than Animal Farm for example: rejected by Dial Press because it
pulpit, but in reviews, books and academic articles, and on
British O
and A Level As literature (or what gets
was impossible to sell animal stories in the USA {CEJL, Vol. 4,
p. 138) and by T.S. Eliot at Faber because we have no
taught on literature courses), Orwells work survives in
conviction ... that this is the right point of view from which to
defiance of his own estimation of it, ranging from the
criticise the political situation at the present time, translated
acknowledged shortcomings of Nineteen Eighty -Four CEJL Vol. ( ,

into Ukrainian for dissemination in the USSR, then seized by

4 pp. 507-536) to the view of his oeuvre as a historically
the American authorities in Munich (1,500 copies) and handed
determined abdication from art and aesthetic enthusiasm -
over to Soviet officials. CEJL Vol. 4, pp. 433-4) These episodes
I am not really a novelist anyway, I have been forced into

are an ironic prelude to the policy changes that sustained a

becoming a sort of pamphleteer. CEJL Vol. 4, p. 478; Vol. 1,
reverse censorship of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four a
p. 26) It also survives despite his conviction of the impossibility ,

positive discrimination accompanying their incorporation into

of any major literature until the world has shaken itself into its
Cold War polemic. 14 Orwell was also familiar with the detail of
new shape. CEJL Vol. 1, p. 578) But as work which is only
more mundane forms of institutional boosting and neglect.
marginally literary, writing not altogether good, 12 the
These include publishers advertising, its effect on reviewing, 15
longevity of which is located outside the aesthetic function,
and the negotiations of literary reviewers who are also authors
Orwells fiction, particularly in 1984, makes visible the principle
- You scratch my back, Ill scratch yours. (Orwell to
more easy concealed closer to the discursive centre of
Connolly) 16 They extend, more crucially, to the teaching of
literature: that the test of time is also a test of the range of
literature, and its links with publishing and the arbitration of
ideological apparatuses and discourses whose work the more
taste. Gordon Comstocks contempt for those moneyed young
naive formulations of literary survival, including those by
beasts who glide so gracefully from Eton to Cambridge and
Orwell himself, would attempt to eclipse.
from Cambridge to the literary reviews 17 is only slightly
modulated in Orwells attack on the Criterion- Scrutiny
22 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 23

assumption that literature is a game of back-scratching (claws Discuss with detailed reference to texts which have not
in or out according to circumstances) between tiny cliques of survived.
highbrows. CEJL Vol. 1, p. 285) At St Cyprians the young
* *
Eric Blairs spare-time reading was determined by the j

requirements of the English Paper {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 386) and

one of Orwells last pieces of published jouranlism, a review of The project that suggests itself then is to recover from
The Great Tradition hints at the tightening noose that binds
Orwells work the fragments of a theory of ideology focusing
literature and pedagogy. Leavis, in this account, aims to induce i on literary and cultural production to re-centre the

in the reader a feeling of due reverence towards the great I distinctively Orwellian in the work on popular culture and
and of due irreverence towards everybody else, implying that the moments in other essays where questions of interpretation
one should read with one eye on the scale of values, like a and form are fused with concerns relegated in the dominant
wine-drinker reminding himself of the price per botde at every academic criticisms to a secondary, purely supplementary,
sip. Thus Austen, George Eliot, James and Conrad are great I sociology of literature. Such a project might emphasize the
while the remaining English novelists appear not only inferior relative autonomy of (and contradiction within) the institu-
but ... reprehensible, and behind it all is the magisterial voice *
dons, rituals and discursive fields of a cultural production
which says Remember boys and I was once a boy myself: I determined only in the last instance by the economic base. 19
But though the boys know that this must be true, they are not Orwells comments on the distortion of his own preferences as
altogether reassured. They can still hear the chilly rusde of the a writer lend support to this reformulation of the centre of his
gown, and they are aware that there is a cane under the desk work, which coincides with the best means of describing it. In a
which will be produced on not very much provocation. 18 letter to Geoffrey Gorer (April 1940) he recommends Boys
the expansion, and complexion, of English Studies in Weeklies, the Dickens essay and Inside the Whale, and adds:
the 1950s and 1960s, this is Orwell at his most prophetic, a I find this kind of semi-sociological literary criticism very
passage to be recalled by anyone who first encountered Animal [
interesting Sc Id liketo do a lot of other writers, but
Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four along with Goldings Lord of the
unfortunately theres no money in it. (CEJL Vol. 1, p. 579)
Flies perhaps, amid chalk-dust, the innate corruption of
* * *
human nature, and the impossibility of significant change.

But a marriage of Orwell and Althusser seems, in other

ways, preposterous and the objections to such a project are
EITHER manifold. Not least of these is Orwells apparent belief in
(a) Orwell is concerned to show how
revolutionary ideals of something like the sanctity of the individual imaginative
justice, equality and fraternity always shatter in the event. response. His view of the novel as a Protestant form of Art *

(A.E. Dyson) inaccessible to Marxists and Catholics (CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 568)

parallels his compulsive need, in fiction and in criticism, be
With Animal Farm he led the wavering lefties out of the to
located outside the smelly orthodoxies. (CEJL, Vol. 1,
pink mists of Left Land into the clear daylight. little

(Wyndham Lewis) P* 504) His account of Practical Criticism, a book he

Do you agree? recommends to anyone who wants a good laugh, endorses the
rite which compels students to
OR respond without prejudice to a
text shorn of all marks of a political or historical context. His
(b) Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except
analysis dwells not on the questionable assumptions of I.A.
survival. (George Orwell)
24 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 25

Richards but on the success of his experiment, which reveals with the callous theorising inhumanity of the pro-Marxists . .

the shortcomings of taste in Cambridge undergraduates who he isnt the usual parlour-Bolshevik seeing literature through
have no more notion of distinguishing between a good poem political glasses.
Of the struggle against fascism Orwell
and a bad one than a dog has of arithmetic. CEJL Vol. 3,
( , wrote, quoting Nietzsche, He who fights too long against
p. 171) The business of recuperating Orwell for the right dragons becomes a dragon himself: and if thou gaze too long
involves, in many cases, no more than reasonable argument into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee {CEJL, Vol. Ill,
backed up by a mountain of evidence. This process of p. 267) - a remark amplified in the Wigan Pier Diary with
recuperation also has a distinguished history which goes back reference to the working man who becomes
a trade- union
at least as far as 1940, when Q.D. Leavis claimed that nature official or a Labour politician: by fighting against the
didnt intend him to be a novelist but that Orwells criticism bourgeoisie he becomes bourgeois. {CEJL, Vol. l,p. 198) This
was almost up to the Scrutiny mark: potentially a good critic, principle of exchange has a peculiar force in relation to
without having scholarship or an academic background he yet Orwell. Nothing in the Critical Heritage volume devoted to his
gives the impression of knowing a surprising amount about work resembles Q,D. Leavis s vituperative tone, dependence
books and authors, an alert intelligence, his pages are not on jargon and conviction of grace more than the Pravda review
of Nineteen Eighty -Four. And the Frank Richards constructed
cluttered up with academic scholarship , what he knows is
live information, not card-index rubbish. If there is a more in Boys Weeklies and the reply to it is in many ways more like
progressive discourse at work in Orwells text it is constantly Orwell than Eric Blair himself.
interrupted by this strain of conservative empiricism, which
* * *
emerges again in his love of a transparent language (prose
like a window-pane) of the surface of the earth, of solid
objects and scraps of useless information. {CEJL, Vol. 1, 14. Orwell too, in other places, is content to caricature
pp. 28-30) It surfaces too in the adherence to a common-sense foreigners and concerned with the nature of Englishness.

aesthetic: the test of time as proof of literary merit; the state of Spaniards are cruel to animals, Italians can do nothing
being most alive outside theory; the form-content division without making a deafening noise, the Chinese are addicted to
which generates insights of the Dali, though a brilliant I gambling. {CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 76) The typically English
draughtsman, is a dirty litde scoundrel variety {CEJL, Vol. 3, characteristics are, in contrast, strikingly close to his own
p. 185), while deploring the separation between ideas I not-really-a-novelist-anyway and anti -theoretical modes: the
criticism and art for arts sake which they implicitly English are not gifted artistically and are not intellectual,
perpetuate. more specifically they have a horror of abstract thought, they
feel no need for any philosophy or systematic world view.

{CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 77) Where theory or an analytical system

suggests one course of action, an intuitive Englishness
13. Literary theory and questions of how we should read lead inevitably intervenes. The English working class, for example,
inevitably back to the political issues. Four months after Frank has never been able to think internationally except for the brief
Richards, in the name of Englishness and decency, cast his success of the Hands off Russia movement in 1920. {CEJL,

antagonist in the role of a dogmatic left-wing theorist, ().D. Vol. 2, p. 85) Orwells Englishmen are finally Bob Cherries,

Leavis upheld the responsible, adult and decent stamp of sturdy individuals with a sense of fair play who oppose

Orwells work in diametrically opposite terms: he can see twentieth- century political theories with not another theory of

through the Marxist theory, and being innately decent (he their own, but a moral quality which must be vaguely
described as decency. {CEJL, Vol. Here Orwell meets
displays and approves of bourgeois morality) he is disgusted
3, p. 28)
26 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 27

Frank Richards again, also the magisterially responsible, adult foreigners and Englishness, they are joined by the Leavises for
and decent Leavises, and sets off on the trail of a notoriously I decency and unease about theory, and they all assemble again
vague and untheorized decency which is the central thread of I on the idealization of a lost past. The world of Greyfriars, Bob
his more conservative discourse. Much has been written on this I Cherry and Billy Bunter is stuck at 1910, writes Orwell {CEJL,

topic in general terms but it merits closer atention. Decency is Vol. 2, pp. 616, 518), a criticism muted by a nostalgia for the
fundamental to Byrons poems CEJL Vol. 1, p. 121) but
( ,
I Edwardian period which haunts much of his own work, fiction
thinking and decent people are generally not too keen on and non-fiction. This is the time before mass -slaughter,
Kipling. {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 225) Shakespeares wish to ingratiate I totalitarianism and the horror of politics {CEJL, Vol. 2,
himself with the rich and powerful is not quite decent, while p. 39), the time of a genuine literaray criticism of the older
Dickens admires nothing but common decency. CEJL Vol. 1,
( ,
\ kind - criticism that is really judicious, scrupulous,
p. 457) For Orwell decency is synonymous with what Marxists J
fair-minded, treating a work of art as a thing of value in itself.
call bourgeois morality {CEJL, Vol. 3, p. 22) but it also I {CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 149) This indistinct past also holds the very
pertains to the decent, labouring poor. {CEJL, Vol. 1, p 77) of the literature denied to a present of partisanship
All decent people want a classless society {CEJL, Vol. 4, t and pamphleteering. After his first dream of the Golden
p. 187) but the means for accomplishing this are difficult to . Country, Winston Smith wakes up with the word Shake-
imagine as it almost seems, to Orwell, that men are only J
speare on his lips. {1984, p. 31) Orwells self-conscious
decent when they are powerless. {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 372) The ;
markedly from the more earnest and cerebral
nostalgia differs
recipe that emerges is for political quietism coupled perhaps pastoralism of F.R. Leaviss organic community. But from
with revolutionary fantasy, and the baggy definition of the two contrasting myths of the past there issues a common
decent, in these instances and throughout Orwells work, and the concrete, a
rhetoric of independence, responsibility
comes uncomfortably close to his definition of English. 23 stewardship of humane values and decency against a pressing
Neither category entertains many prospects of change. In 1984 reductivism and dehumanization. Orwells criticism of the
such terms are the preserve of a right-wing, right-minded older kind is the conservative strain in his own criticism. It is

doublethink. Without them it would be difficult to escalate the and the correct method of reading as laid
also Scrutiny criticism
arms race and claim We are the Peace Movement, 24 or to
down by a British government report published in 1921.
accept (or rather disguise) a figure of 4j million unemployed Orwell, as Q.D. Leavis noted, was not an academic critic, and
while justifying the institution of a small police-state in his marginal status in this respect seems to have kept him

Nottinghamshire as a defence of the miners right to work. It unaware of the fact that to be disinterested, untheoretical and
may be that Orwell was really a decent enough type while the fearlessly unorthodox was becoming just about as orthodox as

Thatcher/Brittan/Heseltine uses of decent are, in fact, I you could get.

indecent. Small consolation. [Language] becomes ugly and
$ $ $
inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the
slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have
The Newspeak C 16. The Newbolt Committees report to the British Board of
foolish thoughts. {CEJL, Vol. 4, p. 157
vocabulary would do well to limit decent to accommodation Education on The Teaching of English in England (1921) is
and cups of tea. 26 beginning to receive the attention it merits, 28 and there is room
here only to give the barest synopsis. English appears as a
$ # * relatively recent invention, the first chairs in the subject having
been established at Cambridge as late as 1878 and at Oxford in

15. Orwell and Frank Richards concur to some extent on

1885. The task at hand is to promote English literature in
28 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 29

education as a basis of humane culture, a great source of [CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 157) Behind
this presentation of the central

national pride and a potential bond of national unity.

To conflict there is a renunciation - Lears, mirrored in
this end, literature is to be viewed as a record of the Tolstoys, which reflects in turn Orwells self-professed
experiences of the greatest minds (p. 149), one which has a sacrifice of a disinterested art (Shakespeare) to the pressure of

historical dimension but which is to be studied primarily for its conscience (Tolstoy) and the fate of the pamphleteer: Forty
nobler, more eternal and universal element. (p. 205) In the years later, Shakespeare is still there, completely unaffected,
tradition of Matthew Arnold, the reports apostle of culture and of the attempt to demolish him nothing remains except
(p. 259), thisbody of work will civilize in ways that transcend the yellowing pages of a pamphlet which hardly anyone has
theoretical and political considerations, being part of a read ... ( CEJL Vol. 4, p. 348) But one author of the Newbolt

disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is Report had read Tolstoys pamphlet, and exploited it with a
known and thought in the world, and to see the object as in startling disingenuousness as an instance of the doctrinaire
itself it really is. There is much
here that might have engaged rejection of art now prevalent in Bolshevist Russia. (p. 254)
the more conservative Orwell, with his nostalgia for an older This attack on the Soviet Union, like the one in the Suns
criticism which treats the work as a thing of value in itself. celebration of Orwell sixty-three years later, is largely for
The Newbolt Report also bends the discourse which links domestic consumption, aimed at the enemy within. The
Arnold, the Leavises and the future of literary studies in working classes, especially those belonging to organised labour
England up to the 1970s towards a construction of the movements are, the report claims, antagonistic to, and
Englishness which preoccupied Orwell too, and which marks contemptuous of, literature, associating it with antimacassars,
in his work a limit of the theoretical, and a privileged site of the fish-knives and other unintelligible and futile trivialities of
empirical, the intuitive and
the decent. But the reports middle-class culture , and rejecting academic literary study

analysis of literature, pedagogy, and their relation to English as an attempt to side-track the working-class movement.
society strays into areas that acknowledge pressing historical The committee concludes that the nation of which a
and political considerations, and touch on aspects of the considerable portion rejects this means of grace, and despises
ideological determination of what literature is and how it this great spiritual influence, must assuredly be heading to
functions which are lost in a blind spot in Orwells criticism, disaster. (p. 252) For the class whose culture is represented in

between the sketchy comments on literature and schooling at the Newbolt Report as Culture itself, this disaster came close

the edge of his semi-sociological, quasi-materialist mode, to arriving only five years later, with the 1926 General Strike.
and the more orthodox strain of fearless distinterestedness
* * *
and the imaginative response. By coincidence Orwells own
work and these areas of the Newbolt Report intersect at a
17. In the blind spot of Orwells criticism there are at least
significant, if idiosyncratic, point - Tolstoys attack on King
twenty things he never knew, or failed to interrelate, that
Lear. Orwell makes Tolstoys essay the occasion for a
would have rendered problematic his unwitting affirmation of
confrontation between dogmatic stringency and the organic
the Arnold-Newbolt-Leavis line. These include the impact of
vitality of a uniquely gifted imagination. Shakespeare, typically
the Hands Off Russia movement on the Newbolt Reports
English, was not a philosopher or a scientist, but he did have
attempt to produce a focus of national unity in the
curiosity, he loved die surface of the earth and the process of
32 disinterested pursuit of literary culture; the origin of academic
life.(CEJL, Vol. 4, p. S45) Tolstoy, in contrast, is a spiritual
English Literature as a poor mans Classics in the WEA
bully, a moralist attacking an artist, one who fails to recognize
colleges; Engelss comments on the role of
that Shakespeare can no more be debunked by such methods such innovations in
establishing a labour aristocracy which
than you can destroy a flower by preaching a sermon at tt would co-operate
30 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 31

with the bourgeoisie in times of crisis; the 1926 sell-out when shadowy pedant, less implicated in the academys production of

trade union leaders capitulated to government at the moment literaturethan in impeding what Orwell sees as the literary
when the General Strike was gathering momentum and trade and critical imaginations natural course. There are only
unionists on strike committees up and down the country were ,
random observations and a failure, finally, to connect. The
gaining control of towns and villages in the face of every organ Wigan Pier proles are commended for their ability to see

of local and central government, the police and army, radio through [education] and reject it by a healthy instinct, 40 but
and press, scabs, employers and fascists united as one elsewhere Orwell notes with approval that the standard of
instrument against the labour movement; the recognition on public education in England has risen. (CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 97) He
the left, in the aftermath of the strike, of a failure to educate recognizes, with Wyndham Lewis, that the English working

workers politically - in the theory and history of working-class class are branded on the tongue (CEJL, Vol. 3, p. 19), but

struggle; 36
and finally Sir Henry Newbolts direct appeal, in his makes no connection between this and the hegemonic
presidential address to the English Association in 1928 and in construction of a national language and literary culture.
the wake of our nine days civil war, for a sense of national Meanwhile, in another part of the Newbolt Report, the
unity based not on but on everyone forgetting
social equality Divisional Inspector of Schools is pleased to announce that
In the event literature, as an ideological
that classes existed. 1
teachers of phonedcs and voice production have gone some
formation centred in education, did not go the way of way towards getting rid of undesirable forms of London
antimacassars, now rarely seen outside the first-class speech. (p. 165)
compartments on work by Renee Balibar,
British Rail. Recent
Dominique Laport, Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey
confirms the part played by literary study in the educadon
systems reproducdon of the relations of production, a process
which includes not only access to the riches of culture for the

18. Blair's legacy to criticism is the two discourses, each

successful minority but also the perpetuauon, within the periodically displacing the other and offering no prospect of
dominant ideology, of a class ejected from the system at an synthesis beyond continuing his own project of constructing a
early stage which can experience the national language and literary/historical subject Orwell whose humanity and
culture only in terms of an exclusion and a state of being integrity rest in a refusal of the openly theoretical - the man
tongue-tied to a basic fragment. This process of literature who is more significant than his work, 41 the quirky
remains, as Terry Eagleton argues, a crucial mechanism by combination of committed socialist and conservative
eccentric, 42 the wintry conscience of a generation, 43 the
which the language and ideology of an imperialist class
During this mechanisms great mythic bearer of an implacable honesty which is an English
establishes its hegemony.
characteristic - an honesty which is humorous, obstinate if not
period of consolidation, Orwell appears in the guise of a
pig-headed, and, above all, somehow sweet , 44 Whether this
classically- trained Old Etonian innocent abroad, loosely aware
sweet English decency is to be recuperated by the right or
of the relationship between literature and state pedagogy but j

reclaimed by the left is now largely immaterial. There are other

not of its extent and intricacy, nor of the concealed ideological
ways of contesting Orwell which refuse to refurbish the
work of the personal and disinterested response. He sees ji

category of the autonomous subject in this way,

Arnold only as a proponent of art for arts sake, instrumental and which may
acknowledge, with Foucault or Derrida, that the rediscovery of
in re-establishing links between English culture and
writing, text, discourse implies
European mainstream. (CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 151) Newbolt appears a fading of man as the
privileged, transcendental signified an assimilation of Blair,
only as the unintentionally comic minor poet of play up and
enneth Miles and P.S. Burton,
play the game. (CEJL, Vol. 1, pp. 561, 592) Leavis is the perhaps, into the divided,
32 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 33

eternaland omni-directional H. Lewis Allways ,

Orwell and homeopathic medicines, nudists, pacifists, Labour Party
unbound. 45 backstairs crawlers, people who do yoga and live in Welwyn
Garden City, and those who wear pistachio-coloured shirts or
the ubiquitous sandals so detested by the man H.G. Wells
* *

described as an English Trotskyist writer with enormous

19. Such critical practices would negate themselves
by seeking feet.
51 in this list there will be a random hit against
Orwells posthumous approval. And there is no doubt that any anyone involved, however marginally, in the present transition
successor in Nineteen Eighty-Four to the liberal academy might from an increasingly discredited tradition of disinterested
well have borne at least a strong superficial resemblance Eng. Lit. to the study of language, ideology and cultural forms
to the

multi-disciplinary field loosely defined in 1984 as contempor- anticipated in Orwells semi-sociological work. But the
ary critical theory. The Lacanian and Althussenan subject damage is in the past, and this handing of ammunition to what
moves towards confirming Orwells fear that what he called Orwell regarded elsewhere as the class-enemy is well
the autonomous individual was going to be stamped
out of documented. The best course after 1984 is to take what is

existence ( CEJL Vol. 1, p. 576), questioning the integrity of useful from Orwells more progressive criticism, use it to

the few cubic centimetres inside your skull considered contextualize the conservative strain, and look to your
inviolable by Winston Smith, the last man in Europe. (1984, footwear: My kid made sure he was some kind of enemy agent
pp. 27,234) A number of other key
oppositions present She spotted he was wearing a funny kind of shoes - said
themselves: Orwells anxieties about the disappearance of an shed never seen anyone wearing shoes like that before ...
objective history against the contemporary view of historical Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? (1984, p. 53)

discourse as inevitably a production of the past for the

$ * *
present; 46
Derridean ecriture or Barthess view of writing as an
intransitive verb against Orwells wish to move wridng closer
to speech and the prophetic reply of the insufferable youth in 20. He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended
Inside the Whale - My dear aunt ... one doesnt write about upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that
47 of
anything, one just writes ' The Prevention Literature and this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was

the Macherey/Balibar prevention of just such a concept as fairly sure that his age was thirty- nine, and he believed that he

literature from functioning naturally and obscuring its

own had been born in 1944 or 1945 but it was never possible
work as an ideological form; Orwells view of ideology as a nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two. (1984,

dogmatic system of ideas, against an ideology which pervades pp. 11-12)

the subjects consciousness as a lived, imaginary relation to

real conditions of existence.

Beyond these areas of contention Perhaps it was 1985 after all, or 1986 - another year or two to
ducks in drag out the commercial and critical Orwellfest, a stay of
are the stereotypes that pop up in Orwells text like tin
a shooting-gallery, joining theory, intellectualism,
socialism execution for tabloid Big Brother nightmares, and then? On

and ideas of sexual aberration in the broad category of the leader page of the Sun for 2 January 1984, to the left of

left-wing trendy, which remains powerfully operative

while What we must all do to keep Big Brother at bay and above 20

right-wing trendies from Scrutiny to Scruton pass theoretically THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT GEORGE ORWELL,
This series of moving there is a cartoon. Three women gossip and drink tea, ignoring
invisible and relatively unmolested.
targetsincludes Pinks, pansies, feminists,
50 Quakers, a diminutive vicar. On the left, spread across a settee and
bearded snoring, an unshaven man toes protruding
shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, is in his vest,
birth-contro through the holes in his socks and hand
vegetarians, fruit-juice drinkers, proponents of left trailing between
34 Inside the Myth Malcolm Evans 35

beer-can, cigarette packet and ashtray. A fat woman in slippers constructions of morality, class and political freedom. But it
and apron is saying: IF BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING MY also reaches into the areas repressed in the text around it - into
HUSBAND, HES IN FOR A BORING YEAR! British the twenty things you never knew about George Orwell that
workers are shiftless anyway, so if this one is unemployed he is you are never likely to read about in the Sun. The cartoon is a
probably not too concerned. Women go on nattering and pastiche of the style described by Orwell in The Art of Donald
drinking tea. These people would not repay the trouble of McGill, with its heavy lines and empty spaces, grotesque,
communist police- state surveillance but, through the vigilance staring, blatant quality, overwhelming vulgarity, and utter

of their betters, it will not happen anyway. This is

England. Big lowness of mental atmosphere. CEJL Vol. 2, pp. 184-5) The ( ,

Brother is not watching. While literary have been

critics same pot-bellied husband appears in any number of seaside
cultivating sensibility in the minority, writes Terry Eagleton, postcards of the 1920s and 30s, peering across the sand and
large segments of the media have been busy trying to devastate saying I cant see my little Willy. His wife is one of McGills
it in the majority.
It is no longer enough to assume that a monstrously parodied women with bottoms like Hottentots
reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four (or Animal Form, or Romeo and (CEJLy Vol. 2, p. 184), idealized by Orwell in Nineteen
Juliet for that matter) will refine the sensibilities and enhance Eighty-Four as the indomitable spirit of the English working
the critical awareness of English students - particularly the class: a monstrous woman ... with heavy red forearms, no

large majority who will not enter higher education

- or equip mind only strong arms, a warm heart, and a fertile belly,
. . .

them to read against the Sun, television commercials, ITN News powerful mare-like buttocks, Shes beautiful, he mur-
and the whole range of discourses mobilized within the culture mured, Out of these mighty loins a race of conscious beings
industry. And when Orwells annus mirabilis is finally over there must one day come 1984 pp. 123, 187-8). The cartoon( ,

should be no further recourse to questions solely concerned pursues these references relentlessly, in the stuffed seagull
with what he really meant, the weakness of his characteriz- which decorates the hat of one of the visiting women
ation, the tendency of politics to interfere with the story
- the (deliberately ugly, the faces grinning and vacuous, CEJL Vol. ,

sort of normative academic exercise which accomplishes its 2, midget clergyman (always a nervous
p. 185), the imbecile,
idiot CEJLy Vol. 2, p. 187), and the naming of Big Brother
own form of devastation. 54 1984 will intervene, the centurys;
most textualized year, and one which re-presents Orwells text himself within an inversion of the warm, decent, deeply

as an incrustation of discourses and practices constituted as human atmosphere of Orwells sentimentalized working-class
new objects of study for a post-post-Newbolt English: the
language of the Data Protection Bill and DHSS leaflets; the
reporting of Cruise, the Greenham Common peace camps and the fire glows in the open range and dances mirrored in the
. . .

of the Soviet state steel fender Father, in shirt sleeves, in the rocking chair at
the miners strike; the final capitulation sits
. . .

one side of the

broadcasting system to the allure of The Benny Hill Show ; j
finals, and Mother sits on
fire reading the racing
the other side with her sewing,
and the historic alliance of the High Court, The Times and the and the children are happy with a
pennorth of mint humbugs, and the dog lolls roasting himself on
National Front to protect academic order and disinterested

London the rag mat. Wigan Pier

teaching 56 in the Humanities Faculty of North (
, p. 104)

canon be room,
Polytechnic. In this new, more fluid there will
In the cartoon, Mother no longer knows her place, and the
at least temporarily, for the cartoon on the Sun s first editorial

own. sleeping Father, newspaper open at a page which bears a

page of 1984, which has a density and intertextuality of its
remarkable resemblance to the one we are
At one level it blocks the saturnalian release and subversion looking at, now
reads the Sun. Such self-reference
attributed by Orwell to truly popular versions of this
type of may well bring a minor burst
dominant jouissance to the refined deconstructed
art {CEJLy Vol. 2, pp. 193-4), simply reaffirming the sensibility, a pleasure
36 Inside the Mythl Malcolm Evans 37

Sun as literature. But it is only the first Conor Cruise OBrien, review of CEJL Meyers

in textuality or in the 23 See in (ed.), op.cit.,

step on a path which leads back to the political imperative of pp. 346-348.

Raymond Williams, Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984, Marxism Today,

Orwells best criticism in the 1930s and 1940s, and then 24 Cf.
January 1984, p. 14; P. Chilton, Newspeak: Its the Real Thing, in C.
forward to the conjunction of theory and sign -breaking his London, 1983,
Aubrey and Chilton (eds.). Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984,
work never fully denunciation without an
achieved: *no pp. 36-41.
appropriate method of detailed analysis, no semiology which 2 b My intention here is to turn Orwells text against itself, not to
analysis, be acknowledged as semioclasm. this view of the relationship between language and thought.
cannot, in the last
26 See Nineteen Eighty-Four, pp. 265-266.
27 See Francis Mulhem, The Moment of Scrutiny, London, 1979, pp.
Terry Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology London, 1976, pp. 24, 40.

28 See C. Baldick, The Social Mission of English Studies, Oxford, 1983, pp.
Notes 89-107; B. Doyle, The Hidden History of English Studies, in P.
Widdowson (ed.), Re-reading English, London, 1982, p. 17ff. T. Hawkes,
In S. Orwell and I. Angus (eds.) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters oj Telmah: To the Sunderland Station, Encounter, April 1983, pp. 50-60.
George Orwell, Vol. 1, Harmondsworth, 1970, p. 516. Referred to 29 Board of Education, The Teaching of English in England, London, 1921,

hereafter as CEJV .
p. 202.
CEJL,N ol. l,p. 26; Vol. 4, p. 167; Vol. l,p. 492. 30 Matthew Arnold, Complete Prose Works Vol. Ill, R.H. Super (ed.), Ann
CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 99; Vol. 3, pp. 431-2, Vol. 4, pp. 441-2; Vol. 1, pp. 366, Arbor, 1962, pp. 258, 282.
392 and 421. 31 This does not exclude New Criticism. See T. Hawkes, Structuralism and
CEJL, Vol. 4, p. 464. London, 1977, pp. 151-156.

C. Mercer and J. Radford (eds.), An Interview with Pierre Macherey, Red 32 Shakespeare was like most Englishmen in having a code of conduct,

Letters No. 5, pp. 6-9.

but no world view, no philosophical faculty. {CEJL, Vol. 2, p. 155)
Judy Wade, Sun 2 January 1984, p.6. 33 See CEJL, Vol. 4, pp. 340-3.
See P. Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production (tr.G.Wall), London, 1978, 34 John Dover Wilson. See Hawkes, art.cit., pp. 55-57.
pp. 85-90. 35 J.
Foster, British Imperialism and the Labour Aristocracy, in J. Skelley
8 B. Crick, George Orwell:A Life Harmondsworth, 1982,
p. 45. (ed.), The General Strike 1926, London, 1976, p. 3.

9 Nineteen Eighty- Four Harmondsworth, 1983, p. 263. 36 H. Francis, South Wales, in Skelley (ed.), op.cit., p. 232.
10 CEJL, Vol. l,pp. 491-2, 557-61; Vol. 2, pp. 149 ff. 37 P. Howarth, Play Up and Play the Game, London, 1973, p. 12.

11 I. Deutscher, 1984 - The Mysticism of Cruelty, in S. Hynes (ed.), 38 E. Balibar and P. Macherey, On Literature as an Ideological Form, in
Twentieth Century Interpretations of 1984 ,
Englewood Cliffs, 1971, p. 30. R. Young (ed.), Untying the Text: A Post- Structuralist Anthology, London,
1 2 See below notes 4 1 and 54. 1981, pp. 79-99; R. Balibar, Les Franqais Fictifs, Paris, 1974; R. Balibar
13 CEJL, Vol. 4, p. 435; Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare and Politics, in A, and D. Laporte, Le Frangais National, Paris, 1974.
Kettle (ed.), Shakespeare in a Changing Worlds London, 1964, p. 74. 39 Eagleton, op.cit., p 55.

14 See Meyers (ed .),George Orwell: The Critical Heritage London,

1975, 40 The Road to Wigan Pier, Harmondsworth, 1962, p. 103. Referred to
Conor Cruise OBrien, Writers and Politics, London, 1965, hereafter as
Wigan Pier
pp. 19-20; .

p. 32.
41 See A. Zwerdling, Orwell and the Left, New Haven and London, 1974,
15 See CEJL Vol. 1, pp. 348, 366; Vol. 4, pp. 215-8.
p. 143; R. Williams, Orwell, London, 1971, pp. 52, 94. cf. CEJL, Vol. I,

p. 23.
16 Letter dated 14 March 1938 {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 343)
17 Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Harmondsworth, 1962, p. 13.
Conor Cruise OBrien, op.cit., p. 33.

18 Exclusive Club, Observer, 6 February 1949, p. 3. Not included

in CEJL. V.S. Pritchetts New Statesmen obituary,
in Meyers (ed.), op.cit., p. 294.
Lenin and Malcolm Muggeridge, Esquire review of CEJL (March 1969), in Meyers
19 See L. Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,
(ed.), op.cit., p. 360.
Philosophy, (tr.B. Brewster), London, 1971,pp. 134-136 passim. ,

45 In November1932, before the publication of Down and Out in Paris and

Scrutiny review included in Meyers (ed.), op.cit., p. 188.
20 Q.D. Leavis,
London, Blair offered Miles, Burton,
21 Ibid., pp. 187-188. Orwell and Allways to Gollancz
and Cntenm
j as a choice of pseudonyms.
P. Stansky and W. Abrahams, The Unknown
22 Q.D. Leaviss venom is directed towards Stephen Spender Orwell,
Pravda May 1950) in Mey^ London, 1972, p. 254. See also M. Foucault, The Order of Things,
particular. See also I. Ansimovs review 12 (

ondon, 1970, pp. 385-387;

(ed.), op.cit., pp. 282-283. J. Derrida, Writing and Difference, (tr. A.
Inside the Mytf
Bass),London, 1978, pp. 279-280, 293.
46 See Homage to Catalonia Harmondsworth, 1962, pp. 233-7. cf. C.

Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind London, 1972, pp- 256-9,

and Terry
Eagleton, Walter Benjamin, London, 1981, pp. 51-52.

47 CEJL, Vol. 3, p. 165; Vol. 1, p. 557.

48 Althusser, art. cit., p. 187.
of CEJL and
49 There is only one reference to Scrutiny in the four volumes ,

none to Q.D. or F.R. Leavis. Alan Brown

take CEJL Vol. lj
50 Readers interested in Orwell and feminism should ,

n.20 into account, also Nineteen Eighty-Four

p. 160 and Vol. 2, p. 191, ,

110-112, 126-127 and Jenny Taylor, Desire is

Thoughtcrime, in Examining Orwell:
Aubrey and Chilton pp. 24-32.
(eds.), op.cit.,

51 See Wigan Pier, 1, pp. 245-6, and numerou!

pp. 152, 195-196; CEJL, Vol. Political and Literary Values in
index entries on Pinks, Intelligensia, left-wing etc. I

52 OBrien, op.cit., pp. 32-33; E.P. Thompson, Out of

Apathy, London, Education
historical materialism, tht
1960, pp. 158fF. Orwells sceptical view of
pea-and-thimble trick with those three mysterious entities, thesiv
antithesis and synthesis leads not to an escape from
theory but to tht
conservatism of a cyclical view of history and the truism power corrupts':
27-28; and C A good deal of hard work has gone into producing the George
see CEJL, Vol. 1, pp. 489-9; Zwerdling, op.cit., pp.
Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit, Harmondsworth, 1970, p. 128. OrwelF who has featured so large in the macabre celebrations
53 Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory, Oxford, 1983, pp. 215-216. of 1984. The earliest efforts were put in by Eric Blair, whose


The political message is constantly getting in the way of the story and
choice of a pseudonym was one element in the construction of
this diminishes its interest and excitement. How
far do you agree with

view of 1984?' (London A Level English Literature paper, Summer

a literary voice.From Blair into Orwell is a road well trodden

Characterisation in this novel is negligible: it is completely by biographers: a personal journey which traces the evolving
subordinated to the political message. Do you agree? (London A Level, values of an individual. But biographical criticism can take us
Winter 1973). This type of Orwell question, reaffirming a particular! only so far in an understanding of the Orwell phenomenon.
ideology of literature rather than a directly political
Concerned with the raw material of Orwells life and times, it
predominates in public examination papers.
Communications and
has little to say about how this material has been selectively
55 See Chilton, art.cit. and other essays in the
Technologies sections of Aubrey and Chilton (eds.), op.cit. forged into a powerful instrument of political dogma.
56 See Totalitarian Nursery, The Times 18 May 1984, p.
11 and Roger
, There is a certain continuity between much that Orwell
Scruton, The Enemy in the Classroom, The Times 22 May 1984, p.
wrote and the outlines of a later, Orwellian voice, but the
This list covers only the first half of 1984.
latter did not become part of political culture without going
57 Roland Barthes, Mythologies ,
(tr. A. Lavers), London, 1973, p. 9.
through the mills of mass media, of the education system:
institutions of learning and taste. The significance of
OrwelF as a weapon of Cold War propaganda, as a means of
persuading a generation of the essential futility of radical social
change, go far beyond the intentions of
a single biography.
Rather than seeking out the details of
Orwells existence, we
need to look again at the necessity
of his invention.
Focusing on the use of Orwells texts
in education both
restricts and expands
the topic of this essay. It cuts out a range
me k ut it brings to the foreground questions about the

Inside the Myth Alan Brown 41
politicalcontent of teaching practices. This is
particularly year, his work appears on all of the Examining Boards at O or
which works A Level, but his presence throughout the post-war decades has
important in dealing with a subject, literature,
through techniques of dialogue and persuasion.
It may be been constant. In putting together a profile of Orwell in the
acceptable to convince year upon year of examinees
that Shake- education system, I have relied on two main sources:
speares tragic characters are brought down
by a flaw in their examination questions drawn from the different Boards over
nature, less so to teach Animal Farm as the
artistic evidence of a the past thirty years and a wide selection of Study Aids,
tragic flaw in political idealism.
The politics of literature primarily on Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I would not
teaching are not, in any case, confined to
interventions on claim that the Study Aids reproduce the details of teaching
political topics. In its very form, literary education can be a Orwell in any given or likely situation. What they offer is an
subtle and coercive medium for instilling
beliefs and values. uncontroversial reading of plots and themes, a fund of
Discussions of literature in schools are tied to
examinations, typicality in a language without questions. The remarkable

This may not exhaust the possibilities of teaching

but it always unanimity of views across these different books is the strongest
defines them. Students are required to attain
a certain level, to reason for taking their arguments seriously. They provide an
succeed, as in any competitive environment.
They are also adequate complement to the preoccupations of exam
required to enter into a language of personal response self- , questions on Orwell as they have emerged across the Boards

expression, to have opinions and tastes.

They are at the same and over the years.
time being instructed and being asked to
supply the positive There is no suggestion here of a conspiracy in the
content of their instruction. This can be an exciting and creative) production of an Orwell myth. To believe in a conscious,
process equally it can be a manipulative form of thought hidden intention behind the consensus of views would lead to
totalitarian fantasies of the kind which Nineteen Eighty-Four
policing. ... J
work to deals in. A vital part of the development of political myths in a
At their worst, the masonic rituals of literary criticism
persuade students to reproduce acceptable ideas
as personal democradc, pluralist society consists in the form of debate: not
received from above as subjec- in the willful suppression of contrary views but in the
response, to internalise attitudes
enough outward mouv persistence of shared and unexamined assumptions.
tive points of view. Certainly, there

doublethink and if thj There is a wide plurality of views on Orwell from conflicting
ation for examinees to perform this ,

presented as simple common political stances. The most popular account, amply expressed
ideas and values are themselves 4
by Lionel Trillings introduction to Homage to Catalonia
sense, resistance becomes hard to imagine.

persona that it conveys a presents the writer as a personification of moral values. But
It is characteristic of the Orwell
neutral, received wisdom, of objective and human tru&sj there is no shortage of other, more sceptical, iconoclastic
good the conscience of an versions. Should these latter accounts of Orwell succeed in
Ideas of Orwell as the man of will,

vocabulary of belief which passes lot dominating the literary-polidcal consensus, another version
age are supported by a
will be passed on to successive generadons, as the truth about
self-evidence and everyday language. If the techniques of per
masontc, Orwell, as Orwell himself.
suasion familiar to literary criticism can be termed
symbols understood onl) At the basis of the myth, it is taken for granted that we are
this is not because they rest on arcane
wisdom is spoken dealing with a single personality. In so far as we reflect on the
by an elite. The very opposite, popular critical prox- poliucal world in which Orwell wrote, this is in order to judge
Its apparent
in a language which goes without saying. the veracity of his account. By
uncritica y> as0 placing the personal before the
imity to common sense invites us to adopt it, political in this
way, by stressing from all sides the primary
significance of Orwell as individual,
study makes^M I the consensus of views
Orwells popularity as material for school receives its grounding.
excepuo Arguments about Orwells honesty,
unique amongst his contemporaries. In the present,
I 43
Inside the Myth] Alan Brown
with Orwell as representative of an epoch is paralleled by
realism, stamina,
all work strengthen the politically:
interest in his personal qualities:
debilitating assumption that social conflict is secondary, I
This cheap transcendence is the
beyond the individual.
It sets the agenda for Do you think that Orwell emerges from Homage to Catalonia as a
mundane work of literary criticism.
our perceptions of history and
that brave man or not? 8

debate and ensures

subjectivity are mediated by unchanging,
timeless truths of ,

human nature, morality and fate. The price of such wisdom is a The oscillation between individual and social characteristics

studied ignorance of the ways in which timeless

truths are has a purpose. If Orwell is to act as the representative voice for
themselves fabricated through political culture. an entire generation, his credentials must first be established:

He was an observer, keeping as fair-minded as possible about

Inside the
As a proportion of the exam questions on Orwell at O
and A what he saw, remaining responsible to objective truth. (York Notes

with the author himself are in a Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 8)

Level, those which deal
with Animal Farm and, at 0 In short, throughout his adult life and work, George Orwell
minority. The largest group deals
on of donkeys and remained a fiercely honest man, even with himself. (Coles Notes
Level, the emphasis is more the characters
I begin with! Animal Farm p. 5)
dictators than on the author as such. Nevertheless,

character because the myth of Orwell was sociable and home-loving, believing in family life ...
a reading of the author as
bears directly on the teaching of primary Orwell was selfless, naturally mild and gentle ... Orwell loved
Orwellian values
animals Exaggeratedly perhaps, but significantly, one of his
friends called him a saint. (Brodies Notes , Animal Farm, pp. 12-13)
Questions about the author derive from a limited selection
of essays and autobiographical accounts which have

on syllabuses: Inside the Whale and Other Essays, Homage to The Orwell myth involves a type of canonisation. A version of
Catalonia, Selected Writings
The following
are taken from the the individual as embodiment of human values leads inevitably
a curious rhetorical
Associated Examining Board, 1971-2 and deal with a trustworthy guide.
Inside thi to his status as It is

mixture: moral values of bravery, honesty, sympathy are

linked directly to criteria of objectivity and straightforward
fact. Implicit here is the belief that moral purity is inseparable
What impression have you formed of George Orwell from
your I

from truth as such. If we want to know the facts of an era we

reading of this book? Illustrate your answer by careful reference I
must seek out its saints:
to his work... >
age. Explain
Orwell has been called the social conscience of his
The writer, as Orwell sees him, especially the prose writer, is the
thisremark and comment on it . .

Illustrate this I guardian of simplicity, objectivity and straightforward fact, and

Orwell has been praised for his wide sympathies.
so, in our age, he becomes the protector of the human spirit. (York
by comparing two essays from this collection. Notes, Nineteen Eighty -Four,
p. 8)

way of
The second and third questions help to suggest the right The binding together of morality and objectivity works to erase
answering the first. embracing figure
Orwell is an our sense of a point of view in reading Orwell. Given the
conscience and sympathies. This is not
simply P^ n .
mixture of truth to fact and truth to self, statements attributed
discussion. The last question asks for illustrations ol to the author take
The cone on an oracular and incontestable value. In
sympathies which are assumed to be in evidence.
Inside the Myth Alan Brown 45
Orwellian voice is when in 1941 many people were praising the cleverness of
the following extract, the neutrality of this

Stalins foreign policy ... Orwell condemned it as treacherous and

put to a political use:
opportunistic.Nor would he silence his criticisms when the Soviet
Union entered the Second World War on the side of the allies.
Basing his argument on personal experience
and commonsense,
This was precisely the moment when he wrote Animal Farm.
comes to the conclusion that
but mostly on observed fact, Orwell
and irrelevant. (Longmans Study Text Animal Farm p. xxii)

the socialism of his time was mosdy unrealistic ,

(York Notes , Animal Farm p. 8)

There is no suggestion here that words such as treacherous

and opportunistic might be insufficient, even misleading as

experience ? The
Who can contradict commonsense fact , ,
an account of Soviet foreign policy. Everything encourages us
conveyed by an insistence on personal
authors authority is to read history as a morality play, a melodrama of
experience and impartial knowledge. We are led back to Eton
honesty versus treachery. Adjectives such as burning colour
Spain and Paris, across the curriculum vitae
and Burma, Wigan, the picture of Orwells commitment to truth as religious in
what is lived is
of the writers experience. The authenticity of nature and His speaking-out of unpalatable truths is
language of detachment - observed
counterbalanced by a
an imperative, a vocation. There is no pause to reflect on the
fact. Orwell lived the socialism
of his time, applied his
politics of his interpretations; we are led back once more to the
normative mind to traits and comes to the conclusion ...
individual source from which they stem.
Led along by the empiricist appeal of this argument it In this way, the eternal role of the artist as truth- teller is
This at least would be so for
harnessed to a political function. Experience, common sense,
hard to refute Orwells verdict.
the politics of Orwell s generation for
students approaching realism and honesty are each facets of a total and
the first time. The total absence of doubt
or qualification must
manufactured personality. Taken together, they provide a
swallow opinion and even bigotry as acceptable
incline them to platform from which political attitudes can be put across in
The following notorious extract from The Road to Wigan
truth. education without suspicion of bias or indoctrination. Putting
a reminder of Orwells manner of discussing
Pier is Orwells point of view (that of reason and decency) is not
type: really putting a point of view at all. It is a way of seeing behind
the transience of polidcal conflict to the more basic truths of
that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal -wearers human nature and morality.
fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the
The reduction of politics to personality moves from
and bearded
smell of progress like bluebottles to a dead comments on specific historical moments to embrace Orwells

wider philosophy. Here, the individual is all-pervasive:

A further aspect of the personality myth stresses realism ,


pain of truth. Experience not merely travel; it k also, in its

is The chief theoretical difficulty for Orwell was caused by his
Orwell human which interfere with
religious sense, suffering through knowledge.
awareness of individual differences,

characterised across the range of biographical

glosses in Study the abstract group philosophy of socialism. He was himself a
Aids as a stoic figure, seeing the truth (the worst)
and refusing courageous individualist, and he feared the loss of freedom that he
knew socialism involved. (Coles Notes Nineteen Eighty-Four pp. 7-8)
to flinch from it: , ,

Reading through the pathos of the Orwellian dilemma we

Orwell never deluded himself His burning love of truth, 25 ^
. . . I

may not pick up the damaging assumptions on which the

the indiffer^j
saw it, made him an uncomfortable goad to argument
pp- H Socialism of
rests. as abstract, as the loss
complacent or malevolent. (Brodies Notes ,
Animal Farm ,
Inside the Myth Alan Brown 47
presented as known and feared. The form, the way is open for a socialism itself devoid of content.
individual freedom is
Orwells socialism can be reduced to a Victorian value of
value of elevating Orwell to heroic and mythical proportions is
concern and charity towards others, to a moral subjectivism
nothing so much as this: politics are reduced to the stage on
which calls for no more than a sentimental response:
which the writer performs and, following the writer, we make
few complaints about the scenery.
Typically, Orwell related every experience back to his overriding
Seeing the world through the eyes of an individual creates a
concern for the poor. (Longmans Study Text, Animal Farm p. xvii)
world of personal values. At the extreme, these values are used ,

to embrace the whole political field. Orwell as the

Socialism as moral piety is perfecdy acceptable inside the
representative voice of an age is shown to contain the differing
Orwell myth. But any attempt to conceive of society and*
and contradictory strands of his time. The conflicting elements
subjecdvity as susceptible to organised change must be
achieve a precarious harmony in the Orwell persona:
subjective perceived solely as threat. Socialism is assimilated to fascism;
socialist/critic of socialism, idealist/realist,
to the figure of Orwell does not shrink from the fact, nor do the facts
participant/objective observer. It is left
and prevent him from being a socialist. The moral fable within
Orwell, finally, to resolve the great debates of left right,

middle way between ideologies and conflicting which history and ideology are suspended applies equally well
to assert a 11
toAnimal Farm and Nineteen Eighty- Four. The song remains the
same: human nature is constant and its finest embodiment in
the Orwell persona serves only to remind us of this
... creativity for him [Orwell] was first and foremost a matter of
Because socialism often intractable truth of the status quo.
being able to see things as they are.
I am not attacking the lived life of Eric Blair at this point.
considered that freedom was a possible danger to the movement,
Orwell came to feel that socialism could easily have a kind of
How much he actually personified the virtues attributed to him
in popular myth seems to me a question both impossible to
fascism inside it ... To Orwell the freedom to be different within
main theme of answer and unhelpful to pursue. My concern is with the
society was what mattered. It is the Nineteen
political work carried out beneath the banner of Orwellian
Eighty- Four. (York Notes , Nineteen Eighty-Four p. ,
1 1)
values. The fantasy of his human attributes, refined to a point
Orwell came to believe that socialism could easily have a type of of perfection, provides an absolute standard against which

fascism in it ... to Orwell the freedom to be different within ones political events and beliefs can be judged. The reader is urged

society was all important. This feature of socialism, of having an to identify his or her self with the innate values of Orwell, and

inbuilt fascism inside it, can be seen in Animal Farm (York Notes, . . . to espouse the belief in the primacy of the individual which he

Animal Farm pp. 10-11)

represents. All roads lead back to the human subject in
isolation, above history and (in Orwells case) above criticism.

Orwell thus revealed the psychological sameness of communism I

Questions of Soviet history, of the Spanish Civil War, the

and fascism and did not shrink from criticising the abuse of Depression, the nature of communism, socialism, fascism,
socialism ... (Longmans Study Text, Animal Farm, pp.xxii-xxiii) can then be answered from a viewpoint which systematically
erases the tracks of its own political bias. Teaching Orwell for

Violently opposed political theories and practices are here examinations will not be a matter of overt dogma, but rather a
reduced to a psychological sameness, that is, to a dismissive process of filtering the political field through the categories of

value-judgement based on no more than a hypothetical model orthodox literary criticism.

of human nature. Having dissolved the contradictions between t
as the Orwell persona asserts, the good writer is the
true writer, then an appreciation of literary qualities will be
communism and fascism in either a historical or theoretical
48 Inside the Myfl) Alan Brown 49

tied to a view of political reality. This reality is not presented in Winter 1964:
political terms. Devoid of conflict, of theoretical content and
historical detail, it is expressed as the fund of established a) Describe the origin of the seven commandments, and give an
truths, natural and unchanging: truths of character, morality,! account of the changes they underwent later. What was Orwells
of irony, of life itself: satire directed against in this part of the book?

It is the business of the satirist to expose the follies of mankind! b) Write an essay defending Animal Farm against a reader who tells
and to remind us all of our essential humanity. you that it is merely anti -communist propaganda. Illustrate
your answer with detailed reference to the book.
The of satire, of common sense, of the Orwell industry, is
to remind us of what we know already and to resign us to its possible to answer the first of these questions without
It is
inevitability. If political change is an illusion, we must derive specific reference to Russian politics; the fable can be stressed
our comfort from an aesthetics of constancy and inertia. as about revolution in general. This reading, which relies on a
prior knowledge of the Russian example, is looked at more
The ABC of Apathy
closely further on. The second question asserts that real life is
Animal Farm is the most popular of Orwells texts with
behind the book and might be answered by reference to Soviet
examiners. It is set almost exclusively for O Level study,
industrialisation and the Five Year Plans. The third question is
Nineteen Eighty-Four being largely reserved for A Level study.
looking for details of propaganda techniques and the rewriting
Animal Farm so the story goes, can be read either as political
of history, as attributed to the communist state. With the final
satire or, on its own terms, as a thoroughly entertaining
question, the students grasp of real life is taken as read and
This might seem to recommend its use as an
the task is to say what more than anti-communist propaganda
introductory text for O
Level literature students, the qualities
the book is. Students are not invited to advance the
of simplicity and charm making the book inherendy
propaganda argument, but only to refute it.
readable. However, any student who approaches the exam
The political effectiveness of Animal Farm derives largely
with knowledge only of the plot and pleasure in the story is

from its allegorical form. If, as is assumed in much educational

unlikely to fare well. An ability to regurgitate the equations of
material on the book, an allegory is a simple equivalence
a Cold War wisdom is taken for granted in most exams. The
between the symbolic and the real (Napoleon=Stalin,
demand is either stated overtly or couched in a language of
Manor Farm=Russia), then the students task will be primarily
symbolic meaning and satirical purpose. Below are four one of rote-learning. The ticking off of relations is at the lowest
questions on Animal Farm taken consecutively from the London level what is required. What is simply asserted is that the
Board, O Level, summer and winter 1964: correspondences are valid, that
Summer 1964:
Old Majors speech corresponds to the thought of Marx
a) A fable is defined as a story especially with animals as . .

Battleof the Cowshed: corresponds to the counter-revolutionary

characters, conveying a moral by indirect means. By reference
war which raged in Russia The sale of timber to Fredrick of
to three episodes or characters show how far Animal Farm fits this
. . .

Pinchfield:corresponds to the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 ... (York

definition of a fable.
Notes Animal Farm,
, p. 30)

Give an account of the building of the Windmill and

But this entire
interruptions; show how far this affected the animals and what, exercise, heavily documented across the
different crib books, heavily encouraged by the form of
in real life, it is meant to represent.
Inside the Myth I
grown 51
50 ^|an

questions, is not an instrument of political

in itself adequate as |
should be. Its author intended it as such. How else than as a
skeleton of Correspondences
needs to be damning allegory of Soviet communism could the book be
do^na The
wider critical account, of Marx, taught? The apparent fairness of this appeal to the authors
supported a by
communism, of revolution in general. intentions begs several questions about teaching practices and
the idea of an authors purpose.
Marx was an dreaming of a paradise on earth in which all
idealist, If Orwells intentions are
cited as justification for the
of living.
men were free and equal and enjoytd a good standard political slant inteaching Animal Farm they must be admitted

(Coles Notes, Animal Farm, pp. 9-10) to bear on an external, historical world. This must certainly be
the case for an author who, by all accounts, was concerned to
the inspiration of about recent Soviet Farm
...communism is idealistic. Its ideas are mainly expose the myth history. If Animal is

Karl Marx, a German economist,

and he was an idealist, dreaming read, with its authors assumed purposes in mind, as an
all men should be free and
of a utopian paradise in which attempt to counter the widespread pro-Russian feeling which
xx-xxi) was then current, the context has manifestly changed since
(Longmans Study Text, Animal Farm, pp.
1945. If the book was designed to present a different
operates at a very crude level of
characterisation of Marx viewpoint, the difference no longer exists as such. In a Cold
argument. Words such as dreaming
and idealistic carry the War world, Orwells polemic reproduces rather than counters
But the caricature becomes popular myth and, in the absence of its polemical context, the
weight of what argument there is.
embodied in
when episodes from the text. The authors intentions cannot be treated as simply portable.
more effective
detail of the fable create an impression of Lacking an alternative viewpoint against which to be read,
coherence and
Animal Farm, Old Major the prize Boar the books argument reads as soliloquy, its truths as no more
substance. Early in
on the animals to struggle for
than a reinforcement of views which can be gleaned from most
recounts his dream. He calls

freedom and reminds them of their

equality: tabloid papers, most of the time. No attempt is made in the
range of Study Aids (nor encouraged by the form of exam
of Marxist
His [Majors] speech is a wonderfully concise account questions) to debate the account of history portrayed in Animal

The idealistic nature of this theory is cleverly Farm. The relation between book and reality is conveyed as a
socialist theory.
While Major is speaking simple parallelism, with the student required to pick off points
pointed to in the tiny episode of the
at them
their holes and the dogs rush of correspondence. This practice, which cannot be called other

four rats appear from

Farm, p. 14) than indoctrination, is terms of authorial
unjustifiable in
( York Notes, Animal
intention. Nor can it be claimed that it would be too much for

urged to identify Marxist theory

with a sho 0 Level students to wrestle with the complexities of Russian
The student is
appreciate the skill ot m history and Marxist theory. This might be an argument against
speech in an animal fable and to
refutation in an incident from
Tom and jerrr The stupidity setting the book at all, but if the students are old enough to

us to its effective orce be indoctrinated, they are old enough to be permitted to think.
of this account should not blind ,

something very reassuring in this

oscillation bet
ee The wholesale rejection of Marxism which is set out in
with no further context of judgem readings of Animal Farm reduces to a basic formula:
Marx was
and animal nature, and, eV an idealist, nature is
little incentive to go beyon unalterable, Marx was wrong. So what is
likely, students may have
j \n i ong with idealism ?
of their instruction. argu j
this way? It could be
Why is Animal Farm taught in history, So what
version of Russian wrong with idealism? Why should Orwell want to
that if questions are centred on a

revolution in general, condemn these dreams of a utopia? The answer is that this very
a critique of communism, of
iito*. Mussolini
Dy ni
Animal Farm, p. xxi)
... limp*
Inside the Mytl Alan

SlU, r

conflict. The 'Orwell myth pacifies readers;

theories, factions, values and vocabularies are mediated by a


strate gy Q f mutual exclusion

and emerge as a harmony of

Effectively, Marx's
^SedUmlth^ll ^egyTnm^nedm 'crib' books on Orwell. The
reserved fo following extract from a Guardian article on Orwell develops a
tyranny '(pracdcel. occasional paragraph is
marginalia are swept asidj similar argument.
Marxs economic analyses but these
Marxism-communism is botli
bvy the continuous assertion that
. , . ,
The logic of fhic
/ 1
this arrnnnt
account The year which he made famous is now upon us, but nowhere in

naive/cynical and idealistic/violent.

the democratic world has his monstrous vision of it come
to pass.
persuasive power.
paradoxical and this is a vital part of its kingdom of ends has lost some of its sway, the
as personality, it was arguec Instead,
In the discussion of Orwell
mediated by the authorial totalitarian temptation has receded with the imaginative grip of
that oppositions are set up
and 16
pessimism/idealism, subjec the socialist idea.
persona. Individualism/socialism,
these category pairs arc
five exoerience/obi ective fact: .
. . . . .

harmonised in the overarching persona The rhetoric carries us beyond a otahtanan/sociahst

established an d then
develops here: thj equivalence towards a post-ideological world. Means are
individual. A parallel technique
assimilation of opposing forces,
communism to tascu substituted for ends and the threat of radical social change is
stem from its
ground for a middle wad warded off. The attractions of this argument
idealism to tyranny, prepares the reduce the conflict of ideas and forces to a language
of artificially presentej capacity to
The simple negation and transcendence of political realism. Yet this realism is sustained by little more
experience realism ant
oppositions draws on a rhetoric of ,

and beyond extremes there is* than the negation of theories as extremes and the refusal to
nature, implying that above
of day-to-day living. TO consider its own theoretical basis. In its literary context, the
realm of political common sense,
is presented as the poj
argument stresses the now familiar values of nature,
neutrality of this implied position
reader reads: a stands fate and the cheaper aesthetics of irony:
from which the writer writes and the
an overview from which the
back from conflict,
Animalism, Communism, Fascism - what you will - so far as the
subject looks down on but is not defined by politia
human mass of people is concerned, turns out to be a hollow progress, a
$t Farm
rests then on* barren achievement. Brodies Notes, Animal p. 24)
Tfrfpersuasiveness of the Orwell myth
( ,

as described here is a type

logical strategy. Political myth The time will come when the details of Russian history that
contradictions. This argu i

machine for suppressing social aroused Orwells anger will be forgotten, and Animal Farm will be
account of myth
bears resemblance to a structuralist remembered for ironic analysis of the stages all
to the logic at wor its bitter,
differs in its approach
structuralism, as associated with Levi- Strauss, ten
^ ' J revolutions tend to go through. ( York Notes , Animal Farm ,
p. 31)

object of the nj
principles of logic as the h probably will not matter the anti- Communist satire of Animal
organisation of huma
themselves. It is the logical ".^ A Farm remains intelligible. Already the specifics of its protest
reified in mythical forms.
Rather than placing
which is against Stalinism
above or prior to society, we can see it emerging^ require considerable explanation for the
younger generation, but its satire on corrupted revolution and the
and aesthetic language.
specific forms of political
Inside the Myfl Alan Brown 55
clear. Given human nature, i totally alien political expressed in terms so general
process is
misuse of power remains completely
remain clear as long as society resemble that it passes easily text to another. There are
from one
will unfortunately
anything in the world today. Coles
( Notes, Animal Farm p. 8)
, however, major differences in critical discussion of the two
works. These can be treated in part as a response to inherent
the student required to say what
more than anti-communisi differences in the works themselves, in part as the result of a
propaganda the novel is, here is the model answer Moving switch from O
Level modes of criticism to the requirements of
history and Marxist theory, reducing ai
A Level.
past versions of Soviet
isms to a meaningless continuum,
the argument leans bacll Tasks at O
Level consist mainly in recording details of plot

onto a language of timeless disillusion and home truth and .

character within a tightly drawn critical framework. Value
the final assertions that Russian, judgements are often invited, but rarely in a form which makes
There is some irony in

history is ultimately irrelevant:

mere detail. A good deal o! them problematic. At A Level, issues of critical discrimination
to the content and accuraci come to the fore. Students must assess the conformity between
effort goes into stressing detail as
it is a necessary step fo. set texts and literary standards.
They must define terms and
of Animal Farms account. All the same,
approach which works to erase the marks ol
relate these definitions to instances of interpretation.
a literary-critical
its History and politics must be dealt with,
political interest. The more overt preoccupation with value-judgements at A
but in a form which appears as
neither politically not Level emerges in the treatment of Nineteen Eighty-Four as a set

historically limited. This is achieved

by a logical twist in which of problems related to the books structure and purpose.

politics are both discussed and not

discussed, being merely the Where Animal Farm can be regarded as a unified, morally
truths are found. didactic fable, raising few problems of form or meaning,
context in which wider non-political
of Iiteran Orwells final novel presents immediate complications of
The success of this formula makes the activity
appear as an endless sequence of pyrrhic victoria structure, meaning, characterisation. Nineteen Eighty-Four
values are discovered, reiterated
across the widest combines the conventions of realist fiction with those of the
The same
Words such as irony fill the vacuum created scientific romance; it includes a lengthy extract from
range of texts.
political struggle has itself been
emptied of meaning. Goldsteins book, as well as the appendix on Newspeak.
Nirvana: political struggles The unorthodox construction of Orwells novel presents a
What is offered is an intellectual
(idealism=tyranny), die problem for critical response. If rigid critical expectations as
represented as an eternal contradiction
friction of thought anc regards the unity of a work of art, the requirements of plot and
reader is invited to step back from the
judgement. This uneas) character, are brought to bear, then Nineteen Eighty-Four must
to survey a human comedy of
values appear- be regarded as a flawed work. Exam questions show a marked
marriage between literary and political
of make believe. tendency to reproduce these standards and thus to pose the
innocently, but effectively as a language
question of the novels failure. The failure in turn is seen in
terms of a conflict between literary qualities and political
Nineteen Eighty-Four
committed the very faults I am protesting purposes:
I have again and again
1984 is unashamedly a book with a message. Do you consider

Moving from educational material on Animal Farm to that this diminishes its merits as a novel?
give a sense of
counterpart on Nineteen Eighty -Four can
of an attack on commu The political message is constantly getting in the way of the story,
to the reader. The broad outlines
remain arge y and thisdiminishes its interest and excitement. Do you agree with
socialism and the idea of political change 1

view of 1984 ?
values against the imag
the formula which sets human
Alan Brown 57
Inside the Myth

is completely
Orwell repeatedly stress the importance of polidcal over
Characterisation in this novel is negligible. It On the other hand, the
19 aesthetic considerations in the novel.
subordinated to the political message. Do you agree?
broader background of discussion of Orwells work does little
to promote an understanding of the issues involved.
Although possible for examinees to refute these verdicts,
it is
answers within the There are two specific ways in which the relation between
they are inevitably forced to organise their
artistic and political value is presented in exam questions
quesdons establish. This means
framework of debate which the
between conflicting values; they Study Aids. The first is to see the two terms as complementary.
that they must discriminate
In discussions of Animal Farm and
the Orwell persona, this
between literary standards and
must be able to differendate involves stressing the truth and clarity of a writers account.
polidcal message. Yet it is quite
an implied threat from the
should be made. The artist who tells the truth honestly and in plain language
unclear how this distinction j

satisfies the demands of both aesthetic and political

questions, on character,
If we take the third of the above but does so by
ways. It could be argued This approach rationalises the two elements it
this could be answered in a number of
effectively cancelling out the latter term. Political reality is
of Winston lacks credibility, Julia is
that indeed, the figure on moral and psychologi-
OBrien is no more
conceived as a superstructure, built
presented as a crude, sexist stereotype,
cal values and reducible Literary qualities, by
to them.
personificadon of the totalitarian fantasy. This might
than a comparison, are regarded as the necessary counterpart of
little to show why the
suggest a weakness in the novel but does
personal qualities. There is no need for a theory of aesthetics to
weakness results from excessive focus on the message.
map out the technical aspects of literature; artistic excellence is
be said that characters are weak: and
Equally, it could moral virtue translated into prose ... like a window
how simply
undeveloped because, in a totalitarian society, that is
characters are This would require us to accept the literary
Reducing polidcal meanings to subjecdve norms creates an

an imagined
weakness as an accurate representation of impasse, not only for an understanding of history and theory,
argument which impossible to verify and
polidcal truth; an is
but for any coherent description of literary value. Values are
to clarify the supposed conflict
which, again, does little
located in the pre-verbal realm, inaccessible to anything other
between political and aesthedc values. In the absence of any
than tautological accounts. It follows that any work which
decisive criteria for distinguishing
between the two areas,
direcdy questions sacrosanct status of the individual
the above can be reproduced in various forms
arguments like human subject will be seen in negative terms, as a deviation
without touching the nub of the question. from implicit standards.
The failure of examinees to make the necessary Nineteen Eighty -Four, with its lack of distinctive characters,
extract from
and discriminations is recorded in the following its reduction of subjectivity to coercive norms of behaviour, is
an Examiners Report. The relevant books
are Nineteen
a case in point. The problems which thisnovel poses are more
Eighty -Four and Brave New World,'. than those of subject-matter; the novels form proves to be
inseparable from the ideas it contains. Intentionally or not, the
be historical or polidcal
Essays on Onvell and Huxley tended to
novel undermines the political assumptions of realist ficdon:
than literary in
or sociological or psychological rather
approach. Both writers are, of course, interesting For realism is not just a matter of literary form. It is the
have beta
points of view, but it is surprising that
when they
common-sense expression in aesthetic terms of an ideology in
prescribed for papers on literature, their literary qualities
which the unified human subject makes sense of his/her world by
been ignored. negotiation with external forces - Nature, Society, etc., which

presupposes a world that can be made sense of and an always
Yet it is not so surprising. On the one hand, <*j

Myth 1 A/an Brown 59
Inside the
58 and
23 dismande theories of change as intrinsically authoritarian, to
potentially self-determining
human subject.
inside his experience of the
redefine socialism by locating it

dead, of tfj northern working class ...
to give plausible account of :

B, seeking
Orwell^necessarily moves into areas
wniui i c
why j
The resistance opposes personal values
to theory predictably
ficdon. In order to understand
the premisses of realist we (experience) to abstraction. More than this it sees theory as
the political message
should be seen in terms of

violation intrinsically authoritarian. In effect, theory is personified as

which art and politics are
need look at the second way in
to totalitarianism; as an attempt to confine the individual within
material on Orwell.
conceived in educational an autonomous, alien frame.
In contrast to a stress
on the harmony of literary/political
The association between these two terms, totalitarianism
values there is an account
which asserts their absolute division. produce
alien, abstract, and theory, may well be false but it continues to
characterised as inherently would
effects. A theoretical
The political field is treatment of subjective values
human freedom. Ifpolmcs camm fc we
Is an essential threat to indeed spell the death of the individual, if by individual
it must be regarded as a threat
assimilated to subjectivity, mean that self-determined subject which haunts the pages of
of this extreme viewpoint are
subjectivity itself. The seeds Orwell criticism. The fantasy of totalitarianism expresses this
accounts of Animal Farm, where
f nrl for example in earlier
threat. Change can only be seen as for
the worst - of all
portrayed as a timeless futility
and the State
political struggled possible worlds. Unless, that is, it is confined to the change of
an extemaffaa'. They can
be traced through ^ccountot
L heart.
In theabsence of any theoretical shift in the approach to
Orwell, students will continue to be systematically confused by
literary and political values. The standards of orthodox

literary criticism reproduce rather than clarify this confusion

modern political reality.
descriptive account of and it is an essential element of their existence that the
political and aesthetic vald
Between the two extremes of problem should remain. It is a mark of the distance which
there is little to choose.
To reduce politics to an aesthetic of literary criticism has failed to travel, that Orwells resistance to
personal values, or to treat
amounts to the same. In dther
politics as a totally ahen
case it becomes possible.
^ theory should be presented to students of his work as a positive


SS .hese
mystify the nouons of value
in reading oiwu. r
of life
this mystification as a

this impasse, to dieonse

theorise the
Any attempt to go beyond 1 Raymond Williams, Orwells 1984 and Ours, Morning Star , 3 January
to a d flere
relation between subjects
and society according 1984.

mode would be regarded as a

bSSSU for
threat to
himself and for
the individual Th
-dmon . 2 Frank H. Thompson
English xxii, No. 4,
Eighty-Four Toronto, 1982.
Jr., Orwell's Image of
January 1961. Reprinted in
the Man of Good Will, College
ColesNotes, Nineteen

of change in Orwell

reproduces him. In his account j

3 The following Study Aids have been used: Brodies Notes, Animal Farm ,

point. Suffolk, 1978; Coles Notes, Animal Farm Toronto, 1982; Robert Welch
Frank Gloversmith makes the following ,

(ed.), York Notes, Animal Farm Hong Kong, 1980; Robert Wilson (ed.),

to Longman Study Text, Animal Farm Hong Kong, 1983; Brodies Notes, Nineteen
backed by articulated theory
is ,

Any change
Orwell. He
that is

attempts to dismiss intellectuals

(of any > Eighty-Four, Suffolk, 1977; Coles Notes, Nineteen Eighty -Four, Toronto,
Alan Brown 61

1970, p. 30.
23 Peter Widdowson, Hardy in History: A Case Study in the Sociology of
Literature, in Literature and History Vol. 9, No.l, Spring 1983.
Notes on Georg reprinted in ,

1983; Coles Notes, po/to 0j Tru th,

Trilling, George Critical Essays, 24 Coles Notes , Nineteen Eighty -Four, pp. 7-8.
4 Lionel urw CoZ/ion of Changing Things: Orwell and Auden, in Frank
Raymond (ed.), George
Williams 23 Frank Gloversmith,
Gloversmith and Social Change: A New View of the 1930s
(ed.), Class, Culture

Englewood Cliffs, 1974.
^ fata&m of George
Lt ^
Orwell, in Boris
U "
Bury St Edmunds, 1980, p. 120.

Harmondswor*. 1983. Raym ond Williams, Po/.fc
m stamina in
Discussion 01 urweu
198 from die
and Letters, London, P^'from a selection drawn
Examination questions
are bb Associ ated Examining
7 Board
London Board, Oxfbr past decade.
ampi e of Boards over the
Bo ds in 1984 "

9 Robert
ilSchtdXYorh ^^H^ondsworth, 1983, p. 160

s srss*
socialism in York
Notes, Am Across the Study Aids

are noticeably
similar m argument and phr
? borTOwing This . is

there are similarities

of this type, 5

^2" between g
texts on Orwell's

most apparent where

^ mns from one Study
wUh ,on h n '

Animal Farm. ,
Tpxt Animal Farm p- xxv.

13 Robert Wilson (ed.), taPJf wilderness, speaking

out against
a voice
14 The idea of Orwell as bi aphica l accounts in the various

i" CtaKl. 1*M


sszz&S; p '

S ffp


3 r-


"* j
Harmondsworth, 1
Leve l material
Other Essays,

**> "
, 9 S
20 This argument

followed in David^miu
*? JSSSk'S.

S i/iMj' YY SiSSSS

and Letters oj ueorge v

Alaric Jacob 63
Notwithstanding his rebellious beginnings in Burma, the
days of Bohemian struggle in Paris and his gallant expedition
to Spain, he was not a widely travelled man. Russia and
America were unknown to him. He was at heart an Edwardian
Little Englander, basically uninterested in the life-styles of

other peoples, so it is hardly surprising that his politics were

often naive. His lifelong, unrequited love affair with the
Alaric Jacob English working class also contributed to a lack of balance as

- did his six wretched, friendless years at St Cyprians School.

Sharing Orwells Those six years and the six months that he spent fighting in the
Spanish Civil War marked him for life. The first turned him
But Not His Fears into a drop-out, the first of the angry young men. The second
experience contributed to his early death.
Orwell, or Eric Blair, as he then was, had preceded me at St
Cyprians School and there can be no doubt about the
considerable impression he made there, for soon after I
George Orwell had much o" my life because
entered the school I was encouraged, as it were, to understudy


manhood when seetned
the British Empire
did not envy
the very first
m whose tcna
Omell his s
when we were taugh
^ y
both entangled,
was dear to

same teachers
The headmaster and his wife, Mr and Mrs Vaughan
- Sambo and Flip as they were known to succeeding
generations - were looking for high fliers who would bring
credit to the school by winning scholarships to Eton. When
Flip, the real driving force at the school, picked out Orwell

St Cyprian's
**>*a ^ch. Much
always have been y
which display him as
1 admit, and Cyril Connolly as the cleverest boys of their generation she
proved to be an astute talent-spotter. At that time scholarship
essays an
n ^e s j
- boys started Latin at eight and Greek at ten (science was
the best of the Gissing Keep the
worthy successor to his
^ _u cannot admire scarcely taught at all). The burden of two dead languages lay

Aspidistra Flying
Orwells work as
and Co
a w T^J find flawed b,
e j

in himself, and
which he
those heavily on most young shoulders, including mine, but when
Flip discovered that my History, English and French were
which lie detect ed good as Orwells she concluded that Sambo would be able to
defects of character admirers to
challenging his
the world as The drum a sufficiency of Classics into me to bring me up to
proclaimed to g enthuse about.
go away and find
overriding defect,

^ he was unaware,
of which
wa$ to make
political writing
Orwells exceptional overall standards. So I was set down as a
potential Eton Colleger. But Flip over-estimated me. Orwell

dominant aim, as h style, won not just one scholarship but two Wellington
His to purify his as well as
bng*e Eton - while I proved to
be weak in Latin and utterly resistant
into an
he ultimately
In this,
succeeded. ff S^^ffpofsible
to adnure

rer the political

blin to Greek,
and finally went to Kings School, Canterbury
While without winning a place
Machiavelli one ml there as a Kings Scholar.
art of directe d, so
reader is arttm y Superficially, Orwell and came from
into which the d yet st*^ the same stable, our

admire the clarity
and condustons d- > athers having served for years in India, but as Orwell soon
e Covered, the standards which
S judgnten the Wilkeses had imposed on
lacked political
thTs tha. Orwell
r sc hl
did not in fact permit us to be assessed on equal
quite astonishing

Myth Alaric Jacob 65
Inside the

imperial guilt to the sense of socialand personal inadequacy

1, Over that had plagued him since childhood.
Escaping from British imperialism at last, he wrote that he
carried hatred of oppression to extraordinary lengths . .

or n
children of aristocratic
while boys from
modest home Jh^^ QWn were seated
Flip an d beaten
Failure seemed to me to be the only virtue. Every suspicion of
bul1 self- advancement,
underlings, to be
even to succeed' in life to the extent of making

by Sambo for every

^ ^oScould'
minor feuk. <*
at ha lf.fees, for
not* have gone to
a few hundreds a year, seemed to me spiritually ugly, a species of
at all had he not P about bullying.
St Cyprians that time
full fees were
180 a year and in the Opium
from an undistingp 1

After A ugust So he set foot upon the lonely road that led to Down and Out in

to retire a year .

Department in sixty years of Paris and London.

sen joined the Army at
Orwell J work in In Such Such Were the Joys Orwell depicts himself as an
1914, however, war .

f did ,

cowardly little boy. If he was cowardly, then so

ad might weU ta,
age as a
London: eased the lam y
this patriousm. But was I. In the weeks before I went to St Cyprians I cried myself
ta ^ their
to sleep night after night. It is, of course, a monstrosity to send
caused their son Qrwel i never referred to this
at Eton a child to boarding school at the age of eight (my younger
honourable service by ei Jp
h .
on the contrary, he
is said

charles Dickens brother followed me there when only six because my mother
had joined my father overseas). Ours was a happy home, so
long as one parent remained available. I feared to leave it
so hirsh and because I had read Tom Brown's Schooldays and did not want to
be beaten or roasted on a fire. On the other hand I had been
Such taught that those who served the British Empire must submit
unforgiving as Such, was no t the dominant
experience, money to a stem apprenticeship before they would be worthy to
In my maintained. You did not
Cyprian s. exercise dominion over palm and pine. My father had not told
influence at St Empire was well

have to be rich w be romantic places such

me this because I hardly knew him; like my grandfather,

regarded, especially
or in the

tents Colonel George Augustus and his forebear, the celebrated

the North West
of the desert Arab.
Frontier, Cai ro
Orwdl s

fath er had done

cavalry general who had created Jacobs Horse, equipped the
regiment with a revolutionary rifle of his own design which
younger t an enabled it to play a large part in the conquest of Sind and had
woman much minor posdngs. He
, had

but he had eked out

a dull exls
^V tQ ass on to his son; then founded the city of Jacobabad, my father had rarely been
seen in England since he left it as a lieutenant in the British
no legacy of scholarship colour fu l girlhood

m of her
rather it was his wife s
win his
career m Army. His career developed in the Political Service and later as
the acknowledged expert on south-west
Rangoon that incline Department and the Arabia and a leading
Imperial Police in Ttom.
both serv
Leem, and Arabist of his day. My mother was of Danish birth but she had
been educated in Edinburgh before joining
Burma Police were SQ sha ttered
b her parents in
arguable that if
experiences at prep
schoo w ^had
-^ ced him that he

rebelled against
Arabia where they ran a medical mission.
Having looked upon the British Empire when it was red, my
As be a failure he -^0 io n to his fathers
^ pother had never been sober about it since. She really believed

* EZ wastT-l in Burma on,,

j 1 at the concomitants of Empire - the public schools, the
Inside the Myth Alaric Jacob 57
were to do the same. While Orwell insisted that Sambo never
ancient universities,
^ India missed an opportunity to remind him that You are living on
my charity, the fact that my brother and I had also been
be cherished and dominated Arabia, hgyptj
tfi at
smaller n it - the salt of
accepted at reduced fees was never mentioned, much less held
and the even tire d of saying
- and she
and the Sudan were worst against us.
school fearing the
Consequent y w found that The celebrated opening sentence of Nineteen Eighty-Four must
the earth.
school in
Q f s hock when I
be engraved on many a memory: It was a bright, cold day in
and entered public

of Kiplings //into
an ilium d
April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Scarcely less
my mother had slipped
A a Uttle of my
tuck box. Yet,
haym arresting is the opening of Such, Such Were theJoys Soon after I
my found myself able to :

fathers gift for

s with ^ I

than j had antiC

a stammer from
arrived at St Cyprians (not
two, just when
immediately but after a week or
seemed to be settling into the routine of

St I
cope with d loped
rom began wetting my
Not that I was fr f eJ p singingkssons eventually
freed school life) I bed.
childhood friend
Kim foun d his affliction It was Orwell maintained, that set in train the
this accident,
r^us f have
systematic persecution and humiliation that Sambo and Flip
me from this d sabll ^ ^s subsequ ent career. To have time to
h inflicted upon him over the ensuing six years.
uV -
interrogation what
spy con.d asK
Some critics have concluded that the masochistic horrors of
iTited from certain
"ts of snobben, * Nineteen Eighty-Four were derived directly from Such, Such Were
the Joys. In August 1946 Orwell began work on Nineteen

overlooked.! Eighty-Four, and in May 1947 he sent Such, Such Were the Joys to
Orwell had Western Front had not
commanded an army P his publishers, pointing out that it had been planned as a
who encouraged us
to stick
escaped the nonce
pins into maps ^
front c i au d

brQther con
went on to
pendant to Cyril Connollys own memoir of the school which
Connolly had included in Enemies of Promise in 1938. Orwell
Union Jack
become a held
unwittingly to
collection upon
^he)J h e
my prestige
me at sen
^unloaded part of his stamp

was desperately anxious to complete Nineteen Eighty-Four
before the tuberculosis which then threatened his life should
overwhelm him, so it is likely that the school memoir had been
Major-General le Grand sQns Q f hard-faced
men produced in earlier years. Whatever the precise date of its

have done me no
who did no more
harm arno
than do well
^ war Qnon ed in co i
his first and

els uniform
composition, the
been penned by a mature
is the
most astonishing document to
thirty years after the events
the school my PP sam e colour described.
last, visit to b the
remember aright, Whoever writes about
bearing, if I Legion of his own childhood must beware of
India. He to exaggeration and Orwell began and then, disregard-
as his Star of
precise contribution
s e ing his own
Honour, and looked And advice, added:
it. so
after the Arabs.
was I c od
the war effort house beneath the
First from that tm b attended by 20 I do not
claim that I was a martyr or that St Cyprians was a sort of
he did.
Point Ade m
. .
ere he was
where h Dotheboys Hall. But I should be falsifying my own
tower at Steamer in Cairo memories if I

then at the Sir Ronal

did not record that
servants, and they are largely memories of disgust. The
colleagues ^er SaU overcrowded, underfed, underwashed life
friends and favourite of Ibn that we led was
isgusting, as I recall it
there was the slimy water of the plunge
. . .

a th - it was
twelve or fifteen feet long, the whole school was

Eastbourne d .
^ S
he dlughters of
Flip and
Sam a supposed to go into it every
morning and I doubt whether the
Myth Alaric Jacob 59
Inside the

68 towels Yet I had to admit that my pity for him was darkly tinged
- and the always-damp
, frenuently
at all V with contempt.
water was changed the changing-room
smell *e sw d sineU f . .
lavatones The gravamen of Orwells charge against Sambo and Flip
cheesy di apid a ted
. their ,
r was that they took advantage of his half-fee status to treat him
with its greasy basins ;*' on ,he doors, so
that whenever
Y nd

fastening in. It is with calculated cruelty and contempt. He knew he ought to be

which had no to cotne crashing
there someone cming to grateful to them because they were going to make it possible
without se
you were sitting
me to think smening - a sort of
^ for him to go to one of the great public schools which his

not easy for
of S 1
blowing parents could not otherwise have afforded. But he could feel
breathe in a whiff faecal smells
compound of sweaty stocking*
forks wh old


^ ngs> n eck of no gratitude, any more than he could feel love for the father
who had handed him over to their care.
along corridors, ^ and the

knew very my own whom

Shofog chamber
pots in
am no
^^"g^ous, and the WC and I

seen before
well that I disliked
was eight and who appeared
I had rarely
obtrusive when simply as a
I to
It is true that I
y essar jly more
gruff- voiced elderly man
dirty handkerchief
si <fe
^ crushed together
in a
small for ever saying Dont!

is" the age of ^st ... one

From the start Sambo impressed on him that if he
space ^'boyhood
failed to
over a cesspool. win a scholarship he would have to leave school at fourteen
walking the tightrope
and become a little office boy at forty pounds a year. And he
quotes Flip as saying:
knew that Orwell 1 think it


boys who had

entered with
after ea d S
0nvell over many *
the respect and
years finally
^ It awfully decent of you to behave like this, is it? Idling your

^ fe j f
ad time away week after week. You know your people arent rich,
me it had been
/ ^u For
of disgust?

^ a thee aee
fields andm
dont you? You know they cant afford the same things as other
crumbled. Boyhood g i

of exatn G n the cricket boys parents.

an age of friendships, a t concerts o
^pr"nJ in U* school magazine, According to the Wilkeses standards, he says:

Townsend Warner r i Khtly

concludes that Boys
I was damned.
I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was

^ ^^^
passage an
another is disgraceful
they ^
think that m^
ta i en ts, unpopular, had a chronic cough, I was cowardly, I smelt. This
are Erewhonians; picture, I should add, was not altogether
at all manner. fanciful. I was an
must be concealed

to misf
n so craven a :

unattractive boy. St Cyprians soon made me so ...

succumbed up the
had Orwell ^ bu[ had bottl e d
He concludes:

were dead. Induing,

'"uUitd Sau *ose
Involved in it I have neverbeen back to St Cyprians ... for years I loathed its
P very name so
deeply that I could not view it with enough
it happened, himself. what a needless
detachment to see the significance of
the things that happened to
me there ... Except upon
dire necessity I would not have set foot
to Eastbourne. I even conceived a prejudice against Sussex, as the
county that
contained St Cyprians Now, however, the place is
. .

the fruits of

be able to enjoy
Myth Alaric Jacob 71
Inside the

70 enough animosity
please! This lady addressed me in tones of compassion and having
c A have not even wrung from me my name,
system for goo
my that the age, social standing and past history,
out of

Sambo are dead or conducted me

through a maze of white- washed passages and
proceeded to tell me where I must keep my coat, hat and shoes.
My guide then took me into the Dinin-room to have Somfin to
eat. I selected a particularly sticky variety
of Bath bun and took a
Was U indeed
a sione of u large bite from it. What was my
on looking up from this
budding s.ood. No. task, to see my hostess staring at me in blank astonishment -

What awfu cheek! she gasped. Its a Sixth Form bun and youve
eat it all up: what will the Sixth say when they arrive?
* * *
As I had no idea what they would say I discreetly held my tongue
and tried to look penitent. Presendy a plump person in white -
at this pomt mmy ^"''c^rials by looking whom I afterwards discovered to be the Matron - entered the
It was precisely
room followed by a convoy of boys. Hallo, young man said the
plump person, when did you arrive? At half past five. Hum,

Pocket Kodak more

thtm sixty
y Mildmay, Eddie youre an early bedder, so youd better be on your way. Miss M
field will show you your dormitory.
Cyprians playmg f f ends Gf those distant days. -

and Rory Macleod y ,'

essays that

M and I departed, followed by envious glances from the
Obrien picm were one or two
among the doubtless boys. I lost no time in unpacking and getting into bed. I was just
Interspersed of Aem had
must ^ ave to run in falling asleep when a sdcky little hand was thrust into mine.
my mother magazine I used
appeared in The Red
Circle& family
f .

fear of Youre er ... rather nice said a voice, so youd better hold
never hack^to school for
but had had written at these. Next morning I awoke to find myself stuck fast to the
the holidays
ridicule. As I
read again for
P how justified that sheets. I had lain on top of several Bath buns.

the age of twelve

I for
d been fair-copied
fear had been.
The piec<e for the adhesive
edge of a Impossible to believe that Orwell could ever have put his

submission to some
for the return
local newsp

m p^
^A adhered t0 the name to such a composition, anticipating as it does that
winsome style of writing which was to be popularised a few
n d
^ ^ , s choolboy
to be years later by Godfrey Winn and Beverley Nichols. I would
because U demands
?eTmpXd quo.e from
i. have denied authorship myself if irrefutable evidence to the

Such Wer, thejys. contrary was not lying before me as I write. I have no
alongside Such,
recollection today that such an incident ever happened, but I
do not think I invented it. Marigold Wilkes
I, was a cab of .he was real enough,
shall always
remember it. .wasp peacefully along* and if she is alive today, the may have stuck in her
Bath buns
stripes dra, had once been gr at a red
bnc consciousness as firmly as they seem
have done in mine. In

loose gravel and
1 ch' d announced .ha.
any event, here surely
is confirmation of Orwells Erewhon
theory; here is a boy
rcm|lo- using a frivolous anecdote as a means of
rlM".orS;M: ,nd,.drawi j
6 concealing the real pain of going
some boys carry
to school. It is a practice that
forward into adult life. George Orwell,
To*? depLmd dl ta emphatically, was not one of them.

Did Orwell tell the
truth about St Cyprians? It is not the
Inside the Myth Alaric Jacob 73
72 followed soon that famous pram in the hail - Cyril Connollys chief enemy of
t u n ce who

truth which his contemporanes ^ exper ienced by called

Cyril promise - closed in upon me.
to as we
after have attested Milksop Mildmay After coasting gently through Eton, earning no laurels but
Connolly, Cecil
Beaton y becoming a peer, making no enemies, Orwell went tamely to Burma at the age of
0rwe ll who, on

as as
him, a child quite Even Gavin nineteen for lack of anything better to do. I could not under-
ndmg e Grand National.
astonished us by hermit in the stand how anyone of even moderate intelligence could have
d ^te like a

Maxwell, the author

Scodand after being
from school by
rem^ ^ taken so retrograde a step. My father had left India to make a
Highlands of ^ deeply> even ^ new career in Arabia, partly because he felt our family had been
an indulgent
Maxwell did
E.D. OBrien,
not allow
his a
built a
life to be
career in cons
writingg his
ruined by it. When
memoirs ten
in India long enough, and pardy because, even before the 1914
war, was clear to him that India must soon have self-rule. He

also disliked the second-rate men in first-rate jobs who already

and public tell me
predominated there. Nothing would have induced me to go to
journalism oldest friend to )

India; I had been there and in Arabia as a child, and wanted no

prov part of either world. I had no wish to rule subject peoples. I

would rather make a thin living in the arts at home than strive
towards a knighthood in some imperial outpost.
there was a good w, family, for all their So Orwell and I came to be in complete agreement about how
sat. it was that the
The truth a S I
n offaed we were going to live. But what a very long time it took him to
faults, were not mons a ? d * admirable. Wha, reach that point. He was, in truth, a very slow developer. Even
s f tha time, t

was, within the

crampe after his Burmese days and his apprenticeship in Paris, some of
made him claim that this
was it in Orwells the English friends who tried to encourage his free-lance writing

rather absurd little school had dab

^ his whole
, hose
, atter .da, doubted his capacity to succeed. Ruth Pitter, a family friend who

ad'mS X hat
Salieri soil lives
though no
was to win the Queens Prize for Poetry and become a Com-
panion of Literature, has said that his early writings were so
inept that they made her laugh. She did not believe that he had it
U streTpon Ms
Mot U
in him to make a living as an author, let alone to become a

obliged to take bun

one is

Orwell had to face a 1

.^ ^ f etched health while
His temperament
I have
master of English prose.
The woman who played Ruth Pitters part in my early life was
knownday a

I enjoyed Margot Asquith. She was sixty- four and I nineteen when we met,
scarcely be bated sports,
depressive, mine
was saI
^^; tand in the shooting

to find
but even before that I had made an impertinent beginning as a
My play was produced at Plymouth Repertory
being in the first but j d i d not expect
writer. first
was no more happy was seventeen. My second followed it on the
never to roy Theatre when
tudonai ufe was
_ - I

happiness in any scBo and went same stage soon after my eighteenth birthday. Its very title, The
taste. I left
to France to
and wn

soona s


ned fQ
live in
^ a passio n
America and
to Cmpleat Cynic : a piece ofpersiflage in one act would be enough to
wring derisive laughter from any aspiring playwright today, and

everything once.
was I of
memory of an audience laughing
the extremes the
try mY self at some of the lines I

SL in Russia in
order to * dppe bad written became a consolation to me in the theatrical
SnTSrr ior me the ideal M bt
disappointments that
that I
soon followed. Margot Asquith perceived
needed a creative sedative rather than encouragement.
^r^SrS^beforedieresnainn. I am sorry you have done a novel so young she wrote just
Inside the Myth Alaric Jacob 75

whe^ When Orwell arrived in Barcelona he was enchanted by what

published my firs^ novel^
before Methuen he found there. In the opening chapter of Homage to Catalonia
twenty-one. Better to
watt 1 ft-' he wrote:
too late ^or one Titrate an
may.P t

hand don't leave tt

(her own sohtary
toon was the first time I had ever been in a town where the working
upon me came to be as

So it was that
strong as Benjamin
Qwn youth she ^ had been one of
. class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had
been seized by the workers and was draped in red flags almost
. .

me friendship .

could not have shown vou th of vague promise

every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here

the great men of her fufto go to a and there were being systematically demolished by workmen.
and negligible achievem her all evening than to Servility and even ceremonial speech had disappeared. Everyone
Margot ai ^ everyone else comrade. In outward appearance this was a
ball with Margot called

frequent young women,

i g as ^
in conversation,

town in which wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist. I

outclassed any debutante
Bedford Square one
mig tm
evermet.m i uncheon
table in

^ ^
ma de their appearance
offef a$
believed that things were as they appeared, that this was really a
workers state and that the entire bourgeoisie had either fled, been
well Edward^
- who killed or voluntarily come over to the workers side. I did not

the history books.

He realise that great numbers of them were simply lying low and
now had acquired the
as entertai g
practical as well j n Plymouth
and disguising themselves as proletarians for the time being.
of journalism o P per
basic skills
was on Reuters
thought myself to qualify. Margot Nevertheless Orwell was intoxicated by the prevailing sense
Telman as well as French
where one needed Ger -
at her house before
of freedom. He had come as a journalist with a group from the
that I met the Rente . I

Independent Labour Party but he soon determined to fight,

saw to it the delicacy t0

applied for the job,

and w g not merely to observe. His first thought was to join the
success. So I became
suggest that she ha ^ P a?e of wenty-one and
went to International Brigade in Madrid, which was Communist-con-
trolled, but he was persuaded to join the local militia that had

been armed by the party nearest to the ILP - the POUM, or

A, time my
rhis Having Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista ,
a group which favoured
to inspire a pla, nothing whatever abom
Trotskys line in opposition to Stalin that is, world revolution
socialism, so
surprise, read
it, I

realised th
it. This sto

friend and, much to

living illustrations
as opposed to revolution in one country.
When Orwell got to the front he was dismayed to find that
the militia spent much of their time in political
argument. He
marchers arrived i",
to Manes work. I
felt an
'^Xon with *cm though

spoke. From to
used to urge them for Gods sake to stop their disputation and
concentrate on beating Franco, for if Franco were to win
hardly understand neither Lenin nor Trotsky nor even Attlee would
I could was ninety per cent count in
Spain - it would be death and destruction for all of them.
was the line of the Spanish Communist Party:
first win the war
and then decide your form of
government and at first Orwell
ound this reasonable. But, when the POUM
began to resist
the governments plan to train a regular army with an officer
That was the year he
went to Spain. H corps and a
general staff in order to make better use of the
arms which the
Russians were supplying, Orwell changed his
Inside the Mi/th Alaric Jacob 77
resign and join the International Brigade. Most of them urged
warned to fight on as
mind- The POUM me to wait for the much bigger war we were certain was
wer P
even though then arms ^e apons for the, coming. Still, I felt that Orwell could have given me the right
give them up in g M i j was secretly hosule answers to innumerable questions if only I could have put
believed the system them to him. But when Orwell published his considered
tesdmony in Homage to Catalonia two years later I was amazed
that anyone so experienced and intelligent could have misread
government would betray
buy the goodwill of
policy of
Communists were at th
France who were
Britain and France,
enforcing a

st and most
^^^ the situation so completely. The gist of his argument was that
the Spanish Republic had been betrayed not by Britain, France
or the United States, who by refusing all aid were ensuring

force in Spain
than 30,000 and who
the front, could
pouM who
*at the POUM
^ w ho never numbered
and boy$ at
them He knew that the
^^ Francos victory, but by Russia - the only country which was in
fact sending help. Had I been in contact then I would have put

the case against him thus:

You used your experience
Trotskys private in Spain in an entirely subjective
Nin had
POUM leader Andres
secretary but beheved it was un .
^ whole PO UM
posed a
way, without thought for the wider issues. It was wildly
romantic of you to suppose that the 30,000 men of POUM
^ w hi c h threat

S3 ^Sd ^ accepted dre revolution stance could ever have produced a Marxist revolution in Spain while
fighting Franco at the same time. They would have produced
of the a Ioutrance.
an isolated Trotskyite republic that would soon have been
how Orwell defined it.
This is overthrown. The Western Powers would have seen to that
even if it meant siding with Hitler and Mussolini to do it. Set
Bourgeois is t0 fi
? ht up a Communist regime in Spain and you justify Francos case
is fascism; to fight agai ir se cond which is up to the hilt and invite the rest of Europe to join his glorious
h Qf a
on. form
liable turn into the hrst
^'"an, y
The ol,
set up

anti-Bolshevik crusade! You say the Soviet Union has betrayed
theSpanish working class by calling for a Popular Front rather
ls Wor
alternative to capitalism victory to Franco or, than aCommunist state. I say that in this particular the Soviet
god than this you srfUtther
iesser the worto Union is entirely right. Even if Franco is defeated it will be only
fascism Y
at best, let in c
^ one battle in a much bigger war. How do you think we can ever

won, tfrthey yield anything
* to

even scrap the, have

mu,, cling to J n b ng deal with Hitler without a Popular Front to confront him with
she semi -bourgeois
force, must be presented the danger of a war on two fronts - Britain and France on one

p" and every

sideand the Red
But of course
Army on the other.
what Orwell called the Popular Front
baloney was the last thing he wanted. In a letter to
Gorer after his return from Spain he wrote: I do not
see how
are inseparable. one can oppose fascism except by working for
the overthrow of

d *
capitalism, starting, of course, in ones own

At the time .
"on^O^- predicted that a form of fascism would
ss soon as
country. He
be imposed on Britain
war against Nazi Germany began, and that
risttag'S life in the from line '
Communists and Labourites who should have struggled to
stop a war
oughtno.| between two rival imperialist systems would meekly
friends Z to whether .
Alaric Jacob
Inside the Myth 79
78 been slaughtering six million of his own people, and an even
side with their
own conse ^auve^gov e
His Spanish experience
^ ^ hope of any
last two books
larger number of Russians, and the army which was engaged in
murder camps. However, Warburg decided to
liberating the
c r Hi ri on and
improvement in the human
were the fruit of
died from tuberculosis
doaor trea
accumu^ed despair. Three
years before he

but hopeless case.


^ take the risk. And just
ten days before the book came out the
Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Warburgs comment on this coincidence is also worth
the position of a aUye and therefore ^
to recording:
to P
doctor it is his duty P
chance Q f recovery. But as
assume that the pauent an d admit that the The technical breakthrough that had made the bomb possible had
histo tace tne taken just 5 years - about the same time Orwell had required to
a scientist it is
probably die. conceive, work out and write Animal Farm. Though the A-bomb
pauent will November 1943 and
Orwell began to wn year it had been was dropped on Japan it was considered as a warning to the Soviet
Union. A-bomb and A-Farm thus had the same target - the Soviet
Union. Each contained a threat to its existence. Orwell, of course,

had not foreseen the atomic bomb but he had foreseen that the
memoirs what happened neat:
world had become onewhich such weapons could be produced.
As early as 1937 he had proclaimed that progress is a swindle ...
, r ha H received a gift more precious than
realised at once tha at the same time he had concluded that the Soviet Union was the
I however, did not want to
rubies - a masterpiece.
om ^
most dangerous threat to liberal values the world had ever seen,
thought, to publish this
publish the book. Was
it and it was against the Soviet Union that his book was aimed. Since
its armies were
on our great ally the 1936 he had concentrated his effort to atack and if possible to
satirical attack USA had
o *"e.
rolling back the coas.P M, ,fe destroy the myth of Soviet Communism which between 1936 and
established a mere
br 1946 had deluded millions of working people and fatally infected
g published the book she
the minds of the left intellectuals who dominated the arts at that

This portentous analysis demonstrates, to my mind, that if

reveals a Orwells balance was unstable, his publishers
if was worried
and he
, hep himse
judgment was downright silly. Orwell can never have
think, ng at this
curious aspect of his
anticipated the enormous commercial success
of Animal Farm.
He had conceived it out of his lifelong admiration
for Swift - a
by one fought
, rvKt Gmn^ armies were
The German

Sta] n
satire within the
framework of a childrens story aimed at the
I was obsessed [hat ,

resist was
back but their will to
made a second to, wi*

Qr ev n turned

politically sophisticated,

at only a

fJJ wasy
not a mass readership. Thus it is likely
minority of the millions who came to read Animal
full appreciated its authors intentions. Equally, the

plausible to me.
| 0
misused for political purposes in a manner which
mi g lu have foreseen had his own political
post as a
To me - in my An<j 10
3ensitive than they were. I recall that my first
have seeme Iris M*
6 ^ wife,
WaS USt as ^squieted by it as Warburgs wife had
Front - it would

f German-Je' j fen SK e k ad ^
come to Russia with me in an Arctic convoy to
Inside the Myth Alaric Jacob
80 from a Bourgeois
to whtch Orwell also an autobiographical book of mine with a
of the Obsnve
a as correspondent print-run, of 3,000. The irony of our respective
I believe,
contributed. home situations seemed to me to have been
m that man when I get I underwritten by the
If Ivor Brown
asks Gods. Apart from one or two reviews that
Hetrree of wit, even
a certain characterised
she satd. 1
Nineteen Eighty-Four as a crude anti-communist
shall refuse'
Slier books had lacked. I
polemic, the
literary establishment as a whole greeted it as a
an inwtauon If profound work,
would have acTepteTruch destined to become a classic. My book was
calculated to
present socialism with a smiling face yet I cannot
compiled write something very complain that
doT h^l^toTfel,
the critics were unfair to me; perhaps they gave
Warburg the
different from Animal different matter. When
credit for having balanced his books so evenly.
While the Daily
Hesum^ his feelings about * Workers massive notice of my Bourgeois
for circulation
his start.
scut tying
Life sent the faithful
to Collet s Bookshop, the conservative
produced quite a run at Hatchards by presenting me
book as a
naughty yet entertaining iconoclast. Scene after
This is among
has no hope, o
candlelight of hope.
* e most terrifrine
eh. books have
his rea der no
he ws
a stud of pes simism
I ever read. Orwell

tiny flickering
... I
scene flashes into life was how Time and Tide put

sales in America and from translation rights all

A veritable shower of gold descended upon Orwell from vast

take it to be a de
. s J istic attack on
final breach
socialism and over the world;
so much so that he had to be turned into a limited
seems to indicate a company to
socialist parties
genei y. safeguard the future of his estate.
socialism of equality and
not the
benveen Orwell and ,nge, exp.cti fro. Not for anything would I have been in Orwells shoes
human brotherhoo w ic f m and managerial
MarJn s
he, of course, in mine. He was a heavyweight
(size 12 in boots);
but dre soaalnm
socialist parues.
worth a c ^ ^ ^ ConsmJtWt I a lightweight (size 8 shoes).
revolution. It
Part,; i, ,s

Churchill after

imaginab'e *a.
whom ^1^^ ^ ^
a preface by Winston

book but i pray I may

books ever written
Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most disgusting
- a book smelling of fear, hatred, lies
by comparison with which the works of the

^Xtother like^t for years to

come... Marquis de Sade are
no more than the bad dreams of a sick
Only a very sick man could have written it, and
months after it appeared Orwell was
dead. Apologists for
In his biography r'SkOTitesthat Oroellwas "albeit Nineteen Eighty-Four maintain that
it is not only a prophecy of

Warburg in 1980, Bernard C what bound

realising that
Nineteen is to happen if socialism is misdirected, but an
incautious, at worst atmck on fascism and Nazism as well. We know
Eighty-Four could be
read M Hitler nor Mussolini abolished the capitalist
that neither

all over th
Had he forgotten wha. system; on the
such by reactionaries Q f course,
Orwell contrary, private wealth
continued to accumulate. But in
^ent clarify,^ Nineteen Eighty-Four
private enterprise
Ingsoc has triumphed, the old system of
has gone for ever, Big Brother rules over a
qua id,poverty-stricken society in which only the Party
m some semblance of what had once
been the good life.

TaSnt pubUshS 'I

WO V- f
rh,Z WhlCh
n fact no more tha n a projection of
, !
the kind of

he published
- as pvicM
xtreme anti-Communists have always envisaged
ln the USSR since 1917 and which anyone who has
Inside the Myth Alaric Jacob
be a travesty of but of Lenin, Marx, Engels and all the founding
as t have
oc done knows to fathers of
lived in that country,
and crimes that socialism - even poor old Oliver Cromwell.
Like Tolstoy in old
all the
the ms*. Despite it is absurd to age, Solzhenitsyn seems to aspire to be the saviour
of the entire
Western world. Orwell owed his rise to fame not
to fellow
socialists but to the conservative establishment
in Britain and

tmppiness are as common In Moscow as America who seized upon his last two books with delight.
years ago they first heard Orwell s voice telling
just what

they are in , ,
history of betrayal. they wanted to hear, and they were overjoyed. In their
of socia ism
The history
The Labour Chance
recent days that
typifies generations
^ ^ ^
h<T Exchequer

of workmg^
observed in
used for many
politicians who,
working-class P
here was a truly honest socialist who had come
socialism not just Russian socialism but socialism
kind. Because Orwell concentrated on the dangers
to hate
of any
that are
years bo Aered to rea j certainly inherent in socialism, rather than the benefits
beginning as rev ' ut n But a socialist of form of government can bring, it was possible to read him
such a
House of Lo rds. in
Marx, ended up in t
judged by higher this light. And of course, from Animal Farm
onward, the time
P U NmeUm Eighty-Fm, is to was absolutely ripe.
d"ds write took
standards. To wAe
a like
hate socia i lsm President Truman proclaimed his doctrine and began to set
present a "T'^jS^ce

and who would wish,

did, to strangle it a, up bases in Turkey, at Russias back door, in
conference of the Big Four was meeting in Moscow
1947. The
Orwell died several
at the time,
birth, in the thirty years the idea that trying to reach agreement on the future of
Germany. I was
generations have been
socialism leads me^cK y
^ be horrors described
i ie ved, and the
in that
man who
coming to the end of a four-year stint as
correspondent in Russia, and I
well recall the disastrous effect
was so unhapp, Truman speech had on its meetings. Within a week the
sle wretched little boy who

launctiedTt SI die conference curled up and died. John Foster Dulles was also
at St Cyprians
although he produced there. Secure in the knowledge that America alone
Orwells basic def bomb, he
world he knew, he was down
quite the laid it in a private talk with me that
convincing reasons to? happiness of Communism must not only be contained,
to Truman had
unable to put forward
mankind - save for a s
any i
^^f pjra l working life

but ultimately destroyed. When I asked
him aright he said: Well, they must be
him if I had

from mQSt reai workers have pushed back.

before the 1914 war moV ed gratefully into the Uut ot Europe and back to
the Urals.
I should have reminded Dulles that this was what Hitler had
just failed todo when he shot himself in a Berlin bunker.


behan^ and
to press the
take, pride in

^ ^

dtest thc
I distanced myself forthwith from the

1S aS Wel1 that

0rwel1 died when he did, at the

Orwell lived, he mig L
Had him honour, ght of his achievement. I dont think he would have enjoyed
wl -
generality of readers first came to lighti
P und its say that Animal Farm and Nineteen
Alexander jhelhtsyn
Solz y who fiju, f
One recalls that W rth several divisions to the free world at
dianks to Khrushchev
-m honest Marxist
the role of an hon
^ l SeheicrhT Tu
the C d War And in 1984
Communism wirh a^h , he would scarcely be

see eniovinl k
wished to happy ld a e
Khmshchev first
u2 e to cherish
S -

his memory, yet unable to get

SinTmlJe - as him out of
Inside the Myth
my mind. ^ ^
* - deid

Bill Alexander

George Orwell and Spain

Every school student taking O or A Level examinations in

modern history is told to read George Orwells Homage to
Catalonia in order to gain an understanding of the
Spanish War
of 1936-1939. This is as useful as studying the Second
War from the story of a small group of soldiers in some quiet
comer, far from the main fronts of El Alamein, Stalingrad or
Normandy. Even Hugh Thomas, no champion of the Spanish
Republic, has said that Homage to Catalonia is a
better book
about war itself than about the Spanish war.
Orwell went to Spain largely ignorant of the
and the forces involved. He admits when I came to

Spain I was not only uninterested in the political situation

unaware of it. Unlike many European intellectuals he had not

understood the essential clash between liberty

and fascism.
Hitlers brutal destruction
of democracy in Germany and even
Mosleys violence against opponents in Britain in
1934 must
have passed him by.
Crick, his biographer, could write that
belore March
1936, when Orwell saw Mosleys blackshirts
beating up questioners at a Barnsley meeting,
there is no
indicauon before this
incident of any great concern in Orwell
and Spread of fascism - Orwell himself wrote in
361 would 1 Iilce to know whether Mosley
Mm lTe or if he
is sincere in
fc( . C is deliberately bamboozling the people.

U P le of weeks after
the brutal treatment of anti-fascists
at a hi
at ^kert Hall had provoked a storm of
e Spanish Popular Front
government, formed after the

Inside the Myth Bill Alexander
of Aragon, but when they met firmer resistance,
almost at the
elections in 1936,
won a gates of Zaragoza and Huesca, halted their
half of^e advance. Though
seats but only just over began ^ their arms were limited a planned concentration of
forces and
government drawn fro P reforms, weapons could have taken both towns. As it was,
of sociai an d liberal John
implement a limited prog* Comford, a Cambridge student who joined the POUM
^ entrenched reactionary
in eaily August, complained of boredom and
inactivity in front
forcero^Spani^^c^ty^- Uprising line positions just outside Huesca. Later
the group of
and p,epired Independent Labour Party (ILP) volunteers, including
sr* Orwell, sat in roughly the same positions outside
January tojune 1937 and then returned home to Britain.
Huesca from

Another reason which brought the advances into

paramilitary Civil Gu S The loyalty of those not an end was the dominant political outlook among the
Aragon to
f govmnnent workers.

organ* of

flvil service and

? DKisively, The CNT, led and inspired by anarchists, and the
revolt wasjen
openly joining *e q after ^ breakaway group from the Communist Party of Spain,

^g IZ Hid^ and Mussoltnfs Italy - die wanting to defeat the fascists, believed that a revolution
be made. Having defeated and driven the enemy from
powers of Western
urop^^ their
openly fascist
MiUtary coupes an
^ new feature in own immediate area they concentrated on building
revolutionary society.
win a quick,
onfident they would
J^ The people of the Extremadura, Andalucia and
as not to be Jhe . P-P^ "TnTta Madrid had
no such opportunity for speculation. Their harsh
reality was
and middle classes j barracks and took weapons the rapid advance northwards of Francos
Army of Africa,
spite of heavy
in many towns
and loca ,
f b
days five out of the
government. But
supported in all ways by Hitler, aiming to capture
link up with the fascist-held areas of Navarre and
the North,
Madrid and

seven mam cities

were ir the ton* i
by bluff W3S ^ tt^ e scoP e ^or thinking of the form of
society in the
General Queipo de future - the one task was to stop
and and
| ured in th e trained
defeat the fascists. The
massacred the through the airport in bodies of the butchered peasants, workers and
the Army of Africa
disciplined troops of
planes provided by
Hit S
was an anarchist
passivity, giving
the screams of the raped women
were the
and orphaned
arguments that the defeat of Franco
stronghold, but centre between and the foreign invaders
claimed absolute and complete
of t y
the rebels control ment had
, exercised a firm priority. Though always
ill-armed, often in confrision and with
and North. If the g weak leadership, the workers
the South have taken militias fought with tenacity.
command, workers and loyal lore ^
that if the fascists reached Madrid
united its capture would
these centres and
the before mean edefeat of the Republic, the end
critical days of any hopes of a
government delayed
But the
releasing arms to

leadership at this
the worker
stage, did not
re >

^ without central

for offenslv
e M

S fw e
rev lution. Franco was stopped
in the streets of
Meanwhile, the Aragon front was dormant.

ve and anti-fascist people

throughout the world
action. The MadnienM, spontaneously
to War
Pa, U be yet another country falling to
fascism? u
Would Hitler and Mussolini, using their front man
the resh h hts

control of Ca*nia an6 - n owed/

Storfh e a
t t

S of freedom in Spain ? Could the
send trained units of their forces to help
Bill Alexander
Inside the M^th gg
88 volunteers from Britain - those in the ILP groups and those in
fascism while the
A> firs SP
Spanish people smiggW a
^ wa,
to help die
men the British Battalion of the International Brigade.
Progressive people everywhere in Europe expressed
S"mTovere worid made their
support and desire to help. They had seen the persecution
and women from all over

Spanish people. Most

jomed lnte mational
AeJntema^ ^6 ^ ^
Brigades, which
writers and artists because of their views on race, the
of the books by the Nazis. They were concerned that the lights
were formed officially tQ Madrid and joined the
formed Briga of freedom would go out in yet another country. Felicia
first hastily
Franco f which had got into
Browne, an artist graduate of the Slade School, joined the
bloody fighung, stopping
militia in the first days and was killed on 25 August
the city itself.
fascists joined the CNT and 1936.
few hundred foreig Writers such as Ralph Bates, Ralph Fox and Charles Donnelly!
A Barcelon They went
based on Barcelona.
to the
POUM-influenced units, and students like John Comford, Bernard Knox, Sam Lesser
outside Zarago
.and Huesca.
fronts in Aragon,
^ and James Albrighton went to fight. Sylvia Townsend Warner
and Valentine Acland saw the plight of the wounded and then
In Britain the International
influenced Ae

^d'withte POUM and

^ forty-odd
volunteers who
in Ar^on.
^ ^
campaigned in Britain for Medical Aid. Sir Richard Rees,
Julian Bell and the Boulting brothers drove ambulances.
Others like Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden and
There were FetJ Rickword visited Republican Spain and wrote about the
^Spanish struggle.
organisations in thei P struggle.

Brockway, leader and c^

? etician of the ILP,
that the need
M was
accepted the
to prepare
was the atmosphere in which George Orwell decided,
of POU December 1936, to go to Spain to write or to fight. Orwell,
views of the leaders
contro l in the crisis;
Soviets of workers
an P eas class to a
under his real name Eric Blair, went to see Pollitt
at the
e d the working
Front agreem ,j 1
Communist Partys London headquarters to ask his help
that the Popular fto storage in


non-socialist government command took the getting to Spain. Pollitt refused to help
Orwell by using the
and that thedemand for the war when * organisation of the International Brigades. He
may have done
from the wor faced
so because he knew
that Blair had served in the imperialist
initiative _ arfo foe Republic
fascists had made ^ eat ..f lating that if the socialist
police Burma, and Ralph Fox and Dave Springhall,
force in
aS Political Commissars in Spain,
Brockway f^ were defeated the had been stressing that all
revolution was to tak eP
la Xr Ae fafcists
be prepared
volunteers must have firm anti-fascist
convictions. Pollitt then
the soc revo iu tion must had a close relationship
forces to carry out with Victor Gollancz, the publisher,
when it arrived.
PP and may have heard of
and stimulated to Tomtit the contents of Orwells manuscript The
his ^biography Road
said that Broc to Wigan
Pier. (When this did appear as a
Left Book Club
must be
recognises ch wea J ^
nesso f his attitude
oice Pollittwrote a scathingly bitter denunciation.)
Tomorrow (1977)
Harry Pollitt, the General ^
^ Secre ,7 of
was t0 defeat
So Orwell went along
to the ILP who were preparing to send
rnnedut^ ue
Part,, urged con, .and y that *e
calling for help
fo P but for aj
^ unteers to Spain and
secured their help.
re scing to speculate what would have happened if
fascism and, to fo e mselves Onl'n ^ L
are defending
democracy, not only 0 nly P
alh ad n allwed to join the British Battalion
of the
iifefr. _
B ngade In the intense political life and
fiehP^T L
ghis physical bravery might have been
|( steeled and
mt steadPast courage, his
Ettceri k
basic misanthropy
y comradeship and trust in humanity,
his political
Inside the Myth Bill Alexander

so giving own words I saw very Iitde fighting. Nobody
C anrl naivety
turned into understanding, bothered about
the enemy.
him^ purpose an(/cause At this time the fascists, having been beaten in their attempts
to capture Madrid, were concentrating to take the coal, iron
and engineering centres of Asturias and the Basque provinces.
Pressure on their flanks from the Aragon front would have
made more difficult. Orwell complains that action was
impossible because of the lack of rifles and artillery, but,
because of the Non Intervention agreement, this was the
Orwell'writes in
representauve and as j newspa general lot of all Republican forces.
had come ^"^"^dia.ely because'a, Whatever arms the government was able to obtain naturally
that time an in
McNair oU
^ ^
possibly concerned that a
^ went to the active fronts. But Orwell himself describes what
could have been done in his account of the one offensive raid
conceivable thmg to do. Inttmadonsl his group made. George Kopp, the Company Commander,
recruit sho ' d

well-known 8V" 0Sl to a POUM unit. was a Russian brought up in Belgium with no previous military
the mechtmi experience. He describes, in a page-long story in the ILP paper
his knowledge of
Sif^ueThere tepke New Leader, how in a raid by 15 men, and with only one
casualty, they captured 2,000 rounds of ammunition and
bombs and their action compelled 20 lorries carrying 1,000
POUMistas and, exp
joined thdnternationa ^^ ^ ^ poUM
a short periodwith^ne
militia, Orwell
troops to be sent from the Alasso front. Kopps precise
knowledge of the troop movements is very open to question,
other British vo.u
volunteers who, organised by but the story shows that aggressive action would
weakened the fascist concentration on the North. As it was, the
same day the ILP group left the front to go on leave

werejoimng th^
Barcelona the Nazi planes bombed and obliterated Guernica.
Sought they
^d^^shedT join' fe Brockway, the NewLeader and Orwell stress that the ILP
unde, group were entitled to go on leave - being allowed
die 29th Division
BridsS BafuliomThe group jotned leave for every month at the front.
five days
This certainly did not apply
political control of POUNJa the political to any other unit in the
all Republican Army, since it would have

meant that one sixth of the army were on
leave at any one time
-while the fascists were pressing on many
fronts. The British

need for an orgamse l army an Battalion of the International Brigades, despite losing
the realisation of the of two-thirds of its strength in three days fighting at Jarama and
southern P
command. On the central^and Buton spending five months in the front line trenches, had only six
heavy fighting, this was aloof

the quiet Aragon front

CNT largely
kept larg
^ daysout of the line, and then only three
Barcelona and Catalonia had
miles behind the front.
maintained a quite separate
from reorganisation and f XTfluence of the POUM 'entity from the Popular Front government -
under new Tne
titles. partly because
political control Then Kie CNT s anarchist philosophy and partly because of
Tal and
declining they could only at ona ^ st separatism. The

Orwell and the lj.

I"e r anarchists did not accept
29th Division with Aak
[ n Orwell fascists could only be
the fascist lines. defeated by unified, organised
on mountains often far from
Inside the Myth Bill Alexander
92 more often than not a pure pretext) but to anything that meant a
defeat any talk of
effort and that without their united and supreme direction of the struggle under a common
change was futile dreaming^ of the Spanish discipline.

The government
^ * majority
ust V defeated before
mili^, (Negrins litde-known relationship with Orwell
^""needed centralised effort in
dte is
Herbert L. Matthews in an article in the New York magazine
discussed by

industrial and political analysis of the conduct of The Nation, 27 December 1952.)
This difference in the ^ eaders of the two Only a very few of the group were old members of the ILP,
the war led to tension UGT and CNT, agreed understanding and supporting the political position of POUM.
main trade unions in J-ation for fear of clashes. But
Hugh ODonnell, a British Communist working in the
not to hold a May Day
em Foreigners Department of the PSUC (United Socialist Party of
May d the workers to begin
the POUM Bulletin of 1
Battdla, the Catalonia) met Orwell (Eric Blair) and a number of the ILP
d La
the struggle for '^ ^^Si^ath e ready'. group when they arrived in Barcelona on 30 April. He wrote to

The S otor^d* ^
POUM newspaper, urg v g
had beenihdd back

Q f all the arms which
of ^

e Genual
Pollitt in London that many of the group were discontented

and frustrated with being in the POUM unit and he listed nine
men, including George Orwell, who said they wanted to join

parties. On
Telephone Exchange
- soli leld
1 .y Cm
cnT Then elements of the BritishBattalion in the International Brigades. ODonnell
wrote: the leading personality and most respected man in the
CNT (then- leaden were gw contingent at present is Eric Blair. He has little political
h dden and

took to the streets armed police forces and understanding and said he is not interested in party politics
The gove e" t U cameto Spain as an anti-fascist to fight fascism. As a result
brought m ,^
Assault Gu ds from
Valencia. The fighting
government established
lasted and
of his experience at the front he has grown to dislike the
ve *'S
casualties, umtl
four days, with
control. Though
Orwell says no POUM unn^
|rf[ the froM
^ ,
POUM and is now awaiting his discharge from the POUM.
Orwell himself bears this out in a letter to Frank Jellinck in

and Termine, Frenc S
1938, after writing Homage to Catalonia - Ive given a more
Broue groups from the 29th
| on 5
sympathetic picture of the POUM line than I actually felt,
sssrp from because I always told them that they were wrong and refused to

^k*na"ot proceed beyond Binefar

13. join the party.

Yet Orwell went voluntarily to the POUM headquarters

miles from the front). raueht up in this difficult,
when the fighting began on 3 May. He was given a rifle from
iheir store and helped to guard
the building, though he did
not fire his weapon and went
down to a hotel for meals. Most
of the ILP group
kept away from the events, staying indoors in
iheir hotels;
some then made their own way back to Britain,
and others joined
non-POUM Spanish units.
the ctoric
He [Orwell] came to <** Orwell explains his action thus:
When I see an actual flesh
tutelage of a group possibly Negr one and blood worker in conflict with his natural
[ Germans ing free ly from enemy, the
what he says about war Policeman, I do not have
agents (read stated after
the to ask which side I am on. Strange
other and what the Masoning given his own
side to the lNegrln h italtol
past, and when one recalls he had not
on our side) 01 part in the
about their activities only Wan (this' unemployed and anti-fascist demonstrations
by elements very allergic, not

Inside the Myth BUI Alexander 95
94 book Warburg (of Seeker and Warburg the eventual
in Spain.
targets of publishers) says that Orwell saw him in December 1936 saying
in Britain, the fascil" Chap's
was opent g I want to go Spain and have a look at the fighting
saw the fighting
the clue to Orwell
s ben
found in lhe comment
book about
Good chaps these Spaniards, cant
. . . write a
literary executor, on them
it. let

Richard Rees down.

by Sir *
Aragon front - written almost
U C Bob Edwards, leader of the ILP group at the front, wrote
SX s^e of Schoolboys abouTthe about Orwell s attitude to the war: I got the impression that
he was allowing his needs as a writer to override his duty as a
overhead like red
S^rwirAe^ay bullets flying
soldier. He was wanting, I thought, as many experiences as
shanks whistling. ld-wide significance possible as background material for the book he was writing.
undersmndmg of the wor

Orwell had no
of the struggle m Spam, e w ^ effom of On 9 May 1937, almost before the fighting was over in
Barcelona, Orwell wrote to Gollancz, I hope I shall have a
achieve a united front
the Popular Fr
he h
^?^ seen the e
Republican flag, he did chance to tell the truth about what I have seen. I hope to have a
book ready for you about the beginning of next year. Gollancz
against poUM - he took the rifle in

fOT differe ", refused to publish it, but Homage to Catalonia appeared in 1938
and today, in 1984, it has appeared in twenty reprints.

How does Orwell himself appear from his own writing of his
life as a soldier? There is a strong sense of remoteness and
convincing those who continuation of the fighting
detachment from his comrades-in-arms - both in the ILP
Batalla u
action, only La group and the Spaniards and other nationalities in his
days On 10 May Orwell and what
spoke of the glorious

and , company. He appears as a loner. This characteristic is in reality

confirmed by the fantasised, romanticised account - both in
of the book and
a political leader Afo ace te to establish contact
his in his near-doggerel poem - of his very brief
International Brigade
B encounter with an Italian volunteer in the
to j 0 fo the British
Battalion, Barcelona barracks.
with lhe group The conditions of muck and filth in the shallow trenches,
dussion, with them,
not let
but McNair would 0rwell says there was
not expressive of primitive life in most of Spain, are scathingly

Again of this described. There is no account of efforts to change conditions

at'lhis lime 4,00.
much happening at the -

sed \ n Bilbao to
be sent to and so, by example, help to break Spain from its primitive,
Basque children were g (jated forces
smashed backward past. He states that the floor of his unit cookhouse
Britain, while ranc was deep in wasted food. It must have been
safety in Ten days later Orwell unique among all
as treamtem in several the Army cookhouses. The shortage of food was general - mess
a bulle. and after
V fnlirroal by tins and utensils were scraped clean by the ever hungry
POUM convidesceM h ep Ur Fr0 ,

hSpitals arrived al a soldiers.

After the May

events m was His aloofness from the common
ag pQuM u$ paper units spirit of Popular Front
government took ^P S S ** military Spain is strikingly exposed in his cynical dismissal of the fact
arresce d, and its

its leaders
suppressed, many of home jnat wounded soldiers demanded to return to the front. It

the ILP group^had

disbanded. Most of McNair an d a ppened
Without this spirit the Republican forces,

Britain. At the
end of Spain. outnumbered and outgunned, could not have
fought on for
crested and left
might be arres-
decided that they writing of gnteen more months after
Orwell went to his
Homage to Catalonia,
though he had been ^
linking about H the 0 ranco
Orwell had gone home. Resistance
would not have persisted despite forty years of terror
Inside the Myth Bill Alexander
might have fired machine guns to butcher 4,000 in the Badajoz
bullring. The same man would certainly have tried to kill
Orwell when he had fastened his belt. Orwell feels no
anger at
the man who wounds him - indeed wishes to congratulate
fronts, ne^ on his good shooting. He is certainly not concerned at his own
Malaga or Basque
on the Madrid,
pronouncing on m'
^ olympjan absence from the battle line. Orwell saw the war as a
^ Spaniard sare good at many things material for a book.

people, despite n*. After a brief two months in the North of England
but not at maiM g wasted little time before writing The Road to Wigan Pier. But
nver to Franco, depnved of he
of the re *r *r S used his description of conditions there to attack those
but large
^ no
weapons, held b
d H an
t OIfi the Spanish fascists
Ita forces for thirty- two towards socialism and communism as a caricature
of fruit juice drinker, nudist, sandal wearer, sex
22E SongefTn^ch and Beigian forces d,d in figure
Quaker, Nature cure quack, pacifist and feminist.
19 militia, in spite of their description ill-fitted to his guides, leaders of the National
He pronounced that 'the anarchist
Unemployed Workers Movement, one of whom, Tommy


advances negate
y u

W0 Sesrrt defecT- " times they fought as ga rce |ona went to Madrid
in the
Degnan, was to become a tough fighter in the International
Brigades and a leader of the Yorkshire miners. No!
qualities as an observer but his conclusions

to what he had seen.

So retiring
Orwell had
have little relation

from the Spanish War, admitting that he knew

little before hewent and saw little there, again he wasted no
time in studying the complex situation
before expounding his
opinions. It is true that after the ILP group
went home the New

in battle, recogn, edi

*e jneed
^ ^
Leader largely ignored the Spanish war,
Daily Worker and Tory newspapers
but the News Chronicle,
all carried reports showing

Kbe^et the tenacity and determination

Orwell used his skill as a writer to

of the Peoples Army. But
mask his prejudices and

Throughout his writing his sheltered life-style

coupled with
hisignorance of the realities of Spanish life
led him to

eye to
a future book,
to write a
areas o

^ England. But
^ ^
pronouncements hostile to the people. The
arcdona barracks did its necessary
own illusions about the
pi water
latrine in the
bit towards puncturing my
Spanish civil war. He was familiar

distressed industrial wo men caught closets in his middle-class English

identification withthemen w they were unknown surroundings,
was no sense of family
outside the bigger Spanish towns. His
in the capitalist crisis -no in Italy
ou ht was <the de tail of our lives was just as
Th h^-o^^f^fascisna ^ 6as it could sordid
background go I. emotional!' anH
Germany do not appear to
ave m almost
angry, be in prison let alone in a bourgeois

concerned to do something.
^ feeling,
e ln

Republican Army was hard, often very hard.
f danger and diarrhoea when men had to
his writing-
shows itself throughout
rewT Tves in the
one of neutrality,
Orwell refuses to shoot
at because he
had his
M Rthemse slit trenches. But the soldiers, coming
Inside the Myth Bill Alexander 99
98 Daily Mail and his supporters in Britain were confident that
botkgrountls^cr ted w
from mainly peasant that the democracy and the working-class movements would be broken.
wrote home sang and dncussed trenchet. Spain and its defenders destroyed such ideas when they held in
to read,
fuller life they
were StfJ* Orwell check the fascist war machines for nearly three years. Orwell
""ted pronouncements
another of h.s epical,'alt b usually tM sneered at the Popular Front slogan It is better to die on your
soldier anywh<er bother feet than to live on your knees but it entered the consciousness
aboye all too ti re d
says: a to
hungry or frightened Orwell, despite his very
war >
of the democratic armies in the Second World War, and it was
about the political origins the philosophy of the resistance fighters throughout occupied
limited experience,
the behaviour of

the men of

be2i"knew what Utey were

gd tQ

acqua n t himself with

Modesto, Campesino
nding fighting
fighting for and
The German, Italian and Austrian democratic movements
were defeated by fascism because they could not agree to sink
their differences and did not accept that the defeat of the fascist
menace took priority over all else. From 1934 the Spanish
'^iTctrwell was sincere
and people understood and worked for united action against reac-
been aware of his t^Tnumber of ccl sions in tion.The Popular Front pact of January 1936 was an electoral
When h<
him agreement, but the bitter experiences of the war brought the
to Catalonia.
1940 he did not
Homage to

Cata o
had fought in
he hac
that he^

^8^ Spam of 0nveU


s politicalgroupings together as they saw that reaction threatened

them all. This meant changes in political ideas. The anarchist
written he was very eager
^d wrote o^O

at the time,
about polici
sion that Onvell was
in line with philosophy crumpled and retreated when faced with better
armed and organised fascist units. The communist and socialist
conduct of the war.
ideas - organisation and priority to defeat fascism - were proved
explanations giv
him without reserve.
satisfied with my
Orwells silence about
given this
his experiences
unique P r
in and his failure,
^ yiews and
right in and gained ground. The Communist Party, in
gained influence because the Soviet Union was the
only power to give active help to the government, and because


question his honesty.

pronounced without
the Communists had shown in policies and by personal example

the ways to victory.

When Orwell
that civilian clothes
left the front for Barcelona he deplored the fact
had replaced the uniforms seen in the city in
o Snanish
War have expanded on January. True, for the Spanish people the red scarves and the
Many other writers euphoria of the early days had been replaced by the grim, sober
frequent incompetence
muddle andfrequ^
the difficulties, confusion, merit of realisation that the defeat of fascism was going to be very

in the Republican
Orwells writing in
ron a
^ ^ establishment is
betrayed, and
h'* difficult. Orwell did not understand or even
know about the
general organisation and training going on outside the towns

contendon that the K """



facd ons.
Orwell is form a Popular Army. He did not understand
the general
demand by all groups in the government that Catalonia and
Aragon should also end romantic, adventurist
talk and inac-
leam w
SSS^gX^ of Orwells U, stiU wan. to
. et industry
mt0 effective
working for the war and the men organised
military units.
Jhe POUM slogan The war and the revolution are insepar-
J e had already been shown as hollow phrase-mongering an
almost inevitable as a
stage m
Inside the Myth Bill Alexander
in subjection, while in Britain the had gone alone withTUC
Non Intervention until September 1937. There could be very
support from outside for a revolution in Spain.
November 1936 the fascists had conquered nearly half Spain
the enemy.' Far from warning and had a foothold inside Madrid, being checked only by
We d dn worry much about there was growrng
Lor, for revolutionary change,
more support
bloody batdes. Even the Barcelona Regional Committee of the
formers and land workers to the CNT said on 4 May - while Orwell was guarding the POUM
opposition by sma
mD osed by
experiments imposed
; oy POUM
anarchists in
rw and headquarters with a rifle that It is fascism which must be
much of Aragon. Dditcmna events and his
n his version ot tne Barcelona The Soviet Union had become very popular in Spain because
Orwell, in n
scene, directs his anger at the
b it was were the only power to fight in the London
Union, saying that the one thing Intervention Committee and the League of Nations
Communte dthe Soviet for the
Commurns^waewmahrg^vas^not topmstpone legal right of the Republic to buy arms. Their
words were
fbrwhkh die
Spanish revolution till a
never happened j*
more smtable^
time i the ILP
none at
^ Aat
^ backed by supplies of arms and food. In the early days they
sent a few pilots, tank crews and military instructors
advisers to help the Republican Army. According

to Soviet
litde of their policies and sources only about 2,000 military men went to Spain
The could have read very and there
were never more than 600 to 800 there at one time.
attitudes' (the ILP group

Lister amiMmfesto
were ignored in La Batalin
delivery of Soviet material was very difficult
their ships were attacked by the Germans and
and hazardous;
li]^ I^asicmaria,
'"amsh government
steps to hg Mediterranean and the French government blocked
Italians in the
the war efto^ by land. Chamberlain was manoeuvring to isolate
Aragon and Caudoroa into ^ the Soviet
Union diplomatically while encouraging the fascists.
Communist The
to suggest in a
even Crick, Orwell d S F her, continued
s biograp
Soviet Union had every reason - morally
and politically - to
right-wing sociahst and
a work for the victory of the Republican
recent television
programme. P government. But they
fr ^m the war Council, did not have the power and
certainly no crypto-commu influence either to start a
, >

Barcelona. The
initiated the military
moves to end t revolution or equally to delay one.
government, Garaa uu and
Garc ; a Oliver Orwells political estimation
two anarchist Ministers in the of the position in Spain and of
the Barcelona May events
have small foundations in reality.

53w3SsrjS=ss= His position as an outsider

is confirmed in his description
England as he retired from the
the deep, deep
Spanish struggle - all sleeping
sleep of England. His London-bound train
may have passed another
carrying British volunteers to help
me Spanish people fight
on for another two years. In the poor
eets of Wigan and Barnsley unemployed
a revoluuon did men and women

forces to make iar Front even

to e p Uectmg food and medical supplies. In Stepney
shown their determination Britain and even
the Jr and
U neetham
before the Generals

Popular Front government

hindered the Republic,
right to

buy arms. The German


^ ^f ^ e

em of
workers were

^Wsing Chamberlains sell-out and
were resisting Mosleys blackshirts. In
and demonstrations the people were
appeasement and
Hp mg real opposition to the fascist powers and their
Inside the Myth

on London and Paris

2Jm ^Barcelona or rhey may fall

lessons of Spain.
OmeThad not learnt the true
Robert Stradling

Orwell and the Spanish Civil War:

A Historical Critique

The object of this essay is to examine George Orwells writings

on the Spanish Civil War from the standpoint of the
professional historian and that of the student of History. The
texts which form the subject of this exercise - Orwells
curriculum vitae - comprise a full-scale book, Homage
Catalonia, four discrete articles of varying length, and reviews of
eleven books on Spam which appeared in the three
following his return from service in the Republican forces 1
It .

is thus a sufficiently large and variegated

body of work upon
which to base an appraisal of Orwells contribution
to our
knowledge of the Civil War, and an evaluation of his role in
forming subsequent opinion about its central issues.
Itmight be noted at the outset that Orwells own judgement
of work on this subject other than his own was distinctly
i unfavourable:

The immediately striking thing about the Spanish

War books, at
any rate those written in English, is
their shocking dullness and
badness. But what is more significant is that almost all of them ...
are written from a political angle, by cocksure partisans telling you
what to think .

Some years later, he

commented a propos of Homage itself, that
Epjj&s a frankly political book, but in the
main it is written
'"h a certain
detachment; adding that I did try very hard in
whole truth. 3
In this, as in so many other places,

Inside the Myth Robert Stradling 105
piano piece by a musical son of Catalonia - Albeniz or
omdl invites (nay challengz ^ Uk rd*r
wt Granados, say - incoiporating the rhythm of the national
writings with the l s
dance, the Sardana. A more specifically academic mind would
When we ask such
probably envisage a festschrift of some kind, presenting essays
tuestianr on the folklore, literature and history of the Catalan people.
Surely a book with such a title should address itself in part to
I the suggested subject, or even (since Catalonia is more
working purposes.
suffice for
Not long ago the present
teaching option on
automatically including
pj ^
prepared an undergraduate

jn ^

the conscious
intensified than otherwise by the word Homage) place it at
the centre of its cogitations?
In fact Catalonia
contents of this
is about as meaningful a guide to the
book as Wigan Pier is to those of his previous
Q j-
tdis act>
aside the subhmina im P / r one. I m afraid I must tell you, replied Orwell to an enquiry
straig orward In the English-reading .

reasons were quite account during a BBC broadcast, that Wigan Pier does not exist . 5
iliar contemporary
the most f
world Homage is by far Similarly, Catalonia has no observable existence in Orwells
of the Spanish War,
Unlike hundreds of
and wa
others o
* cheaply ealily L a nd
book about the Spanish War. It displays awareness of no aspect
of the history of the country, nor of its culture and society,

^ ssingly lucid

available. analysis strong and or in the context of Spain as a whole. Although
either sui generis
^. adve drama tic, the
approachable, th he does refer to Catalan, only two words of the language
nse --djjj
perfectly transparent. It
sham the i argument
that n
(,n every \

^ appear in the text, and one of them is persistently mis-spelled 6 .

seemed likely
of the war, or In no other way does Orwell distinguish between the Catalans
^ iogiS alosphere .
expose so clearly the
c context of the

universal issues
of die and other Spaniards. This is not surprising in itself, because he
spent only two of his six months in Spain inside Catalonias

T^ 1o"rOrSl
of the 1930s.
- open may ers of detail,
that it
borders. Most of the Spaniards he met, whether at the front, or
behind the lines in the villages, were Aragonese. Moreover, the
especially in
fallibility, than utterly Catalan language was then not widely spoken amongst the
considered, puma facie *at diminished our working class of Barcelona, and during the war their
lnc*d thzn
^n^ho'o& both good History and organisations were actively discouraging its use 7 Of course
Orwell does devote some of the most memorable sections of
his book to Barcelona, and aspects of its

topography and daily

life are mentioned en passant.
But the Catalan capital is for his
tmd his pubhstoM g.
wrote to a friend that he
because they cou d
impossible to
disingenuous, or
not think of anyth,
, ,
cer tainly made

^ __ u purposes any large industrial city in the world where

revolution of the proletariat happens to be taking
city is

essentially a site of socialist struggle, and only
Barcelona. And even here, nothing is said about
place. The

a cQuld
sense commercially,
anv rate it is a Barcelona antedating the moment six months before

a In-!
regarded, in 1938, as f die Orwell s arrival of the defeat of the
military uprising. In
concerning one o die
bizarre fact
age, and points up the absurd fact

* ort,

anyone who turns to Homage to Catalonia in the hope of
informed about its apparent subject is totally wasting his
subject at all. I OV

ostensible Your
Homage to Catalonia?
react to the semiodcs
of the tide describe a The evidence (as we shall see) strongly suggests that Orwell
average habitui of
Hampstead might imagine
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
innocence, which he rather proclaimed
did no background reading
on matters Iberian before he went than disguised can
that h cause embarrassment and irritation. If Foucaults theory
writings on the war mutate
to Spain. None of his <j
knowledge-systems are the fundamental
about Spain which he regarded medium of social
earned anything subsequendy
therefore take conditioning and the exercise of
as relevant The events
he describes and analyzes power has validity, then
and cultural vacuum. As Orwell is what he wanted to be, one
historical of the most nearly
place in an almost complete - about independent of writers. Because he represents
book in a terrific hurry that compara-
Ssual Orwell composed his - whilst he was lively rare thing in Western society,
of 1937 but the untutored intellectual
e months of the second half
E. Allison Peers book Catalonia (despite, oi perhaps because of, his Eton education) he has
doing so he read and reviewed achieved something of the status of
scholarly study of Catalonia to appear the Holy Man
Infelix the first modern interesting that ,n the 1950s both Stephen
It is
a graphic account of the anarchist Spender and Lionel
in English. This contained

condemnation of the Catalan Trilling saw the Onvell of Homage as a uniquely

terror along with scathing army of truth. 12 Strange as it may seem to
virgin soldier
agonizing ,n the
Peers conclusions the lay reader
revolutionaries in general.
friend of Catalonia such apparently striking references are
enough for a man who was a
sincere of little help to the
of the better Franco than Durruti historian, any more (as can be readily observed
nationalist aspirations, were volume) than to the modern philosopher
elsewhere in
variety For Onvell, who
was at this point more attracted to the this
and literary
cause, this was sufficient to cntic Let us leave aside his disdain for
anarchist than to the POUMist
all the obvious sources
except for one useful ofstudy in his subject, with the possible
reject evening about
Peers book, exception of the
newspaper, La Batalla. It seems likely that
and-Communist quotation which he quietly expropriated. Orwell understood
that Catalonia owes its very spoken Spanish (or rather, Castilian)
a remarkable paradox
badly - if at - all and
It is an element of doubt concerning his
of nine out of ten people in die there is
existence in the consciousness any real fluency. At times, of course,
ability to read it
title-page of a book in which it has with
he is quite
non-Hispanic world to the about referring several times in
This is the strange kind of
publicity this,
Homage to difficulties with
no tangible existence. the language and admitting
which the autonomous
government of Catalonia celebrated in that his spoken Castilian was
February 1984, when they
and Barcelona s two University Elsewhere, however, he is more

allowing the
conference, which might have been impression that for practical purposes
he was an
sponsored an international prolong^ abk conversationalist. Let us explore
tftled Homenatge a
George Orwell. During this some instances.
act of gratitude, the
High Priest of Orwelliana,

a Catalan rock opera a ,

rS h entry ' duty on the cinema rooftop,
of the May l
I nf
Events in Barcelona, he reports
at the height

Bernard Crick, solemnly attended Knversation with a Civil Guard

an elaborate
opposite his position. This
"whafs of Catalonia is only slightly
whole. Orwell was remarkably
less so of Spain as

ignorant of all thin 8 s

a mdividua was stationed
over fifty yards from Onvell, on
Slde f thC R mbla (the
Clty s main boulevard),

terms of background, either regarding it as ummpo

I ftcha
arms fofif
6 ^
C haVC taken
and the
p,ace above the cra ckle of small
to spare the time to fi
(more probably) being unable ^
Crick says, he seems

at the front his mind

Comfort (or rather the lack
was fully occupied *u F
of it) and
menta ye au
physical from a'lm,

CtmentHO^' 5?
situation to
tempt l SaVe h

P am
duty m

officer. If

unit commander, Georges Kopp,
daims he Went C
a Very com ,ex and
(on his own part) occasionally
016 ar
moments when he

so often encountered
and reported his .mmediate
surroundmgSs bu^jh^
in his work of t


ca j
iC ?
lapsing. intr>

Was seeking'15
dCtua ffy
f n those
nd St00d the technical queries ofh.s
obtained the specific document he
who speak Spanish like a native will
academic, Orwell s
guileless naif. For the
Myth Robert Stradling
Inside the ^09
108 received it as such. In any case, even when
clearly accessible,
namr^of^this^achieveiTient-^^^ the intentions of the author, although not irrelevant, are
readily appreciate tl^

( P 1939),
In the course of his minor responsibility within
definitive either. Despite his statement that books of
the genre
to which Homage obviously ( inter alia) belongs - eyewitness
POUM ^rnpany
accounts or memoirs have a useful life of about six months,
he evidendy did not see his own work as ephemeral, and later
among the few
coTerrdTwaT^ply a question of chocs, ng came to suspect that it might be perennial. 20 As a piece of
men who spoke Spanish. inside documentary reportage and commentary,
be was lying on the
and most r
^ ^ P J,s
had palsed through
shares characteristics with two of its authors earlier works,

ground, moments a tei

^ ^ haye been consc i OU s, but
and understood every word of
Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier. Is
it, therefore, to be classed as a work of superior
conscious' enough to have heard Most Orwell experts - including his biographer, Bernard Crick
comrade was sajrng.
what an excited Spamsh __
- contradict his own (repeated) insistence that he went to
The to write, and not, necessarily, to fight; but their reasons for
* foS's Such doub) must so
hoTes and'consistency. doing are by no means convincing. 21 In later years, he was
be p ,aced interpret what he
obliged to join the NUJ in order to earn a living, but his
assessment of his cap
ty suspicion of journalists as a professional species was hardened
corroboration from those
into contempt by his Spanish experience. If there is
bS e Spanish phrases one
passage in
'7o nal passages
occasional & Homage where original category of humanity which emerges from Homage with less
Given the author s
and snatches of ^nversa^ credit than Soviet agents and international capitalists,
book , these passages it is

description ol it as a
tramuy p

= efS
ive Homage an
the Spfnish
surely the Fleet Street hack.
excoriated journalists as a
and swindle,
Devil s
Formany years thereafter, Orwell
gang who deal exclusively in fraud
are disciples of Satan, in the sense of the
alleged fatherhood of
lies. If we may interpret his aim

unavoidably be seen as
comment. Yet, u
.^sag* oL fail
to make political writings into an art, 22 it seems likely that he
looked upon Homage as an artistic document of the
for 18
In a specialist historic
to sustain such a
claim to am &
reality of the Spanish War, akin in significant
respects to the
study of Orwells road to Catalonia outstanding memoirs of the Western Front (which he
^ non . po litical well), but also - mutatis mutandis -
supporting evidence) tha
reading knowledge of p
^ >
^ Qther work
Gn Orwell
Civil War and to Picassos Guernica.
to the poetry of the Spanish

this m Y important
Orwell was an emphatically non-academic writer.
that 1 have seen takes see ms fundamental
. But this

far less discussi does not invalidate
to merit mention, s described
and the academics task of exploring the
our acceptance of J
many hin
potential taxonomic locations of a book like Homage: herein,
in conditioning [0
after all, iies one key to the plurality of meaning
in a text.
Highly relevant here
remaxk^hat is Orwells own attitude to history as the
thing to
which he wished to contribute his artistic document.
he was not
out basic^esearch, His time in Spain
gave him an intense awareness of the
necessity of history,
perform it in the first place. W f History?
The which he saw as inseparable from artistic
his book as 3 lireedom. But his
Did Orwell intend f Utde d oubt that perception of history differed markedly from
since ere and pat of the student of the academic
question is otiose, always perceived discipline of History, in a
- wholly or partly - have P |
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
j H
the detail of his Spanish experiences in the interests
of aesthetic
balance and artistic emphasis. It follows that by Orwells
standards, art is not in harmony with history
but, on the
usually inched contrary, in conflict with it. This inconsistency is so salient

an all) -Looking Back on Re Span^Wa creates such an audible discord in Orwells intellectual
principles, that it is difficult to believe that he never

the horrors of We have seen how unimpressed Orwell was with the
Rerecorded pasc One of the most chilling of literature of the Spanish War. It was not simply an aesthetic
judgement. He was filled with horror and foreboding at the
SnSchfaS,sVriter -U Re profasSI
promiscuous distortion, manipulation, suppression, and
invention of reality; untruths which were disseminated in
- the histonca interests of established power-systems, and thus
resources oppression.
the most precious of humanitys Not only was the truth itself being thus annihilated. In
,Tt!, c n an essay composed whilst in the throes of
truth T
as one of the addition the course of the war and of the revolution, and with
j -vvrite) he included
them the aspirations and lives of Spaniards - perhaps as a
Hisiorical Impulse. Desire to
CSa^s oTws tpSon,
find out true facts and store up Rem prelude to those of all humanity - were being literally dictated
see things as Rey are, to by the written and broadcast word. It is necessary to bear in

^^S^ide^ble problems for Re hU.onan,

being seduced by Orwell s
mind that, as a man of the 1950s, Orwells reaction to all this
was necessarily more emotional (and more moral) than our
who musf be on guard agamst present, culture-conscious detachment. He reached

h! "Re prn^ seen "ftom Re future, and ^Re in the first age of mass-communication and

Cide R?
Rankes famous principle of
historical writing (wte
es eigenthch
the first generation of near- universal literacy in
Great Britain.
Most families by the mid-1950s had access to a radio receiver
and a cinema screen which completed the preconditions
the first era of overt and ubiquitous propaganda. 25
Yet again, it
is not difficult to detect a
contradiction at the core of Orwells

layman and many P olm " a

attitude to this question. The conjunction of
the media-matur-
future^ to which the ormcal^apprars^
ation of this decade with his own suffering,
persecution, and
often give rhetoricaj^toice^n firs 1
^ near-death in Spain, gave Orwell a missionary
sense of truth
and socialism, which was as all-pervading as it was
self-righteous. Every line of serious work that I have written
intensity beca 5 '
day wiR peculiar Orw 11 h co cem
since 1956 has been written ... against totalitarianism and/or
Second, it will be apparent that democratic socialism, as I understand it. 26 In
atomic facts ot mstory, other words, he
was with the concrete, b ,
was a self-confessed
propagandist, indistinguishable in one
preserved and guarded respect from the outstanding

yield a harvest of literal and universal

truth. L S
Homage) against
victim of his onslaught (in
assumP left-journalists,Frank Pitcairn. 27 All the
reservations on this

historians profound same, it isultimately to his credit that Orwell deplored the use
more important to note Re serious ot history as a tool of power,
Hefelt himselfli.
and that we find this salutary - if
in Orwells method
of writing in o g
Unoriginal message inscribed
w.R Re r hronology
chronology in all his Spanish writings.
commonly agreed) free to interfere
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
historians on been these texts has Several Catalan historians have
commended the value of
In general comment by
at least accept that-they Orwells account in the years since the
appreciative. Most commentators lifting of censorship in

(thus essential) material for the history of the Spain. (Some of these, it is true, are
declared POUMistas, like
provide reliable,
Alba, and Coll and Pane .) 32 In a recent
outstanding exception, however,
is the
Spanish War. The OULbUlllUIllg study of Barcelona,
widely-utilised Lumpiv**-
author of .he most wiaeiy-uunacu ~ 7
- of
~ndhe^ Joan Villaroya states that Orwell has synthesised
Hugh Thomas 28
In all editions of this and in a lucid and economical way, the atmosphere
the war in any language, in the first

footnote on Homage c has been European city to come under repeated aerial
work to date, a dismissive
uaaiv'- bombardment 33 .

year following its first appearance, Thomas One of the most distinguished historians of Republican
included; and the Spain
published a longer nouce in the
New Statesman The latter is if with reservations, writes of
the vivid and sympathetic
job un
on *a competitor, but in 1practice account of the May events given in Homage. 34
intended as a demolition juu Finally, the
, r
1 rrr\ ^
to go off.
. 1 ^
ff Thomas admits that

classic description of revolutionary

Barcelona, encountered
the charge completely fails
contemporary effusions on early in the book, is given its place in
Homage is the best of over 3,000 the first selection of
it is very misleading about the documentary readings on the Civil War made
the subject, yet asserts that for use by
neglected to illustrate this students, which recently appeared 35
Spanish Civil War! Having .

that the book is simply an Though not overwhelming, this consensus is

contention, Thomas goes on to
state justified, for
experiences, written almost in diary form much of Orwell s detail can be corroborated
account of Orwells ;
from other
he (Orwell) got on very well sources. Nevertheless, when he did
make a mistake, he was
adding the observation that since
that the POUM s often inclined to be both persistent and dogmatic
with rhe
the at the front he assumed
POUM in his error
None of these statements A few examples must suffice.
policy behind the lines was
means a straightforward account of its In his essay on the Spanish militias,
is valid. Homage is by no Orwell wrote that a lot
Two of the longest chapters about a - of harrn was done by the lies published in the left-wing papers
authors experiences.
- are devoted to political analysis and to the effect that the fascists were using explosive bullets. So far
quarter of the whole
remainder is punctuated by as I know there is no such thing
as an explosive bullet, and
polemic, and much of the
fundamental structure is certainly the werent using them . 36 In fact the
commentary passages. Though1 UUU^ii the

from diary form. Moreover Nationalists were using explosive bullets

narrative, it is pretty far removed during the time that
that he resisted me
veil insists "that
POUM arguments abut,
the rou... Orwell was in Spain, though probably
not on the Aragon
which he was X pressured at the front, finding front. Jason Gurney, who
arrived on the Jarama battlefield
war F _r I.with
Wdl -policy
those of
u ic Communists far
or the
far more convincing.
(This claim is

, . ,
within days of Orwells arrival at
Huesca, had his right hand
. . tin T_
uy others.)*" In May 1937,
durmg the jlays destroyed by such a bullet at much
the same time as the latter
SUSiailicu by
sustained 7 J

Ddituuna events received his injury 32 The

immediately preceding ding methe Barcelona 7 u .
memoirs of the mercenary

_ 17
from the P fVia militia into the fighter-pilot Oloff de Wet, and those of the American
strenuous efforts to l
He later, on several
91 Tr
1 Communist Ralph Bates, also confirm the
Communist-run International Brigades. weapon on the Madrid front at this
frequent use of this
the admission that, desp. period 38 Here, Orwell is
occasions, stated or implied .

them, PCE/PSUC Fpolicies were merely the victim of his own

prejudice against the left- wine
means utilised to auucvc
achieve ,

n 11

1 *
papers 6
the Republic. Given
capable of winning the war for

it seem Homage itself there is a fascinating

dicta on the subject
of his own book, and his other mistaken in oncermng the distinction between
trail of confusion
necesary to conclude that Hugh
Hugn Thomas is so
- two corps of
assessment of Homage that one
suspects he had eit
^ r
TV A/r ^ VCntS

paramilitary police, the Civil
Guard dim
and uie
the assault Guard
Assault Lruard.
read it, or had just spent a good lunch- time at h
New Statesman review.
L wen theh
r :
* n arce ona ~
four days of street fighting

government forces and the pro-revolutionary

both), when he wrote his
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
of inffa-Republican with the anarchists originated
organisations, which formed
the crisis from the notorious affair of
according to Homage, byth C tl Casas Veijas (1933) when the
Asaltos had massacred CNT
- were sparked off,
In fact the provocative
attack upon the anarchist-held prisoners m
Andalusia. 45 If the Generalitat, or
its Communist
Guard members, did want to provoke a showdown
in May (and the
CaS n0t pr Ven) the Asalt05 were the
,!ri obvious instrument
With one exception, writers on the
May Events in Barcelona
do not follow Orwells ascription. 46 It
is further clear from
such sources that contrary to his
assertion the Civil Guard did
insistent correction:
not take part in other attacks (since
none took place) on
anarchist strongholds,
Barcelona war started b, the Assault and that the Guardia unit holed up
You say the fighting in in
weren , an, the Cafe Moka next door to the
Guards Actually it was the Civil Guards^ Titer, POUM offices, were also
Asaltos, not Civiles.
Barcelona) then, and there ,s a
difference, Thus the Civil Guard who was Orwells
Assault Guards there lin
the old Spamsh gendarmerie daung partner m
the conversation earlier discussed
(if he ever existed)
because the Civil Guards are
the Assault Guards are a new was not a Civil Guard at all. It seems
century probably, therefore, that
from die earl, nineteenth

Orwell had never set eyes on a Civil

formation (and) pro-Republican.
Guard, the police body he
writes about so much, and with
so much affected distaste in
it contained the
somewhat Homage. The uniform of these men
When Gorers review appeared, is so distinctive -
as will
sem os Hough the starting pom, of have been universally appreciated
arkward correction 71 would
since the abortive golpe of
,,-mtaUi geudarmm., the Colonel Tejero received worldwide
the fighting was the
attempt of the television coverage in
.*> February 1981 - as to be quite
eL Guards take the Telephone
... to
this error m hi,
unmistakble. Orwells whole
approach to this matter is redolent of the
himself correcce
Before his death, Oiwell the natural enemy of the working
apostate policeman
n,np rlaimine to have been misled by the
tact tnat
.a class, who in attempting
wore a different uniform fmm complete transference of his allegiance
Assault Guards to the other side, has
, :
n iT ferbv the Valencia-based
Republican succeeded m
preserving a certain myopia.
Warburg During the Sucesos de Mayo, the
go,"nmen. m mall, n order. When Seeker and
Civil War accused by the PSUC of hoarding
revolutionary parties were
extracts of contemporary weapons
Published a collection of in Barcelona which
officially should have been sent to the front.
This was an
important nem m Communist propaganda against their rivals,
Ped he ,ater suPP rsion of the
PmiM l Trotskyist
grounds tkiat theY were preparing a coup
Ifhus fhvT
. and
of the Civd Guard b) glcal extension) were
tulto'Lo^ng-classliatred effectively fascists. In Homage,

it on


hehT ?i POl M
wtthm die latters
arge a$ rCgards the CNT 0nveI1

n the basis of his
> denies
/ 8 Whatever Onvell saw - and we must

ently had been

had FefuSed ^
j in the P artY. and ve ry
in contact with the Barcelona
their disbandment was resisted,
d y >
the 0 lder
agents of the
had J y
na Bngad " the fact seems
Guard (Guardia de Asalto who
chief objector
P )
The Asaltos
proletanansuspmionThed^ Nin W !f
established that Andreu
th ers ke t lar e quantities P S of anus
bod, as the in

of the
store aSinsTa"^
g day of ,

reckoning. A recent article on the

were mainly loyal members Then vendetta
J&lan r ,

Socialist Part,,
by Common,, ts.
militias which concludes thus, also argues
that the
Inside the Myth
116 Robert Stradling ny
interests in Barcelona was a major reported it at some place in his Spanish writings. If the
need to defend sectarian I

reason for weapon-starvation at the front, and therefore for anarchists or the POUM then he was guilty of suppressing a

the failure of loyalist
operadons in the Aragon theatre of war part of the whole truth harmful to the interests of his own
Morreres also confirms that
units in Aragon side. The alternative explanation, that he invented this story to

temporarily abandoned the line m

May, intending to march to gain a moral advantage over the hapless Auden, although even
in the Catalan capital (an intention more damaging to Orwells reputation, seems nevertheless the
the relief of their comrades
event, pursue). Once again, Orwell is more likely. He had, and was not slow to display (even after
they did not, in the
denying this incident, which he alleges becoming friendly with Spender) a prejudice against the pansy
unusually emphatic in

he specifically verified by inquiry when he returned to his unit poets of the left; and was himself, of course, a palpably failed
50 (Presumably, even his English 54
If this explanation is correct - and proceedings cannot
after the May Events. poet.
him on this point.) Orwell, - then his act was all the more dishonest because
comrades were prepared to deceive be conclusive
about the 1930s was later to write that Orwell, unlike Auden, had actually espoused the principle that
in a striking passage
atrocities took place even
though estabhshment worthies (like the end justifies the means. In Homage, and elsewhere, he
(like the Daily Telegraph)
Lord Halifax) and rightist newspapers stated unequivocally that he wished to see Franco defeated by
in other words, that something can be
- 55
said they took place any means whatever, which may be held to cancel out
propaganda. 51 He did not always everything he ever wrote about the ethical dimension of the
true even though it is also
retain a full enough
awareness of this principle; but what Spanish War, and which in Nineteen Eighty-Four he reasserted a

directly political writer

ever did? fortiori as the fundamentally self-annihilating principle of

Attention must be drawn to a further example, which may political consciousness. Victory resides only in becoming like
a darker shade than a mere the enemy, coming to love the enemy, becoming the enemy.
be regarded as something of
the Whale ( 1940) Orwell attacked Finally, we may turn from Orwells treatment of an
mistake. In his essay Inside
the latter s poem
WH Auden in a famous remark about individual to his treatment of a people.
accused Auden of
Spain. not in so many words, he
murder - the maxim
espousing - in the phrase the necessair During the first year of the war the entire British public is thought
P lumping him by implication
of the end justifies the means,
to have subscribed to various aid Spain funds about a quarter of
It is astonishing that
Auden was
a millionpounds - probably less than half of what they spend in a
with Stalinist executioners.
his poem, for sure y th
cowed by this into disavowing single week
in going to the pictures ... To the British working class

construction that Orwell placed

upon it was deliberately and the massacre of their comrades in Vienna, Berlin,
Madrid, or
underlined his moral condem-
crudely literal. Moreover, he
wherever it might be seemed less interesting and less important
have seen the bod ^s
nation by the claim it so happens
that I than yesterdays football match. 56
- mean killed in bade
number! of murdered men I dont
conception of h J
mean murdered. Therefore I have
It IS not difficult to appreciate that, for
many, such insensitive
it seems
remarks - even from a man who volunteered, and came close
murder means ,. In the circumstances

"when and where did OnveU

in his pubhshed work,^
to death
- are impossible to understand or forgive.
has described, in perfectly unsentimental terms, the
There is no other reference to it

on the poim.
^ jiacnfi ces for Spain made in the poverty-stricken communities
Cricks biography forthcoming

context in which he was writing

on this
Ut^ ^
a ^ es Tffi s example was by no means unique. 67

obviously intended to assume

that *e C I
On the broad level of overall interpretation of the Spanish
and who ,^ !he assassins^ If
^)rwe ^ s ^tbigs are seriously
Spain. But who were the victims limited by his exiguous
in i y have
certainly In**toent
he would of the Nationalist side. Little
latter were Communists or fascists more than a page of
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
118 119
Homage, with a couple more pages Looking Back, are
in pM an? ount anco cymcally exploited the dangerous
/y accidentals ideas
right word) to the Francoist movement. and the useful of fascism - above all to attract
devoted (if that is the
dismissive, Orwells comments are foreign support - with the full intention
Where not utterly of suppressing them
essentially speculative, since he knew very little about the after victory,a feature closely analagous to the
on what caused millions to fight government view of the anarchists. In spite of his
enemy. He had no ideas facile usage
against the Republic beyond what
he tamely accepted from the of the current leftist vocabulary, and some
other ideas about
on almost every other the war that a historian would regard
left-wing sources that he distrusted as eccentric, Orwell
matter. As Douglas Woodruff, reviewer of Homage in the perceived clearly enough that Francoism
was a phenomenon of
(if predictably) pointed the nineteenth century, not of the
Catholic magazine The Tablet acutely twentieth. With equal
a man who tells us that for a year or two acuteness, he foresaw that, whichever
out it is curious that side won the war, the
fascism had been haunting ensuing regime would have to be a dictatorship
past the international prestige of of some kind of
more intellectual but that, Spain being Spain, this
him like a nightmare, should not display fascism ;
fascism would be
58 The movimiento is (to Orwell) simply a horde of
considerably less totalitarian, and more
curiosity humanely inefficient,
the workers by the bosses than the Italian, German, or Soviet
drones and coolies driven to destroy models 60 Rarely can a

priest makes
- whether capitalist, landowner, army officer or political idealists disillusion - the very Iberian desengaho - have
paid for by international been so complete, for Orwell came to realise
no difference - and supplied and not only that he
could be no altruism or idealism on the other had not been fighting for socialist
fascism There revolution, (rather,
side indeed nothing that was
not inspired by vested interest bourgeois democracy) but also not even
against fascism, (rather
despite its determined a pseudo-fascist reaction). Nonetheless
and regimented by power. In this sense, on many central issues
in part because of
onslaught upon the Communists, perhaps
it, his intelligence did not let him
down, neither did he fail to
Homage remains a classic contribution to
the vaguely liberal manifest some elemental understanding of Spain
and its
so hegemonic that
myth of the Spanish War; a myth now
victory is part of the guilt-complex o
remorse over Francos ~ aim lUGUlUHILcU ISSUeS
war -

intellectual, a stock-in-trade of a whole ethical ot the if again by his own admission - Orwell
the western operated
constantly on knowledge and subjective experience.

^Throughout these texts, Orwell invariably

refers to the To his own satisfaction,
at least, sincere emotional
of Antonio and commitment and common sense
enemy as fascist yet makes no mention Jose
compensated for vulgar
other figure or party pragmatism on the one hand and fancy
the Falange, nor indeed of any theory on the other,
- an interesting tribute to the erhaps he made a virtue of
the rebels apart from Franco necessity, for previous to Spain his
tacucs. But the fact that ignorance was so profound that
success of the caudillo s political
he was obliged thereafter to
currently many scholars of Politics
and History - mcludig subsist as a writer on
what he picked up as he went along. His
that fascism was an innocence of Marxism-Leninism
some Soviet writers - acknowledge affected his judgement of all
authendc and popular revolutionary movement, a heresy P ries of the Spanish War,
and since he was unaware of
is n ore
perhaps simply a variant of Marxism,
S Cia ist dialectic
l and its tropes he was unable to
59 For the Franco movement was not fascist Y BamT" ne em via a cr 'bcal
irrelevant . .l comparison with empirical reality.
e *11 L
Same his
sense, however it was er<
P ^') Particular works, for the most part,
strict, or even meaningful b |, tft[m
contain a
European power/ideology standpomt. The nat.onahs^^^' C0n 1StenCy of view
311(1 argument: that is to
a doubt a L say, where
of ma con 01 pluralif do exist the
were a hugely heterogenous collection ^
1 ^

ionan ccmscioi.r^ By y author is usually

pursuit of f reacuo^rY
welded together by army and church, in
COnerast 11 is wdl
ot mercurial, and
was ^
which the interests of the two
latter ,

objectives in sometimes radical, shifts of opinion

Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
next It is historical practice democracy/, to hearten the timid and confound the
from one piece of writing to the 66 Fifth
reasonable procedure for any critic) to Column.
(and would be a
diachromcally rather than At this time, as all his
approach this phenomenon other public and private writings
illustrate, Orwell could hardly find adjectives strong
enough to
^Omen jofred ILP - the British group equivalent and
convey his suspicion of democracy in general
and his disgust
affiliated to the POUM
- in June 1938. 61 For about a year over the Spanish example in particular.
In response to this
before and after this date,
some thirty months in all, he commission he was nevertheless capable of a
piece of official
line, if more onfaithfully labourist optimism. The essay praises the
generally followed the Trotskyist Spanish Republics
related to Spain than otherwise His preservation of both the forms and the
matters not directly spirit of democracy
Beans (June 937) passing lightly over its internal power
earliestSpanish essay, Spilling the Spanish struggles. It asserts
bitter anti-Communist polemic clean contrary to Homage, that any
represents the most uniformly government which
that the purpose of the triumphs over Franco will be of liberal
he ever wrote. He argues here tendency, and in
of the Popular Army several other matters spiritlessly retails
Republican governments formation the Popular Front-
(Eiercito Popular) in 1936-7
was not to win the war, but to liberal line on the Spanish War. A
generous extract is necessary
suppress revolution. The
Communists, to the fore in its to impart the full utopian and
paternalist flavour of this
agents of capitalist reaction perplexing article. The war, claims Orwell,
organisation and command, were
62 These charges were no less (if no more) absurd
ereo fascists.
Cominternists against the POUM. was acting as an educational force ... If
than those forwarded by the men were suffering, they
Homage, the red mist cleared a were also learning. Scores of thousands
Thereafter, as can be seen from of ordinary people had
eyes. By October, during the
composition been forced into positions of responsibility
little from Orwells which a few months
an almost irenic detachment. earlier they would never have dreamed
of Homage, he was able to display of. Hundreds of thousands
characterised two authors of people found themselves thinking
A book review appeared in which he withan intensity which
against the would hardly have been possible in normal
as Trotksyists, pointing
out that their prejudice is times, about economic
to which they are not always
entire y theories and political principles.
official Communist Party Words like fascism, communi-
admitted that in his cism, democracy, socialism, Trotskyism, anarchism,
By the end of 1938, he actually which for the
account of *ePOUM mass of human beings are nothing but
book he had given a more sympathetic wrong.
words, were being eagerly
I always felt they were discussed and thought out by men
who only yesterday had been
line than I actually felt ...
eve of the Hitler war, he
Yet all this time, and down to
the illiterate peasants. There was
a huge intellectual ferment, a sudden
Trotskyist-paafist vie expansion of consciousness. It must
continually subscribed in print to parly
be set down to the credit side
acting explicidy as a ot the war
coming European conflict, . .

propagandist. Thje bin, here of an
more chan a Omdh*
a charlatan. For only been possible here to prise open slightly
It fias
was schizoid, or perhaps simply on.

the lid of
wayward comrade but a disloyal Pandoras Box of experience,
ideas, and reflections which
merely a somewhat
with the ILP he had are Orwell s
Spanish writings. They are by turns
the middle of his honeymoon
real and

socialist st ess n Vinang and naive perceptive

affair with the more orthodox and plain
l939 hf erhaps L lbes t

PprT^ silly,

Warburtons famous maxim on its head. 19
^ ^ summation of him was that made by the last
wrote a little-known article
commission, for the WEA
on Spai
h ay
J London^ in 1940.
K& Lr? RepubllC J uan Negnn, who met him in
He seemed to the Spaniard
(in the
occasion was a special issue designed dalities 0f
and th I decent and righteous, biased by a
W.E. Williams), to reveal the vitality p 1 too rigid puritanical frame,
Inside the Myth Robert Stradling
122 123
naivety, highly cridcal but 3 Why I Write (1946), ibid. p. 29.
gifted with a candour bordering on 4 Letter to J. Common (5 February
individualisdc ... and so supremely 1938), ibid. p. 330.
blindly credulous, morbidly 5 Your Questions Answered (2 December
would not hesitate to change his 1943), ibid p 296
honest and self-denying that he 6 Orwell writes Generalite for Generalitat -
the Catalan word for the
mind once he perceived himself to be autonomous government - throughout Homage.
When in hiding from the
police m
Barcelona, he says he daubted 'Visca POUM!
on the walls - his
self-consciously and own adumbration of Down With Big Brother!,
badge, more
Orwell carried honesty as a
prominently than almost any
other English writer. He
the reader unavoidably, and
raSer Bl 0d
1979. p. 532.
Homage, p. 215.
f SPMn: An 0ral History of the Spanish Civil War, London

continually seeks to confront 8 London, 1937 (reprinted, 1970).

his emblem, like someone who Homage p. 51.
often embarrassingly, with
9 Cf. Peers, op.cit.,
pp. 290-91.
displays prominent evidence
of a radical inclination on his or 10 B. Crick, Homage
to Catalonia and the British Council,
Times Higher
Educational Supplement 24 February
In Homage, perhaps unusuaUy, 1984, p. 12.
her person at a social gathering.

11 Ibid.
self-awareness of fallibility
he clearly intended his ubiquitous 12 J. Meyers (ed.), George Orwell: The Critical Heritage,
index of his veracity. To the London, 1975,
to be an incontrovertible pp. 134-37 (for Spender); L. Trilling, George Orwell
and the Politics of
works on one level. To be reminded of the Truth m
R- Williams (ed.), George Orwell: A
historian, this often ,
Collection of Critical Essays
to accept his statements only Englewood Cliffs, 1974, pp. 62-79.
writers prejudices, exhorted
13 Homage, pp. 14 Sc 210. It ought to be said
provisionally, and to check them against other ewdence ,s that Orwells account of the
the student, too,
May Events m
Barcelona is dose enough to that given by
disarming and comforting^ For suggest that he may have had some kind of
La Batalla to
a refreshing change from the access to it. See the extracts
Orwells translucent approach
is from the editions of 4 and 13 May 1937, printed
in F. Diaz-Plaja (ed.), La
works^ To remove
complex certitudes of so many
scholarly Guerre Espariola en sus Documents, Barcelona,
1974, pp. 306-07 Sc 318-19
of the Spanish War therefore 14 Homage p. 128.
Homage from the bibliography ,

in a subject which, in any 15 pp. 209-12.

might be discouraging to discourse 16 CEJL Vol. 1, p. 355.
certainty, ought to Arlve n ,

case incapable of objective 17 Homage p. 178.

same time, students must

permissiveness and plurality. At the 18 Orwell above Catalan example in n.6 illustrates) seems
(as die
to have
adopted tor a
be invited the Orwellian style may be
- if
often spelled as he heard. He did not realise, therefore, that the
letter H is
wrong even where he
moment - to consider that he may be
not pronounced in Castilian Homage
p. 38, several examples) and that

the letter P is never doubled (ibid.,

says he may be wrong.
Honest George was a writer not a p. 14). He transforms a widely used
four-letter word - which he
to be regarded as the horse unlikely to have seen in print - into a
s is
bookmaker! but he is no more five- letter Italianate hybrid
(ibid., p. 97). As often as not
he gets his
accents wrong, and never uses the
mouth. inverted preliminary interrogation and
exclamation marks characteristic of written
19 P. Stansky and W.
Abrahams, Orwell: The Transformation London, 1979 ,
p. 189.Neither this, nor any other major Orwell
source indicates any
encounter with Spanish before 1936.
Notes 20 See below, n.42.
21 B. Crick,
A Life, Harmondsworth, 1982, pp. 308 8c 317.
George Orwell:
Jansky and Abrahams are equivocal on the point,
op.cit., p. 176. Cf
ornagr p. 8, and (especially)
Notes on the Spanish Militias (?1939)
CEJL, Vol. 1, pp. 351-52.
453 of S. Orwell and I. Angus MOT Why I Write, CEJL, Vol. p. 28.
appear passim between pp. 309 fc
2S Ibid.,
p. 26.
and Letters erg

Collected Essays, Journalism f the three H pki ? n

fe rences to
Full references George 0nudl London, 1953 (reprinted 1977), p. 7.
dsworth, 1970, referred to
hereafter as CEJL .
25 L e
f B USh

j' Newsreels in the Civil War, see A. Aldgate, Cinema

other articles appear below.
and History,
Vol. p. 549.
London, 1979.
Inside the Whale ( 1940), CEJL,
Inside the Myth
7 Robert Stradling

55 Homage p. 69.

26 As for n. 22 above. 56 Ibid pp. 68 8c (Looking Back) 239.

27 Claud Cockbum. See
Homage pp. 158-59. 57 H. Francis, Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War
Civil War, London, 1961.

28 H. Thomas, The Spanish London, 1984, esp. pp. 119ff.

Reprinted in Meyers, op.cit., pp. 150-51. 58 Meyers, op.cit., p. 133.
and Abrahams, op.cit., p. 201 (evidence
30 Homage, pp. 57, 62 & 66. Stansky 59 See, for example, A. Beichmans survey of recent work on fascism. Times
Literary Supplement 19 February 1982,
, p. 180.
British Volunteers for Liberty.
31 Ibid.', p^TnUge, p. 113; B. Alexander, 60 Homage pp. 48 8c 173.

1936-39 London, 1982, p. 108. 61 CEJL Vol. 1, p. 373.

Stain , , ,

London, 1975, p. 150; J. Coll and J ane

32 V. Alba, Catalonia: A Profile, 62 Ibid., pp. 301-9. For the PCE view of the Popular Army, see E. Lister,
serves de Catalunya, Barcelona,
1978, pp. 128-41
losep Rovira: una vida al Memorias de un LuchadorVoL 1, Madrid, 1977,
pp. 1 19-61. For the Catalan
Els Bombardeigs de Barcelona durant la guerra civil,
33 J. Villaroya Font, i view, V. Guarner, Vaixecament militar a Catalunya i la
guerra civil
1936-39 Montserrat, 1981, pp. 86-7.
_ ^ .
(1936-1939), Montserrat, 1975.
Republic and the Civil War, 1931-39 Princeton, ,

34 G. Jackson, The Spanish 63 Ibid., p. 231. For evidence that Orwell was sympathetic to the anarchists
during the composition of Homage see also pp. 323 8c 325.
London, 1983, pp. 102-03.

35 H. Browne, Spains Civil War ,

64 Caesarean Section in Spain, The Highway, March 1939,
pp. 145-47. This
36 CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 253. -
piece has escaped notice in any of the literature on Orwell,
or on the
a7 Gumev Crusade in Spain London, 1974, pp. lo Spanish War, that I have seen, save for
J. Garda Duran, Bibliografia de la

The Civil War 19J6-J9, London, 1963, pp. 163 &

in Spain, Guerra Espahola Montevideo, 1964, p. 401. In the Introduction
38 R. Payne (ed.), ,
to their
350. complete Orwell, {CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 15) Sonia Oiwell and
Ian Angus
156 et seq. claim to have included anything that he (Orwell) would have
39 Homage pp. 117-18, 144,
1938), CEJL, Vol. 1, p. 349.
40 Letter to G. Gorer (18 April as an essay, but not everything which is purely ephemeral.
The actual
review (30 April 1939) as reprinted in Meyers,
41 G. Gorers Time and Tide contents of the collection suggest that this article qualified for
(The emphases in the quotation are mine.) by these criteria. The conclusion must be either that it was unknown to
od cit p. 122.
42 Orwells own errata in
Homage to Catalonia. I owe this information to the editors or that it was suppressed as inimical to Oiwells
reputation. I
Davison, who kindly provided me
with a photocopy of the
Professor P. am given to understand that it will appear in the forthcoming dejinitive
in University College, London.
material from the Orwell Archive complete Orwell to be edited by Professor Davison for Seeker
P Warburg.
.draws attention to *e6ctdjt*
S The SmoteSH<^ge(p. ts2)lhich
Guards had everywhere sided with the
65 Editorial, The Highway , loc. cit., p. 127.

the outbreak of war the Civil 67 Meyers, op.rit., p. 149.

to specify Barcelona, rather
stronger party, whilst omitting 68 In six pages of Homage , for example, (144-149) there are no fewer than
nine different expressions of uncertainty!
45 Thomas^ ?ptondsworth, 1965, p. 93; Jackson,

enough is Thomas, die only specialist
46 The exception, interestingly cit
Orwells historical reliability (loc.
scholar actively to denigrate
it is true, carefuy
the 1977 edition). Several others,
p 544 and p. 654 in op.cit., p. 369 for the core
refrainfrom specification. See Jackson,
47 Crick, A Life, p. 332.
48 Homage, pp. 151 & 159-60. r - 1936-37,
193b , Historic
Milicias Populares en Cataluna,

49 J. Morreres i Boix, Las

No. 55 (1980), pp. 27-38.
50 Homage, pp. 155-56. ,
Spanish War ibid., p. 230.
51 Looking Back on the

the Whale, CEJL, Vol. 1, p- 566. some

52 Inside modent
incident in
life, pp. 313 and
615) deals with the Auden
53 Crick
opinion on the issue q
detail, but records no
54 Ibid p. 244.
Beatrix Campbell
than that, there is also a problem in the way that masculinity,
femininity and the family feature in his representations
of class.
While Orwells invincible edifice of the state may seem
modern, his view of the working class isnt - its the quaint,
old-fashioned chronicle of a self-confessed snob. Despite his
wish to invest his revolutionary optimism in the people, what
he feels for the common people edges on contempt. Actually,
Beatrix Campbell he thinks they re dead common. He may think the working
class is the revolutionary class, but he doesntfeel it.
Orwell - Paterfamilias or Big Brother? Nowhere in Orwell do the working class make history. And
in hisquest for an authentic English socialism it is not the
working class, but a sort of hybrid southern suburban species
which becomes the revolutionary class - not because of its
capacity to struggle, but because in some way
If we are tomeasure George Orwell s success in the durability it fits Orwells
Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four notion of quintessential Englishness.
of his two later novels, Animal
his projection of Big Brother Throughout Nineteen Eighty-Four the off-stage appearances
then what we need to examine is
of the working class are remarkably resonant of The Road to
the modem authoritarian state.
for the modern Wigan Pier. The power of the state in Nineteen Eighty-Four seems
Big Brother has become the metaphor

since the term has perpetually stabilised inits very instability - but the instability
and although its success is formidable,
vocabulary, it is also a problem. is only a chimera. There is no real challenge to the state from
become part of our political
of secrecy and surveillance, its own people, and particularly not from the
Orwells state is not just a spectre proles.
depends on a notion of absolute George Orwell s fife and times with the proletariat began
because the whole thesis also
condition of mass powerlessness. with The Road to Wigan Pier when, in keeping with a long
power which depends on the
that Orwell feels comfortable in traditionof English literature, the quest for the state of the
In this context it is significant
English capitalism before the Second nation he set off on an expedition into the natural habitat of
the temperate climes of

the working class had won the the working class. The tradition itself depends on a
relation of
World War, only decades after
power in the land. otherness to this class. In the first place, normally
franchise and before it was a major such
power which inflames his nightmare journeys could only be undertaken by people with the time
It is post-revolutionary
of the modern state is money to make them, in other words with resources not
of the future state - his critique
state. But Orwell possessed by the working But more importantly,
class itself.
unmistakably directed against the socialist
absolute power essness that relationship always inscribes the author in a relation of
equally nightmarish vision of
his own feehngs about from the working
the exclusion
defeat, but class. The odd thing is that this
not from some future o
The horrors quest for Englishness necessitates the discovery
working class who were his contemporaries. o h
of that working
extend not only class, as if it were hidden
and mysterious. And of course,
Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four coming from Orwells class position, that is exactly
power, but to the failure of what they
misuse of state
from Orwells big-brotherly view of the working were. And remained. In The
Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell
failure derives
depended on the activists for his access to the
working class.
Williams has in his exceU^
ut as Williams shows,
Orwell insists on a separation between
7want to argue, as the working class and its activist intelligentsia. He
Orwell is hi P
book Orwell, that the problem with conceive
of the working class itself as a thinking class with
the working clas

or rather misrepresentation, of its


Inside the Myth Beatrix Campbell
128 ^29
The result the
own history, with a history of making itself.
is affectionate discovery of their heroism and their masculinity
representation of a class which is thoughtless
and leaderless, a their work is a manful struggle down there in the dark and
class in its natural state.
dangerous abdomen of the earth. It is of course essentially
omission of working- physical work, and what Orwell is not concerned with is the
Again, as Williams shows, Orwells
class activists and organisations
leaves him with the slate clean history of that masculinisation of the work of miners.
Mining is
brings to his journey is only men s work because women were banned from the work
for his own observations. What
no counsel, an author
primarily himself, an observer who takes hewing coal in the nineteenth-century struggle to expel women
Insofar as he is concerned from hard physical labour. The feminisation of
with all the arrogance of innocence. women
organised force, he represents demanded
with working-class politics as an that
expulsion. But that feminisation had an
it as showing a flair
for organisation but not for thinking. This answering echo in the masculinisation of men. This is important
kidnaps working-class
separation is achieved because Orwell for several reasons. The selection of the miners in this way
as the
therefore I am apparently most exotic martyrs of the working class is itself part of the
thinkers out of their class: I think,
to become middle class. process of masculinising the history of the working class.
doesnt apply to the proles; to think

to track a continuity between Wigan Orwell visited Wigan in the 1930s when it was still one
It is this which enables us of the
Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is as if the
documentary outposts of womens work in the mines. After the
Pier and of
him with his source material women from
material of Wigan Pier provided the underground in 1842, there
were campaigns
proles are the same in both. throughout the late nineteenth century to purge women
for Nineteen Eighty-Four the :
Pier, Orwell seeks to sum up
the working class in the pit top, where it was believed by some that
In Wigan they were
the miners. For all that his de-sexed by their strength. The campaign failed in
the archetypal proletarian group Wigan,
and their poverty is sympathetic where women were only finally pushed ofF the pit top in
description of miners labour the
How does he describe these archetypal 1950s after nationalisation and a deal between the
it is hardly radical. National
and why did he single out the miners P Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.
proletarians, Wiga n was
Orwells graphic description of the
work of miners facilitates famous for its pit brow lasses. Not as youd know from
representation of workers as elemental creatures, Road to Wigan Pier .
reminds us that this is how they appear Wigan was also as much a cotton town as it was a coal town.
work-horses. Williams
again in Nineteen Eighty-Four. As I Indeed, it is significant that Orwell spent a
in Animal Farm, and so it is substantial part of his
Pier Revisited, I think Orwell s
choice of journey in Lancashire around the cotton belt,
have argued in Wigan towns which
he not employed women in the mills, towns which where the
miners is significant. As the mysogynist
is, it is
chosen the most masculinised of the English industrial revolution, towns
surprising that he has were working-class
history cannot be written other than as the struggles between

was in part an men and women and

Undoubtedly, his celebration of the miners capital. Not as youd know that from
place in the ranks of the Road Wigan Pier either.
attempt to restore them to a respected

denigration of miners as So, women do not appear as protagonists in Orwells working

working class. He challenges the
noble savages because they are
dirtyby descri ing class. Andneither does capital. And what we are left
with is a
bathless homes, and by sense of a class which suffers,
conditions of their work and their but not of a class which struggles.
establishing trenchantly the necessity
of their work For And certainly not a class which wins.
Its a class summed up in
makes the world go round. And at me anthem of the washerwomen in Nineteen
coal, he says, that Eighty-Four.
role of noble savages y
time he, too, casts them in the
physique. He loves their lean, SU PP They sye that time eals all things,
panegyric on their
miners is both an They sye you can always forget;
bodies And so his celebration of the
Inside the Myth Beatrix Campbell
130 131
years probably due to their different
But the smiles an the tears acrorss the conceptions of the family

Orwell is clearly innocent of the

They twist my eart strings yet! tension within working-class
households m
precisely the case of that litmus
test of intra-class
of the working solidarity, the strike.
True to the tradition of such representations
pathos, isolation, inertia, defeat: it The history of the working class is,
class, the imagery contains however, a minefield of
rather than protest and politics. negotiated settlements between men
and women, not least in
incites pity and philanthropy
Nineteen Eighty-Four has her parallel in the c assic case of the strike. Mens
The washerwoman in strikes have always carried
exhausted, but noble, the proverbial risk of the complaining
Wigan Pier in a solitary image of an wife who was never
down a drain. Both figures are used by consulted - it is classically represented
woman, poking a stick in Salt of the Earth an
for these poor people. American film of a Mexican-American ,

Orwell to gather and focus his fondness miners strike in which

women, even when they are singing. They the women
s communal demands
were never given political
But they are silent
are sad, but above all they are solitary. And Orwell is about to priorityby their men. The mens strike is
lived by women as an
solitude: in Wigan Pier he sees her as he economic hardship that they were never
entrench them in their consulted about But
town. In Nineteen Eighty-Four he discovers when the women propose taking over the
is on his way, leaving picket line after the
washerwoman just before Winston is about coalowners take out an injunction against
his affection for his the striking miners
of these figures in their die men balk; the men vote against
to be arrested. The isoladon it, but the women -
proletarian landscape is about to be
completed in both cases first fought for their right to vote - all
vote for it. The womens
by the observers departure. The only feelings we can be left tenacity becomes the source of the strikes survival,
from them initially as individuals and
with are grief and impotence. yet opposed when it
Among the middle class and the upper class, women are takes form of a collective intervention.
expressed in the same vein solidarity, of course, is always
targets of his acidic class contempt, in the service of the men.
the Brighton ladies and rich Collective action among the women
as the mother-in-law joke. Its always carries the threat of
women lolling around in Rolls Royces whom he can t
abide, an organised power beyond the
mens control. Orwells
of the idle rich. observations about class loyalty between
presumably because they are the quintessence the genders are just
given their unstated but another example of his unsubstantiated
Theyre an easy target, of course, sentiments.
women. Take a look at the gender breakdown
enforced idleness as r , , f .
in voting patterns. The
women whomhe identifies as the fifth column of the gender gap is dramatic within the
working class. It is among
It is
Pier Orwell briefly considers the lack
of middle and upper-class voters
upper classes. In Wigan that there is a remarkable
not as a funcuon ot politicalsymmetry. The fact is that the upper
political solidarity among the middle
class is united
organised in a web ot acrossgender and class in ways that the
itsdominance - for the upper classes are working class isnt. It is
rwe conventional wisdom that the reason
political associationsof which there is no account in
for this is that the labour
but as an expression of womens
the L abou Party have faced

it demands

their class
women with a
solidarity while it
middle-class workers sanctions their sexual
You cannot have an effective trade union of P
middle-class wife would be f e problem that Orwells
because in times of strikes almost every
egging her husband on to blackleg and
get the other fellow s job. Z
on the culture of
eye never comes to rest
women, their concerns, their history their
HC nl k lds women to the filter of
des^o^H his own
The unity of the working class,
of the
the other hand,
family, the fa

the bearer,
StC 7
nfK 1S Wn C7aSS ha tred
SCen h W he makes women
assumed and cemented in the unity work the snarling* ' In his avowedly political
middle class P L
innuendo he
the working class combine and
the reserves for his Brighton
232 Inside the Myth

ladies and birth control fanatics is rarely directed towards the

and no brain 'Sr'
tlal proletarian,nKSS
woman s all belly i

power in capitalist societies the judges, the h3S " CultUr' a " d
figures of
consciousness wordi
parliamentarians and the capitalists. In fact, you are left with a comempWnV
run, not only by the national familys old Hislmage of this woman
sense of a society echoes his more noetic
but of a society run by a febrile femininity, an army of n S the n? ners as the archetypal
buffers, proletarians, but
fr more
there is more, h

her labour is solitary.

doddering dowagers. Like the miners her
The point that given his own centrality,and that of baSk 3 f" d cntal.
masculinity in Orwells

work, women are congratulated only Ther^X '

aCCOUntS no re rentadon

natural fore?
of subtlety, of
when they suck to their men. The sexual filter surrounds all his
CTaft and rtheh? consciousness
workers associated with
combination This representation
female personae. of heroic manual labour is
In Nineteen Eighty-Four we have working-class women
represented by poor Mrs Parsons and a prole washerwoman.
Mrs Parsons is a lined face and wispy hair,
woman with a
step from this to r
S Cde rati n f

to his
h f
bi0l * 15 only ashort
formation of Julias rebellion.

Her rebellion is
fiddling helplessly with the waste pipe, an infuriating person,
essentially sexual sexua^he^^
She s promiscuous, shes had hundreds of
always in the slough of a housewife s ruinous mess. And then
men and her subversion is sealed in an equation
comiption and sexuality. I hate between
there is the washerwoman whom Winston discovers during his
purity, I hate goodnS I
don want any virtue to exist
fugiuve flights into proletaria. He only begins to reflect on her anywhere, shouts Julia Thats
the extent of her opposition
with any respect when he inexplicably discovers the
revolutionary potential of the proles. Her indefatigable voice
to totalitarian
corrupt to the bones. Winston
loves that/not
puritanism Tm
He watches capaaty for love, but the merdy he^
sings on, as she endlessly hangs out her washing. animal instinct, the simple
her solid, contourless body, like a block of granite, quietly d ,re:
admiring her thick arms reaching up for the line, her pa"~- tha WaS the fOT
u.d .eaX
She as strong as a In a curiously sexual
powerful mare-like buttocks protruded. s
politics, he counterposes
Animal Farm, where as revolutionary rapaciousness
horse, an image which has echoes in with his former wife

puntamsm. Katherines
Raymond Williams reminds us, the speed of his figuradve Her party loyalty is expressed in her friSd^
interesting - Juha s delicious revolt
transition from animals to the proletariat is is consummated in her illicit collection
showing as it does a residue of thinking
powerful but stupid.
of the poor as animals:

off d of 2Z
turnip of a But of course the consequences
As Orwells Winston watches the over-ripe of this reduction of Julia to
washerwoman reach
that she was beautiful.
for the lineit struck him for the
Her rasping red skin, bore the same
first time r C
ee thrr,
^r t0 render her rebel,ion
below the threshold of
as somedring
political consciousness T?
relation to the body of a girl as the rose-hip to the rose. Why spontaneous only, and only
so because it is only
should the fruit be held inferior to the flower?
So we start with the strong but stupid work-horse
to a vision of a woman in labour: both as she labours
and move
solitan y
her ST m
P ! ltics as such even
sexuS She
shell lay down

on finally
eets his han i-
of As Winston muses on
and stoically, and as a symbol fertility.

how he and his lover Julia will never bear children he


there had
on this washerwoman-mother: The woman down
and a ferule
no mind, she had only strong arms, a warm heart
belly. panegyric on the miners, all
Just like Orwells
Inside the Myth Beatrix Campbell
1 24 loo
facilitates the elision between work
and politics the workers last, moderate in all things. Not surprisingly,
U Orwells
and they have their social existence a S,t 0n a remarkabl
work in their natural state '

y anglo-saxon
natural state. The working class is rrop ecms 7nnr
prospectus. Looking now at his Six Point ,

still in a kind of Programme in The

child-like in its quest for Lion and the Unicom it is hard
pre-conscious, tasteless and mindless, to
, see how it really differs from
some reason, which Orwell militant social democracy. English socialism,
immediate gratification. Yet for he says will
the material of revolution. nationalise it will equalise
never explains, the working class is incomes, it will have its own
notion that the meek mne, it will leave the Christians alone,
Perhaps because of some quasi-religious it will be sensible.
in their hearts, muscles his progi amme doesn t have,
shall inherit the earth. The people store however, is any sense of struggle
change the world. All body but no The working class have created
and bellies the power to programmes like these^of
collective brain of politics, the course, but in Orwells scenario
brain - and yet without the they havent produced his At
Machiavellian prince of the party, how is their strength to U W
Uld glVe C he W rking Class
s methmg to
the greatest lacuna in fiXfo^He
fig t for. He excludes
H K working
turn into consciousness? This is perhaps
the ,
class from history and
that in a profound way, both to give it any place in the
Orwells work: Williams declares revolutionaiy cast, otheVthan
workers and the possibility of supporting role, the proverbial
the consciousness of the extras.
denied. There is no sensitivity to the In Wigan Pier having exploited the sendees
authentic revolution are ,
of the
which the working-class movement s activists, Orwell thanks them
repertoire of tactics and strategies with :

movement, despite its many weaknesses, has deployed. The

problem of ideology and consciousness Tne English working class do not
very absence of the show much capacity for
produces an assumed leap from brute strength to the power of leadership, but they have a
wonderful talent for organisation
whole trade union movement testifies The
the will. . . .
to this; so too the excellent

That leaves him without anything to say about

working-class d b! '
politics as such, and its metamorphosis
into revolutionary r; 7 7,7
and splendidly organised ...
f S'-ified co-operativepub
feeling of contempt for
culture you are always left with the
intelligentsia. A thinking worker is Elsewhere in Wigan Pier Onvell
muses on the contradictions in
the masses and for the left
the working class. It Engfish culture, between its
never allowed to remain a member of polite respectability and its boozy,
contradictions - the workers are post-card culture.
leaves him with insuperable
the revolutionary class and yet they arent.
are part of the intelligentsia and
Thinking workers
therefore irrelevant. It s as it,
e w 7
of Th!

g '
the warm-hearted, unthinking
It all works towards an image of
training Pige ns
arises the working-class
and mg
like so many members of
his class, he can t forgive socialist, the typical working

working-class thinkers for their capacity to

think. For all that m a ind fba taIk ** produces
Orwell in Wigan Pier owns up to the
partiality of his class WSe :L f PreSCnt /^ a vision

SOdety with the Worst abuses

of thought with his lef^out and w>h ,n
perceptions, he never shares the privilege es cenn ing n Ae same

new class allies. ,

p sent family r?r r v
life, the pub, football
^ngs as af
and local politics.

If the working class are the material of revolution, they tS are eady in Wigan Pier for wi nstons
/jd shocking
never the makers of revolution, despite
compromises. Slumped
his rhetoric
in his own contradictions, he
gives tne

been elbowed out of then

so he discove^ f
tZ ^ r P'JOintm t
Foul when he sees a clutch

kin e rnest

- >* P-les in N,ne,l
of men peering at a
middle class the ticket. Theyve ^' Something must be up, thinks
intellectuals on e WinstorBu7n th f n,y ^
revolutionary credentials by pansy 7 ,0 king for the lotte ry

hand and by their rough neighbours on the

Onvell Zh

hl antI - econ mism in a critique
in The
WASPs Lion and the llZZ f the
radical Englishness,
t Unicom of
the other. They become the trade-union politics which dominate
1 36 Inside the Myth

English Labourism. In this he was hardly original, as socialists their place in relation to each
other, in which all are intelligible
and Marxists have always been pre-occupied by this English o each other. In the family, as
in the nation, we all share the
disease. But in Orwell, anti-economism is associated with a same concerns, the same interests and the same language It is
sense of the working class as not only myopic but degenerate. rkmg ' CkSS fanU,y ab Ve
a11 11131 we a11 home
Just as Orwell finds no point of resistance rooted in the !o res t r
working class itself in Wigan Pier, so is there none in Nineteen

Eighty-Four. you breathe a warm, decent, deeply

human atmosphere which is
There is more about the problem of economism,
to say not easy to find elsewhere ...
His home life seems to fall more
however. For Orwell is not alone in stumbling across it only to naturally mto a sane and comely
shape. I have often been struck
be mystified by it. As he eloquendy suggests, for the working by the easy completeness, the
perfect symmetry, as it were,
of a
classmens movement, socialism is capitalism with the worst working class interior at its best ...
abuses left out. I have to confess that Orwells own political
prospectus, outlined in The Lion and the Unicom, seems barely Ithangs together he suggests, as a
middle class family does
any different. What neither he, nor the mens movement on the but the relationship is far less
left seem to have registered is that this problem of economism m the context of feminist politics that the critique
may be associated with the masculinisation of working-class nflhefWl y i
c anfies as a site of contradiction
between men
politics, its reduction to a mens movement. Orwell is a and women as a settlement, always negotiated
out of
too, writes women between
participant in this because he, unequals. Orwell suggestive symmetry is exactly
working-class history and politics. It isnt because working simmering seething volcano which has
always,or explicitly
men are thick that theyre economistic, as Orwell seems to
suggest, but it may be that the historic settlement between 3 1Clt
y fuelled movements for womens economic,
and sexual independence. Feminism social
falsified the Oiwellian
capital and the mens labour movement over the role of romance with the proletarian family
as an institution. It is not
women reinforces economic individualism and defuses the em
/ f r
S< eks to damn
the strong bonds and loves
dimensions of socialist struggle. Certainly, that economic
social with-
within the family, u
but rather the conditions in
which men and
individualism is associated with the economic subordination of negotiate their encounter with each other, their
women, and not surprisingly it produces a politics which children and the rest of the world, based as they are
on the
evacuates the terrain of private life, on the one hand, and issues principle of dominance and subordination.
If, for feminism
outside the parameter of the wage contract on the other. 1011 ^ Challenged then
Whither Odells appeal to

Orwell argues for a cultural revolution as the necessary patriotism?

ignition to political revolution in England, and his great virtue Britmn, however, was, and
now is more than ever before a
is his attempt to anchor that vision in the
continuity of richly cosmopolitan society. Orwells patriotism
- is an anneal
commonsense culture. But far from that taking him towards 0
: the En
S <fai nilies
marginalised in the aftermath S S lish working class. In the
the culture of those constituencies f (tf
fami OUQng t0 the Elands there

y is no
hierarchy of WASP socialism, he seeks to radicalise those tuarTri ?h ^
patnot,sm would have a progressive

of consensus claimed by the right the steadfast ^There

components Here is an easy equation

in his social democratic
pillarsof family and patriotism. programme between giving the
workers something to fight for
As Williams shows, Orwells starting point is his quest to and his sentimental
construction of nationhood
belong, a quest which leads him towards an attempt
,y Hls thesis f progressive
within the

produce a unity called England and Englishness. His

for nationhood is the family, the collectivity in which
all know
workTbecause h
ft a
y mfied

f ^
nati n is that of the family,
whole, speaking the same
language, united
138 Inside the Myth

by not divided by class. Because the socialist family would

have the right people in control, the working class would
presumably remain as they are the children.

Deirdre Beddoe

Hindrances and Help-Meets:

m the Writings of George Orwell

S1 K P rtra Val of women

<SnS ThfT
slr ucture
' which I have adopted
in his

ro is firstlv
his fictional female
characters, as portrayed in
' 0,; 21
can Se
be found - m
his documentary works.
This division into
fiction and fact is
parallelled by another
division i e the
separation of women a'ong class
are to be found almost
lines: middle-clas's
exclusively in his fiction and
documeniry wrUfiig.
S en '
Before turning to Orwells
representation of women a few
points need to be clearly stated.
Firstly, a pensive
1 mi llsm 1S evident in Orwells
^ writing.
8 In 1934 wote
he wrote
to a friend, Brenda Salkeld,

rd*y W h
d be able to throw a
^ "
was brought up exactly
stone, construct a syllogism
2 bil fa
like a

keen a
due to Sadism!
I have never read
the Marquis de Sades I
they are unfortunately novels
very hard to get hold of. 1

dLTribed h^
^- a
/Cnend f 0nve11 from Southwold
W m n ln SeneraI very
didnt reallv
, succinctly. He
tik^ f
0111611 Said in 3 Third P ^e
140 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe
But one does not need other people to testify to Orwells of almost every middle-class wife would be
egging her
anti- feminism and to his contempt for women: he does a husband on to blackleg and get the other
fellows job. 5 While
splendid job quite unaided. He cannot mention feminism and there may be an element of truth in this,
Orwell did not see the
the womens suffrage movement without scorn. Writing of the reasons for it, i.e. the dependency of
middle-class wives, lack of
period following the First World War he states, employment opportunities for women, the
operation of
marriage-bars in many professions. His
non-fiction ignores
England was fullof half baked antinomian opinions. Pacifism, women workers and judges working-class wives
by their
internationalism, humanitarianism of all kinds, feminism, free home-makers. Orwells awareness of class divisions
abilities as
love, divorce reform, atheism, birth control - things like these in society went alongside his lack of
understanding of gender
were getting a better hearing than they would get in normal divisions, and is summed up in his
discussion of womens
times. 3 magazines He was perceptively aware that
these magazines
project a fantasy of pretending to be
richer than you are for
Writing on socialism, he expressed his fear that it was a refuge the bored factory-girl or worn-out
mother of five, but totally
for every fruit juice drinker, nudist, sandal wearer, sex maniac, unaware of how these magazines reinforced
gender divisions in
Quaker, Nature-Cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England. society and promoted the dominant
female stereotype ofthe
Secondly, Orwell was not only anti-feminist but he was interwar years -
the housewife. 6
totally blind to the role women were and are forced to play in George Orwells female fictional characters
contain within
the order of things. His prejudice severely hampered his uieir ranks some of the most
obnoxious portrayals of women
analysis of capitalism and its workings. He saw capitalism as in English fiction. have in mind pardcularly the grasping
the exploitation of a male working class by a male ruling class. husband-seeking, low-brow Elizabeth of Burmese
Days (1935),
Women were just mens wives - middle-class nags and who is prepared, when something better comes in
sight, to pass
working-class housekeepers, to be judged simply as good or her erstwhile beau lying wounded on
the ground as though he
bad in keeping a decent home. He failed to see how had been a dead dog, 7 and finally to throw
him over because
capitalism manipulated both men and women, middle class he is tainted with scandal and a birthmark.
Hilda Bowling in
and working class, alike. He seems to have been totally Coming Up For Air (1939) is similarly
depicted as a totally
unaware of the integral role played by the family unit in appalling character. She is the nagging
wife who ties down that
capitalist production, i.e. male bread-winner with dependent potential free spirit, George Bowling, by pestering him with
wife (who serviced the male bread-winner and produced the household cares and bills.
next generation of workers) and dependent children. He was By contrast, Orwells remaining female
characters are much
unaware too - or chose to ignore - the role women played in more attractive. Dorothy Hare, the title
character of A
the waged work-force, either as poorly paid workers who could Clergymans Daughter (1935) and
Orwells only female
depress wages or as a reserve army of labour, to be brought in protagonist, is a padietic drudge
whose life is rendered
and out of the work-force to suit the changing needs of ky h er service to others and by the
tyranny of her
capitalism. se s c ergyman father. One can
at least feel sympathy for
In short, Orwell as an Eton-educated, middle-class man, oro y m her plight as unpaid curate, and excitement for her
had little or no understanding of the role and predicament of 00 when a blow head brings about amnesia and a total
to the
women in the society in which he His fiction presents us
an ^ e m !*
er But Dorothy simply does not have it in
Iifest le -
with a series of nagging middle- class wives whom he saw as a ner to attain happiness and
freedom, and the novel ends with
brake on the radicalism of their husbands: you cannot have an to retarmng
th< Pathetic role of
middle-class spinster
effective trade union of middle-class workers, because in times vmg m her fathers;
rectory. If Elizabeth and Hilda
142 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe
stereotypical portrayals of dreadful middle-class women, at the school were the Honourable Orwell, who on

Dorothy is merely pathetic. other occasions takes swipes at the bad influence of girls
Rosemary, the leading woman character in Keep the Aspidistra schools upon their inmates, remarks that this short
Flying (1936) is quite the nicest of all Orwells female had firmly fixed Elizabeths character. There is a short period
characters. She is cheerful, outgoing and smart: she rescues the in everyone s life when his (sic) character is fixed
forever, with
whining Gordom Comstock from the abyss of poverty by Elizabeth it was those two terms during which she
marrying him and making an honest man of him. She is, shoulders with the rich. Her schooling had taught her
however, the witting ally of money and of capitalism, against general principles, i.e. all that is good or lovely in
life is
which Gordon has declared unremitting war - the sort of synonymous with the expensive and all that is bad, or in her
intellectual conflict a woman could not possibly understand. words, beastly, is the cheap. There was only one way in which
Finally, there the youthful, lithe Julia of Nineteen
Elizabeth might attain the money to enjoy the lovely things
Eighty-Four (1949), Winston Smiths ally in the fight against Big lifeand shun the beastly, and that was through marriage. To
Brother and totalitarianism; but whereas Winstons fight this end, encouraged by her aunt, Mrs Lackersteen,
sets out
against the system is inspired by a desire for intellectual to find herself a husband from amongst the small European
freedom, Julia goes along with him for illicit sex, black-market community of Kyauktada in upper Burma.
coffee and finally for love of Winston. In short, this is a list of The central theme of the novel is the relationship between
stereotypes - with the possible excepdon of Rosemary. Flory, a jaded, disfigured, middle-aged employee in the
Some general rules underpin Orwells female characters. of a timber firm and the young, attractive Elizabeth. Flory, in
They can be summarized roughly as follows. Women like contrast to Elizabeth, is portrayed with a measure of
money and tying men down; women are incapable of He is presented as an intellectual who loves reading, as a man
intellectual pursuits and enthusiasms; women are either young with a true appreciation of Burmese culture, who
and attractive and hundng for husbands, or they are nagging Burmese and who enjoys the close friendship of the Indian civil
unattractive wives; sporty women and womens rights surgeon, Dr Veraswami. In the first part of the book, after
campaigners are particularly unappealing types. Orwells initial meeting with Elizabeth, Flory deludes himself that
methodology is to portray a particular individual woman and Elizabeth shares his intellectual, cultural and humanitarian
attribute a set of characteristics to her: from her he is then interests. In fact, Elizabeth reads only popular
fiction, feels ill
prepared to generalize about all women. In order to at ease with and disdainful of natives and
has no time for
demonstrate Orwells jaundiced and unsympathetic view of highbrow ideas . Real, people, she felt, decent people
middle-class women, I shall look firstly at the main female people who shot grouse, went to Ascot, yachted at Cowes -
characters in a little more detail and then, briefly, at the were not brainy. In short, the two main characters totally
subsidiary characters. to communicate with each At the moment when Flory,
Elizabeth, the central female figure in Burmese Days ,
isan who is about to propose to her, talks sincerely
of his loneliness
obnoxious character. She is depicted as a young woman who, in exile, she is not even listening. The
only moments in which
after the death of her feckless, pseudo-ardsdc mother and after she has any admiration for him are when he
talks about tiger
several years hard grind in poorly paid jobs in Paris, joins her shooting and when he actually shoots a leopard.
only remaining relatives, the Lackersteens, in Burma. During warms to Flory when he is behaving in an accepted
her girlhood Elizabeth had been led to expect better from life. way, which suggests how womens crude
expectations of men
During the period of her fathers short-lived prosperity she confine men to boorish activities and desensitize
had attended for two terms a girls boarding school. Oh the Throughout the rest of the novel Elizabeth behaves quite
joy, the unforgettable joy of those two terms! Four of the girls a ominably. She abandons
and ignores Flory in favour of an
144 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe
aristocratic young police officer who is temporarily stationed and brown paper for Charles I and Oliver Cromwell in the
at Kyauktada. Even though Flory at last sees her as she really is
forthcoming pageant. Dorothys sexual anxiety traps
- silly, snobbish, heartless - he desires her physically. Men her in the
are lonely world of the spinster. If only they
slaves to
(men) would leave
their sexuality in Orwells writing, whilst women you alone. For it was not that in other ways she disliked
manipulate theirs. He is eager to win her back when the upper men.
On the contrary she liked them better than
women . 11 She is
class policeman deserts her, and she too entertains the thought
repelled by the bluff neighbour, Warburton,
of returning to Flory because he emerges as the hero of the who tries to kiss
her and will later propose to her. Sexual anxiety -
hour when the Burmese attack the European club house. In the is the block
more than her father - to her escape into marriage.
last pages, however, Flory is discredited by the appearance
his erstwhile Burmese mistress at the church service, and
Part of Mr Warburtons hold over her was
in the fact that he was a
Elizabeth once again scorns him. Flory shoots himself and
man and had die careless good humour and the
Elizabeth marries the older leader of the white community, intellectual
largeness that women so seldom have. But why
which enables her to become a true burra memsahib who couldnt they leave
you alone ? 12
terrorizes her servants.
Elizabeth is made to appear especially pernicious because
A fall from her bicycle, a blow to the head and amnesia remove
she is portrayed as being representative of all women. When
Dorothy from life at Knype Hill. Unaware of who she is, she
she acts evasively and refuses to talk to him in a straightforward
tastes life among London down-and-outs, in the hopfields
manner, i.e. man to man, she was going to leave him in the and finally in the
appalling Ringwood House, a private school
dark, snub him and pretend that nothing had happened; the
for girls owned by the grasping Mrs Creevey.
natural feminine move.'* Orwell does offer some explanations of Orwells account
of the school, with its useless education for
Elizabeths predicament, including her experience of poverty middle-class girls
and his description of the exploitation of its stafF
and the need move from of spinsters
to her uncles bungalow because of make good reading. Dorothy, even though starved
his lecherous advances, but he conveys no real understanding by Mrs
Creevey, emerges as an innovative and
of her situation and merely produces a cruel parody of a young progressive teacher who
is motivated by concern for the
poor children. Mrs Creevey,
middle-class woman.
backed by the oafish parents, soon puts a stop to that.
Dorothy Hare is the title character of A Clergymans Daughter. From Dorothy Orwell moved outwards and expands, very
She is the only female character in Orwells writings who is the
sympathetically,upon the loneliness and dejection of
protagonist of a novel, but unfortunately it was a novel of
middle-class spinsters.
which Orwell was far from proud, describing it variously as

tripe and bollox . 10 Despite his low opinion of this work If you have no family and no home
to call your own, you could
which was written hurriedly when he was very hard up, it is a spend half a lifetime without managing to
sympathetic portrayal of one group of middle-class English make a friend. There
are women in such places, and especially
derelict gentlewomen in
women, spinsters.
ill-paid jobs, who go on for years upon end in almost utter
Dorothy isthe ascetic, unpaid drudge daughter of an solitude .

aristocratic but impecunious clergyman, who leaves all the

cares of his parish as well as of his household to Dorothy. For The end of the novel comes with Dorothys
her life is a round of shame-facedly avoiding tradesmen return home to her
se sh old father and to a
bleak future of spinsterdom. It is an
(creditors), of parish visiting, jumble sales and Sunday school
unsatisfactory but inevitable ending.
pageants. The Unless Dorothy were to
futility and loneliness of her existence are take up with a man she would
be doomed. Women in Orwells
emphasized as she sits late at night making costumes from glue hction are not capable of happiness
without men.
146 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe
Rosemary is the jolly, outgoing, kindly and exceptionally who decides to escape to his childhood home of Lower
nice girl-friend of the whining, poverty-stricken poet Gordon B infield.
It is as much a retreat from Hilda as a search
for a lost
Comstock in Keep the Aspidistra Flying. The main theme of the past. Hilda, once young, pretty and a social class above
book is Gordons war against money and the forces of turns, upon marriage, into a nagging wife, pestering George
capitalism. It is a losing battle and he sinks lower and lower about bills and spreading gloom in the household;
she is
into the abyss of poverty, only to be rescued by the fact of totally without joy and without interest - she only
Rosemarys pregnancy, which stirs him into marrying her and left-wing meetings because they are free and felt to be vaguely
returning to a reasonably paid job in an advertising agency, the improving. She is the Elizabeth of Burmese Days ten to twenty
very hub of capitalism. Rosemary has of course eventually years on, if Elizabeth had stayed in England.
trapped him - but it is a trap into which he is willing to fall, Orwells portrayal of middle-class women - of sexually
despite his earlier rantings against marriage and against attractive young women who turn into old, grim nags - is the
womens adulation of the Money-God. convention of the seaside postcard. When Orwell discussed the
postcard art of Donald McGill he pointed out the two
Women! What nonsense they make of all our ideas. Because one fundamental conventions of depicting women in postcards,
cant keep free ofwomen, and every woman makes one pay the
same price. Chuck away your decency and make more money - a. Marriage only benefits the women. Every man is plotting
thats what womenChuck away your decency, suck the
say. seduction and every woman is plotting marriage. No woman ever
blacking off the bosses boots, and buy me a better fur coat than remains unmarried voluntarily.
the woman next door . 14
b. Sex-appeal vanishes at about the age of twenty- five.
Well-preserved and good-looking people beyond their first youth
But Rosemary depicted as a charming character. Her charm
is are never represented. The amorous honeymooning couple
lies in the fact that she is not like other women. Rosemary is a reappear as the grim-visaged wife and shapeless, mustachioed,
girl a man, a poet even, can talk to: Rosemary could discuss red-nosed husband, no intermediate stage being allowed for 15 .

similes and metaphors. Rosemary is not like other women: she

doesnt harp on to him to go back to the advertising agency They are precisely the conventions on which Orwell himself
until heabsolutely destitute. In short, Orwell uses Rosemary
is drew.
to point to the faults which exist in all the other middle-class Julia, Winstons mistress in Nineteen Eighty-Four is

women: a desire for money, security and a total inability to distinguishedfrom Orwells other female characters in that she
appreciate ideas. shows courage. She flouts the minor and then the major rules
Keep contains a portrait of Gordons
the Aspidistra Flying also of this future totalitarian society. It is she who initiates contact
spinster sister Julia, who
exploited by a female friend as an
is with Winston: she has the enterprise and experience to arrange
under-paid worker in a teashop. It is a sympathetic depiction - liaisons with him 16 She is prepared too to follow
Winston in
as is the description of Dorothy Hares exploitation at joining the Brotherhood, the opposition to Big Brother.
Ringwood House. It is in these depictions of middle-class the protests of Winston and Julia against the regime are
spinsters Orwell comes nearest to understanding the
that inspired by totally different motives. Whereas Winston is
plight of women workers; there are no similar depictions of inspired by intellectual concepts like the integrity
of history
single or married working-class women workers. and the notion of freedom, Julia is only a rebel from the
Hilda Bowling in Coming Up For Air is a crude caricature of a downwards. The sexually attractive and sexually active
lower middle-class wife. The central character of this novel is objects to the regime because it stops her having a good time.
George Bowling, a five to ten pound-a-week insurance clerk She is totally incapable of understanding the motives which
148 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe
drive Winston Any kind of organized revolt against
to revolt. on the effects of the Depression
and of unemployment in the
the Party, which was bound
to be a failure, struck her as stupid. cotton industry, but women
workers predominated there and
The clever thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the that would not have accorded with his world view
and his
same. When Winston talks to her of the Party and its concept of the working class as male. By concentrating on
doctrines, she invariably falls asleep. Her response to his Wigan coal he could glory in the male strength of miners with
reading of Goldsteins subversive text is the same. Julia is as noble bodies and see working-class women only as wives.
brainless as Elizabeth Lackersteen or Hilda Bowling. Orwells male arrogance and his selection of what is
Orwells portrayal of the main female characters in his important, judged only by male standards, make The Road to
novels encapsulates his opinions on women. He is con- Wigan Pier not only a poor source for the history of women in
temptuous of womens intellects; he reduces married women this period but a positively misleading one.
Margery Spring
and spinsters to stereotypes and in the portrayal of both he Rices Working Class Wives, originally published in
1939, 26 and
draws on the conventions of seaside postcards. But it is not numerous other social surveys give far more information. 24
only the main characters who reveal Orwells outlook. Given Orwell prejudices, the areas of discussion which

Subsidiary characters and passers-by who are singled out for arise from The Road to Wigan Pier are most crucially:
derision are often feminists - for example Elizabeths feckless working-class family, domestic work, the impact of unemploy-
mother in Burmese Days; the whole Pankhurst generation in ment upon men and women, waged women workers and
Keep the Aspidistra Flying 18 sporty and horsey women in Burmese
women and politics.
Days 19 and Nineteen Eighty -Four. 20 Working-class women make
Orwell had a great affection for the English working class
few appearances in the novels - when they do it is as and in particular for the institution of the working-class
half-brained readers of Ethel M. Dell 11 (why are we not treated family. He approved of male dominance within the family:
to equally contemptuous asides on the male readers of Zane a working class home it is the man who is the master and not,
Grey and war novels?) or sluttish landladies. 22 But the as in the middle class home, the woman or the baby. 25 He
haunting archetypal figure of a working-class woman is the an idyllic view of the working class family, provided that the
prole washerwoman of Nineteen Eighty-Four of whom more ,
father was in well paid and regular work. He held in his
mind a
anon. picture of the family sitting around the fireside:

If Orwells provides the clearest indication of his

fiction Especially on winter evenings after tea, when the fire glows in
attitudes towards middle-class women, it is necessary to turn to open range and dances mirrored in the steel fender, when Father,
his documentary writing and his journalism to find out his in shirt-sleeves, sits in the
rocking chair at one side of the fire
views about working-class women. The most important work reading the racing and Mother sits on the other with her
for this is The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), read together with the sewing, and the children are happy with a pennorth
of mint
diary which lies behind it. Yet in The Road to Wigan Pier there humbugs, and the dog lolls roasting himself on the rag mat 26 .

are relatively few references to women. To understand why this

is so it is necessary to understand Orwells male prejudices. (It is noteworthy that Mother

is the only one working in this

Orwells world view was male: all the important things in picture!) All threatened not only by the mass
this is

life were done or thought about by men - work, politics, unemployment of Orwells present but by visions of a Utopian
revolution. It was typical of him that in going north he should future in which there will be no manual work and there wont
have gone to a coal-mining area - coal-mining a heavy is even be as many children if the birth controllers
have their
extractive industry, and in the twentieth century an almost way. This last point is significant. It was
made at a time when
entirely male preserve. He could just as well have concentrated irth control campaigners were
fighting hard to set up clinics
1 50 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe 151

throughout Britain. Orwell, who seemed to have regarded house for granted but she did not see why it should not be
birth control as some Mathusian plot to limit the lower orders, changed . 28
shows a lack of understanding of the impact of successive Although Orwell takes note of the ceaseless round of chores
child-bearing on womens lives. He was aware that the number which women had to do in the home - No sooner have you
of children in a family was the single most important factor as washed one childs face than another is dirty: before you have
to whether a home could be kept decent or not, but he washed the crocks from one meal the next is due to be cooked
retained an image in his mind of the fruitful working-class - he displayed little patience with bad housekeepers.
woman. She is represented clearly by the prole woman in
Nineteen Eighty-Four. The woman fills her washing line with Of course the squalor of these people's houses is sometimes their
nappies: she was a woman of fifty blown-up to monstrous own fault. Even if you live in a back to back house and have four
dimensions by child-bearing, then hardened, roughened by children and a total income of thirty two and sixpence a week
work - but to Winston (and Orwell) she was beautiful. from the PAC, there is no need to have unemptied chamber pots
Orwells observations on working-class women in The Road standing about in your living room 29 .

to Wigan Pier are concerned almost exclusively with women in

the home. He provides us with illustrations of what many of He admits however that it is equally certain that their
these homes were like. His notes on the cramped and circumstances do not encourage self respect, but does not
insanitary dwellings in Wigan, Sheffield and Barnsley conjure seem to grasp how depressing and demoralizing mass
up the horror of the conditions in which many working-class unemployment was for women. There is, he wrote, no doubt
families lived, and his writing brought this home to a wide about the deadening, debilitating effect of unemployment
public. Women spent even more of their lives in these wretched upon everybody, married or single, and upon men more than upon
houses than did men, and as Orwell realized, In such places as women . 30 A social investigation in the South Wales coalfield in
these a woman is only a poor drudge muddling along among the same period was more perceptive. The Carnegie
an infinity of jobs. He records that domestic chores continued Foundation report found as follows:
to fall exclusively on the woman despite the fact of male
unemployment. The man is idle from morning to night but The outstanding fact about many of these homes was that the men
the woman is as busy as ever - more so, indeed, because she in them appeared to have higher standards of personal cleanliness

has to manage with less money. Even Orwell noted that this than those reflected by their living conditions. It seemed, very
practice on the face of it seems a little unfair . 27 Orwell wrote largely, womenfolk who had lost all pride in personal

that the women as well as the men believed that housework appearance and the appearance of the home. Men folk were
should be done exclusively by women. I believe that they, as obliged to go out of doors, even if only to the Employment
well as the men, feel that a man might lose his manhood if, Exchange; this was a reason for washing and dressing up. The
merely because he was out of work, he developed into a Mary women had not this incentive. Their outings extended litde
Ann. The inclusion of this discussion on household chores in beyond the small shops at the corner of the street, and to these
The Road to Wigan Pier apparently results from an argument they could 'slip-down without washing. To them there seemed
which occurred when he was staying with the Searle family in litde point in washing the children, as they just got dirty anyway.
Leeds. Orwell had helped Mrs Searle with the washing-up, and All this is highly regrettable and, quite apart from unemployment

her husband and another man who was present strongly and bad housing conditions, many of the women, even if given the
disapproved. Interestingly Mrs Searle seemed only doubtful opportunity and money for improved standards, would find it an
and had, after all, accepted his help. In the diary he notes that exceedingly difficult task to break away from their acquired habits.
she took the fact that even unemployed men did not help in the But we must face the fact that to live constantly on a depressed
152 Inside the Myth Deirdre Beddoe 153
standard of living, where life is a hand-to-mouth existence, is, money for the defence of Thaelmann, the German Communist
except for the bravest souls, to experience the bitterness of leader. His diary notes read,
defeat. 32

About 200 people, preponderantly women, largely members of

When Orwell wrote about women in The Road to Wigan Pier , the Co-op, in one of whose rooms it was held and I suppose for
he wrote about women as wives. In his fiction there are many the most part living directly or indirectly on the dole. Round the
references to middle-class single working women: there is no back a few aged miners sitting looking on benevolently, a lot of
corresponding concern shown for working-class women, very young girls in front. Some dancing to the concertina (many of
single or married, who were employed outside the home. The the girls confessed that they could not dance, which struck one as
book opens with a reference to the sound of the mill girls rather pathetic) and some excruciating singing. I suppose that
clogs on the cobbled streets, but there is no discussion or represented a fair cross-section of the more revolutionary element
further allusion to the condidons of women in the cotton in Wigan. If so, God help us. Exactly the same sheeplike crowd -
industry. There is likewise only a single reference to women in gaping girls and shapeless middle aged women dozing over their
coal-mining: Orwell mentions that there were a few women knitting - that you see everywhere else. 35
still alive who in their youth worked underground.
ignores totally the fact that at the time he was writing there In this account Orwells overt sexism and contempt for women
were still women working at the pitbrow - they were still there gushes forth.
in the 1950s. 33 Nor does he write of that great army of In The Road to Wigan Pier Orwell omitted any reference to the
exploited women, the largest single category of women in political activities of women in the North of England. It is
waged employment - domesdc servants. Orwell simply failed precisely this sort of omission which wipes women from our
to see the vital role that women both as unpaid home workers history. For the record, I am impelled to note that Lancashire
and poorly paid waged workers played in the workings of women cotton operatives had been very active radical
capitalism. He failed to perceive that the unpaid work of the suffragists in the years before the First World War, and that
miners wife was as vital to the mine-owners as to the miners they were strong trade unionists.
Lancashire women had
themselves. His whole discussion of socialism in The Road to participated in the National Hunger Marches to London
Wigan Pier and elsewhere is devoid of any reference to that key organized by the NUWM, 37
and Lancashire women were active
analytical tool, the sexual division of labour. members of the Womens Co-operative Guild, which in the
When Orwell wrote about politics, which for him meant 1930s was campaigning, amongst other things, for contracep-
trade-unionism and socialist thought, he wrote about men and tion, better health care, international peace and for full
he wrote for men. As usual, he ignored women. He seems to employment by the reorganization of industry on a
have thought women incapable of thinking on a political level. co-operative basis. 38
He was genuinely surprised when Mrs Searle, the Sheffield Orwell altered the record of the past, so far as women are
woman who had let him wash up, displayed a grasp of the concerned, as efficiently as if he had been in the employ of
economic situation and also of abstract ideas; he hastened to Mini true. He was part of a conspiracy of silence.
add that in this she was unlike most working-class women and
that she was scarcely literate. 34 This reference comes from his
diary and does not appear in the published text of The Road to
Wigan Pier. Similarly there is an account in the diary, but not in Notes
the book, of his attending a social evening organized by the
1 Letter to Brenda Salkeld, 27 July 1934 in S. Orwell and I. Angus (eds.),
National Unemployed Workers Movement (NUWM) to raise The Collected Essays} Journalism and Letters of George Orwell ,
Vol. I,
154 Inside the Myth
Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 160, referred to hereafter as CEJV

2 B. Salkeld, He didnt redly like women, A. Coppard and B. Crick (eds.),

Orwell Remembered London, 1984, p. 68.
3 G. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier Harmondsworth, 1969,
, p. 121.
4 Ibid., p. 153.
5 Jbid., p. 103.
6 G. Orwell, Boys Weeklies, (1940) in CEJL Vol. 1, p. 505. ,

G. Orwell, Burmese Days Harmondsworth, 1983, p. 179.


8 Ibid., p. 184. The italics are mine.

Stephen Sedley
9 Letter to Brenda Salkeld, March 1935 in CEJL Vol. 1, p.
7 , 174.
10 Letter to
Henry August 1936; ibid., p. 258.
Miller, 26
G. Orwell, A Clergyman's Daughter, Harmondsworth, 1982, p. 75.
An Immodest Proposal: Animal Farm
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid., p. 227.
14 G. Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying Harmondsworth, 1975, p. 122.

15 G. Orwell, The Art of Donald McGill, in CEJL Vol. 2, p. 186. ,

16 G. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four Harmondsworth, 1983, pp. 96-7. No, I dont think he was ever a socialist, although he would have
17 Op.cit., p. 85. described himself as a socialist. (Fredric Warburg, publisher of
18 Op.cit., p. 123.
Animal Farm) 1
19 Op.cit., p. 69.
20 Op.cit., pp. 14, 326.
21 Keep the Aspidistra Flying pp. 15-17. Imaginative literature does not have to justify itself politically.