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George Orwell: Politics and Literature

John Simkin

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The most important political influence on me during my lifetime has been George Orwell. This is a passage that has motivated me to write for a living. (I am more concerned with points 3 and 4). I am sure if Orwell was alive today he would have his own website linked to a forum.

George Orwell, Why I Write (September, 1946)

I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

1. Sheer egotism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in children, etc. etc.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose - using the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature - taking your nature to be the state you have attained when you are first adult - I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer.

Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows.

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Over the last few months I have been convinced that this is the most important subject of all. It is therefore necessary to communicate this to as many people as possible.


I agree. The propaganda concerns me as much as the murder. Few will even hear about the murder because of the propaganda. As we've seen with JFK.

I think the concept of "framing" is as important as the act of planting stories with "friendly" sources. Obviously it helps the fascists to have their own propaganda outlet, i.e., Fox "News." But once they have the outlets and friendly sources the decision makers control how the sources say things. It's very standardized, very controlled, very effective. And what we call "framing" Orwell called "doublespeak."

Framing and repetition framing and repetition... How many times have Amercans heard "war on terror Iraq war on terror Iraq? They don't have a damn thing to do with each other, but thru' constant chanting of war on terror and Iraq in the same breath, many Americans think they're related.

Excellent posting Myra. Thank you for the link. Members might wish to explore the following:








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Guest Stephen Turner

Orwells "Road to Wigan pier" (along with the ragged trousered philanthropists) were the earliest political works I read as a young man, and both had, and continue to have, a massive, and lifelong effect on my political theroy, and practice. The closest we have to Orwell today, IMO, is John Pilger, the great Australian journalist, anyone who can read "hero's and not burn with indignation, and a sense of pride in one's class is, indeed, a sad individual. The later attempts to frame Orwell as a class traitor, and collaborator reek of ruling class attempts to blacken the name of a true Socialist, and great writer.

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So writers like Orwell and Camus, more humanistically oriented than ideological, were generally criticized as not being "committed" or "pure" enough (for those more ideologiclly oriented). I notice we see much of this same phenomenon in these forums, particularly in the speculations about what occurrred in historical circumstances: it's very easy to stand back from where we are now and say, "X should have done this, this should have happened that way, etc." Real life circumstances don't play out so tidily, but there's a definite advantage in assuming they do for those making the arguments.

It is now clear that Orwell did provide information to the intelligence services about Communist Party members. Does that make him a class traitor? No. Orwell had seen what the Communist Party was like when he was in Spain. If anyone was guilty of being a class traitor it was Stalin who tried to exploit the situation in Spain in his fight against those on the left in the Soviet Union. Orwell was a libertarian socialist. It is inevitable that people who kept to their ideals will come into conflict with communists.

Thomas Pynchon wrote a tremendous article, The Road to 1984, for the Guardian (3rd May, 2003).

It included the following passage:

There is a photograph, taken around 1946 in Islington, of Orwell with his adopted son, Richard Horatio Blair. The little boy, who would have been around two at the time, is beaming, with unguarded delight. Orwell is holding him gently with both hands, smiling too, pleased, but not smugly so - it is more complex than that, as if he has discovered something that might be worth even more than anger - his head tilted a bit, his eyes with a careful look that might remind filmgoers of a Robert Duvall character with a back story in which he has seen more than one perhaps would have preferred to.

Winston Smith "believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945 . . ." Richard Blair was born May 14, 1944. It is not difficult to guess that Orwell, in 1984 , was imagining a future for his son's generation, a world he was not so much wishing upon them as warning against. He was impatient with predictions of the inevitable, he remained confident in the ability of ordinary people to change anything, if they would. It is the boy's smile, in any case, that we return to, direct and radiant, proceeding out of an unhesitating faith that the world, at the end of the day, is good and that human decency, like parental love, can always be taken for granted - a faith so honourable that we can almost imagine Orwell, and perhaps even ourselves, for a moment anyway, swearing to do whatever must be done to keep it from ever being betrayed.

You can read the full article here:


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  • 1 year later...

This webpage contains reviews of Orwell's works and also gives useful

links such as a website where Animal Farm is available (the entire book).



Another link offering to provide essays for students who need to write about Orwell.


"Stuck on a tough essay on Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty Four (1984)?

No problem – We'll write any essay or college paper on anything to do with George Orwell!"

Such a website would have been helpful for the papers I had to write back in the early 90s. :tomatoes

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  • 9 months later...

In a recent article on George Orwell's 1984, Robert Harris claims that he "may not be the greatest novel ever written but it is certainly the most influential." He admits that everything in the novel has not come true, however: "It performed the signal service of nailing for ever certain tricks and tendencies of the ruling classes. It set us on our guard. Sixty years on, that is an achievement worth celebrating."

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