Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 10 09:28:52 MST 2003

a MobyLives guest column
by John Reed

Last week a notebook in which George Orwell kept a list of acquaintences 
he suspected of being communists—a list he eventually gave to a friend 
in the British government—went on display in London. MobyLives took the 
occasion to ask Orwell crtic John Reed to comment.

10 November 2003 — To look at the history of the Saints, the question 
quickly arises—how many people must die in your name before you're 

On this centennial year of his birth, George Orwell—who coined the term 
Cold War, and remains our faithful Cold War pedagogue after nearly sixty 
years—has apparently amassed the sufficient number. Virtue, in the hands 
of religionists, will often turn to vice. And in a time when political 
discussion has taken on fanatical polarity, Orwell, who despite his 
flaws sought to be reasonable, can be consistently located in the 
temples of intransigence. He is the champion of Trotskyite perpetual 
warriors, militant right–to–lifers, and fiercely defensive gun–toters.

Few would assert that Orwell the man is personally guilty of all the 
obtuseness that he is invoked to vindicate. Equally untenable is the 
position that Orwell was not responsible for his life and work. He did 
things, he wrote things, that can't be explained away as objects of 

 From the New Yorker's Louis Menand, you won't find out what those 
things are. Despite his lengthy article of 1/27/03, Menand will not tell 
you—will not even mention—that Orwell penned a list of 35 names for the 
IRD, or Information Research Department (which was overseen by the 
British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6), and that the degree to 
which those artists and writers were damaged by Orwell is still 

Christopher Hitchens, the Grand Poobah of the cult of Orwell, 
demonstrates a similar inability to exercise what Orwell called "the 
power of facing." His general formula, on questions concerning Beastly 
George, is to concede any minor point—such as whether or not Orwell hit 
so–and–so with a walking stick, or Orwell's small mindedness on the 
metric system—but to outright dismiss any major point. Rival 
intellectuals are fools and liars.

When cornered, Hitchens will reiterate the age–old excuse—that Orwell 
was always trying to be right, even when he was wrong, and is therefore 
worthy of praise in any circumstance. One would think that after 
Hitchens' own attack on Mother Teresa, he would be immune to this 
Saint/Greatness argument, but it is the thesis of his aptly titled 
"Orwell's Victory" (a reference to Orwell's Cold War investment). Like 
Menand, Hitchens will spare no effort to contort himself into an 
omissionary position.

full: http://www.mobylives.com/


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