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George Orwell :
selected quotations

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George Orwell, formerly George Blair, 1903–1950
English novelist

See also George Orwell - another leftist pseudo-intellectual snob?


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  • Attlee [1] reminds me of nothing so much as a recently dead fish, before it has time to stiffen. [diary, 19 May 1942]

  • All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
    [Animal Farm, 1945]

  • The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent.
    [In Polemic January 1946, ‘The prevention of Literature’]

  • Before the war, and especially before the Boer War, it was summer all the year round.
    [Coming up for Air, 1939]

  • Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them. [Attributed]

  • Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.
    [In Tribune October 1945, ‘War & Peace’]

  • War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
    [Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949]

  • Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
    [Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949]

  • Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.
    [Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949]

  • Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
    [Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949]

  • The sin of nearly all left-wingers from 1933 onward is that they have wanted to be anti-Fascist without being anti-totalitarian.
    [Arthur Koestler, Critical Essays, 1946 ]

  • Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

  • [...] when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.
    [Homage to Catalonia, 1938, p 124]

  • Orwell regarding a Russian operative in Spain:
    I watched him with some interest, for it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies - unless one counts journalists.
    [Homage to Catalonia, 1938, p 140]

         Georges Simenon had a different, perhaps more convincing point of view:
        "A journalist is a man who writes a column or two on a subject he knows absolutely nothing about."

    Here you see Orwell dreaming of his ideal socialist state for after the War. You will see very similar ravings from Oswald Mosley. See also George Orwell - another leftist pseudo-intellectual snob?
  • From The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, 1941
    Part III: The English Revolution

    NATIONALISATION. One can “nationalise” industry by the stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere OWNERS who live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore, that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as before, the one-time owners or managing directors carrying on with their jobs as State employees. There is reason to think that many of the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement. The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 a year—and even if one counts in all their dependants there are not more than half a million of these people in England. Nationalisation of agricultural land implies cutting out the landlord and the tithe drawer, but not necessarily interfering with the farmer. It is difficult to imagine any reorganisation of English agriculture that would not retain most of the existing farms as units, at any rate at the beginning. The farmer, when he is competent, will continue as a salaried manager. He is virtually that already, with the added disadvantage of having to make a profit and being permanently in debt to the bank. With certain kinds of petty trading, and even the small-scale ownership of land, the State will probably not interfere at all. It would be a great mistake to start by victimising the smallholder class, for instance. These people are necessary, on the whole they are competent, and the amount of work they do depends on the feeling that they are “their own masters”. But the State will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit any ownership of land in town areas.

    From the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is THEMSELVES. They will be ready then to endure the sacrifices that are ahead of us, war or no war. And even if the face of England hardly seems to change, on the day that our main industries are formally nationalised the dominance of a single class will have been broken. From then onwards the emphasis will be shifted from ownership to management, from privilege to competence. It is quite possible that State-ownership will in itself bring about less social change than will be forced upon us by the common hardships of war. But it is the necessary first step without which any REAL reconstruction is impossible.

  • From The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, 1941,
    Part III: The English Revolution

    It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier's cap-buttons. It will not set up any explicit class dictatorship. It will group itself round the old Labour Party and its mass following will be in the trade unions, but it will draw into it most of the middle class and many of the younger sons of the bourgeoisie. Most of its directing brains will come from the new indeterminate class of skilled workers, technical experts, airmen, scientists, architects and journalists, the people who feel at home in the radio and ferro-concrete age. But it will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word. Political parties with different names will still exist, revolutionary sects will still be publishing their newspapers and making as little impression as ever. It will disestablish the Church, but will not persecute religion. It will retain a vague reverence for the Christian moral code, and from time to time will refer to England as ‘a Christian country’. The Catholic Church will war against it, but the Nonconformist sects and the bulk of the Anglican Church will be able to come to terms with it. It will show a power of assimilating the past which will shock foreign observers and sometimes make them doubt whether any revolution has happened.

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Commentary on George Orwell and the Spanish civil war.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell (1946)
hbk: 1993, Knopf, (Everyman's Library Series), 0679420398, $12.00 [amazon.com] {advert}
       2000, Longman, 0582434475, [amazon.co.uk] {advert}
pbk: 1996, Prentice Hall, 0451526341, $6.95 [amazon.com] {advert}
       2000, Penguin Books, 0141182709, £4.79 [amazon.co.uk

Nineteen eighty-four, written in 1949, 1990, Turtleback, 0606001999, £7.40

Critical Essays, written in 1944, first published 1946.
hbk, Secker Warburg, 1946: amazon.com amazon.co.uk

Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
first edition , Secker and Warburg, London
three GoldenYak (tm) award

2003, Penguin, 0141187379, £4.79 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}
1980, Harvest, 0156421178, $10.40 [amazon.com] {advert}


end notes

  1. Immediately post-WW2 UK prime minister, responsible for a huge extension of State power, eventually leading to the collapse of much British industry. On Attlee, Winston Churchill said, “A modest man who has much to be modest about.”[1954]

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