George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

88.

James Walsh, Marxist Quarterly

January 1956, pp. 25-39

The Marxist Quarterly was published in London by Lawrence & Wishart.

1984 continues the same trend as Animal Farm, except that is it more neurotic and that the depressing hatred of everything approaching progress is more evident: it is directed, remember, not against the Soviet Union or even the British Communist Party alone, but against ‘English Socialism. ’

The same basic lack of knowledge of what Orwell is writing about is as significant as his hatred of it. The book contains long theses on politics and economics and, Lord bless us, the English language, which must be as silly to the informed as they are boring to the ordinary reader. But it is not so much in these, which are after all written by one or other of his characters and possibly intentionally ridiculous, as in the attitudes and philosophical assumptions out of which 1984 is constructed that Orwell reveals his ignorance about people, about the working class and about the Communist Party.

In a recent letter published in the Manchester Guardian (5 January 1955) Mr R. Palme Dutt1 made some interesting points about the philosophical implications in 1984:

The ideas which Orwell depicts as dominating the world in 1984 reflect the ideas not of communism, of which he knew very little, but of present-day Western monopoly capitalism, whose outward manifestations he experienced with horror and loathing but without understanding either the cause or the cure. This can be very simply demonstrated. The central ‘heresy’ of his ‘rebel’ hero, for which he is tortured, is that ‘reality is something external, objective, existing in its own right’. This is the standpoint of materialism, of communism. The central axiom of the tyranny which he describes is that ‘reality is not external; reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else’. This is the

1 R. Palme Dutt (1896-1974) was a leading British Communist.

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