Politics, December 1946, pp. 384-8
George Woodcock (b. 1912), friend of Orwell, Canadian author of The Crystal Spirit (1966), Gandhi (1971) and Aldous Huxley (1972).
The English writers of the 1930’s have worn badly in an ensuing decade, with perhaps three important exceptions—George Orwell, Herbert Read and Graham Greene. It is difficult not to connect this fact with their political records, for these three were the only writers of real significance who did not at one time or another become deeply involved with the Communist Party and suffer a subsequent disillusionment which drove them back to an unrealistic social isolation. For nearly five years in the middle of the 1930’s, the Communist Party kept an effective hold on most of the best English writers. When events in Spain and the manifest dishonesties of Stalinist policy caused them to leave the Communist entourage, these writers tended to retire into a false and somewhat guilty detachment. Their attitude was quite different from the conscious, and in some respects valid, detachment of a writer like Henry Miller, who saw the evils of the world as part of an inevitable process of destruction, and felt he could do little more than become right within himself. The English ex-Communist writers, on the other hand, still felt something should be done, but nevertheless decided to eschew social activity. This equivocal attitude undoubtedly played its part in causing their failure to realise the promise they had shown during the formative years of the 1930’s. Of the three writers whom I have indicated as exceptions to this tendency, all had been aware throughout the 1930’s of the faults of both