“Old Hitler’s something different. So’s Joe Stalin. They aren’t like these chaps in the old days who crucified people and chopped their heads off and so forth, just for the fun of it … They’re something quite new—something that’s never been heard of before”.
George Bowling-protagonist of Orwell’s novel
“Coming up for air”
25th June (1903) is the birth anniversary of the writer George Orwell. For the past week, we have been discussing some of his works-and getting some younger persons more familiar with his works. They have heard the term “Orwellian” and now know the work-1984, and the meanings of old, new and totalitarian dictatorships. “Was the previous regime in this country totalitarian?” one engineer who has come to Libya only after the 2011 revolution asked?
See blog- WINSTON SMITH..as part of 2014 Year end book discussions of our Reading Group http://prashantbhatt.com/2014/12/22/winston-smith-1984-book-discussions-2014-part-iii/
Here are some excerpts from major of works of Orwell.
The Spanish Civil war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scales and thereafter Orwell knew where he stood. He asserts that every line of serious work that he wrote since 1936 was written directly or indirectly , AGAINST totalitarianism and FOR democratic socialism , as he understood it.
HOMAGE TO CATALONIA.
This work spells out clearly the differences between Political Anarchism and Communism.
When Orwell joined the Spanish Civil War, by his own admission he was not politically well educated. However, over the months he came to know the difference between the Anarchists, the Anti-Stalinist Communists and the Stalinist supported Communist Party.
In his book-Chapters 5 and 11 are two chapters which he tells to skip if one is not very politically oriented.
However, these are the very two chapters which one has to read to know how to differentiate between the different strands of Left resistance and how these play out on the ground. Two famous passages-are being reproduced in fuller extent to give context in which they were written
ON SOCIALISM AND EQUALITY
“One had breathed the air of equality. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy ‘proving’ that Socialism means no more than a planned state capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But unfortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism , is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me. For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society.”
Orwell writes about war-propaganda, how the two main factions were attacking each other more vigorously than they were attacking Franco. In England, where the Press is more centralized and the public more easily deceived than elsewhere , only two versions of the Spanish war have had any publicity to speak of: The Right-wing version of Christian patriots versus Bolsheviks dripping with blood, and the Left-Wing version of gentlemanly republicans quelling a military revolt.
I had the opportunity to discuss the Spanish civil war, with some persons in Tripoli. There is a civil war going on here, which seems to be more bitter than the one fought against the previous Regime. People are quick to label the other party as former regime loyalists or extremists, and it is difficult to have an intelligent reasonable discussion without getting emotional.
As one Indian old-timer in Tripoli, who speaks Arabic fluently told-
“What is going on inside these factions is difficult to know. The common man is more interested the disruption of day-to-day life. However, both the parties do have serious differences, enough for them to start killing each other.”
One Arab local person, a councilor heard the description of the Spanish civil war , and recalled his own experiences,
having lived most of his life in the regime.
“I was a young man of 20 when the King was deposed. I have my contacts and discussions with seniors in both sides. I only tell them, do something which will be the best possible solution for a young man of 20 who is starting his life in Libya today.”
FRANCO’S FIFTH COLUMN
The level of propaganda and lies are illustrated in this section. Quoting in greater extent as it will give an idea of the background of differences (to some extent). For those interested in better understanding, reading the book-especially close reading Chapters 5 and 11 are essential.
“But here the peculiarity of Communist tactics came in. Tentatively at first, then more loudly, they began to assert that the P.O.U.M was splitting the Government forces not by bad judgement but by deliberate design. The P.O.U.M was declared to be no more than a gang of disguised Fascists, in the pay of Franco and Hitler, who were pressing a pseudo-revolutionary policy as a way of aiding the Fascist cause. The P.O.U.M was a “Trotskyist” organization and “Franco’s Fifth Column.”
This implied that scores of thousands of working-class people, including eight or ten thousand soldiers who were freezing in the front-line trenches and hundreds of foreigners who had come to Spain to fight against Fascism, often sacrificing their livelihood and their nationality by doing so, were simply traitors in the pay of the enemy. And this story was spread all over Spain by means of posters, etc and repeated over and over in the Communist and pro-Communist press of the whole world. I could fill half a dozen books with quotations if I chose to collect them. This, then, was what they were saying about us: we were Trotskyists , Fascists, traitors, murderers, cowards, spies , and so forth. I admit it was not pleasant, especially when one thought of some of the people who were responsible for it. It is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of fifteen carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise. One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
In Libyan context, we hear of many mothers from Misrata wanting to see their sons back. When the fighting for the Bengashir airport of Tripoli started last July, they were made to understand that things will come to a quick resolution. However, there was a bitter fight and the forces of Zintan were very resilient. The more the bloodshed, the more difficult the reconciliation process. Now we hear of fighters being given a sea-burial, and there is a peace movement gathering strength as both parties and their communities becoming battle-weary.
The way this is being used by IS to gain a foothold in Libya is another feature of concern.
“We know some of the people by name.” One friend from Misrata said of the so-called IS in Sirte and asserting that there are many former regime loyalists in the midst. “Yes, there are foreign fighters too, but there are former regime loyalists.”
One person from the Indian subcontinent taking the land route from East to Tripoli said that he was stopped at a checkpoint near Sirte. “They addressed us in Urdu, when then came to know that we were from Pakistan.”
On reading the blog on -1984 (part of the year end Book discussions of 2014) we discussed in question-answer format who was the main protagonist, what was the language of Ingsoc (with three categories A, B , C) and what was the main tool to counter the lies spread by Ministry of “Truth.”
Continuing that trend, and this will in some part turn our discussion groups into workshops, we are putting some questions forward to interested readers
1- True or False
In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy ‘proving’ that Socialism means no more than a planned state capitalism with the grab-motive left intact.
2- True of False
In addition to the two main versions – there was a third important version which was not told to the wider world “In England, where the Press is more centralized and the public more easily deceived than elsewhere , only two versions of the Spanish war have had any publicity to speak of: The Right-wing version of Christian patriots versus Bolsheviks dripping with blood, and the Left-Wing version of gentlemanly republicans quelling a military revolt.”
3- True or False
According to the Communist propaganda The P.O.U.M was a “Trotskyist” organization and “Franco’s Fifth Column.
4- What according to Orwell is the one of the most horrible features of War?
5- Fill in the blanks
It is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of ________ carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise
Discussion question- Research and find out what were the three vocabularies A, B, C of Newspeak, as told in