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George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters. 18. Letter to the Reverend Iorwerth Jones

George Orwell

George Orwell



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George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters

18. Letter to the Reverend Iorwerth Jones

111 Langford Court
Abbey Road
London NWS
8 April 1941

Dear Mr Jones,8
Many thanks for your letter.9 Perhaps in one or two cases I expressed myself rather ambiguously and can make things clearer by answering some of your queries.

8. A Congregational minister.
9. In his letter the Rev. Iorwerth Jones had asked for the amplification of certain points Orwell had made in The Lion and the Unicorn.

1. “The U.S.A. will need a year to mobilize its resources even if Big Business can be brought to heel.” You comment that it is the strikers who are holding up production. That is so, of course, but I was trying to look deeper than the immediate obstruction. The sort of effort that a nation at war now needs can only be made if both labour and capital are conscripted. Ultimately what is needed is that labour should be as much under discipline as the armed forces. This condition practically obtains in the U.S.S.R. and the totalitarian countries. But it is only practicable if all classes are disciplined alike, otherwise there is constant resentment and social friction, showing itself in strikes and sabotage. In the long run I think the hardest people to bring to heel will be the businessmen, who have most to lose by the passing of the present system and in some cases are consciously pro-Hitler. Beyond a certain point they will struggle against the loss of their economic freedom, and as long as they do so the causes of labour unrest will exist.
2. War aims. Of course I am in favour of declaring our war aims, though there is a danger in proclaiming any very detailed scheme for post-war reconstruction. In that Hitler, who is not troubled by any intention of keeping his promises, will make a higher bid as soon as our war aims are declared. All II protested against in the book was the idea that propaganda without a display of military strength can achieve anything. Acland’s book Unser Kampf,10 which I referred to, seemed to assume that if we told the Germans we wanted a just peace they would stop fighting. The same idea is being put about, though in this case not in good faith, by the People’s Convention11 crowd (Pritt12 and Co.).

10. See 35.
11. The People’s Convention, organized in January 1941 by the Communists, was ostensibly founded to fight for public rights, higher wages, better air-raid precautions etc. and friendship with the U.S.S.R., but some historians say its true purpose was to agitate against the war effort. In July 1941, after Russia’s entry into the war, it immediately called for a Second Front. By 1942 it had suspended active work.
12. D. N. Pritt (1887- ), Q.C., Labour M.P. 1935-40, then, on his expulsion from the Party for policy disagreements, Independent Socialist M.P. until 1950. Well known as a barrister and fervent supporter of left-wing causes and the Soviet Union.

3. A pro-Fascist rebellion in India. I wasn’t thinking of a rebellion primarily by Indians, I was thinking of the British community in India. A British general attempting a Fascist coup d’état would probably use India as his jumping-off place, as Franco used Morocco. Of course it isn’t a likelihood at this stage of the war, but one has got to think of the future. If an attempt to impose open naked Fascism upon Britain is ever made, I think coloured troops are almost certain to be used.
4. Gandhi and pacifism. Perhaps I ought not to have implied that pacifists are always people who as individuals have led sheltered lives, though it is a fact that “pure” pacifists usually belong to the middle classes and have grown up in somewhat exceptional circumstances. But it is a fact that pacifism as a movement barely exists except in communities where people don’t feel foreign invasion and conquest to be likely. That is why pacifist movements are always found in maritime countries (there is even I believe a fairly considerable pacifist movement in Japan). Government cannot be conducted on “pure” pacifist lines, because any government which refused in all circumstances to use force could be overthrown by anyone, even any individual, who was willing to use force. Pacifism refuses to face the problem of government and pacifists think always as people who will never be in a position of control, which is why I call them irresponsible.
Gandhi has been regarded for twenty years by the Government of India as one of its right-hand men. I know what I am talking about — I used to be an officer in the Indian police. It was always admitted in the most cynical way that Gandhi made it easier for the British to rule India, because his influence was always against taking any action that would make any difference. The reason why Gandhi when in prison is always treated with such lenience, and small concessions sometimes made when he has prolonged one of his fasts to a dangerous extent, is that the British officials are in terror that he may die and be replaced by someone who believes less in “soul force” and more in bombs. Gandhi is of course personally quite honest and unaware of the way in which he is made use of, and his personal integrity makes him all the more useful. I won’t undertake to say that his methods will not succeed in the long run. One can at any rate say that by preventing violence and therefore preventing relations being embittered beyond a certain point, he has made it more likely that the problem of India will ultimately be settled in a peaceful way. But it is hard to believe that the British will ever be got out of India by those means, and certainly the British on the spot don’t think so. As to the conquest of England, Gandhi would certainly advise us to let the Germans rule here rather than fight against them — in fact he did advocate just that. And if Hitler conquered England he would, I imagine, try to bring into being a nationwide pacifist movement, which would prevent serious resistance and therefore make it easier for him to rule. Thank you for writing.
Yours sincerely
George Orwell

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