30.5.40

The B.E.F. are falling back on Dunkirk. Impossible not only to guess how many may get away, but how many are there. Last night a talk on the radio by a colonel who had come back from Belgium, which unfortunately I did not hear, but which from E’s. account of it contained interpolations put in by the broadcaster himself to let the public know the army had been let down (a) by the French (not counterattacking), and (b) by the military authorities at home, by equipping them badly. No word anywhere in the press of recriminations against the French, and Duff-Cooper’s broadcast of two nights ago especially warned against this… Today’s map looks as if the French contingent in Belgium are sacrificing themselves to let the B.E.F. get away.

Borkenau[1] says England is now definitely in the first stages of revolution. Commenting on this, Connolly related that recently a ship was coming away from northern France with refugees on board and a few ordinary passengers. The refugees were mostly children who were in a terrible state after having been machine-gunned etc., etc. Among the passengers was Lady ——–[2], who tried to push herself to the head of the queue to get on the boat, and when ordered back said indignantly, “Do you know who I am?” The steward answered, “I don’t care who you are, you bloody bitch. You can take your turn in the queue.” Interesting if true.

Still no evidence of any interest in the war. Yet the by-elections, responses to appeals for men, etc., show what people’s feelings are. It is seemingly quite impossible for them to grasp that they are in danger, although there is good reason to think that the invasion of England may be attempted within a few days, and all the papers are saying this. They will grasp nothing until the bombs are dropping. Connolly says they will then panic, but I don’t think so[3].

[1] Dr Franz Borkenau (1900-1957), Austrian sociologist and political writer, born in Vienna, was from 1921 to 1929 a member of the German Communist Party. His Zur Soziologie des Faschismus was published in Tubingen, in 1933, the year he emigrated because of the coming to power of the Nazis. He published Pareto (1936) in the Modern Sociologists Series. Orwell reviewed The Spanish Cockpit, The Communist International and The Totalitarian Enemy. Borkenau died in Zurich. For his conversations with Orwell at the time of Dunkirk, see above and Orwell’s War-time Diary, 6.6.40

[2] Unidentified. The number of hyphens Orwell used may not always represent the number of letters of the original name; the number in the diary is given here.

[3] See 2.6.40. Orwell recalls Connolly’s expectation and their walk in the park in his ‘London Letter,’ Partisan Review, summer 1945, 2672. Peter Davison

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4 Responses to 30.5.40

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 30.5.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Extrapolating from Dunkirk « Shiraz Socialist

  3. Eric is a bit ahead of the crowd in seeing the seriousness of this, but not by much, his wartime diary starting only two days ago.

    Now is when we appreciate the last 20 months or so of egg reports. We can appreciate that his pastoral life in the country, writing books for the corporations, is about to be shattered by the war, as are the lives of everyone around him.

  4. I’m not sure what Orwell expected of the proletariat or even bourgeoisie.

    I suppose he wouldn’t mind if the bourgeoisie were to self-immolate.

    As for the proletariat, I guess they could storm London and Parliament with their arsenal of pitchforks, push-brooms, scythes, flaming torches, hammers, sickles and tins of mystery meat.

    Then what. I guess that’s my real question. 1984? A Clockwork Orange? Metropolis? ______?

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