24.6.40

The German armistice terms are much as expected. . . . What is interesting about the whole thing is the extent to which the traditional pattern of loyalties and honour is breaking down. Pétain, ironically enough, is the originator (at Verdun) of the phrase “ils ne passeront pas”, so long an anti-Fascist slogan. Twenty years ago any Frenchman who would have signed such an armistice would have had to be either an extreme leftwinger or an extreme pacifist, and even then there would have been misgivings. Now the people who are virtually changing sides in the middle of the war are the professional patriots. To Pétain, Laval[1], Flandin[2] and Co. the whole war must have seemed like a lunatic internecine struggle at the moment when your real enemy is waiting to slosh you. . . . It is therefore practically certain that high-up influences in England are preparing for a similar sell-out, and while e.g. — is at — there is no certainty that they won’t succeed even without the invasion of England. The one good thing about the whole business is that the bottom is being knocked out of Hitler’s pretence of being the poor man’s friend. The people actually willing to do a deal with him are bankers, generals, bishops, kings, big industrialists, etc., etc. . . . . Hitler is a leader of tremendous counterattack of the capitalist class, which is forming itself into a vast corporation, losing its privileges to some extent in doing so, but still retaining its power over the working class. When it comes to resisting such an attack as this, anyone who is of the capitalist class must be treacherous or half-treacherous, and will swallow the most fearful indignities rather than put up a real fight. . . . whichever way one looks, whether it is at the wider strategic aspects or the most petty details of local defence, one sees that any real struggle means revolution. Churchill evidently can’t see or won’t accept this, so he will have to go. But whether he goes in time to save England from conquest depends on how quickly the people at large can grasp the essentials. What I fear is that they will never move until it is too late.

Strategically, all turns upon hanging on until the winter. . . . By that time, which huge armies of occupation everywhere, food almost certainly running short and the difficulty of forcing the conquered populations to work, Hitler must be in an awkward position. It will be interesting to see whether he rehabilitates the suppressed French Communist party and tries to use it against the working class in northern France as he used Pétain against the Blimp class.

If the invasion happens and fails, all is well, and we shall have a definitely leftwing government and a conscious movement against the governing class. I think, though, people are in error in imagining that Russia would be more friendly towards us if we had a revolutionary government. After Spain, I cannot help feeling that Russia, i.e. Stalin, must be hostile to any country that is genuinely undergoing revolution. They would be moving in opposite directions. A revolution starts off with wide diffusion of the ideas of liberty, equality, etc. Then comes the growth of an oligarchy which is as much interested in holding onto its privileges as any other governing class. Such an oligarchy must necessarily be hostile to revolutions elsewhere, which inevitably re-awaken the ideas of liberty and equality. This morning’s News-Chronicle announces that saluting of superior ranks has been re-instituted in the Red Army. A revolutionary army would start by abolishing saluting, and this tiny point is symptomatic of the whole situation. Not that saluting and such things are not probably necessary.

Orders to the L.D.V. that all revolvers are to be handed over to the police, as they are needed for the army. Clinging to useless weapons like revolvers, when the Germans have submachine guns, is typical of the British army, but I believe the real reason for the order is to prevent weapons from getting into “the wrong” hands.

Both E. and G.[3] insistent that I should go to Canada if the worst comes to the worst, in order to stay alive and keep up propaganda. I will go if I have some function, e.g., if the government were transferred to Canada and I had some kind of job, but not as a refugee, nor as an expatriate journalist squealing from a safe distance. There are too many of these exiled “anti-fascists” already. Better to die if necessary, and maybe even as propaganda one’s death might achieve more than going abroad and living more or less unwanted on other people’s charity. Not that I want to die; I have so much to live for, in spite of poor health and having no children.

Another government leaflet this morning, on treatment of air-raid casualties. The leaflets are getting much better in tone and language, and the broadcasts are also better, especially Duff-Cooper’s, which in fact are ideal for anyone down to the £5-a-week level. But there is still nothing in really demotic speech, nothing that will move the poorer working class or even be quite certainly intelligible. Most educated people simply don’t realise how little impression abstract words make on the average man. When Acland was sending round his asinine “Manifesto of Plain Men” (written by himself and signed on the dotted line by “plain men” whom he selected) he told me he had the first draft vetted by the Mass Observers, who tried it on working men, and found that the most fantastic misunderstandings arose. . . . The first sign that things are really happening in England will be the disappearance of that horrible plummy voice from the radio. Watching in public bars, I have noticed that working men only pay attention to the broadcasts when some bit of demotic speech creeps in[4]. E. however claims, with some truth I think, that uneducated people are often moved by a speech in solemn language which they don’t actually understand but feel to be impressive. E.g. Mrs A.[5] is impressed by Churchill’s speeches, though not understanding them word for word.

[1] Pierre Laval (1883-1945) served at various times as French Minister of Public Works, Justice, Labour, Colonies, and Foreign Affairs, and was Premier, 1931-32, 1935-36. He left the Socialist Party in 1920 and gradually moved to the extreme right. On 7 January 1935, as Foreign Minister, he signed an agreement with Mussolini that backed Italian claims to areas of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in return for Italian support against German intervention in Austria. Italy invaded Abyssinia on 3 October 1935, and on 18 December the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had entered into a pact with Laval appeasing Mussolini. After the fall of France, Laval came to represent treacherous collaboration. He even provided Frenchmen for work in German industry. Tried in 1945, he was executed after failing in a suicide attempt.

[2] Pierre-Etienne Flandin (1889-1958) held numerous offices in French governments. He was Premier, 1934-35, and Foreign Minister in Pétain’s government in 1940, but attempted to resist German demands and was replaced by Laval. He was forbidden to participate in public life after the war.

[3] Eileen Blair and Gwen O’Shaughnessy, her sister-in-law

[4] See 28.5.40 for lack of interest in news broadcasts

[5] Probably Mrs Anderson, who cleaned for the Orwells in Wallington. Although Orwell had, by the time this was written, been living in London for five or six weeks, he still visited Wallington. The Stores was not given up completely until 1947. Peter Davison

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18 Responses to 24.6.40

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  3. wordsmithsuk says:

    The disappearance of that ‘horrible plummy voice’ from the radio didn’t happen till many years later. Wilfrid Pickles got in during the 1960s with Workers Playtime, but he had a fight on his hands to get accepted by the plummy ones. Even nowadays the received pronunciation club objects to some accents on the radio. Recently there was a huge controversy about the voice of Neil Nunes, the Radio 4 continuity announcer who was brought up in Jamaica.
    Orwell was really astute when he observed that posh voices on the radio and stuffy language in the written word do not communicate with ordinary people. Most listeners/readers just accepted this – and still do in some cases.

  4. Moll says:

    I don’t think the problem with Mr Nunes’s voice was that he had/has a Jamaican accent but that he has ‘a horribly plummy’ Jamaican accent. With how many ordinary British Jamaicans does he communicate, I wonder?

  5. Words are fun:
    ils ne passeront pas; they shall not pass.

    Exceedingly or affectedly mellow and rich: a plummy voice.
    Richly or mellowly resonant: a plummy speaking voice.
    “Horribly” in this context can be translated into American as extremely, unbelievably, freaking.

    Conclusion: When this Jamaican bloke spoke, it was like a symphony.

  6. jhameac says:

    I have to say, these diaries are really kicking into another gear now – and at last living up to expectations. The days of egg counts were worth it.

  7. Revolution at all costs. A fixated Blair is practically foaming at the mouth. Eileen thinks he should relocate.

    And I re-read to notice that it says “horrible plummy voice.” A plummy voice may resound like the choirs of Heaven but it is horrible because it cannot demote. Demoting is crucial.

    Demotion, performed by a world-class monotone, is absolutely de rigueur when dealing with the lower classes.

  8. Stephen says:

    Interesting how he underestimates Churchill.

  9. Professional patriots. Blair is quite adept with the put-down.

  10. jhameac says:

    I’ll say it again, damn good post today Mr. Blair. I must have reread this thing a dozen time today, topic after topic, salient point after salient point. Good show.

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  12. Steve says:

    Today, on this end of the wormhole, the New York Times reports that Prescott Bush, Jr. died at 87. Mr. Bush was 17, then, when Blair wrote today (at that end of the wormhole) that

    The people actually willing to do a deal with him are bankers, generals, bishops, kings, big industrialists, etc., etc. . . . . Hitler is a leader of tremendous counterattack of the capitalist class….

  13. frank says:

    It’s been quite fascinating to watch the temperature of the diary rise and fall and rise again. Poor Eric is clearly now in full fever, and for all my admiration and interest – especially in his diagnosis of Pétain, et. al. – in the core of today’s entry, it’s clearly Eric who’s laying the egg:

    “When it comes to resisting such an attack as this, anyone who is of the capitalist class must be treacherous or half-treacherous, and will swallow the most fearful indignities rather than put up a real fight. . . . whichever way one looks, whether it is at the wider strategic aspects or the most petty details of local defence, one sees that any real struggle means revolution.”

    In no other entry of the diary, at least ’til now, has he got it so terribly, irretrievably wrong. Given the news, it’s a wonder anyone could think straight, but recent days have shown, if nothing else, that Eric wasn’t just a conscience of free people; he was in fact a died-in-the-wool socialist, with all the somewhat understandable blind spots history has shown that unfortunate tribe to have.

  14. Barry Larking says:

    Wilfred Pickles, the popular Yorkshire entertainer – virtually a trail blazer for the breed – disappeared from the air waves in the 60s. He began broadcasting on the B.B.C. in the war. By some accounts his too was a rather posh Yorkshire accent; at least, a ‘smartened up’ one. Orwell is describing a period during which there were fantastic changes in British, particularly English life. ‘Not done’ was replaced by ‘So what?’ As a child listening in the 50s to wireless interviews posh types were often difficult to follow because of a distortion produced by exaggerated emphases (exploited by comedians of the day). Accents frequently confuse hence the rise of B.B.C. English, thought to be neutral. What Orwell points out is the ‘use of English’ is itself an obstacle, not just posh voices.

    Churchill’s current reputation requires one not to examine his career in detail.

  15. Sean M says:

    Its interesting seeing Orwell form the ideas of “The Lion and the Unicorn” and other essays of this period. Its a pity he didn’t live to see the quiet revolution in England after the war.

    Churchill’s career through 1940 would have made anyone of Eric Blair’s ideas doubtful. He was solidly aligned with the existing order of things, and he’d helped to organize many disasters like Gallipoli and the Anglo-French intervention in Norway.

  16. Barry Larking says:

    Labour leader Clement Attlee, Churchill’s wartime deputy, was at Gallipoli. He described it as “the one original strategic idea of the war”. The failed Norway ca,paign brought Churchill to power. In both instances it was not Churchill who was at fault but the generals (and admirals).

    Orwell’s views on Churchill are as far as one can decide from his published writings, mixed. One of Orwell’s last published reviews is of the Churchill account of his war which is generous towards him. My own view of Churchill is less so.

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