14.3.42

I reopen this diary after an interval of about 6 months, the war being once again in a new phase.

The actual date of Cripp’s departure for India was not given out, [1] but presumably he has gone by this time. Ordinary public opinion here seems gloomy about his departure. A frequent comment – “They’ve done it to get him out of the way” (which is also one of the reasons alleged on the German wireless). This is very silly and reflects the provincialism of English people who can’t grasp that India is of any importance. Better-informed people are pessimistic because the non-publication of the Governments terms to India indicates almost certainly that they are not good terms. Impossible to discover what powers Cripps has got. Those who may know will disclose nothing and one can draw hints out of them only by indirect means. Eg. I propose in my newsletters, [2] having been instructed to give Cripps a buildup, to build him up as a political extremist. This draws the warning, “Don’t go too far in that direction”, which raises the presumption that the higher-0ups haven’t much hope of full independence being granted to India.

Rumours of all descriptions flying round. Many people appear to suspect that Russia and Germany will conclude a separate peace this year. From studying the German and Russian wireless I have long come to the conclusion that the reports of Russian victories are largely phony, though, of course, the campaign has not gone according to the German plan, [I think the Russians have merely won the kind of victory that we did in the Battle of Britain – ie., staving off defeat for the time being but deciding nothing.] I don’t believe in a separate peace unless Russia is definitely knocked out, because I don’t see how either Russia or Germany can agree to relinquish the Ukraine. [On the other hand some people think (I had this, eg. From Abrams, a Baltic Russian of strong Stalinist sympathies though probably not a C.P. member) that if the Russians could get the Germans off their soil they would make a sort of undeclared peace and thereafter only keep up a sham fight.]

Rumours about Beaverbrook’s departure. [3]

  1. Cripps insisted this as a condition of entering the Government.
  2. Beaverbrook was got rid of because he is known to have been in contact with Goering with a view to compromise peace.
  3. The army insisted on Beaverbrook’s removal because he was sending all the aeroplanes etc. to Russia instead of to Libya and the Far East.

I have now been in the BBC about 6 months. Shall remain in it if the political changes I foresee come off, otherwise probably not. Its atmosphere is something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum, and all we are doing at present is useless, or slightly worse than useless. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy. Nevertheless one rapidly becomes propaganda-minded and develops a cunning one did not previously have. Eg. I am regularly alleging in my newsletters that the Japanese are plotting to attack Russia. I don’t believe this to be so, but the calculation is:

  1. If the Japanese do attack Russia, we can then say “I told you so”.
  2. If the Russians attack first, we can, having built up the picture of a Japanese plot beforehand, pretend that it was the Japanese who started it.
  3. If no war breaks out at all, we can claim that it is because the Japanese are too frightened of Russia.

All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth. I don’t think this matters so long as one knows what one is doing, and why.

[Current story:

An A.T. [4] stops a Home Guard: “Excuse me, but your front door is open”.

H.G. “Oh. And did you by any chance see a tall strong sentry guarding the door?”

A.T. “No, all I saw was an old Home Guard lying on a pair of sandbags.”

On 11.3.42 I started the rumour that beer is to be rationed, and told it to 3 different people. I shall be interested to see at what date this rumour comes back to me] 30.5.42: Never came back. So this casts no light on the way in which rumours come into being.

Talked for a little while the other day to William Hickey, [5] just back from the USA. He says morale there is appalling. Production is not getting under way and anti-British feeling of all kinds is rampant, also anti-Russian feeling, stimulated by the Catholics.

[1] Sir Stafford Cripps (see Events, 2.7.39, n. 7 and 14.6.41, n.184) flew to India on 22 March, to arrange a compromise settlement with the Indian Congress Party, the party of Indian independence. He hoped to obtain Indian cooperation during the war and agreement to gradual transition to independence when it was over. Nehru and the Congress Party would accept nothing less than complete independence and the talks broke down on 10 April.

[2] One of Orwell’s duties for the BBC Service to India was writing newsletters. I all, he wrote in English 55 or 56 for India, 30 for Malaya, and 19 for Indonesia. He also wrote 115 or 116 for translation into Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and Hindustani. For these references, see Newsletter in Marathi, No 3, 19 March 1942, CW, XIII, pp. 234-5 and his Weekly News Review in English, No. 15, 21 March 1942, CW, XII, pp. 236-9.

[3] Lord Beaverbrook (see War-time Diary, 29.5.40,n. 9) had, under Churchill, been Minister of Aircraft Production, 1940-41, and Minister of Supply, 1941-42. His contribution was controversial but his boundless energy inspired confidence and the supply of planes increased.

[4] A member of the (women’s) Auxiliary Territorial Service, later WRAC – Women’s Royal Army Corps.

[5] ‘William Hickey’ wrote a social-diary column in the Daily Express for more than fifty years; it was edited by various journalists. At this time, its originator, Tim Driberg (1905-1976), a left-wing politician who later became a Labour M.P., was its editor. Orwell added a handwritten footnote to the typescript identifying ‘William Hickey’ as Tom Driberg. Despite serving as Chairman of the Labour party (1957-58), Driberg earlier worked for the KGB. His code name was Lepage (see Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive, 1999, pp. 522-6). Orwell suspected him of treachery and included him in his ‘List of Crypto-Communists and Fellow Travellers’ (see CW, XX, pp. 242 and 246

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8 Responses to 14.3.42

  1. Alex says:

    Cool to have him back. Definitely no more egg counting, I gather. What a pity ;-)

  2. timothyMN says:

    Orwell Diaries: In the first list above you have: “be n contact”. Pathetic I know for me to fuss about such trivia.

  3. andrew says:

    “if the Russians could get the Germans off their soil they would make a sort of undeclared peace and thereafter only keep up a sham fight”

    WAHAHAHAHA! eric, if only you could be in the future, you’d see why that was so hilarious!

  4. njwv says:

    “All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.”

    I love love love this quotation.

  5. JimmyGiro says:

    “[The BBC's] atmosphere is something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum, and all we are doing at present is useless, or slightly worse than useless.”

    The BBC is clearly devolving back to its roots!

  6. Pingback: Indignant Desert Birds » Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in April 2012- Only Kidding Edition

  7. Pingback: Expecting the unexpected | n j w v

  8. Pingback: The Orwell Diaries are back… | Richard Wilkinson

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