8.6.40

In the middle of a fearful battle in which, I suppose, thousands of men are being killed every day, one has the impression that there is no news. The evening papers are the same as the morning ones, the morning ones are the same as those of the night before, and the radio repeats what is in the papers. As to the truthfulness of news, however, there is probably more suppression than downright lying. Borkenau considers that the effect of the radio has been to make war comparatively truthful, and that the only large-scale lying hitherto has been the German claims of British ships sunk. These have certainly been fantastic. Recently one of the evening papers which had made a note of the German announcements pointed out that in about 10 days the Germans claimed to have sunk 25 capital ships, i.e. 10 more than we ever possessed.

Stephen Spender said to me recently, “Don’t you feel that any time during the past ten years you have been able to foretell events better than, say, the Cabinet?” I had to agree to this. Partly it is a question of not being blinded by class interests etc., e.g. anyone not financially interested could see at a glance the strategic danger to England of letting Germany and Italy dominate Spain, whereas many rightwingers, even professional soldiers, simply could not grasp this most obvious fact. But where I feel that people like us understand the situation better than so-called experts is not in any power to foretell specific events, but in the power to grasp what kind of world we are living in. At any rate I have known since about 1931 (Spender says he has known since 1929) that the future must be catastrophic. I could not say exactly what wars and revolutions would happen, but they never surprised me when they came. Since 1934 I have known war between England and Germany was coming, and since 1936 I have known it with complete certainty[1]. I could feel it in my belly, and the chatter of the pacifists on one hand, and the Popular Front people who pretended to fear that Britain was preparing for war against Russia on the other, never deceived me. Similarly such horrors as the Russian purges never surprised me, because I had always felt that – not exactly that, but something like that – was implicit in Bolshevik rule. I could feel it in their literature.

…. Who would have believed seven years ago that Winston Churchill had any kind of political future before him? A year ago Cripps[2] was the naughty boy of the Labour Party, who expelled him and refused even to hear his defence. On the other hand, from the Conservative point of view he was a dangerous Red. Now he is ambassador in Moscow, the Beaverbrook press having led the cry for his appointment. Impossible to say yet whether he is the right man. If the Russians are disposed to come round to our side, he probably is, but if they are still hostile, it would have been better to send a man who does not admire the Russian regime.

[1] See ‘My Country Right or Left’

[2] Sir Stafford Cripps. Peter Davison

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10 Responses to 8.6.40

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 8.6.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE -- Topsy.com

  2. Alex Bennee says:

    You get the sense the war wasn’t really real to those on the home front until the events of Dunkirk unfolded.

  3. > I could feel it in their literature.

    I love this expression. He alludes of course to a tone and overall feel of the literature, rather than any particular expression in it. Challenged, he could probably not point to a specific example where the authors call for purges. But given a certain stridency, one can project a certain outcome.

  4. Gilles Mioni says:

    I’ve cried when reading this text of George Orwell.
    In rage.

    But in an uchronia that would consider the victory of the Spanish Republic, today, I would not exist.
    Worse fate than being a negligible and unnecessary effect of a disastrous defeat for the European destiny.

    I’m always amazed at the quality of Orwell’s writing style who had used the best capabilities of the English language to report the context, sociological and political saying, of a time by simply relating the essential facts.

    Actually, by reading the Orwell’s diary of the year, it’s like an initiation to english way of thinking.

    70 years after, what a gift !

    I want to tell this extraordinary event :
    Maxime Weygand assumed command of the French army just few days before the Battle of Dunkirk.

    The situation is so confused that he takes the risk totally unprecedented in military history that a Chief of Staff makes a recognition on the theater of operations.

    He boarded a unarmed plane of reconnaissance flying over the main regions where the toughest battles were being.
    Notice that Luftwaffe had full control of the air when this desperate flight had been accomplished.

    A little bit later, to save Dunkirk, a French armored division launched a fierce attack at Arras.

    2000 British soldiers also had given an hand during this offensive and went to the sacrifice of themselves for save the British army.
    What a terrible success.

    You know what: apart in the city itself where a little ceremony had been made, nobody in France celebrated the memory of the battle of Arras. The only French army reaction in 1940 which really accounted for the remainder of the war.

  5. Gilles Mioni says:

    Sorry for syntax :
    Notice that Luftwaffe had had full control of the air when this desperate flight had been accomplished.

  6. itwasntme says:

    It’s interesting that he mentions Churchill’s career. Churchill was an old war monger and usually that’s not good. But when a warmonger was needed, the British took him up and he did the job, for all the world. When that pugnacious personality was no longer needed, out he went. People here in the US were stunned by his rejection at the time, but see it historically now.

    BTW, several of my relatives immigrated to the US after WWII, fleeing the extended socialism that followed Churchill and joining family already here. (Yorkshire men all). My Uncle was one of the RAF few, and became a successful insurance executive here.

  7. Max says:

    For many in Britain that ‘extended period of socialism that followed Churchill’ gave them proper medical attention for the first time in their lives, free secondary education and university grants on entrance, and put more people into employment than there ever could have been with a return to the free market misery of the prewar years. That’s why people, including Orwell, voted Labour in 1945.

  8. itwasntme says:

    I agree with you Max. Just relating the reaction of some in my family.

  9. Barry Larking says:

    Well put Max.

  10. Pingback: End of the egg counts & the absence of war. « ozean blogs

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