Empson tells me that there is a strict ban by the Foreign Office on any suggestion that Japan is going to attack the USSR. So this subject is being studiously avoided in the Far Eastern broadcasts while being pushed all the time in the India broadcasts. They haven’t yet got onto the fact that we are saying this, we haven’t been warned and don’t officially know about the ban, and are making the best of our opportunity while it lasts. The same chaos everywhere on the propaganda front. [E.g. Horizon was nearly stopped from getting its extra paper to print copies for export on the strength of my article on Kipling (all well at the last moment because Harold Nicholson [1] and Duff Cooper [2] intervened), at the same time as the BBC asked me to write a “feature” based on the article.]

German  propaganda is inconsistent in quite a different way – ie, deliberately so, with an utter unscrupulousness in offering everything to everybody, freedom to India and a colonial empire to Spain, emancipation to the Kaffirs and stricter race laws to the Boers, etc., etc. All quite sound from a propaganda point of view in my opinion, seeing how politically ignorant the majority of people are, how uninterested in anything outside their immediate affair, and how little impressed by inconsistency. A few weeks back the NBBS [3] was actually attacking the Workers’ Challenge [Station], [4] warning people not to listen to it as it was “financed from Moscow.”

The Communists in Mexico are again chasing Victor Serge [5] and other Trotskyist refugees who got there from France, urging their expulsion, etc., etc. Just the same tactics as in Spain. Horrible depressed to see these ancient intrigues coming up again, not so much because they are morally disgusting as from the reflection; for 20 years the Comintern has used these methods and the Comintern has always and everywhere been defeated by the Fascists; therefore we, being tied to them in a species of alliance, shall be defeated with them.

Suspicion that Russia intends making a separate peace now seems widespread. Of the two, it would be easier for Russia to surrender the Ukraine, both on geographical and psychological grounds, but they obviously couldn’t give up the Caucasus oilfields without a fight. One possible development is a secret agreement between Hitler and Stalin, Hitler to keep what Russian territory he has overrun, or parts of it, but thereafter to make no further attacks but to direct his offensive southward towards the oilfields of Irak and Iran, Russia and Germany keeping up a sham war meanwhile. It appears to me that a separate peace is distinctly likelier if we do make a continental invasion this year, because if we succeed in embarrassing the Germans and drawing off a large part of their armies Russia is immediately in a much better position both to win back the occupied territories, and to bargain. I nevertheless think we ought to invade Europe if the shipping will run to it. The one thing that might stop this kind of filthy double crossing is a firm alliance between ourselves and the USSR, with war aims declared in detail. Impossible while this government rules us, and probably also while Stain remains in power: [at least only possible if we could get a different kind of government and then find some way of speaking over Stalin’s head to the Russian people].

The same feeling as one had during the Battle of France – that there is no news. This arises principally from endless newspaper-reading. [In connection with my newsletters I now read four or five morning newspapers ever day and several editions of the evening ones, besides the daily monitoring report.] The amount of new matter in each piece of print one reads is so small that one gets a general impression that nothing is happening. Besides, when things are going badly one can foresee everything. The only event that has surprise me for weeks past was Cripp’s mission to India.

[1] For Harold Nicolson (1886-1968; Kt. 1953) critic, biographer, and M.P., see events, 30.8.39, n. 1. Among his biographies were those of Tennyson, Byron, Swinburne, Lord Curzon, King George V, and Sainte-Beuve.

[2]For Alfred Duff Cooper (1890-1954; Viscount Norwich, 1952), diplomat, biographer of Talleyrand and Earl Haig; see War-time Diary, 29.5.40 n. 4. He had served briefly as War Cabinet representative in Singapore, and responsibility was partly, if hardly fairly, laid at his door for its fall. He was British representative with the French Committee of National Liberation in North Africa (headed by General de Gaulle), and for three years from September 1944 was British Ambassador in Paris. His autobiography is Old Men Forget (1953).

[3] New British Broadcasting Station broadcast propaganda in English from Germany. For Orwell’s description of its policy, see his ‘London Letter,’ 1 January 1942, CW, XIII, pp. 110-111. W.J. West devotes a chapter of his Truth Betrayed (1987) to the new British Broadcasting Station. He also discusses two other German stations which broadcast to Britain, the Workers Challenge Station and the Christian Peace Movement [station]; he prints three of their broadcasts in an Appendix.

[4] this was another station broadcasting propaganda in English from Germany.

[5] Victor Serge (Kilbt’chiche; 1890-1947), author and journalist, born in Brussels of exiled Russian intellectuals, was French by adoption. He was associated with the anarchist movement in Paris. After the Russian Revolution, he transferred his activities to Moscow, Leningrad, and Berlin (where he ran a newspaper, the Communist International). His close association with Trotsky led to his deportation to Siberia in 1933. After his release, he was Paris correspondent for the POUM during the Spanish civil war. In 1941 he settled in Mexico, where he died, impoverished. Among his many books are From Lenin to Stalin (1937; translated from French); Vie et mort de Trotsky (Paris, 1951) and Memoires d’un révolutionnaire 1901-1941 (Paris, 1951; English translation, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, 1963). He wrote an introduction to Revolution et contre-revolution en Espagne by Joaquin Maurin (1896-1973) co-founder of the POUM (1937). 

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3 Responses to 22.3.42

  1. “seeing how politically ignorant the majority of people are, how uninterested in anything outside their immediate affair, and how little impressed by inconsistency”

    George: I think your public school snobbery is showing through a bit too much there. And after writing such interesting accounts of working class life. Maybe this is the effect of working for the BBC.

  2. Alex says:

    Funny to see how someone who is tasked in producing propaganda is so clueless and in lack of information. Not that it really matters, since the goal is not to inform, but to manipulate. Nevertheless, a bit of real information would help make propaganda more credible (then again, it seems consistency is not really required anyway).

    If I remember correctly, people in the occupied lands religiously followed the BBC, whenever they could, which just shows how clueless of the situation the average man would be, even if he cared to read or hear information sources.

  3. Pingback: Blogging Victor Serge « Poumista

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