Monday, 4 May 2015

George Orwell on the *real* political spectrum

[Pic by Jim Rose. Quote from a letter to Malcolm Muggeridge (4 December 1948), quoted in Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life (1980) by Ian Hunter.


  1. There is a persistent misuse of this quote by Libertarians. Orwell was a socialist, of the less doctrinaire sort we now call "democratic socialists". He cretianly was no Leninist or Stalinist, but was by no means a libertarian in the "Randian" sense. A more apt "interpretation" (and this does require an interpretation, given both Orwell's broader views, and some peoples misuse of this quote) would be a "division" between authoritarians and "people who love liberty", which is hardly the same thing as "libertarians". Nowhere in a forma does Orwell posit anything that could be called Libertarianism is today's usage.

    This misuse of Orwell in effect substitutes Orwell's meaning with, say, Hayek's meaning, and seems to do so quite willfully in order to just do some name dropping.

    While Both are quite right in what they are saying, they are saying different things. This lifting of Orwell's quote as a proof of Orwell's "Libertarianism", and thereby using it to validate the Libertarian "movement", is just the sort of flabby sophistry we expect out of the Left. There is good reason for this--Google Robert Locke's "The Marxism of the Right" for some pointers on this curious take on Orwell.

    But what is really curious about this is that somehow Libertarians feel need for a socialist's imprimatur, apparently for no other reason that he was a famous (and palatable) writer on political matters.

    (It of course goes without saying that he was a much better novelist than Rand, but then, who is not?)

  2. Anon - I'm not sure who you're disagreeing with here, because I've never seen anyone argue that Orwell was an Objectivist, or even a consistent exponent of a free society - and just posting a quote from him doesn't imply that he was. It's clear enough he was against authoritarianism, but what he was actually *for* is less clear. His views were not entirely consistent. Regardless of that conflict, and regardless of what I disagree with him on, I can still understand and appreciate the basic message in his quote.

  3. Well, thanks Anonymous -- yet another person with an opinion to which you're embarrassed to put a name.

    Now, I'm not sure you'd find anyone in the world who would consider Orwell "a libertarian in the 'Randian' sense [sic]." But then, no sane person reading the post would suggest I'd suggested that.

    But do you think you needed to provide that disclaimer for any non-sane persons who stumble across it?

    I ask just because it's not clear which side of that divide you're on (even though it's almost clear enough which side of Orwell's divide you might be on).

    Because those on the saner side of the divide would mostly understand that quoting someone does not make that someone an advocate for all your views, or vice versa.

    And that there's always a context within which a quote is given. (If you don't understand what "context"means then may I suggest a dictionary. If you don't know your alphabet yet, you could ask an adult to look it up for you.)

    Now, to help you out on this one, if you take a close look down the bottom of the post: under the picture, within all that writing giving credit for the picture and everything -- not, not the tags, just above the tags, do you have it now? --then you'll even see a link to the book from which the letter is quoted.

    I say this, and I try to keep it simple for you, because I put that there intentionally. (That means, I did it on purpose. Understand?)

    I put that that there intentionally to help readers without any axe to grind to discover for themselves much of the context there to understand the quote more deeply, if they wish to.

    And because because nowhere here do I suggest Orwell was a libertarian in the American sense. Nowhere at all. Nowhere do I suggest that Orwell does posit anything (in a forma or otherwise) "that could be called Libertarianism is today's usage." Nor do I posit this quote as "proof" (your word) of Orwell's libertarianism in the modern sense.

    It would hardly be possible in any case because libertarian in modern sense only gained currency inthe 70s, which (if you'll check one of those things on the wall with months in it we call a calendar) was a few years after 1948.

    So you're an idiot.

    What I do offer the quote for, however - and you can tell this from the title of the post, if you can manage to grasp that -- is that any real political spectrum should distinguish between two poles: liberty-loving and authoritarianism.

    Got that?

    Indeed, it's the same point once made by Ronald Reagan (also, allow me to point out so you're not confused, NOT a libertarian): "You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down: [up to] man's old -- old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course."

    So you see, folk might disagree with what liberty-loving might actually mean, and even what it might look like in practice -- as Orwell and Reagan would clearly do -- but still be able to express the same basic and correct sentiment.

    In fact, you can tell this even from what Orwell has to say as well, if you didn't have an axe to grind.

    But, let's all be honest here, you *do* have an axe to grind, don't you, Person Too Embarrassed To Put A Name To Their Opinions.

    Because it goes without saying that, despite her not being mentioned in the post to which you decided to comment, that you have a thing against Ayn Rand. But it should hardly need saying that, just from what you've written here, it's clear Rand is at least a better novelist than you.


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