YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 27, 2014

George Orwell pitied Hitler but hated the money power

Orwell passport photo, undated

Orwell passport photo, undated

I have already posted blogs on George Orwell (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/17/index-to-orwell-blogs/), but had not yet read his essays from the early 1940s. I now have a clearer and bleaker idea of his politics, which are more clearly expressed in such essays as The Lion and the Unicorn, which dismayed me as the meandering thoughts of an anti-modern populist than that of the democratic socialist portrayed by recent leftist intellectuals. (For my most recent essay see https://clarespark.com/2015/01/22/orwells-wartime-essays-some-surprises/.)

First, there is his pity for Hitler, published in his review of Mein Kampf in New English Weekly, 21 March, 1940. [Orwell:] “I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler. Ever since he came to power—till then, like nearly everyone, I had been deceived into thinking that he did not really matter—I have reflected that I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him, but that I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs—and I recommend especially the photograph at the beginning of Hurst and Blackett’s edition, which shows Hitler in his early Brownshirt days. It is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself. The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds.

“…Also he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life…. However they may be as theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their people….” [End, Orwell excerpt]

Second, there is the strongly embedded populist antisemitism in his declaration of his own English brand of Socialism in The Lion and the Unicorn, published in December 1940. For he not only wants a distinctively English Socialism (think of IngSoc in 1984), he is adamant about the outrageous role of usury, the domination of the money power, and the resultant income inequality derived from the English class system. He means to expropriate the English aristocracy and their unearned wealth, all along believing that his statist plan is part of the English tradition that spreads itself uniquely into past, present, and future. I.e., he believes in English national character, defined as vaguely Christian, but not observant.

And his view of Jews is often characteristically European. Nowhere, though he believes himself to be an anti-antisemite, he fails to understand that Jews represent modernity and its endless intellectual combativeness. Indeed, he professes great admiration for the admittedly reactionary poets whose anti-Semitism is too little noticed by literary historians: Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, Yeats, even Kipling (on the latter see http://www.heretical.com/miscella/kipling2.html).

Finally, there is the homoerotic and misogynistic poem of his own that he quotes in Looking Back on the Spanish War, published in 1943. I quote only the first two verses of a longer poem written to an Italian militiaman “two years after the war was visibly lost.”

[Orwell:] “The Italian soldier shook my hand/ Beside the guard-room table;/ The strong hand and the subtle hand/ Whose palms are only able/ To meet within the sound of guns,/ But oh! What peace I knew then/ In gazing on his battered face/Purer than any woman’s!….”

What may we infer about these excerpts? Putting them together, we must ask, given Orwell’s ambivalence about Trotsky, what should we make of “Emmanuel Goldstein”? “Emmanuel” is a synonym for Christ, while the populist animus to gold is all too apparent. In combining these names, is Orwell rejecting Jesus as Jew? Is Eric Blair (Orwell’s birth name), perhaps, the crucified Christ he projected into Hitler?

1984-two-minute-hate

And yet conservatives frequently cite Orwell in their general critique of “totalitarianism”—a term that I have criticized as outdated and historically incorrect, as the various fascisms and communism have nothing in common but their use of terror as a method of disciplining the masses. Still it should be kept in mind that some of the essays I read (1940-43) were written during the shocking Nazi-Soviet Pact; moreover Orwell predicted that if Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the Russians would not resist. So his initial views on “totalitarianism” are not so surprising. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/.)

I continue to find George Orwell as problematic as in my earlier blogs, and am disgusted with the British Left’s failure to cite these obvious motes in the great man’s eye. Might it be his own sadism that is most salient in the Orwell biography?

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

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10 Comments »

  1. Unless usury is “owned” by Semites, then being against it is NOT antiSemitic. Also, since the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Khazarians, and every leader of Israel are NOT Semites, then being against them is NOT antiSemitic. Lastly, if you do your history, the “left” is always authoritarian. Lenin and Trotsky were paid by J.P. Morgan to kill the Russian revolution, which, with much of humanity, they and their Fabian asshole ilk, did. Orwell detested Fabians, and any research woirth deduction, as opposed to a leftist induction, would see that their British imperialism sees the world’s conquest through “communist” (that is, global stat-capitalists) eyes (and gun-sites). By the way, normalizing pedophilia, genital mutilation, sodomy, rape, sado-masochism, and pederasty and then demonizing those against it, is the most ironic of lies… known as “Orwellian” and the logic of Flatland.

    Comment by Frank — January 31, 2017 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  2. George Orwell: ‘Antisemitism in Britain’
    First published: Contemporary Jewish Record. — GB, London. — April 1945.

    http://orwell.ru/library/articles/antisemitism/english/e_antib

    Comment by Sam — February 15, 2015 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

    • Orwell makes comments about Jews throughout the period. Does the reference you gave me explain why he would name his Trotsky character Emmanuel Goldstein? Thanks for the reference. I will look at it again, though it was included in vol. 3 of his collected essays. I remember that it was there that I learned that Orwell viewed Nazism as a form of hyper-nationalism, a crime he applied to Zionists as well. I wish that he had identified the Labourite who was hostile to Jews; it could have been Bevin.

      Comment by clarelspark — February 15, 2015 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  3. […] persecutor). (On a prior blog quoting Orwell’s pity for the Promethean Hitler of Mein Kampf, see https://clarespark.com/2014/12/27/some-irregular-thoughts-on-george-orwell/; also […]

    Pingback by Orwell’s wartime essays: rethinking his politics | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 29, 2015 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  4. I find it interesting that Orwell seems to identify strongly with Hitler and at the same time expresses contempt for him (the pathetic, dog-like face), even wants to kill him. That’s the paradox of empathy I think: That it may contain and at the same time conceal sadistic aspects of the empathizer’s feelings. (I am indebted to Tjark Kunstreich for this insight.)

    Orwell identifies with what he thinks to be Hitler’s grief. He identifies with the “I have a grief and therefore I’m entitled”-attitude. I have been wronged and now you will all see what terror I am capable of. That seems to be a very attractive attitude. Orwell’s contempt toward Hitler expresses his own sadistic instinct, and at the same time, in a reversal, where Hitler appears in the immediate next instant as a victim of horrible wrongs who has every right to lash out at whomever he wants, this rhetoric is used by Orwell in order to be able to identify in turn with Hitler’s own sadism, all concealed in the guise of christian morality. Furthermore: In Orwell’s identification with Hitler, identification that is paradoxically full of contempt for its object, he expresses his own inadmissible contempt for himself, contempt for his own rebellious desire as well as for his own fear of authority. It’s the characteristic of the anti-semite that he insists in a dumb way on fusing these two contradictory feelings – the desire to rebel and the desire to be kept safely inside a strict social order -, instead of analyzing and reflecting their conflict.

    Something else: I would like to comment on the link between homoeroticism and misogyny that you establish. I think it is primordial to understand that homoeroticism does in fact not breed misogyny – it is on the contrary precisely its denial which breeds misogyny. The lines of Orwell’s poem you quote illustrate exactly this: Not an acknowledged homoeroticism, but the denial of it, which always takes the shape of the cult of virility, of imagining the male body as eternally married not to the earthly matter and its vulnerability, but to the deadly battle among males about the dominant position. This separation is imagined as ennobling the male body, and consequently, men, and this permits in turn to denigrate women. It is all very boring, but legions of male intellectuals have indulged in this fantasy. This is not homeroticism in my opinion; it is the repression and splitting off of homoerotic desire.

    Thank you very much for this blog, Clare. I had read in previous blogs of yours allusions about Orwell’s anti-semitism, but the material you bring up here makes it much clearer.

    Comment by Joel Naber — December 28, 2014 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

    • Much has been written about Herman Melville’s homoeroticism, but I believe it is explained by Joel Naber’s analysis of Orwell, and mostly evaded by me in my Melville books.

      Comment by clarelspark — December 28, 2014 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  5. Kipling, while he shared the common prejudices of his time, place, and class, was not an antisemite on the level of Pound or Eliot.

    Comment by faithynelson — December 28, 2014 @ 12:29 am | Reply

  6. Fascinating! Thank you so much. Who is Eric BLair?

    Comment by gagaismine — December 27, 2014 @ 10:21 pm | Reply


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