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Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 234
Happy Birthday Nineteen Eighty-Four!

65 words / 52:55

To listen in a player, click here. To download the mp3, right-click here and choose “save link as” or “save target as.”

June 8th is the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Greg Johnson interviews Margot Metroland on some of Orwell’s sources and influences, the loosely “Trotskyite” political context in which he wrote, and the possibility that he was bumped off by Stalinists.

For further reading about Orwell and Nineteen Eighty-Four, see:

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  1. Carson Napier
    Posted June 9, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Wow, that was interesting! I couldn’t take it all in, but Margo seems even more erudite in person than in writing! What was the Cyril Connelly book that dealt with pederasty?

    All I seem to get out of Orwell is pandering. The entire “Goldstein would have saved the revolution” business, the essay on Marrakesh, the essay on Britain and world war 2, are all pandering, pandering. What would his reputation be without that? I can’t get a third of the way into 1984. It’s that on every page, together with the “IT.”

    • margot metroland
      Posted June 9, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      The Connolly novel is The Rock Pool, and I could never get through it. I don’t remember pederasty, but there’s some lesbian relationship in the background. I assume Orwell was sneering generically at the type of decadent drifters Connolly and his wife had been hanging out with on the Côte d’Azur.

      Not to give out too many spoilers, but in the Orwell novel Goldstein turns out to be an invention by the Party, as is the legendary Brotherhood underground. Evidently the Party modeled Goldstein on Trotsky as their favorite figure of hate, much as Stalinists were calling Orwell and Dwight Macdonald and all the other anti-communist literary leftists as ‘Trotskyites’ or ‘Trotskyists.’

      To your other point: Orwell was often accused of casual or implicit ‘anti-semitism,’ the way people today see ‘micro-aggressions’ everywhere. He was certainly sensitive to this, just as he overcompensated in claiming that Nineteen Eighty-Four was not a picture of communism.

      In the last part of the novel, Orwell evidently made some plot changes to keep the story from sprawling all over the place. This had the effect of making the torture episodes lurid and farcical, and the ending has never seemed satisfactory to me. Like a misprinted crossword puzzle, Nineteen Eighty-Four does not have a coherent solution. The original 1956 movie version even came with alternative endings, one with Edmond O’Brien as Winston Smith ‘loving Big Brother’ as in the book, the other with Winston and Julia ripping down the poster and shouting ‘Down with Big Brother!’ before being gunned down.

      • Carson Napier
        Posted June 10, 2019 at 5:22 am | Permalink

        Thank you, I relistened to the first part and got the title. Also ordered a book of c essays. Is rock pool where the “torture” scene comes from? I think Orwell is using pederasty as a general term for homosexuality, as it used to be.

        Oh, so you believe Orwell is overcompensating against accusations of anti Semitism. That could be true. But you also say he has worshiping attitude to the Trotsky figure in Animal Farm. I recall, I believe from homage to Catalonia, Orwell claiming that the Republican cause was sabotaged by the intervention of the Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War as well.

        Great podcast. Hope you will talk more in the future!

        • margot metroland
          Posted June 26, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          Thank you, Carson. To begin with, I believe Orwell was far beyond any of us, and was just trying to muddle his way through.

          Orwell never was a Trotskyite (‘Trotskyist’ was the correct term, but still wrong here). That was a smear-term used by the communists against any Leftist who didn’t toe the line. Orwell never even read Marx, so he and his first wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy named their french-poodle ‘Marx’… because the dog couldn’t understand Marx either.

          ‘Trotskyite,’ or ‘fascist trotskyite’ were commonly used against Mary McCarthy and Dwight Macdonald and much of the non-Jewish Partisan Review crowd in New York. Anti-commie Jews got it in the neck as well. But it’s certainly remarkable that it was mainly the Goyischeköpfenwho got picked off in America. I was hearing old Jewish Red-Diaper Babies dismiss Orwell as a ‘fascist trotskyite’ as late as 1980.

          ‘The Rock Pool’ was Cyril Connolly’s title for his only novel, an overworked thing along the lines of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night and about as unreadable. A rock pool is a tidepool, where crustaceans and other creatures grow and evolve without regard to the outer sea. Connolly was evoking an aesthete separation from the real world, but Orwell just saw it as irrelevant frivolity, just 1910-vintage Ronald Firbank stuff pushed past its sell-by date. This disapproval must have hit Connolly harshly, though the non-fiction rose bushes that bloomed out of his dungheap were far more brilliant than anything else that came out of that generation, with the obvious exception of his childhood pal Blair/Orwell.

          The writers we still read from that generation are otherwise sui generis—there’s Waugh with his PG Wodehouse prose and Richard Ingrams posturing; and in America the failing Hemingway and rising homosexuals and Jews of the 1940s-50s.

          When you look at old Chris Hitchens or Alex Cockburn stuff from 20 or 30 years ago, you become aware of how hard they tried to recapture that 1930s magic, but of course they couldn’t, so they became headcases instead.

  2. BenjaminTheThelemite
    Posted June 9, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “1984” was good, but Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” was a far superior work and more relevant to the Current Year iteration of Globo-Homo. I just re-read it earlier this year. Highly recommended BTW, especially the “Revisited” edition.

    Although I appreciate the efforts of right-wingers to make use of Orwell as ///our guy///, which to a large extent he would’ve been, if he were alive today, IMO its ultimately only slightly more effective as the D3R or “Democrats aRe the Real Racists” rhetoric i.e., its not going to go anywhere.

  3. graeme minchin
    Posted June 13, 2019 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Re Orwell’s death. If it was the Soviets I do not see why it was easier to kill him in the UK than in Switzerland. It has been previously commented that it does not appear that Gow had the necessary authority to keep Orwell isolated, after whatever had been done to precipitate a crisis. But it goes deeper than that. None of the ‘Cambridge’ assets would be risked in an assassination. To think this reveals a lack of knowledge of how intelligence organisations compartmentalise operations. It is inconceivable that the Soviets would have put the handler of the most successful (known) Soviet penetration of Mi5 at risk in this way. I am unclear as to whether the absence of routine checks is fact or inference. Ordinarily a death such as this would have involved a review of the nurses’ scheduled checks, which are all signed of, as time of death is core data. Either the thesis is wrong, and there was no lack of routine checks, or this information was suppressed. For the latter to have happened you would have to say that the Met and MI5 were Soviet fronts or complicit.

    • margot metroland
      Posted June 26, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      For graeme minchin:

      ‘If the Soviets…’ That’s NOT the argument.

      There’s an old Eton tutor, now a Trinity College, Cambridge Fellow, named Gow; who’s been following Orwell for decades. He kept him out of Oxford and Cambridge. Not for anything political but because because Eton Colleger Eric Blair, circa 1920, once wrote some mocking doggerel about Gow being a homosexual. Gow shows up unannounced at University College Hospital in January 1950, just before Blair (Orwell) is about to fly off in his chartered aeroplane to a tuberculosis sanatarium in Switzerland with his wife and friends… Quelle surprise! And then:

      Orwell dies suddenly? It’s conceivable, but unlikely. When he’s paying £30 p.w. (something like £500-£1000 today) for round-the-clock care? In UCH’s private wing. Where are the night nurses, the orderlies, the ones every other night checking in on him? People about to leave on hired flights to Switzerland don’t just suddenly DIE, with nobody coming by for SIX HOURS to see that this famous, wealthy, author—maybe the MOST effing FAMOUS AUTHOR in the whole wide WORLD in January 1950—is hemorrhaging and dying.

      If you have evidence to counter this, I’ll be happy to look at it.

      • graeme minchin
        Posted June 27, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        When I first read yr article, I was intrigued. When I thought about it for a bit I did not think it likely Gow was involved, for the reasons given. Your reply provides more circumstantial evidence, particularly the length of time Orwell was unattended. As you say, leaving him for 6 hours is indeed suspicious. What do you think of the idea of trying to set up some sort of court of enquiry? I have some experience in this sort of thing as I am a barrister. We would first set out all the questions to be asked and then try to gather evidence in relation to them. Very much a cold case of course. Unlikely to arrive at any certainty but maybe worth a shot. I could help drafting but as I live in NZ I cannot do any of the leg work, which is of course the most important component. CC has my email and happy to liaise directly if you are interested.

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