Thursday, September 25, 2008

Orwell and Warburg

It was an appearance of John Hurt on television that set me off. There he was in my head as Winston Smith. And next to him was Richard Burton as O'Brien. Spooky casting.

I've read the book and seen the movie three times each I'm pretty sure. But not lately. What with my understanding of the world being in a constant state of flux (particularly lately with events steaming in the vertical part of an exponential curve), I found myself rolling 1984 around in my head and wondering at it anew.

No mistake, Orwell was a genius. His name entering the dictionary as an adjective is a fitting and proper testament to this. But he didn't get everything right. 1984 can primarily (arguably so, sure), be considered a discussion of Stalinism, which is to say a betrayal of the revolution. But what did Orwell know of Stalinism? Hell what do we know even now?

1984 is a tricky beast. Its protagonist Winston Smith (John Hurt's character in the movie of the eponymous year) is 'enlightened' by inner-party member, O'Brien (played by Richard Burton) in two key scenes. But are the revelations he is given real? Might they not be more propaganda? We will never know. The only 'truth' of 1984 is to be found in its narrated actions. Thus it's entirely possible that there was no Emmanuel Goldstein, no Eastasia, no war even. The rats on the other hand were real.

But that aside, Orwell didn't put these explanations in 1984 for no reason. He had points he wanted to make and parallels he wanted to draw. Take the Goldstein character. Orwell didn't pull him out of his arse. The possible apocryphal aspect of Goldstein aside (and his immediate plot function sure), Orwell was clearly referring to Leon Trotsky. But who was Leon Trotsky? Did Orwell really know? And who was Stalin? Who was Karl Marx? I expect that Orwell understood pre-Stalinist communism in the terms laid out by Marx, Lenin, and the Bolsheviks who founded it - the ownership of the means of production, the bourgeoise, the proletariat, blah blah blah.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Orwell that perhaps Marx and his buddies were bullshit-artists? Certainly, Marx's work was really something. To write a treatise on class struggle and macro-economics and leave out ownership of the money supply is an astounding effort. It's like re-writing Romeo and Juliet, but leaving out the two lovers and still having a story that not only makes sense but goes on to become everyone's favourite play. You'd have to be impressed wouldn't you? That's not to excuse Marx of course. He's a motherfucker.

So when Stalin seized control and threw out Trotsky, the banker's friend, who was the bad guy? Okay, everyone, sure, ha ha. But Orwell would vaguely have us understand that the Emmanuel Goldstein character didn't deserve his 'villain' status. And thus nor did Trotsky deserve his. Or so Orwell, and everybody else thought (even me at one point). Perhaps the greatest truth in 1984 was one unintended by Orwell. Insofar as we have no idea if anything that is revealed to Smith by O'Brien is true, so it is with communism as told to us by communists and their banker backers. Remember how communism was all about the 'means of production'? Where's the means of production now? Who gives a fuck? It's all about the means of exchange, which is to say the ownership of the money supply. If you have that stitched up the means of production is neither here nor there. Mills and lathes ain't going to save anyone now. Only smashing the banks will.

Meanwhile it's acceptable to dip into 1984 for metaphors and analogies for this, that, and the other. Hell, they teach it in high-school. But I wonder what would have happened had Orwell written 1984 with not just the proles and the outer party being deluded, but the inner party too. What if he'd had a tiny number of families occupying the tiniest pointy bit of the pyramid with the ownership of the means of exchange as their ultimate control mechanism? Do you think his publisher Frederick Warburg would have still put 1984 into print?

This is the bit where I roll my eyes and say, 'Sure why not?' Ever the comedian, me.


nobody said...

Sorry folks, I fully intended to write a whole other piece here and got waylaid. Waylaid by my usual hobbyhorse, sure enough. Curse that idiot nag! You'd think I was on a one-man crusade to make up for the complete and utter absence of any mention of international banking in the entire rest of the media. What a fool's errand.

But let's not view it that way. Let's view this as the macro and the next piece as the micro. A micro for us all. As the first para of this piece hinted at, it's a reconsidering of Smith and O'Brian.

kikz said...

guess i need to revisit this movie.

however, the kids and i read animal farm last summer. they got it.

also there was a nod to animal farm in one of the last potter movies... ever expanding rules posted on a wall in hogwarts.
rowling... she's a cracker :)

notamobster said...

Wow - you've just dumped me on my head. I have never ventured outside of the story to see the currents affecting the story line. Abso-fucking-lutely brilliant. You're a wiley bugger, you.

I mean, as you know, I've picked up on the Int'l Banking scam - but the Warburg publisher, conveniently leaving the idea of super-elite control of even the inner party off the table. Holy shit... I knew I liked you for a reason.

By the by, my daughters watched Totoro with me. They loved it.

nobody said...

'Wiley bugger' - that's the nicest thing anyone ever said me, ha ha. Ever a fan of back-handed compliments, me.

Otherwise, kikz, I suspect we could pick Animal Farm to pieces too. But none of it would detract from Orwell. He's a true humanist. The only problem with the world is that there aren't more people like him. Nothing I've said here, or will say in the next piece, detract from his right-thinking genius. In many ways, Orwell was Smith. In a system based on lies what could either of them know?

Sorry, reading back, it sounds like I'm taking issue with you. I'm not of course. I'm just making my own point. Otherwise, I just saw that Potter flick again the other day. And yeah, those rules on the wall rang a bell but I couldn't place it. Animal Farm, very good.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mister Nobody

I see my opposite blogs on your site.
Please accept this notification that I, also, will be blogging on you.

The Honourable
Malcolm Turnbull
BA, LLB (Syd), BCL(Hons) (Oxon), MP
Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia

nobody said...

Onya Mal,

It's nice to have a Bondi boy lob in. Well, Bondi, Vaucluse, whatever. I expect you have the same problems with drunken back-packers just like the Bondi residents do. Tiresome aren't they?

And your 'opposite', mate? Ha ha ha, who knew you were such a comedian? You and our Kev have waaaaay too much in common for you to be opposites. Hell you were the managing director of Goldman Sachs for chrissakes! And it's on account of this, that I look forward to your inevitable ascension to the Prime-Ministership. I'm certain you'll sort out the Australian economy in much the same way that your US counterpart (and good Goldman Sachs buddy) Henry Paulson is doing with the US economy right now. God forbid that the wealthy battlers of Vaucluse should have to forego that second yacht they so richly deserve.

the Silverfish said...

I find it laughable that Orwells house is the most monitored building in Britain. At last count 79 vidio cams to monitor facial expressions of anyone who drops by, I wonder why.
The only time I was there I felt like hanging them a Moon. Yuh know just to show them that I cared.

Magdelena said...

Nobody - no one wants to talk of the bankers. They are 'safer' now than ever.

I'm sure you know, when one talks about Bankers and the Financial Establishment, what you really mean is the Jewish Cabal. (ahem)

I'm sure others have already gone over these points with you. ;)

This is of course not to say there aren't others involved... so to say. Not all financial houses are controlled by those pretending to be Jews, of course. But oddly, if one does mention the Bankers, then many assume this to mean 'Jews'. Hence, since the advent of hate crime and hate thought - you are really just being and anti-semite, or worse - a Self-Hater! (Or is it loather now? I can't keep up).

Now, I think for your own safety, and mine too, we should stop talking alltogether about such clearly tin-foil inspired conspiracy notions of the Finance Houses of the World having any kind of influence on currency and economics!!


~ Buffy

nobody said...

Yep, Orwell rolls over in his grave.

Otherwise Buff, the smaller banks are neither here nor there. The only banks that count are those that control the money supply, the Reserve Banks. These are all in the hands of a tiny number of families. Perhaps just one, who knows?

The Reserve Banks dictate the cost of money and control the boom and bust cycle. The purpose of the busts is to suck wealth out of any given economy, sure, (actually they do this in a less spectcular fashion day-in, day-out), but also to break any non-family banks that get too big. And they is all being broken now, ain't they?

Penny said...

ok, wasn't George Orwell some intelligence agent?

nobody said...

Um, first I've heard of it. I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, but I'm certainly surprised.

Anonymous said...

I have long suspected that a fellow as talented with the text as E.A. Blair could not possibly have gotten past his British masters without doing a bit of "sanctioned" work.

At once, his blatant dislike for authority (which I share to an equally large degree) on display at each and every possible scale throughout his life's work has me convinced that his avoidance of the bankers was a defensive manouever.

As talented a writer as he was, he was fully capable of nesting all manner of socio-political commentary in otherwise bucolic and sublime narrative. And did.

And lest we forget the historical context of the time, directly in the wake of WWII, it was a very dangerous thing to toss about the word "Jew" at all -- or conflate it with the idea of a ruling elite in banking, no matter how much monstrous truth might actually be lurking behind it. Much like today.

And since the MI5 connection is new to our host, it's high time we open yet another conspiratorial can of worms for Mr. N.

Begging your indulgence, I have posted the entire text of the article linked below, as it is worth immediate review:;col1

Orwell's 1984: the future is here: George Orwell believed the stark totalitarian society he described in 1984 actually would arrive by the year 2000, thanks to the slow, sinister influence of socialism

By David Goodman

Suppose someone 50 years ago had drawn a picture of the future that looked something like this: You live under the governance of an international alliance composed of a North American Union, China and Europe. Major powers are waging permanent low-level urban warfare. Rocket bombs soar over cities to crash into buildings. There are conflicts involving armies, but they are limited to border regions. Large banners fly downtown to celebrate victory over the nation's enemies.

This is a totalitarian state under a benevolent leader in which citizens are detained and arrested on the merest suspicion of espionage. But the benevolent leader is seen only on television; he never appears in public. Personal surveillance is unceasing and relentless: TV cameras that receive and transmit simultaneously are everywhere. The political-correctness police listen in on every conversation to match speakers to the profile of a potential saboteur. Ordinary citizens live in constant fear of arrest and imprisonment for terrorist activities.

No, this is not the implementation of the antiterrorist USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which Congress just passed in the throes of the anthrax attacks without even reading it (see "Police State" Dec. 3), and whose very name evokes the memory of the late George Orwell's sci-fi masterpiece, 1984. It is the scenario of Orwell's book itself, written in 1948 and published in 1949. It is ironic that the character he calls Big Brother was not meant as a symbol for a U.S. administration but likely for the future of Britain under progressive socialism. What gives pause is that the book clearly satirizes the consequences of Fabian socialism exactly 100 years after its birth in the salons of London.

If Orwell's totalitarian state seems to be arriving about 20 years late, it is not because he mistargeted the book by naming it 1984. A careful review of the literary evidence reveals that he was aiming at the period immediately following the year 2000 but wanted to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Fabian Society.

With Orwell's stark vision of a totalitarian society having for more than half a century sent shivers down the collective spine of the prestigious Western intelligentsia, one might assume in the roil of current events that scholars worldwide would be combing the pages of 1984 for triggering incidents of a kind that might lead to the predicted Orwellian world. Yet literary and social critics long have avoided coming to grips with the implications of Orwell's profound insight that socialism, despite its claim to benevolence, would deliver Orwell's 1984 by A.D. 2000.

The major facts about Orwell and the origins of 1984 lay as enshrouded in mystery as when his London publisher, Secker and Warburg, first brought out the book in 1949. In the beginning, he is supposed to have been a committed socialist, a close observer of the founders of the socialist Fabian Society, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and of the famous socialist futurist H.G. Wells. Taking as a theme the strategy of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Cunctator, who famously delayed battle with the Carthaginians while exhausting them with endless harassments, the Fabians argued that the grand aim of socialism could be achieved bit by bit, through moderate increments, making small changes in society so as not to alarm the defenders of individual responsibility.

The Fabian Society was founded in 1884, according to its Website, and continues to play a prominent role through the Socialist International in developing the policies of the Labour Party in Britain, of which Orwell once was an active member, and of allied Clintonian liberals in the United States.

But when Orwell wrote 1984, it was more than a show of dislike for the Fabian socialists; it was humorous, biting, Swiftian satire against the socialist and liberal intellectuals. The leftist elites, then as now, praised the book for the wrong reasons. They applauded Orwell's resistance to the loss of civil liberties but refused, and continue to refuse, to see the book as a mirror held up to the totalitarian face of the left-wing intelligentsia. They tiptoe away from such questions as: Why choose the year 1984 as the title? Is it really just a science-fiction fantasy or is it political satire; and, if so, against whom is it directed? Finally, what are the likely sources of Orwell's dystopia?

The critics try to explain away the hot spots. The title, 1984, is said to be simply the reversal of the final two digits in 1948, the year he was writing the book. Some critics say it is not even a serious book but just derivative science fiction on par with Soviet writer Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, a book Orwell had read in translation and reviewed for literary journals.

Indeed, even the latest of Orwell's authorized biographers get it wrong. Orwell led a much fuller, richer life than is acknowledged in, say, Peter Davison's 1996 biography, George Orwell: A Literary Life, or in Peter Huber's 1993 book, Orwell's Revenge. They see in 1984 both melodrama and a touch of satire. The satire, they say, is aimed against the Soviet Union (a safe target, now, even for socialists). They assert that Josef Stalin is Big Brother and that Stalin's Five-Year Plans buttressed by concocted statistics are other satirical targets of the book.

The esteemed professors writing the major interpretive biographies of Orwell identify the character Emmanuel Goldstein, the book's traitorous leader of the Brotherhood, with Soviet apostate Leon Trotsky. Another dubious theory is that Orwell got the material for the melodramatic novel from his personal experiences while writing and producing programs for the Overseas Service of the government-run British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and as a journalist during the war, working for the press baron Lord Astor. These low-level journalistic jobs, they intimate, never gave him access to classified information.

At first glance, the just-a-writer-working-for-the-wartime-BBC explanation appears credible; but on examination it may reveal the real truth. The biographers ignored the research of W.J. West, which puts an end to the dumb-journalist theory. West rummaged through the BBC archives and found 11 scripts for a show hosted by Orwell and broadcast by short-wave to the Indian subcontinent. It was called "A.D. 2000."

West reports that Orwell, who had served in the imperial police in Burma and chronicled his adventures in Burmese Days and in the essay, "Shooting an Elephant," enjoyed a distinguished reputation in India. As a result, the BBC asked him to produce programs about the glorious future of A.D. 2000 under British rule. For this series, Orwell interviewed celebrated futurists, scientists and technologists, getting live responses to questions about the future of agriculture, science and technology. For another BBC broadcast, Orwell produced an analysis of one of his favorite books, Jack London's 1908 novel, The Iron Heel, a fanciful description of the perfect fascist state, Asgard, which reaches its full power to crush the people in ... 1984.

A further source of information for the book 1984 that appears never to have been adequately examined is the matter of Orwell's job during the war. Another Orwell biography, Bernard Crick's George Orwell, A Life, accepts at face value his claim that he got bored in September 1943 and just up and left BBC. Or was that an official cover story?

Certainly the account does not ring true. Orwell was a skilled writer and a supreme patriot who wrote the stirring, down-home narrative The Lion and the Unicorn to describe the plight of the British nation struggling against Adolf Hitler. What patriot could just leave in the middle of a war? It seems more likely that for years he worked for a branch of British intelligence (as did his second wife), was working undercover and had signed an oath never to reveal operations in which he participated.

The question to ask then is whether Orwell all along was an undercover participant in Britain's secret propaganda effort against communists and fascists. At the beginning of the war the BBC for which Orwell worked was part of the British Ministry of Information, which produced both "white" and "black" information services. After internal fights, most "black information" was put into another unit, the Political Warfare Executive (PWE). Orwell's friend Richard Crossman, a Fabian socialist and later a prominent postwar Labour Party minister, was head of the German division of the PWE propaganda-warfare unit.

A cadre of researchers has insisted that Orwell never worked undercover for British overseas intelligence, or MI6. But an equally vocal contingent says he in fact worked for MI5 -- British counter-intelligence. Their theories have earned such plausibility that The Economist put them on the cover of the magazine. Indeed, the definitive edition of Orwell's complete works gives documentary evidence that at the end of his life Orwell was spying on left-wing friends and reporting to the government which of them were most likely to fall under the sway of Soviet communism.

So did the title 1984 have any special meaning in Orwell's mind, or did he do something so unimaginative as simply reversing the last two digits of 1948, the year he wrote the book? One theory, put forth by William Steinhoff, an American professor, in his book George Orwell and the Origins of 1984, points the finger at Orwell's fascination with London's description of a fascist state that achieves flower in calendar year 1984.

Interesting. But it makes more sense to look to socialism rather than fascism as the butt of Orwell's satire, especially after Animal Farm, his 1945 satire of socialist revolution. Then, in the microfilm files of The Times of London for 1947 (when Orwell was working on his first drafts of 1984), this reporter turned up an account of the progressive-socialist Fabian Society belatedly celebrating that year as its 75th anniversary, three years late because of the war.

Now Orwell was an occasional platform speaker for the Fabians and a close observer of the Webbs. Yet Orwell also was a truth-teller. In writing a satire that portrays a Ministry of Truth vigorously promoting lies, he well may have been pondering the logical outcome of applying the principles of the Fabian Society as the world might be during its centenary celebration. The Fabian logo was the turtle, not the hare. Fabians believed they could be successful in taking over national governments incrementally even if it took 100 years. So why wouldn't Orwell take them at their word?

When asked about the world he had described in 1984, Orwell responded that he was not saying such a future would occur, but that a future something like it could happen because that was the direction in which the world was going.

So why would this Swiftian satire be unleashed against the gentle Fabian socialists? One reason is that they weren't all that gentle. The redoubtable Webbs had traveled in 1932 to Stalin's Soviet Union with Fabian playwright George Bernard Shaw to see socialism at work, and they were Potemkinized if not directly recruited by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police that preceded the KGB. The gushing Webbs claimed to have seen no evidence of famine, hardship or slave camps.

In 1933 they published an account of their trip titled Soviet Russia: A New Civilization. Two years later they put out a revised edition even more obsequious, to which they added an exclamation point, as in Soviet Russia: A New Civilization! According to the archives of the Soviet intelligence services, the book was entirely written by the NKVD. The aging Webbs now were working to create in England a replica of the Soviet Union, and Orwell was watching them.

When the Webbs lived at Passmoor Corners, they kept a large picture of Stalin prominently on the wall of an alcove. In 1984, the protagonist Winston Smith climbs the stairs to his flat, on each landing of which hangs a poster of Big Brother. And the first Fabian pamphlet appeared on April 4, the date on which 1984 begins. More provocatively, Orwell labels the party in power by the six letters INGSOC, an acronym that brings to the eye a grammatical present-progressive tense that suggests English progressive socialism.

I once inquired through a literary agent who was a friend of Sonia Orwell, the writer's second wife, whether 1984 might be a satirical polemic directed at the Fabians. She giggled nervously and remarked that perhaps that was right. And the Fabian Society once more has catapulted itself into the picture because, upon the death of Sonia Orwell, rights to George's estate fell under control of -- the Fabian Society. According to representatives of HarperCollins, the Fabians will be in control of the 1984 copyright and name through the year 2025 and will do their best to block unauthorized investigative research about Orwell's anti-socialist works.

The deepest twist of Orwell's satire is that Sidney Webb, cherubic-faced as he was, large-headed, always intellectual, is the physical model for Emmanuel Goldstein, who wrote "The Book" within the story line of 1984. Goldstein is the primal traitor against Big Brother. As a member of Parliament, Sidney was disparaged for being Jewish, though he was not. Again there are some interesting parallels. In 1984, Orwell refers to brainwashed and fuzzy-headed intellectuals, such as Webb, conversing in a private language called "duck speak" -- bringing to mind webbed feet.

Another parallel appears in the experience of Sidney Webb as Lord Passmoor in Parliament. When he rose to speak in his annoying monotone, back benchers (in the rude fashion of English parliamentary tradition) arose at times to bleat like sheep or goats. Indeed with his pince-nez spectacles balanced precariously on his prominent nose, Webb did resemble a billy goat -- at least to certain members of Parliament. In 1984, when the traitorous Goldstein appears on the telescreen, party members hiss and toss books at his image. Then, amid the riotous chaos, comes the baaing sound of a herd of sheep that grows and grows, filling the screen. A wolf in a sheepskin is part of the shield of the Fabian Society.

All of which suggests that Orwell's 1984 was written as a forecast scenario for the year 2000, but titled 1984 to bring to mind the centenary of the Fabian Society. Orwell's satirical approach assumes that the leaders of future governments would be Fabian successors of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, whom H.G. Wells with arcane foresight referred to as the global "New Machiavellians."

These are a breed of international socialists who might be recognized in 2000 as, say, Hillary and Bill Clinton and British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.

# # #

Penny said...

hey nobody:
here is a link to one little blurb about it, but look around there are others.

Going as far back as 1945, George Orwell no less became a war correspondent for the Observer -- probably as a cover for intelligence work. Significantly most of the men he met in Paris on his assignment, Freddie Ayer, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ernest Hemingway were either working for the intelligence services or had close links to them. Stephen Dorril, in his seminal history of MI6, reports that Orwell attended a meeting in Paris of resistance fighters on behalf of David Astor, his editor at the Observer and leader of the intelligence service’s unit liasing with the French resistance.

The release of Public Record Office documents in 1995 about some of the operations of the MI6-financed propaganda unit, the Information Research Department of the Foreign Office, threw light on this secret body -- which even Orwell aided by sending them a list of “crypto-communists”. Set up by the Labour government in 1948, it “ran” dozens of Fleet Street journalists and a vast array of news agencies across the globe until it was closed down by Foreign Secretary David Owen in 1977.

There is a new book about Roald Dahl that has just come out, it seems Mr charlie and the chocolate factory, also did some work for british intelligence during war time.
The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime

also while touring about, I came across an article from the CIA website

The Agency subsidized European tours of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and paid for the filming of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm.

curious isn't it.
It makes me think of something Dave McGowan said on one of Meria's shows, was any of it real, had it ever been or had we been manipulated all along? (laurel canyon and more)

nobody said...

Woof! Long read! Um, I'll save this to desktop and deal with it back home. In the meantime I want to paste up the latest piece. Back later this arvo. ('arvo' being 'afternoon', ha ha)

kikz said...

damnit... the fabians..
i was tryin to remb that gang.....

good catch mir!

nobody said...

Aargh! I haven't even gotten around to reading it yet! Too busy posting the latest mad piece. As per usual I start somewhere and end up somewhere else. You'd think I could focus wouldn't you?

Off to read M's effort. And Pen's. Ciao Ciao.

nobody said...

Most excellent the both of you. Oh well, never mind, another hero dashed. Turns out it was the same same for Grahame Greene, of whom I was also a big fan. Eventually I got sick of his tortured Catholicism.

And so Orwell was taking the piss out of the Fabians? But what's the point of a satire that only the Fabians will get? And his estate goes to them? Nuts.

Otherwise, apropos Dave McGowan, I've had the same thought running through my head. Is nothing real? What's wrong with these fucking people? I've really got to get out of this bullshit white mans's world...

kikz said...

yup yup, the fabians, cecil rhodes, and the round table. good reading. i'd remb'd hg wells was in thick, but couldn't unbrainfart the crew's moniker frm my memory hole.... and had the distinct impression there was also a connection w/orwell. thanks for the synapse bump mir!

bill of bill/hill...mmhmmm.
willie studied under quigley (on this side of the pond) of creature frm jekyll island fame. referred to him as a mentor.

had some great info on the fabian's at one time.. although now buried somewhere in 8yrs of my 'library of alexandria' bookmarks >:)

and speakin of thought crime; re noby's latest post - my bookmarks alone would hav me in the gulag.

Anonymous said...

Interesting quote I found, guess who said it ...
"As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents"