The war with Eurasia/Eastasia

Just as when reading Brave New World I applied my airminded filters and extracted Aldous Huxley's vision of future warfare, I'm going to do the same for that other great British dystopia, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. (Which is what passes for summer reading for me. Quotes taken from this version.)

War is much more important in Orwell's novel than in Huxley's: it's constantly referred to throughout the novel, and it turns out to be a crucial part of the Party's method for maintaining its control of Oceania. Assuming that there actually is a war, that is, and the whole thing isn't just fabricated for that very purpose. War is peace, after all.

But let's assume that Winston Smith's memories and experiences of war reflect some objective reality. Then there are two phases, the war of his youth, and the current, never-ending war, with the Revolution in between. Smith was probably born in 1945, presumably named after Churchill in that year of victory. There were some years of peace, and then a war in the mid-1950s, probably with the Soviet Union and its satellites. Britain seems to have been the only the country in Western Europe not conquered at this time, and absorbed into what was to become Eurasia. But it -- renamed Airstrip One -- became part of Oceania, along with the Americas, southern Africa, and Australasia. A third power, Eastasia, emerged after the end of the civil wars in China.

Smith remembers an air raid on London when he was young:

one of his early memories was of an air raid which appeared to take everyone by surprise. Perhaps it was the time when the atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester. He did not remember the raid itself, but he did remember his father’s hand clutching his own as they hurried down, down, down into some place deep in the earth, round and round a spiral staircase which rang under his feet and which finally so wearied his legs that he began whimpering and they had to stop and rest. His mother, in her slow, dreamy way, was following a long way behind them. She was carrying his baby sister—or perhaps it was only a bundle of blankets that she was carrying: he was not certain whether his sister had been born then. Finally they had emerged into a noisy, crowded place which he had realized to be a Tube station.

There were people sitting all over the stone-flagged floor, and other people, packed tightly together, were sitting on metal bunks, one above the other. Winston and his mother and father found themselves a place on the floor, and near them an old man and an old woman were sitting side by side on a bunk.

Very Blitz, except for the nuking of Colchester. Many cities around the world were atom-bombed in that war, but London itself apparently was not, nor are any other targets in Britain mentioned. (Winston and Julia have an assignation in a ruined church 'in an almost-deserted stretch of country where an atomic bomb had fallen thirty years earlier', which could well have been near Colchester. Sounds dangerous, but remember this is pre-thermonuclear.) After this initial spasm, the combatants mutually conclude to forego nuclear warfare, though of course they continue to stockpile atomic bombs.

The bombs apparently weren't carried by bombers, as in the Blitz, though: Orwell only speaks of rocket bombs. So, something like the V-2. In 1984, twenty to thirty rocket bombs fall on London each week. Smith is involved in two such attacks during the course of the novel. The first is in a prole area:

Suddenly the whole street was in commotion. There were yells of warning from all sides. People were shooting into the doorways like rabbits. A young woman leapt out of a doorway a little ahead of Winston, grabbed up a tiny child playing in a puddle, whipped her apron round it, and leapt back again, all in one movement. At the same instant a man in a concertina-like black suit, who had emerged from a side alley, ran towards Winston, pointing excitedly to the sky.

‘Steamer!’ he yelled. ‘Look out, guv’nor! Bang over’ead! Lay down quick!’

‘Steamer’ was a nickname which, for some reason, the proles applied to rocket bombs. Winston promptly flung himself on his face. The proles were nearly always right when they gave you a warning of this kind. They seemed to possess some kind of instinct which told them several seconds in advance when a rocket was coming, although the rockets supposedly travelled faster than sound. Winston clasped his forearms above his head. There was a roar that seemed to make the pavement heave; a shower of light objects pattered on to his back. When he stood up he found that he was covered with fragments of glass from the nearest window.

He walked on. The bomb had demolished a group of houses 200 metres up the street. A black plume of smoke hung in the sky, and below it a cloud of plaster dust in which a crowd was already forming around the ruins. There was a little pile of plaster lying on the pavement ahead of him, and in the middle of it he could see a bright red streak. When he got up to it he saw that it was a human hand severed at the wrist. Apart from the bloody stump, the hand was so completely whitened as to resemble a plaster cast.

He kicked the thing into the gutter, and then, to avoid the crowd, turned down a side-street to the right. Within three or four minutes he was out of the area which the bomb had affected, and the sordid swarming life of the streets was going on as though nothing had happened.

The second is while walking with Julia:

They were passing in silence down a side-street (Julia would never speak when they were away from the main streets) when there was a deafening roar, the earth heaved, and the air darkened, and Winston found himself lying on his side, bruised and terrified. A rocket bomb must have dropped quite near at hand. Suddenly he became aware of Julia’s face a few centimetres from his own, deathly white, as white as chalk. Even her lips were white. She was dead! He clasped her against him and found that he was kissing a live warm face. But there was some powdery stuff that got in the way of his lips. Both of their faces were thickly coated with plaster.

Again, these could be describing 1944 (perhaps via 1946), not 1984.

There's also a twist on the Battle of Britain, which we learn about when Smith goes to Victory Square (i.e. Trafalgar Square) to meet Julia:

Winston was in Victory Square before the appointed time. He wandered round the base of the enormous fluted column, at the top of which Big Brother’s statue gazed southward towards the skies where he had vanquished the Eurasian aeroplanes (the Eastasian aeroplanes, it had been, a few years ago) in the Battle of Airstrip One.

So Big Brother has knocked Nelson off his perch. It's not clear whether the Battle of Airstrip One is the same thing as the Battle of Britain; given the Party's constant rewriting and obliteration of history it could easily be the case.

Orwell mentions jet planes in one or two places, but was evidently more impressed by the possibilities of the helicopter, which had also entered military service in the Second World War. The word 'helicopter' appears in Nineteen Eighty-Four fifteen times, most memorably when Smith describes a newsreel he had seen of a helicopter attacking a ship full of refugees, and in particular a woman and the boy she tried, unsuccessfully, to protect from its bomb. There are also mentions of helicopter raids on villages. My feeling is that to Orwell, helicopters are less impersonal than rockets (or bombers), their operators have to get up close to their victims. The rocket bombs on London seem to be just a fact of life, whereas helicopters are seen to be inhumane (a prole woman even protests that children shouldn't be shown such violent images as in the refugee film, a scene which contrasts with both the general lumpenness of the proles in the rest of the novel, but points to the desensitised nature of children under Ingsoc).

Having said all that (and not yet having mentioned the giant Floating Fortresses, stationed in key sealanes), Orwell's 1984 is not overly futuristic. He's quite upfront about this, or rather Emmanuel Goldstein is:

And meanwhile the art of war has remained almost stationary for thirty or forty years. Helicopters are more used than they were formerly, bombing planes have been largely superseded by self-propelled projectiles, and the fragile movable battleship has given way to the almost unsinkable Floating Fortress; but otherwise there has been little development. The tank, the submarine, the torpedo, the machine gun, even the rifle and the hand grenade are still in use. And in spite of the endless slaughters reported in the Press and on the telescreens, the desperate battles of earlier wars, in which hundreds of thousands or even millions of men were often killed in a few weeks, have never been repeated.

There's a reason for this, and it goes to the deeper importance of war in the world of 1984. The purpose of the war between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia -- which is mainly confined to equatorial and northern Africa, the Middle East, India and south-east Asia -- is not to win, so new weapons are actually pointless (besides which, they involve empirical thinking, which is doubleplusungood). As Goldstein explains in his book on oligarchical collectivism, war provides two things: a way to dispose of surplus production; and objects of hate. The latter is almost self-explanatory: in a permanent war there is always an outgroup to solidify the cohesion of the ingroup (even if you have to switch the names around sometimes). Us vs Them is such a useful tool for repressing diversity of opinion and behaviour that it's appeared time and time again, even in democracies. Why surplus production is a bad thing (according to Ingsoc, at least) is a bit less obvious. I'll let Goldstein explain again:

From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process—by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute—the machine did raise the living standards of the average human being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.

But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction—indeed, in some sense was the destruction—of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which WEALTH, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while POWER remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.

In short, people needed to be kept on the poverty line and in the factories, so that they would have no time to think for or educate themselves. The surplus wealth they created therefore had to be destroyed, and war is the easiest way to do that -- with the additional effect of making people accept that they had to make sacrifices for the war effort. This was the only way to make sure a revolution from below could never happen again: to make the oligarchy permanent. Orwell was evidently impressed with what people put up with during wartime in terms of privations due to rationing and so on, all the while expanding production to make things which were either destroyed or which destroyed other things. There's a war on, after all.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was not meant as prediction. I doubt Orwell thought such a society as he describes could work. But as an exploration of why we fight, and why we lie, it's not so far off. And that's pretty scary. For historians, though, Nineteen Eighty-Four is ultimately very validating. 'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past', runs one of the Ingsoc principles. Historians don't control the past, but at least we've got a say in it.

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22 thoughts on “The war with Eurasia/Eastasia

  1. In spite of not being predictive, it’s surprisingly good: aside from the jet airplane/aircraft carrier lacuna, at least.

    Very interesting discussion: I really need to talk about these books in class more.

  2. Post author

    Alan:

    Thanks, he was clearly already on the track to Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1945.

    Jonathan:

    I wish I’d been made to read Orwell in some class long before now!

    Ricardo:

    No, I haven’t seen it. Is it any good?

    (2010 is a lot cooler than 2009 so far, so it’s definitely happier!)

  3. Erik Lund

    So, we have a warfare state. and yet it has turned out to be a much more hopeful place than Orwell imagined. What went “wrong?”
    Alan’s link shows Orwell echoing the old Edwardian privileging of rifles and longbows as democratic weapons, and proposing the atomic bomb as an oligarchic one, presumably the modern counterpart to the armoured knight of old.
    This reminds me of one of J. F. C. Fuller’s acolytes trying to sell light tanks to the British public during rearmament over heavy with this social vision: light tanks can be maintained by their crews, and point to a (fascistic) culture of middle-class homeowning commuters maintaining their own automobiles with the help of roadside garages. Heavy tanks are more like locomotives, requiring depot repair, and will lead to a future framed by trade unions working in great railroad shops. (The book, http://books.google.ca/books?id=74hDAAAAIAAJ&q=sheppard+tanks+in+the+next+war&dq=sheppard+tanks+in+the+next+war&cd=1, although the rest is much less interesting.)
    What if both Sheppard and Orwell are right, _and_ we live in a reasonably democratic and open “depot society?” Do we owe our modern way of life to heavy tanks, bombers and atomic bombs?
    And does it follow that “factories” aren’t such awful places?

  4. Christopher

    I always understood 1984 to be a projection onwards from 1945. The actual representation was supposed to be 1948. It’s nearest comparison to my mind is Herman Hesse’s essay ‘If this war goes on’ though that was more optomistic about the hero’s situation. A lot of the thinking and attitudes are actually pretty pre-war and of course Brett has highlighted the class divisions.

  5. Neil Datson

    One important source for Orwell was Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_(novel)

    In my view, We creates stronger parallels with the UK today than 1984, which is more a reflection on the recent past than an attempt to predict the future. Much as I admire Orwell, I can’t help but feel that he was always looking for some sort of inevitable and explicable structure in which to fit the course of history. After all, although he was no historian he was writing at a time when English historiography was heavily influenced by the Marxist school.

    The Ministry of Truth was surely based as much on the wartime Ministry of Information as it was on the Stalinist re-writing of history.

    Orwell’s description of the ‘proles’ as some sort of mindless sub-caste seems rather odd for a democratic Socialist. But he wasn’t well when he was writing it, and it’s surely natural for a sick man to be overwhelmed by pessimism.

  6. Neil Datson

    Oh – and for the airminded – as far as I recollect there are ‘aeros’ in We, which appear to be means of getting from place to place through the sky.

    No useful technical information, or even descriptions, are provided.

  7. I’m always intrigued at how often Orwell is dismissed for not being very good at this or that, yet he’s responsible – directly – for numerous terms and concepts in everyday usage relating to totalitarian politics and society – how many sociologists and qualified historians have articulated concepts in such everyday concrete terms to society as Orwell? He was always a product of his time to a degree (as we all are) but demonstrably more independent thinking most and no card-carrying member of any historical-political clique.

    As well as all the other items in use, for instance (thanks to Allan A’s link) Orwell used the term ‘Cold War’ in context before anyone else, although it doesn’t appear he made it stick.

    I’ve read 1984 (which I was lucky enough to study at school in 1984 ~hem~) as a horrible warning of what could happen unless we do things to stop it. Like hell as a terrible warning to encourage good behaviour, it has elements of exaggeration, but it’s remarkably how much in it can be pointed to as on the numbers – recent UK government spin doctors have less control but the same intent as the history re-inventors with doublethink in the MiniTrue.

    Certainly the launching of the F-111s from Upper Heyford to bomb Libya was pure Airstrip One, and aspects of the war economy and permanent ‘hates’ towards Communism in the US and the East in the UK fit Orwell’s predictions (the Cold War wasn’t mature and with a history when he was writing, remember) remarkably well. Thatcher’s use of the Falklands War, ‘Rejoice Rejoice Rejoice’ and control of all media from the South Atlantic have parallels too, but as in all of these things it’s dangerous to make too much of it.

    A core tenant of the Cold War was the knockout blow recast as a four minute warning – which interestingly appears to be culturally the same in Canada and the UK, going by my wife and my recollections.

    As to the proles, having worked a depressing six months in Croydon where people knew they deserved nothing and were meant to be treated like dirt, and consume junk food and mental direction like The Sun (and seeing what Big Brother means to the masses today) if anything he was bang on the money about aspects of Britain’s less affluent culture.

  8. “The Sky Crawlers” : I liked it. It portrays a future where some cloned people, children age, keep a war in the air so humanity can be in peace. There are two corporations (or just one, with two sides?) that keep it going and all the batlles are broadcasted through TV. The airplanes are inspired in WWII fighters and bombers.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sky_Crawlers_(film)

    (well, they’re not quite cloned people but “Kildren (????, Kirudore}[{could also be translated into “kill-dolls”?), humanoids genetically designed to live eternally in adolescence until shot down in air battles presented commercially for entertainment, after which they are reproduced.”)

  9. Perhaps the most ‘airminded’ moment in Orwell comes in the final chapter of his last pre-war novel, Coming Up For Air, when the protagonist (mistakenly, as it turns out) believes that the the Things-To-Come armaggedon has finally started:

    “After breakfast I strolled out into the market-place. It was a
    lovely morning, kind of cool and still, with a pale yellow light
    like white wine playing over everything. The fresh smell of the
    morning was mixed up with the smell of my cigar. But there was a
    zooming noise from behind the houses, and suddenly a fleet of great
    black bombers came whizzing over. I looked up at them. They
    seemed to be bang overhead.

    The next moment I heard something. And at the same moment, if
    you’d happened to be there, you’d have seen an interesting instance
    of what I believe is called conditioned reflex. Because what I’d
    heard–there wasn’t any question of mistake–was the whistle of a
    bomb. I hadn’t heard such a thing for twenty years, but I didn’t
    need to be told what it was. And without taking any kind of
    thought I did the right thing. I flung myself on my face.

    After all I’m glad you didn’t see me. I don’t suppose I looked
    dignified. I was flattened out on the pavement like a rat when it
    squeezes under a door. Nobody else had been half as prompt. I’d
    acted so quickly that in the split second while the bomb was
    whistling down I even had time to be afraid that it was all a
    mistake and I’d made a fool of myself for nothing.

    But the next moment–ah!

    BOOM-BRRRRR!

    A noise like the Day of Judgment, and then a noise like a ton of
    coal falling on to a sheet of tin. That was falling bricks. I
    seemed to kind of melt into the pavement. ‘It’s started,’ I
    thought. ‘I knew it! Old Hitler didn’t wait. Just sent his
    bombers across without warning.’

    And yet here’s a peculiar thing. Even in the echo of that awful,
    deafening crash, which seemed to freeze me up from top to toe, I
    had time to think that there’s something grand about the bursting
    of a big projectile. What does it sound like? It’s hard to say,
    because what you hear is mixed up with what you’re frightened of.
    Mainly it gives you a vision of bursting metal. You seem to see
    great sheets of iron bursting open. But the peculiar thing is the
    feeling it gives you of being suddenly shoved up against reality.
    It’s like being woken up by somebody shying a bucket of water over
    you. You’re suddenly dragged out of your dreams by a clang of
    bursting metal, and it’s terrible, and it’s real.

    There was a sound of screams and yells, and also of car brakes
    being suddenly jammed on. The second bomb which I was waiting for
    didn’t fall. I raised my head a little. On every side people
    seemed to be rushing round and screaming. A car was skidding
    diagonally across the road, I could hear a woman’s voice shrieking,
    ‘The Germans! The Germans!’ To the right I had a vague impression
    of a man’s round white face, rather like a wrinkled paper bag,
    looking down at me. He was kind of dithering:

    ‘What is it? What’s happened? What are they doing?’

    ‘It’s started,’ I said. ‘That was a bomb. Lie down …’

  10. Post author

    Yes, Coming Up For Air is on the to-read list, along with Keep the Aspidistras Flying

    Christopher:

    As is clear, I’m no Orwell scholar, but he denied that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a criticism of the Attlee government:

    My recent novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter), but as a show-up of the perversions . . . which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. . . . The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.

    So it’s not really a case of ‘If this goes on’ but more ‘Don’t get complacent’, it seems to me.

    Neil:

    I think there is or was a certain kind of socialist, even among the democratic sort, who didn’t hold the working classes in very high regard. L. E. O. Charlton was one such; his description of how the masses would behave under aerial bombardment was about as pessimistic as writers well to the right of him, such as P. R. C. Groves or J. F. C. Fuller for that matter.

  11. Chris Williams

    “at a time when English historiography was heavily influenced by the Marxist school”

    Not to my mind. Though I’d welcome correction as ever.

  12. Christsopher

    I wasn’t actually suggesting that Orwell was criticizing the Atlee government at all. Rather he was taking as his model conditions which had grown up as a result of wartime bureaucracy and which would have resulted no matter what political stamp the government bore. The necessity of wartime created the conditions for 1984 and Orwell brilliantly takes them to their logical conclusion.

  13. Neil Datson

    There are a few points that I feel I better come back on.

    As JDK puts it above, Orwell was ‘demonstrably more independent thinking [than] most and no card-carrying member of any historical-political clique.’

    I couldn’t agree more. Much of the reason he is still read is his independence of thought. And coupled with that, his honesty. And as mentioned, he was a successful phrase-creator, especially in 1984. ‘Big Brother is watching you’ etc.

    But to go on to claim that 1984 was in any meaningful sense, a prediction of the future history of the UK just won’t do. Yes, there is a hint of official ideology and creating an enemy without through the Cold War, and now the ‘war on terror’. But all nations at all times at least partially define themselves by what they’re not. Compared to Airstrip One, there’s always been a great deal of dissension in the UK.

    There’s a neat geographical parallel in the bombing of Libya, nothing more. The UK was, and is, a sovereign nation, not a satrap nation. Certainly as an Englishman, I’d like my governments to show less inclination to kow-tow to the US, but as an historian I also recognize realpolitik. And as an historian, I would say that there was less kow-towing in the Thatcher / Reagan years than almost any other recent period. Certainly than during the Major and Blair premierships. The reason for that was partially that Thatcher and Reagan were very close ideologically. They agreed with each other. That is why Libya was bombed from British soil. Thatcher was also willing to openly disagree with Reagan, or at least the US administration. The Falklands (when the US wanted the British to show more restraint) and Grenada (when she let it be known that she was cross about the whole episode) are the cases that spring to mind.

    As for influencing the press, all governments strive to do it, to a greater or lesser extent. King Alfred is principally known as ‘the Great’ because he sponsored Asser and other scholars.

    The deliberate falsification of history by government is another matter. That is what is going on in 1984. I can’t think of any example in Britain. Certainly not in the sense that Trotsky was written out of Soviet history. I’m struggling a bit with this, as one person’s spin could be another’s falsification, so it would be interesting to find the most extreme examples.

    What I wrote of the proles was that they seem an odd creation for a democratic Socialist. What I should have written is that they seem an odd creation for Orwell. One striking thing about the Orwell of the 1930s is that he neither patronised nor idealised the working class. He believed in the working class.

    Orwell had the rather romantic notion that international working class solidarity could have brought the Republicans victory in the Spanish Civil War. While clearly a Labour supporter, he seemed to be looking for more than a Labour victory at the polls, but I’m not clear if he wanted there to be major constitutional change. I get the sense of some sort of bloodless social revolution: ‘you have nothing to lose but your aitches.’

    Anyway, back to the main point about the proles. I just don’t think that the Orwell of the 1930s could have created them. In that sense, 1984 comes across as the work of a disappointed man. Doesn’t Winston Smith note: ‘If there is hope, it lies with the proles.’ The expression of hope is subsequently derided by O’Brien. For Smith’s disillusionment I would read Orwell’s disappointment.

    Chris Williams has come back on my mention of the Marxist school of historiography. Hands up, I was taking a bit of a flier. But I note that Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism was published in 1926. Others (Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm come to mind) were establishing their careers in the 1930s. So I suppose that the word I might pull is ‘heavily’. What is certain is that there was a great deal of Marxist influence on many parts of intellectual life, from which Orwell, for all his refreshing independence, was not immune.

  14. Neil Datson

    I feel I’d better expand a bit on the working class and the proles.

    Orwell’s idea of the 1930s working class is socio-economic. They are no better, and no worse, than anybody else, just economically – and possibly politically – oppressed.

    The proles of 1984 are a political class. They are those people – who certainly form the majority of the current UK’s populace, and doubtless of every other nation’s populace – who are just not interested in politics. The striking difference with non-political people in the UK today is that they are clearly identified. They seem to live in ghettos. There seems to be no movement – or even possibility of movement – between the classes. (How do you join the Party in 1984? As far as I recollect we are not told.) The proles just work, are ultimately stoical, and get on with life. All they look forward to are tawdry pleasures. (To the intellectual, all material pleasures are tawdry, the bottle of premier cru claret as much as the pint of cheap beer.) So the proles of 1984 may be poor, but then everybody is poor. Only numerically do they relate to the Orwellian working class. (Possibly they represent a larger majority of the population than the 1930s working class.)

    So the two classes only overlap. They have a different sort of classification; one hasn’t become the other. Orwell’s idea of the working class has not been degraded into the proles. Nevertheless, I contend that the proles are the creation of a disappointed man. Not a man who was especially disappointed with the working class, more a man who was disappointed with humanity.

  15. The deliberate falsification of history by government is another matter. That is what is going on in 1984. I can’t think of any example in Britain.

    The wartime whitewashing of the Soviet Union’s record, because it had become embarrassing to dwell on the iniquities of the Communist regime at a time of alliance, was certainly something that Orwell was responding to. He was writing, after all, at a time when Josef Stalin had temporarily morphed into friendly Uncle Joe, and Conservative mayors would stand stiffly to attention at the playing of the Internationale. To see Frank Capra’s extraordinary rendering of Russian history in the Why We Fight documentary series is to get a taste of the propaganda distortions of the early 1940s – all of which were themselves conveniently forgotten, of course, with the outbreak of the Cold War.

  16. Chris Williams

    Hill published very little before 1940 (I think just one thing) and Hobsbawm nothing. I’d need convincing that Tawney was any kind of Marxist. British historiography (unlike French) was almost entirely free of Marxist influence before the mid 1950s. Prewar, I might give you EH Carr, but he wasn’t much of a Marxist (though he was a Stalinophile…) before the 1950s.

  17. Nemo

    Mention of Orwell’s COMING UP FOR AIR reminds me of this passage where the narrator ruminates on the coming war (note: the street the narrator lives on is Ellesmere Road):

    “Of course there’s no question
    that it’s coming soon. You can tell how close it is by the cheer-
    up stuff they’re talking about it in the newspaper. I was reading
    a piece in the News Chronicle the other day where it said that
    bombing planes can’t do any damage nowadays. The anti-aircraft
    guns have got so good that the bomber has to stay at twenty
    thousand feet. The chap thinks, you notice, that if an aeroplane’s
    high enough the bombs don’t reach the ground. Or more likely what
    he really meant was that they’ll miss Woolwich Arsenal and only hit
    places like Ellesmere Road. ”

    “if an aeroplane’s
    high enough the bombs don’t reach the ground.” – Priceless

  18. Post author

    How do you join the Party in 1984? As far as I recollect we are not told.

    Pretty much born into it — at least the Outer Party, if you show promise you might be recruited into the Inner Party. But proles are never recruited, if they show any signs of dangerous initiative or cunning they’re ‘vapourised’.

    “if an aeroplane’s
    high enough the bombs don’t reach the ground.” – Priceless

    Yes, that’s clearly absurd! But this does suggest that if you could force the bombers high enough (eg by AA fire, balloon barrage), its bombs would take so long to hit the ground that you’d have enough time to evacuate the city beneath. A week would be plenty of time, so you’d need to force the bombers up to about 1.8 billion km, or about 12 astronomical units.

    Yes, of course I’m only joking! I’m assuming constant acceleration due to Earth’s gravity of 9.8 m/s^2 which obviously doesn’t hold at these distances. The actual distance needed would be much less. :)

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