George Orwell Was a Socialist

A lot of American right-wingers seem to have gotten it into their heads that George Orwell would have loved the idea of invading Iraq, which seems doubtful to me but at least possible, but Hendrick Hetzberg observes that Newt Gingrich has further extrapolated from this the idea that Orwell would have hated socialized medicine. Here’s Gingrich on Orwell on socialism:

[The message of 1984 is] that centralized planning inherently leads to dictatorship, which is why having a secular socialist machine try to impose government-run health care in this country is such a significant step away from freedom and away from liberty, and towards a government-dominated society.

And here’s Orwell on socialism from “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party”:

I have got to struggle against that, just as I have got to struggle against castor oil, rubber truncheons and concentration camps. And the only regime which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech is a Socialist regime. If Fascism triumphs I am finished as a writer — that is to say, finished in my only effective capacity. That of itself would be a sufficient reason for joining a Socialist party.

I have put the personal aspect first, but obviously it is not the only one.

It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it. For perhaps ten years past I have had some grasp of the real nature of capitalist society. I have seen British imperialism at work in Burma, and I have seen something of the effects of poverty and unemployment in Britain. In so far as I have struggle against the system, it has been mainly by writing books which I hoped would influence the reading public. I shall continue to do that, of course, but at a moment like the present writing books is not enough. The tempo of events is quickening; the dangers which once seemed a generation distant are staring us in the face. One has got to be actively a Socialist, not merely sympathetic to Socialism, or one plays into the hands of our always-active enemies.

In “Toward European Unity”, written after the war, he explained that “a Socialist United States of Europe seems to me the only worth-while political objective today.”