Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable…
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a “good” man is squeezing the trigger … have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.
To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like.
Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.
The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge.
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
…below a certain income the petty crowds the large out of existence; one’s preoccupation is not with art or religion, but with bad food, hard beds, drudgery and the sack.
Serenity is impossible to a poor man in a cold country and even his active thoughts will go in more or less sterile complaint.
Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without flinching?
A Clergyman’s Daughter, Ch. 2 (1935)
It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith-as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in the climate of the mind.
One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.
Every war, when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.
The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.
One is almost driven to the cynical conclusion that men are only decent when they are powerless.
Review of The Freedom of the Streets by Jack Common, June 1938, pp. 335-6
we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking.
Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion,
Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
The past is a curious thing. It’s with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passeqs without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it’s got no reality, it’s just a set of facts that you’ve learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book.
It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.
So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.
Inside the Whale (1940) 
Dickens’s attitude is easily intelligible to an Englishman, because it is part of the English puritan tradition, which is not dead even at this day. The class Dickens belonged to, at least by adoption, was growing suddenly rich after a couple of centuries of obscurity. It had grown up mainly in the big towns, out of contact with agriculture, and politically impotent; government, in its experience, was something which either interfered or persecuted. Consequently it was a class with no tradition of public service and not much tradition of usefulness. What now strikes us as remarkable about the new moneyed class of the nineteenth century is their complete irresponsibility; they see everything in terms of individual success, with hardly any consciousness that the community exists.
you can only create if you can care
A joke worth laughing at always has an idea behind it, and usually a subversive idea.
When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens’s photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.
The truth is that Dickens’s criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work.
He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens’s attitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown.
For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature’.
It would be difficult to point anywhere in his books to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrong as a system.
I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message’, and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it.
All art is propaganda.
not all propaganda is art.
“Charles Dickens” (1939)
The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.
All the cults that have been fashionable in the last dozen years, Communism, Fascism, and pacifism, are in the last analysis forms of power worship.
- Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war.
- Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war.
Review of The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek and The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus, reviewed in The Observer (9 April 1944).
Letter to H. J. Wilmett (18 May 1944), published in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945 (2000),
Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
“Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dalí,” Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture (1944) 
a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.
Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state.
[Atomic weapons or weapons of mass destruction are likely]…to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a “peace that is no peace.”
“Revenge is Sour”, Tribune (9 November 1945)
Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country.
The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection.
“Freedom of the Park”, Tribune (7 December 1945)
The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.
If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.
The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
“In Front of Your Nose”, Tribune (22 March 1946)
“Some Thoughts on the Common Toad”, Tribune (12 April 1946)
“Some Thoughts on the Common Toad,” Tribune (12 April 1946, page 10, last paragraph)
In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion
…public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.
When human beings are governed by “thou shalt not”, the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by “love” or “reason”, he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.
“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947) – Full text online]
“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947)
…if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics — a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage — surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.
“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947)
“Such, Such Were The Joys” (May 1947); published in Partisan Review (September/October 1952)
It is difficult for a statesman who still has a political future to reveal everything that he knows: and in a profession in which one is a baby at 50 and middle-aged at seventy-five…
At present I do not feel I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.
Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and its queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background of my own experiences.
Ch. 2, Charlie
For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry…three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, ‘I shall be starving in a day or two–shocking, isn’t it?’ And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provide its own anodyne…
Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else.
It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
On the whole, the two hours when one was perfectly and wildly happy seemed worth the subsequent headache. For many men in the quarter, unmarried and with no future to think of, the weekly drinking-bout was the one thing that made life worth living.
Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity.
- In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink,as he did not care about women.
- If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him.
- He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it.
- He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance,
- it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end.
- He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.
On “Bozo”, in Ch. 30
He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve.
Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.
A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, bronchitis etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course — but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.
A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing.
Burmese Days (1934)Edit
This life we live nowadays! It’s not life, it’s stagnation, death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses, and the meaningless people inside them! Sometimes I think we’re all corpses. Just rotting upright.
He liked to think of the lost people, the under-ground people: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. It is a good world that they inhabit, down there in their frowzy kips and spikes. He liked to think that beneath the world of money there is that great sluttish underworld where failure and success have no meaning; a sort of kingdom of ghosts where all are equal.
That was where he wished to be, down in the ghost-kingdom, below ambition.
Many of the normal motives of civilized life–snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.–had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth.
However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.
The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality…
One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty…at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.
The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Part I: England Your England
[A] world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.
History is written by the winners.
“As I Please,” Tribune (4 February 1944)
Ideas may not change, but emphasis shifts constantly. It could be claimed, for example, that the most important part of Marx’s theory is contained in the saying: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ But before Marx developed it, what force had that saying had? Who had paid any attention to it? Who had inferred from it — what it certainly implies — that laws, religions and moral codes are all a superstructure built over existing property relations?
In the nineteenth century some parts of the world were unexplored, but there was almost no restriction on travel. Up to 1914 you did not need a passport for any country except Russia. The European emigrant, if he could scrape together a few pounds for the passage, simply set sail for America or Australia, and when he got there no questions were asked.
one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.
Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when 'our' side commits it.
"The Prevention of Literature" (1946)Edit