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Perhaps he did realize it, unconsciously, because later works, such as “Animal Farm” (1945) and “1984” (1949), worry away at the Fascistic temptation inherent in the socialistic, planned, collective economy—the “classless, ownerless” society.This is not to suggest, as contemporary neoconservatives like Jonah Goldberg absurdly claim, that socialism is just fascism with a bleeding heart. Despite the anti-totalitarian books, and his reputation’s later theft at the hands of the right wing, he remained revolutionary in spirit until his death, in 1950, at the age of forty-six.
It seemed extraordinary to a member of the upwardly mobile bourgeoisie that these boys were incapable of answering two basic questions: How did your family make its money? They were barely aware of their enormous, unearned privilege; and this at a time of deep recession and Mrs.By contrast, the Fascists, stealing what they wanted from socialism and discarding all the noble bits, had shown how efficient a planned economy could be: “The mere .” Only by shifting to a planned, nationalized economy and a “classless, ownerless” society could the British prevail. And what was needed was not just a change of heart but a structural dismantling, “a fundamental shift of power.Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place.”During the nineteen-forties and fifties, a social revolution did take place in Britain.Though it would not be Orwell’s idea of a fundamental shift of power, his writing certainly contributed to the quieter change that occurred when the Labour Party won the 1945 election, ousted Winston Churchill, and inaugurated the welfare state.After the war, Orwell became most famous as a left-baiting anti-totalitarian, but he did not change his opinion that vast, systemic change was necessary in order to make Britain a decent and fair country to live in: he continued to make the case for the nationalization of major industries, tight government regulation of income disparity (he originally proposed that the highest income be no more than ten times the lowest), the winding up of the Empire, the abolition of the House of Lords, the disestablishment of the Church of England, and reform of the great English boarding schools and ancient universities.There are useful, intelligent introductions by Packer and Keith Gessen (who writes about the critical essays).All the famous pieces are here, along with a good amount of less well-known work, like the diary that Orwell kept during the war; his account of a visit to Morocco; and the scarifying review he wrote in this magazine of Graham Greene’s “The Heart of the Matter.” Again and again in these volumes, Orwell returns to the abuse of power.This is the same Orwell who wrote in his wartime diary, “The first sign that things are really happening in England will be the disappearance of that horrible plummy voice from the radio,” and the same Orwell who, dying of tuberculosis in a country nursing home, wrote in his notebook in 1949 about the sound of upper-class English voices: “And what voices! A pair of new volumes of his essays, collected as “Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays” and “All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays,” allow us to experience again the strongest examples of Orwell’s journalistic work.A sort of over-fedness, a fatuous self-confidence, a constant bah-bahing of laughter about nothing, above all a sort of heaviness and richness combined with a fundamental ill-will. The selections, by George Packer, a journalist (and a regular contributor to this magazine), are now the best and fullest available, and a big improvement on the slightly thin Penguin collections that were in print for twenty years or more.Into those receptive hands fell Orwell’s 1941 pamphlet “The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius,” with its own war cry: “Probably the battle of Waterloo won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.” And also: “England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. British capitalism had been culpably inefficient, he argued.It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly. Its lords and captains had slept through the nineteen-thirties, either colluding with or appeasing Hitler.