Updated: Nov 13, 2020
A recent war of words has erupted on twitter over who can claim the hypothetical allegiances of the political author Eric Blair, (better known as George Orwell). Paul Joseph Watson, Editor at Large for Infowars was attacked for ridiculing the claim of the modern day agitprop street gang, ‘Antifa’
Orwell travelled to Spain in 1936 to fight against the Franco uprising but did not join the International Brigade, but rather the Marxist POUM (Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista). He was clear in his writing that his reasoning was to join the struggle against “morally calamitous” fascism. The POUM believed that for the Republic to triumph over Franco the people had to “overthrow” capitalism, whereas the Soviet-backed Communists believed a coalition with bourgeoisie parties would be the most effective way to win the war. In spite of the fact that in his own observations he felt the Communists “were getting on with the war while we and the Anarchists were standing still'. He considered that “the revolutionary purism of the POUM…seemed (to me) rather futile...the one thing that mattered was to win the war.” Not only did he survive a sniper bullet to the throat in combat he then escaped the Stalinist purge of June 1937 in Barcelona as he and his wife Eileen managed to reach the relative safety of France after being targeted for removal.
It is without doubt that Orwell went to Spain to fight fascism, the debate that raged online with such power recently was whether he would be a member of modern day ‘Antifa’. Orwell had a fascinating political journey that reached a distinct anti-authoritarian position. His satirical destruction of communism in Animal Farm is clear for all to see and his distinct warning of authoritarian control regardless of political persuasion in 1984 is as chilling as it is profound. Orwell recognised the flaws in the political structures of the far left and the far right. He was vehemently against the restriction of free speech and censorious attitudes. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. This does not sit well with the Black Block ‘Antifa’ actions of burning flags bearing the words “Free Speech”, violently reacting to speech and attempting to shut down events and speeches. They literally violently oppose anyone who may express an opinion that does not agree with their own views. Would Orwell have supported that?
Orwell was all too aware that labelling others as fascists was a Stalinist technique. He would roundly condemn the ‘Antifa’ of today as an authoritarian enemy of liberty and they would probably try to shut down any speaking events he would attend.
He was also very clear on the aims of erasing history, in 1984 he wrote “Every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered.” He also said “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”. The premise of totalitarian control is built upon these key concepts. As the online insults were thrown around by commentators claiming anyone who denied Orwell would be ‘Antifa’, you must wonder if the irony of the position is truly understood.
The dividing line comes between taking an anti fascist position and simply using the term to provide cover for your own authoritarian intent. Cowardly, violent, hooded middle class millennials are not in the same league as the brave men and women of the 1930’s and 40’s. The people they attack are not fascists, but labelling them as such dehumanises them for attack. Orwell would probably be the first to point out that even the label ‘Antifa’ is a product of the destructive intent of New Speak and the pursuit of peace through violence as a clear example of double speak.
No, Orwell would roundly condemn the actions, attitudes and ideological positions of ‘Antifa' as much as he would annihilate the arguments of any actual Nazis, which as a statement in our current political climate is enough to get me into trouble, but then, as George told us, “in an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”