October 29, 2014

George Orwell on Ireland

Cartoon of George Orwell by famous American political cartoonist, Pat Oliphant

George Orwell wrote that the execution of the Easter Rising leaders was "a crime and mistake". He believed that the dispute over Ulster was caused by "the expansionist racist nature of modern republicanism." In a review of Sean O'Casey's autobiography by George Orwell in the Observer, Orwell wrote in 1945:
"Why is it that the worst extremes of jingoism and racialism have to be tolerated when they come from an Irishman?"

He went on to write:
"Catholics in England, the bulk of them very poor Irish labourers, were the only really conscious, logical intelligent enemies that democracy has got in England... They were a silent drag on Labour Party policy but are not sufficiently under the thumb of their priests to be fascist in sympathy."
Orwell wrote, rather too presciently to the Tuam and Magdalene laundry scandal:
"Nearly all our anti-clerical feeling is directed at the poor, unoffending old C of E. If ever a word is raised against Rome, it is only some absurd tale about Jesuit intrigues or babies’ skeletons dug up from the floors of nunneries."
George Orwell believed that Catholicism is opposite to the creativity needed to create a novel, and he wrote:
"Outside its own ranks, the Catholic Church is almost universally regarded as pro-Fascist, both objectively and subjectively."
Orwell called D. B. Wyndham Lewis "a stinking RC", Christopher Hollis wrote about George Owell's view on Ireland:
"[George Orwell] disliked the Irish because, he thought, they stood not in opposition to the evils of the times, but in a merely Tibetan isolation from them, and this prejudice in him was confirmed by their neutrality in the war."
On the issue of Irish isolationism, it's worth noting Samuel Beckett who said"I preferred France in war to Ireland at peace."

Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote in 2003 that George Orwell had a "dim view" of the Irish.

Referring to Eamon de Valera, George Orwell grouped him among the "superhuman fuhrer", writing in 1944:
"I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things [totalitarianism, leader-worship] are on the increase. Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer (Hitler, Stalin, Salazar, Franco, Gandhi, De Valera are all varying examples) and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer. Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, i.e. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history."
Christopher Hitchens, hugely influenced by Orwell, wrote about Eamon de Valera:
"Not entirely unlike his contemporary fighter for independence Eamon De Valera, who yearned for an impossible Ireland that spoke Gaelic, resisted modernity, and put its trust in a priestly caste, Gandhi had a vision of an “unpolluted” India that owed a great deal to the ancient Hindu fear and prohibition of anything that originated from “across the black water”."
Orwell wrote specifically about celtic nationalism in his essay Notes on Nationalism, where he said:
"Its motive force is a belief in the past and future greatness of the Celtic peoples, and it has a strong tinge of racialism. The Celt is supposed to be spiritually superior to the Saxon — simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc. — but the usual power hunger is there under the surface. One symptom of it is the delusion that Eire, Scotland or even Wales could preserve its independence unaided and owes nothing to British protection."
George Orwell wrote in ‘What is Fascism?' (Tribune, 1944):
"Nationalism is universally regarded as inherently Fascist, but this is held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of. Arab nationalism, Polish nationalism, Finnish nationalism, the Indian Congress Party, the Muslim League, Zionism, and the I.R.A. are all described as Fascist but not by the same people."
George Orwell wrote in his diary, March 14 1941, on the Irish ports during WWII here:
"Sebastian Haffner [real name Raimund Pretzel] exclaims that it is folly on our part to let the Irish withhold vitally important bases and that we should simply take these bases without more ado.  He says that the spectacle of our allowing a sham-independent country like Ireland to defy us simply makes all Europe laugh at us.  There you have the European outlook, with its non-understanding of the English-speaking peoples.  Actually, if we took the Irish bases by force, without a long course of propaganda  beforehand, the effect on public opinion, not only in the U.S.A. but in England, would be disastrous."
I recommend you read Kevin Kerrane's 1986 essay, 'Orwell's Ireland' on my Tumblr account here.

Read Orwell on W.B. Yeats, upon whom he cast a dim view.

George Orwell wrote that a landing by Axis powers in Ireland was obvious from the start of WWII.

George Orwell wrote that in the case of a German conquest of England he would not clear out, at any rate not further than Ireland. This signals how Ireland is a part of the wider anglosphere, as Simon Kuper and Fintan O'Toole said.

Orwell wrote that extreme pacifism is practically a declaration of irresponsibility.
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