102. Difficulty at the beginning
George Orwell remains an example of a type—still widely seen today—of person who accepts large amounts of what the left says but has drawn a line where their experience departs from the left and is desperate to convince other people that he is, after all, a decent man; he simply thinks the left is confused about a particular matter. In Orwell’s case, the confusion was Soviet Marxism. He retained, right to the end, a hope—despite what he knew about Jouvenel and Burnham—that the proles would resist indoctrination; if there is hope, it is with the proles, thinks Winston Smith in 1984. This was sentimentalism on Orwell’s part: the proles are conformist, barely conscious of actual politics—and it is only in the lumpen elements that an inchoate rage against the prevailing ideology can be found.
Orwell remained, subjectively, a socialist; and yet as soon as he admitted in The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) that England was a family with the wrong members in charge, a biological analogy, he had departed from the left. He had admitted that he preferred the organic—and hence immutable—aspect of man: the left always abominates the family, particularly the patriarch, because it is intimately connected to hereditary inequality. Further, Orwell’s heaven—as described by Smith in 1984—is situated in the natural world, and Smith is happiest in the countryside: to prefer the countryside to the city is to prefer the reactionary roots of a place.
The visible political right is mostly made up of people like Orwell, still subjectively convinced that they are good leftists. It is just that, since they were young, leftism has gone mad; if only we could get back, so they say, to decent politics—for Orwell this was the Edwardian era of his childhood. This is, in the widest sense, what it means to be a conservative. The situation comes about because the left’s ideological entrepreneurs compete to take it in new directions and not everyone can accept their new illusions. Some people, usually as they age, see through the old lies; and so they drop an aspect of the ideology—others simply cannot accept the new illusions. The left—always insisting on unity—treats these people as heretics: there must be agreement on all points in order to belong. Yet, for the person who drops out, it feels as if they have broken on selected issues. Hence conservatives often present a pathetic spectacle; they will dissent with the left on one issue and yet make friendly overtures on others, though it is futile—it is their dissent on any one issue that puts them out the door.
The phenomenon is similar to the observation that a person who follows the media and notices errors in reporting on areas they know about will still happily believe the rest of the media, not realising it is as faulty in its pronouncements about other fields as it is their own. The conservative is that man who notices one problem with the national story, but remains confident that this is not a universal error. Actually, it really is that bad: it is all fiction.
This process even occurred in a figure like Mussolini; fascism is, as libertarians never tire of saying, quite correctly, national socialism. Mussolini was a socialist, like Orwell, who thought that socialism had gone too far in its internationalism; some socialism, within the nation, was fine. Thus when leftists say Orwell was a “fascist” there is an element of truth to their accusation: Orwell proposed an organic, family-orientated, and nature-loving form of socialism. Put in these terms, though he would vehemently deny it, his thought occupies the same space as fascism—albeit without the militaristic tinge. The label is not relevant—only the left thinks it is so—it is only a question of how far person is prepared to deviate from lies; everyone deviating from the lies, especially about biology, will occupy a similar, though not identical, space.