The Lion and The Unicorn:
Socialism and the English Genius

George Orwell

You can see the hesitation we feel on this point by the fact that we call our island by no less than six different names: England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles and in very exalted moments, Albion. p. 26 [Albion is the oldest known name of the island of Great Britain. It is thought to derive from the white cliffs of Dover. JH]

We were as single-minded as the Gadarene swine. p. 31 [The Gadarene Swine: In all exorcisms except one, Jesus simply expelled the demons. But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs. Matthew 8.30-32 wrote: And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. JH]

Thereupon the people picked a leader nearer to their mood, Churchill, who was at any rate able to grasp that wars are not won without fighting. Later, perhaps, they will pick another leader who can grasp that only Socialist nations can fight effectively. p. 32 [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to nationalize American industry to get industrialists to produce the war materials he needed to win WW II. JH]

England was ruled by an aristocracy constantly recruited from parvenus. p. 36 [The word parvenu typically describes a person who recently ascended the social ladder, especially a nouveau riche or “new money” individual. JH]

However, it has become clear in the last few years that “common ownership of the means of production” is not in itself a sufficient definition of Socialism. One must also add the following: approximate equality of incomes (it need be no more than approximate), political democracy and abolition of all hereditary privilege, especially in education. These are simply the necessary safeguards against the reappearance of a class-system. Centralized ownership has very little meaning unless the mass of the people are living roughly upon an equal level, and have some kind of control over the government. “The State” may come to mean no more than a self-elected political party, and the oligarchy and privilege can return, based on power rather than on money. p. 62

Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. p. 63

British capitalism does not work, because it is a competitive system in which private profit is and must be the main objective. It is a system in which all the forces are pulling in opposite directions and the interests of the individual are as often as not totally opposed to those of the State. p. 65 [Compare to our current – August 2011 – battle of bankers and Wall Street v. employment and the health of the U.S. economy. JH]

Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. p. 75

What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old. It is not primarily a question of change of government. British governments do, broadly speaking, represent the will of the people, and if we alter our structure from below we shall get the government we need. p. 75 [What does it mean to alter our structure from below? JH]

Still, even in its palmiest days Mosley’s following can hardly have numbered 50,000. p. 80 [Palmiest means prosperous, flourishing, or luxurious. JH]

An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount – that is our danger. p. 82 [The Tea Party. JH]

We cannot look to this or any similar government to put through the necessary changes of its own accord. The initiative will have to come from below. That means that there will have to arise something that has never existed in England, a Socialist movement that actually has the mass of the people behind it. But one must start by recognizing why it is that English Socialism has failed. p. 88

The Labour Party stood for timid reformism, the Marxists were looking at the modern world through nineteenth-century spectacles. Both ignored agriculture and imperial problems, and both antagonized the middle classes. The suffocating stupidity of left-wing propaganda had frightened away whole classes of necessary people, factory workers, airmen, naval officers, farmers, white-collar workers, shopkeepers, policemen. All of these people had been taught to think of Socialism as something which menaced their livelihood, or as something seditious, alien, “anti-British” as they would have called it. Only the intellectuals, the least useful section of the middle class, gravitated towards the movement. p. 93-4

[A Socialist Party which genuinely wished to achieve anything] would have recognized that England is more united than most countries, that the British workers have a great deal to lose besides their chains, and that the differences in outlook and habits between class and class are rapidly diminishing. In general it would have recognized that the old-fashioned “proletarian revolution” is an impossibility. p. 94

People who at any other time would cling like glue to their miserable scraps of privilege, will surrender them fast enough when their country is in danger. War is the greatest of all agents of change. p. 96

If it can be made clear that defeating Hitler means wiping out class privilege, the great mass of middling people, the £6 week to £2,000 a year class [Approximately $40,000 to $250,000 in current (2011) dollars. JH] will probably be on our side. p. 97

An intelligent Socialist movement will use [the airmen’s and destroyer commanders’] patriotism, instead of merely insulting it, as hitherto. p. 97
It is no use imagining that one can make fundamental changes without causing a split in the nation; but the treacherous minority will be far smaller in time of war than it would be at any other time. p. 98

What is wanted is a simple, concrete programme of action, which can be given all possible publicity, and round which public opinion can group itself. I suggest that the following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first three points deal with England’s internal policy, the other three with the Empire and the world: [First,] nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries; [Second,] limitations of income on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one; [Third,] reform of the education system along democratic lines. p. 99

The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 ($250,000 in 2011) a year—and even if one counts in all their dependents there are not more than half a million of these in England. p. 101 [How many people in the United States in 2011 are at or above the $250,000 line? JH]

…the State will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit the ownership of land in town areas. p. 102

As for the 10,000 “private” schools that England possesses, the vast majority of them deserve nothing except suppression. They are simply commercial undertakings, and in many cases their educational level is actually lower than that of the Elementary Schools. p. 104

…we must also tell the Indians that they are free to secede, if they want to. Without that there can be no equality of partnership, and our claim to be defending the coloured peoples against Fascism will never be believed. p. 105

What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures it military protection and technical advice. p. 106

No political programme is ever carried out in its entirety. But what matters is that that or something like it should be our declared policy. It is always the direction that counts. p. 110

Hitherto there has only been the Labour Party, which was the creation of the working class but did not aim at any fundamental change, and Marxism, which was a German theory interpreted by Russians and unsuccessfully transplanted to England. There was nothing that really touched the heart of the English people. Throughout its entire history the English Socialist movement has never produced a song with a catchy tune—nothing like La Marseillaise or La Cucaracha for instance. When a Socialist movement native to England appears, the Marxists, like all others with a vested interest in the past, will be bitter enemies. Inevitably they will denounce it as “Fascism.” p. 111

Because the time has come when one can predict the future in terms of an “either-or.” Either we turn this war into our revolutionary war (I do not say that our policy will be exactly what I have indicated above—merely that it will be along those general line) or we lose it, and much more besides. Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. Our real forces, physical, moral or intellectual, cannot be mobilized. p. 114 [So, from where did the third option, neither-nor the above, emerge? JH]

During the past twenty years the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm. p. 115 [Fainéant: idol and ineffectual, indolent. JH]

However little we may like it, toughness is the price of survival. A nation trained to think hedonistically cannot survive amid peoples who work like slaves and breed like rabbits, and whose chief national industry is war. p. 115

…and underneath it lay the flabby idea that when the time came the Russians would do our fighting for us. It is astonishing how this illusion fails to die. p. 116 [Yet this is what happened. JH]

(vide books like Unser Kampf, A Hundred Million Allies—If We Choose, &c.) p. 116 [Vide is used to direct a reader to another item. JH]

…back to the grey top hats and the sponge-bag trousers, in saecula saeculorum. p. 118 [Sponge-bag trousers are checked trousers and in saecula saeculorum is Latin for for ages and ages or for ever and ever. JH]

Come the four corners of the world in arms
And we shall shock them: naught shall make us rue
If England to herself do rest but true.

It is right enough, if you interpret it rightly. But England has got to be true to herself. She is not being true to herself while the refugees who have sought our shores are penned up in concentration camps, and company directors work out subtle schemes to dodge their Excess Profits Tax. It is good-bye to the Tatler and the Bystander, and farewell to the lady in the Rolls-Royce car. The heirs of Nelson and Cromwell are not in the House of Lords. They are in the fields and the streets, in the four-ale bar and the suburban back garden; and at present they are still kept under by a generation of ghosts. Compared with the task of bringing the real England to the surface, even winning of the war, necessary though it is, is secondary . By revolution we become more ourselves, not less. There is no question of stopping short, striking a compromise, salvaging “democracy,” standing still. nothing ever stands still. p. 126

[*From The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, Act V, Scene 7:

Bastard: Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true

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