Was George Orwell defending the Left, the Right or was he simply defending freedom?

Orwell was a paradoxical man, contradictory, sometimes hypocritical.  As his Vogue profile stated, fairly much a leftist, George Orwell was a defender of freedom, even though most of the time he violently disagreed with the people besides whom he fought.

Although a writer of the political left, Orwell has gained many fans on the political right ever since ‘Animal Farm’ was published. And over the decades, both the Left and the Right have claimed Orwell as their own.

Today the issue of freedom is far more used by the Right.

“For conservatives like myself,” Ed West writes, “when we see dictionaries changing the definition of a word literary overnight, or the total distortion of history to suggest it has always been so, when it is ‘normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children’ because they are the greatest fanatics, we can’t help but see the echoes of 20th century totalitarianism in the modern progressive movement, even if it is a soft totalitarianism and doesn’t come from the state, but from the media, the academy and tech companies.”

By Ed West

No writer’s legacy and approval is so fought over as George Orwell, whose final – and most celebrated – work Nineteen-Eighty-Four was published seventy five years ago this month.

The most influential piece of political fiction in history, such is the success of the dystopian novel that its themes have been recited to death by columnists, often by people I imagine he would have loathed (including me).

Orwell’s nightmare became a particular focus of conservative commentators from the 1990s with the rise of ‘political correctness’, which might be seen as both a form of politeness and at the same time a way of policing opinions by changing the language. As Orwell’s Newspeak was described, it was to ensure that dissent cannot be voiced because ‘the necessary words were not available’. Newspeak, along with thought police and doublethink, has become a part of our political vocabulary, while even the proles have Big Brother to entertain them. No one can doubt that Orwell has won the final victory, and the struggle for the writer’s soul forms part ofDorian Lynskey’s entertaining and informative The Ministry of Trutha biography of Nineteen-Eighty-Four which was published at the time of the last significant anniversary.

Lynskey, a hugely gifted writer who specialises in the relationship between arts and politics, is very much on the Left and sees the modern parallels with the Trumpian disdain for truth, although the great man himself is now often more cited by the Right. Indeed the anniversary was recently celebrated by the free-market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs with a new edition and an introduction by my friend Christopher Snowdon.

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