Notes
September 16, 2020

Notes On Nationalism

George Orwell
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Orwell On Intellectuals

  • It is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel an attachment to his own country.

  • There is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real, though unadmitted motive, appears to be hatred of western democracy.

  • One has no right to assume that everyone, or even every intellectual, is infected by nationalism.

  • To study any subject scientifically, one needs a detached attitude, which is more challenging when one’s interests or emotions are involved.

  • I think one must engage in politics, using the word in a broad sense, and that one must have preferences. One must recognize that some causes are objectively better than others, even if advanced by equally bad means.

Orwell On Nationalism

  • Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power, not for himself, but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his individuality.

  • Nationalism, in the broad sense, includes such movements and tendencies as Communism, political Catholicism, Zionism, Antisemitism, Trotskyism and Pacifism. It does not necessarily mean loyalty to a government or a country.

  • Nationalists see history as the constant rise and decline of great power units. And, every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his side is on the up.

  • The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and can stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.

  • Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty. He is also - since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself, unshakably sure of being in the right.

  • There is always a temptation to claim that any book whose tendency one disagrees with must be a bad book from a literary point of view.

  • No nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except his power unit.

  • One quite commonly finds that great national leaders, or the founders of nationalist movements, do not even belong to the country they have glorified. Examples are Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, de Valera, Disraeli, Poincaré, Beaverbrook.

  • Nationalists do not see the resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency.

  • History gets described in mainly nationalist terms. As such, defining events become morally neutral or even admirable when it gets felt that they got done for the right reason.

  • Nationalists have a remarkable capacity for not hearing about atrocities committed by his side.

  • Although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world.

Orwell On Patriotism

  • Patriotism is not to be confused with nationalism.

  • Patriotism is the devotion to a particular place and a specific way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world. Yet, one has no wish to force it upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.

  • At the international level, sport is frankly mimic warfare.

Orwell On Propaganda

  • Much of the propagandist writing of our time is plain forgery. Material facts get suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored to change their meaning.

  • The primary aim of propaganda is to influence contemporary opinion - and those who rewrite history probably believe with part of their minds that they are thrusting facts into the past.

  • The ordinary reader should get forgiven for swallowing lies. The general uncertainty as to what is happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs.

  • The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.

  • The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, your sense of reality becomes unhinged.